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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, 17 August 2019

Just nod if you can hear me

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

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

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

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

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

John Oliver explains the horror of Boris Johnson, PM.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"

17:27 GMT comment


Monday, 29 July 2019

And there are no truths outside the gates of Eden

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bernie Sanders speaks during NAACP forum in Detroit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22:00 GMT comment


Saturday, 06 July 2019

And behold a mighty city broken in the dust again

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

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

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

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

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

Full interview: Bernie Sanders on Face the Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quicksilver Messenger Service, "Pride of Man"

02:12 GMT comment


Wednesday, 19 June 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cenk interviews Bernie about the usual stuff.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01:58 GMT comment


Friday, 07 June 2019

Can't believe you fake it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coo, Wikipedia has a nice pic of Whit Diffie.

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

Garbage, "Stupid Girl"

03:14 GMT comment


Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Winter is over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18:01 GMT comment


Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Ignorance is kind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bernie Sanders Interview MSNBC Al Sharpton"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Eskow interviews Professor Richard Wolff on What is Class?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Postmodern Jukebox, Wham's "Careless Whisper"

20:27 GMT comment


Sunday, 28 April 2019

Your happening world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Naked Capitalism has a round-up on the Assange story. If one thing is clear, the charge is just the only thing they could come up with to try to get around Britain's extradition laws, but he is being tried for publishing, regardless of what they say they are charging him for.

"Wendell Primus, The Most Powerful Staffer In Congress, Represents A Generational Divide On The Left - David Dayen also talked about this with Sam Seder, The Top Pelosi Aide Aiming to Kill Medicare For All w/ David Dayen - MR Live - 4/17/19. The saddest thing is that Primus really thinks he's defending what's left of the New Deal by behaving this way. Getting into a defensive crouch has really been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the '70s, but they really seem to have frozen in time once Reagan got into office.

Bloomberg, "The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan: Wealthy Americans have stepped up investment in New Zealand. Parliament votes to ban foreigners from buying bolt-hole homes." This is actually old news, but someone pointed it out to me when I remarked that back in the early days of this blog I wondered where they were planning to live after ruining the world. And it's not exactly a standalone - from The New Yorker, "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich. Rich people from New York to Seattle have been building bunkers in Kansas, compounds in the Rockies, and buying up islands in the Pacific Northwest. And this one is even freakier: "Survival of the Richest [...] Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor's salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of 'the future of technology.' [...] They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern. Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?'"

Interesting news on how a cancer treatment I don't want to describe also has the interesting side effect of reducing autism symptoms. Makes ya think, huh?

You thought Tom Lehrer was just a math teacher who wrote funny songs, but little did you know he also invented Jell-O Shots.

06:09 GMT comment


Friday, 12 April 2019

In madness and fear

Julian Assange was arrested today outside of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Here's the Guardian blog on today's events in that regard. The whole affair raises a lot of questions about freedom of the press and the behavior of several governments in collusion to destroy it.

Consortium News addressed some of those questions in "On the Pavement with Wikileaks : "When Julian Assange does leave the embassy, it will be important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Assange is actually wanted for extradition, Craig Murray comments. [...] When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about U.S. war crimes and other illegal acts. It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Paul Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter. This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian's position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

"Trump administration approved secret nuclear power tech sales to Saudi Arabia, document shows: WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. [...] Many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did. In addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to U.S. standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel." This directly circumvents the expressed will of Congress.

"U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation: June 22 (UPI) -- A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty -- and more than half of those live in "extreme" or "absolute" poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. [...] Alston criticized the Trump administration for stigmatizing the poor and saying those receiving government benefits are lazy and should be working. The report found just 7 percent of benefits recipients are not working." When I was a kid, people talked about the Black Hole of Calcutta. Now it's America.

"Dallas Police Shamed Into Dropping Charges Against Black Woman Beaten By Racist: The Dallas district attorney said he was unaware of the charges. Authorities in Dallas dropped the felony charge against a Black woman seen on video last month being brutally beaten by a racist white man, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt announced on Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, Dallas police charged L'Daijohnique Lee with criminal mischief in her confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield on March 21. She was accused of damaging Shuffield's pickup truck after he violently attacked her in the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum." And another piece of the story, "See Also: Prosecutor Blames Bail System For Allowing White Man To Leave Jail After Vicious Assault Of Black Woman."

"The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass: In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country's already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally. [...] It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller's vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller's manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there's plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner — and Trump — want. So what is that? Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner's push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course — as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It's working!"

I guess TMBS - 83 - Russia, Russia, Russia, (& AIPAC) ft. Matt Taibbi & Francesca Fiorentini pretty much covered that subject.

Sam Seder interviewed Paul Waldman on Ring of Fire, "Joe Biden's Record Bursting into Flames under Magnifying Glass of Voters."

A lot is being made of Joe Biden's inability to keep his hands to himself, but maybe that's to make people forget that he runs around saying stuff like this: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire." And what's his genius idea? Means-testing. Means-testing is a way to put up barriers for the people who really need it while making the programs no longer universal, and therefore less popular, and thereby start the process of eliminating or privatizing them. Biden's apologists on his past record of this kind of thing insist that his thinking has changed (on the Hyde Amendment, he can get away with this pretense because now that he voted for it over and over, Bush finally signed it into law so he doesn't have to vote for it anymore), but this quote is from January 2019, just a few months back. This kind of thing is what his whole career has been about, and there's no evidence he truly regrets any of it. I just want him to keep his hands off government.

Malcolm, Iowa is a town of 300 people, so unsurprisingly, when a presidential candidate shows up to hold a rally for the first time in history, the whole town shows up. This is kind of interesting to watch, because you can see a little difference from those much bigger rallies he's been doing lately. (I was also reminded, when he twice brought up issues he was currently alerting the public to and said he hadn't known about them before he was told recently ("Shoulda known, but didn't"), of how when Hillary Clinton had the virtues of single-payer explained to her, she responded with, "Now tell me something real.")

America's foremost concern troll, Barack Obama, seems to be on a world tour of concern-trolling as he leads the circular firing squad against circular firing squads.

Charlie Pierce, "Not One Single Democrat Should Get Behind the Worst Idea in American Politics: The balanced-budget amendment is incredibly dumb, and inextricably linked to The Dumbest Idea in American History. This makes me crazy. Any Democratic politicians who attach themselves to any derivation of The Worst Idea In American Politics, especially in 2019, are not "moderate Democrats." They are conservative Democrats or, more accurately, radically conservative Democrats. Really, Bloomberg, knock this stuff off. Also, Blue Dogs? Knock this stuff off, too."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won [...] The 2016 campaign season brought to the surface awesome levels of political discontent. After the election, instead of wondering where that anger came from, most of the press quickly pivoted to a new tale about a Russian plot to attack our Democracy. This conveyed the impression that the election season we'd just lived through had been an aberration, thrown off the rails by an extraordinary espionage conspiracy between Trump and a cabal of evil foreigners. This narrative contradicted everything I'd seen traveling across America in my two years of covering the campaign. The overwhelming theme of that race, long before anyone even thought about Russia, was voter rage at the entire political system. The anger wasn't just on the Republican side, where Trump humiliated the Republicans' chosen $150 million contender, Jeb Bush (who got three delegates, or $50 million per delegate). It was also evident on the Democratic side, where a self-proclaimed 'Democratic Socialist' with little money and close to no institutional support became a surprise contender. Because of a series of press misdiagnoses before the Russiagate stories even began, much of the American public was unprepared for news of a Trump win. A cloak-and-dagger election-fixing conspiracy therefore seemed more likely than it might have otherwise to large parts of the domestic news audience, because they hadn't been prepared for anything else that would make sense. [...] Trump was selling himself as a traitor to a corrupt class, someone who knew how soulless and greedy the ruling elite was because he was one of them. His story of essentially buying the attendance of the Clintons at his wedding — no matter what you think of it — resonated powerfully with voters. He sneered at Hillary as the worst kind of aristocrat, a member of a family with title and no money. She and Bill were second-tier gentry, the kind who had to work, and what work! Hillary was giving speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs for amounts of money Trump would probably say he spent on airplane snacks (even if it were a lie). He claimed Goldman 'owned her.' Having watched Trump wipe out Jeb using similar arguments, I thought a race against Hillary Clinton, who was running on her decades of experience residing in hated Washington, 'would be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse.' Trump's chances increased when pundits ignored polls and insisted he had no shot at the nomination. The universality of this take reeked of the same kind of single-track, orthodox official-think that later plagued the Russia story. [...] Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, 'I guess people hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump.'"

Really, Schultz seems to come out with something amazingly stupid every time he opens his mouth. I'm convinced his sister or girlfriend must be the one who said it would be a good idea to open coffee shops, he seems too thick to have thought of the idea himself, simple as it was. His brilliant idea of having an empty chair in the room to "represent the American people" when he discussed important issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives was awesome. And also, "Dumb Starbucks Man Has Precisely Two Thoughts."

I probably should have been linking to Tarbell earlier. Here's Dr. Hagop Kantarjian with "How to Fix Out-Of-Control Drug Costs to Serve Patients, Not Drug Company Profits [...] Market forces are not effective in lowering drug prices largely because of a 'non-interference clause' included in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), which overhauled the program. This clause, demanded by the pharmaceutical lobby as a condition of its support, prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The MMA also included, under Medicare Part D, prescription benefits for Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicare must pay the prices imposed by drug companies without any ability to negotiate. This led to claims by some elected officials that the government does not negotiate effectively, and that free-market forces would result in reasonable drug prices and profits. History has shown otherwise: Almost 16 years after passage of the MMA, we are witnessing massive increases in drug prices and drug industry profits. [...] Though a majority of Americans support these proposed actions, and numerous bills have been introduced in Congress, none has made it into law because of opposition by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. The Obama administration did not address high cancer drug prices effectively. In May 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 'American Patients First — The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.' HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the drug industry's repeated mantra that it must make large profits to pay for research and innovation was a tired point, and that the biggest problem was simple: Drug prices are too high. In other words, the drug industry is too greedy."

"A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He's Speaking Out: A HIGH-LEVEL ADVISER and operative for the 2016 Sanders campaign was Vitali Shkliarov, a Soviet-born citizen of Belarus. Shkliarov, who had previously worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign and for several other successful Democratic Party campaigns, has also become increasingly in demand as a political adviser and campaign manager in Russia, working for liberal candidates in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Possessing a unique background and vantage point, Shkliarov, now that the 2016 election is over, has many interesting observations to express on the state of American politics, the Democratic Party, U.S.-Russian relations, and the impact of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. [...] Of particular interest is Shkliarov's analysis of — and his warnings about — the dangers posed from escalating U.S.-Russia tensions (on Tuesday night, the U.S. scrambled jets in response to Russian warplanes flying 100 miles off the coast of Alaska for the first time since Trump became president). Especially noteworthy are Shkliarov's concerns about how intensifying anti-Russian sentiment in U.S. discourse is alienating Russian liberals from the U.S. and uniting them behind their own government — as happens in most countries when people, even those who loathe their own government, perceive that their nation is being demonized and targeted by a foreign power."

Cory Doctorow, "Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries: Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Customers will receive refunds. This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books. When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn't get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid. People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon's Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. "

"The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained: Cigna, a major insurer, is capping monthly insulin costs at $25. It's a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. [...] 'Any measure that helps only a portion of the population through opaque deals between the players responsible for this crisis is not a solution,' Elizabeth Pfiester, the founder and executive director of the patient group T1International, told Vox. 'We need long-term assurance that manufacturers will be held accountable and prices will be affordable — not another Band-Aid.'"

Interview on The Real News, "Trump and Pelosi Both Cater to Private Health Insurance — Wendell Potter"

"The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That'S Wrong With Liberalism: The SPLC's deceptive and hypocritical approach to anti-racism... The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-'80s, and the SPLC's shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately. But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we'll better understand the ways in which a shallow 'politics of spectacle' can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change."

"Voting Machines Are Still Absurdly Vulnerable To Attacks"

"What Conservative Dems-- The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party-- Don't Want

Highly-recommended interview with Z of Black Socialists of America. I love that they make the point that you have to do the work, not just expect people to know.

I had almost forgotten this. These people are thoroughly intertwined with government in DC and it's shameful. "Jeff Sharlet on Hillary Clinton's Relationship to "The Family" - 4/5" With disastrous results: "An Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover Of Federal Programs: Two Presidents In A Row Have Increasingly Steered Federal Grants And Contracts To Conservative Christian Groups — Including Houses Of Worship." But that was in 2014. It hasn't improved.

Walk Off the Earth, with Sarah Silverman, "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Hear Roger Taylor's Political Single 'Gangsters Are Running This World: The Queen drummer has some thoughts on the state of things."

02:11 GMT comment


Thursday, 04 April 2019

I got a feeling that the journey has just begun

Gorsuch is a monster and a sadist. "Neil Gorsuch Just Made Death Worse: In an appalling majority opinion, Gorsuch endorses pain-filled deaths for people subjected to capital punishment. [...] This week, Gorsuch wrote a majority opinion that was both shockingly cruel and entirely consistent with arch-conservative thought. The case is called Bucklew v. Precythe. Russell Bucklew is a convicted murderer whose depraved crimes are not in dispute. He was sentenced to death in Missouri. Missouri is a lethal injection state, but Bucklew has a rare medical condition that would cause him to be in extreme pain as the lethal drugs do their work. Bucklew appealed his sentence, arguing that the pain would be a violation of his Eighth Amendment protections, and asked for alternative methods of death that are not sanctioned under Missouri law. Gorsuch, writing for a 5-4 majority, denied his appeal. Gorsuch wrote: 'The Eighth Amendment forbids 'cruel and unusual' methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.' That's about the most heartless bastard thing I've read in a while, and I work on the internet. Everybody should notice the sleight of hand Gorsuch is playing at here. Saying the Eighth Amendment only forbids certain 'methods' of capital punishment presupposes that the Eighth Amendment allows capital punishment. That's no better than saying you can't drown a person, unless she's a witch. Gorsuch is demonstrably wrong. The Eighth Amendment makes no mention of death, painless or otherwise. It talks about cruelty. It contemplates unusual cruelty. Throwing me off the top of the Empire State Building would be almost entirely painless until I came to a sudden stop. It would still be cruel. It would still be unusual." Torturing people to death is cruel. The end.

"'New York Times' reports that Jewish donors shape Democrats' regressive position on Israel: This weekend the New York Times breaks one of the biggest taboos, describing the responsibility of Jewish donors for the Democratic Party's slavish support for Israel. Nathan Thrall's groundbreaking piece repeats a lot of data we've reported here and says in essence that it really is about the Benjamins, as Rep. Ilhan Omar said so famously. The donor class of the party is overwhelmingly Jewish, and Jews are still largely wed to Zionism — that's the nut. Though that party is breaking up. Thrall's labors are minimized by the New York Times with the headline 'The Battle Over B.D.S.,' but his message is that the progressive base has a highly-critical view of Israel that the leadership has refused to reflect, and that's about to change. We're inside the tent. The party is going to have to reflect pro-Palestinian positions. Ben Rhodes tells Thrall that the moment of overcoming the fear of the pro-Israel lobby (as the Cuba fear was overcome) is about to happen. The article is a thorough-going rebuke of every journalist and former official (Daniel Shapiro, former ambassador under Obama, for instance, as well as the Forward and the Times opinion writers) who says that money is not at the root, or very near the root, of Democratic Party support."

"How targeting Ilhan Omar instead of white supremacy furthered both anti-Semitism & Islamophobia: Last week, House Democrats passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy. As Black women, Muslim and Jewish, we agree that anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and Islamophobia must be condemned. [...] Yet condemnations of Islamophobia and white supremacy were only added to the resolution after it was initially introduced, with pressure from Black and progressive lawmakers. Given that, it was clear to many that the resolution did not come out of a sincere effort to put an end to real threats to Jews, but rather from an effort to target someone who is already a marked woman, Ilhan Omar, after her criticisms of the U.S.-Israel relationship were rebuked by lawmakers in both parties as anti-Semitic."

This Wisconsin poll shows Biden as being a bit more popular there than Sanders, but Klobuchar and Harris can't even get ahead of Trump. Mind, the methodology of the poll is a little weird, leaving out an awful lot of the Dem demographic, particularly those under 45.

"Georgia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Permission for Viagra, Criminalizing Vasectomies: Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick's bill, a rebuke to HB 481, would also potentially make sex without a condom 'aggravated assault'"

"Twitter Blocks Account of Julian Assange's Mother: The Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday. 'My Twitter account has been 'blocked due to 'unusual activity,' Ms. Assange wrote in a text message. Twitter, however, has provided her no reason for its action.

Apparently, "centrist" Democrats plan is to deluge the public with different plans containing the word "Medicare" so everyone will be utterly confused by what's going on. Interestingly, the Colorado Democrat responsible for this one got a whole article about him from Wendell Potter last February, called, "How to spot the health insurance industry's favorite Democrats. [...] My former colleagues undoubtedly were cheering when they heard Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) come to the defense of private health insurers and trash the idea of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which several of the Democratic presidential contenders have endorsed. Bennet, who says he, too, is considering a run for the 2020 nomination, told Chuck Todd that Medicare for All 'seems like a bad opening offer.' He prefaced that by saying that, 'what the (other) Democrats are saying is, 'If you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you,' from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it, where 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured.

"New rift exposed as Democrats clash over minimum wage." Oh, I wouldn't say it's "new", the alt-center has obstructed progress for a long, long time.

"Kamala Harris skips AIPAC conference — but AIPAC comes to her!" So much for her pretence that she boycotted the conference.

Oh, cool, "Charlie says: I've been sitting on this for ages — but I'm now allowed to admit in public that THE LAUNDRY FILES has been optioned for TV by 42 (producers of Watership Down and Traitors (among other things). This has been grinding through the works for over a year. It's an option deal, meaning the production company are looking at writing a pitch and maybe a pilot script and seeing if they can get a network interested, so it's early days. It doesn't mean that a series has been commissioned or that anything is going to happen. (We've been here before, circa 2006-08, with an American outfit, and in the end nothing came of it.) However: it's a British production company, so anything that emerges this time round is likely to have a British feel to it, and they have a great track record."

RIP: Vonda N. McIntyre (1948-2019), author, founder of Clarion West, and enthusiastic fan. I think I first became aware of her when I read "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," but she quickly became a part of the world I lived in. I remember when I was out in Seattle being pleased to see how integrated she was in local fandom. She was diagnosed only two months ago with pancreatic cancer.

RIP: Izzy Young, "Leading figure in the world of American folk music who helped to launch the career of Bob Dylan," founder of Folklore Center in the Village. "Izzy Young, who has died aged 90, was a key figure in the New York folk scene in the heady days of the 1950s and 60s, when he helped to launch the careers of several major musicians, including Bob Dylan. Young became celebrated not as a performer but as an enthusiast, activist, writer and entrepreneur, always more eager to promote the music he loved than to make a profit. His shop Folklore Center in MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, opened in 1957 and became a haven for fans and artists, who would stop here to meet, perform, or search for records, books and sheet music."

RIP: "Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Dead at 81: California Rocker first reported that Dale died Friday. His bassist Sam Bolle confirmed Dale's death to the Guardian. No cause of death was revealed, but the guitarist suffered from health issues in recent years. In 2010, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer, and in an interview that went viral, Dale said in 2015 that 'I can't stop touring because I will die' due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. 'I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that's on top of the insurance that I pay for,' Dale said at the time. 'Dick Dale was truly the King of Surf Guitar. Before the Beach Boys gave this new genre lyrics, Dick Dale was providing the instrumental soundtrack to the surfing experience. He influenced everybody!' Stevie Van Zandt said in a statement. (Strangely, I could not find the phrase "Del Tones" anywhere in the article.)

* * * * *

"Mayor Pete" Buttigieg is the flavor of the month, I don't think I'll be supporting him for president any time soon.

Nathan Robinson's "All About Pete: Only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves..." is a bit long but really worth the read — it's so scathing about a certain type of person that I actually wish I already disliked Buttigieg before I read this so I could enjoy seeing someone whose works I despise have his entrails laid out on the page like this. Alas, knowing almost nothing about him, I was merely dismayed at the unfolding image of someone who is exactly what I never want to see in the White House again.

(In a way, though, it says as much about our last two Democratic presidents, as well.)

If you know only one thing about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's The Small-Town Mayor Who Is Making A Splash. If you know half a dozen things about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's also young, gay, a Rhodes Scholar, an Arabic-speaking polyglot, and an Afghanistan veteran. If you know anything more than that about Pete Buttigieg, you probably live in South Bend, Indiana. This is a little strange: These are all facts about him, but they don't tell us much about what he believes or what he advocates. The nationwide attention to Buttigieg seems more to be due to 'the fact that he is a highly-credentialed Rust Belt mayor' rather than 'what he has actually said and done.' He's a gay millennial from Indiana, yes. But should he be President of the United States? When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract.

[...]

But it's not fair to fully judge a person by a single comment in an interview. Pete Buttigieg has just published a campaign book, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future, that gives a much fuller insight into the way he thinks about himself, his ideals, and his plans. It has been called the 'best political autobiography since Barack Obama,' revealing Buttigieg as a 'president in waiting.' Indeed, I recommend that anyone considering supporting Buttigieg read it from cover to cover. It is very personal, very well-written, and lays out a narrative that makes Buttigieg seem a natural and qualified candidate for the presidency

It also provides irrefutable evidence that no serious progressive should want Pete Buttigieg anywhere near national public office.

[...]

If you come out of Harvard without noticing that it's a deeply troubling place, you're oblivious. It is an inequality factory, a place that trains the world's A-students to rule over and ignore the working class. And yet, nowhere does Buttigieg seem to have even questioned the social role of an institution like Harvard. He tells us about his professors, his thesis on Graham Greene. He talks about how interesting it is that Facebook was in its infancy while he was there. But what about all the privilege? Even Ross Douthat finds the school's ruling class elitism disturbing! Buttigieg thought the place fitted him nicely.

[...]

Okay, pause for a moment. If you are Pete Buttigieg, at this point in your life you have the ability to take almost any job you want. These schools open doors, and you pick which one you go through. (Ask yourself: If I could do anything I wanted for a living, what would I do?) Pete Buttigieg looked inside himself and decided he belonged at... the world's most sinister and amoral management consulting company.

He also doesn't like Snowden and was "troubled" when Obama let Chelsea Manning out of prison. And there are other problems, too.

"Democratic Hopeful Pete Buttigieg Makes Faith 101 Misstep: If you don't understand that the Religious Right's conservatism does not stem from honest differences in faith, if you don't get that it's about particular structures of power, you badly misunderstand the situation, and you are not ready for prime time." Pete doesn't seem to get that, despite their absence from mass media, there already is a vibrant religious left.

And, at Jacobin, Liza Featherstone says, "Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart [...] It's oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of 'smartness' culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad. [...] But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. 'Smart' is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: 'Not Me, Us.' The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."

* * * * *

Robert L. Borosage, "Centrists Are Using Calls for Civility to Silence the Left [...] 'We should not eat our own,' cautioned David Brock, which is rich coming from a professional hatchet man servicing both sides of the aisle at different points in his career. In reality, the ones doing the eating are primarily centrist pundits using high minded postures to skewer Bernie. Sanders has been assailed by a former Clinton staffer for using private planes while stumping for Hillary in 2016. He's been attacked for hiring David Sirota, a respected left-leaning journalist who got his start in Sanders's House office twenty years ago. (Sirota was raked over last week for supposedly hiding his conflict of interest while at The Guardian, a claim that turned out to be simply false). Tomasky presumptuously issued a 'personal plea' to Bernie to rein in his supporters, while saying nothing about the Clinton advisers publicly vowing to unleash their oppo research from 2016 on Sanders."

At Bloomberg, "Warren Buffett Hates It. AOC Is for It. A Beginner's Guide to Modern Monetary Theory: An overview of a once-fringe school of economic thought that's suddenly of the moment."

"How corporate America invented 'Christian America' to fight the New Deal: The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of 'one nation under God' to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe."

"The Christian Jail Monopoly: The Supreme Court recently ruled on two nearly identical cases involving prisoners and religion, and reached two different conclusions. In February, SCOTUS decided it was okay to execute a Muslim prisoner in Alabama without an imam present, as the prisoner had requested. In Alabama, only Christian ministers are allowed in the death chamber, and apparently that was okay with the SCOTUS. This week, SCOTUS stopped the execution of a Buddhist prisoner in Texas until the state provides a Buddhist clergyperson to be present during the procedure. Texas provides Christian and Muslim ministers for executions, but not Buddhist ones."

David Dayen, "Chuck Schumer Neglected To Name A Democratic Commissioner For The SEC. Now It'S Open Season For Wall Street, Bank Lawyers Crow: LAST SUMMER, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump's term. In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations 'for the remainder of the current presidential term.' This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear. The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration's unprecedented exploitation of this mistake." If this was just a mistake on his part, he should be led away to the glue factory. If it wasn't — which is believable — he should be tarred and feathered.

Wendell Potter, "Democrats on the take: New DCCC Chair is a best friend of health insurers: Here's a headline you can bet my former colleagues in the health insurance business were thrilled to see last week: 'DCCC chief: Medicare for All price tag "a little scary."' That headline topped the lead story in the March 6 edition of The Hill, a newspaper widely read by Congressional staff and lobbyists and others in the influence-peddling business in Washington."

"Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize: Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would, its ex-secretary has said. Geir Lundestad told the AP news agency that the committee hoped the award would strengthen Mr Obama. Instead, the decision was met with criticism in the US. Many argued he had not had any impact worthy of the award." Also, Arafat apparently enjoyed Tom & Jerry.

Brian K. Bullock at Black Agenda Report, "A True Defense of Smiley and West: Two men with track records of advocacy and activism were kicked to the curb in favor of a man with practically no history of Black advocacy. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West faced tremendous criticism from large sectors of the African American population for daring to stick to their own political principles and attempting to hold Barack Obama, the U.S. empire's first Black head of state to account to said principles, in the grand tradition of Black activists, intellectuals and media. By attempting to remain true to their own political positions, and to positions most of their critics themselves held prior to the election of Obama, the two men, one a media personality, the other an academic and activist, fell from grace in elite black circles and in the popular opinion of the black masses.

Jonathan Pie gets serious about Brexit. He's actually not wrong, and this could just as easily be applied to some other national leaders we could name not so far from home.

"Millennials Are the Most Indebted Generation. They Can Thank Joe Biden: Joe Biden is trying to appeal to younger voters as he is expected to launch his bid for the presidency. However, for years, Biden made it his mission to block student debt forgiveness, leaving many young people facing a lifetime of debt."

"Inside Biden and Warren's Yearslong Feud: On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they'd been feuding over for years: the country's bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying 'to sell out women' by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face. Warren, Biden allowed, had made 'a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument' about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn't pay. But Biden had what he called a 'philosophic question,' according to the Congressional Record's transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?" It was the latter, and Biden made it even easier for them.

Matt Taibbi, "16 Years Later, How the Press That Sold the Iraq War Got Away With It; In an excerpt from his new book Hate Inc., Matt Taibbi looks back at how the media built new lies to cover their early ones.' [...] They had it backwards. Large portions of the public were skeptical from the start. Only reporters were dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to eat the bait about WMDs. Moreover, American reporters on their own volition rallied to the idea that Saddam was a Hitler-Satan whose 'exceptional' evil needed immediate extinguishing. [...] The WMD episode is remembered as a grotesque journalistic failure, one that led to disastrous war that spawned ISIS. But none of the press actors who sold the invasion seem sorry about the revolutionary new policies that error willed into being. They are specifically not regretful about helping create a continually-expanding Fortress America with bases everywhere that topples regimes left and right, with or without congressional or UN approval." Matt does note that Knight-Ridder was the one news organization that got the Iraq story right, but doesn't mention that there was a reason for this: They didn't have "access". Without the personalities whispering in their ears, they weren't fooled into thinking they had trusted sources. As I said 16 years ago, Saddam had never tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems, as was well known. So when Tony Blair said that Saddam could hit us in 45 minutes, it was obviously ridiculous on its face. That he said it, and that the administration repeated it, was all the proof anyone ever needed that the whole case for invading Iraq was pure horse manure.

Adolph Reed in Common Dreams, "Vietnam to Venezuela: US Interventionism and the Failure of the Left: The modern U.S. empire has run roughshod over the interests and desires of foreign nations and their people for more than a century, but that history should call for pause as the bipartisan interventionist consensus gears up once again, this time in an effort to topple the legitimately elected government of Venezuela."

"The DCCC Is A Powerful Source Of Great Evil And Corruption Inside The Democratic Party [...] Two stories came out yesterday that we must get into: Ally Mutnick's for National Journal--House Democrats Move to Hobble Primary Challengers-- and Akela Lacy's for The Intercept-- House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms Who Challenge Incumbents. [...] The DCCC's move also creates a new niche business, paradoxically, opening the door for consultants who don't want to be under the thumb of the party. 'From here on out let's refer to the DCCC for what it is, the White Male Centrist Campaign Protection Committee (WMCCPC),' said Sean McElwee of Data for Progress. 'My e-mail is seanadrianmc@gmail.com. Any challenger looking for firms to work with them can feel free to reach out. There are plenty.'

"Elizabeth Warren Wants the Government to Make Prescription Drugs You Can Afford [...] On Tuesday, Massachusetts senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that would create a new office within the Department of Health and Human Service to manufacture generic drugs at lower costs. This is another way of saying she is trying to design a public drug manufacturer. 'HHS would manufacture or contract for the manufacture of generic drugs in cases in which no company is manufacturing a drug, when only one or two companies manufacture a drug and its price has spiked, when the drug is in shortage, or when a medicine listed as essential by the World Health Organization faces limited competition and high prices,' Warren explained in Washington Post op-ed touting the release of the bill. As David Dayen reports at The Intercept, the bill is seen as a complementary effort to legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna last month, which would crack down on 'excessively priced' drugs by removing the drug manufacturer's patent protections and allowing competitors to manufacture generic versions. But because the generic market itself is broken and pushes up prices — 40 percent of generic drugs are made by a single company — Warren's plan would step in by having the government make generic drugs and sell them at a 'fair price.'"

I can't believe they're still whining about Bernie's taxes. No one ever cared about Bernie's taxes because his income is mostly public record and he's one of the poorest guys in Congress. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was still refusing to release her taxes until she was the nominee, and the only reason people were asking about them is that they wanted to see her taxes because she'd gotten so rich from capitalizing on her time in government. Bernie doesn't have that kind of history. In 2015 the question came up not because anyone cared about Sanders' taxes, but because he'd called for Clinton to release her speeches and she clearly didn't want to, so, knowing that Trump would not release his taxes, she said she'd release her speeches when everyone in the race released their taxes. It was clearly intended as a way to dodge accountability for herself, not because anyone, anywhere, thought there'd be anything interesting in Senator Sanders' taxes.

"White Nationalism's Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his 'bible,' and the man who wrote it [...] The concept of 'white genocide' — extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers — may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it's a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King's recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?' But it is apt. 'That language' has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president's rhetoric about 'shithole countries' and 'invasion' by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured."

I try not to link to Robert Reich much, but this is right: "Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped shift power away from the people towards corporations. It was this that created an opening for Donald Trump."

I don't pay enough attention to Alterman these days to know if and when he completely lost his mind, but anyone who can write, "Sanders turned so negative toward Clinton that it hurt her in the general election," either has serious emotional problems or has let that money from CAP really turn his head. Sanders was "so negative" against her that he almost actually campaigned against her, but anyone who's seen a primary campaign before should have been disappointed by the lack of Clinton blood in the water. (Unless you count her self-inflicted wounds.) Further, he says, "Even though he campaigned for her after he lost the nomination, roughly 12 percent of Sanders's supporters switched to Trump, and enough of the rest supported Jill Stein's kamikaze candidacy that it helped tip key states to Trump." Alterman apparently believes that in other primaries, fewer than 12% of supporters of the nominee's opponents defect - maybe even 0%! - but of course, 12% is a pretty low number.

"No fantasy, no future: Great interview with sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson by @willmenaker, @jamie_elizabeth & @spaceprole."

Photos Of The Political Organization — Black Panther Party: Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese member of the Black Panther Party. In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City & joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his OAAU, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was present at his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying."

I saw this too late to include in the mention of Hal Blaine's death last time, but Mark Evanier found a neat little video montage of some of the hits he'd played on, and man, there were a lot of them - and this is by no means all of them. There were a few I hadn't realized he'd been on, too. He wasn't just in my music since I was a kid, he was in my mom's music, too.

"A woman in the men's room: when will the art world recognise the real artist behind Duchamp's Fountain?: Evidence suggests the famous urinal Fountain, attributed to Marcel Duchamp, was actually created by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Why haven't we heard of her, asks Siri Hustvedt."

"Vienna's Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra" - playing with produce.

Little did I know that, in homage to the Beach Boys, The Flintstones featured The Fantastic Baggies (P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri) performing the awfully familiar-sounding "Surfin' Craze."

That free Joe Bonamassa album sounds pretty good.

The Everly Brothers live, "On the Wings of a Nightingale"

02:53 GMT comment


Sunday, 17 March 2019

I don't know where but she sends me there

The Bernie Sanders rally in Brooklyn was notable for many things, but Nina Turner's speech was the best playlist I've seen in years and had me raising my hands at my desk. Wow, love that woman! Shaun King did a nice job of filling out Bernie's background, too. (MSNBC lied about Bernie's speech, of course, in that "Oh, he didn't talk enough about racism and sexism" way we've come to expect from establishment partisans.)

Freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter gets Equifax CEO to admit that releasing private data causes harm. Not only does this embarrass him, but it can now be used by litigants in the case against Equifax.

I haven't seen anyone much talking about it, but this is a big deal. Charlie Pierce, "The Supreme Court Just Stopped Local Sheriffs From Carjacking to Pay the Bills. And it was a unanimous ruling. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously decided the case of Timbs v. Indiana. The decision was an auspicious one, and it was auspicious for two reasons. The first was that the decision was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so, yes, she's back, sports fans. The second is that it was a harpoon sunk deeply into the scam that is the civil forfeiture procedure."

Scott Lemieux, "Police abused civil forfeiture laws for so long that the Supreme Court stepped in. But one ruling won't end it. Arbitrary state actions are exactly what the courts should be checking, and the Timbs decision provides a way to challenge many such abuses. [...] On Tuesday, in its unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana, the court for the first time held that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'excessive fines' also applies to state and local governments. And, even more importantly, the court rejected Indiana's argument that, even if the excessive fines clause applies to the state, it does not apply to the civil forfeiture of the assets of criminals (or suspected criminals.) In her relatively brief opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the conclusion of the Indiana Supreme Court that the civil forfeiture was lawful. Ginsburg — speaking for eight of the court's nine members — held that, like the vast majority of the Bill of Rights, the excessive fines clause is a fundamental right that applies to the states under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. And, since the court had already held in a 1993 federal case that civil forfeitures that are even partly punitive are governed by the excessive fines clause, applying the clause to the states made the case easy."

"W.V. teachers' rapid strike victory shows why progressives must join fight against privatization: West Virginia's most recent statewide teacher walkout came and went so quickly there was too little time and attention to comprehend and appreciate the impact the teachers' actions will likely have long-term on changing the narrative of the teacher movement and how politically progressive advocates and candidates relate to it. In the very first day of the strike, teachers squelched new state legislation they objected to and then held out an additional day to ensure it would die. The day after schools reopened, the teachers got what they wanted — a 'clean' bill increasing teacher pay five percent.But, unlike their largely successful labor action from last year, this time the teachers weren't making pocketbook issues the focal points of their demands. Instead, it was all about stopping school privatization through charter schools and a new voucher program. The point of the strike was to oppose a Senate bill that included bringing charters and a voucher program to the state even though the measure included the pay raise teachers wanted. Teachers accompanied their protests in the capitol building with chants of 'Hey-hey, ho-ho, charter schools have got to go.'"

Jeez, Lee Camp covers a lot of stuff, much of which I didn't see highlighted anywhere else. This week's 1-minute rundown has things no one on else on social media even mentioned. Also, Venezuelans have food and toothpaste, thanks.

TMBS - 79 - Venezuela, Haiti, and the New Imperialism ft. France Francois

"Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez chew out House Dems who vote with the GOP in tense closed-door meeting: report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tore into fellow Democrats for voting with the GOP on procedural votes during an emotional closed-door session Thursday. Politico reported that Pelosi warned moderate members of the caucus that they could lose financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if they kept voting with the opposite side of the aisle." And AOC said she'll be watching their votes and making sure voters knew what they did.

Ryan Grim, "The Special Interests Behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare For All Bill Are Not The Usual Suspects: THE MEDICARE FOR ALL legislation unveiled Wednesday by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, was written with the help of a broad swath of lobbyists and special interest groups, if perhaps not the kind associated with typical health policy legislation on Capitol Hill. The key outside groups involved in the drafting included nurses, doctors, disability rights activists, and advocates for the elderly, as well as public interest organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Popular Democracy. The result is legislation that, within one year of its passage, would provide improved Medicare coverage for everyone 19 and under, as well as everyone 55 and over. Within two years, it would cover everyone between the ages of 19 and 55, as well." (Later: The Sanders/Jayapal proposal just got more inclusive.)

"Michael Hudson: The Shape of the Venezuelan Economy, from Chavez to Maduro and Beyond: Venezuela was an oil monoculture. Its export revenue was spent largely on importing food and other necessities that it could have produced at home. Its trade was largely with the United States. So despite its oil wealth, it ran up foreign debt. From the outset, U.S. oil companies have feared that Venezuela might someday use its oil revenues to benefit its overall population instead of letting the U.S. oil industry and its local comprador aristocracy siphon off its wealth. So the oil industry — backed by U.S. diplomacy — held Venezuela hostage in two ways. First of all, oil refineries were not built in Venezuela, but in Trinidad and in the southern U.S. Gulf Coast states. This enabled U.S. oil companies — or the U.S. Government — to leave Venezuela without a means of 'going it alone' and pursuing an independent policy with its oil, as it needed to have this oil refined. It doesn't help to have oil reserves if you are unable to get this oil refined so as to be usable. Second, Venezuela's central bankers were persuaded to pledge their oil reserves and all assets of the state oil sector (including Citgo) as collateral for its foreign debt. This meant that if Venezuela defaulted (or was forced into default by U.S. banks refusing to make timely payment on its foreign debt), bondholders and U.S. oil majors would be in a legal position to take possession of Venezuelan oil assets. These pro-U.S. policies made Venezuela a typically polarized Latin American oligarchy. Despite being nominally rich in oil revenue, its wealth was concentrated in the hands of a pro-U.S. oligarchy that let its domestic development be steered by the World Bank and IMF. The indigenous population, especially its rural racial minority as well as the urban underclass, was excluded from sharing in the country's oil wealth. The oligarchy's arrogant refusal to share the wealth, or even to make Venezuela self-sufficient in essentials, made the election of Hugo Chavez a natural outcome."

"Billionaire dies during Paris penis enlargement operation: Billionaire diamond trader Ehud Arye Laniad's pursuit of a plentiful penis has ended in his death. The 65-year-old big wheel died of a heart attack at a private Paris hospital where he was undergoing a penis enlargement procedure."

Michael Brooks started his show Tuesday with clips of Joe Biden making a series of claims about criminals that were not true but sure helped him get that horrible crime bill passed.

"No Joe! Joe Biden's disastrous legislative legacy" — Joe liked to reach across the aisle to Strom Thurmond, among others, and tie his name to other horrible GOP ideas. "Despite pleas from the ­NAACP and the ­ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from Biden's crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden encouraged him to 'maintain crime as a Democratic initiative' with suitably tough legislation. The ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administration pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars."

Reparations have entered the 2020 presidential race. It's a serious question that no one has really come up with a solid answer for. I don't just mean the candidates, most of whom have never supported it at all, but the pro-reparations activists who've struggled with it for decades. Briahna Gray says, "Bernie Sanders Asks the Right Question on Reparations: What Does It Mean?" Ryan Cooper says, "Democrats aren't serious about reparations." To me, Sanders' policies are reparations for everyone who's been screwed by the aristocrats, and build new structures that will help women and minorities — and most everyone else — and make much more sense to talk about. When most people are hanging on by their fingertips, it's bad politics to spend much time talking about programs that only help black people. And besides, Sander's policies are right in line with the NAACP's.

"ACLU sues Texas schools, AG over Israel boycott law: The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton, two universities and two school districts Tuesday, claiming a 2017 state law that requires contractors to sign a pledge against boycotting Israel violates the Constitution by forcing workers to choose between their livelihoods and beliefs." Also, "Want a Contract with A&M? Be Ready to Sign a Pro-Israel Loyalty Oath."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "Ilhan Omar's Victory for Political Sanity: The freshman congresswoman was right: The pro-Israel lobby uses financial muscle to influence Congress. That shouldn't be a controversial statement. Would House Democrats censure one of their own for daring to suggest that the deep-pocketed fossil fuel lobby buys influence in Congress? What about a member who said the same about Big Pharma? And yet, Democratic leaders on Wednesday were on the cusp of implicitly rebuking U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar for criticizing the pro-Israel lobby's power. 'I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,' she said a recent event. This was destined to be another example of the impossibility in Washington of deviating from unflinching support of Israel's policies. But then something remarkable happened. The Democrats' resolution against anti-Semitism was tabled after an outcry from members who felt Omar, a Muslim woman of color, was being singled out and that the party should condemn the full spectrum of religious bigotry, including the Islamophobia practiced by President Trump. A powerful lobby tried to suppress criticism of its work, and rank-and-file Democrats spoke their minds."

"This Is How AIPAC Really Works: An AIPAC and Capitol Hill veteran explains the lobby's tactics of reward and retribution. One thing that should be said about Representative Ilhan Omar's tweet about the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (more commonly known as AIPAC, or the 'Israel lobby') is that the hysterical reaction to it proved her main point: The power of AIPAC over members of Congress is literally awesome, although not in a good way. Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of... a lobby?"

"Florida's anti-Semitism bill would go even further in blocking free speech: A Florida 'hate crime' bill with an expanded, Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism and no mention of other religions, is working its way through House committees. The bill would criminalize criticisms of Israel."

"Joe Biden's Biggest 2020 Problem Is Joe Biden: Despite cultivating a populist image, the former vice president has spent his career championing policies favored by Republicans and the corporate elite. Biden has spent his entire career fighting for the Big Guy against the Little Guy. "Biden was a steadfast supporter of an economic agenda that caused economic inequality to skyrocket during the Clinton years. While the poor and middle class made modest gains as a percentage of their income, a pay increase of 2.5 percent wasn't terribly meaningful for people who didn't make much money to begin with. The fortunes of the rich, by contrast, swelled as Clinton cut taxes on capital gains from real estate and financial investments. While Clinton's 1993 budget raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent, the economic gains from his 1997 tax cut were heavily concentrated among the rich. As a result, the top 1 percent's share of the national income grew dramatically. Biden voted for all of it. At the same time, landmark banking deregulation further concentrated the nation's wealth in the hands of a few big players. Biden voted for the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking Act, which allowed banks to expand across state lines. He voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that barred traditional commercial banks from engaging in risky, high-flying securities trades. These laws encouraged Wall Street mega-mergers that created too big to fail and too big to manage behemoths like Citigroup and Wells Fargo. He voted to bar federal or state supervision of credit default swaps, which later became become 'financial weapons of mass destruction' during the 2008 financial crisis. [...] Biden also spent roughly a decade pursuing an overhaul of American bankruptcy law to discourage debt-strapped households from discharging their financial obligations in court. As then-academic Elizabeth Warren warned at the time, Biden's bankruptcy law boosted revenues for credit card companies at the expense of families struggling with job losses and medical bills. Unlike the Clinton-era deregulation, the bankruptcy bill was unpopular with Senate Democrats, who voted against it 31 to 14." And of course, he eagerly went to bat for Obama's Grand Bargain to cut Social Security in exchange for a trivial tax-raise on the rich.

An associate says this about Biden: "And voting for every piece of anti choice legislation he could vote for. He said when Roe was decided that women shouldn't have the right to control their bodies that way. He voted for the Hyde Amendment in 1977 without a rape or incest exception. Hyde has grown to basically deny abortion from insurance companies all over the country. He twice voted for a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe. The Hatch amendment of 82 and 83. He voted for every version of the so called partial birth abortion ban until George W Bush signed it. When Clinton refused to sign the 1993 budget unless rape and incest were included in the Hyde Amendment, which Clinton refused to put in all his budgets by the way, Joe didn't attempt to redeem himself..he voted to have no rape or incest exception. There are proactive, prochoice bills that who the hell knows what this dinosaur would do...Like the The Each Woman Act..to repeal Hyde and prohibit bans on insurance coverage for abortion"

Some interesting words on Biden here, too: The Michael Hudson Interview: Bronze Age Redux - On Debt, Clean Slates And What The Ancients Have To Teach Us [...] When you privatize not only education, but also student loans, that is what has led to the student loan crisis. It was completely unnecessary. But Joe Biden, as senator for the credit card companies centered in Delaware, pushed it through, saying, 'We've got to make education a profit center for the banks. Our purpose is not to educate the population, it's to create a situation where in order to get a job, in order to get a union card, they have to go into a lifetime of debt to the banks that cannot be wiped out by bankruptcy.' That's the Democratic Party policy. And it's what's tearing the country apart." He's got an interesting take on the Biblical support for cancellation of debts, too. "You had a continuation of the original Christianity in the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Orthodox Church, all the way through Byzantium. And in my book And Forgive Them Their Debts, the last two chapters are on the Byzantine echo of the original debt cancellations, where one ruler after another would cancel the debts. And they gave very explicit reason for it: if we don't cancel the debts, we're not going to be able to field an army, we're not going to be able to collect taxes, because the oligarchy is going to take over. They were very explicit, with references to the Bible, references to the jubilee year. So you had Christianity survive in the Byzantine Empire. But in the West it ended in Margaret Thatcher. And Father Coughlin."

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And The New Left: THE INTERCEPT'S Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray spoke with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW about identity, race, and class, and how these debates are likely to play out in the years ahead."

As always, the most honest appraisal of Beto O'Rourke's announcement that he's throwing his hat into the ring comes from...The Onion. Because if there's anything we need right now, it's empty platitudes from some white guy who doesn't remember why Democrats aren't that friendly with GOP ideas.

"Bernie Sanders Is Beating Kamala Harris 2-1 Among Black Democratic Primary Voters, New Poll Finds: THREE WEEKS AFTER launching his presidential campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading all other announced candidates in support from black voters, a new poll finds. The only potential candidate who polled better with African-Americans than Sanders, according to the poll by Morning Consult, is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced a campaign. Despite a persistent notion that his supporters are disproportionately white male 'bros,' the new survey suggests that Sanders is actually slightly more popular among black Democratic voters than white ones, indicating that the narrative that developed during the 2016 campaign may no longer hold, if it ever did. Sanders's support among black voters, at 28 percent, puts him in second place among that demographic, behind Biden, at 32 percent. He trailed Biden 31-25 among whites. There appears to be a strong class element at play in the finding. The same poll found that the demographics Sanders is least popular with — at 19 and 17 percent, respectively — are Democrats who make more than $100,000 per year and Democrats who have post-graduate degrees (two qualities that typically, if not always, overlap). Because of structural wealth and income gaps, that population is heavily white. Sanders, meanwhile, receives his strongest support from those making less than $50,000 — a group that is, for the same reasons, much more diverse. The poll found that 30 percent of those with the lowest incomes backed Sanders."

RIP: "Carrie Ann Lucas Dies At Age 47, You Probably Haven't Heard Of Her And That's A Problem: Yesterday, February 24th, the disability rights advocate community lost one of its mightiest members, Carrie Ann Lucas. Lucas was a nationally known disability rights attorney and a mother of four children, each of whom are adopted and living with disabilities. She was only 47 years old. Her death was announced by family and friends on her Facebook page: '[Lucas] died after an arbitrary denial from an insurance company caused a plethora of health problems, exacerbating her disabilities and eventually leading to her premature death.'"

RIP: "Hal Blaine, Wrecking Crew Drummer, Is Dead at 90: He played drums on at least 40 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart," And you know all of them. He actually replaced Dennis Wilson in the recording studio, among many other things. And there are some things that just don't happen with a drum machine. I miss that.

Anti-Bernie Twitter likes to rag about how no one who Bernie endorses or who endorses Bernie ever wins an election. This taunt would be meaningless even if it were true since so many of them are challengers running against incumbents, but when you really look at the record, it's amazing how many actually win.

"The anti-Bernie Sanders campaign being pushed by former Clinton staffers, explained: Former Hillary Clinton aides really want Bernie Sanders to get the Clinton treatment." It's pretty simple: They're bitter. And they want 2020 to be bitter as well.

The Boston Herald says, "Democrats ignore Bernie Sanders at their own risk."

And, interestingly, National Review says, "Don't Laugh, Bernie Can Win: He can talk to working-class voters without the usual Democratic condescension. [...] Some have said that Sanders overperformed in the 2016 Democratic primary because Hillary Clinton is a uniquely bad candidate. (Well, Rich Lowry has said that.) Sanders would fade under closer scrutiny. If it seems like he's a real contender to grab the nomination, people will research the weird things he said in the 1970s and 1980s. Or they'll get more accustomed to his personal quirks and affect. And then he'll fade. A gap between the austerity of his democratic-socialist politics and his relatively comfortable personal lifestyle will overwhelm him. My response: Where have you been the last four years? Polished candidates are out. Candid candidates are in. Voters can and will forgive their politicians almost any verbal lapses, so long as they believe the candidate doesn't hate them. Sanders has the manners not to talk about huge swathes of the American public with disdain or contempt. We know he won't repeat Mitt Romney's 'takers' moment. But, crucially, while Sanders will denounce racism and divisiveness, he won't imply that Trump's supporters are economically useless 'deplorables.' Bernie is not 'intersectional' — at least, not in the alienating way. His declared enemies are the millionaires and billionaires who buy up public policy. He will not be tempted, as some other candidates may be, to mimic or adopt the young-lefty-media views on intersectionality that remain avant-garde and alienating to key swing constituencies. [...] Sanders's version of left-wing politics will ring out as almost nostalgic and comforting to voters lower on the socioeconomic scale. In fact, he may have more crossover appeal. The possibility of 'Obama-Trump-Sanders' voters flipping Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania is a real one. If the age of Clinton has officially ended in the Democratic party, Sanders offers the party a pre-Clintonite identity. His ambitions are to expand on the New Deal and the Fair Deal, to overcome the resistance that national health care met in the famous do-nothing Congress. [...] Finally, and this is an important point: One of Sanders's greatest advantages is his stubbornness. Sometime in the 1990s, Americans got used to the idea that politics is entirely phony. It's all 'spin.' All candidates 'pivot.' Donald Trump has a very unfaithful relationship with the truth. At the same time, Trump's character is transparent. People knew what kind of man Trump really was when they voted for him. Sanders's lifelong adherence to social-democratic politics, his willingness to sit on the margins because of his fidelity to that vision, is his greatest asset. The whole world has grown soft and inconstant. Sanders is a rebuke to that. Republicans and conservatives need to take him very seriously."

Guiliann Di Lauro Valez, "I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders's 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed: LAST WEEK, MY experience, and that of some of my female co-workers, became the focus of a New York Times story on the sexual harassment and sexism that took place in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign. I told my story to bring attention to the sexist environment that is unfortunately endemic to most workspaces, including political campaigns. However, I was disheartened to discover that the takeaway by many pundits was not that sexism and harassment is pervasive, but that Sanders was somehow uniquely culpable. I was also struck by some of the messages and tweets calling into question the character of the women who spoke out. As was the case throughout the 2016 campaign season, my personal experiences as a woman of color were sublimated to serve an establishment media narrative that pretends the progressive movement is all white, all male, and runs counter to the interests of women and people of color. But my story should not be taken to confirm the 'Bernie bro' mythology. It should be taken to confirm the pervasiveness of sexism in professional life and distill the hard truths that all campaigns should learn from."

Neoliberal epiphany: "A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it's time to give democratic socialists a chance." Yes, Brad DeLong has (sort of) seen the light. He's still essentially a neoliberal, but he seems to have discovered that it's pointless to push it at the moment. "We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics. Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney's health care policy, with John McCain's climate policy, with Bill Clinton's tax policy, and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. He's all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they're the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well. And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we've got to build bridges to the Republicans. We've got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we've got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we've got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to 'entitlement reform.' All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney's health care policy and John McCain's climate policy and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not. [...] I'd say we learned more about the world. I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. It's much harder to believe in those things now. That's one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years." You're halfway there, Brad.

Too many good quotes in this one from Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs about "The Obama Boys", working in the White House having an empty West Wing-y fantasy life around a man who everyone said was a great progressive speaker though he was deeply regressive and no one can really remember any inspiring quotations from him. Why? It was straight boys in love, but there was nothing there. They just loved him. "Indeed, Litt comes away from an Obama event and says 'yet here's the remarkable thing: I don't remember a word.' He felt 'a kind of patriotic ecstasy' but he doesn't actually seem to have been inspired by the idea of actually doing anything with the power of government. Indeed, Pfeiffer's memoir says that while conventional wisdom in politics is that you should talk about 'issues and policy positions' for Obama 'the campaign was the message.' Paraphrasing Jay-Z ('I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man') the Obama staff concludes that Obama is not a 'message man,' he's the 'message, man.' Pfeiffer says he had 'desperately wanted' something in his life that felt 'more like a cause than a campaign,' and in Obama he found it. But the 'hope and change' they sought consisted of getting Obama elected. Obama 'made our union more perfect simply by entering the White House,' Litt says. After that, it was all a bit 'gauzy but vague' (Pfeiffer's words). No wonder, then, that after being elected Obama disbanded his grassroots organizing apparatus — an act regarded by some as one of the worst political mistakes of his presidency. There was nothing to organize for."

And another billionaire chimes in, "Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio: 'Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people'."

"America is not "polarized": it's a land where a small minority tyrannize the supermajority: Writing in the New York Times, Tim Wu (previously) describes the state of American politics after decades of manipulation dirty tricks and voter suppression, where policies with extremely high levels of public approval like higher taxes on the super-rich (75%), paid maternity leave (67%), net neutrality (83%), parallel importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada (71%) and empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices (92%) are nevertheless considered politically impossible. Of course the thing that all these policies have in common is that they would make life vastly better for nearly all of us, while making the super-rich a very little worse off. As Wu points out, this is not a picture of a "heavily polarized" nation, as the pundits would have it. These policies are wildly popular and are outside of the political mainstream because a minority have figured out how to suppress the will of the supermajority."

I've always felt that someone called "Donna Shalala" should have an honorable job singing "Baby, It's You" with the Shirelles rather than spouting anti-Venezuela propaganda.

Stephon Clark speaks truth to power at the Sacramento City Council and doesn't pull any punches.

"Is the Skills Gap Real? Changes in Employer Skill Requirements During the Great Recession: Since the Great Recession, employers have cited a skills gap in which workers lack the education and experience needed to fill vacant jobs. In response, federal and state policymakers have called for increased efforts for training and retraining of workers to alleviate this mismatch in the labor market. While job requirements increased for many openings during the recession, the inverse has happened as the labor market has recovered: some employers have been lowering education and experience requirements to fill open positions. Does a skills gap exist and if so, what should public policy do about it?"

Tom the Dancing Bug, They Were... SOCIALIST INVADERS FROM THE FUTURE!

There's an English children's classic called Swallows and Amazons which I never heard of until I saw this article, which instantly made me think I should show it to my parents until I remembered I couldn't. "Swallows and Armenians: Arthur Ransome's forgotten inspirations revealed : A new art project is exploring how the characters in the English children's classic were modelled on a family from Aleppo."

Gorgeous food carving by Daniele Barresi.

Ridley Scott's Hennessy ad looks like a science fiction film you'd like to see.

A whole album of Hal Blaine drumming: Pet Sounds.

03:25 GMT comment


Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A better world is needed

I have had the kind of cold that definitely isn't the worst I've ever had but man is it making me drowsy. I should be all excited but it's hard to concentrate.

He's in: "Bernie Sanders announces 2020 run: 'We're gonna win'." I particularly liked the part where he responded to being asked about Howard Schultz. He was also interviewed by none other than Thom Hartmann, who didn't ask the dumb questions.

"Leahy endorses Sanders for president: Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Tuesday endorsed his colleague Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president, hours after Sanders announced his candidacy." Leahy endorsed Clinton last time, but he doesn't have to anymore.

I occasionally muse on the fact that we used to meet up in churches, but so few of us seem to go to church anymore and I wonder what could replace it. Alice Marshall on The politics of laundromats: Where can you reach the working class? Well, lots of places, but laundromats are an under exploited opportunity. This year, 2019, is a year of local elections. The state legislatures in Virginia and New Jersey are up for election as are many city and county governments. Local candidates have a difficult time getting their name out, especially if they are challengers. So anything you can do to raise your candidate's visibility will be of great value. Which brings us to laundromats. We stand in front of libraries and grocery stores handing out literature, but not laundromats, why not?"

Timothy Faust with "The Only Guide to 'Medicare for All' That You Will Ever Need. [...] In the coming weeks, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is set to release a new 'Medicare for All' bill. I'm generally inclined to distrust the policy gestures of elected officials, but I've read a detailed overview of the bill from Jayapal's office and I'm happy to say that this bill is astonishingly strong, and should become the baseline for federal legislation toward single-payer healthcare. (I'll discuss why in a minute.)" Tim writes a lot about what must be included in the bills. He says all but two are write-offs. The two, of course, are Sanders' and Jayapal's - but even they have problems, It's worth reading the whole thing. But no bill, including Jayapal's, is enough. No bill, on its own, could be enough. For the past hundred years, every time the insiders — the well-meaning senators, the well-meaning policy writers, the well-meaning union or nonprofit leaders — have taken on the insurance industry, they've written a bill and waved it around and tried to gin up support among the grassroots. And then they were beaten by a reactionary establishment that is capable of outmaneuvering, outfoxing, and outgunning health reform. They lost in the '40s, they lost in the '60s, they lost in the '70s, they lost a few times in the '90s, and they lost in the 2000s." This isn't something the wonks can handle. It depends on the grassroots screaming for it. So be ready to scream.

"One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once: It will be an offence to view terrorist material online just once — and could incur a prison sentence of up to 15 years — under new UK laws. The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill was granted Royal Assent yesterday, updating a previous Act and bringing new powers to law enforcement to tackle terrorism. But a controversial inclusion was to update the offence of obtaining information "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" so that it now covers viewing or streaming content online. The rules as passed into law are also a tightening of proposals that had already been criticised by human rights groups and the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Max Hill. Originally, the proposal had been to make it an offence for someone to view material three or more times — but the three strikes idea has been dropped from the final Act."

Here's Digby and Sam Seder talking about how The Inquirer tried to blackmail Jeff Bezos over some dick picks they got their hands on and he outed them with an open letter. And neither one of them even bothered to wonder what would happen if the owner of The Washington Post went the criminal route against another newspaper for a friggin' felony, ffs, because that's become the sort of thing that is just a side issue in the general scheme of things.

Why Amy Klobuchar is not going on my shortlist. Imagine thinking this is going to get people to vote for you.

"Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer are going after corporate stock buybacks: A large chunk of Republican tax cuts were funneled into companies boosting their own stocks. The pair of senators want corporations to benefit workers instead."

The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies & the Death of Competition w/ Jonathan Tepper - MR Live - 2/12/19

"Corporate Democrats Aren't Winning Any Swing Voters." Nothing you don't know, but a nice new chart.

Tom Perez says they will have lots of primary debates with two-night panels (randomly-selected) so they don't have too many people in each debate.

And now, several paragraphs from Atrios: "ACA Was A Failure: No, really, a total failure. Yes there were some good regulatory changes. Yes the exchanges make it possible for some people to buy on the individual market (though that insurance is mostly...not good). Yes the Medicaid expansion was great. But the important thing to remember about the Medicaid expansion was that it was a last minute *fix* to keep the price tag down. Think about that. It was cheaper to provide free health care for more people than to throw them onto the subsidized exchanges at subsidy levels that they could possibly afford. If they'd taken it up to 500% of FPL and 600% of FPL it would have been even cheaper! And that became a political problem, because your poor neighbor has free health care and you have to pay for a bronze plan which sucks." (There's more.)

"Common Myths About Porn, Debunked by a Porn Performer On set, the cast and crew are really nice and attentive. But of course, I have to caveat that there can be consent violations on set, like there can be anywhere. It's difficult to exist in the world and not have people be shit occasionally. But in general people are very caring, and they want you to be okay because you don't want someone to leave the set and be upset with you. At the bare bones, that's bad business."

There's a lot of good stuff on this episode of The Michael Brooks Show: TMBS - 76 - Votes Not Cops & Kamala Harris Is Not Your Friend ft. Briahna Joy Gray & Jeffrey Halper. The discussion of Harris is good, but Halper's experience in Israel is a different take than you normally see in the media.

I wonder what message Roger Stone was trying to send by dressing up in a top hat. @spooksperson had a lot of fun with it in this thread, and thank you, Mr. Atrios, for calling it to my attention.

Great tweetstorm by Matt Stoller: "1. Ok, let's talk quickly about Amazon and what I'll call the gangster-ification of American business. In the 1980s, mobsters dominated the gas station business in NY and NJ by not paying taxes their competitors had to. 2. Jeff Bezos built Amazon explicitly around a loophole in the tax code created by the Supreme Court in 1992 that allowed him to skip out on paying sales taxes. It's why he located in Seattle. The tactic was legal, but not technologically driven. Or fair. 3. There is a big difference between legitimate commerce, and coercive tactics masquerading as commerce. We have a long tradition of distinguishing between the two, centered around our antitrust laws but extending outward throughout the administrative state and localities. 4. Hundreds of years of this tradition embedded a basic understanding that crime/monopolization and commerce are different. Crime when it becomes dominant in a culture creates aristocracy/authoritarianism. One way to see the American Revolution was a revolt against monopoly." Read all 19 tweets in the thread.

They are so used to being contemptuous toward progressives that they can't even do better than this: "'Everyone. Needs. To. Watch...' Democrat Dianne Feinstein Explain to Children Why She Won't Back Green New Deal."

"Firefighters respond to cow with chair on its head"

The only thing I know about Andrew Yang is in this interview, which is actually pretty interesting but I don't think he's going anywhere. One reason is that his approach to education is, well, he's not interested in actual education.

RIP: Carol Emshwiller 1921-2019. Reports John-Henri Holmberg: "I must, with great regret, tell those of you who haven't so far heard it that Carol Emshwiller died on February 2. Born April 12, 1921, wife of painter and film maker Ed Emshwiller, an author who Ursula Le Guin called 'a major fabulist, a marvellous magical realist, one of the strongest, most complex, most consistently feminist voices in fiction'. Author of unforgettable stories, beginning with 'Built for Pleasure' in 1954 and, sadly, ending with 'All I Know of Freedom', 2012. In between were masterpieces like 'Sex and/or Mr Morrison', 'The Start of the End of the World', 'I Live With You', and so many others. Read her collections: Joy in Our Cause, Verging on the Pertinent, The Start of the End of It All, Report to the Men's Club, I Live With You, In the Time of War, Master on the Road to Nowhere. Read her novels: Carmen Dog, Ledoyt, Leaping Man Hill, The Mount, Mister Boots, The Secret City. Or get hold of the two volume The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, in my view one of the finest story collections published. Read Luis Ortiz' combined book about Carol and Ed Emshwiller: Emshwiller: Infinity x Two, published in 2007. But above all, read Carol's stories, and remember her as one of the great fantasists, one of the most gracious of persons, one of those few who live up to our potential as humans."

RIP: "Peter Tork, bassist for the Monkees, dies aged 77: Accomplished folk musician and teen star helped move the guitar-pop band beyond their manufactured image." Here's the first song on one of their albums that he sang lead on, "Your Auntie Grizelda", which I admit is not one of my favorite Monkees tunes. Rolling Stone remembers him as the funniest Monkee.

A nice refresher course from Sam Seder, "The Mismeasure of Minds: Debating Race & Intelligence w/ Michael Staub - MR Live - 2/18/19

H. Bruce Franklin (Rutgers), "The American Prison in the Culture Wars: The following talk was delivered at the 2000 Modern Language Association Convention in Washington, DC, on the panel, 'The Imprisonment of American Culture.' [...] 6. The two most menacing institutional sources of the danger described by Freeman were obviously those two great public university systems charging no tuition: the University of California and the City University of New York. Governor Reagan was able to wipe out free tuition at the University of California in 1970, leaving CUNY as the lone threat. The vital task of crippling CUNY was to go on for six more years, outlasting Nixon and falling to his appointed successor, Gerald Ford.7 In 1975, President Ford announced that he would withhold federal aid from New York City, then in a financial crisis, until it eliminated open admissions and free tuition at CUNY. To be financially responsible, Ford declared, New York must no longer be a city that "operates one of the largest universities in the world, free of tuition for any high school graduate, rich or poor, who wants to attend."8 Or, as the President's press secretary explained, New York City had become like "a wayward daughter hooked on heroin": "you don't give her $100 a day to support her habit. You make her go cold turkey to break her habit." Finally in 1976, the assault on public education succeeded in terminating the City University's 129-year policy of not charging tuition, thus wiping out the last U.S. stronghold of free public higher education. The university then fired hundreds of young faculty members hired to implement the open admissions program. [...] 8. Meanwhile, just as the state and federal governments were taking away the funds that could open up the universities, they were beginning to spend far greater sums to build alternative institutions for the poor, with exceptionally easy entrance requirements and lengthy enrollments for people of color. From 1976, the year when free higher education was eradicated, until the end of the century, on average a new prison was constructed in America every week. The prison population went from under 200,000 in 1971 to two million in 2000 as America became the prison capital of the world. The states of California and Texas now run the second and third largest prison systems in the world. By the late 1990s, many states had followed California's lead in spending more money for prisons than for higher education, and across the country far more young black men were in prison than in college.12 Not just coincidentally, the amount removed from public higher education in New York equalled the amount added to the budget for the state's prisons. Felony convictions had stripped the vote from 4.1 million American citizens.13 This proved to be decisive in determining who would soon sit in the White House, for in Florida one-third of African-American men--as many as 204,000 potential Black voters--were disenfranchised.14 The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been effectively repealed by the criminalization of the poor, especially people of color, through the so-called war on drugs, racial profiling, unleashed police, and felony disenfranchisement. Grotesque experiments in dehumanization are being conducted in the form of 'supermax' prisons. This has been culture war with a vengeance--and with a very effective strategy."

I know I once saw a clip of Colbert looking genuinely shocked when he interviewed Austan Goolsbee and heard him claim that government doesn't create jobs. But I can't find it now, and Comedy Central won't let me see its archives or tell if this is that interview. It would be nice to have for posterity to remind people that this thoroughly right-wing position was expressed in public by a member of the Obama cabinet. [Update: CMike reminds me that it wasn't quite as I remember, but same difference.]

William Binney (former Technical Director NSA) and Larry Johnson (former State CT and CIA), "Why The DNC Was Not Hacked By The Russians [...] Taken together, these disparate data points combine to paint a picture that exonerates alleged Russian hackers and implicates persons within our law enforcement and intelligence community taking part in a campaign of misinformation, deceit and incompetence. It is not a pretty picture."

Quoted: "I can say with confidence that if Bernie gets the nomination a lot of prominent people who spent the last two years blaming Jill Stein for Trump or 18 years blaming Ralph Nader for Bush will find their 'conscience; requires them to vote for a 3rd party run by whichever neoliberal billionaire steps in." — A Friend

Rob Hansen was recently invited to an academic conference on mimeography. He reports: Immediately after my interview they showed footage of the mimeography panel at 1976's MIDAMERICON. Among those in the audience laughing heartily at Jon Singer's impression of a Gestetner was Jonathan Gestetner. The associated exhibition (now extended 'til 23rd Feb) is still going on. Here are photos taken at the launch.

Susie Bright's grandmother is a mystery, but she left all these photos.

Boing Boing has the Frozen II teaser trailer. (And while I was there I saw Chuck Jones - The Evolution of an Artist again.)

"Masqrade" is a 30-year-old mod file that sounds very different from anything I've ever heard done this way. You can download the file but I just streamed it with the "Play with Online Player" link.

I like Danny Boyle, science fiction, and The Beatles, so I was interested to see this trailer for Yesterday.

The Monkees with Peter Tork on lead vocal, "A Better World"

05:00 GMT comment


Monday, 04 February 2019

I've been looking high and low

This photo comes from a page where you can pick your favorite skyscape for a people's choice award at the Royal Museums Greenwich site. Some striking images to feast your eyes on, and one surprising single-shot, no-tricks photo of the Milky Way hanging over suburban homes.

So, he was flipping through the channels and suddenly we were captivated by this documentary on the BBC that we didn't know was on, "The Everly Brothers: Harmonies from Heaven", which brought tears to my eyes. Watch it if you can.

Fears of US-Backed 'Coup' in Motion as Trump Recognizes Venezuela Opposition Lawmaker as 'Interim President': President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela officially cut off diplomatic ties with the U.S. government on Wednesday — and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country — in response to President Donald Trump declaring formal recognition of an opposition lawmaker as the 'Interim President' of Venezuela, despite not being elected by the nation's people for that position. [...] Critics of U.S. imperialism and its long history of anti-democratic manuevers in Latin American expressed immediate alarm on Wednesday after Trump's announcement. And what Trump identified as 'democracy,' critics of the move instead used Maduro's description: 'coup.'" Of course it's a coup - orchestrated from Washington on the heels of years of sanctions imposed by Barack Obama. No doubt because Venezuela has all that nice oil. Centrist hearththrob Justin Trudeau has already recognized the coup leader, Since even the "progressives" seem largely to be supporting the coup, you can be sure that most of what you're seeing in the news about this is false. Is Maduro bad? He's not great, but he's better than the alternative, which is a coup against a Democratically elected leader. Was the election rigged? We don't know, because although Maduro asked for international oversight of the elections, the same people who are staging the coup refused to let them in. When the Bush administration pulled this with Chavez, they managed to convince a lot of people that he was depriving his people of all kinds of rights that Americans don't have, either. But no one points that out. The opposition to Maduro is staging huge, violent events to try to get the government to respond, and after they've stolen some vehicles and blocked thoroughfares and set building on fire for a few hours and the authorities finally show up, then they start filming and claiming it's "government repression". The shortages of food and medical supplies? Well, yeah, those sanctions are working, what did you expect?

Why France's Yellow Vest Protests Have Been Ignored by the US 'Resistance': To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have stoked fears of 'Russian interference' behind the unrest. [...] It turned out that a crisis was not averted but merely postponed when Macron defeated his demagogue opponent Le Pen in the 2017 French election. While it is true that the gilets jauneswere partly impelled by an increase on fuel prices, contrary to the prevailing narrative their official demands are not limited to a carbon tax. They also consist of explicit ultimatums to increase the minimum wage, improve the standard of living, and an end to austerity, among other legitimate grievances. Since taking office, Macron has declared war on trade unions while pushing through enormous tax breaks for the wealthy (like himself) — it was just a matter of time until the French people had enough of the country's privatization.

The Political Economy Research Institute, "Economic Analysis of Medicare for All: This study by PERI researchers Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Michael Ash presents a comprehensive analysis of the prospects for a Medicare for All health care system in the United States. The most fundamental goals of Medicare for All are to significantly improve health care outcomes for everyone living in the United States while also establishing effective cost controls throughout the health care system. These two purposes are both achievable. As of 2017, the U.S. was spending about $3.24 trillion on personal health care — about 17 percent of total U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, 9 percent of U.S. residents have no insurance and 26 percent are underinsured — they are unable to access needed care because of prohibitively high costs. Other high-income countries spend an average of about 40 percent less per person and produce better health outcomes. Medicare for All could reduce total health care spending in the U.S. by nearly 10 percent, to $2.93 trillion, while creating stable access to good care for all U.S. residents."

"Wall Street freaks out about 2020: Many of the nation's top bankers want Trump gone, but they're growing anxious about some Democratic presidential contenders." I'm betting it's not Beto or Kamala or Biden who's got them worried. "NEW YORK — Top Wall Street executives would love to be rid of President Donald Trump. But they are getting panicked about the prospect of an ultraliberal Democratic nominee bent on raising taxes and slapping regulations on their firms. The result is a kind of nervous paralysis of executives pining for a centrist nominee like Michael Bloomberg while realizing such an outcome is unlikely from a party veering sharply to the left. [...] "

This Onion headline is absolutely true: "Howard Schultz Considering Independent Presidential Run After Finding No Initial Support Among Any Voter Groups: SEATTLE — Expressing concerns that Democratic and Republican parties no longer represented people like him, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz revealed Monday that he was considering an independent presidential run after finding no initial support among any American voter groups."

"Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked: After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to 'traumatize' migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy. In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that "compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.' 'Despite this fact,' Merkley continued, 'while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally "I'm not a liar, we've never had a policy for family separation."' Given the 'conflicting facts,' Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation." It's interesting to wonder how and why the memo got released, but if you're trying to broadcast to the world that America is a bad place to go if you're not a blonde, you wouldn't want to keep it a secret, would you?

The internet ran wild with rumors that Bernie is ready to run. So here's a timely article in GQ called "The Unfinished Business of Bernie Sanders," which is actually pretty thoughtful. "Indeed, passing the torch could actually be liberating for Sanders — and not just because it would give him more time to spend with his seven grandchildren. 'I do think his DNA, where he's been over the course of his life, is he really likes agitating,' says the senior Democratic strategist. 'There's a freedom to it: the freedom of being an agitator versus the weight of being a standard-bearer. If you're a standard-bearer, you have to start making compromises.' And yet the idea of passing the torch has obvious downsides. For one thing, would any of the Bernie 2.0's — to say nothing of the more centrist candidates, like Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, who are now singing from the Bernie hymnal — be as committed to his issues as Sanders is himself? 'If Bernie's not on the debate stage, the center of gravity shifts,' says one Sanders adviser. 'How much will others stick to issues we care about if they don't feel the need to compete with us?' What's more, even if the other candidates were true believers, would they be as good at spreading the gospel as Sanders? 'No one articulates these issues in the same way as him,' says the Sanders adviser."

Rasmussen, "Voters Mixed on Harris, Don't See Her as 2020 Nominee: California Senator Kamala Harris has announced her intention to run for president, but voters aren't paying the California Democrat much heed. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 37% of Likely U.S. Voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Harris, including 16% who view her Very Favorably. Forty percent (40%) view Harris unfavorably, including 27% with a Very Unfavorable opinion of the former San Francisco District Attorney. Another 24% don't know enough about Harris to offer an opinion. "

Matt Taibbi, "Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending? While a noisy Supreme Court fight captivated America last fall, an obscure federal accounting body quietly approved a system of classified money-moving. October 4th, 2018, was a busy news day. The fight over Brett Kavanuagh's Supreme Court nomination dominated the cycle. The Trump White House received a supplemental FBI report it said cleared its would-be nominee of wrongdoing. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens meanwhile said Kavanaugh was compromised enough that he was 'unable to sit as a judge.' #NationalTacoDay trended on Twitter. Chris Evans told the world production wrapped on Avengers 4. The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, 'SFFAS 56 — CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES' permits government agencies to 'modify' public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered."

I have my concerns about both Bernie's and Harris' plans to end money bail. It's absolutely necessary we do that, but I don't want to see it replaced with just another way judicial wisdom or some formula that works against the poor can be used to have the same effect - or worse.

Taibbi, "Taibbi: Forget the Memo — Can We Worry About the Banks? A classic circular kerfuffle in congress this week shifted eyes away from rare bipartisan cooperation on spying powers and bank reform. [...] Predictably, there have been more concerning stories in recent weeks having to do with Republicans and Democrats agreeing, rather than trading dumb accusations. [...] All in all, this whole period has been a classic example of how congress operates. The parties fight publicly about something that's either irrelevant, inaccurate, or far from a resolution. Meanwhile, a quiet consensus pushes forward a handful of unsexy but important bills and amendments, usually economic or deregulatory in nature. Those issues tend to be the ones that demand, but rarely get, the most attention."

"'Historic Day for American Unions': Los Angeles Teachers Strike Earns Victory for Labor, Public Education: Los Angeles public school teachers at the nation's second-largest district ended a six-day strike late Tuesday after union members voted to approve a deal — hailed as a major victory for organized labor — that's designed to raise salaries, cap class sizes and charter schools, and direct more funding to schools for nurses, counselors, and other support staff positions."

"GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn't Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank: Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the 'sugar-coated' junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an 'exceedingly dangerous' plan that must be stopped. In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his 'extreme concern' with Tlaib's proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December. Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the 'Jewish Disneyland trip' — sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) — the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on 'Israel's detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,' the news outlet reported at the time."

Rashida Tlaib also upset Republicans by using "strong language" in a bar. "'We're gonna impeach the motherf****r'" I don't remember them getting this worked up when Dick Cheney used similar language on the Senate floor.

Steny Hoyer needs to go, but that has been true since the very beginning of his career when, to our horror, he replaced Gladys Spellman upon her death. It has nothing to do with how old he is or how long he's served - he has never been any better than he is.

"A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda: When charter schools pull funding from a public school, it damages the school's ability to educate the students who remain. In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters' lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system's financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists."

Briahna Gray in The Intercept, "A Problem for Kamala Harris: Can a Prosecutor Become President in the Age of Black Lives Matter? [...] She's running for president as a progressive, but as attorney general of California, she criminalized truancy — making it a crime for kids to be late for school, and dragging into the criminal justice system even more disproportionately low income, predominantly black and latino families. She's overlooked the misconduct of her prosecutors and fought to uphold their wrongfully secured convictions. She defended California's choice to deny sexual reassignment surgery to a trans inmate, and in 2014, appealed a federal judge's holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional. [...] Journalist Jill Filipovic argued on Twitter recently that she judges Harris's history less harshly because black women 'shoulder additional burdens' compared to white men, and because women have to prove that they are 'tough.' Filipovic acknowledges that Harris's race and gender don't 'excuse' her record, but, she insists, 'context matters.' It's difficult to understand, though, how the context matters here except to provide some kind of excuse. I'm not without sympathy for the additional pressures exerted on Harris because she is a black woman — after all, unlike Filipovic, I am one too. But those sympathies do not eclipse the concern I have for the black women who bore the consequences of Harris's prosecutorial misjudgment. Importantly, if Harris had to be tougher on crime because she is black, it wasn't for the sake of some higher ideal. It was because her personal ambitions demanded it. [...] Perhaps the most enduring lesson of Sen. Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign — during which he earned votes of 43 percent of Democratic Party primary participants despite starting with name recognition in the teens, enduring a corporate media blackout, and declining to take corporate PAC money — is that the traditional rules around how much you have to sell out to get ahead were wrong. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and myriad candidates who won or over-performed in last year's midterms understood this, as do the leaders of the 2020 field, who have largely sworn off corporate PAC money, and who have adopted the bulk of Sanders's 2016 platform. As it turns out, doing the right thing is actually a winning proposition."

Reason has a compilation of her hits, in "Kamala Harris' New Book Tries to Massage Her Record as a Prosecutor, But the Facts Aren't Pretty: The book neglects to mention all the times Harris' office appealed cases that were thrown out for gross prosecutor misconduct."

Teodrose Fikre is celebrating good journalists, with "Evoking Muckrakers: Hannah Giorgis's Devastating Critique of Senator Kamala Harris." Giorgis' article, in The Atlantic, reviews a book. "Kamala Harris's Political Memoir Is an Uneasy Fit for the Digital Era: The senator's new book shows the difficulty of translating short-form virality into a substantive text," she says, noting that Harris' woke-sounding tweets and self-revelation neither explain her history nor are supported by it. "But unlike Harris's many viral #resistance moments and meticulous snapshots of relatability, the memoir itself is a meandering work that lacks verve. More significantly, given far more than 280 characters to deliver a cohesive message, Harris doesn't meaningfully reconcile her punitive track record as a California prosecutor with her more recent activist-adjacent positioning as a national Democratic darling." Harris' purported reason for serving in office has to do with wanting to fight for social justice But, as many have observed, her time in office has shown her to be not merely absent from that fight, but working for the other side. "It is, according to many of her supporters, an admirable goal. And for a career prosecutor, it's a fairly understandable worldview. But the lofty language is a tough fit with Harris's policy track record. As others have noted, her tenure as California's so-called top cop reveals a series of choices that are often incongruous with the social-justice-inflected rhetoric of The Truths We Hold. Under District Attorney Kamala Harris, the overall felony-conviction rate in San Francisco rose from 52 percent in 2003 to 67 percent in 2006, the highest seen in a decade. Many of the convictions accounting for that increase stemmed from drug-related prosecutions, which also soared, from 56 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2006. As California's attorney general, Harris pushed a punitive initiative that treated truancy among elementary schoolers as a crime for which parents could be jailed. In 2014, she attempted to block the release of nonviolent second-strike offenders from overcrowded state prisons on the grounds that their paroling would result in prisons losing an important labor pool. The following year, she defended the California state prosecutor Robert Murray after he falsified a defendant's confession that was used to threaten a sentence of life in prison, and sided with state prison leaders in contesting a transgender inmate's bid for gender-confirmation surgery. Twice in 2016, she brought criminal charges related to human trafficking against Backpage.com, an online classified website frequently used by sex workers, and later, as a senator, she co-sponsored federal bills that led to the site's seizure, a move that sex workers and activists said threatens their survival." Giorgis also compares this book with Harris' first, and notes that they seem to contradict each other, with no bridge between them. Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer was a book from Kamala the Top Cop, who showed no interest in the injustice of rounding up loads of people (disproportionately of color, naturally) for non-violent drug crimes and wrecking their lives unnecessarily. This pre-presidential Harris wants us to think she has a history of caring about those effects — particularly on people of color — yet one still has the impression she's really only interested in protecting Perry Mason's clients - falsely accused innocents, respectable, and white. "For those already inclined to find her highly tweetable brand of #resistance rhetoric appealing, the memoir offers up palatably anti-establishment quotes for possible tote-bag screen-printing. If only it presented a holistic political foundation instead."

And even The New York Times has a great article by Lara Bazelon, law professor and former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, "Kamala Harris Was Not a 'Progressive Prosecutor': The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general. [...] The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general."

David Dayen and Rebecca Burns have a new book out, Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story, and they gave Bill Scher an interview on it. How did a Wall Street executive and 'foreclosure king' like Steve Mnuchin become the Treasury Secretary for a populist like Donald Trump, and what is he doing to the country now that he's there? David Dayen and Rebecca Burns tackle those questions in their book Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story (Strong Arm Press, 2018). They trace Mnuchin not-so-humble origins and his recurring presence in companies impacted by the 2008 market crash, which prompted Sen. Elizabeth Warren to call him 'the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis.' They argue that as Treasury Secretary, he has pursued policies that betray Trump's claim to the populist mantle, rolling back bank regulations and performing lax enforcement. And they criticize the tax reform bill that Mnuchin championed, asserting that it helped the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class."

"Michelle Alexander explodes an open secret in the 'NYT': progressives keep quiet about Palestine out of fear for their careers: Everyone is talking about one thing this morning, the outstanding piece by Michelle Alexander in the New York Times, yes, the New York Times, titled, 'Time to Break the Silence about Palestine,' in which she says she can't be quiet about Palestine any longer. The author of 'The New Jim Crow' is a regular columnist now, and she has changed the discourse about Palestine in one explosive swoop, stating that progressives have been silent about Palestine partly because of fear for their careers, but the time has come to end that silence.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says, "The U.S. Needs a Federal Wealth Tax: A federal wealth tax on the richest 0.1 percent of Americans is a viable approach for Congress to raise revenue and is one of the few approaches that could truly address rising inequality. As this report explains, an annual federal tax of only 1 percent on the portion of any taxpayer's net worth exceeding the threshold for belonging to the wealthiest 0.1 percent (likely to be about $32.2 million in 2020) could raise $1.3 trillion over a decade. Many working families know that a large part of their wealth is their home, which is subject to an annual property tax at rates that, in some states, approach or even exceed one percent. The homes of the very rich typically make up a much smaller share of their overall wealth, meaning state and local property taxes have little effect on them.[1] A federal wealth tax could ensure that the net worth of the very rich is treated more like the wealth held by the middle-class."

* * * * *

Local Ohio blogger Tim Russo reminds us of "That Time In 2005 Paul Hackett Got Sherrod Brown To Let His Mask Slip-- Here We Go Again: Word on the street here in Ohio is that Sherrod Brown has reverted to factory settings as he prepares to run for president in 2020. What are Sherrod Brown's factory settings? Sherrod don't like primaries, that's what. [...] Since Brown benefitted from his bad behavior in 2005-2006, instead of facing a cost, he is repeating it. I can report that today, Sherrod is not content with rigging the Ohio Democratic Party; Brown is now actually attempting to rig processes outside the Democratic Party, in progressive groups naturally leaning toward Bernie Sanders in 2020. Brown is reaching into the internal decision making of every Ohio progressive group he can, to stunt and halt any organizing for anyone who isn't Sherrod Brown. Brown's 2019 efforts seem based entirely on geography-- that everyone in Ohio simply must support fellow Buckeye Sherrod. In short, it's Paul Hackett all over again. Thus, it is highly likely that every establishment Democrat 2020 prospect is repeating this same approach with their own geographic base. Perhaps not with the same...er...fervor that Sherrod displayed in 2005 (and is no doubt unleashing today), but certainly the same intent. Democrats simply cannot stop attempting to rig primaries. They have learned precisely nothing from 2016." Meanwhile, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went to Canada for surgery.

"How Would A President Sherrod Brown Run The Democratic Party? Like A Corporate Clown Act:"

More from Tim Russo here.

Common Dreams, "Sherrod Brown: Medicare for All Not 'Practical.' Progressives: 'OK. Thank You, Next.': 'Fight for single-payer or get kicked out of Washington trying.' [...] 'I know most of the Democratic primary candidates are all talking about Medicare for all. I think instead we should do Medicare at 55,' Brown said during a question and answer session at the Chamber of Commerce in Clear Lake, Iowa. Brown said that reducing the age or letting people over 55 buy into the existing Medicare system early would have a better chance of getting through Congress. [...] While all the Democratic 2020 candidates will ultimately be pressed on their solution to the nation's ongoing healthcare crisis, Dr. Carol Paris, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates for a single-payer system like Medicare for All, told Think Progress this week that anyone who runs must demonstrate they understand that only Medicare for All — a system with "No co-pays, no deductibles, no need for supplemental policies, no private insurance" — has the ability to confront the current system's inherent failure."

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Crusher of Sacred Cows: With its silly swipes at AOC, the American political establishment is once again revealing its blindness to its own unpopularity. [...] There's a reason aides try to keep their bosses away from microphones, particularly when there's a potential for a question of SAT-or-higher level difficulty in the interview. But the subject elected officials have the most trouble staying away from is each other. We've seen this a lot in recent weeks with the ongoing freakout over newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lest anyone think any of the above applies to 'AOC,' who's also had a lot to say since arriving in Washington, remember: she won in spite of the party and big donors, not because of them. That doesn't make anything she says inherently more or less correct. But it changes the dynamic a bit. All of AOC's supporters sent her to Washington precisely to make noise. There isn't a cabal of key donors standing behind her, cringing every time she talks about the Pentagon budget. She is there to be a pain in the ass, and it's working. Virtually the entire spectrum of Washington officialdom has responded to her with horror and anguish. [...] I have no idea if Ocasio-Cortez will or will not end up being a great politician. But it's abundantly clear that her mere presence is unmasking many, if not most, of the worst and most tired Shibboleths of the capital. Moreover, she's laying bare the long-concealed fact that many of their core policies are wildly unpopular, and would be overturned in a heartbeat if we could somehow put them all to direct national referendum.

Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, "The Shape-Shifter: Kirsten Gillibrand's name is being floated as a progressive 2020 presidential candidate. But her record shows she's a poor tribune for anti-Trump resistance.Gillibrand — who has consciously positioned herself as an elite face of 'the Resistance' in the wake of Trump's election — has some good spots on her record. She led efforts to curb sexual assault in the military, pushed to get the 9/11 first responders bill passed, campaigned to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, and has been advancing a paid family leave bill for years. But if we're going to remember Gillibrand's voting record on Trump appointees in 2020, we should also remember some of the less laudable aspects of her political career. [...] Before her appointment to the Senate, Gillibrand was a Blue Dog Democrat through and through. Representing a House district in Upstate New York, she backed the Bush tax cuts and voted to expand government surveillance every chance she got (this continued to 2015, with CISA, a bill that allowed companies to pass their customers' data to the government). She opposed gay marriage and bragged that her voting record was 'one of the most conservative in the state.' As late as 2009, she was referred to as an 'ostensibly non-liberal Democratic congresswoman' and a 'conservative Democrat.' Gillibrand's record on immigration deserves special mention. Before taking up her Senate post, Gillibrand came out against giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and opposed then — New York governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow undocumented immigrants access to drivers licenses. In 2007, she cosponsored the SAVE Act, which significantly beefed up border patrols, required all employers to check the immigration status of their employees through a flawed computer database, established monetary rewards for anyone who helped catch an undocumented immigrant trying to obtain falsified documents, and turned local police into an arm of federal immigration enforcement.She supported financially penalizing sanctuary cities, the same thing now on Trump's wish list. And she wanted to make English the United States' 'official language.'" And she's bad on Israel, of course, as well as being tight with Wall Street.

Paul Street at Counterpunch, "'If Bernie Runs?' Wrong Question: [...] Bernie's statements that the Wall Street (neoliberal) agenda 'made Trump possible' is accurate. 'Wall Street Democrats' have repeatedly demobilized and antagonized the majority working-class electorate and thereby opened the ugly barn door to the ever more dangerously reactionary and racist Republican Party. It is thanks in large part to the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats' corporate neoliberalism that two noxious George Bushes and the terrible Trump have held the White House." But there's a BUT.

Atrios says, "Assert: DC is wired for Republicans and reporters get very confused indeed when they aren't in charge of everything. It's why Newt became President in 1995, and Speaker of the House Bachmann (Tea Party) ran Congress from 2009-2011. Reporters always say that Democrats are just bad at the game of kicking the soccer ball that they all chase, which could be true, but I'd also think that reporters could, you know, not see their role as being manipulated by two teams like a fucking soccer ball. But if it is a game, then Pelosi and the House Dems should be out there pulling crazy shit stunts every damn day. Also serious stuff too! Maybe combine them sometimes. Reporters gotta write about something."

"'We've dug ourselves a really deep hole' — David Neiwert on the rise of the far right: Neiwert has reported on the US far right for decades and watched as the conservative movement has steadily adopted its outlook and ideas." This is an interview in the Guardian with our old friend. Most of it is what we've seen him say before, but also this: "One important step to challenge this would be media reform. He says that the internet and corporate ownership of local media have 'basically gutted the ability of local newspapers to cover local news, gutted the ability of larger newspapers to do consumer and investigative reporting'. Social media, a paradise for conspiracy theorists, is filling the gap." And he goes on to say that the Democratic Party has to get more progressive. Oh, yes, they really have to.

There seems to be a new wave of organized H8% anti-Bernie trolling on Twitter. If you're looking for a source for verbal karate, you might find an answer to some of the complaints about how Bernie was disrespectful to Clinton in Guy Saperstein's 2015 piece about why she didn't deserve so much respect, "The Racial Justice Failures That Hillary Clinton Can't Ignore."

"This just tells people to stay home." Michael Moore on the death knell of democracy as demonstrated by the 2016 Democratic primaries and convention.

Paul Street knew who Barack Obama was before he even ran for the Senate - a deeply conservative, ambitious man who didn't believe in activism or democracy. He wrote about that before Obama was elected, but here he is in 2014 on Tell Somebody discussing the difference between the myth of Obama, and the man, and the truth about modern "progressives". Good explanation of how Democratic leaders have made "liberalism" useless and senseless - and made sure nothing can be improved. (And it's really nice to hear that someone beside me thought Obama was a boring speaker.)

November, 1985, and The Washington Post introduces you to the new rulers of the Democratic Party: "Democrats' New Centrists Preen for '88." Unfortunately, one of them had enough charisma to eventually be elected to the presidency, and it's been downhill ever since. Reading this stuff is so oddly bland and chilling at the same time. "This prospect may distress some, but it delights others. "The vote of Sen. Kennedy for that amendment is one of the most hopeful signs of an evolutionary process that is going on in our party . . . as we cross, however uncertainly, into some post-New Deal configuration," says Babbitt. [...] On his own, each of these '88 "mentionables" would have some trouble filling a firehouse with potential voters outside his home base. So they've banded together, along with the likes of Govs. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona, Charles S. Robb of Virginia, Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Sen. Dale Bumpers (Ark.), into a sort of political road show -- a touring company of like-minded presidential and vice-presidential long shots. They call themselves the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and since midsummer, they have been following the imperatives of the Electoral College map with a series of headline-grabbing campaign-style swings through Texas, Florida, California and North Carolina. [...] They freely acknowledge that they are a long way from defining, issue by issue, exactly where the center is. But one year after the Democrats' 49-state presidential drubbing, these moderates seem poised to capture the soul of their beleaguered party on the strength of the idea of centrism. This is not a universally applauded development. "Unfortunately, the notion that we have to become a party of crypto-Republicans is selling like hotcakes," says Victor Fingerhut, a longtime labor-union pollster and strategist. "If the meek shall inherit the Earth, these timid voices will be land barons," adds Jim Hightower, the Democratic commissioner of agriculture in Texas, who argues that an out-of-power party makes a strategic mistake when it tries to recapture the national agenda with an offering of me-too-isms. He is one of a band of Democrat populists who want their party to build a new platform around good old-fashioned little-guy-versus-big-guy economic conflicts."

"A Cure For Cancer? Israeli Scientists Say They Think They Found One: [...] 'Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,' Aridor said. 'Our solution will be both generic and personal.'"

RIP: Comedian Jeremy Hardy dies of cancer aged 57: "Hardy, who featured regularly on BBC Radio 4 panel shows such as The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and wrote a column for the Guardian between 1996 and 2001, died on Friday." I'm really sorry to hear this, he was sharp and funny and coming from the right place.

RIP: "Blues musician Mike Ledbetter dies at 33: Blues fans are mourning the death of Mike Ledbetter, a singer and guitar player whose powerful vocals wowed audiences in the U.S., Europe and Russia. He was 33, according to friends. Mr. Ledbetter died of a sudden medical emergency Monday at his Elgin home, and his family is awaiting autopsy results, said his manager Gina McClain. 'He was scrupulously healthy,' said 'Monster' Mike Welch, his bandmate in the Welch-Ledbetter Connection. 'On and off, he was a bodybuilder. There's no lessons about the pitfalls of the road. This is a man who took care of himself, loved his kids, loved his girlfriend Kathy.' Trained in opera, he was 'truly the best vocalist. . . .He was just passionate about American music,' said Tina Terry, his agent. 'For the blues community, it's a huge loss.'" There's another obit at Blues Matters. But here's what you really want to know about him. He was good.

RIP: "Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million, the first woman to direct two films that made more than $100 million, and she was only the second woman director to see her film Oscar-nominated for best picture." To me, of course, she will always be Oscar Madison's secretary.

RIP: Charles Aznavour, French singing star, dies at 94. Yes, I know this was in October, but for some reason I didn't say anything at the time. I knew his name because it was the one my mother always named whenever someone asked if there were any famous Armenians. In those days, Aznavour and the Chipmonkian Ross Bagdasarian were pretty much all there was. (As my sister observed upon Aznavour's death, these days they are all infamous - Dr. Death and the Kardashians. I don't agree with her about Cher, she's still just a singer/actor, and not a bad one.

Mick West has scanned, and Graham West has uploaded to Dropbox, D. West's Fanzines in Theory and Practice. Meanwhile, Dave Langford has made a text version of West's Deliverance on the TAFF site.

Finally watched Ron Howard's Beatles movie, Eight Days A Week, and it choked me up.

Evelyn Evelyn, "Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn"

03:59 GMT comment


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

As I rise, the stakes get higher

Sanders, Cummings and Colleagues Announce Legislation to Lower Drug Prices (video)

"Vowing to Fight Corporate Power on Behalf of Working Families, Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Run: In a move seen as an official signal that she is entering the 2020 contest for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Monday sent an email to supporters and shared a video on social media announcing that she is forming an exploratory committee to examine her viability as a candidate in the next presidential race."

Tulsi Gabbard also announced, and there was some discussion of that on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 73 - AOC Is Good, Tulsi...?, & Brexit Breaks May ft. Ana Kasparian. (Julian Castro has also announced, and I haven't found a good article about it yet.)

"Celebrating Cyntoia Brown's Clemency, Rights Advocates Vow to Continue Fighting for Human Trafficking Survivors Behind Bars: A decade-long campaign which garnered national headlines in recent months came to fruition on Monday, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking survivor who has been behind bars for 15 years for murder."

"Minnesota AG's report reveals big telcos are literally letting their infrastructure rot: More than a decade of foot-dragging on fiber rollout has left millions of Americans dependent on taxpayer-funded copper-line infrastructure for landlines and DSL, but it's not like the carriers are plowing their no-fiber savings into copper maintenance, instead, as a report released by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson details, incumbent telcos are literally leaving their infrastructure to rot: wires are draped across customers' lawns (and over their propane tanks!), boxes containing key network gear are left smashed and rusting, and carriers' poles and other furniture are literally propped up with 2x4s, or have random logs placed against their wires to hold them in place. Swanson's investigation follows alarm-bells raised by the unionized telco maintenance staff and customers, who have filed more than 1,000 complaints against Frontier, Minnesota's incumbent carrier. The neglect is takes place in an environment of deregulation prompted by the rise of VoIP services, which gave the carriers and the FCC the excuse they needed to allow the telcos to self-regulate their copper-line infrastructure." Worth clicking just to see the photos.

Theresa May failed again to get her latest Brexit plan through, 432-202. May survived the vote of confidence but she only has until March to get it together, and so far she shows no signs of finding a way to do this thing. Meanwhile, some people wonder why Labour seems to have shown such half-hearted interest in defending Remain. It might help to read "Everything you need to know about Lexit in five minutes" - that's the long-standing left-wing case against the EU. Hint: It's about the ease with which employers can simply move companies or jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer worker protections.

"Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception: The high court's ruling means the company must hand over records to the Massachusetts attorney general for her ongoing investigation"

"Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law: DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Iowa's so-called 'ag-gag' law that makes it a crime for undercover journalists or animal-rights activists to investigate and report on animal abuse in livestock facilities is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge James Gritzner in Des Moines struck down the 2012 statute passed by the Iowa Legislature aimed at preventing reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities under false pretenses to report animal abuse."

Maté, "Someone Finally Explained the Trump-Russia Story and It Will Make You Question Everything: I think what's going on is a sustained disinformation campaign in the West to convince people in the West that they are susceptible to a massive Russian disinformation campaign. I mean if you look at it, it's a joke. These so-called sophisticated posts that we are supposed to be afraid of are juvenile, stupid, clickbait content that nobody would be talking about and that nobody would even have noticed really unless every single corporate media outlet and all these government officials were making them such a big deal. I mean, it's ludicrous. [...] And what it actually reveals, I don't think people realise this, but it shows what contempt liberal elites have for average voters — this notion — that anybody could have been duped by these stupid juvenile ads, and this idea that these ads could sow discord. I am not joking, the latest headline on this front that I saw was this one from the site Qz: and this is the headline: 'Russian operatives were promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US.' And what is amazing is how many grown adults in positions of influence in media and in politics are taking this seriously and are trying to present to us that we should be afraid of all this, when there are so many more problems — there are so many problems out there that decide elections, it's a joke."

"New Poll: US Military Occupations Supported By Far More Democrats Than Republicans: A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans." I couldn't find how this poll was conducted in the linked .pdf.

David Dayen, Ryan Grim, and Aída Chávez, "Progressives Fought For Key Committee Spots, But Centrist New Dems Came Out On Top: REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ failed in her long-shot bid for a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, according to an announcement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday evening. Pelosi named a member of the New Democrat Coalition, the centrist wing of the party, to the seat instead, part of a sweeping set of wins by the Wall Street-friendly caucus."

"Bernie Sanders Rebukes Trump for Stoking 'Fear and Hatred' With Lie-Soaked National Address: 'Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.'"

"Democrats Don't Just Support Medicare for All, 84% in New Poll Want Party Leaders to Make It 'Extremely Important Priority': 'Are you listening?' party Leaders asked as new Politico/Harvard survey shows more than 8 in 10 Democrats think covering everyone 'through taxpayer-fund national plan' should be urgent pursued"

"'Huge Step in Right Direction' as de Blasio Unveils Guaranteed Healthcare Plan for All NYC Residents: One progressive organizer said the bold plan 'clears a path toward statewide single-payer' in New York"

I don't know about you, but I personally found it refreshing that Andy Samberg said in public that the Black Panthers "were all framed and murdered for wanting justice and equality. The world is and always has been a nightmare; it just seems worse now because of our phones." Just sayin'. (Oops, the article is still there but the video disappeared, so try this.)

"Angela Davis 'Stunned' at Award Revocation, But Still Coming to Birmingham: Activist, poet, academic and writer Angela Davis says she was 'stunned' to learn last Saturday that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded its invitation to honor her next month, in her hometown, with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award for Human Rights. However, in a statement released Monday, Davis revealed she is still coming to Birmingham. 'Despite the BCRI's regrettable decision,' she said, 'I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.' [...] 'The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI)'s decision to rescind an honor previously extended to Angela Davis is only the latest incident in a well-documented nationwide campaign to censor and punish critics of Israel. Davis joins a long list of scholars and activists who have been censored , fired , de-funded , defamed , harassed and targeted with frivolous litigation because of concerted efforts by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian organizations in the U.S. to silence debate.'"

"The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb On The Scales Again — This Time In The Right Direction: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE Chair Tom Perez is setting a kind of cover charge to get onstage for the Democratic presidential primary debates, but not just any money will do. In addition to the usual polling metrics required to join the debate, candidates will also have to meet a to-be-determined criteria for 'grassroots fundraising.' Including small-dollar fundraising as a necessary element for debate participation would have two effects. First, it incentivizes candidates to invest — strategically, financially, and emotionally — in growing a small-donor base. Second, it will force potential billionaire self-funders like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Howard Schultz to demonstrate some level of popular enthusiasm for their campaigns, meaning they can't just flash their own cash and buy their way onstage. This is a remarkable decision for any political party, and it reflects a growing shift in how campaigns are run and won. It also previews what will be an important way to measure the success of candidates in the Democratic primary: not just looking at how much money candidates raise, but how much of their money comes from small-dollar donors."

"In Major Move, Census Bureau Offers Up Citizenship Data For Redistricting: In what could be a major change for voting rights and the distribution of political power between urban and rural areas, the Census Bureau signaled Friday that it is willing to work with state and local officials charged with drawing voting districts if they want citizenship data for the redistricting process. [...] The decision prompted alarm by voting rights activists, civil rights advocates and policy wonks. They believe it will depress the participation of immigrant communities on the census — causing an undercount that would shift political power and resources away from those populations — while also leading to exclusion of non-citizens in legislative redistricting altogether in some states and localities." But a federal court disagreed, though the Supremes might step in to give it the go-ahead again.

Matt Taibbi, "Return of the Neocons! The new 'Bulwark' is the latest signpost on the road back to power for America's most disgraced brand of politics: Neoconservatives, the architects of the War on Terror, are the political version of Jason in Friday the 13th: You can never bank on them being completely dead. They just hide under a log until the next funder appears. The neocon media tribune, the Weekly Standard, did indeed fold recently. In no time they had a new voice: The Bulwark, edited by former Weekly Standard and current NBC/MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes, with Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol listed as 'editor at large.' [...] Because they started this Middle East disaster on a lie and even bragged about doing so — 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality' — they undermined faith in a smorgasbord of American institutions, from the news media to the presidency to the intelligence community to their own party. This was a huge reason for the rise of Trump, who ran against 'elites' and capitalized on voters' loss of trust in institutions like the press. Conveniently, neocons had already begun tacking back to the Democrats by then. [...] o, longtime Democratic Party advisers are once again triangulating against their party's own progressive wing, which was the core strategy of the original 'Third Way' Democrats in the early Nineties. Party leaders now want to kick out populist, antiwar liberals in the same way Frum once wanted to excommunicate antiwar conservatives. This overlaps nicely with neocons' efforts to stake out the same turf between Trump and Sanders. This is becoming a little like watching two people pretending not to be attracted to one another even though everyone knows they make each other horny. I'd say the Bulwark neocons and their Democratic allies need to get a room, except they already have MSNBC (as noted by recently resigned reporter William Arkin, who complained the network had become a forum for a 'single war party'). As Glenn Greenwald noted in the Intercept last year, the 'most extreme and discredited neocons' began uniting with Democrats 'long before the ascension of Donald Trump.' [...] If you're not concerned about undead neocons making a comeback while Trump is in office, that's understandable. Many people will take allies against Trump from wherever they can. Just don't be surprised if 'liberal interventionists' are sitting in the White House once Trump leaves the scene. These are determined revolutionaries who've been scheming for years to throw a saddle on the Democratic Party after decades in bed with Republicans. Sadly, they have willing partners over there."

David Dayen at Vice, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Plan to Tax the Rich Is the Opposite of Radical: Her idea of a 70 percent tax on income above $10 million isn't wild, and wouldn't pay for everything the left wants. But that's the wrong way to think about it. Some politicians can move previously fringe ideas into the forefront of the debate without even trying. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on 60 Minutes of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate for Americans earning over $10 million has people thinking again about what America could look like rather the oligarchy it currently is. But the real purpose of these ideas has been obscured amid a tired and one-sided argument about balanced budgets: As Ocasio-Cortez would likely tell you, there's a big difference between trying to find revenues and trying to deliver progress to the country. [...] But musing about how to raise money assumes that such revenue is required to 'fund' government operations. We know that Ocasio-Cortez finds such assumptions dangerous. She subscribes to modern monetary theory, which argues that any country with its own currency isn't constrained by federal debt. Just last week, Ocasio-Cortez voted against the House rules package because it contained a 'paygo' requirement that all new spending must be offset by budget cuts or tax increases. In her conception, meeting public needs deserves a much higher priority than the budget deficit. So why, then, would Ocasio-Cortez suggest higher tax rates on the rich? Maybe it's because they could discourage runaway compensation at the top that has triggered skyrocketing income inequality. When the US had a 91 percent top marginal tax rate in the 1950s, hardly anyone actually paid it. But CEOs made far less than they do today; why would they ask for a heavy raise if the government was going to grab most of it anyway? [...] So when you look at Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on taxes, you shouldn't think about it solely in terms of raising money. Think about it as perfecting our union."

"Ocasio-Cortez's "Not At All Outlandish" Proposal for 70% Tax Rate on Uber-Wealthy Could Raise $720 Billion Over Decade: 'So even as [Republicans] dunk on AOC as stupid or ignorant,' argues Paul Krugman, 'she's talking sense based on reputable economic research, while the whole GOP is talking nonsense from charlatans and cranks.' "

"Sweden Has a 70 Percent Tax Rate and It Is Fine [...] One thing missing from the discussion so far is the point that a 70 percent top tax rate exists, not merely in midcentury US tax codes or in academic papers, but also in the real world right now. Sweden has a 70 percent marginal tax rate and it kicks in, not at $10 million like AOC proposes, but at around $98,000. AOC's proposal is quite modest by comparison."

Wonkette, "Why Are We All Yelling About 'Pay-Go?' [...] First off, let's be clear: Paygo IS a really stupid relic of deficit hawkery. It requires that any legislation be paid for, either by cuts to existing government programs or by new revenues. But it's a damn sight better than what Republicans had in place when they held the House, which was "cut as you go" (or "Cutgo" -- an anime character with a razor), which only allowed the use of budget cuts in one area to offset new spending -- no new revenues of any sort. And of course, the Rs cheerfully waived it when it came to passing its $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads Act. [...] Ah, this is where it gets complicated: You see, in addition to the House rule, paygo is also enshrined in federal law, as Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan explained on the Twitter boxes: It sucks, and Dems should get rid of it when they have the Senate and the presidency, but until that's the case, it's better for the House to control how new spending will be paid for, because under the existing law, the executive branch can institute cuts to balance out any deficit spending. This would not be a good thing!"

Matt Stoller, "Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute: There are a lot of people arguing about this thing called Pay Go. Here's my attempted explanation of what Pay Go is and how it intersects with stuff you care about. [...] Well now that I've gotten through the basics, here's what the fight is about. In 2010, the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress passed a law to ensure Congress would be 'fiscally responsible. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker in 2010 when Congress passed the statute, and she is proud of being fiscally responsible. This law says that if Congress doesn't go through a PayGo process for its aggregate spending and taxing in the full fiscal year, the White House's Office of Management and Budget gets to choose a bunch of programs to cut in a process known as sequestration. Sequestration is in law. It was a law that sort of made sense at the time, because Obama was President and Democrats didn't so much mind if a Democratically controlled OMB got to make a bunch of important decisions. But guess what? Trump is now President, which means he's the one that gets to decide the cuts that happen if Congress doesn't use a PayGo decision-making process."

Ryan Grim and Aida Chavez, "Behind The Pay-Go Battle Is A Central Contradiction That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Her Allies Will Need To Resolve: IN THE FIRST vote of the 116th Congress on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of just three Democrats who split with their party and voted against a rules package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and backed by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ocasio-Cortez's political career so far has been largely defined by her willingness to break from the pack, but her dissenting vote alongside just two others highlights the paradox of her position in the House: Her high-profile platform allows her to shape the national conversation, but the same energy that fueled her rise can be met with a very different reaction inside the walls of the Capitol."

Ryan Grim has a blog, by the way, where he has other pieces about Pay-Go, immigration, and that nasty AIPAC bill that's not only reared its ugly head again, but is actually the first bill the new Senate has brought up.

"'Let's Get Our Priorities Right': Outrage as Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushes Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown: 'It's absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,' declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)"

Not from The Onion, but Bloomberg, "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions."

"Russian news may be biased — but so is much western media: Manipulation of the news for propaganda purposes is not the prerogative of the west's enemies. It's vital to look at all media, including the UK's, with a critical eye." The difference between Russian media and Western media, as always, is that Russians know they are seeing propaganda, and westerners are oblivious.

I missed this last month - "Every Single Member of US Congress Approved Crushing Sanctions on Nicaragua: After defeating a violent US-backed coup attempt, Nicaragua's elected government faces the NICA Act. The bill aims to force the Sandinistas from power by ratcheting up economic despair." I hoped that headline really meant the House, but no, "On November 27, amendments for the combined legislation were approved with unanimous consent in the Senate. Then on December 11, the changes were unanimously approved in the House without objection."

Trollwatch from The New York Times, "Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics: As Russia's online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results." Hm, I thought Correct the Record had done that already. Anyway, "Here's The After-Action Report From the Alabama Senate Disinformation Campaign," Operation Birmingham.

"Senate Report on Russian Interference Was Written By Disinformation Warriors Behind Alabama 'False Flag Operation: Hailed by Congress and the media as defenders of democracy, high-tech Russiagate hustlers Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox have been exposed for waging 'an elaborate 'false flag' operation' to swing the 2017 Alabama senate race."

Great episode of Citations Needed on The Neoliberal Optimism Industry: On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel."

The Majority Report posted some Best of the Year clips while they were on vacation:
MR Best Of 2018: Neoliberalism With Julie Wilson
No Labels Proving to Be a Group of the Wealthy, FOR the Wealthy
MR Best Of 2018: Facing Fascism w/ Henry Giroux
MR Best Of 2018: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality w/ Anna-Lisa Cox

And here's one from the regular line-up that I want to listen to again so I'm saving it here: Fugitive Slaves & the Struggle for America's Soul w/ Andrew Delbanco - MR Live - 12/17/18.

The first show of the year was pretty good, too, and makes some great points about how bravely Liz Warren faced the Washington establishment. (Worth remembering, again, it took a lot of backbone to steadfastly refuse to endorse a candidate in the 2016 primaries despite enormous pressure from Clinton and the party to give in to her early.) News w/ MR Team - MR Live - 1/2/19

The Michael Brooks Show Final Show Of Another Dumb Year ft. Wosny Lambre

And in the new year, TMBS - 71 - The Difference Between Bernie and Warren (And Everyone Else) ft. Bhaskar Sunkara
TMBS - 72 - LA Teachers Striking For All Of Us & The Advocate NYC Needs ft. Nomiki Konst

12-28-18 Nicole Sandler Show — Our Final Show of 2018 with Dave Johnson

Sirota's tweets and article on Beto O'Rourke's campaign donation sources and record upset Neera Tanden, with the result that long, hateful threads toward Sirota ensued on Twitter. It's not hard to agree with the TYT crowd about this. But the good news is that The Houston Chronicle itself took the article seriously, saying, "Beto and Bernie debate raises questions about Texas' oil economy: Politicians across the spectrum should face this moment as an opportunity to organize their best ideas and smartest policies and present them to the American people. What would an effective carbon tax look like? What would a Green New Deal mean for Houston's refinery workers?"

From GQ, "No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They're Not Trump: The completely manufactured "Bernie vs. Beto" fight is a reminder that there's nothing wrong with demanding more from candidates."

"Why did nobody mention that Beto O'Rourke's wife is a billionaire heiress? Bloomberg once estimated the wealth of Beto's father-in-law at $20 billion. But obviously that's not worth mentioning when you profile him." She's a charter school exec, too.

And Katie Halper interviewed Sirota, "The Factual Reporting About Beto by David Sirota That Stirred Epic Freakout [...] Right. And I think it really speaks to is something very sad about our politics, which is that there's an authoritarian tendency to our politics. I do think that there are a lot of people out there on both the right and in the Democratic party who just want a coronation. They don't necessarily believe in the basic fundamentals of democracy. One of the basic fundamentals of democracy is that there are contested primaries. Candidates go back and forth and they debate their policies and they debate their records and this is healthy. This is a healthy discourse and I think there are a lot of people who buy into the argument that it would be better if we just appointed two nominees, had the two nominees run against each other, and that would be it. If I have an ideology, I'm ideologically opposed to the idea that we must coronate candidates and just have uncontested elections where we don't debate the issues. I think that they're terrified off scrutiny. They're terrified of what's going to be revealed." (Note to David: The ceremony is called a coronation but the act is to crown, not to "coronate".)

It's worth reading this one for the little history lesson, "Democrats rev up to offend most of their base, again: Don't you dare look at Beto's voting record! The commonly accepted explanation for Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss was that anyone and everyone who did not vote for her was influenced by a Russian Internet troll farm funded by Putin. The trolls sent out thousands of Facebook and Twitter lies (some of which were true like the DNC's treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters) and everyone who failed to support Clinton believed these lies because they're all morons. There's no similar explanation for how Clinton lost to Obama in 2008."

Amazingly, this is from Politico, "Democrats Aren't Moving Left. They're Returning to Their Roots. Many on both sides are worried about the party's leftward swing. They say it's a deviation from the mainstream. It's not. [...] But there's something wrong with this historical interpretation: Truman strongly supported single-payer health care. Moynihan supported a universal basic income in the 1960s. Dating back to World War II, Democrats sought to make a government-paid education available to as many Americans as possible. If Democrats are marching to the left, that road leads directly back to platforms and politicians who, in their day, commanded wide support and existed firmly in the mainstream of political thought."

From The Forward, "Bernie Sanders Isn't Just Another White Male Candidate. His Nomination Would Be Historic. Sanders is white, yes, but he's also Jewish, and last time around he got closer to the presidency than any Jew in history ever had. Based on his standing in early polls, he has a real shot to win the nomination this time. But the response to that history-making prospect, among Jews and non-Jews alike, has been decidedly muted. [...] In February 2016, the New York Times ran an article about the subject, entitled 'Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn't Like to Talk About It,' which began by quoting a New York rabbi who expressed dismay that Sanders had described himself as 'the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.' The article went on to describe the contours of Sanders's Jewish identity: the son of an immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust on one side and the grandson of immigrants on the other, Sanders is entirely Ashkenazi Jewish, was born and raised in Brooklyn, does not regularly attend synagogue, is married to a Catholic, defines himself by the struggle for social justice on behalf of all oppressed peoples, and has a left-leaning view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is, in short, probably not very different from a lot of Forward readers."

"Sanders' wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here's how they plan to stop it. Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement."

Norman Solomon, "Corporate Democrats Are Already Punching Left Ahead of 2020 [...] Such calculated nonsense indicates just how panicky some powerful corporate Democrats are about Sanders' likely presidential campaign — and just how anxious they are to protect corporate-oriented candidates from public scrutiny. The quest is to smother meaningful discussions of vital issues that should be center stage during the presidential campaign."

People keep asking me who I would support for president other than Bernie Sanders. Understand, I still think Sanders is the best choice, but the list of other people who have any time in office and aren't awfully far to the right is really pretty short. I probably wouldn't have to hold my nose to vote for this guy in the general, though: Jeff Merkley's full speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"It's Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty: When big companies engage in criminal harm to the public, they deserve serious punishment [...] The good citizens of California have been wondering out loud who killed 86 of their citizens in the Camp Fire, along with dozens of other Californians over the years in other fires. Now both federal and state prosecutors are focusing on a likely suspect: Pacific Gas and Electric. California's largest private, for-profit corporate utility appears to have killed a number of people over the years, in many cases because of negligence apparently prompted by a desire to jack up corporate profits. As a corporation, they play by different rules than you or I. [...] When a corporation does business ethically and legally, it serves its local community, its employees, its customers, and its shareholders. For over a century, American corporations were held to this very reasonable standard."

Thank you, Brandi Collins-Calhoun, for writing "'Surviving R. Kelly' Left Me Sleepless — But I'm Nobody's Victim."

"Bernie's Plan for Racial Justice: The micro-scandals alleging that Bernie Sanders doesn't take racism seriously won't end any time soon. We should call them what they are: cynical attacks on a politician whose commitment to racial justice is intertwined with fighting economic inequality." The Daily Beast gave the H8% some ammo; Meagan Day clears it up.

Stephanie Kelton on Bernie 2020 - and, of course another tutorial. And here's more of her at We Can Have Nice Things.

I got depressed when I tried to read this, so I stopped, but if you are made of sterner stuff, "Dmitry Orlov: How Russians survived the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Alex Pareen, "2018: The Year In Ideas: A Review Of Ideas

"The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare: Why did Casper sue a mattress blogger? A closer look reveals a secret, multimillion-dollar battle to get you into bed."

Thanks, Mike and Mark, as always. Also, finally watched all of Leverage, and the final episode made me sad because it wasn't true.

See the pretty: If you haven't been to Maia's Flickr page lately, it's always good for your eyes.

"A song for the overworked and underpaid: Listen to Leyla McCalla's 'Capitalist Blues'"

23:11 GMT comment


Friday, 28 December 2018

Winter greetings

A bit late with this (though I'm still good up to the Epiphany), but let's start with the traditional Christmas links before we lose the holiday spirit:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

* * * * *

Alex Pareen joined The Majority Report's year-end review and Sammy asked the magical question: Why didn't some ambitious DA go after Trump's mob long ago?

"US-funded police linked to illegal executions in El Salvador: The United States has quietly funded and equipped elite paramilitary police officers in El Salvador who are accused of illegally executing gang members, CNN has learned. Successive US administrations have pumped tens of millions of dollars into Salvadoran law enforcement and military to shore up the government's 'Mano Dura' or Firm Hand program, first launched in 2003 but redoubled in 2014 to tackle the country's rampant gang problem."

"US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis resigns," apparently over Trump's announcement that all troops would be withrdrawn from Syria. For an amusing perspective on this issue, try this clip from The Majority Report.

Tim Russo has Brexit Bullet Points for the American Left in 2020. I have no idea whether he's right, but then no one else does, either.

"After McDonogh 35 vote, New Orleans will be 1st in US without traditionally run public schools: Following a hotly contested 5-2 vote on one school's future by the Orleans Parish School Board on Thursday night, New Orleans is slated to become the first U.S. city with virtually all of its public schools run by charter organizations starting next school year. As a packed room of community members chanted, shouted and waved signs in protest, the board gave a thumbs-up to a plan announced earlier in the day by Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. to have InspireNOLA, a high-performing charter operator, temporarily run McDonogh 35 Senior High School, which has been the city's only non-charter public high school." Which means there are now no public schools in New Orleans.

"Democrats Just Blocked Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Push For A Green New Deal Committee: Instead, Democrats are sticking to their original plan, and channeled Exxon Mobil in an announcement refusing to bar members who take fossil fuel money."

"Pro-Bitcoin Ron Paul: It's Time to Abolish Federal Reserve, Embrace Tax-Free Crypto. This would, of course, destroy the value of the US Dollar but allow private interests to control the money supply entirely.

"DNC Chair Tom Perez goes to war with state parties: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez launched an attack on his own party's state organizations Saturday with a long and angry email over the future of the party's most valuable asset — its voter data file. Just days before an important Tuesday meeting in D.C. on the future of the data operation, Perez sharply criticized a new proposal from state party leaders and singled out prominent state officials by name. [...] The DNC wants to gather all the data points on voters into a new, massive for-profit database but needs to convince state parties on the idea. The state parties have been wary, accusing the DNC of conducting a power grab that could financially benefit a few elite party figures."

"A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — so She Lost Her Job: A CHILDREN'S SPEECH PATHOLOGIST who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she 'does not' and 'will not' engage in a boycott of Israel or 'otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm' on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech. [...] In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel." 26 US states have passed laws requiring state employees to take this oath, and 13 others have such legislation pending.

David Dayen, "Sen. Jeff Merkley Wants To Stop Congress Members From Insider Trading By Banning Them From Owning Stocks: SEN. JAMES INHOFE, an Oklahoma Republican recently elevated to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee after the death of John McCain, was implicated recently in what looked to be an insider trading scandal. A few days after meeting with President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to successfully advocate for a military budget increase, Inhofe purchased between $50,000 and $100,000 of stock in defense contractor Raytheon, which stands to profit from additional defense spending. [...] When compared to corporate insiders, members of Congress are exposed to a much broader array of insider information which implicates a wide range of companies. Given that members of Congress hold a unique position of public trust, Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, both potential Democratic presidential candidates, want to put a stop to all the trading. Last week, they introduced legislation that would permanently ban members of Congress and senior staff from trading individual stocks. 'We should not be in the position of thinking about legislation in the context of personal investment,' Merkley told The Intercept in an interview. 'As long as you own stocks, it's hard to rule out of your mind. And the public sees it as a conflict of interest.' Under the Ban Conflicted Trading Act, all members would have six months after enactment to divest their shares. New members would get six months from their entry into Congress to divest. Members and senior staff could also opt to transfer stocks to an independent blind trust, or hold them for as long as they served in government, as long as they do not sell or buy more stocks. Diversified mutual funds or exchange-traded funds would still be allowed. [...] Another section of the bill prohibits members from serving as officers on corporate boards, which amazingly is not already disallowed. Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., was indicted earlier this year for advising friends and family to dump shares of the biopharmaceutical company Innate Immunotherapeutic after learning that a clinical trial for the company's key multiple sclerosis drug failed. Collins knew about the failure before it was public, because he sat on the company's board. Currently, Senate ethics rules ban members and staff from serving as board members of publicly traded companies, but House rules do not. Even the Senate rules permit board membership of tax-exempt organizations. Merkley believes codifying into law a full prohibition on members of the House or Senate serving on corporate boards would be beneficial."

David Dayen at The American Prospect, "Sears Adds Further Insult to Its Workers -- Bankruptcy Bonuses for Execs: Amazingly, a bankruptcy judge has approved $25 million for 334 senior executives, while tens of thousands of ordinary employees face layoffs. Sears and Kmart workers still have no idea whether they'll have a job after the holidays, as the once-mighty retailer slogs through bankruptcy. But the federal bankruptcy court working through the case has nonetheless delivered a Christmas miracle for one important constituency: the company's executives. Late on Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain approved $25 million in year-end bonuses for Sears' top managers, as the company had requested. Nineteen executives would get about one-third of that money, around $8.4 million, if Sears hits certain financial targets in the next six months, or even if it merely pronounces itself on track to reach those goals. Another $16.9 million would be distributed to 315 senior employees in 'retention bonuses,' so they don't leave to join other retailers. [...] This is definitely a situation where the scandal is what's legal. It's common for executives to get bonuses approved during bankruptcy proceedings. The same thing happened at Toys 'R' Us, before the company was liquidated. 'It's an example of how our bankruptcy laws are broken,' said Carrie Gleason, policy director and campaign manager of the Rise Up Retail campaign, which has assisted current and former Sears workers. But the decision from Judge Drain comes just a week after U.S. bankruptcy trustee William Harrington, responsible for overseeing the Sears case on behalf of the government, formally objected to Sears' proposal to pay out the bonuses. Harrington wrote that the idea of enriching a tiny elite at the top of Sears' organization while the rest of the company scrambles would be improper. 'Against the backdrop of running going out of business sales, the shuttering of hundreds of stores, and the presumed termination of thousands of rank-and-file and hourly employees,' Harrington argued, 'the Debtors are seeking authority to pay significant bonuses to their most senior executive officers ' many of whom received pay raises on the eve of the bankruptcy filing.' Viewed this way, the bonuses do not feel like an effort to retain top talent through a difficult period, but a final extraction of cash before the ship sinks."

Read the full version of David Sirota's article at Capital & Main, "Beto vs. Democrats: Texas Lawmaker Frequently Voted to Help Trump and GOP: A rising Democratic star has voted for GOP bills that Trump critics say have aided big banks, undercut the fight against climate change and supported the president's anti-immigrant agenda. Following Beto O'Rourke's spirited run for the U.S. Senate, powerful voices in the Democratic Party establishment have touted the outgoing Texas congressman as a 2020 presidential candidate who, as the party's standard-bearer, would offer a vision of America contrasting against that of Republicans. However, a Capital & Main review of congressional votes shows that even as O'Rourke has represented one of the most Democratic congressional districts in the entire country, he has in many instances undermined his own party's efforts to halt the GOP agenda, frequently voting against the majority of House Democrats in support of Republican bills and Trump administration positions. Capital & Main reviewed the 167 votes O'Rourke has cast in opposition to the majority of his own party in the House during his six-year tenure in Congress. Many of those votes were not progressive dissents alongside other left-leaning lawmakers but were instead votes to help pass Republican-sponsored legislation. In many cases, Democratic lawmakers said that those measures were designed to help corporate interests dismantle Obama administration programs and regulations." A somewhat edited version is at the Guardian, and it also appeared in Newsweek.

"Ringing in a Christian Nationalist 2019 With an Even Larger Legislative Playbook: A Christian nationalist coalition, including the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, has published a new state legislative playbook for 2019 that's 30 percent larger, and 100 percent as committed to a nation that reflects its sectarian values."

"Politicians have caused a pay 'collapse' for the bottom 90 percent of workers, researchers say: Political decisions by elected officials are largely responsible for a 'collapse in pay for the bottom 90 percent' of the labor market since 1979, according to a new analysis of wage stagnation by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. While many economists pin much of the blame for wage stagnation on impersonal market forces, such as free trade and technological change, EPI's Josh Bivens and Heidi Shierholz contend that specific policy decisions — including efforts to weaken unions, the decay of the minimum wage and monetary policy that prioritizes low inflation over full employment — are responsible for tilting the balance of power away from workers and toward their employers."

From Current Affairs, "Why Is The Center For American Progress Betraying The Left? As the left tries to fight against inequality and exploitation, the main 'progressive' think tank joins forces with right-wing free market capitalists.... The Center for American Progress is one of the largest and most important think tanks in Washington, certainly the preeminent 'progressive' think tank. It describes its agenda as promoting 'bold, progressive ideas' and releases a number of extremely useful reports and fact sheets. In 2008, TIME branded it 'Obama's idea factory.' CAP has strong ties with both Obama and the Clintons — it was founded by close Clinton confidante John Podesta and its president, Neera Tanden, previously worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The New Republic has described it as 'stuffed to the gills with staffers who have either worked in previous Democratic administrations or will go on to work in future ones.' [...] The Center for American Progress does not just accept shady donations. It also gives them. Journalist Andrew Perez reported that according to financial disclosure forms, CAP donated $200,000 last year to the American Enterprise Institute. The AEI is a right-wing free-market think tank perhaps best known as the longtime home of racist social scientist Charles Murray. " When they asked Neera Tanden what was up with that, she directed them to their website. "Naturally, Current Affairs gladly accepts the invitation to focus on CAP's collaboration with the AEI. I looked at two of the 'reports' that they have produced together so far. First, it is still unclear why CAP is giving AEI $200,000. The reports Tanden links to are a few pages each, more like extended op-eds than scholarly works, and involve no original research. They both focus not on 'authoritarianism' as Tanden says, but on what they call 'authoritarian populism.' This is important, because while Tanden suggests that nobody could object to 'defending democracy from the rise of authoritarianism,' we know that to the American Enterprise Institute, 'democracy' and 'authoritarianism' do not necessarily mean what they mean to you and me. When the AEI speaks of democracy, it means 'laissez-faire capitalism' and when it speaks of 'authoritarianism' it means 'minimum wage laws' or any mildly redistributive social policies that could threaten American Enterprise. Tanden wants to wave away concerns about the collaboration, because after all everyone agrees democracy is good. But the question is — what are we actually 'defending' here?"

Kos was stirring up crap on Twitter again last week. Kos and Armando seem to have made it their mission to denigrate the left in social media lately, so perhaps Dan O'Sullivan's article from early last year is timely again: Requiem for a Lightweight: Markos Moulitsas was once the face of American progressivism. That shouldn't happen again."

Mike the Mad Biologist, "TEH SOCIALISMZ!!! AAAIIIEEE!!!!: With the win of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (full disclosure: I donated to her campaign), there has been a lot of talk about socialism, which led to this hilarious self-own by Sean Hannity, where he displayed the horror that is her platform" [...] But on a more serious note, I'm genuinely puzzled as to how this is any different from what used to be called liberal Democrats (before and during the 1990s — and who were mostly purged from power by the Clinton era New Democrats) would propose. Looking at her site, as well as the DSA site, I'm not seeing anything about the nationalization of companies. No establishment of an activist wealth fund, in which the government has voting shares and uses them — Norway does this, for example. Other than for skyrocketing drug prices (and perhaps rent increases), there are no widespread calls for price controls. So it's really hard to see how what is currently referred to as socialism would differ from Hubert Humphrey's economic proposals."

RIP: Evelyn Berezin, creator of the first word processor and designer of a 1960s online air passenger reservation system: "Evelyn Berezin, who has died aged 93, invented the Data Secretary, the first electronic word processor for secretarial use, and in 1969 founded a company in Hauppauge, Long Island, to manufacture and sell it. She had bumped into the glass ceiling and it was the only way she could get a senior position running a company."

"Self-Presentation in Interracial Settings: The Competence Downshift by White Liberals: Most Whites, particularly socio-political liberals, now endorse racial equality. Archival and experimental research reveals a subtle but reliable ironic consequence: White liberals self-present less competence to minorities than to other Whites — that is, they patronize minorities stereotyped as lower status and less competent. In an initial archival demonstration of the competence downshift, Study 1 examined the content of White Republican and Democratic presidential candidates' campaign speeches. Although Republican candidates did not significantly shift language based on audience racial composition, Democratic candidates used less competence-related language to minority audiences than to White audiences. Across five experiments (total N = 2,157), White participants responded to a Black or White hypothetical (Studies 2, 3, 4, S1) or ostensibly real (Study 5) interaction partner. Three indicators of self-presentation converged: sophistication of vocabulary selected for an assignment, competence-related traits selected for an introduction, and competence-related content of brief, open-ended introductions. Conservatism indicators included: self-reported political affiliation (liberal-conservative), Right-Wing Authoritarianism (values-based conservatism) and Social Dominance Orientation (hierarchy-based conservatism). Internal meta-analyses revealed that liberals — but not conservatives — presented less competence to Black interaction partners than to White ones. The simple effect was small but significant across studies, and most reliable for the self-reported measure of conservatism. This possibly unintentional but ultimately patronizing competence-downshift suggests that well-intentioned liberal Whites may draw on low-status/competence stereotypes to affiliate with minorities."

Have a read of the Editor's Note at the top of this article, and the comments below it, which caused it to be edited after the fact. "Why the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Makes for a Complicated History: Charged with manslaughter, the owners were acquitted in December 1911. A Smithsonian curator reexamines the labor and business practices of the era." The original title of the article was "Was History Fair to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Owners?" and the article implied that they couldn't really be blamed. Not unnaturally, readers were a little peeved. Twitter had a field day.

For the notebook, from 2015: "Joe Biden Backed Bills To Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt."

Also for the notebook, but from this week, Matt Yglesias says "Beto O'Rourke's voting record is more conservative than the average Democrat's: It's about what you'd expect from someone running a statewide campaign in Texas." This is based mainly on his DW-Nominate stats, but there's nothing else in his record that suggests he is more progressive than those stats would make it appear. It's a reasonable point to make about a three-term member of Congress who just lost a state-wide election bid but for some reason is being talked up as the progressive standard-bearer for 2020.

Nia Hope had her DNA tested and got a nasty surprise.

Making art with books. I found that last one a bit disturbing, though.

Bruce Springsteen - Fenway Park - 8-15-12 - Night 2, their only performance ever of "Knock on Wood".

Gary Clark, Jr., Live at Glastonbury, 2016

04:33 GMT comment


Sunday, 16 December 2018

Baby, it's cold outside

"Defying Trump, US Senate votes to end US support for Yemen war: The final vote of the Yemen resolution was 56-41, with seven Republicans breaking with their party to vote in support of the measure. [...] Due to tactics used by the Republican leadership in the House, the lower chamber will not take up the Senate measure before adjourning, leaving the matter unresolved until the new Congress convenes in January." Well, it wasn't simply due to Paul Ryan's tactics - it was also that five Democrats used those tactics as an excuse to vote the wrong way - they were Jim Costa, Al Lawson, Collin Peterson, Dutch Rupperberger, and David Scott. Peterson's explanation for his vote is priceless. Co-sponsors of the resolution to stop supporting the Yemen atrocity were Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah).

"Abrams' New Voting Rights Org, Fair Fight Georgia, Files Suit: Charges Kemp "grossly mismanaged" election and "unconstitutionally purged" Georgia's voter rolls: Stacey Abrams, who refused to officially concede defeat in her bid for Governor, filed suit today in federal court in Atlanta charging the entire election process was hopelessly tainted. Abrams, who has formed a non-partisan voter protection organization, Fair Fight Georgia, cites, among other racially biased attacks on the rights of citizens to vote, the wrongful mass purge of voters by Secretary of State Brian Kemp — who was Abrams' opponent and the presumptive winner."

"Congress may have accidentally freed nearly all banks from the Volcker Rule: A few double negatives buried in legislative text may have inadvertently freed nearly all U.S. banks from a regulation known as the Volcker Rule, which sought to curb risky behavior in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The text in question comes from a package bill passed in May that pared back portions of the Dodd-Frank post-crisis financial regulatory framework. One of the many provisions of the bill offered an exemption from the Volcker Rule to smaller community banks that policymakers felt were burdened by the regulation, which limited banks' proprietary trading, or trading for their own accounts." Hm, "accidentally", "inadvertently", I wonder....

"Supreme Court sides with Planned Parenthood, declines to take case: The Supreme Court on Monday refused appeals from two states looking to end funding to Planned Parenthood, striking a blow to abortion foes. The decision leaves in place lower court rulings that blocked Louisiana and Kansas from banning Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from the states' Medicaid programs. [...] Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, dissented, writing that the court should have taken the cases. Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not sign on to the dissenting opinion."

"'Infuriating': Trump FCC Refusing to Release Data Showing If Telecom Industry Being Truthful About Internet Speeds: 'Without this information, consumers who are lucky enough to have a choice of broadband providers won't be able to make informed decisions about which broadband provider to choose.' Under Trump-appointee Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has continued a program to track whether major companies like AT&T, Comcast, Spectrum, and Verizon are providing their promised internet speeds, but has failed to publish any of its findings — concealment that has raised alarm among tech reporters and former agency officials. 'The only reason I can think of is that the data doesn't promote the chairman's narrative that broadband industry investment and performance allegedly suffered when it was subject to net neutrality rules grounded in Title II of the Communications Act,' former agency lawyer and adviser Gigi Sohn told Motherboard, referencing Pai's defense of a party-line vote that repealed the rules last year."

"In Stunning Power Grab, Wisconsin Republicans Pass Bill Weakening New Governor: Wisconsin's lame-duck, Republican-controlled state Legislature passed on Wednesday a host of measures designed to kneecap Gov.-elect Tony Evers, other Democrats elected to statewide offices and hurt the Democratic Party in general, sending the legislation to the GOP governor Evers defeated ? Scott Walker ? for his signature. One part of the package would prohibit municipalities from allowing more than two weeks of early voting. That presumably would cut down on voter turnout, which generally helps Republicans. Other provisions would give the Legislature full control of a state economic development agency, block the governor's ability to write regulations and allow the Legislature to hire its own lawyers to file lawsuits on behalf of the state. Walker, who narrowly lost to Evers, is expected to sign the package into law. Democrats are already threatening to fight the measures in court." They shouldn't wait for that - they should block a quorum by going into hiding. This didn't work in Texas because, although the Dems managed to hold out for a month, there was no time limit and they couldn't do that indefinitely. In this case, however, there is indeed a time limit, so it could work. (Here's the same story from Mother Jones.) Hear the Ari Berman interview on this at the Majority Report: Republicans Lose, So They Mount Coups w/ Ari Berman - MR Live - 12/4/18.

Also on The Majority Report, Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, & Destruction of Mexico w/ Alyshia Gálvez - MR Live - 11/27/18

Sam actually got David Dayen into the studio to discuss all the stuff about AOC and the new kids going for the important committees and how Joe Crowley's parting shot to undermine Barbara Lee ended up with Pelosi finding space for Lee and the progressive freshies.

"How Our Government Went to War Against Its Own Citizens w/ Bernard E. Harcourt - MR Live - 12/10/18

And I guess I'm late to the party about Comrade Pamela Anderson.

The Michael Brooks Show really worth a listen, "TMBS - 66 - You Need Marx To Understand Brexit ft. Richard Wolff"

Senator Bernie Sanders on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert saying Medicare For All Isn't A Fringe Idea Anymore.

"Charlottesville: James Fields guilty of murder for driving car into crowd: A jury has found 21-year-old James Alex Fields Jr guilty of first-degree murder for intentionally driving his car into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman and injuring dozens. Fields was convicted in the August 2017 crash that killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Her death came after police forced a white nationalist rally to disband after participants clashed with counter-protesters. The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating on Friday morning and took just over seven hours to reach the guilty verdict. [...] Jurors also convicted Fields of eight other charges, including aggravated malicious wounding and hit and run. [...] Fields faces 20 years to life in prison. The jury is set to return on Monday to determine his sentence. He has also been charged with federal hate crime counts, which could carry the death penalty."

"Tennessee Supreme Court rules Cyntoia Brown must serve 51 years in prison before she's eligible for release: The Tennessee Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Cyntoia Brown, who was 16 years old when she killed a man who solicited her for sex, must serve 51 years in prison before being eligible for release. [...] Brown said she shot and killed her victim, 43-year-old Johnny Mitchell Allan, after she resisted his advances, and after she believed he was reaching for a gun. She then took a gun out of her purse and shot and killed Allan. [...] The unanimous ruling against Brown, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2004, followed a lawsuit in which she argued that her sentence was unconstitutional. Brown had pointed to a 2012 Supreme Court opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court to argue in the suit that being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders violated the Constitution. The court denying the motion said she hadn't received a life sentence without parole and was just handed a life sentence instead."

"Ammon Bundy Quits Militia Movement in Solidarity With Migrant Caravan" Ammon Bundy is best known as a leading light of the American militia movement (a motley coalition of various different flavors of firearms enthusiasts who hate the federal government). He's famous for getting into armed standoffs with federal agents and violently occupying bird sanctuaries. His friends are the kind of folks who co-chair pro-Trump veterans groups; his father is the kind of man who says, 'I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro' — and proceeds to explain why black people were 'better off as slaves.' So, this being 2018, Bundy naturally just disavowed the militia movement in solidarity with the migrant caravan, suggested that nationalism is actually the opposite of patriotism, and said that Trump's America resembles nothing so much as 1930s Germany." Well, that was certainly unexpected.

Dean Baker at Beat the Press, "Trump and China: Going with Patent Holders Against Workers: While most of us don't have access to the inner workings of the Trump administration to know exactly what is going on with its negotiations with China, given the public accounts and statements, it seems workers have clearly lost. Trump seems to have made the concerns of companies like Boeing, who want more help maintaining their control over technology, his top priority. The impact of an under-valued Chinese currency, which has led to a large U.S. trade deficit, seems to have been dropped from discussion. [...] Most of the media cover this as though Trump is pursuing a genuine national interest in pressing this issue, as opposed to the interest of a small number of large corporations. This is seriously wrong. In fact, if Trump is successful to pushing his 'anti-intellectual property theft' agenda with China, it will actually be bad for most of the nation's workers."

Matt Taibbi, "The French Protests Do Not Fit a Tidy Narrative: The yellow vest protests are more nuanced than American pundits want to admit. 'What's wrong with elitism?' asked Washington Post columnist Max Boot this week on Twitter. Boot posed this in a discussion about the merits of centrism, raised in the context of the 'yellow vest' protests against the government of Emmanuel Macron in France." The confusion about French outrage at rich people imposing austerity on those who can't afford it isn't just for long-time right-wing pundits. Here's alleged "liberal" Neera Tanden on Twitter: I don't understand why any progressive is cheering French protesters who are amassing against a carbon tax." Because it's so hard to figure out that a tax on working people who can't afford it will not even cause any change in the behavior of the corporations who are most responsible for the pollution that is implicated in climate change, and it's just one more straw in a long list of grievances that have increased wealth inequality in France, silly. Matt Taibbi talked to Michael Brooks about this, too.

"Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn: On the surface, the cryptically named Institute for Statecraft is a small charity operating from an old Victorian mill in Fife. But explosive leaked documents passed to the Sunday Mail reveal the organisation's Integrity Initiative is funded with £2million of Foreign Office cash and run by military intelligence specialists. The 'think tank' is supposed to counter Russian online propaganda by forming 'clusters' of friendly journalists and 'key influencers' throughout Europe who use social media to hit back against disinformation. But our investigation has found worrying evidence the shadowy programme's official Twitter account has been used to attack Corbyn, the Labour Party and their officials."

David Dayen, "White Nationalist Steve King May Have Won, But Iowa Race Shows Republicans Are Losing Ground In Rural Areas: ELECTION ANALYSTS HAVE zeroed in on Donald Trump's weakness in well-educated suburban districts to explain the outcome of the 2018 midterms, in which Democrats won back more than 30 House seats. But the biggest losses of the night for Republicans, in terms of raw vote share, actually happened in rural districts, long presumed to be GOP territory."

* * * * *

Down With Tyranny!
• "The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part III, Michael Bloomberg
• "The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part IV, Joe Biden"

"New Election After Republicans Were Caught Trying To Steal A House Seat In North Carolina?: By the end of last month, it was already obvious that North Carolina Trumpist, Mark Harris, had stolen both the GOP primary that ousted Robert Pittenger and then the general election in which he-- against all odds-- beat Blue Dog Dan McCready. The final 538.com forecast omg November 6, showed Harris with just a 12.1% chance to win (1 in 8). [...] In an exclusive interview, McCready told Joe Bruno that he thinks Harris not only knew what McCrae Dowless was doing but that he was bankrolling 'criminal activity.' [...] Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, was also on CNN where he hinted that the state party might support a new election if allegations of fraud are proven true and if it impacted the outcome of the race. If allegations of fraud are proven true, the perps shouldn't be allowed to participate in a new election unless it's from a prison cell. Woodhouse: 'This has shaken us to the core. We are not ready to call for a new election yet. I think we have to let the board of elections come show their hand if they can show that this conceivably could have flipped the race in that neighborhood, we will absolutely support a new election.'"

"Republicans Thwarting The Will Of The Voters-- Michigan" — Democrats routed the Republicans, but the lame duck still has time to burn the house down, just as in Wisconsin.

"Wanted: Candidates To Take On Top 2020 Congressional Targets: Bernie is going to need a progressive Congress to help pass his platform in 2020 when he becomes president-- more members like Alexandria Ocasio, Ro Khanna, Raul Grijalva, Pramila Jayapal, Ted Lieu, Rashida Tlaib, Jamie Raskin, Mark Pocan, Mark DeSaulnier, Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark, Jim McGovern, Adriano Espaillat... and fewer Blue Dogs and New Dems from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, faux Democrats who oppose Bernie programs like Medicare-for-All, free state colleges, Job Guarantee, the Green New Deal, etc. They will vote with the Republicans against these proposals-- which is why the 2020 cycle primaries, some of which are starting right now-- are so important." By my lights, no matter who wins the presidency in 2020, we need people in Congress who won't cave to right-wing demands, whether they come from Republicans or Democrats.

* * * * *

"Trump Moves to Deport Vietnam War Refugees: The White House again wants to expel certain groups of protected immigrants, a reversal after backing away from the policy months ago."

Zaid Jilani at Current Affairs, "What Does Beto O'Rourke Actually Stand For? What makes anyone think O'Rourke should be president? He is neither a bold progressive nor a distinguished legislator. "

"How Did The Dems Win 7 Red GOP Seats? Ben Ray Lujan And His Band Of Incompetents Want The Credit— But Kevin McCarthy (And Trump) Did More Than The DCCC Did. [...] The DCCC has been running around trying to claim credit for the California wins, where they deserve none at all. Their presence in the state made it more difficult for Democrats and nearly cost the party several districts. The reason for the wins has more to do with Ted Lieu's fundraising strategies for the candidates combined with the immense dislike for Trump and the bumbling of Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, another Californian who himself is lucky the DCCC gave him a pass, allowing a hapless joke candidate to run against him.

"Joe Crowley'S Parting Shot: Ousted By Ocasio-Cortez, He Undermined Barbara Lee In House Leadership Race: THE ELECTION OF Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as House Democratic Caucus chair on Wednesday represented a symbolic and substantive comeback for the wing of the party that had suffered a stunning defeat last June, when Rep. Joe Crowley was beaten by primary challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Jeffries, who represents a Brooklyn district next door to Crowley's, bested Rep. Barbara Lee of California, who had the support of the insurgent movement that had ousted Crowley. A protege of Crowley's, Jeffries is heavily backed by big money and corporate PACs. Less than 2 percent of his fundraising comes from small donors, who contribute less than $200, according to Federal Election Commission records. [...] Crowley, though, wasn't going gently into the night. In the run-up to the vote, he told a number of House Democrats that Lee had cut a check to Ocasio-Cortez, painting her as part of the insurgency that incumbents in Congress feel threatened by, according to Democrats who learned of the message Crowley was sharing. There was a kernel of truth in the charge. Lee's campaign did indeed cut a $1,000 check to the campaign of Ocasio-Cortez, but did so on July 10, two weeks after she beat Crowley. Since then, Reps. Steny Hoyer, Raúl Grijalva, and Maxine Waters, as well as the PAC for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have all given money to Ocasio-Cortez's campaign committee. It's not an unusual phenomenon — a way to welcome an incoming colleague — but Crowley's framing of it linked Lee to the growing insurgent movement, despite her decades of experience in Congress. "

I keep hoping this will go away, but oh, those "progressive Democrats" are keeping it alive. "Senators Working To Slip Israel Anti-Boycott Law Through In Lame Duck: DEMOCRATIC SEN. BEN Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session, according to four sources familiar with the negotiations. The measure, known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, was shelved earlier amid concerns about the infringement of free speech, after civil liberties groups argued that the original version would have allowed criminal penalties for Americans who participate in a political boycott of Israel. Some of the more aggressive elements of the provision have been removed under pressure, but the American Civil Liberties Union, which spearheaded the initial opposition to the bill, is still strongly opposed."

It looks like we dodged a bullet. "Deval Patrick bows out of 2020 presidential run." Now read this thread about just how sleazy this piece of crapforeclosure monster really is.

"CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to His 'Offensive' Defense of Palestinians at the U.N. CNN ON THURSDAY afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech. Hill's firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called 'online call-out culture' in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employes with demands that they be terminated. Hill's firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent. Conservatives claimed to be offended, traumatized and hurt by Hill's political views on Israel and Palestine, which they somehow construed as being anti-semitic, and demanded that CNN fire him as punishment for the expression of those opinions. CNN honored the demands of those claiming to be victimized by exposure to Hill's viewpoints by firing him as a political analyst."

"Ocasio-Cortez Gunning For Powerful Committee, Setting Up Showdown With Long Island Democrat: ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ is making a push for a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, according to people familiar with her decision. It's a panel whose jurisdiction over taxes and revenue puts most of the economy within its mandate. For that reason, freshmen are almost never given spots on the panel, but the midterm elections upset the balance of power in the House. Sixty-three new representatives have joined the Democratic caucus, and some 43 Republicans either lost their seats or retired — so there is an unusually large number of vacancies to fill. By custom, New York City effectively has at least one reserved seat on Ways and Means, and Ocasio-Cortez is looking to claim it. Its former occupant was Rep. Joe Crowley, whom Ocasio-Cortez beat in a primary election. Any major piece of legislation — whether it's 'Medicare for All,' a 'Green New Deal,' or free public college — would involve some level of revenue, putting it squarely in the domain of Ways and Means, which makes it a key spot for a legislator looking to have an impact. Ocasio-Cortez is routinely asked how she plans to pay for her aggressive economic agenda, and the first answer begins with securing a spot on the House's key tax-writing committee."

Rep. Marc Pocan (D-WI 2), "'No Labels' Needs A Warning Label [...] Look, I get it. No Labels is slick, and I got duped. But no other current or newly elected member of Congress should fall for its shtick. No Labels is a centrist, corporate organization working against Democrats with dark, anonymous money to advance power for special interests. Period."

"'Lobbyists Are Here. Goldman Sachs Is Here. Where's Labor? Activists?' Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez Pull Back Curtain on Corporate-Sponsored Freshman Orientation: One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez's arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them."

"At elite gala with ex-Bush official, Obama implores Wall Street to thank him for making them so much money: Barack Obama urged bankers to thank him for helping make them so much money during his tenure as president. He also boasted of turning the US into the world's largest oil producer, while surrounded by wealthy Republicans in tuxedos. Obama made these appeals for elite adulation at a lavish gala hosted by former Secretary of State James Baker. His comments came just a few hours after he met with former Republican President George H. W. Bush at his home in Texas. [...] 'I know we're in oil country, and we need American energy,' Obama said. 'And by the way, American energy production — you wouldn't always know it — but it went up every year I was president. And that whole, 'Suddenly America is the biggest oil producer' — that was me, people.'" Which is a pretty funny thing to say after delivering lip-service to doing something about climate change. But it seems like just last month, everyone was laughing at Trump for saying he was grateful for himself, and now here's Obama telling Wall Street they should be grateful to him. He's right, too. The rest of us should probably tar and feather them both.

This was probably not supposed to be the funniest story I read all week, but it is. Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post, "Workers are ghosting their employers like bad dates: Economists report that workers are starting to act like millennials on Tinder: They're ditching jobs with nary a text. 'A number of contacts said that they had been 'ghosted,' a situation in which a worker stops coming to work without notice and then is impossible to contact,' the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago noted in December's Beige Book, which tracks employment trends. [...] Keith Station, director of business relations at Heartland Workforce Solutions, which connects job hunters with companies in Omaha, said service workers in his area are most likely to skip out on low-paying service positions. [...] Some employers in Nebraska are trying to avoid unfilled shifts with apprentice programs that guarantee raises and additional training over time." Well, gosh, it seems some of these innovative entrepreneurs have... invented the raise.

"The Ignored Legacy of George H.W. Bush: War Crimes, Racism, and Obstruction of Justice [...] The inconvenient truth is that the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush had far more in common with the recognizably belligerent, corrupt, and right-wing Republican figures who came after him — his son George W. and the current orange-faced incumbent — than much of the political and media classes might have you believe."

Read this Will Stancil thread about the miracle of black kids going to Ivy League colleges and doing just fine, even though they were just ordinary kids. (via)

Richard Eskow at Common Dreams, "Wall Street Is Leading the Attack on Pelosi — Steny Hoyer Is the Real Barrier to the Progressive Agenda: A Hoyer speakership would be a catastrophe for the left. [...] The anti-Pelosi insurgency is not a movement. It's a cabal, orchestrated by the appropriately hashtagged #FiveWhiteGuys, a group of self-self-interested players with big money behind them. These white males resemble nothing so much as the next-generation terminator played by Robert Patrick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. They're cunning, aggressive, shape-shifting, and so reflective that anyone who looks at them sees only a distorted image of themselves."

Dave Lindorf in The Nation, "Exclusive: The Pentagon's Massive Accounting Fraud Exposed: How US military spending keeps rising even as the Pentagon flunks its audit.: On November 15, Ernst & Young and other private firms that were hired to audit the Pentagon announced that they could not complete the job. Congress had ordered an independent audit of the Department of Defense, the government's largest discretionary cost center — the Pentagon receives 54 cents out of every dollar in federal appropriations — after the Pentagon failed for decades to audit itself. The firms concluded, however, that the DoD's financial records were riddled with so many bookkeeping deficiencies, irregularities, and errors that a reliable audit was simply impossible."

"Officers pry 1-year-old from Brooklyn mom's arms during arrest; police investigating: BOERUM HILL, Brooklyn (WABC) -- Two peace officers from the Human Resources Administration will be placed on modified duty after shocking video showed an excruciating tug of war between a group of officers and a mother trying to hold on to her baby. It all apparently started because there was nowhere for the young mother to sit. [...] Eyewitness News was told the city agency was slow and crowded, so there were no chairs available, and Headley sat on the floor with her son to wait her turn. [...] Nyasia Ferguson took the video and confirms that both Headley and her son were not blocking any doors or passageways. When security guards ordered Headley to stand, Eyewitness News is told the mother refused because there were no seats and she had her baby. A supervisor was called - and then police."

RIP: "William Blum, Renowned U.S. Foreign Policy Critic, Dead at 85. I know I should remember him, since he was the founder of The Washington Free Press, but I really don't recall ever actually seeing him. "William Blum died in Virginia early this morning on December 9, 2018. He was surrounded by friends and family after falling in his Washington D.C. apartment and sustaining serious wounds 65 days ago. He was 85 years old. [...] in London in the mid-1970s, Blum collaborated with ex-CIA officer Philip Agee and his associates 'on their project of exposing CIA personnel and their misdeeds.'"

"Snowden Speaks Out for Assange: 'If You Would Deny a Thing to Your Enemy, It Is Not a Right': 'You cannot support the prosecution of a publisher for publishing without narrowing the basic rights every newspaper relies on,' says NSA whistleblower."

This is from 2016, but an interesting contribution. "Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers: Here's the problem with the current immigration debate: Neither side is revealing the whole picture. Trump might cite my work, but he overlooks my findings that the influx of immigrants can potentially be a net good for the nation, increasing the total wealth of the population. Clinton ignores the hard truth that not everyone benefits when immigrants arrive. For many Americans, the influx of immigrants hurts their prospects significantly. [...] Both low- and high-skilled natives are affected by the influx of immigrants. But because a disproportionate percentage of immigrants have few skills, it is low-skilled American workers, including many blacks and Hispanics, who have suffered most from this wage dip. The monetary loss is sizable. The typical high school dropout earns about $25,000 annually. According to census data, immigrants admitted in the past two decades lacking a high school diploma have increased the size of the low-skilled workforce by roughly 25 percent. As a result, the earnings of this particularly vulnerable group dropped by between $800 and $1,500 each year. We don't need to rely on complex statistical calculations to see the harm being done to some workers. Simply look at how employers have reacted. A decade ago, Crider Inc., a chicken processing plant in Georgia, was raided by immigration agents, and 75 percent of its workforce vanished over a single weekend. Shortly after, Crider placed an ad in the local newspaper announcing job openings at higher wages. Similarly, the flood of recent news reports on abuse of the H-1B visa program shows that firms will quickly dismiss their current tech workforce when they find cheaper immigrant workers. But that's only one side of the story. Somebody's lower wage is always somebody else's higher profit. In this case, immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants — from the employee to the employer."

Norman Solomon, "The 'Pelosi Problem' Runs Deep: Whether our concerns involve militarism, social equity, economic justice, civil liberties, climate change or the overarching necessity of a Green New Deal, the Democratic Party must change from the bottom up."

"Criminalisation of sex work normalises violence, review finds: Sex workers three times more likely to experience violence from client where trade is criminalised, data shows: Sex workers are more likely to suffer poor health, violence and abuse in countries where their trade is criminalised, a major review has found. The review, by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, found that sex workers suffering repressive policing — including arrest, imprisonment and extortion by officers — were three times more likely to experience sexual or physical violence from a client and were twice as likely to have HIV or another sexually transmitted infection as those who lived in countries where sex work was tolerated. Sex workers who fear that they, or their clients, may be picked up by the police are more likely to engage in risky encounters, unable to take the time to talk to a client before getting into a car or negotiate terms in advance, the researchers found."

Pastor to Make Controversial Sculpture Out of Purity Rings: Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is inviting women who grew up during the purity movement to send her their purity rings so that she can melt them into a 'golden vagina' "

John Dingle, former Democratic Representative from Michigan, says, "I Served in Congress Longer Than Anyone. Here's How to Fix It. Abolish the Senate and publicly fund elections." I think this is simplistic and ignores numerous other causes of the problem. Once the high taxes on the rich were lowered, things were bound to go to Hell.

"US Labor Leader Says Case for Bernie Sanders 2020 Is Simple: His 'Life and Heart and Soul': 'I always say that heroes are not made, they're cornered," says RoseAnn DeMoro, former head of the National Nurses United. "And I've never seen anybody more cornered in my life than Bernie Sanders.'"

Glen Ford in Black Agenda Report, "Bernie Sanders Puts Forward a Program That Could Split the Democratic Party: Bernie Sanders has opened his 2020 campaign with a 10-point program that could bust the Democratic Party wide open — which would be best thing Bernie could do for the world. Bernie Sanders last week unveiled a 10-point legislative agenda that he believes will galvanize the Democratic base in much the way that Newt Gingrich's 1994 'Contract With America' propelled the GOP to its biggest electoral sweep since 1946 . The Vermont senator's wish list is genuinely impressive in sweep , a full-blown progressive domestic platform for his expected second run for the presidency in 2020. But the immediate obstacle to Sanders' proposals for Medicare-For-All, tuition-free public higher education, expanded Social Security, a $15 an hour minimum wage, 'bold action' on climate change, fixing the criminal justice system, comprehensive immigration reform, progressive tax reform, a $1 trillion infrastructure overhaul and cheaper prescription drugs, is not Donald Trump's GOP troglodytes -- it's Nancy Pelosi and her corporate Democrats, who answer to a much higher power: big capital."

Note to self: "19 Examples of Bernie Sanders' Powerful Record on Civil and Human Rights Since the 1950s"
Bernie Sanders voted for the 1994 tough-on-crime law. But it's complicated.

One of the less interesting criticisms I've heard from the alt-center of Bernie Sanders is that his use of the term "revolution" portends violence and horror. This is a deliberate and specious misreading of the word, but it's funny none of them had this criticism of the 1992 Democratic platform.

Okay, I think this looks like mom's irresistible Christmas cookies. I want some.

I was never bothered by the original song anyway, but here's a response to the criticism: "Baby, Just Go Outside".

04:06 GMT comment


Sunday, 02 December 2018

Oh, how they pound, raising the sound

Time to start the war against Bill O'Reilly's war on Christmas, so happy Advent and some traditional music to set the mood and the North Pole Advent Calendar (which now lets you cheat) while you're waiting. I like the funky little jigsaw puzzles.

"Jill Stein wins Election Reform in PA: Today, Green Party 2016 Presidential nominee Jill Stein announced the formal settlement of her 2016 lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit called for an end to the use of paperless voting machines known to be vulnerable to hacking, tampering and error, and for the reform of unworkable recount procedures that prevent verification of the vote. The settlement guarantees that Pennsylvania will provide new voting systems using paper ballots by 2020, followed in 2022 by automatic robust audits after every election to confirm the accuracy of the vote before results are certified."

"Senate defies White House on Saudi support in Yemen: The Senate delivered a stunning rebuke to the Trump administration on Wednesday, voting overwhelmingly to advance a measure yanking U.S. support for Saudi-backed forces at war in Yemen. The 63-37 vote, in which 14 Republicans joined every Democrat in voting to move forward on the bipartisan Saudi resolution, came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis failed to sway key undecided senators with an appeal to hold off lest they upset progress of nascent talks on a cease-fire in Yemen." Or as Ben Norton tweeted: This Sanders/Murphy/Lee resolution would force a withdrawal of US support for this unauthorized war, which created Earth's largest humanitarian crisis and pushed millions into famine." We are all amazed to see that no Democrat actually voted against this bill. All the bipartisanship came from the other direction, for a change - and it's the first bipartisan bill to pass the Senate in a long time that is an unmitigated good. It's reasonable to hope the House may pass it, but if Trump vetoes it, it's unlikely to get past the next Senate.

"Taxpayers — not Big Pharma — have funded the research behind every new drug since 2010: A sweeping study of drug R&D funding shows the public pays for the crucial foundations of medical breakthroughs. So why not let the public have access to them? Something odd happened when the Trump administration submitted the original version of its latest pro-corporate budget: Big Pharma didn't like it. The problem wasn't a tax hike or new regulations: the problem was that the budget included deep cuts to the budget of the National Institutes of Health. If those cuts had gone through, they would have exposed one of the biggest lies told about Big Pharma: that the current system of patents and price-gouging is just an unfortunate necessity to cover the cost of all their brave and noble R&D work. Trump's original spending proposal for fiscal year 2019, released last month, included major cuts to not just to the NIH, but the National Science Foundation as well. It is those two publicly funded entities — not Big Pharma — that support the bulk of the country's basic research into diseases and pathways to new treatments. That's why the cuts were especially unwelcome in the executive suites of drug and biotech companies. Their business models depend on Washington subsidizing expensive, high-risk basic research, mostly through the vast laboratory network funded by the NIH.

Juan Cole at Informed Comment, "Trump cuts Palestinians off at Knees, Ending $5 bn in US AID Support: The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced that all operations in the West Bank and Gaza will close by early 2019. Half of the agency's staff are expected to be let go in the coming weeks. USAID is one of the largest aid organizations in the region, supplying around US$5.5 billion to the occupied Palestinian territories for infrastructure, medical and social services, and humanitarian aid. There is currently no alternative in sight. Some US$215 million that the United States was to invest in humanitarian aid and development in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has been withheld, according to an analysis for the U.S. Congress. U.S. financing for UNRWA has also been blocked as part of President Trump's blackmail tactics against the Palestinians."

"Ukraine Bans All Russian Men, Raising Tensions: Adding to growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and the broad Ukrainian hostility toward all things Russian, President Petro Poroshenko announced on Friday that he is banning all Russian men between the ages of 16 and 60 from the country. Officials are trying to tie this to last weekend's maritime incident with Russia, and Poroshenko is claiming it is to prevent Russian soldiers from sneaking into the country to 'destabilize' Ukraine before a war. In reality, it feels like a continuation of Poroshenko's anti-Russia policies which included harsh restrictions on the use of the Russian language, the sort of policies which fueled secessionist fervor in the mostly ethnic-Russian east. In the near term, the impact is mostly economic and cultural. Russian soloist Andrei Merkuriev, from the Bolshoi, reported that he was forbidden from attending a ballet in Odessa, a show which he was staging in the first place. Beyond this, Poroshenko announced new crackdowns on the Russian Orthodox church, ordering raids against important religious sites in the country. This comes amid his government's push to emphasize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox church."

RIP: "Director Nicolas Roeg dies aged 90." I think I only saw The Man Who Fell To Earth a couple of times, but I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've seen Performance. A friend who worked at the theater slipped me in to see it the first several times ("You gotta see this movie!"). I couldn't stop watching. (Still one of the best soundtracks ever.)

* * * * *

From Down With Tyranny!
"New Series: The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part I, Tulsi Gabbard [...] In Hawaii, she earned a reputation among her former colleagues in the State Legislature as one of their most bigoted contemporaries. She defined her local career as an outspoken anti-gay and anti-reproductive rights politician. Volumes of official records from the Hawaii State Legislative Reference Bureau tell Tulsi's story in her own words. Here, Tulsi, then Representative Tamayo, presents a floor speech against a measure supported by local hospitals that resolved to study the needs of LGBTQ students, who suffered the highest rates of suicide in the state...."

"The Worst Democraps Who Want To Be President-- Part II, Kirsten Gillibrand [...] Trump and the GOP will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars eviscerating anyone the Democrats run in 2020. But Gillibrand would be their easiest target to destroy, since she's laid so much of the groundwork herself."

"New Series: Democraps Who Are Calling Out To Be Primaried-- Meet California Blue Dog Jim Costa"

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This is from September but kept forgetting to post it, even though I've listened to it several times since then. Matt Taibbi on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 58 - Ten Years Of Not Jailing Bankers. I particularly liked the parts where they tear up Jamie Dimon (welfare queen) and Ben Bernenke.

"Pennsylvania Case Challenges 'Death By Incarceration' For 18-Year-Olds: Recent Supreme Court rulings have led to a review of life-without-parole sentences for crimes committed at age 17 and younger, but attorneys for Avis Lee say there's no reason to stop there."

Matt Taibbi, "Who Will Fix Facebook? In its effort to clamp down on fake news, Russian trolls and Nazis, the social media giant has also started banning innocent people, proving again it can't be trusted to regulate itself [...] We could have responded to the fake-news problem in a hundred different ways. We could have used European-style laws to go after Silicon Valley's rapacious data-collection schemes that incentivize clickbait and hyper-partisanship. We could have used anti-trust laws to tackle monopolistic companies that wield too much electoral influence. We could have recognized de facto mega-distributors as public utilities, making algorithms for things like Google searches and Facebook news feeds transparent, allowing legitimate media outlets to know how they're being regulated, and why. Instead, this story may be turning into one of the oldest narratives in politics: the misuse of a public emergency to suspend civil rights and concentrate power. One recurring theme of the fake-news controversy has been a willingness of those in power to use the influence of platforms like Facebook, rather than curtail or correct them. Accused of being an irresponsible steward of information, Facebook is now being asked to exercise potentially vast and opaque new powers."

"A group of students at Weill Cornell and Columbia explain why their CEO is wrong to oppose 'Medicare for All'

This is old and maybe I even posted it before and forgot, but I was listening to it just now and it was kinda spooky to hear Robert Scheer and Thomas Frank discussing the Democrats at the 2016 Democratic Convention.

Just sticking this here as a note to self: "What Bernie Sanders Got Done in Washington: A Legislative Inventory"

"Analysis: From Glasgow to Berlin - how strikes, mutinies and revolutions ended WW1: Official commemorations for the end of WW1 refuse to acknowledge how it ended."

Whovian Complaint Form (via)

Someone reminded me to watch the "Ode to Joy - Flash Mob Started by One Little Girl" video again.

You can read all of Will Shetterly's Warpship Victoria comic here.

07:15 GMT comment


Friday, 23 November 2018

Thank you, as always

The colors change, the pages turn, and everything gets harder. There's no way I could ever tell you how grateful I am to you for still being here with me, but believe me, I am.

At this writing, all of the Senatorial elections have been called with the exception of the special election in Mississippi, where Mike Espy (D) and Cyndy Hyde-Smythe (R) are tied at 41% each. Dems picked up AZ and NV, and the GOP picked up FL, IN, MO, and ND.

"Iowa Democrat loses race by 7 votes — but officials refuse to count 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning county [...] 'About 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning Winneshiek County weren't counted. One of those was Liam's, and he says his ballot was mailed ahead of deadline,' tweeted Senapathy. While the ballots may have been mailed by the date, some post offices didn't postmark the ballots, so there was no verification of when the ballot was received. 'Here's where it gets disturbing. According to @52101news (Decorah Iowa News) Winneshiek County Auditor says the 29 ballots without a postmark will NOT be included in the vote totals because of specific rules about how mailing dates may be verified,' Senapathy went on. 'Meanwhile, as Liam explained to me, in neighboring, right-leaning Fayette County, ballots that weren't postmarked were 'accidentally' counted. This is against policy, but the claim is that it's too late to do anything about it. This is some rank BS.'"

Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "These Unheralded Democratic Wins Could Reshape Voting Rights Across the Country: Democrats took control of secretary of state jobs in Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. Kyrsten Sinema's narrow victory in Arizona's US Senate race may have gotten all the attention, but Katie Hobbs' even narrower victory, declared five days later on Saturday, might say more about the future of the emerging purple state — and of voting rights across the country. Hobbs, a Democrat, will become Arizona's first Democratic secretary of state since 1995. The position is second-in-command to the governor, and it's a common stepping stone to the governor's mansion: Four of Arizona's last nine governors were previously secretaries of state, according to the Phoenix New Times. Just as important, Hobbs campaigned on an expansion of voting rights, and she will now oversee the state's elections, with the potential to reshape the electorate by improving access to the ballot for minority, young, and low-income voters. She was one of three Democrats who took over secretary of state jobs previously held by Republicans, joining Democratic victors in Michigan and Colorado. These races were unheralded next to congressional and gubernatorial races across the country, but these officials now have the power to enforce state voting laws in 2020, advocating and implementing practices that will make it easier to vote in critical swing states. [...] There's still one big secretary of state race outstanding, in Georgia, the epicenter of the fight over voter suppression in 2018. Rep. John Barrow, the last white Democrat from the Deep South in the House of Representatives, who lost his seat in 2014, is running to succeed Kemp. He trailed on Election Day by just 19,000 votes, so he's now in a runoff against Republican State Rep. Brad Raffensperger that takes place on December 4, with early voting beginning next week. Barrow has criticized Kemp's voter registration restrictions as 'plainly illegal' and has been an outspoken opponent of gerrymandering after Georgia Republicans redrew his district to oust him from Congress. 'Any thing we do that makes it harder than necessary for honest citizens to register, stay registered, or vote undermines their right to vote,' he wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday."

"House Progressives Are Facing An Unexpected Problem In The Quest For Committee Power [...] And yet, it's a precarious situation for the CPC. Several key retirements and the blue wave adding between 38 and 40 House Democrats has led to an unprecedented number of open slots on the money committees. The unsettled race for speaker provides a unique opportunity for influence. But if progressives cannot find the warm bodies willing to fill committee slots, they'll have put their reputation on the line in a bid for power, without being able to follow through."

Here's a nightmare scenario: "155 Democrats back Hoyer's bid for majority leader. This amidst complaints about Pelosi from the left while right-wing Democrats attack from the right. Those hot young Blue Dogs want a chance at her seat that they won't get if the party won't move farther to the right.

Another good move that passed at the polls, "What is Ballot Question E? Banning Water Privatization in the City of Baltimore" - "Inalienability of the Sewer and Water Systems". Everybody should do this.

"Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate: Labor organizers and researchers said they had not heard of Amazon previously coming to the table after worker pressure, even for private discussions."

"Amazon Is Kicking All Unauthorized Apple Refurbishers Off Amazon Marketplace: Amazon told independent refurbishers that it will now only allow "authorized resellers" to sell Apple products on Amazon Marketplace. [...] Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and coauthor of The End of Ownership, told me in an email that this decision is a dangerous infringement of ownership rights. 'Wow. This is a very troubling development,' he said. 'Given Amazon's dominance as an online retail marketplace, its decision to disregard the first sale rights of resellers will significantly limit consumer choice. The fact that this move was demanded by Apple makes it even more problematic. What we see here are the world's two most valuable companies engaging in a coordinated assault on the lawful resale of consumer devices.'"

Sirota, "Will New York Fund Amazon Subsidies or Student Debt Relief? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made headlines begging Amazon to site its second headquarters in the state. Now, however, prominent Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly have slammed the idea of offering taxpayer subsidies to the retail giant. [...] Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he will introduce legislation to slash New York's economic development subsidies and use the money to buy up and cancel student debt — a move he said would provide a bigger boost to the state's economy. The legislation, says Kim, would halt any Cuomo administration offer of taxpayer money to Amazon, which could reap up to $1 billion in tax incentives if it moves to Long Island City. The deal is a goodie bag for Amazon: It includes everything from a $325 million cash grant to a promise that taxpayers will help secure a helipad for Amazon executives."

Okay, this one is actually from National Review? "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Right about Amazon's Corporate Welfare: After a long process, Amazon finally announced that it will locate its new headquarters in New York and Virginia. Following the announcement, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that 'Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.' As a result of her tweet, conservative commentators all over twitter and on shows like Fox Business's Varney & Co. are making fun of her. They argue that her reaction is yet more evidence that she doesn't get economics and that doesn't want New Yorkers and Virginians to get the thousands of jobs that will be created there thanks to the new headquarters. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ocasio-Cortez is mostly correct on this matter, and her conservative critics are wrong. Handouts like this to Amazon and other prominent companies are appalling in their cronyism, pure and simple. I agree that she doesn't understand economics and that her socialist ideal is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. But her conservative critics reveal their own economic misunderstanding when they support targeted tax breaks as a means of creating jobs.

Derek Thomson in The Atlantic, "Amazon's HQ2 Spectacle Isn't Just Shameful — It Should Be Illegal: Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion to move headquarters and factories between states. It's a wasteful exercise that requires a national solution. [...] Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states. That's more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure. And since cities and states can't print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons. [...] But there are three major problems with America's system of corporate giveaways. [...] Corporate America is getting all the help it doesn't need. You and I may not like it. But executives such as Jeff Bezos have no reason to care. They are winning by the rules of a broken game."

"Georgia Legislator, Arrested At Work, Says She Was 'Singled Out As A Black Female Senator': Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) was arrested along with more than a dozen other protesters at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration asking the state to 'count every vote' from last week's gubernatorial election. Protesters shouted 'Let her go!' as Williams was handcuffed while the General Assembly was in session. [...] One of Williams' white male colleagues, state Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), went to the same protest with Williams for the same reason and was not arrested. He stood outside the jail after her arrest and spoke out about Williams' unfair treatment by Capitol police. Dreyer said he went down to the Capitol about the same time as Williams, 'but for some reason, Sen. Williams was treated differently than I was treated.'

"Ohio House passes 'Heartbeat Bill' restricting abortion after detection of fetal heartbeat: By a vote of 59 to 35, the Ohio House of Representatives once again passed the 'Heartbeat Bill.' The bill, considered by among the most restrictive abortion bills in the country, would ban abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That could come within the first six weeks of pregnancy. [...] The bill would first have to be voted on in the Senate, something Senate leaders have not yet decided on."

"Abortion clinics on edge after woman who shot Kansas doctor is released from prison: Abortion clinics across the country were taking extra precautions Wednesday after the anti-abortion activist who shot Wichita physician George Tiller in 1993 and committed a string of clinic attacks in several states was released from prison. Rachelle 'Shelley' Shannon, the Oregon woman whose actions once triggered a federal investigation into the possible existence of a national conspiracy of anti-abortion terrorists, had been living in a halfway house in Portland, Ore., since May. She has spent 25 years in custody. [...] News of Shannon's release has clinic operators on edge. In addition to showing no remorse for her actions, they say, Shannon has been visited in prison by several activists who believe that killing abortion doctors is an act of justifiable homicide. Clinic supporters also note that Tiller, a regular target of abortion protesters because he was one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death in 2009 by Kansas City-area anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder, who had admired Shannon and visited her many times in prison.

Maryland Matters with "2018 Election Cycle's Ups and Downs" reports some good news despite the way Ben Jealous was abandoned by the party.

By the way: Keith Ellison left a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota AG, realizing it would be terrible to leave that office to a Republican. He won, 49.1%-45.2%.

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey in The Intercept, "Lobbyist Documents Reveal Health Care Industry Battle Plan Against 'Medicare For All': NOW THAT THE midterms are finally over, the battle against 'Medicare for All' that has been quietly waged throughout the year is poised to take center stage. Internal strategy documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented reveal the strategy that private health care interests plan to use to influence Democratic Party messaging and stymie the momentum toward achieving universal health care coverage.

Right-wingers and Dem Donuts alike love to attack Bernie Sanders because his wife's attempt to save a failing college was not successful, and five years after the event, the head of Trump's presidential campaign complained about it to the FBI. There is actually news on this front that probably still won't shut them up: "Adviser says Bernie Sanders' wife cleared in college land deal investigation: A top adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that the Vermont independent's wife, Jane Sanders, has been recently told by the US attorney in Vermont that they have closed an investigation into a land deal involving Burlington College during Jane Sanders' presidency." This is exactly the kind of nonsense Ken Starr pulled on the Clintons, but it had even fewer legs. What's weird is not that some right-wingers tried to talk it up, but that Democrats were doing the same thing, which is about like believing that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster.

I hate to admit it, but not only is Maureen Dowd right, but it's an article that needed to be written. "Who's the Real American Psycho? [...] Even for Washington, the capital of do-overs and the soulless swamp where horrendous mistakes never prevent you from cashing in and getting another security clearance, this is a repellent spectacle. War criminals-turned-liberal heroes are festooned with book and TV contracts, podcasts and op-ed perches. Those who sold us the 'cakewalk' Iraq war and the outrageously unprepared Sarah Palin and torture as 'enhanced interrogation,' those who left the Middle East shattered with a cascading refugee crisis and a rising ISIS, and those who midwifed the birth of the Tea Party are washing away their sins in a basin of Trump hate. The very same Republicans who eroded America's moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America's moral authority. They bellow that Trump is a blight on democracy. But where were these patriots when the Bush administration was deceiving us with a cooked-up war in Iraq? How do you like your norms broken? Over Twitter or in a torture memo? By a tinpot demagogue stomping on checks and balances he can't even fathom or a shadowy authoritarian expertly and quietly dismantling checks and balances he knows are sacred? Before we had Trump's swarm of bloodsucking lobbyists gutting government regulations from within, we had Cheney's. Before Trump brazenly used the White House to boost his brand, we had Cheney wallowing in emoluments: He let his energy industry pals shape energy policy; he pushed to invade Iraq, giving no-bid contracts to his former employer, Halliburton, and helping his Big Oil cronies reap the spoils in Iraq. The movie opens at Christmas, but it's no sugary Hallmark fable. It's a harrowing cautionary tale showing that democracy can be sabotaged even more diabolically by a trusted insider, respected by most of the press, than by a clownish outsider, disdained by most of the press."

"Secret CIA Document Shows Plan to Test Drugs on Prisoners: Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to 'do no harm.' One of the most important lessons of the CIA's torture program is the way it corrupted virtually every individual and institution associated with it. Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners. Now we've won the release of a 90-page account of the CIA's Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program — a secret history written by the top CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified."

Death of HHS official Daniel Best is ruled a suicide: WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Nov. 1 death of Daniel Best , a pharmaceutical executive from Bay Village who led U.S. Department of Health and Human Services efforts to lower prescription drug prices, has been ruled a suicide, officials in Washington, D.C., said Thursday. [...] The city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Thursday said Best died from "multiple blunt force injuries" and it ruled his death a suicide. It would not release further information." What, he clubbed himself to death?

This article from May has recently been updated. "Did Rep. Adam Schiff Just Admit the US Has a Secret Indictment of Julian Assange?" Schiff's office responded to news that Assange would be happy to talk to him with, "Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before." So, they want to terrorize him and, by proxy, all other journalists who might want to expose government corruption and crime. Last week The Washington Post reported, "Julian Assange has been charged, prosecutors reveal inadvertently in court filing."

"Jónasson: The Icelandic Minister who refused cooperation with the FBI [...] What happened was that in June 2011, US authorities made some approaches to us indicating they had knowledge of hackers wanting to destroy software systems in Iceland. I was a minister at the time. They offered help. I was suspicious, well aware that a helping hand might easily become a manipulating hand! Later in the summer, in August, they sent a planeload of FBI agents to Iceland seeking our cooperation in what I understood as an operation set up to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Since they had not been authorised by the Icelandic authorities to carry out police work in Iceland and since a crack-down on WikiLeaks was not on my agenda, to say the least, I ordered that all cooperation with them be promptly terminated and I also made it clear that they should cease all activities in Iceland immediately. It was also made clear to them that they were to leave the country. They were unable to get permission to operate in Iceland as police agents, but I believe they went to other countries, at least to Denmark. I also made it clear at the time that if I had to take sides with either WikiLeaks or the FBI or CIA, I would have no difficulty in choosing: I would be on the side of WikiLeaks."

Bruce Shapiro in The Nation, "The Indictment of Julian Assange Is a Threat to Press Freedom: If the First Amendment means anything, it is the right to obtain public-interest information from impure, indeed hopelessly tainted, sources."

"There Are 200 California Inmates Fighting the Camp Fire. After Prison, They Likely Won't Be Allowed to Become Firefighters: California's licensing laws mean inmates can risk their lives for less than $2 per day, but can't earn a living after they get out of prison.: About 200 inmates are among the thousands of firefighters still doing battle with the massive wildfire that has destroyed the town of Paradise, California, and killed at least 31 people. Once they are released from prison, however, most of them will be prohibited from joining the fire crews that they currently work alongside. It's a cruel irony that demonstrates just how difficult life can be for the formerly incarcerated — even those with needed, practical skills — who continue to be punished long after they have paid their debt to society, and bad policy that effectively prevents the state from calling upon well-trained, experienced firefighters when wildfires erupt."

Seems I missed it in September when the California legislature passed a bill to help protect PG&E from wildfire damage suits. "It was a balancing act, the Democratic senator from Napa said after months of furious lobbying over whether lawmakers were going too far in helping PG&E with what critics called a bailout for a utility that has been accused of putting profits before safety."

@StephenKinzer tweeted: I posted my @GlobeOpinion column about #Bolsonaro and #Brazil on @facebook a week ago. Now I see that beneath it is this notice: "This post goes against our Community Standards, so no one else can see it." Here's the column, what standards does it violate?" The column is called "Jair Bolsonaro threatens us all."

RIP: "Douglas Rain: Actor who voiced Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey dies," at 90. He also voiced an evil computer in Sleeper, along with some robot butlers.

RIP: Stan Lee, 95. I don't even have to tell you, do I?

RIP: "William Goldman, screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's Men, has died aged 87. Goldman, who received Oscars for both of those films, also wrote Marathon Man, Magic and The Princess Bride, which he adapted from his own novels. His memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade is famous for his memorable declaration that "nobody knows anything" about the movie business. He was also a noted "script doctor" who worked uncredited on many features. Born in Highland Park, Illinois in 1931, Goldman started out as a novelist before breaking into movies with 1965 spy caper Masquerade. He followed that with The Moving Target, also known as Harper, in which Paul Newman played a laconic private eye."

Some fascinating history of court decisions, some of which were passed for thoroughly racist reasons but later became the basis of civil rights actions (and decisions) - and civil rights decisions that were later used specifically to undermine civil rights: "Public Education, SCOTUS , & The Battle for the American Mind w/ Justin Driver - MR, on The Majority Report.

Matt Taibbi, "Bernie Sanders Opens Up About New Democrats in Congress, Taking on Trumpism [...] I absolutely believe that from day one, the Democrats in the House have got to come out with a progressive agenda that speaks to the needs of working people. And that leads to — as you know, the Medicare-for-all bill I introduced, which is to be implemented over four years, lowers the eligibility age from 65 to 55, covers all of the children, and lowers the cost of prescription drugs. My guess is that about 80-percent of the American people would support a proposal like that. It's wildly popular. And that's what the Democrats have got to do. They've got to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, they've got to make public colleges tuition-free and they've got to lower student debt. All of these proposals are enormously popular. And they're good public policy. And here's what I think, Matt, that maybe nobody else in the world believes. As you know, Trump is a 100-percent political opportunist, who has no political views other than how he can win elections." I adored Bernie's response to being told that The Washington Post advised Democrats to avoid "fire-breathing" progressives and to stick to moderates.

Matt Taibbi, "Forget 'Conventional Wisdom': There Are No More Moderates: Beware the latest call to 'move to the center' — which is just the same old tune, re-packaged [...] Voters are not skittish, brainless creatures afraid of strong policy proposals. That more accurately describes the politicians and corporate donors who are invested in things staying as they are. Most actual people are living on the edge financially, are angry, and will take policy help from anywhere they can get it."

Libby Watson at Splinter News, "House Democrats Balk at Prospect of Being Good [...] Meanwhile, on the financial end of things, Nancy Pelosi endorsed a list of changes to House rules, including a rule to 'create a supermajority requirement to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning four-fifths of taxpayers.' That is a disastrous idea. Alan Essig, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, noted the rule 'could make it difficult, as a practical matter, to raise taxes — on the rich — without making the tax code a complicated mess. This is because few changes in the federal income tax would affect no one in the bottom 80 percent.' Such rules have also been disastrous at the state level, and tax rates in states with supermajority rules are comparable to those without them. But more importantly, it sends entirely the wrong message: that taxation is among the gravest, most serious things Congress can do. Congress doesn't need a supermajority to declare war, but it should have one to raise taxes? If we're going to play this game, there are tons of other things Democrats could require a supermajority for — cutting Medicare or Social Security, for example, or selling off any new public lands. All this does is affirm Republicans' world view that taxation is among the most vicious evils the government can force on its citizens. "

Lordy, Alex Pareene in The Washington Post, of all places, "Political power never lasts. Democrats need to use theirs while they have it. [...] With Democrats about to control the House of Representatives again, I have been thinking about that last majority: what it achieved, what it was too cautious to attempt and what that caution actually bought. Because we may be asking the same questions about the next Democratic majority sooner than we think. The lesson of the careful restraint that Democrats showed the last time they controlled either chamber of Congress — and of the Republican ferocity since then — is simple: Your job is not to win power and then maintain it. Your job is to win power and then use it, with the knowledge that you won't have it forever or even, most likely, for very long at all." (via)

And Pareene in the HuffPo, "In Journalism About Race, A Tinge Of Denial: The only appeal the conservative movement has left is white panic. Why is that story still so hard to tell? As the midterms hurtle to an astonishingly racist close, the nonpartisan political press has continued to rely on the old 'racially tinged' euphemisms, taking care not to draw any conclusions about the party doing all the race-baiting. Call it denial-tinged journalism."

Is it really possible that more people wanted to vote for every other elective office than wanted to vote for US Senator in Broward County?

Paul Rosenberg has an optimistic take on the midterms, "Reflections on a blue wave: How progressive activists drove a historic victory: Several progressive Democrats won this week. But even when they didn't, activists drove the blue wave to victory." And helped develop infrastructure that can be used again.

Pierce, "Democrats Can't 'Work With' Republicans Until Republicans Return to Reality: There are two things to remember as we go forward. First, there is absolutely no reason for Democratic congresscritters to assume good faith on any subject on the part of their Republican colleagues. Second, the most notable thing about the Problem Solvers Caucus is that it never has solved a single problem."

"'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda': 'This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.'"

"46 Minutes With Barbara Lee Talking Iraq, poverty, and getting a seat at the table with the House's lefty conscience."

David Atkins at The Washington Monthly, "Counting All the Votes Is Not a Surprise or a Rollercoaster: We need to change the way elections are reported in America. [...] But at the end of the day, TV networks want to send their viewers to bed with answers, journalists need definitive copy for the Wednesday morning edition and op-ed writers must deliver their scheduled smart takes. The result is that election night coverage is considered the default version of events, and ballots counted in the days and weeks afterward an afterthought or exciting aberration. States like California that make expansive efforts to count every eligible vote and give voters maximum opportunities to make their voices heard are resented as disrupters of the natural order, inconveniences to the unity of the narrative. So when results change in close races several days after Election Tuesday, it is treated as a remarkable phenomenon. Headlines describe lead changes as 'roller coasters' and 'dramatic comebacks.' Unsurprisingly, when Republicans find themselves as usual on the short end of such reversals their politicians and media outlets increasingly insinuate dark allegations to their base about voter fraud and ballot stuffing. After all, why else would these late results continually go against them? They feel that contests rightfully won on election night are being taken from them. And the press generally does the truth no favors in this regard. If a race is too close to call and hundreds of thousands of mostly urban and provisional ballots remain outstanding, the press will treat the race as an open question even when the Republican is behind, leaving conservatives to believe that results could go either direction even when they invariably will not. Just yesterday an NPR show in Southern California nonsensically suggested that despite the widening lead for Democrat Harley Rouda against Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, in California's 48th congressional district, Rohrabacher could still 'come back' to retake it based on the (mostly Democratic-leaning) precincts and provisional ballots remaining. This type of electoral coverage must change. Readers, viewers and listeners deserve the truth and an accurate prediction of reality."

Luke Savage in Jacobin, "American Politics Could Use More Conflict: Decrying 'tribalism' is a favorite pastime of American elites, but the real problem is the unity among them. [...] Conflict of this kind ultimately has little to do with noxious debates broadcast on cable news or with a political class that theatrically stages them while tapping the same corporate donors and casually dishing about Social Security privatization across the tables of opulent D.C. restaurants. The fact is that beneath the facade of intra-elite camaraderie amid televised partisan rancor, there remain deep and abiding political disagreements between Americans that will only be resolved when one side is defeated or lays down arms. This is, I believe, the main reason elites and members of the intelligentsia broadly invested in status quo ultimately see salvation in a mythic kingdom without conflict or meaningfully distinctive parties to institutionalize it. It's also why so many of them seem determined to pathologize political differences as random sociological spasms rather than expressions of genuine grievances, progressive or prejudicial as the case may be: plenty of them, whether they care to admit it or not, privately pine for a place where the interests they share can be safely negotiated unfettered by the irritants of democratic politics or the headaches they tend to create."

"Here's the real reason health care costs so much more in the US [...] Per capita, the U.S. spent $9,403. That's nearly double what the others spent. This finding offers a new explanation as to why America's spending is so excessive. According to the researchers at the Harvard Chan School, what sets the U.S. apart may be inflated prices across the board. In the U.S., they point out, drugs are more expensive. Doctors get paid more. Hospital services and diagnostic tests cost more. And a lot more money goes to planning, regulating and managing medical services at the administrative level. In other areas, despite conventional wisdom, there seems to be less discrepancy between the U.S. and other countries than commonly thought. Experts have previously suggested high utilization rates could explain high spending in the U.S. But looking at hospital discharge rates for various procedures, such as knee and hip replacements and different types of heart surgeries, the researchers found that use of care services in the U.S. is not so different compared to other countries. In fact, compared to the average of all the nations, Americans appear to go to the doctor less often and spend fewer days in the hospital after being admitted. [...] The real difference between the American health care system and systems abroad is pricing."

"This Is the Amount of Money You Need to Be Happy, According to Research: Money really can buy happiness, as it turns out — but you might not need as much as you think. A large analysis published in the journal Nature Human Behavior used data from the Gallup World Poll, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries, to put a price on optimal emotional well-being: between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. That aligns with past research on the topic, which found that people are happiest when they make about $75,000 a year. But while that may be the sweet spot for feeling positive emotions on a day-to-day basis, the researchers found that a higher figure — $95,000 — is ideal for 'life evaluation,' which takes into account long-term goals, peer comparisons and other macro-level metrics. [...] Money really can buy happiness, as it turns out — but you might not need as much as you think. A large analysis published in the journal Nature Human Behavior used data from the Gallup World Poll, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries, to put a price on optimal emotional well-being: between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. That aligns with past research on the topic, which found that people are happiest when they make about $75,000 a year. But while that may be the sweet spot for feeling positive emotions on a day-to-day basis, the researchers found that a higher figure — $95,000 — is ideal for 'life evaluation,' which takes into account long-term goals, peer comparisons and other macro-level metrics."

"Revolutionary Socialism And The Black Panther Party [...] As Fred Hampton of the esteemed Chicago chapter stated, 'You don't fight racism with racism. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity. You don't fight capitalism with Black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.' [...] At the same time, these were the same revolutionaries whose party motto was: All power to the people! Black power to Black people! Brown power to Brown people! White power to white people! Panther power to the Black Panther Party!"

"GOP Jesus"

Mattell has released a Doctor Who Barbie.

"Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Painting Soviet Monuments To Look Like American Superheroes."

I like the look of The Radical Literary Calendar 2019, although it has an obvious flaw. But the idea is good and it's the calendar layout I like.

The complete animated Discworld film,"Wyrd Sisters"

The Beatles live at the BBC, "Thank You, Girl"

03:58 GMT comment


Thursday, 08 November 2018

Happy Dawali!

Palast has been screaming for months about Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's illegal voter roll purges in an election where he was running for governor, which historically has meant resigning from the seat in the name of fairness. But this is a Republican election fraudster. Similarly, he's been after Kris Kobach, who was Trump's fraudster-in-chief. Those are two races I was particularly paying attention to, but in the last few weeks Palast was tweeting warnings in far more states, telling people to check their registrations. I couldn't even begin to keep track of all the problems I saw being tweeted about as Tuesday night went on, all over the country, including Brooklyn, New York. Utterly outrageous behavior on the part of election officials working hard to disenfranchise voters. Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "Voters Are Making an Unprecedented Number of Calls to Report Election Problems: Broken voting machines in New Jersey. Absentee ballots that never arrived in Florida. Voters being asked for the wrong forms of photo ID in Mississippi. A call center at a law firm in New York is fielding complaints from around the country of voting irregularities, and voters are reporting a wide range of barriers to voting in a midterm election that will determine control of Congress and the fate of President Donald Trump's agenda." Even Berman's list is not comprehensive, and the implication is that a lot of it was lack of preparedness for unusually high turnout for a mid-term election, but a lot of these are issues that only happen if you're trying to make it hard for people to vote. There should not be four-hour lines, ever.

Democrats took the House Tuesday (and got rid of Pete Sessions), picked up the Senate seat in Nevada but lost seats for Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. So much for the idea that running to the right helps Democrats, I guess. Presumed rising stars Randy Bryce (WI 1st Congressional district) and Beto O'Rourke (for the Texas Senate seat) failed to win their bids, so Ted Cruz is still in the Senate. On the bright side. Kris Kobach, major election fraudster, lost the Kansas gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Dems did flip more governorships than they lost (Scott Walker lost WI, and Maine finally got rid of LePage), and New York finally dumped its Republicans. Of course, with Maryland Democrats supporting the Republican governor, Ben Jealous lost by a decisive margin to Larry Hogan. But once again, we lost more right-wing Dems from office, which gives us the option of building a better Democratic position in those areas.

Oh, and I confess that I wanted to see this: "Democrat Ned Lamont Wins Connecticut Governor's Race," although I really have no idea how he will govern. Never gonna forgive Lieberman, though.

Some important races haven't actually been called yet, and the Gillum and Abrams races may be headed for recounts. Fingers crossed and all that, but so far it seems like the election frauds may have won.

The Onion, "Georgia Election Worker Assures Black Man Ballot Scanner Supposed To Sound Like Shredder."

Oh, yeah, Bernie Sanders won his Senate race with over 67%.

Twitter had some fun moments.

There was some great news on ballot initiatives, particularly:
• "Louisiana votes to eliminate Jim Crow jury law with Amendment 2: The law made Louisiana one of two states that allowed a non-unanimous jury in felony trials."
• "In Historic Move, Florida Approves Automatically Restoring Voting Rights To Felons: The move, reversing a Jim Crow-era policy, is one of the most significant expansions of the franchise in modern times."

Someone told me the Texas Board of Education flipped blue. That would be a big deal, since Texas seems to control textbooks all over America. However I couldn't find a story on that.

* * * * *

I think I actually missed this last year when it was posted, but now that I've found it, you should read it.

Keep It Simple and Take Credit
By Jack Meserve

As Democrats stare down eight years of policies being wiped out within months, it's worth looking at why those policies did virtually nothing for their electoral success at any level. And, in the interest of supporting a united front between liberals and socialists, let me start this off with a rather long quote from Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House, on why Obamacare failed to gain more popularity:

There are parts to it that are unambiguously good — like, Medicaid expansion is good, and why? Because there's no fucking strings attached. You don't have to go to a goddamned website and become a fucking hacker to try to figure out how to pick the right plan, they just tell you 'you're covered now.' And that's it! That's all it ever should have been and that is why — [Jonathan Chait] is bemoaning why it's a political failure? Because modern neoliberal, left-neoliberal policy is all about making this shit invisible to people so that they don't know what they're getting out of it.

And as Rick Perlstein has talked about a lot, that's one of the reasons that Democrats end up fucking themselves over. The reason they held Congress for 40 years after enacting Social Security is because Social Security was right in your fucking face. They could say to you, 'you didn't used to have money when you were old, now you do. Thank Democrats.' And they fucking did. Now it's, 'you didn't used to be able to log on to a website and negotiate between 15 different providers to pick a platinum or gold or zinc plan and apply a fucking formula for a subsidy that's gonna change depending on your income so you might end up having to retroactively owe money or have a higher premium.' Holy shit, thank you so much.

This point has been made before on Obamacare, but the tendency behind it, the tendency to muddle and mask benefits, has become endemic to center-left politics. Either Democrats complicate their initiatives enough to be inscrutable to anyone who doesn't love reading hours of explainers on public policy, or else they don't take credit for the few simple policies they do enact. Let's run through a few examples.
[...]

This shouldn't even be a liberal-socialist divide, although it seems to have become one in recent years. When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn't provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples' houses shouldn't burn down, we didn't provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.

Now go read the rest — and then send it to any Dem reps you might have, and anyone else you think might benefit from having this drilled into them.

* * * * *

This CNBC interview with Sherrod Brown is interesting. I mean the way he talks, it's so different from the way pretty much every other candidate is talking. I have my problems with him but seeing the way he talks about trade and never once attacks Trump even while disagreeing with how he went about it, I think I can see why he's doing so well. Brown won re-election to the Ohio Senate quite comfortably Tuesday.

Capital-D Democratic darling "Cory Booker uses anti-Semitic massacre as an excuse to dismiss Palestinians rights: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker says that the Pittsburgh massacre has led him to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. He becomes the first politician to use the killings of 11 Jews to take a racist position against Palestinian rights. His move should be described exactly that way, as a cynical use of real antisemitism as an excuse to dismiss Palestinian rights so as to further his political career."

Watch: Glenn Greenwald Breaks Down Lessons for the West From Bolsonaro's Fascist Victory in Brazil: "When the establishment class fails a huge portion of the population for enough time and to enough of an extent, sooner or later they will decide that it is the ruling class that is their enemy."

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "Fascism is Real, But the 'Resistance' is Mostly Fake [...] I have no problem labeling Trump a fascist, and Bolsonaro appears to have no problem being called one. My problem is with a phony 'resistance' that defines fascism so narrowly that it applies, domestically, only to Donald Trump and his most crazed followers. For Democrats, the fascist label is mere political epithet, a demon-word hurled for election purposes."

Margaret Sullivan, former "public editor" at the NYT — the good one — has a new job as "Media Columnist" at the WaPo. "Defensive, caravan-fixated and Trump-obsessed, the media blow it again. Just not as badly." Of course, the media that reported on every hysterical word about the caravan conveniently forgot it as soon as the election was over, just like the White House and the rest of right-wing media seem to have done.

"LA Times Publishes Completely Different Political Endorsements in English and Spanish: LOS ANGELES — Why would the same newspaper, with a mainstream version in English and another version in Spanish covering the same geographical area and diverse communities, endorse different candidates for the same federal, state and local elections in each language? [...] The English version of the LA Times suggests you re-elect U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein because she comes from a more 'civil and productive era of governance' and has accomplished a great deal like that. The editorial casts doubt on the effectiveness of her challenger, state senator Kevin de León who seems 'unwilling to compromise.' LA Times en Español, however, has a different take. According to its editorial, de León is the best choice because he seems pragmatic and effective enough and knows the immigrant community best. And, after all, 'Dianne Feinstein has been in the Senate since 1992' and that's 'too long. A generational change is needed.'"

"3P Gives Glenn Kessler 8 Pinocchios for Healthcare Bungle." Kessler really seems to be desperate.

David Dayen, "The Dialysis Industry Is Spending $111 Million To Argue That Regulating It Would Put It Out Of Business

Thomas Ferguson, Benjamin Page, Jacob E. Rothschild, Arturo Chang, and Jie Chen at the Institute for New Economic Thinking have a new paper out, "The Economic and Social Roots of Populist Rebellion: Support for Donald Trump in 2016" (.pdf), which they introduce in "Economic Distress Did Drive Trump's Win" this way: "Contrary to the dominant media narrative, social issues like racism and sexism on their own can't explain Trump's success. [...] Economic factors mattered at both stages. Moreover, in the general election — in contrast to the primaries — leading social factors actually tended to hurt rather than help Trump. While agreeing that racial resentment and sexism were important influences, the paper shows how various economic considerations — including concerns about imports and job losses, wealth inequality, social welfare programs, and starved infrastructure — helped Trump win the Republican primary and then led significant blocs of voters to shift from supporting Democrats or abstaining in 2012 to voting for him. It also presents striking evidence of the importance of political money and senators' 'reverse coattails' in the dramatic final result." (Lee Fang has the short version at The Intercept, "Donald Trump Exploited Long-Term Economic Distress To Fuel His Election Victory, Study Finds.")

Lynn Parramore, also at INET, interviews Adolph Reed in light of the new paper, "Cheap Talk on Race and Xenophobia Keeps Americans from Confronting Economic and Political Peril: Adolph Reed, who researches race and politics, warns that 'identitarian' politics can conceal the structural inequities of capitalism. [...] I had a very sharp and studious black undergraduate student wholly inside a race-first understanding of politics. When I mentioned the white people who had voted for Obama once if not twice who also voted for Trump, his response was, well, of course you can't say that voting for Obama means that you're not a racist. I said, yes, that's true, but by the same token you can't say that voting for Trump means you are a racist, right? Which they don't want to accept.

Sam Seder and David Dayen, How Corporate-Funded Judicial Bootcamp Made More Conservative Judges on Ring of Fire.

Thom Hartmann says The Real Reason Why Republicans Fear 'Medicare for All' is that it will provide every citizen with legitimate voter ID. I'm pretty sure that's not the only reason.

"Start the Voter Suppression Hearings Now and Don't Stop [...] The House can hold hearings on voter suppression. They can start immediately. They can subpoena every fucking Republican secretary of state who can reasonably be judged to have assisted in the suppression of minority voters. They can subpoena law enforcement officials. They can subpoena campaign staffers. They can subpoena poll workers. They can call in all types of political science professors and statisticians and sociologists to explain in detail what is happening. They can invite Michelle Alexander to read the entirety of The New Jim Crow into the Congressional record. They can draw attention. They can make noise. They should, and they must. The more you let the overt oppression slide, the more it will be seen as the standard playbook for the next election." Personally, I'm not getting behind abolishing the Senate until House reps can only have 30K constituents.

The Onion, "White House Concerned Ryan Zinke Made Land Deal Without Giving Cut To Trump."

"See Beatlemania Hit the Comic Book World During the 1960s!" I actually remember that Jimmy Olsen stuff, but I remember finding it embarrassing.

"Motown Guitarist Wah Wah Watson Dead at 67: Born Melvin Ragin, the iconic guitarist lent his signature licks to the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, others."

Temptations, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"

23:57 GMT comment


Tuesday, 30 October 2018

But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured

With the synagogue shooting, the Kroger shooting, and the result of the Brazilian election (and this piece of crap Macron), I'm a bit shell-shocked. I can't write anything.

The DC City Council has no Republicans, but, "Yep, They Did It — D.C. Council Repeals Initiative 77: The D.C. Council has now officially repealed Initiative 77, the measure approved by voters in June that would have gradually eliminated the tipped wage. What began as a protracted and oftentimes contentious battle during the primary season ended with a whimper in legislative session on Tuesday. The vote was 8-5, with the same councilmembers who voted against the measure two weeks ago similarly opposing the second vote: Ward 1's Brianne Nadeau, Ward 3's Mary Cheh, Ward 6's Charles Allen, and At-large Councilmembers Robert White and Elissa Silverman. In addition to repealing Initiative 77, the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 also requires employers of tipped workers to be trained on the topics of sexual harassment and wage-theft laws, and to use a third-party payroll system that submits data to D.C.'s Department of Employment Services. That employment agency must also create a website with information about the city's wage and hour rules, and the mayor must set up a tip line for workers to report wage theft. Now, the repeal needs the mayor's signature, which Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she will provide, and a standard 30-day Congressional review period to become law. While 55 percent of voters came out in favor of Initiative 77 during the June primary, the council moved quickly towards repealing the measure, which faced strong opposition from the restaurant industry."

So, a guy tried to bomb some prominent Democrats who, just by coincidence, are constant hate figures of the right wing, including right-wing television, radio, and Trump. But David Dayen noticed an interesting bit of the guy's back story, "Cesar Sayoc's Home Was Foreclosed On By Steve Mnuchin's Bank, Using Dodgy Paperwork: CESAR SAYOC, THE Donald Trump-loving Floridian who was taken into custody in relation to pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, was foreclosed on in 2009 by a bank whose principal owner and chair is now Trump's treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. The documents used to enact the foreclosure were signed by a prominent robo-signer and seemingly backdated. Nonetheless, the evidence was good enough for the famously inattentive Florida foreclosure courts to wave the case through. Years later, Sayoc became a supporter of Trump, who came into office and appointed a treasury secretary who ran the bank that snatched Sayoc's house. [...] It's a bizarre twist to a story that has captured America's attention this week. Thirteen pipe bombs were sent by mail to high-profile Trump critics: former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder, actor Robert DeNiro, financier and Democratic donor George Soros, among others. None of the bombs exploded. In yet another irony, Soros was one of the investors in the bank that executed the foreclosure on Sayoc's home. [...] The story is a lesson about the toxicity of the foreclosure crisis and how it upended millions of lives. It's also a lesson about how the failure to uphold the rule of law can reverberate in unforeseen directions, and how a combination of ignorance and partisan passions can make people believe their assailants are their saviors."

Surprisingly, a strong article in Politico that's very positive, "Bernie Sanders Is Quietly Remaking the Democrats' Foreign Policy in His Own Image: The gadfly senator suddenly finds himself in an unfamiliar role: consensus-builder. [...] Van Jackson, a foreign policy expert and adviser to the Pentagon during the Obama administration, described Sanders' global-minded makeover: 'I'm a progressive but couldn't bring myself to vote for Sanders in 2016 because I thought he wasn't serious about national security. He was basically silent on it. ... Not only does Sanders now seem to take national security seriously — he's literally the only politician accurately diagnosing the threat landscape America faces,' he wrote in an email."

I saw "centrists" saying that if Bernie Sanders went to South Carolina only 15 people would show up. This looks like more than 15 people. (Sanders' speech starts about halfway through the video, but it's interesting seeing the local speakers and Nina Turner rabble-rousing first, too.)

"US votes against UN resolution condemning gay sex death penalty, joining Iraq and Saudi Arabia: The US is one of just 13 countries to have voted against a United Nations resolution condemning the death penalty for having gay sex. Although the vote passed, America joined countries such as China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in opposing the move. The Human Rights Council resolution condemned the 'imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations'. It attacked the use of execution against persons with 'mental or intellectual disabilities, persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, and pregnant women'. It also expressed 'serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women'. The US supported two failed amendments put forward by Russia, which stated the death penalty was not necessarily 'a human rights violation' and that it is not a form of torture, but can lead to it 'in some cases'. And it abstained on a 'sovereignty amendment' put forward by Saudi Arabia, that stated 'the right of all countries to develop their own laws and penalties'."

Bill Mitchell has depressing news in his summary of his meeting with John McDonnell in London: It is Wednesday and I am reverting to my plan to keep my blog posts short on this day to give me more time for other things. Today, I will briefly outline what happened last Thursday when I met with Shadow British Chancellor John McDonnell in London. As I noted yesterday, I was not going to comment publicly on this meeting. I have a lot of meetings and interactions with people in 'high' office which remain private due to the topics discussed etc. But given that John McDonnell told an audience in London later that evening that he had met with me and that I thought the proposed fiscal rule that Labour has adopted was 'fine', I thought it only reasonable that I disclose what happened at that meeting. I did not think the rule was fine and I urged them to scrap it and stop using neoliberal constructs." It seems Labour has bought the deficit lie and is talking austerity.

"Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe.: One of the central contradictions of capitalism is that what makes it work — competition — is also what capitalists want to get rid of the most. That's true not only of competition between companies, but also between them and their workers. After all, the more of a threat its rivals are, and the more options its employees have, the less profitable a business will tend to be. Which, as the Financial Times reports, probably goes a long way toward explaining why a $3.4 billion behemoth like Cushman & Wakefield would bother to sue one of its former janitors, accusing her of breaking her noncompete agreement by taking a job in the same building she had been cleaning for the global real estate company but doing it for a different firm."

Sirota, "Noble Energy Pumps Unregulated Cash Into Fight Against 112: In a last-ditch attempt to defeat one of the most far-reaching environmental measures on the 2018 ballot, a fossil-fuel giant is blanketing Colorado television with election-focused political ads that it now claims are outside the purview of all state campaign-finance laws. The maneuver — which pioneers a novel way for corporations to circumvent disclosure statutes and inject money directly into elections — has been blessed by the office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who has led a Republican political group bankrolled by the same fossil-fuel corporation that is airing the ads."

"At the Heart of Global Woes, 157 of World's 200 Richest Entities Are Now Corporations, Not Governments: From massive inequality to the climate crisis, these powerful corporations 'are able to demand that governments do their bidding'"

"I Bought Used Voting Machines On Ebay For $100 Apiece. What I Found Was Alarming [...] Surely, I thought, these machines would have strict guidelines for lifecycle control like other sensitive equipment, like medical devices. I was wrong. I was able to purchase a pair of direct-recording electronic voting machines and have them delivered to my home in just a few days. I did this again just a few months ago. Alarmingly, they are still available to buy online. If getting voting machines delivered to my door was shockingly easy, getting inside them proved to be simpler still. The tamper-proof screws didn't work, all the computing equipment was still intact, and the hard drives had not been wiped. The information I found on the drives, including candidates, precincts, and the number of votes cast on the machine, were not encrypted. Worse, the 'Property Of' government labels were still attached, meaning someone had sold government property filled with voter information and location data online, at a low cost, with no consequences. It would be the equivalent of buying a surplus police car with the logos still on it. [...] This year, I bought two more machines to see if security had improved. To my dismay, I discovered that the newer model machines — those that were used in the 2016 election — are running Windows CE and have USB ports, along with other components, that make them even easier to exploit than the older ones. Our voting machines, billed as 'next generation,' and still in use today, are worse than they were before — dispersed, disorganized, and susceptible to manipulation.

OK, this is just hilarious. "Francis Fukuyama interview: 'Socialism ought to come back': The End of History author on what Karl Marx got right, the rivals to liberal democracy and why he fears a US-China war."

Poynter, "About 1,300 U.S. communities have totally lost news coverage, UNC news desert study finds." Many newspapers that still exist are publishing little if any local news, but in many parts of the US, there are simply no newspapers at all. Some local stations are still trying hard to cover local news and issues, but for many people, there is no local broadcast news and no local coverage.

Jay Rosen says, "Next time you wonder why New York Times people get so defensive, read this." And goes on to say that now that the journalists are forced to get more feedback, and the paper now depends more closely on subscriptions rather than advertising for income, readers are making them nervous. This seems like an awfully sympathetic position to take for a paper that chose to fill its op-ed page with right-wingers in one of the most liberal markets in America. I feel bad for journalists who want to write the Who, What, Where, When, and Why and instead find themselves having to juggle both-siderism with stratospherically insane claims from the "other side", but that's on their bosses, not on the readers.

Robert Kuttner, "Sears Didn't 'Die.' Vulture Capitalists Killed It. If you've been following the impending bankruptcy of America's iconic retailer as covered by print, broadcast and digital media, you've probably encountered lots of nostalgia and sad clucking about how dinosaurs like Sears can't compete in the age of Amazon and specialty retail. But most of the coverage has failed to stress the deeper story. Namely, Sears is a prime example of how hedge funds and private equity companies take over retailers, encumber them with debt in order to pay themselves massive windfall profits, and then leave the retailer without adequate operating capital to compete." On that same subject, Sam Seder talked to Marshall Steinbaum about The Sears Bankruptcy & Private Equity Raiders on The Majority Report.

"Wrongfully convicted by non-unanimous jury, I spent 15 years in prison for crime I didn't commit [...] In any other state, we wouldn't have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Louisiana is one of only two states that allow people to be convicted of felonies with non-unanimous jury votes. After the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment mandated that black men be allowed to serve on juries, Louisiana took action to maintain our second-class status. In 1898, the state changed its constitution so that a less than unanimous vote by a jury could convict a defendant of a felony. The purpose was to make sure that black jurors could be outvoted by a majority of white jurors. The official statements made at the 1898 Constitutional Convention stated that the intention was to 'perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana.' On November 6, Louisiana will have a chance to overturn this expressly racist jury rule. A proposal on the ballot asks voters if they want to end the state's split-jury statute and the unfair practice of convicting people of a felony without the unanimous consent of a jury."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "The Essential Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: The potential 2020 candidates are often portrayed as identical progressives. A closer look proves otherwise. [...] They have markedly different approaches to empowering the working class. In the simplest possible terms, Warren wants to organize markets to benefit workers and consumers, while Sanders wants to overhaul those markets, taking the private sector out of it. This divide — and where Warren or Sanders's putative rivals position themselves on it — will determine the future of the Democratic Party for the next decade or more."

"Group Purchasing Organizations, Health Care Costs, and Drug Shortages [...] In 1972, Congress enacted the Anti-Kickback Statute as part of the Social Security Act Amendments that banned kickbacks, bribes, or rebates in return for furnishing items or services; the statute was intended to protect patients and federal health programs from the inherent conflict of interest. However, in 1987, group purchasers were granted an exception to the antikickback law, known as the safe harbor exemption. The exemption allowed creative strategies for GPOs to increase their profits. Today, GPOs ask manufacturers to pay them undisclosed vendor fees as a condition to have their products placed in the GPO catalogs. This issue can be problematic when GPOs go further and invite a manufacturer to pay a premium fee to become a sole supplier, allowing the manufacturer that is the highest bidder to essentially purchase market share, rendering hospitals and patients dependent on a single manufacturer's supply chain. Hospitals in turn are sometimes asked to enter into contracts with GPOs that offer greater discounts for longer, more exclusive contracts. One potential result of these contracting interactions is that only 1 or 2 manufacturers may be responsible for an entire regional or national supply chain. This reliance on a narrow supply chain can have an adverse effect on hospital inventories if a factory has production problems. A 2016 US Government Accountability Office study concluded that there was a strong association between critical drug shortages and a decline in the number of drug suppliers.2 Furthermore, GPOs were a significant focus in a US House of Representatives report on drug shortages, which stated that 'the GPO structure reduces the number of manufacturers producing each generic drug.'3 This association between drug shortages and the number of drug suppliers was likely a contributing factor when hospitals faced a nationwide shortage of intravenous saline bags after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and damaged the manufacturing plant of Baxter International, which has dominated the US saline bag market.4 Although there is limited evidence to support the direct link between GPOs and drug shortages, the vendor fee model of GPOs has the potential to create barriers to market entry for manufacturers by rewarding fewer, larger manufacturers and thus increasing dependence on fewer supply chains."

"The Growth of Sinclair's Conservative Media Empire: The company has achieved formidable reach by focussing on small markets where its TV stations can have a big influence. [...] There are regulations that prevent any single company from controlling too large a share of the press, in order to protect competition and the free exchange of ideas. Sinclair has achieved its formidable reach by exploiting loopholes in these regulations. During the past few decades, it has bought small and midsized television-station operators and then circumvented regulations by setting up shell companies that on paper appear to be separate entities but over which Sinclair exerts almost total control. Sinclair's stations — there are often several in the same broadcast area, branded as local ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox affiliates — enjoy the trust of viewers because they appear independent, even though much of the content is dictated at a national level. A former news director at a Sinclair-owned station told me that Smith 'purposely went in and bought a whole bunch of stations in mid-America — i.e., Trump kinds of towns. Places where they could have a big influence.' She added, 'I don't care what your politics are — the bottom line is, they hatched a plan to have an effect on the majority of this country. And, when you look at it, I'm positive the right-wing commentaries, in small markets, had an effect on the election.'"

Haaretz, "$6 Billion of Iranian Money: Why Israeli Firm Black Cube Really Went After Obama's Team: When it was revealed earlier this year that the commercial spy firm was targeting members of the Obama administration, it was assumed it was working for the Trump team. But official company documents leaked to Haaretz reveal a far more lucrative target — the seizure of Iranian cash worldwide"

Andrew O'Hehir at Alternet, "Donald Trump Didn't Start the Fire: Here Are Things the Midterms Can't Fix: An appalling week of mail bombs, Trump tweets and Megyn Kelly overload should remind us: Politics won't fix America [...] Let's say instead that for many powerful and well-insulated Americans near the top of the cultural pyramid, from the center-left to the center-right — including at least some penitent conservatives in the Max Boot and Tom Nichols mold — a potential Democratic congressional majority in 2019 carries a special significance. It represents a symbolic Restoration of the old order, something like installing Charles II on the throne in 1660 after the disastrous experiment of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan regime. It's one last chance to reassert sanity and normalcy — which in this case signifies a government operated by spooks and wizards with Ivy League degrees — before we plunge off the cliff into the bottomless troll-hole of dumbass fascism. It's time, in this worldview, for ideological enemies to set aside our differences and join in a 'Coalition of Normals,' to quote Salon contributor Bob Cesca, devoted to restoring our republic and enforcing 'presidential' conduct on the presidency. To this particular fantasy I say, with respect and affection and some lingering nostalgia: LOL whatever. This 'normal' that you speak of: When was that, and where is it to be found? The Benghazi hearings? The drone war and the secret 'kill list' that included American citizens? The birther controversy and the 'death panels'? Potential vice president Sarah Palin? The Iraq war and the 'unknown unknowns'? The Lewinsky scandal and the 'meaning of is'?"

Tom Joudrey in Slate, "The Alarming Paternalism of Today's Queer Agenda: What the anti-pornography campaign of 1980s radical feminism can teach us about queer politics today."

"@emarvelous: Fifty years ago today, two American Olympians showed what it meant to champion justice and equality. It would cost them their careers, test their sanity, and earn them the scorn of their fellow citizens. Their protest inspired multitudes and left a legacy that transcends sport." Of course, everyone knows the iconic photo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their fists raised at the Olympic podium. The third athlete, the Australian Peter Norman, also suffered for his solidarity with his fellows, but times have changed. I was touched by this detail: "The other monument was erected in 2005 on the campus of Smith's and Carlos's alma mater, San Jose State University in California. For this piece, the second-place podium was left empty. Norman had declined to be depicted, to allow visitors to stand in his place in solidarity with the two Americans instead."

A correction in The New York Times: "An obituary on Wednesday about Alex Spanos, the owner of the Chargers, misstated the location of Stockton, Calif., where he was born. It is about 80 miles east of San Francisco, not west" Via Fark.

"New York Review of Science Fiction #349 is the special Gardner Dozois memorial issue, downloadable for free.

I'm so old, I can't remember whether I've seen this video before or not. It seems familiar, and yet, I dunno, maybe I just never really watched it that hard before. "Help!"

15:54 GMT comment


Monday, 15 October 2018

The night's magic seems to whisper and hush

"Pointing the Finger at Jeff Bezos Worked: Jeff Bezos raised Amazon's starting wage to $15 because of pressure from workers and Bernie Sanders — showing how, even when workers and socialists are weak, we can win against the most powerful people in the world."

"Bezos Bows To Pressure On $15/hr. Keep Pressuring Him. Keep Pressuring Them All. In a move that is being widely attributed to pressure from activists and Bernie Sanders' famous Stop BEZOS Act, Amazon has announced a pay increase for all workers inside the US to $15 an hour as of next month. Which is of course a good thing. It is a good thing that the aggressively anti-union Amazon, which is owned and operated by the planet's wealthiest man Jeff Bezos, is finally taking a step in the direction of treating its workers like human beings after the sound of sharpening guillotine blades began to echo off the walls of its warehouses. But that isn't something people should be grateful for, let alone something that causes them to ease up the intensity of the fight against plutocracy. You don't thank a man for ceasing to punch you in the face, especially not while he's still stabbing you in the chest."

"Amazon jumps out ahead of its rivals and raises wages to $15: NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, the business that upended the retailing industry and transformed the way we shop for just about everything, is jumping out ahead of the pack again, announcing a minimum wage of $15 an hour for its U.S. employees that could force other big companies to raise their pay. The online giant also said it will push Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25. Given Amazon's size and clout, the move Tuesday is a major victory for the $15-an-hour movement, which has organized protests of fast-food, gas station and other low-paid workers. Already, several states and cities have raised their minimum wages above the federal one."

But wait! "Amazon cuts to bonuses leads to questions about wage hike: A spokesperson for Amazon said the ending of stock vesting plans and bonuses makes compensation 'more immediate and predictable.'" Make no mistake, by highlighting the workers' action against Amazon, Senator Sanders helped push the company into raising its wages. But Amazon has reasons for preferring to raise wages rather than continue issuing stock bonuses. "Sanders said in an emailed statement in response to questions about the stock and bonus programs that he hopes Amazon's change does not end up hurting veteran workers. 'Our understanding is that the vast majority of Amazon workers are going to see wage increases, including some very significant increases as the minimum wage goes up to $15 an hour,' Sanders said. 'I would hope that as a result of Amazon's new policy, no worker, especially long-time employees, sees a reduction in total compensation. Amazon can afford to make all workers whole and should do that.'"

"'Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist': Sanders Introduces Bill to Break Up Nation's Largest Wall Street Banks [...] With Wall Street banks as big and profitable as ever ten years after their reckless criminality sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would break up Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and other so-called "too big to fail" financial institutions that pose a major systemic risk to the American economy. "No financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation's economic well being," Sanders said in a statement. "We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for Wall Street: the policy of 'too big to fail.':Titled "The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act," Sanders' legislation would break up any bank that has a total exposure of more than three percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) — the equivalent to $584.5 billion in today's dollars."

"Bernie's New Internationalist Vision: Right-wing populism is advancing across the world. Bernie Sanders wants to fight back. [...] Sanders's speech yesterday, titled 'Building a Global Democratic Movement to Counter Authoritarianism' and adapted from an editorial he wrote in the Guardian last month, was a yardstick measuring his progress in this task to date. In it, he spelled out a dual opposition to authoritarianism and oligarchy. Sanders emphasized throughout his speech that economic inequality and wealth concentration are corrosive to democracy, and in turn to civil rights — a refrain we've heard from him many times in the domestic context. We must develop a global movement against unaccountable state and corporate power, which are mutually reinforcing, he said."

"Bernie Sanders saved a woman from getting hit by a car while he was out for a walk in DC, and she's very grateful."

Trump has started a new campaign lying about Medicare for All. Robert Weissman at Common Dreams had the first fact-check I saw, "Trump Is Dead Wrong on Medicare-for-All: Lies and deceptions from Trump are nothing new. Lies and deceptions from Trump about Medicare-for All are new, so it's worth correcting his USA Today column attacking such a system. One reason his attacks on Medicare-for-All are new is that he probably has supported it in the past. But whatever, there's no reason to think Trump particularly believed what he said then, or what he says now."

To the astonishment of many, "'Justice for Laquan!': Jury Finds Chicago Cop Guilty of Second-Degree Murder for Fatally Shooting Black Teen 16 Times: 'We hope that this verdict sends a clear message that police officers can no longer act with impunity against Black Americans.'"

"Facebook Accused of 'Full-Frontal Suppression of Dissent' After Independent Media Swept Up in Mass Purge: The massive shutdown affected many progressive sites devoted to covering war, police brutality, and other issues neglected by the corporate media. After Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down and removed hundreds of pages and accounts that it vaguely accused of spreading "spam" and engaging in "inauthentic behavior," some of the individuals and organizations caught up in the social media behemoth's dragnet disputed accusations that they were violating the platform's rules and raised alarm that Facebook is using its enormous power to silence independent political perspectives that run counter to the corporate media's dominant narratives."

"Censorship crackdown? Top 10 alt-media pages newly banned by Facebook & Twitter: Sites dealing with government transparency, pages dedicated to police brutality and alternative media — take a closer look at the top ten accounts with millions of followers that were recently suspended by Twitter and Facebook."

Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, "The Supreme Court Is Headed Back to the 19th Century: The justices again appear poised to pursue a purely theoretical liberty at the expense of the lives of people of color. [...] The justices did not resurrect Dred Scott v. Sandford's antebellum declaration that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Rather, they carefully framed their arguments in terms of limited government and individual liberty, writing opinion after opinion that allowed the white South to create an oppressive society in which black Americans had almost no rights at all. Their commitment to freedom in the abstract, and only in the abstract, allowed a brutal despotism to take root in Southern soil. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans' lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts's June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal. [...] The lesson of the post-Reconstruction Supreme Court is that a determined Court majority can prove stubbornly resistant to short-term swings of political fortune. Even if Democrats win the next election cycle, and the one after that, an enduring conservative majority on the Supreme Court will have the power to shatter any hard-won liberal legislative victory on the anvil of judicial review. It will be able to reverse decades-old precedents that secure fundamental rights. It will further entrench the rules of a society in which justice skews toward the wealthy, and the lives of those without means can be destroyed by a chance encounter with law enforcement. It will do all these things and more in the name of a purely theoretical freedom, which most Americans will never be able to afford to experience."

"Brazil's Bolsonaro-Led Far Right Wins a Victory Far More Sweeping and Dangerous Than Anyone Predicted. Its Lessons Are Global. FOR THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was a fringe extremist in Brazilian politics, known mostly for outlandish, deliberately inflammatory quotes in which he paid homage to the most notorious torturers of the 1964-1985 military regime, constantly heralded the 1964 coup as a 'defense of democracy,' told a female socialist colleague in Congress that she was too ugly to 'deserve' his rape, announced that he'd rather learn that his son died in a car accident than was gay, and said he conceived a daughter after having four sons only due to a 'moment of weakness.' [...] As a result of last night's truly stunning national election in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has been instantly transformed from marginalized clown into the overwhelmingly dominant force in the country's political life. Bolsonaro himself fell just short of winning the 50% needed to win the presidency without a run-off. But given the margin of victory, he is the overwhelming favorite to win on October 28 against the second-place candidate, ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad is the previously unknown, hand-picked successor anointed by Lula, the ex-two-term President who had been leading all polls until he was convicted on dubious corruption charges and quickly imprisoned so as to bar his candidacy, then silenced by Brazil's right-wing judiciary with a series of remarkable prior restraint censorship orders barring all media outlets from interviewing him."

I'm so old I can remember when if a reporter for The Washington Post, or even a lesser paper, were murdered, or suspected of being murdered, under circumstances like Jamal Khashoggi's, it would be a top headline for at least two or three days.

For comic relief, a reminder of what it means to be one of the "smartest guys in the room. "Leading Member of Global Elite Pens Cartoonish Blog About Driving Through Shithole Country," starring Larry Summers.

Public Citizen: "How the New NAFTA Text Measures Against the Essential Changes We Have Demanded to Stop NAFTA's Ongoing Damage: Text of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was made public on September 30. This initial analysis measures the released text against the changes that Public Citizen has long demanded that are necessary to stop NAFTA's ongoing damage. Almost one million American jobs have been government-certified as lost to NAFTA, with more outsourced to Mexico every week. New NAFTA Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) attacks on environmental and health policies are being regularly filed after $392 million has been seized from taxpayers to date by corporations using NAFTA's ISDS regime. The text includes key improvements for which we have long advocated, as well as the addition of damaging terms found in other agreements that we have long opposed. It also reveals that more work is needed, especially with respect to ensuring the swift and certain enforcement of labor standards and environmental standards."

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party conference speech in full [...] We have also been raising more money for our party. But not a penny of our funds came from a dodgy donor or a shady businessmen's club. Our money comes from hundreds of thousands of people across our country who believe in what we stand for. So I don't have to play tennis with an oligarch to keep our party organisation running. Labour trades in hope for the many, not favours for the few. [...] You may have noticed that not everyone is entirely happy about all this. It turns out that the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don't like us one little bit. Now it could be because we're going to clamp down on tax dodging. Or it may be because we don't fawn over them at white tie dinners and cocktail parties. Or it could even be because Tom Watson has been campaigning for the second part of the Leveson media inquiry to be set up - something the last Prime Minister promised, but failed to deliver. We must, and we will, protect the freedom of the press to challenge unaccountable power."

Max Blumenthal, "How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM's Man in Nicaragua: It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak's activities fit within a long tradition." One guy who only talks to one side is your "expert". "MANAGUA, NICARAGUA — (Investigation) The Guardian, The Washington Post, the BBC and NPR have assigned an American anthropologist with no previous journalistic experience to cover the crisis in Nicaragua. The novice reporter, named Carl David Goette-Luciak, has published pieces littered with falsehoods that reinforce the opposition's narrative promoting regime change while relying almost entirely on anti-Sandinista sources."

I'm betting this collusion doesn't get the "Russia" treatment: "Israeli firm pitched social media manipulation to Trump campaign — report: New York Times publishes proposals from Psy-Group, including creating fake accounts to target would-be Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz backers."

RIP: "Peggy Sue Gerron, inspiration for Buddy Holly song, dies in Lubbock," at 78. She also was a locally celebrated ham radio operator, and became the first female licensed plumber in California.

Great episode of Citations Needed, "'Populism' - The Media's Favorite Catch-All Smear for the Left: But what exactly is populism? How is a term that allegedly applies to Hugo Chávez and Bernie Sanders also casually used to describe fascists and far-right forces? Under the thin, ideology-flattening definition of populism, the term is more often than not used as a euphemism for demagogic cults of personality and fascism and as the ultimate horseshoe theory reduction to lump together movements for equity and justice on the Left with those of revanchism, nationalism and explicit racism on the Right. We are joined on this episode by writer and historian Thomas Frank."

Vincent Chatworth on Facebook: "Kamala Harris was one of the driving forces behind #SESTA and #FOSTA, the legislation that shut down the websites that sex workers use to feed their families and stay safe. Since the shut down of #backpage and other websites, screening clients had gotten way more difficult. The websites we use to report abusers have had to change to the point that they are now useless to us. So many women had to go back out on the street after BP shut down and just in the past couple months, two sex workers (that we know of) have been murdered in Seattle. [...] Kamala Harris was THE prosecutor who went after BP before she was elected to the senate. She was the driving force behind SESTA/FOSTA but kept her involvement very hush hush to the point that she didn't even put her name as a co sponsor up until it was almost done. That bill made internet platforms criminally liable for the things it's users write AND gives the government and law enforcement the power to shut down and prosecute the owners of any website they deem to be 'promoting human trafficking'. The definition of suspected human trafficking is so vague, that it basically allows them to shut down whatever they want without due process. The two top industries that funded her campaign are lawyers/law firms and tv/movies/music. Time warner was her top contributor. These are two industries which stand to profit HEAVILY from SESTA. Lawyers get more work because there are more people being arrested w much more serious charges. Companies like Time Warner and Comcast have already gotten a huge boost from the demise of #netneutrality (basically they can choose to slow down your internet speeds if you visit a website that they do not own making it much harder for independent content creators to be seen). With the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, internet providers now have even more control through that hand of Senator like Harris."

Sean McElwee tweeted: A team of intrepid economists just perpetrated a giant version of the Sokal Hoax, call it Sokal Cubed. They proved that for $1,500 an hour, economic models can be manipulated into defending literally anything, including anti-competitive corporate mergers." The article, from Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott at Pro Publica, is "These Professors Make More Than a Thousand Bucks an Hour Peddling Mega-Mergers: The economists are leveraging their academic prestige with secret reports justifying corporate concentration. Their predictions are often wrong and consumers pay the price." Imagine my surprise at seeing this: "ONE EVENING IN 1977, University of Chicago law professor Richard Posner hosted a colleague from the economics department and a young law student named Andrew Rosenfield at his apartment in Hyde Park. The leading scholar of the 'Law and Economics' movement, Posner wanted to apply rigorous math and economics concepts to the real world." So many evil things can be traced back to these people.

But I missed Adam Liptak's "An Exit Interview With Richard Posner, Judicial Provocateur" last year when it came out upon Posner's retirement, and it does refer to a phenomenon I have noticed and remarked on before — the increasingly more sensible and less nasty positions Posner seemed to be taking of late. He doesn't go into it in much depth, but he certainly seems to have had a change of heart late in life. "'About six months ago,' Judge Posner said, 'I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.' He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it."

Shamus Khan tweeted: "Thread on my thoughts re: elites: I think elite schooling can help develop real talents in people. But here's the thing: the idea that those talents are 'inherent' vs 'cultivated as a result of investments' is where I take serious issue. The consequences are really important" Now go read the thread.

For a little background on what kind of a frat Kavanaugh belonged to, "The frat barred from Yale for 5 years is back — and women are saying they warn one another to stay away: Yale's Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity was barred for five years after a profane video of brothers chanting about women, rape, and consent emerged online."

"'That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?' Fuzzy-edged though differences between generations are, surely one difference between people of my own age and those born after 9/11 is their experience of 'security.' I never went through a metal detector in school; never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this country would come to that. And as for airports! Anyhow, this Zeitgeist Watch anecdote that a friend threw over the transom starts out being about security. But there's a plot twist!"

"Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture: Youth isn't a good proxy for support of political correctness, and race isn't either. [...] Whites are ever so slightly less likely than average to believe that political correctness is a problem in the country: 79 percent of them share this sentiment. Instead, it is Asians (82 percent), Hispanics (87percent), and American Indians (88 percent) who are most likely to oppose political correctness. [...] The one part of the standard narrative that the data partially affirm is that African Americans are most likely to support political correctness. But the difference between them and other groups is much smaller than generally supposed: Three quarters of African Americans oppose political correctness. This means that they are only four percentage points less likely than whites, and only five percentage points less likely than the average, to believe that political correctness is a problem."

"How Bill Clinton Remade the Democratic Party by Abandoning Unions: An Arkansas Story: Much has been made in the recent campaign about the alienation of working-class whites from the Democratic Party. Michael Pierce shows this is a path long traveled; Bill Clinton undermined the budding multi-racial labor coalition in 1970s Arkansas. In a horrendous election night for the Hillary Clinton, the only bright spot was Nevada, where Culinary Workers Union Local 226's massive get-out-the-vote operation ensured that the state's six electoral votes went into the Democratic column. Not only did the local get their Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and white members to the polls but its sophisticated operation also rallied other members of Nevada's diverse working-class. In much of the rest of the country, the working-class voters — especially white ones — stayed home, alienated from both a Democratic candidate who made little effort to address their economic concerns and a Republican candidate who stirred up hate. Class-based union-led mobilization operations like the one in Nevada have become rare, but they were central to the Democratic Party's successes from the 1930s through the 1980s even in what are now deep red states like Arkansas. The irony is that the decline of such mobilization efforts can be traced back to Bill Clinton and his activities in 1970s Arkansas, when he and his allies began undermining the labor movement and its efforts to educate working-class voters and get them to the polls on behalf of the Democratic Party. Not only did Bill Clinton refuse to support efforts to strengthen unions at a time when local companies like Walmart and Tyson Foods were becoming more aggressive in their 'union avoidance' methods, but he also began to bait the labor movement to gain electoral advantage. He would ride his Arkansas strategies into the White House in 1992, transforming the Democratic Party along the way."

I'm not sure whether I linked this in 2014 when it first appeared, but it seems apropos of the moment and in my continuing mission to remind people of just what a disaster the Obama-Geithner administration was for us, here's Matt Stoller's review of Geithner's book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, "The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party: The most consequential event of this young century has been the financial crisis. This is a catchall term that means three different things: an economic housing boom and bust, a financial meltdown, and a political response in which bailouts were showered upon the very institutions that were responsible for the chaos. We will be seeing the fallout for decades. Today, in Europe, far-right fascist parties are on the rise, climbing the unhappiness that the crisis-induced austerity has unleashed. China is looking away from the West as a model of development. In the US, Congress is more popular than certain sexually transmitted infections* but little else, and all institutions of national power are losing their legitimacy. At the same time, the financial system did not, in the end, collapse, and there was no repeat of the Great Depression. [...] I'll address both of these, since they are intertwined. For as I read the book, and compared the book with what was written at the time and what was written afterwards, I noticed something odd, and perhaps too bold to say in polite company. As much as I really wanted to hear what Geithner had to say, I quickly realized that I wasn't getting his actual side of the story. The book is full of narratives, facts, and statements that are, well, untrue, or at the very least, highly misleading. Despite its length, there are also serious omissions that suggest an intention to mislead, as well as misrepresentations of his critics' arguments. As I went further into Geithner's narrative, even back into his college days, I got the sense that I was seeing only a brilliantly scrubbed surface, that there were nooks and crannies hidden away. It struck me that I was reading the memoirs of an incredibly savvy and well-bred grifter, the kind that the American WASP establishment of financiers, foundation officials, and spies produces in such rich abundance. I realize this is a bold claim, because it's an indictment not just of Geithner but also of those who worked for him at Treasury and at the Federal Reserve, as well as indictment of the Clinton-era finance team of Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, Michael Barr, Jason Furman, and other accomplices. That's why this review is somewhat long, as it's an attempt to back up such a broad and sweeping claim. I will also connect it to what Geithner is doing now: working in the same kind of financial business that made Mitt Romney a near billionaire."

But lest we forget, the Democratic Party was deciding to enable the Republicans just as the right-wing was putting forward it's radical plans to destroy democracy, "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" is an old document that is chilling to read now. "Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions."

Umar Haque, "The Big Crunch: Why Predatory Capitalism is Exploding into Fascism, in Every Corner of the Globe: I've often said that the rise of global fascism would be the defining event of our adult lifetimes — and, understandably, I guess, considering Americans and their need to feel superior, I was often met with skepticism, if not outright derision. Yet here it is. Like dominoes: America — where genuine Nazis now sit in government — in Italy, Poland, Turkey, Hungary. Neo-Nazis marching in Germany. Even in Sweden, a kind of absurd, pathetic extremist nationalism is surging."

Howard Zinn, October 21, 2005, "Don't Despair about the Supreme Court [...] It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice. The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those Senators--Democrats and Republicans--who solemnly invoke as their highest concern "the rule of law." The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king. The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance. The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the Fourteenth Amendment called for. After all, it was the same Fourteenth Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South--along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world--that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court. [...] No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled."

"Inside Uzbekistan's beautiful, rarely-seen metro: After a 40-year photo ban, images finally reveal Tashkent's symbolic underground."

Good Omens - Official Teaser Trailer

Van Morrison, "Moondance"

01:53 GMT comment


Sunday, 30 September 2018

The streets are fields that never die

It started like this: "Dianne Feinstein Withholding Brett Kavanaugh Document From Fellow Judiciary Committee Democrats: DEMOCRATS ON THE Senate Judiciary Committee have privately requested to view a Brett Kavanaugh-related document in possession of the panel's top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, but the senior California senator has so far refused, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation." It soon transpired that a woman said Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when she was in high school. It then instantly developed that the GOP just happened to have a letter signed by 65 women who purported to know him then and claimed he had always been a perfect gentleman with them. You know, I went to a public high school and for one year I went to an all-girls school, and I don't think I could find 65 women I knew from high school. Brett Kavanaugh went to Georgetown Prep, a boys' school. (Kavanaugh also recently claimed to have grown up in a rough neighborhood. That would be Bethesda, Maryland, which never had any rough neighborhoods.) Atrios has the next ridiculous chapter.

Yes, okay, Kavanaugh cemented his reputation as a serial perjurer and should be impeached. (If you need some catharsis, I recommend Sam Seder's interview with Judy Gold on Friday's Majority Report.) Meanwhile....

"Buried in an Overloaded and Terrible News Cycle: The House of Representatives Just Voted to Expand the PATRIOT Act. Nonetheless, it passed 297 to 124, clearing the 2/3 threshold it would have needed to pass under suspension by 16 votes. Republicans voted 202 to 29 in favor of the bill. Democrats split evenly: 95 in favor and 95 against."

"With Nation Transfixed By Kavanaugh Monstrosity, House GOP Votes to Give Rich Another $3 Trillion in Tax Cuts: 'This is yet another shameful tax law that would swindle working families and siphon even more funding from the programs that help our communities thrive.' [...] Three Democrats— Reps. Conor Lamb (Penn.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) — voted for the GOP-crafted measure, which would permanently extend the individual tax cuts under the current Republican tax law."

Voter turnout in New York was enormous and though Cynthia Nixon lost, she did get more votes than Cuomo won with in the previous election. Sadly, Zephyr Teachout also lost in her bid to be State AG. Curiously, there were many "Reports of Widespread Voter Suppression in New York State Democratic Primary" and we wonder if that explains the results, since we're not hearing it from Cuomo voters. But the good news is that most of the right-wing Dems who'd been caucusing with the Republicans (IDC) lost their seats, so Cuomo may have a harder time preventing progressive change in the future.

If you ever doubted that Michael Bloomberg is a creep (though I don't see how you could), he's obviously afraid Bernie will win this time and is already making noises about exploring a presidential bid himself. For Liberty, Fraternity, Plutocracy, "Bloomberg would be less than a month from turning 79 when inaugurated. Also $50 billion is $50 million times 1000. If he runs I do expect him to become the darling of reactionary centrists and Third Way doofi, who collectively make up 2.72% of the U.S. population and 38.67% of all elite media pundts." Only a few months younger than Sanders, too. He threatened a third-party run last time if Sanders got the Democratic nomination. He might actually do it this time and grab the H8% vote.

David Dayen, "The Fake Public Comments Supporting A Bank Merger Are Coming From Inside The House: COMMENTS SUBMITTED TO a top banking regulator supporting a 2015 merger between OneWest Bank and CIT Bank were attributed to people who never sent them, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and reviewed by The Intercept. The fake comments appear to be tied directly to Joseph Otting, the head of the regulatory agency himself. The documents reviewed by The Intercept show that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the main bank regulator for nationally chartered banks, knew about the fake comments at the time, before it approved the merger. But the OCC appears to have done no meaningful investigation of the matter, and even cited public support for the merger when approving it." So, "the public" is his sock puppet.

"Sen. Ted Cruz Calls Rival Beto O'Rourke 'Quick' To Blame Dallas Cop Who Killed Botham Jean. Beto says the officer who seems to have misplaced her own apartment, and instantly killing the tenant of the one she was trying to get into when he opened the door, should be fired. This sounds fair considering how unprofessional her behavior was, but Cruz has a novel approach to employee termination policy: "'The individual ... was at home in his apartment and found himself murdered,' Cruz said, using a bizarre choice of words. Guyger 'may have been in the wrong. She's facing legal proceedings, and if a jury of her peers concludes that she behaved wrongly, then she'll face the consequences.'" The jury can decide whether she goes to jail, but I've never heard of anyone getting a jury of their peers to decide whether they should be fired - that responsibility is in the hands of your bosses, not your peers.

"The Senseless Legal Precedent That Enables Wrongful Convictions: A federal appeals court has ruled that prosecutors can withhold evidence that may prove defendants innocent before they plead guilty. [...] Prosecutors are obligated under what's known as the Brady rule to disclose any evidence in the government's possession that may benefit a defendant's case. The rule takes its name from the landmark 1963 case Brady v. Maryland, where the Supreme Court held that withholding exculpatory evidence violated a defendant's right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. But the lower courts are divided on whether that also applies to the plea-bargaining process. The Supreme Court itself has never ruled on the matter." But how can they be divided on whether they should proceed with a prosecution when they aren't reasonably sure they have the guilty party in the first place - especially when there may be exculpatory evidence? What kind of thinking is even going on there?

Chris Hayes and Michael Moore, Town Hall in Flint Michigan

On The Majority Report,
• Sammy interviewed Dday on Tim Geithner: The Villain Who Protected Wall Street, w/ David Dayen - MR Live - 9/12/18
How Fascism Works, w/ Jason Stanley
Crashed: How A Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World, w/ Adam Tooze
Temp: How the Temp Economy Took Over America w/ Louis Hyman - MR Live - 9/25/18

The Michael Brooks Show:
Brazil's Fascist Right & the Attack on Lula

Did I mention Deficit Owls? They're not hawks (who want lots of austerity), and they're not doves (who want a little less austerity). They are wise.

What Modern Money Theory is NOT Saying

Over 150 Democrats are introducing the Expand Social Security Caucus (video)

I don't have a pull-quote from this one, but Matt Taibbi talked to Noam Chomsky, and some of you will be happy to know it's text, not video.

"Labour To Vote On Bringing Back 'Clause Four' Pledge To Nationalise Industries: Labour is set to vote on restoring the party's historic Clause Four pledge to nationalise key industries following a grassroots campaign by activists, HuffPost can reveal. The commitment to 'common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange' was famously axed by Tony Blair when he created New Labour in the 1990s. But local constituency parties have now tabled motions for its restoration that will guarantee the issue appears on the agenda at the party conference."

"Europe Just Voted to Wreck the Internet, Spying on Everything and Censoring Vast Swathes of Our Communications." I read this and just thought, "No, that's crazy, it can't be true." But I suppose it can. Not sure how to live with this one.

"Rejected Applicant Sues Law Schools for Violating Magna Carta [...] According to the complaint, the plaintiff applied to at least 24 law schools, or tried to, but was not admitted to any. While there may well have been other reasons for that, it was enough that Plaintiff had refused to take the LSAT, which most if not all schools require. [...] What exactly did the defendants do wrong, you are probably asking. Well, first, the ABA has apparently broken a promise it made to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1947 to the effect that it and its members would comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Which was adopted in 1948, but it could have promised her before that.) Beyond that — not that anything else is really necessary — Plaintiff alleges that not admitting him to law school constituted various torts including trespass, 'trespass on the case,' intentional infliction of emotional distress, bad faith, trover (!), and the best of the formal causes of action, 'failure to provide a Republican form of government.'"

@MMFlint has a new movie out, and Glenn Greenwald reviews it at The Intercept. "Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 Aims Not at Trump But at Those Who Created the Conditions That Led to His Rise: Fahrenheit 11/9 the title of Michael Moore's new film that opens today in theaters, is an obvious play on the title of his wildly profitable Bush-era Fahrenheit 11/9 but also a reference to the date of Donald J. Trump's 2016 election victory. Despite that, Trump himself is a secondary figure in Moore's film, which is far more focused on the far more relevant and interesting questions of what — and, critically, who — created the climate in which someone like Trump could occupy the Oval Office. For that reason alone, Moore's film is highly worthwhile regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum. The single most significant defect in U.S. political discourse is the monomaniacal focus on Trump himself, as though he is the cause — rather than the by-product and symptom — of decades-old systemic American pathologies. Personalizing and isolating Trump as the principal, even singular, source of political evil is obfuscating and thus deceitful. By effect, if not design, it distracts the population's attention away from the actual architects of their plight. [...] Embedded in the instruction of those who want to you focus exclusively on Trump is an insidious and toxic message: namely, removing Trump will cure, or at least mitigate, the acute threats he poses. That is a fraud, and Moore knows it. Unless and until the roots of these pathologies are identified and addressed, we are certain to have more Trumps: in fact, more effective and more dangerous Trumps, along with more potent Dutertes, and more Brexits, and more Bolsonaros and more LePens."

RIP: "Marty Balin, musician and Jefferson Airplane co-founder, dies aged 76." This seems like a good time for a musical interlude, and a pretty song: "Today".

RIP: "Bassist Max Bennett Dies at 90: His varied career included stints with Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, and the L.A. Express."

Amazingly, this article appeared at Bloomberg: "Unions Did Great Things for the Working Class: Strengthening them could blunt inequality and wage stagnation."

"L.A. Police Union Bought Newspaper Stock, Used Leverage to Try to Fire Editorial Staffers It Accused of Being Anti-Police" — Ted Rall thinks he's found out why The Los Angeles Times fired him.

From the NYT Opinion page, "The Truth in Trump's Law-Enforcement Hypocrisy: As a public defender, I'm not mad at how well Manafort and Cohen have been treated. I just want that same treatment for my clients. [...] Needless to say, Mr. Trump's apparent justice renaissance has nothing to do with how our criminal justice system actually operates, and has always operated, for communities of color and people living in poverty, the vast majority of those who face arrest and prosecution in this country. No, he is outraged by how the system treats his friends. Still, it would be a mistake to dismiss his outrage over the government's ability to turn a person's life upside down as mere hypocrisy. I understand President Trump's outrage. It is remarkable that people, presumed innocent, are locked up before being convicted of any crime. It is deeply unfair that mere accusations can lead to devastating, lifelong consequences. It is alarming that, in a system theoretically built around transparency and truth seeking, police and prosecutors have such outsize power to surveil, search, detain, bully, coerce and nearly destroy a person without producing evidence sufficient to secure a conviction."

Dean Baker, "NYT Is Badly Mistaken: China Has Many Many Options in Trade War with Trump: The NYT erred badly with an article that told readers, "China Once Looked Tough on Trade: Now Its Options Are Dwindling." The article claims that China is running out of ways to retaliate against Trump's tariffs because it imports so much less from the United States than the United States imports from China. In fact, China has many other ways to retaliate. The most effective would probably be to stop paying attention to patent and copyright claims of US corporations. It can encourage domestic Chinese companies to make millions of copies of Windows-based computers, without paying a penny to Microsoft. It can do the same with iPhones and Apple. In fact, it can encourage Chinese companies to export these unauthorized copies all over the world, destroying Microsoft's and Apple's markets in third countries. It can do the same with fertilizers and pesticides, making Monsanto and other chemical giants unhappy. And, it can do this with Pfizer and Merck's drugs, flooding the world with low-cost generic drugs. Even a short period of generic availability may do permanent damage to these companies' markets."

I'd been wondering where Hillbots were getting claims of the Sanders campaign keeping lots of illegal funds, and now I know: Hillary Clinton Supporters Filed A Complaint Against Bernie Sanders — And Lost [...] The complaint alleged that Sanders, an independent, and his campaign treasurer, Susan Jackson, accepted excessive contributions. Under Title 52 of federal campaign finance rules, no individual can make a contribution to a candidate in excess of $2,700. The FEC's decision was addressed to Brad Woodhouse, founder of the American Democracy Legal Fund and president of the pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record. Both the ADLF and the super PAC were founded by prominent Clinton supporter and Media Matters founder David Brock. 'On April 20, 2017, the Federal Election Commission reviewed the allegations in your complaint received on April 8, 2016, and on the basis of the information provided in your complaint, and information provided by Bernie 2016 and Susan Jackson in her official capacity as treasurer, the Commission voted to dismiss the allegation that the Committee violated 52 U.S.C. § 30116(f),'" It's even funnier when you read how tiny the amounts were - it looks like a few people lost track of how many $27 contributions they'd sent in and sent one or two more than they should have. The campaign sent it back as required by law, so no big deal. It's hard to believe the Clinton campaign could be so petty.

"Aaron Maté is a Beast! This statement was admiringly blurted out by political vlogger Jamarl Thomas on his program The Progressive Soapbox last week. What he was talking about was a recent interview that Aaron Maté, producer, journalist and on-air talent at Paul Jay's Real News Network, did with veteran journalist James Risen, currently of The Intercept. What did they discuss? The jailing of Reality Winner — Risen's source for a leaked NSA document about potential Russian digital interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential primary." Risen was perfectly comfortable with talking about how ridiculous it was that Winner was jailed — without any trial — for exposing what should just have been an ordinary public service advisory in any case. But the moment Maté started discussing the actual content of the material Winner released, Risen got his back up. Now, you can say it's not surprising that there's a bit of nervousness about the topic after The Intercept's mishandling of publishing the information in such a way that it was they who exposed Winner by publishing raw code from her communication without redaction, but that didn't seem to be Risen's problem. Maté wanted to talk about just how small a bombshell Winner's leak really was, nowhere in proportion to the reaction it got. Curiously, Risen was so offended by the idea that Winner's leak was only the flimsiest evidence that a phishing expedition from a Gmail account was evidence of a Russian plot that he threatened to terminate the interview in a huff. Do watch the video, it's brow-furrowing, and Maté deserves the kudos for his handling of Risen.

David Dayen in In These Times, "Retrospectives of the Financial Crisis Are Leaving Out the Most Important Part — Its Victims: Because I'm a masochist, I've read as many retrospectives as I could about the 10th anniversary of the fateful failure of Lehman Brothers, the emblematic event of the financial crisis. And I can't help but notice a gaping hole in the narratives. I've heard from Lew Ranieri, the Salomon Brothers trader who invented the mortgage bond in the 1980s, and now regrets it. I've heard bailout architects Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Tim Geithner justify their beliefs in doing whatever it took to save the banks. I've endured you-are-there narratives about bankers and policymakers racing to rescue the financial system. Wonks, pundits, and reporters have all offered thoughts on the crisis' origins, the response, and its ultimate meaning. It seems the only people not consulted for their perspective were those most powerfully affected by the crisis' impact — the millions of families who suffered foreclosure and eviction."

"Neoliberal epidemics: the spread of austerity, obesity, stress and inequality [...] In our new book, we draw on an extensive body of scientific literature to assess the health effects of three decades of neoliberal policies. Focusing on the social determinants of health — the conditions of life and work that make it relatively easy for some people to lead long and healthy lives, while it is all but impossible for others — we show that there are four interconnected neoliberal epidemics: austerity, obesity, stress, and inequality. They are neoliberal because they are associated with or worsened by neoliberal policies. They are epidemics because they are observable on such an international scale and have been transmitted so quickly across time and space that if they were biological contagions they would be seen as of epidemic proportions."

"Deregulation of Wall Street Is Plain and Simple Corruption [...] These sweeping attacks on financial and consumer protections won't make America greater. They'll make it crater, setting the stage for the next Wall Street crisis and very likely another round of taxpayer-funded bank bailouts."

Historical Note: Let's not have any more mythology about who gave us CHIPS. March 14, 1997, in The New York Times, after Bill Clinton had gutted the much better AFDC/TANF provision, "Hatch Joins Kennedy to Back a Health Program: Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative Republican, today embraced a major Democratic effort to provide health insurance for half of the nation's 10 million uninsured children, saying he would become the chief sponsor of the legislation. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, wrote much of the bill, which would increase the Federal tax on tobacco products to finance health care for children."

"25 Years Of Wired Predictions: Why The Future Never Arrives: To write the history of how our culture thinks about tomorrow, one obsessed academic read every issue of Wired in chronological order. Here are his findings."

Someone wrote an update of Phil Ochs' "Love me, I'm a Liberal."

The Doors, "The Crystal Ship" and "Light My Fire" w/ Dick Clark

21:02 GMT comment


Thursday, 13 September 2018

I'd love to turn you on

"I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About: He should be impeached, not elevated. [...] No, Kavanaugh should be removed because he was repeatedly asked under oath as part of his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings for his position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit about whether he had received such information from Miranda, and each time he falsely denied it."

Chuck Schumer is a menace who should be removed from leadership immediately. David Dayen describes the idiot Senator from New York's latest "deal-making" at The American Prospect, "Schumer Surrenders: The Democrats' Senate leader lets Mitch McConnell pack the courts. [...] None of this has anything to do with how liberal Schumer or his caucus either is or isn't. It's all about tactics. In the minority, McConnell made life miserable for Senate Democrats, minimizing their output. Schumer has simply not stepped up with the same aggression. As a result, McConnell has been able to outmaneuver his counterpart repeatedly, with wide-ranging consequences for all Americans. Where have you gone, Harry Reid? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

"Nancy Pelosi Promises That Democrats Will Handcuff The Democratic Agenda If They Retake The House: IN THE FIRST outline of the legislative agenda House Democrats would pursue if they take the majority in November, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made the public a big promise, vowing to handcuff her party's progressive ambitions, including in the event that a Democratic president succeeds Donald Trump, by resurrecting the 'pay-go' rule that mandates all new spending is offset with budget cuts or tax increases. Along the way, she is playing into the hands of Republican strategists eager to warn voters that Democrats' top priority is raising taxes. Forcing budget offsets for every piece of legislation would make it more difficult for Democrats to pass a host of liberal agenda items, from 'Medicare for All' to tuition-free public college. It continues a trend of Democrats caring far more about deficits than Republicans, constraining the activist impulses of liberal policymakers while giving conservatives free rein to blow giant holes in the tax code."

"Progressives Denounce Pelosi for Obsession With 'Economically Illiterate and Politically Insane' Pay-Go Rule: 'Instead of vowing budget chastity, Democrats should be articulating an agenda that excites voters so that they can unleash the full power of the public purse on their behalf.'"

"Andrew Gillum scores stunning victory in Democratic nomination for Florida governor: The progressive mayor of Tallahassee overwhelmed his rivals in Miami-Dade, Broward and Duval counties -- all key battlegrounds. TALLAHASSEE — Democrat Andrew Gillum rode a surge of liberal support from young people and African-Americans to a stunning primary victory Tuesday and the historic opportunity to be the first black governor in Florida's history." Some of his tweets in the ensuing week, however, have taken the shine off.

"Ayanna Pressley defeats 10-term incumbent Mike Capuano in Democratic primary in Massachusetts: It's another upset for insurgent left, which has had its biggest successes when people of color embrace progressive ideology. [...] She appears to have done it by turning out young people and people of color, neither of whom typically vote in party primaries. With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, Pressley had 58.4 percent, or 50,917 votes, to Capuano's 41.6 percent, or 36,234 votes."

"Democratic Party Mailer Associating Cynthia Nixon With Anti-Semitism Backfires: On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, just days before New York's gubernatorial primary on Thursday, a mailer sent by the New York Democratic Party misrepresenting Cynthia Nixon's views on Israel and accusing her of ignoring anti-Semitism has inspired widespread condemnation, forcing Governor Cuomo to assert that he did not approve it." Claims from Cuomo that he had nothing to do with it are hard to believe. Remembering a much earlier Cuomo campaign against Ed Koch, the Majority Report crew reversed and revised their slogan to, "Vote the Homo, not Cuomo."

"Bernie Sanders introduces 'Stop BEZOS Act' in the Senate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday introduced a Senate bill — the "Stop BEZOS Act" — that would require large employers such as Amazon.com and Walmart to pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers. The bill's name is a dig at Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and stands for 'Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act.' It would establish a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with at least 500 employees, the former presidential candidate said Wednesday. "In other words, the taxpayers of this country would no longer be subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country who are paying their workers inadequate wages," Sanders said at a news conference announcing the bill. "Despite low unemployment, we end up having tens of millions of Americans working at wages that are just so low that they can't adequately take care of their families.""

"LePage files court-ordered plan to expand Medicaid in Maine — and asks feds to reject it: The LePage administration complied with a court order Tuesday and finally submitted required documents to the federal government to expand Medicaid to 70,000 Mainers — but there's a catch. Gov. Paul LePage, an expansion opponent, is asking federal officials to deny the application. [...] Voters approved Medicaid expansion by a 59 to 41 percent margin in November 2017, and the law passed at the ballot box required the state to file a State Plan Amendment in April. But the LePage administration has refused to implement it. The expansion, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, would provide health insurance for low-income Mainers earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, or $34,638 for a family of three and $16,753 for a single person. Expansion has been approved in 34 states."

"Roy Oliver: White police officer found guilty of murdering unarmed black teenager Jordan Edwards: It is extremely rare for police officers to be tried and convicted of murder for shootings that occurred while they are on duty." I imagine this case was immeasurably helped by the fact that Oliver's partner would not confirm Oliver's defense.

"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.'"

Zaid Jilani, "Republicans Who Oppose Teacher Protests Are Losing Their Primaries, Even In Red States: WEST VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN state Sen. Robert Karnes felt pretty confident about opposing the longest teachers strike in the state's history. A longtime opponent of the state's teachers unions, he told a local newspaper that he wasn't worried about any political ramifications of the strike. 'I can't say that it will have zero effect, but I don't think it'll have any significant effect because, more often than not, they probably weren't voting on the Republican side of the aisle anyways,' he said of the state's teachers. Essentially, Karnes bet against his constituents' interest in education funding. And they called him on it. Karnes lost his May primary election, winning only 3,749 votes compared to Republican Del. Bill Hamilton's 5,787 votes. Hamilton was an opponent of right-to-work laws and expressed sympathy for the teachers strike. He secured the support of labor groups like the West Virginia AFL-CIO and the West Virginia Education Association Political Action Committee; altogether, organized labor contributed around $10,000 to his campaign." And similar stories in Kentucky and Oklahoma.

"'Cruel and vicious': Palestinian officials condemn Trump's closure of DC office: Palestinian leaders have condemned a decision by Donald Trump to shutter their diplomatic mission to Washington as part of a 'cruel and spiteful' campaign they say represents collective punishment against Palestinians. The move follows a year of US action that includes cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Palestinians and recognising Jerusalem, a city that is territorially contested, as Israel's capital."

Dean Baker, "NYT Is Mistaken on NAFTA Negotiations: Trump is Threatening Ford and GM with Auto Tariffs, not Canada: Donald Trump is very confused about trade and it seems the confusion has spread to the NYT. Its article on the trade negotiations between the United States and Canada told readers that Trump is threatening with tariffs on the cars it exports to the United States. Canada doesn't pay tariffs on cars exported to the United States. The companies that import the cars to the United States would be the ones that pay the tariffs. This would primarily be Ford and General Motors, although there may also be some foreign auto companies that bring cars in from Canada. In Trump World it seems that trade is a battle between countries, with the ones that have the largest trade surplus being the winners. In reality, many U.S. corporations have benefited hugely from the imports that have been associated with the U.S. trade deficit. They have taken advantage of lower cost labor (not really true in Canada) in other countries to reduce costs. The basic story is that trade is about class, not country. Our patterns of trade were put in place to redistribute income upward. When Trump threatens to disrupt the patterns of trade established over the last quarter century he is most immediately threatening U.S. corporations. While there may also be some negative effects for workers in other countries, the direct targets are U.S. corporations. Trump may not understand this fact, but the NYT should."

Unfortunately, they are still in the education business. I hope this time they actually consult real educators instead of their rich-people genius. At least this one doesn't sound as bad as the last one. So far. "With $92 Million in Grants, Gates Foundation Launches Newest Strategy to Improve K-12 Schools. [...] "Rather than coming in with a bright, shiny new idea, we're asking districts, schools, and intermediaries to look at investments they've already made, and we're trying to make that last-mile investment that enables them to connect their work, to set the strategies or data that will enable them to be successful for students," said Robert Hughes, the foundation's director of K-12 education in a telephone press call with reporters."

"Bernie Sanders Is Officially Getting Under Jeff Bezos'S Skin [...] In statement after statement, the progressive senator from Vermont has decried Amazon, claiming that the $954 billion company doesn't pay enough workers a living wage — especially those who toil in its more than 100 fulfillment centers across the country. Many of the attacks have been personal: 'It is completely unacceptable that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest people in the world like Jeff Bezos when they pay their employees such inadequate wages,' he tweeted earlier this week. 'Count to ten,' he wrote in another tweet. 'In those ten seconds, Jeff Bezos, the owner and founder of Amazon, just made more money than the median employee of Amazon makes in an entire year.' Not content to bludgeon the company from the confines of Twitter, Sanders's office has also appealed directly to Amazon employees: 'Have you used public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid or subsidized housing, in order to make ends meet?' asks a form on his Web site. By now, these sorts of accusations are commonplace. But Amazon's response was not. Instead of brushing off the claims with a boilerplate statement or an internal memo, as Bezos did in response to a damning New York Times story in 2015, the company published an entire blog post on Wednesday devoted to debunking Sanders's claims. [...] The company added that it had offered Sanders a tour of its fulfillment centers, and invited its workers to respond with their positive experiences. Its post was later updated to include one worker testimonial." But there are a lot more testimonials to the contrary elsewhere.

Bruce Dixon explains "Why the Blue Wave Missed Missouri's 1st CD [...] The first is the black church, which is ridden with local, and since the advent of Bush's and Obama's faith based initiative, federal patronage. Black churches are often tied hand and foot to local politicians for everything from real estate deals to charter school contracts, and their leaders are often fixtures in local Democratic party affairs, even public officials themselves. The second is the nonprofit industrial complex, a literal army of advocacy groups sometimes doing housing and homeless activism, sometimes feeding the hungry, sometimes doing worker centers, womens health, tenants rights, LBGTQ activism, environmental stuff. There's another section of the nonprofit industrial complex which can't even be called nonpartisan with a straight face, offshoots of the NAACP and the Movement 4 Black Lives. These forces are tied to the political preferences of their corporate philanthropic funders. Executive directors of nonprofit organizations who don't find a way to support the right Democrats in primary season and all Democrats in general election put their careers, the livelihoods of all their employees, and the outfit's good works in jeopardy. And there are the unions — heavily public sector and disproportionately people of color, again all tied to the most right wing established Democrats on the local, state and federal level."

RIP: "The Village Voice Is Officially Dead: Three years after buying The Village Voice, and a year after the paper shut down its print edition, owner Peter Barbey told the remaining staff today that the publication will no longer be posting any new stories."

Sam Seder left some great pre-recorded interviews for listeners during The Majority Report's vacation week.
* America's Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality - MR Live - 8/27/18
* This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent w/ Daegan Miller - MR Live - 8/28/18
* Globalists: The End Of Empire & the Birth of Neoliberalism w/ Quinn Slobodian - MR Live - 8/29/18

Katie Halper interviewed Asad Haider on the betrayal of Identity Politics.

Briahna Gray, "Beware The Race Reductionist [...] If you're #online, like I am, you're probably already familiar with the main argument. It goes something like this: If a policy doesn't resolve racism 'first,' it's at worst, racist and at best, not worth pursuing. [...] Notice that this trick is aimed at policies which would threaten significant corporate or entrenched interests: the insurance industry, the banking industry, the energy sector, lenders. As the University of California, Berkeley, law professor and leading scholar on race Ian Haney-López observed as we discussed the motives behind this framing, mainstream Democrats, like Republicans, 'are funded by large donors. Of course they're concerned about the interests of the top 1 percent.' It's almost as if the real agenda here isn't ending racism, but deterring well-meaning liberals from policies that would upset the Democratic Party's financial base. [...] So will 'Medicare for All' cure racism? No. Will it completely eliminate point-of-care discrimination? It won't. But neither will doubling down on the status quo. Those who admonish these broad economic policies on the grounds that they won't end bigotry rarely, if ever, propose alternatives that will; nor do they suggest reforms to make flawed universal programs more perfect. This fact, more than anything, exposes the bad faith motives of at least some race reductionists.

Howie Klein on "What Happens AFTER The Wave? What Can Democrats Accomplish? [...] The DCCC is making the same mistake they made-- so disastrously-- in 2010 by letting the Republicans define Democratic candidates while they sit on their asses doing nothing but figuring out how of a rake-off from campaign donations their pals can get. Ryan's SuperPAC "is already unloading blistering attack ads on Democratic nominees in 15 key districts," while the DCCC is still spending their energy and resources against progressives and ignoring Republicans."

Why Philanthropy Is Bad for Democracy: Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, on how well-meaning liberals paved the way for Trump [...] I would love to tell you I figured it out within two minutes, but these things are seductive. It was a drip-drip-drip-drip of moments where you thought, 'Wait a second, why are we sitting in the Koch building? Why is this event funded by Monsanto, and by Pepsi, which seems to be changing the world by fattening kids? Why is Goldman Sachs a sponsor of our annual summer retreat?' The reality of the world outside kept getting worse and worse, and the people in the fellowship, and the sponsors, seemed to be the very people sucking most of the juice of progress. What I started to realize was that giving had become the wingman of taking. Generosity had become the wingman of injustice. 'Changing the world' had become the wingman of rigging the system."

Ryann Liebenthal in Mother Jones, "The Incredible, Rage-Inducing Inside Story of America's Student Debt Machine: Why is the nation's flagship loan forgiveness program failing the people it's supposed to help?"

Pierce, "It Turns Out Mike Pence Has Been Working on Being Unlikable for Decades: The late great Indiana political blogger Doghouse Riley used to call Mike Pence "the Choirboy," and hipped us all to the fact that this was a walking haircut stuffed with piety, ignorance, and not a whole lot else. Comes now CNN with a profile, and we learn from the people with whom he went to college that Pence has been practicing to be an unlikable and thoroughgoing prig for decades now. [...] This is the guy who is about four Diet Cokes, one clogged coronary artery, and/or a massive rage-tweet-induced aneurysm away from the presidency of the United States. And, again, it did not take Donald Trump to make Mike Pence a twisted, god-bothering, judgmental and successful political reptile. All that took was the Republican Party."

David Dayen says Tim Geithner was the "resistance" inside the Obama administration: "Last week, in an anonymous New York Times op-ed, a senior Trump official attempted to reassure the public that members of the administration were actively impeding their boss's wishes. One member of the public wasn't soothed: Trump's predecessor. 'The claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren't following the president's orders, that is not a check,' Barack Obama said in a speech. 'That's not how our democracy's supposed to work. These people aren't elected. They're not accountable.' It was interesting timing for Obama to condemn executive branch defiance. This week marks the tenth anniversary of the fall of Lehman Brothers, seen as the emblematic event of the financial crisis. And early in Obama's first term, as he struggled to prevent further collapse, he faced similar insubordination from a key official: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. According to credible accounts, Geithner slow-walked a direct presidential order to prepare the breakup of Citigroup, instead undertaking other measures to nurse the insolvent bank back to health. This resistance to accountability for those who perpetrated the crisis, consistent with Geithner's demonstrated worldview, had catastrophic effects — including the Trump presidency itself. [...] Today, some may welcome the internal dissension in the Trump administration. But Geithner's actions to protect banks from the president he served, and the anger it bred at a 'rigged' system, diminished the public's faith in government intervention and helped install Trump in the White House. Ten years later, Geithner's one regret, as he put it in the Times, was that regulators don't have as much power now as he had then to bail out banks. But he wasn't given that power unilaterally; he took it, and America is still dealing with the consequences."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The biggest policy mistake of the last decade: In the great economic battle of the past decade, the winner is the tried and true — in a rout. After the 2008 financial crisis, old-fashioned Keynesians offered a simple fix: Stimulate the economy. With idle capacity and unemployed workers, nations could restore economic production at essentially zero real cost. It helped the U.S. in the Great Depression and it could help the U.S. in the Great Recession too. But during and immediately after the crisis, neoliberal and conservative forces attacked the Keynesian school of thought from multiple directions. Stimulus couldn't work because of some weird debt trigger condition, or because it would cause hyperinflation, or because unemployment was "structural," or because of a "skills gap," or because of adverse demographic trends. Well going on 10 years later, the evidence is in: The anti-Keynesian forces have been proved conclusively mistaken on every single argument. Their refusal to pick up what amounted to a multiple-trillion-dollar bill sitting on the sidewalk is the greatest mistake of economic policy analysis since 1929 at least. Let's take the culprits in turn."

A book review from Jennifer Szalai, "Crashed Connects the Dots From 2008 Crisis to Trump, Brexit and More [...] [...] On the apparent Democratic distaste for conflict, Tooze is quietly scathing. 'Rather than seeking to mobilize the indignation simmering in American society,' the Obama administration sought to tamp it down, offering 'one technocratic fix after another.' Putting it another way, Democratic centrism won the (financial) war but lost the (political) peace. To judge from Trump's ascendancy, along with the historical evidence so scrupulously marshaled in 'Crash,' Tooze is right. [...] One of the great virtues of this bravura work of economic history is how much attention it devotes to issues of power. 'Who was being hurt?' Tooze writes of the 2008 crisis. 'Who was included in the circle of those who needed to be protected? And who was not?' He reckons that in their bid to paper over such fundamental political questions with technical solutions, neoliberal centrists inadvertently answered them. Incremental tweaking did little to address the grief and suffering caused by the crisis, making political power more visible. By laying bare who would be sacrificed when the tide went out, they left a ragged hole for the likes of Trump and Bannon to walk through."

Harper's Index:
• Average number of months by which Republican-appointed judges sentence blacks to longer jail terms than whites : 7.8
By which Democratic-appointed judges do : 4.8
• Estimated percentage of US adults exonerated of crimes who are found to have falsely confessed : 10
Of juveniles : 38
• Percentage of heterosexual men without a high school diploma who changed their last name when they were last married : 10
Of heterosexual men with a college degree who did : 2

Nick Hanauer is sounding the alarm to his fellow zillioniaires, "The Pitchforks Are Coming — For Us Plutocrats [...] If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when." Also, when I scrolled past the end, I found another warning from Joseph Stiglitz on The Myth of America's Golden Age. He says the same thing, only shorter.

Matt Stoller tweeted: Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, and Hank Paulson argue in the New York Times that our main political problem is insufficient authority to bail out banks. I mean, just, speechless. And then he "tweeted, "1. Ok, time to address this piece by Hank Paulson, Tim Geithner, and Ben Bernanke on the need for more bailout authority to address financial crises. It is a surprisingly interesting but hidden political argument." Go read the thread.

RIP: Bill Daily, Major Healey in I Dream of Jeannie, Dies at 91: Bill Daily, the affable TV actor who starred as Major Roger Healey in I Dream of Jeannie as well as on The Bob Newhart Show, died Sept. 4 in Santa Fe, N.M., his son J. Patrick Daily confirmed. He was 91."

RIP: "Burt Reynolds, Smokey and the Bandit star, dead at 82." I actually remember him best for being hilarious on late-night talk shows. He was fun.

Sirota at the Guardian, "Yes, let's wipe out Trump. But take neoliberal Democrats with him, too: [...] Recounting this sordid record is not to dispute Democrats' occasional successes. Some blue locales continue to periodically pass progressive initiatives, most recently on climate change, net neutrality and minimum wages. These are undoubtedly important, but they have for the most part been incremental at a time when the economic and ecological crises we face demand far more radical action. The current iteration of the Democratic party has proven time and again that it is not merely uninterested in that kind of radicalism, but actively opposed to it. Party powerbrokers and multimillion-dollar MSNBC pundits would prefer an election focused exclusively on the palace dramas surrounding Trump's boorish outbursts and outrageous personal behavior. They don't want an election focused on the bipartisan neoliberalism that has wrought the desperation and mayhem unfolding outside the palace walls."

If you ever wonder what's wrong with Bob Woodward's journalism, you normally can't check his sources to find out what really happened. But one time, he didn't have that protection, because he wrote a regrettable book where sources weren't speaking confidentially and no state secrets were involved, and someone checked it out. Tanner Colby on the troubling things he learned when he re-reported Woodward's book about John Belushi.

This is a few years old, but I get tired of hearing right-wingers (especially the "centrists") pretending it was all some instant reaction from the religious right against Roe v. Wade. But that didn't happen. There was no reaction from the religious right at the time because they didn't care about that. It was manufactured. "The Real Origins of the Religious Right"

Eventually, if I keep looking, everything turns up on YouTube. Meeting of Minds, first episode, in which Steve Allen talks to dinner guests Teddy Roosevelt, Cleopatra, Thomas Paine, and Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Paul McCartney Breaks Down His Most Iconic Songs

00:21 GMT comment


Monday, 27 August 2018

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Elizabeth Warren's press release for her Accountable Capitalism Act is nicely put together and provides some good background:

"For most of our country's history, American corporations balanced their responsibilities to all of their stakeholders - employees, shareholders, communities - in corporate decisions. It worked: profits went up, productivity went up, wages went up, and America built a thriving middle class.

"But in the 1980s a new idea quickly took hold: American corporations should focus only on maximizing returns to their shareholders. That had a seismic impact on the American economy. In the early 1980s, America's biggest companies dedicated less than half of their profits to shareholders and reinvested the rest in the company. But over the last decade, big American companies have dedicated 93% of earnings to shareholders - redirecting trillions of dollars that could have gone to workers or long-term investments. The result is that booming corporate profits and rising worker productivity have not led to rising wages.

"Additionally, because the wealthiest top 10% of American households own 84% of all American-held shares - while more than 50% of American households own no stock at all - the dedication to "maximizing shareholder value" means that the multi-trillion dollar American corporate system is focused explicitly on making the richest Americans even richer."

Warren's prepared remarks to the National Press Club about her anti-corruption bill are also pretty interesting. And Howie Klein bulllet-pointing it in "Can Corruption In Government Be Legislated Out Of Existence By... Corrupt Politicians?."

* * * * *

"To Force Billionaires Off Welfare, Sanders Tax Would Make Corporations Fund 100% of Public Assistance Their Low-Paid Workers Receive: I don't believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages."

"Verizon refused to un-throttle a California fire department's 'unlimited' plan during wildfires: Although calling out wireless carriers is a frequent pasttime here at BGR, sometimes a story comes along that sounds so cartoonishly villanous that you assume something in the story is wrong. But in this case, there are emails, and what they reveal is that Verizon's big talk about supporting emergency services apparently doesn't work in the real world. Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin found a series of emails between the Santa Clara County Fire Department and Verizon discussing the fire department's supposedly unlimited plan, how it was being throttled while on scene trying to battle a wildfire, and what could be done about it." This is shameful; if they're going to say a plan is "unlimited", it should damned well be unlimited, fire department or not. Their claim of support for emergency services sounds like pure fabrication.

"Empire Files forced to shut down by sanctions against Venezuela: As a result of financial attacks by the US government on the primary source of TeleSUR's funding, production was halted before the completion of Empire Files Season Two."

"The Facebook blackout 'glitch' censored independent media, but left the mainstream media untouched: Facebook has initiated a massive purge of independent media content. This blackout includes barring multiple independent media sites from posting links to their own site on their Facebook page, deleting independent media posts without warning or reason, marking independent media posts as spam so ordinary members of the public can't share them, and deleting ordinary people's posts without reason. This issue has impacted multiple left-leaning independent media sites like Another Angry Voice, Evolve Politics, Vox Political, People's Campaign for Corbyn, EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, and many others. With pages left unable to post links to their own articles. Facebook have tried to dismiss the independent media blackout as a "glitch" but interestingly the Facebook pages of mainstream media outlets were unaffected by the "glitch". Mainstream media outlets that have been able to continue posting articles throughout the blackout include the Daily Mail, The S*n, Evening Standard, The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Sky News, BBC News, and BBC Politics. Additionally the hard-right Guido Fawkes blog was also allowed to continue posting links to their vile echo chamber of hate throughout the Facebook blackout. The fact that a select few pages were allowed to continue posting throughout the Facebook blackout suggests that there's some kind of Facebook 'whitelist' protecting them from whatever measures they've been taking against independent media sources. So a range of left-wing, pro-independence, anti-Tory, pro-Corbyn, anti-fracking independent media pages were barred from sharing links, while mainstream media outlets and hard-right blogs were completely unaffected."

"Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty to leaking secret U.S. report, gets 63-month sentence: AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A former government contractor who pleaded guilty to mailing a classified U.S. report to a news organization was sentenced to more than five years Thursday as part of a deal with prosecutors, who called it the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media. Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national security information. The former Air Force translator worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency's office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it tucked into her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet."

"Wells Fargo-- The Anti-Medical Marijuana Bank-- Strikes Again [...] 'They told me my account was being flagged because of my political platform,' Fried said during a news conference at the Capitol. She lists greater access to medical marijuana as one of the main issues of her campaign."

'Incredible': New Poll That Shows 70% of Americans Support Medicare for All Includes 84% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans: Don't tell anyone but, uh, we're gonna win. [...] With such levels of popularity, as an accompanying article exploring some of the tensions within the party makes clear, Democratic leaders are being told they ignore the push for Medicare for All at their own peril. [...] While the Reuters article focused mainly on the question of whether progressive leaders like Sanders and congressional candidates like New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nebraska's Kara Eastman can convince voters to support progressive proposals, the news agency's polling showed that centrist Democrats, who claim they are trying to appeal to so-called "moderates," are actually alienating the vast majority of potential voters on key issues." This means that the percentage of Republican voters who support M4A is higher than the percentage of Democrats in Congress who do.

"California Could Soon End Money Bail, But At What Cost?: The passage of Senate Bill 10 would decimate the bail industry, but many advocates say it falls short of true reform. [...] In earlier drafts of the bill, all defendants would have appeared before a judge with a presumption of release. To detain someone, prosecutors would have had to make a case with convincing evidence that there was no way to release the person while ensuring his or her next court appearance and protecting public safety. This month, however, a new draft of the legislation began making the rounds that vastly altered its vision and scope. While abolishing cash bail and mandating the release of most people arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors within 12 hours of being booked, the new draft gives county judges wide-ranging discretion over which defendants deemed 'medium risk' could be detained pretrial."

RIP: Lynn Stout, economics professor best known for busting the shareholder value myth. Though she died last April at 60 after a battle with cancer, I only just learned about it, but I really want people to talk about this important aspect of her work. Her book, The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public came out years ago but deserves far more penetration into people's consciousness.
* Back when her book was released, Jay Ackroyd interviewed Lynn Stout on Virtually Speaking.

Yves was also on that subject at the time, with discussion and an interview with Bill Lazonick

Here's Ryan Grim interviewing Stephanie Kelton last spring on why we can't have nice things - but could if Congress wanted to.

And Gaius reminded me recently of this four-year-old interview Sam Seder did with Philip Mirowski, author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown., on the history and continued evil of neoliberalism.

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

George Monbiot in the Guardian, "A despot in disguise: one man's mission to rip up democracy: James McGill Buchanan's vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it's being exported. [...] He explained how attempts to desegregate schooling in the American south could be frustrated by setting up a network of state-sponsored private schools. It was he who first proposed privatising universities, and imposing full tuition fees on students: his original purpose was to crush student activism. He urged privatisation of social security and many other functions of the state. He sought to break the links between people and government, and demolish trust in public institutions. He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy."

Even Forbes admits it: "America's Real Economy: It Isn't Booming: Ostensibly, for the past ten years, our economy has been recovering from the 2008 collapse. During the past few years, our comeback seems to have gained momentum. All the official indicators say we're back in boom times, with a bull market, low unemployment and steady job growth. But there is an alternative set of data that depicts a different America, where the overlooked majority struggles from month to month." The story gets the data right (Thanks to The Nation and TomDispatch), but then, alas, descends into prescriptions that come straight from the centrist playbook. "What's genuinely astonishing to me is that the private sector doesn't see the immense danger in all this — not simply the prospect of a collapse from enormous household debt loads, but the prospect of civil unrest after another huge correction like the one in 2008. Our current course is unsustainable. And for all the proposals for changes in public policy to ameliorate income inequality, only the private sector can get the nation on a better track by raising wages, increasing benefits and investing in new ventures and expanded markets." While it's true that raising wages is certainly a necessity, the private sector is not going to do any of this unless public policy forces them to. The constant refrain that we need more and more education — now supplied by the private sector — is ludicrous since we already have an educated populace that is out of work. The only thing the private sector can actually do at this point is reverse course on pressuring government to make their lives so easy, and start telling government to restore the regulations and enforcement that used to make them pay better wages, treat their workers better, and quit moving production abroad. Government has to go back to making business work, and it has to start spending real money again in the real economy and taxing the hell out of the rich.

Just when I was about to go to bed I see this tweet from Sam retweeting David Dayen retweeting a Will Sommer tweet posting a screen capture of a tweet from Lionel ("One of the leading promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory") bragging about the honor of going to the White House to meet Trump. Lionel, as David points out, is "literally the guy who replaced @SamSeder on Air America." But in the ensuing thread I found a 2010 video I'd never seen, "Sam Seder on TYT Network (Why Air America Fell, Obama & Much More!)," posted because it includes Sam talking about the end of Air America Radio not long after it's official demise, but before that an amazingly prescient interview with Chris Hayes about how the failure of Obama and the Democratic Party to seize the populist moment could easily lead to right-wing "populism" - and the situation we have now.

RIP: "Sen. John McCain, Former Presidential Nominee And Prisoner Of War, Dies At 81." I think I'm with Max Blumenthal on this.

I actually enjoy Sherlock, but it's hard to argue with the claim that they really lost the point.

Pink Floyd live, "Money"

23:45 GMT comment


Monday, 20 August 2018

I used to feel so uninspired

RIP: "Aretha Franklin, 'the queen of soul', dies aged 76: Regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time, Aretha Franklin has died of advanced pancreatic cancer" Everybody has the same headline, because what else could it be? The Guardian used a video of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" in it's obit, but it's longer tribute gives you more. Okay, I teared up, but still, she had a great run - she got to be Aretha.
* "When Aretha Franklin Offered To Post Bail For Angela Davis: Aretha Franklin, who died today at the age of 76 in her home in Detroit, was known for her unbelievable musical talent and majestic career, but the Queen of Soul was also a longtime warrior in the fight for social justice. A close friend of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited her in her final days, Franklin was a vocal supporter of civil rights movements, often performing at benefits and encouraging voter registration. But her private and church-based work — including stepping in to financially support Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement, the families of incarcerated people, and black activist ministers — was largely under the radar, Jackson told the Detroit Free Press recently."

RIP: Mark Perkel. "On August first, one of the coolest people you've probably never heard of died. Before there was a Netroots Nation or bloggers commonly called bloggers way back in 2000, Mark Perkel founded the liberal voices on the web — people like Bartcop, Brad Friedman and me — and offered us free hosting and eternal digital protection." -- Tammy, delivering a quick obituary on phone call to The Majority Report. (That's a direct section link.)

If you listen to the earlier parts of that Sam Seder video, you'll hear that some YouTube algorithm knocked him off his live feed Friday. It's funny how these social media censors have such a problem with comedy. But they have trouble with other things, too, and it's curious that Facebook has a problem with Venezuelanalysis: "Venezuelanalysis is the only independent English language website covering news and analysis on Venezuela from a progressive perspective, & which platforms leftist grassroots voices from within Venezuela. It is run by committed journalists, authors and academics, & praised by renowned journalists and intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Marta Harnecker, Oliver Stone, and so on. We cannot help but feel that the removal of our page is related to an attempt to stifle the alternative and progressive perspectives that we feature on Venezuela." (Here's another story at Global Research.) Still no explanation from FB. And AntiWar.com is reporting on suspensions and bannings, too. It seems strange that all this cross-platform de-platforming has happened at once.

Matt Taibbi, "Censorship Does Not End Well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything [...] Two weeks ago, we learned about a new campaign against 'inauthentic' content, conducted by Facebook in consultation with Congress and the secretive think tank Atlantic Council — whose board includes an array of ex-CIA and Homeland Security officials — in the name of cracking down on alleged Russian disinformation efforts.­ As part of the bizarre alliance of Internet news distributors and quasi-government censors, the social network zapped 32 accounts and pages, including an ad for a real 'No Unite the Right 2' anti-racist counter-rally in D.C. this past weekend. [...] Last week, we saw another flurry of censorship news. Facebook apparently suspended VenezuelaAnalysis.com, a site critical of U.S. policy toward Venezuela. (It was reinstated Thursday.) Twitter suspended a pair of libertarians, including @DanielLMcAdams of the Ron Paul Institute and @ScottHortonShow of Antiwar.com, for using the word 'bitch' (directed toward a man) in a silly political argument. They, too, were later re-instated. [...] And yet: I didn't celebrate when Jones was banned. Collectively, all these stories represent a revolutionary moment in media. Jones is an incidental player in a much larger narrative. Both the Jones situation and the Facebook-Atlantic Council deletions seem an effort to fulfill a request made last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last October, Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hizono to draw up a 'mission statement' to 'prevent the foment of discord.' [...] Now that we've opened the door for ordinary users, politicians, ex-security-state creeps, foreign governments and companies like Raytheon to influence the removal of content, the future is obvious: an endless merry-go-round of political tattling, in which each tribe will push for bans of political enemies."

Leaving aside the usual creebing about college liberals, which is wrong and beside the point, Peter Van Buren's argument in The American Conservative is fairly strong, in "I Was Banned for Life From Twitter: I became persona non grata after a heated exchange over the media's complicity with the government. The mob won."

The Onion with an unusual weather forecast.

Dean Baker, "Jake Tapper' Dishonest Fact Check On Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Medicare for All: I already did a tweet on this, but thought it was worth posting here. Jake Tapper did a completely dishonest fact check on Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over their claim that a study by a right-wing think tank showed that Medicare for all would save the country $2 trillion over a decade (roughly 0.8 percent of GDP). Tapper misrepresented their comments to say that they claimed the study would save the government $2 trillion. He then points out that the study showed Medicare for all would hugely increase the cost of healthcare to the government. Of course, the cost to the government will increase if it takes responsibility for the bulk of healthcare payments in the country. No one is contesting this point. The question is what happens to the cost of healthcare to the country as a whole. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez were accurately citing one of the scenarios in the study on this point. Tapper owes it to Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, and more importantly to his audience, to correct himself on this one. It's a straightforward point and he really should be able to get it right." More specifically, the study, in its main body, discussed the costs under Sanders' actual, existing Medicare for All bill. The other scenario the study mentions occurs only in an appendix and is sheer conjecture about what it might otherwise contain.

Michelle Goldberg on "The Debt-Shaming of Stacey Abrams: Our pernicious double standard on politicians who owe money. [...] It's going to be a tight race: Abrams and Kemp are currently tied in the polls. But Republicans think they can damage Abrams by going after her on the issue of her personal debt, which totals more than $200,000. Last week, an ad from the Republican Governors Association hit her for lending money to her own campaign while owing $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, describing her as 'self-serving' and 'fiscally irresponsible.' Kemp himself made a baseless suggestion that Abrams might have violated the law: 'Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign. If that's not criminal, it should be.' This line of attack throws a pernicious political dynamic into high relief. The financial problems of poor and middle-class people are treated as moral failings, while rich people's debt is either ignored or spun as a sign of intrepid entrepreneurialism."

With the Accountable Capitalism Act, says Charlie Pierce, "Elizabeth Warren Put a Stake in the Ground. We Should Pay Close Attention. If corporations want to be treated like people then they should be punished like them, too." The idea is to have a federal charter system for big corporations and make them live up to being good citizens that contribute to the public good.

"Author Reza Aslan threatened by Israeli Border Authorities with Family Separation: BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) — Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, detained Iranian-American writer, Reza Aslan, as he was entering Israel through Jordan, with his family. Reza Aslan, 46, took to his Twitter account, where he said that the Shin Bet used police state tactics against him and his family. Aslan arrived in Israel with his wife, children, and in-laws after a visit to Jordan. Upon his arrival, he was separated from his family at the border and detained by the Shin Bet, which repeatedly threatened him . He wrote in his Twitter post that the Shin Bet interrogator threatened him by repeatedly saying 'we can make it so you don't see your kids for a long time.' Aslan mentioned that 'the police state part began in earnest: Write down names of journalists you associate with. Write down names of Palestinian organizations you support.' According to Aslan, he tried to cooperate as best as he could, but was accused of lying after answering each question. The Shin Bet interrogator warned Aslan not to enter the Palestinian territories, not to meet with or speak to any Palestinians or any Israeli troublemakers and warned him by saying that 'we are watching you,' Aslan wrote. Aslan concluded his tweets by saying that 'this was my 4th trip to Israel in ten years and every time it's gotten worse. It's becoming unrecognizable as a democracy. It is becoming a full-blown police state.'"

"Fracking is destroying U.S. water supply, warns shocking new study: Toxic wastewater from fracking jumps 14-fold from 2011 to 2016 — and it may get 50 times bigger by 2030."

Ellis Winningham, "Public Purpose Spending is Not Socialism — It's the Job of the Federal Government: There is an immense problem with the term 'socialism', especially in the United States, where the word is abused endlessly by right-wing politicians, 'free market' enthusiasts and now, even liberals have joined the red-baiting bandwagon, labeling former Sanders supporters, many of whom are now Stein supporters as 'socialists' and any proposed economic initiatives as 'socialism'. This is the result of a successful long-term propaganda campaign of intentional misinformation which causes the general public to view any public purpose spending as socialism and so, they irrationally fear the public purpose. Meanwhile, the 1% reaps the benefits through continued abuse of an unwitting public, allowing them to profit at the expense of the national economy and society. Let me assure you that there isn't an academic definition of socialism for those of us who possess degrees and then an entirely different one for the general public. It doesn't work that way. There is only one definition of socialism and we will discuss it today, because the nonsense needs to stop."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The treachery of Tom Perez: Tom Perez is chair of the Democratic National Committee because wealthy centrist liberals — above all then-President Barack Obama — needed a convenient stooge to keep the party machinery out of the left's hands. He's serving his big donor masters loyally, and in the process failing his party, the United States of America, and humanity as a whole. Most egregiously, he recently reversed a ban on the party accepting donations from fossil fuel corporations, with the limp excuse that "[w]e're not a party that punishes workers simply based on how they make ends meet." The man is an obstacle to human flourishing. [...] It takes a special kind of incompetence to sell out the party's activist base and not even be able to raise good money off it."

"The New Old Democrats: It's not the 1990s anymore. People want the government to help solve big problems. Here's how the Democrats must respond."

"Democrats Must Reclaim the Center — by Moving Hard Left: America needs a centrist party that actually represents the economic center, not just zillionaires like me. [...] There once was a time when both parties vied to occupy the majoritarian center, an era when American politics was more a struggle over means than of ends — until, after three decades of unprecedented and broad-based post-war prosperity, the Republican Party lurched violently to the right, and the age of New Deal centrism came to a close. Supply-side tax cuts, attacks on unions, a crusade against 'big government' and other tactics of the Reagan revolution helped put us on the road to a new Gilded Age. And while Republicans certainly led the way, we wouldn't have gotten here as quickly had Democrats not kept driving in the same direction every time we managed to get our hands on the wheel."

"There Is No Such Thing As A Moderate Mainstream Centrist [...] This is what passes for the American political 'center' today. Two mainstream parties, both backed to the hilt by the entirety of corporate media from coast to coast, arguing with each other over who is doing more to help advance cold war aggressions between two nuclear superpowers. They're not arguing about whether or not the world should be destroyed, they're arguing over who gets to push the button.

Yves Smith on Why We Didn't See the 2008 Crash Coming [...] One point that is often lost is the Bush administration courteously left $75 billion in the TARP for the Obama administration to use to pay for mortgage modifications, which they never used. Obama had an opportunity when he came in. The country was desperate and frightened. He could've done an FDR. He could've done almost anything. And yet, the die was cast when he appointed Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary. That was announced in mid-November. I mean, Obama is basically don't-rock-the boat. He may be center-left on social issues, but he's basically center-right on economic issues. [...] We have this fallacy that normal people should be able to save for retirement. If public pension funds, which can invest at the very lowest possible fees, can't make this work, how is Joe Mom-and-Pop America gonna be able to do this? Again, it's back to the stagnant worker wages. So, great, we're not paying people enough, housing prices are very inflated. We've got this horrible medical system that costs way too much, and how are people supposed to put any money aside when their real estate and their rents and their health costs are going up? Why do you think we have Trump? I mean, even though he did a big bait-and-switch, as we all know, there were a lot of people that lost their homes, their community wasn't what it used to be, particularly if they lived in the Rust Belt. And then you have these people on the coast saying, 'Oh, they should go get training. It's disgusting.' I mean, let them eat cake is let them get training. What you hear from these coastal elites: People over 40, even over 35, are basically unhirable. Are you gonna train them? They're gonna waste their time thinking they can get a new job? I mean, that's just lunacy.

"The Explicable Mystery of the National Debt [...] The mystery is, while all this perpetual haggling and hand-wringing is happening, no one seems to be knocking on America's door asking to be repaid. Unlike Greece and Italy who are constantly being squeezed by the E.U. central bank and the IMF to repay their debts, no one seems to be squeezing the U.S. at all. Unlike Spain, which gets an earful from Germany if it even whispers about increasing its national borrowing, the U.S. hears nothing from anybody (except its own politicians and pundits) when it votes to raise the beanstalk one cap higher. How can that be? It's almost as if — weirdly — there isn't anyone out there expecting to get paid back. [...] First, the U.S. 'national debt' is functionally not a debt at all. It is simply a tally of the U.S. Treasury bonds which the government has issued and then traded for U.S. dollars which already existed in the private sector. These Treasury bonds are in effect interest-paying, time-deposit savings accounts for the bond holders. You personally may have traded some of your retirement dollars for one of these 'savings accounts' and you know, firsthand, they definitely contain real money! The 'national debt,' then, is really a 'national savings account.'"

Nice xkcd on computerized voting. Paper ballots, hand-counted in full public view on the night, y'all.

"Clinton Democrats Embrace Losing Strategy To Combat 'Sanders-Style Socialism' In Midterms: Democratic Party elites are increasingly concerned the midterm elections will be a 'base election' and make their centrist politics even more irrelevant, as insurgent candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez garner widespread support. The think tank, Third Way, recently held a conference in Ohio with Democrats, who primarily adhere to the politics of President Bill Clinton, and new recruits, who they hope will counter 'Bernie Sanders-style socialism.' They also intend to defend corporate executives and wealthy people from condemnation for their attacks on poor and working class Americans. 'Right now, in the Democratic Party, there is only one option on the table: Sanders-style socialism. That's the main option on the table. We're doing this now because the party's got to have a choice,' Jon Cowan, one of the presidents of Third Way, declared. 'It's going to matter a hell of a lot in 2020, and so while 2020 may feel a ways off, in our mind it isn't. And the ideas primary starts now.'"

"Would Corporate Democrats Rather Lose Than Include Progressives? [...] What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic."

"'Absolute Failure': DNC Passes Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs: Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was celebrated by environmentalists for banning donations from fossil fuel companies, it voted 30-2 on Friday to adopt a resolution from Chair Tom Perez that critics said effectively reverses the ban and represents 'an absolute failure by the DNC.'"

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "America for sale: Let's review some news from the first half of the week [...] This is modern American politics, folks: rotten to its very marrow. Corruption is eating the United States alive. As the Numidian King Jugurtha supposedly said of the Roman Republic: 'Yonder lies a city put up for sale, and its days are numbered if it finds a buyer.'"

David Dayen, "The CEO Circle of Trust: About a year ago, CEOs enlisted PR underlings to send out strongly worded press releases distancing themselves from President Trump's allyship with hate in Charlottesville. A year later, five members of business advisory councils that were shuttered after Charlottesville sat down to dinner with the president. Because in the end, they want power on their side. Having power on your side can lead to fun things like secretly running a cabinet agency. Three Trump cronies from Mar-a-Lago, including Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, are effectively setting policy for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I've just going to attribute the useless VA hotline to them. By the way, Perlmutter keeps a grip on this power by... having dinners with Trump. I don't know the dining schedule of the CEOs of Nucor and U.S. Steel, but as long as they keep close to Trump, they can maximize monopoly power by rejecting requests for exemptions to foreign steel tariffs. (by the way I called this one.) And if you're a CEO who's really in tight with Trump, you can just get your own cabinet agency outright, like demonstrable grifter Wilbur Ross, who until just weeks ago still had major investments in shipping companies while running the Commerce Department, whose logo has a ship on it. We're seeing a fusion of business and the state that only has precedent if you take the word "fascism" literally. Corporate titans are learning that kissing the president's ring for the next 2-6 years is the way to get ahead in life. And now that the SEC wants a word with Elon Musk over his obvious chicanery in tweeting about taking Tesla private, he may want to book a room in the Trump hotel in D.C. too."

Another own-goal when "The Koch Brothers Commissioned A Survey Of Americans And Found Most Like A $15 Minimum Wage, Free College, And Universal Health Care: DURING THE MONTH of July, the marketing and communications group In Pursuit Of — launched by the Koch brothers in 2017— conducted a survey of Americans on a range of issues. The poll was later written up by RealClearPolitics, which spun the results as favorable to the Koch network. RealClearPolitics noted that on a set of vague values questions, Americans appeared to take the conservative or libertarian side of political arguments. For instance, RealClearPolitics noted that the survey found that 86 percent of Americans said the right to personal property is key to a free and just society. Okay, sure." (Did anyone mention the difference between "personal property" and "private property", I wonder?) Short version: Despite the fact that the Kochs have put millions of dollars into convincing Americans that we don't want more regulation of Wall Street, free college, a living wage, and a lot of other things that the Kochs don't like, Americans still think they'd be an improvement over what we have now.

"Kobach Recuses Himself From Kansas Vote Count Amid Public Pressure" — Kobach is a sleazebag grifter who is famous for trying to cook the vote. Even a lot of local Republicans are getting sick of him.

A pretty straightforward chart accompanies this article, "'X' Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here [...] The graphic below tells three stories. First, we see two distinct historic periods since World War II. In the first period, workers shared the gains from productivity. In the later period, a generation of workers gained little, even as productivity continued to rise. The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70's to de-couple wages from productivity gains. The third message is that workers' wages — accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods — would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity." I kept getting the feeling there was something he was trying not to say, though.

Lauren Windsor had a few choice words for the opportunist debutentes in, "Polishing Turds at Third Way: A few weeks ago, I debunked the spin out from CNBC that Sen. Mark Warner is being pressured by major Democratic donors to run for president in 2020 as a moderate counter to liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- according to my source, "he is indeed running" and has been pitching the idea since at least September of 2017. It's worth noting that CNBC did not name any of these big donors, and I suspect that's because they hail from the likes of centrist, establishment DC think tank Third Way, which has been burned in the past for launching broadsides against Warren." These people think if they can just find the right PR, they can keep sailing this stuff by us all.

Margaret Kimberly, "The United States Destroys Venezuela's Economy [...] Sanctions are war by other means, invisible to most eyes. [...] In 2015 Barack Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela to be 'an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.' That decree is necessary in order to impose economic sanctions. But sanctions do not only mean that American corporations and individuals cannot do business with the targeted country. Any country that conducts economic transactions with Venezuela will also be subject to sanctions. Even in its state of decline the United States is the 800-pound financial gorilla that can't be ignored."

The Economist tries to explain why America's electoral system gives the Republicans advantages over Democrats: The constitution was not designed for the two-party politics it unwittingly encouraged."

"They stood up to hatred" — They came back from defeating the fascists only to find them at home. The 43 Group, including a young Vidal Sassoon, took their outrage to the streets. Years later, they contributed to this oral history. Watch A Rage In Dalston.

Film review of "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution [...] One thing that I loved about this documentary was that it told a piece of the story of the Panthers from the perspectives of a number of the major leaders, including Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, David Hilliard, Kathleen Cleaver, Ericka Huggins, Emory Douglas, Fred Hampton and others, but it also told the history from the perspectives of the rank and file members — people like the Freeman brothers, William Calhoun, Wayne Pharr, Steve McClutchen, Tarika Lewis, Blair Anderson, Jamal Joseph, Landon Williams and others."

Mark Evanier posted an episode of Firing Line in which William F. Buckley interviewed Groucho Marx, which he introduces by reposting something he wrote about Buckley earlier. It's all true.

A threat to the Gnome Liberation Front from gentrification: "Are Germany's Garden Gnomes Endangered?"

This guy does photoshopping for you, but maybe not the way you wanted. Some of these are laugh out loud.

Baby elephants' first bath

03:18 GMT comment


Thursday, 09 August 2018

Did you see her crying?

So many evils can be traced back to Richard Nixon. "Did you know that before 1973 it was illegal in the US to profit off of health care. The Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 passed by Nixon changed everything. In 1973, Nixon did a personal favor for his friend and campaign financier, Edgar Kaiser, then president and chairman of Kaiser-Permanente. Nixon signed into law, the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, in which medical insurance agencies, hospitals, clinics and even doctors, could begin functioning as for-profit business entities instead of the service organizations they were intended to be. And which insurance company got the first taste of federal subsidies to implement HMOA73 ... *gasp* ... why, it was Kaiser-Permanente! What are the odds?" Now, if only we can explain why the so-called liberal champion of health care, Edward Kennedy, proposed this piece of crap.

I'm not going to post the details, but so far nearly half of the Our Revolution types have been winning primaries and elections. Considering the fact that most of them are running against establishment picks and incumbents, that's actually a pretty remarkable record.

"Even Libertarians Admit Medicare for All Would Save Trillions: A new study from a libertarian think tank admits that Medicare for All would save a whopping $2 trillion." Of course, the headline buried the lead on every story about this, but this Koch-funded study tried to make M4A sound more expensive than what we have now and still couldn't, despite underestimating the likely costs of continuing the way we are and the potential savings of the proposed program.

Bernie Sanders thanks the Koch brothers for accidentally showing that Medicare for All saves two trillion dollars.

RIP: Another guy I would have loved to vote for once, for president: "Ron Dellums, Forceful Liberal in Congress for 27 Years, Dies at 82. Ron Dellums, the son of a longshoreman who became one of America's best-known black congressmen, a California Democrat with a left-wing agenda that put civil rights and programs for people ahead of weapons systems and warfare, died early Monday at his home in Washington. He was 82."

RIP: Joel Silberman, activist, organizer, performer, and show biz mensch. We were hopeful when Joel's doctors said they thought they'd caught his pancreatic cancer early enough, but though he fought and continued to run workshops and keep on doing what he did right up to the end, he finally had to admit defeat and say farewell to us. I will always treasure the reports, clips, and musings he posted for his friends during that journey, and I was pleased to see a statement on Joel's passing from Rep. Barbara Lee.

"Should Republican Billionaires Be Picking Democratic Candidates The Way They Already Pick GOP Candidates? Let's start with some news: Last week, Fox News' James Rupert Murdoch, a British billionaire, put half a million dollars into one of Nancy Jacobson's shady No Labels SuperPACs that aims to fill Congress with candidates from the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party. Their current goal is a smear campaign against Alan Grayson. Most recently, Jacobson pulled off the same filth against Marie Newman in Illinois' 3rd District House primary, spending $931,600 to spread absolute lies against Newman while bolstering anti-Choice Blue Dog Dan Lipinski."

We're number one! "US the 'Worst Place in the World' to Give Birth: USA Today Investigation [...] "Deadly Deliveries," the result of a four-year investigation, references federal data showing that more than 50,000 women are 'severely injured' and roughly 700 die during childbirth each year. Perhaps even more staggering is that "half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care," the investigation found."

On The Zero Hour, Richard J. Eskow interviewed David Dayen on Global Trade: With or Without Trump, It's Chaos.

Citations Needed podcast, "The Not-So-Benevolent Billionaire - Bill Gates and Western Media" - the media is awfully kind to Bill Gates, even when his philanthropy does more harm than good.

Never in my life did I expect Devin Nunes to do what I've been waiting for Democrats to do for 18 years: "House Intel chair calls for ban on electronic voting systems: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called for a ban on electronic voting systems in an interview that aired Thursday on Hill.TV's Rising. 'The one thing we've been warning about for many, many years on the Intelligence committee is about the electronic voting systems,' Nunes told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton, who sat with the lawmaker on Wednesday. 'Those are really dangerous in my opinion, and should not be used. In California — at least in the counties that I represent — they do not use an electronic system,' he continued. 'I think anybody that does that, and that's communicating over the web, it's going to be a challenge. So you have to make sure that you limit that as much as possible, and we need a paper trail so that you can go back in case you have to do a manual recount,' he said."

OK, this one makes no sense at all. I can't see millions of Trump voters saying, "Yes, make my car get fewer miles to the gallon! And since most states have stricter standards than the federal requirements already, and car-makers are having no trouble meeting those standards, who the hell is this for? "To Nix Obama Fuel Standard, WH Argues That Better Gas Mileage Is Dangerous."

Dismayingly, John Oliver seems to have fallen for the establishment story on Venezuela, but none of it is true. (We've already noticed media stories showing empty supermarket shelves - without mentioning that those shelves are not in Venezuela, but in the United States. We're also not told that the reason some popular products are not on the shelves at the moment is that the companies that sell those products are deliberately withholding them to try to give the appearance of food shortages - but, in fact, people are eating just fine. And that's just one little thing.)

It's official: @RepBarbaraLee is running for House Democratic Caucus chair. "There is nothing more important than returning bold Democratic leadership to Congress." But Howie wonders, "What Excuse Will They Use This Time To Keep Barbara Lee Out Of The House Democratic Leadership?"

"139 House Democrats Join GOP to Approve $717 Billion in Military Spending: 'How are they going to pay for this? Oh wait, that question only gets asked when it comes to social programs that benefit the working class.'"

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, "Health Care Lobbyists Secretly Secure Democrats' Opposition To 'Medicare For All,' Internal Documents Show [...] The Healthcare Leadership Council has closely tracked what its lobbyists have described as the 'leftward movement' within the Democratic Party. In Hawaii and other states, the lobby group wanted to know if ideas popularized by Sen., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — such as aggressive proposals to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals and institute a single-payer health care system modeled on Medicare — were taking hold. The council, which spends over $5 million a year on industry advocacy and brings together chief executives of major health corporations, represents an array of health industries, including insurers, hospitals, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers, pharmacies, health product distributors, and information technology companies. The group's focus on competitive open seats around the country — like Hawaii's 1st Congressional District — is aimed at shaping the next generation of lawmakers' views on health care policy.

"Next 100 Days: In the Era of Trump, NYS is Out of Step and In the Crosshairs [...] 'By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators,' Birdsell says." So, most people will be crammed together in a few states, and the minority will be in control of Congress, which means cities will have very little say in what goes on.

It's hard to tell whether Forbes is cheering or trying to horrify me with this story. "An Unlikely Group Of Billionaires And Politicians Has Created The Most Unbelievable Tax Break Ever [...] Too good to be true? 'The incentive needs to be powerful enough that it can unlock large amounts of capital, aggregate that capital into funds and force the funds to invest in distressed areas," says Parker, the original Facebook president whose think tank, the Economic Innovation Group, created the policy and helped press it into law. Instead of having government hand out pools of taxpayer dollars, you have savvy investors directing money into projects they think will succeed.' The heart of this new law: Opportunity Zones, or "O-zones,' low-income areas designated by each state. Investors will soon be able to plow recently realized capital gains into projects or companies based there, slowly erase the tax obligations on a portion of those gains and, more significantly, have those proceeds grow tax-free. There are almost no limits. No limits on how much you can put in, how much tax you can avoid and, for most of the country, the types of taxes you can avoid, whether federal, state or local. No limits on how long those proceeds compound tax-free. And precious few limits on what types of investments you can make." Right, instead of the government putting money into projects in poor communities, they give it to investors to... Wait, haven't we heard all this before?

Dday, "The Obamacare cover story: Spikes in insurance premiums on the Obamacare exchanges never gets foregrounded as a reason for the 2016 election outcome. Here are a few examples: 17 percent in Michigan. 43 percent in Iowa. 50 percent in Minnesota. It's an October surprise hard-wired into the electoral calendar, in one of the more abominable decisions in liberal history. And those premium rises may have soured people on the signature achievement of the Democratic era, and moved a few undecideds. But never mind that, because a shiny new narrative has been constructed that Donald Trump's sabotage of the exchanges, not their rickety structure to begin with, has set the table for Medicare for All."

Naomi Klein at The Intercept, "Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not 'Human Nature': THIS SUNDAY, THE entire New York Times Magazine will be composed of just one article on a single subject: the failure to confront the global climate crisis in the 1980s, a time when the science was settled and the politics seemed to align. Written by Nathaniel Rich, this work of history is filled with insider revelations about roads not taken that, on several occasions, made me swear out loud. And lest there be any doubt that the implications of these decisions will be etched in geologic time, Rich's words are punctuated with full-page aerial photographs by George Steinmetz that wrenchingly document the rapid unraveling of planetary systems, from the rushing water where Greenland ice used to be to massive algae blooms in China's third largest lake. The novella-length piece represents the kind of media commitment that the climate crisis has long deserved but almost never received. We have all heard the various excuses for why the small matter of despoiling our only home just doesn't cut it as an urgent news story: 'Climate change is too far off in the future'; 'It's inappropriate to talk about politics when people are losing their lives to hurricanes and fires'; 'Journalists follow the news, they don't make it — and politicians aren't talking about climate change'; and of course: 'Every time we try, it's a ratings killer.' None of the excuses can mask the dereliction of duty. It has always been possible for major media outlets to decide, all on their own, that planetary destabilization is a huge news story, very likely the most consequential of our time. They always had the capacity to harness the skills of their reporters and photographers to connect abstract science to lived extreme weather events. And if they did so consistently, it would lessen the need for journalists to get ahead of politics because the more informed the public is about both the threat and the tangible solutions, the more they push their elected representatives to take bold action. [...] That's also why it is so enraging that the piece is spectacularly wrong in its central thesis."

"What's This? A Genuinely Left Wing Panel on Cable TV?! Last night, MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes broadcast something that is almost unprecedented in our modern era: four left wing people on TV, speaking about politics. Whoa. The panel was made up of The Majority Report's Sam Seder, New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg, and The Intercept's Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray. They were there to talk about conservative media's reaction to the surprise primary victory of New York City congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez." (Video included.)

Atrios: Is the idea (widespread, but wrong) that these are 'unskilled' jobs because they are often low paid and therefore you can just throw anyone into them. Almost all the job categories listed are stereotypically work for women, which is one reason they are so low paid, but aside from that I don't know why people think you can just throw anybody into 'early childhood education' or 'after-school care' or 'childcare' generally."

They sound like opportunist Republicans who just switched their R to a D for electoral advantage, but Third Way are now calling themselves "Opportunity Democrats", yet another tone-deaf phrase from people who have lost the plot. Sara Jones at The New Republic reports on their latest roll-out with, "There Is No Silent Centrist Majority: The base of the Democratic Party is much further to the left than moderates recognize." You can tell who you're hearing from by the fact that they regard people who want health care and living wage, a majority of Americans, as "far-left".

Really, you can't make this stuff up. "Undaunted Democratic Centrists Ready to Fight Trump and Bernie at Same Time [...] The new economic platform leans heavily on words like 'earn' and 'opportunity,' and away from demonizing tycoons — 'For most Americans, billionaires and millionaires are not next door, or part of their lived experience,' Cowan said in his opening speech. The policy backbone of the pitch includes an American Investment Bank designed to back 'Main Street, not Wall Street' entrepreneurs, a 'Boomer Corps' part-time national-service program for senior citizens whose earnings would be tax-free (on top of their Social Security), a massive state-driven apprenticeship system, and universal private retirement savings accounts funded by employers." They still think the "swing voters" are in the "middle of the road" and that's who they are pitching to. They have no clue that they lost the middle years ago. 'Everybody's got a camera on their phone. That never worked, but it really doesn't now: You can't just go and say one thing to one group and another to another group,' said Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state who last month opted to run for Kansas City mayor rather than president, making the case onstage that you lose both the base and swing voters if you try to differentiate between them." Oh, and watch out for Mitch Landrieu, who they seem to like a lot.

"Centrism Is Dead: The left has already won the debate over which ideas should animate the Democratic Party."

"Judge's ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to 'dark money' groups: A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC's current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending."

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the U.K. What Comes Next? ECUADOR'S PRESIDENT Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the president's trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno's itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange's denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain's central government against protesters marching for Catalonian independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador's decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange's tweets about Catalonia. [...] The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange's asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told The Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno's government has returned Ecuador to a highly 'subservient' and 'submissive' posture toward western governments. It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno — who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the U.K., Spain and the U.S. — will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks."

"Bigfoot Porn Has Become A Major Controversy In A U.S. House Race. Seriously. A Virginia Republican who has been linked to white supremacists now faces accusations of liking Bigfoot erotica."

Is Trump about to lower drug prices? David Dayen at The American Prospect, "Trump Eliminates the Middleman: His administration takes aim at the heretofore legal kickbacks to prescription drug distributors — but leaves the drug companies themselves untouched. [...] The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration, both led by drug company veterans, have started with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the middlemen who negotiate prices with drug companies on behalf of health plans and reimburse pharmacies after sale. PBMs exploit an information advantage in this multi-sided market to skim as much as one in every five dollars out of every prescription drug purchase, harming pharmacies, health plans, and consumers alike."

And DDay at The Intercept, "The 'Mulvaney Discount': Trump'S Consumer Protection Czar Is Shrinking Fines For Law-Breaking Companies [...] After pausing enforcement work when Acting Director Mick Mulvaney took over, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been on a relative tear, announcing five civil settlements of cases begun under Mulvaney's predecessor, Richard Cordray. But in at least three of them, CFPB has explicitly reduced the fine handed down against corporate offenders to a fraction of the initial amount. The smaller fines mean softer punishment for violations of law and, in some cases, less restitution to victims of the misconduct."

Naturally, the "centrist" Dems are having trouble making themselves enthusiastic about supporting Ben Jealous in the Maryland election. The sticking point seems to be that he is insufficiently supportive of letting Amazon headquarter in the state - no doubt a wiser move than they're prepared to admit. This story, of course, appears in the newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos.

"Bernie Sanders And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Went To War With Partisanship In Kansas [...] Though the first of two rallies held Friday was ostensibly in support of James Thompson, a candidate for Kansas's 4th Congressional District, the gestalt of the day's remarks was something bigger than any one race. The speeches — particularly Sanders's — announced a unifying theme that felt too coherent to have been thrown together for a House primary or two. Individually, the remarks were compelling. Together, they comprised an unabashed declaration of post-partisan movement building — a rebuke to those in power who fetishize every identity-based division in order to diffuse the largest coalition in the country: the working class."

Dean Baker, "Trump's 'Victory' in Trade War: Like many economists I have been puzzled over the likely end game in the trade war that Donald Trump has initiated with most of our major trading partners. He has escalated his rhetoric and put together a large list of imports to be hit with tariffs. His demands are vague and continually shifting. This doesn't look like the way to win a trade war. But then I remembered we are talking about reality TV show host Donald Trump. Winning a trade war for this reality TV show star doesn't mean winning a trade war in the way that economists might envision. It's not a question of forcing concessions from trading partners that will improve our trade balance and the overall health of the economy. It's a question of being able to hold something up that allows Trump to declare victory. That doesn't require much."

Interesting interview on The Majority Report: The Fall of Wisconsin w/ Dan Kaufman - MR Live - 7/25/2018. A lot of us wondered about that.

Bernie Sanders takes on institutional racism and gets accused of not making the connection with institutional racism. That's not the headline of the article, which is where the accusation is actually made, but the first comment below the article is a great response.

I like the way it's framed in The New York Times, complete with a photo of Bernie at the top, "'Modern Day Debtors' Prisons': The time has come to end cash bail, a major factor in inequality in the court system. Despite releasing a comprehensive and remarkably radical criminal justice reform agenda in 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders was accused throughout his presidential campaign of being insufficiently concerned with the topic, and of habitually changing the subject to economics. The reality is that Mr. Sanders has the clearest insight into the connections between criminal justice issues and economic inequality of any major politician today. And nowhere, perhaps, are those connections more obvious than in the instance of cash bail."

Not sure whether I posted this article when it came out in 2009, but whenever I think about this stuff, I want to smack Bill Clinton and his little friends around the room. "How Congress Rushed a Bill that Helped Bring the Economy to Its Knees: n the waning days of the 106th Congress and the Clinton administration, Congress met in a lame-duck session to complete work on a variety of appropriations bills that were not passed prior to the 2000 election. There were other, unmet pet priorities of some lawmakers that were under consideration as well. One of those pet priorities was a 262-page deregulatory bill, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Tucked into a bloated 11,000 page conference report as a rider, with little consideration and no time for review, this bill would be viewed only eight years later as part of the failure of our political system abetting a financial storm that brought the world to its knees."

"The Elite Fixation With Russiagate: Does a broader public share this sense of crisis?" The public seems less concerned with Russia than with bread & butter issues, Trump is even being harsher toward Russia than Obama was, and no one meddles with our foreign policy like that great puppeteer, Bebe Netenyahu.

"Russiagate Covers Up Black Vote Theft: The corporate media and their friends in the Democratic Party are whipping up so much hatred and disinformation that it is almost impossible to discuss Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin. Putin is a multi-purpose villain. He is blamed for the vote theft conducted by white Americans against black people that resulted in the Donald Trump presidency. What is clear is that the Republicans stole the 2016 election for Donald Trump with a combination of voter suppression and outright theft directed against black people. Trump supposedly won the state of Michigan) by a 10,000 vote margin, but more than 75,000 votes cast in majority black cities Flint and Detroit went uncounted because of 'malfunctioning' voting machines. An additional 449,000 voters in that state were purged from the rolls through the infamous Crosscheck system."

Taibbi, "Taibbi: An Ode to the Feeble Corporate Apology: Some of America's biggest capitalist entities are begging for forgiveness on TV — while barely acknowledging their sins [...] There are times when corporate apologies are appropriate and can be taken at face value. After the Tylenol murders in the '80s, for instance, Johnson & Johnson created a new standard in introducing safety caps and the brand (rightfully) survived. That scandal wasn't the company's fault, but it did the right thing anyway. The three companies apologizing now are a little guiltier."

In Dissent, "The Right-Wing Firestorm That Rages On: A new documentary reveals how the right-wing attack on the national, grassroots anti-poverty group ACORN was a dress rehearsal for our current toxic political culture."

Another documentary, Vanguard of the Revolution: The Real Story of the Black Panther Party

"The Big Tent Is Really No Tent: Why the Democrats' Old Guard Has to Get Out of the Way: It's time for the party to follow the people and back a set of progressive policies and candidates that put people first. 'The nearly complete defeat of the centrist, corporate Democrats over the last four decades should have made it obvious that the age of the DLC centrists has been coming to an end for some time."The Democratic Party's leadership would phrase it differently. Something like, 'Their go our people. We must stop them, or they will make us give up our triangulating centrism,' or more likely, '...they will make us give up our corporate campaign contributions.'"

Thomas Frank, "Can liberals please work out how to win back the working class? I'm taking a pause from journalism — while I'm gone, can someone please tell the Democrats that they need to stop betraying the movements that support them. [...] Still, as we are reminded at every turn, this flawed organization is the only weapon we have against the party of Trump. And as the president's blunders take a turn for the monumental and public alarm grows, the imperative of delivering a Democratic wave this fall grows ever more urgent. Make no mistake: it has got to happen. Democrats simply have to take one of the houses of Congress this fall and commence holding Trump accountable. Failure at this baseline mission is unthinkable; it will mean the Democratic party has no reason for being, even on its own compromised terms."

"America's heart of darkness [...] We're about there, I think — perhaps not every single one of us, perhaps not just yet, but the conditions are right and the summer is long. The entire 2016 episode has been, in some sense, an introspective journey into America's own innermost parts, with Donald Trump's victory prompting a nervous self-inventory of what we value, whether our institutions work and to what degree we ought to trust one another. The full contents of that inward odyssey have yet to unfold. But on the question of institutional functioning, the news is unequivocally grim. Like Marlow, even after this particular chapter has ended, we are likely to find ourselves changed by what we've seen."

"2008:Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade" — essays by Frank Rich, Sheila Bair (Former head of FDIC), Corey Robin,Robert Shiller,Matt Bruenig, Yves Smith, Boots Riley, Stephanie Kelton, and others, and some depressing statistics.

Here's Mark Ames talking about his experiences in Russia and giving his analysis of what's going on now. Boris Yeltsin in his five years in office dragged Russia into a war in which about 100,000 people were killed, and they lost. The average life expectancy of a Russian male plummeted from 68 years to 56 years. It had a death to birth ratio perhaps never seen in the 20th century, even during war times. People were just dying like flies everywhere. There was no state support, just pure banditry starting with Yeltsin at the top, all the way down. So he had actually — unlike Putin — say what you will about him — but I think even his enemies agree he is very popular. They might blame it on the propaganda, but he is popular. His ratings are still in the 80th percentile range, and he's always been popular. With Yeltsin you had to perform a miracle. This guy was absolutely hated and is still one of the probably two or three most hated Russians in modern history for what he did to the country. And so it was a tough job, and Clinton was also running for re-election that year [1996], and Clinton did not want to be known as the president who 'lost Russia' if Yeltsin's communist opponent won. [...] I didn't see the anger really explode until we bombed Kosovo in 1999. Then suddenly all these Russians turned against us, and it all kind of started make sense to them, but before then you had the most equal society where the privileged people had a somewhat nicer dacha or the really privileged ones maybe had a car, or the super, super privileged had a car and a driver, but no one was a billionaire, and there certainly weren't millions and millions of people starving in the streets or half starving in the streets. So you went from the world's most equal society to the world's most unequal society in a very short period of time. It was incredibly traumatic, and so Putin was brought in. When he first appeared there was this great relief, I think, for a lot of Russians because he was a guy who a) didn't drink, and b) seemed serious, and he seemed like somebody who was more seriously interested in not doing any more experiments on the country. The Russians kept saying, 'We don't want to be experimented on anymore,' and the American attitude was: 'OK we experimented on you, and you died on the operating table. Clearly it's your fault. We need a better patient than you.' Certainly by the end of the 1990s democracy was a bad word in Russia. It was just equated with stealing from everybody."

Richard Eskow, "While Democrats Chase Russians, Republicans Keep Rigging Elections: What does it tell us when leading Democrats are more upset about alleged Russian election-rigging than they are about proven Republican election-rigging? After all, American oligarchs like the Koch Brothers have no more right to undermine our democracy than Russian oligarchs do."

Jonathan Cohn reviews Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics [...] Fear City focuses on New York City's 1973 financial crisis, the result of which was a steep retrenchment of city government -- which no longer provided the robust public services that it had by mid-century. As Phillips-Fein observes, contrary to the neoliberal mantra of "there is no alternative," there were many alternatives at every step of the way leading to New York's near-bankruptcy. Many of the roots of the crisis were out of New York City's hands, instead the results of federal policies that incentivized out-migration into suburbia and state policies that hamstrung the city's ability to raise tax revenue."

"How American Economics is Ruining Your Life [...] It's almost impossible to overstate just how uniquely bad American life is — school shootings, medical bankruptcies, young people trying to crowdfund insulin, skyrocketing suicide rates, opioid epidemics, one year olds on trial. These things don't happen anywhere else in the world, really. Not even poor countries. And yet Americans live uniquely wretched and ruined lives not because the hand of fate fell — but largely because American economics destined them to. "

Sam Seder on The Majority Report, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity w/ Lilliana Mason - MR Live - 7/30/18

Bill Black Interview, The Truth About the 2008 Financial Meltdown and How it Contributed to Trump's Rise (Pt 1/2) and (Pt 2/2)

You know, it really does seem like Debbie Wasserman Schultz is bad for Florida. She's not bringing home the bacon for the state and she's even refusing to spend money the voters made available to clean up the local environment. You just might think she's corrupt.

"London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate 'Jurassic Park's 25th anniversary: They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum."

I can't remember if I've linked this before, but it just made me feel better so I'm linking it anyway: "Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk"

Face Vocal Band, "The Parting Glass"

"Boz Scaggs Processes The Past And Rebuilds For The Future [...] Out of the Blues includes covers of songs by Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Reed and Samuel "Magic Sam" Maghett, as well as a cover of Neil Young's "On the Beach." The Young song deals with loss and despair, which Scaggs faced directly when his house and all its contents burned in the Napa, Calif., wildfires last year. "It simply all is gone," he says. "It has you reaching for all sorts of answers and conclusions and ways to take it in.""

Steve Miller Band/Boz Scaggs, "Baby's Calling Me Home"

22:47 GMT comment


Saturday, 21 July 2018

The only time I feel all right is by your side

Bernie Sanders held a CEOs vs Workers Town Hall. Donut Twitter* went insane with tweets to the effect of, "How dare he talk about unimportant stuff like this when Trump had a lousy press conference in Russia!"

"How to Survive America's Kill List: When a U.S. citizen heard he was on his own country's drone target list, he wasn't sure he believed it. After five near-misses, he does — and is suing the United States to contest his own execution." There's an irony here. This guy spent a couple of hours trying to explain that "democracy" in America has nothing to do with policy, that Americans have little or no input into what an administration might actually do, that a majority of Americans are not necessarily in favor of droning Muslim weddings. The person he was explaining it to was an Al Queda leader, and that "association" is very possibly why this American citizen is being targeted for murder by our government.

"Charges Dropped Against Remaining J20 Inauguration Day Protesters: Federal prosecutors dropped all charges against the 38 remaining defendants arrested and charged with rioting during the Disrupt J20 protests on Donald Trump's Inauguration Day. The dismissal brings an end to the nearly 18-month saga that saw 234 protesters threatened with as much as 60 years in prison for their alleged roles in the destruction of property on January 20, 2017."

"AT&T promised lower prices after Time Warner merger — it's raising them instead: AT&T is raising the base price of its DirecTV Now streaming service by $5 per month, despite promising in court that its acquisition of Time Warner Inc. would lower TV prices. [...] Just two months ago, AT&T said in a court filing that buying Time Warner would allow it to lower TV prices. The US Department of Justice tried to stop the merger, arguing that it would raise prices for consumers, but a federal judge sided with AT&T. The merger was completed on June 15. AT&T scoffed at the Justice Department's argument that the merger would raise prices. The telecomm giant wrote in its post-trial brief that the merger will 'enabl[e] AT&T and Time Warner to reduce consumer prices.'"

"Federal judge dismisses suit over literacy rights in Detroit: A federal judge has dismissed an unprecedented civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Detroit students fighting to establish literacy is a U.S. constitutional right. In the suit filed in 2016 through a California public interest law firm, the youths alleged the conditions of their schools are so poor and inadequate they had not received the best education and were denied access to literacy on account of their races, violating their rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. But attorneys for Gov. Rick Snyder and state education officials have said no fundamental right to literacy exists for Detroit schoolchildren. The lawyers had asked the judge to reject what they have called an 'attempt to destroy the American tradition of democratic control of schools.'" This is unpardonable, Rick Snyder should be arrested for fraud against taxpayers, and judges like this should be locked in a room and forced to read the Preamble over and over until they understand what "promote the general Welfare" means.

"U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials: A resolution to encourage breast-feeding was expected to be approved quickly and easily by the hundreds of government delegates who gathered this spring in Geneva for the United Nations-affiliated World Health Assembly. Based on decades of research, the resolution says that mother's milk is healthiest for children and countries should strive to limit the inaccurate or misleading marketing of breast milk substitutes. Then the United States delegation, embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers, upended the deliberations."

"Ethiopia and Eritrea declare war 'has come to an end': Leaders of Horn of Africa nations sign joint peace agreement, officially ending decades of diplomatic and armed strife."

Israel officially becomes a a racist, apartheid theocracy: "Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate: 62 lawmakers vote in favor of the bill after a stormy debate ¦ Arab lawmakers tossed out after they tear bill in protest, call it 'apartheid law'."

"A $1 billion Gates Foundation-backed education initiative failed to help students, according to a new report — here's what happened: [...] The initiative, called the Intensive Partnerships for Effective Teaching, didn't improve student graduation rates or schools' ability to retain effective teachers." What really happened is that two people who thought because they were rich they were also "smart" on issues they knew nothing about could just inject themselves and their money into a vital area and, as a result, helped to completely wreck our educational system. They were not educators and had no reason at all to think they knew more than experienced teachers knew, but they just jumped right in and gave the whole charter school movement the boost it needed to be saleable to people who were unwise enough to think that there is any better way to get good student outcomes than to have experienced teachers who are rewarded with a living wage and pension teaching those students. Experience, you see, is the best teacher.

"Ro Khanna Says He'Ll Rally Support For Barbara Lee If She Makes Bid For Democratic Leadership: REP. RO KHANNA plans to throw his full weight behind Barbara Lee, his fellow representative from California, if she makes a final decision to run for caucus chair, a leadership position being vacated by New York's Rep. Joe Crowley. "

"California Democratic Party Snubs Feinstein, Endorses de León in Senate Race: Longtime California Senator Dianne Feinstein lost the California Democratic Party's endorsement, in a stunning vote Saturday night at the party's executive board meeting in Oakland. Though the vote was expected to be close, state Senator Kevin de León rather easily crossed the 60 percent threshold necessary for endorsement."

"The Dialysis Industry Is Putting Profits Over Patients. A California Democratic Party Official Is Quietly Helping Them: EARLIER THIS WEEK, the California Democratic Party announced that it would no longer accept contributions from the private prison industry, and that it would donate the $160,000 it received from the top two prison operators — GEO Group and CoreCivic — to organizations that assist immigrants and ex-offenders. It was a heartening reversal of pay-to-play politics, made possible by an organized activist movement capitalizing on financial disclosure. But pay-to-play still has a role within the party. According to financial statements, party vice chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker received $30,000 in the first quarter of this year from opponents of a controversial ballot measure that would cap patient payments at outpatient dialysis facilities. She waited several weeks to make a written disclosure of this relationship, contravening the party bylaws. And critics claim that she continues to stay quiet about her role as a paid consultant, even while attempting to persuade party members to oppose the initiative. It's unclear whether Gallardo-Rooker continued receiving payments after March; second-quarter financial statements have not yet been released."

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Democratic Primary Opponent Will Remain on the Ballot Because of Some Bullshit [...] If you are wondering why in the fuck this is happening, you can thank New York's byzantine election laws and the stubbornness of bad men. As the New York Times explains, Crowley received the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a group of labor unions and activists that has also backed New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon. But after Ocasio-Cortez's primary win, Bill Lipton, the state director of the Working Families Party, reached out to Crowley's team and asked that he vacate the line. Crowley, however, declined. This means he'll remain on the ballot, which is certainly a curious decision to make!"

Pareen, "Haim Saban Is Bad For Democracy: Last month, twelve Democratic senators signed a letter from the office of Sen. Bernie Sanders to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking the Trump administration 'to do more to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.' The letter was sent following a series of protests by Gazans that were met with overwhelming, deadly force by Israel, which has had Gaza under a punishing blockade for more than a decade. [...] In response, Haim Saban, a billionaire media mogul and longtime 'megadonor' to the Democratic Party, wrote a pissy email to each of those senators (sent to some of their personal addresses, probably just to make the point that he had their personal email addresses), listing, in syntax and tone typical of conservative chain emails, various reasons why Israel's treatment of Palestinians, and Gazans in particular, must never, ever be criticized. It doesn't even address the actual issues and concerns laid out in the letter to Pompeo; it is merely a collection of braindead talking points."

I'm not sure I can quite unpack all of this, but Marcy Wheeler is "Putting A Face (Mine) To The Risks Posed By GOP Games On Mueller Investigation [...] I'm making this public now because a David Ignatius report Thursday maps out an imminent deal with Russia and Israel that sounds like what was described to me within hours of the election. This deal appears to be the culmination of an effort that those involved in the Russian attack worked to implement within hours after the election." She talked with Sam Seder about this on The Majority Report.

Zaid Jilani at The Intercept, "Health Care Blunder Reveals Michigan Candidate For Governor's 'Progressive' Branding Is False Advertising." There are three people in this race — one who seems to be the genuine article, one who looks like a guy with too much money who is pandering as a "progressive", and one who is the corporate-backed establishment candidate (and is in the lead because the progressive vote is being split).

Libby Watson at Splinter, "Tim Geithner Is Living His Best Post-Obama Life by Running Scam to Bleed Poor People Dry: Sorry if you had anyone else winning in your Most Hideous Career After Leaving the Obama Administration bracket, because Tim Geithner just blew the competition out the water. The Washington Post has a detailed and devastating report, published Sunday evening, about the predatory lending activities of Mariner Finance, a company 'owned and managed by a $11.2 billion private equity fund controlled by Warburg Pincus,' of which Geithner is president. Cool job, Tim!"

Briahna Gray, also commenting on the Abrams-Evans race in Georgia, says, "Fetishizing 'Identity Politics' Could Cost Democrats In 2020 [...] IT'S NECESSARY, HERE, to define 'identity politics,' since a failure to do so is at the root of most of the controversy around the subject. Critics on the right generally define identity politics as any reference to racial, sexual, or gender identities, whether as calls to solidarity or a recognition of the particular harms those groups face because of their identities. This is wrong. But critics from the left don't generally question the political or cultural relevance of identities, or the extent to which they serve as important axes for political mobilization. Instead, the leftist critique condemns the 'weaponization' of identity — the cynical emphasis on personal identity over political beliefs in order to advance candidates whose interests are inapposite to the needs of the groups they're presumed to represent. See, for example, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders's claim that Democrats who 'support women's empowerment' but critique Gina Haspel's nomination for CIA director are 'hypocrite[s].' Or the idea that Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor who once criminalized truancy and oversaw the country's second largest non-federal prison population as the attorney general of California, is necessarily a good standard bearer for political justice reform."

"Why Did the Rhode Island Democratic Party Endorse an Alt-Right Supporter Over a Progressive Incumbent? Walsh has since been a progressive voice in the legislature and supports increasing the minimum wage and marijuana legalization. She also caused a stir in March when she said in a radio interview that there was an 'insane amount of drinking' among legislators at the statehouse. All this might go some way towards explaining why the state Democratic Party has endorsed her opponent in the upcoming primaries — a man who appears to have once been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and alt-right figures."

"Patreon Is Suspending Adult Content Creators Because of Its Payment Partners: The subscription crowdfunding platform Patreon confirmed that they are increasing efforts to review content, due to payment processor pressure. [...] 'This is bigger than us & Patreon. It's a world wide crack down on freedom of expression, on women, on marginalised people, on sex and sex work, on non conventional forms of labour that counter the status quo: the domination of corporations and patriarchy. On dissent,' Ashley wrote. 'Just to be clear what is at stake, this is my whole income, my livelihood.'"

Alex Jones discovered the left's plans to start a second civil war on July 4th. Hilarity ensues.

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, "We Need a Financial Transactions Tax Before It's Too Late: As the country sits atop a giant debt-bomb, measures are needed to rein in excess speculation"

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "How the capitalist class is strangling the American economy [...] Why the capitalist class does this is something of a mystery. Don't they love growth? Well, they do, but only under the right circumstances. They present themselves as concerned with growth, productivity, and output above all else, but it turns out they are in reality a lot more concerned with high profits and a politically quiescent working class. A big economic boom is fine, but a tight labor market requiring wage increases that come out of the capitalist share of the corporate surplus — or worse, workers confident that they can get another job organizing union drives — is horrifying to them. Our capitalist overlords think they deserve easy profits and beaten-down workers who will take crappy wages and bad benefits without a peep or protests, and mobilize politically to rig the economy to make that happen."

Also Ryan Cooper, "The new Republican Gilded Age [...] The basic idea is to reconfigure the American state to serve only the interests of business: forbidding as much regulation of industry as possible, and using violent state power to suppress the inevitable backlash from the rest of society. America once had much of its democratic nature cored out by rapacious capitalists. It could happen again."

"Yes, Normal Republican Elites Are a Threat to Democracy [...] In its mission to undermine popular government — so as to insulate the policy preferences of reactionary elites from majoritarian opinion — elected Republicans have received the indispensable aid of normal conservative jurists like Brett Kavanaugh. Over the past decade, the Roberts court has worked to systematically increase the influence that concentrated wealth can exert over American politics, while vetoing democratically enacted attempts to either constrain that influence, or else to buck the substantive preferences of the Republican donor class. The court's efforts on this front include abolishing virtually all restrictions on corporate spending in American elections; overturning an Arizona law that attempted to counter such spending by providing candidates with public funds; legalizing most forms of political bribery; and gutting anti-trust law. In sum: The modern Republican Party has demonstrated a commitment to suppressing voter participation; reducing the influence of majorities over electoral outcomes; and subordinating the policy preferences of its own constituents to those of reactionary elites. It has further demonstrated a willingness to achieve the latter end by lying to its own base about its intentions for public policy; obfuscating the policy-making process to limit public awareness of the government's activities; appointing activist judges who will veto democratically enacted legislation on dubious grounds; and stoking the most incendiary cultural divisions in American life.

"Democrats ignore the left at their peril. Midwesterners aren't scared of socialism — they're hungry for it. Some members of the Democratic establishment argue that bold, left-wing platforms can't win elections. They're wrong."

Hamilton Nolan at Splinter, "This Is Just the Beginning: Do you think that being asked to leave a restaurant, or having your meal interrupted, or being called by the public is bad? My fascism-enabling friends, this is only the beginning. One thing that people who wield great power often fail to viscerally understand is what it feels like to have power wielded against you. This imbalance is the source of many of the most monstrous decisions that get made by powerful people and institutions." I like this approach even though I disagree that they don't understand how it feels. I think they love knowing they can make you feel that way and you can't do anything about it. What they underestimate is that even in this society, you can still damage those people if you really come to believe you have nothing to lose.

From Tom Scocca at Gawker, an interesting essay On Smarm [...] But why are nastiness and snideness taken to be features of our age? One general point of agreement, in denunciations of snark, is that snark is reactive. It is a kind of response. Yet to what is it responding? Of what is it contemptuous? Stand against snark, and you are standing with everything decent. And who doesn't want to be decent? The snarkers don't, it seems. Or at least they (let's be honest: we) don't want to be decent on those terms."

Here's an interesting development: "'Tea Party Liberal' Promises To Bring A Blue Wave To West Virginia: Richard Ojeda joined the Army because he says it seemed like the most reasonable choice he had growing up; his alternative options, he says, were to 'dig coal' or 'sell dope.' So he chose the Army, where he spent more than two decades. But when he came home to Logan County, W.Va., he was stunned. "I come home from spending 24 years in the United States Army and I realize I got kids in my backyard that have it worse than the kids I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan," he shouts into the microphone during an interview."

My favorite 4th of July moment, of course, was Therese Okoumou climbing the base of the Statue of Liberty to demand that immigrant children be reuinted with their parents. The police, of course, "rescued" her with a choke-hold, but hey, that's freedom in America. I mean, she's black, whaddaya expect?

I reckon the best take came on The Michael Brooks Show when Matt Taibbi came in to talk about Centrism Isn't Sexy & Are Russian Spies Among Us?. But I don't know what all the "unprecedented" stuff is about - it's hardly as if we haven't seen this before.
Taibbi's article referred to in the show is here.)
Also on TMBS:
TMBS - 43 - How Not To Do Identity Politics ft. Asad Haider & Alyona Minkovski
TMBS - 47 - SCOTUS v. Democracy & What Beats Fascism ft. Harvey Kaye

On Majority Report:
The Kurds Anarchist Liberation Struggle w/ David Graeber - MR Live - 7/9/18
Our New Restoration Story w/ George Monbiot - MR Live - 7/3/18
Casual Friday w/ Nomiki Konst - MR Live - 6/29/18
How Jesse Helms Invented the Republican Party w/ Nick Martin - MR Live - 7/19/18

Putting this here as a reminder: Yvette Carnell - Breaking Brown

Seymour Hersh on who controls the news agenda around Donald Trump

RIP: "Ed Schultz, Former MSNBC Host, Dies at 64." I had my problems with this guy, but he didn't like being pushed into being partisan-no-matter-what, and I gotta respect that. Here's an interesting interview he did with a guy from The National Review in which he talks about how MSNBC wouldn't let him cover Bernie Sanders and why he prefers working for RT America.

It's always good to remember that Tim Geithner should take much responsibility as the architect of our current woes. He wrote an autobiographical book to "explain" how he, in indifferent student who grew up entirely ordinary just happened to become the hero of the 2007 financial crisis, and, as Matt Stoller noted, nothing about that story rings true. The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party: The most consequential event of this young century has been the financial crisis. But is the party of Obama ready to come to terms with its own role in the disaster? [...] You see the same rhetorical tricks and traps as we move to Geithner's tenure as president of the New York Federal Reserve, which began in 2003. Much of the discussion of Geithner's book and his time in office is essentially a rehash of the strategies pursued during the bailouts. As with the hot money flows, Geithner pretends he was part of the solution, not the cause of the problem. But Geithner also played a huge role in the run-up of leverage in the financial system, a role he lies about when discussing his time at the Fed. Geithner served at the New York Fed until 2008, and this region was the center of the financial universe, the place where profits from the boom were husbanded and collected. The New York Fed regulated Citigroup, a massive systemic risk requiring multiple bailouts and obscure financial supporting arrangements. Thus, lying about his tolerance for this run-up in leverage, and about his distance from the financial industry, is critical in painting a later portrait of a cautious but savvy crisis manager." Countries that took Geithner's advice did poorly, and those who ignored it did just fine. And then Obama put him in charge of our economy.

David Dayen's "Inhuman Resources" at The Huffington Post is a harrowing tale of a decent guy on Wall Street who tried to help a colleague who was the victim of harassment and became one himself, but I'd personally like to slap whoever coded the page so that it flutters around when you page to the next section. I hate these sliding sections and giant illustrations all over the place. Someone should make it stop.

Mark Evanier has A Harlan Ellison story and promises more. By actual count, there are 8,448,329 anecdotes about Harlan Ellison, 7,609,224 of which are actually true. This is one that fits into both categories and it involves a man named Julius Schwartz who was an important editor for DC Comics and a semi-important figure in the science-fiction community. Julie and Harlan had an extremely close relationship that some would describe as "father-son." Some would also tell you that at times, Julie — though he was nineteen years older than Harlan — was in the "son" role. Most of the time though, Julie was the obstreperous adult and Harlan, the even-more-obstreperous child. Every Wednesday morning for a very long time, Julie (in the DC offices in New York) would phone Harlan (in his home in Southern California) and they'd talk about anything and everything. One day around 1971, the topic somehow ventured to the notion of Harlan, who had done very little writing for comic books, writing a Batman story. Julie Schwartz was the editor of Batman and Detective Comics at the time. Harlan did not want to do it with any sort of deadline but he said he would come up with something in the near future. "

Badass: Stagecoach Mary Fields: Up until her death in 1914 at the age of 82, Old West badass "Stagecoach" Mary Fields had a standing bet at her local saloon: Five bucks and a glass of whiskey said she could knock out any cowboy in Cascade, Montana with a single punch."

Um, "'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Series Reboot With Black Lead In Works From Monica Owusu-Breen & Joss Whedon." I have real problems with the idea of a black woman being named "Buffy".

It's amazing what you can find by accident on the intertubes. Here's Peter Tatchell and me on The James Whale Show talking about the gay age of consent back when we were trying to get it changed. (Our bit starts about halfway through.) Alas, they cut out some of my favorite lines.

"The Kinks to reunite after two decades apart" Ray Davies confirms that he's been working on a new album with Dave.

The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night", live.

15:45 GMT comment


Monday, 02 July 2018

Not working just to survive

See, here's what happens: I start thinking I'd better hurry up and upload this latest post I'm working on, and if I can just get that last link on the primaries I can post, and then Sam Seder says Anthony Kennedy has just announced his retirement, and I'm, "Oh, no," and then I think, okay, just that one more, and then Roz sends me her latest poem and I see the first line and I'm, blinking at the screen and "What? Harlan died?" Okay, we all know there were troublesome things about him, though I have to say he was always nice to me, but I'd seen him be not so nice, too. I think Cory said it best for me about all that ambivalent feeling he provoked, but my eyes still got wet. He was a lot of things, and he stood up for civil rights and women's rights, and sometimes he wasn't the best person he could be, you bet - and as with everything else, he did that big and public, too. But you can check out Variety, Guardian, and I see File770 has a whole bunch more. Oh, and Mark Evanier, of course.

And then there was that shooting at the Capital Gazette, and as if I didn't feel shell-shocked enough, half the links I tried to grab tell me they are suddenly no longer available in Europe.

That Majority Report link has a lot of material about the NY primary before the sudden interruption by Kennedy's retirement announcement, including Joe Crowley's concession featuring his surprisingly good performance of "Born to Run". And Thursday's show was on SCOTUS Apocalypse & Organizing Post-Janus w/ Ian Millhiser & Jane McAlevey.

Most of the media seemed not to have heard of her before she won the primary, and gave her no coverage, but one exception was The Intercept, which, among other things, did this interview with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, which gives you a good sense of the candidate. (At one point she tweeted some photos under her caption, "A girl has no name," with headlines from newspapers that announced Joe Crowley's loss to a "challenger" without even using her name. Joy Reid actually tweeted that she - and most of her colleagues - were having to do remedial study of who she was. And then the alt-center all ran to the media to explain why this win doesn't mean anything. Tammy Duckworth even claimed that AO-C was fine for the Bronx but her priorities couldn't win in the midwest - that'd be the same midwest that voted for Bernie but not for Hillary.)

While I was waiting for the polls to close, I read, "97%:Why Incumbents Are So Hard to Defeat, and What It Means That a Working Class Latina Candidate Might Just Do It to One of the Most Powerful Political Bosses in the Country: In my time working and volunteering for political campaigns, I learned why 97% of incumbent politicians won re-election in 2016. I want to go into this phenomenon, noting every advantage incumbent candidates have, at least the ones that I've noticed, to underscore how dramatic the odds that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is facing are, and how historic a win by her would be. The support she's gotten is already close to unheard of." In New York they make it especially hard, by the way - you have to come back to vote for your nominee for governor separately, in September, - so no coat-tails, either.

Later: She wiped the floor with him. "Rep. Joe Crowley, one of the top Democrats in the House of Representatives, lost his New York primary in a shocking upset on Tuesday night to community organizer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Crowley, having fundraised nearly $3 million for the race in New York's 14th District, fell easily to a first-time candidate with a viral introduction video, a Democratic Socialists of America membership card, and a proudly leftist agenda. She ran on Medicare-for-all, a federal jobs guarantee, and getting tough on Wall Street. The race was called just before 10 pm for Ocasio-Cortez." Looks like 58%-42%. I'm going to bed, too sleepy to post.

Meanwhile, in another race we were watching, Emily Sirota won Colorado's 9th District, 54.29%-45.71, but I can't find a story to link to yet. Well, I saw some headlines that wouldn't let me in, so this is the best I can do.

Also, Maryland could elect its first African-American governor this fall: Democrats nominated Ben Jealous in their primary on Tuesday. [...] Despite being a first-time political candidate, Jealous dominated a crowded fight for the Democratic nomination, triumphing over a wide range of political veterans including a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and a Maryland state senator. Polls had Jealous and Baker in close range of one another ahead of Tuesday's election."

* * * * *

Eric Levitz in New York Magazine, "In Hindsight, Democrats Really Mishandled That Merrick Garland Thing [...] But one can also sprinkle a scintilla of blame on whoever convinced the last Democratic administration to nominate a middle-aged, white male centrist to the Supreme Court — and to then argue for his confirmation on grounds of procedural norms, rather than ideological goals. [...] In hindsight, it's hard to argue that Democrats did everything in their power to increase the salience of such questions. For example, imagine if Barack Obama had nominated the first African-American woman to the Supreme Court — one who was young, and unabashedly progressive in her jurisprudence. When McConnell subsequently vetoed her appointment — and thereby nullified Obama's attempt to give a modicum of representation in the halls of high power to the Democratic Party's most loyal constituency — wouldn't it have been easier to mobilize the Democratic base in outrage, than it was to rally them behind Merrick Garland?"

"The Supreme Court may have just killed public unions: The case, Janus v. AFSCME, dealt with the fees that public unions can collect from non-members. In a 5-4 decision, the justices ruled that people who aren't union members but are represented by a public union cannot be forced to pay fees because fees violate their freedom of speech. Instead, union dues must be opt-in only."

"In 'Severe Blow' to Voting Rights, Supreme Court Preserves GOP Gerrymanders in Texas and North Carolina: In a victory for "GOP racial gerrymanders everywhere" and a significant loss for voting rights, the Supreme Court's conservative majority on Monday overturned a lower court ruling and revived electoral districts drawn by Texas Republicans that many experts say are blatantly designed to discriminate against minorities. Compounding what has already been a rough several days for activists and legal experts working to combat gerrymandering nationwide, the Supreme Court also decided to send a major North Carolina partisan gerrymandering case back to a lower court, leaving intact congressional maps that rights groups argue were drawn to discriminate against Democratic voters."

This should scare you: "Younger generations make up a majority of the electorate, but may not be a majority of voters this November [...] It's difficult to predict who will turn out to vote in the upcoming 2018 midterm. A reasonable scenario might be that eligible voters would turn out as they have, on average, in past midterm elections. Gen Xers and Millennials have consistently underperformed in terms of voter turnout in midterm elections, compared with Boomers when they were the same age. Millennials have had the opportunity to vote in four midterm elections (2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014). Among Millennials who were between the ages of 18 and 24 during these elections, 20% turned out to vote, on average. By comparison, 26% of Boomers in that same age range turned out to vote in midterm elections between 1978 and 1986."

"Democrats are losing the millennial vote and need to change message: Millennials are at best soft Democrats. Many got enthused and mobilized by Barack Obama in 2008 and largely hung around for Obama in 2012 and, even less, Clinton in 2016. But many seem to have had enough. And who could blame them? Clinton's campaign mainly targeted the illusive 'moderate Republican', the white, middle-aged middle class. And since her shock defeat, many prominent Democrats have pivoted towards the cliched 'Trump voter' as defined by the liberal media, ie a middle-aged to older white, working-class male."

* * * * *

Public Policy Polling says that voters like gun control and the DREAM Act, don't want to arm teachers in schools, and don't like the wall. And you'll never guess who the favorite against Trump in the next presidential election is so far... er, yes, you will.

Q35 If the candidates for President next time were Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican
Donald Trump, who would you vote for?
Kirsten Gillibrand ..............42%
Donald Trump ....................40%
Not sure ........................18%

Q36 If the candidates for President next time were Democrat Kamala Harris and Republican Donald Trump, who would you vote for?
Kamala Harris ...................43%
Donald Trump ....................39%
Not sure ........................18%

Q37 If the candidates for President next time were Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican Donald Trump, who would you vote for?
Bernie Sanders ..................55%
Donald Trump ....................39%
Not sure .........................6%

Q38 If the candidates for President next time were Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Donald Trump, who would you vote for?
Elizabeth Warren ................51%
Donald Trump ...................40%
Not sure ........................9%

* * * * *

"Trump Administration Won't Say How A Random CBP Agent Would Know Of A Reporter's Personal Travel: The Justice Department says an apparent Customs and Border Protection agent identified as Jeffrey Rambo was not involved in its leak investigation. [...] In June 2017, Rambo, whose official role CBP also refuses to explain, contacted national security reporter Ali Watkins, identified himself as a government agent and implied that he could be a source, according to The Washington Post. But when they met, he grilled her about her work and her personal life, noting the dates and locations of international trips she took with James Wolfe, then the director of security for the Senate Intelligence Committee, whom she was dating. Rambo didn't give Watkins his name, but he mentioned that the Trump administration was aggressively investigating journalists and their sources. But Customs and Border Protection is not normally involved in investigations of national security leaks. The Justice Department, which handles such matters, says it didn't ask Rambo for help."

"MOVE Member Debbie Africa Released: Philadelphia — In the early morning of June 16, after nearly 40 years of unjust imprisonment by the state of Pennsylvania, political prisoner and MOVE 9 member Debbie Sims Africa was granted parole and released from the State Correctional Institution-Cambridge Springs. [...] This Aug. 8 marks the 40th anniversary of the all-out assault by thousands of police on the MOVE house in 1978. When the family still refused to leave their home, police launched an early morning raid, using thousands of rounds of munitions, water cannons and tear gas to destroy the compound and drive the family out. During the raid, Philadelphia Police Officer James P. Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the head. All MOVE 9 members were convicted of third-degree murder and conspiracy, even though no evidence linked any of them to the shooting. In fact, by immediately razing the entire property, police destroyed any potential evidence that would have helped the MOVE 9 prove their innocence. Police made no efforts to preserve the crime scene or measure for ballistic angles."

Even The American Conservative seems to be to the left of the Democratic Party leadership. "The Conservative Case for Universal Healthcare: Don't tell anyone, but American conservatives will soon be embracing single-payer healthcare, or some other form of socialized healthcare. Yes, that's a bold claim given that a GOP-controlled Congress and President are poised to un-socialize a great deal of healthcare, and may even pull it off. But within five years, plenty of Republicans will be loudly supporting or quietly assenting to universal Medicare. And that's a good thing, because socializing healthcare is the only demonstrably effective way to control costs and cover everyone. It results in a healthier country and it saves a ton of money."

"Russiagate's 'Core Narrative' Has Always Lacked Actual Evidence: The unprecedented allegation that the Kremlin 'attacked America' and 'colluded' with its president in order to elect him is based on two documents devoid of facts or logic. [...] Intentionally or not — one former intelligence officer called it a 'deliberate misrepresentation' — the ICA, by using the term 'Community,' gave the impression that its findings were the consensus of all '17 US intelligence agencies,' even though it was signed by only three (the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA) and by the overseeing director of national intelligence, James Clapper. This canard was widely deployed by pro-Clinton media and by her campaign until The New York Times belatedly corrected it in June 2017. But even then, anti-Trump forces continue to deploy a deceptive formulation, insisting that the ICA narrative was 'a consensus of the intelligence community.' That was false on two counts. Clapper subsequently admitted he had personally selected for the ICA analysts from the three agencies, but we still do not know who. No doubt these were analysts who would conform to the 'core narrative' of Kremlin-Trump collusion, possibly even one or more of the FBI officials now exposed for their 'bias.' Second, on one crucial finding, the NSA had only 'moderate confidence,' not the 'high confidence' of the CIA and FBI. This has yet to be explained. Still more, the ICA provided almost no facts for its 'assessment.' Remarkably, even the Times, which has long been a leading promoter of the Russiagate narrative, noticed this immediately: 'What is missing,' one of its lead analysts wrote, is 'hard evidence to back up the agencies' claims.' Even more remarkable but little noticed, the ICA authors buried at the end this nullifying disclaimer about their 'assessment': 'Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.' What did that mean? Apparently, that after all the damning and ramifying allegations made in the report, the authors had no 'proof' that any of them were a 'fact.'"

"Here's Why the Hope of a 'Blue Wave' in November Is Dangerous to Democracy [...] Given the uphill climb for congressional representation that Democrats have in front of them (especially for the progressive subset of the party) it's clear that the midterms will largely be decided by the people who find a reason to vote. Pew Research shows Republicans generally have higher turnout than Democrats. Democrats might reconsider any 'we got this' conclusions or talk of blue waves. Overconfidence cost them in 2016, and for democracy's sake, they can't let themselves fall into the same trap."

The "Resistance" — or "The Assistance", as we call them — has decided they love them some Adam Schiff as one of their choice alternatives to the evil Bernie Sanders. He is frequently on the list of bright young Dems who should replace the old guard. A virulent Russia conspiracy theorist, there are reasons not to think he's a good choice. "Resistance leader? Not really. Democratic congressman Adam Schiff personifies the link between foreign policy hawks and deep-pocketed defense contractors."

Haaretz, "Israel Is Gunning for Its Gatekeepers" A bill that would in effect let cabinet members choose their ministries' legal advisers is part of the coalition's program to eliminate checks on its power. [...] The 'selection committee' would exist in name only, a way to whitewash the complete politicization of the position of ministry counsel. In the name of governability, Shaked seeks to eliminate the gatekeeper function of the legal adviser, protecting human and minority rights and fighting corruption and damage to proper public administration."

"After 2 Months of Unrest, Nicaragua Is at a Fateful Crossroads [...] How did it begin? Nicaragua has a backstory of violence: the revolutionary struggles of the 1970s against the repressive Somoza dictatorship, followed by the US-financed Contra war against the revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s (the US role in that war was condemned by the World Court in 1986 as a violation of international law). Electoral defeat for the Sandinistas in 1990 brought peace, but at the expense of 16 years of corrupt, neoliberal government that undid many of the gains of the revolution. Daniel Ortega's election win in 2006 led to a decade of renewed social investment. Poverty fell by almost half between 2005 and 2016, according to World Bank data, from 48 percent to 25 percent. Nicaragua won praise for its low crime rate, limited drug-related violence, and community-based policing. Nor could the private sector complain: Nicaragua's per-capita GDP increased by 38 percent — more than for any of its neighbors. [...] It seems clear that repression of the initial student demonstration was a grave error of judgment by the police. But there is growing evidence that subsequent events were manipulated so as to magnify discontent. For example, according to a reliable eyewitness, before the ransacking of a supermarket in Managua those doing it were seen to be given Sandinista T-shirts to wear. Burning of buildings is routinely ascribed to Sandinistas, even when it is party officials' houses that are destroyed, or in city streets under the opposition's control. Police in Managua apprehended a known criminal nicknamed 'The Viper' who confessed to plotting with the protesters to carry out armed attacks on shops and FSLN offices. Even the evidence against the police for the shooting at the opposition march on Mother's Day has been called into question, in an open letter to Amnesty International by a former prisoner of conscience. The fact that gunmen are working with the opposition was confirmed by the attempted assassination of Leonel Morales, a student leader who strongly criticized the protesters. On June 12 he was kidnapped, shot, and left for dead in a ditch, an incident at first ignored by the right-wing media, then ascribed to robbery."

REST IN PEACE: "Dick Leitsch, Whose 'Sip-In' Was a Gay Rights Milestone, Dies at 83: Dick Leitsch, who in 1966 led a pioneering act of civil disobedience to secure the right of gay patrons to be served in a licensed bar, helping to clear the way for gay bars to operate openly in New York State, died on Friday at a hospice center in Manhattan. He was 83."

ROT IN PERDITION: "A Lover Of Death Gets His Wish: Neocon Charles Krauthammer Dead At 68: Fox News contributor, Washington Post columnist and neoconservative thought leader Charles Krauthammer has died of cancer, and there is a mad media rush of establishment eulogies scrambling to canonize him as a great man in the eyes of the public before anyone can step back and take stock of what this man's legacy actually is. This is perfectly understandable, because if social consciousness cements into history what a wheelchair full of toxic human waste Krauthammer actually was, it will make things much more difficult for them to manufacture support for their neoconservative wars going forward."

Nathan J. Robinson says in Current Affairs, "There Is Still Only One Clear Way To Get Rid Of Trump: Let's be honest: running Bernie in 2020 is the best shot the Democrats have at beating Trump... [...] Needless to say, if your party contains a wildly popular politician, with an enthusiastic fan base of young activists, who is adept at speaking to the concerns of the 'Rust Belt' states that lost you the election the last time around, it would seem criminally foolish not to nominate that person as your presidential candidate."

Umair Haque, "Do Americans Understand They're Beginning to Commit The Legal Definition of Genocide? No, You Don't Know What Genocide (Really) Is. But You Should."

"When Both Men and Women Drop Out of the Labor Force, Why Do Economists Only Ask About Men? That's what New York Times readers were wondering when they saw Harvard Economics Professor Greg Mankiw's column, 'Why Aren't Men Working?' The piece notes the falloff in labor force participation among prime-age men (ages 25 to 54) for the last 70 years and throws out a few possible explanations. We'll get to the explanations in a moment, but the biggest problem with explaining the drop in labor force participation among men as a problem with men is that since 2000, there has been a drop in labor force participation among prime-age women also.

Interviewed at Truthout, Noam Chomsky on Fascism, Showmanship and Democrats' Hypocrisy in the Trump Era: "The coverage has been quite instructive, in part because of the efforts of the Democrats to outflank Trump from the right. Beyond that, the coverage across the spectrum illustrates quite well two distinct kinds of deceit: lying and not telling relevant truths. Each merits comment."

"Mr. Peabody and Sherman Travel WayBack to 1953 - A History of Iraq"

A couple of Majority Report episodes really worth listening to:
* American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism w/ Dr. Henry Giroux
* Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump w/ Asad Haider

Back in March, Ryan Grim wrote about What The Dan Lipinski-Marie Newman Democratic Primary In Illinois Means. A lot of things are going to go this way because the "centrists" have deep pockets, but sometimes you have to run more than once to win. And the more people know that Lipinski was one of only two Democrats to vote for the Hyde Amendment, the more his seat will be in jeopardy.

Margaret Kimberly in Black Agenda Report, "No Protest for Black People: Donald Trump is certainly a motivator for white liberals. That group was quiescent when other presidents committed human rights abuses and war crimes, but they spring into action when Trump does something they don't like. It is commendable that thousands of people converged on airports in 2017 to protect victims of the Trump travel ban against seven Muslim nations. Now the outrage over the official policy of immigrant family separation has produced another groundswell of protest. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices have been blockaded, ICE employees are outed online and presidential staff are chased from restaurants by angry people. To be clear, the anger is justified and the protest is necessary. But where is this level of outrage when black people are victimized by this system?"

Caitlin Johnstone, "I Paid To See A Movie About Singing. I Got Ninety Minutes Of Pentagon Propaganda."

The Batman dance

I know I was pretty preoccupied at the time, but I just can't imagine how I missed Stephen Colbert's Tolkien Mockingbird.

"Fictional Cops I Love, Ranked By How Guilty I, As An Anarchist, Feel For Loving Them" — I don't even recognize the first one, but I have no guilt about liking Foyle and Murdoch, and of course, it was the last one that made me post the link, 'cause I love him most of all.

Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke fab. I think I teared up a bit at the end there. Everyone looked so happy. It was fab!

Jessica Harper, "Special to Me"

21:46 GMT comment


Friday, 22 June 2018

He'd make a plan and follow through

"Telecom-Backed Democrat in California Just "Mutilated" Nation's Strongest State Net Neutrality Bill: 'These California Democrats will go down in history as among the worst corporate shills that have ever held elected office. Californians should rise up and demand that at their Assembly members represent them.' Following a "major win" for open internet advocates in the California Senate last month, State Assemblyman Miguel Santiago provoked widespread outrage on Wednesday when he 'rammed through' amendments that critics say 'eviscerate' what 'would have been the best net neutrality bill in the country.' 'It is, with the amendments, a fake net neutrality bill," declared state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who introduced the original legislation. Wiener said Santiago's amendments 'mutilated' Senate Bill 822, which had passed the higher chamber despite fierce lobbying by the telecom industry."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "The AT&T-Time Warner Merger Is Already What the Government Feared: It's been quite a week for AT&T. One of the largest providers of wireless, internet, and cable TV in America, it closed a $85.4 billion deal last Thursday to acquire Time Warner, one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world, after a federal court blessed the merger over the Justice Department's objections. Judge Richard Leon, of the U.S. District Court for D.C., had rejected the government's argument that AT&T would lessen competition by leveraging Time Warner's 'must-have' television content to drive rival customers to its products. Within one week, AT&T announced a plan to use Time Warner's television content to drive rival customers to its products. It's just one of several announcements from the new conglomerate that show the government was right: AT&T is determined to use its economic and political power to expand its reach and dominate markets."

Zach Carter at The Huffington Post says that, "Stephanie Kelton Has The Biggest Idea In Washington: Once an outsider, her radical economic thinking won over Wall Street. Now she's changing the Democratic Party." But clearly, not fast enough: "Why do Democrats love pay-go? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer on Wednesday both said they'll back pay-go rules if they regain control of the House this fall, meaning that all proposed legislation will have to be deficit-neutral." This may be the stupidest thing they could say in public.

On a similar note, The Hill reports that Pelosi said that, "'Medicare for All' should be 'evaluated' if Dems win House." This sounds like a non-promise to begin with (yeah, well "evaluate" the excuses for why we can't do it), but of course if they actually campaigned on it, people might even believe they mean it. Also, it might help them win.

This National Tracking Poll for June 7-10 says a number of things you already know but the Democrats have managed to weaken themselves where they should be strongest and if they actually wanted to win, they'd be worried.

David Dayen in The Nation, "Toys 'R' Us Workers Take on Private-Equity Barons: 'You Ought to Be Ashamed': The executives stripped profits from the toy chain and left employees with nothing. "

The Hill, "Sanders gets best reception at early 2020 audition [...] More than a thousand energetic attendees gathered at the We the People Summit to hear from some top potential 2020 contenders: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). But it was Sanders who won the most applause from the crowd of progressive and labor activists."

Attempted murder: "Florida school shooting survivor targeted in 'swatting' prank" — Calling the cops on someone is not a "prank", and if the Hoggs had been at home when the police responded to the call, they might very well have been killed.

Bernie wants to save the postal service. One of the people he wants to save it from is Joe Manchin, one of Trump's Democrats.

"The Unofficial Gag Order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 Years in Prison, Still Not Allowed to Speak" — Al Amin had a gag order placed on him during his original trial, but something very odd has happened, all these years later, and suddenly a paranoid-sounding FBI report got him hidden away at grave threat to his health. As for the original crime, the only evidence that was used against him did not implicate him at all. Funny, that.

This story isn't interesting until you get to the perp's name. All I can say is, I blame the parents. "Anonymous complaint in St. Augustine leads to arrest of two on drug charges: Police say they found crystal meth in a search."

* * * * *

Howie Klein on Why You Should Never Vote For A Blue Dog:

It's important to remember that the phrase "Blue Dogs" is not an adjective to describe conservative Democrats, though it could be. The "Blue Dogs" is a formal organization. You pay dues, elect officers, go to meetings, split up bribes from Big Business interests eager to purchase influence inside the Democratic caucus, etc. In order to be endorsed by the Blue Dogs, you have to apply and pass a written test proving you are a corrupt conservative. Many of their worst candidates-- like Jay Hulings (TX), Brad Ashford (NE), JD Huffstetler (VA) and Jim Grey (KY)-- have already been defeated by more progressive candidates in primaries this year. This is the garbage that's left:

Anthony Brindisi (NY)
• Paul Davis (KS)
• Gretchen Driskell (MI)
• Mel Hall (IN)

• Chris Hunter (FL)
Brendan Kelly (IL)
• Kathy Manning (NC)
Ben McAdams (UT)
• Matt Reel (TN)
• Max Rose (NY)
• Clarke Tucker (AR)
Denny Wolff (PA)
• Jeff Van Drew (NRA-NJ)

For the fun of it, I bolded every Blue Dog candidate who is in a district that was won by Bernie in the 2016 primary. So what's so bad about the Blue Dogs that I would urge readers to not vote for them in primaries and consider carefully if you want to vote for a lesser-of-two-evils candidate in the general? Let's go back a few years when the Blue Dogs were bragging about how they were powerful enough to have scuttled the public option. Not a single House Republican voted for the Affordable Care Act-- and all the negotiating was internal, between Democrats. The Blue Dogs held the bill hostage, threatening to vote with the Republicans to kill it.

[...] ProgressivePunch has graded every Blue Dog's record "F." These are the 7 worst Democrats in Congress based on this cycle's votes. All of them have voted more frequently with the Republicans on crucial roll calls than with the Democrats. Walter Jones (R-NC) votes with the Democrats more than they do. And Justin Amash votes against the GOP than all but one of the stinkin Blue Dogs. This year, worst of all has been Collin Peterson, who has voted with the Democrats 28% of the time. Kyrsten Sinema-- Blue Dog chairwoman who Schumer has chosen to run for the Senate-- has voted with the Democrats (from a safe blue seat) 32% of the time. Jim Costa, also in a safe blue district, voted with the Dems 32%, as have 2 more from safe blue seats, Jim Costa (CA) and Henry Cuellar (TX). Josh Gottheimer- 39%, Tom O'Halleran- 40%, Stephanie Murphy- 42%. Horrible. And if you say, we need them to win, you are absolutely wrong. In fact, the opposite is true. History proves that most of them will likely lose their seats in the 2022 midterms when Democratic core voters realize what they are and stay away from the polls.

* * * * *

Eric Levitz says Democrats are more focused on bread-and-butter issues than people think, but "The Democratic Party Has an 'MSNBC Problem' [...] In truth, the Democratic Party is quite focused on promoting a progressive critique of the GOP's positions on taxes, health care, and social spending, because it knows that Republicans are deeply vulnerable on those issues. MSNBC, CNN, and the broader mainstream media, however, are obsessed with the White House's myriad scandals — because they know that a federal investigation into the American president's potential ties to the Kremlin (and/or porn stars and/or white-collar crime) is ratings gold — while daily broadcasts reiterating the regressive implications of the GOP's tax law and health-care plans would be anything but."

Eric Levitz was also on The Majority Report talking to Sammy about Why Unions Are Not a Special Interest.

"Supreme Court allows Ohio, other state voter purges: WASHINGTON (AP) — States can target people who haven't cast ballots in a while in efforts to purge their voting rolls, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that has drawn wide attention amid stark partisan divisions and the approach of the 2018 elections. By a 5-4 vote that split the conservative and liberal justices, the court rejected arguments in a case from Ohio that the practice violates a federal law intended to increase the ranks of registered voters. A handful of other states also use voters' inactivity to trigger processes that could lead to their removal from the voting rolls."

"ICE Came for a Tennessee Town's Immigrants. The Town Fought Back. Agents conducted one of the biggest workplace raids since President Trump announced a crackdown on illegal immigration, detaining 97 workers in Morristown. But for residents, these workers were their neighbors."

This almost makes me laugh, but "Eric Holder May Be Considering A Presidential Run. But Has His Time Passed? If Holder's DOJ showed little mercy to drug offenders and whistleblowers, his DOJ was tender and mild with big banks after the financial asset bubble collapse. 'There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps' is how one DOJ source described Holder's approach to Wall Street crime. At the end of 2014, Columbia Journalism Review business reporter Ryan Chittum observed that 'Holder leaves office having been far outclassed by the Bush administration even in prosecuting corporate criminals, despite overseeing the aftermath of one of the biggest orgies of financial corruption in history.' [...] We surely haven't seen the last of prosecutor politicians who grandstand and indict their way into cable news glory and donor-class cocktail parties. But a little light bulb is going on over an increasing number of Americans' heads that ambitious prosecutors in the most carceral country on the planet are perhaps not the best people to put in charge of fixing our justice system, much less running our government."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "Trump's Family Separation Scandal Has Revealed Every Species of Hypocrite: Immigration hawks and War on Terror monsters alike are using President Trump's revolting present to expiate past sins." Even Michael Hayden is getting in on this.

Theresa May was doing this crap when she was still Home Secretary. She is sympatico with Trump and it's a joke to hear her pretending she finds Trump's behavior worthy of condemnation.

RIP: Jerry Maren, last surviving member of 'Lollipop Guild,' dies at 98: SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Jerry Maren -- the world's last living Wizard of Oz munchkin -- has died at the age of 98, TMZ has learned."

RIP: Clint Walker, Star of TV Western Cheyenne, Dies at 90: For seven seasons from 1955-61, he played Cheyenne Bodie, a rambunctious wanderer in the post-Civil War West, on the ABC series Cheyenne. (He also guested as the character on Maverick.)" Yeah, we watched all those westerns at our house when I was a kid. I didn't even notice this until I saw Langford had mentioned him in the Ansible obits for his genre credits.

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The presidential delusions of Democratic billionaires: Howard Schultz announced Monday that he's stepping down as CEO of Starbucks and immediately sparked speculation that he is going to run for president. Business-friendly news outlets got his friends (that is, other CEOs) to vouch for him, and he started talking up an issue to seem like a serious political player. Naturally, it was a lot of claptrap about the national debt. But he's not alone. Other billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, and Michael Bloomberg (who may be getting the itch to purchase himself another high political office, as he did the New York City mayoralty) have also invited speculation about running. The modern robber barons of our Second Gilded Age already have a death grip on the commanding heights of the economy, and Donald Trump seemingly cruised to the presidency on his billions, so why shouldn't they try the same trick? [...] All that aside, the political appeal of deficit phobia today is nil, and nobody but a billionaire (or, just possibly, Chuck Schumer) could fail to notice it. No coddled, inept rich guy limply whining about borrowing and how Medicare is too expensive is going to beat Trump delivering xenophobic tirades to the baying ride-or-die partisans of the Republican base. Of course, in the age of President Donald J. Trump, one must always include the caveat that the future is an unknowable void from hell, and anything bad that can happen probably will. Maybe one of these plutocrats will discover his inner Mussolini and cruise to victory. But I fear it is more likely that one will mount a vanity third-party run, only to bleed enough votes from the Democratic candidate in 2020 to give Trump another term." Remember Bloomberg threatening to make an indy run if Sanders was the Democratic nominee? Yeah.

"The Surprising Popularity of 'Far Left' Policies: Supposedly radical ideals are actually embraced by large swaths of the American public." — It's just amazing who can get called "far left" by The Washington Post.

Josh Barro in Business Insider, "Why does Trump get away with corruption? Because Bill and Hillary Clinton normalized it [...] Here's one reason the Trump corruption scandals aren't connecting as much as they should: Before Democrats spent the past 18 months telling everyone this is not normal, they spent years reassuring voters that this was normal."

Branko Marcetic, Jacobin, "From the Jaws of Victory: We've read Chasing Hillary so you didn't have to. The Clinton campaign was even worse than we thought." Here's one to start: After flirting with running in 2016, former vice-president Joe Biden ultimately declined to jump in due to what many believed was grief over his son's death. Yet Chozick argues he was nervous about the prospect of crossing the Clintons to begin with. 'You guys don't understand these people,' Biden had allegedly told the White House press corps off the record one day. 'The Clintons will try to destroy me.'"

Shaun King,, "How Bernie Sanders Evolved on Criminal Justice Reform [...] In meeting Krasner, Sanders found someone who approaches problems in a manner very similar to his own — but is actually getting stuff done. I don't mean that as a slight to Sanders, but as a progressive U.S. senator in a Republican-controlled Congress with Donald Trump as president, it's almost impossible to pass progressive reforms. Krasner has only been in office for six months and is radically changing everything about the inner processes of justice in Philadelphia. It was a light bulb moment. Real Justice helped elect Krasner, as well as other reform candidates across the country, and Sanders now wanted to know how he could help. [...] 'It's disgusting, Shaun, that our country is basically criminalizing poverty. I'll be honest with you. I really didn't know this was happening. I had no idea hundreds of thousands of Americans, particularly African-Americans, were being held in jail, for months or years, even though they've never been convicted of a crime, simply because they can't afford bail,' Sanders told me in a tiny dressing room backstage before the event. 'I've learned a lot,' he continued. 'I see the racial disparities clearer than ever. I want to help — just tell me how I can best help and we'll do it.'"

Also Shaun King, "You don't really know who Bernie Sanders was in the 1960s. Why it mattered then and why it matters in 2018 [...] Bernie hates telling these stories and has resisted using them for political capital across the years — even when advisors and others have told him it would boost his profile — he has refused. He does what he does because he cares. When I introduced Bernie at a rally in Los Angeles by sharing many of these stories, his own family came to me in tears saying that even they had never heard them before. He has always felt that what he did during the sixties paled in comparison to those who were beaten or lost their lives — and so he has kept some powerful stories to himself."

This is a good little video that explains exactly why Hillary Clinton really lost, and why Democrats have to keep denying it. "Thomas Frank on the Democratic Party, Their Credibility Trap, and the Beleaguered Middle Class"

I see people keep asking what "Donut Twitter" is. It's the proud tradition of the alt-center snubbing the left: "Repeatedly, establishment Democrats have infantilized and derided the progressive wing of the party."

Reminder: Right-wing billionaires have been working to a plan, with the help of some Democrats, with "Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation's Efforts To Build Right-Wing 'Infrastructure' Nationwide

Why American Life is Traumatizing Americans But They Don't Know it [...] I hope by now you are beginning to see what I see. American life is becoming one long, daily, repeated exercise in trauma. Americans are being traumatized according to the textbook definition, by the institutions, structures, and habits of daily life under predatory capitalism, which demands that they live at the edge of survival, of just being, at the very brink of being annihilated, mostly so that the economy can 'grow'. Americans have become accustomed to being at the edge of life and death — but that is what trauma is."

Raven Onthill at Advice Unasked, on "A Well Regulated Militia: The genesis of the piece was some decades ago research into the Second Amendment and the militia. One of the works I read was the commonly-cited-by-firearms — advocates 1698 'A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias' by Andrew Fletcher. The 'Discourse' contains what may be the first use of the phrase 'well-regulated militia;' certainly one of the earliest uses. But how did this phrase make it into the Constitution? What was Fletcher doing writing about militia anyway? And what does it all mean for us, now?"

Fallstream holes look like a portal in the sky to another dimension.

"Genius Street Artist Is Secretly Turning New York Streets Into Art." Some of these are fun.

"This Mindblowing Video of The Moon Coming Down to Earth Is Totally Real" This is immensely cool.

I've always wondered what Brian Boitano thought about his appearances in South Park, and it just occurred to me that someone must have interviewed him about it, and, indeed, they have.

"What Would Brian Boitano Do?"

18:13 GMT comment


Wednesday, 06 June 2018

It could make a million for you overnight

Cristian Farias in New York Magazine, "The Supreme Court Has Decided to Shut Workers Out of the Courthouse for Good [...] So high were the stakes in Epic, that during the hearing for the case — which saw lawyers for employers, workers, the Department of Justice, and the National Labor Relations Board all squaring off with everyone else — Justice Stephen Breyer openly wondered if a ruling for the employers would effectively cut out 'the entire heart of the New Deal.'" RBG calls on Congress to fix the mess. Everyone else should, too.

"Democrats join Koch group to revamp veterans programs: WASHINGTON Democrats for years have seen the conservative Koch brothers as political enemies. Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid even called them "un-American." But Wednesday, Senate Democrats teamed up with Republicans to pass major veterans health care legislation championed by the Kochs. The Koch-funded Concerned Veterans for America celebrated a big victory with the passage of the VA MISSION Act, a sweeping bill that overhauls how the Department of Veterans Affairs gives patients access to private-sector doctors. It's a big win for the once-obscure advocacy group backed by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch. The group helped write the bill, which sailed through the Senate by a 92-5 vote after also passing the House overwhelmingly. It got broad support from politicians and veterans groups across the political spectrum, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law soon." Of the Democratic caucus, only Merkley, Sanders, and Schatz voted No.

"Prosecutors Withheld Evidence That Could Exonerate J20 Inauguration Protesters, Judge Rules: CHIEF JUDGE Robert E. Morin of the D.C. Superior Court found on Wednesday that federal prosecutors suppressed potentially exculpatory evidence against six Inauguration Day protesters. In a motion filed late last night, attorneys for the defendants accused the government of withholding evidence that could have exonerated their clients — a serious violation of pretrial discovery rules. Attorneys allege that the state withheld evidence by editing a video of a protest planning meeting. Defense attorneys called on the court to sanction Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff for 'blatant hiding of evidence' and requested that the indictment against their clients be dismissed. At pretrial hearing Wednesday afternoon, Morin agreed that the prosecution had violated the 'Brady rule,' which governs the state's pretrial obligations to disclose exculpatory evidence, but declined to rule on the defense's motions to dismiss the indictment or suppress the evidence. Morin will rule on those sanctions next week."

The Clintonati like to claim Bernie Sanders said Planned Parenthood was "the establishment", which is a mischaracterization, but maybe if he had he wouldn't have been wrong. "Planned Parenthood Is Asking Donald Trump's Labor Board For Help Busting Its Colorado Union: COLORADO PLANNED PARENTHOOD executives, with help from President Donald Trump's labor board appointees, are fighting their health center workers' unionization efforts in a case that could set a precedent for workers' rights nationwide. The case is Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood Inc. v. SEIU. Staff for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in coordination with SEIU Local 105, won the election for their union in December 2017. But shortly after the vote to unionize, Planned Parenthood leadership, instead of recognizing the new unit, turned to the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board to challenge the outcome. The Planned Parenthood bosses won the first round, and the appeal will now move to the full five-member labor board." (Interestingly, PP doesn't appear to be supporting Medicare for All, either.

"The Supreme Court just quietly handed a big victory to abortion opponents: Trump's judges just got a clear signal that they can chop away at abortion rights and get away with it. The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it will not hear Planned Parenthood of Arkansas v. Jegley, despite the fact that the lower court's opinion in this case is at odds with the Court's 2016 opinion striking down a Texas anti-abortion law.

"Illinois ratifies Equal Rights Amendment — decades after deadline." I still get angry when I remember why this didn't happen before the deadline.

The first two Episodes of The Appeal Podcast are up, on "District Attorneys Are The Most Powerful People You've Never Heard Of. With guest Josie Duffy Rice" and "The Misplaced Sanctimony of Criminalizing Sex Work. With guest Melissa Gira Grant".

"Blue-state Democrats have a new cause: Helping millionaires [...] On the heels of the new Republican tax law, state Democrats, who until recently were advocating higher taxes on the rich, are suddenly fighting to protect their own members of the top 1 percent from higher taxes. Some Dems are even proposing both — raise taxes on the wealthy with one hand and help them with the other."

"How an arcane, new accounting standard is helping reporters follow the money [...] In Fulton County, the largest of nine counties in the Atlanta metro area, officials were trying to comply with the new disclosures and had hired Ernst & Young to help. As the accountants spoke, Niesse peppered them with questions. At one point, the accountants left the room to discuss the accuracy of their numbers. 'When they came back out, they agreed they needed to present the information in a clearer way,' Niesse recalls. That's when Niesse noticed an extensive spreadsheet on an accountant's laptop, open on the conference room table. Unlike the PowerPoint, the spreadsheet was crystal clear: it showed the parcel IDs and property taxes not paid on every recent development in Fulton County."

"The Right-Wing Millennial Machine: Conservatives are building an army of fired-up young people. How? By offering them salaries. [...] Progressives aren't just out of sync with their own need to recruit and retain young people. They're also lagging behind conservative interests. A 2017 study found that between 2008 and 2014, conservative donors gave three times more to millennial outreach groups than liberal donors. Much of that funding, Thompson says, went to things like paid fellowships, travel stipends and study grants ? creating the feeder system that will guide young people into actual jobs with political campaigns and think tanks. 'The Republicans are building an army, while the Democrats are still paying you in "making the world a better place,"' said Carlos Vera, the executive director of Pay Our Interns, a watchdog group. 'I've had older people say to me, 'Well, I did unpaid internships and I was fine.' Then you ask them when that was and they say, '1972.' You could work your way through college back then. That simply is not the case anymore.'"

The Hill, "WikiLeaks's Assange reportedly offers to show Schiff 'there was no collusion': WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is willing to meet with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, to prove there was "no collusion," according to an intermediary who spoke with MSNBC. [...] Schiff reportedly said that he would talk to Assange but only if he were in U.S. custody. Assange is currently residing in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid arrest and possible extradition to the U.S. on allegations of espionage." Schiff doesn't want to hear evidence of no collusion, so of course he's willing to talk to Assange only under conditions Assange would have to be suicidal to agree to.

Interesting article from David Adler in The New York Times, of all places. "Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists [...] Some of the most striking data reflect respondents' views of elections. Support for 'free and fair' elections drops at the center for every single country in the sample. The size of the centrist gap is striking. In the case of the United States, fewer than half of people in the political center view elections as essential." [graph] Of course, the concept of 'support for democracy' is somewhat abstract, and respondents may interpret the question in different ways. What about support for civil rights, so central to the maintenance of the liberal democratic order? In almost every case, support for civil rights wanes in the center. In the United States, only 25 percent of centrists agree that civil rights are an essential feature of democracy. [...] One of the strongest warning signs for democracy has been the rise of populist leaders with authoritarian tendencies. But while these leaders have become more popular, it is unclear whether citizens explicitly support more authoritarian styles of government. I find, however, evidence of substantial support for a 'strong leader' who ignores his country's legislature, particularly among centrists. In the United States, centrists' support for a strongman-type leader far surpasses that of the right and the left."

"Voting Rights Roundup: New Hampshire GOP's voter fraud detection system exposed as, well, a fraud" — and a lot of other places where voter-suppression and gerrymandering have been in play.

Jon Schwarz in The Intercept, "Chuck Schumer Is The Worst Possible Democratic Leader On Foreign Policy At The Worst Possible Time [...] Schumer's positions on domestic policy leave much to be desired, but not on every issue. By contrast, his views on foreign policy are largely indistinguishable from the Republican Party in general and Trump specifically."

Sean McElwee in the NYT, "The Rising Racial Liberalism of Democratic Voters: In response to both the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and the backlash in favor of Donald Trump in 2016, analysts and commentators have focused mostly on racial attitudes on the right. Both scholarship and journalistic accounts of American politics have drilled down on the increased opposition to immigration and high levels of racial resentment among Obama opponents and Trump supporters. But few have investigated the countervailing trend on the left, the increasing racial liberalism of Democratic voters, which I've been thinking about for a while."

Dday has "Fears of the Next Recession: What will it do to the many millions of Americans who still haven't recovered from the last one? [...] Oil prices aside, other economic indicators suggest a recession in the not-too-distant future, perhaps by the last year of Trump's current term in 2020. There are obvious political ramifications to that. Trump currently gets relatively high marks on the economy; a slump during a presidential election year would damage hopes of a second term. But it would also damage all the 'forgotten men and women' who have been put further and further behind with each cycle of recession and recovery. Bard College economist Pavlina Tcherneva constructed the best visual depiction of this phenomenon, with a chart showing the distribution of post-recession gains. In the 1940s and '50s, the bottom 90 percent of income earners enjoyed at least two-thirds of the benefits. In the 1980s and '90s, they saw only 20 percent of the gains, and in the recovery after 9/11, that number fell to 2 percent. After the financial crisis of 2007, the bottom 90 percent saw negative gains — that is, they lost ground during the recovery."

Interview by Katie Halper, "Debunking the Bernie Bro Myth: Briahna Joy Gray Interview"

Ladies and gentlemen, the legendary Ace of Cups are finally making a record.

RIP, "It is my sad duty to note the passing of Gardner Dozois today, Sunday May 27, at 4:00 p.m. The cause was an overwhelming systemic infection. Gardner had been hospitalized for a minor illness and was expected to be released shortly. The decline was swift. He died surrounded by his family." — posted by Michael Swanwick on FB, It's the anniversary of that Memorial Day weekend when I met them all at Disclave for the first time — Gardner, Sue Caspur, Piglet (George Alec Effinger), Swanwick, GRRM, Dave Harris, Pat Cadigan, Tess Kissinger, et al. Gardner and Sue in particular were a big part of my fandom. This breaks my heart.

RIP: Eddy Clearwater, blues guitarist, at 83: "Grammy-nominated Chicago blues guitarist Eddy 'The Chief' Clearwater has died of heart failure at age 83, his label, Alligator Records, announced. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016 and had received two Blues Music Awards. His Grammy nod came when his 2003 album Rock 'N' Roll City appeared in the Best Traditional Blues Album category."

RIP: "Alan Bean, moon-walking astronaut and artist, dies aged 86" — He retired so he could paint what he had seen and record it for posterity. He saw the colors on the moon.

Matt Taibbi, "The Battle of Woodstock: What does it mean when the biggest threat to upstart Democrats is the national Democratic Party? [...] Beals goes on to suggest that there's an even more nefarious motive for the defeatist analyses. Successfully spreading the idea that the party can't reach certain voters not only absolves the national bureaucracy of any need to change, but reduces campaigning to a blunt-force fundraising contest, a place where they're comfortable. 'This is where things get dark, but I think there are a lot of people who want you to think we can't win those votes,' he says. 'They want us to just get back to focusing on the fundraising, and keep the cash cow going.'"

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The Democratic Party is flying blind on economics [...] I found no evidence that anyone in the Democratic Party, in the leadership or out, had been promulgating a strategic party doctrine on this question, or even discussing it much. On the contrary, if anything there were strong indications that the old background radiation of austerity and deficit phobia has continued to beam through their collective political unconscious."

Matt Stoller in The Baffler, "Lords of Misrule: How the legal profession became Wall Street's helpmeet: IN 1937, FUTURE SUPREME COURT JUSTICE Robert Jackson gave a toast at the New York State Bar Association on the civic responsibilities of the legal profession. 'No other people have submitted so generally to lawyer leadership,' he said. Yet, he argued, 'There is no constitutional protection for our lawyer monopoly.' Jackson was referring, in a tone of populist outrage, to the new wave of big law firms that were then vehemently opposing Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and its crackdown on Wall Street in the wake of the 1929 crash. 'We must rely solely on the record of a trust well fulfilled to perpetuate lawyer control.' Jackson was the last Supreme Court Justice not to graduate from law school, and he hated the corruption of the craft of lawyering via the growth of corporate law, centered then in the American Bar Association. Jackson believed that the professionalization of the law and the resulting priority of financial over ethical considerations among lawyers have been toxic for American democracy. [...] Seeing the ethos of federal enforcement collapse under all these pressures, it's hard not to be enraged at the entire legal profession, from self-satisfied judges like Kaplan to corporate defense attorneys like Mary Jo White who collect millions and construct an ethical system designed to help their friends steal from all of us. [...] It's abundantly clear, in other words, that the decision to refrain from prosecuting important actors in the corporate world was Obama White House policy, and this policy was part of an overall ideological shift away from allegiance to democracy itself, to rule by the people."

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

David Dayen in The New Republic, "A Fitting End to Paul Ryan's Fraudulent Political Career: The Republican House of Representatives has become an unruly mob, and the speaker has no one to blame but himself. [...] Ryan's speakership has become untenable. House members are roping in Trump on a plan to depose Ryan this summer, putting the House in the hands of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. It's unclear whether the Freedom Caucus would go along. They have circulated a letter to get Jim Jordan, one of their leaders, to run for speaker, so the McCarthy plan to bring order to the House may only create greater disorder, and no speaker in charge for months."

The Guardian, "Exclusive: how rightwing groups wield secret 'toolkit' to plot against US unions: Internal documents obtained by the Guardian reveal a nationwide drive to persuade union members to quit and stop paying dues. [...] Documents obtained by the Guardian reveal that a network of radical conservative thinktanks spanning all 50 states is planning direct marketing campaigns targeted personally at union members to encourage them to quit. The secret push, the group hopes, could cost unions up to a fifth of their 7 million members, lead to the loss of millions of dollars in income and undermine a cornerstone of US progressive politics."

I'm not sure what to make of this, but, "Wikipedia Is An Establishment Psyop." Hm, the Herald seems to have the story, too. The Canary has been a victim. It seems obvious that "Philip Cross" is more than one person with a mission to make Wikipedia less friendly to leftier voices.

Did we mention that Google is officially evil now? "Google Removes 'Don't Be Evil' Clause From Its Code of Conduct: Google's unofficial motto has long been the simple phrase 'don't be evil.' But that's over, according to the code of conduct that Google distributes to its employees. The phrase was removed sometime in late April or early May, archives hosted by the Wayback Machine show."

"Why Economists Ignore Much of Rich People's Income: Did you 'earn' that money?"

David Dayen and Ryan Grim in The Intercept, "Party Leaders Are Not Strategic Geniuses, They Just Really Like Moderates, New Research Finds: THE BATTLE BETWEEN grassroots Democratic activists and Washington-based party leaders continued to unfold Tuesday night, with the national party notching some rear-guard victories and local forces delivering the party its second high-profile setback in as many weeks. Through all of these contests, national party leaders have argued that their decision-making is not personal or ideological. They believe in the same progressive values as the grassroots activists, goes the argument, but more moderate candidates are needed to be able to win the general election and take the House back from Republicans. [...] A paper in this month's edition of the peer-reviewed Legislative Studies Quarterly analyzes a decade's worth of federal elections, finding that party organizations boost moderate candidates across the board, whether the general election is expected to be competitive or a long shot. In other words, party support for moderates does not appear to be strategic, but sincere. 'They're not doing this to have a better shot at winning elections,' said the paper's author Hans Hassell, assistant professor of politics at Cornell College in Iowa."

David Dayen's Tiny Letter on how "Wells Fargo Makes Pope Francis Sad: "We are a much better company today than we were a year ago, and I am confident that this year Wells Fargo will be even better," said Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan in January. We now know that at that precise moment, employees in the wholesale unit of Wells Fargo were altering information on client forms without their knowledge. Wells Fargo needed to supply this information as part of an anti-money laundering consent order, and when faced with the deadline, they just broke the law and forged the forms. And the bank acknowledged this took place in late 2017 and early 2018. This comes on the heels of Wells Fargo admitting that, also in 2017, they kept fee rebates intended for public pension funds. It was called a "system set-up error." Both of these incidents occurred years after being caught issuing fake accounts, after illegally repossessing cars, after the dozen-odd other scandals for which Wells Fargo has made a show of penitence. When punishment is not meaningful, offenders get the message that they can continue to offend. Anyone with a 2 year-old child understands this, yet we continue to let banks like Wells Fargo escape without real accountability."
* At a later Tiny Letter, David has a whole bunch of good links to too many stories by himself and others for me to individually link to them all, but you may want to check them out

"The trouble with charitable billionaires: More and more wealthy CEOs are pledging to give away parts of their fortunes — often to help fix problems their companies caused. Some call this 'philanthrocapitalism', but is it just corporate hypocrisy? [...] Essentially, what we are witnessing is the transfer of responsibility for public goods and services from democratic institutions to the wealthy, to be administered by an executive class. In the CEO society, the exercise of social responsibilities is no longer debated in terms of whether corporations should or shouldn't be responsible for more than their own business interests. Instead, it is about how philanthropy can be used to reinforce a politico-economic system that enables such a small number of people to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth."

Matt Taibbi, "Seymour Hersh's Memoir Is Full of Useful Reporting Secrets: The best of his generation writes a how-to that undermines the industry of Access Journalism [...] When it comes time for the next generation of journalists to re-discover what this job is supposed to be about, they can at least read Reporter. It's all in here."

Also, Jon Schwarz, "Seymour Hersh'S New Memoir Is A Fascinating, Flabbergasting Masterpiece [...] If Hersh were a superhero, this would be his origin story. Two hundred and seventy-four pages after the Chicago anecdote, he describes his coverage of a massive slaughter of Iraqi troops and civilians by the U.S. in 1991 after a ceasefire had ended the Persian Gulf War. America's indifference to this massacre was, Hersh writes, 'a reminder of the Vietnam War's MGR, for Mere Gook Rule: If it's a murdered or raped gook, there is no crime.' It was also, he adds, a reminder of something else: 'I had learned a domestic version of that rule decades earlier' in Chicago."

Let's see, what's more depressing? Charlie Stross' "Happy 21st Century!" or Chris Hedges' "The Coming Collapse"? hard to say.

Kitty Marion: The actress who became a 'terrorist'" — Stumbling across the history of an unknown suffragette in the study of music halls.

The Onion, "Lindsey Graham Vows To Uphold John McCain's Legacy By Blindly Supporting GOP Agenda After Grumbling For A Few Minutes"

This Zain Ramadan 2018 Commercial is rather touching.

If you can, you might want to listen to the BBC radio play in five parts of Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, one of my all-time favorites.

Beatles video for "Paperback Writer"

03:10 GMT comment


Sunday, 20 May 2018

Some say it's a sign of weakness

The Hill, "Court orders Iran to pay billions to 9/11 victims and families: A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Iran to pay billions of dollars in damages to the families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks." It's unlikely they will actually pay it, but the very idea that Iran should have to pay for an attack by Saudi Arabians is pretty appalling.

"Call Congress's 'Blue Lives Matter' Bills What They Are: Another Attack On Black Lives: ON WEDNESDAY, THE House of Representatives passed the Protect and Serve Act of 2018 by a vote of 382 to 35. The act — a congressional 'Blue Lives Matter' bill — would make it a federal crime to assault a police officer. The Senate version of the bill, which also has broad bipartisan support, goes even further, framing an attack on an officer as a federal hate crime. The bills exemplify the very worst sort of legislation: at once unnecessary and pernicious. [...] A number of commentators have stressed the superfluousness of making police attacks a federal crime. There's not a state in the country that doesn't already treat assaulting or killing an officer with the heaviest of penalties. With the laws that are already on the books at the state level, it's already a safe assumption today that any convicted cop killer will be sentenced to life without parole." 162 Democrats voted for this piece of garbage. Out of 193.

Jonathan Cohn, "House Republicans, with Some Democratic Help, Vote in Favor of Discrimination and Deregulation in Latest Attacks on Federal Watchdogs: This week, the Republican House of Representatives continued to work on one of their favorite lobbies: gutting financial regulation. On Tuesday, the House voted to repeal a 2013 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) guidance that laid out steps indirect auto lenders should take to ensure that they are operating in compliance with the fair credits laws as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies. In other words, the CPFB wanted to help curb discrimination against consumers on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, and age, all prohibited by the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA). Racial discrimination in auto lending is a well-documented phenomenon. The vote was 234 to 175, with Vern Buchanan (FL-16) voting present. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (IL-27) was the only Republican to vote against the repeal. 11 Democrats joined the GOP: Jim Cooper (TN-05), Lou Correa (CA-46), Jim Costa (CA-16), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Gene Green (TX-29), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Collin Peterson (MN-07), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), David Scott (GA-13), and Filemon Vela (TX-34)."

Socialist-Backed Candidates Sweep Pennsylvania State House Primaries: Four Pennsylvania state House candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) won their Democratic primaries, marking another milestone in the radical left's march into electoral politics. The wins by the four candidates — all women unseating men — were the product of a variety of political forces and groups. But in a country where 'socialist' remains an epithet in certain quarters, the growing electoral success of a once-marginal socialist organization is an especially notable political development." There are also two Berniecrats from Nebraska who won primaries for seats in the US House, and in state legislatures, ten in PA, one in Nebraska, two in Oregon and two in Idaho.
* The story in In These Times, "Socialists and Progressives Just Trounced the Democratic Establishment: On Tuesday, insurgent challengers beat out their opponents in races across the country by running on bold left platforms."

David Dayen, "Bill Aimed At Saving Community Banks Is Already Killing Them: AFTER INITIAL RELUCTANCE, House Republicans have finally reached an agreement to move forward on a bipartisan bank deregulation bill that the Senate passed in March. Its stated aim — to help rural community banks thrive against growing Wall Street power — appears to have been enough to power it across the finish line. But banking industry analysts say the bill is already having the opposite effect, and its loosening of regulations on medium-sized banks is encouraging a rush of consolidation — all of which ends with an increasing number of community banks being swallowed up and closed down."

Dday talked to Sam Seder about Primary Results & the Fallout of the Dodd Frank Rollback (among other things) on The Majority Report.

Symbolic victory in The Hill, "Senate votes to save net neutrality rules: The Senate on Wednesday voted to reinstate the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality rules, passing a bill that has little chance of advancing in the House but offers net neutrality supporters and Democrats a political rallying point for the midterm elections. Democrats were able to force Wednesday's vote using an obscure legislative tool known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). CRA bills allow Congress, with a majority vote in each chamber and the president's signature, to overturn recent agency moves."

"Police Realizing That SESTA/FOSTA Made Their Jobs Harder; Sex Traffickers Realizing It's Made Their Job Easier: For many months in the discussion over FOSTA/SESTA, some of us tried to explain how problematic the bills were. Much of the focus of those discussions were about the negative impact it would have on free speech on the internet, as the way the bill was drafted would encourage greater censorship and more speech-chilling lawsuits. But as we heard from more and more people, we also realized just how incredibly damaging the bill was going to be to those it was ostensibly designed to protect. Beyond the fact that it was passed based on completely fictional claims about the size of the problem, those who actually were victims of sex trafficking began explaining -- in fairly stark terms -- how SESTA/FOSTA would put them in greater danger and almost certainly lead to deaths." And they were right.

Matt Stoller notes that the new FTC Commissioner is sounding like the real deal.
"1. I mentioned this last night, but this memo by new FTC Commissioner @chopraftc is really worth reading. It is a bad-ass and extremely important statement on corporate crime and has significant implications for Facebook.
"2. First, some context. This memo is about recidivism, or committing a crime again once you've been caught. In 2011, Facebook was caught in 2011 engaging in 'unfair and deceptive' practices, and the FTC stated the company 'violated federal law.' Today's scandal is a repeat crime.
"3. 'FTC orders are not suggestions.' [] That's how law enforcer Chopra says it. And he footnotes that showing that the cost can be $41,484 per violation. Facebook has 87 million violations in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This is a company killer.
"4. @chopraftc comes close to saying Zuckerberg should be fired and Facebook broken up. Violations of consent decrees should result in firing 'senior management and board directors," "outright bans on adjacent business practices, and closure of appropriate business lines.'
"5. What shows @chopraftc is serious and bipartisan about this is that he critiques Obama's failed law enforcement regime. He goes after the failure to do anything about HSBC for money laundering, and Wells Fargo for fraud. This is a defense of the rule of law.
"6. Now, here's why this matters. The FTC almost always has unanimous enforcement opinions, which gives individual commissioners sway to shape them. This is not a random shot across the bow, it's a signal to FTC staff to really propose aggressive remedies for Facebook violations."
Matt says it's worth looking at the memo yourself. ProPublica's article is here.

* * * * *

Jeremy Scahill is exactly right, Haspel belongs in jail and Obama should have put her there, but thanks to him, she now looks set to be head of the CIA. Here he is on Democracy NOW!, saying, "Obama Paved Way for Haspel to Head CIA by Failing to Hold Torturers Accountable [...] And, you know, Amy, the CIA is generally prohibited from engaging in operations inside of the United States, and also prohibited from engaging in propaganda aimed at the American people. And yet, to me, this whole Gina Haspel nomination really seems like a CIA operation itself. You know, the CIA, throughout history, from its origins — and this was the case with its predecessor, the OSS — has had a mastery of coups and interventions and interfering in affairs of other nations and waging propaganda battles. Gina Haspel, when she was nominated for the CIA, was the recipient of an enormous amount of support from the CIA's social media accounts, Twitter and others. And it was a propaganda campaign that was aimed at all of us, at the American people. It was aimed at lawmakers, it was aimed at journalists, where they sort of tweeted a — and they did it over and over and over, and they even did it once Haspel was technically in charge of the CIA, where they're giving her biography, making her sound like some combination of like Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, with Jack Bauer. I mean, it was really kind of incredible."

And here is Scahill on Intercepted, "Just Following Orders: Donald Trump loves Gina Haspel, particularly because of her role in torture." (Also an interview with Matt Taibbi on "Trump, Russia, Putin, Stormy Daniels, and the Liberal Embrace of Authoritarianism," and "Reporter Sarah Jaffe on the Teachers Strikes Across the U.S., the Fight For Unions, and the Rebellion of Low Wage Workers." Good stuff, transcripts included.)

* * * * *

"Sanders Institute Launches Voter Registration Initiative: In November 2016, there were more than 224 million citizens over the age of 18 in the United States, yet only around 157 million were registered to vote. Even fewer actually voted."

The headline says it all: "Oliver North leaving Fox News to become next NRA president" — Yes. this Oliver North.

"There are some prisoners who have served their sentences but who refuse to leave this prison facility." Again, the headline says it all.

"Black activist jailed for his Facebook posts speaks out about secret FBI surveillance: Rakem Balogun spoke out against police brutality. Now he is believed to be the first prosecuted under a secretive US effort to track so-called 'black identity extremists' [...] Investigators began monitoring Balogun, whose legal name is Christopher Daniels, after he participated in an Austin, Texas, rally in March 2015 protesting against law enforcement, special agent Aaron Keighley testified in court. The FBI, Keighley said, learned of the protest from a video on Infowars, a far-right site run by the commentator Alex Jones, known for spreading false news and conspiracy theories. The reference to Infowars stunned Balogun: 'They're using a conspiracy theorist video as a reason to justify their tyranny? That is a big insult.'"

"How To Organize A Prison Strike: Organizers inside and outside of the penitentiary walls are teaming up — and getting creative — to fight for reform."

"There's No Good Excuse For The Racist Impact Of Michigan's Medicaid Proposal: The plan's architects say they didn't mean to disadvantage black cities, but they had easy ways not to. Michigan Republicans are pushing a new, Donald Trump-inspired bill that would require Medicaid recipients in the state's mostly black cities to work to keep their health benefits, but exempt some of the state's rural white residents from the same requirement.

David Dayen on "The Downfall of a Grifter: I was part of a small subset of people who were infuriated by Eric Schneiderman before Monday night. So welcome to the rest of the nation for catching up. I had no idea he was a notorious alcoholic and abuser of women until the New Yorker profile. But I did witness his tendency to be a con artist, with his public persona not matching up with the private actions. Zach Carter tells this story very well so I don't have to, and the rest of it is in my book. The short version is that the guy came in making a lot of promises on taking down the banks and then sold out so he could get a good seat at the State of the Union. He wanted the glory without doing the work. In a real sense he didn't know how to do the work - the big lawsuit he filed against JPMorgan Chase right before the 2012 elections, entirely to show a pose of "getting tough" on Wall Street, was ripped off from a staffer and could have been filed years earlier. As co-chair of the vaunted "task force" on bank fraud, he never issued a single criminal subpoena."

Also from Dday, "American Telephone and Telegraft: [...] AT&T's lead lobbyist has now been encouraged to take an early retirement, and the CEO is "very sorry" any of us found out about the Cohen payment. But their real failure lies in not working the influence industry the right and honorable way. Like LiveNation did when they had Rahm Emanuel's brother on their board when they purchased Ticketmaster. Or the way American Airlines used Rahm and a bunch of other Democratic cronies to move through the USAirways merger. AT&T doesn't deserve Time Warner until they can prove they can bribe officials responsibly and effectively. That's how the game is played, Politico Playbook (sponsored by Goldman Sachs) wants you to know, and really you're very silly for thinking it outrageous. It's a cesspool but it's our cesspool."

"How Walmart is Helping Prosecutors Pursue 10-Year Sentences for Shoplifting [...] In Tennessee, as in many states, shoplifting items under $1,000 is a misdemeanor. But, in the past few years, the Knox County district attorney's office has been prosecuting people like Lawson under the burglary statute, which under Tennessee law is defined as 'unlawfully and knowingly entering a building without the consent of the owner and committing a theft.'"

David Menschel (@davidminpdx) tweeted "In NYC, police arrest black people for marijuana at 8x the rate of white people. NYPD say this is because they get more complaint calls about marijuana in black neighborhoods, but NYT found that that was false." The story, in The New York Times, "Race Remains a Key Factor in Marijuana Arrests, Analysis shows."

"Colorado bans solitary confinement for longer than 15 days: DENVER — Inmates in state prisons can't be held in solitary confinement for more than 15 days, the Colorado Department of Corrections announced on Thursday in the latest effort to overhaul a practice criticized as 'torture' by the agency's chief. The changes also require that inmates who are held in solitary confinement at the discretion of prison officials get at least four hours per day outside a cell for recreation or group classes."

But "Denver says its top cops are now exempt from independent monitor's oversight. Here's who disagrees. The city administration has told its police oversight agency to stay way from internal investigations of the police chief and sheriff, and the decision is raising eyebrows around Denver."

Jon Schwarz, "New Bipartisan Bill Could Give Any President The Power To Imprison U.S. Citizens In Military Detention Forever [...] But now, incredibly enough, a bipartisan group of six lawmakers, led by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Tim Kaine, D-Va., is proposing a new AUMF that would greatly expand who the president can place in indefinite military detention, all in the name of restricting presidential power. If the Corker-Kaine bill becomes law as currently written, any president, including Donald Trump, could plausibly claim extraordinarily broad power to order the military to imprison any U.S. citizen, captured in America or not, and hold them without charges essentially forever."

* * * * *

Julian Assange may be a jackass, but he's also the face of the real free press, and the neocons and neoliberals all hate him and want him permanently silenced. At the moment, his former protector, the state of Ecuador, seems to be hinting that it may hand him over to Britain and the US.

On March 28, under immense pressure from the governments in the US, Britain and other powers, Ecuador imposed a complete ban on Assange having any Internet or phone contact with the outside world, and blocked his friends and supporters from physically visiting him. For 45 days, he has not been heard from. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa stated in a Spanish-language interview on Wednesday that her government and Britain 'have the intention and the interest that this be resolved.' Moves were underway, she said, to reach a 'definite agreement' on Assange.
If the United States government gets its hands on Assange, they might torture and even kill him, but it's fairly certain they will try to make sure he never has access to the press again. I know there are those who think Trump would like to reward Assange for helping him out in the election, but Trump doesn't actually reward loyalty or pay his debts, so that seems like a fantasy to me. And I sincerely doubt that, even if Trump decided to pardon Assange just to piss off the Clintonites, the right-wing authoritarians he surrounds himself with would let any such document land on his desk. (We know Trump can't write it himself, which is the only way I can imagine him slipping that one by them.)

* * * * *

"How Did Benghazi Become a Ruin? NYT Ignores US Role — in Multiple Media: New York Times Cairo bureau chief Declan Walsh went to Benghazi, Libya, which is in ruins, to find out how it got that way. 'When I went to Benghazi, I was guided by one main question: How did the city come to this?' he declares in his multimedia presentation, which combines text, audio, video and large-format photography. One thing that's not conveyed via any medium, though: Seven years ago, the United States and its allies used military force to overthrow Libya's government. The country has been in almost continual civil war since then, which you would think would be crucial in explaining 'how the city came to that.' But apparently you don't think like a New York Times bureau chief. The thing is, when President Barack Obama — egged on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — called for an attack on Libya, the justification they offered was that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would otherwise destroy Benghazi. So the fact that military intervention actually turned out to lead to the destruction of Benghazi seems like something you might want to tell Times readers, or Times consumers of multimedia, anyway."

Matt Stoller, "Bigger Corporations Are Making You Poorer: A wave of new research shows how as corporations get bigger, the share of money out there going to actual workers declines." (Matt also did a good thread full of interesting links that is unrolled here.)

"Soul Snatchers: How the NYPD's 42nd Precinct, the Bronx DA's Office, and the City of New York Conspired to Destroy Black and Brown Lives (Part 1) [...] 'Stop and frisk has been banned, but police in the 42nd precinct are actually doing something far worse. They are setting quotas and goals for the number of people each officer must arrest. If you don't meet or exceed the quotas, you feel the wrath of your supervisors. Instead of rejecting the quotas, some officers are embracing them and rounding up people, particularly teenage children, for crimes they know good and well they didn't commit — locking them away sometimes for days, weeks, months, or even years at a time — then simply dismissing the charges. This isn't just a few rogue cops, but an entire precinct is doing this and they are partnering with the Bronx District Attorney's Office to make it happen. With threats, and even brute force, kids are being coerced to identify and testify against people they don't even know. Officers are terrorizing families, snatching kids out of their beds, not a few times, but dozens of times per child, sometimes arresting them on false charges, sending them to Rikers, then releasing them months later. Cops think they can do anything they want and it appears they can. Pedro is being framed. They tried to frame him over and over again before this case. And other kids are being framed too. And the kids and families who've been victimized by this scandal are hollow shells of their former selves. The Police Commissioner, the Comptroller, and the Mayor all know about this and are doing nothing.'"

Eric Levitz in New York Magazine, "Democrats Paid a Huge Price for Letting Unions Die: The GOP understands how important labor unions are to the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party, historically, has not. If you want a two-sentence explanation for why the Midwest is turning red (and thus, why Donald Trump is president), you could do worse than that. [...] With its financial contributions and grassroots organizing, the labor movement helped give Democrats full control of the federal government three times in the last four decades. And all three of those times — under Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — Democrats failed to pass labor law reforms that would to bolster the union cause. In hindsight, it's clear that the Democratic Party didn't merely betray organized labor with these failures, but also, itself." I think this article is too generous to Democrats, since they have also spent part of that time actively undermining unions.

Nathan Newman, "NY Real Estate Lobbies Protect Trump Corruption- and GOP Control of State Senate w Help of Cuomo-IDC Dems: We need to break the power of corrupt NY real estate — then expose Trump money laundering, stop obscenely low luxury property taxes & end GOP control of NY Senate."

Rachel M. Cohen at The Intercept: "Democrats In A New York County Refuse To Pledge Loyalty To Candidates Just Because Party Endorses Them: A COUNTY DEMOCRATIC committee in New York voted down an extreme proposal on Tuesday night that would have required all members to pledge loyalty to candidates endorsed by the state, local, or national party. Progressives on the committee in Chemung County, on the Pennsylvania border, viewed the proposed loyalty pledge as an attempt by establishment Democrats to silence their dissent; they spent the week leading up to the meeting organizing opposition from members of the 20-person committee. At the meeting, the committee voted down the oath in its current format, but did not get rid of it entirely."

"Bernie Sanders Is Quietly Building a Digital Media Empire [...] The Vermont senator, who's been comparing corporate television programming to drugs and accusing it of creating a 'nation of morons' since at least 1979 — and musing to friends about creating an alternative news outlet for at least as long — has spent the last year and a half building something close to a small network out of his office in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill."

Also from Eric Levitz, "The Liberal Media Can Have Ideological Diversity Without Conservatives" — My main problem with this piece is that by "liberal media" he still seems to be talking about not-so-liberal organs like The New York Times.

Joe Cirincione and Guy Saperstin in The Nation, "Progressives Need a New Way to Talk About National Security: Voters say they support cuts in defense spending — Democrats should, too." I can go along with this, but I still maintain that our real national security is economic security for everyone.

Zach Carter and Arthur Delaney, "How The ACORN Scandal Seeded Today's Nightmare Politics: Breitbart led the charge, but Democrats delivered the killing blow. Has anyone really learned?" This is one of many pernicious examples of Democrats helping Republicans dismantle the progressive infrastructure that helped the party as a whole, The jury is still out on just how much of a creep Obama was regarding Shirley Sherrod, and whether Democrats keep voting to fund abstinence-only sex "education" out of stupidity or puritanism (or just a desire to funnel more money into the right-wing gravy train), but I still wish I could ask Bill Clinton what the hell he thought the outcome of "ending welfare as we know it" and turning the criminal justice system into a meat-grinder for minorities and the poor would be - and whether he did it out of malice or stupidity. And don't get me started on the Telecommunications Act.

Aalya Ahmad, "Working for the Weekend: The labour movement should renew its demands for a shorter workweek: Our communities are crumbling under capitalism and the obscene inequalities it creates. Income inequality has steadily risen in Canada over the past 20 years. The threat of climate change is becoming ever more obvious while environmental policies progress more slowly than melting glaciers. While workers in Canada are waging vital campaigns such as the Fight for $15 to improve wages for those who are paid the least, the mobilization around fairer compensation is just one part of the struggle to resist workers' exploitation. One of the oldest rallying cries of the labour movement is to reduce the time that workers spend working."

"How Clintonites Are Manufacturing Faux Progressive Congressional Campaigns [...] For it seems that progressive candidates aren't the only ones who learned the lesson of Bernie Sanders in 2016; the neoliberal Clintonites have too. So, while left-wing campaigns crop up in every corner of the country, so too do astroturf faux-progressive campaigns. And it is for us on the left to parse through it all and separate the authentic from the frauds."

Norman Solomon at Common Dreams, "Why the DNC Is Fighting WikiLeaks and Not Wall Street: Willingness to challenge Wall Street would alienate some of the Democratic Party's big donors." Gosh, I wonder why that is?

Michelle Cottle in The Atlantic, "Hillary Clinton's High Profile Is Hurting the Democrats: She dismisses those who tell her to step aside, but at this rate she will harm her political future and aid the GOP. [...] You know how Donald Trump seems weirdly, almost pathologically, obsessed with Clinton, despite the election having occurred nearly a year and a half ago? He is not alone. The Republican base (as hosts at Fox News can attest) still hates Clinton with the heat of a thousand suns. Is that rational? No. Is it a super-effective way for the GOP to fire up its base with high-stakes midterms approaching? To quote that great political sage Sarah Palin, you betcha!"

"For Democrats, the Russian Investigation Is Not Just Patriotic — It's Smart Politics: After a year of #RussiaGate, the Democrats have both their base and the entire country right where they want them." Democrats and independents increasingly believe in the myths around Russiagate, including that somehow the "dank memes" of Russian bots are what swung the election for Trump (God knows how), even though there is no evidence for any of it. Oh, and it provides a platform to attack Sanders as a Russian dupe or colluder, as well.

"Wrong-way Democrats: Will a 'blue dog' blue wave pave the way for future disaster?: Democrats will win big this fall (probably). But are they just repeating the mistakes of the Clinton-Obama era? [...] One especially trenchant observer on this front is activist, blogger and longtime music exec Howie Klein, who has repeatedly expressed his frustration with the Democratic Party's efforts to intervene in the midterms, and the way the struggle has been covered in the media. Klein discussed the Southern California races recently on his Down With Tyranny! blog, writing that DCCC-favored candidates "are always conservatives and never independent-minded agents of change.' A day before that: 'The DCCC has 38 candidates on their Red To Blue list so far. I count three who are worth voting for &mdash' and I'm not even 100% sure about one of the three. At least nine of them are outright Blue Dogs. ... And 21 of them are admitted New Dems.'"

Jeff Weaver has written a book, How Bernie Won: Inside the Revolution That's Taking Back Our Country--and Where We Go from Here.

Interview in The Nation, "Thomas Frank: Trump Could Win the 2020 Election: But we can also stop him."

Gaius Publius, "How the Democrats Could, and Probably Will, Blow 2020"

An Al Jazeera reporter went undercover to look for the much-touted anti-semitism of the British left, but mainly found a state-sponsored PR campaign to promote the idea that criticizing Israel's policies is anti-semitism. "Al Jazeera Investigations exposes how the Israel lobby influences British politics. A six-month undercover investigation reveals how Israel penetrates different levels of British democracy."

Jonathan Cook, "Anti-Semitism. Orchestrated Offensive against Jeremy Corbyn in the UK: For months, a campaign has been aimed at destabilising British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, accused of anti-Semitism. The right-wing party, Tony Blair's heir, and pro-Israel circles are targeting both Corbyn's left-wing line and his support for the Palestinian people."

I might be inclined to agree with a lot of Michelle Goldberg's "How the Online Left Fuels the Right" if she didn't screw it up by talking about people like Ben Shapiro as if they are prepared to argue in good faith . They're not, and anyway, that's not the point. Call-out culture on the left just isn't very good at making friends, period.

"Another Side of Feynman: Nine letters by Freeman Dyson portray his relationship with the Nobel Laureate."

"This magical drug mansion in Upstate New York is where the psychedelic '60s took off: Owned by one of America's richest families, Millbrook hosted Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Mingus and more"

This is a few years old but it cracked me up. "One Restaurant Owner Has Been Waging An Online War With Vegans For Two Months Now"

The Four Tops, "Baby, I Need Your Loving", because sometimes I just gotta get up and dance to it.

16:58 GMT comment


Tuesday, 01 May 2018

I got sunshine

Read this scary thread from @ArshyMann. (And, while on the one hand, I've been acutely aware, and most women at least sense, that this kind of projection exists and is dangerous to us, I admit I never would have predicted it as a proud identity.) "For the past little while, I've been working on a piece about Toronto's relationship to the alt-right, especially the "manosphere." Unfortunately that research has become relevant. I'm going to share as much as I can here for people who may not be familiar with these movements."

"Portland Burgerville workers approve federally recognized union: Workers at a Burgerville in Southeast Portland overwhelmingly approved the formation of a federally-recognized union, making them the first to do so since a fast-food labor fight erupted nationally five years ago."

"Electronics-recycling innovator is going to prison for trying to extend computers' lives: A Southern California man who built a sizable business out of recycling electronic waste is headed to federal prison for 15 months after a federal appeals court in Miami rejected his claim that the "restore discs" he made to extend computers' lives had no financial value, instead ruling that he had infringed on Microsoft Corp. to the tune of $700,000." This is basically corporate prosecution of a private citizen to prevent him from helping people save a bit of money.

"Barcelona Forces Banks to Turn Repossessed Homes Into Affordable Housing: To address a housing shortage, Spain's second city says bank-owned properties can no longer sit empty." This is a great idea and American cities should be doing the same.

"USA Today: Nearly Two Thirds of Americans Have Given Up On Political Parties: (IVN) Many Americans will be staying out of the voting booth for the 2018 elections, disillusioned by the promises of politicians and convinced that the political system is irreparably corrupt."

David Dayen says, "Whether America Can Afford A Job Guarantee Program Is Not Up For Debate: SEN. BERNIE SANDERS'S endorsement of a guaranteed job for anyone who wants one, joining previous supporters such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker, reinvigorated a debate that has been roiling within economics Twitter and academic circles for a long time. Those more partial to a universal basic income untethered to work clash with job guarantee supporters from the left; those who see the job guarantee as a dangerous slip into socialism attack from the right. And mainstream Democrats not running for the presidency don't really want to talk about it. Those fresh to the debate, meanwhile, instinctively ask what feels like an intuitive question: How on earth can we pay for that? But if we're going to have an honest debate about whether the government should be spending hundreds of billions of dollars so that people can obtain jobs, we should acknowledge that the government already does. Officials at the local, state, and federal levels push enormous amounts of money toward this stated purpose — they just channel it through corporations, in the form of special tax breaks and 'economic development' subsidies. It's not clear that businesses actually use all that money to create jobs, rather than just enjoying the subsidies and tax cuts for themselves, so if the true purpose really is to create work for people, the new jobs guarantee debate offers a much simpler — and probably much cheaper — approach to the same end."

It would be nice to believe they would do this stuff if they ever got back in control of Congress: "Kirsten Gillibrand Unveils A Public Option For Banking: The idea would provide a low-cost alternative to payday loans -- and it might just save the Postal Service, too." It would also be nice to think the Dems would get rid of that stupid requirement to fund all Post Office pensions 75 years in advance, which is the very thing we have to save the Post Office from.

"Speaker Ryan Firing Chaplain Conroy Is True Attack on Religious Liberty: Fr. Patrick J. Conroy, a Jesuit priest who served as Chaplain to the US House of Representatives, has been fired by Speaker Paul Ryan. Though the Speaker declined to justify his action, Fr. Conroy told the New York Times that Ryan had admonished him after a public prayer for the poor, 'Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.' As clergy who, like Fr. Conroy, have taken vows to preach the Word of God, we do not see how you can read the Bible and stay out of politics. Isaiah 10 speaks directly to lawmakers: 'Woe unto you who legislate evil and rob the poor, making widows and orphans your prey.' Jeremiah received a Word from the Lord in chapter 22, saying, 'God down to the palace of the king and declare, 'Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.' These are not only the public priorities of the Hebrew prophets. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says he will judge nations — not individuals — by asking, 'When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink?' The epistle of James makes clear that God opposes anyone who prevents workers from receiving a living wage..."

David Dayen, "Ryan's Hope [...] Nobody deserved to go out in shame more than Ryan did; I'm sad it didn't come when he lost his Speaker's gavel or, worse, when he lost his seat. (I don't buy that "see I'm popular!" poll he released showing him up 21 points on Randy Bryce, but even if it were true, a 55% re-elect for a 20-year Congressman and national leader isn't that good). He deserved to go out the way Thomas Foley did in 1994, after he was targeted by Newt Gingrich and doomed to defeat in his eastern Washington district. Ryan was a con man and a liar armed with terrible, unpopular ideas that he somehow grifted the national media into thinking were responsible. His budgets were innumerate, hiding the class warfare and mass suffering they would have caused with phony numbers. His philosophy was bankrupt, hated by those who actually divined its intentions. His concern for anyone who couldn't buy him a $350 bottle of wine was fake, and his great dream in live was to take away their safety net as they crashed to Earth. And he was actually a bad politician, swinging his home state and even his home district further away from Republicans when he became the vice presidential nominee. But make no mistake: Ryan won. His sensibilities matched the pain demands of the Washington Post editorial board, who joined his call to starve the poor. And while he didn't reach his cherished goals of crushing Social Security and Medicare, he did force a Democratic administration into the smallest percentage of public investment since the Eisenhower era. He did deliver one of the most imbalanced, gimmicky, gift-style tax cuts to corporate America in history. He did preserve most of the last giant tax cut, which was more larded on the rich. Because Washington can be amoral and stupid, Paul Ryan was seen as its one-eyed king, its boy wonder. And the inequality statistics don't lie as to his success. We'll spend the next generation burying the Ryan era."

Alex Pareene, "If We Had a Liberal Media We Wouldn't Have Had a Paul Ryan [...] The sheer admiration the political press has shown for him since then can't even be explained by something like his popularity — he is deeply unpopular, almost entirely because his ideas are deeply unpopular, and that is in spite of a years-long campaign by our liberal media to launder those ideas. If longtime Washington journalists treat plans to literally end Medicare, among the most popular programs in the history of American governance, as not just 'serious' but arguably necessary, by what possible definition can the elite media be said to be 'liberal'?"

David Dayen, "The Art of the Let Me Back in That Deal: The thing about lacking any core beliefs is that it's liberating. Donald Trump, who spent the entire presidential campaign calling the Trans-Pacific Partnership the worst trade deal ever written, now is openly musing about re-joining it. The flip-flop is rooted in desperation. Trump has managed to figure out that China's retaliatory tariffs slam farm states, and he's digging up any policy he can find to keep them happy, including going back to New Deal-era farm supports! Trump as FDR! Like I said, liberating. TPP is part of that mix, not only as an alleged opening of new markets (which it isn't, as the U.S. already has bilateral agreements with countries representing the overwhelming majority of TPP economies) but as another provocation to China, as a pretext to get them to bargain.It's also true that the TPP agreed to by the other eleven nations is substantially different than the one negotiated by President Obama, particularly on intellectual property for pharmaceuticals. That's good news for the global poor who won't be held up by multinationals for life-saving medications, but bad news for the multinationals who urged the U.S. to sign TPP. Those nations aren't interested in re-opening that can of worms, even as Trump conditioned re-entry on a "substantially better" deal. Of course, none of this is going to happen. The tariffs and this TPP play are all fodder for some negotiated settlement with China. I'm not sure that'll come about either. But Trump's not a very good bluffer. And he's betrayed the workers he incited with TPP opposition in the process. All in a day's work."

Oh, look, here's Steny Hoyer on video trying to elbow a progressive candidate out of the primaries to clear the road for another corporate hustler of Hoyer's choosing.
* And here's Lee Fang's story on the background of the candidates and the maneuvering in the DCCC.

Ryan Grim, "National Democrats created a competitive primary in New York, infuriating the local party. Another case where the DCCC tries to overrule the grassroots by recruiting a loser to run against their candidate. "In Syracuse, New York, a heavily Democratic city, things didn't go quite as well. The party's nominee for mayor, Juanita Perez Williams, lost in a landslide to an independent candidate, even managing to lose her own neighborhood by two to one. In some lines of work, a failure so complete might earn somebody a demotion, a period of probation, or a rethinking of whether the career path and the skillset are a perfect marriage. But this is Democratic Party politics, where consequences are for the people, not the politicians. And so, the performance earned her an invitation to the headquarters of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, touching off another intraparty saga that would go on to pit the national party against grassroots activists. Within just a few days of the loss, Perez Williams was in Washington, D.C., sitting down with top-tier Democratic operatives who saw, in her failed campaign, the makings of a promising 2018 congressional candidate."

Uh oh, it's the Judean People's Front versus the People's Judean Front versus the People's Front of Judea... Benjamin Studebaker, "The Left is Not a Church [...] You know how the religious right became a big deal in the United States? It stopped acting like a bunch of churches. It stopped caring whether you were Catholic or Protestant, whether you were Evangelical or Mainline. It stopped caring if you were Mormon. It even stopped caring if you went to church. All the religious right cares about is whether your policies work for them and whether you have a realistic strategy for implementing those policies. If you're anti-abortion you can have three wives, cheat on all of them constantly, never go to church, and brag about abusing women. You can be Donald Trump. It doesn't matter. The religious right sees itself as trying to save millions of people from being brutally murdered by their own mothers. It will subordinate all petty theological disputes to the overarching goal of putting a stop to the killing. They are relentless. They take their goals seriously."

Ryan Grim at The Intercept, "Democrat claimed independent status in election filings, but records show he was a Republican [...] Butner was recruited to run in California's 50th Congressional District by the Democratic leaders, yet his progressive opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, has won the endorsement of the state Democratic Party and the bulk of the activist groups in the district." He has a remarkably spotty voting record, but it's all Republican. "Elsewhere around the country, the Democrat leadership's zeal for veterans to run for office has led them to back other former Republicans. In Texas's 21st Congressional District, Joseph Kopser was previously registered as a Republican, having grown up in a conservative family. In Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, the party's chosen candidate, Elaine Luria, voted for her own Republican opponent not once, but twice. Gil Cisneros, a candidate in California's 39th District, is a Navy veteran and former Republican who had registered as a Democrat in 2015, after three years as an independent. He was named on Wednesday to the DCCC's Red-to-Blue program, tantamount to an endorsement. Butner came under fire earlier in the campaign for insisted that military service should be a prerequisite for a run for Congress."

David Dayen and Ryan Grim, "Democratic Party-Backed Candidate Leaves Groggy Voicemail Warning For Opponent: 'I'm Gonna Go Negative On You': WHEN KAREN THORBURN checked messages on her home answering machine on a Wednesday evening in early April, one of them was not like the others. It was a groggy-sounding voice, leaving a short but to-the-point message for her husband, Andy, who is running for Congress in California's 39th District. 'Hi Andy. It's Gil Cisneros. I'm gonna go negative on you,' the man said, before going silent for an awkward four seconds and hanging up. [...] The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named Cisneros to the list of candidates it's supporting in races around the country. He is running to replace incumbent Republican Ed Royce, who is retiring. The crowded district was recently featured in a New York Times article about the party's interventions in California primaries, which the DCCC laments have been forced upon it by events outside its control. But a closer look at the district finds a mess very much of the party's own making."

Conor Lynch at Salon, "Bernie Sanders criticizes Democrats, they flip out (again): Has politics become team sports? Sanders' comments about Democratic failures aren't even controversial. But for some partisans, he's the enemy [...] It is not so much the message but the messenger that infuriates them. It's also true, however, that the idea Sanders represents — namely, that principles should come before party, and that politics should not be treated like a team sport — is anathema to these committed partisans. [...] Another interesting finding in Mason's research is that those who identify as 'conservative' demonstrate 'significantly less issue-based constraint.' As she notes, this is consistent with the research of Christopher Ellis and James Stimson, who find that 'American conservatives tend to be relatively left-leaning in their issue-based preferences, while liberals also hold left-leaning attitudes.' In other words, so-called conservatives are even more likely to be driven by group identity than liberals, even though they might actually agree with liberal or progressive positions on many issues. It's no wonder, then, that Sanders, who talks about the issues and offers progressive solutions that are popular with the broader public, while avoiding overheated partisan, has appeal not just to liberals and young people in blue states but to many voters in traditionally Red states. Though identity-based ideology has grown more pervasive over the past few decades, there is still a strong underlying desire for issue-based candidates."

"The Democratic Party is paying millions for Hillary Clinton's email list, FEC documents show: HEADING INTO THE 2018 midterms, with Democrats hoping to take back the House of Representatives and even make a run at the Senate, the party has spent more than $2 million worth of campaign resources on payments to Hillary Clinton's new group, Onward Together, according to Federal Election Commission filings and interviews with people familiar with the payments. The Democratic National Committee is paying $1.65 million for access to the email list, voter data, and software produced by Hillary for America during the 2016 presidential campaign, Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the DNC, told The Intercept. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has paid more than $700,000 to rent the same email list. Clinton is legally entitled to rent her list to the party, rather than hand it over as a gift, but in 2015, Barack Obama gave his email list, valued at $1,942,640, to the DNC as an in-kind contribution. In 2013 and 2014, OFA had similarly made in-kind contributions exceeding $3.4 million for uses of the list that cycle." Of course, the party is even more cash-strapped than it was back then. Irritatingly, the Clintonites spent months bashing Bernie Sanders for not handing over his email list for free.

The Pied Piper strikes again. "Dems Meddle In WV To Boost Ex-Con Coal Baron In GOP Senate Primary: National Democrats have been not-so-quietly hoping that controversial ex-con and coal baron Don Blankenship wins the West Virginia GOP Senate primary in a few weeks, seeing him as by far the easiest opponent for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Now, they're stepping up to try to make that happen."

Why commercial medicine is a bad idea: "Goldman Sachs Analysts Question Whether Curing Patients Is Good for Business." These guys talk about infectious diseases being spread by carriers like it's a good thing.

"Why we can always afford a war: Patricia Pino and Christian Reilly discuss Government 'debt' and explain why politicians never ask 'how are you going to pay for it?' when it comes to war."

Robert Fisk at the Independent: "The search for truth in the rubble of Douma — and one doctor's doubts over the chemical attack: [...] As Dr Assim Rahaibani announces this extraordinary conclusion, it is worth observing that he is by his own admission not an eyewitness himself and, as he speaks good English, he refers twice to the jihadi gunmen of Jaish el-Islam [the Army of Islam] in Douma as 'terrorists' — the regime's word for their enemies, and a term used by many people across Syria. Am I hearing this right? Which version of events are we to believe?"

"American media wrong on Syria coverage" — Mark Crispin Miller makes the point that while people assume that Russia Today is propaganda, Americans don't understand that the same is true of the "free press" in the United States.

And that goes for Britain as well, where in true MSNBC fashion, the narrative of the elites is the only one that matters at the Guardian, who aren't interested when a seasoned and accomplished war reporter actually goes to Douma and tries to make sense of events, only to be dismissed like an unfounded rumor, in favor of people whose "expertise" is based on not being there and being pro-regime change.

"Eyeless in Gaza: Write down: I, Uri Avnery, soldier number 44410 of the Israel army, hereby dissociate myself from the army sharpshooters who murder unarmed demonstrators along the Gaza Strip, and from their commanders, who give them the orders, up to the commander in chief."

Poor beleaguered Andrew Cuomo is at war with the evil teachers' union. "Andrew Cuomo rips teacher unions as selfish 'industry' more interested in members' rights than student needs: A passionate Gov. Cuomo upped his war with the teacher unions on Thursday, charging that they represent themselves — not the students." It's funny how much he sounds like a Republican. I hope Cynthia Nixon wipes the floor with him She already has the Working Families Party endorsement (won with 91% of the committee vote). I never thought I'd be endorsing a candidate named "Nixon", but jeez she's good! Look at this: "Cynthia Nixon Puts Legalizing Marijuana Front and Center of Campaign: Cynthia Nixon on Wednesday made legalizing recreational marijuana the first policy plank of her campaign for governor, framing it as a necessary step toward reducing racial inequities in the criminal justice system — and, in doing so, bringing to the forefront an issue that may help her make inroads into Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's robust support among black voters. [...] In a brief homemade video posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Ms. Nixon, seated in her living room, speaking over a faint but steady hum of background noise, said 80 percent of New Yorkers arrested in connection with marijuana use were black or Latino, despite roughly equal rates of use among white people and communities of color. [...] The simple truth is, for white people, the use of marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time. Isn't it time we legalize it for everybody else?"

Cuomo also hasn't been that kind to immigrants, but at least he knows he's in a fight this time around, and he's making everyone laugh with his attempts to cash in on other people's identities. "Andrew Cuomo Keeps Calling Himself 'Undocumented,' Which, Hmmm [...] During a union rally last Wednesday, Cuomo proclaimed that he was 'raised by poor immigrants from South Jamaica.' (South Jamaica is a neighborhood in Queens. His father, Mario Cuomo, was born in New York, and his mother, Matilda Cuomo, was also born in New York.) A day later, the governor said in the same vein, 'I'm an Italian-American, I came from poor Italian-Americans who came here. You know what they called Italian-Americans back in the day? They called them wops. You know what wop stood for? Without papers. I'm undocumented. You want to deport an undocumented person, start with me, because I'm an undocumented person.'" Well, no, it didn't, and he isn't, and his farther was the Governor of New York.

Meanwhile in Florida, unbelievably, "Patrick Murphy And David Jolly Want To Insert Third Way Into The Florida Governor's Race" - just what everyone wants, a "bipartisan" ticket with an "ex"-Republican and a real Republican, the ultimate DINO/RINO punch. God help us all.

"Health Insurers Spend $158K to Make Sure 'Blue Wave' Is Against Medicare for All: Tweet In the current cycle, big health insurers have quietly donated more than $150,000 to Democrats opposed to Medicare for All legislation."

Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, "What else have they gotten wrong?" - This is really about what the GOP and libertarians and "centrists" have gotten wrong about regulations and business, but the interesting thing is that, "This month, Washington Monthly looked at a libertarian economist Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University's Mercatus Center. Tabarrok went looking for the effects of federal regulation on "economic dynamism" expecting to find support for the conservative dogma that government regulation harms the economy. He found none. What is remarkable is he published the paper anyway."

Branko Marcetic at Jacobin, "The Two Faces of Kamala Harris: Kamala Harris has matched every one of her progressive achievements with conservative ones." At first I was thinking, "Hm, maybe she's better than she seems...." And then I read further.

Teodrose Fikre, "I Don't Give a Damn about the First (Insert Identity Here) CEO or President: Do you know what literally repulses me these days? Hearing about the first so and so to get accepted into the exclusive club of the aristocracy. Frankly, I don't give a damn about the latest first black president or first woman CEO. Who cares! I don't know how we have arrived at this notion where we measure the wellness of humanity not based on the well being of the least of the citizenry who suffer in silence but based on the accumulation of the wealthiest among us. This annoyance of mine got revved up to full blown peeve two days ago when I heard a report of how Kamala Harris has a chance to become the first black woman president."

Valerie Tarico at AlterNet, "Here's Why Some Progressives Are Tearing Each Other Apart: Progressives are telling two different stories about the world we live in and the future we are trying to create. In important ways, they clash."

Smári McCarthy, "Universal coverage is good economics: Healthcare costs less and performs better when societies pull together. Unfortunately, Icelandic conservatives want American inefficiencies."

Democracy in Exile: The Rise of the Defense Intellectual w/ Daniel Bessner — Really interesting interview by Michael Brooks on The Majority Report looking at the history of how what started as a noble goal in the wake of the Nazi horror developed into the antidemocratic force for evil that the foreign policy community is today.

Reminders still always needed: "How the Koch brothers helped dismantle the Democratic Party: For over 20 years I have reported on the mostly unnoted role played by the Democratic Leadership Council dismantling the Democratic Party, disconnecting it from its New Deal and Great Society past and turning it into Republican Lite. [...] Such a partnership — between something called the Democratic Leadership Council and the Koch Brothers — goes a long way to explaining why our last two Democratic presidents have been so disloyal to their party's traditions. And why Obama is pushing something as atrocious and anti-American as the secret TPP agreement. Bipartisanship may be gone on Capitol Hill, but it's still flourishing in the checks that are written for politicians."

Here's a worthy project: putting data in the hands of advocates. "Democratic party leaders believe that Americans are more conservative than they actually are, and believe that supporting progressive candidates will hurt them electorally." But the data doesn't support this belief, and apparently if legislators see that their constituents support progressive policies, they are more likely to move toward those policies. And here's the article that sums it up, from Sean McElwee at Vice, "If Democrats Listened to Their Voters, They'd Be Moving Left: The Democratic base overwhelmingly supports progressive positions. It's time for the party to pay attention."

Jeff Spross in The Week, "Bernie Sanders has conquered the Democratic Party: Bernie Sanders' bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 was not universally welcomed, to put it mildly. His basic argument was that Democrats could assemble a cross-ethnic and cross-class coalition by offering big universal public programs like Medicare-for-all and free college tuition. But large portions of the party dismissed him as an interloper, a naive radical, or even just another entitled white male. Which makes developments since the 2016 election rather interesting: Quietly but steadily, the Democratic Party is admitting that Sanders was right."

Damon Linker, "Why can't liberals accept the truth about Hillary's 2016 failure? [...] I have no idea if Sanders would have fared better against Trump than Clinton did. But I do know that Clinton was the worst possible person to answer the angry accusations of a populist insurgency from either the protectionist right or the socialist left. She was too much a contented representative and beneficiary of the very political and economic establishments against which Trump directed his fire. She was the Davos candidate, the woman who defied the advice of her handlers to accept six-figure speaking fees from investment banks at events where she wooed rooms full of potential donors by dreaming of a world of open borders - a world in which the last remaining businesses to pay a decent wage in the Rust Belt would be given the green light to flee in pursuit of ever-higher profits. To counter that Trump-the-corrupt-real-estate-mogul is just as much a member of the nation's economic elite misses the political point entirely. A populist defines himself by those he attacks, and Trump attacked those in power. Who did Clinton attack? The "deplorable" voters who were tempted to vote for Trump - and she did it, of course, at a big-ticket fundraiser, before a room full of wealthy liberal donors." (I didn't think this article answered the question in the title, though.)

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink talks a good game about corporations taking account of their effect on the community, but actions speak louder, and some say "BlackRock Wields Its Big Stick Like a Wet Noodle on C.E.O. Pay."

Umair Haque, "Why We're Underestimating American Collapse: The Strange New Pathologies of the World's First Rich Failed State" — I have to take issue with the idea that it's the "first rich failed state". All those places in the Bible that God smote were pretty big deals with lots of wealth concentrated at the top, and they failed, too.

Corey Pein, "'Like Selling Crack to Children': A Peek Inside the Silicon Valley Grift Machine: Without rampant, unchecked fraud, I came to realize, the entire digital media business would collapse."
* Pein discussed this on The Michael Brooks Show

Now even Bloomberg is talking about it. "U.S. Jobs Guarantee Held Out as Path to True 'Full Employment'." Well, that's just true. I wonder why it's catching on.

Speaking of that, the neoliberals have been remarkably successful at convincing some people that the New Deal was nothing but a racist gift to white people and did nothing for black America. This would be false even if not a single penny of it went directly to any black people, since it brought a lot of money into the real economy at the lowest levels, which benefited everyone - but it's also not true that New Deal money only went directly into white people's hands. There is absolutely no question that, yes, some important parts of the New Deal blocked help for black Americans (and don't even get me started on red-lining), but even if you leave aside the fact that the programs we still have were since expanded to include them, there was also the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
* I also found this amusingly prescient prediction of the future from 1967 at the History site.

Hmmm, who's leading in the latest presidential poll? No surprises. (Details here in this .pdf.)

The Onion, "Fuming Rachel Maddow Spends Entire Show Just Pointing Wildly At Picture Of Putin"

"It's The Hubble Space Telescope's Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula"

"This Incredible Vintage Film Shows a Trip Through New York City in 1911"

Have some fun loop animations.

The Temptations My Girl Original Video Recording 1964

16:19 GMT comment


Saturday, 14 April 2018

The boundaries in between

This is just a neat old picture of Arthur Thomson drawing direct to stencil that Rob Hansen found in someone's old photo collection. Arthur once asked me why everyone called him "ATom" in print instead of just "Atom", which is what he thought he was writing. He didn't seem to realize his signature came across that way.

Despite the best efforts of the Democratic leadership to protect Paul Ryan, someone is finally challenging him and, whoops! Not so safe anymore! So, not surprisingly, "Paul Ryan will not seek re-election in 2018 midterms amid Republican fears of losing House and Senate: The 2012 Vice Presidential candidate is said to have grown increasingly frustrated working with the president." Or maybe the fact that everyone hates him and no one wants him in office could have swayed him, and he knows he can go on to bigger things in some cushy corporate pay-back job.

David Dayen, "Save the VA: The power struggle inside the Department of Veterans Affairs burst into the open this week with the firing of David Shulkin, replaced by a blank slate who served as the president's doctor. But this has been simmering for some time as a war between a Koch Brothers-funded front group that wants to privatize the VA health system, the overwhelming mass of veteran's groups that don't, and a president who doesn't know or care much about the details but is easily led. Shulkin's post-firing op-ed lays out the battle lines."

Dean Baker, "We Win Trade War! China Goes Generic Big Time: Donald Trump has proved the skeptics wrong, it seems that the American people stand to be big winners as a result of his trade war. The Chinese government announced a major initiative to promote the manufacture and use of generic drugs. The reason this is potentially a big deal for the United States is that it could mean that China intends to push the envelope in replacing drugs protected by government-granted patent monopolies with drugs sold at free market prices. While the TRIPS provisions of the WTO do require members to respect patents and copyrights, there are flexibilities, such as compulsory licensing, to allow far more competition that what we see in the United States market."

"Arizona Democrats Show Up In Record Numbers, Told They're Registered Republicans." This problem seems to be cropping up all over the country. Check now to make sure your registration is in place and correct, because an awful lot of people are finding these odd little anomalies when they go in to vote.

"Supreme Court rules police officer cannot be sued for shooting Arizona woman in her front yard: The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a lawsuit an Arizona woman tried to bring against a Tucson officer who shot her four times in her front yard in May 2010. In an unsigned opinion, the court said the officer, Andrew Kisela, was entitled to qualified immunity in the shooting of Amy Hughes. [...] The court's decision Monday reverses a 9th Circuit Court ruling in favor of Hughes. The lower court said Kisela had used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court, however, said Kisela was entitled to qualified immunity because there is no prior case setting a precedent that his use of force in this situation would be excessive. [...] In a scathing dissent, which Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court has never required a factually identical case to satisfy the 'clearly established' precedent standard. 'It's decision is not just wrong on the law; it also sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public,' she wrote. 'It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.'"

"Texas woman sentenced to 5 years in prison for voting while on probation: If she had known it was illegal, Crystal Mason said she would have never cast a vote in the 2016 presidential election."

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