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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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Thursday, 08 March 2018

Did you follow the Crystal Swan?

Bless you, Matt Taibbi. "If We Want Kids to Stop Killing, the Adults Have to Stop, Too"

Apart from a few scenes in Bowling for Columbine, this is an explanation you won't hear very much. Military spending is the lifeline of virtually every federally-elected politician in the country. You've been to trained seal shows where the animals get a fish every time they perform? The same principle works with members of Congress and defense contracts.

The U.S. is more dependent than ever on a quasi-socialistic system that redistributes tax dollars to defense projects in even fashion across both Republican and Democratic congressional districts. A few times a year, you'll spot a news story about someone in the Pentagon trying to refuse a spending initiative, only to be told to keep building by Congress.

Yes, I remember Michael Moore being the only public figure I have ever seen asking this important question about the simple fact that while other countries have guns, they don't have all this shooting people going on. And why is that? Isn't it the constant ginning up of fear and hate our own mass media has dedicated itself to?

* * * * *

I am so bored with Russian bots. Seems they tweeted or Facebooked everyone, but the Clintonites are of course out in force saying, "Bernie benefited from Russian bots and he should answer for this!" or similar. It's annoying. The whole story gets stupider by the day. They also seem to think they have "proof" that Putin was elevating Jill Stein, although the bots gave Clinton at least as much of a boost as they gave Stein. 13 bots sent out memes saying, among other things, "Hillary is a Satan" (they also sent out pro-Clinton posts and retweeted the hell out of Joy Reid), and this supposedly swung Clinton voters away from voting for her, which is an interesting theory about the minds of potential Clinton voters. Anyway here's a good comment from Atrios on the subject.

At a blog that bears a mysterious resemblance to Billmon's Whiskey Bar, we learn "'Russian bots' - How An Anti-Russian Lobby Creates Fake News: The U.S. mainstream media are going nuts. They now make up and report stories based on the uncritical acceptance of an algorithm they do not want to understand and which is known to produce fake results. [...] In other words - the "Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia" were following the current news just as cable news networks do. When a new sensational event happened they immediately jumped onto it. But the NYT authors go to length to claim that there is some nefarious Russian scheme behind this that uses automated accounts to spread divisive issues. [...] The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that the NYT reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi, continue with the false assumptions that most or all of these accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious."

I sometimes find Jimmy Dore a bit over-the-top but this clip gives you a more accurate picture of what's really going on than any of our more "responsible" coverage provides. It's embarrassing to see people like Ari Melber repeating nonsense about how Sanders (but not Clinton) has to answer for the social media junk that apparently supported the campaign.

"Hyping the Mueller Indictment: Do the charges against Russian individuals and organizations really describe the 'second-worst foreign attack on America'? [...] Neoconservative pundit Max Boot decries 'the second-worst foreign attack on America,' after 9/11, one that 'may be even more corrosive.' According to liberal Jonathan Alter, the Russians have launched 'an attack that - but for the loss of life - is as bad as Pearl Harbor.' Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler concurs, explaining to MSNBC: 'They didn't kill anyone but they're destroying our democratic process.' Not in the amount of violence, but in the seriousness, it is very much on par.'" You could just bang your head against a wall.

Norman Solomon at Truthdig, "Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network? [...] In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders' refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey - MSNBC's ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?"

* * * * *

Haaretz, "To Leave Gaza, Israel Asks Palestinian Minors to Commit They Not Return for a Year: Israel imposes harsher restrictions on Gazan kids leaving the Strip for abroad, demanding they sign an agreement to stay away. On January 24, 17-year-old Hadil and her three younger siblings arrived at the Erez Checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, they'd received an Israeli permit to leave Gaza through Israel via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan. Since Israel didn't let their oldest brother accompany them on the trip to see their father, who lives in Sweden, Hadil got the job of being the responsible adult. At Erez, a representative of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Office asked all four to sign a commitment not to return to Gaza during the next year, adding that they wouldn't be allowed to leave if they didn't sign. Having no choice, Hadil signed for all of them. Hadil never dreamed that her signature on this commitment would result in the Liaison Office issuing more stringent instructions to its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, and in the latter defying the new rules."

"West Virginia Teachers Are Now Out on a Wildcat Strike. The Labor Movement Should Follow Their Lead. In a bright spot among an otherwise bleak landscape for labor, over 15,000 teachers and school support employees in all 55 West Virginia counties have been out on strike for seven days, as they and supporters from around the state continue to flood the capitol in Charleston, W.V., demanding higher pay and affordable healthcare. Bucking a deal struck between the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) and the state government, school workers have defied both union leadership and state law, which affords them no right to strike and does not recognize their right to collectively bargain. These restrictions haven't stopped West Virginia educators from leading what may be one of the most important labor actions in years."

"Sanders Introduces Bill to End Catastrophic US War in Yemen: Three years of U.S.-Saudi war has turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee introduced a bipartisan bill to end the U.S. role in the war - Ben Norton reports."

"2 winners and 2 losers from the 2018 Texas primary elections: Most high-profile races will go to runoffs. But there were some clear outcomes."

There is something really twisted about admitting that you think people shooting each other is healthier than masturbation. I mean, seriously. In "NRA vs. Exxxotica", our friend Mark Kernes explains why the Dallas city council has decided that a weapons-dealers' trade show is good enough for their convention center, but a return of the successful and popular Exxxotica is not.

"At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions. [...] Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. [...] But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal - their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans' attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before - it had turned conservatives into liberals."

Max Sawicky, "Is That All There Is? How Full Is Our 'Full Employment'? There's more than one reason to get jacked up over the Republicans' epic deficit orgy of 2017-18. One that deserves closer scrutiny is the view that since the economy is at full employment, this is the wrong time for deficits to increase. The temptation to lambaste the G.O.P. for its deficit perfidy may be overwhelming, but it could also be both bad economics and bad politics."

* * * * *

Atrios, with Centrism Isn't Centrism"

One of the running themes of this sucky blog is much of what is generally described as the "political center" is not and "moderate politicians" are not. Such "centrism" is mostly about issues and votes which have no constituency where Democrats are willing to join with Republicans (yay, bipartisan!). Or, at least, no constituency of voters. They're things which, usually, have a constituency of big donors. They aren't our principled deal-making "last honest people of Washington." They're our most corrupt.

Thinking otherwise allows corrupt Dems to join with equally corrupt Republicans to do things like this, and con people into thinking it's about "principled moderation" and that (in some cases) they're just representing their red state voters. Crazy liberals can't win in Missouri! Only principled moderates can!

No voters in Missouri want to eviscerate banking reforms. The most you can say with respect to electoral viability is that by pleasing big money, you prevent big money from going after you at election time. That might be true. But that's because they're going to run ads about other issues (the laundry list of Liberals Are Bad), not because supporting bank regulations is going to turn off independent minded swing voters.

I question the utility of being squishy on abortion rights and gun control, but it's fair to say that positioning might actually get some votes. Voting for future bank bailouts? Nah.

* * * * *

At Econospeak, Peter Dorman with "Divide and Rule"

There was a time, one I can remember from when I was growing up (the 1950s and 60s), when being a liberal meant you wanted certain rights and benefits for everyone, at least ostensibly. We had Social Security because everyone should have a basic pension when they retire, and all disabled people need to be cared for. Freedom of speech was for everyone, even those horrible Nazis in Skokie. Liberals wanted national health insurance so everyone could afford medical care, but settled for Medicare, a universal program for seniors. Protestors like me were not against the rhetoric of universalism but the hypocritical practice, where blacks, Mexican and Filipino farmworkers and poor single moms were denied their share. That was then.

Now, liberals are concerned about minorities and the poor. They are against privilege, which is defined as not being a minority or poor. Public programs are designed to give assistance to the most oppressed and not waste their resources on those who have the privilege to fend for themselves. A poster child for the new politics is higher education. Liberals want bigger subsidies, like more Pell Grants, for the poorest students and those who self-select by enrolling in community college. They were distraught at Bernie Sanders' call for free public higher ed for all, since that would siphon off scarce resources for the benefit of privileged, nonpoor families. From their perspective, this was proof that Bernie and his ilk were unwoke: unaware of the scourge of privilege, they even wanted public support for it.

In fact, nothing is more important for the future of progressive politics than a return to universalism. If you doubt this, read this powerful reportage in the New York Times on the divisions opened up by Obamacare. It describes two women, one working part-time and living below the poverty line who gets ample, free health coverage, the other working full-time in a middle class job who is stuck with monthly $1000 premiums and a big deductible. That's not a bug but a feature: the program was set up to focus its support on those at the bottom and charge full freight for everyone else.

The effect is to divide the working class into two groups, poor winners and nonpoor losers. The politics are toxic, as you might expect. (Yes, the reporter found a Democrat to represent women below the poverty line and a Republican for women above it, which gives it an unfortunate air of exaggeration, but the logic of the comparison remains compelling.) It is also bad social policy, since at the margin households making $80,000 a year (the middle class example) can also skimp on care if the financial pinch is too much.

* * * * *

Pankaj Mishra, "Why do white people like what I write? [...] Compared to these internationalist thinkers, partisans of the second black president, who happen to be the most influential writers and journalists in the US, have provincialised their aspiration for a just society. They have neatly separated it from opposition to an imperial dispensation that incarcerates and deports millions of people each year - disproportionately people of colour - and routinely exercises its right to assault and despoil other countries and murder and torture their citizens. Perceptive about the structural violence of the new Jim Crow, Coates has little to say about its manifestation in the new world order. For all his searing corroboration of racial stigma in America, he has yet to make a connection as vital and powerful as the one that MLK detected in his disillusioned last days between the American devastation of Vietnam and 'the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society'. He has so far considered only one of what King identified as 'the giant American triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism' - the 'inter-related flaws' that turned American society into a 'burning house' for the blacks trying to integrate into it. And in Coates's worldview even race, despite his formidable authority of personal witness, rarely transcends a rancorously polarised American politics of racial division, in which the world's most powerful man appears to have been hounded for eight years by unreconstructed American racists. 'My President Was Black', a 17,000-word profile in the Atlantic, is remarkable for its missing interrogations of the black president for his killings by drones, despoilation of Libya, Yemen and Somalia, mass deportations, and cravenness before the titans of finance who ruined millions of black as well as white lives. Coates has been accused of mystifying race and of 'essentialising' whiteness. Nowhere, however, does his view of racial identity seem as static as in his critical tenderness for a black member of the 1 per cent."

"Why are Democratic party thinktanks still not backing universal healthcare?" Well, the last time there was a roll toward some kind of single-payer-ish program, the American Enterprise Institute created a monstrosity that became RomneyCare and then Obamacare to head it off. They've shot their wad, looks like it's time for the faux "progressives" to take a shot.

* * * * *

Howie Klein, "DCCC Comes Out Of The Closet As The Progressive-Hating Attack Machine It's Been For Over A Decade. Nancy Pelosi gave a very strange interview the other day, but "Her theory behind the races exploded yesterday in Houston when the DCCC did something publicly that it usually only-- and always-- does behind the scenes where no one can watch. It viciously attacked a progressive candidate, Laura Moser, to benefit an establishment corporate shill in the primary."

Lee Fang, Ryan Grim, David Dayen. "DCCC goes nuclear, slams Dem candidate as corrupt for same behavior it engages in regularly: ON THURSDAY EVENING, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the extraordinary step of publicly attacking a prominent Democratic candidate in a contested Texas primary. The party committee's move was made all the more jarring given the background of the candidate, Laura Moser, who in 2017 became a hero of the Trump resistance movement as the creator of Daily Action, a text-messaging tool that channelled progressive anger into a single piece of activism per day."

Daniel Marans at The Huffington Post, "DCCC Advised Candidates Not To Discuss Gun Control Policy Right After Vegas Shooting: The campaign organization said Democrats should focus on offering thoughts and prayers."

"From Pushing 'Thoughts and Prayers' to Dissing Medicare for All, DCCC Called Out for Sabotaging Bold Demands: While House Democrats were urged to ignore Medicare for All as a viable solution to the nation's healthcare woes, a separate memo to lawmakers after Las Vegas shooting appeared to be 'straight out of the NRA's talking points'" It's just amazing how the leaked DCCC "unity" memo seems so concerned about hiring the "right" consultants and spending most of your money on paid advertising.

Zaid Jilani, "DCCC internal polling presented to members of congress panned single-payer health care

For the record, the Democratic Party does not have a page like this listing their election wins and losses. And while it's true that Our Revolution appears to have lost more than they've won, they've had some interesting victories, often in deep red country. You might want to save this link for the next time someone claims otherwise.

* * * * *

"Supreme Court limits protections for corporate whistleblowers: The Supreme Court sharply limited the legal protections for corporate whistleblowers on Wednesday, ruling they are not shielded from being fired under a federal law unless they have reported a potential fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The justices conceded their ruling might gut the whistleblower protections that were adopted after the Wall Street collapse in 2008. Lawmakers had said they wanted to break the "corporate code of silence" that prevented employees from revealing wrongdoing inside their companies. But the high court, in an unanimous decision, said the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 defined a protected whistleblower as someone who reported a potential fraud "to the commission," referring to the SEC."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Calls Out Big Pharma For Opposing Legal Marijuana: "'To them it's competition for chronic pain, and that's outrageous because we don't have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,' Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said. 'It's not the same thing. It's not as highly addictive as opioids are.'"

"Let Them Eat Experience: Until last month, almost all unpaid internships were technically illegal. Now it's open season for employers who want free labor."

David Dayen says it's Time to Take On ICE, and also links to some other stories he's done on an interesting development in the newly-Democratic Virginia legislature.
* Also Dday in The Nation on The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett's Billions." In other Tiny Letters, he tells us about Bipartisan Deregulators, Stadium Banks and the Citigroup Carve-Out and the Janus case that looks set to cripple public sector unions.

Dday also tells us about a publishing project he will be contributing to, of small "books" on DC-related subjects. "My friend and Intercept colleague Ryan Grim has co-founded a publishing company called Strong Arm Press. They produce investigations of major figures in the Trump orbit, a sort of field guide to the people running the world these days. The books are expansive enough to really delve into a subject but much smaller than a book, about 10,000 words or so. They are sold cheaply, like $5 or $10, mostly as ebooks. Ryan has asked me to contribute to one such exposé of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who I've written about once or twice. We have a terrific reporter, Rebecca Burns, working hard on this project. So, you can buy the in-depth reporting, but you can also help fund it if you have a few extra pennies to throw in.

Plus! On The Majority Report, "Attacking Wall Street Reform w/ David Dayen" - Gosh, he sounds really steamed.

"If Police Don't Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They? The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, most recently in 2005, that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm. [...] Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages - many of them unarmed - for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something - anything - that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer's mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety. In recent years, Americans have been killed by police merely for standing in a 'shooting stance,' holding a cell phone, behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat, opening the front door, running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch, crawling around naked, hunching over in a defensive posture, wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey, driving while deaf, being homeless, brandishing a shoehorn, holding a garden hose, and peeing outdoors." But they didn't do a thing against the Parkland shooter. And, don't get me wrong, that was the smart thing to do - they would have ended up dead. But the police seem to have become the most dangerous gang on the streets while contributing increasingly less value to the community.

Juan Cole, "Did an Emirates-Israel alliance Help elect Trump more than Russia?

Lee Camp at Truthdig. "Six Ways the 'Resistance' Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit: My longtime arch-nemesis, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - which I thought we had vanquished after years of stabbing, kicking and choking it - may now be rising from the dead like a zombie, like a vampire, like a Jeff Sessions. And this is yet another sign that the so-called Democratic 'Resistance' is a joke so big it has to buy two airplane seats. [...] What does this have to do with the so-called Democratic 'resistance'? Well, there's a reason Trump has such an outsize trade authority - a reason your mainstream media would rather you forget. Obama handed this trade authority to Trump on a silver platter. Back in 2015, Congress, under pressure from the Obama administration, voted to give the president, any president, unlimited trade authority for the next six years. This means Congress cannot change a word of any trade deal Trump approves."

Beat the Press, "Hey Folks, Looks Like Corporate America Hasn't Heard About the Trump Tax Cuts: News must travel slowly to corporate headquarters these days. How else can we explain the fact that corporate America isn't rushing out to invest in response to the big tax cut Congress voted them last year? [...] If the tax cuts matter for investment, then companies like GE, Microsoft, and Amazon were making plans as soon as it became clear that the Republican majority in Congress was serious about passing a tax bill. The fact that we are seeing zero evidence of an uptick in investment suggests that tax cuts don't have much impact on investment. Rather than being about promoting economic growth that would lead to productivity gains and higher wages for ordinary workers, the tax cuts were actually just another way to redistribute more money upward. As Speaker Ryan always says: #RichPeopleNeedTaxCuts."

David Cay Johnston, "Here's Why Donald Trump Is In The White House: New Data Show Falling Incomes Through the Obama Years [...] The average income on 2016 tax returns shows that people effectively lost one week of income compared to 2015. The average was $67,755, down almost $1,300 from the year before when adjusted for inflation, my analysis of new IRS Table 1 preliminary data shows."

CONGRATULATIONS: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Associate Publisher, is now also Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Tor Books, reporting to me. Patrick's 29 years at Tor, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry and his award-winning editing skills, make him perfect for this key role that will help us to continue to grow the business."

REST IN PEACE: "Pearls Before Swine Band Mastermind Tom Rapp Dead at 70: Psych folk legend also worked as civil rights lawyer"

REST IN PEACE: "Barry Crimmins, Comedian and Activist, Dead at 64 [...] Crimmins was a stalwart in the Boston stand-up scene during the Eighties and became known for his powerful monologues and scathing political satire. Along with performing, he founded two clubs, the Ding Ho and Stitches, where he produced an array of shows that featured burgeoning comics like Goldthwait, Steven Wright, Kevin Meaney and Paula Poundstone." There are some videos there at The Rolling Stone's article and more at the Guardian. Longtime readers of The Sideshow will remember that Barry was a mainstay of the liberal web in the days of Bartcop, Media Whores Online. and the early blogging days.

REST IN PEACE: "Nanette Fabray, TV Star of the '50s and '60s, Dies at 97" One of those actors who was on the screen my entire life. I noticed she had gone only because Marlee Matlin tweeted: "A follower shared this very sweet video of Nanette Fabray signing 'Over the Rainbow' on the Carol Burnett Show. It was probably the first time anyone signed on network TV."

REST IN PEACE: "The Crystals Singer Barbara Ann Alston Dead at 74, following a two-week battle with the flu." I can't pick my favorite of their songs, but here she is singing lead on "Uptown". (Oh, okay, she didn't sing lead on "Da Doo Ron Ron". but here it is anyway.)

REST IN PEACE: "David Ogden Stiers, Major Winchester on 'MASH,' Dies at 75. [...] Indeed, it was his voice that earned him his first screen credit - as the announcer in George Lucas' 1971 film THX 1138."

REST IN PERDITION: Billy Graham, Evangelist for American Empire and homophobia, at 99.

Tom Sullivan, "This is what more looks like: Want to know one reason why Democrats get no traction in the Plains States? I tried to email Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana counties yesterday and got pissed off. The white counties in otherwise red-shaded states are either unorganized or have no email or Facebook contact information on the state party websites (and probably not even a Facebook page not listed there). That's 40 percent of Kansas counties, half of Montana, and 70 percent of South Dakota. That's counties, not population, naturally. Okay, very rural, low-density areas I have the luxury of not trying to organize. And maybe it is because there are no Democrats out there. Even so. Those states elect U.S. senators. If Democrats don't show up to play, they forfeit. Look at south-central Georgia. So, I don't want to hear "This is the most important election of our lifetime" again. Ever. Because if you think short-term, you never invest in the future. As they say around the office, "Why is there never time to do it right, but always time to do it over?" Democrats do it over - and over - on a two-year cycle, in many places starting each time from scratch."

"Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism. [...] Throughout the day, some of the country's most important scientists spoke about their research into these problems. Yet, as the day went on, something baffled me. If all you knew about depression, anxiety and addiction was what was presented at this day-long conference, you would have thought these conditions were caused by malfunctions in people's brains. We looked at pictures of brain scans and talked about internal brain mechanisms. One group of scientists said they aimed to eradicate depression by 2050 - but the focus of their research was entirely biological. [...] As Margaret Thatcher put it when I was a kid, 'There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.' Neoliberalism poses many problems, but perhaps the most neglected is that it has supercharged our current crisis of depression and anxiety. All human beings have natural psychological needs: to feel we belong, to feel we are secure, to feel we are valued, to feel we have a secure future we can understand. These are ingrained in us all. Neoliberalism does a very poor job of meeting these psychological needs, in part because its theory of human nature doesn't match with human nature.

"There Was A 1908 Board Game About Women Fighting Cops In The Streets - called Suffragetto.

A recent appearance by Miss Boop

They look like photographs but they're drawings: The art of Kelvin Okafor.

These bras are exactly the opposite of what I love about Wacoal, but they are so beautiful I almost wish for them.

Pearls Before Swine, "Another Time"

19:10 GMT comment

Sunday, 18 February 2018

And sometimes there are no words

Last month's weird story about a raid on Newsweek/IBT offices was followed by David Sirota's announcement that he was resigning the publications. It seems management was playing a bit fast and loose with the laws on fraud and money laundering. "Newsweek's Top Editors and a Reporter Let Go Amid Turmoil: Less than a week after both the chairman and finance director of Newsweek Media Group stepped down, several of the publication's top editors and reporters are also out. While some were let go, at least one has resigned. Bob Roe, editor in chief of Newsweek since August, and Ken Li, the publication's executive editor, were dismissed Monday. It's not clear yet why they were let go. Celeste Katz, who had been reporting on a Manhattan District Attorney's office probe of the Newsweek Media Group, was also dismissed. 'I'll sleep well tonight - and I'm looking for a job!' she tweeted late Monday. Another reporter who had been looking into the company, Josh Keefe, tweeted, 'I have not been fired, although that was very clearly the plan.' Matthew Cooper, who's worked twice for Newsweek, first in the 1990s and again since 2014, resigned. 'I've never seen more reckless leadership,' Cooper wrote in his resignation letter to NMG CEO Dev Pragad, which Cooper published to Facebook, adding 'I'm resigning from Newsweek at the end of the business today. Perhaps that's moot since the staff has been sent home and the magazine, for all we know, doesn't exist.' This morning, another Newsweek and IBT reporter, David Sirota announced his resignation from the company." And then there's this story: "Newsweek Editors Blast Exec to His Face: 'What You're Doing Is Bulls**t. You Don't Understand Journalism.': During an increasingly ugly meeting, the company's CCO refused to answer whether money laundering allegations were true and blamed staff for undermining the business." Anyway, David Sirota is looking for a job and health care for his family.

"Marijuana Criminal Cases Dropped En Masse by Philadelphia District Attorney: The new DA's message to police who arrest people for simple pot possession: We're going to drop the charges."

"Abolition of death penalty gets closer to reality as bill clears Washington state Senate: Efforts to eliminate Washington's death penalty in the 2018 legislative session continued to break new ground Wednesday when a bill banning the practice passed the Senate. The 26-22 vote marks the latest - and what some lawmakers say is the strongest - push to repeal the death penalty as a possible punishment for aggravated first-degree murder. That punishment would be replaced with life without parole if the bill is signed into law."

"Anti-Trumpists Use Mueller Indictments to Escalate Tensions With Nuclear-Armed Russia: Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 alleged members of a Russian troll farm is leading to calls for escalation with Russia, exacerbating tensions that are already at historic - and dangerous - lows, observes Caitlin Johnstone."

Jonathan Cohn, "Without the Votes of these 12 Dems, the House GOP's Assault on the ADA Would Have Failed: On Wednesday, House Republicans celebrated Valentine's Day by attacking consumer protections and financial regulations. The next day, amidst the national mourning following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, House Republicans voted to turn the clock backwards on civil rights. Just like Social Security and Medicare 'reform' often means dismemberment, so, too, was ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 about weakening this landmark law protecting the rights of those with disabilities."

"How To Root The Republican Fakers Out Of Democratic Primaries-- Joseph Kopser Just Made It Very East In TX-21: The Texas primaries are coming up in just under 3 weeks-- followed by primary runoffs on May 22. And those primaries-- with so many vulnerable red seats and so many seats Republican incumbents are abandoning-- are crowded. TX-21 is a super-gerrymandered district that starts up in West Campus and the Drag in Austin, skirts the state Capitol, takes in Downtown before crossing the Colorado River to encompass Travis Heights, South Lamar and Sunset Valley before heading down through Buda, the western part of both San Marcos and New Braunfels before hitting Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills, Fort Sam Houston and Government Hill in San Antonio. To the west of that skinny corridor from south Austin to north San Antonio is a big chunk of less populated Hill Country that includes Boerne, Frederickcburg, Bandera, Medina way out to Camp Wood on the Nueces River. May back last April we started warning our friends in San Antonio-- people in Austin already knew-- that one of the Democratic candidates, Joseph Kopser, was really a Republican trying to pass himself off as a Democrat." You know what comes next, right?

David Dayen at The Intercept, "After Boasting About Lowering Black Unemployment, Donald Trump Undermines The Federal Unit Defending Against Housing Discrimination: DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign, Donald Trump's pitch to the black community was direct: 'What the hell do you have to lose?' On Tuesday night, he stood before the nation and boasted about the lowest unemployment rate on record for African-Americans. But just hours before his State of the Union address, his lieutenant and handpicked head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, told staff in an email that he was seizing control of the unit responsible for policing anti-lending-discrimination laws. CFPB Acting Director Mulvaney, in a previously unreported move, said that he would be putting the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, or OFLEO, under his direct control, startling consumer protection and civil rights advocates, and raising concerns that the office would be unable to carry out its mission - and that, indeed, that was the very purpose of the shift." As a side note, The Washington Post seems to be grabbing credit for this story although their version looks remarkably like David's, which was published first.

"'Socialist' Judge, Refusing To Evict Tenants, Rankles City Landlords: PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Luxury apartment buildings are going up, rents are going up, and guess what else? Evictions are going up as more and more people are being tossed out of their apartments for non-payment of rent. 'We have a crisis in housing in this city. Poor people are being forced out of the city,' said Mel Packer, an affordable housing advocate. Recently-elected District Justice Mik Pappas ran on a platform of stemming that tide by making landlords more accountable in court."

Dday at In These Times, "Cities Scrambling to Attract Amazon Because It 'Creates Jobs' Are Being Sold a Lie: Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, EPI researchers Ben Zipperer and Janelle Jones analyzed what happens to employment in a county once Amazon builds a fulfillment center. Though warehousing and storage jobs do increase, the net effect is close to nil, as new jobs are offset by losses elsewhere in the county. The findings mean that all the money poured into Amazon on the promise of job creation is essentially a waste. 'It doesn't increase overall private sector employment,' Jones, an economic analyst with EPI, tells In These Times. 'No matter how much you slice this data, it's just not there.'"

"ICE lawyer in Seattle charged with stealing immigrants' IDs: The chief counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle has been charged with stealing immigrants' identities. Raphael A. Sanchez, who resigned from the agency effective Monday, faces one count of aggravated identity theft and another of wire fraud in a charging document filed Monday in U.S. District Court."

Zaid Jilani, "Democrats Anonymously Target Muslim Candidate, Questioning His Eligibility To Run For Michigan Governor: ON THE SAME day that he unveiled an urban agenda that highlights public transportation, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed came under fire in what he has described as a 'birther'-like campaign questioning his eligibility to run for governor. El-Sayed, a lifelong Michigander whose campaign has raised nearly $2 million, could be the first Muslim-American governor in the United States. He is considered the most serious challenger to Democratic frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the August primary. And on Monday, Bridge, a Michigan magazine, published an article saying the stint El-Sayed spent as a medical student and professor at Columbia University in New York between 2013 and 2016 could be used against him, writing that 'questions surrounding El-Sayed's candidacy are an open secret among Democrats, particularly in southeast Michigan.'" This is pure bollocks, since he never gave up his Michigan residence and has consistently voted there, but I can't help wondering where these "Democratic" heroes were when Dick Cheney illegally stood as George W. Bush's runningmate in 2000, even though they were both residents of the same state.

"Democratic Establishment Tries To Keep Progressives Off Congressional Ballots: Several grassroots and progressive congressional candidates are facing expensive lawsuits from the Democratic establishment, which is challenging their ballot petitions in hopes of clearing the primary field."

James Risen, "U.S. Secretly negotiated with Russians to buy stolen NSA documents - and the Russians offered Trump-related material, too: THE UNITED STATES intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package. The CIA declined to comment on the operation. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

"Israeli police recommend indicting Netanyahu for corruption: report: Israeli police chiefs will recommend to the country's attorney general that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges, according to reports in local media. The Times of Israel reported Wednesday that police chiefs, including the general commissioner of Israel's police force, were in 'unanimous agreement' that Netanyahu should be indicted for allegedly accepting bribes and receiving lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan."

"California launches investigation following stunning admission by Aetna medical director: California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care."

"After Annie Rice's Victory, Democrats Weigh Punishing Her Supporters: Last night, Annie Rice won a resounding victory, with nearly 60 percent of 8th ward voters choosing her to represent them on the city's Board of Aldermen. But later this month, the Democratic Central Committee will weigh a bylaw change directly aimed at punishing Rice's supporters. If members approve the proposed amendments, anyone who "supports or endorses" candidates like Rice "shall be subject to censure." Committee members who follow in Rice's footsteps and run for office without the party's blessing could face removal. The ugly situation says a lot about the mutinous mood - and old guard pushback - roiling the St. Louis Democratic Party these days. Progressives have taken aim at the Democratic establishment in recent years, winning some key victories (Bruce Franks Jr. for state rep) and coming tantalizingly close in others (Tishaura Jones for mayor). In St. Louis, it's no longer enough to ask whether someone is running as a Democrat; the real question is whether they're allied with the upstart progressive wing or the establishment one allied with the powers that be and the party's longstanding donors (developers, lawyers, lobbyists)."

"Home Depot destroys 1 million pounds of supplies in wake of hurricane: ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - A trip along the winding mountain countryside in Saint Thomas reveals scenes that are not scattered across network news shows anymore. [...] The company crushed one million pounds worth of goods, according to Waste Management records obtained by Channel 2 Action News. They were sent to a local landfill and claimed on the company's insurance - rather than sorted for hurricane survivors."

FAIR, "US 'stumbled into torture,' says NYT reporter" - Apparently, the poor old bumbling US just accidentally stared torturing people.

Beat the Press, "Charles Lane and the Washington Post Continue Attack on Unions: Disturbed to Discover the Importance of Precedent in Court Decisions."

"Report: Recording Released Of Clinton Suggesting Rigging 2006 Palestinian Election: Chomsky was "taken aback" that 'anyone could support the idea - offered by a national political leader, no less - that the US should be in the business of fixing foreign elections.'"

"The Coming Republican State of Minnesota?" Everyone thinks of it as a blue state, but like so many other places, it's been hollowed out.

On The Majority Report:
* White American Youth w/ Christian Picciolini - how he got into a nasty race hate group, and how he got out of it.
* What the Democratic Establishment Demands w/ Ryan Grim

Atrios on bipartisan compromise: "I think it's a bit... out of date... but I at least get why members of Congress used to blather on about bipartisan this and bipartisan that. And, yes, of course sometimes compromise is necessary and it's nice if people can work together, though the outcome is the thing, not the process (This is the part our political press does not understand. It does not matter if TipnRonnie have beers, it matters what they do before and after). The scary thing is some senators really... believe it? They think they've been elected to form gangs and go the gym together or whatever. Strange people. I'm looking at you Claire McCaskill. Stop it."

Atrios on the Shutdown: "John Kelly is as big a racist xenophobe as Stephen Miller, if perhaps for different reasons, and you can't make a deal with bestest boy Donald about immigration (or anything) because they'll run interference and get him to "reconsider." The New York Times reporters spent all last night (in their shitty newspaper and on the twitters) blaming Democrats for the shutdown, because it's always their fault, so cancel your subscriptions. Please. I am so sick of this shitty newspaper destroying our politics. From Whitewater to Iraq to Clinton Cash to Emails to Maggie when will people learn. It is a bad newspaper. Local media is often horrible but at least they cover things that nobody else does so give your guilt money to them instead."

"Kept out: How banks block people of color from homeownership: PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. This modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants' income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to millions of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records analyzed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting."

RIP: John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947-2018. Most of the obits I've seen so far concentrate on his life and work as a founder of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), but we first heard of him as a songwriting collaborator with his friend Bob Weir. JPB introduced the Grateful Dead to Tim Leary back in the Millbrook days. He was still a charismatic guy when I met him in the '90s when Feminists Against Censorship was working with other groups concerned with internet censorship.

"The Butcher Builders: How Western Journalists Helped Create a Monster in Russia: The Soviet Union's collapse left Russia in disarray, but key figures in the administration of President Boris Yeltsin - namely deputy prime minister Yegor Gaidar and privatization chief Anatoly Chubais - had plans to transform the country's failing economy into a robust free market. This presented a unique business opportunity for western capitalists. The Clinton administration needed no convincing, eagerly sending economists from the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) under the direction of professor Andrei Shleifer to advise the Russian government in its transition. What ensued was 'shock therapy' - rapid deregulation, easing price controls, and privatization of state assets including social services, occurring in two waves: a voucher program and later the notorious 'loans-for-shares.' In the end, the effort failed. Shleifer, his wife, Nancy Zimmerman, and his colleague Jonathan Hay were embroiled in a scandal for using their position to personally enrich themselves, and had to settle with the U.S. government. Russia was left in ruins. The attempted transformation had left a small class of oligarchs (including Chubais) enriched, and had plunged the country into a deep depression that lasted from 1991 until the millennium (although its impact lasted well into the '00s). Large amounts of wealth exited the former Soviet Union, the ruble hyperinflated, pensions became worthless, job security disappeared, and GDP plummeted by orders of magnitude - by some estimates as much as 40 percent between '91 and '98. Organized crime was rampant, fueled by oligarchs, and street violence became commonplace. Adult mortality rose at a rate one study described as 'unprecedented in a modern industrialised country in peacetime.' By 2009, roughly 7 million Russians had died."

I have a problem with an assumption in this article that progressives (or whoever) who concentrate on economic issues (and particularly Bernie Sanders), are people who have "a class analysis and not a race analysis." I believe that if you start with a race analysis you will, like Dr. King and Malcom X, eventually come to see the economic analysis as vital. After all, most of us did start with a race analysis first, and that led to all the broader issues. (Hillary Clinton wasn't one of them. How could someone who claims to care about racial issues have thought ending "welfare as we know it" and militarizing the police, privatizing prisons, and creating harsher laws could do anything but exacerbate the already perilous position of the black community? Although, since structural racists have always understood the importance of preventing black Americans from having wealth and freedom, maybe she knew perfectly well - she was, after all, a Goldwater Girl while MLK was talking about class.) So this article has it backwards - that too many people haven't made the connection yet that you aren't going to get anywhere addressing race alone and overlooking class. But maybe having it spelled out this way will help them do that. "How Can Democrats Connect 'Identity Politics' to Economics?"

Ian Welsh, "How To Solve London's Housing Problems (And Canada's): So, two lovely facts about London's housing market. First:
Londoners spend 72% of their income on rent.
Overseas buyers snap up majority of exclusive London homes
These two facts are related.
This is a problem with an obvious solution, do not allow non residents to buy housing in your country. Do not allow housing to be empty more than 3 months a year. If it is, and renovations are not actively ongoing (physically check to see if it is), then tax them at punitive rates (30% of the property value or more) and if after a year it still isn't, simply expropriate it, with no compensation.

The Democrat from the Upside Down
(Via Down With Tyranny!, with "You're Not A Progressive Just Because You Mouth The Word 'Progressive'.")

This is a long read but I found it hard to stop reading: "Report: A precise look at Sanders vs Trump in 2016" - pretty compelling analysis of why it's most likely that Bernie would have won.

I think Ryan Cooper still gives too much credit here to neoliberals, but it's still a useful read. "Somewhere in Between: The rise and fall of Clintonism [...] In the context of postwar politics, the upper class accommodated itself to a truce in the class war, for about three decades. But when the system came under strain, the elites launched a renewed class war, leveraging stagflation to destroy and devour the welfare state. Clintonism could work in the early stages of that process, buoyed by the economic bubble of the 1990s. But when the inevitable disaster struck, it would become an anchor around the neck of the Democratic Party - and it remains one to this day."

"Democrats Can't Run and Win on the Fact That Trump's an Idiot: Voters Want an Alternative, Not Someone to Blame. [...] Polls show that the major reason eligible voters gave for not voting was that they were not interested in the issues being pushed in the campaigns or they disliked the candidates. And this makes sense, given that there's been a decades long campaign by the oligarchy to discredit government and glorify the private sector, using wedge issues, sophisticated marketing and branding strategies, and lots of money."

In The Nation, a consideration of the work of Lynne Segal (a founding member of Feminists Against Censorship), Feminist Living [...] "To hold fast to this version of feminism in the Trump era is a bit like clinging to a pile of dynamite in the middle of a forest fire. Yet it's the only feminism that some women have ever known, and it's no easy feat to convince them that the individual power a woman might amass through self-involvement and self-promotion - and almost inevitably at the expense of other, less advantaged women - is not synonymous with true liberation. Now 73, and having devoted nearly her entire adult life to prioritizing collective triumph over individual, Segal confronts a devastating possibility: 'Have we feminists wasted our time on politics?'"

"In 1990, a homeless man looked me in the eye and said, 'You aught to do a story about me.'
I asked him why.
'Because I've played in three Super Bowls.'
Now, finally, here's the entire story, 28 years in the making.

"The search for Jackie Wallace"

"Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read: ... and the movies and TV shows we watch"

Thanks as always to CMike and Mark for helping me out here. And helping me get through the winter, for that matter. And by the way, that last Laundry novel was seeming all too real when it was explained that agents of the Eldritch Horrors were responsible for the privatization of the Post Office.

Mason Williams, "Classical Gas"

05:21 GMT comment

Thursday, 01 February 2018

Now you know I'd try

Bernie Sanders responds to the State of the Union Address

"6 Senate Democrats put confirmation of Trump HHS nominee with fringe views over the top: Six Dems voted for an anti-choice candidate who once helped big pharma game patents for profit." Note that the vote was 55-43.
* But there is always worse to come. The other day Jonathan Cohn tweeted: Fun fact: Democrats actually had a majority in the Senate today. Three Republicans were absent, making the body 49-48. But don't worry -- Democrats still allowed Trump's nominees to sail through!"

"President Trump Slaps Tariffs on Solar Panels in Major Blow to Renewable Energy [...] The U.S. will impose duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made abroad, a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply. Just the mere threat of tariffs has shaken solar developers in recent months, with some hoarding panels and others stalling projects in anticipation of higher costs. The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected tens of thousands of job losses in a sector that employed 260,000. The tariffs are just the latest action Trump has taken that undermine the economics of renewable energy. The administration has already decided to pull the U.S. out of the international Paris climate agreement, rolled back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes, however, will prove to be the most targeted strike on the industry yet."

"Ex-Justice Dept. lawyer offered to sell secret U.S. whistleblower lawsuits to targets of the complaints: Jeffrey Wertkin had a plot to bring in business and impress his new partners after joining one of Washington's most influential law firms. As a former high-stakes corporate-fraud prosecutor with the Department of Justice, he had secretly stockpiled sealed lawsuits brought by whistleblowers. Now, he would sell copies of the suits to the very targets of the pending government investigations - and his services to defend them. Wertkin carried out his plan for months, right up until the day an FBI agent arrested him in a California hotel lobby."

"Satanic Temple Beats Missouri In Showdown Over Abortion Rights [...] JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - On Wednesday, Missouri's Solicitor General D. John Sauer declared ultrasounds are not required to obtain an abortion in Missouri, according to a press release from the Satanic Temple. The move comes after a showdown in the Missouri Supreme Court after a group called the Satanic Temple fought the state's abortion restrictions on behalf of an anonymous woman."

"NSA Deletes 'Honesty' And 'Openness' From Core Values [...] On January 12, however, the NSA removed the mission statement page - which can still be viewed through the Internet Archive - and replaced it with a new version. Now, the parts about honesty and the pledge to be truthful have been deleted. The agency's new top value is 'commitment to service,' which it says means 'excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.'"

"Ned Lamont Jumps Into Connecticut Governor's Race: ed Lamont, the Greenwich millionaire who rose to national prominence when he defeated then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman in a 2006 Democratic primary, is entering the crowded contest to become Connecticut's next governor, his second bid for the office." This is a story I hope no one has forgotten, because leadership Dems tried hard to beat Lamont, but when he won anyway and became the Democratic nominee, they joined up with Republicans to make sure he lost.

Here's Howie Klein talking about how the Democratic leadership screws the Democratic Party and the country. Well, it's not called that, but that's what it's about - how Republicans beat us because the Democratic leadership is spending so many resources beating back progressives that they even recruit Republicans to help them do it. Honest to gods, it's a scandal.
* Howie also spoke to Nicole Sandler on the same subject. He's been writing about this, of course.

Lee Fang and Ryan Grim have been talking to Howie after watching the Democratic fifth column in action, and they have a detailed piece in The Intercept on just this phenomenon. "The Dead Enders: Candidates Who Signed Up to Battle Donald Trump Must Get Past the Democratic Party First. [...] In his farewell address, President Barack Obama had some practical advice for those frustrated by his successor. 'If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself,' Obama implored. Yet across the country, the DCCC, its allied groups, or leaders within the Democratic Party are working hard against some of these new candidates for Congress, publicly backing their more established opponents, according to interviews with more than 50 candidates, party operatives, and members of Congress. Winning the support of Washington heavyweights, including the DCCC - implicit or explicit - is critical for endorsements back home and a boost to fundraising. In general, it can give a candidate a tremendous advantage over opponents in a Democratic primary." A fundamental component of the DCCC's losing strategy: "James Thompson, who lost a close special election in Kansas and is again running for the Wichita seat in 2018, said the DCCC is specific about why it wants candidates to raise money. 'They want you to spend a certain amount of money on consultants, and it's their list of consultants you have to choose from,' he said. Those consultants tend to be DCCC veterans. A memo the party committee sent to candidates in December lays out some of the demands the DCCC made around spending."

On The Majority Report:
* James Risen on his Battles w/ Bush, Obama, and the New York Times - MR Live - 1/24/18
* The Death Gap: How Inequality Kills w/ David Ansell - MR Live - 1/25/18

Bernie Sanders led a National Medicare for All National Town Hall, breaking the myths and giving the facts about single-payer systems.

Marcy Wheeler thinks Glenn Greenwald's take is different from her own, but she sees other problems with the Russia story, in All Glenn Greenwald's Women," where she notes that, "A big profile of Greenwald neglects to cite even one woman - thereby missing crucial nuance in the story of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election."

"Despite Liberalizing Marijuana Laws, the War on Drugs Still Targets People of Color: THE HUGE FAILURE we know as the 'war on drugs' is back in full force under the Trump administration, thanks in no small part to Attorney General Jeff Sessions's retrograde tough-on-crime approach to drugs. It's not hard to understand why someone like Sessions, with a history of racism, would love the war on drugs: In reality, it was always a war on a very particular set of people - and you can probably guess who those people are. And yet despite Sessions's best efforts, there's been a lot of progress on legalizing marijuana; opinions are changing and, in a lot of places, so are laws. At the intersection of these pushes to legalize weed and the so-called war on drugs, there are a bevy of major scandals unfolding, all of which are ravaging communities of color. And here's the thing about these scandals: They can't simply be blamed on President Donald Trump and his team. Instead, they're deeply rooted in a bipartisan type of anti-blackness."

Niko House is convinced that Bernie Sanders will run in 2020, and I wish he'd use a spell-checker, but I think most of what he says in "No, Bernie 2020 Will Not Be The Same As 2016" is on the mark. This is addressed to questions some of his crankier supporters have expressed about why he endorsed Clinton and made other noises they didn't like, and whether he should run as a third-party candidate. House doesn't address the age question (but with Biden throwing his hat in the ring, why should he?); however, "Bernie Sanders is not the perfect candidate. He is not the perfect human being. We may not even like all of his decisions. But there is no one else in his position that is speaking about universal healthcare at nationally televised town hall meetings. There is no one else telling the media that we need to get out of the middle east and stay out. There is no one else who speaks of ranked choice voting and election reform. And there is without a doubt no one else who has chained themselves to a Black woman in a valiant display of courage during the civil rights movement who is still preaching those same values today."

"A huge cache of Rumsfeld memos were just released - Here are the best ones." Scott Horton liked the one about how apparently James Carville "volunteered to help in the information war."

"Tronc Is Building A Shadow Newsroom Full Of Scabs, L.A. Times Staffers Fear: A mysterious new management team appears to be quietly building a non-union network."

"Racism May Have Gotten Us Into This Mess, But Identity Politics Can't Get Us Out [...] My ultimate quibble with Coates's piece is with its pessimism - the presumption that the union between rich and poor whites, forged in the heat of antebellum anti-black antipathy, is America's destiny as well as its past. Coates argues that admitting race, rather than class, was the proximate cause of Trump's electoral victory would mean that leftists 'would have to cope with the failure, yet again, of class unity in the face of racism.' But that presupposes that class unity was attempted by the Democratic Establishment in 2016. Tragically, it was not. Perhaps, if it had been, there would be no need to address the phenomenon of our 'first white president.' We'd be discussing our first female president instead."

"Biden Trashes Millennials in His Quest to Become Even Less Likable: 'Give me a break,' he said of young people who 'think they have it tough.'"

"Fascism: A False Revolution by Michael Parenti (1996)

JUST MARRIED; Capt. Daniel Hall and Capt. Vincent Franchino, Apache helicopter pilots, "on Jan. 13 in the Cadet Chapel at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where they are believed to be the first active-duty, same-sex couple to exchange vows at the legendary Army post."

RIP: "Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88: Ursula K. Le Guin, the immensely popular author who brought literary depth and a tough-minded feminist sensibility to science fiction and fantasy with books like The Left Hand of Darkness and the Earthsea series, died on Monday at her home in Portland, Ore. She was 88." She was our inspiration and our mentor and a lot of things. We owe her so much. And we loved her. Roz Kaveney wrote an obituary for TLS.

RIP: "Mort Walker, Creator of 'Beetle Bailey' Comic Strip, Dies at 94 [...] Mr. Walker had the longest tenure of any cartoonist on an original creation, King Features, which began its syndication of 'Beetle Bailey' in 1950, said in a statement. 'Little did I know when I was drafted that I was going to get almost four years of free research,' Mr. Walker recalled in his collection 'The Best of Beetle Bailey' (1984)."

RIP: Robert Parry, 68, after a series of strokes and pancreatic cancer. Parry, founder of Consortiumnews, covered the Iran-Contra scandal for AP and Newsweek and popularized the phrase "October Surprise" after discovering the roots of Iran-Contra went all the way back to the 1980 presidential campaign. Consortiumnews was a vital part of the liberal internet from its inception in 1995, and as longtime readers of The Sideshow may recall, got links here from the very beginning. He was an inspiration to us old-school bloggers.

Buffalo Springfield, "Expecting to fly"
Sometimes I can't believe how pretty this song is.

00:10 GMT comment

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

But it all amounts to nothing if together we don't stand

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept, "The Same Democrats Who Denounce Donald Trump as a Lawless, Treasonous Authoritarian Just Voted to Give Him Vast Warrantless Spying Powers [...] LEADING THE CHARGE against reforms of the FBI's domestic spying powers was Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee who, in countless TV appearances, has strongly insinuated, if not outright stated, that Trump is controlled by and loyal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, just this weekend, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Schiff accused Trump of corruptly abusing the powers of the DOJ and FBI in order to vindictively punish Hilary Clinton and other political enemies. Referring to Trump's various corrupt acts, Schiff pronounced: 'We ought to be thinking in Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, beyond these three years what damage may be done to the institutions of our democracy.' Yet just two days later, there was the very same Adam Schiff, on the House floor, dismissing the need for real safeguards on the ability of Trump's FBI to spy on Americans. In demanding rejection of the warrant requirement safeguard, Schiff channeled Dick Cheney - and the Trump White House - in warning that any warrant requirements would constitute 'a crippling requirement in national security and terrorism cases.'"

Senator Bernie Sanders spoke to Sam Seder about what was happening Friday in the government shut-down, on The Majority Report.

Dave Weigel talked to Sammy about the Wisconsin Election Surprise.

"New federal court order green lights Republican efforts to 'supercharge voter suppression': For the first time in 35 years, the RNC won't be under a consent decree." This basically means it's okay for them to do things that are illegal.

"Time's running out for Cuomo to call meaningful Senate special election: Editorial: Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Jan. 3 State of the State address took about 92 minutes; his delivery at the Capitol was accompanied by a 374-page booklet. And yet, Cuomo whispered nary a word about calling a special election to fill the two Senate and nine Assembly seats now vacant." One of the weirder things hardly anyone ever seems to notice is that the New York legislature is controlled by Republicans. And it's thanks to Cuomo and "Democrats" like him that we have this situation. It's not a natural consequence of the desires of the citizens of the state of New York. The details of the current situation are... curious.

This is just weird. "Newsweek's headquarters just got a visit from the police: Cops came to the headquarters of Newsweek and IBT Media at 7 Hanover Square this morning." There's no clear explanation for why this happened. Cops took pictures of their servers. They seem to have been sent by the DA's office as part of an "investigation" but no one knows what they were investigating.

Alleen Brown at The Intercept, "Five Spills, Six Months In Operation: Dakota Access Track Record Highlights Unavoidable Reality - Pipelines Leak"

Haaretz, "How a U.S. Quaker Group That Won the Nobel Peace Prize Ended Up on Israel's BDS Blacklist: American Friends Service Committee was honored in 1947 for its work helping victims of the Nazis, but 70 years on has been declared an enemy of the Israeli state. Peace activists are baffled by the move, but critics say it is richly deserved."

Luke Barnes at Think Progress, "IRS paid private debt collectors $20 million to recoup $6.7 million from low-income Americans: Math does not appear to be their strong suit." But that's not an IRS decision, it's a higher-level policy decision about who the IRS chases. It used to be taken for granted that there was more to be gained by going after wealthy tax-evaders, who were usually holding out on lots of money. There are much bigger returns on going after a billionaire than there are on going after a slew of ordinary households that might have held out on less money than the audit costs to pursue. Going after rich people annoys rich people, so the Bush administration reversed this policy. I don't recall hearing anything about Obama reverting to the previous norm, so now it's an ongoing waste of money and time - or at least, it is if you think the IRS is about collecting money to be used for the running of the federal government and its services. But it isn't. A policy of harassing the hoi polloi while letting the wealthy skate on much larger infractions is a values judgment, not a fiscal calculus. It tells you straight up that taxation isn't about paying for the government.

I'd never heard of Aflac until now, but David Dayen says it turns out to be one big, nasty pyramid scheme.

Black Agenda Report, "Donkey In A Hole: Don't Expect Democrats To Change Much in 2018 [...] And given the corporate media coverage of Trump and 'the Donalds' low popularity ratings, relegating Trump to a one-term Presidency should be a relatively easy task. However, few signs show that the Democratic Party can complete the task in a period marked by instability and crisis. Polls indicate Trump maintains a slightly higher approval rating than the entire Democratic Party. That's because the Democratic Party spent eight years under Obama waging an assault on workers and poor people in the US, especially its most loyal base of support in Black America. Black American wealth plummeted , and poverty increased exponentially under the first Black President. War, austerity, and police-state politics defined the Obama era."

CMike provides a link to a story from November, "19 more Colorado cities and counties vote in favor of city-owned internet, while Fort Collins approves $150 million to move forward: The 19 join nearly 100 others that have gained the right to explore whether municipal broadband is feasible. Voters in Vail, Louisville and 17 other Colorado cities and counties Tuesday voted to take internet service into their own hands in a move that could lead to providing citizens an alternative to the entrenched cable internet provider. Fort Collins voters, who voted to do so two years ago, passed a measure to finance exploration of a city-owned broadband utility. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which has tracked broadband votes for years, the 19 cities and counties join about 100 others in the state that previously opted out of Senate Bill 152. That bill, passed in 2005, restricts local governments from using taxpayer dollars to build their own broadband networks. 'These cities and counties recognize that they cannot count on Comcast and CenturyLink alone to meet local needs, which is why you see overwhelming support even in an off-year election,' Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said in a statement. Passage, however, doesn't mean cities and counties will start offering their own broadband internet service. In 2005, cable and internet providers campaigned to stop cities from offering internet service. At the time, Steve Davis, an executive at Qwest, which is now CenturyLink, told The Rocky Mountain News, 'I think it's inappropriate for public tax dollars to be invested in competitive businesses. At minimum, taxpayers should have the opportunity (to vote on the matter).'"

"The 'Capitalized Womb': A Review of Ned and Constance Sublette's The American Slave Coast"

I wish I could make everyone watch this 6:29 video on The Basics of Modern Money.

This is from FiveThirtyEight last January but it's worth paying attention to, because white racists don't usually make much noise (or make much headway when they do) if most people are getting reasonable rewards for their work and seeing a decent future for themselves and their families ahead. They don't piss and moan and wave torches around if black and other funny-colored people are doing well if they are also doing well. But even if you have a reasonably secure situation yourself, you feel economic anxiety when you look around and see a lot of foreclosed houses in your area, a lot of shops that seem to be permanently closed, know a number of people who've been foreclosed on and lost their homes, and your kid - who is better educated than you were - sees only joining the military to fight endless wars as a career option (and many of your friends have lost kids in our military adventures already, or have kids returned to civilian life to languish in their parents' homes with physical injuries and severe emotional problems), that's a whole other thing. Maybe you've even already seen your best friends grieving because their grandchild came back from deployment in a box, and you know that in an earlier time, that kid would have gone to college (maybe even for free) and gotten a good job that didn't put them in harm's way. You don't have to be conscious of even knowing this, just know that this isn't how it used to be, this isn't how it was supposed to be. And you'd be right, because an evil change has come over America. And you can claim all you want that it's the Republicans and their official policies that created this disaster, but when some of the worst excesses were directly caused by Carter, Clinton, and Obama, you might not be crazy to blame the Democrats, whose rhetoric you'd swear means they have something against white men just for being white men and they only want to help poor black women. You don't realize that they don't help poor black women, because what you hear is that that's who they want to help and they for sure don't want to help you. (Meanwhile, you should hear how a lot of black military guys who would never ever vote for a Republican talk about how badly the military was treated under Obama.) "Stop Saying Trump's Win Had Nothing To Do With Economics." Oh, and one more thing: Clinton may have won the lower economic strata, but she also won up at the top, too.

Barbara O'Brien has also been writing about this, in "Democrats: Big Tent, Yes, but With Parameters [...] I'm arguing that in many parts of the country that voted for Trump, the economic anxiety fuels racism and keeps it as alive as if the past 50 years hadn't happened. Otherwise, a lot of it might have dissipated by now."

"Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books: A library in Ankara gives new meaning to the notion that books are timeless. Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills."

* * * * *

Chart: "Life Expectancy vs. Health Expenditure Over Time (1970-2014)"

"Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally"

"The U.S. Spends More Public Money on Healthcare Than Sweden or Canada"

Health System Tracker

Top Senate recipients of donations from pharmaceutical manufacturers

* * * * *

Paul Street reviews Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, "Obama: a Hollow Man Filled With Ruling Class Ideas [...] The irony here is that one can consult Rising Star to determine the basic underlying accuracy of Reed's acerbic description. My foremost revelation from Rising Star is that Obama was fully formed as a fake-progressive neoliberal-capitalist actor well before he ever received his first big money campaign contribution. He's headed down the same ideological path as the Clintons even before Bill Clinton walks into the Oval Office. Obama's years in the corporate-funded foundation world, the great ruling and professional class finishing schools Columbia University Harvard Law, and the great neoliberal University of Chicago's elite Law School were more than sufficient to mint him as a brilliant if 'vacuous to repressive neoliberal.'".


A friend of mine started a blog and he's begun with telling a little story about having stumbled on an interesting little genealogical tidbit, with "The Death of William Van Meter - Part One" and Part Two.

SOLIDARITY: Yes, it really happened, although it had faded into legend for 20 years. In 1984, a small group of gay activists decided to support the families of striking coal miners and struck up a relationship with a mining community in Wales, much to the surprise of everyone. Many credit that relationship with the ultimate passage of gay rights in the United Kingdom. I urge you to google and find out more, and to see the whole 2014 docudrama about these people, but just the ending is enough to make many people cry: Pride. (Dominic West does a lovely job of playing Jonathan Blake, by the way. Blake talks about it all here.) For more to the story, here's a good interview that provides another poignant moment and a coda to the short life and magnificent project of Mark Ashton.

03:36 GMT comment

Saturday, 06 January 2018


I seem to have fallen down on posting through December, which means I was mostly a wimp as far as my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas is concerned. Except that my Second Life avatar put up two different Christmas trees this year. But Christmas isn't officially over yet, so here are the traditional Christmas links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's 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

For many it is the Epiphany, and for others the final day of Christmas, also known as Twelfthnight. But it's Christmas for the Russian Orthodoxed Christians and for Armenians. My parents would have been in church today, singing "Loor Keeshair", a tune you know.

* * * * *

Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times, "You Cannot Be Too Cynical About the Republican Tax Bill." Nice to see Sirota et al. getting credit for the work they've done on this issue, like this scoop, "Republican Senators Will Save Millions With Special Real-Estate Tax Break."

But Dean Baker says there are some silver linings in this cloud in "The Trump Tax Cuts' Secret Santa. No one should have any doubt about the main impact of the Republican tax cuts. These tax cuts are about giving more money to the richest people in the country. After four decades of the largest upward redistribution in the history of the world, the Republican tax cuts give even more money to the big winners. In TrumpWorld, that makes sense. Instead of spending money to rebuild our infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide quality child care or affordable college, we're going to hand more money to Donald Trump and his family and friends. However, even in the cesspool known as the 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,' there are some changes for the better. These are worth noting and expanding upon when saner creatures gain power." I'm sure not going to complain that they doubled the standard deduction. There are also a few other surprises that are such a good idea you wonder how they got there.

Matt Bruenig, "What actually happened in Alabama? [...] But if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones's victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate." Because black turnout and support for the Dem was not much different than in many races where the Dem lost. But whites voted for the Democrat enough to make up for the usual deficit - and it's a big one. "The white share of the electorate is virtually unchanged, but white support for the Democrat changes dramatically, rising all the way to 30 percent in the Jones-Moore election. This white swing towards the Democratic candidate is basically solely responsible for the fact that Jones won rather than losing by over 20 points, which is the typical outcome of a statewide Alabama election that features this level of black turnout."

Lead editorial in Haaretz, "Endless Detention: Israeli jurists and academics should speak out against the military courts' free hand with administrative detention orders, which allow Palestinians to be held without trial and can be renewed indefinitely. Last week the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar was extended by an additional six months. In July, a year after serving 14 months in prison - she had been convicted of incitement and of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - she was rearrested and placed under administrative detention for six months. [...] But there is room to ask the law schools, the Israel Bar Association, judges and even historians and sociologists to intervene. They must make themselves heard and remind Israeli society that denying a person's freedom without evidence and without a right to defense is one of the characteristics of dictatorships. Only if the voices of these professionals and social figures are heard will generals and military judges stop signing unlimited detention orders so easily."

"J20 Defendants Cleared of Charges in Trump Inauguration Arrests: Six people arrested during protests on Donald Trump's inauguration day and charged with rioting and destruction of property were acquitted Thursday, a good sign for the more 150 other so-called J20 protesters awaiting trial. The verdict, delivered by a D.C. Superior Court jury, followed a four-week trial that saw prosecutors attempt to pin blame for $100,000 worth of property damage on the six protestors. Though they admitted there's no evidence linking the defendants to the property damage, the Justice Department lawyers argued that they were part of the so-called riot anyway."

"Americans Support Expanding Social Security But The GOP is Still Trying To Cut It: Largely unreported in the negativity of this year's election is how united the American people are over Social Security. New data from Public Policy Polling confirms what multiple other polls have found: Irrespective of age, race, gender, or party affiliation, Americans support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. [...] In the real America, grandparents and grandchildren care about each other. American families know that we are stronger together. And the new polling shows that. It reveals that the effort to turn grandparents and grandchildren against each other has failed: 70 percent of 18-29 year olds, 65 percent of 30-45 year olds, 76 percent of 46-65 year olds, and 70 percent of Americans over 65 all support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. The story is very similar when it comes to race: 69 percent of whites, 82 percent of African-Americans, and 79 percent of Latinos are united in support of expansion. Party affiliation, too, makes little difference. The Republican Party has spent decades working to cut and privatize Social Security, but the Party's base disagrees: the majority of Republicans support expanding benefits, as do 87 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Independents."

"Amazon is killing your mailman: Why its Sunday service is a labor travesty: The online retailer's newest service has created an underclass of postal workers. I should know - I'm one of them [...] With the USPS being financially burdened by congressionally mandated pre-funding for retiree healthcare packages (paying 80 plus years in advance at 100% compensation - a burden no private company has had to nor could endure), it has looked to find different avenues to help increase its profitability and fight to stay viable in this 'age of digital mail.' To help combat this huge economic disadvantage - along with the decrease in first-class mail volumes - the USPS management has attempted to implement many different approaches to their problem. They've tried ending Saturday delivery, contemplated neighborhood cluster boxes, which would oust door-to-door delivery, and of course, there's the tried and true elimination of positions, which the USPS has been engaged in since the unprecedented 2006 pre-funding mandate was established. Their latest solution is a relatively new business concept called the negotiated service agreement or NSA."

"Newly-Declassified Documents Show Western Leaders Promised Gorbachev that NATO Would Not Move 'One Inch Closer' to Russia."

Meanwhile, even The Washington Post admits, "There's still little evidence that Russia's 2016 social media efforts did much of anything [...] All of that, though, requires setting aside what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts." It was also badly targeted and didn't quite seem to have much of a grasp of what might actually work. For example, who, among Clinton's likely voters, was going to believe, let alone change their vote, over the (laughably false) claim that HRC was "soft" on Iran? Even the Republicans noticed there was something very odd about spending more in Maryland and DC than in any of the swing states Clinton lost. $300 was spent in Pennsylvania? Um, not a lot. And most of this was spent... during the primaries. "Facebook's own public numbers hint at how the ads were weighted relative to the campaign. Ten million people saw ads run by the Russian agents - but 5.6 million of those views were after the election."

"Price of 40-year-old cancer drug hiked 1,400% by new owners: Prices for a cancer drug called lomustine have skyrocketed nearly 1,400 percent since 2013, putting a potentially life-saving treatment out of reach for patients suffering from brain tumors and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though the 40-year-old medication is no longer protected by patents, no generic version is available."

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "Big Tech: The New Predatory Capitalism: The tech giants are menacing democracy, privacy, and competition. Can they be housebroken? [...] 'What has the greatest collection of humanity and IQ and financial capital been brought together to accomplish?' Galloway asked the crowd. 'To save world hunger? To create greater comity of man? I don't think so. ... Their singular mission, simply put, it's to sell another fucking Nissan.' [...] After an unconscionable period of naive neglect, in which the public was dazzled by tech wizardry, Americans of all stripes have recognized that allowing Silicon Valley to take this much control was dangerous. Polls show the public still likes tech platforms but doesn't trust them. Conservatives think Big Tech stifles their voices; liberals think Big Tech hobbled our competitive economy; both think they've abused power, and both are right. Politics has grown interested in monopolies, and particularly tech monopolies, for the first time in decades."

When the Clintonites aren't busy attacking Bernie, they are busy hating Jill Stein, and now it looks like she's been roped in. "The Senate's Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein: The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Green Party candidate Jill Stein's campaign to turn over documents, which Stein is expected to release publicly in the future. Committee chair Richard Burr said investigators are looking into two general election campaigns in addition to the Trump campaign." There's a photograph of Stein sitting at the same table with Putin at an RT dinner, thus "proving" that she was colluding with Putin. Stein says she had hoped to talk to him about her agenda - climate change etc. - but never got the chance to talk to him at all. Jeremy Scahill interviewed Stein on the subject.

James Cardin in The Nation, "Russiagate Is Devolving Into an Effort to Stigmatize Dissent: An amicus brief to a lawsuit filed against Roger Stone and the Trump campaign raises troubling questions over the right to political speech. [...] Much of this has been said before. But where the briefers branch off into new territory is in their attempt to characterize journalism and political speech with which they disagree as acts of subversion on behalf of a foreign power. [...] In other words, a Russian 'cut out' (or fifth columnist) can be defined as those 'activists, academics, journalists, [or] web operators' who dissent from the shared ideology of the 14 signatories of the amicus brief."

"Vacant Units, San Francisco 2015" - "2012 ACS data indicates there are 30,057 vacant homes in San Francisco. A common residents per unit calculation is 2.8 persons, meaning that the city of San Francisco has empty homes capable of housing more than 84,000 more people than it does. [...] According to a 2013 comprehensive report on homelessness by the city of San Francisco, one of the wealthiest cities in the richest nation in the world, contains 6,636 homeless adults and 914 homeless children and transition-age youth, totaling 7,550 homeless persons. The Vacant Homes in San Francisco map yields another irony: two of the districts with the densest numbers of homeless persons also contain the most vacant homes. According to the homelessness report, census tract 6, which includes most of the Tenderloin and SOMA neighborhoods, contains over 3,000 homeless persons, as well as the highest density of vacant homes." One of the more interesting maps I've seen in a while.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest, "Postal Workers And The Public Want A Postal Banking Public Option [...] Until 1967, the Postal Service (then called the Post Office) operated postal banking through the United States Postal Savings System. Reviving postal banking would be like offering a 'public option' for financial services. It would let people have accounts they could use to cash checks, get small loans, pay bills and even get prepaid debit cards. These services would enable lower-income Americans to avoid the exploitative 'payday lenders' and check-cashing 'services' that eat up working people's earnings."

Cornel West says, "Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle: The disagreement between Coates and me is clear: his view of black America is narrow and dangerously misleading." He's not wrong, but at The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Opal Tometi say, "Forget Coates vs. West - We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire."

"Sessions rescinds Obama-era letter to local courts on fines and fees for poor defendants: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era letter to local courts advising them to be wary of imposing stiff fees and penalties on poor defendants, The Washington Post reports. The move comes as Sessions revokes more than two dozen Justice Department guidance documents going back to the 1990s on various topics, the Post reports."

The War on People Who Aren't the Establishment continues with NPR (Nice Polite Republicans) attacking Lee Camp personally. Why? Because he's on RT America, so he must be a Russian stooge. Mr. Camp responds..

A great response to yet another claim that rich people create jobs, over at Stone Kettle Mountain, making Lemonade: "Every time old rich white men bring up the idea of trickle-down economics, or whatever they call this scam nowadays, the one question that never gets asked is this: Why? Why would rich people create jobs? Why? Why would rich people take their billions and create jobs? Because they're what? Feeling generous all of a sudden? Why? Take the Walton family, their wealth is nearly unimaginable. The amount they'll reap from this tax cut is astronomical. But they already can't spend what they have, even if they live another thousand years. And they don't spend their personal fortune on building new Walmarts anyway, that's what investors are for. And if they did, well, there's nothing stopping them from doing so now, without a tax cut, they've got plenty of money. But they don't. Why? They could use their personal fortune to improve the lot of their employees, but they don't. They could use their fortune to give their employees a living wage, healthcare, benefits, overtime. But they don't. Why? Why should they? What's in it for them? What's the incentive? Altruism? Ha ha! Hilarious. Giving rich people more money just gives rich people more money." The author does not seem to know that the government still has all the money it needs to pay for schools and roads and health care and anything else we need, but on the question of why the rich would create jobs just because we give them more money - well, that's a question that should be asked any time someone suggests that giving them more money would do anything to create jobs.

Susan McWilliams in The Nation, "This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson [...] What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren't important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics. As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell's Angels, that kind of politics is 'nearly impossible to deal with' using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left."

Last year, Adolph Reed made "The Case Against Reparations: Randall Robinson's argument for pursuit of reparations hinges on this view of the black American population - lucky petit bourgeois people like himself excepted, of course - as defective and in need of moral and psychological repair. The idea resonates with middle class noblesse oblige and a commitment to a racial politics that ensconces a particular guiding role for upper class blacks. Those are, after all, the people who can conduct the finely calibrated analyses that determine what forms and magnitude just compensation should take; they are the people who would stand to administer whatever compromise palliatives are likely to ensue from this activity. But the question of compensation opens a plethora of technical problems. Should payments go to individuals or to some presumably representative corporate entity? If the former, who qualifies as a recipient? Would descendants of people who had been enslaved elsewhere (for instance, Brazil or the Caribbean) be eligible? And what of those no longer legally black people with slave ancestors?" Michael Brooks interviewed Reed about this and other things on The Michael Brooks Show.

Sam Seder did another great interview with David Dayen, about the tax bill and other things, on The Majority Report.

Sammy also did an interesting interview on The Battle for Veterans' Healthcare w/ Suzanne Gordon - illuminating info about America's best health care system - and one that provides data and develops treatments the whole world uses.

ProMarkets tweeted out their hits of the year in a thread that promises some interesting reading, here. I thought this title sounded particularly promising: "The Rise of Market Power and the Decline of Labor's Share: A new paper argues that the decline of the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power." (Also fascinated by Posner's slow move toward the reality. If he could live long enough, he might be full-on lefty by the time he finished his evolution from the far-right.)

Bernie Sanders, fashion icon, got a gift from his son for Christmas, a parka from a Vermont company. He wore it in the rain to an event (at which other politicians appeared in coats that cost thousands of dollars), but Newsweek spun as "Socialist Bernie Sanders Wears a $700 Jacket While Complaining About Rich People" - picked up straight from the right-wing DailyWire story. (They appear to have only three pictures of Bernie, I see.)

And oh, yeah, California decriminalized recreational marijuana.

RIP: "Erica Garner, Black Lives Matter activist, dies aged 27: Daughter of Eric Garner was in hospital for a week after a heart attack."

RIP: "Rose Marie, actress and showbiz legend, dies at 94." She sang for three presidents (two of whom were dead before I was born, and frankly, I was surprised to learn that Coolidge was still alive in my lifetime), but we all loved Sally Rogers on Dick van Dyke. One day I was watching an old movie and saw her original child star incarnation as Baby Rose Marie. Mark Evanier, of course, has a nice obituary for her, but he's written a lot about her in the past, too (some of it probably still linked on this page). "Like a lot of you, I first became aware of Rose from her appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She was great on that program - and while no one thought this way at the time, that was an important role in the history of on-screen females. She wasn't there to play somebody's wife or somebody's mother or somebody's girl friend. She was a full-fledged working woman with a career and an income and a job that was equivalent to a man's. I mean, you just know Sally Rogers got the same money as Buddy Sorrell. Name me another character on TV before her who got equal pay as a guy - or as many good lines. She scored with every one of them."

RIP: This is embarrassing, but I completely missed somehow that Kate Millett died last September at 82, from a heart attack,

"NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport"

"Top 17 Earth From Space Images of 2017 in 4K"

Every time I go back to show someone this video, I find another one. There were really quite a lot of them that I didn't even know about. In some ways it's heartening to see how much creativity they inspired. Wish someone had put them all on TV. Which just proves that "the left" is still good at this, it's just that it's not allowed on TV anymore.

14:33 GMT comment

Monday, 18 December 2017

Somebeody's tuggin' at your heartstrings

Bill Moyers says Farewell: "BillMoyers.com will continue to serve as the archive of the television journalism my colleagues and I have produced over the past 44 years. I hope you find it useful. The site will go into archive mode on Wednesday, Dec. 20."

Stiglitz in the Guardian, "Globalisation: time to look at historic mistakes to plot the future: Trade deals were hammered out in secret by multinationals at the expense of workers and citizens. Benefits must be shared if the global economy is to work. [...] To someone like me, who has watched trade negotiations closely for more than a quarter-century, it is clear that US trade negotiators got most of what they wanted. The problem was with what they wanted. Their agenda was set, behind closed doors, by corporations. It was an agenda written by, and for, large multinational companies, at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens everywhere."

Top Pennsylvania Republicans Are Fighting Like Hell To Keep Gerrymandering Secret: Two court cases could reveal how the GOP took over the state's congressional delegation. Two of Pennsylvania's top Republicans are fighting hard to conceal information about how Republicans drew the state's 2011 congressional redistricting plan, now the subject of lawsuits in both state and federal court. At stake is the public's chance to see how Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2011 used technology and detailed voter information to reset the state's electoral map. The voters bringing these cases argue that the districts were deliberately drawn to secure Republicans' domination of the state's congressional delegation and that the process violated the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions."

Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept, "Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter 'Deep State' Enemies: The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer - with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal - to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering 'deep state' enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump's presidency. The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration's political agenda. "

On The Majority Report, Social Reproduction Theory w/ Tithi Bhattacharya.

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, "A Police Killing Without a Hint of Racism: Daniel Shaver begged officers not to shoot him. What role will his death play in the push for law-enforcement reforms?" Nothing seems to be able to stop this train. " Even if Black Lives Matter critics were right that police killings in America are not racially suspect, that would not be a sufficient argument against police reforms. It would still remain the case that American police officers kill many more people overall - and many more unarmed and mentally ill people in particular - than do police officers in other democratic countries. Why isn't that enough to warrant serious, systemic reform?" The video hadn't been released at the time the article was written, but if you have the stomach for it, it's here.

"JUST IN: Alabama to Jail Hundreds of Voters for Switching Parties: Alabama just slapped its citizens with nasty news concerning voter fraud. The Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has officially threatened to jail up to 674 Alabamans who he believes committed voter fraud by switching parties for the September 26th run-off election. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed a law in May 2017 prohibiting the act of 'crossover voting.' Crossover voting occurs when voters switch their minds to vote for a candidate who isn't affiliated with their party. Merrill wants to slap all 674 'crossover voters' with the maximum prison sentence of 5 years and a $15,000 fine." They couldn't find any voter fraud so they made their own!

Details of exit poll results on the vote on Roy Moore v. Doug Jones for the Alabama Senate.

"Why Aren't More Democrats Using Anti-Monopoly Arguments In Their Congressional Campaigns?" - featuring a great speech by Senator Warren on the dangers of monopoly and concentration, the history of anti-trust success, and how it literally got Borked..

Tess Townsend, "Can Silicon Valley's Pro-Antitrust Congressman Navigate His Monopoly-Friendly District? [...] So far, Khanna doesn't seem particularly concerned that his comments will offend his constituents. On the antitrust issue that might be the most pressing to Silicon Valley in particular - the AT&T-Time Warner merger, opposition to which observers like investor Mark Cuban say could be turned on Facebook and Google - Khanna has been outspoken: 'Every American should be concerned that a few major corporations control the flow of news and information,' he tweeted in November. 'The AT&T-Time Warner deal must be rejected.' But he said that blocking it shouldn't cause concern for tech companies. 'You cannot compare telecom companies that control access to the internet with those that provide a platform [or] content,' the Democrat told Select All last month."

Pushback from Zephyr Teachout on Al Franken being pushed out of the Senate, "I'm Not Convinced Franken Should Quit: I care passionately about #MeToo. Women are routinely demeaned, dismissed, discouraged and assaulted. Too many women's careers are stymied or ended because of harassment and abuse. In politics, where I have worked much of my adult life, this behavior is rampant. I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know - myself included - were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down. Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. As citizens, we need a way to make sense of accusations that does not depend only on what we read or see in the news or on social media."

An editor at The Houston Chronicle wrote this remarkable editorial in response to the GOP's tax bill, recommending an alternative plan of his own: "Mintz: A modest tax proposal: End payroll taxes, hire IRS goons and bring back the guillotine [...] Taxes are even more complicated. There are seven different brackets. Under my plan, we'll cut this down to size and replace the whole thing with just one, single easy bracket. All income over $200,000 will be taxed at 95 percent." And replace the estate tax with the guillotine. I like it!

"DNC Unity Commission Agrees On Slate Of Historic Reforms: The Democratic Party comes one step closer to healing the wounds of the 2016 primary."

"Prophecies and politics: How US evangelical Christians pushed for Jerusalem move: Religious conservative groups have lobbied for policy relocating US embassy to Jerusalem from biblical standpoint. [...] President Donald Trump went against the advice of allies and warnings of foes and announced on Wednesday plans to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The US religious right was a driving force behind the move, which left Washington isolated on the world stage, analysts say." Yes, that's right, they want to speed the way to the apocalypse and this is a first step. Israeli leadership is becoming even more belligerent and fascist in the wake of Trump's decision.

Gaius Publius: "Deficit Talk Is a Trap. Will Democrats Fall Into It? A budget surplus on the government side is a budget deficit on the economy's side. - A fact you'll rarely hear spoken on big-donor-owned media. [...] As they did in the 1980s, Republicans are laying a 'deficit trap' for Democrats. As they did before, they're blowing up the budget, then using deficit scares to force Democrats to 'be responsible' about cutting social programs - 'because deficits matter.'"

"There is No Debt to Have a Ceiling: The debt ceiling debate looms once again as Congress paints itself into a familiar corner; feigning horror at the big scary number that records all outstanding government bonds while simultaneously expressing the gravest of concern that a default would be unthinkable, precipitating a global economic catastrophe. Default would, in fact, be an unconscionable act of irresponsibility, because financial default is not possible for the U.S. government unless our politicians foolishly choose to default for no reason. Why? The simple answer is that we issue our own sovereign currency and, as such, we can always afford to make any payment that is due in US dollars. We left the gold standard and global fixed exchange rate system a long time ago - it's time we updated our thinking.
•We have no debt in other nations' currencies.
•We make no promises to convert our currency to other currencies.
•We allow our currency to float in exchange.
•Our central bank, not financial markets, decides how much interest bond holders will receive.

"There Are No Real Republican 'Deficit Hawks.' Here's Why. Strategy: Republicans Create Deficits, Stoke Deficit Fear, Then Campaign Against Government Spending. Here's the thing. There are no real Republican 'deficit hawks.' Republicans stoke deficit fear, and then say they are opposed to budget deficits. But they always, always increase deficits. On purpose. There's a reason."

Jonathan Cohn, "These 27 Democrats Voted to Side with Predatory Billionaires over Low-Income Homeowners: While Senate Republicans worked on finalizing their Christmas gift to the 1 percent, House Republicans took their own steps to reward predatory billionaires. The House today took up the deceptively titled Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, which, contrary to its title, does nothing to preserve access to manufactured housing ('mobile homes'). So what does the bill actually do? First, it changes the definition of a 'mortgage originator' so that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule on marketing and documenting consumer financial transactions wouldn't apply to mobile home retailers offering credit to borrowers. And second, it would increase the thresholds for specific rates and fees that trigger Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) protections. This would have exempted more than half of mobile home loans in 2013, according to Consumer Bureau data. In short, it removes vital protections for low-income homeowners to encourage predatory practices by the rich. And one of the biggest culprits is the Warren Buffett, who, contrary to what some Democratic elites like to say, is not your billionaire friend. He's just as predatory as his peers. [...] Maxine Waters hammered this point further in a passionate floor speech: 'This bill makes it easier for financial titans like billionaire Warren Buffett to earn even more profits, at the expense of the most vulnerable consumers in this country.'"

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, "Koch Brothers' Internal Strategy Memo on Selling Tax Cuts: Ignore The Deficit: The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch spent much of the eight years of the Obama presidency stoking fears about the budget deficit. Their political network aired an unending cascade of campaign advertisements against Democratic politicians, sponsored several national bus tours, and paid organizers in communities across the country to mobilize public demonstrations, all focused on the dangers of increasing the deficit. One such ad even warned that government debt would lead to a Chinese takeover of America - which, for many voters, is a concern linked to debt. Another effort, also quietly bankrolled by the Koch network, used Justin Bieber memes to try to reach millennials about too much government borrowing. Now that Republicans control all levers of power in Washington and the Koch brothers are poised to reap a windfall of billions of dollars through tax cuts, they have a new message: Don't worry about the deficit."

David Dayen, "Trump'S Acting Directors Are Quietly Dropping 'Acting' From Their Titles: THE FIGHT OVER the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is assumed to be about President Donald Trump's intent to deregulate finance. But it's also part of a larger fight about separation of powers and the expanding authority of the executive, made clear by the Trump administration's use, and abuse, of the law the president relied on to attempt to install Mick Mulvaney as acting director. Trump doesn't just want to undermine consumer financial protection with Mulvaney; he wants to end-run the Senate and install unaccountable loyalists throughout the government by executive fiat. Across the government, acting directors who were installed without Senate approval are quietly dropping the 'acting' title from their name, suggesting they have every intention of overstaying their legal welcome."

"Proposed rule would protect employers who steal workers' hard-earned tips: Today the Trump administration took their first major step towards allowing employers to legally take tips earned by the workers they employ. The Department of Labor released a proposed rule rescinding portions of its tip regulations, including current restrictions on 'tip pooling - which would mean that, for example, restaurants would be able to pool the tips servers receive and share them with untipped employees such as cooks and dishwashers. But, crucially, the rule doesn't actually require that employers distribute pooled tips to workers. Under the administration's proposed rule, as long as the tipped workers earn minimum wage, the employer can legally pocket those tips."

"Philadelphia write-in candidate: I won with one vote." Not "by one vote" - with only one vote. "They say that one vote doesn't matter, but I literally wrote in my own name and won an election because I guess no-one else ran/voted for this position."

Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics "Executive Summary: Survey of Young Americans' Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service: 14% of young Americans believe we're generally headed in the right direction."

Fallout: MSNBC, in an unsurprising act of cowardice, let Cernovich's smear campaign against Sam Seder win the day after unearthing an old 2009 tweet in which Sam was sarcastic about liberals who defended Roman Polanksi's involvement with underaged girls on the grounds that he was a great filmmaker. "MSNBC to Cut Ties With Sam Seder After Roman Polanski Rape Joke (Exclusive): MSNBC has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder after an old tweet emerged in which Seder joked about Roman Polanski raping his daughter, TheWrap has learned. Seder's contract ends in February and he has no scheduled appearances between now and then, a spokesperson for MSNBC told TheWrap. 'Don't care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,' wrote Seder in the now deleted tweet from 2009." But there was outrage from almost everyone from New York Magazine ("Sam Seder's Firing Proves, Once Again, That Corporations Like MSNBC Can't Stop Getting Rolled by the Far Right"), so MSNBC reversed itself and offered Sammy his job back, which he accepted, appearing on the network again that very night.

"FOIA Docs Show FDA's Data on Kratom Deaths is Complete Propaganda: As the FDA fearmongers over alleged Kratom associated deaths, documents on these deaths reveal that the American people are being lied to. [...] But that's not all, as TFTP reported last month, in order to understand why this push for a ban is happening, we can simply look at who is spearheading it: FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. For those unaware, before he was appointed as the commissioner of the FDA, Gottlieb was a resident fellow at the neoconservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. AEI has long pushed for the war in and US occupation of Afghanistan - which, since the US invasion, has become the world's number one source of poppies. AEI's officers and board members are made up of warmongers like Dick Cheney, as well as Big Pharma insiders like Raymond Gilmartin, former CEO of Merck & Co., and mega bankers like Harvey Golub, the retired chairman and CEO of the American Express Company."

One of the ways life could be better is if the DCCC Dems would stop protecting one of the most odious Republicans in Congress. "Can A Progressive Former Marine Colonel Dislodge Republican Crook Darrell Issa? The slimiest of California's "Democratic" political consultants, slate vendor and ping-pong player Parke Skelton, is being paid a great deal of money to undermine Doug Applegate, in effect, guaranteeing that Darrell Issa retains his seat. I don't know exactly who's paying him but first, let's look at a little background. Issa, a former car thief and the richest member of Congress, was first elected in 2000. [...] The DCCC had never been remotely interested in challenging Issa and has studiously avoided the district. In 2014 the candidate was Dave Peiser and Issa creamed him 98,161 (60.2%) to 64,981 (39.8%) a race that saw Issa spending $1,749,467 to Peiser's $85,321. The DCCC spent zero, as usual. But last year a remarkable candidate jumped in against Issa, former Marine Colonel Doug Applegate. The DCCC ignored, ignored, ignored... until Applegate started raising some real money and making some significant headway in the polls. The DCCC kept waiting and watching and making nice noises about Applegate. [...] Applegate and his grassroots army of supporters decided early to finish what they had started and defeat Issa in 2018. However several multimillionaires have other ideas, thinking it looked so easy. One Pelosi crony who never lifted a finger to defeat Issa, a transplanted failed politician and fixer from Virginia, Ira Lechner, persuaded a friend of his, Mike Levin, to run. Members of Skeltons staff say it is Lechner who has been paying Skelton to undermine Applegate, primarily by having Levin run around with Issa's discredited opposition smears as though they were new."

"Orange County's Informant Scandal Yields Evidence of Forensic Science Deception in Murder Trials [...] 'Should it really take an informant scandal to find out that the key forensic expert in two murder cases switched her opinion?' Sanders asked. 'It's been almost 10 years since Hong did this, so obviously, she was content to let these defendants die in prison without ever revealing what she had done. It's beyond sick. [In] how many other cases has she adjusted her opinion so it could work for the prosecution?'"

"When Buying Prescription Drugs, Some Pay More With Insurance Than Without It: As insurers ask consumers to pay a greater share of their drug costs, it may be cheaper to pay cash than use your insurance card. One expert estimates that consumers could be overpaying for as many as 1 in 10 prescriptions."

"Destruction Of Black Wealth During The Obama Presidency: The People's Policy Project is proud to release its first formal paper. Co-authored by Ryan Cooper and Matt Bruenig and designed by Jon White, it uses data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to track the evolution of African-American wealth during the Obama presidency, and how that wealth was affected by housing policy choices made by the administration. The paper finds that while President Obama had wide discretion and appropriated funds to relieve homeowners caught in the economic crisis, the policy design his administration chose for his housing program was a disaster. Instead of helping homeowners, at every turn the administration was obsessed with protecting the financial system - and so homeowners were left to drown."
* Bruenig and Cooper, "How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth: The nation's first African-American president was a disaster for black wealth."
* Ryan Cooper discusses the paper on The Dig.

"Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico: JERUSALEM - In response to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Palestinian National Authority has announced that it will recognize Texas as a state of Mexico since it was violently annexed by the United States in the 1840s."

"Bernie Sanders hits the trail again, this time to fight GOP tax bill

"Bernie Sanders nominated for a Grammy: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could be adding Grammy winner to his resumé - the 2016 White House hopeful just garnered his first Grammy nomination. The former presidential candidate and actor Mark Ruffalo were nominated Tuesday in the spoken word category for the audiobook of Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, Sanders's 2016 tome."

"Annie Lennox first female chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian: Singer-songwriter and social activist Annie Lennox is to become the first ever female Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. Lennox will succeed anti-poverty and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus in the position on Friday. The role of Chancellor involves formal and ceremonial duties, conferring degrees on students and supporting and promoting the University's ambitions and vision. The university said Lennox, who has been honoured for her humanitarian work, 'embodies the mission and values of Glasgow Caledonian University'.The former Eurythmics singer said she is looking forward to the role."

Karen Bernal, Pia Gallegos, Sam McCann, and Norman Solomon, "Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis"

"Australia Seeks New Gag Laws That Could See Journalists And Whistleblowers Jailed for 20 Years: Organisations such as WikiLeaks and disclosures from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden appear to be the target."

"The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened." One reason I don't even bother to report on the Russia story is that not a lot that shows up in the news turns out to be true. This week everyone from CNN to Josh Marshall fell for another fake bombshell.

Oops! "Newspaper's Botched Front Page Goes Down In Headline History"

RIP: "Former religion professor, activist John Raines dies at 84: The professor emeritus served as a religion professor for nearly 50 years and was most known for breaking into an FBI field office in 1971. [...] Raines and other political activists - including his wife Bonnie Raines - broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971. The group, which named itself the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, stole documents that would expose the abuse within J. Edgar Hoover's FBI administration, and John Raines drove the getaway car, The Temple News reported in 2014. The stolen documents included information about COINTELPRO, the FBI's domestic surveillance operation to spy on prominent political organizers and sabotage any 'anti-government' movements, The Temple News reported in 2014."

RIP: "Johnny Hallyday, the 'French Elvis', dies at 74

Umair Haque, "The Life and Death of an Economy: How Economies Commit Suicide, Starring America and Britain as Romeo and Juliet [...] Today, the UK - we'll get to the US, the world, and the future, but let's begin here - released some genuinely stunning economic 'numbers.' It forecast the economy basically never to grow again, and for incomes not to rise to 2008 levels until 2028. But of course the contradiction is that if the economy will never grow again, then incomes are hardly likely to rise, so we are seeing the death of a modern economy. But it isn't the first, it is the second: the first death was the USA, which is now something like a post-economic country, nominally rich, but plagued by things like mass school shooting and medical bankruptcies, which don't even happen really in Delhi or Bangkok."

"Cornel West Doesn't Want to Be a Neoliberal Darling: After nearly a year of the Trump presidency, do you regret your criticisms of Barack Obama? Oh, no. I told the truth. When I said drone strikes are crimes against humanity, when I said Obama bailed out Wall Street rather than Main Street - I shall forever support that. I was just speaking to the reality that people are hurting, and we have to do the same thing under Trump as we did under Obama."

"Robert Reich: How Clinton and Obama Failed to Defend the Middle Class: Reich told IBT that the Democratic Party 'is just a big fundraising machine' and its failure to fix the economy helped Donald Trump win the White House."

Kevin Carty, Leah Douglas, Lina Khan, and Matt Stoller in New York Magazine, "6 Ideas to Rein in Silicon Valley, Open Up the Internet, and Make Tech Work for Everyone:
- 1. Stop Facebook From Spying on Its Competitors
- 2. Jail Bosses Who Use Contracts to Lock Down Workers
- 3. Stop Amazon From Selling Books - or Anything Else - Below Cost
- 4. Stop Mastercard From Robbing Main Street
- 5. Stop Amazon From Selling Groceries
- 6. Stop Google From Steering You to Its Own Apps

Erik Erikson was on Twitter babbling some phony biblical rationalization of the rich getting to keep all the money. Someone posted a link to "Caring for the Poor is Government's Biblical Role" in response.

The NYT did a feature on Richard Avedon's photos from the civil rights era.

Atrios linked to a song called "Eschaton." His readers disagreed on its quality. I kinda liked it.

I don't know if FireRTC works over here, but across the pond it gives you free phone calls "to any US, Puerto Rican, or Canadian cell phone or land line!" I'd like to use it, since it doesn't require the person you're calling to be using the same service, and it also sends an identifier to your recipient instead of "unknown". The call recorder is part of it, rather than an add-on, as well. It looks like I may be able to use it to call other FireRTC users, though. Doesn't say anything about from.

"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at 50: The Rise and Fall of a Groundbreaking Variety Show"

It's been 20 years. "The Day Frank Zappa Died"

This is cute: "Muslim attacks four British youth."

"Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons"

Here's a little tune I found on YouTube: "Fire Is Ours"

16:54 GMT comment

Monday, 27 November 2017

I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time

It may surprise you to know that the only thing I have to say right now about all the sexual harassment scandals is that FOR GOD'S SAKE CONGRESS IS DESTROYING OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM, OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM, AND THE INTERNET, AND WTF ARE YOU PEOPLE PLAYING AT?!?!?!?!, but here's that old Saturday Night Live Anita Hill hearings clip, which never really seemed that funny to me, but I'd already heard Lenny Bruce talking about how the prosecutors and judges at his obscenity trial seemed to be going out of their way to keep repeating the words he was being prosecuted for saying.. No, wait, I think I pretty much agree with Atrios. The world is full of people who make annoying jokes. In fact, the world is full of people who make annoying jokes you've had to put up with on a weekly basis as if they are the first person you've ever heard that joke from. They make these jokes if you are tall or short, skinny of fat, voluptuous or flat, and every damn time they think it's a big chortle. But resigning just because the opposition party wants you out of the way (because you are effective!) misses the whole point of that "democracy" thing, and god knows we've got precious little of that left.

Interestingly, even Forbes is worried. "GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington: If it's enacted, the GOP tax cut now working its way through Congress will be the start of a decades-long economic policy disaster unlike any other that has occurred in American history." They're right that the bill is insane, but they really don't seem to be worried about the right things. Everyone who points out that the bill will enlarge the deficit is right, of course, but the deficit isn't what matters. What matters is an even greater transfer of wealth from the American people to the top 0.001% and their ability to acumulate it endlessly.

"Detained Saudi Arabia princes are being tortured by American mercenaries, UK paper claims: In a recent crackdown ordered by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, some of the country's most powerful figures were arrested this month. The Saudi elite -- princes and billionaire businessmen -- recently arrested in a power grab are reportedly being tortured and thrashed by American private security contractors, according to a report by Daily Mail." You can find the Daily Mail's original story here if you want to, but it's the Daily Mail..

Eric Schneiderman, "An Open Letter to the FCC [...] Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC's notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers' and other Americans' identities. Such conduct likely violates state law - yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed." Hm, I wonder who could have fabricated those comments, because there just aren't that many people who favor repeal of net neutrality.
* WaPo, "Investigation of fake net neutrality foes has been stymied by the FCC, New York attorney general says."

"Verizon and the Death of the Internet: There are two stories here, one about net neutrality - which Trump's FCC is about to terminate - and one about a corruption of the process by which the FCC arrives that decision."

Michael Hiltzik, "The chained CPI: Another secret tax hike for the middle class slipped into the GOP tax bills." Yes, it's back.

"A Conservative Plan to Weaponize the Federal Courts: Even though there's been nothing subtle about the current push to fill dozens of judicial vacancies kept open by the Republican-controlled Senate during the final years of the Obama administration, a document now making the rounds inside the Beltway is head-snapping. It is a proposal by a leading conservative constitutional scholar to double or even triple the number of authorized judgeships on the federal Courts of Appeals, now fixed by law at 179. Why so many, and why now? The author, Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University, a founder and the current board chairman of the conservative Federalist Society, declares his goal boldly: 'undoing the judicial legacy of President Barack Obama.'"

This article in The Atlantic looks at "The Very Bad Arguments for Killing the Estate Tax" and then takes a side trip into silly arguments for ending it before returning to the case against ending it. But it doesn't say that billionaires need to be taxed out of existence as quickly as possible, not allowed to build dynasties that control the government.

Jordan Weissmann at Slate, "The Most Egregious Gift to the Wealthy In the Republican Tax Plan." But this is pretty egregious: "Killing the estate tax is an egregious move on its own. There is little to no economic rationale for it - some economists have argued the tax discourages savings by the wealthy on the margins and could hurt investment, but that's not really much of a public policy concern when the capital markets are flooded with money. Meanwhile, nixing the tax will allow wealth to concentrate in the hands of the richest families while discouraging charitable bequests. It's a win for the top 0.1 percent, at the expense of philanthropy and the federal budget. But when you drill down to the specifics of the GOP's plan, it looks even worse. While they do away with the estate tax, Republicans would leave in place the rules that currently spare heirs from paying capital gains taxes when they sell off the assets they inherit. Essentially, they're turning death into a supercharged tax avoidance strategy for country's most loaded families."

"St. Louis police shut down entire mall to violently arrest black lawmaker for protesting racial injustice: Police in St. Louis shut down a large shopping mall on 'Black Friday' to arrest activists protesting police violence. The arrests included a state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D), a black lawmaker who could be heard screaming in pain in video that shows multiple officers on top of the handcuffed lawmaker, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported."

"When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work: Twenty states suspend people's professional or driver's licenses if they fall behind on loan payments, according to records obtained by The New York Times."

David Dayen at The Intercept, "A Week After Virginia Election Sweep, Democrats Join Republicans for More Bank Deregulation [...] The measure would roll back several key financial regulations, including sections of the Dodd-Frank Act. It does so under the cover of offering consumer protections and coming to the aid of community banks - though the financial institutions that benefit have not-so-obscure names, like American Express, SunTrust, and BB&T. Four Banking Committee Democrats - Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mark Warner, D-Va. - negotiated the bill with committee chair Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, after ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, broke off talks on a compromise bill with Crapo just last month. Warner's Virginia colleague Tim Kaine, last year's vice presidential nominee, signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill, along with Joe Manchin D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Gary Peters D-Mich., and Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats. The Democratic support would give the legislation enough support to break a filibuster, if all Republicans signed on."

"The Pig That Burst The Keystone Pipeline: Yesterday, the Keystone pipeline cracked and dumped 210,000 gallons of oil onto the South Dakota prairie. Here's the reason the pipeline burst: the PIG didn't squeal. The PIG, the Pipeline Inspection Gauge, is sent through the Keystone to check for evidence of any leak, failure, or corrosion that will cause it to burst. But the PIG didn't squeal a warning. Why not? Because, as disclosed in my investigation for Britain's investigative TV series Dispatches in 2010, the PIG has been silenced, its software jacked and hacked by a company that provides PIGS. The software is deliberately set to reduce the warning signals and thereby cut costs of replacement and repair by billions of dollars on the Keystone and other pipes."

"The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers. And you can be sure this is about letting Sinclair take over the spectrum.

NYT: "He's a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name." This may be one of my favorite headlines. Remember Dana Rohrabacher posing with the Taliban?

Jeff Spross in The Week, "Killing the AT&T-Time Warner deal would be radical. Good. Let's do it. n Monday, the U.S. Justice Department officially filed a lawsuit to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The two sides may still eventually settle out of court. But it sounds like they're headed for trial. AT&T general counsel David McAtee declared the lawsuit a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent." He's right. But in a just world, the DOJ should prevail. This merger should be killed."

"Will Wendy's Help Protect Farmworkers From Sexual Violence? Wendy's has chosen to source tomatoes and other produce from Mexico, including from firms with a known history of human rights violations."

"Serving Extra Years in Prison, and the Courthouse Doors Are Closed: WASHINGTON - It is one thing for a new administration to switch sides in a legal dispute. That is merely unusual. It is another to urge the Supreme Court to deny review in a case that would test whether the government's new position is correct. In a Supreme Court brief filed last month, the Justice Department tried to have it both ways. It told the justices that it no longer believed that some federal prisoners serving longer prison terms than the law allowed were entitled to challenge their sentences in court." It's hard to believe this is even a question. I mean, yes, even now, it's hard to believe.

David Dayen in The Nation, "The Trump Administration Had 1 Real Wall Street Cop - and He Just Quit: Richard Cordray's departure is a loss for consumers, but may be Ohio's gain."

The Talking Dog has done another interview with another frustrated individual who has tried to ameliorate the disaster of Guantanamo, Mark Fallon: "In his more than thirty years as an NCIS special agent and counterintelligence officer, Mark Fallon has investigated some of the most significant terrorist operations in US history, including the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Soon after the September 11th attacks, Fallon was named Deputy Commander of the newly formed Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF), created to probe the al-Qaeda terrorist network and bring suspected terrorists to trial. Mr. Fallon is the author of Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, where he describes his experience in his role with CITF, and makes a number of other observations from his unique perspective, including the evolution of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) into the American interrogation program and his and others' heroic efforts of many to thwart it that were ultimately not successful. On November 10, 2017, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Fallon by e-mail exchange."

"America Is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People: A new book reveals that the U.S. is becoming two distinct countries, with separate economies, politics and opportunities. [...] The two sectors, notes Temin, have entirely distinct financial systems, residential situations and educational opportunities. Quite different things happen when they get sick or when they interact with the law. They move independently of each other. Only one path exists by which the citizens of the low-wage country can enter the affluent one, and that path is fraught with obstacles. Most have no way out."

'Hasidic Brooklyn Neighborhood Has Lead Poisoning Rates Triple That of Flint, Michigan: Since last year, Reuters has obtained neighborhood-level blood lead testing results for 34 states and the District of Columbia. This data allows the public its first hyper-local look at communities where children tested positive for lead exposure in recent years. The newly identified communities with high rates of elevated childhood lead levels include a historic district in Savannah, Georgia, areas in Rutland, Vermont, near the popular skiing mountain Killington, and a largely Hasidic Jewish area in Brooklyn. The areas where the most children tested high are in Brooklyn, including neighborhoods with historic brownstones and surging real estate values, where construction and renovation can unleash the toxin. The worst spot - with recent rates nearly triple Flint's - was in a Hasidic Jewish area with the city's highest concentration of small children."

Max Blumenthal asks an interesting question about the push by The Washington Post and others to treat RT America as a foreign agent when APAIC isn't.

"Rent controls promote stability: Housing security leads to healthier neighbourhoods and tenants."

Matt Stoller in 2012 on Why Politicians Don't Care That Much About Reelection: Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows. Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office. It's all about their job. This is 100% wrong. The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important. What matters is post-election employment. It's all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations. If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that's a threat to your post-election employment prospects. This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity - he's looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices. Running as a vague populist is manageable, as long as you're lying to voters. If you actually go after powerful interests while in office, then you better win, because if you don't, you'll have basically nowhere to go. And if you lose, but you were a team player, then you'll have plenty of money and opportunity. The most lucrative scenario is to win and be a team player, which is what Bill and Hillary Clinton did. The Clinton's are the best at the political game - it's not a coincidence that deregulation accelerated in the late 1990s, as Clinton and his whole team began thinking about their post-Presidential prospects."

RIP: "David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' Star, Dies at 67." I was strangely saddened by this, although he'd been ill and was also suffering from dementia. He'd had problems with drinking and his liver got him. But looking at his picture, I remembered how pretty he was. how he could sometimes blast exuberant life out of the TV screen. He had come from a showbiz family (Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones) and made his name in a show that was based on another showbiz family (The Cowsills), but you forgot all that when you saw him bouncing around on screen.

RIP: "AC/DC Guitarist Malcolm Young Dies at 64," so soon after the death of his brother George, leaving Angus as the surviving Young brother involved with the band.

Judging by the messes we make when we cut cakes around here, maybe we could use one of these.

The Ealing Club, "The club where The Who first rocked"

Blind Faith, "Can't Find My Way Home (electric)

02:53 GMT comment

Monday, 13 November 2017

I'd give you everything I got for a little peace of mind

At the polls, it was a good night for Dems.

"Democrats make significant gains in Virginia legislature; control of House in play: The Democratic wave in Virginia on Tuesday wiped out the Republican majority in the state House of Delegates, throwing control of the chamber in play for the first time since 2000 and putting Republicans in blue-tinged districts across the country on alert for next year's elections. Democrats snared at least 15 seats in an upset that stunned members of both parties and arrived with national implications."

Manassas: "Democratic Socialists Just Won a Huge Victory in Virginia: Lee Carter's (D) election victory was a shocking upset for experts, who predicted that Republican incumbent Jackson Miller would likely win. Carter ran unapologetically on pursuing a single payer healthcare system for Virginia and limiting corporate influence in politics, echoing policy positions taken by Sen. Bernie Sanders in last year's Democratic primary. Carter, an IT specialist and Marine veteran, now represents Virginia's 50th District, which includes the city of Manassas and part of Prince William County." Miller was the VA House Majority Whip, so that's a big shot Republican he ousted.
* "How a Socialist Beat One of Virginia's Most Powerful Republicans: Is Lee Carter's shocking victory a sign of things to come across America?"

"Democratic Socialism Is Having a Very Good Year at the Ballot Box: They're singing 'Solidarity Forever' and winning elections in states across the country. [...] From Peekskill, New York, to Moorhead, Minnesota, from to Pleasant Hill, Iowa, to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Billings, Montana, DSA-backed candidates won town-council and city-council seats, school-board seats, and even a judgeship. The list of democratic-socialist victories was striking - the longest in decades. But it was not unprecedented."

"First Two Latinas Are Elected to Virginia House of Delegates, Making History: Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala became the first Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, part of a Democratic sweep in the state."

"Virginia elects transgender woman to state legislature: Danica Roem, a former journalist and member of heavy metal band, beats Republican who sponsored bathroom bill."

Virginia Election Results: Northam Defeats Gillespie in Governor Race: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, won a decisive victory in the race for governor of Virginia, defeating his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie, on Tuesday. Mr. Northam was propelled by liberal and moderate voters who were eager to send a message to President Trump in a state that rejected him in 2016 and where he is deeply unpopular." 53.9% to 45.0.

"Democrat Vi Lyles makes history in Charlotte mayoral win: Casting herself as a unifier after two years of tumult, Democrat Vi Lyles easily defeated Republican Kenny Smith on Tuesday to become Charlotte's first African-American female mayor. Lyles took about 58 percent to Smith's 42 percent in unofficial returns. She carried precincts throughout the city, including a handful in south Charlotte. Despite being heavily outspent, she won on a night Democrats flexed their muscles not only in Charlotte but in Virginia and New Jersey, where they swept state races."

In Philly, "'Completely Unelectable' Progressive Larry Krasner Wins DA's Race: He beat Republican Beth Grossman by more than 40 percentage points. [...] Most of Krasner's opponents, including Grossman, were longtime prosecutors. Krasner, on the other hand, has never worked for the DA's office a day in his life. He is a civil rights and defense attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philly. He's also sued the police department and City Hall more than 75 times, and promised never to seek the death penalty or bring cases based on illegal searches. Krasner once joked that he'd 'spent a career becoming completely unelectable.'"

"How did Democrat Phil Murphy win the New Jersey gubernatorial race? Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey with strong support from his party's base, including women, younger voters, and by making inroads with some less traditionally Democratic groups, such as independents and white voters. Murphy defeated the state's lieutenant governor, Republican Kim Guadagno, who was hurt by her association with current Governor Chris Christie, CBS News exit polling shows."

"Democrat Phil Murphy Wins New Jersey Governor Race: He'll inherit Chris Christie's beach house."

"In a City of Firsts, Hoboken Elects a Sikh as Mayor [...] And now the city of some 55,000 people on the Hudson River can boast another first: Councilman Ravi Bhalla on Tuesday became the first Sikh elected mayor in New Jersey, and one of only a few Sikhs to become mayor of an American city."

A few more highlights: Democrats also made significant down-ballot gains in Virginia. Justin Fairfax won the lieutenant governor's against Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel, a state senator known for her sponsorship of a 2012 bill that would have required women seeking abortions to undergo vaginal ultrasounds. Social issues were prominent in another statewide race, where Democratic attorney general Mark Herring defeated Republican challenger John Adams, who has hit Herring for his refusal to defend Virginia's same-sex marriage ban in court. And Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker was the Virginia TV reporter killed on live television in 2015, won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates"

"Election Night 2017 Was Defined By Progressive Victories & Twitter Is Ecstatic."

"The Secret to Progressives' Electoral Success? They didn't just say NO to Trump, they offered a serious, affirmative agenda." Some really great victory stories here, including a lefty winning in a town most people would assume would be red forever.

Mike Lux, "Democrats Face an Intersection: We Won Big, Thank Goodness: But How Do We Keep It Going? [...] An economic populism with a bold agenda that doesn't ignore the needs of either communities of color or white working class folks, that is conscious and purposeful in reaching out to and embracing both, is the path that leads to Democrats to victory in the years to come. But Democrats face an intersection: we can embrace this path forward together, or we can continue to chase moderate voters and kowtow to the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The former can lead us to a lot more victories in 2018 and 2020, the latter will keep us stuck in the past."

* * * * *

"A Billionaire Destroyed His Newsrooms Out of Spite It is worth being clear about exactly what happened here, so that no one gets too smug. DNAinfo was never profitable, but Mr. Ricketts was happy to invest in it for eight years, praising its work all along. Gothamist, on the other hand, was profitable, and a fairly recent addition to the company. One week after the New York team unionized, Mr. Ricketts shut it all down. He did not try to sell the company to someone else. Instead of bargaining with 27 unionized employees in New York City, he chose to lay off 115 people across America. And, as a final thumb in the eye, he initially pulled the entire site's archives down (they are now back up), so his newly unemployed workers lost access to their published work. Then, presumably, he went to bed in his $29 million apartment. Of all the lies spouted during the DNAinfo-Gothamist anti-union campaign, none was more transparent than a spokeswoman's assertion that the union was a 'competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.' The company never made money before it was unionized, but more important, the new union hadn't made a single demand yet." That's the NYT opinion piece - the news story is "DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize."

"House to vote on giving Amazon $53 billion deal to become main Pentagon supplier: Members of the US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services committees announced Wednesday that they have reached agreement on the proposed $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense spending bill. This astronomical figure - an $80 billion increase over spending in 2016 and roughly $26 billion more than was requested by President Donald Trump - is a clear signal that the US will expand its ongoing wars around the world and is preparing to engage in far broader conflicts potentially involving North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China."

Elizabeth Warren Warns: Navient Deal A Danger To Student Loan Borrowers: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned Wednesday that the nation's largest student loan servicer has positioned itself to stealthily strip consumer protections from unwitting borrowers across the country. In an interview with International Business Times, she also said the loan servicer, Navient, should not be permitted to be a government contractor handling student loans on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. The Massachusetts Democrat was sounding an alarm about Navient's recent acquisition of online lender Earnest. She said the transaction opened up the possibility that the company will try to boost its profits by selling debtors on refinancing their current federal student loans with the company's own private loans - the kind that she said to do not necessarily permit income-based repayment options."

"With New D.C. Policy Group, Dems Continue to Rehabilitate and Unify With Bush-Era Neocons: One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country's most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president. A newly formed and, by all appearances, well-funded national security advocacy group, devoted to more hawkish U.S. policies toward Russia and other adversaries, provides the most vivid evidence yet of this alliance. Calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the group describes itself as 'a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative' that 'will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors' efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions,' and also 'will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin's ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.' [...] Democrats often justify this union as a mere marriage of convenience: a pragmatic, temporary alliance necessitated by the narrow goal of stopping Trump. But for many reasons, that is an obvious pretext, unpersuasive in the extreme. This Democrat/neocon reunion had been developing long before anyone believed Donald Trump could ascend to power, and this alliance extends to common perspectives, goals, and policies that have little to do with the current president."

"What are the Paradise Papers? The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance. A number of stories are appearing in a week-long expose of how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes. As with last year's Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. BBC Panorama and the Guardian are among the nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers. The Paradise Papers name was chosen because of the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled, including Bermuda, the HQ of the main company involved, Appleby. It also dovetails nicely with the French term for a tax haven - paradis fiscal. Then again, the Isle of Man plays a big part." Hmm, it seems Charles has been a naughty boy.

"UN: Yemen facing massive famine if blockade not lifted: Millions of people will die in Yemen, in what will be the world's worst famine crisis in decades, unless a Saudi-led military coalition ends a devastating blockade and allows aid into the country, the United Nations has warned." The media is either ignoring complete or misrepresenting this situation, because the bad guys in this story are the US, the UK, and our good buddies in Saudi Arabia.

Thomas Frank, "Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires? [...] For decades Americans have lashed out against taxation because they were told that cutting taxes would give people an incentive to work harder and thus make the American economy flourish. Our populist leaders told us this - they're telling us this still, as they reform taxes in Washington - and they rolled back the income tax, they crusaded against the estate tax, and they worked to keep our government from taking action against offshore tax havens. In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person's freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire's freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours."

Bernie Sanders in Politico, "How to Fix the Democratic Party: It's time we come together to enact real reform - only then can we defeat Donald Trump and retake the country. [...] An economic populism with a bold agenda that doesn't ignore the needs of either communities of color or white working class folks, that is conscious and purposeful in reaching out to and embracing both, is the path that leads to Democrats to victory in the years to come. But Democrats face an intersection: we can embrace this path forward together, or we can continue to chase moderate voters and kowtow to the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The former can lead us to a lot more victories in 2018 and 2020, the latter will keep us stuck in the past."

Salon, "Bernie Sanders: To reform the party, Democrats must split from corporate America: Sanders said the Democrats must reform the party and primary process, and not rely on wealthy donors to beat Trump,"

Meanwhile, from the Department of Doubling Down on Stupid: "Joe Biden Positions Himself as the 'Anti-Bernie': Biden, like many mainstream liberal Democrats, seems intent upon not understanding the real lessons of 2016." I still would argue with that "liberal" label. Biden has been a handmaiden of the aristocracy for some time. "By failing to formulate an alternative to the failed foreign and economic policies of the past, which he has done much (more than most politicians) to shape, Biden showed that he remains wedded to the tenets of liberal interventionism and free-trade orthodoxy that have served the citizens of this country so poorly over the past quarter-century."

* * * * *

"Donna Brazile's bombshell about the DNC and Hillary Clinton, explained: A former Democratic National Committee chair on Thursday revealed the existence of a previously secret agreement that appeared to confirm some of Bernie Sanders supporters' fears about the 2016 Democratic primary. Donna Brazile, a longtime Clinton ally who stepped in as DNC chair last year in the wake of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation, published an excerpt of her upcoming book in Politico in which she disclosed the details of a fundraising agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign reached in August 2015. 'The agreement - signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [Clinton campaign counsel] Marc Elias- specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party's finances, strategy, and all the money raised,' Brazile wrote in the story under the headline 'Inside Hillary Clinton's Secret Takeover of the DNC.' Brazile added of the deal: '[Clinton's] campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.'" Naturally, she's getting the hate treatment from the Clintonians, and mostly for saying things that are true, or for things she didn't say at all.

Elizabeth Warren gets the hate treatment from the Clintonians when "Asked if DNC system was rigged in Clinton's favor, Warren says 'yes'."

Claims that what Brazile said has been "debunked" by Howard Dean turn out to be fake news, as the "debunking" turns out to be nonsense.

Ryan Grimm, "Angry About The DNC Scandal? Thank Obama. [...] All that is fodder for a good flamewar, but walking away rather unscathed is the man who set the blaze in the first place: former President Barack Obama. 'Nobody wanted to out the fact that Obama had let it get so bad,' said the DNC official. [...] Raising money for a bland outfit like the DNC isn't easy in the best of times, but with Obama offering little to no help, and clinging to his invaluable email list, Wasserman Schultz was set up to fail, even if she would have done so on her own. Obama instead reasoned that he could become the party, his dynamic and charismatic personality carrying it at the national level. Obama was re-elected, but the party itself went on a historic losing spree, ultimately shedding nearly 1,000 seats across the country. Even after Democrats lost the Senate in 2014, and the DNC continued spending money on consultants at an eye-popping rate, Obama decided not to make a leadership change. Instead, he left it saddled with debt - debt the Clinton campaign would later agree to pay off in exchange for control. [...] Obama finally became interested in the party after the 2016 loss. His final gift to the party apparatus was Tom Perez, his labor secretary, who he recruited to stop Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., from winning the race for DNC chair. Obama and Perez won. DNC funding has been anemic, and it recently had to add to its roughly $3 million in debt."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Why Donna Brazile's Story Matters - But Not for the Reason You Might Think
Everyone knew the primary was rigged. The real question is: Why did they bother, when they would have won anyway?


The use of rumors and innuendo to gin up furious emotional responses through a community before facts and corrections can catch up; the use of letters of denunciation; the reflexive charge that dissenting thoughts aid a foreign enemy - does no one recognize this? Has no one out there read a history book?


But that is what's so weird. Why bother monkeying around with rules, when you're going to win anyway?

Why not welcome Sanders and the energy he undoubtedly would (and did) bring into the party, rather than scheme to lock him and others out?

There are a lot of people who are going to wonder why so much time is being spent re-litigating the 2016 campaign. It sucked, it's over: Who cares?

It does matter. That race is when many of the seeds of what will be the defining problems of our age first began to be sown.


This is when establishment Democrats began to openly lose faith in democracy and civil liberties and began to promote a "results over process" mode of political thinking. It's when we started hearing serious people in Washington talk about the dangers of "too much democracy."


The point of the Brazile story isn't that the people who "rigged" the primary were afraid of losing an election. It's that they weren't afraid of betraying democratic principles, probably because they didn't believe in them anymore.

If you're not frightened by the growing appeal of that line of thinking, you should be. There is a history of this sort of thing. And it never ends well.

And finally, those wags at The Onion, "DNC Unveils Clinton Institute For Campaign Ethics Reform In Response To Corruption Allegations"

* * * * *

"Georgia man charged with murder for shooting friend following argument over forgiveness in the Bible"

"This North Carolina County Has a Thriving Branch of the NAACP - and It's Mostly White [...] The branch's success speaks to the potential for progressive organizing in Appalachia, and to the promise - and challenges - of building diverse coalitions in the 21st-century South. "

Helaine Olen's op-ed in the NYT, "Choosing a Health Insurance Plan Is Not 'Shopping' [...] No surprise, reviewing our health insurance options doesn't score high on the fun-o-meter. A 2016 Harris Poll discovered almost half of the employees they questioned always found choosing an insurance plan stressful. A similar number told Aflac they would rather talk to an ex or walk across hot coals than enroll in a health insurance plan. And yet another United Healthcare survey found more than a quarter of respondents would rather lose their credit card, smartphone or luggage, not to mention suffer a flat tire, than review their health insurance options during open-enrollment periods."

The push for more STEM training isn't about filling jobs, but about pushing tech job wages down. "Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren't)".

Umair Haique, "(Why) The English-Speaking World is the New Soviet Union [...] The best way to understand what has gone wrong with the Anglo world, and America in particular, is simply to think of it as a staggeringly ironic repeat of history. A few short decades ago, the Soviet Union fell, after thirty or so years of stagnation, which its complacent, pampered leaders, utterly divorced from lived reality, vociferously denied could ever be happening to begin with. That steadfast denial opened up the possibility of sudden collapse, and collapse it did: into authoritarianism, extreme inequality, superstition, cults of personality, tribalism, vendetta, violence, corruption, and kleptocracy. That is exactly what is happening to America, from the denial to the pampering to the sudden shock. Falling life expectancy, flat incomes, a shrinking middle class - short of war, or a giant meteor striking the earth, more severe indicators of collapse simply don't exist. So. What led to the collapse?"

Why You've Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta: The Charter of the Forest was sealed 800 years ago today. Its defence of the property-less and of 'the commons', means the Right would prefer to ignore it - and progressives need to celebrate and renew it. Eight hundred years ago this month, after the death of a detested king and the defeat of a French invasion in the Battle of Lincoln, one of the foundation stones of the British constitution was laid down. It was the Charter of the Forest, sealed in St Paul's on November 6, 1217, alongside a shortened Charter of Liberties from 2 years earlier (which became the Magna Carta). The Charter of the Forest was the first environmental charter forced on any government. It was the first to assert the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons. It also made a modest advance for feminism, as it coincided with recognition of the rights of widows to have access to means of subsistence and to refuse to be remarried. The Charter has the distinction of having been on the statute books for longer than any other piece of legislation. It was repealed 754 years later, in 1971, by a Tory government. In 2015, while spending lavishly on celebrating the Magna Carta anniversary, the government was asked in a written question in the House of Lords whether it would be celebrating the Charter this year. A Minister of Justice, Lord Faulks, airily dismissed the idea, stating that it was unimportant, without international significance. Yet earlier this year the American Bar Association suggested the Charter of the Forest had been a foundation of the American Constitution and that it was more important now than ever before. They were right."

I can't believe I missed this last year. "What Democrats Still Don't Get About George McGovern: The party took all the wrong lessons from his landslide loss to Richard Nixon in '72." Establishment Democrats vowed to make sure McGovern lost in the general, and it sure worked. "Democratic leaders' response to McGovern's defeat was swift and unequivocal. From the ashes of McGovern's loss rose a group of disaffected Democratic campaign staffers and elected officials, soon dubbed the 'neoliberals,' who promised to put the Democratic Party back on the winning track, which invariably lay to the right. The neoliberals and their biggest stars, such as Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and California Governor Jerry Brown, called for a full-scale repudiation of not only McGovernism, but also the 'New Deal ethic' that had animated Democratic politics since FDR. On foreign policy, they claimed that Democrats needed to reestablish their toughness and willingness to use the military to confront enemies abroad. On social issues like busing and gay rights, the neolibs urged Democrats to strike a more conservative tone, even if it meant shunting aside the very groups that McGovern had worked so hard to court. On economic issues, McGovern's greatest sin in the eyes of the neolibs was precisely what had most worried the Nixon White House - his populism. The neolibs argued that economic growth, not income inequality, needed to be Democrats' primary concern. The entrepreneurial class, they claimed, needed to replace the working class as the Democrats' idée fixe - a shift that not coincidentally would make the party a more welcome home for the donations of big business and rich individuals." And when all these neolibs lost, we were told that they were lefties who lost. (And anyway, Nixon ran as far left as McGovern on major issues, promising to end the war and soak the rich, and running an anti-austerity policy.)

Meteor Blades, "In '57, a judge said 'incorrigible' and sent me to 'reform school.' Such places still need big fixes."

Matt Taibbi, "The Great College Loan Swindle: How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole [...] America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie - sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate - have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams - that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements. "

Jane Ward, "Thinking Bad Sex [...] But the rush to meme-ify sexual harassment and assault with our righteous rage, and to reduce our thinking to the level of 'what will straight people think??!' is hardly our best way forward. For me the question is, as always, how do we draw upon decades of feminist and queer activism and theorizing to see our way through the complexities of sex and its intersections with violence?"

Michael Kempster said this on Facebook: "Corporate governance, in particular, is to my mind very much like Soviet: the stockholders (proletariat) own the company (country), but have little if any say. The board of directors (central committee of the Communist Party) runs things, largely to the end of its own profit, power and continuity of office. The CEO (general secretary) oft becomes the focus of a cult of personality. The board (committee) usually deliberates in secret. Succession to higher posts is usually governed by secret actions, which are the object of profuse speculation. On and on--the more I go on, the more exact the analogy."

Good interview on Majority Report in which David Dayen explains to Sam Why Deregulation Made Air Travel Hell. Dday's article on this, in The American Prospect, is "Unfriendly Skies: It's time to admit that airline deregulation has failed passengers, workers - and economic efficiency." You'll never guess who have to blame for the fact that airline travel has become such a nightmare. I really can't bear to get on a plane anymore. I may never see my family again. "But the real outrage should be directed at the fact that abuse of passengers is the logical endpoint of a 40-year trend since the government liberated the airline industry. Until 1978, air travel was heavily regulated. In that year, some of the nation's most celebrated liberals joined conservatives in trusting free markets. A brief rush of competition in the 1980s gave way to consolidation and monopoly power, at the expense of workers and passengers alike. Today, four carriers control 80 percent of all U.S. routes."

RIP: D. Potter, fanzine writer, apahack, former denizen of the building at Broadway Terrace she called "Broadway Terrors", blogger at Onyx Lynx, and commenter to this blog. She was a co-founder and OE of ALPS (The Amateur Long-Playing Society) and of course an original member of A Woman's APA. She called herself "Nina Razrushen" in print and her fanzines were Tall Black Woman With One Blond Shoe Productions. She was my friend for nearly my entire adult life, and I loved her. I'm going to miss her a lot. (I'd completely forgotten that I wrote that bio of her for Balticon. Every word is true.)

RIP: "John Hillerman, Emmy-Winning 'Magnum P.I.' Actor, Dead At 84: He also played Bonnie Franklin's cold fish boss on One Day at a Time, and had a recurring role on The Betty White Show."

You know, I had entirely forgotten that there was a Salvadore Dali Disney cartoon.

One of the funniest and most erudite comedians in the world, Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra (2009). The "extremely versatile and strangely attractive" Beeb's concert orchestra must have had so much fun doing this.

"I'm So Tired"

23:59 GMT comment

Thursday, 02 November 2017

I found my thrill

"51 GOP Senators Just Voted To Cut $1.5 Trillion from Medicare and Medicaid To Give Super-Rich and Corporations a Tax Cut: The Republican budget, declared Sen. Sanders after its passage, 'is not a bad bill. It's a horrific bill.'"

"House Democratic Whip Resists Effort to End U.S. Involvement in Yemen War: The bipartisan push to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen has gained political momentum but faces resistance from the No. 2 Democratic lawmaker in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md." Just in case anyone forgot how much of a piece of garbage Steny Hoyer is.

"Man Busted for Meth That Was Actually Donut Glaze Gets $37,500 for His Trouble: The Krispy Kreme Caper illustrates the limits of drug field tests and the cops who perform them."

"Emmanuel Macron's Anti-Terror Law Is a Throwback to the Bad Days of Colonialism: France has codified draconian security measures that echo some of its worst historical crimes."

"Why Are Prosecutors Putting Innocent Witnesses in Jail? Across the country, people who committed no crimes are being locked up to compel their testimony in court."

Rachelle Hampton in The New Republic, "The most underplayed story of the 2016 election is voter suppression." It's amazing to me that the Democratic Party can make so much more noise about the dubious value of Russian "interference" with our elections than they can with this blatant, home-grown and documented interference that's happening in plain sight.

"Ditch neoliberalism to win again, Jeremy Corbyn tells Europe's centre-left parties: The Labour leader was given a hero's welcome in Brussels" - and two standing ovations.

Matt Bruenig, "Capping 401k Tax Benefits Is Generally A Good Idea: According to Jim Tankersley at the New York Times, Republicans are thinking about reducing the amount of income workers can shelter from taxation through 401k retirement account contributions [...] This proposal is similar to the Obama plan to scrap the tax benefits associated with 529 college savings accounts. Tax benefits for 401k and 529 accounts flow overwhelmingly to rich people and do not apparently incentivize people to save much more (if any) than they would in the absence of the tax breaks. [...] Overall, the Republican tax reform effort is pretty bad. But this proposal, like the Obama-era effort to scrap 529 tax benefits, is a good one."

Marcy Wheeler "On the Lawfare over the Steele Dossier."

"Telecom Lobbyists Fund Lawmaker Who Sponsors Bill To Ban Municipal Broadband: A freshman Michigan state representative introduced a sweeping bill last week that would ban any city and town in the state from using public funds to provide municipal broadband service - publicly owned internet infrastructure. An International Business Times review of state campaign finance and lobbying records found that the representative's campaign was heavily financed by telecommunications companies and trade associations. She also dined with trade association lobbyists in the months leading up to introducing the bill."

"Female homicide rate dropped after Craigslist launched its erotic services platform: Sex workers have long argued that online erotic services platforms make their jobs safer. A new study proves it. [...] The September 2017 study, authored by West Virginia University and Baylor University economics and information systems experts, analyzes rates of female homicides in various cities before and after Craigslist opened an erotic services section on its website. The authors found a shocking 17 percent decrease in homicides with female victims after Craigslist erotic services were introduced."

"Dark Money Group Received Massive Donation In Fight Against Obama's Supreme Court Nominee: A dark money organization that spent $7 million to block former President Obama's Supreme Court pick received just three donations between 2015 and 2016, but one transaction really counted: A single $17.9 million contribution from a mystery donor."

Stiglitz in The Nation, "America Has a Monopoly Problem - and It's Huge [...] Let's begin with a simple question: Is there any reason why US telecom prices should be so much higher than in many other countries and service so much poorer? Much of the innovation was done here in the United States. Our publicly supported research and education institutions provided the intellectual foundations. It is now a global technology, requiring little labor - so it cannot be high wages that provide the explanation. The answer is simple: market power."

Interestingly, the NYT seems to have discovered Stephanie Kelton, having given her an op-ed early in October ("How We Think About the Deficit Is Mostly Wrong") in early October and now a discussion with Paul McCulley, "The Fed Chair Should Be a 'Principled Populist'." It sounds like Yellan should be that person, because she cares. "McCulley: Of course the Fed should care. The more skewed national income is toward the rich, the more difficult it is to maintain a robust aggregate demand growth. Rich people spend a lot, absolutely, but they have a lower marginal propensity to spend than less-affluent citizens. Put differently, give a rich man another dollar, and he'll spend very little of it. Give a man living paycheck to paycheck another dollar, and he'll spend all of it."

I've never thought "didn't campaign in Wisconsin" had much to do with Clinton's loss. She made some mistakes with Wisconsin, but I really don't think that was significant. I mean, I lived the entire first half of my life in the DC area and I don't think I ever saw any signs on the ground that campaigning was going on. We saw what was on our TV news, and TV news might have been from anywhere. The same is true of The Washington Post that arrived on our doorstep every morning - if the candidate allegedly said something interesting, be it in Virginia or Baltimore or Los Angeles, it might be in the paper with the venue itself barely noticeable. The ads the Clinton campaign ran in the final weeks of the campaign might have been a factor, but the fact that she wasn't physically present wouldn't really have mattered unless you'd actually been expecting to have her to tea during her visit. But one significant factor was one Democrats as a party should have been working on non-stop since long before the Clintons came along. Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump: And possibly handed him the whole election. [...] According to a comprehensive study by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart, an estimated 16 million people - 12 percent of all voters - encountered at least one problem voting in 2016. There were more than 1 million lost votes, Stewart estimates, because people ran into things like ID laws, long lines at the polls, and difficulty registering. Trump won the election by a total of 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. [...] After the election, registered voters in Milwaukee County and Madison's Dane County were surveyed about why they didn't cast a ballot. Eleven percent cited the voter ID law and said they didn't have an acceptable ID; of those, more than half said the law was the 'main reason' they didn't vote. According to the study's author, University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Kenneth Mayer, that finding implies that between 12,000 and 23,000 registered voters in Madison and Milwaukee - and as many as 45,000 statewide - were deterred from voting by the ID law. 'We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,' he says." Understand, I still blame the Democratic Party for either ignoring or actively suppressing any attempt to address this issue. Whining about Russians is just more deflection. Throughout my lifetime, we have known that the segregationists were doing everything they could to prevent black Americans from voting. The Voting Rights Act stopped some of the more overt efforts, but that's gone now, and they've got vote-prevention laws busting out all over, just aside from some mighty suspicious vote counts and GOP-owned voting machines you can't audit. After the 2000 selection, anyone who talked about these things was written off as a conspiracy theorist. Makes you wonder why the Democratic Party wants to keep losing, doesn't it?
* Ari Berman discussed this with Sam Seder on The Majority Report.

"APNewsBreak: Georgia election server wiped after suit filed: A computer server crucial to a lawsuit against Georgia election officials was quietly wiped clean by its custodians just after the suit was filed, The Associated Press has learned. The server's data was destroyed July 7 by technicians at the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state's election system. The data wipe was revealed in an email sent last week from an assistant state attorney general to plaintiffs in the case that was later obtained by the AP. More emails obtained in a public records request confirmed the wipe. The lawsuit, filed July 3 by a diverse group of election reform advocates, aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily criticized election technology. The server in question, which served as a statewide staging location for key election-related data, made national headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn't fixed six months after he reported it to election authorities." Well, that's not at all suspicious, is it?

"NYC's Board of Elections will admit it purged more than 200,000 voters from city rolls." 127,000 of purged voters are from Bernie' home borough of Brooklyn. I'm still unclear about whether this was a routine purge of people who hadn't voted for the last six years or something else, but the question remains of why it seems to have been only this area and nowhere else.

"States consider best ways to legalize recreational marijuana" - Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont are making a move.

"RT reveals its top promoted tweets during US election campaign, & the results may surprise you [...] In his Senate testimony, Twitter's Sean J. Edgett explained his company's decision to ban RT from advertising on Twitter by referencing RT's supposed 'low-quality content.' RT's head of communications, Anna Belkina, responded: 'Somehow the quality of our content was just fine while Twitter pushed for a giant, Election-targeting ad buy from RT, which RT refused.'"

Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing, "The DNC picked a bunch of sleazy lobbyists as superdelegates, can't figure out why no one is donating: The 2018 "superdelegates" to the Democratic National Convention will include lobbyists for Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp, CITGO petroleum, Citigroup, and other large corporations. Superdelegates are unelected party favorites who get to vote for the party leader in primaries. The DNC was sued for dirty tricks in the 2016 primaries, and in its defense, DNC leaders insisted the party could "pick candidates in smoke-filled back-rooms" and ignore the votes of party members. In what is certainly unrelated news, the DNC is in a panic because its donations are way, way down heading into the 2018 elections.

Ryan Grim at The Intercept, "Democratic Party Drama Puts Deputy Chair Keith Ellison in a Tough Spot [...] On Thursday, four long-serving DNC officials who had backed Ellison's bid to be DNC chair were removed from their positions. Ray Buckley, James Zogby, and Barbra Casbar Siperstein were bounced from the executive committee, and Buckley was also taken off the rules committee, on which he served as well. Alice Germond lost her at-large appointment. 'I think Tom is putting Keith in a tough spot,' said Claire Sandberg, the digital organizer for Sanders's 2016 campaign. 'He's been working in good faith to convince grassroots progressives not to give up on the Democratic Party and its institutions. But that will be a much more difficult task now.'"

Progressives' Anger Over Key Committee Appointments Roils Democratic Party Meeting: Officials who backed Rep. Keith Ellison over Tom Perez were removed from crucial posts."

Briahna Joy Gray, "Bernie Sanders Isn't A Democrat - Thank God."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "The Democrats' Dianne Feinstein Problem"

David Dayen, "The drug industry hustle is bigger than one obscure law: Journalism can still work to produce change. The Washington Post/60 Minutes exposé about the DEA getting robbed of its tools to fight the opioid crisis is a great window into how Washington works. But the focus on the 2016 law that finished the job - under the noses of everyone, including the Obama White House, which is astounding - is unfortunate, as the story outlines a much bigger problem. The whistleblower in the piece, Joe Rannazzisi, was getting high-level pushback for his efforts to target drug distributors for pushing giant numbers of opioid pills into communities years before any bill passage. Obama's DoJ was already captured and preventing the "suspicious orders" crackdown that attempted to keep these pills off the street. By the time Congress got involved DEA was already working under serious constraints, fueled by lobbyists and lawyers who previously worked at the agency. The second misimpression is that this was about the manufacturers of the drugs themselves. No, it was the distributors, a small but vital cog in the pharmaceutical supply chain. And like practically every link in that chain, the distributors are an oligopoly. McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen control between 85-90% of the whole business. That magnified the decision they made to let the opioids flow and ignore their responsibility under federal law. The Teamsters and other groups have been going after distributors for years on this point. The lack of competition for distribution, and pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers, creates powerfully bad incentives and ripple effect that, in this case, cost thousands of lives."

"Did Obama's Stimulus Hurt The Planet? How Trump Could Revive Homegrown Solar [...] The U.S. International Trade Commission recommended Tuesday that the president impose tariffs on imported solar panels in order to counter the financial harm caused by a mix of seemingly unrelated economic trends - and the unintended consequences of President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package - which have pushed the U.S. solar manufacturing industry to the brink of extinction."

Selective Feminism and the Myth of the Bernie Bro: The Backlash to Sanders and the Women's Convention: The latest example of the double standard applied to abuse and harassment on the left"

It's unfortunate that "Black Critics Shake Their Heads at Ta-Nehisi Coates" appears where it does, because it automatically makes people, including me, wonder what it's doing there. And yet, it rings entirely true.

A nice review of Matt Taibbi's new book, "Breaking From Trump-Bashing, Matt Taibbi Examines Eric Garner's Death In I Can't Breathe," with an interview.

David Atkins in The Washington Monthly, "Are Third Way's Focus Groups Valid Research? Much attention has been lavished on this Molly Ball piece in The Atlantic on the centrist think tank Third Way's listening tour across America. In it, Ms. Ball subtly fillets the Third Way's domestic anthropologists in their search for answers that already align with the group's preconceptions about a fundamentally centrist, moderate America that wants small government, local control and even-tempered politicians in line with the preferences of the group's corporate donors. Per her story, the focus groups seemed to show one thing, but the conclusions from Third Way showed another. But the reason I write this is to highlight something more disturbing from the piece that speaks to the Third Way's methodology in doing the research." (By all means follow the link to Molly Ball's piece.)

Charlie Stross' bleak consideration: "Some notes on the worst-case scenario"

Ted Rall, "The Trouble with NDAs"

I wish I had this desk. And the room for it.

RIP: "George Young, pioneering songwriter and member of the Easybeats, dies at 70: Young co-wrote 'Friday on My Mind' and 'Love Is in the Air', and worked as a producer for AC/DC. Young, the brother of AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young, was a member of the Easybeats and co-wrote its classic hit 'Friday on My Mind'." Andrew Stafford said, "George Young should be remembered as the sonic architect of Australian rock music."
* "Friday on My Mind"

RIP: "Fats Domino: Rock and roll legend dies aged 89: [...] The New Orleans singer sold more than 65 million records, outselling every 1950s rock and roll act except Elvis Presley. [...] Elvis Presley referred to Fats Domino as "the real king of rock n roll" and Paul McCartney reportedly wrote the Beatles song Lady Madonna in emulation of his style."

Alexis Petridis in the Guardian, "Fats Domino: a huge talent who inspired the Beatles, ska and bling: The boogie-woogie master, who has died aged 89, shaped the course of popular music over and over again."

Michael Gray in the Guardian, "Fats Domino obituary: giant of American music: Rock'n'roll star who was crucial in breaking down the musical colour barrier and proved enormously influential."

David Brown in Rolling Stone, "Fats Domino, Rock and Roll Pioneer, Dead at 89: Genial singer behind "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't That a Shame" helped popularize early rock and roll."

Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker, "The Inescapable Fats Domino"

Fats Domino live in concert

21:32 GMT comment

Thursday, 19 October 2017

With every mistake, we must surely be learning

We Can Have Nice Things: "We CAN have nice things. We can provide a well-paying job for anyone who wants one. Medicare-for-All. Child care. Tuition-free public college and excellent public schools. Modern infrastructure including high-speed rail from city to city. We CAN have nice things that make our lives better. The US government issues its own currency. That means We the People can spend on what we want and need without worrying about 'how to pay for it.' We just pay for it by issuing money. The government can't go bankrupt."

Charlie Pierce, "If the Democrats Don't Learn This Lesson, They Deserve to Lose Forever: Progressive candidates can win anywhere. Contest every race."

Apparently, the Trump administration's trade reps are doing a better job than you'd expect. You know this because: "Chamber calls many Trump administration NAFTA proposals 'dangerous'" And the Chamber is against those changes for the usual reasons, too. "In an unusual turn, the AFL-CIO - which on Thursday gave the Trump administration an "F" for the openness of the negotiations - came to the defense of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is spearheading the NAFTA talks. 'The U.S. Chamber's negative reaction to even discussing creative trade solutions reveals a lot about how much corporate CEOs benefit under the NAFTA status quo,' AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement Friday. He also accused the business group of trying to keep 'the same old broken trade rules' at the expense of working people."

I've always found the "libertarians" a good place to get a bitter laugh, not least because of their ludicrous argument that the right to bear arms will protect us from tyranny. Never mind that hundreds of years of history already show that tyrants can take over without ever troubling about citizens with guns - the Russian people had guns, as did the German people - but they still say this as if it had any foundation at all. (It's not even the reason for the Second Amendment, which had more to do with George Washington's disgust at how badly untrained and unregulated militias performed, and the founders' hope that well-regulated local militias would prevent the existence of standing armies. Alas, no.) But with the data showing that guns aren't much use for self-defense and a stadium full of people with guns would only have resulted in more deaths rather than fewer in the most recent high-profile shooting tragedy, Matt Taibbi says, "The Gun Lobby Is Down to Its Last, Unconvincing Excuse: Las Vegas rips apart the "good guy with a gun" justification, leaving only a flawed constitutional take to justify the madness. [...] Here's my question about that. Where were all these heroic tyrannophobe gun owners during the unprecedented expansion of police and surveillance powers that took place after 9/11? Answer: nowhere. We didn't hear them shrieking about habeas corpus becoming a joke in the Bush years, or torture and extrajudicial assassination becoming standard practices. We didn't hear them protesting the vast expansion of the classification of government documents, or complaining about the widespread abuse of material witness statutes, the national security letter provision of the Patriot Act, or a hundred other problems. Nor did they ever protest aggressive new domestic enforcement policies like stop-and-frisk and predictive policing, for the obvious reason that those programs were mostly directed against minorities in poor neighborhoods." It's even weirder than that, when you consider how much they hated Obama and kept talking about what a fascist dictator he was - and he even declared himself to have the right to kill American citizens without trial, and did so - but they didn't exactly overthrow the tyrant, did they?

Zach Carter, "Trump's Tax Plan Is An Act Of Political Domination By The Rich: But at least we don't have to pretend it isn't. Most Americans suffer from the unfortunate delusion that economic problems are violations of some mathematical order. When recession, severe inflation or other hard times engulf society, it is because the sacred equations have been angered. If we adjust the right variable just so, a set of very important numbers will respond appropriately, and a process of mystical, self-sustaining prosperity will begin. Knowledge of these secret statistical potions is closely guarded, and its practitioners deploy sophisticated abstractions to explain away common-sense calls for reform. Why do so many people work 60-hour weeks for poverty wages while a few luxuriate in the fabulous returns of interest-bearing assets? Why are the citizens of Puerto Rico threatened by a deadly social collapse while the fruit of the island's labor is shipped to Wall Street bondholders? The answer surely cannot be that some wealthy members of our society are exercising political power over the lives and incomes of others. We must consider growth, productivity, liquidity, gross domestic product and the debt-to-GDP ratio. But at the heart of every important economic issue are simple and straightforward power relationships. When you are in debt, someone else has financial power over the ordering of your affairs. Wealth enables rich people to buy their way out of troubles that overwhelm the lives of the poor. For much of our history, the American government granted some people the right to own other people. Economic problems are political problems. They have always been so; they can never be otherwise."

Zack Carter and Ben Walsh, "Congress Is Doing A Huge Favor For BofA While No One Else Watches: WASHINGTON ? House and Senate committees will consider an obscure bill called the 'Fair Access to Investment Research Act' on Thursday. It will not be a major media event. The bill, which will likely sail through Congress, will not cause a new financial crisis, bar millions from accessing health insurance or undermine any foreign policy alliances. But it will help one company - Bank of America - make money by avoiding lawsuits. [...] But even if Democrats do stop it ? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has filed an amendment that would eliminate one of the most glaring problems with the bill ? the fact that a favor for Bank of America is the source of bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill speaks volumes about congressional priorities." The bill passed in the House.

"The U.S. Voted Against a U.N. Resolution Condemning Death Penalty for LGBTQ People: President Donald Trump's administration is facing strong backlash from civil rights groups after voting against a U.N. resolution that condemns using death penalty to punish 'consensual same-sex relations.' The U.N. Human Rights Council approved the measure on Friday with a 27-13 vote, with seven countries abstaining. The United States, led by Amb. Nikki Haley, voted for an amendment to the resolution that said the death penalty was not necessarily a human rights violation, and voted against amendments urging countries to stop using experimental drugs in executions. [...] The Trump administration's vote is nothing new - presidents from both parties have long objected to U.N. resolutions critical of capital punishment. In December 2016, for example - in the final weeks of Obama's presidency - the U.S. voted against a resolution urging states not to execute minors, pregnant women, and the intellectually disabled.

Russ Feingold in the Guardian, "Will the fate of America's democracy be decided by this US supreme court case? On Tuesday, the US supreme court hears oral arguments in Gill v Whitford. This will open the door for a potentially precedent-setting ruling on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering - the process of redrawing electoral districts in order to favor one party over another."

"Common Cause challenges partisan gerrymandering in NC: In a potentially landmark lawsuit, Common Cause and the N.C. Democratic Party Friday launched the nation's latest challenge to partisan gerrymandering. The suit, filed in a federal court in Greensboro, follows a long parade of redistricting litigation in North Carolina. It's also one of several suits around the country contesting the use of partisanship in drawing political boundaries."

"Early Medicaid Expansion Associated With Reduced Payday Borrowing In California: We examined the impact of California's early Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act on the use of payday loans, a form of high-interest borrowing used by low- and middle-income Americans. Using a data set for the period 2009-13 (roughly twenty-four months before and twenty-four months after the 2011-12 Medicaid expansion) that covered the universe of payday loans from five large payday lenders with locations around the United States, we used a difference-in-differences research design to assess the effect of the expansion on payday borrowing, comparing trends in early-expansion counties in California to those in counties nationwide that did not expand early. The early Medicaid expansion was associated with an 11 percent reduction in the number of loans taken out each month. It also reduced the number of unique borrowers each month and the amount of payday loan debt. We were unable to determine precisely how and for whom the expansion reduced payday borrowing, since to our knowledge, no data exist that directly link payday lending to insurance status. Nonetheless, our results suggest that Medicaid reduced the demand for high-interest loans and improved the financial health of American families. "

David Dayen in The Nation, "Special Investigation: How America's Biggest Bank Paid Its Fine for the 2008 Mortgage Crisis - With Phony Mortgages!: Alleged fraud put JPMorgan Chase hundreds of millions of dollars ahead; ordinary homeowners, not so much. [...] Here's how the alleged scam worked. JPMorgan moved to forgive the mortgages of tens of thousands of homeowners; the feds, in turn, credited these canceled loans against the penalties due under the 2012 and 2013 settlements. But here's the rub: In many instances, JPMorgan was forgiving loans on properties it no longer owned."
* Sam Seder discussed the story with Dday on The Majority Report.
* Charlie Pierce asked, "How Is This Not Fraud?" Charlie, it is fraud.

PDF of "FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS: THE MEGABANK ACCOUNTABILITY AND CONSEQUENCES ACT: Running a federally-chartered or federally-insured bank is a privilege, not a right. When megabanks repeatedly exhibit indifference toward consumer protection and demonstrate that they are incapable of complying or unwilling to comply with U.S. laws and regulations, they should be promptly shut down. To date, the federal prudential banking regulators (The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Federal Reserve Board) have neglected to fully exercise their authorities to shut down such a megabank and hold culpable executives and board directors individually accountable. To that end, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Financial Services, is introducing the Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act to require the federal prudential banking regulators to fully utilize existing authorities - such as the ability to shut down a megabank and ban culpable executives and directors from working at another bank - to stop megabanks that clearly and repeatedly engage in practices that harm consumers. The bill also clarifies and enhances the enforcement tool kit to ensure that megabanks and their executives will be held accountable for repeatedly breaking the law and harming consumers."

Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "Trump Election Commission Leader Sought a Radical Change to a Key Voting Law: New documents show that Kris Kobach wanted Trump to make it much harder to register to vote."

"IMF: higher taxes for rich will cut inequality without hitting growth: Analysis supports tax strategy of Jeremy Corbyn's Labour in UK - and undermines that of Donald Trump in US. Higher income tax rates for the rich would help reduce inequality without having an adverse impact on growth, the International Monetary Fund has said. The Washington-based IMF used its influential half-yearly fiscal monitor to demolish the argument that economic growth would suffer if governments in advanced Western countries forced the top 1% of earners to pay more tax. The IMF said tax theory suggested there should be 'significantly higher' tax rates for those on higher incomes but the argument against doing so was that hitting the rich would be bad for growth. But the influential global institution said: 'Empirical results do not support this argument, at least for levels of progressivity that are not excessive.' The IMF added that different types of wealth taxes might also be considered."

"US police killings undercounted by half, study using Guardian data finds: US police killings undercounted by half, study using Guardian data finds "

"Brazil's President Michel Temer Says Rousseff was Impeached for Refusing His Economic Agenda: Brazilian President Michel Temer let an open secret become explicitly clear during a speech to business and foreign policy leaders yesterday in New York. The country's elected and now-removed President, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached because of her position on economic policy, rather than any alleged wrongdoing on her part, her installed successor admitted. Temer's stunning, and seemingly unscripted, acknowledgement will surely bolster the view of impeachment opponents that Dilma's removal was a 'parliamentary coup d'etat.'"

I can't believe the number of hate threads that were generated by the announcement that one of the speakers on the first night of the women's convention would be Bernie Sanders. Sanders is not the only male speaker, and the headliner is Maxine Waters, but when some news outlets put out the story, you'd have thought he was the only speaker invited, to see some of the ridiculous nuttery on Twitter. (Hillary Clinton had already declined to attend.)

William Lazonick in The Harvard Business review, "Profits Without Prosperity: Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients - which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives - reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity. The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings - a total of $2.4 trillion - to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees."

"How military outsourcing turned toxic: new Propublica logoIn August 2016, an inspector from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency arrived at Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana, a nerve center for the U.S. military's global air combat operations, to conduct a routine look at the base's handling of its hazardous waste. Barksdale, like many military bases, generates large volumes of hazardous materials, including thousands of pounds of toxic powder left over from cleaning, painting and maintaining airplanes. For years, Barksdale had been sending a portion of its waste to an Ohio company, U.S. Technology Corp., that had sold officials at the base on a seemingly ingenious solution for disposing of it: The company would take the contaminated powder from refurbished war planes and repurpose it into cinderblocks that would be used to build everything from schools to hotels to big-box department stores - even a pregnancy support center in Ohio. The deal would ostensibly shield the Air Force from the liability of being a large producer of dangerous hazardous trash. The arrangement was not unique."

"The Scariest Thing About Trump's Presidency Is How Little Has Actually Changed [...] This is the very best advice I could give anyone who's trying to piece together an intelligent worldview in an information age that is saturated in establishment propaganda: ignore the stories and watch events. Ignore the rude tweets, the Russia hysteria, the partisan feuds, the wedge politics etc., and look instead at who gets richer, who gets poorer, what actually happens to all the money, how that money influences politics, the legislation that actually gets passed, the military budget which continually expands, the military interventionism which marches on unimpeded, the surveillance network which continues to encircle the globe with an ever-tightening fist, the governments which fall into alignment with America and what happens to the governments that don't, etc. This will tell you everything you need to know about what's really happening in your world, who your real enemies are, and what humanity is really up against."

"Somtow wins European Cultural Achievement award: Thai composer, conductor and novelist Somtow Sucharitkul has won the 2017 European Award for Cultural Achievement."

"A Review of What Happened by an Author Who Insists He Has Never Heard of Hillary Clinton or the 2016 Election [...] We saw it happen not because Hillary Clinton is particularly wretched or terrible - no one person is so consequential - but because the depravity of our empire is straining under its own weight. Because it is barely able to tolerate its contradictions anymore. Hillary Clinton is not singularly responsible for any of this, but this book is not about Hillary Clinton, not really. It's about power. I meant that. It's about what you have to believe if you believe that an adequate response to the present moment consists of trusting the experts, recalibrating the polling computer, and returning the Democratic Party to power. It's about what to do if you missed what happened, if you forgot what happened, if you want all of this to happen again."

Adam Johnson at FAIR, "Media's Grim Addiction to Perseverance Porn [...] These stories are typically shared for the purposes of poor-shaming, typically under the guise of inspirational life advice. 'This man is proof we all just need to keep walking, no matter what life throws at us,' insisted Denver ABC7 anchor Anne Trujillo, after sharing one of those stories of a poor person forced to walk thousands of miles a year to survive. A healthy press would take these anecdotes of 'can do' spirit and ask bigger questions, like why are these people forced into such absurd hardship? Who benefits from skyrocketing college costs? Why does the public transit in this person's city not have subsidies for the poor? Why aren't employers forced to offer time off for catastrophic accidents? But time and again, the media mindlessly tells the bootstrap human interest story, never questioning the underlying system at work. [...] Journalism is as much - if not more - about what isn't reported as what is. Here a local reporter is faced with a cruel example of people falling through the cracks of the richest country on Earth, and their only contribution is to cherry-pick one guy who managed - just barely - to cling on to the edge. [...] It's part of a broader media culture of anecdotes in lieu of the macro, moralizing 'success' rather than questioning systemic problems. Perseverance porn may seem harmless, but in highlighting handpicked cases of people overcoming hardship without showing the thousands that didn't - much less asking broader questions as to what created these conditions - the media traffics in decidedly right-wing tropes. After all, if they can do it, so can you - right?"

Bill Black, "Is Politico or Third Way More Divorced from Reality? [...] I have written several times and documented that Third Way is a creature of, and devoted to, Wall Street's CEOs. Third Way's con is describing itself as 'centrist.' Wall Street CEOs are not centrist. They include the world's most powerful and destructive predators and parasites. The 'left, right, center' metaphor does not apply to a group like Wall Street's CEOs. The latest media sucker to fall for Third Way's con is Politico. Politico fell whole hog, calling Third Way a 'center-left think tank.' Fortunately, Google's recent purge of New America Foundation scholars has proved that 'think tanks' financed by elite corporate CEOs are oxymorons run by regular morons. The one thing you can never do as a scholar at a faux 'think tank' like Third Way is actually think - and then make public the perfidy of the corporate CEOs that fund the non-think tank. Third Way is Wall Street on the Potomac, so it is preposterous to call it 'center-left.' It keeps its corporate funders secret to maximize their corrupting influence. It is one of many Pete Peterson front groups."

"These are the Facebook posts Russia used to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign: Russian Facebook and Twitter accounts masqueraded as pro-Trump Americans when they took aim at Clinton." The idea that anyone who would otherwise have voted for Clinton would have paid attention to this stuff is just completely laughable.

"Beautiful Girls Scribe Scott Rosenberg On A Complicated Legacy With Harvey Weinstein

"'We Are Not the People We Have Been Waiting For': Prominent Progressive Resigns from State Central Committee [...] So many young people were involved. Tech savvy and invested. There was no hiding from mistakes and the doors were wide open on everything. They were reading state party constitutions and by-laws. They came to meetings prepared after sharing information on how things were supposed to be done only to find that nothing was done the way it was written on most occasions. People that had been involved for a long time took this to be an 'invasion' of the party. A huge divide started that was much larger than the 'Bernie v Hillary' thing but everyone likes to blame it on that and continue to do that to this day. Do you see it? Do you see it that way? Or is it just still a 'Bernie v Hillary' thing to you? We play our own game of 'the rules apply only to those outside our circle'"

This is from last March, a tweetstorm Teresa compiled together in a single post for Making Light, on Wealth, risk, and power.

RIP: "Tom Petty, a Mainstay of Rock With the Heartbreakers, Dies at 66 [...] Tony Dimitriades, Mr. Petty's longtime manager, said in a statement that Mr. Petty suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, Calif., early Monday morning and was taken to the U.C.L.A. Medical Center, where he could not be revived. He was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m. with family members, friends and bandmates present at the hospital, Mr. Dimitriades said." There was a long period on Monday night when There was some confusion about whether the artist was actually dead, after a premature announcement by the local police apparently beginning while he was still on life support though showing no brain function. It was later announced that he was taken off life support but there was no announcement that he had died, leading to a Twitter thread on Schroedinger's Tom Petty. But it was clear from the first announcement that a third chair was empty for the Travelling Willburys, Roy Orbison and George Harrison having gone on before, leaving only Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne.

See the trailer for The Brainwashing of My Dad. "As filmmaker Jen Senko tries to understand the transformation of her father from a non political, life-long Democrat to an angry, Right-Wing fanatic, she uncovers the forces behind the media that changed him completely: a plan by Roger Ailes under Nixon for a media takeover by the GOP, The Powell Memo urging business leaders to influence institutions of public opinion, especially the universities, the media and the courts, and under Reagan, the dismantling of the Fairness Doctrine."

Atrios linked this and I thought, "That's perfect." Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (And, my god, that boy sure looks like his dad.)

03:12 GMT comment

Sunday, 01 October 2017

Nobody wanna take the blame

Charlie Savage, "E.P.A. Threatens to Stop Funding Justice Dept. Environmental Work: WASHINGTON - Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator who has aggressively pushed to dismantle regulations and downsize the organization, is threatening to reach outside his agency and undermine the Justice Department's work enforcing antipollution laws, documents and interviews show."

"House votes to curb asset seizures: The House voted Tuesday to curb the law enforcement practice of seizing cash and property from people who are suspected of illegal activity but who have not necessarily been charged. A bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed an amendment to a government-spending package for 2018 that would prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to remove restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture. The practice allows law enforcement to seize cash and property and keep at least part of the proceeds."

"New Fed Data: Black Wealth Cratered Under Obama: The Federal Reserve released the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances today. This is the first wealth survey of its kind since 2013. By comparing the 2007 and 2016 versions of the SCF, we can see roughly how the various racial groups fared under Obama. What you see in the below graphs is that the top 2 percent of black families improved their position; the top 2 percent of Latino families improved their position; and the top 22 percent of white families improved their position. Virtually everyone else was worse off in 2016 than in 2007 in terms of their family's net worth." (The graphs make sense if you mouse over them.)

Bernie Sanders & Amy Klobuchar debate Lindsay Graham & Bill Cassidy about the horrible Obamacare repeal bill, full video. Boy, that Cassidy is one clever weasel.

"How Bernie Sanders got Democrats to stop worrying and embrace single-payer [...] Over the past several months, Sanders has convinced 24 of the biggest liberal advocacy organizations and nearly one-third of Senate Democrats to co-sponsor his updated Medicare-for-all bill. It is a sharp reversal for the party that once relegated the idea to its radical fringe: Just two years ago, Sanders couldn't find a single co-sponsor for his bill. [...] The combined result of Sanders's carrot-and-stick approach - the implicit threat of criticism from the outside, the concessions from within - is a single-payer bill that 15 Senate Democrats have publicly said they will support, and an abrupt transformation in a political party's health care policy position that almost nobody could have guessed even a few months ago. "

But "Democratic leaders keep distance from Sanders single-payer plan: Democratic support for a single-payer health-care system has grown by bounds this year, attracting more lawmaker endorsements than any time in the past. But one group is conspicuously not on board: party leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday previewed the much-anticipated release of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) 'Medicare for all' bill by taking the notable step of refusing to throw their weight behind it. 'Right now I'm protecting the Affordable Care Act,' Pelosi told a group of reporters in the Capitol."

Back in September, Gaius Publius was saying that the sudden emergence of Democrats signing on to Sanders bill was open rebellion that forced our enemies to show us where they stand rather than the usual "closed rebellion" where everything is done quietly behind closed doors so that the establishment can be protected from being seen for what they are by the public. "If you keep these points in mind as the debate evolves, you'll be well-positioned to understand what ensues," he wrote at the time. Howie Klein's "The Third Way Has Always Been A Fancy Excuse For Politicians Taking Massive Special Interest Bribes is almost a companion piece toward the end, with details confirming that sentence. And also reminding people of what a disgusting piece of crap Tony Blair is, I'm happy to say.
* Howie also notes that while even the worst Democrats are not quite as bad as the worst Republicans, it just isn't true to say that every Democrat is better than any Republican.

Dean Baker, "Why Don't Normal Liability Rules Put Equifax Out of Business? [...] In terms of breaches, we don't know how much damage people will suffer from the most recent one but suppose we just give a nominal amount, say $100, to each of the 140 million victims. This would come to $14 billion. If people suffer serious damage in the form of stolen identities leading to phony credit charges and stolen assets, the damages would be hugely higher. The revenue (not profits) of the three credit agencies is $10 billion a year, If these companies faced liability in accordance with the actual harm caused by preventable errors, it is difficult to see how they could stay in business. This raises the question of what sort of legal liability the credit agencies face."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "Trump made his very first halfway smart political move. Too bad it's too late. The federal debt limit, an archaic holdover from a century ago, needs to be raised again soon. Remarkably, President Trump has reached an agreement with congressional Democrats not just to raise it, but to look into abolishing it altogether - drawing the fury of the congressional Republican leadership. What is perhaps most surprising is that it took this long for Trump to try this tactic - and long past when it would have possibly worked. Folks - and by the way, everyone is saying this, you'd be surprised - the president is stupid."

Republicans claim that passing their health care bill "keeps campaign promises" - but it doesn't look much like the campaign promises Trump made. Fortunately, it all fell apart again when they couldn't get the votes.

Sam Seder had Marcy Wheeler on to explain the latest state of play. She seems more convinced than I am that Guccifer is with the Russians, but even she admits it's only what they say, and not what we can see.
* Sammy also had Stephanie Kelton on again for another tutorial on Modern Monetary Theory and how it works.

Charlie Pierce, "Chuck and Nancy Just Played Don Like a Fiddle."

David Dayen in The Nation, "Did President Trump Really Strike A Deal That Screwed Republicans?: The whole question revolves around whether Democrats actually want to play hardball. [...] All that said, Republican leaders might see this turn of events as positive, regardless of what they are saying in public. They had a packed schedule to deal with in September, and this allows them to put off some major decisions. Plus, they can place the blame with President Trump instead of themselves. It takes some pressure off leadership from the rank and file. To see this as truly good for Democrats, you have to believe that there's some endgame for which Chuck and Nancy are willing to hold out. Do people really think that Democrats would play games with the full faith and credit of the US government? I simply don't see them being that ruthless; this is a difference between the parties. Democrats generally aren't interested in crippling the government, but that's what they'd have to be willing to risk in order to succeed in the negotiations."

Alice Speri, "Israel Security Forces Are Training American Cops Despite History of Rights Abuses: It's not uncommon for residents of America's most heavily policed neighborhoods to describe their local cops as 'an occupying force.' Judging by where many U.S. police forces get their training, the description seems apt. Thousands of American law enforcement officers frequently travel for training to one of the few countries where policing and militarism are even more deeply intertwined than they are here: Israel."

Ari Berman, in Mother Jones, "A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year [...] The study's lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election. 'We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,' Mayer told me. "

In Harper's, "Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?"

Matt Stoller in The Nation, "How America Could Collapse: Supply chain shocks have already led to shortages of videotape and auto parts. Could food or medicine be next?"

Bernie Sanders' book tour took him to Stephen Colbert.

Bernie Sanders Explains What a Progressive Foreign Policy + National Security Strategy Look Like. There were a few phrases that made me cringe, but overall he is outlining a better approach, f'sure - a path to peace.
* Senator Sanders' interview with The Intercept, "Bernie Sanders: Saudi Arabia Is 'Not An Ally' And The U.S. Should 'Rethink' Its Approach To Iran

"Tom Perez, former U.S. labor secretary, to teach at Brown" So much for his being a better choice than Ellison because he would make party chair his full-time job....

Bloomberg, "Obama Goes From White House to Wall Street in Less Than One Year [...] But Jeff Hauser, who studies political corruption as head of the Revolving Door Project in Washington, said Obama should play by the same rules as other politicians because of his ongoing work with the Democratic Party. 'He's continuing to exercise the authority,' Hauser said, citing Obama's support for the party's redistricting committee and the push he gave Tom Perez in the race to head the Democratic National Committee. If he wants to play a role, 'he ought to forgo a few hundred thousand here and maybe a half-million there.'"

"Obama: 'The world has never been healthier, wealthier or less violent': Former president urges optimism and focus on progress at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation conference, despite shadow cast by Trump's UN speech." And despite the shadow cast by how these neoliberals have made the world a poorer and more violent place.

"ACLU of Missouri Files Lawsuit Against City of St. Louis for Unconstitutional Police Conduct: ST. LOUIS - The ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit today against the city of St. Louis for unlawful and unconstitutional actions against people during the Stockley verdict demonstrations of the past week."

Dday in The New Republic, "Why You Should Side With Google Against an Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill: People of all political stripes now argue for regulation that treats these companies as public utilities, like the telephone industry, or for stronger antitrust regulation - that is, to break up these giants. The first real legislative test amid this more hostile atmosphere comes Tuesday at a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee. Tech firms, in particular Google, are being criticized for quietly opposing a bipartisan bill that would let victims of sex trafficking sue websites that facilitate it. The companies contend that, while they oppose sex traffickers like Backpage.com, the bill would create a slippery slope toward limiting or removing all user-generated web content, the lifeblood of sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. It's hard to be coolly rational about heinous crimes like forced prostitution. But on the merits, this bill would have troubling implications for free speech online. As this backlash against Silicon Valley grows, we need to be careful that a desire to constrain tech monopolies doesn't harm the rest of us."

A little research from Hamline University professor David Schultz, "Swing Counties and Why Clinton Really Lost? It Wasn't Sanders Fault...It was Hers."

Democratic pollster, Stanley Greenberg, on "How She Lost [...] The campaign's approach senselessly and increasingly drove up Trump's margin in white working-class communities, tipping Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The analytics model built around these assumptions was so simple-minded it portended disaster. Despite overwhelming evidence that the Democratic base wasn't consolidated or excited, the campaign believed Trump's tasteless attacks and Clinton's identification with every group in the rainbow coalition would produce near universal support. Thus, they stopped trying to persuade voters and measured only the probability of support for Hillary. The campaign's task was turning out those Clinton voters, and they fell frustratingly short."

"A massive new study reviews the evidence on whether campaigning works. The answer's bleak: In general elections, campaigns' attempts to win swing voters appear to not work at all. [...] This doesn't mean that political campaigns never matter. Kalla and Broockman find that these activities can persuade voters in primary elections and during ballot-initiative campaigns. Campaigns can still effectively turn out voters whose minds are already made up about a candidate, and voters can and do change their opinions when prompted by politicians they already support (something a previous study of Broockman's confirmed)."

"The Boring Story of the 2016 Election: Donald Trump did not win because of a surge of white support. Indeed he got less white support than Romney got in 2012. Nor did Trump win because he got a surge from other race+gender groups. The exit polls show him doing slightly better with black men, black women, and latino women than Romney did, but basically he just hovered around Romney's numbers with every race+gender group, doing slightly worse than Romney overall. However, support for Hillary was way below Obama's 2012 levels, with defectors turning to a third party. Clinton did worse with every single race+gender combo except white women, where she improved Obama's outcome by a single point. Clinton did not lose all this support to Donald. She lost it into the abyss. Voters didn't like her but they weren't wooed by Trump.

Shock Tactics: In the most detailed study ever of fatalities and litigation involving police use of stun guns, Reuters finds more than 150 autopsy reports citing Tasers as a cause or contributor to deaths across America. Behind the fatalities is a sobering reality: Many who die are among society's vulnerable - unarmed, in psychological distress and seeking help."

"Democrats are losing their most loyal voters: black women. [...] These voters aren't running into the arms of Republicans, of course - just one percent of respondents said the GOP best represents them. But the percentage of black women who said neither party represents them jumped from 13 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2017. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat in the Congressional Black Caucus, addressed the news after the poll's release at the Washington Convention Center. 'I respect independents. I understand independents,' she told the crowd, arguing that her party needs to do more to communicate its values. 'I've never said I'm in the Democratic Party because I like to party,' she said. 'I'm in there because of values.'"

"Obama pollster Cornell Belcher on the failures that led to President Trump: 'What happens to a centrist Democrat who can't hold the Obama coalition?': Trump didn't 'remake the electorate.' argues leading Democratic pollster. Instead, Hillary and her party blew it [...] Again, Trump didn't expand the Republican tent. He didn't bring in all these millions upon millions of new Republican voters. This was about Democrats losing, more so than Trump remaking the electorate and winning in some sort of profound and new way. It should not have been a winning percentage, right?"

Pierce, "You're Not Supposed to Say This Out Loud: Deficits are just a talking point when Democrats are in power."
* Atrios said much the same thing, "Nobody Ever Cared About The Deficit: The simplest proof of the fact that almost every political reporter was either dumb as rocks, happy to be lied to, or, most likely, was on board with the ideology that government spending money on anything except war is bad, was that they took deficit concerns seriously. Nobody cares about the deficit (and, mostly, they shouldn't!). [...] They don't care. They never cared. Republican presidents run up the deficit and Democratic ones bring it down, and after decades of this the Republicans are still the party of fiscal responsibility according to political journalists. Republicans hate spending any money for nice things and love tax cuts for rich people. That's it. I am a dumb blogger and I know this. You all get paid big salaries by our leading media outlets and you are stupid or liars."

"'I Wanted to Tell the Story of How I Had Become a Racist:' Historian Charles B. Dew: In The Making of a Racist, professor Charles B. Dew describes his evolution from a 'young Confederate' to an outspoken critic of racism."

RIP: Charles Bradley, soul singer, at 68: Sam Cooke sang about a change that was gonna come. It spread optimism to black Americans. Charles Bradley, on the other hand, sang of moral corruption and turning to love to survive, because who knows when change will finally come."

RIP "Hugh Hefner: Playboy magazine founder dies aged 91: Playboy Enterprises Inc said he passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles, from natural causes." (Playboy's own obit for Hefner is here.) A lot of feminists won't say this, but I will: Playboy was a great contributor to the sexual revolution, supporting reproductive rights and making sex something you could actually discuss and ask questions about. The Playboy Advisor I read when I was a teenager and young adult was thoughtful and not sexist at all, often giving truly useful advice to men and women alike. (I noticed in later years that he'd been replaced by someone else who wasn't nearly as good.) Its support for civil rights was undoubtedly a helpful addition to the discourse. Yes, famously, when an Ursula Le Guin story was published in its pages, she appeared as "U.K. Le Guin", but Playboy paid top dollar for science fiction stories (!), even to someone named "Ursula", as well as publishing, every month, some of the best interviews on topical issues of every kind. In 1965, Martin Luther King gave his longest interview ever to Alex Haley for Playboy; in a 1968 issue of Playboy, Haley interviewed George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. (They had already published his interview with Malcolm X in 1963.) And of course, Playboy was there with it's timely interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which had already been scheduled for publication, by sheerest coincidence, to appear just after Lennon's murder. Hefner's fight to force the US Post Office to carry Playboy to subscribers through the mails was a major victory for free speech which still has impact today on both what's delivered to your front door and what is on the internet. And Hefner was there with the money Dick Gregory needed to pressure the FBI to find the bodies of three murdered civil rights workers. He wasn't the father of the sexual/revolution by any means, but he brought it to the public and fought to preserve it, and made civil rights a moral imperative for many who had probably given it little thought. That's no small thing.

Jay Rosen "Getting granular with the claim that Trump is some media wizard: That our President is a master of media manipulation is a view commonly expressed by American journalists. I doubt it." I've long wondered about this. What is it about journalists that makes them so willing to dance to Trump's tune?

This article is terrible framing and has some of the worst sentences I've seen on the subject. I really wish people wouldn't do this stuff. It's not illuminating and it just implies something that isn't true. Stoppit! And here's an article by someone else who doesn't like these sorts of articles. "Ta-Nehisi Coates, however, illustrates the debilitating limits of what 'identity politics' has now come to represent, something far from the radical and coalitional practice of the Combahee River Collective: a moralizing discourse which monopolizes the discussion of race, yet fails to propose either a coherent theory of racial oppression or a viable program for eliminating it. Coates deploys his considerable erudition and rhetorical flourish in service of sheer obfuscation - the story of whiteness as magic and Trump as sorcerer. Despite the gingerly placed historical references, in Coates's telling whiteness has no history. It is a malevolent force which surges from the netherworld in moments which can only be identified by the intensity of Coates's own feelings - the American Dream become Coates's personal nightmare."

Beat the Press, "Washington Post News Article Argues It is Better to Tax Work Than Vacant Property in London: Economists usually argue that it's best to tax the things you want discourage, like cigarettes, alcohol, and gasoline, not things you want to encourage, like work. That is why it is striking that the Washington Post could not find one economist who thought that a plan in London to tax vacant housing units is a good idea."

Alex Pareen, "You Are Jonathan Chait's Enemy [...] Something that is well-known to people who've read Chait for years, but may not be apparent to those who just think of him as a standard-issue center-left pundit who is sort of clueless about race, is that he is engaged in a pretty specific political project: Ensuring that you and people like you don't gain control of his party. I say 'you' because his conception of the left almost certainly includes you. He is not merely against Jill Stein voters and unreconstructed Trotskyites and Quaker pacifists. He means basically anyone to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996. If you support a less militaristic foreign policy, if you believe the Democratic Party should do more to dismantle structural racism and create a more equitable distribution of wealth, if you think Steve fucking King is a white supremacist, Chait is opposed to you nearly as staunchly as he is opposed to Paul Ryan."

Sam Seder did an interesting interview with George Monbiot about Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis on The Majority Report.

Paul Jay of Reality Asserts Itself talked with Thomas Frank about how the Democratic Party hates the base and has been trying to purge us since Clinton.

"How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America: America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?"

Christy Thornton: Narco States & Neoliberalism - MR Live - 9/11/17

"The Jones Act: The Law Strangling Puerto Rico [...] After World War I, America was worried about German U-boats, which had sunk nearly 5,000 ships during the war. Congress enacted the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, to ensure that the country maintained a shipbuilding industry and seafaring labor force. Section 27 of this law decreed that only American ships could carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens. Almost a century later, there are no U-boats lurking off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Jones Act has outlived its original intent, yet it is strangling the island's economy. Under the law, any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer. [...] The foreign vessel has one other option: It can reroute to Jacksonville, Fla., where all the goods will be transferred to an American vessel, then shipped to Puerto Rico where - again - all the rerouting costs are passed through to the consumer."

Katherine Krueger, "Hillary Clinton Will Never Understand What Happened [...] 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them,' Clinton said again and again on the campaign trail. Unfortunately for her, this goes both ways. Through decades of being a Washington insider, Clinton has shown herself to be a foreign policy hawk, a capitalist of the highest order, and an opportunist who's been tarred with the 'slime' of many scandals even she recognizes can never be fully washed away. Above all, Clinton has relentlessly embraced the notion that politics must bend to the world as it is - no matter how sordid - rather than imagine the world as it could or should be. It is this quality that she defends perhaps most zealously in What Happened, despite the fact that her unapologetic embrace of that ethos helped create the world that gave us Donald Trump. In 2016, Clinton showed people who she was. Voters in the crucial states that decided the race believed her, and rejected her. In What Happened, she shows us again. Nearly a year later, the image hasn't changed."

Sam Kriss in The Huffington Post, "What Should Have Happened In Hillary Clinton's Useless Book: An artless and inauthentic memoir, written by the absence of Clinton. [...] Vagueness seeps everywhere. Discussing her decision to launch a second presidential bid, Clinton protests that she wasn't simply after power. 'I wanted power to do what I could to help solve problems and prepare the country for the future. It's audacious for anyone to believe he or she should be President, but I did.' What problems? Solve them how? The answers reveal a strange antinomy of her liberal-centrist leadership cult. Clinton's policy team started using data and focus groups to work out what problems Americans were concerned with, and started scouring think tanks for solutions. Clinton is not partisan or ideological. She simply follows the facts. In other words, she did something that absolutely anyone else should be capable of doing. She is an exceptional individual who deserved to be president, precisely because she's just another cog in the bureaucratic machine. In the counter-democratic universe of establishment managerialism, elections are just another interview process for another government job; the winner should be the person with the most gold stars on their résumé, and we can trust that they're embedded enough in the mechanisms of government to use their authority properly. It's a politics of systems and social control: Power is always a question of efficiency and problem-solving, never one of justice. Trump, too, is a member of the New York ruling classes. He is also blissfully unencumbered by any cohesive ideology, preferring 'deals' (read: bipartisanship) and 'answers' (read: solutions). He is also someone who wanted power; not to do anything in particular with it, but because he thought he deserved it."

Bryce Covert in The New Republic, "Deadbeat Democrats: How Bill Clinton set the stage for the GOP's war on the poor. [...] In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's talk of lazy 'welfare queens' and 'strapping young bucks' buying expensive steaks on the government's dime had turned welfare into a dirty word. By 1989, two-thirds of Americans thought welfare made people dependent and 'content' to stay poor. Feeling hemmed in by white voters who had responded to Reagan's racemongering about the shiftless poor guzzling up government benefits, Clinton decided to make a sort of Faustian bargain: He would 'reform' welfare in a way that would detoxify the politics around it, gambling that the move would create more support for a strong safety net in the long run. 'Once taxpayers started viewing the poor as workers, not welfare cheats, a more generous era would ensue,' The New York Times observed in 2000, summing up the rationale for Clinton's wager on welfare reform. 'Harmful stereotypes would fade. New benefits would flow.' Celebrating the law's passage in 1996, Clinton repeated his Reaganesque justification for sweeping change. 'The current welfare system undermines the basic values of work, responsibility, and family,' he declared, 'trapping generation after generation in dependency.' In the end, though, Clinton never succeeded at getting more generous benefits for the poor. And his bet on 'reform' turned what was once a helping hand into a slap in the face - and an utter disaster for the vulnerable. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act ended the Great Society promise of cash benefits for all families in need. It imposed work requirements on recipients of welfare benefits, and allowed states to erect further barriers to aid. And it plunged millions into even deeper poverty. In 1996, nearly 70 percent of poor families received benefits. Today it's less than 25 percent. And that's not because they all found decent jobs and developed the sense of 'personal responsibility' and 'self-sufficiency' that Clinton loved to preach about. According to a study of low-income single mothers, more than 20 percent go for months at a time with neither employment nor benefits. Since 1995, the number of Americans living on $2 or less a day has nearly tripled - including some three million children."

"Centrism.biz: Scathing New Parody Site Rips Mask Off 'Zombie Neoliberalism' [...] But what about an online home for the dedicated centrists: for those who prefer small ideas to large ones; for those who oppose both fascism and universal healthcare; for those who take money from the murderous Saudi regime and still claim to value human rights? Centrists, the wait is finally over: Centrism.biz is the brand new, one-stop shop for all things 'moderate.'"

"15 Percent? 20 Percent? It Doesn't Matter, Because Tipping Culture Is Fundamentally Broken: Leaving a tip isn't only payment for services, it is a mark of social and economic superiority -- which is why workers in the US resisted the system in the 19th century."

"What sex workers want should be a vital part of feminist politics [...] Whether or not sex work should be considered a job or a form of violence against women is a question that has featured in feminist debates for decades. Those who fully advocate decriminalising sex work do so because they believe that granting sex workers the support, labour rights and legal protections of any other type of employment is the best way to help them stay safe."

Was Malcolm in the Middle actually a socialist masterpiece? "Malcolm in the Middle showed that the promises of neoliberalism had always been false."

"Orange is the new green: How orange peels revived a Costa Rican forest: PRINCETON, N.J.--In the mid-1990s, 1,000 truckloads of orange peels and orange pulp were purposefully unloaded onto a barren pasture in a Costa Rican national park. Today, that area is covered in lush, vine-laden forest. A team led by Princeton University researchers surveyed the land 16 years after the orange peels were deposited. They found a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass -- or the wood in the trees -- within the 3-hectare area (7 acres) studied. Their results are published in the journal Restoration Ecology."

"New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology Questions"

"If Bernard Black Quotes Were Motivational Posters"

First Look At David Tennant & Michael Sheen From Good Omens

KINGSMAN: The Golden Circle Trailer

Roller Dreams premiers in London in the first week of October.

Charles Bradley, "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)"

17:53 GMT comment

Monday, 11 September 2017

You might think I'm crazy

Dept. of Google Doing Evil:
Note: Barry C. Lynn mentioned herein is a different fellow from Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Both are normally referred to only as "Barry Lynn".
* NYT: "Google Critic Ousted From Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant: WASHINGTON - In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized. The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family's foundation since the think tank's founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates. But not long after one of New America's scholars posted a statement on the think tank's website praising the European Union's penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group's president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar. [...] Ms. Slaughter told Mr. Lynn that 'the time has come for Open Markets and New America to part ways,' according to an email from Ms. Slaughter to Mr. Lynn. The email suggested that the entire Open Markets team - nearly 10 full-time employees and unpaid fellows - would be exiled from New America."
* Matt Stoller at The Huffington Post, "Citizens Against Monopoly: As Google aims to consolidate complete power over discussion and free expression, it is time to heighten public urgency and pushback. [...] In late June, the European competition authority handed down a decision against Google for monopolizing the search market and suppressing rivals. It was a classic case of anti-competitive behavior, and the EU made the right decision. What's interesting, however, is not the decision, but what happened next across the ocean in Washington, D.C. My group, the Open Markets Program at New America, researches and studies monopoly power. Barry Lynn began this research 15 years ago, and has been building the necessary intellectual and historical grammar to understand the deep dysfunction in our corporate and political sectors. In response to the EU decision, Lynn sent a statement lauding the action. In response, Google had our group kicked out of our parent think tank, New America. Ken Vogel at the New York Times did the story on the specifics of how this happened. The combination, of the misbehavior in the search market and the attempt to suppress research into how Google operates, shows that the actual issue at hand is one of political power."
* Matthew Yglesias at Vox, "A leading Google critic's firing from a Google-funded think tank, explained: Forget it, Jake. It's Washington. [...] Google seems to have implicitly or explicitly used its financial clout to pressure New America to dissociate itself from Lynn, and now Lynn and his team are leaving New America and (apparently with some funding in hand) creating a new organization - Citizens Against Monopoly. In this particular case, Google's heavy-handed tactics seem more likely than not to backfire. But the case sheds light on the growing tendency of companies to use think tanks as essentially stealth lobbyists, and underscores the ways in which their priorities can shape the research agenda in Washington, even if it typically happens in more subtle ways." As long as Google was on the side of the consumer against telecoms companies, things were cozy. "What makes Google somewhat unusual for such a big company is that it's fairly closely aligned with the Democratic Party. Dozens of people moved from jobs at Google to jobs in the Obama administration, and vice versa, over its eight-year span. Schmidt was a major Hillary Clinton donor. More tellingly, Schmidt owns a company called Civis Analytics that does an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes data work for Democratic Party campaigns. This alignment grows out of both cultural affinity between Democrats and Google on social issues, and also years of regulatory struggle that often saw Google, Democrats, and consumer groups on one side pitted against telecommunications industry incumbents." But when it comes to anti-trust, Google is clearly on the other side, and they don't like it.
* Zephyr Teachout at The Interecept, "How I Got Fired From a D.C. Think Tank for Fighting Against the Power of Google"

Weirdly, Tucker Carlson gave sympathetic coverage to the story, including an interview with Matt Stoller.
* But Kashmir Hill says this isn't the first time. "Yes, Google Uses Its Power to Quash Ideas It Doesn't Like - I Know Because It Happened to Me."

And anti-monopoly arguments are penetrating. Even The Wall Street Journal takes "A Provocative Look at the Harm From Corporate Heft [...] That can be good: size and scale can enable companies to reduce costs, invest in better products and compete globally. But a provocative new study concludes the opposite. It found that in recent decades a lack of competition has driven up prices, hurting U.S. growth, wages and labor-force participation.

"How the Democratic Party Is Learning to Love Being Anti-Monopoly: Democrats just unveiled the opening salvo to their attempts to take back Congress. It sounds like the Warren and Sanders playbook - but the roots go deeper."

Marshall Steinbaum at The Roosevelt Institute, "A Real Monopoly Moment: The news that Barry Lynn's Open Markets group has been evicted from its DC think tank home, New America, for crossing the interests of its major funder, Google, is a legitimately shocking development. This development crystalizes the concerns about monopoly power that we at Roosevelt have been pointing out these past few years - along with our like-minded colleagues who have set up shop at the new Citizens Against Monopoly. Evidence is mounting that market power is causing economic problems: stagnant growth, rising inequality, slack labor markets, and vacant storefronts and factories. It should surprise no one that this excess power is now threatens intellectual freedom and inquiry. Concentrated power does not appreciate being called out."

Here's a good 2013 article by Lynn, on an earlier era of anti-trust action, "Estates of Mind: The answer to America's techno-malaise is to force big corporations to compete more. And to open their patent vaults. [...] Or consider the business software giant Oracle. Its CEO, Larry Ellison, once said that acquiring another company was 'a confession that there's a failure to innovate.' Then in 2004 Ellison began to gobble up precisely those competitors most likely to force Oracle to innovate. This included PeopleSoft, Siebel, Sun Microsystems, and more than eighty other firms. The story is not much different at Google, which has vacuumed up more than 120 former competitors, along with their products, patents, and, often, their scientists and engineers. If you think of Google as an innovative company, remember that it was the smaller companies it swallowed that actually developed most of its key components. These include YouTube, DoubleClick, and the ITA airline reservation system, as well as ten search companies that no longer compete with Google because Google now owns them. Much the same is true of Intel, Corning, Pfizer, and Microsoft. These giants don't merely set standards for certain formats of semiconductors, glass, pharmaceuticals, and software. Their mastery over patents and markets empowers them to block or buy most any newcomer that might threaten their sovereignty. What technologies are developed, and how and where they are developed, is increasingly up to these small clubs of executives alone. [...] Nevertheless, problems soon emerged. By the mid-nineteenth century, American financiers had figured out how to use patent monopolies not merely to hobble rival innovators but also to erect corporate empires; by the turn of the twentieth century, they had largely perfected the art. One of the more notable instances saw J. P. Morgan grab control of the electrical patents of Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and Nikola Tesla, and then use the resulting 'pool' to control the entire electrical industry. One lawyer of that era even penned a primer for businessmen. 'Patents are the best and most effective means of controlling competition,' he wrote. Sometimes, he added, patents 'give absolute command of the market, enabling the owner to name the price without regard to cost of production.' The first coherent reactions against such abuse of patents also date to this time. In 1900, political scientist Jeremiah Jenks proposed using antitrust law to compel giant companies to license their patents."

David Dayen at The New Republic, "Democrats Face an Important Anti-Monopoly Test: How the party treats Trump's pick for antitrust enforcement will speak volumes about its commitment to fighting corporate consolidation. [...] The authority to change those guidelines rests with the head of the DOJ's antitrust division. So the Delrahim nomination suddenly puts the Democrats' credibility on the line. It's highly unlikely Delrahim would upend the consumer welfare standard. He praised it in this 2003 speech from when he served in the Justice Department under George W. Bush, arguing that 'increased use of economic thinking has transformed federal merger analysis.' Analysts at Hughes Hubbard put Delrahim 'within the mainstream of the last several decades' antitrust orthodoxy.' That's just what Democrats, in A Better Deal, claim to want to break from."

Best Protest Ever: "Dinosaur suit-wearing protesters march on Washington to protest Pres. Trump's plan to slash the budget for national service programs."

An Unhinged Rant about Harvey.

An Evening with Bernie Sanders: Riverside Church, NYC 8/28/17

David Dayen on how we are, "Canada's China: Buried amid NAFTA negotiations this week was a fun little nugget: we are Canada's China. Our corporate titan-backed rollout of "right to work" principles in state after state has denied a level playing field for Canadian manufacturers, which is all the U.S. ever says we want in trade negotiations. So Canada decided to call us on it."

Dday at The Intercept, "The Politics Of The Dream Act Seem Pretty Easy, But Some Democrats Are Still Screwing It Up: IF SENATE DEMOCRATS were united in 2010, undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children would already be on the path to citizenship. A vote on the DREAM Act held after the disastrous midterm elections got three Republican votes, enough to break a filibuster at the time if Democrats held firm. But six Democratic defections ' five no votes and one abstention ' sunk the bill, leading then-President Barack Obama to eventually establish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to protect the 'Dreamers.' [...] In other words, Congress is falling into two camps: not for and against a DREAM Act, but for and against voting on a DREAM Act by itself. And calling for a comprehensive immigration solution - which Congress has failed to agree on for decades, even when the parties were far less polarized - is pretty close to being against anything getting done. It's a cheap way to earn support and respect from a public that overwhelmingly supports DACA - 76 percent in favor of allowing beneficiaries to stay, including 69 percent of Republicans - without having to vote to keep them in the country."

Brent Budowsky in The Hill, "How Sanders could save the Democratic Party in 2018: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is the conscience of the Democratic Party at a moment in history when it is crucial that Democrats stand for profiles in courage as a historically crucial midterm election effectively begins this week with the return of Congress from recess. [...] Democrats stand on the brink of being on the winning side of an anti-Trump wave election in the 2018 midterm elections. But it is possible for Democrats to win a wave election in the popular vote in 2018 without winning enough seats to gain control of the House of Representatives or the Senate, which would perpetuate one-party control in Washington after the midterm votes are counted. [...] What Sanders and his supporters have, and many Democratic insiders and large donors lack, is the passion and commitment of knowing that they speak for hugely important issues at a dangerous moment for American politics."

"Democrats Put Eric Holder, Best Friend of Wall Street Banks, in Charge of Winning Back Main Street America: Holder was a "double agent" for high finance while serving as America's top cop. [...] Eric Holder, the former U.S. Attorney General, is the chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which promises to unfurl - a targeted, state-by-state strategy that ensures Democrats can fight back - when the political maps are drawn for U.S. House and state legislative races for the decade of the 2020s."

Late to the party, The New York Times appears to take vote-rigging seriously - but only if the Russians are in it. "Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter at a nonpartisan election monitoring group, was alarmed. Most of the complaints came from Durham, a blue-leaning county in a swing state. The problems involved electronic poll books - tablets and laptops, loaded with check-in software, that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters' identities and registration status. She knew that the company that provided Durham's software, VR Systems, had been penetrated by Russian hackers months before." Let's see, where was the NYT 17 years ago....?

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "Did Kamala Harris just become a Bernie Bro? [...] Now Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a centrist darling, has taken up the major proposal of the left, by becoming a co-sponsor of Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-all bill. She may have become ... one of the Dread Bernie Bros. This is interesting, and not a little amusing, on multiple levels. But it's also a good opportunity to drive home the fact that the largest beneficiaries of an agenda of economic populism would be oppressed minorities, especially black and Latino Americans." (I was amused to see Cooper says the "centrists" who attacked him for an earlier article subjected him to a social media pile-on that was worse than he'd had from the Gamergate crowd. I tell ya, those HillBros are the worst. Meanwhile, Joy Reid is the poster child for deranged Clintonophilia.) "Jokes aside, what matters about this move is how it clarifies both recent history and the policy stakes. The problem with the argument about political success from Reid and Dean is that it's completely at odds with recent electoral results. Democrats just ran a compromising, centrist, big-donor candidate with a 3-2 money advantage and lost to the biggest buffoon in the history of presidential politics. Overall, the party is in its worst shape since 1928. If anybody is calling for a "purity test," it's people continuing to cling to such a world-historical failure."

"Best Looting of West Baltimore: The Hogan Administration Making Off with the Red Line Funds: It has been a shitty year for West Baltimore. But of all the crimes committed in 2015, nothing trumps Gov. Larry Hogan's decision to cancel the Red Line. The proposed subway-to-surface light-rail line - which had been planned for more than a decade and was supposed to break ground this year - would have linked impoverished West Baltimore to thousands of jobs and the rest of the city's transit system. To add insult to injury, the transportation funds that the O'Malley administration had been saving for the rail project were redistributed to wealthier, low-density counties for sprawl-inducing highway projects. Baltimore City literally received $0 from the 'savings.' So instead of providing life-changing access to employment, education, and health care to an area with the lowest car ownership in the state, that money is now going to projects such as widening roads in the middle of nowhere. And the $900 million the federal government was giving the MTA to cover its half of construction costs? That's now going somewhere other than Maryland, not to mention the millions of dollars already spent on planning and right-of-way acquisition. Even in a city known for crime, this is a heist for the history books."

"In Arizona, People Power Triumphs Over Dark Money in School Voucher Fight: In Arizona, people power just won a major victory over national dark money groups. In 90 days, more than 2,500 regular Arizona voters fanned out across the state, collecting more than 110,000 signatures to block a radical and highly controversial expansion of school vouchers pushed through by our GOP legislature and governor this spring. In a state that already ranks dead last in teacher pay and hovers just above last place for per-student spending, parents would now be able to take money out of local public schools to use toward private, home-school and religious education. With their signatures, 110,000 Arizona residents said 'enough.' Another cut to public school funding would be devastating. [...] Political insiders were quick to dismiss us. They said that the controversial law was more of the same, nothing to get hot and bothered about, and that Save Our Schools would turn out to a political blip in a state where residents are ready to walk away from their public schools. They were wrong.

"Federal Judge Bars Enforcement Of Texas' Voter ID Laws: The permanent injunction against the law follows years of litigation, but will be appealed. The Justice Department, which once backed the challengers to the state's voter ID law, reversed course once Trump took office - urging that recent amendments to the law eliminated its discriminatory effects."

"Emmanuel Macron's Waning Support Shakes Bid to Overhaul French Economy: PARIS - As Emmanuel Macron sets out to shake up France's rigid labor market, the young president is losing the public support he may need to weather protests by the country's powerful unions. [...] Unpopular budget cuts, accusations of an authoritarian approach and weeks of critical news coverage have sent Mr. Macron's approval ratings in a downward spiral. The latest poll, published in mid-August by public opinion firm Harris Interactive, found that 37% of voters approve of him, down from 51% in July and 59% in June. Given that drop, Mr. Macron will have to tread carefully in rolling out his labor reforms in September. For months, the 39-year-old president has been in talks with powerful labor unions in a bid to contain planned street protests. Now the prospect is growing that the ranks of those demonstrations could swell with students, retirees and other segments of French society unhappy with Mr. Macron's early steps." He wants to bust unions. He's going to be the Bill Clinton of France, wrecking the economy and calling it "reform".

This may be a bit late, but worth taking note of, from Jon Schwarz, "Happy Labor Day! There Has Never Been a Middle Class Without Strong Unions" points out a number of benefits of unions, including this one: "Dean Baker, co-director of a Washington, D.C. think tank called the Center for Economic and Policy Research, or CEPR, is arguably the only economist in the U.S. who both recognized the danger of the gigantic U.S. housing bubble in the mid-2000s and warned about it loudly. But Baker didn't appear out of nowhere. His first job in Washington was at the Economic Policy Institute, which was founded in 1986 with a five-year funding pledge from eight unions. His foothold there made it possible for him to eventually co-found CEPR and make his case on the housing bubble. (I know this about Baker because I briefly worked for CEPR long ago.)"

You can tell we've got a better pope. "U.S. Bishops' Labor Day message: 'Unions must retain and recover their prophetic voice': WASHINGTON (CNS) -- 'Excessive inequality' threatens cooperation among all people in society 'and the social pact it supports,' said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, in the U.S. bishops' annual Labor Day statement. In the message, Bishop Dewane cited the words of Pope Francis, who told factory workers in Genoa, Italy, 'The entire social pact is built around work. This is the core of the problem. Because when you do not work, or you work badly, you work little or you work too much, it is democracy that enters into crisis, and the entire social pact.' [...] Workers' legal rights to 'a just wage in exchange for work, to protection against wage theft, to workplace safety and just compensation for workplace injuries, to health care and other benefits, and to organize and engage in negotiations, should be promoted,' he added. 'Workers must be aided to come to know and exercise their legal rights. As an example, CCHD has supported the Don Bosco Workers in Westchester, New York, which has launched a successful campaign to combat wage theft. Persons returning from prison also need support to understand their legal rights as they seek new employment. CCHD has helped the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Cincinnati and elsewhere as they work with returning citizens to find stable and meaningful jobs.' Labor unions play an important role in this effort, according to Bishop Dewane, as he quoted from Pope Francis' remarks in June in an audience with delegates from the Confederation of Trade Unions: 'There is no good society without a good union, and there is no good union that is not reborn every day in the peripheries, that does not transform the discarded stones of the economy into its cornerstones.'"

"What Can Trump Learn From Local Governments? How Not To Handle Infrastructure: Public-private partnerships are frequently portrayed, especially by President Donald Trump, as an easy infrastructure fix for cities and states with tight budgets. But horror stories of so-called 'P3s' gone wrong have been making headlines for the past decade, often as a result of contractual clauses that prove costly for governments or keep information from the public eye. They don't have to be that way." This article is actually too kind on several fronts, since it singles out a handful of egregious examples but fails to point out that it's not just a few examples but rather the norm. There was a time when government and the commercial sector could work together for a common goal, but that was before the sole goal was to ensure massive profits to commercial industry even if it meant high costs go government at the expense of public services. If, for example, the goal were to get everyone to work, you might get the commercial sector to pitch in with government to build the New York subway system. Today, the goal of getting everyone to work would be pretty much on the back-burner, with transport merely a gimmick for skimmers to make more money.

Marcy Wheeler, "The Arpaio Pardon: You're Not the Audience: Meanwhile, Brennan Center's Mike German has started to track a disturbing trend. I believe he, like me, thinks the FBI is generally adequate at infiltrating white supremacist groups to disrupt the most outrageous attacks. But what law enforcement is not doing is policing right wing violence at protests the same way it polices left protests." It's about cops.

Bernie Sanders in Fortune: "Why Medicare-for-All Is Good for Business" - for one thing, it cuts out 33% of costs from administration alone, not to mention the extortion to fatten insurance company exec's wallets.

Robert Kuttner talked to Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW! about his surprising interview with Steve Bannon.

Another day, another reframing of the CCES study of who voted how and why. As Lambert notes, the original framing was about Obama voters who jumped ship to vote for Trump, but this week's frame is Sanders supporters who did so - and caused the election of Trump, because they were a bunch of racists. The data don't actually say that, though, and there are plenty of reasons to think other factors were involved, even for these people who clearly had no intention to vote for a status quo candidate of either party. (It shouldn't be forgotten that of actual Democrats, more Clinton-supporting Democrats defected to McCain in 2008 than Sanders-supporting Democrats defected to Trump. That's a particularly interesting jump since, policy-wise, there was virtually no difference between the two Democratic candidates in 2008 beside sex and race. This was not the case in the 2016 race, where differences in the records and approaches of the two contenders for the Democratic nomination were significant.) The study seemed to use views on "trade" as an indicator of whether views on the economy or simple racism were the strongest motivators for these Trump voters, but, "Let me remark here that other factors that correlate with voting for Trump include poor credit scores, battlefield casualties, employment situation, and deaths of despair. These do not seem to have been considered by CCES, or if considered were not brought forward by Schaffner, and it is not clear to me that views on trade or race are adequate proxies for them."

Meanwhile, "Bernie Sanders, Nation's Highest Profile Socialist, Once Again Voted Most Popular [...] According to the poll - conducted online from Aug. 17-22 with 2,263 Democrats, Republicans, and registered Independents - Sanders is currently the only politician in the whole country who "a majority of Americans actually like." Among the respondents, 54 percent view Sanders favorably with just 36 percent taking the opposite view. Compared to others included in the survey - including Republicans like McConnell, President Donald Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence as well as top Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California - it wasn't even close. 'When it comes to the most popular demographics," Bustle reports, "the poll showed Sanders scored highest among millennials - people aged 18-34, who expressed a 62 percent approval rating. Furthermore, 58 percent of women registered to vote view Sanders favorably, as do 55 percent of men.'"

Sections leaked from Clinton's book attack Sanders. Bernie brushes off her contradictory and delusional claims as looking backward when there are more important things to be concerned with. "I'm working overtime now to see we overturn Trump's decision on DACA, pass a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and next week I'll be offering a Medicare-for-all single-payer system." Her claims are pretty strange, though - says he stole her ideas even though he'd actually introduced a bill ten months before she mentioned the subject, and a direct government employment infrastructure program is not merely "bigger" or less realistic than her infrastructure bank idea, it's different, better, more likely to result in actual restoration and expansion of infrastructure, and cheaper than a lot of over-financialization. The media is full of talk about Clinton's book, but as Sophia A. McClennen in Salon notes, Bernie has a book out, too, and it isn't being talked about much. Maybe that's because it's not about the 2016 election, about making things better.

Amber A'Lee Frost in Current Affairs, "How To Write About Nazis: When covering the far right, the media has a duty to deliver both facts and context, fearlessly and stoically..." The mainstream press, however, seems to be writing just the kind of pieces they want - either adoring profiles or alarmist nonsense that makes them seem far more mainstream and popular than they are. "Above all, keeps things in perspective. It's true that the far right are coordinating, but they are not on the precipice of seizing power - the traditional right (that old Republican base) already have that squared away. The brownshirts are not at the gates just yet, but if they ever get there, we're not going to beat them back if we lose our heads."

"St. Louis gave minimum-wage workers a raise. On Monday, it was taken away [...] St. Louis is not the first city to see its minimum-wage ordinances undercut by state legislatures. The issue is a divisive topic across America, and there are 25 states that have minimum-wage preemption laws - when state governments approve laws that prevent local governments from passing such measures - including Kentucky and Iowa, according to Paul Sonn, general counsel with the National Employment Law Group."

"Louisiana floods destroy home of Christian leader who says God sends natural disasters to punish gay people: A flood has destroyed the home of a Christian lobbyist who preached that God sends natural disasters to punish gays. President of the controversial Christian group Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, described a deluge of 'near biblical proportions' hitting his Louisiana home." (This story is actually a year old, but it just seemed timely.)

Peter reminds us that, though most Britons know that homosexual sex ceased to be a specific crime in 1967, 25 years later we were still campaigning to make more sense of the law and stop the campaign of harassment by the police. "The Myth of Homosexual Decriminalisation: On the 50th Anniversary of the ground breaking 1967 Sexual Offences Act, the campaigner Peter Tatchell takes a sceptical look at its impact on Britain's gay communities."

"How SB Nation Profits Off An Army Of Exploited Workers [...] Twelve years ago, SB Nation began as a do-it-yourself venture, by and for fans, more a community of communities than a journalistic endeavor. It has since evolved and rebranded itself and emerged as Vox Media, which was valued at $1 billion in 2015 after a $200 million round of funding from NBCUniversal. The SB Nation network itself, consisting of 319 team websites, has remained in place, a vast operation read by millions of people every month and powered by unpaid and underpaid labor."

Beat the Press, "Opposition to Trade Deals: Brad DeLong's "Socialism of Fools" Might Look Like Common Sense to Those Outside the Fraternity: The usually sensible Brad DeLong is very unhappy with those who oppose the agenda that has passed for globalization over the last three decades. He argues that people are foolish for believing that globalization has had a major impact on employment and the distribution of income in recent years. I'll take the side of Brad's 'fools' in this matter."

Briahna Joy Gray in Current Affairs, "How Identity Became A Weapon Against The Left: Reaction to criticism of Kamala Harris shows how the voices of progressive people of color are erased...
* Michael Brooks discussed the article with Ms. Gray on The Michael Brooks Show.

Ian Welsh says "The World Is Going To Hell Because: You get the behaviour you reward."

RIP: "Science fiction author Brian Aldiss dies aged 92: The prolific writer behind more than 80 books and editor of 40 anthologies died at his Oxford home after celebrating his birthday." Well, that's the way to do it - become a revered grandmaster of your craft, and then have a nice bash to celebrate your 92nd birthday, go to bed and die in your sleep.

RIP: "Walter Becker, Steely Dan Guitarist, Dies at 67." Donald Fagen put out a statement. A fuller obit from the Guardian says Becker died of "an undisclosed illness." He was still touring as of last year. "Walter Carl Becker, singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, born 20 February 1950; died 3 September 2017" Rolling Stone obit, and New York Times obit.

"Bob Dylan Documentarian Murray Lerner Dead at 90: Oscar nominated filmmaker captured legendary performances at Newport Folk Fest, Isle of Wight." There's a nice little clip there of Mike Bloomfield talking about Sun House and Paul Butterfield.

RIP: "Richard Anderson, Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman Actor, Dies at 91." Other genre credits include Forbidden Planet. He was on most of the regular evening shows in the late '50s and early '60s, including Zorro, The Untouchables, and Perry Mason, as well as having a role in The Fugitive.

My new favorite TV show is Braindead. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after one short season, but it was lots of fun, and when it says, "Previously on Braindead..." Jonathan Coulton sings the recap wonderfully. It can't have had much promotion, we stumbled on it by accident while rummaging through Amazon Prime, having never heard of it before.

APOD: Milky Way over Chilean Volcanoes
* Diamond Ring in the Clouds
* The Crown of the Sun

"Photographer Kristina Makeeva Captures the Otherworldly, Frozen Beauty of the Earth's Oldest & Deepest Lake

Russian Photographer Kristina Makeeva Captures Girls In Dresses Against Backgrounds Of The Most Beautiful Places

119: Skiffle, The Beatles, and Billy Bragg - An interview that explains why George Harrison once said that if there was no Leadbelly there's no Lonnie Donnegan, and if there's no Lonnie Donnegan, there's no Beatles.

The Cars

03:24 GMT comment

Monday, 21 August 2017

Ain't it the truth babe?

A lefty woman was murdered, and others injured, in a terrorist attack on counter-protesters of a Nazi action. Naturally, the fascists claim the "alt-left" was violent, too. For example, they claim they "saw" an antifa protester clubbing a cop. In fact, what they saw was a doctored photo from Greece in 2009.

Marcy Wheeler: "Three Times Donald Trump Treated Vehicular Manslaughter as Terrorism" - but not Charlottesville. "Donald Trump gave the weakest statement on Charlottesville today, even going so far as calling on Americans to 'cherish our history,' in response to a Nazi mob responding to the removal of Confederate symbols."

Ian Welsh, "Oppressive Precedents Used Against Nazis Will Be Used Against the Left." The sudden urge to censor Nazis can feel compelling, but history shows that laws that can be used against either side are more likely to be used against the left, even when they are inspired by a desire to suppress Nazis. Even the guy at who terminated a Nazi site's account isn't happy about doing it, and for good reason: No one should have that power.

Sarah Jones in The New Republic, "Liberals Helped Create Trump's New Bogeyman, the 'Alt-Left' [...] We shouldn't be surprised that Trump is unwilling to blame white supremacists for the fatal violence that struck Charlottesville on August 12, even when one of their cohort murdered an innocent woman, Heather Heyer, who was protesting their presence in her city. We shouldn't be surprised because his every deed and utterance has shown that he either holds similar views or is merely content to let them flourish. Nor should we be surprised by his use of the term 'alt-left.' The only way he can excuse the actions of violent racists is to create a false equivalence. The press, Trump rambled, had treated the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville 'very unfairly.' But we should be at least partly surprised by the origins of this misleading and corrosive term. It is beloved by the likes of Sean Hannity and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who have used it to denigrate Trump's opponents. And it has also been popularized - and legitimized - by red-baiting liberals who fear the rise of a progressive populist movement."
* Sam Kriss in Politico, "The Myth of the Alt-Left: It began as an epithet hurled from centrist liberals. Now it's backfiring."
* Stanislav Vysotsky in In These Times, "Drawing Equivalencies Between Fascists and Anti-Fascists Is Not Just Wrong - It's Dangerous: We must be very wary of any attempts to excuse or normalize white supremacy."
* "Stop Saying 'Alt-Left'"
* Liam Stack in The New York Times, "Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language [...] Researchers who study extremist groups in the United States say there is no such thing as the 'alt-left.' Mark Pitcavage, an analyst at the Anti-Defamation League, said the word had been made up to create a false equivalence between the far right and 'anything vaguely left-seeming that they didn't like.'"

It was odd, Steve Bannon decided for some reason to phone Robert Kuttner himself at The American Prospect and give him an on-the-record interview explaining his thinking and strategy. "Steve Bannon, Unrepentant: Trump's embattled strategist phones me, unbidden, to opine on China, Korea, and his enemies in the administration," is how the piece is headed, and although some of his thinking is convoluted, much of what he says rings true. He's certainly right that there is no military solution to Korea. And he's also right when he says, "The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats." Of course, the "centrist" concentration on ignoring - even encouraging - the economic immiseration of Americans of every race while focusing on the fortunes of a few female and minority rising stars of the Democratic right is not serving their party or the country very well. Meanwhile, if the Republicans can keep talking about protecting the American economy (and by implication, American jobs) from China, that's probably going to go down well with a substantial number of voters. It makes it sound like it's the GOP, not the Democratic Party, that wants to help Americans who are being pushed off of the economic ladder. And that appears to be why he lost his job. The Independent says, "The interview that got Steve Bannon fired: Mr Bannon was forced out of the White House after he revealed his ambition to 'crush' political opponents who take a stand against racism" - although it may have been his enemies within the administration who were worried about being "crushed". I certainly don't imagine Republicans in the White House had a problem with Bannon wanting to crush Democrats. Nor was Bannon saying he wanted to crush them because they "take a stand against racism". He was saying - quite rightly, I think - that if Democrats continue their self-destructive strategy of deflecting from the economy in favor of talking just about racism, they will lose. He may be a white supremacist nationalist, but he's not nearly as dumb as whoever wrote that subhead, or the Democrats who can't add 2+2 and see that we started losing as soon as Democrats started agreeing with Republican economic policies and promoting them.

Your typical centrists at work: "The real litmus test is whether pro-life democrats vote for pro-life legislation: Democratic political elites now publicly admit abortion extremism is costing Democrats the votes they need to compete nationally. We at SBA List welcome this admission. But will the Democrats really let pro-lifers' nose under the tent?" Everything in that is wrong. Democrats have always "let" anti-choicers into the party - indeed, even into the party leadership. There has never been a time when that was not so. And the idea that being pro-choice is "extreme" is one that comes from extremists, not from the mainstream of American thought, which largely supports Roe v. Wade.

"Elizabeth Warren fires back at centrist Democrats: ATLANTA - Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took aim at centrist Democrats on Saturday in front of the one of the largest annual gatherings of progressives in the country. Two days after a new Democratic-aligned superPAC called New Democracy formed to push back against the party's ascendant left wing, Warren argued that Democrats would not be 'going back to the days of welfare reform and the crime bill.' 'We're not going back to the days of being lukewarm on choice,' Warren told a crowd of about 3,000 people at Netroots Nation. 'We're not going back to the days when universal health care was something Democrats talked about on the campaign trail, but were too chicken to fight for after they got elected.'"

"DCCC & Kings Landing Consultants Are Instructing Candidates How To Deceive Democratic Primary Voters On Healthcare [...] That's when it got interesting. He said the DCCC is now instructing their candidates to thwart progressives by pretending to be for Medicare-For-All to help them defeat progressive primary opponents who are for Medicare-For-All."

"Sanders to Big Pharma: Stop making Americans pay twice While both political parties have denounced the rising cost of prescription drugs, neither Democrats nor Republicans have done much to address the problem. But this summer, a new tool to restrict the rising prices of drugs developed with taxpayer dollars has been introduced by the two U.S. senators who don't belong to either party."

"Tensions Flare as Cuomo Confronts Democratic Rift [...] That was all Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate minority leader who represents the suburbs of Westchester County, needed to hear. 'You look at me, Mr. Governor, but you don't see me. You see my black skin and a woman, but you don't realize I am a suburban legislator,' Ms. Stewart-Cousins said, according to the accounts of five people who were in the room. 'Jeff Klein doesn't represent the suburbs,' she said. 'I do.' Mr. Cuomo reacted in stunned silence."

"Bank of America to Pay $6 Million to Bankrupt Couple Evicted From Home." BoA's behavior was reprehensible, unsurprisingly, and I'm sure receiving this money will be a relief to the homeowners, but this is actually a win for the bank, who were originally supposed to pay $46 million.

David Dayen, "Orrin Hatch, The Original Antitrust Hipster, Turns On His Own Kind." Hatch used to be a lonely crusader against monopolies, but now he's suddenly dissing the emerging crowd of trust-busters who have entered the public debate.

I can't believe anyone was stupid enough to think a good way to celebrate the total eclipse of the sun would be a fireworks display at totality. See, I can still be shocked. Meanwhile, you can Make Your Own Safe Solar Viewer.

Jeff Stein in Vox, "Inside Bernie Sanders's campaign to save Obamacare: On three separate occasions this July, staffers for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) began preparing for the rollout of his new single-payer health care bill. But every time they started to do so, Senate Republicans would improbably revive their push to repeal Obamacare - and Sanders's team would postpone the launch of their 'Medicare-for-all' campaign, according to aides to the Vermont senator."

Gabriel Kristal at Bill Moyer's site, "A Working-Class Strategy for Defeating White Supremacy: To advance anti-racism on the macro scale, we need to collectively engage in popular struggle."

Yves Smith, introducing Alexey Kovalev's "Why Explaining US Internal Strife Through 'Russian Influence' Is Lazy and Unhelpful" at Naked Capitalism: "Yves here. This is a well-argued debunking of various 'evil Rooskie' claims and is very much worth circulating. Stunningly, there actually are people asserting that white supremacists and the figurative and now literal hot fights over Confederate symbols (remember that Confederate flags have been a big controversy too?) are part of a Russian plot. Help me. Fortunately their views don't seem to have gotten traction outside the fever-swamp corners of the Twitterverse."

"Why Are Drug Prices So High? These Politicians Might Have The Answer [...] In 2016, Harvard University researchers found patents are one of the main reasons drug prices are so high in the United States. Those patents give drugmakers exclusive monopoly rights to produce a medicine - thereby insulating the pharmaceutical company from price competition."

"ACLU suing DC Metro for rejecting ads on abortion, PETA, Milo Yiannopoulos: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing Washington's Metro for pulling or rejecting controversial ads, which the organization claims violates the freedom of speech. The ACLU is representing a 'diverse group of plaintiffs' in the new lawsuit, including an abortion provider, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and conservative firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos. [...] One of the rejected ads - from the ACLU itself - featured the text of the First Amendment in English, Spanish and Arabic, which the group proposed after President Trump escalated his feud with the media earlier this year."

"Police Are Killing Citizens at Highest Rate Ever While Govt and Media Ignore It: Police in the United States are breaking records in 2017 by killing a record number of the same people they claim to serve and protect, and there is no change in sight under the current administration. In 2017 alone, police have killed 746 people in the U.S., according to the Killed By Police database, which puts this year on pace to become the deadliest year on record. In contrast, in the first seven months of 2016, police killed 714 people; the number was slightly higher in 2015 with 725 killed; and it was noticeably lower in 2014 with 663 killed and in 2013 with 353 killed."

"Lee Fang on How a Little-Known U.S. Libertarian Think Tank Is Remaking Latin American Politics

Brian Beutler, "Democrats, Don't Raise the Debt Limit: Instead, they should aim to abolish it as a Republican weapon."

"Democrats Can Abandon the Center - Because the Center Doesn't Exist [...] It is difficult to overstate how thoroughly these developments discredited the baseline assumptions of a certain strand of mainstream punditry. We're living through a kind of Copernican revolution for the political universe: The old guard still insists that everything revolves around 'the center,' but the data keep saying otherwise."

David Dayen, "Trump's Opioid Commission Had Some Stunningly Good Recommendations. He Ignored Them for 80s Drug War Nostalgia. [...] If you were reminded of Nancy Reagan's cameo on Diff'rent Strokes, you're not alone. But 'Just Say No' didn't work as a policy 35 years ago - teenagers in programs, such as DARE, were as likely to use drugs as those who weren't. It also initiated the school-to-prison pipeline with the creation of 'drug-free schools' and other policies of overcriminalization. And it's particularly useless for an opioid epidemic where adolescents age 12-17 represent a little more than one-tenth of those affected."

"Who Are The Dozen Trumpiest Democrats In The House?" And in that article you'll find the DCCC's own purity test: "And this year Ben Ray Lujan has openly admitted the DCCC is recruiting Blue Dogs and anti-Choice candidates--and will finance their races-- and they appear to have an unofficial litmus test of their own: candidates who openly advocate Medicare-For-All, which is not backed by DCCC honchos like Lujan and almost his whole team, are getting the shitty end of the stick. It appears that, so far at least, the DCCC is encouraging candidates who don't commit to Medicare-For-All and giving candidates who do, the cold shoulder. So... whose side is the DCCC on? Not the same side I'm on, that's for sure."

Rachel Cohen in The New Republic, "This Is the Wrong Way to Fight Inequality: A new book proposes Americans should compete against each other for well being - so long as it's a "fair" contest." Needless to say, this is a terrible idea.

Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons, "Hacked emails show UAE building close relationship with D.C. Think tanks that push its agenda."

Carl Beijer, "Bankers and Big Pharma lawyers: We are the left! [...] This is the system that McKnight-Chavers wants to preserve: the system that has made her family wealthy, largely at the expense of some of the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society. From her position of privilege, it's easy to call for "a fair capitalist system" where "capital will make its way into our communities" - because capital has made it into her community. But why are we making this voice of privilege an arbiter of the left? "

Jayati Ghosh in Naked Capitalism, "After Neoliberalism, What Next? [...] Whether we look at straws in the wind or green shoots in the ground, there is no doubt that there are incipient signs of change. But at this point there are many directions in which such change could go, and not all of them are progressive or even desirable. That is why it is important to get social and political traction for alternative trajectories that focus on more equitable, just, democratic and ecologically viable outcomes for most of humanity."

Robert Borosage, "Movements Are Driving Democratic Party Debate [...] Entrenched interests, policy gurus, political operatives, and big money all have a significant stake in defending business as usual. If Democrats are to meet the promise their leaders made in their 'Better Deal' platform to put forth a bold agenda that works for working people, a fierce debate isn't pernicious. It is utterly imperative."

"Fear, Loathing, and the Democratic Party" - It's odd watching the flurry of hate pieces against Nina Turner whenever she does anything. A lot of it is reminiscent of slurs against Sanders, pretending some insight into character flaws of the target that would require actual mind-reading to confirm. Meanwhile, every time Bernie Sanders does anything, there's a flurry of hate on Twitter for him. In this case, Sanders is the only one doing anything at all in reaction to Charlottesville, and of course the knives are out. Lawrence Tribe has become a national embarrassment: "Sen. Sanders just urged a resolution by Congress condemning Nazism & White Racism. Really? How about condemning TRUMP for his appeasement?" Of course, Sanders has been condemning Trump, but (a) it doesn't fit the narrative, and (b) apparently these people think we can just get rid of Trump and life will be peachy. It's hard to believe anyone is this stupid.

A kickass tweetstorm from Lana Del Raytheon: "as bipartisan centrists and liberals put donut emojis in their twitter names, let's review their political legacy over the last few decades:"

This is a blast from the past that I may have linked before, but I'm trying to remind people what The Democratic Party was back when it was winning. Adolph Reed, "Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals: FFor nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944, when FDR propounded what he called 'a second Bill of Rights.' Among these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a 'useful and remunerative job,' 'adequate medical care,' and 'adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.'"

"Why we lost the war in Afghanistan [...] Folks, if we can't do something as basic as pave Afghanistan's roads and convince the government to keep them safe and passable, we've lost. We have no business remaining there for one more minute. We should pack up all of our tanks and Humvees and MRAPs and Howitzers and helicopters, not to mention all of our bulldozers and earthmovers and asphalt-layers, and we should load all of our soldiers on C-130's and get the hell out of there. Russia learned this lesson. That's why one day they packed up their war making stuff and drove north across the border with Uzbekistan and never looked back."

"Mongolians protest as bulldozers threaten Beatles monument: AKIPRESS.COM - A statue of the Beatles in Ulaanbaatar could be at risk amid an alleged land grab, protesters say, as rapid development turns a city once famed for wide open spaces into a cluttered metropolis. Residents are protesting against plans to build commercial properties in an area known as Beatles Square, where a bronze bas-relief monument to the "Fab Four" commemorates the former Soviet satellite's transition to democracy in 1990, Reuters reported."

Mark Evanier on the wonderful Rose Marie, who we all loved as Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and an upcoming biopic about her that he recently got to see an early screening of in the company of Van Dyke himself and Carl Reiner, who both agreed it was the best biopic they had ever seen: "Movie history was made in 1927 when The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson opened at the Wintergarden Theater in New York. It was the first major "talkie," (film with sound) although it was partially a silent film with title cards. It was preceded that first evening at the Wintergarden by all all-talking, all-singing short. That short starred Baby Rose Marie." Now go read the rest.

RIP: Dick Gregory, Barrier-Breaking Comedian and Civil Rights Activist, Dies at 84. I always remember him saying that calendar on your wall is called the Gregorian calendar, and "You better be nice to me, or I won't let you use tomorrow." And also, "Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind paying my taxes if I knew it was going to a friendly country." Here he is in 1965 on police brutality.

RIP: Gregg Calkins, 82, fanzine publisher (Oopsla, 1952-1961), and letterhack - and, as File770 says, "In contrast to most of his generation, he was highly active in social media, frequently posting on Facebook where it was his pleasure to carry the conservative side of debates." And, to my surprise, although I had never had any contact with him before and never expected to, he sent me a friend request, and it was my pleasure to participate in that debate with him. Though we disagreed on many things, he was always friendly and respectful, even flattered me by saying he hoped the DNC didn't start listening to me because if they did we would be a real threat to the Republicans electorally. I already miss his contributions to my threads.

RIP: Glenn Campbell, first-class guitar player, former first-call sessions man, and popular country singer. He played sessions for everyone from Elvis to Nancy Sinatra to Jan & Dean. We first saw him on that summer version of the Smothers Brothers' show, and then were disappointed when he turned out to be kinda right-wing. But he sure could play guitar. In 2011 he announced that he had Alzheimer's, but no cause of death has been released. He was 81.

Baby elephant temper tantrum

Yes, we all know why they're doing this, but still, the Proctor & Gamble ad made my eyes tear up.

Wow. If I didn't already know this was Al Franken, I never would have guessed.

02:53 GMT comment

Monday, 07 August 2017

Too late, my brothers, too late

I'd never seen this photo before last week when Colin Hinz posted it. Chuch Harris, Rob Hansen, me, and Sue Harris, at Toad Hall in Minneapolis before the 1989 Corflu, all looking so very much like ourselves.

The last couple-few weeks have been a bit harrowing for me, and I already hadn't been particularly thrilled by dragging myself at a slower and slower pace to the hospital every day for treatments. First I had an allergic reaction to the creams they gave me to protect my skin after radiotherapy, with agonizing results, and then in the midst of this misery, three friends of mine, all younger than me, died in the same week. Oh, and by the way, this year we've had the most virulent mosquitos I have ever experienced in my life, and maybe it was worse because my resistance was down but these bites are like superbites, y'know? One even required a trip to the hospital and antibiotics. But enough about that, because I've got way too many links to get to....

Here's a nice, short video that kinda says it all about the magic money tree.

Democrats and Republicans, together in evil. "U.S. Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support for Boycott Campaign Against Israel: But now, a group of 43 senators - 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats - wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country's decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison. [...] The bill's co-sponsors include the senior Democrat in Washington, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, his New York colleague Kirsten Gillibrand, and several of the Senate's more liberal members, such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Maria Cantwell of Washington. Illustrating the bipartisanship that AIPAC typically summons, it also includes several of the most right-wing senators such as Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Marco Rubio of Florida."
* But Gillibrand may be backing away after she was put on the spot in a town hall meeting.

Baltimore State's Attorney Dismisses 34 Cases After Officer Caught Allegedly Planting Drugs: [...] Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday, July 28, that over 100 cases are now under review following the release of police body camera footage from a January arrest that appears to show an officer planting drugs at a crime scene, The Baltimore Sun reported. She said 34 of the cases, which were all drug- or gun-related, would be thrown out, while 77 others are still being reviewed."

"64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details of Iranian Coup: New documents reveal how the CIA attempted to call off the failing coup - only to be salvaged at the last minute by an insubordinate spy. [...] Declassified documents released last week shed light on the Central Intelligence Agency's central role in the 1953 coup that brought down Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, fueling a surge of nationalism which culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and poisoning U.S.-Iran relations into the 21st century. [...] Known as Operation Ajax, the CIA plot was ultimately about oil. Western firms had for decades controlled the region's oil wealth, whether Arabian-American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran. When the U.S. firm in Saudi Arabia bowed to pressure in late 1950 and agreed to share oil revenues evenly with Riyadh, the British concession in Iran came under intense pressure to follow suit. But London adamantly refused. So in early 1951, amid great popular acclaim, Mossadegh nationalized Iran's oil industry. A fuming United Kingdom began conspiring with U.S. intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh and restore the monarchy under the shah. (Though some in the U.S. State Department, the newly released cables show, blamed British intransigence for the tensions and sought to work with Mossadegh.)"

Everyone made a big deal out of John McCain rising from his hospital bed to vote on the latest (at this writing) GOP health-destruction bill, but the media didn't notice The heroic Senator with severe cancer who interrupted treatment to vote... NO [...] Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii was just doing her job as a good politician, voting not to repeal the ACA so as to protect her constituents. She has Stage Four kidney cancer - that means scarce chances of survival - is recovering from a second surgery to remove part of a rib, and made sure she got to her seat in the Senate Chamber to vote 'no' to whatever Republican wealth-care crap was thrown at her."
* In any case, McCain surprised everyone by voting NO, along with Collins and Murkowski.

The strange case of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's computer: "The Capitol Police and outside agencies are pursuing Imran Awan, who has run technology for the Florida lawmaker since 2005 and was banned from the House network in February on suspicion of data breaches and theft." But when they took a laptop believed to be important to the case, DWS was strangely reluctant to let them keep it and "threatened the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police with 'consequences' for holding equipment that she says belongs to her "As one of eight members of the Committee on Appropriations' Legislative Branch subcommittee, Wasserman Schultz is in charge of the budget of the police force that is investigating her staffer and how he managed to extract so much money and information from members. In a highly unusual exchange, the Florida lawmaker uses a hearing on the Capitol Police's annual budget to spend three minutes repeatedly trying to extract a promise from the chief that he will return a piece of evidence being used to build an active case. [...] The investigation is examining members' data leaving the network and how Awan managed to get Members to place three relatives and a friend into largely no-show positions on their payrolls, billing $4 million since 2010. [...] When The DCNF asked Wasserman Schultz Monday if it could inquire about her strong desire for the laptop, she said 'No, you may not.' After The DCNF asked why she wouldn't want the Capitol Police to have any evidence they may need to find and punish any hackers of government information, she abruptly turned around in the middle of a stairwell and retreated back to the office from which she had come."
* Anyway, they finally caught the guy trying to fly to Pakistan. The story in Forbs is amusingly titled, "The Exploding DNC IT Scandal Is As Crazy As Fiction."

The Democrats either are or aren't rolling out a new agenda. Pelosi says it's not a new agenda, just new presentation. She may be right, because their sloganeering sounds an awful lot like the same stuff they used to sell NAFTA. And giving subsidies to employers for offering on-the-job training they should already be offering is a bass-ackwards way of creating jobs in a demand crisis - people aren't buying because they have no money, so just give people money; go back to welfare-as-we-used-to-know-it and maybe we'll start having an economy again. (Also: A real infrastructure program in which the government directly hires individuals to enhance and rebuild infrastructure, with no out-sourcing or contracting, just lots of employees in stable jobs creating institutional memory of how to do things right.) But c'mon, we all know it's been a long time since Democrats seemed to care about trust-busting. In fact, they seem to have decided during the Clinton administration that there's nothing better than letting Malefactors of Great Wealth get together and take over everything. But David Dayen thinks they may finally be getting it: Now, Democrats say they're putting down roots. They say they have ideas. They rolled out their 'Better Deal' agenda on Monday, and a shockingly large portion of the platform is dedicated to breaking corporate power, and in particular monopoly concentration. It's a credit to the emerging New Brandeis movement that these ideas have been embraced at the highest levels of a political party. But will Democrats have the credibility to get a hearing from the public on a problem even they acknowledge they helped create?" That's a good question, since they've never come out and admitted that Bill Clinton really screwed the pooch on this. (In my fantasy, Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary during the debates what the hell they were thinking when they decided it was okay to get rid of all the regulations that had been put in place to prevent another depression, which had been shown to be effective for five decades. I have a lot of debate questions like that.)
* On the other hand, Damon Linker thinks that, "Democrats don't need 'A Better Deal.' They need Bernie Sanders.." For the credibility: "Had he won the presidency in 2016, political realities and limited resources would have forced Sanders to prioritize among these and other goals. Compromises would have needed to be struck. But those who voted for him would have known exactly where he stood, and what he would choose to do if he could. That would be the ground from which he began to work toward a compromise, not a position that already represented a pre-emptive capitulation to the other side, which is what Democrats have been doing ever since they made their peace with the Reagan revolution."

[Linker also reckons Clinton's book will not answer the question of how she lost. "And the answer is: Because Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who ran an atrocious campaign and should never have been anointed as the presumptive nominee by the Democratic National Committee in the first place. If Clinton wanted to run for president while under investigation by the FBI, that was her business. But why on Earth would the DNC and the party's "superdelegates" decide so far in advance that a candidate running with that kind of baggage should be considered the inevitable victor? Aside from the obstacles it placed in the way of her one serious challenger (Bernie Sanders), it helped to discourage many others (including Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren) from jumping into the race. Why bother when you know the party is standing against you?"]

"No 'litmus test': Desperate Democrats are now officially willing to back anti-choice candidates: The Democratic Party has decided to financially support candidates who oppose women's rights. [...] According to Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the chairman of the House campaign arm, Democrats are willing to do whatever they can to win back the House in 2018, even if it means electing Democrats who oppose abortion, The Hill reported." This is not the way to do it.

Dept. of Silver Linings: Cory Booker's buddy "Betsy DeVos Is Making 'School Choice' Toxic for Democrats: Conservatives frame privatization as a civil rights issue, but Trump's extreme agenda is energizing racial justice and public education advocates." "School choice", which means vouchers and charter schools, is touted as a plan to improve education but is really intended to use public funds to segregate schools by class instead of race. But they love to pretend otherwise. "Trump's education policy advocates for both, and in his controversial appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, he elevated a longtime champion of the cause. Like her boss, she has pitched school choice as a solution to racial inequities in education, saying in February that historically black colleges and universities 'are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality.'" OK, sit back and cogitate on that quote for a moment. In what way does it have anything to do with "choice" as presented by vouchers and charter schools? Black universities were created precisely because existing colleges wouldn't admit black students at all. America's public schools admit everyone, that's not the problem. The problem is that the right-wingers in government have manipulated funding and regulations to make sure that the public school system is outrageously underfunded and then added the new burden of charter schools to suck more public money out of the system and into the hands of profit-seekers. Vouchers would make this problem even worse, and, not incidentally, funnel more of that money - and more students - into religious schools. "But some Democrats, particularly in cities, have embraced the full school choice agenda. Anthony Williams, the former Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C., appeared in an ad this year in support of DeVos, saying she 'fought by my side' for the District's voucher program. Senator Cory Booker supported charters and vouchers as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, and sat on the board of Alliance for School Choice with DeVos. (He voted against her confirmation this year, but so did every Democrat.) In general, Democrats have stayed in the good graces of public school defenders by limiting their support to 'public school choice.' But now that the Trump administration is promoting charters as part of a broader school choice agenda, and civil rights groups are increasingly leery of charters, Democrats are facing pressure to oppose all privatization schemes."

"Saudi Investor Pours Millions Into British News Site, The Independent: LONDON - A mysterious Saudi-based investor has plowed millions of dollars into a British news organization renowned for championing liberal causes, in a move that will enrage human rights and media freedom campaigners. Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel, 42, listed in company records as a Saudi-based Saudi Arabian national, has acquired up to 50 percent of the Independent website, whose newspaper shook Britain's journalism establishment in the 1980s before struggling financially and ditching the printed word in 2016."

"What's the link between charter schools, political donations and teacher certification in New York?: In New York state, most teachers of publicly funded schools have to be certified through a state-run process. Now, that may change. Many of the state's publicly funded charter schools may soon have the right to certify their own teachers with their own processes. (In some states, charter school teachers don't have to be certified at all.) The specific proposal is being considered by the board of trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) and a decision will be made shortly. The trustees oversee the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which authorizes a good number of charter school operators in the state, including the well-known Success Academies charter network."

I mostly try to avoid paying much attention to the White House game of musical chairs, since it's tedious repeating that Trump has another horrible person working for him, but The Onion did not make up the quotes in Onion Fact Checks: Anthony Scaramucci's New Yorker Interview: "In an interview with The New Yorker earlier today, White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci leveled harsh criticism against the FBI and members of the Trump administration. The Onion fact-checks Scaramucci's claims."

Marcy Wheeler stopped being called by TV talk show producers when she said "blow-job" on the air. I don't think MSNBC is going to change their minds after her recent appearance on Democracy NOW: "National security journalist calls GOP donor 'ratf*cker' on live TV for role in Seth Rich and Benghazi hoaxes."

"Fired/Rehired: Police chiefs are often forced to put officers fired for misconduct back on the streets: Since 2006, the nation's largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public's trust, from cheating on overtime to unjustified shootings. But The Washington Post has found that departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts."

Beat the Press, "Robert Samuelson Doesn't Think Diagnosing Diseases and Treatment Affect Outcomes: Shilling for Republicans and the Rich: You know the person who commits murder and the dead person really are both victims in Robert Samuelson land. His latest column on health care shows his great expertise in obscuring everything he touches to say it's all just so complicated."

For some July 26th fun, "Republican Sen. Steve Daines to make Democrats vote on single payer: Sen. Steve Daines is proposing an amendment to the Republican healthcare bill that would implement a government-run, single-payer insurance system in the U.S. The Montana Republican doesn't support single-payer healthcare. But in a bit of political gamesmanship often seen in Congress, Daines wants to force vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election in red states in 2018 to take a position on the liberal healthcare policy, which is gaining currency on the Left."
* But, "Bernie Sanders will foil Senate Republicans' single-payer trolling [...] 'The Democratic caucus will not participate in the Republicans' sham process. No amendment will get a vote until we see the final legislation and know what bill we are amending,' spokesperson Josh Miller-Lewis said in a text. 'Once Republicans show us their final bill, Sen. Sanders looks forward to getting a vote on his amendment that makes clear the Senate believes that the United States must join every major country and guarantee health care as a right, not a privilege.'"

Meanwhile, Shadowproof offers its own health care plan: Shadowproof is proud to contribute to the national health care debate by introducing our plan to transition the United States to a single-payer health care system. Our plan, the Medical Insurance and Care for All program (MICA), is a public health insurance program based on Medicare but open to all individuals. Employers will be required to buy their employees MICA or equally good private coverage. If one does not receive employer coverage, they will automatically be enrolled in MICA and charged for it in their taxes."

"Benjamin Netanyahu threatens to expel al-Jazeera from Israel: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said he would work to close the Jerusalem offices of al-Jazeera, accusing the Qatar-based television news network of inciting recent violence in the city."

Sharon Lerner in The Intercept, "100,000 Pages of Chemical Industry Secrets Gathered Dust in an Oregon Barn for Decades - Until Now: For decades, some of the dirtiest, darkest secrets of the chemical industry have been kept in Carol Van Strum's barn. Creaky, damp, and prowled by the occasional black bear, the listing, 80-year-old structure in rural Oregon housed more than 100,000 pages of documents obtained through legal discovery in lawsuits against Dow, Monsanto, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Forest Service, the Air Force, and pulp and paper companies, among others. As of today, those documents and others that have been collected by environmental activists will be publicly available through a project called the Poison Papers. Together, the library contains more than 200,000 pages of information and 'lays out a 40-year history of deceit and collusion involving the chemical industry and the regulatory agencies that were supposed to be protecting human health and the environment,' said Peter von Stackelberg, a journalist who along with the Center for Media and Democracy and the Bioscience Resource Project helped put the collection online.

At Mother Jones, "North Dakota's Norway Experiment: Can humane prisons work in America? A red state aims to find out." I'm excited by the idea of this type of change being tried in the United States, under a chief of prisons who really gets why it needs to be done.
* In the Economist, "Too many prisons make bad people worse. There is a better way: The world can learn from how Norway treats its offenders [...] Norway has the lowest reoffending rate in Scandinavia: two years after release, only 20% of prisoners have been reconvicted. By contrast, a study of 29 American states found a recidivism rate nearly twice as high. This is despite the fact that Norway reserves prison for hard cases, who would normally be more likely to reoffend. Its incarceration rate, at 74 per 100,000 people, is about a tenth of America's.

The Hill, "Schumer: Dems, not Russia, are to blame for loss to Trump: When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don't blame other things - [James] Comey, Russia - you blame yourself. So what did we do wrong? People didn't know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that."

Dean Baker, "The Washington Post's War on Disability Programs Continues [...] The assertion that the program will go broke is extremely misleading. Even if Congress never did anything it could still pay will over 90 percent of projected benefits for more than two decades into the future and even at the end of the 75-year planning period it is still projected to be able to pay over 80 percent of scheduled benefits. This is an important point since many politicians have advocated cutting benefits to keep the program fully funded. If the point is to ensure to prevent benefits from being cut due to a shortfall, cutting benefits to make up the gap doesn't help."

"Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language: An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. The researchers shut the system down as it prompted concerns we could lose control of AI."

Ian Welsh, "A World Without Poor People (Sort of)" - The price of homes and food and fuel shoots up dramatically, and yet the Fed tells us there's no inflation. How does that work, exactly?

"Joseph Stiglitz Says Standard Economics Is Wrong. Inequality and Unearned Income Kills the Economy [...] The trickle-down notion - along with its theoretical justification, marginal productivity theory - needs urgent rethinking. That theory attempts both to explain inequality - why it occurs - and to justify it - why it would be beneficial for the economy as a whole. This essay looks critically at both claims. It argues in favour of alternative explanations of inequality, with particular reference to the theory of rent-seeking and to the influence of institutional and political factors, which have shaped labour markets and patterns of remuneration. And it shows that, far from being either necessary or good for economic growth, excessive inequality tends to lead to weaker economic performance. In light of this, it argues for a range of policies that would increase both equity and economic well-being. [...] The term 'rent' was originally used to describe the returns to land, since the owner of the land receives these payments by virtue of his or his ownership and not because of anything he or she does. The term was then extended to include monopoly profits (or monopoly rents) - the income that one receives simply from control of a monopoly - and in general returns due to similar ownership claims. Thus, rent-seeking means getting an income not as a reward for creating wealth but by grabbing a larger share of the wealth that would have been produced anyway. Indeed, rent-seekers typically destroy wealth, as a by-product of their taking away from others. A monopolist who overcharges for her or his product takes money from those whom she or he is overcharging and at the same time destroys value. To get her or his monopoly price, she or he has to restrict production."

"U.S. Intelligence Veterans Believe the 'Russian Hack' of DNC Computers May Have Been an Inside Job: Forensic studies of 'Russian hacking' into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computers, and then doctored to incriminate Russia."

Steven Thrasher in the Guardian, "The Democrats' performance as an opposition party? Pathetic: Though Trump is historically unpopular for a president at this moment in his presidency, the opposition is not benefiting from this obvious opportunity. [...] When the poll came out saying that 'Democrats stand for nothing more than opposing' Trump, I thought to myself, 'If only that were true!'' But they can't even do that well. When House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley was asked by the Associated Press just what his party's core message was, he 'hesitated' and then said, 'That message is being worked on.' It was as tone deaf (but honest) an answer as when Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum - as sycophantic a representative of the Democratic party in the punditocracy as there is - wrote about how people would have to be 'crazy' not to 'have a reflective disgust' of people who are homeless and mentally ill. Considering homeless people are also disproportionately black, LGBT, disabled and, of course, poor, Drum managed to reveal the disdain the liberal elite has of wide swaths of Americans."

Margaret Kimberly in Black Agenda Report, "Freedom Rider: Kamala Harris and America's Oligarchs: California's new senator is actively being vetted as the 'next Obama, ' or 'Obama 2.0' -- a youngish, biracial corporate Democrat and a woman. Democratic honchos are betting that 'white people will consider her exotic enough to be acceptable and black voters will rally around her.' The oligarchic George Soros likes Harris, who did him a favor by refusing to indict one of his banks. Most importantly, Harris is all about 'form' -- not 'reform.'

"Why leftists don't trust Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Deval Patrick: The contest for control of the Democratic Party between left and center is continuing apace. The latest battleground is over a handful of minority Democrats being groomed by the centrist establishment to run for office: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. If the center wants to win over a suspicious left, they can start by clearly explaining their policy orientation, particularly in areas where they might have fallen short by the supposed standards of the modern Democratic Party - which all three of the above candidates have done in various ways. If they want to deepen divisions, they can use cynical accusations of bigotry to try to beat back any leftist challenger." Maybe Kamala Harris can explain why she protected West One from prosecution for all its crimes, but I don't see how Deval Patrick can rid himself of his ties to Bain Capital, being managing director, and Cory Booker's entire career is backed by genuine right-wing Republicans who want to destroy education and the teachers' unions.

Here's a few highlights from Kamala Harris' record. From 2010, "Judge rips Harris' office for hiding problems: San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris' office violated defendants' rights by hiding damaging information about a police drug lab technician and was indifferent to demands that it account for its failings, a judge declared Thursday. [...] But in a scathing ruling, the judge concluded that prosecutors had failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to tell defense attorneys about problems surrounding Deborah Madden, the now-retired technician at the heart of the cocaine-skimming scandal that led police to shut down the drug analysis section of their crime lab. [...] Massullo wrote that top drug prosecutor Sharon Woo's Nov. 19 memo about Madden showed that prosecutors "at the highest levels of the district attorney's office knew that Madden was not a dependable witness at trial and that there were serious concerns regarding the crime lab.""
* From January of this year, "Treasury Nominee Steve Mnuchin's Bank Accused of 'Widespread Misconduct' in Leaked Memo [...] In the memo, the leaders of the state attorney general's Consumer Law Section said they had 'uncovered evidence suggestive of widespread misconduct' in a yearlong investigation. In a detailed 22-page request, they identified over a thousand legal violations in the small subsection of OneWest loans they were able to examine, and they recommended that Attorney General Kamala Harris file a civil enforcement action against the Pasadena-based bank. They even wrote up a sample legal complaint, seeking injunctive relief and millions of dollars in penalties. But Harris's office, without any explanation, declined to prosecute the case. [...] Why did her office close the case, deciding not to 'conduct a full investigation of a national bank's misconduct and provide a public accounting of what happened,' as her own investigators had urged?" Perhaps it was because, "Harris Was Only 2016 Senate Democratic Candidate to Get Cash From Mnuchin." Her non-explanation sounds like classic evasion to me.
* Either Harris had no idea what her own office was doing (and didn't care to find out), or she knew that lawyers for her office argued in court not to process parole release of non-violent offenders because the state wanted to use them as free fire-fighting labor. Harris purported to be shocked, but in that case, why didn't she already know?

"The One Word Guaranteed to Make the Corporate Pundit Class Squirm: 'Neoliberalism' isn't a left-wing insult but a monstrous political system of inequality. [...] Neoliberalism is not particularly hard to define. It's not only an ideology or a set of principles; it's a system of practices, and an era, the one we're living in now. What it means, over and above everything, is untrammeled ruling-class power, an end to the class-collaborationism of the post-war years and a vicious assault of the rich against the poor. This is achieved through market mechanisms, fiscal austerity and the penetration of capitalist relations into every possible facet of human life. It doesn't mean that the role of the state vanishes - an essential precondition for neoliberalism is the destruction of working-class power and collective bargaining, and this has to be achieved, often brutally, through laws and their enforcement. There isn't just "some role for market forces" either, but their invasion into every fathomable social situation."

Mike Konczal in Vox, "'Neoliberalism' isn't an empty epithet. It's a real, powerful set of ideas. [...] One highly salient conflict was the fight over free college during the Democratic primary. It wasn't about the price tag; it was about the role the government should play in helping to educate the citizenry. Clinton originally argued that a universal program would help people who didn't need help - why pay for Donald Trump's kids? This reflects the focus on means-tested programs that dominated Democratic policymaking over the past several decades. (Some of the original people who wanted to reinvent the Democratic Party, such as Charles Peters in his 1983 article 'A Neoliberal's Manifesto,' called for means-testing Social Security so it served only the very poor.) Bernie Sanders argued instead that education was a right, and it should be guaranteed to all Americans regardless of wealth or income. The two rivals came to a smart compromise after the campaign, concluding that public tuition should be free for all families with income of less than $125,000 - a proposal that is already serving as a base from which activists can build. This points to a disagreement as we move forward. Should the Democratic Party focus on the most vulnerable, in the language of access and need? Or should it focus on everyone, in the language of rights? [...] Another place we can see a break in the Democratic Party is in its view of full employment. Between 1944 and 1988, the phrase 'full employment' was found in every Democratic Party platform and was commonly mentioned in Democratic State of the Union addresses. As an excellent new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a group called Fed Up, and the Center for Popular Democracy underscores, full employment was also a core demand of the civil rights movement. Then it disappeared, and was only put back in the platform for the 2016 election. [...] Or take the general stance toward the business community. Another policy concern that has entered, and departed, the Democratic platform over time is the antitrust agenda - worries about the concentration of big business. The 2016 Democratic platform said: 'Large corporations have concentrated their control over markets to a greater degree than Americans have seen in decades' and that Democrats "will make competition policy and antitrust stronger and more responsive." Again, that marked a return of language that was prevalent in the mid-century period but that disappeared after 1988."

"The Great Recession never ended [...] Taken together, the American economy looks quite similar to that of around 1939 or so. Back then, the New Deal had partially fixed the Great Depression, but had failed to restore full employment due to anxious politicians (including FDR) flipping out about the budget deficit and turning to austerity. It took the stupendous mega-spending of war mobilization to break the political deadlock and restore full employment and production. In 1939 as today, many argued that limp performance was simply the best that could be done. But it turned out after the war the economy did not collapse back to its prewar levels. Instead (after a brief hiccup from demobilization) it rocketed up into its greatest boom in history. Without the war, it's easily possible that America would have continued stuck in a quasi-depression indefinitely - as we appear to be today. But conversely, there is every reason to at least try to smash the economy back up to trend with another very large stimulus. Without it, we're due to start our second Lost Decade next year."

From National Nurses United and The Sanders Institute, "Medicare for All vs. All the Healthcare That Each Can Afford [...] So what's stopping us? Supporters of our market-driven model typically sabotage efforts to provide Medicare for all by focusing on how we would pay for it. This is disingenuous. We are already paying for it; we're just not receiving it. Approximately two-thirds of U.S. healthcare expenditures already come from taxpayers in the form of federal, state, and local government spending.35 Healthcare in the U.S. costs more both because of administrative complexity and higher prices, rather than increased utilization. The comparisons of U.S. spending and health outcomes to other countries strongly suggest that there is enough money in our current system to provide healthcare for all, if we spend that money fairly and wisely. The key point is to demonstrate that there is enough money currently being spent on healthcare in the U.S. to provide Medicare for all, rather than specifying particular funding mechanisms."

Dean Baker in the Guardian, "How about a little accountability for economists when they mess up?: There must be a huge change in our attitude to economics. Needlessly complex work merely supporting the status quo must be halted. [...] The problem is not that modern economics lacks the tools needed to understand the economy. Just as with firefighting, the basics have been well known for a long time. The problem is with the behavior and the incentive structure of the practitioners. There is overwhelming pressure to produce work that supports the status quo (for example, redistributing to the rich), that doesn't question authority, and that is needlessly complex."

Emmett Rensin, "Left with rage: When Trump is gone, the bourgeoisie alliance will turn its full power on the left, and the real work will begin."

RIP: Alan Dorey (1958-2017). popular British sf fan and fanzine publisher, co-founder of Interzone, and more recently, a radio show host/DJ. I listened to a few of his shows on the web (though I can't seem to find them, now), they were pretty good. Alan had only very recently learned that he had a particularly aggressive throat cancer, and died before word had time to get around that he was ill. This was particularly shocking news since he didn't seem to be aging like the rest of us and we thought he had a painting in the attic.

RIP: Julie Gomoll, 1962-2017, well-known science fiction fan and digital pioneer, sister of Jeanne (who introduced us all to her), who wrote: "She sold one business and took a solo trip around the world with some of the proceeds. She built a world-renown design company. She enrolled in culinary school and became a master chef. She became an expert in advising folks, including the Tiptree Award, on social media strategies. Other times we'd talk about our family, about our businesses, about her adopted home-town and always about her beloved dogs." Jackie Dana wrote a nice tribute to Julie. There's more bio on this page for a memorial fund.

RIP: Jordin Kare (1956-2017), who I first saw on Usenet beginning sentences with, "Now, I'm no rocket scientist - oh, wait, I am," and who was highly-regarded among filkers but mainly I liked him and really enjoyed that Christmas he and Mary Kay spent with us, of cardiac problems.

RIP: June Foray, the great cartoon voice artist. Mark Evanier says, "She was Rocky the Flying Squirrel. She was Natasha Fatale. She was Nell Fenwick. She was Jokey Smurf. She was Cindy Lou Who. She was Granny, owner of Tweety. She was Witch Hazel. She was Chatty Cathy. She was thousands of others. [...] Everyone hired her because she was always on time, always professional and what she did was always good. It was her good friend, director Chuck Jones who said, 'June Foray is not the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray.'" Mark also wrote a little more on the legendary June here. She would have been 100 in September.

RIP, "Jeanne Moreau, Femme Fatale of French New Wave, Is Dead at 89"
* "Jeanne Moreau: a life in pictures"

RIP: The NYT says, "Sam Shepard, Pulitzer-Winning Playwright and Actor, Is Dead at 73 [...] in Kentucky of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease" - But they left out his stint as a member of the Holy Model Rounders. His prolific output does, of course, include some science fiction.
* And the Guardian has "Sam Shepard: a life in pictures".

Rick Perlstein, "Outsmarted: On the liberal cult of the cognitive elite [...] 'Thomas Jefferson once said the American people won't make a mistake if they're given all the facts,' Ronald Reagan liked to say. Thomas Jefferson, naturally, never said such a thing - and just as naturally, by 'won't make a mistake' Reagan meant 'won't disagree with Ronald Reagan.' Ronald Reagan once starred in a movie with a chimp. He was not 'smart.' Which was why, a Carter White House staffer once told me, Carter's strategists in 1980 were confident that if they could only get Reagan standing next to Carter for one head-to-head debate, they would have the election in the bag. They finally got that debate scheduled for a week before the election. At the time, the two candidates were running about neck and neck. Reagan, of course, ended up winning in a landslide. It's pretty remarkable how 'smart' people keep on making the same mistake. [...] How do you make it in America now? Everyone knows. You get 'smart': you apply yourself to education. Faith in the salvific power of education is an old story among Democrats. Lyndon Johnson, his White House aide George Reedy recalled, 'had an abnormal, superstitious respect for education. I believe he even thought it would cure chilblain.' I've always loved that quote. Now I better understand why: often, the cult of 'smart' is a superstition. In LBJ's time, to believe in it was 'abnormal.' Now, that belief is collective - quite nearly unanimous."

"The Unfinished Work of Alan Lomax's Global Jukebox [...] In 1983 Lomax established the Association for Cultural Equity, known as ACE, a nonprofit dedicated to addressing that tension, largely by making sure the communities he had recorded reaped some reward. This spring, the organization unveiled the Global Jukebox, a free, interactive web portal with recordings of more than 6,000 folk songs from around the world that Lomax recorded or acquired. Most have never been publicly available."

I don't agree with everything Lance says here, but he does illuminate a few interesting insights in "The warped, frustrated old and young men and women of Bedford Falls." Like that one person can make a difference, but nobody can do it alone, and that Bedford Falls is not the opposite of Pottersville.

Someone corrected a right-wing meme that's going around.

Thanks to Mike and Mark and Rosa for the help, I'm really grateful. I think this is the first time anyone has actually noticed my Amazon wishlist. (And for the record, I prefer paperbacks and can take Kindle, but sometimes I unobservantly click on the first version of a title I see and don't take note of whether it's hardcover or paperback or digital, because I'm forgetful that way.)

Peter, Paul & Mary, "All My Trials"

03:43 GMT comment

Saturday, 22 July 2017

You still mystify

Video: Naomi Klein and Jeremy Corbyn Discuss How to Get the World We Want

Bad Dems: Democratic Councilman Fernando Cabrera says life is harder for the rich - and if you're not rich, it's because you're lazy.

Andrew Cuomo's cruelty for cruelty's sake: "'Those Visits Were Everything': How Prison Visitation Cuts Devastate Families: Buried in the New York state budget is a proposal to cut weekday visits for over 20,000 inmates. For families of incarcerated people, this could mean barely having any real contact with their loved ones." Weekend visits are already crowded and noisy to the point where people can't even hear each other. This would make it so, so much worse.

"How Andrew Cuomo Keeps the Left in Check: There is plenty of room to mount a progressive challenge against the Democratic governor. Why hasn't anyone stepped up? [...] What Cuomo has done in the Senate is the most prominent example of how he has undercut New York's progressive architecture and neutered opposition from his left flank. On a legislative level, the coalition between the GOP and the renegade Democrats - known as the Independent Democratic Conference - allows Cuomo to control the pace of the reform coming out of Albany. It has hobbled the ability of the Democratic Party, which technically won a majority in the state Senate in 2012 and 2016 (Republicans won the majority in 2014), to push for progressive policies in areas like health care, voting reform, reproductive rights, and immigration. And it precludes the threat of a Democratic Senate majority leader with clout."

Ryan Cooper, "Somebody primary Andrew Cuomo: This is because despite his self-presentation as an effective technocratic manager who "gets things done," Cuomo is staggeringly inept, practically speaking. He's a sort of effective politician, in a vicious and narrowly short-term sense - good at using deceit, betrayal, and conspiracy to gain power for himself. He would have been a passable courtier for Louis XVI. But only someone who was stupendously ill-informed would let the subway rot as he has."

"Outrageous Massachusetts Drug Bill Would Send You to Prison and Steal Your Car - No Drugs Needed: The proposed measure redefines reality to make a drug crime out of literally nothing. With the support of state law enforcement, a Massachusetts Democratic state representative has filed a drug war bill that would send violators to prison for a mandatory minimum two years (five years for a second offense) and allow police to seize their vehicles - all without the presence of any actual drugs.

"Quit Your Job for a Better One? Not if You Live in Idaho: BOISE, Idaho - Idaho achieved a notable distinction last year: It became one of the hardest places in America for someone to quit a job for a better one. The state did this by making it easier for companies to enforce noncompete agreements, which prevent employees from leaving their company for a competitor."

"New Research Shows Guccifer 2.0 Files Were Copied Locally, Not Hacked: New meta-analysis has emerged from a document published today by an independent researcher known as The Forensicator, which suggests that files eventually published by the Guccifer 2.0 persona were likely initially downloaded by a person with physical access to a computer possibly connected to the internal DNC network. The individual most likely used a USB drive to copy the information. The groundbreaking new analysis irrevocably destroys the Russian hacking narrative, and calls the actions of Crowdstrike and the DNC into question."

"GOP source of fraud allegation vs. Bernie Sanders' wife admits info was hearsay: MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- A Republican lawyer who reported independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his wife to federal officials was passing on information he heard from a GOP lawmaker who said he didn't have direct knowledge of the allegations."

"How much legal trouble is Donald Trump Jr. in? Some other critics of the administration, including Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was Clinton's running mate, have suggested the President's son might have engaged in treason by dealing with a foreign adversary -- but that is a possibility that many legal analysts reject. Both Constitution and federal law covering treason provide the United States be actively at war with the foreign adversary for such a charge."

David Dayen, "More Trump Populism: Hiring a Bank Lawyer to Attack CFPB Bank Rules: President Trump and Republicans in Congress have broadcast their every intention to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The president's budget attempted to defund it and leading Republicans have called for its director to be fired and replaced with a more Wall Street-compliant regulator. But much like the bulk of Trump's agenda, that assault remains in the aspirational phase, and the agency continues to do its work. Earlier this month, the CFPB released a major new rule, flat-out barring financial institutions from using forced arbitration clauses in consumer contracts to stop class-action lawsuits. Now, Trump has sent out his lead attack dog to overturn the arbitration rule - a former bank lawyer who has used the very tactic the CFPB wants to prevent."

"Award-Winning Journalist Who Broke Story of Jewish Women Barred From Chicago 'Dyke March' Removed From Reporting Duties: An award-winning journalist who broke the story of the group of Jewish women ejected from an LGBTQ march in Chicago last month has been reassigned to non-journalistic duties at the paper which ran the original report, the Windy City Times. Gretchen Rachel Hammond - whose June 24 story caused a national storm after she detailed how three women flying Jewish Pride flags embossed with the Star of David were instructed to leave the gathering by organizers from the Dyke March Collective - confirmed to The Algemeiner on Monday that while she was still employed by the paper, she was not presently engaged in its reporting and writing operations."

"NY Times Rewrites History of Iraq War, Painting U.S. as Noble Democracy-Lover, Iran as Sinister Imperialist: The paper of record advances an amazing feat of reality inversion. The New York Times' Tim Arango took what could have been an interesting topic for war journalism - Iran's increased role in Iraq - and morphed it into a revisionist history of American and Saudi involvement in the Middle East. In doing so, Arango paints the U.S. as a noble, freedom-loving nation on a mission to improve the lives of average Iraqis, and Iran as a sinister imperial force working to expand its sphere of influence across the region."

What makes this news is that it's in The Harvard Business Review. "Is the U.S. Ready for a Single-Payer Health Care System? Ironically, as congressional Republicans have been trying to replace the Affordable Care Act, the ACA's popularity is at an all-time high, and the majority of Americans now believe that it is the federal government's responsibility to provide health care for all Americans. This shift in sentiment suggests that a single-payer system - a 'Medicare for all' - may soon be a politically viable solution to America's health care woes."

"Facial Recognition Coming to Police Body Cameras" - instead of using the bodycams to make a record of police behavior, it's being turned into another way to destroy the anonymity of the crowd.

"These Obama voters snubbed Hillary Clinton - and 'they don't regret what they did': 'What we clearly see in the focus groups is they don't regret what they did.' 'They' are millennials of color who either didn't vote or voted third party. And for Cornell Belcher, the president of Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies, who was the pollster for the Democratic National Committee under then-Chairman Howard Dean and for both of Barack Obama's campaigns for the White House, this makes them the new swing voters the Democratic Party should be trying to win over."

"Contractor finds himself stuck in ATM, slips notes to customers: On Wednesday, police say the contractor was changing a lock inside the room that connects to the ATM. He managed to leave his phone in the truck, so he was unable to call for help when he found himself locked in. Since the ATM still works, people were stopping by to get cash, and the contractor decided to slip out notes through the receipt slot stating,'Please Help. I'm stuck in here, and I don't have my phone. Please call my boss.'"

"Hiding US Lies About Libyan Invasion: In 2016, when a British parliamentary report demolished the excuse for the U.S. and its allies invading Libya in 2011, it should have been big news, but the U.S. mainstream media looked the other way, reports Joe Lauria."

RIP: "James B. Nutter, Kansas City business and political power broker, dies at age 89: James B. Nutter, a titan in Kansas City's business and political circles, died on Friday. He was 89. Nutter, who founded home mortgage company James B. Nutter & Co. in 1951, was known as a businessman for his forward-thinking policies. James B. Nutter & Co. was among the first mortgage banking companies to offer Veterans Administration loans, extended loans in minority communities that other banks would overlook and eschewed the type of risky subprime loans that helped trigger the Great Recession. 'We lost market share because we didn't make those horrible loans, because it was wrong,' Nutter told The Star in 2012."

RIP: "Maryam Mirzakhani, first woman to win maths' Fields Medal, dies: The 40-year-old Iranian, a professor at Stanford University, had breast cancer which had spread to her bones. Nicknamed the "Nobel Prize for Mathematics", the Fields Medal is only awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40.

RIP: Martin Landau, star of Ed Wood and Crimes and Misdemeanors, dies aged 89. Before he began his acting career, Landau was a cartoonist, but I have always remembered him from the Outer Limits episode, "The Man Who Was Never Born". Of course, Mission Impossible was very nearly science fiction, and Space: 1999 was...well, something like that. He was an amazing actor and regarded by many as a great humanitarian.

RIP: "George A Romero: the zombie master whose ideas infected American cinema: With his satirical masterpiece Night of the Living Dead the director revolutionised low-budget film-making and inspired an epidemic of imitators, from World War Z to 28 Days Later."

Guy Saperstein says, "Jon Stewart Should Run for President." I can't really say that I agree, for a number of reasons, but watching this interview he did last year, I did feel a few inspirational moments.

Jon Schwarz, "The Incredible Lost History of How 'Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom' [...] Titled 'The Full Employment Mandate of the Federal Reserve: Its Origins and Importance' - WAIT, don't switch tabs and check Facebook! - it's a history of the economic policies of the civil rights movement, the movement's focus on capturing the Fed's power to generate full employment, how they partially succeeded, and why we have to fight right now to preserve their accomplishments. It deserves to be discussed and carefully studied by absolutely everyone on the left side of the political spectrum - Democrats, Greens, Hillaryites, Berners, Autonomous Collectives, and miscellaneous."

Matt Stoller in The New Republic, "The Return of Monopoly: With Amazon on the rise and a business tycoon in the White House, can a new generation of Democrats return the party to its trust-busting roots? [...] Amazon did not come to dominate the way we shop because of its technology. It did so because we let it. Over the past three decades, the U.S. government has permitted corporate giants to take over an ever-increasing share of the economy. Monopoly - the ultimate enemy of free-market competition - now pervades every corner of American life: every transaction we make, every product we consume, every news story we read, every piece of data we download. Eighty percent of seats on airplanes are sold by just four airlines. CVS and Walgreens have a virtual lock on the drugstore and pharmacy business. A private equity firm in Brazil controls roughly half of the U.S. beer market. The chemical giant Monsanto is able to dictate when and how farmers plant its seeds. Google and Facebook control nearly 75 percent of the $73 billion market in digital advertising. Most communities have one cable company to choose from, one provider of electricity, one gas company. Economic power, in fact, is more concentrated than ever: According to a study published earlier this year, half of all publicly traded companies have disappeared over the past four decades."

Lydia O'Neal and David Sirota in the IBT, "California Health Care Fight May Show Democratic Party Future In Trump Era [...] Amid calls for Democratic unity in the Trump era, the party's move in a deep blue state to block a health care initiative it previously supported has prompted labor movement protests - and promises of primary campaigns or recall efforts to unseat recalcitrant Democrats. More broadly, eight years after Barack Obama mounted a populist presidential campaign and then did not prosecute any major Wall Street executives, the episode has resurrected progressives' allegations that while Democrats may talk a good game, they are not nearly as committed to bold action as their rhetoric suggests."

Paul Street, "The Notion That White Workers Elected Trump Is a Myth That Suits the Ruling Class [...] Another difficulty with the white Trumped-proletarian narrative is that most whites without an allegedly class-defining college degree don't vote. Thanks in part to this silent election boycott, Trump got votes from approximately just a fifth of the 136 million white American adults who lack the higher ed diploma. The image of poor and working-class whites flocking to Trump is a media myth. Like fascist and other right-nationalist political movements of the past, Trump has drawn his main support from the more reactionary segments of the middle class and petite bourgeoisie. Trump Didn't Win the Working Class. The Democrats Lost It. The dismal Democrats have been losing white working-class votes for decades across the long neoliberal era because the party has abandoned workers' lunch-pail economic issues and the language of class in pursuit of corporate sponsorship and votes from the professional class. But there was no mass white working-class outpouring for Trump. Clinton's miserable, centrist campaign and Obama's neoliberal legacy depressed working- and lower-class voter turnout, opening the door for Trump to squeak by - with no small help from racist voter suppression in key states."

"If The DCCC Continues To Pick Congressional Nominees, Instead Of Voters, The Democrats Will Never Win Back Congress [...] Bob Poe has been a major Democratic donor from Florida who was once chairman of the Florida Democratic Party and got a taste of what the DCCC is all about when he ran for Congress last cycle and was successfully opposed by a Pelosi New Dem pick, Val Demings, who predictably, has turned out to be one of the worst Democratic freshmen in Congress. It was hard to get Poe to tell his story but he did share a few words he thought would be helpful for DWT readers to understand. 'From the day Democrats became the minority in the House of Representatives in 2010 until today, I have received literally thousands of emails from the DCCC asking, begging and pleading for contributions to defeat Republicans and regain the majority. Countless donors large and small have donated millions in pursuit of that noble effort. But, what most donors don't know is the dirty little secret that the DCCC spends a significant amount of their scarce resources not defeating Republicans but in defeating Democrats. Each cycle, the DCCC involves itself in Democratic primaries-- even in races that are safely Democratic regardless of who wins the primary. This practice is dishonest and it needs to stop.'"

"The DCCC Thinks What Orange County Needs In Congress Is Another Multimillionaire Who Opposes Single Payer-- Meet Hans Keirstead. [...] "The DCCC strategy for 2018 is two-fold-- run dull, rich, inoffensive centrist candidates in districts Trump lost and pray for a BIG anti-Trump wave."

Amazingly, this is from Matt Yglesias: "Democrats should take the class warfare message to upscale suburbs: It worked for Jeremy Corbyn, and the opposite failed for Jon Ossoff. [...] But there's no reason to believe that more affluent, suburban communities are averse to a strong, policy-based critique of Republican Party economics. The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, after all, made some of its strongest gains in upscale parts of London - winning the Borough of Kensington for the first time ever, for example - and it certainly didn't shy away from drawing a strong economic contrast. "

Brent Budowsky in The Hill, "Sanders triumphs over Trump in healthcare's battle of ideas [...] During the July 4 recess, it was strange to watch many Republican members of the House and Senate trying almost desperately to avoid meeting constituents in public town halls where they would have to answer questions from unhappy voters who are angry, frightened and alarmed by the pending GOP healthcare plans." I'll believe in a Democratic landslide when it happens - I know the party can screw this up.

"Pussy Riot Founder Says American Liberals Scapegoat Putin To Distract From Democrats' Problems: Tolokonnikova: I think just the narrative should be different. I have questions about current narrative Democratic Party defending themselves and defending wealthy people who they do represent. And I think your narrative should be how oligarchs all around the world, they do unite, and though sometimes they don't have a lot of things in common, they don't have common views, but they have just one thing that they really want to do together to protect their wealth. I think you need to look at Putin and Trump from this perspective."

"The New Working Class: The Democrats are ensnared in a dynamic that is wrecking center-left parties around the north Atlantic. Sometimes labeled Pasokification, after the pattern of collapse of the Greek socialist party PASOK, it was diagnosed by scholars on the left decades ago. As the political scientists Adam Przeworski and John Sprague explained in their 1986 book Paper Stones, social democratic parties, built on the assumption that the working class would grow steadily in size and power them to majority, instead were forced to face the unexpected stagnation and decline of their proletarian bases. The only route to future electoral majorities would be to broaden their appeal to encompass sections of the middle class, but this would require diluting the party program, demoralizing and demobilizing its working-class base. Key milestones in this process included Tony Blair's ascent in Britain and the abandonment of Labour's 'Clause IV' - its commitment to 'common ownership of the means of production'; Bill Clinton's welfare reform; and the Hartz plan for labor market liberalization under the German Social Democrats. In the final reckoning, this process could lead these parties to be not only aloof from their old sources of support, but complicit in their social liquidation - certainly, this became true for the Democrats. The near-term victories they won occurred because the effects of their changed class allegiances had not fully sunk in, allowing them to temporarily have their cake and eat it too."

People still don't get that Cory Booker can not sell out to the right wing and corporations, since it is the right-wing that created him in the first place. "How the Booker Window Explains Centrist Implosion: The close makes the man."

"Democrats are doubling down on the same vanilla centrism that helped give us President Trump [...] But they were ad-libbing on the defensive, instead of setting the agenda for their own meeting, or sharing a vision for how to make a unified push for single-payer healthcare. Demonstrators didn't come to see legislators talk about their collective helplessness - they wanted a plan of action."

"Clinton lost because PA, WI, and MI have high casualty rates and saw her as pro-war, study says: Last fall I winced whenever Hillary Clinton or her surrogates promised regime change in Syria. Don't these people get it? Americans don't want to be waging more wars in the Middle East. Now an important new study has come out showing that Clinton paid for this arrogance: professors argue that Clinton lost the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in last year's presidential election because they had some of the highest casualty rates during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and voters there saw Clinton as the pro-war candidate. By contrast, her pro-war positions did not hurt her in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, the study says; because those states were relatively unscathed by the Middle East wars."

"The Book That Predicted Trump's Rise Offers the Left a Roadmap for Defeating Him: Twenty years ago, Richard Rorty warned that 'a spectatorial, disgusted, mocking Left' would give rise to a populist demagogue. Is it ready now to take his advice? [...] Labor unions and unskilled workers will sooner or later realize that 'their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported,' he posited. And they will further realize that 'suburban white-collar workers, themselves desperately afraid of being downsized, are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.' At that point, 'something will crack,' he warned. 'The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for - someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.'"

"Back to Work: How Democrats can win over Americans left behind in the new economy: In the wake of Donald Trump's election, and amid the wilderness of uncertainty surrounding the presidential race in 2020, one thing is for sure: Democrats need to change the way they talk about the economy. Trump made sweeping promises about jobs that he almost certainly will not keep. 'We're gonna put our people back to work,' he told his supporters. 'I'm going to create jobs, great jobs,' he vowed. 'If you get laid off on Tuesday, I still want your vote. I'll get you a new job, don't worry about it.' Such vague and misleading assurances are almost impossible to combat - especially if Democrats stick to their normal, ineffectual script. Hillary Clinton promised a 'new bargain for the new economy' but she never actually pledged to give Americans what they need in this one. She vowed to provide tax relief to small businesses and invest in infrastructure, but she left it to voters to figure out how something as distant and programmatic as cutting taxes or building a bridge would get them a better paycheck. If Democrats want to win elections, they should imbue Trump's empty rhetoric with a real promise: a good job for every American who wants one. It's time to make a federal jobs guarantee the central tenet of the party's platform. This is the type of simple, straightforward plan that Democrats need in order to connect with Americans who struggle to survive in the twenty-first-century economy. And while a big, New Deal-style government program might seem like a nonstarter in this day and age - just look at the continuing battle over the Affordable Care Act - a jobs guarantee isn't actually so far-fetched.

"The Democratic Party's Deadly Dead-End [...] In 2002, when Margaret Thatcher was asked to name her 'greatest political achievement,' she smiled her best cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile and purred, 'Tony Blair and New Labour.' The true measure of the Reagan-Thatcher counterrevolution was not how Reagan and Thatcher changed their own parties' policies but that they remade their opposition in their own image and thus marginalized progressive politics for a generation in both their countries, clearing the way for the neoliberal transformation of society." There's an error in the piece, though - the author says the DLC never had a female leader. That's not true, they did: In 2008, the leader of the DLC was Hillary Clinton. It's almost impossible to find references to this on the web now, her name has even been deleted from the list of former leaders on Wikipedia. When the DLC shut down in 2011, all of their historical records were purchased by the Clinton Foundation. Web Archive does show this page, though - note the rotating images of their leaders at the top.

"Until Democrats Can Start Winning Seats In Kansas Again, They'll Never Be A National Party Again : Trump won Kansas' 4th district-- around Wichita-- by a big margin: 60.2% to 33.0%. But KS-04 isn't really Trump country. In the caucuses, Cruz came in first 7,963 (58.3%) to Señor Trumpanzee's 3,012 (22.0%). That same day Bernie swept every district in Kansas. He won the 4th with 69.8%-- 6,588 votes to Hillary's 2,846-- but with more than twice as many votes as Trump got! Think about that for a moment. Many in Kansas saw Bernie as the answer to their hopes and their fears... but by November they ultimately judged Hillary as the greater evil compared to Trump. While Trump was coming up with his 60.2% of the vote in KS-04, the incumbent Republican congressman, Mike Pompeo, was being elected over Democratic challenger Dan Giroux 60.7% to 29.6%. But soon after the election Trump appointed Pompeo CIA director, triggering a special election in what was regarded one of the safest Republican districts in America. But it wasn't quite as safe as the GOP (and the DCCC) assumed. After beating a conservative anti-Choice, Republican-lite candidate in the primary, Jim Thompson, a Berniecrat, won Wichita (the biggest city in the state) and Sedgwick County outright. The district-wide total saw Estes with 64,044 (52.2%) and Thompson with a startling 56,435 (46.0%), the best showing a Democrat has had in this district since 1992."

Ryan Grim, "Democrat Beto O'Rourke Takes the Bernie Sanders Fundraising Model Local in Run at Ted Cruz [...] O'Rourke did it in a surprising, and for Cruz, concerning way: $0 from corporate PACs, 46,574 individual donations, and more than 80 percent of the money coming from genuine Texans. In other words, this is not a Jon-Ossoff-style phenomenon where people around the country are throwing money at O'Rourke. What's significant here is what it says about the future prospects of candidates like O'Rourke, who was first elected to Congress in 2012. [...] He won his seat by beating an incumbent Democrat, Sylvestre Reyes, a former border control guard, from the left. Reyes had fought against a resolution O'Rourke had pushed as a city councilman in El Paso that called on the federal government to contemplate legalizing marijuana as a way to tamp down violence on the border. O'Rourke responded by taking him out, and the primary was a pivotal moment in drug policy politics, as it showed politicians there could be electoral consequences for being too trigger-happy in the drug war - a previously unthinkable proposition. Moreover, O'Rourke is a backer of single-payer universal health care. He's ardently pro-choice. And he took on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the height of the 2014 Israel-Gaza War, casting one of only eight votes against the Iron Dome rocket defense system. 'I tried to find him on the floor, but I couldn't,' then-Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.,(who's had his own run-ins with AIPAC) later told the New Yorker. 'I wanted him to switch his vote. Now, he might not have switched it anyway, because - as shocking as it may be - he's in Congress solely to do what he considers to be the right thing. I'm afraid he may have a tough race in November.' O'Rourke did not have a tough race that November, despite electoral threats that were leveled at him after the vote."

"Bernie Sanders and the Progressive Left's Selfless Defense of Obamacare" I don't know if I buy this frame, since even if you didn't care about Obamacare you'd still find the included tax cuts and other clauses in the GOP bills unacceptable, and I really don't see any advantage in letting the GOP have their way, but it's an interesting way to look at it.

Remember when even Markos acknowledged the problem? "EXCERPT: Crashing the Gate: 'I don't get it. When a consultant on the Republican side loses, we take them out and shoot them. You guys -- keep hiring them.' --Nationally prominent Republican official"

"The iron law of online abuse: You could call it something like Cohen's Law - named, of course, for Nick Cohen, the seething thing in the middle pages of the Observer - or the Iron Law of Online Abuse. It goes something like this: every single pundit or journalist who goes on a moral crusade against left-wing social-media crudery will have, very recently, done the exact same things they're complaining against. They will have used insults, personal attacks, expletives, epithets, or unpleasant sexual suggestions; they will have engaged in bullying or spiteful little squabbles; they will have indulged in some form of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia; they will have encouraged political repression, violence, or censorship; they will have threatened to contact someone's editor or boss or the police or otherwise have conspired to ruin their life. Chances are that they won't have been very good at it, but they will have been mean; they will have used invective. This is always - always - true."

Andy Serkis on Colbert, Gollum reads Trump's tweets.

"If Norman Rockwell painted African-American culture today"

Queen Elizabeth's life in banknotes

Nick Lowe, "Cruel to be Kind"

17:30 GMT comment

Sunday, 09 July 2017

This happened once before....

Everyone will tell you radiotherapy is fatiguing. Oh, gods, it bloody is!

I still have idiots in my feeds making up nonsense about how "the left" and Bernie Sanders "ignore" race and gender issues or want to pretend they don't exist or something. These are often accompanied by pictures of either Hillary surrounded by black people or Bernie speaking to largely white crowds. A few weeks back I was sufficiently annoyed by this that I started googling around for pictures of Sanders around people who weren't white, and noticed an interesting thing: Even when he was speaking to black crowds, there were few press pictures of him with attendees. And what pictures the press had published were usually tight-focused on just his face. Are there even photos of him speaking at the Apollo? I never saw them. (Apparently, the press didn't go to the Apollo. They went to another event where he spoke the same day at which they felt more comfortable - one out in the 'burbs where all those big stadiums are, and the crowds are mostly white. Then they complained that the crowd was white.) It's not easy to find pictures of him when he spoke at the NAACP, either. But I did find a couple of shots worth keeping around to remind people that the "black people don't like Bernie" crowd is not reality-based. Like this one, and like this one.
* In any event, there's that other canard, the one about Sanders supporters, but there is already plenty to debunk "BernieBro" mythology, just as there was a year ago, such as, "Sanders supporters are the least racist."

People are disturbed that Trump wants personal loyalty. I thought it was pretty scary back in 2007 when people in the White House thought they swore an oath to the president. I wonder if they actually did. But let's not pretend this "loyalty" thing is new. Party operatives always act like loyalty to the president is more important than policy or the oath to the Constitution. It was overt with Bush, and it was an entire party culture with Obama. No reason Trump wouldn't want the same thing.

As if flying isn't horrible enough already, "New TSA Policy May Lead to Increased Scrutiny of Reading Material: The TSA is testing new requirements that passengers remove books and other paper goods from their carry-on baggage when going through airline security. Given the sensitivity of our reading choices, this raises privacy concerns."

"Democrats Help Corporate Donors Block California Health Care Measure, And Progressives Lose Again: As Republican lawmakers grapple with their unpopular bill to repeal Obamacare, Democrats have tried to present a united front on health care. But for all their populist rhetoric against insurance and drug companies, Democratic powerbrokers and their allies remain deeply divided on the issue - to the point where a political civil war has spilled into the open in America's largest state."
* "Planned Parenthood Supports Shelving Single-Payer (Again)."

You know how sometimes you hear someone say "any Democrat is better than any Republican"? Well, sometimes it's just not true. "Sometimes House Democrats Are So Bad That It Doesn't Pay To Waste Resources Trying To Save Them-- Orlando Blue Dog Stephanie Murphy."
* Howie did a great Reddit thread discussing how to create elective victories for progressives. The first order of business does seem to be defeating sabotage by the Democratic Party.

"Elizabeth Warren: It's time for Democrats to run on single-payer health care: Elizabeth Warren suggests that the Democratic Party adopt the progressive agenda, including a single-payer plan. [...] 'President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,' she told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week. 'Now it's time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.'"

I was delighted to see headlines the other day that four Barclays execs are being prosecuted. But I'm curious about how it's happening this late at all, what with statutes of limitations and all that. Still hasn't been explained to me, but Atrios asks the important question: "Who, exactly, did they piss off?"

Marcy Wheeler, "Democrats Need A Plan For National Voter Protection [...] The House Appropriations Committee just defunded the Election Assistance Commission, which is the only federal entity to help states prevent getting hacked. The head of Trump's 'Election Integrity' Commission, Kris Kobach - fresh off court sanctions for lying to a court - sent a letter to all the Secretaries of State, asking them for their voting rolls (including party affiliation). And then Trump named the loathsome Hans Van Spaskovsky, who has a history of suppressing the vote of people of color, to the Commission. It's probably no accident all this is happening as Trump and Mitch McConnell try to force through a massively unpopular change to ObamaCare. By making showy plans to cheat on a national scale, the Administration may be reassuring Republicans they can keep their job even by selling out their constituents in favor of a tax cut for the wealthy. They'll just do it by cheating even more obviously than they have in the past."

Atrios also quotes from a useful critique of the party leadership: "If you are a Democrat and think Ossoff blew an opportunity and fear more of the same in 2018, you need the DCCC's theory of the electorate to improve." (There's more.)

"Cops Sent Warrant To Facebook To Dig Up Dirt On Woman Whose Boyfriend They Had Just Killed: Everything anyone has ever said about staying safe while interacting with the police is wrong. That citizens are told to comport themselves in complete obeisance just to avoid being beaten or shot by officers is itself bizarre -- an insane inversion of the term 'public servant.' But Philando Castile, who was shot five times and killed by (now former) Officer Jeronimo Yanez, played by all the rules (which look suspiciously like the same instructions given to stay 'safe' during an armed robbery). It didn't matter. [...] To 'win' at killing citizens, you must start the spin immediately. Yanez spun his own, speaking to a lawyer less than two hours after killing Castile. Local law enforcement did the same thing. Documents obtained by Tony Webster show Special Agent Bill O'Donnell issued a warrant to Facebook for 'all information retained' by the company on Diamond Reynolds, Castile's girlfriend. This was to include all email sent or received by that account, as well as 'chat logs,' which presumably means the content of private messages. The warrant also demands any communications that may have been deleted by Reynolds, as well as metadata on photos or videos uploaded to Facebook. It came accompanied with an indefinite gag order. [...] The only upside -- and it's incredibly small given the surrounding circumstances -- is Facebook refused to hand over the information on the grounds that the indefinite gag order was unconstitutional. Faced with this pushback, Minnesota police withdrew the warrant. But in the end, Yanez was acquitted and Philando Castile is still dead -- a man who did nothing more than try to comply with an officer's orders."

A "study" was released that purported to "prove" that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle hurt employment. It used an unreliable control group and it completely ignored chains, but there you are. Econospeak debunks: "Words cannot describe the torment experienced by the data before they confessed what the University of Washington team got them to confess. I can only urge readers with an open mind to study Table 3 carefully. The average wage increase, from the second quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, for all employees of single site establishments was 18 percent. Eighteen percent! That is an annual increase of almost 8 percent. For two and a quarter years in a row. Not bad. And the number of hours worked of ALL employees of single site establishments? Up 18 percent in a little over two years. That too is an increase of almost 8 percent per annum."

Glenn Greenwald has been saying for months that it's important to wait for facts from reliable sources before running with a story. Just about everyone forgot to do that, caught up in a partisan frenzy. "CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat: Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article - like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media - was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims." Of course, CNN is not alone among the establishment media in doing this non-journalism journalism.

"DHS Never Ran Audit to See If Votes Were Hacked: The Department of Homeland Security insists that no one hacked actual votes - but admits it never ran an audit to check."

Scott Ritter has his doubts: "Ex-Weapons Inspector: Trump's Sarin Claims Built on 'Lie'."
* "Why Won't the Media Tell the Real Story of Trump's Military Strike in Syria?: If you wish to understand the degree to which the supposedly free western media are constructing a world of half-truths and deceptions to manipulate their audiences, keeping us uninformed and pliant, there could hardly be a better case study than their treatment of Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. All of these highly competitive, for-profit, scoop-seeking media outlets separately took identical decisions: first to reject Hersh's latest investigative report, and then to studiously ignore it once it was published in Germany last Sunday. They have continued to maintain an absolute radio silence on his revelations, even as over the past few days they have given a great deal of attention to two stories on the very issue Hersh's investigation addresses."

Jason Leopold, "Secret Report Contradicts US Position On Chelsea Manning Leaks: Prosecutors said WikiLeaks' disclosures about Iraq and Afghanistan posed a major threat to US national security. But it turns out the classified document they cited - newly obtained by BuzzFeed News - said almost the exact opposite. "

"Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power: Amazon on Friday announced plans to acquire Whole Foods, the high-end grocer. If approved by antitrust enforcers, the $13.7 billion deal would give Amazon control of more than 400 stores, an extensive supply chain and a new source of consumer data. Amazon will argue to federal authorities, most likely the Federal Trade Commission, that the deal should be blessed because the combined entity's share of the American grocery market will be less than 5 percent. But antitrust officials would be naïve to view this deal as simply about groceries. Buying Whole Foods will enable Amazon to leverage and amplify the extraordinary power it enjoys in online markets and delivery, making an even greater share of commerce part of its fief." They can wipe out the very people who were benefiting from the existence of Whole Foods.
* "The big consequence of the Amazon-Whole Foods deal no one's talking about: Amazon has proved its power to disrupt markets. Now its proposed purchase of Whole Foods has some small farmers and food producers worried that they could be next in line. So say organic activists, farmers' advocates and economists who are just beginning to process the potential ramifications of Amazon's bid to buy Whole Foods, the country's largest organic retailer."

"How the Student Loan Industry, Trump, and Neoliberals Are Creating a Nation of Serfs: Most of the discussion about student debt in the United States has centered on its excessiveness, the negative impact it has on home-buying for the next generation, various refinancing schemes, and (for the grossly uninformed) how borrowers simply need to 'pay what they owe.' However, the untold story of student loan debt in the United States is that it is being used as a form of economic terrorism designed to not only redistribute wealth from everyday Americans to the elite, but also to undermine and degrade American democracy as a whole."

"Chicago won't allow high school students to graduate without a plan for the future: CHICAGO - To graduate from a public high school in Chicago, students will soon have to meet a new and unusual requirement: They must show that they've secured a job or received a letter of acceptance to college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program or the military. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said he wants to make clear that the nation's third-largest school system is not just responsible for shepherding teenagers to the end of their senior year, but also for setting them on a path to a productive future."

"Missouri Republicans Lower St. Louis Minimum Wage From $10 To $7.70: If you thought the minimum wage only moved in one direction, then Missouri Republicans have a surprise for you. After St. Louis leaders raised the wage floor for workers within city limits, the state GOP recently passed what's known as a statewide 'preemption' law, forbidding localities from taking such matters into their own hands. On Friday, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) said he would let the law go into effect, thereby barring cities and counties from setting a minimum wage higher than the state level."

"Nina Turner on Why Ossoff Lost in Georgia Special Election [...] I think also the message was that people are not looking for folks to run 'Republican lite.' Either you are going to run on the values of the Democratic party, be authentic about those principles and those values, or you're not. But people don't want a substitute for the real thing, and that is what Mr. Ossoff was doing. He was being a substitute for what a real Republican is, and that district is a very strong Republican stronghold, no doubt about it."

Pareen, "This Is Normal: What most of the worst people in Donald Trump's administration have in common is that they are Republicans. This simple fact is obscured sometimes by the many ways in which Trump is genuinely an aberration from the political norm - like his practice of naked nepotism rather than laundering the perpetuation of class advantage through a 'meritocratic' process - and by the fact that many of the most vocal online spokespeople for 'the resistance' ignore the recent history of the Republican Party in favor of a Trump-centric theory of How Fucked Up Everything Is. But it is necessary for liberals, leftists, and Democrats to actually be clear on the fact that the Republican Party is responsible for Trump. The Democrats' longterm failure to make a compelling and all-encompassing case against conservatism and the GOP as institutions, rather than making specific cases against specific Republican politicians, is one of the reasons the party is currently in the political wilderness."

Blimey, Noam Chomsky in the NYT: "On Trump and the State of the Union [...] The Sanders campaign showed that a candidate with mildly progressive (basically New Deal) programs could win the nomination, maybe the election, even without the backing of the major funders or any media support. There's good reason to suppose that Sanders would have won the nomination had it not been for shenanigans of the Obama-Clinton party managers. He is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin."

"KING: We are losing the battle against police brutality in America: It's hard for me to write this, but we must be honest about our status in the fight against police brutality in America. We are losing. I have two primary metrics for that conclusion. First, 2017 is on pace to be the deadliest year ever measured for the number of people killed by police in our country. We can never claim to be winning the battle against police brutality if American police are killing more and more people. Period. Secondly, even the most egregious officers, in the most heinous cases of police violence, with the most overwhelming evidence, are still beating the charges against them."

"Texas Couple Exonerated 25 Years After Being Convicted of Lurid Crimes That Never Happened. The couple's prosecution in 1992 was part of a wave of cases across the country amid an episode of mass hysteria known as the Satanic Panic. Beginning in the 1980s, accusations flew that the childcare industry had been infiltrated by bands of Satanists hell-bent on brainwashing and sexually abusing young children. The Kellers' exoneration closes a decades-long chapter of profound injustice for a couple that paid an exceptionally high price for the credulousness of local law enforcement."

Remember Whitewater? Remember how Republican operatives turned what was no more than a failed financial decision into a federal case just to attack the Clintons? Well, Vermont has a rich, right-wing crackpot, too, and he has been doing his damnedest to turn a bad financial decision by Jane Sanders into a federal case, too. It shows every sign of being, as Bernie put it, "nonsense," but he's gotten the FBI involved and the difference between this and Whitewater is that Clintonite Democrats have been working right alongside him to promote the story of the vast corruption of Jane and Bernie. Interestingly, they are linking to the Politico story without having read it, or perhaps hoping no one will read past the headline.

"How Andrew Cuomo broke the New York subway [...] Cuomo, who has been governor since 2011, is basically the exact opposite of this visionary leader. Instead of recognizing the absolutely vital nature of the subway, he has been shockingly hostile to public transit in general, deliberately undermining and underfunding it from the beginning of his term. He has done nothing about the cost problem. Lacking both a price fix and sufficient outside revenue to stabilize its finances, the MTA has repeatedly resorted to fare hikes and borrowing to cover its spending, leading to a huge debt overhang. (On the other hand, Cuomo did spend billions on a lousy bridge after coring out all the transit additions that were supposed to go with it.)"

Juan Cole, "What Trump Didn't Know About Herat When He Barred Robotics Students From Visiting the U.S.: The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, has denied visas to six Afghan high school students from the city of Herat to accompany their invention in robotics to the United States for a demonstration. The girls made the 500 mile journey from the western city to the capital of Kabul to apply for visitor visas. They were rejected. Their project, however, was accepted by First Global Challenge, which organizes events for teenage high school students."

David Dayen, "This Is How the Trump Administration Will Privatize Our Infrastructure: Public-private partnerships have been disasters for American cities. Naturally, Trump loves them."

Matt Stoller, "If Silicon Valley's Billionaires Want To Fix Our Rotten Politics, They Should Start At Home: We've returned to the point where the enlightened businessmen decide to save the Democratic party. It never works."
* "Progressives Skewer Silicon Valley Billionaires' Newest Political Pet Project: 'Win The Future' is drawing criticism as a tone-deaf attempt to reshape the Democratic Party."

"Centrist Democrats are now the great defenders of social justice? Please. [...] It follows that there is no way to achieve a full measure of justice for all downtrodden groups without a huge left-wing economic reform. Full employment and a completed welfare state would strike a massive blow against racism and sexism - and even protect against police brutality. Strong protections for workers' rights would help prevent abuse of immigrants. An attack on monopolies and Wall Street swindlers would help minority businesses and work against racist banking practices. Left-wing economics would not completely solve social justice problems, of course. Much else would need to be done. But it would help a lot - and better still, it would help virtually every oppressed group simultaneously."

"Dems try new slogan: 'Have you seen the other guys?'" How can anyone take these people seriously?

"'Bipartisanship' means 'I don't understand what politics is': What is politics? Politics is a struggle between competing interests. What is politics not? Politics is not an ultimately unimportant game that you play in order to make friends. If you write about or participate in politics for living, please do not fuck this up."

Josh Barro has an interesting take, since no one can admit that no, we don't actually need to raise taxes on the working/middle-classes to pay for health care. It's probably the right take within the context of a discourse that still acts like we're on the gold standard. Of course, it is also based on an incorrect premise, since (a) Warren says we need to support Medicare-for-All and (b) Sanders doesn't actually oppose markets. But making a list of corporate practices that make life miserable and talking about putting a stop to them - well, that actually sounds like a good thing to do. "The formula Democrats need: less Clintonism, less Sandersism, more Warrenism. [...] Democrats should make a list of corporate practices that grind people's gears and ask whether there's a compelling economic rationale for them. If there isn't, they should propose to prohibit them, penalize them, or at least have the government stop subsidizing them. And they should explain how doing so will make it easier for people to buy the things they need to live the way they want, with their own earnings." It's still going to take some work - this is about a restoration of a lot of things we've lost in the last few decades, like those old post-Depression SEC regs, and taking antitrust seriously again. Selling it to the public shouldn't be that hard, though - I mean, everybody hates Comcast.

Ryan Cooper, "Kill the private health insurance industry before it kills you [...] Bill Clinton's experience convinced Democrats that they couldn't risk offending the health-care industry when attempting reform. But Barack Obama's effort to buy them off clearly didn't work either. ObamaCare and Medicaid are the most politically vulnerable parts of the health-care system. The former is vulnerable precisely because it has so many compromises and handouts for private insurance. But the moment Republicans took power, they immediately plotted to destroy those weak points, with the savings shoveled into the pockets of the rich."

"Even the IMF says austerity doesn't work. It's the zombie idea that will not die: Politicians say that it's sound finance, when in fact it's a tool used to demonise immigrants and profit from 'working-class concerns'."

Interview by Jon Schwarz, "Ralph Nader: The Democrats Are Unable to Defend the U.S. from the 'Most Vicious' Republican Party in History: "Do you want me to go through the history of the decline and decadence of the Democratic Party? I'm going to give you millstones around the Democratic Party neck that are milestones."

Newsweek, "Democrats Want a Socialist to Lead Their Party More Than a Capitalist [...] The poll published this week from Morning Consult/Politico asked respondents what they thought of Pelosi's job performance. Forty-one percent of Democrats thought she should stay as minority leader while 27 percent thought she should be replaced. Thirty-six percent of Democrats thought things had gone mostly well for the party under Pelosi while 19 percent said mostly bad and 27 percent said neither good nor bad. But when asked if a hypothetical replacement should be a socialist or capitalist, more Democrats opted for socialism. Thirty-five percent said it's somewhat or very important the replacement be a socialist while 31 percent felt the same for a capitalist."

"Democrats are still obsessed with Jill Stein. They should start obsessing over nonvoters instead. [...] There are two categories of non-two-party votes in the contemporary American political climate, and they're regarded differently. The first is the third-party vote, which, especially on the left side of the aisle, is considered burglary. The second is total abstention, which is considered inevitable, and therefore hardly factors into the mainstream media's election postmortems. In neither scenario does the losing major party (in this case the Democrats) take responsibility for failing to move potential voters to act on its behalf. [...] If these are the only variables of interest to us - the number of ballots affirmatively cast for Trump, Clinton, Stein, and maybe Johnson - then yeah, the Stein-as-spoiler argument makes some sense. But here's another number, one that ought to change your perspective: 87,810. That's how many Michigan voters showed up to the polls, cast ballots, and declined to vote for a presidential candidate at all."

John Nichols in The Nation, "A Progressive Electoral Wave Is Sweeping the Country: The Trump-obsessed big media are mostly ignoring it, but Bernie-inspired activists are winning across the country - including in districts that went for Trump in 2016. [...] Too radical? Too bold? Not at all. Backed by a coalition that included veteran activists who fought segregation, along with newcomers who got their first taste of politics in Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, Lumumba won 55 percent of the vote in a May Democratic primary that saw him oust the centrist incumbent mayor and sweep past several other senior political figures in Mississippi's largest city. A month later, he secured a stunning 93 percent of the vote in a general election that drew one of the highest turnouts the city has seen in years. [...] This is the frustrating part of Lumumba's 'shock waves around the world' calculus: His election should have sent a shock wave. The same holds true for the election of progressives in local races from Cincinnati to St. Louis to South Fulton, Georgia, in a season of resistance that began with the Women's March on Washington and mass protests against President Trump's Muslim ban but has quickly moved to polling places across the country."

"What Is the Far Right's Endgame? A Society That Suppresses the Majority: Nancy MacLean, author of an intellectual biography of James McGill Buchanan, explains how this little-known libertarian's work is influencing modern-day politics."
* Sam Seder talked to MacLean about this on The Majority Report.

Beat the Press, "Thomas Friedman Whines About His Lost TPP: Thomas Friedman, who is legendary for his boldly stated wrong assertions, got into the game again making absurd claims about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the great loss the U.S. suffers from it going down.

Laura Flanders interview with Naomi Klein on No is Not Enough: Yes to the People's Movement. It's not enough to object to Trump, we have to be ready to promote positive policies to counteract the immoral proposals that are bound to come.

"Why the Democrats Won't Wake Up [...] Longtime sixth-district resident and scholar Billy Michael Honor nailed it in Huffington Post, observing that Ossoff's comfortably centrist and noncommittal message 'lacked any compelling progressive vision for the future. It also lacked any way to substantively convince the average politically uninterested citizen why they should give a damn about the Democratic Party. The message simply says, 'vote for us, we won't be as bad as the other group.'"

Weirdly, in Britain: "Top Tories in revolt against May over public spending Theresa May is facing a chorus of Tory demands for a radical overhaul of state funding for public services as cabinet ministers and senior Conservative MPs back higher pay for millions of NHS workers, more cash for schools and a 'national debate' on student debt. The prime minister's waning authority was highlighted as her health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and education secretary Justine Greening lobbied for an easing of austerity and senior Conservative MPs insisted public services would be in growing peril without an urgent loosening of the purse strings."

I ran into this thing from the wayback machine with clips of Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump at various times advocating single-payer (or some kind of real, national health care) - never mind what Jimmy Dore is saying, it's just a reminder of how much we forget.

Meanwhile in Canberra, will a new generation become fans of the late John Brosnan? Perhaps it is already happening: "John Brosnan's 1960s pre-internet fanzines sought by new fan at National Library." Not so sure about the comparison to Seinfeld, however.

"How Paul Robeson found his political voice in the Welsh valleys: African American star Robeson built his singing career in the teeth of racism in the early 1900s. But his radicalism was spurred on in Britain - by a chance meeting with a group of Welsh miners. [...] I knew that, in the winter of 1929, Paul had been returning from a matinee performance of Show Boat [in London] when he heard male voices wafting from the street. He stopped, startled by the perfect harmonisation and then by the realisation that the singers, when they came into view, were working men, carrying protest banners as they sang. [...] Some 50 years later, [his son] Pauli Robeson visited the Talygarn Miners' Rehabilitation Centre and met an elderly man who'd been present on that day in 1929. The old miner talked of how stunned the marchers had been when Robeson attached himself to their procession: a huge African American stranger in formal attire incongruous next to the half-starved Welshmen in their rough-hewn clothes and mining boots."

"This woman's name appears on the Declaration of Independence. So why don't we know her story?"

"Jimi Hendrix Park Opens at Last, With a Purple Flourish: SEATTLE - Jimi Hendrix's looping signature greets visitors at the park bearing his name, here in his hometown. The eye-catching purple script is among many personal touches that pay homage to the musician in Jimi Hendrix Park, which was formally christened in 2006 but didn't open until Saturday, after a decade of permit delays and financial woes."

RIP: Norman Pollack, 1933-2017: "Norman's legacy stands tall, from his days in the civil rights movement to his tenure at Yale and Michigan State University, he never stopped fighting for social justice."

RIP: Pete Shotton, 75, one of the original Quarrymen, the group formed by his best pal, John Lennon, which eventually became The Beatles. I missed this when it happened in April.

"Russian Photographer Captures The Cutest Squirrel Photo Session Ever

The Foreigner Official Trailer #1 (2017) Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan Action Movie HD. Nah, he doesn't look a bit like him. At all.

I was going to link to the Beatles' "No Reply" on YouTube here to go with the title of this post, but it seems to have been effectively purged, because all I could find were covers. *frowny face*

13:12 GMT comment

Friday, 23 June 2017

Woke up today in a strange, strange land

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Goodbye, and Good Riddance, to Centrism

The idea that people who want expanded health care, reduced income inequality, fewer wars and more public services are "unrealistic" springs from an old deception in our politics.

For decades pundits and pols have been telling progressive voters they don't have the juice to make real demands, and must make alliances with more "moderate" and presumably more numerous "centrists" in order to avoid becoming the subjects of right-wing monsters like Reagan/Bush/Bush/Trump.

Voters for decades were conned into thinking they were noisome minorities whose best path to influence is to make peace with the mightier "center," which inevitably turns out to support military interventionism, fewer taxes for the rich, corporate deregulation and a ban on unrealistic "giveaway" proposals like free higher education. Those are the realistic, moderate, popular ideas, we're told.

But it's a Wizard of Oz trick, just like American politics in general. There is no numerically massive center behind the curtain. What there is instead is a tiny island of wealthy donors, surrounded by a protective ring of for-sale major-party politicians (read: employees) whose job it is to castigate too-demanding voters and preach realism.

This cannot be stressed enough: It does not matter what the Republicans say as long as the Democrats don't agree with them. If the Republicans claim that health care and public services are "extreme" or "communism" or "far-left" or "unrealistic" or "budget-busting", any meaningful opposition party must and will argue the case that they are wrong, that in fact these views are mainstream, democratic, supported by the vast majority of the country - which they are. That's the real reality-based approach to politics that our so-called "pragmatists" refuse to take. If Democrats want to pass good policy, they will argue for good policy, not constantly tell us why we can't have good policy.

* * * * *

At the People's Summit, Katie Halper interviews Thomas Frank on the Demise of the Democratic Party.

There's been a lot of high praise for Bernie Sander's speech at the People's Summit.

"Jeremy Corbyn was just 2,227 votes away from chance to be Prime Minister: Winning seven Tory knife-edge seats could have put Labour leader in Downing Street" And that might have happened if the party had decided to devote resources to winning the marginals instead of only defending right-wing seats.
* As to young people's votes for Corbyn, they may not be that young. "Labour Won Much More Than The Under-25 Vote, Says YouGov: Only if you're 47-plus were you more likely to vote Tory." (This is much the same as in the US, where it was the 18-44 group that broke for Sanders in the primaries.)

Jon Schwarz, "New Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn Faces Special Guilt-by-Association Standard." But they don't really care about anti-semitism, they just care about trashing Corbyn.
* "Labour's Israel lobby plans to relaunch campaign against Corbyn. [...] Ryan herself was caught personally engaging in concocting false anti-Semitism charges against a party member who questioned Labour Friends of Israel's position on Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law."

This is actually from before the election, but good on Stiglitz for trying. "Austerity has strangled Britain. Only Labour will consign it to history: Neoliberalism was a creature of the Reagan and Thatcher era. Austerity is its death rattle. Before it does any more damage, Britain needs a plan for growth." I'm glad to see the Guardian finally decided to get on their own alleged team, too.

Summing it all up, "Zach Carter on economic crises and authoritarianism."

Meanwhile.... "Europe: the Danger of the Center: The good news out of Europe is that Marine Le Pen's neo-Nazi National Front took a beating in the May 7 French presidential election. The bad news is that the program of the winner, Emmanuel Macron, might put Le Pen back in the running six years from now. Macron pledges to cut 120,000 public jobs, reduce spending by 60 billion Euros, jettison the 35-hour workweek, raise the retirement age, weaken unions' negotiating strength and cut corporate taxes. It is a program that is unlikely to revive the morbid French economy, but it will certainly worsen the plight of jobless youth and seniors and hand the National Front ammunition for the 2022 election."

"US has regressed to developing nation status, MIT economist warns: Peter Temin says 80 per cent of the population is burdened with debt and anxious about job security "

Right on cue, fake news from The New York Times makes up a story in which Lee Camp is a Kremlin stooge full of conspiracy theories because he doesn't repeat the same stories everyone else in the press does.

The NYT also published an outrageous article blaming the "violence" of "BernieBros" for a genuine lone-nut attempted assassination that appears to have come from someone who supported Sanders and didn't like Republicans very much. It's not exactly making amends, but the paper has now published an op-ed by the man himself, "Bernie Sanders: How Democrats Can Stop Losing Elections [...] If these results are not a clear manifestation of a failed political strategy, I don't know what is. For the sake of our country and the world, the Democratic Party, in a very fundamental way, must change direction. It has got to open its doors wide to working people and young people. It must become less dependent on wealthy contributors, and it must make clear to the working families of this country that, in these difficult times, it is prepared to stand up and fight for their rights. Without hesitation, it must take on the powerful corporate interests that dominate the economic and political life of the country."
* Bizarrely, the one media figure who got it right was Sean Hannity, who said, "I can't blame Bernie Sanders, he's a nice guy, his supporters aren't like that, it's just one guy."

"Total Surprise! People Love the Left's Ideas for Progress: I just can't believe what happened in the British elections. I can't get over the fact that when a politician with real convictions honed over 40 years of political life - generous and forward-looking convictions rooted in an understanding of how social progress for the many has actually been engineered in previous times - speaks out unencumbered by fraidy-cat image doctors, people actually respond enthusiastically. It's shocking, absolutely shocking."

Also from the Guardian just before the election, Thomas Frank, "From rust belt to mill towns: a tale of two voter revolts : On the eve of Britain's election, Thomas Frank, who anticipated the rise of Trump among white working-class voters in the US, visited the industrial heartlands of northern England to compare two momentous contests"

"The Guardian never gets a political result right. On Corbyn they got it really wrong: After spending two years trashing the possibility that Corbyn could win elections, The Guardian's coverage must be judged harshly. An apology is due."
* Dump the Guardian! has a collection of headlines from the last two years from columnists railing against the destruction Corbyn is doing or will do to the party.

"We asked 8 Senate Republicans to explain what their health bill is trying to do." Comedy gold.

Yeah, Gorsuch is definitely horrible, just like all the other Republican appointees, but when a horrible decision is 9-0, let's not kid ourselves, eh? "Supreme Court Unanimously Backs Debt Collector in Gorsuch Opinion."

"Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor: : A data analytics contractor employed by the Republican National Committee (RNC) left databases containing information on nearly 200 million potential voters exposed to the internet without security, allowing anyone who knew where to look to download it without a password. 'We take full responsibility for this situation,' said the contractor, Deep Root Analytics, in a statement."

"Flint water crisis: five officials charged with involuntary manslaughter: Five Michigan officials, including the head of the state health department, have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the crisis over lead poisoning in drinking water in Flint. [...] Attorney general Bill Schuette presented the charges as a turning point in the investigation into water contamination in Flint, which has continued for more than a year. He said investigators would now focus on trying 17 officials who face criminal charges."

"Cuomo To NYC's Suffering Subway Commuters: Drive A Car: No governor with an eye on the White House would possibly let the country's greatest mass transit network collapse on his watch, right? Well, you must not know Andrew Cuomo, to whom the city-dwelling car driver ranks slightly below an on-time budget and 'no new taxes' as things of the most paramount importance. As for the rest of us, however, those forced into aluminum cans in a sweltering heatwave, soon to be idled beneath the East River on account of fictional 'train traffic ahead of us,' we could truly go to hell (or the MTA's steamy approximation of it)."

"Why Are Drug Prices Going Up? Democratic Power Players Help Pharmaceutical Industry In Connecticut Battle: Wide majorities of voters want public officials to reduce American medicine prices, which are the highest in the world and have become a key driver of skyrocketing healthcare costs. And yet as politicians including Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have continued to call for a crackdown, corporate power players have successfully blocked even minimal reforms - with the help, at times, of industry-connected Democrats, whose party portrays itself as a consumer-defending critic of the healthcare industry."

"Senator Elizabeth Warren joins the call for an investigation into TransDigm's business [...] "As a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, I have also been monitoring reports that suggest TransDigm WorldWide has used a variety of tactics to avoid sharing cost information with the government for parts for which it is the sole source supplier," Warren wrote in the letter to Acting Inspector General Glenn Fine at the U.S. Department of Defense on May 19, 2017. "These reports further show that TransDigm has unreasonably raised prices on many parts shortly after completing acquisitions of the companies that produce them."

Dday in The Intercept, "Trump Assigned Himself An Awful Lot Of Homework That Isn't Getting Done: The ceremonial signing of executive orders has become a trademark of the Trump presidency, with elaborate photo ops and presentations of the president's bizarre signature happening at a record-breaking rate. But in so doing, he has assigned himself - or, at least, the agencies and departments he ostensibly leads - a record amount of homework. It's not getting done."

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: China Bilateral Investment Treaty 'On Our Agenda': Trump administration is seeking to make progress on specific market-access issues first such as beef exports, Chinese rules on biotechnology imports and energy products." David Dayen explained last year that this is a job-killing deal. that "would facilitate more offshoring, and that could also give China, of all countries, effective veto power over domestic policy." Moreover, " 'It's pitched as a way to promote investment,' said Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist at the AFL-CIO. 'We're one of the top countries for foreign investment anyway. We don't need to give away rights for foreign investors.'

"A neo-Nazi with explosives and a framed photo of Timothy McVeigh is not a threat, judge rules: Brandon Russell is capable of making a bomb - and he admitted doing so. Officials believe he also participated in neo-Nazi chat rooms where he threatened to kill people and blow up places. Investigators found guns, ammunition and white supremacist propaganda in his bedroom, court records say. A framed photograph of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was on his dresser. Prosecutors believe those reasons should keep Russell behind bars while he awaits trial on federal charges. A judge, however, disagreed and decided that Russell can be released on bond."

David Dayen's tiny letter on how Republicans accidentally overturned a drug-testing rule they love. Also, David is upset by an interview with Ben Bernanke in which he, of course, makes excuses for the mess he helped make. Not surprising, given the recent Chicago Tribune feature on how, "the Cook County assessor systematically inflated prices on low-income housing and deflated prices for the wealthy's homes. [...] This stunning corruption, combined with the relative indifference to the suffering of foreclosure victims, paints a disturbing picture of establishment malevolence. They not only don't care about the plight of the rank and file, they feel unencumbered to actually steal from them. And yes, Bernanke's excuse-making sets the table for this type of greed engineering. The culture of impunity and the failure of accountability represent a large reason why we have the government we have today."

Also from Dday, "Republicans Can't Really Repeal Dodd-Frank: But they will pretend to try anyway." They have a ludicrous bill in Congress that the Senate is unlikely to pass, but they like the theater and making speeches.

Robbie Nelson in Jacobin, "The Stuff of Politics: Giving people stuff isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's the material basis of mass politics. [...] But HAMP's deficiencies should also be understood as a reflection of a more fundamental political failure: that of technocratic liberalism. This political ideology - currently dominant within the Democratic Party - embraces policies whose benefits are complex, means-tested, and often delivered through tax credits or the private sector. For the past several decades, technocratic liberalism has demonstrated its inability to solidify a mass electoral base by enacting policies that improve the lives of rank-and-file constituencies. This should be Politics 101 - when a party gains power, it uses that power to pass programs that visibly benefit its base in order to shore up their loyalty, as well as to attract potential new voters. The US Constitution makes this more difficult, with its over-abundance of veto points. So do gridlock and gerrymandering. But delivering tangible gains to workers and the poor remains the linchpin of any viable left politics. People need health care, housing, education, child care. They need something to vote for. They need to see what they get when they vote.

"Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World [...] This episode is especially alarming because Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, has long been one of its most tolerant. Indonesian Islam, like most belief systems on that vast archipelago, is syncretic, gentle, and open-minded. The stunning fall of Jakarta's governor reflects the opposite: intolerance, sectarian hatred, and contempt for democracy. Fundamentalism is surging in Indonesia. This did not happen naturally."

What's interesting to me about this piece is not so much that it is called, "Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly into the Night?" and makes that case, but that it's written by someone who actually can say, "Throwing open our markets to China as much as we did - that looked wiser back then. So did deregulating the financial industry. So did pushing for three-strikes laws. So did the bailout of Mexico. So did focusing on deficit reduction. So did high levels of immigration. So did humanitarian interventions in the former Yugoslavia. So did welfare reform. Bill's calls, like all big calls, were controversial, but they were far more justifiable in light of the data we had at the time. But what about with the data we have now?" All the data we had then said these were terrible ideas that would lead to increased poverty, racism, and financial destabilization. The recent data merely confirms what we already knew, it was not a surprise to anyone who had a passing acquaintance with history.

Van Jones - not necessarily a reliable witness, but sometimes he just can't stop himself from telling the truth - says the Clinton campaign set a billion dollars on fire: "He blamed the same forces in the Democratic Party behind the Clinton campaign's defeat for continuing to divide the resistance to President Trump after the election. 'And now they want us to fight about whether black folks or white workers or Latinos or any other group should get the money,' Jones said. 'First of all, you need to give the money back to the people, period.' 'Quit getting rich off people's struggles,' Jones finished. The progressive CNN commentator has said before that Clinton's defeat signaled an end for that wing of the Democratic Party. 'This idea that we're going to be this moderate party that's going to move in this direction, that's going to throw blacks under the bus for criminal justice reform or for prison expansion, that's going to throw workers under the bus for NAFTA, those days are over,' Jones said in January shortly before Trump's inauguration."

"A 2016 Review: There's Reason to Be Skeptical of a Comey Effect [...] But it's now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter. And the timing of these polls - particularly the gap between when they were taken and when they were released - has probably helped to exaggerate the effect of Mr. Comey's letter on the presidential race."

Amazon just patented an antitrust violation: "Amazon granted a patent that prevents in-store shoppers from online price checking: Amazon's long been a go-to for people to online price compare while shopping at brick-and-mortars. Now, a new patent granted to the company could prevent people from doing just that inside Amazon's own stores. The patent, titled 'Physical Store Online Shopping Control,' details a mechanism where a retailer can intercept network requests like URLs and search terms that happen on its in-store Wi-Fi, then act upon them in various ways. The document details in great length how a retailer like Amazon would use this information to its benefit. If, for example, the retailer sees you're trying to access a competitor's website to price check an item, it could compare the requested content to what's offered in-store and then send price comparison information or a coupon to your browser instead. Or it could suggest a complementary item, or even block content outright."

"Police officer who shot dead Philando Castile acquitted of all charges." Apparently, Castile was pulled over because he had a broad nose and shot when he mentioned that he had a licensed gun on his person.
* "Judge Dismisses Kendrick Johnson Wrongful Death Suit, Cites Negligence on Part of Teen's Parents." Help me out, here. The kid's body was found in a rolled-up gym mat. That part surely didn't happen by accident.

Radley Balko reports on a reporter who spent "A day with 'killology' police trainer Dave Grossman," one of the most dangerous men in America, who trains cops to "bravely" take shooting people lightly. "Grossman and Glennon teach the most popular of these classes, but they have competitors. When it comes to teaching cops how to escalate, how to see the world as their enemy and how to find the courage to kill more people, more often, there's no shortage of options."

"America's Health-Care Crisis Is a Gold Mine for Crowdfunding: Sites such as GoFundMe and GiveForward are poised for a wave of medical appeals if Trumpcare leaves millions uninsured, and even if it doesn't."

"Follow The Money: The Flow Of Funds In The Pharmaceutical Distribution System: About 10 percent of all health care spending is on prescription drugs, and the spending is growing at a rapid rate. This has prompted calls for government intervention to regulate drug prices or otherwise control their rapid increase. But any intervention should be predicated on a clear understanding of the economic forces that drive price increases, and the parties responsible for them."

"$15 for 15 minutes: How Courts Are Letting Prison Phone Companies Gouge Incarcerated People." Isn't it interesting how they come up with these clever ways of disintegrating the lives and families of people who are in prison? It's not simply that there is no thought of rehabilitation, it's that they make it impossible for people to maintain the connections to society that would allow them ever to recover from going to prison.

"Has the 40-year old mystery of the 'Wow!' signal been solved?"

RIP: Adam West, the actor who brought Batman to life for television audiences in the late '60s. The BBC says, "West died peacefully in Los Angeles after a 'short but brave battle' with leukemia, a family spokesperson said.." He was 88. Guardian obit here. Tributes from his colleagues and admirers. Mr. West was a man who really knew how to have fun with a phone book.
* And here's that unaired episode of Powerless - better watch it now, since DC says: "Adam West, Batman to a generation of TV fans, passed away last week. One of his final roles was a fittingly comic guest role on NBC's Powerless in an episode which never made it to air. DC All Access is proud to present this episode in its entirety for a limited time as a tribute to West and his DC legacy."

RIP Stephen Furst, who we remember from St. Elsewhere and Babylon 5, although some remember him better from Animal House. He was 63.

RIP: "Anita Pallenberg, actor, model and muse to the Rolling Stones, dies aged 73: Partner to both Brian Jones and Keith Richards, Pallenberg went on to appear alongside Mick Jagger in Performance and pursued a career in fashion" I watched that movie a lot of times.

RIP: "Comedian Bill Dana, Who Played the Character Jose Jimenez, Dies at 92: He became a 'mascot' for the Mercury astronauts, wrote jokes for Steve Allen and Don Adams and penned one of the funniest All in the Family episodes. "

Matt Taibbi's review of Thomas Friedman's latest book, Thank You for Being Late, demonstrates once again that Friedman stands with such literary greats as William McGonegal and Lionel Fanthorpe.

"Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin review - the damage done by Silicon Valley: Taplin's starting point is the music of Levon Helm and the Band, but the fight against the spoiled brats of Google, Amazon and Facebook is much bigger. Personally, I thought Taplin omitted too much about the ludicrously low percentage of profits that the recording industry gives to creators, when he talked to Sam Seder about it.

"Austin Mayor Responds To Boycott Threats Over Women-Only Wonder Woman Screening: I am writing to alert you that your email account has been hacked by an unfortunate and unusually hostile individual."

"Time for Democrats to Unite Around Medicare for All: Contrary to how it is often portrayed, this is not some left-wing fantasy but an idea with widespread across-the-aisle support. An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed that 60 percent of Americans support 'expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,' including a majority of independents and nearly half of self-identified Republicans. Likewise, a Gallup poll conducted last month found that a majority of Americans would like to see a single-payer system implemented. (Given how deeply Medicare is woven into the fabric of our society, I prefer the term 'Medicare for all' over the wonky 'single-payer.')"

Shaun King, "KING: Why progressives and liberals continue to feel like unwelcome guests in the Democratic Party: Earlier this week in Virginia, two men who each voted for George W. Bush twice to become President of the United States won their primaries in the governor's race there. Ed Gillespie, a lifelong Republican, won the Republican primary and Ralph Northam, who has a record of voting Republican, won the Democratic primary. No, that's not a typo. It is, perhaps, the most relevant example, though, of why progressives and liberals in America are struggling to find a home in the same big tent." Of course, King mentions the now-famous

"On Bill and Hillary Clinton's First Date in 1971, They Crossed a Picket Line

"The DEA's Top 10 Most Insanely Ridiculous Slang Terms for Weed"

Greg Benford, "Escorting Vonnegut: For decades, starting in the 1970s, I was UCI's default escort for visitors and speakers a bit out of the ordinary. This usually meant science fiction writers with a large audience, though not always. I was an sf writer too, but with real-world credentials as a professor of physics, which some thought qualified me to mediate between the real and the imaginary. The most striking writer I hosted, in the early 1990s, was Kurt Vonnegut."

"The Untold and Deeply Stoned Story of the First U.S. Rock Festival: How the Doors, Byrds and nearly 30 other bands, a pack of Hells Angels and a lot of drugs made history at Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain"

Teeny tiny art hidden in chips

One of the most popular songs in Britain in the last few weeks was "Liar Liar GE2017 by Captain SKA. It's about Theresa May. It's not being played on the radio.

"My Country Too" by the Oyster Band: "This was written overnight in a fit of exasperation when Theresa May hijacked Brexit to call an opportunistic general election, breaking repeated promises not to; but that was just the catalyst. During the long Oysters3 tour in March we travelled around and had conversations with many people about the state of our country and about their doubts and frustrations. It felt, in a way, like a song people were wanting us to write.

13:11 GMT comment

Thursday, 08 June 2017

On a knife's edge

I'm trying not to hold my breath for the results of the election tomorrow. I want Corbyn to win so much, but I know that even though he's looking better than Austerity Milliband did last time, it'd still take a miracle. But see below.

Great news for the survivors of the Kansas Catastrophe. "Kansas Gov. Brownback's tax experiment comes to end, as legislature overturns veto: When Kansas Governor Sam Brownback launched his experiment, he told Kansans that it would be an injection of adrenaline and that the economy would come roaring back to life. But after 5 years, the economy struggles and the state budget is a disaster. Speaking from the Senate floor tonight, Sen. Dennings (R-Overland Park) spoke out in favor of overturning the Governor's veto and ending the tax experiment. 'This was a mistake,' and noted that it was his mistake, and he was prepared to break out the mop and start cleaning it up. For Governor Brownback, the overturn of his tax plan represents the ultimate rebuke of a governor. Unlike Democratic governors in states with Supermajority Republicans who have faced veto override, Governor Brownback would assume immunity - the State House & Senate are both super majority Republican. But the Republicans have seen enough. Sen. Hardy (R-Salina) made the case: 'The people in this state have had it. Either we pay the bill now or we pay a bigger bill later.' "

"Nevada's legislature just passed a radical plan to let anybody sign up for Medicaid:: Nevada, with little fanfare or notice, is inching toward a massive health insurance expansion - one that would give the state's 2.8 million residents access to a public health insurance option. The Nevada legislature passed a bill Friday that would allow anyone to buy into Medicaid, the public program that covers low-income Americans. It would be the first state to open the government-run program to all residents, regardless of their income or health status."

"EPA begins offering buyouts to cut staff: report: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has kicked off its buyout program to reduce staffs numbers, according to an internal memo reported by Reuters on Thursday.The EPA memo was sent to all agency employees as President Trump, joined at the White House by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate change accord."

"California Senate passes single-payer health care plan: SACRAMENTO - As a legislative deadline loomed, California senators Thursday - in some cases, reluctantly - voted to pass a $400 billion plan to create a government-run health care system without a way to pay for it. Senate Bill 562, by Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, passed 23-14 and will now advance to the Assembly, where it will likely be amended to include taxes. And that would mean the measure would require two-thirds votes in both chambers." This still has a long way to go, and there's certainly no guaranty it'll happen, but....

"EFF Sues FBI For Refusing To Turn Over Documents About Its Geek Squad Informants: A child porn indictment in California has led to a full-fledged examination of the FBI's use of "private searches." Private searches, performed by citizens, can be used to instigate investigations and obtain warrants. In this case, the private searches were performed by Best Buy Geek Squad members, who came across alleged child porn images while fixing the defendant's computer. Private searches during computer repairs are normal. But they're not roughly analogous to searches performed with a warrant. Companies that repair electronic devices are legally required to report discovered child porn to law enforcement. What they're not supposed to do, however, is dig through devices they're repairing in hopes of finding something illegal. Most techs don't go looking for child porn. But the FBI's close relationship with Best Buy turned private searches into searches performed by paid informants. Once government money is introduced into the equation, the search can no longer be considered "private." The introduction of cash rewards also skews the incentives, possibly encouraging Geek Squad members to spend more time looking for illicit images than focusing on the repair job at hand."

"A new GOP bill would make it virtually impossible to sue the police: Keeping with the Trump administration's law-and-order rhetoric, Republicans in the House and Senate recently introduced a bill they're calling the Back the Blue Act of 2017. The Senate bill was introduced by John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and is co-sponsored by 15 senators, all Republicans. The identical House bill was introduced by Ted Poe (R-Tex.), and includes five co-sponsors, also all Republicans. The bill would create new federal crimes, impose federal police over the will of local officials and voters and shield police officers from virtually any civil liability, even in cases of egregious misconduct."

"Saudis take 100% control of America's largest oil refinery: America's largest oil refinery is now fully owned by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's state-owned oil behemoth, took 100% control of the sprawling Port Arthur refinery in Texas on Monday, completing a deal that was first announced last year. Port Arthur is considered the crown jewel of the US refinery system. The Gulf Coast facility can process 600,000 barrels of oil per day, making it the largest refinery in North America."

"Standing Rock Documents Expose Inner Workings of 'Surveillance-Industrial Complex': Leaked documents and public records reveal a troubling fusion of private security, public law enforcement, and corporate money in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline."

It turns out there was a real Russian hack, though not the one everyone's been looking for. Naturally, it wasn't any of the usual suspects who scooped the story, it was The Intercept. "Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election: Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November's presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept." The story doesn't suggest any hacking of actual voting machines, but it does underline the necessity of keeping sensitive materials offline and sequestered. And as Marcy points out, there is real exposure in hiring contractors rather than keeping it in-house. The source was unfortunately exposed and of course was a contractor. "I get why we need to disseminate such information widely. But even if this information merely reports on stuff that had already been reported (to the WaPo, long ago), it nevertheless is testament to the degree to which adding contractors adds the likelihood of leaks. Or let's put it this way: we're sharing FISA information with contractors who don't have a need to know. But we're not sharing it with defendants whose freedom depends on contesting it. Maybe those priorities are screwy?"

"Hacked Emails Show Top UAE Diplomat Coordinating With Pro-Israel Think Tank Against Iran: The email account of one of Washington's most connected and influential foreign operatives has been hacked. [...] The emails provided so far to the The Intercept show a growing relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the pro-Israel, neoconservative think tank called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). On the surface, the alliance should be surprising, as the UAE does not even recognize Israel. But the two countries have worked together in the past against their common adversary, Iran."

The New York Times has decided to end their experiment with having an ombudsperson. Jay Rosen reports on the failings of the departing "public editor".

"Former Vice President Biden to headline Romney summit: WASHINGTON - Just days after launching a new political action committee, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden will join Republican officials and donors at a weekend retreat hosted by former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Biden will be interviewed by Romney during a Friday evening event in Deer Valley at the invitation-only summit, according to a Biden spokesman and participants briefed on the schedule. The speaker lineup for what is traditionally a gathering of Romney allies is packed with high-profile Republicans, among them House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain."

"Joe Biden's Sound Advice for Democrats: As the Trump Administration stumbles on, Democrats' thoughts turn to the elections of 2018 and 2020. Despite Trump's current troubles, many of them believe that the Party faces a painful dilemma: Should it champion progressive policies that will energize its liberal base, or should it focus on winning back some of the persuadable voters it lost to Trump this past November? Joe Biden, for one, doesn't believe that the Party has to choose. Addressing a political dinner in New Hampshire a few days ago, the former Vice-President insisted that Democrats can promote their progressive values and reach out to economically embattled voters, including Trump voters, at the same time. 'There is absolutely no inconsistency,' Biden said, 'between defending the right to [gay] marriage, defining the rights of women to control their own bodies, standing up for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and demanding safe working conditions, a living wage, sick leave.'" Is he setting up a presidential run? Funny how the same people who keep saying Sanders is too old keep saying Biden would make a great candidate, as if he isn't within a year of Bernie's age and, by the way, the Senator from the Credit Card companies.

"Accused of underpaying women, Google says it's too expensive to get wage data." I wonder if Google could maybe, I dunno, hire a company that handles data? (I mean, seriously, Google!.)

Hillary Clinton gave an interview. Everybody gets to decide what they thought was the most annoying part of it.
* "Ex-DNC aide hits back hard at Clinton, says her campaign ignored data on Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin: Hillary Clinton has found plenty of non-Hillary Clinton things to blame for her 2016 loss, including Russia, James B. Comey, debate moderators and misogyny. But her decision Wednesday to add the Democratic National Committee to that list is predictably proving pretty sensitive inside her own party. A top former DNC aide tweeted overnight that Clinton's allegations were 'f---ing bulls---' and even suggested that the Clinton campaign ignored its warnings about how competitive Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were. Those three states proved decisive for President Trump and, especially in the case of Michigan and Wisconsin, were neglected by the Clinton campaign."

"Jeremy Corbyn's Surprising Gains: Something strange appears to be happening on the way to British Prime Minister Theresa May's anticipated victory after her clever strategy of calling a snap election. The ploy could backfire on her - just the way her predecessor, David Cameron, got caught when he thought he could shut up the ultra-nationalists by calling a referendum on British membership in the European Union. The result was Brexit, and Cameron's own hasty exit."
* "This Facebook Comment About the UK Election Is Going Viral: "
* "The fight of his life: on the road with Jeremy Corbyn: The Labour leader is vying to be elected prime minister against the odds. Through weeks of campaigning, Ewen MacAskill and photographer Sean Smith met him on his battlebus away from the spotlight."

"According to UK Prime Minister May, the fight against terrorism requires porn censorship on the Internet: A few people have commented on UK Prime Minister Theresa May jumping on the opportunity to argue for 'regulating the Internet' after the most recent terror attacks. Fewer have highlighted just what she demands, and how absolutely ridiculous this is on the surface and on every level of analysis depth: In order to fight terrorism properly, she states, Britain must censor pornography on the Internet."

David Dayen, "Here's How Broken Washington Is - Even Without Trump [...] The general idea is to allow millions more Americans to access hearing aids. Plus, the prospect of new customers could spur competition and drive down prices. Today, after numerous mergers, just six companies (William Demant, GN Store Nord, Sonova and Amplifon are the biggest) control the market, offering little incentive to lower prices. Oligopolies are a fixture in health care, from prescription drugs to hospitals to dialysis centers, and rolling back one could build momentum to truly reform health care delivery systems. Not only did Warren and Grassley introduce the bill, they got it into a must-pass piece of legislation to reauthorize user fees for the FDA. That bill is likely to become law by the end of July. So a problem caused by a government-granted monopoly looks like it'll actually get solved. Or it did, until conservatives found the name 'Elizabeth Warren' atop the bill."

RIP: Fred Kummerow, Scientist who raised early warnings about trans fats dies at 102, Like Julia Child always told you, "Butter, not margarine."

"Polls Predict Defeat For Paul Ryan In His Home District: The GOP has worked to denigrate Pelosi for over a decade. Nationally her approval rating is an abysmal 30%-- with 50% disapproving of her. That's godawful! It has made her a liability for many Democratic candidates. But you know who's even more disliked-- and with no set-up by the Democrats? Flimflam Speaker Paul Ryan. The same new Quinnipiac poll that looks so devastating for Pelosi is even worse on Ryan. Only 27% approval and a 54% disapproval. He's in much worse shape, politically, than McConnell of Schumer. People have finally recognized what a dick-head he is-- thanks to his TrumpCare bill. By the 2018 midterms he'll be so toxic that any politician photographed with him will be in jeopardy."

Dean Baker in Jacobin, "Intellectual Property Is Real Money: Want to reduce income inequality in the US? Dismantle its onerous system of copyrights and patents."

Mathiew von Rohr interviewed Bernie Sanders for Der Spiegel and found out Sanders had just read Shattered. "The Man Who Knows Trump's Voters: Bernie Sanders energized many Americans during the U.S. election campaign with his socialist ideas. In the Trump era, he has become one of the leaders of the "resistance." In an interview with DER SPIEGEL, he warns Democrats against focusing on impeachment. [...] Is it true that he didn't even know the word 'millennial,' the designation for the young generation he had inspired so much? 'That's true,' says Sanders. And how did he manage to inspire it so much? 'That is a good question, and you know what? I still don't know the answer. I honestly don't.' He says that he has just read a book about Hillary Clinton called 'Shattered,' a relentless inside view of her election campaign. Sanders says he was surprised to read 'that you needed three speechwriters to tell you why you're running for president. I don't need somebody to tell me why. If I didn't know why I was running in the first place ... You know, you've got to know what you stand for.'"

Someone is sending a meme around saying, in essence, the Democrats are going to nominate another candidate who you don't agree with 100% and who isn't ideologically pure and you have to vote for them. I kind of lost my temper at it and wrote comment about it on a Facebook thread, and Will Shetterly put it up on his blog as a post, "Who is this person who demanded a candidate they agreed with 100%?"

"Russia Blog #7: When Mother Jones Was Investigated For Spreading 'Kremlin Disinformation': Mother Jones recently announced it's 'redoubling our Russia reporting' - in the words of editor Clara Jeffery. Ain't that rich. What passes for 'Russia reporting' at Mother Jones is mostly just glorified InfoWars paranoia for progressive marks - a cataract of xenophobic conspiracy theories about inscrutable Russian barbarians hellbent on subverting our way of life, spreading chaos, destroying freedom & democracy & tolerance wherever they once flourished. . . . because they hate us, because we're free. Western reporting on Russia has always been garbage, But the so-called 'Russia reporting' of the last year has taken the usual malpractice to unimagined depths - whether it's from Mother Jones or MSNBC, or the Washington Post or Resistance hero Louise Mensch. But of all the liberal media, Mother Jones should be most ashamed for fueling the moral panic about Russian 'disinformation'. It wasn't too long ago that the Reagan Right attacked Mother Jones for spreading 'Kremlin disinformation' and subverting America."

"The Democratic party still thinks it will win by 'not being Trump': Based on their performance so far, it seems they will not learn the lessons of 2016 until they see the Republicans retain their perch in 2018. [...]

Barry Lynn"Democrats Must Become the Party of Freedom: Re-embracing anti-monopoly will reinvigorate American liberty and beat back Trumpism."

"Absent a More Progressive Economics, the Democrats Will Lose. Economic Populism appeals both to core Democratic voters and the white workers with whom the party has failed to connect. The challenge Democrats face today uniting a broad coalition of working class Americans that spans racial, regional, gender, and generational lines - is far from new, but it has not always been this daunting. "

Stanley Greenberg, "The Democrats' 'Working-Class Problem': It's not only with whites. It reaches well into the party's base. [...] The Democrats don't have a 'white working-class problem.' They have a 'working-class problem,' which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats' losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump. [...] Working-class Americans pulled back from Democrats in this last period of Democratic governance because of President Obama's insistence on heralding economic progress and the bailout of the irresponsible elites, while ordinary people's incomes crashed and they continued to struggle financially. They also pulled back because of the Democrats' seeming embrace of multinational trade agreements that have cost American jobs." There's an instructive chartchart on that page showing Obama's annual approval ratings throughout his time in office.

Steven W Thrasher in the Guardian, "Democrats take us black voters for granted. What if we abandoned them? Black voters aren't showing up to vote for the Democratic party in the numbers they once did. There are reasons for that - and they must be confronted [...] I continue to vote, usually for Democrats and never for Republicans, largely out of a sense of nostalgia. America is a kind of drug to which I am addicted, and I continue to chase after its high even though I know it's not healthy for me. In this way, I have come to think of voting as a form of harm reduction. Voting Democrat is the equivalent of using a clean needle to shoot up, so that trying to get that American high is less likely to screw me up as badly as it could."

Matt Taibbi, "The Democrats Need a New Message."

"Wake up, liberals: There will be no 2018 'blue wave,' no Democratic majority and no impeachment."

"Two Pro-Sanders Legislators in Maine Just Left the Democratic Party."

"Problematic Liaisons: Attacking Progressive Women of Color: White Feminists Who Have Appointed Themselves Overseers of the Movement"

Jon Schwarz, "We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War [...] This perspective on the purpose of war was directly expressed by George W. Bush and his circle before he ever became president. Texas journalist and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz was hired to write a Bush biography for the 2000 campaign, and spent hours interviewing him. Herskowitz later said that Bush was already thinking about attacking Iraq - because, Bush said, 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.' According to Herskowitz, people around Bush, including Dick Cheney, hoped to 'start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.' Why? Because, Bush told Herskowitz, that would give him 'political capital' that he could use to 'get everything passed that I want to get passed.' In other words, the actual country of Iraq had little to do with the Iraq War. Its main purpose wasn't beating Saddam Hussein, it was beating Americans who wanted to stop Bush from privatizing Social Security. "

"Iran introduced a basic income scheme, and something strange happened [...] One of the biggest criticisms of basic income, a system of giving people modest salaries just for being alive, is that it discourages people from working. A new report on an ongoing cash-transfer program launched in 2011 in Iran may cast some doubt on the claim. Published by the economists Djavad Salehi-Isfahani and Mohammad H. Mostafavi-Dehzooei, the paper finds no evidence to support the idea that people receiving cash transfers take themselves out of the labor force. Some workers even expanded their hours, the report found."

"Mythbusting: "The results were clear. Of the nearly two dozen federal minimum-wage hikes since 1938, total year-over-year employment actually increased 68% of the time. In those industries most affected by the minimum wage, employment increases were even more common: 73% of the time in the retail sector, 82% in low-wage leisure and hospitality. "These basic economic indicators show no correlation between federal minimum-wage increases and lower employment levels," the authors write. In fact, if anything, the data suggest that increases in the federal minimum appeared to encourage job growth and hiring."

Paul Street writes a review: "Obama: a Hollow Man Filled With Ruling Class Ideas: What on Earth motivated the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and law professor David J. Garrow to write an incredibly detailed 1078-page (1460 pages with endnotes and index included) biography of Barack Obama from conception through election to the White House? Not any great personal affinity for Obama on Garrow's part, that's for sure. Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama is no hagiography. On the last page of this remarkable tome, Garrow describes Obama at the end of his distinctly non-transformative and 'failed presidency' as a man who had long ago had become a 'vessel [that] was hollow at its core.' [...] His 'dollar value' to Wall Street would become abundantly clear in early 2009, when he told a frightened group of Wall Street executives that 'I'm not here to go after you. I'm protecting you... I'm going to shield you from congressional and public anger.' For the banking elite, who had destroyed untold millions of jobs, there was, as Garrow's fellow Pulitzer Prize-winner Ron Sukind wrote, 'Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said 'I welcome their hate,' Obama was saying 'How can I help?'' As one leading banker told Suskind, 'The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn't - he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.' (It's worth going back to Street's assessment of Obama's keynote address, too.)

Our rights have been taken away, and we find we are often less citizens than supplicants. We spend an awful lot of time having to deal with large, powerful organizations to beg for what we thought was already ours, even for things we have already paid for. This video is a description of the "systematic dismantling and unbundling of all instruments and mechanisms of social solidarity and reciprocity that stood against the market," and the need of most people - the Precariat - to find a new path. "A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens" - a Seminar with Guy Standing.

"What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic: Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and language use by others. People can be called out for statements and actions that are sexist, racist, ableist, and the list goes on. Because call-outs tend to be public, they can enable a particularly armchair and academic brand of activism: one in which the act of calling out is seen as an end in itself."

PSA: Why the female cashier is being nice to you

Well, I had no idea that a lawyer from Crimea could be such a celeb in Japan. "Natalia Poklonskaya finds out she's popular in internet."

How we know what's not true

Sexy fruit photos

From the first notes I asked myself, "Why didn't it ever occur to me that Todd Rundgren and Donald Fagen belong together?" See what you think: "Tin Foil Hat"

02:20 GMT comment

Tuesday, 29 May 2017

She keeps this four-ten all loaded with lead

"Supreme Court on 5-3 Vote Affirms NC Racial Gerrymandering Case, with Thomas in Majority and Roberts in Dissent: The Supreme Court has issued this 5-3 opinion in Cooper v. Harris. Justice Kagan wrote the opinion for the Court, with Justice Thomas making the fifth vote for affirmance. Chief Justice Robert and Justices Alito and Kennedy dissented. That is an interesting lineup, to be sure. There is a lot of detail but here is my bottom line: This decision by Justice Kagan is a major victory for voting rights plaintiffs, who have succeeded in turning the racial gerrymandering cause of action into an effective tool to go after partisan gerrymanders in Southern states. That Justice Kagan got Justice Thomas not only to vote this way but to sign onto the opinion (giving it precedential value) is a really big deal. Despite what is written in the text of the opinion, Justice Kagan, in a couple of footnotes (footnotes 1 and 7), attempts to solve the race or party problem by moving the Court much closer to the position of treating race and party as proxies for one another in the American South. Points 8 -10 below explains this in detail."

I can't even begin to keep track of what's going on with the whole Russia thing, but meanwhile, "Donald Trump Committed Another Impeachable Offense This Week: And it had nothing to do with the Russia investigation. [...] It did not involve firing the director of the FBI, nor conspiring with the attorney general to facilitate the firing that even some Republicans recognized as a potential obstruction of justice, nor bragging to the Russians about how 'pressure' was 'taken off' by that firing, nor any of the other acts of presidential maladministration that scream out for an accountability moment. [...] On Wednesday, US forces carried out more unauthorized air strikes on pro-government forces in Syria. Though the Constitution explicitly states that the legislative branch, not the executive, has the power to initiate new military actions, Trump has steered the United States deeper into the Syrian conflict."

On the bright side, FiveThirtyEight says, "Donald Trump's Base Is Shrinking: A widely held tenet of the current conventional wisdom is that while President Trump might not be popular overall, he has a high floor on his support. Trump's sizable and enthusiastic base - perhaps 35 to 40 percent of the country - won't abandon him any time soon, the theory goes, and they don't necessarily care about some of the controversies that the 'mainstream media' treats as game-changing developments. It's an entirely reasonable theory. [...] But the theory isn't supported by the evidence. To the contrary, Trump's base seems to be eroding. There's been a considerable decline in the number of Americans who strongly approve of Trump, from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just 21 or 22 percent of the electorate now. (The decline in Trump's strong approval ratings is larger than the overall decline in his approval ratings, in fact.) Far from having unconditional love from his base, Trump has already lost almost a third of his strong support. And voters who strongly disapprove of Trump outnumber those who strongly approve of him by about a 2-to-1 ratio, which could presage an 'enthusiasm gap' that works against Trump at the midterms. The data suggests, in particular, that the GOP's initial attempt (and failure) in March to pass its unpopular health care bill may have cost Trump with his core supporters."

David Dayen, "Steven Mnuchin Goes Through The Looking Glass-Steagall In Strange Exchange With Elizabeth Warren: SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN had a confounding exchange with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today. Mnuchin indicated that the Trump administration supports a 21st century version of the Glass-Steagall Act, except for the part about separating commercial and investment banks, which is substantially what is meant by Glass-Steagall. Warren wasn't having it."

The Economic Policy Institute finds "No evidence that automation leads to joblessness or inequality: In The zombie robot argument lurches on, EPI President Lawrence Mishel and Research Director Josh Bivens challenge the popular media narrative that the pace of automation is increasing, and that it will lead to overall joblessness and greater inequality. [...] What explains the failure of overall joblessness to rise despite ongoing automation? Automation allows businesses to cut costs, which leads to lower-priced goods - giving consumers additional money to spend elsewhere and creating jobs. Automation also creates complementary jobs in new industries. While there is no question that automation eliminates jobs in particular occupations or industries, historically it has not led to increased overall joblessness. There is little reason to believe that this pattern will not continue in the future." And, "'What is remarkable about the media narrative around automation is how strong the desire to believe it is, despite so little evidence to support these claims,' said Mishel. 'There clearly are serious problems in the labor market that have suppressed job and wage growth for far too long, but these problems have their roots in intentional policy decisions regarding globalization, collective bargaining, labor standards, and unemployment levels - not technological change.'"

"The Progressive Movement Just Scored a Huge Win in Philly's DA Race: Larry Krasner's victory was a referendum on Trump as well as on a whole host of issues that predate the president: immigrant rights, the war on drugs and mass incarceration. Weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-declared the war on drugs and threatened to cut federal support to police departments that do not cooperate with the administration's deportation efforts, the city of Philadelphia responded with defiance. In the Democratic primary for district attorney - the de facto election in the solidly blue city - voters chose civil rights lawyer and reformist Larry Krasner by a nearly 18-point margin. Krasner built his campaign around promises to end mass incarceration, protect rights and liberties and resist Donald Trump.
* "This wasn't just a primary victory. This was a revolution: If elected in November -- and he is the heavy favorite in this overwhelmingly Democratic town -- Krasner has pledged to never seek capital punishment while working to end bail policies that lock up people for being poor, an asset-forfeiture program that has been a national disgrace, and stop-and-frisk searches that disproportionately target non-whites."

Dems flip two deep red seats in NY special elections: "On Tuesday night, Democrats flipped not one but two state legislative seats in special elections - and both came in deep red territory. In New Hampshire, Democrat Edie DesMarais defeated Republican Matthew Plache by a 52-48 margin in the state House's 6th Carroll District, a seat Donald Trump won 51-44 last fall. Meanwhile, in the New York Assembly's 9th District, Democrat Christine Pellegrino beat Republican Thomas Gargiulo 58-42, even though Trump romped to a 60-37 victory there in November. This means that DesMarais moved the needle 11 points in the Democratic direction while Pellegrino did the same by an astounding 39 points. And while these are the first two seats to actually change hands since Trump's election, Democrats have consistently outperformed the 2016 presidential results in special elections across the country." Pellegrino is a teacher, and was a Sanders delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"What Went Down In The Montana Special Election - FiveThrityEight's liveblog and analysis of a race where a Democrat came mighty close to winning in deep red country.
* "Lessons From Montana's Special Election Of May 25

"Why Bernie Sanders Wasn't Invited to CAP's Ideas Conference: The party has a coalition-building problem. [...] CAP president Neera Tanden explained to The Washington Post that 'We were trying to emphasize a new generation,' and a CAP spokesperson told The Nation that nobody who ran for president before was invited. That's true as far as it goes, but with any scrutiny it feels more like a post facto justification for not including Sanders. There's a big difference between Hillary Clinton - now a private citizen with no future electoral plans - and Sanders, a sitting senator who polls as the most popular politician in the country and who has pointedly not ruled out a 2020 presidential campaign. The press materials for the conference proclaimed it would 'bring together national leaders of the progressive cause,' and there's no real way Sanders doesn't fit that description, or rationally should have been excluded simply because he ran for president last year. (The presence of Susan Rice and Tom Daschle onstage also puts considerable strain on the idea that only new voices were being elevated.) [...] Meanwhile, being shunned by party bosses is rocket fuel for the Sanders movement. 'If you want to understand why establishment Democrats lose, look at CAP. They hold their...grassroots conference at the Four Seasons and don't invite grassroots progressives,' one progressive strategist affiliated with Sanders but not authorized to speak for him told The Nation. 'They charge $1,000 per ticket to attend their 'Progressive Party'...and eat canapes while wondering why they are out of touch with the rest of the country.'"
* Cenk is right about the crummy, highschool behavior of the DNC and their ridiculous exclusion of Bernie from their school prom. And I so want to smack Markos.

In other news from the Suicide Dems, looks like Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a kindred spirit in the Florida party: "So how does the new, incoming brass running the Florida Democratic Party respond? By telling constituents that "issues" don't matter and that it's not the party's job to focus on policies that will actually help anyone, like single-payer health care. Last night, the party's new second-in-command, Sally Boynton Brown, spoke in front of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Broward County. And throughout the exchange, she steadfastly refused to commit to changing the party's economic or health-care messaging in any concrete way. This is not going to be popular, but this is my belief of the time and place we're in now: I believe that we're in a place where it's very hard to get voters excited about 'issues,' the type of voters that are not voting," Brown said. [...] How important is it for candidates to concentrate on "issues" like health care or economic equality, one audience member asked. Her answer? Not very. She said candidates moving forward should focus on "identity messages" instead, which she didn't actually define. In a follow-up question, she also warned party members not to get too excited about turning districts from Republican to Democrat and said the best we ought to hope for is that Florida becomes more "purple." (She also said she was proud about not supporting either candidate in the 2016 Democratic primary, which is an odd sort of thing to boast about as a Democratic Party leader.)"

However, now that the election is over and lost, it appears a good policy is no longer unicorn-crazy. Sure would have been nice if they'd decided to do this last summer. "Democratic leaders to join Sanders on $15 minimum wage pitch. Congressional Democratic leaders will unveil a proposal to hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour on Thursday alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, who made the issue a centerpiece of his 2016 presidential campaign. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other senior Democrats will join Sanders and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, in releasing the legislation." Wow, even Steny Hoyer is in this, unlike on the single-payer bill. Amazing.

Ryan Cooper says, "Democrats: Stop. Listening. To. Rahm. Emanuel." Because, of course, establishment Dems want to follow this loser's advice. "But more importantly, Emanuel's brand of cynical deal-making politics and his handpicked congressmen led the Democratic Party as a whole into disastrous strategic errors. He personally lobbied to cut the size of the Recovery Act to below a trillion dollars, believing more was politically unrealistic. As the 2010 race got going, with unemployment stuck around 10 percent for the entire year, his moderates from the class of 2006 were a major force behind the Democrats' pivot to austerity and deficit reduction. The result was that the party's congressional majority was wiped out. "
* Another story on the same subject, "Democrats Are Turning to the Absolute Worst Person for Help Winning the 2018 Election."

"The Real Story of the Battle for California Democratic Party Chair has been made to sound like a battle between the establishment and the Berners, but it's not quite like that at all.

I'm sure we had all hoped we had heard the end of Joe Lieberman, the man without whom I am convinced we would never have had Trump, but he has reared his head again - though not in a particularly surprising way.

Just in case you wanted to know what kinds of people President Hillary was likely to surround herself by, here's the guy who was slated to head her transition team. "Ken Salazar Working For Anadarko After Promising To Honor Federal Ethics Law: Former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has been working for a major oil and gas company as it has sought to limit political damage after a deadly explosion near one of its Colorado wells, a spokesperson for Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and emails obtained by International Business Times and MapLight say. One of his state's most powerful Democrats, Salazar was in touch with Hickenlooper's office after the blast on behalf of Anadarko Petroleum - a company Salazar helped when he ran the Interior Department under former President Barack Obama. Salazar, a corporate lawyer, has previously said he would honor federal ethics laws by walling himself off from matters in which he was involved at the agency. Emails show he has been working for Anadarko in Colorado though he has not registered to lobby for the company there, state records show."

Win or lose, Jeremy Corbyn's poll numbers are still slightly better than Ed Miliband's were, and seem to be climbing still. May's "dementia tax" blunder, and Corbyn's speech after Manchester, seem to have made a lot of people think.

"The British establishment is putting our lives at risk: Our state's key ally is a major public threat [...] This wave of terrorism driven by Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, derives from a complex infrastructure of forces, working over time. But it springs ultimately from the ideology promoted by the ruling family in Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism, who were at least until recently funding and backing IS: they have done so to support their goal of overthrowing Assad in Syria and championing Sunni Islam in the face of rivalry with Iran. These are Britain's allies. Whitehall has a deep, long-standing special relationship with the extremist Saudis: it is arming them, backing them, apologising for them, and supporting their regional policies. At the same time, the Saudis have been helping to create the monster that now threatens the British public. So, too, have the policies of the British government." Even Boris Johnson, of all people, understood this. It's not a secret. So why do both the US and the UK continue to put up with it?

The Guardian, "Follow the data: does a legal document link Brexit campaigns to US billionaire? We reveal how a confidential legal agreement is at the heart of a web connecting Robert Mercer to Britain's EU referendum."

"White supremacist terrorist murders two men who tried to protect women from him. "Police have arrested 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian of North Portland in connection with the stabbings, which occurred after commuters on the train allegedly tried to calm the suspect who was yelling what authorities said 'would best be characterized as hate speech.'" He was haranguing two female Muslim passengers when the two intervened and he slashed their throats.

"The Long Ordeal of Julian Assange: For the past decade, WikiLeaks has published groundbreaking evidence of government and corporate abuse while getting targeted for abuse itself, including a seven-year vendetta against founder Julian Assange, says John Pilger."

"State Troopers Are Ticketing NYC Drivers More Than Ever Before [...] The paper reports that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo stationed 150 state police officers to patrol the city's bridges, tunnels and highways with the goal of building revenue and pissing off New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio."

"Black man will spend six years in Georgia prison despite jury finding him 'not guilty': Georgia judge overrules jury to incarcerate Ramad Chatman in unusual legal case."

"US admits DEA lied about Honduras 'massacre' that killed four villagers: The US Drug Enforcement Administration lied about its role in a bungled anti-narcotics operation in Honduras that left four innocent villagers dead, then misled Congress, the justice department and the public as it tried to cover its tracks, a damning bipartisan investigation has found. Honduran officers under the command of DEA agents fired at unarmed passengers traveling by taxi boat in May 2012, killing four people - including two pregnant women and a schoolboy - and seriously injuring three others."

This guy sounds pretty good, although I think America was built on more than just those two things (and that some slaves were Irish, too). "NJ's Bill Brennan Might Be the Realest Politician You've Never Heard Of [...] Bill Brennan, a Democrat, wants to be the governor of New Jersey. To that end, the veteran activist and former firefighter has positioned himself as a permanent thorn in Gov. Chris Christie's side, calling him out repeatedly for his role in 2013's politically motivated 'bridge-gate,' even going so far as to file a complaint against Christie in municipal court for official misconduct."

"Vox's CIA-Backed 'Democracy' Standard Is OK With Slavery and Women Not Voting [...] Vox, which constantly tells its readers that life is actually swell, with the momentum of history indisputably on the road to justice, decreased poverty and less war, consistently uses Polity IV to prop up its argument that 'democracy' is on the rise"

This is a pretty good speech: Transcript of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu's address on Confederate monuments. "There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it. For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth."

"Black voters say they're already losing under Trump: Conversations with Virginian voters help explain that dreadful 12-per-cent approval rating with a community he pledged to make a priority."

ACLU says, "The Trump Administration's 'Law and Order' Propaganda Is Starting to Contaminate Congress," but I think that ship sailed long ago.

Nice interview by Michael on Thursday's Majority Report, Sarah Jones: Why the New York Times Editorial Page Sucks & Hillary's New PAC.

"Tax Cuts Defund The Very Things That Boost The Economy: If you cut taxes, over time the business environment necessarily gets worse because those roads deteriorate, people are not as well educated, scientific research declines, courts clog up, regulation enforcement declines, along with about a million other things that businesses rely on. If you can't get educated employees, can't move goods on crowded and deteriorated roads and your competitors can get away with cheating, your business just isn't going to do as well as it could."

"After switching positions, Gephardt and his lobbying firm have taken $8 million from Turkish government: As a member of Congress, Dick Gephardt often spoke passionately about the need for the United States to recognize as genocide the mass deaths of as many as 1.5 million Armenians under the Turkish government that began one century ago. But as a lobbyist for Turkey since leaving Congress in 2005, Gephardt, a Democrat, has taken the opposite side. His behind-the-scenes work has been cited as a factor in the annual failure of Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide."

Ted Rall on "Non-Competes: One out of six American workers, including manual and low-level laborers, are forced to sign non-compete agreements. It's abusive, it's strange, and studies say wages are 10% lower on average as a result."

"Don't Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats. The Democratic Party paved the way for the education secretary's efforts to privatize our public schools. Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America's undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative 'school reform' agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of 'accountability' and 'choice' as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because 'choice' has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

"50 Terrible Ideas That Could Become Law If Trump Is Impeached and Pence Becomes President: As many Americans ponder the prospect of Donald Trump being removed from office, they should take a deep breath and look at what a President Mike Pence and Republican Congress are likely to do if the disrupter-in-chief is sent packing." These people are a nightmare. It might be a good thing if Trump keeps messing them up.

"What Bail Does Is Coerce Guilty Pleas: CounterSpin interview with Arissa Hall on Mama's Bailout Day"

"The Usefulness of Alt-Left, EmoProg, BernieBros, and FireBaggers: The existence of all of the above phrases brings joy to my life. I consider it like nature giving skunks a broad white stripe down their back, as an extra 'bad, very, very bad' warning."

Michael Brooks and David Slavick, "No Time for a Negative Peace: This is what a failed 'resistance' looks like. What led to the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa? The African National Congress movement led by Nelson Mandela and other luminaries that pushed from the grassroots for liberation? Of course. A restive population committed to freedom and raising consciousness? Yes. A global business community who saw that the pariah nature of the apartheid system threatened the bottom line? Partially. An official opposition that promoted supposedly liberal alternatives to the Nationalist Party apartheid government in parliament? Not so much."

Rest in Peace: Roger Moore, much-beloved actor who was Beau Maverick, The Saint, and James Bond, at 89, of cancer. I was fonder of Cousin Beau and Simon Templar than of Moore's Bond, but that's nothing against him, just the fact that I met Beau first, and no one else was ever The Saint. People make jokes about Moore's acting, but no one was more deprecating of his talents than Moore himself. The net is awash in tributes and stories from admirers and colleagues alike, but this anecdote seems to have won the interwebs. However, I smiled when I read the one in this tribute.
* Gregg Allman, legendary pioneer of Southern Rock, of liver cancer. He was 69.

Regret in Perpetuity: "Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's National Security Adviser, Dies at 89." There are a lot of tributes to him from the neocons and neolibs, the establishment is full of praise, but this is the guy who was responsible for arming the Taliban and the disastrous attempt at using the military to free the American hostages in Iran.

Rot in Perdition: Roger Ailes, "the controversial, visionary founder of Fox News who was forced out of the company amid a sexual harassment scandal, has died aged 77."

Andy Grove wrote this in 2010. Things have gotten worse since then. "How America Can Create Jobs [...] Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter. The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that's the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs."

Interview with Nina Turner, "Can Dems Learn From Their 2016 Mistakes If They Do Not Acknowledge Them? [...] In order to deal with that, the Democratic party is going to have to make some confessions that it has not had the courage to make which is despite what the Russians tried to do, no one in the intelligence community has said that the Russians voted. [...] Now, in terms of what the democrats need to do moving forward is what we should have did in 2016 and even before that, Kim. That we started losing state houses and governors mansions and secretary of state's offices since 2009 and so we can not blame that on Russians."

This isn't a bad recap of "The Rise of New Labour," but every time I saw him spell "crises" as "crisis's", I wanted to bang my head against the wall.

"Hoax Science Paper Says Penis Is A Social Construct That Worsens Climate Change"

Aww, is Johnny Depp really this dumb?

"Do one brave thing today..."

Gary U.S. Bonds, "From a Buick 6"

00:25 GMT comment

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Keepin' it unreal

Something that really bothers me is that everywhere I look, people seem to be really interested in getting rid of Trump without much consideration to what would be left if that happened. True, even with Trump in charge they all seem pretty efficient at doing horrible things, but just think how much better they'd be at it if they didn't have him to worry about. And as near as I can tell, the only other person who is worried about this is Atrios.

The Republicans passed their scary "repeal and replace" of Obamacare in the House. Democrats, more fixed on winning elections than on how many people will die if this thing makes it through the Senate, sang a happy tune to celebrate a Republican electoral loss in the next election. Trouble is, there is no guarantee of that - nor that in such an event they will fix the damage. The probability is that the bill won't get through the Senate, but the happy dance is still pretty stupid.

To add injury to injury, "Pelosi Refuses to Back Single Payer, Despite GOP Deathmongering Suddenly Taking Center Stage: " Bad policy and bad politics, Nancy. Just like it wasn't good politics for Hillary Clinton to announce during the primaries that single-payer would never, ever come to pass. Jeez, even Krauthammer says, "We will be in a single-payer system within 7 years."

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque, "Curtains for Comey: Rocketing Through the Looking-Glass With the Troller-in-Chief: Whatever else you can say about Trump (don't get me started), he's a first-class troll: citing Comey's handling of the Clinton email probe in the last days of the campaign as his reason for firing him! The very action Trump had long praised as a "gutsy" move by Comey, one which redeemed him in Trump's eyes. That's some high-grade mendacity there, transparently false, yet told with a straight face, and pretending it was on advice of the Attorney General."

"Reporter arrested at W.Va. Capitol during visit from Conway and Price: CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - A reporter was arrested Tuesday at the West Virginia Capitol for allegedly causing a disturbance and yelling questions at federal leaders in town, court records show. It happened during a visit from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Special Counsel to the President of the United States Kellyanne Conway. Dan Heyman, 54, of Charleston, is charged with willful disruption of governmental processes, which is a misdemeanor."

Gothomist, "State Senate Passes Bill That Would Make Assaulting A Cop A Hate Crime: The State Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would make assaulting a police officer, EMT, or other first responder akin to a hate crime. The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Fred Ashkar of Binghamton, passed 56-6 with bipartisan support." So, Democrats supported this piece of crap. Great.

Sessions is stepping up the War on (Some People Who Use Some) Drugs. "Rand Paul: Sessions' sentencing plan would ruin lives: The attorney general on Friday made an unfortunate announcement that will impact the lives of millions of Americans: he issued new instructions for prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious provable offenses, "those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences." [...] The attorney general's new guidelines, a reversal of a policy that was working, will accentuate the injustice in our criminal justice system. We should be treating our nation's drug epidemic for what it is -- a public health crisis, not an excuse to send people to prison and turn a mistake into a tragedy."

In a rare departure from the norm, a police officer who shot a black teenager has been charged with murder.

"Three Murders in Philadelphia: In the early 1990s, the police arrested three men for crimes they didn't commit. It's taken more than 25 years for justice to be served." Coerced confessions, planted evidence, and exonerating evidence withheld - but none of those cops are going to jail.

"$elling off our freedom: How insurance corporations have taken over our bail system: Every year, millions of people are condemned to cages and separated from their families simply because they cannot afford to pay bail after an arrest. This country's justice system claims to treat people as if they are innocent until proven guilty but the reality is that before even being convicted of a crime, the accused and their families are forced to pay non-refundable deposits to bail companies in exchange for their release from jail. Bail insurers prey on those entering into the criminal justice system and trap them in debt through high fees and installment plans. These profiteers coerce people into signing over their privacy rights and when it's not profitable, they leave people in jail."

Mark Steel is the best political analyst in Britain, and he has a response to the latest claims about the evils of Corbyn. "Labour's leaked manifesto proves it's stuck in the 1970s, unlike those ultra-modern Tories who love fox hunting: Several Conservatives have taken issue with Labour's pledge to be 'extremely cautious' before using the nuclear deterrent. What sort of 1970s nonsense is that? If you're going to be extremely cautious about dissolving millions of civilians in an apocalyptic firestorm, you might as well bring back outside toilets."

Paper: "Tax cuts for whom? Heterogeneous effects of income tax changes on growth and employment [...] I find that the positive relationship between tax cuts and employment growth is largely driven by tax cuts for lower-income groups, and that the effect of tax cuts for the top 10% on employment growth is small."

Dean Baker:
* "The Fed's New Excuse for Raising Interest Rates: Helping the Poor: Bloomberg reports that Esther George, perhaps the Fed's biggest inflation hawk, has a new argument for raising interest rates: she claims that inflation is a big tax on the poor. This is peculiar for two reasons. First, the people who are denied work as a result of higher interest rates will be disproportionately those at the bottom of the ladder: African Americans, Hispanics, and workers with less education. Furthermore, higher unemployment rates mean that the workers who have jobs will have less bargaining power and be less able to push up their wages. It's hard to see how people who lose jobs and get lower pay increases will benefit from a slightly lower inflation rate. The other reason why the argument doesn't quite work is that even the modest inflation we have seen in recent years is driven almost entirely by rising rents."
* "The Need for Job Killing Robots in Pension Fund Management: Gretchen Morgenson had a good piece this weekend on fees paid by public pension funds. These fees are large and have grown rapidly in recent decades. The fees go to some of the richest people in the country, such as private equity and hedge fund managers (think of Peter Peterson or Mitt Romney). The fees often do not correspond to any benefits to the pension funds in the form of higher returns. In other words, these fees are the equivalent of a massive welfare program under which the taxpayers are putting money in the pockets of some of the richest people in the country, for doing nothing."

David Dayen:
* In The American Prospect, "Our Bankrupt Policy for Puerto Rico: The restructuring of the island's debt allows no role for the Puerto Rico's government." You guessed it - austerity imposed from without. Like Greece, only smaller. (More here.)
* At The Fiscal Times, "Who's Watching Wall Street? The Feds Turn a Blind Eye to Goldman's Game [...] There's only one problem with these investments: They're supposed to be illegal under the Dodd-Frank Act. But 'the law' is only as good as the men and women willing to enforce it, as Goldman Sachs has discovered to its delight. Big banks have turned one key section of Dodd-Frank into mush, such that Goldman can flaunt its defiance openly without an ounce of fear. It makes me wonder why House Republicans are working so hard to repeal Wall Street reform when regulators have shown so much willingness to repeal by neglect."
* At The Nation, "Trump Is Helping Big Media Companies Get Bigger: And it's looking like a mutually beneficial relationship." Pretty scary. Tribune was already big and right-wing, but Sinclair is genuinely part of the far-right media infrastructure. Laws against this kind of media conglomeration existed for very good reason. Unfortunately, as with so many things, Bill Clinton and his friends just didn't understand it when they did away with those restraints.
* At The Intercept, "Pressure On Democrats Pays Off As Chuck Schumer Picks Consumer Advocate For FTC Nominee: AFTER PRESSURE FROM consumer advocates, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has recommended Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), for an open Democratic seat on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As reported by The Intercept in March, Schumer had previously been considering his ex-Chief of Staff David Hantman - a former lobbyist for Yahoo and Airbnb who opposed regulation on Silicon Valley firms - for the position. After details of Hantman's past work became public, Schumer last month told the International Business Times that he would not be submitting Hantman's name. Chopra, by contrast, has a strong record of action on consumer issues."

"Paul Ryan Needs An Electoral Opponent-- And We're Very Close To Announcing One: Once again-- as it's done every two years like clockwork since Pelosi gained control over the committee-- the DCCC has moved to protect Paul Ryan's reelection. A swingy southeast Wisconsin district that Obama won in 2008, 51-48%, WI-01 offers an obvious Democratic target-- one the DCCC habitually refuses to consider, even going so far as to sabotage local candidates and asking institutional Democratic donors to cut off their funding. WI-01 is not on the DCCC target lists this year, despite the fact that Paul Ryan is the single most disliked and mistrusted politician in America."

Read an excerpt from Noam Chomsky's new book, Requiem for the American Dream: The Ten Principles of Concentration of Wealth and Power, "Principle #6: Running the Regulators [...] Remember, there were no financial crashes in the '50s and the '60s, because the regulatory apparatus of the New Deal was still in place. As it began to be dismantled under business pressure and political pressure, you get more and more crashes, and it goes on right through the years - the '70s is where deregulation starts, and the '80s is where crashes really take off."

"Democrats say they now know exactly why Clinton lost: WASHINGTON - A group of top Democratic Party strategists have used new data about last year's presidential election to reach a startling conclusion about why Hillary Clinton lost. Now they just need to persuade the rest of the party they're right."

Greg Sargent, "Why did Trump win? New research by Democrats offers a worrisome answer. [...] One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats' economic policies will favor the wealthy - twice the percentage that said the same about Trump."

"Why Do So Many Americans Think Democrats Are Out of Touch? The party appears to be struggling to convince the public it represents a better alternative to President Trump and the GOP."

Marcy Wheeler, "The Obamacare Not Comey Effect: Unless Wang's chart is totally mislabeled (Update: In an 'explanation' added to his post, Wang effectively says his graph is off by three - though not four - days due to the way he presents multi-day polls; he has, at least, now told his readers when the actual letter came out) but what it shows seems to be consistent with what I showed in this post, which shows a Hillary dip and a Trump spike moving in concert on before October 28), then his chart show doesn't support a Comey effect at all - it shows the opposite. The differential started narrowing after October 24. By October 28, when the letter was released, the differential had plateaued before it turned up again. As it turns out, the ObamaCare spike was announced on October 24 (and reported heavily starting October 25)."

CMike tweeted, "Healthcare wonks, consider this Tea Party-er's proposal. Case closed as to whether our system is totally FUBAR. "The Bill To Permanently Fix Health Care For All"

"Low Black Turnout May Have Cost Clinton the Election [...] According to Demos' Sean McElwee, UMass - Amherst's Jesse Rhodes and Brian Schaffner, and Indiana University's Bernard Fraga, black turnout declined by 4.7 points from 2012 nationally while white turnout increased by 2.4 points. Crucially, the drop in black turnout was even sharper in states where the margin of victory was less than 10 points than it was nationally - in those battleground states, black turnout dropped 5.3 points. In two critical states that swung to Trump - Michigan and Wisconsin - black turnout dropped by just more than 12 points. Declines were less dramatic but significant in other swing states Trump carried: Ohio (down 7.5 points), Florida (4.2), and Pennsylvania (2.1)."

Bernie Sanders had a chat with Jimmy Carter. The story linked is just repeating that Carter voted for Sanders, but the video looks to be the whole discussion.

"The New York Times defended hiring former Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens - a writer who has promoted climate denial and bigotry against Arabs - by insisting that it is seeking diversity of thought. Public Editor Liz Spayd responded to readers' complaints about Stephens by writing that the Times is looking 'to include a wider range of views, not just on the Opinion pages but in its news columns.' But hiring another prominent writer whose ideology hems close to that of the nation's elites - in this case, fossil fuel corporations who are polluting the world and advocates of Western military might - is hardly adding intellectual diversity to the pages of the Times." The Times, strangely, has no columnists representing the view of supporters of the most popular politician in America (Bernie Sanders), or the current president, who happens to be popular with Republicans. There are no young people and no Arab or Muslim Americans, although they are frequent topics in the paper. Despite the embarrassment of still employing Thomas "Suck on this" Friedman, the NYT has no counter-balancing opponent of insane militarism, and of course the hire of Stephens would only represesnt "diversity" of views if they also employed a columnist who was an environmental advocate.

"Stephen Fry's blasphemy probe dropped after Irish police fail to find 'enough outraged people': Asked in 2015 by the programme's host, Gay Byrne, what he would say to God if he arrived in heaven, Mr Fry replied: 'I'd say, bone cancer in children? What's that about?' 'How dare you? How dare you create a world to which there is such misery that is not our fault? It's not right, it's utterly, utterly evil.'Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain? 'We have to spend our life on our knees thanking him? What kind of god would do that? 'The god who created this universe, if it was created by god, is quite clearly a maniac, an utter maniac, totally selfish.'"

"Bernie Sanders Is Building An Army To Stop Trumpcare Dead In Its Tracks In The Senate: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wasted no time in immediately mobilizing the opposition that will be needed to kill Trumpcare in the US Senate. In a statement provided to PoliticusUSA, Sen. Sanders said, 'The bill that Republicans passed today is an absolute disaster. It really has nothing to do with health care. It has everything to do with an enormous shift of wealth from working people to the richest Americans. This bill would throw 24 million people off of health insurance - including thousands of Vermonters - cut Medicaid by $880 billion, defund Planned Parenthood and substantially increase premiums on older Americans. Meanwhile, it would provide a $300 billion tax break to the top 2 percent and hundreds of billions more to the big drug and insurance companies that are ripping off the American people. Our job now is to rally millions of Americans against this cruel bill to make sure that it does not pass the Senate. Instead of throwing tens of millions of people off of health insurance, we must guarantee health care as a right to all.'"

"Progressive Attorney Unseats Business-Friendly Mississippi Mayor: Chokwe Antar Lumumba picks up where his late father left off." He ran to replace his father when he died in 2014 and lost, but now he will be taking his seat.
* "Meet the Left Radical Who Will Likely Be Jackson, Mississippi's Next Mayor"

"Georgia Can't Block New Voters From Registering in the Ossoff-Handel Runoff: In a big win for voting rights, a federal court overturns the state's 90-day registration deadline"

"John Oliver Has Another Brilliant Plan to Save Net Neutrality From 'Cable Company F***ery' (Video)" - I can't actually see the video, but there's a short article and a link to some contacts.

A review by Rob Levine, "Twenty five years later charter schools a costly, failed experiment: Ember Reichgott Junge's book provides a clear view into the history of charter schools in Minnesota, just not the one she intended" She says it was a "grassroots" movement, but it was led entirely by the big shots, and against everyone else.

"We Asked ICE About the Prank Calls to Their Anti-Immigrant Hotline and They Kind of Lost Their Shit."

Have some Single-Payer cartoons.

"How to pronounce Emmanuel Macron"

Who shot Martin Luther King? On the record, it was nothing like the story you've heard. Lee Camp starts off with a fact that shocked me. The True Conspiracy To Kill Martin Luther King Jr.

Congratulations to our friend Whit Diffie for his election to The Royal Society.

"The Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory [...] For a small but committed group of economists, academics, and activists who adhere to a doctrine called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), though, #mintthecoin was the tip of the economic iceberg. The possibility of a $1 trillion coin represented more than mere monetary sophistry: It drove home their foundational point that fiat currency is a social construct, and that there are therefore no fiscal limits on how much a sovereign currency-issuing nation can spend.

The article is about the British election, and the headline seems misleading, but aside from the fact that Corbyn is doing better than expected in the polls, contains a piece of advice the Clinton team badly missed: "Unnoticed and unreported, Jeremy Corbyn is surging in the polls: Labour's vote share is increasing as the election approaches. [...] As I've said before and will say again, the only bits of an election that matter are the bits that people who don't care about politics see: the newsbreaks between songs on music radio, the pictures that play without sound on Sky News in every Wetherspoons through the country, the few minutes at the start of the six and ten o'clock news before people switch channels - or the few minutes at the end before they switch back."

I hate to link to Kristof, but he's talking about people who are smarter and more moral than he is, and right in America, too, in "Meet Dr. Willie Parker, a Southern Christian Abortion Provider [...] 'I believe that as an abortion provider, I am doing God's work,' Parker writes in his new memoir, 'Life's Work.' 'I am protecting women's rights, their human right to decide their futures for themselves, and to live their lives as they see fit.' Since childhood, Parker had been taught that abortion was wrong, and for the first half of his career as an OB-GYN, he refused to perform abortions. But then he had what he calls his 'come to Jesus moment,' an epiphany that his calling was to help women who wanted to end their pregnancies."

"How 'Russiagate' Got So Much Momentum: A new book about Hillary Clinton's last campaign for president - Shattered, by journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes - has gotten a lot of publicity since it appeared two weeks ago. But major media have ignored a revealing passage near the end of the book. Soon after Clinton's defeat, top strategists decided where to place the blame. 'Within 24 hours of her concession speech,' the authors report, campaign manager Robby Mook and campaign chair John Podesta 'assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn't entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.' Six months later, that centerpiece of the argument is rampant - with claims often lurching from unsubstantiated overreach to outright demagoguery. A lavishly-funded example is the 'Moscow Project,' a mega-spin effort that surfaced in midwinter as a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It's led by Neera Tanden, a self-described 'loyal solider' for Clinton who also runs the Center for American Progress (where she succeeded Podesta as president). The Center's board includes several billionaires."

And speaking of Books about Clinton, Susan Bordo wrote one, too, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, but Sarah Jones at The New Republic sees it as "The Deification of Hillary Clinton [...] In The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, the feminist scholar seeks to absolve Clinton for her loss to Donald Trump. To do so, she presents a raft of justifications: James Comey, Wikileaks, conservatives, Bernie Sanders, and dumb young people. There is scarcely a mention of policy positions Clinton took during her campaign that were less than inspiring, or of moments when the candidate seemed to misread the public mood - such as her repeated claim that 'America is already great.' Any rational analysis of Clinton's career and campaigns must include an examination of her mistakes, but Destruction is not rational. Bordo starts from the conviction that Hillary Clinton, as 'the most qualified candidate in history,' should have won. Clinton's actions interest her less than what she deems as Clinton's greatness. It's not an investigation but a deification. [...] Bordo's objection seems to be that anyone opposed Clinton at all, even from the left. What she does not grasp - and is seemingly not interested in grasping - is that Clinton's critics from the left were not opposing a caricature of her as some kind of right-wing political operator. We opposed Clinton-the-hawk and Clinton-the-means-tester. Our objection was about politics, not personality. Similarly, we do not reject the feminism of Bordo and Clinton because of its ideological rigidity, as Bordo suggests. We reject it because it is insufficient. America was not 'already great.' Our lives are proof."

"If Bernie says working class and you hear white working class, it is on you not Bernie [...] Bernie's economic agenda would benefit the entire working class, most especially in the lives of women and minorities. I am so sickened to see the donor class attempt to trick people into thinking that Bernie is attacking them when it is just the reverse. I am even more sickened to see people who should know better fall for it."

Thomas Frank, "The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the midwest: The party has harmed millions of their own former constituents. If they change course, they can reverse their losses [...] The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party's neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had 'nowhere else to go,' they were making what happened last November a little more likely. "

"For Health and Freedom: Civil rights activists knew their struggle was incomplete without winning a just health care system. They're an inspiration for single-payer activists today."

"Weaponized Philanthropy: Document Trove Details Bradley Foundation'S Efforts To Build Right-Wing 'Infrastructure' Nationwide [...] The documents open a window to the behind-the-scenes workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. With $835 million in assets as of June 2016, the Bradley Foundation is as large as the three Koch family foundations combined, yet receives much less attention as a significant funder of the right."
* "Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Attacks On Unions."

Carole Cadwalladr in the Guardian, "Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media: With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network. [...] We're not quite in the alternative reality where the actual news has become 'FAKE news!!!' But we're almost there. Out on Twitter, the new transnational battleground for the future, someone I follow tweets a quote by Marshall McLuhan, the great information theorist of the 60s. 'World War III will be a guerrilla information war,' it says. 'With no divisions between military and civilian participation.' By that definition we're already there."
* Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer, "The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked: A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum. As Britain heads to the polls again, is our electoral process still fit for purpose?"
* Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind The Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America's populist insurgency"

I was disappointed in Todd Gittlin's article about how Americans have lost faith in the news media, because it seems to be all about Trump and Republicans. But a lot of highly-informed news junkies can tell you that the media is full of junk, and it's not just Fox news.

"The Democratic Party Is a Ghost: Democratic Party elites don't have ideals. They just need you to be scared of the Republicans. [...] The Democratic leadership looks hardly different than it has for my entire adult life, a grim and aging collection of Clinton apparatchiks totally secure in their sinecures - all the more so because the only time the party ever does use what power it has, it's to quash any discontent from its base or its leftward flank."

And, in another stellar display of the diversity and civilized, mature decorum we expect from Clinton partisans, "An Editor at Ms. Magazine Rejoices That Someday Bernie Sanders Will Die." Katie Halper reports.

Jimmy Carter, "Losing my religion for equality: Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God. I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult."

Richard J. Eskow, "Yes, Obama's $400,000 Speech is a Problem: A new poll shows fully two-thirds of the American public agrees with this statement: 'The Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of most people.' And scarcely more than one in four Democrats themselves think the party understands most people's everyday concerns. It was also just announced that Barack Obama, following in the well-heeled footsteps of Bill and Hillary Clinton, will be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for giving a speech on behalf of a Wall Street firm. Anyone who thinks these two facts aren't connected isn't paying attention. Obama's payday reflects a longstanding pattern of behavior from Democratic leaders: Talk like liberals, govern from the center, and make a lot of money once you're out of office."
* Gaius Publius, "Obama Harvests His Presidency:
* And oddly, even The New York Times editorial board is critical of "The Cost of Barack Obama's Speech."
* "Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what few want to admit: His mission was never racial or economic justice. It's time we stop pretending it was."
* Elsewhere, Gaius reminded me of an article James K. Galbraith wrote back in 2011, "The Bad Deal: Over here reality has been evident for a while, thanks to the President's pattern of giving way to banks, lobbies, Republicans and right-wing extremists. Whether your prime interest is housing, health care, peace, justice, jobs or climate change, if you are an activist in America you have known for a long time that this President is not your friend. [...] The debt deal will make things clear. The President is not a progressive ' he is not what Americans still call a 'liberal.' He is a willful player in an epic drama of faux-politics, an operative for the money power, whose job is to neutralize the left with fear and distraction and then to pivot rightward and deliver a conservative result."

"Why the U.S. pays more for health care than the rest of the world [...] Other countries will say, here's the maximum price. Go ahead and compete below that. And in other countries, there's policy that you can charge a lot when you have a wonderful new technology, but as it gets older, that price has to keep coming down. And what we see in the United States, pretty much uniquely, is, as technologies get older, sometimes the price can go up, and can go up a lot. [...] In Japan, that same test would cost $100 to $150, because, in Japan, those prices have to go down over time. You can't say, wow, this was a great new technology 30 years ago, and so we're going to raise the price because it's even greater now. It's not. It's basically the same."

"Stay in a hospital, pay the CEO $56 a night: Norman Roth has a great job. He's the CEO of the relatively small Greenwich Hospital in southern Connecticut, and for each night patients stayed at his hospital in 2015, he got paid $56.40."

"The way forward for progressives" introduces an upcoming book: "As previously noted, this work traces the way the Left fell prey to what we call the globalisation myth and formed the view that the state has become powerless (or severely constrained) in the face of the transnational movements of goods and services and capital flows. Social democratic politicians frequently opine that national economic policy must be acceptable to the global financial markets and, as a result, champion right-wing policies that compromise the well-being of their citizens. The book traces both the history of this decline into neo-liberalism by the Left and also presents what might be called a 'Progressive Manifesto' to guide policy design and policy choices for progressive governments. We hope that the 'Manifesto' will empower community groups by demonstrating that the TINA mantra, where these alleged goals of the amorphous global financial markets are prioritised over real goals like full employment, renewable energy and revitalised manufacturing sectors is bereft and a range of policy options, now taboo in this neo-liberal world are available. In today's blog "

Last year, Gary Young went to "Middletown" to look at how America was experiencing the election up-close. His final dispatch was, "How Trump took middle America [...] But the issue was not simply about trade or globalisation: to many voters in Muncie, Clinton looked not only like an integral part of the establishment that had brought them to this place, but like a candidate advocating more of the same. 'If you take a step back and look at all America has achieved over the past eight years, it's remarkable to see how far we've come,' Clinton argued. For many of those who already had their backs against the wall, it was hard to see the progress. Trump, on the other hand, offered the near certainty that something would change. 'At least he'll shake things up,' was the phrase that kept coming up. One in five of those who voted for him thought he didn't have the temperament to be president. For some who had little to lose, he was evidently a risk worth taking. 'The Democrats keep making out like everything is OK,' says Todd Smekens, the publisher of the progressive online magazine Muncie Voice. 'And it's not. Nobody's buying it.'"

"Fellas, Should You Roll Up Your Sleeves? Here's the answer!"

Stranger Things Kids Performance at the EMMY -Dance Performance

21:17 GMT comment

Wednesday, 03 May 2017

Action-packed adventure

I sure hope I never again have to wake up from surgery during a shift change.

Having noticed that the Parliamentary Labour Party has effectively demolished it's own leader in the polls, the Tories saw their chance and Theresa May has announced an election. Labour has never been so weak, thanks to the efforts of the Blairites, and it seems pretty clear that they have no chance. Smart Tories have an ace up their sleeve: "Nicola Sturgeon and yes, Jeremy Corbyn, would demolish May in debate. If any party other than the Tories was declining to take part in debate, the media would quite rightly attack them for it. Do not however expect any more than token remonstration from the broadcasters; they are far too complicit in the cottonwool packaging of May, and have too deep an investment in the Unionist project, to rock the boat. Indeed, the media will now seek to frame any debate between opposition leaders which does go ahead as a gathering of losers, a carnival of grotesques. Any resemblance between this British general election and democracy is purely coincidental."

Meanwhile, the DNC goes to court and not only admits that the primaries were rigged, but claims a right to rig them. "DNC Shatters The Illusion Of American Democracy In Order To Keep People's 27 Bucks: Well that didn't take much. After all the time and effort that those of us in the alternative media have been pouring into our attempts to show people that democracy does not exist in America, the political establishment has stepped forward and admitted it candidly with its own face hole. A recently-released transcript of Florida court documents has revealed that the Democratic National Committee's first line of defense in their motion to dismiss a lawsuit against them by defrauded Bernie Sanders supporters is to state that they are under no contractual obligation to provide the American people with real party primaries."

So Trump bombed Syria. What's remarkable to me is the sudden emergence of members of Obama's circle who are suddenly erupting in vast applause for Trump bombing Syria - apparently, he was reining them in for all this time. The Washington press corps has suddenly decided Trump is "presidential" now that he's bombing someone for no good reason and with no plan. The neocons and the TV faces all have a tingle down their leg. But Robert Parry says it's "Trump's 'Wag the Dog' Moment: Just two days after news broke of an alleged poison-gas attack in northern Syria, President Trump brushed aside advice from some U.S. intelligence analysts doubting the Syrian regime's guilt and launched a lethal retaliatory missile strike against a Syrian airfield. The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. (Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ford Williams) Trump immediately won plaudits from Official Washington, especially from neoconservatives who have been trying to wrestle control of his foreign policy away from his nationalist and personal advisers since the days after his surprise victory on Nov. 8. [...] But a number of intelligence sources have made contradictory assessments, saying the preponderance of evidence suggests that Al Qaeda-affiliated rebels were at fault, either by orchestrating an intentional release of a chemical agent as a provocation or by possessing containers of poison gas that ruptured during a conventional bombing raid. One intelligence source told me that the most likely scenario was a staged event by the rebels intended to force Trump to reverse a policy, announced only days earlier, that the U.S. government would no longer seek 'regime change' in Syria and would focus on attacking the common enemy, Islamic terror groups that represent the core of the rebel forces." That story buries the lede, though, which is that there's no reliable evidence that Assad was guilty of the charge in this case. "New Evidence that Syrian Gas Story Was Fabricated by the White House" - Does this sound familiar?
* Really, no one is taking "The White House Report seriously, are they?
* Norman Solomon, "Russia-Baiting Pushed Trump to Attack Syria - and Increases the Risks of Nuclear Annihilation."
* Hm, I wonder where this stuff comes from.... "MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Sees a 'Russia Connection' Lurking Around Every Corner."
* "Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes - Zero Are Critical."

Of course, this was an opportunity for a bit of proxy warring against Sanders by attacking Tulsi Gabbard for not instantly supporting Trump's attack on Syria, instead saying: "'This administration has acted recklessly without care or consideration of the dire consequences of the United States attack on Syria without waiting for the collection of evidence from the scene of the chemical poisoning.' Gabbard added she would support Assad's prosecution and execution as a war criminal if the attacks were proven, though she still wouldn't support military action. 'A successful prosecution of Assad (at the International Criminal Court) will require collection of evidence from the scene of the incident, and I support the United Nation's efforts in this regard. Without such evidence, a successful prosecution is impossible.'" Clintonites claim this statement was "pro-Assad".

Andrew Cuomo announces free college for New York, and it sure sounds to me like a bit of a fraud. For one thing, you can't be a part-time student or one who takes a semester off to try to earn some money to keep going. It doesn't cover books, which are pretty expensive these days.

"Irish Citizens Assembly votes to amend abortion laws: Pro-choice campaigners disappointed by vote to amend, rather than repeal, Eighth Amendment." Still, a very big deal. "A special committee set up to discuss Irish abortion laws has voted in favour of changing the constitutional clause which effectively criminalises abortion - but stopped short of repealing the law entirely. The Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution protects the 'right to life of the unborn', and termination is illegal in Ireland in all but the most exceptional circumstances, where there is a 'real and substantial risk' to the mother's life." But I'm with Siobhan Fenton, who tweeted: "Not going to lie lads, I am crying my eyes out. Irish women have waited so long for this. Huge day for the country."

Payoff time: "Obama to net $400K for Wall Street speech: report: Former President Obama has agreed to speak at a Wall Street conference for $400,000, according to a new report. Obama will appear at Cantor Fitzgerald LP's healthcare conference in September, Fox Business Network first reported Monday. Fox Business said it confirmed Obama's appearance with senior members at Cantor, a financial services firm." The worst Clintonite troll in my twitter feed is manfully defending this receipt of a bribe, but Obama telegraphed it in The Audacity of Hope. He was happy to describe it, but he wasn't going to go against it. (More of that in this piece from a year ago.)

"The retail apocalypse is creating a 'slow-rolling crisis' that is rippling through the US economy: Retailers are closing thousands of stores and going bankrupt at a rate not seen since the recession, and tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs as a result. The effects of these job losses will hit local economies hard, according to Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Business School." Scary.

"The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face." As has been obvious for a while now, the fountain of "conservative" rationalization of insane policies the oligarchs have been feeding the rubes has worked beyond their wildest expectations, actually convincing so many that they have run for office and taken their seats sincerely believing the nonsense that was never supposed to be taken seriously by anyone in power. But a considerable portion of Congress, and now the White House, is finally occupied by those very rubes, and no one knows how to control them. Pity the Democrats didn't make the arguments when they had a chance to stop this train.

This was rather amazing, given how solidly red the seat has been, but a progressive Dem came within six points of taking it. "The Kansas Democrat who nearly pulled off the impossible has some advice for his party: James Thompson says Democrats can't ignore red states." But Senator Sanders says the DCCC could have done more. (Of course, in my Twitter feed, Clintonistas are demanding to know where Bernie was. He was, of course, in Kansas.) Gosh, I wonder why someone stole the machines.

"Jeff Sessions Getting Rich Filling Private Prisons: It's more than a conflict of interest. The more people Attorney General Jeff Sessions sends to private prisons, the more money he shoves in his pockets. From announcing he wants federal law enforcement agencies to bust people for a little bit of weed, to ordering federal prosecutors to find ways to convict more immigrants, Sessions is looking for ways to provide more clients to private prisons that are contracted by the federal government. [...] As Attorney General Sessions fills these private prisons, he is making money. According to his latest financial disclosures required by congress, dated December 23, 2016, he divested of other investments that were found to be in conflict. In these disclosures, he also lists numerous Vanguard funds. Vanguard owns more private prison stock than any other investment management company. None of the Vanguard funds listed below were included in the divestiture."

"After $30k lawsuit, regional Massachusetts SWAT team releases use of force policy." They tried to claim they were a non-profit and therefore didn't have to.

Something tells me Rahm just isn't all that serious about police reform and transparency. "City delays release of police shooting video despite 90-day policy."

"Alabama Senate votes to allow church to form police dept. MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The Alabama Senate has voted to allow a church to form its own police force. Lawmakers on Tuesday voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a law enforcement department. The church says it needs its own police officers to keep its school as well as its more than 4,000 person congregation safe. Critics of the bill argue that a police department that reports to church officials could be used to cover up crimes."

"Police Arrested This Cop Watch Activist - But Then Recorded Themselves by Accident: Last August, Jose LaSalle, a prominent New York City Cop Watch activist, was arrested after filming a stop-and-frisk near a housing project in the South Bronx. Though filming the police is legal, LaSalle was charged with 'obstructing governmental administration.' LaSalle claims he was standing far away from the incident. To continue documenting his own arrest, the veteran activist left his two phones and a GoPro camera turned on and recording as he was being taken to a nearby police station."

"Broken door, broken promise: Police renege on pledge to ask judges for permission in no-knock raids: WORCESTER - After a 2015 'no-knock' SWAT raid that found a shaken family at gunpoint instead of the targeted criminal"

"How the Government Is Turning Protesters Into Felons" - Basically, this amounts to treating a protest even as a crime in itself, and then saying everyone who attended was complicit in any property damage that occurred. And then throwing the book at them.

"Minnesota police department wins Twitter again with hilarious 4/20 tweet."

"New Orleans district attorney has been sending fake subpoenas to witnesses to make them testify: The Orleans Parish district attorney's office has been caught issuing fake subpoenas that threatened if the recipient ignored the notice he or she would be fined or imprisoned, according to The Lens."

"Report: Body of country's first female Muslim judge found in Hudson River: Sheila Abdus-Salaam served as an associate judge of the Court of Appeals. She was the first African-American woman to serve on New York's top court. She was 65."

California fighting the trend and going for single-payer, but of course, Big Corporate Money Opposes Single-Payer Proposal. "As health care premiums rise and insurers threaten to leave Obamacare's state exchanges, polls show that a majority of Americans now support the creation of a universal, government-funded health care program. The so-called single-payer system has been a long-sought goal of progressive groups, who now hope that California lawmakers will pass a bill to create such a system. Proponents hope the system could then begin moving the United States to follow Canada, which saw its own national single-payer system first begin in the province of Saskatchewan. But before that happens, single-payer proponents are going to have to overcome powerful resistance. While California is known as a liberal stronghold, industry groups with a financial interest in blocking the measure are lining up in opposition - and they have poured cash into the campaigns of key state lawmakers who will decide the fate of the bill."

Rob Levine with some original research, "Free to choose a Walmart school: Poverty Academies, Segregation Academies and a foundation plan to destroy the Minneapolis public school district

"Fifty Shades of Green" - Thomas Ferguson, Jie Chen, and Paul Jorgensen at the Roosevelt Institute, on the effect of money in politics.
* "Does Money Buy Votes? Most Americans Say Yes; A New Study Says They're Right [...] The researchers found that for every $100,000 the financial industry spent on campaign contributions for a House Democrat who voted for Dodd-Frank, they were able to increase the likelihood that same Democrat would vote to dismantle parts of the bill by 13.9 percent, according to the study."

David Dayen on "How Congress Could Make Steve Bannon's Wildest Dream Come True: Beyond the competing sets of spin about the success or failure of Donald Trump's first hundred days, even the most committed liberal partisan can admit that he has allowed corporate America to run wild."

"'Superman Is Not Coming: Erin Brockovich on the Future of Water [...] 'It's not just one Flint. It's hundreds of Flints," Brockovich, who became a household name in 2000 when Julia Roberts portrayed her in an Oscar-winning film, tells me in an interview. 'We've already slipped and we're on the cusp of Third World conditions when it comes to our water supply.'"

The first event of Bernie Sanders' and Tom Perez's Come Together Fight Back Tour - Portland, ME.
* "The Democratic Party's messaging rift, in one short video: But serious differences between the Democratic Party's factions remain. On Wednesday, Sanders and Perez appeared with MSNBC's Chris Hayes for their first joint interview - and it didn't take long for Hayes to pry open the split in the politicians' worldviews."

Suddenly the Clintonistas are going all purity troll because Sanders and Perez are out there campaigning for Dems who aren't perfect. The New Republic, of all places, launches a defense, but frankly the whole tempest is pretty rich when you have Nancy Pelosi saying "'Of course' Dems can be against abortion" - and then of course, there was this candidate.

Yves Smith, "Democrat Disunity: Hypocritical Media Attacks on Sanders: On every conceivable front, the Democrats double downing down on the strategy that led them to hemorrhage losses in representation, meaning power, at every level of government. In keeping, more and more voters are leaving the party. The latest repeat of a failed strategy is to try to smear Sanders in a cack-handed effort to win over his base. This is as likely to succeed as calling Trump voters 'deplorables' did."
* Alas, there's not a prayer that these people who are attacking Bernie will realize the effect they are having on the polls and cut it out.

No, seriously, it may be true that President Trump is least popular president at 100-day mark, it's even worse for the Democrats.

"The DNC and DCCC Confirm They Won't Support Progressive Candidates [...] Rather than this special election representing an anomaly or misstep from the Democratic leadership, there's a prevailing trend within the party's establishment to select and support weak, centrist candidates who provide the party with opportunities to fundraise from corporate donors. This trend is symptomatic of a revolving door within the Democratic Party leadership, where party officials often sell out to work for Republican lobbying firms. The Intercept's Lee Fang pointed out Mark Squier, John Donovan, and CR Wooters as just a few examples."

"The Democratic party is undermining Bernie Sanders-style candidates: Since losing the presidency to a Cheeto-hued reality TV host, the Democratic party's leadership has made it clear that it would rather keep losing than entertain even the slightest whiff of New Deal style social democracy."

Paul Street still thinks, "Bernie Sanders, the Company Man" is just corralling us for the Dems. I think he's looking at it the wrong way, but we shall see.

"Quick thoughts about airline economics [...] There are two things wrong with this line that air travel is awful because consumers' true revealed preference is that it should be awful and cheap. First, there is the fact that air travel managed by the main domestic carriers in the United States is uniquely awful, and there is no evidence that US travelers are any more price conscious than consumers in other countries. No frills, discount air travel is popular in Europe as well, and it is sometimes awful, but it is on the whole much cheaper than 'discount' air travel within the US. Mainstream carriers almost everywhere else in the developed world are notably less awful than the big American carriers, and often just as cheap."

Naomi Klein on "How to Jam the Trump Brand"

"'Trump Is Just Tearing Off the Mask': An Interview with Eric Foner [...] ? It's very easy to say, 'Oh, Trump's gone off the reservation.' But actually, this is part of the American political culture, past and present. Our politics has not always been like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, some high-minded discussion of important issues. Even those debates weren't like that! We have seen the low road many a time. Go back to the Know-Nothings, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, the Southern strategy. This is an important strand of our political culture. That's a more frightening thought than calling Trump a lunatic and an aberration. He is the logical extension of the way the Republican Party has been operating since Barry Goldwater. This is how the Republican Party has gotten votes for 50 years - Trump is just tearing off the mask. Now he just says right out the racism that was only barely hidden for so long. An accurate history would show that it's always been there. We shouldn't just talk about how weird Trump is.

"Bernie Sanders Condemns Threats Against Ann Coulter Speech At Berkeley: 'To me, it's a sign of intellectual weakness.'"

"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 U.S."

"Exclusive: Julian Assange Strikes Back at CIA Director and Talks Trump, Russia, and Hillary Clinton [...] 'For the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are, of reporting or not reporting ' is a very disturbing precedent. The head of the CIA determining who is a publisher, who's not a publisher, who's a journalist, who's not a journalist, is totally out of line.'"

"Bernie Sanders Spoke From A Ben & Jerry's Tub Podium And Twitter Users Couldn't Cope"

"How this garlic farm went from a labor shortage to over 150 people on its applicant waitlist: Christopher Ranch, which grows garlic on 5,000 acres in Gilroy, Calif., announced recently that it would hike pay for farmworkers from $11 an hour to $13 hour this year, or 18%, and then to $15 in 2018. That's four years earlier than what's required by California's schedule for minimum wage increases. Ken Christopher, vice president at Christopher Ranch, said the effect of the move was immediately obvious. At the end of last year, the farm was short 50 workers needed to help peel, package and roast garlic. Within two weeks of upping wages in January, applications flooded in. Now the company has a wait-list 150 people long. 'I knew it would help a little bit, but I had no idea that it would solve our labor problem,' Christopher said." He had no idea.

David Dayen talked to Sam Seder about The Hidden Monopoly Driving Drug Prices & President Gary Cohen, on The Majority Report. (Show starts around the four-minute mark, I think.)

"Everything We Knew About Sweatshops Was Wrong" - Well, actually, a lot of us already knew this, but it's nice that some people who believed the hype are finally catching on.

The Washington Post knows perfectly well that the US Post Office does fine and that its on-paper losses are a fabrication, but it persists in promulgating fake news trying to hide this Congressional accounting hoax. "The paper's latest pot shot was in an alarmist editorial declaring, 'The US Postal Service continues to hemorrhage red ink." Embracing their owner's anti-government ideology, the editors grumped that postal unions have made our mail service outmoded and insolvent, running up "a net loss of $5.6 billion last year.' That is pure bovine excrement -- and the editors know it. In fact, thanks to our amazing, innovative and efficient postal workers, the nation's public post offices racked up a $610 million operating profit last year, and a $1.2 billion profit the year before. The $5 billion in red ink that the paper's editorial propagandists touted is not real, but instead, is a deliberate bookkeeping hoax created by Congress to make the public think that our Post Office is a hopeless money loser that should be privatized."

"How Do You Know When A Candidate With A 'D' Next To His Name Isn't Really A Democrat? " When right-wing Republicans are campaigning for him over the official Republican nominee might be a clue. Sadly, there were too many Dems in that race, so it's looking like this.

Ted Rall, "Why is Trump So Hated? It's the Tribalism, Stupid [...] Remember all the antiwar rallies in 2012? Remember how Obama got primaried for destroying Libya and Syria? Neither do I. But don't be surprised if the streets fill with signs opposing Trump's Syria war - signs that might have made a difference to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed by American-made and -funded weapons under Obama. [...] The worst thing about America's political system is that it has no politics." I actually disagree with Rall's main statement here, but when it comes to forgiving our own, Democrats are just as bad as Republicans with the tribalism.

You can tell Clinton partisans are over the edge when they put Consortium News and Alternet in the same category as Infowars, like this. And, apparently the post would seem to come from a member of the biggest fake news site on the "left".

Katie Halper answers the attack on young women who supported Sanders, "A Millennial Feminist Explains the New Feminism to a Boomer Feminist Philosopher [...] I had assumed, perhaps falsely, that every feminist to the left of Sarah Palin sees a living wage as a feminist issue, given that two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. But you didn't even address this significant difference. It's your prerogative to focus more on the gender dynamics and micro-aggressions that you perceive to be at play between Clinton and Sanders than a policy that will improve the lives of millions of people, the majority of whom are women. But that's a very entitled feminism."

If Bernie Sanders "doesn't connect with people of color" and is only supported by sexist white men, how is it that his popularity among blacks is +62% and at +31% among women? (For those so inclined, here's the boring data .pdf.)
* But why do people think Bernie "doesn't connect" with those among us who are not particularly white or male? Well, that's because it was Clinton campaign propaganda from the git-go. "A New Harvard Study Just Shattered the Biggest Myth About Bernie Supporters [...] "Before he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Obama Labor Secretary Tom Perez encouraged the Clinton campaign early on in the primary election cycle to demean her opponent by labeling him as a favorite of white men and unpopular with the African American, female, and the Latinx demographics. According to emails leaked by WikiLeaks, Perez encouraged Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta to use the Bernie Bro myth in order to win the Nevada caucus: 'Nevada is an opportunity to fight back on so many levels,' Perez wrote. 'First, the current storyline is that she does not connect well with young voters. Given that Nevada is far more demographically representative of America, I am confident that HRC can do well with all African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans (don't forget the sizeable[sic] population of Asian Americans in Nevada, including Filipinos.).' '[Clinton campaign Nevada state director Emmy Ruiz] and the team have a good plan to attract all minority voters,' Perez continued. 'When we do well there, then the narrative changes from Bernie kicks ass among young voters to Bernie does well only among young white liberals - that is a different story and a perfect lead in to South Carolina, where once again, we can work to attract young voters of color.' In addition to Perez, staffers within the Democratic Party infrastructure used the term 'Bernie Bro' to loosely describe anyone who wasn't a ride-or-die Hillary Clinton supporter. In one email thread, when SiriusXM producer David Guggenheim reached out to DNC communications staff to request an interview with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC communications director Luis Miranda and other staffers snidely commented that because Guggenheim was likely a 'Bernie Bro,' they should decline the interview."
* Meanwhile, Shaun King still says, "Now is the perfect time to discuss how and why Bernie Sanders could've beaten Donald Trump."

Meanwhile, a book has come out about how messed up the Clinton campaign was, and it's called Shattered. Naturally, the Twitter machine is going hot and heavy. I'm being called a white man again, some more!
* And here's the Sander's quote: "It's so phony."
* Matt Taibbi, "Yikes! New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton Campaign: Shattered, a campaign tell-all fueled by anonymous sources, outlines a generational political disaster"

Interestingly, even Bloomberg has noticed "The Emerging Anti-Corporate Majority". But they're not worried.

Jon Schwarz says Michael Moore, who didn't just make the film Sicko but put his money where his movie was, saved his life. "My Skin in the Game: How Ted Cruz and the Right Want to Help Cancer Kill Me, and Maybe You: Huh. That looks weird. Has that always looked like that?"

"The US Charging Julian Assange Could Put Press Freedom on Trial [...] But if the US Department of Justice prosecutes Assange, as it reportedly may soon, he could become something else: the first journalist in modern history to be criminally charged by American courts for publishing classified information. WikiLeaks may not look like a traditional journalism outlet, but it shares the same ends - publishing true information from its sources. And that means legal action against Assange could threaten the freedom of the press as a whole." I don't know why they said "could" there. It absolutely would.

John Oliver on Gerrymandering

Bravely, Nicole Sandler interviews Roger Stone: "I don't usually interview right wingers. I can't learn anything from them, and have no desire to give them an outlet to spew their bullshit. But every once in a while, an opportunity presents itself to interview someone so full of themselves, so wrong on just about everything, so completely devoid of humanity that I just can't resist."

"There Can be No Progressive Coalition Without Working Class Whites [...] Second, it simply is not possible to create a coalition that genuinely serves the poor but also excludes poor whites - especially while it enthusiastically ushers Wall Street under the tent. That certain liberals can simultaneously attack Sanders for emphasizing an economic message which, if manifested, will disproportionately uplift people of color and women, while celebrating women and people of color who have sold out the interests of their demographic groups again and again, speaks to the negative power of weaponized identitarianism, and is one of most serious threats faced by the progressive movement."

"The Duke Lacrosse Scandal and the Birth of the Alt-Right [...] Richard Spencer, the fourth speaker, is now America's most famous self-identified white nationalist. 'In this funny chain of events, the Duke lacrosse case changed the course of my career,' Spencer told me recently. 'My life would not have taken the direction it did absent the Duke lacrosse case.' The speech at the Thai restaurant - 'Ironic, isn't it?' he said - pushed him from an academic track toward a more activist one. McConnell commissioned Spencer to write a piece for The American Conservative about the case, and, by the end of the semester, Spencer had dropped out of school to work at the magazine full-time. A year later, he coined the term 'alt-right.'"

Arthur Silber on the magical powers of Putin vs. Voice of America.

"Suburban Sprawl Stole Your Kids' Sleep: Why does school start so early? Blame 1970s planning." I had no idea this was going on over there, yikes. (via)

A talk with the pastor who delivered his friend Harper Lee's eulogy, from Gary Silverman in The Financial Times, about "How the Bible Belt lost God and found Trump [...] Flynt says evangelical Christians are mainly mobilising against the sins they either do not want to commit (homosexual acts) or cannot commit (undergoing an abortion, in the case of men). They turn a blind eye toward temptations such as adultery and divorce that interest them. In 2010, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling the rising incidence of divorce among its members a 'scandal'. A Pew Research Center study in 2015 found that evangelical Protestants in the US were more likely to be divorced or separated than Catholics, Jews, Muslims or atheists."

"America's first female mayor was elected 130 years ago. Men nominated her as a cruel joke."

Did I mention that eventually, The West Wing made my blood run cold whenever they actually talked about policy? Because they always spelled out the right-wing argument and then never answered it. I thought the business about Social Security was particularly chilling. Anyway, Luke Savage on "How Liberals Fell In Love With The West Wing: Aaron Sorkin's political drama shows everything wrong with the Democratic worldview." We enjoyed the original, British, House of Cards. Kinda glad I never saw the America version.

From Ansible, "Malgorithms. A recent news page at Wn.com headlined 'Second Doctor Arrested in US Female Genital Mutilation Case' was helpfully illustrated with a stock photo of Patrick Troughton (1920-1987). [RR]"

RIP: Anti-Establishment Icon David Peel Dies at 73. He was so much a part of my neighborhood back in the day. His bandmate Billy lived in the apartment above us on East 5th Street. Used to run into David all the time, and still recall amusing moments like that time I was eating my breakfast pizza in the square and heard him shouting something, waving his album around, saying the last time the cops searched him, they found dirty underwear. Can't remember how many times I heard him sing this song.
* "Don Rickles, Legendary Insult Comic, Dies at 90." He was kind of ubiquitous back in the day. Lance Manion did a nice little appreciation of Mr. Warmth.
* "Guitarist J. Geils Dead at 71: J. Geils Band musician who appeared on rock radio hits 'Centerfold,' 'Freeze-Frame,' 'Love-Stinks' found dead at home." I never met him, but I went to a small school with Seth Justman, who used to sit in the student commons and play the piano now and then.
* Motown song writer Sylvia Moy, co-writer of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" and "I Was Made to Love Her", at 78.
* Carolyn Kelly, R.I.P., daughter of Pogo creator Walt Kelly and restorer and preserver of his work, as well as a talent in her own right. Condolences to Mark Evanier.

Beautiful APOD of stuff that glows.

Cool vids of a rotating supercell thunderstorm

My Twitter feed went crazy at the release of Thor: Ragnarok Teaser Trailer

"The Story Behind The Perfect Photo Of Sports' First Streaker
* Behind The Photo That Changed The Boston Marathon Forever

"Princess Leia's Stolen Death Star Plans/With Illicit Help From Your Friends" - I don't know if this can stay up, but it's rather amazing - the Star Wars story set to music from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

17:42 GMT comment

Wednesday, 05 April 2017

The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand

Bra of the Week: So, I was looking at this page to see if I could get some better advice for taking care of the skin during and after radiotherapy, and down at the bottom someone produced this whimsical innovation. (Comes with matching sun hat.) Oh, and by the way, I seem to have more cancer. The plan seems to be pretty much to do the same as last time, only it's on the other side.

"The Sanders Show: Welcome to 'Bernie TV' [...] Guests on "The Bernie Sanders Show" have so far included Rev. William Barber, the leader of the "Moral Monday" movement, anti-fracking filmmaker Josh Fox and former "Science Guy" Bill Nye, whose conversation with Sanders about climate change racked up 4.6 million views and 25,000 shares." You can watch it here.

"Repealing Broadband Privacy Rules, Congress Sides with the Cable and Telephone Industry: Putting the interests of Internet providers over Internet users, Congress today voted to erase landmark broadband privacy protections. If the bill is signed into law, companies like Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements. Worst yet, consumers will now have to pay a privacy tax by relying on VPNs to safeguard their information. That is a poor substitute for legal protections. Make no mistake, by a vote of 215 to 205 a slim majority of the House of Representatives have decided to give our personal information to an already highly profitable cable and telephone industry so that they can increase their profits with our data. The vote broke along party lines, with Republicans voting yes, although 15 Republicans broke ranks to vote against the repeal with the Democrats."

"Baltimore's Democratic mayor breaks promise, vetoes $15 minimum wage bill: Mayor Catherine Pugh dealt a shattering blow to the Fight for $15 campaign, vetoing a new minimum wage law. [...] The veto is the latest in a string of serious blows to the Fight for $15 campaign in Maryland. As reported by In These Times, an effort to enact a local minimum wage in populous Montgomery County went down in flames in January when county executive Ike Leggett vetoed the bill. As in the case in Baltimore, all the important elected leaders in Montgomery County are Democrats, and the higher minimum wage proposal fell because pro-business Democrats split with more progressive Democrats."

"Man banned from every shop, pub, cafe, restaurant and takeaway in Northern Ireland" - I don't know how he is supposed to eat, but I suppose he could always acquire more counterfeit notes and get someone else to do his shopping for him.... (OK, he's allowed to order food to be delivered to him at home, but if the judge is so convinced he has easy access to more faux fifties and would spend them, surely he could get someone else to spend them.)

Jeffrey Kaye is a clinical psychologist who wrote a book about the extremely assisted suicides at Guantanamo. Naturally, Your Talking Dog has interviewed him in his continuing series on Guantanamo. "The media reaction to the deaths has for the most part been awful. Harpers did open up their pages to Hickman and Scott Horton. But when in 2010 the story got an National Magazine Award there was significant growling from the rest of the media. Most amazing, to me, was the tirade of abuse coming from the pages of Adweek, an advertising industry stalwart. That must have thrown editors into a frenzy, with what I believe was practically explicit warning to stay away from these kinds of story, derogated as irresponsible conspiracy-mongering. From that time forward, you did not see stories about the deaths at Guantanamo."

Marcy Wheeler, "Which Came First, the Failed Ideology or the Spiking Mortality Rates? "

"How local news sounded the alarm over the GOP's defeated health plan: Editorials and news coverage in numerous American communities responded with a clear message that such measures simply didn't pass muster for their communities. Many in their audiences agreed: A Quinnipiac Poll released yesterday found that only 17 percent of American voters approved of the Republican's bill, while 56 percent didn't. Many editorials found ways to ask the same question - 'Is this bill good policy?' - and then answer, conclusively, 'No.'"

"Bernie Sanders, Top Progressives Announce New 'Medicare For All' Push.

"Obamacare's Original Sin: We can resist Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare without providing cover for the law's deep ideological flaws."

I think Paul Ryan was accidentally telling the truth when he said, "We're not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people."

"The Only Concrete Takeaway From Trump's Speech: Medicaid Is Doomed"

"No, really: Democrats should offer an ACHA alternative"

A year ago, Pachacutec asked, "Does Bernie Sanders Know What He's Doing?" Seems like he did, and does.

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "Paul Ryan is discovering why the government is involved in health care." I wonder if Ezra Klein has finally figured out that Paul Ryan is not the glorious wonk he thought he was.

My Twitter trolls continue to pretend that there's no connection between the banks and other issues. But there is an Undeniable Link Between Racism and Economics.

"The CFPB Protects Us From Bad Banks; Republicans Want To Kill It [...] But lawmakers in Washington aren't trying to tighten enforcement against serial lawbreakers like Wells Fargo. Instead, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has introduced a measure to shut it down, while other GOP efforts would strip it of funding. Other Republican initiatives would weaken the CFPB by stripping it of political independence and replacing its executive leadership with a commission. Other proposed legislation would weaken its rule-making and enforcement authority, reduce its ability to track consumer complaints, and strip it of its ability to (in the words of Bloomberg Law's Chris Bruce) 'attack unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices.' The Trump Administration, which has drawn heavily on Goldman Sachs for its senior staffers, has been openly fighting the CFPB. The administration wants to remove agency head Richard Cordray and make other staffing changes, and recently joined a lawsuit challenging the agency's independence."

"Erik Prince in the Hot Seat: Blackwater's Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services."

I can't believe that after the Republicans spent 20 years vilifying her, the Democrats spent eight years in control of the White House and apparently were only interested in fracking and TPP, and the candidate said things like this, there is still a constant flow of idiots in my feeds insisting that the only reason people didn't want to vote for Hillary was the Russians.

"Everyone loves Bernie Sanders. Except, it seems, the Democratic party."
* I mean, he's really popular. He's the most popular politician in America.

"Why Bernie's Progressive Narrative Appeals Across Partisan Lines [...] According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, 81% of Americans - including 87% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans - support Social Security and consider it a vital program. 77% of those polled want to protect Social Security benefits, even if doing so would require tax increases on all workers. As Social Security is one of the great progressive policy victories of the last century, this polling indicates that even Republicans are progressive on this issue. Sadly, this is one issue where the establishment political parties do not appear to care about the views of the voters. Virtually every Republican leader other than Trump (e.g. Ryan and McConnell) supports cutting Social Security, either through reducing benefits or increasing the eligibility age, while Democratic leaders have flirted with more subtle cuts (i.e. using chained CPI to reduce cost of living growth)." And it's much the same with other issues Sanders pushed - the public supports them, and party leadership does not. This has to raise questions about what the Democratic leaderships is up to. They can read polls as well as we can. They know their policies are unpopular, so they have to use careful - "nuanced" - language to make them sound like they're not as monstrous as they are. And one other thing. "Replicating the success of Bernie Sanders may be as simple as running candidates who credibly argue in favor of these massively popular progressive ideals, while refusing to take money from big donors. Anybody going up against this type of candidate must resort to lies, distortions, identity politics (e.g. race, religion, gender, culture, etc.) and character attacks, as real policy discussions are likely to just reinforce the idea that their opponent holds views that are widely popular."

"Bernie Sanders is mad at the Democratic Party. And he wants you to know it."

Interview By Rachel Tabachnick, "Right Moves: Historian Jason Stahl Opens a New Era of Scholarship on Conservative Think Tanks: [...] The corrosive part of DLC and PPI was a denigration of movement-based politics, a suspicion of grassroots, movement-based politics. They accepted the pernicious framing of liberal/Left social movements that the Right had been forwarding for years, that these rabble-rousing movements were out of touch and un-American. PPI used this moniker - liberal fundamentalism - suggesting that liberalism is more akin to a kind of unthinking religious orientation and that this is the real problem of the Democratic Party. When you go down that road of denigrating movement politics, you are going down a disastrous electoral path, in my mind, regardless of your politics."

"The DLC Lives: "Third Way" Democrats Are Trying to Push the Party Rightward [...] At the height of its power the DLC was the dominant force in the party, boasting President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as its acolytes. But like Bell's weak narcotics, the DLC, which supported the Iraq War and received money from the likes of the Koch Brothers, soon became a tainted brand. Long before 2011, when the organization dissolved, the DLC label hung around politicians like a scarlet letter. Even President Obama publicly distanced himself from the organization in 2004 as he ascended as a national figure. [...] Now, as Democrats face an existential crisis in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump, these fundamentally conservative organizations, armed with millions in corporate donations, are working with a renewed aggressiveness in the public sphere. They are attempting to convince the party to shun its base and further embrace the so-called 'vital center,' and the corporatism that has long defined these groups."

On The Majority Report, "How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (w/ Philip Mirowski).

Masha Gessen, "Autocracy: Rules for Survival
* Rule #1: Believe the autocrat
* Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
* Rule #3: Institutions will not save you
* Rule #4: Be outraged.
* Rule #5: Don't make compromises.
* Rule #6: Remember the future.

"Vouchers, Charters and Public School Debt: Not Just Different Education Policy Priorities: Charter-Friendly Legislation May Violate the Contract Clause."

"The Socialist Takeover of the Democratic Party Is Proceeding Nicely"

"Judicial originalism as myth"

"Progressives Slam Tom Perez's New DNC Transition Team"

"HuffPost Smears Sanders Supporters With Fake News About Russian Trolls: Motivated by personal bias, journalists mislead with anecdotal evidence."

"DNC Adds To Transition Team After Progressive Complaints: Two prominent Bernie Sanders supporters are among the additions."

George Takei has announced he is running for Congress to go after Devin Nunes' seat. On April Fool's Day.

Russia Insider disagrees with Haaretz's assessment of policy on Syria. Snarky! "We understand that Israel has its own national interests. But please stop with the baloney."

"The Bait And Switch Of Public-Private Partnerships: This being the age of public relations, the genteel term 'public-private partnership' is used instead of corporate plunder. A 'partnership' such deals may be, but it isn't the public who gets the benefits."

David Dayen in The Fiscal Times, "How Goldman Sachs Wins, and You Lose, From Its Mortgage Crisis 'Punishment': The Justice Department billed this as a '$5.1 billion settlement.' But that figure was incredibly misleading; at best the bank was giving DoJ a small cut of a decade of profits. There was a bigger problem, too: $1.8 billion of this settlement was earmarked for 'consumer relief,' in which Goldman would write down the mortgages of struggling homeowners. But it didn't own any home loans."

David Dayen in Vice, "How a Cruel Foreclosure Drove a Couple to the Brink of Death: A married couple resorted to self-harm after being physically and psychologically terrorized by Bank of America over their house - until a judge fined the bank $46 million." Of course, BoA plans to appeal, and it will be interesting to see the final disposition of this case, but this is what should have happened to them all. Even here, the judge did not impose criminal charges on BoA executives, but at long last the principle was stated clearly that this was not just the misbehavior of rogue, low-level functionaries, but decisions made at the top. "But if one bank is ordered to pay $46 million for just one foreclosure, it begs the question of whether the federal government settled on the cheap in its more systemic investigations of America's largest financial companies after the 2008 crash. 'The governmental regulatory system has failed to protect the Sundquists,'s Judge Klein wrote, and that goes double for the millions of homeowners who suffered similar fates, yet didn't contest their cases or find a judge willing to act on their behalf."

Beat the Press, "Job Loss in Manufacturing: More Robot Blaming" - Trade deficits have a bigger impact, but surely out-sourcing (which Dean doesn't mention) does, too.

I'm baffled as to why people keep saying stuff like this: "What Happens When We Don't Believe the President's Oath? [...] If you're a liberal, one who voted against George W. Bush twice, do the following thought experiment: Did you ever doubt, even as you decried the Iraq War and demanded accountability for counterterrorism policies and actions you regarded as lawless, that Bush was acting sincerely in the best interests of the country as he understood them? Yes, people used the slogan 'Bush Lied, People Died,' but how many of them actually in their hearts doubted that Bush was earnestly trying to do his duty by the electorate, even if they differed in their understandings of what that duty entailed? Some, to be sure, we suspect many more accepted that Bush was honestly doing his best." OMG, do they not remember how the guy got into the White House? You do not do that in the "best interests" of the country!

This is how the Labour Party wants to occupy its time: attacking Ken Livingstone for stating documented fact.

"Pepsi Made An Ad Where Soda Solved Police Brutality And The Internet Reacted Appropriately."

"Moscow And Beijing Join Forces To Bypass US Dollar In Global Markets, Shift To Gold Trade."

"The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate: An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp's contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources. Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage. But this campaign was not Donald Trump's; it was Hillary Clinton's. [...] The reports not only captivated the Clinton political operatives but influenced the assessments of Obama's appointees in the U.S. intelligence community. In the last weeks of the Obama administration, I was told that the outgoing intelligence chiefs had found no evidence to verify Steele's claims but nevertheless believed them to be true.

You know who didn't get much help from TARP? If there's one thing white supremacists didn't have to fear form Obama, it was that he would help people of his own race. He sure didn't. "The Decline of Black Business: And what it means for American democracy."

Every now and then I like to remind people that if you actually read the Bible, it is less a tale of faith than a tale of how states fail, over and over. Once they fall into Mammonism, once they let the rentiers control the economy, they destroy themselves. Or God smites them, depending on your point of view (Ezekiel 16:49). Rutger Bregman doesn't mention the Bible in "No, wealth isn't created at the top. It is merely devoured there," but it's that same story, and it's happening now.

Ian Welsh on The Philosophy of Decline and Collapse.

Blast from the past: Early last year, Seth Ackerman did a useful take-down of two "liberal" pundits who did a prompt about-face on all of their previous opinions on health care, in a shameful display of partisanship. "Meet the New Harry and Louise: Vox's attack on Bernie Sanders is sold as a policy critique. It's actually a dishonest exercise in managing the Democratic Party base."

"Why You Seldom See Noxzema Anymore." This is kind of a shame, because it really is great for protecting your skin from breaking out, especially anyplace you use soap, and it wipes out eczema pretty damned quick. I get it from a local place down the market that appears to cater to a mostly black clientele, it's not seen on the shelves anywhere else that I recall. I thought that was a British thing until I saw this story - and it's from 2008.

* One of the truly great journalists, "Legendary Newspaper Columnist Jimmy Breslin Dies At 88. [..] Breslin was old school. He began his career as a copy boy working his way up to a hard -bitten reporter." You can read his articles about Trump here, starting with his 7 June 1990.article, "Corum's Law", in which he learns that the news business sold itself very cheaply indeed to "The Donald". Also, see Michael Winship's A Couple of Things About Jimmy Breslin."
* Bernie Wrightson, (October 27, 1948-March 19, 2017), co-creator of Swamp Thing, after a long battle with brain cancer. A highly talented artist who had worked for pretty much every comic company at some time, beloved by many.
* Martin McGuinness, the IRA commander whose negotiations on behalf of Sinn Fein led to the Good Friday peace agreement, at 66, as a result of amyloidosis. "The cuddly, chess-playing and fly-fishing grandfather figure that he presented in later life was real - but so too was the guerrilla hard man of the 1970s, who neither smoked nor drank, partly because he was a member of the Catholic Pioneer temperance group, but also to minimise the pressures that might break him under interrogation"
* "Chuck Berry Dies at 90; Helped Define Rock 'n' Roll" Or, as Bill Wyman (no, not that one) put it, "Chuck Berry Invented the Idea of Rock and Roll." Brian May and Brian Wilson also gave tribute. But I loved this piece of information: "Chuck Berry reviewing old punk records remains one of my favourite things."
* "Chicago Blues Giant Lonnie Brooks Dead at 83"
* Bob Lee (1942-2017), after a battle with cancer. Black Panther and organizer Bob Lee forged the kind of revolutionary interracial solidarity desperately needed today. [...] In late 1968, Fred Hampton and Bob Lee indirectly created the original Rainbow Coalition. Led by the ILBPP, the Rainbow Coalition included the Young Lords, a socially conscious Puerto Rican gang; and the Young Patriots Organization (YPO), a group of Confederate-flag-wearing Southern white migrants.""
* Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, and three of my favorite TV series.

Dad with super powers
* Stunt woman with cute bundle

Deadpool: The Musical

Baby Groot dancing

Steely Dan "Reelin' in the Years.

22:27 GMT comment

Friday, 17 March 2017

'Cause god knows I'll never tell!

"Now Would Be A Good Time For A Democratic Healthcare Plan Proposal." A perfect time, really. And there even is one, so why aren't the Democrats pushing it like crazy? Apparently, they prefer to just talk about how mean the Republicans are instead of promoting proposals of their own that would give people a reason to vote for them.
* But no, when it's time to throw your drowning enemy an anchor, they throw them a life-preserver. "Dems Say They'll Help Trump Fix Obamacare If He Stops Trying To Kill It: The offer assumes Republicans won't try to sabotage a law they seem unable to repeal."

You would have thought that leading Democrats might have said something like this before this guy did. "Clarence Thomas Questions Legality Of Letting Cops Take Innocent People's Stuff: The Supreme Court justice's skepticism of civil asset forfeiture may signal the court would be receptive to a review."

"More Americans say government should ensure health care coverage: As the debate continues over repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what might replace it, a growing share of Americans believe that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Currently, 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, compared with 38% who say this should not be the government's responsibility. The share saying it is the government's responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade." In nearly a decade of Democrats trying to pretend it's impossible, but it's actually a low number. It's not that long ago you could get nearly 70% of the country to agree that they would happily pay higher taxes if they could get a National Health Servicefor it.

Bernie Sanders did a Town Hall in "Trump Country" again, with Chris Hayes. You can see it here and here. This was, of course, an excuse for the Clintonistas to get on Twitter and get a big hate on against Bernie, who failed to spend enough time hating on Trump, apparently, and more importantly failed to be Hillary Clinton. They even hate him for talking to people in "Trump country", or speaking in public at all. They don't seem to be aware that he was appointed as the Senate Dems outreach person.

I'm leaving the whole Vault 7 thing with Marcy. In any case, no reason the CIA should have credibility with anyone. I reckon Kennedy was right.
* Oh, and Robert Parry. "Fresh Doubts about Russian 'Hacking: WikiLeaks' disclosure of documents revealing CIA cyber-spying capabilities underscores why much more skepticism should have been applied to the U.S. intelligence community's allegations about Russia 'hacking' last year's American presidential election. It turns out that the CIA maintains a library of foreign malware that could be used to pin the blame for a 'hack' on another intelligence service."

Meanwhile, even Buzzfeed admits that you can't believe every bad thing you read about Trump. "1.6 Billion Dollar Hoax: An elaborate hoax based on forged documents escalates the phenomenon of 'fake news' and reveals an audience on the left that seems willing to believe virtually any claim that could damage Trump. "

"Utah school installs showers and washing machines for homeless students to use." So, we've completely normalized homelessness.

I think I can trust RT most days more than I can trust Warner. "US Senator accuses RT of hacking Google, RT suggests he should learn how search engines work." Mark Warner has lots of sleazy connections to the tech industry and I'm pretty sure he knows the stuff coming out of his mouth is sheer nonsense.

"The really big Trump scandal (almost) everyone is missing" - Will tweeted this article by summing it up: "Trump's White House may be in disarray but actually IS a fine-tuned machine for gutting regs for Corporate America"

As Dean Baker tweeted it, "Ambitious Republican health care plan looks to have 50 million uninsured by 2025."
* "The New Trade Agenda: Deals that Promote Equality Rather than Inequality."
* "Paying for Legal Services or Keeping Melania Trump in NYC: Choices for Taxpayers"
* "Reaching Out To The Working Class: Note that I said 'working class,' not 'white working class.'"
* "The Wrongest Profession: How economists have botched the promise of widely distributed prosperity - and why they have no intention of stopping now. [...] Over the past two decades, the economics profession has compiled an impressive track record of getting almost all the big calls wrong."

How sublime, The New York Times seems to have noticed: "'Superstar Firms' May Have Shrunk Workers' Share of Income" - y'think?

Starting around the two-minute mark, The Majority Report, with Sam's interview with Rebecca Kolins Givan, Labor Organizing After Privatization.

"The Republican Health-Care Bill Is the Worst of So Many Worlds: This attempt to repeal Obamacare fails on every score - except cutting rich people's taxes." But the right is now so divided on it that it may never pass.

"Recruiting Republicans To Run For Congress As Democrats Has Usually Ended Badly For All Concerned: I'm going to start talking about a rule of Beltway politics by immediately pointing to an exception: Elizabeth Warren, who today-- along with men and women like Bernie Sanders, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Raul Grijalva, and Jeff Merkley-- defines what it means to be a real Democrat, was once an Oklahoma Republican! That's a long time ago, the Democratic Party didn't recruit her as a Republican, and, like I said, that's the glaring exception to the rule. [...] It used to surprise me when crooked conservative Dems like Emanuel, Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen recruited Republicans to run as Democrats. Now it's practically standard operating procedure for the DCCC. Last cycle DCCC-recruited Republicans masquerading as Democratic candidates (like Monica Vernon in Iowa, Mike Derrick in New York, Randy Perkins in that old Palm Beach seat... just a few examples) went down in flames." (And as Atrios reminded us the other day, this has been going on for way too long.) How long can this go on?

And for more on how well the Democratic leadership treats progressives - not to mention blacks and women and, most notably, black women, "Donna Edwards Was Democrats' Rising Star. Now She's Podcasting From An RV. The good old boy network has no problem with elevating an obedient African-American woman. Edwards was not obedient. [...] 'I thought the Republican Party was full of dog whistles but the Democratic Party has a foghorn,' Edwards told reporters after that remark. 'As a sitting member of the House as the ranking Democrat on one of our committees in the House, as the co-chair of our steering and policy committee sitting at the leadership table with Leader Pelosi, as former chair of the bipartisan women's caucus, a lawyer: How dare they describe me as unqualified?'"

When Chaffets suggests that Americans should choose between an iPhone and health insurance, Atrios says, "Good Deal! This is the kind of thing which embodies everything about modern conservatives - a failure to understand the price/cost of anything, a failure to understand what people need to exist in contemporary society, and the belief the newfangled gadgets are like the mythical welfare queen Cadillacs of yesteryear." Go read the rest, it's not that long.

"Why is the Wyoming GOP scared? Anyone who has been around Wyoming politics understands just how small the state is. All politics there is retail. People expect to be able to meet their senators, governors, and representatives, and they almost inevitably do. Any politician deemed too formal or high-and-mighty is unlikely to go far in a state that prides itself on its non-hierarchical frontiersman mythos. Our elected officials spend a lot of time in jeans and cowboy boots. Governors have a tradition of keeping their office doors open." But GOP politicians are running away from their angry constituents.

Matt Taibbi, "Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media: [...] If there's any truth to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian state to disrupt the electoral process, then yes, what we're seeing now are the early outlines of a Watergate-style scandal that could topple a presidency. But it could also be true that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.

"How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality: Irritating left-wing guys have ruined democracy, apparently. Which might suggest it wasn't doing so great before. [...] Without ever letting the Hacky Sack touch the ground, the DudeBro army traveled back in time in their Tardis and terrified the Democratic Party into neutering itself ideologically, spending years running as the Slightly Less Mean Republicans and losing more than 1,000 state legislative seats during the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency. Perhaps their unsettling appearance in the past, wearing T-shirts for Radiohead albums that didn't yet exist, caused Obama to demoralize the progressive base by staffing up his Cabinet with financial industry insiders and conducting drone assassinations in numerous foreign countries with which the United States was not at war. Back in the present of 2016, the 'Bernie or Bust' tribe somehow spooked the Clinton campaign into abandoning the Rust Belt states and making what many pundits perceived as a bold play for 'moderate Republican women' in the suburbs of Charlotte and Phoenix and Philadelphia and Atlanta. All we are is dust in the wind. [...] When 'liberals' become a political grouping morbidly obsessed with their left-wing critics, constantly accusing them of being too idealistic and too intransigent and of being covert agents for the enemy, they have stopped being liberals and become conservatives. Which indeed happened some time ago, when the old 'conservatives' became radical fanatics. When 'the left' endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left." Damn, it's sad to see Wolcott sucked into the maw of elite Democrats' denial. And the word seems to have gone out from Dem Central, because there have been a spate of these articles and more "learned"-sounding pieces trying to explain why the left is wrong, even though you have to go pretty ahistorical to make your case. I wonder if these people realize they are really trying to make the case that democracy itself leads to fascism.

And speaking of ahistorical approaches, even the mea culpas of neoliberals who realize something went wrong tend to miss the point. Atrios notes that Charlie Peters doesn't really seem to know what the New Deal he set about to destroy really had going for it. But having him rear his head again is a good reminder to some Democrats that, no, "neoliberal" is not a term that was just invented a couple of years ago by Sandernistas. Here's "A Neo-Liberal's Manifesto" in 1982.

Dissent has a little argument going on with itself that might be illuminating. First there's "The End of Progressive Neoliberalism," and then there's "There Was No Such Thing as 'Progressive Neoliberalism'." The second article purports to disagree with the first, but I don't think so - they're saying the same thing, really, only the latter supplies more detail. And of course, you can't openly acknowledge that the phony "progressives" who've been leading the Democratic Party were just giving lip-service to equality while doing us all more harm than good.

Shaun King, "The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular [...] "Recently, I've asked the crowds where I am speaking two key questions about the Democratic Party. The response that I get is always the same -- mass laughter or audible frustration. The first question is, 'If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?'"

"Paleocons for Porn: The new online right draws on transgressive aesthetics to rebrand conservative politics. It's a contradiction that won't hold. [...] While liberals enjoyed cultural hegemony and became complacent and intellectually lazy, the young transgressives of the alt-right produced an undeniable level of creative energy. The war for the soul of America Pat Buchanan waged in the 1990s has long since been won by the cultural left, and the tyrannical overreach of liberal intellectual conformity undoubtedly helped create the youthful rebellion against it. But this temporary alliance of very different factions - the most stark being between the traditionalist right and the libertinism of chan culture - has produced a schizophrenic incoherence."

In last monologue, Israeli comedy show host implores Israelis to wake up and smell the apartheid.

RIP: "James Cotton, Blues Harmonica Legend, Dies at 81," of pneumonia.
* Joni Sledge - "Sister Sledge singer Joni dies at 60: Sledge, who formed Sister Sledge with her three siblings in 1971, was found unresponsive by a friend at her home in Phoenix, Arizona, her publicist said. She had not been ill and the cause of death is unknown. Sledge, who is survived by her adult son, last performed with the band in October."

Matt Bruenig, "Small populations make it harder to do what Nordic countries do: When you lay out the impressive economic indicators of the Nordic countries, naysayers come out of the woodwork to harp on their small size. These arguments never explain what small population sizes have to do with anything. Apparently it is supposed to be self-evident that smaller countries can do this kind of stuff more easily. But the exact opposite is true. Small populations should make it way harder to do what Nordic countries do."

Matt Stoller on "The Hamilton Hustle: Why liberals have embraced our most dangerously reactionary founder [...] Set in contrast to the actual life and career of its subject, the play Hamilton is a feat of political alchemy - as is the stunningly successful marketing campaign surrounding it. But our generation's version of Hamilton adulation isn't all that different from the version that took hold in the 1920s: it's designed to subvert democracy by helping the professional class to associate the rise of finance with the greatness of America, instead of seeing in that financial infrastructure the seeds of a dangerous authoritarian tradition."

Matt Bruenig, "Liberals and Diversity: Liberal commentators believe that you can have diversity or economic justice, but you can't have both. They're wrong."

"The 'Dutch Trump' Is Even More Toxic Than the Real Thing."

Richard (RJ) Eskow explores the way the tech company ethos is wrecking America:
* "The sharing economy is a lie: Uber, Ayn Rand and the truth about tech and libertarians: Disruptive companies talk a good game about sharing. Uber's really just an under-regulated company making riches."
* "Tom Friedman: A New Ayn Rand for A Dark Digital Future"
* "The 5 Worst Things About the Techno-Libertarians Solidifying Their Grasp on Our Economy and Culture"
* Silicon Valley will destroy your job: Amazon, Facebook and our sick new economy: The "sharing economy" makes Silicon Valley rich and takes from the rest of us. We ignore this at our imminent peril."
* "Let's nationalize Amazon and Google: Publicly funded technology built Big Tech: They're huge and ruthless and define our lives. They're close to monopolies. Let's make them public utilities."

"Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? Marçal points out that when an economist marries his housekeeper, the GDP goes down."

"Politicking Without Politics: Democratic elites are delusional - you can't subdue the reactionary right without a robust alternative political vision."

"A theological case for the welfare state"

Tim Cappello/The Lost Boys,"I Still Believe"

Deadpool teaser

Grace Slick's "White Rabbit" Vocal Track, naked. (Her voice comes in around the 30 second mark.)

"Buffy at 20: Sarah Michelle Gellar Pens Emotional Essay for Anniversary"

"Learning the Lessons of 'Buffy' Again as It Celebrates 20 Years"

Buffy 6xEX Behind the Scenes of Once More With Feeling

22:47 GMT comment

Friday, 03 March 2017

Don't let him under your skin, you'll never win

Something good: "New Jersey Alters Its Bail System and Upends Legal Landscape [...] But under an overhaul of New Jersey's bail system, which went into effect Jan. 1, judges are now considering defendants' flight risk and threat to public safety in deciding whether to detain them while they await trial. Otherwise, they are to be released, usually with certain conditions." So people with jobs don't have to lose them when they can't afford bail. And even Chris Christie didn't oppose this.

Sirota, "Cigna-Anthem Merger 2017: With Billions Of Dollars At Stake, Proposed Health Insurance Deal Is Blocked By Federal Judge: A federal judge Wednesday blocked Anthem's proposed merger with Cigna -- a move that appears to shut the door on what could have created the largest health insurance conglomerate in American history. The judge in the case said the merger -- which could have affected up to 53 million consumers -- would unduly reduce competition in the healthcare economy, according to Bloomberg." We can thank The International Business Times for giving this deal a higher profile. But:
* "Anthem-Cigna Merger: With Ties To Donald Trump, Mike Pence And Jeff Sessions, Insurance Giant Hopes To Revive Blocked Deal: After delivering big money to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, health insurance giant Anthem is now pressing the new administration to settle a federal lawsuit blocking its controversial merger with Cigna, according to new court documents. Meanwhile, Trump has appointed an Anthem lobbyist to a top legal post in the White House -- a job that could position him to take over the Justice Department's antitrust unit that may ultimately decide the fate of the merger. [...] Justice Department officials typically argue that the antitrust division is insulated from political influence: As former Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said in a 2015 speech, 'antitrust enforcement has been successfully nonpartisan' and 'political affiliation means little in this job.' Anthem's argument, though, appears to hinge on a hope that political intervention from the White House may shape the Justice Department's antitrust enforcement decisions."

Former Alabama Governor Don Seiglelman was released from prison after having been jailed under the Bush/Cheney administration's campaign of election-fixing and partisan prosecutions. The entire thing was an outrage and, given that the man was jailed essentially for being a Democrat who won an election, it's an even further outrage that Obama let him continue to cool his heels in prison rather than do anything to ameliorate the situation - you know, like a presidential pardon? In any case, Siegelman, now 70, is now out. But let's get a bit of a refresher: "Representative Bob Riley defeated Siegelman in his November 2002 reelection bid by the narrowest margin in Alabama history: approximately 3,000 votes. On the night of the election, Siegelman was initially declared the winner by the Associated Press. Later, a voting machine malfunction in a single county, Baldwin County, was claimed to have produced the votes needed to give Riley the election. Democratic Party officials objected, stating that the recount had been performed by local Republican election officials after Democratic observers had left the site of the vote counting, thus rendering verification of the recount results impossible. The state's Attorney General, Republican Bill Pryor, affirmed the recounted vote totals, securing Riley's election. Pryor denied requests for a manual recount of the disputed vote warning that opening the sealed votes to recount them would be held a criminal offense.[13] Some observers have opined that perhaps the most objective observation about this vote shift is that there was no corresponding vote shift in other issues and candidates on these same ballots, a shift that would be expected if they were actually anti-Siegelman voters, probably a mathematical impossibility. Largely as a result of this obvious inconsistency, the Alabama Legislature amended the election code to provide for automatic, supervised recounts in close races." At the time, pretty much everyone was sure that Siegelman had really won. But then, apparently at the behest of Karl Rove, Siegelman suddenly found himself on trial, though a long list of both Democratic and Republican justice officials were protesting loudly on his behalf. Why?: "In June 2007, a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Alabama, signed a sworn statement that, five years earlier, she had heard that Karl Rove was preparing to neutralize Siegelman politically with an investigation headed by the U.S. Department of Justice."

"Panama Papers investigation wins George Polk Award: The Panama Papers investigation has been honored with a George Polk Award for financial journalism, the Polk awards' sponsor, Long Island University, has announced. The Polk Awards judges lauded the reporting collaboration for sparking official investigations and reforms aimed at combating global tax dodging and money laundering. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Süddeutsche Zeitung, McClatchy, the Miami Herald, Fusion and more than 100 other media partners worked together to investigate a trove of leaked documents from inside Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-headquartered law firm that sells offshore companies and other hard-to-unravel corporate structures."

Max Sawicky (of MaxSpeak) and Bob Dreyfuss have a blog, The Populist.

If your educators and representatives won't be responsible, it's up to the pornographers:
* "Utah lawmakers nix comprehensive sex ed, so porn site steps in. The Utah Legislature recently rejected the idea of adopting a comprehensive sexual education program - instead of the state's existing abstinence-only curriculum - so porn site xHamster has decided to take matters into its own hands. This week, the website began redirecting web traffic originating from Utah to a non-explicit sub-site featuring sex-ed videos."
* "Pornhub launches online sex education centre because no-one else is doing it. . The world's largest porn site has launched a centre dedicated to educating people about sexuality and sexual health - because of poor standards of sex and relationship education (SRE). In the US sex and relationship education is often heavily regulated by state lawmakers, meaning that school kids are commonly taught under 'abstinence-only' programmes that do not provide quality advice on protection, avoiding STIs or sexual health in general. In addition, a handful of states continue to maintain laws that ban teachers from mentioning homosexuality." Update: Got a phone call advising me that this is a bit of dishonest self-promotion from Pornhub, who haven't actually provided any sex education and you would be better off looking at Scarleteen for sex ed. The source of that info seems to have been a podcast by Dan Savage, but my attempts to locate it were unsuccessful. I also gather that Pornhub is owned by a company that is trying to get the UK government to use a verification service they provide with which they can block all other porn providers. Not nice people, so phooey on them.

"Teacher's town hall question goes viral: A Tennessee woman confronts Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) about health care reform at a town hall meeting in Murfreesboro, Tennessee."

Marcy Wheeler, "Four Details about Surveillance and the Flynn Ouster: It turns out Trump is on pace to fire a person every week, just like in his reality show. As you surely know, Mike Flynn has been ousted as National Security Advisor, along with his Deputy, KC McFarland."

Indiana without Pence: He left Republicans behind to guard the chicken coop when he went on to become Vice President, but they're already undoing some of his doings. And there's good news and bad news on that front.

Here's a show-stopper: "Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent: Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad - even before anything actually happened. SB1142 expands the state's racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others. But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association - and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what's worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side." Or the police, who sent agents provocateur even back in the days when they couldn't make a profit off of it. However:
* "Arizona leader kills protest bill after widespread criticism" - in other words, protests stopped the anti-protest bill.

"House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can't Be Hacked: Republicans would make it easier to steal an election by killing the Election Assistance Commission."

Pierce, "Pay Attention to This Particular Part of Jeff Sessions' Private Prison Memo [...] Sessions' confidence that the 'future needs of the federal correctional system' will require private prisons is a little unnerving. Remember when 'criminal-justice reform' was going to be the issue that brought bipartisan comity back to our politics? Yeah, that was cool."
* "Two Democratic Senators Voted for Climate Denial Today: Well, with the invaluable aid of Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin, Scott Pruitt was confirmed by a 'bipartisan vote' of 52-46 a little after one o'clock this afternoon."

"White House hints at crackdown on recreational marijuana." Ahh, smells like liberty, eh?

Could there be good news in America's relationships with Russia?

Back in 2002, the first issue of The Black Commentator featured an article called, "Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ," which paid particular attention to a little known mayoral candidate, "a new type of African American politician --- Corey Booker in his first run for mayor of Newark NJ. Thanks in part to this expose Booker was defeated in 2002, but won the election four years later in 2006."

"Washington Post hires John Podesta as columnist."

David Dayen in The Nation, "Behind the Scenes, Obamacare May Be in Grave Danger: Pay attention to the man behind the curtain."
* In These Times, "Putting Wall Street First: GOP Attacks Plan to Help Millions Save for Retirement." I hope no one has any illusions that "conservatives" were ever serious about "states' rights".
* David discussed The Secret Plan to Destroy the ACA & the GOP's Plan to Rob Pensions with Sam Seder on The Majority Report.

"Democratic Leader in Congress Introduces Bill to Help Trump Wage War on Iran: The U.S. is hurtling toward military conflict -- with staunch bipartisan support."

"Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year [...] Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime - yes, really! - through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion."

"Electronic Media Searches At Border Crossings Raise Worry: PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Watchdog groups that keep tabs on digital privacy rights are concerned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are searching the phones and other digital devices of international travelers at border checkpoints in U.S. airports."

Radley Balko, "Man wrongly convicted with bite mark evidence confronts bite mark analysts: Keith Harward was wrongly convicted of a grisly rape and murder and spent more than 33 years in prison. The main evidence against him were alleged bite marks found on the victim. Over the course of two trials, six bite mark analysts said the marks were a match to Harward's teeth. He was finally cleared by DNA testing last year. This week, Harward showed up in New Orleans at the annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference, where he crashed a panel on bite mark analysis."

"Trump's First Terror Arrest: A Broke Stoner the FBI Threatened at Knifepoint: The Department of Justice proudly announced the first FBI terror arrest of the Trump administration on Tuesday: An elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb - and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family."

From Marcy Wheeler, "A Modest Proposal: Ban the Interstate Travel of Kansans."

Sadly, Tom Perez beat Keith Ellison for DNC chair. "The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle: Tom Perez's win wasn't the end of the fights that defined the 2016 primary. It was a pause. [...] After the results were announced, a dozen Ellison supporters - including the congressman's brother, Eric - chanted "party for the people, not big money" from the back of the Atlanta ballroom, with a few cries of "bullshit!" thrown in. While the formal final vote, sealed on the second ballot, was 235 to 200, in a show of unity, Perez was subsequently elected by acclamation. In his first move as chair, he announced that Ellison had agreed to serve as his deputy chair."
* "Our Revolution Statement on DNC Chairmanship Election Results [...] Last night Keith talked about 'bus boy Democrats' - who always want to 'take things off the table' because they don't want to fight. We can no longer accept that. Now is the time to bring it all to the table and to pull up some extra chairs. With Trump and his allies controlling Washington, we have to take it upon ourselves to elect progressives -- even if elements of the Democratic Party are locked in complacency.""
* Common Dreams, "'Incredibly Disappointing': Democrats Choose Tom Perez to Head Party: DNC 'chose to continue the failed Clinton strategy of prioritizing wealthy donors over the activist base'"
* Ian Welsh, "Perez Chosen As DNC Chair [...] Ellison, of course, was the left wing choice, endorsed by Sanders, etc. I'm going to have a lot more to say about the Democratic party, neoliberals, Obama and Clinton later, for now I simply note that the most important thing, for those who control the liberal party, is retaining control over the liberal party. I note also that they genuinely believe in neoliberalism. They genuinely don't want a $15/minimum wage and will only grudgingly give on something as basic (and really, minor to them) as that. They want Americans poor. They want the poor to stay poor. They want the middle class to decline."
* The Hill, "Will Tom Perez bring the real change the Democratic Party needs? [...] Already, many activists have turned their backs on the DNC, choosing to pour energy into resistance and organizing in local communities. The new Perez administration has very little time to show the party will truly change, particularly when it comes to directing money, hiring people, leading a serious effort to reform voting laws and, most importantly, being a real voice against corporate power. If it does not, it will simply wither away."
* Earlier stories:
* "Tom Perez Apologizes for Telling the Truth, Showing Why Democrats' Flaws Urgently Need Attention." He admitted that the primary process was rigged. But soon he was hastily walking it back. But that's not what Greenwald's article is really about. "What drove Bernie Sanders' remarkably potent challenge to Hillary Clinton was the extreme animosity of huge numbers of Democrats - led by its youngest voters - to the values, practices, and corporatist loyalties of the party's establishment. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary war - which was far more vicious and nasty but devoid of any real ideological conflict - the 2016 primary was grounded in important and substantive disputes about what the Democratic Party should be, what principles should guide it, and, most important of all, whose interests it should serve."
* Matt Stoller, "DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez's Bank-Friendly Record Could Kneecap the Democratic Party: [...] Clinton Democrats were, of course, not in charge during the aftermath of the financial crisis; the Obama administration was. And what happened to Clinton was not isolated to her, or even to 2016. The reluctance to take on Wall Street has been a hallmark of the modern Democratic Party - and has served as an electoral headwind up and down the ticket. Democrats are currently debating how to structure themselves as an opposition party. And Tom Perez, a leading candidate for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, has an established record of not taking on the banks; both at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor."

Richard J. Eskow, "Principles for Progressives to Follow on Trump's Ties to Russia" - Don't get ahead of the facts, and remember that the Deep State is not your friend.
* Stephen F. Cohen in The Nation, "Why We Must Oppose the Kremlin-Baiting Against Trump: The Russia-connected allegations have created an atmosphere of hysteria amounting to McCarthyism."
* Glenzilla, "The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook: For aspiring journalists, historians, or politically engaged citizens, there are few more productive uses of one's time than randomly reading through the newsletters of I.F. Stone, the intrepid and independent journalist of the Cold War era who became, in my view, the nation's first 'blogger' even though he died before the advent of the internet. Frustrated by big media's oppressive corporatized environment and its pro-government propaganda model, and then ultimately blacklisted from mainstream media outlets for his objections to anti-Russia narratives, Stone created his own bi-monthly newsletter, sustained exclusively by subscriptions, and spent 18 years relentlessly debunking propaganda spewing from the U.S. government and its media partners. What makes Stone's body of work so valuable is not its illumination of history but rather its illumination of the present. What's most striking about his newsletters is how little changes when it comes to U.S. government propaganda and militarism, and the role the U.S. media plays in sustaining it all. Indeed, reading through his reporting, one gets the impression that U.S. politics just endlessly replays the same debates, conflicts, and tactics."

"Gaius Publius: Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party" Tom Perez just isn't very good at hiding the fact that he's not in it to change the game for the better.

Do you want advice from "Former Clinton Campaign Staffer"? Neither do I! She says, "Moving Policy Further Left Shouldn't Be Assumed Response to Protests: Jennifer Palmieri argued on Wednesday that moving the Democratic platform further left is not the answer to recent protests. The former director of communications for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign made the comments during an appearance on MSNBC with Chuck Todd. 'It is incumbent upon me as an American to stand up and say Donald Trump does not represent what I view America to be," Palmieri told Todd. "And I think that a lot of this energy is not the base, the base is there, but you are wrong to look at the crowds and think that everyone wants $15 an hour.'" Yes, they'd rather have $21 an hour.

In The New Republic, "Obama's Lost Army: He built a grassroots machine of two million supporters eager to fight for change. Then he let it die. This is the untold story of Obama's biggest mistake - and how it paved the way for Trump. [...] As we now know, that grand vision for a postcampaign movement never came to fruition. Instead of mobilizing his unprecedented grassroots machine to pressure obstructionist lawmakers, support state and local candidates who shared his vision, and counter the Tea Party, Obama mothballed his campaign operation, bottling it up inside the Democratic National Committee. It was the seminal mistake of his presidency - one that set the tone for the next eight years of dashed hopes, and helped pave the way for Donald Trump to harness the pent-up demand for change Obama had unleashed.'We lost this election eight years ago,' concludes Michael Slaby, the campaign's chief technology officer. 'Our party became a national movement focused on general elections, and we lost touch with nonurban, noncoastal communities. There is a straight line between our failure to address the culture and systemic failures of Washington and this election result.'"

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

"Unless They Get Serious About it, Stop Calling It 'Pro-Life': We can stop pretending the abortion fight is about 'life' as a general moral good. A freshman lawmaker in the state of Oklahoma has spoken with such candor about his effort to obstruct abortion rights that he has given away the game."

Jon Schwarz in 2007: "Democrats And The Iron Law Of Institutions: Read this if you're driven insane by the Democrats." Especially if you need to be reminded how desperately the Democratic Party would rather lose to the likes of Nixon and Trump than win with a candidate who really doesn't want to see a corrupt party. This quotation, for example, spells out how well they know how to lose: "As soon as McGovern was nominated, party leaders began systematically slurring and belittling him, while the trade union chieftains refused to endorse him on the pretense that this mild Mr. Pliant was a being wild and dangerous. A congressional investigation of Watergate was put off for several months to deprive McGovern's candidacy of its benefits. As an indiscreet Chicago ward heeler predicted in the fall of 1972, McGovern is "gonna lose because we're gonna make sure he's gonna lose"...So deftly did party leaders "cut the top of the ticket" that while Richard Nixon won in a "landslide," the Democrats gained two Senate seats."

"Why 'Bernie Would Have Won' Matters: Following the 2016 election, many supporters of Bernie Sanders spawned a meme: 'Bernie would have won.' Notwithstanding the merits of the argument itself - of which much has already been said - the meme alone is significant: An indictment of the Democratic party establishment. And, just as in the general election, the centrist Democratic Party establishment has failed to grasp the essence of the meme."

"Breakaway Democrats in New York Feel Trump Backlash" - There's the small question of why Democratic officials from the most liberal districts are making deals with Republicans. (There shouldn't be so many Republicans in office in the first place, I'll be interested to see what happens when they realize this.)

Have I mentioned that Andrew Cuomo is a terrible Democrat?
* I mean, seriously. "Marijuana Legalization: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Opposes Pot Legalization On Safety Grounds, Promotes Alcohol. [...] New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo waded into the national debate over drug policy, declaring his opposition to legalizing cannabis and asserting (despite research to the contrary) that using pot leads to the use of other, stronger narcotics. Cuomo has long promoted the alcohol industry, whose donors have bankrolled his election campaigns and whose businesses could be adversely affected by marijuana legalization."

Oh, for gods' sakes! "Dem senator: Russian hacking may have been 'act of war'." That's not the behavior of a responsible adult. Did we declare war on France when we hacked their elections?

"Trump's disapproval rating keeps creeping up," now at 38%, but, "Congress doesn't fare any better. Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers of Congress, have a 31 percent approval rating and 62 percent disapproval rating. And Democrats' approval rating is 32 percent, while their disapproval rating is 59 percent." Way to go, Congressional Democrats.

Macleans interview with Chris Hayes on his book A Colony in a Nation, "America's inherent vice: the prison system: The MSNBC anchor discusses his provocative book on America's criminal justice system, the politics of fear and order, and Trump as a conspiracy theorist."

"With Coverage in Peril and Obama Gone, Health Law's Critics Go Quiet: WASHINGTON - For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over 'Obamacare' is becoming less about 'Obama' and more about 'care' - greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers."

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque, "The ICEmen Cometh: Madness, Blindness and the Anti-Immigrant Cargo Cult [...] Many Americans seem to believe that if you just got rid of Mexican restaurant owners and all the 'illegals' who clean hotels and offices and do other grunt work for peanuts, then somehow, magically, a cornucopia of secure, high-paying jobs will suddenly appear. How this will happen is never made clear; undocumented immigrants aren't holding such jobs, they never 'took away' those jobs in the first place - and their absence won't bring them back."

Back in November, Ryan Cooper started a little series at The Week. The four parts are:
* "2009: The year the Democratic Party died"
* "Why Hillary Clinton lost"
* "How the Democratic Party can rebuild"
* "How the Democratic Party can become a labor party again"

Bill Black, "Andrew Ross Sorkin's Attempt to Make Tim Geithner a Hero"

Dave Ettlin back in The Baltimore Sun, this time with an op-ed column, "How much do we care, America?"

* "Thanks, Obama! [...] We all want to look back with fondness on the Obama years. There are thing to be fond about, and in comparison to President Pig Fucker, the Obama era will be our happy place, but the economic record was, overall, horrible, and not something to be cheered. Our system really demands that people have uninterrupted prosperity from adulthood to retirement, or they're pretty fucked. And a lot of people were pretty fucked by this recession.
* "Rules: This point has been made a thousand times, but when one side decides it's cool to play with 15 players on the field and keeps firing refs until they find one who agrees, the other side doesn't get any points for sticking with 11. Qualified praise about sportsmanship from the Washington Post editorial page doesn't count as a victory."
* "Ending Welfare As We Know It: One of the more maddening things was the victory laps about 'welfare reform' as if getting people off welfare should have been the goal, instead of getting people to not need welfare, which should have been."

Athenae: "'your husband will do anything for you - slay the dragons, kill the beast'."

BuzzFeed Now Looking to Institutional Dems to Police a Phantom Surge of Lefty Fake News

"Federal Reserve Bankers Mocked Unemployed Americans Behind Closed Doors [...] It was hardly the first time these bankers blamed unemployment on the unemployed, rather than, say, bankers. In an April meeting that year, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeff Lacker told participants that 'Several firms told us of difficulty finding adequate workers, because they preferred to collect unemployment benefits or can't pass drug tests.' He reiterated that point in November, saying that in West Virginia he was told by an employment agency that 'unquestionably the biggest problem in hiring skilled and unskilled workers was the inability to pass a drug test.'"

"Peter's Choice" - One of Rick Perlstein's students explains why he voted for Trump. "The answer was thoughtful, smart, and terrifying." (But I saw comments on a thread about this article where readers disagreed with Rick about that.)

"Apology: On Jonathan Chait's Obama" - Let's face it, Chait's centrism and Obottery are just plain demented.

Bernie says Trump is a Fraud

"Then They Came For The Trade Unionists And It Was Time To Step The F*ck Up (Again!)"

"Donald Trump and the Continuing Bush-Obama Legacy"

A good rundown from the Water Cooler at Naked Capitalism.

"The strange tale of a dating site's attacks on WikiLeaks founder Assange: For an online dating site, toddandclare.com seems really good at cloak-and-dagger stuff. Disconnected phones. Mystery websites. Actions that ricochet around the globe. But the attention grabber is the Houston-based company's target: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, whose steady dumps of leaked emails from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign have given supporters of Donald Trump the only cheering news of the last few weeks."

"Is Obama's official White House photographer trolling Donald Trump?"

Our story so far: Labour elected Jeremy Corbyn and suddenly the Labour party was looking competitive with the Conservatives for the first time in years. Then the party leaders got the knives out. "Jeremy Corbyn Allies Hit Back After Peter Mandelson Reveals He Is 'Working Every Day' To Topple Him." You wouldn't think you'd have much standing in a party where you were "working every day" to destroy the party, would you? It's working, though, these guys have managed to drag the party's poll numbers way back down. "But a Labour source told HuffPost UK: 'The idea of Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister and implementing policies that actually benefit the people terrifies the establishment. So it's no surprise Peter Mandelson has found time in his busy schedule of spending time on oligarch's yachts to attempt to undermine him.'"

"Dress Like A Woman"

Trumpgrets. The guy who was glad to be rid of Obamacare but wasn't worried about himself because he has ACA, not Obamacare, is perfect.

Adam Johnson at FAIR, "NYT: Unlike Russian Wars, US Wars 'Promote Freedom and Democracy': The New York Times, in its recent rebuff of comments President Donald Trump made about Russia, seems not to have evolved its understanding of US geopolitics past an 8th grade level. [...] Clearly, Trump's motives in questioning American innocence were anything but liberal or noble. He was evoking America's own sins not to challenge them, but to apologize for those of the Russian president and, preemptively, his own. But the outrage over Trump's comments from pundits and editorial boards did not seek to spotlight his cynicism and its dark implications, but rather to insist that the United States is, in fact, on a higher moral plane than Russia. This is a childish assertion that serves to flatter the ego of American readers while legitimizing their government's crimes." Yes, the problem with what Trump said was not that he said we were killers, but that he didn't seem to mind.

Robert Darnton in the NYRB on "The True History of Fake News"

"30 Years Later, RoboCop Is More Relevant Than Ever: Has there ever been a movie more misunderstood than RoboCop? Paul Verhoeven's hyperviolent dystopian cybersatire was released 30 years ago and almost immediately joined the likes of The Prince, Watchmen, and Wall Street in the great pantheon of works whose points have been completely missed by legions of fans and imitators. RoboCop was intended to be a viciously hilarious attack on police brutality, union busting, mass-media brainwashing, and the exploitation of the working class by amoral corporate raiders. Alas, all too many people only noticed the viciousness, not the targets thereof"

"When Capitalists Go on Strike: It's not just 'money in politics' - capitalists get what they want through structural power over the economy. manufacturer refuses to invest in the United States until the government cuts taxes and loosens 'environmental regulations and hiring rules.' The CEO of a top technology firm flatly states that the $181 billion stored in an overseas tax haven won't come 'back until there's a fair rate.' Despite several trillion dollars in reserves, banks and corporations collectively refuse to make loans or hire new employees."

You wouldn't think you'd have to explain this to anyone, but "Gluing your labia shut during your period is a bad idea."

"Keep It Simple and Take Credit"

Animated map visualizing two centuries of immigration. (Thanks, CMike.)

Works at Whitechapel Bell Foundry up for sale.

RIP: Ed Bryant, 1945-2017, a fine sf writer and a much beloved human being, of Type 1 diabetes, and we were damned lucky to have him as long as we did.
* Professor Irwin Corey, Comedian and 'Foremost Authority,' Dies at 102
* Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica's original Apollo, dies at 71, of pancreatic cancer.
* "Legendary Jazz Guitarist Larry Coryell, 'Godfather of Fusion,' Dies at 73: Coryell, who passed away in his sleep from natural causes, had performed his last two shows this past weekend at the city's Iridium Jazz Club."
* "Mildred Dresselhaus, 'Queen Of Carbon' And Nanoscience Trailblazer, Dies At 86." She was "the first woman to secure a full professorship at M.I.T, in 1968, and she worked vigorously to ensure that she would not be the last." And here she is in the GE ad, "What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like A Celebrity - GE."
* Susan Casper (1947-2017) was a writer and also Gardner Dozoir's partner as long as I've known them, but most of all, she was my friend, and I have many cherished memories of her. I'd known she was in bad shape over the last couple of years and I did phone her at the hospital at one point, but it was still a shock to me to see Gardner's post saying she was gone: "She was an extremely tough woman, and fought through an unbelievable amount of stuff in the last couple of years, but this last illness was just too much for her fading strength to overcome."

This is a pretty ad called "Winter Lights in Tohoku, Japan 4K. At least, I assume it's an ad, because it played before something I was trying to watch. For about three-and-a-half minutes. Which is way too long to have to wait for something on YouTube. Still, it's really a lovely ad, for whatever it's for, which I can't really be sure of, either.

"Astrophotographer Captures Rare Lunar 'Fog Bow' Under the Northern Lights"

Not sure you can get Terry Pratchett - Back in Black without a proxy server, but if you can see it, I recommend it to Pratchett friends and fans. It gave me a good, cathartic cry.

The Chiffons, "Sweet Talking Guy"

19:54 GMT comment

Tuesday, 07 February 2017

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors

Michael Kinnucan in Current Affairs, "Why Republicans Are Impressive:

This asymmetry is what's so impressive about the modern Republican Party. It's not just that they've won, but that winning has put them in a position to enact an extraordinarily ambitious and radical agenda, one which will in the course of a few months destroy pillars of American government that have stood for fifty years or more. If Democrats are ever to be in a position to pass their own agenda (or merely to undo the damage that's about to be done), they need to play close attention not only to how the Republicans won in 2016 - a question over which much ink has been spilled - but to how the Republicans transformed themselves over a much longer timeline into a party that could transform the country when it won.

The lesson is this: in modern American politics, having an ideologically coherent and disciplined party is an advantage, not a liability. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom: during the 2016 primary, many Democrats, especially those who supported Clinton, worried about the 'purism' of the party's younger and more progressive wing: would it force the party to confront a choice between nominating ideologically progressive candidates who would be unelectable and facing mass defections to its left? After all, it was widely understood that candidates needed to 'pivot to the center' to win general elections. Clinton's claim to be a 'progressive who gets things done' was founded on this assumption: the notion was that Sanders' policies, even if you found them desirable, were unlikely to get done because it was too extreme, while Clinton's was closer to the center and therefore more achievable. Yet in 2017 the most extreme political party in decades seems poised to get more things done than any party since the Johnson administration. What's wrong with the conventional view?

The notion that it's easier to pass moderate policies than extreme ones takes its plausibility from the notion of the average or centrist voter. You can read about this voter in polling on policy issues. If your policy is fairly close to the views of the centrist voter, he's likely to vote for you and you're likely to win elections; the farther you get from this average view, the more difficulty you'll have. An extreme candidate will turn off centrist voters for the simple reason that they disagree with him. (It is through this logic that Mother Jones' Kevin Drum mistakenly concluded that Bernie Sanders would have lost against Donald Trump.)

The trouble with this theory is that in modern US politics it is by definition impossible for a major party to embrace policies which are 'extreme' in the sense of 'far from the consensus views of the average voter.' The average voter's policy views, to the extent that these exist at all outside this context other than as artifacts of polling, are largely determined not by any particular factual information about the issues or ideological commitments concerning the role of government but by the policy positions of the major parties. If one of these parties embraces a particular position on any given issue, the 40% of American voters who consistently support that party will come to adopt that position wholesale, while most of the rest will come to believe (and be encouraged by the media's carefully even-handed reporting to believe) that this position is at least reasonable and defensible if not correct. There are very few views so extreme and so indefensible that they can't garner mass support if repeated frequently enough by a major US party - just think of 'global warming is a hoax.'

Or think of the Democratic Party's position on what it calls "free trade", even though it isn't, and even though half the country is in a depression and in despair as a result of these odious policies.

Bernie Sanders' policies were not "extreme" by the standards of most American voters, but the discourse allows them to be called "extreme" because the Democratic Party leadership keeps saying they are extreme, despite the fact that many of these "extreme" policies have the agreement of 70%, 80%, and even 90% of Americans.

* * * * *

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "Dismantling Dodd-Frank -- And More: Candidate Trump promised to take on Wall Street. As deregulator-in-chief, he will be Wall Street's best friend. History teaches us that financial regulations die from a thousand cuts rather than a signifying event. As Cornell University law professor Saule Omarova puts it, 'Financial reform is like a big onion. The more layers you peel off, the harder you cry.' For example, by the time the Gramm-Leach-Bliley law removed the Glass-Steagall firewall between commercial and investment banks in 1999, that separation was already effectively wiped out - by administrative waivers granted by regulators. The 1994 Riegle-Neal Act that formally allowed banks to open branches across state lines came after a decade of states altering rules to undermine local control of finance. Deregulation of mortgage rules that led to the housing bubble rolled out over a 20-year period, spanning Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. And even then, it took the George W. Bush administration's laissez-faire supervision to really supercharge predatory lending. So while Donald Trump, populist rhetoric notwithstanding, promised on the campaign trail and on his transition website to 'dismantle' Dodd-Frank financial reform, he probably won't do it in one shot. He won't even have to do it through Congress. Here's the likely blueprint."

Samantha Bee talks to Lee Gelernt about stopping the Muslim ban.

"Nationwide General Strike Gains Traction, Scheduled For February 17." I do think we need one, but I'm not sure who these people are or whether the timing isn't awfully premature.

President Bannon nominates Neil Gorsuch, who in high school founded a club called Fascism Forever, to the Supreme Court.
* "About That Kissinger Quote Neil Gorsuch Likes..." What does it mean when someone "whose primary credential is his supposed textual fidelity to the Constitution" loves a quote that says, "The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer"?

"As Iran Dumps Dollar, Congress Quietly Slips in Bill for 'Use of Force Against Iran': On March 21, The Islamic Republic of Iran will cease using the U.S. dollar in all of its financial reporting. The decision to stop using the dollar as a reference has been in the works for some time but was expedited after the Trump administration decided to include Iran as one of the seven countries banned from entering the United States. [...] In fact, the United States is already preparing for potential conflict with Iran, the US has introduced H.J.Res.10 - Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution. This resolution was quietly introduced last month with absolutely no media attention in spite of the fact that it 'authorizes the President to use the U.S. Armed forces as necessary in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.'"

"San Francisco police cut ties with controversial FBI terrorism task force: The San Francisco Police Department is suspending cooperation with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs, that have been accused by civil liberties activists of specifically targeting Arabs and Muslims, and violating their First Amendment rights."

The "centrists" always told us we were crazy and paranoid to think the anti-abortion people were after more than abortion. That's why now they are able to be right out in the open about it. "Anti-choice advocate admits to Joy Reid her ultimate goal is to make birth control illegal."

The Bannon White House doesn't want to hear from you, so they are diverting callers. Some techies who worked for Bernie Sanders have found a way to help you contact Trump anyway.

"Obamacare's Unlikely Defenders: The prospect of losing coverage and jobs has jolted a marginalized workforce into political organizing."

Yves Smith, "The Obama Administration Bails Out Private Equity Landlords at the Expense of the Middle Class: Government Guarantees for Rental Securitization [...] So in its waning hours, the Obama Administration gave a completely unjustified bailout to private equity landlords, that Fannie Mae is guaranteeing the income of all but the bottom tranches of Blackstone's latest rental securitization. Let us stress that there is absolutely no policy justification for this. The mission of the government sponsored agencies is to promote home ownership, not to give real estate speculators a 'get out of losses or underwhelming returns for free' card. Even worse, rather than forcing the private equity industry to take some well-deserved lumps for miscalculation, it will encourage them to continue to compete with lower-income prospective homeowners for purchasing properties. That means it will be even more difficult for young people to buy homes. Lambert has pointed out repeatedly in his stats wrap in Water Cooler that real estate markets are suffering from a shortage of homes. Having private equity continue to be on the prowl for lower priced properties that they know they can unload from an economic perspective means that the pauperization of the middle class is now official policy. Even though this guarantee clearly had to have been worked out during the Obama Administration, Blackstone did not make it public until it updated its filing with the SEC this week. It looks an awful lot like the timing was designed to make sure that the disclosure came after the new Trump team was in charge, meaning Obama would be unlikely to face the criticism he deserves, and the Trump Administration would be certain to let the deal stand."

"Donald Trump didn't come up with the list of Muslim countries he wants to ban. Obama did." This is actually a bit of spin, since it was not for the same thing. But: they're not countries that were associated with the 9/11 attackers, they're all countries we've bombed.
* Greenwald, "Trump's Muslim Ban Is Culmination of War on Terror Mentality but Still Uniquely Shameful."

"Army Corps of Engineers Directed To Clear Way For Dakota Access Pipeline: Jan 31 (Reuters) - Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline, U.S. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said in a statement on Tuesday."

"The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion: Conservatives are more likely to support issues like immigration and Obamacare if the message is 'morally reframed' to suit their values."

"The Left Needs to Be a Movement, Not a Bunch of Lobbyists: Democrats have been on a losing streak almost from the moment President Obama was inaugurated and began his program of appeasement and compromise. They lost control of Congress in 2010, and lost the White House last November, because they were not offering American voters a real progressive alternative. For decades now, the party and its elected officials in Washington have been DINOs (Democrats in Name Only). Corporatists as much as their Republican opponents, they have been posing as something different by playing to their base with things like support for gay marriage, support for the unenforceable and purely aspirational Paris Climate Agreement, and support for...um, well, it's actually a pretty short list when you think about what Democrats have been for lately that really rates as progressive. Recall that when President Obama came into office, with a solid Democratic majority in both houses of congress, he had won with a campaign in which he had vowed to restore open constitutional government, to make it easier for unions to organize, to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to kickstart the recession-mired economy with a burst of major deficit spending. He did none of that, and the Democratic Congress did none of it for him either. Obama and the Democrats paid for their lack of decisive progressive action by losing Congress two years later and it's been downhill ever since. Now they've lost the White House too. Unless that party wakes up and realizes that it needs a wholesale makeover, in the form of a return to its progressively assertive New Deal roots, it will lose the Congressional elections in 2018, and it will lose the presidential race in 2020, along with even more state governorships and statehouses (currently 32 of the 50 states are wholly in Republican hands)."

"Hamlet in the Age of Trump: Should Officials Resign When the Government Goes Crazy? This unusual question is presenting itself with urgent regularity as President Trump tries to overturn a wide array of sensible policies in his drive to implement a far-right agenda, including a chaotic travel ban aimed at Muslim immigrants. Yet it's a familiar question to a particular species of government official: those who have resigned to protest deplorable initiatives they disagreed with. The last time it happened on a significant scale was in the early 1990s, and George Kenney was at the epicenter. [...] What should a frustrated civil servant do? In recent weeks, The Intercept interviewed Kenney and the other officials who quit over Bosnia, and to a surprising degree, they generally agreed that dissenting officials should stay in their jobs as long as possible in the Trump administration, working inside the always-powerful machinery of bureaucracy to keep destructive policies from being implemented."

"Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warns, 'It all looks as if the world is preparing for war' [...] 'No problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race,' he continued. 'Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.' Earlier this month, hundreds of U.S. tanks, trucks and troops rolled into eastern Europe as part of a NATO buildup - a move that Russia has rebuked as aggressive Western buildup. Meanwhile, President Trump has reportedly said he wouldn't mind having an arms race and has openly called for America to strengthen its nuclear weapons capacities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said modernizing Russia's strategic nuclear forces is a priority."

"Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Promoting Russian Hacking Story: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh said in an interview that he does not believe the U.S. intelligence community proved its case that President Vladimir Putin directed a hacking campaign aimed at securing the election of Donald Trump. He blasted news organizations for lazily broadcasting the assertions of U.S. intelligence officials as established facts. Hersh denounced news organizations as 'crazy town' for their uncritical promotion of the pronouncements of the director of national intelligence and the CIA, given their track records of lying and misleading the public." It's been pretty disgusting watching Democratic partisans use half-baked talking points and fabrications to try to discredit some of our most reliable reporters of the last 17 years, like Scahill and Greenwald and, yes, sometimes even Hersh. "'It's high camp stuff,' Hersh told The Intercept. 'What does an assessment mean? It's not a national intelligence estimate. If you had a real estimate, you would have five or six dissents. One time they said 17 agencies all agreed. Oh really? The Coast Guard and the Air Force - they all agreed on it? And it was outrageous and nobody did that story. An assessment is simply an opinion. If they had a fact, they'd give it to you. An assessment is just that. It's a belief. And they've done it many times.'"

Chelsea Manning in the Guardian, "Compromise does not work with our political opponents. When will we learn?"

Apparently, the Bannon White House is right about one thing. Turns out the popular president wasn't that popular. Of the last 12 presidents, it's no surprise to see that Kennedy had the highest popularity at the time he "left office" (70.1%), seeing as how he was assassinated and all. But even Johnson (55.1), Clinton (55.1), G.H.W. Bush (60.9%), W (49.4%) and Reagan (52.8%) were more popular than Obama when they left office. Only Ford, Carter, and Truman scored lower. Eisenhower's approval rating was 65% when he left office.

"How Democrats are getting played" - Or so it would seem. So far they are following the same playbook they used to let Scott Walker defeat them. Mass demonstrations are all very nice, but if they don't lead to people going out into the communities and finding a way to talk to strangers about the things they have in common and getting them onside, they end up being worthless.

Michael Hitzik, "Politicians aiming to cut Social Security and Medicare use weasel words to hide their plans. Let's call them on it. [...] We've been particularly wary of plans described as 'fixes' to Social Security and Medicare. As we've observed, these are invariably 'fixes' in the same sense that one 'fixes' a cat. But several other such weasel words surfaced in coverage of the confirmation hearing for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), President Trump's budget director-designate. NPR reported that Mulvaney 'wants to overhaul' Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. CNN said that he 'wants to overhaul' the programs and believes they 'need revamping to survive' - a journalistic twofer! [...] Let's not allow these euphemisms to obscure Mulvaney's true opinions about these programs. He proposes to raise Social Security's normal retirement age to 70 (it now tops out at 67 for those born in 1960 or later), and to means-test Medicare. These are benefit cuts any way you define them. Mulvaney also has described Social Security as a 'Ponzi scheme,' a term he tried to evade during his Jan. 24 confirmation hearing. He said he was just trying to explain Social Security's cash flow, which 'takes money from people now in order to give money to people now.' That's not a Ponzi scheme. Moreover, that's not a full and accurate description of Social Security's cash flow, which collects money from people now and banks some of it to provide benefits for people in the future. (Do we really want a budget director whose understanding of one of America's most important fiscal programs is so vacuous?)"

Did I mention that MaxSpeak is back? (And while I would never say that demonstrations are useless - they're not - I do want to see people do more than just demonstrate. I'm happy to say that whatever made people numb-out over the last 17 years seems to be evaporating, but you still need to talk to people who don't already agree with you if you want to get something done.)

Alice Speri, "The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement: Bureau policies have been crafted to take into account the active presence of domestic extremists in U.S. police departments."

RIP: "Barbara Hale, 'Perry Mason' Actress, Dies at 94" (I liked the picture in this one, but there is a more detailed obit in the Telegraph, and still more with even more pictures in WaPo.) I always did like Della, a rare portrayal of a woman who was smart, competent, and efficient at something beside housekeeping and making dinner. And, of course, I liked it that there was a show on that reminded us every week that the accused is not simply "innocent until proved guilty", but sometimes even actually innocent.
* "Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor who starred in Alien, Harry Potter and Midnight Express, dies aged 77," of pancreatic cancer.
* Dan Spiegle, revered comic artist for almost everyone, at 96. Bleeding Cool has some more art in its write-up.

Dave Langford has posted Tom Shippey's eulogy for Pete Weston at Ansible.

"Should Progressives Let Corporate Democrats Lead and Be the Face Of the Resistance? [...] One of the side effects (or the main effect if you're cynically minded) of the constant and appropriate indictment of Donald Trump's policies is the rapid "disappearing" of those Democratic party actions that set the table for all Trump plans to do. This has two serious consequences. First, it puts neo-liberal, pro-corporate, pro-austerity Democrats first in line if Trump falls from grace and loses the consent of the governed. Which means competing progressive candidates would be mainly out of luck, and if Democrats won, we would likely get back a "fiscally responsible" Democrat who may want, for example, to "trim" Social Security, as Obama tried several times to do, instead of slash it, as Paul Ryan wants to do. [...] Putting austerity-loving Democrats first in line, though, wouldn't make them any more popular than they were the last time, when they lost a presidential squeaker that should have been blowout. And it puts them no closer to control of the House or Senate than they are right now, given their propensity to put up lackluster corporate candidates and kick real progressives to the electoral curb. In other words, putting corporate Democrats first in line to replace Trump is no solution at all from a "real progressive" standpoint - unless, of course, one is fully on board with a promise of incrementalism in a time that still demands rapid change."

Pretty sure the Churchill quote in "How to be a democracy under Trump" is spurious, but it's worth reading anyway.

"Democracy is Not a Team Sport [...] When we are aligned with a particular team, we tend to excuse and rationalize that team's bad behavior, because that team becomes attached to our own ego. We project our beliefs and feelings onto that team and its representative leader. Thus, any attack on the team becomes a personal affront, regardless of the fact that the team seldom cares about us. Consequently, Democrats rarely balked at Bill Clinton's roll-back of welfare, repeal of Glass-Steagall, enactment of an excessively harsh crime bill, passing of NAFTA, and deregulation of the Telecommunications industry. In addition, many Democrats justified or ignored Obama's increase in foreign wars, bail out of Wall Street, expansion of offshore oil drilling, extension of Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy, and promotion of free trade agreements that empower and enrich corporations. There is no direct Republican corollary to the actions of the Democrats because Republicans do not implement policies that would be otherwise considered Democratic. However, what occurs with Republicans is that when confronted with such policies from Clinton and Obama - policies that are inherently Republican in nature - the Republicans reject rather than support them because they originate from the wrong team."

Smart tweet storm by Matt Stoller on how to shape activism.
* Matt Stoller in The Washington Post, "Democrats can't win until they recognize how bad Obama's financial policies were: Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner's Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration's pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump."

Larry E, "Excuses for failures of Democrats continue to come [...] So here's the kicker, the bottom line of what the Clinton campaign and the whole damn self-serving liberal political establishment got wrong: All that talk about the fears and frustrations, all that talk about economic stress, about the loss of things you had counted on, about the loss of hope that your children will have a better life, all that talk doesn't just apply to white people!"

"Game Over for Democrats? [...] Obama created Trump, the man didn't simply appear from the ether. Had Obama acted in good faith and kept his promises to shake up the status quo, end the foreign wars, restore civil liberties, hold Wall Street accountable or relieve the economic insecurity that working families across the country now feel, Hillary Clinton would have been a shoe-in on November 8th. As it happens, Obama made no effort to achieve any of these goals, which is why Hillary was defeated in the biggest political upset of the last century."

Freddie says, "the thing is that we're losing terribly: The thing about the left, whatever that is, is that we tells jokes. That's what we do. And this is what the people who tell jokes can't do: anything else. They can tweet, and they can joke, and they can mock, and they can fav each other's stuff, and they can make their memes and get in their sick burns. But what they can't do is win. All that pride, all that showy pride, that LOLing, that meme-making, that joking, that peacocking, that self-aggrandizing, swaggering style that's ubiquitous in left online circles... it's tied to nothing. No power. No movement. No plan. That's not fatalism. It's barely pessimism. It's a description of the world that, they know themselves, is simply and indisputably true."

Well, maybe using humor to promote a message can have value, as with "The Smothers Brothers: Laughing at Hard Truths." But that was a different president, and a different time. (And they still got kicked off the air for it.)

"It Will be Called Americanism: the US Writers Who Imagined a Fascist Future: From Sinclair Lewis and Philip Roth to Donald Trump's favourite film, Citizen Kane, US culture has long told stories about homegrown authoritarianism. What can we learn from them?"

The precinct captain's guide to political victory. You might need this.

"Signs Democrats Are Rejecting The Gutter Politics Of David Brock & Peter Daou" - I'm not sure I would class Peter with Brock, but I have to admit he has been pretty awful since the beginning of the primaries, and he's still doing it. (Ironically, I noted that in his tweets, he actually took a rare break from trashing voters and pushing the Russian Traitor meme to ask why Senate Democrats weren't standing up to Trump. It was an act of will not to respond.)

"How Author Timothy Tyson Found the Woman at the Center of the Emmett Till Case: With a renewed cultural interest in the 1955 murder that catalyzed the 20th century civil rights movement, an interview with the author of a new book who tracked down the long-hidden woman at its center."

Jimmy Carter in The Onion, "You People Made Me Give Up My Peanut Farm Before I Got To Be President."

"The Best Mary Tyler Moore Episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show" - You can find some of these, or at least the significant scenes, on YouTube if you don't get Hulu. I found the whole of "Oh How We Met on The Night That We Danced", so far.

"Man Photographs Caiman Wearing a Crown of Butterflies in the Amazon"

Kubrick's brainstorms for the title of Dr. Strangelove

OMG, there's an ap for that? Lickster (Looking carefully, I wouldn't say their aim is true, though.)

Nicely done: Blade Runner fan film (11 minutes)

01:14 GMT comment

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

You know the sheriff's got his problems too

Some new guy was sworn in as president. A lot of people expressed their displeasure. A lot.
* What President TrumPence did on Day One and Two and Three.

Obama does good, but:
* "Chelsea Manning: majority of prison sentence commuted by Barack Obama: Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of the most prominent whistleblowers of modern times when she exposed the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama. In the most audacious - and contentious - commutation decision to come from Obama yet, the sitting president used his constitutional power just three days before he leaves the White House to give Manning her freedom. Manning, a transgender woman, will walk from a male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May, almost seven years to the day since she was arrested at a base outside Baghdad for offenses relating to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the website WikiLeaks." But some people, despite being very relieved to see Manning freed, are not applauding Obama. And "Behold the worst reactions to Chelsea Manning's commutation ."
* "President Obama Pardons Oscar Lopez Rivera: After spending more than three decades in a Chicago prison, Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera was among the 64 prisoners pardoned by President Obama on Tuesday (Jan. 17). The Vietnam War veteran, who became the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico after being sentenced to 70 years in prison for "seditious conspiracy" back in 1981, will be released in May."
* However, though even "The US Attorney who prosecuted Leonard Peltier is now asking President Obama to free him," "President Obama won't commute Native American activist who killed FBI agents despite plea from Pope Francis." That should say "who allegedly killed FBI agents," but nevermind. "Ultimately, even the FBI in later appeals admitted it could not be sure Peltier pulled the trigger on the shots that felled the two agents - but insisted the charges against him should stand as an 'aider and abettor.'"

Marcy Wheeler wonders if Assange hasn't come to think that maybe those leaks were from Russian hacks and he could be in the line of fire. She thinks he's being paranoid (or not) about Putin's goons, but Putin is not the only one who has goons. He is in Britain, after all, where people have been known to die with amazing convenience to certain western leaders.

However, someone at HuffPo wants to point to "The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump The Election Is In Plain Sight: Information presently public and available confirms that Erik Prince, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump conspired to intimidate FBI Director James Comey into interfering in, and thus directly affecting, the 2016 presidential election. This conspiracy was made possible with the assistance of officers in the New York Police Department and agents within the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All of the major actors in the conspiracy have already confessed to its particulars either in word or in deed; moreover, all of the major actors have publicly exhibited consciousness of guilt after the fact. This assessment has already been the subject of articles in news outlets on both sides of the political spectrum, but has not yet received substantial investigation by major media." I still am not sure whether anything related to emails affected the election, but if anything did, it was Comey's late October surprise, and not anything to do with the WikiLeaks.

Ray McGovern at Consortium News, "Obama Admits Gap in Russian 'Hack' Case: Oops. Did President Barack Obama acknowledge that the extraordinary propaganda campaign to blame Russia for helping Donald Trump become president has a very big hole in it, i.e., that the U.S. intelligence community has no idea how the Democratic emails reached WikiLeaks? For weeks, eloquent obfuscation - expressed with 'high confidence' - has been the name of the game, but inadvertent admissions now are dispelling some of the clouds."

"Gaius Publius: Who's Blackmailing the President & Why Aren't Democrats Upset About It? [...] Yet a summary of this widely-considered-unreliable dossier appeared in the classified briefing the U.S. intel chiefs presented to Donald Trump. Why? The obvious answer is to blackmail Trump for their own purposes."
* "The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer

Taibbi: "The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point: Have we ever been less sure about the truth of an urgent news story? Three days into the 'Russian dossier' scandal, which history will remember by a far more colorful name, we still have no clue what we're dealing with. We're either learning the outlines of the most extraordinary compromise to date of an incoming American president by a foreign power, or we're watching an unparalleled libel and media overreach."

Matt Taibbi talked to Sam Seder about Insane Clown President and other things, on The Majority Report.

"Booker And The Other Big-Pharma Democrats Have No Excuse. Here's The Vote That Proves It. It's devastating, and potentially lethal, when Americans can't afford life-saving drugs because their elected representatives are in thrall to Big Pharma. It's disappointing when Democrats offer implausible excuses for their votes, as Sen. Cory Booker and twelve other senators did this week. And it's downright outrageous when those same Democrats claim their votes were driven by drug safety concerns, since all twelve voted to lower drug safety standards when they supported the 21st Century Cures Act. If Booker and the others hadn't broken with their party and ignored the needs of the American people, a budget amendment from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar would have paved the way for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they cost far less than they do in the United States. This was a rare opportunity for bipartisan progress. Twelve Republicans broke with their party to support the amendment. If these Democrats hadn't moved the other way, it would have passed. Their betrayal crushed one of the few remaining rays of hope for the millions of Americans whose health and financial security are endangered by the new Republican Congress."
* Zaid Jilani and David Dayen, "Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine From Canada."
* Michael Hitzik, "The 21st Century Cures Act: A huge handout to the drug industry disguised as a pro-research bounty [...] If universal praise for a measure makes your B.S. detectors twitch, you're on the right track. The 21st Century Cures Act is a huge deregulatory giveaway to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, papered over by new funding for those research initiatives. The punchline is that the regulatory rollback is real, but the funding may not be - it's subject over the next decade to annual appropriations by Congress that might never come."
* "Meet Cory Booker's Top Donor: A Right-Wing, Islamophobic, Pro-Israel Outfit That Backs Trump's Extremist Agenda: At a recent town hall, Booker's responses to questions about his bigoted donors were baffling."
* For the record: Hillary partisans in my Facebook feed are railing against "BernieBros" for being upset with Brooker et al. over this Pharma vote.

"DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez Refuses to Support Ban on Corporate Money and Lobbyists: Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics. Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will 'revive President Obama's ban on corporate donations to the DNC' and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred. 'It's actually not that simple a question,' Perez responded, adding that such a move might have 'unintended consequences.' Perez argued that such a ban might impact 'union members who are lobbyists,' though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama's ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency."

"Obama Expands Surveillance Powers on His Way Out: With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama's administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation's intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people."

"Republican Lawmakers in Five States Propose Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest [...] The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic, come in response to a string of high-profile highway closures and other actions led by Black Lives Matter Activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Republicans reasonably expect an invigorated protest movement during the Trump years."

"Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue: Though recreation on public lands creates $646bn in economic stimulus and 6.1m jobs, Republicans are setting in motion a giveaway of Americans' birthright. In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women's healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans' birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens. At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.

"Erik Prince in the Hot Seat: ERIK PRINCE, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case."
* "Scahill: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Donald Trump: Right, well, Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge funder, his daughter Rebekah ran one of the most important super PACs to Trump, Make America Number 1 super PAC. And Trump - and Erik Prince and his mother, Elsa, were two of the largest contributors to one of the most significant super PACs that supported Donald Trump. Erik Prince is very close to Robert Mercer. Prince was also at the "Heroes and Villains" party that Mercer threw in Long Island after the election. And, in fact, there's a picture that Peter Thiel, the right-wing billionaire who destroyed Gawker - a picture of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump and Erik Prince, that Peter Thiel says is not safe for the internet. But it's clear that Erik Prince, through Betsy DeVos, through Robert Mercer and through his very right-wing paramilitary crowd, has the ear of President-elect Donald Trump. And our understanding, from a very well-placed source, is that Prince has even been advising Trump on his selections for the staffing of the Defense Department and the State Department." And Prince wants to resurrect a version of Operation Phoenix. His sister, of course, is President Pence's pick to destroy public education and funnel public funds to religious "schools".

Dean Baker, "NYT Says Davos Elite Are Concerned Because Public Doesn't Buy Their Lies Anymore. [...] The concern in Davos is that the public in western democracies no longer buys the lie that they are committed to the public good rather than lining their pockets. It is nice that the NYT is apparently trying to assist the elite by asserting that they have an interest in "free trade," but it is not likely to help their case much."

* * * * *

Someone called a civil rights icon a bad word, but Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report isn't moved. "Is It Time To Revoke John Lewis's Lifetime Civil Rights Hero Pass?" he asks.

It's not like Lewis has lacked new chances to serve the people this last half century. He's represented a metro Atlanta district in Congress the past 28 years. Ruled by black mayors and the black political class since 1973, Atlanta has billed itself as 'Black Mecca' though for more than half of black Atlanta there's been little to celebrate. Black mayors have relentlessly gentrified the city, starting with the Carter Presidential Library in the 80s, the Olympics in the 90s, and after that demolition of public housing, privatization of the land under it, and the BeltLine project which steals $150 million annually from Atlanta's public schools to build yuppie housing and shopping destinations. Marquee 'development' projects have driven a six figure number of poorer black residents from the city. John Lewis never says a mumbling word about any of this. John Lewis never publicly contradicts the black Atlanta mayors who crack down on the homeless, who line up for the privatization of public property, public transit and public schools. Perhaps being a Legendary Civil Rights Hero puts him above all that.

Supporting Hillary Clinton last year, Lewis spoke out against free health care and free college tuition which many countries grant their young people, explaining that 'free stuff' was just not the American Way. Lewis was also an early member of the Democratic Leadership Council, which irretrievably locked that party into subservience to its one percenter donors.

Sometimes members of Congress can undo historic wrongs. Lewis blew one such chance when he doubled down upon the expulsion of the descendants of black freedmen from the Cherokee nation in which they had once enjoyed voting rights.

John Lewis calls himself a pacifist and never misses a chance to lecture on the supreme utility of nonviolence. But the US Navy is building a ship with his name on it, a 'fleet replenishment oiler' to resupply warships on deployment. Isn't this an 'honor' a pacifist should reject? And shouldn't our Apostle of Non-Violence vote against every arms giveaway, sale and Pentagon budget? John Lewis doesn't. Like most other members of the Black Caucus Lewis votes to fund mass surveillance and re-arm the apartheid state of Israel with depressing regularity.

* * * * *

And here was Politico's view last week of the state of the contest for the Democratic Party chairmanship.

"The Audacity of Obama's Farewell Address" - he can brag all he wants to (the gods know there are plenty of partisans and personality cultists to do it for him), but his real record doesn't look so good. "The true legacies that will be remembered long term will be the accelerating rate of income inequality, the real basis for the growing divisions in America, and the near collapse of the Democratic Party itself."

"The Sanders Conundrum" - Everyone agrees he's got the right message, but is Bernie giving too much cover to the wrong people by sharing a stage with the likes of Chuck Schumer?

"Chuck Schumer, Leader of the Resistance, Keeps Approving Trump's Nominees" 'I looked at their records ... and I think they'd be very good," Schumer said of Mattis and Kelly."

Old Cue Ball, of all people, gets it right when establishment Dems get together: "There were real disagreements about the right course of action. But speaker after speaker said the party's reliance on demographic trends had made it complacent on matters of economic justice. This had cost Democrats not just the presidency, but governorships and hundreds of state legislature seats across the country. 'The Democratic coalition lives in the economy, all right?' former Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville told reporters. 'The idea that somehow it's only white working-class people that live in an economy - blacks, Hispanics, unmarried women, gay people ... they're like everybody else.'"

"Trump Team Targets Iran: Saudi Arabia dominates above all other nations as a supplier of suicide bombers, and its royal family dominates as the world's top financial backer of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, but incoming President Donald Trump has chosen to lead his national-security team, only people who blame Iran and not Saudi Arabia, as being the main source of international terrorism. All four of the persons selected by U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump for the top U.S. national-security posts are committed to replacing the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama's #1 military target, Russia, by a different #1 military target, Iran. Iran has long been the #1 military target in the view of Michael Flynn, the chosen Trump National Security Advisor; and of James Mattis, the chosen Trump Secretary of Defense; and of Dan Coats, the chosen Trump Director of National Intelligence; and of Mike Pompeo, the chosen CIA Director."

"The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative: The Clinton Foundation's long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. Clinton partisans defended the organization's charitable work, and dismissed claims that it served as a means for the Clintons to sell off access, market themselves on the paid speech circuit, and elevate their brand as Hillary Clinton campaigned for the presidency. But as soon as Clinton lost the election, many of the criticisms directed toward the Clinton Foundation were reaffirmed. Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization's clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work."

"How the American Postal Workers Union Scored One of its Biggest Wins Ever: Members of one of the largest labor unions for post office workers are celebrating the success of a three-year campaign to roll back a commercial alliance between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and office supplies retailer Staples that threatened a major advance in the privatization of the national mail system. Coming just before the accession of Donald Trump to the White House, the victory marks one of the most successful corporate campaigns by any labor union during the Obama era." They organized all of the related unions to act together, but more importantly, an alliance outside of the various postal workers' unions: "But the act of solidarity that carried the most powerful punch was the decision by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) to support the boycott. According to Dimondstein, 'There are 3 or 4 million teachers in this country, and in a lot of cities and towns the teachers are given the power to go out and buy school supplies. For Staples, these are customers who come back year after year. This is market power that has real meaning to corporations like Staples.'"

James Kwak, "A Change Is in the Air: There was one moment, when I was finishing up the manuscript of Economism, that I thought someone had already said what I was trying to say in the book." That someone was, of course, John Maynard Keynes in the 1920s.

"Ringling Bros. Circus to Close After 146 Years." Wow. I once spent two weeks traveling with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Blue Show on the west coast. It was a little society of its own and even had some of its own laws. I wouldn't say it was magical or anything like that, but it had its own little dramas and history and culture and I feel sad for the people who had that dream and now will have no place to take it. These people aren't just losing their dreams or a job, by the way - they live in the circus, so they're losing their homes, too.

RIP: Maggie Roche, oldest of The Roches, at 65. The three sisters were quite popular in 1979 when their album came out, and they continued to work until 2007.
* "Clare Hollingworth: The Reporter Who Broke the News of World War II: The veteran British journalist, who scooped the story of Hitler's invasion of Poland on her third day on the job and later unmasked Soviet spy Kim Philby, has died at 105."
* "Mary Tyler Moore, Who Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV, Dies at 80" Of course, she will alwaays be the woman who's voice I hear saying, "Awww, Rob!"

* * * * *

Kim Moody asks and answers the question of Who Put Trump in the White House?


While there was a swing among white, blue-collar and union household voters to Trump, it was significantly smaller than the overall drop in Democratic voters.

While recent voter suppression laws demanding state-issued photo IDs in some 17 states along with the racial cleansing of voter rolls in many states have undoubtedly limited voting for Blacks, Latinos and low-income whites, most non-voters don't vote because they don't see anything compelling to vote for.

At the same time, working-class voter participation has remained low in part because the political parties have reduced the direct door-to-door human contact with lower-income voters in favor of purchased forms of campaigning, from TV ads to the new digitalized methods of targeting likely voters.(12)


It's not that no doors are knocked on or phone calls made, but the algorithm that decides the limited number of actual voters to be visited or called to turn out the vote in practice has meant identifying the better-off part of the population. The Get-Out-The-Vote campaign has become the Get-Out-The-Well-To-Do-Votes canvass. More importantly, the shaping of the political process, already an auction, is being even further outsourced to the profit-making 'expert' firms that provide this service.

In short, despite all the vast amounts of money raised and deployed, all the digital and 'expert' sophistication available to this 'party of the people' and Clinton's allegedly massive 'ground game' force in the 'battleground' states, the Democratic Party as a whole no longer can or tries to mobilize enough of those among its traditional core constituencies - Blacks and Latinos, as well as white workers and union members - to win national and even state offices in these key states.

To be sure, Clinton won the popular vote nationally, perhaps as John Nichols gloated in The Nation by an 'unprecedented' margin that might run as high as two million or more. The problem is that 1.5 million of that can be accounted for from Clinton's margin over Trump in New York City alone.(16) The majorities in the coastal states of California and New York by themselves accounts for more than her net majority; the rest of the country continues to see its Democratic vote stagnate or decline.

* * * * *

"Applying God's Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S."

Collectable Hieronymus Bosch Figurines

Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne, "Mohammed's Radio"

20:46 GMT comment

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Now it looks as though they're here to stay

I remember back in the earlier years of this century there were a few jokes going around about getting rid of the south. I even linked to a couple of them, I understand the impulse that well. Or I did. But right now I'm seeing people discuss things like partitioning the country without even the least bit of humor. I think it's time for this article again, with specific attention to that last map.

One of the loopier themes I've seen on my Twitter feed accepts that Clinton was the wrong candidate but posits that this is because she wasn't a "sensible" candidate like, of all people, Barack Obama. This is a bit like the people who seemed to think that Michael Bloomberg was the perfect candidate. Or maybe they are even the same people, I don't know. After seeing the behavior of Democrats over the last few months, I have no idea how many of them might find excuses to support him, but the simple fact is that he's never been able to rouse much enthusiasm and there's every reason to believe he'd just be another loser. But, as Branko Marcetic says in "Nobody for Bloomberg," the fetish of the elite for "sensible centrism" isn't sensible and certainly isn't popular among voters. Obama didn't win because he was "sensible", he won because he was charismatic and symbolic and anyway everyone was sick of Bush. But on policy, "Despite the certainty of political elites that the path to political success sits directly down the middle - a belief typically based on nothing but gut instinct - there is plenty of evidence that policies typically considered far to the left enjoy broad support." Obama was certainly not being sensible when he referred to people who opposed Social Security cuts - about 90% of Americans - as "the crazy far-left." That's exactly the kind of thing that makes people lose their minds and vote for the likes of Trump. "This is the trend for a whole host of other supposedly far-left policies. Large majorities of Americans believe money has too much influence on politics and want campaign finance reform. 58 percent favor replacing Obamacare with a federally funded health insurance program, with only 22 percent in favor of repealing it with no replacement. 61 percent say the wealthy pay too little in taxes. Just over half think the Obama administration failed to do enough to prosecute bankers. And 54 percent agree with the statement that a 'political revolution might be necessary to redistribute money from the wealthiest Americans to the middle class.' The ideas championed by 'firebrands' like Sanders are not fringe policies to be abandoned in the rush to the center. They are the center."

It's nice to know there is someone showing enough leadership to be talking about what matters. "Bernie Sanders: We need serious talk on serious issues: In my view, the media spends too much time treating politics like a baseball game, a personality contest or a soap opera. We need to focus less on polls, fundraisers, gaffes and who's running for president in four years, and more on the very serious problems facing the American people -- problems which get relatively little discussion. I hope that's what our town meeting on CNN tonight will accomplish."
* CNN Bernie Sanders Town Hall 1/9/17, with Chris Cuomo.

Meryl Streep made a little speech at the Golden Globes that upset right-wingers but generated lots of applause among everyone else. Almost, but James Risen had a real point at the end of December when he said, "If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama."

Norman Solomon, "The Democratic Party Line That Could Torch Civil Liberties - and Maybe Help Blow Up the World [...] Many top Democrats are stoking a political firestorm. We keep hearing that Russia attacked democracy by hacking into Democratic officials' emails and undermining Hillary Clinton's campaign. Instead of candidly assessing key factors such as longtime fealty to Wall Street that made it impossible for her to ride a populist wave, the party line has increasingly circled around blaming Vladimir Putin for her defeat. Of course partisan spinners aren't big on self-examination, especially if they're aligned with the Democratic Party's dominant corporate wing. And the option of continually fingering the Kremlin as the main villain of a 2016 morality play is clearly too juicy for functionary Democrats to pass up - even if that means scorching civil liberties and escalating a new cold war that could turn radioactively hot.

Glenn is absolutely right about anti-Russia hysteria, and his scathing evaluation of Howard Dean's McCarthyism is spot on. Watching this craziness is disgusting. And Glenn is also absolutely right that Democrats need to stop obsessing on Russia conspiracy theories and address the real and present danger of Republicans' plans to destroy our institutions. Now.

Jimmy Dore is right, too, that when even Tucker Carlson can tear you full of holes, you really need to get your act together - and nothing in this whole Russia scare is doing any good for the American people, or even for the Democratic Party.

The Baltimore Sun has William Binney and Ray McGovern saying the Emails were leaked, not hacked, and they certainly have more credibility than all these other "experts".

Leonid Bershidsky has no love for Putin, but even he doesn't bye the Russian hacking story. The trouble with these "security" people who think they know what happened is that they start with inference and keep building. Their stack of assumptions makes the whole story shaky, weak as the foundation is.

Meanwhile, people are working overtime to make Julian Assange look like the villain who gave Trump the election - even at the Guardian, which ginned up some juicy quotes it made up and spread all around the net.

At The American Conservative, the whole thing looks like "Christmas Crackers, Moscow-Style." I just can't help but concur.

And Matt Taibbi says, "Something About This Russia Story Stinks." Well, it does.
* And Marcy Wheeler On the Joint Analysis Review, AKA the False Tor Node Positives Report says, "As I noted here, everyone agrees that the Joint Analysis Report released with Obama's sanctions package is a shitshow (here's the best explanation of why). But aside from complaining about how the shitshow JAR undermines the Administration's claims to have confirmed Russia's role in the DNC hack, no one has tried to explain why the Administration would release such a shitshow report."

Micah Lee checked some data. "The U.S. Government Thinks Thousands of Russian Hackers May Be Reading My Blog. They Aren't. After the U.S. government published a report on Russia's cyber attacks against the U.S. election system, and included a list of computers that were allegedly used by Russian hackers, I became curious if any of these hackers had visited my personal blog. The U.S. report, which boasted of including 'technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by Russian civilian and military intelligence services,' came with a list of 876 suspicious IP addresses used by the hackers, and these addresses were the clues I needed to, in the end, understand a gaping weakness in the report. An IP address is a set of numbers that identifies a computer, or a network of computers, on the internet. Each time someone loads my website, it logs their IP address. So I searched my web server logs for the suspicious IP addresses, and I was shocked to discover over 80,000 web requests from IPs used by the Russian hackers in the last 14 months! Digging further, I found that some of these Russian hackers had even posted comments (mostly innocuous technical questions)! Even today, several days after publication of the report (which used a codename for the Russian attack, Grizzly Steppe), I'm still finding these suspicious IP addresses in my logs - although I would expect the Russians to stop using them after the U.S. government exposed them. [...] I found out, after some digging, that of the 876 suspicious IP addresses that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of National Intelligence put on the Russian cyber attacker list, at least 367 of them (roughly 42%) are either Tor exit nodes right now, or were Tor exit nodes in the last few years."

Barry Lynne in The Washington Monthly, "Democrats Must Become the Party of Freedom: Re-embracing anti-monopoly will reinvigorate American liberty and beat back Trumpism."

* * * * *

"Here's what to tell people who love to remind blacks that Democrats were pro-slavery in the 19th century"

In 1932, about 70% of blacks voted for Republican Herbert Hoover but by 1936 a historic realignment began. Most Blacks were poor before the Great Depression and they continued suffering, even more than whites, during it; black poverty and unemployment rates were about twice as high than for whites. Though Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies did not target black poverty - and Southern Democrats managed to carve out huge, racist exceptions that severely disadvantaged blacks - millions of blacks benefited. FDR's wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, also pushed him toward black equality, earning her the enmity of sexists and racists alike.

As a result of tangible gains, African Americans started voting Democratic. In 1936 71% voted for FDR, perhaps the single most dramatic shift of any group of American voters in a four-year period.

* * * * *

Matt Taibbi, "The Vampire Squid Occupies Trump's White House" - It does seem that Trump is appointing an awful lot of people who Obama should have put in jail.

Did I mention that Trump's expected nominees seem to be mostly people who should have been prosecuted by the Obama administration? Well, they are. And Steve Mnuchin is one of those people who should have been aggressively prosecuted for numerous documented crimes leading up to and evolving from the financial crisis, but funnily enough, he was never prosecuted. Who was the state AG who made that decision? "The Elephant in the Room Is a Donkey (Reflections on Kamala Harris) [...] In other words, how many Democratic leaders wish they had run the general election with Sanders in the lead? Not one. Just listen; you won't hear a single regret. There's no point in controlling the country, as they see it, if they don't control the party as well. Without control of the party, which of their donors would back them? With Sanders jailing Wall Street bankers, where who would pay Chuck Schumer to stay in office? With Sanders in the White House, the current class of Democratic leadership would have to find new donors - actual humans perhaps, as Sanders did - or retire from public life on their previous gains and lobby for a living."
* David Dayen wrote the story on Mnuchin on 3 January, with a follow-up on the 5th, "Kamala Harris Fails to Explain Why She Didn't Prosecute Steven Mnuchin's Bank. Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday vaguely acknowledged The Intercept's report about her declining to prosecute Steven Mnuchin's OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations in 2013, but offered no explanation. 'It's a decision my office made,' she said, in response to questions from The Hill shortly after being sworn in as California's newest U.S. senator. 'We went and we followed the facts and the evidence, and it's a decision my office made,' Harris said. 'We pursued it just like any other case. We go and we take a case wherever the facts lead us.'" But as near as I can tell, her office advised her to prosecute, and the decision not to was made entirely by Kamala Harris.

It's always worth remembering The Powell Memo: A Call-to-Arms for Corporations.

Naturally, Al From is in the Guardian trying to sell more of his snake oil. "Conventional wisdom among many pundits and Democratic strategists is that to win over more of them, we need to offer a populist agenda - associated with senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren - that rails against the wealthy. This thinking would also relegate the growth-oriented New Democrat-Third Way agenda associated with President Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, which I played an active part in promoting, to the scrapheap of history. I disagree. In fact, I believe the opposite is true." What he does believe is warmed-over GOP rhetoric that was a lie when we first heard it, and still is.

And, naturally, Labour is much too busy trying to bring Corbyn down to worry about fighting the Tories, so "Strategy to bring down Unite's Len McCluskey revealed in election campaign document."

"TPP: How Obama Traded Away His Legacy: Donald Trump is preparing to wipe President Barack Obama's legacy from existence. The Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank and protections for the environment and immigrants all are set to disappear in no part small part thanks to President Obama himself and his relentless advocacy for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) right through Election Day."

Paul Street, "Barack Obama's Neoliberal Legacy: Rightward Drift and Donald Trump" - the inauthentic opposition earned us this.

Cornell West, "Pity the sad legacy of Barack Obama: Our hope and change candidate fell short time and time again. Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility." West actually gives Obama more slack than I would.

Gaius Publius, "How Obama Traded Away His Legacy: I'm about to say the obvious, but with so many dots getting connected in this post-election, pre-Trump interregnum, I want to connect just these two and let the obvious sink in. Obama's push for TPP not only cost Clinton the election (among other factors, of course), it very likely cost Obama his legacy - all of it."

Jon Schwarz, "Chuck Schumer: The Worst Possible Democratic Leader at the Worst Possible Time: When Barack Obama leaves the White House, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will almost certainly be elected Senate minority leader - and therefore become the highest ranking Democratic official in America. That's a terrible roll of the dice for Democrats, because Schumer might as well have been grown in a lab to be exactly the wrong face for opposition to Donald Trump." He's got a list.

Torture apologist Alan Dershowitz says he'll leave the Democratic Party if Keith Ellison is made chair of the DNC. Dershowitz has gone full-Likud since 9/11, it's embarrassing.

Hating the poors is universal, even in the UK. Apparently, feeding the poor makes a mess.

"Amicus: Corruption in the White House: [N]o person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state." Zephyr Teachout talks to Dahlia Lithwick about "why the Emoluments Clause is so important, and why Trump's planned violation is a pretty serious affront to our Constitutional history."
* Pierce on the same subject, "If We Tolerate This, What Won't We Tolerate?"

"The Crimes of SEAL Team 6: Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military's special mission units. But hidden behind the heroic narratives is a darker, more troubling story of 'revenge ops,' unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities - a pattern of criminal violence that emerged soon after the Afghan war began and was tolerated and covered up by the command's leadership."

"I've translated this chart of the Davos crowd 5 priorities for 2017 into human language."

"Backpage Shutters 'Adult' Ads Section Following Years of Government Bullying [...] Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer and his associates have been subject to lawsuits, criminal charges, economic bullying, and Congressional hearings - the latest of which will take place today, January 10, before the U.S. Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations - in an attempt to thwart this supposed sex trade. But after proclaiming innocence and pushing back and for several years, Backpage will now - 'as the direct result of unconstitutional government censorship,' its lawyers said in a statement - comply with demands to end its adult-ad section. [...] Last fall, former California Attorney General Kamala Harris tried to convict Ferrer and former Backpage.com heads Michael Lacey and James Larkin (founders of Village Voice media) of pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping. A judge threw out the charges, saying they were unconstitutional and violated federal law, which specifies - under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act - that third-party publishers can't be held criminally liable for the content of user-generated posts. Section 230 doesn't just stop sites like Craigslist and Backpage from getting in trouble if someone posts a prostitution ad there but allows Reddit to exist without its CEO getting charged for every credible user threat, keeps Facebook from being shut down after some 20-year-old picks up a 17-year-old girl there, prevents Craigslist from being found guilty every time someone rips someone off over a used washer, and stops the feds from coming after Reason.com when the comments section contains unsavory content." The claim is that shutting down he adult ads protects children. In fact, it does the reverse.

Rick Perlstein, "He's Making a List: Donald Trump and Richard Nixon have at least one thing in common: They are the two most paranoid and vindictive men ever to win the presidency. Both came to power armed with enemies lists, vowing to seek revenge against those who stood in their way. Both roamed the mansions of power late at night, raving against every perceived slight. Both were caught on tape describing the ways they enjoyed bending others to their will."

Bernie Sanders talks to Amy Goodman on Democracy NOW!

Atrios goes long on Nice Things, and there are eight whole paragraphs here so I'm not going to quote the whole thing, but it's one of the longest things he's written, and he's right: "We're the richest damn country in the history of the world (close enough, anyway). Life shouldn't be so hard. Not against The Data, but the data doesn't really capture what's going on for "the middle class." It isn't that wages are stagnant or shrinking - though that's an issue too! - It's that doing the right thing and having a tiny bit of luck is no longer enough to achieve economic security anymore. Life's a crap shoot from 18-67 (soon to be longer, if Republicans get their way). We're all one medium sized economic hit (including medical) away from the downward spiral. And thanks to that glorious bankruptcy bill, once you get into a hole you're probably trapped there. Bipartisany goodness to make David Broder swoon. 74-25 in the Senate, 302-126 in the House. But the Dems are the good guys! Yah, well, not enough of them and not consistently enough. Vote for Dems and the share of them voting for horrible things will shrink slightly! And it isn't complicated. Thinking that it is complicated is the problem. There are better and worse ways to achieve things, and the wonks can fight it out, but the point is to achieve them. And, really, given how small the nice things budget is who cares?"
* Also a little bit longer than I want to quote all of, Atrios says, "Can't Appeal To The Judges," so, "Fight the agenda. The man isn't going anywhere." Yes, dammit, fight the agenda.
* Damn, he did it again, on "Fissures: One can draw too many inferences from a life spent online, but I see a lot of antagonism towards The Left, and by The Left I just mean people who, before the whole Clinton/Sanders spat erupted, were pretty solidly in the mainstream of the online Left, a group which was the on the left wing of the democratic party, but not exactly planning on leading the communist revolution. Policy positions that I thought were pretty standard fare are now dismissed because they're associated with Sanders, and therefore associated with Berniebros, and therefore the people who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton and therefore the people who are to blame for all of this. There are a lot of assumptions in there (and of course I'm making gross generalizations I recognize), as on the internet no one knows you're a dog. But basically there's a chain of them which goes from support of policy ideas which were pretty standard stuff before the primary means you didn't vote for Clinton which means it's all your fault." Go read the rest.

"Twelve Must-Reads From The Intercept in 2016" - I did miss some of these when they came out.

"The Molly Ivins Alternet Archive


RIP: Peter Weston (1944-2017), of complications of cancer. I first met Pete when he came to DC for his TAFF trip at the 1974 Worldcon, Discon II, and of course have had many encounters with him since, not only at conventions, but in my home in London when he came around to put his head together with the resident fanhistorian. We saw more of him after he was diagnosed and coming around with boxes of memorabilia to give a new home to, as well as background and photos for the final version of Then. He was always easy to get along with and good at infecting you with his enthusiasm, and he is the man who made the Hugos. His last box of fan memorabilia arrived only a a month or two ago. We'll miss him.
* "Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91: Nat Hentoff, an author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 91. His son Nicholas said he was surrounded by family members and listening to Billie Holiday when he died."
* "Carrie Fisher, Star Wars actress, dies aged 60" - You already know what the obits say. Me, I always enjoyed her interactions with Craig Ferguson. But this is where I first saw her. A little different from Princess Leia. And here she was at the AFI.
* Debbie Reynolds DEAD AT 84, while planning arrangements for her daughter Carrie's funeral. Reynolds and Eddie Fisher had been America's sweethearts until he left her for Elizabeth Taylor.
* "Watership Down author Richard Adams dies aged 96"
* I see there were a few I didn't hear about in TCM Remembers 2016, and more in In Memoriam: Remembering Those We Lost in 2016, THE LOST LEGENDS OF 2016: IN MEMORIAM, and In Memoriam 2016. Of course, they'd all jumped the gun, so they missed Carrie and Debbie.
* And they also missed "William Christopher, Father Mulcahy on 'M*A*S*H,' Dies at 84," of lung cancer, on New Year's Eve, exactly one year after the death of co-star Wayne Rogers.

Kevin Smith on Alan Rickman

Russian Photographer Daniel Kordan Captures Breathtaking Photos Of Milky Way Mirrored On Salt Flats In Bolivia

"Bernie Would Have Won." Well, it's just possible he might have.

Live in Munich, 1966, "Yesterday"

18:23 GMT comment

Monday, 26 December 2016

Felicitations of the season

The traditional Christmas links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from the Platters.
* 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

* * * * *

Ryan Cooper in The Week on "2009: The year the Democratic Party died" is probably the best explanation for what happened this November, and I recommend you read it all:

There are unquestionably many factors behind this result. But I want to focus on the biggest one that was completely under Democrats' control. It is the same thing that killed the Republicans of Hoover's generation: gross mishandling of an economic crisis. Democrats had the full run of the federal government from 2009-10, during the worst economic disaster in 80 years, and they did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis. That is just about the most guaranteed route to electoral death there is.


So when the crisis happened, the main thing the political system managed to do was fling money at bankers until the financial sector was stabilized. Afterwards, the idea that bankers might have committed crimes - might in fact have had whole floors of people committing crimes all day long - was simply too big to swallow. So Democrats - many of whom no doubt had plush consulting gigs in the back of their mind - basically looked the other way. No bankers went to jail, and over nine million people lost their homes.

This is not to absolve Republicans of their obstruction in Congress or President-elect Donald Trump or anything else. But the fact of the matter is that Democrats had two golden years to fix the depression, restore the housing market, hold Wall Street to account, and cement a new generation of loyal Democrats, and they bobbled it.

President Obama's spectacular charisma - and his savvy campaign against a filthy rich vulture capitalist in 2012 - papered over these problems to some extent. But for most of his presidency America has basically ceased to function for a huge fraction of the population. Fair or not, the party perceived to be responsible for that situation is going to be punished at the polls.

I have a few quibbles with Cooper - it's not that the party "did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis," it's that they just didn't fix it and didn't try to. Their priority was clearly saving the bankers, despite the fact that these people had damn-near wrecked the world with their criminal enterprise. Everyone down-plays the fact that the reason they "had to" go into court with forged documents in the first place was because they'd set up an illegal mechanism to by-pass the ordinary filings and transaction fees that are required for any sale of real property to take place. The banksters found it too cumbersome to obey the law and record transfers of title, and decided it cost them too much to pay the legally required fees, so they invented MERS to paper-over the fact that they weren't doing it. And the courts were letting them get away with foreclosing on properties where they not only didn't hold the titles but couldn't even begin to guess where they were. Did the Obama administration make any effort to rein this in? No, they did not, and the same criminality is still going on.

And, meanwhile, Democrats are bragging about the fact that Obama cut deficits. He did this by reducing government expenditure, which in part was done by reducing government jobs. Those were jobs that needed doing, and those paychecks were money that needed to keep going out into the real economy. This had nothing to do with Congress - it was all in the executive's hands. Cooper is right about this: Barack Obama's decisions in the early part of his first term were devastating to the country and to the party.

"Majority of jobs added under Obama administration are temp, part time - study" - But you knew that, right? "Jobs that come with access to healthcare, vacation time, the occasional sick day and Social Security and Medicare taxes paid through employers have declined under Obama's presidency. One-million fewer people are working steady jobs than they were at the beginning of the recession, according to a study authored by Lawrence Katz at Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University." I'm old enough to remember when the only people who took part-time and temp jobs were people who actually wanted to work part-time or temp because it fit better into their lifestyle. People who wanted a full-time job looked for, and got, full-time jobs. Some people just weren't suited to that kind of permanent slot, but they've been pushed out of the part-time or temp market by people who are. And today's version of a "part-time" job is very often really full-time or worse, when your time is never your own and employers practice wage-theft as a matter of course. (And yes, the link is to RT, and I've already seen Clinton partisans treat the story as Russian propaganda, even though they must know it's true. Or are they really that dumb?)

"Democrats are wasting no time in repeating the mistakes they made in the 2016 primary. The race for DNC chair is getting heated. Shortly after the election, it looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. He quickly racked up all the right endorsements - Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer and the AFL-CIO and Bill de Blasio. (OK maybe not that last one.) He did the rounds on the Sunday shows, saying all the right things about broadening the party's base - bringing white working class voters back into the fold without losing its progressive, multicultural base. But then things started to shift. The Obama White House was not thrilled with the idea of Ellison leading the DNC - and many of the leaks have suggested that they were uncomfortable with Ellison's identity (he's black and Muslim), more than anything else. Labor secretary Tom Perez jumped into the fold with the White House at his back. And now, Ellison is dealing with opposition research dumps - something of an oddity in a race for party chair."

It was always obvious that the Clinton team was convinced they did not need any Sanders people or any advice from "the left" that supported him. People from the Sanders team tried to help Clinton but no one would listen. They wanted to get out there and talk to people in Wisconsin and Michigan and they wanted to talk about issues and what they got back from the Clinton team was talking points for how to answer the Comey email crap. They were clueless. Naturally, Cenk has steam coming out of his ears about this, and he's right.

"Why Did Planned Parenthood Supporters Vote Trump? A series of maddening focus groups suggest Clinton made it easier for voters to reconcile themselves to Trump. [...] "

"UN Resolution Is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair: It's now even more crystal clear: The world thinks the settlements are a crime. All the settlements and all the world.

"Wisconsin Election Officials Reject Hand Counts After Electronic Scanners Make Big Mistake." Even the judge admitted it was the best way to look at what the real vote had been and what the error rate was, but ruled against hand-counts anyway.
* "Why Clinton Didn't Push for Michigan Recount [...] When Joe Biden said, "Our electoral system is the envy of the world," I'm thinking, he's only been to Kazakhstan then. Because when I'm in London for the BBC, when I'm in Berlin for ARD, their giant station there, when I'm in Buenos Aires, for the big southern South American stations, they are both laughing and terrified of what our system's going to come up with next. No one thinks our system works. When I did the story, The Steal of Florida, with wiping out black men, calling them felons and it was fake, the rest of the world got that story on page one in The Guardian, top of the nightly news BBC -- all over the world, everywhere but the United States. In fact, if it weren't for The Real News Network, I'm not sure much of it would've finally made it through that electronic Berlin Wall."
* For the sake of completeness, Bruce Schneier, in "Auditing Elections for Signs of Hacking", points out that being able to audit machine reports against paper ballots is a national security issue.

"There is more than one truth to tell in the awful story of Aleppo: Our political masters are in league with the Syrian rebels, and for the same reason as the rebels kidnap their victims - money. Western politicians, 'experts' and journalists are going to have to reboot their stories over the next few days now that Bashar al-Assad's army has retaken control of eastern Aleppo. We're going to find out if the 250,000 civilians 'trapped' in the city were indeed that numerous. We're going to hear far more about why they were not able to leave when the Syrian government and Russian air force staged their ferocious bombardment of the eastern part of the city. And we're going to learn a lot more about the 'rebels' whom we in the West - the US, Britain and our head-chopping mates in the Gulf - have been supporting."
* Atrios probably has a better understanding of Syria than most of them do: "As far as I can tell (news reports are sometimes contradictory), we had a program of arming moderate rebels which put a bunch of weapons there and then we discovered that our rebel fighting force wasn't too "moderate" (whatever that means) and wasn't that interesting in fighting for "us." Then we had the Saudis arm rebels and that didn't work too well. Then we tried to cut some sort of deal with Russia and Assad and that didn't turn out too well. We're notionally supporting some "rebels" (yay Star Wars!) against Assad and Assad against some rebels. And now there are a bunch of good liberals making holocaust comparisons (I don't want to downplay what's going on there, but there is a lot of propaganda which makes it harder to really know what's going on there). You know, the usual "never again" stuff. Go read the rest.

The liberal media: "Venezuela Brings Toys to Poor Kids, Gets Called 'Grinch' on CNN."

Just in case anyone gets the idea that Republicans are serious when they talk about the sanctity of elections and the right of the winner to get their wish list, there is North Carolina, where Republicans are so steamed that a Democrat won the governorship that they're hurriedly passing laws to block gubernatorial powers. "First, for weeks after the close election, Gov. Pat McCrory refused to concede to Attorney General Roy Cooper, demanding recounts and alleging, without evidence, widespread voting fraud. It didn't get him anywhere. So on Wednesday, during a hastily convened special session, Republican lawmakers introduced bills to, among other things, require State Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments; slash the number of employees who report to the governor to 300 from 1,500; and give Republicans greater clout on the Board of Elections, the body that sets the rules for North Carolina's notoriously burdensome balloting." They also want to weaken the state supreme court, which has a 4-3 Dem majority.
* Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, "North Carolina Republicans' Legislative Coup Is an Attack on Democracy: The trouble in North Carolina began when Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid, likely because of his support for the anti-LGBTQ law known as HB2. At the same time that voters replaced McCrory with Democrat Roy Cooper, they ousted a conservative state Supreme Court justice in favor of a progressive. That tilted the balance of power on the court to a 4-3 liberal majority, ending an era in which the court's conservatives could rubber stamp the legislature's voter suppression and gerrymandering."
* Someone asked how it is that they have all these destructive plans ready and waiting all the time. Where do they come from? A right-wing think-tank called Civitas. But when I google Civitas, all I see is their own propaganda. Even Wikipedia is just their bumph repeated. But here's Jane Mayer in 2011, "State for Sale: A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012's top battlegrounds."

Hm, I wonder whose idea it was to appoint the CEO for Secretary of State.... Oh, well, at least the prince of darkness is on board: "At the center of the pitch for Tillerson: Richard Cheney and Marco Rubio [...] What's not clear is whether these Republicans are working with Trump's blessing or cooperation - or whether, instead, they are freelancing their own agenda to promote an official they favor for Trump's administration. Rice and Gates run a consulting firm that counts ExxonMobil as a client."

"Yale History Prof Timothy Snyder's 20 Pts for Defending Democracy under a Trump presidency." Some of these look good. Some make me curious.

* * * * *

Paul Ryan is trying to privatize everything, cut taxes for the rich, ban abortion - you name it, he's ready to pass the whole right-wing wish list - so, of course, Democrats are all over the place ranting about the extreme importance of doing something about Russians "influencing" our elections. There are a lot of things wrong with treating this as a priority, given that no one seems to care that we can't even count our own ballots, but there's also the fact that the emails that may have turned the election weren't the WikiLeaks mails, but the ones that were on Hillary Clinton's home server. And, in fact, it's not really the emails themselves, but just the fact that she had them on her own server and Comey kept dribbling out announcements about how he might or might not be doing something-or-other about the server maybe not being appropriate. The WikiLeaks mails, of course, told us nothing we didn't already know, but rather confirmed what many were saying anyway. But Comey's continual hints that there might be a subpoena or something in the future, well, that seemed to unnerve a lot of people. Although even that is in question since the polls tightened a little bit before Comey's infamous last announcement before the election - oh, around the time Hillary called Trump voters "deploraables". But seriously, and I'm not making this up, my feeds are full of partisan Dems talking for all the world like the Russians committed an act of war by (allegedly) telling us that Democrats were actually just what they seemed. Did Putin want Trump to win? Quite possibly. When his opposition seems to constantly be trying to encourage a war between his country and our own, I can see his point. Come to think of it, I don't want to see my country go to war with another nuclear power, either. (Or maybe they just want revenge for this.) But the idea that Russia can be blamed for our ills is a bit far-fetched, or as Juan Cole says, "No, America, it wasn't Russia: You did it to Yourself." Indeed, and since Bernie Sanders pretty much handed Clinton a blueprint for what she needed to do to win, the sheer arrogance of her campaign in tossing it into the fire is all the explanation we need.

So, it seems pretty clear that there's still not much to write home about when it comes to Russian hacks, but it seems most people still haven't learned to read the news for tell-tales. And, as Glenn Greenwald says, "Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA's Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence." Yet Democratic partisans have suddenly developed a touching faith in the integrity of the CIA.

The assumption that it's all about the Russians would appear to fall apart with Craig Murray's Description of WikiLeaks' Sources. Marcy picked this apart, too. And though Bloomberg was not as sarcastic as Murray, they were skeptical about the sourcing, too.

But hey, this story keeps changing by the day. It would be funny if everyone wasn't taking it so seriously. Marcy: "The DNC's Evolving Story about When They Knew They Were Targeted by Russia: This week's front page story about the Democrats getting hacked by Russia starts with a Keystone Kops anecdote explaining why the DNC didn't respond more aggressively when FBI first warned them about being targeted in September. The explanation, per the contractor presumably covering his rear-end months later, was that the FBI Special Agent didn't adequately identify himself."

Marcy Wheeler in The New York Times, "I Despise Donald Trump, but He's Right to Be Skeptical of C.I.A. Leaks," with a further note at her own blog, "16 Words: 'The British government has learned that Vladimir Putin recently sought significant quantities of votes for Trump'," for those who get that reference.

"The DNC Breach and the Hijacking of Common Sense: In the physical world of crime investigation, common sense dictates that the perpetrator of a crime may use any weapon and not just one made in the country of his birth, and that the developer or manufacturer of the weapon most likely isn't the criminal. And yet, those seemingly crazy assumptions are made every day by cybersecurity companies involved in incident response and threat intelligence."

* * * * *

In other stupid Democrat news, there was a move on to convince Republican electors to switch their votes in the Electoral College vote to officially choose the president. The extreme unlikeliness of this time-wasting enterprise just made me wonder how insane people are. There they all were, ignoring the blatant plans the Republicans in Congress and from state to state were making plain for a wholesale destruction of our country, and all they could think about was doing something that held no promise of any useful outcome. (Unless you think fomenting war with Russia is a useful outcome.) As it turned out, two Republicans did switch their votes - one to Kasich, and one to Ron Paul, but four Democrats did - three to Sanders, and one to Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux Nation, organizer and activist against Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline. "Democratic electors in other states attempted to change their vote for Clinton, but they were shot down by state laws. Only one other faithless vote was counted, and it went to Bernie Sanders in Hawaii. That vote was cast by David Mulinix, who said that he would have voted for Clinton if President-elect Donald Trump had not already won the Electoral College by the time that he placed his vote." Except last I heard, that wasn't true, either. Then there was something about Sanders votes being switched to Colin Powell? I don't know, the internet is full of conflicting stories but the bottom line is that the Dem's case for being a "faithless elector" mostly only worked on other Dems.

There is some sign of leadership , going on, though: Bernie Sanders Persuades Trump Voter That She's Actually a Liberal - In 2 Minutes (Watch the whole thing.)
* Jacobin says, "Power and Persuasion: Bernie Sanders's nationally televised town hall spotlighted the type of politics we need to beat Trump."
* "Bernie Sanders' Speech And QnA On Trump's Victory"

And also, Sarah Silverman interviews Bernie Sanders - this was fun as well as downright inspiring.

"The Democratic Deficit: As the dust settles following last month's Brexit vote, elites seem to be coming to the same conclusion about what's ailing the United Kingdom and the rest of the advanced capitalist world: an excess of democracy."

The Hill, "Biden: Clinton never figured out why she was running: Vice President Biden believes Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in part because she never figured why she was running for the nation's highest office. 'I don't think she ever really figured it out,- Biden told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Thursday. 'And by the way, I think it was really hard for her to decide to run.' As evidence, the vice president pointed to similar concerns raised privately by Clinton allies in hacked emails that were published by Wikileaks in the midst of the campaign."

Dean Baker, "The Trade Deal Crusaders: Can They Never Learn? Viewing the unpopularity of failed trade deals as being a problem of messaging is a denial of reality that deserves the name Trumpian. In the last 15 years, millions of workers have lost jobs due to imports and tens of millions have seen weaker wage growth - this is not a problem that will go away with better messaging. "

"Higher Profits for Companies Does Not Translate Into Higher Investment" - Not exactly a news flash, but it would come as news to the Washington press corps.

Diane Ravitch, "Chicago: Charter Schools Do Not Outperform Public Schools, Despite Rahm's Claims: Rahm Emanuel wrote an article in the Washington Post a few days ago, defending school choice (and putting him in the same camp as Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump). He gave the example of charter schools in Chicago to support his claim. But a recent analysis of charter school performance in Chicago says that they do not measure up to the public schools, even though they get to choose their students and benefit from the extra money of philanthropists and hedge fund managers."

Shaun King, "Obama and the Clintons still have no earthly idea why the Democratic Party lost the presidential election: Over the past few days, the Obamas and the Clintons have made a series of statements on why the Democratic Party lost the presidential election to Donald Trump. The statements, if anything, reveal what happens when politicians are isolated from the American public for so long. While some nuggets of truth could be found there - by and large they all severely miss the mark on how and why Hillary Clinton lost. Instead of looking internally at mistakes they made, they continue to look outward - casting blame on anybody and everybody but themselves."

The Wall Street Journal, "Shifting Political Landscape in U.S. Prompts Saudi Arabia to Rethink Financial Strategy: With U.S. political climate unclear, Saudi's sovereign-wealth fund could pause investments."

I get so tired of being told how Obama saved us from the financial crisis. No, he didn't. I explain this to people over and over, I just wish they'd read David Dayen. "Obama Failed to Mitigate America's Foreclosure Crisis: The country's first black president contributed to a significant disintegration of wealth for people of color. [...] Former Representative Brad Miller calls the crisis 'an extinction event' for the black and Latino middle class." David talked about this, and a lot of other things, on The Majority Report.

Hm, this sounds kinda fascist. "'Alt-Right' Trolls Are Targeting DC's DIY Music Houses: The Washington area has a long and mostly proud tradition of houses that lend themselves as venues for up-and-coming bands. But in the last few days, some residents of those houses have become guarded after discovering their homes' names and addresses targeted in online message boards populated by members of the white nationalist movement known as the 'alt-right.'"

Noam Chomsky with Amy Goodman and Harry Belefonte

"Why Russia Shut Down NED Fronts: The neocon-flagship Washington Post fired a propaganda broadside at President Putin for shutting down the Russian activities of the National Endowment for Democracy, but left out key facts like NED's U.S. government funding, its quasi-CIA role, and its plans for regime change in Moscow, writes Robert Parry."

"Federal Bureau of Prisons Renews Contract With the Company Formerly Known as CCA: So much for the Justice Department's plan to phase out private prisons. The private prison company formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America - recently rebranded CoreCivic - announced Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend its two-year contract with the company, despite recent findings of inadequate supervision and gaps in oversight of private prisons. In August, the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons. The announcement came on the heels of a blockbuster Mother Jones investigation of a Louisiana CCA prison by reporter Shane Bauer, and just one week after the DOJ's inspector general released a report that found shortcomings in safety, security, and oversight at private prisons used by the government. The Bureau of Prisons is a subsidiary of the DOJ." Remember, Obama is still the president.

"Leaked Audio: Dakota Access Pipeline Executive Says 'Election Night Changed Everything' and DAPL 'Is Going Through' [...] 'We now are going into a transition where we are going to have a new President of the United States who gets it. He understands what we're doing here and we fully expect that as soon as he gets inaugurated his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and we'll begin to put [Dakota Access] across Lake Oahe.'

Even many people who voted for Trump are being surprised by cabinet choices that promise the very reverse of "draining the swamp" and cleaning up corruption and crony capitalism. His choice of Goldman Sachs honchos for his cabinet has dismayed some of them, but of course there are others who are gleeful. And nothing makes them more gleeful than something that they know will aggravate liberals, like this here: "Potential Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson Has an SEC Problem: ExxonMobil has been under SEC investigation since "
* Naturally, we seem to be looking at more far-right wet dreams for education: Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools: Among the points that can be made in favor of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's billionaire nominee for the position of Secretary of Education, are the following: She has no known ties to President Vladimir Putin, unlike Trump's nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, who was decorated with Russia's Order of Friendship medal a few years ago. She hasn't demonstrated any outward propensity for propagating dark, radical-right-leaning conspiracy theories, unlike Michael T. Flynn, Trump's designated national-security adviser. She has not actively called for the dismantling of the department she is slated to head, as have Rick Perry, Trump's nominee for Energy Secretary, and Scott Pruitt, the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. That the absence of such characteristics should bear noting only underlines the dystopian scope of Trump's quest to complete his cabinet of cronies. On the other hand, DeVos has never taught in a public school, nor administered one, nor sent her children to one. She is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, a private school in her home town of Holland, Michigan, which characterizes its mission thus: 'to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ.' How might DeVos seek to transform the educational landscape of the United States in her position at the head of a department that has a role in overseeing the schooling of more than fifty million American children? As it happens, she does have a long track record in the field. Since the early nineteen-nineties, she and her husband, Dick DeVos, have been very active in supporting the charter-school movement"

It isn't just Americans who are having a rude awakening, of course. Wherever the neoliberals have prevented the left from rooting them out, the worst elements of the right gain power, and then surprise their own supporters with betrayal. Take Britain, for example. Oh, no one should be surprised that Theresa May is a disaster, but her promises weren't worth anything, either - a habit conservatives and neoliberals alike just can't break. "She steeled herself to call off the expensive disaster of Hinkley C - then meekly waved it through. She vowed to install workers on company boards - then the idea didn't even make it on to a green paper. She promised to stick up for 'just about managing' families, then allowed her chancellor instead to carry on slashing taxes for multinationals. And then there's foreign ownership of Britain's infrastructure. Remember how May promised to scrutinise any proposed takeovers of such strategic assets as water, energy and transport? Well, last week, while the rightwing commentators were diligently huffing and puffing over Gina Miller at the supreme court, another kind of sovereignty was being covered on the City pages. The National Grid announced it would sell a majority of its gas pipelines to a consortium of largely overseas investors, including China and Qatar, and led by an Australian investment bank, Macquarie." Well, Macquarie is a shady little empire that already owns a considerable part of Britain, so why not?

Brave New Films wants you to know that "Almost Half a Million People Are in Jail Awaiting Trial," and the private bail business can keep people in jail who've never committed a crime. They want to do something about it.

"Detroit's voting irregularities spur state audit: Lansing - Voting irregularities in Detroit have spurred plans for an audit by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office, Elections Director Chris Thomas said Monday. State officials are planning to examine about 20 Detroit precincts where ballot boxes opened during the recount had fewer ballots than poll workers had recorded on Election Day."

Policy changes that began to affect workers in the early '70s have meant consistent wage stagnation, but it happened at the same time that Affirmative Action started to be enforced, and that's what a lot of people blamed, because, as MahaBarb put it in "Why People Turn to Dictators," scapegoating is "easier than explaining the real reasons."
* Barb also linked to an Ian Welsh piece I missed, "Living in the Truth or Dying in Lies," in which he says, "It is nice that you don't think that racism and racists get stronger when times are bad, and that people who don't see a pay raise in 40 years are likely to turn to nasty politics, and it is even important that you think so, since your sheer stupidity and blindness makes it harder to stop, but you are wrong. You are, in fact, part of the problem, because problems happen and we need to be able to fix them, and you and your type are making it harder to do anything by muddying the water. The inability to separate partisanship from a clear understanding of the world is at the heart of why we are where we are today. Clear consequences of action and non-action are dismissed wholesale until it is too late to do anything about it."

"Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit [...] The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much - when they caused a ruckus - and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy. That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population - all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction - are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They're going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard - not without reason - as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare."

I know I've said this before, but I've been hearing that whole thing about how demographics will give Democrats a lock on electoral and ideological victory since I was 15, and as old people have died off and babies have reached voting age, things have only moved to the right, state-by-state, and now each branch of the federal government is in the hands of people who really do sound crazier than legislators of the Jim Crow era. And the Democratic response to the issues that affect a considerable proportion of the population is not to address those issues, but to simply cast them as intractable and inevitable facts of nature. Which means only the right-wing gets to provide answers, and therefore solutions. That the answers and solutions are all based on racism, nativism, and sexism may trouble the modern liberal Democrat, but not enough to require them to tell the truth: that these problems are not intractable or inevitable but can be ameliorated by policies geared to relieve the pressures on Americans that make them so desperate to grasp for any solution, even a monstrous one. When only the right-wing acknowledges the suffering of millions and avers that there is a way to fix it, the right-wing is going to be able to take ground that was once held by those with more democratic and progressive impulses. "Demographics Are Not Destiny: Why Democrats were wrong to think that shifting demographics alone would hand them victory."
* As a footnote, some of us were horrified at the way the Clinton campaign took for granted that she owned the black vote. I don't mean simply that they assumed black voters would support the Democrat, but that the black community was a monolith that all thought the same way, and, more, owed their allegiance to Clinton. This despite the fact that there were a number of indicators showing that, as with white Democrats, there were divisions within families, particularly between generations, on whether to support Clinton or Sanders in the primaries. Carl Beijer looked at the numbers back in February.

Someone was remarking that Trump's cabinet choices were so deeply contraindicated that it would not be surprising if Bernie Madoff got an appointment. I said that'd be great, because his time in prison seemed to have given him a new appreciation for just how rancid the financial industry really is. Someone else mentioned that Bernie Kerik also seemed to have gained new insights into our judicial system after spending time inside.

"Intake: Lock them in. Bill their insurer. Kick them out. How scores of employees and patients say America's largest psychiatric chain turns patients into profits. [...] Current and former employees from at least 10 UHS hospitals in nine states said they were under pressure to fill beds by almost any method - which sometimes meant exaggerating people's symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal - and to hold them until their insurance payments ran out."

"Lawmakers Who Owned Bank Stock Were More Likely To Vote For Wall Street Bailout: Study: Do the personal assets of congressional lawmakers affect the way they vote on federal legislation? New data says yes -- at least when it comes to their votes to bail out Wall Street with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars."

The Los Angeles Times says, "Fighting for the progressive cause got a little easier thanks to this Bernie Sanders-affiliated group: Observers say Sanders made a real impact in the races he boosted directly or indirectly - an organization launched with his blessing raised six-figure sums for some candidates - an effect that could multiply if the movement the senator began continues to grow."

I regard tweetstorms as an unwieldy substitute for a good blog post, but Chris Arnade does some great ones. This one starts with, "1. I am now hearing this meme that this country being fucked up ain't the bankers fault," and tears it apart. Along the way, he mentions some old articles he wrote a few years ago - "Here's why Wall Street has a hard time being ethical" in the Guardian, and "Bringing Broken-Windows Policing to Wall Street: The banking industry needs more than regulation. It needs a new culture" in The Atlantic. And when someone asked why he left the financial industry, he linked to one about himself in Business Insider, "A Trader Turned Photographer Admits the Ugly Truth About Numbers No Wall Streeter Wants To Hear"

Ian Welsh believes that "Reagan and George W Bush Changed the World More than Bill Clinton Or Obama [...] George W. Bush had his two terms, and he changed the nature of American government in ways that neither Clinton nor Obama did. Bill Clinton ran Reagan's economy better. Reagan was not smart. Reagan changed the nature of American government more than any President since FDR. Bill Clinton was Reagan's butt-boy. Understand that. Internalize it. He ran the neo-liberal economy that Reagan had created, and yes, he ran it better than Reagan, but he was living in Reagan's world. Obama ran Bush's government. He kept deporting people, deported even more than Bush. He ramped up drones. He kept troops in Afghanistan, he attacked Libya, he kept extending the Patriot Act and AUMF. He was operating in a constitutional order set up by Bush, and he never challenged it, not once. Obama was Bush's butt-boy. Understand that, internalize it." All of this is true, but I believe that there was one significant change of "things", and that's that we now had Democrats essentially championing right-wing policy rather than working to undo it and defend liberalism, and I think that's what made it possible for us to be where we are today. And if Democrats don't take this all to heart, they have no hope of fighting Trump.

"Will The Real Tulsi Gabbard Please Stand Up... Please Stand Up - Her support for Sanders is fairly confusing when you look at the rest of her record.

A friend and I were walking down St. Mark's Place one night when we were stopped by gentlemen standing outside of the big building that had recently been painted blue and opened as a club - what was it called? The Electric Factory? Memory is dim, but anyway, they invited us to come in for free and hear some live music, so we did. The place wasn't terribly crowded and the stage itself was the perfect height to lean on, so I did, trying to read the twisty writing of the band's name on the drum-head. Eventually, between tunes, I caught the bass-player's eye and motioned him over and said I couldn't read it, what was the band's name? And he told me it was "Sly and the Family Stone." They sounded good. Anyway, Sly Stone, The Velvet Underground, Nina Simone and others are getting Lifetime Achievement Grammy's.

* "Larry Colburn, Who Helped Stop My Lai Massacre, Dies at 67"
* "Zsa Zsa Gabor dead at 99 after suffering heart attack."
* "George Michael: Pop superstar dies at 53"

Cool APOD from Hubble, The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi

The Unipiper keeps Portland weird.

"Woman Kyrgyz singer records amazing version of a traditionally male-voiced poem"

Apparently, Marlene Dietrich was a Peter, Paul & Mary fan.

This is a beautiful thing that belongs in my Christmas stocking. I also have a birthday coming up, soon. Of course, I still want this under the tree.

01:59 GMT comment

Friday, 09 December 2016

Meat nor drink nor money have I none

"Barrett Brown has been released from prison; WikiLeaks publishes to celebrate: Today, investigative journalist Barrett Brown has been released from FCI Three Rivers to a halfway house outside Dallas, earlier than initially scheduled. His parents picked him up from the federal prison to drive him six hours to his new residence. Brown's release comes with several post-imprisonment restrictions, including a 'computer and internet monitoring program', a ban on firearms, and forced drug tests and participation in a drug treatment programme. It is as yet unknown how long Barrett will spend at the halfway house."

"Top Trump campaign aide in Michigan guilty on 10 felony counts: Brandon Hall, the controversial west Michigan blogger who served as a key figure in the Donald Trump campaign's organizing efforts across the state, was found guilty today on 10 felony counts of election fraud."

Bernie Sanders says Trump got rolled by Carrier: "In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to 'pay a damn tax.' He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How's that for standing up to corporate greed? How's that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad? [...] Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren't thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be reevaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America."

"There have been just 4 documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election" - Republicans, of course.

"Senate Democrats Have One Shot At Saving SCOTUS - Will They? It is now time for Senate Democrats to take their shot at saving this country from fascists assuming the reins of power in January. It can be done, but it will require them to be courageous and aggressive."

Of course, the death of Fidel Castro has caused the same people who said we should say something nice about Sfalia when he died to tell us that Fidel Castro was without redeeming value. Some would argue there was more to be said for Castro than for Scalia, but never mind that - whatever else you may know about Cuba, you should certainly remember that there is a prison on that island where people have been held and tortured for 14 years without charges. And Cuba does not run that prison. But even leaving all that aside, "American criticism of Cuba on human rights is total hypocrisy, given our history of terrorizing the island."

"Pipeline politics explained: That contentious oil pipeline being built across the Standing Rock reservation's water supply has a revealing history. It wasn't originally supposed to go there!"

"Trump and the GOP Have Massively Unpopular Tax Policies: Even wealthy Republican voters support higher taxes for themselves."

David Dayen in The Nation, "Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin - Profiteers of the Great Foreclosure Machine - Go to Washington: ? Mnuchin and Ross led companies that committed fraud to foreclose on millions of homeowners. Now they will be in charge of the entire US economy. What could go wrong?" If only Obama had put them in jail where they belonged.

Also from Dday, "Donald Trump Is Coming for Your Medicare: The selection of Tom Price to head HHS brings the president-elect into alignment with Speaker Paul Ryan."

"The Dangers of Anti-Trumpism: Silvio Berlusconi's tenure as Italian prime minister shows how not to resist an authoritarian demagogue."
* "Normalizing Trump [...] Berlusconi was toppled the first time by popular action, something that unsettles mainstream liberals, who are terrified of the mob. Of course, a government can fall in a parliamentary system and not ours. But popular action is all we've got. It won't be long before Chuck Schumer and Steve Mnuchin sit down and make some deals. Faced with profound defeat at every level of government, all the Dems seem able to do is re-elect Nancy Pelosi and dream of Cory Booker as their 2020 savior. Booker, who made his political debut at a lunch thrown by the right-wing Manhattan Institute, served on the same school reform board as Education Secretary-designate Betsy Devos, who wouldn't mind destroying the public school system. These are dire times, and it's hard to imagine resistance that doesn't feature millions in the streets."

"Trump May Not Be Anti-Gay, But Much of His Senior Staff Is: President-elect Donald Trump has called himself a 'supporter' of LGBT rights, but his senior staff picks include some of the most virulently anti-gay politicians in the country, leaving LGBT groups uncertain and worried about what path he will eventually take."

Could Trump follow Jimmy Carter's example? So far he is only threatening to prevent Muslims from entering the country, but Carter actually did worse to Iranians. The trouble is that Carter went after a nationality, whereas Trump is going after a religion. Still, was it right the first time?

"How Stable Are Democracies? 'Warning Signs Are Flashing Red' [...] He fears that the minutiae of politics can easily distract from these more fundamental dangers. 'It's not just about what Trump will do to the E.P.A.,' he said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. 'It really is that Trump may try to undermine liberal democracy in the United States.' 'Look, this stuff is already going on in other places,' Mr. Mounk added. 'If there's one task that we have as journalists, as academics, as thinkers, it's to drive the stakes of this home for people.'"

Nate Silver, "Why I Support An Election Audit, Even Though It's Unlikely To Change The Outcome: In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful."

I'm tempted to quote way too much of this scathing indictment of Krugman, so follow the link and enjoy: "Who Lost The White House? [...] But unlike Clinton campaign goons, paid party operatives, and your liberal Facebook friends who play them for free on the internet, Krugman is not a party crackpot - a liberal, yes, obviously, and a Democrat, but also, supposedly, a scholar and intellectual being paid to tell us the truth as he understands it, not to spin some bogus line about how the Russians magically - with Facebook memes! - caused Clinton to flush a billion dollars to raise another billion dollars, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and then not even to have the guts to come out and address her supporters on the night she lost, choosing instead to do what the campaign did all along: send an overpaid functionary to play surrogate on her behalf." Oh, hell, I can't resist one more: "The argument is that something like Obamacare is complex and corporate because that was the only way to smuggle in the benefits without tripping over the obstructionist GOP. This argument would hold more merit if the Democratic Party ever bothered to engage in full-throated advocacy for a real, non-means-tested, universal program which then got whittled down in negotiation. Instead, the party endlessly triangulates against itself, and the few things that squeak through often are worse than the alternative nothing. The real Clinton campaign slogan wasn't 'I'm With Her'; it was 'How About $12.50?' - Hillary Clinton's answer when asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage."
* And at Ring of Fire, "Paul Krugman Pompously Suggests Democrats Turn Their Backs On Working Class."

Matt Taibbi, "The Washington Post 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting: Last week, a technology reporter for the Washington Post named Craig Timberg ran an incredible story. It has no analog that I can think of in modern times. Headlined "Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say," the piece promotes the work of a shadowy group that smears some 200 alternative news outlets as either knowing or unwitting agents of a foreign power, including popular sites like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism. [... Helping Beltway politicos mass-label a huge portion of dissenting media as "useful idiots" for foreign enemies in this sense is an extraordinarily self-destructive act. Maybe the Post doesn't care and thinks it's doing the right thing. In that case, at least do the damn work."

"In the early going, nothing is closer to pure gold than favorable free media exposure." Of course, the Clinton campaign knew this, and knew that while Clinton's own name-recognition and access to big money were already high, debates were free airtime that they didn't want to give Bernie Sanders, and that's the real reason they scheduled only six of them and started them as late as they possibly could.

My feeds are full of my friends screaming about how anyone who voted for Trump should not be understood as anything but horrible people. I understand the temptation, but I don't think it's a terribly productive approach and it sounds to me like they are planning to keep repeating the same mistakes. Meanwhile, here is someone who tried to explain - but anonymously. "Liberals Should Stop Ranting And Seek Out Silent Trump Voters Like Me: I am an urban, millennial woman, and I voted for Trump. Now, I'm afraid to explain my reasoning to an angry, vitriolic left that will not listen to me. [...] I understand many of you opposed Trump and feel afraid and frustrated, or just saddened and confused. I know it is easy to lash out right now. But I don't want to be subjected to vitriolic tirades by people who claim to practice tolerance, then project fury whenever their worldview is challenged."

Leslie Lopez, "'I believe Trump like I believed Obama!': Christian Parenti's Listening to Trump resonated with me on a personal level. Both of my 'Latino' working-class parents voted for Trump, and I don't think we were the only family politically divided this Thanksgiving. Election night, I was exactly like those stunned white people suffering from cognitive dissonance on Saturday Night Live, except I'm not white. I'd enthusiastically supported Sanders, and then reluctantly voted for Hillary - but her campaign did not represent a 'glass ceiling' moment for me. In the mid-90's, while teaching at a Native American Preparatory School in New Mexico, I'd shown my students videos of working conditions in maquiladoras, read Subcommandante Marcos and Rigoberta Menchu, and taught about NAFTA from an indigenous and economic perspective. I later learned that liberalism excluding class and labor had a word - neoliberalism. "

"How to Get Ahead as a Woman in Tech: Interrupt Men." I'm still not sure what the cause-and-effect is, there, but it's always been fairly clear to me that people who are more confident of what they are talking about are also more likely to interrupt and contribute to conversations. Status alone can give someone some of that confidence and also make others less likely to react disapprovingly when they interrupt.

Tom Sullivan on Disaster Progressivism: "The hair-on-fire panic many progressive activists exist in vis-a-vis national politics and the future of the country (and now the planet) reflects the same short-term thinking that leads establishment Democrats to defend their reelection first and the voters second. ("This is the most important election of our lifetimes," etc.) No long-term thinking. Longer-term, the Democratic party is a pushover if progressives will just do the work and stick around long enough to see results from the pushing. Yet a lot of talented activists are unwilling to get their nice, white vinyl souls soiled by contact with the icky party to do that. They consign themselves to irrelevancy. [...] Democrats and progressives seem forever to do more Monday-morning quarterbacking about missed opportunities than thinking three to five moves ahead, never pre-positioning themselves to capitalize on opportunities when they arise. That's what Naomi Klein described in "The Shock Doctrine." Like my roommate, those disaster capitalists pay attention to faint signals and pre-position themselves so they are poised to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. So are progressives going to do that now or just protest after the fact? Because there's a disaster coming, and we'd best be positioned to capitalize on opportunities that will appear suddenly out of nowhere. Better that than complain how the old boys clubs failed to do it for us."

Ezekiel Kweku on "The Skin Game: How to beat white nationalism at the polls [...] The lesson we should draw from Clinton's loss is not that white supremacy is unbeatable at the polls, but that it's not going to beat itself. White people are not going to instinctively recoil from racist appeals, and neither are people of color going to flock to the polls to defeat them. If the Democratic Party would like to keep more Donald Trumps from winning in the future, they are going to have to take the extraordinary step of doing politics."

Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times, "Some revolutions could have been avoided if the old guard had only refrained from provocation. There is no proof of a 'let them eat cake' incident. But this is the kind of thing Marie Antoinette could have said. It rings true. The Bourbons were hard to beat as the quintessential out-of-touch establishment. They have competition now. Our global liberal democratic establishment is behaving in much the same way. At a time when Britain has voted to leave the EU, when Donald Trump has been elected US president, and Marine Le Pen is marching towards the Elysée Palace, we - the gatekeepers of the global liberal order - keep on doubling down."

"The Blind Spots of Liberalism: What an impoverished small town tells us about the dangers of not taking class seriously. [...] This November, the town (and 362 other Placer County, California precincts not unlike it) voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, 51.1 percent to 39.5 percent. But it's hard to blame sexism or racism for Clinton's loss. On Election Day, the people of Placer County also voted for Kamala Harris, a black woman, to be their US senator. Her vote share? 63 percent. And her vote tally? 16,178 more than Clinton's."

Mike Konczal, "Learning From Trump in Retrospect: Trump is unapologetically against trade that harms American workers. I would have assumed he was fighting a straw man here, but one thing I've learned is how a certain class of liberals don't approach job loss from trade with a regrettable sense of the trade-offs, but instead a more cutting sense that Americans don't have any claim on the jobs that go away anyway. It's all for the best, in the long-run. The brilliant economist David Card gave me a useful point here during an interview: the divide among economists on trade is driven by the fact that labor economists study the real effects of unemployment on real people, where trade and macroeconomists treat people as just another commodity."

Rick Perlstein, "Meet the Press: The hustlers, hucksters, hacks, and cowards who helped elect Donald Trump" I was curious, so I did a bit of research on theories about why great civilizations fall. Some scholars point to the danger of overextended militaries, others on overwhelmed bureaucracies. Sometimes the key factor is declines in public health, often caused by agricultural crises. Political corruption is another contender, as are inflated currencies, technological inferiority, court intrigue, rivals taking control of key transportation routes, or an overreliance on slave labor. Others point to changes in climate, geographic advantages won and lost, or the ever-popular invasion by barbarian hordes. None I could find, however, mentioned what may become future historians' most convincing explanation for America's fall, should Donald Trump end up her author and finisher: bad journalism.

Howie Klein, "The Democratic Party's Scourge: Identity Politics: I'm gay. I'm proud that the highest lifetime crucial vote score of any member of Congress is Mark Pocan, a gay men. His score is 98.95. Does he rock! Unfortunately, the single worst voter of all members being returned in 2107 is also gay-- Arizona Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema, whose lifetime score is a an abysmal 36,63. And Sinema isn't the only LGBTQ person at the bottom on the garbage pile. Sean Patrick Maloney, currently making a bid for chairman of the DCCC, is not just a married gay man but also a New Dem Wall Street whore and the proud owner of 5th worst voting record score (45.19) among Democrats."

"A Note on the Taboo Subject of Stolen Elections" - A reminder that we hardly know how a fair election would play out anymore in America, but no one in big media wants to talk about it, so small media will have to do the job.

I'm sad to say that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has announced that it "will cease its activities at the Whitechapel Road site that it has occupied since its move there in 1738." You may recall that I visited the place for a celebration a few years ago and felt it was like I'd walked into Old Fezziwig's Christmas party. I loved having a connection to that place, and those people, and I think very highly of Alan Hughes. This kinda makes me want to cry.
* BBC: "Whitechapel Bell Foundry up for sale."
* Guardian, "Whitechapel Bell Foundry to ring in new era as owner sells site."
* "Whitechapel Bell Foundry: end of an era in pictures"

The Recording Academy has announced that 25 tracks will be added to the Hall of Fame. And some of those artists are even still alive.

I have to agree, Disraeli Gears was the best Cream album.

Interview with Bruce Springsteen on Fresh Air. I'm told his book is really good and he's a great writer with a fascinatingly grim childhood.

I recently discovered Lilo & Stitch, and I love it.

Doctor Who Adventure Calendar, 2016
* Sadly, the cheese advent calendar won't be available until next year.

I don't really remember when Frank Zappa was on the Monkees.

Peter, Paul & Mary, "A-Soalin'"

04:09 GMT comment

Monday, 28 November 2016

Heard it through the grapevine

OK, it's that time of year again, so let's start with a little Advent music. We'll get to the other Christmassy stuff I like to deploy in my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas soon. Remember, it's the darkest and coldest time of the year up here in the northern hemisphere, and we need to light and warm the way. So, just a simple little version of "The Carol of the Bells" to get the feeling.

Everyone is chiming in with what went wrong. what needs to go right, who to blame and who is faultless, people scared to death, or else steeling themselves to face what's coming. As always, there are a lot of people I'd like to smack, but let's start two years ago in the NYT:

Democrats did lose the South, but they didn't lose it because of the Civil Rights Act. Instead of waiting for all those mean old Southern white men to die, Democrats might be better off asking themselves why so many of them were still voting Democratic just 22 years ago.

Nor have Democratic losses in the South been much worse than they were all over the country. To give just one egregious example, Democrats lost the Massachusetts statehouse this year - for the fifth time in their last seven tries.

This is a historic shift. From 1931 to 1995, Democrats held majorities in the House of Representatives for all but four years and in the Senate for all but 12. On the state level, they held their own with (or outnumbered) Republicans in governorships and state legislatures for the vast majority of those 64 years.

It's been a completely different story since 1994, however, and by next January, Democrats will not only be in the minority in both houses of Congress. They will likely hold 18 statehouses and both chambers in only 11 state legislatures.

Suffering a series of historic defeats is not a sign that you're winning. The Democrats no longer please anyone much, neither their depressed base nor the less committed. Meanwhile, Republicans still manage to portray them as wild-eyed socialists. The party does take the White House more often now, but at the state level, and in the midterms, when a third of the senators and all representatives are up for election, the party has been hollowed out.

THE trouble was that the Clinton-Obama strategy got things upside down from the start. Why try to cast yourselves as economic moderates and cultural progressives when the disparate elements of your coalition have little in common culturally, but are all struggling with the same wretched economy?

* * * * *

Max Sawicky (MaxSpeak) on FB this week:

OK, folks. This is the game.

Bernie Sanders is taking the line of resisting the intolerant, warmongering Trump & Co. while simultaneously challenging him to put real money into infrastructure and to write better trade deals, Trump's signature overtures to the working class. Most if not all Senate Democrats are taking the same line.

An alternative strategy would be to emulate what Mitch McConnell did with Obama, to just oppose everything, regardless of whether or not it is congenial to his ideological interests. This worked well for the Republicans, but that doesn't mean it would work for the Dems, since their constituencies and policy priorities are different. It makes for a debate in which reasonable people can disagree. But that's not what's happening.

Justifiable hysteria over Trump's appointments, such as the unspeakable Senator Sessions for Attorney-General, is making rational discussion more difficult. Some are accusing Sanders of collaborationism, 'reaching out' to racist Trump voters, folding in the face of fascism. In other words, they are resuming the Clinton primary campaign of libelous gossip and the failed general election campaign against deplorables.

In this setting, every single Trump voter is irredeemably racist from top to bottom, with no mitigating concerns. As a matter of fact, I don't doubt that many of them are, but to win a national election, Democrats don't need all of these people; they only need a handful. After all, the total margin of defeat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin - the electoral vote difference that put Trump over the top - was less than 110,000. Tiny.

I don't normally defer to authority, but in this case it ought to be noted that Sanders' line is the same as other Senate Democrats, who know more about electoral politics than I do. So some consideration is merited, and the onus of the position should not be put on Sanders alone.

The Clinton line about her defeat is that nothing was their fault. It was all the FBI, Wikileaks, and the media. To be sure, all of those factors exerted a malign influence and any one of them could have flipped the result. So might any number of decisions by the Clinton Campaign. The upshot of the Clinton line is that no course corrections for the Democratic Party are warranted, except in the realm of technical operations. The strategy going forward is to hope for better luck and demographic rescue in the years (decades!) ahead.

The Clintons and their elite cronies are not going away. They want to retain power. Their attacks on Sanders should be rejected by the left; these attacks are an effort to demobilize his movement, which as things stand is The Movement. There is no Clinton movement; there are Clinton elites and apologists. There is no Clinton-led grassroots mobilization against the impending racist, sexist, xenophobic wave led by Trump. The Clinton plan is to hunker down and broker the next neo-liberal champion. Corey Booker, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

There may be good arguments for a stance of wall-to-wall opposition to all things Trump. Let them be made. At the same time, the only impact from stigmatizing Sanders and his followers is to perpetuate the current Democratic sclerosis that has led us into this abyss.

* * * * *

Dennis Kucinich posted on Facebook a letter he sent to the Attorney General:

As a former member of Congress and former chair of the Committee on Domestic Policy, I hereby request you open an immediate investigation of police authorities in Standing Rock, North Dakota for conspiring against the civil and constitutional rights of protestors, in violation of 42 U.S.C., Section 1983, which reads, in part, 'Every person who, under color of any statute - causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law. . . ."

It has been reported that police, as part of a strategy of crowd control, deliberately used water cannons, in subfreezing temperatures, against protestors, subjecting protestors to risk of serious injury and depriving them of their First Amendment right of free speech, the right to protest.

I am requesting that you use the power of your office to investigate this incident, to determine the participants and to take such action to enjoin the offending parties from further violation of the US Constitution and applicable federal law.

Al Franken has also sent a letter to the AG. Obama, who promised to have their back, has been amazingly quiet about all this. Clinton, when pushed, was non-committal during the campaign and has nothing to say on the subject now. Schumer? Don't kid yourself. "Phillips 66, who have financed 25% of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is primarily owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's holding company. Buffett actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton this past presidential election, and has made large donations to Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats over the past several years."

"Father of Activist Injured at Standing Rock Calls on Obama to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Drilling [...] President Obama, has to step in there and stop this. They're drilling now even though they don't have a permit. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked them to stop. The Army Corps of Engineers has said that they were not going to issue a permit until after they did further environmental studies and spoke with the tribe, and yet they go ahead and set all the drills in place, and they continue. They're probably drilling under the river right now, as we speak. And it's a very, very dangerous situation there. And that's just thing number one. Number two is they have to demilitarize the police there. There's no reason that the police should be intentionally trying to kill people, maim people. And this has to stop."

But the citizenry's pressure on local authorities to withdraw from the attack on the protesters, especially in the face of increasing costs to public funds, does seem to be having an effect. "It was not an easy choice to make, Gootkin said. 'I wanted to go and help my fellow law enforcement.' Then, he raised a question that has begun to rattle many communities across America lately. 'I just don't understand where we separated from the public. It really breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.'"

* * * * *

"Slovenia Declares Water A Human Right By Amending Constitution [...] Meanwhile, private corporations like Nestle are expanding their extraction of fresh water, bottling it and selling it for profit. In one particularly horrific example, Nestle is set to triple its water extraction from an aquifer in Michigan only 120 miles from the embattled town of Flint, where residents have not had access to clean drinking water for over a year."

Thanks to commenter CMike for alerting us to this from Jimmy Dore: "Economist Who Predicted Brexit & Trump Brilliantly Explains Capitalism's Collapse"

You would think Democrats would be asking why no recounts with such close losses and contradictory exit polls, but no. In fact, when Jill Stein raises over $4.5m to request US election recounts in battleground states, the Clintonites are all over the net sneering and accusing her of nefarious purposes and "a scam" and advising people not to give money to the cause. Apparently, they got the memo to blame Trump's election on Stein and her supporters and they just can't stop themselves.

We might learn something about this election if we look at the foreclosure map. "The first map is from RealtyTrac, and indicates the states with the largest foreclosure inventory in 2012. The second is a map of the key battleground states. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won these states. In 2016 Clinton lost them. There's a lot of similarities between those two maps. Even in the best economic environment, residential mortgage foreclosure is a long, messy process. The massive wave of foreclosures that hit these regions after the financial crisis had enormous consequences economically. They also had a tremendous, painful impact on the families and neighborhoods of the people affected, directly and indirectly by the foreclosures. [...] I was involved, to a small degree, with homeowners, activists and lawmakers that tried to deal with the issues and problems in the foreclosure crisis, some of which is documented in David Dayen's excellent new book, Chain of Title. As Dayen documents, the government response to the issues was ultimately terribly unsatisfying and at best, had the effect of sweeping the issue under the carpet. The consequences of the government's response played out in this presidential election. [...] How much of an impact would a compassionate outreach have had on these neighborhoods? It's also worth remembering that the people hit by the foreclosure crisis were generally middle class - prior to the crisis they owned homes, held jobs, were members of the community. Where were they by the time the 2016 election came around?"

Bernie Sanders made a speech on Our Revolution - A Future to Believe In, after which he made a statement during the Q&A that makes perfect sense, although Vox seemed to view it with some consternation and TPM completely mischaracterized it, but it was, of all places, in The New Republic that the air was cleared: "No, Bernie Sanders didn't ask his supporters to 'ditch' identity politics," and Salon added that he had done rather the opposite. Sanders himself came back with an essay reiterating his point: "Our rights and economic lives are intertwined. Now, more than ever, we need a Democratic Party that is committed to fulfilling, not eviscerating, Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of racial, social, and economic justice for all."

"Why Some Protests Succeed While Others Fail [...] Since those D.C. protests are coming up, and are likely to be massive, they are a natural focal point for the complicated questions surrounding protest and organization. So I asked several scholars of activism, protest, and movement-building what advice they would give to the organizers, and how their own work fits into their predictions about what could go well or poorly in January. One of the most consistent answers I got was that protesters should realize that protests aren't enough. There's a real risk of catharsis being the start and end of the resistance to Trump: Protesting feels good and righteous, but if nothing comes after then it may not accomplish that much. It's key, therefore, to understand the limits of protests and to put them in a broader activism context. 'There are some people that think that protests solve everything; you just have a protest, it's going to make everything change,' said Fabio Rojas, a professor at Indiana University and the author of From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline. 'That's not true - it is a tool that does a very specific thing, and you have to understand that when you start out.'"

David Dayen, "Democrats: Revoking Trump's Fast-Track Trade Authority Is Good Policy and Good Politics: Trump doesn't need fast track to accomplish bilateral deals, but he could use it to dole out corporate favors."

Bernie Sanders is all up in Trump's face: "Sanders Statement on Carrier and Outsourcing: During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise. Let's be clear: it is not good enough to save some of these jobs. We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned."

"Wall Street and Private Prisons 'Licking Their Lips' Over Trump Presidency: Under Obama, DOJ was set to phase out private detention centers. After Trump's victory, prison corporation stocks skyrocketed."

Robert Reich, "The Democratic party lost its soul. It's time to win it back [...] You might think this overwhelming drubbing would cause the Democratic party to reorganize itself into a very different party from the one it's become - which is essentially a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests that make up the bulk of its funding. Don't bet on it."

"We Can Blame the Voters or Blame the Elite. Only One Choice Offers a Way Forward [...] Which of these characterizations you choose, the first or second above, will determine whether you see the world in "the left vs. the right" terms or "the rich vs. the rest" terms, and also whether you wish to continue the failed American struggle against the elites, or improve your chance of winning it."

"There's a simple reason for Clinton's shocking loss to Trump [...] But the very inconvenient truth that must be absorbed, by the technocratic Democrats of the Obama years and by the apparent plurality of voters who supported Secretary Clinton, is that the Obama administration did not deliver on its promises of hope and change, and broke the trust of many of those (enough, at least, to elect Donald Trump) who were counting on a sharp departure from business as usual following the Great Recession."

It was a mistake to keep saying the economy was so much better when Millions of Americans Are Still Out of Work: "In 2007, before the Great Recession, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. The employment rate - the percentage of all Americans age 16 and older who had a job - was 63.0 percent. By 2010, the unemployment rate had risen to 9.6 percent, and the employment rate had dropped to 58.5 percent. Since then, a weird thing has happened. Although unemployment has fallen back to 4.9 percent - just 0.3 percentage points above the 2007 average - the employment rate has remained stubbornly low."

"Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn't Vote - and Don't Regret It. [...] As for the claims of racism that have dogged Mr. Trump, Mr. Babar wasn't so worried. 'It's better than smiling to my face but going behind closed doors and voting against our kids,' he said."

"Trump's Infrastructure Bill? It's a Trap [...] Trump's so-called "infrastructure" bill is really just a tax cut bill for investors in infrastructure and would do nothing to guarantee that the most needed (as opposed to the most profitable) projects are undertaken."

"Donald Trump was right: THE ELECTION WAS RIGGED. In his favour." Voter purges, voter suppression, and we don't even know who really won until we count the ballots by hand.

One thing I never want to see again is another candidate in which loyalists will with a straight face explain that their candidate can't do what's needed because this particular candidate is handicapped by some trait that is mainly their own and that another candidate would not have. We had a lot of that with Obama ("If he does that, they'll call him an angry black man" - I disagreed, but if they really believed that, why did they think he was the right man for the job?), and now we see that even Clinton's own team knew that Clinton couldn't campaign against Trump as needed, but Sanders could. Nevertheless, they kept insisting that in "the most important election in history", only she could win.

Bill Black, "Hillary's Threat to Wage Continuous War on the Working Class via Austerity Proved Fatal: I've come back recently from Kilkenny, Ireland where I participated in the seventh annual Kilkenomics - a festival of economics and comedy. The festival is noted for people from a broad range of economic perspectives presenting their economic views in plain, blunt English. Kilkenomics VII began two days after the U.S. election, so we added some sessions on President-elect Trump's fiscal policy views. Trump had no obvious supporters among this diverse group of economists, so the audience was surprised to hear many economists from multiple nations take the view that his stated fiscal policies could be desirable for the U.S. - and the global economy, particularly the EU. We all expressed the caution that no one could know whether Trump would seek to implement the fiscal policies on which he campaigned. Most of us, however, said that if he wished to implement those policies House Speaker Paul Ryan would not be able to block him. I opined that congressional Republicans would rediscover their love of pork and logrolling if Trump implemented his promised fiscal policies. The audience was also surprised to hear two groups of economists explain that Hillary Clinton's fiscal policies remained pure New Democrat (austerity forever) even as the economic illiteracy of those policies became even clearer - and even as the political idiocy of her fiscal policies became glaringly obvious. Austerity is one of the fundamental ways in which the system is rigged against the working class. Austerity was the weapon of mass destruction unleashed in the New Democrats' and Republicans' long war on the working class. The fact that she intensified and highlighted her intent to inflict continuous austerity on the working class as the election neared represented an unforced error of major proportions. As the polling data showed her losing the white working class by staggering amounts, in the last month of the election, the big new idea that Hillary pushed repeatedly was a promise that if she were elected she would inflict continuous austerity on the economy. 'I am not going to add a penny to the national debt.' The biggest losers of such continued austerity would as ever be the working class. She also famously insulted the working class as 'deplorables.' It was a bizarre approach by a politician to the plight of tens of millions of Americans who were victims of the New Democrats' and the Republicans' trade and austerity policies. As we presented these facts to a European audience we realized that in attempting to answer the question of what Trump's promised fiscal policies would mean if implemented we were also explaining one of the most important reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the white working class by such an enormous margin."

Brian Beutler in The New Republic, "How to beat Donald Trump" - There are a number of words in this article that I disagree with, but he still thinks running like Bernie will do a better job of beating Trump.

Beat the Press on "Surviving the Age of Trump [...] Most importantly, the people in Congress want to get re-elected. Pushing unpopular policies like privatizing Social Security or Medicare, or taking away insurance by ending Obamacare, will be horrible albatrosses hanging over their heads the next time they face voters. This reality has to constantly be put in their faces. It is easy for politicians to push nonsense stories about eliminating trillions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse. It is much harder to get away with taking away your parents' Social Security check or the health care insurance that pays for your kid's insulin.

So, The WaPo got suckered by a fake news org. "Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group: The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being 'routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.' The article by reporter Craig Timberg - headlined 'Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say' - cites a report by a new, anonymous website calling itself 'PropOrNot,' which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian 'misinformation campaign.' The group's list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute. This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website after it was published on Friday. [...] In casting the group behind this website as 'experts,' the Post described PropOrNot simply as 'a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.' Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group 'to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers.'" We can't even know the name of the executive director? Are we sure this isn't a couple of eight-year-olds in a treehouse? "More troubling still, PropOrNot listed numerous organizations on its website as 'allied' with it, yet many of these claimed 'allies' told The Intercept, and complained on social media, they have nothing to do with the group and had never even heard of it before the Post published its story."

"Democrat Harold Ford Jr. emerging as potential Trump pick." Some of us would argue that Harold Ford was never a Democrat, but the Dem leadership did keep trying to foist him off on us. Then when he would lose, they'd pretend it was racism. But no one wanted to vote for Harold Ford, no matter what color they were.

"Jesse Jackson: Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton: Speaking at President Gerald Ford's alma mater, The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for President Obama to issue a blanket pardon to Hillary Clinton before he leaves office, just like Ford did for Richard Nixon."

Cornel West, "Goodbye, American Neoliberalism. A New Neo-Fascist Era Is Here." I think it's being optimistic to think we will see the back of neoliberalism that easily.
* Hazem Salem has a similar pipedream: "Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster : Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party - the party of FDR - away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers [...] This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump's campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump's success."
* And over at The Baffler, another fantasy that it will all go away: "#RIPMyShillaries [...] Third, the Shillaries. The host of journalists, commentators, pundits, and celebrities who took it upon themselves day in and day out to explain, scrub, polish, promote, praise, defend, and sell Hillary as the best thing that could ever happen to our blessed country, because she had an endemic inability to do what politicians are supposed to do: sell themselves to the public. Presidential candidates, especially those with Clinton's record-breaking funding base, can pay consultants to promote their ideas and promise. We don't need journalists to volunteer to do it for them, and we sure as hell don't need journalists who are taking on double-duty as PR flacks to further their own careers in the liberal punditocracy's cursus honorum from lowly scribe to editor-writer at a highbrow magazine or earnest millennial channel to White House press secretary - or the C-suite at a Silicon Valley unicorn. RIP, my Shillaries. (A new genre seems to have emerged, here, for getting on Ezra's case after his recent performance during the primaries and election season. Another entry is "The persistence of Vox".)

I'm glad someone besides me is disgusted by this guy's version of "liberalism": "Nicholas Kristof's Burden: First class travel and $30,000 speakers fee makes reporting on poverty easier to endure." We have people like Friedman and Kristof representing "liberalism" on the NYT op-ed pages, and you wonder why people hate "liberals".

'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper: Investigatory Powers Act legalises range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services. [...] The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby."

"Alan Grayson Offers A Plainspoken Bill That Allows Americans To Vote With Our Middle Fingers" - It hasn't got a prayer of being taken seriously, but wouldn't you love to be able to vote for "None of the Above" the next time your leaders try to foist off two unacceptable choices on you?

Alex Emmons and Naomi Chance in The Intercept, "Obama Refuses to Pardon Edward Snowden. Trump's New CIA Pick Wants Him Dead. President Obama indicated on Friday that he won't pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even as President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick to run the CIA: Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, who has called for 'the traitor Edward Snowden' to be executed."

David Atkins, "Stop Blaming the Voters: Only the brilliant minds of the establishment could have taken a race featuring a 68-year-old white lifetime civil servant, running against a comically corrupt billionaire real estate tycoon who rides in a gilded elevator to a gaudy sex palace highrise home befitting a Sasha Baron Cohen character, and turn it into a referendum on temperament and multiculturalism instead of inequality."

"The Right Way to Resist Trump: Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi's popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different. [...] The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste."

This is a completely different take on the subject than anything else I've read: "You're still crying wolf [...] Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?"

Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary Economics

Chris Hedges, "We Are All Deplorables [...] I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.

"A New Documentary Explores the Devastating Effects of Drone Warfare on Victims and Whistleblowers [...] I can say the drone program is wrong because I don't know how many people I've killed."

Oh, gods, not this again! "UK to censor online videos of 'non-conventional' sex acts."

RIP: Ron Glass, 71, who played Detective Ron Harris in Barney Miller and Shepherd Book in Firefly, of respiratory failure. And a bright light goes out in the 'Verse. No, I wasn't expecting this, it was mere happenstance that I linked to "The Harris Incident" last time, but perhaps good timing. His former colleagues from Firefly were all over Twitter with tributes.
* Fidel Castro, at 90. Most people forget that even if you see him as a tyrant, he kicked out an even worse tyrant (and the Mafia) and gave his people health care, despite the embargo. Say what you will, but Batista was a bastard, yet somehow the United States managed to make nice with him.
* Scott Eric Kaufman (SEK), blogger at Lawyers, Guns & Money and a bunch of other things. He was funny and much-loved, and I don't want to talk about this now. There was still hope, for a while, that he could recover from the infection that caused multiple organ failure, but on the 18th he posted on Facebook: "I'm dead -- well, not yet. Still sorting it out. But I'm entering an end-of-life facility at the end of the week, to die in Houston. It's been fun, but such fun can only last so long -- time to get to the difficult business of dying."
* Don Waller, who chronicled rock music and was even a punk musician back in the day - but who we remember as a once-active Atriot screen-named Agent Orange. There's a nice remembrance over at Buzzbands with a video of the Imperial Dogs playing, but I can't find an obit with details of age and cause of death. LA Weekly doesn't know either, but they did say, "R.I.P. Don Waller, Influential Music Journalist and Imperial Dog [...] OK, there's his resume. If you didn't know about Don Waller before, the gist of it is that the man made a major, major contribution to what you know and think about pop and rock and American roots music; if you're a fan of any of the above-mentioned stuff, Don's DNA is inside you, whether you knew the man or not."

Spocko's noisy Happy Holidays to Christian Trump Supporters!

You can now get Molly Ivins Letters to the Nation as an ebook.

As a fan of cashews, I have idly wondered why I've never seen them in a shell. Now I know.

The artwork of Dorothea Tanning

"How Many LEGO Would It Take to Build Sci-Fi Megastructures?"

You would think you were on an alien planet if you woke up in the Rainbow Mountains.

Marvin Gaye, live at Montreux

02:14 GMT comment

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The system's not broken, it's fixed

There were things I knew and forgot because for a moment there was a chance to get around them. It's incredibly rare for the incumbent party to win the White House after a full two terms - it's only happened once in my lifetime, and that was Bush1, who turned out to be a one-term president. And much as the public seems to love Obama (who, it must be said, has comic timing that must make hundreds of professional comics envious), they had voted for real change in 2008, and did not get it, and still wanted it. Bernie Sanders had offered that option - a different kind of leadership you really could believe in, because there wasn't a neoliberal record that had to be constantly explained away. He was a wild card. So I guess I got carried away with the idea that we could win, even after my heart sank when I realized there was no chance for Sanders to take the nomination. And even though I still knew, and kept cataloging, the reasons why Clinton was a terrible standard-bearer and a terrible candidate, I was completely unprepared for the fact that Trump actually won.

But wait - this is The Sideshow, and I never take for granted that that's really what happened. On Tuesday night, my Twitter feed was full of people saying, "These exit polls are really messed up," but there were no links, there was no data, and I couldn't find anything about them. We know that we can't expect transparency from the voting machines - we simply can't trust them. We know that Voter ID laws stopped some people from voting and had a deterrent effect on others. But we also know that voting was depressed - voter ID laws stopped both white and black poorer people from voting in some states, and so did pulling legitimate voters off the rolls. But millions of people who showed up for Obama did not show up Tuesday, even in states that didn't have new voting restrictions. Nevertheless, I know that yes, our elections can be stolen. I assumed all along that the Republicans (who own the machines) wouldn't bother to use that strategy against Clinton because a lot of the GOPs bigwig funders seemed to know Clinton was the real Republican in the race, but it seems they all got on board in the end, so I don't know. And it would appear that the red shift keeps on happening. We won't know what's really going on unless we have paper ballots, hand-counted in full public view on the night.

Still, I think the best explanation for how Trump won was that his opposition was a candidate who as much as promised that people would not get the change from her that they wanted, and that they were childish to want that change - and whose principle campaign argument for her election was that she wasn't Trump. This is never a winning strategy for Democrats. The candidate who admitted that things were bad and needed to be fixed was Trump. Trump had the message of hope and change, and Hillary was the candidate of fear.

So let's hear it for the one lefty who told us months ago why Trump would win: Michael Moore. Nobody listened, but he was right.
* And here was Moore after the election, saying it again on Morning Joe.

Al Gore said the people usually get it right. For all I know, maybe they did. God knows those smug, self-satisfied "centrist" elites who've been running the Democratic Party needed a wake-up call. And much as it terrifies me to think that we really will have President Pence, appointing GOP crackpots to head our agencies, I can't help but notice that in the last few days, Trump has been backing off of some of his most odious campaign policies, and the week before the election, there was this at Reuters: "Trump calls for '21st century' Glass-Steagall banking law." Right? The Republican called for a new Glass-Steagall. Believe me, it would not hurt to see that happen.

What was the disheartening message on my feeds on Wednesday morning? That Clinton Democrats were unfriending any Sanders supporter who expressed their own bitterness about the results, who said, "I told you so," who said, "Bernie would have won." Well, maybe he would have and maybe he wouldn't have - it appears that the polls were right all along - but the fact is that after nearly two years of being told that Clinton was the inevitable next president, the sure thing, and anyone who wanted a different candidate was just being childish, selfish, and "privileged", they're entitled to. (Oddly, The Washington Post let Freddie deBoer say, "Hillary Clinton lost. Bernie Sanders could have won." Tuesday night, Krugman was in my Twitter feed blaming it all on Jill Stein, whose poll numbers were so low she might as well not have been there. That Nader fever just keeps infecting some people.)

There are still plenty of Clintonites making embarrassing arguments about why Trump won. Lambert Strether debunks some of the most popular ones over at Naked Capitalism. (Just for the record, I really get upset when people write off election results they don't like as "the public is stupid". The public is often a lot smarter than our highly-educated technocrats, and they seem to know what's going on a lot better than the "smart" people do. And, as I said privately to Matt Stoller, it's almost funny listening to people who love Obama talk about how Trump voters were taken in by a con man.)

Anyway, the net is full of recriminations and even self-recriminations, like this one from David Plouffe: "What I Got Wrong About the Election," He has a list of things he got wrong, but I really think this is the one that mattered most: "IT REALLY WAS A CHANGE ELECTION The voters were serious about that. And there was only one change candidate."

And speaking of recriminations, go Zach, whoever you are. "DNC Staffer Screams At Donna Brazile For Helping Elect Donald Trump [...] 'Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this?' he asked, according to two people in the room. 'You backed a flawed candidate, and your friend [former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz] plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself. You are part of the problem,' he continued, blaming Brazile for clearing the path for Trump's victory by siding with Clinton early on. 'You and your friends will die of old age and I'm going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.'"

And from the old socialist Jew himself, "Trump Won Because Democratic Party Failed Working People, Says Sanders: Adding his voice to the chorus of condemnation heaped on the Democratic Party in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday attributed the Republican win to the failure of the liberal elite to represent working people. 'It is an embarrassment, I think, to the entire of [the] Democratic Party that millions of white working-class people decided to vote for Mr. Trump, which suggests that the Democratic message of standing up for working people no longer holds much sway among workers in this country,' the progressive senator and one-time presidential candidate told the Associated Press. 'You cannot be a party which on one hand says we're in favor of working people, we're in favor of the needs of young people but we don't quite have the courage to take on Wall Street and the billionaire class,' he continued. 'People do not believe that. You've got to decide which side you're on.'"

Matt Taibbi, "President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong: Journalists and politicians blew off the warning signs of a Trump presidency - now, we all must pay the price [...] The almost universal failure among political pros to predict Trump's victory - the few exceptions, conspicuously, were people who hailed from rust-belt states, like Michael Moore - spoke to an astonishing cultural blindness. Those of us whose job it is to cover campaigns long ago grew accustomed to treating The People as a kind of dumb animal, whose behavior could sometimes be unpredictable but, in the end, almost always did what it was told. [...] These elites lived in both parties, Trump warned. The Republicans were tools of job-exporting fat cats who only pretended to be tough on immigration and trade in order to win votes, when all they really cared about were profits. The Democrats were tools of the same interests, who subsisted politically on the captured votes of hoodwinked minorities, preaching multiculturalism while practicing globalism. Both groups, Trump insisted, were out of touch with the real American voter. Neither party saw the awesome potential of this story to upend our political system."

Jonathan Pie Tells Liberals Why Trump Won. He's never work-safe, but he says a lot that's true.

Richard J. Eskow and Mike Lux both did useful post-mortems.

It's pretty disgusting watching people killing themselves to insist that the sole takeaway from the election result is that well-to-do whites voted for Trump only because they are racist and sexist, and that no other factor was involved. The demographic that broke most strongly for trump made $50K-$70K - not poor, but certainly not rich. They may make more than the median, but these are the people who can't afford to send their kids to college and know the only way to do it is see them saddled with crushing debt. They aren't people who have helicopter pads, and they probably don't even have a pool. They aren't simply looking at an imaginary loss of status because being white doesn't make them better than blacks anymore, they are looking at a world of real, material loss. They remember when they were young and they were able to find jobs that had real hours and a straight salary and they could plan an evening out in advance, and their kids can't because their employer won't give them a reliable schedule and might just call them up at a moment's notice to come in to work. They remember a time when it was possible to say, "Take this job and shove it," because it was a reasonable expectation that you could walk away and find something better. They remember that yes, even black teenagers could get a job and rent an apartment and know that the job would cover the rent every month - hell, cover the rent in the first week of the month - and now their kids can't possibly find a place where they can expect that they will get enough hours this month to pay the rent when it comes due. They started with the same dream their parents had, to make life better for their kids, to give them those things they never had - and now they know they can't even giv