Wednesday, January 11, 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."

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"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

Press release for the Age of Twitter: "CONGRESSMAN LIEU STATEMENT ON THE CONFIRMATION HEARING OF REX TILLERSON: #RexTillersonKnew."

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"

Monday, December 26, 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

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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.

RIP:
* "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.

Friday, December 9, 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'"