Thursday, July 9, 2020

It's always the living that are haunting my nights

The Onion, "Nancy Pelosi Calls Jamaal Bowman To Scold Him For Winning Primary: WASHINGTON—Following the progressive challenger's victory over 16-term incumbent Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi phoned Jamaal Bowman to scold him for winning his primary race, sources confirmed Wednesday. 'I just wanted to call and personally reprimand you for your victory,' said Pelosi, extending her sincerest indignation to the former Bronx middle school educator, who is expected to easily win the general election in his heavily Democratic congressional district. 'I understand there are some mail-in ballots that still need to be counted, but it appears you won big last night and energized a lot of first-time voters and young people we absolutely did not want voting in this primary. So allow me to extend my sincerest fuck-you for everything you've done. Obviously, we're going to be working together soon, so I look forward to crushing you the first chance I get.' Pelosi added that when things became official in November, she would call again to express how frustrated she was to welcome Bowman to Congress."

Photo: Heroic MA Senator protects his constituents: "This is my favorite photo of Senator Ed Markey. He's the guy in the middle of the photo in the dorky shirt. This United States Senator showed up at the #SayHerName BLM protest in Boston yesterday to bear witness and be an ally. See how he's standing alone, listening respectfully to the speakers? He did that *the entire event*. Markey did not take a mic. He only spoke to reporters when they approached him. He did not have an entourage. None of the marshals were assigned to keep an eye on him. He just showed up, took a knee, and marched behind the POC who organized the event. What he did do, was use his presence to keep the people at that event safe. You better believe Boston Police knew a United States Senator was walking in the noisy, unruly mob that was our protest yesterday. And not one cop hassled us. Not one White Supremist made a run at us. Markey quietly used his presence to protect his constituents. And THAT, ladies and gentlemen is how a true public servant behaves. Vote to re-elect Senator Ed Markey on September 1."

"In Colorado, Progressives Had A Chance At Real Power. They Let It Go.: John Hickenlooper swept the Democratic Senate nomination with little fight from the left. [...] Hickenlooper, the popular former governor and failed 2020 presidential candidate, routed Andrew Romanoff, the former state House speaker who ran firmly to Hickenlooper's left, in the race to take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November's election. Gardner is among this cycle's most vulnerable GOP incumbents, meaning the Democratic primary presented the opportunity for progressives to place an ally in the Senate. But in letting Hickenlooper claim the nomination with a margin of close to 20 percentage points, they lost any hope of having a candidate who might actually rally around some of their biggest policy ideas, including the Green New Deal and Medicare for All."

Supreme Court hands big win to Trump on expelling immigrants seeking asylum: The 7-2 ruling allows people to be deported without judicial review of their cases. WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a victory to the Trump administration on the president's signature issue of immigration, ruling that some people seeking asylum in the U.S. can be deported without additional court hearings. In a 7-2 vote, the court said people who fail to make a valid case for asylum in their initial screenings, by credibly claiming that they fear persecution at home, can be fast-tracked for deportation and cannot challenge that decision in federal court. [...] Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that form of relief is intended to be used for those seeking release from detention, not as an avenue to get into federal court. And other constitutional rights of due process do not automatically apply to migrants simply because they set foot on U.S. soil and have not been legally admitted. In their dissent, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court was wrong to rule that constitutional protections don't apply to asylum-seekers "who challenge the procedures used to determine whether they may seek shelter in this country or whether they may be cast to an unknown fate." The decision 'increases the risk of erroneous immigration decisions.'"

"Supreme Court Rules Taxpayers Must Subsidize Religious Schools [...] In other words, the Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue decision means that public dollars will go to private religious schools, in a clear violation of the separation of church and state, and a direct attack on public education."

"The Supreme Court Just Gave Corporations A License To Steal: The courthouse door was just slammed shut on workers and retirees whose pension plans get bilked. [...] Now here's the punchline: Rather than weighing in on the allegations of theft, Kavanaugh and the other conservative justices slammed the courthouse door on the plaintiffs and every other plaintiff like them, thereby creating the conditions for an undeterrable crime spree."

"Supreme Court Lifts Limits on Trump's Power to Fire Consumer Watchdog: The case concerning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was part of a politically charged battle over presidential authority. WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the president is free to fire the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau without cause. The decision, rejecting a federal law that sought to place limits on presidential oversight of independent agencies, was a victory for the conservative movement to curb the administrative state. The ruling puts to rest a decade of doubt over whether the bureau and its leadership structure, in which the director is appointed by the president to a five-year term and cannot be dismissed without a substantial reason, were constitutional. While the narrow decision validates the agency's existence, it could also open it to greater politicization, effectively turning its director into something akin to a cabinet member who serves at the pleasure of a president."

"'Monumental Victory': Tribes and Climate Activists Celebrate Court-Ordered Shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline: 'If the events of 2020 have taught us anything, it's that health and justice must be prioritized early on in any decision-making process if we want to avoid a crisis later on.'"

"'Vindication': Bayer Reaches $10 Billion Settlement Over Roundup Cancer Lawsuits: The deal includes $1.25 billion to cover potential future settlements. Agribusiness giant Bayer announced Wednesday that it reached a more than $10 billion deal to settle thousands of lawsuits that claimed exposure to Monsanto's Roundup caused cancer. A statement from Bayer, which acquired Monsanto in 2018—and thus inherited lawsuits targeting the widely used weedkiller—said the settlement affects "75% of the current Roundup litigation involving approximately 125,000 filed and unfiled claims overall."

"A Federal Judge Is Really Tired Of GM And Fiat Chrysler's Shit: GM sued Fiat Chrysler in November, accusing it of corrupt contract negotiations, which led to higher labor costs for GM. In light of events since then, a federal judge is extremely tired of the suit already. The judge's order—for GM CEO Mary Barra and FCA CEO Mike Manley to meet in person and alone—is a good reminder that legal disputes are often only about five or ten percent of actual law and in fact more like regular disputes in real life. Lawsuits are cloaked in legal language—95 pages of it, in GM's original civil complaint—but it doesn't follow that resolutions have to be especially complex. That, of course, doesn't stop some civil proceedings from going on for years at a time, seemingly only to the benefit of the lawyers getting paid to argue them. Which is just the kind of proceeding Judge Paul Borman foresees happening in the GM-FCA case. On Tuesday, he ordered Barra and Manley to meet in person before July 1 to resolve things, explicitly tying the case to the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement."

"SEC Regulators: Private Equity Is on a Crime Spree: Securities and Exchange Commission regulators recently issued a scathing report that reads like a last-ditch plea for help in reeling in private equity billionaires, who have all but free rein to fleece whoever they want, whenever they want. [...] In a little-noticed ruling last week, the Supreme Court restricted the SEC's power to punish private equity firms. With the agency successfully neutered, Trump is now trying to move Clayton into the job of US Attorney, overseeing Wall Street."

"An Entire Pro Softball Team Quit After Their GM Tried to Use Them as Racist, Pro-Trump Propaganda: A few weeks ahead of the slated return of most U.S. sports, pro women's softball held its first game in Melbourne, Florida this week. Shortly after the game ended, every member of the Texas-based Scrap Yard Fast Pitch quit the team. Every single one. At some point during the game, the team's general manager Connie May tweeted a picture of the players standing during the national anthem. The tweet tagged Donald Trump, declaring, 'Everyone respecting the FLAG!' According to the New York Times, the team returned to their locker room after the game to find a bunch of texts and notifications about the picture, which was posted without their knowledge or consent to promote a political message they say was not their intention. May's implication is that by standing for the anthem, the team is showing opposition (or at the very least, indifference) to the Black Lives Matter movement, making it a sort of anti-protest protest in itself. And the team made it clear they were not okay with that message."

"The Marijuana Superweapon Biden Refuses to Use: Legalizing marijuana is extremely popular. So why won't Joe Biden embrace the idea? Democratic political consultants dream of issues like marijuana legalization. Democrats are overwhelmingly in favor of it, polls show. So are independents. A majority of Republicans favor it now too. It motivates progressives, young people, and Black Americans to vote. Put it on the ballot, and it's proved a sure way to boost turnout for supportive politicians. It's popular in key presidential-election states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Arizona, and Virginia. There's no clear political downside— although marijuana legalization motivates its supporters, it doesn't motivate its opponents. For the Democratic presidential nominee, the upsides of supporting it would include energizing a very committed group of single-issue voters and making a major move toward criminal-justice reform and the Bernie Sanders agenda. Joe Biden won't inhale."

"Chelsea Manning's Jailer Is Running For Congress -- As A Democrat: James Averhart confined the Iraq War whistleblower to a tiny cell 23 hours a day -- and now could end up as the Democratic Party's nominee in Alabama [...] James Averhart, who is competing in a July 14 run-off election for an Alabama congressional seat, also oversaw a Bush-era military push to track down and punish veterans who deserted the Vietnam War -- an initiative seen as an attempt to discourage soldiers from deserting during the Iraq War."

"Who To Believe on Afghan Intelligence: CIA, NSA, or Pentagon?: Digging below the bombshell headlines and MSM chyrons on the current Russian-bounty-on-US-soldiers-in-Afghanistan allegations, it seems three separate US government (USG) agencies — the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Pentagon — have different assessments as to the veracity of this story. [...] I can easily see this Russian-bounty story — to the extent the CIA's intelligence is creditable — being concocted by corrupt local officials and/or USG employed Afghans to keep their gravy train going in an effort along with Deep State operative to derail Trump's troop-withdrawal plans. Thus, I place very little credence in the CIA's in-country human intelligent sources who supposedly are the source of the CIA's Russian-bounty story. [...] Contrarily, the NSA — which strongly disagrees with the CIA's assessment on the Russian-bounty story — relies on so-called signal intelligence for making its intelligence assessments. [...] It is also important to note the Pentagon's statement on Tuesday: '... the Department of Defense [DoD] has no corroborating evidence at this time to validate recent allegations regarding malign activity by Russian personnel against US forces in Afghanistan ....' [...] Getting back to reality, the real rationale behind the MSM's and the Washington War State's latest Russia-gate story can be explained in two words: Bagram Airbase. As I cover in an article I wrote in September 2019 ("The Real Reason the US is Staying in Afghanistan"), the pushback Trump has gotten throughout his presidency on removing all US troops in Afghanistan as he campaigned he would do as president has nothing to do with keeping Americans safe from jihadi terrorism, installing a democratic government in Kabul, or advance human (particularly women's) rights in Afghanistan. As I state in this article: The real reason for the pushback by the Washington national security establishment against getting all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan is the guiding maxim of our post-World War II "War State" (the military-industrial complex and pro-war political establishment President Eisenhower warned about) that has grown into a $1-trillion/year enterprise with a worldwide empire of over 800 foreign military installations: never give up a military base in a strategic location."

In Consortium News, "LEE CAMP: Connecting the Dates — US Media Used To Stop The 'Threat' of Peace [...] Now, I'm not implying Trump is some kind of hippy peacenik. (He would look atrocious with no bra and flowers in his hair.) No, the military under Trump has dropped more bombs than under Obama, and that's impressive since Obama dropped more bombs than ever before. However, in certain areas of the world, Trump has threatened to create peace. Sure, he's doing it for his own ego and because he thinks his base wants it, but whatever the reason, he has put forward plans or policies that go against the military industrial complex and the establishment war-hawks (which is 95 percent of the establishment). And each time this has happened, he is quickly thwarted, usually with hilarious propaganda. (Well, hilarious to you and me. Apparently believable to people at The New York Times and former CIA intern Anderson Cooper.) I know four things for sure in life. Paper beats rock. Rock beats scissors. Scissors beat paper. And propaganda beats peace. All one has to do is look at a calendar."

I found this clip from The Michael Brooks Show pretty scary since it confirms all my worst fears, "Pentagon's 'Zoomer Rebellion' War Games ft. Joshua Kahn Russell.

"On Stonewall anniversary, the NYPD launched a brutal unprovoked attack on LGBTQ people: The NYPD may have apologized last year for raiding the Stonewall Inn, spawning days of riots and police brutality, but they apparently haven't decided to stop the behavior. As Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about honoring Stonewall, the cops were unleashing pepper spray on LGBTQ people dancing in celebration. Yesterday, as the Queer Liberation March wound down and participants celebrated in nearby Washington Square Park, police charged into the crowd, swinging batons, shoving people to the ground, and arresting a handful of participants. The officers kept their badge numbers covered."

"I'm Black and Afraid of 'White Fragility' [...] White Fragility also reinforces the belief that the responsibility for racism lies with individual workers' attitudes and invisible phenomena including implicit bias rather than the policies and practices authorized by employers. If I were an employer, why wouldn't I want to hire a specialist to train workers to believe that their own identities and unconscious biases are the main sources of inequality, instead of exploitative workplace practices? Simply put, DiAngelo continues to be paid by schools and firms across the country for the same reason that employers pay any professional or manager: it advances their material interests as opposed to the interests of their personnel."

Matt Taibbi wrote about the subject and later discussed it with Katie Halper on their podcast, ""White Fragility," Plus Adolph Reed on Identity Politics | Useful Idiots."

"How to Be an Anti-Intellectual: A lauded book about antiracism is wrong on its facts and in its assumptions. [...] Kendi's goals are openly totalitarian. The DOA would be tasked with 'investigating' private businesses and 'monitoring' the speech of public officials; it would have the power to reject any local, state, or federal policy before it's implemented; it would be made up of 'experts' who could not be fired, even by the president; and it would wield 'disciplinary tools' over public officials who did not 'voluntarily' change their 'racist ideas'—as defined, presumably, by people like Kendi. What could possibly go wrong? [...] For one thing, he doesn't believe that people can be persuaded out of racism. 'People are racist out of self-interest, not out of ignorance,' Kendi writes. Thus, racists can't be educated out of their racism. 'Educational and moral suasion is not only a failed strategy,' he laments, it's a 'suicidal' one. This is a tough claim to square with the rest of the book, which contains story after story in which Kendi gets persuaded out of his racist beliefs—including one where a friend named Clarence reasons him out of believing that white people are extraterrestrials. Indeed, what makes Kendi's personal story so compelling is precisely the fact that he's constantly changing. That said, when reflecting on his college days, Kendi describes his former self as 'a believer more than a thinker,' so perhaps not everything about him has changed."

"It Wouldn't Be 'The Chicks' If Their Comeback Didn't Piss Off Some People" — They dropped the "Dixie" part and have a new album, Gaslighter.

In which Nathan Robinson totally disagrees with Matt Taibbi: "Has The American Left Lost Its Mind?: No. Once again critics of the left are misstating the facts and distracting us from consequential issues."

This is Ted Rall in WSJ, which is surprising enough, but he's right. "Police Brutality Affects Us All: Advocates for police reform have emphasized brutality's unique burden on black Americans. A better approach might be to emphasize that police officers rough whites up, too. The point isn't to diminish the black experience but to convince everyone they're in the same boat. More whites would join the struggle against police brutality if they believed the police were dangerous to them as well. Support for funding AIDS research expanded after activist groups convinced Americans in the 1980s that the 'gay plague' threatened straight people. It was oversold: A 2015 study found homosexuals were more than 20 times as likely to be infected as heterosexuals. But 1/20th isn't zero. Anyone can contract the virus. Similarly, there's no dispute that black Americans bear more than their share of police violence. In 2019, according to Statista, officers killed1,004 civilians nationwide: 370 whites, 235 blacks, 158 Latinos and 241 of other or unknown ethnic origin. Adjusting for population, the odds of an African-American dying at the hands of police is about 2.5 times as high as for a white person. Even so, 370 is far from zero. [...] If you're white, you should know you may get shot and brutalized by cops. That knowledge could save your life—and it will help you empathize with black victims of police violence."

Dean Baker, "NYT Argues Workers Should Get More, but Gets Some Important Facts Wrong I hate to be nitpicky when the NYT writes a very strong editorial arguing that we need more money going to ordinary workers and less to the rich, but it is important to get the story right. Unfortunately, the editorial misses much of it. First and foremost, there has not been a major shift from wages to profits during the period of wage stagnation. [...] The piece also implies that stock returns have been extraordinarily high through the last four decades. This is clearly wrong. While returns were very high in the 1980s and 1990s, they actually have been well below long-term averages for the last two decades. In this vein, the piece also proposes banning share buybacks as a way to reduce returns to shareholders. It is not clear what it hopes this would accomplish. It is hardly better for workers or anyone else if companies pay out money to shareholders through dividends rather than share buybacks. [...] The piece also is very modest in suggesting that the minimum wage should be raised to $15 an hour. While this is a good near-term target, if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968, it would be over $24 an hour today. [...] In order to be able to raise the minimum wage back to its productivity-adjusted level from 1968, and not see excessive inflation, we would have to take steps to reduce high-end wages. This would mean things like fixing the corporate governance structures so CEOs could not ripoff the companies for which they work. This would mean they might get $2 million to $3 million a year, instead of $20 million. We would have to eliminate the waste in the financial sector, thereby ending the exorbitant pay in this sector. We would also have to weaken the importance of patent and copyright monopolies, making it less likely that Bill Gates types could get $100 billion. And, we would have to subject doctors and other highly paid professionals to competition, bringing their pay in line with their counterparts in other wealthy countries."

RIP: "Carl Reiner, Actor, Director, Writer, Producer And Mensch, Dies At 98. In 1950, comic actor Sid Caesar hired Reiner for the pioneering live TV sketch comedy program, Your Show of Shows. Reiner was a writer alongside Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks. He also acted as a supporting player. 'Being a second banana to such a massive first banana ... wasn't a comedown at all for me,' said Reiner. 'I realized I was working with the best.'" I can't even imagine my life without Carl Reiner. Especially, I can't imagine my life without The Dick Van Dyke Show and moments like this. But, as Alan Sepinwall said in Rolling Stone, "The Dick Van Dyke Show would be Carl Reiner's one inarguable masterpiece, if it weren't for all the others."

Some fascinating history of the south's Black Belt from Jacobin's podcast series: "Robin D. G. Kelley: How Depression-era Communists Fought to Organize Alabama.

"Mapping Paramilitary and Far-Right Threats to Racial Justice: We have been tracking reports of paramilitary and other far-right actors who are showing up at or adjacent to protests demanding an end to racist policing and a transformation of our carceral state. This map seeks to right-size the threat of paramilitaries to our social justice movements, neither exaggerating nor minimizing. We have confirmed 136 reported incidents since the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020, and with new reports daily there are dozens more as of yet unconfirmed incidents to review. Given the variety of groups and factions involved and types of incidents, we have divided the data into a few broad categories of actors/ideologies on the one hand and actions and tactics on the other. In most cases, the underlying data preserves more nuance and can be used to make finer distinctions. "

From Harper's in 2008, Thomas Frank, "The Wrecking Crew: How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing Republicans and Democrats may fight over how big government should be and exactly what it should do, we tell ourselves, but surely everyone shares those baseline good intentions, that simple devotion to the public interest. [...] But the truth is almost exactly the opposite, whether we are discussing Abramoff or the wider tsunami of corruption that has washed over the capital in recent years. It is just this: Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident, nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society."

Rolling Stone interviews Ringo Starr for his 80th birthday.

"Lord of the Rings Director Peter Jackson Pens Moving Tribute to Ian Holm: Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson penned a moving tribute to the late Ian Holm." There are a few interesting behind-the-scenes touches in here.

"Meet The Real Mrs. Maisel: Jean Carroll [...] Although she was revered as the top 'comedienne' (the quaint term for a woman comic) of her day, had her own sitcom on ABC, appeared on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' nearly 30 times and headlined at every major theater in the United States and London, she is notably absent from most histories of comedy."

Someone from the Draft Jesse Ventura movement is appealing to my love of Legos.

David Gilmour has a new song, "Yes, I Have Ghosts".

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Though we really did try to make it

People were surprised by the first two rulings out of the current Supreme Court session. Right-wingers hate them, the rest of us are relieved, but many of us are wondering how these same opinions will later be used as foundations for some pretty terrifying right-wing rulings: But for the moment, we are generally seeing them as a good thing.

"US Supreme court rules employers cannot discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers: Court rules 1964 civil rights law bars employers from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation or transgender status. [...] 'Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender. The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids,' justice Neil Gorsuch wrote."

"US Supreme Court rules against Trump in 'capricious' DACA case: Court ruling allows 650,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children to remain and work. The US Supreme Court dealt US President Donald Trump a major setback on his hardline immigration policies, ruling against his bid to end a programme that protects from deportation 650,000 immigrants, dubbed "Dreamers", who entered the United States as children without documentation. The justices on Thursday upheld lower court rulings that found Trump's 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, created in 2012 by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was unlawful."

"Corporations Are Bankrolling US Police Foundations Without Public Oversight: As calls to defund the police gain traction, bloated police budgets are coming under scrutiny for siphoning public resources away from Black and Brown communities. While police budgets are typically public documents that must be approved by elected officials, there are other institutions in place with the sole purpose of funneling even more resources toward law enforcement. Police foundations across the country are partnering with corporations to raise money to supplement police budgets by funding programs and purchasing tech and weaponry for law enforcement with little public oversight. Annual fundraising events and parties like the St. Paul Police Foundation's 'Blue Nite Gala' and the Chicago Police Foundation's 'True Blue' event are huge moneymakers. The NYC Police Foundation reported that it raised $5.5 million from its annual benefit in 2019. If police departments already have massive budgets — averaging 20% to 45% of a municipal budget — why do these organizations exist? Police foundations offer a few unique benefits to law enforcement.

"Unsanitized: The Federal Reserve Can End the State Fiscal Crisis Today: With Congress inert, the Fed can solve the economy's biggest looming threat. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for June 12, 2020.. [...] The MLF is a $500 billion fund. Under the self-imposed rules of the emergency credit facilities (governed by Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act), the $454 billion stake from Treasury authorized by the CARES Act must absorb losses from the loans they make. So they could shut down the other credit facilities entirely and tweak the MLF, eliminating the interest rate and making principal payments optional or extending the maturities to 200 years or some other function that makes them effectively grants, with Treasury eating the losses. In other words, the $500 billion that the National Governors Association wants is mostly available, from the Fed, and all it would take is a simple announcement to distribute it." But you know what's really going to happen."

Pareene, "Abolish These Police Departments: Minneapolis's police force has forfeited its right to exist. So have other cities'. [...] Before telling activists and protesters to abandon radical slogans for more targeted reforms, consider that Minneapolis has already tried a number of reforms—it has reached for nearly every piece of low-hanging fruit. It would be great if police departments could more easily fire bad officers, and other police departments could not hire them. But the Minneapolis Police Department couldn't even implement a plan to identify problem officers. Any attempt to do so—to identify problem officers and then fire them—would require an entirely different police culture. It would require, in other words, dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department. Of course, if you come to believe that, because of its unique history and resistance to previous reform efforts, the Minneapolis Police Department has forfeited its right to exist, it is difficult not to apply the same logic to nearly every other urban police department in the nation. Chicago needs public safety; does it need the police department responsible for murdering Laquan McDonald and detaining thousands of people in the Homan Square black site? People who argue that Baltimore needs more and better policing should explain why that policing ought to come from the irredeemable Baltimore Police Department, one of the most fundamentally rotten and corrupt institutions in the country. Public figures have debated what to do about Baltimore's horrific homicide rates for years. The criminal mob that has been wreaking havoc there, while also not preventing or solving very many of those murders has, I think, lost the right to participate in that debate. If the reasons to disband these particular urban police departments are all quite similar, maybe the problem with policing in this country is the way that we have built the modern urban police department. Maybe the problem is the way we conceive of policing. Maybe the problem is the police."

Handy advice from Teen Vogue: "Tear Gas and Pepper Spray: What to Do if You're Exposed: Whether it's tear gas or pepper spray, find out what to do if you're exposed."

Help from Vox, "How to fight an outrageous medical bill, explained: Five patients tell us how they pushed back — and won."

A lot of these warmongering conservative Democrats just don't seem to get that "democracy" thing: New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel on Sunday scolded firebrand lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for backing his progressive primary challenger — going so far as to accuse her of acting like a dictator." Endorsing conservadems is just fine, but endorsing progressives is "a dictatorship".

"Beltway Dems Are Trying To Prevent A Progressive Senate: Party leaders are desperately trying to buy the Colorado Senate primary for a scandal-plagued opponent of Medicare for All and a Green New Deal. [...] For years, Democratic party leaders have publicly insisted they follow a 'just win, baby' playbook that leads them to support any candidate -- liberal or moderate -- best positioned to win GOP seats. But activists have come to suspect that, in fact, party leaders are actually willing to prioritize crushing progressive candidates, even if that might risk losing general elections to Republicans. Democratic leaders' heavy-handed behavior in Colorado seems to confirm those suspicions -- and it could now jeopardize the entire effort to take back Congress from Donald Trump's party."

"Football Leaks' Rui Pinto in prison with hard-drive passwords in his head: Website provided evidence that led to Manchester City's ban but Pinto has more information and 'authorities are afraid' Lisbon's Judiciary Police prison is situated just down the road from Eduardo VII Park, one of the Portuguese capital's most popular tourist attractions that is famed for its spectacular views of the city and the River Tagus. With only around 25 tiny cells and based in the depths of the giant white building which is the headquarters of the country's antiterrorist and serious crime authorities, the high-security facility is usually reserved for only the most dangerous criminals. For almost the past year, however, it has also been home to Rui Pinto. The 31-year-old, who created the Football Leaks website which provided some of the evidence that led to Manchester City's Champions League ban and numerous other investigations into tax evasion and corruption in football and beyond, is still awaiting trial for alleged extortion, violation of secrecy and illegally accessing information despite being extradited to his homeland from Hungary in March 2019. Last week, his lawyers filed a complaint to the European Commission over inconsistencies in the original arrest warrant that accused Pinto of only six offences before that was increased to 147 while he was in custody."

"The Great Seed Piracy: A great seed and biodiversity piracy is underway and it must be stopped. The privateers of today include not just the corporations — which are becoming fewer and larger through mergers — but also individuals like Bill Gates, the 'richest man in the world'. When the Green Revolution was pushed in India and Mexico, farmers' seeds were 'rounded-up' and locked in international institutions, which used these seeds to breed green revolution varieties which responded to chemical inputs. The first two institutions were the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico. These institutes took diversity from farmers' fields and replaced the diversity with chemical monocultures of rice, wheat and corn."

"Racism and the Working Class: When I tell other middle-class professionals who don't know me well that I'm writing a book about working-class culture, it's amazing how often they respond approvingly that 'white racism' is an important subject. My reaction, depending on the circumstance, ranges from embarrassment to rage. It's frustrating that 'working class' reads as all white to so many people who should know better. And it pisses me off that so many educated people assume that the white part of the working class is either uniformly racist and/or that racism is the most distinctive part of their culture. And it often seems there is a background assumption that little or no racism exists among the educated middle class, that all white racism is contained within the working class."

When you think about how hard (and effectively) the United States government has worked to prevent or destroy democracy in the rest of the world, it's hard to believe they wouldn't stop it at all costs in America, too. "The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade w/ Vincent Bevins - MR Live - 6/9/20. [...] Bevins shares the untold story of the US's role in promoting slaughter across Indonesia in the name of securing western capitalist."

"In 1918, there was an anti-mask league in San Francisco: In 1918, there was an anti-mask league in San Francisco, which objected to wearing masks to prevent the spread of influenza. They held meetings of thousands of maskless people. San Francisco was ultimately was one of the cities that suffered most from the Spanish Influenza pandemic."

It's one thing when Republicans call you a conspiracy theorist for suspecting them of cheating, but it's another thing when Democrats agree with them. How did that happen? The voting machines are still suspicious, and so are the outcomes of elections. If you can't do a full manual recount and you can't audit, you should assume someone is rigging elections. "There's No Way to Know If ANY U.S. Elections Are Legitimate." (Full show: "Jennifer Cohn talks to Nomiki - Our Democracy Is Eroding.")

Touré Reed is giving interviews for his new book. "The Pitfalls of Liberal Antiracism and Woke Neoliberalism: "Tonight we're speaking with Professor of history at Illinois State University, Touré Reed, about the political implications of seeing racial identities, separated from material relationships, as the engine of American history. Instead, he spells out why the road to a more just society for African Americans broadly is inextricably linked to that of poor and working-class Americans and coalitions built around their material needs." He makes the important point that, contrary to claims of neoliberal identitarians, the New Deal did a lot for black America. And universal programs usually do.

"Adolph Reed, Cedric Johnson, Willie Legette & Michael Brooks 'Bernie, South Carolina & Black Voters'" — Personally, I found this most gratifying to watch because it horrified me to watch otherwise smart people constantly putting pressure on Sanders about being more race-centered, something he did well to avoid in 2015-16 but succumbed to by 2019-20,sadly.

"Antiracism Campaigns: Twenty Years of Making Racism Worse: Studies over twenty years come to the same conclusion: Antiracism fails because it reduces complex problems to race, which strengthens the idea that race matters enormously."

"The Pitfalls of Liberal Antiracism and Woke Neoliberalism (Stay At Home #12) Tonight we're speaking with Professor of history at Illinois State University, Touré Reed, about the political implications of seeing racial identities, separated from material relationships, as the engine of American history. Instead, he spells out why the road to a more just society for African Americans broadly is inextricably linked to that of poor and working-class Americans and coalitions built around their material needs. His latest book out from Verso is titled Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism."

Republicans are certainly a big part of the problem, but there's still the other part: [...] When it comes to the problems with policing in this country, Democrats seem fundamentally unable to conceive of themselves as a big part of the problem. At best there is an argument about the Republicans being worse — which is true, and is almost universally true — that is used to deflect criticism. It is necessary to face up to the reality that many of the places with the worst problems with police violence are, and have been, controlled by Democrats at the local level for a long time. If you look at protesters and don't understand why they burn property rather than channel their anger into voting, the very obvious answer is that there is no imaginary future in which voting for Joe Biden and whoever they just elected Mayor will actually solve the problem. Republicans offer pure authoritarianism — they actively *encourage* police to be brutal — while Democrats have done nothing to stop them, or in many cases abetted them."

Taibbi, "The American Press Is Destroying Itself: A flurry of newsroom revolts has transformed the American press. [...] The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily. They've conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it's established now that anything can be an offense, from a UCLA professor placed under investigation for reading Martin Luther King's 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' out loud to a data scientist fired* from a research firm for — get this — retweeting an academic study suggesting nonviolent protests may be more politically effective than violent ones! Now, this madness is coming for journalism. Beginning on Friday, June 5th, a series of controversies rocked the media. By my count, at least eight news organizations dealt with internal uprisings (it was likely more). Most involved groups of reporters and staffers demanding the firing or reprimand of colleagues who'd made politically 'problematic' editorial or social media decisions." There's been other crazy stuff he doesn't mention here, but I actually think James Bennet should have lost his seat at the NYT because he didn't do his job, which is to read stuff before publishing it.

"RAY McGOVERN: How an Internet 'Persona' Helped Birth Russiagate: Guccifer 2.0 turns four years old today and the great diversion he took part in becomes clearer by the day, writes Ray McGovern. Four years ago today, on June 15, 2016, a shadowy Internet persona calling itself 'Guccifer 2.0' appeared out of nowhere to claim credit for hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee on behalf of WikiLeaks and implicate Russia by dropping 'telltale' but synthetically produced Russian 'breadcrumbs' in his metadata. Thanks largely to the corporate media, the highly damaging story actually found in those DNC emails — namely, that the DNC had stacked the cards against Bernie Sanders in the party's 2016 primary— was successfully obscured. The media was the message; and the message was that Russia had used G-2.0 to hack into the DNC, interfering in the November 2016 election to help Donald Trump win. [...] Adding to other signs of fakery, there is hard evidence that G-2.0 was operating mostly in U.S. time zones and with local settings peculiar to a device configured for use within the U.S., as Tim Leonard reports here and here.) Leonard is a software developer who started to catalog and archive evidence related to Guccifer 2.0 in 2017 and has issued detailed reports on digital forensic discoveries made by various independent researchers — as well as his own — over the past three years. Leonard points out that WikiLeaks said it did not use any of the emails G2.0 sent it, though it later published similar emails, opening the possibility that whoever created G2.0 knew what WikiLeaks had and sent it duplicates with the Russian fingerprints. As Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) told President Trump in a memorandum of July 24, 2017, titled 'Was the 'Russian Hack' an Inside Job?': 'We do not think that the June 12, 14, & 15 timing was pure coincidence. Rather, it suggests the start of a pre-emptive move to associate Russia with anything WikiLeaks might have been ready to publish and to 'show' that it came from a Russian hack.' 'The recent forensic studies fill in a critical gap. Why the FBI neglected to perform any independent forensics on the original 'Guccifer 2.0' material remains a mystery — as does the lack of any sign that the 'hand-picked analysts' from the FBI, CIA, and NSA, who wrote the misnomered 'Intelligence Community' Assessment dated January 6, 2017, gave any attention to forensics.'"

"Vast neolithic circle of deep shafts found near Stonehenge: Exclusive: prehistoric structure spanning 1.2 miles in diameter is masterpiece of engineering, say archaeologists [...] Four thousand five hundred years ago, the Neolithic peoples who constructed Stonehenge, a masterpiece of engineering, also dug a series of shafts aligned to form a circle spanning 1.2 miles (2km) in diameter. The structure appears to have been a boundary guiding people to a sacred area because Durrington Walls, one of Britain's largest henge monuments, is located precisely at its centre. The site is 1.9 miles north-east of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, near Amesbury, Wiltshire."

"Cycling Into London As Comic Shops (And Everything Else) Open Up: I took a socially distanced bicycle ride into London this morning. Today is the day that the UK government has decreed that non-essential shops are allowed to open across England, and that includes comic shops. Boris Johnson has read all his Tintin books three times over and was clearly in need of something new. So on my Boris bike, I whizzed in, filming as I went..." Lotsa photos and a video.

Boogaloo WTF?

RIP: "Ian Holm, Shakespearean actor in Lord of the Rings, Alien, Chariots of Fire, dies at 88: [...] His agent confirmed the death to the Guardian newspaper in England: 'It is with great sadness that the actor Sir Ian Holm CBE passed away this morning at the age of 88. He died peacefully in hospital, with his family and carer,' adding that his illness was Parkinson's related. 'Charming, kind and ferociously talented, we will miss him hugely.'"

RIP: "Dame Vera Lynn: Forces' Sweetheart dies aged 103" — BBC. "Singer known as the 'Forces Sweetheart' whose recordings of We'll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover shaped the national mood in wartime BritainGuardian

Some favorite commentary on the events of the day from Atrios:
* — "Seems Bad: Remember when the Bush administration fired US attorneys and most people in the press refused to believe it because it was too bad to imagine and now George Bush paints dogs so he is good. I bet you don't recall."
* — "Owning The LIbs: As with any policy, it's reasonable to ask just what the enforcement mechanism is. I don't think cops (especially our glorious boys in blue who don't personally seem interested in any kind of responsible behavior such as mask wearing) should be arresting people for not wearing masks. Even if there is precisely zero enforcement of any kind, simply having a rule means that many people will follow it. Most people are rule followers! Signal people should wear masks, and a lot of people will wear masks! Though conservatives arguing one minute that black people deserve to be murdered for not obeying even the mental commands of cops, and then screaming TYRANNY over the unlikely possibility a cop might tell them to wear a mask is, well, you know what it is. These people who aren't wearing masks specifically to OWN THE LIBS, the plague spreading version of rolling coal, are deeply fucked up individuals. Like most efforts to OWN THE LIBS it doesn't make us mad the way they think it does, because we actually aren't the triggered-by-stupid-shit snowflakes they imagine we are. It makes us a bit worried that people are going to die and the whole damn country is going to collapse into the hellmouth."
* — "Bold: Back the dark ages of the internet, even pre-blog time, there was a little online magazine called Slate, which over time got a reputation for "contrarian" thinking. They did do the "that thing you like is actually bad" kind of contrarian stuff, but mostly it was simply a rhetorical ploy, a way of presenting dominant mainstream positions as being rebellious." (There's more.)
* — "Why Won't The Protesters Take Advice From Me [...] It's clear by now that while there unsurprisingly has been some amount of opportunistic theft (looting is loaded word, also, too), the people escalating violent situations are the people tasked with preventing violence. Calls for "nonviolent protest" place the responsibility on the people who are almost entirely not responsible for any violence. Direct it at the people in power." (Do read the rest.)

"On the Groundbreaking Documentary That Brought the Birthplace of Chicago Blues Alive: It Wouldn't Have Been Possible Without 'Guitar King' Michael Bloomfield. [...] 'You gotta make a movie about Maxwell Street, Mike,' Bloomfield said. 'The hustlers, the pimps, those alte kaker businessmen, man, it's real street action. And the music! Blues, gospel, street corner shouters— it's all down there on Maxwell.'

"Make 'This Land is Your Land' the U. S. National Anthem.."

Mr. Sideshow has just stumbled upon a cache of old R. Crumb comics he forgot he had somewhere which included an issue of HUP with a six-page story from 1989 featuring the kidnapping and forced "interview" of "one of the most evil men alive, real estate tycoon Donald Trump!" (Cover)

"Mel Brooks: Why Blazing Saddles Is the 'Funniest Movie Ever Made'

David Malki's Wondermark is an entertaining comic strip.

Smashing socially-distanced performance by Steve Martin and the Philadelphia Orchestra of Martin's "Office Supplies"

Oh, wow, look at these beautiful redwoods in the snow

Audio of the 1978 WorldCon (Iguanacon) Fans to Pros panel with Terry Carr, Harlan Ellison, Richard Lupoff, Bob Silverberg,Ted White (pt.1), illustrated.

Eyeball in the sky: Halo of the Cat's Eye

Carole King & James Taylor, "It's Too Late" (Live at The Troubadour 2007)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

I hear the voice of rage and ruin

The Kirsi by Maria Susarenko is from this collection of seascapes. (More Susarenko here.)

"There, I Fixed It for You...: Corporate media headlines revised as though they were journalism."

Atrios calls this "The world's scariest graph".

"We Crunched the Numbers: Police — Not Protesters — Are Overwhelmingly Responsible for Attacking Journalists: WE ARE WITNESSING a truly unprecedented attack on press freedom in the United States, with journalists are being systematically targeted while covering the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The scale of the attacks is so large, it can be hard to fathom. At the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of Freedom of the Press Foundation and the Committee to Protect Journalists, we catalogued 150 press freedom violations in the United States in all of 2019. We are currently investigating 280 from just the last week. The crisis has rightly generated international outrage. Some have pushed a narrative — fueled by commonly used phrases like 'journalists are being attacked by police and protesters alike' — that police and protesters are attacking journalists at relatively equal rates. Our data shows this is incorrect. Police are responsible for the vast majority of assaults on journalists: over 80 percent."

"Minneapolis SF Bookstore Burned, Another Vandalized: Two Minneapolis science fiction landmarks were caught up in the wave of vandalism that struck the city amid protests against the death of George Floyd. Don Blyly's Uncle Hugo's bookstore has been burned, and Greg Ketter's DreamHaven was broken into and damaged. Uncle Hugo's, in business since 1974, and neighboring mystery bookstore Uncle Edgar's since 1980 (also burned), are located near the corner of Lake and Chicago, Uncle Hugo's is the nation's oldest surviving sf bookstore." Damn. I think Uncle Hugo's is where we bought our copy of The Motion of Light in Water. Wendy at Dreamhaven posted an update on the clean-up. Here's a photo of what the storefront looks like now.
Greg Ketter was interviewed on local television.

"Who Will You Believe, de Blasio or Your Lying Eyes?: Bill de Blasio didn't have a good morning, and that's fair, because neither did I or anyone else in his city. When he showed up as usual for Brian Lehrer's weekly 'Ask The Mayor' segment, the venerable WNYC host asked him some thrilling questions. 'I think there is one dominant topic for you this week,' Lehrer said. 'It seems, from a lot of reporting, that the city has a problem of the protests against too much police violence being met with too much police violence, or heavy-handed police tactics. Do you accept the premise?' 'No,' the mayor said. People are deeply hurt, he added. There's anger. There's pain. There are problems in policing we all have to fix. But minus a few unfortunate incidents, he continued, 'the police have shown a lot of restraint.' Citing reality, Lehrer pushed back. Here's all the reporting, he told the mayor. But the mayor dug in. No, no, no. Not happening, not here."

"Nothing Is Certain But Death, Taxes, And Police Infiltration Of US Protests: A video has been circulating of a white man casually smashing the windows of a Minneapolis shop with a hammer during protests against the police murder of George Floyd. The man is clearly trying to hide his identity by wearing a gas mask, carrying a large umbrella, and wearing full-length black clothing. Protesters can be seen intervening to stop his destructive behavior in the video. 'Are you a fucking cop?' one asks."

Tucker Carlson goes all-in for the Irony Award: "Did you watch that? How many more nights like this can we take? How many more nights like this before no one in America will serve as a police officer? It's not worth it. The people in charge hate you. The job doesn't pay enough. At that point, who will enforce the laws? Who will be in charge? Well, violent young men with guns will be in charge. They will make the rules, including the rules in your neighborhood. They will do what they want. You will do what they say. No one will stop them. You will not want to live here when that happens." That's already happened, Tucker, that's why people are protesting!

"'All an act': Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, says she was paid by right-wing groups to publicly turn against abortion [...] But in what she describes in the documentary as her "deathbed confession," McCovey characterizes her antiabortion activism as "all an act," telling a number of friends — and the public — that she was paid to repeat antiabortion talking points, according to reviews of the documentary in The Daily Beast and the Los Angeles Times. When she's asked if the antiabortion evangelical movement used her "as a trophy" in their cause, she says, 'Of course. I was the big fish ... I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money, and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That's what I'd say.' [...] The documentary makers found that McCorvey had been paid at least $456,911 worth of "benevolent gifts" by the antiabortion groups she affiliated herself with, The Daily Beast reported."

"The NYT Admits Key Falsehoods That Drove Last Year's Coup in Bolivia: Falsehoods Peddled by the U.S., its Media, and the NYT: IN NOVEMBER, 2019, Bolivia's three-term left-wing President, Evo Morales, was forced by the country's military and police forces to flee to Mexico after Morales, the prior month, had been officially certified as the winner of his fourth consecutive presidential election. It was unsurprising that Morales won. As the Associated Press noted in 2014, his governance was successful by almost every key metric, and he was thus 'widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia's natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.' While Morales' popularity had marginally waned since his 2014 landslide victory, he was still the most popular politician in the country. On the night of the October 21, 2019, vote, Bolivia's election board certified that Morales' margin of victory against the second-place candidate exceeded the ten percent threshold required under Bolivian law to avoid a run-off, thus earning him a fourth term. But allegations of election fraud were quickly voiced by Morales' right-wing opponents, leading to his expulsion from the country on November 11."

Michael Brooks et al., "Bolivia's Coup Government Cancels Elections, What Happened To 'Restoring Democracy'?"

Not feeling too positive about her right now. "Stacey Abrams: Pragmatic Democrat in a Red State: Stacey Abrams is a proud ex-bureaucrat who also loves the novel Atlas Shrugged; she works with Republicans but sometimes frustrates her Democratic colleagues; she grew up on food stamps and co-founded a beverage company for children; she has worked as a tax attorney and written several romantic suspense novels on the side."

"Democrats are fueling a corporate counter-revolution against progressives: Democrats in Washington are not just passively failing to mount an opposition to Trump. They are actively helping Republicans. [...] This corporate counter-revolution is easiest to see in Democrats' enthusiastic support for Republicans' legislative response to the coronavirus crisis. Democrats' entire 2018 electoral campaign told America that the opposition party needed to win back Congress in order to block Trump's regressive agenda. And yet, when the Republicans proposed a bill to let Trump's appointees dole out government cash to their corporate allies with no strings attached, this same opposition party mustered not a single recorded vote against the package. Not one. Thanks to that, Trump appointees and the Federal Reserve can now hand out $4tn to politically connected corporations as they lay waste to our economy and steamroll progressive reforms. Private equity firms and fossil fuel companies get new tax breaks as they buy elections and try to lock in permanent climate change."

After publishing a shameful op-ed (with the excuse that he hadn't read it!), "James Bennet Resigns as Editor of The New York Times: The New York Times came under fire last week after publishing Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton's 'Send in the Troops' op-ed, a frighteningly fascist take on the George Floyd protests. Many readers and journalists at the Times were infuriated by the incendiary and downright dangerous screed, which lacked facts and credibility. In response, over 300 employees staged a virtual walkout, and every contributor of color tweeted the message that Cotton's article put their lives in danger." His replacement might even be good: "Katie Kingsbury was previously the managing editor at the Boston Globe. In 2015 she won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a series of articles that exposed the unfair working conditions facing restaurant workers."

"Coming Soon: Bipartisan Deficit Hawks Calling for Austerity: Right now, government money is flowing. But soon the self-appointed guardians of 'fiscal responsibility' will call for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and SNAP, while leaving the defense budget and large tax breaks for the wealthy intact."

"43 Million Americans Are About to Lose Their Health Insurance Because of Our Employer-Based Health Care System: Opponents of Medicare for All have cast it as a political nonstarter since it would 'force people off their health insurance.' Now, as millions of laid-off workers lose their employer-provided insurance, the cynicism of that claim is being laid bare.

"Protestors Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First: MINNEAPOLIS—Calling for a more measured way to express opposition to police brutality, critics slammed demonstrators Thursday for recklessly looting businesses without forming a private equity firm first. 'Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn't mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,' said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company's assets before plundering. 'I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn't just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It's disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There's a right way and wrong way to do this.' At press time, critics recommended that protestors hold law enforcement accountable by simply purchasing the Minneapolis police department from taxpayers."

Atrios with a "Serious Question: I know some people get annoyed because I criticize the good guys a bit too much. Sometimes I have good explanations for their behavior even if I disagree. But Jared went around the country literally stealing PPE shipments, giving it to his friends, and letting them sell it for a big profit. I bet most of the country is not even aware of this. Why are they not on teevee, or even the twitter, talking about this constantly?"

"Toward Freedom: The Case Against Race Reductionism w/ Touré F. Reed - MR Live - 5/27/20"

RIP: "Larry Kramer, Normal Heart Playwright and AIDS Activist, Dies at 84: Best known for his devastating chronicle of the early days of the AIDS crisis, he also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for Women in Love. [...] Kramer died Wednesday morning in Manhattan of pneumonia, his husband, architect David Webster, told The New York Times."

RIP: "Singer Bonnie Pointer, of The Pointer Sisters fame, dies aged 69: Singer Bonnie Pointer, best known as a member of the Grammy-winning group The Pointer Sisters, has died at the age of 69, a representative has said. She died on Monday, according to her sister and fellow singer, Anita. No cause of death was revealed. In a statement to the PA news agency, Anita said: 'It is with great sadness that I have to announce to the fans of The Pointer Sisters that my sister, Bonnie died this morning.'"

"Tipping Point: Thomas Piketty's new history of global inequality [...] Capital and Ideology is a different kind of book. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer, it moves from an account of wealth accumulation in the most advanced economies over the last few centuries to a sprawling exploration of inequality worldwide going back to the Middle Ages. In the process, Piketty wades a few steps further into the forbidding waters of politics. Opening with a look at the feudal societies of the premodern era and surveying the development of capitalism and colonialism, he then turns to communism and the heyday of social democracy in a brief study of the post-World War II era before ending with a chapter that outlines a 'participatory socialism for the 21st century.' This was the same set of proposals that he defended against Lordon in January and has been championing in the French press since the book's release last September. In both its ambition and tone, Piketty's socialism is not all that different from the parliamentary socialism of the early 20th century, but it marks a considerable move left for someone whose first forays into politics fell firmly within the mainstream of France's Socialist Party, which by the 1990s had abandoned any pretense of breaking with capitalism. "

This is a long piece, I'm just pulling quotes out at random. "David Graeber on harmful jobs, odious debt, and fascists who believe in global warming [...] Capitalist evangelists always insisted the global financial system was the better, free market version of central planning: like a five year plan, in that it decides how resources will be allocated and invested to optimize future production, basically, to ensure that future people get what they want, to ensure long-term prosperity, happiness, well-being. No it doesn't. [...] I always find it slightly amusing that people always say 'oh my God, we can't get rid of the police, because if we get rid of police, everybody will just start killing each other!' Notice they never say 'I would start killing people.' 'Hmm, no police? I think I'll get a gun and shoot someone.' Everyone assumes someone else will. Actually as an anthropologist I know what happens when police disappear. I even lived in a place in rural Madagascar where the police had, effectively, disappeared some years before I arrived. It made almost no difference whatsoever. Well, property crime did increase, if people were very rich, they sometimes got pilfered. Murder if anything decreased. When police vanish in the middle of a big city, where property differences are much more extremely, burglary increases, definitely, but violent crime is entirely unaffected. But when it comes to organization — well, what we need to ask ourselves is why we think it's necessary to threaten to hit people over the head, or shoot them, or lock them in a dingy room for years, in order to maintain any form of organization. People who think that really don't have much faith in organization, do they?"

"Bernie Lost Because America Doesn't Have a Strong Labor Movement [...] The political Left does not need to be forever frustrated by the process of using campaign speeches to drag a skeptical or disinterested 18% of the public into enlightenment every four years. Elections are not the time to magically instill mass class consciousness; that has to be done between elections. And it will not be done by politicians, no matter how good they are. It can only be done by giving millions of people the firsthand experience of class consciousness in their own lives."

"You Don'T Understand, Or You Do, And In Either Case We'Re All Dead [...] Look, this isn't a case where you can split the baby (AND THE FUCKING POINT OF THAT STORY IS THAT SOME COMPROMISES CAN'T BE MADE JESUS CHEESY FRIES CHRIST)."

This article is worth reading every word of. "Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop [...] Reading the above, you may be tempted to ask whether cops ever do anything good. And the answer is, sure, sometimes. In fact, most officers I worked with thought they were usually helping the helpless and protecting the safety of innocent people. [...] The question is this: did I need a gun and sweeping police powers to help the average person on the average night? The answer is no. When I was doing my best work as a cop, I was doing mediocre work as a therapist or a social worker. My good deeds were listening to people failed by the system and trying to unite them with any crumbs of resources the structure was currently denying them. [...] What I mainly provided was an 'objective' third party with the authority to document property damage, ask people to chill out or disperse, or counsel people not to beat each other up. A trained counselor or conflict resolution specialist would be ten times more effective than someone with a gun strapped to his hip wondering if anyone would try to kill him when he showed up. There are many models for community safety that can be explored if we get away from the idea that the only way to be safe is to have a man with a M4 rifle prowling your neighborhood ready at a moment's notice to write down your name and birthday after you've been robbed and beaten."

I'm going to link this article, which Biden deserves, even though if I were Joe Biden and some black interviewer asked me if I was going to nominate a black woman as VP and suggested I should do this because the black community would want something from me, I'd have to smack him and say, "Are you telling me that all the black community wants is a token?" Not that Joe Biden would even be able to say it, but seriously? You're talking to a guy whose legislation kept segregation in place, put a bullseye on every young black male who walked down the street, put an extraordinary number of them in prison, made it impossible for them to discharge their debts, and increased the likelihood that their homes would be foreclosed on, and you're telling him that what the black community wants from him is just a token black woman? Really, slap him with a fish. But anyway, "Black Americans are in an abusive relationship with the Democratic party: An offensive comment by the Democratic presidential candidate is a reminder that black people — all people — deserve better than Joe Biden. I am very tired of Joe Biden. My vote for him was already hanging by a thread before his disastrous interview with Charlamagne tha God on Friday. Interrupting the Breakfast Club host's explanation that black people needed assurances that our communities will benefit from his presidency, Biden asserted: 'If you've got a problem figuring out whether you're for me or for Trump, then you ain't black.' Again, I am very tired of Joe Biden. Not because I am a purist, or have inflexible ideological commitments of what it will take to remove Donald Trump from office. But rather because Biden's condescension towards black communities is intolerable." Yes, Biden shouldn't have said it, but really, this is Joe Biden, and even if it weren't, if nominating Stacey or Kamala is all Charlamagne thinks black people need, he is out of his tiny little mind. Do we need to remind people that they had a whole black president and that guy let the banks wipe out black middle-class wealth? Jeez, get a clue, man.

"Touchscreen Voting Machines And The Vanishing Black Votes: Votes from predominantly black precincts have mysteriously vanished from touchscreen voting machines in both Tennessee and Georgia in recent elections. Georgia replaced the touchscreen system it had been using since 2002 with yet another controversial touchscreen system, rejecting the advice of most election security experts, who note that hand-marked paper ballots are less vulnerable to both tampering and error. A political battle is now raging in Shelby County — Tennessee's most populous county — over whether it will follow in Georgia's footsteps or switch to hand-marked paper ballots for the general election in November."

I'm pretty sure I must have linked this at the time, but worth remembering why we don't see the same kind of investigative reporting on the corporatocracy as we do of government. Mark Ames, "Seymour Hersh and the dangers of corporate muckraking," from five years ago.

"There's Nothing Good About Phyllis Schlafly: Mrs. America, the new miniseries about Phyllis Schlafly, doesn't want us to come away with a harsh view of its subject. But we should: Schlafly's right-wing views were consistently monstrous, doing untold damage to the country."

Woody Allen had a new movie out that in the rest of the world was very successful, but it has no American distributor. He's giving interviews. "'Do I really care?' Woody Allen comes out fighting: The 1992 accusation that the film-maker sexually assaulted his young daughter has made him a pariah, yet he was never charged. In this exclusive interview, he explains why he is done with treading carefully. [...] 'It doesn't pay to sue. Do I really want to be tabloid fodder for two years and go to court? And do I really care?' he says. Given that he lays out the allegation and ensuing drama in searing detail in his memoir, I would wager he cares quite a lot these days." Anyone who is really interested in the details should watch By the Way, Woody Allen Is Innocent, a feature-length (longish) documentary that I think makes a convincing case for its title. It's got a lot of interesting points but honestly, it just confirmed what I've felt all along from what I'd seen.

Eleven years ago, Bill Moyers sat down with Harvey J. Kaye and Richard Brookhiser to talk about Thomas Paine, on the 200th anniversary of his death. "Paine's extraordinary life was both glorious and tragic. He was not revered as some of our other founding fathers — and during his lifetime he was often feared and lampooned — and under threat of prison and even death. Harvey J. Kaye, who recently told his story in Thomas Paine and The Promise Of America, notes that Paine has again become currency in political debate because of a revolutionary idea that spread from the colonies to France and around the globe: 'That the common people...that Americans could be citizens and not merely subjects. That people had it within themselves not only to listen to their superiors, but literally to speak to each other and deliberate and govern themselves.'"

I hadn't realized Trina Robbins was that much older than me (and she sure looks different in that photo since the last time I saw her), but there's a nice little profile in a non-genre publication, San Francisco Senior Beat, "'I'll show them:' After a career challenging sexism, pioneer and icon of underground comix for 'wimmin' fends off ageism."

Seriously zoomed-in photo of Orion over Argentine Mountains.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Staring down this broken land

"FBI 'mistakenly reveals Saudi official linked' to 9/11 attackers: Mistake was made in a declaration by an FBI official in response to lawsuit by families of 9/11 victims, report says."

"With Move to Remote Voting, House Alters What It Means for Congress to Meet: The House's vote on Friday to allow lawmakers to work from afar will fundamentally change how Congress operates." This is a welcome turnabout from the games Pelosi has been playing. I'm hoping it's the first step in admitting that we don't have to restrict the number of Reps voters have to how many can fit under the Capitol Dome.

Must-listen: Nomiki Konst's smashing interview with John Nichols about The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party: The Enduring Legacy of Henry Wallace's Anti-Fascist, Anti-Racist Politics, the fascinating history from FDR to the present of a fight that never ends. Along the way, he mentions this 2016 article by the late Ron Dellums about how to fight Trump and what he says is the best Democratic Convention speech ever, by an exciting black politician named Jesse Jackson. (I remember that speech, getting little chills when he said, "but your patch is not big enough.")
Similarly good Nichols interview from Michael Brooks on The Majority Report with more details.

"UnitedHealth Lobbyist Announces Pelosi Fundraiser As She Begins Backing Off Pub Option: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the first time yesterday suggested she may be backing off her support of the public option. According to CNN, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid 'said they would support any provision that increases competition and accessibility for health insurance - whether or not it is the public option favored by most Democrats.' When 'asked if inclusion of a public option was a non-negotiable demand — as her previous statements had indicated Pelosi ruled out any non-negotiable positions,' according to CNN. This was also corroborated by the Associated Press, and by Pelosi's own words, as quoted in those stories. This announcement came just hours before Steve Elmendorf, a registered UnitedHealth lobbyist and the head of UnitedHealth's lobbying firm Elmendorf Strategies, blasted this email invitation throughout Washington, D.C. I just happened to get my hands on a copy of the invitation from a source - check out this OpenLeft exclusive: ..."

The Brownshirts are here. "Michigan Cancels Legislative Session to Avoid Armed Protesters: Michigan closed down its capitol in Lansing on Thursday and canceled its legislative session rather than face the possibility of an armed protest and death threats against Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The gathering, meant to advocate opening the state for business despite the coronavirus pandemic, followed one April 30 that resulted in pictures of protesters clad in military-style gear and carrying long guns crowding the statehouse. They confronted police and taunted lawmakers."

"Why Armed Right Wingers Were Able To Shut Down Michigan's Legislature [...] Let us understand the context: protesters from the left-wing in legislatures are routinely arrested. The charge is generally something like 'disturbing the peace.' Police can always find a way and excuse to clear protesters if they want to. The police have SWAT teams, they can call in the national guard if necessary. They could wait for the next time the armed protesters come and arrest them. There's a chance of violence, of course, but there are ways to do this that protect legislators. This is clearly intimidation of elected officials. It would not be tolerated from the left, but it has not only been tolerated from the right, it has been allowed to succeed. [...] So there are two likely reasons the Michigan legislature gave into violence. One: they think that right wing violence is legitimate. Two, they don't trust the police or national guard to stop right wingers they sympathize with and support."

"Democracy Wins in New York—and Bernie's Back on the Ballot!: Andrew Cuomo and state Democrats should acknowledge their mistake and stop trying to show Trump and the GOP how to call off an election. Last week, the Democratic commissioners of the New York Board of Elections did something unprecedented in election law: They threw legally qualified candidates off the ballot without their assent. Yesterday, a district judge held that what the board had done was unconstitutional and ordered it to reinstate the presidential primary for June 23. Judge Analisa Torres's decision was a lucid, thorough 30-page destruction of the board's argument. It was an especially important decision given that Donald Trump, whose disrespect for the law and desire for power are well established, might use any precedent to justify canceling or closing down elections later this year." I'm sure this was Cuomo trying to depress progressive turnout and allow him to reinstate his awful faux Democrats to put the Republicans back in power. Good on the New York Yang Gang and Sanders delegates for suing.

A longer than usual post from Atrios says, "We'll Know Better Next Time: I don't have the entirety of The Discourse jacked into my head, but I see very little acknowledgement from the people in power, or even people with big microphones, that this is an unfolding disaster that can't be remedied with the equivalent of a few band aids. Things are fucked - short term, long term, structurally - and they can't easily be unfucked. Fixing the Great Recession was easy and "they" failed at that. Fixing this one is hard and even with unimaginable unemployment numbers coming in there doesn't seem to be much urgency. It's been 8 weeks since Mitch McConnell took his 3 day weekend and Democrats pretended to be mad about that. Pelosi won't let the House do anything except vote for bills she hands them 5 minutes before, and we have evidence from minute one that Pelosi and her people are bad and incompetent about what needs to be done. Just a reminder: [See post for embedded Tweet from Drew Hammill.] That's Pelosi's Deputy Chief of Staff. Anyone knew that one way or another trillions were about to go out the door to save THE MARKET (through the Fed, Treasury, etc.) and they were worried about whether Don Jr's $1200 check might be too generous for him."

"Heroes Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry: THE HEROES ACT, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don't pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it's enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don't receive them during the ongoing pandemic. The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don't expect to take a financial hit. "

"Dems Nix Anti-Recession Policy After Learning It Would Help Too Many People: The bill has many laudable provisions. But it also suffers from baffling omissions. Chief among them, the absence of any proposal for what we in the wonk business call 'automatic stabilizers.' An automatic stabilizer is (more or less) any fiscal policy that mitigates the severity of an economic downturn without Congress having to take any new action. Medicaid and food stamps are two prime examples: When the economy weakens, the number of people who qualify for public health insurance and food assistance goes up, and spending on those programs automatically increases in response. This helps to (modestly) stabilize household incomes and demand for groceries and medical services. Unemployment benefits serve a similar function."

"A Guide to the Nightmare of Getting Health Insurance in a Pandemic: It's really simple, unless you live in the United States of America. Losing your health insurance when you lose your job is confusing in the best of times and even more so during the coronavirus crisis. In addition to needing to deal with all the inherent complexities of our system, there are now numerous additional economic, political, and health factors that make it very difficult to know what is financially the best choice."

"Democrats Are Now Retreating On A Public Option Amid The Pandemic: An emblematic example of how even in a blue state, health care industry propaganda and lobbying can kill a modest reform at the worst possible time. In theory, a public health emergency like coronavirus should prompt lawmakers to do whatever they can to lower the cost of medical care for millions of people who lose their job-based health insurance. In theory, something like a public insurance option should be eminently achievable particularly in states that are completely controlled by Democrats. But then there is the real world of a democracy that is dominated by corporate interests. In an emblematic turn of events in one blue state, the pandemic is now being cited as the rationale to kill rather than pass a state public health insurance option, after the health care industry spent millions of dollars successfully intimidating the Democratic Party into retreating."

"'The American friends': New court files expose Sheldon Adelson's security team in US spy operation against Julian Assange: An exclusive investigation by The Grayzone reveals new details on the critical role Sheldon Adelson's Las Vegas Sands played in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Julian Assange, and exposes the Sands security staff who helped coordinate the malicious campaign. As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador's then-President Rafael Correa and his country's embassy in the UK. The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012. It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands."

"Time for Progressives to Seize the Means of Production of House Relief Bills: Pelosi's bill proves Democratic leadership won't do what needs to be done. There is no upside to moderation in the face of a disaster. Asking for only half as many fire trucks as necessary to rush to the scene of a fire does not make you a wise leader; it makes you someone who let the house burn down. No matter how many times we are forced to learn this the hard way, the lesson has not sunk in for the leaders of the Democratic Party. [...] As soon as Pelosi's bill was announced, Republicans called it 'dead on arrival.' The Democrats knew this would happen. Their bill is meant to send a message about what needs to be done. Or that is what it should have been. Instead, they have already started negotiating against themselves, before the real negotiations have even begun. This losing dynamic will continue until the progressive faction of the party forces its leaders to be just as ruthless as the Republicans are—not in the interests of donors, but in the interests of the 300 million other Americans. Unfortunately, we are a long, long way from there now. And those 300 million other Americans will continue to suffer in the meantime."

"Andrew Cuomo Uses Budget To Cut Medicaid, Settle Political Scores: The New York governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has made him a star, but progressives say the new state budget shows his true colors. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has struck a deal with state lawmakers to enact a budget that cuts billions of dollars a year from the state's Medicaid system and other social programs, and punishes his political enemies in the progressive Working Families Party."

"Federal Judge Calls For McConnell To Be Investigated For Improperly Pressuring Judge To Retire: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could soon find himself under investigation for improperly pressuring a judge to retire so he could fill the opening with a 37-year-old protégé."

"It's Not a 'Chinese Virus.' The Correct Name Is 'The Capitalism Virus': The novel coronavirus is new, but greed is an ancient disease.

As far as I can tell, the main difference between Trump and Biden is that Trump lies more often, and the reason he lies more often is that he addresses the public more often. He seems to be pretty compulsive about it anyway, his Twitter account is famous and prolific, and I don't even know if Biden has ever had a Twitter account for personal use, or written a single Tweet himself. Biden is not an internet kinda guy, but he has to make campaign speeches and he also used to make speeches on the Senate floor when he was trying to promote one of his odious policies. But he doesn't call in to radio or TV shows, he never had a gig as a TV game show host, he's never bothered to play the celebrity unless you count having to make the occasional campaign appearance. So, though he will lie constantly to promote his agenda, his agenda isn't merely to get elected, but to pass lots of horrible policies — or prevent good ones. Since he's not president, of course, he also isn't getting up and doing daily chats with the press that are covered by every network. Basically, Trump lies more often because he talks more often. "If Trump is a Pathological Liar, What Type of Liar is Biden? When I began researching this piece, I knew that Joe Biden told lies, but my expectation was that I would be able to make a clear distinction between Biden and Trump with respect to the type of liar each is. With the exceptions of the staggering amount of Trump falsehoods, and the fact that Biden has admitted to some of his lies, I can't find much difference between them. Sorry, Blue Team. Biden's well-publicized record of lying should be well-known to those who pull the strings of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—those who have been orchestrating Biden's nomination. This compels several questions: Is the DNC so stupid so as to not realize what a gift a Biden candidacy is to Trump, who can easily use the facts of Biden's lying to suppress the Blue Team vote? Is it not obvious that many Blue Team voters will stay home rather than vote to replace one liar with another? Or is the DNC and its masters so evil that they really don't mind having Trump win again? So evil that opting for an alternative to Biden who could beat Trump but who is slightly less oligarchy-friendly than Biden was out of the question for them?"

Dday, "Dr. Jekyll, or Mr. Biden? The presidential hopeful has a choice to make: restoring the corporate centrism of the past, or attacking the stunning inequities highlighted by the coronavirus crisis. [...] The longest episode of the first six features presidential historian Jon Meacham, who gave what amounted to a lecture on FDR's leadership. 'American history from 1933 to 2016,' Meacham tells Biden, can be seen as 'a figurative conversation between FDR and Reagan. You were on a field that was marked off by Reagan on one end and FDR on the other.' How a Biden presidency will proceed, and succeed, depends upon his placement on that field. Does he stay on the 50-yard line, splitting the difference between anti-government conservatism and progressive populism, and cutting bipartisan deals? Or does he surge toward the end zone with 'Roosevelt' written on it, transforming the nation through 'bold, persistent experimentation' that fills in all the cracks the coronavirus exposed? A good reporter is supposed to supply a definitive answer. But I've talked to a dozen people inside the campaign and out, those with the ear of the president and those being wooed by his team, and it's too soon to know how this will break. Not even Biden knows yet. Judging by his personal record, you could envision his presidency as another round of triangulating disappointment. Hopes over the campaign's widespread outreach to progressive leaders and adoption of liberal policy planks are tempered by the presence of Larry Summers at economic-policy meetings." Sam Seder talked to David about this article on The Majority Report.

"Democrats Have Abandoned Civil Liberties: The Blue Party's Trump-era Embrace of Authoritarianism Isn't Just Wrong, it's a Fatal Political Mistake [...] The acts at issue are calls Flynn made to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on December 29th, 2016 in which he told the Russians not to overreact to sanctions. That's it. The investigation was about to be dropped, but someone got the idea of using electronic surveillance of the calls to leverage a case into existence. In a secrets-laundering maneuver straight out of the Dick Cheney playbook, some bright person first illegally leaked classified details to David Ignatius at the Washington Post, then agents rushed to interview Flynn about the 'news.' [...] Remember George Papadopoulos, whose alleged conversation about 'dirt' on Hillary Clinton with an Australian diplomat created the pretext for the FBI's entire Trump-Russia investigation? We just found out in newly-released testimony by McCabe that the FBI felt as early as the summer of 2016 that the evidence 'didn't particularly indicate' that Papadopoulos was 'interacting with the Russians.' If you're in the media and keeping score, that's about six months before our industry lost its mind and scrambled to make Watergate comparisons over Jim Comey's March, 2017 'bombshell' revelation of the existence of an FBI Trump-Russia investigation. Nobody bothered to wonder if they actually had any evidence. Similarly Chelsea Manning insisted she'd already answered all pertinent questions about Julian Assange, but prosecutors didn't find that answer satisfactory, and threw her in jail for year anyway, only releasing her when she tried to kill herself. She owed $256,000 in fines upon release, not that her many supporters from the Bush days seemed to care much. [...] I can understand not caring about the plight of Michael Flynn, but cases like this have turned erstwhile liberals — people who just a decade ago were marching in the streets over the civil liberties implications of Cheney's War on Terror apparatus — into defenders of the spy state. Politicians and pundits across the last four years have rolled their eyes at attorney-client privilege, the presumption of innocence, the right to face one's accuser, the right to counsel and a host of other issues, regularly denouncing civil rights worries as red-herring excuses for Trumpism."

"The tyranny of the Congressional Budget Office" - People think of the CBO as "non-partisan", but that doesn't mean it isn't ideological, and it certainly doesn't mean they don't actually change their language and way of calculating numbers depending on whether they want to make it look "too big". "To begin, the CBO "scores" legislation by estimating its budget cost over a 10-year window. Right out of the gate this is a misleading way to do things. When thinking about the price of something, logically what one should consider is the qualities of the item relative to one's ability to pay. That requires additional thought in the case of the government, because it has the best credit in the world, and borrows in a currency it can print. For some proposed federal program, therefore, the wise place to start is not the headline figure of required spending, but the size of spending relative to the whole economy. [...] None of this is accidental. The CBO was originally set up in the 1970s by the late Alice Rivlin, a neoliberal deficit scaremonger who got her start as a sort of colonial viceroy over the District of Columbia, imposing austerity by fiat and coring out the city's political sovereignty. She positioned the CBO as a nonpartisan agency that would fairly adjudicate bills from both parties, and while it has produced damaging estimates about Republican bills, its bias is overwhelmingly against big social reforms. She inserted the agency in the center of budget politics as part of an ideological crusade against the national debt and social welfare programs, as David Dayen writes at The American Prospect. She's a person who worked with Paul Ryan on an appalling scheme to privatize Medicare. [...] It's hard to say whether or not Pelosi and company would behave any differently without the CBO — they could just be hiding their austerian preferences behind the agency. But this kind of thinking is going to do stupendous damage to a Democratic presidency if the party wins in November. If stabilizers aren't passed in the next few months, President Biden is going to burn up most of his political capital trying to get additional rounds of aid past Republican congressional obstruction. Democrats really need to stop worrying and learn to love big, beautiful programs."

"New Banksy artwork appears at Southampton hospital" — and he's not the only artist to honor the NHS, as the video below the article shows.

RIP: "Jerry Stiller, star of Seinfeld and father of Ben, dies aged 92," none of which are what I know him for since to me Stiller & Meara were famous long before I ever heard of Ben (or Amy) Stiller or Seinfield. The NYT obit is better.

RIP: "Former NSS president Barbara Smoker dies at 96: The National Secular Society is deeply saddened to report the death of one of its longest-serving presidents, Barbara Smoker, at the age of 96 after a long illness. Barbara was president of the NSS from 1972 to 1996 and a consistently forthright campaigner on issues such as faith schools and religious restrictions on freedom of expression." I think I met her once or twice when her other organization, the Humanist Society, gave Feminists Against Censorship a refuge at Conway Hall for our meetings when pro-censorship groups were trying to ensure that we were denied space.
"Humanists UK mourns Barbara Smoker (1923-2020), prolific activist for humanism, secularism, abortion rights, peace, and the right to die."

RIP: "Phil May, frontman with the Pretty Things, dies aged 75: Singer revered by David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix had complications in hospital following hip surgery. [...] He died in hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk, from complications following hip surgery after a cycling accident, that are not related to coronavirus. [...] They were revered by artists as diverse as Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, the Ramones and Kasabian, and while there were spells of inactivity, the band never split up, enjoying a 55-year career. They played their final concert in 2018, with guest appearances by David Gilmour and Van Morrison."

RIP: "Dave Greenfield: The Stranglers keyboard player dies at 71: The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19. Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems. He penned the band's biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982. The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques 'JJ' Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a 'musical genius'."

RIP: "Betty Wright, US soul, funk and R&B singer, dies aged 66: Singer with remarkable vocal range had been sampled by generations of hip-hop and R&B artists, including Beyoncé and Mary J Blige" She was 17 when she charted with "Clean Up Woman" in 1971.

RIP: "Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87: Little Richard, a founding father of rock & roll whose fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form, died Saturday. He was 87. The musician's son, Danny Jones Penniman, confirmed the pioneer's death to Rolling Stone. The cause of death was bone cancer, the musician's lawyer Bill Sobel told Rolling Stone." There's nothing I can say that you don't already know, so have some essential songs.

I've still been trying to crystallize my thoughts about China, though I admit it's been on the back-burner, even though it's an important element in what's been going on (by which I mean for the last 40 years, not Trump or pandemia). This is a fascinating discussion on the subject between Glenn Greenwald and a China scholar whose name I already can't remember, and with Matt Stoller. Recommended. "System Update with Glenn Greenwald - Is China a Competitor, an Adversary or an Enemy?"

This review of Morris Berman's work is, well, it's hard to argue with Berman's conclusion. "It's All Over but the Shouting [...] Having studied the downfall of other empires, Berman saw the window for American reform closing. He warned that if America did not drastically transform its public policies, ideology, and working conception of citizenship, its troubles would only intensify and calcify, bringing a once-promising civilization past the point of no return. In the two books that followed—Dark Ages America and Why America Failed—Berman meticulously demonstrated that America's myopic focus on profit, at the expense of everything else, its zest for war — at home and abroad — and its lack of self-awareness and insight had escalated, making recovery virtually impossible."

Another review, of Zachery Carter's The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, "Still in thrall to John Maynard Keynes [...] It is our good fortune, then, that at this most Keynesian of moments, Zachary Carter has produced a spectacular new biography that paints a rich and textured portrait of the great economist and locates his ideas within the broad sweep of economic and intellectual history. [...] Carter's perspective is that of a 21st-century American who sees a parallel between Britain's decline and fall as an economic superpower, starting in 1914, and a similar fall from economic grace that he fears has begun in his own country. In Carter's telling, everything Keynes did as an economist, journalist and public official was motivated by his determination to preserve Britain's place in the global hierarchy. The tragic irony of his remarkable career was that his ideas were rejected before they were belatedly embraced. At the Paris Peace Conference that convened at the end of World War I, Keynes failed to persuade his own delegation, and those of the other Allied powers, not to saddle Germany with reparations so large that they would crush the German economy. Not only would the money never be paid, Keynes warned prophetically, but the punishment would invite social unrest and a nationalist resurgence that could lead to another war. Dejected, he returned to London early and penned 'The Economic Consequences of the Peace' — a 'furious tirade against autocracy, war and weak politicians,' as Carter describes it — which became an instant bestseller and established Keynes as Britain's best-known and most influential economist. In the period between the wars, Keynes could not persuade Britain and other countries to abandon a gold standard that forced too many nations to raise interest rates to protect their currencies, thereby driving their economies into recession. In 'The End of Laissez-Faire,' he laid out the argument that markets were neither self-correcting nor self-sufficient enough to deliver the right balance of economic efficiency, social justice and individual liberty to save capitalism from its own shortcomings and excesses. [...] Frustrated by his attempts to shape policy, Keynes retreated to Cambridge to write his magnum opus, 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money,' which laid out a new economic belief system, one that acknowledged the irrationality of economic actors, the imperfection of competition, the inherent instability of finance and the possibility that vigorous pursuit of individual self-interest can result in collective economic failure." The review is laudatory right up to the last two paragraphs which fall apart into completely ahistorical nonsense in defense of neoliberalism.

"The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months: When a group of schoolboys were marooned on an island in 1965, it turned out very differently from William Golding's bestseller, writes Rutger Bregman. [...] 'One day, in 1977, six boys set out from Tonga on a fishing trip ... Caught in a huge storm, the boys were shipwrecked on a deserted island. What do they do, this little tribe? They made a pact never to quarrel.'" The year turns out to be a typo, but the story is really marvelous, and tells a much brighter story than Golding could have imagined.

I really enjoy Matt Taibbi & Katie Halper's Useful Idiots show, and this one has an interesting interview of Aaron Maté about how Russiagate has totally deflated.

"Is Harley Davidson Dying?"

Zoomable map of Medieval trade routes

If Escher had computers

I can't bring myself to make this the Bra of the Week, but in sweaty weather it's a temptation.

Mr. Monk in Quarantine

Chris Whitley, "Living With the Law"