Monday, December 26, 2016

Felicitations of the season

The traditional Christmas links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from the Platters.
* Brian Brink's virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

* * * * *

Ryan Cooper in The Week on "2009: The year the Democratic Party died" is probably the best explanation for what happened this November, and I recommend you read it all:

There are unquestionably many factors behind this result. But I want to focus on the biggest one that was completely under Democrats' control. It is the same thing that killed the Republicans of Hoover's generation: gross mishandling of an economic crisis. Democrats had the full run of the federal government from 2009-10, during the worst economic disaster in 80 years, and they did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis. That is just about the most guaranteed route to electoral death there is.


So when the crisis happened, the main thing the political system managed to do was fling money at bankers until the financial sector was stabilized. Afterwards, the idea that bankers might have committed crimes - might in fact have had whole floors of people committing crimes all day long - was simply too big to swallow. So Democrats - many of whom no doubt had plush consulting gigs in the back of their mind - basically looked the other way. No bankers went to jail, and over nine million people lost their homes.

This is not to absolve Republicans of their obstruction in Congress or President-elect Donald Trump or anything else. But the fact of the matter is that Democrats had two golden years to fix the depression, restore the housing market, hold Wall Street to account, and cement a new generation of loyal Democrats, and they bobbled it.

President Obama's spectacular charisma - and his savvy campaign against a filthy rich vulture capitalist in 2012 - papered over these problems to some extent. But for most of his presidency America has basically ceased to function for a huge fraction of the population. Fair or not, the party perceived to be responsible for that situation is going to be punished at the polls.

I have a few quibbles with Cooper - it's not that the party "did not fully fix mass unemployment, nor the associated foreclosure crisis," it's that they just didn't fix it and didn't try to. Their priority was clearly saving the bankers, despite the fact that these people had damn-near wrecked the world with their criminal enterprise. Everyone down-plays the fact that the reason they "had to" go into court with forged documents in the first place was because they'd set up an illegal mechanism to by-pass the ordinary filings and transaction fees that are required for any sale of real property to take place. The banksters found it too cumbersome to obey the law and record transfers of title, and decided it cost them too much to pay the legally required fees, so they invented MERS to paper-over the fact that they weren't doing it. And the courts were letting them get away with foreclosing on properties where they not only didn't hold the titles but couldn't even begin to guess where they were. Did the Obama administration make any effort to rein this in? No, they did not, and the same criminality is still going on.

And, meanwhile, Democrats are bragging about the fact that Obama cut deficits. He did this by reducing government expenditure, which in part was done by reducing government jobs. Those were jobs that needed doing, and those paychecks were money that needed to keep going out into the real economy. This had nothing to do with Congress - it was all in the executive's hands. Cooper is right about this: Barack Obama's decisions in the early part of his first term were devastating to the country and to the party.

"Majority of jobs added under Obama administration are temp, part time - study" - But you knew that, right? "Jobs that come with access to healthcare, vacation time, the occasional sick day and Social Security and Medicare taxes paid through employers have declined under Obama's presidency. One-million fewer people are working steady jobs than they were at the beginning of the recession, according to a study authored by Lawrence Katz at Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University." I'm old enough to remember when the only people who took part-time and temp jobs were people who actually wanted to work part-time or temp because it fit better into their lifestyle. People who wanted a full-time job looked for, and got, full-time jobs. Some people just weren't suited to that kind of permanent slot, but they've been pushed out of the part-time or temp market by people who are. And today's version of a "part-time" job is very often really full-time or worse, when your time is never your own and employers practice wage-theft as a matter of course. (And yes, the link is to RT, and I've already seen Clinton partisans treat the story as Russian propaganda, even though they must know it's true. Or are they really that dumb?)

"Democrats are wasting no time in repeating the mistakes they made in the 2016 primary. The race for DNC chair is getting heated. Shortly after the election, it looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for Minnesota congressman Keith Ellison. He quickly racked up all the right endorsements - Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer and the AFL-CIO and Bill de Blasio. (OK maybe not that last one.) He did the rounds on the Sunday shows, saying all the right things about broadening the party's base - bringing white working class voters back into the fold without losing its progressive, multicultural base. But then things started to shift. The Obama White House was not thrilled with the idea of Ellison leading the DNC - and many of the leaks have suggested that they were uncomfortable with Ellison's identity (he's black and Muslim), more than anything else. Labor secretary Tom Perez jumped into the fold with the White House at his back. And now, Ellison is dealing with opposition research dumps - something of an oddity in a race for party chair."

It was always obvious that the Clinton team was convinced they did not need any Sanders people or any advice from "the left" that supported him. People from the Sanders team tried to help Clinton but no one would listen. They wanted to get out there and talk to people in Wisconsin and Michigan and they wanted to talk about issues and what they got back from the Clinton team was talking points for how to answer the Comey email crap. They were clueless. Naturally, Cenk has steam coming out of his ears about this, and he's right.

"Why Did Planned Parenthood Supporters Vote Trump? A series of maddening focus groups suggest Clinton made it easier for voters to reconcile themselves to Trump. [...] "

"UN Resolution Is a Breath of Hope in Sea of Darkness and Despair: It's now even more crystal clear: The world thinks the settlements are a crime. All the settlements and all the world.

"Wisconsin Election Officials Reject Hand Counts After Electronic Scanners Make Big Mistake." Even the judge admitted it was the best way to look at what the real vote had been and what the error rate was, but ruled against hand-counts anyway.
* "Why Clinton Didn't Push for Michigan Recount [...] When Joe Biden said, "Our electoral system is the envy of the world," I'm thinking, he's only been to Kazakhstan then. Because when I'm in London for the BBC, when I'm in Berlin for ARD, their giant station there, when I'm in Buenos Aires, for the big southern South American stations, they are both laughing and terrified of what our system's going to come up with next. No one thinks our system works. When I did the story, The Steal of Florida, with wiping out black men, calling them felons and it was fake, the rest of the world got that story on page one in The Guardian, top of the nightly news BBC -- all over the world, everywhere but the United States. In fact, if it weren't for The Real News Network, I'm not sure much of it would've finally made it through that electronic Berlin Wall."
* For the sake of completeness, Bruce Schneier, in "Auditing Elections for Signs of Hacking", points out that being able to audit machine reports against paper ballots is a national security issue.

"There is more than one truth to tell in the awful story of Aleppo: Our political masters are in league with the Syrian rebels, and for the same reason as the rebels kidnap their victims - money. Western politicians, 'experts' and journalists are going to have to reboot their stories over the next few days now that Bashar al-Assad's army has retaken control of eastern Aleppo. We're going to find out if the 250,000 civilians 'trapped' in the city were indeed that numerous. We're going to hear far more about why they were not able to leave when the Syrian government and Russian air force staged their ferocious bombardment of the eastern part of the city. And we're going to learn a lot more about the 'rebels' whom we in the West - the US, Britain and our head-chopping mates in the Gulf - have been supporting."
* Atrios probably has a better understanding of Syria than most of them do: "As far as I can tell (news reports are sometimes contradictory), we had a program of arming moderate rebels which put a bunch of weapons there and then we discovered that our rebel fighting force wasn't too "moderate" (whatever that means) and wasn't that interesting in fighting for "us." Then we had the Saudis arm rebels and that didn't work too well. Then we tried to cut some sort of deal with Russia and Assad and that didn't turn out too well. We're notionally supporting some "rebels" (yay Star Wars!) against Assad and Assad against some rebels. And now there are a bunch of good liberals making holocaust comparisons (I don't want to downplay what's going on there, but there is a lot of propaganda which makes it harder to really know what's going on there). You know, the usual "never again" stuff. Go read the rest.

The liberal media: "Venezuela Brings Toys to Poor Kids, Gets Called 'Grinch' on CNN."

Just in case anyone gets the idea that Republicans are serious when they talk about the sanctity of elections and the right of the winner to get their wish list, there is North Carolina, where Republicans are so steamed that a Democrat won the governorship that they're hurriedly passing laws to block gubernatorial powers. "First, for weeks after the close election, Gov. Pat McCrory refused to concede to Attorney General Roy Cooper, demanding recounts and alleging, without evidence, widespread voting fraud. It didn't get him anywhere. So on Wednesday, during a hastily convened special session, Republican lawmakers introduced bills to, among other things, require State Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments; slash the number of employees who report to the governor to 300 from 1,500; and give Republicans greater clout on the Board of Elections, the body that sets the rules for North Carolina's notoriously burdensome balloting." They also want to weaken the state supreme court, which has a 4-3 Dem majority.
* Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, "North Carolina Republicans' Legislative Coup Is an Attack on Democracy: The trouble in North Carolina began when Republican Gov. Pat McCrory lost his re-election bid, likely because of his support for the anti-LGBTQ law known as HB2. At the same time that voters replaced McCrory with Democrat Roy Cooper, they ousted a conservative state Supreme Court justice in favor of a progressive. That tilted the balance of power on the court to a 4-3 liberal majority, ending an era in which the court's conservatives could rubber stamp the legislature's voter suppression and gerrymandering."
* Someone asked how it is that they have all these destructive plans ready and waiting all the time. Where do they come from? A right-wing think-tank called Civitas. But when I google Civitas, all I see is their own propaganda. Even Wikipedia is just their bumph repeated. But here's Jane Mayer in 2011, "State for Sale: A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012's top battlegrounds."

Hm, I wonder whose idea it was to appoint the CEO for Secretary of State.... Oh, well, at least the prince of darkness is on board: "At the center of the pitch for Tillerson: Richard Cheney and Marco Rubio [...] What's not clear is whether these Republicans are working with Trump's blessing or cooperation - or whether, instead, they are freelancing their own agenda to promote an official they favor for Trump's administration. Rice and Gates run a consulting firm that counts ExxonMobil as a client."

"Yale History Prof Timothy Snyder's 20 Pts for Defending Democracy under a Trump presidency." Some of these look good. Some make me curious.

* * * * *

Paul Ryan is trying to privatize everything, cut taxes for the rich, ban abortion - you name it, he's ready to pass the whole right-wing wish list - so, of course, Democrats are all over the place ranting about the extreme importance of doing something about Russians "influencing" our elections. There are a lot of things wrong with treating this as a priority, given that no one seems to care that we can't even count our own ballots, but there's also the fact that the emails that may have turned the election weren't the WikiLeaks mails, but the ones that were on Hillary Clinton's home server. And, in fact, it's not really the emails themselves, but just the fact that she had them on her own server and Comey kept dribbling out announcements about how he might or might not be doing something-or-other about the server maybe not being appropriate. The WikiLeaks mails, of course, told us nothing we didn't already know, but rather confirmed what many were saying anyway. But Comey's continual hints that there might be a subpoena or something in the future, well, that seemed to unnerve a lot of people. Although even that is in question since the polls tightened a little bit before Comey's infamous last announcement before the election - oh, around the time Hillary called Trump voters "deploraables". But seriously, and I'm not making this up, my feeds are full of partisan Dems talking for all the world like the Russians committed an act of war by (allegedly) telling us that Democrats were actually just what they seemed. Did Putin want Trump to win? Quite possibly. When his opposition seems to constantly be trying to encourage a war between his country and our own, I can see his point. Come to think of it, I don't want to see my country go to war with another nuclear power, either. (Or maybe they just want revenge for this.) But the idea that Russia can be blamed for our ills is a bit far-fetched, or as Juan Cole says, "No, America, it wasn't Russia: You did it to Yourself." Indeed, and since Bernie Sanders pretty much handed Clinton a blueprint for what she needed to do to win, the sheer arrogance of her campaign in tossing it into the fire is all the explanation we need.

So, it seems pretty clear that there's still not much to write home about when it comes to Russian hacks, but it seems most people still haven't learned to read the news for tell-tales. And, as Glenn Greenwald says, "Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA's Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence." Yet Democratic partisans have suddenly developed a touching faith in the integrity of the CIA.

The assumption that it's all about the Russians would appear to fall apart with Craig Murray's Description of WikiLeaks' Sources. Marcy picked this apart, too. And though Bloomberg was not as sarcastic as Murray, they were skeptical about the sourcing, too.

But hey, this story keeps changing by the day. It would be funny if everyone wasn't taking it so seriously. Marcy: "The DNC's Evolving Story about When They Knew They Were Targeted by Russia: This week's front page story about the Democrats getting hacked by Russia starts with a Keystone Kops anecdote explaining why the DNC didn't respond more aggressively when FBI first warned them about being targeted in September. The explanation, per the contractor presumably covering his rear-end months later, was that the FBI Special Agent didn't adequately identify himself."

Marcy Wheeler in The New York Times, "I Despise Donald Trump, but He's Right to Be Skeptical of C.I.A. Leaks," with a further note at her own blog, "16 Words: 'The British government has learned that Vladimir Putin recently sought significant quantities of votes for Trump'," for those who get that reference.

"The DNC Breach and the Hijacking of Common Sense: In the physical world of crime investigation, common sense dictates that the perpetrator of a crime may use any weapon and not just one made in the country of his birth, and that the developer or manufacturer of the weapon most likely isn't the criminal. And yet, those seemingly crazy assumptions are made every day by cybersecurity companies involved in incident response and threat intelligence."

* * * * *

In other stupid Democrat news, there was a move on to convince Republican electors to switch their votes in the Electoral College vote to officially choose the president. The extreme unlikeliness of this time-wasting enterprise just made me wonder how insane people are. There they all were, ignoring the blatant plans the Republicans in Congress and from state to state were making plain for a wholesale destruction of our country, and all they could think about was doing something that held no promise of any useful outcome. (Unless you think fomenting war with Russia is a useful outcome.) As it turned out, two Republicans did switch their votes - one to Kasich, and one to Ron Paul, but four Democrats did - three to Sanders, and one to Faith Spotted Eagle of the Yankton Sioux Nation, organizer and activist against Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipeline. "Democratic electors in other states attempted to change their vote for Clinton, but they were shot down by state laws. Only one other faithless vote was counted, and it went to Bernie Sanders in Hawaii. That vote was cast by David Mulinix, who said that he would have voted for Clinton if President-elect Donald Trump had not already won the Electoral College by the time that he placed his vote." Except last I heard, that wasn't true, either. Then there was something about Sanders votes being switched to Colin Powell? I don't know, the internet is full of conflicting stories but the bottom line is that the Dem's case for being a "faithless elector" mostly only worked on other Dems.

There is some sign of leadership , going on, though: Bernie Sanders Persuades Trump Voter That She's Actually a Liberal - In 2 Minutes (Watch the whole thing.)
* Jacobin says, "Power and Persuasion: Bernie Sanders's nationally televised town hall spotlighted the type of politics we need to beat Trump."
* "Bernie Sanders' Speech And QnA On Trump's Victory"

And also, Sarah Silverman interviews Bernie Sanders - this was fun as well as downright inspiring.

"The Democratic Deficit: As the dust settles following last month's Brexit vote, elites seem to be coming to the same conclusion about what's ailing the United Kingdom and the rest of the advanced capitalist world: an excess of democracy."

The Hill, "Biden: Clinton never figured out why she was running: Vice President Biden believes Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election in part because she never figured why she was running for the nation's highest office. 'I don't think she ever really figured it out,- Biden told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Thursday. 'And by the way, I think it was really hard for her to decide to run.' As evidence, the vice president pointed to similar concerns raised privately by Clinton allies in hacked emails that were published by Wikileaks in the midst of the campaign."

Dean Baker, "The Trade Deal Crusaders: Can They Never Learn? Viewing the unpopularity of failed trade deals as being a problem of messaging is a denial of reality that deserves the name Trumpian. In the last 15 years, millions of workers have lost jobs due to imports and tens of millions have seen weaker wage growth - this is not a problem that will go away with better messaging. "

"Higher Profits for Companies Does Not Translate Into Higher Investment" - Not exactly a news flash, but it would come as news to the Washington press corps.

Diane Ravitch, "Chicago: Charter Schools Do Not Outperform Public Schools, Despite Rahm's Claims: Rahm Emanuel wrote an article in the Washington Post a few days ago, defending school choice (and putting him in the same camp as Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump). He gave the example of charter schools in Chicago to support his claim. But a recent analysis of charter school performance in Chicago says that they do not measure up to the public schools, even though they get to choose their students and benefit from the extra money of philanthropists and hedge fund managers."

Shaun King, "Obama and the Clintons still have no earthly idea why the Democratic Party lost the presidential election: Over the past few days, the Obamas and the Clintons have made a series of statements on why the Democratic Party lost the presidential election to Donald Trump. The statements, if anything, reveal what happens when politicians are isolated from the American public for so long. While some nuggets of truth could be found there - by and large they all severely miss the mark on how and why Hillary Clinton lost. Instead of looking internally at mistakes they made, they continue to look outward - casting blame on anybody and everybody but themselves."

The Wall Street Journal, "Shifting Political Landscape in U.S. Prompts Saudi Arabia to Rethink Financial Strategy: With U.S. political climate unclear, Saudi's sovereign-wealth fund could pause investments."

I get so tired of being told how Obama saved us from the financial crisis. No, he didn't. I explain this to people over and over, I just wish they'd read David Dayen. "Obama Failed to Mitigate America's Foreclosure Crisis: The country's first black president contributed to a significant disintegration of wealth for people of color. [...] Former Representative Brad Miller calls the crisis 'an extinction event' for the black and Latino middle class." David talked about this, and a lot of other things, on The Majority Report.

Hm, this sounds kinda fascist. "'Alt-Right' Trolls Are Targeting DC's DIY Music Houses: The Washington area has a long and mostly proud tradition of houses that lend themselves as venues for up-and-coming bands. But in the last few days, some residents of those houses have become guarded after discovering their homes' names and addresses targeted in online message boards populated by members of the white nationalist movement known as the 'alt-right.'"

Noam Chomsky with Amy Goodman and Harry Belefonte

"Why Russia Shut Down NED Fronts: The neocon-flagship Washington Post fired a propaganda broadside at President Putin for shutting down the Russian activities of the National Endowment for Democracy, but left out key facts like NED's U.S. government funding, its quasi-CIA role, and its plans for regime change in Moscow, writes Robert Parry."

"Federal Bureau of Prisons Renews Contract With the Company Formerly Known as CCA: So much for the Justice Department's plan to phase out private prisons. The private prison company formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America - recently rebranded CoreCivic - announced Tuesday that the Federal Bureau of Prisons will extend its two-year contract with the company, despite recent findings of inadequate supervision and gaps in oversight of private prisons. In August, the Department of Justice announced that it would phase out its use of private prisons. The announcement came on the heels of a blockbuster Mother Jones investigation of a Louisiana CCA prison by reporter Shane Bauer, and just one week after the DOJ's inspector general released a report that found shortcomings in safety, security, and oversight at private prisons used by the government. The Bureau of Prisons is a subsidiary of the DOJ." Remember, Obama is still the president.

"Leaked Audio: Dakota Access Pipeline Executive Says 'Election Night Changed Everything' and DAPL 'Is Going Through' [...] 'We now are going into a transition where we are going to have a new President of the United States who gets it. He understands what we're doing here and we fully expect that as soon as he gets inaugurated his team is going to move to get the final approvals done and we'll begin to put [Dakota Access] across Lake Oahe.'

Even many people who voted for Trump are being surprised by cabinet choices that promise the very reverse of "draining the swamp" and cleaning up corruption and crony capitalism. His choice of Goldman Sachs honchos for his cabinet has dismayed some of them, but of course there are others who are gleeful. And nothing makes them more gleeful than something that they know will aggravate liberals, like this here: "Potential Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson Has an SEC Problem: ExxonMobil has been under SEC investigation since "
* Naturally, we seem to be looking at more far-right wet dreams for education: Betsy DeVos and the Plan to Break Public Schools: Among the points that can be made in favor of Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump's billionaire nominee for the position of Secretary of Education, are the following: She has no known ties to President Vladimir Putin, unlike Trump's nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, who was decorated with Russia's Order of Friendship medal a few years ago. She hasn't demonstrated any outward propensity for propagating dark, radical-right-leaning conspiracy theories, unlike Michael T. Flynn, Trump's designated national-security adviser. She has not actively called for the dismantling of the department she is slated to head, as have Rick Perry, Trump's nominee for Energy Secretary, and Scott Pruitt, the nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. That the absence of such characteristics should bear noting only underlines the dystopian scope of Trump's quest to complete his cabinet of cronies. On the other hand, DeVos has never taught in a public school, nor administered one, nor sent her children to one. She is a graduate of Holland Christian High School, a private school in her home town of Holland, Michigan, which characterizes its mission thus: 'to equip minds and nurture hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ.' How might DeVos seek to transform the educational landscape of the United States in her position at the head of a department that has a role in overseeing the schooling of more than fifty million American children? As it happens, she does have a long track record in the field. Since the early nineteen-nineties, she and her husband, Dick DeVos, have been very active in supporting the charter-school movement"

It isn't just Americans who are having a rude awakening, of course. Wherever the neoliberals have prevented the left from rooting them out, the worst elements of the right gain power, and then surprise their own supporters with betrayal. Take Britain, for example. Oh, no one should be surprised that Theresa May is a disaster, but her promises weren't worth anything, either - a habit conservatives and neoliberals alike just can't break. "She steeled herself to call off the expensive disaster of Hinkley C - then meekly waved it through. She vowed to install workers on company boards - then the idea didn't even make it on to a green paper. She promised to stick up for 'just about managing' families, then allowed her chancellor instead to carry on slashing taxes for multinationals. And then there's foreign ownership of Britain's infrastructure. Remember how May promised to scrutinise any proposed takeovers of such strategic assets as water, energy and transport? Well, last week, while the rightwing commentators were diligently huffing and puffing over Gina Miller at the supreme court, another kind of sovereignty was being covered on the City pages. The National Grid announced it would sell a majority of its gas pipelines to a consortium of largely overseas investors, including China and Qatar, and led by an Australian investment bank, Macquarie." Well, Macquarie is a shady little empire that already owns a considerable part of Britain, so why not?

Brave New Films wants you to know that "Almost Half a Million People Are in Jail Awaiting Trial," and the private bail business can keep people in jail who've never committed a crime. They want to do something about it.

"Detroit's voting irregularities spur state audit: Lansing - Voting irregularities in Detroit have spurred plans for an audit by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office, Elections Director Chris Thomas said Monday. State officials are planning to examine about 20 Detroit precincts where ballot boxes opened during the recount had fewer ballots than poll workers had recorded on Election Day."

Policy changes that began to affect workers in the early '70s have meant consistent wage stagnation, but it happened at the same time that Affirmative Action started to be enforced, and that's what a lot of people blamed, because, as MahaBarb put it in "Why People Turn to Dictators," scapegoating is "easier than explaining the real reasons."
* Barb also linked to an Ian Welsh piece I missed, "Living in the Truth or Dying in Lies," in which he says, "It is nice that you don't think that racism and racists get stronger when times are bad, and that people who don't see a pay raise in 40 years are likely to turn to nasty politics, and it is even important that you think so, since your sheer stupidity and blindness makes it harder to stop, but you are wrong. You are, in fact, part of the problem, because problems happen and we need to be able to fix them, and you and your type are making it harder to do anything by muddying the water. The inability to separate partisanship from a clear understanding of the world is at the heart of why we are where we are today. Clear consequences of action and non-action are dismissed wholesale until it is too late to do anything about it."

"Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit [...] The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much - when they caused a ruckus - and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy. That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population - all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction - are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They're going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard - not without reason - as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare."

I know I've said this before, but I've been hearing that whole thing about how demographics will give Democrats a lock on electoral and ideological victory since I was 15, and as old people have died off and babies have reached voting age, things have only moved to the right, state-by-state, and now each branch of the federal government is in the hands of people who really do sound crazier than legislators of the Jim Crow era. And the Democratic response to the issues that affect a considerable proportion of the population is not to address those issues, but to simply cast them as intractable and inevitable facts of nature. Which means only the right-wing gets to provide answers, and therefore solutions. That the answers and solutions are all based on racism, nativism, and sexism may trouble the modern liberal Democrat, but not enough to require them to tell the truth: that these problems are not intractable or inevitable but can be ameliorated by policies geared to relieve the pressures on Americans that make them so desperate to grasp for any solution, even a monstrous one. When only the right-wing acknowledges the suffering of millions and avers that there is a way to fix it, the right-wing is going to be able to take ground that was once held by those with more democratic and progressive impulses. "Demographics Are Not Destiny: Why Democrats were wrong to think that shifting demographics alone would hand them victory."
* As a footnote, some of us were horrified at the way the Clinton campaign took for granted that she owned the black vote. I don't mean simply that they assumed black voters would support the Democrat, but that the black community was a monolith that all thought the same way, and, more, owed their allegiance to Clinton. This despite the fact that there were a number of indicators showing that, as with white Democrats, there were divisions within families, particularly between generations, on whether to support Clinton or Sanders in the primaries. Carl Beijer looked at the numbers back in February.

Someone was remarking that Trump's cabinet choices were so deeply contraindicated that it would not be surprising if Bernie Madoff got an appointment. I said that'd be great, because his time in prison seemed to have given him a new appreciation for just how rancid the financial industry really is. Someone else mentioned that Bernie Kerik also seemed to have gained new insights into our judicial system after spending time inside.

"Intake: Lock them in. Bill their insurer. Kick them out. How scores of employees and patients say America's largest psychiatric chain turns patients into profits. [...] Current and former employees from at least 10 UHS hospitals in nine states said they were under pressure to fill beds by almost any method - which sometimes meant exaggerating people's symptoms or twisting their words to make them seem suicidal - and to hold them until their insurance payments ran out."

"Lawmakers Who Owned Bank Stock Were More Likely To Vote For Wall Street Bailout: Study: Do the personal assets of congressional lawmakers affect the way they vote on federal legislation? New data says yes -- at least when it comes to their votes to bail out Wall Street with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars."

The Los Angeles Times says, "Fighting for the progressive cause got a little easier thanks to this Bernie Sanders-affiliated group: Observers say Sanders made a real impact in the races he boosted directly or indirectly - an organization launched with his blessing raised six-figure sums for some candidates - an effect that could multiply if the movement the senator began continues to grow."

I regard tweetstorms as an unwieldy substitute for a good blog post, but Chris Arnade does some great ones. This one starts with, "1. I am now hearing this meme that this country being fucked up ain't the bankers fault," and tears it apart. Along the way, he mentions some old articles he wrote a few years ago - "Here's why Wall Street has a hard time being ethical" in the Guardian, and "Bringing Broken-Windows Policing to Wall Street: The banking industry needs more than regulation. It needs a new culture" in The Atlantic. And when someone asked why he left the financial industry, he linked to one about himself in Business Insider, "A Trader Turned Photographer Admits the Ugly Truth About Numbers No Wall Streeter Wants To Hear"

Ian Welsh believes that "Reagan and George W Bush Changed the World More than Bill Clinton Or Obama [...] George W. Bush had his two terms, and he changed the nature of American government in ways that neither Clinton nor Obama did. Bill Clinton ran Reagan's economy better. Reagan was not smart. Reagan changed the nature of American government more than any President since FDR. Bill Clinton was Reagan's butt-boy. Understand that. Internalize it. He ran the neo-liberal economy that Reagan had created, and yes, he ran it better than Reagan, but he was living in Reagan's world. Obama ran Bush's government. He kept deporting people, deported even more than Bush. He ramped up drones. He kept troops in Afghanistan, he attacked Libya, he kept extending the Patriot Act and AUMF. He was operating in a constitutional order set up by Bush, and he never challenged it, not once. Obama was Bush's butt-boy. Understand that, internalize it." All of this is true, but I believe that there was one significant change of "things", and that's that we now had Democrats essentially championing right-wing policy rather than working to undo it and defend liberalism, and I think that's what made it possible for us to be where we are today. And if Democrats don't take this all to heart, they have no hope of fighting Trump.

"Will The Real Tulsi Gabbard Please Stand Up... Please Stand Up - Her support for Sanders is fairly confusing when you look at the rest of her record.

A friend and I were walking down St. Mark's Place one night when we were stopped by gentlemen standing outside of the big building that had recently been painted blue and opened as a club - what was it called? The Electric Factory? Memory is dim, but anyway, they invited us to come in for free and hear some live music, so we did. The place wasn't terribly crowded and the stage itself was the perfect height to lean on, so I did, trying to read the twisty writing of the band's name on the drum-head. Eventually, between tunes, I caught the bass-player's eye and motioned him over and said I couldn't read it, what was the band's name? And he told me it was "Sly and the Family Stone." They sounded good. Anyway, Sly Stone, The Velvet Underground, Nina Simone and others are getting Lifetime Achievement Grammy's.

* "Larry Colburn, Who Helped Stop My Lai Massacre, Dies at 67"
* "Zsa Zsa Gabor dead at 99 after suffering heart attack."
* "George Michael: Pop superstar dies at 53"

Cool APOD from Hubble, The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi

The Unipiper keeps Portland weird.

"Woman Kyrgyz singer records amazing version of a traditionally male-voiced poem"

Apparently, Marlene Dietrich was a Peter, Paul & Mary fan.

This is a beautiful thing that belongs in my Christmas stocking. I also have a birthday coming up, soon. Of course, I still want this under the tree.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Meat nor drink nor money have I none

"Barrett Brown has been released from prison; WikiLeaks publishes to celebrate: Today, investigative journalist Barrett Brown has been released from FCI Three Rivers to a halfway house outside Dallas, earlier than initially scheduled. His parents picked him up from the federal prison to drive him six hours to his new residence. Brown's release comes with several post-imprisonment restrictions, including a 'computer and internet monitoring program', a ban on firearms, and forced drug tests and participation in a drug treatment programme. It is as yet unknown how long Barrett will spend at the halfway house."

"Top Trump campaign aide in Michigan guilty on 10 felony counts: Brandon Hall, the controversial west Michigan blogger who served as a key figure in the Donald Trump campaign's organizing efforts across the state, was found guilty today on 10 felony counts of election fraud."

Bernie Sanders says Trump got rolled by Carrier: "In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to 'pay a damn tax.' He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How's that for standing up to corporate greed? How's that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad? [...] Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren't thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be reevaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America."

"There have been just 4 documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election" - Republicans, of course.

"Senate Democrats Have One Shot At Saving SCOTUS - Will They? It is now time for Senate Democrats to take their shot at saving this country from fascists assuming the reins of power in January. It can be done, but it will require them to be courageous and aggressive."

Of course, the death of Fidel Castro has caused the same people who said we should say something nice about Sfalia when he died to tell us that Fidel Castro was without redeeming value. Some would argue there was more to be said for Castro than for Scalia, but never mind that - whatever else you may know about Cuba, you should certainly remember that there is a prison on that island where people have been held and tortured for 14 years without charges. And Cuba does not run that prison. But even leaving all that aside, "American criticism of Cuba on human rights is total hypocrisy, given our history of terrorizing the island."

"Pipeline politics explained: That contentious oil pipeline being built across the Standing Rock reservation's water supply has a revealing history. It wasn't originally supposed to go there!"

"Trump and the GOP Have Massively Unpopular Tax Policies: Even wealthy Republican voters support higher taxes for themselves."

David Dayen in The Nation, "Wilbur Ross and Steve Mnuchin - Profiteers of the Great Foreclosure Machine - Go to Washington: Mnuchin and Ross led companies that committed fraud to foreclose on millions of homeowners. Now they will be in charge of the entire US economy. What could go wrong?" If only Obama had put them in jail where they belonged.

Also from Dday, "Donald Trump Is Coming for Your Medicare: The selection of Tom Price to head HHS brings the president-elect into alignment with Speaker Paul Ryan."

"The Dangers of Anti-Trumpism: Silvio Berlusconi's tenure as Italian prime minister shows how not to resist an authoritarian demagogue."
* "Normalizing Trump [...] Berlusconi was toppled the first time by popular action, something that unsettles mainstream liberals, who are terrified of the mob. Of course, a government can fall in a parliamentary system and not ours. But popular action is all we've got. It won't be long before Chuck Schumer and Steve Mnuchin sit down and make some deals. Faced with profound defeat at every level of government, all the Dems seem able to do is re-elect Nancy Pelosi and dream of Cory Booker as their 2020 savior. Booker, who made his political debut at a lunch thrown by the right-wing Manhattan Institute, served on the same school reform board as Education Secretary-designate Betsy Devos, who wouldn't mind destroying the public school system. These are dire times, and it's hard to imagine resistance that doesn't feature millions in the streets."

"Trump May Not Be Anti-Gay, But Much of His Senior Staff Is: President-elect Donald Trump has called himself a 'supporter' of LGBT rights, but his senior staff picks include some of the most virulently anti-gay politicians in the country, leaving LGBT groups uncertain and worried about what path he will eventually take."

Could Trump follow Jimmy Carter's example? So far he is only threatening to prevent Muslims from entering the country, but Carter actually did worse to Iranians. The trouble is that Carter went after a nationality, whereas Trump is going after a religion. Still, was it right the first time?

"How Stable Are Democracies? 'Warning Signs Are Flashing Red' [...] He fears that the minutiae of politics can easily distract from these more fundamental dangers. 'It's not just about what Trump will do to the E.P.A.,' he said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. 'It really is that Trump may try to undermine liberal democracy in the United States.' 'Look, this stuff is already going on in other places,' Mr. Mounk added. 'If there's one task that we have as journalists, as academics, as thinkers, it's to drive the stakes of this home for people.'"

Nate Silver, "Why I Support An Election Audit, Even Though It's Unlikely To Change The Outcome: In many ways, undertaking an audit of the election results is tantamount to performing a test for a rare but potentially fatal disease. You want to weigh the probability of successfully detecting an anomaly against the invasiveness of the procedure and the chance of a false positive result. Oftentimes, the risk outweighs the reward. For instance, many experts warn against mammograms for women in their 40s because the underlying risk of breast cancer is low for women of that age and the rate of false positive tests is high, causing undue stress for the patients and subjecting them to further tests and operations that might be harmful."

I'm tempted to quote way too much of this scathing indictment of Krugman, so follow the link and enjoy: "Who Lost The White House? [...] But unlike Clinton campaign goons, paid party operatives, and your liberal Facebook friends who play them for free on the internet, Krugman is not a party crackpot - a liberal, yes, obviously, and a Democrat, but also, supposedly, a scholar and intellectual being paid to tell us the truth as he understands it, not to spin some bogus line about how the Russians magically - with Facebook memes! - caused Clinton to flush a billion dollars to raise another billion dollars, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and then not even to have the guts to come out and address her supporters on the night she lost, choosing instead to do what the campaign did all along: send an overpaid functionary to play surrogate on her behalf." Oh, hell, I can't resist one more: "The argument is that something like Obamacare is complex and corporate because that was the only way to smuggle in the benefits without tripping over the obstructionist GOP. This argument would hold more merit if the Democratic Party ever bothered to engage in full-throated advocacy for a real, non-means-tested, universal program which then got whittled down in negotiation. Instead, the party endlessly triangulates against itself, and the few things that squeak through often are worse than the alternative nothing. The real Clinton campaign slogan wasn't 'I'm With Her'; it was 'How About $12.50?' - Hillary Clinton's answer when asked about a $15 per hour minimum wage."
* And at Ring of Fire, "Paul Krugman Pompously Suggests Democrats Turn Their Backs On Working Class."

Matt Taibbi, "The Washington Post 'Blacklist' Story Is Shameful and Disgusting: Last week, a technology reporter for the Washington Post named Craig Timberg ran an incredible story. It has no analog that I can think of in modern times. Headlined "Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say," the piece promotes the work of a shadowy group that smears some 200 alternative news outlets as either knowing or unwitting agents of a foreign power, including popular sites like Truthdig and Naked Capitalism. [... Helping Beltway politicos mass-label a huge portion of dissenting media as "useful idiots" for foreign enemies in this sense is an extraordinarily self-destructive act. Maybe the Post doesn't care and thinks it's doing the right thing. In that case, at least do the damn work."

"In the early going, nothing is closer to pure gold than favorable free media exposure." Of course, the Clinton campaign knew this, and knew that while Clinton's own name-recognition and access to big money were already high, debates were free airtime that they didn't want to give Bernie Sanders, and that's the real reason they scheduled only six of them and started them as late as they possibly could.

My feeds are full of my friends screaming about how anyone who voted for Trump should not be understood as anything but horrible people. I understand the temptation, but I don't think it's a terribly productive approach and it sounds to me like they are planning to keep repeating the same mistakes. Meanwhile, here is someone who tried to explain - but anonymously. "Liberals Should Stop Ranting And Seek Out Silent Trump Voters Like Me: I am an urban, millennial woman, and I voted for Trump. Now, I'm afraid to explain my reasoning to an angry, vitriolic left that will not listen to me. [...] I understand many of you opposed Trump and feel afraid and frustrated, or just saddened and confused. I know it is easy to lash out right now. But I don't want to be subjected to vitriolic tirades by people who claim to practice tolerance, then project fury whenever their worldview is challenged."

Leslie Lopez, "'I believe Trump like I believed Obama!': Christian Parenti's Listening to Trump resonated with me on a personal level. Both of my 'Latino' working-class parents voted for Trump, and I don't think we were the only family politically divided this Thanksgiving. Election night, I was exactly like those stunned white people suffering from cognitive dissonance on Saturday Night Live, except I'm not white. I'd enthusiastically supported Sanders, and then reluctantly voted for Hillary - but her campaign did not represent a 'glass ceiling' moment for me. In the mid-90's, while teaching at a Native American Preparatory School in New Mexico, I'd shown my students videos of working conditions in maquiladoras, read Subcommandante Marcos and Rigoberta Menchu, and taught about NAFTA from an indigenous and economic perspective. I later learned that liberalism excluding class and labor had a word - neoliberalism. "

"How to Get Ahead as a Woman in Tech: Interrupt Men." I'm still not sure what the cause-and-effect is, there, but it's always been fairly clear to me that people who are more confident of what they are talking about are also more likely to interrupt and contribute to conversations. Status alone can give someone some of that confidence and also make others less likely to react disapprovingly when they interrupt.

Tom Sullivan on Disaster Progressivism: "The hair-on-fire panic many progressive activists exist in vis-a-vis national politics and the future of the country (and now the planet) reflects the same short-term thinking that leads establishment Democrats to defend their reelection first and the voters second. ("This is the most important election of our lifetimes," etc.) No long-term thinking. Longer-term, the Democratic party is a pushover if progressives will just do the work and stick around long enough to see results from the pushing. Yet a lot of talented activists are unwilling to get their nice, white vinyl souls soiled by contact with the icky party to do that. They consign themselves to irrelevancy. [...] Democrats and progressives seem forever to do more Monday-morning quarterbacking about missed opportunities than thinking three to five moves ahead, never pre-positioning themselves to capitalize on opportunities when they arise. That's what Naomi Klein described in "The Shock Doctrine." Like my roommate, those disaster capitalists pay attention to faint signals and pre-position themselves so they are poised to move quickly and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. So are progressives going to do that now or just protest after the fact? Because there's a disaster coming, and we'd best be positioned to capitalize on opportunities that will appear suddenly out of nowhere. Better that than complain how the old boys clubs failed to do it for us."

Ezekiel Kweku on "The Skin Game: How to beat white nationalism at the polls [...] The lesson we should draw from Clinton's loss is not that white supremacy is unbeatable at the polls, but that it's not going to beat itself. White people are not going to instinctively recoil from racist appeals, and neither are people of color going to flock to the polls to defeat them. If the Democratic Party would like to keep more Donald Trumps from winning in the future, they are going to have to take the extraordinary step of doing politics."

Wolfgang Münchau in the Financial Times, "Some revolutions could have been avoided if the old guard had only refrained from provocation. There is no proof of a 'let them eat cake' incident. But this is the kind of thing Marie Antoinette could have said. It rings true. The Bourbons were hard to beat as the quintessential out-of-touch establishment. They have competition now. Our global liberal democratic establishment is behaving in much the same way. At a time when Britain has voted to leave the EU, when Donald Trump has been elected US president, and Marine Le Pen is marching towards the Elysée Palace, we - the gatekeepers of the global liberal order - keep on doubling down."

"The Blind Spots of Liberalism: What an impoverished small town tells us about the dangers of not taking class seriously. [...] This November, the town (and 362 other Placer County, California precincts not unlike it) voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, 51.1 percent to 39.5 percent. But it's hard to blame sexism or racism for Clinton's loss. On Election Day, the people of Placer County also voted for Kamala Harris, a black woman, to be their US senator. Her vote share? 63 percent. And her vote tally? 16,178 more than Clinton's."

Mike Konczal, "Learning From Trump in Retrospect: Trump is unapologetically against trade that harms American workers. I would have assumed he was fighting a straw man here, but one thing I've learned is how a certain class of liberals don't approach job loss from trade with a regrettable sense of the trade-offs, but instead a more cutting sense that Americans don't have any claim on the jobs that go away anyway. It's all for the best, in the long-run. The brilliant economist David Card gave me a useful point here during an interview: the divide among economists on trade is driven by the fact that labor economists study the real effects of unemployment on real people, where trade and macroeconomists treat people as just another commodity."

Rick Perlstein, "Meet the Press: The hustlers, hucksters, hacks, and cowards who helped elect Donald Trump" I was curious, so I did a bit of research on theories about why great civilizations fall. Some scholars point to the danger of overextended militaries, others on overwhelmed bureaucracies. Sometimes the key factor is declines in public health, often caused by agricultural crises. Political corruption is another contender, as are inflated currencies, technological inferiority, court intrigue, rivals taking control of key transportation routes, or an overreliance on slave labor. Others point to changes in climate, geographic advantages won and lost, or the ever-popular invasion by barbarian hordes. None I could find, however, mentioned what may become future historians' most convincing explanation for America's fall, should Donald Trump end up her author and finisher: bad journalism.

Howie Klein, "The Democratic Party's Scourge: Identity Politics: I'm gay. I'm proud that the highest lifetime crucial vote score of any member of Congress is Mark Pocan, a gay men. His score is 98.95. Does he rock! Unfortunately, the single worst voter of all members being returned in 2107 is also gay-- Arizona Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema, whose lifetime score is a an abysmal 36,63. And Sinema isn't the only LGBTQ person at the bottom on the garbage pile. Sean Patrick Maloney, currently making a bid for chairman of the DCCC, is not just a married gay man but also a New Dem Wall Street whore and the proud owner of 5th worst voting record score (45.19) among Democrats."

"A Note on the Taboo Subject of Stolen Elections" - A reminder that we hardly know how a fair election would play out anymore in America, but no one in big media wants to talk about it, so small media will have to do the job.

I'm sad to say that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry has announced that it "will cease its activities at the Whitechapel Road site that it has occupied since its move there in 1738." You may recall that I visited the place for a celebration a few years ago and felt it was like I'd walked into Old Fezziwig's Christmas party. I loved having a connection to that place, and those people, and I think very highly of Alan Hughes. This kinda makes me want to cry.
* BBC: "Whitechapel Bell Foundry up for sale."
* Guardian, "Whitechapel Bell Foundry to ring in new era as owner sells site."
* "Whitechapel Bell Foundry: end of an era in pictures"

The Recording Academy has announced that 25 tracks will be added to the Hall of Fame. And some of those artists are even still alive.

I have to agree, Disraeli Gears was the best Cream album.

Interview with Bruce Springsteen on Fresh Air. I'm told his book is really good and he's a great writer with a fascinatingly grim childhood.

I recently discovered Lilo & Stitch, and I love it.

Doctor Who Adventure Calendar, 2016
* Sadly, the cheese advent calendar won't be available until next year.

I don't really remember when Frank Zappa was on the Monkees.

Peter, Paul & Mary, "A-Soalin'"

Monday, November 28, 2016

I heard it through the grapevine

OK, it's that time of year again, so let's start with a little Advent music. We'll get to the other Christmassy stuff I like to deploy in my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas soon. Remember, it's the darkest and coldest time of the year up here in the northern hemisphere, and we need to light and warm the way. So, just a simple little version of "The Carol of the Bells" to get the feeling.

Everyone is chiming in with what went wrong. what needs to go right, who to blame and who is faultless, people scared to death, or else steeling themselves to face what's coming. As always, there are a lot of people I'd like to smack, but let's start two years ago in the NYT:

Democrats did lose the South, but they didn't lose it because of the Civil Rights Act. Instead of waiting for all those mean old Southern white men to die, Democrats might be better off asking themselves why so many of them were still voting Democratic just 22 years ago.

Nor have Democratic losses in the South been much worse than they were all over the country. To give just one egregious example, Democrats lost the Massachusetts statehouse this year - for the fifth time in their last seven tries.

This is a historic shift. From 1931 to 1995, Democrats held majorities in the House of Representatives for all but four years and in the Senate for all but 12. On the state level, they held their own with (or outnumbered) Republicans in governorships and state legislatures for the vast majority of those 64 years.

It's been a completely different story since 1994, however, and by next January, Democrats will not only be in the minority in both houses of Congress. They will likely hold 18 statehouses and both chambers in only 11 state legislatures.

Suffering a series of historic defeats is not a sign that you're winning. The Democrats no longer please anyone much, neither their depressed base nor the less committed. Meanwhile, Republicans still manage to portray them as wild-eyed socialists. The party does take the White House more often now, but at the state level, and in the midterms, when a third of the senators and all representatives are up for election, the party has been hollowed out.

THE trouble was that the Clinton-Obama strategy got things upside down from the start. Why try to cast yourselves as economic moderates and cultural progressives when the disparate elements of your coalition have little in common culturally, but are all struggling with the same wretched economy?

* * * * *

Max Sawicky (MaxSpeak) on FB this week:

OK, folks. This is the game.

Bernie Sanders is taking the line of resisting the intolerant, warmongering Trump & Co. while simultaneously challenging him to put real money into infrastructure and to write better trade deals, Trump's signature overtures to the working class. Most if not all Senate Democrats are taking the same line.

An alternative strategy would be to emulate what Mitch McConnell did with Obama, to just oppose everything, regardless of whether or not it is congenial to his ideological interests. This worked well for the Republicans, but that doesn't mean it would work for the Dems, since their constituencies and policy priorities are different. It makes for a debate in which reasonable people can disagree. But that's not what's happening.

Justifiable hysteria over Trump's appointments, such as the unspeakable Senator Sessions for Attorney-General, is making rational discussion more difficult. Some are accusing Sanders of collaborationism, 'reaching out' to racist Trump voters, folding in the face of fascism. In other words, they are resuming the Clinton primary campaign of libelous gossip and the failed general election campaign against deplorables.

In this setting, every single Trump voter is irredeemably racist from top to bottom, with no mitigating concerns. As a matter of fact, I don't doubt that many of them are, but to win a national election, Democrats don't need all of these people; they only need a handful. After all, the total margin of defeat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin - the electoral vote difference that put Trump over the top - was less than 110,000. Tiny.

I don't normally defer to authority, but in this case it ought to be noted that Sanders' line is the same as other Senate Democrats, who know more about electoral politics than I do. So some consideration is merited, and the onus of the position should not be put on Sanders alone.

The Clinton line about her defeat is that nothing was their fault. It was all the FBI, Wikileaks, and the media. To be sure, all of those factors exerted a malign influence and any one of them could have flipped the result. So might any number of decisions by the Clinton Campaign. The upshot of the Clinton line is that no course corrections for the Democratic Party are warranted, except in the realm of technical operations. The strategy going forward is to hope for better luck and demographic rescue in the years (decades!) ahead.

The Clintons and their elite cronies are not going away. They want to retain power. Their attacks on Sanders should be rejected by the left; these attacks are an effort to demobilize his movement, which as things stand is The Movement. There is no Clinton movement; there are Clinton elites and apologists. There is no Clinton-led grassroots mobilization against the impending racist, sexist, xenophobic wave led by Trump. The Clinton plan is to hunker down and broker the next neo-liberal champion. Corey Booker, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

There may be good arguments for a stance of wall-to-wall opposition to all things Trump. Let them be made. At the same time, the only impact from stigmatizing Sanders and his followers is to perpetuate the current Democratic sclerosis that has led us into this abyss.

* * * * *

Dennis Kucinich posted on Facebook a letter he sent to the Attorney General:

As a former member of Congress and former chair of the Committee on Domestic Policy, I hereby request you open an immediate investigation of police authorities in Standing Rock, North Dakota for conspiring against the civil and constitutional rights of protestors, in violation of 42 U.S.C., Section 1983, which reads, in part, 'Every person who, under color of any statute - causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law. . . ."

It has been reported that police, as part of a strategy of crowd control, deliberately used water cannons, in subfreezing temperatures, against protestors, subjecting protestors to risk of serious injury and depriving them of their First Amendment right of free speech, the right to protest.

I am requesting that you use the power of your office to investigate this incident, to determine the participants and to take such action to enjoin the offending parties from further violation of the US Constitution and applicable federal law.

Al Franken has also sent a letter to the AG. Obama, who promised to have their back, has been amazingly quiet about all this. Clinton, when pushed, was non-committal during the campaign and has nothing to say on the subject now. Schumer? Don't kid yourself. "Phillips 66, who have financed 25% of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is primarily owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's holding company. Buffett actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton this past presidential election, and has made large donations to Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats over the past several years."

"Father of Activist Injured at Standing Rock Calls on Obama to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Drilling [...] President Obama, has to step in there and stop this. They're drilling now even though they don't have a permit. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked them to stop. The Army Corps of Engineers has said that they were not going to issue a permit until after they did further environmental studies and spoke with the tribe, and yet they go ahead and set all the drills in place, and they continue. They're probably drilling under the river right now, as we speak. And it's a very, very dangerous situation there. And that's just thing number one. Number two is they have to demilitarize the police there. There's no reason that the police should be intentionally trying to kill people, maim people. And this has to stop."

But the citizenry's pressure on local authorities to withdraw from the attack on the protesters, especially in the face of increasing costs to public funds, does seem to be having an effect. "It was not an easy choice to make, Gootkin said. 'I wanted to go and help my fellow law enforcement.' Then, he raised a question that has begun to rattle many communities across America lately. 'I just don't understand where we separated from the public. It really breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.'"

* * * * *

"Slovenia Declares Water A Human Right By Amending Constitution [...] Meanwhile, private corporations like Nestle are expanding their extraction of fresh water, bottling it and selling it for profit. In one particularly horrific example, Nestle is set to triple its water extraction from an aquifer in Michigan only 120 miles from the embattled town of Flint, where residents have not had access to clean drinking water for over a year."

Thanks to commenter CMike for alerting us to this from Jimmy Dore: "Economist Who Predicted Brexit & Trump Brilliantly Explains Capitalism's Collapse"

You would think Democrats would be asking why no recounts with such close losses and contradictory exit polls, but no. In fact, when Jill Stein raises over $4.5m to request US election recounts in battleground states, the Clintonites are all over the net sneering and accusing her of nefarious purposes and "a scam" and advising people not to give money to the cause. Apparently, they got the memo to blame Trump's election on Stein and her supporters and they just can't stop themselves.

We might learn something about this election if we look at foreclosure map. "The first map is from RealtyTrac, and indicates the states with the largest foreclosure inventory in 2012. The second is a map of the key battleground states. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won these states. In 2016 Clinton lost them. There's a lot of similarities between those two maps. Even in the best economic environment, residential mortgage foreclosure is a long, messy process. The massive wave of foreclosures that hit these regions after the financial crisis had enormous consequences economically. They also had a tremendous, painful impact on the families and neighborhoods of the people affected, directly and indirectly by the foreclosures. [...] I was involved, to a small degree, with homeowners, activists and lawmakers that tried to deal with the issues and problems in the foreclosure crisis, some of which is documented in David Dayen's excellent new book, Chain of Title. As Dayen documents, the government response to the issues was ultimately terribly unsatisfying and at best, had the effect of sweeping the issue under the carpet. The consequences of the government's response played out in this presidential election. [...] How much of an impact would a compassionate outreach have had on these neighborhoods? It's also worth remembering that the people hit by the foreclosure crisis were generally middle class - prior to the crisis they owned homes, held jobs, were members of the community. Where were they by the time the 2016 election came around?"

Bernie Sanders made a speech on Our Revolution - A Future to Believe In, after which he made a statement during the Q&A that makes perfect sense, although Vox seemed to view it with some consternation and TPM completely mischaracterized it, but it was, of all places, in The New Republic that the air was cleared: "No, Bernie Sanders didn't ask his supporters to 'ditch' identity politics," and Salon added that he had done rather the opposite. Sanders himself came back with an essay reiterating his point: "Our rights and economic lives are intertwined. Now, more than ever, we need a Democratic Party that is committed to fulfilling, not eviscerating, Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of racial, social, and economic justice for all."

"Why Some Protests Succeed While Others Fail [...] Since those D.C. protests are coming up, and are likely to be massive, they are a natural focal point for the complicated questions surrounding protest and organization. So I asked several scholars of activism, protest, and movement-building what advice they would give to the organizers, and how their own work fits into their predictions about what could go well or poorly in January. One of the most consistent answers I got was that protesters should realize that protests aren't enough. There's a real risk of catharsis being the start and end of the resistance to Trump: Protesting feels good and righteous, but if nothing comes after then it may not accomplish that much. It's key, therefore, to understand the limits of protests and to put them in a broader activism context. 'There are some people that think that protests solve everything; you just have a protest, it's going to make everything change,' said Fabio Rojas, a professor at Indiana University and the author of From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline. 'That's not true - it is a tool that does a very specific thing, and you have to understand that when you start out.'"

David Dayen, "Democrats: Revoking Trump's Fast-Track Trade Authority Is Good Policy and Good Politics: Trump doesn't need fast track to accomplish bilateral deals, but he could use it to dole out corporate favors."

Bernie Sanders is all up in Trump's face: "Sanders Statement on Carrier and Outsourcing: During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise. Let's be clear: it is not good enough to save some of these jobs. We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned."

"Wall Street and Private Prisons 'Licking Their Lips' Over Trump Presidency: Under Obama, DOJ was set to phase out private detention centers. After Trump's victory, prison corporation stocks skyrocketed."

Robert Reich, "The Democratic party lost its soul. It's time to win it back [...] You might think this overwhelming drubbing would cause the Democratic party to reorganize itself into a very different party from the one it's become - which is essentially a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests that make up the bulk of its funding. Don't bet on it."

"We Can Blame the Voters or Blame the Elite. Only One Choice Offers a Way Forward [...] Which of these characterizations you choose, the first or second above, will determine whether you see the world in "the left vs. the right" terms or "the rich vs. the rest" terms, and also whether you wish to continue the failed American struggle against the elites, or improve your chance of winning it."

"There's a simple reason for Clinton's shocking loss to Trump [...] But the very inconvenient truth that must be absorbed, by the technocratic Democrats of the Obama years and by the apparent plurality of voters who supported Secretary Clinton, is that the Obama administration did not deliver on its promises of hope and change, and broke the trust of many of those (enough, at least, to elect Donald Trump) who were counting on a sharp departure from business as usual following the Great Recession."

It was a mistake to keep saying the economy was so much better when Millions of Americans Are Still Out of Work: "In 2007, before the Great Recession, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. The employment rate - the percentage of all Americans age 16 and older who had a job - was 63.0 percent. By 2010, the unemployment rate had risen to 9.6 percent, and the employment rate had dropped to 58.5 percent. Since then, a weird thing has happened. Although unemployment has fallen back to 4.9 percent - just 0.3 percentage points above the 2007 average - the employment rate has remained stubbornly low."

"Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn't Vote - and Don't Regret It. [...] As for the claims of racism that have dogged Mr. Trump, Mr. Babar wasn't so worried. 'It's better than smiling to my face but going behind closed doors and voting against our kids,' he said."

"Trump's Infrastructure Bill? It's a Trap [...] Trump's so-called "infrastructure" bill is really just a tax cut bill for investors in infrastructure and would do nothing to guarantee that the most needed (as opposed to the most profitable) projects are undertaken."

"Donald Trump was right: THE ELECTION WAS RIGGED. In his favour." Voter purges, voter suppression, and we don't even know who really won until we count the ballots by hand.

One thing I never want to see again is another candidate in which loyalists will with a straight face explain that their candidate can't do what's needed because this particular candidate is handicapped by some trait that is mainly their own and that another candidate would not have. We had a lot of that with Obama ("If he does that, they'll call him an angry black man" - I disagreed, but if they really believed that, why did they think he was the right man for the job?), and now we see that even Clinton's own team knew that Clinton couldn't campaign against Trump as needed, but Sanders could. Nevertheless, they kept insisting that in "the most important election in history", only she could win.

Bill Black, "Hillary's Threat to Wage Continuous War on the Working Class via Austerity Proved Fatal: I've come back recently from Kilkenny, Ireland where I participated in the seventh annual Kilkenomics - a festival of economics and comedy. The festival is noted for people from a broad range of economic perspectives presenting their economic views in plain, blunt English. Kilkenomics VII began two days after the U.S. election, so we added some sessions on President-elect Trump's fiscal policy views. Trump had no obvious supporters among this diverse group of economists, so the audience was surprised to hear many economists from multiple nations take the view that his stated fiscal policies could be desirable for the U.S. - and the global economy, particularly the EU. We all expressed the caution that no one could know whether Trump would seek to implement the fiscal policies on which he campaigned. Most of us, however, said that if he wished to implement those policies House Speaker Paul Ryan would not be able to block him. I opined that congressional Republicans would rediscover their love of pork and logrolling if Trump implemented his promised fiscal policies. The audience was also surprised to hear two groups of economists explain that Hillary Clinton's fiscal policies remained pure New Democrat (austerity forever) even as the economic illiteracy of those policies became even clearer - and even as the political idiocy of her fiscal policies became glaringly obvious. Austerity is one of the fundamental ways in which the system is rigged against the working class. Austerity was the weapon of mass destruction unleashed in the New Democrats' and Republicans' long war on the working class. The fact that she intensified and highlighted her intent to inflict continuous austerity on the working class as the election neared represented an unforced error of major proportions. As the polling data showed her losing the white working class by staggering amounts, in the last month of the election, the big new idea that Hillary pushed repeatedly was a promise that if she were elected she would inflict continuous austerity on the economy. 'I am not going to add a penny to the national debt.' The biggest losers of such continued austerity would as ever be the working class. She also famously insulted the working class as 'deplorables.' It was a bizarre approach by a politician to the plight of tens of millions of Americans who were victims of the New Democrats' and the Republicans' trade and austerity policies. As we presented these facts to a European audience we realized that in attempting to answer the question of what Trump's promised fiscal policies would mean if implemented we were also explaining one of the most important reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the white working class by such an enormous margin."

Brian Beutler in The New Republic, "How to beat Donald Trump." There are a number of words in this article that I disagree with, but he still thinks running like Bernie will do a better job of beating Trump.

Beat the Press on "Surviving the Age of Trump [...] Most importantly, the people in Congress want to get re-elected. Pushing unpopular policies like privatizing Social Security or Medicare, or taking away insurance by ending Obamacare, will be horrible albatrosses hanging over their heads the next time they face voters. This reality has to constantly be put in their faces. It is easy for politicians to push nonsense stories about eliminating trillions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse. It is much harder to get away with taking away your parents' Social Security check or the health care insurance that pays for your kid's insulin.

So, The WaPo got suckered by a fake news org. "Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group: The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being 'routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.' The article by reporter Craig Timberg - headlined 'Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say' - cites a report by a new, anonymous website calling itself 'PropOrNot,' which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian 'misinformation campaign.' The group's list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as and the Ron Paul Institute. This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website after it was published on Friday. [...] In casting the group behind this website as 'experts,' the Post described PropOrNot simply as 'a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.' Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group 'to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers.'" We can't even know the name of the executive director? Are we sure this isn't a couple of eight-year-olds in a treehouse? "More troubling still, PropOrNot listed numerous organizations on its website as 'allied' with it, yet many of these claimed 'allies' told The Intercept, and complained on social media, they have nothing to do with the group and had never even heard of it before the Post published its story."

"Democrat Harold Ford Jr. emerging as potential Trump pick." Some of us would argue that Harold Ford was never a Democrat, but the Dem leadership did keep trying to foist him off on us. Then when he would lose, they'd pretend it was racism. But no one wanted to vote for Harold Ford, no matter what color they were.

"Jesse Jackson: Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton: Speaking at President Gerald Ford's alma mater, The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for President Obama to issue a blanket pardon to Hillary Clinton before he leaves office, just like Ford did for Richard Nixon."

Cornel West, "Goodbye, American Neoliberalism. A New Neo-Fascist Era Is Here." I think it's being optimistic to think we will see the back of neoliberalism that easily.
* Hazem Salem has a similar pipedream: "Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster : Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party - the party of FDR - away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers [...] This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump's campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump's success."
* And over at The Baffler, another fantasy that it will all go away: "#RIPMyShillaries [...] Third, the Shillaries. The host of journalists, commentators, pundits, and celebrities who took it upon themselves day in and day out to explain, scrub, polish, promote, praise, defend, and sell Hillary as the best thing that could ever happen to our blessed country, because she had an endemic inability to do what politicians are supposed to do: sell themselves to the public. Presidential candidates, especially those with Clinton's record-breaking funding base, can pay consultants to promote their ideas and promise. We don't need journalists to volunteer to do it for them, and we sure as hell don't need journalists who are taking on double-duty as PR flacks to further their own careers in the liberal punditocracy's cursus honorum from lowly scribe to editor-writer at a highbrow magazine or earnest millennial channel to White House press secretary - or the C-suite at a Silicon Valley unicorn. RIP, my Shillaries. (A new genre seems to have emerged, here, for getting on Ezra's case after his recent performance during the primaries and election season. Another entry is "The persistence of Vox".)

I'm glad someone besides me is disgusted by this guy's version of "liberalism": "Nicholas Kristof's Burden: First class travel and $30,000 speakers fee makes reporting on poverty easier to endure." We have people like Friedman and Kristof representing "liberalism" on the NYT op-ed pages, and you wonder why people hate "liberals".

'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper: Investigatory Powers Act legalises range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services. [...] The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby."

"Alan Grayson Offers A Plainspoken Bill That Allows Americans To Vote With Our Middle Fingers" - It hasn't got a prayer of being taken seriously, but wouldn't you love to be able to vote for "None of the Above" the next time your leaders try to foist off two unacceptable choices on you?

Alex Emmons and Naomi Chance in The Intercept, "Obama Refuses to Pardon Edward Snowden. Trump's New CIA Pick Wants Him Dead. President Obama indicated on Friday that he won't pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even as President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick to run the CIA: Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, who has called for 'the traitor Edward Snowden' to be executed."

David Atkins, "Stop Blaming the Voters: Only the brilliant minds of the establishment could have taken a race featuring a 68-year-old white lifetime civil servant, running against a comically corrupt billionaire real estate tycoon who rides in a gilded elevator to a gaudy sex palace highrise home befitting a Sasha Baron Cohen character, and turn it into a referendum on temperament and multiculturalism instead of inequality."

"The Right Way to Resist Trump: Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi's popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different. [...] The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste."

This is a completely different take on the subject than anything else I've read: "You're still crying wolf [...] Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?"

Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary Economics

Chris Hedges, "We Are All Deplorables [...] I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.

"A New Documentary Explores the Devastating Effects of Drone Warfare on Victims and Whistleblowers [...] I can say the drone program is wrong because I don't know how many people I've killed."

Oh, gods, not this again! "UK to censor online videos of 'non-conventional' sex acts."

RIP: Ron Glass, 71, who played Detective Ron Harris in Barney Miller and Shepherd Book in Firefly, of respiratory failure. And a bright light goes out in the 'Verse. No, I wasn't expecting this, it was mere happenstance that I linked to "The Harris Incident" last time, but perhaps good timing. His former colleagues from Firefly were all over Twitter with tributes.
* Fidel Castro, at 90. Most people forget that even if you see him as a tyrant, he kicked out an even worse tyrant (and the Mafia) and gave his people health care, despite the embargo. Say what you will, but Batista was a bastard, yet somehow the United States managed to make nice with him.
* Scott Eric Kaufman (SEK), blogger at Lawyers, Guns & Money and a bunch of other things. He was funny and much-loved, and I don't want to talk about this now. There was still hope, for a while, that he could recover from the infection that caused multiple organ failure, but on the 18th he posted on Facebook: "I'm dead -- well, not yet. Still sorting it out. But I'm entering an end-of-life facility at the end of the week, to die in Houston. It's been fun, but such fun can only last so long -- time to get to the difficult business of dying."
* Don Waller, who chronicled rock music and was even a punk musician back in the day - but who we remember as a once-active Atriot screen-named Agent Orange. There's a nice remembrance over at Buzzbands with a video of the Imperial Dogs playing, but I can't find an obit with details of age and cause of death. LA Weekly doesn't know either, but they did say, "R.I.P. Don Waller, Influential Music Journalist and Imperial Dog [...] OK, there's his resume. If you didn't know about Don Waller before, the gist of it is that the man made a major, major contribution to what you know and think about pop and rock and American roots music; if you're a fan of any of the above-mentioned stuff, Don's DNA is inside you, whether you knew the man or not."

Spocko's noisy Happy Holidays to Christian Trump Supporters!

You can now get Molly Ivins Letters to the Nation as an ebook.

As a fan of cashews, I have idly wondered why I've never seen them in a shell. Now I know.

The artwork of Dorothea Tanning

"How Many LEGO Would It Take to Build Sci-Fi Megastructures?"

You would think you were on an alien planet if you woke up in the Rainbow Mountains.

Marvin Gaye, live at Montreux