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.

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

Cool APOD from Hubble, The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi

The Unipiper keeps Portland weird.

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

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

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

5 comments:

  1. Nice. I'd love to know how mass employment was to be provided, however, as I recall that FDR's programs had to be pushed through congress and funded and them staffed - and when my own folks went to work in the CCC, it was several years after that effort began. Of course, prosecuting the bankers would be a plus, even though they'd jimmied the laws to make it legal to operate as a bond sales force (which banking law had prohibited until Phil Gramm slipped in the proviso to massive funding legislation that let them broker their own loans).

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  2. The Clinton Deranged made it perfectly clear from the very start they neither wanted nor needed my Sanders supporting Stein in '12 No Party Affiliated vote. And they didn't get it.

    Where I come from, when you buy the ticket you take the ride.

    Ten Bears

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  3. Tulsi Gabbard got crossed off my long list with this one [LINK]. Here, at first, she is coming across as unaware of the reasons for the following statutes:

    10 U.S. Code § 113 - Secretary of Defense
    (a)There is a Secretary of Defense, who is the head of the Department of Defense, appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. A person may not be appointed as Secretary of Defense within seven years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

    10 U.S. Code § 3013 - Secretary of the Army
    (2)A person may not be appointed as Secretary of the Army within five years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

    10 U.S. Code § 5013 - Secretary of the Navy
    (2)A person may not be appointed as Secretary of the Navy within five years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

    10 U.S. Code § 8013 - Secretary of the Air Force
    (2)A person may not be appointed as Secretary of the Air Force within five years after relief from active duty as a commissioned officer of a regular component of an armed force.

    But Gabbard is plenty smart, likely she has picked a side on this fundamental question, and to that end she plays the "patriot card" characterizing the recently retired military brass with whom President-elect Trump has aligned himself as "arguably... far more deeply personally committed to upholding and protecting our democracy than their critics."

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    Replies
    1. Here's one eleven round tweetstorm ending in a K.O. that wouldn't have been nearly as much fun as a blog post [LINK].

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  4. why does James Comey have a job? https://medium.com/@PrestoVivace/why-does-james-comey-have-a-job-5062e7043bed#.8plwtew4l

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