Monday, December 18, 2017

Somebeody's tuggin' at your heartstrings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons"

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'm So Tired"

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I found my thrill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Rall, "The Trouble with NDAs"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fats Domino live in concert