Charlie Savage, "E.P.A. Threatens to Stop Funding Justice Dept. Environmental Work: WASHINGTON - Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator who has aggressively pushed to dismantle regulations and downsize the organization, is threatening to reach outside his agency and undermine the Justice Department's work enforcing antipollution laws, documents and interviews show."
"House votes to curb asset seizures: The House voted Tuesday to curb the law enforcement practice of seizing cash and property from people who are suspected of illegal activity but who have not necessarily been charged. A bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed an amendment to a government-spending package for 2018 that would prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to remove restrictions on the use of asset forfeiture. The practice allows law enforcement to seize cash and property and keep at least part of the proceeds."
"New Fed Data: Black Wealth Cratered Under Obama: The Federal Reserve released the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances today. This is the first wealth survey of its kind since 2013. By comparing the 2007 and 2016 versions of the SCF, we can see roughly how the various racial groups fared under Obama. What you see in the below graphs is that the top 2 percent of black families improved their position; the top 2 percent of Latino families improved their position; and the top 22 percent of white families improved their position. Virtually everyone else was worse off in 2016 than in 2007 in terms of their family's net worth." (The graphs make sense if you mouse over them.)
Bernie Sanders & Amy Klobuchar debate Lindsay Graham & Bill Cassidy about the horrible Obamacare repeal bill, full video. Boy, that Cassidy is one clever weasel.
"How Bernie Sanders got Democrats to stop worrying and embrace single-payer [...] Over the past several months, Sanders has convinced 24 of the biggest liberal advocacy organizations and nearly one-third of Senate Democrats to co-sponsor his updated Medicare-for-all bill. It is a sharp reversal for the party that once relegated the idea to its radical fringe: Just two years ago, Sanders couldn't find a single co-sponsor for his bill. [...] The combined result of Sanders's carrot-and-stick approach - the implicit threat of criticism from the outside, the concessions from within - is a single-payer bill that 15 Senate Democrats have publicly said they will support, and an abrupt transformation in a political party's health care policy position that almost nobody could have guessed even a few months ago. "
But "Democratic leaders keep distance from Sanders single-payer plan: Democratic support for a single-payer health-care system has grown by bounds this year, attracting more lawmaker endorsements than any time in the past. But one group is conspicuously not on board: party leaders. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday previewed the much-anticipated release of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) 'Medicare for all' bill by taking the notable step of refusing to throw their weight behind it. 'Right now I'm protecting the Affordable Care Act,' Pelosi told a group of reporters in the Capitol."
Back in September, Gaius Publius was saying that the sudden emergence of Democrats signing on to Sanders bill was open rebellion that forced our enemies to show us where they stand rather than the usual "closed rebellion" where everything is done quietly behind closed doors so that the establishment can be protected from being seen for what they are by the public. "If you keep these points in mind as the debate evolves, you'll be well-positioned to understand what ensues," he wrote at the time. Howie Klein's "The Third Way Has Always Been A Fancy Excuse For Politicians Taking Massive Special Interest Bribes is almost a companion piece toward the end, with details confirming that sentence. And also reminding people of what a disgusting piece of crap Tony Blair is, I'm happy to say.
* Howie also notes that while even the worst Democrats are not quite as bad as the worst Republicans, it just isn't true to say that every Democrat is better than any Republican.
Dean Baker, "Why Don't Normal Liability Rules Put Equifax Out of Business? [...] In terms of breaches, we don't know how much damage people will suffer from the most recent one but suppose we just give a nominal amount, say $100, to each of the 140 million victims. This would come to $14 billion. If people suffer serious damage in the form of stolen identities leading to phony credit charges and stolen assets, the damages would be hugely higher. The revenue (not profits) of the three credit agencies is $10 billion a year, If these companies faced liability in accordance with the actual harm caused by preventable errors, it is difficult to see how they could stay in business. This raises the question of what sort of legal liability the credit agencies face."
Ryan Cooper in The Week, "Trump made his very first halfway smart political move. Too bad it's too late. The federal debt limit, an archaic holdover from a century ago, needs to be raised again soon. Remarkably, President Trump has reached an agreement with congressional Democrats not just to raise it, but to look into abolishing it altogether - drawing the fury of the congressional Republican leadership. What is perhaps most surprising is that it took this long for Trump to try this tactic - and long past when it would have possibly worked. Folks - and by the way, everyone is saying this, you'd be surprised - the president is stupid."
Republicans claim that passing their health care bill "keeps campaign promises" - but it doesn't look much like the campaign promises Trump made. Fortunately, it all fell apart again when they couldn't get the votes.
Sam Seder had Marcy Wheeler on to explain the latest state of play. She seems more convinced than I am that Guccifer is with the Russians, but even she admits it's only what they say, and not what we can see.
* Sammy also had Stephanie Kelton on again for another tutorial on Modern Monetary Theory and how it works.
Charlie Pierce, "Chuck and Nancy Just Played Don Like a Fiddle."
David Dayen in The Nation, "Did President Trump Really Strike A Deal That Screwed Republicans?: The whole question revolves around whether Democrats actually want to play hardball. [...] All that said, Republican leaders might see this turn of events as positive, regardless of what they are saying in public. They had a packed schedule to deal with in September, and this allows them to put off some major decisions. Plus, they can place the blame with President Trump instead of themselves. It takes some pressure off leadership from the rank and file. To see this as truly good for Democrats, you have to believe that there's some endgame for which Chuck and Nancy are willing to hold out. Do people really think that Democrats would play games with the full faith and credit of the US government? I simply don't see them being that ruthless; this is a difference between the parties. Democrats generally aren't interested in crippling the government, but that's what they'd have to be willing to risk in order to succeed in the negotiations."
Alice Speri, "Israel Security Forces Are Training American Cops Despite History of Rights Abuses: It's not uncommon for residents of America's most heavily policed neighborhoods to describe their local cops as 'an occupying force.' Judging by where many U.S. police forces get their training, the description seems apt. Thousands of American law enforcement officers frequently travel for training to one of the few countries where policing and militarism are even more deeply intertwined than they are here: Israel."
Ari Berman, in Mother Jones, "A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year [...] The study's lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election. 'We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,' Mayer told me. "
In Harper's, "Crime and Punishment: Will the 9/11 case finally go to trial?"
Matt Stoller in The Nation, "How America Could Collapse: Supply chain shocks have already led to shortages of videotape and auto parts. Could food or medicine be next?"
Bernie Sanders' book tour took him to Stephen Colbert.
Bernie Sanders Explains What a Progressive Foreign Policy + National Security Strategy Look Like. There were a few phrases that made me cringe, but overall he is outlining a better approach, f'sure - a path to peace.
* Senator Sanders' interview with The Intercept, "Bernie Sanders: Saudi Arabia Is 'Not An Ally' And The U.S. Should 'Rethink' Its Approach To Iran
"Tom Perez, former U.S. labor secretary, to teach at Brown" So much for his being a better choice than Ellison because he would make party chair his full-time job....
Bloomberg, "Obama Goes From White House to Wall Street in Less Than One Year [...] But Jeff Hauser, who studies political corruption as head of the Revolving Door Project in Washington, said Obama should play by the same rules as other politicians because of his ongoing work with the Democratic Party. 'He's continuing to exercise the authority,' Hauser said, citing Obama's support for the party's redistricting committee and the push he gave Tom Perez in the race to head the Democratic National Committee. If he wants to play a role, 'he ought to forgo a few hundred thousand here and maybe a half-million there.'"
"Obama: 'The world has never been healthier, wealthier or less violent': Former president urges optimism and focus on progress at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation conference, despite shadow cast by Trump's UN speech." And despite the shadow cast by how these neoliberals have made the world a poorer and more violent place.
"ACLU of Missouri Files Lawsuit Against City of St. Louis for Unconstitutional Police Conduct: ST. LOUIS - The ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit today against the city of St. Louis for unlawful and unconstitutional actions against people during the Stockley verdict demonstrations of the past week."
Dday in The New Republic, "Why You Should Side With Google Against an Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill: People of all political stripes now argue for regulation that treats these companies as public utilities, like the telephone industry, or for stronger antitrust regulation - that is, to break up these giants. The first real legislative test amid this more hostile atmosphere comes Tuesday at a hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee. Tech firms, in particular Google, are being criticized for quietly opposing a bipartisan bill that would let victims of sex trafficking sue websites that facilitate it. The companies contend that, while they oppose sex traffickers like Backpage.com, the bill would create a slippery slope toward limiting or removing all user-generated web content, the lifeblood of sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. It's hard to be coolly rational about heinous crimes like forced prostitution. But on the merits, this bill would have troubling implications for free speech online. As this backlash against Silicon Valley grows, we need to be careful that a desire to constrain tech monopolies doesn't harm the rest of us."
A little research from Hamline University professor David Schultz, "Swing Counties and Why Clinton Really Lost? It Wasn't Sanders Fault...It was Hers."
Democratic pollster, Stanley Greenberg, on "How She Lost [...] The campaign's approach senselessly and increasingly drove up Trump's margin in white working-class communities, tipping Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The analytics model built around these assumptions was so simple-minded it portended disaster. Despite overwhelming evidence that the Democratic base wasn't consolidated or excited, the campaign believed Trump's tasteless attacks and Clinton's identification with every group in the rainbow coalition would produce near universal support. Thus, they stopped trying to persuade voters and measured only the probability of support for Hillary. The campaign's task was turning out those Clinton voters, and they fell frustratingly short."
"A massive new study reviews the evidence on whether campaigning works. The answer's bleak: In general elections, campaigns' attempts to win swing voters appear to not work at all. [...] This doesn't mean that political campaigns never matter. Kalla and Broockman find that these activities can persuade voters in primary elections and during ballot-initiative campaigns. Campaigns can still effectively turn out voters whose minds are already made up about a candidate, and voters can and do change their opinions when prompted by politicians they already support (something a previous study of Broockman’s confirmed)."
"The Boring Story of the 2016 Election: Donald Trump did not win because of a surge of white support. Indeed he got less white support than Romney got in 2012. Nor did Trump win because he got a surge from other race+gender groups. The exit polls show him doing slightly better with black men, black women, and latino women than Romney did, but basically he just hovered around Romney's numbers with every race+gender group, doing slightly worse than Romney overall. However, support for Hillary was way below Obama's 2012 levels, with defectors turning to a third party. Clinton did worse with every single race+gender combo except white women, where she improved Obama's outcome by a single point. Clinton did not lose all this support to Donald. She lost it into the abyss. Voters didn't like her but they weren't wooed by Trump.
Shock Tactics: In the most detailed study ever of fatalities and litigation involving police use of stun guns, Reuters finds more than 150 autopsy reports citing Tasers as a cause or contributor to deaths across America. Behind the fatalities is a sobering reality: Many who die are among society's vulnerable - unarmed, in psychological distress and seeking help."
"Democrats are losing their most loyal voters: black women. [...] These voters aren't running into the arms of Republicans, of course - just one percent of respondents said the GOP best represents them. But the percentage of black women who said neither party represents them jumped from 13 percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2017. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat in the Congressional Black Caucus, addressed the news after the poll's release at the Washington Convention Center. 'I respect independents. I understand independents,' she told the crowd, arguing that her party needs to do more to communicate its values. 'I've never said I'm in the Democratic Party because I like to party,' she said. 'I'm in there because of values.'"
"Obama pollster Cornell Belcher on the failures that led to President Trump: 'What happens to a centrist Democrat who can't hold the Obama coalition?': Trump didn't 'remake the electorate.' argues leading Democratic pollster. Instead, Hillary and her party blew it [...] Again, Trump didn't expand the Republican tent. He didn't bring in all these millions upon millions of new Republican voters. This was about Democrats losing, more so than Trump remaking the electorate and winning in some sort of profound and new way. It should not have been a winning percentage, right?"
Pierce, "You're Not Supposed to Say This Out Loud: Deficits are just a talking point when Democrats are in power."
* Atrios said much the same thing, "Nobody Ever Cared About The Deficit: The simplest proof of the fact that almost every political reporter was either dumb as rocks, happy to be lied to, or, most likely, was on board with the ideology that government spending money on anything except war is bad, was that they took deficit concerns seriously. Nobody cares about the deficit (and, mostly, they shouldn't!). [...] They don't care. They never cared. Republican presidents run up the deficit and Democratic ones bring it down, and after decades of this the Republicans are still the party of fiscal responsibility according to political journalists. Republicans hate spending any money for nice things and love tax cuts for rich people. That's it. I am a dumb blogger and I know this. You all get paid big salaries by our leading media outlets and you are stupid or liars."
"'I Wanted to Tell the Story of How I Had Become a Racist:' Historian Charles B. Dew: In The Making of a Racist, professor Charles B. Dew describes his evolution from a 'young Confederate' to an outspoken critic of racism."
RIP: Charles Bradley, soul singer, at 68: Sam Cooke sang about a change that was gonna come. It spread optimism to black Americans. Charles Bradley, on the other hand, sang of moral corruption and turning to love to survive, because who knows when change will finally come."
RIP "Hugh Hefner: Playboy magazine founder dies aged 91: Playboy Enterprises Inc said he passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles, from natural causes." (Playboy's own obit for Hefner is here.) A lot of feminists won't say this, but I will: Playboy was a great contributor to the sexual revolution, supporting reproductive rights and making sex something you could actually discuss and ask questions about. The Playboy Advisor I read when I was a teenager and young adult was thoughtful and not sexist at all, often giving truly useful advice to men and women alike. (I noticed in later years that he'd been replaced by someone else who wasn't nearly as good.) Its support for civil rights was undoubtedly a helpful addition to the discourse. Yes, famously, when an Ursula Le Guin story was published in its pages, she appeared as "U.K. Le Guin", but Playboy paid top dollar for science fiction stories (!), even to someone named "Ursula", as well as publishing, every month, some of the best interviews on topical issues of every kind. In 1965, Martin Luther King gave his longest interview ever to Alex Haley for Playboy; in a 1968 issue of Playboy, Haley interviewed George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party. (They had already published his interview with Malcolm X in 1963.) And of course, Playboy was there with it's timely interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, which had already been scheduled for publication, by sheerest coincidence, to appear just after Lennon's murder. Hefner's fight to force the US Post Office to carry Playboy to subscribers through the mails was a major victory for free speech which still has impact today on both what's delivered to your front door and what is on the internet. And Hefner was there with the money Dick Gregory needed to pressure the FBI to find the bodies of three murdered civil rights workers. He wasn't the father of the sexual/revolution by any means, but he brought it to the public and fought to preserve it, and made civil rights a moral imperative for many who had probably given it little thought. That's no small thing.
Jay Rosen "Getting granular with the claim that Trump is some media wizard: That our President is a master of media manipulation is a view commonly expressed by American journalists. I doubt it." I've long wondered about this. What is it about journalists that makes them so willing to dance to Trump's tune?
This article is terrible framing and has some of the worst sentences I've seen on the subject. I really wish people wouldn't do this stuff. It's not illuminating and it just implies something that isn't true. Stoppit! And here's an article by someone else who doesn't like these sorts of articles. "Ta-Nehisi Coates, however, illustrates the debilitating limits of what 'identity politics' has now come to represent, something far from the radical and coalitional practice of the Combahee River Collective: a moralizing discourse which monopolizes the discussion of race, yet fails to propose either a coherent theory of racial oppression or a viable program for eliminating it. Coates deploys his considerable erudition and rhetorical flourish in service of sheer obfuscation - the story of whiteness as magic and Trump as sorcerer. Despite the gingerly placed historical references, in Coates's telling whiteness has no history. It is a malevolent force which surges from the netherworld in moments which can only be identified by the intensity of Coates's own feelings - the American Dream become Coates's personal nightmare."
Beat the Press, "Washington Post News Article Argues It is Better to Tax Work Than Vacant Property in London: Economists usually argue that it's best to tax the things you want discourage, like cigarettes, alcohol, and gasoline, not things you want to encourage, like work. That is why it is striking that the Washington Post could not find one economist who thought that a plan in London to tax vacant housing units is a good idea."
Alex Pareen, "You Are Jonathan Chait's Enemy [...] Something that is well-known to people who've read Chait for years, but may not be apparent to those who just think of him as a standard-issue center-left pundit who is sort of clueless about race, is that he is engaged in a pretty specific political project: Ensuring that you and people like you don't gain control of his party. I say 'you' because his conception of the left almost certainly includes you. He is not merely against Jill Stein voters and unreconstructed Trotskyites and Quaker pacifists. He means basically anyone to the left of Bill Clinton in 1996. If you support a less militaristic foreign policy, if you believe the Democratic Party should do more to dismantle structural racism and create a more equitable distribution of wealth, if you think Steve fucking King is a white supremacist, Chait is opposed to you nearly as staunchly as he is opposed to Paul Ryan."
Sam Seder did an interesting interview with George Monbiot about Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis on The Majority Report.
Paul Jay of Reality Asserts Itself talked with Thomas Frank about how the Democratic Party hates the base and has been trying to purge us since Clinton.
"How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America: America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?"
"The Jones Act: The Law Strangling Puerto Rico [...] After World War I, America was worried about German U-boats, which had sunk nearly 5,000 ships during the war. Congress enacted the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a.k.a. the Jones Act, to ensure that the country maintained a shipbuilding industry and seafaring labor force. Section 27 of this law decreed that only American ships could carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens. Almost a century later, there are no U-boats lurking off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Jones Act has outlived its original intent, yet it is strangling the island's economy. Under the law, any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer. [...] The foreign vessel has one other option: It can reroute to Jacksonville, Fla., where all the goods will be transferred to an American vessel, then shipped to Puerto Rico where - again - all the rerouting costs are passed through to the consumer."
Katherine Krueger, "Hillary Clinton Will Never Understand What Happened [...] 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them,' Clinton said again and again on the campaign trail. Unfortunately for her, this goes both ways. Through decades of being a Washington insider, Clinton has shown herself to be a foreign policy hawk, a capitalist of the highest order, and an opportunist who's been tarred with the 'slime' of many scandals even she recognizes can never be fully washed away. Above all, Clinton has relentlessly embraced the notion that politics must bend to the world as it is - no matter how sordid - rather than imagine the world as it could or should be. It is this quality that she defends perhaps most zealously in What Happened, despite the fact that her unapologetic embrace of that ethos helped create the world that gave us Donald Trump. In 2016, Clinton showed people who she was. Voters in the crucial states that decided the race believed her, and rejected her. In What Happened, she shows us again. Nearly a year later, the image hasn't changed."
Sam Kriss in The Huffington Post, "What Should Have Happened In Hillary Clinton's Useless Book: An artless and inauthentic memoir, written by the absence of Clinton. [...] Vagueness seeps everywhere. Discussing her decision to launch a second presidential bid, Clinton protests that she wasn't simply after power. 'I wanted power to do what I could to help solve problems and prepare the country for the future. It's audacious for anyone to believe he or she should be President, but I did.' What problems? Solve them how? The answers reveal a strange antinomy of her liberal-centrist leadership cult. Clinton's policy team started using data and focus groups to work out what problems Americans were concerned with, and started scouring think tanks for solutions. Clinton is not partisan or ideological. She simply follows the facts. In other words, she did something that absolutely anyone else should be capable of doing. She is an exceptional individual who deserved to be president, precisely because she's just another cog in the bureaucratic machine. In the counter-democratic universe of establishment managerialism, elections are just another interview process for another government job; the winner should be the person with the most gold stars on their résumé, and we can trust that they're embedded enough in the mechanisms of government to use their authority properly. It's a politics of systems and social control: Power is always a question of efficiency and problem-solving, never one of justice. Trump, too, is a member of the New York ruling classes. He is also blissfully unencumbered by any cohesive ideology, preferring 'deals' (read: bipartisanship) and 'answers' (read: solutions). He is also someone who wanted power; not to do anything in particular with it, but because he thought he deserved it."
Bryce Covert in The New Republic, "Deadbeat Democrats: How Bill Clinton set the stage for the GOP's war on the poor. [...] In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's talk of lazy 'welfare queens' and 'strapping young bucks' buying expensive steaks on the government's dime had turned welfare into a dirty word. By 1989, two-thirds of Americans thought welfare made people dependent and 'content' to stay poor. Feeling hemmed in by white voters who had responded to Reagan's racemongering about the shiftless poor guzzling up government benefits, Clinton decided to make a sort of Faustian bargain: He would 'reform' welfare in a way that would detoxify the politics around it, gambling that the move would create more support for a strong safety net in the long run. 'Once taxpayers started viewing the poor as workers, not welfare cheats, a more generous era would ensue,' The New York Times observed in 2000, summing up the rationale for Clinton's wager on welfare reform. 'Harmful stereotypes would fade. New benefits would flow.' Celebrating the law's passage in 1996, Clinton repeated his Reaganesque justification for sweeping change. 'The current welfare system undermines the basic values of work, responsibility, and family,' he declared, 'trapping generation after generation in dependency.' In the end, though, Clinton never succeeded at getting more generous benefits for the poor. And his bet on 'reform' turned what was once a helping hand into a slap in the face - and an utter disaster for the vulnerable. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act ended the Great Society promise of cash benefits for all families in need. It imposed work requirements on recipients of welfare benefits, and allowed states to erect further barriers to aid. And it plunged millions into even deeper poverty. In 1996, nearly 70 percent of poor families received benefits. Today it's less than 25 percent. And that's not because they all found decent jobs and developed the sense of 'personal responsibility' and 'self-sufficiency' that Clinton loved to preach about. According to a study of low-income single mothers, more than 20 percent go for months at a time with neither employment nor benefits. Since 1995, the number of Americans living on $2 or less a day has nearly tripled - including some three million children."
"Centrism.biz: Scathing New Parody Site Rips Mask Off 'Zombie Neoliberalism' [...] But what about an online home for the dedicated centrists: for those who prefer small ideas to large ones; for those who oppose both fascism and universal healthcare; for those who take money from the murderous Saudi regime and still claim to value human rights? Centrists, the wait is finally over: Centrism.biz is the brand new, one-stop shop for all things 'moderate.'"
"15 Percent? 20 Percent? It Doesn't Matter, Because Tipping Culture Is Fundamentally Broken: Leaving a tip isn't only payment for services, it is a mark of social and economic superiority -- which is why workers in the US resisted the system in the 19th century."
"What sex workers want should be a vital part of feminist politics [...] Whether or not sex work should be considered a job or a form of violence against women is a question that has featured in feminist debates for decades. Those who fully advocate decriminalising sex work do so because they believe that granting sex workers the support, labour rights and legal protections of any other type of employment is the best way to help them stay safe."
Was Malcolm in the Middle actually a socialist masterpiece? "Malcolm in the Middle showed that the promises of neoliberalism had always been false."
"Orange is the new green: How orange peels revived a Costa Rican forest: PRINCETON, N.J.--In the mid-1990s, 1,000 truckloads of orange peels and orange pulp were purposefully unloaded onto a barren pasture in a Costa Rican national park. Today, that area is covered in lush, vine-laden forest. A team led by Princeton University researchers surveyed the land 16 years after the orange peels were deposited. They found a 176 percent increase in aboveground biomass -- or the wood in the trees -- within the 3-hectare area (7 acres) studied. Their results are published in the journal Restoration Ecology."
Roller Dreams premiers in London in the first week of October.
Charles Bradley, "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)"