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"

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