I seem to have fallen down on posting through December, which means I was mostly a wimp as far as my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas is concerned. Except that my Second Life avatar put up two different Christmas trees this year. But Christmas isn't officially over yet, so here are the traditional Christmas links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol
For many it is the Epiphany, and for others the final day of Christmas, also known as Twelfthnight. But it's Christmas for the Russian Orthodoxed Christians and for Armenians. My parents would have been in church today, singing "Loor Keeshair", a tune you know.
Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times, "You Cannot Be Too Cynical About the Republican Tax Bill." Nice to see Sirota et al. getting credit for the work they've done on this issue, like this scoop, "Republican Senators Will Save Millions With Special Real-Estate Tax Break."
But Dean Baker says there are some silver linings in this cloud in "The Trump Tax Cuts' Secret Santa. No one should have any doubt about the main impact of the Republican tax cuts. These tax cuts are about giving more money to the richest people in the country. After four decades of the largest upward redistribution in the history of the world, the Republican tax cuts give even more money to the big winners. In TrumpWorld, that makes sense. Instead of spending money to rebuild our infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide quality child care or affordable college, we're going to hand more money to Donald Trump and his family and friends. However, even in the cesspool known as the 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,' there are some changes for the better. These are worth noting and expanding upon when saner creatures gain power." I'm sure not going to complain that they doubled the standard deduction. There are also a few other surprises that are such a good idea you wonder how they got there.
Matt Bruenig, "What actually happened in Alabama? [...] But if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones's victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate." Because black turnout and support for the Dem was not much different than in many races where the Dem lost. But whites voted for the Democrat enough to make up for the usual deficit - and it's a big one. "The white share of the electorate is virtually unchanged, but white support for the Democrat changes dramatically, rising all the way to 30 percent in the Jones-Moore election. This white swing towards the Democratic candidate is basically solely responsible for the fact that Jones won rather than losing by over 20 points, which is the typical outcome of a statewide Alabama election that features this level of black turnout."
Lead editorial in Haaretz, "Endless Detention: Israeli jurists and academics should speak out against the military courts' free hand with administrative detention orders, which allow Palestinians to be held without trial and can be renewed indefinitely. Last week the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar was extended by an additional six months. In July, a year after serving 14 months in prison - she had been convicted of incitement and of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - she was rearrested and placed under administrative detention for six months. [...] But there is room to ask the law schools, the Israel Bar Association, judges and even historians and sociologists to intervene. They must make themselves heard and remind Israeli society that denying a person's freedom without evidence and without a right to defense is one of the characteristics of dictatorships. Only if the voices of these professionals and social figures are heard will generals and military judges stop signing unlimited detention orders so easily."
"J20 Defendants Cleared of Charges in Trump Inauguration Arrests: Six people arrested during protests on Donald Trump's inauguration day and charged with rioting and destruction of property were acquitted Thursday, a good sign for the more 150 other so-called J20 protesters awaiting trial. The verdict, delivered by a D.C. Superior Court jury, followed a four-week trial that saw prosecutors attempt to pin blame for $100,000 worth of property damage on the six protestors. Though they admitted there's no evidence linking the defendants to the property damage, the Justice Department lawyers argued that they were part of the so-called riot anyway."
"Americans Support Expanding Social Security But The GOP is Still Trying To Cut It: Largely unreported in the negativity of this year's election is how united the American people are over Social Security. New data from Public Policy Polling confirms what multiple other polls have found: Irrespective of age, race, gender, or party affiliation, Americans support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. [...] In the real America, grandparents and grandchildren care about each other. American families know that we are stronger together. And the new polling shows that. It reveals that the effort to turn grandparents and grandchildren against each other has failed: 70 percent of 18-29 year olds, 65 percent of 30-45 year olds, 76 percent of 46-65 year olds, and 70 percent of Americans over 65 all support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. The story is very similar when it comes to race: 69 percent of whites, 82 percent of African-Americans, and 79 percent of Latinos are united in support of expansion. Party affiliation, too, makes little difference. The Republican Party has spent decades working to cut and privatize Social Security, but the Party's base disagrees: the majority of Republicans support expanding benefits, as do 87 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Independents."
"Amazon is killing your mailman: Why its Sunday service is a labor travesty: The online retailer's newest service has created an underclass of postal workers. I should know - I'm one of them [...] With the USPS being financially burdened by congressionally mandated pre-funding for retiree healthcare packages (paying 80 plus years in advance at 100% compensation - a burden no private company has had to nor could endure), it has looked to find different avenues to help increase its profitability and fight to stay viable in this 'age of digital mail.' To help combat this huge economic disadvantage - along with the decrease in first-class mail volumes - the USPS management has attempted to implement many different approaches to their problem. They've tried ending Saturday delivery, contemplated neighborhood cluster boxes, which would oust door-to-door delivery, and of course, there's the tried and true elimination of positions, which the USPS has been engaged in since the unprecedented 2006 pre-funding mandate was established. Their latest solution is a relatively new business concept called the negotiated service agreement or NSA."
Meanwhile, even The Washington Post admits, "There's still little evidence that Russia's 2016 social media efforts did much of anything [...] All of that, though, requires setting aside what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts." It was also badly targeted and didn't quite seem to have much of a grasp of what might actually work. For example, who, among Clinton's likely voters, was going to believe, let alone change their vote, over the (laughably false) claim that HRC was "soft" on Iran? Even the Republicans noticed there was something very odd about spending more in Maryland and DC than in any of the swing states Clinton lost. $300 was spent in Pennsylvania? Um, not a lot. And most of this was spent... during the primaries. "Facebook's own public numbers hint at how the ads were weighted relative to the campaign. Ten million people saw ads run by the Russian agents - but 5.6 million of those views were after the election."
"Price of 40-year-old cancer drug hiked 1,400% by new owners: Prices for a cancer drug called lomustine have skyrocketed nearly 1,400 percent since 2013, putting a potentially life-saving treatment out of reach for patients suffering from brain tumors and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though the 40-year-old medication is no longer protected by patents, no generic version is available."
David Dayen in The American Prospect, "Big Tech: The New Predatory Capitalism: The tech giants are menacing democracy, privacy, and competition. Can they be housebroken? [...] 'What has the greatest collection of humanity and IQ and financial capital been brought together to accomplish?' Galloway asked the crowd. 'To save world hunger? To create greater comity of man? I don't think so. ... Their singular mission, simply put, it's to sell another fucking Nissan.' [...] After an unconscionable period of naive neglect, in which the public was dazzled by tech wizardry, Americans of all stripes have recognized that allowing Silicon Valley to take this much control was dangerous. Polls show the public still likes tech platforms but doesn't trust them. Conservatives think Big Tech stifles their voices; liberals think Big Tech hobbled our competitive economy; both think they've abused power, and both are right. Politics has grown interested in monopolies, and particularly tech monopolies, for the first time in decades."
When the Clintonites aren't busy attacking Bernie, they are busy hating Jill Stein, and now it looks like she's been roped in. "The Senate's Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein: The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Green Party candidate Jill Stein's campaign to turn over documents, which Stein is expected to release publicly in the future. Committee chair Richard Burr said investigators are looking into two general election campaigns in addition to the Trump campaign." There's a photograph of Stein sitting at the same table with Putin at an RT dinner, thus "proving" that she was colluding with Putin. Stein says she had hoped to talk to him about her agenda - climate change etc. - but never got the chance to talk to him at all. Jeremy Scahill interviewed Stein on the subject.
James Cardin in The Nation, "Russiagate Is Devolving Into an Effort to Stigmatize Dissent: An amicus brief to a lawsuit filed against Roger Stone and the Trump campaign raises troubling questions over the right to political speech. [...] Much of this has been said before. But where the briefers branch off into new territory is in their attempt to characterize journalism and political speech with which they disagree as acts of subversion on behalf of a foreign power. [...] In other words, a Russian 'cut out' (or fifth columnist) can be defined as those 'activists, academics, journalists, [or] web operators' who dissent from the shared ideology of the 14 signatories of the amicus brief."
"Vacant Units, San Francisco 2015" - "2012 ACS data indicates there are 30,057 vacant homes in San Francisco. A common residents per unit calculation is 2.8 persons, meaning that the city of San Francisco has empty homes capable of housing more than 84,000 more people than it does. [...] According to a 2013 comprehensive report on homelessness by the city of San Francisco, one of the wealthiest cities in the richest nation in the world, contains 6,636 homeless adults and 914 homeless children and transition-age youth, totaling 7,550 homeless persons. The Vacant Homes in San Francisco map yields another irony: two of the districts with the densest numbers of homeless persons also contain the most vacant homes. According to the homelessness report, census tract 6, which includes most of the Tenderloin and SOMA neighborhoods, contains over 3,000 homeless persons, as well as the highest density of vacant homes." One of the more interesting maps I've seen in a while.
Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest, "Postal Workers And The Public Want A Postal Banking Public Option [...] Until 1967, the Postal Service (then called the Post Office) operated postal banking through the United States Postal Savings System. Reviving postal banking would be like offering a 'public option' for financial services. It would let people have accounts they could use to cash checks, get small loans, pay bills and even get prepaid debit cards. These services would enable lower-income Americans to avoid the exploitative 'payday lenders' and check-cashing 'services' that eat up working people's earnings."
Cornel West says, "Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle: The disagreement between Coates and me is clear: his view of black America is narrow and dangerously misleading." He's not wrong, but at The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Opal Tometi say, "Forget Coates vs. West - We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire."
"Sessions rescinds Obama-era letter to local courts on fines and fees for poor defendants: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era letter to local courts advising them to be wary of imposing stiff fees and penalties on poor defendants, The Washington Post reports. The move comes as Sessions revokes more than two dozen Justice Department guidance documents going back to the 1990s on various topics, the Post reports."
The War on People Who Aren't the Establishment continues with NPR (Nice Polite Republicans) attacking Lee Camp personally. Why? Because he's on RT America, so he must be a Russian stooge. Mr. Camp responds..
A great response to yet another claim that rich people create jobs, over at Stone Kettle Mountain, making Lemonade: "Every time old rich white men bring up the idea of trickle-down economics, or whatever they call this scam nowadays, the one question that never gets asked is this: Why? Why would rich people create jobs? Why? Why would rich people take their billions and create jobs? Because they're what? Feeling generous all of a sudden? Why? Take the Walton family, their wealth is nearly unimaginable. The amount they'll reap from this tax cut is astronomical. But they already can't spend what they have, even if they live another thousand years. And they don't spend their personal fortune on building new Walmarts anyway, that's what investors are for. And if they did, well, there's nothing stopping them from doing so now, without a tax cut, they've got plenty of money. But they don't. Why? They could use their personal fortune to improve the lot of their employees, but they don't. They could use their fortune to give their employees a living wage, healthcare, benefits, overtime. But they don't. Why? Why should they? What's in it for them? What's the incentive? Altruism? Ha ha! Hilarious. Giving rich people more money just gives rich people more money." The author does not seem to know that the government still has all the money it needs to pay for schools and roads and health care and anything else we need, but on the question of why the rich would create jobs just because we give them more money - well, that's a question that should be asked any time someone suggests that giving them more money would do anything to create jobs.
Susan McWilliams in The Nation, "This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson [...] What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren't important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics. As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell's Angels, that kind of politics is 'nearly impossible to deal with' using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left."
Last year, Adolph Reed made "The Case Against Reparations: Randall Robinson's argument for pursuit of reparations hinges on this view of the black American population - lucky petit bourgeois people like himself excepted, of course - as defective and in need of moral and psychological repair. The idea resonates with middle class noblesse oblige and a commitment to a racial politics that ensconces a particular guiding role for upper class blacks. Those are, after all, the people who can conduct the finely calibrated analyses that determine what forms and magnitude just compensation should take; they are the people who would stand to administer whatever compromise palliatives are likely to ensue from this activity. But the question of compensation opens a plethora of technical problems. Should payments go to individuals or to some presumably representative corporate entity? If the former, who qualifies as a recipient? Would descendants of people who had been enslaved elsewhere (for instance, Brazil or the Caribbean) be eligible? And what of those no longer legally black people with slave ancestors?" Michael Brooks interviewed Reed about this and other things on The Michael Brooks Show.
Sam Seder did another great interview with David Dayen, about the tax bill and other things, on The Majority Report.
Sammy also did an interesting interview on The Battle for Veterans' Healthcare w/ Suzanne Gordon - illuminating info about America's best health care system - and one that provides data and develops treatments the whole world uses.
ProMarkets tweeted out their hits of the year in a thread that promises some interesting reading, here. I thought this title sounded particularly promising: "The Rise of Market Power and the Decline of Labor's Share: A new paper argues that the decline of the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power." (Also fascinated by Posner's slow move toward the reality. If he could live long enough, he might be full-on lefty by the time he finished his evolution from the far-right.)
Bernie Sanders, fashion icon, got a gift from his son for Christmas, a parka from a Vermont company. He wore it in the rain to an event (at which other politicians appeared in coats that cost thousands of dollars), but Newsweek spun as "Socialist Bernie Sanders Wears a $700 Jacket While Complaining About Rich People" - picked up straight from the right-wing DailyWire story. (They appear to have only three pictures of Bernie, I see.)
And oh, yeah, California decriminalized recreational marijuana.
RIP: "Erica Garner, Black Lives Matter activist, dies aged 27: Daughter of Eric Garner was in hospital for a week after a heart attack."
RIP: "Rose Marie, actress and showbiz legend, dies at 94." She sang for three presidents (two of whom were dead before I was born, and frankly, I was surprised to learn that Coolidge was still alive in my lifetime), but we all loved Sally Rogers on Dick van Dyke. One day I was watching an old movie and saw her original child star incarnation as Baby Rose Marie. Mark Evanier, of course, has a nice obituary for her, but he's written a lot about her in the past, too (some of it probably still linked on this page). "Like a lot of you, I first became aware of Rose from her appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She was great on that program - and while no one thought this way at the time, that was an important role in the history of on-screen females. She wasn't there to play somebody's wife or somebody's mother or somebody's girl friend. She was a full-fledged working woman with a career and an income and a job that was equivalent to a man's. I mean, you just know Sally Rogers got the same money as Buddy Sorrell. Name me another character on TV before her who got equal pay as a guy - or as many good lines. She scored with every one of them."
RIP: This is embarrassing, but I completely missed somehow that Kate Millett died last September at 82, from a heart attack,
Every time I go back to show someone this video, I find another one. There were really quite a lot of them that I didn't even know about. In some ways it's heartening to see how much creativity they inspired. Wish someone had put them all on TV. Which just proves that "the left" is still good at this, it's just that it's not allowed on TV anymore.