Thursday, March 8, 2018

Did you follow the Crystal Swan?

Bless you, Matt Taibbi. "If We Want Kids to Stop Killing, the Adults Have to Stop, Too"

Apart from a few scenes in Bowling for Columbine, this is an explanation you won't hear very much. Military spending is the lifeline of virtually every federally-elected politician in the country. You've been to trained seal shows where the animals get a fish every time they perform? The same principle works with members of Congress and defense contracts.

The U.S. is more dependent than ever on a quasi-socialistic system that redistributes tax dollars to defense projects in even fashion across both Republican and Democratic congressional districts. A few times a year, you'll spot a news story about someone in the Pentagon trying to refuse a spending initiative, only to be told to keep building by Congress.

Yes, I remember Michael Moore being the only public figure I have ever seen asking this important question about the simple fact that while other countries have guns, they don't have all this shooting people going on. And why is that? Isn't it the constant ginning up of fear and hate our own mass media has dedicated itself to?

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I am so bored with Russian bots. Seems they tweeted or Facebooked everyone, but the Clintonites are of course out in force saying, "Bernie benefited from Russian bots and he should answer for this!" or similar. It's annoying. The whole story gets stupider by the day. They also seem to think they have "proof" that Putin was elevating Jill Stein, although the bots gave Clinton at least as much of a boost as they gave Stein. 13 bots sent out memes saying, among other things, "Hillary is a Satan" (they also sent out pro-Clinton posts and retweeted the hell out of Joy Reid), and this supposedly swung Clinton voters away from voting for her, which is an interesting theory about the minds of potential Clinton voters. Anyway here's a good comment from Atrios on the subject.

At a blog that bears a mysterious resemblance to Billmon's Whiskey Bar, we learn "'Russian bots' - How An Anti-Russian Lobby Creates Fake News: The U.S. mainstream media are going nuts. They now make up and report stories based on the uncritical acceptance of an algorithm they do not want to understand and which is known to produce fake results. [...] In other words - the "Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia" were following the current news just as cable news networks do. When a new sensational event happened they immediately jumped onto it. But the NYT authors go to length to claim that there is some nefarious Russian scheme behind this that uses automated accounts to spread divisive issues. [...] The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that the NYT reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi, continue with the false assumptions that most or all of these accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious."

I sometimes find Jimmy Dore a bit over-the-top but this clip gives you a more accurate picture of what's really going on than any of our more "responsible" coverage provides. It's embarrassing to see people like Ari Melber repeating nonsense about how Sanders (but not Clinton) has to answer for the social media junk that apparently supported the campaign.

"Hyping the Mueller Indictment: Do the charges against Russian individuals and organizations really describe the 'second-worst foreign attack on America'? [...] Neoconservative pundit Max Boot decries 'the second-worst foreign attack on America,' after 9/11, one that 'may be even more corrosive.' According to liberal Jonathan Alter, the Russians have launched 'an attack that - but for the loss of life - is as bad as Pearl Harbor.' Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler concurs, explaining to MSNBC: 'They didn't kill anyone but they're destroying our democratic process.' Not in the amount of violence, but in the seriousness, it is very much on par.'" You could just bang your head against a wall.

Norman Solomon at Truthdig, "Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network? [...] In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders' refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey - MSNBC's ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?"

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Haaretz, "To Leave Gaza, Israel Asks Palestinian Minors to Commit They Not Return for a Year: Israel imposes harsher restrictions on Gazan kids leaving the Strip for abroad, demanding they sign an agreement to stay away. On January 24, 17-year-old Hadil and her three younger siblings arrived at the Erez Checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, they'd received an Israeli permit to leave Gaza through Israel via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan. Since Israel didn't let their oldest brother accompany them on the trip to see their father, who lives in Sweden, Hadil got the job of being the responsible adult. At Erez, a representative of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Office asked all four to sign a commitment not to return to Gaza during the next year, adding that they wouldn't be allowed to leave if they didn't sign. Having no choice, Hadil signed for all of them. Hadil never dreamed that her signature on this commitment would result in the Liaison Office issuing more stringent instructions to its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, and in the latter defying the new rules."

"West Virginia Teachers Are Now Out on a Wildcat Strike. The Labor Movement Should Follow Their Lead. In a bright spot among an otherwise bleak landscape for labor, over 15,000 teachers and school support employees in all 55 West Virginia counties have been out on strike for seven days, as they and supporters from around the state continue to flood the capitol in Charleston, W.V., demanding higher pay and affordable healthcare. Bucking a deal struck between the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) and the state government, school workers have defied both union leadership and state law, which affords them no right to strike and does not recognize their right to collectively bargain. These restrictions haven't stopped West Virginia educators from leading what may be one of the most important labor actions in years."

"Sanders Introduces Bill to End Catastrophic US War in Yemen: Three years of U.S.-Saudi war has turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee introduced a bipartisan bill to end the U.S. role in the war - Ben Norton reports."

"2 winners and 2 losers from the 2018 Texas primary elections: Most high-profile races will go to runoffs. But there were some clear outcomes."

There is something really twisted about admitting that you think people shooting each other is healthier than masturbation. I mean, seriously. In "NRA vs. Exxxotica", our friend Mark Kernes explains why the Dallas city council has decided that a weapons-dealers' trade show is good enough for their convention center, but a return of the successful and popular Exxxotica is not.

"At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions. [...] Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. [...] But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal - their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans' attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before - it had turned conservatives into liberals."

Max Sawicky, "Is That All There Is? How Full Is Our 'Full Employment'? There's more than one reason to get jacked up over the Republicans' epic deficit orgy of 2017-18. One that deserves closer scrutiny is the view that since the economy is at full employment, this is the wrong time for deficits to increase. The temptation to lambaste the G.O.P. for its deficit perfidy may be overwhelming, but it could also be both bad economics and bad politics."

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Atrios, with Centrism Isn't Centrism"

One of the running themes of this sucky blog is much of what is generally described as the "political center" is not and "moderate politicians" are not. Such "centrism" is mostly about issues and votes which have no constituency where Democrats are willing to join with Republicans (yay, bipartisan!). Or, at least, no constituency of voters. They're things which, usually, have a constituency of big donors. They aren't our principled deal-making "last honest people of Washington." They're our most corrupt.

Thinking otherwise allows corrupt Dems to join with equally corrupt Republicans to do things like this, and con people into thinking it's about "principled moderation" and that (in some cases) they're just representing their red state voters. Crazy liberals can't win in Missouri! Only principled moderates can!

No voters in Missouri want to eviscerate banking reforms. The most you can say with respect to electoral viability is that by pleasing big money, you prevent big money from going after you at election time. That might be true. But that's because they're going to run ads about other issues (the laundry list of Liberals Are Bad), not because supporting bank regulations is going to turn off independent minded swing voters.

I question the utility of being squishy on abortion rights and gun control, but it's fair to say that positioning might actually get some votes. Voting for future bank bailouts? Nah.

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At Econospeak, Peter Dorman with "Divide and Rule"

There was a time, one I can remember from when I was growing up (the 1950s and 60s), when being a liberal meant you wanted certain rights and benefits for everyone, at least ostensibly. We had Social Security because everyone should have a basic pension when they retire, and all disabled people need to be cared for. Freedom of speech was for everyone, even those horrible Nazis in Skokie. Liberals wanted national health insurance so everyone could afford medical care, but settled for Medicare, a universal program for seniors. Protestors like me were not against the rhetoric of universalism but the hypocritical practice, where blacks, Mexican and Filipino farmworkers and poor single moms were denied their share. That was then.

Now, liberals are concerned about minorities and the poor. They are against privilege, which is defined as not being a minority or poor. Public programs are designed to give assistance to the most oppressed and not waste their resources on those who have the privilege to fend for themselves. A poster child for the new politics is higher education. Liberals want bigger subsidies, like more Pell Grants, for the poorest students and those who self-select by enrolling in community college. They were distraught at Bernie Sanders' call for free public higher ed for all, since that would siphon off scarce resources for the benefit of privileged, nonpoor families. From their perspective, this was proof that Bernie and his ilk were unwoke: unaware of the scourge of privilege, they even wanted public support for it.

In fact, nothing is more important for the future of progressive politics than a return to universalism. If you doubt this, read this powerful reportage in the New York Times on the divisions opened up by Obamacare. It describes two women, one working part-time and living below the poverty line who gets ample, free health coverage, the other working full-time in a middle class job who is stuck with monthly $1000 premiums and a big deductible. That's not a bug but a feature: the program was set up to focus its support on those at the bottom and charge full freight for everyone else.

The effect is to divide the working class into two groups, poor winners and nonpoor losers. The politics are toxic, as you might expect. (Yes, the reporter found a Democrat to represent women below the poverty line and a Republican for women above it, which gives it an unfortunate air of exaggeration, but the logic of the comparison remains compelling.) It is also bad social policy, since at the margin households making $80,000 a year (the middle class example) can also skimp on care if the financial pinch is too much.

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Pankaj Mishra, "Why do white people like what I write? [...] Compared to these internationalist thinkers, partisans of the second black president, who happen to be the most influential writers and journalists in the US, have provincialised their aspiration for a just society. They have neatly separated it from opposition to an imperial dispensation that incarcerates and deports millions of people each year - disproportionately people of colour - and routinely exercises its right to assault and despoil other countries and murder and torture their citizens. Perceptive about the structural violence of the new Jim Crow, Coates has little to say about its manifestation in the new world order. For all his searing corroboration of racial stigma in America, he has yet to make a connection as vital and powerful as the one that MLK detected in his disillusioned last days between the American devastation of Vietnam and 'the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society'. He has so far considered only one of what King identified as 'the giant American triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism' - the 'inter-related flaws' that turned American society into a 'burning house' for the blacks trying to integrate into it. And in Coates's worldview even race, despite his formidable authority of personal witness, rarely transcends a rancorously polarised American politics of racial division, in which the world's most powerful man appears to have been hounded for eight years by unreconstructed American racists. 'My President Was Black', a 17,000-word profile in the Atlantic, is remarkable for its missing interrogations of the black president for his killings by drones, despoilation of Libya, Yemen and Somalia, mass deportations, and cravenness before the titans of finance who ruined millions of black as well as white lives. Coates has been accused of mystifying race and of 'essentialising' whiteness. Nowhere, however, does his view of racial identity seem as static as in his critical tenderness for a black member of the 1 per cent."

"Why are Democratic party thinktanks still not backing universal healthcare?" Well, the last time there was a roll toward some kind of single-payer-ish program, the American Enterprise Institute created a monstrosity that became RomneyCare and then Obamacare to head it off. They've shot their wad, looks like it's time for the faux "progressives" to take a shot.

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Howie Klein, "DCCC Comes Out Of The Closet As The Progressive-Hating Attack Machine It's Been For Over A Decade. Nancy Pelosi gave a very strange interview the other day, but "Her theory behind the races exploded yesterday in Houston when the DCCC did something publicly that it usually only-- and always-- does behind the scenes where no one can watch. It viciously attacked a progressive candidate, Laura Moser, to benefit an establishment corporate shill in the primary."

Lee Fang, Ryan Grim, David Dayen. "DCCC goes nuclear, slams Dem candidate as corrupt for same behavior it engages in regularly: ON THURSDAY EVENING, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the extraordinary step of publicly attacking a prominent Democratic candidate in a contested Texas primary. The party committee's move was made all the more jarring given the background of the candidate, Laura Moser, who in 2017 became a hero of the Trump resistance movement as the creator of Daily Action, a text-messaging tool that channelled progressive anger into a single piece of activism per day."

Daniel Marans at The Huffington Post, "DCCC Advised Candidates Not To Discuss Gun Control Policy Right After Vegas Shooting: The campaign organization said Democrats should focus on offering thoughts and prayers."

"From Pushing 'Thoughts and Prayers' to Dissing Medicare for All, DCCC Called Out for Sabotaging Bold Demands: While House Democrats were urged to ignore Medicare for All as a viable solution to the nation's healthcare woes, a separate memo to lawmakers after Las Vegas shooting appeared to be 'straight out of the NRA's talking points'" It's just amazing how the leaked DCCC "unity" memo seems so concerned about hiring the "right" consultants and spending most of your money on paid advertising.

Zaid Jilani, "DCCC internal polling presented to members of congress panned single-payer health care

For the record, the Democratic Party does not have a page like this listing their election wins and losses. And while it's true that Our Revolution appears to have lost more than they've won, they've had some interesting victories, often in deep red country. You might want to save this link for the next time someone claims otherwise.

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"Supreme Court limits protections for corporate whistleblowers: The Supreme Court sharply limited the legal protections for corporate whistleblowers on Wednesday, ruling they are not shielded from being fired under a federal law unless they have reported a potential fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The justices conceded their ruling might gut the whistleblower protections that were adopted after the Wall Street collapse in 2008. Lawmakers had said they wanted to break the "corporate code of silence" that prevented employees from revealing wrongdoing inside their companies. But the high court, in an unanimous decision, said the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 defined a protected whistleblower as someone who reported a potential fraud "to the commission," referring to the SEC."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Calls Out Big Pharma For Opposing Legal Marijuana: "'To them it's competition for chronic pain, and that's outrageous because we don't have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,' Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said. 'It's not the same thing. It's not as highly addictive as opioids are.'"

"Let Them Eat Experience: Until last month, almost all unpaid internships were technically illegal. Now it's open season for employers who want free labor."

David Dayen says it's Time to Take On ICE, and also links to some other stories he's done on an interesting development in the newly-Democratic Virginia legislature.
* Also Dday in The Nation on The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett's Billions." In other Tiny Letters, he tells us about Bipartisan Deregulators, Stadium Banks and the Citigroup Carve-Out and the Janus case that looks set to cripple public sector unions.

Dday also tells us about a publishing project he will be contributing to, of small "books" on DC-related subjects. "My friend and Intercept colleague Ryan Grim has co-founded a publishing company called Strong Arm Press. They produce investigations of major figures in the Trump orbit, a sort of field guide to the people running the world these days. The books are expansive enough to really delve into a subject but much smaller than a book, about 10,000 words or so. They are sold cheaply, like $5 or $10, mostly as ebooks. Ryan has asked me to contribute to one such exposé of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who I've written about once or twice. We have a terrific reporter, Rebecca Burns, working hard on this project. So, you can buy the in-depth reporting, but you can also help fund it if you have a few extra pennies to throw in.

Plus! On The Majority Report, "Attacking Wall Street Reform w/ David Dayen" - Gosh, he sounds really steamed.

"If Police Don't Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They? The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, most recently in 2005, that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm. [...] Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages - many of them unarmed - for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something - anything - that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer's mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety. In recent years, Americans have been killed by police merely for standing in a 'shooting stance,' holding a cell phone, behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat, opening the front door, running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch, crawling around naked, hunching over in a defensive posture, wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey, driving while deaf, being homeless, brandishing a shoehorn, holding a garden hose, and peeing outdoors." But they didn't do a thing against the Parkland shooter. And, don't get me wrong, that was the smart thing to do - they would have ended up dead. But the police seem to have become the most dangerous gang on the streets while contributing increasingly less value to the community.

Juan Cole, "Did an Emirates-Israel alliance Help elect Trump more than Russia?

Lee Camp at Truthdig. "Six Ways the 'Resistance' Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit: My longtime arch-nemesis, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - which I thought we had vanquished after years of stabbing, kicking and choking it - may now be rising from the dead like a zombie, like a vampire, like a Jeff Sessions. And this is yet another sign that the so-called Democratic 'Resistance' is a joke so big it has to buy two airplane seats. [...] What does this have to do with the so-called Democratic 'resistance'? Well, there's a reason Trump has such an outsize trade authority - a reason your mainstream media would rather you forget. Obama handed this trade authority to Trump on a silver platter. Back in 2015, Congress, under pressure from the Obama administration, voted to give the president, any president, unlimited trade authority for the next six years. This means Congress cannot change a word of any trade deal Trump approves."

Beat the Press, "Hey Folks, Looks Like Corporate America Hasn't Heard About the Trump Tax Cuts: News must travel slowly to corporate headquarters these days. How else can we explain the fact that corporate America isn't rushing out to invest in response to the big tax cut Congress voted them last year? [...] If the tax cuts matter for investment, then companies like GE, Microsoft, and Amazon were making plans as soon as it became clear that the Republican majority in Congress was serious about passing a tax bill. The fact that we are seeing zero evidence of an uptick in investment suggests that tax cuts don't have much impact on investment. Rather than being about promoting economic growth that would lead to productivity gains and higher wages for ordinary workers, the tax cuts were actually just another way to redistribute more money upward. As Speaker Ryan always says: #RichPeopleNeedTaxCuts."

David Cay Johnston, "Here's Why Donald Trump Is In The White House: New Data Show Falling Incomes Through the Obama Years [...] The average income on 2016 tax returns shows that people effectively lost one week of income compared to 2015. The average was $67,755, down almost $1,300 from the year before when adjusted for inflation, my analysis of new IRS Table 1 preliminary data shows."

CONGRATULATIONS: Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Associate Publisher, is now also Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Tor Books, reporting to me. Patrick's 29 years at Tor, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry and his award-winning editing skills, make him perfect for this key role that will help us to continue to grow the business."

REST IN PEACE: "Pearls Before Swine Band Mastermind Tom Rapp Dead at 70: Psych folk legend also worked as civil rights lawyer"

REST IN PEACE: "Barry Crimmins, Comedian and Activist, Dead at 64 [...] Crimmins was a stalwart in the Boston stand-up scene during the Eighties and became known for his powerful monologues and scathing political satire. Along with performing, he founded two clubs, the Ding Ho and Stitches, where he produced an array of shows that featured burgeoning comics like Goldthwait, Steven Wright, Kevin Meaney and Paula Poundstone." There are some videos there at The Rolling Stone's article and more at the Guardian. Longtime readers of The Sideshow will remember that Barry was a mainstay of the liberal web in the days of Bartcop, Media Whores Online. and the early blogging days.

REST IN PEACE: "Nanette Fabray, TV Star of the '50s and '60s, Dies at 97" One of those actors who was on the screen my entire life. I noticed she had gone only because Marlee Matlin tweeted: "A follower shared this very sweet video of Nanette Fabray signing 'Over the Rainbow' on the Carol Burnett Show. It was probably the first time anyone signed on network TV."

REST IN PEACE: "The Crystals Singer Barbara Ann Alston Dead at 74, following a two-week battle with the flu." I can't pick my favorite of their songs, but here she is singing lead on "Uptown". (Oh, okay, she didn't sing lead on "Da Doo Ron Ron". but here it is anyway.)

REST IN PEACE: "David Ogden Stiers, Major Winchester on 'MASH,' Dies at 75. [...] Indeed, it was his voice that earned him his first screen credit - as the announcer in George Lucas' 1971 film THX 1138."

REST IN PERDITION: Billy Graham, Evangelist for American Empire and homophobia, at 99.

Tom Sullivan, "This is what more looks like: Want to know one reason why Democrats get no traction in the Plains States? I tried to email Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana counties yesterday and got pissed off. The white counties in otherwise red-shaded states are either unorganized or have no email or Facebook contact information on the state party websites (and probably not even a Facebook page not listed there). That's 40 percent of Kansas counties, half of Montana, and 70 percent of South Dakota. That's counties, not population, naturally. Okay, very rural, low-density areas I have the luxury of not trying to organize. And maybe it is because there are no Democrats out there. Even so. Those states elect U.S. senators. If Democrats don't show up to play, they forfeit. Look at south-central Georgia. So, I don't want to hear "This is the most important election of our lifetime" again. Ever. Because if you think short-term, you never invest in the future. As they say around the office, "Why is there never time to do it right, but always time to do it over?" Democrats do it over - and over - on a two-year cycle, in many places starting each time from scratch."

"Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism. [...] Throughout the day, some of the country's most important scientists spoke about their research into these problems. Yet, as the day went on, something baffled me. If all you knew about depression, anxiety and addiction was what was presented at this day-long conference, you would have thought these conditions were caused by malfunctions in people's brains. We looked at pictures of brain scans and talked about internal brain mechanisms. One group of scientists said they aimed to eradicate depression by 2050 - but the focus of their research was entirely biological. [...] As Margaret Thatcher put it when I was a kid, 'There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.' Neoliberalism poses many problems, but perhaps the most neglected is that it has supercharged our current crisis of depression and anxiety. All human beings have natural psychological needs: to feel we belong, to feel we are secure, to feel we are valued, to feel we have a secure future we can understand. These are ingrained in us all. Neoliberalism does a very poor job of meeting these psychological needs, in part because its theory of human nature doesn't match with human nature.

"There Was A 1908 Board Game About Women Fighting Cops In The Streets - called Suffragetto.

A recent appearance by Miss Boop

They look like photographs but they're drawings: The art of Kelvin Okafor.

These bras are exactly the opposite of what I love about Wacoal, but they are so beautiful I almost wish for them.

Pearls Before Swine, "Another Time"


  1. Great links and commentary as usual, but I'm confused by the issue of Plains state D parties not having email links. Please show me ANY D website with a visible email link! Those days are are long gone. Instead everyone uses forms you fill out and then never get a response from. Maybe one of the biggest tells out there. I don't know of any D candidates or party orgs that are willing to put their physical address, email or phone information on their websites. It's profoundly anti-small d democracy, and an infuriating practice.

    1. It's not just an American problem. My own MP in the UK has a website, which has a link to a Twitter account, which he never uses. It has never been posted to, unlike a neighbouring MP who at least puts out notifications of new posts to his Facebook account. (My MP has a Facebook account, and the space available, compared to Twitter does matter.) He did use Twitter before he became a junior Minister, a different account which became notorious for blocking constituents, and started the new account after the 2016 Referendum.

      I can understand a certain reluctance to publish some details, on the grounds of "security", but it's trivial to have a distinct email address for a campaign, or for an elected representative. I've been running this domain and email for over twenty years, through 4 ISP accounts and from 2 physical addresses. They're not trying.

      I am inclined to think this is a problem of the Right Wing, and the Democrats in the USA seem well to the Right, by British standards.

  2. "a blog that bears a mysterious resemblance to Billmon's Whiskey Bar"

    When Billmon closed comments at Whiskey Bar, one of his main commenters Bernhard set up Moon of Alabama specifically as a comment section for Whiskey Bar. It continued after Whiskey Bar closed. The explanation is here

  3. did you see this?
    who else is great at media news like you?