Monday, February 4, 2019

I've been looking high and low

This photo comes from a page where you can pick your favorite skyscape for a people's choice award at the Royal Museums Greenwich site. Some striking images to feast your eyes on, and one surprising single-shot, no-tricks photo of the Milky Way hanging over suburban homes.

So, he was flipping through the channels and suddenly we were captivated by this documentary on the BBC that we didn't know was on, "The Everly Brothers: Harmonies from Heaven", which brought tears to my eyes. Watch it if you can.

Fears of US-Backed 'Coup' in Motion as Trump Recognizes Venezuela Opposition Lawmaker as 'Interim President': President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela officially cut off diplomatic ties with the U.S. government on Wednesday — and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country — in response to President Donald Trump declaring formal recognition of an opposition lawmaker as the 'Interim President' of Venezuela, despite not being elected by the nation's people for that position. [...] Critics of U.S. imperialism and its long history of anti-democratic manuevers in Latin American expressed immediate alarm on Wednesday after Trump's announcement. And what Trump identified as 'democracy,' critics of the move instead used Maduro's description: 'coup.'" Of course it's a coup - orchestrated from Washington on the heels of years of sanctions imposed by Barack Obama. No doubt because Venezuela has all that nice oil. Centrist hearththrob Justin Trudeau has already recognized the coup leader, Since even the "progressives" seem largely to be supporting the coup, you can be sure that most of what you're seeing in the news about this is false. Is Maduro bad? He's not great, but he's better than the alternative, which is a coup against a Democratically elected leader. Was the election rigged? We don't know, because although Maduro asked for international oversight of the elections, the same people who are staging the coup refused to let them in. When the Bush administration pulled this with Chavez, they managed to convince a lot of people that he was depriving his people of all kinds of rights that Americans don't have, either. But no one points that out. The opposition to Maduro is staging huge, violent events to try to get the government to respond, and after they've stolen some vehicles and blocked thoroughfares and set building on fire for a few hours and the authorities finally show up, then they start filming and claiming it's "government repression. The shortages of food and medical supplies? Well, yeah, those sanctions are working, what did you expect?

Why France's Yellow Vest Protests Have Been Ignored by the US 'Resistance': To the surprise of no one, mainstream pundits have stoked fears of 'Russian interference' behind the unrest. [...] It turned out that a crisis was not averted but merely postponed when Macron defeated his demagogue opponent Le Pen in the 2017 French election. While it is true that the gilets jauneswere partly impelled by an increase on fuel prices, contrary to the prevailing narrative their official demands are not limited to a carbon tax. They also consist of explicit ultimatums to increase the minimum wage, improve the standard of living, and an end to austerity, among other legitimate grievances. Since taking office, Macron has declared war on trade unions while pushing through enormous tax breaks for the wealthy (like himself) — it was just a matter of time until the French people had enough of the country's privatization.

The Political Economy Research Institute, "Economic Analysis of Medicare for All: This study by PERI researchers Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Peter Arno, Jeannette Wicks-Lim and Michael Ash presents a comprehensive analysis of the prospects for a Medicare for All health care system in the United States. The most fundamental goals of Medicare for All are to significantly improve health care outcomes for everyone living in the United States while also establishing effective cost controls throughout the health care system. These two purposes are both achievable. As of 2017, the U.S. was spending about $3.24 trillion on personal health care — about 17 percent of total U.S. GDP. Meanwhile, 9 percent of U.S. residents have no insurance and 26 percent are underinsured — they are unable to access needed care because of prohibitively high costs. Other high-income countries spend an average of about 40 percent less per person and produce better health outcomes. Medicare for All could reduce total health care spending in the U.S. by nearly 10 percent, to $2.93 trillion, while creating stable access to good care for all U.S. residents."

"Wall Street freaks out about 2020: Many of the nation's top bankers want Trump gone, but they're growing anxious about some Democratic presidential contenders." I'm betting it's not Beto or Kamala or Biden who's got them worried. "NEW YORK — Top Wall Street executives would love to be rid of President Donald Trump. But they are getting panicked about the prospect of an ultraliberal Democratic nominee bent on raising taxes and slapping regulations on their firms. The result is a kind of nervous paralysis of executives pining for a centrist nominee like Michael Bloomberg while realizing such an outcome is unlikely from a party veering sharply to the left. [...] "

This Onion headline is absolutely true: "Howard Schultz Considering Independent Presidential Run After Finding No Initial Support Among Any Voter Groups: SEATTLE — Expressing concerns that Democratic and Republican parties no longer represented people like him, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz revealed Monday that he was considering an independent presidential run after finding no initial support among any American voter groups."

"Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked: After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to 'traumatize' migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy. In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that "compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.' 'Despite this fact,' Merkley continued, 'while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally "I'm not a liar, we've never had a policy for family separation."' Given the 'conflicting facts,' Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation." It's interesting to wonder how and why the memo got released, but if you're trying to broadcast to the world that America is a bad place to go if you're not a blonde, you wouldn't want to keep it a secret, would you?

The internet ran wild with rumors that Bernie is ready to run. So here's a timely article in GQ called "The Unfinished Business of Bernie Sanders," which is actually pretty thoughtful. "Indeed, passing the torch could actually be liberating for Sanders — and not just because it would give him more time to spend with his seven grandchildren. 'I do think his DNA, where he's been over the course of his life, is he really likes agitating,' says the senior Democratic strategist. 'There's a freedom to it: the freedom of being an agitator versus the weight of being a standard-bearer. If you're a standard-bearer, you have to start making compromises.' And yet the idea of passing the torch has obvious downsides. For one thing, would any of the Bernie 2.0's — to say nothing of the more centrist candidates, like Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand or Kamala Harris, who are now singing from the Bernie hymnal — be as committed to his issues as Sanders is himself? 'If Bernie's not on the debate stage, the center of gravity shifts,' says one Sanders adviser. 'How much will others stick to issues we care about if they don't feel the need to compete with us?' What's more, even if the other candidates were true believers, would they be as good at spreading the gospel as Sanders? 'No one articulates these issues in the same way as him,' says the Sanders adviser."

Rasmussen, "Voters Mixed on Harris, Don't See Her as 2020 Nominee: California Senator Kamala Harris has announced her intention to run for president, but voters aren't paying the California Democrat much heed. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 37% of Likely U.S. Voters have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Harris, including 16% who view her Very Favorably. Forty percent (40%) view Harris unfavorably, including 27% with a Very Unfavorable opinion of the former San Francisco District Attorney. Another 24% don't know enough about Harris to offer an opinion. "

Matt Taibbi, "Has the Government Legalized Secret Defense Spending? While a noisy Supreme Court fight captivated America last fall, an obscure federal accounting body quietly approved a system of classified money-moving. October 4th, 2018, was a busy news day. The fight over Brett Kavanuagh's Supreme Court nomination dominated the cycle. The Trump White House received a supplemental FBI report it said cleared its would-be nominee of wrongdoing. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens meanwhile said Kavanaugh was compromised enough that he was 'unable to sit as a judge.' #NationalTacoDay trended on Twitter. Chris Evans told the world production wrapped on Avengers 4. The only thing that did not make the news was an announcement by a little-known government body called the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board — FASAB — that essentially legalized secret national security spending. The new guidance, 'SFFAS 56 — CLASSIFIED ACTIVITIES' permits government agencies to 'modify' public financial statements and move expenditures from one line item to another. It also expressly allows federal agencies to refrain from telling taxpayers if and when public financial statements have been altered."

I have my concerns about both Bernie's and Harris' plans to end money bail. It's absolutely necessary we do that, but I don't want to see it replaced with just another way judicial wisdom or some formula that works against the poor can be used to have the same effect - or worse.

Taibbi, "Taibbi: Forget the Memo — Can We Worry About the Banks? A classic circular kerfuffle in congress this week shifted eyes away from rare bipartisan cooperation on spying powers and bank reform. [...] Predictably, there have been more concerning stories in recent weeks having to do with Republicans and Democrats agreeing, rather than trading dumb accusations. [...] All in all, this whole period has been a classic example of how congress operates. The parties fight publicly about something that's either irrelevant, inaccurate, or far from a resolution. Meanwhile, a quiet consensus pushes forward a handful of unsexy but important bills and amendments, usually economic or deregulatory in nature. Those issues tend to be the ones that demand, but rarely get, the most attention."

"'Historic Day for American Unions': Los Angeles Teachers Strike Earns Victory for Labor, Public Education: Los Angeles public school teachers at the nation's second-largest district ended a six-day strike late Tuesday after union members voted to approve a deal — hailed as a major victory for organized labor — that's designed to raise salaries, cap class sizes and charter schools, and direct more funding to schools for nurses, counselors, and other support staff positions."

"GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn't Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank: Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the 'sugar-coated' junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an 'exceedingly dangerous' plan that must be stopped. In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his 'extreme concern' with Tlaib's proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December. Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the 'Jewish Disneyland trip' — sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF) — the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on 'Israel's detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,' the news outlet reported at the time."

Rashida Tlaib also upset Republicans by using "strong language" in a bar. "'We're gonna impeach the motherf****r'" I don't remember them getting this worked up when Dick Cheney used similar language on the Senate floor.

Steny Hoyer needs to go, but that has been true since the very beginning of his career when, to our horror, he replaced Gladys Spellman upon her death. It has nothing to do with how old he is or how long he's served - he has never been any better than he is.

"A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda: When charter schools pull funding from a public school, it damages the school's ability to educate the students who remain. In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters' lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system's financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists."

Briahna Gray in The Intercept, "A Problem for Kamala Harris: Can a Prosecutor Become President in the Age of Black Lives Matter? [...] She's running for president as a progressive, but as attorney general of California, she criminalized truancy — making it a crime for kids to be late for school, and dragging into the criminal justice system even more disproportionately low income, predominantly black and latino families. She's overlooked the misconduct of her prosecutors and fought to uphold their wrongfully secured convictions. She defended California's choice to deny sexual reassignment surgery to a trans inmate, and in 2014, appealed a federal judge's holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional. [...] Journalist Jill Filipovic argued on Twitter recently that she judges Harris's history less harshly because black women 'shoulder additional burdens' compared to white men, and because women have to prove that they are 'tough.' Filipovic acknowledges that Harris's race and gender don't 'excuse' her record, but, she insists, 'context matters.' It's difficult to understand, though, how the context matters here except to provide some kind of excuse. I'm not without sympathy for the additional pressures exerted on Harris because she is a black woman — after all, unlike Filipovic, I am one too. But those sympathies do not eclipse the concern I have for the black women who bore the consequences of Harris's prosecutorial misjudgment. Importantly, if Harris had to be tougher on crime because she is black, it wasn't for the sake of some higher ideal. It was because her personal ambitions demanded it. [...] Perhaps the most enduring lesson of Sen. Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign — during which he earned votes of 43 percent of Democratic Party primary participants despite starting with name recognition in the teens, enduring a corporate media blackout, and declining to take corporate PAC money — is that the traditional rules around how much you have to sell out to get ahead were wrong. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and myriad candidates who won or over-performed in last year's midterms understood this, as do the leaders of the 2020 field, who have largely sworn off corporate PAC money, and who have adopted the bulk of Sanders's 2016 platform. As it turns out, doing the right thing is actually a winning proposition."

Reason has a compilation of her hits, in "Kamala Harris' New Book Tries to Massage Her Record as a Prosecutor, But the Facts Aren't Pretty: The book neglects to mention all the times Harris' office appealed cases that were thrown out for gross prosecutor misconduct."

Teodrose Fikre is celebrating good journalists, with "Evoking Muckrakers: Hannah Giorgis's Devastating Critique of Senator Kamala Harris." Giorgis' article, in The Atlantic, reviews a book. "Kamala Harris's Political Memoir Is an Uneasy Fit for the Digital Era: The senator's new book shows the difficulty of translating short-form virality into a substantive text," she says, noting that Harris' woke-sounding tweets and self-revelation neither explain her history nor are supported by it. "But unlike Harris's many viral #resistance moments and meticulous snapshots of relatability, the memoir itself is a meandering work that lacks verve. More significantly, given far more than 280 characters to deliver a cohesive message, Harris doesn't meaningfully reconcile her punitive track record as a California prosecutor with her more recent activist-adjacent positioning as a national Democratic darling." Harris' purported reason for serving in office has to do with wanting to fight for social justice But, as many have observed, her time in office has shown her to be not merely absent from that fight, but working for the other side. "It is, according to many of her supporters, an admirable goal. And for a career prosecutor, it's a fairly understandable worldview. But the lofty language is a tough fit with Harris's policy track record. As others have noted, her tenure as California's so-called top cop reveals a series of choices that are often incongruous with the social-justice-inflected rhetoric of The Truths We Hold. Under District Attorney Kamala Harris, the overall felony-conviction rate in San Francisco rose from 52 percent in 2003 to 67 percent in 2006, the highest seen in a decade. Many of the convictions accounting for that increase stemmed from drug-related prosecutions, which also soared, from 56 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in 2006. As California's attorney general, Harris pushed a punitive initiative that treated truancy among elementary schoolers as a crime for which parents could be jailed. In 2014, she attempted to block the release of nonviolent second-strike offenders from overcrowded state prisons on the grounds that their paroling would result in prisons losing an important labor pool. The following year, she defended the California state prosecutor Robert Murray after he falsified a defendant's confession that was used to threaten a sentence of life in prison, and sided with state prison leaders in contesting a transgender inmate's bid for gender-confirmation surgery. Twice in 2016, she brought criminal charges related to human trafficking against Backpage.com, an online classified website frequently used by sex workers, and later, as a senator, she co-sponsored federal bills that led to the site's seizure, a move that sex workers and activists said threatens their survival." Giorgis also compares this book with Harris' first, and notes that they seem to contradict each other, with no bridge between them. Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer was a book from Kamala the Top Cop, who showed no interest in the injustice of rounding up loads of people (disproportionately of color, naturally) for non-violent drug crimes and wrecking their lives unnecessarily. This pre-presidential Harris wants us to think she has a history of caring about those effects — particularly on people of color — yet one still has the impression she's really only interested in protecting Perry Mason's clients - falsely accused innocents, respectable, and white. "For those already inclined to find her highly tweetable brand of #resistance rhetoric appealing, the memoir offers up palatably anti-establishment quotes for possible tote-bag screen-printing. If only it presented a holistic political foundation instead."

And even The New York Times has a great article by Lara Bazelon, law professor and former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles, "Kamala Harris Was Not a 'Progressive Prosecutor': The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general. [...] The senator was often on the wrong side of history when she served as California's attorney general."

David Dayen and Rebecca Burns have a new book out, Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story, and they gave Bill Scher an interview on it. How did a Wall Street executive and 'foreclosure king' like Steve Mnuchin become the Treasury Secretary for a populist like Donald Trump, and what is he doing to the country now that he's there? David Dayen and Rebecca Burns tackle those questions in their book Fat Cat: The Steve Mnuchin Story (Strong Arm Press, 2018). They trace Mnuchin not-so-humble origins and his recurring presence in companies impacted by the 2008 market crash, which prompted Sen. Elizabeth Warren to call him 'the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis.' They argue that as Treasury Secretary, he has pursued policies that betray Trump's claim to the populist mantle, rolling back bank regulations and performing lax enforcement. And they criticize the tax reform bill that Mnuchin championed, asserting that it helped the wealthy at the expense of the middle-class."

"Michelle Alexander explodes an open secret in the 'NYT': progressives keep quiet about Palestine out of fear for their careers: Everyone is talking about one thing this morning, the outstanding piece by Michelle Alexander in the New York Times, yes, the New York Times, titled, 'Time to Break the Silence about Palestine,' in which she says she can't be quiet about Palestine any longer. The author of 'The New Jim Crow' is a regular columnist now, and she has changed the discourse about Palestine in one explosive swoop, stating that progressives have been silent about Palestine partly because of fear for their careers, but the time has come to end that silence.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says, "The U.S. Needs a Federal Wealth Tax: A federal wealth tax on the richest 0.1 percent of Americans is a viable approach for Congress to raise revenue and is one of the few approaches that could truly address rising inequality. As this report explains, an annual federal tax of only 1 percent on the portion of any taxpayer's net worth exceeding the threshold for belonging to the wealthiest 0.1 percent (likely to be about $32.2 million in 2020) could raise $1.3 trillion over a decade. Many working families know that a large part of their wealth is their home, which is subject to an annual property tax at rates that, in some states, approach or even exceed one percent. The homes of the very rich typically make up a much smaller share of their overall wealth, meaning state and local property taxes have little effect on them.[1] A federal wealth tax could ensure that the net worth of the very rich is treated more like the wealth held by the middle-class."

* * * * *

Local Ohio blogger Tim Russo reminds us of "That Time In 2005 Paul Hackett Got Sherrod Brown To Let His Mask Slip-- Here We Go Again: Word on the street here in Ohio is that Sherrod Brown has reverted to factory settings as he prepares to run for president in 2020. What are Sherrod Brown's factory settings? Sherrod don't like primaries, that's what. [...] Since Brown benefitted from his bad behavior in 2005-2006, instead of facing a cost, he is repeating it. I can report that today, Sherrod is not content with rigging the Ohio Democratic Party; Brown is now actually attempting to rig processes outside the Democratic Party, in progressive groups naturally leaning toward Bernie Sanders in 2020. Brown is reaching into the internal decision making of every Ohio progressive group he can, to stunt and halt any organizing for anyone who isn't Sherrod Brown. Brown's 2019 efforts seem based entirely on geography-- that everyone in Ohio simply must support fellow Buckeye Sherrod. In short, it's Paul Hackett all over again. Thus, it is highly likely that every establishment Democrat 2020 prospect is repeating this same approach with their own geographic base. Perhaps not with the same...er...fervor that Sherrod displayed in 2005 (and is no doubt unleashing today), but certainly the same intent. Democrats simply cannot stop attempting to rig primaries. They have learned precisely nothing from 2016." Meanwhile, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul went to Canada for surgery.

"How Would A President Sherrod Brown Run The Democratic Party? Like A Corporate Clown Act:"

More from Tim Russo here.

Common Dreams, "Sherrod Brown: Medicare for All Not 'Practical.' Progressives: 'OK. Thank You, Next.': 'Fight for single-payer or get kicked out of Washington trying.' [...] 'I know most of the Democratic primary candidates are all talking about Medicare for all. I think instead we should do Medicare at 55,' Brown said during a question and answer session at the Chamber of Commerce in Clear Lake, Iowa. Brown said that reducing the age or letting people over 55 buy into the existing Medicare system early would have a better chance of getting through Congress. [...] While all the Democratic 2020 candidates will ultimately be pressed on their solution to the nation's ongoing healthcare crisis, Dr. Carol Paris, former president of Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates for a single-payer system like Medicare for All, told Think Progress this week that anyone who runs must demonstrate they understand that only Medicare for All — a system with "No co-pays, no deductibles, no need for supplemental policies, no private insurance" — has the ability to confront the current system's inherent failure."

Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Crusher of Sacred Cows: With its silly swipes at AOC, the American political establishment is once again revealing its blindness to its own unpopularity. [...] There's a reason aides try to keep their bosses away from microphones, particularly when there's a potential for a question of SAT-or-higher level difficulty in the interview. But the subject elected officials have the most trouble staying away from is each other. We've seen this a lot in recent weeks with the ongoing freakout over newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Lest anyone think any of the above applies to 'AOC,' who's also had a lot to say since arriving in Washington, remember: she won in spite of the party and big donors, not because of them. That doesn't make anything she says inherently more or less correct. But it changes the dynamic a bit. All of AOC's supporters sent her to Washington precisely to make noise. There isn't a cabal of key donors standing behind her, cringing every time she talks about the Pentagon budget. She is there to be a pain in the ass, and it's working. Virtually the entire spectrum of Washington officialdom has responded to her with horror and anguish. [...] I have no idea if Ocasio-Cortez will or will not end up being a great politician. But it's abundantly clear that her mere presence is unmasking many, if not most, of the worst and most tired Shibboleths of the capital. Moreover, she's laying bare the long-concealed fact that many of their core policies are wildly unpopular, and would be overturned in a heartbeat if we could somehow put them all to direct national referendum.

Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, "The Shape-Shifter: Kirsten Gillibrand's name is being floated as a progressive 2020 presidential candidate. But her record shows she's a poor tribune for anti-Trump resistance.Gillibrand — who has consciously positioned herself as an elite face of 'the Resistance' in the wake of Trump's election — has some good spots on her record. She led efforts to curb sexual assault in the military, pushed to get the 9/11 first responders bill passed, campaigned to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, and has been advancing a paid family leave bill for years. But if we're going to remember Gillibrand's voting record on Trump appointees in 2020, we should also remember some of the less laudable aspects of her political career. [...] Before her appointment to the Senate, Gillibrand was a Blue Dog Democrat through and through. Representing a House district in Upstate New York, she backed the Bush tax cuts and voted to expand government surveillance every chance she got (this continued to 2015, with CISA, a bill that allowed companies to pass their customers' data to the government). She opposed gay marriage and bragged that her voting record was 'one of the most conservative in the state.' As late as 2009, she was referred to as an 'ostensibly non-liberal Democratic congresswoman' and a 'conservative Democrat.' Gillibrand's record on immigration deserves special mention. Before taking up her Senate post, Gillibrand came out against giving undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship and opposed then — New York governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to allow undocumented immigrants access to drivers licenses. In 2007, she cosponsored the SAVE Act, which significantly beefed up border patrols, required all employers to check the immigration status of their employees through a flawed computer database, established monetary rewards for anyone who helped catch an undocumented immigrant trying to obtain falsified documents, and turned local police into an arm of federal immigration enforcement.She supported financially penalizing sanctuary cities, the same thing now on Trump's wish list. And she wanted to make English the United States' 'official language.'" And she's bad on Israel, of course, as well as being tight with Wall Street.

Paul Street at Counterpunch, "'If Bernie Runs?' Wrong Question: [...] Bernie's statements that the Wall Street (neoliberal) agenda 'made Trump possible' is accurate. 'Wall Street Democrats' have repeatedly demobilized and antagonized the majority working-class electorate and thereby opened the ugly barn door to the ever more dangerously reactionary and racist Republican Party. It is thanks in large part to the dismal, dollar-drenched Democrats' corporate neoliberalism that two noxious George Bushes and the terrible Trump have held the White House." But there's a BUT.

Atrios says, "Assert: DC is wired for Republicans and reporters get very confused indeed when they aren't in charge of everything. It's why Newt became President in 1995, and Speaker of the House Bachmann (Tea Party) ran Congress from 2009-2011. Reporters always say that Democrats are just bad at the game of kicking the soccer ball that they all chase, which could be true, but I'd also think that reporters could, you know, not see their role as being manipulated by two teams like a fucking soccer ball. But if it is a game, then Pelosi and the House Dems should be out there pulling crazy shit stunts every damn day. Also serious stuff too! Maybe combine them sometimes. Reporters gotta write about something."

"'We've dug ourselves a really deep hole' — David Neiwert on the rise of the far right: Neiwert has reported on the US far right for decades and watched as the conservative movement has steadily adopted its outlook and ideas." This is an interview in the Guardian with our old friend. Most of it is what we've seen him say before, but also this: "One important step to challenge this would be media reform. He says that the internet and corporate ownership of local media have 'basically gutted the ability of local newspapers to cover local news, gutted the ability of larger newspapers to do consumer and investigative reporting'. Social media, a paradise for conspiracy theorists, is filling the gap." And he goes on to say that the Democratic Party has to get more progressive. Oh, yes, they really have to.

There seems to be a new wave of organized H8% anti-Bernie trolling on Twitter. If you're looking for a source for verbal karate, you might find an answer to some of the complaints about how Bernie was disrespectful to Clinton in Guy Saperstein's 2015 piece about why she didn't deserve so much respect, "The Racial Justice Failures That Hillary Clinton Can't Ignore."

"This just tells people to stay home." Michael Moore on the death knell of democracy as demonstrated by the 2016 Democratic primaries and convention.

Paul Street knew who Barack Obama was before he even ran for the Senate - a deeply conservative, ambitious man who didn't believe in activism or democracy. He wrote about that before Obama was elected, but here he is in 2014 on Tell Somebody discussing the difference between the myth of Obama, and the man, and the truth about modern "progressives". Good explanation of how Democratic leaders have made "liberalism" useless and senseless - and made sure nothing can be improved. (And it's really nice to hear that someone beside me thought Obama was a boring speaker.)

November, 1985, and The Washington Post introduces you to the new rulers of the Democratic Party: "Democrats' New Centrists Preen for '88." Unfortunately, one of them had enough charisma to eventually be elected to the presidency, and it's been downhill ever since. Reading this stuff is so oddly bland and chilling at the same time. "This prospect may distress some, but it delights others. "The vote of Sen. Kennedy for that amendment is one of the most hopeful signs of an evolutionary process that is going on in our party . . . as we cross, however uncertainly, into some post-New Deal configuration," says Babbitt. [...] On his own, each of these '88 "mentionables" would have some trouble filling a firehouse with potential voters outside his home base. So they've banded together, along with the likes of Govs. Bruce Babbitt of Arizona, Charles S. Robb of Virginia, Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Sen. Dale Bumpers (Ark.), into a sort of political road show -- a touring company of like-minded presidential and vice-presidential long shots. They call themselves the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and since midsummer, they have been following the imperatives of the Electoral College map with a series of headline-grabbing campaign-style swings through Texas, Florida, California and North Carolina. [...] They freely acknowledge that they are a long way from defining, issue by issue, exactly where the center is. But one year after the Democrats' 49-state presidential drubbing, these moderates seem poised to capture the soul of their beleaguered party on the strength of the idea of centrism. This is not a universally applauded development. "Unfortunately, the notion that we have to become a party of crypto-Republicans is selling like hotcakes," says Victor Fingerhut, a longtime labor-union pollster and strategist. "If the meek shall inherit the Earth, these timid voices will be land barons," adds Jim Hightower, the Democratic commissioner of agriculture in Texas, who argues that an out-of-power party makes a strategic mistake when it tries to recapture the national agenda with an offering of me-too-isms. He is one of a band of Democrat populists who want their party to build a new platform around good old-fashioned little-guy-versus-big-guy economic conflicts."

"A Cure For Cancer? Israeli Scientists Say They Think They Found One: [...] 'Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market,' Aridor said. 'Our solution will be both generic and personal.'"

RIP: Comedian Jeremy Hardy dies of cancer aged 57: "Hardy, who featured regularly on BBC Radio 4 panel shows such as The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue and wrote a column for the Guardian between 1996 and 2001, died on Friday." I'm really sorry to hear this, he was sharp and funny and coming from the right place.

RIP: "Blues musician Mike Ledbetter dies at 33: Blues fans are mourning the death of Mike Ledbetter, a singer and guitar player whose powerful vocals wowed audiences in the U.S., Europe and Russia. He was 33, according to friends. Mr. Ledbetter died of a sudden medical emergency Monday at his Elgin home, and his family is awaiting autopsy results, said his manager Gina McClain. 'He was scrupulously healthy,' said 'Monster' Mike Welch, his bandmate in the Welch-Ledbetter Connection. 'On and off, he was a bodybuilder. There's no lessons about the pitfalls of the road. This is a man who took care of himself, loved his kids, loved his girlfriend Kathy.' Trained in opera, he was 'truly the best vocalist. . . .He was just passionate about American music,' said Tina Terry, his agent. 'For the blues community, it's a huge loss.'" There's another obit at Blues Matters. But here's what you really want to know about him. He was good.

RIP: "Penny Marshall, 'Laverne & Shirley' Star, Director, Dies at 75. Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million, the first woman to direct two films that made more than $100 million, and she was only the second woman director to see her film Oscar-nominated for best picture." To me, of course, she will always be Oscar Madison's secretary.

RIP: Charles Aznavour, French singing star, dies at 94. Yes, I know this was in October, but for some reason I didn't say anything at the time. I knew his name because it was the one my mother always named whenever someone asked if there were any famous Armenians. In those days, Aznavour and the Chipmonkian Ross Bagdasarian were pretty much all there was. (As my sister observed upon Aznavour's death, these days they are all infamous — Dr. Death and the Kardashians. I don't agree with her about Cher, she's still just a singer/actor, and not a bad one.)

Mick West has scanned, and Graham West has uploaded to Dropbox, D. West's Fanzines in Theory and Practice. Meanwhile, Dave Langford has made a text version of West's Deliverance on the TAFF site.

Finally watched Ron Howard's Beatles movie, Eight Days A Week, and it choked me up.

Evelyn Evelyn, "Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn"

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

As I rise, the stakes get higher

Sanders, Cummings and Colleagues Announce Legislation to Lower Drug Prices (video)

"Vowing to Fight Corporate Power on Behalf of Working Families, Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Run: In a move seen as an official signal that she is entering the 2020 contest for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Monday sent an email to supporters and shared a video on social media announcing that she is forming an exploratory committee to examine her viability as a candidate in the next presidential race."

Tulsi Gabbard also announced, and there was some discussion of that on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 73 - AOC Is Good, Tulsi...?, & Brexit Breaks May ft. Ana Kasparian. (Julian Castro has also announced, and I haven't found a good article about it yet.)

"Celebrating Cyntoia Brown's Clemency, Rights Advocates Vow to Continue Fighting for Human Trafficking Survivors Behind Bars: A decade-long campaign which garnered national headlines in recent months came to fruition on Monday, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking survivor who has been behind bars for 15 years for murder."

"Minnesota AG's report reveals big telcos are literally letting their infrastructure rot: More than a decade of foot-dragging on fiber rollout has left millions of Americans dependent on taxpayer-funded copper-line infrastructure for landlines and DSL, but it's not like the carriers are plowing their no-fiber savings into copper maintenance, instead, as a report released by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson details, incumbent telcos are literally leaving their infrastructure to rot: wires are draped across customers' lawns (and over their propane tanks!), boxes containing key network gear are left smashed and rusting, and carriers' poles and other furniture are literally propped up with 2x4s, or have random logs placed against their wires to hold them in place. Swanson's investigation follows alarm-bells raised by the unionized telco maintenance staff and customers, who have filed more than 1,000 complaints against Frontier, Minnesota's incumbent carrier. The neglect is takes place in an environment of deregulation prompted by the rise of VoIP services, which gave the carriers and the FCC the excuse they needed to allow the telcos to self-regulate their copper-line infrastructure." Worth clicking just to see the photos.

Theresa May failed again to get her latest Brexit plan through, 432-202. May survived the vote of confidence but she only has until March to get it together, and so far she shows no signs of finding a way to do this thing. Meanwhile, some people wonder why Labour seems to have shown such half-hearted interest in defending Remain. It might help to read "Everything you need to know about Lexit in five minutes" - that's the long-standing left-wing case against the EU. Hint: It's about the ease with which employers can simply move companies or jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer worker protections.

"Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception: The high court's ruling means the company must hand over records to the Massachusetts attorney general for her ongoing investigation"

"Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law: DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Iowa's so-called 'ag-gag' law that makes it a crime for undercover journalists or animal-rights activists to investigate and report on animal abuse in livestock facilities is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge James Gritzner in Des Moines struck down the 2012 statute passed by the Iowa Legislature aimed at preventing reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities under false pretenses to report animal abuse."

Maté, "Someone Finally Explained the Trump-Russia Story and It Will Make You Question Everything: I think what's going on is a sustained disinformation campaign in the West to convince people in the West that they are susceptible to a massive Russian disinformation campaign. I mean if you look at it, it's a joke. These so-called sophisticated posts that we are supposed to be afraid of are juvenile, stupid, clickbait content that nobody would be talking about and that nobody would even have noticed really unless every single corporate media outlet and all these government officials were making them such a big deal. I mean, it's ludicrous. [...] And what it actually reveals, I don’t think people realise this, but it shows what contempt liberal elites have for average voters — this notion — that anybody could have been duped by these stupid juvenile ads, and this idea that these ads could sow discord. I am not joking, the latest headline on this front that I saw was this one from the site Qz: and this is the headline: 'Russian operatives were promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US.' And what is amazing is how many grown adults in positions of influence in media and in politics are taking this seriously and are trying to present to us that we should be afraid of all this, when there are so many more problems — there are so many problems out there that decide elections, it’s a joke."

"New Poll: US Military Occupations Supported By Far More Democrats Than Republicans: A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans." I couldn't find how this poll was conducted in the linked .pdf.

David Dayen, Ryan Grim, and Aída Chávez, "Progressives Fought For Key Committee Spots, But Centrist New Dems Came Out On Top: REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ failed in her long-shot bid for a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, according to an announcement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday evening. Pelosi named a member of the New Democrat Coalition, the centrist wing of the party, to the seat instead, part of a sweeping set of wins by the Wall Street-friendly caucus."

"Bernie Sanders Rebukes Trump for Stoking 'Fear and Hatred' With Lie-Soaked National Address: 'Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.'"

"Democrats Don't Just Support Medicare for All, 84% in New Poll Want Party Leaders to Make It 'Extremely Important Priority': 'Are you listening?' party Leaders asked as new Politico/Harvard survey shows more than 8 in 10 Democrats think covering everyone 'through taxpayer-fund national plan' should be urgent pursued"

"'Huge Step in Right Direction' as de Blasio Unveils Guaranteed Healthcare Plan for All NYC Residents: One progressive organizer said the bold plan 'clears a path toward statewide single-payer' in New York"

I don't know about you, but I personally found it refreshing that Andy Samberg said in public that the Black Panthers "were all framed and murdered for wanting justice and equality. The world is and always has been a nightmare; it just seems worse now because of our phones." Just sayin'. (Oops, the article is still there but the video disappeared, so try this.)

"Angela Davis 'Stunned' at Award Revocation, But Still Coming to Birmingham: Activist, poet, academic and writer Angela Davis says she was 'stunned' to learn last Saturday that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded its invitation to honor her next month, in her hometown, with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award for Human Rights. However, in a statement released Monday, Davis revealed she is still coming to Birmingham. 'Despite the BCRI's regrettable decision,' she said, 'I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.' [...] 'The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI)'s decision to rescind an honor previously extended to Angela Davis is only the latest incident in a well-documented nationwide campaign to censor and punish critics of Israel. Davis joins a long list of scholars and activists who have been censored , fired , de-funded , defamed , harassed and targeted with frivolous litigation because of concerted efforts by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian organizations in the U.S. to silence debate.'"

"The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb On The Scales Again — This Time In The Right Direction: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE Chair Tom Perez is setting a kind of cover charge to get onstage for the Democratic presidential primary debates, but not just any money will do. In addition to the usual polling metrics required to join the debate, candidates will also have to meet a to-be-determined criteria for 'grassroots fundraising.' Including small-dollar fundraising as a necessary element for debate participation would have two effects. First, it incentivizes candidates to invest — strategically, financially, and emotionally — in growing a small-donor base. Second, it will force potential billionaire self-funders like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Howard Schultz to demonstrate some level of popular enthusiasm for their campaigns, meaning they can't just flash their own cash and buy their way onstage. This is a remarkable decision for any political party, and it reflects a growing shift in how campaigns are run and won. It also previews what will be an important way to measure the success of candidates in the Democratic primary: not just looking at how much money candidates raise, but how much of their money comes from small-dollar donors."

"In Major Move, Census Bureau Offers Up Citizenship Data For Redistricting: In what could be a major change for voting rights and the distribution of political power between urban and rural areas, the Census Bureau signaled Friday that it is willing to work with state and local officials charged with drawing voting districts if they want citizenship data for the redistricting process. [...] The decision prompted alarm by voting rights activists, civil rights advocates and policy wonks. They believe it will depress the participation of immigrant communities on the census — causing an undercount that would shift political power and resources away from those populations — while also leading to exclusion of non-citizens in legislative redistricting altogether in some states and localities." But a federal court disagreed, though the Supremes might step in to give it the go-ahead again.

Matt Taibbi, "Return of the Neocons! The new 'Bulwark' is the latest signpost on the road back to power for America's most disgraced brand of politics: Neoconservatives, the architects of the War on Terror, are the political version of Jason in Friday the 13th: You can never bank on them being completely dead. They just hide under a log until the next funder appears. The neocon media tribune, the Weekly Standard, did indeed fold recently. In no time they had a new voice: The Bulwark, edited by former Weekly Standard and current NBC/MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes, with Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol listed as 'editor at large.' [...] Because they started this Middle East disaster on a lie and even bragged about doing so — 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality' — they undermined faith in a smorgasbord of American institutions, from the news media to the presidency to the intelligence community to their own party. This was a huge reason for the rise of Trump, who ran against 'elites' and capitalized on voters' loss of trust in institutions like the press. Conveniently, neocons had already begun tacking back to the Democrats by then. [...] o, longtime Democratic Party advisers are once again triangulating against their party's own progressive wing, which was the core strategy of the original 'Third Way' Democrats in the early Nineties. Party leaders now want to kick out populist, antiwar liberals in the same way Frum once wanted to excommunicate antiwar conservatives. This overlaps nicely with neocons' efforts to stake out the same turf between Trump and Sanders. This is becoming a little like watching two people pretending not to be attracted to one another even though everyone knows they make each other horny. I'd say the Bulwark neocons and their Democratic allies need to get a room, except they already have MSNBC (as noted by recently resigned reporter William Arkin, who complained the network had become a forum for a 'single war party'). As Glenn Greenwald noted in the Intercept last year, the 'most extreme and discredited neocons' began uniting with Democrats 'long before the ascension of Donald Trump.' [...] If you're not concerned about undead neocons making a comeback while Trump is in office, that's understandable. Many people will take allies against Trump from wherever they can. Just don't be surprised if 'liberal interventionists' are sitting in the White House once Trump leaves the scene. These are determined revolutionaries who've been scheming for years to throw a saddle on the Democratic Party after decades in bed with Republicans. Sadly, they have willing partners over there."

David Dayen at Vice, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Plan to Tax the Rich Is the Opposite of Radical: Her idea of a 70 percent tax on income above $10 million isn't wild, and wouldn't pay for everything the left wants. But that's the wrong way to think about it. Some politicians can move previously fringe ideas into the forefront of the debate without even trying. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on 60 Minutes of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate for Americans earning over $10 million has people thinking again about what America could look like rather the oligarchy it currently is. But the real purpose of these ideas has been obscured amid a tired and one-sided argument about balanced budgets: As Ocasio-Cortez would likely tell you, there's a big difference between trying to find revenues and trying to deliver progress to the country. [...] But musing about how to raise money assumes that such revenue is required to 'fund' government operations. We know that Ocasio-Cortez finds such assumptions dangerous. She subscribes to modern monetary theory, which argues that any country with its own currency isn't constrained by federal debt. Just last week, Ocasio-Cortez voted against the House rules package because it contained a 'paygo' requirement that all new spending must be offset by budget cuts or tax increases. In her conception, meeting public needs deserves a much higher priority than the budget deficit. So why, then, would Ocasio-Cortez suggest higher tax rates on the rich? Maybe it's because they could discourage runaway compensation at the top that has triggered skyrocketing income inequality. When the US had a 91 percent top marginal tax rate in the 1950s, hardly anyone actually paid it. But CEOs made far less than they do today; why would they ask for a heavy raise if the government was going to grab most of it anyway? [...] So when you look at Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on taxes, you shouldn't think about it solely in terms of raising money. Think about it as perfecting our union."

"Ocasio-Cortez's "Not At All Outlandish" Proposal for 70% Tax Rate on Uber-Wealthy Could Raise $720 Billion Over Decade: 'So even as [Republicans] dunk on AOC as stupid or ignorant,' argues Paul Krugman, 'she's talking sense based on reputable economic research, while the whole GOP is talking nonsense from charlatans and cranks.' "

"Sweden Has a 70 Percent Tax Rate and It Is Fine [...] One thing missing from the discussion so far is the point that a 70 percent top tax rate exists, not merely in midcentury US tax codes or in academic papers, but also in the real world right now. Sweden has a 70 percent marginal tax rate and it kicks in, not at $10 million like AOC proposes, but at around $98,000. AOC's proposal is quite modest by comparison."

Wonkette, "Why Are We All Yelling About 'Pay-Go?' [...] First off, let's be clear: Paygo IS a really stupid relic of deficit hawkery. It requires that any legislation be paid for, either by cuts to existing government programs or by new revenues. But it's a damn sight better than what Republicans had in place when they held the House, which was "cut as you go" (or "Cutgo" -- an anime character with a razor), which only allowed the use of budget cuts in one area to offset new spending -- no new revenues of any sort. And of course, the Rs cheerfully waived it when it came to passing its $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads Act. [...] Ah, this is where it gets complicated: You see, in addition to the House rule, paygo is also enshrined in federal law, as Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan explained on the Twitter boxes: It sucks, and Dems should get rid of it when they have the Senate and the presidency, but until that's the case, it's better for the House to control how new spending will be paid for, because under the existing law, the executive branch can institute cuts to balance out any deficit spending. This would not be a good thing!"

Matt Stoller, "Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute: There are a lot of people arguing about this thing called Pay Go. Here's my attempted explanation of what Pay Go is and how it intersects with stuff you care about. [...] Well now that I've gotten through the basics, here's what the fight is about. In 2010, the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress passed a law to ensure Congress would be 'fiscally responsible. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker in 2010 when Congress passed the statute, and she is proud of being fiscally responsible. This law says that if Congress doesn't go through a PayGo process for its aggregate spending and taxing in the full fiscal year, the White House's Office of Management and Budget gets to choose a bunch of programs to cut in a process known as sequestration. Sequestration is in law. It was a law that sort of made sense at the time, because Obama was President and Democrats didn't so much mind if a Democratically controlled OMB got to make a bunch of important decisions. But guess what? Trump is now President, which means he's the one that gets to decide the cuts that happen if Congress doesn't use a PayGo decision-making process."

Ryan Grim and Aida Chavez, "Behind The Pay-Go Battle Is A Central Contradiction That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Her Allies Will Need To Resolve: IN THE FIRST vote of the 116th Congress on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of just three Democrats who split with their party and voted against a rules package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and backed by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ocasio-Cortez's political career so far has been largely defined by her willingness to break from the pack, but her dissenting vote alongside just two others highlights the paradox of her position in the House: Her high-profile platform allows her to shape the national conversation, but the same energy that fueled her rise can be met with a very different reaction inside the walls of the Capitol."

Ryan Grim has a blog, by the way, where he has other pieces about Pay-Go, immigration, and that nasty AIPAC bill that's not only reared its ugly head again, but is actually the first bill the new Senate has brought up.

"'Let's Get Our Priorities Right': Outrage as Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushes Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown: 'It's absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,' declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)"

Not from The Onion, but Bloomberg, "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions."

"Russian news may be biased — but so is much western media: Manipulation of the news for propaganda purposes is not the prerogative of the west's enemies. It's vital to look at all media, including the UK's, with a critical eye." The difference between Russian media and Western media, as always, is that Russians know they are seeing propaganda, and westerners are oblivious.

I missed this last month - "Every Single Member of US Congress Approved Crushing Sanctions on Nicaragua: After defeating a violent US-backed coup attempt, Nicaragua's elected government faces the NICA Act. The bill aims to force the Sandinistas from power by ratcheting up economic despair." I hoped that headline really meant the House, but no, "On November 27, amendments for the combined legislation were approved with unanimous consent in the Senate. Then on December 11, the changes were unanimously approved in the House without objection."

Trollwatch from The New York Times, "Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics: As Russia's online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results." Hm, I thought Correct the Record had done that already. Anyway, "Here's The After-Action Report From the Alabama Senate Disinformation Campaign," Operation Birmingham.

"Senate Report on Russian Interference Was Written By Disinformation Warriors Behind Alabama 'False Flag Operation: Hailed by Congress and the media as defenders of democracy, high-tech Russiagate hustlers Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox have been exposed for waging 'an elaborate 'false flag' operation' to swing the 2017 Alabama senate race."

Great episode of Citations Needed on The Neoliberal Optimism Industry: On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel."

The Majority Report posted some Best of the Year clips while they were on vacation:
MR Best Of 2018: Neoliberalism With Julie Wilson
No Labels Proving to Be a Group of the Wealthy, FOR the Wealthy
MR Best Of 2018: Facing Fascism w/ Henry Giroux
MR Best Of 2018: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality w/ Anna-Lisa Cox

And here's one from the regular line-up that I want to listen to again so I'm saving it here: Fugitive Slaves & the Struggle for America's Soul w/ Andrew Delbanco - MR Live - 12/17/18.

The first show of the year was pretty good, too, and makes some great points about how bravely Liz Warren faced the Washington establishment. (Worth remembering, again, it took a lot of backbone to steadfastly refuse to endorse a candidate in the 2016 primaries despite enormous pressure from Clinton and the party to give in to her early.) News w/ MR Team - MR Live - 1/2/19

The Michael Brooks Show Final Show Of Another Dumb Year ft. Wosny Lambre

And in the new year, TMBS - 71 - The Difference Between Bernie and Warren (And Everyone Else) ft. Bhaskar Sunkara
TMBS - 72 - LA Teachers Striking For All Of Us & The Advocate NYC Needs ft. Nomiki Konst

12-28-18 Nicole Sandler Show — Our Final Show of 2018 with Dave Johnson

Sirota's tweets and article on Beto O'Rourke's campaign donation sources and record upset Neera Tanden, with the result that long, hateful threads toward Sirota ensued on Twitter. It's not hard to agree with the TYT crowd about this. But the good news is that The Houston Chronicle itself took the article seriously, saying, "Beto and Bernie debate raises questions about Texas' oil economy: Politicians across the spectrum should face this moment as an opportunity to organize their best ideas and smartest policies and present them to the American people. What would an effective carbon tax look like? What would a Green New Deal mean for Houston's refinery workers?"

From GQ, "No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They're Not Trump: The completely manufactured "Bernie vs. Beto" fight is a reminder that there's nothing wrong with demanding more from candidates."

"Why did nobody mention that Beto O'Rourke's wife is a billionaire heiress? Bloomberg once estimated the wealth of Beto's father-in-law at $20 billion. But obviously that's not worth mentioning when you profile him." She's a charter school exec, too.

And Katie Halper interviewed Sirota, "The Factual Reporting About Beto by David Sirota That Stirred Epic Freakout [...] Right. And I think it really speaks to is something very sad about our politics, which is that there's an authoritarian tendency to our politics. I do think that there are a lot of people out there on both the right and in the Democratic party who just want a coronation. They don't necessarily believe in the basic fundamentals of democracy. One of the basic fundamentals of democracy is that there are contested primaries. Candidates go back and forth and they debate their policies and they debate their records and this is healthy. This is a healthy discourse and I think there are a lot of people who buy into the argument that it would be better if we just appointed two nominees, had the two nominees run against each other, and that would be it. If I have an ideology, I'm ideologically opposed to the idea that we must coronate candidates and just have uncontested elections where we don't debate the issues. I think that they're terrified off scrutiny. They're terrified of what's going to be revealed." (Note to David: The ceremony is called a coronation but the act is to crown, not to "coronate".)

It's worth reading this one for the little history lesson, "Democrats rev up to offend most of their base, again: Don't you dare look at Beto's voting record! The commonly accepted explanation for Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss was that anyone and everyone who did not vote for her was influenced by a Russian Internet troll farm funded by Putin. The trolls sent out thousands of Facebook and Twitter lies (some of which were true like the DNC's treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters) and everyone who failed to support Clinton believed these lies because they're all morons. There's no similar explanation for how Clinton lost to Obama in 2008."

Amazingly, this is from Politico, "Democrats Aren't Moving Left. They're Returning to Their Roots. Many on both sides are worried about the party's leftward swing. They say it's a deviation from the mainstream. It's not. [...] But there's something wrong with this historical interpretation: Truman strongly supported single-payer health care. Moynihan supported a universal basic income in the 1960s. Dating back to World War II, Democrats sought to make a government-paid education available to as many Americans as possible. If Democrats are marching to the left, that road leads directly back to platforms and politicians who, in their day, commanded wide support and existed firmly in the mainstream of political thought."

From The Forward, "Bernie Sanders Isn't Just Another White Male Candidate. His Nomination Would Be Historic. Sanders is white, yes, but he's also Jewish, and last time around he got closer to the presidency than any Jew in history ever had. Based on his standing in early polls, he has a real shot to win the nomination this time. But the response to that history-making prospect, among Jews and non-Jews alike, has been decidedly muted. [...] In February 2016, the New York Times ran an article about the subject, entitled 'Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn't Like to Talk About It,' which began by quoting a New York rabbi who expressed dismay that Sanders had described himself as 'the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.' The article went on to describe the contours of Sanders's Jewish identity: the son of an immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust on one side and the grandson of immigrants on the other, Sanders is entirely Ashkenazi Jewish, was born and raised in Brooklyn, does not regularly attend synagogue, is married to a Catholic, defines himself by the struggle for social justice on behalf of all oppressed peoples, and has a left-leaning view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is, in short, probably not very different from a lot of Forward readers."

"Sanders' wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here's how they plan to stop it. Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement."

Norman Solomon, "Corporate Democrats Are Already Punching Left Ahead of 2020 [...] Such calculated nonsense indicates just how panicky some powerful corporate Democrats are about Sanders' likely presidential campaign — and just how anxious they are to protect corporate-oriented candidates from public scrutiny. The quest is to smother meaningful discussions of vital issues that should be center stage during the presidential campaign."

People keep asking me who I would support for president other than Bernie Sanders. Understand, I still think Sanders is the best choice, but the list of other people who have any time in office and aren't awfully far to the right is really pretty short. I probably wouldn't have to hold my nose to vote for this guy in the general, though: Jeff Merkley's full speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"It's Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty: When big companies engage in criminal harm to the public, they deserve serious punishment [...] The good citizens of California have been wondering out loud who killed 86 of their citizens in the Camp Fire, along with dozens of other Californians over the years in other fires. Now both federal and state prosecutors are focusing on a likely suspect: Pacific Gas and Electric. California's largest private, for-profit corporate utility appears to have killed a number of people over the years, in many cases because of negligence apparently prompted by a desire to jack up corporate profits. As a corporation, they play by different rules than you or I. [...] When a corporation does business ethically and legally, it serves its local community, its employees, its customers, and its shareholders. For over a century, American corporations were held to this very reasonable standard."

Thank you, Brandi Collins-Calhoun, for writing "'Surviving R. Kelly' Left Me Sleepless — But I'm Nobody's Victim."

"Bernie's Plan for Racial Justice: The micro-scandals alleging that Bernie Sanders doesn't take racism seriously won't end any time soon. We should call them what they are: cynical attacks on a politician whose commitment to racial justice is intertwined with fighting economic inequality." The Daily Beast gave the H8% some ammo; Meagan Day clears it up.

Stephanie Kelton on Bernie 2020 - and, of course another tutorial. And here's more of her at We Can Have Nice Things.

I got depressed when I tried to read this, so I stopped, but if you are made of sterner stuff, "Dmitry Orlov: How Russians survived the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Alex Pareen, "2018: The Year In Ideas: A Review Of Ideas

"The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare: Why did Casper sue a mattress blogger? A closer look reveals a secret, multimillion-dollar battle to get you into bed."

Thanks, Mike and Mark, as always. Also, finally watched all of Leverage, and the final episode made me sad because it wasn't true.

See the pretty: If you haven't been to Maia's Flickr page lately, it's always good for your eyes.

"A song for the overworked and underpaid: Listen to Leyla McCalla's 'Capitalist Blues'"