Friday, April 12, 2019

In madness and fear

Julian Assange was arrested today outside of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Here's the Guardian blog on today's events in that regard. The whole affair raises a lot of questions about freedom of the press and the behavior of several governments in collusion to destroy it.

Consortium News addressed some of those questions in "On the Pavement with Wikileaks : "When Julian Assange does leave the embassy, it will be important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Assange is actually wanted for extradition, Craig Murray comments. [...] When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about U.S. war crimes and other illegal acts. It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Paul Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter. This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian's position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

"Trump administration approved secret nuclear power tech sales to Saudi Arabia, document shows: WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. [...] Many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did. In addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to U.S. standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel." This directly circumvents the expressed will of Congress.

"U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation: June 22 (UPI) -- A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty -- and more than half of those live in "extreme" or "absolute" poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. [...] Alston criticized the Trump administration for stigmatizing the poor and saying those receiving government benefits are lazy and should be working. The report found just 7 percent of benefits recipients are not working." When I was a kid, people talked about the Black Hole of Calcutta. Now it's America.

"Dallas Police Shamed Into Dropping Charges Against Black Woman Beaten By Racist: The Dallas district attorney said he was unaware of the charges. Authorities in Dallas dropped the felony charge against a Black woman seen on video last month being brutally beaten by a racist white man, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt announced on Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, Dallas police charged L'Daijohnique Lee with criminal mischief in her confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield on March 21. She was accused of damaging Shuffield's pickup truck after he violently attacked her in the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum." And another piece of the story, "See Also: Prosecutor Blames Bail System For Allowing White Man To Leave Jail After Vicious Assault Of Black Woman."

"The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass: In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country's already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally. [...] It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller's vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller's manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there's plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner — and Trump — want. So what is that? Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner's push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course — as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It's working!"

I guess TMBS - 83 - Russia, Russia, Russia, (& AIPAC) ft. Matt Taibbi & Francesca Fiorentini pretty much covered that subject.

Sam Seder interviewed Paul Waldman on Ring of Fire, "Joe Biden's Record Bursting into Flames under Magnifying Glass of Voters."

A lot is being made of Joe Biden's inability to keep his hands to himself, but maybe that's to make people forget that he runs around saying stuff like this: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire." And what's his genius idea? Means-testing. Means-testing is a way to put up barriers for the people who really need it while making the programs no longer universal, and therefore less popular, and thereby start the process of eliminating or privatizing them. Biden's apologists on his past record of this kind of thing insist that his thinking has changed (on the Hyde Amendment, he can get away with this pretense because now that he voted for it over and over, Bush finally signed it into law so he doesn't have to vote for it anymore), but this quote is from January 2019, just a few months back. This kind of thing is what his whole career has been about, and there's no evidence he truly regrets any of it. I just want him to keep his hands off government.

Malcolm, Iowa is a town of 300 people, so unsurprisingly, when a presidential candidate shows up to hold a rally for the first time in history, the whole town shows up. This is kind of interesting to watch, because you can see a little difference from those much bigger rallies he's been doing lately. (I was also reminded, when he twice brought up issues he was currently alerting the public to and said he hadn't known about them before he was told recently ("Shoulda known, but didn't"), of how when Hillary Clinton had the virtues of single-payer explained to her, she responded with, "Now tell me something real.")

America's foremost concern troll, Barack Obama, seems to be on a world tour of concern-trolling as he leads the circular firing squad against circular firing squads.

Charlie Pierce, "Not One Single Democrat Should Get Behind the Worst Idea in American Politics: The balanced-budget amendment is incredibly dumb, and inextricably linked to The Dumbest Idea in American History. This makes me crazy. Any Democratic politicians who attach themselves to any derivation of The Worst Idea In American Politics, especially in 2019, are not "moderate Democrats." They are conservative Democrats or, more accurately, radically conservative Democrats. Really, Bloomberg, knock this stuff off. Also, Blue Dogs? Knock this stuff off, too."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won [...] The 2016 campaign season brought to the surface awesome levels of political discontent. After the election, instead of wondering where that anger came from, most of the press quickly pivoted to a new tale about a Russian plot to attack our Democracy. This conveyed the impression that the election season we'd just lived through had been an aberration, thrown off the rails by an extraordinary espionage conspiracy between Trump and a cabal of evil foreigners. This narrative contradicted everything I'd seen traveling across America in my two years of covering the campaign. The overwhelming theme of that race, long before anyone even thought about Russia, was voter rage at the entire political system. The anger wasn't just on the Republican side, where Trump humiliated the Republicans' chosen $150 million contender, Jeb Bush (who got three delegates, or $50 million per delegate). It was also evident on the Democratic side, where a self-proclaimed 'Democratic Socialist' with little money and close to no institutional support became a surprise contender. Because of a series of press misdiagnoses before the Russiagate stories even began, much of the American public was unprepared for news of a Trump win. A cloak-and-dagger election-fixing conspiracy therefore seemed more likely than it might have otherwise to large parts of the domestic news audience, because they hadn't been prepared for anything else that would make sense. [...] Trump was selling himself as a traitor to a corrupt class, someone who knew how soulless and greedy the ruling elite was because he was one of them. His story of essentially buying the attendance of the Clintons at his wedding — no matter what you think of it — resonated powerfully with voters. He sneered at Hillary as the worst kind of aristocrat, a member of a family with title and no money. She and Bill were second-tier gentry, the kind who had to work, and what work! Hillary was giving speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs for amounts of money Trump would probably say he spent on airplane snacks (even if it were a lie). He claimed Goldman 'owned her.' Having watched Trump wipe out Jeb using similar arguments, I thought a race against Hillary Clinton, who was running on her decades of experience residing in hated Washington, 'would be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse.' Trump's chances increased when pundits ignored polls and insisted he had no shot at the nomination. The universality of this take reeked of the same kind of single-track, orthodox official-think that later plagued the Russia story. [...] Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, 'I guess people hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump.'"

Really, Schultz seems to come out with something amazingly stupid every time he opens his mouth. I'm convinced his sister or girlfriend must be the one who said it would be a good idea to open coffee shops, he seems too thick to have thought of the idea himself, simple as it was. His brilliant idea of having an empty chair in the room to "represent the American people" when he discussed important issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives was awesome. And also, "Dumb Starbucks Man Has Precisely Two Thoughts."

I probably should have been linking to Tarbell earlier. Here's Dr. Hagop Kantarjian with "How to Fix Out-Of-Control Drug Costs to Serve Patients, Not Drug Company Profits [...] Market forces are not effective in lowering drug prices largely because of a 'non-interference clause' included in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), which overhauled the program. This clause, demanded by the pharmaceutical lobby as a condition of its support, prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The MMA also included, under Medicare Part D, prescription benefits for Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicare must pay the prices imposed by drug companies without any ability to negotiate. This led to claims by some elected officials that the government does not negotiate effectively, and that free-market forces would result in reasonable drug prices and profits. History has shown otherwise: Almost 16 years after passage of the MMA, we are witnessing massive increases in drug prices and drug industry profits. [...] Though a majority of Americans support these proposed actions, and numerous bills have been introduced in Congress, none has made it into law because of opposition by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. The Obama administration did not address high cancer drug prices effectively. In May 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 'American Patients First — The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.' HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the drug industry's repeated mantra that it must make large profits to pay for research and innovation was a tired point, and that the biggest problem was simple: Drug prices are too high. In other words, the drug industry is too greedy."

"A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He's Speaking Out: A HIGH-LEVEL ADVISER and operative for the 2016 Sanders campaign was Vitali Shkliarov, a Soviet-born citizen of Belarus. Shkliarov, who had previously worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign and for several other successful Democratic Party campaigns, has also become increasingly in demand as a political adviser and campaign manager in Russia, working for liberal candidates in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Possessing a unique background and vantage point, Shkliarov, now that the 2016 election is over, has many interesting observations to express on the state of American politics, the Democratic Party, U.S.-Russian relations, and the impact of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. [...] Of particular interest is Shkliarov's analysis of — and his warnings about — the dangers posed from escalating U.S.-Russia tensions (on Tuesday night, the U.S. scrambled jets in response to Russian warplanes flying 100 miles off the coast of Alaska for the first time since Trump became president). Especially noteworthy are Shkliarov's concerns about how intensifying anti-Russian sentiment in U.S. discourse is alienating Russian liberals from the U.S. and uniting them behind their own government — as happens in most countries when people, even those who loathe their own government, perceive that their nation is being demonized and targeted by a foreign power."

Cory Doctorow, "Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries: Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Customers will receive refunds. This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books. When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn't get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid. People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon's Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. "

"The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained: Cigna, a major insurer, is capping monthly insulin costs at $25. It's a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. [...] 'Any measure that helps only a portion of the population through opaque deals between the players responsible for this crisis is not a solution,' Elizabeth Pfiester, the founder and executive director of the patient group T1International, told Vox. 'We need long-term assurance that manufacturers will be held accountable and prices will be affordable — not another Band-Aid.'"

Interview on The Real News, "Trump and Pelosi Both Cater to Private Health Insurance — Wendell Potter"

"The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That'S Wrong With Liberalism: The SPLC's deceptive and hypocritical approach to anti-racism... The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-'80s, and the SPLC's shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately. But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we'll better understand the ways in which a shallow 'politics of spectacle' can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change."

"Voting Machines Are Still Absurdly Vulnerable To Attacks"

"What Conservative Dems-- The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party-- Don't Want

Highly-recommended interview with Z of Black Socialists of America. I love that they make the point that you have to do the work, not just expect people to know.

I had almost forgotten this. These people are thoroughly intertwined with government in DC and it's shameful. "Jeff Sharlet on Hillary Clinton's Relationship to "The Family" - 4/5" With disastrous results: "An Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover Of Federal Programs: Two Presidents In A Row Have Increasingly Steered Federal Grants And Contracts To Conservative Christian Groups — Including Houses Of Worship." But that was in 2014. It hasn't improved.

Walk Off the Earth, with Sarah Silverman, "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Hear Roger Taylor's Political Single 'Gangsters Are Running This World: The Queen drummer has some thoughts on the state of things."

Thursday, April 4, 2019

I got a feeling that the journey has just begun

Gorsuch is a monster and a sadist. "Neil Gorsuch Just Made Death Worse: In an appalling majority opinion, Gorsuch endorses pain-filled deaths for people subjected to capital punishment. [...] This week, Gorsuch wrote a majority opinion that was both shockingly cruel and entirely consistent with arch-conservative thought. The case is called Bucklew v. Precythe. Russell Bucklew is a convicted murderer whose depraved crimes are not in dispute. He was sentenced to death in Missouri. Missouri is a lethal injection state, but Bucklew has a rare medical condition that would cause him to be in extreme pain as the lethal drugs do their work. Bucklew appealed his sentence, arguing that the pain would be a violation of his Eighth Amendment protections, and asked for alternative methods of death that are not sanctioned under Missouri law. Gorsuch, writing for a 5-4 majority, denied his appeal. Gorsuch wrote: 'The Eighth Amendment forbids 'cruel and unusual' methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.' That's about the most heartless bastard thing I've read in a while, and I work on the internet. Everybody should notice the sleight of hand Gorsuch is playing at here. Saying the Eighth Amendment only forbids certain 'methods' of capital punishment presupposes that the Eighth Amendment allows capital punishment. That's no better than saying you can't drown a person, unless she's a witch. Gorsuch is demonstrably wrong. The Eighth Amendment makes no mention of death, painless or otherwise. It talks about cruelty. It contemplates unusual cruelty. Throwing me off the top of the Empire State Building would be almost entirely painless until I came to a sudden stop. It would still be cruel. It would still be unusual." Torturing people to death is cruel. The end.

"'New York Times' reports that Jewish donors shape Democrats' regressive position on Israel: This weekend the New York Times breaks one of the biggest taboos, describing the responsibility of Jewish donors for the Democratic Party's slavish support for Israel. Nathan Thrall's groundbreaking piece repeats a lot of data we've reported here and says in essence that it really is about the Benjamins, as Rep. Ilhan Omar said so famously. The donor class of the party is overwhelmingly Jewish, and Jews are still largely wed to Zionism — that's the nut. Though that party is breaking up. Thrall's labors are minimized by the New York Times with the headline 'The Battle Over B.D.S.,' but his message is that the progressive base has a highly-critical view of Israel that the leadership has refused to reflect, and that's about to change. We're inside the tent. The party is going to have to reflect pro-Palestinian positions. Ben Rhodes tells Thrall that the moment of overcoming the fear of the pro-Israel lobby (as the Cuba fear was overcome) is about to happen. The article is a thorough-going rebuke of every journalist and former official (Daniel Shapiro, former ambassador under Obama, for instance, as well as the Forward and the Times opinion writers) who says that money is not at the root, or very near the root, of Democratic Party support."

"How targeting Ilhan Omar instead of white supremacy furthered both anti-Semitism & Islamophobia: Last week, House Democrats passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy. As Black women, Muslim and Jewish, we agree that anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and Islamophobia must be condemned. [...] Yet condemnations of Islamophobia and white supremacy were only added to the resolution after it was initially introduced, with pressure from Black and progressive lawmakers. Given that, it was clear to many that the resolution did not come out of a sincere effort to put an end to real threats to Jews, but rather from an effort to target someone who is already a marked woman, Ilhan Omar, after her criticisms of the U.S.-Israel relationship were rebuked by lawmakers in both parties as anti-Semitic."

This Wisconsin poll shows Biden as being a bit more popular there than Sanders, but Klobuchar and Harris can't even get ahead of Trump. Mind, the methodology of the poll is a little weird, leaving out an awful lot of the Dem demographic, particularly those under 45.

"Georgia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Permission for Viagra, Criminalizing Vasectomies: Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick's bill, a rebuke to HB 481, would also potentially make sex without a condom 'aggravated assault'"

"Twitter Blocks Account of Julian Assange's Mother: The Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday. 'My Twitter account has been 'blocked due to 'unusual activity,' Ms. Assange wrote in a text message. Twitter, however, has provided her no reason for its action.

Apparently, "centrist" Democrats plan is to deluge the public with different plans containing the word "Medicare" so everyone will be utterly confused by what's going on. Interestingly, the Colorado Democrat responsible for this one got a whole article about him from Wendell Potter last February, called, "How to spot the health insurance industry's favorite Democrats. [...] My former colleagues undoubtedly were cheering when they heard Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) come to the defense of private health insurers and trash the idea of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which several of the Democratic presidential contenders have endorsed. Bennet, who says he, too, is considering a run for the 2020 nomination, told Chuck Todd that Medicare for All 'seems like a bad opening offer.' He prefaced that by saying that, 'what the (other) Democrats are saying is, 'If you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you,' from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it, where 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured.

"New rift exposed as Democrats clash over minimum wage." Oh, I wouldn't say it's "new", the alt-center has obstructed progress for a long, long time.

"Kamala Harris skips AIPAC conference — but AIPAC comes to her!" So much for her pretence that she boycotted the conference.

Oh, cool, "Charlie says: I've been sitting on this for ages — but I'm now allowed to admit in public that THE LAUNDRY FILES has been optioned for TV by 42 (producers of Watership Down and Traitors (among other things). This has been grinding through the works for over a year. It's an option deal, meaning the production company are looking at writing a pitch and maybe a pilot script and seeing if they can get a network interested, so it's early days. It doesn't mean that a series has been commissioned or that anything is going to happen. (We've been here before, circa 2006-08, with an American outfit, and in the end nothing came of it.) However: it's a British production company, so anything that emerges this time round is likely to have a British feel to it, and they have a great track record."

RIP: Vonda N. McIntyre (1948-2019), author, founder of Clarion West, and enthusiastic fan. I think I first became aware of her when I read "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," but she quickly became a part of the world I lived in. I remember when I was out in Seattle being pleased to see how integrated she was in local fandom. She was diagnosed only two months ago with pancreatic cancer.

RIP: Izzy Young, "Leading figure in the world of American folk music who helped to launch the career of Bob Dylan," founder of Folklore Center in the Village. "Izzy Young, who has died aged 90, was a key figure in the New York folk scene in the heady days of the 1950s and 60s, when he helped to launch the careers of several major musicians, including Bob Dylan. Young became celebrated not as a performer but as an enthusiast, activist, writer and entrepreneur, always more eager to promote the music he loved than to make a profit. His shop Folklore Center in MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, opened in 1957 and became a haven for fans and artists, who would stop here to meet, perform, or search for records, books and sheet music."

RIP: "Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Dead at 81: California Rocker first reported that Dale died Friday. His bassist Sam Bolle confirmed Dale's death to the Guardian. No cause of death was revealed, but the guitarist suffered from health issues in recent years. In 2010, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer, and in an interview that went viral, Dale said in 2015 that 'I can't stop touring because I will die' due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. 'I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that's on top of the insurance that I pay for,' Dale said at the time. 'Dick Dale was truly the King of Surf Guitar. Before the Beach Boys gave this new genre lyrics, Dick Dale was providing the instrumental soundtrack to the surfing experience. He influenced everybody!' Stevie Van Zandt said in a statement. (Strangely, I could not find the phrase "Del Tones" anywhere in the article.)

* * * * *

"Mayor Pete" Buttigieg is the flavor of the month, I don't think I'll be supporting him for president any time soon.

Nathan Robinson's "All About Pete: Only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves..." is a bit long but really worth the read — it's so scathing about a certain type of person that I actually wish I already disliked Buttigieg before I read this so I could enjoy seeing someone whose works I despise have his entrails laid out on the page like this. Alas, knowing almost nothing about him, I was merely dismayed at the unfolding image of someone who is exactly what I never want to see in the White House again.

(In a way, though, it says as much about our last two Democratic presidents, as well.)

If you know only one thing about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's The Small-Town Mayor Who Is Making A Splash. If you know half a dozen things about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's also young, gay, a Rhodes Scholar, an Arabic-speaking polyglot, and an Afghanistan veteran. If you know anything more than that about Pete Buttigieg, you probably live in South Bend, Indiana. This is a little strange: These are all facts about him, but they don't tell us much about what he believes or what he advocates. The nationwide attention to Buttigieg seems more to be due to 'the fact that he is a highly-credentialed Rust Belt mayor' rather than 'what he has actually said and done.' He's a gay millennial from Indiana, yes. But should he be President of the United States? When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract.

[...]

But it's not fair to fully judge a person by a single comment in an interview. Pete Buttigieg has just published a campaign book, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future, that gives a much fuller insight into the way he thinks about himself, his ideals, and his plans. It has been called the 'best political autobiography since Barack Obama,' revealing Buttigieg as a 'president in waiting.' Indeed, I recommend that anyone considering supporting Buttigieg read it from cover to cover. It is very personal, very well-written, and lays out a narrative that makes Buttigieg seem a natural and qualified candidate for the presidency

It also provides irrefutable evidence that no serious progressive should want Pete Buttigieg anywhere near national public office.

[...]

If you come out of Harvard without noticing that it's a deeply troubling place, you're oblivious. It is an inequality factory, a place that trains the world's A-students to rule over and ignore the working class. And yet, nowhere does Buttigieg seem to have even questioned the social role of an institution like Harvard. He tells us about his professors, his thesis on Graham Greene. He talks about how interesting it is that Facebook was in its infancy while he was there. But what about all the privilege? Even Ross Douthat finds the school's ruling class elitism disturbing! Buttigieg thought the place fitted him nicely.

[...]

Okay, pause for a moment. If you are Pete Buttigieg, at this point in your life you have the ability to take almost any job you want. These schools open doors, and you pick which one you go through. (Ask yourself: If I could do anything I wanted for a living, what would I do?) Pete Buttigieg looked inside himself and decided he belonged at... the world's most sinister and amoral management consulting company.

He also doesn't like Snowden and was "troubled" when Obama let Chelsea Manning out of prison. And there are other problems, too.

"Democratic Hopeful Pete Buttigieg Makes Faith 101 Misstep: If you don't understand that the Religious Right's conservatism does not stem from honest differences in faith, if you don't get that it's about particular structures of power, you badly misunderstand the situation, and you are not ready for prime time." Pete doesn't seem to get that, despite their absence from mass media, there already is a vibrant religious left.

And, at Jacobin, Liza Featherstone says, "Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart [...] It's oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of 'smartness' culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad. [...] But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. 'Smart' is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: 'Not Me, Us.' The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."

* * * * *

Robert L. Borosage, "Centrists Are Using Calls for Civility to Silence the Left [...] 'We should not eat our own,' cautioned David Brock, which is rich coming from a professional hatchet man servicing both sides of the aisle at different points in his career. In reality, the ones doing the eating are primarily centrist pundits using high minded postures to skewer Bernie. Sanders has been assailed by a former Clinton staffer for using private planes while stumping for Hillary in 2016. He's been attacked for hiring David Sirota, a respected left-leaning journalist who got his start in Sanders's House office twenty years ago. (Sirota was raked over last week for supposedly hiding his conflict of interest while at The Guardian, a claim that turned out to be simply false). Tomasky presumptuously issued a 'personal plea' to Bernie to rein in his supporters, while saying nothing about the Clinton advisers publicly vowing to unleash their oppo research from 2016 on Sanders."

At Bloomberg, "Warren Buffett Hates It. AOC Is for It. A Beginner's Guide to Modern Monetary Theory: An overview of a once-fringe school of economic thought that's suddenly of the moment."

"How corporate America invented 'Christian America' to fight the New Deal: The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of 'one nation under God' to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe."

"The Christian Jail Monopoly: The Supreme Court recently ruled on two nearly identical cases involving prisoners and religion, and reached two different conclusions. In February, SCOTUS decided it was okay to execute a Muslim prisoner in Alabama without an imam present, as the prisoner had requested. In Alabama, only Christian ministers are allowed in the death chamber, and apparently that was okay with the SCOTUS. This week, SCOTUS stopped the execution of a Buddhist prisoner in Texas until the state provides a Buddhist clergyperson to be present during the procedure. Texas provides Christian and Muslim ministers for executions, but not Buddhist ones."

David Dayen, "Chuck Schumer Neglected To Name A Democratic Commissioner For The SEC. Now It'S Open Season For Wall Street, Bank Lawyers Crow: LAST SUMMER, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump's term. In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations 'for the remainder of the current presidential term.' This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear. The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration's unprecedented exploitation of this mistake." If this was just a mistake on his part, he should be led away to the glue factory. If it wasn't — which is believable — he should be tarred and feathered.

Wendell Potter, "Democrats on the take: New DCCC Chair is a best friend of health insurers: Here's a headline you can bet my former colleagues in the health insurance business were thrilled to see last week: 'DCCC chief: Medicare for All price tag "a little scary."' That headline topped the lead story in the March 6 edition of The Hill, a newspaper widely read by Congressional staff and lobbyists and others in the influence-peddling business in Washington."

"Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize: Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would, its ex-secretary has said. Geir Lundestad told the AP news agency that the committee hoped the award would strengthen Mr Obama. Instead, the decision was met with criticism in the US. Many argued he had not had any impact worthy of the award." Also, Arafat apparently enjoyed Tom & Jerry.

Brian K. Bullock at Black Agenda Report, "A True Defense of Smiley and West: Two men with track records of advocacy and activism were kicked to the curb in favor of a man with practically no history of Black advocacy. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West faced tremendous criticism from large sectors of the African American population for daring to stick to their own political principles and attempting to hold Barack Obama, the U.S. empire's first Black head of state to account to said principles, in the grand tradition of Black activists, intellectuals and media. By attempting to remain true to their own political positions, and to positions most of their critics themselves held prior to the election of Obama, the two men, one a media personality, the other an academic and activist, fell from grace in elite black circles and in the popular opinion of the black masses.

Jonathan Pie gets serious about Brexit. He's actually not wrong, and this could just as easily be applied to some other national leaders we could name not so far from home.

"Millennials Are the Most Indebted Generation. They Can Thank Joe Biden: Joe Biden is trying to appeal to younger voters as he is expected to launch his bid for the presidency. However, for years, Biden made it his mission to block student debt forgiveness, leaving many young people facing a lifetime of debt."

"Inside Biden and Warren's Yearslong Feud: On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they'd been feuding over for years: the country's bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying 'to sell out women' by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face. Warren, Biden allowed, had made 'a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument' about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn't pay. But Biden had what he called a 'philosophic question,' according to the Congressional Record's transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?" It was the latter, and Biden made it even easier for them.

Matt Taibbi, "16 Years Later, How the Press That Sold the Iraq War Got Away With It; In an excerpt from his new book Hate Inc., Matt Taibbi looks back at how the media built new lies to cover their early ones.' [...] They had it backwards. Large portions of the public were skeptical from the start. Only reporters were dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to eat the bait about WMDs. Moreover, American reporters on their own volition rallied to the idea that Saddam was a Hitler-Satan whose 'exceptional' evil needed immediate extinguishing. [...] The WMD episode is remembered as a grotesque journalistic failure, one that led to disastrous war that spawned ISIS. But none of the press actors who sold the invasion seem sorry about the revolutionary new policies that error willed into being. They are specifically not regretful about helping create a continually-expanding Fortress America with bases everywhere that topples regimes left and right, with or without congressional or UN approval." Matt does note that Knight-Ridder was the one news organization that got the Iraq story right, but doesn't mention that there was a reason for this: They didn't have "access". Without the personalities whispering in their ears, they weren't fooled into thinking they had trusted sources. As I said 16 years ago, Saddam had never tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems, as was well known. So when Tony Blair said that Saddam could hit us in 45 minutes, it was obviously ridiculous on its face. That he said it, and that the administration repeated it, was all the proof anyone ever needed that the whole case for invading Iraq was pure horse manure.

Adolph Reed in Common Dreams, "Vietnam to Venezuela: US Interventionism and the Failure of the Left: The modern U.S. empire has run roughshod over the interests and desires of foreign nations and their people for more than a century, but that history should call for pause as the bipartisan interventionist consensus gears up once again, this time in an effort to topple the legitimately elected government of Venezuela."

"The DCCC Is A Powerful Source Of Great Evil And Corruption Inside The Democratic Party [...] Two stories came out yesterday that we must get into: Ally Mutnick's for National Journal--House Democrats Move to Hobble Primary Challengers-- and Akela Lacy's for The Intercept-- House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms Who Challenge Incumbents. [...] The DCCC's move also creates a new niche business, paradoxically, opening the door for consultants who don't want to be under the thumb of the party. 'From here on out let's refer to the DCCC for what it is, the White Male Centrist Campaign Protection Committee (WMCCPC),' said Sean McElwee of Data for Progress. 'My e-mail is seanadrianmc@gmail.com. Any challenger looking for firms to work with them can feel free to reach out. There are plenty.'

"Elizabeth Warren Wants the Government to Make Prescription Drugs You Can Afford [...] On Tuesday, Massachusetts senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that would create a new office within the Department of Health and Human Service to manufacture generic drugs at lower costs. This is another way of saying she is trying to design a public drug manufacturer. 'HHS would manufacture or contract for the manufacture of generic drugs in cases in which no company is manufacturing a drug, when only one or two companies manufacture a drug and its price has spiked, when the drug is in shortage, or when a medicine listed as essential by the World Health Organization faces limited competition and high prices,' Warren explained in Washington Post op-ed touting the release of the bill. As David Dayen reports at The Intercept, the bill is seen as a complementary effort to legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna last month, which would crack down on 'excessively priced' drugs by removing the drug manufacturer's patent protections and allowing competitors to manufacture generic versions. But because the generic market itself is broken and pushes up prices — 40 percent of generic drugs are made by a single company — Warren's plan would step in by having the government make generic drugs and sell them at a 'fair price.'"

I can't believe they're still whining about Bernie's taxes. No one ever cared about Bernie's taxes because his income is mostly public record and he's one of the poorest guys in Congress. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was still refusing to release her taxes until she was the nominee, and the only reason people were asking about them is that they wanted to see her taxes because she'd gotten so rich from capitalizing on her time in government. Bernie doesn't have that kind of history. In 2015 the question came up not because anyone cared about Sanders' taxes, but because he'd called for Clinton to release her speeches and she clearly didn't want to, so, knowing that Trump would not release his taxes, she said she'd release her speeches when everyone in the race released their taxes. It was clearly intended as a way to dodge accountability for herself, not because anyone, anywhere, thought there'd be anything interesting in Senator Sanders' taxes.

"White Nationalism's Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his 'bible,' and the man who wrote it [...] The concept of 'white genocide' — extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers — may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it's a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King's recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?' But it is apt. 'That language' has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president's rhetoric about 'shithole countries' and 'invasion' by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated."

I try not to link to Robert Reich much, but this is right: "Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped shift power away from the people towards corporations. It was this that created an opening for Donald Trump."

I don't pay enough attention to Alterman these days to know if and when he completely lost his mind, but anyone who can write, "Sanders turned so negative toward Clinton that it hurt her in the general election," either has serious emotional problems or has let that money from CAP really turn his head. Sanders was "so negative" against her that he almost actually campaigned against her, but anyone who's seen a primary campaign before should have been disappointed by the lack of Clinton blood in the water. (Unless you count her self-inflicted wounds.) Further, he says, "Even though he campaigned for her after he lost the nomination, roughly 12 percent of Sanders's supporters switched to Trump, and enough of the rest supported Jill Stein's kamikaze candidacy that it helped tip key states to Trump." Alterman apparently believes that in other primaries, fewer than 12% of supporters of the nominee's opponents defect - maybe even 0%! - but of course, 12% is a pretty low number.

"No fantasy, no future: Great interview with sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson by @willmenaker, @jamie_elizabeth & @spaceprole."

Photos Of The Political Organization — Black Panther Party: Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese member of the Black Panther Party. In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City & joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his OAAU, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was present at his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying."

I saw this too late to include in the mention of Hal Blaine's death last time, but Mark Evanier found a neat little video montage of some of the hits he'd played on, and man, there were a lot of them - and this is by no means all of them. There were a few I hadn't realized he'd been on, too. He wasn't just in my music since I was a kid, he was in my mom's music, too.

"A woman in the men's room: when will the art world recognise the real artist behind Duchamp's Fountain?: Evidence suggests the famous urinal Fountain, attributed to Marcel Duchamp, was actually created by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Why haven't we heard of her, asks Siri Hustvedt."

"Vienna's Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra" - playing with produce.

Little did I know that, in homage to the Beach Boys, The Flintstones featured The Fantastic Baggies (P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri) performing the awfully familiar-sounding "Surfin' Craze."

That free Joe Bonamassa album sounds pretty good.

The Everly Brothers live, "On the Wings of a Nightingale"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

I don't know where but she sends me there

The Bernie Sanders rally in Brooklyn was notable for many things, but Nina Turner's speech was the best playlist I've seen in years and had me raising my hands at my desk. Wow, love that woman! Shaun King did a nice job of filling out Bernie's background, too. (MSNBC lied about Bernie's speech, of course, in that "Oh, he didn't talk enough about racism and sexism" way we've come to expect from establishment partisans.)

Freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter gets Equifax CEO to admit that releasing private data causes harm. Not only does this embarrass him, but it can now be used by litigants in the case against Equifax.

I haven't seen anyone much talking about it, but this is a big deal. Charlie Pierce, "The Supreme Court Just Stopped Local Sheriffs From Carjacking to Pay the Bills. And it was a unanimous ruling. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously decided the case of Timbs v. Indiana. The decision was an auspicious one, and it was auspicious for two reasons. The first was that the decision was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so, yes, she's back, sports fans. The second is that it was a harpoon sunk deeply into the scam that is the civil forfeiture procedure."

Scott Lemieux, "Police abused civil forfeiture laws for so long that the Supreme Court stepped in. But one ruling won't end it. Arbitrary state actions are exactly what the courts should be checking, and the Timbs decision provides a way to challenge many such abuses. [...] On Tuesday, in its unanimous ruling in Timbs v. Indiana, the court for the first time held that the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'excessive fines' also applies to state and local governments. And, even more importantly, the court rejected Indiana's argument that, even if the excessive fines clause applies to the state, it does not apply to the civil forfeiture of the assets of criminals (or suspected criminals.) In her relatively brief opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected the conclusion of the Indiana Supreme Court that the civil forfeiture was lawful. Ginsburg — speaking for eight of the court's nine members — held that, like the vast majority of the Bill of Rights, the excessive fines clause is a fundamental right that applies to the states under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. And, since the court had already held in a 1993 federal case that civil forfeitures that are even partly punitive are governed by the excessive fines clause, applying the clause to the states made the case easy."

"W.V. teachers' rapid strike victory shows why progressives must join fight against privatization: West Virginia's most recent statewide teacher walkout came and went so quickly there was too little time and attention to comprehend and appreciate the impact the teachers' actions will likely have long-term on changing the narrative of the teacher movement and how politically progressive advocates and candidates relate to it. In the very first day of the strike, teachers squelched new state legislation they objected to and then held out an additional day to ensure it would die. The day after schools reopened, the teachers got what they wanted — a 'clean' bill increasing teacher pay five percent.But, unlike their largely successful labor action from last year, this time the teachers weren't making pocketbook issues the focal points of their demands. Instead, it was all about stopping school privatization through charter schools and a new voucher program. The point of the strike was to oppose a Senate bill that included bringing charters and a voucher program to the state even though the measure included the pay raise teachers wanted. Teachers accompanied their protests in the capitol building with chants of 'Hey-hey, ho-ho, charter schools have got to go.'"

Jeez, Lee Camp covers a lot of stuff, much of which I didn't see highlighted anywhere else. This week's 1-minute rundown has things no one on else on social media even mentioned. Also, Venezuelans have food and toothpaste, thanks.

TMBS - 79 - Venezuela, Haiti, and the New Imperialism ft. France Francois

"Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez chew out House Dems who vote with the GOP in tense closed-door meeting: report: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tore into fellow Democrats for voting with the GOP on procedural votes during an emotional closed-door session Thursday. Politico reported that Pelosi warned moderate members of the caucus that they could lose financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if they kept voting with the opposite side of the aisle." And AOC said she'll be watching their votes and making sure voters knew what they did.

Ryan Grim, "The Special Interests Behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare For All Bill Are Not The Usual Suspects: THE MEDICARE FOR ALL legislation unveiled Wednesday by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington state, was written with the help of a broad swath of lobbyists and special interest groups, if perhaps not the kind associated with typical health policy legislation on Capitol Hill. The key outside groups involved in the drafting included nurses, doctors, disability rights activists, and advocates for the elderly, as well as public interest organizations such as Public Citizen and the Center for Popular Democracy. The result is legislation that, within one year of its passage, would provide improved Medicare coverage for everyone 19 and under, as well as everyone 55 and over. Within two years, it would cover everyone between the ages of 19 and 55, as well." (Later: The Sanders/Jayapal proposal just got more inclusive.)

"Michael Hudson: The Shape of the Venezuelan Economy, from Chavez to Maduro and Beyond: Venezuela was an oil monoculture. Its export revenue was spent largely on importing food and other necessities that it could have produced at home. Its trade was largely with the United States. So despite its oil wealth, it ran up foreign debt. From the outset, U.S. oil companies have feared that Venezuela might someday use its oil revenues to benefit its overall population instead of letting the U.S. oil industry and its local comprador aristocracy siphon off its wealth. So the oil industry — backed by U.S. diplomacy — held Venezuela hostage in two ways. First of all, oil refineries were not built in Venezuela, but in Trinidad and in the southern U.S. Gulf Coast states. This enabled U.S. oil companies — or the U.S. Government — to leave Venezuela without a means of 'going it alone' and pursuing an independent policy with its oil, as it needed to have this oil refined. It doesn't help to have oil reserves if you are unable to get this oil refined so as to be usable. Second, Venezuela's central bankers were persuaded to pledge their oil reserves and all assets of the state oil sector (including Citgo) as collateral for its foreign debt. This meant that if Venezuela defaulted (or was forced into default by U.S. banks refusing to make timely payment on its foreign debt), bondholders and U.S. oil majors would be in a legal position to take possession of Venezuelan oil assets. These pro-U.S. policies made Venezuela a typically polarized Latin American oligarchy. Despite being nominally rich in oil revenue, its wealth was concentrated in the hands of a pro-U.S. oligarchy that let its domestic development be steered by the World Bank and IMF. The indigenous population, especially its rural racial minority as well as the urban underclass, was excluded from sharing in the country's oil wealth. The oligarchy's arrogant refusal to share the wealth, or even to make Venezuela self-sufficient in essentials, made the election of Hugo Chavez a natural outcome."

"Billionaire dies during Paris penis enlargement operation: Billionaire diamond trader Ehud Arye Laniad's pursuit of a plentiful penis has ended in his death. The 65-year-old big wheel died of a heart attack at a private Paris hospital where he was undergoing a penis enlargement procedure."

Michael Brooks started his show Tuesday with clips of Joe Biden making a series of claims about criminals that were not true but sure helped him get that horrible crime bill passed.

"No Joe! Joe Biden's disastrous legislative legacy" — Joe liked to reach across the aisle to Strom Thurmond, among others, and tie his name to other horrible GOP ideas. "Despite pleas from the ­NAACP and the ­ACLU, the 1990s brought no relief from Biden's crime crusade. He vied with the first Bush Administration to introduce ever more draconian laws, including one proposing to expand the number of offenses for which the death penalty would be permitted to fifty-one. Bill Clinton quickly became a reliable ally upon his 1992 election, and Biden encouraged him to 'maintain crime as a Democratic initiative' with suitably tough legislation. The ensuing 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, passed with enthusiastic administration pressure, would consign millions of black Americans to a life behind bars."

Reparations have entered the 2020 presidential race. It's a serious question that no one has really come up with a solid answer for. I don't just mean the candidates, most of whom have never supported it at all, but the pro-reparations activists who've struggled with it for decades. Briahna Gray says, "Bernie Sanders Asks the Right Question on Reparations: What Does It Mean?" Ryan Cooper says, "Democrats aren't serious about reparations." To me, Sanders' policies are reparations for everyone who's been screwed by the aristocrats, and build new structures that will help women and minorities — and most everyone else — and make much more sense to talk about. When most people are hanging on by their fingertips, it's bad politics to spend much time talking about programs that only help black people. And besides, Sanders' policies are right in line with the NAACP's.

"ACLU sues Texas schools, AG over Israel boycott law: The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Ken Paxton, two universities and two school districts Tuesday, claiming a 2017 state law that requires contractors to sign a pledge against boycotting Israel violates the Constitution by forcing workers to choose between their livelihoods and beliefs." Also, "Want a Contract with A&M? Be Ready to Sign a Pro-Israel Loyalty Oath."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "Ilhan Omar's Victory for Political Sanity: The freshman congresswoman was right: The pro-Israel lobby uses financial muscle to influence Congress. That shouldn't be a controversial statement. Would House Democrats censure one of their own for daring to suggest that the deep-pocketed fossil fuel lobby buys influence in Congress? What about a member who said the same about Big Pharma? And yet, Democratic leaders on Wednesday were on the cusp of implicitly rebuking U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar for criticizing the pro-Israel lobby's power. 'I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,' she said a recent event. This was destined to be another example of the impossibility in Washington of deviating from unflinching support of Israel's policies. But then something remarkable happened. The Democrats' resolution against anti-Semitism was tabled after an outcry from members who felt Omar, a Muslim woman of color, was being singled out and that the party should condemn the full spectrum of religious bigotry, including the Islamophobia practiced by President Trump. A powerful lobby tried to suppress criticism of its work, and rank-and-file Democrats spoke their minds."

"This Is How AIPAC Really Works: An AIPAC and Capitol Hill veteran explains the lobby's tactics of reward and retribution. One thing that should be said about Representative Ilhan Omar's tweet about the power of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (more commonly known as AIPAC, or the 'Israel lobby') is that the hysterical reaction to it proved her main point: The power of AIPAC over members of Congress is literally awesome, although not in a good way. Has anyone ever seen so many members of Congress, of both parties, running to the microphones and sending out press releases to denounce one first-termer for criticizing the power of... a lobby?"

"Florida's anti-Semitism bill would go even further in blocking free speech: A Florida 'hate crime' bill with an expanded, Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism and no mention of other religions, is working its way through House committees. The bill would criminalize criticisms of Israel."

"Joe Biden's Biggest 2020 Problem Is Joe Biden: Despite cultivating a populist image, the former vice president has spent his career championing policies favored by Republicans and the corporate elite. Biden has spent his entire career fighting for the Big Guy against the Little Guy. "Biden was a steadfast supporter of an economic agenda that caused economic inequality to skyrocket during the Clinton years. While the poor and middle class made modest gains as a percentage of their income, a pay increase of 2.5 percent wasn't terribly meaningful for people who didn't make much money to begin with. The fortunes of the rich, by contrast, swelled as Clinton cut taxes on capital gains from real estate and financial investments. While Clinton's 1993 budget raised the top income tax rate from 36 percent to 39.6 percent, the economic gains from his 1997 tax cut were heavily concentrated among the rich. As a result, the top 1 percent's share of the national income grew dramatically. Biden voted for all of it. At the same time, landmark banking deregulation further concentrated the nation's wealth in the hands of a few big players. Biden voted for the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking Act, which allowed banks to expand across state lines. He voted to repeal Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that barred traditional commercial banks from engaging in risky, high-flying securities trades. These laws encouraged Wall Street mega-mergers that created too big to fail and too big to manage behemoths like Citigroup and Wells Fargo. He voted to bar federal or state supervision of credit default swaps, which later became become 'financial weapons of mass destruction' during the 2008 financial crisis. [...] Biden also spent roughly a decade pursuing an overhaul of American bankruptcy law to discourage debt-strapped households from discharging their financial obligations in court. As then-academic Elizabeth Warren warned at the time, Biden's bankruptcy law boosted revenues for credit card companies at the expense of families struggling with job losses and medical bills. Unlike the Clinton-era deregulation, the bankruptcy bill was unpopular with Senate Democrats, who voted against it 31 to 14." And of course, he eagerly went to bat for Obama's Grand Bargain to cut Social Security in exchange for a trivial tax-raise on the rich.

An associate says this about Biden: "And voting for every piece of anti choice legislation he could vote for. He said when Roe was decided that women shouldn't have the right to control their bodies that way. He voted for the Hyde Amendment in 1977 without a rape or incest exception. Hyde has grown to basically deny abortion from insurance companies all over the country. He twice voted for a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe. The Hatch amendment of 82 and 83. He voted for every version of the so called partial birth abortion ban until George W Bush signed it. When Clinton refused to sign the 1993 budget unless rape and incest were included in the Hyde Amendment, which Clinton refused to put in all his budgets by the way, Joe didn't attempt to redeem himself..he voted to have no rape or incest exception. There are proactive, prochoice bills that who the hell knows what this dinosaur would do...Like the The Each Woman Act..to repeal Hyde and prohibit bans on insurance coverage for abortion"

Some interesting words on Biden here, too: The Michael Hudson Interview: Bronze Age Redux - On Debt, Clean Slates And What The Ancients Have To Teach Us [...] When you privatize not only education, but also student loans, that is what has led to the student loan crisis. It was completely unnecessary. But Joe Biden, as senator for the credit card companies centered in Delaware, pushed it through, saying, 'We've got to make education a profit center for the banks. Our purpose is not to educate the population, it's to create a situation where in order to get a job, in order to get a union card, they have to go into a lifetime of debt to the banks that cannot be wiped out by bankruptcy.' That's the Democratic Party policy. And it's what's tearing the country apart." He's got an interesting take on the Biblical support for cancellation of debts, too. "You had a continuation of the original Christianity in the Greek Orthodox Church, or the Orthodox Church, all the way through Byzantium. And in my book And Forgive Them Their Debts, the last two chapters are on the Byzantine echo of the original debt cancellations, where one ruler after another would cancel the debts. And they gave very explicit reason for it: if we don't cancel the debts, we're not going to be able to field an army, we're not going to be able to collect taxes, because the oligarchy is going to take over. They were very explicit, with references to the Bible, references to the jubilee year. So you had Christianity survive in the Byzantine Empire. But in the West it ended in Margaret Thatcher. And Father Coughlin."

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And The New Left: THE INTERCEPT'S Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray spoke with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at SXSW about identity, race, and class, and how these debates are likely to play out in the years ahead."

As always, the most honest appraisal of Beto O'Rourke's announcement that he's throwing his hat into the ring comes from...The Onion. Because if there's anything we need right now, it's empty platitudes from some white guy who doesn't remember why Democrats aren't that friendly with GOP ideas.

"Bernie Sanders Is Beating Kamala Harris 2-1 Among Black Democratic Primary Voters, New Poll Finds: THREE WEEKS AFTER launching his presidential campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading all other announced candidates in support from black voters, a new poll finds. The only potential candidate who polled better with African-Americans than Sanders, according to the poll by Morning Consult, is former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not announced a campaign. Despite a persistent notion that his supporters are disproportionately white male 'bros,' the new survey suggests that Sanders is actually slightly more popular among black Democratic voters than white ones, indicating that the narrative that developed during the 2016 campaign may no longer hold, if it ever did. Sanders's support among black voters, at 28 percent, puts him in second place among that demographic, behind Biden, at 32 percent. He trailed Biden 31-25 among whites. There appears to be a strong class element at play in the finding. The same poll found that the demographics Sanders is least popular with — at 19 and 17 percent, respectively — are Democrats who make more than $100,000 per year and Democrats who have post-graduate degrees (two qualities that typically, if not always, overlap). Because of structural wealth and income gaps, that population is heavily white. Sanders, meanwhile, receives his strongest support from those making less than $50,000 — a group that is, for the same reasons, much more diverse. The poll found that 30 percent of those with the lowest incomes backed Sanders."

RIP: "Carrie Ann Lucas Dies At Age 47, You Probably Haven't Heard Of Her And That's A Problem: Yesterday, February 24th, the disability rights advocate community lost one of its mightiest members, Carrie Ann Lucas. Lucas was a nationally known disability rights attorney and a mother of four children, each of whom are adopted and living with disabilities. She was only 47 years old. Her death was announced by family and friends on her Facebook page: '[Lucas] died after an arbitrary denial from an insurance company caused a plethora of health problems, exacerbating her disabilities and eventually leading to her premature death.'"

RIP: "Hal Blaine, Wrecking Crew Drummer, Is Dead at 90: He played drums on at least 40 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart," And you know all of them. He actually replaced Dennis Wilson in the recording studio, among many other things. And there are some things that just don't happen with a drum machine. I miss that.

Anti-Bernie Twitter likes to rag about how no one who Bernie endorses or who endorses Bernie ever wins an election. This taunt would be meaningless even if it were true since so many of them are challengers running against incumbents, but when you really look at the record, it's amazing how many actually win.

"The anti-Bernie Sanders campaign being pushed by former Clinton staffers, explained: Former Hillary Clinton aides really want Bernie Sanders to get the Clinton treatment." It's pretty simple: They're bitter. And they want 2020 to be bitter as well.

The Boston Herald says, "Democrats ignore Bernie Sanders at their own risk."

And, interestingly, National Review says, "Don't Laugh, Bernie Can Win: He can talk to working-class voters without the usual Democratic condescension. [...] Some have said that Sanders overperformed in the 2016 Democratic primary because Hillary Clinton is a uniquely bad candidate. (Well, Rich Lowry has said that.) Sanders would fade under closer scrutiny. If it seems like he's a real contender to grab the nomination, people will research the weird things he said in the 1970s and 1980s. Or they'll get more accustomed to his personal quirks and affect. And then he'll fade. A gap between the austerity of his democratic-socialist politics and his relatively comfortable personal lifestyle will overwhelm him. My response: Where have you been the last four years? Polished candidates are out. Candid candidates are in. Voters can and will forgive their politicians almost any verbal lapses, so long as they believe the candidate doesn't hate them. Sanders has the manners not to talk about huge swathes of the American public with disdain or contempt. We know he won't repeat Mitt Romney's 'takers' moment. But, crucially, while Sanders will denounce racism and divisiveness, he won't imply that Trump's supporters are economically useless 'deplorables.' Bernie is not 'intersectional' — at least, not in the alienating way. His declared enemies are the millionaires and billionaires who buy up public policy. He will not be tempted, as some other candidates may be, to mimic or adopt the young-lefty-media views on intersectionality that remain avant-garde and alienating to key swing constituencies. [...] Sanders's version of left-wing politics will ring out as almost nostalgic and comforting to voters lower on the socioeconomic scale. In fact, he may have more crossover appeal. The possibility of 'Obama-Trump-Sanders' voters flipping Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania is a real one. If the age of Clinton has officially ended in the Democratic party, Sanders offers the party a pre-Clintonite identity. His ambitions are to expand on the New Deal and the Fair Deal, to overcome the resistance that national health care met in the famous do-nothing Congress. [...] Finally, and this is an important point: One of Sanders's greatest advantages is his stubbornness. Sometime in the 1990s, Americans got used to the idea that politics is entirely phony. It's all 'spin.' All candidates 'pivot.' Donald Trump has a very unfaithful relationship with the truth. At the same time, Trump's character is transparent. People knew what kind of man Trump really was when they voted for him. Sanders's lifelong adherence to social-democratic politics, his willingness to sit on the margins because of his fidelity to that vision, is his greatest asset. The whole world has grown soft and inconstant. Sanders is a rebuke to that. Republicans and conservatives need to take him very seriously."

Guiliann Di Lauro Valez, "I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders's 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed: LAST WEEK, MY experience, and that of some of my female co-workers, became the focus of a New York Times story on the sexual harassment and sexism that took place in the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign. I told my story to bring attention to the sexist environment that is unfortunately endemic to most workspaces, including political campaigns. However, I was disheartened to discover that the takeaway by many pundits was not that sexism and harassment is pervasive, but that Sanders was somehow uniquely culpable. I was also struck by some of the messages and tweets calling into question the character of the women who spoke out. As was the case throughout the 2016 campaign season, my personal experiences as a woman of color were sublimated to serve an establishment media narrative that pretends the progressive movement is all white, all male, and runs counter to the interests of women and people of color. But my story should not be taken to confirm the 'Bernie bro' mythology. It should be taken to confirm the pervasiveness of sexism in professional life and distill the hard truths that all campaigns should learn from."

Neoliberal epiphany: "A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it's time to give democratic socialists a chance." Yes, Brad DeLong has (sort of) seen the light. He's still essentially a neoliberal, but he seems to have discovered that it's pointless to push it at the moment. "We were certainly wrong, 100 percent, on the politics. Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney's health care policy, with John McCain's climate policy, with Bill Clinton's tax policy, and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. He's all these things not because the technocrats in his administration think they're the best possible policies, but because [White House adviser] David Axelrod and company say they poll well. And [Chief of Staff] Rahm Emanuel and company say we've got to build bridges to the Republicans. We've got to let Republicans amend cap and trade up the wazoo, we've got to let Republicans amend the [Affordable Care Act] up the wazoo before it comes up to a final vote, we've got to tread very lightly with finance on Dodd-Frank, we have to do a very premature pivot away from recession recovery to 'entitlement reform.' All of these with the idea that you would then collect a broad political coalition behind what is, indeed, Mitt Romney's health care policy and John McCain's climate policy and George H.W. Bush's foreign policy. And did George H.W. Bush, did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did not. [...] I'd say we learned more about the world. I could be confident in 2005 that [recession] stabilization should be the responsibility of the Federal Reserve. That you look at something like laser-eye surgery or rapid technological progress in hearing aids, you can kind of think that keeping a market in the most innovative parts of health care would be a good thing. So something like an insurance-plus-exchange system would be a good thing to have in America as a whole. It's much harder to believe in those things now. That's one part of it. The world appears to be more like what lefties thought it was than what I thought it was for the last 10 or 15 years." You're halfway there, Brad.

Too many good quotes in this one from Nathan Robinson in Current Affairs about "The Obama Boys", working in the White House having an empty West Wing-y fantasy life around a man who everyone said was a great progressive speaker though he was deeply regressive and no one can really remember any inspiring quotations from him. Why? It was straight boys in love, but there was nothing there. They just loved him. "Indeed, Litt comes away from an Obama event and says 'yet here's the remarkable thing: I don't remember a word.' He felt 'a kind of patriotic ecstasy' but he doesn't actually seem to have been inspired by the idea of actually doing anything with the power of government. Indeed, Pfeiffer's memoir says that while conventional wisdom in politics is that you should talk about 'issues and policy positions' for Obama 'the campaign was the message.' Paraphrasing Jay-Z ('I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man') the Obama staff concludes that Obama is not a 'message man,' he's the 'message, man.' Pfeiffer says he had 'desperately wanted' something in his life that felt 'more like a cause than a campaign,' and in Obama he found it. But the 'hope and change' they sought consisted of getting Obama elected. Obama 'made our union more perfect simply by entering the White House,' Litt says. After that, it was all a bit 'gauzy but vague' (Pfeiffer's words). No wonder, then, that after being elected Obama disbanded his grassroots organizing apparatus — an act regarded by some as one of the worst political mistakes of his presidency. There was nothing to organize for."

And another billionaire chimes in, "Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio: 'Capitalism basically is not working for the majority of people'."

"America is not "polarized": it's a land where a small minority tyrannize the supermajority: Writing in the New York Times, Tim Wu (previously) describes the state of American politics after decades of manipulation dirty tricks and voter suppression, where policies with extremely high levels of public approval like higher taxes on the super-rich (75%), paid maternity leave (67%), net neutrality (83%), parallel importation of pharmaceuticals from Canada (71%) and empowering Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices (92%) are nevertheless considered politically impossible. Of course the thing that all these policies have in common is that they would make life vastly better for nearly all of us, while making the super-rich a very little worse off. As Wu points out, this is not a picture of a "heavily polarized" nation, as the pundits would have it. These policies are wildly popular and are outside of the political mainstream because a minority have figured out how to suppress the will of the supermajority."

I've always felt that someone called "Donna Shalala" should have an honorable job singing "Baby, It's You" with the Shirelles rather than spouting anti-Venezuela propaganda.

Stephon Clark speaks truth to power at the Sacramento City Council and doesn't pull any punches.

"Is the Skills Gap Real? Changes in Employer Skill Requirements During the Great Recession: Since the Great Recession, employers have cited a skills gap in which workers lack the education and experience needed to fill vacant jobs. In response, federal and state policymakers have called for increased efforts for training and retraining of workers to alleviate this mismatch in the labor market. While job requirements increased for many openings during the recession, the inverse has happened as the labor market has recovered: some employers have been lowering education and experience requirements to fill open positions. Does a skills gap exist and if so, what should public policy do about it?"

Tom the Dancing Bug, They Were... SOCIALIST INVADERS FROM THE FUTURE!

There's an English children's classic called Swallows and Amazons which I never heard of until I saw this article, which instantly made me think I should show it to my parents until I remembered I couldn't. "Swallows and Armenians: Arthur Ransome's forgotten inspirations revealed : A new art project is exploring how the characters in the English children's classic were modelled on a family from Aleppo."

Gorgeous food carving by Daniele Barresi.

Ridley Scott's Hennessy ad looks like a science fiction film you'd like to see.

A whole album of Hal Blaine drumming: Pet Sounds.