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"