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."

4 comments:

  1. Trump and Russia. A-hem!

    https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a25444928/michael-cohen-sentencing-donald-trump-paul-manafort/
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/weekly-primers/trump-russia-primer-january-11-manafort-trump-poll-data-russian
    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/nyt-report-paul-manafort-owed-pro-russia-interests-millions-before-trump

    I don't know why anyone claims no connection (aside from Trump, who lies about everything) the evidence is overwhelming.

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    1. You don't know because no one ever HAS claimed "no connection". The distracting false narrative pushed by Clintonite propagandists was all about COLLUSION, which has never had any evidence to back it up. But I'm sure you know that.

      There WAS collusion with and payment to foreign actors to influence the 2016 election of course. But inconveniently, it came from the Clinton campaign, not Trump's. (That would be the so-called "Steele Dossier", aka the Trump piss tape fable.)

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    2. Now that we have much of the Mueller report we know: Russian meddling was not a fantasy of Democratic apologists. Trump and his campaign staff were, at least, useful idiots, in Soviet propagandist Willi Muenzeneberg's lovely phrase. Mueller was not able to prove conspiracy because it's not clear that there were agreements between Trump and his campaign officials to break the law, but there were plenty of connections with the Trump campaign, what we colloquially call "collusion."

      We also now know that Russian meddling in the election was much more extensive than anyone outside of the Russia (and perhaps US counterintelligence) knew; it may actually have swung the election by flipping the critical north midwestern states.

      It is time to put that argument away.

      Good coverage of this from a counterintelligence perspective: https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-mueller-found-russia-and-obstruction-first-analysis

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    3. Unless they still have something we don't know, there doesn't seem to be any strong indicator that "connections" between businessmen and lobbyists and consultants amounts to "collusion". It seems rather obvious that Trump never wanted to be president and didn't expect to win and extremely unlikely in the first place that he would be orchestrating (or even able to orchestrate) Russian interference in our election.

      It also seems unlikely that crayon drawings of Bernie in speedos or claims that Clinton was "too soft on Iran" or Joy Reid retweets or illiterate claims that "Hillary is a Satan" convinced a single potential Clinton voter to stay at home or vote for Trump.

      Again, a Democrat had been in the White House for eight years and it was never likely that a Republican would fail to win the office even if the economy had been good, which it most emphatically was not. It was a change election, just as it had been eight years earlier, and people were even more desperate for change. Hillary was undoubtedly the worst candidate we could have chosen, but I doubt any establishment Dem could have won. Hillary never ran that strong in the polls against any Republican (Kasich would have been the sure winner in that race). Her polling tanked immediately after every paper in the US headlined a coming spike in Obamacare premiums.

      People want to forget this now because during the earlier parts of the primary season, the election maps were bluer than they'd ever been, *as long as Sanders was still in the race*. Everyone felt like we actually had more than a shot at keeping the White House out of GOP hands. No one seemed to pay attention to the fact that the minute Hillary seemed the obvious primary winner, the maps went back to their usual great swathes of red. This was about American voters, not Russians.

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