Sunday, December 1, 2019

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

Happy Advent, have some traditional music. At the darkest and coldest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, we need warmth and light, fellowship and joy, and I wish it to you all. Even Bill O'Reilly, much as he may try to spoil it.

"This is Bad: The Bolivian Military Coup Explained: Very Very Bad." It basically amounts to the right-wing claiming fraud because the popular left-wing president was pretty obviously winning, but read the article to see the details, which are a bit more than a simple pull-quote can clarify. And the OAS lied about "concerning" election results. Big takeway: The claim of "fraud" rests on the fact that returns from the areas where Morales' support is strongest came in later, so his six-point lead stretched over 10% as the data from the rural regions piled up.

Background from Newsweek back in April: "Bolivian Lawmakers Sent Letter To Donald Trump Asking Him To Intervene In Their Country's Election: A group of lawmakers in Bolivia is facing backlash after it sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting he work to intervene in their country's upcoming election in order to block President Evo Morales from running. The group of 12 politicians asked Trump to use Washington's influence within the Organization of American States to somehow prevent Morales from running for another term. In a 2016 referendum, which was later overturned by the South American country's Constitutional Tribunal, Bolivians voted to prevent Morales from seeking a fourth term." It's true that the referendum won, but it won very narrowly, and in the end, people clearly wanted to vote for Morales over the alternative. Which is probably why the opposition promoted term limits in the first place.

"Bolivia coup led by Christian fascist paramilitary leader and millionaire — with foreign support: Bolivian coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho is a far-right multi-millionaire who arose from fascist movements in the Santa Cruz region, where the US has encouraged separatism. He has courted support from Colombia, Brazil, and the Venezuelan opposition." The woman who simply declared herself interim president - supposedly for the sole purpose of calling new elections - has been very busy doing things that definitely are not in aid of free and fair elections, such as promising to arrest two-thirds of the legislature.. "The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup—Because US Wanted It to Happen: Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend's events in Bolivia. No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales 'resigned' (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread 'protests' (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an 'infuriated population' (New York Times, 11/10/19) angry at the 'election fraud' (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the 'full-blown dictatorship' (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word 'coup' is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19)."

"Unpacking Media Propaganda About Bolivia's Election: Pro-coup editorials rely on— and misreport—questionable evidence from the dubious OAS. To endorse the coup in Bolivia, numerous editorials in major US media outlets paint President Evo Morales as undemocratic. Exhibit A in their case is the Organization of American States' (OAS) claims that there was fraud in the October 20 Bolivian election in which Morales was elected for a fourth term. They also argue that he should not have been allowed to run again in the first place." A key claim in the propaganda is that Morales is "autocratic" because the Supreme Court overturned term limits, and the claim is that he had "packed the courts". That's an interesting charge since the judges aren't even appointed, but rather elected.

There was another debate. I can't seem to find a complete link yet but here's Everything Bernie Sanders Said During the Democratic Debate in Atlanta | NBC New York.

"Legislation That Would Surreptitiously Steal Social Security's $2.9 Trillion Surplus Has Been Defeated — But 97% of Republicans Voted For It: The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, in reaction to nearly every Republican member of the House of Representatives, as well as seven Democrats, voting for a Constitutional amendment requiring that all annual revenue and spending balance every year. The amendment failed to attain the two-thirds majority required to pass it into law:" If only they had an opposition party that was smart enough to make a big deal about this.

"Rodney Reed Lawyers 'Relieved and Thankful' After Stay of Execution Granted by Texas Court" - so far only a stay of execution, which is obviously not enough since he's now been fairly conclusively proved innocent. Bernie says it's not enough since we should join the civilized world and eliminate the death penalty.

In The New Republic, "The Fall of Nate Silver: His data journalism blog, FiveThirtyEight, is a political website with no politics—or rather, no politics beyond a mute approval of the status quo. [...] Silver, let's not forget, launched his career as a political forecaster in 2007 under the pen name 'poblano,' and as devilishly subversive as it no doubt was for a nerdy white boy to hide behind the pseudonymous cover of a foodstuff that brown people eat (this guy!), perhaps the signs were always there of a basic superficiality in the worldview of this, red flag incoming, University of Chicago economics major. "

"Watch The Iceland Christmas Ad Which Will Never Be Shown After Authorities Banned It; Supermarket Iceland's advert for Christmas has been banned for being too political. The commercial, made with Greenpeace, features an animated orangutan and highlights the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers."

Amazing Bloomberg headline: "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions: Life expectancy gains have stalled. The grim silver lining? Lower pension costs."

"Sweden drops investigation into bogus sexual misconduct allegations against Julian Assange: A Swedish prosecutor announced Tuesday morning that her office was dropping its preliminary investigation into allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It is the third time that Sweden has been compelled to shelve the investigation for lack of any evidence to support it, and confirms that the claims of 'rape' or 'sexual assault' by Assange are a politically motivated fraud. The Swedish investigation has always been a stalking horse for the US government, which has sought to extradite Assange, either from Sweden or Britain, where he is currently jailed, in order to lock him up forever or execute him on charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, because of WikiLeaks' publication of evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange was illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London last April, after spending seven years inside, having been granted political asylum. At the time, the Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, reopened the investigation into claims—initiated by the police rather than the women involved—that Assange had been guilty of sexual assault in 2010."

This is the best news I've seen in a long time, that Mike's work will be back in print and with his last book finally published. "The Disappearance of John M. Ford: I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn't expect that I would help bring his books back to life. [...] And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford's horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family's perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.) But I reconnected Ford's family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish— at long last— the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman."

Astonishingly, in The New York Times, "Bernie Sanders vs. The Machine: In 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington. But the city's bureaucracy showed him that winning wasn't everything. So he learned how to fight back. BURLINGTON, Vt. — The young woman on the political leaflet was smiling, but the message printed beside her in bold capital letters was severe. 'The last two years,' it said, 'have shown that those who made the revolution are not always the best to lead after the coup.' To voters in Burlington, in 1983, the reference to Bernie Sanders was unmistakable. What Democrats here were calling a coup was this: A young socialist had captured the mayor's office two years earlier by a margin of just 10 votes, upending the political order in a comfortable lakeside city of about 38,000. For decades, an old-school Democratic machine had dominated municipal government. In 1983, the party intended to reclaim control by assailing Mr. Sanders's 'unkept promises.' But in his re-election campaign that year, Mr. Sanders crushed the competition. Casting himself as a champion of the people against the establishment, Mr. Sanders summoned voters to the polls in unusual numbers. He triumphed over two opponents — one Democrat and one Republican — by more than 20 percentage points."

"Federal Judge Allows North Dakota Republicans to Block Native Americans From Voting [...] Following Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's narrow victory in 2012, North Dakota's Republican lawmakers passed a new law requiring voters to present an ID that lists their current residential street address. The measure plainly targeted Native Americans, many of whom live on rural reservations with no street names or residential addresses. Previously, residents could vote with a valid mailing address, allowing rural tribal voters to list their P.O. Box. Now they must provide an ID with their exact residency—something that many Native Americans don't have and can't get."

Deconstructed Special: The Noam Chomsky Interview (audio and transcription), with Mehdi Hasan. "Forty years of the neoliberal assault on the general population which has been extremely harmful almost everywhere. It's led to anger, resentment, contempt for institutions. And when you have a period of unfocused anger, resentment and so on, it's fertile territory for demagogues to arise, and try to mobilize it, and blame it, not on its sources. So, like not on the international financial institutions that are lying behind it to a substantial extent. But to focus it on scapegoats. Typically, people even more vulnerable than you are, immigrants, Muslims, Afro-Americans. This goes way back to Ronald Reagan's 'Welfare queens' and so on and many other demagogues in the past. So yes, that's rising.".

Kate Aronoff in The Nation, "We Need a Green Bailout for the People: Here's what the government should demand when the economy tumbles and Wall Street comes begging. [...] The next crash will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to decarbonize the economy, so the next recovery cannot aim to just blindly increase output and demand. An industrial mobilization on the scale of a Green New Deal could cause a short-term spike in emissions, but it will need to transform consumption qualitatively by giving more people access to real prosperity, not just the ability to buy more cheap junk. Sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen has aptly called for a 'last stimulus' that would dramatically shrink those parts of the economy we don't need (fossil fuels, speculative finance, building more McMansions) while increasing those we do (renewable energy, public transit, care work, affordable housing, education, the arts, and more)."

"Is Your Employer Stealing From You? Millions of workers lose billions in stolen wages every year—nearly as much as all other property theft. [...] Wage theft isn't one of the crimes most prosecutors and politicians refer to when they talk about getting "tough on crime," but it represents a massive chunk of all theft committed in the U.S. A 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in the ten most populous states, an estimated 2.4 million people lose a combined $8 billion in income every year to theft by their employers. That's nearly half as much as all other property theft combined last year—$16.4 billion according to the FBI. And again, EPI's findings are only for ten states. According to the institute, the typical worker victimized by minimum-wage violations is underpaid by $64 per week, totaling $3,300 per year. If its figures are representative of a national phenomenon, then EPI estimates that the yearly total for American wage theft is closer to $15 billion."

"California Mayors Back Plan to Make PG&E a Cooperative: Frustrated with wildfires and intentional blackouts caused by Pacific Gas & Electric, more than two dozen California mayors and county leaders are calling for a customer-owned power company to replace the giant utility."

A recent poll found that Fox News viewers were more likely to support Bernie Sanders than viewers of MSNBC were. That's not surprising, since Fox attacks Sanders all the time in just the ways that are likely to make people want to vote for him, but "MSNBC Is the Most Influential Network Among Liberals—And It's Ignoring Bernie Sanders: When the network's primetime pundits do cover Sanders, they cover him more negatively than Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden."

Linda Sarsour in Teen Vogue, "Yes, Women of Color Support Bernie Sanders. It's Time to Stop Erasing Our Voices. In this op-ed, the activist and Sanders surrogate argues that Sanders is the only candidate who can bring transformational change. [...] Women of color are exhausted from bearing the disproportionate burdens of inequality — and with so much at stake in this election, we are exhausted from having to explain ourselves. Every time our choice for the presidency is discredited, our agency of women of color is stripped away. Every time people echo the patently false 'Bernie Bro' narrative, they erase our voices as well. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, we will not hesitate to support them in the summer of 2020. But by supporting Sanders in the primary, women of color are simply continuing the fight for justice we have spearheaded for generations."

Oh, look whose reared his bankster head again. "Deval Patrick, Foreclosure Mogul: How the 2020 Democratic presidential contender helped a Republican billionaire rip off the middle class." Short version: He covered for Ameriquest. He also covered for Texaco. "Under Patrick's leadership in 1997, the DOJ signed a $176 million settlement with Texaco for racial discrimination against its employees. A year after a court approved the deal, he left the DOJ for a job as Texaco's top in-house attorney." It appears Barack himself has convinced him to enter the presidential race. I guess he doesn't fancy the chances of any of the other "centrists" in the race and really hates the alternative possibilities of Warren and Sanders.

"The Iron Law of Institutions: What You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 Primary [...] If you don't believe the Democratic party is redeemable, don't get your hopes up that another party would end up being much better. Any other party would also be subject to the Iron Law of Institutions. It thus would be quickly just as dreadful as the Democrats...unless people put in the same amount of work as would be required to clean out the Democrats' Augean stables.

"Billionaires hurt economic growth and should be taxed out of existence, says bestselling French economist [...] Thomas Piketty, whose 2013 book on inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, became a global bestseller and bible for tax-the-rich progressives, just published a 1,200-page follow-up book called Capital and Ideology It won't be published in English until March. But in an interview with the French magazine L'Obs, Piketty called for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros. [...] Piketty added that the notion that billionaires create jobs and boost growth is false. He said per capita income growth was 2.2% a year in the U.S. between 1950 and 1990. But when the number of billionaires exploded in the 1990s and 2000s — growing from about 100 in 1990 to around 600 today — per capita income growth fell to 1.1%."

"The US could raise $1 trillion more in taxes through stricter IRS enforcement, according to a new study [...] There will be more than $7.5 trillion uncollected taxes by 2029 under the current system, they estimated, and roughly 70% of that would be driven by underpayment by the top 1% of earners."

Dean Baker, "How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on Windows? [...] This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress."

"Why Political Pundits Are Obsessed with Hidden Moderates [...] This isn't just a question of bad punditry—it's a window into how skewed our standards have become by the extreme concentration of wealth and the normalization of an assault on the formerly bipartisan, post-war governing consensus, which embraced forceful government regulation of corporations and a steeply progressive income tax structure. But while elites have accepted the concentration of wealth, the leveling of the tax code and the decimation of even basic consumer protections as normal, the majority of voters have not. Americans have been losing faith in government for decades, long before Trump. And income inequality is driving that loss of faith."

David Dayen, "What Obama Really Wants: His interventions in the presidential race are music to the ears of the wealthy and powerful. [...] Obama has determined to put his thumb on the primary scale, and he couches his critique in the language of electability, in what voters really want. Practically every Democrat in America wants to eject Donald Trump from the White House, and ask 100 of them and you get 101 theories of how to make that happen. But without doubting Obama's sincerity that a moderate politics and only a moderate politics can spell victory next November, I can't help but notice the audiences for his targeted attacks on progressive policy: wealthy donors in the most rarefied, winner-take-all enclaves of America, whether in Washington last week or San Francisco on Thursday. It's rather telling that The New York Times quoted Obama's friend Robert Wolf to unlock the former president's mindset, when he argued that Obama is 'trying to set a tone.' Who is Robert Wolf? The former chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, the U.S. affiliate of the Swiss megabank, who now sits on the board of Obama's foundation, and owns a venture capital firm and a company offering 'drones as a service' on the side. That's the milieu Obama lives in today; he hasn't spent a year on the campaign trail like the candidates have. And his warnings about runaway liberals doing 'crazy stuff' just so happen to line up with protecting the profits and lifestyles of those wealthy donors. In doing so, Obama is revealing the limits of his own incrementalism, which cannot surmount a Washington rigged in favor of elites. This has real consequences in politics and policy, for who sits in power and who struggles on the outside. During his own presidency, Obama told a group of bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. Here we are, sadly, again."

Haretz, "The Contract on Corbyn [...] Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. He never was. His real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates. Today this is anti-Semitism. The Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Austrian Freedom Party and the extreme right in Europe are not the danger to Jews. Corbyn is the enemy. The new and efficient strategy of Israel and the Zionist establishment brands every seeker of justice as an anti-Semite, and any criticism of Israel as hatred of Jews. Corbyn is a victim of this strategy, which threatens to paralyze and silence Europe with regard to Israel."

An entertaining little ad from the Labour Party, "Jeremy Corbyn: There's a DEADLINE to rewrite your future."

Mehdi Hasan, "When Asked How They'll Pay for Their Plans, Democrats Should Answer Just as Trump Does: Mexico: [...] When they are inevitably asked by a moderator from MSNBC or the Washington Post how they plan to 'pay for' one of their signature proposals — whether it is Medicare for All (Elizabeth Warren), a Green New Deal (Bernie Sanders), baby bonds (Cory Booker), middle-class tax cuts (Kamala Harris), or a universal basic income (Andrew Yang) — they should respond with one word: Mexico. Mexico, they should say, with the straightest of straight faces, will pay for it. Yes, that line would get a big laugh from the crowd in the hall. It would go viral online. It would endear the candidate who dares say it to Democratic voters watching at home (many of whom are fed up with debate moderators who constantly frame their questions around GOP talking points). It would help that candidate dominate the post-debate headlines on cable news. But it would do much more than that: It would serve a major strategic purpose. Democrats who dare to remind pundits and the public of Donald Trump's ridiculous yet oft-repeated campaign pledge that 'Mexico will pay for the wall' would finally be drawing a crucial line in the sand and saying to Republicans, to the media, and even to each other, that they will no longer be playing the tiresome and very right-wing 'pay for' game."

The tweet caught my attention:: While we were distracted by Ukrainegate over the past weeks, @SpeakerPelosi hid an extension of the Patriot Act into HR 3050, the House's version of the bipartisan bill in the senate that allows for trillions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid Snap and SS." And the linked article: "Why the Hell Did Democrats Just Extend the Patriot Act? House leadership included the measure in a government funding bill—and even members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus went along with it. [...] Just 10 Democrats defied the leadership to vote against the resolution, including Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar (a.k.a. 'the Squad'). 'I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of a [continuing resolution] that reauthorizes unconstitutional mass surveillance authorities,' Tlaib told me, 'especially under a president who has retweeted images of his opponents jailed and suggests anyone who disagrees with him is a criminal.' AOC tweeted before the vote, 'Yeah that's gonna be a no from me dog.'"

"Senate Democrats Join GOP to Back 'Automatic Austerity' Bill That Would Gut Social Programs, Hamstring Bold Policies: 'One priority of a Sanders or Warren White House absolutely must be politically crushing the deficit scolds within the Democratic Party.' A handful of Senate Democrats joined forces with Republicans last week to advance sweeping budget legislation that would establish an "automatic deficit-reduction process" that could trigger trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and other social programs—and potentially hobble the agenda of the next president. The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S.2765), authored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on November 6. The legislation is co-sponsored by five members of the Senate Democratic caucus: Whitehouse, Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), and Angus King (I-Maine). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, issued a statement last week opposing the legislation and warning it 'could be used by Republicans to unilaterally cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition assistance—all supposedly to reduce the deficit.'" The others you could expect this from, but I don't think I'll pay attention next time someone tells me what a great progressive Sheldon Whitehouse is.

"Los Angeles County to Introduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public: No doubt Los Angeles County's VSAP ('Voting Solutions for All People') rollout will not be covered as a debacle. The real question is: If there were a debacle — like, say, a case of election fraud — would we even know? Doubtful. Just what we want in a voting system! In this post, I'll give a brief overview of issues with electronic voting. Then I'll look at VSAP as an institution. Next, I'll show why the VSAP system is not only insecure, but likely to make money-in-politics even worse than it already is."

"No Imitations and No Limitations: Phillip Agnew talks to us about the Movement for Black Lives, the erasure of Bernie Sanders's diverse support base, and the need for a North Star beyond capitalism. [...] Yes, if anything, Barack Obama was a tranquilizer to many people. When activists went to visit him in the White House, he spoke down to us, counseling us on the way he sees change happening. He continues to speak ill of movements since leaving the presidency."

"Top U.S. Toxicologist Was Barred From Saying PFAS Cause Disease In Humans. She's Saying It Now.: THE WIDESPREAD ENVIRONMENTAL contaminants known as PFAS cause multiple health problems in people, according to Linda Birnbaum, who retired as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program earlier this month. The statement may come as little surprise to those following the medical literature on the industrial chemicals that have been used to make nonstick coatings, firefighting foam, and host of other products. Thousands of scholarly articles have linked the chemicals to at least 800 health effects. Some of the health problems found in humans — including elevated cholesterol levels, liver dysfunction, weight gain, reproductive problems and kidney cancer — have been shown to increase along with the levels of the chemicals in blood. Extensive research also shows that children with higher levels of PFAS have weakened immune responses. Yet while she was leading the NIEHS, a division of the National Institutes of Health, whose mission is 'to discover how the environment affects people, in order to promote healthier lives,' Birnbaum was not allowed to use the word 'cause' when referring to the health effects from PFAS or other chemicals."

Adolph Reed, Jr., "How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence [...] But, when we step away from focus on racial disproportions, the glaring fact is that whites are roughly half or nearly half of all those killed annually by police. And the demand that we focus on the racial disparity is simultaneously a demand that we disattend from other possibly causal disparities. Zaid Jilani found, for example, that ninety-five percent of police killings occurred in neighborhoods with median family income of less than $100,00 and that the median family income in neighborhoods where police killed was $52,907.4 And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%. However, with the exception of Colorado—where blacks were 17% of the 29 people killed by police—that does not seem to be the case. Granted, in several of those states the total numbers of people killed by police were very small, in the low single digits. Still, no black people were among those killed by police in South Dakota, Wyoming, or Alaska. In New Mexico, there were no blacks among the 20 people killed by police in 2015, and in Arizona blacks made up just over 2% of the 42 victims of police killing."

"Drinking water supplying Great Lake turns toxic [...] 'If you did a Google image search for 'Toledo water,' what would pop up is the Toledo skyline where the Maumee River looks like the Chicago River on (St. Patrick's Day),' Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. "The only difference is we didn't put any dye in it.'"

Patriotic Millionaires have a column in The Hill, "Ensuring everyone pays their fair share: Most people have heard of the estate tax, or as it's labeled by conservative fearmongers, the 'death tax.' But few understand just how important it is, how weak it's become in recent years, or why that matters. Thanks to the 2017 Trump tax cut — one of the biggest wealth grabs in history — a couple can now pass on an estate worth up to $22.8 million completely tax-free. With such a high cutoff before you start paying any estate tax at all, this clearly isn't something that prevents working class families from passing along their savings to their children and grandchildren. Rather, it's one of the best defenses we have in addressing economic inequality — one of the defining challenges of our time — and pushing back against the growth of a new American aristocracy, one in which a small number of wealthy families get wealthier while working Americans fall further behind. It's the only tax that many ultra-rich heirs will ever pay on the millions of dollars they're inheriting. And unless you're incredibly wealthy, you'll never pay a cent of it."

"Researchers Discover Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon And Is Twice As Healthy As Kale: Researchers at Oregon State have patented a new strain of seaweed that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The seaweed, a form of red marine algae, looks like translucent red lettuce. It also has twice the nutritional value of kale and grows very quickly. Did we mention it tastes like bacon?"

Pareen in The New Republic, The Death of the Rude Press: Deadspin and Splinter were only the most recent victims of a culling that began many years ago. [...] This is not a story about the private equity vampires ruining this specific company. It is about the implications of the fact that Splinter was not allowed to live, and Deadspin is not allowed to be political. Rude media, for lack of a better term, is dying. [...] Rudeness is not merely a tone. It is an attitude. The defining quality of rude media is skepticism about power, and a refusal to respect the niceties that power depends on to disguise itself and maintain its dominance. It's often hard for me to imagine that anyone can grow up in this era and not end up doubting the competence and motives of nearly everyone in charge of nearly every American institution, but some of us grow up instead to be Bari Weiss. For various reasons you could figure out after a couple hours with the writings of a Noam Chomsky or a Robert McChesney, this skepticism is frequently missing from the coverage of what we once called the 'mainstream media,' and people who have long and successful careers at our most prestigious press outlets tend to either never possess it, or have it systematically beaten out of them over time."

"Trends in Party Identification, 1939-2014: For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling. Report: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation"

RIP: "Diahann Carroll: Pioneering actress dies aged 84 Carroll, who was 84, starred in 1960s TV show Julia, the first US sitcom to centre on a black woman. She was also the first black woman to win the Tony for best actress in 1962, for Broadway musical No Strings. She went on to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress in 1975 for Claudine.

I was cheered to see this in The Los Angeles Times, "Opinion: The Democratic debate confirmed it — we've entered the 'Bernaissance' [...] He and his supporters gathered on a scorching unshaded high school basketball court at a rally in El Sereno last weekend. Hearing him address nurses and teachers and undocumented Americans with such vitality, in the midst of such a vital campaign, just weeks after a heart attack, was moving. 'No half measures,' he insisted at the rally. 'We don't have decades,' he said about the climate crisis Wednesday night. Sanders has a sense of urgency that matches this moment and thoughtful policies — his devotion to which has been proven over the course of decades — to match that drive."

Nicole Aschoff reviewed Matt Stoller's latest book and criticized it - from the left. "It's Not Enough to Be Against 'the Monopolies': Antitrust is, and was, an extremely limited strategy for reining in corporations. We need a broader project to democratize the economy and the state. The 2008 financial crisis was traumatizing for millions of Americans. For some, the pain was visceral, caused by losing a job, a home, savings. For others, like Matt Stoller, the suffering was more existential. Stoller was working as a congressional staffer during the financial meltdown and witnessed firsthand how the US government screwed over homeowners while bailing out the bankers and speculators who had caused the crisis. Stoller wasn't alone in his disgust. Neil Barofsky, a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York who was brought on to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program, had similar sentiments. After much thought (and a book), Barofsky concluded that the US government had been 'captured by the banks.' Stoller would no doubt agree, but in his new book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, he situates the crisis in a much longer struggle.

RIP: Michael J Pollard, at 80, from a heart attack. "American actor who played the hapless getaway driver in the 1967 film classic Bonnie and Clyde." He also had a bunch of sf genre credits, but our eyes once met across a hotel lobby while I was checking in and he was looking straight at me and caught my look of surprised recognition. He was just as twinkly as he was on screen and I grinned and gave him a wink and went to find my room in the strange and legendary Chelsea. No idea what he was doing there, he'd just been sitting as if he was waiting for someone to arrive.

"Steal This Archive? Abbie Hoffman's Papers Become a College Collection: Thousands of letters and other artifacts from the life of the radical prankster of the counterculture are sold to the University of Texas at Austin"

Ringo was lookin' really good the day they did that shoot. "Abbey Road Walk"

I'm sorry, I can't explain my sudden inability to stop hearing Queen in my head all the time, but there it is. "Don't Stop Me Now" for an hour.

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