Monday, January 4, 2021

I dropped by to pick up a reason

I really meant for this post to appear over a week ago, but at first I just didn't seem to be collecting many interesting links, and then I noticed I was getting extremely grumpy and gloomy and wanted to spend all my time watching and reading fiction. But, despite my misgivings, I hope you've managed to have decent holiday time and that you have a much better new year than I'm currently capable of envisioning.

And now for the traditional Yuletide links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

On Christmas day, my provider made a billing error and throttled my internet, pretty much wrecking my day, but at least I got this: "Sanders Rips GOP for Happily Endorsing Trump's Assault on Democracy But Refusing to Back His Call for $2,000 Checks: More than half of the House Republican caucus readily supported President Donald Trump in his last-ditch—and ultimately failed—attempt to overturn the November election through the Supreme Court earlier this month, but the president's endorsement this week of $2,000 relief checks for desperate Americans was a bridge too far for the GOP. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that fact with disgust Thursday, shortly after House Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to pass $2,000 direct payments by unanimous consent. 'Republicans in Washington are happy to cheer on Trump's bogus conspiracy theories on non-existent election fraud, but refuse to support him when it comes to providing a $2,000 direct payment to working-class Americans facing economic desperation,' the Vermont senator tweeted. 'Pathetic.'"

Senators Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR) tried to filibuster the veto override of the Defense Authorization bill in order to force a vote on $2,000 direct payments. Guess how other Democrats voted. Aw, you guessed.

In the House, progressives negotiated rules changes that waived Pay-Go, and also, "The second win, on the 'Motion to Recommit,' was not secured by progressives alone, but in collaboration with many swing district Democrats, according to members of Congress who were involved in the negotiations. The MTR allows the minority party to introduce an amendment on the floor and get a vote on it. The opposition always uses it for mischief, but Republicans are much better at it, because Democrats like Josh Gottheimer happily join them. Their favorite ploy is to make Democrats cast a tough vote on immigration that later gets used in attack ads, but sometimes they even manage to derail legislation. So Democrats effectively got rid of the MTR, and now it's an actual motion to send the bill to a committee, and can't include any mischievous, extraneous language."

In which Sammy shows us yet another example of how the Biden administration has no commitment to using his powers to make things work, and Emma has a good righteous rant against the sociopathy that is "centrism".

And I really wish I had the energy to do a line-by-line "fisking" of Rand Paul's religious sermon against Covid relief. Sammy barely scratches the surface here but this is nuts.

And definitely read famous economist Duncan Black when he says, "Larry is lying: The important thing about this is that Summers is lying. It isn't that he's wrong about this, it's that he doesn't believe it. He does not think that $2000 checks relative to any baseline or other policies will "overheat" the economy. That was just a reason he grabbed for. If it was some other policy he didn't like he'd put on his frowny economist face and say it had a "low fiscal multiplier," arguing essentially the opposite, that the spending wouldn't boost the economy enough. For something else, he might go full concern troll and argue that the policy wasn't progressive, relative to some other policy he also wouldn't support if it was being offered. Appeals to the astrological charts that only the economist possesses is common, but in this case it's bullshit that even he doesn't believe." There's even more.

Matt Taibbi, similarly impressed, weighs in with "Neoliberal Champion Larry Summers Opens Mouth, Inserts Both Feet: The former Harvard President and Treasury Secretary offers important thoughts on the negative consequences of aid to the less fortunate."

"As Congressional Leaders Strike Relief Deal, AOC Slams Democrats for Trying to 'Lock Their Left Flank in the Basement': Ocasio-Cortez said that while Republicans 'leverage their right flank to gain policy concessions and generate enthusiasm,'Democrats shut progressives out."

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez was also noticing this story in which immigration reform is being put on the back-burner by Biden's team, apparently because they find activists too uppity. "But a person familiar with transition discussions said it was intentional. He told NPR that the Biden campaign and then the transition team felt that immigration activists had become too adversarial. 'There are a number of people within Team Biden who are just uncomfortable with a lot of the policy initiatives that they recommend, which is why when you saw Biden's four core issues, immigration was not one of them,' he said."

"How a Status Quo Biden Cabinet Pick Would Burn: Ursula Burns, the former Xerox CEO, would carry to the Commerce Department a prodigious amount of baggage. One of the few remaining unfilled slots in Joe Biden's Cabinet is the commerce secretary. The oddball Commerce Department is a strange mélange of different agencies that don't really fit together, but in the hands of someone committed to reviving U.S. industrial policy, it could prove fearsome and important. Leaks to the press, however, have shown Biden flirting with the notion of doing something on the inexplicable/infuriating continuum, picking a Republican to prove his fondness for a party that still isn't certain he won, or a Wall Street—friendly steward to build relationships with a business community that has already staffed much of his administration. In turn, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Gina Raimondo have dominated the rumor mill. The 'apolitical' option, as Axios calls it, seems to be former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. As a woman of color, she would satisfy the Biden administration's diversity mandate; and as a onetime executive, decidedly pro-corporate, she would satisfy the one area where there is no taste for diversity.. [...] It's hard to believe that the business community needs yet another goodwill ambassador within the Biden administration. It's even harder to understand why corporate executives (think Penny Pritzker or Wilbur Ross) are almost always floated for the post of commerce secretary. But adding Burns to the mix would be anything but apolitical. Given her legacy from her time atop Xerox, Burns could very well undermine Biden's credibility on a number of his most important priorities, and bring with her a ton of baggage from some of the most high-profile scandals in the corporate world."

New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop source sues Twitter for defamation" The Mac Shop owner complains he is 'now widely considered a hacker' A computer repair shop owner cited in a controversial New York Post story is suing Twitter for defamation, claiming its content moderation choices falsely tarred him as a hacker. John Paul Mac Isaac was the owner of The Mac Shop, a Delaware computer repair business. In October, the New York Post reported that The Mac Shop had been paid to recover data from a laptop belonging to Joe Biden's son Hunter, and it published emails and pictures allegedly from a copy of the hard drive. After the Post's sourcing and conclusions were disputed, Facebook and Twitter both restricted the article's reach, and Twitter pointed to its ban on posting 'hacked materials' as an explanation. Mac Isaac claims Twitter specifically made this decision to 'communicate to the world that [Mac Isaac] is a hacker.' He says that his business began to receive threats and negative reviews after Twitter's moderation decision, and that he is 'now widely considered a hacker' because of Twitter."

"Bodycam Video Shows 'Mob Mentality' Of Boston Police Who Responded To George Floyd Protests, Lawyer Says: Hours of video given exclusively to The Appeal show police officers bragging about attacking protesters and multiple instances of excessive force and the liberal use of pepper spray. [...] The hours of video, given exclusively to The Appeal by Williams, show police officers bragging about attacking protesters, targeting nonviolent demonstrators for violence and possible arrest, discussing arrest quotas and the use of cars as weapons, and multiple instances of excessive force and liberal use of pepper spray."

Longtime readers will remember that Mark Crispin Miller is an old favorite in the lefty blogosphere. Lately he seems to have run afoul of a propaganda campaign. He explained the details to Matt and Katie on Useful Idiots.

"Larry Wilkerson: No Evidence of Massive Russian Hack— Paul Jay talks to Wilkerson and can't find support for this big headline, but plenty of reasons to be afraid of the neocons.

"Congress Doesn't Care About Your Surprise Ambulance Bill: Dying? Hail an Uber, because lawmakers exempted ambulances from their medical-bill reforms—much to private equity's delight. [...] Unlike the community-based ambulance services of the past—even those that joined forces to form larger firms—private equity firms lack a medical mission. They buy up companies and do whatever possible to extract ever-higher profits from those acquisitions, particularly in cases of 'leveraged buyouts,' in which they saddle a firm with the debt from its own sale. In the case of ambulances, there was an obvious way to cash in: Jack up the prices and hold patients themselves responsible for whatever their insurer wouldn't pay. While Medicare and Medicaid obstructed this strategy by capping reimbursements for ambulance rides at around 60 to 70 percent of what private insurers paid, private equity firms happily billed other plans and uninsured people as much as they could. One patient I spoke to was bilked for $3,000 for a ride of less than a mile during a flare-up of Crohn's disease; another paid $2,400 to be transported seven miles after getting hit by a car. In both cases, the patients sarcastically admitted the very obvious premise that the for-profit ambulance industry is built upon: In the throes of serious health emergencies, they weren't exactly in a position to shop around for deals! And even if they had the ability to do a round of comparison shopping, who the hell would want to?"

Dean Baker has an "Exchange with Siva Vaidhyanathan" on the question, "Is Repealing Section 230 the Way to Fix Facebook?" This sounds more sensible than trusting Mark Zuckerberg and his algorithm to do it for us.

"Did the FBI Downplay the Far-Right Politics of Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock? After Paddock killed 58 people in 2017, the FBI said he had no political motives. The evidence demands a second look. THREE YEARS AFTER the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the FBI has yet to identify a motive explaining what could have driven Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowded music festival from a Las Vegas hotel window, killing 58 people and injuring many hundreds more. But the FBI, which has been notoriously slow to recognize right-wing threats in recent years, may have ignored a politically inconvenient explanation: Paddock, in our view, fit the profile of a far-right political extremist bent on sowing violence in society."

RIP: "Chad & Jeremy singer Chad Stuart dies aged 79: The folk-pop pair enjoyed success with songs like 'Yesterday's Gone', 'A Summer Song' and 'Willow Weep For Me'. As part of the British Invasion, they found greater success in the US than in their home country, where 'Yesterday's Gone' was their only top 40 single. A statement said the world had 'lost a legend' but his voice would 'continue to touch our lives through his music'. [...] He died from non-Covid related pneumonia after being admitted to hospital following a fall, the statement added."

RIP: "Gerry Marsden, Gerry and the Pacemakers Singer, Dead at 78: Merseybeat singer of hits like "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" dies following short illness" I still love those songs, and also the touchingly sweet cover of Bobby Darin's "I'll Be There".

RIP: "Mountain's Leslie West. Dies At 75." And "Mississippi Queen" is still a hot track.

RIP: "Gilligan's Island actress Dawn Wells dies of Covid complications." Good-bye, Mary Ann. Mark only has one small Dawn Wells story, but good point about choosing between Mary Ann and Ginger.

Matt Taibbi presents "The Wokest News Stories of 2020: When editors in 2020 weren't being fired in bunches, they were taking aim at everything from Beethoven to mermaids to skyscrapers."

This is smashing, has some great lines, and also blew my mind a bit when it got to the part about the Shmoos. I vaguely remember them but I guess I wasn't paying much attention to Li'l Abner by then, Al Capp was so...Al Capp. But definitely give it a listen: "Who Counts As Working Class? | The Jacobin Show (12/23/20)"

Caitlin Johnstone at Consortium News, "What's At Stake in the Assange Decision [...] It is absolutely true that this case will have far-reaching implications for press freedoms around the world. The imperial narrative managers have been toiling for years to frame the persecution of Julian Assange as something other than what it is, but in reality this case is about whether the most powerful government in the world is allowed to extradite journalists anywhere on earth who expose its malfeasance. Whether or not the United States should be allowed to imprison journalists for exposing its war crimes."

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom | Official Trailer | Netflix
Salon story, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Chadwick Boseman's finale performance is stunning: Viola Davis transforms to assume her role, but so does Chadwick Boseman. Together they create something magnificent."

"Milky Way timelapse photobombed by the Aurora Borealis over Loch More in Scotland."

"Watch unseen Beatles footage from Get Back."

"[HD] Fantasia 2000 - Firebird Suite | Oceansize - Ornament/The Last Wrongs"

"Bill Bailey does a perfect impression of Billy Bragg as Billy Bragg looks on"

The live version of Rob Hansen's walking tour of British fanhistory is probably not going to happen again for a while, but thanks to some editing by Edie Stern (and participation by a number of other fans), you can now take the online version.

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth & Mr. Soul - Medley, featuring one of the greatest televised segues of all time.

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