Friday, March 17, 2017

'Cause god knows I'll never tell!

"Now Would Be A Good Time For A Democratic Healthcare Plan Proposal." A perfect time, really. And there even is one, so why aren't the Democrats pushing it like crazy? Apparently, they prefer to just talk about how mean the Republicans are instead of promoting proposals of their own that would give people a reason to vote for them.
* But no, when it's time to throw your drowning enemy an anchor, they throw them a life-preserver. "Dems Say They'll Help Trump Fix Obamacare If He Stops Trying To Kill It: The offer assumes Republicans won't try to sabotage a law they seem unable to repeal."

You would have thought that leading Democrats might have said something like this before this guy did. "Clarence Thomas Questions Legality Of Letting Cops Take Innocent People's Stuff: The Supreme Court justice's skepticism of civil asset forfeiture may signal the court would be receptive to a review."

"More Americans say government should ensure health care coverage: As the debate continues over repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what might replace it, a growing share of Americans believe that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Currently, 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, compared with 38% who say this should not be the government's responsibility. The share saying it is the government's responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade." In nearly a decade of Democrats trying to pretend it's impossible, but it's actually a low number. It's not that long ago you could get nearly 70% of the country to agree that they would happily pay higher taxes if they could get a National Health Service for it.

Bernie Sanders did a Town Hall in "Trump Country" again, with Chris Hayes. You can see it here and here. This was, of course, an excuse for the Clintonistas to get on Twitter and get a big hate on against Bernie, who failed to spend enough time hating on Trump, apparently, and more importantly failed to be Hillary Clinton. They even hate him for talking to people in "Trump country", or speaking in public at all. They don't seem to be aware that he was appointed as the Senate Dems outreach person.

I'm leaving the whole Vault 7 thing with Marcy. In any case, no reason the CIA should have credibility with anyone. I reckon Kennedy was right.
* Oh, and Robert Parry. "Fresh Doubts about Russian 'Hacking: WikiLeaks' disclosure of documents revealing CIA cyber-spying capabilities underscores why much more skepticism should have been applied to the U.S. intelligence community's allegations about Russia 'hacking' last year's American presidential election. It turns out that the CIA maintains a library of foreign malware that could be used to pin the blame for a 'hack' on another intelligence service."

Meanwhile, even Buzzfeed admits that you can't believe every bad thing you read about Trump. "1.6 Billion Dollar Hoax: An elaborate hoax based on forged documents escalates the phenomenon of 'fake news' and reveals an audience on the left that seems willing to believe virtually any claim that could damage Trump. "

"Utah school installs showers and washing machines for homeless students to use." So, we've completely normalized homelessness.

I think I can trust RT most days more than I can trust Warner. "US Senator accuses RT of hacking Google, RT suggests he should learn how search engines work." Mark Warner has lots of sleazy connections to the tech industry and I'm pretty sure he knows the stuff coming out of his mouth is sheer nonsense.

"The really big Trump scandal (almost) everyone is missing" - Will tweeted this article by summing it up: "Trump's White House may be in disarray but actually IS a fine-tuned machine for gutting regs for Corporate America"

As Dean Baker tweeted it, "Ambitious Republican health care plan looks to have 50 million uninsured by 2025."
* "The New Trade Agenda: Deals that Promote Equality Rather than Inequality."
* "Paying for Legal Services or Keeping Melania Trump in NYC: Choices for Taxpayers"
* "Reaching Out To The Working Class: Note that I said 'working class,' not 'white working class.'"
* "The Wrongest Profession: How economists have botched the promise of widely distributed prosperity - and why they have no intention of stopping now. [...] Over the past two decades, the economics profession has compiled an impressive track record of getting almost all the big calls wrong."

How sublime, The New York Times seems to have noticed: "'Superstar Firms' May Have Shrunk Workers' Share of Income" - y'think?

Starting around the two-minute mark, The Majority Report, with Sam's interview with Rebecca Kolins Givan, Labor Organizing After Privatization.

"The Republican Health-Care Bill Is the Worst of So Many Worlds: This attempt to repeal Obamacare fails on every score - except cutting rich people's taxes." But the right is now so divided on it that it may never pass.

"Recruiting Republicans To Run For Congress As Democrats Has Usually Ended Badly For All Concerned: I'm going to start talking about a rule of Beltway politics by immediately pointing to an exception: Elizabeth Warren, who today-- along with men and women like Bernie Sanders, Ted Lieu, Pramila Jayapal, Raul Grijalva, and Jeff Merkley-- defines what it means to be a real Democrat, was once an Oklahoma Republican! That's a long time ago, the Democratic Party didn't recruit her as a Republican, and, like I said, that's the glaring exception to the rule. [...] It used to surprise me when crooked conservative Dems like Emanuel, Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen recruited Republicans to run as Democrats. Now it's practically standard operating procedure for the DCCC. Last cycle DCCC-recruited Republicans masquerading as Democratic candidates (like Monica Vernon in Iowa, Mike Derrick in New York, Randy Perkins in that old Palm Beach seat... just a few examples) went down in flames." (And as Atrios reminded us the other day, this has been going on for way too long.) How long can this go on?

And for more on how well the Democratic leadership treats progressives - not to mention blacks and women and, most notably, black women, "Donna Edwards Was Democrats' Rising Star. Now She's Podcasting From An RV. The good old boy network has no problem with elevating an obedient African-American woman. Edwards was not obedient. [...] 'I thought the Republican Party was full of dog whistles but the Democratic Party has a foghorn,' Edwards told reporters after that remark. 'As a sitting member of the House as the ranking Democrat on one of our committees in the House, as the co-chair of our steering and policy committee sitting at the leadership table with Leader Pelosi, as former chair of the bipartisan women's caucus, a lawyer: How dare they describe me as unqualified?'"

When Chaffets suggests that Americans should choose between an iPhone and health insurance, Atrios says, "Good Deal! This is the kind of thing which embodies everything about modern conservatives - a failure to understand the price/cost of anything, a failure to understand what people need to exist in contemporary society, and the belief the newfangled gadgets are like the mythical welfare queen Cadillacs of yesteryear." Go read the rest, it's not that long.

"Why is the Wyoming GOP scared? Anyone who has been around Wyoming politics understands just how small the state is. All politics there is retail. People expect to be able to meet their senators, governors, and representatives, and they almost inevitably do. Any politician deemed too formal or high-and-mighty is unlikely to go far in a state that prides itself on its non-hierarchical frontiersman mythos. Our elected officials spend a lot of time in jeans and cowboy boots. Governors have a tradition of keeping their office doors open." But GOP politicians are running away from their angry constituents.

Matt Taibbi, "Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media: [...] If there's any truth to the notion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian state to disrupt the electoral process, then yes, what we're seeing now are the early outlines of a Watergate-style scandal that could topple a presidency. But it could also be true that both the Democratic Party and many leading media outlets are making a dangerous gamble, betting their professional and political capital on the promise of future disclosures that may not come.

"How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality: Irritating left-wing guys have ruined democracy, apparently. Which might suggest it wasn't doing so great before. [...] Without ever letting the Hacky Sack touch the ground, the DudeBro army traveled back in time in their Tardis and terrified the Democratic Party into neutering itself ideologically, spending years running as the Slightly Less Mean Republicans and losing more than 1,000 state legislative seats during the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency. Perhaps their unsettling appearance in the past, wearing T-shirts for Radiohead albums that didn't yet exist, caused Obama to demoralize the progressive base by staffing up his Cabinet with financial industry insiders and conducting drone assassinations in numerous foreign countries with which the United States was not at war. Back in the present of 2016, the 'Bernie or Bust' tribe somehow spooked the Clinton campaign into abandoning the Rust Belt states and making what many pundits perceived as a bold play for 'moderate Republican women' in the suburbs of Charlotte and Phoenix and Philadelphia and Atlanta. All we are is dust in the wind. [...] When 'liberals' become a political grouping morbidly obsessed with their left-wing critics, constantly accusing them of being too idealistic and too intransigent and of being covert agents for the enemy, they have stopped being liberals and become conservatives. Which indeed happened some time ago, when the old 'conservatives' became radical fanatics. When 'the left' endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left." Damn, it's sad to see Wolcott sucked into the maw of elite Democrats' denial. And the word seems to have gone out from Dem Central, because there have been a spate of these articles and more "learned"-sounding pieces trying to explain why the left is wrong, even though you have to go pretty ahistorical to make your case. I wonder if these people realize they are really trying to make the case that democracy itself leads to fascism.

And speaking of ahistorical approaches, even the mea culpas of neoliberals who realize something went wrong tend to miss the point. Atrios notes that Charlie Peters doesn't really seem to know what the New Deal he set about to destroy really had going for it. But having him rear his head again is a good reminder to some Democrats that, no, "neoliberal" is not a term that was just invented a couple of years ago by Sandernistas. Here's "A Neo-Liberal's Manifesto" in 1982.

Dissent has a little argument going on with itself that might be illuminating. First there's "The End of Progressive Neoliberalism," and then there's "There Was No Such Thing as 'Progressive Neoliberalism'." The second article purports to disagree with the first, but I don't think so - they're saying the same thing, really, only the latter supplies more detail. And of course, you can't openly acknowledge that the phony "progressives" who've been leading the Democratic Party were just giving lip-service to equality while doing us all more harm than good.

Shaun King, "The Democratic Party seems to have no earthly idea why it is so damn unpopular [...] "Recently, I've asked the crowds where I am speaking two key questions about the Democratic Party. The response that I get is always the same -- mass laughter or audible frustration. The first question is, 'If I asked you, in just a few sentences, to sum up what specific policies the Democratic Party stands for, what would you say?'"

"Paleocons for Porn: The new online right draws on transgressive aesthetics to rebrand conservative politics. It's a contradiction that won't hold. [...] While liberals enjoyed cultural hegemony and became complacent and intellectually lazy, the young transgressives of the alt-right produced an undeniable level of creative energy. The war for the soul of America Pat Buchanan waged in the 1990s has long since been won by the cultural left, and the tyrannical overreach of liberal intellectual conformity undoubtedly helped create the youthful rebellion against it. But this temporary alliance of very different factions - the most stark being between the traditionalist right and the libertinism of chan culture - has produced a schizophrenic incoherence."

In last monologue, Israeli comedy show host implores Israelis to wake up and smell the apartheid.

RIP: "James Cotton, Blues Harmonica Legend, Dies at 81," of pneumonia.
* "Sister Sledge singer Joni Sledge dies at 60: Sledge, who formed Sister Sledge with her three siblings in 1971, was found unresponsive by a friend at her home in Phoenix, Arizona, her publicist said. She had not been ill and the cause of death is unknown. Sledge, who is survived by her adult son, last performed with the band in October."

Matt Bruenig, "Small populations make it harder to do what Nordic countries do: When you lay out the impressive economic indicators of the Nordic countries, naysayers come out of the woodwork to harp on their small size. These arguments never explain what small population sizes have to do with anything. Apparently it is supposed to be self-evident that smaller countries can do this kind of stuff more easily. But the exact opposite is true. Small populations should make it way harder to do what Nordic countries do."

Matt Stoller on "The Hamilton Hustle: Why liberals have embraced our most dangerously reactionary founder [...] Set in contrast to the actual life and career of its subject, the play Hamilton is a feat of political alchemy - as is the stunningly successful marketing campaign surrounding it. But our generation's version of Hamilton adulation isn't all that different from the version that took hold in the 1920s: it's designed to subvert democracy by helping the professional class to associate the rise of finance with the greatness of America, instead of seeing in that financial infrastructure the seeds of a dangerous authoritarian tradition."

Matt Bruenig, "Liberals and Diversity: Liberal commentators believe that you can have diversity or economic justice, but you can't have both. They're wrong."

"The 'Dutch Trump' Is Even More Toxic Than the Real Thing."

Richard (RJ) Eskow explores the way the tech company ethos is wrecking America:
* "The sharing economy is a lie: Uber, Ayn Rand and the truth about tech and libertarians: Disruptive companies talk a good game about sharing. Uber's really just an under-regulated company making riches."
* "Tom Friedman: A New Ayn Rand for A Dark Digital Future"
* "The 5 Worst Things About the Techno-Libertarians Solidifying Their Grasp on Our Economy and Culture"
* Silicon Valley will destroy your job: Amazon, Facebook and our sick new economy: The "sharing economy" makes Silicon Valley rich and takes from the rest of us. We ignore this at our imminent peril."
* "Let's nationalize Amazon and Google: Publicly funded technology built Big Tech: They're huge and ruthless and define our lives. They're close to monopolies. Let's make them public utilities."

"Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? Marçal points out that when an economist marries his housekeeper, the GDP goes down."

"Politicking Without Politics: Democratic elites are delusional - you can't subdue the reactionary right without a robust alternative political vision."

"A theological case for the welfare state"

Tim Cappello/The Lost Boys,"I Still Believe"

Deadpool teaser

Grace Slick's "White Rabbit" Vocal Track, naked. (Her voice comes in around the 30 second mark.)

"Buffy at 20: Sarah Michelle Gellar Pens Emotional Essay for Anniversary"

"Learning the Lessons of 'Buffy' Again as It Celebrates 20 Years"

Buffy 6xEX Behind the Scenes of Once More With Feeling

Friday, March 3, 2017

Don't let him under your skin, you'll never win

Something good: "New Jersey Alters Its Bail System and Upends Legal Landscape [...] But under an overhaul of New Jersey's bail system, which went into effect Jan. 1, judges are now considering defendants' flight risk and threat to public safety in deciding whether to detain them while they await trial. Otherwise, they are to be released, usually with certain conditions." So people with jobs don't have to lose them when they can't afford bail. And even Chris Christie didn't oppose this.

Sirota, "Cigna-Anthem Merger 2017: With Billions Of Dollars At Stake, Proposed Health Insurance Deal Is Blocked By Federal Judge: A federal judge Wednesday blocked Anthem's proposed merger with Cigna -- a move that appears to shut the door on what could have created the largest health insurance conglomerate in American history. The judge in the case said the merger -- which could have affected up to 53 million consumers -- would unduly reduce competition in the healthcare economy, according to Bloomberg." We can thank The International Business Times for giving this deal a higher profile. But:
* "Anthem-Cigna Merger: With Ties To Donald Trump, Mike Pence And Jeff Sessions, Insurance Giant Hopes To Revive Blocked Deal: After delivering big money to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, health insurance giant Anthem is now pressing the new administration to settle a federal lawsuit blocking its controversial merger with Cigna, according to new court documents. Meanwhile, Trump has appointed an Anthem lobbyist to a top legal post in the White House -- a job that could position him to take over the Justice Department's antitrust unit that may ultimately decide the fate of the merger. [...] Justice Department officials typically argue that the antitrust division is insulated from political influence: As former Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said in a 2015 speech, 'antitrust enforcement has been successfully nonpartisan' and 'political affiliation means little in this job.' Anthem's argument, though, appears to hinge on a hope that political intervention from the White House may shape the Justice Department's antitrust enforcement decisions."

Former Alabama Governor Don Seiglelman was released from prison after having been jailed under the Bush/Cheney administration's campaign of election-fixing and partisan prosecutions. The entire thing was an outrage and, given that the man was jailed essentially for being a Democrat who won an election, it's an even further outrage that Obama let him continue to cool his heels in prison rather than do anything to ameliorate the situation - you know, like a presidential pardon? In any case, Siegelman, now 70, is now out. But let's get a bit of a refresher: "Representative Bob Riley defeated Siegelman in his November 2002 reelection bid by the narrowest margin in Alabama history: approximately 3,000 votes. On the night of the election, Siegelman was initially declared the winner by the Associated Press. Later, a voting machine malfunction in a single county, Baldwin County, was claimed to have produced the votes needed to give Riley the election. Democratic Party officials objected, stating that the recount had been performed by local Republican election officials after Democratic observers had left the site of the vote counting, thus rendering verification of the recount results impossible. The state's Attorney General, Republican Bill Pryor, affirmed the recounted vote totals, securing Riley's election. Pryor denied requests for a manual recount of the disputed vote warning that opening the sealed votes to recount them would be held a criminal offense.[13] Some observers have opined that perhaps the most objective observation about this vote shift is that there was no corresponding vote shift in other issues and candidates on these same ballots, a shift that would be expected if they were actually anti-Siegelman voters, probably a mathematical impossibility. Largely as a result of this obvious inconsistency, the Alabama Legislature amended the election code to provide for automatic, supervised recounts in close races." At the time, pretty much everyone was sure that Siegelman had really won. But then, apparently at the behest of Karl Rove, Siegelman suddenly found himself on trial, though a long list of both Democratic and Republican justice officials were protesting loudly on his behalf. Why?: "In June 2007, a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Alabama, signed a sworn statement that, five years earlier, she had heard that Karl Rove was preparing to neutralize Siegelman politically with an investigation headed by the U.S. Department of Justice."

"Panama Papers investigation wins George Polk Award: The Panama Papers investigation has been honored with a George Polk Award for financial journalism, the Polk awards' sponsor, Long Island University, has announced. The Polk Awards judges lauded the reporting collaboration for sparking official investigations and reforms aimed at combating global tax dodging and money laundering. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Süddeutsche Zeitung, McClatchy, the Miami Herald, Fusion and more than 100 other media partners worked together to investigate a trove of leaked documents from inside Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-headquartered law firm that sells offshore companies and other hard-to-unravel corporate structures."

Max Sawicky (of MaxSpeak) and Bob Dreyfuss have a blog, The Populist.

If your educators and representatives won't be responsible, it's up to the pornographers:
* "Utah lawmakers nix comprehensive sex ed, so porn site steps in. The Utah Legislature recently rejected the idea of adopting a comprehensive sexual education program - instead of the state's existing abstinence-only curriculum - so porn site xHamster has decided to take matters into its own hands. This week, the website began redirecting web traffic originating from Utah to a non-explicit sub-site featuring sex-ed videos."
* "Pornhub launches online sex education centre because no-one else is doing it. . The world's largest porn site has launched a centre dedicated to educating people about sexuality and sexual health - because of poor standards of sex and relationship education (SRE). In the US sex and relationship education is often heavily regulated by state lawmakers, meaning that school kids are commonly taught under 'abstinence-only' programmes that do not provide quality advice on protection, avoiding STIs or sexual health in general. In addition, a handful of states continue to maintain laws that ban teachers from mentioning homosexuality." Update: Got a phone call advising me that this is a bit of dishonest self-promotion from Pornhub, who haven't actually provided any sex education and you would be better off looking at Scarleteen for sex ed. The source of that info seems to have been a podcast by Dan Savage, but my attempts to locate it were unsuccessful. I also gather that Pornhub is owned by a company that is trying to get the UK government to use a verification service they provide with which they can block all other porn providers. Not nice people, so phooey on them.

"Teacher's town hall question goes viral: A Tennessee woman confronts Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) about health care reform at a town hall meeting in Murfreesboro, Tennessee."

Marcy Wheeler, "Four Details about Surveillance and the Flynn Ouster: It turns out Trump is on pace to fire a person every week, just like in his reality show. As you surely know, Mike Flynn has been ousted as National Security Advisor, along with his Deputy, KC McFarland."

Indiana without Pence: He left Republicans behind to guard the chicken coop when he went on to become Vice President, but they're already undoing some of his doings. And there's good news and bad news on that front.

Here's a show-stopper: "Arizona Senate votes to seize assets of those who plan, participate in protests that turn violent: Claiming people are being paid to riot, Republican state senators voted Wednesday to give police new power to arrest anyone who is involved in a peaceful demonstration that may turn bad - even before anything actually happened. SB1142 expands the state's racketeering laws, now aimed at organized crime, to also include rioting. And it redefines what constitutes rioting to include actions that result in damage to the property of others. But the real heart of the legislation is what Democrats say is the guilt by association - and giving the government the right to criminally prosecute and seize the assets of everyone who planned a protest and everyone who participated. And what's worse, said Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, is that the person who may have broken a window, triggering the claim there was a riot, might actually not be a member of the group but someone from the other side." Or the police, who sent agents provocateur even back in the days when they couldn't make a profit off of it. However:
* "Arizona leader kills protest bill after widespread criticism" - in other words, protests stopped the anti-protest bill.

"House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can't Be Hacked: Republicans would make it easier to steal an election by killing the Election Assistance Commission."

Pierce, "Pay Attention to This Particular Part of Jeff Sessions' Private Prison Memo [...] Sessions' confidence that the 'future needs of the federal correctional system' will require private prisons is a little unnerving. Remember when 'criminal-justice reform' was going to be the issue that brought bipartisan comity back to our politics? Yeah, that was cool."
* "Two Democratic Senators Voted for Climate Denial Today: Well, with the invaluable aid of Democratic Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin, Scott Pruitt was confirmed by a 'bipartisan vote' of 52-46 a little after one o'clock this afternoon."

"White House hints at crackdown on recreational marijuana." Ahh, smells like liberty, eh?

Could there be good news in America's relationships with Russia?

Back in 2002, the first issue of The Black Commentator featured an article called, "Fruit of the Poisoned Tree: The Hard Right's Plan to Capture Newark NJ," which paid particular attention to a little known mayoral candidate, "a new type of African American politician --- Corey Booker in his first run for mayor of Newark NJ. Thanks in part to this expose Booker was defeated in 2002, but won the election four years later in 2006."

"Washington Post hires John Podesta as columnist."

David Dayen in The Nation, "Behind the Scenes, Obamacare May Be in Grave Danger: Pay attention to the man behind the curtain."
* In These Times, "Putting Wall Street First: GOP Attacks Plan to Help Millions Save for Retirement." I hope no one has any illusions that "conservatives" were ever serious about "states' rights".
* David discussed The Secret Plan to Destroy the ACA & the GOP's Plan to Rob Pensions with Sam Seder on The Majority Report.

"Democratic Leader in Congress Introduces Bill to Help Trump Wage War on Iran: The U.S. is hurtling toward military conflict -- with staunch bipartisan support."

"Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year [...] Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime - yes, really! - through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion."

"Electronic Media Searches At Border Crossings Raise Worry: PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Watchdog groups that keep tabs on digital privacy rights are concerned that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents are searching the phones and other digital devices of international travelers at border checkpoints in U.S. airports."

Radley Balko, "Man wrongly convicted with bite mark evidence confronts bite mark analysts: Keith Harward was wrongly convicted of a grisly rape and murder and spent more than 33 years in prison. The main evidence against him were alleged bite marks found on the victim. Over the course of two trials, six bite mark analysts said the marks were a match to Harward's teeth. He was finally cleared by DNA testing last year. This week, Harward showed up in New Orleans at the annual American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference, where he crashed a panel on bite mark analysis."

"Trump's First Terror Arrest: A Broke Stoner the FBI Threatened at Knifepoint: The Department of Justice proudly announced the first FBI terror arrest of the Trump administration on Tuesday: An elaborate sting operation that snared a 25-year old Missouri man who had no terrorism contacts besides the two undercover FBI agents who paid him to buy hardware supplies they said was for a bomb - and who at one point pulled a knife on him and threatened his family."

From Marcy Wheeler, "A Modest Proposal: Ban the Interstate Travel of Kansans."

Sadly, Tom Perez beat Keith Ellison for DNC chair. "The DNC Chair Race Is Over. Now Comes the Real Battle: Tom Perez's win wasn't the end of the fights that defined the 2016 primary. It was a pause. [...] After the results were announced, a dozen Ellison supporters - including the congressman's brother, Eric - chanted "party for the people, not big money" from the back of the Atlanta ballroom, with a few cries of "bullshit!" thrown in. While the formal final vote, sealed on the second ballot, was 235 to 200, in a show of unity, Perez was subsequently elected by acclamation. In his first move as chair, he announced that Ellison had agreed to serve as his deputy chair."
* "Our Revolution Statement on DNC Chairmanship Election Results [...] Last night Keith talked about 'bus boy Democrats' - who always want to 'take things off the table' because they don't want to fight. We can no longer accept that. Now is the time to bring it all to the table and to pull up some extra chairs. With Trump and his allies controlling Washington, we have to take it upon ourselves to elect progressives -- even if elements of the Democratic Party are locked in complacency.""
* Common Dreams, "'Incredibly Disappointing': Democrats Choose Tom Perez to Head Party: DNC 'chose to continue the failed Clinton strategy of prioritizing wealthy donors over the activist base'"
* Ian Welsh, "Perez Chosen As DNC Chair [...] Ellison, of course, was the left wing choice, endorsed by Sanders, etc. I'm going to have a lot more to say about the Democratic party, neoliberals, Obama and Clinton later, for now I simply note that the most important thing, for those who control the liberal party, is retaining control over the liberal party. I note also that they genuinely believe in neoliberalism. They genuinely don't want a $15/minimum wage and will only grudgingly give on something as basic (and really, minor to them) as that. They want Americans poor. They want the poor to stay poor. They want the middle class to decline."
* The Hill, "Will Tom Perez bring the real change the Democratic Party needs? [...] Already, many activists have turned their backs on the DNC, choosing to pour energy into resistance and organizing in local communities. The new Perez administration has very little time to show the party will truly change, particularly when it comes to directing money, hiring people, leading a serious effort to reform voting laws and, most importantly, being a real voice against corporate power. If it does not, it will simply wither away."
* Earlier stories:
* "Tom Perez Apologizes for Telling the Truth, Showing Why Democrats' Flaws Urgently Need Attention." He admitted that the primary process was rigged. But soon he was hastily walking it back. But that's not what Greenwald's article is really about. "What drove Bernie Sanders' remarkably potent challenge to Hillary Clinton was the extreme animosity of huge numbers of Democrats - led by its youngest voters - to the values, practices, and corporatist loyalties of the party's establishment. Unlike the 2008 Democratic primary war - which was far more vicious and nasty but devoid of any real ideological conflict - the 2016 primary was grounded in important and substantive disputes about what the Democratic Party should be, what principles should guide it, and, most important of all, whose interests it should serve."
* Matt Stoller, "DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez's Bank-Friendly Record Could Kneecap the Democratic Party: [...] Clinton Democrats were, of course, not in charge during the aftermath of the financial crisis; the Obama administration was. And what happened to Clinton was not isolated to her, or even to 2016. The reluctance to take on Wall Street has been a hallmark of the modern Democratic Party - and has served as an electoral headwind up and down the ticket. Democrats are currently debating how to structure themselves as an opposition party. And Tom Perez, a leading candidate for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship, has an established record of not taking on the banks; both at the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor."

Richard J. Eskow, "Principles for Progressives to Follow on Trump's Ties to Russia" - Don't get ahead of the facts, and remember that the Deep State is not your friend.
* Stephen F. Cohen in The Nation, "Why We Must Oppose the Kremlin-Baiting Against Trump: ? The Russia-connected allegations have created an atmosphere of hysteria amounting to McCarthyism."
* Glenzilla, "The Increasingly Unhinged Russia Rhetoric Comes From a Long-Standing U.S. Playbook: For aspiring journalists, historians, or politically engaged citizens, there are few more productive uses of one's time than randomly reading through the newsletters of I.F. Stone, the intrepid and independent journalist of the Cold War era who became, in my view, the nation's first 'blogger' even though he died before the advent of the internet. Frustrated by big media's oppressive corporatized environment and its pro-government propaganda model, and then ultimately blacklisted from mainstream media outlets for his objections to anti-Russia narratives, Stone created his own bi-monthly newsletter, sustained exclusively by subscriptions, and spent 18 years relentlessly debunking propaganda spewing from the U.S. government and its media partners. What makes Stone's body of work so valuable is not its illumination of history but rather its illumination of the present. What's most striking about his newsletters is how little changes when it comes to U.S. government propaganda and militarism, and the role the U.S. media plays in sustaining it all. Indeed, reading through his reporting, one gets the impression that U.S. politics just endlessly replays the same debates, conflicts, and tactics."

"Gaius Publius: Field Notes from the Battle Within the Democratic Party" Tom Perez just isn't very good at hiding the fact that he's not in it to change the game for the better.

Do you want advice from "Former Clinton Campaign Staffer"? Neither do I! She says, "Moving Policy Further Left Shouldn't Be Assumed Response to Protests: Jennifer Palmieri argued on Wednesday that moving the Democratic platform further left is not the answer to recent protests. The former director of communications for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign made the comments during an appearance on MSNBC with Chuck Todd. 'It is incumbent upon me as an American to stand up and say Donald Trump does not represent what I view America to be," Palmieri told Todd. "And I think that a lot of this energy is not the base, the base is there, but you are wrong to look at the crowds and think that everyone wants $15 an hour.'" Yes, they'd rather have $21 an hour.

In The New Republic, "Obama's Lost Army: He built a grassroots machine of two million supporters eager to fight for change. Then he let it die. This is the untold story of Obama's biggest mistake - and how it paved the way for Trump. [...] As we now know, that grand vision for a postcampaign movement never came to fruition. Instead of mobilizing his unprecedented grassroots machine to pressure obstructionist lawmakers, support state and local candidates who shared his vision, and counter the Tea Party, Obama mothballed his campaign operation, bottling it up inside the Democratic National Committee. It was the seminal mistake of his presidency - one that set the tone for the next eight years of dashed hopes, and helped pave the way for Donald Trump to harness the pent-up demand for change Obama had unleashed.'We lost this election eight years ago,' concludes Michael Slaby, the campaign's chief technology officer. 'Our party became a national movement focused on general elections, and we lost touch with nonurban, noncoastal communities. There is a straight line between our failure to address the culture and systemic failures of Washington and this election result.'"

Naomi Klein, "It was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump [...] Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present. At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness."

"Unless They Get Serious About it, Stop Calling It 'Pro-Life': We can stop pretending the abortion fight is about 'life' as a general moral good. A freshman lawmaker in the state of Oklahoma has spoken with such candor about his effort to obstruct abortion rights that he has given away the game."

Jon Schwarz in 2007: "Democrats And The Iron Law Of Institutions: Read this if you're driven insane by the Democrats." Especially if you need to be reminded how desperately the Democratic Party would rather lose to the likes of Nixon and Trump than win with a candidate who really doesn't want to see a corrupt party. This quotation, for example, spells out how well they know how to lose: "As soon as McGovern was nominated, party leaders began systematically slurring and belittling him, while the trade union chieftains refused to endorse him on the pretense that this mild Mr. Pliant was a being wild and dangerous. A congressional investigation of Watergate was put off for several months to deprive McGovern's candidacy of its benefits. As an indiscreet Chicago ward heeler predicted in the fall of 1972, McGovern is "gonna lose because we're gonna make sure he's gonna lose"...So deftly did party leaders "cut the top of the ticket" that while Richard Nixon won in a "landslide," the Democrats gained two Senate seats."

"Why 'Bernie Would Have Won' Matters: Following the 2016 election, many supporters of Bernie Sanders spawned a meme: 'Bernie would have won.' Notwithstanding the merits of the argument itself - of which much has already been said - the meme alone is significant: An indictment of the Democratic party establishment. And, just as in the general election, the centrist Democratic Party establishment has failed to grasp the essence of the meme."

"Breakaway Democrats in New York Feel Trump Backlash" - There's the small question of why Democratic officials from the most liberal districts are making deals with Republicans. (There shouldn't be so many Republicans in office in the first place, I'll be interested to see what happens when they realize this.)

Have I mentioned that Andrew Cuomo is a terrible Democrat?
* I mean, seriously. "Marijuana Legalization: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Opposes Pot Legalization On Safety Grounds, Promotes Alcohol. [...] New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo waded into the national debate over drug policy, declaring his opposition to legalizing cannabis and asserting (despite research to the contrary) that using pot leads to the use of other, stronger narcotics. Cuomo has long promoted the alcohol industry, whose donors have bankrolled his election campaigns and whose businesses could be adversely affected by marijuana legalization."

Oh, for gods' sakes! "Dem senator: Russian hacking may have been 'act of war'." That's not the behavior of a responsible adult. Did we declare war on France when we hacked their elections?

"Trump's disapproval rating keeps creeping up," now at 38%, but, "Congress doesn't fare any better. Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers of Congress, have a 31 percent approval rating and 62 percent disapproval rating. And Democrats' approval rating is 32 percent, while their disapproval rating is 59 percent." Way to go, Congressional Democrats.

Macleans interview with Chris Hayes on his book A Colony in a Nation, "America's inherent vice: the prison system: The MSNBC anchor discusses his provocative book on America's criminal justice system, the politics of fear and order, and Trump as a conspiracy theorist."

"With Coverage in Peril and Obama Gone, Health Law's Critics Go Quiet: WASHINGTON - For seven years, few issues have animated conservative voters as much as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But with President Barack Obama out of office, the debate over 'Obamacare' is becoming less about 'Obama' and more about 'care' - greatly complicating the issue for Republican lawmakers."

Chris Floyd at Empire Burlesque, "The ICEmen Cometh: Madness, Blindness and the Anti-Immigrant Cargo Cult [...] Many Americans seem to believe that if you just got rid of Mexican restaurant owners and all the 'illegals' who clean hotels and offices and do other grunt work for peanuts, then somehow, magically, a cornucopia of secure, high-paying jobs will suddenly appear. How this will happen is never made clear; undocumented immigrants aren't holding such jobs, they never 'took away' those jobs in the first place - and their absence won't bring them back."

Back in November, Ryan Cooper started a little series at The Week. The four parts are:
* "2009: The year the Democratic Party died"
* "Why Hillary Clinton lost"
* "How the Democratic Party can rebuild"
* "How the Democratic Party can become a labor party again"

Bill Black, "Andrew Ross Sorkin's Attempt to Make Tim Geithner a Hero: "

Dave Ettlin back in The Baltimore Sun, this time with an op-ed column, "How much do we care, America?"

* "Thanks, Obama! [...] We all want to look back with fondness on the Obama years. There are thing to be fond about, and in comparison to President Pig Fucker, the Obama era will be our happy place, but the economic record was, overall, horrible, and not something to be cheered. Our system really demands that people have uninterrupted prosperity from adulthood to retirement, or they're pretty fucked. And a lot of people were pretty fucked by this recession.
* "Rules: This point has been made a thousand times, but when one side decides it's cool to play with 15 players on the field and keeps firing refs until they find one who agrees, the other side doesn't get any points for sticking with 11. Qualified praise about sportsmanship from the Washington Post editorial page doesn't count as a victory."
* "Ending Welfare As We Know It: One of the more maddening things was the victory laps about 'welfare reform' as if getting people off welfare should have been the goal, instead of getting people to not need welfare, which should have been."

Athenae: "'your husband will do anything for you - slay the dragons, kill the beast'."

BuzzFeed Now Looking to Institutional Dems to Police a Phantom Surge of Lefty Fake News

"Federal Reserve Bankers Mocked Unemployed Americans Behind Closed Doors [...] It was hardly the first time these bankers blamed unemployment on the unemployed, rather than, say, bankers. In an April meeting that year, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeff Lacker told participants that 'Several firms told us of difficulty finding adequate workers, because they preferred to collect unemployment benefits or can't pass drug tests.' He reiterated that point in November, saying that in West Virginia he was told by an employment agency that 'unquestionably the biggest problem in hiring skilled and unskilled workers was the inability to pass a drug test.'"

"Peter's Choice" - One of Rick Perlstein's students explains why he voted for Trump. "The answer was thoughtful, smart, and terrifying." (But I saw comments on a thread about this article where readers disagreed with Rick about that.)

"Apology: On Jonathan Chait's Obama" - Let's face it, Chait's centrism and Obottery are just plain demented.

Bernie says Trump is a Fraud

"Then They Came For The Trade Unionists And It Was Time To Step The F*ck Up (Again!)"

"Donald Trump and the Continuing Bush-Obama Legacy

A good rundown from the Water Cooler at Naked Capitalism.

"The strange tale of a dating site's attacks on WikiLeaks founder Assange: For an online dating site, seems really good at cloak-and-dagger stuff. Disconnected phones. Mystery websites. Actions that ricochet around the globe. But the attention grabber is the Houston-based company's target: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, whose steady dumps of leaked emails from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign have given supporters of Donald Trump the only cheering news of the last few weeks."

"Is Obama's official White House photographer trolling Donald Trump?"

Our story so far: Labour elected Jeremy Corbyn and suddenly the Labour party was looking competitive with the Conservatives for the first time in years. Then the party leaders got the knives out. "Jeremy Corbyn Allies Hit Back After Peter Mandelson Reveals He Is 'Working Every Day' To Topple Him." You wouldn't think you'd have much standing in a party where you were "working every day" to destroy the party, would you? It's working, though, these guys have managed to drag the party's poll numbers way back down. "But a Labour source told HuffPost UK: 'The idea of Jeremy Corbyn being Prime Minister and implementing policies that actually benefit the people terrifies the establishment. So it's no surprise Peter Mandelson has found time in his busy schedule of spending time on oligarch's yachts to attempt to undermine him.'"

"Dress Like A Woman"

Trumpgrets. The guy who was glad to be rid of Obamacare but wasn't worried about himself because he has ACA, not Obamacare, is perfect.

Adam Johnson at FAIR, "NYT: Unlike Russian Wars, US Wars 'Promote Freedom and Democracy': The New York Times, in its recent rebuff of comments President Donald Trump made about Russia, seems not to have evolved its understanding of US geopolitics past an 8th grade level. [...] Clearly, Trump's motives in questioning American innocence were anything but liberal or noble. He was evoking America's own sins not to challenge them, but to apologize for those of the Russian president and, preemptively, his own. But the outrage over Trump's comments from pundits and editorial boards did not seek to spotlight his cynicism and its dark implications, but rather to insist that the United States is, in fact, on a higher moral plane than Russia. This is a childish assertion that serves to flatter the ego of American readers while legitimizing their government's crimes." Yes, the problem with what Trump said was not that he said we were killers, but that he didn't seem to mind.

Robert Darnton in the NYRB on "The True History of Fake News"

"30 Years Later, RoboCop Is More Relevant Than Ever: Has there ever been a movie more misunderstood than RoboCop? Paul Verhoeven's hyperviolent dystopian cybersatire was released 30 years ago and almost immediately joined the likes of The Prince, Watchmen, and Wall Street in the great pantheon of works whose points have been completely missed by legions of fans and imitators. RoboCop was intended to be a viciously hilarious attack on police brutality, union busting, mass-media brainwashing, and the exploitation of the working class by amoral corporate raiders. Alas, all too many people only noticed the viciousness, not the targets thereof"

"When Capitalists Go on Strike: It’s not just 'money in politics' - capitalists get what they want through structural power over the economy. manufacturer refuses to invest in the United States until the government cuts taxes and loosens 'environmental regulations and hiring rules.' The CEO of a top technology firm flatly states that the $181 billion stored in an overseas tax haven won't come 'back until there’s a fair rate.' Despite several trillion dollars in reserves, banks and corporations collectively refuse to make loans or hire new employees."

You wouldn't think you'd have to explain this to anyone, but "Gluing your labia shut during your period is a bad idea."

"Keep It Simple and Take Credit"

Animated map visualizing two centuries of immigration. (Thanks, CMike.)

Works at Whitechapel Bell Foundry up for sale.

RIP: Ed Bryant, 1945-2017, a fine sf writer and a much beloved human being, of Type 1 diabetes, and we were damned lucky to have him as long as we did.
* Professor Irwin Corey, Comedian and 'Foremost Authority,' Dies at 102
* Richard Hatch, Battlestar Galactica's original Apollo, dies at 71, of pancreatic cancer.
* "Legendary Jazz Guitarist Larry Coryell, 'Godfather of Fusion,' Dies at 73: Coryell, who passed away in his sleep from natural causes, had performed his last two shows this past weekend at the city's Iridium Jazz Club."
* "Mildred Dresselhaus, 'Queen Of Carbon' And Nanoscience Trailblazer, Dies At 86." She was "the first woman to secure a full professorship at M.I.T, in 1968, and she worked vigorously to ensure that she would not be the last." And here she is in the GE ad, "What If Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Was Treated Like A Celebrity - GE."
* Susan Casper (1947-2017) was a writer and also Gardner Dozoir's partner as long as I've known them, but most of all, she was my friend, and I have many cherished memories of her. I'd known she was in bad shape over the last couple of years and I did phone her at the hospital at one point, but it was still a shock to me to see Gardner's post saying she was gone: "She was an extremely tough woman, and fought through an unbelievable amount of stuff in the last couple of years, but this last illness was just too much for her fading strength to overcome."

This is a pretty ad called "Winter Lights in Tohoku, Japan 4K. At least, I assume it's an ad, because it played before something I was trying to watch. For about three-and-a-half minutes. Which is way too long to have to wait for something on YouTube. Still, it's really a lovely ad, for whatever it's for, which I can't really be sure of, either.

"Astrophotographer Captures Rare Lunar 'Fog Bow' Under the Northern Lights"

Not sure you can get Terry Pratchett - Back in Black without a proxy server, but if you can see it, I recommend it to Pratchett friends and fans. It gave me a good, cathartic cry.

The Chiffons, "Sweet Talking Guy"

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Where there's smoke, there's mirrors

Michael Kinnucan in Current Affairs, "Why Republicans Are Impressive:

This asymmetry is what's so impressive about the modern Republican Party. It's not just that they've won, but that winning has put them in a position to enact an extraordinarily ambitious and radical agenda, one which will in the course of a few months destroy pillars of American government that have stood for fifty years or more. If Democrats are ever to be in a position to pass their own agenda (or merely to undo the damage that's about to be done), they need to play close attention not only to how the Republicans won in 2016 - a question over which much ink has been spilled - but to how the Republicans transformed themselves over a much longer timeline into a party that could transform the country when it won.

The lesson is this: in modern American politics, having an ideologically coherent and disciplined party is an advantage, not a liability. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom: during the 2016 primary, many Democrats, especially those who supported Clinton, worried about the 'purism' of the party's younger and more progressive wing: would it force the party to confront a choice between nominating ideologically progressive candidates who would be unelectable and facing mass defections to its left? After all, it was widely understood that candidates needed to 'pivot to the center' to win general elections. Clinton's claim to be a 'progressive who gets things done' was founded on this assumption: the notion was that Sanders' policies, even if you found them desirable, were unlikely to get done because it was too extreme, while Clinton's was closer to the center and therefore more achievable. Yet in 2017 the most extreme political party in decades seems poised to get more things done than any party since the Johnson administration. What's wrong with the conventional view?

The notion that it's easier to pass moderate policies than extreme ones takes its plausibility from the notion of the average or centrist voter. You can read about this voter in polling on policy issues. If your policy is fairly close to the views of the centrist voter, he's likely to vote for you and you're likely to win elections; the farther you get from this average view, the more difficulty you'll have. An extreme candidate will turn off centrist voters for the simple reason that they disagree with him. (It is through this logic that Mother Jones' Kevin Drum mistakenly concluded that Bernie Sanders would have lost against Donald Trump.)

The trouble with this theory is that in modern US politics it is by definition impossible for a major party to embrace policies which are 'extreme' in the sense of 'far from the consensus views of the average voter.' The average voter's policy views, to the extent that these exist at all outside this context other than as artifacts of polling, are largely determined not by any particular factual information about the issues or ideological commitments concerning the role of government but by the policy positions of the major parties. If one of these parties embraces a particular position on any given issue, the 40% of American voters who consistently support that party will come to adopt that position wholesale, while most of the rest will come to believe (and be encouraged by the media's carefully even-handed reporting to believe) that this position is at least reasonable and defensible if not correct. There are very few views so extreme and so indefensible that they can't garner mass support if repeated frequently enough by a major US party - just think of 'global warming is a hoax.'

Or think of the Democratic Party's position on what it calls "free trade", even though it isn't, and even though half the country is in a depression and in despair as a result of these odious policies.

Bernie Sanders' policies were not "extreme" by the standards of most American voters, but the discourse allows them to be called "extreme" because the Democratic Party leadership keeps saying they are extreme, despite the fact that many of these "extreme" policies have the agreement of 70%, 80%, and even 90% of Americans.

* * * * *

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "Dismantling Dodd-Frank -- And More: Candidate Trump promised to take on Wall Street. As deregulator-in-chief, he will be Wall Street's best friend. History teaches us that financial regulations die from a thousand cuts rather than a signifying event. As Cornell University law professor Saule Omarova puts it, 'Financial reform is like a big onion. The more layers you peel off, the harder you cry.' For example, by the time the Gramm-Leach-Bliley law removed the Glass-Steagall firewall between commercial and investment banks in 1999, that separation was already effectively wiped out - by administrative waivers granted by regulators. The 1994 Riegle-Neal Act that formally allowed banks to open branches across state lines came after a decade of states altering rules to undermine local control of finance. Deregulation of mortgage rules that led to the housing bubble rolled out over a 20-year period, spanning Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. And even then, it took the George W. Bush administration's laissez-faire supervision to really supercharge predatory lending. So while Donald Trump, populist rhetoric notwithstanding, promised on the campaign trail and on his transition website to 'dismantle' Dodd-Frank financial reform, he probably won't do it in one shot. He won't even have to do it through Congress. Here's the likely blueprint."

Samantha Bee talks to Lee Gelernt about stopping the Muslim ban.

"Nationwide General Strike Gains Traction, Scheduled For February 17." I do think we need one, but I'm not sure who these people are or whether the timing isn't awfully premature.

President Bannon nominates Neil Gorsuch, who in high school founded a club called Fascism Forever, to the Supreme Court.
* "About That Kissinger Quote Neil Gorsuch Likes..." What does it mean when someone "whose primary credential is his supposed textual fidelity to the Constitution" loves a quote that says, "The illegal we do immediately, the unconstitutional takes a little longer"?

"As Iran Dumps Dollar, Congress Quietly Slips in Bill for 'Use of Force Against Iran': On March 21, The Islamic Republic of Iran will cease using the U.S. dollar in all of its financial reporting. The decision to stop using the dollar as a reference has been in the works for some time but was expedited after the Trump administration decided to include Iran as one of the seven countries banned from entering the United States. [...] In fact, the United States is already preparing for potential conflict with Iran, the US has introduced H.J.Res.10 - Authorization of Use of Force Against Iran Resolution. This resolution was quietly introduced last month with absolutely no media attention in spite of the fact that it 'authorizes the President to use the U.S. Armed forces as necessary in order to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.' "

"San Francisco police cut ties with controversial FBI terrorism task force: The San Francisco Police Department is suspending cooperation with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces, or JTTFs, that have been accused by civil liberties activists of specifically targeting Arabs and Muslims, and violating their First Amendment rights."

The "centrists" always told us we were crazy and paranoid to think the anti-abortion people were after more than abortion. That's why now they are able to be right out in the open about it. "Anti-choice advocate admits to Joy Reid her ultimate goal is to make birth control illegal."

The Bannon White House doesn't want to hear from you, so they are diverting callers. Some techies who worked for Bernie Sanders have found a way to help you contact Trump anyway.

"Obamacare's Unlikely Defenders: The prospect of losing coverage and jobs has jolted a marginalized workforce into political organizing."

Yves Smith, "The Obama Administration Bails Out Private Equity Landlords at the Expense of the Middle Class: Government Guarantees for Rental Securitization [...] So in its waning hours, the Obama Administration gave a completely unjustified bailout to private equity landlords, that Fannie Mae is guaranteeing the income of all but the bottom tranches of Blackstone's latest rental securitization. Let us stress that there is absolutely no policy justification for this. The mission of the government sponsored agencies is to promote home ownership, not to give real estate speculators a 'get out of losses or underwhelming returns for free' card. Even worse, rather than forcing the private equity industry to take some well-deserved lumps for miscalculation, it will encourage them to continue to compete with lower-income prospective homeowners for purchasing properties. That means it will be even more difficult for young people to buy homes. Lambert has pointed out repeatedly in his stats wrap in Water Cooler that real estate markets are suffering from a shortage of homes. Having private equity continue to be on the prowl for lower priced properties that they know they can unload from an economic perspective means that the pauperization of the middle class is now official policy. Even though this guarantee clearly had to have been worked out during the Obama Administration, Blackstone did not make it public until it updated its filing with the SEC this week. It looks an awful lot like the timing was designed to make sure that the disclosure came after the new Trump team was in charge, meaning Obama would be unlikely to face the criticism he deserves, and the Trump Administration would be certain to let the deal stand."

"Donald Trump didn't come up with the list of Muslim countries he wants to ban. Obama did." This is actually a bit of spin, since it was not for the same thing. But: they're not countries that were associated with the 9/11 attackers, they're all countries we've bombed.
* Greenwald, "Trump's Muslim Ban Is Culmination of War on Terror Mentality but Still Uniquely Shameful."

"Army Corps of Engineers Directed To Clear Way For Dakota Access Pipeline: Jan 31 (Reuters) - Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the easement needed to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline, U.S. Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota said in a statement on Tuesday."

"The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion: Conservatives are more likely to support issues like immigration and Obamacare if the message is 'morally reframed' to suit their values."

"The Left Needs to Be a Movement, Not a Bunch of Lobbyists: Democrats have been on a losing streak almost from the moment President Obama was inaugurated and began his program of appeasement and compromise. They lost control of Congress in 2010, and lost the White House last November, because they were not offering American voters a real progressive alternative. For decades now, the party and its elected officials in Washington have been DINOs (Democrats in Name Only). Corporatists as much as their Republican opponents, they have been posing as something different by playing to their base with things like support for gay marriage, support for the unenforceable and purely aspirational Paris Climate Agreement, and support, well, it's actually a pretty short list when you think about what Democrats have been for lately that really rates as progressive. Recall that when President Obama came into office, with a solid Democratic majority in both houses of congress, he had won with a campaign in which he had vowed to restore open constitutional government, to make it easier for unions to organize, to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to kickstart the recession-mired economy with a burst of major deficit spending. He did none of that, and the Democratic Congress did none of it for him either. Obama and the Democrats paid for their lack of decisive progressive action by losing Congress two years later and it's been downhill ever since. Now they've lost the White House too. Unless that party wakes up and realizes that it needs a wholesale makeover, in the form of a return to its progressively assertive New Deal roots, it will lose the Congressional elections in 2018, and it will lose the presidential race in 2020, along with even more state governorships and statehouses (currently 32 of the 50 states are wholly in Republican hands)."

"Hamlet in the Age of Trump: Should Officials Resign When the Government Goes Crazy? This unusual question is presenting itself with urgent regularity as President Trump tries to overturn a wide array of sensible policies in his drive to implement a far-right agenda, including a chaotic travel ban aimed at Muslim immigrants. Yet it's a familiar question to a particular species of government official: those who have resigned to protest deplorable initiatives they disagreed with. The last time it happened on a significant scale was in the early 1990s, and George Kenney was at the epicenter. [...] What should a frustrated civil servant do? In recent weeks, The Intercept interviewed Kenney and the other officials who quit over Bosnia, and to a surprising degree, they generally agreed that dissenting officials should stay in their jobs as long as possible in the Trump administration, working inside the always-powerful machinery of bureaucracy to keep destructive policies from being implemented."

"Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warns, 'It all looks as if the world is preparing for war' [...] 'No problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race,' he continued. 'Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.' Earlier this month, hundreds of U.S. tanks, trucks and troops rolled into eastern Europe as part of a NATO buildup - a move that Russia has rebuked as aggressive Western buildup. Meanwhile, President Trump has reportedly said he wouldn't mind having an arms race and has openly called for America to strengthen its nuclear weapons capacities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said modernizing Russia's strategic nuclear forces is a priority."

"Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Promoting Russian Hacking Story: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh said in an interview that he does not believe the U.S. intelligence community proved its case that President Vladimir Putin directed a hacking campaign aimed at securing the election of Donald Trump. He blasted news organizations for lazily broadcasting the assertions of U.S. intelligence officials as established facts. Hersh denounced news organizations as 'crazy town' for their uncritical promotion of the pronouncements of the director of national intelligence and the CIA, given their track records of lying and misleading the public." It's been pretty disgusting watching Democratic partisans use half-baked talking points and fabrications to try to discredit some of our most reliable reporters of the last 17 years, like Scahill and Greenwald and, yes, sometimes even Hersh. "'It's high camp stuff,' Hersh told The Intercept. 'What does an assessment mean? It's not a national intelligence estimate. If you had a real estimate, you would have five or six dissents. One time they said 17 agencies all agreed. Oh really? The Coast Guard and the Air Force - they all agreed on it? And it was outrageous and nobody did that story. An assessment is simply an opinion. If they had a fact, they'd give it to you. An assessment is just that. It's a belief. And they've done it many times.'"

Chelsea Manning in the Guardian, "Compromise does not work with our political opponents. When will we learn?"

Apparently, the Bannon White House is right about one thing. Turns out the popular president wasn't that popular. Of the last 12 presidents, it's no surprise to see that Kennedy had the highest popularity at the time he "left office" (70.1%), seeing as how he was assassinated and all. But even Johnson (55.1), Clinton (55.1), G.H.W. Bush (60.9%), W (49.4%) and Reagan (52.8%) were more popular than Obama when they left office. Only Ford, Carter, and Truman scored lower. Eisenhower's approval rating was 65% when he left office.

"How Democrats are getting played" - Or so it would seem. So far they are following the same playbook they used to let Scott Walker defeat them. Mass demonstrations are all very nice, but if they don't lead to people going out into the communities and finding a way to talk to strangers about the things they have in common and getting them onside, they end up being worthless.

Michael Hitzik, "Politicians aiming to cut Social Security and Medicare use weasel words to hide their plans. Let's call them on it. [...] We've been particularly wary of plans described as 'fixes' to Social Security and Medicare. As we've observed, these are invariably 'fixes' in the same sense that one 'fixes' a cat. But several other such weasel words surfaced in coverage of the confirmation hearing for Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), President Trump's budget director-designate. NPR reported that Mulvaney 'wants to overhaul' Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. CNN said that he 'wants to overhaul' the programs and believes they 'need revamping to survive' - a journalistic twofer! [...] Let's not allow these euphemisms to obscure Mulvaney's true opinions about these programs. He proposes to raise Social Security's normal retirement age to 70 (it now tops out at 67 for those born in 1960 or later), and to means-test Medicare. These are benefit cuts any way you define them. Mulvaney also has described Social Security as a 'Ponzi scheme,' a term he tried to evade during his Jan. 24 confirmation hearing. He said he was just trying to explain Social Security's cash flow, which 'takes money from people now in order to give money to people now.' That's not a Ponzi scheme. Moreover, that's not a full and accurate description of Social Security's cash flow, which collects money from people now and banks some of it to provide benefits for people in the future. (Do we really want a budget director whose understanding of one of America's most important fiscal programs is so vacuous?)"

Did I mention that MaxSpeak is back? (And while I would never say that demonstrations are useless - they're not - I do want to see people do more than just demonstrate. I'm happy to say that whatever made people numb-out over the last 17 years seems to be evaporating, but you still need to talk to people who don't already agree with you if you want to get something done.)

Alice Speri, "The FBI Has Quietly Investigated White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement: Bureau policies have been crafted to take into account the active presence of domestic extremists in U.S. police departments."

RIP: "Barbara Hale, 'Perry Mason' Actress, Dies at 94" (I liked the picture in this one, but there is a more detailed obit in the Telegraph, and still more with even more pictures in WaPo.) I always did like Della, a rare portrayal of a woman who was smart, competent, and efficient at something beside housekeeping and making dinner. And, of course, I liked it that there was a show on that reminded us every week that the accused is not simply "innocent until proved guilty", but sometimes even actually innocent.
* "Sir John Hurt, legendary British actor who starred in Alien, Harry Potter and Midnight Express, dies aged 77," of pancreatic cancer.
* Dan Spiegle, revered comic artist for almost everyone, at 96. Bleeding Cool has some more art in its write-up.

Dave Langford has posted Tom Shippey's eulogy for Pete Weston at Ansible.

"Should Progressives Let Corporate Democrats Lead and Be the Face Of the Resistance? [...] One of the side effects (or the main effect if you're cynically minded) of the constant and appropriate indictment of Donald Trump's policies is the rapid "disappearing" of those Democratic party actions that set the table for all Trump plans to do. This has two serious consequences. First, it puts neo-liberal, pro-corporate, pro-austerity Democrats first in line if Trump falls from grace and loses the consent of the governed. Which means competing progressive candidates would be mainly out of luck, and if Democrats won, we would likely get back a "fiscally responsible" Democrat who may want, for example, to "trim" Social Security, as Obama tried several times to do, instead of slash it, as Paul Ryan wants to do. [...] Putting austerity-loving Democrats first in line, though, wouldn't make them any more popular than they were the last time, when they lost a presidential squeaker that should have been blowout. And it puts them no closer to control of the House or Senate than they are right now, given their propensity to put up lackluster corporate candidates and kick real progressives to the electoral curb. In other words, putting corporate Democrats first in line to replace Trump is no solution at all from a "real progressive" standpoint - unless, of course, one is fully on board with a promise of incrementalism in a time that still demands rapid change."

Pretty sure the Churchill quote in "How to be a democracy under Trump" is spurious, but it's worth reading anyway.

"Democracy is Not a Team Sport [...] When we are aligned with a particular team, we tend to excuse and rationalize that team's bad behavior, because that team becomes attached to our own ego. We project our beliefs and feelings onto that team and its representative leader. Thus, any attack on the team becomes a personal affront, regardless of the fact that the team seldom cares about us. Consequently, Democrats rarely balked at Bill Clinton's roll-back of welfare, repeal of Glass-Steagall, enactment of an excessively harsh crime bill, passing of NAFTA, and deregulation of the Telecommunications industry. In addition, many Democrats justified or ignored Obama's increase in foreign wars, bail out of Wall Street, expansion of offshore oil drilling, extension of Bush's tax cuts to the wealthy, and promotion of free trade agreements that empower and enrich corporations. There is no direct Republican corollary to the actions of the Democrats because Republicans do not implement policies that would be otherwise considered Democratic. However, what occurs with Republicans is that when confronted with such policies from Clinton and Obama - policies that are inherently Republican in nature - the Republicans reject rather than support them because they originate from the wrong team."

Smart tweet storm by Matt Stoller on how to shape activism.
* Matt Stoller in The Washington Post, "Democrats can't win until they recognize how bad Obama's financial policies were: Two key elements characterized the kind of domestic political economy the administration pursued: The first was the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent bank bailouts. The resulting policy framework of Tim Geithner's Treasury Department was, in effect, a wholesale attack on the American home (the main store of middle-class wealth) in favor of concentrated financial power. The second was the administration's pro-monopoly policies, which crushed the rural areas that in 2016 lost voter turnout and swung to Donald Trump."

Larry E, "Excuses for failures of Democrats continue to come [...] So here's the kicker, the bottom line of what the Clinton campaign and the whole damn self-serving liberal political establishment got wrong: All that talk about the fears and frustrations, all that talk about economic stress, about the loss of things you had counted on, about the loss of hope that your children will have a better life, all that talk doesn't just apply to white people!"

"Game Over for Democrats? [...] Obama created Trump, the man didn't simply appear from the ether. Had Obama acted in good faith and kept his promises to shake up the status quo, end the foreign wars, restore civil liberties, hold Wall Street accountable or relieve the economic insecurity that working families across the country now feel, Hillary Clinton would have been a shoe-in on November 8th. As it happens, Obama made no effort to achieve any of these goals, which is why Hillary was defeated in the biggest political upset of the last century."

Freddie says, "the thing is that we're losing terribly: The thing about the left, whatever that is, is that we tells jokes. That's what we do. And this is what the people who tell jokes can't do: anything else. They can tweet, and they can joke, and they can mock, and they can fav each other's stuff, and they can make their memes and get in their sick burns. But what they can't do is win. All that pride, all that showy pride, that LOLing, that meme-making, that joking, that peacocking, that self-aggrandizing, swaggering style that's ubiquitous in left online circles... it's tied to nothing. No power. No movement. No plan. That's not fatalism. It's barely pessimism. It's a description of the world that, they know themselves, is simply and indisputably true."

Well, maybe using humor to promote a message can have value, as with "The Smothers Brothers: Laughing at Hard Truths." But that was a different president, and a different time. (And they still got kicked off the air for it.)

"It Will be Called Americanism: the US Writers Who Imagined a Fascist Future: From Sinclair Lewis and Philip Roth to Donald Trump's favourite film, Citizen Kane, US culture has long told stories about homegrown authoritarianism. What can we learn from them?"

The precinct captain's guide to political victory. You might need this.

"Signs Democrats Are Rejecting The Gutter Politics Of David Brock & Peter Daou" - I'm not sure I would class Peter with Brock, but I have to admit he has been pretty awful since the beginning of the primaries, and he's still doing it. (Ironically, I noted that in his tweets, he actually took a rare break from trashing voters and pushing the Russian Traitor meme to ask why Senate Democrats weren't standing up to Trump. It was an act of will not to respond.)

"How Author Timothy Tyson Found the Woman at the Center of the Emmett Till Case: With a renewed cultural interest in the 1955 murder that catalyzed the 20th century civil rights movement, an interview with the author of a new book who tracked down the long-hidden woman at its center."

Jimmy Carter in The Onion, "You People Made Me Give Up My Peanut Farm Before I Got To Be President."

"The Best Mary Tyler Moore Episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show" - You can find some of these, or at least the significant scenes, on YouTube if you don't get Hulu. I found the whole of "Oh How We Met on The Night That We Danced", so far.

"Man Photographs Caiman Wearing a Crown of Butterflies in the Amazon"

Kubrick's brainstorms for the title of Dr. Strangelove

OMG, there's an ap for that? Lickster (Looking carefully, I wouldn't say their aim is true, though.)

Nicely done: Blade Runner fan film (11 minutes)