Saturday, January 6, 2018

Epiphany

I seem to have fallen down on posting through December, which means I was mostly a wimp as far as my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas is concerned. Except that my Second Life avatar put up two different Christmas trees this year. But Christmas isn't officially over yet, so here are the traditional Christmas 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 virtuoso performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

For many it is the Epiphany, and for others the final day of Christmas, also known as Twelfthnight. But it's Christmas for the Russian Orthodoxed Christians and for Armenians. My parents would have been in church today, singing "Loor Keeshair", a tune you know.

* * * * *

Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times, "You Cannot Be Too Cynical About the Republican Tax Bill." Nice to see Sirota et al. getting credit for the work they've done on this issue, like this scoop, "Republican Senators Will Save Millions With Special Real-Estate Tax Break."

But Dean Baker says there are some silver linings in this cloud in "The Trump Tax Cuts' Secret Santa. No one should have any doubt about the main impact of the Republican tax cuts. These tax cuts are about giving more money to the richest people in the country. After four decades of the largest upward redistribution in the history of the world, the Republican tax cuts give even more money to the big winners. In TrumpWorld, that makes sense. Instead of spending money to rebuild our infrastructure, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide quality child care or affordable college, we're going to hand more money to Donald Trump and his family and friends. However, even in the cesspool known as the 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,' there are some changes for the better. These are worth noting and expanding upon when saner creatures gain power." I'm sure not going to complain that they doubled the standard deduction. There are also a few other surprises that are such a good idea you wonder how they got there.

Matt Bruenig, "What actually happened in Alabama? [...] But if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones's victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate." Because black turnout and support for the Dem was not much different than in many races where the Dem lost. But whites voted for the Democrat enough to make up for the usual deficit - and it's a big one. "The white share of the electorate is virtually unchanged, but white support for the Democrat changes dramatically, rising all the way to 30 percent in the Jones-Moore election. This white swing towards the Democratic candidate is basically solely responsible for the fact that Jones won rather than losing by over 20 points, which is the typical outcome of a statewide Alabama election that features this level of black turnout."

Lead editorial in Haaretz, "Endless Detention: Israeli jurists and academics should speak out against the military courts' free hand with administrative detention orders, which allow Palestinians to be held without trial and can be renewed indefinitely. Last week the detention without trial of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar was extended by an additional six months. In July, a year after serving 14 months in prison - she had been convicted of incitement and of membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - she was rearrested and placed under administrative detention for six months. [...] But there is room to ask the law schools, the Israel Bar Association, judges and even historians and sociologists to intervene. They must make themselves heard and remind Israeli society that denying a person's freedom without evidence and without a right to defense is one of the characteristics of dictatorships. Only if the voices of these professionals and social figures are heard will generals and military judges stop signing unlimited detention orders so easily."

"J20 Defendants Cleared of Charges in Trump Inauguration Arrests: Six people arrested during protests on Donald Trump's inauguration day and charged with rioting and destruction of property were acquitted Thursday, a good sign for the more 150 other so-called J20 protesters awaiting trial. The verdict, delivered by a D.C. Superior Court jury, followed a four-week trial that saw prosecutors attempt to pin blame for $100,000 worth of property damage on the six protestors. Though they admitted there's no evidence linking the defendants to the property damage, the Justice Department lawyers argued that they were part of the so-called riot anyway."

"Americans Support Expanding Social Security But The GOP is Still Trying To Cut It: Largely unreported in the negativity of this year's election is how united the American people are over Social Security. New data from Public Policy Polling confirms what multiple other polls have found: Irrespective of age, race, gender, or party affiliation, Americans support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. [...] In the real America, grandparents and grandchildren care about each other. American families know that we are stronger together. And the new polling shows that. It reveals that the effort to turn grandparents and grandchildren against each other has failed: 70 percent of 18-29 year olds, 65 percent of 30-45 year olds, 76 percent of 46-65 year olds, and 70 percent of Americans over 65 all support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. The story is very similar when it comes to race: 69 percent of whites, 82 percent of African-Americans, and 79 percent of Latinos are united in support of expansion. Party affiliation, too, makes little difference. The Republican Party has spent decades working to cut and privatize Social Security, but the Party's base disagrees: the majority of Republicans support expanding benefits, as do 87 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Independents."

"Amazon is killing your mailman: Why its Sunday service is a labor travesty: The online retailer's newest service has created an underclass of postal workers. I should know - I'm one of them [...] With the USPS being financially burdened by congressionally mandated pre-funding for retiree healthcare packages (paying 80 plus years in advance at 100% compensation - a burden no private company has had to nor could endure), it has looked to find different avenues to help increase its profitability and fight to stay viable in this 'age of digital mail.' To help combat this huge economic disadvantage - along with the decrease in first-class mail volumes - the USPS management has attempted to implement many different approaches to their problem. They've tried ending Saturday delivery, contemplated neighborhood cluster boxes, which would oust door-to-door delivery, and of course, there's the tried and true elimination of positions, which the USPS has been engaged in since the unprecedented 2006 pre-funding mandate was established. Their latest solution is a relatively new business concept called the negotiated service agreement or NSA."

"Newly-Declassified Documents Show Western Leaders Promised Gorbachev that NATO Would Not Move 'One Inch Closer' to Russia."

Meanwhile, even The Washington Post admits, "There's still little evidence that Russia's 2016 social media efforts did much of anything [...] All of that, though, requires setting aside what we actually know about the Russian activity on Facebook and Twitter: It was often modest, heavily dissociated from the campaign itself and minute in the context of election social media efforts." It was also badly targeted and didn't quite seem to have much of a grasp of what might actually work. For example, who, among Clinton's likely voters, was going to believe, let alone change their vote, over the (laughably false) claim that HRC was "soft" on Iran? Even the Republicans noticed there was something very odd about spending more in Maryland and DC than in any of the swing states Clinton lost. $300 was spent in Pennsylvania? Um, not a lot. And most of this was spent... during the primaries. "Facebook's own public numbers hint at how the ads were weighted relative to the campaign. Ten million people saw ads run by the Russian agents - but 5.6 million of those views were after the election."

"Price of 40-year-old cancer drug hiked 1,400% by new owners: Prices for a cancer drug called lomustine have skyrocketed nearly 1,400 percent since 2013, putting a potentially life-saving treatment out of reach for patients suffering from brain tumors and Hodgkin's lymphoma. Though the 40-year-old medication is no longer protected by patents, no generic version is available."

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "Big Tech: The New Predatory Capitalism: The tech giants are menacing democracy, privacy, and competition. Can they be housebroken? [...] 'What has the greatest collection of humanity and IQ and financial capital been brought together to accomplish?' Galloway asked the crowd. 'To save world hunger? To create greater comity of man? I don't think so. ... Their singular mission, simply put, it's to sell another fucking Nissan.' [...] After an unconscionable period of naive neglect, in which the public was dazzled by tech wizardry, Americans of all stripes have recognized that allowing Silicon Valley to take this much control was dangerous. Polls show the public still likes tech platforms but doesn't trust them. Conservatives think Big Tech stifles their voices; liberals think Big Tech hobbled our competitive economy; both think they've abused power, and both are right. Politics has grown interested in monopolies, and particularly tech monopolies, for the first time in decades."

When the Clintonites aren't busy attacking Bernie, they are busy hating Jill Stein, and now it looks like she's been roped in. "The Senate's Russia Investigation Is Now Looking Into Jill Stein: The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked Green Party candidate Jill Stein's campaign to turn over documents, which Stein is expected to release publicly in the future. Committee chair Richard Burr said investigators are looking into two general election campaigns in addition to the Trump campaign." There's a photograph of Stein sitting at the same table with Putin at an RT dinner, thus "proving" that she was colluding with Putin. Stein says she had hoped to talk to him about her agenda - climate change etc. - but never got the chance to talk to him at all. Jeremy Scahill interviewed Stein on the subject.

James Cardin in The Nation, "Russiagate Is Devolving Into an Effort to Stigmatize Dissent: An amicus brief to a lawsuit filed against Roger Stone and the Trump campaign raises troubling questions over the right to political speech. [...] Much of this has been said before. But where the briefers branch off into new territory is in their attempt to characterize journalism and political speech with which they disagree as acts of subversion on behalf of a foreign power. [...] In other words, a Russian 'cut out' (or fifth columnist) can be defined as those 'activists, academics, journalists, [or] web operators' who dissent from the shared ideology of the 14 signatories of the amicus brief."

"Vacant Units, San Francisco 2015" - "2012 ACS data indicates there are 30,057 vacant homes in San Francisco. A common residents per unit calculation is 2.8 persons, meaning that the city of San Francisco has empty homes capable of housing more than 84,000 more people than it does. [...] According to a 2013 comprehensive report on homelessness by the city of San Francisco, one of the wealthiest cities in the richest nation in the world, contains 6,636 homeless adults and 914 homeless children and transition-age youth, totaling 7,550 homeless persons. The Vacant Homes in San Francisco map yields another irony: two of the districts with the densest numbers of homeless persons also contain the most vacant homes. According to the homelessness report, census tract 6, which includes most of the Tenderloin and SOMA neighborhoods, contains over 3,000 homeless persons, as well as the highest density of vacant homes." One of the more interesting maps I've seen in a while.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest, "Postal Workers And The Public Want A Postal Banking Public Option [...] Until 1967, the Postal Service (then called the Post Office) operated postal banking through the United States Postal Savings System. Reviving postal banking would be like offering a 'public option' for financial services. It would let people have accounts they could use to cash checks, get small loans, pay bills and even get prepaid debit cards. These services would enable lower-income Americans to avoid the exploitative 'payday lenders' and check-cashing 'services' that eat up working people's earnings."

Cornel West says, "Ta-Nehisi Coates is the neoliberal face of the black freedom struggle: The disagreement between Coates and me is clear: his view of black America is narrow and dangerously misleading." He's not wrong, but at The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Opal Tometi say, "Forget Coates vs. West - We All Have a Duty to Confront the Full Reach of U.S. Empire."

"Sessions rescinds Obama-era letter to local courts on fines and fees for poor defendants: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era letter to local courts advising them to be wary of imposing stiff fees and penalties on poor defendants, The Washington Post reports. The move comes as Sessions revokes more than two dozen Justice Department guidance documents going back to the 1990s on various topics, the Post reports."

The War on People Who Aren't the Establishment continues with NPR (Nice Polite Republicans) attacking Lee Camp personally. Why? Because he's on RT America, so he must be a Russian stooge. Mr. Camp responds..

A great response to yet another claim that rich people create jobs, over at Stone Kettle Mountain, making Lemonade: "Every time old rich white men bring up the idea of trickle-down economics, or whatever they call this scam nowadays, the one question that never gets asked is this: Why? Why would rich people create jobs? Why? Why would rich people take their billions and create jobs? Because they're what? Feeling generous all of a sudden? Why? Take the Walton family, their wealth is nearly unimaginable. The amount they'll reap from this tax cut is astronomical. But they already can't spend what they have, even if they live another thousand years. And they don't spend their personal fortune on building new Walmarts anyway, that's what investors are for. And if they did, well, there's nothing stopping them from doing so now, without a tax cut, they've got plenty of money. But they don't. Why? They could use their personal fortune to improve the lot of their employees, but they don't. They could use their fortune to give their employees a living wage, healthcare, benefits, overtime. But they don't. Why? Why should they? What's in it for them? What's the incentive? Altruism? Ha ha! Hilarious. Giving rich people more money just gives rich people more money." The author does not seem to know that the government still has all the money it needs to pay for schools and roads and health care and anything else we need, but on the question of why the rich would create jobs just because we give them more money - well, that's a question that should be asked any time someone suggests that giving them more money would do anything to create jobs.

Susan McWilliams in The Nation, "This Political Theorist Predicted the Rise of Trumpism. His Name Was Hunter S. Thompson [...] What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren't important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics. As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell's Angels, that kind of politics is 'nearly impossible to deal with' using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left."

Last year, Adolph Reed made "The Case Against Reparations: Randall Robinson's argument for pursuit of reparations hinges on this view of the black American population - lucky petit bourgeois people like himself excepted, of course - as defective and in need of moral and psychological repair. The idea resonates with middle class noblesse oblige and a commitment to a racial politics that ensconces a particular guiding role for upper class blacks. Those are, after all, the people who can conduct the finely calibrated analyses that determine what forms and magnitude just compensation should take; they are the people who would stand to administer whatever compromise palliatives are likely to ensue from this activity. But the question of compensation opens a plethora of technical problems. Should payments go to individuals or to some presumably representative corporate entity? If the former, who qualifies as a recipient? Would descendants of people who had been enslaved elsewhere (for instance, Brazil or the Caribbean) be eligible? And what of those no longer legally black people with slave ancestors?" Michael Brooks interviewed Reed about this and other things on The Michael Brooks Show.

Sam Seder did another great interview with David Dayen, about the tax bill and other things, on The Majority Report.

Sammy also did an interesting interview on The Battle for Veterans' Healthcare w/ Suzanne Gordon - illuminating info about America's best health care system - and one that provides data and develops treatments the whole world uses.

ProMarkets tweeted out their hits of the year in a thread that promises some interesting reading, here. I thought this title sounded particularly promising: "The Rise of Market Power and the Decline of Labor's Share: A new paper argues that the decline of the labor and capital shares, as well as the decline in low-skilled wages and other economic trends, have been aided by a significant increase in markups and market power." (Also fascinated by Posner's slow move toward the reality. If he could live long enough, he might be full-on lefty by the time he finished his evolution from the far-right.)

Bernie Sanders, fashion icon, got a gift from his son for Christmas, a parka from a Vermont company. He wore it in the rain to an event (at which other politicians appeared in coats that cost thousands of dollars), but Newsweek spun as "Socialist Bernie Sanders Wears a $700 Jacket While Complaining About Rich People" - picked up straight from the right-wing DailyWire story. (They appear to have only three pictures of Bernie, I see.)

And oh, yeah, California decriminalized recreational marijuana.

RIP: "Erica Garner, Black Lives Matter activist, dies aged 27: Daughter of Eric Garner was in hospital for a week after a heart attack."

RIP: "Rose Marie, actress and showbiz legend, dies at 94." She sang for three presidents (two of whom were dead before I was born, and frankly, I was surprised to learn that Coolidge was still alive in my lifetime), but we all loved Sally Rogers on Dick van Dyke. One day I was watching an old movie and saw her original child star incarnation as Baby Rose Marie. Mark Evanier, of course, has a nice obituary for her, but he's written a lot about her in the past, too (some of it probably still linked on this page). "Like a lot of you, I first became aware of Rose from her appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show. She was great on that program - and while no one thought this way at the time, that was an important role in the history of on-screen females. She wasn't there to play somebody's wife or somebody's mother or somebody's girl friend. She was a full-fledged working woman with a career and an income and a job that was equivalent to a man's. I mean, you just know Sally Rogers got the same money as Buddy Sorrell. Name me another character on TV before her who got equal pay as a guy - or as many good lines. She scored with every one of them."

RIP: This is embarrassing, but I completely missed somehow that Kate Millett died last September at 82, from a heart attack,

"NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport"

"Top 17 Earth From Space Images of 2017 in 4K"

Every time I go back to show someone this video, I find another one. There were really quite a lot of them that I didn't even know about. In some ways it's heartening to see how much creativity they inspired. Wish someone had put them all on TV. Which just proves that "the left" is still good at this, it's just that it's not allowed on TV anymore.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Somebeody's tuggin' at your heartstrings

Bill Moyers says Farewell: "BillMoyers.com will continue to serve as the archive of the television journalism my colleagues and I have produced over the past 44 years. I hope you find it useful. The site will go into archive mode on Wednesday, Dec. 20."

Stiglitz in the Guardian, "Globalisation: time to look at historic mistakes to plot the future: Trade deals were hammered out in secret by multinationals at the expense of workers and citizens. Benefits must be shared if the global economy is to work. [...] To someone like me, who has watched trade negotiations closely for more than a quarter-century, it is clear that US trade negotiators got most of what they wanted. The problem was with what they wanted. Their agenda was set, behind closed doors, by corporations. It was an agenda written by, and for, large multinational companies, at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens everywhere."

Top Pennsylvania Republicans Are Fighting Like Hell To Keep Gerrymandering Secret: Two court cases could reveal how the GOP took over the state's congressional delegation. Two of Pennsylvania's top Republicans are fighting hard to conceal information about how Republicans drew the state's 2011 congressional redistricting plan, now the subject of lawsuits in both state and federal court. At stake is the public's chance to see how Pennsylvania lawmakers in 2011 used technology and detailed voter information to reset the state's electoral map. The voters bringing these cases argue that the districts were deliberately drawn to secure Republicans' domination of the state's congressional delegation and that the process violated the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions."

Matthew Cole and Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept, "Trump White House Weighing Plans for Private Spies to Counter 'Deep State' Enemies: The Trump administration is considering a set of proposals developed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a retired CIA officer - with assistance from Oliver North, a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal - to provide CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House with a global, private spy network that would circumvent official U.S. intelligence agencies, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials and others familiar with the proposals. The sources say the plans have been pitched to the White House as a means of countering 'deep state' enemies in the intelligence community seeking to undermine Donald Trump's presidency. The creation of such a program raises the possibility that the effort would be used to create an intelligence apparatus to justify the Trump administration's political agenda. "

On The Majority Report, Social Reproduction Theory w/ Tithi Bhattacharya.

Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic, "A Police Killing Without a Hint of Racism: Daniel Shaver begged officers not to shoot him. What role will his death play in the push for law-enforcement reforms?" Nothing seems to be able to stop this train. " Even if Black Lives Matter critics were right that police killings in America are not racially suspect, that would not be a sufficient argument against police reforms. It would still remain the case that American police officers kill many more people overall - and many more unarmed and mentally ill people in particular - than do police officers in other democratic countries. Why isn't that enough to warrant serious, systemic reform?" The video hadn't been released at the time the article was written, but if you have the stomach for it, it's here.

"JUST IN: Alabama to Jail Hundreds of Voters for Switching Parties: Alabama just slapped its citizens with nasty news concerning voter fraud. The Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has officially threatened to jail up to 674 Alabamans who he believes committed voter fraud by switching parties for the September 26th run-off election. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed a law in May 2017 prohibiting the act of 'crossover voting.' Crossover voting occurs when voters switch their minds to vote for a candidate who isn't affiliated with their party. Merrill wants to slap all 674 'crossover voters' with the maximum prison sentence of 5 years and a $15,000 fine." They couldn't find any voter fraud so they made their own!

Details of exit poll results on the vote on Roy Moore v. Doug Jones for the Alabama Senate.

"Why Aren't More Democrats Using Anti-Monopoly Arguments In Their Congressional Campaigns?" - featuring a great speech by Senator Warren on the dangers of monopoly and concentration, the history of anti-trust success, and how it literally got Borked..

Tess Townsend, "Can Silicon Valley's Pro-Antitrust Congressman Navigate His Monopoly-Friendly District? [...] So far, Khanna doesn't seem particularly concerned that his comments will offend his constituents. On the antitrust issue that might be the most pressing to Silicon Valley in particular - the AT&T-Time Warner merger, opposition to which observers like investor Mark Cuban say could be turned on Facebook and Google - Khanna has been outspoken: 'Every American should be concerned that a few major corporations control the flow of news and information,' he tweeted in November. 'The AT&T-Time Warner deal must be rejected.' But he said that blocking it shouldn't cause concern for tech companies. 'You cannot compare telecom companies that control access to the internet with those that provide a platform [or] content,' the Democrat told Select All last month."

Pushback from Zephyr Teachout on Al Franken being pushed out of the Senate, "I'm Not Convinced Franken Should Quit: I care passionately about #MeToo. Women are routinely demeaned, dismissed, discouraged and assaulted. Too many women's careers are stymied or ended because of harassment and abuse. In politics, where I have worked much of my adult life, this behavior is rampant. I also believe in zero tolerance. And yet, a lot of women I know - myself included - were left with a sense that something went wrong last week with the effective ouster of Al Franken from the United States Senate. He resigned after a groundswell of his own Democratic colleagues called for him to step down. Zero tolerance should go hand in hand with two other things: due process and proportionality. As citizens, we need a way to make sense of accusations that does not depend only on what we read or see in the news or on social media."

An editor at The Houston Chronicle wrote this remarkable editorial in response to the GOP's tax bill, recommending an alternative plan of his own: "Mintz: A modest tax proposal: End payroll taxes, hire IRS goons and bring back the guillotine [...] Taxes are even more complicated. There are seven different brackets. Under my plan, we'll cut this down to size and replace the whole thing with just one, single easy bracket. All income over $200,000 will be taxed at 95 percent." And replace the estate tax with the guillotine. I like it!

"DNC Unity Commission Agrees On Slate Of Historic Reforms: The Democratic Party comes one step closer to healing the wounds of the 2016 primary."

"Prophecies and politics: How US evangelical Christians pushed for Jerusalem move: Religious conservative groups have lobbied for policy relocating US embassy to Jerusalem from biblical standpoint. [...] President Donald Trump went against the advice of allies and warnings of foes and announced on Wednesday plans to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The US religious right was a driving force behind the move, which left Washington isolated on the world stage, analysts say." Yes, that's right, they want to speed the way to the apocalypse and this is a first step. Israeli leadership is becoming even more belligerent and fascist in the wake of Trump's decision.

Gaius Publius: "Deficit Talk Is a Trap. Will Democrats Fall Into It? A budget surplus on the government side is a budget deficit on the economy's side. - A fact you'll rarely hear spoken on big-donor-owned media. [...] As they did in the 1980s, Republicans are laying a 'deficit trap' for Democrats. As they did before, they're blowing up the budget, then using deficit scares to force Democrats to 'be responsible' about cutting social programs - 'because deficits matter.'"

"There is No Debt to Have a Ceiling: The debt ceiling debate looms once again as Congress paints itself into a familiar corner; feigning horror at the big scary number that records all outstanding government bonds while simultaneously expressing the gravest of concern that a default would be unthinkable, precipitating a global economic catastrophe. Default would, in fact, be an unconscionable act of irresponsibility, because financial default is not possible for the U.S. government unless our politicians foolishly choose to default for no reason. Why? The simple answer is that we issue our own sovereign currency and, as such, we can always afford to make any payment that is due in US dollars. We left the gold standard and global fixed exchange rate system a long time ago - it's time we updated our thinking.
•We have no debt in other nations' currencies.
•We make no promises to convert our currency to other currencies.
•We allow our currency to float in exchange.
•Our central bank, not financial markets, decides how much interest bond holders will receive.

"There Are No Real Republican 'Deficit Hawks.' Here's Why. Strategy: Republicans Create Deficits, Stoke Deficit Fear, Then Campaign Against Government Spending. Here's the thing. There are no real Republican 'deficit hawks.' Republicans stoke deficit fear, and then say they are opposed to budget deficits. But they always, always increase deficits. On purpose. There's a reason."

Jonathan Cohn, "These 27 Democrats Voted to Side with Predatory Billionaires over Low-Income Homeowners: While Senate Republicans worked on finalizing their Christmas gift to the 1 percent, House Republicans took their own steps to reward predatory billionaires. The House today took up the deceptively titled Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, which, contrary to its title, does nothing to preserve access to manufactured housing ('mobile homes'). So what does the bill actually do? First, it changes the definition of a 'mortgage originator' so that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rule on marketing and documenting consumer financial transactions wouldn't apply to mobile home retailers offering credit to borrowers. And second, it would increase the thresholds for specific rates and fees that trigger Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act (HOEPA) protections. This would have exempted more than half of mobile home loans in 2013, according to Consumer Bureau data. In short, it removes vital protections for low-income homeowners to encourage predatory practices by the rich. And one of the biggest culprits is the Warren Buffett, who, contrary to what some Democratic elites like to say, is not your billionaire friend. He's just as predatory as his peers. [...] Maxine Waters hammered this point further in a passionate floor speech: 'This bill makes it easier for financial titans like billionaire Warren Buffett to earn even more profits, at the expense of the most vulnerable consumers in this country.'"

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, "Koch Brothers' Internal Strategy Memo on Selling Tax Cuts: Ignore The Deficit: The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch spent much of the eight years of the Obama presidency stoking fears about the budget deficit. Their political network aired an unending cascade of campaign advertisements against Democratic politicians, sponsored several national bus tours, and paid organizers in communities across the country to mobilize public demonstrations, all focused on the dangers of increasing the deficit. One such ad even warned that government debt would lead to a Chinese takeover of America - which, for many voters, is a concern linked to debt. Another effort, also quietly bankrolled by the Koch network, used Justin Bieber memes to try to reach millennials about too much government borrowing. Now that Republicans control all levers of power in Washington and the Koch brothers are poised to reap a windfall of billions of dollars through tax cuts, they have a new message: Don't worry about the deficit."

David Dayen, "Trump'S Acting Directors Are Quietly Dropping 'Acting' From Their Titles: THE FIGHT OVER the leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is assumed to be about President Donald Trump's intent to deregulate finance. But it's also part of a larger fight about separation of powers and the expanding authority of the executive, made clear by the Trump administration's use, and abuse, of the law the president relied on to attempt to install Mick Mulvaney as acting director. Trump doesn't just want to undermine consumer financial protection with Mulvaney; he wants to end-run the Senate and install unaccountable loyalists throughout the government by executive fiat. Across the government, acting directors who were installed without Senate approval are quietly dropping the 'acting' title from their name, suggesting they have every intention of overstaying their legal welcome."

"Proposed rule would protect employers who steal workers' hard-earned tips: Today the Trump administration took their first major step towards allowing employers to legally take tips earned by the workers they employ. The Department of Labor released a proposed rule rescinding portions of its tip regulations, including current restrictions on 'tip pooling - which would mean that, for example, restaurants would be able to pool the tips servers receive and share them with untipped employees such as cooks and dishwashers. But, crucially, the rule doesn't actually require that employers distribute pooled tips to workers. Under the administration's proposed rule, as long as the tipped workers earn minimum wage, the employer can legally pocket those tips."

"Philadelphia write-in candidate: I won with one vote." Not "by one vote" - with only one vote. "They say that one vote doesn't matter, but I literally wrote in my own name and won an election because I guess no-one else ran/voted for this position."

Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics "Executive Summary: Survey of Young Americans' Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service: 14% of young Americans believe we're generally headed in the right direction."

Fallout: MSNBC, in an unsurprising act of cowardice, let Cernovich's smear campaign against Sam Seder win the day after unearthing an old 2009 tweet in which Sam was sarcastic about liberals who defended Roman Polanksi's involvement with underaged girls on the grounds that he was a great filmmaker. "MSNBC to Cut Ties With Sam Seder After Roman Polanski Rape Joke (Exclusive): MSNBC has decided not to renew its contract with contributor Sam Seder after an old tweet emerged in which Seder joked about Roman Polanski raping his daughter, TheWrap has learned. Seder's contract ends in February and he has no scheduled appearances between now and then, a spokesperson for MSNBC told TheWrap. 'Don't care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene,' wrote Seder in the now deleted tweet from 2009." But there was outrage from almost everyone from New York Magazine ("Sam Seder's Firing Proves, Once Again, That Corporations Like MSNBC Can't Stop Getting Rolled by the Far Right"), so MSNBC reversed itself and offered Sammy his job back, which he accepted, appearing on the network again that very night.

"FOIA Docs Show FDA's Data on Kratom Deaths is Complete Propaganda: As the FDA fearmongers over alleged Kratom associated deaths, documents on these deaths reveal that the American people are being lied to. [...] But that's not all, as TFTP reported last month, in order to understand why this push for a ban is happening, we can simply look at who is spearheading it: FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb. For those unaware, before he was appointed as the commissioner of the FDA, Gottlieb was a resident fellow at the neoconservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute. AEI has long pushed for the war in and US occupation of Afghanistan - which, since the US invasion, has become the world's number one source of poppies. AEI's officers and board members are made up of warmongers like Dick Cheney, as well as Big Pharma insiders like Raymond Gilmartin, former CEO of Merck & Co., and mega bankers like Harvey Golub, the retired chairman and CEO of the American Express Company."

One of the ways life could be better is if the DCCC Dems would stop protecting one of the most odious Republicans in Congress. "Can A Progressive Former Marine Colonel Dislodge Republican Crook Darrell Issa? The slimiest of California's "Democratic" political consultants, slate vendor and ping-pong player Parke Skelton, is being paid a great deal of money to undermine Doug Applegate, in effect, guaranteeing that Darrell Issa retains his seat. I don't know exactly who's paying him but first, let's look at a little background. Issa, a former car thief and the richest member of Congress, was first elected in 2000. [...] The DCCC had never been remotely interested in challenging Issa and has studiously avoided the district. In 2014 the candidate was Dave Peiser and Issa creamed him 98,161 (60.2%) to 64,981 (39.8%) a race that saw Issa spending $1,749,467 to Peiser's $85,321. The DCCC spent zero, as usual. But last year a remarkable candidate jumped in against Issa, former Marine Colonel Doug Applegate. The DCCC ignored, ignored, ignored... until Applegate started raising some real money and making some significant headway in the polls. The DCCC kept waiting and watching and making nice noises about Applegate. [...] Applegate and his grassroots army of supporters decided early to finish what they had started and defeat Issa in 2018. However several multimillionaires have other ideas, thinking it looked so easy. One Pelosi crony who never lifted a finger to defeat Issa, a transplanted failed politician and fixer from Virginia, Ira Lechner, persuaded a friend of his, Mike Levin, to run. Members of Skeltons staff say it is Lechner who has been paying Skelton to undermine Applegate, primarily by having Levin run around with Issa's discredited opposition smears as though they were new."

"Orange County's Informant Scandal Yields Evidence of Forensic Science Deception in Murder Trials [...] 'Should it really take an informant scandal to find out that the key forensic expert in two murder cases switched her opinion?' Sanders asked. 'It's been almost 10 years since Hong did this, so obviously, she was content to let these defendants die in prison without ever revealing what she had done. It's beyond sick. [In] how many other cases has she adjusted her opinion so it could work for the prosecution?'"

"When Buying Prescription Drugs, Some Pay More With Insurance Than Without It: As insurers ask consumers to pay a greater share of their drug costs, it may be cheaper to pay cash than use your insurance card. One expert estimates that consumers could be overpaying for as many as 1 in 10 prescriptions."

"Destruction Of Black Wealth During The Obama Presidency: The People's Policy Project is proud to release its first formal paper. Co-authored by Ryan Cooper and Matt Bruenig and designed by Jon White, it uses data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to track the evolution of African-American wealth during the Obama presidency, and how that wealth was affected by housing policy choices made by the administration. The paper finds that while President Obama had wide discretion and appropriated funds to relieve homeowners caught in the economic crisis, the policy design his administration chose for his housing program was a disaster. Instead of helping homeowners, at every turn the administration was obsessed with protecting the financial system - and so homeowners were left to drown."
* Bruenig and Cooper, "How Obama Destroyed Black Wealth: The nation's first African-American president was a disaster for black wealth."
* Ryan Cooper discusses the paper on The Dig.

"Palestinians recognize Texas as part of Mexico: JERUSALEM - In response to US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, the Palestinian National Authority has announced that it will recognize Texas as a state of Mexico since it was violently annexed by the United States in the 1840s."

"Bernie Sanders hits the trail again, this time to fight GOP tax bill

"Bernie Sanders nominated for a Grammy: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) could be adding Grammy winner to his resumé - the 2016 White House hopeful just garnered his first Grammy nomination. The former presidential candidate and actor Mark Ruffalo were nominated Tuesday in the spoken word category for the audiobook of Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, Sanders's 2016 tome."

"Annie Lennox first female chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian: Singer-songwriter and social activist Annie Lennox is to become the first ever female Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. Lennox will succeed anti-poverty and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus in the position on Friday. The role of Chancellor involves formal and ceremonial duties, conferring degrees on students and supporting and promoting the University's ambitions and vision. The university said Lennox, who has been honoured for her humanitarian work, 'embodies the mission and values of Glasgow Caledonian University'.The former Eurythmics singer said she is looking forward to the role."

Karen Bernal, Pia Gallegos, Sam McCann, and Norman Solomon, "Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis"

"Australia Seeks New Gag Laws That Could See Journalists And Whistleblowers Jailed for 20 Years: Organisations such as WikiLeaks and disclosures from whistleblowers like Edward Snowden appear to be the target."

"The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened." One reason I don't even bother to report on the Russia story is that not a lot that shows up in the news turns out to be true. This week everyone from CNN to Josh Marshall fell for another fake bombshell.

Oops! "Newspaper's Botched Front Page Goes Down In Headline History"

RIP: "Former religion professor, activist John Raines dies at 84: The professor emeritus served as a religion professor for nearly 50 years and was most known for breaking into an FBI field office in 1971. [...] Raines and other political activists - including his wife Bonnie Raines - broke into an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1971. The group, which named itself the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, stole documents that would expose the abuse within J. Edgar Hoover's FBI administration, and John Raines drove the getaway car, The Temple News reported in 2014. The stolen documents included information about COINTELPRO, the FBI's domestic surveillance operation to spy on prominent political organizers and sabotage any 'anti-government' movements, The Temple News reported in 2014."

RIP: "Johnny Hallyday, the 'French Elvis', dies at 74

Umair Haque, "The Life and Death of an Economy: How Economies Commit Suicide, Starring America and Britain as Romeo and Juliet [...] Today, the UK - we'll get to the US, the world, and the future, but let's begin here - released some genuinely stunning economic 'numbers.' It forecast the economy basically never to grow again, and for incomes not to rise to 2008 levels until 2028. But of course the contradiction is that if the economy will never grow again, then incomes are hardly likely to rise, so we are seeing the death of a modern economy. But it isn't the first, it is the second: the first death was the USA, which is now something like a post-economic country, nominally rich, but plagued by things like mass school shooting and medical bankruptcies, which don't even happen really in Delhi or Bangkok."

"Cornel West Doesn't Want to Be a Neoliberal Darling: After nearly a year of the Trump presidency, do you regret your criticisms of Barack Obama? Oh, no. I told the truth. When I said drone strikes are crimes against humanity, when I said Obama bailed out Wall Street rather than Main Street - I shall forever support that. I was just speaking to the reality that people are hurting, and we have to do the same thing under Trump as we did under Obama."

"Robert Reich: How Clinton and Obama Failed to Defend the Middle Class: Reich told IBT that the Democratic Party 'is just a big fundraising machine' and its failure to fix the economy helped Donald Trump win the White House."

Kevin Carty, Leah Douglas, Lina Khan, and Matt Stoller in New York Magazine, "6 Ideas to Rein in Silicon Valley, Open Up the Internet, and Make Tech Work for Everyone:
- 1. Stop Facebook From Spying on Its Competitors
- 2. Jail Bosses Who Use Contracts to Lock Down Workers
- 3. Stop Amazon From Selling Books - or Anything Else - Below Cost
- 4. Stop Mastercard From Robbing Main Street
- 5. Stop Amazon From Selling Groceries
- 6. Stop Google From Steering You to Its Own Apps

Erik Erikson was on Twitter babbling some phony biblical rationalization of the rich getting to keep all the money. Someone posted a link to "Caring for the Poor is Government's Biblical Role" in response.

The NYT did a feature on Richard Avedon's photos from the civil rights era.

Atrios linked to a song called "Eschaton." His readers disagreed on its quality. I kinda liked it.

I don't know if FireRTC works over here, but across the pond it gives you free phone calls "to any US, Puerto Rican, or Canadian cell phone or land line!" I'd like to use it, since it doesn't require the person you're calling to be using the same service, and it also sends an identifier to your recipient instead of "unknown". The call recorder is part of it, rather than an add-on, as well. It looks like I may be able to use it to call other FireRTC users, though. Doesn't say anything about from.

"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour at 50: The Rise and Fall of a Groundbreaking Variety Show"

It's been 20 years. "The Day Frank Zappa Died"

This is cute: "Muslim attacks four British youth."

"Comic Book Covers Recreated Using Balloons"

Here's a little tune I found on YouTube: "Fire Is Ours"

Monday, November 27, 2017

I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time

It may surprise you to know that the only thing I have to say right now about all the sexual harassment scandals is that FOR GOD'S SAKE CONGRESS IS DESTROYING OUR ECONOMIC SYSTEM, OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM, AND THE INTERNET, AND WTF ARE YOU PEOPLE PLAYING AT?!?!?!?!, but here's that old Saturday Night Live Anita Hill hearings clip, which never really seemed that funny to me, but I'd already heard Lenny Bruce talking about how the prosecutors and judges at his obscenity trial seemed to be going out of their way to keep repeating the words he was being prosecuted for saying.. No, wait, I think I pretty much agree with Atrios. The world is full of people who make annoying jokes. In fact, the world is full of people who make annoying jokes you've had to put up with on a weekly basis as if they are the first person you've ever heard that joke from. They make these jokes if you are tall or short, skinny of fat, voluptuous or flat, and every damn time they think it's a big chortle. But resigning just because the opposition party wants you out of the way (because you are effective!) misses the whole point of that "democracy" thing, and god knows we've got precious little of that left.

Interestingly, even Forbes is worried. "GOP Tax Bill Is The End Of All Economic Sanity In Washington: If it's enacted, the GOP tax cut now working its way through Congress will be the start of a decades-long economic policy disaster unlike any other that has occurred in American history." They're right that the bill is insane, but they really don't seem to be worried about the right things. Everyone who points out that the bill will enlarge the deficit is right, of course, but the deficit isn't what matters. What matters is an even greater transfer of wealth from the American people to the top 0.001% and their ability to accumulate it endlessly.

"Detained Saudi Arabia princes are being tortured by American mercenaries, UK paper claims: In a recent crackdown ordered by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, some of the country's most powerful figures were arrested this month. The Saudi elite -- princes and billionaire businessmen -- recently arrested in a power grab are reportedly being tortured and thrashed by American private security contractors, according to a report by Daily Mail." You can find the Daily Mail's original story here if you want to, but it's the Daily Mail..

Eric Schneiderman, "An Open Letter to the FCC [...] Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC's notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers' and other Americans' identities. Such conduct likely violates state law - yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed." Hm, I wonder who could have fabricated those comments, because there just aren't that many people who favor repeal of net neutrality.
* WaPo, "Investigation of fake net neutrality foes has been stymied by the FCC, New York attorney general says."

"Verizon and the Death of the Internet: There are two stories here, one about net neutrality - which Trump's FCC is about to terminate - and one about a corruption of the process by which the FCC arrives that decision."

Michael Hiltzik, "The chained CPI: Another secret tax hike for the middle class slipped into the GOP tax bills." Yes, it's back.

"A Conservative Plan to Weaponize the Federal Courts: Even though there's been nothing subtle about the current push to fill dozens of judicial vacancies kept open by the Republican-controlled Senate during the final years of the Obama administration, a document now making the rounds inside the Beltway is head-snapping. It is a proposal by a leading conservative constitutional scholar to double or even triple the number of authorized judgeships on the federal Courts of Appeals, now fixed by law at 179. Why so many, and why now? The author, Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor at Northwestern University, a founder and the current board chairman of the conservative Federalist Society, declares his goal boldly: 'undoing the judicial legacy of President Barack Obama.'"

This article in The Atlantic looks at "The Very Bad Arguments for Killing the Estate Tax" and then takes a side trip into silly arguments for ending it before returning to the case against ending it. But it doesn't say that billionaires need to be taxed out of existence as quickly as possible, not allowed to build dynasties that control the government.

Jordan Weissmann at Slate, "The Most Egregious Gift to the Wealthy In the Republican Tax Plan." But this is pretty egregious: "Killing the estate tax is an egregious move on its own. There is little to no economic rationale for it - some economists have argued the tax discourages savings by the wealthy on the margins and could hurt investment, but that's not really much of a public policy concern when the capital markets are flooded with money. Meanwhile, nixing the tax will allow wealth to concentrate in the hands of the richest families while discouraging charitable bequests. It's a win for the top 0.1 percent, at the expense of philanthropy and the federal budget. But when you drill down to the specifics of the GOP's plan, it looks even worse. While they do away with the estate tax, Republicans would leave in place the rules that currently spare heirs from paying capital gains taxes when they sell off the assets they inherit. Essentially, they're turning death into a supercharged tax avoidance strategy for country's most loaded families."

"St. Louis police shut down entire mall to violently arrest black lawmaker for protesting racial injustice: Police in St. Louis shut down a large shopping mall on 'Black Friday' to arrest activists protesting police violence. The arrests included a state Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. (D), a black lawmaker who could be heard screaming in pain in video that shows multiple officers on top of the handcuffed lawmaker, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported."

"When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work: Twenty states suspend people's professional or driver's licenses if they fall behind on loan payments, according to records obtained by The New York Times."

David Dayen at The Intercept, "A Week After Virginia Election Sweep, Democrats Join Republicans for More Bank Deregulation [...] The measure would roll back several key financial regulations, including sections of the Dodd-Frank Act. It does so under the cover of offering consumer protections and coming to the aid of community banks - though the financial institutions that benefit have not-so-obscure names, like American Express, SunTrust, and BB&T. Four Banking Committee Democrats - Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Mark Warner, D-Va. - negotiated the bill with committee chair Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, after ranking Democrat Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, broke off talks on a compromise bill with Crapo just last month. Warner's Virginia colleague Tim Kaine, last year's vice presidential nominee, signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill, along with Joe Manchin D-W.Va., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Gary Peters D-Mich., and Angus King, I-Maine, who caucuses with Democrats. The Democratic support would give the legislation enough support to break a filibuster, if all Republicans signed on."

"The Pig That Burst The Keystone Pipeline: Yesterday, the Keystone pipeline cracked and dumped 210,000 gallons of oil onto the South Dakota prairie. Here's the reason the pipeline burst: the PIG didn't squeal. The PIG, the Pipeline Inspection Gauge, is sent through the Keystone to check for evidence of any leak, failure, or corrosion that will cause it to burst. But the PIG didn't squeal a warning. Why not? Because, as disclosed in my investigation for Britain's investigative TV series Dispatches in 2010, the PIG has been silenced, its software jacked and hacked by a company that provides PIGS. The software is deliberately set to reduce the warning signals and thereby cut costs of replacement and repair by billions of dollars on the Keystone and other pipes."

"The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers. And you can be sure this is about letting Sinclair take over the spectrum.

NYT: "He's a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name." This may be one of my favorite headlines. Remember Dana Rohrabacher posing with the Taliban?

Jeff Spross in The Week, "Killing the AT&T-Time Warner deal would be radical. Good. Let's do it. On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department officially filed a lawsuit to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The two sides may still eventually settle out of court. But it sounds like they're headed for trial. AT&T general counsel David McAtee declared the lawsuit a "radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent." He's right. But in a just world, the DOJ should prevail. This merger should be killed."

"Will Wendy's Help Protect Farmworkers From Sexual Violence? Wendy's has chosen to source tomatoes and other produce from Mexico, including from firms with a known history of human rights violations."

"Serving Extra Years in Prison, and the Courthouse Doors Are Closed: WASHINGTON - It is one thing for a new administration to switch sides in a legal dispute. That is merely unusual. It is another to urge the Supreme Court to deny review in a case that would test whether the government's new position is correct. In a Supreme Court brief filed last month, the Justice Department tried to have it both ways. It told the justices that it no longer believed that some federal prisoners serving longer prison terms than the law allowed were entitled to challenge their sentences in court." It's hard to believe this is even a question. I mean, yes, even now, it's hard to believe.

David Dayen in The Nation, "The Trump Administration Had 1 Real Wall Street Cop - and He Just Quit: Richard Cordray's departure is a loss for consumers, but may be Ohio's gain."

The Talking Dog has done another interview with another frustrated individual who has tried to ameliorate the disaster of Guantanamo, Mark Fallon: "In his more than thirty years as an NCIS special agent and counterintelligence officer, Mark Fallon has investigated some of the most significant terrorist operations in US history, including the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Soon after the September 11th attacks, Fallon was named Deputy Commander of the newly formed Criminal Investigation Task Force (CITF), created to probe the al-Qaeda terrorist network and bring suspected terrorists to trial. Mr. Fallon is the author of Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, where he describes his experience in his role with CITF, and makes a number of other observations from his unique perspective, including the evolution of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) into the American interrogation program and his and others' heroic efforts of many to thwart it that were ultimately not successful. On November 10, 2017, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Fallon by e-mail exchange."

"America Is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People: A new book reveals that the U.S. is becoming two distinct countries, with separate economies, politics and opportunities. [...] The two sectors, notes Temin, have entirely distinct financial systems, residential situations and educational opportunities. Quite different things happen when they get sick or when they interact with the law. They move independently of each other. Only one path exists by which the citizens of the low-wage country can enter the affluent one, and that path is fraught with obstacles. Most have no way out."

'Hasidic Brooklyn Neighborhood Has Lead Poisoning Rates Triple That of Flint, Michigan: Since last year, Reuters has obtained neighborhood-level blood lead testing results for 34 states and the District of Columbia. This data allows the public its first hyper-local look at communities where children tested positive for lead exposure in recent years. The newly identified communities with high rates of elevated childhood lead levels include a historic district in Savannah, Georgia, areas in Rutland, Vermont, near the popular skiing mountain Killington, and a largely Hasidic Jewish area in Brooklyn. The areas where the most children tested high are in Brooklyn, including neighborhoods with historic brownstones and surging real estate values, where construction and renovation can unleash the toxin. The worst spot - with recent rates nearly triple Flint's - was in a Hasidic Jewish area with the city's highest concentration of small children."

Max Blumenthal asks an interesting question about the push by The Washington Post and others to treat RT America as a foreign agent when APAIC isn't.

"Rent controls promote stability: Housing security leads to healthier neighbourhoods and tenants."

Matt Stoller in 2012 on Why Politicians Don't Care That Much About Reelection: Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows. Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office. It's all about their job. This is 100% wrong. The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important. What matters is post-election employment. It's all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations. If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that's a threat to your post-election employment prospects. This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity - he's looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices. Running as a vague populist is manageable, as long as you're lying to voters. If you actually go after powerful interests while in office, then you better win, because if you don't, you'll have basically nowhere to go. And if you lose, but you were a team player, then you'll have plenty of money and opportunity. The most lucrative scenario is to win and be a team player, which is what Bill and Hillary Clinton did. The Clinton's are the best at the political game - it's not a coincidence that deregulation accelerated in the late 1990s, as Clinton and his whole team began thinking about their post-Presidential prospects."

RIP: "David Cassidy, 'Partridge Family' Star, Dies at 67." I was strangely saddened by this, although he'd been ill and was also suffering from dementia. He'd had problems with drinking and his liver got him. But looking at his picture, I remembered how pretty he was. how he could sometimes blast exuberant life out of the TV screen. He had come from a showbiz family (Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones) and made his name in a show that was based on another showbiz family (The Cowsills), but you forgot all that when you saw him bouncing around on screen.

RIP: "AC/DC Guitarist Malcolm Young Dies at 64," so soon after the death of his brother George, leaving Angus as the surviving Young brother involved with the band.

Judging by the messes we make when we cut cakes around here, maybe we could use one of these.

The Ealing Club, "The club where The Who first rocked"

Blind Faith, "Can't Find My Way Home" (electric)

Monday, November 13, 2017

I'd give you everything I got for a little peace of mind

At the polls, it was a good night for Dems.

"Democrats make significant gains in Virginia legislature; control of House in play: The Democratic wave in Virginia on Tuesday wiped out the Republican majority in the state House of Delegates, throwing control of the chamber in play for the first time since 2000 and putting Republicans in blue-tinged districts across the country on alert for next year's elections. Democrats snared at least 15 seats in an upset that stunned members of both parties and arrived with national implications."

Manassas: "Democratic Socialists Just Won a Huge Victory in Virginia: Lee Carter's (D) election victory was a shocking upset for experts, who predicted that Republican incumbent Jackson Miller would likely win. Carter ran unapologetically on pursuing a single payer healthcare system for Virginia and limiting corporate influence in politics, echoing policy positions taken by Sen. Bernie Sanders in last year's Democratic primary. Carter, an IT specialist and Marine veteran, now represents Virginia's 50th District, which includes the city of Manassas and part of Prince William County." Miller was the VA House Majority Whip, so that's a big shot Republican he ousted.
* "How a Socialist Beat One of Virginia's Most Powerful Republicans: Is Lee Carter's shocking victory a sign of things to come across America?"

"Democratic Socialism Is Having a Very Good Year at the Ballot Box: They're singing 'Solidarity Forever' and winning elections in states across the country. [...] From Peekskill, New York, to Moorhead, Minnesota, from to Pleasant Hill, Iowa, to Knoxville, Tennessee, and Billings, Montana, DSA-backed candidates won town-council and city-council seats, school-board seats, and even a judgeship. The list of democratic-socialist victories was striking - the longest in decades. But it was not unprecedented."

"First Two Latinas Are Elected to Virginia House of Delegates, Making History: Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala became the first Latinas elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, part of a Democratic sweep in the state."

"Virginia elects transgender woman to state legislature: Danica Roem, a former journalist and member of heavy metal band, beats Republican who sponsored bathroom bill."

Virginia Election Results: Northam Defeats Gillespie in Governor Race: Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, won a decisive victory in the race for governor of Virginia, defeating his Republican rival, Ed Gillespie, on Tuesday. Mr. Northam was propelled by liberal and moderate voters who were eager to send a message to President Trump in a state that rejected him in 2016 and where he is deeply unpopular." 53.9% to 45.0.

"Democrat Vi Lyles makes history in Charlotte mayoral win: Casting herself as a unifier after two years of tumult, Democrat Vi Lyles easily defeated Republican Kenny Smith on Tuesday to become Charlotte's first African-American female mayor. Lyles took about 58 percent to Smith's 42 percent in unofficial returns. She carried precincts throughout the city, including a handful in south Charlotte. Despite being heavily outspent, she won on a night Democrats flexed their muscles not only in Charlotte but in Virginia and New Jersey, where they swept state races."

In Philly, "'Completely Unelectable' Progressive Larry Krasner Wins DA's Race: He beat Republican Beth Grossman by more than 40 percentage points. [...] Most of Krasner's opponents, including Grossman, were longtime prosecutors. Krasner, on the other hand, has never worked for the DA's office a day in his life. He is a civil rights and defense attorney who has represented Black Lives Matter and Occupy Philly. He's also sued the police department and City Hall more than 75 times, and promised never to seek the death penalty or bring cases based on illegal searches. Krasner once joked that he'd 'spent a career becoming completely unelectable.'"

"How did Democrat Phil Murphy win the New Jersey gubernatorial race? Democrat Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey with strong support from his party's base, including women, younger voters, and by making inroads with some less traditionally Democratic groups, such as independents and white voters. Murphy defeated the state's lieutenant governor, Republican Kim Guadagno, who was hurt by her association with current Governor Chris Christie, CBS News exit polling shows."

"Democrat Phil Murphy Wins New Jersey Governor Race: He'll inherit Chris Christie's beach house."

"In a City of Firsts, Hoboken Elects a Sikh as Mayor [...] And now the city of some 55,000 people on the Hudson River can boast another first: Councilman Ravi Bhalla on Tuesday became the first Sikh elected mayor in New Jersey, and one of only a few Sikhs to become mayor of an American city."

A few more highlights: Democrats also made significant down-ballot gains in Virginia. Justin Fairfax won the lieutenant governor's against Republican Jill Holtzman Vogel, a state senator known for her sponsorship of a 2012 bill that would have required women seeking abortions to undergo vaginal ultrasounds. Social issues were prominent in another statewide race, where Democratic attorney general Mark Herring defeated Republican challenger John Adams, who has hit Herring for his refusal to defend Virginia's same-sex marriage ban in court. And Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker was the Virginia TV reporter killed on live television in 2015, won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates"

"Election Night 2017 Was Defined By Progressive Victories & Twitter Is Ecstatic."

"The Secret to Progressives' Electoral Success? They didn't just say NO to Trump, they offered a serious, affirmative agenda." Some really great victory stories here, including a lefty winning in a town most people would assume would be red forever.

Mike Lux, "Democrats Face an Intersection: We Won Big, Thank Goodness: But How Do We Keep It Going? [...] An economic populism with a bold agenda that doesn't ignore the needs of either communities of color or white working class folks, that is conscious and purposeful in reaching out to and embracing both, is the path that leads to Democrats to victory in the years to come. But Democrats face an intersection: we can embrace this path forward together, or we can continue to chase moderate voters and kowtow to the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The former can lead us to a lot more victories in 2018 and 2020, the latter will keep us stuck in the past."

* * * * *

"A Billionaire Destroyed His Newsrooms Out of Spite It is worth being clear about exactly what happened here, so that no one gets too smug. DNAinfo was never profitable, but Mr. Ricketts was happy to invest in it for eight years, praising its work all along. Gothamist, on the other hand, was profitable, and a fairly recent addition to the company. One week after the New York team unionized, Mr. Ricketts shut it all down. He did not try to sell the company to someone else. Instead of bargaining with 27 unionized employees in New York City, he chose to lay off 115 people across America. And, as a final thumb in the eye, he initially pulled the entire site's archives down (they are now back up), so his newly unemployed workers lost access to their published work. Then, presumably, he went to bed in his $29 million apartment. Of all the lies spouted during the DNAinfo-Gothamist anti-union campaign, none was more transparent than a spokeswoman's assertion that the union was a 'competitive obstacle making it harder for the business to be financially successful.' The company never made money before it was unionized, but more important, the new union hadn't made a single demand yet." That's the NYT opinion piece - the news story is "DNAinfo and Gothamist Are Shut Down After Vote to Unionize."

"House to vote on giving Amazon $53 billion deal to become main Pentagon supplier: Members of the US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services committees announced Wednesday that they have reached agreement on the proposed $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense spending bill. This astronomical figure - an $80 billion increase over spending in 2016 and roughly $26 billion more than was requested by President Donald Trump - is a clear signal that the US will expand its ongoing wars around the world and is preparing to engage in far broader conflicts potentially involving North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China."

Elizabeth Warren Warns: Navient Deal A Danger To Student Loan Borrowers: U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren warned Wednesday that the nation's largest student loan servicer has positioned itself to stealthily strip consumer protections from unwitting borrowers across the country. In an interview with International Business Times, she also said the loan servicer, Navient, should not be permitted to be a government contractor handling student loans on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education. The Massachusetts Democrat was sounding an alarm about Navient's recent acquisition of online lender Earnest. She said the transaction opened up the possibility that the company will try to boost its profits by selling debtors on refinancing their current federal student loans with the company's own private loans - the kind that she said to do not necessarily permit income-based repayment options."

"With New D.C. Policy Group, Dems Continue to Rehabilitate and Unify With Bush-Era Neocons: One of the most under-discussed yet consequential changes in the American political landscape is the reunion between the Democratic Party and the country's most extreme and discredited neocons. While the rise of Donald Trump, whom neocons loathe, has accelerated this realignment, it began long before the ascension of Trump and is driven by far more common beliefs than contempt for the current president. A newly formed and, by all appearances, well-funded national security advocacy group, devoted to more hawkish U.S. policies toward Russia and other adversaries, provides the most vivid evidence yet of this alliance. Calling itself the Alliance for Securing Democracy, the group describes itself as 'a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative' that 'will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors' efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions,' and also 'will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin's ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.' [...] Democrats often justify this union as a mere marriage of convenience: a pragmatic, temporary alliance necessitated by the narrow goal of stopping Trump. But for many reasons, that is an obvious pretext, unpersuasive in the extreme. This Democrat/neocon reunion had been developing long before anyone believed Donald Trump could ascend to power, and this alliance extends to common perspectives, goals, and policies that have little to do with the current president."

"What are the Paradise Papers? The Paradise Papers are a huge leak of financial documents that throw light on the top end of the world of offshore finance. A number of stories are appearing in a week-long expose of how politicians, multinationals, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals use complex structures to protect their cash from higher taxes. As with last year's Panama Papers leak, the documents were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which called in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to oversee the investigation. BBC Panorama and the Guardian are among the nearly 100 media groups investigating the papers. The Paradise Papers name was chosen because of the idyllic profiles of many of the offshore jurisdictions whose workings are unveiled, including Bermuda, the HQ of the main company involved, Appleby. It also dovetails nicely with the French term for a tax haven - paradis fiscal. Then again, the Isle of Man plays a big part." Hmm, it seems Charles has been a naughty boy.

"UN: Yemen facing massive famine if blockade not lifted: Millions of people will die in Yemen, in what will be the world's worst famine crisis in decades, unless a Saudi-led military coalition ends a devastating blockade and allows aid into the country, the United Nations has warned." The media is either ignoring complete or misrepresenting this situation, because the bad guys in this story are the US, the UK, and our good buddies in Saudi Arabia.

Thomas Frank, "Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires? [...] For decades Americans have lashed out against taxation because they were told that cutting taxes would give people an incentive to work harder and thus make the American economy flourish. Our populist leaders told us this - they're telling us this still, as they reform taxes in Washington - and they rolled back the income tax, they crusaded against the estate tax, and they worked to keep our government from taking action against offshore tax havens. In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person's freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire's freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours."

Bernie Sanders in Politico, "How to Fix the Democratic Party: It's time we come together to enact real reform - only then can we defeat Donald Trump and retake the country. [...] An economic populism with a bold agenda that doesn't ignore the needs of either communities of color or white working class folks, that is conscious and purposeful in reaching out to and embracing both, is the path that leads to Democrats to victory in the years to come. But Democrats face an intersection: we can embrace this path forward together, or we can continue to chase moderate voters and kowtow to the 1% at the expense of everyone else. The former can lead us to a lot more victories in 2018 and 2020, the latter will keep us stuck in the past."

Salon, "Bernie Sanders: To reform the party, Democrats must split from corporate America: Sanders said the Democrats must reform the party and primary process, and not rely on wealthy donors to beat Trump,"

Meanwhile, from the Department of Doubling Down on Stupid: "Joe Biden Positions Himself as the 'Anti-Bernie': Biden, like many mainstream liberal Democrats, seems intent upon not understanding the real lessons of 2016." I still would argue with that "liberal" label. Biden has been a handmaiden of the aristocracy for some time. "By failing to formulate an alternative to the failed foreign and economic policies of the past, which he has done much (more than most politicians) to shape, Biden showed that he remains wedded to the tenets of liberal interventionism and free-trade orthodoxy that have served the citizens of this country so poorly over the past quarter-century."

* * * * *

"Donna Brazile's bombshell about the DNC and Hillary Clinton, explained: A former Democratic National Committee chair on Thursday revealed the existence of a previously secret agreement that appeared to confirm some of Bernie Sanders supporters' fears about the 2016 Democratic primary. Donna Brazile, a longtime Clinton ally who stepped in as DNC chair last year in the wake of Debbie Wasserman Schultz's resignation, published an excerpt of her upcoming book in Politico in which she disclosed the details of a fundraising agreement between the DNC and the Clinton campaign reached in August 2015. 'The agreement - signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and [Clinton campaign manager] Robby Mook with a copy to [Clinton campaign counsel] Marc Elias- specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party's finances, strategy, and all the money raised,' Brazile wrote in the story under the headline 'Inside Hillary Clinton's Secret Takeover of the DNC.' Brazile added of the deal: '[Clinton's] campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.'" Naturally, she's getting the hate treatment from the Clintonians, and mostly for saying things that are true, or for things she didn't say at all.

Elizabeth Warren gets the hate treatment from the Clintonians when "Asked if DNC system was rigged in Clinton's favor, Warren says 'yes'."

Claims that what Brazile said has been "debunked" by Howard Dean turn out to be fake news, as the "debunking" turns out to be nonsense.

Ryan Grimm, "Angry About The DNC Scandal? Thank Obama. [...] All that is fodder for a good flamewar, but walking away rather unscathed is the man who set the blaze in the first place: former President Barack Obama. 'Nobody wanted to out the fact that Obama had let it get so bad,' said the DNC official. [...] Raising money for a bland outfit like the DNC isn't easy in the best of times, but with Obama offering little to no help, and clinging to his invaluable email list, Wasserman Schultz was set up to fail, even if she would have done so on her own. Obama instead reasoned that he could become the party, his dynamic and charismatic personality carrying it at the national level. Obama was re-elected, but the party itself went on a historic losing spree, ultimately shedding nearly 1,000 seats across the country. Even after Democrats lost the Senate in 2014, and the DNC continued spending money on consultants at an eye-popping rate, Obama decided not to make a leadership change. Instead, he left it saddled with debt - debt the Clinton campaign would later agree to pay off in exchange for control. [...] Obama finally became interested in the party after the 2016 loss. His final gift to the party apparatus was Tom Perez, his labor secretary, who he recruited to stop Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., from winning the race for DNC chair. Obama and Perez won. DNC funding has been anemic, and it recently had to add to its roughly $3 million in debt."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone:

Why Donna Brazile's Story Matters - But Not for the Reason You Might Think
Everyone knew the primary was rigged. The real question is: Why did they bother, when they would have won anyway?

[...]

The use of rumors and innuendo to gin up furious emotional responses through a community before facts and corrections can catch up; the use of letters of denunciation; the reflexive charge that dissenting thoughts aid a foreign enemy - does no one recognize this? Has no one out there read a history book?

[...]

But that is what's so weird. Why bother monkeying around with rules, when you're going to win anyway?

Why not welcome Sanders and the energy he undoubtedly would (and did) bring into the party, rather than scheme to lock him and others out?

There are a lot of people who are going to wonder why so much time is being spent re-litigating the 2016 campaign. It sucked, it's over: Who cares?

It does matter. That race is when many of the seeds of what will be the defining problems of our age first began to be sown.

[...]

This is when establishment Democrats began to openly lose faith in democracy and civil liberties and began to promote a "results over process" mode of political thinking. It's when we started hearing serious people in Washington talk about the dangers of "too much democracy."

[...]

The point of the Brazile story isn't that the people who "rigged" the primary were afraid of losing an election. It's that they weren't afraid of betraying democratic principles, probably because they didn't believe in them anymore.

If you're not frightened by the growing appeal of that line of thinking, you should be. There is a history of this sort of thing. And it never ends well.

And finally, those wags at The Onion, "DNC Unveils Clinton Institute For Campaign Ethics Reform In Response To Corruption Allegations"

* * * * *

"Georgia man charged with murder for shooting friend following argument over forgiveness in the Bible"

"This North Carolina County Has a Thriving Branch of the NAACP - and It's Mostly White [...] The branch's success speaks to the potential for progressive organizing in Appalachia, and to the promise - and challenges - of building diverse coalitions in the 21st-century South. "

Helaine Olen's op-ed in the NYT, "Choosing a Health Insurance Plan Is Not 'Shopping' [...] No surprise, reviewing our health insurance options doesn't score high on the fun-o-meter. A 2016 Harris Poll discovered almost half of the employees they questioned always found choosing an insurance plan stressful. A similar number told Aflac they would rather talk to an ex or walk across hot coals than enroll in a health insurance plan. And yet another United Healthcare survey found more than a quarter of respondents would rather lose their credit card, smartphone or luggage, not to mention suffer a flat tire, than review their health insurance options during open-enrollment periods."

The push for more STEM training isn't about filling jobs, but about pushing tech job wages down. "Where the STEM Jobs Are (and Where They Aren't)".

Umair Haique, "(Why) The English-Speaking World is the New Soviet Union [...] The best way to understand what has gone wrong with the Anglo world, and America in particular, is simply to think of it as a staggeringly ironic repeat of history. A few short decades ago, the Soviet Union fell, after thirty or so years of stagnation, which its complacent, pampered leaders, utterly divorced from lived reality, vociferously denied could ever be happening to begin with. That steadfast denial opened up the possibility of sudden collapse, and collapse it did: into authoritarianism, extreme inequality, superstition, cults of personality, tribalism, vendetta, violence, corruption, and kleptocracy. That is exactly what is happening to America, from the denial to the pampering to the sudden shock. Falling life expectancy, flat incomes, a shrinking middle class - short of war, or a giant meteor striking the earth, more severe indicators of collapse simply don't exist. So. What led to the collapse?"

Why You've Never Heard of a Charter as Important as the Magna Carta: The Charter of the Forest was sealed 800 years ago today. Its defence of the property-less and of 'the commons', means the Right would prefer to ignore it - and progressives need to celebrate and renew it. Eight hundred years ago this month, after the death of a detested king and the defeat of a French invasion in the Battle of Lincoln, one of the foundation stones of the British constitution was laid down. It was the Charter of the Forest, sealed in St Paul's on November 6, 1217, alongside a shortened Charter of Liberties from 2 years earlier (which became the Magna Carta). The Charter of the Forest was the first environmental charter forced on any government. It was the first to assert the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons. It also made a modest advance for feminism, as it coincided with recognition of the rights of widows to have access to means of subsistence and to refuse to be remarried. The Charter has the distinction of having been on the statute books for longer than any other piece of legislation. It was repealed 754 years later, in 1971, by a Tory government. In 2015, while spending lavishly on celebrating the Magna Carta anniversary, the government was asked in a written question in the House of Lords whether it would be celebrating the Charter this year. A Minister of Justice, Lord Faulks, airily dismissed the idea, stating that it was unimportant, without international significance. Yet earlier this year the American Bar Association suggested the Charter of the Forest had been a foundation of the American Constitution and that it was more important now than ever before. They were right."

I can't believe I missed this last year. "What Democrats Still Don't Get About George McGovern: The party took all the wrong lessons from his landslide loss to Richard Nixon in '72." Establishment Democrats vowed to make sure McGovern lost in the general, and it sure worked. "Democratic leaders' response to McGovern's defeat was swift and unequivocal. From the ashes of McGovern's loss rose a group of disaffected Democratic campaign staffers and elected officials, soon dubbed the 'neoliberals,' who promised to put the Democratic Party back on the winning track, which invariably lay to the right. The neoliberals and their biggest stars, such as Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and California Governor Jerry Brown, called for a full-scale repudiation of not only McGovernism, but also the 'New Deal ethic' that had animated Democratic politics since FDR. On foreign policy, they claimed that Democrats needed to reestablish their toughness and willingness to use the military to confront enemies abroad. On social issues like busing and gay rights, the neolibs urged Democrats to strike a more conservative tone, even if it meant shunting aside the very groups that McGovern had worked so hard to court. On economic issues, McGovern's greatest sin in the eyes of the neolibs was precisely what had most worried the Nixon White House - his populism. The neolibs argued that economic growth, not income inequality, needed to be Democrats' primary concern. The entrepreneurial class, they claimed, needed to replace the working class as the Democrats' idée fixe - a shift that not coincidentally would make the party a more welcome home for the donations of big business and rich individuals." And when all these neolibs lost, we were told that they were lefties who lost. (And anyway, Nixon ran as far left as McGovern on major issues, promising to end the war and soak the rich, and running an anti-austerity policy.)

Meteor Blades, "In '57, a judge said 'incorrigible' and sent me to 'reform school.' Such places still need big fixes."

Matt Taibbi, "The Great College Loan Swindle: How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole [...] America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie - sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate - have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams - that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements. "

Jane Ward, "Thinking Bad Sex [...] But the rush to meme-ify sexual harassment and assault with our righteous rage, and to reduce our thinking to the level of 'what will straight people think??!' is hardly our best way forward. For me the question is, as always, how do we draw upon decades of feminist and queer activism and theorizing to see our way through the complexities of sex and its intersections with violence?"

Michael Kempster said this on Facebook: "Corporate governance, in particular, is to my mind very much like Soviet: the stockholders (proletariat) own the company (country), but have little if any say. The board of directors (central committee of the Communist Party) runs things, largely to the end of its own profit, power and continuity of office. The CEO (general secretary) oft becomes the focus of a cult of personality. The board (committee) usually deliberates in secret. Succession to higher posts is usually governed by secret actions, which are the object of profuse speculation. On and on--the more I go on, the more exact the analogy."

Good interview on Majority Report in which David Dayen explains to Sam Why Deregulation Made Air Travel Hell. Dday's article on this, in The American Prospect, is "Unfriendly Skies: It's time to admit that airline deregulation has failed passengers, workers - and economic efficiency." You'll never guess who have to blame for the fact that airline travel has become such a nightmare. I really can't bear to get on a plane anymore. I may never see my family again. "But the real outrage should be directed at the fact that abuse of passengers is the logical endpoint of a 40-year trend since the government liberated the airline industry. Until 1978, air travel was heavily regulated. In that year, some of the nation's most celebrated liberals joined conservatives in trusting free markets. A brief rush of competition in the 1980s gave way to consolidation and monopoly power, at the expense of workers and passengers alike. Today, four carriers control 80 percent of all U.S. routes."

RIP: D. Potter, fanzine writer, apahack, former denizen of the building at Broadway Terrace she called "Broadway Terrors", blogger at Onyx Lynx, and commenter to this blog. She was a co-founder and OE of ALPS (The Amateur Long-Playing Society) and of course an original member of A Woman's APA. She called herself "Nina Razrushen" in print and her fanzines were Tall Black Woman With One Blond Shoe Productions. She was my friend for nearly my entire adult life, and I loved her. I'm going to miss her a lot. (I'd completely forgotten that I wrote that bio of her for Balticon. Every word is true.)

RIP: "John Hillerman, Emmy-Winning 'Magnum P.I.' Actor, Dead At 84: He also played Bonnie Franklin's cold fish boss on One Day at a Time, and had a recurring role on The Betty White Show."

You know, I had entirely forgotten that there was a Salvadore Dali Disney cartoon.

One of the funniest and most erudite comedians in the world, Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra (2009). The "extremely versatile and strangely attractive" Beeb's concert orchestra must have had so much fun doing this.

"I'm So Tired"