Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ignorance is kind

This infuriating article from Ryan Grim at The Intercept is a bit long but very much worth reading all of: "The Democratic Counterrevolution Has A Self-Appointed Leader: Josh Gottheimer:

NOT LONG AFTER Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar were sworn into Congress, they began hearing from their new colleagues that one member of the House Democratic caucus, Josh Gottheimer, had particularly strong views about each of them. Gottheimer, a second-term representative from New Jersey, has deep ties to the lobbies for Saudi Arabia and Israel, while Tlaib and Omar are often critical of both Mideast governments.

So when Gottheimer reached out to meet with Tlaib, she was eager to take it, hoping that a personal connection would help bridge their differences. On the day of the meeting, February 6, Gottheimer arrived with a colleague, freshman Elaine Luria from Virginia — and a white binder. Luria began by saying that she had met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu six weeks earlier, and Tlaib tried to break the ice with a joke: 'How's the two-state solution going?'

The joke fell flat. Gottheimer pulled out the binder, opening it to show Tlaib the contents. It was a collection of printed-out articles, with quotes and other lines highlighted. 'He goes through them, 'you said this, you said that,' confusing me with other colleagues,' Tlaib said.
[...]

Tlaib said she tried to reach Gottheimer on a personal level, telling him about her grandmother, who lives in occupied Ramallah. He wasn't interested. 'He was using a very stern tone, like a father to a child. At that moment, I realized he's a bully,' said Tlaib. 'He had a goal of breaking me down. I left feeling exactly that way.'

Breaking down Tlaib, Omar, and their allies on the left has been one of Gottheimer's primary goals since the November elections. He has worked assiduously to carve out a role in the Democratic caucus as something of an avenger, a centrist proud of his centrism and willing to take the fight directly to the squad of freshmen trying to push the party in a progressive direction. He even has a name for his handpicked adversaries: 'the herbal tea party.'

His definition of too progressive is startlingly broad. As the Democratic chair of the so-called Problem Solvers Caucus, he led a push against Nancy Pelosi as she ran for House speaker last year. He has consistently voted against the party even on procedural motions, threatening to hand control over the House to the GOP. This spring, he was one of just a handful of Democrats at a private retreat on Sea Island, Georgia, hosted by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, mingling with Vice President Mike Pence, Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other Republican heavyweights. He was one of just six Democrats to break with the party on a push for the DREAM Act in 2018, and he publicly undermined the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., during a hearing in which he fawned over CEOs of the nation's biggest banks.

His boldest bid for internal power, however, came amid the push for a congressional War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. As progressives in the House neared a historic achievement, Gottheimer organized behind the scenes to take the resolution down, in part by attempting to make it a referendum on support for Israel — and very nearly succeeded.

The bill's supporters out-organized him, and in April, Congress sent a War Powers Resolution to Trump's desk. He vetoed their resolution, rejecting Congress's demand that the president stop backing the Saudi-led war. Last week's effort to override the veto failed in the Senate on a 53-to-45 vote.

Trump's rejection of the resolution — which was led in the House by Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Mike Lee, R-Utah — was expected. But for advocates who worked on it, Gottheimer's intervention was unwelcome but not surprising. 'He was counterproductive in a totally unnecessary way at a time when there was actually party unity on something really progressive and historic — and that unity had been fought for a long time,' said Elizabeth Beavers, who was associate policy director at Indivisible during the Yemen fight. 'This is a thing that he's doing consistently, helping to organize against progress.'

And, by the way, do we remember this guy?
"Gottheimer is a protege of Mark Penn, a notorious Democratic operative who has become a leading Trump cheerleader on Fox News. Penn's companies, where Gottheimer has held senior positions over the years, have long been on Saudi Arabia's payroll.
[...]

Madeline Trimble, a steering committee member for the main Indivisible chapter in Gottheimer's district, said that local activists' hard work to elect a Democrat in the seat wasn't paying off. 'Many of our members actively supported Josh Gottheimer's re-election efforts because we believe in the Democratic Party platform. Some of us are concerned that sometimes it seems like Congressman Gottheimer is working at odds with that platform,' she said. 'We understand this is a purple district and we're not expecting an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in NJ-5; we just want him to meet us halfway and act like a normal Democrat who believes in the party.'

* * * * *

"Bernie Sanders, AOC unveil legislation to cap credit card interest at 15%: Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced new legislation Thursday to cap credit card interest rates at 15%, a move that they said will help protect consumers from the "greed" of the credit card and banking industries. Sanders, who is vying for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, referred to credit card industry executives as "loan shark hoodlums" in three-piece suits as he outlined the legislation. He also accused the industry of "grotesque and disgusting" behavior. "Let's be clear what we're talking about: We're talking about economic brutality," Sanders said in announcing the plan during a Facebook livestream with Ocasio-Cortez. "We are talking about some of the most powerful people in the world, people who make millions and millions of dollars a year, and banks that make billions of dollars a year in profit. And they see a real profit center in going after desperate people...who cannot afford the basic necessities of life.""

"States Sue Generic Drug Makers Over Alleged Price-Fixing Schemes: The states claim the companies artificially inflated and manipulated prices for more than 100 different generic drugs. BOSTON (AP) — Attorneys general from more than 40 states are alleging the nation's largest generic drug manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate and manipulate prices for more than 100 different generic drugs, including treatments for diabetes, cancer, arthritis and other medical conditions. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Connecticut on Friday, also names 15 individual senior executives responsible for sales, marketing and pricing. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said investigators obtained evidence implicating 20 firms. 'We have hard evidence that shows the generic drug industry perpetrated a multibillion dollar fraud on the American people,' Tong said. 'We have emails, text messages, telephone records and former company insiders that we believe will prove a multi-year conspiracy to fix prices and divide market share for huge numbers of generic drugs.'"

"Ohio Legislature Considering An Abortion Bill That Is More Restrictive Than The 'Heartbeat Bill' : A new bill would ban most private insurance coverage for abortions. But opponents say it would also ban effective methods of birth control. [...] The bill would ban nontherapeutic abortions that include 'drugs or devices used to prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum.' And Becker says the bill also speaks to coverage of ectopic or tubal pregnancies where the fertilized egg attaches outside of the womb. 'Part of that treatment would be removing that embryo from the fallopian tube and reinserting it in the uterus so that is defined as not an abortion under this bill,' Becker explains. 'That doesn't exist in the realm of treatment for ectopic pregnancy. You can't just re-implant. It's not a medical thing,' says Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. She says, under this bill, women would have to wait until their very lives were in danger to get an abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy."

Denver shrooms! "Denver first in U.S. to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms: Psilocybin possession would remain illegal but would become police's 'lowest law-enforcement priority': Denver is poised to become the first city in the nation to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms. After closing an early vote deficit Tuesday night and early Wednesday, final unofficial results posted late in the afternoon showed a reversal of fortune — with Initiative 301 set to pass narrowly with 50.6 percent of the vote. The total stands at 89,320 votes in favor and 87,341 against, a margin of 1,979."

"Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending: The world would be richer and healthier if the full costs of fossil fuels were paid, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund.The United States has spent more subsidizing fossil fuels in recent years than it has on defense spending, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF found that direct and indirect subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the U.S. reached $649 billion in 2015. Pentagon spending that same year was $599 billion."

"Thousands of Deaths Being Caused by Sanctions Against Venezuela (w/ Branko Marcetic)" on The Majority Report.

"Bernie Sanders Interview MSNBC Al Sharpton"

Former Rep. Brad Miller is always a goldmine of how Democrats fail to use their power and indulge in copious acts of self-sabotage. Here he is on How House Democrats Could Break Barr — and His Boss: Trump & Co. are laughing at the House Democrats' subpoena threats today. But the Democrats have powers that could give them the last laugh — if they use them." He also talked to Nicole Sandler about it.

Interview by Joan Brunwasser, former Senior Editor of OpEdNews and co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform, of Norman Solomon, on "Who's Anti-Bernie and Why They're Wrong: Politicians who change direction with the wind aren't dependable. We don't really know where they stand if they're willing to stand somewhere quite different when the political winds shift. Bernie Sanders is on another trip entirely. From him, instead of transactional behavior with elements of opportunism, we get long-term consistency with a core of idealism. During more than five decades, he's been part of progressive social movements that are committed to really changing the political winds — not blowing with them."

"Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault': Top members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling for answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the tech giant's 'Sensorvault,' which holds the precise location information of hundreds of millions of consumers. In a bipartisan letter sent to Pichai on Tuesday signed by Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the lawmakers expressed concerns over consumer privacy, citing a report by The New York Times that the database contains the information of almost every Android user. Such information has been used in the past by police for criminal cases. Users of the devices can essentially have their 'whole pattern of life" tracked, since the data is collected even when apps aren't being used and calls aren't taking place, the lawmakers noted in their letter. 'The potential ramifications for consumer privacy are far reaching and concerning when examining the purposes for the Sensorvault database and how precise location information could be shared with third parties,' they wrote. 'We would like to know the purposes for which Google maintains the Sensorvault database and the extent to which Google shares precise location information from this database with third parties.'"

"This New Antenna Is Bringing Cheap High-Speed Internet Into South Philly: 'I was skeptical,' says Indy Hall co-founder Alex Hillman, who switched his company from 'incompetent' Comcast to PhillyWisper. 'Internet through the air? But they made me a believer.' If you're like most people, you probably think there is a special place in hell for Comcast and Verizon, the two impenetrable monoliths with a near-dictatorial grip on Internet service in Philadelphia. But thanks to an Internet service in Philadelphia called PhillyWisper, which just expanded into South Philly, you do have another option." This sounded better to me before I noticed it was $50 a mont, which I guess is ok for America, land of freedom and choice, but that's a lot more than I'm used to paying for internet here in the Hellhole of commie socialized Britain. On the other hand, a company that advertises that when you call them, you get a live person who knows what they're talking about on the phone is thinking the way I'm thinking. There is a lot to be said for live people. Oh, but it's Mark Steckel, so they would be.

"Progressives Raise Alarm Over Lack of Single Payer Supporters Chosen to Testify at Historic Medicare for All Hearing: What they want is a hearing that's not about Medicare for All. They want someone to say, 'Hey, there's all these different ways of doing things, none of them are bad, they're all equally good.'"

"Bernie Sanders Calls Out Anti-Medicare For All 'Front Group' [...] But Sanders cautions that, even with Medicare for All's overwhelming public support, a backlash from 'powerful special interests that continue to reap hundreds of billions of dollars from the status quo' will make passage of universal, single-payer healthcare a difficult fight. Sanders specifically calls out the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF), an alliance of private interests — including lobbyists from the health insurance, private hospital and pharmaceutical industry — formed in the summer of 2018."

Learn about the EACH Woman Act: Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGetter, (D-CO), and U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth, (D-IL), Kamala Harris, (D-CA), Mazie Hirono, (D-HI), and Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the EACH Woman Act (HR 1692 and S 758). This bill ensures coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured." It basically overturns the Hyde Amendment. Ask your representatives if they are supporting it, and if not, why not. (Congratulate and thank them if they have signed on to it.)

"Pelosi warns US will not strike Brexit trade deal with UK if Good Friday Agreement is undermined: Speaker of the US House of Representatives says peace treaty could not be 'bargained away in another agreement': Nancy Pelosi has said there will be no chance of a US trade deal with the UK if the Good Friday Agreement is undermined by Brexit. Speaking at the London School of Economics, the speaker of the US House of Representatives warned a future trading arrangement between the two countries is not guaranteed, and said it would not happen if the UK's exit from the European Union violates the terms of the 1998 peace accord. Ms Pelosi said: 'First of all it is very hard to pass a trade bill in the Congress of the United States, so there's no given anyway. But if there were any weakening of the Good Friday accords there would be no chance whatsoever, a non-starter for a US-UK trade agreement. 'The Good Friday accords ended 700 years of conflict. This is not a treaty only, it's an ideal, it's a value, it's something that's a model to the world, something that we all take pride in.'"

"Navy SEALs Were Warned Against Reporting Their Chief for War Crimes: Stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death. Picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper's roost. Indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire. Navy SEAL commandos from Team 7's Alpha Platoon said they had seen their highly decorated platoon chief commit shocking acts in Iraq. And they had spoken up, repeatedly. But their frustration grew as months passed and they saw no sign of official action."

"How new research is shaking up the debate about a $15 minimum wage [...] The backdrop to all of this is a longstanding debate among economists about the merits of hiking the wage floor in America. It used to be taken for granted that raising the minimum wage would lead to a reduction in low-wage jobs. Employment among teenagers especially would go down. Landmark research undertaken in the 1970s had proven it. But progressive economists have challenged these assumptions with new data. Dozens of Democratic-held cities and states went have increased the minimum wage floor over the years anyway, well above the long-obsolete current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. A new highly anticipated study suggests the worst-feared consequences of minimum wage hikes did not come to pass. Employment did not decrease in places where wages went up, and there was actually a residually positive effect on wages for other lower-income workers."

Eric Alterman is an idiot when it comes to Bernie Sanders, but at least he likes Warren. "The Media Can't Figure Out How to Cover Elizabeth Warren: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is running a presidential campaign unlike any we've seen before, and our media have no idea how to handle it. It's a campaign not merely of ideas but of detailed policy proposals dealing with a host of ills that other politicians have ignored or tried to wish away. Yet The Washington Post compared her plans to the silly 'booklet of policy ideas' issued by Jeb Bush before he flamed out in the 2016 Republican presidential race. Politico, for some reason, thought it worthwhile to get Steve Bannon's views. ('You're not going to beat Trump with policies,' Bannon said.) And New York Times columnist Bret Stephens actually called this meticulously prepared and intellectually challenging thinker a 'Trumpian of the Left.' In reality, her proposals address many of the phenomena undermining the nation's republican values and commitment to equal opportunity. All appear to be based on consultations with progressive activists cognizant of the politics, as well as policy experts hip to the technical complexities. Without exception, her plans are bold, and in many cases they're truly visionary. As with her call for Trump's impeachment, made after she read Robert Mueller's report from cover to cover, their successful implementation would require a sea change in the way politics is conducted in this country. But unlike every other candidate in the race — or in recent US history — Warren is providing a detailed road map for where she wants to take the country. With plans like her proposal to eliminate most college debt, she is revealing the values and commitments that she hopes will take the United States to what Robert Kennedy called 'a newer world.'"

David Bentley Hart has an op-ed in the NYT that's so smart and well-written that I can't believe it's in the NYT. "Can We Please Relax About 'Socialism'?: Only in America is the word freighted with so much perceived menace. [...] One need not idealize any of these nations or ignore the ways in which they differ in balancing public and private financing of civic services. But all of them are, broadly speaking, places where — without any unsustainable burden on the national economy — the cost of health care per capita is far lower than it is here and yet coverage is universal, where life spans are longer, where working people are not made destitute by serious illnesses, where a choice between food or pharmaceuticals need never be made, where the poor cannot be denied treatments by insurance adjusters, where pre-existing health conditions could never be denied coverage, where most people have far more savings and much lower levels of debt than is the case here, where very few families live only a paycheck away from total poverty, where wages generally keep pace with inflation, where every worker has decent vacation time each year, where suicide and opioid addiction are not the default lifestyle of the working poor, where homelessness is exceedingly rare, where retirement care is humane and comprehensive and where the schools are immeasurably better than ours are. Americans, however, recoil in horror from these intolerable impositions on personal liberty. Some of us are apparently even, like Mr. Stein, canny enough to see the shadow of the death camps falling across the whole sordid spectacle. We know that civic wealth is meant not for civic welfare, but should be diverted to the military-industrial complex by the purchase of needless weapons systems or squandered through obscene tax cuts for the richest of the investment class. We know that working families should indenture themselves for life to predatory lending agencies. We know that, when the child of a working family has cancer, the child should be denied the most expensive treatments, and then probably die, but not before his or her family has been utterly impoverished. We call this, I believe, being free. And as long as we have access to all the military-grade guns we could ever need to fight off invasions from Venus, and to assure that our children will be slaughtered at regular intervals in their schools, what else can we reasonably ask for?"

Zaid Jilani in the Guardian, "Bernie Sanders v the Democratic establishment: what the battle is really about [...] Establishment voices will probably mock Sanders' view as naive or overly idealistic. But if you think about what Sanders is arguing, perhaps he is the realist. In 10 years of reporting about politics, almost every politician has told me their donors do not influence their behavior. If this were true, they would be the only individuals on planet Earth who are not tempted by money. What Sanders is arguing is the opposite — if he started doing big-ticket fundraisers with corporate executive and lobbyists, he would be influenced by their money. He is admitting his human flaws, and taking corrective action to make up for them. If anything, the establishment's argument is the idealistic one, and Sanders' is the pragmatic one."

Rob in Vermont posted this at Daily Kos: "Bernie Sanders is an accomplished, effective leader (hope you read this and learn something new!)" — there's some stuff about what he did in Vermont that I hadn't known before.

"Will Black Voters Still Love Biden When They Remember Who He Was? [...] And, as of this writing, a plurality of black Democrats want him to be their party's 2020 nominee. Whether Biden can retain that support, after voters learn more about his problematic past, could very well determine the outcome of the party's primary race." - This is worrying, because there seem to be an awful lot of black women who are less interested in who Biden actually is and how much he has done to hurt black and female Americans and more interested in the fact that he stood next to The First Black President (who also hurt black and female Americans a lot).

Adolph Reed and Cornell West, "Joe Biden wants us to forget his past. We won't [...] An unrecognized irony of the South Carolina primary's current importance as a gauge of African American support is that it and other southern primaries figured prominently in the late 1980s and 1990s strategy of the conservative, pro-business Democratic Leadership Council — of which Biden was a member — to pull the party to the right by appealing to conservative white southern men, in part through stigmatizing and scapegoating poor African Americans. Biden was one of the lustiest practitioners of that tactic. In fact, that's what often underlies Biden's boasts about his talent for 'reaching across the aisle'. In 1984, he joined with South Carolina's arch-racist Strom Thurmond to sponsor the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which eliminated parole for federal prisoners and limited the amount of time sentences could be reduced for good behavior. He and Thurmond joined hands to push 1986 and 1988 drug enforcement legislation that created the nefarious sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine as well as other draconian measures that implicate him as one of the initiators of what became mass incarceration. (Making political hay from racial scapegoating was nothing new for Biden; he'd earned sharp criticism from both the NAACP and ACLU in the 1970s for his aggressive opposition to school bussing as a tool for achieving school desegregation.) "

"Don't be fooled: Joe Biden is no friend of unions: In San Francisco there's a high-end boutique called 'Unionmade'. There you will find expensive work jackets and overalls, lit by bare bulbs and displayed on unvarnished metal shelves. The aesthetic could not convey its message any more clearly: buy these clothes, and access a bygone era of authenticity and American craftsmanship. But it's a lie — the clothes on offer are largely not union-made. 'The unfortunate reality is that there are not many unions left in the garment industry and so the name was cultivated as a signifier of well-made and aesthetically timeless goods,' explains a spokesperson. As the industrial working class has faded, its afterimage has become available for appropriation in commerce, in culture and in politics. Such appropriation need not entail commitment to the workers' movement. Everyone from Levi's jeans to Donald Trump has made this move — and now, Joe Biden, the would-be candidate of labor. Biden is the Unionmade of politicians. The former vice-president is taking great care to dress up his new candidacy in a blue-collar costume; as Andrew Epstein puts it, he is an 'aesthetic populist'. [...] In fact, I can find reports of only two instances of Biden appearing on a picket line or otherwise supporting embattled workers at any point in his very long public life: once in Iowa, during his 1987 presidential campaign, and just this month in Boston. Now, his first major presidential fundraiser is being hosted by the founder of one of the country's leading anti-union law firms. The man running to be labor's champion is sponsored by someone who has made millions choking the life out of the labor movement."

"Wall Street Democrats Are Absolutely Freaking Out About Their 2020 Candidates: 'Everyone wants to seem relevant,' one prominent investor told me. But for the first time he or any of his friends could remember, 'we're just not fucking relevant. We're not that big of a deal anymore. None of us!'"

"Failed 'Coup' a Fake Corporate News Story Designed to Trick Venezuelan Soldiers — and US Public: After days of breathless reporting in the US media about public and military support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro collapsing, and about an April 30 coup by presidential poseur Juan Guaidó, we now know the truth: The whole thing was a fraud, staged at the instigation of Washington in hopes that the Venezuelan people and rank-and-file troops would fall for the trick and think an actual coup was underway. We also know, from an excellent May 2 report by Michael Fox in the Nation magazine, that the US mainstream media and its reporters in country were promoting that dangerous fraud."

At Democracy NOW!, "Economist Jeffrey Sachs: U.S. Sanctions Have Devastated Venezuela & Killed Over 40,000 Since 2017: More than 40,000 people have died in Venezuela since 2017 as a result of U.S. sanctions, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research co-authored by economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot. The report examines how U.S. sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine in Venezuela and increased disease and mortality. We speak with Jeffrey Sachs in our New York studio. In the report, he writes, 'American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela's economy and thereby lead to regime change. It's a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.'"

"'I Felt Americans Needed to Know': Insurance Industry Whistleblower Gives Glimpse of Effort to Crush Medicare for All: 'The business model of for-profit health insurance depends on denying care to people who need it. These corporations can't be reasoned with, only defeated.' In an effort to inform the public about the corporate forces working to crush Medicare for All, an employee at the insurance giant UnitedHealthcare leaked a video of his boss bragging about the company's campaign to preserve America's for-profit healthcare system."

Michael Brooks did an interview on The Majority Report that's really worth listening to (starts around the 21-minute mark), Give Them an Argument: Logic for the Left w/ Ben Burgis - MR Live - 5/2/19 about the sort of pointless debates people have and what discussion really needs to be like.

"The best political commentary of the Australian election cycle: 'Honest Government Adverts': Juice Media's Honest Government Adverts are some of the best, most biting political satire being produced today -- they're so good at afflicting the comfortable that Australia basically banned their style of humour -- and now, on the eve of (yet another) critical Australian election, they've produced a "season finale" that recaps the parade of horrors that a succession of bumbling, oligarchic, racist, climate-denying, torturing, confiscatory, planet-destroying Australian governments have bequeathed to the nation and the world. I laughed, I cried, I laughed again. Now I'm crying."

"Indonesia to relocate capital from sinking Jakarta: Indonesia has announced plans relocate its capital city away from Jakarta, one of the world's fastest-sinking cities, according to the BBC. Planning Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro announced President Joko Widodo had made the decision to relocate the capital, according to the news outlet. The idea of moving the capital from Jakarta, home to 10 million people, has been discussed since Indonesia achieved independence from the Dutch over seven decades ago, but the pace at which the island is sinking — one of the fastest rates in the world — has reportedly added incentive."

Katha Pollit reviews Evicted by Matthew Desmond — what if the problem of poverty is that it's profitable to other people? [...] "Even in the Great Depression, evictions used to be rare. Now, each year, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of renters are put out on the street. Even a paid-up tenant can be easily evicted. Arleen loses one apartment when her son Jori throws a snowball at a passing car and the enraged driver kicks in the front door, and another when the police come after Jori when he kicks a teacher and runs home. Any kind of trouble that brings the police can lead to eviction, which means women can lose their homes if they call 911 when their man beats them up. Think about that the next time someone asks why women don't call the cops on violent partners."

In 2010 we lost a Senate seat that everyone thought we should have won, but no one wanted to admit why. Richard Eskow wrote about that in "Will the 'Don't-Blame-Me' Dems Take Responsibility and Fix Health Reform? There's plenty of blame to go around. Nate Silver's conclusions about what went wrong are smart and incisive. His back-of-the-envelope appraisal suggests that the seat would have remained Democratic if not for either one of two factors: Martha Coakley's terrible campaign, and a national environment that's turned toxic for Democrats. That means that the Coakley campaign and those responsible for the national environment (i.e. the Party leadership) are both culpable. Forget the Coakley people for now, since they've had their shot: What are party leaders saying? Everybody's grandstanding, pushing their own agendas. Evan Bayh, for example, insists the problem is that Democrats haven't followed his centrist agenda. And let's review Joe Lieberman's recent comments ... Ah, let's not. The guy already gets too much press. Both Lieberman and Bayh are wrong, anyway. Here are the first results from after-vote polling in Massachusetts: By a 3 to 2 margin, Obama voters who voted for Brown thought that Obama's reform bill 'doesn't go far enough.' And those Obama voters who didn't bother voting felt that way by a 6 to 1 margin. 82% of Obama voters who went for Brown (and 86% of those who stayed home) support a public option. And 57% of Brown voters said that Obama is 'not delivering enough' on change." And I think this tells you everything you need to know about why Hillary's poll numbers suddenly tanked shortly before the 2016 election, right after expected spikes in Obamacare premiums was front-paged in every paper.

Richard Eskow interviews Professor Richard Wolff on What is Class?

"Leading Questions - Yes Prime Minister: Sir Humphrey Appleby demonstrates the use of leading questions to skew an opinion survey to support or oppose National Service (Military Conscription)."

I love how explicit they are about exactly where not to dump: "Please Do Not Dump Trash on White Supremacist Leaders' Properties"

I just noticed what the favicon for Bernie Sanders.com is. Keep that link for when someone asks you about his issues and plans.

In io9, Annie Mok profiles Samuel R. Delany on His Legacy, Creativity, and 'Promiscuously Autobiographical' Work: "At one point, Delany quit sci-fi for a number of years after 'looking at the amount of money I was making,' instead devoting himself to music with the group Heavenly Breakfast around 1968. They had planned to record one day, in fact, but when they got to the studio they found a chain on the door. 'Con Edison had changed their policy [...] there were only eight little recording studios that could have done us, and they all went out of business the same weekend. And they were studios that put out a lot of interesting music — Lovin' Spoonful, the people that were doing experimental stuff that occasionally took off and really made it big [...] then that happened, and that was just before the King assassination [...] So I decided, Okay, let's go back to writing.'"

He spied on the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) for the FBI.

The BBC discovers Stand on Zanzibar: "The 1968 sci-fi that spookily predicted today: In the first of BBC Culture's new series on fiction that predicted the future, Hephzibah Anderson looks at the work of John Brunner, whose vision of 2010 was eerily accurate." I remember once saying to John that he hadn't predicted Three Mile Island, and he said, "Yes, I did. It's how The Shockwave Rider opens."

Watch Three Beatles Jam at George Harrison's House in 1994: Three Beatles return to their roots, more than 30 years later."

From Postmodern Jukebox, Wham's "Careless Whisper"

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Your happening world

"Sanders takes on Fox — and emerges triumphant: BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bernie Sanders entered the Fox's den on Monday night — and he not only survived the hourlong encounter, but often dominated. Appearing at a Fox News-hosted town hall, smack in the middle of Trump Country, the Democratic presidential front-runner played the part, swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending and his newfound wealth. At one point, the Vermont senator even led the network's audience in a call-and-response that found them cheering loudly for his policies."

"Watch: Sanders town hall audience surprises Bret Baier with how much they like Bernie's health care plan: A politically diverse town hall audience showed a lot of enthusiasm for Medicare-for-all."
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 1
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 2

"Exclusive: Bernie Sanders Campaign Launches New Podcast, "Hear the Bern": The Bernie Sanders campaign is set to launch a new podcast Monday night called 'Hear the Bern.' Co-hosted by National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, it will feature a variety of campaign staffers, volunteers, and other campaign figures, as well as regular appearances from Sanders himself. You can now listen to the first episode here."

"Maybe Rich Liberals Don't Hate Sanders Because They Fear He Can't Win, But Because They're Rich: That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to 'stop' his nomination. [...] The New York Times (4/16/19) profiled a network of 'wealthy liberal donors' who, shockingly, are not fans of Bernie Sanders, who according to the same report has rejected their big-bundler funding and instead opted for small donations. (The Times reported the same day that 84 percent of Sanders' donations are less than $200; by contrast, only 37 percent of Kamala Harris' donations are.) [...] Simply drawing attention to the fact that a bunch of wealthy donors affirms Sanders primary argument for running doesn't make it go away. It's a writer's trick, and one the New York Times passes off without criticism: LOL Isn't it ironic we're doing that bad, evil thing Sanders says rich donors do? Wait, what? No, it's just bad, in and of itself. The piece is openly floating a conspiracy of wealthy donors seeking to undermine a democratic process, then laughing it off something that could be mistaken for the actual bad thing it is. Meanwhile, the self-evident fact that rich donors dislike Sanders because he runs counter to their interests is ignored in favor of a child-like fantasy that they oppose him simply because they're looking out for the best interests of the party. To the Times, the rich have no ideology, no beliefs, no self interest; this is reserved instead for Sanders 'embolden[ed],' 'fervent supporters,' whose desire to defeat Trump is presented as at best incidental."

"A top progressive pundit says mainstream Democrats are worried about Bernie Sanders winning the White House in 2020: Sen. Bernie Sanders is making mainstream Democrats nervous. But some of the presidential candidate's supporters say it's not because they're worried Sanders can't defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. It's because he can, they say."

And it's not just the Democratic establishment that's afraid Bernie can beat Trump. Another guy who's afraid is Donald Trump.

But to cap it all off, even Peter Daou has had a sea change and is in The Nation telling people to hold their fire on Sanders. "I Was Bernie's Biggest Critic in 2016 — I've Changed My Mind: Bernie Sanders can beat Donald Trump — and it would be an epic act of self-destruction for Democrats to try to hobble his campaign." Daou understates the degree to which he was a critic of Sanders, but never mind, he really seems to have remembered where he came from: "My political and personal evolution since 2016 has caught some people off guard. I'm often asked how a staunch Clinton advocate and former Sanders critic could reverse course. The answer is simpler than it appears. I spent 15 years before the 2016 election as a progressive activist, a critic of the Democratic Party's meekness in the face of GOP extremism, and a supporter of the policies Sanders promotes. After months of reflection about my role in the 2016 primaries, I realized I was among the far too many Clinton and Sanders supporters who got caught up in an ugly family dispute that spiraled out of control." He still hasn't unblocked me on Twitter, though.

"'Purity Tests': How Corporate Media Describe Progressives Standing Up for Principles: The phrase is code for elites being pressured in ways they don't like, and is often a shield against legitimate criticism of corruption or dependence on corporate power."

Have I mentioned that Nicole Sandler talks to Howie Klein every Thursday on her show? It's definitely worth listening to if you want to know what's really going on in the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate [...] In reality, the Democratic electorate is both ideologically and demographically diverse. Over all, around half of Democratic-leaning voters consider themselves 'moderate' or 'conservative,' not liberal. Around 40 percent are not white."

Advice Unasked, "Bernie and the Racists: It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South. From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: 'Sister Soljah,' 'superpredators,' and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors. I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most? Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I'm writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it."

Obama Pushes Neoliberal Myths on Health Care at Fundraiser [...] Multimillionaire former President Barack Obama, 2017's Kennedy prize winner, traveled all the way to Germany over the weekend in order to scold what he called American health care 'purists' who have the crazy nerve to challenge the status quo. He called the current battle between Congressional centrists, like Pelosi, and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal a 'circular firing squad.'"

Our story so far: As we may recall, it was historically not normal for candidates for the presidency to release their taxes before winning the nomination, but in 2008, Hillary Clinton's finances were regarded by some as so scandalous (payoffs) that there was a demand to see her taxes. This cry was taken up by the Obama campaign, and Clinton said she would not release them until she had the nomination. She continued to say so well into 2008, but finally was shamed into releasing hers after Obama released his. Nevertheless, the anti-Bernie cult has made a big deal out of demanding he release his taxes, even though (a) he did and (b) he has 30 solid years of financial disclosures publicly available as required by law for members of Congress. When he announced again, even the press took up the "Will you release your taxes?" cry and it has been a consistent theme from the alt-center. When he said he would release them this year on tax day, it was as if the cry went out - intensified demands and claims that he'd never release them from Donut Twitter, long threads about what he'd been hiding. By the final week before April 15th, there was a sudden shift to numerous Twitter handles all erupting at once with the statement that the important thing would be how much he'd donated to charity. The year-old news that he'd sold his book for a bunch of money became new news again, ardently discussed by idiots who seemed to think it was hypocritical for him to (a) keep his money or (b) advocate for reduced income inequality while actually having a little more wealth than the most people can make in such a short period of time. (Just for the record, a million dollars is enough to live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle for an entire adult lifetime in some parts of the country, but not if the law requires you to have a home hundreds of miles from where you go to work every day in an expensive city.) People were, of course, sending out "where are his taxes?" tweets hours after he'd released them, and naturally no one apologized for claiming he'd never release them, but now they are even going so far as to claim his book was ghost-written. Clintons really do make people crazy.

And speaking of that, the whole book thing turned someone at Think Progress full-on whacko, producing a specious video that falsely claims that Sanders has stopped saying "millionaires" since he made his million on the book. This isn't the first time they've gone after him, or after Warren, and that's not surprising given the kind of people who fund Center for American Progress, whose blog TP is. Unlike last time, he is hitting back. Thomas Neuburger posted about it in "Sanders Takes the Campaign Against CAP to Eleven," praising the Sanders team for calling CAP out. Threads on Twitter are bringing attention not just to the funding by dubious entities, but also making more people aware that CAP also donates to the far-right American Enterprise Institute. Robert Borosage in The Nation says, "The Democratic Primary May Get Ugly, but It's a Necessary Fight: The spat between Bernie Sanders and the Center for American Progress is a sign of things to come." And Harold Meyerson was inspired to write. "How Think Progress Would Have Attacked Franklin Roosevelt: The Center for American Progress is hardly the first institution to label liberals and leftists of some means as inauthentic or hypocritical for their own attacks on concentrated wealth."

"Sanders gets endorsements from 7 black S. Carolina lawmakers: SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year's primary elections. Sanders' 2020 campaign made the announcement just ahead of a Spartanburg town hall meeting with members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. The backing represents the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state, which holds the first primary in the South."

"5 Weird Items In The New Bernie-Buttigieg Poll" — Bernie had pulled ahead in polling, but that was before Biden announced, so we shall see. Can't believe Buttigieg got ahead of Warren. Ugh. Oh, but this is Forbes, so the writer only focused on stuff that would hit Bernie. It all looks worse if you look at Klobuchar, Booker, and Gillibrand supporters.

Eric Levitz, "Joe Biden May Be Less Electable Than He Looks [...] In 2016, the Trump campaign put significant energy into spotlighting aspects of Hillary Clinton's record that young, nonwhite Democrats might find alienating. And disappointing turnout among those constituencies in key states were one of the many factors that enabled Trump's victory. So, it's at least conceivable that Biden's own liabilities with millenials and African-Americans would prove similarly costly — and thus, that when Democratic primary voters look past those blotches in Uncle Joe's record, they are actually being the opposite of pragmatic."

Andrew Cockburn of Harper's told Democracy Now! Why Joe Biden's poll numbers could "come down in a hurry" now that he's officially running, and RJ Eskow dissected Biden's launch video on The Zero Hour.

Since he entered the race because teenagers asked him to, Nicole Sandler interviewed Mike Gravel.

"O'Rourke family sues government to lower taxes on shopping center: Back when he served on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke prodded his hometown to shift more of its property tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners. But now, he is a minority partner in an O'Rourke family-owned shopping center that is suing the government to lower the amount of taxes it pays on the property."

"The 2020 battle is on: Elizabeth Warren accuses Joe Biden of siding with credit card companies over struggling Americans: Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first 2020 Democrat to directly attack former Vice President Joe Biden following his Thursday announcement that he's joining the presidential primary. Asked by a reporter on Thursday about a 2005 fight the two had over bankruptcy legislation, Warren was clear that she believed Biden took the side opposing American families. 'I got in that fight because [families] just didn't have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies," Warren said after a rally in Iowa. "It's all a matter of public record.'"

Doug Henwood, "I Can't Believe Elizabeth Warren Is Losing to These Guys: Almost every day Elizabeth Warren comes out with serious policy proposals. They're rarely even baby steps down the road to socialism, but most of them would make this country a better place. But lacking a media-friendly history of being a skateboarding 'punk' rocker or a stint with McKinsey — and you might think, not being a man — she can't get any attention for them. She can't get out of the mid-single digits in the polls, and PredictIt, the political betting site, puts her chances of winning the nomination at 7 percent. She's having trouble raising money; she lagged Mayor Pete in the first quarter funding haul even though he was a nobody who'd just entered the race."

"Warren approaches breakout with black voters: BEAUFORT, S.C. — When Elizabeth Warren got a question on housing discrimination at a campaign event this week, she went into full wonk mode — and the diverse crowd packed into a middle-school auditorium ate it up. The Massachusetts senator launched into a brief history lesson on African-American homebuyers being rejected outside designated areas, black families getting hit hardest by subprime mortgages and foreclosures during the 2008 crash, and black homeownership still lagging far behind whites. 'That's a problem, and it's a race problem,' Warren thundered, emphasizing 'race' as the crowd erupted into applause. 'And we need to attack it head on.'"

"Elizabeth Warren just unveiled a plan to cancel student debt for 75% of Americans [...] Under Warren's plan, every person with an annual household income under $100,000 would automatically have $50,000 of their student loan debt forgiven. That would immediately wipe out debt for 75 percent of the 45 million Americans with student loans and provide some sort of relief for 95 percent, according to the Massachusetts senator. For every $3 people earn beyond the $100,000 threshold, they lose $1 of the $50,000 in debt forgiven. In other words, if they make $100,003, just $49,999 of their debt will be canceled. Nobody in a household making above $250,000 a year will get student-debt relief. The proposal would still offer federal grants to low-income students to help them cover non-tuition expenses, like housing, textbooks, and food, at universities. Warren's plan also places an emphasis on students of color through an additional $50 billion fund for historically black universities, which she said would help close the racial wealth gap." The plan is covered by her wealth tax proposal.

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren Calls for Trump to Be Impeached: 'The House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States,' the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said."

"Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple employees donating to Elizabeth Warren, even though she wants to break up big tech: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's pledge to break up Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies has provoked a surprising response from some of those firms' employees: They're writing her checks. The Massachusetts senator received more than $39,000 in donations from employees of Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google, ranking third among her fellow Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. And she did even better among all donors who describe themselves as software engineers or programmers, coming in second behind Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"Does Andrew Yang Want The Most Regressive Tax In The World? (TMBS 85)" - UBI has a left and a right wing, and Andrew Yang doesn't sound like he's on the left one. He wants a VAT, too.

Here's some good new! "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Is Facing A Primary Challenge: MCKAYLA WILKES, a 28-year-old administrative assistant, part-time student, and mother of two, has had enough. In late March, she announced that she was mounting a bid for Maryland's 5th Congressional District, aiming to unseat one of the oldest and most powerful Democratic members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wilkes is running on a host of progressive policies, but plans to put particular focus on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and affordable housing. A student of political science, Wilkes hasn't formerly been involved in politics before, but thinks the moment is too urgent to wait. She wants more 'relatable people' in Congress and is fed up with Hoyer's record, which she says does not adequately represent the needs of those living in his district. 'We need someone who will be a voice for us, who knows what we go through as daily constituents, and Steny Hoyer has been in office so long he's never really had to be a regular constituent,' she said. Hoyer, who is 79 years old, was first elected to Congress in 1981." That's not actually the problem with Hoyer, though - he's always been like this. But it would be cool if McKayla Wilkes could do to Hoyer what Donna Edwards did to Al Wynn.

I'm certainly no fan of Obama but this story — "Mueller's report looks bad for Obama" — looks wrong to me. The Iran deal was important, and the real problem with our elections is that we have a vast network of misinformational propaganda coming from Republicans, Democrats, our government, and enthusiastically embraced by our media, keeping Americans confused about what's really going on and making everyone vulnerable to every rumor from every source. We have voter-suppression coming from American partisans. We have unauditable, hackable voting machines. We don't even have real exit polls anymore, nor pay attention to their results when we do, so we have no real checks on election integrity. While it's true that the Republican Party is more overt, organized, and systematic about maintaining and expanding this situation, you'd have to be a fool to think the Democratic Party has not enabled it and in many cases discouraged any real opposition to it. If you want to blame Obama for the results of the 2016 election — and I think you justifiably can — blame the way he presided over our economy and betrayed his voters, which was a disaster and should have been the real scandal. We didn't need Russians to give us such an outcome, it was coming for a long time.

Speaking of that, Eric Rauchway has a piece in Boston Review called "Obama's Original Sin" on Reed Hundt's A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions: which I would like to quote from but they made it too annoying to do, but I recommend you read the whole thing. He remarks on the bizarre idea Geithner and Obama had that Roosevelt chose not to work with Hoover to let things fester before coming into office, a false narrative they seem to have spread among their followers but whose source no one seems to be able to track down. And so the Obama administration fell neatly into the trap that Hoover had tried to lay for FDR that he had so neatly avoided.

"What the Mueller Report Actually Says" is less informative in many ways than Lee Camp's points about reversed timing, thinness of content, and, again, the shameless lack of interest both parties have ever shown about election integrity.

California ordered to use settlement money as it was intended — to help homeowners: California is wrongly holding on to $331 million from a nationwide bank settlement and must use the money for its intended purpose: to help homeowners victimized by foreclosures during the Great Recession, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. The money was part of the state's share of a settlement in 2012 with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC — that had been accused of abusive lending practices. The settlement also contained more than $20 billion in direct aid to homeowners nationwide who had been harmed by a wave of foreclosures that started in the recession of 2008-09. "

"Court rules Michigan district maps are unconstitutional: A federal court in Michigan on Thursday became the latest in the country to strike down its state's district maps, ruling that they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The lawsuit, filed late last year by the League of Women Voters on behalf of eleven Democratic voters, alleged that the legislative and congressional maps in question violated their constitutional rights. [...] The court cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters, and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The judges' order that the districts be redrawn before the 2020 election will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, out of North Carolina and Maryland, and may issue a stay on the Michigan decision until those cases are resolved. [...] The League of Women Voters pointed to election results that show Republicans hold a disproportionate number of legislative and congressional seats in Michigan, even though they won only about half the number of total votes cast. Republicans hold seven of 14 congressional seats in Michigan, after Democrats won back two Republican-held seats last November. Republicans hold 22 of 38 seats in the state Senate, and 58 of 110 seats in the state House. The judges accepted the League's argument."

"Gallup: 'Americans aren't as pro-Israel as we've been saying': Gallup explains that its polling, which consistently shows high American sympathy for Israel, is the result of 'priming' questions that influence respondents to falsely express pro-Israel leanings. Gallup buried this explosive admission."

Tennessee House passes bill that could penalize voter registration groups for mistakes: NASHVILLE — The Republican-led Tennessee House on Monday night approved a controversial bill imposing new requirements on some voter registration groups that could subject them to civil and possibly even criminal penalties and fines in cases where they submit too many problematic registrations. House Bill 1079 passed in a 71-26 vote along party lines after a heated debate. It now goes to the Senate. Pointing to confusion in the 2018 November election, when election officials in Memphis and Nashville were deluged with thousands of last-minute forms from organizers of voter registration drives, GOP proponents say the bill was brought to them by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, to prevent a repeat of that chaos and its incomplete forms. Democrats and others, however, charged that it is part of a continuing effort by Republicans to suppress voter turnout, especially for minorities in a state already known for having low voter registration and, at times, the worst voter turnout nationwide."

"Texas Bill Prohibiting Male Masturbation Moves Closer To Becoming Law: A proposed bill in Texas that would impose a fine for male masturbation is making its way through the state's legislature. House Bill 4260, called the 'Man's Right to Know Act,' would punish male masturbation with a $100 fine, and require men who want Viagra to be subject to a rectal exam. The bill, filed earlier this year by Texas legislator Rep. Jessica Farrar (D), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. By focusing on male masturbation, the proposed legislation is an obvious attempt to satirize and draw attention to the unreasonable and dangerous policy proposals concerning women's reproductive freedom coming from the Republican Party."

I became aware of this because of a tweet (worth reading the thread for people giving their own stories about how landlords abused them), which led to an article by London housing activist Kirsty Archer, "Why I went viral on Twitter after talking about being evicted on Sky News: The patronising interviewer, who is a landlord, demonstrated the contempt with which many landlords view renters." There's a reason I don't subscribe to Sky, but of course, it's not just Sky. "As it stands, section 21 gives landlords huge power over our lives and discourages renters from making complaints or requesting repairs, for fear of section 21 revenge evictions. Since 2015, around 140,000 other tenants have been victims of revenge evictions making section 21 the leading cause of homelessness in England, displacing huge numbers of working people and migrants from their communities each year." Little did she know that she was being interviewed by a landlord.

"Wells Fargo and other banks paid colleges so they could market accounts to students, putting them at risk of high fees: This month, you're likely to read many stories about the importance — particularly for young people — of understanding compound interest, budgeting and other concepts key to creating a healthy financial life. April, dubbed National Financial Literacy Month, is traditionally when the personal finance and banking industries celebrate the benefits of knowing how to manage your money. But a new report suggests that at least for college students, knowing which tools are best for them can be a challenge because certain banks pay universities to advertise their products to students."

Matt Stoller tweets: This is potentially the most disturbing merger I've ever seen. Roche, which makes an very expensive treatment for hemophilia, is trying to buy Spark Therapeutics, which has a very promising potential cure for hemophilia. I wonder if there are conflicts." The link is to "Roche Makes $4.8 Billion Bid for Spark Therapeutics and Its Gene Therapy Programs."

Matt Taibbi, "Why the Assange Arrest Should Scare Reporters [...] Much of the American media audience views the arrested WikiLeaks founder through the lens of the 2016 election, after which he was denounced as a Russian cutout who threw an election for Trump. But the current indictment is the extension of a years-long effort, pre-dating Trump, to construct a legal argument against someone who releases embarrassing secrets. [...] Last year, we reported a rumored American criminal case against Assange was not expected to have anything to do with 2016, Russians, or DNC emails. This turned out to be the case, as the exact charge is for conspiracy, with Chelsea Manning, to hack into a 'classified U.S. government computer.' The indictment unveiled today falls just short of a full frontal attack on press freedoms only because it indicts on something like a technicality: specifically, an accusation that Assange tried (and, seemingly, failed) to help Manning crack a government password. For this reason, the language of the indictment underwhelmed some legal experts who had expressed concerns about the speech ramifications of this case before. 'There's a gray area here,' says University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck. 'But the government at least tries to put this at the far end of the gray area.' Not everyone agreed. Assange lawyer Barry Pollock said the allegations 'boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source.' 'The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking,' tweeted Edward Snowden. 'The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama's DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism.' Part of the case clearly describes conduct that exists outside the normal parameters of press-source interaction, specifically the password issue. However, the evidence about this part of the conspiracy seems thin, limited mainly to Assange saying he'd had 'no luck so far,' apparently in relation to attempts to crack the password. The meatier parts of the indictment speak more to normal journalistic practices. In its press release, the Justice Department noted Assange was 'actively encouraging Manning' to provide more classified information. In the indictment itself, the government noted Assange told Manning, who said she had no more secrets to divulge, 'curious eyes never run dry.' Also in the indictment: 'It is part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure.' Reporters have extremely complicated relationships with sources, especially whistleblower types like Manning, who are often under extreme stress and emotionally vulnerable. At different times, you might counsel the same person both for and against disclosure. It's proper to work through all the reasons for action in any direction, including weighing the public's interest, the effect on the source's conscience and mental health, and personal and professional consequences. For this reason, placing criminal penalties on a prosecutor's interpretation of such interactions will likely put a scare into anyone involved with national security reporting going forward. As Ben Wizner of the ACLU put it: 'Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks' publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.' Unfortunately, Assange's case, and the very serious issues it raises, will be impacted in profound ways by things that took place long after the alleged offenses, specifically the Russiagate story. It's why some reporters are less than concerned about the Assange case today. [...] It will therefore be interesting to see if Assange is finally asked about Russiagate by someone in American officialdom. If he isn't, that will be yet another curious detail in a case that gets stranger by the minute. As for Assange's case, coverage by a national press corps that embraced him at the time of these offenses — and widely re-reported his leaks — will likely focus on the narrow hacking issue, as if this is not really about curtailing legitimate journalism. In reality, it would be hard to find a more extreme example of how deep the bipartisan consensus runs on expanding the policing of leaks."

"Daniel Ellsberg on the Importance of Julian Assange: 'As part of their attempt to blacken WikiLeaks and Assange, pundit commentary ... has tried to portray Assange's exposure of classified materials as very different from — and far less laudable than — what Daniel Ellsberg did in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg strongly rejects the mantra 'Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks material bad.' He continues: 'That's just a cover for people who don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy. The truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.'"

"While Much of US Media Plays Along, Critics Warn Assange Indictment an 'Obvious' Ploy With Deeper Dangers: 'This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the U.S.'"

And Naked Capitalism has a round-up on the Assange story. If one thing is clear, the charge is just the only thing they could come up with to try to get around Britain's extradition laws, but he is being tried for publishing, regardless of what they say they are charging him for.

"Wendell Primus, The Most Powerful Staffer In Congress, Represents A Generational Divide On The Left - David Dayen also talked about this with Sam Seder, The Top Pelosi Aide Aiming to Kill Medicare For All w/ David Dayen - MR Live - 4/17/19. The saddest thing is that Primus really thinks he's defending what's left of the New Deal by behaving this way. Getting into a defensive crouch has really been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the '70s, but they really seem to have frozen in time once Reagan got into office.

Bloomberg, "The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan: Wealthy Americans have stepped up investment in New Zealand. Parliament votes to ban foreigners from buying bolt-hole homes." This is actually old news, but someone pointed it out to me when I remarked that back in the early days of this blog I wondered where they were planning to live after ruining the world. And it's not exactly a standalone - from The New Yorker, "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich. Rich people from New York to Seattle have been building bunkers in Kansas, compounds in the Rockies, and buying up islands in the Pacific Northwest. And this one is even freakier: "Survival of the Richest [...] Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor's salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of 'the future of technology.' [...] They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern. Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?'"

Interesting news on how a cancer treatment I don't want to describe also has the interesting side effect of reducing autism symptoms. Makes ya think, huh?

You thought Tom Lehrer was just a math teacher who wrote funny songs, but little did you know he also invented Jell-O Shots.

Friday, April 12, 2019

In madness and fear

Julian Assange was arrested today outside of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Here's the Guardian blog on today's events in that regard. The whole affair raises a lot of questions about freedom of the press and the behavior of several governments in collusion to destroy it.

Consortium News addressed some of those questions in "On the Pavement with Wikileaks : "When Julian Assange does leave the embassy, it will be important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Assange is actually wanted for extradition, Craig Murray comments. [...] When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about U.S. war crimes and other illegal acts. It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Paul Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter. This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian's position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

"Trump administration approved secret nuclear power tech sales to Saudi Arabia, document shows: WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. [...] Many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did. In addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to U.S. standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel." This directly circumvents the expressed will of Congress.

"U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation: June 22 (UPI) -- A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty -- and more than half of those live in "extreme" or "absolute" poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. [...] Alston criticized the Trump administration for stigmatizing the poor and saying those receiving government benefits are lazy and should be working. The report found just 7 percent of benefits recipients are not working." When I was a kid, people talked about the Black Hole of Calcutta. Now it's America.

"Dallas Police Shamed Into Dropping Charges Against Black Woman Beaten By Racist: The Dallas district attorney said he was unaware of the charges. Authorities in Dallas dropped the felony charge against a Black woman seen on video last month being brutally beaten by a racist white man, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt announced on Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, Dallas police charged L'Daijohnique Lee with criminal mischief in her confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield on March 21. She was accused of damaging Shuffield's pickup truck after he violently attacked her in the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum." And another piece of the story, "See Also: Prosecutor Blames Bail System For Allowing White Man To Leave Jail After Vicious Assault Of Black Woman."

"The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass: In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country's already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally. [...] It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller's vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller's manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there's plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner — and Trump — want. So what is that? Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner's push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course — as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It's working!"

I guess TMBS - 83 - Russia, Russia, Russia, (& AIPAC) ft. Matt Taibbi & Francesca Fiorentini pretty much covered that subject.

Sam Seder interviewed Paul Waldman on Ring of Fire, "Joe Biden's Record Bursting into Flames under Magnifying Glass of Voters."

A lot is being made of Joe Biden's inability to keep his hands to himself, but maybe that's to make people forget that he runs around saying stuff like this: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire." And what's his genius idea? Means-testing. Means-testing is a way to put up barriers for the people who really need it while making the programs no longer universal, and therefore less popular, and thereby start the process of eliminating or privatizing them. Biden's apologists on his past record of this kind of thing insist that his thinking has changed (on the Hyde Amendment, he can get away with this pretense because now that he voted for it over and over, Bush finally signed it into law so he doesn't have to vote for it anymore), but this quote is from January 2019, just a few months back. This kind of thing is what his whole career has been about, and there's no evidence he truly regrets any of it. I just want him to keep his hands off government.

Malcolm, Iowa is a town of 300 people, so unsurprisingly, when a presidential candidate shows up to hold a rally for the first time in history, the whole town shows up. This is kind of interesting to watch, because you can see a little difference from those much bigger rallies he's been doing lately. (I was also reminded, when he twice brought up issues he was currently alerting the public to and said he hadn't known about them before he was told recently ("Shoulda known, but didn't"), of how when Hillary Clinton had the virtues of single-payer explained to her, she responded with, "Now tell me something real.")

America's foremost concern troll, Barack Obama, seems to be on a world tour of concern-trolling as he leads the circular firing squad against circular firing squads.

Charlie Pierce, "Not One Single Democrat Should Get Behind the Worst Idea in American Politics: The balanced-budget amendment is incredibly dumb, and inextricably linked to The Dumbest Idea in American History. This makes me crazy. Any Democratic politicians who attach themselves to any derivation of The Worst Idea In American Politics, especially in 2019, are not "moderate Democrats." They are conservative Democrats or, more accurately, radically conservative Democrats. Really, Bloomberg, knock this stuff off. Also, Blue Dogs? Knock this stuff off, too."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won [...] The 2016 campaign season brought to the surface awesome levels of political discontent. After the election, instead of wondering where that anger came from, most of the press quickly pivoted to a new tale about a Russian plot to attack our Democracy. This conveyed the impression that the election season we'd just lived through had been an aberration, thrown off the rails by an extraordinary espionage conspiracy between Trump and a cabal of evil foreigners. This narrative contradicted everything I'd seen traveling across America in my two years of covering the campaign. The overwhelming theme of that race, long before anyone even thought about Russia, was voter rage at the entire political system. The anger wasn't just on the Republican side, where Trump humiliated the Republicans' chosen $150 million contender, Jeb Bush (who got three delegates, or $50 million per delegate). It was also evident on the Democratic side, where a self-proclaimed 'Democratic Socialist' with little money and close to no institutional support became a surprise contender. Because of a series of press misdiagnoses before the Russiagate stories even began, much of the American public was unprepared for news of a Trump win. A cloak-and-dagger election-fixing conspiracy therefore seemed more likely than it might have otherwise to large parts of the domestic news audience, because they hadn't been prepared for anything else that would make sense. [...] Trump was selling himself as a traitor to a corrupt class, someone who knew how soulless and greedy the ruling elite was because he was one of them. His story of essentially buying the attendance of the Clintons at his wedding — no matter what you think of it — resonated powerfully with voters. He sneered at Hillary as the worst kind of aristocrat, a member of a family with title and no money. She and Bill were second-tier gentry, the kind who had to work, and what work! Hillary was giving speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs for amounts of money Trump would probably say he spent on airplane snacks (even if it were a lie). He claimed Goldman 'owned her.' Having watched Trump wipe out Jeb using similar arguments, I thought a race against Hillary Clinton, who was running on her decades of experience residing in hated Washington, 'would be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse.' Trump's chances increased when pundits ignored polls and insisted he had no shot at the nomination. The universality of this take reeked of the same kind of single-track, orthodox official-think that later plagued the Russia story. [...] Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, 'I guess people hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump.'"

Really, Schultz seems to come out with something amazingly stupid every time he opens his mouth. I'm convinced his sister or girlfriend must be the one who said it would be a good idea to open coffee shops, he seems too thick to have thought of the idea himself, simple as it was. His brilliant idea of having an empty chair in the room to "represent the American people" when he discussed important issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives was awesome. And also, "Dumb Starbucks Man Has Precisely Two Thoughts."

I probably should have been linking to Tarbell earlier. Here's Dr. Hagop Kantarjian with "How to Fix Out-Of-Control Drug Costs to Serve Patients, Not Drug Company Profits [...] Market forces are not effective in lowering drug prices largely because of a 'non-interference clause' included in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), which overhauled the program. This clause, demanded by the pharmaceutical lobby as a condition of its support, prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The MMA also included, under Medicare Part D, prescription benefits for Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicare must pay the prices imposed by drug companies without any ability to negotiate. This led to claims by some elected officials that the government does not negotiate effectively, and that free-market forces would result in reasonable drug prices and profits. History has shown otherwise: Almost 16 years after passage of the MMA, we are witnessing massive increases in drug prices and drug industry profits. [...] Though a majority of Americans support these proposed actions, and numerous bills have been introduced in Congress, none has made it into law because of opposition by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. The Obama administration did not address high cancer drug prices effectively. In May 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 'American Patients First — The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.' HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the drug industry's repeated mantra that it must make large profits to pay for research and innovation was a tired point, and that the biggest problem was simple: Drug prices are too high. In other words, the drug industry is too greedy."

"A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He's Speaking Out: A HIGH-LEVEL ADVISER and operative for the 2016 Sanders campaign was Vitali Shkliarov, a Soviet-born citizen of Belarus. Shkliarov, who had previously worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign and for several other successful Democratic Party campaigns, has also become increasingly in demand as a political adviser and campaign manager in Russia, working for liberal candidates in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Possessing a unique background and vantage point, Shkliarov, now that the 2016 election is over, has many interesting observations to express on the state of American politics, the Democratic Party, U.S.-Russian relations, and the impact of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. [...] Of particular interest is Shkliarov's analysis of — and his warnings about — the dangers posed from escalating U.S.-Russia tensions (on Tuesday night, the U.S. scrambled jets in response to Russian warplanes flying 100 miles off the coast of Alaska for the first time since Trump became president). Especially noteworthy are Shkliarov's concerns about how intensifying anti-Russian sentiment in U.S. discourse is alienating Russian liberals from the U.S. and uniting them behind their own government — as happens in most countries when people, even those who loathe their own government, perceive that their nation is being demonized and targeted by a foreign power."

Cory Doctorow, "Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries: Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Customers will receive refunds. This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books. When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn't get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid. People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon's Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. "

"The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained: Cigna, a major insurer, is capping monthly insulin costs at $25. It's a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. [...] 'Any measure that helps only a portion of the population through opaque deals between the players responsible for this crisis is not a solution,' Elizabeth Pfiester, the founder and executive director of the patient group T1International, told Vox. 'We need long-term assurance that manufacturers will be held accountable and prices will be affordable — not another Band-Aid.'"

Interview on The Real News, "Trump and Pelosi Both Cater to Private Health Insurance — Wendell Potter"

"The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That'S Wrong With Liberalism: The SPLC's deceptive and hypocritical approach to anti-racism... The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-'80s, and the SPLC's shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately. But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we'll better understand the ways in which a shallow 'politics of spectacle' can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change."

"Voting Machines Are Still Absurdly Vulnerable To Attacks"

"What Conservative Dems-- The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party-- Don't Want

Highly-recommended interview with Z of Black Socialists of America. I love that they make the point that you have to do the work, not just expect people to know.

I had almost forgotten this. These people are thoroughly intertwined with government in DC and it's shameful. "Jeff Sharlet on Hillary Clinton's Relationship to "The Family" - 4/5" With disastrous results: "An Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover Of Federal Programs: Two Presidents In A Row Have Increasingly Steered Federal Grants And Contracts To Conservative Christian Groups — Including Houses Of Worship." But that was in 2014. It hasn't improved.

Walk Off the Earth, with Sarah Silverman, "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Hear Roger Taylor's Political Single 'Gangsters Are Running This World: The Queen drummer has some thoughts on the state of things."