16 June 2016

There's no times at all, just The New York Times

The last couple of weeks kinda got away from me, so I'm just going to post this to get it out of the way.

Gun control just became a gay issue: There's nothing I can really say about the Orlando killings, but given that gay-hating in certain American "Christian" circles is ubiquitous, it's pretty stupid to blame Muslims for something these "Christians" seem to advocate on a daily basis. And maybe the story is more complicated than the punditocracy can understand. You only have to look at the Republicans in Congress to know that homosexuals who also suffer from their own homophobia are pretty scary people. Or maybe the guy just got turned down too may times, or just got dumped, but he doesn't even seem to have known the difference between Hezbolla and ISIL, so he wasn't much of a Muslim activist. I don't know. But from the beginning, the media was strangely reluctant to admit that there was any significance to the fact that it was an attack on a gay venue, though the world knew it,
* And then there's this: "British security company G4S confirms that Florida shooter is one of their own [...] G4S claims expertise in vetting and screening employees: 'A robust employee screening programme helps organisations minimise the risk of making inappropriate recruitment decisions,' G4S tells potential customers. 'We have a wealth of experience in developing and implementing background checks and security clearance for companies in the private and public sector.' But time and again racist, misogynist and otherwise dangerous people have slipped through the company's own screening process and been given power over vulnerable people. Repeatedly the company's readiness to act in response to warnings has been found wanting."
* Bernie Sanders, of course, reiterated his long-standing opposition to the sale of automatic weapons and his support of expanded background checks and closing sales loopholes.

LGBT for Sanders: Be the change you want to believe in.

Bernie Sanders' speech in Santa Monica

Stunning millions, the Associated Press announced early last week that the primaries were over and Hillary Clinton had won, based on her superdelegate count - on the eve of the California, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and Montana races. At first I assumed it was just AP jumping the gun to scoop everyone else, but maybe not. Perhaps we were tipped that this was already in the works when a superdelegate endorsed Bernie because "the DNC has informed me that I cannot stay neutral until the convention." Hm, where do they get off doing that? In the event, there is much speculation that this announcement depressed voter turn-out and hurt down-ticket races as well as specifically depressing Sanders turn-out (since older voters are far less likely to be voting-day voters and had probably already mailed in their ballots).

So, the results were disappointing, with radical drop in what appeared to be a close race on the west coast, and Sanders only taking two states - one where hardly anyone seemed to show up - only 354 Democrats caucused in North Dakota (which Bernie took 64.2%-25.6). He also took Montana, 51.1%-44.6%. But California went to Clinton (55.8%-43.2%), as did New Jersey (63.2%-36.8%) and the rest, and that's really all she wrote. There are still a couple million provisional and mail-in ballots left to be counted in California, but no one expects them to change anything, particularly since Clinton voters were more likely to have voted early. (But yeah, there were voting problems.)
* No surprises in the Chocolate City, either.

Sanders Campaign Statement on Puerto Rico Polling Places: "Some Puerto Rico Democratic officials are claiming that the Sanders campaign requested fewer polling places in today's primary contest. That's completely false. The opposite is true. In emails with the party, Sanders' staff asked the party to maintain the 1,500 plus presidential primary locations promised by the Puerto Rico Democratic party in testimony before the DNC in April, when the party was asking to have its caucus changed to a primary. They cannot blame their shoddy running of the primary on our campaign. This is just one example of irregularities going on in Puerto Rico voting today. We are the campaign that has been fighting to increase voter participation." Activists had warned that closing so many polling places would cause chaos, and it did, as well as significantly depressing turnout: While local officials expected more than 700,000, only 60,671 made it to the ballot box. Though voter turnout in Puerto Rico is usually much higher than in the 50 U.S. states, Sunday's Democratic race had a dismal showing of just 3.45 percent of eligible voters. After spending weeks telling the press that the decision to reduce the number of polling sites was based on lack of funding and a lack of poll workers, the local Democratic Party changed its story Sunday and claimed that the Sanders campaign requested the cuts." Of course, this is a ludicrous excuse and one wonders if it's possible for the DNC to stop blaming Sanders for their own behavior.

Matt Taibbi: "Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie: [...] This was no ordinary primary race, not a contest between warring factions within the party establishment, á la Obama-Clinton in '08 or even Gore-Bradley in '00. This was a barely quelled revolt that ought to have sent shock waves up and down the party, especially since the Vote of No Confidence overwhelmingly came from the next generation of voters. Yet editorialists mostly drew the opposite conclusion. [...] Politicians are so used to viewing the electorate as a giant thing to be manipulated that no matter what happens at the ballot, they usually can only focus on the Washington-based characters they perceive to be pulling the strings. Through this lens, the uprising among Democratic voters this year wasn't an organic expression of mass disgust, but wholly the fault of Bernie Sanders, who within the Beltway is viewed as an oddball amateur and radical who jumped the line. Nobody saw his campaign as an honest effort to restore power to voters, because nobody in the capital even knows what that is. In the rules of palace intrigue, Sanders only made sense as a kind of self-centered huckster who made a failed play for power. And the narrative will be that with him out of the picture, the crisis is over. No person, no problem."
* He's right. The press is already full of articles explaining that Clinton doesn't need those Sanders' voters anyway.
* Meanwhile, Joshua Holland is quick to use it as an excuse to stop fighting and learn to love the neoliberals. Pretty sad.

"Proving Revolution Has Roots, Vast Majority of Dems Back Major Sanders Role: 'Election days come and go but political revolutions are not dependent on election days,' says Bernie Sanders." Clinton claimed she was winning because of her policies, but that clearly isn't true if most Democrats want Sanders' policies to stay up front. Of course, a majority of them also said Sanders should endorse Clinton. I wonder if it will be anything like the endorsement he gave Bill Clinton....

"The Democratic Party derailed Bernie: How the establishment has worked to discredit Sanders' movement: Party leaders demonized Sanders supporters to stymie debate of the progressive change he's championed. [...] One constant narrative throughout the primaries has been that Sanders just can't gain the support of women or people of color, and that his supporters are overwhelmingly white males who back him for the simple reason that he is a man (e.g. Walsh's 'angry white male cult'). But again, this is complete hogwash. Sanders has actually done better with young women than young men - a USA Today poll taken in the midst of the primaries found that Millennial women backed 'Sanders by a jaw-dropping 61%-30% while the divide among Millennial men is much closer, 48%-44%.' Similarly, while Clinton has dominated with African American voters overall, young black and Hispanic voters have a more favorable opinion of Sanders than Clinton, according to a Gallup survey from May. Indeed, Sanders is viewed even more favorably among black millenials than white millenials. The survey also found that Sanders is viewed more favorably among millennial women than millennial men, and that millenials were the most left-leaning generation. [...] This seems to validate the notion that the youngest generation is the most progressive generation and that they like Bernie Sanders because he's the most progressive candidate (I know, it's crazy that voters would support a politician because of his or her politics and ideas rather than his or her gender or ethnicity)."

"Media Coverage of the Primaries Was Awful, Harvard Study Confirms [...] Thomas Patterson, Harvard's Bradley Professor of Government and the Press, in conjunction with the Shorenstein Center on Media, Public Policy, and Politics, conducted an analysis of eight different cable networks and newspapers and found that media companies devoted an unprecedented amount of coverage to Donald Trump from the start of his campaign, effectively shutting out over a dozen of his competitors. The Shorenstein analysis also learned that the Republican candidates got roughly twice as much media coverage as the Democratic candidates."

Thomas Frank, "Anthem for Bummed Youth [...] As for the issues, there is really only one this year: What we call, alternately, 'the economy,' or 'inequality,' or the slow deterioration of the middle class. It overshadows everything else. For young people, who know firsthand the emptiness of the politicians' promises of economic security for the properly credentialed, the matter is particularly acute. This is the one great issue facing the nation, and yet as of today it is essentially off the table. Yes, economic desperation has given us Donald Trump, but the suggestion that this swaggering mountebank might actually do what is required to reverse our national illness seems like a cruel joke at the moment. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has never really had more than a feigned, superficial interest in the fate of working people; her lifelong concern is exactly what she has said it is so many times in this campaign: 'breaking down barriers' that keep individuals from rising in their chosen fields. That this is the correct goal of all social policy is obvious and even instinctive to her, as are so many other assumptions of the professional class. Meritocracy defines her life as well as her politics. For the affluent professionals who are the Democratic Party's truest believers, what is unfolding today is a scenario of fulfillment and triumph. They have always suspected that politics is really just a battle between the stupid and the smart, the ignorant and the enlightened, and every morning for the next five months their newspapers will tell them how very right they are. "

Paul Street, "Feel the Hate [...] Mr. Clinton earned the gratitude of Wall Street and corporate America by passing the arch-global-corporatist North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act (which had mandated a necessary separation between commercial deposit and investment banking), and by de-regulating the burgeoning super-risky and high-stakes financial derivatives sector. He knew the score from day one of his presidency. As the famed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward noted in his 1994 book The Agenda, Clinton said the following just weeks after winning the 1992 election: 'we're Eisenhower Republicans here.... We stand for lower deficits, free trade, and the bond market. Isn't that great?' Clinton added that his post-election policy direction would 'help the bond market' and 'hurt the people who voted us in.' The Clintons certainly do know how to get things done." There's a whole lot more there, but I hadn't seen that before.

"President Obama Proposes Expanding Social Security Benefits" - This is a bit of a surprise, although it's fuzzy enough not be clear what it actually means, but it's a gift to Clinton if she's smart enough to take it. Not sure she understands that the best way to unify the party is to take Sanders' policies on board. Not sure she even wants to unify the party.

Jonathan Turley, "Nixonian palace guard now protects Hillary: Greatest danger from electing Clinton president may be her cadre of fawning aides [...] What is so concerning is that Clinton seems to invite such expressions of absolute loyalty and reverence. The question is whether there is a John Dean willing to walk into her office and tell her of a cancer growing within the White House. After years of scandals and investigations, Clinton has distilled a team down to the truest believers who have little difficulty repeating truth-defying spins or refusing to cooperate with investigators."

"Emails Show TPP 'Collusion' Between Big Banks & Obama Administration: Emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show U.S. Trade Rep. Michael Froman discussing TPP with Goldman Sachs lobbyists."

"Hillary Clinton's Flat and Misleading Foreign Policy Speech [...] It's been getting decent reviews in the mainstream media for the zingers she tossed at Donald Trump. But when you listen to the speech (you can watch it here) and think about it, you realize how insipid and unoriginal it really was. [...] 1. The speech featured the usual American exceptionalism, the usual fear that if America withdraws from the world stage, chaos will result. There was no sense that America's wars of choice in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. have greatly contributed to that chaos. Oh, there was also the usual boast that America has the greatest military. That's what Imperial and Nazi Germany used to boast - until the Germans lost two world wars and smartened up. 2. Hillary mentioned we're electing 'our' next commander-in-chief. No, we're not. The president is a public servant, not 'our' commander-in-chief. The president serves as the civilian commander-in-chief of the military, and the military alone. [...] For many people who are leery of a Trump presidency, Hillary's hawkish and colorless conformity to the Washington system is more than enough to qualify her. If she wins the presidency, she will be much like Brezhnev and Andropov, senior apparatchiks of an empire in denial of its own precipitous decline."
* "Sanders to Clinton: Yes, Trump's Foreign Policy Ideas Are Scary. But So Are Yours: We need a foreign policy based on building coalitions and making certain that the brave American men and women in our military do not get bogged down in perpetual warfare in the Middle East. That's what I will fight for as president."
* Marcy Wheeler, "Hillary Promises Not to Order the Military (!?!) to Torture: Though I agree with the general sentiment that Donald Trump should not be trusted with America's nuclear codes, there's a lot I loathed in Hillary's foreign policy speech yesterday. Her neat espousal of American exceptionalism, with the specter that another country could make decisions about our lives and jobs and safety, is especially rich coming from a woman who has negotiated several trade deals that give corporations the power to make decisions about our lives and jobs and safety." x
* "The Bigger Nuclear Risk: Trump or Clinton? If the U.S. election comes down to Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump, the American people will have to decide between two candidates who could risk the future of the planet, albeit for very different reasons, writes Robert Parry."
* "Clinton Positions Herself to the Right of Trump in National Security Speech: Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies says although Clinton rightfully used her national security speech to condemn the bigotry and outlandishness of Trump's positions, she laid out a much more militaristic foreign policy."
* "We Can't Have More of the Same: The Very Real Dangers of Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy: Trump may well be dangerous. But know what you're getting with Hillary: American hegemony that's hated worldwide."

"Did Hillary Force #DebtTrapDebbie And Patrick Murphy To Stop Backing The Koch Brothers Payday Lenders Bill?"

David Dayen in The New Republic,: "Bernie Sanders Has Already Won California: The results won't change the Democratic contest - but the campaign has changed everything. Does the outcome of next Tuesday's California primary matter? Conventional wisdom says no; news outlets are already pinpointing the precise time of the evening when Hillary Clinton will clinch the nomination with victories elsewhere - three hours before the polls close in the Golden State. Naturally, this perturbs Bernie Sanders fans, who see it as one more way the Democratic nomination contest has been rigged from the start. But they should know that the election in California is of critical importance - not to deciding the 2016 Democratic nomination (already a done deal), but to determining the future of the Democratic Party."

Hillary Clinton's Plan for Conservation and Collaborative Stewardship of America's Great Outdoors is full of wonkish phrases but if you read carefully, it seems to be saying we will be destroying the natural landscape in order to turn it into energy farms. "MAKE PUBLIC LANDS AN ENGINE OF THE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY: As President, Clinton will set a goal to generate enough renewable energy to power every home in the country. To help meet this goal, Clinton will expand energy production on public lands and waters ten-fold within ten years of taking office, while reforming federal fossil fuel leasing."

"Clinton isn't Moving Left, She is Dragging her Supporters to the Right
* "Clinton's Long Shadow: Hillary Clinton may never be called to account for her role in Haiti's ongoing political crisis."

Yves Smith, "Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary [...] The result is that the U.S. economy is becoming lethal to the less fortunate, according to the New York Times, which reported this week that U.S. death rates have risen for the first time in a decade. The increase in death rates among less educated whites since 2001 is roughly the size of the AIDS epidemic. One cause, the opioid epidemic, resulted from Purdue Pharma overselling the effectiveness of reformulated OxyContin, then recommending higher dosages when it failed to work properly, which experts deemed a prescription for creating addicts, according to a number of lawsuits. This was permitted by the U.S. government, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths. Despite President Barack Obama's Panglossian claim that the economy is doing well, the spike in suicides to levels over those during the financial crisis belies that. Yet the Clinton campaign is in such denial about this that it has become vitriolic in its verbal and tactical attacks on Sanders and his supporters - rather than recognizing that the stunning success of his campaign is proof of their abject policy failures. The message is clear: The Clintons believe, as Bill himself put it, that the true progressives have nowhere to go. But in fact, they've been leaving. The Clinton and Obama administrations presided over the worst losses in congressional and state races in modern history in 1994, 2010 and 2012. And voter preferences were clear. Under Obama, it was the Blue Dog, Third Way Democrats who were turfed out, while candidates with strong stances on economic justice kept their seats. Similarly, as political scientist Tom Ferguson pointed out in a Roosevelt Institute paper, Obama's loss of a Senate majority when Republican Scott Brown won in Massachusetts was the result of his focus on bailing out banks rather than aiding distressed homeowners (or forcing mortgage services to give modifications to borrowers who still had adequate income, as banks had done historically). The level of votes for Brown was strongly correlated with the amount of foreclosures in those particular districts."
* And a scary poll graph from The Wall Street Journal and NBC News shows Americans think Trump will be better than Clinton on the economy, but Clinton will be a better "Commander in Chief".

"Obama Administration Bars Release of Clinton's TPP Emails Until Post-Election: Response for FOIA request was 'abruptly' changed from spring 2016 to late November 2016."

"New Hillary Scandal Checks All the Boxes on the Clinton Controversy Bingo Card. [...] Thanks to a newly released batch of State Department emails, ABC News was able to revisit the story of Rajiv Fernando, a wealthy securities trader who gave heavily to both Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and the Clinton Foundation - and who just so happened to land himself a plum spot on a sensitive government intelligence advisory panel after Hillary became secretary of state. Politicos rewarding donors is sadly not uncommon but what makes this particular example stand out is Fernando's lack of qualifications for a job that involved advising the secretary of state - and, by extension, the president of the United States - on the topic of nuclear weapons."

"Fraction Magic - Part 1: Votes Are Being Counted As Fractions Instead Of As Whole Numbers: This report summarizes the results of our review of the GEMS election management system, which counts approximately 25 percent of all votes in the United States. The results of this study demonstrate that a fractional vote feature is embedded in each GEMS application which can be used to invisibly, yet radically, alter election outcomes by pre-setting desired vote percentages to redistribute votes. This tampering is not visible to election observers, even if they are standing in the room and watching the computer. Use of the decimalized vote feature is unlikely to be detected by auditing or canvass procedures, and can be applied across large jurisdictions in less than 60 seconds."

David Dayen, "New Payday-Loan Rules Won't Stop Predatory Lenders"

Government Will Pay $100,000 to Davis, Former Chief Prosecutor at Guantánamo

Jason Leopold, Marcy Wheeler, and Ky Henderson at Vice, "Snowden Tried to Tell NSA About Surveillance Concerns, Documents Reveal." Which is what he's been saying all along.

Employers Butthurt By Having To Pay Hard Workers A Middle Class Wage

"US unemployed have quit looking for jobs at a 'frightening' level: Survey" - I wonder if anyone has noticed.

"The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies" - The reason we had eight-hour days in the first place wasn't just the union movement, it was the realization by employers that by having workers on the job for shorter hours, they saved money. If they could figure that out in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, it's amazing that our modern technocrats haven't managed to keep up to date.

"Ex-Big Pharma Rep: We're Trained To Misinform -The Drugs ARE Dangerous."

"Burying the White Working Class: Liberal condescension towards white workers is code for a broader anti-working class agenda [...] Despite off-the-charts wealth inequality, Democratic Party liberals have been concerned not with an egalitarian reckoning to unite the have-nots against the haves but with inclusion: bringing different 'interest groups' into the professional class while managing everyone else's expectations downward. This kind of 'inclusion' politics - the chance at climbing one of a tiny handful of rickety ladders to the top - is the only economic program the Democratic Party mainstream is selling to those not already in the upper tiers. Sure, this politics is better than nothing. But as Ralph Miliband put it, 'access to positions of power by members of the subordinate classes does not change the fact of domination: it only changes its personnel.' Standing outside of this shift, unmoved and - as the Democratic Party sees it - ungrateful, is the white working class. Not just those silver-haired remnants from the unionized, manufacturing heyday whose jobs have been offshored or, more likely, de-unionized, but the vast swath who've been forced to adjust to the new norm of low-wage, flexible, service-sector hell. Even with the college degree and boatload of debt needed to obtain it."

Astonishingly, "Larry Summers Gets This Right: We Really Need An Infrastructure Decade" - When ordinary people don't have enough money to spend, there's no demand, and therefore nothing for rich investors to invest in. You can start fixing this by having a government that puts money into the hands of ordinary people - by, for example, hiring them to do all the work that needs to be done, of which there is quite a lot.

"John Oliver buys up $15 million in medical debt, then pays off the debt for 9,000 people in hardship." Actually, he bought it up at a substantial discount ($60K) and then simply forgave the debt, but how cool is that? (I couldn't see the video in the article, which apparently the uploader had not made available in my country, but I found it here instead.)

"US unemployed have quit looking for jobs at a 'frightening' level: Survey." I'm just gonna let you read this and make your own grumbled retorts.

"U.N. Chief Admits He Removed Saudi Arabia From Child-Killer List Due to Extortion: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly acknowledged Thursday that he removed the Saudi-led coalition currently bombing Yemen from a blacklist of child killers - 72 hours after it was published - due to a financial threat to defund United Nations programs."

RIP: Muhammad Ali, 'The Greatest of All Time', Dead at 74. He would "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." He was a champion of civil rights and one of the most compelling figures on the world stage in my lifetime.
* Pierce: "Muhammad Ali Transcended Sports, Culture, and Time: There's no real ending for an existence like that."
* Thomas Hauser in the Guardian, "Muhammad Ali: the man behind the icon: The late boxer's biographer recalls getting to know a deeply spiritual and intelligent man with endless tales, no regrets and a passion for life that never diminished, even as his condition did."
* "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I'm not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn't have to draft me, I'd join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I'll go to jail, so what? We've been in jail for 400 years." - Muhammad Ali

Richard Eskow, "Social Security's Enemies Are Down - But They're Not Out [...] If the Republicans win all three branches of government, Social Security will be in immediate mortal danger. And while the rhetorical shift among Democrats is welcome, they'll need to be held to it. Hillary Clinton's website says she would 'expand Social Security for those who need it most and who are treated unfairly by the current system.' That's not enough, given the current retirement crisis. The Sanders proposal, which is detailed and covers everyone, must be written into the Democratic platform. And activists must send the message that there will be dire political consequences if it isn't honored. Otherwise, a new 'grand bargain' is still a very real possibility."

"Eric Clapton Struggling to Play Guitar Due to Nerve System Damage." He can still play, but it hurts.

Congratulations, Roz! "30 years on, Roz Kaveney's Tiny Pieces of Skull, or a Lesson in Manners is finally in print and winning prizes."

"The Great Barrier Reef: a catastrophe laid bare: Australia's natural wonder is in mortal danger. Bleaching caused by climate change has killed almost a quarter of its coral this year and many scientists believe it could be too late for the rest. Using exclusive photographs and new data, a Guardian special report investigates how the reef has been devastated - and what can be done to save it"

Wind sculptures

Simon & Garfunkel live