Wednesday, August 31, 2016

And I'm sure they meant you could be president

Ray McGovern, "A Lawless Plan to Target Syria's Allies: On Aug. 17, TV interviewer Charlie Rose gave former acting CIA Director Michael Morell a 'mulligan' for an earlier wayward drive on Aug. 8 that sliced deep into the rough and even stirred up some nonviolent animals by advocating the murder of Russians and Iranians. But, alas, Morell duffed the second drive, too. Morell did so despite Rose's efforts to tee up the questions as favorably as possible, trying to help Morell explain what he meant about 'killing' Russians and Iranians in Syria and bombing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad into submission. [...] Not to put too fine a point on this, but everything that Morell is advocating here violates international law, the rules that - in other circumstances, i.e. when another government is involved - the U.S. government condemns as 'aggression' or as an 'invasion' or as 'terrorism.'" And it looks like there may be a place for him in Clinton's government, too.

"A Congressman Campaigns to 'Stop the Madness' of U.S. Support for Saudi Bombing in Yemen: For months, a California congressman has been trying to get Obama administration officials to reconsider U.S. backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And for months, he has been given the runaround. Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing Los Angeles County, served in the Air Force and is a colonel in the Air Force Reserves. The brutal bombing of civilian areas with U.S.-supplied planes and weapons has led him to act when most of his colleagues have stayed silent. 'I taught the law of war when I was on active duty,' he told The Intercept. 'You can't kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients - those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians,' he said. 'So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.'"

"Is Angela Corey the Cruelest Prosecutor in America? The woman who failed to convict Trayvon Martin's killer is putting hundreds of kids in prison, and dozens of people on death row."

"Cop Shoots and Kills Unarmed Deaf Man as He Tries to Communicate Using Sign Language."

"Man Sues Surveillance Company for Spying on His Conversations With Married Woman: And the legal implications are as far-reaching as affecting if it's legal for your boss to spy on you at work."

"Obama's TPP campaign could drag down Democrats: How much is President Obama willing to harm the Democratic Party in order to win approval for the deeply unpopular Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 'trade' agreement? We may soon find out."

David Dayen, "The Big Problem With The Trans-Pacific Partnership's Super Court That We're Not Talking About: Financiers will use it to bet on lawsuits, while taxpayers foot the bill."

The Nation, "How Obama Helped Lay the Groundwork for Trump's Thuggery: His refusal to prosecute torturers and his Wild West assassination of bin Laden show how moral complacency can all too easily degenerate into full-blown corruption."

Rolling Stone, "The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters: Will an anti-voter-fraud program designed by one of Trump's advisers deny tens of thousands their right to vote in November?"

"Report shows that Army took away gun from Dallas cop shooter Micah Johnson: A sergeant who supervised Micah Johnson, the man who killed five Dallas police officers in July, told the Army that his gun should be taken from him in 2014 because he posed a potential threat, according to a newly released Army investigation."

"U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors Russian Threat Is Great for Business: The escalating anti-Russian rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign comes in the midst of a major push by military contractors to position Moscow as a potent enemy that must be countered with a drastic increase in military spending by NATO countries. Weapon makers have told investors that they are relying on tensions with Russia to fuel new business in the wake of Russian's annexation of Crimea and modest increases in its military budget."

"One year on, Russia's war in Syria is hardly a 'quagmire': US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan got bogged down by ambitious goals. In Syria, Russia has kept it simple and is gaining in influence in the region because of it."

"WikiLeaks Reveals How the US Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath: On August 31, 2013, US president Barack Obama announced that he intended to launch a military attack on Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack in that country that the US blamed on the Syrian government. Obama assured the US public that this would be a limited action solely intended to punish the Assad government for using chemical weapons; the goal of US military action would not be to overthrow the Assad government, nor to change the balance of forces in Syria's sectarian civil war. [...] The cables gave the public a recent window into the strategies and motivations of US officials as they expressed them to each other, not as they usually expressed them to the public. In the case of Syria, the cables show that regime change had been a long-standing goal of US policy; that the US promoted sectarianism in support of its regime-change policy, thus helping lay the foundation for the sectarian civil war and massive bloodshed that we see in Syria today; that key components of the Bush administration's regime-change policy remained in place even as the Obama administration moved publicly toward a policy of engagement; and that the US government was much more interested in the Syrian government's foreign policy, particularly its relationship with Iran, than in human rights inside Syria."

Marcy Wheeler, "Breaking from Saudi Arabia!!! Two-Month-Old Misleading News [...] From that headline, particularly the use of the present tense, you might assume that the US is in the process of withdrawing its Yemen-related staff from Saudi Arabia, perhaps in response to the Saudi war crimes earlier this week. But here's what the story actually reports: the staff withdrawal happened in June, and was in no way a response to this week's war crimes."
* "Breaking: Russians Claim They've Found Extraterrestrial Life to Tamper with Our Elections."

"The real reason Washington calls Putin a thug"

"US Soldiers Are Relying on Millions of Dollars in Food Stamps to Survive [...] For years, the military has been embarrassed by reports showing that some active-duty service members struggle to feed their families and use government benefits to get by. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Department of Defense (DoD) does not fully understand the scope of the problem." Frankly, this article doesn't go far enough - members of the military are being charged for things they should be getting for free, to begin with.

Dean Baker, "Fixing Obamacare: The Democrats Have to Talk About It [...] If we are going to see the problems with the ACA addressed, Democrats will have to start talking about the program and explaining what it has done in ensuring that people have health care. If people understand what the ACA is, they are likely to want to protect it, just as millions now rush to the defense of Medicare whenever it is threatened."

The New Republic, "The Anti-Democratic Urge: With populism on the rise in both parties, it has become fashionable for elites to bash the masses. But we need more democracy, not less. [...] In reality, our political system is far less democratic than it was a generation ago. Over the past 40 years, we've seen unions crushed, welfare gutted, higher education defunded, prisons packed to overflowing, voting rights curbed, and the rich made steadily richer while wages stagnated. It's not the frustration of the people that should terrify us, but rather the legitimate sources of their frustration, which have so long gone unaddressed. Regular citizens struggling to make ends meet have almost nowhere to turn, nothing to join. We shouldn't wonder that so many voters have seized on this election to make a statement, even a nihilistic one. To insist that the only solution is for the people to get back in line is to refuse to acknowledge that the 'establishment' bears any responsibility for the conditions that created the public's outrage in the first place.

"Liberal Hate for the Green Party: Liberals have joined Hillary Clinton's 'big nasty tent' in a very big way. They have moved far beyond the usual rationales for sticking with the Democrats and are now carrying on a full-fledged hate fest. Their targets are Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka, who is also a Black Agenda Report editor and columnist."

It's really worth listening to Sam Seder's interview with Carol Anderson: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, much as it will make you feel the outrage all over again - and there are probably a couple of things you didn't know about, too. But most of all, she ties it all together neatly.

Great segment from John Oliver on Charter Schools.

"The Real Reason Middle America Should Be Angry: Like many 'flyover' cities, St. Louis's decline is not mainly a story of deindustrialization, but of decisions in Washington that opened the door to predatory monopoly."

"Virgin Trains controversy 'has helped Jeremy Corbyn's leadership bid'" - All Corbyn had to do was mention being on a crowded train and the press seems to have gotten excited, but I was more interested in this: Corbyn also said he would support a private members' bill tabled by Labour backbencher Margaret Greenwood aimed at unpicking the internal market in the NHS. That approach received support from David Owen, former Labour health secretary and one of the founders of the Social Democratic party. 'For the first time in 14 years we have the leader of the Labour party today unequivocally committing the party to reversing the legislation which has created in England a broken down market-based healthcare system,' Lord Owen said. 'Surely now the whole Labour movement can combine together, left, right and centre to make this official party policy at this year's autumn conference.'" Yes, you'd think they could at least agree on that. I mean, that's David Owen, who isn't exactly famous as part of Labour's left.

"NPR Host Demands That Assange Do Something Its Own Reporters Are Told Never to Do" In a ten-minute interview aired Wednesday morning, NPR's David Greene asked Wikileaks founder Julian Assange five times to reveal the sources of the leaked information he has published on the internet. A major tenet of American journalism is that reporters protect their sources. Wikileaks is certainly not a traditional news organization, but Greene's persistent attempts to get Assange to violate confidentiality was alarming, especially considering that there has been no challenge to the authenticity of the material in question.

Carl Beijer reviews the latest embarrassing Twitter moment: "Why Neera Tanden's notepad gaffe is so hilarious"

On how Gawker has been sued out of existence, Tom Scocca says, "Gawker Was Murdered by Gaslight. [...] "Gawker always said it was in the business of publishing true stories. Here is one last true story: You live in a country where a billionaire can put a publication out of business. A billionaire can pick off an individual writer and leave that person penniless and without legal protection. If you want to write stories that might anger a billionaire, you need to work for another billionaire yourself, or for a billion-dollar corporation. The law will not protect you. There is no freedom in this world but power and money."

"Why Trump voters are not 'complete idiots' [...] Trump voters may not vote the way I want them to, but after having spent the last five years working in (and having grown up in) parts of the US few visit, they are not dumb. They are doing whatever any other voter does: Trying to use their vote to better their particular situation (however they define that). Labeling them dumb is simply a way of not trying to understand their situation, or what they value."

"Why Poor People Stay Poor: Saving money costs money. Period." The article is a couple years old, but it bears repeating.

"How Veterans Are Losing the War at Home: A friend of mine, a Vietnam vet, told me about a veteran of the Iraq War who, when some civilian said, 'Thank you for your service,' replied: 'I didn't serve, I was used.' That got me thinking about the many ways today's veterans are used, conned, and exploited by big gamers right here at home." And the Koch brothers themselves are making a tidy profit sucking up VA money to keep right on using them.

"This week in the war on workers: Black Lives Matter and the NAACP say no to more charter schools."

"Inmates Made Thousands Of Unsafe Helmets For U.S. Troops: After multiple investigations, the Department of Justice found that a company that employed prisoners to build U.S. military helmets produced thousands of defective products, putting combat soldiers at risk. The Office of Inspector General worked with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Army to expose poor manufacturing practices by a company that paid inmates to make military helmets for the Department of Defense."

"In States Like Tennessee, Private Prisons Will Survive Obama Administration: On August 18, the same day the Department of Justice announced it would seek to end its private prison contracts, an inmate died at a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Tennessee, where she was denied proper medical treatment after she was attacked by other inmates." The facility holds a number of federal prisoners, but the contract is with the state, not the fed, so it may continue.

Dahlia Lithwick on "Leavenworth's Spygate: A private prison facility in Kansas was spying on constitutionally protected attorney-client conversations. [...] Amid this news, it was easy to miss the story out of the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas, in which a private prison system appears to have been committing a broad and systematic violation of the constitutional rights of its inmates. That federal private prison, operated by Corrections Corporation of America, was secretly videotaping conversations between prisoners and their lawyers and also allegedly recording audio of some phone calls between prisoners and their attorneys, then handing over some of the information from those recordings to state prosecutors. Corrections Corporation of America, which manages 85 facilities all over the country, appears to have basically been engaging in a widespread fishing expedition for evidence gleaned from secret videotapes - evidence they then handed off to prosecutors without the knowledge of prisoners nor their lawyers."

RIP: "Gene Wilder: a comic enigma whose genius shone brightest in collaboration" - of complications related to Alzheimer's, at 83.
* I don't expect anyone could get away with this ever again, but I still think it was hilarious.

"Obamacare's Faltering for One Simple Reason: Profit: There have been dozens if not hundreds of news articles about Aetna leaving the Affordable Health Care Act's online marketplaces in eleven states, and whether this signals serious problems for Obamacare down the road. But none of them have truly explained that what's happening with Aetna is the consequence of a flaw built into Obamacare from the start: It permits insurance companies to make a profit on the basic healthcare package Americans are now legally required to purchase. This makes Obamacare fundamentally different from essentially all systems of universal healthcare on earth. (There is one tiny exception, the Netherlands, but of the four insurance companies that cover 90 percent of Dutch citizens, just one is for profit.)"

"So You Think You Can Take Over the Democratic Party? With the nominating process now behind us, the question for supporters of Bernie Sanders both unwavering and critical is simple: What is to be done now?"

"Why Is Maddow In The Bag For #DebtTrapDebbie Wasserman Schultz?"

Alan Grayson: Dem Party Essentially "Money Laundering" For Donors

"Donald Trump is a Fascist: Whether Donald Trump is a full-fledged fascist or 'merely' a proto-fascist depends on which historian's definition of fascism you prefer." An eight-part series (scroll down to get to the first part).

"The Real Way the 2016 Election Is Rigged: Despite what the media tells you, the Democrats will not take the House in November. Here's why."

"What Does It Mean When War Hawks Say 'Never Trump'? The enemies of my enemy may be war criminals."

"20 Years Later, Poverty Is Up, But Architects of 'Welfare Reform' Have No Regrets."

Corey Robin on "How Clinton Enables the Republican Party: I've been saying that one of the problems with the 'Trump is like no Republican we've ever seen before' line is that it prevents us from consigning the Republican Party to the oblivion it deserves. In making Trump sui generis, by insisting that he is an utter novelty, you allow the rest of the party to distance themselves from him, to make him extreme and themselves respectable, and to regroup after November."

"Ross Perot, Last American Leftist [...] Agents of Influence ultimately inspired Perot's whole political career - and gave Choate a second act as a senior campaign adviser commonly called 'Perot's brain.' And to their combined credit, Perot's brain on matters of substance remained remarkably lucid, consistent and focused during the surreal and volatile four years that followed. Sure, he had some odd personal notions about a GOP plot to crash his daughter's wedding, but his political convictions were unflappable. He spent all of seven words - 'I think this is a woman's decision' - on abortion, blaming failing infrastructure and the weak economy for the 'breakdown of the family' that preoccupied the culture warriors of the day. And while he often invoked the menace of debt and deficits on the campaign trail, it was always as a byproduct of the trade deficit he sought to attack with a robust Japan-style industrial policy."

"Why the Deeply Held Ideas of the Nation's Most Elite Economists Were Direct Causes of Extreme Inequality: As Americans turned away from government, so did the economics profession." Could these people really have had no idea of the damage they were doing? Surely it's obvious why so many people had hated those policies in the past and done their best to prevent them. It's hard to believe that the destruction of our economy is a bug rather than a feature.

Brad DeLong can still adhere to economic models that make no sense, but nevermind. As Norman Mailer explained long ago, the Elitemigration happened when smart Republicans took over the Democratic Party. No, really. "It's not like that faith is gone with the wind. Someone still vehemently believes in all those classic Chamber of Commerce GOP things, plus trade deals and outsourcing (with social liberalism, too, in a minor difference); someone still hates the economic left with religious and eliminationist intensity; someone still praises business, growth, deregulation with sunshiney Reaganite enthusiasm and in total denial of the persistent corruption, failure, and moral bankruptcy of same; and that someone is the current neoliberal Democratic Party elite, of which Brad DeLong is a prominent member." I hate to admit it, but Mailer was way ahead of me: "The Republicans said to themselves, 'we're in terrible trouble, they're on to us, we' to send a few of our best people into the Democratic Party and get them to run it' sort of as undercover people all these years. And I think they've succeeded. Look at the results."

"Hillary Clinton's Not-So-New, Not-So-Worker-Friendly Economic Plan : Hillary Clinton unveiled her "new" economic plan to much fanfare--but it looks an awful lot like someone else's old program."

"The Scourge of Neoliberalism: Why the Democratic Party Is Failing the Poor: When Democrats began their rightward lurch in the late 1960's, they were not content to merely broaden their coalition in order to quell the rise of the ultra-reactionary right; they have been concerned, also, with preventing left-wing insurgencies that could spook their patrons and push the party left."

"During Obama's Presidency Wealth Inequality has Increased and Poverty Levels are Higher [...] Despite the last few years of 'recovery,' the share of wealth held by the bottom 50% of the U.S. population declined from 1.15% in 2010 to 1.05% in 2013. This is less than half of where it stood in 2007, before the great recession, when the share of the country's wealth held by the poorest 50% of the population was at 2.5%."

Rick Perlstein on "Hillary's GOP Sympathies: Don't save the Speaker - let him go down with the Trump ship. When your opponent is drowning, the old saying goes, throw him an anvil. Is Hillary Clinton throwing hers a life raft instead?"

Lee Camp interviews economist Richard D. Wolff

"There Will Be No Second American Revolution: The Futility of an Armed Revolt [...] There is no place in our nation for the kind of armed revolution our forefathers mounted against a tyrannical Great Britain. Such an act would be futile and tragic. We are no longer dealing with a distant, imperial king but with a tyrant of our own making: a militarized, technologized, heavily-financed bureaucratic machine that operates beyond the reach of the law.

"Sci-fi author Haldeman on whether a 'Forever War' movie will happen." There isn't really any surprising content in the article, but I do remember that day when Joe walked up to me in the bar looking stunned, having just met Heinlein and having him enthuse about how he'd enjoyed The Forever War. Joe had felt the book was a retort to Starship Troopers, so that was a bit unexpected.

What I found most interesting about "Few quick thoughts on Brexit" was that Arnade focuses somewhat on Emile Durkheim, but never really spells out what may have been Durkheim's most important revelation: that the rate of suicide in a society is a response to the society. Presumably, there will always be people who would kill themselves regardless of how much they are offered by society, but when rates of suice go up, it's not an individual illness or problem, it's something the society is doing to its people. Suicide is up in America, and our government's decisions are what is killing them.

In "Soul of A New (Political) Machine," Anne Laurie says, "I am personally pro-machine, both out of filial piety (my Irish grandparents owed their livelihoods to Tammany Hall) and because the known alternatives are so much worse. Perhaps the concept is due for revival, as the retro vintage artisanal alternative to the kleptocrats of our Second Gilded Age? Are we sophisticated enough, technologically or socially, to harness the machines' benefits without the corruption for which they were infamous?"

"Nobody talks about the fact that Taylor Swift is Jewish. Here's why it matters."

What's the difference between a hijab, niqab and burka?
* Ann Telneas: "Men: Stop telling women what to wear."

"The Complete Inverse of Man of Steel, in One Perfect Image"


Here Are Some Words That Seem Like They Should Be Related But Actually Aren't at All

The Beatles, live TV concert, 7 December 1963

50 years ago, the Beatles played their last concert, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Ben Folds, "Capable of Anything"


  1. War materials sales, there's your casus belli. No doubt the Chump is salivating at the thought of hawking missile strikes.

  2. So is Clinton, who just told the American Legion how vital it is that the US kill more people around the world. And Obama doesn't need to salivate, he's been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and other horrific warmongers throughout his terms, when he hasn't been dropping bombs under the US brand. Oh, and joking about killing kids with predator drones. What a guy.