Some new guy was sworn in as president. A lot of people expressed their displeasure. A lot.
* What President TrumPence did on Day One and Two and Three.
Obama does good, but:
* "Chelsea Manning: majority of prison sentence commuted by Barack Obama: Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of the most prominent whistleblowers of modern times when she exposed the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama. In the most audacious - and contentious - commutation decision to come from Obama yet, the sitting president used his constitutional power just three days before he leaves the White House to give Manning her freedom. Manning, a transgender woman, will walk from a male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May, almost seven years to the day since she was arrested at a base outside Baghdad for offenses relating to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the website WikiLeaks." But some people, despite being very relieved to see Manning freed, are not applauding Obama. And "Behold the worst reactions to Chelsea Manning's commutation ."
* "President Obama Pardons Oscar Lopez Rivera: After spending more than three decades in a Chicago prison, Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar López Rivera was among the 64 prisoners pardoned by President Obama on Tuesday (Jan. 17). The Vietnam War veteran, who became the longest-held political prisoner in the history of Puerto Rico after being sentenced to 70 years in prison for "seditious conspiracy" back in 1981, will be released in May."
* However, though even "The US Attorney who prosecuted Leonard Peltier is now asking President Obama to free him," "President Obama won't commute Native American activist who killed FBI agents despite plea from Pope Francis." That should say "who allegedly killed FBI agents," but nevermind. "Ultimately, even the FBI in later appeals admitted it could not be sure Peltier pulled the trigger on the shots that felled the two agents - but insisted the charges against him should stand as an 'aider and abettor.'"
Marcy Wheeler wonders if Assange hasn't come to think that maybe those leaks were from Russian hacks and he could be in the line of fire. She thinks he's being paranoid (or not) about Putin's goons, but Putin is not the only one who has goons. He is in Britain, after all, where people have been known to die with amazing convenience to certain western leaders.
However, someone at HuffPo wants to point to "The Domestic Conspiracy That Gave Trump The Election Is In Plain Sight: Information presently public and available confirms that Erik Prince, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump conspired to intimidate FBI Director James Comey into interfering in, and thus directly affecting, the 2016 presidential election. This conspiracy was made possible with the assistance of officers in the New York Police Department and agents within the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All of the major actors in the conspiracy have already confessed to its particulars either in word or in deed; moreover, all of the major actors have publicly exhibited consciousness of guilt after the fact. This assessment has already been the subject of articles in news outlets on both sides of the political spectrum, but has not yet received substantial investigation by major media." I still am not sure whether anything related to emails affected the election, but if anything did, it was Comey's late October surprise, and not anything to do with the WikiLeaks.
Ray McGovern at Consortium News, "Obama Admits Gap in Russian 'Hack' Case: Oops. Did President Barack Obama acknowledge that the extraordinary propaganda campaign to blame Russia for helping Donald Trump become president has a very big hole in it, i.e., that the U.S. intelligence community has no idea how the Democratic emails reached WikiLeaks? For weeks, eloquent obfuscation - expressed with 'high confidence' - has been the name of the game, but inadvertent admissions now are dispelling some of the clouds."
"Gaius Publius: Who's Blackmailing the President & Why Aren't Democrats Upset About It? [...] Yet a summary of this widely-considered-unreliable dossier appeared in the classified briefing the U.S. intel chiefs presented to Donald Trump. Why? The obvious answer is to blackmail Trump for their own purposes."
* "The Deep State Goes to War With President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer
Taibbi: "The Russia Story Reaches a Crisis Point: Have we ever been less sure about the truth of an urgent news story? Three days into the 'Russian dossier' scandal, which history will remember by a far more colorful name, we still have no clue what we're dealing with. We're either learning the outlines of the most extraordinary compromise to date of an incoming American president by a foreign power, or we're watching an unparalleled libel and media overreach."
Matt Taibbi talked to Sam Seder about Insane Clown President and other things, on The Majority Report.
"Booker And The Other Big-Pharma Democrats Have No Excuse. Here's The Vote That Proves It. It's devastating, and potentially lethal, when Americans can't afford life-saving drugs because their elected representatives are in thrall to Big Pharma. It's disappointing when Democrats offer implausible excuses for their votes, as Sen. Cory Booker and twelve other senators did this week. And it's downright outrageous when those same Democrats claim their votes were driven by drug safety concerns, since all twelve voted to lower drug safety standards when they supported the 21st Century Cures Act. If Booker and the others hadn't broken with their party and ignored the needs of the American people, a budget amendment from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar would have paved the way for the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they cost far less than they do in the United States. This was a rare opportunity for bipartisan progress. Twelve Republicans broke with their party to support the amendment. If these Democrats hadn't moved the other way, it would have passed. Their betrayal crushed one of the few remaining rays of hope for the millions of Americans whose health and financial security are endangered by the new Republican Congress."
* Zaid Jilani and David Dayen, "Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine From Canada."
* Michael Hitzik, "The 21st Century Cures Act: A huge handout to the drug industry disguised as a pro-research bounty [...] If universal praise for a measure makes your B.S. detectors twitch, you're on the right track. The 21st Century Cures Act is a huge deregulatory giveaway to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, papered over by new funding for those research initiatives. The punchline is that the regulatory rollback is real, but the funding may not be - it's subject over the next decade to annual appropriations by Congress that might never come."
* "Meet Cory Booker's Top Donor: A Right-Wing, Islamophobic, Pro-Israel Outfit That Backs Trump's Extremist Agenda: At a recent town hall, Booker's responses to questions about his bigoted donors were baffling."
* For the record: Hillary partisans in my Facebook feed are railing against "BernieBros" for being upset with Brooker et al. over this Pharma vote.
"DNC Chair Candidate Tom Perez Refuses to Support Ban on Corporate Money and Lobbyists: Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the leading candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee, has stumbled in recent days when asked about his position on money in politics. Asked at a DNC forum in Phoenix last Saturday whether he will 'revive President Obama's ban on corporate donations to the DNC' and a ban on appointing lobbyists as party leaders, Perez demurred. 'It's actually not that simple a question,' Perez responded, adding that such a move might have 'unintended consequences.' Perez argued that such a ban might impact 'union members who are lobbyists,' though the question explicitly only addressed corporate lobbyists. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Perez has refused to clarify his position on resurrecting President Obama's ban on lobbyist donations to the DNC, which was overturned by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., during Hillary Clinton's bid for the presidency."
"Obama Expands Surveillance Powers on His Way Out: With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama's administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation's intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people."
"Republican Lawmakers in Five States Propose Bills to Criminalize Peaceful Protest [...] The proposals, which strengthen or supplement existing laws addressing the blocking or obstructing of traffic, come in response to a string of high-profile highway closures and other actions led by Black Lives Matter Activists and opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Republicans reasonably expect an invigorated protest movement during the Trump years."
"Congress moves to give away national lands, discounting billions in revenue: Though recreation on public lands creates $646bn in economic stimulus and 6.1m jobs, Republicans are setting in motion a giveaway of Americans' birthright. In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women's healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans' birthright: 640m acres of national land. In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens. At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.
"Erik Prince in the Hot Seat: ERIK PRINCE, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case."
* "Scahill: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Donald Trump: Right, well, Robert Mercer, the billionaire hedge funder, his daughter Rebekah ran one of the most important super PACs to Trump, Make America Number 1 super PAC. And Trump - and Erik Prince and his mother, Elsa, were two of the largest contributors to one of the most significant super PACs that supported Donald Trump. Erik Prince is very close to Robert Mercer. Prince was also at the "Heroes and Villains" party that Mercer threw in Long Island after the election. And, in fact, there's a picture that Peter Thiel, the right-wing billionaire who destroyed Gawker - a picture of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump and Erik Prince, that Peter Thiel says is not safe for the internet. But it's clear that Erik Prince, through Betsy DeVos, through Robert Mercer and through his very right-wing paramilitary crowd, has the ear of President-elect Donald Trump. And our understanding, from a very well-placed source, is that Prince has even been advising Trump on his selections for the staffing of the Defense Department and the State Department." And Prince wants to resurrect a version of Operation Phoenix. His sister, of course, is President Pence's pick to destroy public education and funnel public funds to religious "schools".
Dean Baker, "NYT Says Davos Elite Are Concerned Because Public Doesn't Buy Their Lies Anymore. [...] The concern in Davos is that the public in western democracies no longer buys the lie that they are committed to the public good rather than lining their pockets. It is nice that the NYT is apparently trying to assist the elite by asserting that they have an interest in "free trade," but it is not likely to help their case much."
Someone called a civil rights icon a bad word, but Bruce Dixon at Black Agenda Report isn't moved. "Is It Time To Revoke John Lewis's Lifetime Civil Rights Hero Pass?" he asks.
It's not like Lewis has lacked new chances to serve the people this last half century. He's represented a metro Atlanta district in Congress the past 28 years. Ruled by black mayors and the black political class since 1973, Atlanta has billed itself as 'Black Mecca' though for more than half of black Atlanta there's been little to celebrate. Black mayors have relentlessly gentrified the city, starting with the Carter Presidential Library in the 80s, the Olympics in the 90s, and after that demolition of public housing, privatization of the land under it, and the BeltLine project which steals $150 million annually from Atlanta's public schools to build yuppie housing and shopping destinations. Marquee 'development' projects have driven a six figure number of poorer black residents from the city. John Lewis never says a mumbling word about any of this. John Lewis never publicly contradicts the black Atlanta mayors who crack down on the homeless, who line up for the privatization of public property, public transit and public schools. Perhaps being a Legendary Civil Rights Hero puts him above all that.
Supporting Hillary Clinton last year, Lewis spoke out against free health care and free college tuition which many countries grant their young people, explaining that 'free stuff' was just not the American Way. Lewis was also an early member of the Democratic Leadership Council, which irretrievably locked that party into subservience to its one percenter donors.
Sometimes members of Congress can undo historic wrongs. Lewis blew one such chance when he doubled down upon the expulsion of the descendants of black freedmen from the Cherokee nation in which they had once enjoyed voting rights.
John Lewis calls himself a pacifist and never misses a chance to lecture on the supreme utility of nonviolence. But the US Navy is building a ship with his name on it, a 'fleet replenishment oiler' to resupply warships on deployment. Isn't this an 'honor' a pacifist should reject? And shouldn't our Apostle of Non-Violence vote against every arms giveaway, sale and Pentagon budget? John Lewis doesn't. Like most other members of the Black Caucus Lewis votes to fund mass surveillance and re-arm the apartheid state of Israel with depressing regularity.
And here was Politico's view last week of the state of the contest for the Democratic Party chairmanship.
"The Audacity of Obama's Farewell Address" - he can brag all he wants to (the gods know there are plenty of partisans and personality cultists to do it for him), but his real record doesn't look so good. "The true legacies that will be remembered long term will be the accelerating rate of income inequality, the real basis for the growing divisions in America, and the near collapse of the Democratic Party itself."
"The Sanders Conundrum" - Everyone agrees he's got the right message, but is Bernie giving too much cover to the wrong people by sharing a stage with the likes of Chuck Schumer?
"Chuck Schumer, Leader of the Resistance, Keeps Approving Trump's Nominees" 'I looked at their records ... and I think they'd be very good," Schumer said of Mattis and Kelly."
Old Cue Ball, of all people, gets it right when establishment Dems get together: "There were real disagreements about the right course of action. But speaker after speaker said the party's reliance on demographic trends had made it complacent on matters of economic justice. This had cost Democrats not just the presidency, but governorships and hundreds of state legislature seats across the country. 'The Democratic coalition lives in the economy, all right?' former Bill Clinton campaign manager James Carville told reporters. 'The idea that somehow it's only white working-class people that live in an economy - blacks, Hispanics, unmarried women, gay people ... they're like everybody else.'"
"Trump Team Targets Iran: Saudi Arabia dominates above all other nations as a supplier of suicide bombers, and its royal family dominates as the world's top financial backer of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, but incoming President Donald Trump has chosen to lead his national-security team, only people who blame Iran and not Saudi Arabia, as being the main source of international terrorism. All four of the persons selected by U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump for the top U.S. national-security posts are committed to replacing the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama's #1 military target, Russia, by a different #1 military target, Iran. Iran has long been the #1 military target in the view of Michael Flynn, the chosen Trump National Security Advisor; and of James Mattis, the chosen Trump Secretary of Defense; and of Dan Coats, the chosen Trump Director of National Intelligence; and of Mike Pompeo, the chosen CIA Director."
"The Clinton Foundation Shuts Down Clinton Global Initiative: The Clinton Foundation's long list of wealthy donors and foreign government contributors during the 2016 elections provoked critics to allege conflicts of interests. Clinton partisans defended the organization's charitable work, and dismissed claims that it served as a means for the Clintons to sell off access, market themselves on the paid speech circuit, and elevate their brand as Hillary Clinton campaigned for the presidency. But as soon as Clinton lost the election, many of the criticisms directed toward the Clinton Foundation were reaffirmed. Foreign governments began pulling out of annual donations, signaling the organization's clout was predicated on donor access to the Clintons, rather than its philanthropic work."
"How the American Postal Workers Union Scored One of its Biggest Wins Ever: Members of one of the largest labor unions for post office workers are celebrating the success of a three-year campaign to roll back a commercial alliance between the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and office supplies retailer Staples that threatened a major advance in the privatization of the national mail system. Coming just before the accession of Donald Trump to the White House, the victory marks one of the most successful corporate campaigns by any labor union during the Obama era." They organized all of the related unions to act together, but more importantly, an alliance outside of the various postal workers' unions: "But the act of solidarity that carried the most powerful punch was the decision by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) to support the boycott. According to Dimondstein, 'There are 3 or 4 million teachers in this country, and in a lot of cities and towns the teachers are given the power to go out and buy school supplies. For Staples, these are customers who come back year after year. This is market power that has real meaning to corporations like Staples.'"
James Kwak, "A Change Is in the Air: There was one moment, when I was finishing up the manuscript of Economism, that I thought someone had already said what I was trying to say in the book." That someone was, of course, John Maynard Keynes in the 1920s.
"Ringling Bros. Circus to Close After 146 Years." Wow. I once spent two weeks traveling with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Blue Show on the west coast. It was a little society of its own and even had some of its own laws. I wouldn't say it was magical or anything like that, but it had its own little dramas and history and culture and I feel sad for the people who had that dream and now will have no place to take it. These people aren't just losing their dreams or a job, by the way - they live in the circus, so they're losing their homes, too.
RIP: Maggie Roche, oldest of The Roches, at 65. The three sisters were quite popular in 1979 when their album came out, and they continued to work until 2007.
* "Clare Hollingworth: The Reporter Who Broke the News of World War II: The veteran British journalist, who scooped the story of Hitler's invasion of Poland on her third day on the job and later unmasked Soviet spy Kim Philby, has died at 105."
* "Mary Tyler Moore, Who Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV, Dies at 80" Of course, she will alwaays be the woman who's voice I hear saying, "Awww, Rob!"
Kim Moody asks and answers the question of Who Put Trump in the White House?
While there was a swing among white, blue-collar and union household voters to Trump, it was significantly smaller than the overall drop in Democratic voters.
While recent voter suppression laws demanding state-issued photo IDs in some 17 states along with the racial cleansing of voter rolls in many states have undoubtedly limited voting for Blacks, Latinos and low-income whites, most non-voters don't vote because they don't see anything compelling to vote for.
At the same time, working-class voter participation has remained low in part because the political parties have reduced the direct door-to-door human contact with lower-income voters in favor of purchased forms of campaigning, from TV ads to the new digitalized methods of targeting likely voters.(12)
It's not that no doors are knocked on or phone calls made, but the algorithm that decides the limited number of actual voters to be visited or called to turn out the vote in practice has meant identifying the better-off part of the population. The Get-Out-The-Vote campaign has become the Get-Out-The-Well-To-Do-Votes canvass. More importantly, the shaping of the political process, already an auction, is being even further outsourced to the profit-making 'expert' firms that provide this service.
In short, despite all the vast amounts of money raised and deployed, all the digital and 'expert' sophistication available to this 'party of the people' and Clinton's allegedly massive 'ground game' force in the 'battleground' states, the Democratic Party as a whole no longer can or tries to mobilize enough of those among its traditional core constituencies - Blacks and Latinos, as well as white workers and union members - to win national and even state offices in these key states.
To be sure, Clinton won the popular vote nationally, perhaps as John Nichols gloated in The Nation by an 'unprecedented' margin that might run as high as two million or more. The problem is that 1.5 million of that can be accounted for from Clinton's margin over Trump in New York City alone.(16) The majorities in the coastal states of California and New York by themselves accounts for more than her net majority; the rest of the country continues to see its Democratic vote stagnate or decline.
"Applying God's Law: Religious Courts and Mediation in the U.S."
Collectable Hieronymus Bosch Figurines
Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne, "Mohammed's Radio"