Sunday, February 18, 2018

And sometimes there are no words

Last month's weird story about a raid on Newsweek/IBT offices was followed by David Sirota's announcement that he was resigning the publications. It seems management was playing a bit fast and loose with the laws on fraud and money laundering. "Newsweek's Top Editors and a Reporter Let Go Amid Turmoil: Less than a week after both the chairman and finance director of Newsweek Media Group stepped down, several of the publication's top editors and reporters are also out. While some were let go, at least one has resigned. Bob Roe, editor in chief of Newsweek since August, and Ken Li, the publication's executive editor, were dismissed Monday. It's not clear yet why they were let go. Celeste Katz, who had been reporting on a Manhattan District Attorney's office probe of the Newsweek Media Group, was also dismissed. 'I'll sleep well tonight - and I'm looking for a job!' she tweeted late Monday. Another reporter who had been looking into the company, Josh Keefe, tweeted, 'I have not been fired, although that was very clearly the plan.' Matthew Cooper, who's worked twice for Newsweek, first in the 1990s and again since 2014, resigned. 'I've never seen more reckless leadership,' Cooper wrote in his resignation letter to NMG CEO Dev Pragad, which Cooper published to Facebook, adding 'I'm resigning from Newsweek at the end of the business today. Perhaps that's moot since the staff has been sent home and the magazine, for all we know, doesn't exist.' This morning, another Newsweek and IBT reporter, David Sirota announced his resignation from the company." And then there's this story: "Newsweek Editors Blast Exec to His Face: 'What You're Doing Is Bulls**t. You Don't Understand Journalism.': During an increasingly ugly meeting, the company's CCO refused to answer whether money laundering allegations were true and blamed staff for undermining the business." Anyway, David Sirota is looking for a job and health care for his family.

"Marijuana Criminal Cases Dropped En Masse by Philadelphia District Attorney: The new DA's message to police who arrest people for simple pot possession: We're going to drop the charges."

"Abolition of death penalty gets closer to reality as bill clears Washington state Senate: Efforts to eliminate Washington's death penalty in the 2018 legislative session continued to break new ground Wednesday when a bill banning the practice passed the Senate. The 26-22 vote marks the latest - and what some lawmakers say is the strongest - push to repeal the death penalty as a possible punishment for aggravated first-degree murder. That punishment would be replaced with life without parole if the bill is signed into law."

"Anti-Trumpists Use Mueller Indictments to Escalate Tensions With Nuclear-Armed Russia: Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's indictment of 13 alleged members of a Russian troll farm is leading to calls for escalation with Russia, exacerbating tensions that are already at historic - and dangerous - lows, observes Caitlin Johnstone."

Jonathan Cohn, "Without the Votes of these 12 Dems, the House GOP's Assault on the ADA Would Have Failed: On Wednesday, House Republicans celebrated Valentine's Day by attacking consumer protections and financial regulations. The next day, amidst the national mourning following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, House Republicans voted to turn the clock backwards on civil rights. Just like Social Security and Medicare 'reform' often means dismemberment, so, too, was ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 about weakening this landmark law protecting the rights of those with disabilities."

"How To Root The Republican Fakers Out Of Democratic Primaries-- Joseph Kopser Just Made It Very East In TX-21: The Texas primaries are coming up in just under 3 weeks-- followed by primary runoffs on May 22. And those primaries-- with so many vulnerable red seats and so many seats Republican incumbents are abandoning-- are crowded. TX-21 is a super-gerrymandered district that starts up in West Campus and the Drag in Austin, skirts the state Capitol, takes in Downtown before crossing the Colorado River to encompass Travis Heights, South Lamar and Sunset Valley before heading down through Buda, the western part of both San Marcos and New Braunfels before hitting Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills, Fort Sam Houston and Government Hill in San Antonio. To the west of that skinny corridor from south Austin to north San Antonio is a big chunk of less populated Hill Country that includes Boerne, Frederickcburg, Bandera, Medina way out to Camp Wood on the Nueces River. May back last April we started warning our friends in San Antonio-- people in Austin already knew-- that one of the Democratic candidates, Joseph Kopser, was really a Republican trying to pass himself off as a Democrat." You know what comes next, right?

David Dayen at The Intercept, "After Boasting About Lowering Black Unemployment, Donald Trump Undermines The Federal Unit Defending Against Housing Discrimination: DURING THE PRESIDENTIAL campaign, Donald Trump's pitch to the black community was direct: 'What the hell do you have to lose?' On Tuesday night, he stood before the nation and boasted about the lowest unemployment rate on record for African-Americans. But just hours before his State of the Union address, his lieutenant and handpicked head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mick Mulvaney, told staff in an email that he was seizing control of the unit responsible for policing anti-lending-discrimination laws. CFPB Acting Director Mulvaney, in a previously unreported move, said that he would be putting the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, or OFLEO, under his direct control, startling consumer protection and civil rights advocates, and raising concerns that the office would be unable to carry out its mission - and that, indeed, that was the very purpose of the shift." As a side note, The Washington Post seems to be grabbing credit for this story although their version looks remarkably like David's, which was published first.

"'Socialist' Judge, Refusing To Evict Tenants, Rankles City Landlords: PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Luxury apartment buildings are going up, rents are going up, and guess what else? Evictions are going up as more and more people are being tossed out of their apartments for non-payment of rent. 'We have a crisis in housing in this city. Poor people are being forced out of the city,' said Mel Packer, an affordable housing advocate. Recently-elected District Justice Mik Pappas ran on a platform of stemming that tide by making landlords more accountable in court."

Dday at In These Times, "Cities Scrambling to Attract Amazon Because It 'Creates Jobs' Are Being Sold a Lie: Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, EPI researchers Ben Zipperer and Janelle Jones analyzed what happens to employment in a county once Amazon builds a fulfillment center. Though warehousing and storage jobs do increase, the net effect is close to nil, as new jobs are offset by losses elsewhere in the county. The findings mean that all the money poured into Amazon on the promise of job creation is essentially a waste. 'It doesn't increase overall private sector employment,' Jones, an economic analyst with EPI, tells In These Times. 'No matter how much you slice this data, it's just not there.'"

"ICE lawyer in Seattle charged with stealing immigrants' IDs: The chief counsel for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle has been charged with stealing immigrants' identities. Raphael A. Sanchez, who resigned from the agency effective Monday, faces one count of aggravated identity theft and another of wire fraud in a charging document filed Monday in U.S. District Court."

Zaid Jilani, "Democrats Anonymously Target Muslim Candidate, Questioning His Eligibility To Run For Michigan Governor: ON THE SAME day that he unveiled an urban agenda that highlights public transportation, affordable housing, and criminal justice reform, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed came under fire in what he has described as a 'birther'-like campaign questioning his eligibility to run for governor. El-Sayed, a lifelong Michigander whose campaign has raised nearly $2 million, could be the first Muslim-American governor in the United States. He is considered the most serious challenger to Democratic frontrunner Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the August primary. And on Monday, Bridge, a Michigan magazine, published an article saying the stint El-Sayed spent as a medical student and professor at Columbia University in New York between 2013 and 2016 could be used against him, writing that 'questions surrounding El-Sayed's candidacy are an open secret among Democrats, particularly in southeast Michigan.'" This is pure bollocks, since he never gave up his Michigan residence and has consistently voted there, but I can't help wondering where these "Democratic" heroes were when Dick Cheney illegally stood as George W. Bush's runningmate in 2000, even though they were both residents of the same state.

"Democratic Establishment Tries To Keep Progressives Off Congressional Ballots: Several grassroots and progressive congressional candidates are facing expensive lawsuits from the Democratic establishment, which is challenging their ballot petitions in hopes of clearing the primary field."

James Risen, "U.S. Secretly negotiated with Russians to buy stolen NSA documents - and the Russians offered Trump-related material, too: THE UNITED STATES intelligence community has been conducting a top-secret operation to recover stolen classified U.S. government documents from Russian operatives, according to sources familiar with the matter. The operation has also inadvertently yielded a cache of documents purporting to relate to Donald Trump and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Over the past year, American intelligence officials have opened a secret communications channel with the Russian operatives, who have been seeking to sell both Trump-related materials and documents stolen from the National Security Agency and obtained by Russian intelligence, according to people involved with the matter and other documentary evidence. The channel started developing in early 2017, when American and Russian intermediaries began meeting in Germany. Eventually, a Russian intermediary, apparently representing some elements of the Russian intelligence community, agreed to a deal to sell stolen NSA documents back to the U.S. while also seeking to include Trump-related materials in the package. The CIA declined to comment on the operation. The NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

"Israeli police recommend indicting Netanyahu for corruption: report: Israeli police chiefs will recommend to the country's attorney general that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be indicted on corruption charges, according to reports in local media. The Times of Israel reported Wednesday that police chiefs, including the general commissioner of Israel's police force, were in 'unanimous agreement' that Netanyahu should be indicted for allegedly accepting bribes and receiving lavish gifts from wealthy benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan."

"California launches investigation following stunning admission by Aetna medical director: California's insurance commissioner has launched an investigation into Aetna after learning a former medical director for the insurer admitted under oath he never looked at patients' records when deciding whether to approve or deny care."

"After Annie Rice's Victory, Democrats Weigh Punishing Her Supporters: Last night, Annie Rice won a resounding victory, with nearly 60 percent of 8th ward voters choosing her to represent them on the city's Board of Aldermen. But later this month, the Democratic Central Committee will weigh a bylaw change directly aimed at punishing Rice's supporters. If members approve the proposed amendments, anyone who "supports or endorses" candidates like Rice "shall be subject to censure." Committee members who follow in Rice's footsteps and run for office without the party's blessing could face removal. The ugly situation says a lot about the mutinous mood - and old guard pushback - roiling the St. Louis Democratic Party these days. Progressives have taken aim at the Democratic establishment in recent years, winning some key victories (Bruce Franks Jr. for state rep) and coming tantalizingly close in others (Tishaura Jones for mayor). In St. Louis, it's no longer enough to ask whether someone is running as a Democrat; the real question is whether they're allied with the upstart progressive wing or the establishment one allied with the powers that be and the party's longstanding donors (developers, lawyers, lobbyists)."

"Home Depot destroys 1 million pounds of supplies in wake of hurricane: ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands - A trip along the winding mountain countryside in Saint Thomas reveals scenes that are not scattered across network news shows anymore. [...] The company crushed one million pounds worth of goods, according to Waste Management records obtained by Channel 2 Action News. They were sent to a local landfill and claimed on the company's insurance - rather than sorted for hurricane survivors."

FAIR, "US 'stumbled into torture,' says NYT reporter" - Apparently, the poor old bumbling US just accidentally stared torturing people.

Beat the Press, "Charles Lane and the Washington Post Continue Attack on Unions: Disturbed to Discover the Importance of Precedent in Court Decisions."

"Report: Recording Released Of Clinton Suggesting Rigging 2006 Palestinian Election: Chomsky was "taken aback" that 'anyone could support the idea - offered by a national political leader, no less - that the US should be in the business of fixing foreign elections.'"

"The Coming Republican State of Minnesota?" Everyone thinks of it as a blue state, but like so many other places, it's been hollowed out.

On The Majority Report:
* White American Youth w/ Christian Picciolini - how he got into a nasty race hate group, and how he got out of it.
* What the Democratic Establishment Demands w/ Ryan Grim

Atrios on bipartisan compromise: "I think it's a bit... out of date... but I at least get why members of Congress used to blather on about bipartisan this and bipartisan that. And, yes, of course sometimes compromise is necessary and it's nice if people can work together, though the outcome is the thing, not the process (This is the part our political press does not understand. It does not matter if TipnRonnie have beers, it matters what they do before and after). The scary thing is some senators really... believe it? They think they've been elected to form gangs and go the gym together or whatever. Strange people. I'm looking at you Claire McCaskill. Stop it."

Atrios on the Shutdown: "John Kelly is as big a racist xenophobe as Stephen Miller, if perhaps for different reasons, and you can't make a deal with bestest boy Donald about immigration (or anything) because they'll run interference and get him to "reconsider." The New York Times reporters spent all last night (in their shitty newspaper and on the twitters) blaming Democrats for the shutdown, because it's always their fault, so cancel your subscriptions. Please. I am so sick of this shitty newspaper destroying our politics. From Whitewater to Iraq to Clinton Cash to Emails to Maggie when will people learn. It is a bad newspaper. Local media is often horrible but at least they cover things that nobody else does so give your guilt money to them instead."

"Kept out: How banks block people of color from homeownership: PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Fifty years after the federal Fair Housing Act banned racial discrimination in lending, African Americans and Latinos continue to be routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates far higher than their white counterparts. This modern-day redlining persisted in 61 metro areas even when controlling for applicants' income, loan amount and neighborhood, according to millions of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records analyzed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting."

RIP: John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947-2018. Most of the obits I've seen so far concentrate on his life and work as a founder of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), but we first heard of him as a songwriting collaborator with his friend Bob Weir. JPB introduced the Grateful Dead to Tim Leary back in the Millbrook days. He was still a charismatic guy when I met him in the '90s when Feminists Against Censorship was working with other groups concerned with internet censorship.

"The Butcher Builders: How Western Journalists Helped Create a Monster in Russia: The Soviet Union's collapse left Russia in disarray, but key figures in the administration of President Boris Yeltsin - namely deputy prime minister Yegor Gaidar and privatization chief Anatoly Chubais - had plans to transform the country's failing economy into a robust free market. This presented a unique business opportunity for western capitalists. The Clinton administration needed no convincing, eagerly sending economists from the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) under the direction of professor Andrei Shleifer to advise the Russian government in its transition. What ensued was 'shock therapy' - rapid deregulation, easing price controls, and privatization of state assets including social services, occurring in two waves: a voucher program and later the notorious 'loans-for-shares.' In the end, the effort failed. Shleifer, his wife, Nancy Zimmerman, and his colleague Jonathan Hay were embroiled in a scandal for using their position to personally enrich themselves, and had to settle with the U.S. government. Russia was left in ruins. The attempted transformation had left a small class of oligarchs (including Chubais) enriched, and had plunged the country into a deep depression that lasted from 1991 until the millennium (although its impact lasted well into the '00s). Large amounts of wealth exited the former Soviet Union, the ruble hyperinflated, pensions became worthless, job security disappeared, and GDP plummeted by orders of magnitude - by some estimates as much as 40 percent between '91 and '98. Organized crime was rampant, fueled by oligarchs, and street violence became commonplace. Adult mortality rose at a rate one study described as 'unprecedented in a modern industrialised country in peacetime.' By 2009, roughly 7 million Russians had died."

I have a problem with an assumption in this article that progressives (or whoever) who concentrate on economic issues (and particularly Bernie Sanders), are people who have "a class analysis and not a race analysis." I believe that if you start with a race analysis you will, like Dr. King and Malcom X, eventually come to see the economic analysis as vital. After all, most of us did start with a race analysis first, and that led to all the broader issues. (Hillary Clinton wasn't one of them. How could someone who claims to care about racial issues have thought ending "welfare as we know it" and militarizing the police, privatizing prisons, and creating harsher laws could do anything but exacerbate the already perilous position of the black community? Although, since structural racists have always understood the importance of preventing black Americans from having wealth and freedom, maybe she knew perfectly well - she was, after all, a Goldwater Girl while MLK was talking about class.) So this article has it backwards - that too many people haven't made the connection yet that you aren't going to get anywhere addressing race alone and overlooking class. But maybe having it spelled out this way will help them do that. "How Can Democrats Connect 'Identity Politics' to Economics?"

Ian Welsh, "How To Solve London's Housing Problems (And Canada's): So, two lovely facts about London's housing market. First:
Londoners spend 72% of their income on rent.
Overseas buyers snap up majority of exclusive London homes
These two facts are related.
This is a problem with an obvious solution, do not allow non residents to buy housing in your country. Do not allow housing to be empty more than 3 months a year. If it is, and renovations are not actively ongoing (physically check to see if it is), then tax them at punitive rates (30% of the property value or more) and if after a year it still isn't, simply expropriate it, with no compensation.

The Democrat from the Upside Down
(Via Down With Tyranny!, with "You're Not A Progressive Just Because You Mouth The Word 'Progressive'.")

This is a long read but I found it hard to stop reading: "Report: A precise look at Sanders vs Trump in 2016" - pretty compelling analysis of why it's most likely that Bernie would have won.

I think Ryan Cooper still gives too much credit here to neoliberals, but it's still a useful read. "Somewhere in Between: The rise and fall of Clintonism [...] In the context of postwar politics, the upper class accommodated itself to a truce in the class war, for about three decades. But when the system came under strain, the elites launched a renewed class war, leveraging stagflation to destroy and devour the welfare state. Clintonism could work in the early stages of that process, buoyed by the economic bubble of the 1990s. But when the inevitable disaster struck, it would become an anchor around the neck of the Democratic Party - and it remains one to this day."

"Democrats Can't Run and Win on the Fact That Trump's an Idiot: Voters Want an Alternative, Not Someone to Blame. [...] Polls show that the major reason eligible voters gave for not voting was that they were not interested in the issues being pushed in the campaigns or they disliked the candidates. And this makes sense, given that there's been a decades long campaign by the oligarchy to discredit government and glorify the private sector, using wedge issues, sophisticated marketing and branding strategies, and lots of money."

In The Nation, a consideration of the work of Lynne Segal (a founding member of Feminists Against Censorship), Feminist Living [...] "To hold fast to this version of feminism in the Trump era is a bit like clinging to a pile of dynamite in the middle of a forest fire. Yet it's the only feminism that some women have ever known, and it's no easy feat to convince them that the individual power a woman might amass through self-involvement and self-promotion - and almost inevitably at the expense of other, less advantaged women - is not synonymous with true liberation. Now 73, and having devoted nearly her entire adult life to prioritizing collective triumph over individual, Segal confronts a devastating possibility: 'Have we feminists wasted our time on politics?'"

"In 1990, a homeless man looked me in the eye and said, 'You aught to do a story about me.'
I asked him why.
'Because I've played in three Super Bowls.'
Now, finally, here's the entire story, 28 years in the making.

"The search for Jackie Wallace"

"Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read: ... and the movies and TV shows we watch"

Thanks as always to CMike and Mark for helping me out here. And helping me get through the winter, for that matter. And by the way, that last Laundry novel was seeming all too real when it was explained that agents of the Eldritch Horrors were responsible for the privatization of the Post Office.

Mason Williams, "Classical Gas"


  1. thanks, and glad you have gotten through the winter, though I did try to send you some snow since we've had such abundance.
    'Wasting our time on politics' makes doing the right thing into some scoring game. We may not win, but doing the best we can isn't ever worthless, imho.

  2. I wonder if we all have wasted our time with politics. If it were the distraction.

    I had this conversation with my daughter yesterday, re. my impending passage, about not necessarily keeping score but about being able to walk away from it knowing that while it may not have been the right thing to do, and I may not have had all that it takes to do it, but I did the best I could to do what I believed was the right thing to do.

    That we appear to have failed at what we set out to do is... frustrating.