30 March 2018

You're gonna reap just what you sow

So, I was watching this conversation where everyone was talking about "Republicans" and how awful they and their ideology are. And, I admit, I have started to get a little irritated with that discussion because it doesn't seem to me that covers the ground. So I asked a question:

Are you talking about rank-and-file Republicans who identify as "conservative" mainly because they (a) are lifelong-Republicans and (b) think of themselves as "sensible", having absorbed a lot of misleading rhetoric that sounds good on the surface, or are you talking about the Congressional delegation and their political manipulators?

When I look at the polls, what I see is that a substantial percentage of people who identify as "Republican" or "conservative" are actually fairly mainstream and:
• a) want government to do the same things we want it to do — keep the air and water clean, provide disaster relief, take care of our veterans, educate our kids, provide Social Security (most oppose cutting it), maintain infrastructure, etc.
• b) recognize that Democrats have not been doing these things and are hypocritical about caring about or providing for these things. And, yes, that includes racial issues, which Democrats may give a lot of lip-service to but actually work in the other direction to exacerbate.
• c) are confused about how to accomplish these goals because they've heard a lot of rubbish — most of it carried as much by Democrats as by Republicans — about why these things aren't being done.

When you talk to most ordinary Republicans, what you find is that they believe a lot of the same lies you'll hear from Democratic leaders. (Did you catch Kamala Harris responding to a call to abolish ICE by talking about how we need people to deal with violent crime? — as if that wasn't already handled by the police?) Most egregiously, Democrats continue to behave like the Budget Act is some sort of Constitutional or even natural law that can't be changed. Everyone (even Bernie Sanders, who must know better) talks like there is a finite amount of money available and we have to balance our checkbook. We "can't afford" nice things. Health care is "a pony". (By the way, I looked this up: At the cost of most people's annual premiums, they could buy several ponies a year and many people could get a pony at least monthly.)

Conservatives want to keep the good things they have — or had — and don't want to "innovate" them away. I know a lot of Democrats who consider themselves liberal like to think that all they are unhappy about losing is something called "white privilege", but a lot of black people have also seen many good things "modernized" out from under them — like having their homes stolen, facing a job market that barely even offers bad jobs to people, let alone decent work. The fact that something unfair happens more often to black people than to white people doesn't mean it is somehow "fairer" when it happens to white people. If it's okay for it to happen to white people, then why isn't it okay if it happens to black people? The fact is, the sense of unfairness is natural and legitimate and everyone feels this way about these things when they see them happening to themselves and their friends, and they shouldn't be happening to any people. Here is your choice: Work three jobs to maintain your home, let your kid enlist in the military and come back broken or in a box. These didn't used to be our choices and a lot of people can still remember that. Some are even aware that Democratic Presidents made great strides in making these things become our choices and making sure no one did anything to stop it. Carter, Clinton, and Obama were supposed to ameliorate the damage but instead eased the progression downward.

People say they are "fiscal conservatives" because they think they understand that there is only so much money to go around and we have to "tighten our belts" on some things so we can do the things that have to be done. Although, to some, endless wars are the only thing that "have to" be done, many others assume that the better things that have to be done are what's consuming our resources and we just have to cut something else out.

At the top end, though, there are plenty of people who understand that it's all rhetoric and what they want is power and control. They don't just want to protect themselves, they want to make other people squirm, they want to make decent people have to beg them for any kind of mercy, for jobs, for a few crumbs. They like being able to put people in a tight spot so they have to agree to things they find morally repugnant in order to make a crust. They like being able to screw people gratuitously just to see them realize there is nothing they can do about it. And they also know that given the opportunity, increasing numbers of their victims would cheerfully kill them in their beds, so they like having a large, militarized police force to make sure they can't do that. They even like selling products and having policies that kill and imprison them so there are fewer of them in a position to do so.

And there is a class of people just under them who have internalized the kiss-up/kick-down nature of success in such a system and they have cast their lot with the bullies on top. And some of them are the Democrats who run the party. And if you listen to them, they sound an awful lot like the bullying Republicans, even though they may couch it in finer language (or, like Rahm Emanuel, don't). We have spent decades hearing it, every time they say, "Where else are they gonna go?" They love making us vote for them just because the only other option is even worse. They laugh when they say it.

I look at some of the things my liberal friends say on Facebook and I'm often appalled at the meanness and human insensitivity of what they say. Yes, they really do sound like they believe men and white people are not entitled to an opinion. Yes, they really do seem to think that only they suffer ordinary human discomforts during the day. Yes, they really do gleefully celebrate that poor people in the south who may have voted for Trump, maybe didn't vote — or, a fact they seem to ignore, may even have voted for Clinton — will suffer because their states voted red.

I was working on the city desk at the Baltimore Sun when David Simon came to work there. They sat him right next to me. And Baltimore was still a nice city to live and work in, back in those days, even if you were black. Our black reporters were not coming in reporting racist indignities that were foisted on them constantly. The maids who were the mothers of my friends were not worrying that their kids were going to get shot just walking to the corner shop, and they expected their kids' lives to have opportunities, to be better than theirs had been. And those kids were not walking around fearfully, terrified that they'd come to the attention of a cop. They were, just like the white kids, looking to choose between the opportunities that were on offer to them. It took very few years of Reagan and then Clinton to change that. I did not recognize the Baltimore David Simon wrote about. I had walked down those streets and they were not like that. Comfortable, clean, middle-class black neighborhoods with pristine front stoops now just look like part of some nightmare. That's not progress.

Do not tell me that we keep taking steps forward. And don't tell me we have "incremental change" for the better. We have had rapid change for the worse on almost every measure.

Ordinary liberal Democrats know the Republican leadership are liars. But what they don't get is that ordinary mainstream Republicans also know that Democratic leaders are liars. Republicans are less likely than ever to hide their cruelty, but Democrats still try to convince themselves, or at least their voters, that they are not also being cruel.

Supposedly "liberal" Democrats gave us the Budget Act.

Supposedly "liberal" Democrats ended "welfare as we know it" and made it normal to imprison school kids for what used to be minor infractions, privatized prisons, created Three Strikes, militarized the police, destroyed banking regulations that had prevented another depression, allowed banks to steal people's homes with impunity and virtually wiped out most black wealth.

Democrats lied all the time about what they were doing, what needed to be done, what they would do, what couldn't be done, and what the results would and must be. That's why they keep being voted out.

What's the ideology of the Democratic Party? From what I can see, it's just, "Vote for Democrats."

* * * * *

Bernie Sanders' Inequality in America: A National Town Hall, with Senator Elizabeth Warren, economist Darrick Hamilton, and filmmaker Michael Moore, wasn't too bad, but the audio on the video clips wasn't very clear. Also, the lead-in to the video takes about five minutes, which is just barely enough time to turn it on and make popcorn before it actually starts.

"In Chicago primaries, a string of defeats for the Democratic establishment at the hands of progressive Democrats: Four Democratic challengers backed by United Working Families (linked with the progressive Working Families Party) have successfully challenged establishment Dems backed by Chicago's legendarily unassailable "Democratic machine," effectively winning their offices at the same time, because the Democrat candidate always gets elected to those offices, thanks to Republicans not bothering to field candidates (leaving a vacuum that is sometimes filled by Holocaust-denying Illinois Nazis). [...] It's not all good news, though. Dan Lipinski kept his candidacy, despite having inherited his Congressional seat from his father and having voted against a $15 minimum wage, against abortion on demand, for mass surveillance and endless war, and against basic railroad safety rules that would have affected one of his largest campaign donors, a rail industry PAC. Lipinski was being challenged by Marie Newman, who ultimately outraised him with small-money donations from Sanders Democrats, and who lost the primary by a razor-thin margin. That's something of a victory -- Lipinksi had been considered unassailable and he only won by a handful of votes -- but it still seems like Lipinski will return to Congress as a Democrat-in-name-only. But the closeness of the race may inspire other primary challengers to establishment Dems in other seemingly unassailable positions." She came so close to beating him it almost breaks your heart, but I bet it scares the hell out of the alt-center. Or — wait! — is that what really happened? Marie Newman was ahead until her vote-count suddenly went down rather than up. How does that happen? Shades of Volusia County, FL.

Naturally, there have been a spate of yet more articles insisting that the way to win is "moderate" campaigns, but Polling shows running on progressive policies would work in swing districts.

OWN GOAL: "Labor Rallies Behind Laura Moser After She Overcomes Party Effort To Stomp Out Her Congressional Bid." After the DCCC's bizarre attacks on Moser's primary bid, voter reaction buoyed her candidacy into the runoff.

Jeff Hauser and Kurt Walters in The Hill, "17 Senate Dems broke their contracts with their voters [...] Needless to say, a third of Senate Democrats siding with Trump to deregulate big banks damages the credibility of this message. And let's not kid ourselves about what's going on: They're voting for the bill, raising money from the industry and hoping no one notices. Schumer himself bears a great deal of responsibility, and progressives rightly suspect him of actually wanting the bill to pass. He voted against it but didn't fight against it either. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of Schumer's leadership team, no less, came under withering attack from fellow Democrats for having the audacity to inform the American public which members of the Senate voted for S. 2155."

As we may recall, George H.W. Bush referred to the Cheney-Rumsfeld crew as "the crazies" — maybe okay to do some work and fill some spots, but not the sort of people you'd put in charge of policy. His son put them in charge of policy, but they had their own fringies who were useful for some things but not people you wanted making decisions. One of their most significant crazies was John Bolton. But none of the people who were mad enough, credulous enough, or just plain stupid enough to support the invasion of Iraq have paid a price for it. That fact doesn't please Ryan Cooper any more than it should please the rest of us. "Why America is asking for more wars [...] After the Iraq cataclysm, what America desperately needed was an honest debate about its bloody imperial bungling. What we got was, by and large, a lot of evasive mumbling about how "no one could have predicted," and how we need to "turn the page" and "look forward, not backward." The result is a Republican administration full of people who would still be in prison for war crimes in a country that took the rule of law seriously, and an opposition party too full of idiots and/or cowards to present a united front against war. Just last week, 10 Senate Democrats provided the crucial swing votes that allowed Trump to keep backstopping the genocidal Saudi war in Yemen. I have little confidence there will be a party-wide attempt to stand up to Bolton and Trump when the time comes.

Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "Kris Kobach Just Got Humiliated in Federal Court: The Kansas secretary of state wanted to prove his claims of widespread voter fraud. Instead, he was repeatedly embarrassed."

"Capitalism Eats a Co-op [...] True Value is a chain of more than 4,000 hardware stores around the world. It is a cooperative, meaning simply that it is collectively owned by the individual retail store owners, rather than being owned by, for example, a faceless outside investment firm who cares about nothing but the bottom line. This does not mean that True Value hardware is the vanguard of the socialist revolution, but it does go to show that a thoroughly middle American company can operate at large scale, for many decades, under a decentralized cooperative ownership model. It is simply a living demonstration of the fact that capitalism need not operate in its most rapacious and inhuman form; it can, instead, with collective agreement, be operated in a somewhat less horrible way, in which individual small business owners are empowered. Ah... cancel that. True Value has been sold to a private equity firm."

Sarah Jones at The New Republic, "The Pinkertons Still Never Sleep: The notorious union-busting agency has resurfaced in a telecommunications labor dispute, revealing how it has adapted to the 21st century. Workers at the telecommunications company Frontier Communications have been on strike for 20 days in West Virginia and Virginia. Their grievances are familiar ones: Workers want more protection from layoffs, better health care coverage, and the return of contracted work to the bargaining unit. The workers' union, Communications Workers of America, says the company is refusing to meet workers even part-way and has brought in replacement workers, or scabs. Furthermore, Frontier has hired some muscle: the Pinkertons.

In the Independent, "Roger Waters: Pink Floyd star on why his fellow musicians are terrified to speak out against Israel: "If they say something they will no longer have a career - I have been accused of being a Nazi and an anti-Semite."

David Dayen in The Nation, "How Mortgage Companies Might Finally Be Held Accountable: A former congressman has come up with an ingenious new approach. Brad Miller's been tracking his particular white whale for over a decade. But he hadn't found the right harpoon with which to slay it. Until last week. Miller is a former congressman from North Carolina, who co-authored the legislation creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Since leaving Congress, he's been working on litigation to finally bring to justice the mortgage companies that damaged millions of lives during the foreclosure crisis. And last week, he filed an innovative lawsuit against Ocwen, one of the nation's largest mortgage-servicing companies. (A servicer operates as an accounts-receivable department for home loans. This is the company you make your check out to.)

Shuan King at The Intercept, "Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner Promised a Criminal Justice Revolution. He's Exceeding Expectations. WHEN LIFELONG CIVIL rights attorney Larry Krasner was elected in a landslide this past November to become the new district attorney of Philadelphia, to say that his fans and supporters had high hopes would be an understatement. Anything less than a complete revolution that tore down the bigoted and patently unfair systems of mass incarceration would be a severe disappointment. Across the country, talking the talk of criminal justice reform has gotten many people elected as DA. Once in office, their reforms have often been painfully slow and disappointing. Krasner was the first candidate elected who publicly committed not just to intermittent changes, but a radical overhaul. So far, having been in office less than three months, he has exceeded expectations. He's doing something I've never quite seen before in present-day politics: Larry Krasner's keeping his word — and it's a sight to behold."

"Paul Ryan sold shares on same day as private briefing of banking crisis: Vice-presidential candidate denies he profited from a 2008 meeting with Fed chairman in which officials outlined fears for financial crisis" — That's straight-up insider trading, y'all. What are the chances he'll be prosecuted?

Alyssa Rosenberg in The Washington Post, "The most radical part of Anderson Cooper's interview with Stormy Daniels [...] But as a cultural milestone, the most radical thing Cooper did was refuse to treat Clifford as if she was irresponsible or immoral, or as if she were less than credible simply because of what she does for a living."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "How Democrats can wipe out the GOP and fix America." There are some good ideas in here, but he glossed a little on foreign policy. And I still wish people would talk about abolishing the Budget Act.

James Banford in The New Republic, "Anti-Intelligence: What happens when the president goes to war with his own spies? [...] Former intelligence chiefs who, a few years ago, were justly chastised by much of the mainstream media for lying and violating civil liberties are now featured in the press as purveyors of truth and justice. Among them is former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was roundly criticized for what many view as his lying under oath before Congress regarding the NSA's illegal domestic spying; former NSA Director Michael Hayden, who secretly ordered his agency to begin that spying; and former CIA Director John Brennan, who purportedly ran the agency's program of targeted killing of Americans and tried to prevent the Senate from releasing its voluminous investigation into the CIA's torture program. In November, Trump attacked Clapper and Brennan as 'political hacks.' The next day, the pair appeared on CNN to defend the intelligence community. 'Considering the source of the criticism,' Brennan said of Trump's comments, 'I consider that criticism a badge of honor.' [...] Ironically, much of the danger Trump poses can be laid at the feet of Barack Obama. Assuming that past norms would be future norms, Obama created the most powerful surveillance state the world has ever seen. Over eight years, he spent more than $100 billion on everything from eavesdropping satellites encircling the globe, to a million-square-foot building in the Utah desert for storing massive troves of intercepted data, to secret taps on the hundreds of thousands of miles of undersea cables that carry everything from tweets to Google searches to endless chatter. He also unleashed fleets of killer drones around the world, authorized the assassination of Americans without trial, and jailed more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined. What Obama apparently never considered was that the Orwellian surveillance tools he created, and the precedents he set of killing and jailing Americans, could one day fall into the hands of a mountebank, demagogic president unrestrained by norms and perhaps even untethered from reality. One who may see them as preapproved weapons in his war to delegitimize his own government and attack political opponents, innocent Americans, and the press, which he has labeled 'the enemy of the American people.'"

Interesting wrinkle: I've been keeping my mouth shut about this whole story because my instincts were just up in the air. Everyone - and I mean everyone - just takes for granted that, well, Putin is vindictive and it's just the kind of thing he would do. But that presents a problem, because everyone does know it, and that means it's very easy to put him in the frame. And there are a lot of people who are getting really good at blaming their designated bad guy for stuff we even know they didn't do, and they all seem to be people who are dedicated to making Putin the Bad Guy of the Decade and pointing all the weapons in Russia's direction. And we have no reason to trust those people. So there's always a question of why, at a time like this, Putin would be dumb enough to do something that is so in character with the villain those people need him to be. (Yes, yes, he's an oligarch and thug and authoritarian, but that doesn't mean he's stupid.) And then there's this story: "Skripal 'regretted being double agent': A former classmate says the spy told him he wrote to Vladimir Putin asking to come back to Russia. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in a critical condition after being poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury on 4 March. Vladimir Timoshkov was speaking exclusively to the BBC." Moscow says they never got that letter. They also claim they had nothing to do with the attack on the Skripals. Maybe, maybe not. It would have been in their interest to say that they'd seen the letter and were considering it, if they really want to deny their involvement. A lot of claims have been made that the Skripals were poisoned by a uniquely Russian nerve agent, but no experts are willing to support those claims and they seem to be sheer propaganda. (Much like with the "Russian hacks" story, ridiculous claims are made about the supposedly "uniquely Russian" origins of things that are already out there and can't actually be traced to source anymore. It's like saying Germans developed modern aspirin so it must be Germans who are responsible for an aspirin overdose. It's rubbish.)

"Making Profits on the Captive Prison Market [...] Some jails, for instance, have removed in-person family-visitation rooms to make way for 'video visitation' terminals, provided by private firms, which can charge as much as thirty dollars for forty minutes of screen time. One prison phone company, Securus Technologies, says in its marketing materials that it has paid out $1.3 billion in these so-called commissions over the past ten years."

Transcript of Mehdi Hasan's interview with Senator Bernie Sanders on the #Deconstructed podcast, We need to talk about inequality. (Podcast audio is included.)

In Gentleman's Quarterly, of all places, "The Great Lie of Conservatism [...] I grew up during the downfall of the Soviet Union, so I understand why men from the generation before me are so wary of Communist and socialist ideas, and why they endlessly worship Reagan for helping precipitate its downfall (one author created a set of Reagan-style bedrock principles, and they are as equally blind and dated as the others). I am a greedy capitalist at heart, and I do not like the prospect of a Commie Russia endgame any more than they did. But these guys were so obsessed with how liberalism might go sour that they seem to have never once considered how their own philosophy could do likewise."

Richard Eskow in Common Dreams, "The Resistance Needs Better Heroes: A movement is defined by its heroes. The Resistance can find better heroes than the ones some of its members have chosen — and it should."

Michelle Chen in The Nation, "Worker Cooperatives Are More Productive Than Normal Companies: When maximizing profits isn't the only goal, companies can actually work better. [...] By prioritizing worker autonomy, co-ops provide more sustainable long-term employment, but not only because worker-owners seek to protect their own livelihoods. If a company runs into economic distress, Perotin says, co-ops are generally more adept at preserving jobs while planning longer-term adjustments to the firm's operations, such as slowing down expansion to maintain current assets — whereas traditional corporations may pay less attention to strategic planning and simply shed jobs to tighten budgets."

"Why Black Americans Stay Poor: The education gap with whites has narrowed, but not the wealth gap. [...] In many areas -- college education, two-parent families, employment -- black families made progress toward closing the gap with whites from 1989 to 2013 (the earliest and latest data available). But the wealth gap ended up larger than ever." Well, sure, you can't put redlining on steroids and then steal all those homes — homes, that's where most families' wealth is — and not lose ground.

Just for grins, a review in the National Catholic Reporter says, "Douthat's Francis book is poorly sourced, inadequate journalism: Let's start with the compliments. Ross Douthat's latest book, To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, exhibits a writing style that is admirable and enviable, and his command of the English language is exemplary, his ability to turn a phrase exceptional. And, like his columns, there is an almost lawyerly logic to his writing, as he moves from fact to argument and from argument to thesis. And, like all great spiritual writing, Douthat does not hold back: His personal wrestlings are there upon the page for all to see. But I come to bury Douthat not to praise him, for his facts are nonsense, his arguments tendentious, and his thesis so absurd it is shocking, absolutely shocking, that no one over at Simon & Schuster thought to ask if what he writes is completely or only partially unhinged. I incline to the former adverb."

REST IN PEACE: Dave Bischoff, 15 December 1951-19 March 2018 — He was my friend, part of the old University of Maryland sf group crew, a contributor to Thrust back when it was just a fanzine, and he once made me an incidental character in one of his books just because I'd mentioned liking one of his short stories. The obits I've seen talk about his Star Trek work but don't give a cause of death or any other personal information. He was 66.

REST IN PEACE: "Groundbreaking Journalist & Newsday Columnist Les Payne Dies at 76. Payne was a champion for racial equality and a groundbreaking journalist who exposed racial injustice from Long Island, New York, to apartheid South Africa. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on a 33-part series entitled 'The Heroin Trail,' in which he and other reporters traced the drug from the poppy fields of Turkey to the streets of U.S. cities. Les Payne was a founding member and former president of the National Association of Black Journalists. For years, he's been working on an unfinished biography of Malcolm X. This is Les Payne, reading his essay 'The Night I Stopped Being a Negro,' about his experience hearing Malcolm X speak at Bushnell Memorial Hall in Hartford, Connecticut, in June 1963. At the time, Payne was one of only 60 African-American students at the University of Connecticut — out of 10,000 enrolled students."

ROT IN PERDITION: Pete Peterson, deficit fear-monger whose "philanthropy" was largely aimed at impoverishing any American who didn't get rich during their working life. "As a fiscal watchdog, he created a well-financed foundation that addresses a spectrum of fiscal issues and holds conferences that draw America's top financial and political leaders. He wrote a half-dozen books laying out his vision for economic prosperity while critiquing, and criticizing, entitlement spending, the Social Security system and the impact on the economy of partisan politics in Washington." Gee, they make it sound so harmless, but it would be difficult to overstate what a terrible, destructive monster he was. Robert Kuttner has a much better take with his "Pete Peterson Meets St. Peter: The late private equity billionaire has some trouble at the Pearly Gates."

ROT IN PERDITION: Zell Miller, 86, former Georgia governor and US Senator, bigot, homophobe, and Fox News Democrat who famously refused to endorse the party's nominee, Bill Clinton, and was therefore denied a speaking spot at the Democratic Party convention and incessantly whined ever after that they wouldn't let him talk because he was anti-abortion, and was also the keynote speaker at the 2004 Republican Party convention. He was happy to go everywhere and complain that, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me" - but not because it had turned against the New Deal, and merely because it was less inclined to accept his overt bigotry on "social issues". His erratic slides to left and right earned him the nickname "Zig-Zag Zell", but his trajectory soon became consistently toward the far right.

"The comic book that changed the world: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story's vital role in the Civil Rights Movement"

Peter, Paul & Mary, "Well, Well, Well"

19 March 2018

Don't stay too long

Democrat wins deep-red PA district; Republican turn-out was normal, but Democrats showed up. Pennsylvania Special Election Results: Lamb Wins 18th Congressional District

Charlie Pierce, "Conor Lamb's Victory Matters, and Paul Ryan Should Be Scared: Republicans had the money. They had the gerrymandering. They still couldn't do it. In his victory speech, which came before anyone had called the race, which MSNBC's Brian Williams couldn't resist telling his audience, Lamb interestingly leaned very hard on thanking the support he'd received from organized labor. In fact, he talked more — and more sincerely — about unions in that speech than any candidate I've heard since the beginning of Bernie Sanders' campaign back in 2015. This is beyond encouraging. I am sure that Lamb is going to take some positions that are going to make me crazy. (If he takes a dive on guns in this historical moment, or if he really becomes part of an effort to make, say, Tim Ryan the speaker of a newly elected Democratic House, the shebeen will not be pleased.) But telling labor that he owes his victory largely to its effort, and actually meaning it, is a very welcome — and an extremely shrewd — move for a rookie, and it evinces the kind of awareness that he's going to need to win re-election in whatever district he has to run in when this one disappears."

Ryan Cooper in Common Dreams, "Can Democrats Think Strategically About Trump Country? If Democrats are going to win in places like western Pennsylvania, they have to formulate an ideological and political stance that reverses the last generation of weak and elitist neoliberal Democratic Party policy."

"Philadelphia's New Top Prosecutor Is Rolling Out Wild, Unprecedented Criminal Justice Reforms: Philadelphia's newly minted district attorney, Larry Krasner, was meeting constituents in a packed church in West Philadelphia earlier this month to discuss his plans for the job. The meeting was unique in that it quickly revealed to community members what local civic leaders and officials have already learned about Krasner: He is making good on his promise to revolutionize the job of district attorney and, in the process, offering an extraordinary experiment in criminal justice reform at the municipal level that could serve as a national model. [...] On Tuesday, Krasner issued a memo to his staff making official a wave of new policies he had announced his attorneys last month. The memo starts: 'These policies are an effort to end mass incarceration and bring balance back to sentencing.' The most significant and groundbreaking reform is how he has instructed assistant district attorneys to wield their most powerful tool: plea offers. Over 90 percent of criminal cases nationwide are decided in plea bargains, a system which has been broken beyond repair by mandatory minimum sentences and standardized prosecutorial excess. In an about-face from how these transactions typically work, Krasner's 300 lawyers are to start many plea offers at the low end of sentencing guidelines. For most nonviolent and nonsexual crimes, or economic crimes below a $50,000 threshold, Krasner's lawyers are now to offer defendants sentences below the bottom end of the state's guidelines. So, for example, if a person with no prior convictions is accused of breaking into a store at night and emptying the cash register, he would normally face up to 14 months in jail. Under Krasner's paradigm, he'll be offered probation. If prosecutors want to use their discretion to deviate from these guidelines, say if a person has a particularly troubling rap sheet, Krasner must personally sign off."

David Dayen at The Intercept, "Democrats offer last-minute, pretend defense of fair lending laws, as they prepare to weaken them: IN A FINAL indignity, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., has offered an amendment essentially striking a controversial provision from bipartisan bank deregulation bill S.2155 that would limit tools prosecutors use to detect mortgage lending discrimination, while acknowledging that the amendment probably wouldn't get a vote — and wouldn't be necessary for his ultimate support. At issue is Section 104, which exempts all banks and credit unions issuing 500 mortgages or less a year from enhanced Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, or HMDA, data requirements used to identify lending discrimination. This would cover 85 percent of all regulated mortgage lenders from the new requirements, which were part of the Dodd-Frank Act."

David Dayen at The New Republic, "The Government's Taxes on Citizens' Free Time: The Trump administration's latest shenanigans add to the growing, everyday burden of being an American. [...] Why must Americans become part-time accountants, just to follow the rules of society? Both parties are responsible for layering these responsibilities on citizens, choosing complication over simplicity and offloading that complexity onto the individual."

Zaid Jilani at The Intercept, "States That Have Decriminalized Marijuana Should Expunge Prior Pot Convictions, Activists Say: A GROUP OF legal activists is calling on district attorneys in eight states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana to take the next logical step: expunge the records of people charged with misdemeanors related to marijuana possession. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy group, sent letters to 201 officials in eight states: Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington last week, pointing out that current procedures to expunge convictions for misdemeanor marijuana possession are cumbersome. The committee encouraged the district attorneys to follow the lead of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who announced in January that he would expunge and then dismiss thousands of misdemeanor and felony marijuana possession cases going back to 1975.

"German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution: Plan to be tested in five cities in effort to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines: 'Car nation' Germany has surprised neighbours with a radical proposal to reduce road traffic by making public transport free, as Berlin scrambles to meet EU air pollution targets and avoid big fines. The move comes just over two years after Volkswagen's devastating 'dieselgate' emissions cheating scandal unleashed a wave of anger at the auto industry, a keystone of German prosperity."

"Nancy Pelosi Just Endorsed a Congressman Who Opposes Abortion and Gay Rights: Dan Lipinski even voted against Obamacare. Illinois Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski's career is on life-support. The seven-term congressman from the Chicago area, who inherited his seat from his father, is facing a formidable primary challenge from businesswoman Marie Newman, whose campaign has been fueled by progressive anger at Lipinski's opposition to reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and Obamacare. EMILY's List, the national organization that supports pro-choice women candidates, has backed Newman and, along with a host of progressive groups — including Planned Parenthood and the pro-LGBT rights Human Rights Campaign — has spent heavily on ads against Lipinski Elected Democrats — including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and fellow Chicago-area Rep. Jan Schakowsky — have waded into the primary to back Newman. And in an unusual step for a race with a Democratic incumbent, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had declined to endorse Lipinski. But on Thursday, less than three weeks before the March 20 primary, Lipinski did pick up one notable supporter: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi."

"U.S. judges see 'epidemic' of prosecutorial misconduct in state: The hearing seemed largely routine until a state prosecutor approached the lectern. Deputy Atty. Gen. Kevin R. Vienna was there to urge three judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold murder convictions against Johnny Baca for two 1995 killings in Riverside County. Other courts had already determined that prosecutors had presented false evidence in Baca's trial but upheld the verdicts anyway. Vienna had barely started his argument when the pummeling began."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The subtle racism of centrist Democrats: Quisling Senate Democrats are collaborating with congressional Republicans and President Trump to roll back the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. So far they have broken a filibuster, and the bill looks set for passage. It's an immensely horrible idea that significantly raises the risk of a future financial crisis. However, it should also be emphasized that this deregulation package is racist both in specifics and in general effect. It's a perfect demonstration of how centrist Democrats sell out their most loyal voting bloc to predatory Wall Street banks." (I actually don't think it's all that subtle, myself. To me, all this deregulating and defending the banks has always screamed, "Steal black wealth!" to me. Yes, steal a lot of white wealth, too, but there have been numerous structural means used longer than my lifetime to make it harder for black people to get "real property" than it is for whites, and since having that land and home make an enormous difference to the success of a family, allowing the financial industry to continue to make both acquiring and keeping real property especially difficult for black people is a blatant and direct racist attack on black America.)

"If You Care About Sex Trafficking, Trust People in the Sex Trades — Not Celebrities: When I use my writing platform to discuss my sex work history and advocate for people who are currently in the sex trades, one of the occupational hazards I resent the most is the demand that I prove my legitimacy by reliving past traumas. Another is the unending task of learning the ins and outs of misleadingly labeled federal legislation that would be disastrous for sex workers. But learn it, I do, and you should too as a horrific bill, the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 (SESTA), inches closer to a Senate vote."

"The article removed from Forbes, 'Why White Evangelicalism Is So Cruel' [...] There is still today a Southern Baptist Church. More than a century and a half after the Civil War, and decades after the Methodists and Presbyterians reunited with their Yankee neighbors, America's most powerful evangelical denomination remains defined, right down to the name over the door, by an 1845 split over slavery. Southern denominations faced enormous social and political pressure from plantation owners. Public expressions of dissent on the subject of slavery in the South were not merely outlawed, they were a death sentence. Baptist ministers who rejected slavery, like South Carolina's William Henry Brisbane, were forced to flee to the North. Otherwise, they would end up like Methodist minister Anthony Bewley, who was lynched in Texas in 1860, his bones left exposed at local store to be played with by children. Whiteness offered protection from many of the South's cruelties, but that protection stopped at the subject of race. No one who dared speak truth to power on the subject of slavery, or later Jim Crow, could expect protection. Generation after generation, Southern pastors adapted their theology to thrive under a terrorist state."

The Hill, "Sanders: DCCC primary attacks on other Dems 'not acceptable': Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on Wednesday that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's attacks on a progressive House candidate in Texas were "appalling" and 'unacceptable.'" I still get bugged by Clinton's claim that the "long primary" hurt her in the general. It wasn't a long primary. It started more than a whole summer later than the primaries for the 2008 election, which didn't hurt Obama at all in the general.

Also at The Hill, Brent Budowsky says, "A Sanders-Warren ticket could win big in 2020 [...] Whether one supports Sanders or any other potential candidate in 2020, the case is clear that a strong progressive program and message would give Democrats a decided advantage in any campaign against the scandal-ridden and crony-capitalist-dominated presidency of Trump and his GOP allies in Congress."

"The CIA Democrats: Part one: An extraordinary number of former intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and State Department are seeking nomination as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections. The potential influx of military-intelligence personnel into the legislature has no precedent in US political history. If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress. They will hold the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress. If the Democrats capture a majority in the House of Representatives on November 6, as widely predicted, candidates drawn from the military-intelligence apparatus will comprise as many as half of the new Democratic members of Congress. They will hold the balance of power in the lower chamber of Congress."

The California Democrats did not endorse Diane Feinstein this year, so it's hardly a surprise that Sanders won't endorse Feinstein, either.

Elizabeth Bruenig in, amazingly, The Washington Post, says, "It's time to give socialism a try: In the United States, we've arrived at a pair of mutually exclusive convictions: that liberal, capitalist democracies are guaranteed by their nature to succeed and that in our Trumpist moment they seem to be failing in deeply unsettling ways. For liberals — and by this I mean inheritors of the long liberal tradition, not specifically those who might also be called progressives — efforts to square these two notions have typically combined expressions of high anxiety with reassurances that, if we only have the right attitude, everything will set itself aright. Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It's time to give socialism a try."

Matt Taibbi, "Russiagate may have been aimed at Trump to start, but it's become a way of targeting all dissent [...] If you don't think that the endgame to all of this lunacy is a world where every America-critical movement from Black Lives Matter to Our Revolution to the Green Party is ultimately swept up in the collusion narrative along with Donald Trump and his alt-right minions, you haven't been paying attention."

"How A Twitter Fight Over Bernie Sanders Revealed A Network Of Fake Accounts: One Democratic Party consultant said an unnamed client controlled many of these accounts." Basically, a bunch of bots used to promote hateful, divisive tweets against Bernie Sanders.

Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest On Trump's Steel/Aluminum Tariffs And So-Called 'Trade' Generally: I agree with the tariffs, but not the way it is being done. It should have been planned, phased in, coordinated with US industry and, most important, part of a comprehensive US economic/trade/industrial policy. The latter just isn't going to happen under Trump nor under a Wall Street dominated economy even with Democrats running things."

Thomas Kline MD, PhD, "February, 2018 update of PAIN RELATED SUICIDES associated with forced opioid pain medication reductions and discontinuations as recommended by the CDC and by Andrew Kolodny, M.D. and his 'Physicians for Responsible Opiate Prescribing' (PROP)" — I don't expect anyone to read all of this but it shouldn't take much reading to recognize that this is a cruel and vile situation.

In The Nation, It's Time to Abolish ICE: A mass-deportation strike force is incompatible with democracy and human rights."

Max Sawicky reviews Fair Shot: BY THE STANDARDS OF FACEBOOK'S TITANS, co-founder Chris Hughes was an also-ran. His payout from early participation in the company's launch, which stemmed from the good fortune of having been Mark Zuckerberg's college roommate, was only $500 million. To his credit, Hughes — a former fundraiser for Barack Obama now best known for his short-lived reign as The New Republic's would-be Silicon Valley savior — is preoccupied with the injustice of his windfall and has investigated how best to give an appreciable chunk of his money away, in the service of good causes. This turns out to be a difficult project. One of his solutions is to devote himself to the advocacy of a new program to guarantee income for all Americans. He could have done worse." Max reckons Hughes makes a nice start at batting away some of the worst myths in opposition, but has a long way to go.

"The Impact of 'Modern Sexism' on the 2016 Presidential Election: A report from the 2016 Blair Center Poll prepared by Angie Maxwell, Ph.D. and Todd Shields, Ph.D." I didn't read it all, but it did have this amusing graph.

RIP: "Rep. Louise Slaughter, progressive champion of women's rights, dies at 88." This is pretty sad news, because she was one of that small handful who had real accomplishments, fought the good fight, and wasn't just in it for herself. She was also a champion of net neutrality and was never a trusting neoliberal. "When President Bill Clinton asked for her support on NAFTA, she famously replied, 'Why are you carrying George Bush's trash?'"

RIP: "Former Black Panther Herman Wallace dies days after judge overturns murder conviction that saw him serve 41 years in solitary confinement: A former Black Panther who served 41 years in solitary confinement has died days after a US federal judge overturned his conviction for the murder of a prison guard. Herman Wallace was freed on Tuesday after Judge Brian Jackson ruled his 1974 trial had been 'unconstitutional' and ordered his immediate release. He was suffering from terminal liver cancer and died with supporters by his side early this morning. He was 71."

RIP: Kate Wilhelm, science fiction great and co-founder of the Clarion Workshop, accomplished and widely-read author, mentor to many, at 89. The photo above is one I took of her with Chip Delany at WisCon 30.

RIP: Peter Nichols, writer, editor, and longtime critic and historian of science fiction, best known as the creator-organizer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, presumably of Parkinson's. He was 79.

RIP: Stephen Hawking, renowned theoretical physicist, Star Trek fan, and not a big fan of Sheldon, at 76. And who can forget that endearing moment when right-wingers who never figured out that it was Hawking's voice machine, and not him, that had the American accent, and who actually used him as an example of the merits of the American system — and Hawking's rejoinder was that he would have died without the UK's National Health Service.

Atrios claims he tried this trick for making microwave buckwheat bread in three minutes and it worked. It's even gluten-free.

Patrick Sky, "Nectar of God"

08 March 2018

Did you follow the Crystal Swan?

Bless you, Matt Taibbi. "If We Want Kids to Stop Killing, the Adults Have to Stop, Too"

Apart from a few scenes in Bowling for Columbine, this is an explanation you won't hear very much. Military spending is the lifeline of virtually every federally-elected politician in the country. You've been to trained seal shows where the animals get a fish every time they perform? The same principle works with members of Congress and defense contracts.

The U.S. is more dependent than ever on a quasi-socialistic system that redistributes tax dollars to defense projects in even fashion across both Republican and Democratic congressional districts. A few times a year, you'll spot a news story about someone in the Pentagon trying to refuse a spending initiative, only to be told to keep building by Congress.

Yes, I remember Michael Moore being the only public figure I have ever seen asking this important question about the simple fact that while other countries have guns, they don't have all this shooting people going on. And why is that? Isn't it the constant ginning up of fear and hate our own mass media has dedicated itself to?

* * * * *

I am so bored with Russian bots. Seems they tweeted or Facebooked everyone, but the Clintonites are of course out in force saying, "Bernie benefited from Russian bots and he should answer for this!" or similar. It's annoying. The whole story gets stupider by the day. They also seem to think they have "proof" that Putin was elevating Jill Stein, although the bots gave Clinton at least as much of a boost as they gave Stein. 13 bots sent out memes saying, among other things, "Hillary is a Satan" (they also sent out pro-Clinton posts and retweeted the hell out of Joy Reid), and this supposedly swung Clinton voters away from voting for her, which is an interesting theory about the minds of potential Clinton voters. Anyway here's a good comment from Atrios on the subject.

At a blog that bears a mysterious resemblance to Billmon's Whiskey Bar, we learn "'Russian bots' - How An Anti-Russian Lobby Creates Fake News: The U.S. mainstream media are going nuts. They now make up and report stories based on the uncritical acceptance of an algorithm they do not want to understand and which is known to produce fake results. [...] In other words - the "Twitter accounts suspected of having links to Russia" were following the current news just as cable news networks do. When a new sensational event happened they immediately jumped onto it. But the NYT authors go to length to claim that there is some nefarious Russian scheme behind this that uses automated accounts to spread divisive issues. [...] The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that the NYT reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi, continue with the false assumptions that most or all of these accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious."

I sometimes find Jimmy Dore a bit over-the-top but this clip gives you a more accurate picture of what's really going on than any of our more "responsible" coverage provides. It's embarrassing to see people like Ari Melber repeating nonsense about how Sanders (but not Clinton) has to answer for the social media junk that apparently supported the campaign.

"Hyping the Mueller Indictment: Do the charges against Russian individuals and organizations really describe the 'second-worst foreign attack on America'? [...] Neoconservative pundit Max Boot decries 'the second-worst foreign attack on America,' after 9/11, one that 'may be even more corrosive.' According to liberal Jonathan Alter, the Russians have launched 'an attack that - but for the loss of life - is as bad as Pearl Harbor.' Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler concurs, explaining to MSNBC: 'They didn't kill anyone but they're destroying our democratic process.' Not in the amount of violence, but in the seriousness, it is very much on par.'" You could just bang your head against a wall.

Norman Solomon at Truthdig, "Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network? [...] In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders' refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey - MSNBC's ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?"

* * * * *

Haaretz, "To Leave Gaza, Israel Asks Palestinian Minors to Commit They Not Return for a Year: Israel imposes harsher restrictions on Gazan kids leaving the Strip for abroad, demanding they sign an agreement to stay away. On January 24, 17-year-old Hadil and her three younger siblings arrived at the Erez Checkpoint between Israel and the Gaza Strip. A day earlier, they'd received an Israeli permit to leave Gaza through Israel via the Allenby Bridge to Jordan. Since Israel didn't let their oldest brother accompany them on the trip to see their father, who lives in Sweden, Hadil got the job of being the responsible adult. At Erez, a representative of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Office asked all four to sign a commitment not to return to Gaza during the next year, adding that they wouldn't be allowed to leave if they didn't sign. Having no choice, Hadil signed for all of them. Hadil never dreamed that her signature on this commitment would result in the Liaison Office issuing more stringent instructions to its Palestinian counterpart, the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, and in the latter defying the new rules."

"West Virginia Teachers Are Now Out on a Wildcat Strike. The Labor Movement Should Follow Their Lead. In a bright spot among an otherwise bleak landscape for labor, over 15,000 teachers and school support employees in all 55 West Virginia counties have been out on strike for seven days, as they and supporters from around the state continue to flood the capitol in Charleston, W.V., demanding higher pay and affordable healthcare. Bucking a deal struck between the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) and the state government, school workers have defied both union leadership and state law, which affords them no right to strike and does not recognize their right to collectively bargain. These restrictions haven't stopped West Virginia educators from leading what may be one of the most important labor actions in years."

"Sanders Introduces Bill to End Catastrophic US War in Yemen: Three years of U.S.-Saudi war has turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth. Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee introduced a bipartisan bill to end the U.S. role in the war - Ben Norton reports."

"2 winners and 2 losers from the 2018 Texas primary elections: Most high-profile races will go to runoffs. But there were some clear outcomes."

There is something really twisted about admitting that you think people shooting each other is healthier than masturbation. I mean, seriously. In "NRA vs. Exxxotica", our friend Mark Kernes explains why the Dallas city council has decided that a weapons-dealers' trade show is good enough for their convention center, but a return of the successful and popular Exxxotica is not.

"At Yale, we conducted an experiment to turn conservatives into liberals. The results say a lot about our political divisions. [...] Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. [...] But if they had instead just imagined being completely physically safe, the Republicans became significantly more liberal - their positions on social attitudes were much more like the Democratic respondents. And on the issue of social change in general, the Republicans' attitudes were now indistinguishable from the Democrats. Imagining being completely safe from physical harm had done what no experiment had done before - it had turned conservatives into liberals."

Max Sawicky, "Is That All There Is? How Full Is Our 'Full Employment'? There's more than one reason to get jacked up over the Republicans' epic deficit orgy of 2017-18. One that deserves closer scrutiny is the view that since the economy is at full employment, this is the wrong time for deficits to increase. The temptation to lambaste the G.O.P. for its deficit perfidy may be overwhelming, but it could also be both bad economics and bad politics."

* * * * *

Atrios, with "Centrism Isn't Centrism"

One of the running themes of this sucky blog is much of what is generally described as the "political center" is not and "moderate politicians" are not. Such "centrism" is mostly about issues and votes which have no constituency where Democrats are willing to join with Republicans (yay, bipartisan!). Or, at least, no constituency of voters. They're things which, usually, have a constituency of big donors. They aren't our principled deal-making "last honest people of Washington." They're our most corrupt.

Thinking otherwise allows corrupt Dems to join with equally corrupt Republicans to do things like this, and con people into thinking it's about "principled moderation" and that (in some cases) they're just representing their red state voters. Crazy liberals can't win in Missouri! Only principled moderates can!

No voters in Missouri want to eviscerate banking reforms. The most you can say with respect to electoral viability is that by pleasing big money, you prevent big money from going after you at election time. That might be true. But that's because they're going to run ads about other issues (the laundry list of Liberals Are Bad), not because supporting bank regulations is going to turn off independent minded swing voters.

I question the utility of being squishy on abortion rights and gun control, but it's fair to say that positioning might actually get some votes. Voting for future bank bailouts? Nah.

* * * * *

At Econospeak, Peter Dorman with "Divide and Rule"

There was a time, one I can remember from when I was growing up (the 1950s and 60s), when being a liberal meant you wanted certain rights and benefits for everyone, at least ostensibly. We had Social Security because everyone should have a basic pension when they retire, and all disabled people need to be cared for. Freedom of speech was for everyone, even those horrible Nazis in Skokie. Liberals wanted national health insurance so everyone could afford medical care, but settled for Medicare, a universal program for seniors. Protestors like me were not against the rhetoric of universalism but the hypocritical practice, where blacks, Mexican and Filipino farmworkers and poor single moms were denied their share. That was then.

Now, liberals are concerned about minorities and the poor. They are against privilege, which is defined as not being a minority or poor. Public programs are designed to give assistance to the most oppressed and not waste their resources on those who have the privilege to fend for themselves. A poster child for the new politics is higher education. Liberals want bigger subsidies, like more Pell Grants, for the poorest students and those who self-select by enrolling in community college. They were distraught at Bernie Sanders' call for free public higher ed for all, since that would siphon off scarce resources for the benefit of privileged, nonpoor families. From their perspective, this was proof that Bernie and his ilk were unwoke: unaware of the scourge of privilege, they even wanted public support for it.

In fact, nothing is more important for the future of progressive politics than a return to universalism. If you doubt this, read this powerful reportage in the New York Times on the divisions opened up by Obamacare. It describes two women, one working part-time and living below the poverty line who gets ample, free health coverage, the other working full-time in a middle class job who is stuck with monthly $1000 premiums and a big deductible. That's not a bug but a feature: the program was set up to focus its support on those at the bottom and charge full freight for everyone else.

The effect is to divide the working class into two groups, poor winners and nonpoor losers. The politics are toxic, as you might expect. (Yes, the reporter found a Democrat to represent women below the poverty line and a Republican for women above it, which gives it an unfortunate air of exaggeration, but the logic of the comparison remains compelling.) It is also bad social policy, since at the margin households making $80,000 a year (the middle class example) can also skimp on care if the financial pinch is too much.

* * * * *

Pankaj Mishra, "Why do white people like what I write? [...] Compared to these internationalist thinkers, partisans of the second black president, who happen to be the most influential writers and journalists in the US, have provincialised their aspiration for a just society. They have neatly separated it from opposition to an imperial dispensation that incarcerates and deports millions of people each year - disproportionately people of colour - and routinely exercises its right to assault and despoil other countries and murder and torture their citizens. Perceptive about the structural violence of the new Jim Crow, Coates has little to say about its manifestation in the new world order. For all his searing corroboration of racial stigma in America, he has yet to make a connection as vital and powerful as the one that MLK detected in his disillusioned last days between the American devastation of Vietnam and 'the evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society'. He has so far considered only one of what King identified as 'the giant American triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism' - the 'inter-related flaws' that turned American society into a 'burning house' for the blacks trying to integrate into it. And in Coates's worldview even race, despite his formidable authority of personal witness, rarely transcends a rancorously polarised American politics of racial division, in which the world's most powerful man appears to have been hounded for eight years by unreconstructed American racists. 'My President Was Black', a 17,000-word profile in the Atlantic, is remarkable for its missing interrogations of the black president for his killings by drones, despoilation of Libya, Yemen and Somalia, mass deportations, and cravenness before the titans of finance who ruined millions of black as well as white lives. Coates has been accused of mystifying race and of 'essentialising' whiteness. Nowhere, however, does his view of racial identity seem as static as in his critical tenderness for a black member of the 1 per cent."

"Why are Democratic party thinktanks still not backing universal healthcare?" Well, the last time there was a roll toward some kind of single-payer-ish program, the American Enterprise Institute created a monstrosity that became RomneyCare and then Obamacare to head it off. They've shot their wad, looks like it's time for the faux "progressives" to take a shot.

* * * * *

Howie Klein, "DCCC Comes Out Of The Closet As The Progressive-Hating Attack Machine It's Been For Over A Decade. Nancy Pelosi gave a very strange interview the other day, but "Her theory behind the races exploded yesterday in Houston when the DCCC did something publicly that it usually only-- and always-- does behind the scenes where no one can watch. It viciously attacked a progressive candidate, Laura Moser, to benefit an establishment corporate shill in the primary."

Lee Fang, Ryan Grim, David Dayen. "DCCC goes nuclear, slams Dem candidate as corrupt for same behavior it engages in regularly: ON THURSDAY EVENING, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the extraordinary step of publicly attacking a prominent Democratic candidate in a contested Texas primary. The party committee's move was made all the more jarring given the background of the candidate, Laura Moser, who in 2017 became a hero of the Trump resistance movement as the creator of Daily Action, a text-messaging tool that channelled progressive anger into a single piece of activism per day."

Daniel Marans at The Huffington Post, "DCCC Advised Candidates Not To Discuss Gun Control Policy Right After Vegas Shooting: The campaign organization said Democrats should focus on offering thoughts and prayers."

"From Pushing 'Thoughts and Prayers' to Dissing Medicare for All, DCCC Called Out for Sabotaging Bold Demands: While House Democrats were urged to ignore Medicare for All as a viable solution to the nation's healthcare woes, a separate memo to lawmakers after Las Vegas shooting appeared to be 'straight out of the NRA's talking points'" It's just amazing how the leaked DCCC "unity" memo seems so concerned about hiring the "right" consultants and spending most of your money on paid advertising.

Zaid Jilani, "DCCC internal polling presented to members of congress panned single-payer health care

For the record, the Democratic Party does not have a page like this listing their election wins and losses. And while it's true that Our Revolution appears to have lost more than they've won, they've had some interesting victories, often in deep red country. You might want to save this link for the next time someone claims otherwise.

* * * * *

"Supreme Court limits protections for corporate whistleblowers: The Supreme Court sharply limited the legal protections for corporate whistleblowers on Wednesday, ruling they are not shielded from being fired under a federal law unless they have reported a potential fraud to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The justices conceded their ruling might gut the whistleblower protections that were adopted after the Wall Street collapse in 2008. Lawmakers had said they wanted to break the "corporate code of silence" that prevented employees from revealing wrongdoing inside their companies. But the high court, in an unanimous decision, said the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 defined a protected whistleblower as someone who reported a potential fraud "to the commission," referring to the SEC."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Calls Out Big Pharma For Opposing Legal Marijuana: "'To them it's competition for chronic pain, and that's outrageous because we don't have the crisis in people who take marijuana for chronic pain having overdose issues,' Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said. 'It's not the same thing. It's not as highly addictive as opioids are.'"

"Let Them Eat Experience: Until last month, almost all unpaid internships were technically illegal. Now it's open season for employers who want free labor."

David Dayen says it's Time to Take On ICE, and also links to some other stories he's done on an interesting development in the newly-Democratic Virginia legislature.
* Also Dday in The Nation on The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett's Billions." In other Tiny Letters, he tells us about Bipartisan Deregulators, Stadium Banks and the Citigroup Carve-Out and the Janus case that looks set to cripple public sector unions.

Dday also tells us about a publishing project he will be contributing to, of small "books" on DC-related subjects. "My friend and Intercept colleague Ryan Grim has co-founded a publishing company called Strong Arm Press. They produce investigations of major figures in the Trump orbit, a sort of field guide to the people running the world these days. The books are expansive enough to really delve into a subject but much smaller than a book, about 10,000 words or so. They are sold cheaply, like $5 or $10, mostly as ebooks. Ryan has asked me to contribute to one such exposé of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who I've written about once or twice. We have a terrific reporter, Rebecca Burns, working hard on this project. So, you can buy the in-depth reporting, but you can also help fund it if you have a few extra pennies to throw in.

Plus! On The Majority Report, "Attacking Wall Street Reform w/ David Dayen" - Gosh, he sounds really steamed.

"If Police Don't Have to Protect the Public, What Good Are They? The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed, most recently in 2005, that police have no constitutional duty to protect members of the public from harm. [...] Police have shot and killed Americans of all ages - many of them unarmed - for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something - anything - that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer's mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety. In recent years, Americans have been killed by police merely for standing in a 'shooting stance,' holding a cell phone, behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat, opening the front door, running in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch, crawling around naked, hunching over in a defensive posture, wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey, driving while deaf, being homeless, brandishing a shoehorn, holding a garden hose, and peeing outdoors." But they didn't do a thing against the Parkland shooter. And, don't get me wrong, that was the smart thing to do - they would have ended up dead. But the police seem to have become the most dangerous gang on the streets while contributing increasingly less value to the community.

Juan Cole, "Did an Emirates-Israel alliance Help elect Trump more than Russia?

Lee Camp at Truthdig. "Six Ways the 'Resistance' Gave Trump a Dictator’s Toolkit: My longtime arch-nemesis, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - which I thought we had vanquished after years of stabbing, kicking and choking it - may now be rising from the dead like a zombie, like a vampire, like a Jeff Sessions. And this is yet another sign that the so-called Democratic 'Resistance' is a joke so big it has to buy two airplane seats. [...] What does this have to do with the so-called Democratic 'resistance'? Well, there's a reason Trump has such an outsize trade authority - a reason your mainstream media would rather you forget. Obama handed this trade authority to Trump on a silver platter. Back in 2015, Congress, under pressure from the Obama administration, voted to give the president, any president, unlimited trade authority for the next six years. This means Congress cannot change a word of any trade deal Trump approves."

Beat the Press, "Hey Folks, Looks Like Corporate America Hasn't Heard About the Trump Tax Cuts: News must travel slowly to corporate headquarters these days. How else can we explain the fact that corporate America isn't rushing out to invest in response to the big tax cut Congress voted them last year? [...] If the tax cuts matter for investment, then companies like GE, Microsoft, and Amazon were making plans as soon as it became clear that the Republican majority in Congress was serious about passing a tax bill. The fact that we are seeing zero evidence of an uptick in investment suggests that tax cuts don't have much impact on investment. Rather than being about promoting economic growth that would lead to productivity gains and higher wages for ordinary workers, the tax cuts were actually just another way to redistribute more money upward. As Speaker Ryan always says: #RichPeopleNeedTaxCuts."

David Cay Johnston, "Here's Why Donald Trump Is In The White House: New Data Show Falling Incomes Through the Obama Years [...] The average income on 2016 tax returns shows that people effectively lost one week of income compared to 2015. The average was $67,755, down almost $1,300 from the year before when adjusted for inflation, my analysis of new IRS Table 1 preliminary data shows."

CONGRATULATIONS: "Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Associate Publisher, is now also Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Tor Books, reporting to me. Patrick's 29 years at Tor, coupled with his encyclopedic knowledge of the industry and his award-winning editing skills, make him perfect for this key role that will help us to continue to grow the business."

REST IN PEACE: "Pearls Before Swine Band Mastermind Tom Rapp Dead at 70: Psych folk legend also worked as civil rights lawyer"

REST IN PEACE: "Barry Crimmins, Comedian and Activist, Dead at 64 [...] Crimmins was a stalwart in the Boston stand-up scene during the Eighties and became known for his powerful monologues and scathing political satire. Along with performing, he founded two clubs, the Ding Ho and Stitches, where he produced an array of shows that featured burgeoning comics like Goldthwait, Steven Wright, Kevin Meaney and Paula Poundstone." There are some videos there at The Rolling Stone's article and more at the Guardian. Longtime readers of The Sideshow will remember that Barry was a mainstay of the liberal web in the days of Bartcop, Media Whores Online. and the early blogging days.

REST IN PEACE: "Nanette Fabray, TV Star of the '50s and '60s, Dies at 97" One of those actors who was on the screen my entire life. I noticed she had gone only because Marlee Matlin tweeted: "A follower shared this very sweet video of Nanette Fabray signing 'Over the Rainbow' on the Carol Burnett Show. It was probably the first time anyone signed on network TV."

REST IN PEACE: "The Crystals Singer Barbara Ann Alston Dead at 74, following a two-week battle with the flu." I can't pick my favorite of their songs, but here she is singing lead on "Uptown". (Oh, okay, she didn't sing lead on "Da Doo Ron Ron". but here it is anyway.)

REST IN PEACE: "David Ogden Stiers, Major Winchester on 'MASH,' Dies at 75. [...] Indeed, it was his voice that earned him his first screen credit - as the announcer in George Lucas' 1971 film THX 1138."

REST IN PERDITION: Billy Graham, Evangelist for American Empire and homophobia, at 99.

Tom Sullivan, "This is what more looks like: Want to know one reason why Democrats get no traction in the Plains States? I tried to email Kansas, South Dakota, and Montana counties yesterday and got pissed off. The white counties in otherwise red-shaded states are either unorganized or have no email or Facebook contact information on the state party websites (and probably not even a Facebook page not listed there). That's 40 percent of Kansas counties, half of Montana, and 70 percent of South Dakota. That's counties, not population, naturally. Okay, very rural, low-density areas I have the luxury of not trying to organize. And maybe it is because there are no Democrats out there. Even so. Those states elect U.S. senators. If Democrats don't show up to play, they forfeit. Look at south-central Georgia. So, I don't want to hear "This is the most important election of our lifetime" again. Ever. Because if you think short-term, you never invest in the future. As they say around the office, "Why is there never time to do it right, but always time to do it over?" Democrats do it over - and over - on a two-year cycle, in many places starting each time from scratch."

"Depressed? Anxious? Blame Neoliberalism. [...] Throughout the day, some of the country's most important scientists spoke about their research into these problems. Yet, as the day went on, something baffled me. If all you knew about depression, anxiety and addiction was what was presented at this day-long conference, you would have thought these conditions were caused by malfunctions in people's brains. We looked at pictures of brain scans and talked about internal brain mechanisms. One group of scientists said they aimed to eradicate depression by 2050 - but the focus of their research was entirely biological. [...] As Margaret Thatcher put it when I was a kid, 'There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.' Neoliberalism poses many problems, but perhaps the most neglected is that it has supercharged our current crisis of depression and anxiety. All human beings have natural psychological needs: to feel we belong, to feel we are secure, to feel we are valued, to feel we have a secure future we can understand. These are ingrained in us all. Neoliberalism does a very poor job of meeting these psychological needs, in part because its theory of human nature doesn't match with human nature.

"There Was A 1908 Board Game About Women Fighting Cops In The Streets" - called Suffragetto.

A recent appearance by Miss Boop

They look like photographs but they're drawings: The art of Kelvin Okafor.

These bras are exactly the opposite of what I love about Wacoal, but they are so beautiful I almost wish for them.

Pearls Before Swine, "Another Time"