27 August 2018

Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash

Elizabeth Warren's press release for her Accountable Capitalism Act is nicely put together and provides some good background:

"For most of our country's history, American corporations balanced their responsibilities to all of their stakeholders - employees, shareholders, communities - in corporate decisions. It worked: profits went up, productivity went up, wages went up, and America built a thriving middle class.

"But in the 1980s a new idea quickly took hold: American corporations should focus only on maximizing returns to their shareholders. That had a seismic impact on the American economy. In the early 1980s, America's biggest companies dedicated less than half of their profits to shareholders and reinvested the rest in the company. But over the last decade, big American companies have dedicated 93% of earnings to shareholders - redirecting trillions of dollars that could have gone to workers or long-term investments. The result is that booming corporate profits and rising worker productivity have not led to rising wages.

"Additionally, because the wealthiest top 10% of American households own 84% of all American-held shares - while more than 50% of American households own no stock at all - the dedication to "maximizing shareholder value" means that the multi-trillion dollar American corporate system is focused explicitly on making the richest Americans even richer."

Warren's prepared remarks to the National Press Club about her anti-corruption bill are also pretty interesting. And Howie Klein bulllet-pointing it in "Can Corruption In Government Be Legislated Out Of Existence By... Corrupt Politicians?."

* * * * *

"To Force Billionaires Off Welfare, Sanders Tax Would Make Corporations Fund 100% of Public Assistance Their Low-Paid Workers Receive: I don't believe that ordinary Americans should be subsidizing the wealthiest person in the world because you pay your employees inadequate wages."

"Verizon refused to un-throttle a California fire department's 'unlimited' plan during wildfires: Although calling out wireless carriers is a frequent pasttime here at BGR, sometimes a story comes along that sounds so cartoonishly villanous that you assume something in the story is wrong. But in this case, there are emails, and what they reveal is that Verizon's big talk about supporting emergency services apparently doesn't work in the real world. Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin found a series of emails between the Santa Clara County Fire Department and Verizon discussing the fire department's supposedly unlimited plan, how it was being throttled while on scene trying to battle a wildfire, and what could be done about it." This is shameful; if they're going to say a plan is "unlimited", it should damned well be unlimited, fire department or not. Their claim of support for emergency services sounds like pure fabrication.

"Empire Files forced to shut down by sanctions against Venezuela: As a result of financial attacks by the US government on the primary source of TeleSUR's funding, production was halted before the completion of Empire Files Season Two."

"The Facebook blackout 'glitch' censored independent media, but left the mainstream media untouched: Facebook has initiated a massive purge of independent media content. This blackout includes barring multiple independent media sites from posting links to their own site on their Facebook page, deleting independent media posts without warning or reason, marking independent media posts as spam so ordinary members of the public can't share them, and deleting ordinary people's posts without reason. This issue has impacted multiple left-leaning independent media sites like Another Angry Voice, Evolve Politics, Vox Political, People's Campaign for Corbyn, EU Citizens for an Independent Scotland, and many others. With pages left unable to post links to their own articles. Facebook have tried to dismiss the independent media blackout as a "glitch" but interestingly the Facebook pages of mainstream media outlets were unaffected by the "glitch". Mainstream media outlets that have been able to continue posting articles throughout the blackout include the Daily Mail, The S*n, Evening Standard, The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Spectator, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Sky News, BBC News, and BBC Politics. Additionally the hard-right Guido Fawkes blog was also allowed to continue posting links to their vile echo chamber of hate throughout the Facebook blackout. The fact that a select few pages were allowed to continue posting throughout the Facebook blackout suggests that there's some kind of Facebook 'whitelist' protecting them from whatever measures they've been taking against independent media sources. So a range of left-wing, pro-independence, anti-Tory, pro-Corbyn, anti-fracking independent media pages were barred from sharing links, while mainstream media outlets and hard-right blogs were completely unaffected."

"Reality Winner, who pleaded guilty to leaking secret U.S. report, gets 63-month sentence: AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A former government contractor who pleaded guilty to mailing a classified U.S. report to a news organization was sentenced to more than five years Thursday as part of a deal with prosecutors, who called it the longest sentence ever imposed for a federal crime involving leaks to the media. Reality Winner, 26, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of transmitting national security information. The former Air Force translator worked as a contractor at a National Security Agency's office in Augusta, Georgia, when she printed a classified report and left the building with it tucked into her pantyhose. Winner told the FBI she mailed the document to an online news outlet."

"Wells Fargo-- The Anti-Medical Marijuana Bank-- Strikes Again [...] 'They told me my account was being flagged because of my political platform,' Fried said during a news conference at the Capitol. She lists greater access to medical marijuana as one of the main issues of her campaign."

'Incredible': New Poll That Shows 70% of Americans Support Medicare for All Includes 84% of Democrats and 52% of Republicans: Don't tell anyone but, uh, we're gonna win. [...] With such levels of popularity, as an accompanying article exploring some of the tensions within the party makes clear, Democratic leaders are being told they ignore the push for Medicare for All at their own peril. [...] While the Reuters article focused mainly on the question of whether progressive leaders like Sanders and congressional candidates like New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nebraska's Kara Eastman can convince voters to support progressive proposals, the news agency's polling showed that centrist Democrats, who claim they are trying to appeal to so-called "moderates," are actually alienating the vast majority of potential voters on key issues." This means that the percentage of Republican voters who support M4A is higher than the percentage of Democrats in Congress who do.

"California Could Soon End Money Bail, But At What Cost?: The passage of Senate Bill 10 would decimate the bail industry, but many advocates say it falls short of true reform. [...] In earlier drafts of the bill, all defendants would have appeared before a judge with a presumption of release. To detain someone, prosecutors would have had to make a case with convincing evidence that there was no way to release the person while ensuring his or her next court appearance and protecting public safety. This month, however, a new draft of the legislation began making the rounds that vastly altered its vision and scope. While abolishing cash bail and mandating the release of most people arrested for nonviolent misdemeanors within 12 hours of being booked, the new draft gives county judges wide-ranging discretion over which defendants deemed 'medium risk' could be detained pretrial."

RIP: Lynn Stout, economics professor best known for busting the shareholder value myth. Though she died last April at 60 after a battle with cancer, I only just learned about it, but I really want people to talk about this important aspect of her work. Her book, The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public came out years ago but deserves far more penetration into people's consciousness.
* Back when her book was released, Jay Ackroyd interviewed Lynn Stout on Virtually Speaking.

Yves was also on that subject at the time, with discussion and an interview with Bill Lazonick

Here's Ryan Grim interviewing Stephanie Kelton last spring on why we can't have nice things - but could if Congress wanted to.

And Gaius reminded me recently of this four-year-old interview Sam Seder did with Philip Mirowski, author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown., on the history and continued evil of neoliberalism.

"Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent's Stealth Takeover of America: Nobel laureate James Buchanan is the intellectual linchpin of the Koch-funded attack on democratic institutions, argues Duke historian Nancy MacLean."

George Monbiot in the Guardian, "A despot in disguise: one man's mission to rip up democracy: James McGill Buchanan's vision of totalitarian capitalism has infected public policy in the US. Now it's being exported. [...] He explained how attempts to desegregate schooling in the American south could be frustrated by setting up a network of state-sponsored private schools. It was he who first proposed privatising universities, and imposing full tuition fees on students: his original purpose was to crush student activism. He urged privatisation of social security and many other functions of the state. He sought to break the links between people and government, and demolish trust in public institutions. He aimed, in short, to save capitalism from democracy."

Even Forbes admits it: "America's Real Economy: It Isn't Booming: Ostensibly, for the past ten years, our economy has been recovering from the 2008 collapse. During the past few years, our comeback seems to have gained momentum. All the official indicators say we're back in boom times, with a bull market, low unemployment and steady job growth. But there is an alternative set of data that depicts a different America, where the overlooked majority struggles from month to month." The story gets the data right (Thanks to The Nation and TomDispatch), but then, alas, descends into prescriptions that come straight from the centrist playbook. "What's genuinely astonishing to me is that the private sector doesn't see the immense danger in all this — not simply the prospect of a collapse from enormous household debt loads, but the prospect of civil unrest after another huge correction like the one in 2008. Our current course is unsustainable. And for all the proposals for changes in public policy to ameliorate income inequality, only the private sector can get the nation on a better track by raising wages, increasing benefits and investing in new ventures and expanded markets." While it's true that raising wages is certainly a necessity, the private sector is not going to do any of this unless public policy forces them to. The constant refrain that we need more and more education — now supplied by the private sector — is ludicrous since we already have an educated populace that is out of work. The only thing the private sector can actually do at this point is reverse course on pressuring government to make their lives so easy, and start telling government to restore the regulations and enforcement that used to make them pay better wages, treat their workers better, and quit moving production abroad. Government has to go back to making business work, and it has to start spending real money again in the real economy and taxing the hell out of the rich.

Just when I was about to go to bed I see this tweet from Sam retweeting David Dayen retweeting a Will Sommer tweet posting a screen capture of a tweet from Lionel ("One of the leading promoters of the QAnon conspiracy theory") bragging about the honor of going to the White House to meet Trump. Lionel, as David points out, is "literally the guy who replaced @SamSeder on Air America." But in the ensuing thread I found a 2010 video I'd never seen, "Sam Seder on TYT Network (Why Air America Fell, Obama & Much More!)," posted because it includes Sam talking about the end of Air America Radio not long after it's official demise, but before that an amazingly prescient interview with Chris Hayes about how the failure of Obama and the Democratic Party to seize the populist moment could easily lead to right-wing "populism" - and the situation we have now.

RIP: "Sen. John McCain, Former Presidential Nominee And Prisoner Of War, Dies At 81." I think I'm with Max Blumenthal on this.

Pink Floyd live, "Money"

20 August 2018

I used to feel so uninspired

RIP: "Aretha Franklin, 'the queen of soul', dies aged 76: Regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time, Aretha Franklin has died of advanced pancreatic cancer" Everybody has the same headline, because what else could it be? The Guardian used a video of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" in it's obit, but it's longer tribute gives you more. Okay, I teared up, but still, she had a great run - she got to be Aretha.
* "When Aretha Franklin Offered To Post Bail For Angela Davis: Aretha Franklin, who died today at the age of 76 in her home in Detroit, was known for her unbelievable musical talent and majestic career, but the Queen of Soul was also a longtime warrior in the fight for social justice. A close friend of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited her in her final days, Franklin was a vocal supporter of civil rights movements, often performing at benefits and encouraging voter registration. But her private and church-based work — including stepping in to financially support Martin Luther King Jr.'s movement, the families of incarcerated people, and black activist ministers — was largely under the radar, Jackson told the Detroit Free Press recently."

RIP: Mark Perkel. "On August first, one of the coolest people you've probably never heard of died. Before there was a Netroots Nation or bloggers commonly called bloggers way back in 2000, Mark Perkel founded the liberal voices on the web — people like Bartcop, Brad Friedman and me — and offered us free hosting and eternal digital protection." -- Tammy, delivering a quick obituary on phone call to The Majority Report. (That's a direct section link.)

If you listen to the earlier parts of that Sam Seder video, you'll hear that some YouTube algorithm knocked him off his live feed Friday. It's funny how these social media censors have such a problem with comedy. But they have trouble with other things, too, and it's curious that Facebook has a problem with Venezuelanalysis: "Venezuelanalysis is the only independent English language website covering news and analysis on Venezuela from a progressive perspective, & which platforms leftist grassroots voices from within Venezuela. It is run by committed journalists, authors and academics, & praised by renowned journalists and intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Marta Harnecker, Oliver Stone, and so on. We cannot help but feel that the removal of our page is related to an attempt to stifle the alternative and progressive perspectives that we feature on Venezuela." (Here's another story at Global Research.) Still no explanation from FB. And AntiWar.com is reporting on suspensions and bannings, too. It seems strange that all this cross-platform de-platforming has happened at once.

Matt Taibbi, "Censorship Does Not End Well: How America learned to stop worrying and put Mark Zuckerberg in charge of everything [...] Two weeks ago, we learned about a new campaign against 'inauthentic' content, conducted by Facebook in consultation with Congress and the secretive think tank Atlantic Council — whose board includes an array of ex-CIA and Homeland Security officials — in the name of cracking down on alleged Russian disinformation efforts.­ As part of the bizarre alliance of Internet news distributors and quasi-government censors, the social network zapped 32 accounts and pages, including an ad for a real 'No Unite the Right 2' anti-racist counter-rally in D.C. this past weekend. [...] Last week, we saw another flurry of censorship news. Facebook apparently suspended VenezuelaAnalysis.com, a site critical of U.S. policy toward Venezuela. (It was reinstated Thursday.) Twitter suspended a pair of libertarians, including @DanielLMcAdams of the Ron Paul Institute and @ScottHortonShow of Antiwar.com, for using the word 'bitch' (directed toward a man) in a silly political argument. They, too, were later re-instated. [...] And yet: I didn't celebrate when Jones was banned. Collectively, all these stories represent a revolutionary moment in media. Jones is an incidental player in a much larger narrative. Both the Jones situation and the Facebook-Atlantic Council deletions seem an effort to fulfill a request made last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last October, Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hizono to draw up a 'mission statement' to 'prevent the foment of discord.' [...] Now that we've opened the door for ordinary users, politicians, ex-security-state creeps, foreign governments and companies like Raytheon to influence the removal of content, the future is obvious: an endless merry-go-round of political tattling, in which each tribe will push for bans of political enemies."

Leaving aside the usual creebing about college liberals, which is wrong and beside the point, Peter Van Buren's argument in The American Conservative is fairly strong, in "I Was Banned for Life From Twitter: I became persona non grata after a heated exchange over the media's complicity with the government. The mob won."

The Onion with an unusual weather forecast.

Dean Baker, "Jake Tapper' Dishonest Fact Check On Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Medicare for All: I already did a tweet on this, but thought it was worth posting here. Jake Tapper did a completely dishonest fact check on Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over their claim that a study by a right-wing think tank showed that Medicare for all would save the country $2 trillion over a decade (roughly 0.8 percent of GDP). Tapper misrepresented their comments to say that they claimed the study would save the government $2 trillion. He then points out that the study showed Medicare for all would hugely increase the cost of healthcare to the government. Of course, the cost to the government will increase if it takes responsibility for the bulk of healthcare payments in the country. No one is contesting this point. The question is what happens to the cost of healthcare to the country as a whole. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez were accurately citing one of the scenarios in the study on this point. Tapper owes it to Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, and more importantly to his audience, to correct himself on this one. It's a straightforward point and he really should be able to get it right." More specifically, the study, in its main body, discussed the costs under Sanders' actual, existing Medicare for All bill. The other scenario the study mentions occurs only in an appendix and is sheer conjecture about what it might otherwise contain.

Michelle Goldberg on "The Debt-Shaming of Stacey Abrams: Our pernicious double standard on politicians who owe money. [...] It's going to be a tight race: Abrams and Kemp are currently tied in the polls. But Republicans think they can damage Abrams by going after her on the issue of her personal debt, which totals more than $200,000. Last week, an ad from the Republican Governors Association hit her for lending money to her own campaign while owing $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, describing her as 'self-serving' and 'fiscally irresponsible.' Kemp himself made a baseless suggestion that Abrams might have violated the law: 'Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign. If that's not criminal, it should be.' This line of attack throws a pernicious political dynamic into high relief. The financial problems of poor and middle-class people are treated as moral failings, while rich people's debt is either ignored or spun as a sign of intrepid entrepreneurialism."

With the Accountable Capitalism Act, says Charlie Pierce, "Elizabeth Warren Put a Stake in the Ground. We Should Pay Close Attention. If corporations want to be treated like people then they should be punished like them, too." The idea is to have a federal charter system for big corporations and make them live up to being good citizens that contribute to the public good.

"Author Reza Aslan threatened by Israeli Border Authorities with Family Separation: BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) — Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, detained Iranian-American writer, Reza Aslan, as he was entering Israel through Jordan, with his family. Reza Aslan, 46, took to his Twitter account, where he said that the Shin Bet used police state tactics against him and his family. Aslan arrived in Israel with his wife, children, and in-laws after a visit to Jordan. Upon his arrival, he was separated from his family at the border and detained by the Shin Bet, which repeatedly threatened him . He wrote in his Twitter post that the Shin Bet interrogator threatened him by repeatedly saying 'we can make it so you don't see your kids for a long time.' Aslan mentioned that 'the police state part began in earnest: Write down names of journalists you associate with. Write down names of Palestinian organizations you support.' According to Aslan, he tried to cooperate as best as he could, but was accused of lying after answering each question. The Shin Bet interrogator warned Aslan not to enter the Palestinian territories, not to meet with or speak to any Palestinians or any Israeli troublemakers and warned him by saying that 'we are watching you,' Aslan wrote. Aslan concluded his tweets by saying that 'this was my 4th trip to Israel in ten years and every time it's gotten worse. It's becoming unrecognizable as a democracy. It is becoming a full-blown police state.'"

"Fracking is destroying U.S. water supply, warns shocking new study: Toxic wastewater from fracking jumps 14-fold from 2011 to 2016 — and it may get 50 times bigger by 2030."

Ellis Winningham, "Public Purpose Spending is Not Socialism — It's the Job of the Federal Government: There is an immense problem with the term 'socialism', especially in the United States, where the word is abused endlessly by right-wing politicians, 'free market' enthusiasts and now, even liberals have joined the red-baiting bandwagon, labeling former Sanders supporters, many of whom are now Stein supporters as 'socialists' and any proposed economic initiatives as 'socialism'. This is the result of a successful long-term propaganda campaign of intentional misinformation which causes the general public to view any public purpose spending as socialism and so, they irrationally fear the public purpose. Meanwhile, the 1% reaps the benefits through continued abuse of an unwitting public, allowing them to profit at the expense of the national economy and society. Let me assure you that there isn't an academic definition of socialism for those of us who possess degrees and then an entirely different one for the general public. It doesn't work that way. There is only one definition of socialism and we will discuss it today, because the nonsense needs to stop."

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "The treachery of Tom Perez: Tom Perez is chair of the Democratic National Committee because wealthy centrist liberals — above all then-President Barack Obama — needed a convenient stooge to keep the party machinery out of the left's hands. He's serving his big donor masters loyally, and in the process failing his party, the United States of America, and humanity as a whole. Most egregiously, he recently reversed a ban on the party accepting donations from fossil fuel corporations, with the limp excuse that "[w]e're not a party that punishes workers simply based on how they make ends meet." The man is an obstacle to human flourishing. [...] It takes a special kind of incompetence to sell out the party's activist base and not even be able to raise good money off it."

"The New Old Democrats: It's not the 1990s anymore. People want the government to help solve big problems. Here's how the Democrats must respond."

"Democrats Must Reclaim the Center — by Moving Hard Left: America needs a centrist party that actually represents the economic center, not just zillionaires like me. [...] There once was a time when both parties vied to occupy the majoritarian center, an era when American politics was more a struggle over means than of ends — until, after three decades of unprecedented and broad-based post-war prosperity, the Republican Party lurched violently to the right, and the age of New Deal centrism came to a close. Supply-side tax cuts, attacks on unions, a crusade against 'big government' and other tactics of the Reagan revolution helped put us on the road to a new Gilded Age. And while Republicans certainly led the way, we wouldn't have gotten here as quickly had Democrats not kept driving in the same direction every time we managed to get our hands on the wheel."

"There Is No Such Thing As A Moderate Mainstream Centrist [...] This is what passes for the American political 'center' today. Two mainstream parties, both backed to the hilt by the entirety of corporate media from coast to coast, arguing with each other over who is doing more to help advance cold war aggressions between two nuclear superpowers. They're not arguing about whether or not the world should be destroyed, they're arguing over who gets to push the button.

Yves Smith on Why We Didn't See the 2008 Crash Coming [...] One point that is often lost is the Bush administration courteously left $75 billion in the TARP for the Obama administration to use to pay for mortgage modifications, which they never used. Obama had an opportunity when he came in. The country was desperate and frightened. He could've done an FDR. He could've done almost anything. And yet, the die was cast when he appointed Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary. That was announced in mid-November. I mean, Obama is basically don't-rock-the boat. He may be center-left on social issues, but he's basically center-right on economic issues. [...] We have this fallacy that normal people should be able to save for retirement. If public pension funds, which can invest at the very lowest possible fees, can't make this work, how is Joe Mom-and-Pop America gonna be able to do this? Again, it's back to the stagnant worker wages. So, great, we're not paying people enough, housing prices are very inflated. We've got this horrible medical system that costs way too much, and how are people supposed to put any money aside when their real estate and their rents and their health costs are going up? Why do you think we have Trump? I mean, even though he did a big bait-and-switch, as we all know, there were a lot of people that lost their homes, their community wasn't what it used to be, particularly if they lived in the Rust Belt. And then you have these people on the coast saying, 'Oh, they should go get training. It's disgusting.' I mean, let them eat cake is let them get training. What you hear from these coastal elites: People over 40, even over 35, are basically unhirable. Are you gonna train them? They're gonna waste their time thinking they can get a new job? I mean, that's just lunacy.

"The Explicable Mystery of the National Debt [...] The mystery is, while all this perpetual haggling and hand-wringing is happening, no one seems to be knocking on America's door asking to be repaid. Unlike Greece and Italy who are constantly being squeezed by the E.U. central bank and the IMF to repay their debts, no one seems to be squeezing the U.S. at all. Unlike Spain, which gets an earful from Germany if it even whispers about increasing its national borrowing, the U.S. hears nothing from anybody (except its own politicians and pundits) when it votes to raise the beanstalk one cap higher. How can that be? It's almost as if — weirdly — there isn't anyone out there expecting to get paid back. [...] First, the U.S. 'national debt' is functionally not a debt at all. It is simply a tally of the U.S. Treasury bonds which the government has issued and then traded for U.S. dollars which already existed in the private sector. These Treasury bonds are in effect interest-paying, time-deposit savings accounts for the bond holders. You personally may have traded some of your retirement dollars for one of these 'savings accounts' and you know, firsthand, they definitely contain real money! The 'national debt,' then, is really a 'national savings account.'"

Nice xkcd on computerized voting. Paper ballots, hand-counted in full public view on the night, y'all.

"Clinton Democrats Embrace Losing Strategy To Combat 'Sanders-Style Socialism' In Midterms: Democratic Party elites are increasingly concerned the midterm elections will be a 'base election' and make their centrist politics even more irrelevant, as insurgent candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez garner widespread support. The think tank, Third Way, recently held a conference in Ohio with Democrats, who primarily adhere to the politics of President Bill Clinton, and new recruits, who they hope will counter 'Bernie Sanders-style socialism.' They also intend to defend corporate executives and wealthy people from condemnation for their attacks on poor and working class Americans. 'Right now, in the Democratic Party, there is only one option on the table: Sanders-style socialism. That's the main option on the table. We're doing this now because the party's got to have a choice,' Jon Cowan, one of the presidents of Third Way, declared. 'It's going to matter a hell of a lot in 2020, and so while 2020 may feel a ways off, in our mind it isn't. And the ideas primary starts now.'"

"Would Corporate Democrats Rather Lose Than Include Progressives? [...] What the DNC and the centrist-corporatists who control it still refuse to accept is that anti-Republicanism — even anti-Trumpism — is not now, nor will it ever be, enough to lure the progressive populist left to the polls. Against history, against the 2016 election results, they assume that the default mode of a left-leaning voter is Democratic."

"'Absolute Failure': DNC Passes Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs: Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was celebrated by environmentalists for banning donations from fossil fuel companies, it voted 30-2 on Friday to adopt a resolution from Chair Tom Perez that critics said effectively reverses the ban and represents 'an absolute failure by the DNC.'"

Ryan Cooper in The Week, "America for sale: Let's review some news from the first half of the week [...] This is modern American politics, folks: rotten to its very marrow. Corruption is eating the United States alive. As the Numidian King Jugurtha supposedly said of the Roman Republic: 'Yonder lies a city put up for sale, and its days are numbered if it finds a buyer.'"

David Dayen, "The CEO Circle of Trust: About a year ago, CEOs enlisted PR underlings to send out strongly worded press releases distancing themselves from President Trump's allyship with hate in Charlottesville. A year later, five members of business advisory councils that were shuttered after Charlottesville sat down to dinner with the president. Because in the end, they want power on their side. Having power on your side can lead to fun things like secretly running a cabinet agency. Three Trump cronies from Mar-a-Lago, including Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, are effectively setting policy for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I've just going to attribute the useless VA hotline to them. By the way, Perlmutter keeps a grip on this power by... having dinners with Trump. I don't know the dining schedule of the CEOs of Nucor and U.S. Steel, but as long as they keep close to Trump, they can maximize monopoly power by rejecting requests for exemptions to foreign steel tariffs. (by the way I called this one.) And if you're a CEO who's really in tight with Trump, you can just get your own cabinet agency outright, like demonstrable grifter Wilbur Ross, who until just weeks ago still had major investments in shipping companies while running the Commerce Department, whose logo has a ship on it. We're seeing a fusion of business and the state that only has precedent if you take the word "fascism" literally. Corporate titans are learning that kissing the president's ring for the next 2-6 years is the way to get ahead in life. And now that the SEC wants a word with Elon Musk over his obvious chicanery in tweeting about taking Tesla private, he may want to book a room in the Trump hotel in D.C. too."

Another own-goal when "The Koch Brothers Commissioned A Survey Of Americans And Found Most Like A $15 Minimum Wage, Free College, And Universal Health Care: DURING THE MONTH of July, the marketing and communications group In Pursuit Of — launched by the Koch brothers in 2017— conducted a survey of Americans on a range of issues. The poll was later written up by RealClearPolitics, which spun the results as favorable to the Koch network. RealClearPolitics noted that on a set of vague values questions, Americans appeared to take the conservative or libertarian side of political arguments. For instance, RealClearPolitics noted that the survey found that 86 percent of Americans said the right to personal property is key to a free and just society. Okay, sure." (Did anyone mention the difference between "personal property" and "private property", I wonder?) Short version: Despite the fact that the Kochs have put millions of dollars into convincing Americans that we don't want more regulation of Wall Street, free college, a living wage, and a lot of other things that the Kochs don't like, Americans still think they'd be an improvement over what we have now.

"Kobach Recuses Himself From Kansas Vote Count Amid Public Pressure" — Kobach is a sleazebag grifter who is famous for trying to cook the vote. Even a lot of local Republicans are getting sick of him.

A pretty straightforward chart accompanies this article, "'X' Marks the Spot Where Inequality Took Root: Dig Here [...] The graphic below tells three stories. First, we see two distinct historic periods since World War II. In the first period, workers shared the gains from productivity. In the later period, a generation of workers gained little, even as productivity continued to rise. The second message is the very abrupt transition from the post-war historic period to the current one. Something happened in the mid-70's to de-couple wages from productivity gains. The third message is that workers' wages — accounting for inflation and all the lower prices from cheap imported goods — would be double what they are now, if workers still took their share of gains in productivity." I kept getting the feeling there was something he was trying not to say, though.

Lauren Windsor had a few choice words for the opportunist debutentes in, "Polishing Turds at Third Way: A few weeks ago, I debunked the spin out from CNBC that Sen. Mark Warner is being pressured by major Democratic donors to run for president in 2020 as a moderate counter to liberal Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren -- according to my source, "he is indeed running" and has been pitching the idea since at least September of 2017. It's worth noting that CNBC did not name any of these big donors, and I suspect that's because they hail from the likes of centrist, establishment DC think tank Third Way, which has been burned in the past for launching broadsides against Warren." These people think if they can just find the right PR, they can keep sailing this stuff by us all.

Margaret Kimberly, "The United States Destroys Venezuela's Economy [...] Sanctions are war by other means, invisible to most eyes. [...] In 2015 Barack Obama issued an executive order declaring Venezuela to be 'an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.' That decree is necessary in order to impose economic sanctions. But sanctions do not only mean that American corporations and individuals cannot do business with the targeted country. Any country that conducts economic transactions with Venezuela will also be subject to sanctions. Even in its state of decline the United States is the 800-pound financial gorilla that can't be ignored."

The Economist tries to explain why America's electoral system gives the Republicans advantages over Democrats: The constitution was not designed for the two-party politics it unwittingly encouraged."

"They stood up to hatred" — They came back from defeating the fascists only to find them at home. The 43 Group, including a young Vidal Sassoon, took their outrage to the streets. Years later, they contributed to this oral history. Watch A Rage In Dalston.

Film review of "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution [...] One thing that I loved about this documentary was that it told a piece of the story of the Panthers from the perspectives of a number of the major leaders, including Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, David Hilliard, Kathleen Cleaver, Ericka Huggins, Emory Douglas, Fred Hampton and others, but it also told the history from the perspectives of the rank and file members — people like the Freeman brothers, William Calhoun, Wayne Pharr, Steve McClutchen, Tarika Lewis, Blair Anderson, Jamal Joseph, Landon Williams and others."

Mark Evanier posted an episode of Firing Line in which William F. Buckley interviewed Groucho Marx, which he introduces by reposting something he wrote about Buckley earlier. It's all true.

A threat to the Gnome Liberation Front from gentrification: "Are Germany's Garden Gnomes Endangered?"

This guy does photoshopping for you, but maybe not the way you wanted. Some of these are laugh out loud.

Baby elephants' first bath

09 August 2018

Did you see her crying?

So many evils can be traced back to Richard Nixon. "Did you know that before 1973 it was illegal in the US to profit off of health care. The Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973 passed by Nixon changed everything. In 1973, Nixon did a personal favor for his friend and campaign financier, Edgar Kaiser, then president and chairman of Kaiser-Permanente. Nixon signed into law, the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, in which medical insurance agencies, hospitals, clinics and even doctors, could begin functioning as for-profit business entities instead of the service organizations they were intended to be. And which insurance company got the first taste of federal subsidies to implement HMOA73 ... *gasp* ... why, it was Kaiser-Permanente! What are the odds?" Now, if only we can explain why the so-called liberal champion of health care, Edward Kennedy, proposed this piece of crap.

I'm not going to post the details, but so far nearly half of the Our Revolution types have been winning primaries and elections. Considering the fact that most of them are running against establishment picks and incumbents, that's actually a pretty remarkable record.

"Even Libertarians Admit Medicare for All Would Save Trillions: A new study from a libertarian think tank admits that Medicare for All would save a whopping $2 trillion." Of course, the headline buried the lead on every story about this, but this Koch-funded study tried to make M4A sound more expensive than what we have now and still couldn't, despite underestimating the likely costs of continuing the way we are and the potential savings of the proposed program.

Bernie Sanders thanks the Koch brothers for accidentally showing that Medicare for All saves two trillion dollars.

RIP: Another guy I would have loved to vote for once, for president: "Ron Dellums, Forceful Liberal in Congress for 27 Years, Dies at 82. Ron Dellums, the son of a longshoreman who became one of America's best-known black congressmen, a California Democrat with a left-wing agenda that put civil rights and programs for people ahead of weapons systems and warfare, died early Monday at his home in Washington. He was 82."

RIP: Joel Silberman, activist, organizer, performer, and show biz mensch. We were hopeful when Joel's doctors said they thought they'd caught his pancreatic cancer early enough, but though he fought and continued to run workshops and keep on doing what he did right up to the end, he finally had to admit defeat and say farewell to us. I will always treasure the reports, clips, and musings he posted for his friends during that journey, and I was pleased to see a statement on Joel's passing from Rep. Barbara Lee.

"Should Republican Billionaires Be Picking Democratic Candidates The Way They Already Pick GOP Candidates? Let's start with some news: Last week, Fox News' James Rupert Murdoch, a British billionaire, put half a million dollars into one of Nancy Jacobson's shady No Labels SuperPACs that aims to fill Congress with candidates from the Republican Wing of the Democratic Party. Their current goal is a smear campaign against Alan Grayson. Most recently, Jacobson pulled off the same filth against Marie Newman in Illinois' 3rd District House primary, spending $931,600 to spread absolute lies against Newman while bolstering anti-Choice Blue Dog Dan Lipinski."

We're number one! "US the 'Worst Place in the World' to Give Birth: USA Today Investigation [...] "Deadly Deliveries," the result of a four-year investigation, references federal data showing that more than 50,000 women are 'severely injured' and roughly 700 die during childbirth each year. Perhaps even more staggering is that "half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care," the investigation found."

On The Zero Hour, Richard J. Eskow interviewed David Dayen on Global Trade: With or Without Trump, It's Chaos.

Citations Needed podcast, "The Not-So-Benevolent Billionaire - Bill Gates and Western Media" - the media is awfully kind to Bill Gates, even when his philanthropy does more harm than good.

Never in my life did I expect Devin Nunes to do what I've been waiting for Democrats to do for 18 years: "House Intel chair calls for ban on electronic voting systems: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called for a ban on electronic voting systems in an interview that aired Thursday on Hill.TV's Rising. 'The one thing we've been warning about for many, many years on the Intelligence committee is about the electronic voting systems,' Nunes told Hill.TV's Buck Sexton, who sat with the lawmaker on Wednesday. 'Those are really dangerous in my opinion, and should not be used. In California — at least in the counties that I represent — they do not use an electronic system,' he continued. 'I think anybody that does that, and that's communicating over the web, it's going to be a challenge. So you have to make sure that you limit that as much as possible, and we need a paper trail so that you can go back in case you have to do a manual recount,' he said."

OK, this one makes no sense at all. I can't see millions of Trump voters saying, "Yes, make my car get fewer miles to the gallon! And since most states have stricter standards than the federal requirements already, and car-makers are having no trouble meeting those standards, who the hell is this for? "To Nix Obama Fuel Standard, WH Argues That Better Gas Mileage Is Dangerous."

Dismayingly, John Oliver seems to have fallen for the establishment story on Venezuela, but none of it is true. (We've already noticed media stories showing empty supermarket shelves - without mentioning that those shelves are not in Venezuela, but in the United States. We're also not told that the reason some popular products are not on the shelves at the moment is that the companies that sell those products are deliberately withholding them to try to give the appearance of food shortages - but, in fact, people are eating just fine. And that's just one little thing.)

It's official: @RepBarbaraLee is running for House Democratic Caucus chair. "There is nothing more important than returning bold Democratic leadership to Congress." But Howie wonders, "What Excuse Will They Use This Time To Keep Barbara Lee Out Of The House Democratic Leadership?"

"139 House Democrats Join GOP to Approve $717 Billion in Military Spending: 'How are they going to pay for this? Oh wait, that question only gets asked when it comes to social programs that benefit the working class.'"

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey, "Health Care Lobbyists Secretly Secure Democrats' Opposition To 'Medicare For All,' Internal Documents Show [...] The Healthcare Leadership Council has closely tracked what its lobbyists have described as the 'leftward movement' within the Democratic Party. In Hawaii and other states, the lobby group wanted to know if ideas popularized by Sen., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — such as aggressive proposals to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals and institute a single-payer health care system modeled on Medicare — were taking hold. The council, which spends over $5 million a year on industry advocacy and brings together chief executives of major health corporations, represents an array of health industries, including insurers, hospitals, drugmakers, medical device manufacturers, pharmacies, health product distributors, and information technology companies. The group's focus on competitive open seats around the country — like Hawaii's 1st Congressional District — is aimed at shaping the next generation of lawmakers' views on health care policy.

"Next 100 Days: In the Era of Trump, NYS is Out of Step and In the Crosshairs [...] 'By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators,' Birdsell says." So, most people will be crammed together in a few states, and the minority will be in control of Congress, which means cities will have very little say in what goes on.

It's hard to tell whether Forbes is cheering or trying to horrify me with this story. "An Unlikely Group Of Billionaires And Politicians Has Created The Most Unbelievable Tax Break Ever [...] Too good to be true? 'The incentive needs to be powerful enough that it can unlock large amounts of capital, aggregate that capital into funds and force the funds to invest in distressed areas," says Parker, the original Facebook president whose think tank, the Economic Innovation Group, created the policy and helped press it into law. Instead of having government hand out pools of taxpayer dollars, you have savvy investors directing money into projects they think will succeed.' The heart of this new law: Opportunity Zones, or "O-zones,' low-income areas designated by each state. Investors will soon be able to plow recently realized capital gains into projects or companies based there, slowly erase the tax obligations on a portion of those gains and, more significantly, have those proceeds grow tax-free. There are almost no limits. No limits on how much you can put in, how much tax you can avoid and, for most of the country, the types of taxes you can avoid, whether federal, state or local. No limits on how long those proceeds compound tax-free. And precious few limits on what types of investments you can make." Right, instead of the government putting money into projects in poor communities, they give it to investors to... Wait, haven't we heard all this before?

Dday, "The Obamacare cover story: Spikes in insurance premiums on the Obamacare exchanges never gets foregrounded as a reason for the 2016 election outcome. Here are a few examples: 17 percent in Michigan. 43 percent in Iowa. 50 percent in Minnesota. It's an October surprise hard-wired into the electoral calendar, in one of the more abominable decisions in liberal history. And those premium rises may have soured people on the signature achievement of the Democratic era, and moved a few undecideds. But never mind that, because a shiny new narrative has been constructed that Donald Trump's sabotage of the exchanges, not their rickety structure to begin with, has set the table for Medicare for All."

Naomi Klein at The Intercept, "Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not 'Human Nature': THIS SUNDAY, THE entire New York Times Magazine will be composed of just one article on a single subject: the failure to confront the global climate crisis in the 1980s, a time when the science was settled and the politics seemed to align. Written by Nathaniel Rich, this work of history is filled with insider revelations about roads not taken that, on several occasions, made me swear out loud. And lest there be any doubt that the implications of these decisions will be etched in geologic time, Rich's words are punctuated with full-page aerial photographs by George Steinmetz that wrenchingly document the rapid unraveling of planetary systems, from the rushing water where Greenland ice used to be to massive algae blooms in China's third largest lake. The novella-length piece represents the kind of media commitment that the climate crisis has long deserved but almost never received. We have all heard the various excuses for why the small matter of despoiling our only home just doesn't cut it as an urgent news story: 'Climate change is too far off in the future'; 'It's inappropriate to talk about politics when people are losing their lives to hurricanes and fires'; 'Journalists follow the news, they don't make it — and politicians aren't talking about climate change'; and of course: 'Every time we try, it's a ratings killer.' None of the excuses can mask the dereliction of duty. It has always been possible for major media outlets to decide, all on their own, that planetary destabilization is a huge news story, very likely the most consequential of our time. They always had the capacity to harness the skills of their reporters and photographers to connect abstract science to lived extreme weather events. And if they did so consistently, it would lessen the need for journalists to get ahead of politics because the more informed the public is about both the threat and the tangible solutions, the more they push their elected representatives to take bold action. [...] That's also why it is so enraging that the piece is spectacularly wrong in its central thesis.

"What's This? A Genuinely Left Wing Panel on Cable TV?! Last night, MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes broadcast something that is almost unprecedented in our modern era: four left wing people on TV, speaking about politics. Whoa. The panel was made up of The Majority Report's Sam Seder, New York Times opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg, and The Intercept's Senior Politics Editor Briahna Gray. They were there to talk about conservative media's reaction to the surprise primary victory of New York City congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez." (Video included.)

Atrios: Is the idea (widespread, but wrong) that these are 'unskilled' jobs because they are often low paid and therefore you can just throw anyone into them. Almost all the job categories listed are stereotypically work for women, which is one reason they are so low paid, but aside from that I don't know why people think you can just throw anybody into 'early childhood education' or 'after-school care' or 'childcare' generally."

They sound like opportunist Republicans who just switched their R to a D for electoral advantage, but Third Way are now calling themselves "Opportunity Democrats", yet another tone-deaf phrase from people who have lost the plot. Sara Jones at The New Republic reports on their latest roll-out with, "There Is No Silent Centrist Majority: The base of the Democratic Party is much further to the left than moderates recognize." You can tell who you're hearing from by the fact that they regard people who want health care and living wage, a majority of Americans, as "far-left".

Really, you can't make this stuff up. "Undaunted Democratic Centrists Ready to Fight Trump and Bernie at Same Time [...] The new economic platform leans heavily on words like 'earn' and 'opportunity,' and away from demonizing tycoons — 'For most Americans, billionaires and millionaires are not next door, or part of their lived experience,' Cowan said in his opening speech. The policy backbone of the pitch includes an American Investment Bank designed to back 'Main Street, not Wall Street' entrepreneurs, a 'Boomer Corps' part-time national-service program for senior citizens whose earnings would be tax-free (on top of their Social Security), a massive state-driven apprenticeship system, and universal private retirement savings accounts funded by employers." They still think the "swing voters" are in the "middle of the road" and that's who they are pitching to. They have no clue that they lost the middle years ago. 'Everybody's got a camera on their phone. That never worked, but it really doesn't now: You can't just go and say one thing to one group and another to another group,' said Jason Kander, the former Missouri secretary of state who last month opted to run for Kansas City mayor rather than president, making the case onstage that you lose both the base and swing voters if you try to differentiate between them." Oh, and watch out for Mitch Landrieu, who they seem to like a lot.

"Centrism Is Dead: The left has already won the debate over which ideas should animate the Democratic Party."

"Judge's ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to 'dark money' groups: A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC's current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending."

Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the U.K. What Comes Next? ECUADOR'S PRESIDENT Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been using a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the president's trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities. Moreno's itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange's denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain's central government against protesters marching for Catalonian independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador's decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange's tweets about Catalonia. [...] The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange's asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told The Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno's government has returned Ecuador to a highly 'subservient' and 'submissive' posture toward western governments. It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno — who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the U.K., Spain and the U.S. — will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks."

"Bigfoot Porn Has Become A Major Controversy In A U.S. House Race. Seriously. A Virginia Republican who has been linked to white supremacists now faces accusations of liking Bigfoot erotica."

Is Trump about to lower drug prices? David Dayen at The American Prospect, "Trump Eliminates the Middleman: His administration takes aim at the heretofore legal kickbacks to prescription drug distributors — but leaves the drug companies themselves untouched. [...] The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration, both led by drug company veterans, have started with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), the middlemen who negotiate prices with drug companies on behalf of health plans and reimburse pharmacies after sale. PBMs exploit an information advantage in this multi-sided market to skim as much as one in every five dollars out of every prescription drug purchase, harming pharmacies, health plans, and consumers alike."

And DDay at The Intercept, "The 'Mulvaney Discount': Trump'S Consumer Protection Czar Is Shrinking Fines For Law-Breaking Companies [...] After pausing enforcement work when Acting Director Mick Mulvaney took over, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been on a relative tear, announcing five civil settlements of cases begun under Mulvaney's predecessor, Richard Cordray. But in at least three of them, CFPB has explicitly reduced the fine handed down against corporate offenders to a fraction of the initial amount. The smaller fines mean softer punishment for violations of law and, in some cases, less restitution to victims of the misconduct."

Naturally, the "centrist" Dems are having trouble making themselves enthusiastic about supporting Ben Jealous in the Maryland election. The sticking point seems to be that he is insufficiently supportive of letting Amazon headquarter in the state - no doubt a wiser move than they're prepared to admit. This story, of course, appears in the newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos.

"Bernie Sanders And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Went To War With Partisanship In Kansas [...] Though the first of two rallies held Friday was ostensibly in support of James Thompson, a candidate for Kansas's 4th Congressional District, the gestalt of the day's remarks was something bigger than any one race. The speeches — particularly Sanders's — announced a unifying theme that felt too coherent to have been thrown together for a House primary or two. Individually, the remarks were compelling. Together, they comprised an unabashed declaration of post-partisan movement building — a rebuke to those in power who fetishize every identity-based division in order to diffuse the largest coalition in the country: the working class."

Dean Baker, "Trump's 'Victory' in Trade War: Like many economists I have been puzzled over the likely end game in the trade war that Donald Trump has initiated with most of our major trading partners. He has escalated his rhetoric and put together a large list of imports to be hit with tariffs. His demands are vague and continually shifting. This doesn't look like the way to win a trade war. But then I remembered we are talking about reality TV show host Donald Trump. Winning a trade war for this reality TV show star doesn't mean winning a trade war in the way that economists might envision. It's not a question of forcing concessions from trading partners that will improve our trade balance and the overall health of the economy. It's a question of being able to hold something up that allows Trump to declare victory. That doesn't require much."

Interesting interview on The Majority Report: The Fall of Wisconsin w/ Dan Kaufman - MR Live - 7/25/2018. A lot of us wondered about that.

Bernie Sanders takes on institutional racism and gets accused of not making the connection with institutional racism. That's not the headline of the article, which is where the accusation is actually made, but the first comment below the article is a great response.

I like the way it's framed in The New York Times, complete with a photo of Bernie at the top, "'Modern Day Debtors' Prisons': The time has come to end cash bail, a major factor in inequality in the court system. Despite releasing a comprehensive and remarkably radical criminal justice reform agenda in 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders was accused throughout his presidential campaign of being insufficiently concerned with the topic, and of habitually changing the subject to economics. The reality is that Mr. Sanders has the clearest insight into the connections between criminal justice issues and economic inequality of any major politician today. And nowhere, perhaps, are those connections more obvious than in the instance of cash bail."

Not sure whether I posted this article when it came out in 2009, but whenever I think about this stuff, I want to smack Bill Clinton and his little friends around the room. "How Congress Rushed a Bill that Helped Bring the Economy to Its Knees: n the waning days of the 106th Congress and the Clinton administration, Congress met in a lame-duck session to complete work on a variety of appropriations bills that were not passed prior to the 2000 election. There were other, unmet pet priorities of some lawmakers that were under consideration as well. One of those pet priorities was a 262-page deregulatory bill, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act. Tucked into a bloated 11,000 page conference report as a rider, with little consideration and no time for review, this bill would be viewed only eight years later as part of the failure of our political system abetting a financial storm that brought the world to its knees."

"The Elite Fixation With Russiagate: Does a broader public share this sense of crisis?" The public seems less concerned with Russia than with bread & butter issues, Trump is even being harsher toward Russia than Obama was, and no one meddles with our foreign policy like that great puppeteer, Bebe Netenyahu.

"Russiagate Covers Up Black Vote Theft: The corporate media and their friends in the Democratic Party are whipping up so much hatred and disinformation that it is almost impossible to discuss Russia or its president, Vladimir Putin. Putin is a multi-purpose villain. He is blamed for the vote theft conducted by white Americans against black people that resulted in the Donald Trump presidency. What is clear is that the Republicans stole the 2016 election for Donald Trump with a combination of voter suppression and outright theft directed against black people. Trump supposedly won the state of Michigan) by a 10,000 vote margin, but more than 75,000 votes cast in majority black cities Flint and Detroit went uncounted because of 'malfunctioning' voting machines. An additional 449,000 voters in that state were purged from the rolls through the infamous Crosscheck system."

Taibbi, "Taibbi: An Ode to the Feeble Corporate Apology: Some of America's biggest capitalist entities are begging for forgiveness on TV — while barely acknowledging their sins [...] There are times when corporate apologies are appropriate and can be taken at face value. After the Tylenol murders in the '80s, for instance, Johnson & Johnson created a new standard in introducing safety caps and the brand (rightfully) survived. That scandal wasn't the company's fault, but it did the right thing anyway. The three companies apologizing now are a little guiltier."

In Dissent, "The Right-Wing Firestorm That Rages On: A new documentary reveals how the right-wing attack on the national, grassroots anti-poverty group ACORN was a dress rehearsal for our current toxic political culture."

"The Big Tent Is Really No Tent: Why the Democrats' Old Guard Has to Get Out of the Way: It's time for the party to follow the people and back a set of progressive policies and candidates that put people first. 'The nearly complete defeat of the centrist, corporate Democrats over the last four decades should have made it obvious that the age of the DLC centrists has been coming to an end for some time."The Democratic Party's leadership would phrase it differently. Something like, 'Their go our people. We must stop them, or they will make us give up our triangulating centrism,' or more likely, '...they will make us give up our corporate campaign contributions.'"

Thomas Frank, "Can liberals please work out how to win back the working class? I'm taking a pause from journalism — while I'm gone, can someone please tell the Democrats that they need to stop betraying the movements that support them. [...] Still, as we are reminded at every turn, this flawed organization is the only weapon we have against the party of Trump. And as the president's blunders take a turn for the monumental and public alarm grows, the imperative of delivering a Democratic wave this fall grows ever more urgent. Make no mistake: it has got to happen. Democrats simply have to take one of the houses of Congress this fall and commence holding Trump accountable. Failure at this baseline mission is unthinkable; it will mean the Democratic party has no reason for being, even on its own compromised terms."

"America's heart of darkness [...] We're about there, I think — perhaps not every single one of us, perhaps not just yet, but the conditions are right and the summer is long. The entire 2016 episode has been, in some sense, an introspective journey into America's own innermost parts, with Donald Trump's victory prompting a nervous self-inventory of what we value, whether our institutions work and to what degree we ought to trust one another. The full contents of that inward odyssey have yet to unfold. But on the question of institutional functioning, the news is unequivocally grim. Like Marlow, even after this particular chapter has ended, we are likely to find ourselves changed by what we've seen."

"2008:Ten Years After the Crash, We Are Still Living in the World It Brutally Remade" — essays by Frank Rich, Sheila Bair (Former head of FDIC), Corey Robin,Robert Shiller,Matt Bruenig, Yves Smith, Boots Riley, Stephanie Kelton, and others, and some depressing statistics.

Here's Mark Ames talking about his experiences in Russia and giving his analysis of what's going on now. Boris Yeltsin in his five years in office dragged Russia into a war in which about 100,000 people were killed, and they lost. The average life expectancy of a Russian male plummeted from 68 years to 56 years. It had a death to birth ratio perhaps never seen in the 20th century, even during war times. People were just dying like flies everywhere. There was no state support, just pure banditry starting with Yeltsin at the top, all the way down. So he had actually — unlike Putin — say what you will about him — but I think even his enemies agree he is very popular. They might blame it on the propaganda, but he is popular. His ratings are still in the 80th percentile range, and he's always been popular. With Yeltsin you had to perform a miracle. This guy was absolutely hated and is still one of the probably two or three most hated Russians in modern history for what he did to the country. And so it was a tough job, and Clinton was also running for re-election that year [1996], and Clinton did not want to be known as the president who 'lost Russia' if Yeltsin's communist opponent won. [...] I didn't see the anger really explode until we bombed Kosovo in 1999. Then suddenly all these Russians turned against us, and it all kind of started make sense to them, but before then you had the most equal society where the privileged people had a somewhat nicer dacha or the really privileged ones maybe had a car, or the super, super privileged had a car and a driver, but no one was a billionaire, and there certainly weren't millions and millions of people starving in the streets or half starving in the streets. So you went from the world's most equal society to the world's most unequal society in a very short period of time. It was incredibly traumatic, and so Putin was brought in. When he first appeared there was this great relief, I think, for a lot of Russians because he was a guy who a) didn't drink, and b) seemed serious, and he seemed like somebody who was more seriously interested in not doing any more experiments on the country. The Russians kept saying, 'We don't want to be experimented on anymore,' and the American attitude was: 'OK we experimented on you, and you died on the operating table. Clearly it's your fault. We need a better patient than you.' Certainly by the end of the 1990s democracy was a bad word in Russia. It was just equated with stealing from everybody."

Richard Eskow, "While Democrats Chase Russians, Republicans Keep Rigging Elections: What does it tell us when leading Democrats are more upset about alleged Russian election-rigging than they are about proven Republican election-rigging? After all, American oligarchs like the Koch Brothers have no more right to undermine our democracy than Russian oligarchs do."

Jonathan Cohn reviews Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics [...] Fear City focuses on New York City's 1973 financial crisis, the result of which was a steep retrenchment of city government -- which no longer provided the robust public services that it had by mid-century. As Phillips-Fein observes, contrary to the neoliberal mantra of "there is no alternative," there were many alternatives at every step of the way leading to New York's near-bankruptcy. Many of the roots of the crisis were out of New York City's hands, instead the results of federal policies that incentivized out-migration into suburbia and state policies that hamstrung the city's ability to raise tax revenue."

"How American Economics is Ruining Your Life [...] It's almost impossible to overstate just how uniquely bad American life is — school shootings, medical bankruptcies, young people trying to crowdfund insulin, skyrocketing suicide rates, opioid epidemics, one year olds on trial. These things don't happen anywhere else in the world, really. Not even poor countries. And yet Americans live uniquely wretched and ruined lives not because the hand of fate fell — but largely because American economics destined them to. "

Sam Seder on The Majority Report, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity w/ Lilliana Mason - MR Live - 7/30/18

Bill Black Interview, The Truth About the 2008 Financial Meltdown and How it Contributed to Trump's Rise (Pt 1/2) and (Pt 2/2)

You know, it really does seem like Debbie Wasserman Schultz is bad for Florida. She's not bringing home the bacon for the state and she's even refusing to spend money the voters made available to clean up the local environment. You just might think she's corrupt.

"London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate 'Jurassic Park's 25th anniversary: They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum."

I can't remember if I've linked this before, but it just made me feel better so I'm linking it anyway: "Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk"

Face Vocal Band, "The Parting Glass"

"Boz Scaggs Processes The Past And Rebuilds For The Future [...] Out of the Blues includes covers of songs by Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jimmy Reed and Samuel "Magic Sam" Maghett, as well as a cover of Neil Young's "On the Beach." The Young song deals with loss and despair, which Scaggs faced directly when his house and all its contents burned in the Napa, Calif., wildfires last year. "It simply all is gone," he says. "It has you reaching for all sorts of answers and conclusions and ways to take it in.""

Steve Miller Band/Boz Scaggs, "Baby's Calling Me Home"