Monday, August 20, 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 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, 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, 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


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

    If I recall correctly, people wanted the government to solve big problems in the 90s too. Only the wealthy elites didn't (except for their own problems, of course), but then they are the only real people. This writer is perpetuating the same propaganda they deplore.

    1. That he would solve a long list of problems both big and small is certainly what Clinton ran on in 1992, but then he got elected. From Part 1 of the Adam Curtis documentary "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" [LINK]:

      [QUOTE] Curtis: At the end of 1992 Alan Greenspan went to see President-elect Clinton a few days after Clinton had been elected. And what Greenspan said in that conversation was the beginning of a revolution. Greenspan was then the head of the US Federal Reserve Board, and what he told Clinton was that his election promises of social reform were impossible.

      The government deficit was so large, Greenspan said, that if Clinton borrowed any more to pay for his social programs that interest rates would go up and damage growth. But, Greenspan said, there was a radical alternative. Clinton should do the very opposite. Cut government spending and interest rates would go down and the markets would boom. Greenspan’s idea was simple: Clinton should let the markets transform America, not politics. He later said that he was surprised that Clinton agreed with him.

      Clinton (Address to the Nation on the Economic Program, February 15, 1993 non-bolded not included in the documentary):

      Here's the challenge I will offer the Congress and the country on Wednesday. We'll invest in our future by nurturing our children and supporting their education, by rewarding work and family, by creating the jobs of the future and training our people to fill them. Our every effort will reflect what President Franklin Roosevelt called bold, persistent experimentation, a willingness to stay with things that work and stop things that don't.

      Change must begin at the top. That's why I cut the White House staff by 25 percent and ordered Federal agencies to cut billions of dollars in administrative costs and to trim 100,000 Federal positions by attrition. And in my budget there will be more than 150 specific cuts in Government spending programs. Then I'll ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.

      That brings us to those of you who gave the most in the 1980's. I had hoped to invest in your future by creating jobs, expanding education, reforming health care, and reducing the [deficit] without asking more of you. And I've worked harder than I've ever worked in my life to meet that goal. But I can't because the deficit has increased so much beyond my earlier estimates and beyond even the worst official Government estimates from last year. We just have to face the fact that to make the changes our country needs, more Americans must contribute today so that all Americans can do better tomorrow. But I can assure you of this: You're not going alone anymore. You're not going first. And you're no longer going to pay more and get less. Seventy percent of the new taxes I'll propose, 70 percent, will be paid by those who make more than $100,000 a year. And for the first time in more than a decade, we're all in this together.... [END QUOTE]

  2. The (Second) Smartest Guy On the Internet. Damn. We did some Y2K stuff, back in the day.

  3. I met Mark Perkel at a Bartcop party. He was a brilliant and funny man. RIP Mark.