30 October 2018

But now these days are gone, I'm not so self assured

With the synagogue shooting, the Kroger shooting, and the result of the Brazilian election (and this piece of crap Macron), I'm a bit shell-shocked. I can't write anything.

The DC City Council has no Republicans, but, "Yep, They Did It — D.C. Council Repeals Initiative 77: The D.C. Council has now officially repealed Initiative 77, the measure approved by voters in June that would have gradually eliminated the tipped wage. What began as a protracted and oftentimes contentious battle during the primary season ended with a whimper in legislative session on Tuesday. The vote was 8-5, with the same councilmembers who voted against the measure two weeks ago similarly opposing the second vote: Ward 1's Brianne Nadeau, Ward 3's Mary Cheh, Ward 6's Charles Allen, and At-large Councilmembers Robert White and Elissa Silverman. In addition to repealing Initiative 77, the Tipped Wage Workers Fairness Amendment Act of 2018 also requires employers of tipped workers to be trained on the topics of sexual harassment and wage-theft laws, and to use a third-party payroll system that submits data to D.C.'s Department of Employment Services. That employment agency must also create a website with information about the city's wage and hour rules, and the mayor must set up a tip line for workers to report wage theft. Now, the repeal needs the mayor's signature, which Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she will provide, and a standard 30-day Congressional review period to become law. While 55 percent of voters came out in favor of Initiative 77 during the June primary, the council moved quickly towards repealing the measure, which faced strong opposition from the restaurant industry."

So, a guy tried to bomb some prominent Democrats who, just by coincidence, are constant hate figures of the right wing, including right-wing television, radio, and Trump. But David Dayen noticed an interesting bit of the guy's back story, "Cesar Sayoc's Home Was Foreclosed On By Steve Mnuchin's Bank, Using Dodgy Paperwork: CESAR SAYOC, THE Donald Trump-loving Floridian who was taken into custody in relation to pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, was foreclosed on in 2009 by a bank whose principal owner and chair is now Trump's treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin. The documents used to enact the foreclosure were signed by a prominent robo-signer and seemingly backdated. Nonetheless, the evidence was good enough for the famously inattentive Florida foreclosure courts to wave the case through. Years later, Sayoc became a supporter of Trump, who came into office and appointed a treasury secretary who ran the bank that snatched Sayoc's house. [...] It's a bizarre twist to a story that has captured America's attention this week. Thirteen pipe bombs were sent by mail to high-profile Trump critics: former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder, actor Robert DeNiro, financier and Democratic donor George Soros, among others. None of the bombs exploded. In yet another irony, Soros was one of the investors in the bank that executed the foreclosure on Sayoc's home. [...] The story is a lesson about the toxicity of the foreclosure crisis and how it upended millions of lives. It's also a lesson about how the failure to uphold the rule of law can reverberate in unforeseen directions, and how a combination of ignorance and partisan passions can make people believe their assailants are their saviors."

Surprisingly, a strong article in Politico that's very positive, "Bernie Sanders Is Quietly Remaking the Democrats' Foreign Policy in His Own Image: The gadfly senator suddenly finds himself in an unfamiliar role: consensus-builder. [...] Van Jackson, a foreign policy expert and adviser to the Pentagon during the Obama administration, described Sanders' global-minded makeover: 'I'm a progressive but couldn't bring myself to vote for Sanders in 2016 because I thought he wasn't serious about national security. He was basically silent on it. ... Not only does Sanders now seem to take national security seriously — he's literally the only politician accurately diagnosing the threat landscape America faces,' he wrote in an email."

I saw "centrists" saying that if Bernie Sanders went to South Carolina only 15 people would show up. This looks like more than 15 people. (Sanders' speech starts about halfway through the video, but it's interesting seeing the local speakers and Nina Turner rabble-rousing first, too.)

"US votes against UN resolution condemning gay sex death penalty, joining Iraq and Saudi Arabia: The US is one of just 13 countries to have voted against a United Nations resolution condemning the death penalty for having gay sex. Although the vote passed, America joined countries such as China, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in opposing the move. The Human Rights Council resolution condemned the 'imposition of the death penalty as a sanction for specific forms of conduct, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and consensual same-sex relations'. It attacked the use of execution against persons with 'mental or intellectual disabilities, persons below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the crime, and pregnant women'. It also expressed 'serious concern that the application of the death penalty for adultery is disproportionately imposed on women'. The US supported two failed amendments put forward by Russia, which stated the death penalty was not necessarily 'a human rights violation' and that it is not a form of torture, but can lead to it 'in some cases'. And it abstained on a 'sovereignty amendment' put forward by Saudi Arabia, that stated 'the right of all countries to develop their own laws and penalties'."

Bill Mitchell has depressing news in his summary of his meeting with John McDonnell in London: It is Wednesday and I am reverting to my plan to keep my blog posts short on this day to give me more time for other things. Today, I will briefly outline what happened last Thursday when I met with Shadow British Chancellor John McDonnell in London. As I noted yesterday, I was not going to comment publicly on this meeting. I have a lot of meetings and interactions with people in 'high' office which remain private due to the topics discussed etc. But given that John McDonnell told an audience in London later that evening that he had met with me and that I thought the proposed fiscal rule that Labour has adopted was 'fine', I thought it only reasonable that I disclose what happened at that meeting. I did not think the rule was fine and I urged them to scrap it and stop using neoliberal constructs." It seems Labour has bought the deficit lie and is talking austerity.

"Even janitors have noncompetes now. Nobody is safe.: One of the central contradictions of capitalism is that what makes it work — competition — is also what capitalists want to get rid of the most. That's true not only of competition between companies, but also between them and their workers. After all, the more of a threat its rivals are, and the more options its employees have, the less profitable a business will tend to be. Which, as the Financial Times reports, probably goes a long way toward explaining why a $3.4 billion behemoth like Cushman & Wakefield would bother to sue one of its former janitors, accusing her of breaking her noncompete agreement by taking a job in the same building she had been cleaning for the global real estate company but doing it for a different firm."

Sirota, "Noble Energy Pumps Unregulated Cash Into Fight Against 112: In a last-ditch attempt to defeat one of the most far-reaching environmental measures on the 2018 ballot, a fossil-fuel giant is blanketing Colorado television with election-focused political ads that it now claims are outside the purview of all state campaign-finance laws. The maneuver — which pioneers a novel way for corporations to circumvent disclosure statutes and inject money directly into elections — has been blessed by the office of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who has led a Republican political group bankrolled by the same fossil-fuel corporation that is airing the ads."

"At the Heart of Global Woes, 157 of World's 200 Richest Entities Are Now Corporations, Not Governments: From massive inequality to the climate crisis, these powerful corporations 'are able to demand that governments do their bidding'"

"I Bought Used Voting Machines On Ebay For $100 Apiece. What I Found Was Alarming [...] Surely, I thought, these machines would have strict guidelines for lifecycle control like other sensitive equipment, like medical devices. I was wrong. I was able to purchase a pair of direct-recording electronic voting machines and have them delivered to my home in just a few days. I did this again just a few months ago. Alarmingly, they are still available to buy online. If getting voting machines delivered to my door was shockingly easy, getting inside them proved to be simpler still. The tamper-proof screws didn't work, all the computing equipment was still intact, and the hard drives had not been wiped. The information I found on the drives, including candidates, precincts, and the number of votes cast on the machine, were not encrypted. Worse, the 'Property Of' government labels were still attached, meaning someone had sold government property filled with voter information and location data online, at a low cost, with no consequences. It would be the equivalent of buying a surplus police car with the logos still on it. [...] This year, I bought two more machines to see if security had improved. To my dismay, I discovered that the newer model machines — those that were used in the 2016 election — are running Windows CE and have USB ports, along with other components, that make them even easier to exploit than the older ones. Our voting machines, billed as 'next generation,' and still in use today, are worse than they were before — dispersed, disorganized, and susceptible to manipulation.

OK, this is just hilarious. "Francis Fukuyama interview: 'Socialism ought to come back': The End of History author on what Karl Marx got right, the rivals to liberal democracy and why he fears a US-China war."

Poynter, "About 1,300 U.S. communities have totally lost news coverage, UNC news desert study finds." Many newspapers that still exist are publishing little if any local news, but in many parts of the US, there are simply no newspapers at all. Some local stations are still trying hard to cover local news and issues, but for many people, there is no local broadcast news and no local coverage.

Jay Rosen says, "Next time you wonder why New York Times people get so defensive, read this." And goes on to say that now that the journalists are forced to get more feedback, and the paper now depends more closely on subscriptions rather than advertising for income, readers are making them nervous. This seems like an awfully sympathetic position to take for a paper that chose to fill its op-ed page with right-wingers in one of the most liberal markets in America. I feel bad for journalists who want to write the Who, What, Where, When, and Why and instead find themselves having to juggle both-siderism with stratospherically insane claims from the "other side", but that's on their bosses, not on the readers.

Robert Kuttner, "Sears Didn't 'Die.' Vulture Capitalists Killed It. If you've been following the impending bankruptcy of America's iconic retailer as covered by print, broadcast and digital media, you've probably encountered lots of nostalgia and sad clucking about how dinosaurs like Sears can't compete in the age of Amazon and specialty retail. But most of the coverage has failed to stress the deeper story. Namely, Sears is a prime example of how hedge funds and private equity companies take over retailers, encumber them with debt in order to pay themselves massive windfall profits, and then leave the retailer without adequate operating capital to compete." On that same subject, Sam Seder talked to Marshall Steinbaum about The Sears Bankruptcy & Private Equity Raiders on The Majority Report.

"Wrongfully convicted by non-unanimous jury, I spent 15 years in prison for crime I didn't commit [...] In any other state, we wouldn't have been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. Louisiana is one of only two states that allow people to be convicted of felonies with non-unanimous jury votes. After the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment mandated that black men be allowed to serve on juries, Louisiana took action to maintain our second-class status. In 1898, the state changed its constitution so that a less than unanimous vote by a jury could convict a defendant of a felony. The purpose was to make sure that black jurors could be outvoted by a majority of white jurors. The official statements made at the 1898 Constitutional Convention stated that the intention was to 'perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana.' On November 6, Louisiana will have a chance to overturn this expressly racist jury rule. A proposal on the ballot asks voters if they want to end the state's split-jury statute and the unfair practice of convicting people of a felony without the unanimous consent of a jury."

David Dayen in The New Republic, "The Essential Difference Between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: The potential 2020 candidates are often portrayed as identical progressives. A closer look proves otherwise. [...] They have markedly different approaches to empowering the working class. In the simplest possible terms, Warren wants to organize markets to benefit workers and consumers, while Sanders wants to overhaul those markets, taking the private sector out of it. This divide — and where Warren or Sanders's putative rivals position themselves on it — will determine the future of the Democratic Party for the next decade or more."

"Group Purchasing Organizations, Health Care Costs, and Drug Shortages [...] In 1972, Congress enacted the Anti-Kickback Statute as part of the Social Security Act Amendments that banned kickbacks, bribes, or rebates in return for furnishing items or services; the statute was intended to protect patients and federal health programs from the inherent conflict of interest. However, in 1987, group purchasers were granted an exception to the antikickback law, known as the safe harbor exemption. The exemption allowed creative strategies for GPOs to increase their profits. Today, GPOs ask manufacturers to pay them undisclosed vendor fees as a condition to have their products placed in the GPO catalogs. This issue can be problematic when GPOs go further and invite a manufacturer to pay a premium fee to become a sole supplier, allowing the manufacturer that is the highest bidder to essentially purchase market share, rendering hospitals and patients dependent on a single manufacturer's supply chain. Hospitals in turn are sometimes asked to enter into contracts with GPOs that offer greater discounts for longer, more exclusive contracts. One potential result of these contracting interactions is that only 1 or 2 manufacturers may be responsible for an entire regional or national supply chain. This reliance on a narrow supply chain can have an adverse effect on hospital inventories if a factory has production problems. A 2016 US Government Accountability Office study concluded that there was a strong association between critical drug shortages and a decline in the number of drug suppliers.2 Furthermore, GPOs were a significant focus in a US House of Representatives report on drug shortages, which stated that 'the GPO structure reduces the number of manufacturers producing each generic drug.'3 This association between drug shortages and the number of drug suppliers was likely a contributing factor when hospitals faced a nationwide shortage of intravenous saline bags after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico and damaged the manufacturing plant of Baxter International, which has dominated the US saline bag market.4 Although there is limited evidence to support the direct link between GPOs and drug shortages, the vendor fee model of GPOs has the potential to create barriers to market entry for manufacturers by rewarding fewer, larger manufacturers and thus increasing dependence on fewer supply chains."

"The Growth of Sinclair's Conservative Media Empire: The company has achieved formidable reach by focussing on small markets where its TV stations can have a big influence. [...] There are regulations that prevent any single company from controlling too large a share of the press, in order to protect competition and the free exchange of ideas. Sinclair has achieved its formidable reach by exploiting loopholes in these regulations. During the past few decades, it has bought small and midsized television-station operators and then circumvented regulations by setting up shell companies that on paper appear to be separate entities but over which Sinclair exerts almost total control. Sinclair's stations — there are often several in the same broadcast area, branded as local ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox affiliates — enjoy the trust of viewers because they appear independent, even though much of the content is dictated at a national level. A former news director at a Sinclair-owned station told me that Smith 'purposely went in and bought a whole bunch of stations in mid-America — i.e., Trump kinds of towns. Places where they could have a big influence.' She added, 'I don't care what your politics are — the bottom line is, they hatched a plan to have an effect on the majority of this country. And, when you look at it, I'm positive the right-wing commentaries, in small markets, had an effect on the election.'"

Haaretz, "$6 Billion of Iranian Money: Why Israeli Firm Black Cube Really Went After Obama's Team: When it was revealed earlier this year that the commercial spy firm was targeting members of the Obama administration, it was assumed it was working for the Trump team. But official company documents leaked to Haaretz reveal a far more lucrative target — the seizure of Iranian cash worldwide"

Andrew O'Hehir at Alternet, "Donald Trump Didn't Start the Fire: Here Are Things the Midterms Can't Fix: An appalling week of mail bombs, Trump tweets and Megyn Kelly overload should remind us: Politics won't fix America [...] Let's say instead that for many powerful and well-insulated Americans near the top of the cultural pyramid, from the center-left to the center-right — including at least some penitent conservatives in the Max Boot and Tom Nichols mold — a potential Democratic congressional majority in 2019 carries a special significance. It represents a symbolic Restoration of the old order, something like installing Charles II on the throne in 1660 after the disastrous experiment of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan regime. It's one last chance to reassert sanity and normalcy — which in this case signifies a government operated by spooks and wizards with Ivy League degrees — before we plunge off the cliff into the bottomless troll-hole of dumbass fascism. It's time, in this worldview, for ideological enemies to set aside our differences and join in a 'Coalition of Normals,' to quote Salon contributor Bob Cesca, devoted to restoring our republic and enforcing 'presidential' conduct on the presidency. To this particular fantasy I say, with respect and affection and some lingering nostalgia: LOL whatever. This 'normal' that you speak of: When was that, and where is it to be found? The Benghazi hearings? The drone war and the secret 'kill list' that included American citizens? The birther controversy and the 'death panels'? Potential vice president Sarah Palin? The Iraq war and the 'unknown unknowns'? The Lewinsky scandal and the 'meaning of is'?"

Tom Joudrey in Slate, "The Alarming Paternalism of Today's Queer Agenda: What the anti-pornography campaign of 1980s radical feminism can teach us about queer politics today."

"@emarvelous: Fifty years ago today, two American Olympians showed what it meant to champion justice and equality. It would cost them their careers, test their sanity, and earn them the scorn of their fellow citizens. Their protest inspired multitudes and left a legacy that transcends sport." Of course, everyone knows the iconic photo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos with their fists raised at the Olympic podium. The third athlete, the Australian Peter Norman, also suffered for his solidarity with his fellows, but times have changed. I was touched by this detail: "The other monument was erected in 2005 on the campus of Smith's and Carlos's alma mater, San Jose State University in California. For this piece, the second-place podium was left empty. Norman had declined to be depicted, to allow visitors to stand in his place in solidarity with the two Americans instead."

A correction in The New York Times: "An obituary on Wednesday about Alex Spanos, the owner of the Chargers, misstated the location of Stockton, Calif., where he was born. It is about 80 miles east of San Francisco, not west" Via Fark.

"New York Review of Science Fiction #349 is the special Gardner Dozois memorial issue, downloadable for free.

I'm so old, I can't remember whether I've seen this video before or not. It seems familiar, and yet, I dunno, maybe I just never really watched it that hard before. "Help!"

15 October 2018

The night's magic seems to whisper and hush

"Pointing the Finger at Jeff Bezos Worked: Jeff Bezos raised Amazon's starting wage to $15 because of pressure from workers and Bernie Sanders — showing how, even when workers and socialists are weak, we can win against the most powerful people in the world."

"Bezos Bows To Pressure On $15/hr. Keep Pressuring Him. Keep Pressuring Them All. In a move that is being widely attributed to pressure from activists and Bernie Sanders' famous Stop BEZOS Act, Amazon has announced a pay increase for all workers inside the US to $15 an hour as of next month. Which is of course a good thing. It is a good thing that the aggressively anti-union Amazon, which is owned and operated by the planet's wealthiest man Jeff Bezos, is finally taking a step in the direction of treating its workers like human beings after the sound of sharpening guillotine blades began to echo off the walls of its warehouses. But that isn't something people should be grateful for, let alone something that causes them to ease up the intensity of the fight against plutocracy. You don't thank a man for ceasing to punch you in the face, especially not while he's still stabbing you in the chest."

"Amazon jumps out ahead of its rivals and raises wages to $15: NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon, the business that upended the retailing industry and transformed the way we shop for just about everything, is jumping out ahead of the pack again, announcing a minimum wage of $15 an hour for its U.S. employees that could force other big companies to raise their pay. The online giant also said it will push Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, now at $7.25. Given Amazon's size and clout, the move Tuesday is a major victory for the $15-an-hour movement, which has organized protests of fast-food, gas station and other low-paid workers. Already, several states and cities have raised their minimum wages above the federal one."

But wait! "Amazon cuts to bonuses leads to questions about wage hike: A spokesperson for Amazon said the ending of stock vesting plans and bonuses makes compensation 'more immediate and predictable.'" Make no mistake, by highlighting the workers' action against Amazon, Senator Sanders helped push the company into raising its wages. But Amazon has reasons for preferring to raise wages rather than continue issuing stock bonuses. "Sanders said in an emailed statement in response to questions about the stock and bonus programs that he hopes Amazon's change does not end up hurting veteran workers. 'Our understanding is that the vast majority of Amazon workers are going to see wage increases, including some very significant increases as the minimum wage goes up to $15 an hour,' Sanders said. 'I would hope that as a result of Amazon's new policy, no worker, especially long-time employees, sees a reduction in total compensation. Amazon can afford to make all workers whole and should do that.'"

"'Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist': Sanders Introduces Bill to Break Up Nation's Largest Wall Street Banks [...] With Wall Street banks as big and profitable as ever ten years after their reckless criminality sparked the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would break up Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and other so-called "too big to fail" financial institutions that pose a major systemic risk to the American economy. "No financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of Americans or to our nation's economic well being," Sanders said in a statement. "We must end, once and for all, the scheme that is nothing more than a free insurance policy for Wall Street: the policy of 'too big to fail.':Titled "The Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act," Sanders' legislation would break up any bank that has a total exposure of more than three percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) — the equivalent to $584.5 billion in today's dollars."

"Bernie's New Internationalist Vision: Right-wing populism is advancing across the world. Bernie Sanders wants to fight back. [...] Sanders's speech yesterday, titled 'Building a Global Democratic Movement to Counter Authoritarianism' and adapted from an editorial he wrote in the Guardian last month, was a yardstick measuring his progress in this task to date. In it, he spelled out a dual opposition to authoritarianism and oligarchy. Sanders emphasized throughout his speech that economic inequality and wealth concentration are corrosive to democracy, and in turn to civil rights — a refrain we've heard from him many times in the domestic context. We must develop a global movement against unaccountable state and corporate power, which are mutually reinforcing, he said."

"Bernie Sanders saved a woman from getting hit by a car while he was out for a walk in DC, and she's very grateful."

Trump has started a new campaign lying about Medicare for All. Robert Weissman at Common Dreams had the first fact-check I saw, "Trump Is Dead Wrong on Medicare-for-All: Lies and deceptions from Trump are nothing new. Lies and deceptions from Trump about Medicare-for All are new, so it's worth correcting his USA Today column attacking such a system. One reason his attacks on Medicare-for-All are new is that he probably has supported it in the past. But whatever, there's no reason to think Trump particularly believed what he said then, or what he says now."

To the astonishment of many, "'Justice for Laquan!': Jury Finds Chicago Cop Guilty of Second-Degree Murder for Fatally Shooting Black Teen 16 Times: 'We hope that this verdict sends a clear message that police officers can no longer act with impunity against Black Americans.'"

"Facebook Accused of 'Full-Frontal Suppression of Dissent' After Independent Media Swept Up in Mass Purge: The massive shutdown affected many progressive sites devoted to covering war, police brutality, and other issues neglected by the corporate media. After Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down and removed hundreds of pages and accounts that it vaguely accused of spreading "spam" and engaging in "inauthentic behavior," some of the individuals and organizations caught up in the social media behemoth's dragnet disputed accusations that they were violating the platform's rules and raised alarm that Facebook is using its enormous power to silence independent political perspectives that run counter to the corporate media's dominant narratives."

"Censorship crackdown? Top 10 alt-media pages newly banned by Facebook & Twitter: Sites dealing with government transparency, pages dedicated to police brutality and alternative media — take a closer look at the top ten accounts with millions of followers that were recently suspended by Twitter and Facebook."

Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, "The Supreme Court Is Headed Back to the 19th Century: The justices again appear poised to pursue a purely theoretical liberty at the expense of the lives of people of color. [...] The justices did not resurrect Dred Scott v. Sandford's antebellum declaration that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Rather, they carefully framed their arguments in terms of limited government and individual liberty, writing opinion after opinion that allowed the white South to create an oppressive society in which black Americans had almost no rights at all. Their commitment to freedom in the abstract, and only in the abstract, allowed a brutal despotism to take root in Southern soil. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans' lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts's June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump's travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal. [...] The lesson of the post-Reconstruction Supreme Court is that a determined Court majority can prove stubbornly resistant to short-term swings of political fortune. Even if Democrats win the next election cycle, and the one after that, an enduring conservative majority on the Supreme Court will have the power to shatter any hard-won liberal legislative victory on the anvil of judicial review. It will be able to reverse decades-old precedents that secure fundamental rights. It will further entrench the rules of a society in which justice skews toward the wealthy, and the lives of those without means can be destroyed by a chance encounter with law enforcement. It will do all these things and more in the name of a purely theoretical freedom, which most Americans will never be able to afford to experience."

"Brazil's Bolsonaro-Led Far Right Wins a Victory Far More Sweeping and Dangerous Than Anyone Predicted. Its Lessons Are Global. FOR THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, Congressman Jair Bolsonaro was a fringe extremist in Brazilian politics, known mostly for outlandish, deliberately inflammatory quotes in which he paid homage to the most notorious torturers of the 1964-1985 military regime, constantly heralded the 1964 coup as a 'defense of democracy,' told a female socialist colleague in Congress that she was too ugly to 'deserve' his rape, announced that he'd rather learn that his son died in a car accident than was gay, and said he conceived a daughter after having four sons only due to a 'moment of weakness.' [...] As a result of last night's truly stunning national election in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has been instantly transformed from marginalized clown into the overwhelmingly dominant force in the country's political life. Bolsonaro himself fell just short of winning the 50% needed to win the presidency without a run-off. But given the margin of victory, he is the overwhelming favorite to win on October 28 against the second-place candidate, ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad. Haddad is the previously unknown, hand-picked successor anointed by Lula, the ex-two-term President who had been leading all polls until he was convicted on dubious corruption charges and quickly imprisoned so as to bar his candidacy, then silenced by Brazil's right-wing judiciary with a series of remarkable prior restraint censorship orders barring all media outlets from interviewing him."

I'm so old I can remember when if a reporter for The Washington Post, or even a lesser paper, were murdered, or suspected of being murdered, under circumstances like Jamal Khashoggi's, it would be a top headline for at least two or three days.

For comic relief, a reminder of what it means to be one of the "smartest guys in the room. "Leading Member of Global Elite Pens Cartoonish Blog About Driving Through Shithole Country," starring Larry Summers.

Public Citizen: "How the New NAFTA Text Measures Against the Essential Changes We Have Demanded to Stop NAFTA's Ongoing Damage: Text of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was made public on September 30. This initial analysis measures the released text against the changes that Public Citizen has long demanded that are necessary to stop NAFTA's ongoing damage. Almost one million American jobs have been government-certified as lost to NAFTA, with more outsourced to Mexico every week. New NAFTA Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) attacks on environmental and health policies are being regularly filed after $392 million has been seized from taxpayers to date by corporations using NAFTA's ISDS regime. The text includes key improvements for which we have long advocated, as well as the addition of damaging terms found in other agreements that we have long opposed. It also reveals that more work is needed, especially with respect to ensuring the swift and certain enforcement of labor standards and environmental standards."

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party conference speech in full [...] We have also been raising more money for our party. But not a penny of our funds came from a dodgy donor or a shady businessmen's club. Our money comes from hundreds of thousands of people across our country who believe in what we stand for. So I don't have to play tennis with an oligarch to keep our party organisation running. Labour trades in hope for the many, not favours for the few. [...] You may have noticed that not everyone is entirely happy about all this. It turns out that the billionaires who own the bulk of the British press don't like us one little bit. Now it could be because we're going to clamp down on tax dodging. Or it may be because we don't fawn over them at white tie dinners and cocktail parties. Or it could even be because Tom Watson has been campaigning for the second part of the Leveson media inquiry to be set up - something the last Prime Minister promised, but failed to deliver. We must, and we will, protect the freedom of the press to challenge unaccountable power."

Max Blumenthal, "How an American Anthropologist Tied to US Regime-Change Proxies Became the MSM's Man in Nicaragua: It might seem cavalier for an academically credentialed anthropologist to assert political influence on the population he is supposed to be studying; however, Goette-Luciak's activities fit within a long tradition." One guy who only talks to one side is your "expert". "MANAGUA, NICARAGUA — (Investigation) The Guardian, The Washington Post, the BBC and NPR have assigned an American anthropologist with no previous journalistic experience to cover the crisis in Nicaragua. The novice reporter, named Carl David Goette-Luciak, has published pieces littered with falsehoods that reinforce the opposition's narrative promoting regime change while relying almost entirely on anti-Sandinista sources."

I'm betting this collusion doesn't get the "Russia" treatment: "Israeli firm pitched social media manipulation to Trump campaign — report: New York Times publishes proposals from Psy-Group, including creating fake accounts to target would-be Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz backers."

RIP: "Peggy Sue Gerron, inspiration for Buddy Holly song, dies in Lubbock," at 78. She also was a locally celebrated ham radio operator, and became the first female licensed plumber in California.

Great episode of Citations Needed, "'Populism' - The Media's Favorite Catch-All Smear for the Left: But what exactly is populism? How is a term that allegedly applies to Hugo Chávez and Bernie Sanders also casually used to describe fascists and far-right forces? Under the thin, ideology-flattening definition of populism, the term is more often than not used as a euphemism for demagogic cults of personality and fascism and as the ultimate horseshoe theory reduction to lump together movements for equity and justice on the Left with those of revanchism, nationalism and explicit racism on the Right. We are joined on this episode by writer and historian Thomas Frank."

Vincent Chatworth on Facebook: "Kamala Harris was one of the driving forces behind #SESTA and #FOSTA, the legislation that shut down the websites that sex workers use to feed their families and stay safe. Since the shut down of #backpage and other websites, screening clients had gotten way more difficult. The websites we use to report abusers have had to change to the point that they are now useless to us. So many women had to go back out on the street after BP shut down and just in the past couple months, two sex workers (that we know of) have been murdered in Seattle. [...] Kamala Harris was THE prosecutor who went after BP before she was elected to the senate. She was the driving force behind SESTA/FOSTA but kept her involvement very hush hush to the point that she didn't even put her name as a co sponsor up until it was almost done. That bill made internet platforms criminally liable for the things it's users write AND gives the government and law enforcement the power to shut down and prosecute the owners of any website they deem to be 'promoting human trafficking'. The definition of suspected human trafficking is so vague, that it basically allows them to shut down whatever they want without due process. The two top industries that funded her campaign are lawyers/law firms and tv/movies/music. Time warner was her top contributor. These are two industries which stand to profit HEAVILY from SESTA. Lawyers get more work because there are more people being arrested w much more serious charges. Companies like Time Warner and Comcast have already gotten a huge boost from the demise of #netneutrality (basically they can choose to slow down your internet speeds if you visit a website that they do not own making it much harder for independent content creators to be seen). With the passage of SESTA/FOSTA, internet providers now have even more control through that hand of Senator like Harris."

Sean McElwee tweeted: A team of intrepid economists just perpetrated a giant version of the Sokal Hoax, call it Sokal Cubed. They proved that for $1,500 an hour, economic models can be manipulated into defending literally anything, including anti-competitive corporate mergers." The article, from Jesse Eisinger and Justin Elliott at Pro Publica, is "These Professors Make More Than a Thousand Bucks an Hour Peddling Mega-Mergers: The economists are leveraging their academic prestige with secret reports justifying corporate concentration. Their predictions are often wrong and consumers pay the price." Imagine my surprise at seeing this: "ONE EVENING IN 1977, University of Chicago law professor Richard Posner hosted a colleague from the economics department and a young law student named Andrew Rosenfield at his apartment in Hyde Park. The leading scholar of the 'Law and Economics' movement, Posner wanted to apply rigorous math and economics concepts to the real world." So many evil things can be traced back to these people.

But I missed Adam Liptak's "An Exit Interview With Richard Posner, Judicial Provocateur" last year when it came out upon Posner's retirement, and it does refer to a phenomenon I have noticed and remarked on before — the increasingly more sensible and less nasty positions Posner seemed to be taking of late. He doesn't go into it in much depth, but he certainly seems to have had a change of heart late in life. "'About six months ago,' Judge Posner said, 'I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.' He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it."

Shamus Khan tweeted: "Thread on my thoughts re: elites: I think elite schooling can help develop real talents in people. But here's the thing: the idea that those talents are 'inherent' vs 'cultivated as a result of investments' is where I take serious issue. The consequences are really important" Now go read the thread.

For a little background on what kind of a frat Kavanaugh belonged to, "The frat barred from Yale for 5 years is back — and women are saying they warn one another to stay away: Yale's Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity was barred for five years after a profane video of brothers chanting about women, rape, and consent emerged online."

"'That's a hell of an act. What do you call it?' Fuzzy-edged though differences between generations are, surely one difference between people of my own age and those born after 9/11 is their experience of 'security.' I never went through a metal detector in school; never in my wildest dreams would I have thought this country would come to that. And as for airports! Anyhow, this Zeitgeist Watch anecdote that a friend threw over the transom starts out being about security. But there's a plot twist!"

"Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture: Youth isn't a good proxy for support of political correctness, and race isn't either. [...] Whites are ever so slightly less likely than average to believe that political correctness is a problem in the country: 79 percent of them share this sentiment. Instead, it is Asians (82 percent), Hispanics (87percent), and American Indians (88 percent) who are most likely to oppose political correctness. [...] The one part of the standard narrative that the data partially affirm is that African Americans are most likely to support political correctness. But the difference between them and other groups is much smaller than generally supposed: Three quarters of African Americans oppose political correctness. This means that they are only four percentage points less likely than whites, and only five percentage points less likely than the average, to believe that political correctness is a problem."

"How Bill Clinton Remade the Democratic Party by Abandoning Unions: An Arkansas Story: Much has been made in the recent campaign about the alienation of working-class whites from the Democratic Party. Michael Pierce shows this is a path long traveled; Bill Clinton undermined the budding multi-racial labor coalition in 1970s Arkansas. In a horrendous election night for the Hillary Clinton, the only bright spot was Nevada, where Culinary Workers Union Local 226's massive get-out-the-vote operation ensured that the state's six electoral votes went into the Democratic column. Not only did the local get their Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and white members to the polls but its sophisticated operation also rallied other members of Nevada's diverse working-class. In much of the rest of the country, the working-class voters — especially white ones — stayed home, alienated from both a Democratic candidate who made little effort to address their economic concerns and a Republican candidate who stirred up hate. Class-based union-led mobilization operations like the one in Nevada have become rare, but they were central to the Democratic Party's successes from the 1930s through the 1980s even in what are now deep red states like Arkansas. The irony is that the decline of such mobilization efforts can be traced back to Bill Clinton and his activities in 1970s Arkansas, when he and his allies began undermining the labor movement and its efforts to educate working-class voters and get them to the polls on behalf of the Democratic Party. Not only did Bill Clinton refuse to support efforts to strengthen unions at a time when local companies like Walmart and Tyson Foods were becoming more aggressive in their 'union avoidance' methods, but he also began to bait the labor movement to gain electoral advantage. He would ride his Arkansas strategies into the White House in 1992, transforming the Democratic Party along the way."

I'm not sure whether I linked this in 2014 when it first appeared, but it seems apropos of the moment and in my continuing mission to remind people of just what a disaster the Obama-Geithner administration was for us, here's Matt Stoller's review of Geithner's book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, "The Con-Artist Wing of the Democratic Party: The most consequential event of this young century has been the financial crisis. This is a catchall term that means three different things: an economic housing boom and bust, a financial meltdown, and a political response in which bailouts were showered upon the very institutions that were responsible for the chaos. We will be seeing the fallout for decades. Today, in Europe, far-right fascist parties are on the rise, climbing the unhappiness that the crisis-induced austerity has unleashed. China is looking away from the West as a model of development. In the US, Congress is more popular than certain sexually transmitted infections* but little else, and all institutions of national power are losing their legitimacy. At the same time, the financial system did not, in the end, collapse, and there was no repeat of the Great Depression. [...] I'll address both of these, since they are intertwined. For as I read the book, and compared the book with what was written at the time and what was written afterwards, I noticed something odd, and perhaps too bold to say in polite company. As much as I really wanted to hear what Geithner had to say, I quickly realized that I wasn't getting his actual side of the story. The book is full of narratives, facts, and statements that are, well, untrue, or at the very least, highly misleading. Despite its length, there are also serious omissions that suggest an intention to mislead, as well as misrepresentations of his critics' arguments. As I went further into Geithner's narrative, even back into his college days, I got the sense that I was seeing only a brilliantly scrubbed surface, that there were nooks and crannies hidden away. It struck me that I was reading the memoirs of an incredibly savvy and well-bred grifter, the kind that the American WASP establishment of financiers, foundation officials, and spies produces in such rich abundance. I realize this is a bold claim, because it's an indictment not just of Geithner but also of those who worked for him at Treasury and at the Federal Reserve, as well as indictment of the Clinton-era finance team of Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Alan Greenspan, Michael Barr, Jason Furman, and other accomplices. That's why this review is somewhat long, as it's an attempt to back up such a broad and sweeping claim. I will also connect it to what Geithner is doing now: working in the same kind of financial business that made Mitt Romney a near billionaire."

But lest we forget, the Democratic Party was deciding to enable the Republicans just as the right-wing was putting forward it's radical plans to destroy democracy, "The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement" is an old document that is chilling to read now. "Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions."

Umar Haque, "The Big Crunch: Why Predatory Capitalism is Exploding into Fascism, in Every Corner of the Globe: I've often said that the rise of global fascism would be the defining event of our adult lifetimes — and, understandably, I guess, considering Americans and their need to feel superior, I was often met with skepticism, if not outright derision. Yet here it is. Like dominoes: America — where genuine Nazis now sit in government — in Italy, Poland, Turkey, Hungary. Neo-Nazis marching in Germany. Even in Sweden, a kind of absurd, pathetic extremist nationalism is surging."

Howard Zinn, October 21, 2005, "Don't Despair about the Supreme Court [...] It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice. The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those Senators--Democrats and Republicans--who solemnly invoke as their highest concern "the rule of law." The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king. The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance. The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the Fourteenth Amendment called for. After all, it was the same Fourteenth Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South--along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world--that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court. [...] No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled."

"Inside Uzbekistan's beautiful, rarely-seen metro: After a 40-year photo ban, images finally reveal Tashkent's symbolic underground."

Good Omens - Official Teaser Trailer

Van Morrison, "Moondance"