Monday, October 15, 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"

1 comment:

  1. He may be a little light on his book learning but I came away thinking this nineteen minute segment was worth watching: LINK