23 November 2018

Thank you, as always

The colors change, the pages turn, and everything gets harder. There's no way I could ever tell you how grateful I am to you for still being here with me, but believe me, I am.

At this writing, all of the Senatorial elections have been called with the exception of the special election in Mississippi, where Mike Espy (D) and Cyndy Hyde-Smythe (R) are tied at 41% each. Dems picked up AZ and NV, and the GOP picked up FL, IN, MO, and ND.

"Iowa Democrat loses race by 7 votes — but officials refuse to count 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning county [...] 'About 29 absentee ballots from left-leaning Winneshiek County weren't counted. One of those was Liam's, and he says his ballot was mailed ahead of deadline,' tweeted Senapathy. While the ballots may have been mailed by the date, some post offices didn't postmark the ballots, so there was no verification of when the ballot was received. 'Here's where it gets disturbing. According to @52101news (Decorah Iowa News) Winneshiek County Auditor says the 29 ballots without a postmark will NOT be included in the vote totals because of specific rules about how mailing dates may be verified,' Senapathy went on. 'Meanwhile, as Liam explained to me, in neighboring, right-leaning Fayette County, ballots that weren't postmarked were 'accidentally' counted. This is against policy, but the claim is that it's too late to do anything about it. This is some rank BS.'"

Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "These Unheralded Democratic Wins Could Reshape Voting Rights Across the Country: Democrats took control of secretary of state jobs in Arizona, Colorado, and Michigan. Kyrsten Sinema's narrow victory in Arizona's US Senate race may have gotten all the attention, but Katie Hobbs' even narrower victory, declared five days later on Saturday, might say more about the future of the emerging purple state — and of voting rights across the country. Hobbs, a Democrat, will become Arizona's first Democratic secretary of state since 1995. The position is second-in-command to the governor, and it's a common stepping stone to the governor's mansion: Four of Arizona's last nine governors were previously secretaries of state, according to the Phoenix New Times. Just as important, Hobbs campaigned on an expansion of voting rights, and she will now oversee the state's elections, with the potential to reshape the electorate by improving access to the ballot for minority, young, and low-income voters. She was one of three Democrats who took over secretary of state jobs previously held by Republicans, joining Democratic victors in Michigan and Colorado. These races were unheralded next to congressional and gubernatorial races across the country, but these officials now have the power to enforce state voting laws in 2020, advocating and implementing practices that will make it easier to vote in critical swing states. [...] There's still one big secretary of state race outstanding, in Georgia, the epicenter of the fight over voter suppression in 2018. Rep. John Barrow, the last white Democrat from the Deep South in the House of Representatives, who lost his seat in 2014, is running to succeed Kemp. He trailed on Election Day by just 19,000 votes, so he's now in a runoff against Republican State Rep. Brad Raffensperger that takes place on December 4, with early voting beginning next week. Barrow has criticized Kemp's voter registration restrictions as 'plainly illegal' and has been an outspoken opponent of gerrymandering after Georgia Republicans redrew his district to oust him from Congress. 'Any thing we do that makes it harder than necessary for honest citizens to register, stay registered, or vote undermines their right to vote,' he wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday."

"House Progressives Are Facing An Unexpected Problem In The Quest For Committee Power [...] And yet, it's a precarious situation for the CPC. Several key retirements and the blue wave adding between 38 and 40 House Democrats has led to an unprecedented number of open slots on the money committees. The unsettled race for speaker provides a unique opportunity for influence. But if progressives cannot find the warm bodies willing to fill committee slots, they'll have put their reputation on the line in a bid for power, without being able to follow through."

Here's a nightmare scenario: "155 Democrats back Hoyer's bid for majority leader. This amidst complaints about Pelosi from the left while right-wing Democrats attack from the right. Those hot young Blue Dogs want a chance at her seat that they won't get if the party won't move farther to the right.

Another good move that passed at the polls, "What is Ballot Question E? Banning Water Privatization in the City of Baltimore" - "Inalienability of the Sewer and Water Systems". Everybody should do this.

"Somali Workers in Minnesota Force Amazon to Negotiate: Labor organizers and researchers said they had not heard of Amazon previously coming to the table after worker pressure, even for private discussions."

"Amazon Is Kicking All Unauthorized Apple Refurbishers Off Amazon Marketplace: Amazon told independent refurbishers that it will now only allow "authorized resellers" to sell Apple products on Amazon Marketplace. [...] Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University and coauthor of The End of Ownership, told me in an email that this decision is a dangerous infringement of ownership rights. 'Wow. This is a very troubling development,' he said. 'Given Amazon's dominance as an online retail marketplace, its decision to disregard the first sale rights of resellers will significantly limit consumer choice. The fact that this move was demanded by Apple makes it even more problematic. What we see here are the world's two most valuable companies engaging in a coordinated assault on the lawful resale of consumer devices.'"

Sirota, "Will New York Fund Amazon Subsidies or Student Debt Relief? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo made headlines begging Amazon to site its second headquarters in the state. Now, however, prominent Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly have slammed the idea of offering taxpayer subsidies to the retail giant. [...] Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim announced that he will introduce legislation to slash New York's economic development subsidies and use the money to buy up and cancel student debt — a move he said would provide a bigger boost to the state's economy. The legislation, says Kim, would halt any Cuomo administration offer of taxpayer money to Amazon, which could reap up to $1 billion in tax incentives if it moves to Long Island City. The deal is a goodie bag for Amazon: It includes everything from a $325 million cash grant to a promise that taxpayers will help secure a helipad for Amazon executives."

Okay, this one is actually from National Review? "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Right about Amazon's Corporate Welfare: After a long process, Amazon finally announced that it will locate its new headquarters in New York and Virginia. Following the announcement, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that 'Amazon is a billion-dollar company. The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.' As a result of her tweet, conservative commentators all over twitter and on shows like Fox Business's Varney & Co. are making fun of her. They argue that her reaction is yet more evidence that she doesn't get economics and that doesn't want New Yorkers and Virginians to get the thousands of jobs that will be created there thanks to the new headquarters. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ocasio-Cortez is mostly correct on this matter, and her conservative critics are wrong. Handouts like this to Amazon and other prominent companies are appalling in their cronyism, pure and simple. I agree that she doesn't understand economics and that her socialist ideal is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. But her conservative critics reveal their own economic misunderstanding when they support targeted tax breaks as a means of creating jobs.

Derek Thomson in The Atlantic, "Amazon's HQ2 Spectacle Isn't Just Shameful — It Should Be Illegal: Each year, local governments spend nearly $100 billion to move headquarters and factories between states. It's a wasteful exercise that requires a national solution. [...] Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states. That's more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure. And since cities and states can't print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons. [...] But there are three major problems with America's system of corporate giveaways. [...] Corporate America is getting all the help it doesn't need. You and I may not like it. But executives such as Jeff Bezos have no reason to care. They are winning by the rules of a broken game."

"Georgia Legislator, Arrested At Work, Says She Was 'Singled Out As A Black Female Senator': Georgia state Sen. Nikema Williams (D-Atlanta) was arrested along with more than a dozen other protesters at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday afternoon at a demonstration asking the state to 'count every vote' from last week's gubernatorial election. Protesters shouted 'Let her go!' as Williams was handcuffed while the General Assembly was in session. [...] One of Williams' white male colleagues, state Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta), went to the same protest with Williams for the same reason and was not arrested. He stood outside the jail after her arrest and spoke out about Williams' unfair treatment by Capitol police. Dreyer said he went down to the Capitol about the same time as Williams, 'but for some reason, Sen. Williams was treated differently than I was treated.'

"Ohio House passes 'Heartbeat Bill' restricting abortion after detection of fetal heartbeat: By a vote of 59 to 35, the Ohio House of Representatives once again passed the 'Heartbeat Bill.' The bill, considered by among the most restrictive abortion bills in the country, would ban abortion at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. That could come within the first six weeks of pregnancy. [...] The bill would first have to be voted on in the Senate, something Senate leaders have not yet decided on."

"Abortion clinics on edge after woman who shot Kansas doctor is released from prison: Abortion clinics across the country were taking extra precautions Wednesday after the anti-abortion activist who shot Wichita physician George Tiller in 1993 and committed a string of clinic attacks in several states was released from prison. Rachelle 'Shelley' Shannon, the Oregon woman whose actions once triggered a federal investigation into the possible existence of a national conspiracy of anti-abortion terrorists, had been living in a halfway house in Portland, Ore., since May. She has spent 25 years in custody. [...] News of Shannon's release has clinic operators on edge. In addition to showing no remorse for her actions, they say, Shannon has been visited in prison by several activists who believe that killing abortion doctors is an act of justifiable homicide. Clinic supporters also note that Tiller, a regular target of abortion protesters because he was one of a handful of doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death in 2009 by Kansas City-area anti-abortion extremist Scott Roeder, who had admired Shannon and visited her many times in prison.

Maryland Matters with "2018 Election Cycle's Ups and Downs" reports some good news despite the way Ben Jealous was abandoned by the party.

By the way: Keith Ellison left a safe seat in Congress to run for Minnesota AG, realizing it would be terrible to leave that office to a Republican. He won, 49.1%-45.2%.

Lee Fang and Nick Surgey in The Intercept, "Lobbyist Documents Reveal Health Care Industry Battle Plan Against 'Medicare For All': NOW THAT THE midterms are finally over, the battle against 'Medicare for All' that has been quietly waged throughout the year is poised to take center stage. Internal strategy documents obtained by The Intercept and Documented reveal the strategy that private health care interests plan to use to influence Democratic Party messaging and stymie the momentum toward achieving universal health care coverage.

Right-wingers and Dem Donuts alike love to attack Bernie Sanders because his wife's attempt to save a failing college was not successful, and five years after the event, the head of Trump's presidential campaign complained about it to the FBI. There is actually news on this front that probably still won't shut them up: "Adviser says Bernie Sanders' wife cleared in college land deal investigation: A top adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders said Tuesday that the Vermont independent's wife, Jane Sanders, has been recently told by the US attorney in Vermont that they have closed an investigation into a land deal involving Burlington College during Jane Sanders' presidency." This is exactly the kind of nonsense Ken Starr pulled on the Clintons, but it had even fewer legs. What's weird is not that some right-wingers tried to talk it up, but that Democrats were doing the same thing, which is about like believing that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster.

I hate to admit it, but not only is Maureen Dowd right, but it's an article that needed to be written. "Who's the Real American Psycho? [...] Even for Washington, the capital of do-overs and the soulless swamp where horrendous mistakes never prevent you from cashing in and getting another security clearance, this is a repellent spectacle. War criminals-turned-liberal heroes are festooned with book and TV contracts, podcasts and op-ed perches. Those who sold us the 'cakewalk' Iraq war and the outrageously unprepared Sarah Palin and torture as 'enhanced interrogation,' those who left the Middle East shattered with a cascading refugee crisis and a rising ISIS, and those who midwifed the birth of the Tea Party are washing away their sins in a basin of Trump hate. The very same Republicans who eroded America's moral authority in the 2000s are, staggeringly, being treated as the new guardians of America's moral authority. They bellow that Trump is a blight on democracy. But where were these patriots when the Bush administration was deceiving us with a cooked-up war in Iraq? How do you like your norms broken? Over Twitter or in a torture memo? By a tinpot demagogue stomping on checks and balances he can't even fathom or a shadowy authoritarian expertly and quietly dismantling checks and balances he knows are sacred? Before we had Trump's swarm of bloodsucking lobbyists gutting government regulations from within, we had Cheney's. Before Trump brazenly used the White House to boost his brand, we had Cheney wallowing in emoluments: He let his energy industry pals shape energy policy; he pushed to invade Iraq, giving no-bid contracts to his former employer, Halliburton, and helping his Big Oil cronies reap the spoils in Iraq. The movie opens at Christmas, but it's no sugary Hallmark fable. It's a harrowing cautionary tale showing that democracy can be sabotaged even more diabolically by a trusted insider, respected by most of the press, than by a clownish outsider, disdained by most of the press."

"Secret CIA Document Shows Plan to Test Drugs on Prisoners: Thanks to an ACLU victory in federal court, we know much more about how CIA doctors violated the medical oath to 'do no harm.' One of the most important lessons of the CIA's torture program is the way it corrupted virtually every individual and institution associated with it. Over the years, we have learned how lawyers twisted the law and psychologists betrayed their ethical obligations in order to enable the brutal and unlawful torture of prisoners. Now we've won the release of a 90-page account of the CIA's Office of Medical Services role in the CIA torture program — a secret history written by the top CIA medical official, whose identity remains classified."

Death of HHS official Daniel Best is ruled a suicide: WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Nov. 1 death of Daniel Best , a pharmaceutical executive from Bay Village who led U.S. Department of Health and Human Services efforts to lower prescription drug prices, has been ruled a suicide, officials in Washington, D.C., said Thursday. [...] The city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Thursday said Best died from "multiple blunt force injuries" and it ruled his death a suicide. It would not release further information." What, he clubbed himself to death?

This article from May has recently been updated. "Did Rep. Adam Schiff Just Admit the US Has a Secret Indictment of Julian Assange?" Schiff's office responded to news that Assange would be happy to talk to him with, "Our committee would be willing to interview Julian Assange when he is in U.S. custody, not before." So, they want to terrorize him and, by proxy, all other journalists who might want to expose government corruption and crime. Last week The Washington Post reported, "Julian Assange has been charged, prosecutors reveal inadvertently in court filing."

"Jónasson: The Icelandic Minister who refused cooperation with the FBI [...] What happened was that in June 2011, US authorities made some approaches to us indicating they had knowledge of hackers wanting to destroy software systems in Iceland. I was a minister at the time. They offered help. I was suspicious, well aware that a helping hand might easily become a manipulating hand! Later in the summer, in August, they sent a planeload of FBI agents to Iceland seeking our cooperation in what I understood as an operation set up to frame Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Since they had not been authorised by the Icelandic authorities to carry out police work in Iceland and since a crack-down on WikiLeaks was not on my agenda, to say the least, I ordered that all cooperation with them be promptly terminated and I also made it clear that they should cease all activities in Iceland immediately. It was also made clear to them that they were to leave the country. They were unable to get permission to operate in Iceland as police agents, but I believe they went to other countries, at least to Denmark. I also made it clear at the time that if I had to take sides with either WikiLeaks or the FBI or CIA, I would have no difficulty in choosing: I would be on the side of WikiLeaks."

Bruce Shapiro in The Nation, "The Indictment of Julian Assange Is a Threat to Press Freedom: If the First Amendment means anything, it is the right to obtain public-interest information from impure, indeed hopelessly tainted, sources."

"There Are 200 California Inmates Fighting the Camp Fire. After Prison, They Likely Won't Be Allowed to Become Firefighters: California's licensing laws mean inmates can risk their lives for less than $2 per day, but can't earn a living after they get out of prison.: About 200 inmates are among the thousands of firefighters still doing battle with the massive wildfire that has destroyed the town of Paradise, California, and killed at least 31 people. Once they are released from prison, however, most of them will be prohibited from joining the fire crews that they currently work alongside. It's a cruel irony that demonstrates just how difficult life can be for the formerly incarcerated — even those with needed, practical skills — who continue to be punished long after they have paid their debt to society, and bad policy that effectively prevents the state from calling upon well-trained, experienced firefighters when wildfires erupt."

Seems I missed it in September when the California legislature passed a bill to help protect PG&E from wildfire damage suits. "It was a balancing act, the Democratic senator from Napa said after months of furious lobbying over whether lawmakers were going too far in helping PG&E with what critics called a bailout for a utility that has been accused of putting profits before safety."

@StephenKinzer tweeted: I posted my @GlobeOpinion column about #Bolsonaro and #Brazil on @facebook a week ago. Now I see that beneath it is this notice: "This post goes against our Community Standards, so no one else can see it." Here's the column, what standards does it violate?" The column is called "Jair Bolsonaro threatens us all."

RIP: "Douglas Rain: Actor who voiced Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey dies," at 90. He also voiced an evil computer in Sleeper, along with some robot butlers.

RIP: Stan Lee, 95. I don't even have to tell you, do I?

RIP: "William Goldman, screenwriter of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All The President's Men, has died aged 87. Goldman, who received Oscars for both of those films, also wrote Marathon Man, Magic and The Princess Bride, which he adapted from his own novels. His memoir Adventures in the Screen Trade is famous for his memorable declaration that "nobody knows anything" about the movie business. He was also a noted "script doctor" who worked uncredited on many features. Born in Highland Park, Illinois in 1931, Goldman started out as a novelist before breaking into movies with 1965 spy caper Masquerade. He followed that with The Moving Target, also known as Harper, in which Paul Newman played a laconic private eye."

Some fascinating history of court decisions, some of which were passed for thoroughly racist reasons but later became the basis of civil rights actions (and decisions) - and civil rights decisions that were later used specifically to undermine civil rights: "Public Education, SCOTUS , & The Battle for the American Mind w/ Justin Driver - MR, on The Majority Report.

Matt Taibbi, "Bernie Sanders Opens Up About New Democrats in Congress, Taking on Trumpism [...] I absolutely believe that from day one, the Democrats in the House have got to come out with a progressive agenda that speaks to the needs of working people. And that leads to — as you know, the Medicare-for-all bill I introduced, which is to be implemented over four years, lowers the eligibility age from 65 to 55, covers all of the children, and lowers the cost of prescription drugs. My guess is that about 80-percent of the American people would support a proposal like that. It's wildly popular. And that's what the Democrats have got to do. They've got to raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour, they've got to make public colleges tuition-free and they've got to lower student debt. All of these proposals are enormously popular. And they're good public policy. And here's what I think, Matt, that maybe nobody else in the world believes. As you know, Trump is a 100-percent political opportunist, who has no political views other than how he can win elections." I adored Bernie's response to being told that The Washington Post advised Democrats to avoid "fire-breathing" progressives and to stick to moderates.

Matt Taibbi, "Forget 'Conventional Wisdom': There Are No More Moderates: Beware the latest call to 'move to the center' — which is just the same old tune, re-packaged [...] Voters are not skittish, brainless creatures afraid of strong policy proposals. That more accurately describes the politicians and corporate donors who are invested in things staying as they are. Most actual people are living on the edge financially, are angry, and will take policy help from anywhere they can get it."

Libby Watson at Splinter News, "House Democrats Balk at Prospect of Being Good [...] Meanwhile, on the financial end of things, Nancy Pelosi endorsed a list of changes to House rules, including a rule to 'create a supermajority requirement to raise individual income taxes on the lowest-earning four-fifths of taxpayers.' That is a disastrous idea. Alan Essig, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, noted the rule 'could make it difficult, as a practical matter, to raise taxes — on the rich — without making the tax code a complicated mess. This is because few changes in the federal income tax would affect no one in the bottom 80 percent.' Such rules have also been disastrous at the state level, and tax rates in states with supermajority rules are comparable to those without them. But more importantly, it sends entirely the wrong message: that taxation is among the gravest, most serious things Congress can do. Congress doesn't need a supermajority to declare war, but it should have one to raise taxes? If we're going to play this game, there are tons of other things Democrats could require a supermajority for — cutting Medicare or Social Security, for example, or selling off any new public lands. All this does is affirm Republicans' world view that taxation is among the most vicious evils the government can force on its citizens. "

Lordy, Alex Pareene in The Washington Post, of all places, "Political power never lasts. Democrats need to use theirs while they have it. [...] With Democrats about to control the House of Representatives again, I have been thinking about that last majority: what it achieved, what it was too cautious to attempt and what that caution actually bought. Because we may be asking the same questions about the next Democratic majority sooner than we think. The lesson of the careful restraint that Democrats showed the last time they controlled either chamber of Congress — and of the Republican ferocity since then — is simple: Your job is not to win power and then maintain it. Your job is to win power and then use it, with the knowledge that you won't have it forever or even, most likely, for very long at all." (via)

And Pareene in the HuffPo, "In Journalism About Race, A Tinge Of Denial: The only appeal the conservative movement has left is white panic. Why is that story still so hard to tell? As the midterms hurtle to an astonishingly racist close, the nonpartisan political press has continued to rely on the old 'racially tinged' euphemisms, taking care not to draw any conclusions about the party doing all the race-baiting. Call it denial-tinged journalism."

Is it really possible that more people wanted to vote for every other elective office than wanted to vote for US Senator in Broward County?

Paul Rosenberg has an optimistic take on the midterms, "Reflections on a blue wave: How progressive activists drove a historic victory: Several progressive Democrats won this week. But even when they didn't, activists drove the blue wave to victory." And helped develop infrastructure that can be used again.

Pierce, "Democrats Can't 'Work With' Republicans Until Republicans Return to Reality: There are two things to remember as we go forward. First, there is absolutely no reason for Democratic congresscritters to assume good faith on any subject on the part of their Republican colleagues. Second, the most notable thing about the Problem Solvers Caucus is that it never has solved a single problem."

"'A Staggeringly Bad Idea': Outrage as Pelosi Pushes Tax Rule That Would 'Kneecap the Progressive Agenda': 'This is a very bad idea, House Democrats. It makes no sense whatsoever to give Republicans veto power over progressive legislation.'"

"46 Minutes With Barbara Lee Talking Iraq, poverty, and getting a seat at the table with the House's lefty conscience."

David Atkins at The Washington Monthly, "Counting All the Votes Is Not a Surprise or a Rollercoaster: We need to change the way elections are reported in America. [...] But at the end of the day, TV networks want to send their viewers to bed with answers, journalists need definitive copy for the Wednesday morning edition and op-ed writers must deliver their scheduled smart takes. The result is that election night coverage is considered the default version of events, and ballots counted in the days and weeks afterward an afterthought or exciting aberration. States like California that make expansive efforts to count every eligible vote and give voters maximum opportunities to make their voices heard are resented as disrupters of the natural order, inconveniences to the unity of the narrative. So when results change in close races several days after Election Tuesday, it is treated as a remarkable phenomenon. Headlines describe lead changes as 'roller coasters' and 'dramatic comebacks.' Unsurprisingly, when Republicans find themselves as usual on the short end of such reversals their politicians and media outlets increasingly insinuate dark allegations to their base about voter fraud and ballot stuffing. After all, why else would these late results continually go against them? They feel that contests rightfully won on election night are being taken from them. And the press generally does the truth no favors in this regard. If a race is too close to call and hundreds of thousands of mostly urban and provisional ballots remain outstanding, the press will treat the race as an open question even when the Republican is behind, leaving conservatives to believe that results could go either direction even when they invariably will not. Just yesterday an NPR show in Southern California nonsensically suggested that despite the widening lead for Democrat Harley Rouda against Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher, in California's 48th congressional district, Rohrabacher could still 'come back' to retake it based on the (mostly Democratic-leaning) precincts and provisional ballots remaining. This type of electoral coverage must change. Readers, viewers and listeners deserve the truth and an accurate prediction of reality."

Luke Savage in Jacobin, "American Politics Could Use More Conflict: Decrying 'tribalism' is a favorite pastime of American elites, but the real problem is the unity among them. [...] Conflict of this kind ultimately has little to do with noxious debates broadcast on cable news or with a political class that theatrically stages them while tapping the same corporate donors and casually dishing about Social Security privatization across the tables of opulent D.C. restaurants. The fact is that beneath the facade of intra-elite camaraderie amid televised partisan rancor, there remain deep and abiding political disagreements between Americans that will only be resolved when one side is defeated or lays down arms. This is, I believe, the main reason elites and members of the intelligentsia broadly invested in status quo ultimately see salvation in a mythic kingdom without conflict or meaningfully distinctive parties to institutionalize it. It's also why so many of them seem determined to pathologize political differences as random sociological spasms rather than expressions of genuine grievances, progressive or prejudicial as the case may be: plenty of them, whether they care to admit it or not, privately pine for a place where the interests they share can be safely negotiated unfettered by the irritants of democratic politics or the headaches they tend to create."

"Here's the real reason health care costs so much more in the US [...] Per capita, the U.S. spent $9,403. That's nearly double what the others spent. This finding offers a new explanation as to why America's spending is so excessive. According to the researchers at the Harvard Chan School, what sets the U.S. apart may be inflated prices across the board. In the U.S., they point out, drugs are more expensive. Doctors get paid more. Hospital services and diagnostic tests cost more. And a lot more money goes to planning, regulating and managing medical services at the administrative level. In other areas, despite conventional wisdom, there seems to be less discrepancy between the U.S. and other countries than commonly thought. Experts have previously suggested high utilization rates could explain high spending in the U.S. But looking at hospital discharge rates for various procedures, such as knee and hip replacements and different types of heart surgeries, the researchers found that use of care services in the U.S. is not so different compared to other countries. In fact, compared to the average of all the nations, Americans appear to go to the doctor less often and spend fewer days in the hospital after being admitted. [...] The real difference between the American health care system and systems abroad is pricing."

"This Is the Amount of Money You Need to Be Happy, According to Research: Money really can buy happiness, as it turns out — but you might not need as much as you think. A large analysis published in the journal Nature Human Behavior used data from the Gallup World Poll, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries, to put a price on optimal emotional well-being: between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. That aligns with past research on the topic, which found that people are happiest when they make about $75,000 a year. But while that may be the sweet spot for feeling positive emotions on a day-to-day basis, the researchers found that a higher figure — $95,000 — is ideal for 'life evaluation,' which takes into account long-term goals, peer comparisons and other macro-level metrics. [...] Money really can buy happiness, as it turns out — but you might not need as much as you think. A large analysis published in the journal Nature Human Behavior used data from the Gallup World Poll, a survey of more than 1.7 million people from 164 countries, to put a price on optimal emotional well-being: between $60,000 and $75,000 a year. That aligns with past research on the topic, which found that people are happiest when they make about $75,000 a year. But while that may be the sweet spot for feeling positive emotions on a day-to-day basis, the researchers found that a higher figure — $95,000 — is ideal for 'life evaluation,' which takes into account long-term goals, peer comparisons and other macro-level metrics."

"Revolutionary Socialism And The Black Panther Party [...] As Fred Hampton of the esteemed Chicago chapter stated, 'You don't fight racism with racism. We're gonna fight racism with solidarity. You don't fight capitalism with Black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.' [...] At the same time, these were the same revolutionaries whose party motto was: All power to the people! Black power to Black people! Brown power to Brown people! White power to white people! Panther power to the Black Panther Party!"

"GOP Jesus"

Mattell has released a Doctor Who Barbie.

"Russia Wants Bulgarians to Stop Painting Soviet Monuments To Look Like American Superheroes."

I like the look of The Radical Literary Calendar 2019, although it has an obvious flaw. But the idea is good and it's the calendar layout I like.

The complete animated Discworld film,"Wyrd Sisters"

The Beatles live at the BBC, "Thank You, Girl"

08 November 2018

Happy Dawali!

Palast has been screaming for months about Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's illegal voter roll purges in an election where he was running for governor, which historically has meant resigning from the seat in the name of fairness. But this is a Republican election fraudster. Similarly, he's been after Kris Kobach, who was Trump's fraudster-in-chief. Those are two races I was particularly paying attention to, but in the last few weeks Palast was tweeting warnings in far more states, telling people to check their registrations. I couldn't even begin to keep track of all the problems I saw being tweeted about as Tuesday night went on, all over the country, including Brooklyn, New York. Utterly outrageous behavior on the part of election officials working hard to disenfranchise voters. Ari Berman in Mother Jones, "Voters Are Making an Unprecedented Number of Calls to Report Election Problems: Broken voting machines in New Jersey. Absentee ballots that never arrived in Florida. Voters being asked for the wrong forms of photo ID in Mississippi. A call center at a law firm in New York is fielding complaints from around the country of voting irregularities, and voters are reporting a wide range of barriers to voting in a midterm election that will determine control of Congress and the fate of President Donald Trump's agenda." Even Berman's list is not comprehensive, and the implication is that a lot of it was lack of preparedness for unusually high turnout for a mid-term election, but a lot of these are issues that only happen if you're trying to make it hard for people to vote. There should not be four-hour lines, ever.

Democrats took the House Tuesday (and got rid of Pete Sessions), picked up the Senate seat in Nevada but lost seats for Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. So much for the idea that running to the right helps Democrats, I guess. Presumed rising stars Randy Bryce (WI 1st Congressional district) and Beto O'Rourke (for the Texas Senate seat) failed to win their bids, so Ted Cruz is still in the Senate. On the bright side. Kris Kobach, major election fraudster, lost the Kansas gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly. Dems did flip more governorships than they lost (Scott Walker lost WI, and Maine finally got rid of LePage), and New York finally dumped its Republicans. Of course, with Maryland Democrats supporting the Republican governor, Ben Jealous lost by a decisive margin to Larry Hogan. But once again, we lost more right-wing Dems from office, which gives us the option of building a better Democratic position in those areas.

Oh, and I confess that I wanted to see this: "Democrat Ned Lamont Wins Connecticut Governor's Race," although I really have no idea how he will govern. Never gonna forgive Lieberman, though.

Some important races haven't actually been called yet, and the Gillum and Abrams races may be headed for recounts. Fingers crossed and all that, but so far it seems like the election frauds may have won.

The Onion, "Georgia Election Worker Assures Black Man Ballot Scanner Supposed To Sound Like Shredder."

Oh, yeah, Bernie Sanders won his Senate race with over 67%.

Twitter had some fun moments.

There was some great news on ballot initiatives, particularly:
• "Louisiana votes to eliminate Jim Crow jury law with Amendment 2: The law made Louisiana one of two states that allowed a non-unanimous jury in felony trials."
• "In Historic Move, Florida Approves Automatically Restoring Voting Rights To Felons: The move, reversing a Jim Crow-era policy, is one of the most significant expansions of the franchise in modern times."

Someone told me the Texas Board of Education flipped blue. That would be a big deal, since Texas seems to control textbooks all over America. However I couldn't find a story on that.

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I think I actually missed this last year when it was posted, but now that I've found it, you should read it.

Keep It Simple and Take Credit
By Jack Meserve

As Democrats stare down eight years of policies being wiped out within months, it's worth looking at why those policies did virtually nothing for their electoral success at any level. And, in the interest of supporting a united front between liberals and socialists, let me start this off with a rather long quote from Matt Christman of Chapo Trap House, on why Obamacare failed to gain more popularity:

There are parts to it that are unambiguously good — like, Medicaid expansion is good, and why? Because there's no fucking strings attached. You don't have to go to a goddamned website and become a fucking hacker to try to figure out how to pick the right plan, they just tell you 'you're covered now.' And that's it! That's all it ever should have been and that is why — [Jonathan Chait] is bemoaning why it's a political failure? Because modern neoliberal, left-neoliberal policy is all about making this shit invisible to people so that they don't know what they're getting out of it.

And as Rick Perlstein has talked about a lot, that's one of the reasons that Democrats end up fucking themselves over. The reason they held Congress for 40 years after enacting Social Security is because Social Security was right in your fucking face. They could say to you, 'you didn't used to have money when you were old, now you do. Thank Democrats.' And they fucking did. Now it's, 'you didn't used to be able to log on to a website and negotiate between 15 different providers to pick a platinum or gold or zinc plan and apply a fucking formula for a subsidy that's gonna change depending on your income so you might end up having to retroactively owe money or have a higher premium.' Holy shit, thank you so much.

This point has been made before on Obamacare, but the tendency behind it, the tendency to muddle and mask benefits, has become endemic to center-left politics. Either Democrats complicate their initiatives enough to be inscrutable to anyone who doesn't love reading hours of explainers on public policy, or else they don't take credit for the few simple policies they do enact. Let's run through a few examples.

This shouldn't even be a liberal-socialist divide, although it seems to have become one in recent years. When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn't provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples' houses shouldn't burn down, we didn't provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.

Now go read the rest — and then send it to any Dem reps you might have, and anyone else you think might benefit from having this drilled into them.

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This CNBC interview with Sherrod Brown is interesting. I mean the way he talks, it's so different from the way pretty much every other candidate is talking. I have my problems with him but seeing the way he talks about trade and never once attacks Trump even while disagreeing with how he went about it, I think I can see why he's doing so well. Brown won re-election to the Ohio Senate quite comfortably Tuesday.

Capital-D Democratic darling "Cory Booker uses anti-Semitic massacre as an excuse to dismiss Palestinians rights: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker says that the Pittsburgh massacre has led him to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. He becomes the first politician to use the killings of 11 Jews to take a racist position against Palestinian rights. His move should be described exactly that way, as a cynical use of real antisemitism as an excuse to dismiss Palestinian rights so as to further his political career."

Watch: Glenn Greenwald Breaks Down Lessons for the West From Bolsonaro's Fascist Victory in Brazil: "When the establishment class fails a huge portion of the population for enough time and to enough of an extent, sooner or later they will decide that it is the ruling class that is their enemy."

Glen Ford at Black Agenda Report, "Fascism is Real, But the 'Resistance' is Mostly Fake [...] I have no problem labeling Trump a fascist, and Bolsonaro appears to have no problem being called one. My problem is with a phony 'resistance' that defines fascism so narrowly that it applies, domestically, only to Donald Trump and his most crazed followers. For Democrats, the fascist label is mere political epithet, a demon-word hurled for election purposes."

Margaret Sullivan, former "public editor" at the NYT — the good one — has a new job as "Media Columnist" at the WaPo. "Defensive, caravan-fixated and Trump-obsessed, the media blow it again. Just not as badly." Of course, the media that reported on every hysterical word about the caravan conveniently forgot it as soon as the election was over, just like the White House and the rest of right-wing media seem to have done.

"LA Times Publishes Completely Different Political Endorsements in English and Spanish: LOS ANGELES — Why would the same newspaper, with a mainstream version in English and another version in Spanish covering the same geographical area and diverse communities, endorse different candidates for the same federal, state and local elections in each language? [...] The English version of the LA Times suggests you re-elect U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein because she comes from a more 'civil and productive era of governance' and has accomplished a great deal like that. The editorial casts doubt on the effectiveness of her challenger, state senator Kevin de León who seems 'unwilling to compromise.' LA Times en Español, however, has a different take. According to its editorial, de León is the best choice because he seems pragmatic and effective enough and knows the immigrant community best. And, after all, 'Dianne Feinstein has been in the Senate since 1992' and that's 'too long. A generational change is needed.'"

"3P Gives Glenn Kessler 8 Pinocchios for Healthcare Bungle." Kessler really seems to be desperate.

David Dayen, "The Dialysis Industry Is Spending $111 Million To Argue That Regulating It Would Put It Out Of Business

Thomas Ferguson, Benjamin Page, Jacob E. Rothschild, Arturo Chang, and Jie Chen at the Institute for New Economic Thinking have a new paper out, "The Economic and Social Roots of Populist Rebellion: Support for Donald Trump in 2016" (.pdf), which they introduce in "Economic Distress Did Drive Trump's Win" this way: "Contrary to the dominant media narrative, social issues like racism and sexism on their own can't explain Trump's success. [...] Economic factors mattered at both stages. Moreover, in the general election — in contrast to the primaries — leading social factors actually tended to hurt rather than help Trump. While agreeing that racial resentment and sexism were important influences, the paper shows how various economic considerations — including concerns about imports and job losses, wealth inequality, social welfare programs, and starved infrastructure — helped Trump win the Republican primary and then led significant blocs of voters to shift from supporting Democrats or abstaining in 2012 to voting for him. It also presents striking evidence of the importance of political money and senators' 'reverse coattails' in the dramatic final result." (Lee Fang has the short version at The Intercept, "Donald Trump Exploited Long-Term Economic Distress To Fuel His Election Victory, Study Finds.")

Lynn Parramore, also at INET, interviews Adolph Reed in light of the new paper, "Cheap Talk on Race and Xenophobia Keeps Americans from Confronting Economic and Political Peril: Adolph Reed, who researches race and politics, warns that 'identitarian' politics can conceal the structural inequities of capitalism. [...] I had a very sharp and studious black undergraduate student wholly inside a race-first understanding of politics. When I mentioned the white people who had voted for Obama once if not twice who also voted for Trump, his response was, well, of course you can't say that voting for Obama means that you're not a racist. I said, yes, that's true, but by the same token you can't say that voting for Trump means you are a racist, right? Which they don't want to accept.

Sam Seder and David Dayen, How Corporate-Funded Judicial Bootcamp Made More Conservative Judges on Ring of Fire.

Thom Hartmann says The Real Reason Why Republicans Fear 'Medicare for All' is that it will provide every citizen with legitimate voter ID. I'm pretty sure that's not the only reason.

"Start the Voter Suppression Hearings Now and Don't Stop [...] The House can hold hearings on voter suppression. They can start immediately. They can subpoena every fucking Republican secretary of state who can reasonably be judged to have assisted in the suppression of minority voters. They can subpoena law enforcement officials. They can subpoena campaign staffers. They can subpoena poll workers. They can call in all types of political science professors and statisticians and sociologists to explain in detail what is happening. They can invite Michelle Alexander to read the entirety of The New Jim Crow into the Congressional record. They can draw attention. They can make noise. They should, and they must. The more you let the overt oppression slide, the more it will be seen as the standard playbook for the next election." Personally, I'm not getting behind abolishing the Senate until House reps can only have 30K constituents.

The Onion, "White House Concerned Ryan Zinke Made Land Deal Without Giving Cut To Trump."

"See Beatlemania Hit the Comic Book World During the 1960s!" I actually remember that Jimmy Olsen stuff, but I remember finding it embarrassing.

"Motown Guitarist Wah Wah Watson Dead at 67: Born Melvin Ragin, the iconic guitarist lent his signature licks to the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, others."

Temptations, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone"