Friday, December 27, 2019

Did I say overlords? I meant protectors

Oops, got distracted by Christmas from posting the traditional Christmas links, but that's okay, they're good up to the Epiphany:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

"Six companies are about to merge into the biggest farm-business oligopoly in history: Top executives from Bayer, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Syngenta today (Sept. 20) testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, making a case for why federal regulators should approve the mega-mergers, which stand to fundamentally reorganize global agriculture. (Executives from the sixth company involved in the consolidation, China National Chemical Corp., declined an invitation to appear at the hearing.) [...] The consolidation of these six highly competitive companies into three juggernauts has left many farmers and consumers uneasy. Consumers advocates say they worry the mergers will usher in a 'new era of sterile crops soaked in dangerous pesticides.' Farmers worry that less competition in the marketplace will give the merged companies an ability to increase prices of seeds and chemicals—something that would be particularly harmful during a time when US farm incomes are dropping."

"Schumer Revealed as Key Industry Ally in Defeat of Effort to Curb Surprise Billing: It was one of a series of lobbying victories by the healthcare industry in 2019 bolstered by top Democrats. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer worked behind the scenes through December in the Senate to defeat a bipartisan initiative to curb surprise medical billing, according to a new report Friday which details the lobbying victories won by the for-profit healthcare industry in 2019."

"Why the Media Is Ignoring the Afghanistan Papers: The documents are a bombshell. So why do so few news outlets care? This week, The Washington Post published the Afghanistan Papers, an extensive review of thousands of pages of internal government documents relating to the war in Afghanistan. Like the Pentagon Papers, which showcased the lies underpinning the Vietnam War, the Post's investigation shows that U.S. officials, across three presidential administrations, intentionally and systematically misled the American public for 18 years and counting. As Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told CNN earlier this week, the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers revealed the same dynamic: 'The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.'"

"Andrew Yang Has The Most Conservative Health Care Plan In The Democratic Primary: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has had unexpected staying power in the Democratic presidential primary thanks in part to the enthusiasm for his plan to provide every American with a basic income of $1,000 a month. But the boldness of his signature idea only serves to underscore the unambitiousness of the health care plan he released earlier this month. In fact, Yang's health plan, which he bills as an iteration of the left's preferred 'Medicare for All' policy, is more conservative than proposals introduced by the candidates typically identified as moderate. [...] Under Yang's plan, people employed by businesses that do not provide insurance, or who are self-employed, would continue to purchase coverage on the exchanges created by former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The decision not to focus on expanding coverage distinguishes Yang dramatically from his competitors. And in the foreword to his plan, he explains that that is a deliberate choice, since enacting single-payer health care is 'not a realistic strategy.'"

"Accusing Bernie Sanders of antisemitism? That's a new low: The allegations should be called for what they are: politiking in service of politicians who will put more Jews in danger. [...] For Lowe and others on the right that have jumped on this bandwagon, though, details don't really matter. Sanders, an avowed democratic socialist, simply belongs to an opposing political camp with opposing values. Like the attacks against Corbyn abroad and Ilhan Omar at home, those now being lobbed at Sanders aren't about defeating antisemitism so much as using it as a narrative device to undermine a worldview that offends them. Sanders's solidarity with Palestinians suffering under occupation is not an affront to Jews but to the right's propaganda that looking out for their best interest means a blanket, unquestioning support for whatever the Israeli government happens to be doing, which at the moment includes maintaining a brutal apartheid state."

"National Democrats Have Endorsed Three Former Republicans In Key Senate Races: SENATE DEMOCRATS' CAMPAIGN arm has endorsed three former Republicans, adding to a list of races in which the party has continued a futile strategy of backing moderates over candidates with more progressive platforms. [...] IN OTHER SENATE races, national Democrats are backing conservative Democratic candidates over viable progressives. In Kentucky, for example, the party has coalesced around Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, a centrist who lost a winnable 2018 House race and stands little chance of unseating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. State Rep. Charles Booker is running to her left. In North Carolina, the DSCC has endorsed commercial litigation attorney, former state senator, and military veteran Cal Cunningham to replace Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who is one of the least popular senators in the country. The committee has backed Cunningham even though state Sen. Erica Smith, a progressive, has led both Cunningham and Tillis in polling — as recently as November. Cunningham has far outraised Smith, with $1.7 million — including $200,000 of his own money — to her $133,000, including $4,500 of her own money. Cunningham has had significant fundraising help from donors linked to Schumer. " We are mere minutes from the day when saying, "Bernie's not a Democrat" will be synonymous with saying, "Bernie's never been a Republican."

Is there a sea-change in Politico? "Democratic insiders: Bernie could win the nomination [...] A series of TV segments around last week's Democratic debate illustrate the shift in how Sanders is being perceived. 'We never talk about Bernie Sanders. He is actually doing pretty well in this polling,' former senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said on CNN after the event. 'He's actually picked up. And the fact is Bernie Sanders is as consistent as consistent can be.' The same day on MSNBC, national political correspondent Steve Kornacki said, 'Democratic voters like him, and if he starts winning, there could be a bandwagon effect.' GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a California focus group that found most participants thought Sanders had won the debate, said on CNBC, 'I think you're going to see continued movement. Sanders has been gaining in California over the past two months.' [...] Faiz Shakir, Sanders' campaign manager, said political insiders and pundits are rethinking his chances 'not out of the goodness of their heart,' but because 'it is harder and harder to ignore him when he's rising in every average that you see.' And he welcomes a conversation about Sanders' electability, he said. 'We want that,' he said. 'I'd love to be able to argue why he stands a better chance to beat Donald Trump than Joe Biden.'"

"Why Are Cops Around the World Using This Outlandish Mind-Reading Tool? The creator of Scientific Content Analysis, or SCAN, says the tool can identify deception. Law enforcement has used his method for decades, even though there's no reliable science behind it. Even the CIA and FBI have bought in. [...] The review devoted just one paragraph to SCAN. Its synopsis was short but withering. SCAN 'is widely employed in spite of a lack of supporting research,' the review said. Studies commonly cited in support of SCAN were scientifically flawed, the review said. 'When all 12 SCAN criteria were used in a laboratory study, SCAN did not distinguish truth-tellers from liars above the level of chance,' the review said. The synopsis also specifically challenged two of those 12 criteria, noting: 'Both gaps in memory and spontaneous corrections have been shown to be indicators of truth, contrary to what is claimed by SCAN.' In a footnote, the review identified three specific agencies that use SCAN: the FBI, CIA and U.S. Army military intelligence, which falls under the Department of Defense. Those were the very agencies responsible for this report, concluding there's no reliable science behind SCAN."

"Government Entitled To Edward Snowden's Book Money, Judge Rules The National Security Agency leaker violated secrecy contracts by discussing his classified work without approval, a federal judge said. The government is entitled to any money that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden makes from his book and paid speeches because he discussed his top-secret work without permission, a federal judge ruled. Snowden signed contracts while working for the NSA about handling classified information that detailed the government's sweeping surveillance programs, and his book and speeches are violations that permit the government to claim his profits, U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady wrote in an opinion released Tuesday in Virginia. 'The contracts at issue here are unambiguous and clear,' the judge wrote."

Intercepted, "We Tortured Some Folks: The Report's Daniel Jones On The Ongoing Fight To Hold The CIA Accountable: MONDAY MARKED THE five-year anniversary of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's executive summary on the CIA's torture program. The former top Senate Intelligence Committee investigator, Daniel Jones, and his team combed through 6.3 million pages of CIA records. Jones discusses the yearslong battle with the Bush and Obama administrations to make public the findings of this still-classified 7,000-page report. In this bonus episode, Jones expands on the torture report findings."

"What It Looks Like When a Hospital We Investigated Erases $11.9 Million in Medical Debt: MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When Danielle Robinson got a letter in the mail from Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in October, she braced herself. She'd missed a court-ordered payment to the hospital after she was laid off from her job in September. In 2018, the massive nonprofit health care system sued her for just over $11,500 in unpaid hospital bills, plus $3,800 in attorney's fees. In April, a Shelby County General Sessions Court judge ordered her to pay $150 per month toward the debt. If she was lucky, the envelope contained only a warning. If she wasn't, it was another attempt to garnish her paycheck, even though she wasn't even getting one. Nervously, she opened the letter. 'As of August 1, 2019,' it said, 'your total amount due is $0 for docket ROBINSON, and we have notified the court that this account has been paid in full.' 'I had to read it a couple of times just to make sure,' Robinson said. 'I couldn't believe it. I went crying around the house.'"

RIP: "Baba Ram Dass, Proponent of LSD Turned New Age Guru, Dies at 88: Born Richard Alpert, he first gained notice as a colleague of Timothy Leary and later became even better known as the author of Be Here Now."

Pareene in The New Republic, "A Decade of Liberal Delusion and Failure: It was the death of hope by a thousand tiny technocratic "nudges." As 2009 ended, the editors of this magazine at the time took their measure of the first year of Barack Obama's presidency and declared it, with some reservations, a modest success. 'All of this might not exactly place him in the pantheon next to Franklin Roosevelt,' they said of his major domestic achievements (the stimulus package, primarily, as the Affordable Care Act had not yet been signed). 'But it's not a bad start, given all the constraints of the political system (and global order) in which he works.' That was the broad consensus of American liberals at the time, ranging from nearly the most progressive to nearly the most neoliberal. Over the ensuing years, that consensus would crack and eventually shatter under the weight of one disappointment after another. The story of American politics over the past decade is that of a political party on the cusp of enduring power and world-historical social reform, and how these once imaginable outcomes were methodically squandered. [...] It's hard to remember now how wise everyone made it sound that the president and his team intentionally avoided doing things they worried would be too popular, but there would not be another New Deal."

"There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate: Economist Thomas Piketty wrote a paper about this in 2018, though the Democrats paid no attention. The Republican Party has earned a reputation as the anti-science, anti-fact party — understandably, perhaps, given the GOP's policy of ignoring the evidence for global climate change and insisting on the efficacy of supply-side economics, despite all the research to the contrary. Yet ironically, it is now the Democratic Party that is wantonly ignoring mounds of social science data that suggests that promoting centrist candidates is a bad, losing strategy when it comes to winning elections. As the Democratic establishment and its pundit class starts to line up behind the centrist nominees for president — like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg — the party's head-in-the-sand attitude is especially troubling.."

"'Authenticity,' 'Culturally Relevant': Why Bernie Sanders Is Resonating With Latinos [...] Recent polls by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and Latino Decisions all show Sanders as the top Democratic presidential candidate choice among Latino Democrats. He has a particular strength with young Latinos. The story of how a man who represents one of the whitest states in the country — Vermont — came to resonate with the largest nonwhite eligible voting block in the country is multifaceted."

"Pete Buttigieg's Campaign Says This Wikipedia User Is Not Pete. So Who Is It?: Tracking down the editor who tracks every move the South Bend mayor makes. [...] Luckily for Buttigieg, there is at least one person carefully looking out for his needs on Wikipedia—someone who has followed his political career from its very beginning, and whose interests and connections track his own with eerie sympathy. This Wikipedia user was there to post the site's first mention of Pete Buttigieg's political career in 2010, and to write the very first iteration of Pete Buttigieg's Wikipedia page. They go by the username 'Streeling.' Streeling is an old Irish word that means 'wandering,' the sort of word that might be familiar to the son of a scholar who studied James Joyce. Joyce uses the noun streel, meaning 'a disreputable woman,' in Ulysses, which Pete Buttigieg has cited as the book that influenced him the most." I can't help think this is either someone who has had a crush on Buttigieg since high school or one of Buttigieg's parents. It's like a a parental scrapbook of their kids.

"Future Audi Interiors Will Be A Button-Less, Screen-Filled Dystopia [...] Even if you generally know where you need to press on a touchscreen, you'll still need to look down more often than not to confirm. You can't just feel around for the right button. What happens if the touchscreen glitches or gets stuck? Will you be trapped and unable to turn off the air conditioning? You'll freeze! We've all experienced menus we can't back out of before. Does that mean we'll all have to get used to the hard-resetting (turning off then turning back on) of our cars, too?"

"Canadian Healthcare - Debunking the Myths" - Wendell Potter busting the myths he himself once spread on behalf of the health insurance industry.

"Louisa May Alcott's Forgotten Thrillers Are Revolutionary Examples Of Early Feminism: [...] Generations of scholars have examined Alcott's personal life (Civil War nurse, 'spinster,' possibly a lesbian), discussed ad nauseum her family's radical political activism (her father was not only a transcendentalist and an abolitionist, but believed in absolute equality of all races); and marveled at her childhood milieu, surrounded by people like Emerson and Thoreau and her mother's friends, Lucretia Mott and the Grimke sisters, as well as meeting Frederick Douglass and his wife. But far less attention is paid to her sensationalist 'blood and thunder tales'—pulpy thrillers she wrote early in her career, often using the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. This was the work Alcott was passionate about before the financial needs of her family forced her into writing what she called 'moral pap for the young.'"

Harry Potter But In 7 Different Genres

"Moonlight Etchings of the Forgotten Artist who Taught Edward Hopper"

Thursday, December 19, 2019

More slow glass

Jeremy Corbyn in the Guardian, "We won the argument, but I regret we didn't convert that into a majority for change: We are living in highly volatile times. Two-and-a-half years ago, in the first general election I contested as Labour leader, our party increased its share of the popular vote by 10 percentage points. On Thursday, on a desperately disappointing night, we fell back eight points. I have called for a period of reflection in the party, and there is no shortage of things to consider. I don't believe these two contrasting election results can be understood in isolation." The other good news: Many of the Labour MPs who lost their seats were virulently anti-Corbyn, and the leader of the "centrist" party, Jo Swinson of the LibDems, lost her seat while her party went down to a mere 11 seats.

"Pelosi brokers deal with liberals on drug pricing bill: The chamber's liberal wing had threatened to stall the bill, if Pelosi refused to make a series of last-minute changes to the legislation. Significantly, Pelosi didn't want to get rid of the no-negotiation rule from Bush's Medicare Part D. This was something *everyone* in the real world had expected (and wanted!) Obama to do and one of the reasons many felt betrayed by him. And it's not something anyone should have trouble selling to the public, and I mean Republican voters, too.

"Bernie Sanders' Broadband Plan Is Comcast's Worst Nightmare: Sanders promises to break up media monopolies, restore net neutrality, and embrace the countless towns and cities that are building their own broadband networks. AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast executives aren't going to like Bernie Sanders' new broadband plan. The wide ranging proposal, released Friday morning, would all but demolish big telecom's stranglehold over the broadband and media sectors, unwinding decades of unrelenting consolidation, imposing hard new limits on how much broadband providers can charge for service, while opening the door to significantly broader availability of community broadband. The proposal pulls no punches when it comes to the U.S.' broadband woes."

"'Despicable': Internal Emails Reveal Water Contractor Knew About Lead Risks in Flint Months Before City's Public Confirmation: 'I think anyone has to ask themselves how the story in Flint would be different five years later now if Veolia had made those private concerns public.'" Interestingly, in Forbes, "Democratic Politicians Go Back To Blaming The Poor For Their Poverty: It is typically well-off GOP members and sympathizers who explicitly and publicly blame low-income people, the poor, and everyone, for that matter, who feel discrimination, for all their problems. 'If only someone had worked harder. Had kept a family together. Valued education. Given up the cell phone. Stopped drinking those lattes. Stayed at work instead of wanting to go off and have kids.' These are self-soothing suggestions. Those with money want to believe that they have an innate right to it—that they worked hard and, through nothing more than their own effort, achieved what they have. Whereas, people in the U.S. are increasingly stuck when we look at upward mobility, according to data pulled together last year by Forbes.com contributor Aparna Mathur. Particularly when looking at generation over generation educational attainment—higher levels meaning upward mobility—for those born in the 1940s, the percentage that would exceed their parents was about 68%. Today, [...] If you're comfortably at the top, it could be distressing to consider that your fortune sat atop the backs of many people's opportunities. Lecturing on good behavior is much easier. In the past week, we had the unusual display of Democratic candidates doing exactly this."

"Ocasio-Cortez takes victory lap after Amazon goes to NYC — even after she helped block $3 billion in subsidies [...] 'The giant online retailer said it has signed a new lease for 335,000 square feet on the city's west side in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, where it will have more than 1,500 employees,' The Wall Street Journal reported. 'Amazon is taking the space without any of the special tax credits and other inducements the company had been offered to build a new headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, the company said.'" It was always obvious that Amazon wanted to be in New York and they needed no inducements. This is New York City, ffs.

"Pete for Corporate America [...] In Buttigieg, voters get a candidate who can define neoliberalism in a sentence, who will even say that he thinks it's a negative force in the world. But he has never explained what alternative he offers. Generational change, in the mayor's case, doesn't mean much. Voters will just get a younger version of a Democratic Party they already know." So, sorta like Hillary Clinton, only younger, and with different baggage.

"People hate shopping for health insurance: Americans rarely switch to new health plans when the annual insurance-shopping season comes around, even if they could have gotten a better deal. The bottom line: People loathe shopping for health plans, and many are bad at it, for one major reason: "It's just too hard," Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told me last year."

I'm with Lambert on this: If Pelosi didn't think Bush-Cheney's lies and lawbreaking were impeachable, what's her justification for this one? I'm sorry, but torture and lying us into a war that's cost hundreds of thousands of lives and made an even bigger mess of the world stand in horrific contrast to what Trump is accused of. "Impeachment, the House as Prosecutor, and Justice [...] Put Turley's justifiable polemic against a childish West Wing view of international relations aside. Just look at the triviality of the subject matter, whether you think Trump is guilty or not. White House appearances. Military aid. Corruption investigations. How is lying the country into the Iraq war not impeachable, and this mass of anodyne trivialities impeachable? When it's the same prosecutor declining to indict for Iraq, and deciding to indict for Ukraine? Whatever this is, it's not 'the impartial and consistent application of rules', and that means the House is failing in its prosecutorial duty to seek justice, and not merely conviction."

"Why Hospitals Never Have Enough Nurses: The Explanatory Power of 'Prasad's Law' of Wealth Concentration: Yves here. In case you haven't had the misfortune to acquire first-hand experience, what Vinay Prasad and Roy Poses say about chronic nurse shortages in hospitals appears to be correct. I have a good friend whose father was a doctor and who has spent big parts of her career in the medical biz (her first job was at the NIH) who says she would never go to a hospital in New York without bringing her own private duty nurses. And it is not as if she is flush. Poses uses this sad fact to illustrate a more general pattern for what gets readily paid for in US medical circles: only services that direct income into the hands of the wealthy. And this is a big reason why incremental reform of the medical system will not deliver meaningfully better outcomes for patients or lower costs. The idea, for instance, that Big Pharma gets to free ride on government-funded basic and often applied research and then price gouges patients has to stop."

The UK elections may be over, but this was a good video. "An Appeal By David Graeber Re: Labour 'Antisemitism': David Graeber - a Jewish Anthropologist - speaks to the dangers of the witch hunt and why a Jeremy Corbyn victory would be the most positive outcome for Jewish people not just in the UK, but worldwide."

"Researchers say there's a simple way to reduce suicides: Increase the minimum wage: Since 2000, the suicide rate in the United States has risen 35 percent, primarily because of the significant increase in such deaths among the white population. There are hints that these deaths are the result of worsening prospects among less-educated people, but there are few immediate answers. But maybe the solution is simple: pursue policies that improve the prospects of working-class Americans. Researchers have found that when the minimum wage in a state increased, or when states boosted a tax credit for working families, the suicide rate decreased."

"Billionaire-funded protest is rearing its head in America: Recently a crowd of protesters disrupted a speech by Elizabeth Warren. The activists might have seemed grassroots, but they weren't: Last week, Elizabeth Warren went to Atlanta to give a major speech about issues of concern to black women. Her speech touched on knotty, existential topics such as the legacy of slavery, institutional racism, voter suppression, mass incarceration and reparations. But the next day's headlines overwhelmingly focused on the fact that the speech was interrupted by a loud group of pro-charter school protesters. We were supposed to be talking about challenging centuries of institutional racism, but now we're talking about charter schools. How did that happen? If you suspect that some sort of nefarious action that can be traced back to plutocratic billionaires is involved — well, of course."

Now this is weird. "Clinton Donors Charged in Massive Campaign-Finance Scheme [...] The individuals conspired to 'make and conceal conduit and excessive campaign contributions' valued around $3.5 million in the 2016 election campaign and beyond, according to the announcement. Although the indictment does not specifically name the recipient of the donations, it is clear that the contributions went to groups allied with Clinton's presidential campaign."

"What really happened during the Battle in Seattle? And how the 1999 WTO protests changed the way we think about capitalism, globalism and economic equity. The WTO protests in November 1999 put Seattle on the map in a way that grunge and tech never could. The World Trade Organization had planned a meeting in the city to discuss trade agreements for the new millennium, but then tens of thousands of protestors filled the streets. For days, activists overwhelmed the event and the city's police force, which responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. The protesters were there to condemn corporate power and the potential impacts of free trade on human rights and the environment. And while the WTO ultimately continued its work, the protest had a big effect on Seattle and the world. It influenced similar movements, like Occupy Wall Street, to come to the city. And it impacted how we think and talk about capitalism, globalism and economic equity. Now, on the 20th anniversary of the so-called "Battle in Seattle," we invited a panel of local leaders to the Crosscut Talks podcast to discuss what happened in Seattle in 1999 and what it means to our world today. The episode begins with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and activist John Sellers, who are later joined by activist Nikkita Oliver and Norwell Coquillard, executive director of the Washington State China Relations Council. The conversation was recorded at KCTS9 studios in Seattle on Nov. 19, 2019, as part of the Crosscut Talks Live series."

RIP: "René Auberjonois, actor who starred in M*A*S*H*, Star Trek and Benson, dies aged 79: In a career spanning six decades, the actor worked on Broadway, in Hollywood's 70s golden age and TV. René Auberjonois, a prolific actor best known for his roles on the television shows Benson and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and his part in the 1970 film M*A*S*H*, has died aged 79. The actor died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles of metastatic lung cancer, his son Rèmy-Luc Auberjonois said. René Auberjonois worked constantly as a character actor in several golden ages, from the dynamic theatre of the 1960s to the cinema renaissance of the 1970s to the prime period of network television in the 1980s and 90s. For film fans of the 1970s, he was Father John Mulcahy, the military chaplain who played straight man to the doctors antics in M.A.S.H. It was his first significant film role and the first of several for director Robert Altman."

RIP: "Paul A. Volcker, Fed Chairman Who Waged War on Inflation, Is Dead at 92." He was a disaster.

"Why America's 1-Percenters Are Richer Than Europe's: A new Gilded Age has emerged in America — a 21st century version. The wealth of the top 1% of Americans has grown dramatically in the past four decades, squeezing both the middle class and the poor. This is in sharp contrast to Europe and Asia, where the wealth of the 1% has grown at a more constrained pace. [...] Rather than simply trying to make up for unequal pay through tax-code redistribution, Europe's economy delivers more equitable paychecks from the outset. Economists call this strategy 'pre-distribution.' Chancel suggests that the Europeans accomplish this through policies and institutions that improve workers' bargaining power — such as strong labor unions and higher minimum wages. And they push to make workers more productive, for example through broad-based access to education and health care. Whether U.S. voters will embrace such policies is an open question. But it's clear that rising inequality has made America exceptional — and not in a good way." Handy graphs.

"Kansas City, Missouri, Approves Free Public Transit for All: Mass transit measure is championed as 'visionary way to reduce inequality and better serve everyone in the community. 'Let's do this everywhere.' Lawmakers in Kansas City, Missouri took a "visionary step" on Thursday by unanimously voting to make public transportation in the city free of charge, setting the stage for it to be the first major U.S. city to have free public transit."

"Yes, There is a Civil War Within the Democratic Party—it's Just Not What You Think: The popular narrative about the Democratic Divide is all wrong and it's important that we realise the truth—before it is too late. [...] So yes, Mainstream Media and political pundits, there is a 'civil war' raging within the Democratic Party, but the rebels are not the Berniecrats. The true revolutionaries are the Clintonite apostates who have been trying for 20 years to overturn and reverse the greatest achievements of the Democratic Party, programs that help the poor, the working class and the middle class; programs that protect the people from the cruel vicissitudes of the Market and the sociopathic machinations of those whom FDR called 'the Economic Royalists.' The current Democratic Establishment is run by those self-same Economic Royalists; the robber barons whose hatred FDR welcomed are now met with open arms and warm receptions by the revolutionary Leadership that has seized control of the Democratic Party. These radicals have taken the Party of FDR, JFK, LBJ, RFK and turned it into the Democratic Party of Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan."

Another weird turn in the NYT: Ross Douthat makes "The Case for Bernie: The Democrats need a unifier. It could be the Vermont Socialist. [...] This is why, despite technically preferring a moderate like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, I keep coming back to the conservative's case for Bernie — which rests on the perhaps-wrong but still attractive supposition that he's the liberal most likely to spend all his time trying to tax the rich and leave cultural conservatives alone." That made me laugh.

Video, "Auschwitz Survivor - Israelis are behaving like 1930s Germans behaved - Hajo Meyer"

But PBS 2020 Segment Finds Time for Klobuchar, Sestak, and Bullock—But Completely Ignores Bernie Sanders." In the continuing story of pretending Bernie Sanders isn't in the race, this hits a new low for the establishment media. It's got to be a joke in newsrooms by now that they have to keep finding ways not to admit Sanders is any kind of contender. Here's The New York Times trying to win the award for this category with the headline, "Sanders Loses Third Place Spot in Nevada to Buttigieg," for example, and if you don't read the subhead, you miss how that happened: "As the senator rises to first in the polls, Buttigieg claims a strong lead behind Elizabeth Warren."

"The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself: Barack Obama is using his post-presidency to attack the Left and protect the status quo. The historical myth believed by so many liberals that Obama was a progressive leader who was hemmed in by the presidency's political constraints is collapsing fast. [...] More revealing, though, is what it tells us about Obama's attitude towards the populist left. The phrase 'stave off the same kind of forces that took over the GOP' belongs to Lizza rather than the former president himself, but it seems reasonable to conclude given Obama's words and actions that he views the Trumpian right and the populist left in roughly similar terms. If anything, Politico's investigation suggests he's been more concerned with opposing the latter since leaving the White House. As TrueAnon's Liz Franczak aptly put it: 'Obama went on like 200 billionaire yacht cruises and finalized his Netflix deal when Trump became president, but even a whiff of Sanders gaining momentum and he's running to the dais.' Now more than ever liberals, partisan Democrats, and progressives of every kind are overdue for a reckoning with Barack Obama, his legacy, and whatever residual feelings still linger from the euphoria of 2008. To his credit, Obama has always been fairly open about the conservative outlook that grounds his politics — even in the halcyon days of Yes We Can, he was already taking care to distance himself from radicalism and align himself with Reaganism. As for that initial question of what Obama wants, the answer is that he's told anyone willing to listen from the very beginning. Since 2016, his major concern has been to preserve a legacy whose progressive bona fides are increasingly threatened by the genuine radicalism of those to his left — and to use the vast power and influence at his disposal to stand in their way."

"'It's a Miracle': Helsinki's Radical Solution to Homelessness: Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them — unconditionally. [...] 'We decided to make the housing unconditional,' says Kaakinen. 'To say, look, you don't need to solve your problems before you get a home. Instead, a home should be the secure foundation that makes it easier to solve your problems.' [...] In England, meanwhile, government figures show the number of rough sleepers — a small fraction of the total homeless population — climbed from 1,768 in 2010 to 4,677 last year (and since the official count is based on a single evening, charities say the real figure is far higher)."

"Take Back Our Party Chapter 1: Their Democratic Party: The recent history of the Democrats, with neoliberalism ascendant, has offered little for ordinary working people. [...] The change that Clinton represented, however, went beyond a simple partisan shift in the White House. His historical significance lay in what he did not do. He did not reverse the conservative revolution and restore the core values of the New Deal. [...] In many ways, Clinton was the perfect standard bearer for the New Democrats. He was a Southern governor, apparently unstained by the corruption of the big city or of Congress. He had an impressive reputation as a policy wonk, having won a Rhodes Scholarship and graduated from the Yale Law School. He could fly back to Arkansas during the campaign to order the execution of the mentally disabled Ricky Ray Rector to demonstrate how 'tough on crime' he was. He emphasized welfare reform and school choice to highlight his willingness to break with past orthodoxies. He openly rejected his own party: 'The choice we offer is not conservative or liberal. In many ways, it is not even Republican or Democratic,' he said, accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party."

The Internet Archive is having a fundraiser. I want there to be a Wayback Machine so I hope you'll kick in, too.

Pretty! "Decorative Laser Cut Paper Compositions with Hand-Painted Ink by Julia Ibbini: United Emirates-based artist Julia Ibbini sources elements from Islamic geometry, embroidery, meenakari enamel work, and even electronic music to inspire the designs that compose her laser cut paper works."

"The Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar (2019 Edition)"

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity

Happy Advent, have some traditional music. At the darkest and coldest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, we need warmth and light, fellowship and joy, and I wish it to you all. Even Bill O'Reilly, much as he may try to spoil it.

"This is Bad: The Bolivian Military Coup Explained: Very Very Bad." It basically amounts to the right-wing claiming fraud because the popular left-wing president was pretty obviously winning, but read the article to see the details, which are a bit more than a simple pull-quote can clarify. And the OAS lied about "concerning" election results. Big takeway: The claim of "fraud" rests on the fact that returns from the areas where Morales' support is strongest came in later, so his six-point lead stretched over 10% as the data from the rural regions piled up.

Background from Newsweek back in April: "Bolivian Lawmakers Sent Letter To Donald Trump Asking Him To Intervene In Their Country's Election: A group of lawmakers in Bolivia is facing backlash after it sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting he work to intervene in their country's upcoming election in order to block President Evo Morales from running. The group of 12 politicians asked Trump to use Washington's influence within the Organization of American States to somehow prevent Morales from running for another term. In a 2016 referendum, which was later overturned by the South American country's Constitutional Tribunal, Bolivians voted to prevent Morales from seeking a fourth term." It's true that the referendum won, but it won very narrowly, and in the end, people clearly wanted to vote for Morales over the alternative. Which is probably why the opposition promoted term limits in the first place.

"Bolivia coup led by Christian fascist paramilitary leader and millionaire — with foreign support: Bolivian coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho is a far-right multi-millionaire who arose from fascist movements in the Santa Cruz region, where the US has encouraged separatism. He has courted support from Colombia, Brazil, and the Venezuelan opposition." The woman who simply declared herself interim president - supposedly for the sole purpose of calling new elections - has been very busy doing things that definitely are not in aid of free and fair elections, such as promising to arrest two-thirds of the legislature.. "The Bolivian Coup Is Not a Coup—Because US Wanted It to Happen: Army generals appearing on television to demand the resignation and arrest of an elected civilian head of state seems like a textbook example of a coup. And yet that is certainly not how corporate media are presenting the weekend's events in Bolivia. No establishment outlet framed the action as a coup; instead, President Evo Morales 'resigned' (ABC News, 11/10/19), amid widespread 'protests' (CBS News, 11/10/19) from an 'infuriated population' (New York Times, 11/10/19) angry at the 'election fraud' (Fox News, 11/10/19) of the 'full-blown dictatorship' (Miami Herald, 11/9/19). When the word 'coup' is used at all, it comes only as an accusation from Morales or another official from his government, which corporate media have been demonizing since his election in 2006 (FAIR.org, 5/6/09, 8/1/12, 4/11/19)."

"Unpacking Media Propaganda About Bolivia's Election: Pro-coup editorials rely on— and misreport—questionable evidence from the dubious OAS. To endorse the coup in Bolivia, numerous editorials in major US media outlets paint President Evo Morales as undemocratic. Exhibit A in their case is the Organization of American States' (OAS) claims that there was fraud in the October 20 Bolivian election in which Morales was elected for a fourth term. They also argue that he should not have been allowed to run again in the first place." A key claim in the propaganda is that Morales is "autocratic" because the Supreme Court overturned term limits, and the claim is that he had "packed the courts". That's an interesting charge since the judges aren't even appointed, but rather elected.

There was another debate. I can't seem to find a complete link yet but here's Everything Bernie Sanders Said During the Democratic Debate in Atlanta | NBC New York.

"Legislation That Would Surreptitiously Steal Social Security's $2.9 Trillion Surplus Has Been Defeated — But 97% of Republicans Voted For It: The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, in reaction to nearly every Republican member of the House of Representatives, as well as seven Democrats, voting for a Constitutional amendment requiring that all annual revenue and spending balance every year. The amendment failed to attain the two-thirds majority required to pass it into law:" If only they had an opposition party that was smart enough to make a big deal about this.

"Rodney Reed Lawyers 'Relieved and Thankful' After Stay of Execution Granted by Texas Court" - so far only a stay of execution, which is obviously not enough since he's now been fairly conclusively proved innocent. Bernie says it's not enough since we should join the civilized world and eliminate the death penalty.

In The New Republic, "The Fall of Nate Silver: His data journalism blog, FiveThirtyEight, is a political website with no politics—or rather, no politics beyond a mute approval of the status quo. [...] Silver, let's not forget, launched his career as a political forecaster in 2007 under the pen name 'poblano,' and as devilishly subversive as it no doubt was for a nerdy white boy to hide behind the pseudonymous cover of a foodstuff that brown people eat (this guy!), perhaps the signs were always there of a basic superficiality in the worldview of this, red flag incoming, University of Chicago economics major. "

"Watch The Iceland Christmas Ad Which Will Never Be Shown After Authorities Banned It; Supermarket Iceland's advert for Christmas has been banned for being too political. The commercial, made with Greenpeace, features an animated orangutan and highlights the destruction of the rainforest by palm oil growers."

Amazing Bloomberg headline: "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions: Life expectancy gains have stalled. The grim silver lining? Lower pension costs."

"Sweden drops investigation into bogus sexual misconduct allegations against Julian Assange: A Swedish prosecutor announced Tuesday morning that her office was dropping its preliminary investigation into allegations against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It is the third time that Sweden has been compelled to shelve the investigation for lack of any evidence to support it, and confirms that the claims of 'rape' or 'sexual assault' by Assange are a politically motivated fraud. The Swedish investigation has always been a stalking horse for the US government, which has sought to extradite Assange, either from Sweden or Britain, where he is currently jailed, in order to lock him up forever or execute him on charges under the 1917 Espionage Act, because of WikiLeaks' publication of evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange was illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London last April, after spending seven years inside, having been granted political asylum. At the time, the Swedish deputy director of public prosecutions, Eva-Marie Persson, reopened the investigation into claims—initiated by the police rather than the women involved—that Assange had been guilty of sexual assault in 2010."

This is the best news I've seen in a long time, that Mike's work will be back in print and with his last book finally published. "The Disappearance of John M. Ford: I wanted to learn why a beloved science fiction writer fell into obscurity after his death. I didn't expect that I would help bring his books back to life. [...] And so, after months of investigation, I found myself in an Iceberg Passage, seeing only some of the story while, lurking beneath the surface, other truths remained obscure. I do not share Ford's horror at obviousness, but there are simply things that we will never know. We will never know why Mike and his family grew apart, or, from the family's perspective, how far apart they were. We will never know who anonymously tried to edit the Wikipedia page to cut out Elise Matthesen. (The family denies any involvement.) But I reconnected Ford's family and editors at Tor, and after a year of delicate back-and-forth spearheaded by Beth Meacham, Tor and the family have reached an agreement that will gradually bring all of his books back into print, plus a new volume of stories, poems, Christmas cards, and other uncollected material. First up, in fall 2020, is the book that introduced me to Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Then, in 2021, Tor will publish— at long last— the unfinished Aspects, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman."

Astonishingly, in The New York Times, "Bernie Sanders vs. The Machine: In 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington. But the city's bureaucracy showed him that winning wasn't everything. So he learned how to fight back. BURLINGTON, Vt. — The young woman on the political leaflet was smiling, but the message printed beside her in bold capital letters was severe. 'The last two years,' it said, 'have shown that those who made the revolution are not always the best to lead after the coup.' To voters in Burlington, in 1983, the reference to Bernie Sanders was unmistakable. What Democrats here were calling a coup was this: A young socialist had captured the mayor's office two years earlier by a margin of just 10 votes, upending the political order in a comfortable lakeside city of about 38,000. For decades, an old-school Democratic machine had dominated municipal government. In 1983, the party intended to reclaim control by assailing Mr. Sanders's 'unkept promises.' But in his re-election campaign that year, Mr. Sanders crushed the competition. Casting himself as a champion of the people against the establishment, Mr. Sanders summoned voters to the polls in unusual numbers. He triumphed over two opponents — one Democrat and one Republican — by more than 20 percentage points."

"Federal Judge Allows North Dakota Republicans to Block Native Americans From Voting [...] Following Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's narrow victory in 2012, North Dakota's Republican lawmakers passed a new law requiring voters to present an ID that lists their current residential street address. The measure plainly targeted Native Americans, many of whom live on rural reservations with no street names or residential addresses. Previously, residents could vote with a valid mailing address, allowing rural tribal voters to list their P.O. Box. Now they must provide an ID with their exact residency—something that many Native Americans don't have and can't get."

Deconstructed Special: The Noam Chomsky Interview (audio and transcription), with Mehdi Hasan. "Forty years of the neoliberal assault on the general population which has been extremely harmful almost everywhere. It's led to anger, resentment, contempt for institutions. And when you have a period of unfocused anger, resentment and so on, it's fertile territory for demagogues to arise, and try to mobilize it, and blame it, not on its sources. So, like not on the international financial institutions that are lying behind it to a substantial extent. But to focus it on scapegoats. Typically, people even more vulnerable than you are, immigrants, Muslims, Afro-Americans. This goes way back to Ronald Reagan's 'Welfare queens' and so on and many other demagogues in the past. So yes, that's rising.".

Kate Aronoff in The Nation, "We Need a Green Bailout for the People: Here's what the government should demand when the economy tumbles and Wall Street comes begging. [...] The next crash will be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to decarbonize the economy, so the next recovery cannot aim to just blindly increase output and demand. An industrial mobilization on the scale of a Green New Deal could cause a short-term spike in emissions, but it will need to transform consumption qualitatively by giving more people access to real prosperity, not just the ability to buy more cheap junk. Sociologist Daniel Aldana Cohen has aptly called for a 'last stimulus' that would dramatically shrink those parts of the economy we don't need (fossil fuels, speculative finance, building more McMansions) while increasing those we do (renewable energy, public transit, care work, affordable housing, education, the arts, and more)."

"Is Your Employer Stealing From You? Millions of workers lose billions in stolen wages every year—nearly as much as all other property theft. [...] Wage theft isn't one of the crimes most prosecutors and politicians refer to when they talk about getting "tough on crime," but it represents a massive chunk of all theft committed in the U.S. A 2017 study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that in the ten most populous states, an estimated 2.4 million people lose a combined $8 billion in income every year to theft by their employers. That's nearly half as much as all other property theft combined last year—$16.4 billion according to the FBI. And again, EPI's findings are only for ten states. According to the institute, the typical worker victimized by minimum-wage violations is underpaid by $64 per week, totaling $3,300 per year. If its figures are representative of a national phenomenon, then EPI estimates that the yearly total for American wage theft is closer to $15 billion."

"California Mayors Back Plan to Make PG&E a Cooperative: Frustrated with wildfires and intentional blackouts caused by Pacific Gas & Electric, more than two dozen California mayors and county leaders are calling for a customer-owned power company to replace the giant utility."

A recent poll found that Fox News viewers were more likely to support Bernie Sanders than viewers of MSNBC were. That's not surprising, since Fox attacks Sanders all the time in just the ways that are likely to make people want to vote for him, but "MSNBC Is the Most Influential Network Among Liberals—And It's Ignoring Bernie Sanders: When the network's primetime pundits do cover Sanders, they cover him more negatively than Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden."

Linda Sarsour in Teen Vogue, "Yes, Women of Color Support Bernie Sanders. It's Time to Stop Erasing Our Voices. In this op-ed, the activist and Sanders surrogate argues that Sanders is the only candidate who can bring transformational change. [...] Women of color are exhausted from bearing the disproportionate burdens of inequality — and with so much at stake in this election, we are exhausted from having to explain ourselves. Every time our choice for the presidency is discredited, our agency of women of color is stripped away. Every time people echo the patently false 'Bernie Bro' narrative, they erase our voices as well. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, we will not hesitate to support them in the summer of 2020. But by supporting Sanders in the primary, women of color are simply continuing the fight for justice we have spearheaded for generations."

Oh, look whose reared his bankster head again. "Deval Patrick, Foreclosure Mogul: How the 2020 Democratic presidential contender helped a Republican billionaire rip off the middle class." Short version: He covered for Ameriquest. He also covered for Texaco. "Under Patrick's leadership in 1997, the DOJ signed a $176 million settlement with Texaco for racial discrimination against its employees. A year after a court approved the deal, he left the DOJ for a job as Texaco's top in-house attorney." It appears Barack himself has convinced him to enter the presidential race. I guess he doesn't fancy the chances of any of the other "centrists" in the race and really hates the alternative possibilities of Warren and Sanders.

"The Iron Law of Institutions: What You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 Primary [...] If you don't believe the Democratic party is redeemable, don't get your hopes up that another party would end up being much better. Any other party would also be subject to the Iron Law of Institutions. It thus would be quickly just as dreadful as the Democrats...unless people put in the same amount of work as would be required to clean out the Democrats' Augean stables.

"Billionaires hurt economic growth and should be taxed out of existence, says bestselling French economist [...] Thomas Piketty, whose 2013 book on inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, became a global bestseller and bible for tax-the-rich progressives, just published a 1,200-page follow-up book called Capital and Ideology It won't be published in English until March. But in an interview with the French magazine L'Obs, Piketty called for a graduated wealth tax of 5% on those worth 2 million euros or more and up to 90% on those worth more than 2 billion euros. [...] Piketty added that the notion that billionaires create jobs and boost growth is false. He said per capita income growth was 2.2% a year in the U.S. between 1950 and 1990. But when the number of billionaires exploded in the 1990s and 2000s — growing from about 100 in 1990 to around 600 today — per capita income growth fell to 1.1%."

"The US could raise $1 trillion more in taxes through stricter IRS enforcement, according to a new study [...] There will be more than $7.5 trillion uncollected taxes by 2029 under the current system, they estimated, and roughly 70% of that would be driven by underpayment by the top 1% of earners."

Dean Baker, "How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on Windows? [...] This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress."

"Why Political Pundits Are Obsessed with Hidden Moderates [...] This isn't just a question of bad punditry—it's a window into how skewed our standards have become by the extreme concentration of wealth and the normalization of an assault on the formerly bipartisan, post-war governing consensus, which embraced forceful government regulation of corporations and a steeply progressive income tax structure. But while elites have accepted the concentration of wealth, the leveling of the tax code and the decimation of even basic consumer protections as normal, the majority of voters have not. Americans have been losing faith in government for decades, long before Trump. And income inequality is driving that loss of faith."

David Dayen, "What Obama Really Wants: His interventions in the presidential race are music to the ears of the wealthy and powerful. [...] Obama has determined to put his thumb on the primary scale, and he couches his critique in the language of electability, in what voters really want. Practically every Democrat in America wants to eject Donald Trump from the White House, and ask 100 of them and you get 101 theories of how to make that happen. But without doubting Obama's sincerity that a moderate politics and only a moderate politics can spell victory next November, I can't help but notice the audiences for his targeted attacks on progressive policy: wealthy donors in the most rarefied, winner-take-all enclaves of America, whether in Washington last week or San Francisco on Thursday. It's rather telling that The New York Times quoted Obama's friend Robert Wolf to unlock the former president's mindset, when he argued that Obama is 'trying to set a tone.' Who is Robert Wolf? The former chairman and CEO of UBS Americas, the U.S. affiliate of the Swiss megabank, who now sits on the board of Obama's foundation, and owns a venture capital firm and a company offering 'drones as a service' on the side. That's the milieu Obama lives in today; he hasn't spent a year on the campaign trail like the candidates have. And his warnings about runaway liberals doing 'crazy stuff' just so happen to line up with protecting the profits and lifestyles of those wealthy donors. In doing so, Obama is revealing the limits of his own incrementalism, which cannot surmount a Washington rigged in favor of elites. This has real consequences in politics and policy, for who sits in power and who struggles on the outside. During his own presidency, Obama told a group of bankers that he was the only thing standing between them and the pitchforks. Here we are, sadly, again."

Haretz, "The Contract on Corbyn [...] Corbyn is not an anti-Semite. He never was. His real sin is his staunch position against injustice in the world, including the version Israel perpetrates. Today this is anti-Semitism. The Hungarian Viktor Orban, the Austrian Freedom Party and the extreme right in Europe are not the danger to Jews. Corbyn is the enemy. The new and efficient strategy of Israel and the Zionist establishment brands every seeker of justice as an anti-Semite, and any criticism of Israel as hatred of Jews. Corbyn is a victim of this strategy, which threatens to paralyze and silence Europe with regard to Israel."

An entertaining little ad from the Labour Party, "Jeremy Corbyn: There's a DEADLINE to rewrite your future."

Mehdi Hasan, "When Asked How They'll Pay for Their Plans, Democrats Should Answer Just as Trump Does: Mexico: [...] When they are inevitably asked by a moderator from MSNBC or the Washington Post how they plan to 'pay for' one of their signature proposals — whether it is Medicare for All (Elizabeth Warren), a Green New Deal (Bernie Sanders), baby bonds (Cory Booker), middle-class tax cuts (Kamala Harris), or a universal basic income (Andrew Yang) — they should respond with one word: Mexico. Mexico, they should say, with the straightest of straight faces, will pay for it. Yes, that line would get a big laugh from the crowd in the hall. It would go viral online. It would endear the candidate who dares say it to Democratic voters watching at home (many of whom are fed up with debate moderators who constantly frame their questions around GOP talking points). It would help that candidate dominate the post-debate headlines on cable news. But it would do much more than that: It would serve a major strategic purpose. Democrats who dare to remind pundits and the public of Donald Trump's ridiculous yet oft-repeated campaign pledge that 'Mexico will pay for the wall' would finally be drawing a crucial line in the sand and saying to Republicans, to the media, and even to each other, that they will no longer be playing the tiresome and very right-wing 'pay for' game."

The tweet caught my attention:: While we were distracted by Ukrainegate over the past weeks, @SpeakerPelosi hid an extension of the Patriot Act into HR 3050, the House's version of the bipartisan bill in the senate that allows for trillions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid Snap and SS." And the linked article: "Why the Hell Did Democrats Just Extend the Patriot Act? House leadership included the measure in a government funding bill—and even members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus went along with it. [...] Just 10 Democrats defied the leadership to vote against the resolution, including Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar (a.k.a. 'the Squad'). 'I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of a [continuing resolution] that reauthorizes unconstitutional mass surveillance authorities,' Tlaib told me, 'especially under a president who has retweeted images of his opponents jailed and suggests anyone who disagrees with him is a criminal.' AOC tweeted before the vote, 'Yeah that's gonna be a no from me dog.'"

"Senate Democrats Join GOP to Back 'Automatic Austerity' Bill That Would Gut Social Programs, Hamstring Bold Policies: 'One priority of a Sanders or Warren White House absolutely must be politically crushing the deficit scolds within the Democratic Party.' A handful of Senate Democrats joined forces with Republicans last week to advance sweeping budget legislation that would establish an "automatic deficit-reduction process" that could trigger trillions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and other social programs—and potentially hobble the agenda of the next president. The Bipartisan Congressional Budget Reform Act (S.2765), authored by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), passed out of the Senate Budget Committee on November 6. The legislation is co-sponsored by five members of the Senate Democratic caucus: Whitehouse, Mark Warner (Va.), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Coons (Del.), and Angus King (I-Maine). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, issued a statement last week opposing the legislation and warning it 'could be used by Republicans to unilaterally cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition assistance—all supposedly to reduce the deficit.'" The others you could expect this from, but I don't think I'll pay attention next time someone tells me what a great progressive Sheldon Whitehouse is.

"Los Angeles County to Introduce VSAP E-Voting System: NOT Hand-Marked, NOT Paper, NOT Hand-Counted in Public: No doubt Los Angeles County's VSAP ('Voting Solutions for All People') rollout will not be covered as a debacle. The real question is: If there were a debacle — like, say, a case of election fraud — would we even know? Doubtful. Just what we want in a voting system! In this post, I'll give a brief overview of issues with electronic voting. Then I'll look at VSAP as an institution. Next, I'll show why the VSAP system is not only insecure, but likely to make money-in-politics even worse than it already is."

"No Imitations and No Limitations: Phillip Agnew talks to us about the Movement for Black Lives, the erasure of Bernie Sanders's diverse support base, and the need for a North Star beyond capitalism. [...] Yes, if anything, Barack Obama was a tranquilizer to many people. When activists went to visit him in the White House, he spoke down to us, counseling us on the way he sees change happening. He continues to speak ill of movements since leaving the presidency."

"Top U.S. Toxicologist Was Barred From Saying PFAS Cause Disease In Humans. She's Saying It Now.: THE WIDESPREAD ENVIRONMENTAL contaminants known as PFAS cause multiple health problems in people, according to Linda Birnbaum, who retired as director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program earlier this month. The statement may come as little surprise to those following the medical literature on the industrial chemicals that have been used to make nonstick coatings, firefighting foam, and host of other products. Thousands of scholarly articles have linked the chemicals to at least 800 health effects. Some of the health problems found in humans — including elevated cholesterol levels, liver dysfunction, weight gain, reproductive problems and kidney cancer — have been shown to increase along with the levels of the chemicals in blood. Extensive research also shows that children with higher levels of PFAS have weakened immune responses. Yet while she was leading the NIEHS, a division of the National Institutes of Health, whose mission is 'to discover how the environment affects people, in order to promote healthier lives,' Birnbaum was not allowed to use the word 'cause' when referring to the health effects from PFAS or other chemicals."

Adolph Reed, Jr., "How Racial Disparity Does Not Help Make Sense of Patterns of Police Violence [...] But, when we step away from focus on racial disproportions, the glaring fact is that whites are roughly half or nearly half of all those killed annually by police. And the demand that we focus on the racial disparity is simultaneously a demand that we disattend from other possibly causal disparities. Zaid Jilani found, for example, that ninety-five percent of police killings occurred in neighborhoods with median family income of less than $100,00 and that the median family income in neighborhoods where police killed was $52,907.4 And, according to the Washington Post data, the states with the highest rates of police homicide per million of population are among the whitest in the country: New Mexico averages 6.71 police killings per million; Alaska 5.3 per million; South Dakota 4.69; Arizona and Wyoming 4.2, and Colorado 3.36. It could be possible that the high rates of police killings in those states are concentrated among their very small black populations—New Mexico 2.5%; Alaska 3.9%; South Dakota 1.9%; Arizona 4.6%, Wyoming 1.7%, and Colorado 4.5%. However, with the exception of Colorado—where blacks were 17% of the 29 people killed by police—that does not seem to be the case. Granted, in several of those states the total numbers of people killed by police were very small, in the low single digits. Still, no black people were among those killed by police in South Dakota, Wyoming, or Alaska. In New Mexico, there were no blacks among the 20 people killed by police in 2015, and in Arizona blacks made up just over 2% of the 42 victims of police killing."

"Drinking water supplying Great Lake turns toxic [...] 'If you did a Google image search for 'Toledo water,' what would pop up is the Toledo skyline where the Maumee River looks like the Chicago River on (St. Patrick's Day),' Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said. "The only difference is we didn't put any dye in it.'"

Patriotic Millionaires have a column in The Hill, "Ensuring everyone pays their fair share: Most people have heard of the estate tax, or as it's labeled by conservative fearmongers, the 'death tax.' But few understand just how important it is, how weak it's become in recent years, or why that matters. Thanks to the 2017 Trump tax cut — one of the biggest wealth grabs in history — a couple can now pass on an estate worth up to $22.8 million completely tax-free. With such a high cutoff before you start paying any estate tax at all, this clearly isn't something that prevents working class families from passing along their savings to their children and grandchildren. Rather, it's one of the best defenses we have in addressing economic inequality — one of the defining challenges of our time — and pushing back against the growth of a new American aristocracy, one in which a small number of wealthy families get wealthier while working Americans fall further behind. It's the only tax that many ultra-rich heirs will ever pay on the millions of dollars they're inheriting. And unless you're incredibly wealthy, you'll never pay a cent of it."

"Researchers Discover Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon And Is Twice As Healthy As Kale: Researchers at Oregon State have patented a new strain of seaweed that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The seaweed, a form of red marine algae, looks like translucent red lettuce. It also has twice the nutritional value of kale and grows very quickly. Did we mention it tastes like bacon?"

Pareen in The New Republic, The Death of the Rude Press: Deadspin and Splinter were only the most recent victims of a culling that began many years ago. [...] This is not a story about the private equity vampires ruining this specific company. It is about the implications of the fact that Splinter was not allowed to live, and Deadspin is not allowed to be political. Rude media, for lack of a better term, is dying. [...] Rudeness is not merely a tone. It is an attitude. The defining quality of rude media is skepticism about power, and a refusal to respect the niceties that power depends on to disguise itself and maintain its dominance. It's often hard for me to imagine that anyone can grow up in this era and not end up doubting the competence and motives of nearly everyone in charge of nearly every American institution, but some of us grow up instead to be Bari Weiss. For various reasons you could figure out after a couple hours with the writings of a Noam Chomsky or a Robert McChesney, this skepticism is frequently missing from the coverage of what we once called the 'mainstream media,' and people who have long and successful careers at our most prestigious press outlets tend to either never possess it, or have it systematically beaten out of them over time."

"Trends in Party Identification, 1939-2014: For more than 70 years, with few exceptions, more Americans have identified as Democrats than Republicans. But the share of independents, which surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans several years ago, continues to increase. Currently, 39% Americans identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling. Report: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation"

RIP: "Diahann Carroll: Pioneering actress dies aged 84 Carroll, who was 84, starred in 1960s TV show Julia, the first US sitcom to centre on a black woman. She was also the first black woman to win the Tony for best actress in 1962, for Broadway musical No Strings. She went on to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress in 1975 for Claudine.

I was cheered to see this in The Los Angeles Times, "Opinion: The Democratic debate confirmed it — we've entered the 'Bernaissance' [...] He and his supporters gathered on a scorching unshaded high school basketball court at a rally in El Sereno last weekend. Hearing him address nurses and teachers and undocumented Americans with such vitality, in the midst of such a vital campaign, just weeks after a heart attack, was moving. 'No half measures,' he insisted at the rally. 'We don't have decades,' he said about the climate crisis Wednesday night. Sanders has a sense of urgency that matches this moment and thoughtful policies — his devotion to which has been proven over the course of decades — to match that drive."

Nicole Aschoff reviewed Matt Stoller's latest book and criticized it - from the left. "It's Not Enough to Be Against 'the Monopolies': Antitrust is, and was, an extremely limited strategy for reining in corporations. We need a broader project to democratize the economy and the state. The 2008 financial crisis was traumatizing for millions of Americans. For some, the pain was visceral, caused by losing a job, a home, savings. For others, like Matt Stoller, the suffering was more existential. Stoller was working as a congressional staffer during the financial meltdown and witnessed firsthand how the US government screwed over homeowners while bailing out the bankers and speculators who had caused the crisis. Stoller wasn't alone in his disgust. Neil Barofsky, a prosecutor for the Southern District of New York who was brought on to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program, had similar sentiments. After much thought (and a book), Barofsky concluded that the US government had been 'captured by the banks.' Stoller would no doubt agree, but in his new book, Goliath: The 100-Year War Between Monopoly Power and Democracy, he situates the crisis in a much longer struggle.

RIP: Michael J Pollard, at 80, from a heart attack. "American actor who played the hapless getaway driver in the 1967 film classic Bonnie and Clyde." He also had a bunch of sf genre credits, but our eyes once met across a hotel lobby while I was checking in and he was looking straight at me and caught my look of surprised recognition. He was just as twinkly as he was on screen and I grinned and gave him a wink and went to find my room in the strange and legendary Chelsea. No idea what he was doing there, he'd just been sitting as if he was waiting for someone to arrive.

"Steal This Archive? Abbie Hoffman's Papers Become a College Collection: Thousands of letters and other artifacts from the life of the radical prankster of the counterculture are sold to the University of Texas at Austin"

Ringo was lookin' really good the day they did that shoot. "Abbey Road Walk"

I'm sorry, I can't explain my sudden inability to stop hearing Queen in my head all the time, but there it is. "Don't Stop Me Now" for an hour.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

One golden glance of what should be

"Democratic Socialists Had a Pretty Good Election Night: Several of the victories were in purple states. [...] Some were historic victories. In Philadelphia, the DSA-backed independent candidate Kendra Brooks won her City Council seat by over 10,000 votes, flipping a slot held by Republicans for generations. The national organization even sent DSA members from New York down to Philly to help knock on doors for her. [...] DSA members not endorsed by the national committee also won city council seats in Medford and Lansing; in Virginia — where Democrats won a majority of seats in the state legislature and turned every branch of the state blue for the first time in 26 years — delegate Lee Carter, a DSA member, won reelection."

"BERN NOTICE: Trump Pal Matt Bevin's Attacks On Bernie Wildly Backfired: After portraying his reelection campaign as an explicit crusade against Bernie and the working-class agenda fueling Bernie's campaign, GOP Gov. Matt Bevin said he felt 'confident' he'd win by 6 to 10 points in the Republican-leaning state of Kentucky. Instead, by the end of election night, Bevin was down, and both Kentucky's Secretary of State and NBC News declared that Bevin lost the race. Whatever happens with the final results (Bevin has not conceded), the fact that Kentucky's election was even close is a fantastic sign for the 2020 election and Bernie's campaign. It shows that GOP attacks on Bernie and his agenda are likely to backfire — even in traditionally Republican states."

"Fracking halted in England in major government U-turn: Victory for green groups follows damning scientific study and criticism from spending watchdog.The government has halted fracking in England with immediate effect in a watershed moment for environmentalists and community activists. Ministers also warned shale gas companies it would not support future fracking projects, in a crushing blow to companies that had been hoping to capitalise on one of the new frontiers of growth in the fossil fuel industry. The decision draws a line under years of bitter opposition to the controversial extraction process in a major victory for green groups and local communities. The decision was taken after a new scientific study warned it was not possible to rule out 'unacceptable' consequences for those living near fracking sites. The report, undertaken by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), also warned it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger."

"Brazil's former president Lula walks free from prison after supreme court ruling: Brazil's former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been released from prison after a supreme court ruling that delighted his supporters and infuriated followers of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro. Lula, who was serving a 12-year corruption sentence, was greeted by hundreds of supporters wearing red vests emblazoned with his face outside the federal police headquarters in the city of Curitiba, where he had been imprisoned for 580 days. In a speech to the crowd, Lula thanked party militants who had camped outside throughout his imprisonment, and attacked the 'rotten side' of the police, prosecutors, tax office and justice system for jailing him." Shortly after his release, Lula was on Twitter thanking Bernie Sanders for his solidarity - and endorsing him for president.

Flabbergasting interview:The Enigma of Clarence Thomas w/ Corey Robin - MR Live - 11/4/19. Some people wonder where Clarence Thomas is coming from, but I gotta admit, I was not expecting that.

On CNN, "Cornel West: This is not the time for centrism: CNN's Anderson Cooper sat down with professor Cornel West to discuss Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and what it means to be a democratic socialist."

"Career-Long Conservative Joe Biden Attacks Progressives, Extols Imaginary Bipartisanship And Middle Way To Nowhere And Nothing [...] When Biden-- almost as big a liar as Trump-- wrote that "I have fought for the Democratic party my whole career" he was lying in the same manner he's been lying his whole life. [PolitiFact rates 15% of Trump's public statements 'true' or 'mostly true' and rates 37% of Biden's 'true' or 'mostly true,' better than Trump for sure-- but that still leave most of what he says a lie. Most Democratic politicians mostly tell the truth, not most lie.] In the past, Biden has admitted that when he was just getting started in politics he 'thought of myself as a Republican.' The Delaware Republican Party was talking with him about running as a Republican but he was hesitant because he didn't like Richard Nixon. Because of that antipathy for Nixon, he registered as an Independent. After he went to work for a local Democrat, Sid Balick, he switched his registration to Democrat and soon after began running for office, appealing to white resentment of black people.

"By trying to Silence Sanders, the Corporate Media De-Legitimize Themselves [...] In the absence of massive, grassroots movements, corporate voices always drown out all the others. Capitalist ownership of the media allows the rich to frame their own worldview as the political 'center,' thus relegating contending ideologies to the 'extremes' of left or right. In this sense, 'centrism' is nothing more than the political position of the corporate owners, who construct media versions of reality that make corporate-concocted policies seem the most logical, commonsensical and socially responsible approach to the world's problems. As long as the rich can sustain broad public trust in the 'truth' of their 'journalistic' products -- newspapers, electronic newscasts, books and other media created by professional operatives directly answerable to rich owners — widespread revolt against the corporate order is unlikely. "

"The Media Has a Right-Wing Bias. Politico's Founder Just Admitted It: How Republicans benefit from the media's centrist instincts. [...] It's hard to think of an analogy that does this justice. Phil Jackson admitting the triangle offense has lost its potency in the space-and-pace NBA? Paul Ryan turning on trickle-down economics? This is not exactly a mea culpa. Instead, it's a forthright description of the way that D.C. media works, all but acknowledging that liberal critics of mainstream news coverage have been right all along. Despite what the right might say, the problem with the news isn't a liberal bias—it's bias toward an arbitrary, made-up center that ends up tilting reality against liberal policies and politicians. [...] Here one of the nation's preeminent political journalists is admitting that he and other members of his class adhere to a rather cynical ideology—the ideology of finding the midway point between a normal party with normal policies and proposals and an intellectually bankrupt tribe of troglodytes that gets crazier and more morally repugnant by the day. The problem, in the view of Harris, is that pesky 'activists' (which is really just another word for 'voters') get in the way. Candidates like Warren and Bernie Sanders suffer in this environment because their ideas are out of step with the D.C. consensus. They are automatically categorized as 'extreme,' their ideas 'unworkable,' all because they reject the midway-point mode of governance, which only ends up favoring the actual extremists on the right."

Shickha Dalmia in The Week, "The real reason Kamala Harris is tanking [...] The real reason she's falling is that the more voters learn about Harris' decade-and-a-half record, first as a San Francisco prosecutor and then as the California attorney general, the more they recoil. And rightly so. Harris has long billed herself as a "progressive prosecutor." To most people, that would strike as oxymoronic. But to her this meant using the carceral state that conservatives like to tackle social problems that progressives care about. She's got the mindset of a cop who wants to save you not from the bad guys but yourself. "She repeatedly fought for more aggressive prosecution not just of violent criminals but of people who committed misdemeanor and 'quality of life' crimes," Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted after an exhaustive look at Harris' record."

"The Inflation Gap: A new analysis indicates that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones. In an era of wild inequality, sputtering wages, and rising rents and health-care costs, the American working class has had one consistent financial respite: 'stuff,' broadly defined, is cheap. Sure, workers might not be able to afford a decent apartment, a college education, or sufficient elder care for an infirm relative, or to ever, ever get sick. But burgers, leggings, yard tools, bicycles, dishes, smartphones, soda—these items have become less expensive, thanks to big-box stores and internet retailers and imports from abroad. Or perhaps not. A new analysis from a prominent group of economic researchers suggests not only that rising prices have been quietly taxing low-income families more heavily than rich ones, but also that, after accounting for that trend, the American poverty rate is significantly higher than the official measures suggest. Call it 'inflation inequality,' a subtle, pernicious way that the fortunes of the rich and the poor have diverged. Using government data and scanner data from retail stores—the bar codes that get swiped at Target, the produce codes that get punched in at grocery stores—Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics found that from 2004 to 2015, the prices of the products purchased by the bottom income quintile increased faster than the prices of the products purchased by the top income quintile. As a result, low-income families experienced an annual rate of inflation conservatively estimated at 0.44 percentage points higher than that of high-income families."

"Manufacturing Fear and Loathing, Maximizing Corporate Profits! A Review of Matt Taibbi's Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise One Another [...] For all that, however, the most salient difference between the news media of 1989 and the news media of 2019 is the disappearance of the single type of calm and decorous and slightly boring cis-het white anchorman (who somehow successfully appealed to a nationwide audience) and his replacement by a seemingly wide variety of demographically-engineered news personæ who all rage and scream combatively in each other's direction. 'In the old days,' Taibbi writes, 'the news was a mix of this toothless trivia and cheery dispatches from the frontlines of Pax Americana.... The news [was] once designed to be consumed by the whole house.... But once we started to be organized into demographic silos [italics mine], the networks found another way to seduce these audiences: they sold intramural conflict' (p. 18). And in this new media environment of constant conflict, how, Taibbi wondered, could public consent, which would seem to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from conflict, still be manufactured?? 'That wasn't easy for me to see in my first decades in the business,' Taibbi writes. 'For a long time, I thought it was a flaw in the Chomsky/Herman model' (p. 19). But what Taibbi was at length able to understand, and what he is now able to describe for us with both wit and controlled outrage, is that our corporate media have devised — at least for the time being — highly-profitable marketing processes that manufacture fake dissent in order to smother real dissent (p. 21). And the smothering of real dissent is close enough to public consentto get the goddam job done: The Herman/Chomsky model is, after all these years, still valid. Or pretty much so. Taibbi is more historically precise. Because of the tweaking of the Herman/Chomsky propaganda model necessitated by the disappearance of the USSR in 1991 ('The Russians escaped while we weren't watching them, / As Russians do...,' Jackson Browne presciently prophesied on MTV way back in 1983), one might now want to speak of a Propaganda Model 2.0. For, as Taibbi notes, '...the biggest change to Chomsky's model is the discovery of a far superior 'common enemy' in modern media: each other. So long as we remain a bitterly-divided two-party state, we'll never want for TV villains' (pp. 207-208)."

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism notices something odd. "Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries Ousted from The Real News Network in June; Current Fundraiser Hides that Fact; Falling Viewership and Liberal Turn Result: It's remarkable, or perhaps a function of the aggressive use of non-disclosure agreements, that the June defenestration of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries from The Real News Network, the site they had founded and run for over a decade, has been kept under wraps for so long." And now that I think of it, I haven't posted anything from TRRN since April, haven't seen anything interesting from there.

Luke Savage, "Neoliberalism? Never Heard of It: The latest liberal parlor game is pretending there's no such thing as neoliberalism. The game's very popularity highlights neoliberalism's enduring hegemony. For the first time in decades, it has become possible to envision real alternatives to the prevailing political and economic order of the past forty years. In both Europe and the Americas, the neoliberal consensus is facing a crisis of moral, intellectual, and popular legitimacy: proving unable to deliver either the growth or the broad prosperity its ideologues once promised and facing robust electoral challenges from both the socialist left and the nationalist right. Predictably enough, this turn of events has elicited a defensive response from neoliberalism's greatest partisans and those otherwise invested in its political and cultural hegemony."

"Measles wipes out immune system's memory, study finds: Scientists say threat posed by measles is 'much greater than we previously imagined' [...] Measles causes long-term damage to the immune system, leaving children who have had it vulnerable to other infections long after the initial illness has passed, research has revealed. Two studies of unvaccinated children in an Orthodox Protestant community in the Netherlands found that measles wipes out the immune system's memory of previous illnesses, returning it to a more baby-like state, and also leaves the body less equipped to fight off new infections. Measles eliminated between 11% and 73% of children's protective antibodies, the research found."

Still fun to watch: "Old Movie Stars Dance to Uptown Funk"

Queen, "It's a Kind of Magic"