Wednesday, January 16, 2019

As I rise, the stakes get higher

Sanders, Cummings and Colleagues Announce Legislation to Lower Drug Prices (video)

"Vowing to Fight Corporate Power on Behalf of Working Families, Elizabeth Warren Announces 2020 Presidential Run: In a move seen as an official signal that she is entering the 2020 contest for president, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Monday sent an email to supporters and shared a video on social media announcing that she is forming an exploratory committee to examine her viability as a candidate in the next presidential race."

Tulsi Gabbard also announced, and there was some discussion of that on The Michael Brooks Show, TMBS - 73 - AOC Is Good, Tulsi...?, & Brexit Breaks May ft. Ana Kasparian. (Julian Castro has also announced, and I haven't found a good article about it yet.)

"Celebrating Cyntoia Brown's Clemency, Rights Advocates Vow to Continue Fighting for Human Trafficking Survivors Behind Bars: A decade-long campaign which garnered national headlines in recent months came to fruition on Monday, as Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown, a sex-trafficking survivor who has been behind bars for 15 years for murder."

"Minnesota AG's report reveals big telcos are literally letting their infrastructure rot: More than a decade of foot-dragging on fiber rollout has left millions of Americans dependent on taxpayer-funded copper-line infrastructure for landlines and DSL, but it's not like the carriers are plowing their no-fiber savings into copper maintenance, instead, as a report released by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson details, incumbent telcos are literally leaving their infrastructure to rot: wires are draped across customers' lawns (and over their propane tanks!), boxes containing key network gear are left smashed and rusting, and carriers' poles and other furniture are literally propped up with 2x4s, or have random logs placed against their wires to hold them in place. Swanson's investigation follows alarm-bells raised by the unionized telco maintenance staff and customers, who have filed more than 1,000 complaints against Frontier, Minnesota's incumbent carrier. The neglect is takes place in an environment of deregulation prompted by the rise of VoIP services, which gave the carriers and the FCC the excuse they needed to allow the telcos to self-regulate their copper-line infrastructure." Worth clicking just to see the photos.

Theresa May failed again to get her latest Brexit plan through, 432-202. May survived the vote of confidence but she only has until March to get it together, and so far she shows no signs of finding a way to do this thing. Meanwhile, some people wonder why Labour seems to have shown such half-hearted interest in defending Remain. It might help to read "Everything you need to know about Lexit in five minutes" - that's the long-standing left-wing case against the EU. Hint: It's about the ease with which employers can simply move companies or jobs to countries with lower wages and fewer worker protections.

"Supreme Court Blocks ExxonMobil's Effort to Conceal Decades of Documents in Probe of Oil Giant's Climate Deception: The high court's ruling means the company must hand over records to the Massachusetts attorney general for her ongoing investigation"

"Federal Judge Strikes Down Iowa 'Ag-Gag' Law: DES MOINES, Iowa (CN) — Iowa's so-called 'ag-gag' law that makes it a crime for undercover journalists or animal-rights activists to investigate and report on animal abuse in livestock facilities is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled Wednesday. U.S. District Judge James Gritzner in Des Moines struck down the 2012 statute passed by the Iowa Legislature aimed at preventing reporters or activists from entering livestock facilities under false pretenses to report animal abuse."

Maté, "Someone Finally Explained the Trump-Russia Story and It Will Make You Question Everything: I think what's going on is a sustained disinformation campaign in the West to convince people in the West that they are susceptible to a massive Russian disinformation campaign. I mean if you look at it, it's a joke. These so-called sophisticated posts that we are supposed to be afraid of are juvenile, stupid, clickbait content that nobody would be talking about and that nobody would even have noticed really unless every single corporate media outlet and all these government officials were making them such a big deal. I mean, it's ludicrous. [...] And what it actually reveals, I don’t think people realise this, but it shows what contempt liberal elites have for average voters — this notion — that anybody could have been duped by these stupid juvenile ads, and this idea that these ads could sow discord. I am not joking, the latest headline on this front that I saw was this one from the site Qz: and this is the headline: 'Russian operatives were promoting sex toys on Instagram to sow discord in the US.' And what is amazing is how many grown adults in positions of influence in media and in politics are taking this seriously and are trying to present to us that we should be afraid of all this, when there are so many more problems — there are so many problems out there that decide elections, it’s a joke."

"New Poll: US Military Occupations Supported By Far More Democrats Than Republicans: A new Politico/Morning Consult poll has found that there is much more support for ongoing military occupations among Democrats surveyed than Republicans." I couldn't find how this poll was conducted in the linked .pdf.

David Dayen, Ryan Grim, and Aída Chávez, "Progressives Fought For Key Committee Spots, But Centrist New Dems Came Out On Top: REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ failed in her long-shot bid for a seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, according to an announcement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday evening. Pelosi named a member of the New Democrat Coalition, the centrist wing of the party, to the seat instead, part of a sweeping set of wins by the Wall Street-friendly caucus."

"Bernie Sanders Rebukes Trump for Stoking 'Fear and Hatred' With Lie-Soaked National Address: 'Instead of trying to bring us together as a people, he is trying to divide us up. And, in the process, divert our attention away from the real crises facing the working families of this nation.'"

"Democrats Don't Just Support Medicare for All, 84% in New Poll Want Party Leaders to Make It 'Extremely Important Priority': 'Are you listening?' party Leaders asked as new Politico/Harvard survey shows more than 8 in 10 Democrats think covering everyone 'through taxpayer-fund national plan' should be urgent pursued"

"'Huge Step in Right Direction' as de Blasio Unveils Guaranteed Healthcare Plan for All NYC Residents: One progressive organizer said the bold plan 'clears a path toward statewide single-payer' in New York"

I don't know about you, but I personally found it refreshing that Andy Samberg said in public that the Black Panthers "were all framed and murdered for wanting justice and equality. The world is and always has been a nightmare; it just seems worse now because of our phones." Just sayin'. (Oops, the article is still there but the video disappeared, so try this.)

"Angela Davis 'Stunned' at Award Revocation, But Still Coming to Birmingham: Activist, poet, academic and writer Angela Davis says she was 'stunned' to learn last Saturday that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute had rescinded its invitation to honor her next month, in her hometown, with the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Award for Human Rights. However, in a statement released Monday, Davis revealed she is still coming to Birmingham. 'Despite the BCRI's regrettable decision,' she said, 'I look forward to being in Birmingham in February for an alternative event organized by those who believe that the movement for civil rights in this moment must include a robust discussion of all of the injustices that surround us.' [...] 'The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI)'s decision to rescind an honor previously extended to Angela Davis is only the latest incident in a well-documented nationwide campaign to censor and punish critics of Israel. Davis joins a long list of scholars and activists who have been censored , fired , de-funded , defamed , harassed and targeted with frivolous litigation because of concerted efforts by the Israeli government and anti-Palestinian organizations in the U.S. to silence debate.'"

"The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb On The Scales Again — This Time In The Right Direction: DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE Chair Tom Perez is setting a kind of cover charge to get onstage for the Democratic presidential primary debates, but not just any money will do. In addition to the usual polling metrics required to join the debate, candidates will also have to meet a to-be-determined criteria for 'grassroots fundraising.' Including small-dollar fundraising as a necessary element for debate participation would have two effects. First, it incentivizes candidates to invest — strategically, financially, and emotionally — in growing a small-donor base. Second, it will force potential billionaire self-funders like Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Howard Schultz to demonstrate some level of popular enthusiasm for their campaigns, meaning they can't just flash their own cash and buy their way onstage. This is a remarkable decision for any political party, and it reflects a growing shift in how campaigns are run and won. It also previews what will be an important way to measure the success of candidates in the Democratic primary: not just looking at how much money candidates raise, but how much of their money comes from small-dollar donors."

"In Major Move, Census Bureau Offers Up Citizenship Data For Redistricting: In what could be a major change for voting rights and the distribution of political power between urban and rural areas, the Census Bureau signaled Friday that it is willing to work with state and local officials charged with drawing voting districts if they want citizenship data for the redistricting process. [...] The decision prompted alarm by voting rights activists, civil rights advocates and policy wonks. They believe it will depress the participation of immigrant communities on the census — causing an undercount that would shift political power and resources away from those populations — while also leading to exclusion of non-citizens in legislative redistricting altogether in some states and localities." But a federal court disagreed, though the Supremes might step in to give it the go-ahead again.

Matt Taibbi, "Return of the Neocons! The new 'Bulwark' is the latest signpost on the road back to power for America's most disgraced brand of politics: Neoconservatives, the architects of the War on Terror, are the political version of Jason in Friday the 13th: You can never bank on them being completely dead. They just hide under a log until the next funder appears. The neocon media tribune, the Weekly Standard, did indeed fold recently. In no time they had a new voice: The Bulwark, edited by former Weekly Standard and current NBC/MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes, with Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol listed as 'editor at large.' [...] Because they started this Middle East disaster on a lie and even bragged about doing so — 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality' — they undermined faith in a smorgasbord of American institutions, from the news media to the presidency to the intelligence community to their own party. This was a huge reason for the rise of Trump, who ran against 'elites' and capitalized on voters' loss of trust in institutions like the press. Conveniently, neocons had already begun tacking back to the Democrats by then. [...] o, longtime Democratic Party advisers are once again triangulating against their party's own progressive wing, which was the core strategy of the original 'Third Way' Democrats in the early Nineties. Party leaders now want to kick out populist, antiwar liberals in the same way Frum once wanted to excommunicate antiwar conservatives. This overlaps nicely with neocons' efforts to stake out the same turf between Trump and Sanders. This is becoming a little like watching two people pretending not to be attracted to one another even though everyone knows they make each other horny. I'd say the Bulwark neocons and their Democratic allies need to get a room, except they already have MSNBC (as noted by recently resigned reporter William Arkin, who complained the network had become a forum for a 'single war party'). As Glenn Greenwald noted in the Intercept last year, the 'most extreme and discredited neocons' began uniting with Democrats 'long before the ascension of Donald Trump.' [...] If you're not concerned about undead neocons making a comeback while Trump is in office, that's understandable. Many people will take allies against Trump from wherever they can. Just don't be surprised if 'liberal interventionists' are sitting in the White House once Trump leaves the scene. These are determined revolutionaries who've been scheming for years to throw a saddle on the Democratic Party after decades in bed with Republicans. Sadly, they have willing partners over there."

David Dayen at Vice, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Plan to Tax the Rich Is the Opposite of Radical: Her idea of a 70 percent tax on income above $10 million isn't wild, and wouldn't pay for everything the left wants. But that's the wrong way to think about it. Some politicians can move previously fringe ideas into the forefront of the debate without even trying. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on 60 Minutes of a 70 percent top marginal tax rate for Americans earning over $10 million has people thinking again about what America could look like rather the oligarchy it currently is. But the real purpose of these ideas has been obscured amid a tired and one-sided argument about balanced budgets: As Ocasio-Cortez would likely tell you, there's a big difference between trying to find revenues and trying to deliver progress to the country. [...] But musing about how to raise money assumes that such revenue is required to 'fund' government operations. We know that Ocasio-Cortez finds such assumptions dangerous. She subscribes to modern monetary theory, which argues that any country with its own currency isn't constrained by federal debt. Just last week, Ocasio-Cortez voted against the House rules package because it contained a 'paygo' requirement that all new spending must be offset by budget cuts or tax increases. In her conception, meeting public needs deserves a much higher priority than the budget deficit. So why, then, would Ocasio-Cortez suggest higher tax rates on the rich? Maybe it's because they could discourage runaway compensation at the top that has triggered skyrocketing income inequality. When the US had a 91 percent top marginal tax rate in the 1950s, hardly anyone actually paid it. But CEOs made far less than they do today; why would they ask for a heavy raise if the government was going to grab most of it anyway? [...] So when you look at Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion on taxes, you shouldn't think about it solely in terms of raising money. Think about it as perfecting our union."

"Ocasio-Cortez's "Not At All Outlandish" Proposal for 70% Tax Rate on Uber-Wealthy Could Raise $720 Billion Over Decade: 'So even as [Republicans] dunk on AOC as stupid or ignorant,' argues Paul Krugman, 'she's talking sense based on reputable economic research, while the whole GOP is talking nonsense from charlatans and cranks.' "

"Sweden Has a 70 Percent Tax Rate and It Is Fine [...] One thing missing from the discussion so far is the point that a 70 percent top tax rate exists, not merely in midcentury US tax codes or in academic papers, but also in the real world right now. Sweden has a 70 percent marginal tax rate and it kicks in, not at $10 million like AOC proposes, but at around $98,000. AOC's proposal is quite modest by comparison."

Wonkette, "Why Are We All Yelling About 'Pay-Go?' [...] First off, let's be clear: Paygo IS a really stupid relic of deficit hawkery. It requires that any legislation be paid for, either by cuts to existing government programs or by new revenues. But it's a damn sight better than what Republicans had in place when they held the House, which was "cut as you go" (or "Cutgo" -- an anime character with a razor), which only allowed the use of budget cuts in one area to offset new spending -- no new revenues of any sort. And of course, the Rs cheerfully waived it when it came to passing its $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts For Rich Fuckwads Act. [...] Ah, this is where it gets complicated: You see, in addition to the House rule, paygo is also enshrined in federal law, as Progressive Caucus co-chair Mark Pocan explained on the Twitter boxes: It sucks, and Dems should get rid of it when they have the Senate and the presidency, but until that's the case, it's better for the House to control how new spending will be paid for, because under the existing law, the executive branch can institute cuts to balance out any deficit spending. This would not be a good thing!"

Matt Stoller, "Congressional Staffing for Dummies: The Pay Go Dispute: There are a lot of people arguing about this thing called Pay Go. Here's my attempted explanation of what Pay Go is and how it intersects with stuff you care about. [...] Well now that I've gotten through the basics, here's what the fight is about. In 2010, the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress passed a law to ensure Congress would be 'fiscally responsible. Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker in 2010 when Congress passed the statute, and she is proud of being fiscally responsible. This law says that if Congress doesn't go through a PayGo process for its aggregate spending and taxing in the full fiscal year, the White House's Office of Management and Budget gets to choose a bunch of programs to cut in a process known as sequestration. Sequestration is in law. It was a law that sort of made sense at the time, because Obama was President and Democrats didn't so much mind if a Democratically controlled OMB got to make a bunch of important decisions. But guess what? Trump is now President, which means he's the one that gets to decide the cuts that happen if Congress doesn't use a PayGo decision-making process."

Ryan Grim and Aida Chavez, "Behind The Pay-Go Battle Is A Central Contradiction That Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Her Allies Will Need To Resolve: IN THE FIRST vote of the 116th Congress on Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was one of just three Democrats who split with their party and voted against a rules package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and backed by the leadership of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Ocasio-Cortez's political career so far has been largely defined by her willingness to break from the pack, but her dissenting vote alongside just two others highlights the paradox of her position in the House: Her high-profile platform allows her to shape the national conversation, but the same energy that fueled her rise can be met with a very different reaction inside the walls of the Capitol."

Ryan Grim has a blog, by the way, where he has other pieces about Pay-Go, immigration, and that nasty AIPAC bill that's not only reared its ugly head again, but is actually the first bill the new Senate has brought up.

"'Let's Get Our Priorities Right': Outrage as Bipartisan Group of Senators Pushes Bill to Punish Boycotts of Israel Amid Shutdown: 'It's absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity,' declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)"

Not from The Onion, but Bloomberg, "Americans Are Dying Younger, Saving Corporations Billions."

"Russian news may be biased — but so is much western media: Manipulation of the news for propaganda purposes is not the prerogative of the west's enemies. It's vital to look at all media, including the UK's, with a critical eye." The difference between Russian media and Western media, as always, is that Russians know they are seeing propaganda, and westerners are oblivious.

I missed this last month - "Every Single Member of US Congress Approved Crushing Sanctions on Nicaragua: After defeating a violent US-backed coup attempt, Nicaragua's elected government faces the NICA Act. The bill aims to force the Sandinistas from power by ratcheting up economic despair." I hoped that headline really meant the House, but no, "On November 27, amendments for the combined legislation were approved with unanimous consent in the Senate. Then on December 11, the changes were unanimously approved in the House without objection."

Trollwatch from The New York Times, "Secret Experiment in Alabama Senate Race Imitated Russian Tactics: As Russia's online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results." Hm, I thought Correct the Record had done that already. Anyway, "Here's The After-Action Report From the Alabama Senate Disinformation Campaign," Operation Birmingham.

"Senate Report on Russian Interference Was Written By Disinformation Warriors Behind Alabama 'False Flag Operation: Hailed by Congress and the media as defenders of democracy, high-tech Russiagate hustlers Jonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox have been exposed for waging 'an elaborate 'false flag' operation' to swing the 2017 Alabama senate race."

Great episode of Citations Needed on The Neoliberal Optimism Industry: On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything's going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence. Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel."

The Majority Report posted some Best of the Year clips while they were on vacation:
MR Best Of 2018: Neoliberalism With Julie Wilson
No Labels Proving to Be a Group of the Wealthy, FOR the Wealthy
MR Best Of 2018: Facing Fascism w/ Henry Giroux
MR Best Of 2018: America's Forgotten Black Pioneers & the Struggle for Equality w/ Anna-Lisa Cox

And here's one from the regular line-up that I want to listen to again so I'm saving it here: Fugitive Slaves & the Struggle for America's Soul w/ Andrew Delbanco - MR Live - 12/17/18.

The first show of the year was pretty good, too, and makes some great points about how bravely Liz Warren faced the Washington establishment. (Worth remembering, again, it took a lot of backbone to steadfastly refuse to endorse a candidate in the 2016 primaries despite enormous pressure from Clinton and the party to give in to her early.) News w/ MR Team - MR Live - 1/2/19

The Michael Brooks Show Final Show Of Another Dumb Year ft. Wosny Lambre

And in the new year, TMBS - 71 - The Difference Between Bernie and Warren (And Everyone Else) ft. Bhaskar Sunkara
TMBS - 72 - LA Teachers Striking For All Of Us & The Advocate NYC Needs ft. Nomiki Konst

12-28-18 Nicole Sandler Show — Our Final Show of 2018 with Dave Johnson

Sirota's tweets and article on Beto O'Rourke's campaign donation sources and record upset Neera Tanden, with the result that long, hateful threads toward Sirota ensued on Twitter. It's not hard to agree with the TYT crowd about this. But the good news is that The Houston Chronicle itself took the article seriously, saying, "Beto and Bernie debate raises questions about Texas' oil economy: Politicians across the spectrum should face this moment as an opportunity to organize their best ideas and smartest policies and present them to the American people. What would an effective carbon tax look like? What would a Green New Deal mean for Houston's refinery workers?"

From GQ, "No Democrat Deserves a Free Pass Just Because They're Not Trump: The completely manufactured "Bernie vs. Beto" fight is a reminder that there's nothing wrong with demanding more from candidates."

"Why did nobody mention that Beto O'Rourke's wife is a billionaire heiress? Bloomberg once estimated the wealth of Beto's father-in-law at $20 billion. But obviously that's not worth mentioning when you profile him." She's a charter school exec, too.

And Katie Halper interviewed Sirota, "The Factual Reporting About Beto by David Sirota That Stirred Epic Freakout [...] Right. And I think it really speaks to is something very sad about our politics, which is that there's an authoritarian tendency to our politics. I do think that there are a lot of people out there on both the right and in the Democratic party who just want a coronation. They don't necessarily believe in the basic fundamentals of democracy. One of the basic fundamentals of democracy is that there are contested primaries. Candidates go back and forth and they debate their policies and they debate their records and this is healthy. This is a healthy discourse and I think there are a lot of people who buy into the argument that it would be better if we just appointed two nominees, had the two nominees run against each other, and that would be it. If I have an ideology, I'm ideologically opposed to the idea that we must coronate candidates and just have uncontested elections where we don't debate the issues. I think that they're terrified off scrutiny. They're terrified of what's going to be revealed." (Note to David: The ceremony is called a coronation but the act is to crown, not to "coronate".)

It's worth reading this one for the little history lesson, "Democrats rev up to offend most of their base, again: Don't you dare look at Beto's voting record! The commonly accepted explanation for Hillary Clinton's 2016 loss was that anyone and everyone who did not vote for her was influenced by a Russian Internet troll farm funded by Putin. The trolls sent out thousands of Facebook and Twitter lies (some of which were true like the DNC's treatment of Bernie Sanders and his supporters) and everyone who failed to support Clinton believed these lies because they're all morons. There's no similar explanation for how Clinton lost to Obama in 2008."

Amazingly, this is from Politico, "Democrats Aren't Moving Left. They're Returning to Their Roots. Many on both sides are worried about the party's leftward swing. They say it's a deviation from the mainstream. It's not. [...] But there's something wrong with this historical interpretation: Truman strongly supported single-payer health care. Moynihan supported a universal basic income in the 1960s. Dating back to World War II, Democrats sought to make a government-paid education available to as many Americans as possible. If Democrats are marching to the left, that road leads directly back to platforms and politicians who, in their day, commanded wide support and existed firmly in the mainstream of political thought."

From The Forward, "Bernie Sanders Isn't Just Another White Male Candidate. His Nomination Would Be Historic. Sanders is white, yes, but he's also Jewish, and last time around he got closer to the presidency than any Jew in history ever had. Based on his standing in early polls, he has a real shot to win the nomination this time. But the response to that history-making prospect, among Jews and non-Jews alike, has been decidedly muted. [...] In February 2016, the New York Times ran an article about the subject, entitled 'Bernie Sanders Is Jewish, but He Doesn't Like to Talk About It,' which began by quoting a New York rabbi who expressed dismay that Sanders had described himself as 'the son of a Polish immigrant who came to this country speaking no English and having no money.' The article went on to describe the contours of Sanders's Jewish identity: the son of an immigrant whose family was murdered in the Holocaust on one side and the grandson of immigrants on the other, Sanders is entirely Ashkenazi Jewish, was born and raised in Brooklyn, does not regularly attend synagogue, is married to a Catholic, defines himself by the struggle for social justice on behalf of all oppressed peoples, and has a left-leaning view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is, in short, probably not very different from a lot of Forward readers."

"Sanders' wing of the party terrifies moderate Dems. Here's how they plan to stop it. Party members and fundraisers gathered for an invitation-only event to figure out how to counteract the rising progressive movement."

Norman Solomon, "Corporate Democrats Are Already Punching Left Ahead of 2020 [...] Such calculated nonsense indicates just how panicky some powerful corporate Democrats are about Sanders' likely presidential campaign — and just how anxious they are to protect corporate-oriented candidates from public scrutiny. The quest is to smother meaningful discussions of vital issues that should be center stage during the presidential campaign."

People keep asking me who I would support for president other than Bernie Sanders. Understand, I still think Sanders is the best choice, but the list of other people who have any time in office and aren't awfully far to the right is really pretty short. I probably wouldn't have to hold my nose to vote for this guy in the general, though: Jeff Merkley's full speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

"It's Time to Bring Back the Corporate Death Penalty: When big companies engage in criminal harm to the public, they deserve serious punishment [...] The good citizens of California have been wondering out loud who killed 86 of their citizens in the Camp Fire, along with dozens of other Californians over the years in other fires. Now both federal and state prosecutors are focusing on a likely suspect: Pacific Gas and Electric. California's largest private, for-profit corporate utility appears to have killed a number of people over the years, in many cases because of negligence apparently prompted by a desire to jack up corporate profits. As a corporation, they play by different rules than you or I. [...] When a corporation does business ethically and legally, it serves its local community, its employees, its customers, and its shareholders. For over a century, American corporations were held to this very reasonable standard."

Thank you, Brandi Collins-Calhoun, for writing "'Surviving R. Kelly' Left Me Sleepless — But I'm Nobody's Victim."

"Bernie's Plan for Racial Justice: The micro-scandals alleging that Bernie Sanders doesn't take racism seriously won't end any time soon. We should call them what they are: cynical attacks on a politician whose commitment to racial justice is intertwined with fighting economic inequality." The Daily Beast gave the H8% some ammo; Meagan Day clears it up.

Stephanie Kelton on Bernie 2020 - and, of course another tutorial. And here's more of her at We Can Have Nice Things.

I got depressed when I tried to read this, so I stopped, but if you are made of sterner stuff, "Dmitry Orlov: How Russians survived the collapse of the Soviet Union."

Alex Pareen, "2018: The Year In Ideas: A Review Of Ideas

"The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare: Why did Casper sue a mattress blogger? A closer look reveals a secret, multimillion-dollar battle to get you into bed."

Thanks, Mike and Mark, as always. Also, finally watched all of Leverage, and the final episode made me sad because it wasn't true.

See the pretty: If you haven't been to Maia's Flickr page lately, it's always good for your eyes.

"A song for the overworked and underpaid: Listen to Leyla McCalla's 'Capitalist Blues'"


  1. Russian disinformation … it's not real clear how much impact it had, but there was a huge amount of it (yuge, just yuge.) Hard to see how it could have made no difference. The whole story? Probably not. But it might have swung close elections in several states.

    And, really, no-one ever went lost an election by underestimating the taste and discernment of the average voter. I canvassed last year, and it was scary.

  2. Guess which labor leader was spinning in her grave at high speed last Saturday, January 26, the day after President Trump caved on the government shutdown [LINK]:

    [QUOTE] Let’s assume that the sickout by the air traffic controllers, followed by the threat of a strike by the flight attendants, really did play a big role in ending the shutdown. How happy are we about that? Plenty of observers have noted that we can cause endless pain to ordinary workers and no one really cares, but produce a minor bit of chaos in our airports and suddenly it gets a ton of attention from reporters, CEOs, lobbyists, and other white-collar types who fly a lot. And once you have their attention, a solution must be found. Pronto.

    I dunno. Is this what we want? Do we really want the folks who run our air travel system to have this kind of power? I’m not so sure that would be a great thing. Luckily, I don’t think it’s what really caused the compromise measure to pass, so I don’t have to worry about it too much.... Nancy Pelosi Ended the Shutdown, Not the Air Traffic Controllers

    1. ks or ksix. I seem to have lost control of my identity.

  3. Emma Vigeland of TYT recommended this tweet which feature four and a half minutes of video from the recent Davos panel on "The Cost of Inequality" LINK. The entire program ran for an hour and I doubt too many people around here have the time to sit through it. However, there was some content not in the clip that I think is, at least, worth reading through LINK.

    Moderator: Edward Felsenthal Editor-in-Chief, Time Magazine
    Panelist: Rutger Bregman author of Utopia for Realists
    Panelist: Winnie Byanyima executive director of Oxfam
    Audience member: Ken Goldman former CFO at Yahoo

    Felsenthal: Winnie, I'll start with you because you've been sounding the alarm about inequality for many years. And it's hard to go anywhere at Davos this week where you don't hear people expressing concern about inequality. Is anyone doing anything about it, either government or in the corporate sector are you seeing any movement towards addressing it?

    Byanyima: [4:46] You're right- I'm delighted to be on this panel -you're right, they're talking about it now. That does make me happy but not happy enough because extreme inequality is really out of control. Talking about it isn't good enough. And it's bad for all of us. It's undermining out economies, it's fracturing out societies, it's fueling crimes, it's fueling ill health, it's bad for everyone. And yet we just talk about it.

    I just want to tell you about this man I met, an amazing person from Denmark called Salchi, Jaffer Salchi [sp?]. He's a multi-millionaire, he came from Iran, he is an immigrant. He said to me that he visited a friend of his in a Latin American country that I won't mention. And in that country he visited his friend in that very posh apartment, great views, beautiful place. But he said he had to go through three security checks and that there were bars across his windows. And he said to me the people in that country live like they are in cages. He said, "For me, here in Denmark I pay high taxes but all I have in front of my window are flowers. That's the difference."

    So we're seeing the result choices, political choices that governments have chosen to make. That's what our report talks about this year, that governments have chosen not, for example, to tax fairly, to get rich companies and rich people to pay their fair share of taxes. And because they don't collect those taxes they don't put enough money in to health, education, and social protection of their people. So public services are crumbling as a result. We don't want governments to come here to talk, or business to talk. We want business to commit to good tax behavior, not to dodge paying their fair share of taxes. We want government to tax fairly.

    We've shown in our reports that companies used- that the top income tax rates in 1970 were around 62%. It's been negotiated down by companies and rich people to now less than 38% in rich countries, 28% in developing countries. A lot of the taxes on wealth have been abolished in many countries. So we want the burden of taxation to be put on the rich, on companies. And there's space for that, the IMF says there's space for that it won't undermine economic growth. And then we want the money plowed into services for people to be able to thrive, to be able to contribute in growth. [8:14]


    1. Felsenthal: [22:19] Rutger, let's talk about concrete steps to get people out of poverty. It's a subject you've written and thought a lot about. I won't get the phrase exactly right, but it's "poverty is a lack of cash."

      Bregman: Yeah, that's basically what it is, it's not a lack of character, certainly.

      Felsenthal: Talk about the impact of what happens when you give people, who need cash, cash to pull themselves up, the idea of a universal basic income.

      Bregman: Sure, well for some perspective- I must say this is my first time at Davos and I find it a quite bewildering experience, to be honest. I mean 1500 private jets have just flown in to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about how we're wrecking the planet. And I hear people talk in the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency but then almost no one raises the real issue: tax avoidance, right and of the rich just not paying their fair share?

      I feel as if I'm at a firefighter's conference and no one's allowed to speak about water. [laughter] There was only one panel- [some applause]

      Felsenthal: We've had one panel, you're the second of our panels

      Bregman: Wait, there was only one panel...

      Felsenthal: Let's go there.

      Bregman: panel hidden away in the media center that was actually about tax avoidance. I was one of the fifteen participants. Something needs to change here. I mean- ten years ago the World Economic Forum asked a question, "What must industry do to prevent a broad social backlash?" The answer's very simple, just stop talking about philanthropy and start talking about taxes. Taxes, taxes. We need to- just two days ago there was a billionaire in here- what's his name? -Michael Dell and he asked a question, like, name me one country where a top marginal tax rate has actually worked and, you know I'm a historian, the United States is where it has actually worked.

      In the 1950s during Republican president Eisenhower, you know the war veteran, the top marginal tax rate was 91% for people like Michael Dell. And the top estate tax for people like Michael Dell was more than 70%. I mean, this is not rocket science. I mean, we can talk for a very long time about these stupid philanthropy schemes, we can invite Bono once more. Come on, we've got to be talking about taxes. That's it, taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit, in my opinion. [24:48]

      Byanyima: [24:51] Rutger is so right. The top- last year alone the wealth of billionaires was rising by $2.5 billion dollars a day, and the wealth of the bottom half of humanity, 3.8 billion people, was declining, reducing by $500 million a day. It is not difficult to see why if yo look at the business model.

      We work, Oxfam works with government workers in many of these Asian countries. Take Bangladesh. A woman, who is stitching clothes for the clothes we buy in H&M and Zara in the high street shops, earns $4 a day. She is always in debt. When she gets sick she is not paid. She works twenty, twenty-one hours a day. When she's pregnant she's fired. That's in Bangladesh.

      Then we also work with poultry workers in the richest country in the world, the United States. Poultry workers, these are women who are cutting the chickens and we buy them in the supermarkets. Dolores, one woman we work with there, told us she and her co-workers have to wear diapers to work because they are not allowed toilet breaks.

      This is in the richest country in the world. It is a business model that continues to maximize for shareholders and to cheat the ordinary people down the supply chains and damage the environment, damage communities, and then don't pay their fair share of taxes. The top executives of these companies are among the highest paid in the world.


    2. Byanyima: The chief executive of Zara is one of the highest paid people in the world. So, we have a business model that has, over the years, grown to maximize for a few owners of capital and to cheat everybody else. And the business people who run these businesses, on top of that, avoid paying their fair share of taxes, have built loopholes across the tax system.

      We have a tax system that leaks so much, that allows $170 billion of money every year to be taken to tax havens and to be denied the developing countries that need that money most. So, we have to look at the business model and we have to look at the role of governments to tax and plow back money into people's lives. [27:38]

      Felsenthal: [37:39] Rutger, and then we should open it up, what, you're a historian, what would it take, and does history suggest it's possible, to make it so that five years from now when you fly back here on your private jet...

      Bregman No, on a bus.

      Felsenthal: ...on a bus, walk across the Alps, something we will have made some headway.

      Bregman: Yeah, well you know the lessons of history are pretty depressing to be honest. So the times that we've seen that we've managed to decrease inequality radically were during times of war.That's what is the most effective way.

      Now I'm, obviously, not suggesting we start a war here, but what we do need is what the philosopher William James, a hundred years [ago], called the moral equivalent of war. And I believe the challenge of climate change can be exactly that. So we need to realize that we are standing at a point in history as a species that we just don't have much time left and what we need is a New Green Deal, I believe.

      Look at the experience of France, so what happened in France is you had this whole Yellow Vest movement after a tax on petrol, if I'm correct, and then an explosion of protest. A French CEO explained to me this week that, actually, the most important reason for all these protests was the abolition of the wealth tax in France. So, again, it's not rocket science. We need way higher taxes on the wealthy so that we can actually fund this green transition to a much better planet. But the scale of the challenge is so radical that, again, it will never be solved by just a private sector alone, or just by words alone, or by philanthropy. We really need to start to realize that we need something like the moral equivalent of a war. [39:35]

    3. Goldman: [44:00] Ken Goldman from Silicon Valley, I am going to make a couple of comments, actually. I actually came because I do believe we have an issue here. But I have to say, honestly, this is a very one-sided panel, it's extremely one-sided. I was surprised the we created this panel.

      Bregman: The whole conference is very one-sided.

      Goldman: Can I talk, please. You like to use swear words, too. Jane [Goodall, panelist], thanks for, I saw you yesterday at lunch too, it was quite good. We make comments with swear words and anecdotes and so forth.

      And all I've heard about here is talk about taxes. I haven't seen anything of correlation of growth, so I'll come back to it again. Just a couple of comments, today the U.S. has the lowest unemployment rate ever, the lowest black unemployment rate ever, the lowest youth unemployment ever. We've actually reduced poverty around the world, no one is talking about that at all. People negated philanthropy.

      Just read a couple of weeks ago, the article on Bill Gates and what he's done in Africa in reducing malaria, reducing polio so why don't we talk about that. So I really have a question for the panel. Yes, I agree tax avoidance is probably a big issue, probably a bigger issue than we think. But instead of taxes, what else, instead of redistributing wealth what are we talking about in terms of creating wealth.

      Frankly, what people really want, what [they] really want is the dignity of a job. And we've given more jobs in the U.S., we've increased the minimum wage in southern California with the minimum wage going to $15 an hour- may not be a lot but it's up from seven.

      So I'd like the panel to talk about, beyond taxes, which every one of you have talked about, the only thing you've talked about on this whole panel on inequality, what can we really do to solve, to help solve inequality over time beyond taxes.

      Byanyima: Can I answer that?

      Felsenthal: Shamina [Singh, panelist] since you're in the trenches on this thing... [46:00]

    4. Forsenthal: [48:45] I think, Winnie, it gets back to a question from earlier, which is there is this paradox of tremendous growth in many parts of the world. Many people, I mean China is an example, millions of people lifted into the middle class, and yet inequality has been growing. How do you reconcile growth and inequality at once?

      Byanyima: OK, I think it also depends on what you're counting. The world bank tells us that with this rate of inequality, extreme inequality, that we will not be able to eliminate, eradicate poverty, extreme poverty by 2030, as has been promised, unless that inequality has been reduced.

      Alicia [Barcena Ibarra, panelist] has told us that this [inverse] correlation between inequality, or rather, between equality and efficiency has now been disproved, that you actually achieve sustained growth when you reduce inequality and [the opposite] when the other way around. So, we need now to debunk the myths that you need first to achieve high growth before you can reduce inequality, that [instead] after when you reduce inequality you can achieve more sustained and faster growth.

      That's one. Two, we're not just talking about taxes. Taxes are important. Yes, we're talking about corporate taxes, income taxes, inheritance taxes, capital gains taxes, all these wealth taxes being reduced and reduced and reduced to the point where they've been abolished in some countries. We need to get fair taxation.

      Bill Gates, himself, says the most important responsibility of a rich person is to pay their fair share of taxes. So that's- we can't avoid talking about that. But we also talk about tax evasion, the loopholes. We're in a digital economy but the tax system is from the 1920s, it's full of loopholes that don't allow revenues to be collected. And what happens when you don't collect them? Then you don't put money into people's health and education and you widen inequality.

      The gentleman who talked about- who said we just talked taxes and the jobs are there and there's low unemployment, unemployment rates are low, let me tell you something, we're talking about jobs but the quality of those jobs- I've just told you about Dolores in the United States who wears a diaper to work. That's not a dignified job. I can tell you about a company, I took a taxi in Nairobi recently and I was charged the minimum charge. I was charged less than $2 for a taxi ride. Where in the world do you go in a taxi for less than $2? I asked the taxi driver, he was from one of these companies, I won't mention which [Uber, no doubt], I said how much are you getting out of this? He said 20% must go to the global company that owns the network. So then I said what about the rest, he said the rest I have to share with the owner of the taxi. Out of $2. I asked him where he rents his home, where he lives. He said they rent a room, three taxi drivers, they sleep in turns, six hours, five hours, because none of them can afford to rent a room. That's the job. Those are the jobs we're being told about, that globalization is bringing jobs. The quality of the jobs matter, it matters. These are not jobs of dignity. In many countries workers no longer have a voice, they are not allowed to unionize, they are not allowed to negotiate for salaries. So we are talking about jobs, but jobs that bring dignity. We're talking about healthcare. The World Bank has told us that 3.4 billion people who earn 5.5 dollars a day are on the verge, are just a medical bill away from sinking into poverty. They don't have healthcare, they are just a crop failure away from sinking back into poverty. They have no crop insurance. So, don't tell me about low levels of unemployment, you're counting the wrong things, you're not counting dignity of people, you're counting exploited people. [53:33]

    5. Forsenthal: [53:37] I want to ask Rutger one quick question and then I will go to you. Just turning it to politics because I- the data are complex about whether and where growth is raising wages for the poorest in the world. By some measure wages are going up but so is cost of living. What isn't in doubt is the reality and perception of inequality is driving incredible political upheaval.

      I mean it's remarkable to me here at Davos this year this many of the world leaders- we're talking about shaping global architecture, the priciple architects are locked in their basements, the world leaders are back in their homes dealing with upheaval caused by the topic we're talking about today. And Rutger I just wanted your historical perspective on how that plays out. We can debate the data but the reality is we have a political world that is under siege.

      Bregman: OK, so let me give you both a historical and a personal perspective. Now I was born in 1988, so that was one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And I grew up in the nineties when people believed we that we had arrived at the end of history and that all that was left to solve was climate change maybe a bit of poverty and inequality but that's it, we were all liberal democrats and the rest of what was supposed to follow.

      And then we had the financial crash in 2008, now we've seen the rise of populists around the globe. Right? Trump and Bolsonaro, we've seen Brexit and what gives me great hope right now is that there's a new generation that is actually waking up. It's actually waking up.

      It doesn't believe the myth anymore that the vast inequality we see today is just a force of nature, you know an inevitable consequence of globalization or technology. There's a new generation that just doesn't believe it anymore, that sees that most of the wealth that's being possessed by many of the participants here has not been earned by hard work but has been extracted from workers who are doing the real work but not being paid a living wage. So that is what really gives me hope, that's what all these movements are about, it's about people waking up and realizing that they've been sold a lie. That's what's happening. [56:08]