28 April 2019

Your happening world

"Sanders takes on Fox — and emerges triumphant: BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Bernie Sanders entered the Fox's den on Monday night — and he not only survived the hourlong encounter, but often dominated. Appearing at a Fox News-hosted town hall, smack in the middle of Trump Country, the Democratic presidential front-runner played the part, swatting down tough questions from the hosts about health care, defense spending and his newfound wealth. At one point, the Vermont senator even led the network's audience in a call-and-response that found them cheering loudly for his policies."

"Watch: Sanders town hall audience surprises Bret Baier with how much they like Bernie's health care plan: A politically diverse town hall audience showed a lot of enthusiasm for Medicare-for-all."
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 1
Town Hall with Bernie Sanders | Part 2

"Exclusive: Bernie Sanders Campaign Launches New Podcast, "Hear the Bern": The Bernie Sanders campaign is set to launch a new podcast Monday night called 'Hear the Bern.' Co-hosted by National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, it will feature a variety of campaign staffers, volunteers, and other campaign figures, as well as regular appearances from Sanders himself. You can now listen to the first episode here."

"Maybe Rich Liberals Don't Hate Sanders Because They Fear He Can't Win, But Because They're Rich: That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to 'stop' his nomination. [...] The New York Times (4/16/19) profiled a network of 'wealthy liberal donors' who, shockingly, are not fans of Bernie Sanders, who according to the same report has rejected their big-bundler funding and instead opted for small donations. (The Times reported the same day that 84 percent of Sanders' donations are less than $200; by contrast, only 37 percent of Kamala Harris' donations are.) [...] Simply drawing attention to the fact that a bunch of wealthy donors affirms Sanders primary argument for running doesn't make it go away. It's a writer's trick, and one the New York Times passes off without criticism: LOL Isn't it ironic we're doing that bad, evil thing Sanders says rich donors do? Wait, what? No, it's just bad, in and of itself. The piece is openly floating a conspiracy of wealthy donors seeking to undermine a democratic process, then laughing it off something that could be mistaken for the actual bad thing it is. Meanwhile, the self-evident fact that rich donors dislike Sanders because he runs counter to their interests is ignored in favor of a child-like fantasy that they oppose him simply because they're looking out for the best interests of the party. To the Times, the rich have no ideology, no beliefs, no self interest; this is reserved instead for Sanders 'embolden[ed],' 'fervent supporters,' whose desire to defeat Trump is presented as at best incidental."

"A top progressive pundit says mainstream Democrats are worried about Bernie Sanders winning the White House in 2020: Sen. Bernie Sanders is making mainstream Democrats nervous. But some of the presidential candidate's supporters say it's not because they're worried Sanders can't defeat President Donald Trump in 2020. It's because he can, they say."

And it's not just the Democratic establishment that's afraid Bernie can beat Trump. Another guy who's afraid is Donald Trump.

But to cap it all off, even Peter Daou has had a sea change and is in The Nation telling people to hold their fire on Sanders. "I Was Bernie's Biggest Critic in 2016 — I've Changed My Mind: Bernie Sanders can beat Donald Trump — and it would be an epic act of self-destruction for Democrats to try to hobble his campaign." Daou understates the degree to which he was a critic of Sanders, but never mind, he really seems to have remembered where he came from: "My political and personal evolution since 2016 has caught some people off guard. I'm often asked how a staunch Clinton advocate and former Sanders critic could reverse course. The answer is simpler than it appears. I spent 15 years before the 2016 election as a progressive activist, a critic of the Democratic Party's meekness in the face of GOP extremism, and a supporter of the policies Sanders promotes. After months of reflection about my role in the 2016 primaries, I realized I was among the far too many Clinton and Sanders supporters who got caught up in an ugly family dispute that spiraled out of control." He still hasn't unblocked me on Twitter, though.

"'Purity Tests': How Corporate Media Describe Progressives Standing Up for Principles: The phrase is code for elites being pressured in ways they don't like, and is often a shield against legitimate criticism of corruption or dependence on corporate power."

Have I mentioned that Nicole Sandler talks to Howie Klein every Thursday on her show? It's definitely worth listening to if you want to know what's really going on in the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate [...] In reality, the Democratic electorate is both ideologically and demographically diverse. Over all, around half of Democratic-leaning voters consider themselves 'moderate' or 'conservative,' not liberal. Around 40 percent are not white."

Advice Unasked, "Bernie and the Racists: It seems to me that one reason so many Democrats resent Sanders is because he reminds them of what the party was, and abandoned in the 1990s, to gain votes in conservative states, especially in the South. From the early 1990s to 2016, the Democratic Party was dominated by its conservative wing. They supported and passed a series of tight-fisted laws: the Clinton tax increase, which cost the party the House; welfare and Medicaid reform; the Clinton health plan, followed by the PPACA. At the same time, we heard racist rhetoric from the party leaders: 'Sister Soljah,' 'superpredators,' and so on. These reassured white racists that African-Americans would be kept from rising against their oppressors. I wonder how much of the tight-fisted conservative policies were also covert appeals to racists. How much of the conservative faction of the Democratic Party is racist? Some, surely. Most? Scratch economic conservatism, find racism (and sexism, but I'm writing about racism.) Policies which keep property relations as they stand, dominated by a wealthy white minority, those policies are racist, even if they do not incorporate explicit bigotry. The bigotry may be there, but it only becomes visible when attacked or when some demagogue like Donald Trump makes a direct appeal to it."

Obama Pushes Neoliberal Myths on Health Care at Fundraiser [...] Multimillionaire former President Barack Obama, 2017's Kennedy prize winner, traveled all the way to Germany over the weekend in order to scold what he called American health care 'purists' who have the crazy nerve to challenge the status quo. He called the current battle between Congressional centrists, like Pelosi, and progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal a 'circular firing squad.'"

Our story so far: As we may recall, it was historically not normal for candidates for the presidency to release their taxes before winning the nomination, but in 2008, Hillary Clinton's finances were regarded by some as so scandalous (payoffs) that there was a demand to see her taxes. This cry was taken up by the Obama campaign, and Clinton said she would not release them until she had the nomination. She continued to say so well into 2008, but finally was shamed into releasing hers after Obama released his. Nevertheless, the anti-Bernie cult has made a big deal out of demanding he release his taxes, even though (a) he did and (b) he has 30 solid years of financial disclosures publicly available as required by law for members of Congress. When he announced again, even the press took up the "Will you release your taxes?" cry and it has been a consistent theme from the alt-center. When he said he would release them this year on tax day, it was as if the cry went out - intensified demands and claims that he'd never release them from Donut Twitter, long threads about what he'd been hiding. By the final week before April 15th, there was a sudden shift to numerous Twitter handles all erupting at once with the statement that the important thing would be how much he'd donated to charity. The year-old news that he'd sold his book for a bunch of money became new news again, ardently discussed by idiots who seemed to think it was hypocritical for him to (a) keep his money or (b) advocate for reduced income inequality while actually having a little more wealth than the most people can make in such a short period of time. (Just for the record, a million dollars is enough to live a comfortable middle-class lifestyle for an entire adult lifetime in some parts of the country, but not if the law requires you to have a home hundreds of miles from where you go to work every day in an expensive city.) People were, of course, sending out "where are his taxes?" tweets hours after he'd released them, and naturally no one apologized for claiming he'd never release them, but now they are even going so far as to claim his book was ghost-written. Clintons really do make people crazy.

And speaking of that, the whole book thing turned someone at Think Progress full-on whacko, producing a specious video that falsely claims that Sanders has stopped saying "millionaires" since he made his million on the book. This isn't the first time they've gone after him, or after Warren, and that's not surprising given the kind of people who fund Center for American Progress, whose blog TP is. Unlike last time, he is hitting back. Thomas Neuburger posted about it in "Sanders Takes the Campaign Against CAP to Eleven," praising the Sanders team for calling CAP out. Threads on Twitter are bringing attention not just to the funding by dubious entities, but also making more people aware that CAP also donates to the far-right American Enterprise Institute. Robert Borosage in The Nation says, "The Democratic Primary May Get Ugly, but It's a Necessary Fight: The spat between Bernie Sanders and the Center for American Progress is a sign of things to come." And Harold Meyerson was inspired to write. "How Think Progress Would Have Attacked Franklin Roosevelt: The Center for American Progress is hardly the first institution to label liberals and leftists of some means as inauthentic or hypocritical for their own attacks on concentrated wealth."

"Sanders gets endorsements from 7 black S. Carolina lawmakers: SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year's primary elections. Sanders' 2020 campaign made the announcement just ahead of a Spartanburg town hall meeting with members of the state's Legislative Black Caucus. The backing represents the biggest number of black lawmakers to back a 2020 hopeful to date in this state, which holds the first primary in the South."

"5 Weird Items In The New Bernie-Buttigieg Poll" — Bernie had pulled ahead in polling, but that was before Biden announced, so we shall see. Can't believe Buttigieg got ahead of Warren. Ugh. Oh, but this is Forbes, so the writer only focused on stuff that would hit Bernie. It all looks worse if you look at Klobuchar, Booker, and Gillibrand supporters.

Eric Levitz, "Joe Biden May Be Less Electable Than He Looks [...] In 2016, the Trump campaign put significant energy into spotlighting aspects of Hillary Clinton's record that young, nonwhite Democrats might find alienating. And disappointing turnout among those constituencies in key states were one of the many factors that enabled Trump's victory. So, it's at least conceivable that Biden's own liabilities with millenials and African-Americans would prove similarly costly — and thus, that when Democratic primary voters look past those blotches in Uncle Joe's record, they are actually being the opposite of pragmatic."

Andrew Cockburn of Harper's told Democracy Now! Why Joe Biden's poll numbers could "come down in a hurry" now that he's officially running, and RJ Eskow dissected Biden's launch video on The Zero Hour.

Since he entered the race because teenagers asked him to, Nicole Sandler interviewed Mike Gravel.

"O'Rourke family sues government to lower taxes on shopping center: Back when he served on the El Paso City Council, Beto O'Rourke prodded his hometown to shift more of its property tax burden from homeowners to commercial property owners. But now, he is a minority partner in an O'Rourke family-owned shopping center that is suing the government to lower the amount of taxes it pays on the property."

"The 2020 battle is on: Elizabeth Warren accuses Joe Biden of siding with credit card companies over struggling Americans: Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the first 2020 Democrat to directly attack former Vice President Joe Biden following his Thursday announcement that he's joining the presidential primary. Asked by a reporter on Thursday about a 2005 fight the two had over bankruptcy legislation, Warren was clear that she believed Biden took the side opposing American families. 'I got in that fight because [families] just didn't have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies," Warren said after a rally in Iowa. "It's all a matter of public record.'"

Doug Henwood, "I Can't Believe Elizabeth Warren Is Losing to These Guys: Almost every day Elizabeth Warren comes out with serious policy proposals. They're rarely even baby steps down the road to socialism, but most of them would make this country a better place. But lacking a media-friendly history of being a skateboarding 'punk' rocker or a stint with McKinsey — and you might think, not being a man — she can't get any attention for them. She can't get out of the mid-single digits in the polls, and PredictIt, the political betting site, puts her chances of winning the nomination at 7 percent. She's having trouble raising money; she lagged Mayor Pete in the first quarter funding haul even though he was a nobody who'd just entered the race."

"Warren approaches breakout with black voters: BEAUFORT, S.C. — When Elizabeth Warren got a question on housing discrimination at a campaign event this week, she went into full wonk mode — and the diverse crowd packed into a middle-school auditorium ate it up. The Massachusetts senator launched into a brief history lesson on African-American homebuyers being rejected outside designated areas, black families getting hit hardest by subprime mortgages and foreclosures during the 2008 crash, and black homeownership still lagging far behind whites. 'That's a problem, and it's a race problem,' Warren thundered, emphasizing 'race' as the crowd erupted into applause. 'And we need to attack it head on.'"

"Elizabeth Warren just unveiled a plan to cancel student debt for 75% of Americans [...] Under Warren's plan, every person with an annual household income under $100,000 would automatically have $50,000 of their student loan debt forgiven. That would immediately wipe out debt for 75 percent of the 45 million Americans with student loans and provide some sort of relief for 95 percent, according to the Massachusetts senator. For every $3 people earn beyond the $100,000 threshold, they lose $1 of the $50,000 in debt forgiven. In other words, if they make $100,003, just $49,999 of their debt will be canceled. Nobody in a household making above $250,000 a year will get student-debt relief. The proposal would still offer federal grants to low-income students to help them cover non-tuition expenses, like housing, textbooks, and food, at universities. Warren's plan also places an emphasis on students of color through an additional $50 billion fund for historically black universities, which she said would help close the racial wealth gap." The plan is covered by her wealth tax proposal.

"Sen. Elizabeth Warren Calls for Trump to Be Impeached: 'The House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States,' the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said."

"Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple employees donating to Elizabeth Warren, even though she wants to break up big tech: Sen. Elizabeth Warren's pledge to break up Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies has provoked a surprising response from some of those firms' employees: They're writing her checks. The Massachusetts senator received more than $39,000 in donations from employees of Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google, ranking third among her fellow Democratic 2020 presidential contenders. And she did even better among all donors who describe themselves as software engineers or programmers, coming in second behind Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"Does Andrew Yang Want The Most Regressive Tax In The World? (TMBS 85)" - UBI has a left and a right wing, and Andrew Yang doesn't sound like he's on the left one. He wants a VAT, too.

Here's some good new! "House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer Is Facing A Primary Challenge: MCKAYLA WILKES, a 28-year-old administrative assistant, part-time student, and mother of two, has had enough. In late March, she announced that she was mounting a bid for Maryland's 5th Congressional District, aiming to unseat one of the oldest and most powerful Democratic members, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Wilkes is running on a host of progressive policies, but plans to put particular focus on Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and affordable housing. A student of political science, Wilkes hasn't formerly been involved in politics before, but thinks the moment is too urgent to wait. She wants more 'relatable people' in Congress and is fed up with Hoyer's record, which she says does not adequately represent the needs of those living in his district. 'We need someone who will be a voice for us, who knows what we go through as daily constituents, and Steny Hoyer has been in office so long he's never really had to be a regular constituent,' she said. Hoyer, who is 79 years old, was first elected to Congress in 1981." That's not actually the problem with Hoyer, though - he's always been like this. But it would be cool if McKayla Wilkes could do to Hoyer what Donna Edwards did to Al Wynn.

I'm certainly no fan of Obama but this story — "Mueller's report looks bad for Obama" — looks wrong to me. The Iran deal was important, and the real problem with our elections is that we have a vast network of misinformational propaganda coming from Republicans, Democrats, our government, and enthusiastically embraced by our media, keeping Americans confused about what's really going on and making everyone vulnerable to every rumor from every source. We have voter-suppression coming from American partisans. We have unauditable, hackable voting machines. We don't even have real exit polls anymore, nor pay attention to their results when we do, so we have no real checks on election integrity. While it's true that the Republican Party is more overt, organized, and systematic about maintaining and expanding this situation, you'd have to be a fool to think the Democratic Party has not enabled it and in many cases discouraged any real opposition to it. If you want to blame Obama for the results of the 2016 election — and I think you justifiably can — blame the way he presided over our economy and betrayed his voters, which was a disaster and should have been the real scandal. We didn't need Russians to give us such an outcome, it was coming for a long time.

Speaking of that, Eric Rauchway has a piece in Boston Review called "Obama's Original Sin" on Reed Hundt's A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions: which I would like to quote from but they made it too annoying to do, but I recommend you read the whole thing. He remarks on the bizarre idea Geithner and Obama had that Roosevelt chose not to work with Hoover to let things fester before coming into office, a false narrative they seem to have spread among their followers but whose source no one seems to be able to track down. And so the Obama administration fell neatly into the trap that Hoover had tried to lay for FDR that he had so neatly avoided.

"What the Mueller Report Actually Says" is less informative in many ways than Lee Camp's points about reversed timing, thinness of content, and, again, the shameless lack of interest both parties have ever shown about election integrity.

California ordered to use settlement money as it was intended — to help homeowners: California is wrongly holding on to $331 million from a nationwide bank settlement and must use the money for its intended purpose: to help homeowners victimized by foreclosures during the Great Recession, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday. The money was part of the state's share of a settlement in 2012 with the nation's five largest mortgage servicers — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and GMAC — that had been accused of abusive lending practices. The settlement also contained more than $20 billion in direct aid to homeowners nationwide who had been harmed by a wave of foreclosures that started in the recession of 2008-09. "

"Court rules Michigan district maps are unconstitutional: A federal court in Michigan on Thursday became the latest in the country to strike down its state's district maps, ruling that they were examples of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The lawsuit, filed late last year by the League of Women Voters on behalf of eleven Democratic voters, alleged that the legislative and congressional maps in question violated their constitutional rights. [...] The court cited evidence that showed Republicans loaded some districts with Democratic voters, and divided Democratic communities between other Republican-held seats, practices known as packing and cracking. The judges' order that the districts be redrawn before the 2020 election will almost certainly be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is considering two other partisan gerrymandering cases, out of North Carolina and Maryland, and may issue a stay on the Michigan decision until those cases are resolved. [...] The League of Women Voters pointed to election results that show Republicans hold a disproportionate number of legislative and congressional seats in Michigan, even though they won only about half the number of total votes cast. Republicans hold seven of 14 congressional seats in Michigan, after Democrats won back two Republican-held seats last November. Republicans hold 22 of 38 seats in the state Senate, and 58 of 110 seats in the state House. The judges accepted the League's argument."

"Gallup: 'Americans aren't as pro-Israel as we've been saying': Gallup explains that its polling, which consistently shows high American sympathy for Israel, is the result of 'priming' questions that influence respondents to falsely express pro-Israel leanings. Gallup buried this explosive admission."

Tennessee House passes bill that could penalize voter registration groups for mistakes: NASHVILLE — The Republican-led Tennessee House on Monday night approved a controversial bill imposing new requirements on some voter registration groups that could subject them to civil and possibly even criminal penalties and fines in cases where they submit too many problematic registrations. House Bill 1079 passed in a 71-26 vote along party lines after a heated debate. It now goes to the Senate. Pointing to confusion in the 2018 November election, when election officials in Memphis and Nashville were deluged with thousands of last-minute forms from organizers of voter registration drives, GOP proponents say the bill was brought to them by Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican, to prevent a repeat of that chaos and its incomplete forms. Democrats and others, however, charged that it is part of a continuing effort by Republicans to suppress voter turnout, especially for minorities in a state already known for having low voter registration and, at times, the worst voter turnout nationwide."

"Texas Bill Prohibiting Male Masturbation Moves Closer To Becoming Law: A proposed bill in Texas that would impose a fine for male masturbation is making its way through the state's legislature. House Bill 4260, called the 'Man's Right to Know Act,' would punish male masturbation with a $100 fine, and require men who want Viagra to be subject to a rectal exam. The bill, filed earlier this year by Texas legislator Rep. Jessica Farrar (D), was referred to the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. By focusing on male masturbation, the proposed legislation is an obvious attempt to satirize and draw attention to the unreasonable and dangerous policy proposals concerning women's reproductive freedom coming from the Republican Party."

I became aware of this because of a tweet (worth reading the thread for people giving their own stories about how landlords abused them), which led to an article by London housing activist Kirsty Archer, "Why I went viral on Twitter after talking about being evicted on Sky News: The patronising interviewer, who is a landlord, demonstrated the contempt with which many landlords view renters." There's a reason I don't subscribe to Sky, but of course, it's not just Sky. "As it stands, section 21 gives landlords huge power over our lives and discourages renters from making complaints or requesting repairs, for fear of section 21 revenge evictions. Since 2015, around 140,000 other tenants have been victims of revenge evictions making section 21 the leading cause of homelessness in England, displacing huge numbers of working people and migrants from their communities each year." Little did she know that she was being interviewed by a landlord.

"Wells Fargo and other banks paid colleges so they could market accounts to students, putting them at risk of high fees: This month, you're likely to read many stories about the importance — particularly for young people — of understanding compound interest, budgeting and other concepts key to creating a healthy financial life. April, dubbed National Financial Literacy Month, is traditionally when the personal finance and banking industries celebrate the benefits of knowing how to manage your money. But a new report suggests that at least for college students, knowing which tools are best for them can be a challenge because certain banks pay universities to advertise their products to students."

Matt Stoller tweets: This is potentially the most disturbing merger I've ever seen. Roche, which makes an very expensive treatment for hemophilia, is trying to buy Spark Therapeutics, which has a very promising potential cure for hemophilia. I wonder if there are conflicts." The link is to "Roche Makes $4.8 Billion Bid for Spark Therapeutics and Its Gene Therapy Programs."

Matt Taibbi, "Why the Assange Arrest Should Scare Reporters [...] Much of the American media audience views the arrested WikiLeaks founder through the lens of the 2016 election, after which he was denounced as a Russian cutout who threw an election for Trump. But the current indictment is the extension of a years-long effort, pre-dating Trump, to construct a legal argument against someone who releases embarrassing secrets. [...] Last year, we reported a rumored American criminal case against Assange was not expected to have anything to do with 2016, Russians, or DNC emails. This turned out to be the case, as the exact charge is for conspiracy, with Chelsea Manning, to hack into a 'classified U.S. government computer.' The indictment unveiled today falls just short of a full frontal attack on press freedoms only because it indicts on something like a technicality: specifically, an accusation that Assange tried (and, seemingly, failed) to help Manning crack a government password. For this reason, the language of the indictment underwhelmed some legal experts who had expressed concerns about the speech ramifications of this case before. 'There's a gray area here,' says University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck. 'But the government at least tries to put this at the far end of the gray area.' Not everyone agreed. Assange lawyer Barry Pollock said the allegations 'boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identify of that source.' 'The weakness of the US charge against Assange is shocking,' tweeted Edward Snowden. 'The allegation he tried (and failed?) to help crack a password during their world-famous reporting has been public for nearly a decade: it is the count Obama's DOJ refused to charge, saying it endangered journalism.' Part of the case clearly describes conduct that exists outside the normal parameters of press-source interaction, specifically the password issue. However, the evidence about this part of the conspiracy seems thin, limited mainly to Assange saying he'd had 'no luck so far,' apparently in relation to attempts to crack the password. The meatier parts of the indictment speak more to normal journalistic practices. In its press release, the Justice Department noted Assange was 'actively encouraging Manning' to provide more classified information. In the indictment itself, the government noted Assange told Manning, who said she had no more secrets to divulge, 'curious eyes never run dry.' Also in the indictment: 'It is part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure.' Reporters have extremely complicated relationships with sources, especially whistleblower types like Manning, who are often under extreme stress and emotionally vulnerable. At different times, you might counsel the same person both for and against disclosure. It's proper to work through all the reasons for action in any direction, including weighing the public's interest, the effect on the source's conscience and mental health, and personal and professional consequences. For this reason, placing criminal penalties on a prosecutor's interpretation of such interactions will likely put a scare into anyone involved with national security reporting going forward. As Ben Wizner of the ACLU put it: 'Any prosecution by the United States of Mr. Assange for WikiLeaks' publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional, and would open the door to criminal investigations of other news organizations.' Unfortunately, Assange's case, and the very serious issues it raises, will be impacted in profound ways by things that took place long after the alleged offenses, specifically the Russiagate story. It's why some reporters are less than concerned about the Assange case today. [...] It will therefore be interesting to see if Assange is finally asked about Russiagate by someone in American officialdom. If he isn't, that will be yet another curious detail in a case that gets stranger by the minute. As for Assange's case, coverage by a national press corps that embraced him at the time of these offenses — and widely re-reported his leaks — will likely focus on the narrow hacking issue, as if this is not really about curtailing legitimate journalism. In reality, it would be hard to find a more extreme example of how deep the bipartisan consensus runs on expanding the policing of leaks."

"Daniel Ellsberg on the Importance of Julian Assange: 'As part of their attempt to blacken WikiLeaks and Assange, pundit commentary ... has tried to portray Assange's exposure of classified materials as very different from — and far less laudable than — what Daniel Ellsberg did in releasing the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Ellsberg strongly rejects the mantra 'Pentagon Papers good; WikiLeaks material bad.' He continues: 'That's just a cover for people who don't want to admit that they oppose any and all exposure of even the most misguided, secretive foreign policy. The truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.'"

"While Much of US Media Plays Along, Critics Warn Assange Indictment an 'Obvious' Ploy With Deeper Dangers: 'This precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the U.S.'"

And Naked Capitalism has a round-up on the Assange story. If one thing is clear, the charge is just the only thing they could come up with to try to get around Britain's extradition laws, but he is being tried for publishing, regardless of what they say they are charging him for.

"Wendell Primus, The Most Powerful Staffer In Congress, Represents A Generational Divide On The Left - David Dayen also talked about this with Sam Seder, The Top Pelosi Aide Aiming to Kill Medicare For All w/ David Dayen - MR Live - 4/17/19. The saddest thing is that Primus really thinks he's defending what's left of the New Deal by behaving this way. Getting into a defensive crouch has really been the strategy of the Democratic Party since the '70s, but they really seem to have frozen in time once Reagan got into office.

Bloomberg, "The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan: Wealthy Americans have stepped up investment in New Zealand. Parliament votes to ban foreigners from buying bolt-hole homes." This is actually old news, but someone pointed it out to me when I remarked that back in the early days of this blog I wondered where they were planning to live after ruining the world. And it's not exactly a standalone - from The New Yorker, "Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich. Rich people from New York to Seattle have been building bunkers in Kansas, compounds in the Rockies, and buying up islands in the Pacific Northwest. And this one is even freakier: "Survival of the Richest [...] Last year, I got invited to a super-deluxe private resort to deliver a keynote speech to what I assumed would be a hundred or so investment bankers. It was by far the largest fee I had ever been offered for a talk — about half my annual professor's salary — all to deliver some insight on the subject of 'the future of technology.' [...] They started out innocuously enough. Ethereum or bitcoin? Is quantum computing a real thing? Slowly but surely, however, they edged into their real topics of concern. Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?'"

Interesting news on how a cancer treatment I don't want to describe also has the interesting side effect of reducing autism symptoms. Makes ya think, huh?

You thought Tom Lehrer was just a math teacher who wrote funny songs, but little did you know he also invented Jell-O Shots.

12 April 2019

In madness and fear

Julian Assange was arrested today outside of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Here's the Guardian blog on today's events in that regard. The whole affair raises a lot of questions about freedom of the press and the behavior of several governments in collusion to destroy it.

Consortium News addressed some of those questions in "On the Pavement with Wikileaks : "When Julian Assange does leave the embassy, it will be important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Assange is actually wanted for extradition, Craig Murray comments. [...] When Julian does leave the Embassy, whatever the circumstances in which he does that, it will be for a day or two the largest media story in the world and undoubtedly will lead all the news bulletins across every major country. The odds are that he will be leaving and facing a fight against extradition to the United States, on charges arising from the Chelsea Manning releases which revealed a huge amount about U.S. war crimes and other illegal acts. It will be very important to try to focus a hostile media on why it is Julian is actually wanted for extradition. Not for the non-existent collusion with Russia to assist Trump, which is an entirely fake narrative. Not for meetings with Paul Manafort which never happened. Not for the allegations in Sweden which fell apart immediately they were subject to rational scrutiny. And not for any nonsense about whether he hacked the communications in the Embassy or cleaned up the cat litter. This is not going to be an easy task because pretty well all of the Western media is going to want to focus on these false anti-Assange narratives, and they will be determined to give as little attention as possible to the fact he is a publisher facing trial for publishing leaked state documents which revealed state wrongdoing. It is a classic and fundamental issue of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Drawing together a team that can get this message across in such MSM windows as are afforded, as well as through social media, is an important task. The team needs to be in readiness and to be backed by a suitable support infrastructure that can be dusted off and sprung into action. The public framing of Julian's position will undoubtedly impact on the final outcome; that is why the MSM have put in such a consistent effort to demonise one of the most interesting figures and original thinkers of our time.

"Trump administration approved secret nuclear power tech sales to Saudi Arabia, document shows: WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has approved six secret authorizations by companies to sell nuclear power technology and assistance to Saudi Arabia, according to a copy of a document seen by Reuters on Wednesday. The Trump administration has quietly pursued a wider deal on sharing U.S. nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia, which aims to build at least two nuclear power plants. Several countries including the United States, South Korea and Russia are in competition for that deal, and the winners are expected to be announced later this year by Saudi Arabia. [...] Many U.S. lawmakers are concerned that sharing nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia could eventually lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS last year that the kingdom would develop nuclear weapons if its rival Iran did. In addition, the kingdom has occasionally pushed back against agreeing to U.S. standards that would block two paths to potentially making fissile material for nuclear weapons clandestinely: enriching uranium and reprocessing spent fuel." This directly circumvents the expressed will of Congress.

"U.N. report: With 40M in poverty, U.S. most unequal developed nation: June 22 (UPI) -- A study for the U.N. Human Rights Council has concluded 40 million people in the United States live in poverty -- and more than half of those live in "extreme" or "absolute" poverty. The 20-page report by Philip Alston, U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, says U.S. policies benefit the rich and exacerbate poverty. [...] Alston criticized the Trump administration for stigmatizing the poor and saying those receiving government benefits are lazy and should be working. The report found just 7 percent of benefits recipients are not working." When I was a kid, people talked about the Black Hole of Calcutta. Now it's America.

"Dallas Police Shamed Into Dropping Charges Against Black Woman Beaten By Racist: The Dallas district attorney said he was unaware of the charges. Authorities in Dallas dropped the felony charge against a Black woman seen on video last month being brutally beaten by a racist white man, civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt announced on Wednesday. As we reported Tuesday, Dallas police charged L'Daijohnique Lee with criminal mischief in her confrontation with bartender Austin Shuffield on March 21. She was accused of damaging Shuffield's pickup truck after he violently attacked her in the Dallas neighborhood of Deep Ellum." And another piece of the story, "See Also: Prosecutor Blames Bail System For Allowing White Man To Leave Jail After Vicious Assault Of Black Woman."

"The Trump Administration Wants an Immigrant Underclass: In two recent reports, Trump administration advisors Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller outlined seemingly contradictory plans for the country's already-barbaric immigration policies. Put broadly: Kushner wants more legal immigration; Miller wants less illegal immigration, but also fewer immigrants living in the U.S. legally. [...] It is possible, in fact, for both of these immigration plans to align. Politico frames Miller's vindictive policies as a foil to the Kushner plan, but despite Miller's manic desire to round up everyone with brown skin, there's plenty of room in his general framework of immigration policy for what Kushner — and Trump — want. So what is that? Broadly speaking, Trump and Kushner's push for an expansion to legal immigration is designed to create one thing: a hardworking underclass of both low-skilled and highly skilled immigrants shuttled into the country on restrictive visas that actively prevent them from progressing toward citizenship while costing their employers less than hiring actual Americans. (Businesses love this of course — as Politico notes, the Koch brothers are two of the biggest proponents of this kind of legal immigration). And guess what? It's working!"

I guess TMBS - 83 - Russia, Russia, Russia, (& AIPAC) ft. Matt Taibbi & Francesca Fiorentini pretty much covered that subject.

Sam Seder interviewed Paul Waldman on Ring of Fire, "Joe Biden's Record Bursting into Flames under Magnifying Glass of Voters."

A lot is being made of Joe Biden's inability to keep his hands to himself, but maybe that's to make people forget that he runs around saying stuff like this: "Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire." And what's his genius idea? Means-testing. Means-testing is a way to put up barriers for the people who really need it while making the programs no longer universal, and therefore less popular, and thereby start the process of eliminating or privatizing them. Biden's apologists on his past record of this kind of thing insist that his thinking has changed (on the Hyde Amendment, he can get away with this pretense because now that he voted for it over and over, Bush finally signed it into law so he doesn't have to vote for it anymore), but this quote is from January 2019, just a few months back. This kind of thing is what his whole career has been about, and there's no evidence he truly regrets any of it. I just want him to keep his hands off government.

Malcolm, Iowa is a town of 300 people, so unsurprisingly, when a presidential candidate shows up to hold a rally for the first time in history, the whole town shows up. This is kind of interesting to watch, because you can see a little difference from those much bigger rallies he's been doing lately. (I was also reminded, when he twice brought up issues he was currently alerting the public to and said he hadn't known about them before he was told recently ("Shoulda known, but didn't"), of how when Hillary Clinton had the virtues of single-payer explained to her, she responded with, "Now tell me something real.")

America's foremost concern troll, Barack Obama, seems to be on a world tour of concern-trolling as he leads the circular firing squad against circular firing squads.

Charlie Pierce, "Not One Single Democrat Should Get Behind the Worst Idea in American Politics: The balanced-budget amendment is incredibly dumb, and inextricably linked to The Dumbest Idea in American History. This makes me crazy. Any Democratic politicians who attach themselves to any derivation of The Worst Idea In American Politics, especially in 2019, are not "moderate Democrats." They are conservative Democrats or, more accurately, radically conservative Democrats. Really, Bloomberg, knock this stuff off. Also, Blue Dogs? Knock this stuff off, too."

Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "On Russiagate and Our Refusal to Face Why Trump Won [...] The 2016 campaign season brought to the surface awesome levels of political discontent. After the election, instead of wondering where that anger came from, most of the press quickly pivoted to a new tale about a Russian plot to attack our Democracy. This conveyed the impression that the election season we'd just lived through had been an aberration, thrown off the rails by an extraordinary espionage conspiracy between Trump and a cabal of evil foreigners. This narrative contradicted everything I'd seen traveling across America in my two years of covering the campaign. The overwhelming theme of that race, long before anyone even thought about Russia, was voter rage at the entire political system. The anger wasn't just on the Republican side, where Trump humiliated the Republicans' chosen $150 million contender, Jeb Bush (who got three delegates, or $50 million per delegate). It was also evident on the Democratic side, where a self-proclaimed 'Democratic Socialist' with little money and close to no institutional support became a surprise contender. Because of a series of press misdiagnoses before the Russiagate stories even began, much of the American public was unprepared for news of a Trump win. A cloak-and-dagger election-fixing conspiracy therefore seemed more likely than it might have otherwise to large parts of the domestic news audience, because they hadn't been prepared for anything else that would make sense. [...] Trump was selling himself as a traitor to a corrupt class, someone who knew how soulless and greedy the ruling elite was because he was one of them. His story of essentially buying the attendance of the Clintons at his wedding — no matter what you think of it — resonated powerfully with voters. He sneered at Hillary as the worst kind of aristocrat, a member of a family with title and no money. She and Bill were second-tier gentry, the kind who had to work, and what work! Hillary was giving speeches to firms like Goldman Sachs for amounts of money Trump would probably say he spent on airplane snacks (even if it were a lie). He claimed Goldman 'owned her.' Having watched Trump wipe out Jeb using similar arguments, I thought a race against Hillary Clinton, who was running on her decades of experience residing in hated Washington, 'would be a pitch right in Trump's wheelhouse.' Trump's chances increased when pundits ignored polls and insisted he had no shot at the nomination. The universality of this take reeked of the same kind of single-track, orthodox official-think that later plagued the Russia story. [...] Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, 'I guess people hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump.'"

Really, Schultz seems to come out with something amazingly stupid every time he opens his mouth. I'm convinced his sister or girlfriend must be the one who said it would be a good idea to open coffee shops, he seems too thick to have thought of the idea himself, simple as it was. His brilliant idea of having an empty chair in the room to "represent the American people" when he discussed important issues with members of the Senate and House of Representatives was awesome. And also, "Dumb Starbucks Man Has Precisely Two Thoughts."

I probably should have been linking to Tarbell earlier. Here's Dr. Hagop Kantarjian with "How to Fix Out-Of-Control Drug Costs to Serve Patients, Not Drug Company Profits [...] Market forces are not effective in lowering drug prices largely because of a 'non-interference clause' included in the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act (MMA), which overhauled the program. This clause, demanded by the pharmaceutical lobby as a condition of its support, prohibits Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The MMA also included, under Medicare Part D, prescription benefits for Medicare recipients. Thus, Medicare must pay the prices imposed by drug companies without any ability to negotiate. This led to claims by some elected officials that the government does not negotiate effectively, and that free-market forces would result in reasonable drug prices and profits. History has shown otherwise: Almost 16 years after passage of the MMA, we are witnessing massive increases in drug prices and drug industry profits. [...] Though a majority of Americans support these proposed actions, and numerous bills have been introduced in Congress, none has made it into law because of opposition by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby. The Obama administration did not address high cancer drug prices effectively. In May 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released 'American Patients First — The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs.' HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the drug industry's repeated mantra that it must make large profits to pay for research and innovation was a tired point, and that the biggest problem was simple: Drug prices are too high. In other words, the drug industry is too greedy."

"A Bernie Sanders Campaign Adviser Was a Russian. Now He's Speaking Out: A HIGH-LEVEL ADVISER and operative for the 2016 Sanders campaign was Vitali Shkliarov, a Soviet-born citizen of Belarus. Shkliarov, who had previously worked on the 2012 Obama re-election campaign and for several other successful Democratic Party campaigns, has also become increasingly in demand as a political adviser and campaign manager in Russia, working for liberal candidates in opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Possessing a unique background and vantage point, Shkliarov, now that the 2016 election is over, has many interesting observations to express on the state of American politics, the Democratic Party, U.S.-Russian relations, and the impact of rising anti-Russian sentiment in the United States. [...] Of particular interest is Shkliarov's analysis of — and his warnings about — the dangers posed from escalating U.S.-Russia tensions (on Tuesday night, the U.S. scrambled jets in response to Russian warplanes flying 100 miles off the coast of Alaska for the first time since Trump became president). Especially noteworthy are Shkliarov's concerns about how intensifying anti-Russian sentiment in U.S. discourse is alienating Russian liberals from the U.S. and uniting them behind their own government — as happens in most countries when people, even those who loathe their own government, perceive that their nation is being demonized and targeted by a foreign power."

Cory Doctorow, "Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers' libraries: Microsoft has a DRM-locked ebook store that isn't making enough money, so they're shutting it down and taking away every book that every one of its customers acquired effective July 1. Customers will receive refunds. This puts the difference between DRM-locked media and unencumbered media into sharp contrast. I have bought a lot of MP3s over the years, thousands of them, and many of the retailers I purchased from are long gone, but I still have the MP3s. Likewise, I have bought many books from long-defunct booksellers and even defunct publishers, but I still own those books. When I was a bookseller, nothing I could do would result in your losing the book that I sold you. If I regretted selling you a book, I didn't get to break into your house and steal it, even if I left you a cash refund for the price you paid. People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon's Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. "

"The absurdly high cost of insulin, explained: Cigna, a major insurer, is capping monthly insulin costs at $25. It's a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. [...] 'Any measure that helps only a portion of the population through opaque deals between the players responsible for this crisis is not a solution,' Elizabeth Pfiester, the founder and executive director of the patient group T1International, told Vox. 'We need long-term assurance that manufacturers will be held accountable and prices will be affordable — not another Band-Aid.'"

Interview on The Real News, "Trump and Pelosi Both Cater to Private Health Insurance — Wendell Potter"

"The Southern Poverty Law Center Is Everything That'S Wrong With Liberalism: The SPLC's deceptive and hypocritical approach to anti-racism... The Southern Poverty Law Center, the wealthiest civil rights organization in the country, has ousted its founder, Morris Dees, and president, Richard Cohen, amid unspecified allegations of workplace misconduct by Dees. Dees had been with the organization since creating it in 1971, while Cohen had joined in the mid-'80s, and the SPLC's shake-up can be seen as part of the MeToo reckoning in which conduct that was accepted for years is finally being dealt with appropriately. But the organization has long been dysfunctional in even deeper ways, and the story of Dees and the SPLC is useful for illustrating some of the worst and most hypocritical tendencies in American liberalism. If we understand the full extent of what went wrong in this organization, we'll better understand the ways in which a shallow 'politics of spectacle' can take hold, and see the kinds of practices that need to be categorically rejected in the pursuit of progressive change."

"Voting Machines Are Still Absurdly Vulnerable To Attacks"

"What Conservative Dems-- The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party-- Don't Want

Highly-recommended interview with Z of Black Socialists of America. I love that they make the point that you have to do the work, not just expect people to know.

I had almost forgotten this. These people are thoroughly intertwined with government in DC and it's shameful. "Jeff Sharlet on Hillary Clinton's Relationship to "The Family" - 4/5" With disastrous results: "An Uncharitable Choice: The Faith-Based Takeover Of Federal Programs: Two Presidents In A Row Have Increasingly Steered Federal Grants And Contracts To Conservative Christian Groups — Including Houses Of Worship." But that was in 2014. It hasn't improved.

Walk Off the Earth, with Sarah Silverman, "Video Killed The Radio Star"

"Hear Roger Taylor's Political Single 'Gangsters Are Running This World: The Queen drummer has some thoughts on the state of things."

04 April 2019

I got a feeling that the journey has just begun

Gorsuch is a monster and a sadist. "Neil Gorsuch Just Made Death Worse: In an appalling majority opinion, Gorsuch endorses pain-filled deaths for people subjected to capital punishment. [...] This week, Gorsuch wrote a majority opinion that was both shockingly cruel and entirely consistent with arch-conservative thought. The case is called Bucklew v. Precythe. Russell Bucklew is a convicted murderer whose depraved crimes are not in dispute. He was sentenced to death in Missouri. Missouri is a lethal injection state, but Bucklew has a rare medical condition that would cause him to be in extreme pain as the lethal drugs do their work. Bucklew appealed his sentence, arguing that the pain would be a violation of his Eighth Amendment protections, and asked for alternative methods of death that are not sanctioned under Missouri law. Gorsuch, writing for a 5-4 majority, denied his appeal. Gorsuch wrote: 'The Eighth Amendment forbids 'cruel and unusual' methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death.' That's about the most heartless bastard thing I've read in a while, and I work on the internet. Everybody should notice the sleight of hand Gorsuch is playing at here. Saying the Eighth Amendment only forbids certain 'methods' of capital punishment presupposes that the Eighth Amendment allows capital punishment. That's no better than saying you can't drown a person, unless she's a witch. Gorsuch is demonstrably wrong. The Eighth Amendment makes no mention of death, painless or otherwise. It talks about cruelty. It contemplates unusual cruelty. Throwing me off the top of the Empire State Building would be almost entirely painless until I came to a sudden stop. It would still be cruel. It would still be unusual." Torturing people to death is cruel. The end.

"'New York Times' reports that Jewish donors shape Democrats' regressive position on Israel: This weekend the New York Times breaks one of the biggest taboos, describing the responsibility of Jewish donors for the Democratic Party's slavish support for Israel. Nathan Thrall's groundbreaking piece repeats a lot of data we've reported here and says in essence that it really is about the Benjamins, as Rep. Ilhan Omar said so famously. The donor class of the party is overwhelmingly Jewish, and Jews are still largely wed to Zionism — that's the nut. Though that party is breaking up. Thrall's labors are minimized by the New York Times with the headline 'The Battle Over B.D.S.,' but his message is that the progressive base has a highly-critical view of Israel that the leadership has refused to reflect, and that's about to change. We're inside the tent. The party is going to have to reflect pro-Palestinian positions. Ben Rhodes tells Thrall that the moment of overcoming the fear of the pro-Israel lobby (as the Cuba fear was overcome) is about to happen. The article is a thorough-going rebuke of every journalist and former official (Daniel Shapiro, former ambassador under Obama, for instance, as well as the Forward and the Times opinion writers) who says that money is not at the root, or very near the root, of Democratic Party support."

"How targeting Ilhan Omar instead of white supremacy furthered both anti-Semitism & Islamophobia: Last week, House Democrats passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy. As Black women, Muslim and Jewish, we agree that anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and Islamophobia must be condemned. [...] Yet condemnations of Islamophobia and white supremacy were only added to the resolution after it was initially introduced, with pressure from Black and progressive lawmakers. Given that, it was clear to many that the resolution did not come out of a sincere effort to put an end to real threats to Jews, but rather from an effort to target someone who is already a marked woman, Ilhan Omar, after her criticisms of the U.S.-Israel relationship were rebuked by lawmakers in both parties as anti-Semitic."

This Wisconsin poll shows Biden as being a bit more popular there than Sanders, but Klobuchar and Harris can't even get ahead of Trump. Mind, the methodology of the poll is a little weird, leaving out an awful lot of the Dem demographic, particularly those under 45.

"Georgia Lawmaker Proposes Requiring Permission for Viagra, Criminalizing Vasectomies: Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick's bill, a rebuke to HB 481, would also potentially make sex without a condom 'aggravated assault'"

"Twitter Blocks Account of Julian Assange's Mother: The Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday. 'My Twitter account has been 'blocked due to 'unusual activity,' Ms. Assange wrote in a text message. Twitter, however, has provided her no reason for its action.

Apparently, "centrist" Democrats plan is to deluge the public with different plans containing the word "Medicare" so everyone will be utterly confused by what's going on. Interestingly, the Colorado Democrat responsible for this one got a whole article about him from Wendell Potter last February, called, "How to spot the health insurance industry's favorite Democrats. [...] My former colleagues undoubtedly were cheering when they heard Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) come to the defense of private health insurers and trash the idea of improving and expanding Medicare to cover all Americans, which several of the Democratic presidential contenders have endorsed. Bennet, who says he, too, is considering a run for the 2020 nomination, told Chuck Todd that Medicare for All 'seems like a bad opening offer.' He prefaced that by saying that, 'what the (other) Democrats are saying is, 'If you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you,' from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it, where 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it. [...] And to say that most people in employer-sponsored plans are happy with their coverage ignores this growing problem: because insurers and employers are shifting more of the cost of care to their workers every year in the form of higher deductibles, millions more of us are winding up in the ranks of the under-insured. They have coverage but many can't use it because of what they have to pay out of our own pockets before that coverage kicks in. The Commonwealth Fund just last week released a study that showed that 28 percent of people in employer-sponsored plans are now under-insured.

"New rift exposed as Democrats clash over minimum wage." Oh, I wouldn't say it's "new", the alt-center has obstructed progress for a long, long time.

"Kamala Harris skips AIPAC conference — but AIPAC comes to her!" So much for her pretence that she boycotted the conference.

Oh, cool, "Charlie says: I've been sitting on this for ages — but I'm now allowed to admit in public that THE LAUNDRY FILES has been optioned for TV by 42 (producers of Watership Down and Traitors (among other things). This has been grinding through the works for over a year. It's an option deal, meaning the production company are looking at writing a pitch and maybe a pilot script and seeing if they can get a network interested, so it's early days. It doesn't mean that a series has been commissioned or that anything is going to happen. (We've been here before, circa 2006-08, with an American outfit, and in the end nothing came of it.) However: it's a British production company, so anything that emerges this time round is likely to have a British feel to it, and they have a great track record."

RIP: Vonda N. McIntyre (1948-2019), author, founder of Clarion West, and enthusiastic fan. I think I first became aware of her when I read "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," but she quickly became a part of the world I lived in. I remember when I was out in Seattle being pleased to see how integrated she was in local fandom. She was diagnosed only two months ago with pancreatic cancer.

RIP: Izzy Young, "Leading figure in the world of American folk music who helped to launch the career of Bob Dylan," founder of Folklore Center in the Village. "Izzy Young, who has died aged 90, was a key figure in the New York folk scene in the heady days of the 1950s and 60s, when he helped to launch the careers of several major musicians, including Bob Dylan. Young became celebrated not as a performer but as an enthusiast, activist, writer and entrepreneur, always more eager to promote the music he loved than to make a profit. His shop Folklore Center in MacDougal Street, Greenwich Village, opened in 1957 and became a haven for fans and artists, who would stop here to meet, perform, or search for records, books and sheet music."

RIP: "Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, Dead at 81: California Rocker first reported that Dale died Friday. His bassist Sam Bolle confirmed Dale's death to the Guardian. No cause of death was revealed, but the guitarist suffered from health issues in recent years. In 2010, Dale said he was battling rectal cancer, and in an interview that went viral, Dale said in 2015 that 'I can't stop touring because I will die' due to medical expenses stemming from cancer treatment, diabetes and renal failure. 'I have to raise $3,000 every month to pay for the medical supplies I need to stay alive, and that's on top of the insurance that I pay for,' Dale said at the time. 'Dick Dale was truly the King of Surf Guitar. Before the Beach Boys gave this new genre lyrics, Dick Dale was providing the instrumental soundtrack to the surfing experience. He influenced everybody!' Stevie Van Zandt said in a statement. (Strangely, I could not find the phrase "Del Tones" anywhere in the article.)

* * * * *

"Mayor Pete" Buttigieg is the flavor of the month, I don't think I'll be supporting him for president any time soon.

Nathan Robinson's "All About Pete: Only accept politicians who have proved they actually care about people other than themselves..." is a bit long but really worth the read — it's so scathing about a certain type of person that I actually wish I already disliked Buttigieg before I read this so I could enjoy seeing someone whose works I despise have his entrails laid out on the page like this. Alas, knowing almost nothing about him, I was merely dismayed at the unfolding image of someone who is exactly what I never want to see in the White House again.

(In a way, though, it says as much about our last two Democratic presidents, as well.)

If you know only one thing about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's The Small-Town Mayor Who Is Making A Splash. If you know half a dozen things about Pete Buttigieg, it's that he's also young, gay, a Rhodes Scholar, an Arabic-speaking polyglot, and an Afghanistan veteran. If you know anything more than that about Pete Buttigieg, you probably live in South Bend, Indiana. This is a little strange: These are all facts about him, but they don't tell us much about what he believes or what he advocates. The nationwide attention to Buttigieg seems more to be due to 'the fact that he is a highly-credentialed Rust Belt mayor' rather than 'what he has actually said and done.' He's a gay millennial from Indiana, yes. But should he be President of the United States? When he is asked about what his actual policies are, Buttigieg has often been evasive. He has mentioned getting rid of the electoral college and expanding the Supreme Court, but his speech is often abstract.


But it's not fair to fully judge a person by a single comment in an interview. Pete Buttigieg has just published a campaign book, Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future, that gives a much fuller insight into the way he thinks about himself, his ideals, and his plans. It has been called the 'best political autobiography since Barack Obama,' revealing Buttigieg as a 'president in waiting.' Indeed, I recommend that anyone considering supporting Buttigieg read it from cover to cover. It is very personal, very well-written, and lays out a narrative that makes Buttigieg seem a natural and qualified candidate for the presidency

It also provides irrefutable evidence that no serious progressive should want Pete Buttigieg anywhere near national public office.


If you come out of Harvard without noticing that it's a deeply troubling place, you're oblivious. It is an inequality factory, a place that trains the world's A-students to rule over and ignore the working class. And yet, nowhere does Buttigieg seem to have even questioned the social role of an institution like Harvard. He tells us about his professors, his thesis on Graham Greene. He talks about how interesting it is that Facebook was in its infancy while he was there. But what about all the privilege? Even Ross Douthat finds the school's ruling class elitism disturbing! Buttigieg thought the place fitted him nicely.


Okay, pause for a moment. If you are Pete Buttigieg, at this point in your life you have the ability to take almost any job you want. These schools open doors, and you pick which one you go through. (Ask yourself: If I could do anything I wanted for a living, what would I do?) Pete Buttigieg looked inside himself and decided he belonged at... the world's most sinister and amoral management consulting company.

He also doesn't like Snowden and was "troubled" when Obama let Chelsea Manning out of prison. And there are other problems, too.

"Democratic Hopeful Pete Buttigieg Makes Faith 101 Misstep: If you don't understand that the Religious Right's conservatism does not stem from honest differences in faith, if you don't get that it's about particular structures of power, you badly misunderstand the situation, and you are not ready for prime time." Pete doesn't seem to get that, despite their absence from mass media, there already is a vibrant religious left.

And, at Jacobin, Liza Featherstone says, "Have You Heard? Pete Buttigieg Is Really Smart [...] It's oddly banal, the culture of smart. Like most of the detritus of 'smartness' culture, from Freakonomics to TED Talks to NPR, BOOTedgedge is politically underwhelming. What good ideas he has are shared by other candidates in the crowded field, some originating from politicians to his left, like Bernie Sanders. His bad ideas are hardly edgy, either: capitalism can be good while government regulation can be bad. [...] But the obsession with his kind of ostentatious intelligence is deeply unserious and anti-democratic. 'Smart' is not going to save us, and fetishizing its most conventional manifestations shores up bourgeois ideology and undermines the genuinely emancipatory politics of collective action. Bernie Sanders, instead of showing off his University of Chicago education, touts the power of the masses: 'Not Me, Us.' The cult of the Smart Dude leads us into just the opposite place, which is probably why some liberals like it so much."

* * * * *

Robert L. Borosage, "Centrists Are Using Calls for Civility to Silence the Left [...] 'We should not eat our own,' cautioned David Brock, which is rich coming from a professional hatchet man servicing both sides of the aisle at different points in his career. In reality, the ones doing the eating are primarily centrist pundits using high minded postures to skewer Bernie. Sanders has been assailed by a former Clinton staffer for using private planes while stumping for Hillary in 2016. He's been attacked for hiring David Sirota, a respected left-leaning journalist who got his start in Sanders's House office twenty years ago. (Sirota was raked over last week for supposedly hiding his conflict of interest while at The Guardian, a claim that turned out to be simply false). Tomasky presumptuously issued a 'personal plea' to Bernie to rein in his supporters, while saying nothing about the Clinton advisers publicly vowing to unleash their oppo research from 2016 on Sanders."

At Bloomberg, "Warren Buffett Hates It. AOC Is for It. A Beginner's Guide to Modern Monetary Theory: An overview of a once-fringe school of economic thought that's suddenly of the moment."

"How corporate America invented 'Christian America' to fight the New Deal: The 2016 annual meeting for the Organization of American Historians (OAH) will feature a session focusing upon the provocative book One Nation Under God by Princeton history professor Keven M. Kruse. In One Nation Under God, Kruse argues that the idea of the United States as a Christian nation does not find its origins with the founding of the United States or the writing of the Constitution. Rather, the notion of America as specifically consecrated by God to be a beacon for liberty was the work of corporate and religious figures opposed to New Deal statism and interference with free enterprise. The political conflict found in this concept of Christian libertarianism was modified by President Dwight Eisenhower who advocated a more civic religion of 'one nation under God' to which both liberals and conservatives might subscribe."

"The Christian Jail Monopoly: The Supreme Court recently ruled on two nearly identical cases involving prisoners and religion, and reached two different conclusions. In February, SCOTUS decided it was okay to execute a Muslim prisoner in Alabama without an imam present, as the prisoner had requested. In Alabama, only Christian ministers are allowed in the death chamber, and apparently that was okay with the SCOTUS. This week, SCOTUS stopped the execution of a Buddhist prisoner in Texas until the state provides a Buddhist clergyperson to be present during the procedure. Texas provides Christian and Muslim ministers for executions, but not Buddhist ones."

David Dayen, "Chuck Schumer Neglected To Name A Democratic Commissioner For The SEC. Now It'S Open Season For Wall Street, Bank Lawyers Crow: LAST SUMMER, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to name a candidate for a minority position on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and now Wall Street lawyers are celebrating a virtual amnesty that they think could last the rest of Donald Trump's term. In a remarkably candid editorial, five partners with the D.C. law firm Debevoise & Plimpton have confidently predicted that the SEC will refrain from imposing financial penalties on corporations for securities violations 'for the remainder of the current presidential term.' This benefits the large trading and securities interests that employ Debevoise for legal defense work. The editorial amounts to Debevoise informing their clients that the coast is clear. The reason for the expected decrease in enforcement has to do with a fatal delay by Schumer to name a minority commissioner and the Trump administration's unprecedented exploitation of this mistake." If this was just a mistake on his part, he should be led away to the glue factory. If it wasn't — which is believable — he should be tarred and feathered.

Wendell Potter, "Democrats on the take: New DCCC Chair is a best friend of health insurers: Here's a headline you can bet my former colleagues in the health insurance business were thrilled to see last week: 'DCCC chief: Medicare for All price tag "a little scary."' That headline topped the lead story in the March 6 edition of The Hill, a newspaper widely read by Congressional staff and lobbyists and others in the influence-peddling business in Washington."

"Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize: Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would, its ex-secretary has said. Geir Lundestad told the AP news agency that the committee hoped the award would strengthen Mr Obama. Instead, the decision was met with criticism in the US. Many argued he had not had any impact worthy of the award." Also, Arafat apparently enjoyed Tom & Jerry.

Brian K. Bullock at Black Agenda Report, "A True Defense of Smiley and West: Two men with track records of advocacy and activism were kicked to the curb in favor of a man with practically no history of Black advocacy. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West faced tremendous criticism from large sectors of the African American population for daring to stick to their own political principles and attempting to hold Barack Obama, the U.S. empire's first Black head of state to account to said principles, in the grand tradition of Black activists, intellectuals and media. By attempting to remain true to their own political positions, and to positions most of their critics themselves held prior to the election of Obama, the two men, one a media personality, the other an academic and activist, fell from grace in elite black circles and in the popular opinion of the black masses.

Jonathan Pie gets serious about Brexit. He's actually not wrong, and this could just as easily be applied to some other national leaders we could name not so far from home.

"Millennials Are the Most Indebted Generation. They Can Thank Joe Biden: Joe Biden is trying to appeal to younger voters as he is expected to launch his bid for the presidency. However, for years, Biden made it his mission to block student debt forgiveness, leaving many young people facing a lifetime of debt."

"Inside Biden and Warren's Yearslong Feud: On a February morning in 2005 in a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Joe Biden confronted Elizabeth Warren over a subject they'd been feuding over for years: the country's bankruptcy laws. Biden, then a senator from Delaware, was one of the strongest backers of a bill meant to address the skyrocketing rate at which Americans were filing for bankruptcy. Warren, at the time a Harvard law professor, had been fighting to kill the same legislation for seven years. She had castigated Biden, accusing him of trying 'to sell out women' by pushing for earlier versions of the bill. Now, with the legislation nearing a vote, Biden publicly grappled with Warren face to face. Warren, Biden allowed, had made 'a very compelling and mildly demagogic argument' about why the bill would hurt people who needed to file for bankruptcy because of medical debt or credit card bills they couldn't pay. But Biden had what he called a 'philosophic question,' according to the Congressional Record's transcript of the hearing that day: Who was responsible? Were the rising number of people who filed for bankruptcy each year taking advantage of their creditors by trying to escape their debts? Or were credit card companies and other lenders taking advantage of an increasingly squeezed middle class?" It was the latter, and Biden made it even easier for them.

Matt Taibbi, "16 Years Later, How the Press That Sold the Iraq War Got Away With It; In an excerpt from his new book Hate Inc., Matt Taibbi looks back at how the media built new lies to cover their early ones.' [...] They had it backwards. Large portions of the public were skeptical from the start. Only reporters were dumb enough, or dishonest enough, to eat the bait about WMDs. Moreover, American reporters on their own volition rallied to the idea that Saddam was a Hitler-Satan whose 'exceptional' evil needed immediate extinguishing. [...] The WMD episode is remembered as a grotesque journalistic failure, one that led to disastrous war that spawned ISIS. But none of the press actors who sold the invasion seem sorry about the revolutionary new policies that error willed into being. They are specifically not regretful about helping create a continually-expanding Fortress America with bases everywhere that topples regimes left and right, with or without congressional or UN approval." Matt does note that Knight-Ridder was the one news organization that got the Iraq story right, but doesn't mention that there was a reason for this: They didn't have "access". Without the personalities whispering in their ears, they weren't fooled into thinking they had trusted sources. As I said 16 years ago, Saddam had never tested a nuclear device and had no delivery systems, as was well known. So when Tony Blair said that Saddam could hit us in 45 minutes, it was obviously ridiculous on its face. That he said it, and that the administration repeated it, was all the proof anyone ever needed that the whole case for invading Iraq was pure horse manure.

Adolph Reed in Common Dreams, "Vietnam to Venezuela: US Interventionism and the Failure of the Left: The modern U.S. empire has run roughshod over the interests and desires of foreign nations and their people for more than a century, but that history should call for pause as the bipartisan interventionist consensus gears up once again, this time in an effort to topple the legitimately elected government of Venezuela."

"The DCCC Is A Powerful Source Of Great Evil And Corruption Inside The Democratic Party [...] Two stories came out yesterday that we must get into: Ally Mutnick's for National Journal--House Democrats Move to Hobble Primary Challengers-- and Akela Lacy's for The Intercept-- House Democratic Leadership Warns It Will Cut Off Any Firms Who Challenge Incumbents. [...] The DCCC's move also creates a new niche business, paradoxically, opening the door for consultants who don't want to be under the thumb of the party. 'From here on out let's refer to the DCCC for what it is, the White Male Centrist Campaign Protection Committee (WMCCPC),' said Sean McElwee of Data for Progress. 'My e-mail is seanadrianmc@gmail.com. Any challenger looking for firms to work with them can feel free to reach out. There are plenty.'

"Elizabeth Warren Wants the Government to Make Prescription Drugs You Can Afford [...] On Tuesday, Massachusetts senator and likely 2020 presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill that would create a new office within the Department of Health and Human Service to manufacture generic drugs at lower costs. This is another way of saying she is trying to design a public drug manufacturer. 'HHS would manufacture or contract for the manufacture of generic drugs in cases in which no company is manufacturing a drug, when only one or two companies manufacture a drug and its price has spiked, when the drug is in shortage, or when a medicine listed as essential by the World Health Organization faces limited competition and high prices,' Warren explained in Washington Post op-ed touting the release of the bill. As David Dayen reports at The Intercept, the bill is seen as a complementary effort to legislation introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ro Khanna last month, which would crack down on 'excessively priced' drugs by removing the drug manufacturer's patent protections and allowing competitors to manufacture generic versions. But because the generic market itself is broken and pushes up prices — 40 percent of generic drugs are made by a single company — Warren's plan would step in by having the government make generic drugs and sell them at a 'fair price.'"

I can't believe they're still whining about Bernie's taxes. No one ever cared about Bernie's taxes because his income is mostly public record and he's one of the poorest guys in Congress. In 2008, Hillary Clinton was still refusing to release her taxes until she was the nominee, and the only reason people were asking about them is that they wanted to see her taxes because she'd gotten so rich from capitalizing on her time in government. Bernie doesn't have that kind of history. In 2015 the question came up not because anyone cared about Sanders' taxes, but because he'd called for Clinton to release her speeches and she clearly didn't want to, so, knowing that Trump would not release his taxes, she said she'd release her speeches when everyone in the race released their taxes. It was clearly intended as a way to dodge accountability for herself, not because anyone, anywhere, thought there'd be anything interesting in Senator Sanders' taxes.

"White Nationalism's Deep American Roots: A long-overdue excavation of the book that Hitler called his 'bible,' and the man who wrote it [...] The concept of 'white genocide' — extinction under an onslaught of genetically or culturally inferior nonwhite interlopers — may indeed seem like a fringe conspiracy theory with an alien lineage, the province of neo-Nazis and their fellow travelers. In popular memory, it's a vestige of a racist ideology that the Greatest Generation did its best to scour from the Earth. History, though, tells a different story. King's recent question, posed in a New York Times interview, may be appalling: 'White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?' But it is apt. 'That language' has an American past in need of excavation. Without such an effort, we may fail to appreciate the tenacity of the dogma it expresses, and the difficulty of eradicating it. The president's rhetoric about 'shithole countries' and 'invasion' by immigrants invites dismissal as crude talk, but behind it lie ideas whose power should not be underestimated."

I try not to link to Robert Reich much, but this is right: "Democrats once represented the working class. Not any more: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama helped shift power away from the people towards corporations. It was this that created an opening for Donald Trump."

I don't pay enough attention to Alterman these days to know if and when he completely lost his mind, but anyone who can write, "Sanders turned so negative toward Clinton that it hurt her in the general election," either has serious emotional problems or has let that money from CAP really turn his head. Sanders was "so negative" against her that he almost actually campaigned against her, but anyone who's seen a primary campaign before should have been disappointed by the lack of Clinton blood in the water. (Unless you count her self-inflicted wounds.) Further, he says, "Even though he campaigned for her after he lost the nomination, roughly 12 percent of Sanders's supporters switched to Trump, and enough of the rest supported Jill Stein's kamikaze candidacy that it helped tip key states to Trump." Alterman apparently believes that in other primaries, fewer than 12% of supporters of the nominee's opponents defect - maybe even 0%! - but of course, 12% is a pretty low number.

"No fantasy, no future: Great interview with sci-fi writer Kim Stanley Robinson by @willmenaker, @jamie_elizabeth & @spaceprole."

Photos Of The Political Organization — Black Panther Party: Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese member of the Black Panther Party. In 1960, Kochiyama and her husband Bill moved to Harlem in New York City & joined the Harlem Parents Committee. She became acquainted with Malcolm X and was a member of his OAAU, following his departure from the Nation of Islam. She was present at his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, and held him in her arms as he lay dying."

I saw this too late to include in the mention of Hal Blaine's death last time, but Mark Evanier found a neat little video montage of some of the hits he'd played on, and man, there were a lot of them - and this is by no means all of them. There were a few I hadn't realized he'd been on, too. He wasn't just in my music since I was a kid, he was in my mom's music, too.

"A woman in the men's room: when will the art world recognise the real artist behind Duchamp's Fountain?: Evidence suggests the famous urinal Fountain, attributed to Marcel Duchamp, was actually created by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Why haven't we heard of her, asks Siri Hustvedt."

"Vienna's Unpredictable Vegetable Orchestra" - playing with produce.

Little did I know that, in homage to the Beach Boys, The Flintstones featured The Fantastic Baggies (P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri) performing the awfully familiar-sounding "Surfin' Craze."

That free Joe Bonamassa album sounds pretty good.

The Everly Brothers live, "On the Wings of a Nightingale"