Wednesday, April 1, 2020

I don't want to hear them scream

Bernie Sanders wins a big victory for the American people: "Senate passes $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, sending it to the House [...] Before passing the bill, the Senate first rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., to cap unemployment insurance at a recipient's previous wages. The bill adds $600 per week to the benefits a recipient would normally get for up to four months. Sasse's amendment failed in a 48-48 vote. The senator and three of his GOP colleagues threatened to delay passage of the legislation if they could not get a vote on an amendment. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., then suggested he could hold up the bill's approval if they did not back down from their opposition."

Which doesn't mean the bill itself is even remotely good. David Dayen, "Unsanitized: Bailouts, A Tradition Unlike Any Other [...] This is a robbery in progress. And it's not a bailout for the coronavirus. It's a bailout for twelve years of corporate irresponsibility that made these companies so fragile that a few weeks of disruption would destroy them. The short-termism and lack of capital reserves funneled record profits into a bathtub of cash for investors. That's who's being made whole, financiers and the small slice of the public that owns more than a trivial amount of stocks. In fact they've already been made whole; yesterday Wall Street got the word that they'd be saved and stocks and bonds went wild. BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, is running these bailout programs for the Fed, and could explicitly profit if the Fed buys its funds, which it probably will."

Now that the media and the Democratic leadership have decided that, though he is still hundreds of delegates short and half the country is still waiting for their chance to vote, Biden has "really" won the nomination, they are starting to worry about whether he can win. "Joe Biden is the worst imaginable challenger to Trump right now: For anyone plugged in to the news firehose about the coronavirus pandemic, it has been extremely bizarre to watch President Trump's approval rating. He has botched the crisis beyond belief, and the United States now has the biggest outbreak in the world. Because of his ongoing failure to secure stockpiles of medical supplies, doctors and nurses are re-using protective gear over and over, and suiting up in garbage bags and page protectors to treat COVID-19 patients. Some have already caught the virus and died — along with over 1,300 others at time of writing, which is very likely an underestimate. Yet Trump's approval rating keeps going up. Poll averages show a marked bump in favorable ratings, a recent Washington Post/ABC poll has him above water. He does even better on the coronavirus response, with a Gallup poll finding him at 60 percent approval of his handling of the situation. This is what happens when the Democratic Party, de facto led at this point by its presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, refuses to make the case that Trump is in fact responsible for the severity of the disaster. Biden is proving to be about the worst imaginable nominee to take on Trump."

Video: "Krystal Ball: THIRSTY Dems throw themselves at Cuomo, here's why that's a mistake"

Teen Vogue, "Andrew Cuomo's Coronavirus Response Doesn't Mean He's Crush-Worthy [...] But shouldn't the bar be higher for a corona-inspired crush? In times of panic-induced infatuation, let's remember that someone can be a better leader than Trump during a crisis and still not deserve our praise. Particularly when the leader in question helped set the stage for many of the devastating challenges we now face as coronavirus sweeps the nation."

"Inside a Murder Trial in Krasner-Era Philadelphia: Not long ago, a poor black man charged with the murder of a wealthy white man wouldn't have a chance at justice. Times have changed." Innocent man goes free because the evidence doesn't support a conviction.That shouldn't be a story, but of course, it is.

"Colorado abolishes death penalty; governor commutes sentences of 3 on death row [...] Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Monday making Colorado the 22nd state to abolish the death penalty, and he also commuted the sentences of the three killers on death row. They will instead serve life prison sentences without the possibility of parole, Polis said."

Hilarious. The Russians decided to call the Russiagate bluff and... "Justice Department moves to drop charges against Russians indicted in the Mueller probe." You remember, they charged 13 Russians with "interfering" with our election, only they knew the Russians would never answer the charges so they could fabricate any charges they wanted out of thin air. But when the Russians respond instead with a not guilty plea, there has to be discovery, and since there's nothing to discover, the government has to claim they can't provide discovery material because that would mean exposing the Russians to our secret stuff. In other words, there was never any There there.

Michael Moore talked to the people he knows in Washington about Joe Biden, and they said some chilling things about how they had it covered.

And here's an episode of Useful Idiots in which, among other things, Matt and Katie marvel at Rachel Maddow's bizarre reason for not letting the remaining states vote in the primaries - an argument that would work pretty well for shutting down the general election if she really meant it, but of course she doesn't.

It goes without saying that Trump's leadership on the Coronavirus is worse than useless, but he's not the only one. "How Did Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden Screw This Up?: The Democratic response to the coronavirus has been a political disaster. [...] But Trump does not have a monopoly on political malpractice. As the crisis has spread, Democratic Party leaders — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden — have either been missing in action or short on solutions. Incredibly, a handful of arch-conservative Republicans have been able to take public credit for advancing the popular, progressive idea of just sending every household a large check for the duration of the crisis. Pelosi explicitly rejected that very idea in early talks among House Democrats, overruling pleas from Democratic economists. With Democratic leaders thinking small, a majority of the public now actually approves of Trump's catastrophic pandemic management, according to a new poll."

"Democrats' grotesque coronavirus failure [...] Meanwhile on the question of broader economic stimulus, several Republicans are now outflanking Pelosi to the left. On Monday, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) rejected the Pelosi bill as insufficient, while Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) proposed an immediate payment of $1,000 to every adult. On Tuesday, the White House released a massive $850 billion stimulus plan (which may get even bigger), including "$500 billion in a payroll tax cut, a $50 billion bailout for airlines struggling from plummeting demand, and $250 billion for small business loans," Reuters reports. [...] Only Pelosi can leverage Democrats' control of one chamber of the legislature to influence the process. As Michael Grunwald argues, she should very obviously just write a plan that is both fair and big enough to address the crisis, and tell Republicans to take it or leave it. That would mean at a minimum a massive expansion of unemployment benefits, a sickness allowance, and paid family leave. Any bailouts of businesses should have heavy strings attached to halt dividends, share buybacks, and excessive executive compensation, so the rich don't just gobble up the money. Bailouts should also mean the government collects new stock issues in return, so if and when the market bounces back, the state rather than rich investors collects the benefit. [...] But if I had to guess, I reckon Pelosi will basically agree to whatever Republicans propose. Indeed, she may well push Republicans to the right — former Obama adviser Jason Furman proposed the cash payment idea in a recent meeting with Democrats, but Pelosi shot him down. Democrats have long thought that exploiting political leverage in a crisis to make the response as good as possible is somehow "irresponsible." That means the Republicans will lead, and quite possibly get credit for doing what they could. If Trump wins with such a campaign, it will be Nancy Pelosi's fault."

"Michael Hudson: A Debt Jubilee is the Only Way to Avoid a Depression [...] The word 'Jubilee' comes from the Hebrew word for 'trumpet' — yobel. In Mosaic Law, it was blown every 50 years to signal the Year of the Lord, in which personal debts were to be canceled. The alternative, the prophet Isaiah warned, was for smallholders to forfeit their lands to creditors: 'Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.' When Jesus delivered his first sermon, the Gospel of Luke describes him as unrolling the scroll of Isaiah and announcing that he had come to proclaim the Year of the Lord, the Jubilee Year. [...] It is now understood that these rulers were not being utopian or idealistic in forgiving debts. The alternative would have been for debtors to fall into bondage. Kingdoms would have lost their labor force, since so many would be working off debts to their creditors. Many debtors would have run away (much as Greeks emigrated en masse after their recent debt crisis), and communities would have been prone to attack from without. The parallels to the current moment are notable. The U.S. economy has polarized sharply since the 2008 crash. For far too many, their debts leave little income available for consumer spending or spending in the national interest. In a crashing economy, any demand that newly massive debts be paid to a financial class that has already absorbed most of the wealth gained since 2008 will only split our society further. This has happened before in recent history — after World War I, the burden of war debts and reparations bankrupted Germany, contributing to the global financial collapse of 1929-1931. Most of Germany was insolvent, and its politics polarized between the Nazis and communists. We all know how that ended. [...] In fact, it could create what the Germans called an 'Economic Miracle' — their own modern debt jubilee in 1948, the currency reform administered by the Allied Powers. When the Deutsche Mark was introduced, replacing the Reichsmark, 90 percent of government and private debt was wiped out. Germany emerged as an almost debt-free country, with low costs of production that jump-started its modern economy."

"Medicare for All is a Great Automatic Fiscal Stabilizer: So why does it matter that Medicare for All would make our healthcare system far more countercyclical? For one, it means that it contributes to building an infrastructure which is far better at responding to recessions and even preventing them. Strong indefinite mandatory funding for a Medicare for All system would have also been far more capable of responding to pandemics. These crises still require discretionary closing businesses and implementing social distancing measures by government officials to be lessened but we could have far higher healthcare capacity than we do to respond to these crises as needed. People would also seek treatment at the speed necessary without having to worry about cost. To get the full benefits of this crisis response, we need a system as Sanders envisions it- no out of pocket costs and comprehensive coverage that makes supplemental private insurance irrelevant."

Alex Sammon at The American Prospect, "It's Time to Nationalize the Airlines: America's most consumer-abusing and environment-degrading industry wants us to bail it out. Instead, we should take it over. [...] The airline industry has become another cautionary tale of the pitfalls of deregulation, the result of extremely misguided policy set loose over decades. Air travel wasn't always like that. In its early days, between 1937 and 1978, air travel was treated as a public utility. The Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) managed domestic flights and was responsible for establishing schedules, fares, and routes. But in 1978, under the guidance of the Jimmy Carter administration, the industry was deregulated, in the name of increasing competition and driving down prices. Initially, that decision was ballyhooed as a free-market triumph, a true success story that made the case for deregulation and privatization. A smattering of startup airlines joined the skies; the price of a plane ticket fell; the number of fares sold increased dramatically. But quickly, the airlines began to merge, and the industry became an oligopoly (if you're feeling charitable) or a cartel. The airlines dropped unprofitable routes, many of them direct flights, and went to work upping bag fees and cutting back on meals, entertainment, and the size of their seats in coach, infuriating consumers while racking up massive profits. Study after study began to find that airfares had actually fallen more rapidly before Carter's Airline Deregulation Act, and that, if the CAB had been allowed to continue enforcing its long-standing formulas for setting maximum fares, prices would have been considerably less than the free-market offering. As a result, U.S. airlines currently pull in net profit margins of 7.5 percent, which is twice the average for airline companies internationally. Meanwhile, the U.S. hasn't seen a new scheduled passenger airline come into existence since 2007." Alex talked to Sam about this on The Majority Report.

I saw one of those online Twitter polls asking, "Who do you think has stronger, deeper, personal ideological opposition to #MedicareForAll?" Biden was "winning" with 82.5% to Trump's 17.5%. I actually think this might be true (not that it makes a difference, but bear with me.) I remember during the campaign Trump raving about the great health care system they have in Scotland. Trump knows that health care free at the point of delivery is possible, and it works. And it's quite possible that when he babbled about how his administration was going to replace Obamacare with a much better program, he believed it. He had to figure, piece of cake, if they can do it in Scotland, why can't we write a good health care plan, too. Of course, he wasn't going to write it, and that meant Republicans were going to write it, and it's just possible he didn't realize that they would absolutely refuse to produce a genuinely good plan. And according to this story I failed to see at the time, that might really be the case. From January of 2018, "Trump asked 'Why can't Medicare simply cover everybody?' before pushing Obamacare repeal."

David Dayen, "The Man Who Knew" An interview with Barry Lynn, whose prediction about the dangers of centralizing our manufacturing has sadly come true amid the coronavirus outbreak.
David Dayen: What piqued your interest in this circumstance with supply chains in the beginning?
Barry Lynn: I first approached it after this earthquake that happened in Taiwan, in September 1999. I was running a magazine called Global Business. We wrote about how large businesses were moving things around the world. Within a few days, all these factories in the U.S. shut down, in California and Texas, because the supply chains, the supply of semiconductors from Taiwan, were broken. They couldn't fly them out because there was no power at the airport, so the shipments couldn't get out.
It showed me that we took this really important set of eggs and put them all in the same basket. At the time, I became really quite curious why these really smart people running these corporations would do that, and why the really smart people running government would allow that to happen."
"

"How to Save Elections From a Pandemic" - to me this article could be called, "How to make sure everyone has paper ballots." But by saying you're doing something else.

"Who Wants a Revolution? No One Who Owns a Major Media Outlet [...] Of course, that raises the question that is almost never answered in such outlets: Why do Democratic voters think Biden is the more electable candidate, even if they like Sanders' policy positions better? Why, if in head-to-head polling—our best available data on who is 'electable'—Sanders has consistently done as well if not better than Biden over the months, have Democrats been convinced to vote against their own preferences? The pundits appear willfully ignorant of their own role in shaping electability narratives. In the debates, electability was a favorite topic of the journalists doling out questions, and the message (evidence be damned) was clear: Sanders is unelectable. As we reported after studying every debate question prior to Super Tuesday (FAIR.org, 2/29/20), Sanders' electability was questioned more than four times as often as Biden's (21 to 5). While Biden's lackluster campaign performance had prompted much commentary about whether he could win the primaries, the chorus of pundits and 'experts' in political coverage counseled that this year, as always, the center is the one and only place for Democrats to find electability (e.g., FAIR.org, 10/25/19). With Biden's victory in South Carolina, media doubts about his strength were quickly banished. He walked away with an 'earned-media tsunami' of three days of almost entirely exuberant media coverage, worth in the neighborhood of $70 million (Vanity Fair, 3/5/20). By comparison, Sanders, whose massive grassroots fundraising outpaced all of his competitors, spent $50 million in the last three months of 2019 (Politico, 2/20/20)."

"The Four Senators Who Sold Their Stocks Just in Time [...] Loeffler, Inhofe, and Feinstein say that they didn't personally sell those stocks. Their financial managers sold those stocks; the senators themselves deny knowing anything about it. According to TPM, 'Burr has since claimed that he dumped between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings in February, based solely on publicly available news reports.' The 'insider' information he was getting as a senator had nothing to do with it, he says. One suspects we'll be hearing more about this. And it's not just about potential 'insider' trading; it's about these people knowing the situation was dire but going along with the Trump Administration's claims that everything was just fine and under control. Well, the Republicans, anyway. I'm not aware of Feinstein trying to cover Trump's ass."

RIP: "Jerry Slick, San Francisco Musician/Filmmaker & Grace's 1st Husband, Dead at 80: Jerry Slick, a drummer turned cinematographer whose mid-'60s San Francisco band the Great Society featured his then-wife Grace Slick on vocals, has died. No cause, date or place was cited in online posts announcing Slick's death, which was confirmed by his current wife, Wendy Slick, and by Darby Slick, Jerry's brother. Jerry Slick was 80." I was interested to learn from this obit that the producer of the album was a guy who came to be known as Sly Stone.

RIP: "Tom Turnipseed, a 'reformed racist' after backing George Wallace, dies at 83: Tom Turnipseed, who after working on the presidential campaign of the segregationist George C. Wallace in 1968 took a 180-degree turn and became a champion of civil rights, died on March 6 at his home in Columbia, S.C. He was 83. In 1968 when Wallace, the former governor of Alabama, was the American Independent Party candidate for president, Turnipseed, a South Carolina lawyer, was the campaign's executive director. 'I liked him,' Turnipseed explained in an interview for Tom Brokaw's book 'Boom! Voices of the Sixties' (2007). 'He was standing up for the South.' But the campaign began to change his thinking, setting the stage for him to become, as he often described himself, a 'reformed racist.' 'What turned me off was not Wallace, but the crowds,' he told the New York Times in 1978. Wallace, he saw, was tapping into something ugly, not just in the South but among white blue-collar supporters in the North."

I found this conversation between Michael Brooks and Adolph Reed pretty interesting

More like Trump every day: "Time's Up Said It Could Not Fund A #Metoo Allegation Against Joe Biden, Citing Its Nonprofit Status And His Presidential Run: [...] She thought about the world she wanted her daughter to live in and decided that she wanted to continue telling her story and push back against what she saw as online defamation. To get legal help, and manage what she knew from her first go-around would be serious backlash, she reached out to the organization Time's Up, established in the wake of the #MeToo movement to help survivors tell their stories."

"Tourism is not development [...] If not tourism, then what? Cambridge based development economist Ha Joon Chang in his book Kicking Away the Ladder looked at all the developed countries and observed a pattern in how they developed. All the countries instituted industrial policies that supported their infant industries through subsidies and protectionism. Once these countries had efficient industries, only then, these countries opened their borders for trade."

"The decline and fall of neoliberalism in the Democratic Party [...] Meanwhile, New Dealers ran into political difficulties. In 1972, George McGovern ran on a strongly left-wing platform, and got flattened by Nixon, seemingly demonstrating that the New Deal was no longer a vote winner. Neoliberal economists were reaching the height of academic respectability, they had a convincing story to explain the problems, and they gained the ears of top Democratic politicians like Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. On the advice of Alfred Kahn, Kennedy shepherded through airline deregulation, while Carter appointed neoliberal Paul Volcker to chair of the Federal Reserve, where Volcker proceeded to create a terrible recession to crush inflation. "The standard of living of the average American has to decline," he said. This produced growing inequality, which turned out to be a keystone element of neoliberal political economy. Deregulation, union-busting, abandoning anti-trust, and so forth shunted money to the top of the income ladder — thus providing more resources for lobbying, political pressure groups, think tanks, and economics departments to produce yet more neoliberal policy.

Naomi Klein in 2016: "It was the Democrats' embrace of neoliberalism that won it for Trump [...] Here is what we need to understand: a hell of a lot of people are in pain. Under neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatisation, austerity and corporate trade, their living standards have declined precipitously. They have lost jobs. They have lost pensions. They have lost much of the safety net that used to make these losses less frightening. They see a future for their kids even worse than their precarious present. At the same time, they have witnessed the rise of the Davos class, a hyper-connected network of banking and tech billionaires, elected leaders who are awfully cosy with those interests, and Hollywood celebrities who make the whole thing seem unbearably glamorous. Success is a party to which they were not invited, and they know in their hearts that this rising wealth and power is somehow directly connected to their growing debts and powerlessness."

"The World War II food memoir that’s getting me through life in a pandemic: MFK Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf is a hopeful message on how to survive during wartime when food supply lines were disrupted, fuel was scarce, and people stocked "blackout shelves" in case of a bombing."

"Museum asks people to recreate art from household items while social distancing and it's delightful" — and it is, too.

"7 of the Best Art Deco Buildings in London"

"Your Guide To Not Getting Murdered In A Quaint English Village"

I really am sick of having all the news be about one subject, but I have to admit this made me smile: "Beautiful Covid-19 Song Spotted on Youtube. Chris Franklin and Robert Kelly. (STAY THE F*CK AT HOME)"

"Lukas Nelson & Family - Turn Off The News And Build a Garden (Quarantunes Evening Session)"

Warren and Neil, "Splendid Isolation"

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