Saturday, July 25, 2020

It's the terror of knowing what this world is about

RIP: Michael Jamal Brooks. I knew someone major had died when Monday's The Majority Report suddenly ground to a halt with Sam saying they needed to end the show. It never once crossed my mind that it was Michael. He was young, healthy, energetic, constantly creating new projects, and he was the best Obama and Bill Clinton impressionist ever. His right-wing Mandela and Nation of Islam Obama had me cracking up the moment I heard them. I was amazed by how good that boy was. And then the way he created new stuff to work with - and promote - other insightful people he knew, or knew of. He was spreading the word, talking people up. He was doing everything right. (And I don't mean he never put a foot wrong - I was hoping someday to tell him where he screwed up on something that I thought mattered, but I knew he did it with the best will in the world, and now it doesn't matter.) He gave history and world politics an immediacy few have managed to convey. I've spent the week wondering who is going to pick up the slack, there was so much he was involved in that never would have happened without him.
*—Variety, "Michael Brooks, Political Commentator and Podcast Host, Dies at 37"
*—Jacobin, "Remembering Our Friend and Comrade Michael Brooks"
*—Anna Kasparian's tearful farewell with Cenk in a TYT video, "Remembering Michael Brooks"
*—The Humanist Report, "Remembering Michael Brooks..."
*— Even the Independent and the Standard have pages up.
*—Matt Binder (aka Old Matt) did a tribute on his show that included some of those hilarious impressions, "For Michael Brooks (1983-2020)".
*—And of course, Remembering Michael Brooks (1983 - 2020) - MR Live - 7/21/20, where Michael's sister discussed their last conversation the night before he died and explained the "medical condition" that killed him.

"US Supreme Court rules half of Oklahoma is Native American land: The US Supreme Court has ruled about half of Oklahoma belongs to Native Americans, in a landmark case that also quashed a child rape conviction. The justices decided 5-4 that an eastern chunk of the state, including its second-biggest city, Tulsa, should be recognised as part of a reservation. Jimcy McGirt, who was convicted in 1997 of raping a girl, brought the case. He cited the historical claim of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to the land where the assault occurred. What does the ruling mean? Thursday's decision in McGirt v Oklahoma is seen as one of the most far-reaching cases for Native Americans before the highest US court in decades. The ruling means some tribe members found guilty in state courts for offences committed on the land at issue can now challenge their convictions."

"Privatizing Our Public Water Supply: Private water companies want to use the infrastructure bill to accelerate privatization. Why is Tammy Duckworth carrying water for them? In order to recover from the COVID economic depression, America will need a massive public infrastructure effort. This will do triple duty—in addition to providing stimulus and jobs, it will modernize our museum-quality public facilities, and accelerate an overdue green transition. The House Democrats have made a good start with HR2, the Invest in America Act—but with one weird exception: A provision slipped into the bill by the water privatization industry and its Congressional allies would create incentives to privatize America's water supply systems, one of the few essential services that are still mostly public thanks to the heroic struggles of our Progressive Era forebears, who worked to assure clean and affordable water via public systems."

"Federal Law Enforcement Use Unmarked Vehicles To Grab Protesters Off Portland Streets [...] Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn't identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn't learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse. [...] Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn't tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest."

"We Reviewed Police Tactics Seen in Nearly 400 Protest Videos. Here's What We Found.: We asked experts to watch videos showing officers using tear gas, pepper balls and explosives on protesters. Police actions often escalated confrontations."

"Who Actually Wants Trump to Send in the Feds? Police Unions. Protesters say local cops and the feds are clearly colluding on the spooky crackdown that began in Portland and could soon spread to Chicago and other cities. PORTLAND—Leaders of cities like Portland and Chicago publicly say they don't want federal law enforcement policing protesters. But as President Donald Trump threatens to send in the troops to a handful of America's largest cities, some of those same locales' police unions appear to be circumventing elected officials to work with the feds."

The map at of state-by-state polls sure looks like a strong Biden win, with FL, MI, PA, and WI all blue outside the margin of error. Interestingly, even TX, NC, and GA are edged in blue, although too close to be convincing.

David Dayen in The American Prospect, "A Leader Without Leading: Nancy Pelosi is an expert at obtaining power. But what does she want to use it for? Nancy Pelosi was upset. Her blitz of cable news appearances as a high-profile counterpart to Donald Trump had taken her to CNN in late April. And Jake Tapper had the temerity to question that which is not typically questioned: Pelosi's legislative acumen. Congress had just passed its fourth bill responding to the coronavirus crisis. Republicans wanted more money for forgivable loans for small businesses. Democrats had a host of liberal priorities left out of prior legislation that could have been paired with the extension. But Pelosi and her Senate colleague Chuck Schumer chose to go along with the Republican framework, leaving everything else for later. Immediately afterward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hit the pause button on future legislation. It felt like the Democrats were played. And governors were sounding alarms about the lack of federal aid to cover massive state and local government revenue shortfalls, which triggered a loss of 1.5 million jobs in April and May alone. 'Was this a tactical mistake by you and Senator Schumer?' Tapper asked Pelosi. 'Just calm down,' she replied sternly, pivoting to tout getting more small-business money than McConnell even wanted. (As of mid-June, about $130 billion in authorized funding had not been claimed, and a May survey found that half of all small businesses expected to fail, even with federal support.) Pelosi vowed to obtain state and local fiscal relief eventually. 'There's no use going into what might have been.' [...] During the pandemic, Pelosi centralized control to an unprecedented degree, placing responsibility for crisis governance entirely in her own hands. Yet the result mainly protects corporate interests while throwing temporary life rafts to everyone else. The caucus dominance and tactical savvy and leverage over Republican opponents failed her in this case. It's worth wondering why, which is inextricably tied to one question: What does Nancy Pelosi really believe?" Most politicians have at least one issue they get into politics to fight for. Pelosi's issue has always been...fundraising. She raises funds. That's all she's for. Dday also talked about the article on The Rising, "David Dayen: Why Pelosi is TO BLAME for coronavirus economic disaster"

Natalie Shure at In These Times, "What's Missing From the Biden-Bernie Task Force Plan? Medicare for All. The recommendations are an improvement on Biden's previous healthcare plans, but a public option won't cut it. We need free, universal coverage. [...] Unsurprisingly, the task force did not endorse Medicare for All, which would essentially liquidate the existing version of private health insurance and replace it with a single public system that covers everyone and provides all necessary and effective care free from the point of use. But the presence of former Michigan gubernatorial candidate and single-payer advocate Abdul El-Sayed as well as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)—who each endorsed Sanders, and the latter of whom is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All bill in the House—was evident in more left-leaning measures than Biden has previously embraced. If the healthcare platform as presented were to be fully implemented under a future President Biden, it would amount to a significant improvement on the status quo—albeit with persistent gaps that can't be resolved without abolishing private health insurance as it's currently constituted." This was predictable, of course, but a public option will improve things, because losing 150,000,000 of their customers will weaken the insurance industry considerably, which means they will hate it just as much, which means they will put out lots more ads with spurious talking points and campaign against it just as hard as they did against single-payer. But it's getting harder and harder for politicians to explain why they haven't done it yet (especially since it's the remedy they keep trying to substitute for single-payer when they are arguing against it), and if current projections hold true, Democrats are going to have an even harder time explaining it.

"Senate Democrats' Machine Spent $15 Million To Destroy Progressive Primary Candidates: The Democratic establishment has successfully blocked progressive Senate candidates in primaries, with the help of labor unions, Wall Street tycoons and corporate interests. [...] With the help of the party, its major donors, and the Senate Majority PAC (SMP) -- a super PAC funded by labor unions, corporate interests and Wall Street billionaires -- candidates endorsed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have won contested primaries in four battleground states. While the DSCC's chair, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, said last year the party would support progressive incumbent Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey if he faced a primary challenger, he hasn't seen any outside help yet from the DSCC or SMP in his tough battle with Rep. Joseph Kennedy III. [...] Overall, the top donor to SMP so far this cycle has been Democracy PAC -- a super PAC that's bankrolled by billionaire George Soros and the Fund for Policy Reform, a nonprofit funded by Soros. Democracy PAC has contributed $8.5 million to SMP."

Pareene, "Throw the Bums Out: We are in the midst of a world-historic failure of governance. Why isn't anyone in charge acting like they are responsible for it? Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled the Covid-19 mountain, a three-dimensional foam mound representing the pandemic's toll on his state. He had used the 'mountain' metaphor before and had apparently decided to make it tangible. Referring to the chart of daily new infections statewide, he said that New Yorkers had climbed the 'mountain.' Now, with that number declining to seemingly manageable levels, he turned the chart into a monument to the state's collective achievement. In a functional democracy with any standard of democratic accountability—a country where elected officials expect to be held responsible for outcomes they could have controlled or influenced—a governor would only have unveiled such a bloody monument if he needed an explanation for his immediate resignation. Cuomo, instead, had the mountain recast as a commemorative poster, which he revealed at a press conference on Monday afternoon. [...] If Donald Trump loses in November, our political system's last true believers will think that the system worked precisely as it is supposed to: It held him accountable. But this is an ongoing catastrophe of government as a whole. Every day brings a new reason to feel outraged or numbed by the scope of the disaster. We haven't begun to grapple with the breadth of it. Governors, big-city mayors, public health officials, and congressional leaders should be resigning in disgrace, firing those responsible, groveling for forgiveness, or fleeing town under cover of night."

Harold Meyerson, "Trump, DeVos, Scalia, and the Depraved Indifference Presidency: To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant's conduct must be so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime. — Legal definition of 'depraved indifference'" DeVos got on national TV and said school districts should google to figure out if they should open or close, because she can't be bothered to do her job.

ProPublica, "How McKinsey Is Making $100 Million (and Counting) Advising on the Government's Bumbling Coronavirus Response: For the world's best-known corporate-management consultants, helping tackle the pandemic has been a bonanza. It's not clear what the government has gotten in return." No-bid contracts. There is nothing about McKinsey's view of the world that suggests it could have done anything right in this, and no reason to expect it would be anything else but a shambles. "Over decades, McKinsey's approach became self-reinforcing. As successive administrations chipped away at the civil service, politicians who advocate small government got the dysfunctional bureaucracy they had complained about all along, which helped them justify dismantling it further."

"The War on Logic: Contradictions and Absurdities in the House's Military Spending Bill: There is simply no logic to it—other than the inexorable logic of war profiteering and global control. The House Armed Services Committee just passed a defense appropriations bill filled with moral contradictions and illogical absurdities. Consider: It removes some racist symbols in the military, but preserves Trump's ability to use the military against anti-racist demonstrators. It abdicates Congress' responsibility to declare war, but prevents the executive branch from moving toward peace. It was passed by elected officials, but gives a single general the ability to overrule an elected branch of government. It requires officials to state definitively that removing troops won't harm security interests, but not to say whether keeping them there will—despite the destabilizing and destructive impact of our troop presence to date in the Middle East. It is supported by deficit hawks, but would result in 50 percent higher military spending than the last Cold War budget."

"What the Coronavirus Proved About Homelessness: Britain's efforts to house thousands of people amid the pandemic prove that even the most intractable problems are solvable—with enough political will. [...] For Britain, the answer was simple: 'Bring everyone in.' Within days of imposing its national lockdown on March 23, the British government told local authorities to shelter any person in need of accommodation. It was an extraordinary task—one requiring millions of pounds, not to mention the efforts of huge numbers of officials and charities. But it worked. Thousands of unhoused people were placed in vacant hotel rooms, student dormitories, and other forms of temporary housing. A goal the government had given itself years to accomplish was achieved much more quickly."

Forbes, "The Highest-Paid CEOs Are The Worst Performers, New Study Says: Across the board, the more CEOs get paid, the worse their companies do over the next three years, according to extensive new research. This is true whether they're CEOs at the highest end of the pay spectrum or the lowest. 'The more CEOs are paid, the worse the firm does over the next three years, as far as stock performance and even accounting performance,' says one of the authors of the study, Michael Cooper of the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business."

Bloomberg, "Banker Pay Theory Upended by Harvard Expert Who Studied Sweden: Campbell says staff at Handelsbanken were highly motivated despite the absence of bonuses for all but a tiny group. What struck him was 1) how flat Handelsbanken's corporate hierarchy is, and 2) how important branch managers are. 'Handelsbanken just stood out as a really interesting example because they have really unusual levels of empowerment,' Campbell said in an interview via Zoom. What's more, he says the Swedish bank has 'had these really unusual performance outcomes that normally don't go along with that level of decentralization.' [...] 'We would normally think that the level of decentralization that they have ... would lead to things like higher loan losses, would lead to less efficiencies in their cost structure,' Campbell said. 'Yet here's this bank that has operated this way since the 1970s and has had higher returns on equity than its peers, not just on average over those years but literally every single year, going back that far, and has also had a fraction of the loan losses of their competitors in any given year, including in years where there were major economic crises."

Remember that 90% of Americans oppose Social Security cuts, so the proper description of someone who supports such cuts is "extremist" and "radical". Don't let anyone call them "a moderate". "Unsanitized: Mitt Romney Wants to Use the Crisis to Cut Your Social Security: A Bowles-Simpson-style process to cut benefits could end up in the Republican economic relief bill. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for July 23, 2020.

"The New York Times's 1619 Project: A racialist falsification of American and world history [...] Its aim is to create a historical narrative that legitimizes the effort of the Democratic Party to construct an electoral coalition based on the prioritizing of personal 'identities'—i.e., gender, sexual preference, ethnicity, and, above all, race. [...] The essays featured in the magazine are organized around the central premise that all of American history is rooted in race hatred—specifically, the uncontrollable hatred of 'black people' by 'white people.' Hannah-Jones writes in the series' introduction: 'Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country.' This is a false and dangerous conception." Why are these people trying to convince us that racism is immutable and that slavery is all about race-hatred and not about economics or anything else?

Will Shetterly pointed out on Facebook that Newsweek didn't have the guts to simply post this as news and branded it "opinion", but it's got all the hallmarks of actual news. "Private Equity Captures Rather Than Creates Value [...] Wealth can be a sign that tremendous value has been created for investors, customers and society more broadly. But wealth can also be captured rather than created. And while that works well for the capturer, the game is zero-sum, or even value-destroying, in aggregate. The private equity industry offers a fascinating case study in the importance of distinguishing between these scenarios. [...] Fortunately, such data exist. In American Affairs, private equity veteran Daniel Rasmussen asked and answered the question, 'Do Private Equity Firms Improve Companies' Operations?' If the industry's claims are true, he writes, 'we should see results in the financials of the portfolio companies, such as accelerated revenue growth, expanded profit margins and increased capital expenditures. But the reality is that we see none of these things. What we do see is a sharp increase in debt.' In most transactions, 'revenue growth slowed' and '[capital expenditure] spending as a percentage of sales declined.' [...] Massive paydays have drawn entrepreneurs and managers, who might once have built, into the game of buying and selling. Meanwhile, performance in the real economy—among the operating companies they buy and sell—has degraded. Economic growth and dynamism have slowed, productivity growth has come nearly to a halt and wages have stagnated. Bizarrely, with so much 'investment' going on, actual investment has plummeted. Assets get shuffled and reshuffled, profits get made, but relatively little flows toward actual productive uses. 'Net private domestic investment,' observes a report from Senator Marco Rubio's Project for Strong Labor Markets and National Development, 'fell from nearly a tenth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product as late as the mid-1980s, to less than half of that amount by the end of 2018. As a percent of corporate profits, it declined from nearly 100 percent in the early 1980s to less than 40 percent today.'"

RIP: "Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Dies At Age 80: The Georgia Democrat who helped organize the March on Washington and was called the "conscience of Congress," has died. The Georgia Democrat announced in December 2019 that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

"A Side of Franchise: There are many books about McDonald's that criticize the company for its many sins, and author Marcia Chatelain has read all of them. But her book comes at this famous fast-food restaurant from a different angle and with a much wider lens. In Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, Chatelain offers a critique of racial capitalism and a long history of trying to address social problems with business-based solutions."

"David Shor's Unified Theory of American Politics" — There's a lot of interesting things to read here, but I think he has a couple of blind spots. For one, he doesn't seem to realize that the Clinton administration orchestrated worldwide changes in banking laws so the US wouldn't have to compete with healthier systems when it weakened our own. For another I don't think he gets the distance between "racial resentment" and "racism" when Democrats seem to be working just as hard as Republicans to give the impression that they are helping black people, but not white people. But Shor is right that it's a mistake to assume "the demographics are on our side." They're not.

Michael Harriot did a little tweetstorm on how Big Government solves problems that Small Government creates — and how Small Government stole money from black people to give it to white people.

The Atlantic, "Ronald Reagan's Long-Hidden Racist Conversation With Richard Nixon: In newly unearthed audio, the then-California governor disparaged African delegates to the United Nations. The day after the United Nations voted to recognize the People's Republic of China, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan phoned President Richard Nixon at the White House and vented his frustration at the delegates who had sided against the United States. 'Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,' Reagan said. 'Yeah,' Nixon interjected. Reagan forged ahead with his complaint: 'To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they're still uncomfortable wearing shoes!' Nixon gave a huge laugh.

Teen Vogue, "Ronald Reagan Wasn't the Good Guy President Anti-Trump Republicans Want You to Believe In: In this op-ed, politics editor Lucy Diavolo responds to a recent ad attempting to distance Ronald Reagan from Donald Trump by assessing how much the two Republican presidents have in common."

It's a bitter joke that the Democrats can't pass anything because Republicans don't agree with them. It's just amazing how much the Democrats and GOP agree on. "How Congress Maintains Endless War - System Update with Glenn Greenwald"

"Monopolies Make Their Own Rules: Zephyr Teachout's new book lays bare the private legal system that shores up their immense power—and hides it from public view. [...] Teachout's thesis is provocative and simple: that monopolistic corporations operate a despotic parallel governmental system, or as she writes in her refreshingly brusque style, 'monopoly is tyranny.' It is a system of coercive, private power that rivals, and often surpasses, the power of the state. (And they know it: 'In a lot of ways, Facebook is more like a government than a traditional company,' Mark Zuckerberg once chirped to Ezra Klein.) You might think that a monopoly is strictly defined as one firm totally dominating a single market, but this isn't true. Teachout observes that when Standard Oil (considered one of the biggest monopolies ever) was broken up in 1911, it controlled only 65 percent of the oil market. And antitrust action has been brought against firms controlling just over 5 percent of their market. A monopoly, Teachout proposes, is simply 'any company that has so much power that it sets the terms of an interaction.'"

Adolph Reed, "The Surprising Cross-Racial Saga of Modern Wealth Inequality: Why the 'racial wealth gap' fails to explain economic inequality in black and white America. [...] 'Racism' is an alternative to a concrete explanation; it doesn't tell us how inequalities are produced, and in lieu of that only gives us a name by which we can group, and stigmatize, them. Patterns of racial difference in outcomes can occur for many different reasons, some of them random. Knowing what produces the truly ongoing and germane unequal outcomes behind the wealth gap is the only way we can hope ultimately to address and correct them. What's more, recognizing that racial economic inequality is in large part a product of 40 years or more of upward redistribution and intensifying concentration of income among the already wealthy creates a different set of necessary political responses. To eradicate the racial wealth gap, we need to link up the pursuit of justice and equality for African Americans to the broader campaign to bring justice and equality to all working Americans."

An entertaining thread on how Jeff Bezos is a black hole.

I had a moment of nostalgia watching the Rolling Stone interview with Al Gore and wondered for a moment why, forgetting everything else, Joe Biden is our nominee instead of this guy.

Everything you know is wrong, volume 168: "Michael Parenti: Reflection on the Overthrow of Communism"

"Data-mining reveals that 80% of books published 1924-63 never had their copyrights renewed and are now in the public domain: This January, we celebrated the Grand Re-Opening of the Public Domain, as the onerous terms of the hateful Sonny Bono Copyright Act finally developed a leak, putting all works produced in 1923 into the public domain, with more to follow every year -- 1924 goes PD in 2020, and then 1925, etc. But there's another source of public domain works: until the 1976 Copyright Act, US works were not copyrighted unless they were registered, and then they quickly became public domain unless that registration was renewed. The problem has been to figure out which of these works were in the public domain, because the US Copyright Office's records were not organized in a way that made it possible to easily cross-check a work with its registration and renewal."

Annie Lennox with Queen and David Bowie, "Under Pressure"

1 comment:

  1. I wonder why Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee instead of virtually anyone else. However, I rather lost any nostalgic admiration for Gore. He campaigned so hard for NAFTA with promises about the labor and environmental protections that would be added. Then when NAFTA turned out even worse than its critics predicted, immiserating small Mexican farmers and subsidizing the export of American manufacturing and creating serious environmental issues, he moved on. He took up environmentalism, but I have never heard him address the problem that trade treaties create for the environment. I thought he had a duty to do that, given his promises about NAFTA. He also has not, to the best of my knowledge, given up his fondness for aggressive expansion of so-called intellectual property.