Well, it seems Joe Biden hasn't changed a bit. Sit him down with concerned black activists and he shows off his racism, arrogance, and even his apparent belief that he can't exercise his Constitutionally-mandated executive powers because there's this thing called "the Constitution". I can't even believe how appalling this was to hear. (Brie Joy Gray and Katie Halper supply even more cringe-worthy episodes of Biden's arrogance, sexism and racism here. And Krystal Ball wasn't too pleased, either.) We couldn't help remembering this headline from The Onion. Those people were just trying to help him, but he made it clear he wasn't inclined to listen.
Understand, Biden was just full of it. Here's Dayen, "Joe Biden Is Unhappy About the Day One Agenda: But those are the breaks when you're president; people will want you to exercise your power for the general good. [...] Let's take these objections in turn. First, those who've called for executive action, and certainly those of us here at the Prospect, aren't calling on Biden to trample the Constitution. Absolutely nothing in the Day One Agenda would violate constitutional authority. In fact, the agenda adheres directly to the Constitution's Article II powers. A president's job function is, by and large, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Everything in our coverage refers to actual laws the president has the authority to implement."
It looks like Bernie Sanders, the House progressives, and Republican Josh Hawley, may have rescued us from the ineptitude of the Democratic leadership's covid negotiations, which looked like this: "Democrats stonewalled all year on a new pandemic relief package. Now they're proposing a new plan that undercuts even Republican proposals, and screws everyone but - get this - defense contractors. A senior Democratic congressional aide is irate tonight. 'The Democrats,' the aide seethed, 'have just done the worst negotiating in modern history.' At issue: a pair of new Covid-19 relief bills, just submitted by a bipartisan group of Senators. Republican Senator Susan Collins gushed that a'Christmas Miracle' allowed the two parties came together on the twin bills, which the press describes as totaling $748 billion and $160 billion, respectively. 'Bipartisanship and compromise is [sic] alive and well in Washington,' clucked West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin. It sure is. With the election over, the Democratic leadership in the space of a few weeks somehow negotiated against themselves, working with Republicans to push the total amount of a Covid-19 relief deal further and further downward, to the point where previous plans offered by the likes of Mitch McConnell and Steve Mnuchin now look like LBJ's Great Society." Jayapal, Hawley, Sanders et al. refused to shut up, and Sam Seder talked about that here.
"Effort To Take On Surprise Medical Billing In Coronavirus Stimulus Collapses: Rep. Richie Neal, who has previously blocked efforts to end surprise medical billing, was once again an obstacle to reform. [...] Slowing and weakening surprise billing reform has been a driving motivation of House Ways and Means Chair Richie Neal, D-Mass., during this past congressional term. The issue fell under the jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, whose chair, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, hammered out a tough reform bill on the bipartisan issue with his Republican counterparts. Neal, however, invented jurisdiction for the Ways and Means Committee — the panel has jurisdiction over taxation, and he linked the issue to government revenue in a roundabout way — and put forward his own proposal that was much more favorable to the private equity industry."
"Justin Amash Introduces Bill To End Civil Asset Forfeiture Nationwide: The practice is plainly unconstitutional: Rep. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) on Thursday introduced a bill to end civil asset forfeiture, which allows the government to take property from someone without ever charging them with a crime. Law enforcement on the local, state, and federal levels can seize assets if they were thought to be used in connection with illegal activity. That's often based solely on suspicion, though. Many people never receive their items back, even if they were acquitted or never charged in the first place. Since 2000, state and local governments have robbed people of more than $68 billion. Police often deposit those sums into slush funds for their departments. What's more, the property seized doesn't necessarily have to have been used by the alleged criminal in question. Such was the case with Kevin McBride, who had his Jeep taken by police in Tucson, Arizona, after his girlfriend allegedly used it to sell $25 worth of weed to an undercover cop." There are even more egregious cases. (Not mentioned in this article is the case where the DEA ginned up a possible sighting of a marijuana plant on a large property and murdered the owner in a raid intended to seize the property for themselves. Of course, when the smoke cleared, no one found any cannabis.) I have always been stunned by the fact that this practice was allowed to occur at all, let alone continue under leadership from both parties.
Maybe not everything is bad. "Biden HHS Pick Backed Medicare for All, Pressed Obama For Tough Action Against Pharma: After The Daily Poster's report, one HHS pick backed out and Biden has now picked Xavier Becerra, who touted Medicare for All and demanded Obama use 'march-in rights' to lower the price of medicine. [...] The New York Times reported on Sunday that Biden is nominating former Congressman and current California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to run HHS. The announcement follows Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo abruptly dropping out of consideration for the job, following The Daily Poster's report on her agreeing to health care lobbyists' demands that she provide legal immunity to nursing home corporations during the COVID-19 pandemic."
"Critics Smell 'Economic Sabotage' as McConnell Unveils Covid Plan With $0 for Unemployment Boost, Direct Payments: 'McConnell is making it pretty clear that if Dems don't win the Georgia Senate races, he will cripple the American economy, hoping it will let the GOP win the midterm.' Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday began circulating a coronavirus relief proposal whose contents offer so little assistance to the tens of millions of jobless, hungry, and eviction-prone Americans that critics warned the Kentucky Republican is actively working to ensure the U.S. economy remains mired in deep recession as Biden administration takes charge next month."
"Why Is Marcia Fudge Being Nominated to HUD, if Not Tokenism? The guarantee of safe and affordable housing is too important for HUD to continue being treated as the short straw. [...] Despite HUD's great potential in addressing America's cycle of housing crises, recent administrations have failed to dignify it with leadership experienced enough to hit the ground running. The resumes of the Cabinet picks speak volumes. When they are thin on housing experience, one can often presume a grooming for 'higher' office. Andrew Cuomo, HUD secretary under Bill Clinton, for the eventual job of governing New York. His successor Mel Martinez, under George W. Bush, for one of Florida's Senate seats. Julián Castro, it was rumored, for vice president to former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. For the young and ambitious man, HUD can be a low-stakes stepping stool. Other resumes tell the story of a White House indebted to its pick, though not so much as to hand them the job they really covet. The latter might explain how Dr. Ben Carson, an accomplished medical surgeon with no background in housing finance, found himself at the helm of HUD under Donald Trump. Two years into the job, Carson was still confusing REOs — short for real estate owned properties — with the chocolate sandwich cookie in a very public congressional hearing. A predictable outcome when an agency's mission is an afterthought of the administration. In line with this tradition, the Biden-Harris camp announced on December 8 that it was tapping Rep. Marcia Fudge for secretary of HUD." Fudge would have been a great pick for Agriculture, where she has real experience. But Biden gave it to Vilsack, who really shouldn't be there.
"Nina Turner Files to Run for Congress in Ohio: The former Ohio state senator and Bernie Sanders 2020 national campaign co-chair filed the requisite FEC paperwork on Wednesday. Nina Turner, the former Cleveland city councilwoman, Ohio state senator, and national co-chair of Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, on Wednesday afternoon filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission, signaling she will be running to represent Ohio's 11th Congressional District. The filing followed speculation regarding Turner's intentions after President-elect Joe Biden tapped Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who represents that district, as his nominee for Housing and Urban Development secretary. Progressive leaders and activists hailed the news of Turner's candidacy. Akron City Councilwoman Tara Samples told Common Dreams that 'Nina was built for this.' 'It's the right moment and the right time,' said Samples, a close friend of Turner and former candidate for Ohio lieutenant governor. 'She brings experience, credibility, and is well-versed on the issues. She will fight for the people... She's been a councilwoman and a state senator. She understands government on all levels.'"
"Vilsack at Agriculture: 'Mr. Monsanto'?: Numerous media outlets are reporting that Tom Vilsack will be Joe Biden's nominee for agriculture secretary. [...] Jones said: 'Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn. America needs an agriculture secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven he will not be the agriculture leader we need.' Background: Earlier this year, Branko Marcetic wrote in In These Times that while 'Vilsack resisted Republican attacks on food stamps and upped federal support for organic food—he angered progressive groups by letting poultry factories self-regulate, speeding up the approval process for GMO crops, shelving new regulations on big agriculture at the industry's behest, and stepping in to craft an industry-friendly national GMO-labelling bill intended to replace a pioneering stricter standard in Vermont. The move helped earn him the derisive moniker 'Mr. Monsanto'... 'Days after stepping down as agriculture secretary [in the Obama administration], Vilsack spun through the revolving door to the U.S. Dairy Export Council, where he now earns nearly $1 million as the top executive at its parent organization, Dairy Management Inc. The powerful Council boasts a who's who of big agriculture and even pharmaceuticals as members, and last year, Vilsack urged Democratic candidates not to criticize or target agricultural monopolies, citing the potential of job losses. Vilsack was also a major booster of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.'"
Pareene, "Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law: The Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community. The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. [...] It is that mutated creed that explains why Neal Katyal went to the Supreme Court last Tuesday to argue that children enslaved to work on cocoa plantations should not be allowed to sue the corporations that abetted their enslavement."
"Warner Bros to release all movies in 2021 on HBO Max at same time as theaters: The films will begin streaming on the same day as they are released in US cinemas and will remain on subscription service HBO Max for one month before being removed for a period of time." This is Warner's telling you they don't expect "normal" to be back any time soon.
"Judge Orders Government to Fully Reinstate DACA Program: Up to 300,000 additional undocumented immigrants could be allowed to apply for protection from deportation under a new court ruling. President Trump had sought to cancel the program. [...] Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn directed the administration on Friday to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the program, reversing a memorandum issued in the summer by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, which restricted the program to people who were already enrolled. As many as 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible, according to the lawyers who pushed for the reinstatement."
Could Biden really think that "the left" is happy with appointing Neera Tanden, because she's "progressive"? She's got a long history of pushing right-wing policies, being an attack dog against the left, a horrible, union-busting manager who actually outed workplace abuse victims to the entire staff, punching someone she disagreed with, and being the most toxic person on the internet. Here's just a taste from Nomiki.
"New report: A record breaking number of journalists arrested in the U.S. this year: Today, Freedom of the Press Foundation is releasing a report on the unprecedented number of journalists arrested in the United States this year. Based on the comprehensive data compiled by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, a project of Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists, our new report shows that there have been at least 117 verified cases of a journalist being arrested or detained on the job in the United States in 2020. The Tracker is also still investigating more than a dozen additional reports of arrests or detentions. The numbers are staggering. Arrests of journalists skyrocketed by more than 1200% in comparison to 2019. In just one week, from May 29 - June 4, more reporters were arrested in the U.S. than in the previous three years combined. Arrests occurred in more than two dozen cities across the country. And more than 36% of the arrests were accompanied by an assault: journalists were beaten, hit with rubber bullets or other projectiles or covered in chemical agents, like tear gas or pepper spray."
From FAIR, "At NYT, Now You See Corporate Influence, Now You Don't: As President-elect Joe Biden begins to assemble his team of cabinet members and close advisers, progressives and others who care about corporate influence in politics are sounding alarms. But the way top establishment media outlets like the New York Times cover the revolving door between government and corporate positions means that those alarms get siloed into 'corporate influence' stories that rarely inform broader political coverage. At the New York Times, two reporters regularly cover issues of money in politics. Reporter Kenneth P. Vogel has worked the 'confluence of money, politics and influence' beat since 2017, and investigative reporter Eric Lipton won a Pulitzer in 2015 for his work at the Times on lobbying and corporate influence. Lipton and Vogel have filed two lengthy reports in recent weeks detailing the conflicts of interest plaguing many of Biden's picks. [...] It's commendable that the Times has two reporters tasked with shedding light on corporate influence in US politics. The problem is that the paper's leadership seems to view this as a way to wash their hands of any obligation to consider such information in any of the other articles the paper churns out regarding the presidential transition and the team Biden is assembling. It's a neat trick: The Times can point to its Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting on corporate influence as evidence of its own independence, yet leave all but the most avid readers largely oblivious to the deep and troubling entanglements of so many government officials."
From Blue Tent, "David Sirota Wants to End the Scourge of 'Brunch Liberalism'" — This is actually a profile of Sirota and The Daily Poster, but has some interesting background on How Podesta and Tanden ran CAP.
Marshall Steinbaum's paper on "The Student Debt Crisis is a Crisis of Non-Repayment: This brief analyzes the increased prevalence of the non-repayment of student debt, primarily due to the increased takeup of the various Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) programs since the middle of the 2000s. It shows deteriorating repayment over time and across borrower cohorts, as well as suggestive evidence of a significant and growing repayment gap between minority and white borrowers. The implication of rising nonrepayment is that the cancellation of a large (and increasing) share of outstanding student debt is inevitable."
RIP: "Ben Bova (1932-2020): Author and Hugo-winning editor Ben Bova died November 29 at the age of 88. Family member Kathryn Brusco announced the cause of death was COVID-19 related pneumonia and a stroke. Tor.com's Andrew Liptak also confirmed the death with a second source ('Legendary Science Fiction Author Ben Bova Has Passed at the Age of 88'.) Bova's first professional sf sale was a Winston juvenile, The Star Conquerors (1959), and his first published short fiction was bought by Cele Goldsmith at Amazing — 'A Long Way Back' (1961). During the Sixties he had nearly two dozen more novels and stories published. He made several sales to Analog before meeting editor John W. Campbell, Jr. face-to-face at a Worldcon in Washington, D.C. After shaking his hand, Campbell provocatively said: 'This is 1963. No democracy has ever lasted longer than 50 years, so this is obviously the last year of America's democracy.' " We weren't friends but we did occasionally try to bait each other and traded quips. Another thread pulled....
RIP: "David Lander, the actor who played Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley, has died at age 73: Lander died on Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after fighting multiple sclerosis for decades, his family said in a statement to CNN. 'David's family hopes his fans will remember him for all the laughter he brought into the world.' the statement read." Michael McKean posted a nice picture of them together on Twitter.
RIP:Chuck Yeager, 97: "American pilot who was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound It was not until 10 June 1948 that the US finally announced its success, but Yeager was already soaring towards myth. The legend grew, culminating with secular canonisation in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff (1979), a romance on the birth of the US space programme, on Yeager himself, and even on Pancho's (and its foul-mouthed female proprietor, Florence 'Pancho' Barnes). A movie of the same name followed in 1983, with Sam Shepard as Yeager."
RIP: "Bruce Boynton, who inspired 1961 Freedom Rides, dies at 83 [...] Boynton was arrested 60 years ago for entering the white part of a racially segregated bus station in Virginia and launching a chain reaction that ultimately helped to bring about the abolition of Jim Crow laws in the South. Boynton contested his conviction, and his appeal resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibited bus station segregation and helped inspire the 'Freedom Rides.'" The NAACP sent him a good lawyer called Thurgood Marshall. But that's just part of a longer story.
RIP: Phyllis Eisenstein (1946-2020): Nebula and Hugo nominated author Phyllis Eisenstein died December 7 at the age of 74 after a year-long struggle with serious neurological problems." She was a fine writer and a good person to know. I've known Phyllis and Alex for pretty much my entire adult life and of course missed running into them at conventions. I don't like knowing I will never see or hear from her again.
"Life Inside a Pre-Release Center: Like Prison, But More Work: '[Passages] is just like jail, except they expect you to live like a regular person while you're in jail, which is pretty much impossible to do.' [...] Pre-release is supposed to be an off-ramp from prison to straight society. Participants must find jobs, pay off their debts to the program, and hopefully start saving enough money to get their own apartments."
"Ronald Reagan Paved the Way for Donald Trump: A new Showtime docuseries reminds us of just how awful Ronald Reagan was and how his brand of demagogic racism became a model for Trump. [...] Memories, how they linger — from calling in the National Guard on peaceful student protesters in Berkeley as governor to breaking the Air Traffic Controllers' strike as president, to forcing disastrous tax cuts, massive military escalation, corporate deregulation, and 'trickle-down economics' upon us. There's even the story about how Reagan got the idea for the delusional and costly 'Star Wars' missile defense system from a ray gun he carried in one of his old B movies — it's all here! But some of the details that you probably forgot — or maybe never knew — will make you groan aloud in pain that this man was unleashed upon the country at such a pivotal moment. And that his legacy, sadly, is seen everywhere today."
"Student Loan Horror Stories: Borrowed: $79,000. Paid: $190,000. Now Owes? $236,000: At 59, Chris pleaded for a renegotiation. "My life expectancy is 15 more years. At this rate, you're not going to get very much...' Their response was, 'So?' [...] Politicians when they talk about student debt usually talk in terms of amounts owed, but the dirty secret is the American system is about streams, not sums. The tension in this game is between borrowers trying to chop their debt into finite, conquerable amounts, and lenders who are incentivized to make the balance irrelevant, turning people into vehicles for delivering the highest possible monthly bill, without the real possibility of repayment."
Alex Sammon interviews State Sen. Erica Smithon "What Went Wrong in North Carolina: If there was one Senate race that Democrats absolutely had to win, it was in North Carolina. Thom Tillis, the incumbent Republican, a Tea Partier and Trump diehard, sported a negative approval rating in his home state, per a July poll from High Point University, and was considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation. Outside of sure-thing victories in Colorado and Arizona, this was the highest-priority true flip in the country. It was well within reach; Democrats just had to be sure they didn't screw it up. That was the justification for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and Chuck Schumer intervening swiftly and decisively in the Democratic primary, plucking out of thin air an inoffensive moderate in Cal Cunningham who hadn't held public office since 2003. Schumer bestowed upon him significant financial and institutional support, and he used it to crush his primary opponent Erica Smith, a Black woman and rising star in the state Democratic Party, before the race really began. Smith, despite leading Cunningham in the polls at the time of endorsement, was not worth the risk of letting the voters decide. Cunningham boasted polling advantages over Tillis of better than ten points throughout the summer; he raised a mind-boggling $47 million, more than twice Tillis. But Cunningham stumbled to a disastrous defeat, a failure of his particular candidacy, and one that also featured elements of the party's struggles nationwide. Cunningham ran on his own character, then got popped for prodigious low-grade sexting. Tillis, who isn't even liked in the state (certainly not like Susan Collins is in Maine), put up a bigger margin of victory than Trump, blowing out Cunningham in rural districts and faring shockingly well with minority groups. 'North Carolina ranks number two in the nation in rural geography. In the last three election cycles in the state, Democrats have lost rural and first American [Native American] voters,' says Smith, who represents the state's rural Third District. 'The DSCC pattern of interfering in primaries and often elevating moderates at the expense of progressive people of color is disappointing and ultimately hurt us in multiple races across the nation in the 2020 cycle.'
"How to Counteract the Court: Congress has the power to override Supreme Court rulings based on statutory interpretations. [...] What makes Ledbetter so unusual is that Democrats have not similarly fought equally absurd yet consequential rulings from the Court, instead throwing their hands up in despair at the unfairness of a particular decision and then moving on. But a joint review by The Intercept and The American Prospect of dozens of Court cases finds dozens of statutory rulings similar to Ledbetter's that Congress could overturn simply by tweaking the statute to remove whatever ambiguity the Court claimed to find in its text. Even where the Court has ruled on constitutional grounds, there is often much room left to legislate the boundaries, just as conservatives have done in relation to Roe v. Wade (1973) and abortion restrictions. From salvaging the Voting Rights Act gutted by Shelby County v. Holder (2013) to protecting workers' free-speech rights on the job to safeguarding reproductive rights, the list of cases awaiting a creative Congress runs long."
"NYT Wants to Talk About Higher Wages, but Doesn't Want to Talk About the Real Reasons Wages are Low [...] In fact, a rising profit share only explains about 10 percent of the gap between productivity growth and the median wage since 1979. The overwhelming majority of the gap is explained by rising high end wages — the money earned by CEOs and other top execs, high pay in the financial sector, the earnings of some workers in STEM areas, and high-end professionals, like doctors and dentists. For some reason, the NYT never wants to talk about the laws and structures that allow for the explosion of pay at the top. This would include factors like our corrupt corporate governance structure, that essentially lets CEOs determine their own pay, a bloated financial sector that uses its political power to steer ever more money in its direction, longer and stronger patent and copyright monopolies, and protectionist barriers that largely shield our most highly paid professionals from both foreign and domestic competition. (Yes, this is all covered in Rigged [it's free].) Readers can speculate on why these topics are almost entirely forbidden at the NYT, but if we want to be serious about addressing low wages, we have to look where the money is, and most of it is not with corporate profits. And, just to remind people why this matters, the minimum wage would be $24 an hour today if it had kept pace with productivity growth since 1968."
"Billionaire Wilderness: The Ultra-Wealthy and the Remaking of the American West: Justin Farrell spent five years in Teton County, Wyoming, the richest county in the United States, and a community where income inequality is the worst in the nation. He conducted hundreds of in-depth interviews, gaining unprecedented access to tech CEOs, Wall Street financiers, oil magnates, and other prominent figures in business and politics. He also talked with the rural poor who live among the ultra-wealthy and often work for them. The result is a penetrating account of the far-reaching consequences of the massive accrual of wealth, and an eye-opening and sometimes troubling portrait of a changing American West where romanticizing rural poverty and conserving nature can be lucrative—socially as well as financially."
"Dec. 4, 1969: Black Panther Party Members Assassinated: On Dec. 4, 1969, Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton, 21 and Mark Clark, 22, were shot to death by 14 police officers as they lay sleeping in their Chicago apartment. While authorities claimed the Panthers had opened fire on the police who were there to serve a search warrant, evidence later emerged that the FBI (as part of COINTELPRO), the Cook County state's attorney's office, and the Chicago police conspired to assassinate Fred Hampton."
"What We Don't Learn About the Black Panther Party — but Should [...] Helping North Richmond's Black community demand justice for the killing of Denzil Dowell was one of the first major organizing campaigns of the Black Panther Party. The first issue of The Black Panther newspaper, which at its height around 1970 had a circulation of 140,000 copies per week, asked 'Why Was Denzil Dowell Killed?' Anyone reading the story of Dowell today can't help but draw parallels to the unarmed Black men and women regularly murdered by police. The disparity between the police's story and the Dowell family's, the police harassment Dowell endured before his murder, the jury letting Dowell's killer off without punishment, even the reports that Dowell had his hands raised while he was gunned down, eerily echo the police killings today that have led to the explosion of the movement for Black lives. Yet when we learn about the early years of the Panthers, the organizing they did in Richmond — conducting their own investigation into Dowell's death, confronting police who harassed Dowell's family, helping mothers in the community organize against abuse at the local school, organizing armed street rallies in which hundreds filled out applications to join the party — is almost always absent."
When fascism returned to Britain: "A Rage In Dalston" — the War After the War. "Audio documentary about 1940s London-based anti-fascist organisation The 43 Group. Originally broadcast in 2008."
I found this review of Charlie Ellis' short, Single Gun Theory. I'm pretty sure I once was able to find it on YouTube but there are so many things there now with that title that I can't find the movie anymore. Let me know if you find the link.
Did you ever hear Obama read Trump's inaugural address? It sounds just like any other Obama speech.
I wish I could find it on YouTube, but my favorite episode of Night Gallery is a seasonal favorite, and I believe the first place I ever saw Yaphet Kotto, "The Messiah on Mott Street".
Glenn Miller Band, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" - "Sun Valley Serenade"
The Who, from Tommy, "1921"