Thursday, February 25, 2021

I want to shake your hand

Debbie Heyer's "Alien Eggs" (New Mexico Badlands) is one of those featured in "The Best Milky Way Photographers of the Year Show the Beauty of Our Galaxy."

I just haven't had the heart. The weeks pass and instead of the $2000 checks that were explicitly promised to "go out the door immediately" during the Georgia Senate campaign, Democrats now pretend that "$2000 checks immediately" was really just "$1400 sometime in the spring, possibly for some means-tested groups." The promised $15 minimum wage is, according to Biden, unlikely to happen. And will he deliver on relief for student debt? Maybe a little bit will be canceled, with a lot of means-testing, but certainly not enough. Bear in mind that the people stopping all of these things are Democrats. Biden could cancel all student debt without Congress' agreement right now. Joe Manchin wants to be the important deciding vote in abolishing the Democratic agenda and stopping $15 — and Biden doesn't seem to want to lean on him about it. Mitch McConnell is not in a position to make Senate rules anymore. It's almost as if the Democrats decided to get started early depressing Democratic turnout in the mid-terms.

Lee Carter does it again: "Virginia all but certain to become first southern state to abolish death penalty: State house's vote makes abolition assured, a historically important step since capital punishment emerged from the south as a legal alternative to lynching [...] The vote in the Democrat-controlled house by 57 votes to 41 makes abolition assured. Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, has made clear that he will sign the abolition bill, though procedural niceties are likely to delay that final step until April. The decision to scrap the death penalty in Virginia is hugely significant on a number of levels. The commonwealth is now set to become the 23rd state in the union to turn its back on capital punishment, having been the first in the nation to carry out an execution — in 1608 it put to death Captain George Kendall in the Jamestown colony for spying for Spain. [...] Between 1800 and 1920, Virginia executed 625 black and 58 white people. In the more contemporary era, between 1900 and 1969 the state put to death 68 men for rape or attempted rape. In every one of those cases the prisoners who were killed mainly in the electric chair were black. No white man was ever executed in Virginia for rape or attempted rape. Two men remain on Virginia's death row, Anthony Juniper, 50, and Thomas Porter, 46. Should abolition be enacted, they would have their death sentences commuted to life in prison with no chance of parole." Virginia has actually executed more people than Texas has.

"Illinois Becomes 1st State To Eliminate Cash Bail: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill Monday that makes Illinois the first state in the country to abolish cash bail payments for jail release for people who have been arrested and are waiting for their case to be heard. The practice has long been controversial with criminal justice reform advocates who call cash bail a "poor people's tax" that has had a disproportionately negative impact on people of color. It leaves those who can't come up with the money in jail for weeks or longer or even accepting plea deals as a way to get out."

"The Supreme Court just made an important and promising shift on qualified immunity in a case called McCoy v. Alamu — although they did it so quietly that you wouldn't notice if you didn't look closely. Here's the scoop, in a thread..."

"LETTER FROM LONDON: The Matter of Assange's Lawyers Considering a Cross Appeal: Julian Assange's lawyers are considering bringing a cross appeal to the High Court in London disputing parts of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser's Jan. 4 judgment not to extradite Assange to the United States, according to a report by journalist Tareq Haddad. Baraitser refused the U.S. request on narrow grounds, saying Assange's extradition would put his life and health at risk. But Baraitser sided with the U.S. on every other point of law and fact, making it clear that in the absence of the life and health issues she would have granted the U.S. request. That opens the way for the U.S. government to seek the extradition of other persons, including journalists, who do the same things as Assange did, but who cannot rely on the same life and health issues. It also means that if the U.S. wins the appeal it filed last Friday in High Court it can try Assange in the U.S. on the Espionage Act charges that went unchallenged by Baraitser. If Assange's lawyers counter the U.S. appeal with one of their own in the High Court against Baraitser's upholding of the espionage charges, it would be heard simultaneously with the U.S. appeal."

Amazon sues New York to claim immunity from state COVID-19 safety regulations: On Friday, Amazon filed a lawsuit in federal district court against New York state attorney general Letitia James, claiming that the company is not subject to 'state oversight' and is not required to comply with New York's workplace health and safety laws and regulations as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit is a display of boundless arrogance befitting a conglomerate controlled by one of the world's richest megabillionaires, Jeff Bezos. Amazon's legal theory is that it is not required to comply with New York safety laws or regulations because those are allegedly superseded or 'preempted' by more lenient federal regulations. Until recently, the federal regulations at issue were promulgated by the Republican Trump administration, which ferociously opposed any measure that would protect workers' lives at the expense of corporate profits. This policy has been continued in all essential respects by the new Democratic Biden administration, which is currently engaged in an intensifying campaign to reopen schools, carried over without interruption from the Trump administration. Schools are known to contribute dramatically to the spread of the deadly virus."

"Nevada bill would allow tech companies to create governments: CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Planned legislation to establish new business areas in Nevada would allow technology companies to effectively form separate local governments. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced a plan to launch so-called Innovation Zones in Nevada to jumpstart the state's economy by attracting technology firms, Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Wednesday. The zones would permit companies with large areas of land to form governments carrying the same authority as counties, including the ability to impose taxes, form school districts and courts and provide government services. The measure to further economic development with the 'alternative form of local government' has not yet been introduced in the Legislature. Sisolak pitched the concept in his State of the State address delivered Jan. 19. The plan would bring in new businesses at the forefront of 'groundbreaking technologies' without the use of tax abatements or other publicly funded incentive packages that previously helped Nevada attract companies like Tesla Inc. Sisolak named Blockchains, LLC as a company that had committed to developing a 'smart city' in an area east of Reno after the legislation has passed. The draft proposal said the traditional local government model is 'inadequate alone' to provide the resources to make Nevada a leader in attracting and retaining businesses and fostering economic development in emerging technologies and industries."

Chicagoans voted for a black lesbian mayor and got Rahm Emanuel, Jr., who gave the Covid funding to the police, mishandled the summer's civil unrest, and canceled police accountability. And that's just the headlines for one day.

Great news! "The White House Doesn't Want To Hear From Larry Summers: How Obama's chief economic advisor ended up on the wrong side of the Biden administration Economist Larry Summers has been the kingpin of every economic calamity Democrats have weathered over the last three decades. But Barack Obama's National Economic Council chair during the Great Recession finds himself as persona non grata this week after penning an op-ed undermining the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package President Joe Biden is trying to push through Congress. Summers' treatise spread from wonk to wonk in the White House with the contagion of a venereal disease—and was about as well-received. One aide characterized the response as 'widespread disagreement.' White House economists had already been booked for media hits to discuss the January jobs report, airtime that permitted many administration voices to rebuke Summers in unison."

"Summers turn to fall: For the first major legislative effort of his presidency, Joe Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package, partly made up of billions in state and local aid, billions more for vaccine production and distribution, and direct checks to tens of millions of people, to honor his campaign promise. A group of Republicans countered with their own plan, suggesting he cut it down by more than two thirds. In exchange they'd support the bill and give him the 60 votes he'd need to end a filibuster by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then something strange happened. Biden met with the Republicans, heard them out, and said no. Democrats have no desire to relive the hell that was 2009. Back then, Republicans strung Democrats along, sometimes for months, only to ditch them at the last minute or, as they did with Obama's stimulus, make it too small to do the job effectively. [...] (The one exception appears to be Larry Summers. The former Obama adviser played a key role in arguing for a smaller stimulus in 2009, and is doing so again, but this time, Biden wisely kept him out of the White House, and people there, up to and including Biden, are flatly rejecting his advice.)"

"Lies, Damn Lies, And Fact Checking: Jeff Bezos's newspaper is weaponizing fact checking to slander Bernie Sanders and defend GOP tax cuts that enrich billionaires and Amazon. Democracy dies in darkness. Jeff Bezos this week announced that he is stepping down from his job running Amazon in order to focus more on his other assets, including the Washington Post. Less than 24 hours later, his newspaper's chief 'fact checker' Glenn Kessler published a screed attacking Bezos's highest-profile political opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, for mentioning that Donald Trump's 2017 tax law benefited rich people and large corporations. This might seem like a simple example of a pundit knowing exactly who pays his salary, but in this case, the pundit in question has his own axe to grind. Kessler is the scion of a fossil fuel baron, which means he has an interest in defending tax cuts that were a particularly big financial windfall for oil companies, including the one linked to his family, according to Kessler's own newspaper."

"A majority of the people arrested for Capitol riot had a history of financial trouble: Trail of bankruptcies, tax problems and bad debts raises questions for researchers trying to understand motivations for attack. [...] 'I think what you're finding is more than just economic insecurity but a deep-seated feeling of precarity about their personal situation,' said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a political science professor who helps run the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab at American University, reacting to The Post's findings. 'And that precarity — combined with a sense of betrayal or anger that someone is taking something away — mobilized a lot of people that day.'"

"Malcolm X family demands reopening of murder investigation: The daughters of assassinated US black civil rights leader Malcolm X have requested that the murder investigation be reopened in light of new evidence. They cite a deathbed letter from a man who was a policeman at the time of the 1965 killing, alleging New York police and the FBI conspired in the murder. Raymond Wood wrote his responsibility was to ensure Malcolm X's security team were arrested days before he was shot dead in Manhattan, his family says."

"The Murder of Malcolm X: There was nothing J. Edgar Hoover feared more than a charismatic black radical who could inspire the oppressed to fight back. And that's why, according to a compelling new series, the FBI had its fingerprints all over Malcolm X's murder."

RIP: Anne Feeney, legendary Pittsburgh folk singer and political activist, dies at 69 [...] Born in Charleroi and raised in Brookline, Feeney took early inspiration from her grandfather, William Patrick Feeney, a mine worker's union organizer and a violinist. In 1967, while still in high school, she bought a Martin guitar and did her first public performance, singing Phil Ochs songs, at an anti-war rally in 1969. She was arrested at the Republican National Convention in Miami in 1972 protesting the nomination of President Richard Nixon."

RIP: "Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of City Lights bookshop, dies aged 101: Poet and countercultural pioneer put on trial for publishing Allen Ginsberg's Howl went on to become a beloved icon of San Francisco." He was important to us for a lot of reasons, just aside from the poetry, of course. I've often joked that I was once kicked out of bed by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but what really happened was that Martin Luther King had been shot, our neighbors warned us that it might not be safe to stick around on Kalorama Road, and Mark Estrin had volunteered his digs for the night — until Ferlinghetti unexpectedly arrived in the middle of the night and Mark woke us all up and drove our entire household up to my parents' place to give Ferlinghetti room. Bookstore owner, hero of free speech, and the author of "Christ Climbed Down" along with a lot of other things — what's not to like?

RIP: Mary Wilson of the Supremes: "Although she had to wait more than a decade before taking the lead on one of their hit singles, Mary Wilson was the force that held the Supremes together through the episodes of tragedy and internal strife that marked the history of the most successful female pop group of the 1960s. Having endured the removal of one original member, the troubled Florence Ballard, and the defection of another, Diana Ross, to solo stardom, Wilson — who has died aged 76 — worked with their replacements to keep the group's name going." Here she is leading on "Come And Get These Memories".

RIP: "Christopher Plummer, Sound of Music star and oldest actor to win an Oscar, dies aged 91." Just the other night I was watching him in The Return of the Pink Panther. Of course, he gets a genre credit for the Star Trek movie, but most of us knew him first as that guy who didn't like Nazis. Classy guy.

RIP: "Allan Burns: Munsters and Mary Tyler Moore Show creator dies aged 85." Munsters, MTM, Lou Grant, Rhoda, Capn Crunch, Rocky & Bullwinkle - he had a hand in all of them. and also Room 222, a show I'd completely forgotten about until I saw it mentioned in one of his obits and realized I couldn't remember anything about it, so I watched the first episode and thought, wow, this is so strange, I recognize the music, the actors, the characters and their mannerisms (though not their names), but I really don't remember the show. Did I actually watch this thing?

RIP: "Chick Corea, Jazz Pianist Who Expanded the Possibilities of the Genre, Dead at 79: Keyboardist helped Miles Davis usher in the fusion revolution and founded his own game-changing groups, including Return to Forever Chick Corea, the virtuosic keyboardist who broadened the scope of jazz during a career spanning more than five decades, died on Tuesday from a rare form of cancer. A post on his Facebook page confirmed the news. Corea was 79. [...] In the early Sixties, Corea established himself as an A-list pianist, working with Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, and others. Later in the decade, he joined Miles Davis' band and played a key role in helping the trumpeter make the transition to a more contemporary, plugged-in sound on albums like Bitches Brew. Following his work with Davis, he formed his own groundbreaking electric band, Return to Forever, which played some of the most vibrant and dynamic music of the fusion era. In the ensuing decades, Corea threw himself into countless projects, showing off his limitless range — from a refined duo with vibraphonist Gary Burton to his trendsetting Elektric Band. His most recent album, the 2020 live solo disc Plays, showed off his wildly diverse skill set and body of influences, touching on classical pieces, bebop, and more."

RIP: "Bernard Lown, Inventive Heart Doctor and Antiwar Activist, Dies at 99: He created the first effective heart defibrillator and co-founded a physicians group that campaigned against nuclear war, earning a Nobel Peace Prize. [...] While the organization insisted that it had no tilt toward Moscow or Washington and that it regarded atomic war as the ultimate public health disaster that would overwhelm modern medicine, conservative Western critics called its leaders naïve, maintaining that its work played into the hands of Soviet propagandists."

RIP: "Hustler founder and free-speech activist Larry Flynt dies aged 78." I gotta say, I enjoyed seeing him win those lawsuits, but I don't really have much else to say about this.

ROT IN PERDITION: Rush Limbaugh, 70, after decades of filling the airwaves with lies and hate and helping to destroy society in America. Atrios greeted the event with the same words Limbaugh used upon the death of Jerry Garcia: "Just Another Dead Doper." "Point/Counterpoint: Rush Limbaugh" is spot on, too.

"How the Right Won a Postwar Counterrevolution in Economics: The Great Depression thoroughly discredited laissez-faire economics. But over the postwar decades, with the help of generous business funding and political connections, figures like Milton Friedman led a remarkable revival of nineteenth-century economic ideas. They did it by adopting a pseudo-populist rhetoric that celebrated individual choice and autonomy."

"White Fragility Gets Jackie Robinson's Story Wrong: Robin DiAngelo's best-selling book sells a misguided view of baseball integration to her readers and corporate clients. [...] Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey picked Robinson—who grew up in Pasadena and was a four-sport athlete at UCLA—because of his outstanding athleticism and his strong religious faith, college education, and experiences living and playing with white people outside of the South. But anyone with the slightest knowledge of baseball knows that there were Black ballplayers in the Negro Leagues who were as good or better than Robinson when he broke the sport's color line. Moreover, DiAngelo's account entirely omits the protest movement which made it possible for Robinson, and then other Black players, to play in the majors. In DiAngelo's telling, Robinson couldn't play 'before being granted permission by white owners.' This is like saying that women were 'granted' the right to vote by men, instead of acknowledging that women 'won' the vote after decades of movement activism—including lobbying, rallies, public awareness campaigns, and civil disobedience."

"$50T moved from America's 90% to the 1%: Inequality requires narrative stabilizers. When you have too little and someone else has more than they can possibly use, simple logic dictates that you should take what they have. The forbearance exercised by the many when it comes to the wealth of the few isn't down to guards or laws — rather, the laws and the guards are effective because of the story, the story of why this is fair, even inevitable. Think of the story of monarchy and its relationship to the Church: the Church affirms that the monarch (and the aristocracy) was chosen by God ("dieu et mon droit") and the monarchy reciprocates by giving the Church moral and economic power within the kingdom. Capitalism replaced the story of divine will with a story of a self-correcting complex system: humans are born and raised with a variety of aptitudes and tastes, and at any moment, historical exigencies dictate that some individuals are better suited than others to do well."

Cory Doctorow found a gem in his pile of books to be read, and provides an enthusiastic review of Claire Evans' "Broadband [...] I have read a lot of histories of computing, and I had a front row seat for a lot of the events depicted in this book — people I worked with, people I worked against — and yet I was surprised over and over again with details and perspectives I'd never encountered. For example, for some reason, my ninth grade computer science course included lengthy readings on ENIAC, Univac, the Mark I and the Mark II, but none of those mentioned that they were all programmed exclusively or primarily by women. And Evans doesn't just explain this fact, but — because she is a brilliant and lyrical writer — she brings these women to life, turns them into fully formed characters, makes you see and feel their life stories, frustrations and triumphs."

"How The US Legalized Corruption: If you give an American politician $100,000, it's a bribe. If you pay them the same amount for lunch, however, that's a fundraiser. If you wire the incoming Treasury Secretary $1,000,000 that's a bribe. If you put her in front of a lectern, however, it's a speaking fee. Forgive me if I don't understand. White people sure have funny words for bribes."

"These 5 U.S. Towns Are Powered Entirely By Renewable Energy [...] Over the past decade, five locations ? Aspen, Colorado; Greensburg, Kansas; Burlington, Vermont; Kodiak Island, Alaska; and Rock Port, Missouri ? have successfully made the switch to 100 percent renewables."

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine accidentally predicted the 2020s by writing about the 1990s: Income inequality, homelessness, and other social ills of the 2020s — predicted by TV writers looking out their windows in 1995."

Who knew when we got lost in those twisty little passages that we were walking the map of a real cave? "This Woman Inspired One of the First Hit Video Games by Mapping the World's Longest Cave: Patricia Crowther's ex-husband coded her cave maps into one of the first hit adventure games in the 1970s, and she had no idea."

Explore the Bayeux Tapestry online.

"The Beatles as Lesbians" (illustrated).

The Beatles on The Morecambe And Wise Show

Cool Snow sculpture

Comic strip: Milk & Cheese

Eric Clapton & Friends live, "Miss You"

Bet you weren't expecting bluegrass from me, but this is good, and the lyrics fit right in.
Billy Strings, "Watch It Fall"

Anne Feeney, "Have You Been to Jail for Justice?"

Thursday, February 4, 2021

What a way to make a livin'

Hedge-funders are some of the vilest, most destructive people alive and what they do should never have been legal. It's been nice to see them exposed over the last week. Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect, "What We've Learned From the Robinhood Affair: Let's put parasitic speculators out of business. How about a lead role for Joe Biden's most progressive former top aide, Ted Kaufman? The stock speculation scandal dominating the front pages vividly reveals what critics of extreme financialization have been saying for decades. All of this hyper-trading produces no benefits to the real economy. It creates and then pops financial bubbles, roils markets, harms actual businesses, enriches insiders at the expense of bona fide investors, and leads to extreme concentration of wealth. One of the most astute critics happens to be Ted Kaufman, who was Joe Biden's longtime chief of staff and then spent two years in the Senate filling out Biden's term in 2009 and 2010. Sen. Kaufman emerged as one of the key leaders on the Dodd-Frank bill, and specifically championed reforms of the kinds of issues that have emerged in this scandal, like high-frequency trading. Kaufman has no official role in the Biden administration, other than as part of the kitchen cabinet. But he did lead the Biden transition, and my sources say that the relatively progressive cast of Biden's key financial regulatory appointments reflects Kaufman's continuing counsel. One can hope that he will be chosen to make his voice heard on needed financial reforms going forward. Rather like the New Deal—era Pecora Commission investigating Wall Street's runaway speculation and predatory practices, this time we could have a Kaufman Commission." With Gensler and Yellen on hand, this is a great moment to finally turn back deregulation that's been a big part of destroying our economy. Oh, but wait....

Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper talked Gamestop with David Dayen.

Ana Kasparian and Nando Villa did a decent break-down of the Gamestop story as well as a tutorial on the filibuster and a fine interview with Jeremy Corbyn.

Useful interview with the Roosevelt Institute's economics guy on The Majority Report, "America's Fight with the Invisible Hand w/ Mike Konczal - MR Live - 1/27/21."

"They Pledged to Donate Rights to Their COVID Vaccine, Then Sold Them to Pharma: In a business driven by profit, vaccines have a problem. They're not very profitable — at least not without government subsidies. Pharma companies favor expensive medicines that must be taken repeatedly and generate revenue for years or decades. Vaccines are often given only once or twice. In many parts of the world, established vaccines cost a few dollars per dose or less. Last year only four companies were making vaccines for the U.S. market, down from more than 20 in the 1970s. As recently as Feb. 11, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, complained that no major drug company had committed to 'step up' to make a coronavirus vaccine, calling the situation 'very difficult and frustrating.' Oxford University surprised and pleased advocates of overhauling the vaccine business in April by promising to donate the rights to its promising coronavirus vaccine to any drugmaker. 'We actually thought they were going to do that,' James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said of Oxford's pledge. 'Why wouldn't people agree to let everyone have access to the best vaccines possible?' A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course. It signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices—with the less-publicized potential for Oxford to eventually make millions from the deal and win plenty of prestige."

David Dayen, "Why Katie Porter Isn't on the House Financial Services Committee: Committee Chair Maxine Waters appears to have a problem with fierce questioning and progressive financial reform. [...] Why would Democrats take one of their most celebrated young phenoms and remove her from a committee where she has as much expertise as anyone in Congress? The question might answer itself. An analysis of the Financial Services Committee and Porter's time on it reveals that she wasn't really wanted, perhaps because of the spotlight she garnered and the goals she sought."

Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect warns, "Red Alert: The Return of Cass Sunstein: When I wrote a piece last spring called 'The Biden Do Not Reappoint List,' it did not even occur to me to include Cass Sunstein on the roster of Clinton and Obama horribles such as Larry Summers and Mike Froman. The return of Sunstein seemed inconceivable. For those who missed it, Sunstein under Obama headed a White House office called OIRA, which stands for the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. It was created late in the Carter administration and then used under Reagan as a choke point to kill health, safety, environmental, and labor regulations. If a regulation somehow made it out of an agency, OIRA provided one more chance for industry lobbyists to weaken it or kill it altogether. But of all the heads of OIRA, Sunstein was the one who perfected the art of strangling regulations, using cost-benefit gambits and other devices. He actually bragged that under Obama, thanks to his efforts, there were fewer regulations issued than under Reagan or either Bush. He was especially the nemesis of EPA. [...] So with Biden's policies and Sunstein's record, why on earth is Sunstein telling colleagues that he is in line for a White House job? The answer, for those familiar with the academic term, is that Sunstein is what's called a 'trailing spouse.' Sunstein's wife, Samantha Power, has been named by Biden to head USAID. So Cass, who teaches law at Harvard, needs an appropriately distinguished Washington job. But please, keep this man far away from the seat of power. Give him a fellowship, say, at Brookings, where he can do only modest damage."

I can't even keep up with the zigzagging ups and downs of this thing. "Democrats Ditch $600 Unemployment Boost: Now that Republicans are less of an obstacle, Dems are negotiating with themselves. Democrats have given up on giving unemployed workers an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits as part of a new COVID-19 relief package. Instead, the party seems to be coalescing around President Joe Biden's proposal to add $400 per week. The measure is part of a $1.9 trillion proposal for a pandemic recovery bill that included a host of other Democratic priorities, such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour."

Still shady after all these years: "Voting machine company behind so many surprise wins this year raises some questions: After initially focusing on the surprisingly lopsided results of the senatorial election in Kentucky, DCReport broadened our scope to look at the electronic vote-counting software and electronic voting systems that we rely on to tally our votes. This prompted us to raise questions about Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), America's largest voting machine company. What we found was a revolving door between government officials and ES&S. Voting results in three states that saw surprising majorities by vulnerable incumbent Republican senators—Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina—were almost all tabulated on ES&S machines." Same thing I've complained about for 20 years: privately-owned largely by Republican operatives, can't be audited, deliver weird results, and Republicans fight like hell to prevent any kind of auditability from being required. Why would that be?

Bernie in the Guardian, "Joe Biden must put an end to business as usual. Here's where to start [...] Let us never forget. When Republicans controlled the Senate, they used the reconciliation process to pass trillions of dollars in tax breaks primarily to the top 1% and multinational corporations. Further, they were able to confirm three rightwing US supreme court judges over a very short period of time by a simple majority vote. If the Republicans could use the reconciliation process to protect the wealthy and the powerful, we can use it to protect working families, the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor."

"A Massachusetts Democrat Pushed His Party On Its Alex Morse Handling. Getting Called A 'Faggot' Wasn't Even The Worst Response: A meeting of the Cambridge Democratic City Committee is a microcosm of the Massachusetts Democratic Party. ON WEDNESDAY, January 13 — the same day that the University of Massachusetts at Amherst released the results of an investigation into the romantic life of Alex Morse, finding no wrongdoing — the Cambridge Democratic City Committee met to debate a resolution brought forward by a local ward condemning the party for its handling of the situation. It did not go well."

Naomi Klein ponders "The Meaning of the Mittens: Five Possibilities: The symbolic power of Bernie's old pair of mittens was the work of the 'us' in 'not me, us.'" I don't know how it started, but eventually even I was caught up in it. The Mary Sue has a good collection of them, as well as some Mark Hamill collected. And I liked this one and this one. There's also a Star Trek collection. Here's one for the art crowd. And another one. (There are also a ton of Monet Bernie memes.) And more, and much more. And even more.

"Neoliberalism is Fascism with Better Manners: The best use of the New York Times is usually catching up on the CIA's talking points for the day. However, back in June of 2019 it published a surprisingly hard hitting article on Joe Biden's history of crafting and promoting the odious bill that created the modern militarized police and carceral state. The money shot is a quote from Mr. Biden where he seemingly takes credit for mass incarceration: 'every major crime bill since 1976 that's come out of this Congress, every minor crime bill, has had the name of the Democratic senator from the State of Delaware: Joe Biden.' With Mr. Biden currently drafting 'domestic terrorism' legislation, alarm bells should be sounding. Considered along with his contribution to the Patriot Act—the national security and surveillance state wish list passed in the aftermath of 9/11; Mr. Biden appears to be the central protagonist linking domestic political repression to the neoliberal project. Ava DuVernay's film 13th does a good job giving political and economic context to the American conception and political utility of 'crime.' The 1994 Crime Bill written by Mr. Biden created the means by which to force conformity to the dictates of capital. That Mr. Biden appears to have seen law enforcement as a moral endeavor speaks to the hiddenness of its basis in economic production."

Pierce, "The New York Times Has Tied Itself Into Knots With This One [...] Now, I read the NYT nearly every day, so I know that its editors have not been comatose since 2008, when Mitch McConnell first vowed that Barack Obama would not be permitted to do what he'd promised he'd do. It is obvious to the wide world that there is no good-faith partner for bipartisan action in the Congress, and there hasn't been for more than a decade. It is obvious to the wide world that the general welfare of the country is a secondary consideration to the Republican congressional minorities. The new Senate hasn't even been allowed to organize itself yet; as of Thursday, Republicans were still chairing all the Senate committees. The Times doesn't present any solutions, except to note that Biden ran for president as a legislative dealmaker—which was nice, but also was the functional equivalent of running for president as an aardvark. The obvious solution—burning down the filibuster and then legislating like wildfire—is not mentioned, and not even all the Democrats are onboard with it anyway. The Times suggests that the new president keep one foot in political reality and the other on a banana peel. This is no way to run a democratic republic. Tell me something I don't know."

"What the next generation of editors need to tell their political reporters [...] Historically, we have allowed our political journalism to be framed by the two parties. That has always created huge distortions, but never like it does today. Two-party framing limits us to covering what the leaders of those two sides consider in their interests. And, because it is appropriately not our job to take sides in partisan politics, we have felt an obligation to treat them both more or less equally. Both parties are corrupted by money, which has badly perverted the debate for a long time. But one party, you have certainly noticed, has over the last decade or two descended into a froth of racism, grievance and reality-denial. Asking you to triangulate between today's Democrats and today's Republicans is effectively asking you to lobotomize yourself. I'm against that. [...] And rather than obsess on bipartisanship, we should recognize that the solutions we need — and, indeed, the American common ground — sometimes lie outside the current Democratic-Republican axis, rather than at its middle, which opens up a world of interesting political-journalism avenues."

I never doubted it, but "New Documents Suggest J. Edgar Hoover Was Involved in Fred Hampton's Murder [...] At that point, in 1983, after 13 years of litigation, it seemed as if the historical record was complete and the true narrative of the raid established: Chicago police officers, under the command of the Cook County state's attorney, and at the behest of the FBI and its COINTELPRO program, targeted BPP leader Fred Hampton, and assassinated him while he lay asleep as part of a murderous pre-dawn raid during which the police fired more than 90 shots that also killed Panther Mark Clark and left several other survivors badly wounded. And so stood that record, until December 4, 2020, 51 years after the raid, when historian and writer Aaron Leonard received from the FBI a redacted copy of Mitchell's personnel file in response to his 2015 Freedom of Information Act request."

"Meet YInMn, the First New Blue Pigment in Two Centuries [...] Blue pigments, which date back 6,000 years, have been traditionally toxic and prone to fading. That's no longer the case with YInMn, which reflects heat and absorbs UV radiation, making it cooler and more durable than pigments like cobalt blue. 'The fact that this pigment was synthesized at such high temperatures signaled that this new compound was extremely stable, a property long sought in a blue pigment,' Subramanian said in a study about the compound."

RIP: "Hank Aaron, Home Run King Who Defied Racism, Dies at 86 He held the most celebrated record in sports for more than 30 years." I was too young to have seen him play (our household was not sports-oriented in any case), and I didn't really get into baseball until the '70s when I finally realized the significant difference between it and softball (you can't foul out in baseball, so it's a much higher-incentive game), but Hank Aaron was a legend as long as I can remember.

RIP: "Larry King: Veteran US talk show host dies aged 87" — Some people said he just didn't do his homework, but he said he just wanted to hear what they had to say for themselves. I didn't really see his celebrity interviews but I rather liked the idea of not spending a lot of time showing off how much background material he'd read and just interviewing his subjects.

RIP: "Hilton Valentine, Founding Guitarist For The Animals, Dies At 77: Hilton Valentine, the guitarist for British Invasion band The Animals known for his iconic guitar riff on the group's version of "House of the Rising Sun," has died at the age of 77. Abkco Music, The Animals' label, confirmed the musician died on Friday in a statement posted to its website. "We, along with all of the music world, mourn the loss today of Hilton Valentine a founding member of The Animals. Valentine was a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come. His death was revealed by his wife, Germaine Valentine," the label said in a statement." Eric Burdon posted a little farewell on Instagram.

"Legitimate Business: How Wall Street Put Organized Crime Out of Business [...] Yet in a sense, I think Gus Alex is alive and well, and not consigned to prison, either. Our economy—our system—is a Gus Alex/Jake Guzik operation. The Outfit, whether it knew it or not, was a blueprint for the future—our present—at a scale unimaginable to the old pot-bellied goombahs who ran things back when. In a stunning twist, the biggest, baddest mobsters of the American underworld, the kingpins who ran things for much of the twentieth century, were pathetically small-time. In the America of 2021, their kind of rackets, their brand of organized crime, has become entirely legal, the exclusive bailiwick of the Brooks Brothers Mafia, well-connected, well-starched, well-financed. [...] Put simply: the massive economic 'reforms' initiated by neoliberal politicians in that era, now responsible for the massive inequality in the world today, also essentially legalized most forms of fraud and vice. Having been bolstered at the expense of everyone else, Big Business found that it could out-compete the mob, purchasing the kind of no-consequence, laissez faire attitude from politicians and police which organized crime had once had—only at a scale of which the wiseguys could only dream."

Taibbi, "We Need a New Media System: If you sell culture war all day, don't be surprised by the real-world consequences. The moment a group of people stormed the Capitol building last Wednesday, news companies began the process of sorting and commoditizing information that long ago became standard in American media. Media firms work backward. They first ask, 'How does our target demographic want to understand what's just unfolded?' Then they pick both the words and the facts they want to emphasize."

"The True Story of Indonesia's US-Backed Anti-Communist Bloodbath: The massacre of the Indonesian left in 1965-66, backed by Washington, was one of the great crimes of the twentieth century. A new generation of scholars has uncovered its long-suppressed history of slaughter of up to a million people in the name of anti-communism."

This is a review of Cory Robin's 2019 book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas. I know I linked an interview about it at the time, but for those who would rather read, this may be more helpful. I was astonished when I learned these things about him.

For the pictures of buildings, "Urban clickbait? Why 'iconic architecture' is all the rage again"

APOD: "The Vertical Magnetic Field of NGC 5775"

An unusual look.

I noticed a long time ago that things were becoming horrible, and they kept getting worse, but I just about burst into tears on learning that Dolly Parton had re-recorded "9 to 5" as "5 to 9".

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

There was a stone-cold pack of lies

I'm not going to try to comment on the recent incursion into the Capitol, I can't even guess where this goes. A couple of links will be all you get.

"Biden to name Gary Gensler as U.S. SEC chair, sources say: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gary Gensler will be named chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by President-elect Joe Biden, said two sources familiar with the matter, an appointment likely to prompt concern among Wall Street firms of tougher regulation. [...] Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 2009 to 2014, and since November has led Biden's transition planning for financial industry oversight. His appointment as the country's top securities regulator is expected to put an end to the four years of rule-easing that Wall Street banks, brokers, funds and public companies have enjoyed under President Donald Trump's SEC chair Jay Clayton." Now this is good news!

And I hope he really means this: "How Biden Can Move On From the Obama Era: Last week, Joe Biden announced that he would not succumb to deficit hysteria in crafting his plan to lift millions of people out of pandemic-caused economic crisis. 'With conditions like the crisis today, especially with such low interest rates, taking immediate action—even with deficit financing—is going to help the economy,' Biden remarked to press at a transition event. It was an important moment that showed the president-elect's ability to adapt to changing evidence. After 2008, the incoming Obama administration pivoted too soon to deficit politics and austerity, causing significant harm and slowing the recovery. Biden appears to have learned from this mistake, and is determined not to repeat it. [...] The Biden team has some big early tests. It must prosecute the big monopolization cases against Google and Facebook, which revealed collusion in muscling competitors out of the online advertising markets. It has a number of consent decrees, where companies vowed to adhere to various guidelines, that have been violated. Stoller argued that Biden's enforcers could take one broken consent decree and make an example of that company with a big fine or other action, comparing it to President Reagan firing the air traffic controllers. That signaled that capital would be favored over labor. 'The Biden team can do that in reverse,; Stoller said."

It looks like they're trying to blow it, as usual, though, and lose some of those seats they managed to get this time around. "Dems Reject Bigger Survival Checks, Float Tax Breaks For The Rich: Party leaders are backing off a chance to push for a new round of full $2,000 survival checks — while Democratic lawmakers consider new tax breaks for the wealthy."

"Porter loses seat on House panel overseeing financial sector: Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) lost her seat on the House Financial Services Committee after House Democratic leaders on Thursday rejected her request for a waiver to serve on the Financial Services panel and other committees simultaneously, two House Democratic sources told The Hill. The Financial Services Committee is one of five House panels deemed 'exclusive' by Democratic leaders under caucus rules adopted in July 2020. Democrats on exclusive committees are barred by caucus rules from serving on any other committee without a waiver from the party's steering committee, a panel of several dozen lawmakers chaired by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that determines committee assignments. Porter, a former financial law professor known for dressing down administration officials and executives in hearings, was appointed to the Financial Services Committee and received a waiver to serve on the House Oversight and Reform Committee during her first term." Maybe she was too good at her job.

"Why West Virginia's Winning The Race To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Into Arms [...] So far, West Virginia is outpacing the rest of the country. Having delivered vaccine to health workers and completed a first round of shots at all its long-term care facilities, the state is now administering second doses and moving on to other populations, including people age 80 and over, and teachers who are 50 and older. Meanwhile, many other states are still struggling with the complex logistics of distributing the lifesaving medicines. [...] She and other health officials say there is likely a number of reasons behind their early success. For one thing, West Virginia has been charting its own path to vaccine distribution. All 49 other states signed on with a federal program partnering with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities. But those chain stores are less common in West Virginia, so the state instead took charge of delivering its vaccine supply to 250 pharmacies — most of them small, independent stores."

"Republican AGs group sent robocalls urging protesters to the Capitol. GOP officials now insist they didn't know about it: The day before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association sent out robocalls urging supporters to come to D.C. to 'fight' Congress over President Trump's baseless election fraud claims."

"Surprise, Surprise: Off-Duty Cops From All Over the Country Were in D.C. During Capitol Coup Attempt: Several police departments across the country have opened investigations into cops among their ranks to find out if they were involved in the siege on the U.S. Capitol on Washington, D.C. on January 6th. The growing number of probes follows an announcement from the Seattle Police Department on Friday that two of its officers have been put on administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that they were in the nation's capital during the raucous events. The New York Times reports that cops from Texas, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are now under similar scrutiny after social media posts placed them near the riots that took place in the nation's Capitol."

Statement from American Thinker: "We received a lengthy letter from Dominion's defamation lawyers explaining why they believe that their client has been the victim of defamatory statements. Having considered the full import of the letter, we have agreed to their request that we publish the following statement:" — Jay Rosen provides the TL;DR: "We just made shit up. Yep. We lied and lied. There was no basis for anything we said. Shouldn't have done it, but you know what? We did do it, violating every principle we have"

"Laura Poitras says she's been fired by First Look Media over Reality Winner controversy. Now she's questioning the company's integrity [...] In their phone call the next day, Poitras says, she was fired — and she says it was in retaliation for speaking to the media about the organization's failure to protect a source who is now serving five years in prison for leaking confidential intelligence documents to one of First Look's publications, the Intercept. [...] In a statement early Thursday afternoon, First Look described Poitras's parting from the company as a 'natural' decision to not renew her contract after she 'decided to step away from her role at the company to pursue her own projects.' The company denied that its decision was based on Poitras talking to the media. Later Thursday, First Look issued another statement that Poitras had 'not been active in any capacity with our company for more than two years. This is simply not a tenable situation for us or any company.' Poitras denied this, saying she had been active on several films in production when she was fired as well as making an online security guide for filmmakers. [...] 'I was told my firing was effective immediately and without cause, my access to email was shut down, and that the company had no plans to communicate my abrupt termination to the public,' Poitras wrote in her letter."

"US police three times as likely to use force against leftwing protesters, data finds: In the past 10 months, US law enforcement agencies have used teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and beatings at a much higher percentage at Black Lives Matter demonstrations than at pro-Trump or other rightwing protests. Law enforcement officers were also more likely to use force against leftwing demonstrators, whether the protests remained peaceful or not. The statistics, based on law enforcement responses to more than 13,000 protests across the United States since April 2020, show a clear disparity in how agencies have responded to the historic wave of Black Lives Matter protests against police violence, compared with demonstrations organized by Trump supporters."

"Newark police: No officer fired a single shot in 2020,thanks to de-escalation program: Newark police and city officials say a de-escalation training program is working, especially in a year faced with challenges. Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose says 2020 was the roughest year in his 34-year career in law enforcement. Six of their 1,100 officers lost their lives to COVID-19 with dozens more officers sick after being exposed on the job. They also faced major challenges during the summer's anti-police brutality protests. Through it all, Ambrose says not one officer in the city fired his or her weapon while on duty in 2020."

Craig Murray says Magistrate Vanessa Bararitser's decision to deny extradition of Julian Assange but not to let him go is "Both Tortuous and Torturous".

"How A Flurry Of Suspicious Phone Calls Set Investigators On Rick Snyder'S Trail: The former Michigan governor, his chief of staff, and health director were in close contact in October 2014, when Legionnaires' disease in Flint was setting off alarm bells among officials. FORMER MICHIGAN Gov. Rick Snyder knew about a Legionnaires' disease outbreak in Flint as early as October 2014, when there was still a significant amount of time to save lives. That was the accusation of investigators looking into the Flint water crisis, according to documents compiled as part of a three-year investigation and obtained by The Intercept. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Snyder, as well as former Michigan health department director Nick Lyon, and Snyder's top adviser Richard Baird, will be charged by the Michigan attorney general, Dana Nessel, over their roles in the Flint water crisis."

Among the new US postage stamps being released there will be one for Ursula K. Le Guin. (The Sun Science stamps look pretty cool, too.)

RIP: "Storm Constantine (1956-2021): Author and publisher Storm Constantine, 64, died January 14, 2021 following a long illness. She was best known as the author of the Wraeththu series, and as the publisher of Immanion Press, founded in 2003, which published her own work and that of other authors including Tanith Lee, Michael Moorcock, and Brian Stableford." I only had a nodding acquaintance with her, personally, but I enjoyed her books when I read them. I always thought it was cool the way she made herself accessible to her fans at conventions without seeming pushy or having an overblown sense of her own importance.

RIP: "Phil Spector, Famed ‘Wall of Sound’ Producer Convicted of Murder, Dead at 81: Revolutionary producer behind some of pop music’s most enduring songs dies from natural causes while serving prison sentence: Phil Spector, the monumentally influential music producer whose 'Wall of Sound' style revolutionized the way rock music was recorded in the early 1960s, died Saturday at the age of 81. Spector’s life was tumultuous and ultimately tragic; as groundbreaking as his studio accomplishments were, those achievements were all but overshadowed by his 2009 conviction for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson. Spector’s death was confirmed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. 'California Health Care Facility inmate Phillip Spector was pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital,' officials said in a statement. 'His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.' [...] 'A genius irredeemably conflicted, he was the ultimate example of the Art always being better than the Artist, having made some of the greatest records in history based on the salvation of love while remaining incapable of giving or receiving love his whole life,' Stevie Van Zandt wrote on Twitter." He gave us this and so much more, and he inspired Brian Wilson and Bruce Springsteen, and he was a dick. Which I guess just goes to show.

The Comedy of Michael Brooks: "Part 8 of The Michael Brooks Tribute Series: David Feldman, Andy Kindler, Matt Lech, & Sam Seder"

"Vancouver Gave Its Homeless $5,800. It Changed Their Lives. A single infusion of cash helped recipients pay their rent, get to work — and put their lives back on track. [...] Though the formal research has yet to be published, the early results are staggering. Half of the cash recipients moved into stable housing one month after they received the money, compared to 25 percent of the control group. 'That was phenomenal,' says Zhao. Almost 70 percent of them were food secure in one month. Like Ray, they spent most of the money on the essentials — food, shelter, bills. On average, the cash recipients spent a total of three fewer months in a shelter than those in the control group, whose days spent homeless increased. After one year, cash recipients reduced their spending on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes by an average of almost 40 percent, challenging 'the widespread misperception that people in poverty will misuse cash funds,' the report stated. At the end of the year-long study, participants had an average of $1,000 still left in the bank."

"Finland ends homelessness and provides shelter for all in need: In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the 'Housing First' concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling — without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness."

On Zero Hour, RJ Eskow and Matt Taibbi: Time to Bring Back 'Unbiased' Reporting?

"Tcherneva's Talking Points: UBI & JG: On Dec 29, 2020, Pavlena Tcherneva (@ptcherneva) used Twitter to share an elegant and accessible thread of 25 talking points comparing the Job Guarantee with Universal (Basic) Income policies and proposals. I added it to the collection under Response & Commentary 2020 here Added to the still under-developed Tcherneva page for good measure."

I missed this story last year, but it's another case where your first question is, "Why isn't that judge in jail?" "How The Environmental Lawyer Who Won A Massive Judgment Against Chevron Lost Everything: Steven Donziger won a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron in Ecuador. The company sued him in New York, and now he's under house arrest. [...] Donziger is not exaggerating. As he was arguing the case against Chevron in Ecuador back in 2009, the company expressly said its long-term strategy was to demonize him. And since then, Chevron has continued its all-out assault on Donziger in what's become one of the most bitter and drawn-out cases in the history of environmental law. Chevron has hired private investigators to track Donziger, created a publication to smear him, and put together a legal team of hundreds of lawyers from 60 firms, who have successfully pursued an extraordinary campaign against him. As a result, Donziger has been disbarred and his bank accounts have been frozen. He now has a lien on his apartment, faces exorbitant fines, and has been prohibited from earning money. As of August, a court has seized his passport and put him on house arrest. Chevron, which has a market capitalization of $228 billion, has the funds to continue targeting Donziger for as long as it chooses. [...] The developments that led to Donziger's confinement were, like much of the epic legal battle he's been engaged in for decades, highly unusual. The home confinement is his punishment for refusing a request to hand over his cellphone and computer, something that's been asked of few other attorneys. To Donziger, who had already endured 19 days of depositions and given Chevron large portions of his case file, the request was beyond the pale, and he appealed it on the grounds that it would require him to violate his commitments to his clients. Still, Donziger said he'd turn over the devices if he lost the appeal. But even though the underlying case was civil, the federal court judge who has presided over the litigation between Chevron and Donziger since 2011, Lewis A. Kaplan, drafted criminal contempt charges against him. In another legal peculiarity, in July, Kaplan appointed a private law firm to prosecute Donziger, after the Southern District of New York declined to do so — a move that is virtually unprecedented. And, as Donziger's lawyer has pointed out, the firm Kaplan chose, Seward & Kissel, likely has ties to Chevron. Making the case even more extraordinary, Kaplan bypassed the standard random assignment process and handpicked someone he knew well, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska, to oversee the case being prosecuted by the firm he chose. It was Preska who sentenced Donziger to home detention and ordered the seizure of his passport, even though Donziger had appeared in court on hundreds of previous occasions."

"When Bill Sienkiewicz Was Interviewed by the Secret Service Over Alleged 'Threats': In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, learn the odd tale of Bill Sienkiewicz's visit from the Secret Service over 'threats' made to the president."

"Excerpts From The Sex And The City Revival In Which Samantha Is Replaced With Fran Lebowitz"— The idea thrills me.

"Timelapse of fog that looks like a Tsunami"

And I could look at this all day: "Winter morning drive through Madrid, Spain"

"Smothered: The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

John Fogerty says his new song, "Weeping in the Promised Land", is the hardest song he's ever written.

Blood, Sweat, & Tears, "Somethin' Goin' On"

Monday, January 4, 2021

I dropped by to pick up a reason

I really meant for this post to appear over a week ago, but at first I just didn't seem to be collecting many interesting links, and then I noticed I was getting extremely grumpy and gloomy and wanted to spend all my time watching and reading fiction. But, despite my misgivings, I hope you've managed to have decent holiday time and that you have a much better new year than I'm currently capable of envisioning.

And now for the traditional Yuletide links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

On Christmas day, my provider made a billing error and throttled my internet, pretty much wrecking my day, but at least I got this: "Sanders Rips GOP for Happily Endorsing Trump's Assault on Democracy But Refusing to Back His Call for $2,000 Checks: More than half of the House Republican caucus readily supported President Donald Trump in his last-ditch—and ultimately failed—attempt to overturn the November election through the Supreme Court earlier this month, but the president's endorsement this week of $2,000 relief checks for desperate Americans was a bridge too far for the GOP. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) noted that fact with disgust Thursday, shortly after House Republicans blocked a Democratic attempt to pass $2,000 direct payments by unanimous consent. 'Republicans in Washington are happy to cheer on Trump's bogus conspiracy theories on non-existent election fraud, but refuse to support him when it comes to providing a $2,000 direct payment to working-class Americans facing economic desperation,' the Vermont senator tweeted. 'Pathetic.'"

Senators Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Sanders (I-VT), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warren (D-MA), and Wyden (D-OR) tried to filibuster the veto override of the Defense Authorization bill in order to force a vote on $2,000 direct payments. Guess how other Democrats voted. Aw, you guessed.

In the House, progressives negotiated rules changes that waived Pay-Go, and also, "The second win, on the 'Motion to Recommit,' was not secured by progressives alone, but in collaboration with many swing district Democrats, according to members of Congress who were involved in the negotiations. The MTR allows the minority party to introduce an amendment on the floor and get a vote on it. The opposition always uses it for mischief, but Republicans are much better at it, because Democrats like Josh Gottheimer happily join them. Their favorite ploy is to make Democrats cast a tough vote on immigration that later gets used in attack ads, but sometimes they even manage to derail legislation. So Democrats effectively got rid of the MTR, and now it's an actual motion to send the bill to a committee, and can't include any mischievous, extraneous language."

In which Sammy shows us yet another example of how the Biden administration has no commitment to using his powers to make things work, and Emma has a good righteous rant against the sociopathy that is "centrism".

And I really wish I had the energy to do a line-by-line "fisking" of Rand Paul's religious sermon against Covid relief. Sammy barely scratches the surface here but this is nuts.

And definitely read famous economist Duncan Black when he says, "Larry is lying: The important thing about this is that Summers is lying. It isn't that he's wrong about this, it's that he doesn't believe it. He does not think that $2000 checks relative to any baseline or other policies will "overheat" the economy. That was just a reason he grabbed for. If it was some other policy he didn't like he'd put on his frowny economist face and say it had a "low fiscal multiplier," arguing essentially the opposite, that the spending wouldn't boost the economy enough. For something else, he might go full concern troll and argue that the policy wasn't progressive, relative to some other policy he also wouldn't support if it was being offered. Appeals to the astrological charts that only the economist possesses is common, but in this case it's bullshit that even he doesn't believe." There's even more.

Matt Taibbi, similarly impressed, weighs in with "Neoliberal Champion Larry Summers Opens Mouth, Inserts Both Feet: The former Harvard President and Treasury Secretary offers important thoughts on the negative consequences of aid to the less fortunate."

"As Congressional Leaders Strike Relief Deal, AOC Slams Democrats for Trying to 'Lock Their Left Flank in the Basement': Ocasio-Cortez said that while Republicans 'leverage their right flank to gain policy concessions and generate enthusiasm,'Democrats shut progressives out."

Perhaps Ocasio-Cortez was also noticing this story in which immigration reform is being put on the back-burner by Biden's team, apparently because they find activists too uppity. "But a person familiar with transition discussions said it was intentional. He told NPR that the Biden campaign and then the transition team felt that immigration activists had become too adversarial. 'There are a number of people within Team Biden who are just uncomfortable with a lot of the policy initiatives that they recommend, which is why when you saw Biden's four core issues, immigration was not one of them,' he said."

"How a Status Quo Biden Cabinet Pick Would Burn: Ursula Burns, the former Xerox CEO, would carry to the Commerce Department a prodigious amount of baggage. One of the few remaining unfilled slots in Joe Biden's Cabinet is the commerce secretary. The oddball Commerce Department is a strange mélange of different agencies that don't really fit together, but in the hands of someone committed to reviving U.S. industrial policy, it could prove fearsome and important. Leaks to the press, however, have shown Biden flirting with the notion of doing something on the inexplicable/infuriating continuum, picking a Republican to prove his fondness for a party that still isn't certain he won, or a Wall Street—friendly steward to build relationships with a business community that has already staffed much of his administration. In turn, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Gina Raimondo have dominated the rumor mill. The 'apolitical' option, as Axios calls it, seems to be former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. As a woman of color, she would satisfy the Biden administration's diversity mandate; and as a onetime executive, decidedly pro-corporate, she would satisfy the one area where there is no taste for diversity.. [...] It's hard to believe that the business community needs yet another goodwill ambassador within the Biden administration. It's even harder to understand why corporate executives (think Penny Pritzker or Wilbur Ross) are almost always floated for the post of commerce secretary. But adding Burns to the mix would be anything but apolitical. Given her legacy from her time atop Xerox, Burns could very well undermine Biden's credibility on a number of his most important priorities, and bring with her a ton of baggage from some of the most high-profile scandals in the corporate world."

New York Post's Hunter Biden laptop source sues Twitter for defamation" The Mac Shop owner complains he is 'now widely considered a hacker' A computer repair shop owner cited in a controversial New York Post story is suing Twitter for defamation, claiming its content moderation choices falsely tarred him as a hacker. John Paul Mac Isaac was the owner of The Mac Shop, a Delaware computer repair business. In October, the New York Post reported that The Mac Shop had been paid to recover data from a laptop belonging to Joe Biden's son Hunter, and it published emails and pictures allegedly from a copy of the hard drive. After the Post's sourcing and conclusions were disputed, Facebook and Twitter both restricted the article's reach, and Twitter pointed to its ban on posting 'hacked materials' as an explanation. Mac Isaac claims Twitter specifically made this decision to 'communicate to the world that [Mac Isaac] is a hacker.' He says that his business began to receive threats and negative reviews after Twitter's moderation decision, and that he is 'now widely considered a hacker' because of Twitter."

"Bodycam Video Shows 'Mob Mentality' Of Boston Police Who Responded To George Floyd Protests, Lawyer Says: Hours of video given exclusively to The Appeal show police officers bragging about attacking protesters and multiple instances of excessive force and the liberal use of pepper spray. [...] The hours of video, given exclusively to The Appeal by Williams, show police officers bragging about attacking protesters, targeting nonviolent demonstrators for violence and possible arrest, discussing arrest quotas and the use of cars as weapons, and multiple instances of excessive force and liberal use of pepper spray."

Longtime readers will remember that Mark Crispin Miller is an old favorite in the lefty blogosphere. Lately he seems to have run afoul of a propaganda campaign. He explained the details to Matt and Katie on Useful Idiots.

"Larry Wilkerson: No Evidence of Massive Russian Hack— Paul Jay talks to Wilkerson and can't find support for this big headline, but plenty of reasons to be afraid of the neocons.

"Congress Doesn't Care About Your Surprise Ambulance Bill: Dying? Hail an Uber, because lawmakers exempted ambulances from their medical-bill reforms—much to private equity's delight. [...] Unlike the community-based ambulance services of the past—even those that joined forces to form larger firms—private equity firms lack a medical mission. They buy up companies and do whatever possible to extract ever-higher profits from those acquisitions, particularly in cases of 'leveraged buyouts,' in which they saddle a firm with the debt from its own sale. In the case of ambulances, there was an obvious way to cash in: Jack up the prices and hold patients themselves responsible for whatever their insurer wouldn't pay. While Medicare and Medicaid obstructed this strategy by capping reimbursements for ambulance rides at around 60 to 70 percent of what private insurers paid, private equity firms happily billed other plans and uninsured people as much as they could. One patient I spoke to was bilked for $3,000 for a ride of less than a mile during a flare-up of Crohn's disease; another paid $2,400 to be transported seven miles after getting hit by a car. In both cases, the patients sarcastically admitted the very obvious premise that the for-profit ambulance industry is built upon: In the throes of serious health emergencies, they weren't exactly in a position to shop around for deals! And even if they had the ability to do a round of comparison shopping, who the hell would want to?"

Dean Baker has an "Exchange with Siva Vaidhyanathan" on the question, "Is Repealing Section 230 the Way to Fix Facebook?" This sounds more sensible than trusting Mark Zuckerberg and his algorithm to do it for us.

"Did the FBI Downplay the Far-Right Politics of Las Vegas Shooter Stephen Paddock? After Paddock killed 58 people in 2017, the FBI said he had no political motives. The evidence demands a second look. THREE YEARS AFTER the worst mass shooting in recent American history, the FBI has yet to identify a motive explaining what could have driven Stephen Paddock to open fire on a crowded music festival from a Las Vegas hotel window, killing 58 people and injuring many hundreds more. But the FBI, which has been notoriously slow to recognize right-wing threats in recent years, may have ignored a politically inconvenient explanation: Paddock, in our view, fit the profile of a far-right political extremist bent on sowing violence in society."

RIP: "Chad & Jeremy singer Chad Stuart dies aged 79: The folk-pop pair enjoyed success with songs like 'Yesterday's Gone', 'A Summer Song' and 'Willow Weep For Me'. As part of the British Invasion, they found greater success in the US than in their home country, where 'Yesterday's Gone' was their only top 40 single. A statement said the world had 'lost a legend' but his voice would 'continue to touch our lives through his music'. [...] He died from non-Covid related pneumonia after being admitted to hospital following a fall, the statement added."

RIP: "Gerry Marsden, Gerry and the Pacemakers Singer, Dead at 78: Merseybeat singer of hits like "You'll Never Walk Alone," "Ferry Cross the Mersey" and "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" dies following short illness" I still love those songs, and also the touchingly sweet cover of Bobby Darin's "I'll Be There".

RIP: "Mountain's Leslie West. Dies At 75." And "Mississippi Queen" is still a hot track.

RIP: "Gilligan's Island actress Dawn Wells dies of Covid complications." Good-bye, Mary Ann. Mark only has one small Dawn Wells story, but good point about choosing between Mary Ann and Ginger.

Matt Taibbi presents "The Wokest News Stories of 2020: When editors in 2020 weren't being fired in bunches, they were taking aim at everything from Beethoven to mermaids to skyscrapers."

This is smashing, has some great lines, and also blew my mind a bit when it got to the part about the Shmoos. I vaguely remember them but I guess I wasn't paying much attention to Li'l Abner by then, Al Capp was so...Al Capp. But definitely give it a listen: "Who Counts As Working Class? | The Jacobin Show (12/23/20)"

Caitlin Johnstone at Consortium News, "What's At Stake in the Assange Decision [...] It is absolutely true that this case will have far-reaching implications for press freedoms around the world. The imperial narrative managers have been toiling for years to frame the persecution of Julian Assange as something other than what it is, but in reality this case is about whether the most powerful government in the world is allowed to extradite journalists anywhere on earth who expose its malfeasance. Whether or not the United States should be allowed to imprison journalists for exposing its war crimes."

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom | Official Trailer | Netflix
Salon story, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Chadwick Boseman's finale performance is stunning: Viola Davis transforms to assume her role, but so does Chadwick Boseman. Together they create something magnificent."

"Milky Way timelapse photobombed by the Aurora Borealis over Loch More in Scotland."

"Watch unseen Beatles footage from Get Back."

"[HD] Fantasia 2000 - Firebird Suite | Oceansize - Ornament/The Last Wrongs"

"Bill Bailey does a perfect impression of Billy Bragg as Billy Bragg looks on"

The live version of Rob Hansen's walking tour of British fanhistory is probably not going to happen again for a while, but thanks to some editing by Edie Stern (and participation by a number of other fans), you can now take the online version.

Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth & Mr. Soul - Medley, featuring one of the greatest televised segues of all time.