Wednesday, June 30, 2021

This play is run, my love

Laura Rowe photographed this supercell in Texas on 17 May 2021

"Reality Winner, Whistleblower On Russian Hacking, Is Released From Prison: Winner, who received the longest-ever prison sentence for serving as a journalistic source, has moved to a federal halfway house in Texas. [...] The injustice of her case was highlighted when Marina Butina, a Russian national, received an 18-month sentence in 2018 for trying to influence American political figures without registering as a foreign agent. It struck many observers as dumbfounding that an actual Russian agent would receive a lighter jail sentence than an American trying to reveal a secret Russian effort to alter the outcome of an election. Winner was even denied compassionate release during the Covid-19 pandemic — and subsequently contracted the disease. Although Winner was prosecuted by President Donald Trump's Department of Justice, the decorated Air Force veteran has not received any favors from President Joe Biden. She has been released according to a normal schedule that takes account of her good behavior while behind bars, her lawyer said in a statement. Winner's request for a pardon and commutation of her sentence has not been granted."

"US seizes three dozen websites used for 'Iranian disinformation': Seized sites include Press TV and Houthi and Palestinian outlets. Move comes amid tense efforts to revive nuclear deal. [...] Visitors to leading Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country's main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Houthis, were met with single-page statements on Wednesday, declaring the website 'has been seized by the United States Government' accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department. [...] State-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia 'to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region'."

"First-Ever Congressional Bill To Decriminalize All Drugs Announced Ahead Of Nixon Drug War Anniversary: Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Cori Bush (D-MO) are sponsoring the legislation, which aims to promote a public health- and evidence-based approach to substance misuse. The bill is titled the Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA) and was drafted in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The proposal would end the threat of incarceration for people caught possessing drugs for personal use. Courts would still have the option of imposing a fine, but that could be waived if a person couldn't afford it. Importantly, the measure would make it so the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—rather than the Justice Department—would be responsible for classifying drugs, with the intent being to shift that role to a health-centric model. [...] But that's where another key component comes into play: the bill would withhold federal funds for law enforcement through the Byrne and COPS grant program for states and cities that continue to enforce criminalization of simple drug possession. The threat of losing that money could be enough to incentivize states and municipalities to stop locking people up for drugs." The chances of a bill getting through even on the Democratic side are pretty small, but it gives activists something to shoot for and starts a much-needed conversation in the halls of power.

I didn't expect to see this from Peter Beinart. "Bernie Sanders Remembers: Over the last two weeks, Bernie Sanders has done two remarkable things—things historians will write about decades from now, even if journalists aren't paying much attention to them today. On June 8, he cast the lone Democratic vote in the Senate against a vast new bipartisan bill aimed at combatting China. On June 17, he penned an essay in Foreign Affairs entitled, 'Washington's Dangerous New Consensus on China: Don't Start Another Cold War.' Today's progressives look back with admiration and wonder at Representative Barbara Lee's lone vote, three days after September 11, 2001, against authorizing the 'war on terror.' Future progressives, I suspect, will look back at Sanders' actions this month in a similar way. The reason is that now, as then, Washington is inaugurating a global conflict that could haunt the United States, and the world, for decades. As Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden's 'Asia Czar,' recently put it, 'the period that was broadly described as engagement' with China 'has come to an end.' Twenty years ago, America 'got tough' on terrorism. Now it's getting tough on Beijing. And Sanders is the highest profile Democrat yelling stop."

The Harvard Radcliffe Institute, "Black Lives Matter Protesters Were Overwhelmingly Peaceful, Our Research Finds: The Black Lives Matter uprisings were remarkably nonviolent. When there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters. When the Department of Homeland Security released its Homeland Threat Assessment earlier this month, it emphasized that self-proclaimed white supremacist groups are the most dangerous threat to U.S. security. But the report misleadingly added that there had been 'over 100 days of violence and destruction in our cities,' referring to the anti-racism uprisings of this past summer."

Jon Schwarz, "Political System Unites to Condemn Ilhan Omar for Telling the Truth: The frenzied attacks by Republicans and Democrats on the Minnesota representative are about maintaining absolute impunity for the U.S. and Israel. THIS PAST WEEK'S feeding frenzy on Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar — including by the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives — should cause despair among anyone holding on to a faint hope that powerful Americans can discuss the world without engaging in childish lies. It all began with an hourslong hearing Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee with the snoozy title 'State Department Foreign Policy Strategy and Fiscal 2022 Budget Request.' Secretary of State Antony Blinken took queries from committee members, including Omar. Omar had a serious, rational question for Blinken about the significance of America's policy toward the International Criminal Court at the Hague. 'You opposed the court's investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan,' she noted. 'In both of these cases, if domestic courts can't or won't pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support for them?' Blinken had an unserious, irrational answer. 'Whether it's the United States or Israel,' he said, 'we both have the mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in any situations where there are concerns about the use of force and human rights.' This is insultingly false on its face. To choose one of hundreds of examples, there has been no American prosecution of those responsible for conducting torture during the Bush administration. Even more importantly, former President George W. Bush himself launched an aggressive war against Iraq and now spends his days happily giving speeches to the National Grocers Association and hanging out with former President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama."

David Dayen, "Everything You Need to Know About the Infrastructure Bills Traveling Through Congress: There are eight of them. As a new infrastructure week begins, we've reached the peak confusion stage in Washington. It is genuinely difficult to keep straight all the gangs, working groups, and bipartisan agreements on bills that fall under the rubric of infrastructure. So let this be a public service straightening all that out. There are actually eight infrastructure bills floating out there right now, though none of them appears at this moment to have the votes needed to pass into law. Walking through them can illuminate what the Biden administration's strategy should be going forward."

Also by DDay, "The Problem With the 'BlackRock Buying Houses' Meme: Here's the reality of institutional buyers and the single-family rental market. Over the past week, the American political scene has done the unthinkable: It actually paid attention to the forces shaping our housing markets. Apparently spurred by a viral tweet that caught the eye of hillbilly elegist and would-be senator from Ohio J.D. Vance, political conservatives and liberals alike have been gripped with anger about Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, 'buying every single family house they can find,' distorting prices, and locking out families. The topic trended on Twitter for the better part of a week, as liberals and conservatives and those in between bantered, mostly about how the development reinforced their prior thinking about housing markets. Vance decided that the left wouldn't care about Blackrock's antics because of its commitments to ''racial audits' and other diversity BS.' Tucker Carlson committed a segment to how Wall Street speculation was singularly responsible for creating a 'serf class' of renters. The Onion jumped on the trend with a fake news item titled 'Thrilled BlackRock Announces Purchase of 800,000th Dream Home.' Almost none of this is true, not even the spelling of BlackRock, which only The Onion got right by capitalizing the R. A segment of the single-family rental market is indeed controlled by institutional investors, but that started in earnest a decade ago, when homes went on sale in bulk during the foreclosure crisis. The time to care about what this might do to our housing markets was then, not ten years later, when corporate landlords have matured into an entrenched asset class. Nobody should be claiming that this is the sole, primary, or even major reason for soaring housing prices. But it is a serious problem unto itself for the renters unfortunate enough to have to live in these homes. And it's an indictment of political, activist, economist, and media elites for failing to catch on to the trend until it was way too late."

And again from DDay, "Washington Isn't Used to the Left Setting the Agenda: That's why they freaked out over Democrats linking two separate infrastructure bills. But to succeed, the left must also erase privatization from the agenda. [...] Everyone, including Republicans, knows this is happening; even the walk-back acknowledges the process will be exactly the same. It's just confusing to see it play out. The left doesn't set the terms of the agenda as a general rule. That rule has been broken. But it hasn't been fully broken, and there's one more bit of work for progressives. The fact sheet on the bipartisan bill still includes privatization schemes as one of the revenue-raisers. That means that old infrastructure will be sold off to pay for new infrastructure, and that private financiers will be given concessions to run common assets for decades. Wall Street is salivating over this idea, seeing it as their 'big wish granted.' Trump unsuccessfully sought this, and Biden is close to succeeding. This could lead to sales of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Washington Dulles International Airport, and much more."

This is a year old, but still, "Cuba Has Sent 2,000 Doctors and Nurses Overseas to Fight Covid-19: The Trump administration describes Cuba's medical response teams as 'slaves—we asked the doctors for their take. [...] Emergency medical response teams from the island have touched down in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and—for the first time—Europe. In March, the first batch of 51 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Lombardy, Italy, at the time the epicenter of the pandemic, to cheering crowds. They join the 28,000 Cuban health professionals who were working in 59 countries prior to Covid-19. No other country has sent large numbers of doctors abroad during the pandemic. The radical intellectual Noam Chomsky last month described the island as the only country to have shown 'genuine internationalism' during the crisis, and the women-led anti-war organization Code Pink is now leading calls for the island's emergency medical response teams to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But these medical brigades have received little media attention in the United States. When they are commented on at all, coverage is usually negative. In fact, for the last three years, the Trump administration has described doctors participating in these missions as 'slaves' and has accused the Cuban government of 'human trafficking.' [...] Such depictions never include the voice of the Cuban doctors who work in these missions. Over the last couple of months, I've spoken to dozens of doctors before their departure. Their words cut sharply against this picture. 'How can I be a slave if I receive a free education from my country?' asked Dr. Leonardo Fernández, who has served in Nicaragua, Pakistan, East Timor, Liberia, and Mozambique. 'How can I be a slave when my family receives my full salary while I'm abroad? How can I be a slave when I have constitutional rights?' Dr. Gracilliano Díaz, a veteran of the campaign against Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014, dismissed with Caribbean cool the idea that he is a victim of trafficking. 'We do this voluntarily,' he said with a lilt. 'It doesn't matter to us that other countries brand us as slaves. What matters to us is that we contribute to the world.' "

As long as it's not money up-front it's not bribery, even though it is. "Leaked Audio Of Sen. Joe Manchin Call With Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse Of Dealmaking On Filibuster And January 6 Commission: Manchin urged big-money donors with No Labels to talk to Sen. Roy Blunt about flipping his vote on the commission in order to save the filibuster. [...] The meeting was hosted by the group No Labels, a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the gathering's newsworthy revelations: Manchin described an openness to filibuster reform at odds with his most recent position that will buoy some Democrats' hopes for enacting their agenda." I wish they would all be struck by lightning.

"Researcher Uncovers 'Critical Race Theory' Astroturfing Campaign: Berman and Company admitted it is the organization behind a campaign protesting against New York City schools curricula. Rick Berman, an infamous right-wing lobbyist whose organizations have been accused of several astroturfing campaigns—and who is known as "Dr. Evil"—revealed that his firm is behind an organization that claimed to be a grass-roots movement against New York City's prep schools focus on 'diversity education.'"

"The Supreme Court Is Closer to a 9-0 Corporatist Supermajority Than a 3-3-3 Split: No amount of regrouping can obviate the need for Supreme Court reform. [...] So while the language may seem alluring, the ideology of the Court is not experiencing some tectonic shift. The commitment to pro-corporate policy remains intact, the judicial chamber continuing to channel the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, it was another 9-0 decision that tells more about where the Court is at ideologically in its current state. That would be the much tweeted-about Nestlé USA v. Doe, where Obama appointee Neal Katyal argued on behalf of Nestlé (and agricultural giant Cargill) in a case where the companies were alleged to have provided child-slavery-reliant farms on the Ivory Coast with technical and financial assistance and routinely purchased their product, despite that conscripted workforce. [...] No amount of liberal insistence on technicality will make the Court anything else than what it is: a breakaway, anti-democratic faction with a conservative mandate to steamroll any obstacle to corporate power and profit-taking. There's no taxonomical solution to this, and it isn't made better by grouping in threes what should be grouped in nines."

Accidental victory: "A Scheme to Blow Up the Housing Market Backfired Spectacularly at the Supreme Court: Instead of winning billions for shareholders, the plaintiffs handed Joe Biden tighter control over the mortgage industry. [...] The roots of Wednesday's decision in Collins v. Yellen go back to the Great Recession. In 2008, as the U.S. housing market collapsed, Congress created the FHFA to regulate the mortgage industry. The agency placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a conservatorship. Under this arrangement, the government gave Fannie and Freddie billions in federal funds—basically, a bailout—and received some money in return. Specifically, under a 2012 deal with the FHFA, Fannie and Freddie sent quarterly payments consisting of nearly their entire net worth to the U.S. treasury. Predictably, Fannie and Freddie's investors were displeased with this deal. It forced the companies to hand the government about $124 billion more than they would have under previous arrangements. And it left nothing for the companies' private shareholders, who sued to recoup the money that, in their view, should've gone to them in the first place. The shareholders alleged that the FHFA had an unconstitutional structure because it was led by a single director whom the president cannot fire without cause. This structure, they asserted, violates the constitutional separation of powers by depriving the president of control over the executive branch. And, they reasoned, the solution is to invalidate the agency's actions—namely, the 2012 deal that sent $124 billion to the U.S. treasury." So the court agreed that the president should be able to fire the (Trump-appointed) director, and Biden promptly did so. This was a pretty serious own goal for the vultures since said director planned to get rid of the conservatorship, which is what these investors wanted in the first place. The new director has a very different set of priorities. So suddenly the Dems have a victory they weren't even looking for.

Atrios found something remarkable in the NYT: "Not a perfect piece, but it's notable because it's rare that "people in cities hate Republicans" is actually presented as a problem for Republicans, instead of proof of the irrelevance of Democrats to REAL AMERICA."

Matt Karp in Harper's, "History As End: 1619, 1776, and the politics of the past: In the age of Sanders and Trump, the Democratic establishment has assumed a defensive posture, concerned above all with holding off various barbarians at the gate. And yet in its consideration of the past, the same establishment has somehow grown large and courageous, suddenly eager for a galloping revision of all American history. For some left-wing skeptics, this apparent paradox requires little investigation: it redirects real anger toward vague and symbolic grievances. No, the Democrats who govern Virginia will not repeal the state's anti-union right-to-work law, but yes, by all means, they will make Juneteenth an official holiday. If this movement only signals a shift from material demands to metaphysical 'reckonings'—from movement politics to elite culture war—then it is not an advance but a retreat. (Ana Kasparian, Nando Villa, and Bill Fletcher have an interesting discussion on this and related topics in "Celebrating Juneteenth w/ Bill Fletcher, Critical Race Theory, & Racist Techno-Policing | Weekends".)

"REALLY BLOODY EXCELLENT OMENS..." Neil Himself on the upcoming sequel to Good Omens.

"Inside Gun-Surrendering Criminal Mark McCloskey's Very Sad St. Louis Rally: Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed." Yes, there is more!

RIP: "Mike Gravel, Former Alaska Senator And Anti-War Advocate, Dies At Age 91: SEASIDE, Calif. — Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run, has died. He was 91. Gravel, who represented Alaska as a Democrat in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, died Saturday, according to his daughter, Lynne Mosier. Gravel had been living in Seaside, California, and was in failing health, said Theodore W. Johnson, a former aide." He fought in Congress to end the draft and also introduced legislation for a guaranteed minimum income equivalent to a living wage, "the equivalent of $42,000 in 2019 after adjustment for inflation," according to Wikipedia. And then he became a hero all over again when he ran for president just to be able to tell those people in primary debates what monsters they were.

RIP: "Alix Dobkin: Groundbreaking lesbian activist and feminist folk singer: The musician's work, including 'Lavender Jane Loves Women', was a cult hit among lesbian women and inspired a generation to come out. Alix Dobkin, who has died following an aneurysm and stroke aged 80, was an American folk singer-songwriter who was dubbed 'the head lesbian' by her fans and admitted to being homophobic before becoming a feminist — as a result of joining a consciousness-raising class after hearing Germaine Greer talking on a radio show." Here she is singing "The Woman in Your Life".

RIP: "WKRP's Frank Bonner Dead at 79: Frank Bonner, best known for donning nightmarish iterations of plaid as WKRP in Cincinnati salesman Herb Tarlek, died on Wednesday as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia, TMZ reported. He was 79." Here's a few of Herb's suits now.

RIP: "Ned Beatty, Actor Known for Network and Deliverance, Dies at 83." He was in more things than I want to list here and was in front of us for most of our lives. His genre credit, of course, is Superman, but perhaps his finest moment was as the executive in Network who explains the facts of life.to a stunned Howard Beale.

RIP: "John McAfee: Antivirus software entrepreneur found dead in Spanish prison cell: Catalan's justice department has said "everything points" to suicide after attempts to revive the 75-year-old businessman failed. Antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee has been found dead in his prison cell after Spain's National Court approved his extradition to the US, the Catalan justice department has said. Prosecutors in the US state of Tennessee had charged the 75-year-old with evading taxes after allegedly failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consultancy work." This guy had a crazy enough story already and, of course, there is some question about whether this was really suicide.

RIP: Lying warmonger Donald Rumsfeld is dead at 88.

"End the Algorithm [...] At the heart of the problem are powerful machine learning algorithms which favor content that is shocking, surprising or inflammatory. While few older social media networks launched with algorithmically generated feeds of user-created content, every modern social media company is powered by one. Like an artificial intelligence that gets out of control in a sci-fi movie, these algorithms are out of control. Data scientist Cathy O'Neil calls these algorithms 'Weapons of Math Destruction.' However, when they cause destruction, social media companies are shielded from liability. We should end this liability protection, forcing companies to end the algorithms and return content feeds back to the user."

The evil that men do lives after them, and I'm not as optimistic as Zach Carter's title and subtitle suggest, for the very reasons why this particular evil succeeded as he describes in "The End of Friedmanomics: The famed economist's theories were embraced by Beltway power brokers in both parties. Finally, a Democratic president is turning the page on a legacy of ruin." I wish I could believe that, but I don't. And I still can't believe Friedman was so stupid he didn't realize what he was doing. "After two decades on the intellectual front lines of American politics, Friedman was a bestselling author and no stranger to fine living. But he was astonished by both 'the extraordinary affluence of the White community' and the 'extraordinary inequality of wealth' in South Africa. Friedman was not a man to scold opulence, and yet he found the tension permeating apartheid South Africa palpable in both taxicabs and hotel ballrooms. The 'hardboiled attitudes' of Mobil chairman Bill Beck and his friends were difficult for him to endure. The 'complete segregation' of the population was 'striking.'" Why, yes, you'd almost think Keynesianism helps to prevent such huge disparaties. Chillingly good article about how a crackpot named Milton Friedman destroyed our economy.

And on a related subject, in The Atlantic this time, Zach tackles "The Real Problem With Globalization: International crises demand international solutions. [...] These horrors were evident before the outbreak of COVID-19; the pandemic has escalated them all. But this is not the first time globalization has run aground. Seventy-six years ago, leaders of the world's democracies gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire hoping to end the chaos and enmity spawned by the collapse of the global trading system known as the gold standard. Guided by the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, more than 700 delegates from 44 nations sought to establish a new international order in which democracies would cooperatively tame the excesses of high finance in the name of international harmony. The fruits of their labors would become known as the Bretton Woods Accord, and the 25 years of unprecedented prosperity that their effort inaugurated offer profound implications for our own age of calamity. For it is not globalization that has brought us to the brink of the abyss, but the peculiar strain of globalization that emerged in the 1990s—a system in which international financial markets would discipline the bad habits of democratic governments, not the other way around. Instead of linking countries together in shared investment priorities and social goals, the World Trade Organization and other institutions of global commerce have thwarted government interference in the profits of international investors—profits that often come at the expense of public health, environmental protection, and geopolitical stability."

"Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein: Canceled on campus for speaking his mind, he's now going through a sequel at the hands of Silicon Valley."

"How the CIA created the Unabomber: When mass murderer Ted Kaczynski was a 16-year-old undergraduate student at Harvard, he took part in a behavioral engineering project run by the CIA. It was part of the US government's illegal MKUltra project, which ruined the lives of many innocent and unwitting test subjects around the world."

Peter Coyote, "Pacifica Radio In Peril: Due to years of mismanagement and the role of sectarian splinter groups, the network finds itself on the precipice of either bankruptcy or dissolution. This is not an exaggeration nor is it a fantasy. Let's look at the facts. Four out of the five stations in the network are unable to generate sufficient revenue to pay their staffs and overhead expenses. The only exception is KPFA in Berkeley, California. The network has a $3.1 million loan that comes due in September 2022, and they literally have no money to pay that loan back. How did this come about? Read more about the key facts here. Increasingly, Pacifica turns to fringe conspiracy theories, hate speech, snake oil and infomercials to raise money. Some of the programming not only betrays the Pacifica mission but makes any person of intelligence, conscience and decency cringe."

"Female Luftwaffe Pilots in Combat 1945Beate Uhse had a particularly interesting post-war life. As ex-Luftwaffe, she was forbidden to fly, but she found other work where she heard much from women about their problems and she started publishing information on sexuality and contraception, eventually leading to her career running a famous sex shop. She's regarded as one of the more important figures in sexual liberation in Germany.

Loony Tunes: "Rabbit Hood"

Calamityware: dinner plates for special occasions! Also, silk ties and scarves!

In 2012, The Rolling Stones performed "Lady Jane" live for the first time in 45 years.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Any time will do

"Belle Soirée Sur Andernos" by Christine De Segonzac

Juan Cole, "Israeli Opposition Unite to Oust Netanyahu: Why proposed new Israeli PM, extreme-right Naftali 'I've Killed a Lot of Arabs; Bennett, is even worse for Palestinians than far right Netanyahu In a prime time address on Sunday evening, right wing extremist Israeli politician Naftali Bennett announced that he intended to join a government of national unity, including left wing and centrist parties, which would unseat long-serving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The coalition was mainly put together by Yair Lapid of 'There's a Future' (Yesh Atid) Party, but Lapid is willing to have a rotating prime ministership and is willing to let Naftali take the first turn, for two years. Netanyahu himself went on an unhinged Trump-like rant on television calling Bennett a sham for being willing to go into coalition with the Left (which Netanyahu has often done). The move would allow Israel to avoid a fifth election in a little over two years this summer. Bennett had been under pressure from some in the Israeli right wing instead to make a coalition with Netanyahu, but several right wing leaders, including Avigdor Lieberman, have developed a visceral hate of the current prime minister, and refuse to work with him. This split in the Israeli Right is therefore in large part about personality rather than ideology."

"Joe Manchin: Deeply Disappointed in GOP and Prepared to Do Absolutely Nothing: The centrist Democrat believes, despite it all, that bipartisanship is still possible. 'I have to say, keep the faith in this damn Senate,' he told The Daily Beast. When the Jan. 6 commission became the latest casualty of Republican obstructionism on Friday, most Democrats weren't surprised. Joe Manchin was."

"Joe Manchin Can Name 12 Logical Fallacies Preventing Him From Supporting Voting Rights [...] Is it particularly surprising that Joe Manchin is voting against the For the People Act? Of course not. That's what he does. He's a scorpion and that's just his nature. But the way I figure it, if he is going to write an entire article titled 'Why I'm Voting Against the For the People Act,' he should at least have the decency to explain why he is voting against the For the People Act. He does not. In this op-ed, Manchin spends lots of time explaining why he's opposed to ending the filibuster, but the only explanation he gives for why he opposes the For the People Act is that it's 'partisan.' [...] The For the People Act is huge. There is a lot in it. And yet, Manchin does not manage to name one single specific item in the bill that he can say is explicitly "partisan." He may as well have said that he found the bill "derivative" or claimed that it "insists upon itself." It means nothing. Given that this is a major piece of Democratic legislation, one would think he could do us all the favor of being a little more specific. Which aspect of the bill does he find "partisan?" Which part of it does he think would be unfair to Republicans? I think we'd all be happy to hear him out were he able to make that known. Rather than explaining what about it he finds specifically objectionable, Manchin simply assures us that if the bill were good, it would have support from all of the wonderful Republicans in Congress who deigned to agree that the president encouraging a bunch of cafones to storm the Capitol building was maybe bad. [...] It may seem partisan to Manchin simply because it is commonly held wisdom that the more people are able to vote and the easier it is for them to do so, the more likely it is that they will vote for Democrats — but that isn't really a reason for those people to not be able to vote. I'm just saying, if we're gonna arrange things that way, then why go through with elections at all? Why even call them elections? We might as well just dispense with this charade entirely. If we're arranging elections to make it easier for Republicans to win due to fewer people voting, then how is that not just an appointment? Democrats winning elections because everyone is able to vote easily and Republicans winning because it is harder for certain people to vote are not equal scenarios. If Republicans can't win elections with everyone voting, that seems like more of a "them" problem than an "us" problem, no? Am I wrong here? Am I losing my mind? Manchin's main point of contention seems to be that the Act is simply unfair to Republicans because they did not help to write it. It is unclear, however, who it was that was stopping them. Two Republican House representatives in fact proposed amendments to the bill, and yes, they were voted down, but that's how things work. Some amendments proposed by Democrats also failed, because that is also the way things work. Republicans could have participated more, they chose not to. Once again, that is a "them" problem."

Someone actually interviewed the workers, and also employers who have no sympathy with the whiners who are claiming that they can't find workers because unemployment benefits are too generous. "'Breaking Point': Restaurant Workers Push Back Amid Unemployment Benefit Crackdown [...] Weil has sparse sympathy for those in his industry who have changed little since the pandemic hit. 'Look, 90% of restaurant employees were terminated in mid-March last year,' he said. 'They didn't get on unemployment because they're lazy. They got on unemployment because they were fired.' Neither has Weil seen any of the business owners complaining about unemployment payments reject Paycheck Protection Program funds. 'These establishments chose not to use that PPP money to rehire workers for hybrid models, or to-go models — the revenue stream has been so enriched, and yet there's still no willingness to adapt and be competitive,' he said. 'Industry workers didn't opt out of work. They were all terminated by places that were happy to operate without them, until the pandemic was over.'"

"Wrestling With the New Deal: The programs Roosevelt put together may not have met a Platonic ideal of modern progress, but they saved American democracy itself. In 2014, an up-and-coming writer named Ta-Nehisi Coates made a landmark case for reparations in The Atlantic, which took aim at, among other targets, one of the most revered figures in the liberal pantheon: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Detailing the failures of New Deal housing policy for Black America, Coates told readers that 'Roosevelt's New Deal, much like the democracy that produced it, rested on the foundation of Jim Crow.' Cardi B was nonplussed. 'I love Franklin Delano Roosevelt,' the multi-platinum rapper told GQ four years later. 'He helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair — if it wasn't for him, old people wouldn't even get Social Security.' American intellectuals obsess over FDR because, as historian Eric Rauchway demonstrates in his admirable new book Why the New Deal Matters, he saved the American project itself, for better and for worse. The Great Depression that Roosevelt ended was not merely a collapse of gross domestic product and employment figures; it was a full-blown political crisis that toppled regimes around the world and called into question the very legitimacy of democratic governance. Under FDR, Rauchway writes, 'democracy in the United States, flawed and compromised as it was, proved it could emerge from a severe crisis not only intact but stronger.' When we fight over the New Deal, we are really arguing about the very meaning of America. [...] But the New Deal meant more to Black America than housing policy. Had it not, Roosevelt would not have inaugurated the titanic shift in Black voting away from the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Even after President Herbert Hoover's disastrous navigation of the Depression, Roosevelt lost the Black vote by roughly 2-to-1 in 1932. After four years of the New Deal, he won the Black vote by nearly 3-to-1 in 1936. This was the beginning of a political realignment that persists to this day."

"Video of police abuses and the NYPD trampling the Constitution reveal inefficacy of 'reform': The people we represent are often subjected to brutal police violence. But perhaps most telling is that all of this is playing out while the world is watching. [...] This week, a video went viral showing the arrest of a young trans woman during a protest. The 18-year-old woman was tackled in broad daylight and then rushed into an unmarked van by plainclothes officers, echoing the terrifying events we've watched play out this month in Portland, Oregon, and paralleling the forms of police brutality we, as public defenders and civil rights attorneys, know happen every day in the communities of those we represent. But this is only the latest in a string of videos that have clearly documented the tragic shortcomings of police reforms that had supposedly been previously adopted by the NYPD."

"When Nice Things Do Cost Too Much [...] "American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption—systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit."

"White House admits CIA involvement in 'War on Corruption' which jailed Lula and elected Bolsonaro: In a White House 'Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Fight Against Corruption', a Biden administration official admitted that the CIA and other parts of the U.S. intelligence apparatus were involved in assisting the 'War on Corruption' which jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and elected Jair Bolsonaro."

"No, Obama Wasn't Mad About Bailing Out His Wall Street Donors: The former president is now trying to pretend he was a finance industry critic, even though he was Wall Street's biggest cheerleader and enabler. Former President Barack Obama wants you to now believe that he was actually mad about giant Wall Street handouts that he voted for, then arm twisted lawmakers to expand — and then rescinded when some of the money might have gone to help homeowners. Obama's foray into pure fiction is not only absurd — it is a reminder that history can repeat itself if we allow reality to be memory-holed. [...] Obama doesn't seem to grant interviews to anyone who might mention these inconvenient facts — he seems only to give access to pundits and news outlets whose obsequiousness guarantees that they'll never dare ask a single follow-up question. On that score, Klein loyally held up his end of the bargain, allowing Obama to pretend he was an enraged bailout opponent, even though he was the driving force behind the handouts to a finance industry that bankrolled his political career. The result here is an economic version of the Iraq War, where all the facts and the lying and the greed are erased, with elite media playing the role of the brain-wiping machine in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind."

"Despite the Headlines, the Gates Foundation Has Evaded Scrutiny: Allegations of financial misconduct against Michael Larson, who manages the foundation's money as well as a portion of Bill and Melinda's personal wealth, should prompt a closer look. Following weeks of allegations that Bill Gates has acted inappropriately toward female employees, The New York Times last week reported that the Gates Foundation's money manager also stands accused of sexual misconduct—as well as bullying and racism. [...] But buried in the Times story is also an allegation of financial misconduct that governance and tax experts say should trigger official investigations into the foundation, and prompt us to rethink governance rules over billionaire philanthropy. [...] Judith Chevalier, a professor of finance at Yale University, says that when billionaires give their money to a private foundation, it no longer is their money—but rather part of a charitable trust that is required to be spent for philanthropic purposes. That the Gates family has continued to exercise such tight control over the foundation's money, Chevalier says, should have raised questions a long time ago. 'They haven't really diluted their control over it in a way which is customary,' Chevalier notes. 'It's just good practice to have a substantial and independent board of directors.'"

Matt Stoller wrote this before the bill in question actually passed, but now it has. "New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust: The Amazon H2Q fight in 2019 woke up the anti-monopolists in New York. Now they are moving forward with a new stronger trust-busting law. Today's issue is about a ground-breaking antitrust bill - New York Senate Bill 933 - that is likely to be voted on in the New York state Senate this week. SB933 is probably the most significant legal challenge to big tech monopoly power in the country, and would overturn the big business-friendly way we currently interpret antitrust law. As the New York Times Dealbook noted last week, with this bill, 'New York may change how America does antitrust.' In this issue, I'll both explain the legislation and do an interview with the sponsor of the bill, New York Deputy Majority Senate Leader Michael Gianaris."

If we can put one billionaire in space, why can't we put all billionaires in space? Especially since he's going on our dime.

There was plenty of real-time reporting on the ground with first-person accounts from the victims when a church was aggressively cleared with flash-bangs and tear gas just in time for Trump to do a photo op. But suddenly the headlines are going the other way with the release of a report by an inspector general at Interior saying the Park Police didn't clear the area just for Trump's photo-op. Which not only contradicts what the White House itself said at the time, but conveniently refers only to the Park Police, who were not the only cops on the scene. "Skepticism Mounts Over IG's Report on Lafayette Park Attack on Protesters [...] The 41-page report by Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt, an appointee of Trump's, stated that U.S. Park Police (USPP) did not force protesters to leave using violent methods on June 1, 2020, for the former president, but rather did so in order to install anti-scale fencing to deter property damage in the park."

Alan Grayson is running for the Senate again, and the bad guys have revived The OTHER False Grayson Smear [...] First, looking at the incident in question from 2014, here are the facts of the case. His ex-wife, Lolita Carson-Grayson, did submit a handwritten statement with the allegations that she later withdrew completely. Actual video from the scene provided to police only showed her hitting him, and on a 911 call made after Grayson left, she said she wanted to report Grayson for disturbing her peace. When asked to clarify, she said 'he came over to my house,' and when asked if there was an altercation or if he hit her, she replied that she hit Grayson. An affidavit from Grayson's daughter also stated Alan never hit the mother of his children. The video was widely disseminated demonstrating that the allegations were false from Grayson's perspective, as filmed by another witness. But more than that, Lolita Carson-Grayson publicly recanted the allegations a day later and issued a written apology. Eventually, the domestic violence case was dismissed. In the divorce case, Lolita Carson-Grayson was subsequently held liable for Grayson's attorney's fees, and the judgement included reference to the false domestic violence allegations made. More recently, the judge sanctioned her and she was ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees by the court." This one keeps cropping up from people who should know better. That doesn't mean there are no issues around Grayson, but they aren't the ones that have been used to smear him.

"Even Wall Street Shills Understand Why the Democrats Failed: A new autopsy of the Democrats' 2020 electoral underperformance supports the Left's arguments about the weaknesses of the party's strategies. The only surprise is where the report came from: Wall Street—funded neoliberal think tank Third Way. [...] More broadly, just as in 2016, Democrats 'leaned too heavily on 'anti-Trump' rhetoric without harnessing a strong economic frame.' The report quotes officials and campaign staff complaining that 'it was the lack of an economic plan that really hurt,' and that leaning on nothing but 'Donald Trump sucks' led to Biden/Republican ticket-splitting around the country, with the GOP painting the party as out of touch with economic concerns. This overlaps with the findings of a Navigator Research survey of three thousand voters, which found that the majority of Biden-Republican ticket-splitters put a higher priority on the economy (and actually tended to side with progressive positions on economic policy)."

"The Great 'Awokening' and Ruling Class Uses for Racial Grievance Discourse [...] This brings us to the second reason this cynical racial grievance discourse is being pushed by the left flank of capital and the centrist Democrats. Such racial grievance posturing is being tolerated to ensure that Blacks en mass do not join the Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic party and enter the fight for more public goods government policy. Therefore, the reason why even though the Sanders faction of the party offers the agenda most needed by poor and working class Blacks who are the majority, the Black Political class and it's class acolytes will deem the Sanders coterie as 'class reductionists,' who don't care about racism even though we know this is cover for the fact that the Black political class is wedded to the centrist Democrats for its 'fatback and biscuits' patronage."

Current Affairs, "Biden Is Not Doing Nearly Enough: Democrats need to realize they are in a fight for their lives. Without transformative accomplishments, the right will soon be back in power—and it will be ugly."

From The Roosevelt Institute, "Five Reasons Why the CBO Underestimates Federal Investment: As policymakers invest in infrastructure, jobs, and solutions to the climate crisis, many will be looking at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and its methodology for determining the benefits of public investment. The methodology the CBO uses, like all economic models, has strengths and weaknesses depending on what kinds of questions need to be answered. For many things, such as the projected costs of straightforward spending programs, these methods are sound and have a good record of success. In general, we hope that any assumptions in economic modeling will tend to balance out. But when it comes to investments, especially in climate measures, the methods the CBO uses have a strong bias against public action,.."

"Take Me to Your Leader: The Rot of the American Ruling Class: For more than three centuries, something has been going horribly wrong at the top of our society, and we're all suffering for it."

"America's Cancer Within: Billionaires... And The Politicians They Own: — Nothing you don't already know, but billionaires are making America into a poor country.

"Warren Buffett and the Myth of the 'Good Billionaire' [...] There is no way to be a billionaire in America without taking advantage of a system predicated on cruelty, a system whose tax code and labor laws and regulatory apparatus prioritize your needs above most people's. Even noted Good Billionaire Mr. Buffett has profited from Coca-Cola's sugary drinks, Amazon's union busting, Chevron's oil drilling, Clayton Homes's predatory loans and, as the country learned recently, the failure to tax billionaires on their wealth. [...] In a long statement last week, Mr. Buffett defended himself by pointing to his long advocacy for a fairer taxation system, and then he immediately told on himself by undermining the very idea of taxes in the same letter. 'I believe the money will be of more use to society if disbursed philanthropically than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U.S. debt.' In other words: I believe in higher income taxes on people like me, but I'm highly organized to avoid having income to report, and I don't really believe in taxes because I think I should decide how these surplus resources are spent."

RIP: "Patrick Sky, Folk Singer and Bob Dylan Contemporary, Dead at 80" Back in the day, I used to do "Separation Blues" just for fun, and, occasionally, "Nectar of God". And I always loved his performance of "Ira Hayes", still the best version by my reckoning.

RIP: "'Hooked on a Feeling' singer B.J. Thomas dies at 78." Yes, most other headlines named "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," but it was written for him so B.J. Thomas was the first to record "Hooked on a Feeling" (with the original, uncensored lyrics) way back in the dark ages. He also introduced a generation of pop fans to Hank Williams' music with his rich rendition of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", his first hit.

RIP: "Clarence Williams III, The Mod Squad and Purple Rain Actor, Dead at 81: Actor also appeared in Half Baked, Deep Cover, Twin Peaks and Tales From the Hood. Clarence Williams III, the actor who portrayed Linc Hayes on TV's The Mod Squad as well as played Prince's father in Purple Rain, has died at the age of 81. Williams management confirmed the actor's death to Variety, adding that Williams died following a battle with colon cancer.The New York City-born Williams, the grandson of jazz great Clarence Williams, made his acting debut on Broadway and other theatrical productions in the mid-Sixties before he was cast in The Mod Squad, the influential counterculture police series that ran for five seasons on ABC. 'Mod Squad broke new ground,' Living Colour's Vernon Reid tweeted Sunday. 'Clarence Williams III broke new ground. You can draw a direct line from Clarence Williams III to both Denzel & Idris. It's his MF moody blood running through The Kid in Purple Rain that's the furnace of his pain & genius.'" Oh, and I hadn't realized he'd played Jelly Roll Morton, too. "Roger Ebert" (Matt Zoller Seitz) wrote a highly-appreciative obit where he said: "His ferocity burned holes in the screen, and filmmakers took advantage of that, casting him in roles that shook up the main character's preconceived notions, rattled their complacency, and otherwise pushed their buttons. Williams' performance as a devoutly religious policeman in Bill Duke's classic crime drama "Deep Cover" is a knife in the heart of the film's hero, Laurence Fishburne's cop-posing-as-a-drug-dealer John Hull. There's no irony or doubt in the performance, no self-awareness. The character doesn't just think he's God's instrument, he actually is. The imposter syndrome that the protagonist experiences in scenes opposite Williams' character is indistinguishable from an actor's insecurity at facing a performer who can tuck a scene into his back pocket and walk away with it before his partner can realize what just hit him."

RIP: "F Lee Bailey, celebrity lawyer who defended OJ Simpson, dies at 87" — Eventually he went through a phase of teaming up with B.B. King and visiting prisons where King would do music and Bailey would answer inmates' legal questions, which is kinda cool.

"Just How Rigged is the 'Rigged Game'? The Division of Light and Power, the new book by Dennis Kucinich, is an epic chronicle of American corruption: Dennis Kucinich has always been ahead of his time. It's both his distinction and his curse. As a presidential candidate in the 2000s he was ridiculed for backing tuition-free college, single-payer health care, ending the Iraq war, withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, same-sex marriage, legalized weed, slashed defense budgets, and a long list of other policies later deemed uncontroversial. When that Kucinich said he would happily nominate a gay or transgender person to the Supreme Court, Jon Stewart guffawed: 'Yes, yes, all rise for the honorable chick with dick!' By 2020 most all of Kucinich's positions were orthodoxy among Democratic voters, yet he remains an outcast to Democrats nationally. In fact, he's been frozen out of blue-state media for the better part of a decade, and welcomed during the same time to a five-year stint as a Fox News contributor. What gives? If even the Washington Post concedes that their former object of ridicule turned out to be 'the future of American politics' — the politics of their own readers — why does the national political establishment continue to keep him out of sight? The answers can be found in The Division of Light and Power, Kucinich's enormous new memoir about his time as the Mayor of Cleveland, and his battle against Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, or CEI. The book is a surprising tour de force on multiple levels. First, it should immediately take a place among the celebrated ruthless accounts of how American politics really work, recalling jarring insider confessionals like Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets or Robert Caro's illusion-crushing portrait of municipal politics, The Power Broker. Second, it's very skillfully written. Kucinich, always a voracious reader, turns out to be a born writer, with a gift for pace and detail." Matt's also got an interview with Kucinich about the book.

"If you think you're sure the GOP has never hacked an election, then you don't know the saga of Don Siegelman, Alabama's last Democratic governor [...] Siegelman rushed to his office where he was informed that the Baldwin County probate court had quietly posted a different set of returns to its website after telling the media and party observers to go home. According to the time stamp, it was posted at 11:06 p.m. The new results had deleted about 6,000 votes from Siegelman's total, throwing the election to Riley. Baldwin county claimed that Siegelman's earlier results had been inflated due to a computer 'glitch' that had supposedly affected only his race and only his total in only one precinct. Siegelman was concerned. The closest friend of a racist probate judge in a rural county had once told him that they sometimes held back a precinct until the end of the night so that they knew how many votes they would need to fix the result." So yes, they stole the election - and then they put him in jail on false charges to keep him from being able to run again.

"The Trouble with Diversity Management [...] In short, the trouble with diversity management is that it helps to protect the power and legitimacy of the most powerful people in organizations: the bosses. Whether your primary issue in an organization is structural/institutional racism or the capitalist social order, the reality is that diversity management does not pose any risk to the people who primarily determine the culture, policies, and budgets of organizations. As a consequence, it is unclear how the corporate solutions provided by the diversity management industry will lead to the eradication of problems in the workplace."

"Extremely rare, spectacular film about London during WW-II in color [A.I. enhanced & colorized]"

I love this drawing, done with a ball-point pen on paper and looking absolutely photo-real.

And I had no idea how big the Crayola boxes could get now and how many colors they are. (Hex and RGB codes included in this chart!)

"Premakes: The Empire Strikes Back (1950)"

1958: Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, and Bjo Trimble star in the 8-minute short, The Genie.

Clare Torry and Pink Floyd live, 1990, "The Great Gig In The Sky"