Tuesday, July 27, 2021

The world keeps revolving

"Sweet Peas From My Garden", photograph by Hazel Ashworth.

"On the Political Marriage of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders: Progressives cannot and should not be satisfied with the policies of the Biden presidency. Yet breakthrough achievements should not be denied. So far, most of the Biden presidency has been predictable. Its foreign policy includes bloated Pentagon spending and timeworn declarations that the United States should again "lead the world" and "sit at the head of the table." Many corporate influence peddlers have settled into jobs in upper reaches of the executive branch. The new administration has taken only baby steps toward student debt relief or progressive taxation. On health care, the White House keeps protecting the interests of insurance companies while rebuffing public opinion that favors Medicare for All. And yet—Joe Biden is no longer on the narrow corporate road that he traveled during five decades in politics. President Biden's recent moves to curtail monopolies have stunned many observers who—extrapolating from his 36-year record in the Senate—logically assumed he would do little to challenge corporate power. Overall, Biden has moved leftward on economic policies, while Sen. Bernie Sanders—who says that "the Biden of today is not what I or others would have expected" decades ago—has gained major clout that extends into the Oval Office." But how well this executive order works still depends on Biden filling those jobs that will carry out the order. And some of those slots are still mysteriously empty after six months. So it's going to take more than just cheering. Cory Doctorow talks about this here, and it's well worth listening to.

Alterman, "Altercation: Israel Fumes at Ice Cream Company: Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling in the West Bank exposes the hypocrisy of Israel's right-wing defenders. [...] There is therefore an unholy alliance between Israel's right-wing supporters who wish to see Israel continue what numerous human rights groups (both inside Israel and globally) have named apartheid, and those BDS-supporting groups that wish Israel would just somehow disappear and be replaced by a peace-loving, Kumbaya-singing 'Free Palestine From the River to the Sea.' Ben & Jerry's targeted boycott has therefore exposed the hypocrisy of so many who profess to support a two-state solution where Israel and some future Palestinian mini-state can live side by side. The boycott supports this vision, by insisting on the maintenance—if only psychologically—of a line of separation between Israel and its illegal, anti-democratic, and morally destructive military occupation of the population it has consistently sought to displace. This is exactly what is undermined by statements like that of Marc Stern, chief legal officer for the American Jewish Committee, who argues that 'selective boycotts are just as illegal as total boycotts.'" Peter Beinart also has a few words about "Israel's Lunatic Response to Ben and Jerry's".

"Media Play Up Protests, Play Down Effect of US Sanctions in Cuba" — They even had to use pictures of pro-goverment crowds and pretend they were anti-government. Ironically, the media has tried to give the impression that the protests are against "communism". Which is odd, since one of Cuba's current problems is that it decided to open up to more capitalism and then the one-two punch of Trump increasing restrictions on Cuba and then Covid put a big hole in that. (Anti-Cuba twitterbots insist that it's an oppressive government because there is a photo of a protester being arrested. I have no doubt that Cuba's government has repressive elements, but a lot of this weird anti-Cuban propaganda looks like it's aimed at people who don't know what's going on in the United States. One bot posted four photos of alleged poverty in Cuba which looked like they could have been taken in many parts of the US — although a number of comments pointed out that some of those photos came from an article about the Dominican Republic. This has been going on for days.)

"Mystery Group Promoting Infrastructure Privatization Boosted By Toll Road Lobbyists: Let's Build Infrastructure is preparing a six-figure TV ad buy to push the bipartisan infrastructure deal.LET'S BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE is preparing to launch formally in Washington, D.C., next week with a six-figure advertising blitz focused on pressing lawmakers to use privatization, rather than taxation, to pay for the infrastructure proposals debated in Congress. The organization touts public-private partnerships and a process known as 'asset recycling,' in which the government finances new construction and repairs by selling or leasing roads, bridges, water utilities, parking lots, and other infrastructure assets to private contractors instead of paying for them with public funding. The private operators in turn recoup costs by adding tolls or increasing user fees, such as water bills or parking fees." Yeah, thieves, in other words.

"The Big Law Cartel: How Antitrust Lawyers Help Their Clients Break the Law: Big law is a corrupting influence on our policymakers. The new FTC is dusting off an old legal tool to fight back. [...] Echoing Baer, Vodova added that the pipeline deal was 'representative of the type of transaction that should not make it out of the boardroom.' Then she cryptically offered a threat to aggressive antitrust lawyers who knew this merger shouldn't have been proposed, noting that the FTC 'will be actively exploring its options on how to curtail this type of re-review to better deploy the Commission's scarce resources.' Why would firms propose obviously illegal mergers? And why would antitrust lawyers let them do so? Sure, lawyers work for clients, but aren't they also supposed to uphold the law? To put it differently, lawyers should defend their clients if there are charges of criminal or illegal activity, and they should give them advice on the best way to legally accomplish some business objective. But they aren't supposed to help their clients plan a bank robbery. So why are lawyers pushing crazy and obviously illegal mergers?"

Pierce, "Haiti Is a Testament to a Hundred Years and More of Destructive United States Policy: The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise is the latest chapter for a nation completely destabilized. Here at the shebeen, we have left alone the story of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise because, frankly, we were waiting for a break in the weird. Every day, there was another strange twist in what was a strange enough story to begin with. But there seems to be a bit of a lull—I believe the eye of the Crazy may be passing over the story—so the New York Times helpfully catches us up on what we know to this point. It seems that we have the modern equivalent of William Walker's raids on Central America—from which we get the modern word 'filibuster'—combined with Operation Mongoose from the 1960s and a rejected script from the old Mission: Impossible TV show."

"Santa Fe Church Forgives Medical Debt in New Mexico and Arizona: St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM is reaching out to families crushed by medical debt through a big gift and a big partnership. Through donations, the parish wiped out nearly $1.4 million of medical debt for 782 households. St. Bede's worked with RIP Medical Debt, a well-respected organization that identifies households whose incomes are less than twice the poverty level or are insolvent, and owe medical debt. Then they buy the debt at a fraction of face value (as a collection agency otherwise would) and pay it off using donations from people such as us. Furthermore, they write the affected parties a letter telling them they no longer owe the debt, and equally important, contact credit agencies to verify the debt has been paid, clearing the debtor's credit history. The letter recipients receive identifies St. Bede's as the donor."

"Master's Degrees Are the Second Biggest Scam in Higher Education: And elite universities deserve a huge share of the blame. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a troubling exposé on the crushing debt burdens that students accumulate while pursuing master's degrees at elite universities in fields like drama and film, where the job prospects are limited and the chances of making enough to repay their debt are slim. Because it focused on MFA programs at Ivy League schools—one subject accumulated around $300,000 in loans pursuing screenwriting—the article rocketed around the creative class on Twitter. But it also pointed to a more fundamental, troubling development in the world of higher education: For colleges and universities, master's degrees have essentially become an enormous moneymaking scheme, wherein the line between for-profit and nonprofit education has been utterly blurred. There are, of course, good programs as well as bad ones, but when you scope out, there is clearly a systemic problem."

"The Congressional Black Caucus's Ideological Primary: Time and again, the CBC has opposed Black progressive candidates in primary races. The latest example is in Ohio. The 2020 election cycle was both influential and embarrassing for the Congressional Black Caucus. Former CBC chair Jim Clyburn is widely credited with having turned the Democratic presidential primary in Joe Biden's favor with his endorsement ahead of South Carolina's voting day, after Biden had suffered blowout losses in the first three states (though the Democratic South Carolina electorate that chose Biden was majority-white for the first time in well over a decade). In return, the eventual president was broadly perceived to have chosen from a small handful of CBC members for vice president, which yielded Kamala Harris as the second-in-command. But the CBC's other forays into elections didn't go quite so well. The caucus endorsed Lacy Clay, a ten-term incumbent CBC member, in his primary race against Black activist Cori Bush, and Bush defeated him in Missouri's First District. While that endorsement may have been defensible, given that Clay was a CBC member and Bush was not, the CBC's endorsement in New York's 16th District was harder to explain. There, the CBC endorsed white moderate Eliot Engel (not a member) in a race against a Black challenger in Jamaal Bowman, which resulted in an even higher-profile defeat than Clay's. It wasn't the only time: Two years prior, the CBC endorsed white, non-member incumbent Michael Capuano over Black challenger Ayanna Pressley, who also won. Now, the CBC is getting into another hotly contested congressional race: Ohio's 11th, a solid-blue district in Cleveland with a special election to replace Marcia Fudge, Biden's Housing and Urban Development secretary. The August 3rd primary between progressive Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner and centrist Shontel Brown has quickly turned into an all-out Democratic Party proxy war, where the party's factions are looking to settle scores more than five years in the making. [...] Meanwhile, the CBC's signature legislative contribution, the police reform bill, is now months past the one-year deadline for completion and remains wholly unresolved. Clyburn could spend his time, money, and energy drumming up public support for that, although he's actually spent more energy undercutting the bill on the cable news circuit than demanding its passage. Meanwhile, the Democrats' various attempts at voting rights bills, one of which is named for former CBC member John Lewis and which aims to preempt Jim Crow-style Black disenfranchisement, is all but dead, and the CBC has flexed little muscle to save it."

"Democrats Are Fighting To Hold Onto Democracy-- Where's Joe Biden? Reminder: Biden Is Jim Clyburn's Fault: In this morning's NY Times, Katie Rogers and Nick Corasaniti noted that enthusiasm for democracy and voting rights is chipping away at Biden's support. His conservatism is more and more showing for those who have missed it since the early 1970s. Rogers and Corasaniti wrote that Biden 'is increasingly at odds with leaders of the voting rights movement, who see a contrast between his soaring language and his willingness to push Congress to pass federal legislation.' In other words, idealistic grassroots Democrats are starting to confront the fact that Biden is full of shit. On Thursday, in a polite but pointed letter from 150 grassroots organizations, Biden was urged to use that soapbox that comes with the presidency 'to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions.'"

Erica Payne of Patriotic Millionaires in The Hill, "Lobbyists, moderate Democrats rely on debunked arguments against tax hikes: Now that the Biden administration has decided to pursue tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy separately from a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, lobbying groups have launched a full-court press to derail the tax increases. As Democratic leaders in Congress are hoping to pass the tax reforms through the budget reconciliation process that would require no Republican votes, lobbyists — including many ex-staffers from congressional Democrats' offices — are focusing their efforts on turning moderate Democrats against Biden's plan."

"What Amazon and Facebook Get Wrong About FTC Chair Lina Khan: The tech giants have accused her of bias against them, but that misunderstands her antitrust analysis. Last week, Facebook filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission demanding that its chair, Commissioner Lina Khan, recuse herself from any decisions involving Facebook. Two weeks earlier, Amazon filed the same request, with both tech giants arguing that her previously expressed views on concentration in the tech industry, coupled with her work in Congress investigating Silicon Valley, rendered her too conflicted to fairly regulate the industry. It's a brazen claim on one level, as companies never suggest that regulators who cheer on the success of major companies are equally biased in the opposite direction, and if the logic were accepted, it would create a situation in which only allies of Big Tech or those wholly unfamiliar with the industry would be allowed to regulate it. [...] The article is often used to claim that Khan is hostile to Amazon itself, when in reality her paper was grappling instead with the intellectual underpinnings of 40 years of antitrust policy. The introduction to Khan's paper makes that clear, noting that the article 'argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to 'consumer welfare,' defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.'"

"Call Me a Traitor Daniel Hale exposed the machinery of America's clandestine warfare. Why did no one seem to care? [...] No one owns a secret state, and no one answers for it. There was a moment in 2012, 2013, when various people outside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan began to notice that inside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. was waging constant, secret war under a set of rules known to few. It was May 2013 when Obama finally felt it necessary to give his big drone speech, in which he acknowledged that drones were morally complicated, promised to 'review proposals to extend oversight,' deemed them an unfortunate necessity for the safety of Americans, and generally gave the impression that he would make the program accountable. But everything of note that happens in this story happened after such gestures were forced, and made, and forgotten. [...] Together, Scahill and the leaker created a moment in which the media acknowledged the existence of wars waged in secret with a clumsy ineptitude counter to promises of 'precision.' 'Our source was someone who is directly involved with the assassination program. And this person got to a point where they felt like they couldn't not speak out,' Scahill told NPR. What few people knew, at the time, was that the government almost certainly knew who the Second Snowden was and, for mysterious reasons, did nearly nothing about it either before or for years after the Drone Papers were published." But now it's time for the government to get its revenge and teach a lesson: "US Government Seeks Harshest Sentence Ever In Leak Case Against Drone Whistleblower: The sentencing memorandum from the U.S. government reflects the vindictive posture of US prosecutors, particularly since he pled guilty." (And by the way, if you really want to know how much whistleblowing you never hear about is going on, it's worthwhile to follow The Dissenter.)

"Democratic Super PAC Condemned for 'Sleazy' and False Attacks on Nina Turner: One reporter described a new mailer, which falsely accuses Turner of opposing universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage, as 'wildly dishonest.' A Democratic political action committee with close ties to the right-wing pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is sending mailers to Ohio voters suggesting that Nina Turner—a candidate vying to fill the open U.S. House seat in the state's 11th district—opposes a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform, an overtly false claim that drew outrage from progressive activists and lawmakers." I'm really starting to think of these "pro-Israel" groups as the Democratic equivalent of the NRA—still cynical lairs who will attack progressives, but for the blue team.

Matt Taibbi (video), "Is Another Financial Crisis Coming? Interview With Wealthion: Do we hear echoes of 2008? Discussion with Adam Taggart, who asks: 'Did the villains win?'"

"Does the Fate of Ivermectin As a Covid-19 Treatment Rest in the Hands of the Deeply Conflicted Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?: One of the world's biggest vaccine proponents and strident defender of intellectual property rights is funding, directly and indirectly, large trials into cheap, off-patent, off-label COVID-19 treatments, including ivermectin. [...] The potential for conflicts of interest is huge. If a cheap, off-patent drug like ivermectin were approved for use against COVID and if it worked as effectively and as safely as most trials suggest, it would pose a direct threat to novel treatments being rolled out by pharmaceutical companies whose safety data is no match for ivermectin's. It could also even jeopardise the emergency use authorisation granted to the COVID-19 vaccines, one of the basic conditions for which is that there are no alternative effective treatments available for the disease. As such, if ivermectin or some other promising medicine were green-lighted, the vaccines could be stripped of authorisation." Will they be gaming the trials?

"Nancy and Paul Pelosi Making Millions in Stock Trades in Companies She Actively Regulates: The Speaker, already one of the richest members in Congress, has become far richer through investment maneuvers in Big Tech, as she privately chats with their CEOs. [...] And ever since ascending to the top spot in the House, Pelosi and her husband, Paul, keep getting richer and richer. Much of their added wealth is due to extremely lucrative and 'lucky' decisions about when to buy and sell stocks and options in the very industries and companies over which Pelosi, as House Speaker, exercises enormous and direct influence."

"Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon: Spyware sold to authoritarian regimes used to target activists, politicians and journalists, data suggests: Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak. The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO's hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists."

"Biden Advisers Ride on Pegasus Spyware: The NSO Group, now part of a Washington Post exposé, has for years enlisted powerful consultants to save its reputation. A new investigation by The Washington Post and a consortium of 16 international news outlets reveals that software from an Israeli company named NSO Group has spied on hundreds of journalists, activists, executives, and government officials. Its infamous product Pegasus can crack into encrypted phones without a trace and is used by autocrats. The findings are part of the Pegasus Project, which has already presented evidence of the spyware being used to hack the slain Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto as well as two people close to the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But NSO Group has been deflecting from its relationship with authoritarian governments for years. After its surveillance tech was caught being used to target dissidents, the notorious Israeli company sought the assistance of WestExec Advisors, the consultancy founded by now—Secretary of State Tony Blinken and staffed by prominent national-security experts from the Obama administration.

"Michael Brooks on Why the War on the Poor Must End: Two years ago, our late friend and comrade Michael Brooks wrote an unpublished piece about his family's experience with food stamps and Trump's assault on the SNAP program. We publish it today, the anniversary of Michael's passing, as a tribute to his memory."

Audio: "Chapo Trap House (ft. Leigh Phillips & Michal Rozworski) - Walmart Proves Planned Economies Work" — The authors of The People's Republic of Walmart discuss.

ROT IN PERDITION: "William Regnery II, Reclusive Millionaire Who Financed American Fascists, Dead At 80: The avowed white nationalist inherited millions from his prominent Republican family and used the money to fund the rise of the so-called alt-right. William H. Regnery II, a racist, reclusive multimillionaire who used his inherited fortune to finance vile white supremacist groups in the hopes of one day forming an American whites-only ethnostate, died earlier this month, his family and associates confirmed. He was 80 years old. Regnery, whose family amassed riches from its right-wing publishing empire, died on July 2 in Florida after a 'long battle with cancer,' his cousin Alfred, the former head of Regnery Publishing, confirmed to HuffPost. Asked if he'd like to comment on his cousin's life and legacy, Alfred Regnery replied: 'No, it's all been said before.' "

"I Tried to Make Claims About Election Fraud So Preposterous Trump Fans Wouldn't Believe Me. It Was Impossible. I was acting as Trump and his minions do: free to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact."

"Watch a Never-Before-Aired James Baldwin Interview From 1979: Buried by ABC at the time, the segment reveals a unique glimpse into Baldwin's private life——as well as his resounding criticism about white fragility, as blisteringly relevant today as it was in 1979."

A few years ago, Undulating Clouds were claimed as a new cloud formation classification. Here's a cool picture someone just took of some in Kentucky.

Was this Melbourne concert in 1964 the best Beatles performance ever? You be the judge.

Buddy Guy, "Crawlin' Kingsnake"

Propellerheads, featuring Miss Shirley Bassey, "History Repeating"

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