Saturday, August 7, 2021

Give me some space so I can close my eyes

Milky Way rising over Tres Picos State Park, Brazil

"The Eviction Crisis Is a Rental Assistance Crisis: A law designed not to work has put millions at risk of losing their homes. The day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium expired and millions of renters were faced with the sobering possibility of being tossed out of their homes, President Joe Biden issued a statement that would be darkly comic if it weren't so tragic. 'I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse' rental assistance funds, Biden declared, referring to the $46.5 billion made available in two coronavirus relief packages. 'There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic.' In the previous five months in which that rental assistance has been available—we have statistics going back to February, when state and local governments began receiving funding, through the end of June—about $3.25 billion has been delivered to tenants and landlords. Biden was calling for 13 times that to be delivered in one day. It was like a souped-up version of the movie Brewster's Millions, where Richard Pryor has to spend $30 million in 30 days to get a larger inheritance. And it begs the question: if state and local governments had the capacity to get rental relief out with that kind of speed, why wouldn't they have done it from the beginning? [...] This has been a constant theme for several months. There have been countless articles about it. Tenants have been screaming about waiting for rental assistance that has never come. It should not have suddenly dawned on either the White House or Congress that there was a deep problem with rental assistance that would necessitate extending the moratorium to prevent eligible tenants who couldn't access relief from being evicted. In fact, at the time of passing the law it should have dawned on any sentient policymaker that delegating rental assistance to the states, and requiring them to meet the various demands and veto points put into the law, were a recipe for disaster."

"'We Can't Reach Him': Joe Manchin Is Ghosting The West Virginia Union Workers Whose Jobs His Daughter Helped Outsource: She got a $30.8 million golden parachute in a corporate merger. Now, they're being laid off and the medicines they produced are set to be manufactured overseas. Will anyone step up to save their jobs, and protect America's drug supply? On July 31, one of America's largest pharmaceutical-manufacturing plants is scheduled to shut its doors. Set on 22 acres in Morgantown, West Virginia, the plant, built in 1965 by the once-storied American generic-drug company Mylan Laboratories, has made 61 drug products, including a substantial portion of the world's supply of levothyroxine, a critical thyroid medicine. Its 1,431 highly trained workers—analytical chemists, industrial engineers, and senior janitors among them—are represented by the steelworkers union. All are slated to be laid off by month's end. The Biden administration has a stated goal of increasing domestic production of pharmaceuticals, and the Morgantown plant is one of a dwindling number of facilities on home soil that produce vital and affordable medicine for the U.S. market."

"Lessons From The Nina Turner Race? I admit, I don't know much about Shontel Brown. She was never the point; Nina was. The Israel lobby got another scalp of another Black progressive daring to challenge it. A little history... In 2002, Earl Hilliard, the first Black person to have served Alabama in Congress since Reconstruction, was getting close to a decade of seniority. The year before, Hilliard voted against a bill funding increases in military support to Israel and opposing criminalization of Palestinians. He was defeated by a shameless, AIPAC-financed political hack and careerist, Artur Davis, a viciously homophobic Blue Dog who voted against Obamacare, switched to the GOP, then back to the Democratic Party again to run, unsuccessfully, for office again and then back to the GOP. Davis was followed by another obedient, conservative Democrat, New Dem Terri Sewell. In 1992, the same year Hilliard had been elected to Congress, Cynthia McKinney became the first-ever Black woman to represent Georgia in the House. In 2002, AIPAC got her too and replaced her with another pointless hack, Denise Majette, who was heavily supported by white Republicans in the black majority district. McKinney ran and won again two years later. In 2006 she was forced into a runoff with DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, who beat her and isn't a bad member the way Artur Davis and Terri Sewell have been. Still, Israel was rid of a very sharp thorn in its side."

"In the Race Against Nina Turner, GOP Donors Fund Shontel Brown: With one week left in the Ohio primary, Republican donors have picked their Democrat — and the pro-Israel PAC supporting her."

"Nina Turner's Loss Is Oligarchy's Gain [...] Scarcely mentioned in media coverage of this race is that Ohio has an 'open primary,' and Republicans received public encouragement to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary. We may never know how many GOP voters took the emphatic advice from the likes of right-winger William Kristol and voted for Brown to help beat Turner. 'Reminder: Tuesday's Democratic primary is effectively the general election, and all registered voters can vote in the Democratic primary,' Kristol tweeted on July 29. 'Just request a Democratic ballot.' After sending out a similar tweet on Sunday, he got more explicit via Twitter at dawn on Election Day: 'To Akron, Beachwood, Cleveland, Shaker Heights, etc.: Today's OH-11 primary is in effect the general election. The choice is a radical leftist or a Biden Democrat, @ShontelMBrown. Any registered voter -- including independents & Republicans -- can request a Democratic primary ballot.'"

"Nina Turner Lost to the Redbox: How Shontel Brown used questionably legal campaign finance tactics to take a House seat As recently as June, the special election to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in Ohio's 11th Congressional District looked like a non-event. According to the only available polling, Nina Turner, a well-known progressive running a fairly standard Democratic campaign, led the next closest challenger, moderate city councilmember Shontel Brown, by a 50 to 15 margin. In an exceedingly low turnout primary for a deep-blue seat that went for Biden in 2020 by 60 points, the broader outcome was hardly up for grabs. But help was on the way. A couple months prior, Brown posted "redbox" messaging on her website, a section full of negative talking points about Turner enclosed in bright red, just in case any 'independent' super PAC felt so inclined to spend lavishly on attack ads but was unsure of how best to craft the messaging. ('Redboxing' is a term used by campaign operatives, describing the method by which candidates and political parties publicly share messaging strategy with political action committees, despite being barred from coordinating directly.) To send home the appeal, Brown featured quotes from Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a famed anti-progressive super PAC, atop her endorsements section, ahead of endorsers with actual name recognition like Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept reported at the time, they made for the 'least subtle messages sent to a super PAC since the outside money groups were legalized' a decade ago."

"The Lines of Connection: States make millions off phone-call fees from incarcerated people, but the cost can be even higher for their families." But Connecticut just became the first state to make inmate's phone calls free. That's a big deal.

"Missouri Attorney General's Office pushes to keep innocent people in prison [...] The attorney general's office has opposed calls for relief in nearly every wrongful conviction case that came before it and has been vacated since 2000, according to an Injustice Watch review of court records and a national database of exonerations. That includes 27 cases in which the office fought to uphold convictions for prisoners who were eventually exonerated. In roughly half of those cases, the office continued arguing that the original guilty verdict should stand even after a judge vacated the conviction. (The office, however, played no role in at least 13 exonerations during that time period.) This year alone, the convictions of three men were vacated after lengthy legal battles with Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office. [...] The office's decades-long pattern of stymieing exonerations has left the wrongfully convicted languishing in prison for years. And its stance on exonerations has persisted as elected attorneys general have come and gone, regardless of political affiliation."

"The Government Says These Missouri Men Are Innocent. It Won't Release Them From Prison: Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson are still paying for crimes that government officials say they did not commit. Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson all have something in common: they all have spent decades in the Missouri prison system, they all maintain their innocence, and the cases that led to their convictions have all fallen apart. Yet the men remain behind bars with no release in sight despite various government actors suggesting they should have their verdicts overturned. [...] But Hickle's finding is not enough to set Dunn free, thanks to a Missouri Supreme Court precedent that holds such 'freestanding' claims of innocence be limited to prisoners on death row. In other words, had Dunn been sentenced to die for the 1990 crime, he would be in a more advantageous position today. Instead, he received life without parole and thus has no recourse. 'To sit there and watch the judge's reaction to everything the witnesses said, I just knew there was a chance I was going to walk out of there,' Dunn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April. 'To hear him say I was innocent, but yet he can't free me because I'm not a death row inmate, I didn't understand.' Johnson and Strickland's cases are even more absurd, in that prosecutors agree they are innocent. 'My job is to apologize' to Strickland, said Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker at a press conference in May. 'It is important to recognize when the system has made wrongs—and what we did in this case was wrong. So, to Mr. Strickland, I am profoundly sorry.'"

"Biden Imposes Sanctions on Cuba, Says 'There Will Be More': The Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions against Cuba on Friday, targeting the country's police force and its leadership. The measures are the second round of sanctions since anti-government protests were held in Cuba earlier in July. Considering Cuba is under a decades-old US trade embargo, sanctions against the countries police force will likely have virtually no impact. When announcing the sanctions, President Biden was asked if there will be more to come. 'There will be more, unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate,' he said. Biden said the US is 'expanding our assistance to political prisoners and dissidents' in Cuba. The Biden administration is also exploring options for ways to provide people in Cuba with internet access. It's not clear how this plan would work, as the Cuban government would be against the plan since the US has a history of using social media to stir unrest in the country. One thing Biden has not done is ease the trade embargo on Cuba or restrictions on remittances to the country, which would make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their families. Western Union shut down its money-sending service to Cuba last year due to sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration."

"The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests: The U.S. government can cause economic misery for the Cuban people, but it cannot, it appears, convince them to overthrow their government. AVANA — Cuba was rocked by a series of anti-government street protests earlier this week. The U.S. establishment immediately hailed the events, putting its full weight behind the protestors. Yet documents suggest that Washington might be more involved in the events than it cares to publicly divulge. As many have reported, the protests, which started on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the west of the island, were led and vocally supported by artists and musicians, particularly from its vibrant hip-hop scene. 'For those new to the issue of Cuba, the protests we are witnessing were started by artists, not politicians. This song 'Patria y Vida' powerfully explains how young Cubans feel. And its release was so impactful, you will go to jail if caught playing it in Cuba,' said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing a track by rapper Yotuel. Both NPR and The New York Times published in-depth features about the song and how it was galvanizing the movement. 'The Hip-Hop Song That's Driving Cuba's Unprecedented Protests,' ran NPR's headline. Yotuel himself led a sympathy demonstration in Miami. But what these accounts did not mention was the remarkable extent to which Cuban rappers like Yotuel have been recruited by the American government in order to sow discontent in the Caribbean nation. The latest grant publications of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization established by the Reagan administration as a front group for the CIA — show that Washington is trying to infiltrate the Cuban arts scene in order to bring about regime change. 'A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,' NED co-founder Allen Weinstein once told The Washington Post. [...] As Professor Aviva Chomsky of Salem State University, author of A History of the Cuban Revolution, told MintPress: 'Cuba's current economic situation is pretty dire (as is, I should point out, almost all of the Third World's). The U.S. embargo (or, as Cubans call it, blockade) has been yet another obstacle (on top of the obstacles faced by all poor countries) in Cuba's fight against COVID-19. The collapse of tourism has been devastating to Cuba's economy — again, as it has been in pretty much all tourism-heavy places.' However, Chomsky also noted that it could be a mistake to label all the protestors as yearning for free-market shock therapy. 'It's interesting to note that many of the protesters are actually protesting Cuba's capitalist reforms, rather than socialism. 'They have money to build hotels but we have no money for food, we are starving,' said one protester. That's capitalism in a nutshell!' Chomsky said."

"The Texas Election Bill Contains a New Obstacle to Voting That Almost No One Is Talking About: Buried in the GOP proposal is a requirement that could—whether by intention or just sloppy legislative work—disenfranchise thousands of voters. There's a problem buried inside Texas's latest election bill, and it's not one of the headline-grabbing restrictions that have torn the Legislature apart during the special session. Nonetheless, it could disenfranchise a significant number of the state's voters. Amid all the fighting, most lawmakers have apparently overlooked a provision that would force counties to automatically reject some mail-in ballot applications. Here's why: The Republican-authored legislation would require voters to submit either their driver's license number or a partial Social Security number when applying to vote by mail. That number would then be cross-checked with the state's voter-registration database. Most applicants would be fine, because almost 90 percent of all registered Texas voters have both their Social Security number and driver's license number in the database. However, 1.9 million voters—about 11 percent of the total—have only one of the two numbers on file with the state." And the trouble is, they may not remember which.

"Testing the Georgia Voter ID Law: Results of Attempt to Obtain Voter ID Cards from a GA Registrar: Starting on June 12th, Hope Springs from Field PAC began canvassing in the Black Belt of Georgia, repeating our steps in the Georgia Senate Runoff, with a special emphasis on helping voters without the newly required photo IDs to obtain them. When investigating the kinds of IDs that a voter could use, our intrepid organizers from Albany State saw this, 'An ID card can be issued at any county registrar's office.' For voters without a photo ID, this seemed like an obvious place to go get one. Driver Services offices were notoriously crowded, everyone knows stories of rude or even offensive employees, and no one thought it a good idea to put voters who didn't already have that identification through that. In fact, these kids believed that the biggest reason people in the African-American community wouldn't have the proper ID was the embarrassment factor. Paperwork is also an issue, we've learned as we have started finding voters who need to obtain ID. The offer of a free photo ID that would qualify voters to vote (in person or to request an absentee ballot) is used prominently to defend this new legislation in court. It's not an issue, Republicans say, because anyone can get the required ID at their local county registrar's office. So we asked the Dougherty County Registrar's Office if they were prepared to issue the promised voter cards (see above). And they weren't — but the Secretary of State's office had promised them (the Registrar's Office) that they would have the means to be able to. A month out, we agreed with that office on a date where they said they would be prepared to issue them. We also asked how many voters on their rolls didn't register with a Driver's License, and the response was 'a lot, there are a considerable number.' They had been thinking about it, too. And they made sure that the Georgia Secretary of State, which was supposed to pay for it, knew that they would be getting voters who were going to request Voter ID Cards. For which they were supposed to provide the funding, because it wasn't like this county government agency, in a poor county, had the means to get the equipment and stock to fulfill this state government mandate. On Thursday, 214 Dougherty County Voters came out to request the free Voter ID card. How do we know that? Because the Registrar's Office did a count in order to pass that along to the Georgia Secretary of State. They had enough stock to make 24. We had 38 voters (first) in line who did not have the necessary picture ID, more than the stock the Registrar's office had to make them. We had a feeling, before we even knocked on our first door this summer that the state would not provide enough stock for every voter in Dougherty who needed one of these free cards to get one. When a registrar's employee called the Secretary of State's office to inform them that they had run out of stock, they were told to 'send them to the Driver's Services office. Which was precisely the point. Who would knowingly want to wait in *that* line? But we had proved that the Georgia legislature was trying to suppress poor African-Americans, doing everything they can to keep them from voting. We had the proof.

REST IN POWER: "Glen Ford, Veteran Journalist And Founder Of Black Agenda Report, Dies At 71: Glen Ford, a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on TV before going on to found the Black Agenda Report website, has died, according to reports. He was 71 years old. Ford's cause of death was not immediately reported. Several sources announced his death late Wednesday morning, including Margaret Kimberley, an editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report, the weekly news magazine that offers commentary and analysis from a Black perspective which Ford launched and served as its executive editor. To call Ford a career journalist is a vast understatement. According to his bio on the Black Agenda Report website, Ford was reporting the news live on the radio as early as 11-years-old and went on to enjoy a career in journalism for more than 40 years that included working as a Washington bureau chief as well as a correspondent covering the White House, Capitol Hill and State Department. After getting his start in news radio in Augusta, Georgia, Ford honed his skills at other local news stations and eventually created the 'Black World Report,' a syndicated half-hour weekly news magazine that paved the way for the Black Agenda Report to be founded. Years later, in 1977, Ford helped launch, produce and host 'America's Black Forum,' the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television." I'm really proud that I got him as a guest on Virtually Speaking back in the day, although I'm very unhappy to see that the entire archive for the show is now gone so I can't post the link. Damn. (Here's a video of Chris Hedges' interview of Glen a few years ago.)

Unsurprisingly, the front page at Black Agenda Report looks, appropriately, like this (only with lots of pictures):
Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor "Glen Ford and the Black Radical Critical Tradition"
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, BAR editor and columnist, "Glen Ford: Revolutionary, Friend, Leader, Lover of Black People"
Peter James Hudson and Jemima Pierre, "Glen Ford: In Memoriam"
BAR Poet-in-Residence Raymond Nat Turner, "...For Brother Glen"
Nellie Bailey, "Glen Ford, Presente!"
Nia Ford, "Power to the people!"
Pascal Robert, "Glen Ford and the Need for Black Radical Analysis"
And there's more.

"The Political Economy of Racial Inequality: The material causes of racial inequality can be overcome only with massive economic distribution. [...] In recent years, some liberals and even a stratum of leftists have come to embrace metaphors that serve to naturalize racism. When racism is described as our nation's 'original sin' or 'part of our DNA,' ideological or cultural attachments take on a life of their own. If racism is so ingrained, there's nothing much we can do about it. Such constructs have become especially appealing in recent years because they allow us to sidestep the material causes of racial inequality, which can be overcome only with massive economic redistribution. [...] Since 2016, constructs like systemic racism and diversity have drawn attention to racial injustice, but they have also been deployed against egalitarian political projects that would benefit poor and working-class Americans, who are disproportionately black and brown. In the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, for example, Hillary Clinton presented herself as the anti-racist candidate while attacking Bernie Sanders's calls for banking regulation, tuition-free higher education, and other redistributive policies. Clinton said she wanted 'white people to recognize that there is systemic racism,' but she failed to adequately address her complicity in the 1994 crime bill or the subprime mortgage crisis, both of which hurt black people worse than whites. A similar pattern emerged following the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Multinational corporations embraced concepts like intersectionality and structural racism, which provided executives like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon with a way to treat racial disparities as if they stemmed from fixed identities instead of capitalist processes."

"The Destructive Hidden Costs Of Child Care: Child care in America is criminally overpriced and out of reach for too many of us. Not only is it driving poverty upward and slashing social mobility, it breaks up families and discourages younger Americans from starting new families."

"The Time Tax: Why is so much American bureaucracy left to average citizens? Not long ago, a New York City data analyst who had been laid off shortly after the pandemic hit told me she had filed for unemployment-insurance payments and then spent the next six months calling, emailing, and using social media to try to figure out why the state's Labor Department would not send her the money she was owed. [...] This time tax is a public-policy cancer, mediating every American's relationship with the government and wasting countless precious hours of people's time. [...] Taken as a whole, the time tax is regressive. Programs for the wealthy tend to be easy, automatic, and guaranteed. You do not need to prostrate yourself before a caseworker to get the benefits of a 529 college-savings plan. You do not need to urinate in a cup to get a tax write-off for your home, boat, or plane. You do not need to find a former partner to get a child-support determination as a prerequisite for profiting from a 401(k). The difference is so significant that, as shown by the Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler, many high-income people, unlike poor folks, never even realize they are benefiting from government programs. [...] How did the world's wealthiest, most productive, and most powerful country end up with not just an ungenerous system of social policy but a convoluted, punitive, and technologically inept one? One that hurts the people it purports to help? On purpose and by design is the answer. It is one legacy of the half-millennium-old custom of separating the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor."

"Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture? A closer look at the economics of Black pop culture reveals that most Black creators (outside music) come from middle-to-upper middle class backgrounds, while the Black poor are written about but rarely get the chance to speak for themselves. [...] A decade of unprecedented interest in Black arts and letters has now passed—the greater portion of it bought with footage of people possessing Floyd's particulars lying dead on the tar—and still you cannot walk into a bookstore to find a shelf named for Black authors raised in poverty. That category of experience remains absent amidst the dozens of shelves now labeled for Black authors of every other identity and intersection. I accept that Floyd's final suffering becomes a political currency for the many, but I struggle with the fact that it purchases opportunities for the Black middle- and upper- classes, without securing a pen or a publisher for the children of Cuney Homes, without an expectation that it should, and without condemnation that it doesn't. Those born into better conditions owe it to the injured to at least recognize that participation in this wave of Black creativity, which is intended as recompense for the dead, requires that you first be employed by it—you do not gain a share of the payout otherwise."

"Larry Summers Holds Positions With Numerous Financial Bottom-Feeders: The online, often predatory lending companies benefit from lower-income Americans needing emergency cash. That aligns with Summers's concern trolling about an 'overheated' economy. Larry Summers has spent the Biden presidency in a state of perpetual concern. He is convinced that the trillions in pandemic relief, with perhaps more fiscal spending on infrastructure to come, will overheat the economy, leaving policymakers unable to contain runaway inflation without triggering a deep recession. In March, the former Treasury secretary described the state of affairs as 'the least responsible macroeconomic policy we've had in the last 40 years.' [...] But who exactly is Summers concerned about? The ordinary laborer paying more for a bucket of chicken wings while possibly making more in wages, or the people who have preoccupied Summers for virtually his entire career: bankers and financiers? The answer may be found in his client list. Summers has been diligently laundering his reputation on behalf of 'fintech' lenders, real estate startups, and Bitcoin plays, including several businesses that would benefit from an economy that values lower inflation over full employment."

This is rather astonishing, in that Bobo Brooks himself is admitting he got it totally wrong: "How The Bobos Broke America: The creative class was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. Instead we got resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction. [...] Third, we've come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. We've pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity) while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As creative-class people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave. Around 1990, nearly a third of Labour members of the British Parliament were from working-class backgrounds; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion wasn't even one in 10. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points. These partisan differences overlay economic differences. In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so. If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it's because they are. The creative class has converted cultural attainment into economic privilege and vice versa. [...] I wrote Bobos in Paradise in the late Clinton era. The end of history had allegedly arrived; the American model had been vindicated by the resolution of the Cold War. Somehow, we imagined, our class would be different from all the other elites in world history. In fact, we have many of the same vices as those who came before us."

"Black Fragility As Black Strength? Try These Books Instead. The next entry in the KenDiAngelonian universe is out. But why not branch out?" I absolutely agree with him about DiAngelo and Coates, on the one hand, and Reed on the other, but I'm utterly baffled by what would make him describe Sowell as he did and I wish he'd expanded on it.

"Organizing vs Mobilizing — focusing your campaign to win" — Most people don't get the difference between mobilizing and organizing, and many seem to have it backwards. I wish more people would think about that.

John Lennon said he admired this track so much that he openly swiped the riff in homage to Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step".

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