"Election 2020: Myths About (Liberal) US Media Still Strong...And Dangerous: It is an enduring belief that the vast majority of US media are 'liberal' or 'leftist.' This is a powerful myth, used by the political right to convince citizens that a secular, urban elite pushes a leftist agenda on the nation via television, newspapers and Internet. This notion wasn't invented by Trump. But Trump has, more than any other President, leveraged that pre-existing distrust and taken it to new depths. As we watch Trump openly fight democracy post-election, it is worth considering how this myth is perpetuated, even internationally." This article totally understates the case.
And nothing proves it like the pull-out from Afghanistan. Let's not forget that it was Trump, and not Biden, who made the deal to quit Afghanistan. Biden delayed somewhat but really had no choice, and somehow managed to officially start the retreat. He actually made a fairly decent speech (for an American Exceptionalist, it was actually way, way better than could be expected) in which he admitted that staying and fighting would not make things better and seemed to have made things worse. So, officially, at least, we are pulling out of Afghanistan.
But make no mistake, we lost this the moment we went in. As some of us pointed out at the time, we didn't even have a reason to be there in the first place, but even if we had, letting Bush, Cheney, and their gang of crazies do it was sheer insanity. It was perfectly clear what their values and priorities were. There is a way to get a positive outcome from the takeover of a country and we know that because we've done it before, but like the whole raft of weirdo neocons and neoliberals, they had a massive allergy to doing anything FDR did right. I'm sure a lot of ordinary people who had grown up knowing about the Marshall Plan that turned two very different enemy nations into thriving democratic allies must have assumed that, sure, since we know how to do this, that's what they'll do. But anyone who'd been paying attention to the careers of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and that whole crowd of loonies could see that this was not what they were going to do. This was all about money, from buying loyalty to stuffing their pockets. The last thing they wanted was democracy - in Afghanistan, or in the United States. Afghanis tried to form unions and the Randian weirdos the Bush administration sent in put a stop to that, and any other actions to form a civil society, fast. And then they gave us torture and Guantanamo and people started to suspect that maybe this wasn't what they'd hoped for.
I think my favorite tweet over the last week has been the person who pointed out that it had taken four presidents and billions of dollars to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. (I also like the tweets pointing out how Carter and Reagan pretty much created the Taliban in the name of anticommunism.)
None of which our "liberal" media will tell you, because they are busy completely erasing the entire history of what happened in Afghanistan to have a quick argument about whose fault it all is and, as Margaret Sullivan puts it, "The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame. Here's the predictable headline on Miranda Devine's column in the Murdoch-owned New York Post: 'Joe Biden's defeat in Afghanistan will echo for eternity.' She trashes Biden — 'the reverse Midas touch' in all things so far — and admiringly quotes former president Donald Trump on what a great job he would have done. (It does seem like he had his chances, though, doesn't it?) There it is: the loser and the forever, would-be winner."
Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that being willing to shore up American Exceptionalism and oligarchy is pretty much literally part of the job description for working in major America media. As Atrios said of these Asymmetries:
The Right gets a deferential hearing on every issue, no matter how out of touch it is (anti-vax, for example). Not just deferential, but coverage which implies it is the majority view, that Democrats should be on the defensive and conciliatory.
The Left can't even get that treatment when its views are, actually, the clear majority view (Forever war in Afghanistan is bad).
Any normal person hearing Biden's speech nodded and felt relieved that at least one nightmare was ending, at last. The polls showed overwhelming support from the public. But the Washington press corps all agreed with the Fox News view, weirdly contradictory as it was, that Biden should not be ending this disastrous failure of a war.
Not that I want to let Biden entirely off the hook, of course. Because unlike those of us who were screaming, "No, don't do this, it'll be a disaster!" Joe Biden was cheering on this stupid war 20 years ago. The "respectable" media did not defend her while she was excoriated mercilessly on Fox, and her colleagues on "our" side of the aisle did not have her back, but only one person in Congress proved not to be a coward on that day: Barbara Lee.
"Infrastructure Summer: Bipartisan Bill Boosts Corporate Giants: In broadband and other areas, the corporate dominance that has been an impediment to progress emerges unscathed. If Tuesday's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act leads to even a significant portion of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda through budget reconciliation, it will herald a new age of government investment and intervention in the economy, and a reversal of decades of pullbacks in public spending. But in another sense, the IIJA—and potentially the companion reconciliation bill—also carries on a tradition from the Clinton and Obama years of sidestepping big fights with corporate interests. It is not enough for Democratic lawmakers to have relearned how to spend money if they also continue to shy away from breaking power. One of the clearest examples of this is how broadband is treated in the IIJA. On the surface, a $65 billion investment in broadband, with an emphasis on getting low-income and rural households connected and closing the digital divide, is an unalloyed positive. But how much of that money will actually go toward meeting these goals, and how much will funnel into the coffers of incumbent telecom companies that for decades have resisted spending much money on rural and low-income deployment?"
"Texas Democrats fail to show up to state legislature and file lawsuit against Republican governor over voting bill: Democratic lawmakers from Texas allege Governor Greg Abbott has infringed their constitutional rights in a new lawsuit. Texas Democrats have again failed to show up to the state Capitol as Republicans began their third attempt at passing new voting laws. It prolonged a monthslong standoff that escalated in July when 50 Democratic state lawmakers fled the state and hunkered down in Washington DC." But so many of the Republican delegation has been exposed to covid that they'll be in quarantine and still won't be able to make a quorum.
"The USPS awarded a $120 million contract to a company with financial ties to the postmaster general: The U.S. Postal Service has secured a $120 million, five-year deal with XPO logistics, a major logistics contractor with financial and personal ties to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, The Washington Post reports." Why hasn't Biden fired this guy already? Or is it pointless to ask why Biden seems content with yet another of Trump's actions?
"'Borderline illegal': Courtesy tows remain Philly's persistent parking nightmare: Drivers who get sucked into the bureaucratic vortex describe it as city-sanctioned auto theft, sometimes followed by punishing fines from the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Gary Isaacs returned home from a trip to California in January to discover his car missing from its Center City parking spot and two alarming letters in the mail. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, in a letter dated Dec. 22, informed Isaacs that it had towed and impounded his car. And a notice from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, dated Dec. 30, warned him that the car was scheduled to go on the auction block. 'YOU ARE HEREBY GIVEN NOTICE,' the court wrote, 'that the vehicle listed below will be sold at auction and your legal and equitable interest in that vehicle will be extinguished. ...' Isaacs was mystified. He'd last parked his 2005 BMW on Camac Street, within the area covered by his parking permit —not in a loading zone on Lombard Street, as the PPA was contending in its letter. The next day, he called the parking authority, hoping to clear up the misunderstanding. A woman there said his car had apparently been 'courtesy towed' from Camac to Lombard because while he was gone, his original parking space had been declared a temporary no-parking zone, reasons unknown. 'I had never heard of a 'courtesy tow,'' said Isaacs, 61, who runs a small nonprofit that fights homelessness. 'It sounds like a generous thing to do. Except they towed it to a place where it was illegal to park. And then they ticketed it, and impounded it, and put it up for auction.'"
"The Tragic Case of the Wrong Thomas James: Two men with the same name. A murder, a manhunt, and a chilling question: Did a Florida court hand down a life sentence because of a mistaken identity? [...] 'Thomas James,' the judge read aloud. James stood. But before the judge could detail the charges, the court clerk sitting below the bench reached into a large accordion folder and pulled out a document. 'Your honor,' he recalled the clerk saying, 'there's a warrant out for him for first-degree murder.' James raised his eyebrows. This was a mistake; he hadn't murdered anybody. He assumed his file had gotten mixed up with that of one of the other guys on the docket. The warrant spelled out the particulars: Seven months earlier, near Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, a robbery had gone bad and a man was killed. Hearing all this, James was stunned but not yet scared. They can't be talking about me, he thought. He lived 15 miles from Coconut Grove and had been there only once or twice in his life, and that was years ago. None of this made sense to him. But a mistake this egregious would surely get straightened out quickly." But that never happened, and the wrong Thomas James has been incarcerated since 1990.
Doctorow, "Utilities governed like empires: Tech companies' "mission statements" are easy to dismiss as BS, but they're deadly serious and surprisingly successful in their aspirations to dominate the digital world. That's how we've ended up in a situation where a single company might control your email archives, family photos, business's cloud drives, home security system, mobile devices and media collections. But these companies don't act like they've deliberately coiled their tendrils around every aspect of your digital life; they act like you're just a customer whom they can kick off the platform the way a bartender would 86 you after last call."
Also Doctorow, "Elite debt hits record heights [...] When you are very rich, you can borrow money at interest rates that are next to zero; you can also take your income in stock, rather than cash. Stock is only taxed when you sell it, and then at the lower capital gains rate, because the IRS rewards gambling and punishes work. Put those two facts together, and you've got wealthy people who effectively never "earn" any taxable income — instead, they stake their assets as collateral on tax-free loans at sub-1% interest. The Propublica stories even reveal wealthy people illegally taking deductions on the loan interest, which the IRS doesn't seem to punish. Why would they? The rich are different from you and me. We pay tax. They don't."
And Doctorow: "End of the line for Reaganomics [...] Prior to Reagan, US antitrust enforcers relied upon a theory of "harmful dominance," cracking down on monopolies when their scale allowed them to hurt workers, or the environment, or suppliers. Harmful dominance is the theory that unaccountable power is dangerous — that giving corporate leaders control over the market lets them pervert the political process and inflict harms on the rest of us in ways that are hard to detect and even harder to prevent. That principle created a policy that was designed to keep companies weaker than the democratically accountable state, rather than allowing them to grow so large that the could capture their regulators and start to write their own regulations. Reagan nuked "harmful dominance," replacing it with radical theories from one of Nixon's top crooks, Robert Bork, whose book THE ANTITRUST PARADOX advances a conspiracy theory about US antitrust — that the framers of these laws never meant to protect us from monopoly at all."
"The granddaughter of anti-LGBT+ crusader Anita Bryant, who described gay people as 'human garbage', is marrying another woman: Bryant, 81, is a former celebrity singer and orange juice spokesperson, who in the 1970s turned her attention to anti-gay activism, ending her career in the entertainment industry. [...] Her granddaughter has now spoken out about her struggle over whether to invite her grandmother to her same-sex wedding."
Clay Risen's obit for Glen Ford in the NYT without the paywall, with a very early photo, "Glen Ford, Black Journalist Who Lashed the Mainstream, Dies at 71."
Good thread from Ron Knox about how monopolies rob us: "1. Hello. For 40 years, our economic regulators told us big corporations were not necessarily bad, and corporate industrial power was actually good for regular folks. We've known that was wrong. Regular folks aren't better off. But now we have data to back it up. A thread. 2. The data shows that, since the 1950s, the amount of wealth dominant companies take from shoppers, workers and the rest of us has grown by two orders of magnitude. That money leaves our wallets and our paychecks and ends up in the bank accounts of executives and shareholders. 3. Again, we've known this, but until now it wasn't clear the extent to which this has happened, and the kinds of companies and industry structures that are responsible for it. As always, the history is important here." Go read the rest.
"If the BBC is politically neutral, how does it explain Andrew Neil? He symbolises the rightwing domination of our media. Yet a politics presenter as aligned to the left would not be tolerated. Imagine this. The BBC appoints a prominent radical leftist, a lifelong Bennite, the chairman of the publisher of a prominent leftwing publication no less, as its flagship political presenter and interviewer. This person has made speeches in homage of Karl Marx calling for the establishment of full-blooded socialism in Britain, including a massive increase in public ownership, hiking taxes on the rich to fund a huge public investment programme, and reversing anti-union laws. They appear on our 'impartial' Auntie Beeb wearing a tie emblazoned with the logo of a hardline leftist thinktank. Their BBC editor is a former Labour staffer who moves to become Jeremy Corbyn's communications chief. They use their Twitter feed — where they have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers thanks to a platform handed to them by the BBC — to promote radical leftist causes. This would never happen. It is unthinkable, in fact. If the BBC establishment somehow entered this parallel universe, the British press would be on the brink of insurrection. And yet, the strange case of Andrew Neil, the ultra-Thatcherite former Sunday Times editor who is the BBC's flagship political presenter, is an instructive example about how our media works."
"It's No 'Mistake' That Bill Gates Was Palling Around With Jeffrey Epstein: In a new interview, Bill Gates apologized for his ties with Jeffrey Epstein even as he downplayed their relationship. That's self-serving nonsense: their friendship was a grotesque demonstration of what happens when you give a small group of people unfathomable wealth and power. Bill Gates's long-overdue fall from grace has been a rare silver lining in an otherwise ghastly year. But he doesn't seem to be enjoying it as much as the rest of us. Deservedly dogged by bad press for his stalwart defense of pharmaceutical profits over COVID-19 patients in poor countries, sexual harassment of Microsoft employees, and his apparently extensive ties to multimillionaire and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, Gates tried for some damage control in an interview last week with CNN's Anderson Cooper. [...] But the pervasiveness of Gates funding doesn't justify its angelic sheen: it means that a slice of Bill's ill-gotten goods has been reallocated to address the misery that he and his ruling-class allies played no small part in creating. The 'diseases of poverty' the foundation combats are called that for a reason — they persist because global capitalism churns out a handful of gazillionaires while dooming millions a year to die of conditions that are curable or manageable using resources controlled by for-profit companies. The medicines Gates is ostensibly magnanimous enough to dispatch to desperate places overseas are unattainably expensive, thanks to an international intellectual property regime that has arguably benefited Bill Gates more than any other human being on Earth." And which Bill Gates fought hard to impose on us.
"The Democrats' new cult of the popular: Why 'talk about popular issues' is not the magic answer the party is looking for: How should the Democratic Party position itself to win? One option embraced by a faction of the party is to become "shorpilled," referring to the contrarian data guru David Shor. He advocates a position that writer Aaron Freedman intelligibly dubbed "survey liberalism," which Shor has explained this way: "You should put your money in cheap media markets in close states close to the election, and you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular issues." Concretely, that means placating the racism of white voters, avoiding slogans like "defund the police," being cautious on immigration reform, heavily means-testing welfare programs, and so on —basically the suite of policies moderate Democrats already support —because that's what polls say most voters like. Other prominent believers in this doctrine include writer Matt Yglesias, former President Barack Obama, and reportedly members of the Biden White House. I am skeptical. [...] This isn't just about individuals, either. Consider Gallup, one of the oldest and most-reputable polling firms on earth. For years now it has been conducting a set of polls on Social Security that are wildly biased and ideological —smearing the program, implying it will disappear soon, and asking how benefits should be cut rather than if they should be cut at all. One poll has this prompt: "Next, I'm going to read a list of problems facing the country .. How much do you personally worry about the Social Security system?" Another: "Which of these statements do you think best describes the Social Security system —it is in a state of crisis, it has major problems, it has minor problems or it does not have any problems?" Another: "How long do you think it will be until the costs of the Medicare and Social Security programs create a crisis for the federal government[?]" [...] This is because of a well-funded, decades-long neoliberal propaganda campaign to cut the program, explained well in an old Slate article by Yglesias, of all people. "Important People absolutely despise Social Security," he wrote, because "Taxing working people to hand out free money so people don't need to work is antithetical to the spirit of capitalism." Eventually the Gallup pollsters internalized the notion that Social Security is a problem as neutral and non-ideological, and started writing polls reflecting that thinking. (More welfare-friendly polls have naturally found much more positive results for Social Security.) A similar abuse of polls and the rhetoric of political "realism" was a key part of the strategy neoliberals used to take control of the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s. When George McGovern got smashed by Nixon in 1972, they declared that the New Deal was dead, and Democrats needed to pivot to the right to win. This argument was facially dubious —every Democratic presidential candidate who lost between 1980 and 1988 was some kind of neoliberal, yet somehow their ideas were not blamed for the loss —but when Bill Clinton finally won, they closed the rhetorical circuit. From that day forward the Democratic leadership has hectored its own base that leftist ideas are always unpopular and doomed (so as to keep them off the policy agenda) and that the most important characteristic by far in a politician is their ability to get elected. [...] The policies Democrats run on will face a coordinated attack from extremely loud and well-funded liars, no matter what they are."
Here's a handy little video you can pass along the next time someone tries to tell you that the government can't do anything: "Capitalism Didn't Make the iPhone, You iMbecile."
It seems like pre-history, now, but Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before she was Prime Minister, once sounded the alarm on climate change. But then she stopped and built a world where heeding those warnings became impossible.
Rude Bitch is now online. So I read it, and honestly, I can't believe we ever wrote that stuff. Maybe I shouldn't even post the link.
The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"