Kuttner, "Democrats Gain Control of a Key Regulatory Agency: Trump's chair of the FDIC, outvoted on a key issue, decides to bail. Democrats will regain firm control of a key regulatory agency, the FDIC, thanks to the abrupt resignation of its Trump-appointed chair, Jelena McWilliams, on New Year's Eve. Her departure takes effect in early February. Martin Gruenberg, a longtime progressive Democrat on the FDIC board and former FDIC chair, will become acting chair once again. The stakes are huge because several major bank regulatory issues will be decided this spring. Here's the backstory. In early December, the three Democrats on the five-member FDIC board formally requested public comments on the need for tighter regulation of bank mergers. McWilliams strenuously objected and tried to block the proposal. She wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal blasting the board majority's move as a 'hostile takeover.' The politics of the situation were briefly complicated when one of the three Democrats, Michael Hsu, a former mid-level Fed official who serves on the FDIC board via his current job as acting comptroller of the currency, momentarily lost his nerve and decided he did not want to cross the FDIC chair. But McWilliams soon learned that the law is not on her side. The FDIC's statute makes clear that the board is the legal authority, and the chair has only such power as the board delegates. At that point, she decided to call it a day, rather than serving as a lame-duck chair with no power, even though her term doesn't expire until mid-2023. This is a windfall for Democrats—and a reward to Gruenberg and the FDIC board's other progressive Democrat, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rohit Chopra, for playing hardball. With McWilliams gone, Hsu is now expected to vote with the FDIC's other Democrats. All of this matters because in addition to tightening standards for bank mergers, the nation's regulatory agencies will soon act to restore capital and liquidity requirements for big banks, strengthen consideration of climate change in evaluating bank balance sheets, and undertake the first toughening of regulation under the Community Reinvestment Act in a quarter-century."
Jon Schwarz, "Everything Democrats Didn't Do in 2021: From protecting the vote to raising the minimum wage to action on global warming, in the past year, the Democrats did none of it. [...] THAT BRINGS US to 2022, which begins tomorrow. It is, of course, theoretically possible that the Democrats will take significant action on some of these issues in the coming year. But with rare exceptions, that's not how U.S. politics work. The biggest things happen in a president's first year in office, or they don't happen at all."
Branko Marcetic, "Biden's Agenda Is Dying Because the Interests of the Rich and Poor Are Irreconcilable: Joe Biden's rationale for his own presidency was that he could bring oligarchs and working people together and hammer out a compromise that worked for both. The apparent death of his legislative agenda proves what a laughable fantasy that was."
"'Innocence Isn't Enough': Arizona Urges The Supreme Court To Send Barry Jones Back To Death Row: The case has far-reaching implications: Should new evidence be ignored by the federal courts even when it exposes a wrongful conviction? [...] Now in their 30s, the siblings were just kids when their dad was sentenced to die. He'd been accused of an unfathomable crime: the rape and murder of his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, Rachel. Jones swore he was innocent — and the case against him was flimsy from the start. In 2017, an evidentiary hearing finally dismantled the evidence that sent Jones to death row. The next year, a federal judge overturned his conviction, ordering the state to retry Jones or release him. But that never happened. Instead, Arizona appealed the decision all the way to Washington, D.C."
"A Judge Has Ordered Him Released From Prison—Twice. The Government Still Won't Set Him Free. Bobby Sneed's story highlights how far some government agents will go to keep people locked up, flouting the same legal standards they are charged with upholding. [...] This year was going to be different. The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted unanimously to release him months ago. Yet Sneed has remained in prison long past his March 29, 2021, release date and despite a November 18 court decision ordering his release. Another ruling came down early last week: Sneed must be freed, a judge said. And as he was waiting by the gate for pickup, prison officials again refused to release him, instead rearresting him and transferring him to West Feliciana Parish Detention Center in St. Francisville, Louisiana."
"Why bitcoin is worse than a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme: A Ponzi scheme is a zero-sum enterprise. But bitcoin is a negative-sum phenomenon that you can't even pursue a claim against, argues Robert McCauley."
"Cryptocurrencies: A Necessary Scam? "Yes, Web3 is a bunch of bullshit. The problem is, compared to what? For a few years, I've been thinking about why social movements like crypto and bitcoin have so much momentum. I often get emails from proponents of crypto as an anti-monopoly tool, and a lot of smart people that I respect believe that it is based on a groundbreaking technology that will sweep the world. I don't see it that way. I think it's a social movement based on a dangerous get-rich-quick scam. But there's a tremendous amount of goodwill involved, and as with GameStop, the underlying driver of the energy in this movement is mass and legitimate disillusionment with liberal institutions who have failed to deliver."
"Trump's Supreme Court allows Trump's other crank judges to run free: The reactionary hacks Republicans have nominated to lower federal courts have been overrunning Biden administration policy with no serious legal basis. One obvious reason they're doing this is that they know the Court that is theoretically in charge of enforcing its own precedents isn't going to do anything about it: [...] As Milhiser goes on to point out, the Biden administration is showing little resistance, even in cases (like the order to restore the Remain in Mexico policy) where the courts have no real ability to enforce their orders. The Cult of the Court remains powerful no matter how lawless the federal courts get."
"Democrats' Betrayals Are Jeopardizing American Democracy: History is screaming at Democrats to both rescue the economy and save democracy from a meltdown. They're doing the opposite. American democracy is in the midst of a meltdown — the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Republicans' intensifying crusade to limit voting rights and deny election results make that abundantly clear. Conflict-averse Democrats in Washington, D.C., are on the verge of letting this turn into a full-fledged nightmare. Torn between their corporate donors and the electorate, they are studiously avoiding the two key questions: What is really fueling this crisis? And how can it be stopped?"
"The Emma Watson Saga Exposes the Demonisation of Palestine Solidarity: By accusing actress Emma Watson of antisemitism, Israel's apologists have exposed their strategy for defending apartheid: to smear anyone who dares to acknowledge that Palestinians exist."
A couple of graphs show that, "The Real Burglars Aren't Wearing Masks: Across the country and across industries, employers steal billions from workers each year. Minimum wage violation — the act of paying workers below the legal limit — is just one form of wage theft, but it results in at least $15 billion in lost wages annually. In 2015, minimum wage violations cost workers more than all robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts combined."
RIP: "Sarah Weddington, attorney who won Roe v Wade abortion case, dies aged 76 [...] Susan Hays, a Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner, announced the news on Twitter on Sunday and the Dallas Morning News confirmed it. 'Sarah Weddington died this morning after a series of health issues,' Hays wrote. 'With Linda Coffee, she filed the first case of her legal career, Roe v Wade, fresh out of law school. She was my professor — the best writing instructor I ever had, and a great mentor. 'At 27 she argued Roe to [the supreme court] (a fact that always made me feel like a gross underachiever). Ironically, she worked on the case because law firms would not hire women in the early 70s, leaving her with lots of time for good trouble.'"
RIP: "Beloved TV Icon Betty White Dead on the Cusp of 100th Birthday: A few weeks shy of her 100th birthday, Betty White, the beloved actress and comedian whose career in Hollywood spanned nearly eight decades and included stints on hit shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, has died.'Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever. I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.'" I think a lot of us thought she'd live forever, or at least wanted her to. I was glad to see that she hadn't spent her last days in pain, though. "In an interview with People, published on Dec. 28, White said, 'I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age.'" She was everyone's favorite little old lady. And here's that time Joan Rivers interviewed Betty.
RIP: "Joan Didion, Literary Titan, Dies at 87: Joan Didion, a resounding voice in American literature who insightfully captured the '60s and California through observant and beautiful language, died on Thursday at home in Manhattan. She was 87 years old. The famed writer's cause of death was Parkinson's disease, according to an email sent by her publisher, Paul Bogaards, an executive at Knopf, to The New York Times."
"Joan Didion, in her own words: 23 of the best quotes"
RIP: "Anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies aged 90: Desmond Tutu, the South African cleric and social activist who was a giant of the struggle against apartheid, has died aged 90, prompting tributes from religious leaders, politicians and activists from around the world. Tutu, described by observers at home and abroad as the moral conscience of the nation, died in Cape Town on Boxing Day, weeks after the death of FW de Klerk, the country's last white president."
RIP: "Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader and Democratic kingmaker, dies at 82, of pancreatic cancer. Reid was not one of the most liberal Senators, but he fought hard for plenty of liberal causes and he was good at it, unlike what we have now.
"Entertainment Monopolies Are Zombifying Mass Culture: Mass culture is becoming a museum dedicated to itself, its artifacts curated by an ever-narrowing family of conglomerates. Nowhere is that clearer than in the decline of The Simpsons, whose groundbreaking satire was killed by monopoly capitalism."
"Adolph Reed Jr.: The Perils of Race Reductionism: The political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. on the Black Lives Matter movement, the 'rich peoples' wealth gap,' and his Marxism. [...] What looks like an overall racial income gap that's not closing, that's persistent, turns out to be more an effect of rich people getting richer than the rest of us. What Bruenig finds is that 70% of so-called White wealth—or rather, close to 75% of so-called White wealth and close to 75% of so-called Black wealth—are held by the top 10% of each group, and that 97% of the racial wealth gap exists above the median."
"Government Action, Not Consumer Action, Will Stop Climate Change: Pointing the finger at individual consumers has been the default strategy of powerful corporations since the 1950s. Deflect blame for smog or litter or polluted waterways or carcinogens or gun violence away from manufacturers and onto John Q. Public. Make the issue about personal responsibility. 'People start pollution, people can stop it,' said the famous crying Indian ad from the early 1970s, the brainchild of a can and bottle manufacturers trade group. The strategy has worked like a dream because Americans prize personal responsibility. Ronald Reagan was speaking for many of us when he said: 'It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.'"
"Best of 2021: David Dayen: Our executive editor hand-picks his favorite stories of the year." I was particularly interested in "Amazon's Attack on Women's Health," which isn't just about women's health products, but the way Amazon treats its sellers and customers.
Your occasional reminder that Teen Vogue is smarter than a lot of "grown-up" rags. "Billionaires Should Not Exist — Here's Why: This op-ed argues that every billionaire really is a policy failure. [...] We have arrived at an obscene inequality crisis, in which wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, at the cost of crippling hardship, precarity, and compromised well-being for the many. When a single billionaire can accumulate more money in 10 seconds than their employees make in one year, while workers struggle to meet the basic cost of rent and medicine, then yes, every billionaire really is a policy failure. Here's why."
"Here Comes the Juice: The Expanse Changed How We Think About Sci-Fi Storytelling: We expect space opera to be big—sprawling tales with enormous casts traversing untold star systems and encountering alien beasties beyond human ken. But Amazon Prime's "The Expanse" took a much more intimate, grounded tack: what if we reached the stars, and brought all of our problems—xenophobia, class inequities, our innate knack for self-destruction—along with us?"
Alex McLevy tweeted an image, "I'd like to thank the makers of the 2022 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER calendar for obviously being devoted, passionate fans of the show who can readily identify all the most iconic characters." (Don't miss Andy Lambert's comment here to bring it all into focus.)
"The ancient fabric that no one knows how to make" was once all the rage for the wealthy, but then it completely disappeared.
I have known who Pamela Coleman-Smith was for my entire adult life and have used her most famous work extensively at times, but in all these years, I never knew what she looked like.
Eric Burden, "Sixteen Tons"