Worst news of the month has to be that Ron Klain, who was the best thing in the White House, is leaving and will apparently be replaced by ... "Biden Risks Legacy by Choosing Zients as Chief of Staff: As a businessman, Jeffrey Zients embodied much of the corporate misconduct the executive branch ought to be cracking down on. 'The Biden Administration has been at its best when it has been on the attack against corporate excesses that wide majorities of Americans find abhorrent.' 'Americans are appalled by profiteering in healthcare — Jeff Zients has become astonishingly rich by profiteering in healthcare.' 'Americans are aghast at how social media companies have built monopolies and violated privacy laws — Zients served on the Board of Directors of Facebook as it was defending itself against growing attacks from both political parties.' 'And as Daniel Boguslaw and Max Moran of the Revolving Door Project wrote in The American Prospect last April, "Over the span of two decades, the health care companies that Zients controlled, invested in, and helped oversee were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud."'" When we hear that these guys have been paying lots and lots of fines, that means they've been breaking the law as part of their business method. Shouldn't they be RICO'd instead of installed in the White House?
"SCOTUS's First Decision of the Term Is a Unanimous Blow to Disabled Veterans: After an unusual delay, the Supreme Court finally issued its first opinion of the term on Monday: a unanimous decision in Arellano v. McDonough siding against disabled veterans who seek compensation for disabilities related to their service. Justice Amy Coney Barrett's opinion for the court denied these veterans (and their survivors) the ability to obtain benefits retroactively if they filed a late claim—even if the delay occurred because of their disability, or some other factor beyond their control. It's a painful blow to military members who were injured while serving their country, and a puzzling one: At oral arguments, the justices sounded divided, yet all three liberals lined up behind Barrett's harsh opinion. Maybe they genuinely believed that Congress intended to impose an exceedingly stringent deadline on disabled veterans. Or perhaps the three-justice minority is so outnumbered that it has decided to pick its battles, and Arellano was not worth the fight." This is bizarre, and means they unanimously ignored a rule that even Scalia treated seriously.
Weird. Lee Fang says, "The author of this column Wells King was just hired as a senior advisor to newly elected Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH). In the world of GOP staff, that's a new development." And that's truly weird, because that column is "Why conservatives should embrace labor unions to reduce economic inequality."
Stiglitz, "Milton Friedman Set Us Up for a 21st Century Version of Fascism: In 2023, market fundamentalism is fostering authoritarianism — in the United States and abroad. [...] Monetary tightening also could lead to a global slowdown. In fact, that outcome is highly anticipated, and some commentators, having convinced themselves that combating inflation requires economic pain, have been effectively cheering on the recession. The quicker and deeper, the better, they argue. They seem not to have considered that the cure may be worse than the disease." I saw this article and my first thought was, "Why does Nobel laureate Stiglitz have to be published in In These Times (an actual left-media site that hardly anyone sees) when Larry Summers is in mass media all the time, even though he's always wrong?"
"Government Spending and its Discontents" — This is a brief and readable rundown of both the shortcomings of the omnibus bill and the Republicans' shenanigans on taxes (and what really is needed at the IRS). Via Atrios (who had a bit more to say) and highly recommended.
Oliver Willis, "Nobody Cares About The Deficit, And Democrats Should Shut Up About It: Spend What Is Needed To Make Lives Better [...] The vast majority of voters do not enter polling places with their accountant green shades on, giving either party merits or demerits for what they've done in regards to the deficit. Voters vote based on whether the government delivered on the priorities they care about on economic issues. Did the government stabilize the economy? Did it provide an environment for job creation? Did the government provide for the common defense so that commerce can continue to operate normally? Things like that. They don't care about the deficit. Even for that sliver of people who do intensely care about the deficit, their political impact is negligible. The fiscally conservative crank is never in a million years going to believe any Democrat is in line with them, no matter how much lip service people like Biden and Obama pay to them. In their minds, reinforced by right-wing media like Fox News, Democrats are always the caricature of the free spending liberal of Reagan lore, handing out tax dollars to Black welfare cheats without a care in the world. Deficit talk doesn't sway any votes." And, like Dick Cheney said, they don't matter. We can afford to spend on our people.
Ken Klippenstein, "The 5 Creepiest Moments at Davos: The real Davos conspiracy is hiding in plain sight. No, Davos is not a secret plan to raise a stadium of babies in Matrix-style incubator pods, as some Twitter users supposed — prompting a fact check from Reuters. The real Davos conspiracy is hiding in plain sight and it's pretty much the kind of pro-business agenda you'd expect from a bunch of billionaire Fortune 500 CEOs, heads of state and central bankers meeting at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps. A recent article on the World Economic Forum's website about 'the Davos Agenda' gives you the basic idea: 'We desperately need to disrupt our approach to retirement saving.' People are living longer, you see, so they'll 'want to work past mandatory retirement age…while others will need to work longer to remain financially resilient in later life.' In other words, grandma's going to have to go back to work."
This would almost be funny if these people were actually just the cartoons they act like. "Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks: Nearly half the members of the influential centrist coalition are letting themselves out after a failed push for a name change designed for a new era. Congress' influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group. Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that's left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided. At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs' demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group's reputation as a socially moderate, Southern 'boys' club.' Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy." I love that, "the Common Sense Coalition" — like "the Problem Solvers Caucus," a group that's the opposite of what it claims. They're not "moderate", either, and nowhere near the real American political center.
Best news I've heard in a while: "Inside The Slow Implosion Of The Democratic Party's Vaunted Campaign Tech Firm: Loyal Democrats say layoffs at NGP VAN and EveryAction by the company's new private equity owners could hobble the party." Except not really, because they are awful and have been hobbling the party all by themselves for years.
Wendell Potter is here to remind you, "Here is the Truth: Medicare Advantage Is Neither Medicare Nor an Advantage: Medicare Advantage is a money-making scam. I should know. I helped to sell it. Right now, well-funded lobbyists from big health insurance companies are leading a campaign on Capitol Hill to get Members of Congress and Senators of both parties to sign on to a letter designed to put them on the record 'expressing strong support' for the scam that is Medicare Advantage."
"New study reveals rampant conflicts of interest at think tanks: The report focuses heavily on how the nuclear industry influences institutional output in its favor and works to censor its critics. 'Scholars, media organizations, and members of the public should be sensitized to the conflicts of interest shaping foreign policy analysis generally and nuclear policy analysis specifically,'' is the conclusion of new academic research that documents how think tank funders are shaping the foreign policy debate."
"John Fogerty regains ownership of Creedence Clearwater Revival catalogue after 50-year battle: 'This is something I thought would never be a possibility,'said Fogerty. 'After 50 years, I am finally reunited with my songs.'" So, his nightmare is apparently ended. (It's a nightmare in which the CIA stole $5 million from Creedence Clearwater Revival to bust commies, according to Robert Skvarla's pay-walled article in Creem.)
Normally, I'm used to seeing small-bore lefty podcasters saying rude things about each other because they are small-bore lefty podcasters fighting over a very small piece of the pie. But things are a little different in right-wing media, where billionaires just shovel out money and see what sticks. They don't have pieces of the pie to fight over, they're all getting rich and they're all friends. They get rich by saying exactly what billionaires want you to hear. But then a funny thing happened. "Right-Wingers Like Steven Crowder Need Billionaire Funders Because Their Ideas Are So Bad: Right-wing demagogue Steven Crowder recently turned down a $50 million offer from Ben Shapiro's billionaire-funded media organization, calling it a 'slave contract.' If only these guys showed as much concern for the conditions of ordinary workers." And the funny thing is, that blows rather a big hole in the right-wing claim that employment contracts are always, by definition, fair.
RIP: Legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck dies aged 78: Beck rose to fame with the Yardbirds before fronting the Jeff Beck Group and making forays into the jazz-fusion sound he pioneered. [...] Beck died on Tuesday after 'suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis', the representative confirmed. 'His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss,' they added. I loved to listen to this guy. I thought Truth was a work of art. I saw The Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East and felt like I never had to see another concert as long as I lived because that was a perfect show. And he was working right up until he suddenly got sick and died. That's what makes it hurt - there was more in him.
RIP: "David Crosby, Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash Co-Founder, Dies at 81," after long illness. He had a lovely voice and wrote some fine music and harmonized beautifully and there's nothing new I can say about him, but it makes me sad that he's gone. Here's Brian Wilson's tweet. And here he is with CSNY and "Wooden Ships."
I've mostly been leaving the story of Musk's antics to Atrios, since he's been prescient on it long before I started to notice what a destructive clown he was, but he linked a story that is really worth reading for clarification, "Extremely Hardcore: Twitter's staff spent years trying to protect the social media site against impulsive billionaires who wanted to use the reach of its platform for their own ends, and then one made himself the CEO." It's a neat blow-by-blow of how Musk acquired the company and ripped it apart. (If you haven't been following Atrios on the subject of Musk and his deliberate interference with the development of mass transit, you've missed a really big story.)
Joan McCarter, "The New York Times is bad for America [...] There really isn't anything that the GOP can do that the Times will condemn as extreme and un-American, including creating a constitutional crisis over the debt limit. Because that's what it ultimately is. The Constitution says, in a number of provisions, that the executive branch pays the nation's debts and maintains a functional government. It also says, 'The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.' Period."
"The Partisan Ghost In The Media Machine: Media outlets no longer consider government malfeasance newsworthy if reporting on it might offend audiences' partisan loyalties. Before liberals knew him as the butt of a Hamilton joke, John Adams once said: 'Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.' But as the Great Airline Meltdown of 2022 illustrated last week, today's media now routinely does that altering — by promoting or suppressing facts based on which party and which infantilized audience they serve. That is a problem not just for air travelers, but also for our entire democracy."
I meant to post this in November but I forgot so here it is now, "Are we institutionalized yet? The newspapers have finally, timidly spoken up for Julian Assange. Yesterday, the New York Times published their "huh?" inspiring piece called Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Its Charges Against Assange. Who better to write it than State Department apologist stenographer Charlie Savage. [...] Naturally, the Times article on Julian Assange fails to mention even the simplest of facts. That he was targeted by the US for publishing details of some of its many crimes against humanity, especially the Chelsea Manning revelations. That he has been imprisoned for over 10 years now, and don't tell me about his so called sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy. It's not considered asylum when governments bug your apartment, listen in on protected conversations with your legal counsel, and analyze the DNA in your children's diapers."
"It Turns Out Hillary Clinton, Not Russian Bots, Lost the 2016 Election: A new study of Russia-based Twitter posts by New York University researchers buries the liberal canard that Russian bots played any significant role in swinging the 2016 election for Donald Trump. [...] That the Russian government preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton and that Russia-connected actors engaged in digital skulduggery related to the election are not really in dispute. Much of the mainstream discussion around Russian bots, however, has been premised on unexamined assumptions about the scale and effectiveness of these efforts. Powerful states including the United States, after all, regularly engage in the likes of online propaganda and sock-puppeting campaigns. Whether they have a more than negligible impact on real world events, electoral and otherwise, is another question. It's notable, then, that a new analysis published by the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University finds no evidence whatsoever that Russia-based Twitter disinformation had any meaningful impact on voter behavior in 2016. In place of the terrifying bot army menace that's periodically been invoked, the researchers instead detail an enterprise with minimal reach or influence, and one overwhelmingly concentrated among partisan Republicans already inclined to vote for Trump."
"To Save Our Democracy, We Must Transcend Bill Clinton's Legacy: If Democrats are going to be successful in beating back the threat of right-wing nationalism ushered in by Trump, they have to move even more squarely toward the promise of economic security for all Americans that was once central to the party. Thirty years ago this month, Bill Clinton launched a presidency he claimed, in his inaugural address, would "reinvent America." Clinton was right: he did reinvent America, definitively shifting the Democratic Party away from a politics that saw economic security for American working people as the fundamental task of government, a path that had brought the party decades of political success. The disastrous consequences of that shift, limiting working Americans' expectations about how our political system can improve their lives, are with us to this day. To save our imperiled democracy, we must definitively transcend the political circumstances Clinton brought us."
"What Happened At Southwest Airlines Is What Is Happening To Every American Company: All the incentives are for squeezing everything out of a company to get the appearance of profit THIS QUARTER to get the STOCK PRICE UP to get the EXECUTIVE QUARTERLY BONUS and it is all at the expense of everything else – the customers (obviously) , the suppliers, the employees, and the future of the companies. Our government is supposed to oversee the way companies operate. They operate under RULES set up by our government. Rather than get into the specifics of those rules, ask yourself if a government operating in the interests of the people of the country and the long-term good of the companies of the country would allow what we are seeing at SWA and so many other companies to continue? Of course not!!! "
"Ticketmaster's Dark History: A 40-year saga of kickbacks, threats, political maneuvering, and the humiliation of Pearl Jam. Just over 28 years ago, Taylor Swift was a precocious Montessori preschooler growing up on a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm, and Eddie Vedder was the Most Important Musician in America, Kurt Cobain having bequeathed to him the (unwanted) title with his suicide that spring. Bill Clinton himself called Vedder to the White House to ask him for help with 'messaging' around Cobain's death, and the rock star in turn confided in the president that he was having trouble with a rapacious corporation named Ticketmaster, which appeared to be operating an illegal monopoly. A few weeks later, the Clinton Justice Department invited Vedder's band Pearl Jam to be the star witness in an antitrust investigation inspired by the case. The band obliged. But no sooner had they agreed to participate in the probe than their lives began to resemble a kind of pop culture Book of Job, replete with biblical floods, mysterious plagues, possible burglaries, and crippling self-doubt. And 11 days after canceling a Ticketmaster-free 1995 summer tour due to 'pressures' they feared 'would ultimately destroy the band,' Pearl Jam's handlers at the Department of Justice issued an unusual two-sentence press release announcing the end of its investigation."
I was trying to figure out what would be a reasonable "poverty line" since the one we have makes no sense, and I stumbled on a page that lists How Much You Need To Live Comfortably in 50 Major US Cities." The entries are all variations on this:
"Albuquerque, New Mexico
• Median income: $53,936
• Income needed if you're a homeowner: $81,526.74
• Income needed if you're a renter: $65,446.74
Albuquerque isn't going to top any salary comparison by city with the median earner pulling down almost $54,000, which is below the average salary in the U.S. But, with 'just' $16,080 separating a median earner who rents from the cost to live comfortably in Albuquerque, it's actually among the more affordable major cities in the country."
David Crosby, "Triad" — original studio take.