Monday, November 28, 2016

I heard it through the grapevine

OK, it's that time of year again, so let's start with a little Advent music. We'll get to the other Christmassy stuff I like to deploy in my war against Bill O'Reilly's War on Christmas soon. Remember, it's the darkest and coldest time of the year up here in the northern hemisphere, and we need to light and warm the way. So, just a simple little version of "The Carol of the Bells" to get the feeling.

Everyone is chiming in with what went wrong. what needs to go right, who to blame and who is faultless, people scared to death, or else steeling themselves to face what's coming. As always, there are a lot of people I'd like to smack, but let's start two years ago in the NYT:

Democrats did lose the South, but they didn't lose it because of the Civil Rights Act. Instead of waiting for all those mean old Southern white men to die, Democrats might be better off asking themselves why so many of them were still voting Democratic just 22 years ago.

Nor have Democratic losses in the South been much worse than they were all over the country. To give just one egregious example, Democrats lost the Massachusetts statehouse this year - for the fifth time in their last seven tries.

This is a historic shift. From 1931 to 1995, Democrats held majorities in the House of Representatives for all but four years and in the Senate for all but 12. On the state level, they held their own with (or outnumbered) Republicans in governorships and state legislatures for the vast majority of those 64 years.

It's been a completely different story since 1994, however, and by next January, Democrats will not only be in the minority in both houses of Congress. They will likely hold 18 statehouses and both chambers in only 11 state legislatures.

Suffering a series of historic defeats is not a sign that you're winning. The Democrats no longer please anyone much, neither their depressed base nor the less committed. Meanwhile, Republicans still manage to portray them as wild-eyed socialists. The party does take the White House more often now, but at the state level, and in the midterms, when a third of the senators and all representatives are up for election, the party has been hollowed out.

THE trouble was that the Clinton-Obama strategy got things upside down from the start. Why try to cast yourselves as economic moderates and cultural progressives when the disparate elements of your coalition have little in common culturally, but are all struggling with the same wretched economy?

* * * * *

Max Sawicky (MaxSpeak) on FB this week:

OK, folks. This is the game.

Bernie Sanders is taking the line of resisting the intolerant, warmongering Trump & Co. while simultaneously challenging him to put real money into infrastructure and to write better trade deals, Trump's signature overtures to the working class. Most if not all Senate Democrats are taking the same line.

An alternative strategy would be to emulate what Mitch McConnell did with Obama, to just oppose everything, regardless of whether or not it is congenial to his ideological interests. This worked well for the Republicans, but that doesn't mean it would work for the Dems, since their constituencies and policy priorities are different. It makes for a debate in which reasonable people can disagree. But that's not what's happening.

Justifiable hysteria over Trump's appointments, such as the unspeakable Senator Sessions for Attorney-General, is making rational discussion more difficult. Some are accusing Sanders of collaborationism, 'reaching out' to racist Trump voters, folding in the face of fascism. In other words, they are resuming the Clinton primary campaign of libelous gossip and the failed general election campaign against deplorables.

In this setting, every single Trump voter is irredeemably racist from top to bottom, with no mitigating concerns. As a matter of fact, I don't doubt that many of them are, but to win a national election, Democrats don't need all of these people; they only need a handful. After all, the total margin of defeat in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin - the electoral vote difference that put Trump over the top - was less than 110,000. Tiny.

I don't normally defer to authority, but in this case it ought to be noted that Sanders' line is the same as other Senate Democrats, who know more about electoral politics than I do. So some consideration is merited, and the onus of the position should not be put on Sanders alone.

The Clinton line about her defeat is that nothing was their fault. It was all the FBI, Wikileaks, and the media. To be sure, all of those factors exerted a malign influence and any one of them could have flipped the result. So might any number of decisions by the Clinton Campaign. The upshot of the Clinton line is that no course corrections for the Democratic Party are warranted, except in the realm of technical operations. The strategy going forward is to hope for better luck and demographic rescue in the years (decades!) ahead.

The Clintons and their elite cronies are not going away. They want to retain power. Their attacks on Sanders should be rejected by the left; these attacks are an effort to demobilize his movement, which as things stand is The Movement. There is no Clinton movement; there are Clinton elites and apologists. There is no Clinton-led grassroots mobilization against the impending racist, sexist, xenophobic wave led by Trump. The Clinton plan is to hunker down and broker the next neo-liberal champion. Corey Booker, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

There may be good arguments for a stance of wall-to-wall opposition to all things Trump. Let them be made. At the same time, the only impact from stigmatizing Sanders and his followers is to perpetuate the current Democratic sclerosis that has led us into this abyss.

* * * * *

Dennis Kucinich posted on Facebook a letter he sent to the Attorney General:

As a former member of Congress and former chair of the Committee on Domestic Policy, I hereby request you open an immediate investigation of police authorities in Standing Rock, North Dakota for conspiring against the civil and constitutional rights of protestors, in violation of 42 U.S.C., Section 1983, which reads, in part, 'Every person who, under color of any statute - causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law. . . ."

It has been reported that police, as part of a strategy of crowd control, deliberately used water cannons, in subfreezing temperatures, against protestors, subjecting protestors to risk of serious injury and depriving them of their First Amendment right of free speech, the right to protest.

I am requesting that you use the power of your office to investigate this incident, to determine the participants and to take such action to enjoin the offending parties from further violation of the US Constitution and applicable federal law.

Al Franken has also sent a letter to the AG. Obama, who promised to have their back, has been amazingly quiet about all this. Clinton, when pushed, was non-committal during the campaign and has nothing to say on the subject now. Schumer? Don't kid yourself. "Phillips 66, who have financed 25% of the Dakota Access Pipeline project, is primarily owned by billionaire Warren Buffett's holding company. Buffett actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton this past presidential election, and has made large donations to Clinton, Obama, and other Democrats over the past several years."

"Father of Activist Injured at Standing Rock Calls on Obama to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Drilling [...] President Obama, has to step in there and stop this. They're drilling now even though they don't have a permit. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked them to stop. The Army Corps of Engineers has said that they were not going to issue a permit until after they did further environmental studies and spoke with the tribe, and yet they go ahead and set all the drills in place, and they continue. They're probably drilling under the river right now, as we speak. And it's a very, very dangerous situation there. And that's just thing number one. Number two is they have to demilitarize the police there. There's no reason that the police should be intentionally trying to kill people, maim people. And this has to stop."

But the citizenry's pressure on local authorities to withdraw from the attack on the protesters, especially in the face of increasing costs to public funds, does seem to be having an effect. "It was not an easy choice to make, Gootkin said. 'I wanted to go and help my fellow law enforcement.' Then, he raised a question that has begun to rattle many communities across America lately. 'I just don't understand where we separated from the public. It really breaks my heart. We are not the enemy.'"

* * * * *

"Slovenia Declares Water A Human Right By Amending Constitution [...] Meanwhile, private corporations like Nestle are expanding their extraction of fresh water, bottling it and selling it for profit. In one particularly horrific example, Nestle is set to triple its water extraction from an aquifer in Michigan only 120 miles from the embattled town of Flint, where residents have not had access to clean drinking water for over a year."

Thanks to commenter CMike for alerting us to this from Jimmy Dore: "Economist Who Predicted Brexit & Trump Brilliantly Explains Capitalism's Collapse"

You would think Democrats would be asking why no recounts with such close losses and contradictory exit polls, but no. In fact, when Jill Stein raises over $4.5m to request US election recounts in battleground states, the Clintonites are all over the net sneering and accusing her of nefarious purposes and "a scam" and advising people not to give money to the cause. Apparently, they got the memo to blame Trump's election on Stein and her supporters and they just can't stop themselves.

We might learn something about this election if we look at foreclosure map. "The first map is from RealtyTrac, and indicates the states with the largest foreclosure inventory in 2012. The second is a map of the key battleground states. In 2008 and 2012, Obama won these states. In 2016 Clinton lost them. There's a lot of similarities between those two maps. Even in the best economic environment, residential mortgage foreclosure is a long, messy process. The massive wave of foreclosures that hit these regions after the financial crisis had enormous consequences economically. They also had a tremendous, painful impact on the families and neighborhoods of the people affected, directly and indirectly by the foreclosures. [...] I was involved, to a small degree, with homeowners, activists and lawmakers that tried to deal with the issues and problems in the foreclosure crisis, some of which is documented in David Dayen's excellent new book, Chain of Title. As Dayen documents, the government response to the issues was ultimately terribly unsatisfying and at best, had the effect of sweeping the issue under the carpet. The consequences of the government's response played out in this presidential election. [...] How much of an impact would a compassionate outreach have had on these neighborhoods? It's also worth remembering that the people hit by the foreclosure crisis were generally middle class - prior to the crisis they owned homes, held jobs, were members of the community. Where were they by the time the 2016 election came around?"

Bernie Sanders made a speech on Our Revolution - A Future to Believe In, after which he made a statement during the Q&A that makes perfect sense, although Vox seemed to view it with some consternation and TPM completely mischaracterized it, but it was, of all places, in The New Republic that the air was cleared: "No, Bernie Sanders didn't ask his supporters to 'ditch' identity politics," and Salon added that he had done rather the opposite. Sanders himself came back with an essay reiterating his point: "Our rights and economic lives are intertwined. Now, more than ever, we need a Democratic Party that is committed to fulfilling, not eviscerating, Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of racial, social, and economic justice for all."

"Why Some Protests Succeed While Others Fail [...] Since those D.C. protests are coming up, and are likely to be massive, they are a natural focal point for the complicated questions surrounding protest and organization. So I asked several scholars of activism, protest, and movement-building what advice they would give to the organizers, and how their own work fits into their predictions about what could go well or poorly in January. One of the most consistent answers I got was that protesters should realize that protests aren't enough. There's a real risk of catharsis being the start and end of the resistance to Trump: Protesting feels good and righteous, but if nothing comes after then it may not accomplish that much. It's key, therefore, to understand the limits of protests and to put them in a broader activism context. 'There are some people that think that protests solve everything; you just have a protest, it's going to make everything change,' said Fabio Rojas, a professor at Indiana University and the author of From Black Power to Black Studies: How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline. 'That's not true - it is a tool that does a very specific thing, and you have to understand that when you start out.'"

David Dayen, "Democrats: Revoking Trump's Fast-Track Trade Authority Is Good Policy and Good Politics: Trump doesn't need fast track to accomplish bilateral deals, but he could use it to dole out corporate favors."

Bernie Sanders is all up in Trump's face: "Sanders Statement on Carrier and Outsourcing: During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise. Let's be clear: it is not good enough to save some of these jobs. We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned."

"Wall Street and Private Prisons 'Licking Their Lips' Over Trump Presidency: Under Obama, DOJ was set to phase out private detention centers. After Trump's victory, prison corporation stocks skyrocketed."

Robert Reich, "The Democratic party lost its soul. It's time to win it back [...] You might think this overwhelming drubbing would cause the Democratic party to reorganize itself into a very different party from the one it's become - which is essentially a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests that make up the bulk of its funding. Don't bet on it."

"We Can Blame the Voters or Blame the Elite. Only One Choice Offers a Way Forward [...] Which of these characterizations you choose, the first or second above, will determine whether you see the world in "the left vs. the right" terms or "the rich vs. the rest" terms, and also whether you wish to continue the failed American struggle against the elites, or improve your chance of winning it."

"There's a simple reason for Clinton's shocking loss to Trump [...] But the very inconvenient truth that must be absorbed, by the technocratic Democrats of the Obama years and by the apparent plurality of voters who supported Secretary Clinton, is that the Obama administration did not deliver on its promises of hope and change, and broke the trust of many of those (enough, at least, to elect Donald Trump) who were counting on a sharp departure from business as usual following the Great Recession."

It was a mistake to keep saying the economy was so much better when Millions of Americans Are Still Out of Work: "In 2007, before the Great Recession, the unemployment rate was 4.6 percent. The employment rate - the percentage of all Americans age 16 and older who had a job - was 63.0 percent. By 2010, the unemployment rate had risen to 9.6 percent, and the employment rate had dropped to 58.5 percent. Since then, a weird thing has happened. Although unemployment has fallen back to 4.9 percent - just 0.3 percentage points above the 2007 average - the employment rate has remained stubbornly low."

"Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn't Vote - and Don't Regret It. [...] As for the claims of racism that have dogged Mr. Trump, Mr. Babar wasn't so worried. 'It's better than smiling to my face but going behind closed doors and voting against our kids,' he said."

"Trump's Infrastructure Bill? It's a Trap [...] Trump's so-called "infrastructure" bill is really just a tax cut bill for investors in infrastructure and would do nothing to guarantee that the most needed (as opposed to the most profitable) projects are undertaken."

"Donald Trump was right: THE ELECTION WAS RIGGED. In his favour." Voter purges, voter suppression, and we don't even know who really won until we count the ballots by hand.

One thing I never want to see again is another candidate in which loyalists will with a straight face explain that their candidate can't do what's needed because this particular candidate is handicapped by some trait that is mainly their own and that another candidate would not have. We had a lot of that with Obama ("If he does that, they'll call him an angry black man" - I disagreed, but if they really believed that, why did they think he was the right man for the job?), and now we see that even Clinton's own team knew that Clinton couldn't campaign against Trump as needed, but Sanders could. Nevertheless, they kept insisting that in "the most important election in history", only she could win.

Bill Black, "Hillary's Threat to Wage Continuous War on the Working Class via Austerity Proved Fatal: I've come back recently from Kilkenny, Ireland where I participated in the seventh annual Kilkenomics - a festival of economics and comedy. The festival is noted for people from a broad range of economic perspectives presenting their economic views in plain, blunt English. Kilkenomics VII began two days after the U.S. election, so we added some sessions on President-elect Trump's fiscal policy views. Trump had no obvious supporters among this diverse group of economists, so the audience was surprised to hear many economists from multiple nations take the view that his stated fiscal policies could be desirable for the U.S. - and the global economy, particularly the EU. We all expressed the caution that no one could know whether Trump would seek to implement the fiscal policies on which he campaigned. Most of us, however, said that if he wished to implement those policies House Speaker Paul Ryan would not be able to block him. I opined that congressional Republicans would rediscover their love of pork and logrolling if Trump implemented his promised fiscal policies. The audience was also surprised to hear two groups of economists explain that Hillary Clinton's fiscal policies remained pure New Democrat (austerity forever) even as the economic illiteracy of those policies became even clearer - and even as the political idiocy of her fiscal policies became glaringly obvious. Austerity is one of the fundamental ways in which the system is rigged against the working class. Austerity was the weapon of mass destruction unleashed in the New Democrats' and Republicans' long war on the working class. The fact that she intensified and highlighted her intent to inflict continuous austerity on the working class as the election neared represented an unforced error of major proportions. As the polling data showed her losing the white working class by staggering amounts, in the last month of the election, the big new idea that Hillary pushed repeatedly was a promise that if she were elected she would inflict continuous austerity on the economy. 'I am not going to add a penny to the national debt.' The biggest losers of such continued austerity would as ever be the working class. She also famously insulted the working class as 'deplorables.' It was a bizarre approach by a politician to the plight of tens of millions of Americans who were victims of the New Democrats' and the Republicans' trade and austerity policies. As we presented these facts to a European audience we realized that in attempting to answer the question of what Trump's promised fiscal policies would mean if implemented we were also explaining one of the most important reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the white working class by such an enormous margin."

Brian Beutler in The New Republic, "How to beat Donald Trump." There are a number of words in this article that I disagree with, but he still thinks running like Bernie will do a better job of beating Trump.

Beat the Press on "Surviving the Age of Trump [...] Most importantly, the people in Congress want to get re-elected. Pushing unpopular policies like privatizing Social Security or Medicare, or taking away insurance by ending Obamacare, will be horrible albatrosses hanging over their heads the next time they face voters. This reality has to constantly be put in their faces. It is easy for politicians to push nonsense stories about eliminating trillions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse. It is much harder to get away with taking away your parents' Social Security check or the health care insurance that pays for your kid's insulin.

So, The WaPo got suckered by a fake news org. "Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group: The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being 'routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.' The article by reporter Craig Timberg - headlined 'Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say' - cites a report by a new, anonymous website calling itself 'PropOrNot,' which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian 'misinformation campaign.' The group's list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as Antiwar.com and the Ron Paul Institute. This Post report was one of the most widely circulated political news articles on social media over the last 48 hours, with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of U.S. journalists and pundits with large platforms hailing it as an earth-shattering exposé. It was the most-read piece on the entire Post website after it was published on Friday. [...] In casting the group behind this website as 'experts,' the Post described PropOrNot simply as 'a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.' Not one individual at the organization is named. The executive director is quoted, but only on the condition of anonymity, which the Post said it was providing the group 'to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers.'" We can't even know the name of the executive director? Are we sure this isn't a couple of eight-year-olds in a treehouse? "More troubling still, PropOrNot listed numerous organizations on its website as 'allied' with it, yet many of these claimed 'allies' told The Intercept, and complained on social media, they have nothing to do with the group and had never even heard of it before the Post published its story."

"Democrat Harold Ford Jr. emerging as potential Trump pick." Some of us would argue that Harold Ford was never a Democrat, but the Dem leadership did keep trying to foist him off on us. Then when he would lose, they'd pretend it was racism. But no one wanted to vote for Harold Ford, no matter what color they were.

"Jesse Jackson: Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton: Speaking at President Gerald Ford's alma mater, The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for President Obama to issue a blanket pardon to Hillary Clinton before he leaves office, just like Ford did for Richard Nixon."

Cornel West, "Goodbye, American Neoliberalism. A New Neo-Fascist Era Is Here." I think it's being optimistic to think we will see the back of neoliberalism that easily.
* Hazem Salem has a similar pipedream: "Clinton & co are finally gone. That is the silver lining in this disaster : Hillary Clinton has given us back our freedom. Only such a crushing defeat could break the chains that bound us to the New Democrat elites. The defeat was the result of decades of moving the Democratic party - the party of FDR - away from what it once was and should have remained: a party that represents workers. All workers [...] This is not to deny the reality of structural racism or xenophobia or the intolerance shown to Muslims or the antisemitic undertones of Trump's campaign. I am myself a person of color with a Muslim-sounding name, I know the reality and I am as frightened as everyone else. But it is crucial that our cultural elite, most of it aligned with the New Democrats, not be allowed to shirk their responsibility for Trump's success."
* And over at The Baffler, another fantasy that it will all go away: "#RIPMyShillaries [...] Third, the Shillaries. The host of journalists, commentators, pundits, and celebrities who took it upon themselves day in and day out to explain, scrub, polish, promote, praise, defend, and sell Hillary as the best thing that could ever happen to our blessed country, because she had an endemic inability to do what politicians are supposed to do: sell themselves to the public. Presidential candidates, especially those with Clinton's record-breaking funding base, can pay consultants to promote their ideas and promise. We don't need journalists to volunteer to do it for them, and we sure as hell don't need journalists who are taking on double-duty as PR flacks to further their own careers in the liberal punditocracy's cursus honorum from lowly scribe to editor-writer at a highbrow magazine or earnest millennial channel to White House press secretary - or the C-suite at a Silicon Valley unicorn. RIP, my Shillaries. (A new genre seems to have emerged, here, for getting on Ezra's case after his recent performance during the primaries and election season. Another entry is "The persistence of Vox".)

I'm glad someone besides me is disgusted by this guy's version of "liberalism": "Nicholas Kristof's Burden: First class travel and $30,000 speakers fee makes reporting on poverty easier to endure." We have people like Friedman and Kristof representing "liberalism" on the NYT op-ed pages, and you wonder why people hate "liberals".

'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper: Investigatory Powers Act legalises range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services. [...] The security agencies and police began the year braced for at least some opposition, rehearsing arguments for the debate. In the end, faced with public apathy and an opposition in disarray, the government did not have to make a single substantial concession to the privacy lobby."

"Alan Grayson Offers A Plainspoken Bill That Allows Americans To Vote With Our Middle Fingers" - It hasn't got a prayer of being taken seriously, but wouldn't you love to be able to vote for "None of the Above" the next time your leaders try to foist off two unacceptable choices on you?

Alex Emmons and Naomi Chance in The Intercept, "Obama Refuses to Pardon Edward Snowden. Trump's New CIA Pick Wants Him Dead. President Obama indicated on Friday that he won't pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even as President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick to run the CIA: Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo, who has called for 'the traitor Edward Snowden' to be executed."

David Atkins, "Stop Blaming the Voters: Only the brilliant minds of the establishment could have taken a race featuring a 68-year-old white lifetime civil servant, running against a comically corrupt billionaire real estate tycoon who rides in a gilded elevator to a gaudy sex palace highrise home befitting a Sasha Baron Cohen character, and turn it into a referendum on temperament and multiculturalism instead of inequality."

"The Right Way to Resist Trump: Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi's popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different. [...] The Italian experience provides a blueprint for how to defeat Mr. Trump. Only two men in Italy have won an electoral competition against Mr. Berlusconi: Romano Prodi and the current prime minister, Matteo Renzi (albeit only in a 2014 European election). Both of them treated Mr. Berlusconi as an ordinary opponent. They focused on the issues, not on his character. In different ways, both of them are seen as outsiders, not as members of what in Italy is defined as the political caste."

This is a completely different take on the subject than anything else I've read: "You're still crying wolf [...] Stop writing articles breathlessly following everything the KKK says. Stop writing several times more articles about the KKK than there are actual Klansmen. Remember that thing where Trump started out as a random joke, and then the media covered him way more than any other candidate because he was so outrageous, and gave him what was essentially free advertising, and then he became President-elect of the United States? Is the lesson you learned from this experience that you need 24-7 coverage of the Ku Klux Klan?"

Michael Hudson on the Orwellian Turn in Contemporary Economics

Chris Hedges, "We Are All Deplorables [...] I finished my book with a deep dislike for megachurch pastors who, like Trump, manipulate despair to achieve power and wealth. I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft, even as they spew racist venom. Their conclusion that minorities, undocumented workers or Muslims are responsible for their impoverishment is part of the retreat into fantasy. The only way we will blunt this racism and hatred and allow them to free themselves from the grip of magical thinking is by providing jobs that offer adequate incomes and economic stability and by restoring their communities and the primacy of the common good. Any other approach will fail. We will not argue or scold them out of their beliefs. These people are emotionally incapable of coping with the world as it is. If we demonize them we demonize ourselves.

"A New Documentary Explores the Devastating Effects of Drone Warfare on Victims and Whistleblowers [...] I can say the drone program is wrong because I don't know how many people I've killed."

Oh, gods, not this again! "UK to censor online videos of 'non-conventional' sex acts."

RIP: Ron Glass, 71, who played Detective Ron Harris in Barney Miller and Shepherd Book in Firefly, of respiratory failure. And a bright light goes out in the 'Verse. No, I wasn't expecting this, it was mere happenstance that I linked to "The Harris Incident" last time, but perhaps good timing. His former colleagues from Firefly were all over Twitter with tributes.
* Fidel Castro, at 90. Most people forget that even if you see him as a tyrant, he kicked out an even worse tyrant (and the Mafia) and gave his people health care, despite the embargo. Say what you will, but Batista was a bastard, yet somehow the United States managed to make nice with him.
* Scott Eric Kaufman (SEK), blogger at Lawyers, Guns & Money and a bunch of other things. He was funny and much-loved, and I don't want to talk about this now. There was still hope, for a while, that he could recover from the infection that caused multiple organ failure, but on the 18th he posted on Facebook: "I'm dead -- well, not yet. Still sorting it out. But I'm entering an end-of-life facility at the end of the week, to die in Houston. It's been fun, but such fun can only last so long -- time to get to the difficult business of dying."
* Don Waller, who chronicled rock music and was even a punk musician back in the day - but who we remember as a once-active Atriot screen-named Agent Orange. There's a nice remembrance over at Buzzbands with a video of the Imperial Dogs playing, but I can't find an obit with details of age and cause of death. LA Weekly doesn't know either, but they did say, "R.I.P. Don Waller, Influential Music Journalist and Imperial Dog [...] OK, there's his resume. If you didn't know about Don Waller before, the gist of it is that the man made a major, major contribution to what you know and think about pop and rock and American roots music; if you're a fan of any of the above-mentioned stuff, Don's DNA is inside you, whether you knew the man or not."

Spocko's noisy Happy Holidays to Christian Trump Supporters!

You can now get Molly Ivins Letters to the Nation as an ebook.

As a fan of cashews, I have idly wondered why I've never seen them in a shell. Now I know.

The artwork of Dorothea Tanning

"How Many LEGO Would It Take to Build Sci-Fi Megastructures?"

You would think you were on an alien planet if you woke up in the Rainbow Mountains.

Marvin Gaye, live at Montreux

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

And the system's not broken, it's fixed

There were things I knew and forgot because for a moment there was a chance to get around them. It's incredibly rare for the incumbent party to win the White House after a full two terms - it's only happened once in my lifetime, and that was Bush1, who turned out to be a one-term president. And much as the public seems to love Obama (who, it must be said, has comic timing that must make hundreds of professional comics envious), they had voted for real change in 2008, and did not get it, and still wanted it. Bernie Sanders had offered that option - a different kind of leadership you really could believe in, because there wasn't a neoliberal record that had to be constantly explained away. He was a wild card. So I guess I got carried away with the idea that we could win, even after my heart sank when I realized there was no chance for Sanders to take the nomination. And even though I still knew, and kept cataloging, the reasons why Clinton was a terrible standard-bearer and a terrible candidate, I was completely unprepared for the fact that Trump actually won.

But wait - this is The Sideshow, and I never take for granted that that's really what happened. On Tuesday night, my Twitter feed was full of people saying, "These exit polls are really messed up," but there were no links, there was no data, and I couldn't find anything about them. We know that we can't expect transparency from the voting machines - we simply can't trust them. We know that Voter ID laws stopped some people from voting and had a deterrent effect on others. But we also know that voting was depressed - voter ID laws stopped both white and black poorer people from voting in some states, and so did pulling legitimate voters off the rolls. But millions of people who showed up for Obama did not show up Tuesday, even in states that didn't have new voting restrictions. Nevertheless, I know that yes, our elections can be stolen. I assumed all along that the Republicans (who own the machines) wouldn't bother to use that strategy against Clinton because a lot of the GOPs bigwig funders seemed to know Clinton was the real Republican in the race, but it seems they all got on board in the end, so I don't know. And it would appear that the red shift keeps on happening. We won't know what's really going on unless we have paper ballots, hand-counted in full public view on the night.

Still, I think the best explanation for how Trump won was that his opposition was a candidate who as much as promised that people would not get the change from her that they wanted, and that they were childish to want that change - and whose principle campaign argument for her election was that she wasn't Trump. This is never a winning strategy for Democrats. The candidate who admitted that things were bad and needed to be fixed was Trump. Trump had the message of hope and change, and Hillary was the candidate of fear.

So let's hear it for the one lefty who told us months ago why Trump would win: Michael Moore. Nobody listened, but he was right.
* And here was Moore after the election, saying it again on Morning Joe.

Al Gore said the people usually get it right. For all I know, maybe they did. God knows those smug, self-satisfied "centrist" elites who've been running the Democratic Party needed a wake-up call. And much as it terrifies me to think that we really will have President Pence, appointing GOP crackpots to head our agencies, I can't help but notice that in the last few days, Trump has been backing off of some of his most odious campaign policies, and the week before the election, there was this at Reuters: "Trump calls for '21st century' Glass-Steagall banking law." Right? The Republican called for a new Glass-Steagall. Believe me, it would not hurt to see that happen.

What was the disheartening message on my feeds on Wednesday morning? That Clinton Democrats were unfriending any Sanders supporter who expressed their own bitterness about the results, who said, "I told you so," who said, "Bernie would have won." Well, maybe he would have and maybe he wouldn't have - it appears that the polls were right all along - but the fact is that after nearly two years of being told that Clinton was the inevitable next president, the sure thing, and anyone who wanted a different candidate was just being childish, selfish, and "privileged", they're entitled to. (Oddly, The Washington Post let Freddie deBoer say, "Hillary Clinton lost. Bernie Sanders could have won." Tuesday night, Krugman was in my Twitter feed blaming it all on Jill Stein, whose poll numbers were so low she might as well not have been there. That Nader fever just keeps infecting some people.)

There are still plenty of Clintonites making embarrassing arguments about why Trump won. Lambert Strether debunks some of the most popular ones over at Naked Capitalism. (Just for the record, I really get upset when people write off election results they don't like as "the public is stupid". The public is often a lot smarter than our highly-educated technocrats, and they seem to know what's going on a lot better than the "smart" people do. And, as I said privately to Matt Stoller, it's almost funny listening to people who love Obama talk about how Trump voters were taken in by a con man.)

Anyway, the net is full of recriminations and even self-recriminations, like this one from David Plouffe: "What I Got Wrong About the Election," He has a list of things he got wrong, but I really think this is the one that mattered most: "IT REALLY WAS A CHANGE ELECTION The voters were serious about that. And there was only one change candidate."

And speaking of recriminations, go Zach, whoever you are. "DNC Staffer Screams At Donna Brazile For Helping Elect Donald Trump [...] 'Why should we trust you as chair to lead us through this?' he asked, according to two people in the room. 'You backed a flawed candidate, and your friend [former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz] plotted through this to support your own gain and yourself. You are part of the problem,' he continued, blaming Brazile for clearing the path for Trump's victory by siding with Clinton early on. 'You and your friends will die of old age and I'm going to die from climate change. You and your friends let this happen, which is going to cut 40 years off my life expectancy.'"

And from the old socialist Jew himself, "Trump Won Because Democratic Party Failed Working People, Says Sanders: Adding his voice to the chorus of condemnation heaped on the Democratic Party in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday attributed the Republican win to the failure of the liberal elite to represent working people. 'It is an embarrassment, I think, to the entire of [the] Democratic Party that millions of white working-class people decided to vote for Mr. Trump, which suggests that the Democratic message of standing up for working people no longer holds much sway among workers in this country,' the progressive senator and one-time presidential candidate told the Associated Press. 'You cannot be a party which on one hand says we're in favor of working people, we're in favor of the needs of young people but we don't quite have the courage to take on Wall Street and the billionaire class,' he continued. 'People do not believe that. You've got to decide which side you're on.'"

Matt Taibbi, "President Trump: How America Got It So Wrong: Journalists and politicians blew off the warning signs of a Trump presidency - now, we all must pay the price [...] The almost universal failure among political pros to predict Trump's victory - the few exceptions, conspicuously, were people who hailed from rust-belt states, like Michael Moore - spoke to an astonishing cultural blindness. Those of us whose job it is to cover campaigns long ago grew accustomed to treating The People as a kind of dumb animal, whose behavior could sometimes be unpredictable but, in the end, almost always did what it was told. [...] These elites lived in both parties, Trump warned. The Republicans were tools of job-exporting fat cats who only pretended to be tough on immigration and trade in order to win votes, when all they really cared about were profits. The Democrats were tools of the same interests, who subsisted politically on the captured votes of hoodwinked minorities, preaching multiculturalism while practicing globalism. Both groups, Trump insisted, were out of touch with the real American voter. Neither party saw the awesome potential of this story to upend our political system."

Jonathan Pie Tells Liberals Why Trump Won. He's never work-safe, but he says a lot that's true.

Richard J. Eskow and Mike Lux both did useful post-mortems.

It's pretty disgusting watching people killing themselves to insist that the sole takeaway from the election result is that well-to-do whites voted for Trump only because they are racist and sexist, and that no other factor was involved. The demographic that broke most strongly for trump made $50K-$70K - not poor, but certainly not rich. They may make more than the median, but these are the people who can't afford to send their kids to college and know the only way to do it is see them saddled with crushing debt. They aren't people who have helicopter pads, and they probably don't even have a pool. They aren't simply looking at an imaginary loss of status because being white doesn't make them better than blacks anymore, they are looking at a world of real, material loss. They remember when they were young and they were able to find jobs that had real hours and a straight salary and they could plan an evening out in advance, and their kids can't because their employer won't give them a reliable schedule and might just call them up at a moment's notice to come in to work. They remember a time when it was possible to say, "Take this job and shove it," because it was a reasonable expectation that you could walk away and find something better. They remember that yes, even black teenagers could get a job and rent an apartment and know that the job would cover the rent every month - hell, cover the rent in the first week of the month - and now their kids can't possibly find a place where they can expect that they will get enough hours this month to pay the rent when it comes due. They started with the same dream their parents had, to make life better for their kids, to give them those things they never had - and now they know they can't even give them what they did have. Employers and banks are doing things that used to be illegal - for good reason! - and they can't promise their kids anything at all, least of all that, "Everything will be all right," because it's become pretty obvious that it won't. Here's David Atkins responding to myriad articles purporting to show that only racism and sexism account for the election results: "The Twisted Pretzel Logic of the 'It's Not Economic Anxiety' Crowd.

"Here's to all the lonely progressives living outside the liberal echo chamber: How did this happen? I'm a progressive. I see government as a tool of the people, and I think things like food and healthcare should be basic human rights. What am I doing out here, shunned and exiled by all my liberal friends and keeping it a secret how relieved I am that Hillary Clinton lost the election?"

Atrios wrote what for him is a long piece, for a change - long enough that I'm not just going to quote the whole thing, here. But the shortened version is: "Shit is fucked up and bullshit and neither our benevolent nor our malevolent overlords know or care." Go read it: "Don't Overlearn."
* Also: And Piss Off About That: I've seen some prominent liberals fretting "oh noez Trump now owns the NSA!!!" Well, uh, yeah, principled opposition to the NSA's ever expanding powers never depended on whether one thinks the guy in charge is a good guy or a bad guy. Abuse of those powers never required that the person on top was the one abusing them. The powers are themselves intrinsically abusive, and giving them to a secret, largely unaccountable, and powerful for rather obvious reasons agency is nuts even if you trust the person who is supposedly their boss."

"Polls Showed Sanders Had a Better Shot of Beating Trump - but Pundits Told You to Ignore Them: There was a debate last spring, when the Sanders/Clinton race was at its most heated, as to whether Bernie Sanders' consistently out-polling Hillary Clinton was to be taken as a serious consideration in favor of his nomination. Before, during and after the race was competitive, this was the Vermont senator's strongest argument: He was out-polling Trump in the general election by an average of 10 or so points, whereas Clinton was only slightly ahead. His favorables were also much higher, often with a spread as much as 25 points. Never mind, the pundits said - Clinton had been 'vetted' and Sanders had not [...] The idea that Sanders had not been 'properly examined' was pure dogma, asserted by pundits with hardly any critical thought. It was true because Important People in Important Media Outlets simply said it was. Most in the media failed to meaningfully push back against this dogma, and it was a major contributing factor to the Democrats nominating someone who, by all available measures, was a stronger candidate than Clinton."

Thomas Frank in the Guardian, "Donald Trump is moving to the White House, and liberals put him there: Hillary Clinton was exactly the wrong candidate: a technocrat who offered fine-tuning when the country wanted to take a sledgehammer to the machine."

Jimmy Dore says Bernie at the DNC is now the most heartbreaking video of 2016.

Let's get to some good news. "Controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio ousted after 24 years in Democrat upset: End of sheriff's reign, whose crackdowns on undocumented residents foreshadowed Trump, triggered rare scenes of Democratic jubilation on Tuesday."
* Actually, there was some other good news, in spite of what you may have heard.
* Blue America backed some progressive winners, so it ain't all gloom and doom.

"Congress will flush TPP down the toilet, White House concedes: Obama administration admits defeat after congressional leaders from both parties say they will not bring trade deal forward during lame-duck session. White House officials conceded on Friday that the president's hard-fought-for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would not pass Congress, as lawmakers there prepared for the anti-global trade policies of President-elect Donald Trump.

"Elizabeth Warren And Bernie Sanders Tell Donald Trump They'll 'Work With Him' On Key Economic Issues: During his unorthodox Republican presidential campaign, Donald Trump at times touted his support for longtime progressive causes, promising to reform trade deals, invest in infrastructure, reinstate a key Depression-era financial regulation and combat political corruption. Now, some of Trump's harshest progressive critics are offering their support for the president-elect on the issues on which they seem to agree. [...] 'Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media,' he said in a press release. 'To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.' [...] 'Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media,' he said in a press release. 'To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.'"

NYT op-ed from Bernie Sanders, "Where the Democrats Go From Here: I will keep an open mind to see what ideas Mr. Trump offers and when and how we can work together. Having lost the nationwide popular vote, however, he would do well to heed the views of progressives. If the president-elect is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families, I'm going to present some very real opportunities for him to earn my support."

Look, no one is saying that racism had nothing to do with why some people voted for Trump - there has always been a cadre of old-line segregationists and their heirs in the far right of the GOP. But it doesn't explain why so many people who you would expect to vote Democratic voted for Trump instead. What might is the fact that the bottom 90% has been losing ground during the nearly eight years of a Democratic administration. And that fact is almost certainly behind rising incidence of racism, too. "But ugly attitudes don't simply fall out of the sky, eternal and inflexible. A new paper from economists Rob Johnson and Arjun Jayadev looks at economic downturns from 1979 to 2014, and finds a tight correlation between unemployment and racism ? the higher the unemployment rate, the more ubiquitous the discrimination. A 2014 study from New York University psychologists found that racial animosity hardens under economic scarcity. Last year, three German economists found that 'far-right' political parties almost always make significant gains after a financial crisis."

"Bernie's empire strikes back: In state after state, supporters of the Vermont senator's presidential bid are challenging the Democratic establishment for party control."

Sam Seder did a great interview with Jane McAlevey, author of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age - about how liberals have forgotten how to do the real work of organizing that is necessary to wielding citizen power.
* Also on The Majority Report, "Wes Clark, Jr: Mobilizing for the Climate Crisis: The history of the oil industry's intermingling with US intelligence and the subsequent history of colonialism, evident in the mentality of Energy Transfer Parters and the pipeline builders. How #NoDAPL represents 'colonialism at home.' The need for climate radicalism as opposed to spectatorship. How climate change will enter the system through the insurance industry. The geopolitical risks of China's plan to use Africa for future food growth." And a reminder that the land those #NoDAPL protesters are on belongs to the people who are being arrested for "trespassing" on it, not to the people who are tasing and tear-gassing and setting dogs on them.

Neoliberals like to pretend that it's "protectionist" and bad to want to protect the jobs of ordinary working people, but somehow the opposite when they want to protect high-earners' incomes. Dean Baker sees things differently: "Rather than Dumping Unions, Democrats Could Shake Off Their Upscale Hard Core Anti-Market Stance."

"How the Hillary Clinton campaign deliberately 'elevated' Donald Trump with its 'pied piper' strategy: An email released by WikiLeaks shows how the Democratic Party purposefully 'elevated' Trump to 'leader of the pack'."
* "Wikileaks: Damaging analysis of Sanders's single payer plan was likely a coordinated Clinton hit." It's pretty strange when a "study" is suddenly released at a crucial time that contradicts all the previous work of the researcher.

"Restoring trust in our trade policy: I'm in favor of trade. I don't know anyone opposed to trade. A better question is, 'How should we manage globalization?' We've lost trust in our approach to globalization. The Brexit vote in Europe was a vote of no confidence. Millions of voters in our presidential campaigns send a similar message. Globalization is not working for us. We should rethink our approach to globalization if we hope to restore trust."

"Why the White Working Class Rebelled: Neoliberalism is Killing Them (Literally) [...] [...] Neoliberalism - putting the market in charge of social policy and actually encouraging industries to move abroad for higher profit margins (but for fewer industrial jobs at home) - had much the same effect on the white working class as the fall of the Soviet system had on the Russian working class"

"Muslims who saved Jews from Holocaust commemorated in I Am Your Protector campaign [...] Organised by I Am Your Protector (IAYP) - who describe themselves as 'a community of people who speak up and stand up for each other across religion, race, gender and beliefs' - the group is attempting to highlight the, often forgotten, stories of Muslims who helped Jews during one of history's deadliest genocides."

David Dayen in The New Republic on "The Utter Chaos of Brexit: If you thought U.S. politics was fractured, take a look across the pond. Britain's High Court has thrown the future of Europe into uncertainty, ruling this week that Prime Minister Theresa May must get Parliament's approval before she can begin the process of taking Britain out of the European Union. The potential consequences of the ruling are all over the map: It could lead to an accelerated Brexit timetable or a new British governing coalition that nullifies it. It could lead to greater harmony inside Europe or a continental banking crisis."

The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal [...] In the 2008 campaign, Obama declared his intention to include all stakeholders as he sought to reform the nation's health care system, but also supported key Democratic health reform policies. Among these were several that targeted the pharmaceutical industry: Allowing re-importation of drugs from first world countries with lower drug prices and providing Medicare with negotiating authority over prescription drug prices in the recently enacted Part D program. These weren't just promises, Obama had already voted for both of them as a senator in 2007. (Roll Call Vote 132 and Roll Call Vote 150.) [...] The cost cutting measures passed in the Energy & Commerce bill spooked the board of PhRMA, which included all of the CEOs involved in the deal-cutting meetings with the White House and Baucus. The board pressured Tauzin to go public with the deal to ensure that the White House would recognize it and not renege. On August 4, the Los Angeles Times, in an exclusive report, featured quotes from Tauzin claiming that a deal between the White House and PhRMA existed and that, as Tauzin put it, 'The White House blessed it.' Tom Hamburger wrote in the article, 'For his part, Tauzin said he had not only received the White House pledge to forswear Medicare drug price bargaining, but also a separate promise not to pursue another proposal Obama supported during the campaign: importing cheaper drugs from Canada or Europe.' The White House's Jim Messina later confirmed Tauzin's claim, stating, 'The president encouraged this approach ... He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.'

"Controversy Erupts Around $10 Million Bust of Legal Marijuana Grow: Over the weekend, 35 people were arrested and $10 million worth of marijuana was seized during a raid at an old airport in Calavaras County, California. According to the sheriff's department, the grow operation had been under investigation for the past month due to a reported increase in traffic going and out of the airport. However, the operation wasn't illegal; investigators found that the owners had a permit to grow cannabis."

"How Donald Trump Used Fine Print To Make It Harder To Sue Wall Street For Fraud: Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump has cast himself as both an anti-Wall Street populist and a straight shooter fed up with the waffling and equivocating that dominates business and politics. He disdains 'crooked' Hillary Clinton, as he calls her, but the blunt-talking Trump is no stranger to the art of the lawyered caveat. In one of his most significant court battles, Trump protected his business empire with carefully parsed fine print - a 'perfect prospectus' that secured a landmark ruling helping to insulate Wall Street from charges of fraud."

"Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops [...] But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem - genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides."

Dept. of Keystone Kops: "N.S.A. Appears to Have Missed 'Big Red Flags' in Suspect's Behavior: WASHINGTON - Year after year, both in his messy personal life and his brazen theft of classified documents from the National Security Agency, Harold T. Martin III put to the test the government's costly system for protecting secrets. And year after year, the system failed."

"A City Clerk Opposed an Early-Voting Site at UW-Green Bay Because 'Students Lean More Toward the Democrats': New emails released to The Nation reveal ongoing GOP attempts to suppress the vote."

"Racism Alone Doesn't Explain Trump's Support, Which Also Reflects Economic Anxiety: [...] This analysis, however, falls apart under scrutiny. First, while Trump's biggest fans are indeed wealthier than average, they remain overwhelmingly blue collar - and the Gallup study also shows that their children's community health and economic mobility are lower. They don't depend much on social services themselves, but they see their way of life and their families' futures disappearing before their eyes."

"Enormous, Humongous $36.4 September Trade Deficit Helps Trump: [...] In normal times a trade deficit of $36.4 billion in a single month would be met with outrage, headlines, speeches, torches and pitchforks. It represents a transfer of fulfillment of our economy's 'demand' out of the country at a time when we need jobs here. A trade deficit means factories close here, workers are laid off, they open 'there,' the same goods come back to our country. But it is called 'trade' because now the goods cross a border. And it is a trade deficit because more goods are coming in than are going out. Our economy has to borrow to make up the difference. In these abnormal times we're only getting the torches and pitchforks - also known as Trump voters, pissed off that their middle-class jobs have been replaced by low-paying jobs. The US has had a trade deficit since the late 1970s, when we were sold on 'free trade' and 'free markets' that benefit the 1% at the expense of the rest of us"

"6 Reasons Why A New Civil War Is Possible And Terrifying"

"Why Trump's Popularity Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization-Threatening Collapse: Oligarchies win except when society enacts effective reforms."

"Clarice Starling is not a real FBI agent."

Jon Schwartz, "Donald Trump Will Be President. This Is What We Do Next. It's not hyperbole to say the United States, and in fact the world, will need some luck to get out of this one alive. So let's concentrate on making our own luck."

"Why More American Men Feel Discriminated Against [...] Perhaps more important, though, researchers have found that men are prone to seeing discrimination as a zero-sum game. That is, they believe that discrimination against one group necessarily benefits another group and vice versa, so any policy that benefits African-Americans, for instance, harms whites, and any policy that benefits women amounts to discrimination against men. Fifteen years ago, younger men - and women of all ages - overwhelmingly rejected this view, but recent data shows that younger white men are now about as likely as older men to see discrimination as zero-sum. With race-based policies, it's possible that some might amount to aiding a minority at the expense of the majority - affirmative action policies for college admissions, for instance. But it's often less clear how policies that help women might hurt men. In the ANES data, men who perceive discrimination against men are more likely to oppose mandatory employer coverage of contraception and parental leave laws, for instance. Even if there's no evidence that such policies would hurt men (heterosexual men clearly also benefit from contraception), the logic of the zero-sum approach is unforgiving: Anything that helps women must also be hurting men."

RIP: "Leonard Cohen Dead at 82: Hugely influential singer and songwriter's work spanned five decades" I suspected this would be coming soon, he was no spring chicken and he'd had a good run, but he was still performing and you always hope for more. It's not happy news, but we will always have that music.
* "Musician Leon Russell has died at 74." He'd been performing right up to the end.
* "Mose Allison, Iconic Blues and Jazz Pianist, Dead at 89: The Who, Yardbirds, Van Morrison, the Clash and Elvis Costello all covered musician's prolific catalog."

"Janet Reno, former US attorney general, has died," at 78, of complications from Parkinson's disease. Reno gets blamed for a lot of things that were set in motion before she took the job, but to me she will always be remembered as the idiot who was so afraid of being accused of partisanship that she let Ken Starr turn the Whitewater case into a sex show by expanding an investigation of a lousy real estate deal into a prurient circus around a private sexual affair.

"Creator of chatbot that beat 160,000 parking fines now tackling homelessness : Teenager who designed DoNotPay to overturn tickets in London and New York expands service to assist those dealing with housing problems in the UK. London-born Stanford student Joshua Browder created DoNotPay initially to help people appeal against fines for unpaid parking tickets. Dubbed 'the world's first robot lawyer', Browder later programmed it to deal with a wider range of legal issues, such as claiming for delayed flights and trains and payment protection insurance (PPI). Now, Browder, 19, wants his chatbot to provide free legal aid to people facing homelessness. He said: 'I never could have imagined a parking ticket bot would appeal so much to people. Then I realised: this issue is bigger than a few parking tickets.'"

"Wall Street Isn't Worth It: Cutting the banks down to size is good policy and good politics."
* "Everyday Finance Politics: Taking on Wall Street is central to fighting racial and gender inequality."

Somehow I missed these at the time, but former US Congressman from North Carolina Brad Miller, now a Roosevelt Institute senior fellow, has been writing a bit about what he has seen in Washington, at HuffPo. Here are a couple:
* "The Rabble Understands Trade Pretty Well: There is no issue that has done more to fuel the unexpected success of anti-establishment candidates on the left and the right this year ' Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump ' than international trade. There is no issue about which establishment economic policy elites feel more certainty than trade. There is no issue about which elites feel more entitled to act on supposedly neutral, antiseptic technocratic analysis without the intrusion of tawdry politics than trade. And there is no issue that has done more to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of elites, political insiders, in the eyes of ordinary Americans, people trying to make an honest living, than trade."
* "Pragmatism in Pursuit of What? On Financial Reform, Differences in Goals [...] The elites who have filled economic policy roles in recent administrations, Democratic and Republican alike, did not share the public's enthusiasm for tough reform. And they regarded economic policy as the province of experts into which the opinion of the rabble should not intrude. 'Our job was to fix it,' former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said, 'not to make people like us.'"

The news told me the clouds had cleared so I could se the supermoon, only they hadn't, so no. However, David Sirota got a couple of nice shots.

With weeks still to go, John Oliver calls 2016 early, with a rousing farewell to a very bad year.

Bob Dylan ends grumpy speculation that he will refuse the Nobel Prize, saying he will be at the ceremony if he possibly can.

"The Harris Incident" - I'd forgotten about this 1978, episode of Barney Miller. There's a lot in it. Watch it closely and see if you can see what I mean. And also remember that this is the show real cops used to say was the most realistic cop show on the air. Detective Ron Harris, by the way, is played by the same Ron Glass who we later knew as Book in Firefly.

"When Charles Dickens & Edgar Allan Poe Met, and Dickens' Pet Raven Inspired Poe's Poem 'The Raven'"

Radio interview of H.G. Wells by Orson Welles. No, Really.

If you missed the Halloween Google Doodle, it's a cute little game.

Wonder Woman trailer

Nellie McKay, "Ridiculous"
♫ "you shoulda listened to your kids
not corporate nationalists
nor fortunate fantasists who ill disguise their proto-fascist fist
you can't remember who to blame
those you hate or those you agree with
but the latter is hard to resist" ♬

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Put a twenty-dollar gold piece on my watch chain

"Operation Cross Country X: Everything You Need to Know About the FBI's Annual 'Underage Human Trafficking' Sting In One Chart" - Hundreds of law enforcement agencies nationwide get together to bust mostly adult prostitutes and the johns.

"How Comcast Muscled Its Way out of Negative Political Ads: There are few things people agree on in this world more readily than their abhorrence of Comcast. Thanks to its price gouging and infamous customer service, the odious telecom monopoly was named Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" in both 2010 and 2014. The company has even been criticized for violating free-speech provisions via throttling - the intentional slowing of internet service to certain websites. Now, Comcast is under fire for messing with political advertisements in Oregon."

"We Never Voted for Corporate Rule: The $66 billion sale of Monsanto is yet another reminder of how corporations have colonized the world and subverted democracy. To regain our future, we must claim our right to popular sovereignty."

Matt Stoller in The Atlantic, "How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul: In the 1970s, a new wave of post-Watergate liberals stopped fighting monopoly power. The result is an increasingly dangerous political system."
* Also on the subject of monopoly power (and how Robert Bork - yes, that Bork - started the ball rolling), Sam Seder interviewed Barry Lynn on how it directly threatens democracy and what we can do about it.
* "What Voters Need to Know About Wall Street and Economic Policy: Mike Konczal, a financial-engineer-turned-popular-progressive-blogger, offers his views on the 2008 financial meltdown and the ways in which it changed both political parties."

Dday is worried that the Clinton campaign has already chosen it's key staffers and we need to push hard to make sure they are to our liking. I don't actually consider it that surprising that they've already got their players lined up, but push-back is certainly something people should be ready to do.

"Major New Court Ruling Says 'Even The President' Can't Declare Torture Lawful: "In a robust ruling in favor of Abu Ghraib detainees, an appellate court ruled Friday that torture is such a clear violation of the law that it is 'beyond the power of even the president to declare such conduct lawful.' The ruling from a unanimous panel of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates a lawsuit against a military contractor for its role in the torture of four men at the notorious prison in Iraq. Last June, a district court ruled that a 'cloud of ambiguity' surrounds the definition of torture, and that despite anti-torture laws, the decision to torture was a 'political question' that could not be judged by courts. That ruling echoed the widely discredited legal theories of the Bush administration, which argued that the war on terror gave the president the inherent authority to indefinitely detain and torture terror suspects, and conduct mass surveillance on Americans' international communications. But the Fourth Circuit soundly rejected that theory, saying that the United States has clear laws against torturing detainees that apply to the executive branch." About damned time.

"ACLU Wants 23 Secret Surveillance Laws Made Public: The ACLU has identified 23 legal opinions that contain new or significant interpretations of surveillance law - affecting the government's use of malware, its attempts to compel technology companies to circumvent encryption, and the CIA's bulk collection of financial records under the Patriot Act - all of which remain secret to this day, despite an ostensible push for greater transparency following Edward Snowden's disclosures."

"Leading US civil rights organizations call for decriminalization of personal drugs: American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch report finds last year someone was arrested every 25 seconds for low-level drug offenses in the US."

Over the last week there seems to have been a sudden upsurge in attacks on Assange, first with his internet access being shut off by the Ecuadorian embassy, then with that perennial favorite that gets dragged out when all else fails, the completely unsubstantiated and frankly unbelievable claim that Assange is a pedophile. Seriously.
* Ecuador Admits They Silenced Assange Because Clinton Leaks Were 'Interfering' With US Election
* Gee, I wonder why I don't cite Bipartisan Report a lot. "JUST IN: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange CAUGHT In Alleged Sex Chat With Child (REPORTS)
* "Background and Documents on Attempts to Frame Assange as a Pedophile and Russias spy"

David Dayen, "When You Find Out Your Neighbors Own Your House and They Try to Evict You" - What it means when the banks broke the cadastre - the chain of title.
* "Robert Scheer and David Dayen Uncover Untold Stories of the Mortgage Crisis [...] That's right. What they did on the back end, after they fell into foreclosure, and reading those foreclosure documents, and seeing the discrepancy, and seeing that they're being sued by people they've never heard of before, entities that they've never heard of before, and seeing that the alleged transfer to that entity was executed after they were put into foreclosure. In other words, by the evidence they were presented, U.S. Bank, in the case of Lisa Epstein, didn't own the loan at the time that they foreclosed on her, and that's just the beginning."

Dean Baker, "Volcker and Peterson: Ignoring the Lack of Demand Problem: Former Federal Reserve Board Chair Paul Volcker and private equity billionaire Peter Peterson had a NYT column this morning complaining that not enough attention is being paid to the national debt. The piece uses wrong-headed economics and xenophobia to try to scare readers into backing their austerity agenda. On the economic side, it implies that the prospect of a rising debt to GDP ratio implies an imminent crisis. [...] There are several points to be made here. First the ratio of debt service to GDP is currently just 0.8 percent. (This is net of interest payments rebated by the Federal Reserve Board.) This is near a post-war low. By comparison the ratio was over 3.0 percent in the early and mid-1990s. In other words, the reality is the exact opposite of what Volcker and Peterson claim, the burden of the debt on the economy is unusually low.
* David Dayen, "Debate Moderators Under the Spell of Deficit-Obsessed Billionaire Pete Peterson: THE COMMITTEE FOR a Responsible Federal Budget, an organization that is virtually unknown outside of Washington, was nonetheless cited in four different questions during this year's presidential and vice-presidential debates. Moderators Elaine Quijano and Chris Wallace, seemingly unable to string together an intelligent thought about domestic policy on their own, outsourced their questions to a cabal of self-styled serious grown-ups who believe that advocating for cutting Social Security and Medicare makes them look like paragons of virtue. But members of Washington's media elite are virtually the only people left in America still buying the well-funded nonsense CRFB and its Wall Street backers have been selling for decades. Every time their ideas get exposed to the public, they are rejected wholesale. While the D.C. cocktail-party circuit sees deficit scare tactics as steely-eyed wisdom, the national constituency for such monomania could fit in a mid-sized sedan." I didn't think writing about Pete Peterson's antics could be so funny.

By the way, Dean Baker has a book out, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer. "There has been an enormous upward redistribution of income in the United States in the last four decades. In his most recent book, Baker shows that this upward redistribution was not the result of globalization and the natural workings of the market. Rather it was the result of conscious policies that were designed to put downward pressure on the wages of ordinary workers while protecting and enhancing the incomes of those at the top. Baker explains how rules on trade, patents, copyrights, corporate governance, and macroeconomic policy were rigged to make income flow upward."

Our friend Alice Marshall also has a book out, on How to stop voter suppression before it begins, called The Precinct Captain's Guide to Political Victory.

"Group accuses Mike Pence of voter suppression after state police raid registration program in Indiana: A progressive advocacy group is launching an advertising campaign accusing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who also is the Republican vice-presidential nominee, of allowing voter suppression after state police raided the offices of a voter registration program aimed at signing up African Americans."

"UN Expert Decries Global Assault on Freedom of Expression: The findings reveal 'how policies and laws against terrorism and other criminal activity risk unnecessarily undermining the media, critical voices, and activists'"

"Good News, Everybody! Politicians are celebrating a decline in the poverty rate. There's just one problem: it doesn't really measure poverty"

Thomas Frank, "Swat Team: The media's extermination of Bernie Sanders, and real reform"

"Donald Trump's 'Voter Fraud' Lies Are Part of the GOP's DNA

"We're Missing The Point About Trump's Charges Of Illegitimate Elections." I think most readers of The Sideshow are aware that if the Republicans are accusing the Democrats of doing something shady, that means the Republicans are doing it. But the Republicans also have a long history of declaring any Democratic presidential winner illegitimate. Strangely, the one president of our lifetimes who can genuinely be called "illegitimate", George W. Bush, is not given this label by the Democratic establishment. Funny how that happens.

NYT In Hindsight, Backers of Bernie Sanders Lament What Might Have Been

"An Unpredictable, High-Stakes Election [...] On election night, Wasserman Schultz was announced the winner by a commanding lead of 13.5%. However, we have examined statistical analysis of the race from four separate analysts and after detailed demographic research have concluded that there are red flags that deserve further investigation." This is Florida, where people have constantly complained that the machines flip their votes.

Glenn Greenwald, "Is Disclosure of Podesta's Emails a Step Too Far? A Conversation With Naomi Klein"

David Sirota, "Hillary Clinton And Wall Street: Financial Industry May Control Retirement Savings In A Clinton Administration: While Hillary Clinton has spent the presidential campaign saying as little as possible about her ties to Wall Street, the executive who some observers say could be her Treasury Secretary has been openly promoting a plan to give financial firms control of hundreds of billions of dollars in retirement savings. The executive is Tony James, president of the Blackstone Group."
* Yves Smith, "Blackstone's Tony James Touting What Looks Like Hillary's Scheme to Gut Social Security: In other words, this is the worst of all possible worlds. You have an individual account, but you are not permitted to invest in stocks and bonds; you may not be permitted even to choose your asset allocation. Worse, James' language suggests that the vehicles will be 'run by professional asset managers,' as in many or perhaps all will be actively managed, as opposed to indexes. As any student of John Bogle will tell you, paying for active managers is a waste of money, but Hillary wants to go that route on an industrial scale so as to further enrich grifters like Tony James (let us not forget that the Blackstone has paid fines in an SEC settlement for charging fees it was not authorized to take, which in most walks of life would be called embezzlement). And of course, private equity is on the list of preferred investment. And even better: James holds up private equity as a solution, just as it supposedly is for public pension funds, even as Blackstone was one of the first private equity firms to warn that returns in the future would be paltry. Indeed, the valuations of the private equity firms that are public say that they expect none of them will be earning any carry fees over the next few years. It's perverse to see James praise public pension funds for their high allocations to alternative investments even when he and his private equity colleagues snigger privately about their lack of sophistications."
* Sirota again, "Wall Street 2016: Firms Managing Pension Money Spend Millions To Support Governors, Despite Pay-To-Play Rule."

David Dayen, "Debate Moderators Under the Spell of Deficit-Obsessed Billionaire Pete Peterson: THE COMMITTEE FOR a Responsible Federal Budget, an organization that is virtually unknown outside of Washington, was nonetheless cited in four different questions during this year's presidential and vice-presidential debates. Moderators Elaine Quijano and Chris Wallace, seemingly unable to string together an intelligent thought about domestic policy on their own, outsourced their questions to a cabal of self-styled serious grown-ups who believe that advocating for cutting Social Security and Medicare makes them look like paragons of virtue. But members of Washington's media elite are virtually the only people left in America still buying the well-funded nonsense CRFB and its Wall Street backers have been selling for decades. Every time their ideas get exposed to the public, they are rejected wholesale. While the D.C. cocktail-party circuit sees deficit scare tactics as steely-eyed wisdom, the national constituency for such monomania could fit in a mid-sized sedan." I didn't think writing about Pete Peterson's antics could be so funny.

"Trump TV? CNN's Jeff Zucker explains how he became Donald's useful idiot: Until very recently, it seemed self-evident that Donald Trump was the biggest raging moron in American public life. But that was before CNN president Jeff Zucker's star turn before the guardians of establishment wisdom at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government."

Hélène Barthélemy in The Nation, "The Agency Designed to Protect Civilians From the Police Actually Protects Police From Civilians: The CCRB, it seems, was an agency doomed to uselessness from the start. On September 16, 1992, 10,000 protesters descended on City Hall. They blocked traffic for the better part of an hour, climbing over cars, buses, and police barricades. Some were violent and inebriated, and a few physically assaulted members of the press, as others hurled racist epithets at New York's first African-American mayor, David Dinkins. They eventually burst through barricades into the City Hall parking lot, much to the indifference of the 300 uniformed police officers there to oversee the demonstration. The protesters were off-duty cops. sent in by police unions and egged on by would-be mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, they were indignant over that day's heated hearing on a bill supported by Mayor Dinkins. The bill was designed to establish an independent civilian agency providing oversight of police, at a time not too different from today, when unrelenting police brutality was the subject of both weekly headlines and unyielding protests. The agency was pushed for by a 'rainbow coalition' of community groups, civil-liberties agencies, and City Council representatives."

James O'Keefe hits paydirt. They got a video of a Democrat talking about sending people to Trump rallies to start fights. But it means some people are starting to talk about O'Keefe like he's...legitimate.
* And just in time, because some people are also saying that "Trump Could Be Quietly Building a Media Empire," and O'Keefe is expected to have a place in it.

"Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer Says Top Priority for Next Year Is Giant Corporate Tax Cut: New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, likely to be majority leader next year if Democrats take back the Senate, told CNBC Tuesday that one of his top two 2017 priorities would be an enormous corporate tax cut."

Best line of the general election season so far comes from Richard J. Eskow: "They're Dorian Gray, and Trump is their picture."

"What Richard Branson Understands About Trump That Half The Punditocracy Doesn't [...] For more than a year, pundits have treated Trump's occasional populist talk as sincere. It never was. It was about getting back at people. That's Trump's prime motivation in life."

"A Stroll Down Memory Lane: The Clintons' Passionate Friendship with Alvaro Uribe, man who scuttled Colombia's peace deal"

"Physician Revives a Dying Art: The Physical"

Not much has changed since 2007, when this came out: "Special Report: Democratic House Officials Recruited Wealthy Conservatives: This letter sent from then DCCC Head Rahm Emanuel to Democratic House hopeful Jan Schneider underscores a DCCC policy of remaining "neutral" in primary races. Schneider soon came to doubt the letter's sincerity."

RIP: "Phil Chess, the Polish immigrant who brought blues to the world: The Chess Records co-founder was first inspired by music he heard through the walls of a Baptist church, and went on to make an indelible mark on music history."
* Tom Hayden, Civil Rights and Antiwar Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76, of complications after a stroke. A long time ago, I met Tom and his wife of the time, Jane Fonda, in a local church. It was Jane I ended up arguing with, so I can't say much about Tom, although I had seen him at events where SDS made presentations. In recent years, he has been most notable for making silly endorsements of Democratic primary candidates Senator Barack Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton, but in his younger years, he made his mark with The Port Huron Statement, a document that was remarkable in its time, and perhaps today as well.
* Bobby Vee: 1960s pop singer dies aged 73. He did two of my favorites, "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" and "Take Good Care of My Baby".
* Sherri S. Tepper, 87. John Scalzi, said: "This is genuinely upsetting news for me: Locus is reporting the death of Sheri S. Tepper, who wrote the Hugo-nominated novel Grass among many others, and who was given a lifetime achievement award by the World Fantasy Convention just last year. Tepper was in her late 80s, and had an accomplished life outside of her considerable writing career, including being an executive director of the Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood in Colorado, so one can't precisely say this is an unexpected development. But she was one of my favorite science fiction and fantasy writers, and an influence on my thinking about SF/F writing, so to have her gone on is still a deeply depressing thing." Me, I loved her books. Here's the obit at Tor.com.
* "Steve Dillon: Judge Dredd, Preacher and Punisher comic artist dies" - he was 54.
* "RIP Jack Chick, father of the Satanic Panic." Cory Doctorow said, "The paranoid, hateful minicomics pioneer is now dead. No one will say how he came to be dead." Mrs. Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, posted a cartoon in his honor that you can print out and leave around for people to find, just like the real thing (only different).

Winners of the 2016 RMet-RPS Weather Photographer of the Year Contest Announced

This one always seemed appropriate for Halloween to me: "St. James Infirmary", with Betty Boop.