Three Things: Erasing, Erased, Erasure

[NB: check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

There are so many more than three different items under this theme, I could write a book about this. But in the interest of time and resources, I’ll opt for simplicity.

You are being erased if you haven’t been already.

~ 3 ~

Writer and former business consultant Anand Giridharadas shared an excerpt yesterday from a financial adviser’s newsletter to clients.

Transcript:

[…] I just got a great leak that I want to share with you from someone’s financial adviser. You may have a financial adviser. This is a financial adviser trying to advise people what would happen to America if Elizabeth Warren was elected president. And by the way I think a lot of this would apply to Bernie Sanders if he was elected president as well. I think there’s a similarity. And so what would a Warren presidency do to markets. I just want to read some of this to you because it really is hilarious obviously in a way that these boring people did not intend.

And um, so they say, “We have been getting increasing inquiries to address the potential market of her policies as she has gained a lot of momentum over the last couple of weeks.”

And um, it says, “To be clear we do not get involved in political opinions.” To be clear. “So we did a surface level dive on her platform,” they say, “and our intention is to understand the market implications,” they say, and I quote, “Many of these policies are designed specifically to reduce corporate profits and earnings, and instead use those funds to benefit number one workers, number two the environment, number three those with lower incomes, and number four,” oh gosh,”women and minorities. It is important to understand that Warren’s policy goal is to reduce the retained earnings of businesses across multiple sectors and to benefit other parties as mentioned above. As such it is very reasonable statement that if Warren were elected and those policies were enacted it would likely be negative for the stock market because stock prices are an expectation of future earnings.” And so on and so forth.

“The policies would hurt corporate earnings universally,” it says, “although they would likely improve quality of life for many demographics at the expense of corporate profits. Whether that trade-off is positive or negative is not our place to say.” People, stocks, which is better? We don’t know. “We are simply focused on facts. Again, we do not get involved in political opinions,” it said. So now they break it down in case this is not obvious enough, good for people, bad for, for uh, stocks, in case that’s not obvious enough they break it down by policies. Let’s just go through that, shall we? Is that okay? You got time? I got time. I’m in a hoodie.

“Number one ban fracking. Warren wants to ban fracking for oil and gas based on environmental concerns.” Now they do a nice thing where they do who’s this negative for, who’s this positive for, super helpful. “Negative for energy companies and indices, positive for the price of oil/gasoline, supply would be reduced.” Uh, that’s interesting.

“Policy number two eliminate private prisons. Warren wants to end federal contracts to private prisons and withhold funding to make state and local governments do the same. Materially negative for private prison stocks,” ooh, that would be rough for them, yeah.

“Reinstate Glass-Steagall. Warren wants to reinstate the law that separated commercial banking and investment banking. Negative for the major investment banks — JPM, MS, BAC, GS, et cetera, as they would likely have to spin off retail banking operations.

Policy number four, increase taxes on the wealthy. Warren is advocating an ultra-millionaire tax on the 75,000 richest families in the U.S. along with other tax increases aimed at high earners. This could reduce disposable income. Negative for consumer discretionary retail sectors and lingerie stocks. She wants to double the national minimum wage,” they say, “from $7.25 to $15.00. Negative for the entire stock market, the entire stock market,” well, then maybe some more people would be able to buy stocks. “And small business margins. This would significantly compress corporate margins across industries and would result in a reduction of expected earnings for the S&P 500. Those negative effects would be some partially offset,” it goes on, “by more disposable income from minimum wage earners.

“Number six, Warren supports the Family Act, which would create paid national family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks. Negative for small businesses. For large corporations, not much of an impact.” Uh, you know, there we go.

“Number seven agribusiness, breaking up agribusiness.” In fact maybe even break up the word agribusiness into two separate words, agri and business. “Most of the country’s and world’s meat and agriculture production is concentrated in a few major companies. Warren wants to break up these vertically integrated agriculture and food companies. Negative for the agriculture sector, companies in the ag stocks as well as pesticide producers.” And so on and so on.

“The bottom line from a market standpoint is that these policies will be negative for stocks with some being downright negative for the broad markets. How negative would they be for stocks? No one knows exactly.” But this is where it gets interesting. “Again, this doesn’t mean these policies don’t have winners. These are policies designed to reduce retained corporate earnings in favor of other things Warren and her supporters deem more important. So voters will decide if they want to support that type of trade-off. Everyone has their hierarchy of what’s important.”

This is where it gets, we’re getting into Kant here, this is philosophy here in a financial advisor’s report. You gotta pay extra to get to this paragraph. “Everyone has their hierarchy of what’s important, and Warren is an unapologetic populist, who if in power would enact policies designed to reduce corporate earnings to benefit other stakeholders,” parentheses, “workers, the environment, et cetera.” So, I think like all people and the planet are (air quotes) other stakeholders.

“Regardless of your opinion of that strategy it is important to understand that investment accounts would likely be negatively affected under these policies, and if they become reality, we need to take steps to mitigate that damage. As we move closer to the election we’ll obviously be keeping close watch on the implications of the Democratic primary giving you market intelligence on what the headlines mean for stocks going forward.”

They also want to reiterate that this is not political.

It boggles the mind to think that workers, the environment, women and minorities are just sucking drains on the audience for which this opinion piece was written.

We’re roughly 75% of citizens and the entire natural physical world but we’re just an inconvenience drawing down on corporate profits.

We’re not 75% of human beings who’ve been driven over roughshod, had our labor stolen from us for compensation less than subsistence, and the steadily destroyed environment which all of us share and in which we live.

How easily we are erased from consideration by the plutarchy.

One upside: now we know with certainty the financial industry views Warren as both a serious contender for the Democratic nomination and a threat.

Downside: we know, too, that in spite of their B-school education the financial industry is still as dumb as a box of rocks, likely to trash the entire economy and the planet, because they can’t see outside of the rut they’ve been in forever, where only white men have capital and make economies. They are incapable of seeing the untapped promise for stock market growth and saving our planet, locked within more than two decades of stagnant wages, monopsonic job markets, and millennia of toxic colonization.

Note how health care wasn’t at all mentioned; the financial sector is incapable of seeing the benefits to the broader markets if businesses were freed of the burden of health insurance shopping and premium payments.

~ 2 ~

In 1986 I worked for a small machining business. My boss was a bigoted lecher, I’ll be frank. It wasn’t unexpected when he told me if I got pregnant while I worked for him he’d fire me. Fortunately having kids wasn’t yet in the cards for me and I could afford to ignore his misogyny though I couldn’t afford to quit.

In 1988 I applied for a job with a business that did custom manufacturing. I was offered the job but turned it down because their health insurance didn’t cover women’s reproductive care or maternity coverage and they didn’t expect to offer it any time soon, especially since I’d be only one of two women on staff. I took a job with a Fortune 100 company instead; their plan had women’s reproductive care and maternity coverage.

In 1989 my supervisor at that same employer told my older female co-worker he had a limited amount of money to offer his department staff of 10, two of which were male. “I have to give the boys raises because they have families to support.” Never mind that this older woman had teenagers at home, or that the rest of us junior female staff members assisted these two male staffers, or that we might have wanted families we couldn’t yet afford.

In 1993 I got pregnant the month the company fired my supervisor’s equally misogynist boss. I swear the egg waited to drop until I had a new female department head. She was understanding and considerate even though she’d never had any kids of her own.

In 1997 after three years in a new department, I became pregnant with my second child. My boss was itchy and weird throughout my pregnancy, increasingly so over time. You’d think a lawyer would know better than to ask every week during my seventh and eighth month when I was due and was I going to go on leave soon. I had to go to HR to ask for an intervention; I left a week before my scheduled delivery.

It’s not just my own experience; my sister ran into friction from her Fortune 500 employer while she was pregnant. Thankfully she had support from both HR and her union — just not the men she worked with. I can’t tell you how many female friends have likewise been harassed at work for being pregnant.

Don’t get me started about simple systemic problems. Ever tried to sit in one of these for several hours while eight months pregnant?

Academic Chair-Desk

When Elizabeth Warren said she was fired when her pregnancy became visible, I believed her. I am furious with news media outlets for entertaining the idea this was ever not true, or that this isn’t a continuing problem today.

[Let’s not forget the outlet which propelled the attack on Warren was the same one which was tasked with the original Trump dossier — Washington Free Beacon. Are they using material from a Warren dossier?

Let’s not forget, too, that outlets like CBS which continued to poke at Warren have had a wretched history of treating women poorly — or has everyone already forgotten Les Moonves and his nasty habits, including blackballing Janet Jackson for a wardrobe malfunction?]

Think back upon your education and work experience; how many times during K-12 education do you recall seeing a pregnant teacher? I never did any time between 1965 and 1978, and more than 85% of the teachers I saw were female, most of childbearing age. I don’t recall seeing a pregnant instructor during college at all.

How many times did you see a pregnant woman in the workplace? I didn’t until I was in my 30s and having kids myself.

And now my daughter has to put up with crap regarding reproductive health coverage, more than 30 years after I had to turn down a job for not having it as part of their benefits. Why has this not changed for the better? Why is it worse because our government  has now butted into the mix to make it worse rather than ensuring we all get the health care we need regardless of gender?

Why is the essential human fact that women need reproductive care or maternity coverage still something we must fight for against the plutocratic patriarchy which wants to deny it and erase us?

~ 1 ~

There’s a theory that stingy millennials are to blame for the sluggish economy, said financial news network CNBC, parroting investment firm Raymond James.

Are you fucking kidding me?

When 40% of Americans can’t muster $400 cash for an emergency, it’s not stinginess that they aren’t stimulating the economy.

When the reason so many Americans are strapped is because of debt, it’s not stinginess.

When 45 million American students and parents hold educational debt amounting to  ~$1.5 trillion — more than what Americans owe on their credit cards or auto loans — it’s not stinginess.

When minimum wage workers across the entire country can’t afford rent on 2-bedroom apartment, it’s not stinginess.

When 25% of Americans ages 18-64 report having problems paying medical bills, it’s not stinginess.

Somehow the financial sector including media dedicated to covering it have erased all the other reasons why millennials — Americans born between 1981-1996 (23-38 years old) — might not be able to fully participate in stimulating the economy.

Conveniently, the several hundred uber wealthy families represented at the far right of the interactive graphic in the tweet below don’t worry at all about erasure.


They own the erasers.

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread.

Commuting Blago’s Wildly Excessive Sentence Would Be Right For Trump To Do

Another poster at the Emptywheel blog, okay, it may be Emptywheel herself, has today posted a very interesting take, and I think a good one, on the intersection of Jim Comey, Pat Fitzgerald and Rod Blagojevich.

If Trump were to commute Blago’s sentence…..it would be one of the few pardon power actions he has taken that would be justified.

The other was, obviously, the woman Kim Kardashian talked him into commuting.

Don’t get me started about governance by reality show/sex tape idiots like Kimye, but still that was good.

Here is the thing though. Hate on Rod Blagojevich all you want. Laugh at him all you want. Sure, all that is good and proper.

What was not, however, was his sentence. Judge James Zagel got a bug up his ass and sentenced Blago to twice as much time as was possibly appropriate for his purported offenses. There is a long history of Illinois Governors, criminal charges, and prison. But no sentence remotely like Zagel gave Blago.

Then there was Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who ended up not ever serving a day on things that were, mostly, more obvious pay to play corruption than Blago. Also, there was Don Siegelman, who arguably met potential charging elements, even if they were mostly innocuous acts, and who was only ever charged because of a Rove/Cheney effort to insure the same. Siegelman got just over six years.

Don’t get me started about Bob Menendez. The point being, even if Blago was corrupt, needed to be found guilty, and needed to be sentenced…..The sentence of 14 years Zagel gave Mr. Blagojevich was insane and ludicrous.

As big of a narcissistic and useless asshole as Trump is, he would be right to commute the insanely over sentenced punishment Zagel gave to Rod Blagojevich.

People, especially the more liberal than not among us, constantly scream for criminal justice reform. Abolish cash bail (a good thought, but one with far different and deeper implications than you think as Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice has noted), less incarceration, shorter sentences, better programs for those incarcerated. End the death penalty. Less solitary confinement. Etc. All good things.

But part and parcel of all of it is recognizing crazy stupid sentences too. Blago is pretty much a joke of a historical character. Fine. He was never Public Enemy Number One either. His sentence from Zagel was outrageous. If Trump is willing to commute it, he should, and that should be cheered.

But, because of pushback from the very same people that usually scream and squawk, and rightfully so, about criminal justice reform when it is not one of their pet pariahs, i.e. people on the left and, here, Blago, Trump will certainly chicken out from doing the right thing. Because Trump doesn’t know the facts, and he is a pussy that is too easily grabbed by Republicans and, in this case, bullshit liberals too.

Free Blago. It needs to be done.

A Feud for Fun and Profit

[NB: Note the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

I was doing my usual day’s end wrap up routine — shutting off the lights, checking the windows, reading the headlines to make sure the planet hadn’t blown up before I shut off my computer.

And this bullshit came up at Google News, just below the Epstein-Acosta coverage:

I’ve seen in my Twitter feed all day the hullabaloo about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ chief of staff’s remarks and the subsequent flurry of feedback between different factions among the House Democrats. Some of it is hotly reactionary, some of it is measured, and a lot of it swings wildly in between.

But that snapshot of my Google News front page is EXACTLY what the real problem is: the internecine conflict is a fulcrum on which the right-wing and foreign agents can act to divide the party at a time when it can least afford it.

And the right-wing media like Fox News is using that same point for its own amusement and profit.

Even neutral-to-left media is using the tensions to gin up clicks and increase readership.

They have zero interest in the manifold crises on which the entire spectrum of Democrats — from stick-in-the-mud conservadems to hot-under-the-collar progressives — must work together. The media is only in this for fun and profit.

Meanwhile there’s a wholly corrupt, malignant narcissist intent on undermining everything on which our country was founded. House Democrats need to quit their circular firing squad and get their heads together. They need to focus on that wretch and the debris field he’s making of our nation instead of allowing themselves to be used as a profit center by the media.

Focus on the fact only 86 House Dems have committed to supporting an impeachment inquiry. ~132 more votes are needed to pass a resolution kicking off the process.

We are now nearly 191 days into the 116th Congressional term. Trump continues to lock up children in cages and take babies from their parents at the border, leaving them in concentration camp conditions which wouldn’t be tolerated for dogs. He continues to trash the Constitution from threatening war to ignoring Supreme Court decisions. That an impeachment inquiry hasn’t already been launched reflects badly on the entirety of House Democrats, from Speaker Pelosi to the 2018 Blue Wave freshmen.

~ ~ ~

This weekend I have a couple of voters staying with me who identify as independents. They tend to vote for Democrats but they won’t commit to being Democrats. They’re 25 years old, college-educated, and they actually watched the Democratic presidential candidates debates a couple weeks ago, rushed home from work to make sure they caught both nights in full.

These young people are fed up. They’re worried, angry, disgusted. They want real and rational leadership, especially because they’re deeply concerned about the pace of climate change.

They are NOT impressed by the inability of House Democrats to pull themselves into a cohesive cohort to stop Trump.

The more senior House Dems need to understand social media presence and follower count may not convert to votes on the House floor now, but these convert to votes in primaries next year. They convert to many small donations online between now and November 2020 as well as shoe leather when canvassing and GOTV matter. These two independents visiting me are exactly the people who’ll be persuaded by what they read in their Twitter feed and watch at YouTube; they have the disposable income to make regular donations. They’re not impressed by representatives who suck up to corporations over individuals especially when there’s campaign donations involved. They’re impressed by accessible representatives who do their homework and then do their best to ensure government oversight.

They want House Democrats to get their act together and stop Trump.

None of the tweeted and reported bullshit I saw being slung between House Democrats gets them any closer to doing what the 2018 Blue Wave told Democrats needed to be done. I don’t have a good explanation for these young voters as to when House Dems will pull out of their navel-gazing spiral. I can only hope it’s soon.

This is an open thread.

Do the Right Thing: Break Some Eggs and Impeach

[NB: Check the byline. This piece may not reflect the opinions of other emptywheel contributors. /~Rayne]

There’ve been a lot of eggs cracked today. Not all of the eggs in need of cracking came in pretty dyed shells.

Like the oeuvre floating around out there claiming impeachment is bad for the country. (I’m looking at you, Tumulty.)

There’s really no question about what must be done. There’s only a fight against spin protecting an un-indicted co-conspirator, or worse. Sadly, some of the spin comes from the left and it needs to be smashed right now.

But why impeach? they ask.

Because it’s the right thing to do when a law enforcement investigation reveals a pattern of unlawful behavior.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president systematically engages in abuse of power and unethical behavior, causing states and non-governmental groups alike to sue to protect human rights.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president breaks his oath of office to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president fails to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Because it’s the necessary thing to do when the president’s incompetence or bigotry results in the deaths of thousands of American citizens without so much as an apology.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the president permits and/or encourages dangerous deviations — some in secret — from national security policy without debate, advice, and consent by Congress.

Because it’s the right thing to do when the executive usurps co-equal branches’ power to check the executive.

Because failure to do so yields the co-equal power of Congress to the executive for the worst of reasons — because it’s too much trouble, timed inconveniently, unpopular.

Because failure to do assures future unethical presidents, they, too, need not worry they will be held to account by the branch of government charged with doing so; they’ll feel protected, insulated from rebuke and punishment.

Because failure to do so assures a certain class of person they are above the law while telling the average citizen they belong to a second and lower class.

Because failing to do so sends a message to foreign powers that tampering with our elections will go unchecked; a mere censure will only enrage a malignant narcissistic executive while doing nothing to deter hostile foreign actors.

Because we are a nation of laws, and the law provides for the rebuke and removal of an executive guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, including unlawful orders, bad faith execution, unethical behavior, and abuse of office.

Because we must lead the future by example, demonstrating the exercise of oversight powers which include impeachment of a failed executive even when a country is divided by popular opinion.

There are far too many constructive reasons why we should impeach the executive; the risk from failing to attempt impeachment is far greater, considering the hollowing out of government and undermining of long-term policy continuing apace. The common good demands it.

Do we proceed directly to impeachment? This is a matter of conjecture — I believe we need to investigate the gaps in the Special Counsel’s report, including counterintelligence, so that we address each item in full view of the public with the exception of classified matters. The executive must be fully accountable to the people; he governs only with their consent which is already thin based on his loss of the popular vote.

Will investigative and impeachment hearings get in the way of legislative business? No. Congress has investigative hearings all the time in addition to legislative business. The legislative work to date has been piling up at the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk because he is obstructing House Democrats by gatekeeping. Will any less legislation be passed by the Senate if the House dedicates any more time to investigative hearings? No, thanks to McConnell.

Read the Special Counsel’s report for yourself. Ask yourself if what you read represents the combined work of a candidate and president and his campaign and administration who are truly intent on serving the best interests of this entire country. Were these individuals willing to set their personal interests aside and work toward a more perfect union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty for all?

Or were they working for themselves and personal or familial enrichment, for their personal glory and entitlement, and for the benefit of some other non-U.S. entities to our likely detriment?

Begin the impeachment process. Let’s break some eggs.

~ ~ ~
A happy Easter to those of you who observe the holiday. Hope that those of you who observed Passover were able to do so with friends and loved ones.

This is an open thread.

Graphic: Quino Al via Unsplash (mod by Rayne)

Grab Your Phone and Dial Now: NO on Farr [UPDATE]

[NB: Check the byline – this is Rayne. Updates appear at the bottom of this post.]

Look, these Senate Democrats will explain why they will vote NO on Thomas Farr for federal judge better than I will:

Amy Klobuchar

Elizabeth Warren

Richard Blumenthal

Sherrod Brown

Kirsten Gillibrand

Cory Booker

Chuck Schumer says the Democrats are united and voting NO.

But here’s the thing: Shit happens. People slide when they think they have cover, when nobody’s watching.

CALL YOUR DEMOCRATIC SENATORS AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR.

You have a GOP Senator or Senators?

CALL THEM AND TELL THEM NO ON FARR because we are watching their votes closely when it comes to Trump’s policies and nominees. We are watching for senators who aren’t supportive of civil rights and voters’ rights.

These GOP Senators are particularly at risk — if they don’t retire — because they are up for reelection in 2020:

Dan Sullivan (AK)
Tom Cotton (AR)
Cory Gardner (CO)
David Perdue (GA)
Jim Risch (ID)
Joni Ernst (IA)
Pat Roberts (KS)
Mitch McConnell (KY)
Bill Cassidy (LA)
Susan Collins (ME)
Steve Daines (MT)
Ben Sasse (NE)
Thom Tillis (NC)
Jim Inhofe (OK)
Lindsay Graham (SC)
Mike Rounds (SD)
Lamar Alexander (TN)
John Cornyn (TX)
Shelley Moore Capito (WV)
Mike Enzi (WY)

MAKE THE CALLS RIGHT NOW — the Senate is supposed to invoke cloture any time now on Farr.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

ADDER — 1:30 PM EST — In case you’re  not up to speed on Farr’s background and you don’t want to listen to the Senate Dems’ speeches linked above, here’s a backgrounder by Ari Berman at Mother Jones. In a nutshell, Farr exemplifies everything wrong with North Carolina’s politics — utterly racist and dishonest to boot.

UPDATE — 2:06 PM EST — Cloture was invoked; the vote is tight, forcing VP to cast the deciding vote. (Time stamp on tweet below is PST for some reason.)

CALL YOUR SENATORS ESPECIALLY GOP ONES. Make them own this vote when they finally confirm Farr.

_________

Treat this as an open thread.

 

First Steps Towards Change

I’ve written extensively about the path to neoliberalism, and there’s more to come. But with the House of Representatives now under Democratic control, I want to offer some ideas about moving towards a new understanding of the role of government in the US. In Capitalism: Its Origins and Evolution as a System of Government Bruce Scott explains the situation:

As articulated in [Chapter 13], the story of early US capitalist governance is on of a nearly 300-year commitment to a laissez-faire model of economic development. It is a story that begins and ends with the decisions of political, legal and economic actors promoting this model, thus disputing the assumption that actions were largely shaped if not quite controlled by “natural” market forces. P. 431

He thinks that after a brief Keynesian interruption, laissez-faire returned in the early 80s. Replacing a centuries-old ideology is really hard. So here are concrete steps the Democratic-controlled House could take. In each case, the House can do its work and force the Senate and its repulsive leadership to deal with the results, heightening the differences between the parties and enabling all voters to understand where their economic and social interests lie.

1. Taxes. The Trump tax bill is historically unpopular. Of the nine House Republicans representing the 25 largest users of sales and local tax deduction, six lost and one more is in danger as the vote count procedes in CA-45. Voting against the bil didn’t help either. Voting against the bill didn’t help either. At least four of those Republicans lost. The bill is widely regarded as grossly favorable to the rich and their corporations. The House has the Constitutional power to originate all tax laws. Richard Neal, D. Mass, is the ranking member. He says his priorities are health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and getting Trump’s tax returns. He should add a new tax bill to his list. Some suggestions:

A. Raise tax rates on the top earners. There should be several new brackets for the highest earners, with a top tax rate of 60%. The current capital gain tax rate should stay the same, but it should be raised in each bracket above $250K to a top level of 50%.

B. Corporate tax rates should be increased to 35%. For companies reporting to the SEC, the tax base should be the higher of the amount computed under the tax code and the amount reported as income to the SEC. For the largest private companies, the top tax rate should be based on income computed in accordance with the reporting requirements of the SEC. Income should be taxed at the same rate regardless of where it is earned. Audits should be increase so that at least half of all people in the top brackets are audited every other year.

C. There should be a wealth tax, computed at the rate of 1% of the wealth of individuals in excess of $25M with some higher brackets. A similar tax should be imposed on all taxable entities at higher levels. Foundations and all dynastic transfer entities should be taxed at much higher rates unless they distribute their assets at very high rates per year. PACS and other dark money groups should be taxed at 60%, or 40% if they publicly disclose the true donors.

D. Every taxpayer with adjusted gross income equal to or less than the median income should get a check from the government for $2000 regardless of the amount of taxes they pay. That should be phased out over the next $100K in income. Each check should be accompanied by a letter from the Treasury explaining it and noting that it was paid for by adjusting tax rates to a more fair level.

E. The cap on FICA and Medicare taxes should be reduced to $100K, and should be re-imposed on incomes in excess of $250K. The funds would be given to the Social Security Trust Fund and the Medicare Trust Fund, then to fund Medicaid, then to pay for increased audits.

2. The House Financial Services Committee will be chaired by Maxine Waters. it should investigate the connections between all banks and Russian oligarchs. This would include Deutsche Bank. This will enable a careful look at Trump’s relationships with those entities, and who knows what we will find out.

3. The House Judiciary Committee will be chaired by Jerry Nadler. It should obtain transcripts of the testimony of Samuel Alito, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh from each hearing in which they were confirmed to any judicial post. Then there should be a subpoena-powered investigation to determine just how much each lied and whether to impeach. The steady drumbeat of this testimony and investigation should lay the groundwork for reforms, including court-packing in the future. It may also impact the willingness of these hacks to strike down legislation on ideological grounds.

4. The Environment Subcommittee will be chaired by Peter Tonko, NY-20. None of the members are senior in rank. Nancy Pelosi should elevate this Subcommittee to Committee status and install an aggressive younger Member as Chair. A highly aggressive group of staffers should be hired, including scientists. We cannot live on this planet unless we start taking serious action. Noisy hearings should be held immediately forcing fossil fuel executives to explain their support of science denialism and continued pollution of the air and water. Renewable energy execs should be brought in to offer expertise in expansion of their efforts. I don’t know enough to offer better ideas, but this is critically important, and immediate action must be taken.

5. Every committee and subcommittee should commence oversight hearings of the agencies under their jurisdiction, focused on whether the agency is carrying out Congressional intent and on corruption. Each ashould focus on a crucial problem faced by the agency. For example there should be hearings on Flint water, the VA computer fiasco, and Puerto Rico after the hurricanes, including recovery, debt, and possible statehood. There are plenty of other issues that are not being addressed. Hold hearings.

6. The rules of the hearings should be changed. At least one younger member should be put in charge of asking at each hearing and be given at least 30 consecutive minutes. That member should also be responsible for public appearances. That way we can find out the skills of each member. Are they better at questioning, or staffing or public appearances? Which ones are charismatic even in routine matters?

7. There should be a steady stream of public appearances by Members forcing their actions into public awareness. Pelosi should make sure that the olds are not the public face of the Democratic Party; we don’t need her or Steny Hoyer or James Clyburn on the TV. We need the energetic younger people to step up and act. Democrats need to show their faces so that every American feels represented in government. This is how the bench is deepened.

Each of these steps will demonstrate that government is working and doing something necessary. That is the first step to changing the framework people use to understand the government. I read somewhere recently that most people’s lives are not affected by elections. That may have been true once upon a time, but now failure to act will have terrible consequences. Left alone, capitalism will kill democracy and then the planet. Government is our only defense against overwhelming greed.

What else?

Now back to Scott and Wood on the future of democracy in a capitalist world.

Three Things: Still Active Measures

[Note the byline. This post contains some speculative content. / ~Rayne]

Whether counter-arguments or conspiracy theories, it’s interesting how certain narratives are pushed when tensions rise. But are they really theories or conditioning? And if conditioning, could other media infrastructure changes create more successful conditioning?

~ 3 ~

In an interview with Fox News post-Helsinki summit, Vladmir Putin made a point of blaming the Democratic Party for “manipulations of their party.”

…“The idea was about hacking an email account of a Democratic candidate. Was it some rigging of facts? Was it some forgery of facts? That’s the important thing that I am trying to — point that I’m trying to make. Was this — any false information planted? No. It wasn’t.”

The hackers, he said, entered “a certain email account and there was information about manipulations conducted within the Democratic Party to incline the process in favor of one candidate.” …

Have to give Putin props for sticking with a game plan — increase friction within the American left and fragment Democratic Party support to the benefit of Trump and the Republican Party at the polls and ultimately Putin himself if sanctions are lifted. Christopher Steele indicated in the Trump-Russia dossier that the Kremlin was using active measures to this effect in 2016 to widen the divide between Sanders and Clinton supporters; apparently left-splitting active measures continue.

But this is only part of an attack on the Democratic Party; another narrative undermines both the DNC and the FBI by questioning the investigation into the DNC’s hacking. Why didn’t the FBI take possession of the server itself rather than settle for an image of the system? A key technical reason is that any RAM-resident malware used by hackers will disappear into the ether if the machine is turned off; other digital footprints found only in RAM memory would likewise disappear. “The server” isn’t one machine with a single hard drive, either, but 140 devices — some of which were cloud-based. Not exactly something the FBI can power down and take back to a forensic lab with ease, especially during the hottest part of a campaign season.

But these points are never effectively made as a counter narrative, though some have tried with explainers, and certainly not featured in broadcast or cable news programs. The doubt is left to hang in the public’s consciousness, conditioning them to question FBI’s competence and the validity of their investigative work.

If Putin is still using active measures to divide Democratic Party voters, is it possible this narrative about the hacked DNC server is also an ongoing active measure? What if the active measure isn’t meant to undermine the FBI by questioning its actions? What if instead the lingering doubt is intended to shape future investigations into hacked materials which may also rely on server images rather than physical possession of the hardware? What if this active measure is pre-crime, intended to tamper with future evidence collection?

~ 2 ~

I’d begun drafting this post more than a week ago, but came to a halt when FCC chair Ajit Pai did something surprisingly uncorrupt by putting the brakes on the Sinclair-Tribune merger.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is a propaganda outlet masquerading as a broadcast media company. The mandatory airing of Boris Epsteyn’s program across all Sinclair stations offers evidence of Sinclair’s true raison d’etre; Epsteyn is a Russian-born former GOP political strategist who has been responsible for messaging in both the McCain-Palin campaign and the Trump administration, including the egregious 2017 Holocaust Remembrance Day statement which omitted any mention of Jews. The mandatory statement Sinclair management forced its TV stations to air earlier this year about “fake news” is yet another. The forced ubiquity and uniformity of messaging is a new element at Sinclair, which already had a history of right-wing messaging including the attempt to run a Kerry-bashing political movie to “swiftboat” the candidate just before the 2004 elections.

Sinclair and Tribune Media announced a proposed acquisition deal last May. If approved, the completed acquisition would give Sinclair access to 72% of U.S. homes — an insanely large percentage of the local broadcast TV market effectively creating a monopoly. There was bipartisan Congressional pushback about this deal because of this perceived potential monopoly.

FCC’s Ajit Pai wanted to relax regulations covering UHF stations — they would be counted as less than a full VHF station and therefore appear to reduce ownership of marketshare. Democrats protested this move as it offered Sinclair unfavorable advantage when evaluating stations it would acquire or be forced to sell during its Tribune acquisition.

Fortunately, Pai had “serious concerns” about the Sinclair-Tribune deal:

We have no idea to which administrative judge this deal may be handed, let alone their sentiments on media consolidation. We don’t know if this judge might be Trump-friendly and rule in favor of Sinclair, taking this horror off Ajit Pai’s back — which might be the real reason Pai punted after his egregious handling of net neutrality and the pummeling he’s received for it, including the hacking of the FCC’s comments leading up to his decision to end Obama-era net neutrality regulations and subsequent “misleading” statements to the media about the hack. New York State is currently investigating misuse of NY residents’ identities in the hack; one might wonder if Pai is worried about any personal exposure arising from this investigation.

BUT WAIT…the reason I started this post began not in New York but in the UK, after reading that Remain turnout may have been suppressed by news reports about “travel chaos,” bad weather, and long lines at the polls. Had the traditional media played a role in shaping turnout with its reporting?

I went looking for similar reports in the U.S. — and yes, news reports of long lines may have discouraged hundreds of thousands of voters in Florida in 2012. This wasn’t the only location with such reports in the U.S. during the last three general elections; minority voters are also far more likely to experience these waits than voters in majority white areas.

Probabilistic reports about a candidate’s win/loss may also suppress turnout, according to a Pew Research study.

Think about low-income voters who can’t afford cable TV or broadband internet, or live in a rural location where cable TV and broadband internet isn’t available. What news source are they likely to rely upon for news about candidates and voting, especially local polling places?

Hello, local broadcast network television station.

Imagine how voter turnout could be manipulated with reports of long lines and not-quite-accurate probabilistic reports about candidates and initiatives.

Imagine how a nationwide vote could be manipulated by a mandatory company-wide series of reports across a system of broadcast TV stations accessing 72% of U.S. homes.

How else might a media company with monopolistic access to American households condition the public’s response to issues?

~ 1 ~

There was all kinds of hullabaloo about the intersection of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, his son Justin, and Justin’s employment at Deutsche Bank at the same time DB extended financing to Donald Trump. It looks bad on the face of it.

And of course one prominent defense-cum-fact-check portrays Justin’s relationship to DB’s loans to Trump as merely administrative:

The extent to which Kennedy worked with Trump on this loan, or possibly on other Deutsche Bank matters, is unclear. “In that role, as the trader, he would have no contact with Trump … unless Eric [Schwartz] was trying to get Justin in front of Trump for schmoozing reasons,” Offit said, adding that he had recently spoken with former colleagues at the bank about Kennedy’s work.

Seems odd there has been little note made of Jared Kushner’s relationship with LNR Partners LLC — a company which Manta says has only 17 employees — and its subsidiary LNR Property which financed the Kushner 666 Fifth Avenue property in 2012. There was a report in Medium and another on DailyKos but little note made in mainstream news media.

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that along with his business partner, Justin Kennedy was named 26th on the 50 Most Important People in Commercial Real Estate Finance in 2013 by the Commercial Observer — a publication of Observer Media, then owned by Jared Kushner.

I wonder what Justin’s rank was on this list while he worked at Deutsche Bank (also with current business partner Toby Cobb).

How odd this deal and the relationship wasn’t defended. I guess it’s just coincidence all the amphibians and reptiles know each other well in the swamp.

~ 0 ~

Let’s not forget:

587 Puerto Rican homes still don’t have electricity.

All asylum seeking families haven’t been reunited. Children may still be in danger due to poor care and lack of adequate tracking. As of yesterday only 364 children of more than 2500 torn from their families were reunited.

Treat this as an open thread.

Radical Socialism or Clear-Eyed Realism?

[Check the byline — this is Rayne.]

A new commenter wrote that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ “rhetoric is pretty radical.” Ocasio’s the recent Democratic Party primary winner for House seat NY-14, unseating long-time incumbent Joe Crowley in the Bronx-Queens district.

But is Ocasio really radical? Is her Democratic Socialist platform all that far left? Looking at Ted Kennedy’s concession speech from 1980 and the points around which he’d wish to rally Democratic voters 38 years ago, probably not given the changes to our society and economy. Unlike 1980, before Ronald Reagan broke down PATCO — the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Union which went on strike in 1981 — we no longer have a thriving middle class based on employment with adequate job security and living wages. We have instead handfuls of billionaires who have amassed their record-breaking fortunes rapidly on the backs of half the country which can’t scrape together $400 cash for an emergency, whose real wages haven’t budged since the 1980s.

Two points that seem to be of particular concern to our new commenter in Ocasio-Cortez’ platform are the Universal Jobs Guarantee and Housing as a Human Right.

Is a Universal Jobs Guarantee more or less radical than Universal Basic Income? How are we going to deal with an economy in which tens of millions of jobs have been completely displaced by automation — like autonomous transportation, expected over time to replace millions of truck, hired cars, train drivers and ships’ pilots?

You might want to catch up, then. Save the “But capitalism!” and “But taxes!” rebuttal because

1) we live in a mixed economy already;
2) the socialist portions have been cut too far back and proven capitalism to be grossly inefficient in wealth distribution; and
3) leaders, particularly Democratic ones, already grasp the problem.

Housing as a Human Right is already embedded in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the U.S. voted in 1948. Yet in the U.S. there is no place a full-time minimum wage worker can afford basic housing (as if there are full-time minimum wage jobs since nearly all are structured as part-time to avoid unemployment tax). How can we expect to deal with this on a long-term basis when the Federal Reserve and other entities continue the decades-long suppression of wages?

Again, leaders (particularly Democratic/liberal ones) have already recognized this problem and encourage solutions. It may be far more radical to stick one’s head in the sand and ignore the mounting housing crisis.

Perhaps the real problem isn’t that a platform like the one Ocasio-Cortez has built her campaign upon is labeled Democratic Socialist.

Perhaps the real problem is the decades-long right-wing propaganda which denigrates reasonable, achievable political solutions to real problems average Americans face as radical and socialism as something we haven’t already accepted and relied upon within our existing social safety nets like Social Security and Medicare.

Perhaps the real problem is the same absolutist propaganda which has uniformly characterized any and all Democrats, even moderates, as “hippies”, “liberal bigots” and worse rather than see them as fellow Americans who believe in the Constitution and also believe the U.S. can do more for the common man through reasonable and distributive economic justice.

Is it really all that radical to want to form a more perfect union by establishing economic and social justice, insure domestic tranquility by ensuring every American has food and shelter, provide for the country’s common defense by promoting American’s general welfare?

 

Treat this as an open thread.

Let the Pro-Oprah Resistance Beware: Scam in Progress?

A majority of Americans are really frustrated right now but they shouldn’t let their guard down at the first sign of hope. Tapping someone’s anger is an easy way for scammers and other hostile agents to get access to personal information and in some cases, money.

One likely example of opportunism is the National Committee to Draft Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States 2020. There have been emails sent to folks soliciting their support to recruit Oprah Winfrey to run for president in 2020 — except the entity sending the emails looks like vaporware.

There’s a simple yet attractive website with a countdown clock to Election Day 2020 and a sign up form as well as a donate button, along with a means to share the website across social media.

A press release announcing this effort is published as a separate page at the website, too.

Except that the press release — unlike authentic press releases — gives zero information about the organization except for an email address.

The website itself has no About Us, no Directors or Founders or Managers or Team page. There’s no information about a nonprofit or other political entity behind this, only an organization name, a claim to copyright, and the two pages — Home and Press Release.

And absolutely no Privacy Policy or Terms of Use provided, nor is the page set up for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocol (for this reason I am not providing a link to the site).

The website’s domain registration is masked, only showing DomainsByProxy as the registrar. Do a WhoIs lookup on the Democratic Party’s domain for comparison; you’ll find the domain isn’t masked at all and both a physical address as well as contact information are readily available.

The worst part of this is the repeated use of a quote by Winfrey’s long-time partner, Stedman Graham, as a justification for this ‘movement’. Yet nowhere on the site does Graham appear as a founder, director, manager, team member, or even an endorser.

If one of these emails should show up in my inbox, I’m going to treat it as a spearphishing attempt and mark it spam. Because I haven’t received and looked at one of these emails, I can’t rule out these emails are, in fact, phishing attempts of some kind.

The website itself should be treated with suspicion; without more evidence of a legitimate organization behind it, it’s merely a pretty address harvesting tool and an opportunity for a scam artist to pick up some easy liberal cash.

How easily could an outfit like Cambridge Analytica match up these harvested addresses against Facebook and voters’ records, to identify which voters to suppress with Oprah-flavored micro-targeted messaging via social media? It’d be worth a pretty penny to an opponent (and their sponsors) facing stiff headwinds in 2020.

If there is a real movement which is serious about recruiting Oprah, for goodness sake show up at local Democratic Party meetings and learn how to do this correctly. Don’t let Oprah get turned unknowingly and without her consent into another Russian tool to fragment the party by drafting her from outside the party.

P.S. Hey Tom Perez and Keith Ellison — perhaps a little tighter control on domains.democrat addresses is worth your time, to prevent Democratic Party supporters? Didn’t the DNC learn anything from the past two years about cybersecurity?

[Image on home page via National Committee to Draft Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States 2020, published here under Fair Use.]

The Tuesday Night Massacre

As you may have heard, President Trump has just fired FBI Director James Comey.

This is truly Nixonian Saturday Night Massacre level action.

Trump previously ran on, indeed got elected on, and likely only on, the scurrilous rogue comments of Jim Comey starting with the rogue July 5, 2016 press conference where Comey went off all rails on DOJ and PIN protocols. Here is the New York Times original report:

Mr. Comey’s dismissal was a stunning development for a president that benefited from the F.B.I. investigation of the Democratic nominee during the 2016 campaign. Separately, the F.B.I. also is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election.

The abrupt firing raised questions over whether Mr. Trump was trying to influence the Russia investigation. But he said he was following recommendations from the Justice Department, which criticized how Mr. Comey concluded the investigation into Mrs. Clinton.

Trump actually saluted Comey for this at one point. What a micro-moment self serving, not to mention narcissistic jerk.

If anybody in the world thought that that Trump is not as craven and against the Constitutional form of government we all were born and raised on, let that no longer be a question.

And if the media cannot get their heads out of their asses and realize the danger is NOT just to their First Amendment rights, but to the core of our republic and democracy, then they too should go the way of the dodo bird.

The foundations of this cowardly play were always there if you followed the ever changing voice and words of Donald Trump regarding the Clinton email issue and how the Department of Justice handled it.

If you thought this point, and/or Comey was the one only voice that could not be fired or silenced, you are sadly mistaken.

This blog has never, and I am being kind across my writings, Marcy’s and those of our departed friend Mary, been a friend of Jim Comey. He has long, and more presently, been an uneven and self serving voice mostly interested in preservation and enhancement of his own voice and position. Comey has been preternaturally successful at this.

That said, tonight I will be in Comey’s camp. I await what my friends at Lawfare and some others may have to say regarding the Tuesday Night Massacre.

Because this is a day that should live bright for a very long time.

People glibly talk about the “Resistance”. How naive. The battle is now, and has been joined in full by a cabal that makes Nixon look like a piker. The place is here. The time is now.

The temporal fact that it is Comey that tipped a scale of justice is immaterial. It has happened.

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