Sep. 5, 2018 State of the Union



A Royal Funeral at Versailles

“John McCain’s Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet” [New Yorker] ♣ Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, George W. Bush. War criminals  convene and the crowd goes wild! #TheResistance



Cutest: When they played this and everyone started to dance

“Joe Biden’s moving eulogy for John McCain” [CBS News] “The former vice president’s eulogy for his longtime friend from across the aisle didn’t leave a dry eye in the house.” From the transcript  : “it was always appropriate to challenge another Senator’s judgment, but never appropriate to challenge their motive. When you challenge their motive, it’s impossible to get to go. If I say you are doing this because you are being paid off … it’s impossible to reach consensus.” ♣ So Biden’s decision to be a shill for the financial industry for decades was just poor judgement? Also this:

“WaPo Uses Photo of John McCain Next to Nazi to Praise His ‘Human Rights’ Work” [FAIR]

“From Venezuela to McCain, Media and Human Rights Industry on Same Page” [FAIR] “McCain’s death has been a real “teachable moment,” showing how tiny the ideological differences are between corporate media and the human rights industry.”

Funeral For A Dying Doctrine [Medium – Michael Tracey] “the funeral seemed less for McCain the individual, and more for the increasingly obsolete ideology he so fully embodied — “national greatness,” or the eternal global primacy of the United States. This is the ideology which in its various permutations has sustained American hegemonic power for decades, and has undergirded an elite political culture where simple partisan differences can always be easily overcome when there’s a national initiative to unify around (usually involving military adventurism). If that era hasn’t fully passed, it’s passing, and the process is probably only going to accelerate. That’s why the McCain Holy Week goodbye tour had an ineffable feeling of finality about it, even if was hard to pinpoint exactly why. The “game” is coming to an end.”

“The Manufactured McCain: Lifting Up a Bloodstained, Lying, Venal Servant of Capitalist Empire” [Black Agenda Report]

“The John McCain Phenomenon: The political establishment needed a war-hero fetish object—and so it invented one” [The Baffler] “Constantly toggling between identifying with McCain as their fantasy image of themselves and self-deprecatingly worshipping him as the True Hero they could never be, most American pundits were thus able to avoid assessing McCain for what he actually was and for what he actually did—all the better to avoid confronting those same truths about themselves. McCain, for his part, nobly ratified their self-flattery by letting them flatter him, which he enjoyed. Together he and they operated in a perfect circuit of mutual self-satisfaction; the loss of this is what many in the press now mourn, since with him dies a particularly useful device—an exemplar—for lying to themselves.” And: “From the start of McCain’s career to its end, a clear through-line seamlessly stretches from his support for the proxy wars of Cold War Containment, the adventurism of “rogue state rollback,” and more recently, his approval of massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia to combat “Iranian conduct in Yemen.”

“America’s Death Trail in Yemen, and the Importance of Showing Graphic Images of War” [Paste] “These searing images document a masterwork of unbounded cruelty for which American tax dollars supplied the medium, and which American apathy has enabled.”

♣ Do they think if they repeat this enough it will be true?

Living the American Dream

“40% of Americans struggle to pay for at least one basic need like food or rent” [MarketWatch] ♣America is great, folks. Nothing to see here.

“The Price of American Greatness” [Eudaimonia] “a society devoted to greatness as superiority, as America has been, becomes something like a great, mad, merciless, relentless contest. The norms and values of such a place become cruelty, greed, pride, envy. Only the exceptional are worthy of things like dignity, respect, worth, and meaning — the ordinary aren’t to have them.”

“Gospels of Giving for the New Gilded Age: Are today’s donor classes solving problems—or creating new ones?” [New Yorker – Elizabeth Kolbert] “We live, it is often said, in a new Gilded Age—an era of extravagant wealth and almost as extravagant displays of generosity. In the past fifteen years, some thirty thousand private foundations have been created, and the number of donor-advised funds has roughly doubled. The Giving Pledge—signed by Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison, and more than a hundred and seventy other gazillionaires who have promised to dedicate most of their wealth to philanthropy—is the “Gospel [of Wealth]” stripped down and updated. And as the new philanthropies have proliferated so, too, have the critiques.” ♣ Mainly, the money goes toward shaping public policy, not actually, you know, helping people.

♣ Reminds me of one of Thomas Frank’s greats from 2016, “Nor a Lender Be: Hillary Clinton, liberal virtue, and the cult of the microloan” [Harper’s] “This is modern liberalism in action: an unregulated virtue exchange in which representatives of one class of humanity ritually forgive the sins of another class, all of it convened and facilitated by a vast army of well-credentialed American technocrats, while the objects of their high and noble compassion sink slowly back into a preindustrial state.”

“Racing to replace opioids, biopharma is betting on pain drugs with a checkered past” [STAT] “the bottom fell out for a new class of pain medicines, called NGF inhibitors, when patients in clinical trials starting inexplicably blowing out their joints.”

“How Texas Cops Turn Mental Health Crises Into Deportations” [Texas Observer] “Such encounters often have lasting consequences. For Texans of color, they end in death at a disturbing rate. Shy of that, advocates say police responses regularly result in trumped-up charges of assaulting an officer or resisting arrest. And for undocumented immigrants, such charges often lead to deportation, even without a conviction. Senate Bill 4, Texas’ 2017 “sanctuary cities” ban, requires jailers in the state to honor all ICE detainers, regardless of criminal charge or mental health considerations.”

“Snitching-ass startup raises $10 million to privatize the surveillance state: Flock Security is looking to capitalize on suburban fear.” [The Outline] “Unlike traditional security options,” the company’s media kit boasts, “Flock safety is focused on not only preventing, but also solving crime.” In execution, this means that Flock sells security cameras to neighborhoods, and those cameras then record everything that happens in those neighborhoods. Then, thanks to the company’s proprietary algorithm which will definitely work 100 percent of the time and will definitely not just end up being a high-tech way to racially profile people, Flock will be able to automatically sift through footage “to detect color, make, license plate, and other descriptors… in seconds” and send any relevant video footage to the cops. Crunchbase’s blog post, meanwhile, notes that the Flock system is also able to “selectively target license plates of non-residents [of neighborhoods].”

Prison Strike

“The Nationwide Prison Strike: Why It’s Happening and What It Means for Ending Mass Incarceration” [ACLU] “The Nationwide Prison Strike, scheduled to last from Aug. 21 to Sept. 9, is centered around 10 specific policy demands. These demands include significantly reducing the number of people in jail and prison, improving prison conditions, properly funding rehabilitation, and addressing racism throughout the criminal justice system.”

“As prison strikes heat up, former inmates talk about horrible state of labor and incarceration” [USA Today] “Convict leasing — a legalized form of enslavement that lasted well after the institution was outlawed — once dominated prison labor in America, and today’s combination of low-to-no wages and lack of choice in working conditions smacks of the same treatment. Prisoners at Louisiana’s Angola facility — which is located on a former plantation — work for as little as four cents an hour.”

“US inmates claim retaliation by prison officials as result of multi-state strike” [The Guardian] “Prisoners and their families say strike ‘leaders were picked off, one by one’ and sent to solitary confinement or suddenly transferred”

“The federal government markets prison labor to businesses as the ‘best-kept secret’: The Department of Justice says prison labor is good for a company’s bottom line” [Vox] “Among other demands, prisoners want to earn more than a few dimes for each hour of work that they do, considering that their work brings in billions of dollars in revenue to state and federal prisons. Most inmates across the country do skilled and unskilled labor typically for less than a dollar per hour. (In some states, it’s entirely unpaid.) The work ranges from building office furniture to answering customer service calls to video production and farm work — sometimes without the guarantee of safe work conditions. … correctional facilities argue that prison laborers learn real-life job skills.” ♣How’s that working out?

“Out of Prison & Out of Work: Unemployment among formerly incarcerated people” [Prison Policy Initiative] “Our analysis shows that formerly incarcerated people are unemployed at a rate of over 27% — higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression.” Oh.

“CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES: INMATES RISKING THEIR LIVES TO FIGHT FIRES SAY IT’S A ‘CRUEL JOKE,’ BUT BETTER THAN PRISON” [Newsweek] “In exchange for their efforts, firefighters typically make about $75,000 plus benefits each year. But a group of 3,400 wildfire-fighting inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are risking their lives for just $2 per day and an extra $1 per hour when fighting an active fire.”

Teacher Strikes

“Six more House incumbents ousted in GOP runoff elections” [Tulsa World] “Each of those defeated Tuesday had, in some manner, earned the wrath of public education supporters during last spring’s occupation of the state Capitol.”

“Oklahoma Teachers Just Purged the Statehouse of Their Enemies” [NY Mag] “Last night [Aug. 28], Oklahoma’s GOP primary season came to an end — and the teachers beat the billionaires in a rout. Nineteen Republicans voted against raising taxes to increase teacher pay last spring; only four will be on the ballot this November.”

“Detroit is latest big school district to turn off tap water” [Associated Press] “Last year, LeeAndria Hardison saw brown water coming from fountains at the Detroit school attended by her teenage son. ‘I’ve been sending water to school every day with his name on it — five bottles of water in a cooling pack,’ said Hardison, 39.”

“RACE, DISCIPLINE, AND SAFETY AT U.S. PUBLIC SCHOOLS” [ACLU] “Nationally, schools reported more than 27,000 sworn law enforcement officers compared with  just 23,000 social workers.” ♣ Of course.

The Wasteland

“How Energy Companies and Allies Are Turning the Law Against Protesters” [Inside Climate News] The Oklahoma law makes it a felony to interfere with pipelines and other “critical infrastructure” punishable by up to ten years in prison and $100,000 in fines. “In Louisiana, which enacted a similar law in May, at least nine activists have been arrested under the new law since it went into effect on Aug. 1. In one incident, three people were pulled off a canoe and kayak after they maneuvered the boats on a bayou to protest construction of an oil pipeline. The arrests were conducted by off-duty officers with the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections who were armed and in uniform, but at the time were working for a private security firm hired by the pipeline developer.

“Cost of Coal: Electric Bills Skyrocket in Appalachia as Region’s Economy Collapses” [Inside Climate News]

“This city has a vision for mass transit that doesn’t involve city buses” [Ars Technica] “But just as some developing countries have leapfrogged past landline telephones in favor of cellular technology, Arlington [Tx.] is trying to turn its status as a mass-transit laggard into an advantage by embracing cutting-edge transportation technologies.” ♣ Ride-hailing shuttles. So cutting edge!

“California actions to lower dangerous maternal death rate may help rest of US” [Guardian] “In the US, about 26 women are dying for every 100,000 live births, almost triple the rate of most western European countries – and some countries, such as Finland, have a rate as low as three deaths. …Since 2006, a team of researchers at Stanford University’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC) have been trying to answer the question of why it is disproportionately dangerous to give birth in America and what can be done about it. ♣ After 12 years, what have they come up with? ♣ “Change in California has come from partnerships with a variety of public and private groups… including a collaborative of hospitals adopting standards that are designed to better prepare staff for cases like Berry’s. Improved monitoring of birth records, better databases and much better training for professionals about what can go wrong during pregnancy have all helped.” ♣ Just spitballing here, and maybe another 12-year study might look at this, but do we think the cost of care and the whole for-profit structure in the US has something to do with it?

“Los Angeles billionaire’s hospital system declares bankruptcy” [Politico] “In previous cases, hospital bankruptcies have disrupted patient care by snarling business negotiations with insurers and leading staff to seek other jobs, said Holly Lang, a health care economist.”

On the bright side

“Debunking Pundits and Corporate Democrats, New Poll Finds ‘Unabashedly Left’ Agenda Extremely Popular” [Common Dreams] “Crucially, DFP notes, these proposals are “popular across urban, suburban, and rural geographies”—a finding that runs counter to the common notion that a bold left-wing agenda would be rejected in regions like the Midwest. The policies were also viewed favorably across race and education lines.”


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