Facts, facts? — we don’t need no stinking facts!

❝ Now that the election is over, expect the GOP to start seeing how fantastic the economy has become; to a somewhat lesser extent (no false equivalency here), the Democrats will start seeing more of its weaknesses…

❝ As Rebecca Sinderbrand, Deputy national political editor at the Washington Post noted on November 15: “that must’ve been some weekend.”

This graph and brief commentary was added by Barry Ritholtz to the larger piece he blogged – about the Dangers of a Fact-Free America.

Worth reflecting upon as thoroughly as the tag I posted here.

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In — by Bernie Sanders

❝ When Bernie Sanders began his race for the presidency, it was considered by the political establishment and the media to be a “fringe” campaign, something not to be taken seriously. After all, he was just an independent senator from a small state with little name recognition. His campaign had no money, no political organization, and it was taking on the entire Democratic Party establishment.

❝ By the time Sanders’s campaign came to a close, however, it was clear that the pundits had gotten it wrong. Bernie had run one of the most consequential campaigns in the modern history of the country. He had received more than 13 million votes in primaries and caucuses throughout the country, won twenty-two states, and more than 1.4 million people had attended his public meetings. Most important, he showed that the American people were prepared to take on the greed and irresponsibility of corporate America and the 1 percent.

❝ In Our Revolution, Sanders shares his personal experiences from the campaign trail, recounting the details of his historic primary fight and the people who made it possible. And for the millions looking to continue the political revolution, he outlines a progressive economic, environmental, racial, and social justice agenda that will create jobs, raise wages, protect the environment, and provide health care for all―and ultimately transform our country and our world for the better. For him, the political revolution has just started. The campaign may be over, but the struggle goes on.

As usual, I will be wending my own Leftward way through this life politic. Been this way for over 60 years. May as well keep it up.

For most, early in your life of confronting the conformity of capitulation in the American class struggle – I suggest you at least stay in touch with Bernie. He’s one of the few in Washington worth listening to. Or reading.

Democrats considered the working class as core constituents — years ago!

❝ What has happened in America should not be seen as a victory for hatefulness over decency. It is more accurately understood as a repudiation of the American power structure.

At the core of that structure are the political leaders of both parties, their political operatives, and fundraisers; the major media, centered in New York and Washington DC; the country’s biggest corporations, their top executives, and Washington lobbyists and trade associations; the biggest Wall Street banks, their top officers, traders, hedge-fund and private-equity managers, and their lackeys in Washington; and the wealthy individuals who invest directly in politics…

What happened?

❝ The power structure of America wrote off Sanders as an aberration, and, until recently, didn’t take Trump seriously. A respected political insider recently told me most Americans were largely content with the status quo. “The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years.”

Recent economic indicators may be up, but those indicators don’t reflect the insecurity most Americans continue to feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience. Nor do the major indicators show the linkages many Americans see between wealth and power, stagnant or declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and the undermining of democracy by big money.

❝ Median family income is lower now than it was 16 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Workers without college degrees – the old working class – have fallen furthest. Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to the top. These gains have translated into political power to elicit bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, favorable trade deals and increasing market power without interference by anti-monopoly enforcement – all of which have further reduced wages and pulled up profits.

Wealth, power and crony capitalism fit together. Americans know a takeover has occurred, and they blame the establishment for it.

❝ The Democratic party once represented the working class. But over the last three decades the party has been taken over by Washington-based fundraisers, bundlers, analysts, and pollsters who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in “swing” suburbs…

Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs means of getting new ones that paid at least as well…

❝ Now Americans have rebelled by supporting someone who wants to fortify America against foreigners as well as foreign-made goods. The power structure understandably fears that Trump’s isolationism will stymie economic growth. But most Americans couldn’t care less about growth because for years they have received few of its benefits, while suffering most of its burdens in the forms of lost jobs and lower wages.

The power structure is shocked by the outcome of the 2016 election because it has cut itself off from the lives of most Americans. Perhaps it also doesn’t wish to understand, because that would mean acknowledging its role in enabling the presidency of Donald Trump.

Yes, I’m older than Robert Reich. Definitely more cynical. I’ve been watching the process he describes since the Truman Administration. Hypocrites like Hubert Humphrey helped found the Americans for Democratic Action as an antidote to progressive and class-conscious activism. Ain’t nothing quite like class collaboration to get your heart pumping – if your political life is dedicated to 2-party folderol over class confrontation and warfare.

Other than that – I agree with his analysis. My criticism is more of timeline and details.

I’m still a working class guy from a New England factory town. I went to work in a shithole factory when I was 17 years old – when Democrats were falling over each other to prove to Joe McCarthy, the Republican Party and America’s media barons they could red-bait with the worst of them. It took the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, to shove Dems into class consciousness, sort of, again. What Reich describes is the second sellout in my lifetime.

“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”

Don’t mourn, organize.

That’s not saying you should rely on joining the Democratic Party and their coming “opposition” to Trump-style fascism. I’m not confident this has been enough of a shock to liberal and moderate political hacks to force them into sprouting courage.

Recent years in New Mexico have encouraged that – to a certain small extent. After all, Hillary won New Mexico by close to 10%. Democrats took back the House in our state legislature, extended control in the state Senate. Progressive candidates in our district won – one close, one knocked it out of the park.

This only happened after a decade of Dems in charge going to prison for corruption – and getting Bon Voyage farewells thrown by their peers. This only happened after a decade of Democrats picking and choosing candidates for governor whose main qualification was – “It’s their turn!”

Hopefully, Americans will feel the results of their ignorance in time to prevent further gerrymandering after the 2020 census. Maybe take that power away from pols the way other democracies did decades ago.

Will the Dems have the backbone to stonewall reactionary legislation the way Republicans decided that gridlock was payback for a nation electing a Black president? Might be a stretch too far – for courage, for principles. Obamacare, medicare, social security are all now at risk. Does the Democrat political establishment care enough to fight for the rest of us?

New Mexico’s methane hot spot

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a new study…examining what caused a methane “hot spot” to form in New Mexico. This new study of methane emissions generated by the oil and gas industry in the state’s San Juan Basin is a major step forward in understanding the causes of New Mexico’s methane “hot spot.” It follows up on a 2014 satellite-based study that initially found the “hot spot” and sought to identify its specific causes.

The NASA study found that roughly 50 percent of basin-wide methane emissions come from more than 250 very large polluters that were detected by intensive NASA aerial surveys and ground crews. According to the authors, this finding confirms researchers’ earlier speculation that most of the basin’s methane emissions are related to natural gas extraction and coal mining.

But this is only half of the story as the study did not determine the source of the remaining 50 percent of emissions. Given the more than 20,000 (mainly older) gas wells, myriad storage tanks, thousands of miles of pipelines and several gas processing plants in the area, NASA’s finding that the oil and gas industry is primarily responsible for the “hot spot” is not surprising. In fact, the researchers found only one large source of methane not related to oil and gas operations: venting from the San Juan coal mine. This discovery renders attempts to point the finger at other potential emissions sources, like coal outcrops and landfills, definitively refuted.

Today’s Republicans do nothing by definition. Most of the state’s leading Democrats worry about meeting budget requirements defined almost solely by reliance on fossil fuel extraction. There is nothing approaching a Green Party and hasn’t been for 22 years.

The few activist enviro organizations fight the good fight — like the Wild Earth Guardians. There are more. Just not enough.

Better off than your kids will ever be? A new look at income inequality

Poorer-than-parents

The real incomes of about two-thirds of households in 25 advanced economies were flat or fell between 2005 and 2014. Without action, this phenomenon could have corrosive economic and social consequences.

Most people growing up in advanced economies since World War II have been able to assume they will be better off than their parents. For much of the time, that assumption has proved correct: except for a brief hiatus in the 1970s, buoyant global economic and employment growth over the past 70 years saw all households experience rising incomes, both before and after taxes and transfers. As recently as between 1993 and 2005, all but 2 percent of households in 25 advanced economies saw real incomes rise.

Yet this overwhelmingly positive income trend has ended. A new McKinsey Global Institute report, Poorer than their parents? Flat or falling incomes in advanced economies, finds that between 2005 and 2014, real incomes in those same advanced economies were flat or fell for 65 to 70 percent of households, or more than 540 million people. And while government transfers and lower tax rates mitigated some of the impact, up to a quarter of all households still saw disposable income stall or fall in that decade.

These findings provide a new perspective on the growing debate in advanced economies about income inequality, which until now has largely focused on income and wealth gains going disproportionately to top earners. Our analysis details the sharp increase in the proportion of households in income groups that are simply not advancing — a phenomenon affecting people across the income distribution. And the hardest hit are young, less-educated workers, raising the spectre of a generation growing up poorer than their parents.

The important part of the analysis is that, of course, this can be changed. The disturbing part is that in many educated, industrialized Western nations we must rely upon politicians in one or another form of republican society who pay little attention to those who put them into office. They refuse to lead, they cower before the economic power of those who pay for election – and re-election – campaigns and, cowards that most are, refuse to bend to democratic reformation that might end their position as the real welfare kings and queens of society.

Limited for decades by the 2-party farce that passes for choice in many lands – not just the United States – we are brainwashed by 99% of media mouthpieces that this is the best of all possible worlds. Just look at us! We are all better off than we ever were in the history of nations. But, the groundwork is solidly in place. Choice and liberty had better be allowed to become opportunity or the next couple of decades will move populism beyond fear, racism and bigotry.

UPDATE: Here’s an interview with Richard Dobbs, this morning. Not as dynamic as the report, itself; but, you get the flavor in a careful, scholarly way.

Bernie Sanders made Hillary Clinton a greener candidate

Hillary Clinton is her party’s presumptive nominee. Whether Sanders drops out tomorrow or the day he loses the roll-call vote at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, his campaign is over.

But if ever there were a losing campaign that achieved some major wins, it’s Sanders’. Not only did he force Clinton to talk more about economic inequality, he pushed her to promise stronger action to fight climate change and rein in fossil fuel companies. If Hillary Clinton becomes president and keeps some of her more recent promises to restrict oil drilling and fracking, Sanders will deserve a share of the credit.

When Sanders first got into the race, it didn’t look like he would adopt climate change as a major issue…Then, gradually, Sanders started to focus on the issue and develop a strong climate agenda….By January, the Sanders campaign was using the climate issue to attack Clinton, going after her for the vague and incomplete nature of her climate plan. The two campaigns battled on Twitter over whose climate and clean energy platform was stronger. Clinton clearly felt the need to start competing with Sanders for the votes of climate hawks.

The one-two punch of pressure from the green grassroots and pressure from Sanders pushed Clinton leftward on a number of energy issues.

First, last fall, Clinton finally came out against the Keystone XL pipeline, shortly before Obama rejected it. She also declared that she was opposed to offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. And she shifted her position on fossil fuel extraction on public land, from saying it was necessary to saying she wanted to move toward an eventual ban.

As Sanders picked up steam, she gave still more ground to climate activists. In February, she voiced her opposition to offshore drilling in the Atlantic. She also moved to assuage concerns that she is pro-fracking, saying in a March debate that she wants more regulation of fracking, and that she opposes the practice in instances when the local community is against it, it causes air or water contamination, or it involves the use of secret chemicals…

Last month, in recognition of Sanders’ strong showing in the primaries, the Democratic National Committee allowed him to appoint five members to the party’s Platform Drafting Committee, while Clinton got to appoint six. Among Sanders’ choices was Bill McKibben, the climate activist who founded 350.org, led the charge to block Keystone XL, and calls for dramatically reduced fossil fuel extraction…

As Sanders said at a Monday night rally in San Francisco, “When we began our campaign, our ideas were considered a fringe campaign and fringe ideas. That is not the case today.” Sanders lost the primary race, but he has changed the Democratic Party and the politics of climate change.

The next part is the hardest. The part ofter the election.

Yes, I’m worried about American voters and how gullible they may be. After all, our country elected and re-elected both Reagan and George W. Bush. Still, my cynicism is countered by a reasonable quantity of optimism. There really is enough of an army of both smart citizens and smartass politicos to hope that reason prevails.

The hard part is going to be resisting the impulse to press the Democrat Establishment into honoring progressive promises made before and during the campaign. Uh-uh. Their reaction will be immediate and regressive. The Left will be shut out like someone with OCCUPY WALL STREET tattooed on their forehead – at an ExxonMobil shareholders’ meeting.

Not that I’m confident about staying within the Democrat Party long-range, anyway. Just saying, give ’em that first hundred days that impresses the mainstream media before pressing the integrity button to see what happens. There are smart folks in Bernie’s campaign right now who are calculating the when and how to initiate a grassroots 3rd Party campaign. They have beaucoup programmatic tasks and they can be revised to include an independent party if needed. There are lots of variables in those calculations and no need to hurry the process.

Federal consumer watchdog tries to regulate our nation’s legal loan sharks

paydayloansharks

The government’s consumer watchdog on Thursday proposed a set of new rules designed to rein in the practices of American payday lenders, taking aim at a profit-making model that involves staggeringly high fees and often leaves serial borrowers with spiraling debt.

The proposal from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau marks the first attempt by the federal government to regulate shorter-term loans, which also include auto title and installment lending.

The rules still face months of review — and potential court challenges — but if they take hold they could dramatically transform and shrink an industry that provides cash to borrowers in a pinch. Some lenders say that under the new rules fewer loans will get made; they’ll have no choice but to close up shop. Yet consumer advocates see this as an opportunity for borrowers to turn to safer options — without having to pay triple-digit annualized interest rates…

Yes, Congress and your friendly neighborhood state legislators could have sorted this out long ago. Protecting citizens against loan sharks used to be a priority. We had laws against usury. They were dropped at the request of credit card companies.

Small differences count with politicians. Along with timely campaign donations.

The CFPB was created in the aftermath of the Great Recession, in part to address potential areas of financial abuse. But the agency is controversial [among political hacks], and some lawmakers have recently introduced bills that could weaken or undercut the payday rules. Currently 14 states, as well as the District of Columbia, place tight caps on interest rates; in practice, that amounts to an unofficial ban on payday lending. But the CFPB is not allowed to limit interest rates and has looked at other ways to take aim at the industry.

While it’s red meat to socially indict Republicans as responsible for the attacks on the CFPB, Democrats are as likely to take million$ in campaign contributions and magically find themselves in opposition to the premise of defending consumers in a principled fashion.

Starting with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Obama and Congress back off on mandatory encryption bill


Burr and Feinstein continue to turn their backs on liberty and privacy

Draft legislation that could’ve forced U.S. corporations like Apple to decrypt data on-demand following a court order won’t be formally introduced this year, and has lost the support needed to advance anyway…

The bill — backed by Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein — didn’t have the support of the Obama administation, the sources told Reuters. Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden in fact claimed that the White House has “dropped anchor and taken down the sail.”

Well, NO LONGER had the support of Obama.

Although Burr and Feinstein are the Republican and Democratic heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee, respectively, Committee members from both political aisles have reportedly backed away from the legislation, particularly Democrats. No one in the House ever offered support…

The Burr-Feinstein bill emerged in the wake of Apple’s fight with the Department of Justice and the FBI over unlocking the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Although the DoJ ultimately withdrew a court order asking Apple to build a workaround for iOS’ passcode retry limits, encryption issues had gained more prominence, and indeed many in U.S. law enforcement — such as FBI director James Comey — are still asking for backdoors, worried that encryption is putting some communications beyond their reach.

Most folks are aware of how and why such legislation illustrates the corruption of both political parties. Add in the sheer stupidity of introducing bills which can only affect communications inside the US – sort of – and the whole world gets an object lesson in how much of American politics is play-acting. Little morality plays designed to keep Talking Heads employed and useless politicians in office.