The Evening Blues - 8-11-20



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The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Duke Ellington

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features jazz musician Duke Ellington. Enjoy!

Duke Ellington - Blues In Orbit

"I confidently predict the collapse of capitalism and the beginning of history. Something will go wrong in the machinery that converts money into money, the banking system will collapse totally, and we will be left having to barter to stay alive. Those who can dig in their garden will have a better chance than the rest. I'll be all right; I've got a few veg."

-- Margaret Drabble


News and Opinion

Chris Hedges: America’s Death March

The terminal decline of the United States will not be solved by elections. The political rot and depravity will continue to eat away at the soul of the nation, spawning what anthropologists call crisis cults — movements led by demagogues that prey on an unbearable psychological and financial distress. These crisis cults, already well established among followers of the Christian Right and Donald Trump, peddle magical thinking and an infantilism that promises — in exchange for all autonomy — prosperity, a return to a mythical past, order and security. The dark yearnings among the white working class for vengeance and moral renewal through violence, the unchecked greed and corruption of the corporate oligarchs and billionaires who manage our failed democracy, which has already instituted wholesale government surveillance and revoked most civil liberties, are part of the twisted pathologies that infect all civilizations sputtering towards oblivion. I witnessed the deaths of other nations during the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and later in the former Yugoslavia. I have smelled this stench before.

The removal of Trump from office will only exacerbate the lust for racist violence he incites and the intoxicating elixir of white nationalism. The ruling elites, who first built a mafia economy and then built a mafia state, will continue under Biden, as they did under Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, to wantonly pillage and loot. The militarized police will not stop their lethal rampages in poor neighborhoods. The endless wars will not end. The bloated military budget will not be reduced. The world’s largest prison population will remain a stain upon the country. The manufacturing jobs shipped overseas will not return and the social inequality will grow. The for-profit health care system will gouge the public and price millions more out of the health care system. The language of hate and bigotry will be normalized as the primary form of communication. Internal enemies, including Muslims, immigrants and dissidents, will be defamed and attacked. The hypermasculinity that compensates for feelings of impotence will intensify. It will direct its venom towards women and all who fail to conform to rigid male stereotypes, especially artists, LGBTQ people and intellectuals. Lies, conspiracy theories, trivia and fake news — what Hannah Arendt called “nihilistic relativism” — will still dominate the airwaves and social media, mocking verifiable fact and truth. The ecocide, which presages the extinction of the human species and most other life forms, will barrel unabated towards its apocalyptic conclusion. ...

Joe Biden, a shallow, political hack devoid of fixed beliefs or intellectual depth, is an expression of the nostalgia of a ruling class that yearns to return to the pantomime of democracy. They want to restore the decorum and civic religion that makes the presidency a form of monarchy and sacralizes the organs of state power. Donald Trump’s vulgarity and ineptitude is an embarrassment to the architects of empire. He has ripped back the veil that covered our failed democracy. But no matter how hard the elites try this veil cannot be restored. The mask is off. The façade is gone. Biden cannot bring it back.

Political, economic and social dysfunction define the American empire. Our staggering inability to contain the pandemic, which now infects over 5 million Americans, and the failure to cope with the economic fallout the pandemic has caused, has exposed the American capitalist model as bankrupt. It has freed the world, dominated by the United States for seven decades, to look at other social and political systems that serve the common good rather than corporate greed. The diminished stature of the United States, even among our European allies, brings with it the hope for new forms of government and new forms of power.

It is up to us to abolish the American kleptocracy. It is up to us to mount sustained acts of mass civil disobedience to bring down the empire. It poisons the world as it poisons us. If we mobilize to build an open society, we hold out the possibility of beating back these crisis cults as well as slowing and disrupting the march towards ecocide. This requires us to acknowledge, like those protesting in the streets of Beirut, that our kleptocracy, like Lebanon’s, is incapable of being salvaged. The American system of inverted totalitarianism, as the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin called it, must be eradicated if we are to wrest back our democracy and save ourselves from mass extinction. We need to echo the chants by the crowds in Lebanon calling for the wholesale removal of its ruling class — kulyan-yani-kulyan — everyone means everyone.

Worth a full read:

How did Americans become such Wimps? Silence as Trump kills tens of Thousands, Destroys Social Security and Post Office, Plots Election Fraud

Nicole Winfield and Lisa Marie Pane at the Associated Press write at the unbelief with which Europeans are staring at the United States, as we head for 300,000 dead from the coronavirus and our economy shrank 33% on an annualized basis last quarter, and we just appear to be all right with that. Not only are we perfectly willing to toss grandma in an early grave on Trump’s say-so, but we are supine as he openly engineers the destruction of social security and medicare, and of the post office, on behalf of himself and the billionaire class he represents. That is after we sat by while he completely gutted all environmental regulations that got in the way of corporations making money off poisoning us. I don’t think the neutering of the EPA has even been reported on daytime cable news, though the prime time magazine shows on MSNBC have at least brought it up. ...

The rich figured out in the 1980s that Americans are all form over substance, and if you put up for president a Hollywood actor like Ronald Reagan who used to play cowboys, they would swoon over him. In 1984 when Reagan ran against Walter Mondale, I saw a middle aged white Detroit auto worker interviewed who said he woudn’t vote for Mondale because he was a “panty-waist.” Reagan took away their right to strike and took away government services by running up the deficit and cutting taxes on the rich simultaneously, then claiming the government couldn’t provide the services the people had paid for because it is broke. Reagan raised the retirement age from 65 to 67. Why? Most young people don’t realize that their health will decline in their late 60s and they often won’t actually get any golden years.

What did Americans do in response? They just bent over and took it. ...

By feeding us decades of propaganda against unions and “socialism,” the American rich have broken the legs of the people, and left them to twitch helplessly as more and more indignities are heaped on them. They’ve divided us by race (Trump is not alone in this tactic, only the least subtle), they’ve convinced us to give the super-rich power because they will make us rich too. (How is that working out for you?). ...

Despite all the military parades and brave talk of master races, fascism is just the ultimate humiliation of the sheeple. Mussolini drove enormous numbers of Italians into poverty. The Axis used them for cannon fodder at the front. If the increasingly wimpy Americans don’t watch out, they will find that it is too late to fight back, since they have surrendered all their means to do so. So as to avoid being panty-waists and all.

Trump’s illegal power grab and the specter of American Bonapartism

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump announced a series of measures ostensibly targeting the cutoff of federal unemployment benefits that mark a new stage in his effort to abolish all constitutional restraints on the power of the president. Trump announced a deferral of the federal payroll tax, which would defund Social Security, and the extension of federal unemployment benefits at a much lower level. ... Trump’s measures constitute an illegal imposition on the powers of Congress, as spelled out in the Constitution, which declares that “Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes… and provide for the… general Welfare of the United States.”

Trump’s usurpation of the congressional prerogative to tax and spend is the latest act in a series of unconstitutional actions. In February of last year, Trump declared a State of Emergency to misappropriate Pentagon funds, in defiance of Congress, to build up his apparatus of repression on the Southern border. In June, amid mass protests against police violence, Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act and deploy the military throughout the country. When sections of the military resisted this attempted coup, fearing it was not adequately prepared and would create a social explosion, Trump instead dispatched federal border agents to Portland, Oregon, where they beat demonstrators and snatched protesters into unmarked vehicles.

In announcing the new measures, Trump presented himself as the arbiter of a logjam in Congress. “Political games that harm American lives are unacceptable, especially during a global pandemic, and therefore I am taking action to provide financial security to Americans,” Trump said. Asked if he was “trying to set a new precedent that the president can go around Congress,” Trump replied, “Congress has obstructed… people from getting desperately needed money.”

Trump’s actions have the character of Bonapartism. The term is derived from the historical example of the famous French general who ruled France for 15 years as a dictator. In its modern usage, it denotes a political situation that arises in a period acute social tension, when the traditional norms of bourgeois democracy become dysfunctional. The executive of the capitalist state—in the US, the president—exploits the impasse to augment its power. The Bonapartist appears to rise above classes or the contending political factions through which bourgeois politics, in accordance with constitutional provisions, normally proceeds. Relying increasingly on the repressive forces of the state—the military, the police, intelligence agencies and, if necessary, paramilitary forces—the president asserts himself as the super-arbiter of conflict between factions and classes. In fact, however, he speaks for definite class interests. ...

Trump has not yet created a dictatorship. The real estate and casino con artist—without military conquests to brag of—has limited credentials to posture as a modern-day Bonaparte. But all his actions are directed toward creating such a dictatorship. Trump’s power grab is facilitated by the mendacious and two-faced character of his opposition in the Democratic Party. The Democrats present themselves as sympathetic to the plight of unemployed workers, while in reality representing the interests of a corporate and financial oligarchy which materially benefits from cutting unemployment benefits—the same interests for whom Trump speaks.

How the Pandemic Defeated America: Ed Yong on How COVID-19 Humiliated Planet’s Most Powerful Nation

America's PPE shortage could last years without strategic plan, experts warn

Shortages of personal protective equipment and medical supplies could persist for years without strategic government intervention, officials from healthcare and manufacturing industries have said. Officials said logistical challenges continue seven months after the coronavirus reached the United States, as the flu season approaches and as some state emergency management agencies prepare for a fall surge in Covid-19 cases.

Although disarray is not as widespread as it was this spring, hospitals said rolling shortages of supplies range from specialized beds to disposable isolation gowns to thermometers.

“A few weeks ago, we were having a very difficult time getting the sanitary wipes. You just couldn’t get them,” said Dr Bernard Klein, chief executive of Providence Holy Cross medical center in Mission Hills near Los Angeles. “We actually had to manufacture our own.” This same dynamic has played out across a number of critical supplies in his hospital. First masks, then isolation gowns, and now a specialized bed that allows nurses to turn Covid-19 patients on their bellies – equipment that helps workers with what can otherwise be a six-person job. ...

Testing supplies ran short as the predominantly Latino community served by Providence Holy Cross was hard-hit by Covid, and even as nearby hospitals could process 15-minute tests. “If we had a more coordinated response with a partnership between the medical field, the government, and the private industry, it would help improve the supply chain to the areas that need it most,” Klein said.

Klein said expected to deal with equipment and supply shortages throughout 2021, especially as flu season approaches.

'No one should go hungry': street fridges of free food help Americans survive Covid pandemic

In May, two months after Marianne Pita recovered from Covid-19, she heard about a fridge set up on a street corner not far from her house in the Bronx. Neighbors and local businesses could donate food – homemade, store-bought, or leftover from a day’s sales – and anyone who needed food could take some. The fridge helps feed people in the middle of a pandemic and mass unemployment – in a year where as many as 54m Americans could need food aid. There are no strings attached and no questions asked, says Pita.

“Mutual aid means something different than the way welfare works, where you’re being quizzed [on your need], because you have to qualify for the aid. You have to be really, really [good],” explains Pita, who volunteers delivering food to local fridges. “And that’s not what we’re saying.”

At least 15 other community fridges have been set up in the five New York boroughs and New Jersey. Los Angeles and Oakland both have networks of community fridges up and running, and grassroots efforts to start community fridges in Houston, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Miami are taking off.

The idea of community fridges – and more broadly, of free food for all who need it – has been around for decades. More than 50 years ago, the Black Panther Party distributed free breakfast to children out of a local church in the Bronx; a radical program for its time that paved the way for the US government to follow suit in 1975.

Today “there’s so many people that are involved as fridge-keepers,” says Adela Wagner, 30, who helps with a community fridge in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn. They range from those who donate food – bakeries, community gardens, farmers markets and more – to neighbors who keep an eye on it throughout the day. “Most of them are not given credit,” Wagner says.

[More at the link. -js]

With Nearly 100,000 Kids Infected by Covid-19 in Just Two Weeks, Medical Experts Warn Against Hasty Return to School

An estimated 338,000 children in the United States have been infected with Covid-19, and 97,000 of those were reported in the final two weeks of July, according to a report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

School districts across the country are considering how to safely reopen amid climbing Covid-19 cases nationwide, and medical experts are increasingly worried about the consequences of in-person school openings.

"Historically, my response up to this last couple of weeks has been typically much more neutral and just trying to implore people to do the right thing, to lay the information out in front," Dr. Michael Saag, director of UAB Medicine's Division of Infectious Disease, told Yahoo! Finance last week. "Now we're seeing schools that seem to shrug their shoulders ... It's impossible to stay quiet."

Parents and educators have expressed concern over the push to reopen, and some have protested moves to put kids in physical classrooms. Schools that have resumed in-person learning are reporting rapid spreads of Covid-19 infections among students and staff, prompting digital learning alternatives.

But politicians—Democrat and Republican—continue to tie the health of the nation's economy to reopening schools, and newly released studies refute the idea floated earlier in the pandemic that children "almost immune" to getting and spreading Covid-19, but do indicate children may be at lower risk than adults. In addition, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates African American and Hispanic children who contract Covid-19 are five and eight times more likely to be hospitalized than their white counterparts.

"It has been hypothesized that Hispanic adults might be at increased risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection because they are overrepresented in frontline (e.g., essential and direct-service) occupations with decreased opportunities for social distancing, which might also affect children living in those households," the CDC researchers wrote. 

Additionally, a report released by the journal Pediatrics showed racial and economic disparities for positive Covid-19 test rates.

"Racial/ethnic and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups have less access to primary care physicians," the study's authors wrote. "In addition, referral to the testing site by clinicians may have been differentially provided, and advertisement of the testing site may not have been uniformly distributed among all potential referring clinicians. Furthermore, the testing site was available a few days per week and during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. which may not have been convenient for all."

The United States' top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that with proper precautions—social distancing, mask wearing, lower class sizes, etc.—schools could reopen for in-person learning.

"The primary consideration should always be the safety, the health [and] the welfare of the children, as well as the teachers and the secondary effects for spreading [to] the parents and other family members," Fauci told CNN Friday.

Many school districts in the U.S. have opted to go digital. Education Week reports that as of Aug. 6, 17 of the 20 largest school districts are choosing remote learning only as their back-to-school instructional model, affecting over four million students.

"As the parent of a school-aged daughter, I understand the gravity of this decision and the challenges posed by remote learning for our students and their families," Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), said in a press release urging officials implement digital learning in the Bay State schools. "But rushing to reopen our schools will directly jeopardize the lives of our students and educators, and that is a risk we cannot take."

Trump Trade Policies and Mishandling of Coronavirus Pandemic Have 'Wiped Out' US Manufacturing Jobs: Economist

President Donald Trump's trade policies during his first term have "failed to stop offshoring or the erosion of the U.S. manufacturing base," and his administration's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic has erased much of the progress made in the wake of the 2008 finanical crisis, according to a report released Monday.

The new report authored by Robert E. Scott, senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing policy research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), challenges the narrative from the president and key figures in his administration that the era of offshoring U.S. jobs is "over" thanks to Trump's trade agenda.

In spite of claims from the Trump administration, Scott wrote, "the United States has not begun to address the root causes of America's growing trade deficits and the decline of American manufacturing. Decades of trade, currency, and tax policies that incentivized offshoring, combined with an utter failure to invest adequately in infrastructure and good jobs at home, have contributed to growing inequality and an eroding middle class."

"President Trump's erratic, ego-driven, and inconsistent trade policies have not achieved any measurable progress, despite the newly combative rhetoric. On top of that, Covid-19—and the administration's mismanagement of the crisis—has wiped out much of the last decade's job gains in U.S. manufacturing," he added. "Unless steps are taken now—to reform our trade policy, to curb dollar overvaluation, to eliminate tax incentives for offshoring, and to rebuild the domestic economy—there won't be a comeback."

Scott's analysis comes in the midst of an economic crisis triggered by the ongoing pandemic and follows recent remarks from Trump and Robert E. Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative appointed by the president, suggesting that the administration's trade policies—such as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA)—are helping American workers.

"The Trump administration has taken credit for 'reshoring' manufacturing jobs, but the data show that isn't true. Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared under Trump between 2016 and 2018," Scott said in a statement. Overall, Scott found, the U.S. has lost over 91,000 manufacturing plants and nearly five million manufacturing jobs since 1997. The country also experienced a net loss of plants ever year between 1998 and 2018, the last year for which data are available.

Scott's report lays out "what the data actually show about the purported 'blue-collar boom'" under Trump:

The U.S. gained roughly 500,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs from 2016 to 2019. But these gains are exactly on par with gains across the entire economic recovery period from 2010 to 2019, during which 166,000 manufacturing jobs were gained each year, on average. The 2016–2019 gains did not represent an improvement over prior years in that decade, and even the decade's overall gains had managed to restore only a fraction of the jobs lost in the prior decade.

And recent years' manufacturing gains were abruptly wiped out by the Covid-19 crisis—with a staggering 740,000 manufacturing jobs lost this year... If President Trump wants to take credit for the job growth at the tail end of a decade of recovery from the Great Recession, then he must also own this collapse, thanks to his administration's mismanagement of the pandemic—including a refusal to organize an effective national response.

The report notes that although data from June 2020 "show an upswing in manufacturing jobs, more recent jobs data indicate that the nascent and partial recovery in manufacturing is at risk due to recurrence of Covid-19 in states that have reopened, including many in the South and Western United States."

"Additionally, the U.S. trade deficit in manufactured goods rose significantly between 2016 and 2019," Scott said. A country's balance of trade is the difference between the value of its imports and exports over a certain period of time. A country has negative trade balance or trade deficit if it imports more than it exports.

"In fact, the real U.S. trade deficit has increased in every year since 2016, reducing GDP growth by roughly 0.25% annually over the past three years," the economist explained. "Compounded with the devastation left by the coronavirus pandemic, the blue collar manufacturing workers need serious help from policymakers."

Scott specifically pointed out how the rising real value of the U.S. dollar, which has climbed nearly 23% since 2014, is a "major cause" of the United Sates trade deficit. "More than half of that rise has come since the Trump tariffs were first imposed in March 2018," the report says. "This stronger dollar keeps making U.S. exports more expensive and imports cheaper."

"Equally problematic, the 2017 Trump tax cuts on corporate profits incentivized offshoring for certain types of production while also raising after-tax profits," the report adds. "This has attracted more foreign capital to U.S. stock markets, spurring the dollar even higher. The dollar has also been driven higher during the coronavirus recession by 'safe haven' effects, with foreign capital surging into the U.S.—as it does during most global downturns."

After noting that the loss of manufacturing jobs was a key issue for voters in the 2016 election, when Trump defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Scott's report calls for a recovery from the Covid-19 crisis that includes "major investments in infrastructure and clean energy" and for progressives to "reshape their approach to trade."

The report says that "for the past three decades, mainstream Democrats have tied their fates to the twin mantras of free trade and globalization, which have cost millions of jobs and many thousands of factories," pointing to the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement backed by former President Barack Obama and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by former President Bill Clinton, which Trump replaced last year with USMCA.

"It is time for progressives to own and reject these failed policies, and to build and campaign on a plan to develop a 21st-century New Deal for the domestic economy," the report declares. "In 2016, Donald Trump campaigned against globalization and these failed trade deals—which have clearly hurt U.S. manufacturing."

"It worked. He captured nearly 80% of the electoral votes in the top 25 manufacturing states... But he has since failed to deliver for working Americans," the report continues. "Now the wheels are coming off. It's time for a meaningful rewrite of failed U.S. trade and economic policies—all urgently needed to revive the U.S. economy at a critical time."

Uber and Lyft must classify drivers as employees, judge rules, in blow to gig economy

A California judge has issued a preliminary injunction that would block Uber and Lyft from classifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The move on Monday came in response to a May lawsuit filed by the state of California against the companies, which alleged they are misclassifying their drivers under the state’s new labor law.

That law, known as AB5, took effect on 1 January. The strictest of its kind in the US, it makes it more difficult for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits. The lack of workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits for drivers has become increasingly urgent during the coronavirus pandemic, as ridership plunges and workers struggle to protect themselves.

California is the largest market in the US for Uber and Lyft and the state where both companies were founded.

The lawsuit, and Monday’s injunction, are the most significant challenges to the ride-hailing companies’ business model thus far. Judge Ethan Schulman of the San Francisco superior court delayed enforcing his order by 10 days to give the companies a chance to appeal. ...

“When over 3 million Californians are without a job, our elected leaders should be focused on creating work, not trying to shut down an entire industry during an economic depression,” the Uber spokesman said.

Leaked Documents Reveal What TikTok Shares with Authorities — in the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s executive order banning Americans from using TikTok is driven by concerns that the company might hand over user data to Chinese authorities. Recently hacked police documents reveal the nature of the company’s relationship to law enforcement — not in China but in the United States. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is headquartered in Beijing, where the government censors social media content and maintains other forms of influence over tech companies. But a glimpse at what TikTok does in the U.S. underscores that data privacy issues extend beyond China.

Documents published in the BlueLeaks trove, which was hacked by someone claiming a connection to Anonymous and published by the transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets, show the information that TikTok shared with U.S. law enforcement in dozens of cases. Experts familiar with law enforcement requests say that what TikTok collects and hands over is not significantly more than what companies like Amazon, Facebook, or Google regularly provide, but that’s because U.S. tech companies collect and hand over a lot of information.

The documents also reveal that two representatives with bytedance.com email addresses registered on the website of the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, a fusion center that covers the Silicon Valley area. And they show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security actively monitored TikTok for signs of unrest during the George Floyd protests.

The number of requests for subscriber information that TikTok says it receives from law enforcement is significantly lower than what U.S. tech giants reportedly field, likely because police are more accustomed to using data from U.S. companies and apps in investigations. TikTok enumerates its requests from law enforcement in a biannual transparency report, the most recent of which says that for the last half of 2019, the company received 100 requests covering 107 accounts. It handed over information in 82 percent of cases. Facebook, by contrast, says it received a whopping 51,121 requests over the same period, and handed over at least some data in 88 percent of cases. ...

In the releases shown in BlueLeaks, TikTok handed over multiple IP addresses, information about the devices used to register for accounts, cellphone numbers, and unique IDs tied to platforms including Instagram, Facebook, or Google if the user logged in using a social media account. It is unclear whether these data releases were in response to warrants, subpoenas, or other requests, and the company would not give details, citing user privacy.

Lebanon’s Gov’t Resigns Amid Public Rage over Beirut Blast, But Protesters Demand Structural Change

Lebanese government quits following Beirut port explosion

Lebanon’s besieged government has fallen, one week after a cataclysmic explosion destroyed Beirut port, with the country’s prime minister, Hassan Diab, claiming the disaster was the result of endemic corruption. Diab announced the resignation of the government after more than a third of ministers quit their posts, forcing Diab himself to resign.

Diab, who has been prime minister for nine months, was due to notify the president, Michel Aoun, who was expected to accept his resignation. “I said that corruption is rooted in every part of the state,” the prime minister said. “But I found out that corruption is greater than the state.

“A political class is using all their dirty tricks to prevent real change. The more we tried to get to them, the bigger the walls became.

“This disaster is the result of chronic corruption,” said Diab, repeating: “The corruption network is bigger than the state.” He added that he was “heeding people’s demand for real change. Today we will take a step back in order to stand with the people.”

However, the move is unlikely to immediately lead to a clean sweep of the government, with current ministers – including those who have resigned – set to assume a caretaker role and form the backbone of a new administration. Instead a push is under way for more than a third of sitting MPs to quit parliament, which would force new parliamentary elections and could lead to an injection of new members less tainted by corruption and nepotism.

Citing 'Years of Chaos and Impunity,' ACLU Calls for Breakup of Department of Homeland Security

After years of challenging the actions and authority of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU Monday called for Congress to dismantle the agency and break it into smaller parts.

"Its dysfunction is one of the Beltway's worst kept secrets," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, wrote in an op-ed. "DHS' overbroad mandate and unchecked powers have turned it into a tinderbox, now ignited by a president willing to trample on the constitutional limits of presidential powers."

"The very premise of a 'homeland security' bureaucracy is chilling and ought to be questioned," Romero wrote in USA Today. Noting that DHS is an "ineffective superagency" composed of 22 different agencies, Romero argued that breaking up the department would "allow for more effective oversight, accountability, and public transparency."

This is not the first time DHS or agencies under its umbrella, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), have been targeted by activists and politicians as unwieldy bastions of authoritarian power, but calls for oversight have increased since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

"Under President Trump, ICE appears to have taken the gloves off," the Brennan Center for Justice reported in 2018, following increased immigrant deportations under the Trump administration's watch, which resulted a nationwide movement to abolish the agency.

ICE continues to come under fire for mismanagement and cruelty of its immigrant detention facilities. Last week a federal judge ordered ICE to obtain and implement rapid Covid-testing in a detention center California, following a viral outbreak there and evidence of blatant refusal to implement screening and social distancing measures for detainees who are positive for Covid-19.

Romero pointed to more recent actions in addition to those since the beginning of Trump's reign, and highlighted reports of federal officers pulling Black Lives Matter protesters into unmarked vehicles as recently as July.

"Now, of course, we know that DHS has surveilled Black Lives Matter activist circles; descended into mosques and community centers to infiltrate Muslim communities; shot and killed foreign nationals across the border; and monitored protests using fusion center intelligence sharing hubs," Romero wrote. He also pointed to current and former high-ranking government officials who have also called out DHS for overreach.

"It would be a cold day in hell before I would consent or agree to the unsolicited, uninvited intervention in any of my cities," Tom Ridge, who served as the first U.S. secretary of homeland security, told Pittsburgh news outlet KDKA last month, following news of federal agents essentially kidnapping protesters in Portland, Oregon. "I certainly don't favor that kind of action, and certainly don't think DHS was designed for that purpose to start with." ...

"Years of chaos and impunity make a clear case for the dismantling of DHS," Romero wrote. "President Trump's use of DHS as his personal militia should be enough to start a meaningful bipartisan debate about DHS' future."

Chicago erupts with violence and looting after police shooting

Unrest and violence erupted in the center of Chicago early on Monday after weeks of bubbling tension in a number of neighborhoods across the city and protests on Sunday after a man was shot by police on the south side. More than 100 people were arrested on Monday after pockets of disruption escalated overnight into looting on the so-called Magnificent Mile central shopping district and some destruction in other parts of the city, the authorities said.

Police superintendent David Brown said the trouble in the downtown area “was not an organized protest” but instead “an incident of pure criminality” that began following the shooting of a person by police on Sunday in the Englewood neighborhood, which is 10 miles from the north side streets of flagship stores.

At one point early on Monday, shots were fired at police and officers returned fire. Brown said a heavy police presence was expected in the downtown area until further notice.

Hours earlier, on Sunday afternoon, police shot a man after he opened fire on officers, according to the department. The incident apparently prompted a social media post urging people to converge on the business district, Brown said. Some 400 additional officers were dispatched to the area after the police department spotted the post. ...

Hundreds of people were seen damaging storefronts and stealing goods on Sunday night. Several people were videoed taking merchandise from stores including Walgreens and CVS, with some bringing the goods to waiting cars.



the horse race



DNC Denies The Young Turks Access To Convention

Joe Biden needs Black voters. So why does he keep insulting us?

If the 2020 election was left up to white Americans, Donald Trump would be given a second term. According to the recent Hill-HarrisX poll, 50% of white voters would vote for Trump if the election were held today. So once again, it is up to Black voters to save America from itself.

But when one considers how drastically the Democratic party needs the Black vote to perform for their candidate to win – according to some estimates, they need turnout rate of 65% of all Black Americans and, of that group, nearly 90% of Black voters must vote for Democrats for them to secure the White House – one must question why Joe Biden is allowed to continue speaking when every other statement he makes about Black people is “problematic” if you’re trying to spin it and out-right racist if you’re being honest.

Black Americans who are not dutiful members of the political establishment – whose job it is to explain away every bumbling and insulting thing the Democratic party’s forced pick spits up – are rightly upset at the fact that Joe’s own words are making Trump’s re-election more likely. ...

The bottom line is, Biden is by no means a shoo-in. And to that end, it would be best for his campaign to level with Joe about the Black vote: don’t let the Black Democratic Establishment types like Jim Clyburn and Keisha Lance Bottoms fool you: the Black voters you need are not excited about your candidacy.

Krystal Ball: Alex Morse And How Personal Victimhood Will Doom The Left



the evening greens


Mauritius oil spill: Volunteer army races to contain environmental disaster

'We Are Expecting the Worst': Alarm Over Eco Crisis Grows Amid Fears Ship Leaking Oil Near Mauritius Could Break in Two

Urgent efforts to contain an oil spill off the coast of Mauritius reportedly ramped up on Monday due to fears that a cracked ship spilling fuel into the Indian Ocean—polluting nearby coral reefs, mangrove forests, and beaches of the island nation—could soon split in two, exacerbating the local environmental crisis.

Though the Japanese-owned vessel ran aground on a coral reef near Mauritius on July 25, work to safely remove the estimated 4,000 tonnes of oil it was carrying kicked off last week, when the ship starting seeping fuel into the ocean. Over 1,000 tonnes of oil is believed to have leaked into the surrounding waters.

The Associated Press reported Monday that "high winds and waves are pounding the MV Wakashio," a ship owned by Nagashiki Shipping and operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, also based in Japan. The vessel departed China on July 14 and was bound for Brazil, but is now leaking oil about a mile from Mauritius, which is east of the African continent.


Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared an environmental emergency and called for international help. France, which formerly colonized the island nation, dispatched a naval vessel, a military aircraft, and technical advisers while Japan said Sunday it would send a six-person team to help.

Jugnauth told reporters Sunday that emergency crews temporarily stemmed the leak but were still preparing for the worst. He also expressed concerned about the condition of the stranded ship. "The cracks have grown. The situation is even worse," he said. "The risk of the boat breaking in half still exists."


Gene manipulation using algae could grow more crops with less water

Tobacco plants have been modified with a protein found in algae to improve their photosynthesis and increase growth, while using less water, in a new advance that could point the way to higher-yielding crops in a drought-afflicted future.

The technique focuses on photosynthesis, the complex process by which plants are able to use sunlight and carbon dioxide to produce nutrients that fuel their growth. Enhancing photosynthesis would produce huge benefits to agricultural productivity, but the complexities of the process have stymied many past attempts to harness it.

In research published in the journal Nature Plants, scientists used genetic manipulation processes to increase an enzyme that already exists within the tobacco plant, introduce a new enzyme from cyanobacteria, and to introduce a protein from algae. When the plants were modified in this way, their ability to convert light energy efficiently into chemical energy increased significantly. To the surprise of the researchers, the transgenic plants also needed much less water to produce the higher yields.

Having proved the concept in tobacco plants, the scientists, at the University of Essex in Colchester in the UK, hope to further refine the technique and adapt it to crops, targeting soybeans, cowpea and rice. The development could help to ease some of the pressures the world is facing, in the climate crisis and the need to grow food more efficiently.


Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

US response to the virus is met with incredulity abroad

The Spies Who Hijacked America

The Rise of Hakeem Jeffries Is Being Disrupted From Below

Germany’s SPD picks Merkel-like figure to run for top job in 2021

Italian MPs received coronavirus relief payments meant for self-employed

Why the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor may never be arrested

The Execution of Elephants and Americans

Lawmakers Demand Removal of Postmaster General DeJoy Over 'Nefarious' Efforts to Destroy the Postal Service and 'Aid Trump Reelection'

Trump says he may accept presidential nomination at Gettysburg battlefield

Trump’s Executive Orders Sow Confusion and Illusions

Weeks After Voting for $740 Billion Pentagon Budget, Ted Cruz Says 'Magic Money Tree' Isn't Available to Struggling Families

'I didn't think I'd survive': women tell of hidden sexual abuse by Phoenix police

Ryan Grim: Congressional Black Caucus SHOOK After Progressive Win, Likely Ilhan Omar Victory

Krystal and Saagar: Media Privately Admits They're SCREWED If Trump Loses

Krystal and Saagar DEBUNK Idiotic Cruz Attack As Report Reveals Millennials HARDEST HIT By Crisis

Emergency in Mauritius after oil spill – in pictures


A Little Night Music

Duke Ellington - Villes Ville Is the Place, Man

Duke Ellington - Jungle Nights In Harlem

Duke Ellington - Drop Me Off in Harlem

Duke Ellington - Main Stem

Duke Ellington - On The Sunny Side Of The Street

Duke Ellington - Three J's Blues

Duke Ellington Orch. - Jubilee Stomp

Duke Ellington - The Mooche

Duke Ellington - Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue


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Comments

Lily O Lady's picture

to no one’s surprise Biden has announced Kamala Harris as his VP running mate.

I suspect it was her all along. Everything else was a Dance of the Seven Veils.

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18 users have voted.

"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

@Lily O Lady @Lily O Lady I suspect he was told which one too. You’re right. Not much surprise there.

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17 users have voted.

The only way Joe Biden is “going to be like FDR” is that he will die in office and leave a shitty vice president as a replacement.

OzoneTom's picture

@Lily O Lady

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7 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@Lily O Lady

yep, no surprise there. i'm still not seeing any reason why a sane progressive would want to vote for biden.

oh well.

have a good one!

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11 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

Good afternoon,
First Beirut then Baltimore then a gas station in Volgograd.

Here's Taibbi on Alex Morse: The New Puritans
Anya & Ben discuss regime-change in Nicaragua.

I thought Juan Cole was good, Hedges too, until towards the end when he starts talking about systems. Dammit Chris, there are no systems.
Dore was live yesterday, said he might have Max B. on today.
Check your YouTube feed.

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13 users have voted.

It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture

@Azazello

thanks for the links and vids.

i thought that taibbi nailed it pretty well. it looks to me like richie neal has decided to play gutter politics - probably indicative of desperation.

i watched morse on rising today and i thought he acquitted himself well. i think that he can recover from this if he can get out in front of a lot of local news cameras.

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11 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

@joe shikspack

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8 users have voted.

It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture

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4 users have voted.

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13 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@gjohnsit

that segment and their interview with morse (both posted upstairs) are quite good. morse appears to be a pretty smart, articulate guy and with any luck, he will destroy neal at the polls.

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9 users have voted.
ggersh's picture

I can't begin to express how inspired that makes me....NOT

Will the D's exist as a party beyond this election, highly
doubtful.

Is this even possible in a democracy?

https://www.newsfromtheperimeter.com/home/2019/7/17/9-out-of-10-people-w...

9 Out Of 12 People Who Saw Anthony Weiner's Laptop Are Dead

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16 users have voted.

Buy a Bible don't read it and you'll be a Catholic
Buy a Bible read only what suits you and you'll be an Evangelical
Buy a Bible read it fully, analyze it, reason it and you will be
an Atheist

joe shikspack's picture

@ggersh

Is this even possible in a democracy?

well, it's not much of a democracy. perhaps nobody will notice, or they'll be too busy trying to keep themselves alive in a collapsing society to be much worried about it.

after all, the people we elect are pretty much useless anyway.

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9 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

How did Americans become such Wimps? Silence as Trump kills tens of Thousands, Destroys Social Security and Post Office, Plots Election Fraud

By degrees. The GOP got more and more accustomed to it as a counterpoise to the evul libs, Dems, Athiests, furriners and such, from Reagan to Bush I to Bush II to Trump, with Pat Robertson on the side.

The NewDemocrats got progressively more and more acclimated to it as the way to win elections and get things done from Clinton and Obama.

Not to mention the bi-partisan "Merika, Fuck yeah" entrenched jingoism, racism and the like aided and abetted by the media. Nobody wanted to rock their own canoe and it became an entrenched habit to just acquiesce to this shit.

So Biden picked the Senator from the Hamptons. The good news is that if he wins then California gets to pick a new Senator. The bad news is that it is largely the same electorate, NewDemocrat political machinery, and media as gave us Okamala.

Thanks for the EB.

be well and have a good one.

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15 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

OzoneTom's picture

@enhydra lutris
Uprisings will be brutally suppressed by domestic military forces and mercenaries while Democrats call themselves "Resistance" and stand by cheering.

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12 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

it's funny how well incremental politics work in the service of evil and how little they work in service of the people.

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11 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

@enhydra lutris

He knows damn well that Harris doesn’t give a rat’s ass about us lowly folks. Her tenure as attorney general was full of her doing the elite’s bidding. From letting Mnuchin off the hook for mortgage fraud to keeping people in prison so they could be used as slave labor.

I was visiting my uncle when the news broke and boy did I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling him what I thought about Harris. Hey he’s the only family I have left so bite my tongue I will.

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16 users have voted.

“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

joe shikspack's picture

@snoopydawg

somebody should send bernie some pom-poms.

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13 users have voted.

@snoopydawg the big Russiagate hoax?

Sad to see someone toss away a lifetime of integrity in the twilight of one's career.

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16 users have voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture

@Marie

as if there was much doubt about it to begin with. I think he's worn out and just wants his last four public years to be as conflict-free and uneventful as possible - even if it means surrendering everything he ever cared about.

Bernie "Neville Chamberlain" Sanders....

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16 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.

@TheOtherMaven when he has nothing to lose? That seems like a damn good time to double down on everything one has stood for. Who cares if one ruffles a few more feathers when they can't do anything to you?

Playing the good little Democratic foot-soldier after 2016 didn't make him more acceptable to the party and made him less acceptable to Democratic primary voters who came close to giving him the nomination in 2016. Why bother even running in 2020 if one had to totally compromise oneself to do so?

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7 users have voted.
TheOtherMaven's picture

@Marie

He could be demoted from everything and forced onto the back bench where he would matter as little as the greenest new electee. And the Duopoly is more than mean enough to do that.

Of course, he could just up and quit and force a special election, but I don't think he's ready to go that far. Yet.

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7 users have voted.

There is no justice. There can be no peace.

@TheOtherMaven then that bit of insider power wouldn't be nothing. Particularly if one has little to no political principles and is young enough that one can work that insider power for a very long time, but never more than a smidgen outside the party 'consensus.' As it is, he made himself look as crazy as the DP Russiagaters and that eroded his electoral political capital prior to his planned second run for the DP nomination. As a back bencher, he would have been in a stronger, not weaker, position for the 2020 run. Did he expect the DP to play nice with him if he conceded to them on their irrational political positions?

Sorry, your analysis doesn't cut it for me. He either cut a deal too good (and too enforceable) to reject or he's losing his marbles.

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2 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

Let’s look at something beautiful and amazing for now.

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11 users have voted.

“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

joe shikspack's picture

@snoopydawg

reverse waterfalls!?! pretty interesting.

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6 users have voted.
lotlizard's picture

@snoopydawg  
that the Pixar movie Up helped raise awareness of.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roraima-tepui

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuken%C3%A1n-tepui

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auy%C3%A1n-tepui

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3 users have voted.

So many things to digest as I read through your great compilation of the news. The story of the electric chair and the first victim an elephant. My book group just read "The Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore. It talked about this electrocution and I was horrified to read this. It also went into great detail about the first victim and how long it took and how many times they tried to execute him. Never have been a fan of the electric chair or other means of executions so this article pretty much summed it up for me.

My heart goes out to the people of Mauritius dealing with this oil spill. Having walked along that waterfront, kayaked in those waters and bicycled around this island, this is such a devastating blow to the people and the economy of that country.

The volunteer work is such an heartening part of the story but would love to see money, personnel and ships to help from the countries responsible for this ship.

Now must head back to the closet where new and amazing things come to light as I am doing some clearing. Back seat of car is filled to go to the Thrift store in the morning. The proceeds of any sales helps with the animal rescue efforts in my community.

Have a good evening all and don't watch too much of the hoopla about the announcement of the vice-presidential pick by Joe Biden.

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9 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

joe shikspack's picture

@jakkalbessie

i've always thought that the imposition of the death penalty was an indication of a barbaric society. nothing i've read about efforts to make it "nicer" has changed my mind about it.

mauritius has appealed to their former colonial overlords, the french, who are sending help as is japan (the flag country of the tanker) which is sending a team of 6 experts to assist.

have a good time cleaning out the closet and have a great evening!

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8 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

@jakkalbessie

Can’t say that he is wrong here. .

Poor Elizabeth Warren. Always runner up for the ball even after she gave up so much of her values.

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12 users have voted.

“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

@snoopydawg was actually running for VP and thought she had it when she graciously suspended her campaign.

Had Liz dropped out after NH and endorsed Sanders, it would have changed the dynamics of the primary and made it much harder to shove Biden though to the nomination. And Bernie would have given the VP slot to Liz if she wanted it.

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8 users have voted.

@Marie @Marie I can't wait until the "Game Change" for 2020 comes out. My personal hunch is Biden wanted Pete or Amy but the establishment wanted Kamala ala Palin in 2008. I feel like Pete was made an offer he couldn't refuse and that took care of him. I think the murder of George Floyd was a convenient out for Amy after she'd been clued in to what was up. So here we are (and Koresh help us).

I agree with you about Warren too. There's no way it would have happened though. I think Warren 100% thought she was a contender. She was a useful idiot for the establishment, but I think she actually believed her own hype too. I don't think she'd settle for a VP slot unless she would be able to outshine the top of the ticket.

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4 users have voted.

The only way Joe Biden is “going to be like FDR” is that he will die in office and leave a shitty vice president as a replacement.

Hey it is biting satire.

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11 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture

@MrWebster

and she's probably almost as honest as nixon, to boot!

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10 users have voted.

@joe shikspack was a well-known crook, but he had a lot of style.

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3 users have voted.
gulfgal98's picture

Duke Ellington was my late father's favorite musician. Daddy described his music as harmonious discord which I find as being the perfect description. The Duke was a musical genius.

I am now in western NC, about 30 miles southwest of Asheville. On Sunday morning at about 8:09 am, there was a 5.1 earthquake near Sparta NC which is near the Virginia border. My niece lives in Charlotte and felt it at her home. One friend who lives in the western part of our county felt it. Another friend who is visiting from Florida and staying to the east of us felt it. But my walking partner and I were finishing up our walk about that time, and neither of us ever felt a thing. Very strange.

I am trying to figure out what the Dems believe that Harris brings to the ticket, other than she is the darling of the donor class. IMO, it is the final FU to what is left of the left wing that Bernie abandoned.

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12 users have voted.

"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

joe shikspack's picture

@gulfgal98

oh, can't you just hear the dem establishment mumbling to each other about a female obama? kamala has that special mixture of melanin, self-righteousness and self-interested moral flexibility that made obama such a great neocon shill.

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15 users have voted.
snoopydawg's picture

@gulfgal98

Kambama had to drop out because of her poor numbers and Biden was getting beat by Pete, Amy and Bernie, but Obama cleared the way for his friend Joe and here we are. This is the perfect ending to one of the most corrupt primaries ever. Harris was always the one that the establishment wanted to be president and now she will.

Taking bets for how long it’ll take for her to be declared president. 1-4 years. I went with 2.

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12 users have voted.

“You know me. Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?” - Joe Biden 8/31/2020

Pricknick's picture

@snoopydawg

Harris was always the one that the establishment wanted to be president and now she will.

She's a turn off to so many I find it highly likely that many will vote for trump or go third party just to avoid her.
I'll buy that for a dollar.

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11 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

@Pricknick I don't think she changes much either way. Or it's a wash between voters this loses and voters this gains. I guess we will see.

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3 users have voted.

The only way Joe Biden is “going to be like FDR” is that he will die in office and leave a shitty vice president as a replacement.

@gulfgal98 And IMO she was cleared to go after Biden because he was the leader of the pack.

For those that remember 2008, this pick could backlash with a certain demographic.

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8 users have voted.
Bollox Ref's picture

should 'Joe' win, we're looking at President Copmala in a couple of years.

Yeah,......no thanks.

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11 users have voted.

Gëzuar!!
from a reasonably stable genius.

joe shikspack's picture

@Bollox Ref

i think the dems and his handlers are probably just hoping that he can keep it together long enough to win the election. after that, they don't really care and will gladly toss off the old husk for a shiny new neocon shill.

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6 users have voted.
mimi's picture

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4 users have voted.

“Trauma is not what happens to you.
Trauma is what happens inside you,
as a result of what happens to you.”
— Dr. Gabor Maté

joe shikspack's picture

@mimi

i hope that the music helps you glue it back together.

take care and have a good evening!

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3 users have voted.