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Established 1973 — Last updated: Saturday, December 3, 2016, 9:22 AM
Aggregated news for a better world
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2013 US total per capita health care spending was $8713, $4589 more per person than in France—acclaimed as having the 'best' healthcare—and $5260 above the OECD average without better results. (Ref. 2011, 2009, 2007, selected 2007 with avg. doctor visits showing we're least cared for for the money, 2003 and 1998.)

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

Congress Nears a Breakthrough on Medical Research Funding [welfare for the most profitable companies in the world]
Lawmakers hail the 21st Century Cures Act as a rare bipartisan compromise to fund public health programs, combat the opioid epidemic, and advance cancer treatment. Elizabeth Warren calls it extortion. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the bill is an enormous giveaway to pharmaceutical companies, a danger to the public, and a legislative license for corporate “fraud,” “bribery,” and “extortion.”

“I know the difference between compromise and extortion,” the Massachusetts Democrat declared in a fiery speech on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Compromise is putting together common-sense health proposals supported by Democrats, by Republicans, and by most of the American people, and passing them into law. Extortion is holding those exact same proposals hostage unless everyone agrees to special favors for campaign donors and giveaways to the richest drug companies in the world.”

Warren delivered her broadside in a last-minute bid to stop legislation that had been barreling toward passage in the waning days of the 114th Congress. The House initially approved the bill last year, and after negotiations produced a compromise with the Senate, the lower chamber overwhelmingly passed a new version late Wednesday afternoon, 392-26. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to send the measure to Obama before Congress recesses next week—if Warren and her allies don’t block it first. A day after her floor speech, Warren sent an urgent fundraising plea headlined “Hijacked” to her sizable donor base. Senator Bernie Sanders quickly joined her effort, issuing a statement of opposition to the bill on the same grounds.

‘Pharma bro’ who hiked the price of Daraprim by 5,000% goes on defensive after year 11 students make same life-saving drug in their school laboratory

....Former hedge fund manager Shkreli last year bought Turing Pharmaceuticals and almost immediately increased the price of the drug – which has been off-patent since the 1970s – from US$13.50 to US$750 a tablet.

The drug is used to treat certain types of malaria as well as toxoplasmosis, a rare and life-threatening infection caused by the Toxoplasma parasite which particularly affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV.

To show how exorbitant Shkreli’s pricing of the drug was, a group of year 11 students aged 16 and 17 from Sydney Grammar aimed to recreate the drug molecule in their school laboratory under the guidance of Dr Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd from the Open Source Malaria consortium.

They succeeded, making the drug for a mere $2 a pill.

Melissa Davey | The Guardian
Magdalena had an abortion after discovering she was pregnant in 2014. Poland, 2016. LAIA ABRIL
Magdalena had an abortion after discovering she was pregnant in 2014. Poland, 2016. LAIA ABRIL

....Across the world, millions of women undergo unsafe abortions each year, and tens of thousands die from complications from unsafe procedures. “On Abortion,” which is featured this month in Apertures On Feminism issue, begins at the Museum of Abortion and Contraception, in Vienna, where Abril found centuries-old soap syringes, fish-bladder condoms, and a glass box filled with long reeds and thorns; they were surgically removed from African women who had used them to abort. Other images show the improvised abortion tools that women described to Abril directly: rat poison, a forty-pound rock, a grapevine stalk, bundles of herbs, a clothes hanger, a steaming-hot bath, a flight of stairs. There’s the letter that a twenty-two-year-old Brazilian woman wrote to her boyfriend before an abortion, in 1928, telling him that she might not survive the procedure. (She did not.) And, from El Salvador, whose abortion ban is one of the strictest in the world, there are the fat, spiral-bound court files of the seventeen women, known as “Las 17,” who, between 1999 and 2011, were accused of having abortions and sentenced to up to forty years in prison on charges of homicide, after they lost their babies in obstetric emergencies. (Two of the women have since been freed on parole; the rest remain in prison.) The only bright colors in the series come from a sheet of Peruvian newspaper ads, selling remedies for “menstrual delay” in glaring yellow, red, and blue. The tiny ads all have the same narrow white block lettering, and pictures of unhappy female faces.

Moira Donegan | The New Yorker
Military and national security experts are sounding the alarm about tens of millions of climate refugees

...."We're going to see refugee problems on an unimaginable scale, potentially above 30 million people," Maj. Gen. Munir Muniruzzaman, chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on climate change and a former military adviser to the president of Bangladesh, told the Guardian.

"Climate change could lead to a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions," added Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, a member of the U.S. State Department's foreign affairs policy board and CEO of the American Security Project. "We're already seeing migration of large numbers of people around the world because of food scarcity, water insecurity, and extreme weather, and this is set to become the new normal."

Such a crisis would serve "as an accelerant of instability," Cheney said—even more so than it has already.

Deirdre Fulton | Common Dreams
The federal and Queensland governments are risking the reef being put on Unesco’s in-danger list with their coal obsession and shoddy progress report

....Earlier this decade, the coal bonanza coming out of Queensland saw proposals for six new or expanded ports and thousands more coal ships, fed by multiple proposed mega mines. It was this industrialisation of the reef with mass dredging and offshore dumping of sludge that first saw the world heritage committee warn Australia that the reef could be placed on the “in-danger” list.

The community and scientists were outraged, and in parliament the Australian Greens moved Senate inquiries and private members’ bills to stop the onslaught the reef was facing. Faced with an international shame listing of “in danger” that would jeopardise this $6bn tourism icon, port proposals were marginally scaled back and both state and federal governments finally backflipped and ended offshore dumping of sludge into the reef’s waters from capital dredging.

The reef was placed on the watch list for in-danger listing and governments said pretty words about doing more to save it.

Then 2016 happened.

Larissa Waters | The Guardian
It’s been a long time coming, but the world’s top powers are now betting billions on the Iter collaboration to deliver clean, safe, limitless energy for the modern world

“We are standing on the ground that could change the future of energy,” says engineer Laurent Pattison, deep in the reactor pit of the world’s biggest nuclear fusion project.

Around him is a vast construction site, all aimed at creating temperatures of 150mC on this spot and finally bringing the power of the sun down to Earth. The €18bn (£14.3bn) Iter project, now rising fast from the ground under the bright blue skies of Provence, France, is the first capable of achieving a critical breakthrough: getting more energy out of the intense fusion reactions than is put in.

“It is a bet that is very important for humanity,” says Johannes Schwemmer, the director of Fusion for Energy, the EU partner in the international Iter collaboration. “We need to get this energy once and for all.”

Damian Carrington | The Guardian
Greg Clark welcomes 700-job factory, which will produce hundreds of 75m-long blades a year for a new generation of offshore windfarms

....“In the coming years the new offshore wind projects that this factory will supply could generate enough clean electricity to power over 3m homes and businesses – all with wind turbine blades produced by the dedicated and highly skilled Siemens workforce right here in Hull,” said Greg Clark, the energy secretary.

Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
The sheer number of incidents involving America’s fossil fuel infrastructure suggests environmental concerns should go beyond Standing Rock.

....Environmentalists point to a lack of adequate state and federal regulation and the difficulties of maintaining millions of miles of aging pipeline infrastructure in their warnings about the dangers of spills, fires, and other accidents. And data from the federal government suggests such concerns should be taken seriously. Over the last twenty years, more than 9,000 significant pipeline-related incidents have taken place nationwide, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The accidents have resulted in 548 deaths, 2,576 injuries, and over $8.5 billion in financial damages. (Not counted in this total are thousands of less “significant" pipeline-related malfunctions.)


dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | Ref.
What Trump Really Means When He Talks About "Government Schools" [stupid is as stupid does: private prisons worked so badly, they want to privatize schools too]
The origins of the Overton window and the coming war on public education.
GEORGE JOSEPH | Mother Jones

In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
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....LAWRENCE LESSIG: Well, as I—as you described in summarizing the op-ed, the framers meant for the electors to exercise judgment. And it’s a judgment which is really asking the question: Should we overrule what the people have done? Now, there are some cases where I think they plainly should overrule what the people have done. For example, if a candidate is a crazy person or if it turns out not to be qualified or is a criminal, those would be good reasons to overrule what the people have done. But in this case, there’s no reason for the electors to overrule the popular choice. The popular choice, by more than 2 million votes, is a completely qualified candidate for president. And the principle, that should be a fundamental principle in our democracy, the principle of "one person, one vote," says that the vote of every American should count equally. And if it does, Hillary Clinton should be the president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN interviews LAWRENCE LESSIG | DemocracyNow
We need a president who can stand up to big corporations, not fold to their demands.

....Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren’t thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be re-evaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.

Bernie Sanders | Common Dreams

How did Trump do it? Part of the answer is simple: with Indiana tax dollars. His running mate, Vice President–elect Mike Pence, is still the governor of the state, which reportedly offered incentives as part of the deal.

But that’s not the way you’d have read about the story in most headlines or even in the New York Times, which lauded Trump as “a different kind of Republican, willing to take on big business.” “And just as only a confirmed anti-Communist like Richard Nixon could go to China,” the reporter continued, “so only a businessman like Mr. Trump could take on corporate America without being called a Bernie Sanders-style socialist.” The paper makes it sound as if, liberated by his entrepreneurial reputation, Trump was able to stick it to the fatcats at Carrier.

The truth is that instead of busting up a system that encourages companies to threaten relocation in exchange for big public subsidies, Trump has reinforced it.

Henry Grabar | Slate
Steven Mnuchin's OneWest filed to take a 90-year-old woman's house after a 27-cent payment error.

....“We’re just coming out of a foreclosure crisis and a serious economic downturn. It’s not the time to appoint someone who sided with corporate America over real people,” said Alys Cohen, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. “Mr. Mnuchin comes from Wall Street and has served monied interests over homeowners.”

Ultimately, Mnuchin’s story, like the housing collapse, doesn’t fit into a simple narrative. While earning the ire of consumer advocates, Mnuchin also brings an understanding of the global mortgage market that Trump will need to complete the unfinished business of the housing recovery. Inside the Beltway, some are cheering his appointment.

....While consumer advocates fight OneWest in the trenches, some inside the Beltway see a glimmer of hope in Mnuchin, an expert in mortgage bonds and structured finance. They say he has the technical know-how to fix mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a job Congress and the Obama administration have avoided. Wednesday, he vowed to move quickly on that unfinished business.

Self-inflicted wounds, an out-of-touch candidate and a party more concerned about Wall Street than the working class sealed the Clinton campaign’s defeat.
What we saw was gross political malpractice on the part of Democratic Party elites generally and Team Clinton specifically.

In the aftermath of a political catastrophe as devastating of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, you've got two choices. You can blame the elites or blame the people. I'm gonna go with the elites.

Noting that more Americans voted for Democrats, the senator says her party has a mandate to resist Trumpism.

....If any mandate was delivered on November 8, it was a charge to Congress to reject a rigged economic system in which corporate special interests call the shots. “[There] is one thing that Americans are not divided on—one issue [where] they sent a message loud and clear,” Warren told the Senate. “According to exit polls, 70 percent of voters said they think that the American economy and the lawmakers who oversee it are owned—owned!—by big companies and special interests. That’s 70 percent of everybody: Republicans, Democrats, independents.”

John Nichols | Common Dreams

....In the nineteen-twenties, when radio was as new and vastly influential as the Internet is today, the United States decided not to create a government-funded news network like the British Broadcasting Corporation, but instead to turn broadcasting over to private industry and to regulate it heavily. The American news world that many people are nostalgic for had only three networks, which were required to speak in a nonpartisan voice and to do money-losing public-service journalism in return for the renewal of their valuable government licenses. That world disappeared when Ronald Reagan deregulated broadcasting, in the nineteen-eighties. When cable television and the Internet came along, they were structured on the more libertarian idea that everybody should have a voice and everybody should have free access to all forms of information, including misinformation. It shouldn’t be surprising that a lot of people, both creators and consumers of journalism, prefer fake news to real news.

So what should we do about journalism’s role in non-reality-based politics? The easy part—which won’t be all that easy, because of the current economic troubles of journalism—is to expand the real-news ecosystem as much as possible, by training people in how to do that work and by strengthening the institutions that will publish and broadcast it. (Along with this goes enhancing the smaller ecosystem for correcting fake news:, PolitiFact,, and so on.) The hard part is figuring out what to do about the proliferation and influence of fake news. It’s a sign of our anti-government times that the solution proposed most often is that Facebook should regulate it. Think about what that means: one relatively new private company, which isn’t in journalism, has become the dominant provider of journalism to the public, and the only way people can think of to address what they see as a terrifying crisis in politics and public life is to ask the company’s billionaire C.E.O. to fix it.

Nicholas Lemann | The New Yorker
With fake online news dominating discussions after the US election, Guardian correspondents explain how it is distorting politics around the world
Kate Connolly, Angelique Chrisafis, Poppy McPherson, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Benjamin Haas , Dominic Phillips, and Elle Hunt | The Guardian
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
We can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it

....Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

....We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it. Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.

With not only jobs but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so. If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to encourage global development, as that is the only way that the migratory millions will be persuaded to seek their future at home.

We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.

Opinion: Stephen Hawking | The Guardian
François Hollande’s announcement that he will not seek re-election opens the field up. Here are some runners and riders
Angelique Chrisafis | The Guardian
From London to Lagos, cities across the world are reacting to the rise in begging with a variety of often controversial measures. But what is the right response to this complicated human story – from cities and residents alike?

According to the latest surveys, there are now more than 400,000 beggars in India, of which around 46% are female. Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka alone is thought to contain 40,000.

For other cities, however, begging is a much more recent, if growing, phenomenon – and often a controversial one. While the reasons for this global rise are complex, the responses to the issue vary both in their severity and their success rates.

In the US, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty views begging as “a very basic form of speech, asking your fellow human beings for help when you’re in a desperate situation ... It deserves, as much as any other speech, to be protected.” Yet its study of 187 US cities last year found that 76% prohibit begging in specific public places, while 24% impose city-wide bans.

....Other progressive cities are seeking more sustainable solutions, attempting to address the underlying causes and injustices that force many to beg. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, paid work is offered to people who beg. Under Mayor Richard Berry’s There’s a Better Way programme, a van is dispatched around the city daily to pick up panhandlers who are interested in working, paying them $9 an hour to pick litter or weed flowerbeds. At the end of their shift, people are offered overnight shelter.

Ian Wylie | The Guardian

We do not yet know the policy of the next administration toward Israel and Palestine, but we do know the policy of this administration. It has been President Obama’s aim to support a negotiated end to the conflict based on two states, living side by side in peace.

That prospect is now in grave doubt. I am convinced that the United States can still shape the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before a change in presidents, but time is very short. The simple but vital step this administration must take before its term expires on Jan. 20 is to grant American diplomatic recognition to the state of Palestine, as 137 countries have already done, and help it achieve full United Nations membership.

JIMMY CARTER Op-Ed | The New York Times
European Parliament President Martin Schulz announced this week that he is moving to Berlin to assume a role on the national political stage. Many believe he would make a strong contender for chancellor for the center-left Social Democrats. But one man stands in his way -- a friend.
Markus Feldenkirchen and Horand Knaup | Der Spiegel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced her intention to run for a fourth term. But it is unclear whether she is the right leader to confront the immense challenges facing the country. No less than liberal democracy is at stake.
Comment: Dirk Kurbjuweit | Der Spiegel
Germany's current account surplus is higher than ever before and the country is concerned that it could become a target of US president-elect Donald Trump's ire as a result. Berlin is already making preparations for the possible conflict.
Christian Reiermann | Der Spiegel
Polish women, faced with a proposed law that further restricted abortions, organised huge protests to challenge it. But their reproductive rights are still at risk.
Audrey Lebel | Le Monde diplomatique
Nationalism and a fantasy of a medieval, tribal past are now both popular culture and politics in Hungary. They’re anti-western, anti-capitalism and, surprisingly, supported by the young.
Evelyne Pieiller | Le Monde diplomatique
Tatiana Navka wears striped uniform with yellow six-pointed star for dance routine on Russian TV show Ice Age
Alec Luhn | The Guardian
Amid a 10-year crackdown on cartels, the drug trade continues and factions have splintered – leaving Sinaloa and CJNG facing off in Colima state

Manzanillo and the surrounding state of Colima were once best known for their black sand beaches, lime groves and a smoldering volcano that erupts every century or so.

But over the past year, the region has claimed a new title: murder capital of Mexico. According to federal figures, Colima registered 434 homicides in the first nine months of 2016 – a huge number in a population of just 700,000.

Local officials blame the killings on outsiders or describe it as score-settling between petty criminals.

But analysts of the drug war say the violence is part of a nationwide realignment of organized crime – and a bitter struggle to control the port of Manzanillo, one of the biggest on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

David Agren | The Guardian
Britons could pay for EU citizenship after Brexit, says top negotiator [Let's get rid of nation states and allow everyone to be Earth Union (EU) citizens instead!]
Brexit negotiator said he ‘supported the principle’ behind UK citizens keeping their EU rights by paying an annual fee
Press Association | The Guardian
How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) This tax-shelter system using deregulation loopholes in many tax-havens enables vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine

All told, economic growth under Democratic presidents over the last half-century has been 25 percent faster than under Republicans. Private-sector job growth has been more than twice as fast. Republicans even have a worse record running up the deficit. (These comparisons hold no matter when precisely you start the clock on a president’s legacy.)

....There are reasons that the modern version of Republican economics hasn’t worked so well. It takes the powerful ideas behind market-based capitalism to an extreme, where they often stop working.

Cutting taxes for the affluent — who have received both the largest pretax raises in recent decades and the largest tax cuts — doesn’t stimulate growth much anymore. Allowing corporate America to write its own regulations creates more problems than it solves. You may recall that the recent housing crisis wasn’t so great for G.D.P. growth.

This reality creates a fascinating choice for Donald Trump. He won the presidency by trashing both political parties. He defied Republican orthodoxy and praised government programs. He memorably dismissed his primary opponents as “low-energy” Jeb, Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco.

Doing so allowed him to win a landslide of white working-class voters frustrated with their own lives, the country’s direction and both parties. These voters, by no means libertarians, saw Trump as flawed yet willing to fight for them.

Now that he’s won, he has to decide whether his differences with the Republican establishment are more stylistic than substantive. On the issues with the biggest impact on working-class lives, he will need to choose between pursuing the policies of a traditional Republican president and creating something new. In effect, he’ll have to decide whether he is going to be his own president or a bigger version of Little Marco.

David Leonhardt Op-Ed | The New York Times
Right response is to focus on the financial sector and inequality

....The correct course of action would be to stop insulting voters and, more importantly, to solve the problems of an out-of-control financial sector, uncontrolled flows of people and capital, and unequal income distribution. In the eurozone, political leaders found it expedient to muddle through the banking crisis and then a sovereign debt crisis — only to find Greek debt is unsustainable and the Italian banking system is in serious trouble. Eight years on, there are still investors out there betting on a collapse of the eurozone as we know it.

Wolfgang Münchau | The Financial Times
Popping the champagne corks.
If you put taxpayer money into education or infrastructure, you lay the foundations for further growth. If you spend money on an F-35 fighter plane, you get...well, an overpriced F-35.

....Trump is likely to turn to deficit spending on a grand scale, which will undoubtedly exacerbate divisions among congressional Republicans and cause potentially serious pushback from the Party's deficit hawks. On the other hand, his desire to lift current caps on Pentagon spending without a corresponding increase in domestic expenditures could generate significant opposition from Senate Democrats, who might use current Senate rules to block consideration of any unbalanced spending proposals.

....At present, with its proposals for steep military spending increases and deep tax cuts, Trump's budget plan looks like Reaganomics on steroids. A Democratic Congress and citizens' movements like the nuclear freeze campaign managed to blunt Reagan's most extreme policy proposals. The next few years will determine what happens with Mr. Trump's own exercise in fantasy budgeting.

WILLIAM D. HARTUNG / TomDispatch | Mother Jones

The vote for Donald Trump may well have been what Michael Moore called the ‘biggest fuck-you ever recorded in human history’, delivered by the white working class to spite ‘the establishment’. But it isn’t just the size of the fuck-you that matters; it’s also who delivers it. A fuck-you can be sent via satirical parties (Iceland’s Best Party won the election for mayor of Reykjavik; Hungary’s Two-Tailed Dog Party had a hand in sabotaging Viktor Orbán’s recent anti-refugee referendum), or subversive parties (the Pirates), or grassroots movements turned parties (Podemos). Or it can be delivered by populists.

What defines a populist? Not everyone who criticises elites is a populist. Those who draw a lazy equivalence between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump fail to recognise that populists don’t stop at protesting against Wall Street or ‘globalism’. Rather, populists claim that they and they alone speak in the name of what they tend to call the ‘real people’ or the ‘silent majority’. This claim to a moral monopoly of representation has two consequences that are immediately deleterious for democracy. Populists accuse all other political contenders of being illegitimate. They do not talk in terms of disagreement over policy, which in a democracy is the very point of politics – presenting citizens with options, not just competing on competence and qualifications. Instead, they make it personal: their opponents must be crooked and corrupt. Trump is extreme in this regard, but not exceptional. The unusual thing is the degree to which his followers took his assaults on Hillary Clinton’s character literally. Not just the hateful chants of ‘Lock her up,’ but the fact that, according to one poll, 40 per cent of his supporters in Florida agreed with the statement that Clinton was literally a demon. It says something about the 2016 campaign that such a question could ever make it into a respectable survey. It did so after the right-wing talk radio host Alex Jones put out a new piece of ‘information’ on his website, InfoWars: both Clinton and Obama, he said, had actually emerged from hell; get close enough to them, and you could smell sulphur.

Jan-Werner Müller | London Review of Books


The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
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