Saturday, December 31, 2016

Matt Taibbi -- Something About This Russia Story Stinks - Rolling Stone

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d'etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy.

But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.... Taibbi
Hell, I'm suspicious of the Russian hacking story the way Obama has been presenting it.  Just look at recent history:
Nearly a decade and a half after the Iraq-WMD faceplant, the American press is again asked to co-sign a dubious intelligence assessment.... an Economist/YouGov poll conducted this month shows that 50 percent of all Clinton voters believe the Russians hacked vote tallies. This number is nearly as disturbing as the 62 percent of Trump voters who believe the preposterous, un-sourced Trump/Alex Jones contention that "millions" of undocumented immigrants voted in the election.

-----Something About This Russia Story Stinks - Rolling Stone
Taibbi has no qualms in believing Putin was capable of doing it.
We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won't hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they'll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.

I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He's gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything. And Donald Trump, too, was swine enough during the campaign to publicly hope the Russians would disclose Hillary Clinton's emails. So a lot of this is very believable.
I posted this comment on FB on Trump and Putin:
...there are elements in his position that make sense. Is it better to go to war on Russia which has outflanked Obama continuously? I am more comfortable at this point with his position than Obama's -- they hacked us in the election while our history is assassinating to interfere in elections? Annexing Crimea given the political realities of that area and the history - remember the Crimean War? The key will be weather Putin is emboldened to go after former states like Latvia, Estonia etc -- that is where the test will be - and both parties will line up to push back against Trump - which is interesting given the left will push back against both the Dems and Rep. This is what makes politics right now better than sports.
Michael Fiorillo posted the Taibbi story with this comment:
Go on Dems, keep harping about how Pooty-Poo "hacked" the election: after all. there are a few governorships and state legislatures the Republicans don't control yet...

Arendt on totalitarianism Tells an Apt story for Current Times

[In the 1930s] Large numbers of people felt dispossessed, disenfranchised, disconnected from dominant social institutions. The political party system, and parliamentary government more generally, were regarded as corrupt and oligarchic. Such an environment was fertile ground for a “mob mentality,” in which outsiders — Jews, Roma, Slavs, gays, “cosmopolitan intellectuals” — could be scapegoated and a savior could be craved:  ---- How Hannah Arendt’s classic work on totalitarianism illuminates today’s America
An interesting piece on Hannah Arendt and the roots of totalitarianism. [Read about her life on wiki]. I've enjoyed reading some of the Washington Post Monkey Cage pieces. I've been tracking issues related to the rise of totalitarianism in Europe between the wars since many people think we are on the verge, not only here in the US, but around the world, especially in Europe. It doesn't all happen at once - look at Germany around 1928 and what happens 5 years later.

The day after the election my wife and I started looking at safe places to stash some money. Call it hysteria but as a student of history you look for early warning signs. Read these excerpts and then go read the entire piece and tell me there are no signs right here, right now. And truly, is there really going to be a safe place?
I'm binge watching "The Man in the High Castle" on Amazon - a perfect piece for the paranoid.

Alienation and political extremism
A subtheme of “Origins” is that by the 1930s, there was throughout Europe a generalized crisis of legitimacy. Large numbers of people felt dispossessed, disenfranchised, disconnected from dominant social institutions. The political party system, and parliamentary government more generally, were regarded as corrupt and oligarchic. Such an environment was fertile ground for a “mob mentality,” in which outsiders — Jews, Roma, Slavs, gays, “cosmopolitan intellectuals” — could be scapegoated and a savior could be craved: “The mob always will shout for ‘the strong man,’ the ‘great leader.’ For the mob hates the society from which it is excluded, as well as Parliament where it is not represented.”

And a society suffused with resentment, according to Arendt, is ripe for manipulation by the propaganda of sensationalist demagogues: “What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part . . . Totalitarian propaganda thrives on this escape from reality into fiction . . . [and] can outrageously insult common sense only where common sense has lost its validity.” Cynicism. Contempt for truth. Appeal to the craving of the masses for simple stories of malevolent conspiracy. Stephen K. Bannon of Breitbart News may not have read “Origins,” but it is clear he has taken a page from the movements Arendt analyzes.

A crisis of political representation
In modern mass democracies, political parties serve an essential role in structuring competitive elections and linking citizens to government. According to Arendt, a central condition of the rise of totalitarianism was a crisis in the functioning and the legitimacy of party politics and of parliamentary government:

“The success of totalitarian movements among the masses meant the end of two illusions of democratically ruled countries in general and of European nation-states and their party system in particular. The first was that the people in its majority had taken an active part in government, and that each individual was in sympathy with one’s own or somebody else’s party . . . The second . . . was that these politically indifferent masses did not matter, that they were truly neutral and constituted no more than the inarticulate backward setting for the political life of the nation.”

In short, voters freed from conventional partisan attachments were swayed by anti-system movements, parties and leaders, who promised something new and different and whose appeal lay mainly in the very fact that they were new and different. Such appeals can be politically energizing. But by propelling such anti-system movements to political power, these appeals to novelty for its own sake can justify a kind of dictatorial exercise of power unrestrained by legal precedents, parliamentary procedures, or constitutional limits.

“The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man”
One the most brilliant features of “Origins” is the way it charts the interconnection of “domestic” and “global” origins of totalitarianism, in particular the role of World War I in exposing the limits of national sovereignty, creating a refugee crisis of epic proportions and putting the lie to established norms of “the rights of man.”

“Before totalitarian politics consciously attacked and partially destroyed the very structure of European civilization, the explosion of 1914 and its severe consequences of instability had sufficiently shattered the facade of Europe’s political system to lay bare its hidden frame. Such visible exposures were the sufferings of more and more groups of people to whom suddenly the rules of the world around them had ceased to apply.”

Among these groups were not only “the dispossessed middle classes, the unemployed, the small rentiers, the pensioners,” but also stateless refugees (“displaced persons”) and ethnic minorities, who became isolated, scapegoated, and deprived of legal recognition except as “problems” to be regulated, interned or expelled.

The more powerless the individual nation-states were to deal with the challenges before them, the greater the temptation was to close ranks and to close borders. Peoples made superfluous by the consequences of the war were rendered superfluous in a legal and political sense; an atmosphere of suspicion and lawlessness spread; and “the very phrase ‘human rights’ became for all concerned — victims, persecutors, onlookers alike — the evidence of hopeless idealism or fumbling feebleminded hypocrisy.” Thus was laid the foundation for the concentration camps and death camps to follow.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cornel West and the Struggle Between Sanderistas and Clintonistas - Jacobin

There is a lot of depth to this Jacobin piece on the assaults on Bernie and the Jill Stein supporter Cornel West, once a darling of Dem Party apparatchiks for his daring to call out Obama and Clinton on their neo-liberalism.
The Obama years have been a boon to the salaried intellectual class of all races, but lean times for the working-class constituents whose needs, hopes, and desires the black intellectual class vies to interpret for white audiences. What is the role of the black public intellectual when the discourse of “race relations” is now perhaps the liberal class’s preferred way — some would say only way — of talking about our never-ending barrage of social injustices?....
Earlier in the primary season, during an interview on the Real News Network, West directly called out the black elite — whom he calls “the lumpenbourgeoisie” — for abandoning “the black prophetic tradition” for “individual upward mobility” and the “formation of the black professional class.” As he put it, “Black folk for the most part became just extensions of a milquetoast neoliberal Democratic Party.
Some more excerpts:
cultural studies jargon, meritocratic appeals, and subtle free-market apologetics.....
At the height of Sanders-mania, while Dyson, Walsh, and Capehart were delivering cringeworthy apologetics for Clinton, West was working with the Sanders campaign in the South, touring black churches and colleges in support of the social-democratic political revolution. In more than a few of these events, he sat alongside Adolph Reed, the man who had written a classic excoriation of both West and Dyson and their entire field of “black public intellectuals.”...
the brokerage model of politics that the Democratic Party has so heavily relied on for years to enact an agenda that is increasingly at odds with the material needs of most black voters....
And the full piece below the break and feel free to donate to Jacobin if you get there.

Marcella Sills' petition to get job back tossed by judge - NY Post

PS 106 was dubbed the “School of No” after the Post’s articles on its culture of student deprivation and administrative incompetence.
The campus had no Common Core textbooks, no physical-education or art classes, no proper nurse’s office and no special-education staffers. Instead of actual instruction, kids were herded into the school auditorium where they “watched more movies than Siskel and Ebert,” a whistleblower told The Post at the time... NY Post
Ed Notes did a number of pieces on Marcella Sills years before the Post ever touched the story. A few recent ones:

Ed Notes Online: PS 106 Update: Retired Teacher Writes to Farina
Jan 17, 2014 ... PS 106 Update: Retired Teacher Writes to Farina About Principal Marcella Sills' Leadership. When will Farina end the misery? If this were ...

Of course the Post doesn't mention that Sills treated her staff like crap -- a friend of mine after a decade at the school took early retirement rather than work one more day under Sills. It was she who sent out this article with the comment: Finally.

Did I say that the local UFT structure did nothing to support the teachers?

Fired ‘School of No’ principal has petition to get job back tossed by judge

A judge has tossed out the reinstatement petition of a former Queens principal axed for being chronically tardy — because she filed it late.

Marcella Sills was removed from PS 106 in Far Rockaway by Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in 2014, after a series of Post exposés.

While Sills’ students went without basic supplies or instruction, the administrator was cited for being late 178 times between September 2012 and January 2014.

Despite that, Sills sought to reverse her sacking, arguing in court papers that there was no established start and end time for city principals.

Lateness, she contended, was in the eye of the beholder.
But a Manhattan judge reminded her this week that timeliness is not negotiable when it comes to the court system.

Sills, who earned $128,000 a year, was officially fired from the Department of Education on Jan. 22 of this year, after an administrative hearing, and had 10 days to submit her petition. But, true to form, she took her time. “Petitioner commenced this proceeding on April 19, 2016, over two months after the 10-day limitations period had expired, and this proceeding is time-barred,” wrote Manhattan Judge Manuel Mendez in junking her petition.
After a recitation of her offenses, Mendez slammed the door on her DOE career.
“This proceeding is dismissed,” he wrote.
Sills worked for the DOE for roughly 16 years and was appointed principal at PS 106 in 2005.

But she was ultimately buried under a total of 15 charges for offenses committed during the 2013 and 2014 school years.
In addition to her perennially busted alarm clock, Sills was cited for hindering the investigation against her and for having “subjected the NYCDOE to widespread negative publicity, ridicule and notoriety” and misusing her position “for personal benefit,” according to Mendez’s ruling.

After a 22-day hearing, an arbitrator found her conduct “too extreme to support any penalty other than discharge.”
PS 106 was dubbed the “School of No” after the Post’s articles on its culture of student deprivation and administrative incompetence.
The campus had no Common Core textbooks, no physical-education or art classes, no proper nurse’s office and no special-education staffers.

Instead of actual instruction, kids were herded into the school auditorium where they “watched more movies than Siskel and Ebert,” a whistleblower told The Post at the time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fred Smith's Annual "Night Before Christmas"

Fred brightens up everyone with his good cheer

Christmas Eve 2016

This night before Christmas I have trouble rhyming.
What’s been flying around has thrown off my timing.

At this gay time of year, I much want to summon
A few lines of good cheer. They just aren’t comin’.

Tried scanning a few words ‘bout jolly old St. Nick.
But someone stole his sleigh and the ride made me sick.

A cheater seized the reins. He’s the Anti-Santa,
Bringing coal now, not joy. Let’s call him the Ranter.

And what he says and does have given me great pause.
From what I can see, he’s an insanity Claus:

“I’ll put MY NAME in Christmas, make it great again;
I will fly across the sky, Savior of rich men;

Change the colors of the day, removing the red,
Keep the green aflowing, and adding gold instead;

Each day will be White Christmas in my wonderland;
Everyone will bow to me and will understand:

How far better it is to receive and not give
In my grabby, take-all world, where the elite live.

The measure of a man is the reach of his wealth,
Not the size of his hands, but his cunning and stealth.”

With such values and views spewing forth from his mouth,
He polluted the globe from the North to the South.

He smiled when his jet sled alighted in Russia,
But scowled when the GPS couldn’t find Prussia.

Africa and Asia, too, he went shooting past,
For he knew his secret was to keep moving fast.

He frowned o’er Muslim lands all of whom love ISIS;
Remembered he had some plan to end that crisis.

Looked down on Latino friends, but then most of all,
Squinted over Mexico, wherefore to build the wall.

Immigrants were off his list on this Christmas Eve;
Much to do in the states, many left to deceive.

(But thank heavens, his travels were not being led
By a mule named Rudolph with a face ever red.)

Next, he tweeted his team of transitional elves,
Telling them to take back gifts from everyone’s shelves.

Reminding them the world exists to exploit and steal.
“And never forget the fact this is my New Deal.”

What he meant was contained in his strange gift sack—
Rich bundles for the few who have nothing they lack.

Each elf he chose had done things dubious at best.
But those very things it seems made them pass his test.

One or more had engaged boldly and without fear
Re fossil fuels, private schools, poisoning the air;

Unions, worker safety, predatory lending;
Capping minimum wages but not defense spending.

Anti-civil rights, voting rights and immigration;
All elves pledge fealty to deregulation.

Challenge this Santa’s wish list—it will come to naught.
Do you think you’ll get relief taking him to court?


But I have faith, Virginia, Santa will return.
You cannot highjack goodness, the Ranter will learn.

Though this imposter now appears to command the sky
His comeuppance will be swift in the by and by.

Scripture shows men fail building hubristic towers;
Falling to confusion wrought by higher powers.

Just as Midas’s golden dream turned into grief,
So, he’ll see the meek prevail to his disbelief.

Soon Dear Santa will be our north star in the night.
You can still hear him roar, though he’s not now in sight.
Yet his warmth and kindness shall always be our light.
“Merry Christmas to all! And don’t give up the fight!!”

~fred smith

Monday, December 26, 2016

WAPO: Here’s the real reason Rust Belt cities and towns voted for Trump

Another interesting piece from the WAPO Monkey Page which I am subscribing to.

Here’s the real reason Rust Belt cities and towns voted for Trump
By Josh Pacewicz

Donald Trump won the 2016 election largely because he carried Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, doing especially well in small cities and towns.

That’s a surprise. Until this election, this group of voters had not followed other regions’ rural, uneducated whites in moving Republican.

In overwhelmingly white Iowa, for example, Barack Obama swept the industrial corridor in 2008, winning 53 of the state’s 99 counties and some factory towns by almost 2 to 1. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost all but six Iowa counties, getting more than 52 percent of the vote only in the county that is home to the state’s biggest college town.

Many commentators argue that Rust Belters responded to Trump’s populist message because industrial decline has left working-class voters angry about their diminished prospects — a narrative contradicted by polls, which suggest that Trump’s supporters were mostly middle-income earners.

My research suggests that Rust Belt populism is rooted in the region’s loss of locally owned industry — not simply because of economics but because of how that loss hollowed out the community structure that once connected people to politics, leaving residents alienated and resentful.

Here’s how Rust Belt politics used to function
Beginning in 2006, I spent several years studying two Rust Belt cities in Iowa, interviewing more than 100 voters during the 2008 and 2012 elections. Like many sociologists who study elections, I was especially interested in how voters’ environment shapes the pre-rational heuristics, intuitions and deep stories they use to reason about politics.
Before the 1980s, Rust Belt cities’ economies were anchored by large unionized industries. Two groups defined local politics: factory owners and labor union leaders. Business owners and labor leaders clashed over workplace relations, maintained competing charities and called on voters to support either “labor” or “chamber” politicians for city council. During federal elections, associations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Labor Council were key to, respectively, Republican and Democratic efforts to get out the vote.

The older Rust Belters I interviewed used this community cleavage to make sense of politics. They overwhelmingly identified as working-class Democrats or (less commonly) business-class Republicans. When talking politics, they saw partisanship in their occupations, ways of spending leisure time and even neighborhoods. Houses in floodplains were Democratic, whereas hilltop areas belonged to Republican “old families who tried to run this town.”

“I’m a lifelong Democrat. They look out for the working person first,” one elderly woman told me. “The rich got too much … all their own this and that [and] don’t need somebody looking out for them. When I grew up, the whole family would get together any time a holiday come up … go down to the lake, all eat together. The Democrats are more for that idea.”

Of course, older Rust Belters cared about many issues, but they viewed them though a cognitive filter that focused their attention on class, directing political frustrations at wealthy Republicans. In 2008 and 2012, this frame was reinforced by campaign rhetoric (recall John McCain’s inability to remember how many houses he owned, or Mitt Romney’s comments about the “47 percent“). I spoke with voters who initially expressed racism toward Obama but later backed him as a working-class champion.

Those local Rust Belt moderates disappeared, replaced by corporate interests and hardcore ideologues
But the Rust Belt of feuding Democratic unionists and Republican business owners is gone; those voters who remember it are dying.
In the 1980s, the Rust Belt was ravaged by the manufacturing crisis and the century’s largest merger movement, the latter a product of financial deregulation. These caused job losses and personal suffering, yes, but they also robbed cities of their locally owned industries and therefore their business and labor leaders.

This shift also left communities vulnerable to the whims of corporate subsidiaries and state and nonprofit grant-making agencies, often communities’ only way to find discretionary funding after Congress rolled back generous urban policies during the Reagan era.

By the 2000s, the Rust Belt’s community leaders were entirely focused on economic development partnerships. They saw statecraft as a technical affair and focused on building coalitions to secure grants, woo corporate subsidiaries (frequently with public subsidies) and create cultural amenities — art walks, music festivals and farmers markets — that would attract young professionals and therefore corporate interest in their cities’ workforces.

This grass-roots shift toward post-partisan place marketing was important. For starters, it paradoxically fueled political extremism in national politics. As community leaders shifted from fighting one another to collaborating on economic development, they left grass-roots parties in the hands of ideological activists. The local GOP, for example, that had once been a Chamber of Commerce surrogate — and therefore a moderately pro-business party — became instead a vehicle for those championing issues such as abortion, guns and anti-immigrant views.

What’s more, community leaders’ embrace of economic development alienated many voters, sowing the seeds of populism. Many voters resented what they saw as a lack of recognition by local elites, who — unlike traditional labor or business leaders — seemed aloof, focused outward.

Instead of seeing politics as a contest between working people and the business class, many voters seethed with undirected populist resentment at a technocratic, corporate-friendly elite. Anticipating Trump, many felt culturally and politically invisible and hoped for a shake-up. As one man told me in 2008:
I think it’s crap. We got a lot more retail [and cultural amenities, but] these things don’t appeal to your average person. . . . We used to have factory jobs, but people had to settle for Walmart. We got businesses coming in with their money and saying, “Your city wants it!” That’s not democracy — that’s communism. [But our leaders] don’t give a s— about what happens. We need to tear things down and take them back to where they used to be.
After Trump’s Rust Belt victory, many Democrats have asked what policies can recapture disaffected working-class whites. But Rust Belt populism is partially rooted in community changes that do not necessarily matter to the economically destitute.

Democrats who hope to regain the Rust Belt might also consider policies that make a difference at the level of the local community: federal regulations that prevent corporations from playing cities against one another, or discretionary urban funding that allows small cities to chart their own courses to economic sustainability.

Josh Pacewicz is an assistant professor at Brown University and the author of “Partisans and Partners: the Politics of the Post-Keynesian Society.”

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Must Read - NYTimes: How the Obama Coalition Crumbled, Leaving an Opening for Trump

The 2016 Race

How the Obama Coalition Crumbled, Leaving an Opening for Trump

New demographic estimates for the election, and a look at how the key alliance of Northern white voters and black voters shrank for Hillary Clinton.
It is entirely possible, as many have argued, that Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect of the United States if the F.B.I. director, James Comey, had not sent a letter to Congress about her emails in the last weeks of the campaign.
But the electoral trends that put Donald J. Trump within striking distance of victory were clear long before Mr. Comey sent his letter. They were clear before WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee. They were even clear back in early July, before Mr. Comey excoriated Mrs. Clinton for using a private email server.
It was clear from the start that Mrs. Clinton was struggling to reassemble the Obama coalition.

I loved this election analysis by Nate Cohn which differs from some of the earlier post-election data. It is a good corolarry to this recent post: Team Bernie: Hillary ‘F*cking Ignored’ Us in Swing...
It shows that there were so many Trump voters who had voted for Obama plus others who were Bernie people. But it also shows that despite winning 92% of the black people who voted, the loss of black votes, particularly from the young, was a crippling factor in the battle ground states. I'm including the entire article but without the interesting graphics - so check it out on the Times site.
At every point of the race, Mr. Trump was doing better among white voters without a college degree than Mitt Romney did in 2012 — by a wide margin. Mrs. Clinton was also not matching Mr. Obama’s support among black voters.
This was the core of the Obama coalition: an alliance between black voters and Northern white voters, from Mr. Obama’s first win in the 2008 Iowa caucuses to his final sprint across the so-called Midwestern Firewall states where he staked his 2012 re-election bid.
In 2016, the Obama coalition crumbled and so did the Midwestern Firewall.

This spells bad news for the Democrats going forward. In the next session Nate Cohn shows how the Obama coalition didn't hold up - and really, how could it? Did we expect the same number of black people to vote for Hillary as voted for Obama?

The Obama Coalition Falters

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Sure, Let's Keep Trusting the CIA

Mr. Nixon, the first C.I.A. officer to interrogate Hussein after his capture in December 2003, reveals gobsmacking facts about that deposed Iraqi leader that raise new questions about why the United States bothered to invade Iraq to oust him from power. These details will likely appall Americans who have watched their nation’s blood and treasure wasted in Iraq ever since.
More broadly, Mr. Nixon offers a stinging indictment of the C.I.A. and what he sees as the agency’s dysfunctional process for providing intelligence to the president and other policy makers. The agency, he writes, is so eager to please the president — any president — that it will almost always give him the answers he wants to hear.... NY Times review
This was a review of what seems to be a fascinating book by a former CIA agent, John Nixon (no relation as far as I can tell). Note that the CIA will tell presidents what they want to hear. Bush on wmd in Iraq - hell yes. Obama - Russia hacked - hell yes. In a few weeks - Trump - Russia didn't hack - hell yes.

And then there is their record of overthrowing and interfering in other nations to keep out the left -- I read an article - over 70 times in the past few decades alone -- how about that Allende assassination? People don't even mention the Reagan invasions of tiny Granada when they elected a guy the US didn't like.

Here are other links to reporting on the John Nixon book.

Review: 'Debriefing the President' Tears Into the C.I.A. - The New York ...
6 days ago - Mr. Nixon, the first C.I.A. officer to interrogate Hussein after his capture .... of the New York edition with the headline: Hussein, the C.I.A. and Me.

CIA agent who grilled Saddam Hussein says US was wrong about him ...
7 days ago - And my bosses at the CIA were grilling me, the expert. .... Debriefing The President: The Interrogation Of Saddam Hussein, by John Nixon, ...

Saddam Hussein should have been left to run Iraq, says CIA officer ...
Dec 16, 2016 - Saddam Hussein should have been left to run Iraq, says CIA officer who ... When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail.

Saddam Hussein's CIA Interrogator Admits Being Convinced He ...
5 days ago - Saddam Hussein's CIA Interrogator Admits Being Convinced He Should ... When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail.

The CIA Agent Who ID'd Saddam Hussein Reveals Dictator's ...
4 days ago - The CIA Agent Who ID'd Saddam Hussein Reveals Dictator's Shocking Claims of What ... Mukhabarat [civilian intelligence]? Answer me.

Saddam Hussein's CIA Interrogator: He Should Have Been Left In ...
Dec 16, 2016 - The first CIA analyst to brief Hussein after his capture explains what might ... When I interrogated Saddam, he told me: “You are going to fail.

CIA agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein says the agency is full of ...
4 days ago - John Nixon says the CIA is too eager to please the president — giving him answers he wants to hear.

Don Surber: The CIA got Saddam Hussein wrong, which is why Trump ...
6 days ago - The CIA got Saddam Hussein wrong, which is why Trump should listen to ... He told me he smoked four cigars every day and loved red meat.

CIA analyst: Saddam Hussein 'seemed clueless,' was 'inattentive ...
6 days ago - Saddam Hussein was an inept dictator during his final years in charge, ... “Then he turned to me and sneered: 'But I did not make that decision ...

Team Bernie: Hillary ‘F*cking Ignored’ Us in Swing States - The Daily Beast

On the pro-Bernie wing of the Democratic Party, Clinton, and neoliberal Clintonism itself, were widely viewed as a failure and a cynical sellout of progressive values..... TDB
When Bernie beat Hillary in Michigan when polls predicted otherwise, I remember a WTF moment. The assumption she would beat Trump in Michigan was suspect - one of the reasons I kept telling people - even Trump supporters who had given up - that he could win. 
 “A ham sandwich could beat Donald Trump,” Melissa Arab, a Michigan delegate for Sanders, told The Daily Beast during a protest outside the Democratic convention in July. “And Hillary cannot beat Donald Trump.”....
I've been writing that the Bernie vs Hillary wings of the Dem Party are still at war for the soul of the party. I'm betting that the neo-liberals are so entrenched in the party that the Bernie wing doesn't have a chance unless it builds up a massive grassroots movement.
“They fucking ignored us on all these [three] battleground states [while] we were sounding the alarm for months..... this is not about Hillary Clinton, this is about HIllary Clinton’s staff becoming too insular, too professional where regular working-class folks did not matter to them,” Kleeb said. “She had too many people [on her campaign] wearing Prada going into pollster meetings, not enough of us.” 
I mean, Shumer and Cuomo?
....the fact that much of the Clinton campaign top brass would rebuff the advances of Sanders alumni and allies isn’t in itself shocking. There was a deep hostility fostered in the Clinton team toward the Vermont democratic-socialist senator ever since the primary, during which Hillary’s side repeatedly blamed Sanders’s rival candidacy for weakening her in the run-up to the general.
“To them, we were a leftist nuisance, nothing else,” a former senior Sanders campaign aide said.
Look at education as a bell weather. Corey Booker, Hakim Jeffries --- ed deformers par excellence. NY State Dem leader Basil Smigel? If you don't know who he is - he was backed by the charter industry to run against State Sen Bill Perkins after he held hearings exposing the excesses of charters and questioning some of the basic tenets of ed deform. If you are a Dem ed deformer you are off my list no matter what the rhetoric. Not that Bernie took a stand on education but he did take a stand on the basic tenets of neo-liberalism which forms the guts of ed deform.

A very interesting piece from TDB.


Team Bernie: Hillary ‘F*cking Ignored’ Us in Swing States

Hindsight is 20/20, but members of Bernie Sanders’s team in critical swing states say they knew Hillary Clinton was going to lose well before Election Day—and their warnings were ignored.

Asawin Suebsaeng

12.20.16 1:15 AM ET

Ever since election night—when Hillary Clinton tanked and Donald Trump became the next leader of the free world—the most prominent allies and alumni of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign have maintained a succinct message for Team Hillary: We. Told. You. So.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brief Thoughts on the New Evaluation System from a shlemiel who can't tell the difference between a MOSL and a SHLIMASL - Betsy Has an Answer to Eval Issue - privatize and don't bother

My thought for the day: Let's throw everything we can at what we view as a bad teachers but ignore the actions of a bad principal who can fuck up an entire education community.

What's the difference a shlemiel and a shlimazel? The shlemiel spills the soup, the shlimazel is the guy he spills it on.

Question: which describes Mulgrew and the UFT/Unity Caucus after the latest eval system was announced? Maybe both.

Every teacher evaluation system is full of flaws as long as self-serving, corrupt, incompetent, abusive and downright evil supervisors are allowed to flourish.

I told Joel Klein to his face numerous times at PEP meetings that as long as he allowed abusive principals to flourish every attack on a teacher becomes suspect, even when they are justified. We must have confidence in the people making these judgements.

The CSA by defending bad principals and covering up for them taint the good ones.
I don't know much of anything about evaluation systems - since I was working it was a U or S - somehow some kids learned and some didn't and no matter how many teachers they try to hound out of the system - or not - nothing much will change in terms of learning. So the massive waste of time and money by fed, state and local ed depts on trying to judge teachers by supervisors and data crunchers takes away funds that could go to actually helping all kids learn.

Betsy DeVos offers the solution actually - privatize everything and don't monitor any of it. You see, monitoring is only for public schools. Don't think that all this monitoring distraction of time and money is not part of the BIG PLAN to end the life of public school systems.

It is bothersome that so many fighters against ed deformers fall into the trap of thinking that THERE MUST BE MONITORING OF TEACHERS BEYOND WHAT WAS DONE FOR A 100 YEARS. Somehow people like me and my friends in a working class neighborhood in East New York Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s survived that - through good, bad and indifferent teachers. I know, I know -- the poor schools are plagued with so many bad teachers that if we replaced them by an entire staff of teachers from a school in a rich area - VOILA!!! I taught at my school for 27 years and saw good, great, so-so, some poor and a few very rare totally incompetent teachers who didn't last very long.

Very few bad teachers last very long past tenure. The job is so bad for them that they mostly find their way into the least amount of teaching possible - and principals use them for that - some are actually good at things when they are away from kids. Many bad teachers end up as supervisors who are also bad supervisors but at that point the powers that be don't really care. Let's throw everything we can at what we view as a bad teachers but ignore the actions of a bad principal who can fuck up an entire education community.

Hey Dalton teachers, have we got a deal for you?

Post-election Readings on Why Dems Lost - or are they in denial due to popular vote?

The progressive populism of Bernie Sanders nearly toppled the establishment of the Democratic party but Clinton and Obama came to the rescue to preserve the status quo. And I do believe Sanders would have beat Trump to avert this neofascist outcome!... Cornel West
 My research suggests that Rust Belt populism is rooted in the region’s loss of locally owned industry — not simply because of economics but because of how that loss hollowed out the community structure that once connected people to politics, leaving residents alienated and resentful..... Josh Pacewicz, WAPO
A couple of post-election pieces for your reading pleasure that beat up the Democrats. I may do follow-ups on some of them in more detail. I'm interested in the intersection of class and identity politics - how to walk that line without abandoning either.

I posted some pieces about Bernie Sanders on the issue and how the Hillary wing of the party distorted what he was saying:
I believe the struggle between the Hillary and Bernie wings continue to this day.

MORE is holding a discussion around the election in mid-January. ICE also had a discussion a few weeks ago that was informative.

I'm not agreeing with all points raised, just putting this stuff out there for discussions trying to assess "wha' happen?" I particularly liked the WAPO piece because it analyzes how the Dems lost the working class -- and links that to the decline of unions. Which makes sense. The right have understood that by killing or weakening unions it could break their unity and ties to the Dems. This was the plan since Reagan -- the the outcome has been economic disaster for the middle class -- wages has have been stagnant since the early to mid-80s -- DUHHH! Reaganomics and the right wing assault. For educators, the phony Nation at Risk Reagan commissioned to go after education was the opening shot. That our major union leader Albert Shanker signed onto this report was the beginning of the end of our ability as teachers to fight back. Randi only continued Shanker's capitulation to ed deform.

An interesting piece from the Washington Post.

Here’s the real reason Rust Belt cities and towns voted for Trump

2. The Nation:

 What Is the Left Without Identity Politics?

Four writers consider the question dividing the Democratic Party.

By Walter Benn MichaelsCharles W. MillsLinda Hirshman and Carla Murphy

3. Liza Featherstone's interesting take at The Guardian

4. Cornel West: Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

School Scope, The Wave: The Fallacies of School Choice, Part 2

My column for this week to be published Dec. 23, 2016 at

School Scope:  The Fallacies of School Choice, Part 2
By Norm Scott

At one point, a decade ago, the voices standing up against what I’ve termed the “ed deform” movement were few. But the mainstream press is beginning to catch on. Rebecca Mead in the New Yorker recently wrote:  “Missing in the ideological embrace of choice for choice’s sake is any suggestion of the public school as a public good—as a centering locus for a community and as a shared pillar of the commonweal, in which all citizens have an investment. If, in recent years, a principal focus of federal educational policy has been upon academic standards in public education—how to measure success, and what to do with the results—DeVos’s nomination suggests that in a Trump Administration the more fundamental premises that underlie our institutions of public education will be brought into question.”

The neighborhood public school as a center of community throughout the nation. What an ancient concept.

The school choice movement is a master plan over the past three decades marketed to degrade the public schools and promote a shift of public money into private, often profit-making hands. A key is to brand the entire concept of public schools as a failure of government and the teaching corps (emphasize incidents concerning bad teachers and create a negative image in the minds of the public). Imagine if there was a plan to unlock the money going to the police force where blame was placed the individual police when battling crime. Critics of police have never called for an alt/private police force to be created to give the public a choice. If Trump and his education secretary Betsy DeVos get their way, there will be only a cinder of a public school system left after they are done.

A few weeks ago a Rockaway parent sent a letter to The Wave challenging my stance opposing charters, vouchers, education tax credits, and the so-called school “choice” movement and my opposition to Betsy DeVos as articulated in my Dec. 9 column ( and I replied in Part 1 on Dec. 16 where I talked about public schools as a guaranteed institution and part of the fabric of American life. I suggested we continue the dialogue.

The anonymous parent left this comment on my blog.
Please tell me if I understand your objections to vouchers and charter schools. You believe:
·      Public education is corner stone for creating a common American culture and any diffusion would weaken our Republic.
·      Charters and vouchers take precious money away from the traditional schools thus creating more dysfunction.
·      Public funding of religious schools violate the "No Establishment Clause" in the U.S. Constitution and the prohibition of public money being used in private religious schools in the New York State Constitution.
·      For profit schools are fundamentally skewed to favor the corporation over the students and the students will suffer.

He nailed some of the essence of what I was trying to say in a way I do not always articulate. Not to say I convinced him.

The shift of funding from public schools into private, often unregulated and for profit hands, holds great danger for the very future of a public school system. In New Orleans the entire system is charter and Detroit is headed that way. Without any neighborhood public school options left there is less choice. One New Orleans parent I know who originally supported charters found that she had to send her child across town because he couldn’t go to the charter across the street.   (Please read this Dec. 12, 2016 NY Times article, How Trump’s Education Nominee Bent Detroit to Her Will on Charter Schools [] on DeVos’ disastrous impact on causing mayhem in Detroit schools.).

That is not to say that public funds are not misused but there is a greater degree of accountability. In the long run we end up with either no public school system or a sliver only serving kids no one wants. If your child has difficulty or a handicap, you may be out of luck. Next year DeBlasio has to run, partially on his management of the schools. Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz gets public money for 40 schools and 40,000 students but doesn’t have to run for anything. And she can pay herself a half a million bucks a year with no public oversight. Charters - especially the avaricious chains like Eva Moskowitz' have the intent - no matter what they say -- to skim off all the top performing kids they can, leaving the unwanted to whatever is left of public schools.

School choice is marketing. And if your kid doesn't make the cut of the school you want then you find you are in the woods - especially if your neighborhood public school no longer exists.

Norm keeps raving away at Happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bernie Sanders Nailed It On Identity Politics and Inequality, and the Media Completely Missed the Point

What makes the attacks on Sanders so disingenuous is that they are so clearly partisan and unprincipled. Contrast Sanders statements on class and race with Clinton’s.
Following up on my recent post of the NY Mag piece - What Bernie Sanders Gets Right About Identity Politics...  I'm still looking to post pieces on what is going on in the Democratic Party struggles. This article shows that the Sanders/Clinton battle is still being played out. I don't hold out much hope for the Dems moving in Bernie's direction given there are so few people we can name who would line up with him. The struggle will play out locally, not just nationally. Watch how things go here in NY state where Cuomo will try to play the left while being a centrist. The UFT will almost always play against the left. They were not only against Bernie due to Clinton but philosophically the UFT/AFT complex is always against using class and I believe they even charged MORE at some point with playing the class card.

In this piece Katie Halper also exposes how the media misinterpreted what Bernie was saying about identity politics, race, class and economics.

Bernie Sanders Nailed It On Identity Politics and Inequality, and the Media Completely Missed the Point

For over a year, critics within and around the established wing of the Democratic Party have painted Bernie Sanders as a misogynistic, racist, heteronormative, cis, male, pseudo-anti-establishment, actually-totally establishment politician motivated by a humongous ego and a desire to thwart progress and the election of the first female president in US history. And then there were the less moderate critics.

I kid, but only slightly.

And as we saw in a recent episode of anti-Sanders outrage, this narrative is still extant. On Sunday November 20, during a talk at Berklee College in Boston, Sanders said something nuanced about race, ethnicity, gender and class, and the same media that supported Clinton during the campaign distorted his remarks to fit this narrative.

Though the election is over, the battle over the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, which was personified and defined by Clinton v. Sanders, is in full swing. While Clinton and her supporters represent a centrist neoliberal wing of the party, Sanders and his supporters represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party,” as the late Senator Paul Wellstone put it. In fact, the fight for the DNC chair is part of this same struggle. Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), who had endorsed Sanders and whom Sanders appointed to the Democratic Platform committee, is seeking to be DNC chair. The ADL’s vicious and embarrassing smear campaign against him as being an anti-semite—which he’s not—demonstrates how much is at stake.

So, it makes sense that the official Clinton campaign, as well as the David Brock run smear PR empire, continues to push the narrative which they worked so hard to develop and embed during the campaign to delegitimize Sanders and his critiques.

According to this narrative, Clinton and her supporters understand the unique but overlapping challenges faced by women, LGBT, people of color and immigrants. This tendency, to see the intersections of issues of class and race and gender and etc. is called “intersectionality,” a term and concept developed by Kimberle Crenshaw. Sanders, they argue, is a single issue candidate, a vulgar class reductionist, only interested in fighting for the interests of the white working class.

The problem is, for many of the so called intersectionalists who support Clinton and reject Sanders, intersectionality and identity politics include everything except for class. They are so tone deaf about class that they hear the “working class” as a white monolith, as if working class people of color or LGBT people or immigrants don’t exist. Yes, Sanders has spoken about the unique challenges of reaching the white working class, something that would make sense to any intersectionalist who thinks that white supremacy is a real thing. But his use of the word white in this specific context is just more proof that his use of working class without “white,” includes people of all backgrounds. Sanders; critique of inequality, and his attack on the one percent, is one that champions the rights of people from all backgrounds. At the same time, Sanders acknowledges the singular struggles and double (or triple, or quadruple) burdens faced by different people, and how the economic inequality is compounded by racism and sexism. For example, the NAACP gives him a rating of 97% on his positions on affirmative action. They give Clinton a rating of 96%.

What Sanders Actually Said
Let’s look at what Sanders said that got him in so much trouble. After his Nov. 20 talk, the moderator opened the Q&A by reading one of the audience questions. Rebecca, who considers Sanders and Elizabeth Warren her heros, had written, “I want to be the second Latina senator in U.S. history. Any tips?”

Sanders responded:
“It goes without saying that as we fight to end all forms of discrimination, as we fight to bring more and more women into the political process, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans — all of that is enormously important, and count me in as somebody who wants to see that happen.”
What Sanders was clearly saying, and actually did say, is that discrimination is real and a problem, that diversity and representation of underrepresented people is “enormously important,” and something he “wants to see…happen.”

He went even further than that, though, saying:

“Right now, we’ve made some progress in getting women into politics — I think we got 20 women in the Senate now. We need 50 women in the Senate. We need more African Americans.”
Not only is diversity critical but there is still more work to be done. There has been some improvement but not enough.

But then he uses the “but” word:

“But it’s not good enough to say, “Hey, I’m a Latina, vote for me.” That is not good enough. I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country, and is going to take on big money interests.”
Okay, so what does his “but” do? Here, it does not contradict but complicates. It builds on his other statements about diversity in government. Diversity is absolutely necessary but it’s not sufficient. We have to know where those candidates stand in terms representing the people’s interests, not merely their demography (which again, IS important, but not enough!)

He expands:
“One of the struggles that we’re going to have right now, we lay on the table of the Democratic Party, is it’s not good enough to me to say, “Okay, well we’ve got X number of African Americans over here, we’ve got Y number of Latinos, we have Z number of women. We are a diverse party, a diverse nation....”
And then come more “buts” as he delves deeper into the conflicts of between policies for the people and policies for the financial elites.
“But, but here is my point, and this is where there is going to be division within the Democratic Party. It is not good enough for someone to say, “I’m a woman! Vote for me!” No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.”
And here’s where Sanders brings up identity politics. Ready? Brace yourselves!

“In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics.”
Identity politics is a term used for the addressing of the issues and injustices of particular groups in the political process. This is the only time Sanders ever mentions identity politics. “Go beyond identity politics. ” For the mainstream media, that was the gotcha moment, and the focus of attention. Yes, “go beyond” can mean different things. It can mean to go “farther” or “go further” as when directions tell us to “go beyond” a certain intersection, or a counselor advises us to “go beyond” our comfort zone. At worst, “to go beyond” can have a dismissive and discounting connotation—though “get beyond” or “get over” would be a better choice if the idea was to dismiss.

At any rate, the fact that Sanders emphasized how important identity politics are shows he was clearly not eschewing them. In addition to what was already quoted, Sanders followed his sentence on identity politics by saying, “I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American head or CEO of some major corporation.” And in case you missed the message, he finished his speech with, “We need candidates — black and white and Latino and gay and male — we need all of those candidates and public officials to have the guts to stand up to the oligarchy.”

He couldn’t have been clearer in presenting economic policies and representational diversity as being complementary, and not mutually exclusive.

How the Media Responded
It looks like the first major publication to pick up the story was Talking Points Memo, (TPM) which had written the following headline by Monday Morning: “Sanders Urges Supporters: Ditch Identity Politics And Embrace The Working Class.”
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The headline and opening sentence, which use the words “ditch” and “move away from” clearly distort what Sanders was saying. They also miss that he was talking to people running for office and the Democrats, not his supporters, though what did I expect after the headline? The headline also reads like a translation from 1930s Pravda. You can almost hear the Internationale crescendo in the background as a caricature of an old and archaic Sanders spouts dated disproven ideas about the working class, forsaking the progress of women and people of color.

Either emboldened by TPM’s lax (mis)reporting or too lazy to review the comments on their own, several other outlets incorporated “ditch” or its synonyms into their articles’ headlines or paragraphs.

At Vox, not surprisingly, Matt Yglesias, chided that Democrats neither can nor should ditch “identity politics”:
Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 12.12.25 PM.png
Not everyone put the headline in its headline. Some put it into the body of their articles.

Rebecca Traister linked and quoted the TPM headline in a piece she wrote for The Cut, lamenting that Sanders was “recommending that Democrats embrace the working class and “Ditch Identity Politics,” according to one headline.” In the very next sentence, She clarified that:

In fact, the headline was overblown: Sanders did not say we should dump identity politics, and affirmatively noted that “we should bring more and more women into the political process” and that “we need 50 women in the Senate!”
Bustle did a cute move in copy and pasting the TPM headline into its opening paragraph.
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On Wednesday night, the TPM talking point, if you will, made it’s TV debut. Speaking on All in with Chris Hayes, Clinton supporter and Slate writer Michelle Goldberg complained that Sanders was saying the Democrats need to ditch identity politics.” To be fair, though Goldberg did repeat “ditch,” she did get the target of Sanders’ message right, noting it was for the Democratic Party and not his supporters. That’s neither here no there, except, perhaps, to show that Goldberg had taken enough time to go over what Sanders had said and deliberately chose to not update or correct the verb.

Host Chris Hayes, who was with Goldberg in the studio, interjected (though barely audibly), that Sanders, “didn’t quite say that.” Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator and Sanders surrogate, who was speaking from a remote studio, also clarified, that Sanders, “didn`t say it that way. He didn`t mean it that way.” But Goldberg ignored the correction, continuing as if nothing had been said: “I think that there is a fear among some people that in this move, that kind of a purely class-based politics will throw women and people of color under the bus in this attempt to win back the culturally conservative white working class.” Goldberg, a white female Clinton supporter, speaking past Turner, a Black woman, to explain how the Vermont Senator who Turner had chosen to support was espousing an ideology that would throw women of color under the bus, was “problematic,” to use a word so frequently invoked by Sanders critics.

Politico swapped it out for “slam.”
Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 12.26.34 PM.png
On the Right, The Blaze went with “quit.”
Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 12.26.57 PM.png
The Observer chose “grow out of.”
Screen Shot 2016-12-02 at 12.27.06 PM.png
Others definitely went to great lengths to distort what Sanders said, and it’s hard to believe they were innocent.
As for opinion pieces and tweets, this one stands out as being utterly unrelated to reality.
Screen Shot 2016-12-04 at 11.19.57 PM.png
What makes the attacks on Sanders so disingenuous is that they are so clearly partisan and unprincipled. Contrast Sanders statements on class and race with Clinton’s.

What Clinton Said
Back in February, Clinton delivered a speech in the suburbs of Las Vegas where she explicitly pitted economic policies against “progress” for women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBT. In an obvious dig at Sanders, who the Clinton campaign was deriding as a “single issue candidate,” Clinton asked, rhetorically, “Not everything is about an economic theory, right? If we broke up the big banks tomorrow — and I will, if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk, I will — would that end racism?” When the audience responded “No!” Clinton took the call and response and really ran with it, asking “Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight? Would that solve our problem with voting rights, and Republicans who are trying to strip them away from people of color, the elderly, and the young?”

The audience responded to each of these questions with… “No!”
Clinton gets a lot out of this call-and-response jam session. She makes the strawman argument that Sanders thinks or has ever suggested that breaking up the banks will end racism, sexism, homophobia, voter disenfranchisement and xenophobia etc. She is certain that taking on the banks is insufficient. But she goes further by saying that it may not even be necessary. She vows that she will do something about the banks, “if they deserve it, if they pose a systemic risk.” Clinton is agnostic on whether the banks deserve any kind of regulation or are a risk. And Clinton paints breaking up banks and fighting against structural racism as two discrete and unrelated projects.

The truth is that the foreclosure crisis was one of the most stunning and disturbing examples of institutionalized racism. As Nathalie Baptiste writes in the American Prospect:

“Across the nation, black homeowners were disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis, with more than 240,000 blacks losing homes they had owned. Black homeowners in the D.C. region were 20 percent more likely to lose their homes compared to whites with similar incomes and lifestyles. The foreclosure crisis also affected blacks of all income brackets; high-earning blacks were 80 percent more likely to lose their homes than their white counterparts, making the homeowners of Prince George’s County prime targets.”

Clinton wraps up her speech by calling herself “the only candidate who’ll take on every barrier to progress.” Of course, her ignoring the systemic risks already posed by the banks and de facto racist policies already practiced by the banks, makes it hard to believe that she is at all equipped to do this.

People who care about identity politics should have been in an uproar. They may not particularly care that she oversimplified and distorted Sanders’ analysis. But how could Clinton have ignored the racist nature of the subprime loan scandal? Also, how could she present economic justice and other forms of justice as so unrelated?
And yet there was no outcry.

Clinton’s statements were nowhere near as nuanced as Sanders. Sanders doesn’t make one more important than the other. Clinton does. Had Clinton spoken about class and identity politics with the same intersectionality and nuance as Sanders, her statements would have been very different. She would have taken the very sensible position that while bank reform is a good and necessary thing, it alone will not end racism or sexism. She would have emphasized the need for attacking the overlapping issues.

But she didn’t and Sanders did. Not that you’d know.

Katie Halper hosts the Katie Halper Show. You can listen to her latest episode, featuring Matt Stoller and Leslie Lee, below.