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Brexit: A "meaningful" vote for MPs implies a "meaningful" vote for the people.


The Conservative Cabinet has spent the past month in public controversy about the customs regime to be applied on the island of Ireland after Brexit. It is widely recognised that neither of the two favoured solutions canvassed within the Cabinet, a “customs partnership” and “maximum facilitation”, is acceptable to the European Union. Less widely understood has been the fact that this purely British debate ignores entirely the much more urgent Irish issue, namely the finding of an acceptable text for the “backstop” guarantee sought by the Irish government that intra-Irish trade (and broader social exchanges) will in all circumstances continue to flow freely after Brexit. Even full British participation in a Customs Union with the EU would not be sufficient to guarantee this freedom. The Irish government rightly points out that substantial elements of the European internal market would need to be retained in Northern Ireland as well, a reality for which the British government appears as yet wholly unprepared.

Many observers draw from this extended and disoriented polemic the conclusion that the cabinet is simply incapable of negotiating a withdrawal agreement for Brexit with the EU. Its solipsistic divisions are too deep, and the task with which it is confronted so intractable, that the UK is at serious risk of “crashing out” of the EU on 29th March 2019 without a transitional arrangement of any kind. More optimistic commentators recognize this risk but point to the overwhelming cross-party majority within the House of Commons that would react with horror to the prospect of a non-consensual British withdrawal. It would be surprising indeed if this majority among MPs were prepared to tolerate a disorderly and catastrophic Brexit as a result of governmental incompetence and self-absorption. It would be just as surprising if the Commons were prepared to tolerate radical amputation of the British economy from the European mainland by withdrawal from both the Customs Union and the European single market in ten or thirty months from now, as appears to be Mrs. May’s underlying intention. The Brexit tragicomedy has, however, always been full of surprises, usually unpleasant. There are at least two important minorities within the Commons well placed to thwart effective action by the majority of their Parliamentary colleagues to prevent a disorderly or economically disruptive Brexit. They are the radical Eurosceptics on the Conservative side and the unconditional supporters of Mr. Corbyn’s leadership within the Labour Parliamentary Party.

The ERG cabal…

Within the Conservative Parliamentary Party there is an important and well-organized minority, centred on the European Research Group, that has watched with growing unease the progress of the Brexit negotiations. They are unconvinced of the need for any further payments to be made into the European budget after March 2019 and view the proposed transition period until the end of 2020 with intense suspicion. Many of them accept that there will be some initial economic dislocation from British withdrawal but believe that any transitional disadvantages will be rapidly outweighed by greater opportunities for the UK as a globally competitive economic actor freed from the shackles of Brussels. The prospect of a non-consensual Brexit holds no terrors for this minority. Over the past twenty years, the most radical Eurosceptics within the Conservative Parliamentary Party, backed by most of the Party outside Westminster, has been able to exercise a veto over Tory European policy. Any attempts by the Prime Minister to move towards accommodation with the EU have rapidly run into the unbending opposition of the ERG. Its members now hope that if they can continue exercising this veto for just a very few more months, the UK will automatically leave the EU in March. They do not need to advocate specific alternative policies to those put forward by the Prime Minister. They simply need to continue their success in frustrating her initiatives.

…and Corbyn’s inner circle

A parallel analysis exists in the Corbyn entourage. He and his closest advisers have never concealed their hostility to membership of the EU. They are happy to claim reinforcement for this fundamental hostility from specious arguments relating to the large number of votes cast for “leave” in many traditional Labour constituencies in the 2016 referendum. Moreover, an abrupt and damaging Brexit in 2019 might well accelerate the date of the next General Election, the central goal of all Mr. Corbyn’s political activity since last year’s election. Consciously or otherwise, he is following the Napoleonic doctrine of “not interrupting an enemy when he (or she as now) is making a mistake.” In a way probably not foreseen by the drafters of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the automaticity of that treaty creates perverse incentives for inaction for Mr. Corbyn as much as for the ERG. The existence of a majority of MPs opposed to “hard” Brexit is an undoubted fact. Their capacity to make their majority effective in the Commons is much less certain, given the tactical advantages of which the ERG and Mr. Corbyn dispose in their respective parties. As long as the present party landscape continues to dominate British politics, they will continue to enjoy these advantages.


'Agents of SHIELD' Renewed for Season 6 at ABC



It was almost surely going to be cancelled, and even the writers wrote the season ending episode as a series finale.

yes, i am sci-fi geek girl!!! (and a cray cray fashionista, but that is for another time and has ZERO to do with this)

Stephen Colbert: Trump Sent "Peace Treaty Barbie" and "Collusion Ken" To Jerusalem Embassy Opening


Flawed Capitalism On Both Sides Of The Atlantic


Given the scale of poverty and inequality in contemporary Britain (and indeed in the United States), no right-thinking person can presumably be fully happy with the organization of a system of rewards that leaves so many people under daily and severe financial pressure, keeping the millennial generation struggling to enjoy in their 20s even the modest life options enjoyed by their parents. And given too the steady failure of the US economy to maintain the value of blue-collar wages and of the UK economy to break out of a productivity trap that keeps general wages down and living standards stagnant, it is also presumably hard to avoid the conclusion that we are now in need on both sides of the Atlantic of an entirely new way of organizing both economy and society.

To make sense of where we find ourselves, and to locate a better way forward, my latest book Flawed Capitalism: the Anglo-American Condition and its Resolution, traces the similarities and differences between the two great examples of modern deregulated capitalism. Both post-war US and UK economies are currently living downwind of two long periods of sustained growth, each associated with a distinctive social settlement.

The first – triggered by New Dealers in the US and by the Attlee governments in the UK – sustained 25 years of economic growth full employment and rising living standards on both sides of the Atlantic, on the basis of a social compact between private businesses and organized labor that allowed profits and wages to rise together. That social settlement ended in the stagflation of the 1970s.

The second – the one triggered by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives in the UK and by Ronald Reagan’s Republicans in the US – was not so balanced. Instead, it was a settlement predicated on the defeat of organized labor and the parallel creation of high levels of income inequality, with generalized living standards rising for later baby-boomers only on the basis of high and ultimately insecure levels of personal debt.


Flawed Capitalism is published today in the UK and in the US

“Anybody seeking to understand why Donald Trump is president and why the UK voted for Brexit should read David Coates’s important new book. It explains the flaws in the Anglo-Saxon economic model; even better, it suggests ways of putting things right.” – Larry Elliott, Economics Editor, The Guardian

Drawing on over four decades of research and writing on the political economy of the UK and United States, David Coates offers a masterly account of the Anglo-American condition and the social and economic crisis besetting both countries. Charting the rise and fall of the social settlements that have shaped and defined the postwar years, Coates traces the history of the two economies through first their New Deal and then their Reaganite periods – ones labelled differently in the UK, but similarly marked by the development first of a Keynesian welfare state and then a Thatcherite neoliberal one.

Coates exposes the failings and shortcomings of the Reagan/Thatcher years, showing how the underlying fragility of a settlement based on the weakening of organized labour and the extensive deregulation of business culminated in the financial crisis of 2008. The legacies of that crisis haunt us still – a squeezed middle class, further embedded poverty, deepened racial divisions, an adverse work–life balance for two-income families, and a growing crisis of housing and employment for the young. Flawed Capitalism deals with each in turn, and makes the case for the creation of a new transatlantic social settlement – a less flawed capitalism – one based on greater degrees of income equality and social justice. As members of the millennial generation come to their maturity on each side of the Atlantic,Flawed Capitalism offers the critical intellectual tools that they will need if they are ever to break decisively with the failed public policies of the past.

​​​​​​​25% DISCOUNT (and FREE POSTAGE & PACKING) FOR THIS BOOK. PLEASE USE THE CODE FC0418 AT THE CHECKOUT (I am not sure if that works for the US link, it does for the UK one)

Evangelical pastor who said Jews going to hell to give prayer at Jerusalem embassy opening


An evangelical pastor derided for saying Muslims, Mormons, Jews and others are going to hell has been picked to give a prayer at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist preacher based in Texas, traveled to Israel for the official diplomatic change on Monday, as a participant in the ceremony.

Jeffress has supported the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump's choice to move the embassy. Observers have criticized many conservative Evangelical Christians for backing the change due to its connections to the Book of Revelation and the end of the world, rather than the practical matter of recognizing where most of the Israeli government is based.

The preacher's role in a ceremony — already fraught with tension over the Israeli-Palestnian conflict — was also slammed as a result of his history of incendiary comments, such his declaration that many groups (including Jews) will go to hell.

"Robert Jeffress says 'you can't be saved by being a Jew,' and 'Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.' He's said the same about Islam," Republican Mitt Romney, who is Mormon and currently running for the U.S. Senate in Utah, said Sunday. "Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem."


DNA of every baby born in California is stored. Who has access to it?


SAN FRANCISCO -- You probably know where your Social Security card, birth certificate and other sensitive information is being stored, but what about your genetic material? If you or your child was born in California after 1983, your DNA is likely being stored by the government, may be available to law enforcement and may even be in the hands of outside researchers, CBS San Francisco's Julie Watts reports.

Like many states, California collects bio-samples from every child born in the state. The material is then stored indefinitely in a state-run biobank, where it may be purchased for outside research. State law requires that parents are informed of their right to request the child's sample be destroyed, but the state does not confirm parents actually get that information before storing or selling their child's DNA.

KPIX has learned that most parents are not getting the required notification. We've also discovered the DNA may be used for more than just research.

In light of the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and the use of unidentified DNA to catch the Golden State Killer suspect, there are new concerns about law enforcement access, and what private researchers could do with access to the DNA from every child born in the state.


I am in the database (CA-born, 1994). Not so happy about this. I will enquire further.

Democrats: Prepare to Pack the Supreme Court

If Republicans refuse to let the other party govern, all options should be on the table.


Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress and political scientist Brendan Nyhan recently had a fascinating discussion on Twitter—a phrase I don’t often use—about the condition of American democracy (not good, all agreed) and what that meant for the next time Democrats gained control of both Congress and the White House. Even with a unified government, anti-democratic features in the American system, including a Supreme Court that leans right thanks to a stolen seat, will make genuine progress difficult to impossible. So what should Democrats do? The discussion essentially concerned what the legal scholar Mark Tushnet labeled “constitutional hardball”: that is, the use of legal but non-normative means to pursue positive ends. When it comes to the Supreme Court, Millhiser wrote, Democrats “may need to make some very difficult choices”, including whether to pack the Court.

While the judiciary in America has accrued a substantial amount of power, this power is much more fragile than is commonly assumed. Article III of the Constitution gives Congress the power to establish (or not) lower courts as it sees fit, and also to expand the size of the Supreme Court. Congress can also make “exceptions” and “regulations” to the appellate jurisdiction of the courts. These potentially powerful tools make the judiciary vulnerable to constitutional hardball.

Why has judicial power paradoxically thrived given the weapons that Congress can theoretically use to cut it down to size? Quite simply, because political élites generally favor it. This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Supreme Court justices, after all, are nominated by presidents and confirmed by Senate majorities, and despite the myth of the courts as a “counter-majoritarian institution,” the Supreme Court is rarely far outside the political mainstream. In some cases, like the conservative courts of the Gilded Age or the Warren Court at the height of liberalism under LBJ, the courts are active partners of a dominant national governing coalition.

Since early in the Nixon administration, the median vote on the Court has been a moderate Republican, such as Lewis Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor, and now Anthony Kennedy. These courts have generally been conservative, but deliver enough victories to both sides to maintain elite and popular support for the institution. Indeed, in part because liberal victories under the Roberts Court have been fewer but tend to be higher-profile (most notably on same-sex marriage, abortion rights, and two cases involving the Affordable Care Act), the Court is actually more popular among liberals than conservatives.




Is It Time for Democrats to Fight Dirty?
A new book argues Democrats should take on radical strategies to cement power.


The consensus among political pundits is that the Democratic Party is poised to do well in November’s midterm elections. It seems too that Donald Trump will have his work cut out for him in 2020 as he faces what’s sure to be a crowded field of Democratic rising stars. But the Democratic Party’s path back to power in Washington will be complicated by a number of structural factors that favor Republicans—from post-2010 gerrymandering and voting restrictions to the disproportionate power of small red states in the Senate. In his new book, It’s Time to Fight Dirty, the Week’s David Faris argues that Democrats have no choice but to pursue strategies aimed at tilting the balance of power perhaps permanently in their favor. The ideas he advances go far beyond age-old proposals like eliminating the Electoral College. Faris would have the next Democratic Congress and president, for instance, create several new Democratic-leaning states and pack the Supreme Court with new seats for liberal justices. Last week, I spoke with him about his strategic agenda. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Osita Nwanevu: The argument you’re making here, in sum, is that the time has come for Democrats to throw out some parts of the rulebook of American politics and embrace radical, structural strategies on the third rail because they may violate one norm or another. What convinces you that we’ve reached a moment where playing dirty, as you say, is necessary?

David Faris: I think the breaking point for me personally was the Merrick Garland fiasco, which was really an unprecedented abuse of the Constitution’s lack of clarity about what “advise and consent” actually means. And it was the culmination of 20, 25 years of increasingly hardball tactics coming out of the Republican Party. Those tactics started at the fringe and then became mainstream over time. In the early 2000s, they redrew Texas’ congressional districts in the middle of the decade—this kind of stuff. But that obstruction really got out of hand during the Obama administration. It turned the public against the president’s party and it delivered all three branches of government to the GOP. And I think it’s just not feasible for the Democrats to continue to play by most of the rules—even the unwritten rules—when their counterparts across the aisle are not doing so.

Osita Nwanevu: Beyond the shock of the election, there’s also time pressure. On climate change, you write, “If Democrats keep alternating power every four or eight years with the gaggle of climate-deniers and dirty-energy shills currently in charge of the Republican Party, all of our children are going to spend their golden years spit-roasting to death in a blistering hellscape that will make the plot of Waterworld look like a naive aspiration.” The projections there are genuinely bleak. But more broadly speaking, part of your case is that we’re at a moment of crisis and that we can’t afford to rely on the outcomes of the next few elections to pass the policies we need.


How To Stop Trump by Robert Reich


Why did working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president? With the 2018 midterms around the corner, and prospective Democratic candidates already eyeing the 2020 race, the answer is important because it will influence how Democrats campaign.

One explanation focuses on economic hardship. The working class fell for Trump’s economic populism. A competing explanation – which got a boost this week from a study published by the National Academy of Sciences – dismisses economic hardship, and blames it on whites’ fear of losing status to blacks and immigrants. They were attracted to Trump’s form of identity politics – bigotry.

If Democrats accept the bigotry explanation, they may be more inclined to foster their own identity politics of women, blacks, and Latinos. And they’ll be less inclined to come up with credible solutions to widening inequality and growing economic insecurity. Yet the truth isn’t found in one explanation or the other. It’s in the interplay between the two.

Certainly many white working class men and women were – and still are – receptive to Trump’s bigotry. But what made them receptive? Racism and xenophobia aren’t exactly new to American life. Fears of blacks and immigrants have been with us since the founding of the Republic.

Stagnant Incomes...............


The CIA has a long history of torture. Gina Haspel will be perfect for the job.

Given the CIA’s sordid past, the question is not if Haspel rises to the caliber of the agency but rather if she descends to the dark levels that mark its history


In the coming days, Gina Haspel will testify before the Senate in connection with her nomination by Donald Trump to direct the Central Intelligence Agency. Much has been written about whether someone who oversaw a secret CIA detention site where detainees were tortured should be eligible to head the nation’s leading intelligence agency.

At first blush, this may appear to be the central debate. What ethical transgressions are inconsistent with an agency-level directorship in the United States government? Certainly, participation in torture should render a candidate unqualified. Yet, on further inspection, the focus on whether Haspel’s abusive conduct disqualifies her from CIA leadership cloaks a far more important and revealing debate.

Judging candidates to direct the CIA presupposes knowledge of the history of the CIA and a vision for its role – if any – in a society that purports to be democratic. Interrogating, so to speak, that knowledge and understanding that vision have been painfully absent from the national debate. As someone who has spent the past three decades promoting and defending human rights and democracy in this hemisphere, I have a particularly dour view of the history of the CIA. I have seen and engaged with the consequences of the agency’s ruthless disregard for human dignity and fundamental rights in the Americas.

I have worked with victims of torture committed by military regimes that applied the Kubark torture manual developed by the CIA. In El Paso, Texas, I worked with refugees from El Salvador’s brutal death squads, including children who journeyed alone to the US after losing both parents to CIA-supported death squads.


25 days to go for McCain to hang on and not resign, to avoid a 2nd AZ Senate race in 2018


Uncertainty about Sen. John McCain’s future has set off a flurry of hushed conversations and concern in the Republican Party about a possible vacancy that could make it harder for the GOP to hold its Senate majority.

As the Arizona Republican battles brain cancer, party leaders are contemplating the unusual prospect of defending two Senate seats in the state this year — something they are already doing in Mississippi as they seek to improve on their 51-49 advantage in the midterm elections.

McCain’s health has been shrouded in secrecy, leading many Republicans to privately wonder if he will remain in office beyond May 30. If he doesn’t, there would probably be a special election for his seat in the fall.

Congress will return Monday from a two-week recess with no clear indication that McCain, 81, will be back. He has been absent since December, and his spokeswoman Julie Tarallo declined to comment on his condition or whether he plans to return.



It might be uncomfortable to talk about, but Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been fighting brain cancer since July. The 81-year-old has not returned to the US Capitol since December.

So the speculation is already underway about what would happen if McCain stepped down — or, worse, could no longer serve. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a list of possible successors is circulating in the whispering Republican class, headlined by McCain’s wife, Cindy McCain, and former US Sen. Jon Kyl.

If McCain leaves office before May 30, the Post indicated, his Senate seat will be on the ballot in Arizona in November 2018, as will that of his retiring junior colleague, Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. After May 30, the new senator — who would be appointed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — would serve through 2020.
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