8 min read

OptOut's Weekend Picks (Dec. 6, 2020)

Here's what our independent media partners have been up to this week.

Hey, OptersOut!

Welcome, new folks, and thank you so much to everyone who became a paying subscriber since Giving Tuesday. We’re a small, scrappy group of volunteers, and every $5 makes a difference. Your contributions are helping us pay for initial fees like nonprofit incorporation, web hosting, and software building services.

If you haven’t become a paying subscriber, please consider doing so now:

Subscribe now

Welcome to our latest media partners!

We are constantly increasing our partner network, which is now at more than 80 news websites, podcasts, and video channels.

  • Bad News, a politics newsletter from The Intercept’s Ryan Grim
  • BIG, a newsletter from Matt Stoller about the history and politics of monopoly power
  • Not Safe For Wonks, a podcast that examines the cultural and emotional forces behind politics
  • Progressives Everywhere, a newsletter from Jordan Zakarian that highlights grassroots progressive candidates and causes
  • Tech Won’t Save Us, a podcast from Paris Marx that critically analyzes the tech industry, its thought leaders, and the worldview it spreads
  • Wars of Future Past, a newsletter about military technology from Kelsey Atherton.

And now, for your weekly roundup. I’m going to do this a bit differently this time; instead of separating the content by format, I’ve picked a few topics and chosen content about those topics from several of our partners.


The Transition

President-elect Joe Biden is staffing up, and his picks are getting way more scrutiny than those of Barack Obama in 2008-09. Progressives have corrected their previous oversight this time around, with advocacy groups such as the Revolving Door Project, Demand Progress, and the Sunrise Movement meticulously reviewing the careers of Biden’s prospective picks (and getting flack for it from Beltway insiders and The Washington Post editorial board).

Many of our media partners are also investigating the picks! Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Discourse Blog: The Left is Getting Rolled in the Biden Transition

via CNN

If you survey the corporate media, you might come away thinking, Well, there are a few angry leftists complaining, but Biden’s picks are actually pretty progressive.

But let’s not mince words. Actually, let’s just read Paul Blest’s words:

At the moment, it’s hard not to get the sense that the left is getting rolled—bounced repeatedly into offering relieved praise to Biden for not picking the absolute worst candidates—while Biden achieves exactly what he’s always wanted: getting his people into roles where they’ll shape policy that more often than not pisses off progressives. The President-elect successfully tamed the Democratic left on his way to winning the election, and there’s little evidence thus far that he’s not going to continue doing that once he’s in the White House.

Read the piece

Subscribe to Discourse Blog, a worker-owned, independent politics and culture website.


The Daily Poster: Biden Picks Budget Director Who Pushed Social Security Cuts

via Gage Skidmore

Over the cries of many a disgruntled centrist think tank wonk, OptOut’s very own Walker Bragman reported that Neera Tanden, the CEO of the Center for American Progress whom Biden has picked to lead the national budget, proposed cuts to Social Security eight years ago, when Biden—who himself has repeatedly suggested cutting the program—was vice president. Walker uncovered a clip from 2012 in which Tanden said,

We should have savings on entitlements, and the Center for American Progress has put forward ideas on proposals to reform the beneficiary structure of Social Security—some of our progressive allies aren’t as excited about that as we are. But we’ve put those ideas on the table. We think that those are legitimate ideas that need to be part of a proposal where everyone’s at the table. We don’t just ask middle-class Americans to sacrifice. We ask all Americans.

Will Tanden, if she manages to make it through Senate confirmation, or Biden try to cut Social Security this time around? Who knows, but this context is important to keep in mind as Republicans magically turn back into budget hawks on Inauguration Day.

Read the article

Help The Daily Poster hire more writers.

Listen to Reply Guys’ podcast episode about Tanden:


Means Morning News: The Center for Neoliberal Access

It’s not just Biden and his transition team who are stocking up on corporate-friendly leadership. It’s Dems in the U.S. House.

“The Sams,” who also host The District Sentinel, do a deep dive into Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), whom his colleagues elected to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee over the more progressive Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas). Turns out, besides his record of promoting the predatory payday lending industry, Meeks has a history of crossing the aisle to support the most big business-friendly trade policies and, in the process, backing a murderous, rightwing regime in Colombia.

Many labor groups opposed Meeks. According to Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach, whom The Sams interview, Meeks is a major outlier among Democrats on trade and “really, the corporate front in the Democratic caucus.” And yet, the Dems just handed him a very powerful position.

Subscribe to Means TV, a worker-owned streaming service that publishes the video version of MMN every Thursday, to watch the video.

Listen to the audio version here, or find MMN on your favorite podcast app—until we launch, and then your favorite podcast app will be OptOut, obviously.


The Virus

Acute Condition: Vaccinating people under 40

Olivia Webb explains the impending difficulties of getting people under 40 vaccinated.

People under 40 are pioneering what I’m calling the express medical economy, a disconnected series of health care professionals, often accessed through an app or online platform, that offer care quickly and in time-bounded interactions.

Read the article

Subscribe to Acute Condition, a newsletter about the health care industry.


WhoWhatWhy: Why Even a Pandemic Can’t Make Remote Learning Work

Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Alliance for Excellent Education / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) and Alliance for Excellent Education / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

WhoWhatWhy speaks with Justin Reich, director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, about the multiple roles that schools have come to play in nutrition, housing, child care, and vital social services, and how the pandemic affects those issues.

The pandemic reminds us that the social value of schooling cannot be maintained simply by switching from in-person to remote learning — because traditional education is only one aspect of what Reich calls the “political project” of schools.

Listen to the episode

Support WhoWhatWhy, a nonprofit public-interest news team.


Gilded Age LIVE: Let Them Eat Jeni’s

In our first live Gilded Age episode, Walker, Mark, and I had a Friday happy hour and hashed out COVID-19, the lack of a stimulus, and what Biden's presidency might look like.

Watch it on YouTube. Support us on Patreon.

The Gilded Age podcast is the first original production of OptOut News, a news outlet affiliated with the OptOut app. When things are up and running, we plan on creating more news podcasts and publishing original reported articles as well.


The Far Right

The far right is now the mainstream right. We’ve seen this play out in the White House, our elections, QAnon, the Proud Boys, etc.

Exposed by CMD: ‘Dark Money ATM’ of the Conservative Movement Gives $1.5 Million to White Nationalist Hate Group

After my colleague obtained the 2019 tax records of DonorsTrust, the “dark money ATM” of the conservative movement, I reported on Friday that the group donated a whopping $1.5 million to white nationalist hate group VDARE months before the VDARE purchased a $1.4 million castle in West Virginia. But they didn’t stop there—DonorsTrust also gave $10,500 to the New Century Foundation, the nonprofit behind the notorious white nationalist publication American Renaissance, led by Jared Taylor.

DonorsTrust manages charitable accounts of wealthy conservatives, including Republican megadonors Charles Koch, the DeVoses, and the Mercers. Once a donor puts their money into the account, DonorsTrust has complete and legal control over the money. Despite CEO Lawson Bader claiming to me that the donors decide where their money goes, documentation put out by his own organization states that the DonorsTrust board, on which Bader sits, must approve of the recipients.

For the first time we’re aware of, DonorsTrust is giving money to white nationalist hate groups. $1.5 million is easily the largest donation in the public record I’ve ever seen to a white nationalist organization. We’re going to keep up the pressure on them to explain themselves.

Read the article

Support the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit watchdog that leads in-depth, award-winning investigations into the corruption that undermines our democracy, environment, and economic prosperity.


DOOMED: How QAnon Infiltrated the Wellness and Yoga Communities (w/ Rachel Greenspan)

Matt Binder interviews journalist Rachel Greenspan about how QAnon broke out of rightwing image boards and blogs into mainstream cultures like the yoga and health and wellness communities. Keep this in mind as the coronavirus vaccine rolls out and we see which communities refuse to take it.

Support DOOMED, Matt Binder’s podcast that debunking of far-out conspiracy theories and offers political news and commentary.


The Gravel Institute: Do We Really Need a Border Wall?

Dr. Doug Massey explains why we don’t need a border wall, a symbol that the far right has gleefully latched onto (and that Steve Bannon used to scam donors).

Is this southern border really worth all of the taxes we pour into it? Absolutely not. America’s fetishization of border security has never worked throughout history, and the pinnacle of its waste, Trump’s border wall, accomplishes nothing.

Help the Gravel Institute fight the rightwing propaganda put out by video operation PragerU.


The Media

What Went Wrong: Why Most Newsletters Fail

Harry Cheadle analyzes the unequal opportunities that Substack offers its writers—something we aim to change with OptOut!

For the past year or so, prominent journalists have been bailing on the publications they wrote for and launching their own Substacks, usually with a long-winded explanation about how they don’t want to be constrained by the editors and institutional biases of their former workplaces. As an added bonus to their much-ballyhooed independence, they make a lot of money by transitioning to newsletters.

Read the piece

Subscribe to What Went Wrong, a great Substack newsletter.


Citations Needed: Obama-era Media Failures We Shouldn’t Rehash Under Biden

Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi warn the media not to make the same mistakes it did with the Obama administration.

This is Part I of a two-part episode breaking down these "media mistakes"—major areas where the American press failed to hold the most powerful person in the world to account. We explore how the Obama era may provide a blueprint of what we may expect under the upcoming Biden administration and how activists can get ahead of these failures before they inevitably manifest.

Support Citations Needed, a podcast about the media, power, PR, and the history of bullshit.


That should keep you busy today!

Can you help us spread the word about OptOut? We’d really appreciate it if you’d forward this email or share this link with a few people you think might want to sign up for OptOut!

Thanks as always for being part of the OptOut community.