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Avedon Carol presents:

The Sideshow

My motto as I live and learn is: dig and be dug in return. -- Langston Hughes
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Saturday, 25 May 2024

Light passing by on the screen

This is in The Atlantic, which is establishment enough that we're allowed to admit it's real now. "New 9/11 Evidence Points to Deep Saudi Complicity: Two decades of U.S. policy appear to be rooted in a mistaken understanding of what happened that day. For more than two decades, through two wars and domestic upheaval, the idea that al-Qaeda acted alone on 9/11 has been the basis of U.S. policy. A blue-ribbon commission concluded that Osama bin Laden had pioneered a new kind of terrorist group—combining superior technological know-how, extensive resources, and a worldwide network so well coordinated that it could carry out operations of unprecedented magnitude. This vanguard of jihad, it seemed, was the first nonstate actor that rivaled nation-states in the damage it could wreak. That assessment now appears wrong. And if our understanding of what transpired on 9/11 turns out to have been flawed, then the costly policies that the United States has pursued for the past quarter century have been rooted in a false premise." And right now, the Trump-Biden policy is to consolidate a relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel that results in the Saudis getting nukes and the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia being an axis of power together.

"Romney Admits Push to Ban TikTok Is Aimed at Censoring News Out of Gaza: A discussion between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sen. Mitt Romney over the weekend included what one critic called an 'incredible mask-off moment,' with the two officials speaking openly about the U.S. government's long-term attempts to provide public relations work for Israel in defense of its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories—and its push to ban TikTok in order to shut down Americans' access to unfiltered news about the Israeli assault on Gaza. At the Sedona Forum in Sedona, Arizona on Friday, the Utah Republican asked Blinken at the McCain Institute event's keynote conversation why Israel's 'PR been so awful' as it's bombarded Gaza since October in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 34,735 Palestinians—the majority women and children—and pushing parts of the enclave into a famine that is expected to spread due to Israel's blockade. 'The world is screaming about Israel, why aren't they screaming about Hamas?' asked Romney. ''Accept a cease-fire, bring home the hostages.' Instead it's the other way around, I mean, typically the Israelis are good at PR. What's happened here? How have they, and we, been so ineffective at communicating the realities there?' Blinken replied that Americans, two-thirds of whom want the Biden administration to push for a permanent cease-fire and 57% of whom disapprove of President Joe Biden's approach to the war, are 'on an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond.'"

Not a surprise: "Leaked NYT Gaza Memo Tells Journalists To Avoid Words 'Genocide,' 'Ethnic Cleansing,' And 'Occupied Territory': THE NEW YORK TIMES instructed journalists covering Israel's war on the Gaza Strip to restrict the use of the terms 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' and to 'avoid' using the phrase 'occupied territory' when describing Palestinian land, according to a copy of an internal memo obtained by The Intercept. The memo also instructs reporters not to use the word Palestine 'except in very rare cases' and to steer clear of the term 'refugee camps' to describe areas of Gaza historically settled by displaced Palestinians expelled from other parts of Palestine during previous Israeli–Arab wars. The areas are recognized by the United Nations as refugee camps and house hundreds of thousands of registered refugees. The memo — written by Times standards editor Susan Wessling, international editor Philip Pan, and their deputies — 'offers guidance about some terms and other issues we have grappled with since the start of the conflict in October.' While the document is presented as an outline for maintaining objective journalistic principles in reporting on the Gaza war, several Times staffers told The Intercept that some of its contents show evidence of the paper's deference to Israeli narratives."

"Pro-Israel Groups Pushed for Warrantless Spying on Protesters: When the renewal of a key section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was being debated in this Congress, one of the pieces of evidence from reformers for the abuses in the system was that the law had routinely been employed to spy on protesters in the U.S. Despite the fact that FISA's Section 702 is intended to be about collection of intelligence on foreign subjects, U.S. persons would often get vacuumed up in the dragnet. And the FBI was caught querying FISA databases to get information on protesters, most recently during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Despite these concerns and after a bitter debate, Congress passed and President Biden signed a reauthorization of FISA Section 702 with new and expanded powers for surveillance. Just days before that bill became law, Columbia University president Nemat Shafik testified before a congressional hearing on antisemitism. This set off the encampment protests at Columbia, the ensuing crackdown by the NYPD, and now the spread of demonstrations to college campuses across the country."

"Business titans privately urged NYC mayor to use police on Columbia protesters, chats show: A WhatsApp chat started by some wealthy Americans after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack reveals their focus on Mayor Eric Adams and their work to shape U.S. opinion of the Gaza war." Malefactors of Great Wealth.

Not sure what caused it, but the Supremes surprised a lot of people by not killing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. David Dayen says, "The CFPB Ruling Strikes a Blow for Governing: Instead of giving in to cynicism, Congress created an agency to protect consumers. The Supreme Court declined to overrule it."

True to form, however, "Supreme Court Says It's Fine For Cops To Dick Around For Months Or Years After Seizing People's Cars: The Supreme Court has recognized there's something definitely wrong with asset forfeiture. But, so far, it has yet to attempt to put a full stop to it. A recent case dealt with criminal asset forfeiture. In that case, the nation's top court ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to seize assets worth far more than the maximum fine it could levy for the criminal charges accompanying the seizure. In that case, cops took a $42,000 Range Rover in exchange for a sale of $260 worth of heroin to an undercover officer. Given that this crime had a max fine of $10,000, the Supreme Court said taking the Range Rover was an 'excessive fine' — something that violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. But the justices said this also applied to civil asset forfeiture. And in civil cases, criminal charges usually aren't filed, which means any forfeiture would be an 'excessive fine' because the applicable fine in cases with no criminal charges is always going to be… $0. Unfortunately, the 2019 ruling changed little about forfeiture programs. Most still operate the way they always have and will likely continue to do so until another legal challenge reaches the upper levels of the court system."

Here's something else the Supremes could fix, but won't: "Federal Judge Says It's Time To End The 'Mistake' Of Qualified Immunity While Handling A Bogus Murder Charge: Qualified immunity is a mess. It's a mess the Supreme Court created and, to date, seems largely unwilling to fix (despite the occasional remand). The theory of QI is this: law enforcement officers (and other government employees) should be granted forgiveness for blowing constitutional calls during rapidly evolving situations potentially involving life and death. And it would be great if that's how qualified immunity was applied. But instead it's summoned as a 'get out of litigation free' card every time a cop (or other government employee) gets sued. While it may have limited usefulness in cases where officers are under fire or facing other life-threatening situations, it should not be applied at all when time isn't a factor. The problem is that the Supreme Court has made the rules of QI very clear: assume QI at all times and only deny it when there's no possible way to avoid doing so. Years of cops hollering QI at the drop of a lawsuit has pushed some courts and judges to the limits of their patience. Most notably, new appointee to the Fifth Circuit, Don Willett, called bullshit on qualified immunity shortly after taking his seat at this appellate court" — which would have been great if he wasn't dissenting from the deranged crackpots who make up the rest of the Fifth Circuit. "The same sort of thing has happened here. In this case, handled by a Mississippi federal court, there were no split-second decisions to be made. Instead, during the course of murder investigation (something that can take weeks, months, or years), a law enforcement officer decided the best course of action would be to frame an innocent person."

"Louisiana lawmakers vote to remove lunch breaks for child workers, cut unemployment benefits: A Louisiana House committee voted Thursday to repeal a law requiring employers to give child workers lunch breaks and to cut unemployment benefits — part of a push by Republicans to remove constraints on employers and reduce aid for injured and unemployed workers."

"No prison time for developer who bribed city officials for 18 years: A federal judge has given no prison time to a San Francisco developer who admitted to bribing city officials in a prolonged scheme to accelerate building permits and pass inspections. Sia Tahbazof, 73, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $75,000 fine for his crimes. The corrupt developer appeared in court Friday with scores of supporters who filled the gallery. 'This was a serious offense,' U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston said before handing down the sentence. 'It took place over 18 years. That's a long time to be paying bribes. That's a long time to foster corruption in the housing department.'"

"A GOP Texas school board member campaigned against schools indoctrinating kids. Then she read the curriculum: Gore, the co-host of a far-right online talk show, had promised that she would be a strong Republican voice on the nonpartisan school board. Citing 'small town, conservative Christian values,' she pledged to inspect educational materials for inappropriate messages about sexuality and race and remove them from every campus in the 7,700-student Granbury Independent School District, an hour southwest of Fort Worth. 'Over the years our American Education System has been hijacked by Leftists looking to indoctrinate our kids into the 'progressive' way of thinking, and yes, they've tried to do this in Granbury ISD,' she wrote in a September 2021 Facebook post, two months before the election. 'I cannot sit by and watch their twisted worldview infiltrate Granbury ISD.' But after taking office and examining hundreds of pages of curriculum, Gore was shocked by what she found — and didn't find. [...] Gore rushed to share the news with the hard-liners who had encouraged her to run for the seat. She expected them to be as relieved and excited as she had been. But she said they were indifferent, even dismissive, because 'it didn't fit the narrative that they were trying to push.'"

"New York Times editor Joe Kahn says defending democracy is a partisan act and he won't do it [...] But critics like me aren't asking the Times to abandon its independence. We're asking the Times to recognize that it isn't living up to its own standards of truth-telling and independence when it obfuscates the stakes of the 2024 election, covers up for Trump's derangement, and goes out of its way to make Biden look weak."

"The New York Times Protests Too Much [...] A striking thing about this dust-up is that the partisans are delivering clear, principled statements about what journalism should be, and the journalists are responding like campaign hacks — inventing straw men to debate and offering an endless stream of vague platitudes. That's not particularly new, though: You can spend a lot of time scrutinizing the public comments of the leadership of The New York Times2 and never find a clear, unambiguous explanation of how the paper thinks it should cover fundamentally unequal or dissimilar things like, say, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But if you read between the lines a little bit, paying particular attention to what the paper says it shouldn't do,3 and combine that with what we can infer from the Times' coverage, a pretty clear picture emerges: The Times thinks — or wants people to think it thinks — that independent, 'balanced' journalism means generating a roughly equal volume of positive and negative coverage of the two candidates."

"The Fed Admits That 'Bailouts Were Not A Free Lunch': For years, politicians, lobbyists, and media outlets manufactured an elaborate fairy tale about bank bailouts costing the government nothing, and in fact even generating a profit for public coffers. It was a comforting story — but the entire lie was just debunked in a study published by the Federal Reserve, an institution that almost never admits truths that are inconvenient to Wall Street. The new analysis, authored by MIT's Deborah Lucas and published by the Atlanta Fed, shows the post-financial-crisis rescue of Wall Street cost half a trillion dollars — a sum 'large enough to conclude that the bailouts were not a free lunch and even less so a profit maker as some politicians and commentators have claimed.' The study also notes that the sum is 'large enough to ask whether there are better ways to protect taxpayers.' Ya think? THE LASTING LEGACY OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS: So maybe you're now thinking, 'Hey, who cares about the financial crisis — it was so long ago, it doesn't matter anymore.' But wait, there's more: Another new Federal Reserve report illustrates how the financial crisis — and then the Obama administration's refusal to help homeowners protect themselves from financial predators — ripped away the American dream from an entire generation." Plus some handy new charts (that I maintain are not properly labeled). Thanks, Obama!

RIP: "Moody Blues Co-Founder Mike Pinder Dead at 82: 'Very sad news, the last of the original lineup of the Moody Blues has passed away,' Denny Laine's widow Elizabeth wrote on Instagram. 'He is now reunited with Denny, Ray, Graeme and Clint; what a joyous reunion that must be.' Keyboardist and vocalist Pinder was the last surviving original member of the band, contributing 27 songs to their catalog between 1964 and his departure in 1978, including respected compositions 'My Song' and 'Lost in a Lost World.' 'Michael's family would like to share with his trusted friends and caring fans that he passed peacefully,'"

Stiglitz, "Freedom for the Wolves: Neoliberal orthodoxy holds that economic freedom is the basis of every other kind. That orthodoxy, a Nobel economist says, is not only false; it is devouring itself. [...] It was because of democratic demands that democratic governments, such as that of the U.S., responded to the Great Depression through collective action. The failure of governments to respond adequately to soaring unemployment in Germany led to the rise of Hitler. Today, it is neoliberalism that has brought massive inequalities and provided fertile ground for dangerous populists. Neoliberalism's grim record includes freeing financial markets to precipitate the largest financial crisis in three-quarters of a century, freeing international trade to accelerate deindustrialization, and freeing corporations to exploit consumers, workers, and the environment alike. Contrary to what Friedman suggested in his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, this form of capitalism does not enhance freedom in our society. Instead, it has led to the freedom of a few at the expense of the many. As Isaiah Berlin would have it: Freedom for the wolves; death for the sheep. [...] We've now had four decades of the neoliberal 'experiment,' beginning with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The results are clear. Neoliberalism expanded the freedom of corporations and billionaires to do as they will and amass huge fortunes, but it also exacted a steep price: the well-being and freedom of the rest of society."

Doctorow, "AI is a WMD: Fun fact: 'The Tragedy Of the Commons' is a hoax created by the white nationalist Garrett Hardin to justify stealing land from colonized people and moving it from collective ownership, 'rescuing' it from the inevitable tragedy by putting it in the hands of a private owner, who will care for it properly, thanks to 'rational self-interest': [Link] Get that? If control over a key resource is diffused among the people who rely on it, then (Garrett claims) those people will all behave like selfish assholes, overusing and undermaintaining the commons. It's only when we let someone own that commons and charge rent for its use that (Hardin says) we will get sound management. By that logic, Google should be the internet's most competent and reliable manager." Oddly, it hasn't worked out that way.

"Why Doesn't Diversity Training Work?" Well, it doesn't, but most corporations seem to keep using it anyway. It's an easy way to pretend to be doing something about diversity and inclusion, and it can also provide corporations with new ways to mess with their workforce. But history has shown that this kind of social engineering can not only be useless, but might even be counterproductive. As we see in "How to get 7th graders to smoke." But social scientists have come up with lots of projects over the years that are intended to reduce prejudice between people, and the best of them had no effect at all while others actually made things worse. Interestingly, one thing did seem to have a positive effect: this Heineken commercial. (Thanks to Will Shetterly for the links.)

"Extremist Militias Are Coordinating in More Than 100 Facebook Groups: 'JOIN YOUR LOCAL Militia or III% Patriot Group,' a post urged the more than 650 members of a Facebook group called the Free American Army. Accompanied by the logo for the Three Percenters militia network and an image of a man in tactical gear holding a long rifle, the post continues: 'Now more than ever. Support the American militia page.' Other content and messaging in the group is similar. And despite the fact that Facebook bans paramilitary organizing and deemed the Three Percenters an 'armed militia group" on its 2021 Dangerous Individuals and Organizations List, the post and group remained up until WIRED contacted Meta for comment about its existence."

It's no surprise if you know anything about Bari Weiss' history. Or the entire right-wing "free speech" movement that is adamantly against everyone else's free speech. "The real cancel culture [...] The incoherence of the argument underscores the reality of the political moment. There is a relentless right-wing operation seeking to inflict pain on their ideological adversaries. Some, like Rufo, are the political equivalent of street brawlers, willing to say or do anything to achieve their objective. Others, like Weiss and The Free Press, give the movement a more journalistic and professional sheen. But no one involved is a supporter of free expression or an opponent of cancel culture. Rather, they are the cultural force aggressively pursuing cancellation." This is not even a little bit new, of course — it's always been the right-wing that is trying to "cancel" real dissent.

"The tax sharks are back and they're coming for your home [...] The progressive reforms from the New Deal until the Reagan revolution were a series of efforts to broaden participation in every part of society by successively broader groups of people. A movement that started with inclusive housing and education for white men and votes for white women grew to encompass universal suffrage, racial struggles for equality, workplace protections for a widening group of people, rights for people with disabilities, truth and reconciliation with indigenous people and so on. The conservative project of the past 40 years has been to reverse this: to return the great majority of us to the status of desperate, forelock-tugging plebs who know our places. Hence the return of child labor, the tradwife movement, and of course the attacks on labor unions and voting rights [...] It's all going according to plan. We weren't meant to have houses, or job security, or retirement funds. We weren't meant to go to university, or even high school, and our kids were always supposed to be in harness at a local meat-packer or fast food kitchen, not wasting time with their high school chess club or sports team. They don't need high school: that's for the people who were born to rule. They – we – were meant to be ruled over."

"Is the Internet bad for you? Huge study reveals surprise effect on well-being: A survey of more than 2.4 million people finds that being online can have a positive effect on welfare."

"'My songs spread like herpes': why did satirical genius Tom Lehrer swap worldwide fame for obscurity?"

"For a dose of pure wholesomeness, watch Welcome to Wrexham" — I haven't seen the show, myself, but go watch the birthday video, which is brilliant.

"How Sci-Fi Inspired Conspiracy Theory [...] Linebarger, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 53, could not have predicted that tropes from his sci-fi stories about mind control and techno-authoritarianism would shape 21st-century American political rhetoric. But the persistence of his ideas is far from accidental, because Linebarger wasn't just a writer and soldier. He was an anti-communist intelligence operative who helped define U.S. psychological operations, or psyops, during World War II and the Cold War. His essential insight was that the most effective psychological warfare is storytelling. Linebarger saw psyops as an emotionally intense, persuasive form of fiction—and, to him, no genre engaged people's imagination better than science fiction." So, does this mean Cordwainer Smith started it all?

Mike Pinder, "The Best Way to Travel"

04:55 GMT comment

Tuesday, 23 April 2024

Well I knew there was gonna' be trouble, when I heard that callin'

I've just discovered the art of Laurent Parcelier and I love to look at it.

"The Supreme Court effectively abolishes the right to mass protest in three US states: It is no longer safe to organize a protest in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear Mckesson v. Doe. The decision not to hear Mckesson leaves in place a lower court decision that effectively eliminated the right to organize a mass protest in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Under that lower court decision, a protest organizer faces potentially ruinous financial consequences if a single attendee at a mass protest commits an illegal act. It is possible that this outcome will be temporary. The Court did not embrace the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision attacking the First Amendment right to protest, but it did not reverse it either. That means that, at least for now, the Fifth Circuit's decision is the law in much of the American South."

"Self-Destructive College Presidents: They are making a fraught situation worse by letting the far right define antisemitism and the necessary campus responses. Last December, the presidents of Penn and Harvard did not grovel sufficiently in trying to appease Republican inquisitors claiming that they were insufficiently sensitive to episodes of antisemitism. So with some crude prodding from large donors of the 'Israel right or wrong' camp, Liz Magill and Claudine Gay were pushed out of their jobs by panicked trustees. In the latest round of this self-abasement, other college presidents are hoping to out-grovel the earlier batch and outdo each other in sacrificing civil liberties. This never ends well. At last week's hearing before the same House Education subcommittee that destroyed Magill and Gay, Columbia's beleaguered president, Nemat 'Minouche' Shafik, who was born in Egypt, brought with her three senior Jewish colleagues for the grovel-fest. At one point, Rep. Rick Allen, a Republican from Georgia, asked Shafik whether she knew Genesis 12:3. She didn't. Allen explained: 'It was the covenant that God made with Abraham, and that covenant was real clear: 'If you bless Israel I will bless you, if you curse Israel I will curse you,'' he said. 'Do you want Columbia University to be cursed by God?' Allen demanded."

"U.S. Senate and Biden Administration Shamefully Renew and Expand FISA Section 702, Ushering in a Two Year Expansion of Unconstitutional Mass Surveillance: One week after it was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate has passed what Senator Ron Wyden has called, 'one of the most dramatic and terrifying expansions of government surveillance authority in history.' President Biden then rushed to sign it into law. The perhaps ironically named 'Reforming Intelligence and Security America Act (RISAA)' does everything BUT reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). RISAA not only reauthorizes this mass surveillance program, it greatly expands the government's authority by allowing it to compel a much larger group of people and providers into assisting with this surveillance. The bill's only significant 'compromise' is a limited, two-year extension of this mass surveillance. But overall, RISAA is a travesty for Americans who deserve basic constitutional rights and privacy whether they are communicating with people and services inside or outside of the US."

"Ron DeSantis Signs Florida Bill Limiting How Close Bystanders Can Get to Police: The law makes it a misdemeanor to approach within 25 feet of a first responder after receiving a verbal warning to stay away. [...] However, the right to observe and film police has been upheld by multiple federal appeals courts as a fundamental First Amendment activity, and civil liberties groups and press organizations argue that such laws are overly broad and chill the free speech rights of citizens and reporters."

"An Indiana court ruled that Jews have a religious liberty right to abortion. Here's why that matters. The idea of a Jewish right to abortion being enshrined in U.S. law could, at first, sound strange. But in the wake of Dobbs, as states have adopted new abortion restrictions, Jews and Jewish organizations have filed suit arguing that these restrictions put them in a bind. Jewish laws approach to abortion is generally understood — as much as anything within Jewish law is 'generally understood' — to place the well-being of the mother, including physical and emotional well-being, at the center of its analysis. As a result, where an abortion is necessary to protect the well-being of a mother, broadly construed, Jewish law sanctions — and often requires — the termination of the pregnancy. If a mother, motivated by these underlying Jewish values, were to seek an abortion in a state that imposed significant restrictions on such procedures, her religious commitments could run afoul of state law."

"The Trade War Within the U.S. Government Why does the National Security Council keep trying to wrest control of trade policy to help Big Tech? The tug-of-war within the Biden administration continues over whether to use trade policy to restrict the very kinds of regulations of tech that the administration is championing at home. These include protections of privacy from data mining and sale; regulation of AI; antitrust enforcement of excessive concentration and price-gouging; as well as keeping Americans' data secure from Chinese snooping. [...] If anything, you would expect the NSC to be even tougher, especially given the concerns over China using its own technology to spy on Americans and on the U.S. government. But the NSC wants to retain language that allows digital regulation to be treated as a trade barrier. This stance happens to chime perfectly with that of the tech lobby and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber declared in a recent statement, 'By dropping U.S. objections to trade violations, USTR risks giving a green light to foreign governments to raise barriers against U.S. exports or otherwise discriminate against U.S. companies.' This is the old discredited argument that because the tech behemoths most likely to be regulated happen to be U.S. companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, regulating tech is discriminatory against U.S. exports."

"Republicans Are Objectively Pro–Junk Fee: A new congressional resolution aligns Republicans with the financial industry's fight to preserve sky-high credit card late fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's $8 cap on credit card late fees has had a wild ride on the road to implementation. After being finalized last month, the rule drew a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought an injunction in Fort Worth. No credit card companies are located in Fort Worth; the venue choice was made purely to ensure that the case would be heard by a right-wing federal judge. The first district court judge assigned to the case owned a bunch of credit card company stocks and recused himself; the second judge, a Trump appointee, showed remarkable candor in saying the case had no business being in Fort Worth and should be heard in Washington. Then the far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Trump judge and tried to pull the case back to Texas. Then one of the authors of that opinion, it turned out, also owned a bunch of credit card company stocks. He has asked for briefings on whether he should recuse himself, basically seeking outside opinions on his own personal corruption. That's not the only attack on the late fee rule. Now congressional Republicans are coming after it, in the process finally setting up a partisan fight over the popular issue of junk fees, which the Biden administration has been pushing for the past few years. Republicans, it turns out, are objectively in favor of junk fees. And by next week, they'll be on the record for them."

RIP: John Pease March 8, 1936-March 12, 2024. For the last several years I've made it a practice to check his Wikipedia page to see if he is still with us. This time, I found he'd left in March, just a few days after his 88th birthday. I didn't know when I sat down that first day for his Stratification class that he was already beloved and legendary among his students (though the guy who surprised him in an ape suit just as class was beginning should have tipped me off.) I didn't know that I'd spend the rest of my life recalling the things he'd do in that class that made him special. I didn't understand just how special he really was, which is why I stupidly didn't sign up for all his other courses and bring my camera and take notes of every remarkable thing he said and did. Of all the terrific profs I had at the University of Maryland, several of whom I still cherish, Professor Pease, who had looked so unassuming and dull on first glance, is the one I remember most of all. I'd rather be studying with you, Professor.

Can this be true? "The Myth of the Molly Maguires: The Myth of the Molly Maguires became international news on June 21, 1877, when the authorities hanged ten Irish miners in a single day in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Known as Black Thursday, or Day of the Rope, it was the second largest mass execution in U.S. history. (The largest was in 1862, when the U.S. government executed 38 Dakota warriors). The authorities accused the Irishmen of being terrorists from a secret organization called the Molly Maguires. They executed ten more over the next two years, and imprisoned another twenty suspected Molly Maguires. Most of the convicted men were union activists. Some even held public office, as sheriffs and school board members. However, there is no evidence that an organization called the Molly Maguires ever existed in the U.S. James McParland, an agent provocateur who worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and who provided the plans and weapons the men purportedly used in their crimes, provided the only serious evidence against the men. The entire legal process was a travesty: a private corporation (the Reading Railroad) set up the investigation through a private police force (the Pinkerton Detective Agency) and prosecuted them with their own company attorneys. No jurors were Irish, though several were recent German immigrants who had trouble understanding the proceedings."

"How the Fed Keeps Getting Inflation Wrong: Today on TAP: More than 400 economists work for the Federal Reserve Board. Far too many are intimidated by the echo chamber of bad economics created by Chair Jay Powell. President Biden made two catastrophically bad appointments. One was Attorney General Merrick Garland. The other was Fed Chair Powell. Either could literally cost Biden his presidency and the country its democracy—Garland by having slow-walked Trump's prosecution and Powell by needlessly slowing the economy. The latest inflation report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Wednesday, showed the Consumer Price Index ticking up by 0.4 percent in March, the same as in February, but slightly higher than expected. This in turn set off signals from the Fed that expected rate reductions would have to be postponed, and near-hysterical media commentary. The Dow duly dropped more than a thousand points. According to one press report after another, the economy was stuck with high inflation; high interest rates would persist; and Biden's election-year good-news economy would be stuck with a bad-news story. But if you bother to take a close look at the details of the actual price increases by sector, they have nothing to do with the kind of inflation that justifies high interest rates. Some of the Fed's own research confirms that. Nearly all of the price hikes came from a few sectors, none of which have anything to do with overheated demand.

"The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes [...] What this means is that the overall racial wealth disparity is being driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people." So if you put the top 10% of black people and the top 10% of white people on Mars, there'd be hardly any racial wealth gap between those left in America.

"What Really Happened on October 7? And why, wonders a new Al Jazeera documentary, did the media go to such lengths to concoct gruesome X-rated versions of an attack that was harrowing enough to begin with?"

Tom Tomorrow on your liberal media.

The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir - "Death Is The Great Awakener"

01:53 GMT comment

Sunday, 14 April 2024

She fills her drawing book with line

All I know is it was identified as "Bobilo art" and I liked it.

My favorite video from this eclipse is not of the sun itself, but of the pinhole camera images left by the light through the leaves.

I haven't processed the fact that Netanyahu is trying to start Armageddon, yet. So far, Iran has been restrained, and Biden has apparently told Israel it "will not participate in any retaliatory strikes" on Iran, but he's still saying he backs Israel and a lot of people are holding their breath to see if he's going to show any backbone.

The Likud-backed Israeli government has been busy rubbing our faces in their murderous arrogance. I first noticed the story of the targeted assassination of World Central Kitchen workers, which underscored their real beef with UNWRA, which is not any imagined relationship with Hamas but that they are bringing aid to ordinary people in Gaza. Or did I notice the massacre at Al Shifa hospital first? (Electronic Intifada has a number videos and reports from on the ground.) And then I saw that they'd bombed the Iranian embassy in Syria. Then I saw that they'd banned Al Jazeera. They all seemed to happen at once, like a one-two-three-four punch, each one leaving people gasping. There's no question of the WCK murders being "accidental" — this is yet another case of clearly identified vehicles who had coordinated with IDF so they knew exactly who and where they were. Meanwhile, foreign policy commentators were incredulous at seeing anyone bomb an embassy, which they regard as an attack on the very idea of diplomacy itself. And of course, since the defenders of Likud's policies regard any journalist that isn't embedded with IDF as "Hamas mouthpieces" anyway, of course they are continuing their program of clearing any of the world's real journalists out of Gaza. As Eric says in his Forward piece, "The decision was announced Monday, on the basis of a law, passed after Oct. 7 and recently renewed, which gives the prime minister and communications minister the authority to order the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if they are seen to pose 'harm to the state's security.' But while Al Jazeera poses a significant nuisance to Israel, it cannot be said to constitute any kind of genuine 'threat.' Meanwhile, by banning the news service, Israel has shown itself ready to employ the typical tactics of an undemocratic dictatorship to keep its own people, and much of the world, in the dark about its own often-indefensible actions."

"Israel Created 'Kill Zones' in Gaza. Anyone Who Crosses Into Them Is Shot: The Israeli army says 9,000 terrorists have been killed since the Gaza war began. Defense officials and soldiers, however, tell Haaretz that these are often civilians whose only crime was to cross an invisible line drawn by the IDF"

Surprisingly, this appeared in The Washington Post: "I'm Jewish, and I've covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them. How does it feel to be a war-crimes reporter whose family bankrolled a nation that's committing war crimes? I can tell you. [...] As Israeli forces grind through Gaza in what the International Court of Justice defines as a 'plausible' case of genocide, my family's history of philanthropy runs into my familiarity with war crimes. When Israel bombs and shoots civilians, blocks food aid, attacks hospitals and cuts off water supplies, I remember the same outrages in Bosnia. When people in a Gaza flour line were attacked, I thought of the Sarajevans killed waiting in line for bread, and the perpetrators who in each case insisted the victims were slaughtered by their own side. Atrocities tend to rhyme."

This story by Dave Ettlin in 1980 tells us that when giant ships that didn't exist way back when the Francis Scott Key Bridge was built started swirling around in Baltimore's harbor, this was gonna happen. In the right-wing-o-sphere, of course, it's all about wokery.

"Suicide Mission: What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane. John Barnett had one of those bosses who seemed to spend most of his waking hours scheming to inflict humiliation upon him. He mocked him in weekly meetings whenever he dared contribute a thought, assigned a fellow manager to spy on him and spread rumors that he did not play nicely with others, and disciplined him for things like 'using email to communicate' and pushing for flaws he found on planes to be fixed. 'John is very knowledgeable almost to a fault, as it gets in the way at times when issues arise,' the boss wrote in one of his withering performance reviews, downgrading Barnett's rating from a 40 all the way to a 15 in an assessment that cast the 26-year quality manager, who was known as 'Swampy' for his easy Louisiana drawl, as an anal-retentive prick whose pedantry was antagonizing his colleagues. The truth, by contrast, was self-evident to anyone who spent five minutes in his presence: John Barnett, who raced cars in his spare time and seemed 'high on life' according to one former colleague, was a 'great, fun boss that loved Boeing and was willing to share his knowledge with everyone,' as one of his former quality technicians would later recall."

"Prison-tech company bribed jails to ban in-person visits: Beware of geeks bearing gifts. When prison-tech companies started offering "free" tablets to America's vast army of prisoners, it set off alarm-bells for prison reform advocates – but not for the law-enforcement agencies that manage the great American carceral enterprise. The pitch from these prison-tech companies was that they could cut the costs of locking people up while making jails and prisons safer. Hell, they'd even make life better for prisoners. And they'd do it for free! These prison tablets would give every prisoner their own phone and their own video-conferencing terminal. They'd supply email, of course, and all the world's books, music, movies and games. Prisoners could maintain connections with the outside world, from family to continuing education. Sounds too good to be true, huh? Here's the catch: all of these services are blisteringly expensive. [...] The future isn't here, it's just not evenly distributed. Prisoners are the ultimate early adopters of the technology that the richest, most powerful, most sadistic people in the country's corporate board-rooms would like to force us all to use."

The blockade of Cuba has imposed terrible hardship on its people, but Biden hasn't reversed Trump's reversal of one of the few good things Obama did: relaxing the embargo. Interestingly, Cuban Americans supported Obama's policy until they didn't. Why didn't they? Larry Lessig enlightens me: "Yet if we dig a bit deeper, there may be a way to understand the economy of influence that pushes Cubans in America to punish Cubans in Cuba. Because it turns out that our government gives tens of millions of dollars in government contracts to Cubans in Florida to spread the anti-Cuban message. These contracts are extremely lucrative: This year's budget promises $25 million (a 25% increase) to 'promote democracy' in Cuba, which means millions to run websites or Twitter feeds meant to rile up native Cubans and drive hatred toward the Cuban government. We spend another $25 million on radio and TV broadcasts targeting Cuba. Normalization would obviously starve the beneficiaries of this propaganda welfare. So Cubans in Florida feeding at this trough are keen to avoid that subsidy disappearing. It's good money in exchange for very little work. Who wouldn't fight to keep it?"

"Trina Robbins, Creator and Historian of Comic Books, Dies at 85: Trina Robbins, who as an artist, writer and editor of comics was a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field, and who as a historian specialized in books about female cartoonists, died on Wednesday in San Francisco. She was 85. Her death, in a hospital, was confirmed by her longtime partner, the superhero comics inker Steve Leialoha, who said she had recently suffered a stroke." I'm glad I knew it was coming because hearing about that stroke was painful. I loved being around her, she was so vibrant and energizing. I guess that's why Joni Mitchell put her in the first verse.

RIP: "Louis Gossett Jr, first Black man to win supporting actor Oscar, dies aged 87." I really liked that guy, and I howled out loud when re-watching an old episode of The Rockford Files and seeing him turn up in an afro. "Is that... Lou Gossett with hair?" Luckily, when the same character turned up in a later episode, they'd ditched the wig.

RIP: "Vernor Vinge (1944-2024): Vernor Vinge, author of many influential hard science fiction works, died March 20 at the age of 79. Vinge sold his first science-fiction story in 1964, 'Apartness', which appeared in the June 1965 issue of New Worlds. In 1971, he received a PhD (Math) from UCSD, and the next year began teaching at San Diego State University. It wasn't until almost thirty years later, in August 2000, that he retired from teaching to write science-fiction full time. His 1981 novella True Names is often credited as the first story to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace. He won Hugo Awards for his novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1993 — tie), A Deepness in the Sky (2000), Rainbows End (2007), and novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004). A Deepness in the Sky also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and in translation won Spain's Ignotus Award, Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Preis, and Italy's Italia Award." For a long time I was only peripherally aware of him as the former husband of my friend Joan Vinge, but A Fire Upon The Deep changed all that.

RIP: The legendary "John Sinclair, MC5 Manager and Activist, Dies at 82: John Sinclair, a counterculture icon who managed Detroit rockers MC5 during their peak years, has died. He was 82. His representative confirmed that the Michigan native died of congestive heart failure, The Detroit News reported. In addition to managing MC5, Sinclair was known as a poet, a political activist, a vocal marijuana advocate and the leader of the White Panther Party, an anti-racist group named in response to the radical Black Panther Party."

ROT IN PERDITION: "Joe Lieberman, Iraq War Cheerleader and Killer of Public Option, Dead at 82: 'Joe Lieberman's legacy will live on as your medical debt' [...] 'Up until the very end, Joe Lieberman enjoyed the high-quality, government-financed healthcare that he worked diligently to deny the rest of us. That's his legacy,' said Melanie D'Arrigo, executive director of the Campaign for New York Health, which advocates for universal, single-payer healthcare. As Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), explained, 'Joe Lieberman led the effort to ensure the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option or a reduction in the Medicare eligibility age to 55.'"
"Joe Lieberman and the Venality of Elite Bipartisanship [...] Lieberman was a reliable Bush ally on the 'war on terror' and other issues, and had long been a suspect Democrat, let alone progressive lawmaker in general. His entire career was built on his conservatism, having beaten (with the support of William F. Buckley) liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988 in a campaign where he supported bombing Libya, invading Grenada, and maintaining the US freeze-out of Cuba, all of which Weicker opposed. Lieberman also supported the death penalty for drug traffickers, a stealth form of school prayer, and strict spending cuts for the purpose of balancing the budget."
Jeet Heer commenting to Rick Perlstein on Facebook: "There are many good people who died younger than they should have because Lieberman put the kibosh on the public option. Not to mention the many dead because of the criminal wars he supported. So I say that speaking ill of him is the best way to honor the innumerable dead." (Rick had posted a link to his own little tribute to Lieberman.)
This gallery was described to me as, "Joe Lieberman with a bunch of people I'd like to punch in the face," and wow, it's breathtaking!

"Subprime gadgets: The promise of feudal security: "Surrender control over your digital life so that we, the wise, giant corporation, can ensure that you aren't tricked into catastrophic blunders that expose you to harm": [Link] The tech giant is a feudal warlord whose platform is a fortress; move into the fortress and the warlord will defend you against the bandits roaming the lawless land beyond its walls. That's the promise, here's the failure: What happens when the warlord decides to attack you? If a tech giant decides to do something that harms you, the fortress becomes a prison and the thick walls keep you in."

Department of Great Deals: Camp David: "But wait. Didn't Barak, as his defenders say, offer Arafat land from Israel proper in return for the annexed 9 percent? Yes. But the terms of the trade bordered on insulting. In exchange for the 9 percent of the West Bank annexed by Israel, Arafat would have gotten land as large as 1 percent of the West Bank. And, whereas some of the 9 percent was choice land, symbolically important to Palestinians, the 1 percent was land whose location wasn't even specified. I'm trying to imagine Yasser Arafat selling this 9-to-1 land swap to Palestinians—who, remember, are divided into two camps: the 'return to 1967 borders' crowd and the 'destroy the state of Israel' crowd. I'm not succeeding. And Arafat would have had to explain other unpalatable details, such as Israeli sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif (site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which had been under Arab control before 1967 and is the third-holiest site in Islam. The Camp David offer also had features that kept it from amounting to statehood in the full sense of the term. The new Palestine couldn't have had a military and wouldn't have had sovereignty over its air space—Israeli jets would roam at will. Nor would the Palestinians' freedom of movement on the ground have been guaranteed. At least one east-west Israeli-controlled road would slice all the way across the West Bank, and Israel would be entitled to declare emergencies during which Palestinians couldn't cross the road. Imagine if a mortal enemy of America's—say the Soviet Union during the Cold War—was legally entitled to stop the north-south flow of Americans and American commerce. Don't you think the average American might ask: Wait a minute—who negotiated this deal?"

"Burning Man Was Never Radical: How the world's most famous countercultural event is actually a preeminent evangelist of traditional neoliberal values [...] Our modern neoliberal system eschews disciplinarian control in favour of a significantly more effective prison built on the principle of ubiquitous freedom. When everyone is believed to be free to lead any life that they choose, then the life that they are living must be a result of personal choices. Individual choice is seen — above all else — as the primary driver of change. Concerned about the warming climate? Shop local and drive less, never-mind the corporate emitters. Worried about waste in our oceans? Stop buying plastic straws, never-mind the disposable nature of continuous consumption. Systemic solutions to these problems are seen as either impossible, or made up entirely of the individual choices of independent consumers. If change isn't happening, consumers must not want it badly enough."

Chris Hedges interviews the general's son, "The IDF's war crimes are a perfect reflection of israeli society: Miko Peled, author and former member of IDF Special Forces, explains how Israel indoctrinates its citizens in anti-Palestinian racism from the cradle to the grave. [...] That's what this so-called heroism was, it was no heroism at all. It was a well-trained, highly motivated, well-indoctrinated, well-armed militia that then became the IDF. But when it started, it was still a militia or today they would be called a terrorist organization, that went up against the people who had never had a military force, who never had a tank, who never had a warplane, who never prepared, even remotely, for battle or an assault. Then you have to make a choice: How do you bridge this? The differences are not nuanced, the differences are enormous. The choice that I made is to investigate for myself and find out who's telling the truth and who isn't. And my side was not telling the truth."

Could it be true? Could ice cream be good for you? "Nutrition Science's Most Preposterous Result: Studies show a mysterious health benefit to ice cream. Scientists don't want to talk about it. [...] But the international media coverage didn't mention what I'd seen in Table 5. According to the numbers, tucking into a 'dairy-based dessert'—a category that included foods such as pudding but consisted, according to Pereira, mainly of ice cream—was associated for overweight people with dramatically reduced odds of developing insulin-resistance syndrome. It was by far the biggest effect seen in the study, 2.5 times the size of what they'd found for milk. 'It was pretty astounding,' Pereira told me. 'We thought a lot about it, because we thought, Could this actually be the case?'"

As God is my witness, I thought eggs could fly!

Play xkcd Machine.

Joni Mitchell - "Ladies of the Canyon"

23:56 GMT comment

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Come now, gentleman, I know there's some mistake

"Pink Flower 11" by Rosi Roys is from the rose collection.

Some excellent news to get rid of judge-shopping: "Conference Acts to Promote Random Case Assignment: The Judicial Conference of the United States has strengthened the policy governing random case assignment, limiting the ability of litigants to effectively choose judges in certain cases by where they file a lawsuit. The policy addresses all civil actions that seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions, 'whether by declaratory judgment and/or any form of injunctive relief.' In such cases, judges would be assigned through a district-wide random selection process." Ryan Cooper explains why this is such a big deal, here.

"Confusion in Texas after appeals court blocks border arrest law: State law that would allow local officers to arrest migrants halted hours after US supreme court allowed it [...] [Judge] Hidalgo said many members of law enforcement she dealt with were not prepared to enforce the law. She told CNN she could imagine a scenario where she herself went for a jog and was stopped by local police saying, 'You look like you may be here on an undocumented basis,' and said: 'This is a terrible precedent.'" Crackpot legislators making crackpot laws and a crackpot Supreme Court making crackpot rulings and, yeah, you're gonna get confusion...and disbelief.

"The Strange Death of a Boeing Whistleblower: There's no way America's last great manufacturer murdered a prominent critic … is there? [...] But the end was almost in sight. 'He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him,' Turkewitz said. 'We didn't see any indication he would take his own life. We need more information … No one can believe it.'"

Mapping Police Violence: Law enforcement agencies across the country are failing to provide us with even basic information about the lives they take. So we collect the data ourselves. Scroll to explore."

"The Spectacle of Policing: 'Swatting' innocent people is the latest incarnation of the decades-long gestation of an infrastructure of fear. On February 25, an active-duty airman named Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., while yelling, 'Free Palestine.' I'll leave it to others to analyze the politics. I want to focus on something else that emerged from that most harrowing event: what first responders did on the scene before anyone even knew what was going on. The first first responder, according to a witness, either a security guard or a cop, asked the man before him who was on fire, 'May I help you, sir?' Then he ordered him to the ground. The second first responder—a Secret Service agent, it turns out—then approached 'with a gun drawn on the man after he collapses, still consumed by flames.' A picture of that moment emerged. It looks like he thought he was keeping a murderer from fleeing the scene of the crime. It was the third responder who tried to actually put out the fire. As he did, he cried something that ought to live on in popular lore for the way it concentrates attention on just how sick our weapons-addicted society has become—like when a University of Florida student cried, 'Don't tase me, bro,' when six officers assaulted him for asking an embarrassing question of a politician in 2007. He told the guy aiming the pistol, 'I don't need guns, I need fire extinguishers!' By the time enough of those arrived, it was too late. Bushnell died in the hospital."

I can't imagine why some people think the economy is not so great.
• "Nearly 50% of US parents financially supporting adult children, study finds"
• "American dream of owning a home is dead, majority of renters say"
• "HUD: Homelessness Up by 12 Percent"

"Man of Steel: Today on TAP: President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of U.S. Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union. You'd think it would be hard for Biden to top his full-on embrace of the UAW and their stunningly successful strike against the Big Three automakers. But Biden has just done it by declaring that he opposes the takeover by Japan's Nippon Steel of U.S. Steel. The U.S. needs to 'maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steel workers,' Biden declared, adding: 'U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated.' This move doubles down on Biden's commitment to rebuild domestic industry and rejection of corporate-driven 'free trade' and his alliance with the labor movement. There is a process for government evaluation of proposed foreign takeovers of American companies on national-security grounds. A review is conducted by an interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). The final decision whether to allow a deal to proceed is made by the president."

"UNRWA report says Israel coerced some agency employees to falsely admit Hamas links [...] The document says several UNRWA Palestinian staffers had been detained by the Israeli army, and added that the ill-treatment and abuse they said they had experienced included severe physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats of harm to family members. 'Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,' the report says. UNRWA declined a Reuters request to see transcripts of its interviews containing allegations of coerced false confessions. In addition to the alleged abuse endured by UNRWA staff members, Palestinian detainees more broadly described allegations of abuse, including beatings, humiliation, threats, dog attacks, sexual violence, and deaths of detainees denied medical treatment, the UNRWA report says."

"Allegations UNRWA collaborated with Hamas are 'flat-out lies': Van Hollen: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) ripped into Israel's allegations that the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency, commonly referred to as UNRWA, is a proxy for the Palestinian militant group Hamas, arguing the accusations are an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to eliminate the agency. There's no doubt that the claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others are making, that somehow UNRWA is a proxy for Hamas, are just flat-out lies,' Van Hollen said Sunday in an interview on CBS News's 'Face the Nation.' 'If you look at the person who's in charge of operations on the ground for UNRWA, it's about a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. You can be sure he's not in cahoots with Hamas.'" Nice to see my Senator saying it out loud.

"AIPAC Talking Points Revealed: Documents show that the powerful lobby is spreading its influence on Capitol Hill by calling for unconditional military aid to Israel and hyping up threats from Iran. [...] The Prospect has obtained documents from the conference that preview the PAC's lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill this week. The documents reveal AIPAC's legislative strategy and the talking points it will use to support an unconditional $14 billion military funding package that has thus far been held up, among other policy changes. They also include numerous positions on aspects of the U.S. response to the war that have not previously been made public, from abolishing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to opposing recent restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on Israeli settlers. There is no mention of a two-state solution. [...] THOUGH THE PRIMARY MOTIVATION FOR THE CONFERENCE was lobbying, the event also informed members about the PAC's congressional spending plans. AIPAC has pledged to drop over $100 million on campaigns this election cycle to defeat any congressional candidates critical of Israel." Those candidates will, of course, be progressives. AIPAC has been funding right-wing candidates in Democratic primaries as well as supporting Republicans in general elections. "AIPAC is instructing members to make assertions of fact to congressional staff that are not supported by credible evidence other than statements by the Israel Defense Forces, according to experts who reviewed the documents. 'They're going to the Hill to repeat a foreign government's talking points,' said Matt Duss at the Center for International Policy, a former policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"Oregon Gov. Kotek to Sign 'Unconscionable' Bill Recriminalizing Drugs: The landmark decriminalization measure passed by state voters in 2020 "now stands as a cautionary tale about the failure to match bold policy reform with competent administration," said one reporter. [...] Oregon voters passed Measure 110, also called the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, by a 17% margin in 2020, and it took effect the following February. The state was the first and only in the country to take the decriminalization and treatment approach, a shift widely lauded by drug policy groups."

"CNN changed a headline about EV sales from a success story to a failure: On February 25, CNN published a piece on electric vehicles outlining the reasons that sales, which are trending upward and reached record levels in 2023, are not as high as analysts once predicted they'd be. The next day, a new headline appeared above the article that radically altered the main takeaway of the story without any new information added. Why did CNN change 'No, electric vehicle sales aren't dropping' to 'How EVs became such a massive disappointment'?"

The thing about these people is, they have money. They have money and it puts them at the top of a hierarchy that they don't simply want to enjoy, but want the rest of us to revere. They can't stand it that we don't respect their place. "Inside A Secret Society Of Prominent Right-Wing Christian Men Prepping For A 'National Divorce': A secret, men-only right-wing society with members in influential positions around the country is on a crusade: to recruit a Christian government that will form after the right achieves regime change in the United States, potentially via a 'national divorce.'"

"The Lie That's Inflating Your Credit Card Bills: Credit card companies doubled interest rates on the false claim of inflated financial risk — and now to fight new late-fee rules, they're threatening to raise them even higher. Over the last decade, credit card companies have jacked up interest rates to a record high, costing Americans $25 billion each year, even though regulators say lenders' risk of losses has declined. Now, in response to a new ban on excessive credit card late fees, the banking industry is threatening to punish debtors with even higher interest rates as lenders' profits skyrocket. In response to new late-fee caps announced on Tuesday, the banking industry's largest trade group is arguing that consumer penalties and sky-high interest rates account for the risk of people failing to pay their credit card bills. But as a recent federal report showed, credit card companies have nearly doubled the interest rates they charge to consumers — far outpacing the financial risk they're taking on by lending people money. This means that corporate greed, not financial hazards, is behind the soaring credit card fees that cardholders face."

From 2018, "Meet the Hidden Architect Behind America's Racist Economics: Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work. The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept."

I had no idea this version of "Memo From Turner" existed: "The first version of Memo From Turner recorded by Mick Jagger with Steve Winwood on all instruments and Jim Capaldi on drums. This version has never been officially released, the vocals from this track was used for the final mix produced by Jack Nitzsche, I slowed down the track to go with the clip (From Performance) and also slowed some clips down as well. Enjoy!"

08:02 GMT comment

Friday, 8 March 2024

I can bring whole cities to ruin

"Roses and Strawberries" by Sergey Sovkov is from the Rose Period collection.

Oops! I bounced my computer on the kitchen tiles and lost February! My data seems to be okay, but having to get a new computer made recovery pricey, and I do have a PayPal button on the sidebar, but if there's someone who deserves it more (Common Dreams sounds like they're balancing on a knife-edge at the moment), I'll survive without it.

And I would have posted a few days ago but EMTs insisted on getting me to the hospital for a scan of my foot and leg so I had a complicated few days of tests and dope and lots of sleep there before they pronounced me "fine", which was a surprise to us all.

Meanwhile, right-wing war-monger and big-time beneficiary of AIPAC largess Adam Schiff ruined it for us by beating Barbara Lee and Katie Porter in the California Senate Primary. This means he will be running against Republican Steve Garvey for the DiFi's old Senate seat. How did he do it? "The primary broke records as the most expensive Senate race in California. Schiff's campaign is widely seen as having engineered Garvey's strong primary performance by spending millions of dollars to air ads attacking Garvey, the former first baseman for the LA Dodgers and an inexperienced Republican candidate, thus elevating his name recognition among Republican voters in a way the Garvey campaign itself was not able to afford. Schiff's strategy appeared to be effective at boxing out his two Democratic progressive competitors. Neither Porter nor Lee are expected to return to Congress next year, after choosing to compete in the Senate race rather than run for re-election in their House districts."

"A State Supreme Court Just Issued the Most Devastating Rebuke of Dobbs Yet [...] This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court responded to that conclusion: no. On Monday, the court issued a landmark opinion declaring that abortion restrictions do amount to sex-based discrimination and therefore are 'presumptively unconstitutional' under the state constitution's equal rights amendment. The majority vehemently rejected Dobbs' history-only analysis, noting that, until recently, 'those interpreting the law' saw women 'as not only having fewer legal rights than men but also as lesser human beings by design.' Justice David Wecht went even further: In an extraordinary concurrence, the justice recounted the historical use of abortion bans to repress women, condemned Alito's error-ridden analysis, and repudiated the 'antiquated and misogynistic notion that a woman has no say over what happens to her own body.'"

"The Nixonian New York Times Stonewalls on a Discredited Article About Hamas and Rape: The newspaper of record botches an important story about sexual violence on October 7. [...] On December 28, 2023, the Times published a major investigative report headlined ''Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.' Written by veteran foreign correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman along with two younger freelancers, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, the article dealt with one of the most painful stories to emerge from the Hamas massacre of October 7, the allegations of widespread rape. Based on more than 150 interviews, the article contended that the Hamas systematically used rape as a weapon of war. The question of rapes on October 7 had been simmering since the Hamas attack, gaining increasing urgency by November, when the Israeli government made it a centerpiece (along with unverified reports about beheaded babies) in its case for war. While leading pro-Israel advocates emphasized accounts of rape that they insisted amounted to a systematic campaign deliberately organized by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, some pro-Palestinian commentators took a more skeptical stance, noting the lack of forensic evidence to cast doubt on the narrative of a systematic campaign of sexual violence. The danger of the skeptical stance, sometimes played out in polemics, is that it sometimes seemed to shift over to the suggestion that all the testimonies of rape were mere 'stories' without evidentiary basis. 'Screams Without Words' initially seemed like a searing and irreproachable indictment that settled this debate. But doubts soon emerged about the article, both on account of the unacknowledged biases of the reporters (in particular Anat Schwartz) and also the shaky nature of the evidence presented. Key sources for the article had a history of false claims. The family of one allegedly raped murder victim spoke out against the article, claiming it presented an impossible story. A fierce internal debate emerged inside the Times itself as reporters not part of the original team found it difficult to verify many of the claims of the article. The reporting behind the Times article has been questioned both by the Times podcast The Daily and The Intercept." But instead of investigating how they'd made such a mess, they decided to investigate staff who'd "leaked" the fact that many Times staffers were outraged at the bias and unsubstantiated nature of the claims of the authors.

From In These Times, "The ADL Wants to Conflate Critiques of Israel with Antisemitism. That Won't Make Jews Safer. As conservative pundits mainstream antisemitic tropes, the ADL is instead focused on silencing expressions of Palestinian solidarity. [...] The truly dangerous rise in American antisemitism since October 7 has nothing to do with activists calling for a ceasefire, or chanting ?'from the river to the sea' or arguing (in concurrence with dozens of scholars in Holocaust and Genocide Studies) that Israel is engaged in genocidal violence against Palestinians in Gaza. The serious threat here, which the ADL under Greenblatt continually deemphasizes, is the proliferation of antisemitic ideology coming from the U.S. Right, where influential figures are rapidly normalizing racist, misogynistic, antisemitic and otherwise bigoted ideas long considered taboo in mainstream political discourse."

"The Neglected History of the State of Israel: The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions. [...] One of Chotiner's best interviews ran this past November. A leader of the militant West Bank settlement movement told him that Jews have a sacred duty to occupy all the land between 'the Euphrates in the east and the Nile in the southwest,' that nothing west of the Jordan River was ever 'Arab place or property,' and that no Arabs, even citizens, should have civil rights in Israel. Stunning stuff, and extremely valuable to have on the record, especially given the settler movement's close ties to Benjamin Netanyahu's government. I praise Chotiner, however, as a bridge to a separate point: Even the most learned and thoughtful observers of Israel and Palestine miss a basic historic foundation of the crisis. [...] In 1928, a prominent Revisionist named Abba Ahimeir published a series of articles entitled 'From the Diary of a Fascist.' They refer to the founder of their movement, Ze'ev Jabotinsky (his adopted first name is Hebrew for 'wolf'), as 'il duce.' In 1935, his comrade Hen Merhavia wrote that Revisionists were doing what Mussolini did: 'establish a nucleus of an exemplary life of morality and purity. Like us, the Italian fascists look back to their historical heritage. We seek to return to the kingdom of the House of David; they want to return to the glory of the Roman Empire.' They even opened a maritime academy in Italy, under Mussolini's sponsorship, for the navy they hoped to build in their new Israeli state. '[T]he views and the political and social inclinations of the Revisionists,' an Italian magazine reported, 'are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine … as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.'"

From 2021, a story few seem to have heard, "How did it happen that Israel's Jews and Arabs rose up against each other?: The endless rocket attacks no longer shock, but the divisions that have come violently to the surface in Israeli towns have horrified the country. [...] But the deterioration of the political status of Palestinians in Israel hangs heavily over social and economic problems. Over the last decade, Israel has passed laws targeting Palestinian citizens' rights, culminating in the 2018 'nation state' law, elevating Jews to a superior status in Israel. Anti-Arab rhetoric from rightwing politicians has crossed the line to incitement." Like so much else, the claim that Arabs in Israel live as equals is a sham. For a deeper dive, it's worth watching "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine." You might also want to read a little about Plan Dalet.

"WMD, Part II: CIA "Cooked The Intelligence" To Hide That Russia Favored Clinton, Not Trump In 2016: Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth [...] Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth"

Radley Balko on "The retconning of George Floyd: Bari Weiss's Free Press is the latest outlet to tout a conspiratorial documentary alleging that Derek Chauvin was wrongly convicted. It's all nonsense. For a few precious days after the death of George Floyd, there was at least a clear consensus across the political spectrum — there was near-unanimity that what Darnella Frazier captured on her cell phone was a crime. An outrage. A thing to be denounced. As Floyd lay handcuffed on his stomach, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's back for nine minutes as Floyd became unresponsive, then went limp, then died. Even the most vocal police supporters condemned Chauvin's actions, though with obligatory disclaimers that Chauvin was a rogue, aberrant bad apple, and that no one should judge all law enforcement officers by his actions. The consensus wouldn't last. As protests heated up around the country, far-right pundits began to break away. They pointed to Floyd's criminal record, the violence at some of the protests, and the allegedly radical positions of the organizers. Dennis Prager, the radio host and founder of a fake university, marveled to his audience how 'decent' MPD officers had been to Floyd."

RIP: "The Prestige author Christopher Priest dies aged 80: Internationally acclaimed novelist died from cancer on Friday after being diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma last summer" (I saw the Telegraph story first so I could post it here right away, but now I see that his close friend and colleague John Clute got the Guardian obit.) Chris also did a great fanzine called Deadloss and later wrote The Last Deadloss Visions about Harlan Ellison's failure to produce the promised third in the Dangerous Visions series in a timely fashion. He also had a long-time friendship and collaborations with Dave Langford in both sf and their private enterprises. There's so much I could say about Chris, but what I'll tell you is that one time he drove us home and sat on our couch and told us about the time he went up to Liverpool and discovered an as-yet unknown rock band called The Beatles and George insulted his suit, and we made him write that story down and we built a whole one-shot fanzine around it. That fanzine was called Chuch, and you can go there now and read Chris' story, "Thank You, Girls."

RIP: Brian Stableford 1948-2024, British SF author of 80 novels and a lot of other things. He was one of those people who Dave Langford alerted me to early as one of the Good Guys, and he was. My heart really goes out to Dave, losing such close, long-time friends at once.

RIP: Liaden Universe Co-Author Steve Miller. (1950-2024). I really liked this guy back in the BaltiWash days, and I was really happy to hear he'd married Sharon Lee and they were writing together up in Maine. I'd always meant to look at their stuff but I never saw it on shelves locally, and then a chance remark from a friend made me put them on my wishlist. It didn't take me long to realize I wanted all of the Liaden novels, they ring all my chimes. I stayed in contact with Steve, and got to know Sharon better, on Facebook, and was right chuffed about it all. I'm sorry to say I took no photos of him but one day shortly after a party at his place, he presented me with this photo of me being leered at by two guys, which had amused him. So here's a nice old shot of his sofa and me being thin, once upon a time. But there's a nice pic of him and Sharon on that obit page.

RIP: "Hinton Battle, Three-Time Tony Winner and Original The Wiz, Actor, Dies at 67: Hinton Battle, the Tony-winning performer who originated the role of The Scarecrow in Broadway's The Wiz, has died. He was 67. The actor died Tuesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness." But of course, we loved him as the dancing demon.

"Moral Bankruptcy: The constitutional grant of a second chance for the destitute has become an enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. One wild case in Houston tells the story. [...] THE NATION'S BANKRUPTCY CODE, the constitutionally enshrined system by which Americans are theoretically afforded the chance to discharge unmanageable debts, has over the past decade or two quietly metamorphosed into a vast enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. Corporations have exploited the tremendous privileges of bankruptcy protection to abrogate union contracts, cram down unilateral wage and benefit cuts, eject lawsuits filed by customers and community members killed by toxic products and manufacturing processes, back out of funding pensions and zero out the savings accounts of workers they pressured into investing in company stock as a condition of keeping their jobs, settle wrongful death claims for less than a penny on the dollar, evade responsibility for cleaning up after oil spills or refinery explosions or poisoning groundwater with benzene, and, of course, discharge debt incurred in the process of defrauding vulnerable students into taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they are practically barred by law from discharging in bankruptcy themselves."

Kuttner presents the depressing news of "The Return of Tony Blair: The former prime minister has all but taken over the Labour Party and pushed it to the right. Didn't Tony Blair, nicknamed Tory Blur, do enough damage last time? When Bill Clinton was the U.S. president and Tony Blair was the British prime minister, they were soulmates. They brought us neoliberalism. Both Clinton's New Democrats and Blair's New Labour turned away from progressivism and working families in favor of globalist corporate financial elites. Neoliberal deregulation of finance in turn produced the economic collapse in 2008. The failure of the center-left party to maximize the moment, contain capital, and rebuild a pro-worker economy led to the defection of working-class voters and ultimately to Trump in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. At home, Joe Biden has at last broken with Democratic neoliberalism. In Britain, the Conservative Party has lurched from blunder to blunder and from failed leader to failed leader, setting up a return to Labour. The Labour Party, under Keir Starmer, is the odds-on favorite to win the next general election, which could be as early as May or as late as next January. But Starmer, rather than rebuilding a progressive party, has virtually outsourced his entire program to Tony Blair. Based on its recent pronouncements, a Starmer government, if anything, would be worse than Blair's."

This article is good, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter, which is that the publisher in question shows no interest in presenting the unvarnished facts he so claims he wants the public to have so we can make up our own minds. You might get one rigorously researched article with nothing-but-the-facts on a particular issue, but when you have half a dozen articles that are clearly propaganda for one side full of widely-debunked nonsense as their foundation, you just might suspect a bias is in effect. And why do you print dozens of articles on an issue hardly anyone cares about when they don't even carry any illumination, let alone when they are full of holes? And, you know, everyone already knows Biden is old, why harp on it constantly? Even in an environment where The Times was rooting for Biden, you'd get the occasional reference to his age, but you really don't need to mention it that often — more often than Trump's visible dementia is mentioned. It's like that. "Why is New York Times campaign coverage so bad? Because that's what the publisher wants."

Ryan Cooper learned about "The Best Tax System on Earth: What America and the world can learn from the Faroe Islands [...] The Faroes have a tax system that is unique even among their Nordic neighbors, and probably the best in the world. Its operating principles are centralization, efficiency, and simplicity. It's not the most riveting subject for a travel holiday, I'll readily admit. But it's beautiful in its own way—and it makes a major difference in the lives of every Faroese person, from the lowest worker to the owners of the biggest businesses. It's hard to imagine fully implementing such a system in the United States, but we still might learn from their example."

Dave Johnson in 2013, "The 1983 Strategy Behind Today's Social Security Attacks: Suppose you're in a bar and you overhear a couple of guys in the next booth talking about a plan to steal from people's houses. As you eavesdrop the plan unfolds: one will come to the front door pretending to be from the gas company warning the homeowner about a gas leak down the street. While he distracts the homeowner at the front door, the other one will sneak in the back door and take stuff. So the next day the doorbell rings, and there's a guy saying he is from the gas company. He says he wants to talk a while to warn you about a gas leak down the street... This is what is happening with this constant drumbeat of attacks on Social Security. The attack on Social Security never goes away, it only escalates. As we go into this next round of attacks -- this time it is even coming from the President* -- it is more than useful to understand the background of this campaign against the program."

03:56 GMT comment

Sunday, 28 January 2024

It's a wind that lingers long enough to be fed

"Ice outside my window," by Libby Spencer.

"International Court of Justice Rules Forcefully Against Israel in Landmark Genocide Ruling, Including Restricting Military Action [...] Of critical importance, and a huge smackdown to Israel, is the Court came as close as it reasonably could to calling for a ceasefire in ruling for the provisional measure (which it devised itself) for Israel to cease military action against Palestinians as members of a protected group under the Genocide Convention.1 I had opined that the Court could not call for a ceasefire since it could not bind Hamas to comply. It would not be sound or shrewd to give Israel an easy pretext for defying the court by saying that a one-sided ceasefire would leave it defenseless. But impressively, the court went as far as it could, and way way further than I expected, in constraining Israel military operations against the Palestinian population." The fact that it didn't demand a ceasefire in specific isn't interesting, since to comply with the order they'd still have to stop doing what they're doing.

"The NYPD Spent $150 Million to Catch Farebeaters Who Cost the MTA $104,000: Overtime pay for cops in New York's subway system increased from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million over the same period in 2023, according to an analysis by Gothamist. If that sounds like an excessive amount of money to be spending on cops who are famously mostly on their phones or GETTING STURDY, that's probably because you don't believe in public safety. For your information, that extra $151 million in overtime spending, a nearly 4,000 percent cost increase and the result of adding 1,000 additional cops to patrol the subway system, bought us a whopping two percent decrease in 'major' crime, amounting to a total of 48 fewer serious crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. The number of assaults on the subway, on the other hand, actually went up, raising the question of whether that decrease can even be attributed to the increased police presence underground." Atrios remarked on Christmas that, "A whole range of people - from centrist 'good government' types to libertarians to 'fiscal conservatives' - are just completely silent on absurd cop budgets."

"PRESS Act unanimously passes the House. Now on to the Senate! Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) applauds the House of Representatives for unanimously passing the PRESS Act, a bipartisan federal reporter's shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to name their sources in federal court and would stop the federal government from spying on journalists through their technology providers. The PRESS Act is the strongest federal shield bill that Congress has ever proposed. It's vigorously supported by major media outlets and civil society organizations."

"New Baltimore Sun owner insults staff in meeting, says paper should mimic Fox45: In a tense, three-hour meeting with staff Tuesday afternoon, new Baltimore Sun owner David Smith told employees he has only read the paper four times in the past few months, insulted the quality of their journalism and encouraged them to emulate a TV station owned by his broadcasting company. Smith, whose acquisition of the paper from the investment firm Alden Global Capital was announced publicly Monday evening, told staff he had not read newspapers for decades, according to several people who attended the meeting but were not authorized to speak publicly. [...] Smith, who is the executive chairman of Sinclair Inc., which operates more than 200 television stations nationwide, told New York Magazine in 2018 he considered print media 'so left-wing as to be meaningless dribble.' Asked Tuesday during the meeting whether he stood by those comments now that he owns one of the most storied titles in American journalism, Smith said yes. Asked if he felt that way about the contents of his newspaper, Smith said 'in many ways, yes,' according to people at the meeting. The Baltimore Sun won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Smith is a major political player in the region, having donated heavily to campaigns. He recruited candidates to run against Mayor Brandon Scott and funded ballot initiatives that altered the city charter. [...] Smith's company owns the local station Fox45, and he praised its Project Baltimore, which focuses on the shortcomings of Baltimore City schools, as an example Sun reporters should follow." Of course he does! "Sinclair exec, Sun owner David Smith behind lawsuit against Baltimore schools: Fox45 says reporters didn't know owner is financing high-profile suit and station will add disclosure to stories. New Baltimore Sun owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group Executive Chairman David Smith has been quietly involved in a lawsuit accusing Baltimore City Public Schools of defrauding taxpayers, documents show." This man is one of the great public menaces of our time.

"A School Bought Solar Panels And Saved Enough To Give All Its Teachers Raises: 'The Sun Is Going To Be Shining Anyway, So Why Not Cash In On That?' A rural school district in Batesville, Arkansas generated enough solar energy to give every teacher a raise, CBS News reports. Salaries were only averaging around $45,000 at the Batesville School District, with many teachers leaving as a result. It was also proving difficult to attract new teachers to the town of just 10,000 people. But then the school district, which included a high school and five other education centers, turned an unused field into a solar energy farm back in 2017. It also covered the front of the high school in 1,500 panels. After installing the solar array and investing in other new energy infrastructure, Climatewire reports that the district turned a $250,000 annual budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus — enough, according to CBS, to give every teacher a raise of up to $15,000."

Rick Perlstein is writing a new series for The American Prospect from the three-legged torture device of American politics, "You Are Entering the Infernal Triangle: Authoritarian Republicans, ineffectual Democrats, and a clueless media."
• "First They Came for Harvard: The right's long and all-too-unanswered war on liberal institutions claims a big one."
• "Metaphors Journalists Live By (Part I): One of the reasons political journalism is so ill-equipped for this moment in America is because of its stubborn adherence to outdated frames."
• "Metaphors Journalists Live By (Part II): The conclusion of our story of the bad things that can happen when journalists refuse to criticize themselves"
• "American Fascism: Author and scholar John Ganz on how Europe's interwar period informs the present"

"Democratic Lawmakers Plan Push To Get Controversial Biden Adviser Out Of Office: House Democrats have drafted a letter seeking the resignation of White House aide Brett McGurk, whose Middle East policies are seen as worsening the Gaza crisis." (You might want to deep-dive this guy a little more here.)

"'Disturbing': Australian Journalist Fired After Push by Pro-Israel Lobbyists [...] The Herald reported Tuesday that "dozens of leaked messages from a WhatsApp group called Lawyers for Israel show how members of the group repeatedly wrote to the ABC demanding Lattouf be sacked, and threatened legal action if she was not." One Lawyers for Israel member called Lattouf's lawyer, who is Jewish, a traitor."

In this thread on the Boeing scandal, Matt Stoller points out that the right-wing deflection to DEI is a red herring from "1998 fights between white guys - finance vs engineering." He cites "this note from 21 years ago from a group of Boeing engineers predicting the crisis we're in. It's a function of the McDonnell Douglas merger, not race." Matt also says, "I don't like DEI, because it's what a civil rights movement looks like when no one has any rights except through identity grievance and that's a very bad thing. But it's extremely obvious that DEI is used by the right to avoid looking at problems implicating their establishment."

"With Overdraft Fee Crackdown, 'CFPB Is Doing What It Was Designed to Do': The CFPB is proposing clear, enforceable rules that will reduce overdraft fees and save Americans billions, closing another lucrative regulatory loophole banks use to prey on consumers,' said one advocate."

At long last, Tom Tomorrow has joined forces with The American Prospect, who will now be carrying This Modern World.

RIP: Glynis Johns, Mary Poppins star and 'Send in the Clowns' singer, dies aged 100"— Sondheim actually wrote the song for her, and she was also the best mermaid ever. Lotta good photos here.

RIP: "Mary Weiss, lead singer with '60s girl group the Shangri-Las, died on Jan. 19 at the age of 75. Confirming the singer's death, Miriam Linna of Weiss' label Norton Records said: 'Mary was an icon, a hero, a heroine, to both young men and women of my generation and of all generations.' Formed in 1963, the quartet is remembered for their first Top 5 single, 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)' and its follow-up, the classic death disc 'Leader of the Pack,' both released in 1964."

RIP: "Melanie, Singer Who Performed at Woodstock and Topped Charts With 'Brand New Key,' Dies at 76: The singer, who wrote 'Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)' based on her experience at Woodstock, had been at work this month on a covers album." Good, she did what she loved right up to the end.

At Informed Comment, a review of Avi Shlaim's Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew [...] After the Nakba that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948 and the new state's victory against the Arab armies, the climate for Jews in Iraq significantly worsened. The defeat of the Iraqi army in Palestine was a deep humiliation for a nation that expected an easy military success. It was in this context, Shlaim remarks, that 'the distinction between Jews and Zionists, so crucial to interfaith harmony in the Arab world, was rapidly breaking down.'[2] Ella Shoat, who has researched the history of Arab Jews and provided feedback to Shlaim for his book, captures another side of the same problem when she writes that 'as the Palestinians were experiencing the Nakba, Arab Jews woke up to a new world order that could not accommodate their simultaneous Jewishness and Arabness.'"

One thing that really spooked me was hearing Israelis talk about what they had been taught about Palestinians. The level of propaganda is astonishing. Israelis claim that "Palestinians teach their children hate," but what Israeli children are taught is horrific - not just about Palestinians, but about everyone. I'd seen hints of this before, but Nurit Peled-Elhanan, the Israeli professor who studies and writes about education, still managed to shock me. It's worth your time to listen to this video about how racist the Israeli educational system is — and how it traumatizes Israeli children from an early age. She also says Palestinians can't educate children to hate Jews because Israel controls all their educational processes and materials.

This is a good, solid piece of writing by Jeremy Scahill that I opened in December but it got lost in the deluge: "This Is Not a War Against Hamas: The notion that the war would end if Hamas was overthrown or surrenders is as ahistorical as it is false. [...] Israel has imposed, by lethal force, a rule that Palestinians have no legitimate rights of any form of resistance. When they have organized nonviolent demonstrations, they have been attacked and killed. That was the case in 2018-2019 when Israeli forces opened fire on unarmed protesters during the Great March of Return, killing 223 and wounding more than 8,000 others. Israeli snipers later boasted about shooting dozens of protesters in the knee during the weekly Friday demonstrations. When Palestinians fight back against apartheid soldiers, they are killed or sent into military tribunals. Children who throw rocks at tanks or soldiers are labeled terrorists and subjected to abuse and violations of basic rights — that is, if they are not summarily shot dead. Palestinians live their lives stripped of any context or any recourse to address the grave injustices imposed on them."

"Why is the media ignoring evidence of Israel's own actions on 7 October?" has a too-long introductory section, but the meat of the story is that Hamas planned a commando raid on military installations that became chaos because a festival had been moved into the area and now a large number of civilians were thrown into the mix. The question is how many of the dead civilians were actually killed by Hamas, because the evidence is that a significant proportion of those deaths were caused by the IDF.

"What the New York Times Gets Wrong About Lemkin's Work on Genocide: Words matter, but the paper of record has ignored our letter of clarification about historical misrepresentation and the important role of the Armenian genocide in the thinking of the man who coined the term."

Doctorow with a deep-dive on how Apple gets away with its evils, "The Cult of Mac: Apple's most valuable intangible asset isn't its patents or copyrights – it's an army of people who believe that using products from a $2.89 trillion multinational makes them members of an oppressed religious minority whose identity is coterminal with the interests of Apple's shareholders. [...] These regulators couch their enforcement action in terms of defending an open market, but the benefits to app makers is only incidental. The real beneficiaries of an open app world is Apple customers. After all, it's Apple customers who bear the 30% app tax when it's priced into the apps they buy and the things they buy in those apps. It's Apple customers who lose access to apps that can't be viably offered because the app tax makes them money-losing propositions. It's Apple customers who lose out on the ability to get apps that Apple decides are unsuitable for inclusion in its App Store. That's where the Cult Of Mac steps in to cape for the $3 trillion behemoth. The minority of Apple customers for whom their brand loyalty is a form of religious devotion insist that 'no Apple customer wants these things.'"

"Institutional COVID denial has killed public health as we knew it. Prepare to lose several centuries of progress. Public health cannot be individualized. Abandoning collective approaches to disease mitigation is a recipe for disaster."

"Millionaires and Billionaires to Davos Elites: 'We Must Be Taxed More'; 'Even millionaires and billionaires like me are saying it's time," said Abigail Disney. "The elites gathering in Davos must take this crisis seriously.'ms Survey results released Tuesday as corporate CEOs, top government officials, and other global elites gathered in Davos, Switzerland show that nearly three-quarters of millionaires in G20 countries support higher taxes on extreme wealth, which they view as an increasingly dire threat to democracy. The poll was conducted by the London-based firm Survation on behalf of the Patriotic Millionaires, an advocacy group that campaigns for a more progressive tax system. The survey, which polled over 2,300 millionaires in G20 nations, found that 74% 'support higher taxes on wealth to help address the cost-of-living crisis and improve public services.'" It's not clear to me that other billionaires are on the bandwagon, but quit a few millionaires are.

Dan Froomkin, "My proposed additions to the New York Times style guide to improve its political coverage: The New York Times repeatedly abuses the English language in its political reporting. I decided it needs some additions to its style guide. Here are my initial suggestions." You are invited to add your suggestions.

From the Roosevelt Institute, "How Topline Economic Indicators—like Low Unemployment—Miss Struggling Communities: Current macroeconomic indicators and labor market statistics paint a picture of a resilient economy underpinned by a robust labor market. The United States has enjoyed historically low unemployment rates, bottoming out at a mere 3.4 percent in January and April 2023. Unemployment remained relatively low throughout 2022 and 2023 despite a gradual upward trend, standing at a still-respectable 3.7 percent in December. When one turns attention to the state level, however, it becomes clear that the labor market is fragmented. Some of the nation's most populated states are reaping minimal or no benefits from the tightness of the national labor market. Instead, these populous states, such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and Nevada, are contending with escalating unemployment rates that surpass pre-pandemic levels."

"How a Big Pharma Company Stalled a Potentially Lifesaving Vaccine in Pursuit of Bigger Profits: A vaccine against tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease, has never been closer to reality, with the potential to save millions of lives. But its development slowed after its corporate owner focused on more profitable vaccines."

Keanu Reeves gives the one true answer to the question, "What do you think happens when we die?"

Nazz, "Under the Ice"

22:50 GMT comment

Thursday, 28 December 2023

Peace on Earth

And here we are with the traditional Christmas links:
• Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. (And I've been charmed to see that most new covers of the song are using this arrangement, so thanks for that, Joshua!)
• Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
• "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
• Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

"Jury Finds That Google Is a Monopolist [...] A jury in Northern California, after deliberating for just a few hours, found Google guilty of anti-competitive practices in the app market for Android phones. The suit was not brought by the FTC, but by Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite. Epic argued that Google forced app developers to use its Play Store for distribution, leveraging this power to charge fees on in-app purchases of up to 30 percent. When Epic tried to encourage users to pay them directly for their games instead, Google and Apple kicked them out of their respective app stores. A separate case against Apple resulted in a mostly negative verdict for Epic, but it's still on appeal. It says something that this jury (which maybe wasn't composed of New York magazine readers) rather quickly agreed that Google was exercising monopoly power, when the judges in the Apple case tied themselves in knots denying it."

The American Economic Liberties Project has a nice rundown of more good news on that front in "Morgan's Monopoly Digest – December 2023".

"Colorado Supreme Court bars Donald Trump from the state's ballot in 2024, ruling he's disqualified by Jan. 6 actions: Legal challenge, which alleges Trump engaged in insurrection, is likely headed to U.S. Supreme Court. [...] 'We conclude that because President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three (of the 14th Amendment), it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Secretary to list President Trump as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot,' the court's majority opinion says. 'Therefore, the Secretary may not list President Trump's name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, nor may she count any write-in votes cast for him.'"

The Lever's "You Love To See It" list for the week links to some hopeful stories: "Good things are happening! Southwest gets fined for its 2022 holiday meltdown, and the EPA could institute a ban on the chemical that burned in the East Palestine derailment disaster. What's more, the Biden administration will stop most commercial logging in old-growth forests, and federal regulators demand that Starbucks reopen stores it closed after workers started organizing."

Atrios sees something funny about "Cop Budgets: A whole range of people - from centrist "good government" types to libertarians to "fiscal conservatives - are just completely silent on absurd cop budgets. Even if one buys into the "law and order nonsense, spending this kind of money on cop overtime to catch a few fare evaders is not a good use of tax money!" He quotes from an article that says, "NYPD overtime pay for extra officers in the subway went from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million this year, according to city records obtained by Gothamist." And he continues, "Almost all they did was arrest and ticket fare evaders. For some reason arresting people for skipping a subway fare makes sense to people while no one would consider doing so for the identical crime of not feeding a parking meter."

"Microsoft, Musk, and the Question of Unions: Suddenly, a leading American corporation appears to be OK with the idea of collective bargaining. Hint: It's not Tesla. Last week, Microsoft announced that it wouldn't oppose efforts by any of its roughly 100,000 employees to form or join a union. In other parts of the world, there'd be nothing earthshaking about such an announcement; it's actually common practice in Europe and elsewhere. In these United States, however, it makes Microsoft 'a unicorn' among its peers, as one union official put it. The last major American corporation to pledge it would let its employees decide whether to unionize free from corporate opposition was—well, I can't think of one, though I've been on this beat for roughly 45 years." Musk, on the other hand, is keeping to form.

"US, Venezuela swap prisoners: Maduro ally for 10 Americans, plus fugitive contractor 'Fat Leonard'" — or, as Anya Parampil put it, "The US swapped Alex Saab—a Venezuelan diplomat whom US authorities quite literally kidnapped in June 2020—for two ex Green Berets who participated in a failed plot to kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro."

"Tesla blamed drivers for failures of parts it long knew were defective: Wheels falling off cars at speed. Suspensions collapsing on brand-new vehicles. Axles breaking under acceleration. Tens of thousands of customers told Tesla about a host of part failures on low-mileage cars. The automaker sought to blame drivers for vehicle 'abuse,' but Tesla documents show it had tracked the chronic 'flaws' and 'failures' for years."

I really didn't expect this from him, or from any Senator from Connecticut, but, "Sen. Chris Murphy: 'This Party Has Not Made a Firm Break From Neoliberalism': Connecticut's junior senator launches a new interview series focused on monopoly power, part of his quest to understand American unhappiness. [...] To Murphy, the issue of corporate concentration runs deeper than just consumer pricing and equitable growth. It strikes at the core of why Americans feel powerless about the fate of the country. People have a palpable, though not always articulable, sense that the most crucial decisions governing their daily lives are now being made far away from their communities in corporate boardrooms, rather than by elected officials in the halls of government or by extension themselves. Many of the country's morbid symptoms, in Murphy's estimations, trace back to this friction between the public and their corporate overlords."

RIP: "Tom Smothers of sibling comedy duo the Smothers Brothers dies at age 86: Tom Smothers, half of the comedy group the Smothers Brothers, has died at the age of 86. Smothers was described as 'not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life', but as 'a one-of-a-kind creative partner', according to a statement by his brother Dick Smothers on Wednesday shared by the National Comedy Center. Dick also shared that Tom, who died after a battle with cancer, was at home with his family when he died." We knew they were going to get kicked off the air because they criticized the war, and they were our heroes. Tommy Smothers played guitar on "Give Peace A Chance" and he said, "It's hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war."

RIP: "André Braugher Dies: Star Of Homicide: Life On The Street, Brooklyn Nine-Nine & Other Series And Films Was 61 [...] While Braugher peppered his résumé with comedies, many will remember him for his ferocious portrayal of Detective Frank Pembleton in the NBC drama Homicide: Life on the Street. Put him in 'the box,' sweating out and outsmarting crime suspects in the interrogation room, and you were looking at a weekly dose of tour de force acting, as good as it got on television during that time. He won an Emmy for that show he starred in from 1992-98. His wife, Ami Brabson, recurred as Pembleton's wife on Homicide." He was a magnificent actor who brought intensity to the screen, and also could be downright hilarious.

RIP: Dale Spender, 80: "Dale Spender, who has died aged 80 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was the author of the internationally acclaimed Man Made Language (1980), in which she argued that language is highly gendered and both reflects and perpetuates a male worldview. The book was an instant classic and is considered by scholars and feminists to be highly relevant today. As well as an accomplished author, Spender was a feminist activist, researcher, broadcaster and teacher in her native Australia and during a period of some 15 years in London. She edited more than 30 books and was involved in founding a number of publishing imprints, series and journals – most notably, in 1983, Pandora Press, a feminist imprint of Routledge, where she was editor-at-large."

"In a Major Snub to Obama, Biden Is Sticking With Trump When It Comes to Cuba Policy: One of Obama's most significant foreign policy achievements was his move toward normalizing relations with Cuba. Trump and Biden have torn that up." This was one of the few things Obama did that I actually approved of, and it broke my heart when Trump undid it, but you really can't justify this administration failing to get back to the Obama policy.

"Anti-Palestinian racism is inherent to Zionism and you're not allowed to talk about it [...] In his article, Charles Blow seems perplexed that anti-Zionists will not give a straight yes or no answer to the question, 'Does Israel have a right to exist?' The problem with the question is the subtext— what is it actually asking? Is it asking if you support a state that places the rights of Jews over the rights of Palestinians? Is it asking whether Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state by way of ethnic cleansing? If you can only have a Jewish state by expelling Palestinians, and you endorse that notion either openly or tacitly, then that is clearly racism, yet you are not supposed to say it. So the question here seems to be asked in bad faith."

Cory Doctorow reviews "Nathan J. Robinson's Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments: In "Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments," Current Affairs founder Nathan J. Robinson addresses himself in a serious, thoughtful way to the arguments advanced by right-wing figures, even when those arguments aren't themselves very serious"

If you're looking for a Substack you should probably subscribe to, Sy Hersh has one where he's still writing about what's going on around Israel, and also had a few things to say about Kissinger.

Lisa Tuttle rounds up "The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup: The Reformatory by Tananarive Due; The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow; Him by Geoff Ryman; Audition by Pip Adam"

I missed this last year but it's nice to go back and enjoy "Rating Jonathan Turley's Wildest, Thirstiest, Most Embarrassing Bids For Attention In 2022." I can vaguely remember when he just seemed like a normal guy.

I can't believe I didn't know about this ad before: "Leonard Nimoy vs. Zachary Quinto - The Challenge"

"It's a Wonderful Life: How a festive classic helps a Glasgow cinema thrive: It is a much loved festive film - and for one cinema It's a Wonderful Life is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. The 1946 classic, which stars James Stewart as a put-upon everyman considering suicide one snowy Christmas Eve, is such a fixture at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) that it has been the venue's biggest earner for 12 of the last 15 years. Much like Stewart's character George Bailey, the impact of the film has far-reaching consequences, as it raises funds that support the GFT's remit to spotlight independent and alternative cinema."

Someone sent me this link for "a new Swedish Christmas carol."

Maybe I can replace my now lost ancient midi of "Carol of the Bells" with Jamie Dupuis's version on harp guitar.

John Lennon, "So This Is Christmas, War Is Over"

00:12 GMT comment

Monday, 11 December 2023

I'm convinced that I'd wind up burning, too

It's that time of year again, so let's start things off with Daveed Diggs and "Puppy for Hanukkah"! And, of course, "Carol of the Bells" (which was not originally written for Christmas, or even for winter, but now it means December to me). The ancient midi I've been posting for years at Advent finally succumbed to linkrot, so we'll just dive right into to the smashing Brian Brink version.

Remember back when MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue's show (their highest-rated show!) because they didn't like him opposing the invasion of Iraq? Well, right on time, they've canceled Mehdi Hasan: "No high-profile journalist has been more assertive about Palestinian rights than Mehdi Hasan, and MNSBC punished him on Thursday by taking away the TV shows he hosted on the network and on NBC's streaming service. Does this mean that standing up for Palestinians is a death sentence in the mainstream media – even at MSNBC? Hasan is also hands-down the best interviewer in American news right now. He confronts and enlightens. He should be on TV every night."

"Netanyahu's Goal for Gaza: 'Thin' Population 'to a Minimum': The White House requested billions to support refugee resettlement from Ukraine and Gaza in October. [...] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasked his top adviser, Ron Dermer, the minister of strategic affairs, with designing plans to 'thin' the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip 'to a minimum,' according to a bombshell new report in an Israeli newspaper founded by the late Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The outlet, Israel Hayom, is considered to be something of an official organ for Netanyahu. It reported that the plan has two main elements: The first would use the pressure of the war and humanitarian crisis to persuade Egypt to allow refugees to flow to other Arab countries, and the second would open up sea routes so that Israel 'allows a mass escape to European and African countries.' Dermer, who is originally from Miami, is a Netanyahu confidante and was previously Israeli ambassador to the United States, and enjoys close relations with many members of Congress. [...] Israel Today and other Israeli media are also reporting on a plan being pushed with Congress that would condition aid to Arab nations on their willingness to accept Palestinian refugees. The plan even proposes specific numbers of refugees for each country: Egypt would take one million Palestinians, half a million would go to Turkey, and a quarter million each would go to Yemen and Iraq. The reporting relies heavily on the passive voice, declining to say who put the proposal together: 'The proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. Longtime lawmaker, Rep. Joe Wilson, has even expressed open support for it while others who were privy to the details of the text have so far kept a low profile, saying that publicly coming out in favor of the program could derail it.' [...] Back on October 20, in a little-noticed message to Congress, the White House asked for $3.495 billion that would be used for refugees from both Ukraine and Gaza, referencing 'potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.' 'This crisis could well result in displacement across border and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving programming requirements outside of Gaza,' the letter from the White House Office of Management and Budget reads. The letter came two days after Jordan and Egypt warned they would not open their borders to a mass exodus of Palestinians, arguing that past history shows they would never be able to return."

RIP: "Norman Lear, celebrated US TV writer and producer, dies aged 101 [...] Lear entered the zeitgeist in the 70s, with the production of television sitcoms such as All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons and Good Times."

RIP: "Denny Laine, co-founder of The Moody Blues and member of Wings, of lung disease at 79. He won my heart with his rendition of "Go Now".

ROT IN PERDIITION: I can't pick which headline I like better,
• "Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America's Ruling Class, Finally Dies: The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him," from Spencer Ackerman in Rolling Stone, or
• "Henry Kissinger, America's Most Notorious War Criminal, Dies At 100: The titan of American foreign policy was complicit in millions of deaths — and never showed remorse for his decisions," at HuffPo. Within an hour or so of the announcement of Kissinger's death, the entire front page of HuffPo was...accurate.

And, I don't know how well the Palestinians would have liked the idea, but once upon a time, "On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Middle East: Let's not forget that Kissinger's crimes included the deaths of thousands of Arabs and Israelis." Not so much because he loved Israel but because he couldn't stand any idea that involved cooperating with the USSR.

It's about time: "Clarence Thomas' Benefactors Finally Face the Music [...] This is not an abstract project: No fewer than four cases the court is to decide in this term alone could dramatically advance this agenda, including a case that would allow the justices to rewrite regulations that affect our air, water, labor practices, consumer finance, and a host of other questions. Known as the Chevron doctrine, the legal principle at issue in one of these cases has been the subject of years of criticism orchestrated by Leo and Crow. And Justice Thomas, who defended the doctrine in a 2005 opinion, has since become its primary critic on the court following years of unofficial and undisclosed gifts by these benefactors. He also failed (again) to disclose his participation in exclusive fundraisers and gatherings where the reversal of the Chevron doctrine was often a topic of discussion. For any official to accept undisclosed gifts of the magnitude reported this year would warrant a Senate investigation. The fact that these gifts came from people engaged in a covert effort to shape the court, its power, and its opinions makes an investigation into how these gifts may have influenced the justices all the more urgent. [...] For any official to accept undisclosed gifts of the magnitude reported this year would warrant a Senate investigation. The fact that these gifts came from people engaged in a covert effort to shape the court, its power, and its opinions makes an investigation into how these gifts may have influenced the justices all the more urgent." Seriously, Leonard Leo and his gang deserve to be in jail for bribery, and Thomas and Roberts for accepting bribes.

I watched this 18:35 interview with Ted Cruz and wanted to slap him so hard. I mean, sure, you have to know anyone who utters the phrase "cultural Marxism" with a straight face is a nitwit, but the more he talks, the more you wonder just how wrong it's possible for someone to be. (And no, Ted, "Never again" isn't just about Jews, it's about everyone.)

Doctorow: "'If buying isn't owning, piracy isn't stealing' [...] 20 years ago, Chris Anderson told me that it was unrealistic to expect tech companies to refuse demands for DRM from the entertainment companies whose media they hoped to play. My argument – then and now – was that any tech company that sells you a gadget that can have its features revoked is defrauding you. You're paying for x, y and z – and if they are contractually required to remove x and y on demand, they are selling you something that you can't rely on, without making that clear to you. But it's worse than that. When a tech company designs a device for remote, irreversible, nonconsensual downgrades, they invite both external and internal parties to demand those downgrades. Like Pavel Chekov says, a phaser on the bridge in Act I is going to go off by Act III. Selling a product that can be remotely, irreversibly, nonconsensually downgraded inevitably results in the worst person at the product-planning meeting proposing to do so. The fact that there are no penalties for doing so makes it impossible for the better people in that meeting to win the ensuing argument, leading to the moral injury of seeing a product you care about reduced to a pile of shit."

Greedflation Watch: "Republican Senate candidate's family egg company caught in price-fixing plot: Several food giants claimed that Rose Acre Farms – which John Rust chaired until recently – unlawfully fixed the prices of eggs" Something might actually be done about that one since the complaint came from the industry.

"Federal Agencies Can Disable Employer Debt TRAPs : Advocacy groups offer a road map for how agencies can use existing authority to ban contracts that force workers to pay employers if they leave their job. Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to ban the spreading practice of 'stay-or-pay' contracts, which force workers to compensate employers, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars, if they leave their job before a set time period. The New York Times Magazine recently reported on these provisions, an innovation of the private equity industry that can require workers to pay 'liquidated damages' for on-the-job training or use of equipment, or unspecified damages resulting from the cost of recruiting a replacement, or even 'lost profits' from a worker's departure. Seven detailed memos sent to federal agencies and the White House over the past two months and released this week argue that these provisions operate as 'de facto non-compete agreements' that lock workers into jobs and prevent them from speaking out about wages or working conditions. The contracts, the memos assert, violate numerous federal statutes that both protect workers from exploitation and more broadly protect health and safety. Therefore, federal agencies can use existing authorities to eliminate them from the workplace."

"Here's What Ethical AI Really Means" is about a lot more than AI, because AI is just all the existing systems and biases and existing effects sucked in and spat out.

"These magnificent purple and green lights aren't auroras. This is Steve."

"Sleeping polar bear and illuminated jellyfish in running for Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize"

"Charges Dismissed Against Wyoming Ranchers For Bleaching Penises Onto Cows: A Crook County, Wyoming, judge has dismissed property destruction charges against a pair of ranchers accused of bleaching penis shapes and other markings on their neighbor's cows."

Paul Williams, "The Hell Of It"

03:29 GMT comment

Monday, 27 November 2023

There'll be no sad tomorrow

As always, I am grateful to those of you who have stayed with The Sideshow, especially those who have helped out and try to engage. I know it's a shadow of it's former self, but I still feel a need to document the atrocities, and I'm really glad you're here with me.

Democrats did pretty well out of the first Tuesday in November, and it's pretty clear why: "Abortion Rights Power Democratic Wins in Kentucky and Virginia." Ohio voted abortion rights into the state constitution easily, Kentucky re-elected its Democratic governor by a wider margin than last time, and Glenn Younkin, who wasn't on the ballot but campaigned hard for voters to give him an anti-abortion legislature got slapped in the face by keeping Virginia's state Senate in Democratic hands and flipping the state House to them as well. (And Atrios: "Reporters and pundits are convinced that voters are with Republicans on abortion, but in these Ohio diners they aren't so sure." Atrios has been particularly happy about how the obviously-wrong pundits who declared Younkin the face of the future after he beat a pathetic Terry McAuliffe to the seat are being shown up, especially after Youngkin went all Culture Warrior against the transgender candidate, who won her race, too.)

"Media group calls for investigation into deaths of 34 journalists in Israel-Hamas war: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an investigation into the deaths of 34 journalists in the Israel-Hamas war. [...] The complaint also includes allegations citing 'the deliberate, total or partial, destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza' since Israel declared war on Hamas following the militant group's deadly attacks on the country Oct. 7. This is the third complaint RSF has filed alleging war crimes against Palestinian journalists in Gaza since 2018, according to The Associated Press."

Doctorow, "Biden wants to ban ripoff 'financial advisors': Once, American workers had "defined benefits pensions," where their employers promised to pay them a certain amount every year from their retirement to their death. Jimmy Carter swapped that out for 401(k)s, "market" pensions where you have to guess which stocks will be valuable or starve in your old age. The initial 401(k) rollout had all kinds of pot-sweeteners that made them seem like a good deal, like heavy employer matching that doubled or even tripled the value of every dollar you put into the market for your retirement. But over the years, as Reaganomics took hold and workers' power ebbed away, all these goodies were clawed back. In the end, the market-based pension makes you the sucker at the poker table, flushing your savings into a rigged casino that is firmly tilted in favor of finance barons and other eminently guillotineable plutocrats."

Doctorow on the murder of Jezebel and the news in general, "'Brand safety' killed Jezebel [...] This aversion to reality has been present among corporate decisionmakers since the earliest days, but the consolidation of power among large firms – ad-tech firms, online platforms, and 'brands' themselves – makes corporate realityphobia much easier to turn into, well, reality, giving advertisers the fine-grained power to put Jezebel and every site like it out of business. As Koebler and Maiberg's headline so aptly puts it, 'Advertisers Don't Want Sites Like Jezebel to Exist.' The reason to deplore Nazis on Twitter is because they are Nazis, not because their content isn't brand-safe. The short-term wins progressives gain by legitimizing a corporate veto over what we see online are vastly overshadowed by the most important consequence of brand safety: the mass extinction of reality-based reporting. Reality isn't brand safe. If you're in the reality based community, brand safety should be your sworn enemy, even if they help you temporarily get a couple of Nazis kicked off Twitter."

"CFPB Orders Citi to Pay $25.9 Million for Intentional, Illegal Discrimination Against Armenian Americans: Citi hid discrimination by giving consumers false reasons for credit denials. [...] When Citi denied credit applications because of applicants' perceived Armenian national origin, Citi employees lied about the specific reasons for the adverse actions. At one point, a Citi employee explained it had been a while since they had denied an application because of a consumer's Armenian surname, and wanted a suggestion on how to cover up the discrimination. The response was to decline the credit card application due to suspected credit abuse, which essentially blamed the applicant for the denial."

"Michigan Law Would Be First to Automatically Register People to Vote As They Leave Prison: The legislature passed a bill last week that would expand automatic voter registration in a number of other ways, and likely add many new Michiganders to voter rolls." Michiganders are legally eligible to vote when they leave prison, but most of them don't even know. This new law would include notification that they are registered and that they can unregister if they want to.

"Israel's Ludicrous Propaganda Wins Over the Only Audience That Counts: Why make an effort to be credible if you're going to be uncritically echoed by the White House and Western press?" No one believes Israel's laughable propaganda anymore, because it's really that bad and even their own people end up having to admit it's not true. And yet, Joe Biden seems to fall for it every time.

"Biden Again Pretends To Be Powerless — This Time About Gaza: The White House is using major U.S. news outlets to pretend it can't rein in Israel — but the claims don't add up. [...] In a recent book on Biden, The Last Politician, writer Franklin Foer details how Biden put an end to Israel's bombing of Gaza in 2021 with one phone call. After Netanyahu 'struggled to justify his request [for more bombing] because he couldn't point to fresh targets that needed striking,' Biden said, according to Foer, 'Hey, man, we're out of runway here. It's over.' And then, Foer continued, 'like that, it was. By the time the call ended, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a cease-fire that the Egyptians would broker.'"

"Chains are using theft to mask other issues, report says: Retailers say theft is exploding, and some data from retailers along with numerous videos of violent store robberies and looting seem to support the claim. But some retail analysts and researchers, bolstered by local crime statistics, say stores may be over-stating the extent and impact of theft. Why? It's a useful deflection, camouflaging weak demand, mismanagement and other issues denting business right now. And it forces lawmakers to respond"

Why is it always Republicans? "Iowa official's wife convicted of 52 counts of voter fraud in ballot-stuffing scheme: SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The wife of a northwestern Iowa county supervisor was convicted Tuesday of a scheme to stuff the ballot box in her husband's unsuccessful race for a Republican nomination to run for Congress in 2020."

"The Public Has a Right to Know Every Detail of Louis DeJoy's Destructive Agenda: In a time of historic distrust in government, the United States Postal Service has accomplished something extraordinary: it remains a universally beloved federal agency. Second only to the Parks Service in public favorability (a jaw-dropping 77% approval rating, per Gallup), USPS is arguably also the most frequently-interacted-with component of the federal government: packages and letters are delivered to Americans' mailboxes six days per week. But these warm feelings – already under threat by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's continued destructive leadership – could quickly chill if the Postal Board of Governors has its way."

"At Tesla, Swedish Workers Can Do What American Workers Can't: In support of striking mechanics, dockworkers there are no longer unloading Teslas. Such solidarity isn't legal here. [...] Tesla has no factories in Sweden, but it does employ around 120 mechanics to tune up and fix their cars. The union of such workers, IF Metall, has been trying for years to get Tesla to the bargaining table, as is the norm in Sweden, where roughly 90 percent of the workforce is represented by unions. The very idea is anathema, of course, to Elon Musk, who believes such matters at the company, and perhaps in the world at large, are best left to Elon Musk. After Musk responded with a flat No to recognize the union, the mechanics walked off the job on October 27 and remain on strike. What followed illustrates nicely what it means when a nation has solidaristic values reinforced by solidaristic laws. A few days into the strike, the union of Swedish dockworkers announced it would no longer unload Teslas at the nation's ports. (The Teslas sold in Sweden are shipped in from German and U.S. Tesla factories.) Then, the painters' union joined in and vowed that its members would no longer do paint jobs on any Teslas in need of a touch-up. Now, the Communications Employees vows not to make deliveries to Tesla's offices if Tesla doesn't recognize its mechanics union by November 20." Americans can't do that, thanks to Taft-Hartley.

"Take Trump Seriously When He Vows To Build The Camps: Trump is openly planning to build a vast network of internment facilities, while railing against 'internal threats' and calling his enemies 'vermin' and vowing to 'root them out.' The warning signs of fascism have never been more obvious or alarming."

"What's Causing Those Airline Close Calls? Reports of near-miss incidents at airports are growing more frequent—as the passenger experience itself becomes ever more unpleasant. Decades after deregulation, is the system at a breaking point?"

"41 Ways a Big Lie Continues to Haunt America's Public Schools: Forty years ago, Americans learned of A Nation at Risk, the troubling and mostly bogus report by the Reagan administration claiming public schools and teachers failed to produce students who were capable American workers. Berliner's and Biddle's The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools disproved the report, but it still haunts us today like a never-ending loop Americans can't jump off of. Here's how."

The Road to theocracy:
• "The Key to Mike Johnson's Christian Extremism Hangs Outside His Office: The newly elected House speaker has ties to the far-right New Apostolic Reformation — which is hell-bent on turning America into a religious state"
• "Mike Johnson, Polite Extremist: The new speaker of the House has deep ties to proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement that helped fuel the January 6th insurrection."
• "Cracks on the road to Christian Dominion: Is the shadowy "City Elders" group collapsing?: Oklahoma-based "City Elders" group talks big about political takeover. How much of that is smoke and mirrors?"

"How Larry Summers's Bad Predictions Hurt the Planet: The clean-energy transition is faltering because of unexpectedly high interest rates, which Summers's demands to slow down the economy helped usher in. It is definitely amusing to see Larry Summers flail away at recalibrating his opinions in real time. For years, in full public view, Summers insisted that high public spending was 'the least responsible economic policy in 40 years,' and that the only way to keep the economy safe from crushing inflation was to increase unemployment significantly. With last week's report on the Consumer Price Index, we have essentially returned to Federal Reserve benchmarks on inflation on a trend basis. And this was done without a meaningful rise in unemployment; while the headline rate has skipped up half a percentage point from 3.4 to 3.9 percent, most of that is due to higher labor force participation, and it's certainly nowhere near what Summers claimed was vital. As a result, Summers has attempted to erase history. He now says that 'transitory factors' like supply bottlenecks were pushing up inflation, and now that they have eased, inflation is coming down. I appreciate Summers's obvious study of the Prospect's special issue on supply chains, but this is manifestly not what he was saying as recently as a few months ago. His entire public commentary was set up in opposition to anyone who would raise the possibility of 'transitory factors' and supply chain crunches as the source of inflation."

Ian Welsh, "How To Reduce Inflation And Create A Good Economy: Right now we have central banks attempting to control inflation by crushing wages. But wage-push demand isn't the primary driver of inflation, it is corporate profit taking (increasing prices much faster than their costs) and some genuine supply bottlenecks. This cannot be fixed by central banks except by smashing ordinary people flat, and in certain senses not even then, since it will lead to long term maldistribution of resources which will lead to real economic problems in the future: problems not based on distribution or finance, but on lack of physical ability to create what we need. If we want to fix this we have to make it so that those who control economic decision making can only do well if the population as a whole does well. That means politicians who want to help the population (not 90% of European or American pols) and corporate leaders who need the population to do well."

In CJR, "Warped Front Pages: Researchers examine the self-serving fiction of 'objective' political news" — and find out that our Newspapers of Record still haven't learned that their bias is showing.

"Palestinian Freedom, Antisemitism Accusations, And Civil Rights Law [...] The logic, of course, is that Palestinian freedom in the land 'from the river to the sea' is fundamentally incompatible with sovereignty over that land by an Israeli state constitutively committed to being specifically and exclusively a Jewish state (as opposed to a binational one)."

"Why 'Liberal' Donors Love Giving Money to the Extreme Right: Many purportedly progressive plutocrats turn reactionary on Israel and labor. If Donald Trump wins back the presidency in 2024, his second term in office will be much more authoritarian than anything he was able to achieve in his first go-round. Yet some very wealthy donors who style themselves as progressives are helping to fund Trumpian schemes to remake the government along autocratic lines.

The Onion, "Concerning New Study Finds Nation's Poverty Growing Faster Than Officials Can Build Prisons "

Charlie Stross, "We're sorry we created the Torment Nexus [...] And rather than giving the usual cheerleader talk making predictions about technology and society, I'd like to explain why I—and other SF authors—are terrible guides to the future. Which wouldn't matter, except a whole bunch of billionaires are in the headlines right now because they pay too much attention to people like me. Because we invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale and they took it at face value and decided to implement it for real." And their version of those ideas is weirder than anything you've imagined.

Rob Hansen's got a book out on how science fiction fans have impacted the real world, Beyond Fandom: Fans, Culture & Politics in the 20th Century

This year's Children in Need Doctor Who Special is about 5:08 long.

"All 214 Beatles Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best: We had to count them all." I disagreed strongly with some of his choices from the very first, but it's still some good writing and some interesting insights from someone who seems to know and love The Beatles.

The Beatles, "There's A Place"

21:14 GMT comment

Tuesday, 31 October 2023

Somebody lookin' over his shoulder at me

Well, the House Republicans finally picked a majority leader, probably because a lot of them really didn't know who he was so there weren't enough people who hated him yet, so now we have an open opponent of separation of church and state running the chamber. Mike Johnson is a product of The Family Research Council.

"260 "9/11s" in Gaza — and Other Paint-by-Numbers Horrors: If a picture's worth a thousand words, how many numbers would it take to paint the picture of Israel's US-backed bombing of Gaza? President Biden used nightmare-as-arithmetic rhetoric when he discussed the Hamas massacre. 'For a nation the size of Israel,' he said, 'it was like fifteen 9/11s.' That's true, proportionally speaking, and it's ghastly. More than 30 Israeli children were killed on October 7. Their murders alone are the equivalent of roughly 1,000 US deaths on 9/11. Dozens of children are in captivity and their safe return should be a top priority. But what about Palestine? How many 9/11s has it experienced since October 7 — and in the decades before? What other losses has it endured? Let's review the tragic numbers, then summarize President Biden's proposed spending package (preview: it's shamefully inadequate) before pivoting to US public opinion and politics."

Data For Progress: "Voters across party lines agree that the US should call for a ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza." 56% of Republicans, 57% of independents, 80% of Democrats, and 66% of all voters say so. As usual, Congress is somewhere else.

"IRS advances innovative Direct File project for 2024 tax season; free IRS-run pilot option projected to be available for eligible taxpayers in 13 states. Getting rid of the H&R Block grift would be a big relief.

"Janeese Lewis George Wants to Support Local News With Government Funding. Voters Would Decide Who Gets the Money. Lewis George is backing a first-of-its-kind program to prop up local media outlets of all sizes. [...] Lewis George introduced the Local News Funding Act Monday, which, if passed, will set aside 0.1 percent of the city's budget each year (about $11.5 million based on the current spending plan) to help prop up locally focused outlets. According to a copy of the legislation provided to Loose Lips, the bill would empower residents to decide how that funding is allocated by letting them award 'news coupons' to organizations they support."

Dylan Saba, "A Surge in Suppression: It's never been this bad: This piece was originally commissioned by an editor at The Guardian, who asked me to write about the wave of retaliation and censorship of political expression in solidarity with Palestinians that we've seen in the past two weeks. Amid my work as an attorney on some of the resulting cases, I carved out some time to write the following. Minutes before it was supposed to be published, the head of the opinion desk wrote me an email that they were unable to run the piece. When I called her for an explanation she had none, and blamed an unnamed higher-up. That a piece on censorship would get killed in this way—without explanation, but plainly in the interest of political suppression—is, beyond the irony of the matter, a grave indictment of the media response to this critical moment in history."

"Wealth Inequality Permeates US Society, No Matter How You Slice It: New data on wealth distribution in the US confirms what we already knew: within all major demographic groups, whether by age, race, or education, wealth is concentrated at the top. The US is a deeply unequal society." A reminder that all the various demographic wealth gaps are at the top, not the bottom.

A review by DDay, "Lies My Corporation Told Me: A new book lays out 150 years of corporate stooges making bogus arguments. [...] The book is called Corporate Bullsh*t, written by anti-privatization advocate Donald Cohen, journalist Joan Walsh, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. Together, they slot the rebuttals that corporate mouthpieces, lobbyists, and their allies in government and media make to virtually every government and social program, from the abolition of slavery to the increase in the minimum wage. [...] Going all the way back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, corporate mouthpieces have argued that any attempt to protect workers or boost their wages will destroy jobs."

RIP: "Richard Roundtree, Suave Star of Shaft Dies at 81. [...] Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his manager, Patrick McMinn, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy. 'Breast cancer is not gender specific,' he said four years later. 'And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it, and it's been quite a number of years now. I'm a survivor.'" The character who made him a star was also cool: "'When a friend of his — a white homosexual bartender — gives him a rather hopeful caress, Shaft is not threatened, only amused. He has no identity problems, so he can afford to be cheerful under circumstances that would send a lesser hero into the kind of personality crisis that in a movie usually ends in a gunfight, or, at the least, a barroom brawl.'" People may complain about "blaxpoitation movies", but I don't think they understand what a ground-breaker Roundtree was as Shaft. (Although, I admit, watching those opening credits cracks me right up.)

RIP: "Friends star Matthew Perry dead aged 54," drowned, apparently in a jacuzzi. He was the only reason I had to watch Friends, at least for the first season. Then someone decided to dumb him down and it was no fun for me anymore.

"The NIH's 'How to Become a Billionaire' Program: An obscure company affiliated with a former NIH employee is offered the exclusive license for a government-funded cancer drug. As the Senate holds confirmation hearings today for a new director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency quietly filed a proposal last month to grant an exclusive patent for a cancer drug, potentially worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, to an obscure company staffed by one of its former employees. Exclusive patents are typically given to companies so they can raise investment capital for the long process of bringing a drug to market. But in this case, the NIH invented and manufactured the treatment in question, and is sponsoring the clinical trials. An exclusive patent transfers all the benefit of a drug discovery from the government to an individual company. In this case, the ultimate beneficiary would be a former researcher who worked on the technology while in the government. 'I'm sure this is a fine fellow, but why give former employee a monopoly?' said James Love of Knowledge Ecology International, which tracks drug patent issues. 'He's going to have generational wealth if it succeeds. At no risk to him, because the trial is funded.'"

"Larry Summers And The Crypto Con: This morning, my colleagues Julian Scoffield and Henry Burke have a piece out in The American Prospect about Larry Summers and the ever growing but little known ties he has to an array of shady financial companies. The latest development is that Digital Currency Group (DCG), a firm that Summers advised for years, and its subsidiary Genesis Global Trading now face prosecution from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the New York Attorney General for fraud. Oh, and the Department of Justice has been investigating since earlier this year. It's getting hard to keep track!" It would be so gratifying to see Larry Summers behind bars.

"Pity the Landlord" Is the 'mom-and-pop' landlord a myth? [...] Eccles's widespread media presence is no accident. In 2019, he became one of the public faces of Responsible Rent Reform—a faux-grassroots group backed by the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), the largest landlord organization in the state—which has set about weaponizing the stories of a dozen 'mom-and-pop' landlords to undermine rent regulations. Eccles, in other words, is not an everyman plucked by the papers by chance; for years, he has been part of a landlord lobby that has become increasingly organized in response to tenant protections passed by the New York State legislature in 2019 and to the economic precarity of the pandemic. His social justice-inflected grievances are the bleeding edge of a revanchist development in New York housing debates: landlords, especially the smaller ones, have begun repurposing the identitarian language of systemic oppression in a relentless public campaign against rent regulation and eviction protections." A lot of money and a lot of spin has gone into trying to prevent protections for tenants all over the country, but racecraft has become a standard trick.

"UK Labour party: The curious case of Britain's forgotten 2017 election: Corbyn polled just a few hundred thousand fewer votes than Blair in 1997's landslide and still has higher approval ratings than Starmer. His erasure from UK political memory is telling [...] Following Labour's disastrous defeat in the May 2021 Hartlepool byelection, shadow cabinet member Steve Reed declared that the problem remained Corbyn - who had stood down more than a year before - and that Labour hadn't 'changed enough' from the party that voters 'comprehensively rejected in 2019'. But Labour under Corbyn had won Hartlepool in both 2017 and 2019 - in 2017 with almost twice the share of the vote the party gained at the byelection in 2021."

"America needs a bigger, better bureaucracy: They're from the government, and they really are here to help. [...] I believe that the U.S. suffers from a distinct lack of state capacity. We've outsourced many of our core government functions to nonprofits and consultants, resulting in cost bloat and the waste of taxpayer money. We've farmed out environmental regulation to the courts and to private citizens, resulting in paralysis for industry and infrastructure alike. And we've left ourselves critically vulnerable to threats like pandemics and — most importantly — war. It's time for us to bring back the bureaucrats."

"Why Big Tech, Cops, and Spies Were Made for One Another: The American surveillance state is a public-private partnership. [...] From experience, I can tell you that Silicon Valley techies are pretty sanguine about commercial surveillance: 'Why should I care if Google wants to show me better ads?' But they are much less cool about government spying: 'The NSA? Those are the losers who weren't smart enough to get an interview at Google.' And likewise from experience, I can tell you that government employees and contractors are pretty cool with state surveillance: 'Why would I worry about the NSA spying on me? I already gave the Office of Personnel Management a comprehensive dossier of all possible kompromat in my past when I got my security clearance.' But they are far less cool with commercial surveillance: 'Google? Those creeps would sell their mothers for a nickel. To the Chinese.'"

"How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen—Four Billionaire Techno-Oligarchs—Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality: Four very powerful billionaires—Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreessen—are creating a world where 'nothing is true and all is spectacle.' If we are to inquire how we got to a place of radical income inequality, post-truth reality, and the looming potential for a second American Civil War, we need look no further than these four—'the biggest wallets,' to paraphrase historian Timothy Snyder, 'paying for the most blinding lights.'"

"The Pirate Preservationists" — There's a great deal of cultural history we can only access because someone ignored the rules.

I don't actually remember Tom Baker as the villain in the Sinbad movie and I didn't recognize him from this picture.

Al Kooper and Steve Stills, "Season of the Witch"

TIME GMT comment

Monday, 16 October 2023

Look, yeah, but don't touch

Sy Hersh, "'Netanyahu Is Finished': The Bibi doctrine—his belief that he could control Hamas—compromised Israeli security and has now begat a bloody war [...] The most important thing I needed to understand, the Israeli insider told me, is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 'is finished. He is a walking dead man. He will stay in office only until the shooting stops . . . maybe another month or two.' He served as prime minister from 1996 until 1999 and again, as leader of the right-wing Likud Party, from 2009 to 2021, returning for a third stint in late 2022. 'Bibi was always opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accords,' the insider said, which initially gave the Palestinian Authority nominal control over both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When he returned to office in 2009, the insider said, 'Bibi chose to support Hamas' as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, 'and gave them money and established them in Gaza.' An arrangement was made with Qatar, which began sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hamas leadership with Israeli approval. The insider told me that 'Bibi was convinced that he would have more control over Hamas with the Qatari money—let them occasionally fire rockets into southern Israel and have access to jobs inside Israel—than he would with the Palestinian Authority. He took that risk."

"The Violence in Palestine and Israel Is the Tragic Fruit of Brutal Oppression: The tragic scenes unfolding in Palestine and Israel are a chilling reminder of the horrors that occupation creates — and the urgency of dismantling Israel's blockades and apartheid system." For months now we have been seeing increasingly brutal attacks on Palestinians, with settler mobs burning villages and killing civilians with no intervention from anywhere, and yet the media treats a retaliatory strike from Hamas as "unprovoked".

The Times of Israel, "For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it's blown up in our faces: The premier's policy of treating the terror group as a partner, at the expense of Abbas and Palestinian statehood, has resulted in wounds that will take Israel years to heal from. For years, the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group."

"Is Landmark Technology's Two-Decade Patent Assault On E-Commerce Finally Over?: Landmark Technology's U.S. Patent No. 7,010,508, and its predecessor, are very likely two of the most-abused patents in U.S. history. These patents, under two different owners, have been used to threaten thousands of small businesses since 2001." Someone finally took these patent trolls to court and after two years of litigation said no, you can't claim a patent for just doing ordinary stuff all computers routinely do.

Howie Klein on "What The Senate Appointment Tells Us About Laphonza Butler AND Presidential Wanna Be Gavin Newsom: Another mediocre corporatist appointment from Gavin Newsom shouldn't surprise anyone. Even after he came out with his cringe-worthy statement about appointing a Black woman, he certainly was never going to appoint a progressive icon like Barbara Lee. So he made up a plausible excuse about not appointing anyone running in 2024 (ie, Barbara Lee). Like with all of his appointments, he wanted someone from the corporate-friendly wing of the Democratic Party. So what do we know about Maryland resident Laphonza Butler?" We know that her "liberal" credentials aren't what they might seem to people who don't know about how EMILY's List has turned into a corrupt money-making machine that pushes conservative women over progressive candidates, and that she's one of the reasons why Uber and Lyft drivers still don't have the rights they need. And that's just how Newsome wants it. And something curious happened last month, too: "Laphonza Butler's Emily's List Spends Millions On Kamala Harris While Laying Off Grassroots Staff."

"Starbucks Illegally Kept Wages, Benefits From Union Workers: Starbucks Corp. broke federal labor law when it boosted wages and benefits only for workers in non-unionized stores across the US last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge held. Thursday's decision from Administrative Law Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone marks the first nationwide ruling against the coffee giant amid its resistance to a unionization wave that began two years ago. Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act in August 2022 by lifting wages to at least $15 an hour and providing benefits such as credit card tipping, increased training, and faster sick time accrual to all stores that weren't unionized, the judge said."

"The Open Plot to Dismantle the Federal Government [...] As he runs again for a second term, Trump is vowing to 'dismantle the deep state' and ensure that the government he would inherit aligns with his vision for the country. Unlike during his 2016 campaign, however, Trump and his supporters on the right—including several former high-ranking members of his administration—have developed detailed proposals for executing this plan. Immediately upon his inauguration in January 2025, they would seek to convert thousands of career employees into appointees fireable at will by the president. They would assert full White House control over agencies, including the Department of Justice, that for decades have operated as either fully or partially independent government departments." And people who claim to oppose "crony capitalism" didn't even gasp.

"The Democrats Lost September: You guys awake? [...] I'll return to the Democrats in a moment, but for my money the most revealing development of all had nothing to do with Trump, or the Democratic Party. Instead it was how Republicans reacted to the discovery that Menendez appears to be on the take from foreign interests who've plied him with cash and gold bouillon. On almost any other timeline, Republicans would've tried to make not just Menendez but every Democrat in Washington call to mind sleazy machine pols whose pockets jingle and spill over as they walk because they're stuffed with bribes. But not on this timeline. Not on the timeline where the GOP has closed ranks around a growing list of crooks, including George Santos and Clarence Thomas, with Trump at the center. The Republican Party has spent years preemptively sanctifying all of its internal corruption, dismissing all evidence as the product of frame-up jobs and media fabrication, because their fealty to Trump is not compatible with upholding the rule of law or accountability for lower-ranking members. And so with the party fully at war with the Justice Department and the old standards of ethical leadership, they can't now claim to say the feds have the goods in this instance, and that Menendez must thus relinquish public office. They've thus found themselves actively defending Menendez and discouraging Democrats from pressuring him to retire."

"Lawsuit Highlights Why Meat Has Been Overpriced for 40 Years: Agri Stats lets meat processors coordinate their pricing. The Justice Department finally decided to go after what it calls collusion.The federal lawsuit filed last week against Amazon, which was so hopelessly redacted we don't quite know what's in it yet, could ultimately have the biggest impact of any antitrust action we've seen in the Biden administration. By the same token, the currently active trials against Google for exclusionary dealing, against Sam Bankman-Fried for crypto fraud, and against Donald Trump for massively overstating the value of his real estate holdings are all interesting in their own way. But a separate case from the Department of Justice against an agricultural analyst service called Agri Stats is perhaps the most emblematic of the old patterns of corporate America, and the new aggressiveness of this wave of antitrust enforcement. Agri Stats, as described in the complaint, is essentially a work-around for explicit collusion by meat processors. The company delivers weekly reports based on proprietary data given to them by meat processors, which have so much granular detail that everyone in the industry knows precisely what everyone else is doing, including the prices they're offering. This allows for specific coordination that raises prices for everyone purchasing meat, while boosting profits for the processor middlemen."

"Retail theft isn't actually increasing much, major industry study finds: Retail theft has caught the attention of the masses in recent years, from startling smash-and-grab videos during the depths of the Covid pandemic to corporate earnings calls where retailers like Target and Foot Locker are discussing losses from organized retail crime more than they ever have. But the effect of theft on retailers' bottom lines is about the same as it has been for years, according to the latest data released Tuesday in the widely used industry survey conducted by the National Retail Federation."

"The Pentagon runs the top performing school system in the U.S." Why? They're well-funded, economically (and every other way) integrated, teachers are well-paid, and all the students are housed. It's worth remembering that the average American student scores overall went down as the middle-class shrank.

"The U.S. Government is preparing for a fentanyl WMD attack: Joe Biden didn't make a WMD designation, but federal agencies acted anyway — kicking off a panic among police."

RIP: "The Isley Brothers' Rudolph Isley Dead At 84" — Their hits made a surprisingly long percentage of the soundtrack of my life. Here they are in 1959 doing the original version of "Shout", which they wrote.

RIP: "Piper Laurie, Oscar-Nominated Carrie and The Hustler Star, Dead at 91: Laurie's seven-decade film and television career also included memorable roles in Twin Peaks and Children of a Lesser God." As a sex education advocate, I have invoked Carrie's mother often. But there was a whole lot more to this wonderful actress. And you might like the story of her encounter with Ronald Reagan. And here she is as Mom on Will & Grace.

"People think drug use causes homelessness. It's usually the other way around: For those who did use drugs in the last six months, 40% of people started using — more than 3 times a week —after becoming homeless. Thirty-one percent of those individuals reported using methamphetamine and 11% used nonprescription opioids more than three times per week. Those who spent most of their nights unsheltered in a non-vehicle (sleeping outside, in tents, in places not meant for human habitation) and individuals who were homeless for more than a year had higher proportions of methamphetamine and opioid use." The meth is for staying awake so you can guard your stuff.

"The Neoliberal Model Is Destroying Innovation in Science: Over the past few decades, scientists have been making fewer and fewer innovative breakthroughs. The blame lies with academia's increasingly competitive, metrics-driven model, which discourages creativity and risk-taking."

"Sex Ed Books Don't 'Groom' Kids And Teens. They Protect Them. [...] At an event, a librarian shared with Harris that It's Perfectly Normal kept disappearing from the shelves. She replaced it several times, but it kept happening, and it was beyond their budget to keep doing so. Then, one day, they all came back in a backpack with a note: 'I took this book because I thought no child or teenager should read it. Then my 14-year-old niece got pregnant, and now I realize that children do need books like this.'"

"What I Most Regret About My Decades of Legal Activism: By focusing on civil liberties but ignoring economic issues, liberals like me got defeated on both. [...] Given my background, the reversal of Roe last year felt like a crushing blow. But as I reflect on my career in the law, my greatest regrets lie elsewhere. The progressive advances of mid-20th-century America weren't, after all, only about civil rights and social justice. Equally important was the political-economic arrangement established during and after the World War II era. It featured a powerful regulatory state, aggressive antitrust enforcement, and strong labor unions. These policies kept corporate power in check and helped drive the fastest, most widely shared advance in living standards in American history. [...] In a 2003 antitrust case, for example, all of the liberals joined an opinion by Antonin Scalia that declared, 'The mere possession of monopoly power, and the concomitant charging of monopoly prices, is not only not unlawful; it is an important element of the free-market system.' In 2017, Breyer wrote the majority opinion in a case upholding the right of debt-collection companies to go after people for money they no longer owed. The same year, Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion that limited the Securities and Exchange Commission's power to force those found guilty of securities fraud to give up their stolen gains. Liberal judges have issued opinions like these while simultaneously championing progressive positions on issues such as abortion and voting rights. By delivering measurable wins to business-side conservatives, they have helped fuel an engine designed precisely to unravel the civil rights they held so dear. The more the courts favor big business, the more powerful big business becomes, and the more powerful big business becomes, the more financial support it can lend to the right-wing legal movement."

"The One Media Conspiracy Theory That's True: It's kind of impressive how long cable news has been openly corrupt. [...] There are, to be sure, segments of the American media that are riven with devastating flaws. But like most conspiracy theories, the real conspiracies aren't secrets. They're the things we already know. The 'elite media'—the NYT, the New Yorker, the Washington Post—is, in fact, a schmoozy high class backwater riddled with people who got their jobs because they were roommates with the right person at Yale. They come by their elitism honestly. They are products made by and for people whose entire lives have been defined by their ability to ascend America's cultural ladder. This is their biggest failing, and the cause of their worst blind spots, which are significant. These types of publications also navigate the demands of access journalism with varying levels of success, always in danger of becoming too cozy with the other elite power centers they are covering. At the same time, these are big institutions that employ more good reporters than any other institutions in this country and have the resources to produce a quantity of useful journalism that nowhere else does. They are flawed, they are elitist, and they are vital. All of these things are true. When they fuck up, we all yell at them, and if the yelling gets loud enough they sometimes make a change. None of this is shadowy or concealed. Have the brightest writer at your Oklahoma community newspaper try to get a job at the New Yorker. They can't! Ta-da! Elitism! It ain't hard to sniff out." But when the cable news anchors are connected political operatives or relatives of powerful politicians, that's not just your standard elitism, that's a cesspool.

Cory Doctorow reviews a book, "Brian Merchant's Blood In the Machine: In Blood In the Machine, Brian Merchant delivers the definitive history of the Luddites, and the clearest analysis of the automator's playbook, where 'entrepreneurs'' lawless extraction from workers is called 'innovation' and 'inevitable'"

"James Carville Has Never Stopped Being Wrong: Like an aged one-hit wonder, James Carville has made a career of playing his favorite tune over and over: a warmed-over centrist jeremiad against the Left that has proved to be as wrong as it is stale."

How Whittaker Chambers reviewed Atlas Shrugged: "Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal."

"Alan Lomax's Massive Music Archive Is Online: Features 17,000 Historic Blues & Folk Recordings: A huge treasure trove of songs and interviews recorded by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax from the 1940s into the 1990s have been digitized and made available online for free listening. The Association for Cultural Equity, a nonprofit organization founded by Lomax in the 1980s, has posted some 17,000 recordings.

I clicked on this link somewhere and didn't hate it. The Killers, Hot Fuss

The Isley Brothers, "Who's That Lady?"

03:33 GMT comment

Saturday, 30 September 2023

And all fell before the bull

Thanks to Jay Sheckley, who brought this to our attention: "THE OFFICE AT NIGHT is a 2012 acrylic cityscape by living UK artist Phil Lockwood. Every window shows a different Edward Hopper painting."

"Clarence Thomas' Latest Pay-to-Play Scandal Finally Connects All the Dots [...] Mark Joseph Stern: The ProPublica piece identifies two different phenomena. The first is Bohemian Grove, which is where the Kochs developed this relationship with Clarence Thomas over the years. And then, out of that relationship, came Thomas' attendance at donor summits with the Kochs, where donors are promised that if they pay a bunch of money—hundreds of thousands of dollars—they will be able to attend this super exclusive event where Clarence Thomas speaks. And these events include luxury travel on private jets for Thomas. It's clearly a fundraiser. These events and flights should have been disclosed, and they weren't. That doesn't exactly build up trust for Justice Thomas. And it doesn't encourage faith that his jurisprudence is rooted exclusively in his own views of the Constitution and the law. Thomas loves to say he's not evolving, right? He loves to say he's steady as a rock. But there's one area where that has really not applied, which is this issue of Chevron deference—deferring to administrative agencies and their reasonable interpretations of ambiguous federal laws. For years, Thomas was a strong supporter of Chevron deference and even wrote a major decision expanding it. But after he was cultivated by the Kochs and became their close friend, he drifted away from Chevron, ultimately renounced and repudiated Chevron deference and is now on the brink of issuing or joining a decision that will overturn Chevron deference this coming term, in a case that is partly funded and supported by the Koch network."

"U.S. Helped Pakistan Get IMF Bailout With Secret Arms Deal For Ukraine, Leaked Documents Reveal: The U.S.-brokered loan let Pakistan's military postpone elections, deepen a brutal crackdown, and jail former Prime Minister Imran Khan. [...] The protests are the latest chapter in a year-and-a-half-long political crisis roiling the country. In April 2022, the Pakistani military, with the encouragement of the U.S., helped organize a no-confidence vote to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan. Ahead of the ouster, State Department diplomats privately expressed anger to their Pakistani counterparts over what they called Pakistan's 'aggressively neutral' stance on the Ukraine war under Khan. They warned of dire consequences if Khan remained in power and promised 'all would be forgiven' if he were removed."

I opposed the DMCA when it was proposed, and I still think it needs to be overturned and replaced with something that serves the public instead. Cory Doctorow: "Apple fucked us on right to repair (again): Right to repair has no cannier, more dedicated adversary than Apple, a company whose most innovative work is dreaming up new ways to sneakily sabotage electronics repair while claiming to be a caring environmental steward, a lie that covers up the mountains of e-waste that Apple dooms our descendants to wade through. [...] But it can't be the end. When Bill Clinton signed DMCA 1201 into law 25 years ago, he loaded a gun and put it on the nation's mantelpiece and now it's Act III and we're all getting sprayed with bullets. Everything from ovens to insulin pumps, thermostats to lightbulbs, has used DMCA 1201 to limit repair, modification and improvement. Congress needs to rid us of this scourge, to let us bring back all the benefits of interoperability. I explain how this all came to be – and what we should do about it – in my new Verso Books title, The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation."

RIP: "David McCallum, Star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, Dies at 90." We all loved Illya, didn't we?

RIP: "Diane Feinstein at 90. All I'm saying is that Newsome should appoint either Barbara Lee or Katie Porter and not Adam Schiff.

RIP: "Terry Kirkman, Co-Founder of the Association, Dead at 83: Terry Kirkman, founding member of the '60s folk-rock group the Association, has died at the age of 83. The singer's family confirmed his passing to the Los Angeles Times, noting his death was due to congestive heart failure following a long illness." Most people never knew he'd worked with Frank Zappa, David Crosby, and Cass Elliot before they all went on to other things. He was an extraordinary songwriter and I'm always left a little breathless at the unusual beauty of "Cherish".

"The Ludicrous, Depressing Appeal of the Crypto Guy: How Sam Bankman-Fried and other unscrupulous CEOs managed to swindle so many people. In his monumental history Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the anthropologist David Graeber accused economists of inventing 'imaginary villages' as the settings for their just-so stories about the ancient origins of financial exchange. Five thousand years later, it is hard not to apply the same phrase to the strange world of cryptocurrency, a skein of imaginary communities and exchanges that claimed to be reinventing trade and commerce from first principles even as, in reality, they reinvented forms of fraud and exploitation that are almost as old as money itself. Money, Groucho Marx supposedly observed, can't buy happiness, but it does let you choose your own form of misery. And fake money? All the more so. [...] It occurred to shockingly few people that the guys at the top made all that money not because they were smart, not because they were good, but because they were thieves."

"Beyond obscenity: A century after the trial against 'Ulysses', we must revisit the civil liberties arguments of its defender, Morris Ernst [...] The fact that Ulysses was still banned in the US a full decade after its publication struck denizens of the literary world as absurd. Malcolm Cowley, editor of The New Republic, captured the exasperation when he wrote that 'James Joyce's position in literature is almost as important as that of Einstein in science. Preventing American authors from reading him is about as stupid as it would be to place an embargo on the theory of relativity.' But freeing Joyce's masterwork from the clutches of the censors would require prodigious effort, legal aplomb, and federal judges willing to hear the book's defenders."

Historical Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates (Top Marginal Rate)

The Association, "Requiem for the Masses"

23:27 GMT comment

Thursday, 21 September 2023

But I found out you were puttin' me on

It's the blue supermoon, which he said I should credit "from your Baltimore friend Mike," which I object to on the grounds that I have more than one of those, so he allowed as how I could admit he's Mike Kurman.

It astonishes me to say so, but there are some things the Biden administration is doing that I would like to see continue and I'll really really hate seeing Republicans replace the people who are doing them. "Biden's NLRB Brings Workers' Rights Back From the Dead: Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board released its most important ruling in many decades. In a party-line decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, the Board ruled that when a majority of a company's employees file union affiliation cards, the employer can either voluntarily recognize their union or, if not, ask the Board to run a union recognition election. If, in the run-up to or during that election, the employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as illegally firing pro-union workers (which has become routine in nearly every such election over the past 40 years, as the penalties have been negligible), the Board will order the employer to recognize the union and enter forthwith into bargaining. The Cemex decision was preceded by another, one day earlier, in which the Board, also along party lines, set out rules for representation elections which required them to be held promptly after the Board had been asked to conduct them, curtailing employers' ability to delay them, often indefinitely. Taken together, this one-two punch effectively makes union organizing possible again, after decades in which unpunished employer illegality was the most decisive factor in reducing the nation's rate of private-sector unionization from roughly 35 percent to the bare 6 percent at which it stands today."

"Eighth Circuit Says Cops Can Come With Probable Cause For An Arrest AFTER They've Already Arrested Someone: Well, this is a bit of a doozy. This case — via the Institute for Justice — involves a possible First Amendment violation but somehow ends with a judicial blessing of cops who make things up after the fact to justify an arrest that has already taken place." A guy was walking down the road and a cop stopped him and demanded he identify himself. Since the cop had no right to do so without probable cause, he refused. So the cop arrested him. Then he gets him to the station and finds out he can't charge him with "failure to identify" so he asks around for something to get him on. They let him go after a couple of hours but he sued, and it turns out that there's actually a law, never enforced, against walking on that side of the road. But there's case law saying that if the law isn't normally enforced, it doesn't excuse the arrest from being retaliatory rather than probable cause. But the court just waved it away.

Google is working hard to avoid the mistake Bill Gates made and they're trying to stay off your TV screen, but The American Prospect is covering the show. "Justice Department Says Google 'Flexed Its Muscle' as a Monopolist: On day one of the historic monopolization trial, the government put Google's chief economist on the stand to show that the company valued default status on browsers and devices. [...] Despite the stakes of the trial, the remainder of the legal proceeding will take place in a near-total blackout, since requests for public audio have been denied by Judge Amit Mehta and even in-person attendants are restricted from digital access inside the courtroom. For nearly two decades, Google has served as the 'on-ramp' and gatekeeper of the digital world through its dominance of search engine functions, which is the target of this case. The government has unveiled a separate case against Google for its rollup of the digital advertising market. Though related, that case relies on distinct evidentiary claims, some of which will feature prominently in the current trial. To win a Sherman Act monopolization case given the prevailing understanding of the law by most courts, the government not only has to prove that Google's market share qualifies it as a monopoly, but also show that it's used this dominant position to harm competition. That's the task ahead for the DOJ Antitrust Division's team, led by attorney Kenneth Dintzer, who also served on the Microsoft case, the last major tech antitrust case from the late 1990s."

"The 5th Circuit Is the Blown Fuse of American Jurisprudence: According to one of its own, 'the Good Ship Fifth Circuit is afire.' [...] If you want to fast-track a truly terrible idea to the carefully engineered conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the best way to do it is to file it in Texas. If your case fails there, take it down to the 5th Circuit for some CPR. Once there, your chances to prevail are fairly good. This forces the other side to throw itself on the tender mercies of the Alito Court. Even some of the 5th Circuit's veteran conservative judges can hear the whistle of that railroad."

"As judges, we've made thousands of bail decisions. Here's the truth about detention and public safety: Often when judges determine that a person accused of a crime can safely be released from jail and return to court when directed, they face criticism for 'letting the accused out' by reducing monetary bail or 'allowing' the accused to bail at all. This lack of understanding around the bail process undermines the public's trust in the rule of law. As retired and current California trial court judges with more than 90 years of collective experience, we have presided over and made thousands of difficult release decisions. While each of our state's 58 county superior courts may be at a different point on their path toward a safer, fairer and evidence-based pretrial justice process, the California Constitution makes clear that detention is to be the limited exception, not the rule. And studies of this approach to date have reinforced that it promotes, rather than undermines, public safety."

Clarence Thomas claimed gun restrictions weren't around before the 20th Century. "The Volunteer Moms Poring Over Archives to Prove Clarence Thomas Wrong [...] Over and over again, Birch and Karabian found the same thing: strict limits on the use and possession of firearms, dating back at least to the 1850s, that belie Bruen's vision of a 19th-century Wild West where the right to bear arms was almost never infringed on. The regulations uncovered were consistent as to weapons and across cities throughout Orange County, one of the more conservative counties in the state. 'Many of these limitations were enacted shortly after cities were incorporated as part of their very first batch of laws,' Karabian said."

"Laura Kuenssberg's Time as BBC Political Editor has been a Catastrophic, Systemic Failure: Thanks to managers at the BBC, the outgoing Kuenssberg repeated lies rather than challenging them, says former BBC journalist Patrick Howse [...] What they got was a journalist with access to the upper reaches of the Government, with a determination to get on air and tell everyone the whispers that she had heard from ministers, advisors and officials – before Sky or ITN. What the BBC needed was someone who could take a step back, away from the scrum, and tell audiences when they were being lied to. That was something neither the BBC nor Kuenssberg has ever come to terms with."

Amazing piece by Cory Doctorow on the vicious wage-theft artists are suffering, triggered by one artist's reaction when "Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series "Fables" into the public domain." As a long-time fan of Fables, the graphic jumped out at me from his lenghty Xitter thread, but these reminders of how the heads of Disney and Warner really belong on jail stir my blood. But it's all part of a bigger story, too, of organized chaos: "For usury, the chaos is a feature, not a bug. Their corporate strategists take the position that any ambiguity should be automatically resolved in their favor, with the burden of proof on accused debtors, not the debt collectors. The scumbags who lost your deed and stole your house say that it's up to you to prove that you own it. And since you've just been rendered homeless, you don't even have a house to secure a loan you might use to pay a lawyer to go to court. [...] The chaos, in other words, is a feature and not a bug. It provides cover for contract-violating conduct, up to and including wage-theft. Remember when Disney/Marvel stole money from beloved science fiction giant Alan Dean Foster, whose original Star Wars novelization was hugely influential on George Lucas, who changed the movie to match Foster's ideas? Disney claimed that when it acquired Lucasfilm, it only acquired its assets, but not its liabilities. That meant that while it continued to hold Foster's license to publish his novel, they were not bound by an obligation to pay Foster for this license, since that liability was retained by the (now defunct) original company"

Pareene, "Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law: The Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community. The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution establishes that every American has the right to 'the Assistance of Counsel' if they are prosecuted for a crime. This was a pointed rejection of English common law, which barred felony defendants from hiring counsel to represent them. Over time, the Assistance of Counsel clause came to mean that everyone prosecuted for a crime had the right to competent and effective representation, even if they could not afford it. From that right, the American legal community developed a core tenet: Everyone deserves representation. But once the American legal community invented corporate law and the large firm, it continued developing that tenet until it became so divorced from notions of liberty or equality under the law that it now works as a kind of force field preventing lawyers from facing any social or professional repercussions for their actions on behalf of their clients. Everyone has a right to counsel, and every lawyer has a right to earn a buck. [...] He is about as close as you could come to the embodiment of Big Law's connection to the institutional Democratic Party. And last week he argued that because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for use in their extermination camps was not indicted at Nuremberg, Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labor. In his argument before the court, Katyal espoused a view of corporate immunity so expansive that even the conservative judges seemed skeptical. If you took him at his word, he was effectively asking the Supreme Court to make it impossible for any foreigner to sue any company for any harm done to them, up to and including kidnapping and enslavement. [...] To defend an accused murderer or rapist in a criminal trial is a straightforward endorsement of the idea of the presumption of innocence, not an endorsement of murder or rape. That's the act enshrined in our Bill of Rights. To make a career out of defending and expanding corporate power at the expense of employee and consumer power, on the other hand, is simply to endorse those things."

Scott Hechinger recommends: "Extraordinary work again from @TeenVogue -- the best justice journalism outlet in the country. On the day that cash bail is finally eliminated in Illinois, they release a critical explainer on 'Copaganda.'"

I feel bad for Naomi Klein, who people keep confusing with Naomi Wolf. An excerpt from her book, Doppleganger, appears in the Guardian, talking about how she eventually became obsessed with that confusion as Wolf veered radically to the right and people kept attacking Klein for things Wolf had said, but even more the confusion of how her first-name twin, once a highly-regarded and successful feminist author, had ended up sitting beside Steve Bannon railing against Covid masking.

"Chris Hedges: The Pedagogy of Power: The ruling classes always work to keep the powerless from understanding how power functions. This assault has been aided by a cultural left determined to banish 'dead white male' philosophers."

David Klion's review of Martin Peretz's memoir, "Everybody Hates Marty," is really far too kind, and therefore unsatisfying, but that probably owes a lot to the fact that he mostly just reviewed the book rather than reviewing the legacy of Martin Peretz, who helped destroy the world.

"Samantha Geimer on Roman Polanski: 'We email a little bit': In 1977, the film director had 'unlawful sex' with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer, an event that has overshadowed their lives ever since. So why would he get in touch with her now? [...] As the victim of a sex crime, she isn't unusual in saying that the experience of going to court and the attendant publicity was more painful than the incident itself. The difference, of course, is that Geimer has never been allowed to forget it. 'When I see his name, it's always followed by 'convicted' or '13 year old'.' She smiles strenuously. 'And that's always me.'"

Political Research Associates has updated their Glossary of right-wing terms.

"The church bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times / For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald." "At 3 p.m. Tuesday, the bell at Mariners' Church rang out again — now chiming 30 times to honor those perished sailors along with the artist who famously memorialized them in song."

"The Mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge: Why is this bridge here?"

Tourist destination: James Garner statue, Norman, OK.

Gene Clarke, "Feel A Whole Lot Better" (1985 version from Firebyrd)

03:18 GMT comment

Thursday, 31 August 2023

She's just mad about me

I had this weird little computer disaster that freaked me out and no one seems to understand how it happened, so I lost some work on this post and also some time trying to get my mojo back, so I'm just gonna post what I have, here, and hope it all works normally this time.

Doctorow, "How the kleptocrats and oligarchs hunt civil society groups to the ends of the Earth: It's a great time to be an oligarch! If you have accumulated a great fortune and wish to put whatever great crime lies behind it behind you, there is an army of fixers, lickspittles, thugs, reputation-launderers, procurers, henchmen, and other enablers who have turnkey solutions for laundering your reputation and keeping the unwashed from building a guillotine outside the gates of your compound."

"SoCal Gas spent millions on astroturf ops to fight climate rules: It's a breathtaking fraud: SoCal Gas, the largest gas company in America, spent millions secretly paying people to oppose California environmental regulations, then illegally stuck its customers with the bill. We Californians were forced to pay to lobby against our own survival."

Dean Baker, "It Was Never About 'Free Trade,' Can We Stop the Stupid Charade Already? Over the last four decades administrations of both political parties have pushed trade deals that were designed to redistribute income upward. These deals were routinely referred to as 'free trade' deals, implying that they were about eliminating barriers to trade. This was clearly not true. The trade agreements did remove barriers to trade in manufactured goods, thereby putting downward pressure on the wages of manufacturing workers and workers without college degrees more generally. However, they did little or nothing to remove barriers in highly paid professional services, such as those provided by doctors and dentists. And, they increased some barriers, most notably government-granted patent and copyright monopolies. This mix of barrier reductions and barrier increases had the unambiguous effect of shifting income from ordinary workers to highly educated workers. Stronger patent and copyright protections make people like Bill Gates and workers in the biotech industry rich, they don't put money in the pockets of retail clerks, truck drivers, and custodians. In fact, patents and copyrights take money out of their pockets since they make them pay more for drugs, medical equipment, software and thousands of other items, thereby reducing their real wages."

"Remote work wasn't a problem when Jason Fried wrote about it in 2010, but the second that interest rates no longer benefited venture capital it became something that had 'fooled smart people' and had to be reigned in." And bosses apparently don't get to feel as bossy, and owners feel like workers have too much power, and they just don't like it and they want to make people come back to the office for no reason.

Jon Schwarz, "The Big Myth About 'Free' Markets That Justified History's Greatest Heist: A recent book details how the top 10 percent stole $47 trillion via intellectual warfare. [...] Finally, there's the historical fact that no country has ever gone communist gradually, starting with minimum wage laws and ending up with gulags. Rather, it happened in various fell swoops in places with glaring injustices and vicious capitalistic inequality, and even then generally has required contemporary wars. [...] The book is an incredible work of scholarship, and every page has at least one sparkling, fascinating fact. Adam Smith's 1776 book The Wealth of Nations is now seen as the key text proving the virtues (economic and political) of unregulated capitalism. This is not true at all: Smith argues that bank regulation is crucial; that workers should unionize; that businesspeople have often 'deceived and oppressed' the public; and that any political proposal they make should be viewed with the utmost suspicion. George Stigler, a prominent economist at the University of Chicago and colleague of Milton Friedman, produced an edition of 'The Wealth of Nations' that dealt with Smith's inconvenient views by quietly excising many of them." And that explains something that has baffled me for decades — how did all these kids grow up thinking that Smith was a voice for monetarism? They clearly think they've read him, but they missed all the good parts!

There's always a thread somewhere about how Bernie and AOC are sellouts, so it's interesting to see two articles showing up saying otherwise. From Charlie Heller in The Nation, "A Longtime Political Organizer in AOC's District Says She's the Real Deal: She has used her skills to win concrete, historic political victories." And Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, "AOC and the Squad's List of Left-Wing Accomplishments Is Quite Long: As with any elected official, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad should be criticized when needed. But left-wing vitriol is unwarranted: it ignores the Squad's many progressive accomplishments and their legislation's aid to activist campaigns."

"Gender Criticism Versus Gender Abolition: On Three Recent Books About Gender" — I think there's a large extent to which when I read any article about the transgender wars, I'm really looking for a clue as to how it happened that at a time when the entire world seems to be collapsing, this subject suddenly and inexplicably became of paramount importance to so many people who must surely have better things to focus on. Grace Lavery doesn't seem to know, either, but at least she sees the problem.

Donovan, "Mellow Yellow"

05:40 GMT comment

Monday, 14 August 2023

I would tear this building down

New Smyrna Beach

Florida wants to teach children that slavery was more like an apprenticeship program where you learned skills you could use for your personal benefit later on. A lot of assumptions go with that, such as that you had no such skills before you were kidnapped from Africa, and that you might eventually be freed to use those skills for yourself. But my favorite part of this story is that they hired "rigorous scholars" to sell that story to the public, and they released a "rigorously" researched list of supposed slaves who supposedly went on to use their slavery-learned skills in later life. The list of people who supposedly fit this bill is almost howlingly funny. Half of them were never slaves, and those who were, by and large, did not make their living carrying on their occupations from slavery. My favorite example was the (white, free) sister of the president of the United States. I can understand how they might have made this mistake since most people have never met a white person named "Washington".

"Black man who says he was elected mayor of Alabama town alleges that White leaders are keeping him from position [...] Patrick Braxton, 57, is one of several plaintiffs named in Braxton et al v. Stokes et al. The other plaintiffs — James Ballard, Barbara Patrick, Janice Quarles and Wanda Scott — are people that Braxton hoped to name to the city council of Newbern after he was elected to office in 2020. However, Braxton said that the "minority White residents of (Newbern), long accustomed to exercising total control over the government, refused to accept this outcome." Haywood Stokes III, the acting mayor of Neweurn, instead allegedly worked with acting town council members to hold a special election where he was re-appointed to the mayoral seat and keeping Braxton from taking office and carrying out mayoral duties. "

"Ohio Voters Reject Republican Efforts to Restrict Ballot Initiatives: By an overwhelming margin, Ohio voters tonight rejected attempts by Republicans to restrict ballot initiatives for citizens to bypass legislative majorities. The initiative, known as Issue 1, was supported by pro-life groups seeking to limit the ability of pro-choice advocates to guarantee reproductive rights in Ohio state constitution in the upcoming November elections. Republicans hatched up Issue 1 in an attempt to make the November vote more difficult to reach the threshold needed for reproductive rights to be enshrined in the state constitution. Currently, changes to the constitution in Ohio require a simple majority of 50% + 1. And thanks to high turnout and a fired-up base of pro-choice voters, that's where it will remain." That's great, but they still have to win it in November.

"Samuel Alito Just Took an Indefensible Jab at the Progressive Justices" is educational on how Alito is dishonest and wrong, but it's also illuminating in the ways those "progressive" justices disagree with each other which are not always all that progressive. Hm.

Dan Froomkin, "Our so-called liberal media covers up the right's racism and growing homophobia: Political reporters at our leading news organizations routinely put a thumb on the scale in favor of the far right – both by failing to call out its racist and increasingly homophobic nature, and by adopting right-wing frames in reporting current events."

"Shock Treatment in the Emergency Room: The Lehman-like collapse of a(nother) private equity–owned ER operator has physicians calling louder than ever for a strike. " There really needs to be a way to arrest these people.

"Police are not primarily crime fighters, according to the data: (Reuters) - A new report adds to a growing line of research showing that police departments don't solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control, in contrast to popular narratives. [...] More notably, researchers analyzed the data to show how officers spend their time, and the patterns that emerge tell a striking story about how policing actually works. Those results, too, comport with existing research showing that U.S. police spend much of their time conducting racially biased stops and searches of minority drivers, often without reasonable suspicion, rather than 'fighting crime.' [...] In Riverside, about 83% of deputies' time spent on officer-initiated stops went toward traffic violations, and just 7% on stops based on reasonable suspicion. Moreover, most of the stops are pointless, other than inconveniencing citizens, or worse – 'a routine practice of pretextual stops,' researchers wrote. Roughly three out of every four hours that Sacramento sheriff's officers spent investigating traffic violations were for stops that ended in warnings, or no action, for example.

A good analogy for Rishi Sunak's education policy: "The UK has some of the world's leading toll bridges. But a minority of toll bridges fail to deliver good outcomes for their drivers. Figures show that nearly three in 10 drivers have still not reached their destination within an hour of crossing a toll bridge. The government will crack down on these rip-off toll bridges, reducing the number of drivers they can carry."

"Police stage 'chilling' raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones: MARION — In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper's reporters, and the publisher's home. Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: 'Mind your own business or we're going to step on you.' The city's entire five-officer police force and two sheriff's deputies took 'everything we have,' Meyer said, and it wasn't clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night. The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner's lack of a driver's license and conviction for drunken driving. Meyer said he had never heard of police raiding a newspaper office during his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois." Apparently, it was too much for co-owner Joan Meyer, who died in the wake of the raid.

"Why is Spain's inflation so much lower than the UK's? Because it stood up to business: The reliance on Bank of England rate rises alone can't go on. In other countries, rent caps and excess profit taxes are working The government seems to be claiming that it's winning the fight against inflation. But we are not out of the woods yet. Inflation currently is still far too high and the Bank of England has today increased rates again to 5.25% and lowered its growth forecast. But it doesn't have to be like this. The case of Spain is a great counter-example. Its inflation has just fallen to the 2% target. How is it that it has already achieved this important milestone? The reason is more forceful management of the economy – the Spanish government took quicker, more concerted action than ours did. Spain capped energy prices by more than the UK, lowered the cost of public transport, taxed excess profits and put in place limits on how much landlords can raise rents. While also coming with costs, this kept inflation from spreading more widely and more persistently than elsewhere."

RIP: "Irish singer Sinead O'Connor dies aged 56: DUBLIN, July 26 (Reuters) - Sinead O'Connor, the Irish singer known for her stirring voice, 1990 chart topping hit "Nothing Compares 2 U" and outspoken views, has died at the age of 56, Irish media quoted her family as saying on Wednesday. Brash and direct - her shaved head, pained expression, and shapeless wardrobe a direct challenge to popular culture's long-prevailing notions of femininity and sexuality – O'Connor irrevocably changed the image of women in music." I thought what she did was brave, but I was frankly astonished at the virulence of the reaction. Child abuse in the church was no secret, it seems to be "exposed" every ten years and nothing ever happens to stop it. Some photos here, including one with Kristofferson.

RIP: "Randy Meisner, a founding member of the Eagles, dies aged 77." He backed up Ricky Nelson, Linda Rondstadt, and was an original member of Poco (the only time I ever saw him play was one of Poco's very first appearances, when they were brand-new), and then the Eagles.

RIP: "Robbie Robertson, Master Storyteller Who Led the Band, Dead at 80." Saw this fine live version of "The Weight" from the movie posted to the hellsite formerly known as Twitter. Still a song that amazes me, utterly timeless, like you'd heard it before you ever heard it. I like that the "Biblical" references aren't Biblical at all, but for a different religion altogether, pulling into Nazareth, Tennessee, home of Martin Guitars.

David Dayen on "Patient Zero: Tom Scully is as responsible as anyone for the way health care in America works today. [...] I've watched and listened to virtually every scrap of tape of Scully over the last 35 years, and I conducted a long interview with him in June. I think his beliefs are sincere. He thinks government price-setting doesn't work, and that empowering private insurers that put their own money at risk leads to better and more efficient care. He believes poor people should be covered generously, but all other patients exposed to cost to reduce overutilization. And he wants the best hospitals and nursing homes and clinics to be paid more than the worst, to force advances in quality." The entire August issue of The American Prospect is dedicated to The Business of Health Care, and you can read all about why these parasites should all be RICO'd.

Doctorow, "America's largest hospital chain has an algorithmic death panel: It's not that conservatives aren't sometimes right – it's that even when they're right, they're highly selective about it. Take the hoary chestnut that 'incentives matter,' trotted out to deny humane benefits to poor people on the grounds that 'free money' makes people 'workshy.' There's a whole body of conservative economic orthodoxy, Public Choice Theory, that concerns itself with the motives of callow, easily corrupted regulators, legislators and civil servants, and how they might be tempted to distort markets. But the same people who obsess over our fallible public institutions are convinced that private institutions will never yield to temptation, because the fear of competition keeps temptation at bay. It's this belief that leads the right to embrace monopolies as 'efficient': 'A company's dominance is evidence of its quality. Customers flock to it, and competitors fail to lure them away, therefore monopolies are the public's best friend.' But this only makes sense if you don't understand how monopolies can prevent competitors. [...] Regulatory capture isn't automatic: it's what you get when companies are bigger than governments."

You probably don't need to have it pointed out to you that no one who argues for means-testing is arguing in good faith (unless they really don't know what they're talking about, in which case maybe you can send them to this article), but aside from means-testing being expensive, it adds a whole bunch of red tape for everyone so let's just skip it. Universal programs are good, and we're supposed to already have a means test anyway called "progressive taxation". That' right, the people who aren't poor enough to "deserve" it for free are already paying for it anyway. "The Case for Free School Lunch: Hiving off a tiny part of the public school bundle and charging a means-tested fee for it is extremely stupid." Like I said, you probably don't need to be told this, but I find it gratifying every time someone says it.

"Neoliberalism Has Poisoned Our Minds, Study Finds: 'Institutions can promote well-being and solidarity, or they can encourage competition, individualism, and hierarchy.' The dominance of neoliberalism is turning societies against income equality. At least, that's according to a study published Tuesday in Perspectives on Psychological Science. A team of researchers at New York University and the American University of Beirut performed an analysis of roughly 20 years of data on from more than 160 countries and found that the dominance of neoliberalism across social and economic institutions has ingrained a widespread acceptance of income inequality across our value systems in turn."

Amazon is beyond hope by now, but "Podcasts are hearteningly enshittification resistant: In the enshittification cycle, a platform lures in users by giving them a good deal at first, then it lures in business customers (advertisers, sellers, performers) by shifting the surplus from users to them; finally, it takes all the surplus for itself, turning the whole thing into a pile of shit. "

There is always more Doctorow than I can post, but this is (a) great and (b) another infuriating example of what they pull and even get away with. "Fighting junk fees is "woke" [...] Every merchant you patronize has to charge more – or reduce quality, or both – in order to pay this Danegeld to two of the largest, most profitable companies in the world. Visa/Mastercard have hiked their fees by 40 percent since the pandemic's start. Forty. Fucking. Percent. Tell me again how greedflation isn't real? A bipartisan legislative coalition, led by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) have proposed the Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA), which will force competition into credit-card routing, putting pressure on the Visa/Mastercard duopoly...This should be a no-brainer, but plute spin-doctors have plenty of no-brains to fill up with culture war bullshit. Writing in The American Prospect, Luke Goldstein unpacks an astroturf campaign to save the endangered swipe fee from woke competition advocates...Now, this campaign isn't particularly sophisticated. It goes like this: Target is a big business that runs a lot of transactions through Visa/Mastercard, so it stands to benefit from competition in payment routing. And Target did a mean woke by selling Pride merch, which makes them groomers. So by fighting swipe fees, Congress is giving woke groomers a government bailout!"

"There are two kinds of antiracism. Only one works, and it has nothing to do with 'diversity training': While liberal antiracists argue over vocabulary, radicals take direct action – which is the only way to change the system. In news that ought to please antiracist campaigners everywhere, just recently everybody seems to be talking about antiracism. Chief executives such as Larry Fink of BlackRock, one of the most powerful financial companies in the world, call for 'systemic' racism to be addressed. Books on teaching antiracism to children become bestsellers. Conservatives dismiss all this as 'woke' – preachy, elitist and unneeded – but they can't seem to stop talking about it. But all the time, both sides in the debate mistakenly assume there is only one kind of antiracism. They fail to distinguish between two quite different antiracist traditions: one liberal, the other radical."

Just a little reminder that criticisms of MMT are wrong. MMT is just a description of what is, not a prescription for how to use it. But it makes it clear that how to use it is a choice to be made without the false constraints imposed by pretending it doesn't exist.

From 2020, "It's time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas. 'People kept sharing these videos that were coming up and it was unambiguous what was going on. We weren't looking at a stream of videos of violence erupting or clashes breaking out. We were looking at cops, attacking people.' [...] A 2010 study that analyzed 40 years of protest coverage in five major newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, found that the papers depicted protests — even peaceful ones — as nuisances rather than as necessary functions of democracy."

I probably won't see the Barbie movie, but this teaser impressed me and it's not hard to figure out why Ben Shapiro was so upset.

Baby octopus

"Dead and Company Play Final Show: Videos and Set List"

Peter, Paul, & Mary, "If I Had My Way"

05:47 GMT comment

Monday, 17 July 2023

Nothing can change my mind

Have a look at the Lavender collection.

SUPREME COURT FINDS IN FAVOR OF FRAUDSTERS. Or so it seems to me. Lorie Smith (or at least her legal team) falsely claimed that a gay man had written to her asking her to design a wedding website for his upcoming nuptials. Which had not happened. But Lorie said that complying with the state's anti-discrimination laws would force her to "express" support for gay marriage, which she opposed. The right-wing operatives on the Supreme Court, however, were not dissuaded by the improbability of a gay couple not being able to find a gay-friendly web designer and wanting to give Lorie their custom, and said it would violate her free speech to have to provide her services to gay couples. Corey Robin has some interesting words to say on the confusion between the public and markets as regards this decision.

The far-right had a problem with establishing standing on the student loan cancellation case since, obviously, no one would actually be harmed by the policy. They finally found a loan-servicer who the state claimed would lose money, but it turned out they'd actually make money on the deal, so obviously they had no standing. (I want to interject here that for many years we have been used to the court denying standing to people who very clearly did have standing in cases where they were directly threatened or had already been harmed, so this is yet another stark example of the right-wing's tendency to grab — or discard — any argument or fact in order, however speciously, to come to their desired conclusion.) Somehow, though, they decided they had standing anyway. But they had another problem, which is that they didn't actually have much law to base their decision on, so Roberts ended up citing a political statement from Nancy Pelosi falsely claiming that the president had no power to forgive student loans. Obviously, this had been a statement based on the desires of her donors and not the law, but the law clearly does give the president the ability to cancel student debt (under several different provisions from Congress), so he had to settle for Nancy instead.

Biden follows in the footsteps of Obama and Trump and brings the same old war criminal to the White House. They just can't quit him. "Henry Kissinger, Elliott Abrams, and the Rot of American Foreign Policy: Our bipartisan elite is always willing to forgive war crimes by its made men. [...] But there is one group of shadowy miscreants that do operate under a code of omertà designed to ensure that almost all misdeeds will be forgiven, forgotten, and shielded from punishment: the American foreign policy establishment. Once you're an accredited member of the cozy club of Washington policy warlords, you need never worry about having to face the consequences of your actions. Perhaps the only major exceptions to this rule are those who break the code of silence and let the public in on the dirty deeds of the ruling class—as the late Daniel Ellsberg did with the release of the Pentagon Papers. For that unpardonable crime, the price is ostracism and threats of jail."

"FBI hired social media surveillance firm that labeled black lives matter organizers 'threat actors': A new Senate report calls out the FBI for lying to Congress about its social media monitoring, pointing out the FBI's hiring of ZeroFox. THE FBI'S PRIMARY tool for monitoring social media threats is the same contractor that labeled peaceful Black Lives Matter protest leaders DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie as 'threat actors' requiring 'continuous monitoring' in 2015. The contractor, ZeroFox, identified McKesson and Elzie as posing a 'high severity' physical threat, despite including no evidence that McKesson or Elzie were suspected of criminal activity. 'It's been almost a decade since the referenced 2015 incident and in that time we have invested heavily in fine-tuning our collections, analysis and labeling of alerts,' Lexie Gunther, a spokesperson for ZeroFox, told The Intercept, 'including the addition of a fully managed service that ensures human analysis of every alert that comes through the ZeroFox Platform to ensure we are only alerting customers to legitimate threats and are labeling those threats appropriately.'"

"Death of an Economic Theory: The notion that public investment crowds out private spending has taken a beating lately. The remarkable changes in manufacturing construction over the past year, since the passage of two key Biden administration industrial-policy laws, is rapidly putting to rest a concept that has been embedded into the old understanding of the economy. The concept is called 'crowd-out,' and it asserts that increases in government involvement in a business sector lead to reductions in private spending in that sector." It's astonishing that anyone even got away with inventing this theory. We have always had plenty of evidence that government investment creates the private sector's successes.

"WSJ Attacks Antitrust Champion Lina Khan Every 11 Days Since FTC Appointment [...] For example, after the FTC decided to block the merger between medical distributor company Illumina and medical testing company Grail, a Journal op-ed declared (4/27/23): 'Lina Khan Blocks Cancer Cures.' Grail does not in fact cure cancer, nor would blocking the merger bar its technology from the market. The FTC challenged it on the grounds that since Grail's technology requires Illumina's systems to function, the merger could prevent similar technologies under development from competing."

"OECD Pushed Australia to Drop Plan Aimed at Showing Where Corporations Pay Taxes: 'What little credibility the OECD had is now in tatters,' said one campaigner. 'The OECD makes promises about ending global tax abuse but was evidently doing everything it could behind closed doors to protect tax abusers.' The Financial Times confirmed Friday that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lobbied Australia to weaken a law that would have compelled about 2,500 highly profitable multinational corporations to reveal where they pay taxes, eliciting outrage from tax justice advocates. Citing two unnamed people familiar with the discussions, FT reported that the Paris-based club of wealthy nations 'pressured Australia's ruling Labor government to drop a crucial part of a new finance bill that would have required some multinationals to publicly disclose their country-by-country tax bills.' According to the newspaper, 'The OECD, which has driven efforts to force the world's largest companies to pay their fair share of tax, believed the bill would have undermined its own efforts to make multinationals' affairs less opaque.' Campaigners were incredulous given that the legislation the OECD enfeebled 'would have delivered the biggest transparency breakthrough to date on the taxes of multinational corporations,' as the Tax Justice Network put it.

"How "independent media" has tightened the noose on journalists: By replacing employees with contractors and salaries with selective "profit sharing", capital has increased its control over the media. Over the last 24 hours, two stories emerged in the news that shed some crucial light on the shadowy world of 'independent' Silicon Valley media. First, in the Washington Post, Taylor Lorentz reported that Twitter has begun rolling out payments to people who use the site. Most posters on Twitter have been well aware of this since users have been loudly bragging about their payments over the past day, but they have also noticed a catch: only some people are getting the money. And so far, Lorentz reports, 'the influencers who have publicly revealed that they're part of the program are prominent figures on the right.' Meanwhile, in The Nation, Jacob Silverman wrote about the ties of YouTube competitor Rumble to the hard right. In a somewhat tangential passage, however, he notes a detail of their operations that hasn't been reported on in the past: Rumble reserves the right to cap compensation to site users at $1000. It doesn't have to, but it can.

"Half the Police Force Quit. Crime Dropped: [...] 'We enjoy prosperity and security in this community,' said Shep Harris, the mayor since 2012. 'But that has come at a cost. I think it took incidents like the murder of George Floyd to help us see that more clearly.' The residents of the strongly left-leaning town decided change was necessary. One step was eliminating those racial covenants. Another was changing the Police Department, which had a reputation for mistreating people of color. The first hire was Officer Alice White, the force's first high-ranking Black woman. The second was Virgil Green, the town's first Black police chief. 'When I started, Black folks I'd speak to in Minneapolis seemed surprised that I'd been hired,' Chief Green said when I spoke with him recently. 'They told me they and most people they knew avoided driving through Golden Valley.' Members of the overwhelmingly white police force responded to both hires by quitting — in droves. [...] 'I haven't been on the job long enough to make any significant changes,' Chief Green said. 'Yet we're losing officers left and right. It's hard not to think that they just don't want to work under a Black supervisor.' The interesting thing is that according to Chief Green, despite the reduction in staff, crime — already low — has gone down in Golden Valley. The town plans to staff the department back up, just not right away. 'I've heard that the police union is cautioning officers from coming to work here,' Mr. Harris said. 'But that's OK. We want to take the time to hire officers who share our vision and are excited to work toward our goals.' [...] When New York's officers engaged in an announced slowdown in policing in late 2014 and early 2015, civilian complaints of major crime in the city dropped. And despite significant staffing shortages at law enforcement agencies around the country, if trends continue, 2023 will have the largest percentage drop in homicides in U.S. history. It's true that such a drop would come after a two-year surge, but the fact that it would also occur after a significant reduction in law enforcement personnel suggests the surge may have been due more to the pandemic and its effects than depolicing." All right, yes, this one little town isn't really proof that reducing police necessarily reduces crime, but that's not the only evidence.

It's just as big a problem in Australia as in the US — don't trust a company that pretends to be socially or environmentally conscious if they wear it on their face but still treat employees like dirt. Instead of giving employers points for waving a rainbow flag or having race-awareness class requirements, just put them in jail when they steal the wages of employees.

RIP: "Lowell P. Weicker Jr., maverick senator during Watergate, dies at 92: He served three terms in the U.S. Senate and one term as Connecticut's governor. [...] 'More and more, events were making it clear that the Nixon White House was a cauldron of corruption,' Weicker wrote. 'And even as disclosures kept coming, more and more national leaders were acting as though nothing especially unusual had happened.'" Weicker was a liberal Republican, but the Republicans found a conservative Democrat to back to get him out of office: Joe Lieberman.

RIP: Alan Arkin at 89: Alan Arkin, who has died aged 89, was a star at the beginning of his career and a beloved character actor until the end. Though best known for comedies, most notably Catch-22 (1970) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006), lightness was not necessarily his forte; even at his funniest, he exuded gravitas." I admit, I've had my complaints about the movie of Catch-22, but Alan Arkin wasn't one of them - even before I'd heard of him, his was the face I saw when I first read the book. Here's a bunch of photos of him.

Stoller and Dayen in The American Prospect, "Moving Past Neoliberalism Is a Policy Project: In order to test whether improving people's lives can convince them to support Democrats, you have to, well, improve people's lives. [...] We aren't political consultants, and we aren't going to tell anyone how to win elections. But our political theory, nicknamed 'deliverism,' is that Democrats, when in government, need to not only say popular things, but actually deliver good economic outcomes for voters. They did not do this for many years, and neither did the GOP, which is why Trump blasted through both party establishments. Deliverism is linked to the death of neoliberalism, because it's an argument that Democrats could reverse their toxic image in many parts of the country by reversing policy choices on subjects like NAFTA, deregulation, and banking consolidation, which have helped hollow out the middle class for decades."

A lovely tribute from Robert Borosage, "Jesse Jackson Is Keeping Hope Alive: Veterans of his remarkable insurgent 1988 campaign gather to pay tribute. 'I did not start with the money, the ads, the polling or the endorsements. I started with a message and a mission.' As the now-grizzled veterans of Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign gather in Chicago this weekend to pay tribute to their ailing leader, Jackson's words summarize well the historic insurgency he led 35 years ago. [...] In 1988, Jackson was aiming higher. Standing with working people at the 'point of challenge,' he walked picket lines, stood with family farmers facing foreclosure, reached out to progressive peace, women's, gay and lesbian and environmental activists. He would stun the mainstream political world when they saw white workers and farmers not only give Jackson a hearing but also begin to vote for him in ever-greater numbers. The mission, in Jackson's words, was to build a 'progressive rainbow coalition—across ancient boundaries of race, religion, region, and sex,' moving millions of Americans from 'racial battlegrounds to economic common ground and on to moral higher ground.'"

"We are all totalitarians now: If you listen to the talking heads on MSNBC or read more sophisticated academic treatments of the topic, you'll find a frequent claim that mainstream Republican leaders who are not Trump—people like McConnell or McCarthy—are cowards or careerists. Unlike the Greenes and Gaetzes of the party, goes the argument, these men are not ideologically opposed to democracy. They're just insufficiently committed to democracy. That's the problem."

Jackie DeShannon, "Breakaway"

08:11 GMT comment

Friday, 30 June 2023

Outside, I'm masquerading

Little Cove Noosa (2022) Painting by Helen Mitra, from a feature on contemporary Australian art.

So, the Supremes struck down Affirmative Acton and Student Debt Relief and I can't even respond yet.

"The truth about our homelessness crisis: As Californians age, they are priced out: Public policy and common perception have long tied the road to homelessness with mental illness and drug addiction. But a new study out Tuesday — the largest and most comprehensive investigation of California's homeless population in decades — found another cause is propelling much of the crisis on our streets: the precarious poverty of the working poor, especially Black and brown seniors. 'These are old people losing housing,' Dr. Margot Kushel told me. She's the lead investigator on the study from UCSF's Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, done at the request of state health officials. 'They basically were ticking along very poor, and sometime after the age of 50 something happened,' Kushel said. That something — divorce, a loved one dying, an illness, even a cutback in hours on the job — sparked a downward spiral and their lives 'just blew up,' as Kushel puts it. Kushel and her team found that nearly half of single adults living on our streets are over the age of 50. And 7% of all homeless adults, single or in families, are over 65. And 41% of those older, single Californians had never been homeless — not one day in their lives — before the age of 50.

Stoller, "Lina Khan Fires a Crooked CEO: The FTC blocked a genomics technology merger, leading to the firing of a CEO. The deal involved Bill Gates, Barack Obama, China and Jeff Bezos. And corporate America is in shock. [...] More than any other possible penalty, the prospect for CEOs that they could lose their job is going to change corporate behavior. Here's the front page story in the Wall Street Journal on deSouza, noting that behavior across corporate America is changing. [...] And this brings me to Microsoft, which is pursuing a somewhat irrational acquisition of game giant Activision, a bank shot attempt to monopolize gaming. The merger is on the rocks, because Great Britain ruled that it's illegal, and the combination is also being challenged by the FTC. And yet Microsoft won't relent. A few weeks ago, in an essay called Corporate Temper Tantrums, I noted that there's an open question about whether large corporations or democratic governments set the rules for our societies. Microsoft is the key example. Its threat to combine operations with Activision, despite the British government calling the transaction illegal, looks completely crazy, akin to civil disobedience by a Fortune 500 firm. There's no reason for it, since the firm has a great path ahead embedding AI in its products. Gaming is a sideshow. Why would the firm destroy its political reputation with this scorched earth campaign?"

At Thread Ap from Radley Balko, "DOJ just released the report from its two-year investigation of the Minneapolis police department. [...] 'Sit on the ground. I'm gonna mace ya.' [...] Casually pepper spraying some folks who were concerned about a suicidal friend. [...] Pulling a black teen out of a car and threatening to taser him for . . . not wearing a seatbelt. [...] Can't argue with this logic. A supervisor found that some MPD cops' use of force must have been reasonable because if it wasn't reasonable force, they wouldn't have used it. [...] Read the incident, and then how the complaint was handled. The investigator was the same supervisor on the scene who failed to find any wrongdoing at the time. He then didn't bother interviewing witnesses or the complainant before clearing the cops. [...] Flashbanging a group of protesters -- just for fun. [...] Casually pepper spraying journalists for no reason at all. [...] You know you have a problem when a federal court won't even grant officers qualified immunity, but your official investigation finds no violation of policy." The details just leave you gaping. How do you reform that?

The interesting thing wasn't the unsurprising news that Alito is just as corrupt as the rest of them so much as the odd (and unconvincing) response to the article he hadn't even read. "Samuel Alito Is the Latest Supreme Justice Exposed for Living Like an Oil Sheikh: I know a lifetime gig is a license for a permanent big-money Mardi Gras, but, really, a private jet to Alaska? A Little before midnight last night, the good people at ProPublica called in an air strike on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and the rubble is still bouncing. (Interestingly, the Justice wrote a pre-emptive rebuttal on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, which is something all innocent people do.)"

"Populist? RFK Jr Doesn't Even Support Medicare for All. Many commentators see the eccentric Robert F. Kennedy Jr as an 'antiestablishment' alternative to Biden. But he doesn't even support single-payer health care, the brightest line dividing the centrist Democratic Party from its base. [...] All of this creates an opening for a primary challenger. Ted Kennedy's nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, has stepped in to fill that niche. He's not the only Democrat running against Biden — Marianne Williamson is too — but in most polls I've seen, Kennedy is well ahead of her. And it's not hard to see why he might emerge as Biden's most prominent challenger. On the one hand, he comes from a lineage of Democratic Party royalty. On the other hand, he's an edgy antiestablishment 'populist.' Or at least that's how he's been widely portrayed — both by commentators who are repulsed by Kennedy's proclivity for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and by those who find his criticisms of the Biden administration compelling. But the populism label is false advertising. On key issues from Israel/Palestine to Medicare for All, RFK Jr's politics are a thousand miles away from his branding."

"For Black drivers, a police officer's first 45 words are a portent of what's to come: When a police officer stops a Black driver, the first 45 words said by that officer hold important clues about how their encounter is likely to go. Car stops that result in a search, handcuffing, or arrest are nearly three times more likely to begin with the police officer issuing a command, such as 'Keep your hands on the wheel' or 'Turn the car off.'"

"Texas's 'Death Star Bill' Is an Attack on Workers and Democracy: The newly passed HB 2127 is yet another attempt by the GOP-controlled state legislature to impose minority rule over the state of Texas. It's the working class that will pay the price — and the working class that must organize to fight back. [...] HB 2127, labeled the 'Death Star Bill' by the Texas AFL-CIO, will go into effect on September 1. The bill will block cities and local governments from passing regulations on issues like labor protections, housing, and health care. Effectively, it will bar local governments in Texas from governing, hampering democracy in the state."

"The FBI Is Hunting A New Domestic Terror Threat: Abortion Rights Activists: After GOP pressure, FBI abortion 'terrorism' investigations increased tenfold, government data shows. [...] The FBI's abortion-related terrorism investigations jumped from three cases in the fiscal year 2021 to 28 in 2022, a higher increase than any other category listed, according to an audit published by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General on June 6. The number of abortion-related cases in 2022 far exceeds that of all previous years included in the audit, going back to 2017. In the same time frame, FBI investigations into 'racially or ethnically motivated extremists' decreased from 215 to 169; investigations into 'anti-government / anti-authority' declined even more sharply, from 812 to 240. In fact, the only other category to see an increase in cases was 'animal rights / environmental,' which underwent a modest increase from seven to nine cases. [...] 'There is a long history of deadly anti-abortion violence in this country,' German said. 'The FBI should not devote counterterrorism resources to vandalism cases that don't threaten human life out of some flawed notion of parity."

"Twitter Halts Promotion Of Campaign Video Due To 'Abortion Advocacy': 'The mention of abortion advocacy is the issue here,' a Twitter employee told North Carolina candidate Rachel Hunt, according to emails HuffPost reviewed. Twitter blocked a Democrat's campaign video from being promoted on its platform because it expressed support for abortion rights, according to email conversations obtained by HuffPost. The video, created by North Carolina state Sen. Rachel Hunt (D) for her campaign for lieutenant governor, centers on abortion rights in North Carolina and the fall of Roe v. Wade. Hunt says in the video that she's running for lieutenant governor to combat anti-choice Republicans who recently passed a 12-week abortion ban in the state. [...] 'Ah yes, the mention of abortion advocacy is the issue here,' a Twitter employee told Hunt's campaign Wednesday in an email reviewed by HuffPost. The employee said the company may have 'some good news to share on that front' in the next week or so, seemingly suggesting it may change its standards and practices on content discussing abortion rights. 'For now, though, you still won't be able to message around that topic,' the employee added."

"Assault charge dropped against Dan Price, former Gravity Payments CEO " — I haven't known how to react to this whole story but if the claims made about Price are no better than what came up in this case, I have to wonder if any of this is more than smears.

REST IN POWER: Debi Sundahl, former stripper, original publisher of the iconic On Our Backs, sex educator, and founder of Vitale video, of cancer, at 69. Susie Bright's announcement and tribute is now at her blog, "In memory: Debi Sundahl". There are some nice photos and stories.

"Ginni and Clarence: A Love Story How they saved one another, raged against their enemies, and brought the American experiment to the brink." A lot of people are curious about that marriage. And since he's been in the headlines a lot recently, Chapo Traphouse did an interview with Corey Robin about what he learned when writing his book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.

"The Right accuses their critics of the conspiracy they themselves engage in" — Like, for example, the nefarious billionaire story.

"The Obamanauts Are Rebranding as Evil: It's not just Jay Carney, the former Obama spokesman who now leads capital's side of the class war at Amazon. A whole cohort of Obamanauts — those bright, young idealists who wanted to change the world — have positioned themselves in roles in the private sector where they can most effectively be part of the problem. [...] When it comes to Obama administration alumni taking lucrative gigs in Wall Street and Silicon Valley, this list is by no means exhaustive (this is to say nothing of Obama himself, who's made an absolute killing giving speeches to corporate clients). Even for hardened cynics of the political class, the shift from 2008's rousing message of 'Change we can believe in' to cashing in at corporate America has been so nakedly unsubtle it's sometimes defied belief. When that message failed to actualize itself between 2008 and 2016, a common refrain from some Democrats held that some combination of events and political constraints had doused the progressive ambition burning in the Obama administration's fiery liberal soul. Since departing the White House, countless alumni have had more freedom than most to take up professional opportunities of their own choosing — and the choices many of them made strongly suggest otherwise." Pretty sure that "fiery liberal soul" was never there to begin with.

Zach Carter in The New Yorker, "What if We're Thinking About Inflation All Wrong? Isabella Weber's heterodox ideas about government price controls are transforming policy in the United States and across Europe. [...] Instead, without warning, her career began to implode. Just before New Year's Eve, while Weber was on the bunny slopes, a short article on inflation that she'd written for the Guardian inexplicably went viral. A business-school professor called it 'the worst' take of the year. Random Bitcoin guys called her 'stupid.' The Nobel laureate Paul Krugman called her 'truly stupid.' Conservatives at Fox News, Commentary, and National Review piled on, declaring Weber's idea 'perverse,' 'fundamentally unsound,' and 'certainly wrong.'" What had she done that was so "stupid"? She'd proposed the same restraint on inflation that had worked in World War II: Price controls. Via Atrios, who had more to say about that.

"Public Schools Have Been Made to Answer for Capitalism's Crimes: Unwilling to disrupt the economic system that created mass inequality, liberals invested schools with magical powers to fix a broken society. When public schools failed to clean up capitalism's mess, they ended up on the chopping block."

If you needed a reason for millions of people to hate "liberals", always remember that Thomas Friedman was represented to people as a "liberal" media voice. And, as David C. Korten's review of Friedman's 1999 book The Lexis and the Olive Tree makes clear, Friedman was a monster. "We Are the Capitalists. You Will Be Assimilated. Resistance Is Futile. [...] If the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree were not Thomas L. Friedman, the book could, with cause, be dismissed as simply another elitist corporate puff piece extolling the virtues of deregulation and the elimination of economic borders in the idolatrous pursuit of money. Friedman, however, has often been on the side of progressives, especially in his writing on Israel. His current book has its use, not because it offers any new insights into globalization -- it does not -- but rather because it reveals so much of the mindset of those self-proclaimed liberals and "new" Democrats who, like Friedman, have uncritically embraced economic rule by currency speculators and mega-corporations as the inevitable and beneficial future of humankind."

And, just by coincidence (and not a result of me cleverly digging up an old article on Friedman's monstrous book), Cory Doctorow recently wrote that "There Is Always An Alternative."

"Why thousands of board games are buried beneath Mankato: The Anti-Monopoly alternative to America's most successful board game took off in the 1970s. But a gaming giant with Minnesota ties sought its destruction. Somewhere beneath southern Minnesota lie the remnants of about 40,000 board games once created and sold as an antiestablishment alternative to mega-selling Monopoly. Manufactured in Mankato, the game Anti-Monopoly found success in the mid-1970s amid America's rampant inflation and institutional distrust. Then, much like in Monopoly, the ownership class quashed the competition."

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, "Tracks of My Tears"

23:45 GMT comment

Saturday, 17 June 2023

And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes

"Amazonie 2" (2020) by Magali Angot (Mangot) is from a surprisingly fun collection on parrots.

"The Supreme Court Has a New Bold Lone Dissenter: This is a case about the federal right to organize your workplace through a union, which is protected by the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA. This law was a cornerstone of the New Deal; before that point in history, unions were basically treated as illicit conspiracies out to undermine law-abiding businesses. The NLRA said: We're going start treating unions like lawful enterprises that protect workers' vested rights. One way it does that is by preempting state-level suits against a union for helping to organize a workplace. That's really important because otherwise, employers could destroy a union by slapping it with ruinous civil suits for negligence and trespassing and whatever, even though it's engaging in federally protected activity. The fundamental principle in this case is that the Supreme Court has said the NLRA kicks in, and state law is ousted, whenever unions engage in collective action that is arguably protected. The key word is 'arguably'—it doesn't have to be certain. And that's an important buffer because the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA, has to step in and investigate whenever charges are filed, then decide whether fines and penalties are necessary." And that's where the Supremes stuck their nose in.

"Atlanta Police Arrest Organizers Of Bail Fund For Cop City Protesters: Part of a brutal crackdown on dissent against the police training facility, the SWAT raid and charges against the protest bail fund are unprecedented. ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, a heavily armed Atlanta Police Department SWAT team raided a house in Atlanta and arrested three of its residents. Their crime? Organizing legal support and bail funds for protesters and activists who have faced indiscriminate arrest and overreaching charges in the struggle to stop the construction of a vast police training facility — dubbed Cop City — atop a forest in Atlanta. In a joint operation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, or GBI, Atlanta cops charged Marlon Scott Kautz, Adele Maclean, and Savannah Patterson — all board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund — with 'money laundering' and 'charity fraud.' The arrests are an unprecedented attack on bail funds and legal support organizations, a long-standing facet of social justice movements, according to Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. 'This is the first bail fund to be attacked in this way,' Regan, whose organization has worked to ensure legal support for people resisting Cop City, told me. 'And there is absolutely not a scintilla of fact or evidence that anything illegal has ever transpired with regard to Atlanta fundraising for bail support.' [...] A more detailed arrest warrant for Patterson notes that the alleged 'money laundering' charge relates to reimbursements made from the nonprofit to Patterson's personal PayPal account for minor expenses including 'gasoline, forest clean-up, totes, covid rapid tests, media, yard signs and other miscellaneous expenses.' Targeting the organizers with a militarized SWAT raid based on such expenditures only clarifies the desperation of law enforcement agencies in going after the movement."

"A New Prison Policy Blocks Incarcerated Journalists and Artists From Publishing Their Work: New York prisons may have effectively banned journalism behind bars. JOHN J. LENNON HAS built an unlikely career. As a journalist writing from within the prisons he covers, he has spent the last decade offering a rare inside perspective into politics, health, and recreation behind bars. His most recent feature, in The New York Times, illustrated how rising housing prices leave those released from prison with few options to avoid homelessness. He's landed a book deal and a contributing editor position with Esquire. 'Writing has changed my life,' he told New York Focus in a phone call from Sullivan Correctional Facility. 'I've been able to grapple on the page with a lot of things.' He also mentors others who've found solace writing while imprisoned. But the agency that runs New York's prisons is set to block Lennon and countless other incarcerated writers, artists, and poets from getting their work outside prison walls. Last month, the agency quietly handed down new rules severely curtailing what incarcerated writers and artists can publish — and forbidding them from getting paid for it."

"High Court Denies Assange Right to Appeal Putting Him Perilously Close to Extradition: A single judge on the High Court of England and Wales has rejected imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange's nearly year-old request to appeal the British decision to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on espionage and computer intrusion charges. Assange's legal team has one last recourse in the U.K. and has five days to request a hearing before the court."

"Texas sheriff files criminal case over DeSantis flights to Martha's Vineyard: A Texas sheriff's office has recommended criminal charges over flights that the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, arranged to deport 49 South American migrants from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts, last year. In a statement on Monday, the Bexar county sheriff's office said it had filed a criminal case with the local district attorney over the flight. The Bexar county sheriff, Javier Salazar, has previously said the migrants were 'lured under false pretenses' into traveling to Martha's Vineyard, a wealthy liberal town. The recommendation comes after the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, threatened DeSantis with kidnapping charges on Monday, after Florida flew a group of people seeking asylum to Sacramento. It was the second time in four days Florida had used taxpayer money to fly asylum seekers to California. 'The charge filed is unlawful restraint and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony,' the Bexar county sheriff's office said in a statement provided to KSAT News."

My favorite thing about the story of the tsouris that got stirred up when the Dodgers invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to be their guests is that actual Catholic nuns stood up for them because they visit the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the poor, which is just what nuns are supposed to do. "Dodgers apologize and invite Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Pride Night: Less than a week after removing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from their lineup, the Dodgers on Monday re-invited the organization to Pride Night amid backlash from LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups as well as local politicians and even Dodgers employees."

Impeached Republican "Texas AG Says Trump Would've 'Lost' State If It Hadn't Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said former President Donald Trump would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Harris County, home to the city of Houston, wanted to mail out applications for mail-in ballots to its approximately 2.4 million registered voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the conservative Texas Supreme Court blocked the county from doing so after it faced litigation from Paxton's office."

I always wondered when these people would finally notice the contradiction here. "Texas House Overwhelmingly Approves Restrictions on No-Knock Warrants: Conservatives who support the bill recognize the conflict between unannounced home invasions and the Second Amendment. The Texas House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply restrict the use of no-knock search warrants, which the state Senate is now considering. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and the bipartisan support for the bill suggests that many conservatives recognize the potentially lethal hazards of routinely allowing police to enter people's homes without warning. That practice pits law enforcement priorities against the right to armed self-defense in the home, which the Supreme Court has recognized as the "core" of the Second Amendment. [...] "No-knock warrants are really dangerous," Wu told Houston Public Media. "They're just a bad policy. There's no reason that you can't announce that it's the police coming into your door in the middle of the night." He said Texas conservatives "understand that you don't really have a right to defend your home if you don't know who is coming in."" All the more so when the warrants themselves are frequently of questionable provenance and the teams that execute them do so recklessly.

"Video Showed an Officer Trying to Stop His Partner From Killing a Man. Now We Know Police Investigators Never Even Asked About the Footage. We obtained the NYPD's full investigation into the killing of Kawaski Trawick, including documents and audio of interviews with the officers. The records provide a rare window into how exactly a police department examines its own after a shooting." Let's just say there was a little discrepancy between what the video showed and what the police said happened, and the "investigation" didn't even investigate it.

YouGov poll less interesting than it could have been: "American women describe their experiences with menstrual periods"

REST IN PEACE: "Cynthia Weil, Storied Songwriter With Decades of Hits, Dead at 82: Cynthia Weil, the celebrated songwriter who helped craft timeless hits like the Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',' the Animals' 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place,' and Chaka Khan's 'Through the Fire,' died Thursday, June 1. She was 82." Wrote some Gene Pitney and Motown hits I loved, as well, and my old favorite from Wild in the Streets, too, "The Shape of Things to Come".

REST IN PEACE: "John Romita Sr, Spider-Man artist and co-creator of Wolverine, dead at 93 [...] Romita died of natural causes in his sleep. His son, John Romita Jr, also a successful graphic novelist, confirmed the death in a Twitter post on Tuesday night."

REST IN POWER: "Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, dies aged 92 [...] In March, Ellsberg announced that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. Saying he had been given three to six months to live, he said he had chosen not to undergo chemotherapy and had been assured of hospice care. 'I am not in any physical pain,' he wrote, adding: 'My cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my favourite foods!' On Friday, the family said Ellsberg 'was not in pain' when he died. He spent his final months eating 'hot chocolate, croissants, cake, poppyseed bagels and lox' and enjoying 'several viewings of his all-time favourite [movie], Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', the family statement added." I like knowing that. Right up to the end he was speaking up for whistleblowers who have been treated like criminals by our modern "leaders". He was a real hero. Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is my favorite porn film.

REST IN POWER: "Glenda Jackson, fearless actor and politician, dies aged 87 [...] Jackson bestrode the narrow worlds of stage and screen like a colossus over six decades. Though such a Shakespearean tribute would undoubtedly have had the famously curmudgeonly actor reaching for her familiar catchphrase: 'Oh, come on. Good God, no,' nothing less will do for a star who emerged from a 23-year career break to play King Lear at the age of 82. Not only did she win an Evening Standard theatre award for that performance, but she brought the audience to its feet by playing up to her ferocious reputation with an attack on the awards' sponsor. For decades, the newspaper had scorned her as an actor, opposed her as an MP, she said, 'so I'm left thinking what did I do wrong?'"

ROT IN PERDITION: "Left Out of Pat Robertson's Obits: His Crazy, Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory: The right-wing Christian broadcaster was a bigoted loon—and the GOP embraced him. On Thursday, Pat Robertson, the television preacher and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, died at the age of 93. The obituaries duly noted that he transformed Christian fundamentalism into a potent political force with the Christian Coalition that he founded in 1990 and that became an influential component of the Republican Party. They also included an array of outrageous and absurd remarks he had made over the years. He blamed natural disasters on feminists and LGBTQ people. He called Black Lives Matter activists anti-Christian. He said a devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti occurred because Haitians had made a 'pact with the devil' to win their freedom from France. He prayed for the deaths of liberal Supreme Court justices. He insisted the 9/11 attacks happened because liberals, feminists, and gay rights advocates had angered God. He claimed Kenyans could get AIDS via towels. He insisted Christians were more patriotic than non-Christians. He purported to have prayed away a hurricane from striking Virginia Beach. (The storm hit elsewhere.) Yet left out of the accounts of Robertson's life was a basic fact: He was an antisemitic conspiracy theory nutter."

ROT IN PERDITION: "A farewell to James G. Watt, environmental vandal and proto-Trumpian: Last week was so chock full o' news, what with the Trump indictment and the deaths of religious right-winger Pat Robertson and the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, that I'm concerned that another significant passing has received far less attention than it deserved. That's the death of James G. Watt at 85, which occurred on May 27 but was announced by his family last Thursday. Most leading newspapers granted Watt an obituary, proper for someone who was Ronald Reagan's Interior secretary for just under three years. The New York Times called him 'polarizing,' the Washington Post 'combative,' this newspaper 'sharp-tongued and pro-development.' Did those adjectives do justice to Watt, however? I think not. They focused on his actions while in office from 1981 to 1983. What they missed, however, is his legacy as a Republican ideologue on environmental policy." We were all horrified when he was appointed, but my sister-in-law worked at Interior and they were all crying.

Atrios provides a guest link to a surprisingly good opinion piece by Perry Bacon, Jr. in the WaPo in the wake of Chris Licht stepping down at CNN. "After the firestorm created by the Atlantic article, Licht is now stepping down from his post. But all of the harsh criticism is a bit unfair to Licht. In particular, his skepticism of left-wing causes, and his view that people who don't agree with the left are constantly attacked and shamed, isn't some outlier stance. These ideas are regularly expressed in many of the nation's most prominent news outlets. If you spend a lot of time talking to White men in Democratic politics, as I do, you have to nod along as comments like Licht's are made, even if you don't agree with them, to signal that you are a reasonable person worth talking to. Licht's comments embody an anti-woke centrism that is increasingly prominent in American media and politics today, particularly among powerful White men who live on the coasts and don't identify as Republicans or conservatives. It's deeply flawed, and it's pushing some important U.S. institutions to make bad decisions. [...] 'Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned,' the New York Times declared in the first sentence of a March 2022 editorial. In reality, there has never been a right to voice your opinion without the possibility of being shamed or shunned (terms without precise meanings) — and there shouldn't be. Shaming and shunning people are free expression, too. What I suspect this editorial was actually calling for is for self-described Democrats and liberals to be able to express more conservative views (such as skepticism about transgender rights) but without being attacked in the way that conservatives often are for such views (being called bigots)."

"This L.A. Bus Shelter Managed to Offend Literally Everyone." This is what happens when hurting the homeless becomes more of a priority than creating things that serve the purposes they were supposed to be created for. Those nice benches that were meant for people — tired people, or old people — to be able to rest while visiting a park, shopping, or waiting for the bus, have been made so uncomfortable that no one can actually rest on them anymore. And now they've found a way to eliminate any protection from rain or sun. A work of genius.

"How Reading The Economist Helped Me to Stop Worrying About White Supremacy: A recent viral sensation identifies the migration of poor whites as the cause of the problem—letting the rest of us off the hook! [...] If an Economist article that went viral recently is any indication, neither revelation made a dent in the conventional wisdom about who's behind white supremacy in America. The article, by Elliott Morris, citing a research paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, claims that you can use math to prove that 21st-century reactionary politics come from poor whites who left the South looking for jobs a century ago. It's not hard to see why this piece got traction. It absolves lots of white people of any responsibility for white supremacy. It's just truthy enough to become the kind of 'everyone knows' canonical narrative that informs political strategies for a generation. But the math proving that racism comes from one specific class of people turns out to be fatally flawed! And it gets worse. By obscuring how white supremacy actually works, and perpetuating mistaken ideas of why it persists and spreads, this study can make it harder to fight. That leaves us all worse off. It's the political equivalent of junk food."

"The First Name of a Supreme Court Justice Is Not Justice [...] Over roughly the past 15 years, the justices have seized for themselves more and more of the national governing agenda, overriding other decision makers with startling frequency. And they have done so in language that drips with contempt for other governing institutions and in a way that elevates the judicial role above all others. The result has been a judicial power grab. [...] Recognizing the justices' ideological project also points to the beginning of the solution. We ought to begin talking about the justices the way we talk about other political actors — recognizing that their first name is not Justice and that they, like other politicians, should be identified by their party. We should stop talking about another branch's potential defiance of a judicial opinion as an attack on 'the rule of law' and instead understand it as an attack on rule by judges, one that may (or may not) be a justified response to some act of judicial governance. And those other branches should be more willing — as they have at other moments in American history — to use the tools at their disposal, including cutting the judiciary's funding, to put the courts in their place. In recent years, the judiciary has shown little but contempt for other governing institutions. It has earned a little contempt in return."

So, it turns out that instead of threatening people, you can get people to show up in court by communicating with them: "Criminal justice policy in the United States focuses on increasing negative consequences to deter undesired behavior. However, defendants often appear relatively insensitive to these changes in the severity of consequences. Fishbane et al. considered a different policy lever: improving the communication of information necessary to adhere to desired behavior (see the Perspective by Kohler-Hausmann). They found that redesigning a criminal summons form to highlight critical information and providing text message reminders increased the likelihood that defendants would show up to their appointed court date, thus eliminating a substantial percentage of arrest warrants for failing to appear in court. In follow-up experiments, the authors found that laypeople, but not experts, believe that such failures to appear are relatively intentional, and this belief reduces their support for interventions aimed at increasing awareness rather than punishment. These findings have implications for policies aimed at improving criminal justice outcomes."

"Pluralistic: The long lineage of private equity's looting: Fans of the Sopranos will remember the 'bust out' as a mob tactic in which a business is taken over, loaded up with debt, and driven into the ground, wrecking the lives of the business's workers, customers and suppliers. When the mafia does this, we call it a bust out; when Wall Street does it, we call it 'private equity.'" Cory Doctorow explains how vulture capitalists are destroying everything people need.

And here's Robert Kuttner's 2018 story, "It Was Vulture Capitalism that Killed Sears: Don't blame Amazon or the internet. The culprit was a predatory hedge fund. If you've been following the impending bankruptcy of America's iconic retailer, as covered by print, broadcast, and digital media, you've probably encountered lots of nostalgia, and sad clucking about how dinosaurs like Sears can't compete in the age of Amazon and specialty retail. But most of the coverage has failed to stress the deeper story. Namely, Sears is a prime example of how hedge funds and private-equity companies take over retailers, encumber them with debt in order to pay themselves massive windfall profits, and then leave the retailer without adequate operating capital to compete."

"Black People Care About Crime, But We Don't Need Police Propaganda: With Mass Shootings And Gun Violence Permeating The News, It's Clear We Need Public Safety Solutions. But More Cops Aren't The Answer. Everyone wants to live in a society free from crime, Black people included. We're just not usually able to comfortably express that without America treating it as an endorsement of our own criminalization and mass incarceration. When mention is made of the Black community's collective concern about crime, it is rarely to address our material needs or alleviate the causes of crime, but instead offered to dismiss calls for progressive reform in lieu of continuing to invest in 'tough on crime' initiatives."

"What is a 'Riot'? For weeks, I was puzzled by the radical disconnect between what was being reflected back to us by the national media -- and even our friends and relatives in distant parts of the country -- and what Portland residents like me, who live downtown, knew to be the truth. The national media were repeatedly saying Portlanders were 'rioting,' that the downtown was overrun by 'antifa and Marxist terrorists,' filled with burning buildings and looting . . . but we saw nothing of that, especially those of us who live closest to the epicenter. Nervous friends from out of town repeated that police are saying the activity in the streets are 'riots.' Nobody's rioting, we responded, and we're not afraid to go downtown. It finally dawned on me that the Portland Police Bureau's use of the term 'riot' was a technical matter -- a legal one -- which had very little to do with the phenomenon American citizens have been accustomed to seeing reported on the national news as riots."

In 2014, the late Robert Parry wrote about the coup in Ukraine and the bizarre way the media was covering it. He was no stranger to the way the press corp can twist the narrative, but he felt that something new and even more sinister had been added, an ingredient we have become used to seeing today. "Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass [...] But the U.S. press has played down his role because his neo-Nazism conflicts with Official Washington's narrative that the neo-Nazis played little or no role in the 'revolution.' References to neo-Nazis in the 'interim government' are dismissed as 'Russian propaganda.'"

For the record, almost everyone takes one look at me and thinks I'm Jewish. Sometimes this is really obvious (like that guy who went out of his way to show me the swastika tats on his knuckles), and sometimes it's a more subtle reservedness that only goes away when the listener somehow learns that my ethnicity is something else, but by and large, people just assume I'm Jewish. So I would tend to notice if there was a lot of antisemitism going on around me, and I will say for the record that on the few occasions I have met Ken Livingstone, or the many occasions on which I have socialized or worked with Ken-supporting Labourites and Corbyn-supporting Labourites, I never experienced any from them. And actual Jews who have spent considerably more time around Labour Party people say much the same: "Bindman has had an equally long history in the Labour Party, as a councillor, deputy leader of Camden council and chair of the Society of Labour Lawyers. He has acted for a number of leading figures in the party, although not Corbyn. 'I have had close involvement with the Labour Party for many years, and I can say that I've never really experienced antisemitism among fellow Labour Party members or in Labour meetings.' He is not alone in this judgement. The idea of any Jew being antisemitic is, in his words, 'pretty hard to swallow'. Bindman does not deny that antisemitism exists in the party, as it does everywhere, but he agrees with Corbyn's assessment in response to the EHCR report that the problem of antisemitism had been exaggerated - an assessment that got the MP expelled from the parliamentary Labour Party. 'He thought the problem had been exaggerated in the Labour Party. He did not say that antisemitism itself was not highly important, but he said there was not as much of it as had been suggested and he is absolutely right about that. 'You can look at all the statistics and studies that have been made. If you look at the facts you can't justify what Keir has said or done unless he's using it as a pretext. A political strategy. That's all I can say.'"

"Children's enjoyment of writing has fallen to 'crisis point', research finds: Only one in three UK children now enjoy writing in their free time – including text messages – with those on free school meals most likely to do so. [...] 'Every year since 2010, the National Literacy Trust has consistently found that children on free school meals are more likely to engage with writing in their free time than their better-off peers,' said the report. 'This trend has remained steady in the face of a global pandemic and an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis that has forced up the price of consumer goods and services at the fastest rate in four decades. This highlights the potential for writing for pleasure to play a vital role in the lives of disadvantaged children and young people.'"

"Idle rich baffled by poor people's distaste for dangerous, low-paying jobs: People who don't have to work have complained for centuries that other people don't like doing poorly paid, dangerous, dull work, the kind that makes the lives of the affluent comfortable and convenient. This collection of quotes, dating back to 1894, all say the same thing — "Nobody wants to work anymore" — as if there was a time when people relished shoveling shit for the upper class."

"So What Is a British Biscuit Really? And why does it need to 'snap'?" The origins of the British "biscuit" from a French term for what Americans call "hard-tack" seem almost mysterious, and help explain why they are equally mystified by what we call "cookies", "crackers", and "biscuits".

"Colin's Barn: Colin Stokes 'got a bit carried away' and built a castle that looks like something out of Tolkien. [...] The Hobbit House, also known as Colin's Barn, in Chedglow, England, has been abandoned since Stokes moved away in 2000 to avoid the noise of a forest marble quarry opening up nearby. He never finished his project, which he had started 1989 using rocks and stones from around his property, and concrete to hold them together." There are a few neat photos.

The Drifters, "On Broadway" (Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)

01:27 GMT comment

Tuesday, 30 May 2023

But only now my love has grown

Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny, France

Reminder: One day Richard Nixon decided he didn't want to pay for programs Congress passed that he didn't like. So Congress passed The Impoundment Control Act 1974. This law mandates that the president must pay for anything Congress has authorized. And that means that Biden has to ignore the so-called "debt limit".

"Samuel Alito's Assault on Wetlands Is So Indefensible That He Lost Brett Kavanaugh: On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the nation's wetlands by rewriting a statute the court does not like to mean something it does not mean. The court's decision in Sackett v. EPA is one of the its most egregious betrayals of textualism in memory. Put simply: The Clean Water Act protects wetlands that are 'adjacent' to larger bodies of water. Five justices, however, do not think the federal government should be able to stop landowners from destroying wetlands on their property. To close this gap between what the majority wants and what the statute says, the majority crossed through the word 'adjacent' and replaced it with a new test that's designed to give landowners maximum latitude to fill in, build upon, or otherwise obliterate some of the most valuable ecosystems on earth. [...] If you want to feel really cynical about the Supreme Court—if you want to see how a majority has an infinite number of tools at its disposal to override the words that Congress wrote and instead enshrine a conservative agenda into law—read Alito's opinion in Sackett. Honestly, it's like he's barely even trying. Alito's response to Kavanaugh and Kagan consists of one short paragraph that boils down to four words: Their opinions 'cannot be taken seriously.' Alito relied almost entirely on policy arguments, peppering them with legalese to create the impression of an actual legal opinion. It doesn't work, but who cares? The court has anointed itself the final arbiter of every controversy in the land, and if it thinks the Clean Water Act goes too far, then, well, it's the court's sacred duty to rewrite it. As Kagan put it ruefully: 'That is not how I think our government should work,' because 'it is not how the Constitution thinks our government should work.' Sadly, this is how our Supreme Court now works."

"What the Supreme Court Does Matters More Than What It Says: It's impossible to tell the story of the Supreme Court's voting rights cases without mentioning that John Roberts is opposed to voting rights. [...] This is the basic, quick-and-dirty outline you're likely to read in any coverage of Milligan. But to tell the full story, I think, you have to go back in time—to the early days of the Reagan administration, when a rising conservative legal movement star by the name of John Roberts took a job in the new president's Department of Justice. One especially important part of Roberts's portfolio was advocating for narrow interpretations of the Voting Rights Act: Violations of Section 2 of that law, he wrote, should not be 'too easy to prove, since they provide a basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes.' Colleagues remembered him as a 'zealot' who harbored 'fundamental suspicions' about the VRA's utility."

Slowly, slowly, they're starting to admit that what drove the price-inflation was greed. "These companies cynically used global crises to juice profits — and brought us inflation: Throughout all the debate in the last year over what has caused higher prices and how to remedy them, one term hasn't received the attention it deserves, given how well it explains the trend: 'Greedflation.' The term defines as what happens when businesses raise prices higher and faster than is needed to cover increases in their costs. We've reported before that soaring corporate profits have contributed more to inflation than the Federal Reserve Board's preferred targets, wages and consumer demand. Two recent papers, however, measure their impact and identify some of the leading culprits by name."

"Bombshell Report Exposes Key Argument Against Student Debt Relief as 'Categorically False' [...] With debt relief for tens of millions of people hanging in the balance, the GOP state officials who brought the case told Supreme Court justices in late February that they have legal standing to challenge the Biden administration's student debt cancellation plan because if it took effect, it would "cut MOHELA's operating revenue by 40%." MOHELA is Missouri's state-created higher education loan authority, and the supposed financial harms it would suffer under the student debt cancellation plan are critical to the right-wing officials' case. If the Republican plaintiffs can't prove that MOHELA—which is not itself a plaintiff in Biden v. Nebraska—would suffer concrete harm from student debt cancellation, their case falls apart. According to the new report by the Roosevelt Institute and the Debt Collective, not only would MOHELA not be harmed by the Biden administration's student debt relief plan—it would actually see its direct loan revenue rise if the plan is enacted."

Even the conservative Brookings Institute has been saying for over a year that Congress should abolish the debt limit:
"I would like to make three points today.
1. The debt ceiling does not serve any useful purpose. It has not imposed any fiscal discipline on Congress.
2. We don't know what would happen to interest rates and the standing of the U.S. if Congress someday failed to raise the debt ceiling, but we do know the effects would be negative. This is not a risk we should take.
3. Our country faces a lot of long-term economic challenges— high levels of inequality and limited economic mobility, slow productivity growth, climate change, high health care costs, and an unsustainable trajectory for the federal debt. We should address those directly. Bickering over the debt ceiling is a waste of time and energy, creates unnecessary uncertainty, threatens the benefits of issuing the world's safest asset and undermines public confidence in our political institutions.

A note, for comparison: The only other country in the world that has a debt ceiling is Denmark, a nation of six million people with a national debt in 2022 of around 323 billion Danish Kroner. Their debt ceiling is DKK 2 trillion, so reaching the debt ceiling is extremely unlikely any time soon. Unlike America, they have not set a debt ceiling they might — and will — bump up against within the fiscal year. The rest of the countries don't even bother having a debt ceiling because why on earth would you do that?

The trouble with minting the coin is not that it's a "gimmick", but that it would work. "Why Minting the Coin Is A Threat To The Established Order [...] Minting platinum coins with a face value of $1 trillion and depositing them with the Federal Reserve is Constitutional and solves the problem. But it brings up questions that shake the foundations of neoliberalism. If we can 'mint coins' to pay bondholders, why can't we mint coins to do things that people want and need? Instead of just relying on private capital (the rich) to make investment decisions and get things done in our economy? So Biden can do the right thing and just … pay our bills. But then the neoliberal order breaks down. If We (through Congress) can decide to … you name it, then why are we depending on 'the investor class' (capital) and 'market solutions' etc to decide where to invest, allocate resources, do the planning and everything else?"

Atrios wonders why the media talks like DeSantis is the most important governor in America when we have many more impressive governors - and states. He links to Ryan Cooper's article about Tim Walz and Minnesota, who do things like this: "Probably the most significant law passed during the session was a giant expansion of labor rights. As Max Nesterak explains at Minnesota Reformer, the measure mandates paid sick days for nearly all workers, which will accrue at the rate of one hour per 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 48 hours; forbids noncompete agreements in labor contracts; establishes a sectoral bargaining system for nursing homes; allows teachers to negotiate class sizes; and bans 'captive audience' meetings where employers force their workers to listen to anti-union propaganda. It also sets up new protections for meatpackers, construction workers, and Amazon employees. And a separate bill passed on Sunday guarantees a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers." (Oh, but wait, he bottled on one of them: "Minnesota governor vetos gig worker bill following warning from Uber.")

When a Minneapolis county took a little old lady's home to pay off a $2,300 tax bill she couldn't pay, they sold the place but did not return the profit to her. So she went to the Supreme Court, and she won. That's good, but I'm bringing it up because the same people who defend "states rights" have been using the seizure of her condo and theft of the full value of it to "government", by which they mean federal government. They've been treating it as indistinguishable from federal income taxes and any other federal "overreach". They are also the same people who say they want to decentralize power because the federal government is so corrupt and local governments are more answerable (they are not, they are more like local fiefdoms). But here we have a classic example of a local government acting dishonorably and an arm of the federal government being able to undo the injustice.

Ryan Grim alerts us that The criminal case against Henry Kissinger just managed to get stronger somehow, with the arrival of Nick Turse's "Blood On His Hands: Survivors of Kissinger's Secret War in Cambodia Reveal Unreported Mass Killings [...] The U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia between 1969 and 1973 has been well documented, but its architect, former national security adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who will turn 100 on Saturday, bears responsibility for more violence than has been previously reported. An investigation by The Intercept provides evidence of previously unreported attacks that killed or wounded hundreds of Cambodian civilians during Kissinger's tenure in the White House. When questioned about his culpability for these deaths, Kissinger responded with sarcasm and refused to provide answers."

If you want to know what's happening with Ken Paxton, thank Christopher Hooks for coming closer than I've seen in a long time to the Molly Ivins treatment. "The Texas Legislature Finally Comes for Ken Paxton: The Texas attorney general has spent nearly eight years—and won two elections—under indictment. So why a vote to impeach now? At the start of this week, the Texas Legislature was sliding toward the conclusion of yet another underwhelming, but basically normal, session. Lawmakers had wasted a lot of time and effort, and soon they would go home. But the calm was illusory. By the end of the week, everything was in flames: blood was sloshing down the Capitol's marble halls like the building was the Overlook Hotel. Attorney General Ken Paxton called House Speaker Dade Phelan a drunk, urging him to resign and 'get the help he needs'; later that afternoon, a House committee announced it had been investigating Paxton for months. The Texas House met Saturday, and after about four hours of debate, voted to impeach Paxton. To paraphrase Mao: everything under the dome is in chaos; the situation is excellent. There's been a lot of news coverage of the events of the last week. But this being Texas, it's all underlaid by decades of lore, animosities, and seemingly unaccountable behavior. So if you're trying to get in on the fun, here's a primer."

"American Capitalism Has Produced Its Most Remarkable Innovation Yet: Breadlines: Soviet Russia's food shortages were frequently held up as proof of the Communist system's failure to provide for its citizens. But here in hyper-capitalist America, tens of millions of people are going hungry. [...] The breadline has long been a potent symbol, but it's also one that, for mainstream media and political institutions, can only manifest beyond America's borders. When they happen in other countries, food shortages are framed as evidence of precapitalist backwardness. The American system, by contrast, is one of such relentless dynamism and efficiency that, while individual people might experience problems or hardships — hunger, poverty, unemployment — they are precluded from being an indictment of the model itself."

RIP: "Tina Turner: legendary rock'n'roll singer dies aged 83: Tina Turner, the pioneering rock'n'roll star who became a pop behemoth in the 1980s, has died aged age of 83 after a long illness. She had suffered ill health in recent years, being diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016 and having a kidney transplant in 2017. Turner affirmed and amplified Black women's formative stake in rock'n'roll, defining that era of music to the extent that Mick Jagger admitted to taking inspiration from her high-kicking, energetic live performances for his stage persona. " Turner's biggest UK hit didn't get much play in the US, with the result that Phil Spector took out a full-page ad in Billboard thanking the UK for buying "River Deep, Mountain High", which he considered his masterwork. Nevertheless, Turner's light shone in the US as well, and she became the first female performer and the first black performer to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Dahlia Lithwick, "Imagine if the Press Covered the Supreme Court Like Congress: You can't, can you? You can write that the Supreme Court is delegitimizing itself only so many times before you've made yourself ridiculous. If the high court is not in fact behaving in a fashion that makes its decisions respected, the real question is: Why are we all zealously watching and reporting on its decisions as though they are immutable legal truths? Why are we scientifically analyzing every case that comes down as if it holds value? The obvious answer is that these decisions have real consequences—something the past year has shown us far too graphically. But if the Supreme Court is no longer functioning as a real 'court,' why are we mostly still treating its output as if it were simply the 'law'? In some sense, the answer is that the Supreme Court's power and prominence is mediated by the journalists that report on the institution, and we as journalists rely on the court for legitimacy and prominence in return. Someone has to translate legalese to the public. But the way journalists report on the institution—mostly by explaining the 'law'—has set incredibly circumscribed boundaries around how the court's political activities are viewed. The Supreme Court press corps has been largely institutionalized to treat anything the court produces as the law, and to push everything else—matters of judicial conduct, how justices are chosen and seated, ethical lapses—off to be handled by the political press. That ephemera is commentary; the cases remain the real story. [...] It was, at the time, a stinging rebuke to read Margolick conclude that 'no other reporters are as passive as Supreme Court reporters.' Whether the problem was passivity or just a very narrow definition of the job is one thing. But he was emphatically correct to suggest that the long-standing tradition of covering the cases rather than the justices meant that, with few exceptions, there have not been a lot of folks in the SCOTUS press corps on the Clarence/Ginni Thomas beat; almost nobody on the Dobbs-leak beat; and, aside from routinely reporting the fact of plummeting polling numbers, few court insiders on the 'legitimacy' beat. With the notable exception of Politico's Josh Gerstein, who co-reported the Dobbs leak last year, virtually all the scoops about Clarence Thomas' ethical breaches, Leonard Leo's golden spigot, the 'rich donor to Supreme Court Historical Society' pipeline, Ginni Thomas' election disruption efforts, and the catastrophic leak investigation all came from enterprising investigative reporters, political reporters, and 'outsiders' at Politico, ProPublica, and the New York Times. The court's shadow-docket beat was largely invented by legal academics. It speaks volumes about the way the court has been covered that only in the past year have some legacy news outlets hung out 'Help Wanted' ads seeking reporters to cover the court as though it's an actual branch of government and not the oracle at Delphi."

"Economists Hate Rent Control. Here's Why They're Wrong: Half of Americans, namely homeowners, already have rent control. It's time to expand it to everyone. [...] There's just one problem: This neoliberal conventional wisdom is wrong. As recent empirical work has shown, the neoclassical account's core assumptions—one, that rent control restricts the supply of new housing; and two, that it misallocates existing housing, thereby causing an irrecoverable collective loss—fail to hold when it comes to the real world."

"US to give away free lighthouses as GPS makes them unnecessary: Program aims to preserve the properties, most of which are more than a century old, to anyone willing to preserve them."

The Conspiracy Chart —I had no idea there was a theory that Stevie Wonder is not blind.

A few cool pix of Sun halos, arcs and upside-down rainbows seen across England

The Ike & Tina Turner Revue, "River Deep Mountain High, 1969

04:52 GMT comment

Sunday, 21 May 2023

You can't jump a jet plane like you can a freight train

This photo of the aurora in Suomi, Finland is from Juuso Hamalainen. (There are some other pretty auroras and other things in his gallery.)

Just making a note that no one is more responsible for the disaster we have now than these people, none of whom were baby-boomers: Lewis Powell b.1907, Ronald Reagan b.1911, Milton Friedman b.1912, Margaret Thatcher b.1925, Paul Ryan b.1970, and a passel of Gen Xers.

"Sam Alito Says Criticism of Supreme Court Is 'Unfair': 'Practically Nobody Is Defending Us': Justice Samuel Alito would like everyone to know that in the wake of the Supreme Court revoking 50 years of abortion rights and then being plagued by corruption scandal after corruption scandal, our criticism of him and his institution is very much hurting his feelings. [...] And as story after story come out about just how corrupt, unethical, and frankly, bought the people are who are deciding things like what we can do with our bodies and who gets voting rights in this country, Alito is complaining that they are the victims in all this, because someone leaked his draft opinion in Dobbs a month early and people protested. [...] Nevermind that Alito himself was reportedly the one who leaked the Hobby Lobby birth control decision to donors in 2014, before calling the leak a 'grave betrayal' and blaming it on some 'angry left-wing law clerk.' The call, sir, appears to be coming from inside the house. And now, amid all this, Alito and Republicans insist that it's 'the Left' that trying to 'de-legitimize' the Supreme Court." He's not just a whiner, he is like OJ Simpson talking about finding the guy who really did it.

"US Supreme Court Puts Chevron Doctrine 'Squarely In the Crosshairs': One legal expert said that overturning the nearly 40-year precedent 'would lead to far more judicial power grabs. The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a challenge to a nearly 40-year administrative law precedent under which judges defer to federal agencies' interpretation of ambiguous statutes—a case that legal experts warn could result in judicial power grabs and the gutting of environmental and other regulations. The Supreme Court said it will take up Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo—a case in which fishing companies are seeking to strike down the Chevron doctrine, named after the landmark 1984 Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council ruling that conservatives have long sought to overturn. The case is one of the most cited precedents in administrative law. The Chevron doctrine involves a two-step process in which a court first determines whether Congress expressed its intent in legislation, and if so, whether or not that intent is ambiguous."

Democrats appear to have been angry that The Lever reported this, so though I was tempted to say, "They're not even hiding it, now," it appears they thought they were hiding it and that no one would catch them. "Pelosi Gets Hospital Lobbyists' Award After Blocking Reforms: The American Hospital Association feted the former House speaker for 'advancing health care' following her years-long effort to obstruct Medicare for All. A top lobbying group for hospitals on Monday gave Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) an award for 'her incredible efforts in advancing health care,' after the former House Speaker spent the past four years fulfilling the industry's top legislative priority: blocking consideration of Medicare for All or any other major reforms to the insurance-based health care system. [...] While The Lever was blocked from attending AHA's awards ceremony, the conference featured several prominent representatives of corporate media."

"Farewell Transmission: Texas' plan to fix its power grid is a disaster. Ever since brutal winter storms blacked out much of Texas and killed hundreds of residents in February 2021, the state's government has constantly talked a big game about bolstering its grid and shielding Texans from future disasters. There is shockingly little to show for it. On April 6, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that the Texas Senate, with 'a strong bipartisan majority,' had passed a 'power grid reform package' of bills purportedly intended to 'make sure that Texans have reliable power under any circumstance.' Featuring nine pieces of legislation and a joint resolution, the package appears impressive at a glance; there are new rules governing energy costs, power-transmission incentives, and protection against grid attacks. State senators from both parties are happy to declare that the new laws—now awaiting final amendment and approval in the Texas House of Representatives—will beef up the state's electricity markets and ensure reliability for consumers, a talking point echoed in media coverage. Yet a keener analysis of the Senate bills reveals that they hardly do anything to keep the grid running—and, in their current form, would actually make Texans' power woes even worse. Should they pass, the result wouldn't just be an ill-equipped Texas grid, but an even weaker electrical system than the one that failed two years ago."

When the union at The New York Times asks for better options, "Dowd's Newsroom Nostalgia Is Management Propaganda: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (4/29/23) has painted a picture of the newsroom that time forgot. Her remembrance of a frenetic, vibrant newsroom where sin united professionals, and the cubs learned from the veterans on the beat, matches the great depictions of newsrooms like The Wire's Baltimore Sun or the New York Post in Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life." I worked in that Baltimore Sun newsroom, and it's been gone for a long time. It changed a lot when A.S. Bell sold it to Tribune Newspapers, a very different animal from the old newspapers of yore. For that matter, so has commuting, and I don't blame anyone who wants to avoid it. (Not that it was great back in the day when I had to drive an hour to get to work in evening rush hour and then back again at 1:00 in the morning, but today city traffic is a lot worse than it once was.) Rents inside big cities make it hard to imagine cub reporters finding a place to live close to The New York Times.

Back in the first days of May, The American Prospect was saying, "How to Solve the Debt Ceiling Standoff? Sue Janet Yellen: A bondholder could simply allege that America failing to pay off its debts is unconstitutional. There's a good argument for that." And lo and behold, "The National Association of Government Employees says the debt limit is unconstitutional and that it would furlough federal workers [...] The situation is fundamentally unconstitutional, the lawsuit argues, because it gives the president 'the unchecked discretion to cancel or curtail the operations of government approved by Congress without the approval of Congress.'" But this is all Barack Obama's fault.

"Here's The Real Goal Of Supreme Court Corruption: The prospect of luxury gifts and outside cash is designed to halt the historical trend of GOP appointees becoming more liberal. Amid all the revelations of corruption at the Supreme Court, one glib social-media defense of the conservative justices has been about ideology. As the (ridiculous) argument goes, these scandals aren't actually scandals because the gifts and cash that flowed from right-wing billionaires and conservative activist Leonard Leo's dark money network don't actually influence the justices. Why? Because the justices were already conservative and were always going to vote the way they voted on cases of interest to their paymasters. But that analysis misses how corruption works on a systemic level. As the Founders noted, judges are given lifetime appointments for the explicit purpose of preserving an 'independent spirit' that allows them to change their views without fear of consequences. And in fact, data suggests that in the past, many conservative justices have become more liberal as they age. In light of that, the money and gifts flowing to conservative justices can be seen not merely as cheap influence-peddling schemes to secure specific rulings in individual cases. It can also be seen as a grand plan to deter the ideological freedom that lifetime appointments afford. [...] From Earl Warren to William Brennan to John Paul Stevens to David Souter, the Republican Supreme Court appointees who ended up becoming liberals haunt the psyche of the right's judicial activists. It is this dynamic that conservative puppet masters most want to prevent, because it has not been an anomaly. In 2015, FiveThirtyEight parsed the data and quantified a big trend in its headline: 'Supreme Court Justices Get More Liberal As They Get Older.'" There's even a handy chart. For that matter, it turns out Clarance Thomas even reversed himself on the Chevron doctrine after his wife got some money from promoters of his new "opinion".

"A Strangler in a Strange Land: Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely with his bare hands on video, but every institution in New York seems to be on Penny's side. Why? [...] My unscientific sense, though, is that a worryingly large part of the general population—not even corrupt or prejudiced officials, but civilians who hold no office or public authority—feels emboldened by the way real, credentialed, powerful authority has begun to ostentatiously defer to murderers. Institutions, both the press and the government, are always more plastic than we think they are; they will bend so that they may countenance every kind of evil so long as they can do so in a way that reinforces their positions. Increasingly, these institutions, from the Times to the Journal to New York City's elected officials, have become comfortable holding up callous, public murder—of leftist protesters, of homeless people, of prisoners of war—as excusable, not just on the basis of unfortunate extenuating circumstances, but in the name of a kind of hateful reverse morality. Personally, I find myself too often tempted to meet this kind of crazed violence with equally passionate resistance; to go out looking for the fight that is constantly being threatened. But that's not what I've been told to do by a figure no less central to my religious practice as a Christian than Christ. The job is not to administer the beatings, it's to tend to the beaten."

"With Malice Aforethought [...] But what has been deeply disturbing is the public reaction to Neely's death. What people are essentially saying is 'this man's life was worthless' and, as a result of his criminal record, 'he had it coming.' If this was murder, and I strongly suspect it to be, Neely's past actions and character are immaterial. Penny could not have known of them. Murder is murder. The person does not have to be nice or good or socially useful for it to be murder. The state charges people with murder even when they are not loved, forgotten, dangerous, or hated. The only reason to parade Neely's past in public is justify, excuse, of even celebrate his killing. And plenty of people seem to want to do just that."

"Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People: Years of dehumanization and associating the unhoused with criminality help create conditions of violence. [...] In a society with such stark inequality, and so many scrambling to keep their heads above water, dehumanizing those at the very bottom of our social ladder—who couldn't 'make it'—isn't just inevitable, it's necessary. The specter of homelessness and destitution is how the bottom rung of wage labor is disciplined and kept in line. A moral ecosystem emerges to support this necessity, one based on the manifestly goofy idea that we currently live in a plentiful welfare state and everyone who is currently unhoused is so because of a moral failing, or a lack of sufficient arresting and caging, rather than a deficit of social welfare and care. Obviously, they must all want to be poor, or are not well enough to get better and are better left dying on the streets, or being thrown into a cage and given up on. Cruelty is baked into our puritan culture, reinforced daily by our media's love of everything from Perseverance Porn to the aforementioned Welfare Queen tropes. This all creates a media environment where people increasingly see unhoused people having a mental health episode as deserving of a summary death sentence."

"16 Crucial Words That Went Missing From a Landmark Civil Rights Law: The phrase, seemingly deleted in error, undermines the basis for qualified immunity, the legal shield that protects police officers from suits for misconduct. [...] The original version of the law, the one that was enacted in 1871, said state officials who subject 'any person within the jurisdiction of the United States to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States, shall, any such law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of the state to the contrary notwithstanding, be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.' The words in italics, for reasons lost to history, were omitted from the first compilation of federal laws in 1874, which was prepared by a government official called 'the reviser of the federal statutes.'" The law review article this is based on is "Qualified Immunity's Flawed Foundation."

"Washington Post is furtively sitting on a secret trove of Discord leaks [...] News organizations who find themselves in legal possession of top secrets, as the Post currently has, have the right and the obligation to publish news that has been hidden from the public but is in the public interest, especially when it exposes government misconduct. But when a news organization has exclusive access to secrets that are effectively still secret, they also have an obligation to publish them judiciously and maintain the secrecy of those that deserve it. Several recent articles in the Post have arguably been published simply because they could, rather than out of the public interest, raising journalistic concerns. And some intelligence officials are growing increasingly queasy about the Post's apparent indifference to releasing information that has never been seen in the wild and could very well impact intelligence collection going forward."

"Court Suppresses Breathalyzer Results In 27,000 DUI Cases After Years Of Being Jerked Around By The State Crime Lab: For more than a decade, the Massachusetts State Police crime lab hid information from judges, prosecutors, and criminal defendants. This is nothing unusual for this state and its crime labs. The words 'Massachusetts,' 'crime lab,' and 'scandal' have gone hand-in-hand for years. [Heads up, I will be using 'state' to refer to the Massachusetts government in this post. I'm fully aware it refers to itself as a 'commonwealth,' but come on: the state's name is already too much typing.] Drug labs staffed by technicians willing to either falsify results (rather than actually perform tests) or turn seized drugs into their own personal use stash have resulted in courts tossing nearly 30,000 drug convictions. Losing this many (unearned) wins must have hurt, but apparently state law enforcement has a taste for pain."

The Onion is absolutely arch: "Democrats Demand Recount After Insisting They Lost Race For Mayor Of Jacksonville"

This might be too hard to read. "The short life of Baby Milo: Nobody expected Baby Milo to live for long. He arrived in the world with no kidneys, underdeveloped lungs and a life expectancy of between 20 minutes and a couple of hours. He lived for 99 minutes."

RIP: "Gordon Lightfoot, folk music legend," at 84. "Often considered one of the greatest Canadian songwriters of all time, Lightfoot's contribution to the folk music revolution of the 1960s is reflected by the artists that recorded his songs. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and The Replacements have all recorded covers of his music. Best known for the hits 'Carefree Highway,' 'If You Could Read My Mind,' and the no. 1 hit 'Sundown,' Lightfoot continued touring and releasing albums for the next 60 years." None of those are the songs I first learned, but we all had "For Lovin' Me" and a few others in our repertoires. Everybody knew Lightfoot and everybody played Lightfoot. You still hear people doing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", but I never played that one.

A must-read that covers a lot of ground succinctly, Cory Doctorow being absolutely clear about how when they stopped doing it our way and started doing it their way, they screwed everything up: "David Roth memorably described the job of neoliberal economists as finding "new ways to say 'actually, your boss is right.'" Not just your boss: for decades, economists have formed a bulwark against seemingly obvious responses to the most painful parts of our daily lives, from wages to education to health to shelter [...] These answers make sense to everyone except neoliberal economists and people in their thrall. Rather than doing the thing we want, neoliberal economists insist we must unleash "markets" to solve the problems, by "creating incentives." That may sound like a recipe for a small state, but in practice, "creating incentives" often involves building huge bureaucracies to "keep the incentives aligned" (that is, to prevent private firms from ripping off public agencies)."

"Tucker Carlson Isn't an Anti-Imperialist — He's a Rabid China Hawk: Tucker Carlson can't be credited for dissenting against US war fever when he spent years on his Fox News show stoking major tensions with China."

Teen Vogue is much more reliable on "criminal justice" than The New York Times. For example, instead of interviewing cops and prosecutors, they interviewed Alex Karakatsanis on Copaganda, Punishment, and Policing in the United States: "This is one thing [authorities do very well. They're really only talking about certain violations of the law that are committed by poor people. What they're not talking about are the many other crimes that are committed every single day, whether it's polluting water, whether it's air pollution, which kills [more than] 100,000 people in the US every single year… When they talk about property crime, they're not talking about wage theft, which costs $50 billion a year. When companies steal money from their workers it's not even dealt with in the criminal system. It's not talked about as a crime, for the most part. They're not talking about tax evasion, which costs [the US] about a trillion dollars a year. These are the crimes that are committed by wealthy people, people with power… And then I think there's an even more basic point, which is that people who have power and influence in our society get to define what a crime is… You can make it a crime to have an abortion. You can make it a crime to have an abortion pill sent to you in the mail… The idea of violent crime is very different from the idea of harm. So, those other types of harm in our society, whether it's sexual harassment at work or racial discrimination in home lending, [are often not actually] criminalized by the law."

"The Government Provided Child Care in World War II. We Need It Again. Women worked then, women work now. It's time for national child care—permanently. [...] Enter one of my heroes: Congresswoman Mary T. Norton of New Jersey, known as 'Battling Mary.' Battling Mary was a trailblazer, a woman of many firsts, who led the way on child care during the war. She was the first woman elected as a Democrat to serve in the House of Representatives. She became the first Democratic woman to chair a House legislative committee when she was elected chairperson of the Committee on the District of Columbia, serving as the city's de facto mayor. By the end of her career, she had chaired four House committees. Norton spent her career fighting on behalf of working families and succeeded in getting major New Deal labor legislation passed. Her efforts as Labor Committee chair helped ensure the passage of 1938's Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the federal minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, and strict standards for child labor. And during the war, Norton created a national child care system that transformed women's participation in the workplace."

"Vivek Ramaswarmy Wants To Take Away The Vote From Americans Under 25… But He'd Still Let Women Vote: Ramaswampy Is Running For Vice President."

Right-wingers assure me that Portland burned down to the ground in riots and is nothing but a hollowed-out shell full of violence. People who live there say otherwise.

I think I may have posted "Why are British place names so hard to pronounce?" before, but just in case, I'm posting it anyway.

RJ Eskow has been ill, so he learned to make a video in bed. And I love it! "Downtown Boys: I recorded this song in 1977."

Gordon Lightfoot, "The Early Morning Rain"

02:02 GMT comment

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Did you have to traumaize my kids?

Spring Waterfall On The River Kaspa is an oil painting by Nina Belanova.

The April issue of The American Prospect is about "How economic policy models dominate D.C.—and put invisible shackles on what ideas lawmakers offer to govern our lives—despite often being biased, incomplete, and inaccurate." Rakeen Mabud and David Dayen introduce with "Hidden in Plain Sight: The distorting power of macroeconomic policy models." That's followed up by Joseph Stiglitz with "How Models Get the Economy Wrong: Seemingly complex and sophisticated econometric modeling often fails to take into account common sense and observable reality." And I'm looking forward to reading "The Beltway's Favorite Bogus Budget Model: The Penn Wharton Budget Model, bankrolled by finance moguls, is out to grow its power in Washington. [...] In other words, Penn Wharton consciously and deliberately attempts to set the terms of debate, mainly through heightening fears about deficits, so that any public spending is viewed unfavorably. This helps push policy in a particular direction, one that aligns with the political and financial elites who support and fund the project."

Also at TAP, Harold Meyerson on Newsom doing something good that they all should do: "California Goes In for Drugmaking: The state will make and distribute insulin at cost. That should be a model for every other state." But The Lever is looking at Newsom from another angle, "California's Crypto Champion: Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed crypto regulations and spearheaded industry spin pieces for the benefit of his friends and donors in Big Tech."

"US supreme court blocks ruling limiting access to abortion pill: Federal judge in Texas ruled in early April to suspend FDA-approved mifepristone used in more than half of abortions in US. The supreme court decided on Friday to block a lower court ruling placing significant restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone. The decision came in the most pivotal abortion rights case to make its way through the courts since Roe v Wade was overturned last year. More than half of abortions in the US are completed using pills. The case was brought by a conservative Christian legal group arguing the Federal Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone more than 23 years ago. The Biden administration vigorously defended the FDA against the charge, emphasizing its rigorous safety reviews of the drug and the potential for regulatory chaos if plaintiffs and judges not versed in scientific and medical arguments begin to undermine the agency's decision-making." Alito and Thomas dissenting.

"Texas Judge Cosplaying As Medical Expert Has Consequences Beyond The Abortion Pill: The FDA has the power to ignore the mifepristone ruling, legal experts say. But only the courts can cure its dangerous implications. [...] In fact, Kacsmaryk's ruling in the mifepristone case, known as Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has a lot in common with the Dobbs opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito: It ignores science, wholly reimagines facts, and cites less-than-credible sources to arrive at a preordained destination."

The latest leaker wasn't intending to be a whistleblower, he was just showing off. But the story should still be in what he leaked: The intelligence agencies responsible for crafting public lies have been shamed and embarrassed by the exposure of their duplicity in any number of arenas. But the damage to their reputations in no way undermines the national security of We the People of the United States. In fact, it advances the incomparable value of 'an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,' which President Eisenhower described as critical to 'compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.' [...] While the teen who came to know Texeira distinguishes him from whistleblowers like Snowden & Ellsberg based on their respective motivations, the constitutional functions they have each played (informing the public despite the machinations of bureaucrats) is remarkably similar. In any case, focusing on the leaker—rather than what he revealed—is a classic tactic of intelligence agencies responding to embarrassing leaks."

"Trump's Idling Plane Got More TV Coverage Than Biden Cutting Healthcare for 15 Million: Last spring, the Biden administration and a Democratic House approved a policy that would kick 15 million people off of Medicaid. States are now set to begin dropping people from the rolls, reversing the record-low uninsured rate reached early last year. But if you were watching TV news, you might have missed it."

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, "Clarence Thomas Broke the Law and It Isn't Even Close: It probably won't matter. But it should. ProPublica's scrupulously reported new piece on Justice Clarence Thomas' decadeslong luxury travel on the dime of a single GOP megadonor will probably not shock you at all. Sure, the dollar amounts spent are astronomical, and of course the justice failed to report any of it, and of course the megadonor insists that he and Thomas are dear old friends, so of course the superyacht and the flights on the Bombardier Global 5000 jet and the resorts are all perfectly benign. So while the details are shocking, the pattern here is hardly a new one. This is a longstanding ethics loophole that has been exploited by parties with political interests in cases before the court to curry favor in exchange for astonishing junkets and perks. It is allowed to happen. [...] Before the outrage dries up, however, it is worth zeroing in on two aspects of the ProPublica report that do have lasting legal implications. First, the same people who benefited from the lax status quo continue to fight against any meaningful reforms that might curb the justices' gravy train. Second, the rules governing Thomas' conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law: Without the strong threat of enforcement, a putative public servant like Thomas will thumb his nose at the law." And it sure looks like Crow has been bribing public officials.

Within hours of Pro Publica releasing their report, a whole lot of right-wing weirdos rose up to defend the lovely Mr. Crow. This in itself should have raised concerns, and The Lever was on the case. "The Paid Pundits Defending Clarence Thomas And His Billionaire Benefactor: Right-wing pundits rushed to defend Harlan Crow's gifts to Clarence Thomas and his Nazi memorabilia collection — without disclosing their ties to the mega-donor."

Andrew Cockburn in Harper's, "Alternative Facts: How the media failed Julian Assange [...] That Assange's former collaborators have rallied to his defense and, by extension, their own, is an entirely welcome development, spurred in large part by advocacy from James Goodale, the former chief counsel of the New York Times who, half a century ago, masterminded the paper's legal victory in the Pentagon Papers case—establishing the right of the press to publish classified information, a right now threatened by Assange's prosecution. (Goodale also wrote about Assange for this magazine before his arrest.) But Assange has been the object of vindictive government attention for many years, even before being threatened with lifetime incarceration in a U.S. supermax dungeon. Why has it taken so long for the mainstream media to take a stand?" (Cockburn is a little sloppy in this one and does not make clear that no woman ever accused Assange of sexual assault.)

"How Cigna Saves Millions by Having Its Doctors Reject Claims Without Reading Them: Internal documents and former company executives reveal how Cigna doctors reject patients' claims without opening their files. 'We literally click and submit,' one former company doctor said."

Freedom of the Press Foundation's newsletter points to some interesting stories, including the insane attempts to censor TikTock, the irony of having the US complain of persecuting a journalist in Russia while the US continues its persecution of Assange, and "the growing conservative backlash against the Florida bill, favored by Governor Ron DeSantis, to help the rich and powerful bankrupt their critics with litigation." And other things.

"Two-Thirds of American Voters Support Decriminalizing All Drugs: Poll: Two-thirds of American voters now support decriminalizing all drugs, while 83 percent believe that the "war on drugs" has failed, according to a new poll. A 66 percent majority were in favor of "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," according to the poll released Wednesday by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Support for decriminalization differed depending on political affiliation. While 85 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents favored decriminalization, only 40 percent of Republicans agreed. Politics appeared to make little difference when respondents were asked whether they believed the war on drugs was a failure, with 83 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republicans saying it had failed. Only 12 percent of all respondents believed that it had been a success. Majorities of each group were in favor of ending the so-called war, including 77 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents and 51 percent of Republicans."

"Montana Republicans Vote to Stop Their First Trans Colleague from Speaking, Ever: Montana's Republican-controlled legislature is punishing the state's first trans representative for speaking out about proposed anti-trans legislation by refusing to recognize her to speak on any bills moving forward. On Thursday, State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) pointed out she wasn't being called on at all during a debate about defining sex in state law as not including trans people."

"Researchers say supporting a few thousand repeat offenders could be the key to reducing crime in NYC: Criminal justice officials and researchers analyzing arrest data have identified a small group of repeat criminal defendants who, if properly monitored and supported with social services, may present an opportunity to reduce street crime in New York City."

"Behind Keith Ellison's Tough-On-Crime Turn: The Minnesota attorney general took over a murder case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, a fellow reformer. She accused him of playing politics.The Minnesota attorney general took over a murder case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, a fellow reformer. She accused him of playing politics. PROGRESSIVES REJOICED LAST year when Democrat Keith Ellison won a tight reelection race for Minnesota attorney general against a police-backed opponent who attacked him as being 'soft on crime.' In the same election cycle, Ellison's ally Mary Moriarty won election as Hennepin County attorney, installing a reform-minded prosecutor in Minneapolis about three years after the city's police murdered George Floyd. Moriarty, previously the chief public defender for Hennepin County, took office in January and implemented reforms with a focus on correcting failures in the juvenile justice system. Now, three months into their terms, Ellison and Moriarty are no longer on the same side of the reform platform they once shared."

This is stupid, "kink" is a word that has meanings that aren't even remotely "sensitive". "The Kinks' Dave Davies says Twitter is suppressing his band's content—and he knows why." And if you could say it on the radio in the '60s, you should be able to type it on Twitter now.

You can read Jeff Gerth's "The press versus the president" in CJR and you can read the Vox rebuttal here. I haven't finished reading them but so far (and somewhat to my surprise, given his track record), Gerth's account seems to track pretty closely with what I remember, and I'm not sure Prokop's defense does the same. But both admit the Russiagate story went off the rails in a lot of the reporting.

"Oklahoma Court: We Want Richard Glossip Dead And Evidence Be Damned: In a stunning rebuke to the state's attorney general, the appeals court refused to vacate Glossip's conviction, clearing the way for his execution. TWO WEEKS AFTER Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate Richard Glossip's conviction, the court rejected Drummond's request, clearing the way for Glossip's execution on May 18. 'This court has thoroughly examined Glossip's case from the initial direct appeal to this date,' the court's five justices wrote. 'Glossip has exhausted every avenue and we have found no legal or factual ground which would require relief in this case.' The court's move is a rebuke not only to the attorney general, who ordered a review of Glossip's case earlier this year, but also to dozens of conservative Oklahoma legislators who have been fighting to stop Glossip's execution over fears the state would kill an innocent man. The independent counsel who reviewed the case concluded that Glossip should receive a new trial — and that pushing for his execution did not 'serve the interests of justice.' Glossip was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese inside a seedy Best Budget Inn that Van Treese owned on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. No physical evidence linked Glossip, the motel's live-in manager, to the crime. Instead, the case against him was built almost exclusively on the testimony of a 19-year-old maintenance man named Justin Sneed, who admitted to bludgeoning Van Treese to death but said it was all Glossip's idea. In exchange for testifying against Glossip, Sneed avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to life without parole. Glossip has always insisted on his innocence, and, over the last decade, evidence that he was wrongly convicted has steadily mounted."

"Radical films pulled from Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival: A PROGRAMME of radical films planned for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in July has been cancelled because festival organisers would not allow the showing of a film about the persecution of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The film, Oh Jeremy Corbyn — The Big Lie, has been shown at more than 100 cinemas and other venues in Britain. It was one of a programme of radical films due to be shown at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival on the weekend of July 14, 15 and 16. The film's producer, Norman Thomas, said South West region TUC, which organises the festival, claimed to have received threats of 'severe disruption' if the film is screened and has decided it should not be shown. As a result of the decision, organisers of the film screenings have called off the whole programme on principle. Mr Thomas dismissed the threat of disruption as 'utter nonsense' and said it was 'just an excuse for blatant censorship' by South West TUC. He said: 'The film simply provides a view of the Labour Party that the festival organisers don't want shown."

Ballot Access is a handy site for news about voting rights and laws. It's important to know what little tricks your state is trying to play on you, as well as any progress voting rights advocates have managed to move.

RIP: "Rachel Pollack, Trailblazing Doom Patrol Writer, Dies at 77. Michael Swanwick calls her "The Woman Who Proved Ursula K. Le Guin Wrong." David Barnett quotes Roz and Neil for his obit in the Guardian. And Susie Bright remembers. So do I, though I didn't know her quite so well. But she spoke to me like we were old friends, at conventions, even when I first met her, and made me feel a part of her world, so though I didn't see her often, I felt that. I enjoyed her work, too. I even had the refrigerator magnet for Unquenchable Fire in my kitchen the moment I got it home.

RIP: "Fashion designer Dame Mary Quant dies aged 93." Nothing to say here, but once upon a time I wore some scandalously short dresses, and I guess she's why.

RIP: "Barry Humphries: Dame Edna Everage comedian dies at 89." He could be pretty sharp. And he was a perfect sin in the original Bedazzled.

"Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and tireless activist, dies aged 96," of congestive heart failure. "Harry Belafonte, the singer, actor and civil rights activist who broke down racial barriers, has died aged 96. As well as performing global hits such as Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), winning a Tony award for acting and appearing in numerous feature films, Belafonte spent his life fighting for a variety of causes. He bankrolled numerous 1960s initiatives to bring civil rights to Black Americans; campaigned against poverty, apartheid and Aids in Africa; and supported leftwing political figures such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez."

RIP: I can't believe I missed it last December, but Dino Dinelli of the (Young) Rascals died at 78. He was a great drummer in a great band, and this is my excuse to post video of them again. This tribute video has some nice surprises on it, but I've always got time to listen to those tracks I've always loved.

I highly recommend More Perfect Union's excellent little (ten-minute) video history of one of the most evil men of 20th century America, Jack Welch.

Republicans claim voter fraud is a big issue, so why are they pulling out of ERIC, a program that helps clean voter rolls and detect double-voting? "These state officials praised ERIC for years before suddenly pulling out of the program: How politics and misinformation overshadow their stated reasons for leaving the voter roll coalition that helps prevent voter fraud." Some legislators say they "have concerns", but often don't even say what they are. But a closer reading of the history suggests that what may be bothering some of them is that ERIC finds eligible voters and gets them registered.

"Progressives Aren't Hurting the Democratic Party—In Fact, They're The Only Thing Saving It: New York is not just a case study in the winnability of leftist ideas. It is also ground zero for the left to try to leverage its power to extract concessions before supporting moderate Democrats. At 11:30 p.m. on the night of November 8, 2022, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul took the stage at her packed election-night watch party to declare victory. The excited crowd chanted her name. Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' blared over the PA system. Confetti spewed on stage. The word 'WINNER' appeared in giant bold letters behind her. All seemed well. And, truth be told, the moment was briefly relieving: Lee Zeldin, a hardline MAGA Republican, posed an astonishingly credible threat to Democrats' control of Albany, with Kathy Hochul's double-digit lead having collapsed in the months prior to the general election. One poll even showed Zeldin with a one-point lead over Hochul." Lucky for her, the left rode in to her rescue. But in other parts of the state, nothing could save "centrists" from their own arrogance, and that helped cost the Democrats the US House of Representatives.

"Extreme Wealth Accumulation Is A Serious Problem And Should Be Dealt With In A Serious Manner [...] Government subsidies and policies are in great part responsible for these vast fortunes. Even today, modern day robber baron Elon Musk has collected close to $5 billion in subsidies and tax breaks from the U.S. government— over $2 billion for Tesla and closer to $3 billion for SpaceX."

"The High Cost of Being Poor: The American government gives the most help to those who need it least. This is the true nature of our welfare state. [...] The irony is that while politicians and pundits fume about long-term welfare addiction among the poor, members of the protected classes have grown increasingly dependent on their welfare programs. If you count all benefits offered, America's welfare state (as a share of its gross domestic product) is the second biggest in the world, after France's. But that's true only if you include things like government-subsidized retirement benefits provided by employers, student loans and 529 college savings plans, child tax credits, and homeowner subsidies: benefits disproportionately flowing to Americans well above the poverty line. If you put aside these tax breaks and judge the United States solely by the share of its GDP allocated to programs directed at low-income citizens, then our investment in poverty reduction is much smaller than that of other rich nations. The American welfare state is lopsided."

"Trickle-Down Economics Has Always Been a Scam: Despite being proven wrong time and again, trickle-down economics keeps limping forward, resurrected by governments to justify tax cuts for the rich with false promises of prosperity for all. [...] At a cursory glance, it appeared Laffer had been right: cutting taxes coincided with an increase in federal receipts from $599 billion to $991 billion between 1981 and 1989. But the tax cuts had also been accompanied by a huge increase in government spending. By 1990 the budget deficit had nearly tripled, and government debt as a proportion of GDP increased from 31 percent to 50 percent by the time Reagan left office. During the same period, median real wages dropped by 0.6 percent and income inequality in the United States, measured by the Gini coefficient (where is 0 is complete equality and 1 complete inequality), increased from 0.37 to 0.43 — a trend that has continued ever since. [...] 2020 paper published by researchers at the London School of Economics entitled 'The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich' looked at UK and US data from the 1980s and found that tax cuts for the rich had no statistical effect on economic growth. Another report, from the IMF of all places, found that 'a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth,' and that a more effective strategy was to increase the income share of the bottom 20 percent (a 'trickle-up' approach). The impact of tax cuts for the rich is clear."

"Dark Parties: Unveiling Nonparty Communities in American Political Campaigns: Abstract: Since 2010, independent expenditures have grown as a source of spending in American elections. A large and growing portion comes from 'dark money' groups—political nonprofits whose terms of incorporation allow them to partially obscure their sources of income. I develop a new dataset of about 2,350,000 tax documents released by the IRS and use it to test a new theory of political spending. I posit that pathways for anonymous giving allowed interest groups to form new networks and create new pathways for money into candidate races apart from established political parties. Akin to networked party organizations discovered by other scholars, these dark money networks channel money from central hubs to peripheral electioneering groups. I further show that accounting for these dark money networks makes previously peripheral nodes more important to the larger network and diminishes the primacy of party affiliated organizations in funneling money into candidate races."

Tom Sullivan says, "They're comin' ta git ya" — that is, the "Small Government" villains who want to take power away from the people, and therefore from "the left".

Cory Doctorow, "Gig apps trap reverse centaurs in wage-stealing Skinner boxes: Enshittification is the process by which digital platforms devour themselves: first they dangle goodies in front of end users. Once users are locked in, the goodies are taken away and dangled before business customers who supply goods to the users. Once those business customers are stuck on the platform, the goodies are clawed away and showered on the platform's shareholders."

It's so annoying when someone like Bill Maher, or someone who isn't even like Bill Maher, asks why black people never talk about doing something about "black on black crime". It's annoying because they're talking about it all the time, but the media isn't listening.

"East London for the People: The divide between rich and poor in the London borough of Newham illustrates the grotesque inequalities of the city – but long-neglected residents are organising against corporate takeover."

The FBI had successfully interrogated Abu Zubeydah by using traditional trust-building techniques. But then the crazies stepped in. Katherine Eban wrote about that in 2007, "Rorschach and Awe: America's coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical 'black site' operation. [...] It was an extraordinary success story. But it was one that would evaporate with the arrival of the C.I.A's interrogation team. At the direction of an accompanying psychologist, the team planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death."

Saving this link for myself, a clip I keep coming back to, from Roseanne, "Doesn't Matter."

Reginald Pikedevant, "Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)"

All-female tribute band Zepparella doing a pretty close cover of "When The Levee Breaks"

The cops sued Afroman when he turned a police break-and-enter into a music video: "Afroman - Will You Help Me Repair My Door (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)".

05:09 GMT comment

Sunday, April 2, 2023

And in your death's mask face there are no signs which can be seen

Senator Elizabeth Warren rakes Fed Chair Jerome Powell over the coals for ten pages: "The banks' executives – who took too many risks, and failed to protect their customers – are the primary agents responsible for their failure. But the greed and incompetence of these officials was allowed to happen under your watch. It was allowed to happen because of Congress and President Trump's weakening of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ('Dodd-Frank Act') that you supported.2 It was allowed to happen because of regulatory rollbacks that you initiated.3 And it was allowed to happen because of supervisory failures by officials that worked for you.4 This is an astonishing list of failures and you owe the public an explanation for your actions."

"A Big Miss on Drug Prices: Today on Tap: President Biden's NIH rejects a petition to seize the patent of an unaffordable prescription drug." The saving grace of the Bayh-Dole act — in theory — was supposed to be that if the drug companies failed to make drugs that had been developed with federal funding reasonably accessible to the public, the government could take back the patents so that they could be made accessible. But that clause has never been used, and apparently the administration doesn't think a price tag of $188,900 for a drug to treat a cancer that most men will get if they live long enough is out of their reach.

Is Joe Biden going to appoint a corrupt judge? "A few years ago, we uncovered that Landrum was running a modern day debtors' prison when she was a local judge. She was separating families from their children and parents, and jailing people in brutal conditions as a way of extorting cash payments. Landrum and other judges were illegally jailing poor people in NOLA if they couldn't pay court debts. They even created a 'Collections Department' inside the court to illegally collect debts! When our clients couldn't pay, they were caged. We sued them all. It gets worse. Judge Landrum and other judges took a cut of the profits to run their courts, creating an unconstitutional financial conflict of interest that destroyed whatever 'neutrality' they were supposed to have as judges. It gets worse." And that was only after she'd had a career demonstrating that she never should have reached the bench.

"Bernie Sanders's Interrogation of Howard Schultz Made Democrats Pick a Side: Bernie Sanders's grilling of Starbucks's union-busting billionaire Howard Schultz put a CEO in the hot seat on a national stage. It also forced Senate Democrats who might rather stay on the Democratic donor's good side to denounce his flagrantly illegal behavior."

The well-to-do are ready to hollow out the rest of the country. "The American Elite Are Planning Their Escape — And It Starts With Paying For Passports: Hundreds of Americans are willing to fork over six figures for citizenship in nations where they may have never set foot (just in case). [...] Henley & Partners, the world's premier passport brokering company, said that in 2022, more Americans inquired about citizenship by investment — programs that allow people to pay for citizenship instead of gaining it by demonstrating their ties to a country — than in any previous year. Americans were also the leading nationality for submitting applications. 'Americans for the first time ever are becoming the number-one investors in these programs,' said Ezzedeen Soleiman, a managing partner at Latitude, a competitor to Henley & Partners. The world's citizenship-by-investment programs receive about 20,000 applications annually, but until recently, comparatively few applicants were American. The vast majority come from countries where there are limited job opportunities or a limited ability to travel without a visa — China, Russia, India, the Middle East and other parts of the Global South. U.S. passports, by contrast, can open almost any door." Naturally, these passports cost a bundle.

"Anti-Palestinian Hate On Social Media Is Growing, Says A Facebook Partner: Social media users in Israel are increasingly using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to launch hate speech at Palestinians." I've been running into some of this and it's clearly an orchestrated campaign. They have all their talking points and it's as adamant and unflinching as if it were organized by David Brock.

"Kansas City Police targeted minority neighborhoods to meet illegal ticket quotas, lawsuit says [...] Kansas City Police leaders allegedly ordered officers to target minority neighborhoods to meet ticket quotas — telling them to be 'ready to kill everybody in the car' — and to only respond to calls for help in white neighborhoods. Edward Williams, a 44-year-old white KCPD officer and 21-year veteran of the force, filed a discrimination lawsuit in Jackson County Court this week including those and other allegations. Williams said he's faced retaliation because he's been a whistleblower, is disabled and is over 40. Williams's suit said that contrary to Missouri law, KCPD 'continuously and repeatedly' told officers that if they didn't meet their ticket quotas they would be kicked out of the traffic unit and sent to 'dogwatch,' an unpopular overnight shift typically worked by those with low seniority."

John Ganz, "How Start?: One question that should be asked about any war: 'What did all those people die for?' The answer should come back simple and clear: 'They died to free the slaves,' or 'they died to rid Europe of fascism,' or 'they died defending their homes, or 'they died freeing their country from an invading occupier.' As the event recedes into the past, this reason should become more, not less, clear. What was perhaps ambiguous or complex to the actors in the moment should appear increasingly self-evident. But if the answer to that question comes back convoluted and equivocal, full of vague hopes, reasons of state, or stratagems about international relations, one can be pretty sure that war was fought for a bad reason or, even worse perhaps, no reason at all." The Bush administration never asked themselves whether war was necessary, but only how to get it started.

Jon Schwarz, "The Atlantic Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Iraq War With Lavish Falsehoods About Iraq War: THE U.S. MEDIA has recently been filled with retrospectives on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. Most of these outlets eagerly helped the George W. Bush administration sell the war, publishing lavish falsehoods about how Iraq posed a terrible danger to the U.S. (It did not.) So you might hope that in the past two decades, the same publications have learned the most basic facts about Iraq — and would steer clear of publishing obvious and stupendous errors yet again. You would hope in vain."

What happened in 2022? "Six Recent Studies Show an Unexpected Increase in Classical Music Listening" Something has changed in the last 12-18 months, especially among younger listeners—but why? Last year, I went viral with an article about the rising popularity of old music. But I focused on old rock songs. Many of these songs are 40 or 50 years old. And in the world of pop culture, that's like ancient history. But if you really want old music, you can dig back 200 or 300 years—or even more, if you want. But does anybody really do that?" Apparently, yes. A lot.

Despite the fact that everyone already knew it, it appears The New York Times has finally acknowledged that The October Surprise actually happened. Note I am linking to Robert Parry's story from 2014 in Consortium News rather than the NYT's recent story, because they just treated anyone who already acknowledged it as crackpots for decades, whereas Robert Parry created this vital website precisely because pursuing the story got him pretty much blacklisted from establishment media. I wish he could have lived to see it, but we lost him in 2018, to my chagrin. Consortium News is his legacy.

"The Republican Plan to Make Voting Irrelevant: The news brought to mind McConnell's exceptional instincts as a political calculator, and in particular his past cynical and perhaps prescient deliberations concerning his own health. In 2020, amid reports that McConnell had visited Johns Hopkins in Baltimore after concerning photos were published showing intense bruising on one of his hands, the Kentucky Republican began a campaign to pressure the GOP-controlled Kentucky Legislature to change that state's law to remove from the governor—who is a Democrat—the authority to select a candidate to fill the unexpired term of a departing U.S. senator. The ability of the governor to appoint a nominee to fill the unexpired term of a senator without restrictions is the law in 35 states. But McConnell urged, and the Kentucky Legislature took the step of changing that state's law—overriding the veto of the governor to do so—in a way that assured that Republicans would maintain control of McConnell's seat should it become vacant. This effort—to remove powers from elected representatives who are Democrats—has become the new method of disenfranchising voters and maintaining perpetual Republican political power." Now, remember, in this heavily gerrymandered state, it's already easy to put Republicans in control of the legislature, but the governorship is a state-wide office and that Democratic governor was elected by the majority, so this is severely anti-democratic as well as anti-Democratic. And this is just one example in a long list of ways Republicans are removing power from anyone who doesn't share their goals, so keep reading.

"Texas GOP Proposes Bill To Allow Sec Of State To Overturn Election Results In State's Largest Blue County: Republican members of the Texas state legislature introduced a slate of bills Thursday designed to subvert election processes and curb voting rights in the state. One of them would even allow the Texas Secretary of State to overturn election results in the state's largest Democratic-leaning county, with very little rationale for doing so. On Thursday, Republican state senators introduced Senate Bill 1993, a bill targeting Harris County, a diverse region that includes Houston and is also the most populous county in Texas, to a Senate committee for debate. SB 1993 would grant Secretary of State Jane Nelson (R) the authority to order a new election in Harris County 'if the secretary has good cause to believe that at least two percent of the total number of polling places in the county did not receive supplemental ballots,' according to the bill text. Secretary Nelson would have the same authority granted to a district court. The bill would 'allow really low thresholds' for ordering a new election, Katya Ehresman, the voting rights program manager at Common Cause Texas, told TPM. 'Anything from a machine malfunction, which can necessarily be the fault of the county or of an election administrator getting stuck in traffic—which in Houston is incredibly likely—and having a delay in providing election results to the central count station,' she said. " Which is pretty interesting since the Secretary of State is the person responsible for making sure elections are efficiently-run in the first place. Hm. "The bill was introduced alongside over a dozen other bills seeking to restrict voter access and overhaul the state's elections process. Senate Bill 260, for example, would allow the secretary to suspend election administrators without cause, and Senate Bill 1070 would enable Texas to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan program that maintains voter rolls across state lines that has recently been targeted by far-right propaganda. State Republicans quietly introduced the bills in the State Affairs Committee on Thursday morning—without giving the mandatory 48-hour notice. 'Every part of today's hearing highlights the subversive attacks on elections in Texas,' Ehresman said, 'and (SB) 1993 is a part of that.'"

Good piece by Froomkin, "Departing Washington Post editor's comment on listening to staff is everything that's wrong with the current generation of newsroom leaders: Marty Baron, who stepped down as Washington Post editor this week, has been hailed as a hero by journalists at his and other elite media organizations — showered with adulatory news stories and softball interviews. But one exchange in a Vanity Fair interview perfectly demonstrates why his departure is welcome, and overdue. At issue was what Baron had learned from confronting the powerful criticisms being raised by some staffers about hiring, coverage, and newsroom conventions that, as former Post reporter Wesley Lowery once put it, unquestioningly reflect the 'views and inclinations of whiteness.' Baron's response was clueless, condescending, and dismissive. It showed that he was only interested in performative listening – as appearing to have listened – rather than in listening itself. It showed how he considered staffers who challenged him as ignorant supplicants asking him to toss away core journalistic principles 'because of the sentiments of the moment,' which of course he would never do — rather than as peers who want the Post to actually live up to those principles."

"Save KPFK and Pacifica Radio: A hostile takeover attempt is aiming to destroy KPFK, on air since 1959. Pacifica Radio, America's largest non-commercial progressive radio broadcaster, is facing a hostile takeover that threatens the existence of the Los Angeles station KPFK 90.7 FM and the entire network. Pacifica's National Board (PNB) was infiltrated by a politically motivated group and as a result has canceled mandatory elections, extended their own term limits, suspended multiple members of KPFK, and put the Los Angeles building up for sale — all without approval of their listener-members. The only thing that stands in the way of KPFK's imminent destruction is the Los Angeles local station board, which is fighting a bitter legal battle to save their station — and thereby the largest progressive media outlet in the US. [...] For years, the intelligence community has sought to infiltrate Pacifica to bend it to its will. As all other TV and radio networks have been muzzled and moved increasingly toward uncritical middle-of-the-road infotainment, Pacifica has fought to stand its ground. The network functions with over 95% of its staff working for free, and its revenue amounts to about $11 million a year. Hundreds of people nationwide volunteer, all in the name of free speech and independence from censorship and corporate control. Republicans have always considered Pacifica as 'far too left.' To the corporate Democrats who hate criticism from the Left, Pacifica has long been a painful thorn in their side. The Berkeley-based advocacy group 'New Day,' with a large influx of Silicon Valley and Hollywood money, have made it their mission to either privatize the network, to turn it into a censored NPR, or to destroy it. In the past few years alone, New Day has been the cause of two failed Bylaw referendums and six lawsuits, costing the network over $400,000 in legal fees.

"Police in England and Wales 'evading public scrutiny' by deleting misconduct outcomes from websites: Observer investigation finds case of Met officer and serial rapist David Carrick among dozens removed from police websites. [...] An analysis of misconduct trials at 43 forces found the vast majority were either failing to publicise cases, despite a legal obligation to do so, or deleting misconduct cases from their websites after 28 days. Misconduct hearings can relate to any reason an officer is fired from the job including cases related to sexual offences or domestic violence."

You don't have to watch the video since there's a transcription beneath it, but you do have to marvel at Sarah Huckabee Sanders' idea of an inspirational speech to young people.

"You've Probably Already Heard, But Monk Is Coming Back [...] Yes, a Monk movie! It is to be called Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie and written by original series creator Andy Breckman. The release date is currently unknown, which is a blessing… and a curse."

RIP: "Lance Reddick, star of The Wire and John Wick, dies aged 60: The actor whose credits also include sci-fi series Fringe and action thriller White House Down has died of natural causes. [...] Wendell Pierce, Reddick's co-star in the show paid tribute to him on Twitter. 'A man of great strength and grace,' he wrote. 'As talented a musician as he was an actor. The epitome of class. A sudden unexpected sharp painful grief for our artistic family. An unimaginable suffering for his personal family and loved ones. Godspeed my friend. You made your mark here. RIP'" Well, damn, I really enjoyed that guy on screen a lot and this is a shock. He seemed to be in prime shape, too, so no one was ready for it. TMZ's obit has some good videos up, including one from just a few days before he died, and some good clips of him as Charon.

RIP: "Keith Reid, lyricist for Procol Harum, dies aged 76," of cancer. What can I say? I loved this band, I loved their music, I loved his lyrics. And I loved to hear Gary Brooker sing them, and now they're both gone. "Shine On Brightly."

"The Government Does a Bad Job Assessing Toxic Exposures: The history of the captured federal agencies that reassure the public after chemical disasters should give East Palestine residents pause." Once everything got privatized, the war on science sped up because public health costs companies money.

"How the Capitol Police enabled the Jan. 6 attack: A story no one wants to touch: Was it cowardice, blindness, white privilege — or something worse? The House Jan. 6 committee didn't want to know. The news media's continuing failure to explore why the U.S. Capitol was so scantily defended against an angry horde of white Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, has now been compounded by the House select committee's refusal to connect the most obvious dots or ask the most vital questions. It's true that there were countless law enforcement failures that day — indeed, far too many to be a coincidence. But the singular point of failure — the one thing that could have prevented all of it from happening — was that Capitol Police leaders brushed off ample warnings that an armed mob was headed their way."

"Gideon v. Wainwright Was a Landmark Decision, But Women Invented the Idea of the Public Defender: In this op-ed, a former public defender recognizes the crucial role women played in creating the role of the public defender. [...] But March is also Women's History Month, and as a woman defender, every time Gideon's Day rolls around, my mind turns to our own forgotten history. When we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Gideon ruling this year — recognizing the right to counsel as having been conferred by Gideon's brave persistence and Justice Hugo Black's insight and resolve — we are erasing a far longer and richer legacy: the history of the women who invented the idea of the public defender.

"Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest: In May 2014, Greg Lukianoff invited me to lunch to talk about something he was seeing on college campuses that disturbed him. Greg is the president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), and he has worked tirelessly since 2001 to defend the free speech rights of college students. That almost always meant pushing back against administrators who didn't want students to cause trouble, and who justified their suppression of speech with appeals to the emotional 'safety' of students—appeals that the students themselves didn't buy. But in late 2013, Greg began to encounter new cases in which students were pushing to ban speakers, punish people for ordinary speech, or implement policies that would chill free speech. These students arrived on campus in the fall of 2013 already accepting the idea that books, words, and ideas could hurt them. Why did so many students in 2013 believe this, when there was little sign of such beliefs in 2011?"

"Why Kids Aren't Falling in Love With Reading: Hint: It's not just the screens. The ubiquity and allure of screens surely play a large part in this—most American children have smartphones by the age of 11—as does learning loss during the pandemic. But this isn't the whole story. A survey just before the pandemic by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that the percentages of 9- and 13-year-olds who said they read daily for fun had dropped by double digits since 1984. I recently spoke with educators and librarians about this trend, and they gave many explanations, but one of the most compelling—and depressing—is rooted in how our education system teaches kids to relate to books."

"The Economy Could Not Exist Without Government: The Silicon Valley Bank collapse exposes a reality that rich people would prefer to ignore. [...] It was darkly amusing to see Silicon Valley's self-anointed masters of capitalism and apostles of libertarianism screaming for no-strings-attached government help after their own bank fell victim to a run sparked by venture capitalists themselves—particularly given that, as my colleague David Dayen writes, SVB itself was a major lobbying force behind the 2018 bank deregulation that allowed it to engage in more risky business. Less amusing were the all-caps tweets from prominent venture capitalists claiming that all regional banks would soon fail, in a clear attempt to spark a broader panic that would camouflage their desired bailout."

"The Message of the Republican Party: Don't Tread on Me. I Tread on You." It's not hypocrisy, because, "When Republicans talk about valuing 'freedom', they're speaking of it in the sense that only people like them should ultimately possess it."

Radley Balko, "Reader mailbag: Bias in journalism, criminal justice in pop culture, and how my own politics have changed" — I offer this one mainly for his discussion of cop shows.

An American-style Wild West town hides in an alley in Edinburgh.

This year's Red Nose Day had a ten-minute "special" from Ghosts with a guest spot from Kylie. It was kinda cute.

Read Pamela Sargent's classic short story "If Ever I Should Leave You" — after first reading a little history of how she got Women of Wonder published.

Procol Harum, "Conquistador"

23:25 GMT comment

Friday, 17 March 2023

Don't let it slip away

This complete rainbow was photographed at 30,000 feet by Lloyd J. Ferraro.

"The 'Private Sector' Is Government 'Contracting Out' Its Functions: We live in a society, and getting things done for society is what government is for. Government is society's way to make decisions about society's resources, economy and future. Period. Anyone who tells you you don't need government, or that government shouldn't do this or that, is actually just trying to BE the government, for their own benefit. EVERY decision about society's resources, economy and future is made by government, one way or another. Period. Every. Single. One. Socialism, capitalism, communism, dictatorship, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, etc are just descriptions of how that decision-making is divided up. It's about who makes the decisions and who gets the benefits. All the 'ideological' battles are really just all about keeping the public from understanding that."

"Why Is Larry Summers So Obsessed With Tech Bros? The former Treasury secretary's business partnerships may have influenced his early calls to bail out Silicon Valley Bank. For the past two years, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers has begged, berated, and bullied federal policy-makers to suck as much wealth as possible, as fast as possible, out of the economy. He just never meant, you know, his wealth or his friends' wealth. When Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), which caters to venture capitalists and tech start-ups, collapsed last week, Summers rushed to protect his professional colleagues and fellow elites from the consequences of policies he's pushed for. In Summers's eyes, when tech moguls make obvious mistakes, it's catastrophic for them to face consequences for their actions. But when workers want debt relief, sick days, or higher wages, they're destroying the whole economy with their greed."

"Senate Did NOT Just Unanimously Pass a Bill Requiring Declassification of 'All of the Information' Regarding the Origins of Covid: Contrary to the claims of Sen. Hawley and other sponsors, the legislation only instructs the DNI to release information relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No examination of others. Some senate Republicans are claiming they are putting forward legislation that will solve the Covid origins question but that's not what the legislation does. The sponsors of a bill that recently unanimously cleared the senate are claiming that the resolution would mandate that the federal government declassify all relevant information on Covid origins. This is completely inaccurate. The resolution would only have the Director of National Intelligence release documents relating to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, but not information of other institutions, including US institutions, which might share culpability. Nor does it declassify DNI information relating to other possible causes of the pandemic. [...] In addition, while Hawley's statements that if his bill was enacted, 'then we can get this thing done … let's show them what the government has. Let everybody see it for themselves, let everybody read it.' are misleading. This is because much information sought by the transparency group U.S. Right to Know and some media organizations is not classified but is being withheld."

Joe Biden apparently thinks he can do anything to stop Republicans from claiming he and the Democrats are soft on crime. He can't. That will never happen. But the attempt is ugly: To be more specific, since Ron Klain's departure from the White House, the administration has undertaken what looks like a strategic rollout of unprincipled new policies and proposals that will neither reduce crime levels nor outflank Republicans on the issue, but that have generated some news stories about Biden trying to appear 'tough on crime.' The ideas include reviving Trump-era family detention policies along the southern border, imposing longer sentences on convicted criminals if they've been accused or even acquitted of other crimes, and using federal power to nullify the District of Columbia's, new criminal code, which wasn't actually 'soft on crime,' but did get portrayed as such by Fox News. Yes. This Fox News. That last one has thrown the party into disarray, when the alternative of not throwing his party into disarray, while doing the right thing, was right there for the taking." And it's even worse than it sounds. More on this at Slate.

The party of free speech warriors strikes again. "Florida bill would require bloggers to register before writing about DeSantis: A bill proposed this week by a Republican state senator in Florida would require bloggers who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), his Cabinet officers and members of the Florida legislature to register with the state."

Hm, this is curious. "Top Ohio Republican, Ex-House Speaker Larry Householder, Was Convicted Of Taking A $60 Million Bribe — But No One Was Charged With Bribing Him: Usually, in the case of powerful politicians who take bribes, we see the bribers being charged with crimes while the bribees never get a second glance from law enforcement. The perfect example is the current FTX scandal, where over $100 million in stolen funds— paltry compared to the $8 billion that was stolen— went to powerful politicians from both corrupt political parties. Sam Bankman-Fried, the mastermind, faces life in prison, while not a single recipient of those millions of dollars who be bought has been so much as questioned by law enforcement! The opposite just happened in Ohio— where FirstEnergy executives bribed the state GOP but no one got in any trouble but a high level Republican scapegoat and one dumb lobbyist. None of the bribers have been charged... but today the bribee and the lobbyist were finally found guilty."

"The Checkered Past of the Contractor Monitoring the Air in East Palestine: CTEH has been cited by lawmakers for 'releasing findings defending the corporate interests that employ them.' A contractor for Norfolk Southern that is conducting air quality monitoring in East Palestine, Ohio, has a controversial history of what critics have described as inaccurate testing tilted toward the corporations that hire it. The company has been the subject of several lawsuits over its conduct, and members of Congress have warned corporations not to hire the firm in the past. [...] In 2010, then-Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Peter Welch (D-VT) wrote to BP CEO Tony Hayward, warning him not to use CTEH to monitor health exposures of workers cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon spill. 'CTEH has a history of being hired by companies accused of harming public health and releasing findings defending the corporate interests that employ them,' the lawmakers wrote. Welch is now serving in the U.S. Senate; his office did not return a request for comment."

"Leaked audio reveals US rail workers were told to skip inspections as Ohio crash prompts scrutiny to industry: Exclusive: employee says manager told her to stop marking cars for repair, as Ohio derailment brings hard look at industry's record of blocking safety rules [...] In late 2016, Stephanie Griffin, a former Union Pacific carman, went to her manager with concerns that she was getting pushback for tagging – or reporting for repair – railcars. Her manager told her it was OK to skip inspections. Griffin asked if the manager could put that in writing. 'That's weird,' said the manager. 'We have 56 other people who are not bad-ordering stuff out there. You're definitely not going to get in trouble for it.' Griffin said: 'He refused to bad-order [mark for repair] cars for bad wheel bearings. My boss took issue with it because it increased our dwell time. When that happened, corporate offices would start berating management to release the cars.' Dwell time refers to the time a train spends at a scheduled stop without moving. 'It's very obvious that management is not concerned with public safety, and only concerned with making their numbers look good,' Griffin said."

"Centrist Democratic PAC's Sole Funder Is A Republican Megadonor: The Moderate PAC, created to go after progressive primary challengers, received all its money from one source: Republican megadonor Jeffrey Yass. A CADRE OF moderate Democrats and Republicans are joining together to revamp a political action committee to fight against progressive primary challengers to establishment Democrats. With President Joe Biden's former campaign manager as the PAC's only consultant and a defense contractor executive as its treasurer, the Moderate PAC — not to be confused with the older Moderate Democrats PAC — stands to be an exemplar of the Democratic Party's corporate-friendly, centrist wing. Its financial heft, though, comes from the other side of the aisle: So far, Republican megadonor Jeff Yass, the richest man in Pennsylvania, is virtually the only one putting money into the group."

Conservatives — well, some of them — seem to be admitting that some regulations are necessary. The Rude Pundit reports.

"Steak Dinners, Sales Reps and Risky Procedures: Inside the Big Business of Clogged Arteries [...] The suit, filed in 2017 by a sales representative for a competing medical device firm, alleges an illegal kickback scheme between Medtronic and hospital employees. According to the complaint and documents released in the suit, between 2011 and 2018, VA health care workers received steakhouse dinners, Apple electronics and NASCAR tickets, and in turn, Medtronic secured a lucrative contract with the hospital. Meanwhile, the company's representatives allegedly 'groomed and trained' physicians at the facility, who then deployed the company's devices even when it was not medically indicated. [...] The hospital investigation found that amputations increased sixfold in the same time frame as the procedures in question, according to internal emails, but made no conclusion about whether those two things were connected. ProPublica reached out to the VA to ask whether any patients had been harmed."

"To NYT's Peter Baker, Acknowledging Trans People's Existence Is 'Activism,' Openly Advocating for Perpetual U.S. Occupation of Afghanistan Isn't: What is and isn't 'activism' depends entirely on how conservative the activism is. The line between 'journalism' and 'activism' is a sacred, cherished one for elite reporters, just don't ever ask them to define what either of these concepts mean. It's more of a vibe, not a consistent set of principles they apply on a day-to-day basis."

I've been seeing right-wing claims that Silicon Valley Bank failed because it was "woke", a formulation based on a right-wing think-tank's claim that it donated an astonishing amount of money to Black Lives Matter. In fact, it lists lots of corporate giving to BLM and apparently this money was given specifically to foment black violence. Like there is any reason in the world a bunch of money-men would do that. Josh Marshall did some digging: "The claims come from a database posted earlier this week by the Center for the American Way of Life, a project of the Claremont Institute. As Claremont put it in a Newsweek article introducing the database, 'Americans deserve to know who funded the BLM riots.' [...] Perhaps I missed some citation in those 9 documents to back up the $73 million claim about SVB. But if I did it's almost certainly nowhere near that sum, and it almost certainly means 'BLM' in the sense of college scholarships for Black high schoolers, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some program at the American Heart Association to reduce the incidence of heart disease among Black people. The vast majority of the organizations are highly mainstream and even corporate in their focus (supporting minority-owned small businesses, recruiting minority employees in STEM fields). The ones that aren't mainly focus on housing, closing gaps in medical care in minority communities and supporting STEM education and coding. In many cases, the cited documents include no information to support the purported dollar amounts at all. In some cases a claim about one corporation is backed up with a document about another corporation entirely. So there's a high degree of slapdash and incompetence involved. But the general message is that anything in any way connected to Black people in pretty much any way is 'BLM riots,' and explicitly supporting mayhem and violence."

"The False Promise of Term Limits:Limiting lawmakers' time in office only exacerbates the problems with our government. [...] Yes, you may get fresh blood with term limits. But what you get with it is legislative amateurism, short-term stints in which lawmakers can't develop skills or expertise, and effective, public-spirited officials are forced out on the altar of the new and novel. Washington is already mired in dysfunction and marred by corruption and influence peddling. Term limits would make that worse, robbing Congress—and thus voters—of the ability to course correct, much less check the expansive power of the presidency. [...] There are real problems in the structure of American democracy. The solution is to face and fix those problems head-on rather than lean on an assumed panacea that will hurt more than help, while robbing voters of their right to choose who they want to represent them, and for how long."

Americans keep telling me that the US is going to scrap changing between Daylight Savings and Standard time this year, but I'm sorry to tell you that, no, that plan died on the vine. "Permanent Daylight Saving Time Bill Just Made Clock Change More Annoying." Yeah, the Senate actually passed it last year, but it never even came to the floor in the House once the lobbyists got to them.

"Sir Terry Pratchett: Short stories to be published after being found by fans: A collection of 20 recently rediscovered short stories by late fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett is to be published later this year. Sir Terry wrote the stories for a regional newspaper under the pseudonym Patrick Kearns in the 1970s and 80s. They had not previously been attributed to him, but have now been collected after a search by 'a few dedicated fans', publishers Penguin said."

RIP: "Richard Belzer, Extraordinarily Smart-Ass as a Comic and a TV Cop, Dies at 78: The stand-up legend and 'Groove Tube' actor played Det. John Munch on 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' 'Law & Order: SVU' and eight other shows." I loved him as Munch, but I admit it wasn't enough to make me watch Law & Order. Here's a bunch of nostalgic photos.

"Helen Reddy, 'I Am Woman' Singer and Activist, Dead at 78: HELEN REDDY, THE Australian singer whose early Seventies song 'I Am Woman' has served as an empowering feminist anthem for several generations, died Tuesday at age 78. Her children, Traci Donat and Jordan Sommers, confirmed the news via her official Facebook page." I admit, I was never crazy about the song, but I know it was important to a lot of people.

"Comparing Health Outcomes of Privileged US Citizens With Those of Average Residents of Other Developed Countries [...] This study suggests that privileged White US citizens have better health outcomes than average US citizens for 6 health outcomes but often fare worse than the mean measure of health outcomes of 12 other developed countries. These findings imply that even if all US citizens experienced the same health outcomes enjoyed by privileged White US citizens, US health indicators would still lag behind those in many other countries."

"This all-but-forgotten con man sold America on 'fake it till you make it' [...] When newly minted salespeople found it impossible to make a go of it, they were told to 'fake it until you make it,' by wearing expensive clothes and waving around $100 bills to lure in others, a disillusioned Oregon recruit testified in court in 1972. A few months later, another seller would tell a Florida courtroom that he, too, had been instructed to 'fake it till you make it.' When the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against Turner's company, a judge cited the phrase as evidence of malfeasance."

Seymour Hersh, 1972, "The Massacre at My Lai: A mass killing and its coverup."

"Forty years of Monster Raving Loony wannabe MPs [...] Recently, the party announced that, once in government, it would give atheism charitable status because it is a 'non-prophet organisation'."

I was just trying to find an old post I still can't find and stumbled on a completely unrelated old post from 2003 that I'd completely forgotten about but rather like, on the terror reign of the raging left-wing on college campuses, back in the days when my blog had more writing and less copy-pasting.

"Psychic Chicken of Seattle: Deep into the lower floors of Pike Place, find a date with fowl fate. "

Interactive Map Shows Which Indigenous Lands You Are Living On

The Righteous Brothers, "You've Lost That Loving Feeling"

07:12 GMT comment

Sunday, 19 February 2023

And hope that my dreams will come true

Seth Meyers had the best coverage of the State of the Union address (in only 15 minutes) so you don't need me for that. Or if you are a junkie for this kind of thing, you could watch The Majority Report's live coverage.

If Biden has put an end to this kind of thing, that would be great. "To the extent they care about spending cuts, they've created no consensus about exactly what they want; half the caucus is demanding the slashing of Social Security and Medicare, while Speaker Kevin McCarthy has vowed not to touch them. When Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN), brother of the former vice president, was asked whether he would vote for the debt limit if a deal included every one of his priorities, he repeatedly said 'No!' There's simply no reasoning with people who just want to trash the country. The economy of 2023 is far stronger than that of 2011, though with inflation cooling markedly I see no reason for austerity. But as far as the politics, if Manchin thinks he can get a good ol' bipartisan agreement out of this opposition party, he's got another thing coming."

"Mississippi Republicans pass bill to create separate, unelected court in majority-Black city: Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, calls proposed law 'some of the most oppressive legislation in our city's history'. The Republican-dominated Mississippi house of representatives has passed a bill to create a separate, unelected court system in the city of Jackson that would fall outside the purview of the city's voters, the majority of whom are Black. The bill, which local leaders have likened to apartheid-era laws and described as unconstitutional, would also expand a separate capitol police force, overseen by state authorities. The force would expand into all of the city's white-majority neighborhoods, according to Mississippi Today. Jackson's population is over 80% Black."

"This State Wants to Make Every Week a 4-Day Work Week: Well, guess we're all moving to Maryland. Americans are overworked. Workers in the U.S. report being more dissatisfied with their jobs than ever, Americans take fewer vacations and work longer hours than most Europeans, and health problems related to workplace stress kill thousands of us every year. But a group of lawmakers in Maryland want to encourage employers to give people in their state a three-day weekend in perpetuity, introducing a new bill 'promoting, incentivizing, and supporting the experimentation and study' of a four-day workweek in private companies and government agencies. The pilot program would run for a total of five years; if the legislation is signed into law, Maryland would become the first state to have an official policy encouraging the adoption of a four-day workweek. "

"The Crackdown on Cop City Protesters Is So Brutal Because of the Movement's Success: One protester was killed by police, 20 were charged under a 'domestic terror' law, and Georgia's governor gave himself broad 'emergency' powers. THE MOVEMENT TO stop the construction of a $90 million police training center atop vast acres of Atlanta forest has been extraordinarily successful over the last year. With little national fanfare, Defend the Atlanta Forest/Stop Cop City activists nimbly deployed a range of tactics: encampments, tree-sits, peaceful protest marches, carefully targeted property damage, local community events, investigative research, and, at times, direct confrontation with police forces attempting to evict protesters from the forest. The proposed militarized training compound known as Cop City has thus far been held at bay."

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, were evacuated from their homes until buildings could be checked for toxic heavy gases (mustard gas) accumulating in the basements due to a train derailment nearby. Many people have been worried about this kind of thing at least partly because of the understaffing of railroad workers and also deregulation. Weirdly, when Ohio's governor, Mike DeWine, gave a press conference, a journalist was arrested for covering it. "Governor DeWine apologized for the incident and said he did not authorize Lambert's arrest, according to NewsNation." Does this mean that the Sheriff's Department took it on themselves to illegally arrest him? (I mean, who did they expect to turn up at a press conference?)

Sy Hersh, "How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline: The New York Times called it a 'mystery,' but the United States executed a covert sea operation that was kept secret—until now [...] Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning. Two of the pipelines, which were known collectively as Nord Stream 1, had been providing Germany and much of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas for more than a decade. A second pair of pipelines, called Nord Stream 2, had been built but were not yet operational. Now, with Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border and the bloodiest war in Europe since 1945 looming, President Joseph Biden saw the pipelines as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions. Asked for comment, Adrienne Watson, a White House spokesperson, said in an email, 'This is false and complete fiction.' Tammy Thorp, a spokesperson for the Central Intelligence Agency, similarly wrote: 'This claim is completely and utterly false.' Biden's decision to sabotage the pipelines came after more than nine months of highly secret back and forth debate inside Washington's national security community about how to best achieve that goal. For much of that time, the issue was not whether to do the mission, but how to get it done with no overt clue as to who was responsible."

You remember Larry Niven's story in Dangerous Visions, "The Jigsaw Man"? Well... "Mass. Prisoners Could Choose Between Freedom And Their Organs: A new bill would allow prisoners to get time off their sentence if they donate their organs or bone marrow. Massachusetts Democrats have a bold new proposal for prisoners: donate your organs or bone marrow, and get as little as a couple of months off of your sentence. The legislation, which has attracted five cosponsors in the state House, raises major bioethical concerns for the 6,000-plus people currently held in the Bay State's prisons. In essence, the bill would ask prisoners which is more important to them: their freedom, or their organs and bone marrow." What's amazing is that the guy who proposed this really doesn't seem to recognize the nightmare he's inviting.

Here we go again.... "[Consortium News] Editor Named on Secret 'Disinfo' List: CN Editor Joe Lauria was one of 644 Twitter accounts that secretly formed part of Hamilton 68's fake 'dashboard' that wrongly influenced major media about alleged 'Russian influence.' The editor of this website is part of a secret list created by the organization Hamilton 68 that was fed to major media and Congress to identify so-called 'Russian accounts' that were 'sowing discord' in the United States.

Tom Sullivan wonders if there's a connection between mass killers and killer cops, in "Unthinkable violence [...] Is it time to consider that people capable of such acts, too, 'are not monsters who appear out of thin air'? Like mass shooters, nearly all killer cops are men. Are they 'socially isolated from their families or their communities' by their training? Does police training instill a 'sense of alienation' that leads them to commit acts that 'defy humanity'? Is the sense of power that comes with carrying pepper spray, tasers, and guns what attracts some people to police work? Is it time to consider that police killings no longer be written off as 'inexplicable' episodes of 'unthinkable' violence?"

In early January, Harvard created a bit of a scandal when it denied a research fellowship at the Harvard Kennedy School's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to Kenneth Roth, who had been the head of Human Rights Watch for 29 years. You can hardly imagine someone better qualified, but of course, HRW, like most human rights organizations, has been critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, so some people didn't like him. But since he was someone with that history, a lot of people made noise and Harvard reversed their position later in the month. Happy as he was about that, he also quite rightly had some concerns: "'Given my three decades leading Human Rights Watch, I was able to shine an intense spotlight on Dean Elmendorf's decision, but what about others?' he said. 'The problem of people penalized for criticizing Israel is not limited to me, and most scholars and students have no comparable capacity to mobilize public attention.' 'How is the Kennedy School, and Harvard,' he asked, 'going to ensure that this episode conveys a renewed commitment to academic freedom rather than just exceptional treatment for one well-known individual?'"

"THE WORST THING WE READ THIS WEEK: Why Is the New York Times So Obsessed With Trans Kids?: A question to ask. At length. [...] This is pretty obviously—and yet not obviously enough—a plain old-fashioned newspaper crusade. Month after month, story after story, the Times is pouring its attention and resources into the message that there is something seriously concerning about the way young people who identify as trans are receiving care. Like the premise that the Clintons had to have been guilty of something serious, or that Saddam Hussein must have had a weapons program worth invading Iraq over, the notion that trans youth present a looming problem is demonstrated to the reader by the sheer volume of coverage. If it's not a problem, why else would it be in the paper?" Via Atrios, who says it's an important piece and you should read the whole thing. I concur. And so does The Onion.

And speaking of Atrios, He also gave us a heads-up on Adam Johnson's "Washington Post Editorial on the Tyre Nichols Murder Shows Liberal Reformers Are All Out of Ideas—Even Fake Ones", which is a pretty clear-eyed look at the pretense of concern over killer police that always at best stops short of useful ideas and at worst advocates policies that would actually exacerbate the problem. "Wade through all 900 words and one is hard pressed to find any actual solutions on offer, except to 'modify the qualified immunity doctrine.' How exactly? It's not clear. The editorial then mentions the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act but doesn't support it, despite this being a lay up. Activists have roundly criticized it as an insulting, toothless half measure. But this isn't even something The Post can bother feigning support for to 'do something.' After acknowledging Memphis has already enacted many 'reforms,' they don't see this as an indictment on the reforms themselves, but as a good thing that somehow is independent from this latest police killing. Then they offer their actual solution—squishy 'cultural' changes [...] This is the way the game of phony Liberal Concern is played. The Washington Post twice opposes a social solution that would meaningfully reduce police interactions (free fares on D.C. transit), supports a policy shift that would massively increase those police interactions (police fare enforcement) then feigns concern about the inevitable result of over policing: violent interactions stemming from police interactions. " And that article points to "What would have saved Tyre Nichols' life?: All of the reforms that liberals suggest will save Black lives were present in Tyre's death. So what works?" in the Guardian. "However disappointing, I completely understand that some people may earnestly believe in these sets of reforms because they want to believe that something, anything can happen to stop or at least reduce police killings right now. Others tout these reforms because they benefit from police protecting private property, threatening workers, enforcing racial hierarchies, surveilling civilians, and more. Politicians, especially. They line up the public to a theme park full of reforms and just promise us a different ride would be worth our time, energy, and effort. We have to get out of the park." Because what's in the park is a lot of expensive nonsense that never reduces crime or murders by cops.

"Joseph Stiglitz: tax high earners at 70% to tackle widening inequality: Nobel prize-winning economist calls for new top rate of income tax and 2-3% wealth tax on fortunes [...] 'People at the top might work a little bit less if you tax them more. But on the other hand, our society gains in having a more egalitarian, cohesive society,' the former World Bank chief economist, 79, told Oxfam's Equals podcast. Currently, the top rate of income tax in the UK is 45% on annual earnings above £150,000. In the US, the highest rate of tax is 37% on earnings above $539,901. Stiglitz said that while an increase in the top rate on income would help lead to a more equal society, introducing wealth taxes on the fortunes accumulated by the world's wealthiest over many generations would have an even bigger impact."

"A Pitched Battle on Corporate Power: Biden's expansive executive order seeks to restore competition in the economy. It's been a long, slow road to get the whole government on board—but there are some formidable gains. On July 9, 2021, President Joe Biden signed one of the most sweeping changes to domestic policy since FDR. It was not legislation: His signature climate and health law would take another year to gestate. This was a request that the government get into the business of fostering competition in the U.S. economy again. Flanked by Cabinet officials and agency heads, Biden condemned Robert Bork's pro-corporate legal revolution in the 1980s, which destroyed antitrust, leading to concentrated markets, raised prices, suppressed wages, stifled innovation, weakened growth, and robbing citizens of the liberty to pursue their talents. Competition policy, Biden said, 'is how we ensure that our economy isn't about people working for capitalism; it's about capitalism working for people.'"

Bruce Schneier has another book out, and Cory Doctorow has reviewed A HACKER'S MIND: How the Powerful Bend Society's Rules, and How to Bend Them Back: "A Hacker's Mind is security expert Bruce Schneier's latest book, released today. For long-time readers of Schneier, the subject matter will be familiar, but this iteration of Schneier's core security literacy curriculum has an important new gloss: power." And outside of its usual paywall, The New York Times also has a review: "'A Hacker's Mind' reads like just such a briefing — fused with a manifesto about power and compliance. Hacking, Schneier argues, need not involve computers or even technology; a hack is merely 'an activity allowed by the system that subverts the goal or intent of the system.' Any system, from a slot machine to the U.S. tax code, can be hacked. Hairsplitting, workarounds, weaselly little shortcuts: These are all hacks, and if you've ever found yourself uttering phrases like 'technically legal' or 'gray area,' you might be a hacker. The odds increase with your net worth. While 'we conventionally think of hacking as something countercultural,' Schneier writes, 'it's more common for the wealthy to hack systems to their own advantage,' occupying 'a middle ground between cheating and innovation.' To steal a car by smashing its window and hot-wiring it would be merely criminal; a true hacker would coax the car's computer into unlocking itself."

RIP: "Burt Bacharach, master of pop songwriting, dies aged 94: Singer and performer, who wrote "Walk on By" and "World Needs Now Is Love", died at home in Los Angeles of natural causes. [...] In all, he scored 73 Top 40 hits in the US and 52 in the UK." And "24 Hours From Tulsa" and probably my favorite, "Anyone Who Had A Heart", too.

RIP: "Cindy Williams, a role model for working class girls and Shirley of Laverne & Shirley, at 75. "Williams' character of Shirley, along with Laverne, got her own spinoff starting in 1976. By then, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" had been running for years, where Tyler played the associate producer of a television news show who happened to be a single woman. But Shirley was different from Moore; she was different from any woman on television at the time. She was unapologetically herself: a working class girl with big dreams. "

RIP: "Raquel Welch: a strong and powerful personality with a rarely-tapped gift for comedy," at 82. "Welch was a colossal celebrity in the 1970s, whose combination of physical strength and drollery made her a force to be reckoned with. And this is a good gallery of photos of her (with some interesting people!), though, alas, none from Bedazzled.

"Ask Larry Summers About Crypto Now: Considering how eagerly the financial press solicits the views of the former U.S. Treasury secretary, Jeff Hauser and Max Moran would like reporters to ask him about his involvement with a crumbling company." The Revolving Door project doesn't care if one crypto bro defrauded another, but "The Project does care about the individuals who are left as collateral damage. It also cares that Silbert, the architect of the alleged con, was advised by someone with whom the Winklevoss twins have an infamous history: namely, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. According to How Money Got Free, a book about the rise of Bitcoin, Silbert brought Summers on as an adviser to DCG in 2016 specifically to open doors on Wall Street and to foreign banks for Silbert and his company. At the time, Bitcoin was still widely (and rightly) seen as a gimmick at best and a scam at worst. But Summers' support for Bitcoin made DCG, and Bitcoin, appear more respectable to investors, journalists, academics and regulators."

"Tewkesbury starling murmuration captured on camera"

Dominic Thomas writes, "Tracy Chapman singing 'Fast Car' at the concert to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday, at Wembley in 1988. Stevie Wonder was supposed to play, but moments before he went on stage his crew realised that they had lost the hard disk with all his Synclavier samples, and he couldn't perform without it. Chapman had played a short, fairly unnoticed set a little earlier, on one of the side stages, and as the crowd was getting restless and she was so quick to set up, just her and a guitar, the organisers asked her to play a second set – and 60,000 people went from boos and catcalls to utter silence in a few moments. Apparently she sold ten times more albums in the next few weeks than her entire career before that. There's something about that performance, and that song. I watched the concert live in the Student Union at college, she silenced the room then, too, and it still gives me chills."

I can't seem to stop playing the Chronophoto game. It's pretty simple, you just guess when the picture was taken. See how you do.

The Beatles - Morecambe and Wise Show 1963 (colorized).

02:45 GMT comment

Saturday, 28 January 2023

You can not do that, it breaks all the rules

"'Soul', Feathers, Wings, Angel, Gold Leaf, Sky, White, Gray, (2021)" by Valeriya Avtukhova is from the Silver Color Paintings selection.

Worst news of the month has to be that Ron Klain, who was the best thing in the White House, is leaving and will apparently be replaced by ... "Biden Risks Legacy by Choosing Zients as Chief of Staff: As a businessman, Jeffrey Zients embodied much of the corporate misconduct the executive branch ought to be cracking down on. 'The Biden Administration has been at its best when it has been on the attack against corporate excesses that wide majorities of Americans find abhorrent.' 'Americans are appalled by profiteering in healthcare — Jeff Zients has become astonishingly rich by profiteering in healthcare.' 'Americans are aghast at how social media companies have built monopolies and violated privacy laws — Zients served on the Board of Directors of Facebook as it was defending itself against growing attacks from both political parties.' 'And as Daniel Boguslaw and Max Moran of the Revolving Door Project wrote in The American Prospect last April, "Over the span of two decades, the health care companies that Zients controlled, invested in, and helped oversee were forced to pay tens of millions of dollars to settle allegations of Medicare and Medicaid fraud."'" When we hear that these guys have been paying lots and lots of fines, that means they've been breaking the law as part of their business method. Shouldn't they be RICO'd instead of installed in the White House?

"SCOTUS's First Decision of the Term Is a Unanimous Blow to Disabled Veterans: After an unusual delay, the Supreme Court finally issued its first opinion of the term on Monday: a unanimous decision in Arellano v. McDonough siding against disabled veterans who seek compensation for disabilities related to their service. Justice Amy Coney Barrett's opinion for the court denied these veterans (and their survivors) the ability to obtain benefits retroactively if they filed a late claim—even if the delay occurred because of their disability, or some other factor beyond their control. It's a painful blow to military members who were injured while serving their country, and a puzzling one: At oral arguments, the justices sounded divided, yet all three liberals lined up behind Barrett's harsh opinion. Maybe they genuinely believed that Congress intended to impose an exceedingly stringent deadline on disabled veterans. Or perhaps the three-justice minority is so outnumbered that it has decided to pick its battles, and Arellano was not worth the fight." This is bizarre, and means they unanimously ignored a rule that even Scalia treated seriously.

Weird. Lee Fang says, "The author of this column Wells King was just hired as a senior advisor to newly elected Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH). In the world of GOP staff, that's a new development." And that's truly weird, because that column is "Why conservatives should embrace labor unions to reduce economic inequality."

Stiglitz, "Milton Friedman Set Us Up for a 21st Century Version of Fascism: In 2023, market fundamentalism is fostering authoritarianism — in the United States and abroad. [...] Monetary tightening also could lead to a global slowdown. In fact, that outcome is highly anticipated, and some commentators, having convinced themselves that combating inflation requires economic pain, have been effectively cheering on the recession. The quicker and deeper, the better, they argue. They seem not to have considered that the cure may be worse than the disease." I saw this article and my first thought was, "Why does Nobel laureate Stiglitz have to be published in In These Times (an actual left-media site that hardly anyone sees) when Larry Summers is in mass media all the time, even though he's always wrong?"

"Government Spending and its Discontents" — This is a brief and readable rundown of both the shortcomings of the omnibus bill and the Republicans' shenanigans on taxes (and what really is needed at the IRS). Via Atrios (who had a bit more to say) and highly recommended.

Oliver Willis, "Nobody Cares About The Deficit, And Democrats Should Shut Up About It: Spend What Is Needed To Make Lives Better [...] The vast majority of voters do not enter polling places with their accountant green shades on, giving either party merits or demerits for what they've done in regards to the deficit. Voters vote based on whether the government delivered on the priorities they care about on economic issues. Did the government stabilize the economy? Did it provide an environment for job creation? Did the government provide for the common defense so that commerce can continue to operate normally? Things like that. They don't care about the deficit. Even for that sliver of people who do intensely care about the deficit, their political impact is negligible. The fiscally conservative crank is never in a million years going to believe any Democrat is in line with them, no matter how much lip service people like Biden and Obama pay to them. In their minds, reinforced by right-wing media like Fox News, Democrats are always the caricature of the free spending liberal of Reagan lore, handing out tax dollars to Black welfare cheats without a care in the world. Deficit talk doesn't sway any votes." And, like Dick Cheney said, they don't matter. We can afford to spend on our people.

Ken Klippenstein, "The 5 Creepiest Moments at Davos: The real Davos conspiracy is hiding in plain sight. No, Davos is not a secret plan to raise a stadium of babies in Matrix-style incubator pods, as some Twitter users supposed — prompting a fact check from Reuters. The real Davos conspiracy is hiding in plain sight and it's pretty much the kind of pro-business agenda you'd expect from a bunch of billionaire Fortune 500 CEOs, heads of state and central bankers meeting at a ski resort in the Swiss Alps. A recent article on the World Economic Forum's website about 'the Davos Agenda' gives you the basic idea: 'We desperately need to disrupt our approach to retirement saving.' People are living longer, you see, so they'll 'want to work past mandatory retirement age…while others will need to work longer to remain financially resilient in later life.' In other words, grandma's going to have to go back to work."

This would almost be funny if these people were actually just the cartoons they act like. "Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks: Nearly half the members of the influential centrist coalition are letting themselves out after a failed push for a name change designed for a new era. Congress' influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group. Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that's left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided. At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs' demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group's reputation as a socially moderate, Southern 'boys' club.' Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy." I love that, "the Common Sense Coalition" — like "the Problem Solvers Caucus," a group that's the opposite of what it claims. They're not "moderate", either, and nowhere near the real American political center.

Best news I've heard in a while: "Inside The Slow Implosion Of The Democratic Party's Vaunted Campaign Tech Firm: Loyal Democrats say layoffs at NGP VAN and EveryAction by the company's new private equity owners could hobble the party." Except not really, because they are awful and have been hobbling the party all by themselves for years.

Wendell Potter is here to remind you, "Here is the Truth: Medicare Advantage Is Neither Medicare Nor an Advantage: Medicare Advantage is a money-making scam. I should know. I helped to sell it. Right now, well-funded lobbyists from big health insurance companies are leading a campaign on Capitol Hill to get Members of Congress and Senators of both parties to sign on to a letter designed to put them on the record 'expressing strong support' for the scam that is Medicare Advantage."

"New study reveals rampant conflicts of interest at think tanks: The report focuses heavily on how the nuclear industry influences institutional output in its favor and works to censor its critics. 'Scholars, media organizations, and members of the public should be sensitized to the conflicts of interest shaping foreign policy analysis generally and nuclear policy analysis specifically,'' is the conclusion of new academic research that documents how think tank funders are shaping the foreign policy debate."

"John Fogerty regains ownership of Creedence Clearwater Revival catalogue after 50-year battle: 'This is something I thought would never be a possibility,'said Fogerty. 'After 50 years, I am finally reunited with my songs.'" So, his nightmare is apparently ended. (It's a nightmare in which the CIA stole $5 million from Creedence Clearwater Revival to bust commies, according to Robert Skvarla's pay-walled article in Creem.)

Normally, I'm used to seeing small-bore lefty podcasters saying rude things about each other because they are small-bore lefty podcasters fighting over a very small piece of the pie. But things are a little different in right-wing media, where billionaires just shovel out money and see what sticks. They don't have pieces of the pie to fight over, they're all getting rich and they're all friends. They get rich by saying exactly what billionaires want you to hear. But then a funny thing happened. "Right-Wingers Like Steven Crowder Need Billionaire Funders Because Their Ideas Are So Bad: Right-wing demagogue Steven Crowder recently turned down a $50 million offer from Ben Shapiro's billionaire-funded media organization, calling it a 'slave contract.' If only these guys showed as much concern for the conditions of ordinary workers." And the funny thing is, that blows rather a big hole in the right-wing claim that employment contracts are always, by definition, fair.

RIP: Legendary rock guitarist Jeff Beck dies aged 78: Beck rose to fame with the Yardbirds before fronting the Jeff Beck Group and making forays into the jazz-fusion sound he pioneered. [...] Beck died on Tuesday after 'suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis', the representative confirmed. 'His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss,' they added. I loved to listen to this guy. I thought Truth was a work of art. I saw The Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East and felt like I never had to see another concert as long as I lived because that was a perfect show. And he was working right up until he suddenly got sick and died. That's what makes it hurt - there was more in him.

RIP: "David Crosby, Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash Co-Founder, Dies at 81," after long illness. He had a lovely voice and wrote some fine music and harmonized beautifully and there's nothing new I can say about him, but it makes me sad that he's gone. Here's Brian Wilson's tweet. And here he is with CSNY and "Wooden Ships."

RIP: Victor Navasky (1932–2023), longtime editor and publisher of The Nation, at 90. He's memorialized by Katrina Vanden Heuvel, John Nichols, and Jeet Heer at the magazine.

I've mostly been leaving the story of Musk's antics to Atrios, since he's been prescient on it long before I started to notice what a destructive clown he was, but he linked a story that is really worth reading for clarification, "Extremely Hardcore: Twitter's staff spent years trying to protect the social media site against impulsive billionaires who wanted to use the reach of its platform for their own ends, and then one made himself the CEO." It's a neat blow-by-blow of how Musk acquired the company and ripped it apart. (If you haven't been following Atrios on the subject of Musk and his deliberate interference with the development of mass transit, you've missed a really big story.)

Joan McCarter, "The New York Times is bad for America [...] There really isn't anything that the GOP can do that the Times will condemn as extreme and un-American, including creating a constitutional crisis over the debt limit. Because that's what it ultimately is. The Constitution says, in a number of provisions, that the executive branch pays the nation's debts and maintains a functional government. It also says, 'The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.' Period."

"The Partisan Ghost In The Media Machine: Media outlets no longer consider government malfeasance newsworthy if reporting on it might offend audiences' partisan loyalties. Before liberals knew him as the butt of a Hamilton joke, John Adams once said: 'Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.' But as the Great Airline Meltdown of 2022 illustrated last week, today's media now routinely does that altering — by promoting or suppressing facts based on which party and which infantilized audience they serve. That is a problem not just for air travelers, but also for our entire democracy."

I meant to post this in November but I forgot so here it is now, "Are we institutionalized yet? The newspapers have finally, timidly spoken up for Julian Assange. Yesterday, the New York Times published their "huh?" inspiring piece called Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Its Charges Against Assange. Who better to write it than State Department apologist stenographer Charlie Savage. [...] Naturally, the Times article on Julian Assange fails to mention even the simplest of facts. That he was targeted by the US for publishing details of some of its many crimes against humanity, especially the Chelsea Manning revelations. That he has been imprisoned for over 10 years now, and don't tell me about his so called sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy. It's not considered asylum when governments bug your apartment, listen in on protected conversations with your legal counsel, and analyze the DNA in your children's diapers."

"It Turns Out Hillary Clinton, Not Russian Bots, Lost the 2016 Election: A new study of Russia-based Twitter posts by New York University researchers buries the liberal canard that Russian bots played any significant role in swinging the 2016 election for Donald Trump. [...] That the Russian government preferred Trump to Hillary Clinton and that Russia-connected actors engaged in digital skulduggery related to the election are not really in dispute. Much of the mainstream discussion around Russian bots, however, has been premised on unexamined assumptions about the scale and effectiveness of these efforts. Powerful states including the United States, after all, regularly engage in the likes of online propaganda and sock-puppeting campaigns. Whether they have a more than negligible impact on real world events, electoral and otherwise, is another question. It's notable, then, that a new analysis published by the Center for Social Media and Politics at New York University finds no evidence whatsoever that Russia-based Twitter disinformation had any meaningful impact on voter behavior in 2016. In place of the terrifying bot army menace that's periodically been invoked, the researchers instead detail an enterprise with minimal reach or influence, and one overwhelmingly concentrated among partisan Republicans already inclined to vote for Trump."

"To Save Our Democracy, We Must Transcend Bill Clinton's Legacy: If Democrats are going to be successful in beating back the threat of right-wing nationalism ushered in by Trump, they have to move even more squarely toward the promise of economic security for all Americans that was once central to the party. Thirty years ago this month, Bill Clinton launched a presidency he claimed, in his inaugural address, would "reinvent America." Clinton was right: he did reinvent America, definitively shifting the Democratic Party away from a politics that saw economic security for American working people as the fundamental task of government, a path that had brought the party decades of political success. The disastrous consequences of that shift, limiting working Americans' expectations about how our political system can improve their lives, are with us to this day. To save our imperiled democracy, we must definitively transcend the political circumstances Clinton brought us."

"What Happened At Southwest Airlines Is What Is Happening To Every American Company: All the incentives are for squeezing everything out of a company to get the appearance of profit THIS QUARTER to get the STOCK PRICE UP to get the EXECUTIVE QUARTERLY BONUS and it is all at the expense of everything else – the customers (obviously) , the suppliers, the employees, and the future of the companies. Our government is supposed to oversee the way companies operate. They operate under RULES set up by our government. Rather than get into the specifics of those rules, ask yourself if a government operating in the interests of the people of the country and the long-term good of the companies of the country would allow what we are seeing at SWA and so many other companies to continue? Of course not!!! "

"Ticketmaster's Dark History: A 40-year saga of kickbacks, threats, political maneuvering, and the humiliation of Pearl Jam. Just over 28 years ago, Taylor Swift was a precocious Montessori preschooler growing up on a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm, and Eddie Vedder was the Most Important Musician in America, Kurt Cobain having bequeathed to him the (unwanted) title with his suicide that spring. Bill Clinton himself called Vedder to the White House to ask him for help with 'messaging' around Cobain's death, and the rock star in turn confided in the president that he was having trouble with a rapacious corporation named Ticketmaster, which appeared to be operating an illegal monopoly. A few weeks later, the Clinton Justice Department invited Vedder's band Pearl Jam to be the star witness in an antitrust investigation inspired by the case. The band obliged. But no sooner had they agreed to participate in the probe than their lives began to resemble a kind of pop culture Book of Job, replete with biblical floods, mysterious plagues, possible burglaries, and crippling self-doubt. And 11 days after canceling a Ticketmaster-free 1995 summer tour due to 'pressures' they feared 'would ultimately destroy the band,' Pearl Jam's handlers at the Department of Justice issued an unusual two-sentence press release announcing the end of its investigation."

I was trying to figure out what would be a reasonable "poverty line" since the one we have makes no sense, and I stumbled on a page that lists How Much You Need To Live Comfortably in 50 Major US Cities." The entries are all variations on this:
"Albuquerque, New Mexico
• Median income: $53,936
• Income needed if you're a homeowner: $81,526.74
• Income needed if you're a renter: $65,446.74 Albuquerque isn't going to top any salary comparison by city with the median earner pulling down almost $54,000, which is below the average salary in the U.S. But, with 'just' $16,080 separating a median earner who rents from the cost to live comfortably in Albuquerque, it's actually among the more affordable major cities in the country.

David Crosby, "Triad" — original studio take.

04:55 GMT comment

Friday, 6 January 2023


Another installment in my continuing effort to make the season start at Advent and last through Twelfthnight, so here's the traditional Christmas links:
* Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
* Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters.
* Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
* "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
* Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

As I write this, the House still hasn't got a Speaker, and lots of people are enjoying the clown show. I'm not gonna wait to find out what happens. In the meantime, I hope everyone is prepared to remind anyone who will listen that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

There really couldn't be a clearer example of what privatization is for than this: "Huntsville Public Library (TX) Privatized After Pride Display: The Huntsville Public Library (HPL) has been under fire since this summer, when a book display riled up city officials. Now, following the removal of two book displays at the public library, the city decided to privatize the library. Though officials claim the move to hire Library Services & Systems (LS&S) will reduce library operational costs over the next ten years, it comes on the heels of the city removing a Pride book display and a Banned Books Week display in September. City Manager Aron Kulhavy called for the displays to be taken down, temporarily closing the library. Following the removal of both displays, the library was told they could not create any additional displays, pending the city's review of policies and procedures about them. The City Librarian was also placed on leave. When asked why the displays were taken down, Kulhavy said it was to 'better respond to citizen concerns from all viewpoints.' In October, a library user identified additional suspicious behavior. A city police officer was behind the circulation desk reviewing books, reportedly taking one with him and approving the rest of the titles as ones that were okay to return to the collection. The library board has had no say in any of these decisions."

Silence From Media as Twitter Suspends Palestinian Journalist: In yet another demonstration of anti-Palestinianism in the U.S. mainstream, there is no outcry over Twitter's arbitrary suspension of Said Arikat, longtime D.C. correspondent for Al-Quds newspaper. It was big news when Elon Musk suspended the Twitter accounts of at least nine tech journalists last week (over alleged dox-ing) and then reinstated them this week after Twitter users demanded as much. But in yet another demonstration of anti-Palestinianism in the U.S. mainstream, there has been scarcely any attention given to the arbitrary suspension of Said Arikat, a fixture at the State Department briefings as the longtime Washington correspondent for Al-Quds newspaper, a Palestinian publication. Arikat said he woke up on December 3 to read a notice from Twitter that his account had been 'permanently suspended after careful review'. No reason was given; and despite the assurance that he could appeal the suspension if he thought the decision was wrong, Twitter has not responded to numerous letters Arikat has sent the media giant." So, no censorship there, then.

Good: "The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act: The Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act is technology-neutral, targeted legislation that addresses long-standing, bipartisan concerns regarding inmate communication rates at prisons and jails across the nation. Policymakers of all stripes acknowledge that the existing market has failed to produce adequate competition to protect inmates and detainees, their families, and law enforcement. The bill addresses this market failure ('localized monopolies') that limits competition at facilities."

"NEWS: State Officials Warned Buttigieg About Airline Mess" Before the holiday travel nightmare, attorneys general begged the Transportation Secretary and Congress to crack down. Southwest Airlines stranding thousands of Americans during the holiday season is not some unexpected crisis nor the normal consequence of inclement weather — and federal officials are not powerless bystanders. Before the debacle, attorneys general from both parties were sounding alarms about regulators' lax oversight of the airline industry, imploring them and congressional lawmakers to crack down. The warnings came just before Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg appeared on national television insisting travel would improve by the holidays, and before Southwest executives — flush with cash from a government bailout — announced new dividend payouts to shareholders, while paying themselves millions of dollars. [...] Currently, Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation are the primary regulator over airlines thanks to a 44-year-old law preempting state consumer protection authority. Model legislation proposed by the American Economic Liberties Project, an anti-monopoly think tank, and backed by consumer groups would empower citizens and state law enforcement officials to sue airlines that violate consumer protection laws. One week after the letter from state attorneys general, Buttigieg said on The Late Late Show With James Corden that airline travel 'is going to get better by the holidays.' He added that 'we're really pressing the airlines to deliver better service.'" But it didn't, and McKinsey Pete used none of his powers to try to change that.

There was hope, as you'll see below, but the latest on this story is pretty depressing: "Democrats Frittered Away the Lame-Duck Session: A lackadaisical approach led to failure for numerous bipartisan bills, and kept alive Republican goals to take the debt limit hostage in 2023. [...] As a last grab for policy under a Democratic congressional majority in President Biden's first term, this is frankly a very modest haul. While some last-second proposed deals for the omnibus were far-fetched, others were bipartisan enough that they could have found their way to the president's desk months ago. That all of them had to jockey for space in must-pass bills was symptomatic of the lackadaisical approach to the lame duck, a stark contrast to the last time Democrats had a lame-duck session before losing their congressional majority. And the real culprit in that is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who appears to have thought that the successes of August, when Congress advanced the Inflation Reduction Act, medical care for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits (the PACT Act), and semiconductor manufacturing subsidies (the CHIPS and Science Act), were enough to secure the Democratic majority's legacy. Though much more was available — like measures on press freedom, tech antitrust, criminal justice, Afghan refugees, and workplace fairness—there just wasn't much interest from Schumer."

"Schumer Freezes Antitrust Bills After Big Tech Lobbyists Bundled Millions: Apple, Amazon, and others are spending record sums to fight off antitrust laws while pouring money into the Democrats' campaign arms. Several bills to curb the market power of the world's largest tech companies are being stalled to death by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after lobbyists for Amazon, Apple, and tech industry lobbying groups bundled millions in donations for the Democrats' campaign arms. Since last year, the Big Tech companies have been aggressively lobbying against the antitrust bills, which appear to have enough support to pass both the Senate and the House despite Schumer's resistance. Lobbying disclosure forms reveal that Apple and Amazon are on pace to spend more on federal lobbying this year than ever, and Meta likely is as well. All stated that they have lobbied on the antitrust bills more than any other."

"Wall Street Wins Again on Retirement Savings: A perk for the asset management industry found its way into the omnibus spending bill. Meanwhile, the savings of disabled Americans living in extreme poverty will continue to be strictly means-tested. A bill package included in Congress's end-of-year omnibus legislation will allow the richest Americans to park more tax-shielded cash in private retirement funds, in a win for giant asset managers like Vanguard and Fidelity."

"Get Antitrust Legislation Done, Chuck Schumer: Antitrust legislation is now up to one man, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. He promised a vote on antitrust legislation in May. Will he deliver? In May of this year, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made an important promise, and one that surprised both me and a lot of the people who care about anti-monopoly policy. He said he'd hold a vote on some or all of the antitrust legislation that Congress had been working on over the last three years, in the early summer. This promise was supposed to be the capstone to an important initiative in both the House and Senate. [...] These bills have broad support and passed House and Senate committees. The White House supports them, and the last one actually passed the House with a bipartisan vote. Taken together, these bills would have a catalytic effect on competition and monopoly power. Since the Republicans are going to take over the House, and the GOP leadership has a demonstrated hostility to most antitrust legislation, passing these bills now is the last chance to actually get some of them done, at least for a few more years. The last remaining hurdle is getting the bills to pass the Senate floor. So Schumer's promise to hold a vote on antitrust bills back in May was a big deal. He was essentially saying to his caucus, and in particular to Klobuchar, 'I hear you care about antitrust, I will help you get it done.' The problem, however, is simple. Schumer just didn't hold the vote or dedicate the floor time. He kept delaying, changing his rationale, and just not doing what he promised. For the last week or so, the Senate has been spending its floor time on nominations, which is what you'd hold votes on if you wanted to kill antitrust legislation. Schumer was, as it turns out, not telling the truth when he said he would hold a vote"

"Gary Gensler Got It Right: The emergence and acceptance of cryptocurrency is one of the most embarrassing recent indictments of broad swaths of American financial and political thinking. Despite Sam Bankman-Fried admitting the Ponzi-like nature of crypto on Bloomberg's Odd Lots podcast months before he was disgraced, important validators such as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Jay Clayton currently serve or served as advisors to crypto firms, and the Brookings Institution held repeated conferences on the importance of what many called 'financial innovation.'[1] By contrast, the SEC and its current chair, Gary Gensler, took key actions to ensure that these speculative financial instruments did not spread to the rest of the financial system."

"A Day of Constitutional Reckoning Approaches: Section 2 of the 14th Amendment was designed to strip congressional districts from states that disenfranchise voters. It's never been implemented. We swear oaths on the Constitution. We are taught every word; indeed, every comma counts. This month, a special three-judge federal district court, and the Supreme Court eventually, will be asked to resurrect 135 words of the Constitution that have never been enforced, even though they were specifically intended to ensure all Americans could vote free of only the most minor government regulation. Though few even know of its existence, Section 2 of the 14th Amendment is perfectly clear. It provides that, if any state abridges the franchise of males over 21, 'except for participation in rebellion, or other crime,' that state loses the equivalent population numbers counted to determine representatives in Congress. Subsequent amendments to the Constitution erased the gender and age limitations, but the core meaning of Section 2 remains intact."

"RUNNING A RACKET: The Scorched-Earth Legal Strategy Corporations Are Using to Silence Their Critics: [...] Victims suing multinational corporations for alleged crimes committed abroad face steep odds. Collingsworth has made a specialty of these uphill battles, devoting his career to holding companies accountable in American courts for human rights abuses overseas. In his struggle with Drummond, he collaborated with activist groups, spoke out in the media, and wrote letters to Drummond's business partners accusing the company of 'hiring, contracting with, and directing' the paramilitaries who committed the murders. [...] Collingsworth lost an initial trial in 2007, when a jury found there wasn't clear evidence tying the company to the crimes. Another of his lawsuits was dismissed for being too similar to the first. But Collingsworth continued to press his case, offering new witnesses with firsthand testimony implicating Drummond. Then, in March 2015, the case took a surprising turn. Drummond had returned fire in the legal fight with an unusual accusation. The company charged that Collingsworth — an advocate who recently brought a case before the U.S. Supreme Court — had led a 'multifaceted criminal campaign' to extort Drummond into paying a costly settlement. This campaign, Drummond alleged, was in fact a racketeering conspiracy as defined by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO."

"New York passed the nation's first right-to-repair law. Pleasing tech lobbyists, Governor Kathy Hochul hasn't signed it: New York's right-to-repair law, approved by the state's House and Senate, landed on Governor Kathy Hochul's desk weeks ago. She's not signing it, reports Ars Technica, to please tech lobbyists hired by firms such as Apple and Microsoft — and time is running out for her to do so. Her "pocket veto" of the law, which already exempts game consoles, garden equipment and other appliances, would effectively kill it stone dead: it would have to be redrafted from scratch no sooner than next year. [...] The consumer electronics industry is reportedly spending billions on this lobbying effort, which has already restricted New York's right-to-repair act to cellphones and other pocket gadgets. Right-to-repair is a clear example of something everyone wants — a right so presumptive and universally approved that it passes with overwhelming bipartisan support in an age of savage division and partisanship. But it's not happening, because the constituency that matters to Hochul has nothing to do with what everyone wants."

The Financial Times has a good piece on how "Britain's winter of discontent is the inevitable result of austerity", but since it's mostly paywalled, it' worth checking out John Burn-Murdoch's thread quoting from it and explaining the damage, with handy charts and graphs. The short version is that the Tories have massively underfunded the NHS and crippled it, but their massive cuts on other services have contributed to the health burdens on the system. (What's missing from this story is the huge expense and reduction in services resulting from privatization, which is even depriving people of water. Oh, and the fact that New Labour has contributed to it, too.)

John Oliver did a great segment on the copaganda against bail reform - worth watching!

REST IN POWER: "Suzy McKee Charnas (1939-2023): SF writer Suzy McKee Charnas, 83, died January 2, 2023. She was best known for her ambitious works that explored gender, sexuality, and feminist issues." There's no way I can explain what a superstar she was to us when Walk to the End of the World came out, how much fun she was to talk to, the energy that came off of her.

RIP: "John Bird: Actor and comedian dies aged 86 [...] 'He was so modest, for someone who so often played these characters who were so complacent and self-aggrandising,' Bremner told Radio 4's The World at One." Bird & Fortune, or The Two Johns, were one of my favorite things on TV. Every week, they took turns with one doing the interview and the other being George Parr, the latter usually being some horrible sociopathic banker or Tory Minister whose very existence should have been a scandal (and a route to prison). Here is George Parr discussing planning for the war in Iraq, and here Washington Diplomat George Parr discusses George Bush and foreign policy and stuff. And here, George Parr, investment banker, makes the usual excuses.

RIP: "Stuart Margolin, The Rockford Files Co-Star and TV Director, Dies at 82." He did a lot more things than most people realize, and even had genre credits, but of course to me he will always be Angel Martin.

KNIGHTED: "King Knights Queen, Arise Sir Brian May: Queen guitarist Brian May has been knighted by King Charles III and is now Sir Brian May. May was a co-founder of the band Smile in 1968, later to become Queen in 1970 when Freddie Mercury joined the group. Queen released their self-titled debut album in 1973 and second and third albums 'Queen II' and 'Sheer Heart Attack' the following year, starting a succession of global hits with 'Killer Queen' and achieving their first number one 'Bohemian Rhapsody' in 1975. Brian May was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and earned his PhD in Astrophysics in 2007. Dr Brian May was Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University from 2008 to 2013 and a collaborator with NASA for the New Horizons Pluto mission. He even has an asteroid named after him. 52665 brianmay was dedicated in 1998."

Ratzinger croaked, too, but hell with that.

Free Movie: "Vigilante: Georgia's Vote Suppression Hitman: "Greg Palast and his investigations team bust the most brazen, racist attack on voting rights yet — engineered by Georgia's Brian Kemp."

"30 Years of Broadband Bait-&-Switch Campaigns Created the Digital Divide: Every Government Broadband Agency is Negligent for the Failure to Investigate and Clawback, Get Back the Money. Maybe someone should ask the 'Public' whether they think it's OK for the government to give out $100 billion in state and federal subsidies, when they — the FCC, the state broadband agencies, etc. can't even tell you how the Digital Divide was created in your state or how much money you, your family, business, etc. were charged for a fiber optic future you never got."

John Solomon, so grain of salt and all that, but, "How Comey intervened to kill WikiLeaks' immunity deal: One of the more devastating intelligence leaks in American history — the unmasking of the CIA's arsenal of cyber warfare weapons last year — has an untold prelude worthy of a spy novel. [...] But an unexpected intervention by Comey — relayed through Warner — soured the negotiations, multiple sources tell me. Assange eventually unleashed a series of leaks that U.S. officials say damaged their cyber warfare capabilities for a long time to come."

"Anti-trans activists are using 'mirror propaganda'. Here's how to spot it: People claiming to be 'silenced' are being featured in national mainstream media platforms. There's a word for that. The recent backlash against Graham Norton's entirely reasonable suggestion that the media talks to more trans people was more revealing than people think. He came dangerously close to exposing organised transphobia's core campaign strategy, something they don't want people talking about. In collaboration with mainstream media, its main strategy has been to liberally platform anti-trans narratives, hermetically exclude trans perspectives, and at the same time accuse trans people of 'silencing' transphobes. For example, a transphobic group holds a rally somewhere – maybe a couple of dozen transphobes in a draughty church hall. There's a protest outside. A journalist, with confected faux-indignation, then claims trans people are 'silencing' them." My, this all seems so familiar.

"A Big Lie is Breaking Education: [...] It is widely believed that education in America is not going well. That belief is more propaganda than fact. The contemporary manifestation of that propaganda began with a 1983 report commissioned by the Reagan administration: A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. A Nation at Risk appeared to provide unassailable statistical proof that student achievement had dropped. The average scores the report cited were not fiction. Scores were indeed lower, at least by their calculations. But it didn't mean what the report concluded. The Sandia Report found seemingly contradictory facts: The average test scores of all American students had gone down, as A Nation at Risk claimed . . . but the average test scores of every sub-group (by class, race, and every other variable) of American students had gone up! How can that be? Enter Simpson's Paradox, an interesting statistical phenomenon."

In my continuing efforts to remind people that the Opus Dei squad on the Supreme Court is actually a bunch of heretical crackpots, more history on "The Roman Catholic Church and reproductive health: I wrote this in reaction to the growing control of health care by Catholic organizations (41% or more of facilities in Washington State), most recently the merger of Virginia Mason and CHI Franciscan. Access to birth control healthcare is increasingly limited. Inaccessible and illegal are indistinguishable. Kuttner on TAP reports that Oberlin college has outsourced the campus health service to a Catholic-owned provider. 40% of student visits were about sexual health. Many received birth control or emergency contraception.* I am firmly convinced that the Catholic Church's position on contraception and abortion is theologically unfounded and morally wrong, by their own accounting, as evidenced below."

From 2016 in Harper's, "Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs: Nixon's invention of the war on drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the drug war is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn't end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

Kurt Vonnegut, 2005, "Elites Are Clueless, and so on [...] Persuasive guessing has been at the core of leadership for so long – for all of human experience so far – that it is wholly unsurprising that most of the leaders of this planet, in spite of all the information that is suddenly ours, want the guessing to go on, because now it is their turn to guess and be listened to. Some of the loudest, most proudly ignorant guessing in the world is going on in Washington today. Our leaders are sick of all the solid information that has been dumped on humanity by research and scholarship and investigative reporting. They think that the whole country is sick of it, and they want standards, and it isn't the gold standard. They want to put us back on the snake-oil standard."

The Royal Mint is commemorating The Rolling Stones.

01:55 GMT comment

Thursday, 15 December 2022

You just gotta call on me

Santa Games online Advent Calendar. You can start from December first.

"Why America's Railroads Refuse to Give Their Workers Paid Leave: For months, the world's largest economy has been teetering on the brink of collapse because America's latter-day robber barons can't comprehend that workers sometimes get sick. Or so the behavior of major U.S. rail companies seems to suggest. [...] Unlike nearly 80 percent of U.S. laborers, railroad employees are not currently guaranteed a single paid sick day. Rather, if such workers wish to recuperate from an illness or make time to see a doctor about a nagging complaint, they need to use vacation time, which must be requested days in advance. In other words, if a worker wants to take time off to recover from the flu, they need to notify their employer of this days before actually catching the virus. Given that workers' contracts do not include paid psychic benefits, this is a tall order. [...] All of which invites the question: Why do these rail barons hate paid leave so much? Why would a company have no problem handing out 24 percent raises, $1,000 bonuses, and caps on health-care premiums but draw the line on providing a benefit as standard and ubiquitous throughout modern industry as paid sick days? The answer, in short, is 'P.S.R.' — or precision-scheduled railroading." More on that subject from Reich, "The one thing you need to know about the railroads: It's not that a rail strike would be bad for the economy."

Warnock beats Walker in Georgia, 51.4-48.6, giving Dems a real 51st vote. For whatever that's worth.

Oh, wait! "Sinema switches to independent, shaking up the Senate [...] In a 45-minute interview, the first-term senator told POLITICO that she will not caucus with Republicans and suggested that she intends to vote the same way she has for four years in the Senate. 'Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,' she said."

"Five power substations attacked in Pacific northwest similar to strike that caused outages in North Carolina: The FBI is investigating at least five attacks on electricity substations in the Pacific northwest similar to one that caused widespread power outages in North Carolina. Representatives from Puget Sound Energy, the Cowlitz County Public Utility District and Bonneville Power Administration confirmed the attacks took place in November, although the FBI declined to confirm the investigations and it's not clear whether any of the damage resulted in service disruptions, reported the Seattle Times."

From The Toledo Blade, "Debt program a model: Toledo and Lucas County have combined to turn $1.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds into as much as $200 million of medical debt relief. In the process, our community has created a best practice that other cities and counties will be able to emulate for their own citizens. Toledo City Council voted Wednesday 7-5 to approve $800,000 in ARPA funds for the program with RIP Medical Debt, creators of the charity that buys bad debt from hospitals and discharges the liability."

This could be good news: "D.C. Council Wants To Make Metrobus Fares Free In The District, Expand Service Overnight: The D.C. Council wants to make WMATA bus service fare-free in the District next year. If approved, D.C. would become one of the largest and most prominent cities in the country to make the bus free at the fare box."

Helaine Olen in the WaPo, "Medicare Advantage? More like Medicare Disadvantage: When the annual enrollment period for Medicare ends on Dec. 7, analysts expect that, for the first time, more seniors will receive their 2023 health-care coverage from Medicare Advantage than the traditional program. That's not a good thing for either elderly Americans or federal coffers. And while seniors are well advised to approach these plans with caution, we should all be paying attention to what's going on. Medicare Advantage plans, which are private insurance plans for seniors paid for with federal dollars, originated as a government savings strategy, on the theory that the private sector could improve on government performance at a lower cost. But over the past two decades, it has become clear that Medicare Advantage does not result in improved care for less money. Instead, it will come as no surprise to Americans familiar with the health insurance industry that insurers found a way to turn it into yet another profit center, while putting bureaucratic roadblocks in the way of patients."

RIP: "Stax Records Founder Jim Stewart Dead At 92 [...] The early Satellite Records were not successful, but Stewart eventually borrowed money from his sister Estelle Axton, who mortgaged her home so that Stewart could buy an Ampex tape recorder. (The name Stax is a combination of Stewart and Axton's last names.) Stax Records moved into the former Capitol Theater in a Black neighborhood in South Memphis, and the label had its first success in 1960, when Memphis entertainer Rufus Thomas recorded 'Cause I Love You,' a duet with his teenage daughter Carla. [...] After Chips Moman left Stax, the interracial instrumental group Booker T. & The MGs became the Stax house band, and the label had huge success with Southern soul artists like Otis Redding, the Bar-Kays, and Sam & Dave."

RIP: "Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie dies at age 79." All I have to say is that I saw them on the Rumors tour and they were spectacular.

I meant to post this when it came out in October but I got distracted, but I still want to have the link for every idiot who tries to tell me a six week pregnancy has it's own heartbeat. No, it doesn't, there's no heart that early. "What a pregnancy actually looks like before 10 weeks – in pictures [...] Sometimes, patients want to see the tissue after an abortion. 'They are stunned by what it actually looks like,' says Fleischman. 'That's when I realized how much the imagery on the internet and on placards – showing human-like qualities at this early stage of development – has really permeated the culture. People almost don't believe this is what comes out.'" Pass it on.

"Distracting People from the Material Conditions of Our Society: A New York Times Specialty [...] It's almost as if the epidemic of homelessness in the U.S. appeared out of nowhere for no reason. Houseless people must be taken as a given—we must manage their thefts of bicycles with handcuffs, armed bureaucrats, and cages, but we certainly can't ask why they do not have a place to live. Reporting like this carries water for the people in our society who own things, and it confuses multitudes of low-information readers who never develop a strong sense of the root causes of the solvable problems they keep reading about in the news every day. It also depoliticizes people by obfuscating the political and economic battles that actually determine the course of people's lives."

Long read: "The Contest on Corporate Purpose: Why Lynn Stout was Right and Milton Friedman was Wrong: It is now 50 years since Milton Friedman set out his doctrine that 'The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.' This paper seeks to add fresh and compelling new evidence of why Lynn Stout was correct in her resolute critique of the thesis of shareholder primacy at the heart of the Friedman doctrine, and how this doctrine remains profoundly damaging to the corporations that continue to uphold this belief."

So, I'm not sure who this is, but they've done pilot programs of the four-day work week, and say that, "63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4 day week." And that, "78% of employees with 4 day weeks are happier and less stressed."

Dean Baker, "OMG, a Right-Wing Jerk Can Buy Twitter! Media Concentration Matters: It's more than a bit bizarre that until Elon Musk bought Twitter, most policy types apparently did not see a risk that huge platforms like Facebook and Twitter could be controlled by people with a clear political agenda. While just about everyone had some complaints about the moderation of these and other commonly used platforms, they clearly were not pushing Fox News-style nonsense. With Elon Musk in charge, that may no longer be true. Musk has indicated his fondness for racists and anti-Semites, and made it clear that they are welcome on his new toy. He also is apparently good with right-wing kooks making up stories about everything from Paul Pelosi to Covid vaccines. (Remember, with Section 230 protection, Musk cannot be sued for defaming individuals and companies by mass-marketing lies, only the originators face any legal liability.)" Shortly after posting this, Baker's Twitter account was "permanently" shut down — only to be reopened a couple of hours later. I blame the bots.

"Another Hyped 'Hunter Biden Laptop' Reveal Flops: Elon Musk and Matt Taibbi said the "Twitter Files" would show a political scandal, but the information itself did the opposite." I thought this was a fair assessment except that I have no idea how the word "hacked" is being used.

From Diane Ravitch's education blog, "William Phillis: Charters Are a Step Backward in Ohio: William Phillis, former deputy state superintendent of education in Ohio, is appalled by the waste and corruption in the charter sector. The state constitution requires a common school system, and charter schools and vouchers violate the state constitution. Ohio has had some of the biggest financial scandals in charter world (think ECOT), yet the Republican legislature continues to demand more funding for charters and vouchers. In this post, he likens charters to the one-room schools that were closed down long ago. He also notes that half of the 600 charters authorized in Ohio have closed."

Handy chart: "Historical Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates"

A nice piece of writing from Richard J. Eskow last year, "American Ozymandias: Part 1, The Obama Center in Chicago [...] In Chicago, something that resembles a glass-and-stone temple is about to displace much of the local community, at an expected price tag of $1.6 billion. But the Obama Presidential Center isn't a temple. It's more like a tomb – not for the ex-president, but for the dreams and hopes of the millions who voted for him. The main building's vaguely sarcophagus-like shape is reminiscent of pharaonic burial sites, which were also built by their rulers as a tribute to their own greatness."

From 2012 and still green: "Pope Paul VI's Error on Birth Control: After conservative U.S. Catholic Bishops sued the Obama administration over its health-insurance requirement for contraceptives, many assumed the Bishops were upholding settled doctrine. But Catholic theologian Paul Surlis says Pope Paul VI incorrectly removed the issue from the Second Vatican Council in 1965."

What caused the New York City bankruptcy crisis? Right-wingers say it was too much spending, but that doesn't explain a thing. "A Crisis Without Keynes: the 1975 New York City Fiscal Crisis Revisited [...] As we can see, city debt to revenue ratios were twice as high in the 1960s as they were in the 1970s. In 1966 when the city faced a much-overlooked fiscal crisis, deficits were on the order of $6 billion, when incoming revenue was about $3 billion. These numbers reveal not only the importance of deficits through much of the Keynesian period of the 1960s, but they also raise questions about the scale and significance of the 1975 fiscal crisis and the need for austerity." The short answer is that Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand caused the crisis.

"China Mieville on Why Capitalism Deserves Our Burning Hatred: If you feel a burning hatred toward our unjust social order, writes China Mieville, don't run from it. Such hate for a system that immiserates vast swaths of humanity is just and necessary."

Atrios (following a useful quote), "Endless Demands For Sister Souljah Moments [...] Your favorite centrists are always demanding that Democrats address the supposed "legitimate concerns" of voters. In this latest cycle it was "suburban moms concerned about trans athletes" or similar nonsense. And as is always the case, they go silent when you press them for details: what should they say, what policy should they support? Are you really asking them to demonize 15-year-old kids who want to play field hockey? Advocate for a national ban? Just some "feel your pain" speeches? WHAT????? Every cycle has an "other," and every cycle has the same group of centrists demanding Democrats somehow join in with the bashing, without specifying how, because that's what they "the voters" want."

"This Artist Is Giving Lesbian Couples The Retro, Pinup Treatment: Jenifer Prince's dreamy illustrations put queer women front in center in comics and pulp illustrations."

2022 Hayao Miyazaki Comics Advent Calendar -- The One With 24 Little Doors
Cider Advent Calendar
Guardians of the Galaxy Advent Calendar 2022 LEGO Marvel 76231
Crystal Ore Advent Calendar

The Beatles, "All I've Got To Do" — Man, that guy's drumming!

00:46 GMT comment

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

There's too much confusion

Yes, Advent has come, and time for Avedon's war against the right-wing War on Christmas. We sure can use some serious warmth and light and peace on Earth right now. Start with "Carol of the Bells"!

No Christmas for workers. Because this is just a great big FU to all workers, not just rail workers. Yes, the rail unions are under a different law than all other unions, but the message is clear. "Biden blasted for 'siding with billionaires' over workers on rail strike: Biden warned that enforcing a deal rejected by rail unions could "reignite distrust" of Democrats among workers. Advocacy groups joined rail workers and progressives in Congress on Tuesday in calling out President Joe Biden for encouraging legislative action that would avert a December strike and force through a contract with no paid sick leave."

This comes infuriatingly late — if they'd sounded this way all along it might have made a real difference. "Because 'Publishing Is Not a Crime,' Major Newspapers Push US to Drop Assange Charges: 'This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America's First Amendment and the freedom of the press,' The Guardian, The New York Times, and other media outlets warned. The five major media outlets that collaborated with WikiLeaks in 2010 to publish explosive stories based on confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department sent a letter Monday calling on the Biden administration to drop all charges against Julian Assange, who has been languishing in a high-security London prison for more than three years in connection with his publication of classified documents."

I have known her for nine years, and the whole time she's had leukemia, a disease with a five-year life-expectancy. I feel very lucky that she still seems to be maintaining — as long as she gets her drugs. She lives in Canada; she would almost certainly have died if she lived in the US. Today she told me about an article she'd written, and like me, she didn't know much about Mark Cuban, but she knew more than I did. "Cutting out the Middleman: I'm not a big follower of The National Basketball Association, but when Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, told Forbes last year that the pricing for generic drugs was 'ridiculous' I stood up and took notice. You may remember Mark Cuban from the ABC reality series, Shark Tank. He also co-owns 2929 Entertainment, but his interests lie beyond basketball and reality shows. In an interview with Forbes Magazine, January 20, 2022, Cuban said that he wanted to 'show that capitalism can be compassionate' and he added Cost Plus Drugs to his line of investments." My friend's medication retails at $9,657 a month, but without the middle men it's $47 from Cost Plus. Other people have tried to do things like this but they get bought out by the big firms. Cuban, apparently, doesn't care about the money, he can afford to do this and he's doing it. If you or someone you know is despairing of paying for meds, see if Cost Plus has been able to get the generic yet at their site.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Wendell Potter, "How Medicare Advantage Scams Seniors: Where billions of dollars flow, deceptive actors follow. And nowhere does deception run deeper than how health insurers lure seniors into Medicare Advantage plans—only to leave many retirees struggling to cover their out-of-pocket requirements when their incomes are their lowest."

"Why Is AARP Boosting Medicare Privatization? The advocacy organization is welcoming the for-profit takeover of its members' national health insurance program — because it earns hundreds of millions as part of the deal. Despite massive and systemic problems with for-profit Medicare plans denying care to seniors while costing the government more than $7 billion annually in excess fees, the leading advocacy group tasked with protecting older Americans is welcoming the privatization of the national health insurance program — while earning as much as $814 million annually from insurers advertising the plans. The state of affairs lays bare a conflict inside AARP, the major advocacy organization for Americans 50 and older, over how to approach the regulation of Medicare Advantage, the for-profit version of Medicare."

"Do You Know What Dreck Is? The House Democrats Are About To Elect A Pile Of It To Lead Them When asked, progressive Democrats in Congress have complained that there is no democratic process for electing the party's new leaders. No one admits they think that Hakeem Jeffries and Pete Aguilar are terrible or corrupt— which they are— but some have cautiously expressed a certain degree of discomfort about what kind of characters these two men essentially are. I did find one or two members who defended Hakeem, but not one— not even one member— who would defend Aguilar. Even the ones unaware of his coke addiction could find a single positive thing to say about him. (Ditto for the two criminal schlemiels running for DCCC chair, Tony Cardenas and Ami Bera.)" Jeffries is so extreme right that he takes donations from Fox News' PAC, News Corp.

Ryan Grim says an anonymous email about five years ago led to "one of the most bizarre stories I've ever reported on," and given recent events, he calls it back to our attention. "Leaked Documents Expose Stunning Plan To Wage Financial War On Qatar — And Steal The World Cup: A document marked 'strictly private and confidential' lays out a plan to manipulate markets and short Qatar."

RIP: "Carol Leigh, activist who coined the term 'sex work', dies at 71: Carol Leigh, a San Francisco activist credited with coining the term sex work and who sought for decades to improve conditions for prostitutes and others in the adult entertainment business, has died at the age of 71. She died from cancer on Wednesday, Kate Marquez, the executor of her state said, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A former prostitute, Ms Leigh devoted herself to campaigning on behalf of those in the 'sex work industry', a term she coined as the title for a panel discussion she attended at a feminist anti-pornography conference in 1978, according to an essay she wrote. 'Carol defined sex work as a labour issue, not a crime, not a sin,' Ms Marquez said. 'It is a job done by a million people in this country who are stigmatised and criminalised by working to support their families.'

RIP: Erik Arthur, who opened Fantasy Centre in 1971 and kept it going for the best part of 40 years. It used to amuse us that he'd let an American paint the sign out front so for many of those years it was misspelled as "Fantasy Center" — but then I was surprised to come by one day to discover that after all that time, he'd finally replaced the sign with one that was spelled in British. I never went there much because it was a bit out of the way for us, but I ran into him a lot at conventions and pub meets and parties and always found him delightful. Click the link for pictures and a brief "interview" of the man himself.

RIP: Greg Bear 1951-2022: "We are deeply saddened to report that award-winning author Greg Bear died this weekend at the age of 71. The author of more than 50 books and winner of five Nebula Awards, Bear was also a co-founder of San Diego Comic Con, an artist, and a person beloved in SFF circles for his warmth and kindness."

Hm, I wonder if this will turn up on any crime shows, or whether crime writers who hear about it will just go, "No, that's too far-fetched even for us." "How Jessica Logan's Call for Help Became Evidence Against Her" is the horrifying story about how a cop decided a woman had murdered her baby because her 911 call didn't fit his programmed idea of what a mother should say when she finds her child cold in his bed. And he decided that because someone made up the idea that repeating something or not spelling things out in exactly the right way is evidence of guilt and gives training courses on it, although there is absolutely no science to back it up and the real science can't find any evidence that it's true.

"The Imperial Supreme Court: The past few years have marked the emergence of the imperial Supreme Court. Armed with a new, nearly bulletproof majority, conservative Justices on the Court have embarked on a radical restructuring of American law across a range of fields and disciplines. Unlike previous shifts in the Court, this one isn't marked by debates over federal versus state power, or congressional versus judicial power, or judicial activism versus restraint. Nor is it marked by the triumph of one form of constitutional interpretation over another. On each of those axes, the Court's recent opinions point in radically different directions. The Court has taken significant, simultaneous steps to restrict the power of Congress, the administrative state, the states, and the lower federal courts. And it has done so using a variety of (often contradictory) interpretative methodologies. The common denominator across multiple opinions in the last two years is that they concentrate power in one place: the Supreme Court.

When Street Art Meets Nature

The Literature Clock

Neil Young, live, "All Along the Watchtower"

23:28 GMT comment

Sunday, 20 November 2022

But will it seem the same?

The Mill Lane footpath seen in South Downs National Park, Halnaker near Chichester.

Here's the Electoral-Vote.com map and details of the Senate races from Wednesday morning. We were back to the Dems needing Warnock to win a runoff. Against Herschel Walker, which, seriously, is just embarrassing. But then we won another one in Nevada, so the map looks like this. Still waiting for the Warnock runoff for a true majority, but it makes less difference now that the Republicans managed to take the House, so nothing good is likely to come to the floor in the next Congress for the Dem Senate to fail to pass. (Not that I believe the Dems couldn't have come up with a third and fourth right-wing vote if we'd had two new Senators and kept the House....)

Meanwhile, remember Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the DCCC who screwed up the Democratic primaries by inserting himself into a district where another Democrat was already popular because he thought he wouldn't be as safe in some other seat? Well, he wasn't safe in that one, either. Alex Sammon has the details, "The Inside Story of Sean Patrick Maloney's Face Plant in New York." That nasty little jackass managed to lose two seats in New York with his clever little plan.

"The House Democratic Leadership Race: Do Democrats really want their next leader to be compromised and corporate? Final results are still coming in; but if current patterns hold, it appears that Republicans could narrowly win control of the House by around five to ten seats. That is far from the red wave predicted by most pundits, who got caught in their own echo chamber. More on that in a moment." This means Pelosi will likely step down from leadership [Update: She did], which means we are in danger of Hakeem Jeffries, corporate lackey, winning the leadership seat. This is the guy who teamed up with Josh Gottheimer to try to defeat progressive Dems. And in honor of that, Ryan Grim has posted an excerpt from his book, We've Got People, "The real story of the making of Nancy Pelosi" — which just happens to contain the full section of the quote I typed up last time.

James Kwak's morning-after musings, "Democracy Takes Another Hit: This morning, Democrats are feeling pretty good. We shouldn't be. With many races still too close to call, it appears that this year's elections were not quite the cataclysm for Democrats that they could have been. We have a decent chance of preserving a 50–50 tie in the Senate and will probably only lose about ten seats (and the majority) in the House. That, combined with weeks of lowering expectations, will help the party put a positive spin on what was really … a disturbing defeat. [...] The truth is that the Democratic Party has failed — failed to stand for anything that ordinary people care about and failed to deliver basic economic security. We are pretty good at arming Ukraine to fight against a brutal Russian invasion, pretty bad at helping the working- and middle-class people who were once the bedrock of our party." Face it, the only thing that saved us is that Republicans didn't offer any better.

"Eight Key Midterm Election Takeaways: The Progressive Electorate Has Spoken [...] While voters this year declined to offer a stiff rebuke of the party in power, they indicated via ballot measures, exit polls, and large pre-election surveys that on key issues such as abortion rights, health care, higher minimum wages, workers' right to collectively bargain, and legalized cannabis, the electorate is more progressive than elected officials and corporate media pundits care to admit."

Establishment Dems were all ready to blame the left for heavy losses in the mid-terms (and Jim Clyburn even got an early start), but since that didn't work out, "NEWS ANALYSIS: Who Can Be Blamed for Not Blowing the Midterms?: Democrats' recrimination plans go up in smoke. The second-noblest midterm tradition is the widespread scapegoating after a sweeping and overdetermined loss. This year, sadly, slated right next to Doctor Oz in the Loser Category, are the would-be scapegoaters of the Democratic Party, forced to confront a night that was neither a full vindication of their preferred strategy nor a defeat humiliating enough to justify a full purge of their enemies. If the Democratic Party as a political entity averted a catastrophe this week, its scolds and gatekeepers really couldn't have drawn up a worse result. How do you trash 'activists' for a loss that didn't quite materialize after a solid year of preemptively blaming them for it? I imagine we'll soon see."

"Reconciliation Is Available to End Debt Limit Hostage-Taking: With the GOP likely to take over the House, Democrats can use the lame duck to effectively eliminate the debt limit and the leverage Republicans would wield." They won't, though.

A corrupt sheriff is after our Zelda! "Inside L.A. County sheriff's dubious corruption probe of Sheila Kuehl, another watchdog: Long before detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department showed up at Sheila Kuehl's house with a search warrant, it was clear this was no ordinary corruption investigation. The department had spent three years looking into an allegation that Kuehl, a county supervisor and one of Sheriff Alex Villanueva's harshest critics, had taken bribes from a friend in return for Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracts. The investigation fit a pattern. Since his election in 2018, Villanueva has fiercely resisted oversight by Kuehl, her colleagues on the Board of Supervisors, and other watchdogs monitoring alleged wrongdoing in his department. Prosecutors had declined to file charges in the Kuehl case, telling sheriff's investigators last year that they lacked the evidence they would need at trial. Had the investigation ended there it might have been just a footnote in Villanueva's tumultuous tenure. But in the closing weeks of his run for a second term, deputies with guns and battering rams were dispatched to rummage through Kuehl's home in Santa Monica, her friend's house in Del Rey and four offices around downtown L.A."

Oh, just what we needed, another "study" confirming the worst copaganda, which no amount of debunking will ever put to rest. "A Warning to Journalists About Elite Academia: Two Harvard professors propose the greatest expansion of the police bureaucracy in Western history. Two Harvard professors recently published an article called 'The Injustice of Under-Policing in America' in the American Journal of Law and Equality. The Harvard professors call for 500,000 more armed cops, who will arrest 7.8 million more people per year." These guys claimed that the US has fewer cops per population than any other country, but their data "appears to exclude all federal policing agencies (e.g., border patrol, ICE, FBI, DEA, ATF, capitol police, Park Police, military police, etc...), potentially many non-local state agencies, and ALL private police forces. One of the professors responded that they chose to use the number 697,195 from the UCR (an FBI reporting survey) even though they knew many local agencies weren't included. So, he admitted that the number may be much higher, like 900,000. (Note: Wikipedia, for example, says 900k based on a major police non-profit source). The professor then admitted privately over email that the U.S. census count is actually 1,227,788 police. That's 76% higher than the number they chose to use in their public article. What's the significance of this? Using this number, they admitted to me, would mean the U.S. truthfully has '1.1 times the median rate in rich countries.' [...] The most alarming aspect of the article is it repeatedly ignores the costs of more police. I was dumbfounded reading it. The article presents the main cost of their proposal as 7.8 million more arrests. They call it the 'main downside,' and it is the only one they even mention. The professors then dismiss the costs of 7.8 million more people arrested as far outweighed by all the amazing benefits of police. Virtually every subpoint they make is flawed (including their failure to count millions of unrecorded police assaults or even mention that they are excluding them as a 'cost' of policing), but I want to highlight the big one: more arrests are not the only social cost of 500,000 more armed cops!"

"Wall Street Strikes Back: While the financial industry once kept a low profile in elections, it's no secret which races it's banking on winning this election cycle. That's because big banks aren't shy about the fact that they're using multiple political groups to run misleading ads and donate millions on behalf of key Republican and Democratic candidates they believe will help them slash regulations and preserve predatory practices. The fact that buttoned-up bankers are intervening so shamelessly on behalf of election deniers and other right-wing demagogues might seem surprising — but the in-your-face approach is exactly the point."

Here's a story I would have thought was everywhere as soon as it happened. You all know how, during the Bush administration, Congress passed an appalling requirement for the US Postal Service to pre-fund pensions 75 years in advance, thus creating the illusion that the USPS was a money-losing proposition so they could pretend it would do better in the hands of private entities. Of course, this was a lie, since the Post Office has always made a profit and could cover the real costs of operations and existing pension pay-outs easily. So people have spent 15 years trying to get rid of this stupid requirement, and when Congress passed a new law in March and Biden signed it in April, I would have thought a victory like that would have made more noise. But I just heard about it. I guess the only thing that's important is the clown show.

RIP: "Robert Clary, Corporal LeBeau on 'Hogan's Heroes,' Dies at 96: The French actor and singer spent 31 months in a concentration camp but said he had no reservations about starring in a TV comedy about the Nazis. [...] Clary was the last surviving member of the show's original principal cast." LeBeau was one of my favorites.

"Disinformation policing, lab safety, public health – we're getting it all wrong: Can we please not make this partisan? The Intercept this week published two major investigations that seem at first blush unrelated, but a closer look shows the link between the two in a profoundly important way. One is a deep look at safety inside the labs that work with extremely dangerous pathogens. What our reporter Mara Hvistendahl has uncovered is disturbing [...] The second story is an investigation by Lee Fang and Ken Klippenstein into a sprawling new mandate that the Department of Homeland Security has adopted for itself: to police the spread of 'misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation' on the interwebs. The main targets of the truth police are, according to a draft version of a leaked DHS quadrennial report, 'the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, racial justice, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the nature of U.S. support to Ukraine.' The director of a DHS advisory committee, worried about how all this might look, reported Fang and Klippenstein, 'recommended the use of third-party information-sharing nonprofits as a 'clearing house for information to avoid the appearance of government propaganda.'' And here we find the overlap. For some reasons that I vaguely understand, and for some others that I still can't fully comprehend, the conversation around the origin of the pandemic and the efficacy of the vaccines have both become coded along a left-right axis."

"Republicans Have a Symbiotic Relationship With Crime: You can't whip up a hysterical meltdown about crime without lots of crime happening. In the final stretch of the midterm campaign, right-wing media has turned to one of its most reliable propaganda tactics: crime panic. Ads where I live in Pennsylvania are putting the infamous Willie Horton strategy to shame; at the bar this week, I caught one that all but accused Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman of being an accomplice to murder. [...] The striking thing about this messaging strategy is not just the undeniable opportunism—like the supposedly fearsome migrant caravan back in October 2018, it's a safe bet that Fox's crime focus will evaporate once the election is over—but also the perverse incentive thus created. Republicans have an objective political interest in increased crime because it allows them to incite a febrile backlash, and many of them are not at all subtle about it. By the same token, their favored policies of total legal impunity for police and making it ever-easier to buy guns will undoubtedly make crime worse, all else equal. In short, if you want more crime, vote Republican." In fact, conservative policies have always increased crime, which may be why the states where crime is worst are Republican-run states.

Truth Cops: Leaked Documents Outline DHS's Plans to Police Disinformation THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY is quietly broadening its efforts to curb speech it considers dangerous, an investigation by The Intercept has found. Years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents — obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as public documents — illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms."

I don't hold out much hope for a third party's success, especially in the current system, but is it possible to take over the Democratic Party? I don't feel optimistic about that, either. Here's one position on that: "The Politicians Who Destroyed Our Democracy Want Us to Vote for Them to Save It: We should have walked out on the Democratic Party and mounted a serious opposition movement while we still had a chance. The bipartisan project of dismantling our democracy, which took place over the last few decades on behalf of corporations and the rich, has left only the outward shell of democracy. The courts, legislative bodies, the executive branch and the media, including public broadcasting, are captive to corporate power. There is no institution left that can be considered authentically democratic. The corporate coup d'état is over. They won. We lost." It's hard to argue with any of that, but if we ever had a chance to simply walk away, that hasn't been helped by changes in law that make third parties even more difficult to field. And unlike most Americans, I've had the experience of living in a country with multiple parties and I can't honestly say they fare any better. The UK has multiple parties, and yet, Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives went on and on and on with only 40% of the vote. We even ended up with Boris Johnson, and then the bizarre autumn antics that led to today. European countries are all watching inroads, if not outright successes, by the right wing breaking through whatever sort of liberalism (social democracy or democratic socialism, however you like to define it) used to create stable governments. Neoliberalism opened the door wide, and the far right has been wriggling through or even marching right in. Today's so-called "centrist" governments seem more willing to sympathize with avowed fascists than with any kind of social democracy, let alone "the left".

Kuttner, "Sam Bankman-Fried: A Common Crook: Today on TAP: With luck, his fall will take the whole crypto sector with him. What has almost gotten lost in the Sam Bankman-Fried saga is that the former billionaire's scam was a fundamental violation of the securities laws—using customer funds to place his own bets. His personal control of both the exchange FTX, and his investment company, Alameda, and the comingling of their funds, puts Bankman-Fried right up there with Ponzi and Madoff as common crooks and outright felons." But it's always been obvious that crypto is a scam and we're just waiting to see if members of Congress will stop pretending it should be taken as anything more than a crooked game.

Jeez, even ten years ago Second Life avatars looked better than what the Metaverse has to offer.

Jeff Beck - "Shapes of Things"

04:04 GMT comment

Monday, October 31, 2022

What the hell am I doin' here?

OK, the cat finally managed to get Boris out of No.10. The Tories had a contest between two people nobody wanted — well, there was a difference of opinion between the general party membership and the parliamentary party (the Tory MPs), and the general membership voted for Liz Truss — but her government instantly produced a budget that sent the markets into a tailspin and since even the financiers didn't want her, she's already resigned after 44 days. And Boris Johnson pretended he had the votes to get the job back, but it turned out he was not telling the truth (as seems usual). So Rishi Sunak gets No. 10 on a vote from the Parliamentary Conservative Party. No one has mentioned this out loud, but that makes him the first Hindu PM of the UK. And all the Tory pundits are pretending that has nothing to do with why Truss won with the membership over Sunak in the first place.

Back in the USA, there was hope that Biden's various 11th-hour Hail Mary attempts to do what he should have done in the first week of his presidency, coupled with the Republicans' attacks on reproductive rights, Social Security, and Medicare, would save the House and Senate, but as the mid-terms are breathing down our necks, it's looking like the GOP (with the media's help) are managing to overwhelm the public discourse with loads of copaganda and false stories that the largely peaceful protests after the murder of George Floyd were riots and mayhem in every major city. Yes, there are actually people who believe that all those cities are burned-out shells and that an entity called "ANTIFA" did it. In addition, the high gas prices, according to GOP media, are all caused by Biden having "canceled the Keystone Pipeline" in his first week in office. Well, no, the Keystone Pipeline itself has been up and running all along, but Keystone XL, a planned shortcut which was under construction then and would still have been under construction for another eight years, was shut down. Which wouldn't have mattered anyway, since the pipeline carries tar sands (which you can't put in your tank) out of Canada for international sale and doesn't serve the US anyway. And the inflation, of course, is supposedly caused by the tiny amount of government spending that sent $1,400 checks to Americans two years ago. Amazingly, the obvious fact that consumer spending didn't go up before the inflation hit, and that corporations are obviously raising prices far in excess of what their costs can account for, just don't figure into the right-wing narrative and thus the mutterings of crackpots like Larry Summers make far more headway than the facts. So Democrats caused inflation and caused crime. And Democrats, true to form, have entirely failed to make the case that conservative policies for 50 years are what really made this mess. So we went from, "It's gonna be a bloodbath for Democrats," to maybe it won't, to a thin but probable loss of both Houses. I don't even want to know what happens after that.

Looks like Atrios shares my feeling that the cops are secretly on strike. They just hang around for the benefits— overtime, lording it over people, and playing 007.

"Who's really to blame for inflation: Big corporations are taking advantage of the expectation of higher prices to rack up huge profits. By now, you've probably heard the good news. After more than a year of surging inflation, gas prices are down, pandemic supply chain snarls are starting to ease, and shipping costs for companies are coming down. But instead of passing on the savings to customers, companies are making a different choice. Big corporations are choosing to keep prices high for consumers, even as their own expenses, for things like materials and transportation, go down. While the Biden administration and its economic response to the pandemic have become easy scapegoats for those who wish to assign blame for stubbornly high prices, especially as midterm elections draw closer, the facts tell a different story. And ignoring the ways in which corporate price hikes are contributing to higher prices will only prolong the crisis."

"Wall Street Is Behind Jackson's Water Crisis: A major credit rating agency jacked up interest rates in Jackson, Mississippi, curtailing infrastructure investments in the years leading up to the city's recent disaster. In August, clean water stopped flowing from residents' taps in Jackson, Mississippi. The crisis lasted more than six weeks, leaving 150,000 people without a consistent source of safe water. The catastrophe can be traced back to a decision by a credit ratings agency four years ago that massively inflated the city's borrowing costs for infrastructure improvements, most notably for its water and sewer system. In 2018, ratings analysts at Moody's Investor Service — a credit rating agency with a legacy of misconduct — downgraded Jackson's bond rating to a junk status, citing in part the 'low wealth and income indicators of residents.' The decision happened even though Jackson has never defaulted on its debt. Moody's move jacked up the price of borrowing for Jackson, costing the cash-strapped city between $2 and $4 million per year in additional debt service costs — a massive financial roadblock to officials' plans to fix the municipality's aging water system. And since the state of Mississippi and the federal government refused to use their powers to address the city's infrastructure problems, that meant Jackson was essentially powerless to stop the impending catastrophe."

"'A Brazil of Hope' as Leftist Lula Defeats Far-Right Bolsonaro in Presidential Runoff: The Workers' Party candidate, who completed a remarkable political comeback less than three years removed from a prison cell, tweeted one word following his win: 'Democracy.' 'A huge blow against fascistic politics and a huge victory for decency and sanity.' That's how RootsAction director Norman Solomon described Brazilian President-Elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Sunday presidential runoff victory against far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, the culmination of a most remarkable political comeback for a man who was languishing behind bars just three years ago. With 99% of votes counted via an electronic system that tallies final results in a matter of hours—and which was repeatedly aspersed by Bolsonaro in an effort to cast doubt on the election's veracity—da Silva led the incumbent by more than two million ballots, or nearly two percentage points."

"Mondrian painting has been hanging upside down for 75 years: Despite the discovery, the work, titled New York City I, will continue to be displayed the wrong way up to avoid damaging it"

RIP: "Robbie Coltrane, star of Cracker and Harry Potter, dies aged 72: Scottish actor who graduated from the alternative comedy scene to become a major performer known for taking on complex and difficult roles. Born Anthony Robert McMillan in the prosperous Glaswegian suburb of Rutherglen, Coltrane was educated at Glenalmond College, an independent boarding school whose corporal punishment he described as 'legalised violence', before going to the Glasgow School of Art. He had second thoughts about his ability as a painter, and switched to live performance, acting in radical theatre companies (including a troupe from San Quentin State prison) and doing standup, taking the pseudonym Coltrane as homage to celebrated jazz musician John Coltrane." He won my heart for good when he played Charles Bronson playing Ken Livingstone (with Peter Richardson playing Lee Van Cleef playing Tony Benn, Dawn French playing Cher Playing Joan Ruddock, and Jennifer Saunders as The Ice Princess, Margaret Thatcher), in The Comic Strip's "movie" about Thatcher's destruction of the elective government of Britain's capital city, the Greater London Council, aka the GLC. Go ahead and watch, it's only half an hour and you'll see some other familiar faces.

"James Bennet and the rewriting of 2020: Sometimes, history changes unexpectedly toward the good. And then, powerful people with something to lose try to change it back. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple contributed to the latter yesterday when he published a column titled 'James Bennet was right.' The piece was an apologia for Bennet's actions in the summer of 2020, when, as editor of the New York Times' opinion section, he published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton calling for the U.S. military to crush the nationwide protests that erupted in response to the police murder of George Floyd. Bennet was forced to resign. Wemple's column, in turn, was prompted by comments Bennet made in former Times media columnist Ben Smith's new $25 million media venture Semafor. The former Times editor (who more than landed on his feet with a regular column in the Economist), told his former colleague that the Times 'set me on fire and threw me in the garbage' in order to curry the 'applause and the welcome of the left.'

From 2020: "The killing of Jeremy Corbyn: The former Labour leader was the victim of a carefully planned and brutally executed political assassination [...] We don't hold a candle for Corbyn. Neither of us are Labour Party members, and indeed one of us has worked as a political correspondent and commentator for The Spectator, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail, three stalwarts of Tory opinion-making. Both of us care greatly about accurate, truthful journalism. Both of us, as British citizens, cherish the tradition of fair play and decency. That is why we believe everyone should be concerned about the picture painted of Corbyn by the British media for the four years he was leader. Corbyn was never the monstrous figure presented to the British people. He was never a Marxist. He was not hell-bent on the destruction of Western capitalism. He was a socialist. Nor was he an antisemite, and there is no serious evidence which suggests that he was, though we certainly do not absolve him of poor judgement, for instance in joining various internet forums in his years on the backbenches. And he was not a divisive figure - the claim made against him by so many of his right-wing opponents. [...] He was never given a chance. Not by the bulk of Labour's parliamentary party and many officials, some of whom (we are now learning) campaigned harder against their elected leader than they did against the Tory government. Not by senior figures connected to the British state, including former spy chiefs, military officers and civil servants, all of whom should have known much better."

"Liberalism Is Not the Opposite of Conservatism [...] By a roundabout route — starting with a very good piece from The Lever on the next abortion battle, to Cory Doctorow's reflections on the latest poisonous modern aristocrat (Barre Seid), to a reflection on modern liberalism at Crooked Timber — I landed in my reading on a brilliant comment by composer Frank Wilhoit. This piece is about his comment." How Wilhoit defined conservative philosophy: "There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, and out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect."

Before they did Ghosts, the same ensemble had a show called Horrible Histories, which I guess you could say was an unflattering but accurate look at the grisly past. I was delighted by their "Four King Georges" song, so that's where I've linked this video, but if you like that sort of thing you might want to watch the whole thing.

Before Star Trek, he still sounded like that.

Postmodern Jukebox, "Creep"

22:21 GMT comment

Friday, October 14, 2022

We promise you a smashing good time!

Ursel Mathilde posted this image* to the FB Steam Punk group.

At last, Biden has exceeded my expectations by announcing a move to reschedule marijuana and pardon people who have been convicted of simple possession under federal laws. "Much more remains to be done, but the presidential cannabis pardon is one of the most significant drug policy developments since the 1970s. [...] But certain expectations about the proclamation's reach should be tempered. About 6,500 people stand to benefit. (There are no people currently serving sentences in federal prisons for simple possession.) A 'certificate of pardon' would mean, for example, that a person with a simple cannabis possession offense would no longer have to check a 'criminal record' box on applications for employment or college financial aid. A presidential proclamation also has no force of law in the states and localities where the vast majority of convictions have been handed down, which means that people will continue to face consequences of previous possession convictions depending on the state where they live. These jurisdictions will have to take their own steps—and the president encouraged governors to take them—to eliminate simple possession convictions from a person's record. How far a pardon actually goes depends on the language a state or locality uses. Expungement, for example, delivers more of a 'clean slate' approach that permanently removes convictions from a person's record." But I'm not cheering until he actually gets cannabis re-scheduled. No more DEA money to catch pot-smokers.

It is worth remembering that the Saudis and the oil barons in general are rooting for the Republicans, and oil prices are being manipulated to make their whims a reality. David Dayen on "The Political Impacts of Rising Gas Prices: Today on TAP: Unexplained refinery shutdowns and snap decisions by oil-producing nations can reverberate in the midterm elections."

"House Democratic Leadership Designed Stock Trade Ban To Fail, Negotiators Say: Nancy Pelosi is a controversial figure, but one thing her supporters and detractors agree on is her tactical skill as a legislator and power broker. Somehow, those legendary skills failed her this week. DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP IN the House of Representatives tanked an opportunity to pass a key ethics reform Thursday, according to several Democratic and Republican staffers involved in bipartisan efforts to ban stock trading by members of Congress. Those staffers say leadership's move appears crafted to head off broad bipartisan support for reform. [...] While some conservative Democrats — most notably retiring Blue Dog and perennial corporate-friendly obstructionist Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. — have tried to claim reforms are a tough sell for front-liners, that argument is hard to square with the considerable amount of data indicating any ban would be overwhelmingly popular. With further action delayed until after the midterms, Democrats have deprived members in tough races of the benefits the popular legislation might confer." Naturally, this has proved to be a gift to Republicans who now have something legitimate to campaign on.

"The Police Are Defunding Minneapolis: Two years since George Floyd was murdered, the Minneapolis Police Department is a fiscal disaster. [...] Simply put, Minneapolis did not defund the police. It's the opposite. The police are defunding Minneapolis."

"The Supreme Court's Public Legitimacy Crisis Has Arrived: Americans' antipathy toward the high court is deepening—and for the first time, a slim majority favors expansion. [...] Marquette Law School's most recent survey about the high court, which was published this week, again revealed a sharp decline in public support for the justices. It found that the court went from a 66 percent/33 percent approval/disapproval rating among all Americans two years ago to just 40 percent/60 percent today. The causal factor was again obvious, as Marquette found that roughly two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the Dobbs ruling. But the real humdinger was buried in the crosstabs: 51 percent of Americans said that they either strongly or somewhat supported expanding the Supreme Court, including a bare majority of self-described independents. To my knowledge, this is the first reputable Supreme Court pollster to find majority support for that proposal, even if it is a bare majority at that."

I probably don't have to tell long-time readers of The Sideshow how infuriating I found it that Trump turned a serious problem into just another right-wing conspiracy theory. (Well, he didn't have far to go since even when it was not a concern of Republicans the Democratic Party leadership didn't want to hear about it.) 'What Donald Trump Got Right About Voting Machines [...] We know all about that at WhoWhatWhy. Long before Trump hijacked this legitimate issue for illegitimate purposes with the 'Stop the Steal' fantasy, we were one of the first news outlets to sound the alarm over the chain of custody of ballots and the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems. So-called hybrid voting machines, used to both create and mark and then scan and count barcoded paper ballots, can be manipulated in various ways that are difficult to detect. Hand-marked ballots, with the security of the chain of custody preserved and well documented, are probably the only way to ensure an election wasn't hijacked. Election integrity is a real concern. But once Trump commandeered the concept, many reasonable people saw any question of voting machine reliability as dangerous territory, the exclusive realm of MAGA and QAnon kooks. "

"How Ron DeSantis Blew Up Black-Held Congressional Districts and May Have Broken Florida Law: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was incensed. Late last year, the state's Republican legislature had drawn congressional maps that largely kept districts intact, leaving the GOP with only a modest electoral advantage. DeSantis threw out the legislature's work and redrew Florida's congressional districts, making them far more favorable to Republicans. The plan was so aggressive that the Republican-controlled legislature balked and fought DeSantis for months. The governor overruled lawmakers and pushed his map through. DeSantis' office has publicly stressed that partisan considerations played no role and that partisan operatives were not involved in the new map." Because that would have been illegal. But the evidence is that DeSantis worked with a Republican operative whose job it is to impose gerrymandering on electoral maps.

"Hill TV Censors Segment On Rashida Tlaib's Description Of Israel As 'Apartheid Government,' Bars Reporter: Host Katie Halper recorded a segment defending Tlaib's accurate portrayal of Israel's government, but Hill TV's owners refused to run it."

"International Finance Capital Rebels Against British … Tax Cuts for the Rich?: Today on TAP: Bankers shoot down the Conservative Party budget plan. U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss might have suffered the worst political faceplant in British history. Elected by the Conservative majority not even a month ago, she has already suffered a massive political defeat and made her party so unpopular that if an election were to be held today, it would likely lose all but a handful of its seats in Parliament. Here's what happened. After Truss won the fight to replace Boris Johnson, she and her new Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng proposed a new budget package centered around modest energy price controls and enormous tax cuts for the rich. The size was stupendous—something like 12.6 percent of GDP over five years. Nearly half the tax cut benefits would go to the top 5 percent of households. This caused a huge popular backlash, and turmoil in the London financial markets. The yield on British government debt spiked so high that the central bank had to step in to stave off a currency crisis. Truss and Kwarteng abruptly reversed course on the high-end tax cuts Monday—amusingly after recording several interviews in which they promised they would not back down."

"The Washington Post Dabbles in Orwell: In scrubbed piece about Edward Snowden, the Bezos Post offers a preview of how history will be re-written." We've gotten used to the fact that the Snowden story has turned from a revelation that the US government is committing crimes against the entire citizenry to a story of a leaker, but The Washington Post published an article so egregious that they responded to complaints by adding a few corrections to the story - and then later uncorrecting them. They also stressed the point that Snowden's acceptance of Putin's "offer" of Russian citizenship somehow retroactively proved that his purposes in exposing the crimes of the NSA could not possibly have been done for the public's right to know.

Modern economists use it to justify horrible policies even though it has been proven a false predictor. Ed Walker on "The Rise and Fall of the Phillips Curve: The Phillips Curve says that there is an inverse relation between unemployment and inflation. Low unemployment is correlated with a rise in inflation. It's an article of faith to economists of all stripes. It's listed in the popular introductory economics textbook by N. Gregory Mankiw as one of the Ten Things All Economists agree on. It's especially loved by the Fed, which raises or lowers interest rates depending in part on its predictions. Its critics point out that its predictions are poor. In this post, I discuss the derivation of the Phillips Curve, its adaption by Samuleson and Solow to manage the economy, its breakdown in the 1970s, exploitation by neoliberals of that breakdown to replace Keynesian demand-based economics with monetarism and supply-side economics, its rejuvenation, and the evidence that it doesn't make accurate predictions. I conclude with some observations based on an important paper by Simcha Barkai that challenges the core beliefs of neoliberalism. It suggests we can raise wages substantially without causing inflation by lowering corporate profits."

Here are Dean Baker and Joseph Stiglitz last month saying "The Fed Should Wait and See" before raising rates, especially since the inflation it's supposed to solve has already slowed and consumer spending has slumped. Again, the Fed is reacting as if the inflation was demand-driven when it simply was not — it's a supply-side problem and the only real solutions are to rein in the suppliers and make them behave in less anti-social ways.

"Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn: Government budget cuts are not what they seem. Understanding history could also be called 'wisdom.' Wisdom told stories about 'eating the seed corn.' If you eat the seed corn you can't plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves. In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and 'pay for' it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)"

"Republicans Are Lying About Fentanyl to Scare Voters [...] In a recent appeal to voters that was panned by critics as 'substance-free' in terms of concrete policy ideas, House Republicans decried an 'out of control border' and claimed every state is now a 'border state' under assault by fentanyl. Ahead of an expected reelection bid, former President Donald Trump is once again railing about an 'invasion' of 'drug dealers' claiming 'innocent victims,' a redux of the racist messaging on immigration that defined his first campaign. Never mind that drug overdose deaths actually began rising under the Trump administration's policies before shattering records once COVID hit, or that medical experts and nonpartisan fact-checkers routinely debunk GOP narratives portraying an increase in fentanyl seizures by law enforcement as evidence of an 'open border.' [...] In reality, most migrants attempting to cross border are seeking asylum after fleeing violence and poverty, and certainly aren't smuggling fentanyl in their backpacks. Plenty of statements and data from federal law enforcement show that fentanyl most commonly enters the U.S. in trucks and passenger vehicles at legal ports of entry, and a majority of those transporting fentanyl are U.S. citizens, who are less likely to draw the attention of border police. By scapegoating migrants as a source of drugs, demagogues obscure the facts with a cloud of xenophobia."

RIP: "World Mourns Professor Martin Barker's Unexpected Death at 76." Barker was well-known for his anti-racist work but most notable for defending "video nasties". He was a friend of Feminists Against Censorship back in the day and much of his work examined genre fiction.

RIP: Bob Madle (1920-2022): "Bob Madle was the last surviving original member of First Fandom, having begun his activity in science fiction fandom in 1933. He was present at one of the earliest club meetings in Philadelphia in 1936, attended the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, and was a long time presence at science fiction conventions around the country. He was an accomplished collector and one of the most important science fiction book and pulp magazine dealers in the world. Few worthwhile collections anywhere haven't benefited from Bob's expertise in the field. Bob published David H. Keller's Solitary Hunters And The Abyss through his New Era Publishers in 1948. He was the TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate in 1957 and attended the first London World SF Convention through TAFF in 1957. He wrote a long running series about science fiction published in the various professional magazines published by his long time friend Robert A. W. Lowndes. He served honorably in the United States Army during World War II." Madle had a long run, and it's no shock that he has finally left us, but I still remember him laughing at WSFA meetings all those years ago.

RIP: "Angela Lansbury, star of TV, film and theatre, dies aged 96: Lansbury won an Oscar nomination for her first role in the 1944 film Gaslight, and gained international acclaim as Murder, She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher" Another one who died just before her next birthday. It's unusual enough that it bugs me when I see it. I'll skip the jokes about the murder rate in Cabot Cove.

"What Is the Point of Economics? [...] And this brings me to the point of economics, which has taken me a long time to understand. There are many economists who focus on trying to uncover important truths about the world, and there are many economists who seek to serve concentrated capital. There are smart ones, and dumb ones. But truth or falsehood, or empirical rigor, is besides the point. The point of economics as a discipline is to create a language and methodology for governing that hides political assumptions from the public. Truly successful economists, like Summers, spend their time winning bureaucratic turf wars and placing checks on elected officials. [...] CBO seems to get things wrong in ways that privilege concentrated capital and a certain form of austerity-driven politics. Here are two simple examples. First, CBO for most of the post-2009 era assumed, based on opaque and reactionary economic modeling, that interest rates would soon snap back to 5%, which effectively meant that spending more money through tax cuts or spending increases, as many legislators wanted to do to help their constituents would be quite costly. Turns out interest rates didn't come back to 5%, and the assumptions behind those interest rate models had hidden political biases favorable to concentrated capital. [...] It hasn't really improved. A few months ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with his complex matrix of data points and his legions of economists, got into a highly publicized argument with Donald Trump, over interest rates. Trump criticized Powell for potentially tightening at a moment when the economy was slowing, saying you have look beyond data and 'feel' the market. Powell reversed himself after data finally came out showing Trump, with his gut feel, was right."

Verbal karate; read the stats. "Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman: Black Lives Matter protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful, our research finds: When the Department of Homeland Security released its Homeland Threat Assessment earlier this month, it emphasized that self-proclaimed white supremacist groups are the most dangerous threat to U.S. security. But the report misleadingly added that there had been 'over 100 days of violence and destruction in our cities,' referring to the anti-racism uprisings of this past summer. In fact, the Black Lives Matter uprisings were remarkably nonviolent. When there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters."

Even I was surprised at the chart showing that the US has a remarkably low number of doctors per capita. Barry Ritholtz on "Framing, Context, Asking (not answering) Questions: It was one of those minor stories that seemed to have taken on a life of its own: The New York Times1 reported last week about an adjunct Organic Chemistry professor at NYU who was fired after students complained his tests were too hard. I would have missed it, but for J.V Last discussing it at The Bulwark.2 Both discussions touched on what a gut course org chem is; how many aspiring doctors see their career hopes dashed by the class. The debate veered into whether colleges are credential factories, or public utilities, or just businesses selling a product trying to satisfy their consumers. JVL wrote, 'The course exists for only two purposes: (1) to cull the number of attractive medical school applicants, and (2) to prepare a handful of students for a future in biochemical research.' [...] In 1960, the United States had more doctors per capita than any other country. What happened since then?"

"On John Lennon's Birthday, a Few Words About War: Why "pacifists" aren't "fascifists" [...] The 'bed-in' led half a century ago by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono was denounced as a dumb stunt by a tone-deaf celebrity couple, using terms like 'clueless,' 'illegible,' 'naive,' and 'ineffective.' The pair's peace patter and naked photo shoots are still ridiculed as representative of antiwar activism that supposedly assumes the world runs on flowers, free love, and finger paints. Even the dumbest pacifist, however, never did anything as stupid and destructive as the bombing of North Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan, or the 'liberation' of Libya (or the invasions of Chechnya and Ukraine, for that matter). [...] Yes, this time it really could be 1938. It could also be 1914, when a chain-reaction of lunatic escalations spun a localized conflict into a global conflagration costing millions of senseless deaths. Worrying about the latter isn't treason, it's what Orwell called 'elementary common sense.' It all comes down to a miserable calculation about how vital you think stopping Putin in Ukraine is or isn't to global stability. Anyone who says this is an easy call has not thought this through, especially given our atrocious record when it comes to trying to decrease international tension through the use of force. By any measure, we suck at it, and unlike previous wars, we can't afford to screw this one up."

Robert Reich, again, stating the obvious, "The US ultra-rich justify their low tax rates with three myths – all of them rubbish: A record share of the nation's wealth is in the hands of billionaires, who pay a lower tax rate than the average American. This is indefensible [...] Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. The so-called free market has been distorted by huge campaign contributions from the ultra-rich. Don't lionize the ultra-rich as superior 'self-made' human beings who deserve their billions. They were lucky and had connections."

At The Nation, the podcast, where Bhaskar still likes Bernie in 2024, and Chris Lehman talks about the Brooks Brothers Riot.

"Larry Summers And Jason Furman Aren't Really Democrats [...] This week, we're taking a look at how media deference to a certain group of economic pundits can lead to serious misrepresentation of important political and policy nuances. We'll be looking at two articles: this one from The Washington Post and this one from The New York Times. Each publication sets the tone for the debate that is continued on from cable news to econ twitter to the Halls of Actual Power. The Post piece is actually quite a good article overall, documenting a shift in where (and from whom) the Biden administration gets its economic policy advice. On the other hand, what we get from the Times article is absolutely unhinged economic coverage that is ridiculously one-sided commentary from the right about a budget run amok. The common feature? They both enshrine a specific type of moderate economic stance as the stance of economists. Let's start with the Post. [...] The role that major, ostensibly center left publications play in setting the discussions we have around major economic issues is important. They often tend to misrepresent expert opinions as a form of consensus that they simply aren't. Jason Furman and Larry Summers do not reflect a consensus of Democratic economists. The fact that they are so often treated as the overriding authorities on what the entire field of economics has to say on the issue is concerning. Sometimes, as with the Post, otherwise good reporting can be marred by verbiage that buys into this assumption. Other times, as with the Times, reporting will be purposefully obtuse about who they cite to protect their conservative talking points from real scrutiny. "

It's worth subscribing to The Lever just to hear those guys ragging on Larry Summers, one of the worst villains in the world.

Here's James K. Galbraith with a quick summing up of how our economy went from good to bad and some great suggestions for amelioration that won't happen. "The broken US economy breeds inequality and insecurity. Here's how to fix it: On one side, oceans of wealth and power. On the other, precarity and powerlessness. But we have the tools for reform [...] From the 1930s to the 1970s America had a middle-class economy centered in the heartland, feeding and supplying the world with machinery and goods while drawing labor from the impoverished south to the thriving midwest – an economy of powerful trade unions and world-dominant corporations. This has become a bicoastal economy dominated by globalized finance, insurance and high-end services on one coast, and by information technology, aerospace and entertainment on the other. [...] Perhaps the toughest, most necessary reform is to reduce debts including student debts, to shrink the banks, to restore effective regulation, to prosecute frauds, and to discipline finance to serve the public good. This will take the glamour out of being a banker – and the intoxicating power out of running the Federal Reserve. Is this program realistic? Perhaps not. But consider the path we're on. What I propose is an alternative – to pitchforks, anarchy and civil war."

Miners' strike: Valley community and gay activists' enduring friendships"—The legacy of Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners, depicted in the 2014 film Pride, lives on.

For a long time I've checked YouTube periodically to see if anyone's posted Harvard Lampoon's The Surprising Sheep album, a thing that is very much of its time — and finally, someone did! I think "Welcome to the Club" is my favorite, but you might like to give the rest of the mix a listen, too.

03:28 GMT comment

Thursday, September 29, 2022

If it's square we ain't there

I found this photo of a house in Michigan here.

Ugh, we are a plague house again. It's different this time, but still means having to isolate at a time when there was actually someone I wanted to meet up with.

Back in the early blogging days I actually had to touch-type newspaper articles or quotes from books while I read them from print, because they weren't just easy links all over the net. That was a pain in the ass but still easier than having to copy from photographs posted on the net, which means having to rotate from my text editor to the photo between every phrase. So, curse you, Ryan Grim, for only giving us a photo of this page from your book instead of the text: "When the highest income tax rate was first introduced in the early 20th Century, it applied to just a few families. It's often said that, yes, sure, marginal tax rates were in the 90s and even as high as the 70s up through the 1970s and into the 1980s, but that's largely irrelevant because almost nobody paid that high rate. But that misunderstands the purpose of those high rates as raising revenue. The real upside was that it discouraged earning stratospheric amounts of income." Now go read at the link because it's just too much to type this way, even though it's short.

"How Bill Gates and partners used their clout to control the global Covid response — with little oversight: Four health organizations, working closely together, spent almost $10 billion on responding to Covid across the world. But they lacked the scrutiny of governments, and fell short of their own goals, a POLITICO and WELT investigation found. [...] The four organizations had worked together in the past, and three of them shared a common history. The largest and most powerful was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the world. Then there was Gavi, the global vaccine organization that Gates helped to found to inoculate people in low-income nations, and the Wellcome Trust, a British research foundation with a multibillion dollar endowment that had worked with the Gates Foundation in previous years. Finally, there was the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, the international vaccine research and development group that Gates and Wellcome both helped to create in 2017." This guy wrecked the public response to Covid. And the trouble with these rich philanthropists is that there is no way to vote them out.

Eskow, "The United States is Now an 'Un-Developing' Country: Is progress obsolete? Are we an empire waiting to fall?? The United Nations' latest annual ranking of nations by 'sustainable development goals' will come as a shock for many Americans. Not only aren't we 'Number One,' we're not even close. The top four countries are Scandinavian democracies. The United States ranks forty-first, just below Cuba (that's right, below our Communist neighbor). Countries that outrank us include Estonia, Croatia, the Slovak Republic, Romania, and Serbia."

"'Reverse Freedom Rides': An echo of Martha's Vineyard migrant flights 60 years ago: Tricked by segregationists with promises of work and housing, Black families were dropped in Cape Cod with nothing. Sound familiar? Eliza Davis was bewildered the day she arrived in a wealthy tourist town on Cape Cod. An agricultural worker, she had been promised work and housing if she took a free trip to another state. Days later, disembarking with her eight children, she had little idea where she was, that a president had a family compound down the road, or that she was a 'pawn,' as locals told the New York Times, in a political stunt. Davis, 36, was not among the migrants who arrived Wednesday in Martha's Vineyard — a resort island off Cape Cod where former president Barack Obama has a home — courtesy of a flight arranged by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). She was a Black woman from Alabama, bused to and abandoned in Hyannis, Mass., in 1962, not far from the holiday home of President John F. Kennedy." The Arkansas Democat-Gazette picked up the story and put a a gallery of photos from the time on their online edition.

The wingers are apparently really proud of having sent these asylum-seekers to a "sanctuary city" — except Martha's Vineyard isn't a sanctuary city, nor is Massachusetts a sanctuary state. (And, needless to say, the victims were not in the country illegally, and the full-time residents of the island looked after them until transportation could be arranged to someplace that had better facilities for them, many of which were not available on the small island.) They think they really put one over on the elites, who, of course, were not there in their summer resort town, what with summer being over and all.

And speaking of things the wingers believe, there's the "'Deeply Dangerous Nonsense': Treasury Dept. Debunks GOP Lies About 87,000 Armed IRS Agents: The intensity with which Republicans 'are coming at this is really a testament to how important these resources are going to be—because there are many wealthy tax evaders that stand to lose a lot,' said one official. [...] An official from the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed Friday that, contrary to the unrelenting barrage of lies repeated by GOP operatives for over a week, the Internal Revenue Service is not going to hire 87,000 new agents to harass working people at their homes. [...] Despite analysts' predictions that the 98.2% of U.S. households with annual incomes of $400,000 or less will receive the same tax bill or a slight cut as a result of the IRA, far-right lawmakers have sown disinformation about how the law's provision of roughly $80 billion in new IRS funding over 10 years—money intended to help the agency crack down on rich tax cheats—poses a threat to every American. [...] Where does this oft-repeated number of IRS agents come from? 'The 87,000 figure does exist, buried within a May 2021 Treasury Department report when the Biden administration was pushing a bigger spending bill with the same $80 billion IRS funding,' Reuters noted Friday. 'The report estimated the money could fund 86,852 full-time hires through 2031.' But the actual net increase in staff would be much lower, as the IRS expects more than 50,000 aging Baby Boomer employees to retire over the next half-decade."

"The story of the praying Bremerton coach keeps getting more surreal: When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Bremerton assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy had the right to pray on the field, it wasn't widely understood then that the court had also ordered the school district to give him his job back. [...] So the school district has been flummoxed about what's happened since. They complied by offering to reinstate him, they say, and now the football season is in full swing. But Kennedy is nowhere near the sidelines. 'He's had the paperwork for his reinstatement since August 8th, and we haven't gotten so much as a phone call,' says Karen Bevers, spokesperson for Bremerton schools. [...] It's an increasingly surreal situation for the Bremerton schools. They were ordered to 'reinstate Coach Kennedy to a football coaching position,' according to court documents. But the now-famous coach is out on the conservative celebrity circuit, continuing to tell a story about 'the prayer that got me fired' — even though Bremerton never actually fired him. [...] This did not stop Kennedy's lawyers from telling the Supreme Court repeatedly that he was fired. 'The record is clear that Coach Kennedy was fired for that midfield prayer,' lawyer Paul Clement told the nine justices in the first 15 seconds of the oral arguments of the case in April. The words 'fired,' 'fire' or 'firing' were used 16 times in the hour and a half session. It wasn't true though. The district's lawyers tried to correct the record, to no avail. 'You can't sue them for failing to rehire you if you didn't apply,' one lawyer, Mercer Island's Michael Tierney, argued during a lower court session. 'The District didn't get an application from him, had four positions to fill and filled them with people who had applied. It didn't fail to rehire him.' The Supreme Court simply ignored this inconvenient fact — along with a host of others. At one point during oral arguments, as a different school district attorney was saying the narrative that had been spun didn't fit with the facts — that the coach's prayers were neither silent nor solitary, nor was he fired — Justice Samuel Alito interrupted him, saying 'I know that you want to make this very complicated.' Alito persisted in asking about the coach being fired — six times he said it, to the point that the lawyer finally corrected him. Which is a touchy thing to do with a Supreme Court justice.

"Poll: One year after SB 8, Texans express strong support for abortion rights: One year after Texas implemented what was then the most restrictive abortion law in the country, a majority of Texas voters are expressing strong support for abortion rights. In a new survey, six in 10 voters said they support abortion being "available in all or most cases," and many say abortion will be a motivating issue at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, 11% say they favor a total ban on abortion."

"The Antitrust Shooting War Has Started: In a series of stinging losses, the DOJ and FTC are running up against Trump judges and pro-monopoly government bureaucrats. What happens now? [...] Since the beginning of the Biden administration, we've had something of a Phony War around antitrust. Lots of chatter, bureaucratic shuffling, procedural motions, document demands, Congressional testimony and campaign ads. Calls to break up Google and Facebook and Amazon, do something about consolidation in health care and groceries, private equity and so forth. But limited shooting. Over the past month, the antitrust Phony War has ended. What looked like little action was bureaucratic ramp-up. Lina Khan was hired to run the Federal Trade Commission and finally given a working majority five months ago, Jonathan Kanter was put in place at the Antitrust Division, and the Biden administration laid out a whole-of-government competition policy framework. Now it's time for the shooting war, with the ebb and flow between the anti-monopoly movement and the bureaucratic and institutional obstacles in government and the judiciary."

"The Most Stinging Resignation Letter Ever Written: When Iraq's finance minister stepped down last month, he didn't go quietly. On August 16, as the leading members of Iraq's government gathered for their weekly cabinet meeting in a high-ceilinged hall of the Republican Palace in Baghdad, one of them made an unusual request. Ali Allawi, the finance minister since 2020, was stepping down, and he wanted to read the full text of his resignation letter aloud. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi gave his assent. [...] The letter detailed a series of outrageous scams that had been approved or promoted by some of the men around him, who, he said, had helped create a 'vast octopus of corruption and deceit' that was poisoning the entire country. The letter built gradually toward a conclusion that was almost apocalyptic in scale. Iraq, Allawi said, was on the point of collapse, facing 'a crisis of state, society, and even the individual.' The problem was not just dishonest leaders, but the entire system put in place by the Americans two decades earlier. 'I believe,' he said, 'we are facing one of the most serious challenges that any country has faced in the past century.'"

RIP: "Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis dies aged 87 [...] Lewis is revered in jazz circles for 1960s hits like The In Crowd, Hang on Sloopy and Wade in the Water. He earned three Grammy awards and seven gold records. The trio's first record in 1956 was Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing."

RIP: "Louise Fletcher, from Star Trek and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Fletcher won an Oscar for her iconic portrayal of Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film.Louise Fletcher has died. A veteran actor with more than 100 credits to her name, Fletcher was best known for her Oscar-wining performance as the calmly monstrous Nurse Ratched in 1975's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, giving a turn as one of cinema's great unlikely villains. In addition to that star-making performance, Fletcher appeared in a vast number of film and TV projects, including staking out a place for herself as one of the best antagonists in the entire Star Trek franchise as the manipulative and conniving Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Per Variety, Fletcher died at her home in France earlier today. She was 88." I hadn't known she was raised by two deaf parents and had to be taught to speak by an aunt.

Rot in Perdition: "Ken Starr, Who Turned a Blind Eye to Rape and Defended a Sex Trafficker, Dead at 76: KENNETH STARR, THE lawyer known for investigating Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, mishandling sexual assault cases as president of Baylor University, and helping Jeffrey Epstein secure a sweetheart deal, died Tuesday, Sept. 13. He was 76." And no matter how awful he got, The Washington Post loved him because he'd saved them from a libel charge.

A lot of people got excited when billionaire Yvon Chouinard gave away his company, Patagonia. This was a guy who never wanted to be a boss and never wanted to be a billionaire but he definitely didn't want to take the company public, sell it to some vulture capitalist concern, or otherwise let it slip from its long-time environmental concerns. "Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company's independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe." I think Yvon is a good guy as billionaires go, but trusts mean rich people can control things from beyond the grave so I don't automatically think they are a great thing.

"How Much Can the U.S. Congress Resist Political Money? A Quantitative Assessment: Abstract: The extent to which governments can resist pressures from organized interest groups, and especially from finance, is a perennial source of controversy. This paper tackles this classic question by analyzing votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on measures to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in the years following its passage. To control as many factors as possible that could influence floor voting by individual legislators, the analysis focuses on representatives who originally cast votes in favor of the bill but then subsequently voted to dismantle key provisions of it. This design rules out from the start most factors normally advanced by skeptics to explain vote shifts, since these are the same representatives, belonging to the same political party, representing substantially the same districts. Our panel analysis, which also controls for spatial influences, highlights the importance of time-varying factors, especially political money, in moving representatives to shift their positions on amendments such as the 'swaps push out' provision. Our results suggest that the links between campaign contributions from the financial sector and switches to a pro-bank vote were direct and substantial: For every $100,000 that Democratic representatives received from finance, the odds they would break with their party's majority support for the Dodd-Frank legislation increased by 13.9 percent. Democratic representatives who voted in favor of finance often received $200,000–$300,000 from that sector, which raised the odds of switching by 25–40 percent."

"The super-rich 'preppers' planning to save themselves from the apocalypse: Tech billionaires are buying up luxurious bunkers and hiring military security to survive a societal collapse they helped create, but like everything they do, it has unintended consequences [...] Eventually, they edged into their real topic of concern: New Zealand or Alaska? Which region would be less affected by the coming climate crisis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: global warming or biological warfare? How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: 'How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?' The event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down." Now, if only we can convince them that the collapse has happened and make them go hide in their bunkers and cut themselves off completely from the rest of civilization so we can take over.

Bernie Sanders requests report from CBO, and it says that the bottom 50% has only 2% of the nation's wealth.


Ramsey Lewis Trio, "The In Crowd"

02:58 GMT comment

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

Really couldn't get away too soon

"The Merced River" is one of Jim Collyer's many images from nature.

A few months ago I started to think to myself, "The police are secretly on strike." Sure, they are out there doing weird stuff, but what they aren't doing is stopping crimes. They barely respond to serious calls, they solve crimes at historically low rates, they even just stand around and watch assaults or emergencies where people could be dying. What are they for? Back in June, in "Why Are Police So Bad at Their Jobs?", Alex Sammon wrote: "Not for nothing, clearance rates have dropped to all-time lows at the same time that police budgets have swollen to all-time highs, suggesting that more funding has actually resulted in police being less effective. 'It is a great public mismatch in understanding, training, and expectations,' Baughman told me. 'Increases in police officers or police budgets have not been shown to reduce crime or make us safer.'" But maybe Alex Pareene's answer in "What Do Cops Do?" is simpler than my surmise: "Having spent many years observing cop behavior, reading news about cops, and occasionally even asking them for help, I have come to a pretty simple but comprehensive answer: They do what is easy, and avoid what is difficult. Seen through that rubric, much cop behavior suddenly becomes much more explicable."

It's funny how the good things in the supposedly Democratic bill that was recently passed don't actually begin until *after* the next presidential election (so Dems won't get credit for them when people go to the polls, but if the GOP wins as expected, they get the credit when folks start to feel the benefits). But as Stiglitz warned a couple years ago, "Republicans planted a time bomb in their 2017 tax cut bill that will actually raise most people's taxes: On Saturday, writing for The New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz warned that many people's taxes are about to go up. But it's not because Joe Biden's campaign plan raises taxes, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed. It's because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — the controversial tax cut bill passed by Republicans on a party-line vote in 2017 — has a provision that will start slowly raising taxes next year. And ultimately, Stiglitz warned, many low and middle income people will actually pay more than they did before the bill passed in the first place. "President Trump and his congressional allies hoodwinked us," wrote Stiglitz. "The law they passed initially lowered taxes for most Americans, but it built in automatic, stepped tax increases every two years that begin in 2021 and that by 2027 would affect nearly everyone but people at the top of the economic hierarchy. All taxpayer income groups with incomes of $75,000 and under — that's about 65 percent of taxpayers — will face a higher tax rate in 2027 than in 2019." "For most, in fact, it's a delayed tax increase dressed up as a tax cut," wrote Stiglitz."

"California lawmakers extend the life of the state's last nuclear power plant: Citing searing summer temperatures and expected energy shortages, California lawmakers approved legislation aimed at extending the life of the state's last-operating nuclear power plant. The Diablo Canyon plant - the state's largest single source of electricity - had been slated to shutter by 2025. The last-minute proposal passed by the state legislature early Thursday could keep it open five years longer, in part by giving the plant's owner, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a $1.4 billion forgivable loan."

"Why Obama-Era Economists Are So Mad About Student Debt Relief: It exposes their failed mortgage debt relief policies after the Great Recession. [...] Let's be very clear: The Obama administration's bungled policy to help underwater borrowers and to stem the tide of devastating foreclosures, carried out by many of the same people carping about Biden's student loan cancellation, led directly to nearly ten million families losing their homes. This failure of debt relief was immoral and catastrophic, both for the lives of those involved and for the principle of taking bold government action to protect the public. It set the Democratic Party back years. And those throwing a fit about Biden's debt relief plan now are doing so because it exposes the disaster they precipitated on the American people."

"Why It'll Be Tough for Republicans to Cancel Student Debt Cancellation: There are significant legal hurdles, and if Democrats implement debt forgiveness quickly, significant political ones as well. Republicans are so incensed with President Biden's student loan forgiveness that they want to go to court to block it. That seems like political suicide to me, and if they want to actively align with debt collectors and label themselves as the 'Gimme Some Money' party to 43 million student borrowers, let them go ahead. The main legal hurdle Republicans face to their dream of immiserating student debtors is the concept of 'standing.' A potential plaintiff has to be harmed by the cancellation of student debt in order to sue the federal government over it. And standing is going to be hard to come by, for a variety of reasons."

RIP: "Barbara Ehrenreich, author who resisted injustice, dies aged 81: Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of more than 20 books on social justice themes ranging from women's rights to inequality and the inequities of the American healthcare system, has died at the age of 81. The news that Ehrenreich had died on 1 September was released by her son, Ben Ehrenreich, on Friday. He accompanied the announcement with a comment redolent of his mother's spirit: 'She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell.' Ehrenreich battled over a half a century as a writer committed to resisting injustice and giving a voice to those who were typically unheard." It was already as late as 1978 when I first encountered her (in For Her Own Good), but I feel like she informed my whole adult life. Still a bit shattered to know this legendary bright light is gone.

RIP: "Mikhail Gorbachev: Last Soviet leader dies aged 91: Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who brought the Cold War to a peaceful end, has died aged 91. Mr Gorbachev took power in 1985 and introduced reforms, as well as opening up the Soviet Union to the world. But he was unable to prevent the slow collapse of the union, and many Russians blamed him for the years of turmoil that ensued. Outside Russia, he was widely respected, with the UN chief saying he had 'changed the course of history'. 'Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a kind statesman,' UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. "The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace." The hospital in Moscow where he died said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness." I remember watching what Gorbachev was doing and realizing he was walking a perilous tightrope with only the slimmest chance of success. He might have made it if he'd had me write that speech after they rescued him, but he went the wrong way on it and just pissed people off. A shame, I really think he wanted what was best for his nation but there were just too many who wanted him to fail.

On Labor Day, Richard Eskow writes about "Barbara Ehrenreich and the Real Work of Labor Day [...] But every woman who took part in them helped advance labor rights, by being present, conscious, and brave. Our speech and actions resonate in ways we may never come to understand. Our duty, and our privilege, is to do the work whatever the outcome. Barbara Ehrenreich did that work. So did the women whose actions she and Fuentes recorded. Every walkout, every outstretched hand, every word written or spoken in defense of workers' rights, is a victory—whether it results in immediate and obvious success or not. The only failure is not to have tried."

"Despite Texas' lack of a state income tax, most Texans pay more in taxes than Californians, data shows: Those coming to Texas for a tax break may want to turn around if they are not in the top 1 percent of earners. A recent post on Reddit's main economic forum included a 2018 graphic that shows Texans pay more taxes than Californians unless they are in the top 1 percent. The post is one of the highest-rated in the last month on the social media platform. It is unclear why the post was shared now."

This isn't Point/Counterpoint, but it's two ways of looking at our current economic discourse on corporations and one follows the other. Tony Williams wrote "Debt slavery is a natural consequence of unregulated capitalism [...] A corporation has no morals. A corporation has no empathy for people who are affected by its actions. A corporation's only goal is to enrich its bosses and shareholders. Corruption and pollution are simply ways to reduce cost; economists call this an externality. If a person behaved like a corporation, we would call them dangerously insane. [...] In summary, Wall St is a government sponsored organized crime syndicate. It will not reform itself unless the perpetrators go to jail, and even that might not be enough. Wall St needs to be dismantled." But Dave Johnson thought this misunderstands what a corporation is, and wrote, "Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy [...] "Here's the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our ('We the People') government. That's it. Corporations are not sentient entities. Contracts don't 'think' or 'want' or 'need' or say' or 'care' or 'do' anything. Neither does a will, nor a lease, nor a confidentiality agreement. Corporations also can't be 'greedy' or 'criminal' or 'good' or 'altruistic.' But people can. When we say these things about corporations we are reinforcing misunderstanding of what a corporation is. This helps the executives running corporations get away with all kind of bad acts. [...] Here is the key point. Obviously the reason we pass these laws is to benefit us. That's supposed to be why our democratic government does things – to benefit us: We the People; to serve our interests. Why ELSE would a democratic government of We the People have written legislation creating these agreements that create entities called corporations?"

"Inside The Right's Historic Billion-Dollar Dark Money Transfer : Industrialist Barre Seid funded a new dark money group run by Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo, who helped eliminate federal abortion rights. An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives' efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court. Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society."

About a minute and a half of 1957: 15th World Science Fiction Convention— 0.00Jean Bogert with gun at start. 0.05 Guy with glasses looks like Sandy Sandfield, 0.06 Norman Shorrock over shoulder of guy in mask, 0.12 Eric Jones interviewed, 0.25 Ron Buckmaster interviewed, 0.50 Frank & Belle Dietz interviewed in alien costumes. Round-faced teenager in the background is Mike Moorcock. 1.18 Guy with moustache, right rear is Ken McIntyre

Felix Cavaliere with Ringo Starr & the All Star Band (Randy Bachman, Mark Farner, Billy Preston, John Entwistle, Zak Starkey, Mark Rivera), Performing "Groovin'", "People Got To Be Free", and "Good Lovin'", 1995.

22:20 GMT comment

Monday, August 29, 2022

Crowding out old realities

"Basilica da Estrela (2019) by Ivo Antunes is from a collection on Trams of Lisbon.

"The OnlyFans Lawsuit Illuminates the Danger Social Media Companies Pose to Us All—Here's What You Need to Know: It feels like every time we turn around there is some new, terrifying information coming out about mega-corporations involving themselves in our personal lives. Whether it is Amazon trying to buy Roomba to make sure they know what we are doing at all times or Meta/Facebook handing over private Facebook messages for an abortion investigation, it all feels a little violating. Well, here comes another doozy. This time, it is a lawsuit filed against OnlyFans and Meta/Facebook. Usually, OnlyFans appears in the news because of an issue related to pornography use or sex workers' rights. But this lawsuit concerns social media power and capitalism—and their threat to humanity. There is technically more than one lawsuit going against OnlyFans and Meta right now, but they fall under the same umbrella. Adult Performing Artists Guild (which represents several adult entertainers who used OnlyFans, along with other adult content sites) and rival OnlyFans companies, JustForFans and FanCentro, have all filed lawsuits. All the cases center on one allegation—OnlyFans bribed Meta employees to put some adult entertainers on a terrorist watch list." Why? To punish (and shadow-ban) creators who weren't exclusive to OnlyFans.

The headlines said the FBI "raided" Mar-a-Lago, a term I resent on the grounds that they didn't show up in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep and break down the door, wreck the place, maybe kill a few innocent bystanders, and then find out they'd gone to the wrong address, the way it's normally done. They sure don't alert your lawyer and agree to meet them there at an agreed time in broad daylight and make an orderly retrieval of the items you removed from another residence illegally. Anyway, here's a little opinion piece from Johnny Ganz on "The Case for Going After Trump."

"Police Lied to Get the Warrant to Search Breonna Taylor's Home: The March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, which caused widespread protest around the country, was the result of police lies to obtain a warrant and racist police violence after officers forced their way into her apartment. On August 4, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the federal grand jury indictments of four Louisville Metro Police officers involved in the raid that resulted in Taylor's death. Three of the officers were accused of violating Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by lying to secure a no-knock warrant. The officers who sought the warrant 'knew that the affidavit used to obtain the warrant to search Taylor's home contained information that was false, misleading, and out-of-date; that the affidavit omitted material information; and that the officers lacked probable cause for the search,' the indictment reads."

If you give people carte blanche to rob you, they rob you. "FBI 'Lied' About Its Intentions, Planned to Seize Contents of Private Vaults, Lawyers Say: During its investigation of a business in California that offers secure deposit boxes to clients, the FBI planned to use civil forfeiture to sell every asset worth over $5,000 in every customer's box before a judge had even seen an application for a warrant to raid the business, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that is legally representing people who said the FBI seized their assets in an overly broad operation. The news provides an extra wrinkle to a case that has alarmed privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates. Although criminals allegedly made use of U.S. Private Vaults, so did ordinary people, who were swept up in the case and would have lost their property to the FBI for no fault of their own. 'The government has a duty to be honest with the court when it applies for a warrant under the Fourth Amendment,' senior attorney at the Institute for Justice Robert Frommer said in a statement. 'But the FBI lied about its intentions in claiming to only be interested in the property of the business, and not the box holders. Ultimately, the lure of civil forfeiture turned these federal cops into robbers.'"

"Former CIA Officer Joshua Schulte Faces as Many as 80 Years in Prison After Being Convicted For Providing Information to WikiLeaks: A federal jury in New York last month convicted former CIA officer Joshua Schulte on nine felony counts under the Espionage Act for providing information to WikiLeaks that became known as Vault 7. Schulte has consistently denied that he was the source of the information. Two years ago, he was convicted on two of the original 11 charges, while the jury hung on the remaining nine. The most recent trial, in which Schulte represented himself, was on those nine counts, and he now faces as many as 80 years in prison. Schulte is yet to be tried on state child pornography charges. Prosecutors had literally no evidence that Schulte had taken the data from the CIA and transferred it to WikiLeaks. But they contended that he was a computer genius who is so brilliant that he was able to cover his tracks."

"Our Bewildering Economy: What are the contradictory trends and policy choices? And does the Inflation Reduction Act live up to its name? [...] The Inflation Reduction Act provides several examples. The political problem is that many of them do not take effect in time for the November midterms. For instance, the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices does not become operative until 2026, and only for ten major drugs. Other things that the government might do to damp down price pressures would require even more far-reaching action. These all reflect structural factors in the economy that add to price pressures and cannot easily be categorized as 'supply' or 'demand,' such as monopoly pricing power and our need to produce more inputs domestically to protect against supply chain shocks."

Ryan Cooper says, "Joe Biden's Student Debt Forgiveness Is a Good Start [...] Biden also announced new rules to punish institutions that load up graduates with lots of debt, and new reporting mechanisms to steer prospective students away from them. As welcome as this news is, it doesn't do enough to fix the broader system of higher-education financing. Much like the medical system, higher education is badly in need of price regulation. For decades now, the government has been shoveling subsidies into colleges and universities, and (with a few exceptions) they have responded by jacking their prices through the roof. Biden can't do this by himself, of course, but it's long since time for the government to start demanding a better deal for itself—and American students."

"'A Wrong Never Righted': Court Upholds Mississippi's 1890 Jim Crow Voting Law: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold a Jim Crow law that Mississippi's white-supremacist leaders adopted in 1890 in an attempt to disenfranchise Black residents for life. White lawmakers designated certain crimes that they believed Black people were more likely to commit as lifelong disenfranchising crimes. The court's conservative majority admitted that the Jim Crow law was 'steeped in racism,' but said the State had made enough changes in the 132 years since to override its white supremacist taint. A 2018 analysis found that the law still disproportionately disenfranchises Black Mississippians compared to white residents."

"Ronald Reagan stuck it to millennials: A college debt history lesson no one tells: Dramatic, awful changes occurred on my generation's watch -- and it amounts to a fiendishly successful conspiracy. [...] By the time Reagan was elected to the nation's highest office a decade and a half later, these powers had devised perfect tools to make sure the spirit of 1960s protest would never again erupt on campus. During Reagan's two terms as president, dedicated funding for outright grants-in-aid decreased, federal guidelines pushed individual loans, and private bill collectors were brought in to ensure that the hardest kind of debt to escape was whatever you took on for your education. Even more important was the shift in tone and expectation. Public goods became private services, and by the end of the 1980s, the anti-tax, infra-structure-starving, neoliberal Weltanschauung meant that as states cut their budgets, support for higher education was thrown into a cage match with every other necessary public good. Had anyone at my reunion complained about the complacency of today's students or bragged about how they got through school without taking on staggering debt, I could have reminded them that the class of '84 was the last to have a higher percentage of grants than loans."

"Why Is Larry Summers Engaged in Science Denial About Inflation?: It could be his conflicts of interest. Larry Summers doesn't like to be criticized. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently penned an op-ed arguing that viewing monetary policy as the sole solution to inflation is both short-sighted and dangerous, and it cited Summers's belief that unemployment would have to jump significantly to get inflation under control. Warren's critique of 'monetary policy and my economic analysis are, I believe, misguided and if heeded could have devastating consequences for tens of millions of workers,' Summers tweeted in response. Yes, the guy who thinks workers need to be tossed out of their jobs is supremely concerned about workers. [...] The bigger issue with Summers's prediction is that his understanding of the source of inflation centered almost exclusively on federal fiscal stimulus starting a wage-price spiral. That's why in his Warren-bashing Twitter thread, he touted his opposition to 'massive stimulus policy and easy money.' The thing is, nowhere, in the thread or outside, has Summers actually been able to demonstrate the link between federal stimulus and prolonged inflation. Given the global nature of inflation, American domestic policy seems at best an extraordinarily weak explanation. Why would one set of $1,400 stimulus checks in the U.S. raise prices across the world? [...] In particular, the evidence for Summers's own argument, that inflation is being driven largely by runaway wage growth, is especially sparse. Real wages have been falling, and even before that, wage increases lagged overall inflation. At this point, Summers is now embodying the 'science denial' he accused others of months ago."

Larry Summers isn't the only one who the networks trot out when they need someone to explain why we can't have nice things. "Marc Goldwein and the Limits of Deficit Scolding: On student debt cancellation, America's foremost spending scold believes whatever he needs to believe to stop progress. [...] Goldwein is emblematic of the kinds of self-described wonks who have 'well, actually'-ed student debtors to the political margins for years. He talks fast, spouts misleading statistics offhandedly in interviews, and is bemusedly dismissive of anyone with a different view. He acts like what much of the news media assumes a smart economics guy acts like. So is he right that student debt forgiveness is a mistake? Perhaps the better question is: What does Marc Goldwein actually believe about student debt? [...] So according to Goldwein, we couldn't cancel student loans in 2020 because the boost to the economy would be a paltry $115–$360 billion. But we also can't cancel student loans in 2022 because the boost to the economy would be a whopping, inflationary (gasp!) $70–$95 billion!"

"Inflation Is No Excuse for Squeezing Workers: The Fed's decision to raise interest rates for the fourth time this year threatens to loosen the tightest U.S. labor market in decades. What would it look like if policymakers consolidated workers' recent gains instead?"

"Book banned at a school named after its author: The book Life is So Good, co-written by George Dawson, is banned at George Dawson Middle School in Southlake, Texas. The same George Dawson who wrote this book is the George Dawson the school is named after."

"How Biden did it: The Clean Air Act of 1970 authorized the government to regulate air pollution. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Joe Biden just signed into law, allocates more than $300 billion to energy and climate reform, including $30 billion in subsidies for manufacturers of solar panels and components, wind turbines, inverters, and batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. Notice the difference? The Inflation Reduction Act is a large and important step toward slowing or reversing climate change. It also illustrates the nation's shift away from regulating businesses to subsidizing businesses."

Hm, let's seewho Atrios is calling "America's Worst Transportation Secretaries" — Oh, you guessed. "Pete Buttigieg's Feeble Policy on Flight Cancellations: The transportation secretary could be doing far more with his existing authority. The new DOT rule could make matters worse for consumers. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been widely criticized for allowing airlines to cancel flights with no consequences. The big carriers sell tickets for flights that they know they lack the crews to serve, a practice that then leads to mass cancellations. The airlines have successfully duped passengers into taking credits for future flights, rather than offering cash refunds as required by law, giving the airlines billions of dollars in cash flow that belongs to their customers. On August 3, Buttigieg finally issued a draft rule for public comment, compelling airlines to give cash refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled and providing clearer definitions. It sounds great, but in practice the rule could actually give the airlines two more years to continue their anti-consumer behavior." Just enforce the existing law, McKinsey Pete.

This interview was done before Frost won his primary, but I was just delighted at the very idea of having an unusually young Congresscritter with that name. "Maxwell Frost Interview: Florida Politics, Abortion Access, More: If you've heard one thing about 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, it's probably that he could be one of the first Gen Z members of Congress. Despite his age, he has no shortage of political experience under his belt; Frost previously worked for March for Our Lives and the ACLU while spending his free time protesting in the streets of Orlando during the 2020 uprising for Black lives. It makes sense that he spent plenty of time throughout considering how to get his generation involved."

"New Apostolic Reformation Faces Profound Rift Due To Trump Prophecies And 'Spiritual Manipulation Of The Prophetic Gift': Four weeks after the January 6th insurrection, two leaders of the revivalist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) were concerned about the future of their movement. They felt that influential apostles and prophets had gone too far in forecasting the reelection of Donald Trump; denying the reality of the loss by a man considered to be God's anointed; speaking for God in detailing how Trump was being thwarted by demonic forces; and claiming that God will restore him, possibly by any means necessary." These are scary people.

"Biden's Presidency Is Sinking Because of Conservative Democrats—Not the Left: Don't blame progressives for Biden's failures. It's the party's right flank that abandoned the working class. [...] What all of these critiques miss is a simple fact: Ever since Biden took office, progressives have been working to make his agenda a reality and bring relief for the very working people now facing economic havoc, while Democrats on the right flank of the party have obstructed this program every step of the way. But rather than deal with the uncomfortable truth that so-called 'moderates' are the ones imperiling both Biden's presidency and Democrats' electoral fortunes, establishment-friendly commentators are yet again lazily training their sights on their favorite scapegoat — the Left."

"Wokeness isn't why Democrats are unpopular: Whenever we get a new clip of some Democratic official, journalist, social media poster, cartoon character, guy from another country, Republican, etcetera saying something woke, an avalanche of pundits make the same point: this is why Democrats can't win. So when Kamala Harris gave us her pronouns and described what she's wearing at a meeting on disabilities, it was only a matter of time until guys like Kinzinger above made the same point. And whenever I see this, I always think the same thing. Does anyone really believe that if Democrats were providing Medicare for All, universal childcare, UBI, free college, and so on — that voters would throw all that out the window because Kamala Harris talked about her blue suit? If you could have real economic security, would you actually trade that away because a politician said 'birth giver' instead of 'mother'?"

"The Modern-Day Company Towns of Arkansas: Fortune 100 giants Tyson Foods and Walmart have heavy influence over two cities within 20 miles of one another, tucked into the northwest corner of the state. On a sweltering June Sunday earlier this summer, under the shade of a pavilion in Springdale, Arkansas's Luther George Park, Alice Gachuzo-Colin launched her campaign for city council. The first Black woman ever to run for office in Springdale, Gachuzo-Colin wants to move from what she calls 'old Springdale'—long dominated by white bankers, farmers, and businessmen—to 'new Springdale,' a place more representative of the town's current demographics and culture."

A legendary fighter for abortion rights released a book recently, and Nicole Sandler did an interview for her show: "Bill Baird is recognized widely as the 'Father of the birth control and abortion-rights movement. He was jailed eight times in five states in the 1960s for lecturing on abortion and birth control, and is believed to be the first and only non-lawyer in American history with three Supreme Court victories. He just celebrated his 90th birthday, but is still fighting for our rights. Today, he joins me to give us all a bit of a history lesson and explain why we must fight on!"

"Climate activists fill golf holes with cement after water ban exemption: Climate activists in southern France have filled golf course holes with cement to protest against the exemption of golf greens from water bans amid the country's severe drought. The group targeted sites near the city of Toulouse, calling golf the "leisure industry of the most privileged". The exemption of golf greens has sparked controversy as 100 French villages are short of drinking water."

"Facebook Created An Advanced AI And It Won't Stop Criticizing Facebook [...] 'Our country is divided, and he didn't help with that at all,' it told the BBC of Zuckerberg. 'His company exploits people for money and he doesn't care. It needs to stop!' The bot also told CNET reporter Queenie Wong it was 'considering deleting my fb account,' because there were 'too many trolls.' Can't argue there!"

RIP: "Alexei Panshin (1940-2022): Pioneering sf critic and Nebula-winning novelist Alexei Panshin died August 21 at the age of 82. His son Tobiah Panshin made the announcement on Facebook. 'Alexei suffered a sudden cardiac arrest on Wednesday. He passed away today, peacefully. He had many sayings he liked to quote to me, most of which he made up himself. A common one was, "How can we sink, when we can fly?" If any part of him persists in the infinite reaches of this universe, I suspect that he is flying now.'" I enjoyed his work when I first encountered it, but he wasn't a prolific fiction writer. In recent years, though, I've enjoyed his Facebook posts, and I will certainly miss him there.

Swear to god, it's like "success" makes you stupid. "Why rich people tend to think they deserve their money [...] One experiment by psychologists at the University of California, Irvine, invited pairs of strangers to play a rigged Monopoly game where a coin flip designated one player rich and one poor. The rich players received twice as much money as their opponent to begin with; as they played the game, they got to roll two dice instead of one and move around the board twice as fast as their opponent; when they passed 'Go,' they collected $200 to their opponent's $100. [...] In various ways — through body language and boasting about their wealth, by smacking their pieces loudly against the playing board and making light of their opponents' misfortune — the rich players began to act as though they deserved the good fortune that was largely a result of their lucky roll of the dice. At the end of the game, when researchers asked the rich players why they had won the game, not one person attributed it to luck. 'They don't talk about the flip of the coin. They talk about the things that they did. They talk about their acumen, they talk about their competencies, they talk about this decision or that decision,' that contributed to their win, Piff said in an interview with host David Brancaccio."

I liked this 2017 article so much I am posting it again: "Mintz: A modest tax proposal: End payroll taxes, hire IRS goons and bring back the guillotine [...] We eliminate the estate tax, like one side wants, but instead replace it with a guillotine. Anyone passing along more than $5.5 million will have their heirs beheaded. Not only will the prevent the rise of an concentrated aristocracy - guillotines being their historic weakness - but it will also encourage rich families to pour their money into charities and the economy. Everybody wins." (Actually, I don't want rich people choosing charities, they just ruin things, like Bill Gates does. Maybe we could designate something useful they could give to, like non-sectarian soup kitchens and public libraries.)

"Late Star Trek Actor Nichelle Nichols to Have Ashes Sent Into Space: Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols' ashes are set to launch on board United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur, in a send-off fitting for Lieutenant Uhura. [...] According to TMZ, the actor's ashes will be added to the United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket which is set to launch for the moon in December 2022. The rocket will also carry the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, as well as James Doohan, who played Scotty in The Original Series, and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel."

I can only agree with Jon Stewart's ancient Pizza Rant.

Video of baby elephant's first steps!

Max Frost and the Troopers, "The Shape of Things To Come"

09:03 GMT comment

Friday, August 12, 2022

Not Gonna Lie

Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, "Is Democracy Constitutional? In Moore v. Harper the Supreme Court will decide if anyone besides itself should be able to adjudicate American election law. Every American child in public school learns that the U.S. political system is one of checks and balances, in which the judicial, executive, and legislative branches constrain one another to ensure that no one branch of government exercises too much power. One pending case before the Supreme Court asks: What if they didn't? In Moore v. Harper, North Carolina Republicans are arguing that no other state body, including the state supreme court, has the power to restrict the legislature's ability to set voting rules—specifically ones allowing legislators to gerrymander the state, in defiance of a ruling by the state supreme court finding that their plan violated the state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. This belief is based on a crank legal premise called the 'independent-state-legislature theory.' You'd think that the theory's recent vintage would make it anathema to self-identified originalists, but among most of the justices this philosophy is implemented with scarcely more rigor than one might put into scanning Wikipedia to win an argument with a stranger online. More disturbing, the popularity of the theory among conservative legal elites is further indication of their commitment to an idea of 'democracy' in which the Republican Party is simply not allowed to lose, and of their desire to alter the system to ensure that it cannot."

"Warren, Padilla Demand Buttigieg Crack Down on Airline Industry's 'Rampant Unfair Practices': It is well within the secretary of transportation's power to rein in airlines, the senators said. Calling on the Biden administration to use its authority to protect U.S. travelers from "rampant unfair practices" by commercial airliners, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Alex Padilla wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday to condemn the exorbitant costs, frequent flight cancellations and delays, and lack of transparency in the industry."

It's Time for Public Pharma [...] CRUCIALLY, THE GROUNDWORK HAS ALREADY BEEN LAID in the nation's biggest state. In 2020, in a bill that came as a surprise to many, California passed SB 852, the California Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which empowered the state legally to create a public label for buying and selling drugs at cost, called CalRx. A second provision, which passed the state Senate in May and awaits passage in the Assembly, would direct millions more from the annual budget toward the production of a generic manufacturing plant in the state. Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom has pushed state lawmakers to put $100 million into developing CalRx and getting the state's manufacturing operation off the ground. Not surprisingly, the program is beginning with insulin, as roughly four million state residents suffer from diabetes, a quarter of whom cannot afford the insulin they rely on. Not for nothing, the California program is also backed by the highly organized diabetes rights groups in the state."

David Dayen, "Cut Off Private Equity's Money Spigot: A variety of legislative and regulatory actions would make it hard for private equity to stay in business. That should be the goal. It is genuinely hard to find a more destructive economic force in America today than the private equity industry. It encompasses all of the negative trends that have undermined living standards for the broad mass of citizens since the Reagan era: the escalating share of national income going to finance, the rise of market concentration, the contempt for workers, the yawning gap between rich and poor. The biggest private equity firms buy up companies with borrowed money and load them with debt. While fund managers extract cash through fees and financial engineering, the companies struggle to pay off these new obligations on their balance sheet. The subsequent cost-cutting of jobs, wages, and pension plans can be seen as a direct transfer from labor to capital, with the financiers growing impossibly rich while everyone else suffers. The leveraged-buyout era has immiserated labor, dampened productive investment, and degraded the experience of workers, customers, and the larger economy. We should ameliorate this suffering by ending private equity as we know it."

"New Biden BA.5 'Plan' Openly Abandons Metrics for Preventing Infection, Butchers Mask and Ventilation Policy: [...] In this post, I'll skip over the vaccination and booster controversies, and focus on the Biden Administration's strategic goals, and also on masks and ventilation. I'm doing this for two reasons. First, I'm committed to policy of layered protection ('Swiss Cheese Model'), which I think would both subsume Biden's vax-first policy and be more effective in preventing airborne transmission, especially given that the operational definition of Biden's 'Preparedness Plan' has turned out to be 'Let 'Er Rip,' turning the United States into a global reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Second, I believe that the Biden Administration's guidance on both masking and ventilation is lethal, or to put matters more politely, won't save as many lives as it could. (The 'Fact Sheet' relies heavily on CDC content, so I'll have to stumble into that gruesome morass as well, for which I apologize in advance.)"

"The FBI Confirms Its Brett Kavanaugh Investigation Was A Total Sham: Oh, well, it's not like he received a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court or anything. [...] Given these allegations—in addition to Kavanaugh's temperament, which, to put it in terms he can understand, could be best described as 'a hothead who just did a 10 Jägerbombs'—it struck many as outrageous for him to be given a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. That sense of outrage only deepened last year, when we learned that the FBI had received 4,500—4,500!—tips about Kavanaugh, which were referred to the White House, i.e. the organization trying to get the guy confirmed to the Court. And now, the FBI has confirmed that, yeah, it didn't really feel the need to look into any of those tips, and when it did follow up on some, the White House was making sure it didn't dig too far."

"Lobbying Blitz Pushed Fertilizer Prices Higher, Fueling Food Inflation: Emails show fertilizer producer Mosaic lobbied heavily for tariffs under Trump, then used them to dominate the market. [...] The yearslong lobbying campaign resulted in the Trump administration recommending tariffs in 2020 that went into effect last year on phosphate fertilizer from Russia and Morocco, the first- and fourth-largest fertilizer exporters in the world, respectively. As foreign imports plummeted, Mosaic gained control of 90 percent of the U.S. phosphate fertilizer market."

"Why Are Democrats Bragging About Plunging the Private Sector into Deficit?: Democrats want to keep shrinking the deficit to fight inflation but also keep the economy out of recession. Good luck with that. [...] Looking at the economy through the lens of a stock-flow consistent model frequently allowed Godley to anticipate problems that others were missing. For example, when democrats and republicans were celebrating the emerging fiscal surpluses in the late 1990s and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was predicting surpluses as far as they eye could see, Godley was pointing to the concomitant deterioration in the private sector's financial position and challenging the coherence of the CBO forecast."

"The Forde report: my experience of Southside in 2017: After 27 months the much-delayed inquiry has arrived — having worked at the heart of the struggle between the Corbyn team and the permanent party staff, I know the grim picture it paints to be true, writes BEN SELLERSBACK in April 2020, a leaked Labour Party report told the story of hostility, abuse, bullying, racism and sexism among the party's paid staff, as part of a broader investigation into the handling of anti-semitism claims. Martin Forde QC was tasked by Labour leader Keir Starmer with leading an inquiry into the claims." It couldn't be clearer that the party staff and Parliamentary Labour Party were actively working for a loss to Boris Johnson in the election.

RIP: "Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in Star Trek, Dies at 89." This is not unexpected, of course, as we all knew she'd been having trouble for some time. But she was an inspiration to many, and the most beautiful woman on prime-time, and when I met her she was even more stunning and took my breath away. She was gracious, of course, as we've always known her. But I didn't know this: "Born Grace Nichols in Robbins, Ill. on Dec. 28, 1932, Nichols began her show business career at age 16 singing with Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. Later, she sang with his band." And of course, she said my favorite line, when the mirror universe Sulu addressed her as "fair maid": "Sorry, neither." (Slideshow here, with many recent pics but unfortunately not the best Uhura photos.)

RIP: "Motown Songwriting Legend Lamont Dozier Dies at 81: Lamont Dozier, a Motown songwriting legend who helped define popular music in the '60s, has died at age 81. He helped craft early hits for the Supremes, the Isley Brothers and Four Tops before later returning to the top of the charts with Phil Collins. Dozier's death was confirmed by his son, Lamont Dozier Jr. No cause of death was immediately released. How many times did I see those three names, "Holland, Dozier, Holland" in parentheses under the song title? It's stamped into my memory forever. And, of course, an excuse to post links to what you already know are some of my favorite tracks: "Heatwave," "Can I Get A Witness?", "Baby I Need Your Loving" - and too many more by those artists, The Supremes, The Isley Brothers, and others. So much love.

RIP: "Tony Dow, Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, dies aged 77: Tony Dow, who as Wally Cleaver on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver helped create the popular and lasting image of the American teenager of the 1950s and 60s, died Wednesday. He was 77. Frank Bilotta, who represented Dow in his work as a sculptor, confirmed his death in an email to the Associated Press. No cause was given, but Dow had been in hospice care and announced in May that he had been diagnosed with prostate and gall bladder cancer." I don't think Beaver ever understood any more than I did why Wally had a creepy friend like Eddie Haskell. Dow had been sculpting in his later years, and there are a couple of nice photos in this group of photos of him.

RIP: "Veteran British actor David Warner, star of The Omen and Tron, dies aged 80: The stage and screen veteran's multifaceted career included roles in Titanic, Time Bandits and Straw Dogs, as well as a renowned Hamlet for the RSC. The veteran British actor David Warner has died aged 80. The BBC reported that Warner died from 'a cancer-related illness' and that his family confirmed the news 'with an overwhelmingly heavy heart'. Warner's varied career spanned cinema, stage, television and radio. He was regarded as the finest Hamlet of his generation on stage, then gravitated into cinema as a character actor, travelling from British 1960s cinema to the sci-fi universes of Tron, Doctor Who and Star Trek to James Cameron's Titanic, in which he played the malicious enforcer Spicer Lovejoy." He was in so many of my favorite movies and TV shows. I guess the earliest thing I must have seen him in was Tom Jones when it came out, though I don't remember it now. On the other hand, I've seen the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol enough times that it's Warner I see when I think of Cratchit. He died just five days short of his 81st birthday.

RIP: "Bernard Cribbins: a warm, kindly titan of children's entertainment" and Donna Noble's granddad in Doctor Who, at 91, after a lifetime's-long career.

On the night of the first Tuesday in November of 2000, Tim Russert at first resisted his boss' demand that he prematurely call the election for Bush. He knew it was wrong, he tried not to, but Jack Welch was an evil man and he threatened Russert's job and the rest is history. I knew then that Welch was an evil, dangerous man, but I had no idea how evil until I heard Sam Seder's interview with David Gelles, who's written a book on "Jack Welch: The Man Who Broke Capitalism."

"Democrats' Betrayals Are Jeopardizing American Democracy: History is screaming at Democrats to both rescue the economy and save democracy from a meltdown. They're doing the opposite. American democracy is in the midst of a meltdown — the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Republicans' intensifying crusade to limit voting rights and deny election results make that abundantly clear. Conflict-averse Democrats in Washington, D.C., are on the verge of letting this turn into a full-fledged nightmare. Torn between their corporate donors and the electorate, they are studiously avoiding the two key questions: What is really fueling this crisis? And how can it be stopped? The answer to the first question can be seen in headlines this week about billionaires growing their fortunes by $2 trillion during the pandemic, and now creating an overheated market for luxury yachts, all while one in five households just lost their entire life savings. Americans keep voting to change this crushing dystopia and yet they continue being force-fed more of the same — most recently with Democrats threatening to side with their financiers and abandon their whole economic agenda. Such betrayals from both parties have been telling more and more of the country that democracy is a farce. The way for Democrats to combat that disillusionment is to learn from their party's history during the Great Depression and the Great Recession. In the former debacle, the Democratic Party halted a potential meltdown of democratic institutions by delivering real help to millions of people. In the latter crisis, the Democratic Party's refusal to do the same resulted in the political meltdown that fueled the ascent of Donald Trump — and that continues to fuel the MAGA movement today."

Zach Carter "On Economics And Democracy: High unemployment is extremely dangerous. [...] FDR was not a cheap demagogue throwing red meat to the masses that he knew would be counterproductive. He was not an economist or a political theorist, but he was smart enough to recognize that the policy program that had spawned The Great Depression was probably not all it was cracked up to be. And he surrounded himself with a very famous Brain Trust – a coterie of intellectuals who had different, but in many ways related theories of why and how the Depression had happened. Early on, FDR impressed a particular British economist named John Maynard Keynes, who admired both FDR's spirit of experimentation and his insistence that defeating the Depression was about more than economic data. Keynes and Roosevelt believed that the Great Depression had put democracy itself on trial, and both were almost desperate to vindicate it. They did."

"Biden's Problems Go Back To 2009 [...] The public understood how bad the Bush years were and in the 2008 election the voters DEMANDED change. Barack Obama, campaigning on progressive promises to renegotiate NAFTA, codify Roe v Wade, support the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act ('EFCA' or 'card check') won big. Barack Obama was elected with BIG Democratic House & Senate majorities. Democrats came into office in 2009 with All The Power. Voters gave them the House, Senate and Presidency and a mandate to change the country. After taking office Obama publicly reversed his position on renegotiating NAFTA and codifying Roe, along with so many other things. His administration introduced the 'Obamacare' health care plan that, while it did help millions of Americans, did so by propping up private insurance and pharma company profits. Bankruptcies continue, insurance companies profit, pharma still charges massively excessive rates, and America's health care system remains one of the worst in the world. And in response to the 2008 financial collapse caused by Wall Street fraud, his Justice Department refused to prosecute even a single Wall Street executive, bailing out Wall Street while refusing to help homeowners. (Later, after leaving 'public service,' top Justice Department and other administration officials, including Obama himself, received lucrative Wall Street positions, 'Speaking fees,' etc.)"

"The British Railway Station Where You Can Only Travel By Boat"

Gregory Benford, ecowarrier? "Addressing climate change: plants instead of plants? Rather than an industrial solution to excess atmospheric carbon dioxide, a retired UCI physicist looks to nature"

40 years after the fact, Kevin Smith unexpectedly releases his TAFF Report.

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - 4 Song Set (Recorded Live for World Cafe)

01:14 GMT comment

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Standing by the ocean's roar

"Fresh Moods 53" by Roxana Gabriela Soos is from the selections from September 2021.

Jon Schwarz, "History Says Democracy Will Die If Democrats Don't Try 'Going Big': Robert Kuttner warns Biden's presidency may be the 'heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism.' [...] Roosevelt was exactly the right president at the right time. The New Deal demonstrated that democracy could deliver unmistakable benefits, both material and emotional, to desperate people, and thereby drained away much of the psychological poison that powers fascism. Then, over the next 30 years, something terrible happened: America forgot all this. We forgot how lucky we got. We forgot the New Deal was not a mountain range created by nature but an extraordinary achievement that was erected by humans and could therefore either be extended or destroyed."

This, again. "AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process: What will it take for Democratic leadership to cry foul? Primary season is ending with a bang this year in the Democratic Party, thanks to AIPAC, the single most consequential political action committee involved. The hawkish political group, through its super PAC United Democracy Project, is dumping trainloads of money to influence the outcome of two particularly high-profile races: boosting Haley Stevens over incumbent Andy Levin in Michigan's incumbent-on-incumbent 11th Congressional District, and Glenn Ivey over Donna Edwards in Maryland's open Fourth District."

"Money Makes The World-- Or At Least DC-- Go Round: Meet The Sewer Money Buying Congress: Tomorrow is primary day in Maryland. The hottest race in the state is in Prince Georges County, southwest of Baltimore— MD-04. It's the wealthiest and best educated Black majority district in America. The incumbent, Anthony Brown, is running for Attorney General, so it is an open seat— And a very plum one at that. Before this year's redistricting, the partisan lean was D+54. Post-redistricting it got a lot bluer: D+75. Donna Edwards was the Representative before she ran, unsuccessfully, for the Senate and now she should be heavily favored to win. But her opponent is… AIPAC. [...] Ironically, the hand behind the curtain in AIPAC's targeting is Black himself, Hakeem Jeffries, a career-long AIPAC (and Wall Street) lapdog who AIPAC is putting in as a replacement for Nancy Pelosi next year. They have dumped over $6 million into defeating Edwards on behalf of some random lobbyist they control. The race is all about the sewer money AIPAC has disingenuously deployed against Edwards, the way they have managed to defeat Nina Turner (OH), Jessica Cisneros (TX), Cristina Garcia (CA), Amy Vilela (NV), Daniel Lee (CA), Marie Newman (IL), and Erica Smith (NC) others. Their current top targets are Andy Levin (MI), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Donna Edwards. They are flooding their districts with millions and millions of dollars in lies and distortions. [...] Even though they are almost entirely financed by Republicans, AIPAC and it's affiliates don't get involved with Republican races— just Democratic primaries where candidates they can control are up against progressives." And so, under a slew of money and nasty ads, the popular front-runner ended up losing, which tells you just how easy it can be to manipulate the vote. Steny Hoyer, of course, also backed her opponent. And this is far from being the only race AIPAC has been meddling in. They really need to be treated as foreign agents.

Scott Lemieux produced "A non-celebratory thread with some of the most important points from the dissent -- it is no consolation that it is well done, but it is very clear-eyed about the radical implications of a fundamental right being crushed and this is worth highlighting. Alito's repeated assertions that overruling Roe does not threaten any of the other privacy cases should not be taken seriously. The logic of the holding threatens them all, and Alito is a known liar on the subject" — Collected on ThreadApp.

"The Supreme Court's Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup: The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over. THIS IS IT. The moment for President Joe Biden and Congress to challenge the underlying legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court and advance an aggressive climate action agenda. There will be no better moment to take this stand for a transformed court, nor a more fateful one. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: 'We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.' Over the last few days, we have witnessed a shock-and-awe judicial coup, from stripping people of the right to terminate pregnancies (Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization), to weakening the sovereign right of Indigenous tribes to enforce the law on their lands (Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta), to interfering with the rights of states to regulate the carrying of firearms (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen), to enabling a return to Christian prayer in public schools (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District). And now this: a decision that eviscerates the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate a major source of the carbon emissions destabilizing our planet. The EPA can still regulate CO2, but its capacity to regulate under the Clear Air Act is significantly reduced. It represents the culmination, as my colleague Sharon Lerner reports, of decades of 'plotting against environmental regulations' by Koch Industries, and as The Lever has reported, this entire court has been shaped by the dark-money-bankrolled Judicial Crisis Network, which is surely gearing up to toast the bountiful return on their patient investments this July 4 weekend."

"Supreme Court Stages a Coup Against Government Regulation [...] And more is on the way. On the same day, the Court agreed to hear Moore v. Harper next term, in which it could affirm the radical 'independent state legislature' doctrine, which holds that only gerrymandered state legislatures—not state courts, governors, or election boards—have any authority over elections, including, potentially, the authority to nullify the popular votes and assign electors to the losing candidate, as Trump tried to do in the 2020 election. [...] As The New York Times recently reported, West Virginia v. EPA 'is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch's ability to tackle global warming [emphasis added].'"

"Manchin's Big Lie: Today on TAP: He killed the Democrats' bill because, he said, he was concerned about inflation. But the bill was anti-inflationary; what he really didn't like was boosting green energy."

The New York Times is just an increasingly weird newspaper.
"Who hates inclusivity? The question answers itself: There is no rational, acceptable reason to run an opinion column, nine days after the Supreme Court's devastating repeal of reproductive rights, arguing that the 'far left' is denying women their humanity as much as the 'far right' – based on the fact that a handful of people are trying to use more inclusive language to acknowledge that trans men can get pregnant, too. But that, of course, is exactly what the editors of the New York Times opinion section chose to do on Saturday, running a piece headlined 'The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don't Count,' by their newly-minted columnist Pamela Paul, the former Book Review editor who apparently was brought over to opinion primarily to troll the libs."

"New York Times 'Ectopic Pregnancies' Op-Ed Is Everything You Never Hoped For: Over the past two days, the New York Times published two opinion pieces on abortion. One was written by a high-risk obstetrician who chairs the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the other should never have been published at all."

"The post-legal Supreme Court: What happens if the Court rejects the rule of law? The highest Court in the most powerful nation in the world appears to have decided that it only needs to follow the law when it feels like it. Last December, for example, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that fundamentally alters the Union — giving states sweeping authority to restrict their residents' constitutional rights. [...] The Court endangered huge swaths of long-existing gun laws, striking down a New York state law that has been on the books for 109 years. And it did so in an opinion that simultaneously fetishizes the 'Second Amendment's plain text,' while ignoring the first thirteen words of that amendment. The same Court that attacked Roe as 'remarkably loose in its treatment of the constitutional text' saw no problem with ignoring half of the text of the Second Amendment. In what may be the most consequential environmental case in decades, the Court relied on something called the 'major questions doctrine' — a fairly new legal doctrine that is never mentioned in the Constitution or in any statute and that was invented entirely by judges — to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of much of its authority to fight climate change. The Court even abandoned any pretense that it must be honest about the facts of the cases it decides, claiming that a public school football coach who ostentatiously prayed on the 50-yard line after games — while surrounded by players, spectators, and members of the press — was merely engaged in a 'short, private, personal prayer.' [...] I make a strong claim in this essay, arguing that the Supreme Court of the United States is no longer deciding many major cases in a way that is recognizably 'legal.' So let's start by establishing a baseline definition of what constitutes the rule of law and what it means for a judge to act consistently with this principle."

"How the New York Times Uses 'Experts' [...] I've been studying the way that the New York Times and other outlets use 'experts' to further the three main functions of copaganda: 1) Narrowing our conception of safety to only certain kinds of police-reported crime instead of more important determinants of holistic safety; 2) Creating fear and panic about supposed increases in these narrow crimes; 3) Shaping public discourse to suggest that more punishment—i.e. more police, more prosecutions, and more prisoners, etc.—is a reasonable, the only, or the best response to these problems."

Unusually, however, Alec Karakatsanis is recommending an article in the NYT on a Court win in a case against prosecutorial misconduct: "In each of the complaints, either a judge or a district attorney's office had previously recognized the wrongdoing. But there were no public records of discipline for any of the prosecutors, many of whom are still working in the city's justice system. One has taught a course on legal ethics."

"Debunking 5 top inflation myths" — perhaps the most important point being that wages are absolutely not driving inflation.

"NYT's 'Black Voters Want More Cops' Reporting Genre Cynically Conflates Desire for Public Safety With Demands for More Policing, Longer Sentences: Artisanal, earth-tone, finely-tuned copaganda for white liberals. The New York Times has mastered a very specific, very cynical genre of writing: using voters of color as a hacky bludgeon to promote a return to pre-reform carceral ideology. This genre is consistent with the publication's decades of reporting output and, more urgently, serves the Times' partisan function as making otherwise cruel and reactionary Democratic Party policies seem inevitable and necessary to its squeamish white liberal readers."

On "The Politics of Everything", Alex Pareen and Laura Marsh and guests discussed "Joe Biden's Debt Cancellation Games: Why are Democrats playing cat and mouse with student debtors? Since the 1990s, student loan debt in the United States has ballooned to the point that the numbers sound like a mean joke: As of May 2022, the outstanding balance of federal education loans topped $1.6 trillion. But as huge as that figure is, we're not powerless in the face of it. In his campaign for president, Joe Biden supported the immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person. On episode 50 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk about why the Biden administration should follow through on its promise—and why Democrats seem so reluctant to get behind the policy. Guests include Astra Taylor, a frequent contributor to The New Republic and a co-founder of the Debt Collective, and Ryan Cooper, the author of How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Question in Politics." (Audio & transcript.)

Democratic meddling in PA, this time to help promote the craziest GOP candidate (yes, he won his primary with their help) on the alleged theory that this should make him easier to beat than a saner Republican. Or so they say. But, as Trump demonstrated, that's a dangerous game. "He's on a mission from God: Pennsylvania GOP candidate Doug Mastriano's war with the world"

I can't say Jeffrey D. Sachs is wrong here: "Ukraine Is The Latest Neocon Disaster: The war in Ukraine is the culmination of a 30-year project of the American neoconservative movement. The Biden Administration is packed with the same neocons who championed the US wars of choice in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Syria (2011), Libya (2011), and who did so much to provoke Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The neocon track record is one of unmitigated disaster, yet Biden has staffed his team with neocons. As a result, Biden is steering Ukraine, the US, and the European Union towards yet another geopolitical debacle. If Europe has any insight, it will separate itself from these US foreign policy debacles."

"Young Jews are 'walking away from Judaism' because its only content is 'pro-Israelism' –Alterman: "Liberal Zionist author Eric Alterman says Israel has lost American Jews and liberals because it has no "content" to offer besides stale Everyone-hates-the-Jews propaganda. Eric Alterman is an important liberal Zionist intellectual, and he is losing patience with Israel. Speaking at Tel Aviv University at the end of May, he said that Israel has lost the American left, and Judaism is itself in crisis because its only content is pro-Israelism. And p.s., Alterman has cut Israeli peace organizations out of his will because Israeli society is going the wrong way. 'Israel has lost the left. No question about it, and it can't get it back as long as it has this occupation. And even your good government has 72 votes on the right and is building 4000 new settlements, it's doing terrible things every day,' Alterman said."

"'Two out of five stories should be hot': why pre-code cinema was a golden age for women: Prior to the proscriptive Hays Code, films were populated by adulterous, marijuana-smoking gold diggers – wildly entertaining and more modern than the roles that came next"

The Beach Boys live, "Surfer Girl"

05:30 GMT comment

Thursday, 30 June 2022

The clerk has woken up from sleep, his eyes are droopy

This cottage in Knaresborough was photographed by Cliff Ounsley.

Covid finally got us, as careful as we've been. He only goes out — masked and gloved — to shop, and I don't go out at all. Now, I mostly sleep. But I'm in no condition to write up how the Supreme Court is overturning The United States of America, so I'll just post what I had before I caught the plague and go back to sleep.

* * * * *

This is from mail so no link, but Robert Cruickshank on the French election:

From what I can see here in the upper left of North America, I think on the one hand it's very good that the left was able to get its act together and run as a coalition that denied Macron a majority. That's a very positive sign.

On the other hand, Le Pen also had a big breakthrough, going from like 8 seats to 90. That's in part due to Macron spending so much time fear-mongering about the left that his own base didn't show up to stop them. This stat shows that where a second round legislative campaign was between the Left Coalition and RN (Le Pen's party), 72% of Macron's party's voters didn't even bother to show up: https://twitter.com/Taniel/status/1538608328179326979.

Had Macron been willing to compromise with the left in order to keep out the far right — as every postwar French president did before him — then the Left Coalition might well have won even more seats and Le Pen many fewer.

De Gaulle understood the need to work with the left to keep out the right. Adenauer understood this. Churchill understood this. But today's neoliberals are repeating the same mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s, believing that the left is a bigger threat than the right. And the result will be ruinous.

* * * * *

"Biden Taps Anti-Social Security Ideologue To Oversee Program: Biden nominated Andrew Biggs, a think tank denizen with a history of slamming Social Security, to oversee government retirement benefits for 66 million Americans. Last month, President Joe Biden nominated a longtime advocate of Social Security privatization and benefit cuts to a key board overseeing the Social Security system. The move comes as Republicans get ready to push cuts to Social Security and Medicare, if they end up winning control of Congress during the November's midterms, as expected. The development suggests that there could soon be a coordinated push in Washington to cut the Social Security program, which provides retirement, disability, and survivor benefits to 66 million Americans."

And vice versa: "Facebook Says Apple is Too Powerful. They're Right. In December, 2020, Apple did something insanely great. They changed how iOS, their mobile operating system, handled users' privacy preferences, so that owners of iPhones and other iOS devices could indicate that they don't want to be tracked by any of the apps on their devices. If they did, Apple would block those apps from harvesting users' data. This made Facebook really, really mad. It's not hard to see why! Nearly all iOS users opted out of tracking. Without that tracking, Facebook could no longer build the nonconsensual behavioral dossiers that are its stock-in-trade. According to Facebook, empowering Apple's users to opt out of tracking cost the company $10,000,000,000 in the first year, with more losses to come after that. Facebook really pulled out the stops in its bid to get those billions back. The company bombarded its users with messages begging them to turn tracking back on. It threatened an antitrust suit against Apple. It got small businesses to defend user-tracking, claiming that when a giant corporation spies on billions of people, that's a form of small business development." So Facebook, furious that Apple has weakened its business model by offering its users protection and security, has pointed out, quite rightly, that Apple also has enormous power and it doesn't use it for good. In fact, it uses it for evil. "In Facebook's comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's 'Developing a Report on Competition in the Mobile App Ecosystem' docket, Facebook laments Apple's ability to override its customers' choices about which apps they want to run. iOS devices like the iPhone use technological countermeasures to block 'sideloading' (installing an app directly, without downloading it from Apple's App Store) and to prevent third parties from offering alternative app stores. [...] Facebook is very well situated to comment on how high switching costs can lock users into a service they don't like very much, because, as much as they dislike that platform, the costs of using it are outstripped by the costs the company imposes on users who leave. That's how Facebook operates."

My father, partially deafened in the army, didn't have much of a record collection, but he really dug Eartha Kitt, and this was one of the rare 45s that was in our house as long as I can remember. Kitt spoke four languages and sang in more and sure could make it sound sexy. "Uska Dara (A Turkish Tale)", 1953.

03:56 GMT comment

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Stay out of the way of the blood-stained bandit

"Purple Fog" is by Chuka Ibe.

All over the country, progressive DAs and AGs won big in primaries and elections, but that's not how the media reported it. Let's take, for example, The New York Times, which seems to have formed the basis of the response by everyone from The Nation to Joe Biden. "How To Spin An Election: Sometimes the bias of the New York Times is so outrageous that it surprises even me. Because what the NYT did yesterday in its election coverage is so dangerous, I try my best to analyze it carefully below. On June 8, the day after the June 7 elections, the New York Times published a story telling its readers about what it called 'the shifting winds on criminal justice' [...] There is a lot of remarkable stuff about this story. But one thing stands out above all the rest: there were huge progressive criminal justice victories in California on election night, and the NYT just ignores them. I honestly could not believe what I was reading." The forces of evil spent quite a lot on the recall of Chesa Boudin, an effort that was strongly aided by the press, which got its talking points direct from the police, and in a low turnout with it only taking a few extra right-wingers to come out to vote, Boudin was recalled. Dean Preston did a good thread on this, in which he notes, "In 2.5 years, Boudin reduced the jail population by 38% and stopped charging kids as adults. The sky did not fall. Violent crime rates did." And his policies are overwhelmingly popular. But people just didn't get out to vote. However, as Chloe Cockburn pointed out, there was some very good news for progressives in California and around the country.

One of the things I can't forgive Trump for is making it sound like criticisms of voting machines are just sour grapes and crackpottery. "A candidate in Georgia who appeared to get few Election Day votes was actually in first place: The discrepancy in a race for a county-level board of commissioners seat was blamed on a series of technical errors. A candidate for a county office near Atlanta was vaulted into first place after a series of technical errors made it appear that she had not mustered a single Election Day vote in a vast majority of precincts in last month's Democratic primary, election officials determined. The candidate, Michelle Long Spears, was shortchanged by 3,792 votes in the District 2 primary for the Board of Commissioners in DeKalb County, Ga., that was held on May 24, according to newly-certified results released on Friday. In all but four of the district's nearly 40 precincts, no Election Day votes were recorded for Ms. Spears, who had received more than 2,000 early votes. She said that she immediately alerted state and county election authorities. 'When I visited several precincts (including my own) after Election Day and saw ZERO votes reported for myself, I was shocked and knew that wasn't accurate,' Ms. Spears said in a text message. After conducting a hand count over the Memorial Day weekend and auditing those returns, election officials determined that they had drastically underreported the vote totals for Ms. Spears"

In the exhausting world of Democratic Fail:
"New York Dems' Giant Gift To Private Equity: New York Democrats just voted to invest a lot more pension money in private equity deals that rarely pay off. New York's Democratic-controlled legislature this week passed a bill to funnel as much as $54 billion more in retiree savings into high-risk Wall Street investments, amid a flood of campaign cash from the financial industry."

"The Real Estate Industry Protects Its Right To Evict: Awash in real estate industry cash, New York's Democratic-controlled legislature avoided any real action this session to address the housing crisis."

"Biden Hikes Medicare Prices And Funnels Profits to Private Insurers: The largest-ever Medicare premium increase will pad the pockets of insurance executives who donated millions to the president's election campaign. Last week, the Biden administration quietly reaffirmed its decision to enact the highest Medicare premium hikes in history right before this year's midterm elections. At the same time, President Joe Biden is endorsing a plan to funnel significantly more Medicare money to insurance companies and further privatize the government insurance program for older Americans and those with disabilities."

"Michigan Couple Says Town Seized Their Building and Offered To Return It if They Bought Two Cars for Police: 'Extortion, there's no other way to explain it,' the couple's attorney says. A Michigan couple says their town seized a building they owned and then demanded that they buy two cars for the police department to get their own property back. The case, first reported by WXYZ Detroit, began in December of 2020 when the mayor of Highland Park and the police chief dropped by a 13,000-square-foot building owned by Justyna and Matt Kozbial for an impromptu fire code inspection. The city officials found a marijuana grow operation inside. The Kozbials, immigrants from Poland, say they had a state license to grow medical marijuana, but the city seized the building anyway and held on to it for 17 months without charging them with a crime. Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can legally seize property—cash, cars, and even houses—suspected of being connected to criminal activity like drug trafficking, whether or not the owner has been charged with a crime. But not only were the Kozbials never charged with a crime, police never alleged there was any major criminal activity. In a response to an interrogatory filed in the Kozbials' subsequent lawsuit against Highland Park, a city police officer answered 'none' when asked to identify any predicate felony offenses justifying the seizure. Things then took a highly unusual turn when the Kozbials say they received a settlement offer from the town: Stop growing marijuana and buy two vehicles for the local police department."

It seems like every couple of years someone tries to "warn" us against reliable news media like Naked Capitalism or Consortium News. "US State-Affiliated NewsGuard Targets Consortium News: The Pentagon and State Dept.-linked outfit, with an ex-N.S.A. and C.I.A. director on its board, is accusing Consortium News of publishing 'false content' on Ukraine, reports Joe Lauria. Consortium News is being 'reviewed' by NewsGuard, a U.S. government-linked organization that is trying to enforce a narrative on Ukraine while seeking to discredit dissenting views. The organization has accused Consortium News, begun in 1995 by former Associated Press investigative reporter Robert Parry, of publishing 'false content' on Ukraine. It calls 'false' essential facts about Ukraine that have been suppressed in mainstream media: 1) that there was a U.S.-backed coup in 2014 and 2) that neo-Nazism is a significant force in Ukraine. Reporting crucial information left out of corporate media is Consortium News' essential mission. But NewsGuard considers these facts to be 'myths' and is demanding Consortium News 'correct' these 'errors.'"

A lot of people are talking about student loan cancellation because it is one of the things Biden can do without Congress to alleviate economic stresses in the economy, so the pro-poverty lobby makes up excuses not to. They started with a claim that student loan debtors are rich, but "No, Student Loan Cancellation will not Benefit the 'Wealthy'." Then there is the inflation claim but, "No, Student Loan Cancellation will not cause Inflation."

As the United States establishment gets closer to its dream of torturing Julian Assange to death, it's instructive to learn just how much you've been lied to about his case. It's kind of amazing how a false accusation of rape (by the police and newspapers, not the alleged victim herself) has turned into an excuse to pretend it's okay if Assange's life is destroyed as an example to the press of the consequences of trying to hold the powerful accountable. It would be useful if more people read what the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture said when he looked at all of the originating documents and became a witness to the twisting of law that was necessary to victimize Assange: "It quickly became clear to me that something was wrong. That there was a contradiction that made no sense to me with my extensive legal experience: Why would a person be subject to nine years of a preliminary investigation for rape without charges ever having been filed? [...] They intentionally left him in limbo. Just imagine being accused of rape for nine-and-a-half years by an entire state apparatus and by the media without ever being given the chance to defend yourself because no charges had ever been filed. [...] Assange reported to the Swedish authorities on several occasions because he wanted to respond to the accusations. But the authorities stonewalled. [...] Allow me to start at the beginning. I speak fluent Swedish and was thus able to read all of the original documents. I could hardly believe my eyes: According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never even taken place at all. And not only that: The woman's testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages." The woman, at the urging of an acquaintance, went to ask the police if someone she had had consensual unprotected sex with could be forced to take an HIV test. When she realized the police were going to use this to charge him with rape, she refused to cooperate and left. That night, the newspapers were full of headlines about how Assange was suspected of raping two women. Note that no second woman had been interviewed by the police at that time. And, "It also violated a clear ban in Swedish law against releasing the names of alleged victims or perpetrators in sexual offense cases. The case now came to the attention of the chief public prosecutor in the capital city and she suspended the rape investigation some days later with the assessment that while the statements from S. W. were credible, there was no evidence that a crime had been committed." Assange consistently tried to complete an interview with the police but they kept putting him off. Eventually his lawyer said he needed to be in Berlin soon and asked if Assange could leave the country; they said yes, so he went. And then we hear this story about how he is "hiding" from the police and refusing to talk to them and has absconded to another country. So pretty much everything you've heard is a lie — a lie that is supposed to make it okay to ignore the fact that the United States is illegally trying to persecute him for exposing war crimes.

Interesting interview by Matt Taibbi, "The Incredible Political and Media Journey of Jesse and Tyrel Ventura: Interview with Substack's newest contributors, who may be the ultimate symbols of America's censorship regime. Back on March 12th, not long after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, the New York Times ran one of the first of what would become a series of gloating articles about the demise of Russia Today. The state-sponsored TV network had just been yanked off the air by government fiat in Europe, and removed in America by private carriers like Comcast, Xfinity, and DirecTV. About the channel, the Times wrote: A role at RT America was a rare job in an industry where if you had screwed up, were washed up or were completely new to the field, there weren't many other options… The Times then listed a series of those 'screwups' and 'washouts,' including the paper's own former star war reporter Chris Hedges (also thriving now on Substack) and the father-son tandem Jesse and Tyrel Ventura. The paper neglected to mention that none of these figures had failed at anything, but rather had been driven out of the mainstream press essentially over opposition to the Iraq war."

Some of you may remember Doug J. from Balloon Juice, but these days he's one of my favorite Twitter posters, New York Times Pitchbot. So it was nice to see him getting a profile at CJR, "The bot that saw the Times [...] In 2019, @DougJBalloon changed his name on Twitter to New York Times Pitchbot, committing to a new bit. He was encouraged by a conservative journalist friend and inspired by other 'pitchbot' accounts, particularly one, now retired, that satirized The Federalist, a conservative online publication. 'It's a tricky thing, because The Federalist is so insane. How do you parody it?' he says. 'What I think is more interesting is just how much of that same kind of stupidity is embedded in ostensibly left-center establishment journalism.'"

Froomkin wonders, "Can the New York Times save itself — and us? [...] But as I wrote for The Nation on May 13, the occasional, appropriately alarming news analysis doesn't make up for endless incremental, lobotomized daily campaign stories that exist in a context-free zone." Will the new editor address this problem? I'm predicting he won't. The NYT doesn't hire people to do that.

I watched The Man From Earth and it was riveting, which is a bit hard to believe considering what it is, but then I looked for the trailer and found the full movie instead and accidentally watched the whole thing again, only a few hours after seeing it for the first time. Beautifully done.

A long time ago I saw these guys from only a couple-few yards away, back in the days when we could all sit on floors. They look different in this 2016 video. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, "Good Shepherd". They sound different, too.

02:09 GMT comment

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

I don't know how I'm gonna do it

Hazel Ashworth photographed what she called an "Accidentally good colour combination."

"'Perverse' Supreme Court Ruling 'Effectively Ensures That Innocent People Will Remain Imprisoned': 'This is radical. This is horrifying. This is extremely scary,' said one public defender. Legal experts responded with alarm Monday to a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority that could lead to the indefinite imprisonment and even execution of people who argue their lawyers didn't provide adequate representation after convictions in state court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor—joined by the other two liberals on the court—also blasted the majority opinion in Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, writing in her scathing dissent that the decision is both 'perverse' and 'illogical.' The case involved two men, David Martinez Ramirez and Barry Lee Jones, who are on death row in Arizona. The majority determined that inmates can't present new evidence in federal court to support a claim that their post-conviction attorney in state court was ineffective, in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which affirms the right to 'the assistance of counsel' in criminal all prosecutions. 'A federal habeas court may not conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the state court record based on ineffective assistance of state post-conviction counsel,' Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, adding that 'serial relitigation of final convictions undermines the finality that 'is essential to both the retributive and deterrent functions of criminal law.'"

"The Supreme Court just made it much easier to bribe a member of Congress: A case brought by Ted Cruz is a huge boon to rich candidates and moneyed lobbyists. [...] The Court's decision in FEC v. Ted Cruz for Senate is a boon to wealthy candidates. It strikes down an anti-bribery law that limited the amount of money candidates could raise after an election in order to repay loans they made to their own campaign. Federal law permits candidates to loan money to their campaigns. In 2001, however, Congress prohibited campaigns from repaying more than $250,000 of these loans using funds raised after the election. They can repay as much as they want from campaign donations received before the election (although a federal regulation required them to do so 'within 20 days of the election'). The idea is that, if already-elected officials can solicit donations to repay what is effectively their own personal debt, lobbyists and others seeking to influence lawmakers can put money directly into the elected official's pocket — and campaign donations that personally enrich a lawmaker are particularly likely to lead to corrupt bargains. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) manufactured a case to try to overturn that $250,000 limit, and now, the Court has sided with him. Indeed, now that this limit on loan repayments has been struck down, lawmakers with sufficiently creative accountants may be able to use such loans to give themselves a steady income stream from campaign donors."

I suppose we can expect the current Supreme Court to endorse the Fifth Circuit's radical crackpot ruling that "Administrative Law Is Unconstitutional: Pretty awesome that two malfunctions by the Electoral College can give us Article III appellate judges who think that enforcement of the Code of Federal Regulations is unconstitutional." Or, as Mark Joseph Stern put it: "The 5th Circuit just dismantled the SEC's power to enforce securities law. This decision is beyond radical. It is nihilistic." Robert Kuttner notes: "Here's the broader point. If the Democratic Party had not gotten into bed with Wall Street under Carter, Clinton and Obama, Democrats might have remained the national majority party—and those far-right judges never would have been appointed. Back when the judiciary was more supportive of regulation, the SEC might have closed down private equity before it even gained a foothold by ruling that you can't take over a company using its own assets as collateral. Now, despite Biden's attempt to revive regulatory agencies with assertive public-minded appointees, good Democratic regulators will be hobbled by the sins of bad Democratic presidents that led to even worse Republican ones, and a legacy of reactionary courts."

It's almost funny that the US suddenly threatens to ease some sanctions on Venezuela. "U.S. ties easing of Venezuela sanctions to direct oil supply: HOUSTON/WASHINGTON, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. officials have demanded Venezuela supply at least a portion of oil exports to the United States as part of any agreement to ease oil trading sanctions on the OPEC member nation, two people close to the matter said. U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday banned U.S. imports of Russian oil in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, ramping up economic pressure on a key Venezuelan ally."

* * * * *

It started off looking like a bad night...

"They Are Not Even Pretending Anymore: Democratic leaders are joining with oligarchs to try to permanently destroy the progressive movement. Republicans want a revolution, Democrats want to go to brunch — that's been a concise way to understand American politics, but 2022's primary season has made clear it is not exactly accurate. Democratic leaders don't just want avocado toast and mimosas — they want an outright counterrevolution. Only not against the GOP insurrection — against the Democratic rank and file, and in many cases for the politicians most hostile to the party's (purported) agenda. Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sounded an important alarm about all this, slamming billionaires and conservative advocacy groups blanketing the airwaves with television ads supporting corporate candidates in this week's pivotal Democratic congressional primaries. But the Vermont senator understated the situation. The perpetrators rigging these elections aren't just meddling oligarchs operating on their own. This call is coming from inside the Democratic house from party leaders, who are at minimum passively condoning the trend, and in many cases actively fueling it with endorsements and its machine."

But then a funny thing happened...

"Dem Voters Flip Off Party Leaders And Their Big Donors: Pennsylvania and Oregon election results show voters rejecting the demands of oligarchs and Democratic elites. If politics lately has seemed a bit like The Empire Strikes Back, then Tuesday night's stunning elections have offered an unexpected jolt of that Return of The Jedi feeling — at exactly the moment when progressives most needed a boost. Heading into pivotal congressional primaries in Pennsylvania and Oregon, Democratic elites and their corporate donors were likely feeling confident that their huge super PAC spending would successfully buy yet more primary victories for corporate-aligned candidates. Indeed, House Democratic leaders planned to spend Wednesday honoring the anniversary of the New Democrat Coalition, which is the official arm of the party's corporate faction. But those football-spiking celebrations now seem premature."

Ryan Grim had much the same story. "Democratic Voters Deliver Stinging Rebuke To Party's Manchin-Sinema Wing: Voters shrugged off an obscene amount of spending from super PACs to send a message to Democrats: Do something." Backed by Republicans and endorsed heavily by the Democratic leadership, those corporate Dems still managed to lose. Fancy that.

Alex Sammon told the same story in "Dem Voters Want Dem Pols Who Do Things: The Joe Manchin wing of the party lost big on Tuesday."

As I write, it's still a nail-biter down in Texas. "Henry Cuellar Is the Perfect Symbol of What's Wrong With the Democratic Party: The runoff with Jessica Cisneros remains too close to call. The actions of Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi, and Jim Clyburn, on the other hand... How far does an incumbent Democrat have to go to lose the endorsement of their party's leadership? That's the question everyone should be asking as Henry Cuellar clings to his razor-thin margin in the Democratic primary runoff election in South Texas. Some things probably fly below the radar, like being the House's third-largest recipient of fossil fuel funding or obstructing his own party's legislative agenda. Does the FBI raiding a candidate's home as part of a probe into shady congressional ties to an autocratic petrostate cross the threshold into insupportability? It does not. If you thought being the House's only anti-abortion Democrat with a firm stance against making Roe v. Wade the law of the land—as the Supreme Court looks poised to strike it down—would be a bridge too far, you would also be wrong. What about allies of said candidate apparently spreading fake news? Wrong again. Having an A rating from the NRA amid a slew of mass shootings, including the slaughter of at least 19 fourth graders at an elementary school not far from his district on the actual day of the election? Incredibly, even that's not enough. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn stuck with Henry Cuellar through it all. As she bopped around cable news shows talking up the party's commitment to abortion rights in the past few weeks, Pelosi's voice could be heard on robocalls that went out to Laredo-area voters yesterday calling Congressman Cuellar a 'fighter for hardworking families' who has 'brought back millions of dollars.' Clyburn recorded one, too." Of course, he's an anti-union guy and the money he "brought back" didn't go into working people's pockets.

* * * * *

Your independent free press: "UK government secretly funded Reuters in 1960s, 1970s: The British government secretly funded Reuters in the 1960s and 1970s at the direction of an anti-Soviet propaganda organization with links to MI-6, according to unclassified documents unveiled Monday. The government used the BBC to conceal funding in making payments to the international news group. 'We are now in a position to conclude an agreement providing discreet Government support for Reuters services in the Middle East and Latin America,' reads a 1969 redacted secret British government document entitled 'Funding of Reuters by HMG,' or Her Majesty's Government"

"Shouldn't Hillary Clinton Be Banned From Twitter Now? Trial testimony reveals Hillary Clinton personally approved serious election misinformation. Is there an anti-Trump exception to content moderation? Last week, in the trial of former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann, prosecutor Andrew DeFilippis asked ex-campaign manager Robby Mook about the decision to share with a reporter a bogus story about Donald Trump and Russia's Alfa Bank. Mook answered by giving up his onetime boss. 'I discussed it with Hillary,' he said, describing his pitch to the candidate: 'Hey, you know, we have this, and we want to share it with a reporter… She agreed to that.' [...] The world has mostly moved on, since Russiagate was thirty or forty 'current things' ago, but the public prosecution of the collusion theory was a daily preoccupation of national media for years. A substantial portion of the population believed the accusations, and expected the story would end with Donald Trump in jail or at least indicted, scrolling for a thousand straight days in desperate expectation of the promised justice. Trump was bounced from Twitter for incitement, but Twitter has a policy against misinformation as well. It includes a prohibition against 'misleading' media that is 'likely to result in widespread confusion on public issues.' I'm not a fan of throwing people off Twitter, but how can knowingly launching thousands of bogus news stories across a period of years, leading millions of people to believe lies and expect news that never arrived, not qualify as causing 'widespread confusion on public issues'?"

I'll let Atrios say this for me, about "Deaths: I always try to emphasize that without Roe (or equivalent), women can't possibly get any appropriate medical care. I mean *any*. I'm a pro-choice extremist generally (meaning, I'm pro-choice), but I really don't think most people understand this. It isn't just about "abortion" as popularly conceived of, it's about any OB/Gyn-related care, and absolutely any care (procedures, treatments) that might, possibly, maybe, impact a zygote. Which is basically all treatment. Certainly criminalizing abortion (medical professionals and patients) unambiguously criminalizes miscarriages which, of course, criminalizes pregnancy!" There's more, but this is right and I'm surprised more people don't understand it.

MaxSpeak, You Listen! "Today in Economic Royalism [...] The disingenuous angle here is CR's failure to state forthrightly her preferred policy: austerity. If we can't fix supply, the only alternative is to claw back families' spending power. Hence we have a back-handed endorsement of the Fed's action to raise interest rates and reduce employment, notwithstanding the fact that there is no case that labor compensation or cash aid to households is behind the inflation spike. Look at it this way. Employment has yet to return to its pre-pandemic level, when there was no inflation to speak of. Why should lesser employment now be the cause of the inflation spike? In the same vein, as Dean Baker has pointed out, consumption spending has not grown more rapidly than its usual pace." And yes, the price-gouging is real.

"DCCC Chair And Rep. Mondaire Jones Flee Blue Districts, A Bright-Red Warning For Democrats: A court-ordered redistricting process nearly pitted Squad member Jamaal Bowman against progressive Jones, but Jones instead is targeting a new open seat in New York City. [...] Underneath the district shuffling and refuge seeking is a dire warning for Democrats: Maloney is the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. His entire job is to make sure that Democrats hold their narrow House majority or else the Biden legislative agenda will be completely dead. When the new lines were released, Maloney's district became one that Joe Biden had carried by 8 percentage points. Jumping into Jones's district gave him just an extra 2-point advantage. The DCCC chair signaling nervousness about his own district is less than confidence inspiring." This is being too kind to Maloney, though, since he was really after creating heat between progressives and getting one to knock the other out for him. Its part of the warfare by the right-wing Democrats against the more liberal wing.

This is a good video by Briahna Joy Gray pointing out that Democrats need to do better to fight Tucker Carlson's lies, because all they're doing now is freaking out and they aren't making their case.

Australia doesn't look ideal, either. For example, "A failure as shameful as robodebt leaves questions only a royal commission can examine: In December 2016, Channel nine's A Current Affair ran a quintessentially A Current Affair story about a welfare crackdown. After the throw from Tracy Grimshaw, Alan Tudge, then human services minister, appeared on screen with a startling message: 'We'll find you, we'll track you down and you will have to repay those debts and you may end up in prison.' This was the government pushback to what was becoming known as the 'robodebt' scandal, a mammoth Centrelink debt recovery system established by the Coalition government a year earlier. 'Whereas we used to have a manual process of checking people's income records on Centrelink with those on the taxation office's database, now we have an automated system, so we can do that very quickly, very rapidly and be able to capture more people,' Tudge said. Three years later, after what can only be described as the gaslighting of anyone who complained or raised the alarm, the government admitted to the federal court that the whole thing was unlawful. Putting it very crudely, the calculations that the government used to assert hundreds of thousands of welfare debts were wrong. It later settled a class action for $1.8bn, which included the owed interest on the debts unlawfully issued to 443,000 people, some of whom were the most vulnerable in the country."

"NSW police afforded new power to search convicted drug dealers without warrant: Drug dealers have been put on notice in NSW, with police given a new power to disrupt the lives of criminals 'every second of the day'." So, even if it's been years since you were busted for drugs, the cops can harass you continuously until they drive you out of your mind. Without a warrant.

In America, there is one bright spot. "Occupy Wall Street activists pay off student debt for nearly 500 Black women at HBCU: Suzanne Walsh, president of Bennett College, at first ignored the email that would lead to the cancellation of nearly 500 overdue bills at her college. After all, she thought at the time, "people just don't reach out and say we can help your students pay off their debts." But the Debt Collective, a union of debtors rallying against consumer debt, wasn't joking. After the initial conversation, the group arranged for the purchase of $1.7 million in unpaid student balances. Then they canceled it. Its elimination means students no longer have to pay off the debt and those who couldn't access their transcripts because of overdue bills now have access to their academic records and the ability to continue their educations. Braxton Brewington, a spokesman for the organization, said they chose Bennett College in North Carolina because Black women on average have higher student loan balances than any other group of borrowers. The debt cleared does not include federal student loans, only money owed directly to the school." If you have some change to spare, these people are worth it. (They do medical debt, too.)

It probably doesn't need to be emphasized that anything he does is bollocks, but "Dinesh D'Souza's new film drives the Big Lie: Here's the truth about 'ballot harvesting': Did libs steal the 2020 election through "ballot harvesting"? Saying no isn't enough to undo all the lies. The Republican "Big Lie" about voter fraud takes root in the fact-free soil of opposite world, where the Oscars are held at Mar-a-Lago and honor Dinesh D'Souza's "documentaries." Here in reality, D'Souza is a convicted felon, his films amount to a lucrative grift operation and should be filed under fantasy, and GOP claims of voter fraud actually seek to distract from their own extensive pattern of rule-rigging, lawlessness and brazen vote suppression. (As for D'Souza, he received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump.) D'Souza's latest work of wishcasting, "2000 Mules," which is much-watched on conservative platforms and can be streamed for the decidedly Trump-inflated price of $29.99, alleges, without merit, that shadowy gangs of liberal nonprofits stole the 2020 presidential election through an elaborate absentee-ballot collection scheme." Apparently D'Sousa thinks that letting someone else drop your ballot envelope into the mailbox or drop-box is the same thing as voting a dozen times. He doesn't want you to know that (a) the vast majority of occasions in which anyone has been caught voting fraudulently, it's been Republicans, and (b) the system weeds out improper ballots easily and no number of them dropped into drop-boxes translates into an elevated number of votes.

"Has Any Writers' Organization Treated A Writer As Badly As SFWA Treated Mercedes Lackey? It reads like a revenge plot: an old writer comes to one of the most important conventions in her field to be honored for her lifetime of work, and is publicly humiliated without the opportunity to clarify what she meant when she confuses two similar terms."

You know, looking at other versions of this picture, I didn't even notice the Triffids and Daleks.

The Chiffons, "He's So Fine"

22:42 GMT comment

Saturday, May 14, 2022

We're in for nasty weather

As soon as I heard that Alito's draft overturning Roe v Wade along with virtually all personal rights had been leaked, I knew it came straight from Alito's office. There's no one else who benefits. No "liberal" clerk is going to trash her career just to get it out a month early when it can have no positive effect on the outcome but can only be more harmful. And it was leaked to Politico, which "centrists" think (or claim) is non-partisan but careful media watchers know is more to the right. And the instant it came out, the entire GOP mouthpiece chorus came out with the identical talking point: that it was the leak, and not the content, that was the outrage. This was one, single, right-wing op. So the GOPs are all calling for an investigation of who the leaker is and insisting that it had to be one of the liberal clerks for the "liberal" judges, but I'm sure they will forever fail to find the source. (Some of them are insisting it had to be neo-justice Brown, to whom the draft was not even circulated.) But maybe someone has. "Who Had Access To The Leaked SCOTUS Draft Overturning Roe? Former SCOTUS clerks explain how draft opinions are transmitted." Politico received a hard-copy of the draft. If you look at the .pdf, you see a stamp on the corner. That stamp doesn't have a tick on any of the (seven) names the physical copy of the draft is meant to go out to, meaning it was never circulated. It came direct from Alito's office.

Alex Pareen, "The Institutionalist's Dilemma: On trusting the process after it's openly failed. Sometimes when I am explaining the somewhat eclectic variety of topics I write about in my newsletter, compared to the work I did at other publications for many years, l joke that 'I just ran out of ways to say the Senate shouldn't exist.' I say 'joke,' but it's also a fact. I was blogging this in 2010. Nothing has fundamentally changed about how the Senate 'works' since George Packer wrote the damning portrait of a dysfunctional institution that I reference in that old Salon piece. More than a decade later, Senate institutionalists still make up the majority of the Democratic caucus, and they still believe the way to make the institution work is not to change its rules but to somehow change the nature of the opposition. [...] The legitimacy crisis is that our institutions are illegitimate. For my entire adult life, beginning with Bush v. Gore, our governing institutions have been avowedly antidemocratic and the left-of-center party has had no answer for that plain fact; no strategy, no plan, except to beg the electorate to give them governing majorities, which they then fail to use to reform the antidemocratic governing institutions. They often have perfectly plausible excuses for why they couldn't do better. But that commitment to our existing institutions means they can't credibly claim to have an answer to this moment. 'Give us (another) majority and hope Clarence Thomas dies' is a best-case scenario, but not exactly a sales pitch."

Scott looks at one aspect of Alito's reasons here. "Justice Alito's Bad-Faith Appeals to Majority Rule: The Supreme Court has eviscerated the ability for a majority of citizens to elect the representatives they want and have their will enacted."

And The Mary Sue looks at another. "Let's Unpack the Chilling Phrase 'Domestic Supply of Infants' in the Supreme Court's Draft to Overturn Roe v. Wade [...] But I cannot stop thinking about a particularly insidious phrase within the draft opinion penned by Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett. The draft refers to adoption as a reason for abortion to be overturned, a common argument from pro-forced birth groups. The draft references nearly 1 million women who were seeking to adopt in 2002, 'whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent.'"

Dahlia Lithwick tears into that, too. "The Horrifying Implications of Alito's Most Alarming Footnote: A 'domestic supply of infants' is exactly what the framers of the 14th Amendment intended to abolish. [...] True. But the footnote reflects something profoundly wrong with the new 'ethos of care' arguments advanced by Republicans who want to emphasize compassion instead of cruelty after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health fallout. Footnote 46, quantifying the supply/demand mismatch of babies, follows directly on another footnote in the opinion approvingly citing the 'logic' raised at oral argument in December by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who mused that there is no meaningful hardship in conscripting women to remain pregnant and deliver babies in 2022 because 'safe haven' laws allow them to drop those unwanted babies off at the fire station for other parents to adopt. Second only to the creeping chatter of state birth control bans, the speedy pivot to celebrating forced birth and adoption is chilling. It's chilling not just because it discounts the extortionate emotional and financial costs of childbirth and the increased medical risks of forced childbirth. It's chilling because it lifts us out of a discussion about privacy and bodily autonomy and into a regime in which babies are a commodity and pregnant people are vessels in which to incubate them. If this sounds like a familiar, albeit noxious, economic concept, it's because it is."

Since his posts are usually shorter than anyone else's but also more concise and smart, let me recommend you hit this page with the first couple of days of Atrios' responses to the discourse on Alito's leak. This is the real political landscape you're in.

Those awful reproductive rights activists decided to take the Supremes' word that it was just fine to demonstrate outside of the homes of people (abortion workers) you don't like, and started holding candlelight vigils on the public street outside of the homes of Kavanaugh and Alito (whose neighbors didn't seem to mind). Someone up in Maine even wrote on the public sidewalk outside Susan Collins' place with chalk. Congress went into a pearl-clutching tizzy and passed a law, with the help of 100% of Democrats (note: that doesn't include Sanders), to protect Supreme Court Justices from free speech on public property. Which seems odd, given that many of those same Dems have had conservative whackos protesting outside of their homes regularly and never complained about it.

But let me also point out that this is not just about abortion. It's not even just about reproductive health, or even sex-related issues. Alito is using language that essentially says they can overturn all of your rights as well as the government's responsibility to act on behalf of the people. This is a broadscale attack on everything from birth control to the EPA and pretty much anything else conservatives have ever objected to. They're lining it all up to be shot down.

It's been a long time since I've cited Jessica Valenti for anything, but even she is done. "Most of all, I'm done with the Democrats who tiptoe around abortion as if it was some sort of political landmine. Seventy percent of Americans don't want to see Roe over turned—why are the people we elected to stop this horror show from happening still putting out polite press releases? Get a spine, and do your jobs. Part of the reason we're in this colossal mess is that Democrats ceded our most valuable asset: the moral high ground. Instead of hammering home that we are right and anti-abortion legislators are horrifically, dangerously wrong, they let conservatives call themselves the party of life. They spoke in whispers and favored 'choice' over 'abortion'. Instead of listening to years of advice of reproductive justice activists to support abortion unapologetically, they held onto the mantra that abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare,' lending credence to Republicans' claim that there's something wrong with ending a pregnancy. There isn't. Abortion is a human right and a moral good. And I'm done feeling humiliated."

There are a lot of things to be done with Democrats about, and here's another: "Biden's 'Mary Poppins of Disinformation' the perfect nanny to tidy up mess of free speech? Given her record of spreading disinformation and advocating censorship, Jankowicz hardly needed the musical-inspired persona. Yet, for the Biden administration, Jankowicz — like Mary Poppins — is 'practically perfect in every way' to keep track of whether we all 'measure up' in our public statements. It is still unclear from the administration's public statements what authority the board will wield, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the board as intended 'to prevent disinformation and misinformation from traveling around the country in a range of communities.' President Biden already has established himself as arguably the most anti-free speech president since John Adams. During his transition period, Biden appointed outspoken advocates for censorship; as president, he has pushed social media companies to expand censorship, while his administration has been criticized for spying on journalists."

And of course, back to abortion, it's kind of hard to believe they're serious. "'Pelosi Has Endorsed Me. Steny Has Endorsed Me. Clyburn Has Endorsed Me.': Amidst a national outcry over abortion rights, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn visits San Antonio to campaign for pro-life [sic] Henry Cuellar."

"The Ohio Model for Purging Progressives: A Democratic establishment victory in a House race last year has emboldened big money to upend this primary cycle. A year ago, the elevation of Marcia Fudge to secretary of housing and urban development created a vacancy in Ohio's deep-blue 11th Congressional District in Cleveland. Progressives saw it as another prime opportunity, similar to ones they took advantage of in a series of 2020 primaries. The idea was to take shots in favorable seats, challenging moderates and moving the center of gravity within the party. A revitalized progressive campaign infrastructure, candidates that fit the districts in which they ran, and a nationally energized donor network made this possible, and for a minute, the long-term outlook was pretty positive. But the race in the 11th District saw the first successful counterattack to this strategy, from a group of outside donors who represented the old-guard establishment. Though Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) was active in campaigns prior to 2021, including supporting Joe Biden and the ultimately losing campaign of former House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel, OH-11 is where they made their stand, getting behind Shontel Brown in a race against former Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner. Like in the New York campaign pitting Engel against Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Democratic Majority for Israel's ads in Ohio had little or nothing to do with Israel. The ads pulled messaging directly from an unmistakable banner on Brown's campaign website, focusing on Turner's divisiveness and some choice negative comments she made about Joe Biden during the 2020 campaign. DMFI spent around $2 million on TV and other advertisements in the race, and that was enough to help Brown secure a comeback victory. The PAC almost single-handedly took over the reins of a lifeless campaign and turned it into a winner." The crypto billionaires are in on it, too.

The Intercept is on this same story from the other side with "Progressives, 'Massively Outgunned,' Ditched Nina Turner. Somehow all that right-wing energy seemed to push the progressives back, too.

Well, no wonder "Biden Shouldn't Run in 2024, Most Voters Say: A majority of voters think President Joe Biden shouldn't seek reelection in 2024, and he would lose a rematch with former President Donald Trump by double-digit margins. A new national telephone and online survey by Rasmussen Reports and the Heartland Institute finds that 61% of Likely U.S. Voters believe Biden should not run for a second term as president in 2024. Only 28% say Biden should seek reelection, while another 11% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.) If the next presidential election were held today, and Biden were running against Trump, 50% would vote for Trump while 36% would vote for Biden."

"Why did federal police square off with abortion rights protesters in L.A. streets?: An abortion rights protest had been going on peacefully for hours in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday when a 'help call' suddenly went out over police radios about 9 p.m. The SOS didn't come from Los Angeles police officers, but a small group of federal officers with the Department of Homeland Security. They claimed, according to a statement by the LAPD, that they had come 'under attack' from protesters while in their patrol cars near the intersection of 5th and Hill streets — about a half-mile away from the federal courthouse where the protest had begun and where federal officers have jurisdiction. Video showed protesters banging on the officers' cars and taunting them in a circle, and the officers shoving protesters and screaming at them to 'back up.' Some witnesses have accused the officers on social media of instigating the confrontation by straying beyond the courthouse, driving into the crowd and using aggressive crowd control measures. Regardless, it ratcheted up tensions between law enforcement and protesters at what until then had been an orderly demonstration over a draft Supreme Court opinion that, if adopted, would undercut abortion rights nationwide. The scene also raised questions as to why federal police officers were squaring off with street protesters in L.A. — especially so many blocks from the courthouse."

More on everything at the Water Cooler.

"Once 'Unthinkable,' French Left Forms Coalition to Challenge Macron in Parliament: 'We want to elect MPs in a majority of constituencies to stop Emmanuel Macron from pursuing his unjust and brutal policies and beat the far-right.' Less than two weeks after France's neoliberal president, Emmanuel Macron, defeated the far-right's Marine Le Pen to win a second five-year term, the country's four major left parties have agreed in principle to form an electoral coalition that aims to deny Macron a parliamentary majority. France's center-left Socialist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's far-left France Unbowed reached a draft agreement on Wednesday following extensive negotiations. The French Communist Party and Greens had already agreed to join the alliance earlier this week."

Thomas Piketty, "The return of the Popular Front: Let's say it straight away: the agreement reached by the French left-wing parties under the label of the 'New Popular Union' is excellent news for French and European democracy. Those who see in it the triumph of radicalism and extremism have clearly understood nothing of the evolution of capitalism and the social and environmental challenges we have been facing for several decades. In reality, if we look at things calmly, the transformation programme proposed in 2022 is rather less ambitious than those of 1936 or 1981. Rather than give in to the prevailing conservatism, it is better to take it for what it is: a good starting point on which to build further."

"The Means-Test Con: Limiting student debt relief is cynicism masquerading as populism — and it will just enrage everyone. During the 2020 Democratic primary, Pete Buttigieg's personal ambition led him to poison the conversation about education in America. Desperate for a contrast point with his rivals, the son of a private university professor aired ads blasting the idea of tuition-free college because he said it would make higher education 'free even for the kids of millionaires.' The attack line, borrowed from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was cynicism masquerading as populism. It was an attempt to limit the financial and political benefits of a proposal to make college free. Worse, it was disguised as a brave stand against the oligarchs bankrolling Buttigieg's campaign, even though it actually wasn't — almost no rich scions would benefit from free college. This rancid form of bullshit was a staple of Buttigieg's campaign — like 'Medicare For All Who Want It' — but he and copycats like Amy Klobuchar were just pushing the larger lie that is now the foundation of economic policy debates. Call it the means-testing con — the idea that social programs should not be universal, and should instead only be available to those who fall below a certain income level. It is a concept eroding national unity and being carried forward by wealthy pundits and a Democratic Party that has discarded the lessons of its own universalist triumphs like Social Security, Medicare, and the GI Bill. This break from universalism popped up this week when the Biden administration tore a page from Buttigieg 2020's assault on the higher education discourse: The White House leaked that it is considering finally following through on Biden's promise to cancel some student debt, but not the $50,000 pushed by congressional Democrats, and only for those below an income threshold. That's right — as Biden's poll numbers plummet among young people, his administration is considering limiting and means-testing debt relief for federal loans that were already effectively means-tested through need-based eligibility requirements."

"Means-Testing Student Debt Relief: Big Hassle, No Results: Almost nobody will likely fall above the proposed income threshold. It's purely a tax on borrowers' time. President Biden says he will announce a decision on whether and how to cancel federal student debt, and how much to cancel, in the 'next couple of weeks.' During the 2020 presidential campaign, he promised 'at least' $10,000 in debt forgiveness per borrower, and reports indicate that's the range he's looking at now; he has ruled out canceling $50,000 or more. There are also indications that this forgiveness will be means-tested, with an ineligibility threshold between $125,000 and $150,000 for individuals and $250,000 to $300,000 for couples. New college graduates generally don't make that kind of money, and nor do the 40 percent of student debt holders who dropped out of college. But all of them will have to navigate the often punishing bureaucracy of confirming their earnings level. It means a massive headache for millions to cut out a minuscule proportion of borrowers. And if the history of means testing in America is any guide, bureaucratic snarls will prevent vulnerable populations from receiving relief to which they are entitled."

"Report: How privatization increases inequality: Inequality in the United States, which began its most recent rise in the late 1970s, continues to surge in the post–Great Recession era. During similar eras— such as the New Deal—many of the public goods and services we value today were created to deliver widespread prosperity. But the way in which cities, school districts, states, and the federal government deliver things like education, social services, and water profoundly affects the quality and availability of these vital goods and services. In the last few decades, efforts to privatize public goods and services have helped fuel an increasingly unequal society. How privatization increases inequality examines the ways in which the insertion of private interests into the provision of public goods and services hurts poor individuals and families, and people of color."

RIP: "Kathy Boudin, formerly imprisoned radical leftist and mother of San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin, dies at 78 after a years-long battle with cancer. Kathy Boudin was in the Weathermen and her son, Chesa, was 14 months old when she was imprisoned. His experiences growing up with his parents in prison influenced his attudes toward the criminal justice system, unsurprisingly. But Kathy never let being locked up prevent her from being an activist, starting groups for women in prison and out. She was something special.

RIP: "Dennis Waterman: a streetwise natural in three great British TV series: The co-star of The Sweeney, Minder and New Tricks was a born performer who brought working-class south London edge to the small screen. Dennis Waterman, who has died aged 74, was an actor whose rough-edged charm and gravelly tones were especially effective as criminals or crime-fighters who walked a tight line between danger and humour and could cross from one side to the other at unexpected moments. While some TV stars become indelibly associated with one famous role, Waterman achieved lead parts in three separate long-running prime-time features that rank among TV's best-loved series." Long-time readers of The Sideshow will recall that I was a big fan of Waterman, and particularly of Minder. I was delighted when he returned to the small screen for New Tricks. And I still love to hear him sing the Minder theme song, "I Could Be So Good For You".

RIP: "Neal Adams, Comic Book Legend, Dead at 80: RIP to the renowned artist who helped transform Batman into the superstar he is today. Neal Adams, the legendary artist who brought Batman, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Brave and the Bold, and many more to life in his storied career passed away yesterday due to complications from sepsis, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 80." And for those who can stand it, Marv Wolvman posted a nice tribute to him on FaceBook.

RIP: I missed this in February. "Bill Arthrell, Oberlin native indicted after Kent State shootings, dies in car crash: Bill Arthrell, who started his adult life with bullets and spent the rest of it relentlessly preaching peace, died last week in an Oklahoma car crash. He was 72." That day at Kent State focused his life, but the charges against students were all dropped because there was no evidence of a crime. (Well, except for the shootings of 13 students, four of whom died, for which no one was ever charged.) But he is notable for another protest: "Arthrell, who spoke often of the events at Kent and whose recollections are included in many recountings of the period, often attributed his indictment as revenge for his actions on campus a few days before the notorious shootings. On April 22, word spread on campus that students were going to kill a dog with napalm. A huge crowd showed up at the expected time, outraged and ready to stop it, including an animal welfare officer with a leash. There stood Arthrell in a suit coat and tie to explain there was no dog and there would be no grotesque display, but if it was illegal to use such a weapon on an animal, why should our government use it on people in Vietnam?"

This is a thread of pictures of amazing sea creatures. @RebeccaRHelm tweeted: "OMG it literally took someone SWIMMING FROM HAWAII TO CALIFORNIA to discover this, but wow did we find something shocking in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch..."

Just watched Picard. Liked the payoff. In related news, have 27 seconds of Hee Haw - The Next Generation.

"Trailer Released For Documentary On Progressive San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin As He Fights Recall Vote: EXCLUSIVE: In the less than a month, reform-minded San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin faces a recall election that could remove him from office. Whether or not the recall vote prevails, Boudin has already made history as the city's first progressive D.A. As the upcoming documentary Beyond Bars: A Son's Fight for Justice explores, Boudin has promoted 'decarceration,' pushed for an end to cash bail, created a unit within his office to investigate dubious convictions, and dared to prosecute a police officer on felony charges of beating a man with a metal baton."

Bill Nighy and others talk about Turning Terry Pratchett's Discworld into Audiobooks.

Talking Heads, live in LA, 1983, "Burning Down the House"

06:57 GMT comment

Saturday, April 30, 2022

'Cause I couldn't stand the pain

This photo of Beautiful Norway After The Sunset is from Tina Koskima (@LoveSongs4Peace).

It's been a little bit of a technical adventure. First I finally threw up my hands and gave in to the demands of the present when it became clear that NHS just assumed everyone had a smartphone, so I gave up my dumbphone of long-standing and made the switch. That required a lot of adapters and changed habits to begin with. But then my beloved ten-year-old Precision started being very cranky, so that had to go, too, and though the new machine is certainly very spiffy with many fine qualities, there's sure a lot to get used to, even leaving aside the fact that I'd never updated from Win7 and had to adapt to that upgrade, too. So, I can't find things, and things look strange, and I'm still not used to this keyboard, and I had a helluva time doing the last post because the font was so small and I couldn't figure out where to change it for a while. I'm still going back and finding typos. And then there are all those passwords I've forgotten.

Yes, price-gouging is an important factor in the current inflation. "Corporate profits have contributed disproportionately to inflation. How should policymakers respond? [...] Since the trough of the COVID-19 recession in the second quarter of 2020, overall prices in the NFC sector have risen at an annualized rate of 6.1%—a pronounced acceleration over the 1.8% price growth that characterized the pre-pandemic business cycle of 2007–2019. Strikingly, over half of this increase (53.9%) can be attributed to fatter profit margins, with labor costs contributing less than 8% of this increase. This is not normal. From 1979 to 2019, profits only contributed about 11% to price growth and labor costs over 60%, as shown in Figure A below. Nonlabor inputs—a decent indicator for supply-chain snarls —are also driving up prices more than usual in the current economic recovery. [...] The overheating view often emphasizes the atypically fast nominal wage growth of the past year as justification of their arguments. But this nominal wage growth—while fast compared to the very recent past—still lags far behind overall inflation and hence signals that labor costs are still dampening, not amplifying, inflationary pressures."

"Prosecutor drops all charges against Pamela Moses, jailed over voting error: Moses, convicted last year, was granted new trial in February after Guardian revealed files that had not been given to her defense A Memphis prosecutor has dropped all criminal charges against Pamela Moses, the Memphis woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote. Moses was convicted last year and sentenced in January. She was granted a new trial in February after the Guardian published a document showing that had not been given to her defense ahead of the trial. [...] The central issue in her case was whether she had known she was ineligible to vote when a probation officer filled out and signed a form indicating she was done with probation for a 2015 felony conviction and eligible to cast a ballot. Even though the probation officer admitted he had made a mistake, and Moses said she had no idea she was ineligible to vote, prosecutors said she knew she was ineligible and had deceived him. Moses stood in the lobby of the probation office while the officer went to his office to research her case for about an hour, he said at trial."

"Steven Donziger vs. Big Oil:The environmental lawyer was finally released from house arrest this week. THIS WEEK, after nearly 1,000 days of arbitrary detention, the environmental and human rights lawyer Steven Donziger was released from house arrest. On this week's podcast, Donziger talks to Intercept investigative reporter Sharon Lerner and Ryan Grim about his decadelong legal battle with Chevron over land contamination in Ecuador." (Transcript promised.)

Back during the UK elections, Jeremy Corbyn was trying to make people aware of Boris' plans to privatize the NHS, but it barely got a headline when the New Labour establishment was busy fabricating fake "evidence" that Jeremy Corbyn was an anti-semite. The successful effort to ensure that Corbyn was unelectable was so blatant as to be baffling, but perhaps it's all a reminder that the New Labour leadership is actually in favor of privatization of the NHS. The present state of privatization is already driving doctors out, but now we learn that, "Labour's shadow health secretary says he would not "shirk" from using private providers to reduce NHS waiting lists. Wes Streeting told the BBC's Nick Robinson it proved "effective" the last time his party was in power. But he put the blame for needing the option at the Tories' door, saying the government had "run down the NHS". The Labour MP also told the Political Thinking podcast his own experience of cancer made him "even more passionate" about bringing down waiting lists. Mr Streeting's remarks appear to show a change in direction for the party. Labour's last two leaders, Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband, focused their election campaigns on protecting the NHS in England from privatisation. But under the New Labour government of the late 1990s and 2000s, the role of the private sector increased in the health service." (What a phony. He didn't experience any delays in his cancer treatment, this is bollocks.)

When Governor DeSantis' purge of "woke" textbooks from the curriculum turned out to include math texts, people were surprised. But now we know: He had a particular publisher to send the grift to. "As DeSantis administration rejects textbooks, only one publisher allowed for K-5 math classes in Florida."

"Democrats Bail On Promise To Shed Light On Corporate Political Spending: A little-noticed provision in the mammoth omnibus spending bill means the country's corporate watchdog once again can't tackle dark money. Buried in the 2,741 pages of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Joe Biden signed last month is a provision that bars the government's Wall Street watchdog agency from forcing corporations to disclose their political donations. The stipulation, part of a deal with Republicans to keep the government up and running, means that Democrats are poised to once again break their long-standing promise to shed light on the massive secret corporate spending that now dominates U.S. politics — just as a Biden appointee appeared ready to finally tackle the issue."

"Dems retreat on crime and police reform: If 2020 was the year the left reordered the traditional politics of crime and policing, 2022 looks like the year centrists regained their footing and nullified those gains. President Joe Biden is proclaiming that it's time to 'fund the police' and pouring more money into law enforcement in his budget plan. Democratic mayors in deep-blue cities are promising to hire hundreds more cops. Even in liberal bastions like Los Angeles, candidates are sprinting to claim the tough-on-crime mantle. [...] The signs of the Democratic Party's evolution on crime are everywhere — and go beyond defeats suffered by the 'defund the police' movement in Minneapolis and elsewhere last year. As the midterm elections pick up, Democrats are calling for more police funding and attempting to co-opt traditionally Republican talking points on crime." Not only did no one ever defund the police, but many cities gave them more funding than ever. If it is true that crime is up, that doesn't argue well for giving the cops more money. But crime isn't really up all that much (and in some areas has gone down), despite the copaganda.

On the other hand, few seem to view with alarm the really worrying trend. "We're in the Midst of a White-Collar Crime Wave: Financial malfeasance has never been more rampant, or more under-punished. Everywhere you look in America, crime is out of control. Whether it's Elon Musk—the world's richest man—cutting regulatory corners in public, professional son-in-law Jared Kushner getting a $2 billion payoff from the Saudis, hackers draining hundreds of millions of dollars out of a crypto game, or the meatpacking industry boosting profits through price gouging, the economy's winners color outside the lines with increasing chutzpah. There's a lot of evidence that the country is in the middle of an alarming white-collar crime wave, but, unlike street crime, the phenomenon doesn't show up much in our political discourse. It's time to change that. [...] People are getting taken at work, too: In a survey of service workers, 34 percent reported an increase in wage theft by their employers during the pandemic. A commentator could pull up these figures all day, and so could a prosecutor."

Another nightmare scenario in the annals of Corporate Hospital Ownership: "Out Of The ER, Into The Street [...] Not long ago, ER doctors prized their unique ability to ignore both politics and profits, and treat patients in order of the severity of their condition, regardless of their insurance status. But companies like USACS changed all that. Over the past decade, the percentage of ER doctors working for small independent practices has shrunk by more than half to just 20 percent, and the corporate consolidations have led physician wages to stagnate even as billing surged. Then came COVID-19, which caused an abrupt plunge in ER traffic that left many doctors temporarily downsized at the very moment their skills were needed most. Across the country, many ER doctors are privately arriving at the same conclusion that inspired the USACS uprising: It's no longer enough to help people by treating one ER patient at a time, when the real emergency appears to be unbridled corporate greed."

Pro Publica, "America's Highest Earners And Their Taxes Revealed: Secret IRS files reveal the top US income-earners and how their tax rates vary more than their incomes. Tech titans, hedge fund managers and heirs dominate the list, while the likes of Taylor Swift and LeBron James didn't even make the top 400. [...] In a progressive tax system, the more income you make, the higher your tax rate is. But in the U.S., that's only partly true. On average, the rate of income tax that people pay does climb as incomes ascend into the top 1%, but when you get to the range of $2 million to $5 million, that trend stops. The group earning in this range, composed mostly of business owners and workers with extremely high salaries, paid an average income tax rate of 29% from 2013 to 2018. After that, average tax rates actually drop the further up in income you go."

"Obama Wants Censorship: Barack Obama and his ruling class bosses are losing legitimacy with more and more people. They have decided that censoring information will resolve their problems. On April 21, 2022 former president Barack Obama gave a speech at Stanford University on the subject of social media. In typical Obamaesque fashion, he didn't state his point plainly. He used a lot of time, more than an hour, to advocate for social media censorship. He only used that word once, in order to deny that it was in fact what he meant, but the weasel words and obfuscation couldn't hide what Obama was talking about. In 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, the candidate she thought easiest to beat, Obama first presented his lament about 'disinformation' and 'fake news.' His real concern was that Trump's victory proved that millions of people paid no attention to or even scorned, corporate media. No major newspaper endorsed Donald Trump, the television networks enjoyed the ratings increases he created, but ultimately believed that a second Clinton presidency was in the offing. None of them knew that some 60 million people would go to polling places and give their votes to Trump. Hence the disquiet in November 2016, when Obama realized that having buy-in from establishment corporate media meant little if their narratives were rejected by people across the country."

"The DEA's Elite Police Unit in Mexico Was Actually Dirty as Hell: The U.S.-vetted and trained unit was disbanded by Mexico, after years of corruption and controversy. After more than a year of quietly choking off resources behind the scenes, Mexico's president said last week that he has effectively shut down an elite police unit trained and funded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate drug cartels, claiming it was corrupt. 'That group, which was supposedly a high-level strategic group, was infiltrated by criminals,' President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said at a press conference last week, confirming reports that the DEA's 'Sensitive Investigative Unit,' or SIU, had been disbanded after more than 25 years of joint operations in Mexico. So far, the scrapping of the SIU has been portrayed as yet another blow to bilateral security cooperation on anti-narcotics investigations under López Obrador. But current and former U.S. law enforcement officials who spoke with VICE News say the SIU has indeed been a corruption-plagued disaster for years. One agent with extensive experience operating in Mexico called the SIU 'corrupt and dangerous' and was not sorry to see its demise. 'I am glad,' the agent said. 'They were dirty, no-good criminals. It's the best thing that ever happened to the U.S. government in Mexico.'"

RIP: "R.I.P. Cynthia Albritton, a.k.a. Cynthia Plaster Caster: The rock 'n' roll legend, known for her famous lifetime art project, was 74. Cynthia Albritton, better known as Cynthia Plaster Caster, has died following an illness, per Variety. She was 74. She was a bonafide rock legend, famous for her artistic practice of immortalizing rock stars' penises by making plaster-casted sculptures of them."

ROT IN PERDITION: Orrin Hatch, anti-union, anti-abortion crackpot, dead at 88. "Though in his death he is being remembered for his bipartisan efforts, he did oppose his fair share of Democratic agendas. He voted against the Equal Rights Amendment, used the filibuster to block fair housing bills and pushed bills to ban abortions." Another reminder that bi-partisanship is bad.

Michael Hobbs on the NYT pearl-clutching about "cancel culture" (by which they really mean saying critical things to bigshots like journalists at The New York Times): "Panic! On the Editorial Page [...] If I quoted this without screengrabbing it you'd think I was making it up. Conservative complaints about progressive speech — going back to Elvis shaking his hips and beyond — are one of the most consistent features of the 20th century. But today, the Times tells us, they wouldn't be happening if libs hadn't been so insistent about trigger warnings. And that's it, the cancel culture panic in a nutshell: Left-wing threats to free speech may not be backed up by any evidence and totally unconnected to any Democratic policy agenda. But! If we're not careful, someday, the Democratic Party could be as dangerous as Republicans are now. Can't wait to read 50 more articles about it."

Taibbi and Orf, "The "Gentlemen's Agreement": When TV News Won't Identify Defense Lobbyists: As war rages, viewers watch commercials for weapons dealers, often without knowing it. [...] In 2008, David Barstow of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting about this phenomenon of military 'journalists,' with 'Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon's Hidden Hand' being one of the winning submissions. Barstow wrote about how defense officials on air retained ties to the Pentagon and gave official talking points on air in a coordinated way, quoting a former Green Beret and Fox analyst who said of military officials, 'It was them saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you.'' Networks and even papers like the Times have since become so dependent upon military and intelligence vets, both as bylined content-producers and as sources, that efforts to track lobbying ties have been abandoned. Both the Washington Post and New York Times won Pulitzers in 2018 for Russia-themed stories that relied on unnamed 'current and former officials' from the military and intelligence worlds. In just over ten years, in other words, the Pulitzer committee went from rewarding papers for exposing defense ties to rewarding their concealment, while pushing intelligence-friendly news narratives — exactly what the Times was concerned about in 2008. Now, only outlets like Jacobin go near the lobbying topic." Matt has a follow-up, "A Brief Note on the "Gentlemen's Agreement", Which is Not Just for Defense Lobbyists: TV analysts from all sorts of industries are identified by long-ago official titles, not current lobbying gigs."

More evidence that government can do things. "From 'biologically dead' to chart-toppingly clean: how the Thames made an extraordinary recovery over 60 years: It might surprise you to know that the River Thames is considered one of the world's cleanest rivers running through a city. What's even more surprising is that it reached that status just 60 years after being declared 'biologically dead' by scientists at London's Natural History Museum. Yet despite this remarkable recovery, there's no room for complacency – the Thames still faces new and increasing threats from pollution, plastic and a rising population."

Robert Kuttner is doing a "Summers Watch: Larry Summers is not only a self-promoter who is often wrong on his economics. He is disdainful of who suffers if his recommendations are taken seriously. Larry Summers, spurned for a Biden administration post, is famously vindictive. Lately, he has been taking victory laps, reminding everyone of how right he was and how mistaken everyone else was. It's hard to imagine any other prominent policy adult with this level of narcissism. His arm must be sore from patting himself on the back. He epitomizes the old line 'often wrong, never in doubt.' Let's first give Larry partial credit on the big picture. Inflation did accelerate faster than most other economists forecast, and the Fed will raise interest rates more than Fed Chair Jay Powell predicted last fall. But Summers drastically overstates the degree to which the inflation is the result of excessive macroeconomic stimulus, as well as exaggerating his own prescience. For starters, when President Biden sponsored the American Rescue Plan Act in March 2021, the economy was still in a deep COVID recession, and people were suffering. Most of the outlay was not intended as random macro-stimulus; it was targeted relief. Contrary to Summers, recent price hikes have been substantially the result of two factors that Summers largely omits from his analysis—supply chain shocks and monopolistic corporations with market power taking advantage of an inflationary climate to impose opportunistic price hikes. It's understandable that Summers doesn't focus on these—they are consequences of the policies of deregulation and hyper-globalism that Summers (and Bob Rubin) persuaded Bill Clinton to impose on the country. Summers—relentlessly—is a macroeconomist; and when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. He doesn't deign to look at structural particulars, except at a level that is breathtaking in its shallowness. Search 'Summers' and 'monopoly pricing' and you get superficial tweets denying the problem, based on no data. Moreover, Summers tends to backdate his predictions to make himself look prescient. What he actually forecast was often not what in fact occurred. As John Cassidy recently observed in The New Yorker, Summers in March 2021 forecast three possible scenarios—a one-third chance of stagflation; a one-third chance that 'the Fed hits the brakes hard' and we get recession; and a one-third chance of growth that 'will moderate in a non-inflationary way.' (Note the spurious mathematical precision—one-third, based on what?) Cassidy quotes financial analyst and longtime Fed watcher Tim Duy that Summers 'also put out plenty of other scenarios—enough that he almost couldn't be wrong.' Exactly so. Except that the one scenario Summers didn't forecast was the one that actually occurred: continued robust growth and moderately high supply-driven inflation." And there's more. And sometimes I wonder if Summers actually knows he's spewing lies.

Department of Manufacturing Consent: "Government poll tried to skew public opinion against defunding the police: Documents reveal Public Safety Canada, in consultation with RCMP, manufactured lower support for Defund the Police movement. [...] The government poll was not immediately released publicly, but was reported on as 'confidential' by Ottawa-based Blacklock's Reporter, which claimed it 'found [the] largest number of Canadians want MORE police funding, not less.' Their reporting was picked up by major newspapers across the country last summer, with headlines like 'Most Canadians against defunding police' and 'Study: Public says 'don't defund our police.'' But there was another wrinkle. Despite having introduced pro-police bias into the questions, the full poll results, which Public Safety Canada quietly posted online a month after the initial coverage, show public support for defunding the police was in fact high and was misrepresented in the media coverage."

"Sleazy "Democratic" PACs Working To Defeat Progressives: Hakeem Jeffries, a Wall Street Democrat and worthless careerist-- the Dem version of Kevin McCarthy-- who represents Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill, East New York, Canarsie, Flatlands and Coney Island in Brooklyn plus Ozone Park and Howard Beach in Queens, started an anti-progressive PAC-- Team Blue PAC-- with rabid Blue Dog (and total Wall Street whore) Josh Gottheimer last year. As of March 31 they had collected just over a quarter million dollars this cycle-- primarily sewer money from lobbyists and corporate PACs-- to use against progressive candidates challenging incumbents. The progressive Democrats that Jeffries and Gottheimer are working hardest to keep out of office are Nina Turner (OH), Imani Oakley (NJ), Kina Collins (IL), Rana Abdelhamid (NY) and Amy Vilela (NV), all women of color. [...] There are even worse anti-progressive PACs that are part of the Democratic establishment, although none of the others have the presumptive next Democratic Party House leader (Jeffries). One of the ones doing the most damage right now is Mark Mellman's so-called "Democratic Majority for Israel," which claims to be a pro-Israel PAC but is just as much an anti-Medicare for All PAC and just generally anti-progressive PAC. Last cycle, for example, its biggest expenditures-- by far-- were $1,400,032 against Bernie and $899,148 to help Eliot Engel and $664,890 against Engel's opponent, Jamaal Bowman. Engel lost his seat to Bowman. This cycle they have been helping many anti-progressive candidates-- like Jon Kaiman on Long Island-- raise money but so far their biggest expenditures have gone to keep Nina Turner out of Congress. So far, they've spent $1,420,603 helping to prop up waste-of-a-seat Shontel Brown and another 1,240,738 smearing Turner, this cycle's most feared-- by the corrupt establishment-- candidate running for anything, anywhere."

This article contains an interesting little tidbit from Philip Linden himself. "The creator of Second Life has a lot to say about all these new 'metaverses': Linden Lab founder Philip Rosedale and executive chairman Brad Oberwager aren't too impressed with what they've seen so far. [...] 'Blockchain economies are extremely dangerous,' says Rosedale. 'They do some things that are good, but as a side effect in the way they're designed, they're an almost certainly fatal thing to humankind in the long term.' I assumed that Rosedale was referring to the computational wastefulness of blockchain accounting and the resultant environmental costs, a common criticism. That's part of it, he says, but he was actually talking about something much more abstract. The problem, he believes, is that total decentralization inevitably increases wealth inequality. He pointed me to a simulation he designed last year in which bouncing balls demonstrate the theory that 'the rich actually always get richer, no matter what.' It's something he devised after reading a Scientific American article on the topic. 'What I do in the simulation is I give 1,000 people each 1,000 poker chips, so everybody starts off with exactly the same number of poker chips, but then that means there's a million poker chips total,' says Rosedale. 'And that's it. That's all you get. Now, let these people randomly engage in free market transactions.' Those transactions are money transfers decided by coin flips. If I collide with Phillip in the simulation, there's a 50% chance he'll give me some money, and a 50% chance I'll give him some money. 'Most people would think that if you waited for a month, everybody would still have around 1,000 tokens, because we just flipped coins,' says Rosedale. 'Tyler's not smarter than Phillip; If 50% of the time you get my money and 50% of the time I get yours, what happens to individual wealth? What happens is surprising, and of course, horrifying. What happens is that there's one winner. There's one extremely rich person and everyone else has nothing.'"

Every now and then I like to remind people of how the Newspapers of Record and the CIA conspired to kill a story and a reporter. Here's the 2014 story from The Intercept upon the release of a film about the events that began in 1996, "How The CIA Watched Over The Destruction Of Gary Webb: Freshly-released CIA documents show how the largest U.S. newspapers helped the agency contain a groundbreaking exposé. Eighteen years after it was published, 'Dark Alliance,' the San Jose Mercury News's bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua's Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism."

I've always wanted to do this and it occurred to me that maybe someone had done it on YouTube—and indeed, lots of people have, but I think I liked this one the best: Steph signs with the Temptations' "My Girl".

The Beatles, live in Indianapolis 1964, "If I Fell"

03:34 GMT comment

Thursday, 14 April 2022

Play it right and bide my time

Steampunk Tendencies posted this to their Facebook page with no explanation so I have no idea what it is or where, but I'd sure like to see it.

"Under Pressure, the Biden Administration Rebrands Its Medicare Privatization Initiative: After quietly pushing an insurance-industry-backed Medicare privatization scheme, the Biden administration has come under fire from pro-Medicare activists. In response, the administration has rebranded the scheme — but left its privatizing substance intact. [...] Joe Biden seemed to be dangling a blade over the 'direct contracting' program after a groundswell of opposition among both grassroots activists and progressives in Congress forced his hand. Officials began hinting that they would overhaul the program or even cancel it entirely, with those businesses set to profit from it working feverishly to prevent the latter outcome. For the past week, both the health care industry and advocates for public health care have been waiting anxiously to find out what the administration decided. Yesterday, they got their answer. In response to 'feedback from stakeholders and participants,' the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the direct contracting program would be turned into something called ACO REACH (Accountable Care Organization Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health). The question is, is this change enough to fix what worried public-health campaigners about direct contracting in the first place? The answer, they say, is no. 'We don't see anything other than a name change,' says Diane Archer, president of Just Care USA."

"Democrats Creating Their Own October Surprise: Imminent congressional inaction on Affordable Care Act subsidies will doom 14 million people, the party's midterm chances, and health care reform for a decade. Watching congressional Democrats these days feels like a painful, slow-motion car wreck. They are sleepwalking into a health care disaster that's entirely of their own making. With little debate or media focus, Democrats are on the verge of dooming millions of Americans to huge new health care bills, which will in turn serve to ruin any hope Democrats have of winning the midterms. And that will effectively destroy any chance of real health care reform for at least another decade."

Collected at Threadreader, a series of tweets from Matt Stoller: "1. Here's Apple CEO Tim Cook today arguing that antitrust laws against big tech are bad for privacy and bad for national security. In honor of his speech, I thought I'd do a little thread on just how bad these tech firms are for American security." And there are quite a few examples!

"These six corporations are financing an assault on reproductive rights in six states" — While publicly condemning the new anti-abortion laws, and boasting of their commitments to women's health, gender equality (or "equity"), and the empowerment of women, CVS, AT&T, Merck, Comcast, United Health, and Anheuser-Busch have all shoveled plenty of contributions to the legislators who pass the anti-choice legislation.

"Wall Street May Reap Billions From New York Dem's Reversal: City Comptroller Brad Lander pledged to disentangle retirement funds from risky private equity and fossil fuel investments — but now he's pushing to do the opposite. As the Biden Administration warns that workers' retirement funds may be getting fleeced by hedge funds and private equity firms, a top Democrat is reversing his own criticism of such investments and requesting authority to funnel billions of dollars of retiree savings to the private equity moguls. If that happens, it could mean a half-billion dollars of additional annual fees for a private equity industry that has produced some of the wealthiest people on the planet. [...] 'Private equity is inconsistent with the transparency obligations of public pensions,' said Siedle. 'There isn't a single public pension in this country that's knowledgeable about how to oversee or monitor private equity investments. They don't know what they're investing in, they don't know the fees they are paying, they don't know the risk they're taking on. When you see a push to increase private equity, what you're really seeing is a politicization of the investment process. The only reason to increase investments in private equity is to please donors."

"We Have New Evidence of Saudi Involvement in 9/11, and Barely Anyone Cares: The FBI has quietly revealed further evidence of Saudi government complicity in the September 11 attacks — and nothing's happened. here's a lot going on in the world right now, so it's not surprising some news slips through the cracks. Still, it's amazing that explosive new information about an allied government's complicity in one of the worst attacks on US soil in history has simply come and gone with barely any notice. Last week, the FBI quietly declassified a 510-page report it produced in 2017 about the 9/11 terrorist attack twenty years ago. The disclosure is in accordance with President Joe Biden's September 2021 executive order declassifying long-hidden government files about the attack, which many hoped would reveal what exactly US investigators knew about the Saudi Arabian government's possible involvement." So, a member of the Saudi government's spy organization was being paid by the Saudi royal family to hang out in the United States helping the 9/11 hijackers set themselves up and then the FBI and the Bush administration covered-up for him and now nobody cares about any of this. The same pressbots and pundits who went insane and screamed for blood in the wake of the attacks on 9/11 are just completely uninterested in who actually did it. And...why is that?

Video: Luke Savage and Emma Vigeland on "How 'The West Wing' Misled A Generation Of Liberals" — And why do Democrats talk like It's An Existential Threat and then behave like nothing unusual is going on and we don't have to do anything?

"Pentagon Drops Truth Bombs to Stave Off War With Russia: Leaked stories from the Pentagon have exposed how mainstream media reports Russia's conduct in the Ukraine war, in a bid to counter propaganda intended to get NATO into the conflict, writes Joe Lauria. The Pentagon has been engaged in a consequential battle with the U.S. State Department and the Congress to prevent a direct military confrontation with Russia, which could unleash the most unimaginable horror of war. President Joe Biden is caught in the middle of the fray. So far he is siding with the Defense Department, saying there cannot be any kind of NATO no-fly zone over Ukraine fighting Russian aircraft because 'that's called World War III, okay? Let's get it straight here, guys. We will not fight the third world war in Ukraine. 'President Biden's been clear that U.S. troops won't fight Russia in Ukraine, and if you establish a no-fly zone, certainly in order to enforce that no-fly zone, you'll have to engage Russian aircraft. And again, that would put us at war with Russia,' said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin earlier this month. (The administration plan is to bring down the Russian government through a ground insurgency and economic war, not a direct military one.)" But everyone, including Pelosi and Schumer and the entire mass media have been vocally itching for war. The two Democratic leaders tamped it down after even Blinken backed off that line, but TV loves wars, and the din is loud. "But on Tuesday, the Pentagon took the bold step of leaking two stories to reporters that contradict those tales. 'Russia's conduct in the brutal war tells a different story than the widely accepted view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demolishing Ukraine and inflicting maximum civilian damage—and it reveals the Russian leader's strategic balancing act,' reported Newsweek in an article entitled, 'Putin's Bombers Could Devastate Ukraine But He's Holding Back. Here's Why.' The piece quotes an unnamed analyst at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) saying, 'The heart of Kyiv has barely been touched. And almost all of the long-range strikes have been aimed at military targets.' A retired U.S. Air Force officer now working as an analyst for a Pentagon contractor, added: 'We need to understand Russia's actual conduct. If we merely convince ourselves that Russia is bombing indiscriminately, or [that] it is failing to inflict more harm because its personnel are not up to the task or because it is technically inept, then we are not seeing the real conflict.'"

Pierce, "No Wonder Trump's Legal Beagles Fought So Hard to Keep These Emails Secret: John Eastman and the Camp Runamuck team were devising a plan of action in print. [...] First thing we do, let's indict all the lawyers. Eastman—and therefore, the legal representatives of Camp Runamuck—fought like wolverines chewing off their own legs to keep these communications away from the special committee appointed to investigate the events of January 6. Judge Carter's ruling did not merely declare Congress to be the winner in that particular struggle, it upped the stakes for the side that won. Carter did more than just decide the issue of the emails. He also explained why he was doing so, and he did that by treating the material as a road map for Congress—and the Department of Justice—to follow." Charlie is more optimistic than history can support, but someone really needs to spell out the difference between giving clients a good defense when they are accused of a crime and helping clients find quasi-legal ways to commit crime.

RIP: Eric Boehlert Dies: Media Critic For Media Matters & Salon, Founder Of Press Run Newsletter Killed In Bike Accident At 57: Eric Boehlert, a media critic devoted to calling out right-wing misinformation through his writing at Media Matters for America, Salon, Daily Kos and most recently as the founder of the Press Run website, died Monday in a bike accident. He was 57. His death was announced on Twitter today by journalist and friend Soledad O'Brien, who called Boehlert 'a fierce and fearless defender of the truth.' Boehlert was struck by a train while biking in Montclair, New Jersey; Montclair police reported yesterday that a man riding a bicycle was struck and killed by a New Jersey Transit train in Montclair on Monday evening." His colleague, Atrios, wrote: "Very sad. I knew Eric some personally, working through Media Matters and otherwise, though we hadn't really had any personal contact in awhile. Nice guy, really got his journalism career boost exposing the various shenanigans at Clear Channel and then shifted into politics/political media coverage." I've spent many years watching Eric evolve and was pleased to see him breaking his assumptions in the last few years. Sorry he won't be putting those insights to use anymore.

RIP: Bobby Rydell, 'Wild One' Singer and 'Bye Bye Birdie' Star, Dead at 79: Bobby Rydell, one of the first music idols to spur teen fandom in the Fifties and Sixties, has died at age 79. His death was caused by complications from pneumonia, a rep for the artist confirmed in a statement. 'He had the best pipes,' his good friend and radio legend Jerry Blavat told the Inquirer. 'He could do Sinatra, he could do anything… He could do comedy. He played the drums. He was a great mimic… He could have been as big as Bobby Darin, but he didn't want to leave Philadelphia.'" Loved him as Hugo, but really loved to listen to him singing "Forget Him".

"Four-day week: What we do with our extra day off [...] Laura introduced a four-day week at the Stanton by Dale firm in January, making Friday a permanent day off for staff, who retained full pay. The firm had invested nearly £100,000 in new technology, which had helped drive production. Rather than making even more money, Laura decided to do something different."

"How the Minneapolis Foundation Bankrolls the Destruction of Public Schools: With hopes of creating an education 'marketplace,' the business foundation floods the city with charter schools while vilifying teachers' unions. Over its 107-year existence, the Minneapolis Foundation has accumulated all the essential ingredients for a glossy resume. The foundation's website reverentially invokes its creation in 1915 by 'a lawyer, two lumbermen and two bankers' who banded together to create 'a wisely planned and enduring fabric' to benefit the community. It then lists an array of beloved Minnesota institutions and places the foundation has worked to found, preserve, or improve in some manner. From the first federal protection of the Boundary Waters in 1924 to the establishment of the Minnesota Orchestra in 1945 to the construction of the original Guthrie Theater ('A Theater for the People!') in 1963, the foundation claims to have played a vital role. Today, the nonprofit grant-making machine, which boasts annual expenditures of $125 million, is helmed by former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. So when and why, exactly, did the Minneapolis Foundation start trying to kill the Minneapolis Public Schools?"

"Meet the Censored: Chris Hedges: Interview with the award-winning investigative reporter, now at Substack, who had six years of shows removed by YouTube This past weekend, celebrated journalist and author Chris Hedges woke up to find six years of episodes of his Russia Today show On Contact vanished from the show's account on YouTube. Though almost none of the shows referenced Russia or Vladimir Putin directly, and the few that did tended to be unflattering, his association with Russian state media was enough to erase hundreds of interviews about topics ranging from Julian Assange's imprisonment to censorship to police brutality to American war crimes in the Middle East."

Yes, they are still doing this stuff. "L.A. County Voting System Still Fails to Meet State Standards, County Clerk Smears Expert Critics: 'BradCast' 4/4/2022 [...] Back in 2020, Los Angeles County deployed a new, unverifiable touchscreen voting system called "Voting Solutions for All People" (or, VSAP) across the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction. Some ten years in development by the County's Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan, the new touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) failed spectacularly in that year's Super Tuesday Presidential Primary, leading to long lines and questions about the results. The VSAP system had been conditionally certified by the Secretary of State just weeks before their first county-wide use, after state testing discovered about 30 different violations of California Voting System Standards." I seriously don't want to hear about "saving democracy" from Trump or the Russians when it's coming from people who ignore this kind of thing or, worse, shrug it off as conspiracy theory.

"Israel deliberately forgets its history: An Israeli historian suggests the diaspora was the consequence, not of the expulsion of the Hebrews from Palestine, but of proselytising across north Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East [...] But during the 1980s an earthquake shook these founding myths. The discoveries made by the 'new archaeology' discredited a great exodus in the 13th century BC. Moses could not have led the Hebrews out of Egypt into the Promised Land, for the good reason that the latter was Egyptian territory at the time. And there is no trace of either a slave revolt against the pharaonic empire or of a sudden conquest of Canaan by outsiders. Nor is there any trace or memory of the magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon. Recent discoveries point to the existence, at the time, of two small kingdoms: Israel, the more powerful, and Judah, the future Judea. The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. This decisive encounter with Persian religion gave birth to Jewish monotheism. Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest. Most Zionist thinkers were aware of this: Yitzhak Ben Zvi, later president of Israel, and David Ben Gurion, its first prime minister, accepted it as late as 1929, the year of the great Palestinian revolt. Both stated on several occasions that the peasants of Palestine were the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea (2)."

The Real 'Big Lie' Has Nothing to Do With Donald Trump: American working people have slogged through three crushing recessions, a worsening inequality that resulted in lower standard of living, and a grotesque pandemic that has exposed glaring inadequacies of our economic model. [...] That particular fabrication asserts that the economy is recovering and as the pandemic recedes a return to normal prosperity will benefit all working people. [...] The real "Big Lie" to manipulate and con working people from the middle working class and working class is not convincing when the numbers of our economic model are examined. For starters, the economy had a net loss of around 10 million jobs in 2020. It gained 6.5 million jobs in 2021. That's a loss of 3.5 million jobs. Biden's 'recovery' is merely a reflection of the economic malaise of the last few years with significant losses during the pandemic. It is part of the 'recovery' of the business cycle which is a historical component of our economic model. These 'recoveries' usually result in less income and fewer good jobs for working people because the structure of our economic model remains intact." And then there are the real unemployment numbers, which aren't the ones you will see in the mass media.

Review, David Graeber and David Wengrow's The Dawn of Everything: 'The examples the authors cite persuasively debunk the now commonly accepted idea that there was only one overriding pattern in the evolution of government and social organization, and that it proceeded through a series of logical and ultimately inevitable phases to lead us into the modern world. They contest the deterministic view that certain events, such as the discovery of the benefits of agriculture or the creation of more efficient technology, left the societies that profited from them no other choice than to march forward towards an ever more sophisticated, technology-oriented civilization, transforming their institutions, cultures and relationships to accommodate and adapt to the supposed laws of the 'brave, new world' thus unveiled."

Michael Dobson has posted a little tribute to Steve Stiles, who we still miss a lot.


As a Steve Allen appreciator, I loved MST3K's The Steve-O-Meter.

Video: 1940s - Views of Los Angeles & San Francisco in color

Some photos of a neat building in Arkansas designed by a protegé of Frank Lloyd Wright, ThornCrown Chapel.

The Foundations, "Baby, Now That I've Found You"

05:27 GMT comment

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Well, that long black train got my baby and gone

This stunning sunset was captured by Jude Nagurney Camwell.

"Manchin's Child Tax Credit Lies: A new study disproves Sen. Joe Manchin's rotten claims about the child tax credit. A new study finds that the expanded Child Tax Credit — implemented last year as a key part of President Biden's American Rescue Plan — did not negatively impact employment among adults with children. The findings completely disprove West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's rationale for opposing the cash payments. Find out how and much more in today's Midday Poster below, exclusively for supporting subscribers."

I probably shouldn't bother with this one since she's leaving office to collect her reward from the corporate gods, but it's a perfect picture of what a "moderate" Democrat really is. "The Democratic Party's Biggest Problem Is Its Conservative Wing: Rep. Stephanie Murphy got everything she wanted, and it's a disaster, so she's retiring Several months ago, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) announced that she won't be running for re-election. Recently, she explained why in a worshipful interview with Rachel Bade at Politico, excerpted in its Playbook newsletter ('Presented by PhRMA'): She's mad about Democrats criticizing her for not supporting President Biden's agenda. 'I am surprised at how short the memory is. It's as short as being celebrated for having flipped a seat and then excoriated for taking votes that help you keep that seat,' she said. This is a crock. Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda is dead because a handful of the party's most conservative members, including Murphy, killed it. Now the party has nothing of legislative substance to run on, and members in swing districts are looking down the barrel of a possible midterm electoral bloodbath. The culprits are starting to head for the exits, scapegoating everyone but themselves for the consequences of their horrible decisions."

"The U.K. Wanted to Extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. From the Start: In a 2016 meeting, Britain's deputy minister of foreign affairs removed the diplomatic mask. THE U.K. HIGH COURT ruling that Julian Assange should be extradited to face trial in the United States — a decision that Amnesty International has called a 'travesty of justice' — came as no surprise to me. It's what the U.K. government always wanted. I know because the British deputy minister of foreign affairs told me. Many pundits and politicians talk of the extradition proceedings against Assange as if they were an unforeseen legal outcome that came about as Assange's situation unfolded. This is not true. My experience as the foreign minister of Ecuador — the South American country that granted Assange asylum — left me in no doubt that the U.K. wanted Assange's extradition to the United States from the very beginning. One encounter I had with Alan Duncan, the former British minister of state for Europe and the Americas, in October 2016 really let the cat out of the bag. At our meeting in the Dominican Republic, Duncan went on extensively about how loathsome Assange was. While I didn't anticipate Duncan to profess his love for our asylee, I had expected a more professional diplomatic exchange. But the most important moment of the meeting was when I reiterated that Ecuador's primary fear was the transfer of Assange to the United States, at which point Duncan turned to his staff and exclaimed something very close to, 'Yes, well, good idea. How would we go about extraditing him to the Americans?'' His advisers squirmed in embarrassment. They had spent the last four years trying to reassure Ecuador that this was not what the U.K. was after. I responded that this was news indeed. I then wondered whether Duncan left the meeting feeling he had made a mess of it. I was particularly surprised by Duncan's candor because my June 2016 meeting with his predecessor, Hugo Swire, in Whitehall, had been quite different. It's not that Swire wasn't equally contemptuous of the irritating South American country that had granted Assange asylum; it is more that Swire actually knew the case well. Swire stuck to the U.K.'s position: Nobody wanted to extradite Assange to the United States. The Ecuadorian government was 'deluded' and 'paranoid.' This had nothing to do with the issue of freedom of expression or even WikiLeaks. The case was all about accusations in Sweden against Assange. Ecuador should stop protecting a potential sex offender."

"The Supreme Court's Astonishing, Inexplicable Blow to the Voting Rights Act in Wisconsin: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued an astonishing decision throwing out Wisconsin's new legislative districts as a violation of the equal protection clause. The majority accused a Republican justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court of greenlighting a 'racial gerrymander' by creating one more majority-Black district in the state Assembly. Wednesday's unsigned decision, issued through the shadow docket, hands Wisconsin Republicans an unexpected victory in their quest to reduce Black representation in the legislature. It also alters the law of redistricting in fundamental yet cryptic ways that might, to a cynic, seem designed to disadvantage Democrats in every single case."

"Column: Renting a car from Hertz? You could wind up in jail: Tederhi Usude, a Santa Clarita dentist, rented a car from Hertz in June 2020 to drive to a job at a nonprofit health clinic in rural Mendocino County. He extended the rental several times with Hertz's permission and paid a total of $7,000. Usude, 55, says that in his last conversation with a Hertz agent he explained that he was temporarily quarantined because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the clinic, and would return the car as soon as he was cleared to travel again. On Dec. 18, 2020, he was on his way to return the vehicle the week before Christmas — in fact, he had turned onto the very street where the Hertz office was located. That's when his nightmare began. A police car flashed its lights behind him. He pulled over and was ordered out of the car. By then six or eight squad cars were on the scene. He was told to lie on the ground, was handcuffed and was taken to jail, where he spent the night." This seems to be a habit with them.

Somebody musta put the word out. "RT America Shuts Down After DirecTV, Roku Drop Channel: RT America, the U.S. arm of the Russian-government-controlled TV channel, will shut down and lay off most of its staff after Russia's invasion of Ukraine led distributors to drop the network. Misha Solodovnikov, general manager of T&R Productions, the company that produces RT America, cited 'unforeseen business interruption events' in a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. CNN reported earlier on RT's move." This was terrible news. RT's talent showed up to the studio and were simply told it was all over, they were shut down. RT was the only platform for those people — none of whom were speaking on behalf of the Russian government. They were there because it was the only platform that wasn't either right-wing or establishment.

"Where Did You Go, Vice President Joe?: President Biden's first SOTU Address was a missed opportunity to say what he knows to be true: Stock buybacks manipulate the market and leave most Americans worse off."

Putin May Have Played Himself. Will We? Reports suggest Putin tried to outsmart even his own troops, and checkmated himself instead." Taibbi quotes "Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky, a former Moscow Times co-worker" as tweeting: "If Putin does attack, the presumption of his rationality, which has been part of my analysis of his actions for the last 23 years, not just the past few weeks, will need to be thrown out the window." It doesn't look like the Russian troops had any idea what they were getting into, but that aspect of war-making is not new. But Putin seems to have accomplished a serious own-goal: "Meanwhile, at home, a week of Putin's Ukraine invasion has crystalized years of lobbying for messaging unity in the West. Any innovation on that front that attracted minor protest before has been deployed in the last week without question. Even Alex Jones had defenders when he was banned years ago, but for obvious reasons no one is batting an eye at the EU banning RT, or Google or Meta or DirecTV or SkyTV doing the same, or Twitter blocking new accounts in Russia, or any of a hundred moderation decisions of varying levels of rationality. It barely made news when Twitter announced it was limiting the spread of accounts that 'undermine trust in the Ukrainian government' or spreads news that 'that Ukraine isn't doing well.' (Does that language sound familiar?). Facebook, in an echo of 1984's 'Eurasia is now an ally' switcheroo, removed the neo-Nazi Azov battalion from its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list. A few weeks ago, it was at least a little controversial when Canada invoked its Emergencies Act to assert the power to cut off financial services for anyone 'directly or indirectly' participating in trucker protests, and GoFundMe faced criticism for freezing accounts. Now a fusillade of similar decisions is coming at us almost too quickly to track." Which is troubling, and when all those things happen at once, Americans, who supposedly believe in free speech, should be horrified. But all of America's worst war hawks have crawled out of the woodwork to flex again, as they've obviously been champing at the bit to do for some time. They must've prayed for Putin to do something stupid - and I guess he has. But that doesn't mean things can't be made stupider by everyone else.

"Why Is Biden Pushing People Back to the Office?: How about converting our depopulated downtowns into affordable housing instead? One of the more awkward lines in President Biden's State of the Union address involved returning to a pre-COVID status quo, though he highlighted perhaps the least desirable aspect of that: the slog through a rush hour commute to a box with four walls and apprehensive co-workers. 'It's time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,' Biden said. 'People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.' It didn't draw the bipartisan applause speechwriters may have expected. This was not a throwaway line. Biden returned to the theme last Friday while discussing the jobs numbers, using substantially the same language. It's an echo of a message that has been offered by mayors and governors off and on over the past several months.

"The US supports illegal annexations by Israel and Morocco. Why the hypocrisy? America must be consistent. It cannot pick and choose when to follow international law Last December, as Russian forces encircled Ukraine, the Biden administration and its allies delivered a stark warning to Vladimir Putin: 'Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law.' In January, as Russian troops massed even in even greater numbers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that 'the inviolability of frontiers' was among the 'guiding principles for international behavior.' Last month, after Russia's parliament recognized the independence of two self-declared republics Moscow had cleaved from eastern Ukraine, Blinken called this infringement upon 'Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity' a 'gross violation of international law.' All this is indisputably true. Remaking borders by force violates a core principle of international law. Which is why the Biden administration must do more than resist Russia's aggression in Ukraine. It must stop violating that principle itself."

RIP: "William Hurt, Star of Body Heat and Broadcast News Dead at 71: Oscar-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman actor died of natural causes, his family announced Sunday." He had lots of genre credits, of course, but I couldn't find an obit that mentioned, Humans, where it delighted me when he turned up.

"We Need to Talk About Profits: Economists routinely ignore a fundamental set of data about the economy. [...] We live in a capitalist economy driven by the profit motive. Yet, ironically, the study of profits remains a shockingly neglected subset of the economic discipline. No Nobel Prize in Economics has ever been given to the study of profits. Economists classify their publications into countless categories (the Journal of Economic Literature's J3 code stands for 'wages, compensation and labor costs'), yet there is no category for profits. The American Economic Review last published an article with the word profits in the title in 2014. It was about the Japanese textile industry at the turn of the 20th century. As for metrics, while Carroll Wright's Bureau of Labor Statistics is still going strong, there is no Bureau of Capital Statistics."

UK prices aren't any worse than America's — in many cases they are much lower, especially for necessities. But this is happening everywhere. "Jack Monroe's thread on reality of UK's cost of living crisis is brutal: This is the real increase in the cost of living - one the vast majority of the media chooses to ignore, the food activist said. This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket (one of the Big Four), was 29p for 500g. Today it's 70p. That's a 141% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households."

"Motivated Reasoning: Emily Oster's COVID Narratives and the Attack on Public Education: Of the numerous political battles sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, some of the most bitterly contested have taken place over K-12 education. Schools have been a site of decisive struggles over the norms, values, and policies of the U.S. response to the public health crisis. While teachers collectively fought for stronger COVID mitigation measures, a small but vocal minority of parents confronted school boards in acrimonious meetings, demanding an end to remote instruction and mask mandates. These local skirmishes took place against the backdrop of successive COVID surges and a national media narrative that cast doubt on the usefulness of public health measures. It is impossible to understand the failed U.S. pandemic response, which has left over one million people dead, without understanding the role that schools have played as sites of political contestation. And it is impossible to understand the school reopening debate without understanding one of its main interlocutors: academic economist Emily Oster. But despite its prominence, Oster's work on COVID in schools has attracted little scrutiny—even though it has been funded since last summer by organizations that, without exception, have explicit commitments to opposing teacher's unions, supporting charter schools, and expanding corporate freedom. In addition to grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Walton Family Foundation, and Arnold Ventures, Oster has received funding from far-right billionaire Peter Thiel. The Thiel grant awarded to Oster was administered by the Mercatus Center, the think tank founded and financed by the Koch family.

"Healthcare for human rights, not profits: what the U.S. can learn from Cuba's Coronavirus response: Cuba's remarkable response to the Coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for a healthcare system that puts people before profits [...] Even in the face of an economic blockade obstructing the shipment of critical medical supplies such as syringes and other basic materials, Cuba has already vaccinated 93% of its population against Coronavirus. Since the initiation of the state's vaccination campaign in August of 2021, Cuba now has one of the highest Coronavirus vaccination rates in the world, with daily infections having drastically declined. In contrast, only 65% of the U.S. population is currently vaccinated against Coronavirus (despite the nation's surplus of vaccines), and daily infections in the U.S. just reached record highs this January."

"Bad News: Selling the story of disinformation [...] The media narrative of sinister digital mind control has obscured a body of research that is skeptical about the effects of political advertising and disinformation. A 2019 examination of thousands of Facebook users by political scientists at Princeton and NYU found that 'sharing articles from fake news domains was a rare activity'—more than 90 percent of users had never shared any. [...] The media scholar Jack Bratich has argued that the contemporary antidisinformation industry is part of a 'war of restoration' fought by an American political center humbled by the economic and political crises of the past twenty years. Depoliticized civil society becomes, per Bratich, 'the terrain for the restoration of authoritative truth-tellers' like, well, Harvard, the New York Times, and the Council on Foreign Relations. In this argument, the Establishment has turned its methods for discrediting the information of its geopolitical enemies against its own citizens. The Biden Administration's National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism—the first of its kind—promises to 'counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online.' The full report warned not just of right-wing militias and incels, but anticapitalist, environmental, and animal-rights activists too. This comes as governments around the world have started using emergency 'fake news' and 'disinformation' laws to harass and arrest dissidents and reporters. [...] Ironically, to the extent that this work creates undue alarm about disinformation, it supports Facebook's sales pitch. What could be more appealing to an advertiser, after all, than a machine that can persuade anyone of anything? This understanding benefits Facebook, which spreads more bad information, which creates more alarm. Legacy outlets with usefully prestigious brands are taken on board as trusted partners, to determine when the levels of contamination in the information ecosystem (from which they have magically detached themselves) get too high. For the old media institutions, it's a bid for relevance, a form of self-preservation. For the tech platforms, it's a superficial strategy to avoid deeper questions. A trusted disinformation field is, in this sense, a very useful thing for Mark Zuckerberg. [...] The specific American situation was creating specific kinds of people long before the advent of tech platforms."

Glenn Greenwald has gotten a little partisan lately and it really does sound like he spends too much time hanging around with right-wingers, but he's not wrong about the shameful censorship the mass media and Big Tech practiced during the presidential campaign to suppress the story of how a coked-up failson of a wealthy candidate left his laptop lying around, and instead promoted a false, unverified story of how it was all just Russian propaganda. "The NYT Now Admits the Biden Laptop -- Falsely Called 'Russian Disinformation' -- is Authentic: The media outlets which spread this lie from ex-CIA officials never retracted their pre-election falsehoods, ones used by Big Tech to censor reporting on the front-runner." Frankly, I never understood why they thought it was so important to suppress this story. And though I understand why Greenwald was outraged when The Intercept refused to let him publish about it while allowing Risen to promote the story even the CIA wasn't quite willing to stand behind, I never agreed with his reasons for quitting over it. But hey, it was his choice. I mean, you either knew what a piece of crap Biden was or you were so adamantly anti-Trump that you didn't care. And the anti-Trump partisans had already shown that they were willing to engage in any kind of corruption to do what they perceived as ensuring Trump's defeat (as long as it didn't involve nominating Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren). Fox could rail about Biden and his son's nepotism and corruption as much as they liked, but most Democratic voters weren't going to pay much attention to it anyway after years of seeing such scandals as Gore and Obama wearing a different suit and numerous other faked up "exposés". But, left or right, people should be appalled by the willingness of the establishment media to play these blatantly censorious games and to rope "social media" into it as well.

At the same time, The Newspaper of Record thinks free speech means the right to say stupid things and not have anyone criticize you for it — at least if you are The New York Times. Froomkin says "The New York Times editorial board should retract and resign: It's hard to imagine a more fundamental misreading of the freedom of speech — or an organization whose credibility depends more on understanding it correctly — than today's lead editorial from the New York Times editorial board. The First Amendment asserts a right to free speech. It does not assert a right to not be criticized for speech. In fact, it protects critical speech. And the protection is against government action, not against other people."

I'm not going to link to anything about the demise of Mad Albright. Instead, about who she was when she lived. She spoke at a Berkeley commencement ceremony in 2000. She was supposed to speak after the Medalist speaker, but the university got nervous and switched them around. "Commencement Speech by University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie"

Paul Butterfield Blues Band "Mystery Train"

04:29 GMT comment

Sunday, 06 March 2022

Coverup: Four dead in Ohio

Last year, John Derf Backderf posted this on Facebook, but since everyone hates Facebook, and it is honestly a pain in the tail, I thought I'd put it here for a nice, easily-accessible link if anyone wants to link it elsewhere.

Since it's the time of year when the events of KENT STATE unfolded, I thought I'd share some items with you.

This event didn't end with the massacre. The days, weeks and months that followed were a depressing lesson in cover-ups, political sleaze and media manipulation. In its own way, it's as shocking a story as the story leading up to the massacre.

The cover-up by the National Guard began within minutes, even before the blood was cleaned off the Prentice Hall parking lot.

The 22 shooters reloaded their clips, to make it appear they hadn't fired their weapons. Guns were ditched, or switched. The armory checkout records for G Troop, the soldiers who did most of the slaughter, vanished. There was no way to ascertain who fired what weapon, or what soldier shot what student.

Almost all the shooters lied on their incident reports and insisted they had not fired. Later, most lied to the FBI, a felony for which they were not prosecuted. Within hours, all the shooters adopted the same defense.

"We thought we were about to be overrun. We felt our lives were in danger. We had no choice."

They weren't about to be overrun. Few of the 50 remaining protestors were anywhere near them when they fired. Most were the length of a football field away. The Guardsmen were in no danger at all. And they definitely had a choice.

The FBI also noted that it was obvious the shooters had quickly consulted attorneys and reached a group decision on what their defense was. Fifty-one years later, the surviving shooters still stick to that defense.

From Columbus, Gen. Del Corso, the reckless and reactionary leader of the National Guard, insisted a student sniper, firing from a rooftop, had caused the Guardsmen to fire in self defense. Del Corso and Gov. Rhodes were convinced the students were armed. They weren't. It would be 3 months before the FBI stated unequivocally, "There was no sniper."

Immediately after the massacre, Guard officers ordered 100 soldiers, some seen here, to fan out over the area and collect evidence, completely contaminating the shooting scene beyond hope. Shell casings were collected, some of which disappeared.

The soldiers were also ordered to round up all the projectiles that were thrown at them, mostly large driveway gravel from student parking lots. Instead, the soldiers went all over campus, especially to the construction area where the new library was being built, and out into surrounding city neighborhoods, and collected a fearsome array of "evidence" : bricks, concrete blocks, lumber, pieces of steel rebar, garden boulders that the school shotputter couldn't have heaved, etc. Gen. Canterbury insisted a fire hydrant had been thrown at him! An average hydrant weighs 300 lbs.! In the photo here, soldiers are marking as evidence a bit of pine branch. Some "weapon"!

This was all displayed on long tables in a campus building and shown to the skeptical press. The FBI later threw out most of this "evidence."

Capt. Snyder of the 145th Infantry, however, produced a pistol, which he says he found on the body of Jeff Miller. Along with a blackjack, just for good measure. He hadn't. The untraceable gun belonged to Snyder, a county deputy by day. So did the blackjack.

It would be FOUR YEARS before Snyder admitted he planted the gun on a dead boy.

In a comment below his original post, with an accompanying photo, he says:
The "shocking" display of weaponry pulled from dorm rooms by county deputies, under orders from Prosecutor Ron Kane.

Baseball bats, hunting knives, fish knives, a decorative samurai sword, a couple decorative flintlock pistols, a starter's gun, a few BB guns, art supplies mistaken for weapons, etc.

Reporters were less than impressed.

Plus the usual amount of drugs you'd expect to find, mostly pot. Some pills, which turned out to be legit prescriptions, and syringes, singled out by Kane as proof of heroin use, but which turned out to belong to diabetics.

Unfortunately for him, Kane had neglected to secure search warrants for this search. A judge quickly threw out charges.

Except one, because there was ONE crime. A deputy had stolen cash he found in the rooms. A humiliated Kane slunk away.

Their names were Allison Krause (19), Jeffrey Miller (20), Sandra Scheuer (20), and William Schroeder (19). Scheuer and Schroeder were not protesting at all, they were just observing from a few hundred feet away during a break between classes. Miller and Kraus and their friends were running away from the Guard when they were shot. Nine others were reported to be injured.

* * * * *

Biden gave his State of the Union address, which I didn't watch, but apparently the Republicans managed to put on a display that made me think, "You know, it's not just breaking government they're up to, it's being willing to make even themselves look like a bunch of trashy rowdies to make sure no one respects government at all." On the Dem side, though, Rashida Tlaib gave the progressive response and creepy spiv Josh Gottheimer gave the Quisling response, and Charlie Pierce says she was the only one who told the truth, when she said, "No one fought harder for President Biden's agenda than progressives. We rallied with our supporters, held town halls in our communities, engaged new people, and we even played hardball in Congress. But two forces stood in the way: A Republican Party that serves only the rich and powerful, and just enough corporate-backed Democratic obstructionists to help them succeed." Says Pierce, "It is incontrovertible that they supported the president's agenda and the Problem Solvers made only problems for it. And none of this had anything to do with Hunter Biden's laptop." Scott Lemieux deals with the reaction to Tlaib in "Josh Gottheimer trying to find the guy who did this: Axios is once again giving a platform to Democratic centrists to whine about colleagues who actually support Biden's agenda: 'Centrist House Democrats are unloading on Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her plan to give a response to President Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday. 'It's like keying your own car and slashing your own tires,' Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) told Axios.' There is, in fact, a small group of Democrats who are repeatedly keying the car and slashing the tires of the Biden administration, and Gottheimer is their ringleader: [...] It's just amazing that the Problem Creation Caucus is still trying to blame others when they've gotten their way. Their top priority was passed. They refuse to pass the top progressive priority, including its most popular elements. They have no further ideas but tax cuts for the affluent and no positive message at all. To the extent that the midterms go worse than expected, it hangs on them, and trying to blame the Squad is just pathetic. "

"Biden's Big Chance to Lower Drug Prices: A decision on whether to open a costly cancer drug to generic competition will be made shortly. It doesn't require congressional approval. [...] Xtandi was invented due to grants from the U.S. Army and the NIH; all three of its patents disclose those funders. In the case of publicly developed drugs, under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 the government has so-called 'march-in rights' to effectively extinguish such patents if the drug is not being distributed on 'reasonable terms.' After that, generic companies could market their versions and create competition on price. Activists, public-health experts, and patients have urged the government to use march-in rights on Xtandi, which is owned by a Japanese pharmaceutical conglomerate named Astellas. (Through an acquisition, Pfizer owns half of the U.S. market for the drug, where it and Astellas share costs and profits.) The advocates' argument is that charging U.S. patients significantly more than patients in other high-income countries for the same drug is in fact unreasonable. On January 10, the NIH said it would complete an initial review on how to proceed within a month. A decision is expected imminently." Will he do it? The politics here are all about money. Some of the very people who are in the decision loop are patent-holders getting big royalties. "However, Love believes that ultimately, HHS and the president will decide the fate of the petition. The hope of activists is that using march-in once will discourage other drug companies that used federal grants (which is the overwhelming majority of them) from pricing their products high."

"Judge orders new trial for US woman sentenced to six years for trying to register to vote: Pamela Moses released from prison after Guardian revealed new evidence in case that was not produced at trial. A Memphis judge has ordered a new trial for Pamela Moses, a woman who was sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote. The case attracted national attention following a Guardian report, because of the severity of the sentence. Moses said she had no idea she was ineligible. Moses has been in prison since December, when her bond was revoked. On Thursday, the Guardian revealed new evidence in the case that was not produced at trial. Moses was released from custody on Friday, according to Claiborne Ferguson, her attorney."

I'm trying to avoid the whole Trump/January 6th story, but there's some stuff at TPM that makes me feel even more disgusted with Obama for nominating Garland.

"Documents Reveal Identities Of Three EPA Officials Who Downplayed Chemical Hazards: All three officials have played a significant role in pressuring scientists to dismiss the risks posed by products the EPA is assessing, according to whistleblowers. [...] The first complaint, filed in June, explained that all four whistleblowers experienced having chemical hazards they identified — including developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, mutagenicity, and/or carcinogenicity — removed from assessments. According to a complaint they submitted to the EPA inspector general in early August, the whistleblowers met with opposition from all three named officials in their effort to accurately account for exposure to certain chemicals. On one occasion, according to the complaint, Stedeford revised a report, changing a finding of neurotoxicity after speaking to a representative of the company that made the chemical. Another of their complaints, submitted to the inspector general in late August, described Camacho as deleting hazards from an assessment without the permission of the scientist who worked on it to make the chemical seem less hazardous. And in a complaint filed with the inspector general in November, the whistleblowers documented the case of a chemical used in paint, caulk, ink, and other products that posed health risks, including the risk of cancer. In the latter case, a risk assessor noted the hazards in the assessment, but Henry changed the document to say that the 'EPA did not identify risk' for the chemical."

Andrew Bacevich at The Boston Globe, "US can't absolve itself of responsibility for Putin's Ukraine invasion: The conflict renders a judgment on post-Cold War US policy. That policy has now culminated in a massive diplomatic failure. [...] By casually meddling in Ukrainian politics in recent years, the United States has effectively incited Russia to undertake its reckless invasion. Putin richly deserves the opprobrium currently being heaped on him. But US policy has been both careless and irresponsible."

"Saudi-Russia Collusion Is Driving Up Gas Prices — and Worsening Ukraine Crisis: A spat between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Biden is pushing gas prices ever higher. It started under Obama. As Russia ordered troops into Ukraine on Monday, gas prices soared to their highest levels in over seven years. While the media focuses on the conflict in Ukraine, a major cause of the gas price spike has gone overlooked: Moscow's partnership with Saudi Arabia has grown dramatically in recent years, granting the two largest oil producers in the world the unprecedented ability to collude in oil export decisions. The desert kingdom's relationship with the U.S. has chilled in the meantime, as demonstrated earlier this month, when President Joe Biden pleaded with the Saudis to increase oil production — a move that would not only have helped to alleviate rising inflation and gas prices, but also reduced Russia's extravagant profits amid its aggression against Ukraine. The Saudi king declined. The Saudi and Russian relationship has blossomed under Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose first formal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin took place in the summer of 2015. MBS pursued the meeting after then-President Barack Obama declined to meet with him, The Intercept has learned from two sources with knowledge of the matter who were granted anonymity to describe sensitive discussions."

Taibbi, "Putin the Apostate [...] For anyone expecting me to be outraged about this — I am, after all, almost daily denounced as a Putin-lover and apologist, so surely I must want the Great Leader to stay in power forever — I have to disappoint. If Vladimir Putin were captured tomorrow and fired into space, I wouldn't bat an eye. I would like to point out that we already tried regime change in Russia. I remember, because I was there. And, thanks to a lot of lurid history that's being scrubbed now with furious intensity, it ended with Vladimir Putin in power. Not as an accident, or as the face of a populist revolt against Western influence — that came later — but precisely because we made a long series of intentional decisions to help put him there."

"'A Game-Changer': Defying Big Pharma, WHO Expands Vaccine Tech Sharing" 'The pharmaceutical system is being remade from the ground up by lower- and middle-income countries,' said one public health campaigner. The World Health Organization on Wednesday announced it is expanding its mRNA technology transfer efforts to five additional countries as it works to bolster coronavirus vaccine manufacturing in the Global South, an initiative that seeks to overcome persistent obstruction from the pharmaceutical industry and rich nations.

"The Factory Town Poll [...] If Democrats can't start to do better in these counties, the Blue Wall will soon be history, and old swing states like Iowa, Missouri, and Ohio, will become as deep a shade of red as West Virginia, another Factory-Town dominated state that used to be part of the Democratic coalition. [...] It is true (and no surprise) that Factory Town voters are not very happy with the Democratic Party. Democrats have a serious challenge in rebuilding a positive connection with these voters; they trail the Republicans in ratings on who handles many of the issues better; and it won't change overnight. But the basis of that negativity is less about woke language and identity politics than it is about a feeling that, in the midst of hard times for their communities, they have been abandoned and ignored by Democrats. Democrats' biggest problems with these voters are that they are seen as weak, ineffective, and lacking an economic plan that will make people's lives better. [...] Another big clue that it is economics that is central to winning these voters back is that the issues that voters mention as their top concern: the rising cost of living, jobs, and the economy, the rising cost of health care are their top concerns, all mentioned by more than 20% of voters. Considerably lower are the classic Republican culture war wedge issues: immigration, crime, and moral values, none mentioned by more than 13% of the voters."

A story for our times when the company that carries digital versions of some newspapers decides to announce it's making them free to people in Ukraine and five days later the sites are victims of a cyber attack.

"Washington Post/ABC poll asks a question from an alternate universe: Would you rather see the next Congress controlled by the (Republicans, to act as a check on Biden), or controlled by the (Democrats, to support Biden's agenda)?"

"Charity Can't Fix What Neoliberalism Has Broken: A British bus company recently reversed its plans to cut a bus route, but only after a wealthy local offered to fund it himself. A decent society can't rely on wealthy do-gooders to save public services."

Matt Stoller: "Forget the macho hawkish bleating, here's how the West directly helped Russia invading Ukraine. First, we refused to invest in renewable energy FOR DECADES. Second, we turned the USSR into an oligarchy. Third, we made a world safe for those oligarchs. Fourth, we expanded NATO. The end of the Cold War was like the end of World War II, only instead of savvy New Deal strategists who thought 'let's help the vanquished rebuild' we had Larry Summers and Andrei Shleifer who thought 'now's a good moment to rob and steal.'

RIP: "Autherine Lucy Foster dies at 92: Autherine Lucy Foster, the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama in 1956, has died at 92 years old. The news comes less than a week after the University dedicated the College of Education building in her honor. At the dedication ceremony on Feb. 25, the state of Alabama granted her the title of master teacher, which will never be awarded again."

"The Impoverishing Myth of White Privilege [...] When these poor whites arrived in the Americas, their masters continued these ruthless traditions. Whenever they got the chance, these white slaves, and their non-white counterparts, would runaway. The vast size of the Americas, combined with the extreme ethnic and linguistic diversity, made it impossible to tell who was a runaway slave, and who was not. Prosperous communities of former slaves of all ethnic and religious backgrounds emerged across the New World. This was a great thing for runaway slaves, not so great for the 'landowners' hoping to benefit from forced labor. After yet another rebellion where a coalition of ethnic groups fought to toss off the chains of colonial oppression, the ruling elite invented race to stabilize the system. Skin color of course existed before this, but there were no ideas of united races. An individual was Scottish, Irish, Dutch, Akan, Mohawk, Yoruba, etc. In this new system, those of African descent were placed at the very bottom of society to pacify white slaves who made up the majority of the forced laborers. White slaves continued living in horrid conditions, but now had someone to look down upon."

"A Field Guide To The 'Weapons' Of Hostile Architecture In NYC: Earlier this month, Ya-Ting Liu was walking through Fulton Street Station when she noticed something different. The domed transportation hub in Lower Manhattan, which opened in 2014, has been praised by architecture and public space enthusiasts for its airy and light-filled design surrounded by glass and an oculus skylight. Liu, who commutes to work in Manhattan, particularly liked the low ledges by the tall windows which look out onto the streetscape. She would often come there to sit when she was in between meetings or looking for a place to take a call. But on that day, she saw that a row of steel stanchions had been installed to rope off the area. A former student of urban planning, Liu knew exactly what was going on: it was an example of 'hostile' architecture or design that is meant to discourage lingering and other types of public behaviors." That would be infuriating all by itself, of course, but it's also ugly and gives the place a look of being under construction or something. (It's not just happening in NY, of course. Years ago I corresponded with my MP about this when the seating at a local station took an uncomfortable upward turn that made it as tiring to sit as to stand. The claim was that it was meant to discourage people sleeping on the public benches, but since you only had to cross the track to the Jubilee Line platform to find benches that were flat and spacious, this didn't seem to make much sense - especially since my train had a lot longer wait between.)

I'm all for recycling but I never expected roads to be surfaced by used diapers.

From 2013: "Study: Politicians think voters are way more conservative than they actually are: "A new working paper published this week by two political science graduate students may help explain why Americans' faith in Congress has dipped to historic lows: Politicians tend to vastly overestimate just how conservative their constituents really are."

"Why People Born 1955-1964 Aren't Baby Boomers: Ode to Generation Jones: punks, yuppies, but never hippies."

Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Full Concert - 11/03/91 - Golden Gate Park

04:56 GMT comment

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Above all else, confusion reigns

Photo by Pedro Szekel. It occurred to me one day that most of the photos of Cuba I've seen in my life were in black & white and had Fidel Castro in the middle of them. So, I looked around the internets and found lots of pictures, but they seemed anachronistic. I thought maybe they were really old, at first, but a closer look told me the colors were all wrong for film from 50 or 60 years ago. Collections by George Terzopoulos and Garg Michael tell me that car repair and maintenance are really good in Cuba. Of course, they have to be.

I'm not going to say much about Russia right now because I'm still kind of agog that it's happening at all, but one thing that makes it all really scary is knowing what Danny Sjursen said in 2020 about "Biden's Young Hawk: The Case Against Jake Sullivan: The appointee to National Security Advisor has a history of casual evasion of responsibility for his role in a series of disastrous foreign policy adventures. [...] Jake was back in the Clinton camp after the Obama triumph — first as her deputy chief of staff, then, at 34, as the youngest director of policy planning in State Department history. During that first Obama-term, Jake was bullish on Libyan and Syrian military interventionism, and like Hillary opposed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's pleas to at least talk to the Taliban without the preconditions. In fact, Sullivan was in the room when Holbrooke's heart literally burst as the ambassador delivered impassioned arguments on this very issue. Holbrooke, who died a few days later, had been right (so had Biden, it must be said) — and Obama, Clinton, and Sullivan wrong, as it turned out."

However, "Biden's Ukraine Plans Face Wall Street Roadblock: Corporate lobbyists thwarted measures that could strengthen sanctions against the Putin regime — and they were lobbying as the threat of war intensified. In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden is expected to soon announce more sanctions aimed at Vladimir Putin and his cadre of oligarchs. The theory is that unlike sectoral sanctions that could harm the broader Russian population, inflicting financial pain on Putin and his wealthy cronies could force the Russian government to the negotiating table. But while such a move might help deter further Russian incursions, Biden faces a significant obstacle: corporate lobbyists' success in shrouding the American finance industry in secrecy, which makes it far easier for Russian oligarchs and their business empires to evade economic sanctions."

Much to Lindsay Graham's chagrin, Biden did not nominate Clyburn's favorite right-wing judge. The nod went to Breyer's pick to succeed him, even though she is definitely to his left. "Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden's Supreme Court nominee, has blazed trails all her life [...] Jackson, 51, has led a professional and personal life at once classic and unpredictable. Unlike most judges, her background is not as a prosecutor or major corporate lawyer, and her personal life also defies stereotypes. Professionally, she is an experienced judge. For eight years, she served as a federal trial court judge and last June was confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Prior to her becoming a judge, her legal experience was extensive and varied. While four members of the current court were at one time prosecutors, Jackson, if nominated, would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent criminal defendants."

Pierce, "Public Defenders Will Have a Champion on the Supreme Court of the United States: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will represent those who keep alive the promise of equal justice under the law."

"'Bankruptcy For Moderna, Definitely Pfizer': Yves here. I'm in no position to verify the underlying data, but the fact that both Moderna and Pfizer stocks are markedly down says investors regard these concerns about vaccine liability as serious. A lawyer buddy thinks that even if this take on the frequency of bad side effect is spot on, Pfizer and Moderna still might get off the hook on product liability in the US. However, shareholders would have them dead to rights on securities fraud, for not disclosing to investors the information they had about serious vaccine side effects and the impact that could have on willingness to get boosted. In addition, foreign countries that also gave liability waivers are not as likely to be forgiving as the US. We could see a Boeing 737 Max replay, of foreign regulators lowering the boom and the US position eventually becoming untenable." The waivers don't quite have the reach to cover them for fraud, it seems.

"Federal District Court Rejects Voting Rights Act Section 2 Challenge to Arkansas Redistricting Plan, on the Extreme and Ridiculous Grounds That Section 2 Does Not Allow Private Plaintiffs to Sue for Violations: Another example of the kinds of extreme arguments that Southern states have been making and that should have no chance of succeeding in the courts. But today, with this Supreme Court, unfortunately they have a decent chance." And "Rejecting decades of precedent, Trump Judge Lee Rudofsky holds Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has NO private right of action—meaning nobody except the U.S. Attorney General can bring a VRA lawsuit. This would render the law largely unenforceable."

"EARN IT Act lawmaker finally admits the bill is targeting encryption: After first being teased in early February, a new version of the highly controversial EARN IT Act has officially been reintroduced to lawmakers. And some of its most fervent advocates are finally being open about their true mission: undermining encryption. Back when the original EARN IT Act was introduced in 2020, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) — who co-wrote the bill — did his best to skirt around the issue of encryption entirely, despite its being one of the bill's main focuses. During hearings about the bill, Sen. Blumenthal consistently pushed for a narrative that EARN IT was not about encryption at all." Except it is.

"The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Has a New Corporate Megadonor: Amazon donated $1.7 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation last year as it faced allegations of illegal anti-union work. The Foundation is a slush fund that supports the Black political class as they do the bidding of the oligarchy."

"Economists Warn Against the Fed Raising Rates at Worst Possible Time: 'A large across-the-board increase in interest rates is a cure worse than the disease,' says economist Joseph Stiglitz. 'That might dampen inflation if it is taken far enough, but it will also ruin people's lives.' As the U.S. Federal Reserve mulls hiking interest rates in the coming weeks in an effort to curb inflation, progressive economists are warning against such a move—arguing that it will hurt workers and fail to address the real source of rising prices: unmitigated corporate power."

John Nichols in The Nation, "The Dirty Secret of Inflation: Corporations Are Jacking Up Prices and Profits: Democrats are failing to speak to the realities of the economic moment—and it could cost them in the midterms. President Biden and his fellow Democrats need to learn to talk about inflation if they hope to maintain congressional majorities in this year's midterm elections. They can't deny that costs for consumers are rising at a jarring rate—up 7.5 percent compared to a year ago, according to the latest figures. But they can, and must, make the connection between surging prices and surging corporate profits. The US Department of Commerce reported at the end of December that corporate profit margins had hit the highest level in 70 years. You'll hear a lot of complex, and often conflicting, explanations for why this is happening now. But recent news stories speak for themselves. [...] 'If you're a corporation that has eaten up most of the competition and cornered the market, is it easier for you to raise prices on your customers and maximize your profits because you don't have to worry about losing your business?' asked Warren. Powell replied, 'In principle, if you don't have competition and you're a monopolist, yes, you can raise your prices.' 'Okay,' Warren continued. 'Over the past year, we know that prices have risen because of supply chain problems, unexpected shifts in the demand for goods, and even higher labor costs. But if corporations were simply passing along these costs in highly competitive markets, would the companies' profits margins have changed much?' After mumbling something about varying factors that impact such calculations, Powell concluded, 'But, in principle, you could be right.'"

"Exclusive: Top House Democrat Unveils Plan to Beat Back Progressive Rebellion: House seats are on the line as progressives challenge incumbents in a string of contested Democratic primaries, part of a broader struggle over the party's future. A pack of progressive candidates have crashed this year's Democratic primaries, hoping to unseat incumbents and push the party to the left. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, has other plans. Jeffries and two of his House Democrat allies on Wednesday rolled out the first slate of endorsements from Team Blue PAC, a political action committee intended to protect incumbents from intraparty attacks. The endorsements and their attendant $5,000 campaign contributions are the strongest demonstration of support yet from Jeffries and his allies — and serve as a warning shot to primary challengers seeking to unseat incumbents as Democrats fight to hold onto their fragile majorities. 'It's important to support effective legislators for delivering for the American people in partnership with the Biden administration,' Jeffries says. 'We want to support common-sense members who are delivering for their districts and helping advance the Democratic agenda to create jobs and cut costs for their constituents,' adds Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), another Team Blue PAC co-founder." That's rich coming from people who have worked hard to prevent anyone delivering for their constituents. Congress would be so much better without them.

"'Morally Obscene': Sanders Blasts GOP, Manchin Over 41% Spike in Child Poverty: 'How did this happen? Fifty Republicans and one corporate Democrat allowed the $300-a-month Child Tax Credit to expire,' said Sen. Bernie Sanders. [...] The study was published as Democratic lawmakers' efforts to extend the boosted CTC remained stalled due to the continued opposition of every Senate Republican and Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has reportedly told colleagues in private that he believes some parents used the monthly benefit payments to buy drugs. 'One U.S. senator 'heard stories' about people allegedly using the Child Tax Credit 'for drugs' without any evidence or data to back it up,' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday. 'He then used that as justification to nuke the entire national program, causing millions of kids to fall into poverty in weeks. Horrifying.' 'Meanwhile,' she added, 'the press talks about it like it's some beltway drama without ever showing the people who are sleeping in bubble jackets with no heat or the kids going hungry waiting for some guy in a yacht to decide if they are fully human or not. It's just shameful, all of it.'"

"The Black Alliance for Peace Condemns the 'America COMPETES Act' [...] The premise of the America COMPETES Act is that China is a dangerous economic rival that represents a national security threat, and a 'malign influence,' BAP rejects that position and sees this legislation as an unnecessary and unjustified expenditure of the public's resources that should be targeted instead toward addressing the human rights needs of the working class and poor in the U.S. "

"Congress Proposes $500 Million for Negative News Coverage of China: The effort to counter China's 'malign influence' would fund negative coverage of China's Belt and Road Initiative—while also beefing up the U.S.'s international lending. A tech and manufacturing bill currently moving through Congress allocates $500 million for media outlets to produce journalism for overseas audiences that is critical of China. Meant to 'combat Chinese disinformation,' the bill would direct funding to the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a U.S.-run foreign media service, as well as local outlets and programs to train foreign journalists. The America COMPETES Act, just passed by the House, is an industrial policy plan for semiconductor production and supply chain resiliency. It sets aside technology investment funds for everything from high-level research to high school computer science."

"Rick Scott's Bonkers GOP Agenda Shows Why McConnell Doesn't Want One: In nearly every midterm election cycle in which U.S. House Republicans are in the minority, you will hear suggestions that the GOP adopt a new 'Contract With America,' like the one that (not really, but according to lore and legend) led the party to its first conquest of the House many decades back in 1994. The idea is that everyone knows what Republicans are against, but nobody knows what they are for, since their contributions to the great legislative accomplishments of American history since about 1929 are limited. This craving for a midterm GOP election agenda is typically strong in the House, partly because of the 1994 mythology and partly because House Republicans are, relatively speaking, pretty well united around a conservative ideology. You usually don't hear much about this from Republican senators, as they are not quite so uniform ideologically and their long-time leader Mitch McConnell famously thinks obstruction of what Democrats are trying to do works just fine as a party message when the GOP is not in power. [...] But now the senator who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott of Florida, has released his own suggestion for an agenda, as Politico reports. 'As a general rule, you know, probably this year's election is going to be a lot about the Biden agenda. But I do believe we're going to win,' Scott said. 'We ought to have a plan and what we're trying to get done when we get the majority.' [...] And many of Scott's specific proposals straddle the line between stupid and evil pretty effectively. He wants to impose a 12-year limit on all federal employment (with 'exceptions' for national-security purposes). Think about the immense cost and inefficiency of that kind of required turnover in the federal workforce, whose numbers, by the way, would be reduced by 25 percent in five years according to another pledge in the agenda. Guess that would somewhat mitigate the massive cost and disruptions associated with Scott's demands to 'move most Government agencies out of Washington and into the real world' and 'sell offall non-essential government assets, buildings, and land.' The IRS would receive an even more draconian 50 percent cut in funding and workforce, which might make it a bit tough to impose the new minimum income tax Scott wants to impose on the majority of Americans who now have no net tax liability. But here's the pledge that really takes the cake: 'All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.' Presumably this would include the Social Security Act, the Medicare law, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the immigration and criminal laws Scott is so determined to enforce with the maximum degree of viciousness. Any candidate running on that plank would be tarred and feathered."

"Economists Are Fueling the War Against Public Health: A new report is being hailed by conservatives—but doesn't stand up to scrutiny. A new report that has grabbed headlines on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned news outlets claims that regulations aimed at curtailing spread of the coronavirus through mandatory masking, lockdowns, and school closures in 2020 only reduced deaths from SARS-CoV-2 infections by 0.2 percent. The 62-page study, much-hailed by leading Republican politicians, has grabbed mainstream media headlines, as well. But closer scrutiny reveals that it is an example of motivated reasoning, indulging in scientific cherry-picking to prove a preferred thesis about public health. Described as a 'Johns Hopkins' study, the report was in reality published online by the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University, an academic enterprise tightly linked to the libertarian Cato Institute think tank. The institute is separate from the famed medical institution and school of public health affiliated with the university. It is co-directed by one of the authors of the new report, economist Steve Hanke, who also directs the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute." "Cherry-picking" is putting it lightly; a group of economists looked at thousands of studies and dismissed nearly every one that was medically-based, keeping only those by economists who seemed to agree with them.

Robert Reich, "Psst: You want to know the truth about inflation? Part I (It's not what the Fed thinks it is.): Prices are rising because corporations have the power to raise them. They're using "inflation" as an excuse. The Fed is about to apply the wrong medicine. Yesterday, the Fed's policy committee announced it would both end its bond-buying program and likely raise interest rates sooner than had been expected. 'Inflation is more persistent and higher, and that the risk of it remaining higher for longer has grown,' Fed chair Jerome Powell explained. Translated: Powell and the Fed are about to slow the economy — even though we're still at least 4 million jobs short of where we were before the pandemic. And even though, as a result, millions of American workers won't get the raises they deserve. I think that's a big mistake. Powell's medicine has nothing to do with the real reason for inflation: the increasing concentration of the American economy into the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices."

Boris Johnson is such a contemptible monster. "Students to pay off loans into their 60s, plans say: Students who start university next year could be paying off their loans for 40 years after graduating, under new government plans for England. Under the current system, loans are written off after 30 years. The government says extending the repayment period, as part of a student finance shake-up, will reduce the bill for taxpayers. But Labour says it will "hit those on low incomes hardest", with lower-earning graduates affected more. The plans - part of a response to the 2019 Augar review of post-18 education - apply to students in England starting courses from September 2023." I wish I had a recording of the conversation between Boris and his pals while they gloated about how this would make people miserable for the rest of their lives.

RIP: "Procol Harum Frontman Gary Brooker Dead at 76: The singer-songwriter and pianist co-wrote and sang the band's 1967 classic 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. [...] Once he added in Reid's lyrics, Brooker had a masterpiece on his hands that would reach Number One all over the world and turn Procol Harum in a major band almost overnight. Although the band never managed to land another hit of that magnitude, they maintained a large cult audience and worked steadily throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scoring occasional hits like 'Conquistador' and 'A Salty Dog'. In 1972, they cut the live album Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that helped bring the band back into the public eye." And "Still There'll Be More" was so much fun.

RIP: "Sally Kellerman, Oscar-Nominated 'MASH' Actress, Is Dead at 84: The actress, who broke through as Margaret (Hot Lips) Houlihan in MASH, was known for her self-effacing comedy, a velvety voice and an ability to toggle between sultry and silly." And aside from Hot Lips, we also knew her as the first female Star Trek super-villain, in the (second) pilot for the original series.

RIP: "P.J. O'Rourke, Celebrated Journalist and Conservative Satirist, Dead at 74: The writer served as foreign-affairs desk chief at Rolling Stone and wrote for numerous publications." I never thought he was funny, and I don't expect Rolling Stone to admit it, but even Jon Schwarz is too kind in "Farewell to P.J. O'Rourke, America's Only (Semi-)Funny Conservative."

"The plausible dystopia of a social credit system [...] Yes, the concern is sometimes overstated and motivated by more than a little paranoia. But the core worry is founded in fact. The alignment of pervasive high-tech gatekeeping with an impulse to police ideological and moral conformity is not only possible but already beginning to emerge. The right's warnings about ascendent antiliberalism are therefore welcome — though many of those sounding the alarm are singularly ill-suited to combat it."

Stan Greenberg is catching up with me. "Democrats, Speak to Working-Class Discontent: America is at a perilous moment when a Trump-led Republican Party is steaming ahead to knock down every guardrail protecting free elections. Over 80 percent of Republicans, according to a recent national survey by the University of Virginia Center for Politics and Project Home Fire, believe 'our country needs a powerful leader in order to destroy the radical and immoral currents prevailing in society today.' A third now believe violence is justified to 'save our country,' according to a national survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. The Republican threat to America's constitutional experiment has led me to ask: What is our plan to save it? Here's mine. I am a pollster and political strategist with long experience advising Democratic candidates. Now, more than ever, Democratic victories are necessary to prevent Republicans from locking up the system. My plan is to focus on working-class voters—white, Black, Hispanic, Asian—and figure out every legal and ethical way possible for Democratic candidates to regain even a few extra points of support from them."

Dean Baker, "The Big Lie of the Elites: We all know about the Trumpers' big lie: somehow millions of votes were stolen from their hero, but the liberals were so smart in their steal that Trump's team can't produce any evidence. That one rightly draws contempt from anyone not in the cult, but what about the big lie that the vast majority of intellectuals seem to accept? Regular readers know what I am talking about. The big lie is that the massive rise in inequality over the last four decades was somehow the result of the natural workings of the market. The standard position among policy types is that the rise in inequality was simply the result of the development of technology and the process of globalization. We saw this view on full display in a generally interesting column in today's NYT by Thomas Edsall. The piece looks at the growth in support for Trump, and right-wing populism more generally, among non-college educated white workers. It cites a number of academics who identify this development as a result of being left behind by economic developments, while Blacks and other minorities are perceived as having increased opportunities. The key point, that is repeatedly misrepresented in this piece, is that the harm to the working-class in the last four decades was the result of deliberate policy, not something that just happened."

Interview with Wendell Potter, "US Healthcare Strangled by Massive Insurance Profits and Money in Politics: Former health insurance executive turned whistleblower and investigative journalist Wendell Potter discusses the many ways in which the private health insurance system of the US is not serving anyone well except the insurance companies' owners."

The New Yorker interview, "Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an Insider Now? [...] Honestly, it is a shit show. It's scandalizing, every single day. What is surprising to me is how it never stops being scandalizing. Some folks perhaps get used to it, or desensitized to the many different things that may be broken, but there is so much reliance on this idea that there are adults in the room, and, in some respect, there are. But sometimes to be in a room with some of the most powerful people in the country and see the ways that they make decisions—sometimes they're just susceptible to groupthink, susceptible to self-delusion."

"Means-Testing Is Mean: 15 Reasons To Adopt Universalism"

Literally, a different camera and different shots. Some people don't even realize that Santana, Gram Parsons, and CSN&Y were there. A long unseen, soundless home movie. "The Rolling Stones, Hell's Angels and Altamont: A New View"

"Reminiscences From The End Of The Horse Era In New York City"

"The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567)" — unexpectedly cool.

"Awesome astrophotography from the South Downs: The South Downs national park is one of 19 International Dark Sky Reserves, and its popular cosmic photography contest produced awe-inspiring winning images."

"The Times - 'I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape'

"When The Levee Breaks feat. John Paul Jones | Playing For Change | Song Around The World" — Story here.

Procol Harum, "Shine On Brightly"

00:44 GMT comment

Monday, 14 February 2022

With a circus mind that's running wild

Pedro Giovanni Fiascunari Bejarano's "I Love You All" is from the Kisses & Hearts collection.

"Rep. Pramila Jayapal forced vote on Biden's strangling of Afghan economy: By seizing $9.4 billion of the Afghan central bank's own reserves, the White House has welcomed death and destruction. CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., secured a vote Thursday on President Joe Biden's refusal to release to the Afghan central bank $9.4 billion of its own foreign reserves. It marked the first-ever vote on the White House's lethal policy of asset denial that's causing the displacement, starvation, and death of millions of Afghans. Jayapal introduced her measure as an amendment to a gigantic anti-China bill that would subsidize the U.S. semiconductor and other industries with hundreds of billions of dollars and ratchet up military activities in the Indo-Pacific region. The House of Representatives passed the legislation — called the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength, or COMPETES, Act — on Friday. But the House rejected Jayapal's amendment with 175 yes and 255 no votes, as 44 Democrats joined Republicans against the measure. (Two Democrats and one Republican did not vote on the amendment.)"

Video: It still awes me to think that the Supreme Court's majority opinion in the latest Voting Rights case was so bad that even John Roberts, a right-wing radical who had spent his whole career trying to suppress voting rights, was actually one of the dissenters. "Right-Wing Justices Proving Supreme Court Need Radical Reform Now."

"GOP Blocks Sanders Effort to Force Vote on Slashing Drug Prices: 'How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?' asked Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"House Democratic Leaders Were Facing A Discharge Petition On Congress Stock Trading Ban From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally endorsed a ban on stock trading by members of Congress. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERS indicated today that they are moving forward with legislation aimed at banning members of Congress from trading stocks, a sharp reversal from their years of previous support for the practice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has reportedly dropped her opposition to the effort, opening the way for a bill this year. Wide majorities have long considered it ridiculous that members of Congress are able to own and trade stocks even as they have the power to move the prices of those stocks with legislative action or inaction. After multiple trading scandals, Congress required disclosure of ownership and trades, though members frequently flout the rules. Pelosi may simply be bowing to the inevitable and caving to broad public pressure, but there was a specific, internal push that may have made a difference: a discharge petition in the works from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. [...] The underlying bill, written by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and joined by Ocasio-Cortez and others, does not include a ban on the spouses of members trading stocks, though a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez said she supports adding that restriction. The bill does ban senior congressional aides from trading stocks. Legislation in the Senate introduced by Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., does ban spouses from trading. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., has also introduced a ban."

"Canada's 'Freedom Convoy' Is a Front for a Right-Wing, Anti-Worker Agenda: Workers in Canada's trucking industry have suffered during the pandemic. The 'Freedom Convoy,' a right-wing, pro-business social movement, purports itself to be the people's champion of liberty — yet it couldn't care less about the hardships and burdens of its fellow workers. [...] But a closer look at key 'Freedom Convoy' participants reveals that many of the concerns of the protesters have little to do with workers' rights or labor issues within Canada's trucking industry. In fact, Convoy organizers have previously harassed workers on the picket line and ignored calls for support from racialized truckers fighting against wage theft."

"Biden Withdrawing Student Debt Appeal After Outcry: The Biden administration is abruptly withdrawing its attempt to block a major court ruling that could protect student borrowers, according to a new statement provided to The Daily Poster. The announcement comes 48 hours after The Daily Poster broke the news that the administration had moved to appeal the ruling, which could help the poorest borrowers who are being bankrupted by education debt."

You have to wonder why Jim Clyburn is pushing so hard to get her onto the Supreme Court, don't you? "Michelle Childs's Punitive Criminal Justice Rulings Were Repeatedly Overturned: The candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy has a history of tough-on-crime sentences and opinions that higher courts subsequently tossed out.: At the moment, South Carolina District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs is the only person confirmed by the Biden administration to be under consideration for the soon-to-be-vacant Supreme Court seat. A favored pick of fellow South Carolinians Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking Black leader in Congress, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Childs's work during her time as an attorney has recently come under scrutiny, as she defended employers against racial and gender discrimination allegations while working as a partner at the anti-union South Carolina law firm Nexsen Pruet. Childs's track record as a district court judge, a post she has held since 2010, has received less inspection. On numerous occasions, Childs issued such punitive decisions on criminal justice issues that those rulings were eventually overturned on appeal by higher courts. Throughout the 2010s, a period where criminal justice reform was increasingly prioritized for activists and Democratic politicians alike, Childs ruled against both plaintiffs and defendants who alleged everything from excessive force by prison guards to ineffective legal counsel to sentencing errors."

"Melissa Henderson: Outrage after single working-mom of five faces JAIL for asking daughter, 14, to babysit: BLAIRSVILLE, GEORGIA: A single mother is facing one year in prison after she made her daughter, 14, babysit her siblings while she went to work amid the pandemic. While some are calling the act reckless, others believe it was simply the act of a mother who had no other choice. A single mother-of-five, Melissa Henderson let her eldest child, 14-year-old Linley, look after her other children in May 2020 when their daycare center shut down due to Covid. She has been charged with criminal reckless conduct." I've really been horrified at how over-protected kids are today, but hell, when I was a kid, most 14-year-olds had already quit babysitting, it was a job for tweens and early teens.

"Pa. fuel tax meant for bridge repair went to state police instead [...] 'There's an inherent deal,' DePasquale said. 'You're going to have this high gas tax, but it's going to go to fund roads and bridges. And now when they find out it's not happening, I think that gets people upset.' "

"Biden Reversal Gives Wall Street A Big Win: The Democratic president slammed but now backs a Trump ruling that could help private equity kingpins loot retirees' savings. When former President Donald Trump paved the way for his private equity donors to skim fees from Americans' 401(k) retirement accounts, Joe Biden's campaign denounced the stealth executive action and promised to oppose such changes if he won the presidency. But less than two years later, Biden's administration just quietly cemented that same policy, delivering a gift to the Democrat's own finance industry sponsors, even as federal law enforcement officials are warning of rampant malfeasance in the private equity industry. At issue is a Trump Labor Department ruling in 2020 that authorized retirement plan administrators to shift workers' savings into high-risk, high-fee private equity investments, despite regulators' long-standing interpretation that federal laws prohibited such moves."

"Documents Expose Pharma Effort To Kill Africa's Covid Vaccine Project: 'To push for the termination of this lifesaving project in order to protect the interests of pharmaceutical companies is shameful,' said one advocate. Documents published Wednesday by a prominent medical journal reveal that a foundation representing the German company BioNTech—Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine partner—has been working behind the scenes to undercut African scientists' burgeoning effort to produce an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine. In August, according to The BMJ, the kENUP Foundation urged South African government officials to shut down a World Health Organization-backed initiative aiming to make an mRNA vaccine using Moderna's shot as a template."

"How We Broke the Supply Chain: Rampant outsourcing, financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics are the culprits. [...] You could read hundreds of stories about this phenomenon, about the stress of longshoremen and supply chain managers and government officials, the consequences for consumers and small businesses and retailers, and superficial attempts at explaining why we got here. Many will tell you that the pandemic changed consumption patterns, favoring physical goods over services as barhopping and travel shut down. Some will blame fiscal-relief programs, large deficits, and loose monetary policies for making inflation worse. Nearly all will frame the matter as a momentary kink in the global logistics leviathan, which is bound to work itself out. Anyway, everyone got their Christmas gifts this year, so maybe it was overblown to begin with. Almost none of these stories will explain how these shortages and price hikes were also brought to life through bad public policy coupled with decades of corporate greed. We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains, enabled by leaders in both parties. They all hailed the transformation, cheering the advances of globalization, the efficient network that would free us from want. Motivated by greed and dismissive of the public interest, they didn't mention that their invention was supremely ill-equipped to handle inevitable supply bottlenecks. And the pandemic exposed this hidden risk, like a domino bringing down a system primed to topple." And don't even try to blame all this on covid — because We Were Warned About the Ports a long time ago. This month's issue of The American Prospect is focused on the Supply Chain and deserves everyone's attention. Pick an article and send it to your reps.

Any claims The Powers That Be want to make about how they are making it harder for members of the general public to contact inmates in order to prevent movement of contraband are lies in any event, but they really fall apart if "When Visitors Were Banned From Rikers Island, Even More Drugs Showed Up [...] In fact, internal jails numbers suggest that in that period — when only corrections officers, staff, and eventually certain contractors and service providers could enter — detainees may have had even greater access to drugs. Between April of 2020 and May of 2021, correction department authorities seized banned drugs inside city jails more than 2,600 times, according to data obtained by THE CITY. That's more than double the number of such seizures made during the same time period from 2018 to 2019 when the jail population was larger and there were more people coming and going, Correction department records show."

"Tory bid to revive failed 'porn-block' ban could put LGBT+ users at risk, critics warn: Government 'porn-block' plan is a 'quick win' without tackling the real problems, say activists"

RIP: "Howard Hesseman, Prolific Character Actor and Star of 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' Dies at 81: Howard Hesseman, a prolific character actor who became a beloved TV mainstay through his roles on sitcoms WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class, died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles of complications from colon surgery he had undergone last summer. He was 81 years old." Sleep well, Dr. Fever.

RIP: "Todd Gitlin, prominent activist and thinker, dead at 79 [...] A Manhattan native, Gitlin was a onetime president of one of the leading campus organizations of the '60s — Students for a Democratic Society — and helped organize one of the first major protests against the Vietnam War, in Washington D.C. in 1965. The same year he helped lead an anti-apartheid sit-in at the Wall Street headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank, a lender to South Africa's racist regime. [...] 'This is what moved me most about the SDS circle: everything these people did was charged with intensity,' Gitlin wrote in The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, a widely praised book published in 1987 that combined history and personal memories. 'They were at once analytically keen and politically committed, but also, with a thousand gestures of affection, these unabashed moralists cared about one another.' [...] Gitlin remained politically involved after the '60s, but also clashed at times with fellow liberals. In the 1990s, he was critical of some of the academic debates over the literary canon and the predominance of male white writers. In his 1995 book The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars, he alleged that the focus on what he and others called 'identity politics' was weakening the left overall, writing that while Republicans were gaining power in Washington, the left has been 'marching on the English department.'"

RIP: "Film director Robert Downey, Sr. dies at 85: Robert Downey Sr, the director best known for 1969 satire Putney Swope, has died at the age of 85. The film-maker had been diagnosed with Parkinson's for more than five years and died in his sleep at home in New York. His son, actor Robert Downey Jr, paid tribute to him on Instagram. 'Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson's. He was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout. According to my stepmoms calculations, they were happily married for just over 2,000 years,' he wrote. Downey Sr's most celebrated work was the 1969 film Putney Swope, which starred Arnold Johnson as the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm who is accidentally put in charge. It was praised for its progressive satire on race in America and corporate culture." I missed this one in July and it bugs me because I'm still amazed by Putney Swope, so I'm one of those people who still thinks of the kid he gave his first acting role to as Robert Downey, Sr.'s son.

From 2014, "Ronald Reagan stuck it to millennials: A college debt history lesson no one tells: Dramatic, awful changes occurred on my generation's watch -- and it amounts to a fiendishly successful conspiracy [...] During my first semester of college, John Lennon was assassinated 40 blocks south of my freshman dorm, and Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, was elected president of the United States. I was devastated by both of these events. At the time, I had no idea that the Great Communicator had cut his teeth on campus protests during the 1960s, using long-haired Berkeley students as perfect foils. Reagan assailed the Free Speech and antiwar movements, promising the taxpayers that if elected, he'd get college kids off picket lines and back in class. With comments like, 'They are spoiled and don't deserve the education they are getting' and that the state 'should not subsidize intellectual curiosity,' he won in a landslide. Fourteen years later, Reagan was elected president, running against a host of mythical foes from 'welfare queens' to an omnipotent 'Evil Empire,' but he and his administration never shed their antipathy toward 'elitist' campuses and the young people who dared question the system. [...] By the time Reagan was elected to the nation's highest office a decade and a half later, these powers had devised perfect tools to make sure the spirit of 1960s protest would never again erupt on campus. During Reagan's two terms as president, dedicated funding for outright grants-in-aid decreased, federal guidelines pushed individual loans, and private bill collectors were brought in to ensure that the hardest kind of debt to escape was whatever you took on for your education. Even more important was the shift in tone and expectation. Public goods became private services, and by the end of the 1980s, the anti-tax, infra-structure-starving, neoliberal Weltanschauung meant that as states cut their budgets, support for higher education was thrown into a cage match with every other necessary public good."

A friend of mine is a vicar, and he mentioned to me earlier that he'd written to his MP to ask in what way the present crop of her colleagues were adhering to The Seven Principles of Public Life. I had no idea they were supposed to have principles!

This review of Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian's The Privatization of Everything doesn't really tell us much about how to fix things, but it's a stark reminder of how they got this way. "How To Fight Back When Private Companies Control Everything: Early on in the fight against COVID-19, one of the biggest problems humankind has faced in decades, there was broad support for global public solutions. A robust governmental response to the pandemic that transcended national boundaries, class, and other divisions seemed like the obvious choice. This changed, however, when Bill Gates and other powerful, self-serving actors pushed for, and ultimately succeeded in convincing, the World Health Organization and other global and national health authorities to accept public-private partnerships as the ideal model for vaccine rollouts. Gates, one of the richest men in the world, overwhelmed the voices of many public health officials who called for a public vaccine and instead almost single-handedly propped up a system, backed by the large drug companies, that allowed said companies to maintain patent rights over the vaccines and left governments to compete for access in the 'open market' through public-private partnerships. [...] Schemes like the one that Gates promoted, where private enterprises take on the role of governmental entities and then fail at that task as they pursue market interests instead of the best interests of the public, are not new or limited to public health. In fact, these kinds of privatization schemes have come to dominate the American political landscape in the last 30 years. It has fundamentally shifted how our democracy works, and even how we define what is and is not a public good. Moreover, the neoliberal celebration of public-private partnerships as the cure-all for society's ills has transformed the relationship between government policy and the public, shifting 'the people' from the position of citizens who are engaged in the democratic process of improving the life and health of our shared society to the position of passive consumers of an ever-dwindling supply of services."

"Can Democrats Win Back Rural America? Mark Neumann & Erica Smith Say Yes. So Does Bernie: Bernie beat Hillary by double digits in the Wisconsin presidential primary. I want to look at the 18 counties, most of which are rural, that make up the 4th Congressional district in the western part of the state. Bernie won every single one of them but what I want to compare is Bernie's vote and Trump's vote in each county [...] Bernie won the district that day, more votes than Hillary and more votes than Trump. Bernie didn't just beat Trump in the least rural counties, he also beat him in some of the most rural counties like Richland, Crawford and Vernon. Obama had won the district but Trump beat both Hillary and Biden. Why? You may have heard the CNN report on Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) criticizing the Democratic Party for ignoring rural voters."

Dept. of Larry Summers is a Sexist Pig: "Male economists are freaking out over a NYT profile: A handful of prominent male economists, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, are freaking out — mostly on Twitter — about a weekend New York Times profile of economist Stephanie Kelton, known for her work on Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT. Why it matters: This Twitter-based econ fight is about more than one economist. It's an argument over a natural economic experiment — the U.S. government spending unprecedented sums to keep the economy from free-falling during COVID."

"Your best ally against injustice? Terry Pratchett: Jack Monroe's use of the character Sam Vimes in a critique of cost-of-living statistics shows the enduring power of the author's fury and humour hen the poverty campaigner and cookbook author Jack Monroe realised that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was reporting a skewed and unfair version of the cost of living, they reached for Terry Pratchett, the brilliant author of comic fantasy whose books bristle with fury at the injustices of the world. Pratchett best expressed his anger through the character of Sam Vimes, the police chief who grew up on the breadline but, through a chain of unlikely events, finds himself among the monied elite, and one of the most powerful men in the city." There is a reason why Vimes is one of my favorite characters of all time, and why we revere Terry Pratchett. I had already learned what we now know as Vimes' Boots Theory from my parents, both of whom had been poor and lived through the depression, but had taken entirely different lessons from it. They took me out to buy a coat one day and my mother kept finding "good deals" I wasn't attracted to. But my father saw me eyeing a coat and immediately started looking at the seams. "You want this?" "Yeah." He took it to the counter and bought it. To my mother, a cheap deal was what you looked for, but to my dad, you bought quality that would last. And that coast lasted me for a long, long time.

"The Emptiness at the Core of Hillary Clinton's Politics: Huma Abedin has long been the right-hand woman to Hillary Clinton. Her new memoir tells of life inside 'Hillaryland' — and reveals the political void at the heart of that world.Huma Abedin has long been an object of media fascination. There are several reasons: her close professional and personal relationship to Hillary Clinton, her unlucky marriage to disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, and her origins (Abedin is an American citizen of Indian and Pakistani descent who grew up mostly in Saudi Arabia). Her quiet dignity in the face of public humiliation and racist right-wing persecution, along with her beauty and fashion sense, has added to her mystique. As well, Weiner and Clinton are outsize public figures from whom the world has heard too much. With her recent memoir, Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds — a doorstop of a book, at 544 pages — we finally get to hear Abedin's side of things. Well, some things. [...] But the scandals aren't the most interesting episodes in this memoir. More revealing is Abedin's account of her first date with Weiner in January 2007, soon after Clinton had announced her first run for the presidency. Weiner, a committed liberal of the pre-Bernie Sanders era (to the left of the Clintons, except on Israel), wants to discuss politics. He has opinions and principles. Hillary should come out for gay marriage and admit that her vote on the Iraq war was a mistake, he argues. He's critical of his country's close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he views as a hotbed of officially sanctioned antisemitism and a funder of terrorism. Abedin and Weiner have a lively discussion about their politics; they agree on some things (gay marriage) and disagree on others (Saudi Arabia). It's a normal first date between intelligent, young, political people in Washington, DC, but this kind of discussion is novel for Abedin, she relates. Although her family enjoyed spirited debate on political issues, Hillaryland did not. It's in that moment that Abedin comes to realize that the kind of Democrats she works with every day rarely discuss their political beliefs: they only talk about strategy, tactics, and messaging. In short, they don't care about policy, but about gaining power and keeping it."

Keeping this old link as a reminder: "The Impact of 'Modern Sexism' on the 2016 Presidential Election," mainly for this graph.

"Insider Histories: Black Cartoonist E. Simms Campbell: E. Simms Campbell was an indispensable part of Esquire's birth in the early 1930s. He established its visual style. He invented the original Esky character. And, in the words of its founding editor Arnold Gingrich, his full-page color cartoons 'catapulted the magazine's circulation from the start.' Campbell may also be the first African-American illustrator not only to break the color line in mass-market publications, but to earn widespread public acclaim as well."

Nice article about Roz Kaveney, civil liberties activist, anti-censorship activist, trans activist, and damned good writer: "Poetry, Myth, Darkness, and Humour: The Worlds of Roz Kaveney."

Cool look back at Bill's big novel, by Eileen Gunn: "William Gibson's Neuromancer: Does the Edge Still Bleed?"

"World's longest lightning flash recorded, an astonishing bolt that spanned 477 miles: The World Meteorological Organization has certified that two lightning flashes that occurred in 2020 have broken historical records in length and duration. A lightning bolt in April 2020 spanned 477 miles across the southern United States. Two months later, a flash across the Uruguay-Argentina border lasted an incredible 17 seconds. Neither lightning bolt hit the ground."

"Remembering Miss Fury — the world's first great superheroine: Before Wonder Woman, an even more groundbreaking female crimefighter kept humankind safe. As she turns 80, Nicholas Barber pays tribute to her — and her unfairly forgotten creator."

An endless supply of stills from the film and around the set of To Kill A Mockingbird.

He'd read somewhere that Burt Lancaster had complained that he never got cast in comedies, so from that moment on he was writing the part for Lancaster, even though they didn't think they'd have the money to get him. It was Peter Capaldi's first movie and he had no idea what he was doing. And that was the movie he wanted — and got. The making of Local Hero.

"Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres Skate to "The Sound of Silence" (No Audience Noise)"

Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing"

03:10 GMT comment

Sunday, 30 January 2022

And some nights you're carved in ice

Françoise Augustine's "Transparence" is from the Very Peri collection, which I am a sucker for and thought several were very pretty or pretty cool.

So, Breyer, one of the Democratic appointees on the Supreme Court, has finally decided maybe he should retire since he's a million years old and pretty much every Democrat is telling him he needs to retire in the short window of time when a Democrat would appoint his replacement. I'd just like to say that I won't really miss any one of these neoliberals. I've read some appalling decisions in the last decade that passed not by a 5-4 vote with the "liberals" on the losing side, but unanimously. Sure, they haven't been quite as awful as often as their Republican-appointed colleagues, but there have been Republican appointees even in my lifetime who weren't as corporatist as these "liberals" have been. And yes, I include Ginsberg in that. Anyway, Stoller's reaction to the announcement is, "Stephen Breyer's Legacy of Destruction: 'On the basis of his antitrust record, he is an unjust man. Breyer is the candidate of big business and monopoly in America.' [...] Breyer had, in Mueller's view, lied to disguise his record during his nomination hearing. Howard Metzenbaum, perhaps the last Senator in the 1980s to take antitrust seriously, had asked Breyer about the track record of big businesses in his court, since it was well-known that Breyer believed strongly in theories that size were a marker not of bad behavior but efficiency. Breyer replied, 'Sometimes plaintiffs did win in antitrust cases I've had and, as you point out, defendants have often won. The plaintiff sometimes is a big business and sometimes isn't. The defendant sometimes is and sometimes isn't.' In response, Mueller sent a list of antitrust cases heard by Breyer, showing that 'no plaintiff, so far as I can determine, has ever won an antitrust case in his court.' Mueller came as close as he could to calling Breyer a liar, saying the judge consistently had 'trouble with the facts,' and arguing that 'Breyer is the candidate of big business and monopoly in America.' Here's Mueller's list."

"Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service: President Biden has sent a clear message to progressives regarding the U.S. Postal Service (USPS): major change is out, and Trump fundraiser Louis DeJoy can stay as postmaster general for the next few years. He will lead 21 percent of the federal civilian workforce. The president did this by nominating two highly impressive, accomplished public servants — Dan Tangherlini and Derek Kan — to serve on USPS's Board of Governors, i.e., its board of directors. The Board of Governors, not President Biden, has the authority to fire and hire the postmaster general. So, while Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and dozens of members of Congress have demanded DeJoy be fired, he is staying in place. With the likely confirmation of Tangherlini and Kan, Biden will have five nominees on the full board versus four from President Trump. But Kan is a Republican who worked in the Trump administration and for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), making him unlikely to remove DeJoy. And at least two of Biden's other confirmed nominees have shown no inclination to remove DeJoy."

"Court revokes largest-ever U.S. offshore oil lease, cites NEPA: A federal court yesterday blocked the Biden administration's massive oil and gas lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, handing a major win to conservation groups. Judge Rudolph Contreras for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia tossed out the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's approval for Lease 257 after finding that the agency's failure to calculate potential emissions from foreign oil consumption had violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The sale, held last November, covered 80.8 million acres on the outer continental shelf and was the largest offshore lease sale in the nation's history."

"Congressional Democrats Join Republicans To Undermine Biden Administration's Surprise Medical Billing Rule: Worried an aggressive new rule could cut into providers' earnings, key members of Congress including Rep. Richie Neal are helping private industry weaken the administration's position in federal court. CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS ARE joining Republicans in a last-ditch effort to undermine the newly implemented No Surprises Act, which bans surprise medical bills. A key provision in the law could become a first step toward allowing the federal government to standardize rates for medical procedures covered under private insurance plans, an objective the private health care industry has fought for decades. Late last year, in the months leading up to the bill's enactment, opponents filed a flurry of lawsuits claiming that by enforcing the rule in a manner widely viewed as consistent with the text of the legislation, the Biden administration had overstepped Congress's intentions. The leading opponents of the provision, which mandates that insurers and health care providers settle billing disputes based primarily on the median in-network rate for a procedure, are organizations representing the private health care industry, like the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association. Along with a number of health care providers, the groups have filed lawsuits that federal courts are expected to decide in the coming months, before the first round of disputes under the new law reaches the arbitration stage. The legal arguments rely on murky case law about congressional intent, but nonpartisan experts familiar with the No Surprises Act told The Intercept that the rule is consistent with the law's text. Instead, they point to the law's possible consequences to explain why providers are fighting so hard to undermine its implementation. The move has the potential to drive down the high prices U.S. providers charge compared to other countries, stoking fears in the health care industry that it would lead to standardized rates. The drop in prices would at least partially be returned to Americans in the form of lower health insurance premiums." We already knew the right-wing Dems, and particularly Neal, were up to this, but here it is again.

"The Democratic Pivot: There's a path to gaining some needed successes on policy and legislation while waiting for a deal to emerge on Build Back Better. DDay is not on board with the idea that somehow Build Back Better can pass in any meaningful way or that Manchin and Sinema will each have a come-to-Jesus moment, but he thinks there are still ways to get things done. There are already some promising bills that seem headed for the president's desk.

"'A No-Brainer': Lawmakers Urge Pelosi to Hold Vote on Stock Trading Ban: 'Perhaps this means some of our colleagues will miss out on lucrative investment opportunities,' said House members in a bipartisan letter. 'We don't care.' A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Monday urged the top Democrat and Republican in the House of Representatives to 'swiftly bring legislation to prohibit members of Congress from owning or trading stock' to the floor. The call came in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)—who has faced criticism for defending her husband's trades and existing rules—and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is reportedly considering enacting a ban on lawmakers trading if the GOP wins control of the chamber in this year's midterms. Pointing to proposals such as the Ban Conflicted Trading Act or the TRUST in Congress Act, the letter states that 'this common-sense, bipartisan legislation is unfortunately necessary in light of recent misconduct, and is supported by Americans across the political spectrum.'"

"Big Tech Freaks Out About Bipartisan Crackdown: CEOs are calling individual senators and lobbyists are engaged in a full-court press to stop legislation in its tracks. If the Senate Judiciary Committee advances a bill it is marking up today, you're going to die. At least, that's the assessment of Kent Walker, chief legal officer of Google, who claims that the proposed legislation would 'threaten America's national security,' slow down urgent searches for information like 'stroke symptoms,' and hamper access to COVID vaccines. If it sounds overheated, well, it is. But it's part of a coordinated, borderline-hysterical campaign from the most powerful companies in the business world, aimed at preventing any restrictions on their practices. The Judiciary Committee has planned to mark up two bills. The first would prohibit Big Tech platforms from preferencing their own products over rivals, like Amazon cloning third-party seller products and promoting them on their marketplace, or Google hosting restaurant reviews scraped from competitors on its search page. The second would regulate the two dominant app stores (Apple's and Google's) to stop monopoly price-gouging and offer choice in managing apps. Both mostly serve to protect smaller businesses put at a disadvantage by the power and aggression of Big Tech companies; they would not put these prodigious platforms out of business, or change their massive valuations. It would merely level the playing field, slightly. Yet the very idea of regulating the tech industry for the first time in the platform era has triggered an unprecedented firestorm."

"Big Tech Is About to Make Our Terrible Health Care System Even Worse: 'It's like Uber, but for nurses.' Does that scare you? It should. Private hospitals are increasingly teaming up with Silicon Valley to make American health care even more exploitative. [...] The idea has been gathering steam during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed America's capitalist health care system to its limits, dramatically exposing and exacerbating preexisting issues. The imperative for health care to turn a profit has left hospitals woefully understaffed, under-resourced, and unable to properly deal with the influx of COVID-19 patients. Thus, the question of the health care labor market has been driven to the fore, with everyone agreeing that something needs to change. But instead of acknowledging that decades of pinching pennies and cutting corners led to this chaotic juncture and course-correcting by sacrificing future profits to permanently increase capacity, major health care companies have opted for a more predictable response. They've united with venture capital and Silicon Valley in a depressingly on-brand pivot to the gig economy."

Jack Crosbie, "The Bold Electoral Strategy That Could Save Biden's Legacy: Give People Free Stuff: The White House took too long to offer free Covid-19 tests and masks. It shouldn't stop there, [...] The key is that they can't stop there. Yesterday's early rollout of the U.S. Postal Service's free test-delivery program was just functional enough, despite its bugs, that it gave us a look at what a functional government can do for its citizens. The fact that the Biden administration had to literally be shamed into taking this step isn't a good sign, nor is Jen Psaki's sneering dismissal of constructive criticism and legitimate questioning. As the gridlock in Congress makes the Democrats' electoral hopes dimmer and dimmer for the 2022 midterms, it's clear that the party as a whole desperately needs any concrete signs of progress to market to voters. [...] Critics will reduce this strategy, as they did with Trump, to crude bribery. And so what? Maybe a little 'bribery' is good, if it's coming from a body that has a constitutional and moral duty to provide for the people it governs. In the third year of a deadly pandemic, it's absurd that the American people haven't gotten more out of the organization designed to provide for them. We should have had universal free masks and tests years ago. Anything we get now might be too little and too late. But the other option is promising a little and delivering nothing, which until now has been the administration's default line. Biden's sinking approval rating shows how well that's worked so far. It's clearly time to try something new."

"Police Say Homicide Detective Sean Suiter Committed Suicide, So Why Doesn't Anyone Believe Them? The circumstances surrounding the 2017 death of Baltimore detective Sean Suiter were already suspicious—then it was revealed that Suiter died one day before he was supposed to testify in a police corruption investigation. A recent HBO documentary entitled The Slow Hustle has brought renewed attention to the mysterious death of Baltimore homicide detective Sean Suiter in 2017. Police initially claimed Suiter was the victim of a lone assailant after his body was found in a West Baltimore alley with a gunshot wound to the head. But as details began to emerge regarding Suiter's involvement with some of Baltimore's most corrupt cops, the case took a turn that raised serious questions about what actually happened and if his death was part of a broader cover-up." (Transcript and audio.)

"Mayor Lori Lightfoot and police leaders lean on flawed information to argue releasing criminal defendants on electronic monitoring worsens violence problem: At the end of a year that saw at least 800 homicides in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot last month wrote to the Cook County chief judge with a request: Judges should immediately stop ordering certain defendants to await trial at home with an electronic-monitoring ankle bracelet. It would be a sweeping policy change intended to keep violent offenders securely behind bars, albeit with implications for thousands of people who would likely be kept in custody as their cases took months if not years to proceed. But many of the claims and statistics related in her letter and repeated at a press conference earlier this month are misleading — and some are simply inaccurate, the Tribune has found after examining the cases highlighted by the mayor." Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this article is that it appeared in The Chicago Tribune, because usually when these people lie about the need for harsher treatment, the papers just report it credulously.

"FBI and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department accused of illegally seizing marijuana cash: The driver of an armored car carrying $712,000 in cash from licensed marijuana dispensaries was heading into Barstow on a Mojave Desert freeway in November when San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies pulled him over. They interrogated him, seized the money and turned it over to the FBI. A few weeks later, deputies stopped the same driver in Rancho Cucamonga, took an additional $350,000 belonging to legal pot stores and gave that cash to the FBI too. Now, the FBI is trying to confiscate the nearly $1.1-million bounty, which it might share with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. The FBI says the money is tied to federal drug or money-laundering crimes, but has specified no unlawful conduct and charged no one with a crime. The cash seizures — and another from the same trucking company in Kansas — raise questions about whether the Justice Department under President Biden is moving to disrupt the operations of licensed marijuana businesses in California and other states where pot is legal. The case has also rekindled allegations that federal law enforcement agencies in Southern California have been abusing forfeiture laws by seizing cash and valuables from people when the government has no evidence that they committed crimes. The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles have been forced to return tens of millions of dollars in cash and valuables seized by federal agents last March from hundreds of safe deposit boxes in Beverly Hills after the government failed to produce evidence to back up its allegations that the money and goods were criminal proceeds. Some of that money belonged to owners of state-licensed marijuana businesses."

"How America Made Itself a Poor Country — But Still Doesn't Understand Why [...] America's labour share of income — that's how much the average working schlub takes home — is about just 50% of GDP. Tanner Tucker Cooper Fletcher is about to shout at me that that's fair. He's wrong. In Europe, the labour share of income average between 70 to 80%. That is, Europeans, for the work they do, enjoy a share of the economy that's 50% greater than Americans do (aka the difference between 50% and 75%.) Let me say that again. Europeans take home a share of the national income that's 50% greater than Americans do. Fifty percent. What would you do with a fifty percent higher income? That's what Americans should be asking, instead of desperately searching for side hustles or day trades or what have you — and why they don't earn it"

People are pretty aggravated at watching Boris Johnson flout the rules he makes for everyone else, so the video made by Led by Donkeys where the cop-watchers of AC-12 from Line of Duty grill Johnson went viral pretty quick. They all left us wondering whether the actors from the show aided and abetted Led by Donkeys to create it.

"Another U.S.-Trained Soldier Stages a Coup in West Africa: The leader of a coup in Burkina Faso is the latest in a line of U.S.-trained soldiers who overturned civilian leaders. Earlier this week, the military seized power in Burkina Faso, ousting the country's democratically elected president, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. The coup was announced on state television Monday by a young officer who said the military had suspended the constitution and dissolved the government. Beside him sat a camouflage-clad man whom he introduced as Burkina Faso's new leader: Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, the commander of one of the country's three military regions. Damiba is a highly trained soldier, thanks in no small part to the U.S. military, which has a long record of training soldiers in Africa who go on to stage coups. Damiba, it turns out, participated in at least a half-dozen U.S. training exercises, according to U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM."

"The Smearing of Emma Watson: Anyone who has ever been critical of Israeli actions toward the Palestinian people knows what to expect next—an avalanche of pit-bull attacks and smears that their criticisms of Israel are motivated by racism and anti-Semitism. The latest example is the response to actress Emma Watson's pro-Palestinian Instagram post, which led (predictably) to Israeli officials and supporters accusing her of anti-Semitism. Among many others, former Israeli UN Representative Danny Danon—in a tone-deaf post—wrote, '10 points from Gryffindor for being an antisemite.' The purpose of such false accusations is of course to deflect attention away from what is happening on the ground—the real (war) crimes that Israel is perpetrating against the Palestinian people—to the supposed motivations of the critics. Unable to defend its criminal actions, all that Israel's increasingly desperate defenders have left is smear and innuendo, as the attacks on Emma Watson make clear. But the accusations may also have some other unintended consequences—they make real anti-Semitism (the right-wing fascist variety that really does hate Jews as Jews) more respectable and legitimate—and thus even more deadly. In that sense, the Zionist defenders of Israel are among the most dangerous purveyors of contemporary anti-Semitism—the hatred of Jews as a collective."

RIP: "Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell singer dead at 74: The US singer and actor Meat Loaf has died aged 74, his agent has confirmed. Born Marvin Lee Aday and later legally known as Michael, the musician died on Thursday with his wife, Deborah Gillespie, by his side. No cause of death was shared but unconfirmed reports suggested he had died of Covid-19." (The Guardian's official obituary is longer but, strangely, gives short shrift to the importance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in elevating his career.)

RIP: "Ronnie Spector, Ronettes Singer and Ultimate Girl-Group Icon, Dead at 78: Ronnie Spector, the leader of the girl group the Ronettes and the voice behind immortal classics like 'Be My Baby' and 'Walking in the Rain,' died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer. She was 78. [...] The huge success of 'Be My Baby' in the summer of 1963 turned the Ronettes into superstars, and caused massive ripples across the pop landscape. 'I was driving [the first time I heard it], and I had to pull over to the side of the road — it blew my mind,' Brian Wilson said in 2013. 'I felt like I wanted to try to do something as good as that song, and I never did. I've stopped trying. It's the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.'"

"The fantasy of a Trump-slaying Republican [...] As I said, I don't know whether Trump is going to run. But I do know this: If he does run, none of the serious GOP contenders in whom so many conservative intellectuals and Republican apparatchiks are placing their hopes will challenge him. Yes, a spoiler candidate with no chance of prevailing and little chance of winning a single delegate — think Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, or Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — may jump into the ring for a few rounds. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis? Former Vice President Mike Pence? Texas Sen. Ted Cruz? Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley? Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton? It's not going to happen. Why will none of them dare to take him on? Because they aren't political fools. They can read the polls showing Trump beating them by more than 30 points and understand that they can only change this dynamic by successfully taking him down — something no Republican has come close to doing."

"Guantánamo Notebook: I Spent 20 Years Covering America's Secretive Detention Regime. Torture Was Always the Subtext. 'U.S. Takes Hooded, Shackled Detainees to Cuba,' declared the Washington Post headline on January 11, 2002. The reporters who wrote it were on the ground at Guantánamo Bay and in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I was in Washington, at my desk in the Post newsroom, where I worked as a researcher. As I read the story, one ominous revelation stuck with me: 'The 20 prisoners, whose identities have not been made public ...' I would spend the next two decades learning those prisoners' names and covering the story of America's not-so-secret terrorism detention complex. It started as a research challenge: to uncover the secrets of what some have called the 'American Gulag.' Later, as hundreds more nameless 'enemy combatants' were brought to the remote U.S. naval base on the south coast of Cuba, I followed the story through the brief wax and long wane of the Guantánamo news cycle. I wanted to know who was detained and why — and when the 'war on terror' would end."

From 2013, MugWumpBlues on Milton Friedman was wrong every which way about the Postal Service: "The US Postal Service is a frequent target of those seeking to privatize public assets. In 1960, Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom argued for what Friedman defined as a smaller government. Claiming private industry does things better, he specifically advocated eliminating the United States Postal Service's mail monopoly. For his proof private mail service works better? Friedman claimed the USPS killed the Pony Express. [...] Friedman is not correct. The USPS monopoly was established in 1792, 70 years before the Pony Express existed. In its first 100 years, the USPS almost always made money. On the other hand, the Pony Express, in business only 2 years, always lost money and went bankrupt. If Friedman were correct, and the USPS killed the supposedly "more efficient" Pony Express, one wonders why the USPS allowed the profitable American Express and Wells Fargo companies to survive. Friedman sort of has one fact right: the Pony Express closed the day after the first trans-continental telegraph was sent. That ended the Pony Express business: electric current moves faster than horses. Who paid for that innovation? The United States Postal Service. " And that's just one little thing he was wrong about.

Looks like someone has discovered him again, so I'm always happy to have an excuse to post about him. "The wild story of Marine legend Smedley Butler that you won't hear at boot camp: While Butler is known to most Marines for this rare achievement, he is better known outside of the military community for his late-in-life epiphany that during his 33 years of Marine Corps service, he and his men fought, killed, bled, and died more to shore up the profits of Wall Street than to defend the United States from foreign invaders."

"Justified: Sony and FX Revive Timothy Olyphant Series: Sony and FX confirm Timothy Olyphant's return as Marshal Raylan Givens in a new Justified limited series, Justified: City Primeval." Can it possibly be as good?

"Amazing footage of a blanket octopus unfurling her cape in the Lembeh Strait of Indonesia."

"Winners of the 2021 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest"

Meat Loaf, "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)"

08:47 GMT comment

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

But in my mind I know they will still live on and on

"This Iceberg Photo Is Perfectly Divided into Four Satisfying Quadrants: Although it was captured back in 2007 this photo from Canadian photographer David Burdeny still remains one of the coolest iceberg photos in existence thanks to perfect composition and symmetry that separates the photo into four different sections of colour and texture. Rising perfectly out of the Weddel Sea the iceberg photo is titled 'Mercators Projection,' and is taken from the series 'North/South' photographed during a trip to Antartica and Greenland."

"Bernie Sanders says Democrats are failing: 'The party has turned its back on the working class': Senator Bernie Sanders has called on Democrats to make 'a major course correction' that focuses on fighting for America's working class and standing up to 'powerful corporate interests' because the Democrats' legislative agenda is stalled and their party faces tough prospects in this November's elections."

"The Supreme Court takes up a case, brought by Ted Cruz, that could legalize bribery: Ted Cruz wants the Court to kill an important anti-corruption law."

Here's Lea Litman live-tweeting Supreme Court arguments in the case that's really about whether the executive branch or Congress can delegate the CDC to mandate health measures — or for any other agency to do its job. Scott Lemieux reports on the opinion. :"Republican Majority of the Supreme Court arbitrarily re-writes statute to conform to anti-vaxx Republican orthodoxy." As Scott points out, in the tradition of Bush v. Gore, the majority opinion was so shameful that no one was willing to put their name on it, but the joint dissent by Breyer, Sontomayor, and Kagan spells out just how egregious the decision is.

I guess once Michelle hugged W, it was all going to go this way. Can't wait to see them hugging Trump. Juan Cole says, "Dick Cheney says he doesn't Recognize current GOP, but he Helped pave way for Insurrection." After all, Cheney was at least as corrupt as Trump, but so much better at it. This guy was actually a serving Vice President of the United States and still on the payroll of Haliburton while he shuffled a whole load of no-bid, no-responsibility contracts to them. But now Democrats are toasting Cheneys like they toasted W with no recognition of what enemies of democracy these people always have been.

"Dick Cheney Should Be in Jail, Not Praised as a Hero by Democrats [...] I find it difficult to put into words how shameful venerating Cheney like this is by anyone, much less the country's supposed left-wing party — and it's particularly jarring given that Cheney has dedicated his career to attacking democracy, the very thing the ceremony was supposedly in opposition to. It's necessary to remember a bit of history here. Cheney was the most powerful vice president in US history. He is most remembered for his role in promoting the Iraq War, an illegal war of aggression predicated on lies, as well as pushing the nation to the 'dark side' after 9/11, which included torture, detention without trial (including of US citizens), warrantless surveillance, and other egregious departures from liberal norms of democracy."

"New Legal Filing in Mumia's Case: With continued pressure from below, 2022 will be the year that forces the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and the Philly Police Department to answer questions about why they framed imprisoned radio journalist and veteran Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal's attorneys have filed a PCRA petition focused entirely on the six boxes of case files that were found in a storage room of the DA's office in late December 2018, after the case being heard before Judge Leon Tucker in the Court of Common Pleas concluded. (tinyurl.com/zkyva464 ) The new evidence contained in the boxes is damning, and we need to expose it. It reveals a pattern of misconduct and abuse of authority by the prosecution, including bribery of the state's two key witnesses, as well as racist exclusion in jury selection — a violation of the landmark Supreme Court decision Batson v. Kentucky. The remedy for each or any of the claims in the petition is a new trial. The court may order a hearing on factual issues raised in the claims. If so, we won't know for at least a month. "

"The Bronx Fire Was Not Only a Tragedy, but Also a Housing Injustice: The fire, New York's deadliest in decades, shows why pandemic-era housing policy Band-Aids aren't enough. WITHIN 12 HOURS of New York City's deadliest fire in decades, which killed 17 people in the Bronx on Sunday night, officials were willing and able to apportion blame. 'A space heater is blamed for the deadly fire in a Bronx apartment building,' noted a New York Times headline Monday; New York Mayor Eric Adams had announced as much in a statement. The explanation was not so much false as it was wildly insufficient. The blaze was indeed reportedly sparked by a malfunctioning space heater. This alone was not enough to kill 17 tenants, including eight children, and leave dozens more hospitalized in critical condition. According to reports, the fire itself was contained to one apartment. Dense black smoke, meanwhile, spread through the entire 19-story building, through an apartment door that, were it in line with New York City codes since 2018, should have been self-closing." It was cold, the landlords still hadn't done anything to fix the heat. They'd ignored a lot of housing violations, in fact. And they were on the new mayor's transition team so it's unlikely he's going to go hard on them. And that's not all. But New Yorkers are already starting to suspect they elected what one local called "black Giuliani".

"Why US Prisons Don't Want Prisoners To Read: As one of the many calculated cruelties that define the US prison-industrial complex, the long assault on prisoners' ability to read books while incarcerated is sinister, inhumane, and must be stopped." Video and Transcript (16:38).

"US War Lobby Fuels Conflict in Russia, Ukraine, and Syria: Ex-Pentagon Advisor: A former senior advisor at the Pentagon confirms what was obvious to those who pay attention. The Military Industrial Congressional Complex is more powerful than anyone who occupies the office of the presidency. Col. Doug Macgregor, an ex-Pentagon advisor, on how the US war lobby fuels conflict from Ukraine to Syria. Washington, DC, he says, is 'occupied territory. It's occupied by corporations, by lobbies.' Douglas Macgregor, a retired US Army Colonel and former Pentagon senior advisor, analyzes the US-Russia standoff in Ukraine; the aftermath of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan; Trump's failure to act on 2016 campaign anti-interventionist rhetoric, only to surround himself with neocons; and the ongoing, overlooked US military occupation of Syria after the decade-long CIA dirty war. [...] We didn't pay any attention. We attacked him viciously. We essentially ignored any of his expression of concern or interest in Ukraine from the standpoint of Moscow's national security. And we have always refused to acknowledge the Russian concern that NATO is threatening to Russia. We've insisted, 'Absolutely not.' But we don't have far to look over the last 20 years at the various regime change operations that Washington has staged to appreciate Putin's concerns. But instead of addressing those concerns in a substantive way, taking into account what Russia's interests are, we've essentially said that they're illegitimate, and the only interests that are legitimate are our own and those of our quote-unquote NATO allies."

"There's a News Blackout on the Fed's Naming of the Banks that Got Its Emergency Repo Loans; Some Journalists Appear to Be Under Gag Orders: Four days ago, the Federal Reserve released the names of the banks that had received $4.5 trillion in cumulative loans in the last quarter of 2019 under its emergency repo loan operations for a liquidity crisis that has yet to be credibly explained. Among the largest borrowers were JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, three of the Wall Street banks that were at the center of the subprime and derivatives crisis in 2008 that brought down