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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, 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

Twelfthnight

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.

Hallowieners

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.

"THE ART NOUVEAU ILLUSTRATIONS OF ALPHONSE MUCHA HD 1080p"

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 the U.S. economy. That's blockbuster news. But as of 7 a.m. this morning, not one major business media outlet has reported the details of the Fed's big reveal. [...] Those Fed revelations, that had been withheld from the American people for two years, should have made front page headlines in newspapers and on the digital front pages of every major business news outlet. Instead, there was a universal news blackout of the story at the largest business news outlets, including: Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, the business section of the New York Times, the Financial Times, Dow Jones' MarketWatch, and Reuters."

A couple years ago, Luke Savage wrote this book review: "The Real Working Class Is Invisible to the Media: The media doesn't talk much about working-class America. But when it does, it mainly has one thing to say about it: that it's entirely white, male, and very right-wing. All those things are lies. [...] Central to this story is the decline of labor reporting, once a mainstay of major dailies. Today, by contrast, as Martin puts it: 'A conference gathering of labor/workforce beat reporters from the country's leading newspapers could fit into a single booth at an Applebee's.' Of the country's top twenty-five newspapers, he notes, a majority no longer covers the workplace/labor beat on a full-time basis, and the landscape for such reporting appears to be even bleaker on television (one 2013 survey cited by Martin, for example, reveals that only 0.3 percent of network TV news in the years 2008, 2009, and 2011 covered labor issues)." This led to his recent look back at the subject of labor coverage, "How the New York Times Covered Two Transit Strikes, 42 Years Apart: The vastly disparate NY Times coverage of two NYC transit strikes illustrates the dramatic transformation of mainstream coverage of working-class life in recent years. As media companies chase an upper-crust audience, workers have been erased."

RJ Eskow originally wrote in 2010 about the documents that established MERS was an illegal scam. It still amazes me that no one thought it worthwhile to put a stop to something that was designed to evade transfer fees and avoid proper registration of properties. And it's still going on. And these people still belong in prisons. "Pictures of MERS, Part 1: Corporate Documents Illustrate the Mortgage Shell Game."

Ryan Grim in 2009 on "Priceless: How The Federal Reserve Bought The Economics Profession: The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found. This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed's thrall, the economists missed it, too."

It's worth remembering Obama's betrayal of letting homeowners drown while he saved the banks and let them keep right on running scams like MERS, because right now Democrats are pretending they can "save democracy" with some prosecutions of the January 6th rioters. But that already seems to be falling apart and it does nothing to alleviate the real causes of the right, which is a continuing betrayal of the democracy and the public. It was, as Sirota says, "a predictable riot," and it's not over yet. "Democrats have coupled this pro-democracy theater with high-profile betrayals of the working class — from dropping a $15 minimum wage to ending the expanded child tax credit, to refusing to eliminate student debt, to killing paid family and sick leave proposals in the middle of a pandemic. Most recently, Biden's spokesperson scoffed at the idea of delivering free COVID tests to people's homes, Biden's consultants aided Big Pharma's efforts to kill promised drug-pricing legislation, and Biden's White House is promising no more stimulus legislation, no matter how much worse the pandemic gets. [...] As a recent Gallup poll shows trust in government further cratering under Biden, Democrats' theory seems to be the opposite of Roosevelt's truism — they seem to believe that a working class facing unending precarity would never dare 'sacrifice liberty in the hope of getting something to eat,' and that simply screaming about the end of what's left of democracy is a winning formula. Democratic Rep. Abby Spanberger perfectly summarized these beliefs when she recently declared that "Nobody elected (Biden) to be FDR, they elected him to be normal and stop the chaos' — as if 'stopping the chaos' has absolutely nothing to do with delivering FDR-like help to millions of angry people struggling to survive."

RIP: "Sidney Poitier, Black acting pioneer, dies aged 94: Poitier, who was born in Miami and raised in the Bahamas, was the first Black winner of the best actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field and, along with Harry Belafonte, was a pioneering Black presence in mainstream Hollywood cinema." I think I saw that movie once on my black and white TV set one afternoon, but I first saw him at the local movie house in A Patch of Blue and was impressed at how he loomed so large. We all loved him in To Sir, With Love, of course, and then he was in one of my private favorites, Sneakers, so yeah, he was a really big deal. Some people say he made all the others possible.

RIP: "Dwayne Hickman, TV's Dobie Gillis, has died at 87 [...] Hickman's TV and movie career ebbed and flowed through the 1970s, and he went on to work as a talent director a the Howard Hughes-owned Las Vegas Landmark Hotel casino, then a program director at CBS, overseeing M.A.S.H., Dukes of Hazzard, Designing Women, and Maude, The Associated Press reports. He started studying painting in the late 1980s. But for many people he was always Gillis, the lovesick teenager who never quite got the girl." Well, sure, he was always Dobie Gillis, but I still liked him in Cat Ballou. Zelda herself had some nice things to say on Twitter.

RIP: "Michael Lang, an organizer and producer of Woodstock, dies at 77 [...] Lang's death was confirmed by a representative, Maureen O'Connor, who said he died of complications due to lymphoma in New York City. Lang helped organize not only the original 1969 festival but also the 1994 Woodstock, as well as the disastrous 1999 Woodstock. Although he is arguably best known for helping to organize the historic festival, his career included managing music icons like Billy Joel and Joe Cocker, as well as producing numerous rock concerts."

RIP: Director, actor, writer, and critic Peter Bogdanovich, at 82. From Orson Welles to The Last Picture Show to Cybill Shepherd to some essential books on film (and even a good rock and roll movie), He was everywhere and got a lot of mileage, even if he was a bit... unreliable.

"The Second Coming of Octavia E. Butler: Sixteen years after the visionary novelist's death, Hollywood is bringing a slew of her intense sci-fi novels to the screen. The ground Octavia E. Butler covered in her 15 novels and two story collections is traceable—but you need time. In the '70s, '80s, and '90s, when Butler published the bulk of her work, she, Samuel Delany, and Ursula K. Le Guin were the only significant science fiction authors attempting such ideologically ambitious stories within the genre, placing left-of-center national politics and local histories right at the core of their plots. But genre fiction was historically not considered the breeding ground for the great American novel, especially if you were Black, gay, and/or a woman (all three authors were at least one of the above). In recent years, we've seen the tremendous literary contributions of these politically insightful sci-fi writers fêted rather than ghettoized. For Butler—unlike Le Guin, who died in 2018, and Delany, who is 79—the peak of her recognition has arrived posthumously."

"More American Girl Dolls with glasses: American Girl, a famous brand that makes 18-inch dolls, has many issues. Their dolls' skin colors, hair and other looks aren't very diverse, their accessories are the same kind of items, they're overpriced, and more. But the issue we're addressing in this petition is the lack of dolls that come with eye glasses. American Girl has made 50 character dolls as of January 2022. If we're being realistic, 19 more of the 50 character dolls should have glasses." This comes with a petition.

I'm just putting this one here for my own reference: "Beware the Moderate Democrat: Why the centrist extremists are an incredibly dangerous political animal" — They claim to be moderate and brand themselves as "the center", but they represent only 3.8% of the population.

"The private monorail tunnel under North London: Under North London, there exists a private underground monorail service, some 20km long, running from Elstree to St John's Wood in the centre of town. You can't ride on the monorail, and it's not an escape route for Royals or rich oligarchs, it's actually owned by the electricity grid — and it's their inspection railway."

"The Secret History of Holywell Street: Home to Victorian London's Dirty Book Trade: Victorian sexuality is often considered synonymous with prudishness, conjuring images of covered-up piano legs and dark ankle-length skirts. Historian Matthew Green uncovers a quite different scene in the sordid story of Holywell St, 19th-century London's epicentre of erotica and smut." (Thanks, Moshe!)

"Doctor Who on Holiday" by Dean Gray (ft. Green Day & The Timelords)

Lulu, "To Sir, With Love"

00:52 GMT comment


Friday, 07 January 2022

St. Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go

Kuttner, "Democrats Gain Control of a Key Regulatory Agency: Trump's chair of the FDIC, outvoted on a key issue, decides to bail. Democrats will regain firm control of a key regulatory agency, the FDIC, thanks to the abrupt resignation of its Trump-appointed chair, Jelena McWilliams, on New Year's Eve. Her departure takes effect in early February. Martin Gruenberg, a longtime progressive Democrat on the FDIC board and former FDIC chair, will become acting chair once again. The stakes are huge because several major bank regulatory issues will be decided this spring. Here's the backstory. In early December, the three Democrats on the five-member FDIC board formally requested public comments on the need for tighter regulation of bank mergers. McWilliams strenuously objected and tried to block the proposal. She wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal blasting the board majority's move as a 'hostile takeover.' The politics of the situation were briefly complicated when one of the three Democrats, Michael Hsu, a former mid-level Fed official who serves on the FDIC board via his current job as acting comptroller of the currency, momentarily lost his nerve and decided he did not want to cross the FDIC chair. But McWilliams soon learned that the law is not on her side. The FDIC's statute makes clear that the board is the legal authority, and the chair has only such power as the board delegates. At that point, she decided to call it a day, rather than serving as a lame-duck chair with no power, even though her term doesn't expire until mid-2023. This is a windfall for Democrats—and a reward to Gruenberg and the FDIC board's other progressive Democrat, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rohit Chopra, for playing hardball. With McWilliams gone, Hsu is now expected to vote with the FDIC's other Democrats. All of this matters because in addition to tightening standards for bank mergers, the nation's regulatory agencies will soon act to restore capital and liquidity requirements for big banks, strengthen consideration of climate change in evaluating bank balance sheets, and undertake the first toughening of regulation under the Community Reinvestment Act in a quarter-century."

Jon Schwarz, "Everything Democrats Didn't Do in 2021: From protecting the vote to raising the minimum wage to action on global warming, in the past year, the Democrats did none of it. [...] THAT BRINGS US to 2022, which begins tomorrow. It is, of course, theoretically possible that the Democrats will take significant action on some of these issues in the coming year. But with rare exceptions, that's not how U.S. politics work. The biggest things happen in a president's first year in office, or they don't happen at all."

Branko Marcetic, "Biden's Agenda Is Dying Because the Interests of the Rich and Poor Are Irreconcilable: Joe Biden's rationale for his own presidency was that he could bring oligarchs and working people together and hammer out a compromise that worked for both. The apparent death of his legislative agenda proves what a laughable fantasy that was."

"'Innocence Isn't Enough': Arizona Urges The Supreme Court To Send Barry Jones Back To Death Row: The case has far-reaching implications: Should new evidence be ignored by the federal courts even when it exposes a wrongful conviction? [...] Now in their 30s, the siblings were just kids when their dad was sentenced to die. He'd been accused of an unfathomable crime: the rape and murder of his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter, Rachel. Jones swore he was innocent — and the case against him was flimsy from the start. In 2017, an evidentiary hearing finally dismantled the evidence that sent Jones to death row. The next year, a federal judge overturned his conviction, ordering the state to retry Jones or release him. But that never happened. Instead, Arizona appealed the decision all the way to Washington, D.C."

"A Judge Has Ordered Him Released From Prison—Twice. The Government Still Won't Set Him Free. Bobby Sneed's story highlights how far some government agents will go to keep people locked up, flouting the same legal standards they are charged with upholding. [...] This year was going to be different. The Louisiana Board of Pardons and Committee on Parole voted unanimously to release him months ago. Yet Sneed has remained in prison long past his March 29, 2021, release date and despite a November 18 court decision ordering his release. Another ruling came down early last week: Sneed must be freed, a judge said. And as he was waiting by the gate for pickup, prison officials again refused to release him, instead rearresting him and transferring him to West Feliciana Parish Detention Center in St. Francisville, Louisiana."

"Why bitcoin is worse than a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme: A Ponzi scheme is a zero-sum enterprise. But bitcoin is a negative-sum phenomenon that you can't even pursue a claim against, argues Robert McCauley."

"Cryptocurrencies: A Necessary Scam? "Yes, Web3 is a bunch of bullshit. The problem is, compared to what? For a few years, I've been thinking about why social movements like crypto and bitcoin have so much momentum. I often get emails from proponents of crypto as an anti-monopoly tool, and a lot of smart people that I respect believe that it is based on a groundbreaking technology that will sweep the world. I don't see it that way. I think it's a social movement based on a dangerous get-rich-quick scam. But there's a tremendous amount of goodwill involved, and as with GameStop, the underlying driver of the energy in this movement is mass and legitimate disillusionment with liberal institutions who have failed to deliver."

"Trump's Supreme Court allows Trump's other crank judges to run free: The reactionary hacks Republicans have nominated to lower federal courts have been overrunning Biden administration policy with no serious legal basis. One obvious reason they're doing this is that they know the Court that is theoretically in charge of enforcing its own precedents isn't going to do anything about it: [...] As Milhiser goes on to point out, the Biden administration is showing little resistance, even in cases (like the order to restore the Remain in Mexico policy) where the courts have no real ability to enforce their orders. The Cult of the Court remains powerful no matter how lawless the federal courts get."

"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 Emma Watson Saga Exposes the Demonisation of Palestine Solidarity: By accusing actress Emma Watson of antisemitism, Israel's apologists have exposed their strategy for defending apartheid: to smear anyone who dares to acknowledge that Palestinians exist."

A couple of graphs show that, "The Real Burglars Aren't Wearing Masks: Across the country and across industries, employers steal billions from workers each year. Minimum wage violation — the act of paying workers below the legal limit — is just one form of wage theft, but it results in at least $15 billion in lost wages annually. In 2015, minimum wage violations cost workers more than all robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts combined."

RIP: "Sarah Weddington, attorney who won Roe v Wade abortion case, dies aged 76 [...] Susan Hays, a Democratic candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner, announced the news on Twitter on Sunday and the Dallas Morning News confirmed it. 'Sarah Weddington died this morning after a series of health issues,' Hays wrote. 'With Linda Coffee, she filed the first case of her legal career, Roe v Wade, fresh out of law school. She was my professor — the best writing instructor I ever had, and a great mentor. 'At 27 she argued Roe to [the supreme court] (a fact that always made me feel like a gross underachiever). Ironically, she worked on the case because law firms would not hire women in the early 70s, leaving her with lots of time for good trouble.'"

RIP: "Beloved TV Icon Betty White Dead on the Cusp of 100th Birthday: A few weeks shy of her 100th birthday, Betty White, the beloved actress and comedian whose career in Hollywood spanned nearly eight decades and included stints on hit shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Golden Girls, has died.'Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever. I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don't think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.'" I think a lot of us thought she'd live forever, or at least wanted her to. I was glad to see that she hadn't spent her last days in pain, though. "In an interview with People, published on Dec. 28, White said, 'I'm so lucky to be in such good health and feel so good at this age.'" She was everyone's favorite little old lady. And here's that time Joan Rivers interviewed Betty.

RIP: "Joan Didion, Literary Titan, Dies at 87: Joan Didion, a resounding voice in American literature who insightfully captured the '60s and California through observant and beautiful language, died on Thursday at home in Manhattan. She was 87 years old. The famed writer's cause of death was Parkinson's disease, according to an email sent by her publisher, Paul Bogaards, an executive at Knopf, to The New York Times."
"Joan Didion, in her own words: 23 of the best quotes"

RIP: "Anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies aged 90: Desmond Tutu, the South African cleric and social activist who was a giant of the struggle against apartheid, has died aged 90, prompting tributes from religious leaders, politicians and activists from around the world. Tutu, described by observers at home and abroad as the moral conscience of the nation, died in Cape Town on Boxing Day, weeks after the death of FW de Klerk, the country's last white president."

RIP: "Harry Reid, former Senate majority leader and Democratic kingmaker, dies at 82, of pancreatic cancer. Reid was not one of the most liberal Senators, but he fought hard for plenty of liberal causes and he was good at it, unlike what we have now.

"Entertainment Monopolies Are Zombifying Mass Culture: Mass culture is becoming a museum dedicated to itself, its artifacts curated by an ever-narrowing family of conglomerates. Nowhere is that clearer than in the decline of The Simpsons, whose groundbreaking satire was killed by monopoly capitalism."

"Adolph Reed Jr.: The Perils of Race Reductionism: The political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. on the Black Lives Matter movement, the 'rich peoples' wealth gap,' and his Marxism. [...] What looks like an overall racial income gap that's not closing, that's persistent, turns out to be more an effect of rich people getting richer than the rest of us. What Bruenig finds is that 70% of so-called White wealth—or rather, close to 75% of so-called White wealth and close to 75% of so-called Black wealth—are held by the top 10% of each group, and that 97% of the racial wealth gap exists above the median."

"Government Action, Not Consumer Action, Will Stop Climate Change: Pointing the finger at individual consumers has been the default strategy of powerful corporations since the 1950s. Deflect blame for smog or litter or polluted waterways or carcinogens or gun violence away from manufacturers and onto John Q. Public. Make the issue about personal responsibility. 'People start pollution, people can stop it,' said the famous crying Indian ad from the early 1970s, the brainchild of a can and bottle manufacturers trade group. The strategy has worked like a dream because Americans prize personal responsibility. Ronald Reagan was speaking for many of us when he said: 'It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.'"

"Best of 2021: David Dayen: Our executive editor hand-picks his favorite stories of the year." I was particularly interested in "Amazon's Attack on Women's Health," which isn't just about women's health products, but the way Amazon treats its sellers and customers.

Your occasional reminder that Teen Vogue is smarter than a lot of "grown-up" rags. "Billionaires Should Not Exist — Here's Why: This op-ed argues that every billionaire really is a policy failure. [...] We have arrived at an obscene inequality crisis, in which wealth is concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, at the cost of crippling hardship, precarity, and compromised well-being for the many. When a single billionaire can accumulate more money in 10 seconds than their employees make in one year, while workers struggle to meet the basic cost of rent and medicine, then yes, every billionaire really is a policy failure. Here's why."

"Here Comes the Juice: The Expanse Changed How We Think About Sci-Fi Storytelling: We expect space opera to be big—sprawling tales with enormous casts traversing untold star systems and encountering alien beasties beyond human ken. But Amazon Prime's "The Expanse" took a much more intimate, grounded tack: what if we reached the stars, and brought all of our problems—xenophobia, class inequities, our innate knack for self-destruction—along with us?"

Alex McLevy tweeted an image, "I'd like to thank the makers of the 2022 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER calendar for obviously being devoted, passionate fans of the show who can readily identify all the most iconic characters." (Don't miss Andy Lambert's comment here to bring it all into focus.)

"The ancient fabric that no one knows how to make" was once all the rage for the wealthy, but then it completely disappeared.

I have known who Pamela Coleman-Smith was for my entire adult life and have used her most famous work extensively at times, but in all these years, I never knew what she looked like.

Some Google "Easter Eggs"

Eric Burden, "Sixteen Tons"

00:00 GMT comment


Saturday, 25 December 2021

Peace

It's Christmas Eve for me, although in truth it's really Christmas morning here where everyone else is asleep in their beds with visions of sugarplums etc. I've decided to pack up documenting the atrocities for the night and just tack the traditional Christmas links up for you to enjoy. Some of us go back to them every year just because. And if you haven't seen them yet, you might just like them. It's a balmy 38 degrees Fahrenheit (3° centigrade) and the rain has been bucketing down all night. So here's some holiday wishes from my avatar and me.
* 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

"That Time the FBI Scrutinized It's a Wonderful Life for Communist Messaging: The film 'deliberately maligned the upper class,' according to a report that didn't like the portrayal of Mr. Potter as a bad guy. [...] According to the FBI report, the informant told the field agent that 'in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.' The source also suggested that the film could have been made differently, by portraying Mr. Potter as a conscientious banker who was simply 'following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiner in connection with making loans' and as 'a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown.' "

"Medicare Privatization Scheme Faced Legal Questions About Profiteering: Government attorneys expressed concerns that the Medicare direct contracting model — begun by Trump, and continued under Biden — was geared to benefit specific companies. [...] The direct contracting model was announced publicly in April 2019 and began its implementation phase in October 2020. The project pays private companies a predetermined but individualized amount per year, per patient, regardless of what the company spends on care, and has persisted and grown under the Biden administration."

Josh Gottheimer is a mendacious little spiv. "Josh Gottheimer's Wild Claims In Rutgers Speech Are Falling Apart: The New Jersey Democrat claimed that a protester screamed 'Jew!' at him and that Jamal Khashoggi's organization has links to Al Qaeda. REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER, a New Jersey Democrat, attacked the organization founded by Jamal Khashoggi on Monday as linked to Al Qaeda, echoing allegations that Saudi officials have leveled to muddy the waters around the state-sanctioned butchering of the Washington Post journalist. In a speech at Rutgers University, Gottheimer criticized the school for hosting Khashoggi's organization for an event. 'At another event, the same group hosted Democracy for the Arab World Now, DAWN, whose officials have connections to Al Qaeda and Hamas networks,' Gottheimer said. 'Hamas sympathizers, or others with ties to other terrorist organizations involved in 9/11, have no place on college campuses. Associates of Palestinian Islamic jihad have no place on this college campus. I know we all believe that hate has no home here. It's time we all practice what we preach.' During his speech, Gottheimer also claimed that at an earlier protest organized by the Working Families Party, somebody had shouted 'Jew!' at him. 'Not long ago, I held an event in my district to talk about the benefits of the bipartisan federal infrastructure bill, only to have members of the Working Families Party disrupt the event by screaming 'Jew' at me,' he said. While he did not specify which event he was referring to, representatives from the Working Families Party say they only showed up at one, on September 20. A review of video of the event provided by the Working Families Party suggests that Gottheimer is either lying or appears to have misheard the protesters. As he left an event out a back door, protesters urged him to engage in one of his regular constituent events that he calls 'Cup of Joe with Josh,' in lieu of town halls that his constituents have demanded. 'This is your Cup of Joe, Josh. This is your Cup of Joe,' yelled Lisa Schwartz of Teaneck, New Jersey. At the time of the protest, Gottheimer was under intense pressure at home and in Washington to get behind Biden's Build Back Better Act. 'That's the only time we saw him, and it was so ridiculous, he avoided us like the plague,' Schwartz, a retired social worker, told The Intercept. 'We just wanted five minutes of his time.'"

"Joe Biden's disgraceful cave on family separation [...] The negotiated deal to offer some measure of compensation to families ripped to pieces by the Trump administration's barbaric policies fell apart because somebody leaked the details of the negotiation to the Wall Street Journal, the fash went predictably nuts about it, and Joe Biden decided that this was a good reason to back out on the whole thing."

"US Army Creates Single Vaccine Effective Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say: Within weeks, Walter Reed researchers expect to announce that human trials show success against Omicron—and even future strains. [...] The vaccine's human trials took longer than expected, he said, because the lab needed to test the vaccine on subjects who had neither been vaccinated nor previously infected with COVID. Increasing vaccination rates and the rapid spread of the Delta and Omicron variants made that difficult."

"Purdue Pharma Appeals Judge Strikes Down Opioid Settlement: Purdue Pharma LP's multi-billion dollar opioid settlement was dealt a surprising blow on Thursday when a federal judge reversed a bankruptcy court's earlier approval of the deal. U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon on Thursday struck down the OxyContin maker's sweeping opioid settlement, putting the accord at risk of collapsing. Supporters of the deal have warned that the alternative to a settlement is years of costly -- and potentially fruitless -- litigation. Purdue Pharma said in a statement that it will appeal. In the meantime, it's a victory for a handful of state attorneys general and an arm of the U.S. Justice Department, which have been working to overturn the settlement. Attorneys general from states including Washington, Connecticut and Maryland want to block the deal so they can keep suing Purdue's owners, members of the billionaire Sackler family, over their role in the opioid crisis. The settlement would prevent that, giving Purdue's owners broad legal protections from opioid-related civil lawsuits. McMahon said the drugmaker's bankruptcy judge erred in granting those releases." The settlement would have allowed the Sacklers to protect their billions under a bankruptcy shield.

"Susan Hutson defeats Marlin Gusman in Orleans Parish sheriff's race: First-time candidate Susan Hutson toppled 17-year incumbent Marlin Gusman in the Orleans Parish sheriff's race on Saturday, a stunning rebuke for a seasoned New Orleans politician and a sign that the local progressive movement to reform the criminal justice system is here to stay. With 350 of 351 precincts reporting, Hutson had 53% of the vote to Gusman's 47%. WWL-TV called the race just before 10 p.m. Hutson is the first Black woman elected as a sheriff in Louisiana history. Along with Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, self-styled reformers of the criminal justice system now control New Orleans' two top elected law enforcement posts, a remarkable reversal in a city that was once one of the most incarcerated places on the planet. Hutson has pledged to double down on efforts to reduce the jail's population, to stop an 89-bed jail expansion, to end charges for phone calls from jail and to bring the lockup into compliance with a federal reform agreement."

"Charges Dismissed Against Motorist Brutalized by SFPD Officers After Accidental Collision in 2018." This is another case that demonstrates that police lie on the stand.

"During Questioning In Albany, NYPD Commissioner Shea Backtracks On Bail Reform Law As Big Reason For Gun Violence." And this one on how lying police commissioners help further the push against bail reform.

RIP: "Michael Nesmith, Monkees Singer-Songwriter, Dead at 78: Monkees singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith, a pop visionary who penned many of the group's most enduring songs before laying the groundwork for country rock with the First National Band in the early Seventies, died Friday from natural causes. He was 78. 'With Infinite Love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes,' his family said in a statement. [...] Nesmith was known as the Monkee in the green wool hat with the thick Texas drawl, and the writer of songs like 'Mary, Mary,' 'Circle Sky,' 'Listen to the Band,' and 'The Girl I Knew Somewhere.' But he raged behind the scenes that the group didn't have creative control of its albums, and in 1967 led the successful rebellion against record producer Don Kirshner. The group would subsequently release Headquarters and other albums created largely on its own." I don't think I knew that he wrote "Different Drum" — and that Linda Ronstadt sang it because they wouldn't let the Monkees perform it.
Micky Dolenz gave an interview upon hearing the news: "Micky Dolenz Remembers Michael Nesmith: 'He Was Our Leader the Whole Time': 'You could never, never have talked him out of the farewell tour,' says Dolenz of his 55-year Monkees bandmate. 'He was absolutely determined to finish that tour. [...] Something happened when we sang together, and it always did with us. That was also the case in the comedy, in the shtick we used to do. We just clicked. You can't invent that or force it. It just happens, or it doesn't." (Paywalled.)

RIP: "Gothic Novelist Anne Rice Dead At 80: The author wrote the 1976 novel Interview with the Vampire, which was later adapted into a movie starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in 1994." I have nothing to say about this, I didn't know her, never read the books, didn't even see the movie, but I recognized her place in the genre and know this as a milestone.

RIP: "bell hooks, author and activist, dies aged 69: In acclaimed works Ain't I a Woman and All About Love the writer shared her ideas about race, feminism and romance with flair and compassion. Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, has died aged 69. [...] The author, professor and activist was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, and published more than 30 books in her lifetime, covering topics including race, feminism, capitalism and intersectionality."

"The Media Is Rewriting Bob Dole's History as a Vicious Right-Wing Attack Dog: Today, pundits are pretending that Bob Dole, who died this past weekend, was a patron saint of compromise and decency. But for virtually his whole career, Dole was an unscrupulous partisan warrior who did big favors for wealthy donors and pushed a radical anti-government agenda."

"What if Everything You Know About Murder Rates and Policing Is Wrong? Five common myths about the FBI's homicide data, debunked. Homicides across the United States rose by an estimated 30 percent in 2020, the largest one-year increase on record, according to recently released data from the FBI. But don't jump to conclusions about what that means. As soon as the FBI shared this eye-popping statistic in late September, a flood of fear-inducing headlines made it seem like Americans are now living through a massive wave of violence. Police chiefs, mayors, and journalists quickly speculated about the possible causes for the uptick, often blaming (without evidence) protests to defund law enforcement and stop police brutality. Don't believe them."

Jon Schwarz says "Don't Look Up Is As Funny And Terrifying About Global Warming As Dr. Strangelove Was About Nuclear War: Adam McKay's new movie may be the first film in 57 years to equal the comedy and horror of Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece."

I should probably get around to watching the 2019 Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists one of these days.

04:19 GMT comment


Friday, 10 December 2021

And we know it's almost Christmas by the marks we make on the wall

It's that time of year again, so kick back with some seasonal music and check out Hunt Emerson's Christmas Countdown again.

"Gillibrand Statement On The Gutting Of Bipartisan Military Justice Reforms By House And Senate Armed Services Leadership" — or as David Dayen put it on Twitter: "Gillibrand's full statement on what was done to her military justice reform is quite something. She spent a decade mustering support and has 2/3 of the Senate in her corner, and still couldn't get past Congress's Pentagon gatekeepers." Dday's story is here.

"Congress 'Asleep at the Switch' as Biden Continues Trump-Era Ploy to Privatize Medicare: More than 1,500 physicians warn that the experiment threatens 'the future of Medicare as we know it' A Trump-era pilot program that could result in the complete privatization of traditional Medicare in a matter of years is moving ahead under the Biden administration, a development that—despite its potentially massive implications for patients across the U.S.—has received scant attention from the national press or Congress. On Tuesday, a group of physicians from around the nation will try to grab the notice of lawmakers, the Biden White House, and the public by traveling to Washington, D.C. and demanding that the Health and Human Services Department immediately stop the Medicare experiment, which is known as Direct Contracting (DC). [...] Advocates have been publicly sounding the alarm about the DC program for months, warning that it could fully hand traditional Medicare over to Wall Street investors and other profit-seekers, resulting in higher costs for patients and lower-quality care."

"Progressives -- And The American People -- Want To Expand Medicare; Conservatives Want To Privatize It [...] Even Republican voters say they would be more likely to support the Build Back Better Act if it includes allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of certain prescription drugs, something that is currently being blocked by corrupt Republicans plus corrupt Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Johnson made the point last week that corrupt conservatives in thrall to Big PhRMA want to move the opposite direction... and already are. "A Trump-era pilot program," wrote Johnson, "that could result in the complete privatization of traditional Medicare in a matter of years is moving ahead under the Biden administration, a development that-- despite its potentially massive implications for patients across the U.S.-- has received scant attention from the national press or Congress."

"As Buttigieg Eyes a Presidential Run, His DOT Is Floundering: The transportation secretary has a major role to play in easing the supply chain crisis. Pete Buttigieg isn't doing the job." As always, there is much that could be done, but no one is doing it.

"As Executives Hike Prices, US Corporations Rake in Biggest Profits Since 1950: 'Prices are high,' said Sen. Sherrod Brown, 'because corporations are raising them—so they can keep paying themselves with ever-larger executive bonuses and stock buybacks.' New data released by the Commerce Department shows that over the last two quarters of 2021, U.S. corporations outside the finance sector have raked in their largest profits since 1950—a windfall that belies CEO gripes about rising labor costs and broader inflationary pressures in the economy. 'Let's be clear. The problem is not the worker who got a small raise and a $1,400 check seven months ago.' The Commerce Department figures, as Bloomberg reported Tuesday, show that overall corporate profits were up 37% from the previous year while employee compensation was up just 12%."

A lefty won in Honduras. You can tell La Prensa is in denial.

"Utah Makes Welfare So Hard to Get, Some Feel They Must Join the LDS Church to Get Aid: Utah's safety net for the poor is so intertwined with the LDS Church that individual bishops often decide who receives assistance. Some deny help unless a person goes to services or gets baptized. Near the start of the pandemic, in a gentrifying neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah, visitors from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived at Danielle Bellamy's doorstep. They were there to have her read out loud from the Book of Mormon, watch LDS videos and set a date to get baptized, all of which she says the church was requiring her to do in exchange for giving her food. Bellamy, desperate for help, had tried applying for cash assistance from the state of Utah. But she'd been denied for not being low-income enough, an outcome that has become increasingly common ever since then-President Bill Clinton signed a law, 25 years ago, that he said would end 'welfare as we know it.' State employees then explicitly recommended to Bellamy that she ask for welfare from the church instead, she and her family members said in interviews."

"'The Jewish-Palestinian Conflict' Is Not a Phrase You Want to Hear From a Supreme Court Justice [...] I'm fairly sure the justice was referring to the ongoing dispute between the state of Israel and the Palestinian people living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, a secular conflict, albeit one with a religious subtext. But the only people I've ever heard refer to the situation as the 'Jewish-Palestinian' conflict were conservative American Christians whose interest in Israel's survival is based on anticipating the time in which, some Scripture says, all the Jews will return to Israel, one of the precipitating events leading to the return of Christ and the Final Judgment at the end of the world. I am not saying this is what Justice Barrett believes, but, even if this were a slip of the tongue, it was a signifying one, and a startling one coming from the bench of the highest court in the land."

"Built to Lie: A new book about the Boeing 737 MAX disaster exposes the company's allergy to the truth. [...] Boeing's self-hijacking plane took its first 189 lives on October 29, 2018, just over two months after it had been delivered to the Jakarta Airport terminal of Indonesia's reigning discount carrier Lion Air. Fishermen described the fuselage plunging nose-first, directly perpendicular to the Java Sea, at speeds many times that of Komarov's four-and-a-half mile descent from the half-baked Soyuz 1, with its malfunctioning parachutes. A 48-year-old diver dispatched to plumb the deep sea floor for body parts and the elusive cockpit voice recorder became the 190th fatality. As with the Soyuz, in which the famous cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was said to have detailed 200 outstanding manufacturing defects in a memo to superiors, the 737 MAX had been the subject of numerous ignored whistleblower reports, tormented confessions, and abrupt career changes; the general manager of the plane's final assembly line outside Seattle had resigned in despair the week Lion Air took delivery. But three years later, nothing has surfaced to suggest that any senior official at Boeing took so much as a passing glance at the corpse stew its greed chucked into the Java Sea, much less any semblance of responsibility."

RIP: "Fred Hiatt, Washington Post editorial page editor, dies at 66," after 20 years of making that editorial page an embarrassing collection of "centrist" whining and right-wing crankery. He shilled for war and neoliberalism vigorously, but it's unlikely he'll be replaced by anyone good, so there's no cause for jubilation.

RIP: Bob Dole at 98, former US Senate hard man. "When Dole ran for the Senate in 1968 to replace the retiring Frank Carlson, he was largely seen as a hard-line conservative. That's because he was a hard-line conservative. He did have occasional bouts of moderation. He worked with George McGovern on a bill to expand food stamps, for instance. But he both hated Democrats and on the vast majority of issues was on the right of the Republican caucus. He rose fast in the Republican apparatus though, based mostly on his hard-line approach to Democrats that appealed to the New Right. In 1971, he was named chairman of the Republican National Committee and became a close advisor to Richard Nixon. [...] In 1990, Dole pushed through the one positive thing he did in his career and it is highly telling. This was the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is of course an unvarnished good. It has significantly improved the lives of millions of Americans in the decades since. Dole put all his energy behind it. But that was the rub — the only reason he did this is that he personally was disabled. Yes, he deserved credit for the ADA. But Bob Dole is the platonic example of the conservative politician who hates government except for this one thing which personally benefits me and so on this issue I am a big supporter of government. Did Dole ever extrapolate from his disability to think, hey maybe the government could also help other people who have other problems out of their control? Ha ha ha ha ha, of course not. [...] (A story from a friend who hails from Arkansas: His father bumped into Dale Bumpers in a parking lot one day. Bumpers was still a senator at that time. His father asked him why Republicans were blocking everything Democrats proposed. Bumpers told him directly, and this is a quote: 'Bob Dole is an evil man.')"

"The Elephant In The Room: Rick Perlstein On The Evolution Of The American Conservative Movement [...] American conservatism is upholding hierarchy and authority and fighting against movements of liberation, the taproot of which is the New Deal: the Depression-era social programs that established the modern American state as a referee that aims to make society freer and fairer. [...] The Republicans used to complain that they couldn't win elections because 'no one shoots Santa Claus.' What they meant was that Democrats used the public treasury to help ordinary Americans by, for example, building massive dams that provided jobs, cheap power, and wonderful lakes for recreation. But in the economic traumas of the late 1970s, the old ways of doing things didn't seem to work anymore, so Jimmy Carter had to shoot Santa Claus. Carter's mantra was that Americans needed to sacrifice in order to rescue the country from economic perdition. That was a big reason Reagan won."

The Washington Post was terrible even before Bezos bought it, but this article reminded me that pretty much every "take-down" of progressive programs I see in social media appeared there first. "With Bezos at the Helm, Democracy Dies at the Washington Post Editorial Board: In the Soviet Union, everybody was aware that the media was controlled by the state. But in a corporate state like the U.S., a veneer of independence is still maintained, although trust in the media has been plummeting for years."

"Sorry, Race Reductionists—Malcolm X Rejected Identitarianism and Black Nationalism"

I loved this movie, so I was glad to see this short tribute to it. "Harold and Maude: 50 years on, Hal Ashby's box-office bomb is a black comedy classic: This 70s romcom continues to charm with its dark humour and undercurrent of optimism"

At the other end of the spectrum, Tom Brevoort's evaluation of the latest in the Doctor Who saga is all too accurate. And a scary departure from the Doctor we know.

Jonathan Coulton, "Chiron Beta Prime"

23:28 GMT comment


Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Going mad, shooting sparks into space

"A Moment of Relax" by Catia Trovarelli is from the Hyperrealism collection.

So, Kyle Rittenhouse was cleared of all charges, having convinced a jury that he was afraid for his life and shot in self-defense. Since the prosecution couldn't prove otherwise, he was Not Guilty. That's the law. And I'm not linking to any stories about it because they're all so politicized I can't stand it. Most of what was in the news was slanted and overblown and wrong. Yes, Rittenhouse "crossed state lines," but since he lived a mile from the state line, that hardly means anything. Nor was he haring off across another state to interfere in a strange community; he worked in that community, and his father lived there. But it's the kind of thing right-wingers will point to as "proof" of a left-wing bias in the media, never realizing that it's the division, not anything "left", that the media is promoting.

Meanwhile, in the case of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, all three white men, Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William 'Roddie' Bryan, were convicted and face the possibility of life in prison. For many, this feels like a particular victory since one of the accused was an ex-cop. All but one of the jurors were white, which had worried some. Both McMichaels will appeal.

The "Bipartisan Infrastructure" bill passed both Houses without the BBB being passed, because Pelosi rounded up some Republicans to support it while the progressives were still digging in their heels for passage of both simultaneously. Once she called the vote, she nullified the progressives' leverage. Since the whole point of BIF was to kill BBB, a lot of people are wondering whether the continued coverage of attempts to negotiate the latter is merely a charade meant to demoralize progressives further. Biden signed BIF so now it's down to implementation, as David Dayen has been warning. There's a reason that there is absolutely no optimism about whether Democrats will hold the House or Senate. Most people expect a bloodbath.

David Dayen, "Fighting the Inflation Profiteers: Companies are raising prices well above increases in their costs. The only antidote is to finally take action against corporate power. In a time of high inflation, you hear a lot about companies 'passing costs' on to customers. In order for companies to maintain their God-given right to earn a profit, they must raise prices to offset the cost of producing goods and getting them into peoples' hands. And thanks mostly to the hidden risk, exposed by the pandemic, of neoliberal gospels like just-in-time logistics, deregulation, and offshoring, prices really are going up. But there's something else mixed in with this latest bout of inflation. Companies aren't just passing costs onto us. With corporations using inflation as a cover for raising their prices, you and I are passing profits onto companies. 'Executives are seizing a once in a generation opportunity to raise prices,' reads a Wall Street Journal story explaining that around two-thirds of the largest publicly traded companies are showing profit margins higher today than they did in 2019, before the pandemic. Over 100 companies show profit margins of 50 percent or more above those 2019 levels." And it's even worse than that.

"2 Men Convicted of Killing Malcolm X Will Be Exonerated After Decades: The 1966 convictions of the two men are expected to be thrown out after a lengthy investigation, validating long-held doubts about who killed the civil rights leader. [...] For decades, historians have cast doubt on the case against the two men, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, who each spent more than 20 years in prison. Their exoneration represents a remarkable acknowledgment of grave errors made in a case of towering importance: the 1965 murder of one of America's most influential Black leaders. [...] A 22-month investigation conducted jointly by the Manhattan district attorney's office and lawyers for the two men found that prosecutors and two of the nation's premier law enforcement agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department — had withheld key evidence that, had it been turned over, would likely have led to the men's acquittal."

"Jury Returns $31.8M Civil Verdict Against Alt-Right Defendants in Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' Lawsuit: A federal jury has returned a $31.8 million civil verdict in a case connected to the 'Unite the Right' protest in Charlottesville, Va., in Aug. 2017. A collection of nine plaintiffs sued a number of figures in the alt-right movement — including Jason Kessler, Matthew Heimbach, Richard Spencer and Christopher Cantwell — on a series of federal and state law claims. The jury deadlocked on the federal claims but returned verdicts on the state law claims in various dollar amounts. [...] Legally, the jury agreed that a far-right conspiracy was afoot in Charlottesville — one which resulted in legally cognizable tort injuries."

"GOP Offers Taste of 2022 Attack Ads If Democrats Approve Tax Cut for Millionaires: 'Democrats' SALT tax giveaway is handing Republicans a potent political weapon to crush Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.' [...] On Monday, Rep. Jason Smith (R-Mo.) shared a 60-second spot lampooning House Democrats' plan to raise the cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions from $10,000 to $80,000 through 2026—a proposal that would predominantly benefit the rich. One recent analysis estimated that U.S. millionaires would receive an average tax cut of $16,760 from the provision."

"It's not just white people: Democrats are losing normal voters of all races: Democrats fear they are losing white swing voters over racial politics. Three studies suggest that the party's elite culture may be the real problem."

"Leonard Peltier Is America's Longest-Serving Political Prisoner. Biden May Be His Last Hope.: The FBI put the Native American activist behind bars 44 years ago based on lies, threats and no proof he committed a crime. Why is he still there? [...] HuffPost talked to a number of people who have played a role in either fighting or preserving Peltier's imprisonment over the years — international human rights attorneys, senior-level officials from the Obama administration, Peltier's longtime allies — and they all pointed to the same reason for him remaining in prison: resistance from the FBI."

"Five Reasons the Left Won in Venezuela: These elections should put the Biden administration on notice that continuing to support the MUD, and in particular, the fiction of Guaidó as "interim president," is a failed policy." Basically, the left kept Covid deaths low, gave people health care and kept them fed, and the opposition is hugely unpopular.

"New bill quietly gives powers to remove British citizenship without notice: Clause added to nationality and borders bill also appears to allow Home Office to act retrospectively in some cases [...] Frances Webber, the vice-chair of the Institute of Race Relations, said: 'This amendment sends the message that certain citizens, despite being born and brought up in the UK and having no other home, remain migrants in this country. Their citizenship, and therefore all their rights, are precarious and contingent.'"

RIP: "Stephen Sondheim: master craftsman who reinvented the musical dies aged 91." I don't have to tell you anything, but for that columnist I won't link to who didn't seem to know: West Side Story. Gypsy. And "Send in the Clowns."

RIP: "Longtime Beach Boys Sideman Billy Hinsche Dies at 70: Billy Hinsche, longtime Beach Boys touring member and one-third of '60s pop-rock trio Dino, Desi and Billy, has died at age 70. Lucie Arnaz — daughter of I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and sister of the latter band's Desi Arnaz Jr. — confirmed Hinsche's death Saturday on Instagram, writing, 'Giant cell carcinoma. Only diagnosed a couple weeks ago. It ravaged him like an out of control train.' Hinsche was born in Manila, the Philippines in 1951, but he moved with his family to Beverly Hills as a child, becoming friends with Desi Arnaz Jr. and Dean Martin's son Dean Paul Martin. The trio eventually formed their band and signed with Reprise Records, who released their four proper studio albums and a run of singles, including the 1965 hits 'I'm a Fool' (later covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks) and 'Not the Lovin' Kind.' During this period, the group landed opening spots for major acts like the Mamas & the Papas, the Lovin' Spoonful and, most famously, the Beach Boys. The latter's Brian Wilson later co-wrote Dino, Desi and Billy's final single, 1970's 'Lady Love.' The Beach Boys connection proved crucial for Hinsche, who joined that band as a touring multi-instrumentalist from 1971 to 1977, then again from 1982 to 1996. He also appeared on a handful of their LPs: His credits include backing vocals on 1973's Holland, and guitar on 1976's 15 Big Ones and 1978's M.I.U. Album." I admit, I never really listened to DD&B, but the Beach Boys, that's a whole 'nother thing.

Pareene, "The Mess Age: We need to talk about what we talk about when we talk about talking about popular things [...] Running against an unpopular president remains a good way to pick up seats in Congress no matter what your message is, and that's just what the Democrats did again in 2018. The problem is the margins were smaller than 2006, and, unlike Bush, Donald Trump's unpopularity seemed eerily stable and entirely disconnected from actual events. Now, everyone with a brain expects Democrats to lose Congress in the next few years, and perhaps the White House again as well, which is why everyone is yelling at each other online all day about messaging and popularity."

"Conservative Democrats' Lucrative Career Path: Democratic senators who oppose core party agenda items and upset the base can't lose — because if they do, they get paid. [...] To understand what's in it for conservative Democratic senators who play the party's rotating villain role, look at those who came before them: Many of those who do big business' bidding and then either fail to win reelection or retire quickly end up scoring lucrative careers on K Street. It's the ultimate win-win situation."

"Alec Karakatsanis: This is a thread about how journalists decide what is 'news' and what isn't. Anyone shaping the news and anyone consuming the news should understand who decides what counts as news, how they decide it, and what determines what they say about it. Here, I ask a few questions: This thread is inspired by the gap in what mainstream media treats as urgent and what are the greatest threats to human safety, well-being, and survival. For example, air pollution kills *10 million people* each year and causes untold additional illness and suffering. It rarely features in daily news stories. Why? Instead, daily news is dominated by 'crime' stories. But even these are 'crime' stories of a certain kind: they aren't stories about the many air pollution crimes. They are the kind of "crimes" publicized by police press releases, usually involving poor people. Much of deadly U.S. air and water pollution is also criminal, but 'law enforcement' chooses to ignore it, and thus so do most journalists."

"Passing Fancy: In the Jim Crow South, courts understood that rigidly enforcing the rules against mixed marriage would have been a disaster—for whites."

"'Fighting To Free Our People': 55 Years Of The Black Panther Party: The Black Panther Party was founded 55 years ago. Black Panther Party archivist Bill Jennings and Eddie Conway discuss the enduring legacy of the Panthers and how people are carrying on that legacy today."

"Elections and the Illusion of Black Political Power: Black politicians may be openly conservative or pretend leftists but their constituents rarely get what they need. Politics absent a mass movement is a recipe for inaction or even outright betrayal."

APOD: The Extraordinary Spiral in LL Pegasi — I've never seen this before, it's pretty cool.

Vincent, the play, starring Leonard Nimoy.

Game of Thrones: The Musical

Listen to the final four songs from the last Monkees concert ever. Only Mike and Mickey left, but the crowd loved them.

@tedgioia: "I've never seen anything like this on film before. Paul really has nothing at the 30 second mark—but 45 seconds later he's got the makings of a hit single."

Marnie Nixon and Jim Bryant (dubbed for Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer), "Tonight"

23;41 GMT comment


Thursday, 18 November 2021

Some try to tell me thoughts they cannot defend

"Winternight" by Ulrika O'Brien, 2021.

While some say it's a bit of a miracle when "An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach" eases some of the supply bottleneck, Yves sees the answer to the question of, "Why the US Supply Chain Crisis Is Intractable and Will Get Worse: Readers bwilli123 and Carolinian flagged a must read post by Ryan Johnson, I'm A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America's 'Shipping Crisis' Will Not End. You really really really need to consume it in its entirely. It makes a detailed, cogent case as to why the America's ports are a mess and why there is no simple and even not so simple way out. No wonder Pete Buttigieg is in hiding, um, on paternity leave, rather than putting his hands on the supply chain tar baby. I am going to run the risk of oversimplification to pull a few key points out of his compact and well argued post. They serve to reinforce his contention that Americans are royally fucked via where trucking industry deregulation (the first big deregulation initiative, thank you Jimmy Carter) has been amplified by neoliberalism: too many interconnected actors, so diffuse responsibility with contacts creating rigidity and incentives to do nothing, and cowards in government. I'll argue that there are some steps that could theoretically be taken to get a little more flow through the stuck ports, but even those moves would be seen as too interventionist despite the high and rising cost of standing pat. The severity of the supply chain crisis combined with the near-certainty that the only actor that could partially (stress partially) clear this logjam is the Feds. They are guaranteed not to do enough even if they understood how the moving parts interconnect."

"How a little-known New Jersey truck driver defeated a top state Senate power broker on less than $10,000" is the title of the USA Today story, but it was actually less than $200 and the real story, from this 2019 article, is that this poor excuse for a Democrat really deserved to lose: "Last month, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney was at Rutgers University's main campus in New Brunswick. He was there to hold a town hall meeting to discuss 'The Path to Progress,' an ambitious cost-cutting plan that would seek to right New Jersey's perilous finances by cutting the state's generous public worker pension and health benefits." He said this to a mostly union audience and it did not go down well.

There are different kinds of inflation, and sometimes "Inflation Is Good for You [...] And what's happening is this: The inflation freakout is all about class conflict. In fact, it may be the fundamental class conflict: that between creditors and debtors, a fight that's been going on since the foundation of the United States. That's because inflation is often good for most of us, but it's terrible for the kinds of people who own corporate news outlets — or, say, founded coal firms. And a panic about inflation usefully creates the conditions to weaken the power of working people." Well, that's if it's natural inflation, which usually follows rises in wages. But there aren't really that many rises in wages The thing is, people aren't wrong when they say prices are up while those rising wages have by and large not been manifesting. Because the minute the eviction moratorium was called off, landlords rushed to raise rents. Meat prices are up not because there's a shortage of beef (there's not) and not because truckers are getting more money (they aren't) or grocery clerks suddenly got raises (they didn't), but because the people at the top of the chain decided to raise the prices for more profits — and the people underneath them saw none of that growth. But rich people just love to whine about the threat of inflation to excuse a lack of pubic spending by the government, which they don't want to see, and also so they can claim to be doing the rest of us a favor by refusing to adequately compensate employees.

"Is Summers Owed an Apology—or Does He Owe Us One?: Today on TAP: The policies that he promoted helped produce the supply chain crisis, and his diagnosis of today's inflation is just plain wrong. [...] The reality, however, is that the current bout of inflation has little to do with Biden's recovery program—and is actually the result of perverse policies that Summers and his confreres foisted on America over three decades. As that Bolshevik, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, could explain to Summers, the current inflation has little to do with macro pressures and everything to do with bottlenecks resulting from the supply chain crisis. If you dig a little deeper, the supply chain mess is precisely the consequence of economics according to Summers—deregulate, globalize, ignore the risks and hyper-concentration promoted by unhinged finance. The usual sources of macro pressure are not part of the story. Wages on average are rising more slowly than prices."

So, Terry McAuliffe, Clinton Dem and Carlyle guy, lost to a Republican. Naturally, the "moderates" blamed progressives, who had nothing to do with it. Zach is smarter. "The Democratic Unraveling Began With Schools: Republican victories in Virginia show how COVID-19 has fundamentally changed American politics. Republican Glenn Youngkin's victory in Tuesday's Virginia gubernatorial election was about schools. It wasn't about Donald Trump, or inflation, or defunding the police, or Medicare for All, or President Joe Biden's infrastructure agenda. It wasn't really about critical race theory or transgender rights—though those issues shaded the situation a bit by highlighting anxieties surrounding the education system. Fundamentally, the contest was about schools—specifically, how many parents remain frustrated by the way public schools have handled the coronavirus pandemic. Whether the Virginia results translate to other states will depend on how schools in those states reacted to the spread of COVID-19, and whether a major national issue can take the place of these local frustrations in voters' minds. All the usual caveats about drawing too many conclusions from a single contest apply. The national political environment could change, the 2022 midterms are a whole year away, and Virginia isn't a perfect microcosm of America. But given the very public, ongoing dysfunction among Democratic leaders in Washington, the party's devastating loss in Virginia looks like a five-alarm fire for its near-term electoral future."

"Quit Whining & Start Presidenting! Joe Biden's executive branch has the ability AND obligation to enforce laws limiting corporate misbehavior--which would also be overdue good politics. We agree with everyone else: Tuesday night was bad for Democrats and... confirms our priors. But 'confirming our priors' doesn't mean we're wrong. Our emphasis is less on presuming our ideology is a winner than understanding how modern communications operate. And also from our utter disdain for the idea that people like Joe Biden and Terry McAuliffe lack agency. Real world problems don't just happen. The political economy is never inevitable. Yet as their poll numbers slump, Joe Biden and his administration have mostly whimpered that they are the victims of circumstance. Terry McAuliffe, Carlyle investor, must also own his defeat to failed Carlyle private equity mogul-turned-Trump dog whistler Glenn Youngkin in Virginia."

"The Outer Limits Of Corporate Politics: The halving of Democrats' agenda suggests the party is still primarily intent on fulfilling Biden's promise to donors that 'nothing would fundamentally change.' [...] In general, the reason the Democratic Party always sounds so helplessly incoherent is because its lawmakers are trying to simultaneously appease their corporate donors and look like they are fulfilling their public promises to fix problems created by those corporate donors. In most cases, this is impossible. You cannot protect pharmaceutical and fossil fuel industry donors and also reduce the price of medicine and solve the climate crisis. If you try to pretend you can do both, the donors always eventually win out. So you end up talking in circles, complaining accurately about the problems while doing nothing to solve them, and then portraying marginal victories as huge wins to voters who must wonder why their lives aren't improving."

Good interview by Ryan Grim of Sirota, "If Biden Wants To Build Back Better, He Should Look To Obama's Mistakes." Leaving aside the question of whether Biden really wants to Build Back Better, this interview feeds my need to occasionally fly into a rage at how badly, and with how much evil, Obama handled the financial crisis.

"The Democracy Crisis That Is Never Discussed: Corporate media's democracy-in-crisis discourse almost never mentions the gap between what Americans want and what corrupt elected officials are doing. In 2014, Northwestern and Princeton researchers published a report statistically documenting how lawmakers do not listen or care about what most voters want, and instead mostly care about serving their big donors. Coupled with additional research documenting the discrepancy between donor and voter preferences, they bluntly concluded that the 'preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically nonsignificant impact upon public policy.' Seven years later, America is witnessing a very public and explicit illustration of this situation in real time — and Tuesday's off-year election results are the latest confirmation that the country seems pretty ticked off about the situation ahead of the 2022 midterms."

"'Complete Attack on Our Democracy': FEC Rules Foreign Corporations Can Donate to Influence US Elections: 'Foreign donors shouldn't be influencing our elections, no matter whether it's at the federal, state, or local level,' said Rep. Katie Porter. [...] Democracy defenders expressed concern Tuesday in response to new reporting on a Federal Election Commission ruling that affirmed foreign entities—including overseas corporations—can fund U.S. state-level ballot campaigns." Really, this is incredible. And I can't help but notice that all those people who have been raving about how the evil Russians "interfered with our election" haven't said one word about this open invitation for every foreign country to take over our law-making apparatus.

"Illinois just became the first state to make it illegal for cops to lie to kids [...] This means that — until 2021! — it was perfectly legal in every US state for police to lie to minors (which gives me flashbacks to the tragic interrogation of Brendan Dassey, as shown in Making a Murderer). As NPR notes, there are other states trying to pass bills that offer the same protections to minors, or else to outlaw deceptive police interrogation tactics entirely. The fact that we have to explicitly forbid police from intentionally manipulating and deceiving children speaks volumes about the underlying issues."

"The Top 1% of Americans Have Taken $50 Trillion From the Bottom 90%—And That's Made the U.S. Less Secure [...] How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades. This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year."

"40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It's Drying Up Fast. [...] Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. The reservoir hasn't been full since 1983. In 2000, it began a steady decline caused by epochal drought. On my visit in 2015, the lake was just about 40% full. A chalky ring on the surrounding cliffs marked where the waterline once reached, like the residue on an empty bathtub."

So...Did the CIA kill Kennedy? "Cuban exile told sons he trained Oswald, JFK's accused assassin, at a secret CIA camp: Almost 40 years after his death following a bar brawl in Key Biscayne, Ricardo Morales, known as 'Monkey' — contract CIA worker, anti-Castro militant, counter-intelligence chief for Venezuela, FBI informant and drug dealer — returned to the spotlight Thursday morning when one of his sons made a startling claim on Spanish-language radio: [...] 'My brother asked 'Who killed John F. Kennedy?' and his answer was, 'I didn't do it but I was in Dallas two days before waiting for orders. We were the cleaning crew just in case something bad had to be done.' After the assassination, they did not have to do anything and returned to Miami,' his son said on the radio show. Morales Jr. said his father told them he did not know of the plans to assassinate Kennedy. 'He knew Kennedy was coming to Dallas, so he imagines something is going to happen, but he doesn't know the plan,' he said. 'In these kinds of conspiracies and these big things, nobody knows what the other is doing.' Morales also knew Oswald, his son claims. 'When my old man was training in a CIA camp — he did not tell me where — he was helping to train snipers: other Cubans, Latin Americans, and there were a few Americans,' he said. 'When he saw the photo of Lee Harvey Oswald [after the assassination] he realized that this was the same character he had seen on the CIA training field. He saw him, he saw the name tag, but he did not know him because he was not famous yet, but later when my father sees him he realizes that he is the same person.' [...] While Lee Harvey Oswald was accused in Kennedy's assassination, a 1979 report from the House Select Committee on Assassinations contradicted the 1964 Warren Commission conclusion that JFK was killed by one lone gunman. The committee instead concluded that the president was likely slain as the result of a conspiracy and that there was a high probability that two gunmen fired at him. The House Select Committee, which also interviewed Morales, said they couldn't preclude the possibility that Cuban exiles were involved."

"The McDonald's Test: Once a Wall Street banker, Chris Arnade spent three years crisscrossing the United States to visit 'the places you were told not to go to.' His travels took him from the Bronx to the Ozarks to East Los Angeles. He shares what he learned in Dignity, a searing new book of essays and photojournalism. Plough's Peter Mommsen caught up with him to talk about fast-food joints, storefront churches, meritocracy, and whether to give cash to panhandlers."

"Revolt of the Essential Workers: The resurgent labor movement may be the greatest challenge yet to the top-down class warfare of the pandemic era. [...] The economic discontent that propelled both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to popularity had been building for many years. As a recent article in the journal American Affairs noted, $34 trillion of real equity wealth, in 2017 dollars, was created between 1989 and 2017. Nearly half that sum (44%) consisted of a reallocation of corporate equity to shareholders at the expense of worker compensation, while economic growth accounted for just 25% of that increase in wealth. In other words, despite the advent of seemingly near-miraculous, time- and space-saving digital technologies, the post-Cold War 'economic boom' consisted mainly of America's wealthy shareholders taking money from its increasingly insecure workforce."

"Navy Christens Ship Named For Slain California Gay Rights Leader Harvey Milk: 'There is no doubt that the future sailors aboard this ship will be inspired by Milk's life and legacy,' said Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro."

RIP: "Dean Stockwell, 'Quantum Leap' Star, Dies at 85: Dean Stockwell, who began his acting career as a child in Hollywood's golden age and later performed memorably in David Lynch's 'Blue Velvet'; in the comedy 'Married to the Mob,' for which he was Oscar nominated; and on TV's 'Quantum Leap,' for which he was Emmy nominated, died Sunday. He was 85." I met him briefly at the premier of (David Lynch's film of) Dune, in which he played the Duke's physician early in the story, but I have no tale to tell about that. There's a loving appreciation at the Roger Ebert site.

RIP: "Moody Blues Drummer Graeme Edge Dies at 80." He was with them from the beginning, when they released one of my favorite tracks, "Go Now!", and I still loved them when they changed. But he was still there, and still the backbone of the band, until he retired and they all agreed that it couldn't be The Moody Blues without him and they all went their own ways.

RIP: "Wallace & Gromit Writer Bob Baker Dies Age 82: Robert John 'Bob' Baker, a film and television writer best known for his work with Aardman Animations on its Wallace & Gromit films and for creating the dog-like mobile computer K9 on Doctor Who, died November 3 at age 82. The news was announced by the @K9official1 Twitter account on Friday."

This story is old, but I just found it and it tickled me. "The mystery of Ireland's worst driver: Details of how police in the Irish Republic finally caught up with the country's most reckless driver have emerged, the Irish Times reports. He had been wanted from counties Cork to Cavan after racking up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines. However, each time the serial offender was stopped he managed to evade justice by giving a different address. But then his cover was blown. It was discovered that the man every member of the Irish police's rank and file had been looking for - a Mr Prawo Jazdy - wasn't exactly the sort of prized villain whose apprehension leads to an officer winning an award. In fact he wasn't even human.

Someone mentioned to me that the Beatles statue in Liverpool is pretty good, and I agree, although they look a bit old for their Liverpool days. (But at least it's in Liverpool. A friend in Little Rock tells me, "The little town of Walnut Ridge is the only place in Arkansas where the whole band ever set foot (their plane stopped there briefly) and, in the 2000s, they made a whole cottage industry out of it, including a more conceptual tribute.")

"Kamila Valieva (RUS) | Women SP | Skate Canada International 2021"

"Hasui Kawase's Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s

Moody Blues, "Nights in White Satin"

04:15 GMT comment


Saturday, 30 October 2021

You think you might surprise her

"Dancing Autumn" by Kot Valeriy is from the Dance collection.

"Jerome Powell Sold More Than a Million Dollars of Stock as the Market Was Tanking: Disclosure documents reveal that the spectacle of Fed officials personally trading stocks extended to the chair himself." TAP's email newsletter also discusses some back story that involves cover-ups from the Fed and complicity from the news media.

Well, that was fast: "FEDERAL RESERVE Fed to ban policymakers from owning individual stocks, restrict trading following controversy: Responding to a growing controversy over investing practices, the Federal Reserve announced Thursday a wide-ranging ban on officials owning individual stocks and bonds and limits on other activities as well. The ban includes top policymakers such as those who sit on the Federal Open Market Committee, along with senior staff. Future investments will have to be confined to diversified assets such as mutual funds. Fed officials can no longer have holdings in shares of particular companies, nor can they invest in individual bonds, hold agency securities or derivative contracts. The new rules replace existing regulations that, while somewhat restrictive, still allowed officials such as regional presidents to buy and sell stocks."

"A worker in Florida applied to 60 entry-level jobs in September and got one interview: Joey Holz recalled first hearing complaints about a labor shortage last year when he called to donate convalescent plasma at a clinic near Fort Myers, Florida. "The guy went on this rant about how he can't find help and he can't keep anybody in his medical facility because they all quit over the stimulus checks," Holz told Insider. "And I'm like, 'Your medical professionals quit over $1,200 checks? That's weird.'" Over the next several months, the 37-year-old watched as a growing chorus of businesses said they couldn't find anyone to hire because of government stimulus money. It was so ubiquitous that he joined a "No one wants to work" Facebook group, where users made memes deriding frustrated employers. He said he found it hard to believe that government money was keeping people out of the labor force, especially when the end of expanded federal unemployment benefits did not seem to trigger a surge in employment. All expanded benefits ended in September, but 26 states — including Florida — ended them early in June and July. "If this extra money that everyone's supposedly living off of stopped in June and it's now September, obviously, that's not what's stopping them," he said. Workers have said companies struggling to hire aren't offering competitive pay and benefits. So Holz, a former food-service worker and charter-boat crewman, decided to run an experiment."

From that famous left-wing rag, Forbes, "New Proof That Police Use Civil Forfeiture To Take From Those Who Can't Fight Back [...] Civil forfeiture is a process already prone to abuse, but in Philadelphia property owners were at an even greater disadvantage than typical. Property owners were summoned to Courtroom 478 at City Hall, but there was no judge in the room. The show was run by prosecutors, the same people who filed the forfeiture actions and who stood to benefit financially from successful forfeitures. [...] Similar to how Philadelphia went after Nassir for empty baggies, law enforcement typically wasn't using civil forfeiture to fight serious crime. Only 1 in 4 survey respondents was ever convicted of a crime. And like Nassir, many of those who were convicted pleaded to low-level offenses that were eventually scrubbed from their record. Moreover, half of all reported seizures were worth less than $600. One respondent even said police seized his crutches."

"'70s radical David Gilbert granted parole in Brink's robbery: Former Weather Underground radical David Gilbert has been granted parole after decades in prison for a fatal 1981 Brink's robbery north of New York City. [...]Supporters — including his son, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin — lobbied to have Gilbert join other defendants in the case who have been released from prison. [...] Though unarmed, Gilbert was charged with robbery and murder, since people were killed during the crime. Also charged was Chesa Boudin's mother, Kathy Boudin. The boy was 14 months old when his parents were imprisoned."

Audio, "Revisiting Racecraft with Barbara and Karen Fields: A lengthy interview with historian Barbara Fields and sociologist Karen Fields on their seminal essay collection Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. Dan talks to the sister scholars about the book; how Ta-Nehisi Coates' primordialist view of white racism spells defeat; that racism serves the interest of capitalist class war, and endless debates over Rachel Dolezal distract us from that fact; and a whole ton more. This is over two hours, so you might want to bite it off on a few chunks, or on a long drive." Long, but worth the time.

"What If Build Back Better Builds Back Worse? Joe Manchin's prescriptions for the Biden bill in some cases even fall short of the status quo. This was a bad weekend for fans of worthwhile economic policy. We saw a series of leaks about Joe Manchin's red lines for the Build Back Better public-investment legislation, which, if agreed to, would leave a desiccated husk of a bill that might not even be worthwhile on its own terms. [...] Once winnowed down by Manchin, what's left of Biden's proposal? Manchin is 'less interested' in paid family and medical leave, or elder care, according to Axios. There's enough opposition to the drug pricing reform from Democrats other than Manchin to potentially sink it, and typically, it's the savings from health care-related items that fund other health care advances. In other words, no drug pricing piece could mean no Medicare expansion, Obamacare subsidies, or fix of the Medicaid coverage gap. Biden has acknowledged that his plan for two years of tuition-free community college is likely gone. The immigration measures were bounced out by the Senate parliamentarian, and the PRO Act unionization measures could face the same fate. The housing proposal might have the broadest support of all—AOC and Josh Gottheimer signed the same letter supporting it—and yet that looks to be threatened, too."

"As closed-door arbitration soared last year, workers won cases against employers just 1.6 percent of the time: U.S. companies are increasingly relying mandatory arbitration to settle employee and consumer grievances during the pandemic. Family Dollar closed 1,135 such cases last year, up from three in 2019. U.S. employers relied heavily on arbitration in the first months of the pandemic, pushing a record number of complaints involving discrimination, harassment, wage theft and other grievances through a closed-door system largely weighted against consumers and workers, according to a report being released this week."

"Julian Assange and the Poisoned American Psyche: Julian Assange's case is indicative of a poisoned American psyche that has suffered from prolonged exposure to what Martin Luther King Jr. called the triple evils of capitalism, racism, and militarism. In the modern era, these evils have consolidated into a military-media industrial complex which has effectively merged the interests of corporations, military institutions, and the so-called 'mass' corporate media. The United States is the only country in the world where majorities of people hold a negative view of WikiLeaks and believe Assange to be a criminal. That's because the corporate media generally ignores Julian Assange's case . When it is covered, Assange is portrayed as nothing more than an agent of a foreign government and an international criminal of the highest order."

Rick Pearlstein, "A Short History of Conservative Trolling: David Frum, the former George W. Bush speechwriter and current never-Trump conservative, recently wrote, 'The post-Trump right has a style as distinctive as its authoritarian substance: trolling, ironic, evasive.' But that ain't so. On the right, trolling has been part of the story from the beginning."

"As Sen. Joe Manchin's Star Rose In West Virginia, The FBI And IRS Probed His Closest Allies" — But how did this coal baron stay out of jail?

RIP: "Peter Scolari, Newhart and Bosom Buddies Actor, Dies at 66: Peter Scolari, who rose to stardom on the brilliant-but-canceled Bosom Buddies alongside Tom Hanks, died Friday morning at age 66 of cancer, after a two-year illness. [...] On Friday, Newhart issued a statement to Variety: 'I knew that Peter was sick, but his death still comes as a great shock. We were friends and colleagues for over 40 years. Julia [Duffy] and Peter, as a vacuous couple (Michael and Stephanie), were an essential part of the success of 'Newhart.' In life, he was a fantastic person, and it was a joy to work together. He will be sorely missed and his passing at 66 is much too early.'" He was so sweet in Bosom Buddies, and I was delighted to see him in Newhart. A really great comic actor.

RIP: "Jay & The Americans' Jay Black Dead At 82 [...] Black's smooth operatic voice, created pop radio magic for the group with a string of hits in the 1960's - - 'Only In America,' 'Come A Little Bit Closer,' 'Cara Mia,' 'This Magic Moment,' and 'Walkin' In The Rain.' His magnificent vocal range on 'Cara Mia' led to his fans calling him 'The Voice.' The group made countless television appearances during that time including pop radio shows 'Hullaballoo' and 'Where The Action Is,' and countless talk and variety shows including 'The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,' 'The Mike Douglas Show,' and 'The Merv Griffin Show.' The group had 21 charting hits and opened for The Beatles at their first US concert in 1964. Jay Black continued to tour as a successful solo act for decades after the group disbanded in 1973. He even tried his hand at acting and co-starred in the 1970's made-for-tv movie 'Contract On Cherry Street' starring Frank Sinatra. Black's live show was a combination of great music and humor. Along with his hits, Black always performed 'Pretty Woman' and 'Cryin' as a tribute to his music idol and friend, Roy Orbison. And he spoke about how Walter Becker and Donald Fagen recorded and performed with the group before they formed Steely Dan." Yeah, he had the pipes. And he could still sing "Cara Mia" at 62.

RIP: 'Funniest of them all': tributes paid to Mort Sahl after death aged 94 [...] The Canadian-born comic was credited with revolutionising American comedy in the 1950s thanks to his acerbic political satire. Sahl was known for performing with a rolled-up newspaper as a prop and would frequently ask the audience: 'Are there any groups I haven't offended?' [...] He died at his home in Mill Valley, near San Francisco in Northern California, on Tuesday, a friend told the New York Times. Sahl became an influential figure during the 1950s, when he recorded what the US Library of Congress described as 'the earliest example of modern standup comedy on record'. By the end of the decade he had appeared in films, hosted the Oscars and written jokes for John F Kennedy's presidential campaign." There were times he really pissed me off, but he was important to the moment.

RIP: "Colin Powell, Who Helped George W. Bush Lie Nation Into Iraq War, Dead at 84: 'It's crucial to remember just how important Colin Powell was to selling the Iraq War, and how deliberately he used his public credibility to boost the lies that pushed us into the war. That is his biggest legacy.'" This article leaves out his earlier hit record of covering up My Lai.

Did you ever wonder why we "had to" invade Grenada? "An Unrealized Political Possibility: Remembering the Grenada Revolution: October 25th marks the 38th anniversary of Operation Urgent Fury -- the name given to the United States invasion of the Caribbean commonwealth of Grenada. Thanks to the efforts of 7,600 US troops and a flagrant violation of international law, Grenada was 'rescued' from the horrors of communist dictatorship and certain economic collapse. This is the reason why October 25 is Grenada's 'Thanksgiving Day', and similar to the better known Thanksgivings, it celebrates a myth. The truth is that the US invasion of Grenada and the liquidation of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG) was a triumph of western imperialism and neoliberalism over a peoples' socialist experiment. [...] The PRG was working to build a revolution in an underdeveloped, small island nation. The terrifying thing for the US and the neo-colonial puppets in the region such as Edward Seaga , Eugenia Charles , and John Compton was that it was working."

"'Systemic Racism' Can't Explain the USA—but Class Mobility Can" — Amazingly, wealthy people do better than poor people, regardless of race.

"The Methods of Moral Panic Journalism: Scare stories on "left-wing illiberalism" display a familiar pattern." From the McDonald's case to "political correctness" to "speech codes" to "CRT", the right-wing invents stories about a left that's "gone mad" doing...little or nothing.

Photo Essay on Affrilachians — "These Photos Will Change the Way You Think About Race in Coal Country: The myth that Appalachia is uniformly White lingers, but communities of 'Affrilachians; were documented in the 1930s."

From 2018, Tom Sullivan on theft from the public, "Selling America for parts revisited [...] Privatization of any public service is not about quality. It's about ideology and about into whose pockets tax dollars flow. It arises from the privatizer's belief that any product or service provided by 'we the people' that might even in theory be provided by the private sector is a crime against capitalism. They don't see a need to be filled or a service to be improved or a duty to be met. They see billions of dollar$ budgeted annually of which they are not getting their cut."

2011, Tony Williams illustrates Class Warfare in Action: "There are no clever mathematical models here, only facts. No Nobel prize for me." And Dave Johnson presents Nine Pictures Of The Extreme IncomeWealth Gap.

I'm just saving this link for my own reference: "What actually happened in Alabama? [...] But if you actually look at the exit polling, it is pretty clear that the real story of Jones's victory was not inordinate black turnout but rather inordinate white support for the Democratic candidate."

20 years ago, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and friends interview John M. (Mike) Ford.

"Remembering singer-songwriter Gene Clark, co-founder of the Byrds: 30 years later: 2021 marks 30 years since the passing of folk-rock pioneer and co-founder of the Byrds (formed in 1964), Gene Clark. Clark was a key figure in the brief, but influential early period of the Byrds, who played a significant role in the expansive and electrified 'pop' turn of folk music in the mid-1960s. He also had an intriguing solo career in its own right, before his life was tragically cut short." That was my favorite period of the Byrds, and for my money, Clark wrote one of the best rock songs of all time with "Feel A Whole Lot Better".

Mike Bloomfield at the Fillmore, "Blues On The Westside, 1969, w/ Nick Gravenites, Mark Naftalin, Snooky Flowers, et al.

22:41 GMT comment


Saturday, 16 October 2021

Well, I was born to have adventure

"Two and Autumn" is from the Colors Fall collection.

I can't keep up with Manchin and Sinema's current reasons for what to do with reconciliation. Atrios: "I suspect they both didn't realize times have changed, a little bit, that Biden isn't Obama (*cough* black), that eventheliberals in the news media are a bit sick of this act."

"'Havana Syndrome' Noises Were Likely Crickets, Not Super Weapons, State Department Report Says: Scientists believe the Indies short-tailed cricket, not a foreign power, is responsible for strange sounds recorded by U.S. diplomats in Cuba who are reporting unexplained symptoms." Not so sure those symptoms are so unexplained, either — I'm sure everyone in the foreign service is experiencing symptoms of stress these last few years. But the "intelligence" operatives who were telling these microwave secret weapon stories to the media knew they were false years ago. That report exposing the whole sham, now public thanks to a FOIA request, is three years old.

"House Progressives to Pelosi: Reject Divisive Means-Testing in Favor of Universal Benefits: 'We can choose to strengthen the bond Americans have to one another by proposing universal social insurance benefits that broadly benefit all Americans.' Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Wednesday reiterated their top-level priorities for the nascent reconciliation package and urged their fellow Democrats to pursue universal programs instead of 'complicated methods of means-testing that the wealthy and powerful will use to divide us.'"

In a world where even Jon Chait is tweeting criticisms of the "moderates", "Josh Gottheimer criticizes Pelosi — but not one other moderate Dem would join him: report." This is actually kind of hilarious, since Gottheimer and his nasty little right-wing friends were trying to kill the main Democratic bill — "the President's agenda" that everyone keeps talking about — by slipping the "bipartisan infrastructure bill" past without the main "Build Back Better" bill that is the one everyone else wants to pass. The BIB is the giveaway to the super-rich, the one with privatization of public assets and tax breaks for the 1% that is really the poison pill in this "dual path" strategy of passing both bills at once because the right-wingers say they won't vote for the President's Agenda™ unless Dems swallow their piece of crap along with it. What it really does is expose the fact that the "Problem-Solvers" have no intention of voting for BBB ever — a promise from them to vote for it later is not worth the paper it isn't printed on.

"In Scathing Senate Testimony, Whistleblower Warns Facebook a Threat to Children and Democracy: Frances Haugen said the company's leaders know how to make their platforms safer, 'but won't make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.'"

Stoller, "The Facebook Whistleblower Is Heroic... And Terribly Wrong: Frances Haugen got a lot right. But a digital regulator that legitimizes Facebook's power would be the worst possible outcome. [...] Haugen is a trained designer of algorithms, and along with many naive Silicon Valley insiders turned critics, at heart does not see a danger with concentrated power. 'I don't hate Facebook,' she has said. 'I love Facebook. I want to save it.' Her approach to social media is similar to what many left consumer oriented groups support, which is not to take apart a concentration of power, but to regulate it. It is, in many ways, a similar framework as Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform package, which, rather than making systemic changes to concentrated and bloated dysfunctional sectors, simply overlaid captured regulators on top of them."

Also Stoller: "Economists to Cattle Ranchers: Stop Being So Emotional About the Monopolies Devouring Your Family Businesses: Agricultural economists manipulated data to block Congress from acting on high beef prices and the destruction of independent cattle ranching. Why? Because they think monopolies are good. [...] Is there really an emergency in the supply chain, or is this just a fight over money between well-off ranchers and massive multi-nationals? The answer is that there is a serious problem that goes beyond parochial concerns. Back in May, I interviewed independent ranching advocate Bill Bullard to talk about something that hadn't happened in America since World War II - a beef shortage, along with accompanying high prices. Like a lot of shortages, it's easy to chalk this one up to Covid. But in fact there was plenty of cattle, it just wasn't getting to the shelves. So what was happening?"

Meyerson, "In Hollywood and America, the Strike Is Back: 1919, 1946, 2021—after wars and pandemics, workers are restless. [...] THE STRIKE, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON of workers, has been out of favor for the past four decades. When Ronald Reagan fired the nation's air traffic controllers in 1981, he gave carte blanche to corporations to follow his lead. In short order, companies with long histories of coexistence with their unions began locking out workers, or provoking strikes so that they could hire replacements at a lower pay rate or compel their unions to accept steadily diminishing pay and benefits. In the 15 years following World War II, when unions had more power under the law and employers had less, the nation averaged around 300 major strikes every year. Not coincidentally, this was the only time in American history when median pay rose at the same rate as productivity. Then, due in part to a series of court rulings, the playing field began to tilt in employers' favor, and following 1981, that tilt became much steeper. In this century, the number of annual major strikes is often in the single digits. Today, that appears to be changing. Not only is IATSE a credible threat to shut down production, but workers in other industries are rebelling as well. Recently, workers at five Nabisco factories across the nation went on strike to protest their long hours and low pay, returning only when those problems had been addressed. Around 24,000 nurses at Kaiser Permanente in California are voting on a strike authorization, and other Kaiser workers in California and Oregon are threatening the same. Ten thousand John Deere workers voted to strike last month. A thousand coal miners at Warrior Met in Alabama have been on strike for six months. And there are several other possible strikes under way."

"'Death of 1,000 cuts': Kellogg's workers on why they're striking: Union took issue with company's threats to outsource jobs from the US to Mexico if workers refuse to accept their proposals [...] Trevor Bidelman, president of BCTGM Local3G and a fourth-generation employee at the Kellogg's plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, explained workers are on strike against a proposed two-tier system for current and new employees proposed by Kellogg's. Bidelman said Kellogg's wants to not offer pensions to new employees, remove cost of living provisions, and make changes in holiday pay and vacations."

"Take it back: Copyright reversion, bargaining power, and authors' rights. Few labor markets are as dysfunctional as the market for creative labor. Writers, musicians, graphic artists and other creative workers often produce because they feel they have to, driven by a need to express and discover themselves. Small wonder that creative workers are willing to produce art for lower wages than they'd accept for other types of work. This leads to a vast oversupply of creative work, giving publishers, labels, studios and other intermediaries a buyer's market for creative labor. For the most part, arts policy pretends this isn't true. When economists and business-people talk about labor markets, they lean heavily on the neoliberal conception of 'rational economic actors' who produce when it makes sense to do so, and move on to another form of work when it doesn't. Homo economicus is a nonsense — behavioral economics has repeatedly demonstrated all the ways in which 'economic actors' don't behave the way economic models predict they will — but it's especially absurd when applied to creative labor markets."

"Lawyer Steven Donziger gets six-month sentence for contempt in Chevron battle." He's already spent two years in house arrest and now he's been sentenced to six months without time served, on a contempt of court charge that should never have been lodged. "Donziger was ordered to turn over his computer, phones and other electronic devices. That later escalated into a criminal case when he failed to do so." This was essentially a demand for all of his papers, including confidential items for his clients. It was his right and obligation to refuse.

I wish I had time to keep up with every single word Cory Doctorow writes.
"'Are you calling me a racist?' [...] Interestingly, the caller was able to speak intelligently about the nature of systemic racism and identify it as a serious problem. He just doesn't think it's as big a problem as high taxes."
"Wells Fargo can't stop criming: Wells Fargo is America's third-largest bank. It used to be the largest, but it committed a string of terrible frauds that it was never truly punished for (it made more from crime than it paid in fines). Its crime spree did result in one meaningful punishment: Wells was forced to downsize to #3, with a mere $1.77 trillion in assets. Have no fear: Wells Fargo is down but not out, and despite its reduced stature, it is still engaged in egregious acts of fraud."
"Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid: It's been just over a year since the death of activist, writer and anthropologist David Graeber — a brilliant speaker, writer and thinker who helped give us Occupy, 'we are the 99%' and Bullshit Jobs. On the anniversary of David's death, his widow Nika Dubrovsky convened the first "Art Project" discussion, a fascinating debate between Thomas Piketty and Michael Hudson, a pair of political economists whose work is neatly bridged by Graeber's own. Piketty, of course, is the bestselling French economist whose 2013 Capital in the 21st Century was an unlikely, 700+ page viral hit, describing with rare lucidity the macroeconomics that drive capitalism towards cruel and destabilizing inequality. Hudson, meanwhile, is the debt-historian and economist whose haunting phrase "Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid," is a perfect and irrefutable summation of the inevitable downfall of any system that relies on household debt to drive consumption. [...] Like Graeber, Hudson also treats Babylonian policy as key to economics — specifically, the Babylonian understanding that "debts that can't be paid, won't be paid," which is why the state would periodically declare a jubilee in which all debts were declared void."

Froomkin has an idea to highlight bad headlines and stories in the press, "Let me rewrite that for you! [...] I'm going to take a handful of recent articles that I felt badly missed the mark, and offer alternative ledes or nut graphs that I think do a better job of telling the truer story." (I found that link at CJR in an article about "The problem with 'moderates v. progressives'" — that is, the way the press uses language about Democrats and what they are doing.)

"Julian Assange Kidnapping Plot Casts New Light on 2018 Senate Intelligence Maneuver: The CIA labeled WikiLeaks a 'non-state hostile intelligence service' while entertaining plans to kidnap or assassinate its founder. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2017 gave its stamp of approval to a legal maneuver that we now know the CIA was using to hunt WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. According to an explosive investigation published Sunday by Yahoo News, senior Trump administration officials — including the former president and director of the CIA — considered options to kidnap and even assassinate Assange in 2017 as part of a CIA 'offensive counterintelligence' operation. In order to expand its legal options, the administration moved to designate WikiLeaks as a 'non-state hostile intelligence service,' a label first unveiled by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo at an April 2017 think tank event. The creative relabeling was the culmination of an effort that had begun under the Obama administration. In the wake of Edward Snowden's leak of classified National Security Agency documents, intelligence officials moved to label WikiLeaks an 'information broker,' which they distinguished from journalism and publishing. In an extraordinary assault on the press, the officials also pushed to apply the same designation to Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras in a related but failed effort to strip them of First Amendment protections in the wake of the NSA leaks. The Obama White House rejected that effort as it related to all three, Yahoo reported, but under Trump, officials successfully applied the 'non-state hostile intelligence service' label to WikiLeaks."

"Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn't Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge: Judge Donna Scott Davenport oversees a juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee, with a staggering history of jailing children. She said kids must face consequences, which rarely seem to apply to her or the other adults in charge. [...] The police were at Hobgood because of that video. But they hadn't come for the boys who threw punches. They were here for the children who looked on. The police in Murfreesboro, a fast-growing city about 30 miles southeast of Nashville, had secured juvenile petitions for 10 children in all who were accused of failing to stop the fight." At an elementary school. The Supreme Court ruled that the police don't have a duty to intervene in crimes, but they sent an eight-year-old girl to jail for failing to stop a fight.

RIP: "Frances 'Sissy' Farenthold, lodestar for Texas liberals, dies at 94: In 1972 and again in 1974, an ardently liberal Texas state legislator named Frances Tarlton Farenthold ran for governor on a platform that included imposing a tax on corporate profits, strictly regulating utilities, and liberating state government from Big Oil and a 'tyranny of private interests.' Ms. Farenthold called for lowering first-offense possession of marijuana from a felony to a misdemeanor and vowed that students in poor school districts would receive the same quality education available in wealthier districts. She reviled the Texas Rangers as 'a festering sore' because of that state police force's history of lawless brutality and summary executions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans along the state's southern border. She was also an outspoken defender of abortion rights. 'I play high with politics,' she said on the hustings. 'Why be a safe candidate?'" If McGovern had been smart, he would have chosen her as his runningmate and saved himself a lot of trouble.

The Lancet, "Fatal police violence in the USA: a public health issue [...] A lack of accurate data has arguably been one of the major impediments to adopting a public health approach to deaths caused by police violence. Today in The Lancet, a group led by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) publish the most accurate and comprehensive assessment of deaths attributable to police violence in the USA to date. The study is a potential turning point for improving national estimates of fatalities from police violence by incorporating non-governmental open-source data to correct NVSS data. The findings are staggering: around 30,000 people died from police violence between 1980 and 2018. The NVSS omitted approximately 17,100 deaths, leading to an under-reporting of deaths attributable to police violence by more than 55%. Age-standardised mortality was higher in Black people (0·69 of 100,000) and non-Hispanic Black people (0·35 of 100,000) than White people (0·20 of 100,000)." For me the headline here is the enormous undercount in number of people police have been killing. Sentences like, "These figures show a system of violent and fatal policing in the USA that is unfairly and unevenly applied across race and ethnicity," are a bit worrying, since they seem to imply that violent and fatal policing would be okay if only it was done in proportion by race. It wouldn't.

"Mythical Class Reductionists vs. Actual Race Reductionists [...] When I took a closer look at people who talk about class reductionists, I saw the accusation is made by race reductionists whose beliefs can be traced to Derrick Bell, 'father of Critical Race Theory', a member of the black owning class who said he never read socialist works. Because Bell's followers have a shallow understanding of capitalism, they think their critics have an equally shallow understanding of racism. When I point out that identitarians ignore class, they insist they do not. They mention 'intersectionality' and fail to see that intersectionality was designed to discuss social identities and is completely inadequate for discussing economic class. What's most revealing about the identitarian claim that those of us who prioritize class are 'class reductionists' is the implication that we care less about injustice at the top of our class system than at the bottom. To that, I'll plead guilty."

Audio & Transcript, Citations Needed from November of 2018 on "The Neoliberal Optimism Industry: Nima: This week we're going to discuss the ideological project of telling both those in the West and the Global South over and over and over again, that things are, in fact, improving if not already really great. How those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, how a techno-capitalist middle-management ethos came to replace notions of justice, and how what we'd like to call The Neoliberal Optimism Industry gaslights us into complacency and political impotence. Today, we'll be speaking with Dr. Jason Hickel, anthropologist, author, and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He serves on the Labour Party Task Force on International Development and works as Policy Director for The Rules collective." Instructive discussion of Bill Gates' relationship to Steven Pinker and the horrible impact they've had on society.

"Remember Red Pistachios? Here's What Happened To Them."

This is a genuine realtor's site, and the page looks exactly like all of their other house sales, slideshow tour and all, but this one is for an online tour of the Addams' Family Home.

"How The Firesign Theatre Predicted The Future: In the mid-1960s, the Beatles released a revolutionary album called "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Half a world away, four young men dropped the needle on a vinyl copy of the record and a new concept in comedy was born."

Frank Zappa, "Camarillo Brillo"
(Sorry, I just can't get this song out of my head after starting season two of Fort Salem.)

15:52 GMT comment


Sunday, 26 September 2021

You ornament the earth for me

"Misty Mountains" at Long Lake, NY, Adirondacks, photographed by Jude Nagurney Camwell, September 2021

You remember how India Walton, the socialist, won the Democratic primary in Buffalo? Well, the incumbent she beat is doing a Lieberman. "Judge rules Byron Brown can be on Buffalo mayoral ballot [...] The Erie County Board of Elections invalidated Brown's petitions for the 'Buffalo Party' he created because they were late, but in court, Judge Sinatra agreed with the argument the new state deadline, established in 2019, was too early and prohibited fair ballot access." However, that ruling hit a snag when people started to notice a little obvious corruption. "Buffalo's Developer Class Backing Last-Ditch Attempt Against Socialist India Walton: A federal judge who wants Buffalo's incumbent mayor back on the ballot is being scrutinized for his real estate ties. [...] The involvement of conservative developers is no fluke: Close to one-third of the signatures Brown submitted in his August 17 petitions to appear as an independent candidate on the November ballot came from members of right-leaning parties, local NBC affiliate WGRZ reported. Other major GOP donors, as well as a Washington, D.C., real estate mogul who was convicted in 2006 of wire fraud and accused of bribing an official for government contracts, have contributed to Brown's campaign. And unlike in the New York City mayoral race, in which President Joe Biden and former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo congratulated primary winner Eric Adams early on, Walton has received no such declarations of national Democratic support." Last time I looked there'd been another ruling, this time from the appellate court panel, saying Brown can't be on the ballot. Brown has had a write-in campaign going ever since he lost the primary, so we'll see how that goes. With so many rich Republicans backing him, that still gives him a good chance.

"Nabisco Strike Ends: BCTGM Members Overwhelmingly Accept New Contract: Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) working for Nabisco/Mondelez in Portland, Ore., Aurora, Colo., Richmond, Va., Chicago, Ill. and Norcross, Ga. have voted overwhelmingly to accept a new collective bargaining agreement. Approval of the contract ends the BCTGM's strike against Nabisco which began on August 10, 2021." Maybe it's a good deal.

"General Failure: How the U.S. Military Lied About the 9/11 Wars: For generals like David Petraeus and Lloyd Austin, there has been no punishment for 20 years of disinformation on Afghanistan and Iraq.." And Glenn Greenwald points out it goes back a lot farther than that.

"The Supreme Court Is a Threat to Democracy: Last week's Supreme Court decision striking down the national eviction moratorium was a lawless power grab by an increasingly out-of-control institution. [...] The text is pretty clear. The law says the CDC can put in place and enforce regulations that prevent infectious diseases from spreading from state to state, examples of which include inspection, pest extermination, and other measures the CDC decides are necessary — a broad mandate that gives the agency wide latitude to act to contain a killer pandemic. [...] Luckily for the Wall Street housing barons and realtors' associations of the world, that's nothing a little bit of creative reading can't fix. When a different Trump-appointed US district court judge struck down the original moratorium back in May, her reasoning was that the CDC's clear authority to decide on regulations needed to halt an infectious disease in its tracks was somehow 'tethered to — and narrowed by — the second sentence' of the law, namely the list of examples given: inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, and the 'destruction of animals or articles found to be so infected or contaminated as to be sources of dangerous infection to human beings.' [...] The Supreme Court's invalidation of Biden's latest version of the order, which had been amended to target only the parts of the country hardest hit by the virus, relies partly on this same wordplay. But what really makes it interesting is the nakedly ideological terms on which the court's right-wing supermajority rests its decision in the rest of the opinion."

"How Moderate Democrats Derailed Police Reform: Centrists demanded a police reform bill that didn't go too far. Now they don't get one at all. [...] One comment from a moderate appears to have pushed the course of negotiations south. On May 9, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., told CNN that Democrats should be open to passing a bill that didn't touch qualified immunity. In an interview two days later, Scott's office declined to comment on the record but denied that Scott was against eliminating qualified immunity, and said he was still pushing his compromise proposal. The next day, in response to comments from Bass that the package needed to eliminate qualified immunity, Scott said he was 'on the exact opposite side.' A June draft of the legislation included a proposal similar to Scott's."

Over at Slate, the theory that Republicans never really wanted to end Roe still lives, and it's probably right. "Republicans Don't Actually Want Roe v. Wade to End This Way: GOP politicians appear terrified of Texas' abortion ban. The Supreme Court should take note." And Josh Marshall is talking about the essential corruption on the court.

Meanwhile, "Mexico's Supreme Court Votes to Decriminalize Abortion: The ruling, which sets a precedent for the legalization of abortion nationwide, follows years of efforts by a growing women's movement in Mexico. MEXICO CITY — Criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, setting a precedent that could lead to legalization of the procedure across this conservative Catholic country of about 130 million people. The unanimous ruling from the nation's top court follows years of efforts by a growing women's movement in Mexico that has repeatedly taken to the streets of major cities to demand greater rights and protections."

"NEW: What happens when progressives defeat corporate-funded Democrats? In Prince George's County, Maryland, lobbyists & business groups are attempting to overturn an election in plain sight to keep control of a $2 billion school board budget. The corruption is shocking. In 2020, a slate of progressives defeated business-funded incumbents to take over the PG County school board. Now, contractors and lobbyists are trying to overturn the election results and remove the new board members from office, with the help of some establishment Democrats. Once they took office, the progressive slate tried to investigate irregularities in construction contracts. They passed a Community Benefits Agreement that ensured construction contracts created good, union jobs. Then, lobbyists launched an effort to remove them from office. The attempted overturn started with a series of ethics complaints against the progressive slate. @washingtonpost referred to the complaints as 'error riddled.' The former State's Attorney called them 'totally unsubstantiated' and \a political hit job.'"

"Dems Flail Over Pharma Cash And Drug Pricing Vote: Scott Peters, Kurt Schrader, and Kathleen Rice mount weak, incoherent responses trying to explain why they torpedoed a plan to let Medicare negotiate drug prices.Conservative Democratic Reps. Scott Peters (Calif.) and Kurt Schrader (Ore.) have been defending their huge hauls of campaign cash from the pharmaceutical industry since announcing their opposition to House Democrats' wildly popular plan to reduce drug prices. Meanwhile, another Democratic lawmaker, Rep. Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), has completely flipped her reasoning for why she voted against the measure. Last week, Schrader, Peters, and Rice used their seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to try to block House Democrats from allowing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices as part of the party's $3.5 trillion infrastructure reconciliation effort. The proposal has support from 90 percent of registered voters in their districts, according to a recent poll by Data For Progress."

Pierce, "This Is an Actual United States Senator Questioning the Actual Secretary of State: On Tuesday, the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee got its chance to question Secretary Blinken, and Republican Senator James Risch took the opportunity to force Blinken to sprain a muscle trying to keep a straight face. This is a United States Senator questioning the Secretary of State as to whether or not the President of the United States is being operated by remote control, and I am not lying about any of this. Gaze in awe."

"What Philadelphia Reveals About America's Homicide Surge [...] In his 2018 book Uneasy Peace, sociologist Patrick Sharkey, now at Princeton University, argued that an overlooked reason for the decline in violent crime since the early 1990s was the spread of grassroots organizations that sprang up to address the problem. The effect was quantifiable, he found: In any given city with 100,000 people, he wrote, 'every new organization formed to confront violence and build stronger neighborhoods led to about a 1% drop in violent crime and murder.'"

"Surprise, Surprise, Ending Unemployment Benefits Early Didn't Actually Get People Back to Work [...] But according to new research, not only did cutting off federal assistance early not only have little to no impact on jobs numbers, it immediately caused a decrease in spending, hurting those states' economies. According to a new paper from economists and researchers at Columbia, Harvard, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the University of Toronto, 7 out of every 8 people who had their benefits cut off did not then find employment. Those unemployed people also cut their weekly spending by 20%, resulting in a $2 billion loss in those states between June and the beginning of August."

"Recent Unemployment Cuts Made People Poorer Without Increasing Employment: The media breathlessly reported on labor shortages this summer, helping generate support for unemployment benefit cuts. But a new study shows such cuts didn't do much but devastate poor people's incomes.

"The conservative Supreme Court is issuing some of its most extreme rulings in the shadows: As bad as the U.S. Supreme Court's regular decisions were this year, what it has done in its "shadow docket" has been particularly dangerous. That includes 10 emergency requests by religious groups challenging COVID-19 restrictions, all of which the court's conservative majority granted. The "shadow docket" is a term coined by University of Chicago law professor Will Baude six years ago to describe "a range of orders and summary decisions that defy its normal procedural regularity." The shadow docket has always been there, where the court issues rulings (without scheduling hearings) that are often unsigned and often consist of just one or two sentences. But the current iteration of the conservative court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been picking up the pace of those shadow docket cases."

Maybe Covid in children really is a big deal after all. "Pediatric Diabetes Surge in Mississippi: Doctors Concerned COVID-19 Is To Blame: Dr. Jessica Lilley is a pediatric endocrinologist at the Mississippi Center for Advanced Medicine. For eight years she has seen children from across the state for pediatric diabetes and other hormonal issues. With each passing month of the pandemic, Lilley has grown increasingly concerned that COVID-19 is linked to a massive increase in new diagnoses of pediatric diabetes throughout Mississippi. Lilley is not alone in her observation. In conferring with other pediatric endocrinologists across the state and nation, Lilley says the spike in new cases is widespread. 'We are all seeing an increase in type 1 diabetes diagnoses as well as type 2 diabetes diagnoses. Those of us who tracked it have noticed anywhere from a 30% to 40% increase compared to (2019),' she told the Mississippi Free Press in a series of interviews in August and September. "

Why does Sinema act so crazy? "Sinema Cueing Up To Go Indy (Must Read): Absolutely fascinating look at Kyrsten Sinema's efforts to position herself as an independent in Arizona, possibly formally but definitely in effect. It makes pretty clear she's not done with politics or angling for a high dollar lobbying gig, as some speculate. She thinks she can be a latter-day McCain and build her political brand on that basis, likely looking for a promotion above the Senate." But she could be badly misreading the room.

"Why Are There Still Conservatives In The Congressional Progressive Caucus? [...] 'In addition to having members with ProgressivePunch scores of D or F. I find it deeply concerning that members such as Sheila Jackson Lee, who is one of the Vice Chairs of the Progressive Caucus, has received a ProgressivePunch score of C. This is another example of an establishment member of the party, who has long ties with corporate donors (Goldman Sachs, Chevron, BP, etc.) and has been virtually silent on all major progressive policies, buying their way into the Progressive Caucus to avoid major opposition in the primaries.'"

"America's Acute Governance Problem: We have difficulty handing out money intended for people who need it. And that's just the beginning. [...] If you really want to prevent evictions and keep people off the street in the middle of a pandemic that continues to pummel this country, you could institute what I would call the 'big bag of money' option. In theory—and again, all of this is theory—you could install a federal official at every eviction court in America, and whenever a case is read, with the amount owed to the landlord stated, the guy can dip into his big bag of money and pay the debt. In nearly all cases, this will satisfy the landlord and put a stop to evictions, which Goldman Sachs estimates will otherwise hit 750,000 families over the next four months."

FAIR, "NYT: China Needs to Rethink Its Not-Letting-People-Die-From-Covid Policy: It still boggles me that a US paper thinks it has standing to offer advice to China on how to address the Covid-19 pandemic (FAIR.org, 1/29/21). For those who have been on Mars for the past two years, China has had, since the disease first appeared, 95,493 cases and 4,636 deaths from Covid. The United States, with approximately one-fourth as many people, has had almost 42 million cases and 668,000 deaths. On a per capita basis, the US's handling of the coronavirus has been more than 600 times worse than China's. But still, the New York Times has some ideas on how China could do better!"

"Ken Loach: Keir Starmer Is Mr Bean Trying to Act Like Stalin: Last week, Ken Loach was kicked out of the Labour party. In his first interview since his expulsion, the socialist filmmaker told Jacobin that Keir Starmer's purge of the Left is driving the party to destruction."

I wonder if Nancy Pelosi is regretting keeping AOC off the committee and putting Rice in there instead. "How Kathleen Rice Is Threatening the Biden Agenda: Rice and two other House Democrats oppose aggressive drug price reform, which provides the budget savings available to fuel spending in the Build Back Better Act. [...] Flash forward to this week, where Rice joined with two other centrists to temporarily block an enormously popular drug pricing reform measure from advancing through the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Democratic-Republican split on the committee is 32-26. The objections of Reps. Rice, Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) to the drug price reform deadlock the vote. If AOC were on the committee instead of Rice, that measure would have passed. The standoff does not mean that drug price reform is finished. The Budget Committee can always fit it back in with a 'manager's amendment,' and because it provides at least $700 billion in budget savings for the overall bill, the committee almost certainly will. But it's a show of force from pro-pharma members in a Democratic caucus that only has three votes to spare to pass the reconciliation package out of the House. No agreement on drug prices threatens the entire bill and the Biden agenda, because of its importance in offsetting spending." Incredibly, Rice seems to be claiming she supports the incredibly expensive Bush non-negotiation clause out of "fiscal responsibility". Which just shows you what a lie that phrase has always been.

"Billionaires Are the Leading Cause of Climate Change: As the world faces environmental disaster on a biblical scale, it's important to remember exactly who brought us here. [...] Contrary to a lot of guilt-tripping pleas for us all to take the bus more often to save the world, your individual choices are probably doing very little to the world's climate. The real impact comes on the industrial level, as more than 70 percent of global emissions come from just 100 companies. So you, a random American consumer, exert very little pressure here. The people who are actively cranking up the global thermostat and threatening to drown 20 percent of the global population are the billionaires in the boardrooms of these companies."

Stiglitz is in the Financial Times saying, "Europe should not return to pre-pandemic fiscal rules: Given the challenges the EU faces today, a new round of austerity would be calamitous [...] In responding to the coronavirus emergency, European countries have abandoned the EU's fiscal rules governing deficits and debt-to-gross domestic product ratio, borrowing and spending to keep their economies afloat. There will and should be a debate about how well those borrowed funds are spent. But few would argue that spending was the wrong course of action."

"Where's My Lyme Vaccine?: The complex downfall of LYMErix—and what's coming next. [...] We had one, once. The Food and Drug Administration approved LYMErix, manufactured by SmithKline Beecham (now GlaxoSmithKline), for use in 1998. LYMErix worked by inducing antibodies into human blood, which would then go into any ticks that attached to your body. There, they would neutralize the bacteria that cause Lyme, Borrelia burgdorferi, before the bacteria could go from the tick into you. In clinical trials, the shot showed about 78 percent effectiveness after the required three doses (hey, I'd take it). But some patients who got the shot after it went on the market testified that they developed arthritis after vaccination. The FDA investigated, but decided the evidence that the vaccine was linked to patients' arthritis wasn't strong enough to withdraw its approval for LYMErix. Sales fell nonetheless, and the company pulled the vaccine in 2002."

"This is no ordinary spying. Our most intimate selves are now exposed: The Pegasus project shows we could all soon be ruled by states that know everything about us, while we know less and less about them"

"Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks': The 26-page indictment of former cybersecurity attorney and Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann by special counsel John Durham is as detailed as it is damning on the alleged effort to push a false Russia collusion claim before the 2016 presidential campaign. One line, however, seems to reverberate for those of us who have followed this scandal for years now: 'You do realize that we will have to expose every trick we have in our bag.' That warning from an unnamed 'university researcher' captures the most fascinating aspect of the indictment in describing a type of Nixonian dirty tricks operation run by — or at least billed to — the Clinton campaign. With Nixon, his personal attorney and the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) paid for operatives to engage in disruptive and ultimately criminal conduct targeting his opponents. With Clinton, the indictment and prior disclosures suggest that Clinton campaign lawyers at the law firm of Perkins Coie helped organize an effort to spread Russia collusion stories and trigger an investigation."

"Even During COVID-19 Recession, Temporary Assistance Does Little to Reduce Child Poverty: Many people in the United States might assume that the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program — the program created after 'welfare reform' — would be an important tool to assist needy families during the COVID-19 recession. The latest analysis from the Census Bureau shows that TANF has failed once again to provide much help to the impoverished during a recession. This fact is best illustrated by examining TANF's impact on child poverty last year. The Census Bureau examined the impact of 13 programs on reducing child poverty during 2020. Of the 13 programs, TANF was among the weakest at reducing child poverty. (See Figure.) The Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was more than five times as effective as TANF in reducing child poverty. Unemployment Insurance was nearly seven times as effective."

If you can get into the NYT, Zach Carter has a good article up called, "Why Are Moderates Trying to Blow Up Biden's Centrist Economic Plan?," but even if you can't, you might want to read his follow-up on his Substack, "Left, Right and Keynes [...] The situation with today's centrists in the Democratic Party is similar, only much worse. Joe Biden is a lifelong centrist who is fighting back progressive calls for structural political change with a commitment to robust economic reform. Adding new states to the union, adding new seats to the Supreme Court, eliminating the electoral college, abolishing the filibuster — Biden has politely ignored them all. But people calling themselves centrists are now attacking Biden's economic reforms — the very centrist agenda that is supposed to help beat back the demands from the left and right. Not a single one of Biden's intraparty critics has offered a coherent policy justification for their opposition. They've abandoned centrism as a set of ideas with a clear purpose and embraced an amorphous fear of action itself."

The Bronx Freedom Fund proved that cash bail is extortion: For over a dozen years, despite judicial threats and media attacks, we bailed out thousands of low-income New Yorkers who would have otherwise languished in jail while presumed innocent. In doing so, we exploded the myth that cash bail was necessary to ensure people returned to court, and laid bare its coercive power to force people to plead guilty and forfeit their right to trial. Close to 95% of our clients made every one of their court appearances even though they had no money on the line. Almost 50% of the cases in which we posted bail were dismissed, and over the life of the fund, fewer than 2% of the people for whom we provided bail assistance received a jail sentence. In short, we proved that when it comes to bail, money really does buy justice."

RIP: Judith Hanna, 67, of liver cancer. Joseph's obit for her in the Guardian is dry and restrained, but shortly before she died, she was calling him a hero, and he managed to get through his much more personal words for her at the funeral, choked with emotion as he obviously was. She gave us warning on Facebook that the docs had given her the death sentence, and so, she observed, she was seeing her own wake in the comments. And then no time at all seemed to pass before Joseph told us she was gone and that he'd been with her at the last. She was my friend, she had come to London from Australia just a couple of years before I'd moved here and she gave me tips and household items to help me through the transition. And violets, because they "like to grow over the roots of the roses and cool them." We all loved her and have things to thank her for, and we've all missed seeing her during the on-again-off-again quarantine and now we will miss her forever and I just can't seem to stop my eyes from stinging whenever I think of her.

RIP: "George Holliday, man who filmed Rodney King police beating, dies of COVID: LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Holliday, the Los Angeles plumber who shot grainy video of four white police officers beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1991, has died of complications of COVID-19, a friend said Monday. Holliday, 61, died Sunday at a Los Angeles hospital, where he had been for more than a month, according to Robert Wollenweber, a longtime friend and former coworker. Holliday was not vaccinated and was on a ventilator in recent days after contracting pneumonia, Wollenweber said."

Corey Doctorow reviews a book, "Love of Shopping is Not a Gene: exposing junk science and ideology in Darwinian Psychology: Anne Innis Dagg's "Love of Shopping" is Not a Gene is a scathing, entertaining and extremely accessible geneticist's critique of 'Darwinian Psychology' — that is, the "science" of ascribing human behavior to genetic inevitability. Dagg, a biologist/geneticist at the University of Waterloo, identifies Darwinian Psychology as a nexus of ideological pseudoscience cooked to justify political agendas about the inevitability of social inequality, especially racial and sexual inequality. One after another, Dagg examines the cherished shibboleths of Darwinian Psychology, examining the research offered in support of such statements as "Rape is genetic" or "Black people are genetically destined to have lower IQ scores than white people" and demolishes each statement by subjecting it to scientific rigor, including an examination of all the contradictory evidence ignored by proponents. Dagg opens the book with what seems to be an issue of personal affront: the story that "many" animals practice infanticide as a means of eliminating the genetic competition. This claim originates in part with Craig Packer, who seemingly lost his head when Dagg dared to point out that the overall data suggested that lionesses, not lions, were apt to kill cubs, and not cubs born to other lionesses, but their own progeny, to give the remaining offspring a better chance of survival. When Packer was sent a paper to review, he sent Dagg a threatening note promising to go public with a "harsh" characterization of her as a "fringe scientist" with a "bizarre obsession." Meanwhile, Dagg's investigation of the references cited in support of infanticide among other animals, especially primates, finds them to be just as specious as the claims of infanticide among lions. "

From recent history, a wise reminder that sometimes you have to look deeper. "The 60-Year-Old Scientific Screwup That Helped Covid Kill: All pandemic long, scientists brawled over how the virus spreads. Droplets! No, aerosols! At the heart of the fight was a teensy error with huge consequences.

"Inequality, not gerontocracy: The received wisdom among economists is that the US's historical low interests rates are driven by high savings by aging boomers who are getting ready for, or in, retirement. [...] The problem with the "boomers have so much in retirement savings that interest rates are low" theory is that boomers are incredibly unprepared for retirement. There's a small cohort — ~10% — of very well-off boomers sailing into their sunset years. The rest? Fucked [...] So why are rates so low? Well, the paper says it is being caused by high levels of savings — just not aging boomers' savings. Rather, it's the savings of the ultra-wealthy, the 1%, who are sitting on mountains of unproductive capital, chasing returns."

Stephanie Kelton explains "What Every American Needs to Know About the Congressional "Pay-For" Game (Part 1): I know this game. I watched it from the inside."

Audio, "Know Your Enemy #16: The Windbag City, with Marshall Steinbaum: Matt and Sam are joined by Marshall Steinbaum for a deep dive into the Chicago school of economics and the wreckage it's supported—from welcoming the birth defects caused by deregulating the pharmaceutical industry to justifying massive resistance to desegregation to being put in the service of coronavirus truther-ism. Where did this iteration of libertarianism come from, intellectually and institutionally? Who are the key figures in the Chicago school? How have their ideas infected the way we all think about economics and politics? It's a sordid, depressing tale of right-wing money, intellectual dishonesty, and a gleeful desire to discipline the forces of democracy."

Let's set the Wayback Machine all the way back to April of 2006 for, "The Rebuking and Scorning of Cynthia McKinney: A Washington press corps that stood idly by while Bush and Cheney plundered the country, wrecked the environment, spied on Americans without a warrant, tortured civilians and lied the country into a war that will only get worse, woke up one morning and collectively decided: 'Let's all play Get Cynthia!'"

"FDR And 'Court Packing' — Just One More 'Truth' That Isn't True: A lot of things we 'know' about history come from 'one side.' For example, we 'know' that 'protectionism' caused the Great Depression. Except it didn't. Who benefits from convincing the public that protecting national interests is bad if it reduces corporate profits? There are so, so many 'truths' like that. Another 'Truth': Court Packing is Bad. Here's another 'truth.' FDR tried to 'pack the Supreme Court' and it was very, very bad. I thought I'd look up what the Supreme Court was actually doing that led to FDR trying to do something to balance the Court, and what happened when he finally did try. Go ahead and try to find answers (the actual truth) to that question. It's hard to find."

"To Fight Racism, Organize With Your Coworkers: Too many anti-racist efforts today obsess over individual actions like microaggressions. We need to fight racism in a collective project rooted in shared material interests — as the United Packinghouse Workers of America did in its heyday."

Interview by Index on Censorship, "Daniel Ellsberg: The original whistleblower [...] 'I have never heard of anyone wanting to be a whistleblower,' said Ellsberg. 'People admire it when they see it, but it is a strange career to set out on — and it's not a career because you generally only get to do it once. Employers believe you won't tell their dirty secrets no matter how criminal, illegal, wrongful or dangerous your bosses may be.'"

"When Police Kill Police and Someone Else is Blamed : In the early morning of May, 2020, Bonneville County Sheriff's Deputy Wyatt Maser lost his life while responding to a call in Idaho Falls. He and another officer arrived to assist a motorist, Jenna Holm, after she was in a single-car crash on a rural stretch of road. They arrived to find Holm in distress. While attempting to bring her into custody, another officer driving at high speeds arrived and hit Deputy Maser with his patrol vehicle. Maser died at the scene. Holm was charged with manslaughter in connection with his death."

"The Most Terrifying Thing About 9/11 Was America's Response: The fear I experienced that terrible day in New York doesn't begin to compare with the dread I've developed watching our path since." I knew that day that what 9/11 really meant was that horrible people in our government would now be able to do every horrible thing they wanted to do. And they did.

You've probably all heard about how Ben Franklin started off as an antivaxer and then changed his mind, but here's a story I didn't know, and it all starts with Cotton Mather's slave.. "What if I told you this happens EXACTLY every 100 years?"

Matt Stoller, "Counterfeit Capitalism: Why a Monopolized Economy Leads to Inflation and Shortages: From railroads to plastic bags to semiconductors to ice cream, Wall Street and monopolists are creating shortages and exploiting them."

Former Black Panther Eddie Conway on "Cuba And The US: A Tale Of Two Prison Systems: There's no such thing as a 'good' prison, but the stark differences between US and Cuban prisons show just how deliberately inhumane the American carceral system is."

The creators of HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? put it on YouTube so you can watch the full film for free.

The BBC covers the alien invasion

Carlos Santana and Steve Winwood, "Whiter Shade of Pale"

Laura Nyro, "Emmie"

05:32 GMT comment


Saturday, 04 September 2021

We've both been sound asleep

Cornish apple orchard by Adrian Paul Allinson (British, 1890-1959)

"Supreme Court Allows Extreme Texas Abortion Ban To Go Into Effect: S.B. 8 offers private citizens a $10,000 bounty if they successfully sue anyone 'aiding or abetting' abortion-seeking patients in Texas The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a restrictive Texas law to go into effect that criminalizes abortion at six weeks and deputizes citizens to enforce the ban. S.B. 8 effectively bans abortion at six weeks, a time at which many people don't yet realize they're pregnant. The bill is more extreme than laws in states such as Alabama and Ohio due to a clause that financially incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone 'aiding or abetting' abortion-seeking patients in Texas. If someone successfully sues a person aiding and abetting the medical procedure, they could receive a bounty of $10,000 and have all of their legal fees paid for by the opposing side." Gosh, it's like the Fugitive Slave Act all over again. (Lawyers, Guns, and Money has more details with Sotomayer's dissent.) Pelosi responded by scheduling a bill codifying Roe v. Wade in law.

"Prop. 22, the gig worker exemption for Uber and Lyft, is ruled unconstitutional; Proposition 22, which exempts gig work companies like Uber and Lyft from treating drivers as employees, is unconstitutional, a judge ruled Friday. The measure, which 59% of state voters supported last fall, illegally 'limits the power of a future legislature to define app-based drivers as workers subject to workers' compensation law,' Alameda County Superior Court Frank Roesch ruled. The judge's order found that Section 7451 of the measure is unconstitutional because it 'defines unrelated legislation an 'amendment'' to the measure, making the entire measure unenforceable. The section states that any future laws related to collective bargaining for app drivers must comply with the rest of Prop. 22, which violated the requirement that ballot measures focus on a single subject, Roesch ruled. 'It appears only to protect the economic interest of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation,' he wrote." There's a fuller version of the judge's statement here: "A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety & pay standards for those workers. It appears only to protect the economic interests of the network companies in having a divided, ununionized workforce which is not the stated goal of the legislation."

"The Supreme Court launches a 'political torpedo' right at the Biden administration On Tuesday night, the Supreme Court announced a consequential decision that amounted to an aggressive assertion of judicial authority against President Joe Biden. In a four-sentence order, the justices left in place a lower court's injunction preventing the Biden administration from ending Donald Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy, which left many asylum-seekers unable to enter the United States as their cases proceed through the long and arduous process. Essentially, the court is saying Biden has to continue to Trump's policy because he didn't end it in the right way. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by Trump, had previously ordered Biden to continue the policy on the grounds that the decision to reverse it was 'arbitrary and capricious.' The Supreme Court has upheld that procedural move, which is now expected to stay in place as the litigation proceeds. The initial ruling and the injunction were highly criticized when they came down, with many critics arguing that they represented extreme overreach by a conservative judge trying to undermine a politically opposed administration. Vox's Ian Millhiser said Judge Kacsmaryk didn't even understand the law he referenced [...] Now, the Supreme Court's conservatives have said that the judge's injunction will remain in place, fulfilling Milhiser's fears. All three liberal justices on the court dissented from the decision, though there was no written opinion of the court nor any dissents. 'Absolute insanity. SCOTUS' conservative majority repeatedly cleared away lower court injunctions so that Trump could implement his immigration agenda. Now it lets a single district court judge dictate foreign policy for the Biden administration. This is beyond outrageous,' said Slate's Mark Joseph stern. Many critics echoed the point that the court was generally deferential to the Trump administration on immigration and foreign policy. It left in place Trump's ban on migrants from Muslim countries, despite clear evidence that it was inspired by racist animus."
Vox: "The decision upends the balance of power between the elected branches and the judiciary. It gives a right-wing judge extraordinary power to supervise sensitive diplomatic negotiations. And it most likely forces the administration to open negotiations with Mexico, while the Mexican government knows full well that the administration can't walk away from those negotiations without risking a contempt order. With this order, Republican-appointed judges are claiming the power to direct US foreign policy — and don't even feel obligated to explain themselves.

"Black police groups call for ex-Black Panther jailed for 48 years to be released: Officers' groups say 84-year-old Sundiata Acoli, convicted of murder of New Jersey state trooper, poses no threat to public safety [...] The intervention of the Black groups underscores a rift within police officer organizations. Powerful white-dominated law enforcement associations have been at the forefront of the battle to keep former Black Panthers incarcerated for decades. [...] Acoli, who was born Clark Edward Squire, was given a life sentence in 1974 for the murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster the previous year. Acoli had been driving along the New Jersey Turnpike together with two other members of the Black Liberation Army, Assata Shakur (born JoAnne Chesimard) and Zayd Malik Shakur (James Costan) when they were stopped by a state trooper, James Harper, over a defective taillight. In the ensuing melee, shots were fired. Foerster was struck with four bullets and died, and Zayd Malik Shakur was also killed. Harper was wounded, and both Acoli and Assata Shakur were arrested after a police chase. Shakur escaped and fled to Cuba, where she was granted asylum by the Cuban government. In 2013 she became the first woman to be put on the FBI's 'most wanted terrorists' list, and at age 74 she faces a $2m reward for information leading to her capture." Wait, did I read that right? They decided to put her on the "most wanted" list when she was 74?

"Amazon installs huge lockers on a Chicago park's sidewalk, confusing and frustrating neighbors, annoying residents not just with their obstruction and unsightliness, but with the outrage of public land being given over to this use. Then they were even angrier when they found out that the "Amazon Lockers Will Net Park District $137,600 At Most For First Year, Contract Shows," a remarkably paltry sum for the city.

"Private Equity's Potential Payday From Build Back Better: Hundreds of billions of dollars are scheduled for industries private equity dominates. Advocates want to make sure workers and families benefit, not financiers. Legislation with the size and scope of the $4 trillion 'Build Back Better' agenda is like a Bat-Signal for lobbyists, urging them to swarm Capitol Hill without delay. Literally thousands of companies, organizations, and trade groups have lobbied on one or more of the bills in this package. But one industry's representatives keep showing up over and over again, whether in formal lobbying sessions in Congress or more informal meetings: private equity. 'At every point, private equity lines up at the trough,' said one observer close to the discussions. 'There's just somebody in every fucking meeting.' [...] Given that the private equity model involves extracting as much value from portfolio companies as possible, regardless of the quality or success of that underlying business, critics fear that we could end up with a situation where a large amount of money is sent out by the government as a sitting target for fund managers to pilfer. This could end up making these services even worse for the families that use them and the workers who perform the tasks, despite the large federal investment."

RIP: "Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant in two hit shows, dies aged 91: [...] The part brought three best supporting actor Emmys and two best actor awards. He also won Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1975-76) and Roots (1976-77). He had more than 300 credits and remained active throughout his 70s and 80s. In 2003, he played Santa Claus in Will Ferrell's hit film Elf. He was John Goodman's father in the short-lived 2004 CBS comedy Center of the Universe and the voice of the elderly hero in the hit 2009 Pixar release, Up. More recently, he was in such TV series as Forgive Me and Dead to Me. [...] Asner remained politically active for the rest of his life and in 2017 published the book The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs." The Guardian's fuller obituary is here. "As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, he remained outspoken in a very conservative industry. 'Socialist means a thing that will curb the excesses of capitalism: the increasing wealth of the rich and decreasing wealth of the poor,' he said. 'I'd like to see a national guarantee of health, a national guarantee of education (through college), fair housing, and sufficient food.'" Ronald Bergen, who wrote the on-file obit for them, died last year.
"The Ed Asner 90th Birthday Tribute"

RIP: "US music star Don Everly dies aged 84 [...] Considered one of pop music's greatest vocal partnerships, Phil and Don Everly had worldwide hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including "Bye Bye Love" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream". Their unique vocal harmonies, coupled with ingenious guitar arrangements and timeless material, had a revolutionary impact on the Beatles, the Hollies, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash." I think I've seen or heard quotes from every one of them saying so, too. They were much loved.

RIP: "Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts dies aged 80: Musician's publicist says he died peacefully in a London hospital surrounded by his family" The confirmation was necessary because there was actually a Charlie Watts death hoax on the net just a few days earlier.
"Charlie Watts: Jazz man who became rock superstar: Drummer Charlie Watts, who has died at 80, provided the foundation which underpinned the music of the Rolling Stones. The band became a by-word for rock and roll excess but for Watts, playing with the Stones did not become the ego trip that drove Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. A jazz aficionado, Watts vied with Bill Wyman for the title of least charismatic member of the band; he eschewed the limelight and rarely gave interviews And he famously described life with the Stones as five years of playing, 20 years of hanging around."
bmaz also had a nice little appreciation which includes a nice live version of "Gimme Shelter" you oughta hear, too.
"TOP 10 CHARLIE WATTS ROLLING STONES SONGS"
And a little tribute by The Rolling Stones.

RIP: "Carol Carr (1938-2021): Author Carol Carr, 82, died September 1, 2021 of lung cancer. Carr was the author of several short stories, widow of author and editor Terry Carr, and wife of author Robert Lichtman, who survives her. Carr began publishing short fiction with 'Look, You Think You've Got Troubles' in Orbit 5 (1969), and her work also appeared in F&SF and Omni. She collaborated with Terry Carr on 'Some Are Born Cats' (1973) and with Karen Haber on 'First Contact, Sort Of' (1995). Her stories and some non-fiction were collected in Carol Carr: The Collected Writings (2013)." I was closer to Terry than to Carol, but she was someone special.
"A few photos over at File 770.

RIP: "Stanley Aronowitz, Labor Scholar and Activist, Dies at 88: As a self-described 'working-class intellectual,' he declared that direct action was more potent than collective bargaining or conventional politics. [...] 'We've been relying for so long on politicians to solve problems,' he told the magazine In These Times in 2014, 'that the union membership no longer really relies on its own power.' [...] Complaining that 'almost nobody in the social sciences deals with the question of power,' he said: 'What we do not have is an organized left. If you do not have an organized left, you do not have an organized political public intellectual.'"

40 years ago Ronald Reagan was undermining the foundations of our country. Watch "When Reagan Declared War on Working People — Max Alvarez". (32 minutes)

"The Great American Science Heist: How the Bayh-Dole Act Wrested Public Science From the People's Hands ON THE MORNING of June 6, 1979, Navy Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, the longest-serving officer in the history of the U.S. armed services, sat down before a Senate subcommittee on the Constitution. Famous as the father of the nuclear submarine program, Rickover had recently emerged as that rarest of Washington breeds: a top-brass crusader against waste and corruption in defense contracting. On this day, he deployed his reputation and characteristic bluntness to stop a bill called the University and Small Business Patent Procedures Act. At stake was the government's long-standing proprietorship of patents on inventions resulting from the research it underwrote. The proposed legislation would hand patents over to the private contractors that conducted research at government expense, essentially gutting the government's ownership stake and paving the way for monopolization. The bill's supporters — those in favor of removing this block — included drug companies, venture capital firms, university patent offices, and the nascent biotech industry. Those opposed to this sweeping change in federal patent policy were led by a fading Democratic coalition committed to New Deal ideas about antitrust regulation, patents, and public science controlled in the public interest. Rickover was a lone but strong military voice for this coalition: a war hero with the authority of having overseen the construction of the first nuclear propulsion systems, one of the most complex government science programs since the Manhattan Project. Speaking before the subcommittee, Rickover railed against the proposed policy changes. 'Government contractors should not be given title to inventions developed at government expense,' he said. 'These inventions are paid for by the public and therefore should be available for any citizen to use or not as he sees fit.'

"Clintonism's Zombie: Making sense of Josh Gottheimer's attempts to sabotage the Democratic agenda [...] It would be one thing if Gottheimer were a rogue, independent political outsider, but he's a nightmare of the Democratic Party's own making, a creation of the Clinton White House from his days as a college undergraduate. Gottheimer joined up ahead of the 1996 re-election campaign on the rapid-response team, the same year that Clinton's signature welfare reform package was signed into law, setting in motion a process that increased poverty, lowered income for single mothers, ballooned the number of people in homeless shelters, and empowered states to eliminate welfare entirely. After Clinton rode that welfare reform, signed just three months before Election Day, into a second term, Gottheimer went to work as the president's youngest speechwriter, serving in the White House alongside Terry Edmonds and Michael Waldman until Clinton termed out in 2001. [...] Gottheimer seems to be the most zealous holdover of a bygone era of the Democratic Party, one that opposes expanding the welfare state, celebrates high-dollar fundraising through close proximity to Wall Street, and cares little for the overall well-being of the party as a whole. While Bidenism struggles to renew New Deal democracy, Gottheimer is working to reinstate a version of Clintonism that many presumed to have passed. That has been richly rewarding for Gottheimer himself, but it remains a lonely campaign. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a substantial voting edge over Gottheimer and his eight disciples, and Pelosi has given no indication she'll cave to his demands. But it's a rough reminder of the persistence of Clintonism's sway over some Democratic politics and some Democratic pols—largely gone, but not forgotten."

"The Ides of August [...] I was there. Afghans did not reject us. They looked to us as exemplars of democracy and the rule of law. They thought that's what we stood for. And what did we stand for? What flourished on our watch? Cronyism, rampant corruption, a Ponzi scheme disguised as a banking system, designed by U.S. finance specialists during the very years that other U.S. finance specialists were incubating the crash of 2008. A government system where billionaires get to write the rules."

What's amazing about this is not so much what it says as that it's being said by Jonathan Chait, someone who normally acts like nothing in the world is better than "moderate" Democrats. "9 Moderate Democrats Threaten to Tank Entire Biden Presidency: The party has managed to work together, until now. Joe Biden's success to date has owed itself to many factors, the largest of which is the willingness of congressional Democrats to compromise with each other. The narrow margins of the party's majority means almost any member in either chamber can blow up any bill, and just as the dynamic of mutually assured destruction prevented the Soviets and the United States from obliterating each other, it has muted the traditionally fractious Democratic caucus. That dynamic is beginning to change, and the instigators are easy to identity: a handful of moderate House Democrats who have been issuing increasingly aggressive demands, culminating in a new letter threatening to withhold their votes from a budget resolution that will contain Biden's signature domestic legislation and the basis of the party's campaign." And then he actually makes it clear that they are being destructive to the party and their strategy stinks anyway. So Chait's favorite politicians seem to be losing Chait.

From 2015 in The Nation, "This Long-Lost Constitutional Clause Could Save the Right to Vote: This Long-Lost Constitutional Clause Could Save the Right to Vote [...] But an important tool remains unused, all but forgotten in a dark and dusty corner of the shed. Dating back to Reconstruction, it has the great merit of being already enshrined in the Constitution. According to Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, any state that denies or abridges the right to vote for any reason must have its congressional representation reduced in proportion to the number of citizens it disenfranchises. Arguably the most radical clause in the Constitution, it was designed to remake the government and the country. It has never been enforced."

"The Problems Solved by Debutantes: On class, power, whiteness — plus Pride & Prejudice and the Kardashians as "one giant Lydia" [...] So, yes! The original problem the Reformation created was a glut of daughters. Fathers had always married off their daughters to the best possible suitors to keep their wealth as concentrated as possible and to create powerful strategic alliances. Until the Reformation, many rich European families would invest all their money in their 'best' daughter and send the daughters they deemed less valuable to convents to avoid having to dilute their fortunes by providing each one with a dowry. The family would pay a nominal fee for the daughter to live in respectable seclusion, which some young women preferred given that they were not choosing their husbands. When Henry VIII separated from Rome and dissolved all the Catholic institutions in England, these fathers were no longer able to cloister their unmarriageable girls and had to find ways to pair them off. Because marriage was the only remaining respectable path for women, a daughter's failure to marry could embarrass her family and keeping her at home was more expensive than the convent. So, by the time Mr. Bennet throws up his hands in exhaustion about 'what's to be done with all these girls?' in the early pages of Pride and Prejudice, the daughter problem had already been brewing for several hundred years. "

A couple of primers:
George Monbiot in 2016, "Neoliberalism — the ideology at the root of all our problems: Financial meltdown, environmental disaster and even the rise of Donald Trump — neoliberalism has played its part in them all. Why has the left failed to come up with an alternative?"
Stephen Metcalf in 2017, "Neoliberalism: the idea that swallowed the world: The word has become a rhetorical weapon, but it properly names the reigning ideology of our era — one that venerates the logic of the market and strips away the things that make us human."

"Melt the Crown: How the myth of the genius director has erased the careers of some very talented women, and why it's time for the 'auteur' to be tossed out entirely." Isn't it interesting how many "auteurs" lost their spark as directors as soon as they got rid of the wives who helped them make the films that made them famous?

WSWS has a tribute on their website to commemorate "100 years since the birth of Jean Brust", who became a socialist activist back in 1937 and is why our friend Steve gets to call himself a red-diaper baby.

This is one of the more fun ads I've seen in a while, for DirectTV Stream.

"Elvis Costello Plays Penny Lane for Sir Paul at the White House" is kinda sweet.

And this is just plain smashing: Night Music: Jools Holland & Doctor John as the "Boogie Woogie Twins" And for a real surprise, "Liberace Boogie Woogie"

The Everly Brothers, "Wake Up Little Susie"

22:41 GMT comment


Saturday, 21 August 2021

You're trying hard not to show it

Villa Belza Biarritz by Maria Vasilevich is from the Biarritz Holidays collection.

"Election 2020: Myths About (Liberal) US Media Still Strong...And Dangerous: It is an enduring belief that the vast majority of US media are 'liberal' or 'leftist.' This is a powerful myth, used by the political right to convince citizens that a secular, urban elite pushes a leftist agenda on the nation via television, newspapers and Internet. This notion wasn't invented by Trump. But Trump has, more than any other President, leveraged that pre-existing distrust and taken it to new depths. As we watch Trump openly fight democracy post-election, it is worth considering how this myth is perpetuated, even internationally." This article totally understates the case.

And nothing proves it like the pull-out from Afghanistan. Let's not forget that it was Trump, and not Biden, who made the deal to quit Afghanistan. Biden delayed somewhat but really had no choice, and somehow managed to officially start the retreat. He actually made a fairly decent speech (for an American Exceptionalist, it was actually way, way better than could be expected) in which he admitted that staying and fighting would not make things better and seemed to have made things worse. So, officially, at least, we are pulling out of Afghanistan.

But make no mistake, we lost this the moment we went in. As some of us pointed out at the time, we didn't even have a reason to be there in the first place, but even if we had, letting Bush, Cheney, and their gang of crazies do it was sheer insanity. It was perfectly clear what their values and priorities were. There is a way to get a positive outcome from the takeover of a country and we know that because we've done it before, but like the whole raft of weirdo neocons and neoliberals, they had a massive allergy to doing anything FDR did right. I'm sure a lot of ordinary people who had grown up knowing about the Marshall Plan that turned two very different enemy nations into thriving democratic allies must have assumed that, sure, since we know how to do this, that's what they'll do. But anyone who'd been paying attention to the careers of Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, and that whole crowd of loonies could see that this was not what they were going to do. This was all about money, from buying loyalty to stuffing their pockets. The last thing they wanted was democracy - in Afghanistan, or in the United States. Afghanis tried to form unions and the Randian weirdos the Bush administration sent in put a stop to that, and any other actions to form a civil society, fast. And then they gave us torture and Guantanamo and people started to suspect that maybe this wasn't what they'd hoped for.

I think my favorite tweet over the last week has been the person who pointed out that it had taken four presidents and billions of dollars to replace the Taliban with the Taliban. (I also like the tweets pointing out how Carter and Reagan pretty much created the Taliban in the name of anticommunism.)

None of which our "liberal" media will tell you, because they are busy completely erasing the entire history of what happened in Afghanistan to have a quick argument about whose fault it all is and, as Margaret Sullivan puts it, "The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame. Here's the predictable headline on Miranda Devine's column in the Murdoch-owned New York Post: 'Joe Biden's defeat in Afghanistan will echo for eternity.' She trashes Biden — 'the reverse Midas touch' in all things so far — and admiringly quotes former president Donald Trump on what a great job he would have done. (It does seem like he had his chances, though, doesn't it?) There it is: the loser and the forever, would-be winner."

Of course, this may have something to do with the fact that being willing to shore up American Exceptionalism and oligarchy is pretty much literally part of the job description for working in major America media. As Atrios said of these Asymmetries:

The Right gets a deferential hearing on every issue, no matter how out of touch it is (anti-vax, for example). Not just deferential, but coverage which implies it is the majority view, that Democrats should be on the defensive and conciliatory.

The Left can't even get that treatment when its views are, actually, the clear majority view (Forever war in Afghanistan is bad).

Any normal person hearing Biden's speech nodded and felt relieved that at least one nightmare was ending, at last. The polls showed overwhelming support from the public. But the Washington press corps all agreed with the Fox News view, weirdly contradictory as it was, that Biden should not be ending this disastrous failure of a war.

Not that I want to let Biden entirely off the hook, of course. Because unlike those of us who were screaming, "No, don't do this, it'll be a disaster!" Joe Biden was cheering on this stupid war 20 years ago. The "respectable" media did not defend her while she was excoriated mercilessly on Fox, and her colleagues on "our" side of the aisle did not have her back, but only one person in Congress proved not to be a coward on that day: Barbara Lee.

* * * * *

"Infrastructure Summer: Bipartisan Bill Boosts Corporate Giants: In broadband and other areas, the corporate dominance that has been an impediment to progress emerges unscathed. If Tuesday's passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act leads to even a significant portion of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda through budget reconciliation, it will herald a new age of government investment and intervention in the economy, and a reversal of decades of pullbacks in public spending. But in another sense, the IIJA—and potentially the companion reconciliation bill—also carries on a tradition from the Clinton and Obama years of sidestepping big fights with corporate interests. It is not enough for Democratic lawmakers to have relearned how to spend money if they also continue to shy away from breaking power. One of the clearest examples of this is how broadband is treated in the IIJA. On the surface, a $65 billion investment in broadband, with an emphasis on getting low-income and rural households connected and closing the digital divide, is an unalloyed positive. But how much of that money will actually go toward meeting these goals, and how much will funnel into the coffers of incumbent telecom companies that for decades have resisted spending much money on rural and low-income deployment?"

"Texas Democrats fail to show up to state legislature and file lawsuit against Republican governor over voting bill: Democratic lawmakers from Texas allege Governor Greg Abbott has infringed their constitutional rights in a new lawsuit. Texas Democrats have again failed to show up to the state Capitol as Republicans began their third attempt at passing new voting laws. It prolonged a monthslong standoff that escalated in July when 50 Democratic state lawmakers fled the state and hunkered down in Washington DC." But so many of the Republican delegation has been exposed to covid that they'll be in quarantine and still won't be able to make a quorum.

"The USPS awarded a $120 million contract to a company with financial ties to the postmaster general: The U.S. Postal Service has secured a $120 million, five-year deal with XPO logistics, a major logistics contractor with financial and personal ties to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, The Washington Post reports." Why hasn't Biden fired this guy already? Or is it pointless to ask why Biden seems content with yet another of Trump's actions?

"'Borderline illegal': Courtesy tows remain Philly's persistent parking nightmare: Drivers who get sucked into the bureaucratic vortex describe it as city-sanctioned auto theft, sometimes followed by punishing fines from the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Gary Isaacs returned home from a trip to California in January to discover his car missing from its Center City parking spot and two alarming letters in the mail. The Philadelphia Parking Authority, in a letter dated Dec. 22, informed Isaacs that it had towed and impounded his car. And a notice from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, dated Dec. 30, warned him that the car was scheduled to go on the auction block. 'YOU ARE HEREBY GIVEN NOTICE,' the court wrote, 'that the vehicle listed below will be sold at auction and your legal and equitable interest in that vehicle will be extinguished. ...' Isaacs was mystified. He'd last parked his 2005 BMW on Camac Street, within the area covered by his parking permit —not in a loading zone on Lombard Street, as the PPA was contending in its letter. The next day, he called the parking authority, hoping to clear up the misunderstanding. A woman there said his car had apparently been 'courtesy towed' from Camac to Lombard because while he was gone, his original parking space had been declared a temporary no-parking zone, reasons unknown. 'I had never heard of a 'courtesy tow,'' said Isaacs, 61, who runs a small nonprofit that fights homelessness. 'It sounds like a generous thing to do. Except they towed it to a place where it was illegal to park. And then they ticketed it, and impounded it, and put it up for auction.'"

"The Tragic Case of the Wrong Thomas James: Two men with the same name. A murder, a manhunt, and a chilling question: Did a Florida court hand down a life sentence because of a mistaken identity? [...] 'Thomas James,' the judge read aloud. James stood. But before the judge could detail the charges, the court clerk sitting below the bench reached into a large accordion folder and pulled out a document. 'Your honor,' he recalled the clerk saying, 'there's a warrant out for him for first-degree murder.' James raised his eyebrows. This was a mistake; he hadn't murdered anybody. He assumed his file had gotten mixed up with that of one of the other guys on the docket. The warrant spelled out the particulars: Seven months earlier, near Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, a robbery had gone bad and a man was killed. Hearing all this, James was stunned but not yet scared. They can't be talking about me, he thought. He lived 15 miles from Coconut Grove and had been there only once or twice in his life, and that was years ago. None of this made sense to him. But a mistake this egregious would surely get straightened out quickly." But that never happened, and the wrong Thomas James has been incarcerated since 1990.

Doctorow, "Utilities governed like empires: Tech companies' "mission statements" are easy to dismiss as BS, but they're deadly serious and surprisingly successful in their aspirations to dominate the digital world. That's how we've ended up in a situation where a single company might control your email archives, family photos, business's cloud drives, home security system, mobile devices and media collections. But these companies don't act like they've deliberately coiled their tendrils around every aspect of your digital life; they act like you're just a customer whom they can kick off the platform the way a bartender would 86 you after last call."

Also Doctorow, "Elite debt hits record heights [...] When you are very rich, you can borrow money at interest rates that are next to zero; you can also take your income in stock, rather than cash. Stock is only taxed when you sell it, and then at the lower capital gains rate, because the IRS rewards gambling and punishes work. Put those two facts together, and you've got wealthy people who effectively never "earn" any taxable income — instead, they stake their assets as collateral on tax-free loans at sub-1% interest. The Propublica stories even reveal wealthy people illegally taking deductions on the loan interest, which the IRS doesn't seem to punish. Why would they? The rich are different from you and me. We pay tax. They don't."

And Doctorow: "End of the line for Reaganomics [...] Prior to Reagan, US antitrust enforcers relied upon a theory of "harmful dominance," cracking down on monopolies when their scale allowed them to hurt workers, or the environment, or suppliers. Harmful dominance is the theory that unaccountable power is dangerous — that giving corporate leaders control over the market lets them pervert the political process and inflict harms on the rest of us in ways that are hard to detect and even harder to prevent. That principle created a policy that was designed to keep companies weaker than the democratically accountable state, rather than allowing them to grow so large that the could capture their regulators and start to write their own regulations. Reagan nuked "harmful dominance," replacing it with radical theories from one of Nixon's top crooks, Robert Bork, whose book THE ANTITRUST PARADOX advances a conspiracy theory about US antitrust — that the framers of these laws never meant to protect us from monopoly at all."

"The granddaughter of anti-LGBT+ crusader Anita Bryant, who described gay people as 'human garbage', is marrying another woman: Bryant, 81, is a former celebrity singer and orange juice spokesperson, who in the 1970s turned her attention to anti-gay activism, ending her career in the entertainment industry. [...] Her granddaughter has now spoken out about her struggle over whether to invite her grandmother to her same-sex wedding."

Clay Risen's obit for Glen Ford in the NYT without the paywall, with a very early photo, "Glen Ford, Black Journalist Who Lashed the Mainstream, Dies at 71."

Good thread from Ron Knox about how monopolies rob us: "1. Hello. For 40 years, our economic regulators told us big corporations were not necessarily bad, and corporate industrial power was actually good for regular folks. We've known that was wrong. Regular folks aren't better off. But now we have data to back it up. A thread. 2. The data shows that, since the 1950s, the amount of wealth dominant companies take from shoppers, workers and the rest of us has grown by two orders of magnitude. That money leaves our wallets and our paychecks and ends up in the bank accounts of executives and shareholders. 3. Again, we've known this, but until now it wasn't clear the extent to which this has happened, and the kinds of companies and industry structures that are responsible for it. As always, the history is important here." Go read the rest.

"If the BBC is politically neutral, how does it explain Andrew Neil? He symbolises the rightwing domination of our media. Yet a politics presenter as aligned to the left would not be tolerated. Imagine this. The BBC appoints a prominent radical leftist, a lifelong Bennite, the chairman of the publisher of a prominent leftwing publication no less, as its flagship political presenter and interviewer. This person has made speeches in homage of Karl Marx calling for the establishment of full-blooded socialism in Britain, including a massive increase in public ownership, hiking taxes on the rich to fund a huge public investment programme, and reversing anti-union laws. They appear on our 'impartial' Auntie Beeb wearing a tie emblazoned with the logo of a hardline leftist thinktank. Their BBC editor is a former Labour staffer who moves to become Jeremy Corbyn's communications chief. They use their Twitter feed — where they have amassed hundreds of thousands of followers thanks to a platform handed to them by the BBC — to promote radical leftist causes. This would never happen. It is unthinkable, in fact. If the BBC establishment somehow entered this parallel universe, the British press would be on the brink of insurrection. And yet, the strange case of Andrew Neil, the ultra-Thatcherite former Sunday Times editor who is the BBC's flagship political presenter, is an instructive example about how our media works."

"It's No 'Mistake' That Bill Gates Was Palling Around With Jeffrey Epstein: In a new interview, Bill Gates apologized for his ties with Jeffrey Epstein even as he downplayed their relationship. That's self-serving nonsense: their friendship was a grotesque demonstration of what happens when you give a small group of people unfathomable wealth and power. Bill Gates's long-overdue fall from grace has been a rare silver lining in an otherwise ghastly year. But he doesn't seem to be enjoying it as much as the rest of us. Deservedly dogged by bad press for his stalwart defense of pharmaceutical profits over COVID-19 patients in poor countries, sexual harassment of Microsoft employees, and his apparently extensive ties to multimillionaire and sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein, Gates tried for some damage control in an interview last week with CNN's Anderson Cooper. [...] But the pervasiveness of Gates funding doesn't justify its angelic sheen: it means that a slice of Bill's ill-gotten goods has been reallocated to address the misery that he and his ruling-class allies played no small part in creating. The 'diseases of poverty' the foundation combats are called that for a reason — they persist because global capitalism churns out a handful of gazillionaires while dooming millions a year to die of conditions that are curable or manageable using resources controlled by for-profit companies. The medicines Gates is ostensibly magnanimous enough to dispatch to desperate places overseas are unattainably expensive, thanks to an international intellectual property regime that has arguably benefited Bill Gates more than any other human being on Earth." And which Bill Gates fought hard to impose on us.

"The Democrats' new cult of the popular: Why 'talk about popular issues' is not the magic answer the party is looking for: How should the Democratic Party position itself to win? One option embraced by a faction of the party is to become "shorpilled," referring to the contrarian data guru David Shor. He advocates a position that writer Aaron Freedman intelligibly dubbed "survey liberalism," which Shor has explained this way: "You should put your money in cheap media markets in close states close to the election, and you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular issues." Concretely, that means placating the racism of white voters, avoiding slogans like "defund the police," being cautious on immigration reform, heavily means-testing welfare programs, and so on —basically the suite of policies moderate Democrats already support —because that's what polls say most voters like. Other prominent believers in this doctrine include writer Matt Yglesias, former President Barack Obama, and reportedly members of the Biden White House. I am skeptical. [...] This isn't just about individuals, either. Consider Gallup, one of the oldest and most-reputable polling firms on earth. For years now it has been conducting a set of polls on Social Security that are wildly biased and ideological —smearing the program, implying it will disappear soon, and asking how benefits should be cut rather than if they should be cut at all. One poll has this prompt: "Next, I'm going to read a list of problems facing the country .. How much do you personally worry about the Social Security system?" Another: "Which of these statements do you think best describes the Social Security system —it is in a state of crisis, it has major problems, it has minor problems or it does not have any problems?" Another: "How long do you think it will be until the costs of the Medicare and Social Security programs create a crisis for the federal government[?]" [...] This is because of a well-funded, decades-long neoliberal propaganda campaign to cut the program, explained well in an old Slate article by Yglesias, of all people. "Important People absolutely despise Social Security," he wrote, because "Taxing working people to hand out free money so people don't need to work is antithetical to the spirit of capitalism." Eventually the Gallup pollsters internalized the notion that Social Security is a problem as neutral and non-ideological, and started writing polls reflecting that thinking. (More welfare-friendly polls have naturally found much more positive results for Social Security.) A similar abuse of polls and the rhetoric of political "realism" was a key part of the strategy neoliberals used to take control of the Democratic Party in the 1970s and 1980s. When George McGovern got smashed by Nixon in 1972, they declared that the New Deal was dead, and Democrats needed to pivot to the right to win. This argument was facially dubious —every Democratic presidential candidate who lost between 1980 and 1988 was some kind of neoliberal, yet somehow their ideas were not blamed for the loss —but when Bill Clinton finally won, they closed the rhetorical circuit. From that day forward the Democratic leadership has hectored its own base that leftist ideas are always unpopular and doomed (so as to keep them off the policy agenda) and that the most important characteristic by far in a politician is their ability to get elected. [...] The policies Democrats run on will face a coordinated attack from extremely loud and well-funded liars, no matter what they are."

Here's a handy little video you can pass along the next time someone tries to tell you that the government can't do anything: "Capitalism Didn't Make the iPhone, You iMbecile."

It seems like pre-history, now, but Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before she was Prime Minister, once sounded the alarm on climate change. But then she stopped and built a world where heeding those warnings became impossible.

Rude Bitch is now online. So I read it, and honestly, I can't believe we ever wrote that stuff. Maybe I shouldn't even post the link.

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

04:20 GMT comment


Saturday, 07 August 2021

Give me some space so I can close my eyes

Milky Way rising over Tres Picos State Park, Brazil

"The Eviction Crisis Is a Rental Assistance Crisis: A law designed not to work has put millions at risk of losing their homes. The day before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium expired and millions of renters were faced with the sobering possibility of being tossed out of their homes, President Joe Biden issued a statement that would be darkly comic if it weren't so tragic. 'I call on all state and local governments to take all possible steps to immediately disburse' rental assistance funds, Biden declared, referring to the $46.5 billion made available in two coronavirus relief packages. 'There can be no excuse for any state or locality not accelerating funds to landlords and tenants that have been hurt during this pandemic.' In the previous five months in which that rental assistance has been available—we have statistics going back to February, when state and local governments began receiving funding, through the end of June—about $3.25 billion has been delivered to tenants and landlords. Biden was calling for 13 times that to be delivered in one day. It was like a souped-up version of the movie Brewster's Millions, where Richard Pryor has to spend $30 million in 30 days to get a larger inheritance. And it begs the question: if state and local governments had the capacity to get rental relief out with that kind of speed, why wouldn't they have done it from the beginning? [...] This has been a constant theme for several months. There have been countless articles about it. Tenants have been screaming about waiting for rental assistance that has never come. It should not have suddenly dawned on either the White House or Congress that there was a deep problem with rental assistance that would necessitate extending the moratorium to prevent eligible tenants who couldn't access relief from being evicted. In fact, at the time of passing the law it should have dawned on any sentient policymaker that delegating rental assistance to the states, and requiring them to meet the various demands and veto points put into the law, were a recipe for disaster."

"'We Can't Reach Him': Joe Manchin Is Ghosting The West Virginia Union Workers Whose Jobs His Daughter Helped Outsource: She got a $30.8 million golden parachute in a corporate merger. Now, they're being laid off and the medicines they produced are set to be manufactured overseas. Will anyone step up to save their jobs, and protect America's drug supply? On July 31, one of America's largest pharmaceutical-manufacturing plants is scheduled to shut its doors. Set on 22 acres in Morgantown, West Virginia, the plant, built in 1965 by the once-storied American generic-drug company Mylan Laboratories, has made 61 drug products, including a substantial portion of the world's supply of levothyroxine, a critical thyroid medicine. Its 1,431 highly trained workers—analytical chemists, industrial engineers, and senior janitors among them—are represented by the steelworkers union. All are slated to be laid off by month's end. The Biden administration has a stated goal of increasing domestic production of pharmaceuticals, and the Morgantown plant is one of a dwindling number of facilities on home soil that produce vital and affordable medicine for the U.S. market."

"Lessons From The Nina Turner Race? I admit, I don't know much about Shontel Brown. She was never the point; Nina was. The Israel lobby got another scalp of another Black progressive daring to challenge it. A little history... In 2002, Earl Hilliard, the first Black person to have served Alabama in Congress since Reconstruction, was getting close to a decade of seniority. The year before, Hilliard voted against a bill funding increases in military support to Israel and opposing criminalization of Palestinians. He was defeated by a shameless, AIPAC-financed political hack and careerist, Artur Davis, a viciously homophobic Blue Dog who voted against Obamacare, switched to the GOP, then back to the Democratic Party again to run, unsuccessfully, for office again and then back to the GOP. Davis was followed by another obedient, conservative Democrat, New Dem Terri Sewell. In 1992, the same year Hilliard had been elected to Congress, Cynthia McKinney became the first-ever Black woman to represent Georgia in the House. In 2002, AIPAC got her too and replaced her with another pointless hack, Denise Majette, who was heavily supported by white Republicans in the black majority district. McKinney ran and won again two years later. In 2006 she was forced into a runoff with DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson, who beat her and isn't a bad member the way Artur Davis and Terri Sewell have been. Still, Israel was rid of a very sharp thorn in its side."

"In the Race Against Nina Turner, GOP Donors Fund Shontel Brown: With one week left in the Ohio primary, Republican donors have picked their Democrat — and the pro-Israel PAC supporting her."

"Nina Turner's Loss Is Oligarchy's Gain [...] Scarcely mentioned in media coverage of this race is that Ohio has an 'open primary,' and Republicans received public encouragement to cross over and vote in the Democratic primary. We may never know how many GOP voters took the emphatic advice from the likes of right-winger William Kristol and voted for Brown to help beat Turner. 'Reminder: Tuesday's Democratic primary is effectively the general election, and all registered voters can vote in the Democratic primary,' Kristol tweeted on July 29. 'Just request a Democratic ballot.' After sending out a similar tweet on Sunday, he got more explicit via Twitter at dawn on Election Day: 'To Akron, Beachwood, Cleveland, Shaker Heights, etc.: Today's OH-11 primary is in effect the general election. The choice is a radical leftist or a Biden Democrat, @ShontelMBrown. Any registered voter -- including independents & Republicans -- can request a Democratic primary ballot.'"

"Nina Turner Lost to the Redbox: How Shontel Brown used questionably legal campaign finance tactics to take a House seat As recently as June, the special election to replace Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge in Ohio's 11th Congressional District looked like a non-event. According to the only available polling, Nina Turner, a well-known progressive running a fairly standard Democratic campaign, led the next closest challenger, moderate city councilmember Shontel Brown, by a 50 to 15 margin. In an exceedingly low turnout primary for a deep-blue seat that went for Biden in 2020 by 60 points, the broader outcome was hardly up for grabs. But help was on the way. A couple months prior, Brown posted "redbox" messaging on her website, a section full of negative talking points about Turner enclosed in bright red, just in case any 'independent' super PAC felt so inclined to spend lavishly on attack ads but was unsure of how best to craft the messaging. ('Redboxing' is a term used by campaign operatives, describing the method by which candidates and political parties publicly share messaging strategy with political action committees, despite being barred from coordinating directly.) To send home the appeal, Brown featured quotes from Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), a famed anti-progressive super PAC, atop her endorsements section, ahead of endorsers with actual name recognition like Hillary Clinton. As The Intercept reported at the time, they made for the 'least subtle messages sent to a super PAC since the outside money groups were legalized' a decade ago."

"The Lines of Connection: States make millions off phone-call fees from incarcerated people, but the cost can be even higher for their families." But Connecticut just became the first state to make inmate's phone calls free. That's a big deal.

"Missouri Attorney General's Office pushes to keep innocent people in prison [...] The attorney general's office has opposed calls for relief in nearly every wrongful conviction case that came before it and has been vacated since 2000, according to an Injustice Watch review of court records and a national database of exonerations. That includes 27 cases in which the office fought to uphold convictions for prisoners who were eventually exonerated. In roughly half of those cases, the office continued arguing that the original guilty verdict should stand even after a judge vacated the conviction. (The office, however, played no role in at least 13 exonerations during that time period.) This year alone, the convictions of three men were vacated after lengthy legal battles with Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office. [...] The office's decades-long pattern of stymieing exonerations has left the wrongfully convicted languishing in prison for years. And its stance on exonerations has persisted as elected attorneys general have come and gone, regardless of political affiliation."

"The Government Says These Missouri Men Are Innocent. It Won't Release Them From Prison: Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson are still paying for crimes that government officials say they did not commit. Kevin Strickland, Christopher Dunn, and Lamar Johnson all have something in common: they all have spent decades in the Missouri prison system, they all maintain their innocence, and the cases that led to their convictions have all fallen apart. Yet the men remain behind bars with no release in sight despite various government actors suggesting they should have their verdicts overturned. [...] But Hickle's finding is not enough to set Dunn free, thanks to a Missouri Supreme Court precedent that holds such 'freestanding' claims of innocence be limited to prisoners on death row. In other words, had Dunn been sentenced to die for the 1990 crime, he would be in a more advantageous position today. Instead, he received life without parole and thus has no recourse. 'To sit there and watch the judge's reaction to everything the witnesses said, I just knew there was a chance I was going to walk out of there,' Dunn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April. 'To hear him say I was innocent, but yet he can't free me because I'm not a death row inmate, I didn't understand.' Johnson and Strickland's cases are even more absurd, in that prosecutors agree they are innocent. 'My job is to apologize' to Strickland, said Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker at a press conference in May. 'It is important to recognize when the system has made wrongs—and what we did in this case was wrong. So, to Mr. Strickland, I am profoundly sorry.'"

"Biden Imposes Sanctions on Cuba, Says 'There Will Be More': The Biden administration imposed fresh sanctions against Cuba on Friday, targeting the country's police force and its leadership. The measures are the second round of sanctions since anti-government protests were held in Cuba earlier in July. Considering Cuba is under a decades-old US trade embargo, sanctions against the countries police force will likely have virtually no impact. When announcing the sanctions, President Biden was asked if there will be more to come. 'There will be more, unless there's some drastic change in Cuba, which I don't anticipate,' he said. Biden said the US is 'expanding our assistance to political prisoners and dissidents' in Cuba. The Biden administration is also exploring options for ways to provide people in Cuba with internet access. It's not clear how this plan would work, as the Cuban government would be against the plan since the US has a history of using social media to stir unrest in the country. One thing Biden has not done is ease the trade embargo on Cuba or restrictions on remittances to the country, which would make it easier for Cuban Americans to send money to their families. Western Union shut down its money-sending service to Cuba last year due to sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration."

"The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests: The U.S. government can cause economic misery for the Cuban people, but it cannot, it appears, convince them to overthrow their government. AVANA — Cuba was rocked by a series of anti-government street protests earlier this week. The U.S. establishment immediately hailed the events, putting its full weight behind the protestors. Yet documents suggest that Washington might be more involved in the events than it cares to publicly divulge. As many have reported, the protests, which started on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the west of the island, were led and vocally supported by artists and musicians, particularly from its vibrant hip-hop scene. 'For those new to the issue of Cuba, the protests we are witnessing were started by artists, not politicians. This song 'Patria y Vida' powerfully explains how young Cubans feel. And its release was so impactful, you will go to jail if caught playing it in Cuba,' said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing a track by rapper Yotuel. Both NPR and The New York Times published in-depth features about the song and how it was galvanizing the movement. 'The Hip-Hop Song That's Driving Cuba's Unprecedented Protests,' ran NPR's headline. Yotuel himself led a sympathy demonstration in Miami. But what these accounts did not mention was the remarkable extent to which Cuban rappers like Yotuel have been recruited by the American government in order to sow discontent in the Caribbean nation. The latest grant publications of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization established by the Reagan administration as a front group for the CIA — show that Washington is trying to infiltrate the Cuban arts scene in order to bring about regime change. 'A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,' NED co-founder Allen Weinstein once told The Washington Post. [...] As Professor Aviva Chomsky of Salem State University, author of A History of the Cuban Revolution, told MintPress: 'Cuba's current economic situation is pretty dire (as is, I should point out, almost all of the Third World's). The U.S. embargo (or, as Cubans call it, blockade) has been yet another obstacle (on top of the obstacles faced by all poor countries) in Cuba's fight against COVID-19. The collapse of tourism has been devastating to Cuba's economy — again, as it has been in pretty much all tourism-heavy places.' However, Chomsky also noted that it could be a mistake to label all the protestors as yearning for free-market shock therapy. 'It's interesting to note that many of the protesters are actually protesting Cuba's capitalist reforms, rather than socialism. 'They have money to build hotels but we have no money for food, we are starving,' said one protester. That's capitalism in a nutshell!' Chomsky said."

"The Texas Election Bill Contains a New Obstacle to Voting That Almost No One Is Talking About: Buried in the GOP proposal is a requirement that could—whether by intention or just sloppy legislative work—disenfranchise thousands of voters. There's a problem buried inside Texas's latest election bill, and it's not one of the headline-grabbing restrictions that have torn the Legislature apart during the special session. Nonetheless, it could disenfranchise a significant number of the state's voters. Amid all the fighting, most lawmakers have apparently overlooked a provision that would force counties to automatically reject some mail-in ballot applications. Here's why: The Republican-authored legislation would require voters to submit either their driver's license number or a partial Social Security number when applying to vote by mail. That number would then be cross-checked with the state's voter-registration database. Most applicants would be fine, because almost 90 percent of all registered Texas voters have both their Social Security number and driver's license number in the database. However, 1.9 million voters—about 11 percent of the total—have only one of the two numbers on file with the state." And the trouble is, they may not remember which.

"Testing the Georgia Voter ID Law: Results of Attempt to Obtain Voter ID Cards from a GA Registrar: Starting on June 12th, Hope Springs from Field PAC began canvassing in the Black Belt of Georgia, repeating our steps in the Georgia Senate Runoff, with a special emphasis on helping voters without the newly required photo IDs to obtain them. When investigating the kinds of IDs that a voter could use, our intrepid organizers from Albany State saw this, 'An ID card can be issued at any county registrar's office.' For voters without a photo ID, this seemed like an obvious place to go get one. Driver Services offices were notoriously crowded, everyone knows stories of rude or even offensive employees, and no one thought it a good idea to put voters who didn't already have that identification through that. In fact, these kids believed that the biggest reason people in the African-American community wouldn't have the proper ID was the embarrassment factor. Paperwork is also an issue, we've learned as we have started finding voters who need to obtain ID. The offer of a free photo ID that would qualify voters to vote (in person or to request an absentee ballot) is used prominently to defend this new legislation in court. It's not an issue, Republicans say, because anyone can get the required ID at their local county registrar's office. So we asked the Dougherty County Registrar's Office if they were prepared to issue the promised voter cards (see above). And they weren't — but the Secretary of State's office had promised them (the Registrar's Office) that they would have the means to be able to. A month out, we agreed with that office on a date where they said they would be prepared to issue them. We also asked how many voters on their rolls didn't register with a Driver's License, and the response was 'a lot, there are a considerable number.' They had been thinking about it, too. And they made sure that the Georgia Secretary of State, which was supposed to pay for it, knew that they would be getting voters who were going to request Voter ID Cards. For which they were supposed to provide the funding, because it wasn't like this county government agency, in a poor county, had the means to get the equipment and stock to fulfill this state government mandate. On Thursday, 214 Dougherty County Voters came out to request the free Voter ID card. How do we know that? Because the Registrar's Office did a count in order to pass that along to the Georgia Secretary of State. They had enough stock to make 24. We had 38 voters (first) in line who did not have the necessary picture ID, more than the stock the Registrar's office had to make them. We had a feeling, before we even knocked on our first door this summer that the state would not provide enough stock for every voter in Dougherty who needed one of these free cards to get one. When a registrar's employee called the Secretary of State's office to inform them that they had run out of stock, they were told to 'send them to the Driver's Services office. Which was precisely the point. Who would knowingly want to wait in *that* line? But we had proved that the Georgia legislature was trying to suppress poor African-Americans, doing everything they can to keep them from voting. We had the proof.

REST IN POWER: "Glen Ford, Veteran Journalist And Founder Of Black Agenda Report, Dies At 71: Glen Ford, a veteran broadcast, print and digital journalist who hosted the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on TV before going on to found the Black Agenda Report website, has died, according to reports. He was 71 years old. Ford's cause of death was not immediately reported. Several sources announced his death late Wednesday morning, including Margaret Kimberley, an editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report, the weekly news magazine that offers commentary and analysis from a Black perspective which Ford launched and served as its executive editor. To call Ford a career journalist is a vast understatement. According to his bio on the Black Agenda Report website, Ford was reporting the news live on the radio as early as 11-years-old and went on to enjoy a career in journalism for more than 40 years that included working as a Washington bureau chief as well as a correspondent covering the White House, Capitol Hill and State Department. After getting his start in news radio in Augusta, Georgia, Ford honed his skills at other local news stations and eventually created the 'Black World Report,' a syndicated half-hour weekly news magazine that paved the way for the Black Agenda Report to be founded. Years later, in 1977, Ford helped launch, produce and host 'America's Black Forum,' the first nationally syndicated Black news interview program on commercial television." I'm really proud that I got him as a guest on Virtually Speaking back in the day, although I'm very unhappy to see that the entire archive for the show is now gone so I can't post the link. Damn. (Here's a video of Chris Hedges' interview of Glen a few years ago.)

Unsurprisingly, the front page at Black Agenda Report looks, appropriately, like this (only with lots of pictures):
Ajamu Baraka, BAR editor "Glen Ford and the Black Radical Critical Tradition"
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, BAR editor and columnist, "Glen Ford: Revolutionary, Friend, Leader, Lover of Black People"
Peter James Hudson and Jemima Pierre, "Glen Ford: In Memoriam"
BAR Poet-in-Residence Raymond Nat Turner, "...For Brother Glen"
Nellie Bailey, "Glen Ford, Presente!"
Nia Ford, "Power to the people!"
Pascal Robert, "Glen Ford and the Need for Black Radical Analysis"
And there's more.

"The Political Economy of Racial Inequality: The material causes of racial inequality can be overcome only with massive economic distribution. [...] In recent years, some liberals and even a stratum of leftists have come to embrace metaphors that serve to naturalize racism. When racism is described as our nation's 'original sin' or 'part of our DNA,' ideological or cultural attachments take on a life of their own. If racism is so ingrained, there's nothing much we can do about it. Such constructs have become especially appealing in recent years because they allow us to sidestep the material causes of racial inequality, which can be overcome only with massive economic redistribution. [...] Since 2016, constructs like systemic racism and diversity have drawn attention to racial injustice, but they have also been deployed against egalitarian political projects that would benefit poor and working-class Americans, who are disproportionately black and brown. In the 2016 Democratic primary campaign, for example, Hillary Clinton presented herself as the anti-racist candidate while attacking Bernie Sanders's calls for banking regulation, tuition-free higher education, and other redistributive policies. Clinton said she wanted 'white people to recognize that there is systemic racism,' but she failed to adequately address her complicity in the 1994 crime bill or the subprime mortgage crisis, both of which hurt black people worse than whites. A similar pattern emerged following the brutal murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. Multinational corporations embraced concepts like intersectionality and structural racism, which provided executives like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon with a way to treat racial disparities as if they stemmed from fixed identities instead of capitalist processes."

"The Destructive Hidden Costs Of Child Care: Child care in America is criminally overpriced and out of reach for too many of us. Not only is it driving poverty upward and slashing social mobility, it breaks up families and discourages younger Americans from starting new families."

"The Time Tax: Why is so much American bureaucracy left to average citizens? Not long ago, a New York City data analyst who had been laid off shortly after the pandemic hit told me she had filed for unemployment-insurance payments and then spent the next six months calling, emailing, and using social media to try to figure out why the state's Labor Department would not send her the money she was owed. [...] This time tax is a public-policy cancer, mediating every American's relationship with the government and wasting countless precious hours of people's time. [...] Taken as a whole, the time tax is regressive. Programs for the wealthy tend to be easy, automatic, and guaranteed. You do not need to prostrate yourself before a caseworker to get the benefits of a 529 college-savings plan. You do not need to urinate in a cup to get a tax write-off for your home, boat, or plane. You do not need to find a former partner to get a child-support determination as a prerequisite for profiting from a 401(k). The difference is so significant that, as shown by the Cornell political scientist Suzanne Mettler, many high-income people, unlike poor folks, never even realize they are benefiting from government programs. [...] How did the world's wealthiest, most productive, and most powerful country end up with not just an ungenerous system of social policy but a convoluted, punitive, and technologically inept one? One that hurts the people it purports to help? On purpose and by design is the answer. It is one legacy of the half-millennium-old custom of separating the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor."

"Who Actually Gets to Create Black Pop Culture? A closer look at the economics of Black pop culture reveals that most Black creators (outside music) come from middle-to-upper middle class backgrounds, while the Black poor are written about but rarely get the chance to speak for themselves. [...] A decade of unprecedented interest in Black arts and letters has now passed—the greater portion of it bought with footage of people possessing Floyd's particulars lying dead on the tar—and still you cannot walk into a bookstore to find a shelf named for Black authors raised in poverty. That category of experience remains absent amidst the dozens of shelves now labeled for Black authors of every other identity and intersection. I accept that Floyd's final suffering becomes a political currency for the many, but I struggle with the fact that it purchases opportunities for the Black middle- and upper- classes, without securing a pen or a publisher for the children of Cuney Homes, without an expectation that it should, and without condemnation that it doesn't. Those born into better conditions owe it to the injured to at least recognize that participation in this wave of Black creativity, which is intended as recompense for the dead, requires that you first be employed by it—you do not gain a share of the payout otherwise."

"Larry Summers Holds Positions With Numerous Financial Bottom-Feeders: The online, often predatory lending companies benefit from lower-income Americans needing emergency cash. That aligns with Summers's concern trolling about an 'overheated' economy. Larry Summers has spent the Biden presidency in a state of perpetual concern. He is convinced that the trillions in pandemic relief, with perhaps more fiscal spending on infrastructure to come, will overheat the economy, leaving policymakers unable to contain runaway inflation without triggering a deep recession. In March, the former Treasury secretary described the state of affairs as 'the least responsible macroeconomic policy we've had in the last 40 years.' [...] But who exactly is Summers concerned about? The ordinary laborer paying more for a bucket of chicken wings while possibly making more in wages, or the people who have preoccupied Summers for virtually his entire career: bankers and financiers? The answer may be found in his client list. Summers has been diligently laundering his reputation on behalf of 'fintech' lenders, real estate startups, and Bitcoin plays, including several businesses that would benefit from an economy that values lower inflation over full employment."

This is rather astonishing, in that Bobo Brooks himself is admitting he got it totally wrong: "How The Bobos Broke America: The creative class was supposed to foster progressive values and economic growth. Instead we got resentment, alienation, and endless political dysfunction. [...] Third, we've come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class. We've pulled these parties further left on cultural issues (prizing cosmopolitanism and questions of identity) while watering down or reversing traditional Democratic positions on trade and unions. As creative-class people enter left-leaning parties, working-class people tend to leave. Around 1990, nearly a third of Labour members of the British Parliament were from working-class backgrounds; from 2010 to 2015, the proportion wasn't even one in 10. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the 50 most-educated counties in America by an average of 26 points—while losing the 50 least-educated counties by an average of 31 points. These partisan differences overlay economic differences. In 2020, Joe Biden won just 500 or so counties—but together they account for 71 percent of American economic activity, according to the Brookings Institution. Donald Trump won more than 2,500 counties that together generate only 29 percent of that activity. An analysis by Brookings and The Wall Street Journal found that just 13 years ago, Democratic and Republican areas were at near parity on prosperity and income measures. Now they are divergent and getting more so. If Republicans and Democrats talk as though they are living in different realities, it's because they are. The creative class has converted cultural attainment into economic privilege and vice versa. [...] I wrote Bobos in Paradise in the late Clinton era. The end of history had allegedly arrived; the American model had been vindicated by the resolution of the Cold War. Somehow, we imagined, our class would be different from all the other elites in world history. In fact, we have many of the same vices as those who came before us."

"Black Fragility As Black Strength? Try These Books Instead. The next entry in the KenDiAngelonian universe is out. But why not branch out?" I absolutely agree with him about DiAngelo and Coates, on the one hand, and Reed on the other, but I'm utterly baffled by what would make him describe Sowell as he did and I wish he'd expanded on it.

"Organizing vs Mobilizing — focusing your campaign to win" — Most people don't get the difference between mobilizing and organizing, and many seem to have it backwards. I wish more people would think about that.

John Lennon said he admired this track so much that he openly swiped the riff in homage to Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step".

04:33 GMT comment


Tuesday, 27 July 2021

The world keeps revolving

"Sweet Peas From My Garden", photograph by Hazel Ashworth.

"On the Political Marriage of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders: Progressives cannot and should not be satisfied with the policies of the Biden presidency. Yet breakthrough achievements should not be denied. So far, most of the Biden presidency has been predictable. Its foreign policy includes bloated Pentagon spending and timeworn declarations that the United States should again "lead the world" and "sit at the head of the table." Many corporate influence peddlers have settled into jobs in upper reaches of the executive branch. The new administration has taken only baby steps toward student debt relief or progressive taxation. On health care, the White House keeps protecting the interests of insurance companies while rebuffing public opinion that favors Medicare for All. And yet—Joe Biden is no longer on the narrow corporate road that he traveled during five decades in politics. President Biden's recent moves to curtail monopolies have stunned many observers who—extrapolating from his 36-year record in the Senate—logically assumed he would do little to challenge corporate power. Overall, Biden has moved leftward on economic policies, while Sen. Bernie Sanders—who says that "the Biden of today is not what I or others would have expected" decades ago—has gained major clout that extends into the Oval Office." But how well this executive order works still depends on Biden filling those jobs that will carry out the order. And some of those slots are still mysteriously empty after six months. So it's going to take more than just cheering. Cory Doctorow talks about this here, and it's well worth listening to.

Alterman, "Altercation: Israel Fumes at Ice Cream Company: Ben & Jerry's decision to stop selling in the West Bank exposes the hypocrisy of Israel's right-wing defenders. [...] There is therefore an unholy alliance between Israel's right-wing supporters who wish to see Israel continue what numerous human rights groups (both inside Israel and globally) have named apartheid, and those BDS-supporting groups that wish Israel would just somehow disappear and be replaced by a peace-loving, Kumbaya-singing 'Free Palestine From the River to the Sea.' Ben & Jerry's targeted boycott has therefore exposed the hypocrisy of so many who profess to support a two-state solution where Israel and some future Palestinian mini-state can live side by side. The boycott supports this vision, by insisting on the maintenance—if only psychologically—of a line of separation between Israel and its illegal, anti-democratic, and morally destructive military occupation of the population it has consistently sought to displace. This is exactly what is undermined by statements like that of Marc Stern, chief legal officer for the American Jewish Committee, who argues that 'selective boycotts are just as illegal as total boycotts.'" Peter Beinart also has a few words about "Israel's Lunatic Response to Ben and Jerry's".

"Media Play Up Protests, Play Down Effect of US Sanctions in Cuba" — They even had to use pictures of pro-goverment crowds and pretend they were anti-government. Ironically, the media has tried to give the impression that the protests are against "communism". Which is odd, since one of Cuba's current problems is that it decided to open up to more capitalism and then the one-two punch of Trump increasing restrictions on Cuba and then Covid put a big hole in that. (Anti-Cuba twitterbots insist that it's an oppressive government because there is a photo of a protester being arrested. I have no doubt that Cuba's government has repressive elements, but a lot of this weird anti-Cuban propaganda looks like it's aimed at people who don't know what's going on in the United States. One bot posted four photos of alleged poverty in Cuba which looked like they could have been taken in many parts of the US — although a number of comments pointed out that some of those photos came from an article about the Dominican Republic. This has been going on for days.)

"Mystery Group Promoting Infrastructure Privatization Boosted By Toll Road Lobbyists: Let's Build Infrastructure is preparing a six-figure TV ad buy to push the bipartisan infrastructure deal.LET'S BUILD INFRASTRUCTURE is preparing to launch formally in Washington, D.C., next week with a six-figure advertising blitz focused on pressing lawmakers to use privatization, rather than taxation, to pay for the infrastructure proposals debated in Congress. The organization touts public-private partnerships and a process known as 'asset recycling,' in which the government finances new construction and repairs by selling or leasing roads, bridges, water utilities, parking lots, and other infrastructure assets to private contractors instead of paying for them with public funding. The private operators in turn recoup costs by adding tolls or increasing user fees, such as water bills or parking fees." Yeah, thieves, in other words.

"The Big Law Cartel: How Antitrust Lawyers Help Their Clients Break the Law: Big law is a corrupting influence on our policymakers. The new FTC is dusting off an old legal tool to fight back. [...] Echoing Baer, Vodova added that the pipeline deal was 'representative of the type of transaction that should not make it out of the boardroom.' Then she cryptically offered a threat to aggressive antitrust lawyers who knew this merger shouldn't have been proposed, noting that the FTC 'will be actively exploring its options on how to curtail this type of re-review to better deploy the Commission's scarce resources.' Why would firms propose obviously illegal mergers? And why would antitrust lawyers let them do so? Sure, lawyers work for clients, but aren't they also supposed to uphold the law? To put it differently, lawyers should defend their clients if there are charges of criminal or illegal activity, and they should give them advice on the best way to legally accomplish some business objective. But they aren't supposed to help their clients plan a bank robbery. So why are lawyers pushing crazy and obviously illegal mergers?"

Pierce, "Haiti Is a Testament to a Hundred Years and More of Destructive United States Policy: The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise is the latest chapter for a nation completely destabilized. Here at the shebeen, we have left alone the story of the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise because, frankly, we were waiting for a break in the weird. Every day, there was another strange twist in what was a strange enough story to begin with. But there seems to be a bit of a lull—I believe the eye of the Crazy may be passing over the story—so the New York Times helpfully catches us up on what we know to this point. It seems that we have the modern equivalent of William Walker's raids on Central America—from which we get the modern word 'filibuster'—combined with Operation Mongoose from the 1960s and a rejected script from the old Mission: Impossible TV show."

"Santa Fe Church Forgives Medical Debt in New Mexico and Arizona: St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe, NM is reaching out to families crushed by medical debt through a big gift and a big partnership. Through donations, the parish wiped out nearly $1.4 million of medical debt for 782 households. St. Bede's worked with RIP Medical Debt, a well-respected organization that identifies households whose incomes are less than twice the poverty level or are insolvent, and owe medical debt. Then they buy the debt at a fraction of face value (as a collection agency otherwise would) and pay it off using donations from people such as us. Furthermore, they write the affected parties a letter telling them they no longer owe the debt, and equally important, contact credit agencies to verify the debt has been paid, clearing the debtor's credit history. The letter recipients receive identifies St. Bede's as the donor."

"Master's Degrees Are the Second Biggest Scam in Higher Education: And elite universities deserve a huge share of the blame. Last week, the Wall Street Journal published a troubling exposé on the crushing debt burdens that students accumulate while pursuing master's degrees at elite universities in fields like drama and film, where the job prospects are limited and the chances of making enough to repay their debt are slim. Because it focused on MFA programs at Ivy League schools—one subject accumulated around $300,000 in loans pursuing screenwriting—the article rocketed around the creative class on Twitter. But it also pointed to a more fundamental, troubling development in the world of higher education: For colleges and universities, master's degrees have essentially become an enormous moneymaking scheme, wherein the line between for-profit and nonprofit education has been utterly blurred. There are, of course, good programs as well as bad ones, but when you scope out, there is clearly a systemic problem."

"The Congressional Black Caucus's Ideological Primary: Time and again, the CBC has opposed Black progressive candidates in primary races. The latest example is in Ohio. The 2020 election cycle was both influential and embarrassing for the Congressional Black Caucus. Former CBC chair Jim Clyburn is widely credited with having turned the Democratic presidential primary in Joe Biden's favor with his endorsement ahead of South Carolina's voting day, after Biden had suffered blowout losses in the first three states (though the Democratic South Carolina electorate that chose Biden was majority-white for the first time in well over a decade). In return, the eventual president was broadly perceived to have chosen from a small handful of CBC members for vice president, which yielded Kamala Harris as the second-in-command. But the CBC's other forays into elections didn't go quite so well. The caucus endorsed Lacy Clay, a ten-term incumbent CBC member, in his primary race against Black activist Cori Bush, and Bush defeated him in Missouri's First District. While that endorsement may have been defensible, given that Clay was a CBC member and Bush was not, the CBC's endorsement in New York's 16th District was harder to explain. There, the CBC endorsed white moderate Eliot Engel (not a member) in a race against a Black challenger in Jamaal Bowman, which resulted in an even higher-profile defeat than Clay's. It wasn't the only time: Two years prior, the CBC endorsed white, non-member incumbent Michael Capuano over Black challenger Ayanna Pressley, who also won. Now, the CBC is getting into another hotly contested congressional race: Ohio's 11th, a solid-blue district in Cleveland with a special election to replace Marcia Fudge, Biden's Housing and Urban Development secretary. The August 3rd primary between progressive Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner and centrist Shontel Brown has quickly turned into an all-out Democratic Party proxy war, where the party's factions are looking to settle scores more than five years in the making. [...] Meanwhile, the CBC's signature legislative contribution, the police reform bill, is now months past the one-year deadline for completion and remains wholly unresolved. Clyburn could spend his time, money, and energy drumming up public support for that, although he's actually spent more energy undercutting the bill on the cable news circuit than demanding its passage. Meanwhile, the Democrats' various attempts at voting rights bills, one of which is named for former CBC member John Lewis and which aims to preempt Jim Crow-style Black disenfranchisement, is all but dead, and the CBC has flexed little muscle to save it."

"Democrats Are Fighting To Hold Onto Democracy-- Where's Joe Biden? Reminder: Biden Is Jim Clyburn's Fault: In this morning's NY Times, Katie Rogers and Nick Corasaniti noted that enthusiasm for democracy and voting rights is chipping away at Biden's support. His conservatism is more and more showing for those who have missed it since the early 1970s. Rogers and Corasaniti wrote that Biden 'is increasingly at odds with leaders of the voting rights movement, who see a contrast between his soaring language and his willingness to push Congress to pass federal legislation.' In other words, idealistic grassroots Democrats are starting to confront the fact that Biden is full of shit. On Thursday, in a polite but pointed letter from 150 grassroots organizations, Biden was urged to use that soapbox that comes with the presidency 'to push for two expansive federal voting rights bills that would combat a Republican wave of balloting restrictions.'"

Erica Payne of Patriotic Millionaires in The Hill, "Lobbyists, moderate Democrats rely on debunked arguments against tax hikes: Now that the Biden administration has decided to pursue tax hikes on corporations and the wealthy separately from a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, lobbying groups have launched a full-court press to derail the tax increases. As Democratic leaders in Congress are hoping to pass the tax reforms through the budget reconciliation process that would require no Republican votes, lobbyists — including many ex-staffers from congressional Democrats' offices — are focusing their efforts on turning moderate Democrats against Biden's plan."

"What Amazon and Facebook Get Wrong About FTC Chair Lina Khan: The tech giants have accused her of bias against them, but that misunderstands her antitrust analysis. Last week, Facebook filed a motion with the Federal Trade Commission demanding that its chair, Commissioner Lina Khan, recuse herself from any decisions involving Facebook. Two weeks earlier, Amazon filed the same request, with both tech giants arguing that her previously expressed views on concentration in the tech industry, coupled with her work in Congress investigating Silicon Valley, rendered her too conflicted to fairly regulate the industry. It's a brazen claim on one level, as companies never suggest that regulators who cheer on the success of major companies are equally biased in the opposite direction, and if the logic were accepted, it would create a situation in which only allies of Big Tech or those wholly unfamiliar with the industry would be allowed to regulate it. [...] The article is often used to claim that Khan is hostile to Amazon itself, when in reality her paper was grappling instead with the intellectual underpinnings of 40 years of antitrust policy. The introduction to Khan's paper makes that clear, noting that the article 'argues that the current framework in antitrust—specifically its pegging competition to 'consumer welfare,' defined as short-term price effects—is unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.'"

"Call Me a Traitor Daniel Hale exposed the machinery of America's clandestine warfare. Why did no one seem to care? [...] No one owns a secret state, and no one answers for it. There was a moment in 2012, 2013, when various people outside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan began to notice that inside Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S. was waging constant, secret war under a set of rules known to few. It was May 2013 when Obama finally felt it necessary to give his big drone speech, in which he acknowledged that drones were morally complicated, promised to 'review proposals to extend oversight,' deemed them an unfortunate necessity for the safety of Americans, and generally gave the impression that he would make the program accountable. But everything of note that happens in this story happened after such gestures were forced, and made, and forgotten. [...] Together, Scahill and the leaker created a moment in which the media acknowledged the existence of wars waged in secret with a clumsy ineptitude counter to promises of 'precision.' 'Our source was someone who is directly involved with the assassination program. And this person got to a point where they felt like they couldn't not speak out,' Scahill told NPR. What few people knew, at the time, was that the government almost certainly knew who the Second Snowden was and, for mysterious reasons, did nearly nothing about it either before or for years after the Drone Papers were published." But now it's time for the government to get its revenge and teach a lesson: "US Government Seeks Harshest Sentence Ever In Leak Case Against Drone Whistleblower: The sentencing memorandum from the U.S. government reflects the vindictive posture of US prosecutors, particularly since he pled guilty." (And by the way, if you really want to know how much whistleblowing you never hear about is going on, it's worthwhile to follow The Dissenter.)

"Democratic Super PAC Condemned for 'Sleazy' and False Attacks on Nina Turner: One reporter described a new mailer, which falsely accuses Turner of opposing universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage, as 'wildly dishonest.' A Democratic political action committee with close ties to the right-wing pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC is sending mailers to Ohio voters suggesting that Nina Turner—a candidate vying to fill the open U.S. House seat in the state's 11th district—opposes a higher minimum wage, universal healthcare, and immigration reform, an overtly false claim that drew outrage from progressive activists and lawmakers." I'm really starting to think of these "pro-Israel" groups as the Democratic equivalent of the NRA—still cynical lairs who will attack progressives, but for the blue team.

Matt Taibbi (video), "Is Another Financial Crisis Coming? Interview With Wealthion: Do we hear echoes of 2008? Discussion with Adam Taggart, who asks: 'Did the villains win?'"

"Does the Fate of Ivermectin As a Covid-19 Treatment Rest in the Hands of the Deeply Conflicted Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation?: One of the world's biggest vaccine proponents and strident defender of intellectual property rights is funding, directly and indirectly, large trials into cheap, off-patent, off-label COVID-19 treatments, including ivermectin. [...] The potential for conflicts of interest is huge. If a cheap, off-patent drug like ivermectin were approved for use against COVID and if it worked as effectively and as safely as most trials suggest, it would pose a direct threat to novel treatments being rolled out by pharmaceutical companies whose safety data is no match for ivermectin's. It could also even jeopardise the emergency use authorisation granted to the COVID-19 vaccines, one of the basic conditions for which is that there are no alternative effective treatments available for the disease. As such, if ivermectin or some other promising medicine were green-lighted, the vaccines could be stripped of authorisation." Will they be gaming the trials?

"Nancy and Paul Pelosi Making Millions in Stock Trades in Companies She Actively Regulates: The Speaker, already one of the richest members in Congress, has become far richer through investment maneuvers in Big Tech, as she privately chats with their CEOs. [...] And ever since ascending to the top spot in the House, Pelosi and her husband, Paul, keep getting richer and richer. Much of their added wealth is due to extremely lucrative and 'lucky' decisions about when to buy and sell stocks and options in the very industries and companies over which Pelosi, as House Speaker, exercises enormous and direct influence."

"Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon: Spyware sold to authoritarian regimes used to target activists, politicians and journalists, data suggests: Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak. The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO's hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists."

"Biden Advisers Ride on Pegasus Spyware: The NSO Group, now part of a Washington Post exposé, has for years enlisted powerful consultants to save its reputation. A new investigation by The Washington Post and a consortium of 16 international news outlets reveals that software from an Israeli company named NSO Group has spied on hundreds of journalists, activists, executives, and government officials. Its infamous product Pegasus can crack into encrypted phones without a trace and is used by autocrats. The findings are part of the Pegasus Project, which has already presented evidence of the spyware being used to hack the slain Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto as well as two people close to the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But NSO Group has been deflecting from its relationship with authoritarian governments for years. After its surveillance tech was caught being used to target dissidents, the notorious Israeli company sought the assistance of WestExec Advisors, the consultancy founded by now—Secretary of State Tony Blinken and staffed by prominent national-security experts from the Obama administration.

"Michael Brooks on Why the War on the Poor Must End: Two years ago, our late friend and comrade Michael Brooks wrote an unpublished piece about his family's experience with food stamps and Trump's assault on the SNAP program. We publish it today, the anniversary of Michael's passing, as a tribute to his memory."

Audio: "Chapo Trap House (ft. Leigh Phillips & Michal Rozworski) - Walmart Proves Planned Economies Work" — The authors of The People's Republic of Walmart discuss.

ROT IN PERDITION: "William Regnery II, Reclusive Millionaire Who Financed American Fascists, Dead At 80: The avowed white nationalist inherited millions from his prominent Republican family and used the money to fund the rise of the so-called alt-right. William H. Regnery II, a racist, reclusive multimillionaire who used his inherited fortune to finance vile white supremacist groups in the hopes of one day forming an American whites-only ethnostate, died earlier this month, his family and associates confirmed. He was 80 years old. Regnery, whose family amassed riches from its right-wing publishing empire, died on July 2 in Florida after a 'long battle with cancer,' his cousin Alfred, the former head of Regnery Publishing, confirmed to HuffPost. Asked if he'd like to comment on his cousin's life and legacy, Alfred Regnery replied: 'No, it's all been said before.' "

"I Tried to Make Claims About Election Fraud So Preposterous Trump Fans Wouldn't Believe Me. It Was Impossible. I was acting as Trump and his minions do: free to say anything, no matter how ridiculous, with no basis in observable fact."

"Watch a Never-Before-Aired James Baldwin Interview From 1979: Buried by ABC at the time, the segment reveals a unique glimpse into Baldwin's private life——as well as his resounding criticism about white fragility, as blisteringly relevant today as it was in 1979."

A few years ago, Undulating Clouds were claimed as a new cloud formation classification. Here's a cool picture someone just took of some in Kentucky.

Was this Melbourne concert in 1964 the best Beatles performance ever? You be the judge.

Buddy Guy, "Crawlin' Kingsnake"

Propellerheads, featuring Miss Shirley Bassey, "History Repeating"

23:09 GMT comment


Friday, 09 July 2021

We are amazed but not amused

Mominet Sadia Roland's "Kremlin" from a collection on public squares.

"The Roberts Court's Nullification of the Voting Rights Act: I've seen some people try to downplay Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee because Arizona isn't one of the very worst vote suppression offenders, but this is a serious mistake. Alito's opinion has, as everyone should have expected, rendered Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act essentially unenforceable [...] To pause briefly, as Kagan observes in her dissent, the 'equal sovereignty of the states' bullshit Roberts made up for the occasion has yet to make another appearance, as if it was a bunch of ad hoc bullshit thrown up to achieve one particular result rather than an actual legal doctrine. [...] Kagan's opinion is very good on this point, but Alito's opinion really does exemplify that tired phrase 'legislating from the bench.' The Republican justices on the Trump Court doesn't like the choices Congress made, so it's decided to just enforce a different statute instead [...] 'We cannot enforce the statute as written because it would stop too much vote suppression and we like vote suppression' is almost literally the holding of Alito's opinion."

"Biden delivers Right to Repair via executive order: Right to Repair is a no-brainer. You — not manufacturers — should have the right to decide whom you trust to fix your stuff, even (especially) when that stuff is "smart" and an unscrupulous repair could create unquantifiable "cyber-risk." And yet...dozens of state R2R bills were defeated in 2018, thanks to an unholy coalition of Big Ag, Big Tech, and consumer electronics monopolists like Wahl. That supervillain gang reassembled to fight and kill still more bills in 2020/1. [...] Right to Repair advocates never lost hope. May's "Nixing the Fix" report from the FTC establishes a factual record in support of the right to repair across many sectors, but especially agricultural equipment. Big Ag is a particularly odious repair troll, and John Deere is its standard-bearer. The company has been trying to felonize farmers' repairing their own tractors since at least 2015. They told the US Copyright Office that farmers don't own their tractors — because tractor firmware is copyrighted, it is licensed, not sold, and farmers must abide by the company's license terms. At the same time, Deere started pushing the insulting story that farmers are yokels, too stupid to fix their tractors. This despite Deere's long history of turning farmers' modifications of their equipment into money-making features in new tractors. [...] The fight's not over yet. The devil is in the details, those rules the FTC and Ag develop. But with superheroes like Lina Khan running the FTC, there's reason to believe that we're going to get good, evidence-based and fair rules. This is huge, a massive vindication for R2R activists and their long, tireless struggle."

"Big Oil and Gas Kept a Dirty Secret for Decades. Now They May Pay the Price." Well, everyone is suing them, and we know they've been lying for decades, but I find it difficult to see them paying a price unless the pitchforks and torches come out. But obviously, there's a lot of scrambling to do damage control after Exxon's 'Senior Director for Federal Relations' was caught on video saying what we already knew out loud.

" Biden Could Have Taken the War on Drugs Down a Notch. He Didn't. A little-noticed law could make it easier to punish people for low-level drug crimes — and put them in prison for longer with less proof. Last month, President Biden quietly extended a policy that critics call a betrayal of his campaign promise to end mandatory minimum sentences. The new law concerns 'class-wide scheduling of fentanyl analogues.' It may sound like a wonky snooze-fest, but the measure could land more low-level drug dealers in prison for longer and with less proof than is usually required — while kingpins and chemists who manufacture and distribute these new drugs don't tend to get caught."

"Biden Will Enact Rule Proposed by Trump That Enables Big Pharma to Price Gouge [...] Under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, which governs the transfer of federally-funded research to the private sector, the government retains 'march-in rights' that allow it to seize the patents for taxpayer-funded drugs and other inventions when 'action is necessary to alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied' or when they are not being 'made available to the public under reasonable terms' and license them to responsible third parties to provide competition. It's one of the main ways the executive branch could address excessive drug prices without needing action from Congress, which has been deadlocked on drug pricing reform measures for years. Once finalized, the new rule would say that the government cannot use march-in rights solely because a government-funded drug or other product is being sold at an excessive price. The change has been a major lobbying aim of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and other industry groups that have seen more and more voters tell pollsters that the high cost of prescription drugs is among their top concerns. 'This rule takes away the government's power to act to curb that price abuse by authorizing generic competition, and we think that's 180 degrees the wrong move at this time,' said Peter Maybarduk, director of the access to medicines program at the nonprofit Public Citizen. 'We expect Biden to use this power during his tenure rather than repeal it, given the scale of the problem.'"

Pretty sure the answer to Shaun King's question is "No," since this is hardly the first time a cop has killed a white kid without it seeming to wake the crowd up, but what I find particularly strange about the story of this cop killing a white kid for no reason is that the cop who killed Hunter Brttain, though he appears to have been fired, still hasn't offered a reason for why he shot the kid.

"The empire strikes back: Mainstream Dems try to crush the left in Buffalo and Cleveland: Progressive Black women are poised to win in two struggling heartland cities — and old-line Democrats aren't happy The two biggest cities on the shores of Lake Erie are now centers of political upheaval. For decades, Buffalo and Cleveland have suffered from widespread poverty and despair in the midst of urban decay. Today, the second-largest cities in New York and Ohio are battlegrounds between activists fighting for progressive change and establishment forces determined to prevent it. For Buffalo's entrenched leaders, a shocking crisis arrived out of the blue on June 22 when socialist India Walton won the Democratic primary for mayor, handily defeating a 15-year incumbent Byron Brown, who has a deplorable track record. "I am a coalition builder," Walton said in her victory speech that night. But for the city's power brokers, she was a sudden disaster."

"'The Tax Break Industrial Complex Has Not Been Challenged': CounterSpin interview with Greg LeRoy on Texas corporate subsidies. [...] There are many myths, of course, but an important one is that if we give corporations tax breaks, they'll just turn that gift right around and support the community with, first and foremost, jobs. And if you don't give them that break, well, they'll just take all those benefits to someplace that will. That narrative is unraveling right now in Texas, where a massive and particularly perverse subsidy program known as Chapter 313 is set to expire, thanks to the work of a range of groups and reporters, particularly at the Houston Chronicle. [...] And, in many cases, we're barely getting any jobs out of many of these deals. Because when you subsidize making a plant more capital intensive, well, by definition, that can often mean fewer jobs over time. They also looked at the financial impact on public services. And they looked at the long-term impact that's creeping up on the state costs. It was a soup-to-nuts investigation, and they basically said, by every measure, what we think we're supposed to get out of these things—which is, top of the list obviously, these jobs and additional tax revenue—we're actually not getting much of either, and we're losing a lot of revenue."

"Dems Launch Proxy War On Medicare For All: Dems bankrolled by Big Pharma are suddenly targeting Nina Turner right after she aired an ad touting Medicare for All. [...] A 2018 poll showed that Medicare for All is wildly popular in Northeast Ohio — and Turner is running in a district that has been represented for nearly 30 years by lawmakers who have supported legislation to create a government-sponsored single payer health care system. That includes Marcia Fudge, who left Congress to serve in President Joe Biden's cabinet. Pledging to carry on that legacy, Turner on June 15th launched her television spot entitled 'Worry,' in which she talks about how her family's struggle to pay health care bills led her to support Medicare for All. The very next day, corporate lobbyists held a Washington fundraiser for Turner's primary opponent, Shontel Brown. Among those headlining the fundraiser was Jerome Murray — a registered lobbyist for the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association, which has been backing a nationwide campaign to reduce support for Medicare for All. [...] The fundraiser followed Brown slamming Medicare for All, amid a pandemic that has seen more than 1 million Ohioans lose their employer-sponsored health care." And then Hillary Clinton endorsed Brown, which generated lots of fund-raising magic for Nina on the day. No new polls have come out since before the push began, but at that time, Turner was way, way out ahead of Brown. Jim Clyburn, also a beneficiary of big pharma funding, has joined the push against Turner, predictably

"Dear National Public Radio: The Stock Market is not the Economy — Tell us about Hunger and the Real Unemployment Rate. [...] Every month at least one of the stock market reports should be replaced with the real unemployment rate. That number would include part time workers seeking full time and discouraged workers. At the end of February it stood at about 11%, almost double the headline figure. Interestingly at the height of the world financial crisis the real unemployment rate reached 22%, only 3 percent less than the peak of the Great Depression. (This may be an apples and oranges comparison as I have been unable to establish the l930s definition of unemployment. Nonetheless the Great Recession is surely well named.) Just as important as whether one has a job is what is happening on that job. Periodic news releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics include data on occupational health and safety. The following highlights could be updated and presented several times a year."

"Have you ever heard of "civil asset forfeiture"? You're never going to think about the police the same way again." I know you're already aware of civil asset forfeiture but here's a nice simple reminder that it is out-and-out theft of a higher order than anything committed by official robbers who the cops would call "criminals". There is absolutely no reason in the world the police should be allowed to do this.

Management at The Appeal shut the site down when workers formed a union, so the workers are creating their own site and asking for help to get it going. They are currently unpaid while they set up and can use your donations.

"A Cyber-Culprit Other Than Russia? [...] Speaking of false-flag attacks: It is not widely known that the CIA has an array of versatile offensive cybertools called Vault 7, one of which, "Marble Framework" enables the CIA to hack into computers and servers, disguise who hacked in, and attribute the hack to others. Vault 7, including "Marble Framework" was leaked to WikiLeaks, which revealed and described in 2017 several of the offensive cyber tools. The developers, it turned out, worked with five languages to enable eventual attribution: Chinese, Korean, Persian, Arabic, and — you guessed it — Russian. And Marble was used at least once during 2016."

"NHS GP practice operator with 500,000 patients passes into hands of US health insurer: Merger with Centene Corp covers 500,000 patients fuelling calls for inquiry into 'NHS privatisation by stealth' [...] The merger is expected to create the largest private supplier of GP services in the UK, with 58 practices covering half a million patients. A coalition of doctors, campaigners and academics has voiced concerns in a letter sent this week to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, asking him to order an investigation by the Care Quality Commission. [...] Objectors are concerned because they claim the change of control was approved for eight practices in the London boroughs of Camden, Islington and Haringey in a virtual meeting on 17 December that lasted less than nine minutes, during which no mention was made of Centene and not a single question was asked."

I learned of Rumsfeld's death just as I was about to send my last post, and I thought, "Does he deserve more? No." But I hate to ignore all the scathing commentary from those who had the energy to do the scathing:
Pierce, "You Go to Hell With the Alibis You Have: Donald Rumsfeld died on Wednesday. He was 88 years old, an age thousands of Iraqis will never reach because of him."
Jon Schwarz, "Farewell to Donald Rumsfeld, Dreary War Criminal: Rumsfeld managed to do terrible things throughout his life while remaining tremendously banal."
Ben Burgis, "Donald Rumsfeld, Rot in Hell: Bush administration Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is dead at the age of 88. It's a tragedy that Rumsfeld died before he could be put on trial for crimes against humanity."
Special mention of Teen Vogue for not leaving it out of the headline like all the big media organs did: "Donald Rumsfeld, Former Defense Secretary and Accused War Criminal, Dead at 88: Rumsfeld is considered an architect of the U.S. invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq."

"US Censorship Is Increasingly Official: The Biden administration made headlines last week as it moved to shut down the websites of 33 foreign media outlets, including ones based in Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestine. Officials justified the decision by claiming the organizations were agents of 'disinformation.' The most notable of these is probably English-language Iranian state broadcaster Press TV. Visitors to PressTV.com are now met with the seal of the Department of Justice and the FBI, and a message notifying them that the domain 'has been seized by the United States government.' (The site has since migrated to an Iranian-based domain, PressTV.ir.) [...] Western outlets covering the new seizures did not frame them as an attack on the First Amendment (Washington Post, 6/23/21; CNN, 6/23/21; Fox News, 6/23/21), many preferring instead to discuss the shortcomings of the Iranian media landscape. Slate (6/24/21), for example, reminded readers that Iran 'blocks foreign social media sites, censors critical foreign outlets and jails reporters.' While this may be perfectly true, Slate suggested it was possible for the Biden administration to make a 'clear distinction' between when Iran does it and when the US carries out similar actions; 'disinformation and election interference are serious problems,' it helpfully noted. Decrying the state of press freedoms in official enemy states is a favorite pastime of corporate media (FAIR.org, 11/1/06, 5/20/19, 10/20/19). It is a point of pride in the US that freedom of speech is written into the Constitution. Increasingly, however, if we want to find direct government censorship of speech, we don't have to travel far."

"How Amazon Controls Virtually Everything You Watch: Amazon Web Services delivers almost all filmed media in the United States to your screen of choice. How are they leveraging that power? When Amazon announced that it would buy mini-major movie studio MGM in an $8.45 billion deal, I surmised that the real goal here was to raise the cost of acquiring filmed entertainment for its competitors, making Amazon's bundled Prime Video option look more attractive. I also nodded to the fact that Amazon is a competitor in streaming video and theatrical movie production, while also being a distribution network for streamers. Amazon also sells other streaming services through its website, and through Fire TV, an Amazon device that makes streaming video available. This simultaneous negotiation and competition can create leverage for Amazon in its dealings with rivals, and moves the company closer to taking a cut out of every economic transaction. But there's another side to this: No major streaming service actually delivers its product without the assistance of Amazon. That's true of the major U.S. movie studios as well. And once you understand the totality of Amazon's role in entertainment distribution, you begin to see its encroachment into entertainment content in a whole new light."

"The Man Who Knew Too Much, Julian Assange [...] Distortions linger. How many know Assange sought Pentagon and State Department help in redacting sensitive information, and was refused? That he worked diligently with newspapers to determine information that should be held back, until a newspaper editor published an access password that let everyone pull everything? Or that Robert Mueller found no evidence connecting Assange and Russia? That Paul Manafort never met with Assange in Ecuador's embassy in London? Or that no harm was caused to anyone in other countries who was working with the US government? Media ran faster with narratives ripping Assange than questioning or correcting them. Claiming Assange is outside publishing boundaries is a conceit that who, what, when, where, why and how requires formal training, or an official imprimatur. Never mind the international journalism awards Wikileaks quickly garnered, the uncovered bedrock for important stories that enabled accolades to news organizations building on Wikileaks revelations. A decade ago Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed government lies about the Vietnam War by leaking the Pentagon Papers, told me government's objective going after him was a UK-styled Official Secrets Act that undermines First Amendment protections. Beyond criminalizing leaking classified materials, it would criminalize seeking and publishing them. I recently asked James C. Goodale, who defended the NY Times in that case, if that's still the aim. 'Yes,' Goodale says, 'closing the circle, prosecuting those who receive and publish leaks. The wild over-classification of documents systematically confuses confidentiality with national security, deterring finding out and revealing what government does. It's already put a chill on journalists covering the military establishment, and leaks are drying up. Assange engaged in journalistic endeavors." Goodale is alarmed that despite overwhelming recognition of this by international journalist and human rights organizations, American media remains mostly comatose regarding the peril."

"Democracy Dies At The Washington Post Editorial Board: In the Soviet Union, everybody was aware that the media was controlled by the state. But in a corporate state like the U.S., a veneer of independence is still maintained, although trust in the media has been plummeting for years."

"Norman Finkelstein On Cancel Culture, "White Fragility" plus Andrew Yang's Crucial Mistake: Norman Finkelstein, the prolific (and widely canceled) political scientist, and author of 11 books, joins the show to give us a sneak preview of his new book on cancel culture and identity politics. He explains what makes today's cancel culture new, what makes it not so new, and why it's worse, in some ways, when the Left does it: 'Obviously there's cancel culture on the right. But the cancel culture on the right, or the mainstream, the establishment, whatever you want to call it, for a person of the left, is a given. That's a part of what it means to be on the left. The true Left. You're going to be marginalized, ignored. That's the history of the Left.' He critiques MSNBC's Bernie-bashing and identity-politics-weaponizing—Joy Ann Reid and her body-language expert, who diagnoses Bernie Sanders' self-incriminating 'turtling,' in particular— gives Noam Chomksy his due credit and sings the praises of W.E.B. DuBois. Finkelstein also directs his formidable fire at White Fragility author Robin DiAngelo: 'And what's her message to white people? Her message to white people is every white person... who's laying out in the street because he or she is homeless, which there are quite a lot in my neighborhood. Every white person from that person to Jeff Bezos, they all profit from racism. And then they, the CEOs, they get to play the enlightened ones because they give money to Black Lives Matter. So, the message to white people is be careful what you're willing to give up, because you're benefiting from this system. Every white person benefits from the system. If you let them climb one rung higher, you are going to go one rung lower. So it's a warning to white people to be cautious, careful, wary, of the demands of black people.... '"

"The Zionist assault on Judaism: Zionism has not yet murdered Judaism but it has undermined its moral and historical integrity. By intentionally fanning antisemitism, Israel is a major contributor to Jewish insecurity. [...] Second, building on that blurring, Israel casts all opposition to its policies as 'antisemitism.' At a time when it is increasingly difficult to mobilize even Jews abroad around support for Israeli policies of occupation, apartheid and ethnocracy, turning to the old reliable canard of antisemitism offers a tried-and-true strategy for overcoming political reservations. Here Israel is demonstrating its lack of concern for the well-being of Jewish communities abroad, and its long-standing willingness to sacrifice them for the greater Israeli good. An Israeli-centric 'new antisemitism' was invented by the Israeli government and its supporters in order to delegitimize criticism of Israel as antisemitism. 'One of the chief tasks of any dialogue with the Gentile world,' said Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban in the 1973, 'is to prove that the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is not a distinction at all. Anti-Zionism is merely the new anti-Semitism.' [...] The great danger inherent in Israel's co-optation of Jews and antisemitism in order to maintain an illegal and oppressive regime is found in Israel's need to claim Jewish/Israeli exceptionalism from the rest of humanity. The Fourth Geneva Convention forbids the annexation and settlement of an occupied territory, but Israel, a signatory to the Convention, claims that it doesn't apply because all the land in fact 'belongs' to the Jewish people, despite clear rulings of the International Court of Justice and the UN to the contrary. Jews possess the right of self-determination in Palestine, but the indigenous Palestinians do not, because Israel has decided that there is no Palestinian people."

The GAO did a little study to see how FOSTA is working. It really isn't.

"Why Is Kevin Drum Measuring What Each Party's Voters Say And Not What Each Party's Politicians Do? [...] But why are we measuring polarization this way? Democratic politicians haven't radically expanded abortion access, even in blue states, while Republican politicians have radically restricted access, and nearly every D.C. Republican calls for a total or near-total ban on abortion. How are we stoking a culture war when Republicans are the ones who continually upend the status quo?"

A gratifying read from Nathan Robinson, "Everything Ben Shapiro Says Is Still Worthless: These are just feelings disguised as facts.A few years ago, after the New York Times dubbed conservative pundit Ben Shapiro 'the cool kids' philosopher,' I wrote a widely-shared article showing why he was an intellectual fraud who did not actually believe in 'logic, facts, reason, and debate' as he had claimed he did. (Shapiro has since evaded multiple challenges by leftists to debate him, and when he has accidentally allowed himself to encounter a moderately intelligent interlocutor, he has crumpled almost immediately.) In a rational society where, through the 'marketplace of ideas,' good ideas prevailed over bad ones through an unfolding dialectical process of Habermasian public speech (or, if you're not trying to use rapid-fire big words to sound smarter than you are, people talking to each other about important politics stuff), there would be an inverse relationship between the number of times Ben Shapiro has been proven wrong and his popularity as a public intellectual."

OK, this made me a little nuts, watching Bosch and hearing this version of "What a Wonderful World" rather than the one we all know by Louis Armstrong. Since Bosch is a big jazz fan, I wondered who it was and why it was chosen, but all of the "official" lists of music from the show gave the Louis Armstrong version, so it took a while to finally locate a list that actually gave the right one.

"The Royal Canadian Navy - Sinking you, but politely"

Stevle Wonder, "You Haven't Done Nothin'"

23:15 GMT comment


Friday, 30 June 2021

This play is run, my love

Laura Rowe photographed this supercell in Texas on 17 May 2021

"Reality Winner, Whistleblower On Russian Hacking, Is Released From Prison: Winner, who received the longest-ever prison sentence for serving as a journalistic source, has moved to a federal halfway house in Texas. [...] The injustice of her case was highlighted when Marina Butina, a Russian national, received an 18-month sentence in 2018 for trying to influence American political figures without registering as a foreign agent. It struck many observers as dumbfounding that an actual Russian agent would receive a lighter jail sentence than an American trying to reveal a secret Russian effort to alter the outcome of an election. Winner was even denied compassionate release during the Covid-19 pandemic — and subsequently contracted the disease. Although Winner was prosecuted by President Donald Trump's Department of Justice, the decorated Air Force veteran has not received any favors from President Joe Biden. She has been released according to a normal schedule that takes account of her good behavior while behind bars, her lawyer said in a statement. Winner's request for a pardon and commutation of her sentence has not been granted."

"US seizes three dozen websites used for 'Iranian disinformation': Seized sites include Press TV and Houthi and Palestinian outlets. Move comes amid tense efforts to revive nuclear deal. [...] Visitors to leading Iranian media sites such as Press TV and Al-Alam, the country's main English language and Arabic language broadcasters, as well as the Al-Masirah TV channel of Yemen's Houthis, were met with single-page statements on Wednesday, declaring the website 'has been seized by the United States Government' accompanied by the seals of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Commerce Department. [...] State-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) accused the United States of repressing freedom of expression and joining forces with Israel and Saudi Arabia 'to block pro-resistance media outlets exposing the crimes of US allies in the region'."

"First-Ever Congressional Bill To Decriminalize All Drugs Announced Ahead Of Nixon Drug War Anniversary: Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Cori Bush (D-MO) are sponsoring the legislation, which aims to promote a public health- and evidence-based approach to substance misuse. The bill is titled the Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA) and was drafted in partnership with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The proposal would end the threat of incarceration for people caught possessing drugs for personal use. Courts would still have the option of imposing a fine, but that could be waived if a person couldn't afford it. Importantly, the measure would make it so the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—rather than the Justice Department—would be responsible for classifying drugs, with the intent being to shift that role to a health-centric model. [...] But that's where another key component comes into play: the bill would withhold federal funds for law enforcement through the Byrne and COPS grant program for states and cities that continue to enforce criminalization of simple drug possession. The threat of losing that money could be enough to incentivize states and municipalities to stop locking people up for drugs." The chances of a bill getting through even on the Democratic side are pretty small, but it gives activists something to shoot for and starts a much-needed conversation in the halls of power.

I didn't expect to see this from Peter Beinart. "Bernie Sanders Remembers: Over the last two weeks, Bernie Sanders has done two remarkable things—things historians will write about decades from now, even if journalists aren't paying much attention to them today. On June 8, he cast the lone Democratic vote in the Senate against a vast new bipartisan bill aimed at combatting China. On June 17, he penned an essay in Foreign Affairs entitled, 'Washington's Dangerous New Consensus on China: Don't Start Another Cold War.' Today's progressives look back with admiration and wonder at Representative Barbara Lee's lone vote, three days after September 11, 2001, against authorizing the 'war on terror.' Future progressives, I suspect, will look back at Sanders' actions this month in a similar way. The reason is that now, as then, Washington is inaugurating a global conflict that could haunt the United States, and the world, for decades. As Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden's 'Asia Czar,' recently put it, 'the period that was broadly described as engagement' with China 'has come to an end.' Twenty years ago, America 'got tough' on terrorism. Now it's getting tough on Beijing. And Sanders is the highest profile Democrat yelling stop."

The Harvard Radcliffe Institute, "Black Lives Matter Protesters Were Overwhelmingly Peaceful, Our Research Finds: The Black Lives Matter uprisings were remarkably nonviolent. When there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters. 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."

Jon Schwarz, "Political System Unites to Condemn Ilhan Omar for Telling the Truth: The frenzied attacks by Republicans and Democrats on the Minnesota representative are about maintaining absolute impunity for the U.S. and Israel. THIS PAST WEEK'S feeding frenzy on Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar — including by the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives — should cause despair among anyone holding on to a faint hope that powerful Americans can discuss the world without engaging in childish lies. It all began with an hourslong hearing Monday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee with the snoozy title 'State Department Foreign Policy Strategy and Fiscal 2022 Budget Request.' Secretary of State Antony Blinken took queries from committee members, including Omar. Omar had a serious, rational question for Blinken about the significance of America's policy toward the International Criminal Court at the Hague. 'You opposed the court's investigation in both Palestine and in Afghanistan,' she noted. 'In both of these cases, if domestic courts can't or won't pursue justice, and we oppose the ICC, where do we think victims are supposed to go for justice, and what justice mechanisms do you support for them?' Blinken had an unserious, irrational answer. 'Whether it's the United States or Israel,' he said, 'we both have the mechanisms to make sure that there is accountability in any situations where there are concerns about the use of force and human rights.' This is insultingly false on its face. To choose one of hundreds of examples, there has been no American prosecution of those responsible for conducting torture during the Bush administration. Even more importantly, former President George W. Bush himself launched an aggressive war against Iraq and now spends his days happily giving speeches to the National Grocers Association and hanging out with former President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama."

David Dayen, "Everything You Need to Know About the Infrastructure Bills Traveling Through Congress: There are eight of them. As a new infrastructure week begins, we've reached the peak confusion stage in Washington. It is genuinely difficult to keep straight all the gangs, working groups, and bipartisan agreements on bills that fall under the rubric of infrastructure. So let this be a public service straightening all that out. There are actually eight infrastructure bills floating out there right now, though none of them appears at this moment to have the votes needed to pass into law. Walking through them can illuminate what the Biden administration's strategy should be going forward."

Also by DDay, "The Problem With the 'BlackRock Buying Houses' Meme: Here's the reality of institutional buyers and the single-family rental market. Over the past week, the American political scene has done the unthinkable: It actually paid attention to the forces shaping our housing markets. Apparently spurred by a viral tweet that caught the eye of hillbilly elegist and would-be senator from Ohio J.D. Vance, political conservatives and liberals alike have been gripped with anger about Blackrock, the world's biggest asset manager, 'buying every single family house they can find,' distorting prices, and locking out families. The topic trended on Twitter for the better part of a week, as liberals and conservatives and those in between bantered, mostly about how the development reinforced their prior thinking about housing markets. Vance decided that the left wouldn't care about Blackrock's antics because of its commitments to ''racial audits' and other diversity BS.' Tucker Carlson committed a segment to how Wall Street speculation was singularly responsible for creating a 'serf class' of renters. The Onion jumped on the trend with a fake news item titled 'Thrilled BlackRock Announces Purchase of 800,000th Dream Home.' Almost none of this is true, not even the spelling of BlackRock, which only The Onion got right by capitalizing the R. A segment of the single-family rental market is indeed controlled by institutional investors, but that started in earnest a decade ago, when homes went on sale in bulk during the foreclosure crisis. The time to care about what this might do to our housing markets was then, not ten years later, when corporate landlords have matured into an entrenched asset class. Nobody should be claiming that this is the sole, primary, or even major reason for soaring housing prices. But it is a serious problem unto itself for the renters unfortunate enough to have to live in these homes. And it's an indictment of political, activist, economist, and media elites for failing to catch on to the trend until it was way too late."

And again from DDay, "Washington Isn't Used to the Left Setting the Agenda: That's why they freaked out over Democrats linking two separate infrastructure bills. But to succeed, the left must also erase privatization from the agenda. [...] Everyone, including Republicans, knows this is happening; even the walk-back acknowledges the process will be exactly the same. It's just confusing to see it play out. The left doesn't set the terms of the agenda as a general rule. That rule has been broken. But it hasn't been fully broken, and there's one more bit of work for progressives. The fact sheet on the bipartisan bill still includes privatization schemes as one of the revenue-raisers. That means that old infrastructure will be sold off to pay for new infrastructure, and that private financiers will be given concessions to run common assets for decades. Wall Street is salivating over this idea, seeing it as their 'big wish granted.' Trump unsuccessfully sought this, and Biden is close to succeeding. This could lead to sales of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Washington Dulles International Airport, and much more."

This is a year old, but still, "Cuba Has Sent 2,000 Doctors and Nurses Overseas to Fight Covid-19: The Trump administration describes Cuba's medical response teams as 'slaves—we asked the doctors for their take. [...] Emergency medical response teams from the island have touched down in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and—for the first time—Europe. In March, the first batch of 51 Cuban doctors and nurses arrived in Lombardy, Italy, at the time the epicenter of the pandemic, to cheering crowds. They join the 28,000 Cuban health professionals who were working in 59 countries prior to Covid-19. No other country has sent large numbers of doctors abroad during the pandemic. The radical intellectual Noam Chomsky last month described the island as the only country to have shown 'genuine internationalism' during the crisis, and the women-led anti-war organization Code Pink is now leading calls for the island's emergency medical response teams to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But these medical brigades have received little media attention in the United States. When they are commented on at all, coverage is usually negative. In fact, for the last three years, the Trump administration has described doctors participating in these missions as 'slaves' and has accused the Cuban government of 'human trafficking.' [...] Such depictions never include the voice of the Cuban doctors who work in these missions. Over the last couple of months, I've spoken to dozens of doctors before their departure. Their words cut sharply against this picture. 'How can I be a slave if I receive a free education from my country?' asked Dr. Leonardo Fernández, who has served in Nicaragua, Pakistan, East Timor, Liberia, and Mozambique. 'How can I be a slave when my family receives my full salary while I'm abroad? How can I be a slave when I have constitutional rights?' Dr. Gracilliano Díaz, a veteran of the campaign against Ebola in Sierra Leone in 2014, dismissed with Caribbean cool the idea that he is a victim of trafficking. 'We do this voluntarily,' he said with a lilt. 'It doesn't matter to us that other countries brand us as slaves. What matters to us is that we contribute to the world.' "

As long as it's not money up-front it's not bribery, even though it is. "Leaked Audio Of Sen. Joe Manchin Call With Billionaire Donors Provides Rare Glimpse Of Dealmaking On Filibuster And January 6 Commission: Manchin urged big-money donors with No Labels to talk to Sen. Roy Blunt about flipping his vote on the commission in order to save the filibuster. [...] The meeting was hosted by the group No Labels, a big money operation co-founded by former Sen. Joe Lieberman that funnels high-net-worth donor money to conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans. Among the gathering's newsworthy revelations: Manchin described an openness to filibuster reform at odds with his most recent position that will buoy some Democrats' hopes for enacting their agenda." I wish they would all be struck by lightning.

"Researcher Uncovers 'Critical Race Theory' Astroturfing Campaign: Berman and Company admitted it is the organization behind a campaign protesting against New York City schools curricula. Rick Berman, an infamous right-wing lobbyist whose organizations have been accused of several astroturfing campaigns—and who is known as "Dr. Evil"—revealed that his firm is behind an organization that claimed to be a grass-roots movement against New York City's prep schools focus on 'diversity education.'"

"The Supreme Court Is Closer to a 9-0 Corporatist Supermajority Than a 3-3-3 Split: No amount of regrouping can obviate the need for Supreme Court reform. [...] So while the language may seem alluring, the ideology of the Court is not experiencing some tectonic shift. The commitment to pro-corporate policy remains intact, the judicial chamber continuing to channel the Chamber of Commerce. In fact, it was another 9-0 decision that tells more about where the Court is at ideologically in its current state. That would be the much tweeted-about Nestlé USA v. Doe, where Obama appointee Neal Katyal argued on behalf of Nestlé (and agricultural giant Cargill) in a case where the companies were alleged to have provided child-slavery-reliant farms on the Ivory Coast with technical and financial assistance and routinely purchased their product, despite that conscripted workforce. [...] No amount of liberal insistence on technicality will make the Court anything else than what it is: a breakaway, anti-democratic faction with a conservative mandate to steamroll any obstacle to corporate power and profit-taking. There's no taxonomical solution to this, and it isn't made better by grouping in threes what should be grouped in nines."

Accidental victory: "A Scheme to Blow Up the Housing Market Backfired Spectacularly at the Supreme Court: Instead of winning billions for shareholders, the plaintiffs handed Joe Biden tighter control over the mortgage industry. [...] The roots of Wednesday's decision in Collins v. Yellen go back to the Great Recession. In 2008, as the U.S. housing market collapsed, Congress created the FHFA to regulate the mortgage industry. The agency placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into a conservatorship. Under this arrangement, the government gave Fannie and Freddie billions in federal funds—basically, a bailout—and received some money in return. Specifically, under a 2012 deal with the FHFA, Fannie and Freddie sent quarterly payments consisting of nearly their entire net worth to the U.S. treasury. Predictably, Fannie and Freddie's investors were displeased with this deal. It forced the companies to hand the government about $124 billion more than they would have under previous arrangements. And it left nothing for the companies' private shareholders, who sued to recoup the money that, in their view, should've gone to them in the first place. The shareholders alleged that the FHFA had an unconstitutional structure because it was led by a single director whom the president cannot fire without cause. This structure, they asserted, violates the constitutional separation of powers by depriving the president of control over the executive branch. And, they reasoned, the solution is to invalidate the agency's actions—namely, the 2012 deal that sent $124 billion to the U.S. treasury." So the court agreed that the president should be able to fire the (Trump-appointed) director, and Biden promptly did so. This was a pretty serious own goal for the vultures since said director planned to get rid of the conservatorship, which is what these investors wanted in the first place. The new director has a very different set of priorities. So suddenly the Dems have a victory they weren't even looking for.

Atrios found something remarkable in the NYT: "Not a perfect piece, but it's notable because it's rare that "people in cities hate Republicans" is actually presented as a problem for Republicans, instead of proof of the irrelevance of Democrats to REAL AMERICA."

Matt Karp in Harper's, "History As End: 1619, 1776, and the politics of the past: In the age of Sanders and Trump, the Democratic establishment has assumed a defensive posture, concerned above all with holding off various barbarians at the gate. And yet in its consideration of the past, the same establishment has somehow grown large and courageous, suddenly eager for a galloping revision of all American history. For some left-wing skeptics, this apparent paradox requires little investigation: it redirects real anger toward vague and symbolic grievances. No, the Democrats who govern Virginia will not repeal the state's anti-union right-to-work law, but yes, by all means, they will make Juneteenth an official holiday. If this movement only signals a shift from material demands to metaphysical 'reckonings'—from movement politics to elite culture war—then it is not an advance but a retreat. (Ana Kasparian, Nando Villa, and Bill Fletcher have an interesting discussion on this and related topics in "Celebrating Juneteenth w/ Bill Fletcher, Critical Race Theory, & Racist Techno-Policing | Weekends".)

"REALLY BLOODY EXCELLENT OMENS..." Neil Himself on the upcoming sequel to Good Omens.

"Inside Gun-Surrendering Criminal Mark McCloskey's Very Sad St. Louis Rally: Noted local criminal Mark McCloskey played host to a barbecue/political rally on Sunday afternoon, drawing tens of admirers to the sweltering parking lot of a closed outlet mall in St. Louis County to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the time he pulled a gun on a crowd of people who otherwise would never have noticed or cared he existed." Yes, there is more!

RIP: "Mike Gravel, Former Alaska Senator And Anti-War Advocate, Dies At Age 91: SEASIDE, Calif. — Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator from Alaska who read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record and confronted Barack Obama about nuclear weapons during a later presidential run, has died. He was 91. Gravel, who represented Alaska as a Democrat in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, died Saturday, according to his daughter, Lynne Mosier. Gravel had been living in Seaside, California, and was in failing health, said Theodore W. Johnson, a former aide." He fought in Congress to end the draft and also introduced legislation for a guaranteed minimum income equivalent to a living wage, "the equivalent of $42,000 in 2019 after adjustment for inflation," according to Wikipedia. And then he became a hero all over again when he ran for president just to be able to tell those people in primary debates what monsters they were.

RIP: "Alix Dobkin: Groundbreaking lesbian activist and feminist folk singer: The musician's work, including 'Lavender Jane Loves Women', was a cult hit among lesbian women and inspired a generation to come out. Alix Dobkin, who has died following an aneurysm and stroke aged 80, was an American folk singer-songwriter who was dubbed 'the head lesbian' by her fans and admitted to being homophobic before becoming a feminist — as a result of joining a consciousness-raising class after hearing Germaine Greer talking on a radio show." Here she is singing "The Woman in Your Life".

RIP: "WKRP's Frank Bonner Dead at 79: Frank Bonner, best known for donning nightmarish iterations of plaid as WKRP in Cincinnati salesman Herb Tarlek, died on Wednesday as a result of complications from Lewy body dementia, TMZ reported. He was 79." Here's a few of Herb's suits now.

RIP: "Ned Beatty, Actor Known for Network and Deliverance, Dies at 83." He was in more things than I want to list here and was in front of us for most of our lives. His genre credit, of course, is Superman, but perhaps his finest moment was as the executive in Network who explains the facts of life to a stunned Howard Beale.

RIP: "John McAfee: Antivirus software entrepreneur found dead in Spanish prison cell: Catalan's justice department has said "everything points" to suicide after attempts to revive the 75-year-old businessman failed. Antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee has been found dead in his prison cell after Spain's National Court approved his extradition to the US, the Catalan justice department has said. Prosecutors in the US state of Tennessee had charged the 75-year-old with evading taxes after allegedly failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consultancy work." This guy had a crazy enough story already and, of course, there is some question about whether this was really suicide.

RIP: Lying warmonger Donald Rumsfeld is dead at 88.

"End the Algorithm [...] At the heart of the problem are powerful machine learning algorithms which favor content that is shocking, surprising or inflammatory. While few older social media networks launched with algorithmically generated feeds of user-created content, every modern social media company is powered by one. Like an artificial intelligence that gets out of control in a sci-fi movie, these algorithms are out of control. Data scientist Cathy O'Neil calls these algorithms 'Weapons of Math Destruction.' However, when they cause destruction, social media companies are shielded from liability. We should end this liability protection, forcing companies to end the algorithms and return content feeds back to the user."

The evil that men do lives after them, and I'm not as optimistic as Zach Carter's title and subtitle suggest, for the very reasons why this particular evil succeeded as he describes in "The End of Friedmanomics: The famed economist's theories were embraced by Beltway power brokers in both parties. Finally, a Democratic president is turning the page on a legacy of ruin." I wish I could believe that, but I don't. And I still can't believe Friedman was so stupid he didn't realize what he was doing. "After two decades on the intellectual front lines of American politics, Friedman was a bestselling author and no stranger to fine living. But he was astonished by both 'the extraordinary affluence of the White community' and the 'extraordinary inequality of wealth' in South Africa. Friedman was not a man to scold opulence, and yet he found the tension permeating apartheid South Africa palpable in both taxicabs and hotel ballrooms. The 'hardboiled attitudes' of Mobil chairman Bill Beck and his friends were difficult for him to endure. The 'complete segregation' of the population was 'striking.'" Why, yes, you'd almost think Keynesianism helps to prevent such huge disparaties. Chillingly good article about how a crackpot named Milton Friedman destroyed our economy.

And on a related subject, in The Atlantic this time, Zach tackles "The Real Problem With Globalization: International crises demand international solutions. [...] These horrors were evident before the outbreak of COVID-19; the pandemic has escalated them all. But this is not the first time globalization has run aground. Seventy-six years ago, leaders of the world's democracies gathered in the mountains of New Hampshire hoping to end the chaos and enmity spawned by the collapse of the global trading system known as the gold standard. Guided by the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, more than 700 delegates from 44 nations sought to establish a new international order in which democracies would cooperatively tame the excesses of high finance in the name of international harmony. The fruits of their labors would become known as the Bretton Woods Accord, and the 25 years of unprecedented prosperity that their effort inaugurated offer profound implications for our own age of calamity. For it is not globalization that has brought us to the brink of the abyss, but the peculiar strain of globalization that emerged in the 1990s—a system in which international financial markets would discipline the bad habits of democratic governments, not the other way around. Instead of linking countries together in shared investment priorities and social goals, the World Trade Organization and other institutions of global commerce have thwarted government interference in the profits of international investors—profits that often come at the expense of public health, environmental protection, and geopolitical stability."

"Meet the Censored: Bret Weinstein: Canceled on campus for speaking his mind, he's now going through a sequel at the hands of Silicon Valley."

"How the CIA created the Unabomber: When mass murderer Ted Kaczynski was a 16-year-old undergraduate student at Harvard, he took part in a behavioral engineering project run by the CIA. It was part of the US government's illegal MKUltra project, which ruined the lives of many innocent and unwitting test subjects around the world."

Peter Coyote, "Pacifica Radio In Peril: Due to years of mismanagement and the role of sectarian splinter groups, the network finds itself on the precipice of either bankruptcy or dissolution. This is not an exaggeration nor is it a fantasy. Let's look at the facts. Four out of the five stations in the network are unable to generate sufficient revenue to pay their staffs and overhead expenses. The only exception is KPFA in Berkeley, California. The network has a $3.1 million loan that comes due in September 2022, and they literally have no money to pay that loan back. How did this come about? Read more about the key facts here. Increasingly, Pacifica turns to fringe conspiracy theories, hate speech, snake oil and infomercials to raise money. Some of the programming not only betrays the Pacifica mission but makes any person of intelligence, conscience and decency cringe."

"Female Luftwaffe Pilots in Combat 1945Beate Uhse had a particularly interesting post-war life. As ex-Luftwaffe, she was forbidden to fly, but she found other work where she heard much from women about their problems and she started publishing information on sexuality and contraception, eventually leading to her career running a famous sex shop. She's regarded as one of the more important figures in sexual liberation in Germany.

Loony Tunes: "Rabbit Hood"

Calamityware: dinner plates for special occasions! Also, silk ties and scarves!

In 2012, The Rolling Stones performed "Lady Jane" live for the first time in 45 years.

23:44 GMT comment


Monday, 14 June 2021

Any time will do

"Belle Soirée Sur Andernos" by Christine De Segonzac

Juan Cole, "Israeli Opposition Unite to Oust Netanyahu: Why proposed new Israeli PM, extreme-right Naftali 'I've Killed a Lot of Arabs; Bennett, is even worse for Palestinians than far right Netanyahu In a prime time address on Sunday evening, right wing extremist Israeli politician Naftali Bennett announced that he intended to join a government of national unity, including left wing and centrist parties, which would unseat long-serving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The coalition was mainly put together by Yair Lapid of 'There's a Future' (Yesh Atid) Party, but Lapid is willing to have a rotating prime ministership and is willing to let Naftali take the first turn, for two years. Netanyahu himself went on an unhinged Trump-like rant on television calling Bennett a sham for being willing to go into coalition with the Left (which Netanyahu has often done). The move would allow Israel to avoid a fifth election in a little over two years this summer. Bennett had been under pressure from some in the Israeli right wing instead to make a coalition with Netanyahu, but several right wing leaders, including Avigdor Lieberman, have developed a visceral hate of the current prime minister, and refuse to work with him. This split in the Israeli Right is therefore in large part about personality rather than ideology."

"Joe Manchin: Deeply Disappointed in GOP and Prepared to Do Absolutely Nothing: The centrist Democrat believes, despite it all, that bipartisanship is still possible. 'I have to say, keep the faith in this damn Senate,' he told The Daily Beast. When the Jan. 6 commission became the latest casualty of Republican obstructionism on Friday, most Democrats weren't surprised. Joe Manchin was."

"Joe Manchin Can Name 12 Logical Fallacies Preventing Him From Supporting Voting Rights [...] Is it particularly surprising that Joe Manchin is voting against the For the People Act? Of course not. That's what he does. He's a scorpion and that's just his nature. But the way I figure it, if he is going to write an entire article titled 'Why I'm Voting Against the For the People Act,' he should at least have the decency to explain why he is voting against the For the People Act. He does not. In this op-ed, Manchin spends lots of time explaining why he's opposed to ending the filibuster, but the only explanation he gives for why he opposes the For the People Act is that it's 'partisan.' [...] The For the People Act is huge. There is a lot in it. And yet, Manchin does not manage to name one single specific item in the bill that he can say is explicitly "partisan." He may as well have said that he found the bill "derivative" or claimed that it "insists upon itself." It means nothing. Given that this is a major piece of Democratic legislation, one would think he could do us all the favor of being a little more specific. Which aspect of the bill does he find "partisan?" Which part of it does he think would be unfair to Republicans? I think we'd all be happy to hear him out were he able to make that known. Rather than explaining what about it he finds specifically objectionable, Manchin simply assures us that if the bill were good, it would have support from all of the wonderful Republicans in Congress who deigned to agree that the president encouraging a bunch of cafones to storm the Capitol building was maybe bad. [...] It may seem partisan to Manchin simply because it is commonly held wisdom that the more people are able to vote and the easier it is for them to do so, the more likely it is that they will vote for Democrats — but that isn't really a reason for those people to not be able to vote. I'm just saying, if we're gonna arrange things that way, then why go through with elections at all? Why even call them elections? We might as well just dispense with this charade entirely. If we're arranging elections to make it easier for Republicans to win due to fewer people voting, then how is that not just an appointment? Democrats winning elections because everyone is able to vote easily and Republicans winning because it is harder for certain people to vote are not equal scenarios. If Republicans can't win elections with everyone voting, that seems like more of a "them" problem than an "us" problem, no? Am I wrong here? Am I losing my mind? Manchin's main point of contention seems to be that the Act is simply unfair to Republicans because they did not help to write it. It is unclear, however, who it was that was stopping them. Two Republican House representatives in fact proposed amendments to the bill, and yes, they were voted down, but that's how things work. Some amendments proposed by Democrats also failed, because that is also the way things work. Republicans could have participated more, they chose not to. Once again, that is a "them" problem."

Someone actually interviewed the workers, and also employers who have no sympathy with the whiners who are claiming that they can't find workers because unemployment benefits are too generous. "'Breaking Point': Restaurant Workers Push Back Amid Unemployment Benefit Crackdown [...] Weil has sparse sympathy for those in his industry who have changed little since the pandemic hit. 'Look, 90% of restaurant employees were terminated in mid-March last year,' he said. 'They didn't get on unemployment because they're lazy. They got on unemployment because they were fired.' Neither has Weil seen any of the business owners complaining about unemployment payments reject Paycheck Protection Program funds. 'These establishments chose not to use that PPP money to rehire workers for hybrid models, or to-go models — the revenue stream has been so enriched, and yet there's still no willingness to adapt and be competitive,' he said. 'Industry workers didn't opt out of work. They were all terminated by places that were happy to operate without them, until the pandemic was over.'"

"Wrestling With the New Deal: The programs Roosevelt put together may not have met a Platonic ideal of modern progress, but they saved American democracy itself. In 2014, an up-and-coming writer named Ta-Nehisi Coates made a landmark case for reparations in The Atlantic, which took aim at, among other targets, one of the most revered figures in the liberal pantheon: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Detailing the failures of New Deal housing policy for Black America, Coates told readers that 'Roosevelt's New Deal, much like the democracy that produced it, rested on the foundation of Jim Crow.' Cardi B was nonplussed. 'I love Franklin Delano Roosevelt,' the multi-platinum rapper told GQ four years later. 'He helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair — if it wasn't for him, old people wouldn't even get Social Security.' American intellectuals obsess over FDR because, as historian Eric Rauchway demonstrates in his admirable new book Why the New Deal Matters, he saved the American project itself, for better and for worse. The Great Depression that Roosevelt ended was not merely a collapse of gross domestic product and employment figures; it was a full-blown political crisis that toppled regimes around the world and called into question the very legitimacy of democratic governance. Under FDR, Rauchway writes, 'democracy in the United States, flawed and compromised as it was, proved it could emerge from a severe crisis not only intact but stronger.' When we fight over the New Deal, we are really arguing about the very meaning of America. [...] But the New Deal meant more to Black America than housing policy. Had it not, Roosevelt would not have inaugurated the titanic shift in Black voting away from the party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Even after President Herbert Hoover's disastrous navigation of the Depression, Roosevelt lost the Black vote by roughly 2-to-1 in 1932. After four years of the New Deal, he won the Black vote by nearly 3-to-1 in 1936. This was the beginning of a political realignment that persists to this day."

"Video of police abuses and the NYPD trampling the Constitution reveal inefficacy of 'reform': The people we represent are often subjected to brutal police violence. But perhaps most telling is that all of this is playing out while the world is watching. [...] This week, a video went viral showing the arrest of a young trans woman during a protest. The 18-year-old woman was tackled in broad daylight and then rushed into an unmarked van by plainclothes officers, echoing the terrifying events we've watched play out this month in Portland, Oregon, and paralleling the forms of police brutality we, as public defenders and civil rights attorneys, know happen every day in the communities of those we represent. But this is only the latest in a string of videos that have clearly documented the tragic shortcomings of police reforms that had supposedly been previously adopted by the NYPD."

"When Nice Things Do Cost Too Much [...] "American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption—systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit."

"White House admits CIA involvement in 'War on Corruption' which jailed Lula and elected Bolsonaro: In a White House 'Background Press Call by Senior Administration Officials on the Fight Against Corruption', a Biden administration official admitted that the CIA and other parts of the U.S. intelligence apparatus were involved in assisting the 'War on Corruption' which jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and elected Jair Bolsonaro."

"No, Obama Wasn't Mad About Bailing Out His Wall Street Donors: The former president is now trying to pretend he was a finance industry critic, even though he was Wall Street's biggest cheerleader and enabler. Former President Barack Obama wants you to now believe that he was actually mad about giant Wall Street handouts that he voted for, then arm twisted lawmakers to expand — and then rescinded when some of the money might have gone to help homeowners. Obama's foray into pure fiction is not only absurd — it is a reminder that history can repeat itself if we allow reality to be memory-holed. [...] Obama doesn't seem to grant interviews to anyone who might mention these inconvenient facts — he seems only to give access to pundits and news outlets whose obsequiousness guarantees that they'll never dare ask a single follow-up question. On that score, Klein loyally held up his end of the bargain, allowing Obama to pretend he was an enraged bailout opponent, even though he was the driving force behind the handouts to a finance industry that bankrolled his political career. The result here is an economic version of the Iraq War, where all the facts and the lying and the greed are erased, with elite media playing the role of the brain-wiping machine in Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind."

"Despite the Headlines, the Gates Foundation Has Evaded Scrutiny: Allegations of financial misconduct against Michael Larson, who manages the foundation's money as well as a portion of Bill and Melinda's personal wealth, should prompt a closer look. Following weeks of allegations that Bill Gates has acted inappropriately toward female employees, The New York Times last week reported that the Gates Foundation's money manager also stands accused of sexual misconduct—as well as bullying and racism. [...] But buried in the Times story is also an allegation of financial misconduct that governance and tax experts say should trigger official investigations into the foundation, and prompt us to rethink governance rules over billionaire philanthropy. [...] Judith Chevalier, a professor of finance at Yale University, says that when billionaires give their money to a private foundation, it no longer is their money—but rather part of a charitable trust that is required to be spent for philanthropic purposes. That the Gates family has continued to exercise such tight control over the foundation's money, Chevalier says, should have raised questions a long time ago. 'They haven't really diluted their control over it in a way which is customary,' Chevalier notes. 'It's just good practice to have a substantial and independent board of directors.'"

Matt Stoller wrote this before the bill in question actually passed, but now it has. "New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust: The Amazon H2Q fight in 2019 woke up the anti-monopolists in New York. Now they are moving forward with a new stronger trust-busting law. Today's issue is about a ground-breaking antitrust bill - New York Senate Bill 933 - that is likely to be voted on in the New York state Senate this week. SB933 is probably the most significant legal challenge to big tech monopoly power in the country, and would overturn the big business-friendly way we currently interpret antitrust law. As the New York Times Dealbook noted last week, with this bill, 'New York may change how America does antitrust.' In this issue, I'll both explain the legislation and do an interview with the sponsor of the bill, New York Deputy Majority Senate Leader Michael Gianaris."

If we can put one billionaire in space, why can't we put all billionaires in space? Especially since he's going on our dime.

There was plenty of real-time reporting on the ground with first-person accounts from the victims when a church was aggressively cleared with flash-bangs and tear gas just in time for Trump to do a photo op. But suddenly the headlines are going the other way with the release of a report by an inspector general at Interior saying the Park Police didn't clear the area just for Trump's photo-op. Which not only contradicts what the White House itself said at the time, but conveniently refers only to the Park Police, who were not the only cops on the scene. "Skepticism Mounts Over IG's Report on Lafayette Park Attack on Protesters [...] The 41-page report by Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt, an appointee of Trump's, stated that U.S. Park Police (USPP) did not force protesters to leave using violent methods on June 1, 2020, for the former president, but rather did so in order to install anti-scale fencing to deter property damage in the park."

Alan Grayson is running for the Senate again, and the bad guys have revived The OTHER False Grayson Smear [...] First, looking at the incident in question from 2014, here are the facts of the case. His ex-wife, Lolita Carson-Grayson, did submit a handwritten statement with the allegations that she later withdrew completely. Actual video from the scene provided to police only showed her hitting him, and on a 911 call made after Grayson left, she said she wanted to report Grayson for disturbing her peace. When asked to clarify, she said 'he came over to my house,' and when asked if there was an altercation or if he hit her, she replied that she hit Grayson. An affidavit from Grayson's daughter also stated Alan never hit the mother of his children. The video was widely disseminated demonstrating that the allegations were false from Grayson's perspective, as filmed by another witness. But more than that, Lolita Carson-Grayson publicly recanted the allegations a day later and issued a written apology. Eventually, the domestic violence case was dismissed. In the divorce case, Lolita Carson-Grayson was subsequently held liable for Grayson's attorney's fees, and the judgement included reference to the false domestic violence allegations made. More recently, the judge sanctioned her and she was ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees by the court." This one keeps cropping up from people who should know better. That doesn't mean there are no issues around Grayson, but they aren't the ones that have been used to smear him.

"Even Wall Street Shills Understand Why the Democrats Failed: A new autopsy of the Democrats' 2020 electoral underperformance supports the Left's arguments about the weaknesses of the party's strategies. The only surprise is where the report came from: Wall Street—funded neoliberal think tank Third Way. [...] More broadly, just as in 2016, Democrats 'leaned too heavily on 'anti-Trump' rhetoric without harnessing a strong economic frame.' The report quotes officials and campaign staff complaining that 'it was the lack of an economic plan that really hurt,' and that leaning on nothing but 'Donald Trump sucks' led to Biden/Republican ticket-splitting around the country, with the GOP painting the party as out of touch with economic concerns. This overlaps with the findings of a Navigator Research survey of three thousand voters, which found that the majority of Biden-Republican ticket-splitters put a higher priority on the economy (and actually tended to side with progressive positions on economic policy)."

"The Great 'Awokening' and Ruling Class Uses for Racial Grievance Discourse [...] This brings us to the second reason this cynical racial grievance discourse is being pushed by the left flank of capital and the centrist Democrats. Such racial grievance posturing is being tolerated to ensure that Blacks en mass do not join the Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic party and enter the fight for more public goods government policy. Therefore, the reason why even though the Sanders faction of the party offers the agenda most needed by poor and working class Blacks who are the majority, the Black Political class and it's class acolytes will deem the Sanders coterie as 'class reductionists,' who don't care about racism even though we know this is cover for the fact that the Black political class is wedded to the centrist Democrats for its 'fatback and biscuits' patronage."

Current Affairs, "Biden Is Not Doing Nearly Enough: Democrats need to realize they are in a fight for their lives. Without transformative accomplishments, the right will soon be back in power—and it will be ugly."

From The Roosevelt Institute, "Five Reasons Why the CBO Underestimates Federal Investment: As policymakers invest in infrastructure, jobs, and solutions to the climate crisis, many will be looking at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and its methodology for determining the benefits of public investment. The methodology the CBO uses, like all economic models, has strengths and weaknesses depending on what kinds of questions need to be answered. For many things, such as the projected costs of straightforward spending programs, these methods are sound and have a good record of success. In general, we hope that any assumptions in economic modeling will tend to balance out. But when it comes to investments, especially in climate measures, the methods the CBO uses have a strong bias against public action,.."

"Take Me to Your Leader: The Rot of the American Ruling Class: For more than three centuries, something has been going horribly wrong at the top of our society, and we're all suffering for it."

"America's Cancer Within: Billionaires... And The Politicians They Own: — Nothing you don't already know, but billionaires are making America into a poor country.

"Warren Buffett and the Myth of the 'Good Billionaire' [...] There is no way to be a billionaire in America without taking advantage of a system predicated on cruelty, a system whose tax code and labor laws and regulatory apparatus prioritize your needs above most people's. Even noted Good Billionaire Mr. Buffett has profited from Coca-Cola's sugary drinks, Amazon's union busting, Chevron's oil drilling, Clayton Homes's predatory loans and, as the country learned recently, the failure to tax billionaires on their wealth. [...] In a long statement last week, Mr. Buffett defended himself by pointing to his long advocacy for a fairer taxation system, and then he immediately told on himself by undermining the very idea of taxes in the same letter. 'I believe the money will be of more use to society if disbursed philanthropically than if it is used to slightly reduce an ever-increasing U.S. debt.' In other words: I believe in higher income taxes on people like me, but I'm highly organized to avoid having income to report, and I don't really believe in taxes because I think I should decide how these surplus resources are spent."

RIP: "Patrick Sky, Folk Singer and Bob Dylan Contemporary, Dead at 80" Back in the day, I used to do "Separation Blues" just for fun, and, occasionally, "Nectar of God". And I always loved his performance of "Ira Hayes", still the best version by my reckoning.

RIP: "'Hooked on a Feeling' singer B.J. Thomas dies at 78." Yes, most other headlines named "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," but it was written for him so B.J. Thomas was the first to record "Hooked on a Feeling" (with the original, uncensored lyrics) way back in the dark ages. He also introduced a generation of pop fans to Hank Williams' music with his rich rendition of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", his first hit.

RIP: "Clarence Williams III, The Mod Squad and Purple Rain Actor, Dead at 81: Actor also appeared in Half Baked, Deep Cover, Twin Peaks and Tales From the Hood. Clarence Williams III, the actor who portrayed Linc Hayes on TV's The Mod Squad as well as played Prince's father in Purple Rain, has died at the age of 81. Williams management confirmed the actor's death to Variety, adding that Williams died following a battle with colon cancer.The New York City-born Williams, the grandson of jazz great Clarence Williams, made his acting debut on Broadway and other theatrical productions in the mid-Sixties before he was cast in The Mod Squad, the influential counterculture police series that ran for five seasons on ABC. 'Mod Squad broke new ground,' Living Colour's Vernon Reid tweeted Sunday. 'Clarence Williams III broke new ground. You can draw a direct line from Clarence Williams III to both Denzel & Idris. It's his MF moody blood running through The Kid in Purple Rain that's the furnace of his pain & genius.'" Oh, and I hadn't realized he'd played Jelly Roll Morton, too. Roger Ebert (Matt Zoller Seitz) wrote a highly-appreciative obit where he said: "His ferocity burned holes in the screen, and filmmakers took advantage of that, casting him in roles that shook up the main character's preconceived notions, rattled their complacency, and otherwise pushed their buttons. Williams' performance as a devoutly religious policeman in Bill Duke's classic crime drama "Deep Cover" is a knife in the heart of the film's hero, Laurence Fishburne's cop-posing-as-a-drug-dealer John Hull. There's no irony or doubt in the performance, no self-awareness. The character doesn't just think he's God's instrument, he actually is. The imposter syndrome that the protagonist experiences in scenes opposite Williams' character is indistinguishable from an actor's insecurity at facing a performer who can tuck a scene into his back pocket and walk away with it before his partner can realize what just hit him."

RIP: "F Lee Bailey, celebrity lawyer who defended OJ Simpson, dies at 87" Eventually he went through a phase of teaming up with B.B. King and visiting prisons where King would do music and Bailey would answer inmates' legal questions, which is kinda cool.

"Just How Rigged is the 'Rigged Game'? The Division of Light and Power, the new book by Dennis Kucinich, is an epic chronicle of American corruption: Dennis Kucinich has always been ahead of his time. It's both his distinction and his curse. As a presidential candidate in the 2000s he was ridiculed for backing tuition-free college, single-payer health care, ending the Iraq war, withdrawal from NAFTA and the WTO, same-sex marriage, legalized weed, slashed defense budgets, and a long list of other policies later deemed uncontroversial. When that Kucinich said he would happily nominate a gay or transgender person to the Supreme Court, Jon Stewart guffawed: 'Yes, yes, all rise for the honorable chick with dick!' By 2020 most all of Kucinich's positions were orthodoxy among Democratic voters, yet he remains an outcast to Democrats nationally. In fact, he's been frozen out of blue-state media for the better part of a decade, and welcomed during the same time to a five-year stint as a Fox News contributor. What gives? If even the Washington Post concedes that their former object of ridicule turned out to be 'the future of American politics' — the politics of their own readers — why does the national political establishment continue to keep him out of sight? The answers can be found in The Division of Light and Power, Kucinich's enormous new memoir about his time as the Mayor of Cleveland, and his battle against Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, or CEI. The book is a surprising tour de force on multiple levels. First, it should immediately take a place among the celebrated ruthless accounts of how American politics really work, recalling jarring insider confessionals like Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets or Robert Caro's illusion-crushing portrait of municipal politics, The Power Broker. Second, it's very skillfully written. Kucinich, always a voracious reader, turns out to be a born writer, with a gift for pace and detail." Matt's also got an interview with Kucinich about the book.

"If you think you're sure the GOP has never hacked an election, then you don't know the saga of Don Siegelman, Alabama's last Democratic governor [...] Siegelman rushed to his office where he was informed that the Baldwin County probate court had quietly posted a different set of returns to its website after telling the media and party observers to go home. According to the time stamp, it was posted at 11:06 p.m. The new results had deleted about 6,000 votes from Siegelman's total, throwing the election to Riley. Baldwin county claimed that Siegelman's earlier results had been inflated due to a computer 'glitch' that had supposedly affected only his race and only his total in only one precinct. Siegelman was concerned. The closest friend of a racist probate judge in a rural county had once told him that they sometimes held back a precinct until the end of the night so that they knew how many votes they would need to fix the result." So yes, they stole the election - and then they put him in jail on false charges to keep him from being able to run again.

"The Trouble with Diversity Management [...] In short, the trouble with diversity management is that it helps to protect the power and legitimacy of the most powerful people in organizations: the bosses. Whether your primary issue in an organization is structural/institutional racism or the capitalist social order, the reality is that diversity management does not pose any risk to the people who primarily determine the culture, policies, and budgets of organizations. As a consequence, it is unclear how the corporate solutions provided by the diversity management industry will lead to the eradication of problems in the workplace."

"Extremely rare, spectacular film about London during WW-II in color [A.I. enhanced & colorized]"

I love this drawing, done with a ball-point pen on paper and looking absolutely photo-real.

And I had no idea how big the Crayola boxes could get now and how many colors they are. (Hex and RGB codes included in this chart!)

"Premakes: The Empire Strikes Back (1950)"

1958: Forrest J. Ackerman, Fritz Leiber, and Bjo Trimble star in the 8-minute short, The Genie.

Clare Torry and Pink Floyd live, 1990, "The Great Gig In The Sky"

03:13 GMT comment


Sunday, 30 May 2021

When you believe in things that you don't understand

Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale, was photographed by Cliff Ounsley (that's Simon's dad).

What you didn't hear about the pipeline hack was that it wasn't the pipeline that was hacked at all: "Meanwhile, new details are emerging about Colonial's decision to proactively shut down its pipeline last week, a move that has led to panic buying and massive lines at gas pumps. The company halted operations because its billing system was compromised, three people briefed on the matter told CNN, and they were concerned they wouldn't be able to figure out how much to bill customers for fuel they received. One person familiar with the response said the billing system is central to the unfettered operation of the pipeline. That is part of the reason getting it back up and running has taken time, this person said. Asked about whether the shutdown was prompted by concerns about payment, the company spokesperson said, "In response to the cybersecurity attack on our system, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems." At this time, there is no evidence that the company's operational technology systems were compromised by the attackers, the spokesperson added." That's right, they deprived people of fuel because they were afraid they might not be able to gouge people accurately.

"Advocates Hail Ruling Striking Down 'Unconstitutional' Georgia Anti-BDS Law: 'This ruling comes at a crucial moment... and makes clear that the Constitution protects participation in the BDS movement.' Free speech and Palestinian rights advocates on Monday hailed a ruling by a federal judge declaring the unconstitutionality of a Georgia law prohibiting the state from doing business with anyone advocating a boycott of Israel. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Cohen's 29-page ruling (pdf) addresses a 2016 Georgia law stipulating that 'the state shall not enter into a contract with an individual or company... unless the contract includes a written certification that such individual or company is not currently engaged in, and agrees for the duration of the contract not to engage in, a boycott of Israel.' After plaintiff Abby Martin—an award-winning U.S. journalist and filmmaker critical of Israeli crimes against Palestinians—refused to sign the pro-Israel oath, a planned paid speaking engagement at Georgia Southern University was canceled. Announcing her lawsuit—in which she was represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF)—Martin declared in February 2020, 'I will not forfeit my constitutional rights by signing this pledge.' Cohen's ruling states that Georgia's law 'prohibits inherently expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment, burdens Martin's right to free speech, and is not narrowly tailored to further a substantial state interest.'"

"We promised this vaccine waiver 20 years ago [...] It's not that poor countries can't make their own vaccines. The Global South has a lot of vaccine production capacity. The problem is Big Pharma, which refuses to transfer the patents and know-how to repurpose those facilities for mRNA production. South Africa and India have petitioned the WTO for a vaccine waiver. We should all want this: first, because it is monstrous to doom millions to die in order to preserve the regulatory privileges of a handful of hugely profitable, heavily subsidized pharma companies. But second, even if you don't care about being monstrous, a waiver is needed to ensure all our survival: the longer and wider the virus circulates, the more mutations we'll get, with the mounting risk of a more virulent, more lethal, more vaccine-resistant strain. [...] Gen Xers and their elders will remember the summer of 1999 and the Battle of Seattle, where anti-globalization activists fought for weeks to block the signing of the WTO agreement and its chapter on IP, the TRIPS agreement. The WTO agreement fundamentally changed the way global patents worked. Prior to the WTO, it was common for poor countries to completely ignore the patents issued by rich countries (unless the World Bank or a former colonial power coerced them into recognizing these claims). That's because countries that are net importers of finished goods have no reason to honor their suppliers' claims — doing so merely burdens their own struggling manufacturers by forcing them to pay rent to rich foreigners. [...] Ignoring other countries' exclusive rights regimes — copyright, patent, trademark, etc — is a tried-and-true method to gain self-sufficiency. That's why the Framers of the US Constitution decided that America would ignore foreign patents and copyrights, a policy that persisted for over a century, only ending once the US became a net exporter of ideas and inventions, and thus stood to gain more than it lost." Except, even the WTO agreement promises waivers, which were promised in circumstances like this one — so why the claim now that such waivers would violate the agreement?

"A Euclid Cop Killed a Man Who Had Been Sleeping in His Car. The Cop Can't Be Sued. The City Can't Be, Either. The Supreme Court has a chance to fix this. The stakes are high. A federal court last summer agreed that a reasonable jury could find that Rhodes violated Stewart's constitutional rights when the officer shot him dead—a confrontation set in motion because Stewart had fallen asleep in his parked car. He was never told he was under arrest, nor did Rhodes ever display his badge. Yet in the same breath, the court said that Stewart's estate may not bring their lawsuit before any such jury, because Rhodes was awarded qualified immunity. The legal doctrine prohibits victims from suing government officials for violating their rights unless the precise manner in which those rights were violated has been spelled out as unconstitutional in a prior court ruling. Though it sounds farcical, that's not at all a surprising outcome. Yet there is a shocking part of the decision, handed down in August by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit: They also shielded the municipality from the lawsuit on the grounds that the officer was protected by qualified immunity—something the U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled against in Owen v. City of Independence (1980)."

"Are States Really Abolishing Qualified Immunity for Cops? Not Exactly. Recent reporting suggests that lawmakers across the country are ending a long-standing legal protection for police officers, but that isn't quite true. [...] There is just one slight hiccup. New Mexico didn't actually abolish qualified immunity. Nor did Colorado. Nor did Connecticut. Nor did New York City. I point this out not to dismiss the significance of the laws that some of these states actually passed. Indeed, some of them are actually more interesting than a straightforward abolition of qualified immunity. But when discussing how to write laws to curtail police abuses, precision is more important than ever. These reports, which greatly exaggerate the demise of qualified immunity, manage simultaneously to misdirect readers and give short shrift to what lawmakers in these jurisdictions are actually doing. [...] So what did these states actually pass into law? That's where things get interesting. In Colorado and in New Mexico, state lawmakers essentially duplicated Section 1983's basic premise—you can broadly sue government officials for violating your constitutional rights—into state law. A Coloradoan or a New Mexican (or a Connecticuter in some circumstances) whose microwave is stolen by our hypothetical police officer can now sue that officer in state court to seek redress. What's more, those states explicitly forbid government officials from seeking qualified immunity in those legal battles."

I can't remember ever having to ask, "What do you pay?" in a job interview because they usually told me in their first paragraph, well before the point where they asked if I had any questions.. Apparently, though, today's employers are unaware that what you'll be paid should have an influence on whether you'll take the job, and think they ask now all because unemployment pays too well.

"Minnesota foundations scramble to save their favored highly-segregated charter schools by defending segregation: IN THESE DAYS OF RACIAL STRIFE it may surprise you to learn that one influential philanthropy based in Minneapolis is paying for arguments in court to allow segregated public schools. Another foundation is leading the charge to remove language from the state's constitution that courts have used to bar segregation in schools. What's going on here? Are the Twin Cities not the 'liberal' bastion people make it out to be?" And there's dirt under the dirt.

No one doubts that there must be human rights abuses in China, but Lee Camp finds it hard to trust "multiple sources" on one claim when they all seem to be founded by the CIA and arms manufacturers.

"The Republican theory of unemployment is classic Marx: Indeed, as Matt Bruenig details at the People's Policy Project, there is no sign that unemployment benefits are actually interfering with labor supply. In the April jobs report, lots of people moved into employment, while only a handful moved onto unemployment. A large number of women, however, dropped out of the labor force entirely (rendering them ineligible for unemployment benefits), suggesting the child care issue is likely the real bottleneck here. But instead of calling for better wages, or setting up child care systems, or anything else, Republicans are trying to fix the problem by starving out people on unemployment — taking their money so they will have no choice but to immediately look for work, and capitalists will once again have the industrial reserve army at their beck and call. It's like conservatives have been reading Marx not to learn why they should overthrow the bourgeoisie, but as a sort of manual for how best to exploit the working class."

"Meet the Florida Judges who believe Cops have an Expectation of Privacy in Public: It was 2009 when PINAC News first broke the story of a mother named Tasha Ford who was arrested on felony 'eavesdropping' charges for recording police detaining her teenage son in the parking lot of a movie theater after accusing him of trying to sneak inside without a ticket. Ford's arrest by Boynton Beach police was one of several high-profile arrests at the time on charges of eavesdropping or 'wiretapping'; an unconstitutional trend in which cops across the country were using outdated felony laws to keep citizens from recording them in public. Several landmark court cases since then have affirmed that citizens have a First Amendment right to record police in public which is one reason why we have been seeing so many police abuse videos in recent years. Turns out, they had a lot to hide during those early years. But on May 5, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida ruled the Boynton Beach cops who arrested Ford had a reasonable expectation of privacy and therefore had probable cause to arrest her, once again denying her the right to sue for damages. Ford first filed the lawsuit in 2010 but has since faced a string of judges who claim that cops have an expectation of privacy in public despite existing case law stating otherwise." I don't know where police or anyone else get the idea that cops are acting as private citizens when they are in fact in public on official business and are supposed to have their names and badge numbers clearly visible so they can be held accountable.

"If Democracy Is Dying, Why Are Democrats So Complacent? Democrats are unwilling to match their language of urgency with a strategy even remotely proportional to it. If you've followed recent Democratic messaging, you'll have heard that American democracy is under serious attack by the Republican Party, representing an existential threat to the country. If you've followed Democratic lawmaking, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the threat is actually a rather piddling one. The disconnect, in this case, isn't attributable to Democratic embellishment, but to inexcusable complacency."

"So Much For "Transformational" Joe Biden: If you haven't heard about the "transformational presidency" for a few weeks, it's because the White House is selling something else at the moment. [...] Biden has the press paper-trained to a degree we haven't seen in modern times. Not even at the height of the media's drooling love affair with Barack Obama — a phenomenon I confess I was part of — did we ever see such enthusiastic, reflexive backing of White House messaging. The Biden press even reverses course on a dime when needed, with the past weeks being a supreme example."

"Larry Summers Is Concerned About Inflation, Again: Larry Summers has a column in the Washington Post warning about inflationary risks to the economy, due to what he considers an excessively large recovery package from the Biden administration. Summers notes the extraordinarily high rate of inflation in the first quarter and warns us that worse is ahead if corrective measures are not taken soon. Starting with the inflation that we have seen to date, it is important to remember that this follows the very low rate of inflation we saw in the pandemic. Much of this is just catch up."

I'm not sure when I noticed that Peter Beinart had changed. He'd been part of a generation of writers who insisted they were liberal but supported the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq and were all-out for Israel uber alles, and then...he was not. From this New Yorker profile about that change: "Those emotions had outlasted the crisis which had created them. What was left, Beinart said, was 'this situation in which we're always in 1938.' The problem with this is, he went on, 'if basically we're always on the precipice of the Holocaust, then your only obligation is to survive. You don't have to deal with the moral obligations of how you treat other people. So it gives you tremendous license to do whatever, because, basically, the Palestinians are just proto-Nazis.'"

As I've been saying, if you spend the 2020 campaign talking up your opponents, it's not surprising if they beat you. "Opinion: Can Democrats avoid the pitfalls of 2020? A new analysis offers striking answers. The analysis — which was done by the group Way to Win and was provided to me — suggests large TV-ad expenditures on emphasizing bipartisan outreach do not appear to have paid dividends for House Democrats in the 2020 elections. The analysis also finds that Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism. Democrats, of course, lost a net dozen House seats, underperforming victorious Joe Biden all over the place. The findings suggest Democrats need a rethink of their approach to those conundrums, the analysts conclude. [...] Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, the vice president of Way to Win, said that, in sum, Democrats in 2020 sent mixed messages: They touted their willingness to work with Republicans, even as Republicans called them socialists and extremists." Via Atrios, who had more to add.

RIP: "Gavin MacLeod, Love Boat Captain and Mary Tyler Moore Show Star, Dies at 90: Gavin MacLeod, a sitcom veteran who played seaman 'Happy' Haines on McHale's Navy, Murray on Mary Tyler Moore and the very different, vaguely patrician Captain Stubing on The Love Boat, has died. He was 90." Another actor who seemed to be around my whole life, but we all loved him as Murray.

Watch Defamation: Anti-Semitism, the Movie (2009): In his exploration of modern Israeli life, filmmaker Yoav Shamir travels the world in the hunt for the most recent manifestations of anti-Semitism, and comes up with some startling answers as highlighted in his documentary Defamation. As a Jew raised and born in Israel, Shamir claims he has never experienced first-hand anti-Semitism, so he embarks on a journey to find it. He follows American-Jewish leaders to the European capitals, as they warn government officials of the rising anti-Semitism threat, and tags along with Israeli high school students on a trip to Auschwitz. What Shamir discovers often surprises him. For instance, he accompanies a group of Israeli students on a trip to Poland, in a quest to help open their eyes to the realities of the Holocaust. Yet, the youngsters have been so groomed by their leaders to dread the worst from the local citizens that they wind up envisaging anti-Semitic views where none may really exist. Indeed, his remarkably nuanced and provocative documentary Defamation becomes more of an assessment of the internecine warfare happening amongst the Jews themselves than of the attitude portrayed by the gentiles towards Jews."

"Eleanor Roosevelt's Son Authored Twenty Mysteries In Which His Mother Solves Murders: Yes, that's right. Apparently, Elliott Roosevelt, the son of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, authored a long-running murder mystery series starring his mother as an amateur detective."

On The Politics of Everything, "Music for Nothing: Everyone streams music. Musicians make pennies. Is Spotify to blame? It's easier than ever to listen to practically the entirety of recorded music. But for musicians, it's harder than ever to make money. On Episode 31 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk about the economics of the music industry with the English musician Tom Gray, who founded the #BrokenRecord campaign, and David Turner, who writes the newsletter Penny Fractions. Did streaming save music, or is it killing it? Should we blame Spotify or the record labels for the industry's problems? And what should be done to make the music business more equitable?" (Audio and transcript.)

"David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash speak: In 1969, the supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded Déjà Vu. It's considered one of the greatest albums of the rock era. When asked what he thinks about it when he hears it now, Stephen Stills replied, 'There's masterpieces in there. Ain't a dog in the bunch!'"

Mark Fiore on Israel/Palestine and How To Start A War In 5 E-Z Steps.

Ruben Bolling puts his finger on how billionaires think.

"Ranked: The Social Mobility of 82 Countries"— The countries with the highest mobility are the ones with the best social programs. Investing in the public pays off for the public. Cutting social services is what you do when you want to reduce the masses to lives of endless servitude.

Everyone knows by now that the bridge over the Mississippi between Memphis and Arkansas has a crack in it, but did you also know that at night it's the Hernando De Soto Bridge LIGHT SHOW - Memphis, Tennessee?

NYC Sitcom Map

Stevie Wonder live on Seseme Street, "Superstition"

02:09 GMT comment


Saturday, 22 May 2021

What more can I do?

Pascale Perrillat's "Les Fleurs Se Sont Ouvertes" from the April selection.

"Biden Bucks the Lobbying, Supports Covid Patent Waiver" — Or does he? Most of the world has been opposed to the US/Bill Gates position on covid vaccine patents, and on the other side, the lobbying to protect "Intellectual Property" over lives has been fierce. Yet the Biden administration has announced that it will suspend pharma's patent protections for a while. But there is still that worrying line in their statement, "Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved." This sounds like double-talk intended to slow-walk the release long enough that it won't happen soon enough to prevent new mutations and outbreaks.

"Humanity Does Not Need Bill Gates: On everything from climate change to global health, the billionaire tycoon is a study in shamelessness. Bill Gates has long been one of the most powerful people in the world. For many years, he was the world's richest man, though he has lately rotated in the slot with Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. Since retiring from his position as Microsoft's CEO in 2000, Gates has become a celebrated figure in world philanthropy, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) spending astronomical sums on health and education initiatives. The BMGF is the largest private charitable foundation in the world, and spends more on global health each year than the World Health Organization (WHO) and many whole countries. (The BMGF is run jointly by the Gateses, though the effects of the couple's recently-announced divorce are unclear.) [...] But it's also the case that much of the organization's wealth is (1) produced dubiously and (2) spent dubiously. In a five-year period, Schwab reported that the Foundation had earned $28.5 billion, while giving away $23.5 billion in charitable grants. Some of those earnings come from, for example, the profits of private prison companies. In 2002, the Foundation invested hundreds of millions of dollars in large pharmaceutical companies, meaning that the Foundation stands to benefit if it can help boost the profits of Big Pharma, and to lose if Big Pharma loses. The Foundation, when confronted with these dodgy means of enrichment, has rebuffed calls to divest from the prison-industrial complex and said that its investment fund 'is independently managed by a separate entity, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust' and that 'Foundation staff have no influence on the trust's investment decisions.' But this won't wash. Setting up an independent organization to go make as much money as possible for you, and then plugging your eyes and ears about how it's done while imposing no ethical standards, is just as bad as making the decisions yourself. [...] The toilets that have been invented in response to the challenge are cool. If they can get the cost down, they might do a lot of good. But we also see here a problem with Bill's brain that recurs in his climate ideas: Gates believes in new technology as a solution to problems that already have solutions. It's just that the existing solutions would require the kind of transfer of wealth from rich to poor that he sees as unacceptable. "

Scahill at The Intercept, "But What About Hamas's Rockets?: We must be clear: What started this immediate horror was the intensification of Israel's ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The U.S.-backed, armed, and funded extreme right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu is currently engaged in a systemic collective punishment campaign against the people of Gaza. More than two million of them are trapped in an open-air prison camp with nowhere to run or hide from this scorched earth operation. Children are being slaughtered. Civilian residential buildings are being razed to the ground. Meanwhile ethno-nationalist militias are rampaging through the streets of Israel and terrorizing their Arab neighbors in a campaign of organized mob violence. We must be clear: what started this immediate horror was the intensification of Israel's ethnic-cleansing campaign against Palestinians in East Jerusalem, forcibly evicting people from their homes to hand them over to Israeli settlers. The incendiary situation was then exacerbated during a Ramadan siege by Israeli forces at one of the holiest sites in Islam, the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem."

As always, the Newspapers of Record can be relied upon to get it wrong. "Israel/Palestine Coverage Presents False Equivalency Between Occupied and Occupier: Media coverage of heightened violence in Israel/Palestine has misrepresented events in the Israeli government's favor by suggesting that Israel is acting defensively, presenting a false equivalency between occupier and occupied, and burying information necessary to understand the scale of Israeli brutality. [...] The word 'clash' is frequently employed to avoid acknowledging that violence is overwhelmingly inflicted by one side on the other, as in headlines like Reuters' 'Israeli Police, Palestinians Clash at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa, Scores Injured' (5/8/21). The headline gives no clue that 97% of the injuries were being suffered by Palestinians. [...] For instance, Israel closed Kerem Shalom Crossing on May 10, 'blocking the entrance of humanitarian aid and fuel destined for Gaza's power plant' (Gisha, 5/12/21). Kerem Shalom is also Gaza's main commercial crossing, which means that the closure will further devastate Gaza's economy, already in ruin thanks to the Israeli siege. Between May 10 and May 13, the five newspapers published a combined 114 articles that refer to Gaza. Only two pointed out that Israel has tightened the siege during the bombing campaign. The New York Times (5/10/21) ran an article that noted that Israel 'shut a key crossing between Gaza and Israel,' but said nothing about the consequences of doing so." It's amazing how the "Hamas started it" meme seems to be clinging everywhere, despite the fact that Israel had made multiple movies against the Palestinians in the days and hours leading up to what was acknowledged to be a retaliatory rocket strike by Hamas. And none of these articles are noting that Israel has the "dome" preventing Hamas rockets (which are barely more than firecrackers) from doing much damage, while Israel leveled a 13-story residential building which just happened to house international media including Associated Press and Al Jazeera. They later claimed it was a base for Hamas terrorists but have provided no evidence to back this unlikely story. It seems most likely that Israel deliberately attacked the press. However, as The American Prospect observes, "The Israel-Palestine Narrative Has Evolved," and it's not nearly as one-sided as it has been in the past: On Saturday, May 15, Israel bombarded a 15-story building in Gaza City, the main media building housing local and international journalists alike, including Al-Jazeera and the Associated Press. While this was not the first time Israel had deliberately attacked journalists, Saturday's attack neatly symbolized Israel's desperate efforts to silence the mushrooming discussion of all that is wretched about the Israeli government's policies both inside Green Line Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories. The strictly controlled public narrative, handled in the United States not only by Israeli government spokespersons but the lobbying group AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League cheerleaders in America, has snowballed out of their control."

Ian Millhiser says, "Brett Kavanaugh's latest decision should alarm liberals: The Court's new median justice really doesn't care about precedent. [...] Because here's the thing: Edwards did not simply limit the scope of Ramos. Justice Brett Kavanaugh's majority opinion also overruled a 32-year-old decision governing when the Supreme Court's precedents apply retroactively. Kavanaugh did so, moreover, without following the ordinary procedures that the Court normally follows before overruling one of its previous decisions. As Justice Elena Kagan points out in dissent, no one asked the Court to overrule anything in Edwards, and the Court 'usually confines itself to the issues raised and briefed by the parties.'"

"Mississippi court upholds life sentence for pot possession: JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a life sentence for a man convicted of a marijuana possession charge because he had previous convictions and those made him a habitual offender. Allen Russell, 38, was sentenced to life in Forrest County in 2019 after a jury found him guilty of possession of more than 30 grams (1.05 ounces) of marijuana. In Mississippi, a person can be sentenced to life without parole after serving at least one year in prison on two separate felonies, one of which must be a violent offense. Russell was convicted on two home burglaries in 2004 and for unlawful possession of a firearm in 2015. By law, burglary is a violent offense in Mississippi, whether or not there is proof that violence occurred."

"Steven Donziger Describes Contempt Case as a 'Charade' as Trial Comes to a Close: The environmental lawyer who sued Chevron over environmental pollution faces up to six months in prison. After five days in court and 650 days on house arrest, Steven Donziger, the environmental attorney who helped win a multibillion-dollar judgment against Chevron over contamination from oil drilling in Ecuador, chose not to testify in his own defense in the final day of a trial over contempt of court charges. 'My lawyers said you'd be crazy to testify, so we decided to cut the case short,' Donziger told The Intercept. 'No need to continue to legitimize what's essentially a charade.' As the Intercept previously reported, Donziger was charged with contempt of court for refusing to hand over his computer, cellphone, and other electronic devices in August 2019 and has since been on house arrest in his Upper West Side apartment in New York City. Although no attorney without a criminal record in the federal court system has ever before been detained pretrial for a misdemeanor offense, Donziger has been confined to his home for 21 months for the misdemeanor charge. If convicted, he faces six months in prison. [...] 'We tried again at the beginning of the trial to get a jury, and she denied it again,' Donziger said of Preska. 'Had I had an unbiased fact-finder, that is, a jury of my peers, there's a very good chance I would be acquitted of all six counts.'"

"The Saudi Lobby Moves From K Street to Main Street: By enlisting community members across the US to peddle the best version of the Kingdom, the Saudi lobby has given its brand an American-as-apple-pie shine. [...] Yet, in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged America, it became increasingly clear that Trump's reelection prospects were dimming and, with them, that guarantee of eternal protection. And so, the question arose: What was an authoritarian government with oodles of lobbying money but dwindling influence in Washington to do as the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency and a Democratic Congress rose? The answer, it turned out, was to move its influence operation from the Beltway to the heartland."

"Jim Clyburn Undercuts the Democratic Police Reform Bill: In the middle of negotiations over eliminating qualified immunity for police officers, Clyburn says it's not needed for the overall bill. Nearly a year has passed since the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, an anniversary that brings with it the informal deadline among Democrats for police reform. Despite having all that time to put together and pass a police reform package, the fate of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a second version of which passed the House in March and stalled in the Senate, remains as muddled as ever. To some on the Democratic side, that's just fine. According to reporting from Axios, the recent conviction of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis officer who murdered Floyd, had congressional aides feeling less urgency to move a reform bill. That congressional comfort with inaction is not a reflection of an American public opposed to police reform. Far from it. Recent polling from Vox and Data for Progress showed that 55 percent of likely voters felt that the Chauvin conviction made the need for police reform even more urgent than before, presumably on the premise that preventing state-sanctioned murder was more important than gaining a measure of accountability for it. [...] The two parties have substantively different, and likely irreconcilable, visions of what 'police reform' looks like, with the fundamental disagreement coming over qualified immunity, the legal shield that makes it impossible for police officers to be sued for wrongdoing even when they knowingly break the law. Most leading Democrats have insisted that qualified immunity must be repealed as part of any satisfactory bill; Scott and the Republican caucus have been less willing. That negotiation was made substantially more difficult for Democrats after House whip, Congressional Black Caucus member, and top ranking Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) went on the Sunday shows this past weekend and vocally pledged a willingness to give up on qualified immunity reforms entirely. Appearing on CNN's State of the Union, Clyburn said, 'If we don't get qualified immunity now, then we will come back and try to get it later. But I don't want to see us throw out a good bill because we can't get a perfect bill.' Those comments mark a stunning undercutting of the negotiating position of Rep. Clyburn's colleagues, and are a major departure from the position of ranking House and Senate Democrats, as well as civil rights and activist groups. Clyburn waving the white flag on the most crucial sticking point of the police reform bill that Bass, Booker, and others are still in the midst of negotiating puts them in an even tougher position, as they try to wrangle a less and less willing GOP into some sort of consensus."

"Colombians Are in the Streets Against a Violent Neoliberal Order: What began as a massive general strike on April 28 is quickly becoming an open challenge to Colombia's authoritarian neoliberal order. In Colombia, a proposed deeply regressive tax reform bill was the straw that broke the camel's back. Thousands of Colombians have joined protests since April 28, when a massive general strike against the bill became the flash point for mounting unrest with President Iván Duque's authoritarian neoliberal regime. Even though Duque has recently announced he would scrap the tax reform, protesters remain in the streets amid concerns that the Colombian government is simply repackaging a similar bill. In anticipation, the country's largest labor confederations are calling for another general strike on May 5. The situation remains tense in Colombia as police and military repression of the protests begins to escalate. Duque has most recently announced he will impose martial law if the protests continue. But Colombians remain in the streets, and demonstrations are quickly transforming from a denunciation of the tax reform to an outright challenge to the nation's violent, unequal order." But with the help of the US government (under the guise of the War on Drugs, which has heavily-armed government forces in Columbia), I'm sure we'll be able to quash any ideas of democracy. (Some good stuff on that and weird crypto-currency stuff and the rot of the ruling class in this from Jacobin's Weekends show.)

"The Business Class Has Been Fearmongering About Worker Shortages for Centuries: Our so-called staffing crisis hearkens back to the colonial era. THE CURRENT BLIZZARD of stories about a 'worker shortage' across the U.S. may seem as though it's about this peculiar moment, as the pandemic fades. Restaurants in Washington, D.C., contend that they're suffering from a staffing 'crisis.' The hospitality industry in Massachusetts says it's experiencing the same disaster. The governor of Montana plans to cancel coronavirus-related additional unemployment benefits funded by the federal government, and the cries of business owners are being heard in the White House. In reality, though, this should be understood as the latest iteration of a question that's plagued the owning class for centuries: How can they get everyone to do awful jobs for them for awful pay? Employers' anxiety about this can be measured by the fact that these stories have erupted when there currently is no shortage of workers. An actual shortage would result in wages rising at the bottom of the income distribution to such a degree that there was notable inflation. That's not happening, at least not now. Instead, business owners seem to mean that they can't find people who'll work for what the owners want to pay them. This is a 'shortage' in the same sense that there is a shortage of new Lamborghinis available for $1,000."

The Gray Zone is one of those news sites that get treated as whacky conspiracy theorists because they're not consistent with the official narrative, but I've never found any holes in Maté's reporting, so I'm gonna link this: "Challenged on Syria cover-up, OPCW chief lies and US-UK-France evade: Facing new outcry over the Syria cover-up scandal, OPCW chief Fernando Arias has been caught lying, while the US-UK-France are desperately trying to change the subject. Aaron Maté recaps recent meetings at the EU and UN, where the growing Douma controversy was center stage. The US-UK-France bombed Syria in April 2018 after accusing it of a chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma. Leaks later revealed that OPCW inspectors found no evidence of a Syrian government chemical weapons attack. But their findings were suppressed, their original report was censored, and the team was sidelined. Rather than having their concerns addressed, the inspectors have since faced a concerted smear campaign."

These days it's almost like, if you give someone a staff, they will find a way to behave offensively toward them. "It's not their job to buy you cake: Working remotely for the last year has revealed just how much of office culture is accidental, arbitrary, and sexist. On Thursday, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Cathy Merrill, CEO and owner of Washingtonian Media, in which she expressed her fear that employees will want to continue working from home after the pandemic. I am more bothered by the idea that other media executives think like Merrill. If they do, they are hurting their employees and their companies. The op-ed's original headline was explicit about the connection between working from home and being fired — 'As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risk of not returning to work in the office' — before being softened to 'As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work.' On Friday, the editorial staff of The Washingtonian announced that, in response to Merrill's piece, they are refusing to publish today. [...] The meat of the piece centers around Merrill's weird estimate that '20% of every office job' is devoted to creating and sustaining office 'culture.' [...] Possible labor law violations aside, it's no coincidence that these nice office 'extras' — the things you'll rarely see listed in a journalism job description because historically nobody has considered them worth paying for — disproportionately fall to women and people of color. Think back to the office you used to work from. Who unloaded the dishwasher, stocked the snacks, circulated the get well cards, made the coffee, bought the birthday cakes? Did she get paid for it? And did the man who never did any of those things get paid 20% less than she did? No, because that would be insane, right? Because a mother works for free, right?"

This should come in handy, from Matt Taibbi, "TK Newsletter: Introducing 'Racket of the Week': Scandals are coming fast and furious in Wall Street's bubble economy. TK introduces a shortcut guide to tracking financial scandals: Over a decade ago, when I first started covering the 2008 financial crash, a small sky-blue booklet in a library sale caught my attention. The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower turned out to be a biography of early twentieth-century swindler Victor Lustig, often considered the Michaelangelo of con artists (we'd say the Michael Jordan of cons today). Lustig was famous not only for twice pulling off the book's eponymous scam, but also for an ingenious hustle called the 'Rumanian box.' When he sailed across the Atlantic, Lustig would bring a carved mahogany box on board. It had slots on either end, and a mechanical crank inside. Once a crowd gathered, he would feed blank sheets of paper in a slot on one side, and the machine would spit out a $1000 bill. Toward the end of a voyage, he would sell the machine for a fortune, then disappear on land after disembarking, never to be seen again. [...] A lot of ostensibly complicated Wall Street ripoffs were just jargonized versions of simple street cons, many of which were detailed in the Lustig book and others like it. The mortgage securities game had a lot in common with the 'Big Store' scam popularized in The Sting, as well as the 'Thai Gems' hustle. Both involved long lines of characters who were supposed to be strangers or arm's-length actors, but in fact all knew each other and/or were pushing the customer toward a catastrophic investment.The 2008 bailouts were a version of 'The Reload,' a score in which the victim of a ripoff is visited by someone offering to help get his or her money back, for a fee. Some Americans were similarly beaten and re-beaten in the mortgage con, up to three times. Some were induced to buy exotic no-money-down or variable-rate mortgages, then their pension funds invested in mortgage securities, and then, when the markets all went belly up, their tax dollars went to 'save the economy,' which in practice often meant buying up toxic mortgages at cost from guilty banks. Moreover, the entire bubble economy in the years leading up to 2008 was a plain old Ponzi scheme, as the continually ascending prices of mortgage securities relied on an influx of new investors rather than the inherent value of the properties." And this stuff is still going on, and now we have several bubbles all ready to crash down on us.

David Dayen on "The Real Shortages in the U.S. Economy: It's not a shortage of labor, it's a shortage of attentiveness to how the economy has failed its citizens. But there's another set of shortages in the economy, which are less likely to go away quickly. They are actual reductions in the supply of goods and services, which has an impact on the labor market, but also on the psyche of the nation. Matt Stoller of the American Economic Liberties Project wrote over a year ago that the coronavirus would lead to an end of 'affluence politics,' the idea that America is a nation of abundance where any desire is at our fingertips. Since the gas lines of the 1970s, we have lived without shortages, mostly blissfully unaware of changes in production, logistics, and the failures of the financial plumbers and bureaucrats that make the economy run. Now is a moment to confront the fact that we have a problem of inadequate production alongside unequal distribution, and figure out what to do about it. [...] The decades-long illusion that we can outsource, concentrate, and grind down all our production and then immediately spin it back up at our own whim has been shattered. The lack of flexibility in supply means that extreme weather or just shifts in personal habits can leave us wanting. We haven't paid attention to how the economy actually works, and we're living with the uncertain and debilitating consequences. To paraphrase Stoller, being a wealthy society means being able to provide for the needs of our people. Theoretical wealth that cannot meet that challenge is useless paper. Our real shortage is in imagination, in the ability to conjure up a society where everyone is cared for. That's going to require some redundancy in our supply chains, yes, to protect against disaster. But more than that, it's going to require a dismantling of the negligence with which elites have managed our economy."

"A weapon of mass financial destruction: Some things are hard to understand because they're complicated. Some things are complicated so they'll be hard to understand. The harder you look at the finance industry, the more evident it becomes that the complexity is deliberate, a means of baffling with bullshit. Private equity is one of those baffling and mysterious phenomena that only gets worse with scrutiny: how is it possible that a handful of companies are able to borrow vast sums to buy up and then destroy successful businesses? Can that really be their business-model? Yup."

The GOP (and Angus King) are doing the old "We're burdening our children with debt!" scare story again. I assume readers of The Sideshow are already wise to this scam, but Jon Schwarz spells it out here in "The Idea That Deficit Spending Is a Burden on Our Children Is the Dumbest Propaganda: Every time the government sells a bond, it creates a liability for the government. But it also creates an asset for whoever bought it."

Matt Taibbi is justly outraged. In his "On the Hypocrites at Apple Who Fired Antonio Garcia-Martinez," he tells the tale of a ludicrously negative reading of a passage in his book that describes a woman who enthralls the author that was picked up as an excuse to get the guy sacked. It disturbed Taibbi enough to write more and describe an office culture where we have "cases like that of Garcia-Martinez, where 2,000 employees claimed to be literally incapable of sharing a vast corporate structure with someone who once wrote a book containing passages they might have disagreed with, if they'd actually read it."

Nice tweetstorm on the IRS from Doctorow. "It's a restatement of Engels' idea of 'false consciousness,' and it's the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of wealthy people - many of whom believe that they were literally genetically destined to be wealthy - to convince the rest of us that 'anyone can succeed.' Part of the false consciousness program is the money story that goes like this: the US government takes away 'taxpayers' money' from 'makers' to fund 'programs,' the bulk of which go to the 'lazy takers,' who experience the 'moral hazard' of subsidized unemployment. But of course, that's not how money works. Money originates with the federal government (and its fiscal agents, the banks). In order for the public to have money to pay off its tax liabilities, the government must first spend that money into existence. The IRS doesn't take our tax dollars, pile them up, and give them to Congress to spend on programs. When the IRS taxes our money, they annihilate it, removing it from circulation. When Congress spends, new money comes into existence."

RIP: Bonnie Schupp, who was, among many other things, an amazing photographer, but also an amazing woman. I knew her because my friend Dave Ettlin was smart enough to make a life with her, and I have always been grateful that they found each other. I loved her company, I admired her tremendously — but let Dave tell you in his own words (and hers), in "Time has chosen this year for me to begin wrapping up my life."

RIP: "Lloyd Price, Early Rock Pioneer, Dead at 88: Lloyd Price, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer behind such classic hits as 'Personality' and 'Stagger Lee,' has died at the age of 88. Price's death was confirmed by his widow, Jackie. 'I am so touched by the outpouring of love and tribute for the passing of my husband Lloyd Price, who passed peacefully on May 3, 2021 at Schaffer Extended Care in Westchester County, N.Y.,' she explained to Billboard. 'Lloyd's music crossed many boundaries and carried him to all corners of the world. He got the nickname 'Mr. Personality' because of his biggest hit but he also earned that name because he was charismatic, generous, smart, funny, talented with a very kind heart. I am so grateful for everyone who loves his music and have precious memories of his many songs. From the deepest part of me thank you, love to all.'"

"The girl in the Kent State photo: She was only 14. Here's how her life turned out: Last May, when Mary Ann Vecchio watched the video of George Floyd's dying moments, she felt herself plummet through time and space — to a day almost exactly 50 years earlier. On that May 4 afternoon in 1970, the world was just as riveted by an image that showed the life draining out of a young man on the ground, this one a black-and-white still photo. Mary Ann was at the center of that photo, her arms raised in anguish, begging for help.

If you can stand Facebook, there's a good post from John Derf Backderf on the Kent State Massacre: "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 it's own way, it's as shocking a story as the story leading up to the massacre."

I really loved the movie, so I'm interested in this news: "Attack the Block 2 Confirmed, John Boyega to Star." But with some reservations, because it's ten years later and I'm wondering how it can live up to the first movie. And will Jodie Whittaker reprise her kick-ass role?

People were still trying to find some way to keep it alive: "The bells v the boutique hotel: the battle to save Britain's oldest factory: Whitechapel Bell Foundry dates back to 1570, and was the factory in which Big Ben and the Liberty Bell were made. But it shut in 2017 and a fight for its future has been raging ever since." But there's just no way it could happen — if Alan Hughes recognized that there was no continuing, then there just wasn't. He made the decision to make sure his employees had a soft landing and that's what he did. He'll always be a hero to me.

Lloyd Price with Shanana, "Stagger Lee" and "Personality"

02:03 GMT comment


Wednesday, 05 May 2021

You're playing with fire

This acrylic by Claire Morand is one of the pretty pictures in this year's collection for spring.

Proposed: All members of Congress should be required to provide the public with as detailed an account of their assets as any person applying for a welfare program has to provide - and put it on their .gov webpage.

"Brett Kavanaugh's Opinion Restoring Juvenile Life Without Parole Is Dishonest and Barbaric: In an appalling 6-3 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court effectively reinstated juvenile life without parole by shredding precedents that had sharply limited the sentence in every state. Justice Brett Kavanaugh's majority opinion in Jones v. Mississippi is one of the most dishonest and cynical decisions in recent memory: While pretending to follow precedent, Kavanaugh tore down judicial restrictions on JLWOP, ensuring that fully rehabilitated individuals who committed their crimes as children will die behind bars. Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, pulls no punches in its biting rebuke of Kavanaugh's duplicity and inhumanity. It doubles as an ominous warning that the conservative majority is more than willing to destroy major precedents while falsely claiming to uphold them"

"Critics Warn $15 Billion Merger of Global Water Giants Would Create 'Dangerous Corporate Monopoly': 'Veolia's plan to dominate public water services all across the globe is becoming a terrifying reality.'"

A state trooper in Maryland shot and killed a 16-year-old who turned out to have an airsoft gun, but the poorly-written headline says, "Maryland State Trooper Shoots Dead 16-Year-Old with Airsoft Pellet Gun," which isn't the same thing at all.

"Here's the Real Obstacle to Biden's $4 Trillion Infrastructure Bill: Earlier this month, a contingent of centrists in the Senate gave the White House an ultimatum for its impending infrastructure bill: 'It's got to be paid for.' Specifically, Joe Manchin, Jon Tester, and Angus King told the press that their appetite for deficit spending was nearly exhausted by the American Rescue Plan, and that they would only support Biden's next legislative priority if the bulk of it were offset with new taxes on corporations and high earners. But now, moderates in the House have presented Biden with contradictory demand. Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Tom Suozzi told Axios this week that they will not vote for the infrastructure bill unless it includes roughly $357 billion in tax cuts for the affluent (with about $200 billion of that sum going to households in the top one percent). Specifically, these lawmakers — and, if Axios is to be believed, several others who prefer to remain nameless — demand Biden repeal the cap that Republicans placed on the State and Local Income Tax (SALT) deduction. In addition to directly increasing inequality (in defiance of the White House's stated goals), such a measure would exacerbate the difficulty of finding enough revenue to reconcile Biden's ambitions for spending with his pledge to raise taxes on no one except the rich. But there are a lot of rich Democrats in the state of New York — and so Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reportedly plans to make restoring the full SALT deduction a priority in negotiations with the White House." You'll recall Trump cut the SALT deduction to spite blue states, but that was really a favor that brought revenue into those states. Restoring it would be a bigger tax cut for the wealthy than Trump's big tax cut for the rich.

"The Democratic Party Pay-to-Play Scheme That Keeps Corporations in Charge of Public Policy: Congress is not just corrupt because of human nature. It's also corrupt by Democratic Party design. Two recent pieces caught my eye, the first because it tells an obvious story about Amazon, the labor movement and our happily corrupted Congress, and the second because it reveals the structural Why behind our happily corrupted Congress. Bottom line: Congress isn't corrupt because that's the nature of man or political institutions. Congress is also as corrupt as it is because congressional leaders design it that way and create incentives to make sure it stays that way."

For more details on what pay-to-play really means and what's actually going stale on the table right now as a result, "100 Days of Biden w/ David Dayen & Jennifer Briney" spells it out: "This week, we do a policy deep dive with Executive Editor of The American Prospect David Dayen, and Jennifer Briney of Congressional Dish Podcast, who breaks the pundit mold by actually trying to read all the bills. (Really. All of them.)"

What's going on in Haiti? Dr. Jemima Pierre talked to Sam Seder about the international (US-led) interference in Haiti.

"The fake innovation of gig companies: Over the last several months, Americans have heard hundreds of stories about the horrible working conditions of jobs in the so-called "gig economy." Amazon contract drivers have such brutal delivery schedules that they are sometimes forced to pee in bottles or defecate in bags. Uber drivers are often forced to work ludicrous overtime to make ends meet, much of it waiting for the algorithm to deliver a fare. Doordash paid $2.5 million to settle a lawsuit over allegedly stealing its drivers' tips (though it denied doing so). These stories illustrate an important truth about these gig companies: They are not actually innovative, in the traditional economic meaning of the word. Instead they rely on the most ancient employer technique of all: plain old labor exploitation."

"How the IHRA antisemitism definition became a pro-Israel cudgel: New research charts a five-year campaign by highly partisan, pro-Israel lobby groups to mislead the international community about the nature of what has been widely described as the 'gold standard' definition of antisemitism. According to a report published this week, the campaign has been so successful that political parties, the European Commission, European parliaments, and major public institutions, including universities, have been deceived. They have been persuaded that the new definition of antisemitism is far more expansive than the terms adopted by the international body behind it. As a result, many governments and institutions have wrongly concluded that the definition severely curtails what can legitimately be said about Israel. To date, the most high-profile victim of this campaign to protect Israel has been Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the British Labour party. He was widely characterized as presiding over an 'institutionally antisemitic' party based in large part on misrepresentations about the definition. In a foreword to the report, Avi Shlaim, an emeritus professor at Oxford University, observes that 'a definition intended to protect Jews against antisemitism was twisted to protect the State of Israel against valid criticisms that have nothing to do with anti-Jewish racism.'"

"Who Is Aleksei Navalny? NYT Once Knew, but Has Since Forgotten."

An interview with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer by Ezra Klein seems to indicate that Schumer is starting to get it. This could be good — or just another charade..

"How companies rip off poor employees — and get away with it [...] Some major U.S. corporations were among the worst offenders. They include Halliburton, G4S Wackenhut and Circle-K stores, which agency records show have collectively taken more than $22 million from their employees since 2005. [...] Companies have little incentive to follow the law. The Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division, which investigates federal wage-theft complaints, rarely penalizes repeat offenders, according to a review of data from the division. The agency fined only about 1 in 4 repeat offenders during that period. And it ordered those companies to pay workers cash damages — penalty money in addition to back wages — in 14% of those cases."

RIP: "Jim Steinman, Writer of Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell, Dead at 73" He didn't just write the song, but the whole album. It got so for a while you were constantly hearing his deeply dramatic power-tunes blasting out of speakers. First time I heard Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" I thought, "That's the guy who wrote all that stuff for Meat Loaf," because his style was that distinctive.

RIP: "Walter Mondale, former vice president, dies at 93: Mondale was President Jimmy Carter's vice president from 1977 to 1981." He was actually fairly liberal when he started out, but under the Carter administration he transformed, and by the time he ran for president, he was chillingly right-wing. One of a long succession of right-wing Democrats who lost to Republicans and were re-written by "centrists" as having lost for being "too far left".

Spencer Ackerman, "U.S. Captured, Tortured, and Cleared Him. He's Still in GITMO. Abu Zubaydah was a human guinea pig for the CIA's post-9/11 torture. Almost 20 years later, as the U.S. moves on, he's still trying to get out of Guantanamo." Via Atrios, who has more.

It's been interesting watching the slow growth of Brad DeLong. "RHETORICAL QUESTION: Why Do Economists Ignore þe Greatest of All Market Failures? [...] The Chicago School underwent an enormous change between the Midwestern Populist days of Henry Simons, for whom private monopoly was the big foe and large inequalities an enormous menace, & the monopoly-tolerant fundraising paradise that Stigler & co. created. This transformation from Simons to Stigler was possible only by 'othering' the non-rich by every means possible, so that their low weight in the market's Negishi-weighted SWF could be dismissed as deserved."

James Risen at The Intercept, "The Journalist and the Whistleblower: As the government attacks press freedom, reporters must consider their responsibility to sources — and each other. [...] In the 21st century, hatred of the press has become bipartisan, and government leak investigations under both Republican and Democratic administrations have altered the landscape for national security reporting. Starting with the George W. Bush administration in the years after 9/11, the federal government has brought criminal charges in nearly 20 cases related to leaks to the press, virtually all of them involving national security matters. In almost all of those cases, it is the sources who have faced criminal charges, not the reporters who published what the sources told them. As a result, the fate of modern investigative reporting is now on a collision course with high-tech government leak investigations. Being really good at getting people to tell you government secrets — the key to career success as a national security reporter — now brings great danger to a reporter's sources. [...] Most reporters think hard and work tirelessly to protect confidential sources and now widely use encrypted electronic communications. But government leak hunters have the National Security Agency on their side, and reporters don't. Yet arresting and prosecuting a source isn't enough for the Justice Department and the FBI; they also want to make the reporter look bad. That underscores the real goal of leak investigations: They are designed to have a chilling effect on the press, to stop reporters from investigating the government. Embarrass enough investigative reporters and maybe they will stop embarrassing the government. To their disgrace, the rest of the media often plays along with this governmental shaming project. Rather than recognizing that a source is a whistleblower performing a public service, the press invariably buys into the FBI's propaganda that the bureau's agents are investigating a crime and tracking down a traitor."

Things were looking bright — and then, this happened. "America Hasn't Reckoned with the Coup That Blasted the Black Middle Class: If you were a Black person in America in the 1890s, you wanted to live in Brooklyn. Not Brooklyn, New York. No, you wanted to be in the bustling Brooklyn district of Wilmington, North Carolina. At that time, 25,000 people lived in the thronging Cape Fear River port, the state's largest city. More than half of them were Black. In Brooklyn, you could meet Black seamstresses, stevedores, cobblers, restauranteurs, shop owners, artisans, midwives, merchants, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and police officers. The federal customs agent was Black. So was the county treasurer. And even the town jailor. Wilmington was the most racially progressive city in the South. It was America's future. But very soon, it would be awash in blood — transformed into the country's traumatic past. This repressed and unresolved trauma haunts the present in a thousand ways, most recently in the shocking siege on the U.S. capitol. It continues to damage us all." As Yves says in her intro, "The fact that the Wilmington coup was a durable success and no perp was held to account was proof that the white backlash against rising blacks would go unchecked."

Image: There are about half a million people in Wyoming, and they get two U.S. Senators. There are also about 40 million people in California, and they also get two Senators. Or, you could look at it like this, but either way, it's pretty rich when Joe Manchin, who was elected as a Democrat, excuses himself for voting with the already-over-represented Republicans because he wants to protect "the minority".

"If Those Angry Facebook Videos Had An Award Show"

The Rolling Stones, "Play With Fire, Australia 1966

04:51 GMT comment


Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Just like everyone else

Tynemouth abbey ruins by barnyz, who has a lot of wonderful camera work on Flickr.

"Maryland enacts landmark police overhaul, first state to repeal police bill of rights [...] The Democratic-majority legislature dealt Republican Gov. Larry Hogan a sharp rebuke, overriding his vetoes of measures that raise the bar for officers to use force; give civilians a role in police discipline for the first time; restrict no-knock warrants; mandate body cameras; and open some allegations of police wrongdoing for public review. [...] The changes do not go as far as some social justice advocates had hoped: Discipline will now largely be decided by civilian panels, for example, but police chiefs maintain a role. Some activists wanted the panels to act independently of police. Still, the legislation imposes one of the strictest police use-of-force standards in the nation, according to experts; requires officers to prioritize de-escalation tactics; and imposes a criminal penalty for those found to have used excessive force."

"Is Traditional Liberalism Vanishing?: Mighty Ira, a documentary about legendary former ACLU chief Ira Glasser, is simultaneously inspiring and unnerving [...] The film was produced and co-directed by Nico Perrino, Vice-President of Communications for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a modern speech rights advocacy group. Perrino is 31. He met Glasser at the funeral of former Village Voice columnist Nat Hentoff, and didn't know who he was. Once he got to know the former ACLU icon, he realized that his story was 'completely lost on my generation,' but also increasingly relevant, for reasons that become clear minutes into the film. [...] MMighty Ira spends a lot of time on stories like Glasser's unlikely friendship with William F. Buckley, or his tearful meeting years later with Skokie resident Ben Stern, who lost his family in concentration camps and vehemently opposed Glasser in the seventies. 'I love you,' the 96-year-old Stern says. 'I'm so proud of you.' [...] 'The central goal in talking and working with people who you don't agree with,' notes Glasser, 'is to persuade them that there is a common interest between us.' This seems like the main message of the movie. However, the film isn't quite so trite or easy. If you pay attention, you will spot hints of darker issues to come dotted throughout the movie. 1978, and Skokie, turns out to be the zenith of the ACLU's influence, and the brand of liberalism Glasser represents begins slipping from the culture almost from the moment the case ends — kidnapped, seemingly, just like Glasser's beloved Dodgers. Where did it go?"

"Jim Clyburn Is Wrong About FDR and the New Deal: Was the New Deal bad for black people? Rep. Jim Clyburn says it was. He's wrong — and it's time we set the record straight about both the New Deal's real flaws and its overall hugely egalitarian impact on workers of all races, including black workers. [...] In fact, even as some New Deal programs entrenched racial inequality, others assailed it. Public employment programs in the New Deal employed huge numbers of black workers. Administrators like Harold Ickes, in charge of the Public Works Administration, were dedicated foes of racism and actually made sure their programs employed black workers proportionally more than white workers. Other programs contributed to the incredible explosion of black cultural production in the 1930s. Writers like Richard Wright and Arna Bontemps were paid by the Federal Writers' Project to write, supporting them and allowing them to develop their talents. Zora Neale Hurston, who later became a conservative critic of the welfare state and civil rights, was able to publish her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God in part because she had worked for the FWP chronicling the lives of black Southerners while writing it. At the same time, the fillip the New Deal gave to labor organizing encouraged the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), made up of unions who broke away from the exclusionary model of craft unionism promoted by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Though the records of CIO unions on race varied, many embraced a model of civil rights unionism that challenged inequality both in the workplace and in the community. W. E. B. Du Bois said the CIO had been more successful in fighting racial prejudice than any movement in three decades. The New Deal was big and complicated. A comprehensive assessment of its implications for racial equality is the task of a book, not an article. But one aspect of the New Deal deserves special attention, given its neglect in most discussions of this subject — the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC). The FEPC was established in 1941, as the United States prepared for its inevitable entry into World War II. Pressured by black socialist A. Philip Randolph, Roosevelt had issued Executive Order 8802, banning discrimination in defense industries (which in the wartime economy would be a substantial fraction of the whole). The FEPC was the body charged with making this goal a reality."

"House And Senate Democrats Plan Bill To Add Four Justices To Supreme Court: The Constitution allows Congress to set the number of Supreme Court justices." The Court started at six, varied back and forth between five and ten over time, and then eventually settled at nine, but it's all down to Congress. I don't see this happening, but it's entertaining to think about.

"Contrary to What Biden Said, US Warfare in Afghanistan Is Set to Continue: No matter what the White House and the headlines say, U.S. taxpayers won't stop subsidizing the killing in Afghanistan until there is an end to the bombing and "special operations" that remain shrouded in secrecy."

"Not just 'a few bad apples': U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries: Police violence is a systemic problem in the U.S., not simply incidental, and it happens on a scale far greater than other wealthy nations." With handy charts and graphs.

"Baltimore Cops Carried Toy Guns to Plant on People They Shot, Trial Reveals: One officer involved in the city's massive corruption scandal said officers kept the replicas 'in case we accidentally hit somebody or got into a shootout, so we could plant them.' [...] Though Ward didn't say whether or not the tactic was ever used, Detective Marcus Taylor—another cop swept up in the scandal—was carrying a fake gun almost identical to his service weapon when he was arrested last year, according to the Sun. The revelation is just one of many egregious abuses that have come out of the sprawling trial that the Sun has called "Baltimore's biggest police corruption scandal in memory." Prosecutors say the squad, which was tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets, abused its power by robbing suspects and innocent people, raiding homes without warrants, and selling confiscated drugs, among other crimes. But the BB gun testimony is particularly disturbing in light of 12-year-old Tamir Rice's death in 2014, the 13-year-old in Baltimore who was shot twice by cops in 2016 after he allegedly sprinted from them with a replica gun in his hand, and the 86 people fatally shot by police in 2015 and 2016 who were spotted carrying toy guns."

"Elite philanthropy mainly self-serving: Philanthropy among the elite class in the United States and the United Kingdom does more to create good will for the super-wealthy than to alleviate social ills for the poor, according to a new meta-analysis."

"Support the Tropes: How media language encourages the left to support wars, coups and intervention. In an earlier piece (FAIR.org, 3/3/21), we explored some country case study examples of how the press helps to manufacture consent for regime change and other US actions abroad among left-leaning audiences, a traditionally conflict-skeptical group. Some level of buy-in, or at least a hesitancy to resist, among the United States' more left-leaning half is necessary to ensure that US interventions are carried out with a minimum of domestic opposition. To this end, corporate media invoke the language of human rights and humanitarianism to convince those to the left of center to accept, if not support, US actions abroad—a treatment of sorts for the country's 50-year-long Vietnam syndrome. What follows are some of the common tropes used by establishment outlets to convince skeptical leftists that this time, things might be different, selling a progressive intervention everyone can get behind." I can still remember how bitter I felt at the claim — by right-wingers who normally scoffed at any discussion of women's rights — that invading Iraq would improve the rights of women there. And then watching as one woman after another was forced to learn to tie a scarf around her head and pack away her "western" clothing, never expecting to be free to wear it again. Seeing how we "freed" Libya should have knocked out any stomach members of "the left" had for this sort of thing, but here we are hearing much the same things about Syria and even Russia.

Putin's treatment of Navalny is being used to fuel more attacks on Russia (even Bernie has joined in), with the establishment throwing on the usual "suppression of dissent" rhetoric to sweeten the story to appeal to "the left". New sanctions are being justified by Navalny being sentenced to prison: A Moscow court has sentenced Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny to a prison sentence of three-and-a-half years. He was found guilty of violating terms of his probation, which stems from 2014 fraud-related charges. The court counted several months that Navalny has already spent under house arrest towards his latest sentence, so that his imprisonment term was reduced to two years and eight months in a penal colony. His defense team will appeal the sentence. Navalny returned to Russia in January, after having spent five months in Germany, to which he was flown after falling ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August 2020. Navalny, along with the United States and European Union, insists that he was poisoned with Novichok on behalf of the Kremlin. These claims have been riddled with contradictions from the start. Navalny, who was warned by the Kremlin that he would be arrested upon returning to Russia, was detained by the police on January 17 upon his arrival in Moscow." Given how the United States is treating Julian Assange and getting other countries to conspire in its abuse, it's hard to ignore the hypocrisy in America pretending to care about Russia's actions toward someone who is a bit more dangerous to his nation than, say the protesters who are being beaten and dragged to the cells all over American for objecting to police murdering innocent citizens. And anyway, who is Navalny? "The political crisis gripping Russia and manifesting itself in the tensions erupting around Navalny is a symptom of the breakdown of world capitalism more broadly. The bitter internecine conflicts within the Russian oligarchy are fueled, above all, by escalating class tensions. Terrified of mounting class anger in Russia, Navalny and his backers are seeking to channel such sentiments behind a reactionary agenda. Navalny, who maintains well-documented ties to the far-right, speaks for a layer of the oligarchy that is oriented toward more direct cooperation with the US. Sections of the American ruling class view the fueling of separatist sentiments within Russia as a means to extend US domination over the region. It is for this reason that the issue of Putin's wealth has been presented as one of personal corruption, a basis upon which the most reactionary forces, including monarchists and ultra-nationalists, can be mobilized. Meanwhile, any mention of the term 'capitalism' has been banned by the political forces dominating the protests, from Navalny himself to his backers in the Pabloite Russian Socialist Movement."

"The Death of Neoliberalism Is Greatly Exaggerated: The West's economic orthodoxy of the past 40 years has been shaken by the pandemic—but the fight isn't nearly over yet. [...] But the ideology remained. It was what mathematicians called an attractor and astronomers a black hole: a massive blob of thought around which economic policy views revolved. The financial crisis of 2007 to 2009 shook the blob. The complete failure of mainstream economists to foresee the crisis—indeed their denial that it could have been foreseen—was embarrassing. The fact that so many were on the payroll of the perpetrators was even worse. But in the end, the blob survived. In the end, not a single senior economist retired in disgrace nor was a single dissenter or pre-crisis prophet hired to any senior post—and quite possibly not to any junior one—at any of the self-described 'top' academic economics departments."

John Judis with "A Warning From the '60s Generation: Today's progressives have a real chance to reshape American politics. But they're in danger of repeating our mistakes. [...] Will today's new left stumble down the path of my generation's left, growing largely irrelevant and then, eventually, disappearing from sight? Or could it come to dominate American politics over the next few decades? Because of key structural differences between then and now, I actually think their odds of success are better than ours were. But to capitalize on those odds, they will have to learn from the failures of my generation — we activists who succeeded in captivating a noisy subgroup of Americans but never came close to commanding a political majority. And there are already, in my view, worrisome signals that they are repeating some of our biggest mistakes."

Ryan Cooper, The Week, "The pandemic crime surge is a policing problem [...] It's obvious what police unions are really upset about. They don't care that much about crime, they are mad at being criticized and held accountable, no matter how slightly. They want to return to the pre-reform status quo where they had near-total impunity for violent misconduct or outright crimes, got endless opportunities to scam fake overtime from the state, and people were too afraid to sass them. A return to the old ways will accomplish nothing for crime control; if anything it will probably make things worse. [...] But this debate does bear on whether American cities will be able to actually try to control crime. Now, I am not quite sold on the most aggressive arguments for police and prison abolition. In my view, the Nordic countries demonstrate that even with an extremely robust welfare state and generous social services, it will be necessary to have some punishment of criminals. However, that shouldn't mean multi-decade sentences in hellish prisons, as police unions tend to advocate — on the contrary, studies of deterrence demonstrate that the severity of punishment barely matters. The key strategy is catching offenders, so as to maintain the state's monopoly on violence and stop tit-for-tat feuding. In the Nordics, murder clearance rates range from 83 to 100 percent, but the sentences are light and the prisons are comfortable. In concert with all the other government services, the result is far less violent crime."

I keep trying to remind people that it's a mistake to assume the police are acting with insufficient training. They are heavily trained, but the training itself is the problem - it's training to be a goon squad, not peace-keepers. The police are out of control because they are trained to be out of control. "NYPD 'Goon Squad' Manual Teaches Officers To Violate Protesters' Rights."

"The Chauvin trial underscores two very different approaches to policing. At Derek Chauvin's trial this week, the jury heard from Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the city's former training commander and expert witnesses, all of whom testified that Chauvin's treatment of George Floyd violated widely accepted use of force standards as well as Minneapolis Police Department policy, which calls for commensurate force and requires respect for the 'sanctity of life.' But despite those standards, Chauvin also had a history of kneeling on suspects' necks for long periods of time, and none of those incidents resulted in discipline. It's an apt illustration of how, for about the past 10 years, two contradictory philosophies have been at war in American policing. On one side are the de-escalationists, a product of the criminal justice reform movement. They accept police brutality, systemic racism and excessive force as real problems in law enforcement, and call for more accountability, as well as training in areas like de-escalation and conflict resolution. De-escalationists believe police serve their communities by apprehending and detaining people who violate the rights and safety of others, but must also do so in a way that protects the rights of the accused. The other side — let's call them 'no-hesitationists' — asserts that police officers aren't aggressive enough and are too hesitant to use deadly force, which puts officers and others at risk. They see law enforcement officers as warriors, and American neighborhoods as battlefields, where officers vanquish the bad to protect the good. These are the self-identified 'sheepdogs,' the cops who sport Punisher gear."

"She Noticed $200 Million Missing, Then She Was Fired: Alice Stebbins was hired to fix the finances of California's powerful ut