Tuesday, May 30, 2023

But only now my love has grown

Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny, France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 21, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Lightfoot, "The Early Morning Rain"

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Did you have to traumatize my kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Procul Harum, "Conquistador"