Tuesday, April 20, 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 utility regulator. She was fired after finding $200 million for the state's deaf, blind and poor residents was missing. Earlier this year, the governing board of one of California's most powerful regulatory agencies unleashed troubling accusations against its top employee. Commissioners with the California Public Utilities Commission, or CPUC, accused Executive Director Alice Stebbins of violating state personnel rules by hiring former colleagues without proper qualifications. They said the agency chief misled the public by asserting that as much as $200 million was missing from accounts intended to fund programs for the state's blind, deaf and poor. At a hearing in August, Commission President Marybel Batjer said that Stebbins had discredited the CPUC. [...] The five commissioners voted unanimously to terminate Stebbins, who had worked as an auditor and budget analyst for different state agencies for more than 30 years. But an investigation by the Bay City News Foundation and ProPublica has found that Stebbins was right about the missing money."

"McDonald's, Other CEOs, Tell Investors $15 Minimum Wage Won't Hurt Business" That's the co-published Newsweek link The Daily Poster wanted me to use, but I can't copy their text so back to the original story: "Restaurant Chains Debunk Their Lobbyists' Arguments Against A $15 Minimum Wage: While restaurant lobbyists tell lawmakers it's the 'wrong time' for a wage hike, companies they represent are telling investors they can afford to pay higher wages. [...] 'We share your view that a national discussion on wage issues for working Americans is needed — but the Raise the Wage Act is the wrong bill at the wrong time for our nation's restaurants,' the National Restaurant Association (NRA) wrote in a letter to congressional leaders in February. 'The restaurant industry and our workforce will suffer from a fast-tracked wage increase and elimination of the tip credit.' The following day, a top executive at Denny's, one of the association's members, told investors that gradual increases in the minimum wage haven't been a problem for the company at all. In fact, California's law raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 has actually been good for the diner chain's business, according to Denny's chief financial officer, Robert Verostek."

"How Bill Gates Impeded Global Access to Covid Vaccines: Through his hallowed foundation, the world's de facto public health czar has been a stalwart defender of monopoly medicine. [...] When the Financial Times editorialized on March 27 that 'the world has an overwhelming interest in ensuring [Covid-19 drugs and vaccines] will be universally and cheaply available,' the paper expressed what felt like a hardening conventional wisdom. This sense of possibility emboldened forces working to extend the cooperative model. Grounding their efforts was a plan, started in early March, to create a voluntary intellectual property pool inside the WHO. Instead of putting up proprietary walls around research and organizing it as a 'race,' public and private actors would collect research and associated intellectual property in a global knowledge fund for the duration of the pandemic. The idea became real in late May with the launch of the WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP.By then, however, the optimism and sense of possibility that defined the early days were long gone. Advocates for pooling and open science, who seemed ascendant and even unstoppable that winter, confronted the possibility they'd been outmatched and outmaneuvered by the most powerful man in global public health."

RIP: "Ramsey Clark, Attorney General and Rebel With a Cause, Dies at 93: Mr. Clark oversaw the drafting of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 and went on to defend both the disadvantaged and the unpopular. Ramsey Clark, who championed civil rights and liberties as attorney general in the Johnson administration, then devoted much of the rest of his life to defending unpopular causes and infamous people, including Saddam Hussein and others accused of war crimes, died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. His niece Sharon Welch announced the death. In becoming the nation's top law enforcement official, Mr. Clark was part of an extraordinary father-and-son trade-off in the federal halls of power. His appointment prompted his father, Justice Tom C. Clark, to resign from the United States Supreme Court to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest involving cases in which the federal government might come before that bench. To fill Justice Clark's seat, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall, who became the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court."

RIP: "Yaphet Kotto, Magnetic Actor With A Long And Varied Career, Dies At 81 [...] It may come as a surprise that Kotto, an actor known for his burly intensity, credited Barbara Stanwyck with being his "guru," after the two worked together in the 1960s TV series The Big Valley. Stanwyck, who played a straight-talking mother (in the traditional sense) on the show, was one of several women whom Kotto said boosted his career."
"Yaphet Kotto: a life in pictures"

Cory Doctorow on "The zombie economy and digital arm-breakers [...] Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid. But as loan-sharks know, fortunes can be collected by applying the right incentives. [...] Improvements to arm-breaking processes — cost-savings on traditional coercion or innovative new forms of terror — are powerful engines for unlocking new debt markets. When innovation calls, tech answers. Our devices are increasingly "smart," and inside every smart device is a potential arm-breaker. Digital arm-breakers have been around since the first DRM systems, but they really took off in 2008. That's when subprime car loans boomed. People who lost everything in the GFC still needed to get to work, and thanks to chronic US underinvestment in transit, that means owning a car. So loan-sharks and tech teamed up to deliver a new lost-cost, high-efficiency arm-breaker. They leveraged the nation's mature wireless network to install cellular killswitches in cars. You could extend an unrepayable loan to a desperate person, and use an unmutable second stereo system to bombard them with earsplitting overdue notices. If they didn't pay, you could remotely cut off the ignition and send a precise location to your repo man." And the list goes on....

Also from Cory, "Minimum wage vs Wall Street bonuses [...] The Fight for $15 started in 2012. The $15 figure represented the fair, inflation-adjusted minimum wage that Americans should have if minimum wage tracked the cost of living. By 2021, the inflation-adjusted minimum wage should have been $24/hour. That means that even if we get around Manchin and Sinema to deliver a fair share to the country's worst-paid workers, we'll still be lagging a true, inflation-adjusted minimum wage. Now, if $24/hour gives you a little sticker shock, here's another number to think about: $44 per hour. That's the minimum wage we'd have today if the minimum had tracked the growth in Wall Street Bonuses."

"The campaign over racism at General Motors and the class character of identity politics: A campaign by African American media millionaires over charges of racism at General Motors concluded last week with an agreement from the auto giant to quadruple its advertising spending with black-owned media over the next four years. The announcement by GM followed the publication of ads in major newspapers denouncing GM CEO Mary Barra as 'racist' for giving black-owned media an insufficient share of advertising dollars. The episode takes to a new level the efforts of the African American bourgeoisie to increase its share of the profits sweated out of the labor of the working class—black, white and immigrant—through the exploitation of identity politics. [...] The open letter to Barra explicitly sought to tie the selfish strivings of the select group of privileged business owners with the interests of the African American population as a whole, declaring GM's alleged snub was 'horrendous considering we as African Americans make up approximately 14 percent of the population in America.'"

Fact-checking Snopes over what should be a dead horse but probably won't be in the mid-terms: "Fact-Checking is Dead, Killed by Snopes over Biden's Broken Promise of $2,000 Checks: I thought the $2,000 check controversy could be allowed to recede into the disconsolate mists of time, as just one more Democrat betrayal, until I heard on The West Wing Thing that Snopes, 'the internet's definitive fact-checking resource,' had rated this claim..." (And somewhere in that thread someone linked to a check written in the new math style the Democrats seem to be claiming to use — by the author of xkcd.)

"Glenn Greenwald Took on the Authoritarian Right in Brazil — and Won: The full story of how Glenn Greenwald revealed the antidemocratic corruption behind Brazil's supposed anti-corruption investigation Lava Jato — which jailed former president Lula da Silva and gave rise to Jair Bolsonaro's far-right presidency — is one of bravery against a violent, reactionary right."

Short video, "NATURE IS SPECTACULAR: Queen Of The Night edition: This cactus blooms between dusk & dawn for 1 night each year, on or near a full moon. In 1-2 hrs, the petals unfold, revealing a big-ass 6"-8" flower that has a sweet fragrance similar to a magnolia. Then it closes by daylight."

A beautiful night sky, explained here.

"America's Forgotten Pin-Up Girl"

"How World War I Got Women to Wear Bras"

Lucinda Williams, "Save Yourself"

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Teach us to be true

Victor Molev's "City of Wandering Towers" is way outside of my price range but nice to look at, and is part of the Amazing Fantasy Cities collection.

"Recreational Marijuana Is Now Legal in New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana on Wednesday, making New York the 16th state to do so. Cuomo signed the bill a day after it passed in the State Legislature. Parts of the law went into effect immediately..."

The GOP didn't want anyone talking about the popularity of Biden's pandemic relief bill, so they made up another border crisis and that's what the media talked about. All of them. And they moaned when Biden delayed his first presser, but when he finally held one, that's all they asked about. They did not ask at all about the pandemic, or the pending infrastructure bill. But, of course, There is no immigration crisis. As Ryan Cooper put it, "This is nonsense. There is a problem at the border, but it is not remotely a "crisis." It's an administrative challenge that could be solved easily with more resources and clear policy — not even ranking with, say, the importance of securing loose nuclear material, much less the ongoing global pandemic, or the truly civilization-threatening crisis of climate change. The mainstream media is in effect collaborating with Republicans to stoke unreasoning xenophobic panic." There's the seasonal uptick in people trying to cross the border, and no doubt a lot of people who are hoping things will be better with Trump gone, and a number of other things, but the truth is that the number haven't ever been as high as they were under the Bush administration. "The history of unauthorized immigration under Bush is instructive. The media largely ignored it because Republicans didn't raise a fuss, and most Americans barely paid attention because it was objectively a minor issue." But that was before Trump proved they could make hay out of ginning up fear of border-crossings.

"Corporate Dems Show Progressives How To Play Hardball: Progressives politely refused to wield power to secure a $15 minimum wage, now conservative Dems are wielding power to secure tax cuts for the wealthy. [...] The tax issue revolves around federal write-offs for state and local taxes — colloquially called SALT deductions. Donald Trump's 2017 tax bill limited such deductions to $10,000. The move was perceived as a mean-spirited shot at blue states, which often have higher state and local levies to fund more robust public services. But on the merits, the policy serves to limit tax deductions primarily for higher-income households. "

"First 100: The Day One Agenda Has Stalled Out: Biden has failed to act and is even allowing constraints on executive action to move forward. Plus: the SALT battle continues. We have (very) quietly been updating our executive action tracker, which looks at what steps the Biden administration has taken to make progress on its own authority. Frankly, the trail has gone pretty cold. The traditional media has completely swallowed the notion that policy can only come from Congress, and implementation has been completely ignored, to say nothing of regulatory interpretation of policies passed before this year. So you have to be a detective to figure out if Biden is maximizing his power and preventing Mitch McConnell and Congressional gridlock from standing in the way."

"Liberals want to blame rightwing 'misinformation' for our problems. Get real: In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis's famous formula, but an 'extremism expert' shushing the world. [...] What explains the clampdown mania among liberals? The most obvious answer is because they need an excuse. Consider the history: the right has enjoyed tremendous success over the last few decades, and it is true that conservatives' capacity for hallucinatory fake-populist appeals has helped them to succeed. But that success has also happened because the Democrats, determined to make themselves the party of the affluent and the highly educated, have allowed the right to get away with it. There have been countless times over the years where Democrats might have reappraised this dumb strategy and changed course. But again and again they chose not to, blaming their failure on everything but their glorious postindustrial vision. In 2016, for example, liberals chose to blame Russia for their loss rather than look in the mirror. On other occasions they assured one another that they had no problems with white blue-collar workers — until it became undeniable that they did, whereupon liberals chose to blame such people for rejecting them. [...] But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right's class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for — a betrayal that we will spend years living down — may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true."

Matt Taibbi talked with one of our foremost antimonopoly analyst/journalists, "Alternatives to Censorship: Interview With Matt Stoller: As Congress once again demands that Silicon Valley crack down on speech, the Director of Research at the American Economic Liberties Project outlines the real problem - and better solutions. [...] Questions like Fletcher's suggest Congress wants to create a multi-tiered informational system, one in which 'data transparency' means sharing content with Congress but not the public. Worse, they're seeking systems of 'responsible' curation that might mean private companies like Google enforcing government-created lists of bannable domestic organizations, which is pretty much the opposite of what the First Amendment intended. Under the system favored by Fletcher and others, these monopolistic firms would target speakers as well as speech, a major departure from our current legal framework, which focuses on speech connected to provable harm. [...] As Stoller points out in a recent interview with Useful Idiots, the calls for Silicon Valley to crack down on 'misinformation' and 'extremism' is rooted in a basic misunderstanding of how these firms make money. Even as a cynical or draconian method for clamping down on speech, getting Facebook or Google to eliminate lists of taboo speakers wouldn't work, because it wouldn't change the core function of these companies: selling ads through surveillance-based herding of users into silos of sensational content. [...] 'The question isn't whether Alex Jones should have a platform,' Stoller explains. 'The question is, should YouTube have recommended Alex Jones 15 billion times through its algorithms so that YouTube could make money selling ads?'"

"Did CNN Air a Staged Migrant Crossing of the Rio Grande?: An unusual video has been flagged by activists as deliberately manufactured to present a story of a border crisis, possibly with the participation of the Border Patrol. [...] In the CNN footage, the smuggler leading the boat wears fatigues and a black ski mask. Smugglers typically attempt to blend in with the migrants, to avoid more severe punishment should they be caught. Smugglers also don't normally provide face masks and life vests, nor ferry six boatloads of people across in broad daylight. Migrants also don't typically line up single file along the shore to cross. To Jenn Budd, a former Border Patrol agent, the smuggler's face mask rang alarm bells. 'That told me [the smuggler] knew he would be filmed and he didn't want to be set up,' she said. Marianna Treviño Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, pointed out that her organization goes out on the river at least four times a week and never sees any kind of trafficking operation like this."

"Fast Food Giant Claims Credit For Killing $15 Minimum Wage: The parent company of some of America's largest fast food chains is claiming credit for convincing Congress to exclude a $15 minimum wage from the recent COVID relief bill, according to internal company documents reviewed by The Daily Poster. The company, which is owned by a private equity firm named after an Ayn Rand character, also says it is now working to thwart new union rights legislation. The company's boasts come just a few months after a government report found that some of its chains had among the highest percentage of workers relying on food stamps."

"After crime plummeted in 2020, Baltimore will stop drug, sex prosecutions: State's Attorney Mosby stopped non-violent prosecutions for the coronavirus, but then violent crime dropped 20 percent. Something happened in Baltimore last year. The coronavirus pandemic hit, and State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced that the city would no longer prosecute drug possession, prostitution, trespassing and other minor charges, to keep people out of jail and limit the spread of the deadly virus. And then crime went down in Baltimore. A lot. While violent crime and homicides skyrocketed in most other big American cities last year, violent crime in Baltimore dropped 20 percent from last March to this month, property crime decreased 36 percent, and there were 13 fewer homicides compared with the previous year. This happened while 39 percent fewer people entered the city's criminal justice system in the one-year period, and 20 percent fewer people landed in jail after Mosby's office dismissed more than 1,400 pending cases and tossed out more than 1,400 warrants for nonviolent crimes. So on Friday, Mosby made her temporary steps permanent. She announced Baltimore City will continue to decline prosecution of all drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic and misdemeanor cases, and will partner with a local behavioral health service to aggressively reach out to drug users, sex workers and people in psychiatric crisis to direct them into treatment rather than the back of a patrol car. [...] 'The officers told me they did not agree with that paradigm shift,' Harrison said. He said he had to 'socialize' both officers and citizens to this new approach. Harrison expected crime to rise. 'It did not,' the chief said. 'It continued to go down through 2020. As a practitioner, as an academic, I can say there's a correlation between the fact that we stopped making these arrests and crime did not go up,' though he cautioned that the coronavirus could have had some impact. Mosby noted that the virus did not keep crime from rising in nearly every other big U.S. city last year."

After hearing an attack on his kind on MSNBC, Matt Taibbi makes the challenge that won't be taken up. "Dear Joe Scarborough: Nice Smear. Now Invite Me To Debate Your Network's Russiagate Coverage: 'Morning Joe' says those who reported on Russia errors are a "joke" and might be "on Russia's payroll." MSNBC should break its four-year freeze-out and invite a skeptic to respond

"New Zealand raises minimum wage to $20 an hour: Taxes on the riches New Zealanders are being raised [...] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's had promised to raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour (£10.15) and to raise taxes on the wealthiest Kiwis. [...] The new changes also impact the top two percent of earners in New Zealand, those on salaries of over $180,000 (£91,238.87), who will now be taxed by 39 per cent."

For the record, Nathan Robinson won April Fool's Day.

However, Caitlin Johnstone's "Biden Passes Alzheimer's Test With Flying Colors, Silencing Doubters" set the bar pretty high.

"Maryland Moves to Repeal Its Bizarrely Pro-Confederate State Song: If your state's song was written before 1995, there's a very likely chance it's racist as hell. The state legislature in Maryland voted on Monday to repeal its state song, which, as of now, is very pro-Confederate." Sure is.

Juan Cole, "Why the Suez Canal, now blocked, is so Important to the Global Economy and World History [...] The Suez Canal was a dream through history. Anyone who ever traveled from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea overland along that route noticed how short the distance was between the two bodies of water. The ancients talked about it. Napoleon Bonaparte, who invaded Egypt in 1798, talked about it."

"Workplace 'Anti-Racism Trainings' Aren't Helping: Donald Trump hysterically considers it a Marxist plot, but corporate "anti-racism training" isn't a practice that anyone should defend. It doesn't actually combat racism and it helps bosses consolidate their power over employees under a veneer of social justice."

2021 FAAn Awards: Winners

RIP: "Larry McMurtry, 'Lonesome Dove' Novelist and 'Brokeback Mountain' Oscar Winner, Dies at 84 [...] His first published novel, 1961's Horseman, Pass By, set in Texas ranching country, became the 1963 Paramount drama Hud, starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal. The movie rights were optioned by Newman and director Martin Ritt's Salem Productions "almost before the last period [was] put on the book," he author said." Terms of Endeasrment made me cry.

RIP: "G. Gordon Liddy, unrepentant Watergate burglar who became talk show host, dies: G. Gordon Liddy, the tough-guy Watergate operative who went to prison rather than testify and later turned his Nixon-era infamy into a successful television and talk show career, has died at age 90. Liddy died Tuesday at his daughter's house in Virginia, his son Thomas P. Liddy told the Associated Press. He did not give a cause of death. While others swept up in the Watergate scandal offered contrition or squirmed in the glare of televised congressional hearings, Liddy seemed to wear the crime like a badge of courage, saying he only regretted that the mission to break into the Democratic National Committee's headquarters had been a failure."

"The Origins of America's Unique and Spectacular Cruelty: What Happens When Societies Don't Invest in Civilizing Themselves? [...] Hence, today, there is almost no sphere or arena of American life in which the values of predatory capitalism don't predominate or monopolize. Because society is made up more or less only of predatory capitalism, only those values can ever be expressed. Not even in, say, media, not healthcare, not education — which, in other rich countries, because they are not run for profit, are arenas in which softer and gentler qualities can be expressed, like decency, reason, dignity, purpose, meaning, belonging, truth, care, mercy."

"The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is [...] What the flag symbolizes for blacks is enough reason to take it down. But there's another reason that white southerners shouldn't fly it. Or sport it on our state-issued license plates as some do here in North Carolina. The Confederacy — and the slavery that spawned it — was also one big con job on the Southern, white, working class. A con job funded by some of the ante-bellum one-per-centers, that continues today in a similar form. You don't have to be an economist to see that forcing blacks — a third of the South's laborers — to work without pay drove down wages for everyone else. And not just in agriculture. A quarter of enslaved blacks worked in the construction, manufacturing and lumbering trades; cutting wages even for skilled white workers. Thanks to the profitability of this no-wage/low-wage combination, a majority of American one-per-centers were southerners. Slavery made southern states the richest in the country. The South was richer than any other country except England. But that vast wealth was invisible outside the plantation ballrooms. With low wages and few schools, southern whites suffered a much lower land ownership rate and a far lower literacy rate than northern whites."

"Mark Rudd's Lessons From SDS and the Weather Underground for Today's Radicals: Mark Rudd was Columbia's Students for a Democratic Society chapter president in 1968, when the university erupted in protest against the Vietnam War and racism. He then cofounded the Weather Underground. In an interview with Jacobin, he reflects on what radicals like him got right and got wrong, and what today's socialists should learn from his experiences. [...] But another big mistake that I was directly responsible for was eliminating organizing we had done so much of and substituting it with militancy. The last few months of Columbia SDS, a new faction that I led, the Action Faction, took over the chapter from the Praxis Axis, who were the old red diaper babies who taught us to build the base. But we said, 'No, it's action that's important.' We forgot that it took years to get people to the point where they would join SDS. It doesn't happen suddenly — it happens through building relationships."

"Inside the Koch-Backed Effort to Block the Largest Election-Reform Bill in Half a Century: On a leaked conference call, leaders of dark-money groups and an aide to Mitch McConnell expressed frustration with the popularity of the legislation—even among Republican voters. In public, Republicans have denounced Democrats' ambitious electoral-reform bill, the For the People Act, as an unpopular partisan ploy. In a contentious Senate committee hearing last week, Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, slammed the proposal, which aims to expand voting rights and curb the influence of money in politics, as 'a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats.' But behind closed doors Republicans speak differently about the legislation, which is also known as House Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 1. They admit the lesser-known provisions in the bill that limit secret campaign spending are overwhelmingly popular across the political spectrum. In private, they concede their own polling shows that no message they can devise effectively counters the argument that billionaires should be prevented from buying elections. A recording obtained by The New Yorker of a private conference call on January 8th, between a policy adviser to Senator Mitch McConnell and the leaders of several prominent conservative groups—including one run by the Koch brothers' network—reveals the participants' worry that the proposed election reforms garner wide support not just from liberals but from conservative voters, too. The speakers on the call expressed alarm at the broad popularity of the bill's provision calling for more public disclosure about secret political donors. The participants conceded that the bill, which would stem the flow of dark money from such political donors as the billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch, was so popular that it wasn't worth trying to mount a public-advocacy campaign to shift opinion. Instead, a senior Koch operative said that opponents would be better off ignoring the will of American voters and trying to kill the bill in Congress.

"Patent troll IP is more powerful than Apple's. And this is where my revelation came: as it is used in business circles, "IP" has a specific, precise meaning. "IP" means, "Any law, policy or regulation that allows me to control the conduct of my competitors, critics and customers." Copyright, patent and trademark all have limitations and exceptions designed to prevent this kind of control, but if you arrange them in overlapping layers around a product, each one covers the exceptions in the others. Creators don't like having their copyrights called "author's monopolies." Monopolists get to set prices. All the copyright in the world doesn't let an author charge publishers more for their work. The creators have a point. But when author's monopolies are acquired by corporate monopolists, something magical and terrible happens."

From the Department of Lessons Unlearned, "The Bubonic Plague in... San Francisco?"

Creative Random Harris is a new e-book Hansen and Langford have put together of Chuch Harris' writings, on behalf of TAFF.

Art in Motion in Paris

Comic: "The Problem With Powerful People

Jim & Jean, doing Phil Ochs' "Crucifixion", with harmonies.