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.

1 comment:

  1. April Fools jokes - I liked the BBC Spaghetti Harvest better.

    ReplyDelete