30 May 2021

When you believe in things that you don't understand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruben Bolling puts his finger on how billionaires think.

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

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

NYC Sitcom Map

Stevie Wonder live on Seseme Street, "Superstition"

22 May 2021

What more can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you can stand Facebook, there's a good post from John Derf Backderf on the Kent State Massacre: "Since it's the time of year when the events of KENT STATE unfolded, I thought I'd share some items with you. This event didn't end with the massacre. The days, weeks and months that followed were a depressing lesson in cover-ups, political sleaze and media manipulation. In it's own way, it's as shocking a story as the story leading up to the massacre."

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

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

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

05 May 2021

You're playing with fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"If Those Angry Facebook Videos Had An Award Show"

The Rolling Stones, "Play With Fire, Australia 1966