27 July 2021

The world keeps revolving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy Guy, "Crawlin' Kingsnake"

Propellerheads, featuring Miss Shirley Bassey, "History Repeating"

09 July 2021

We are amazed but not amused

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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