Thursday, September 29, 2022

If it's square we ain't there

I found this photo of a house in Michigan here.

Ugh, we are a plague house again. It's different this time, but still means having to isolate at a time when there was actually someone I wanted to meet up with.

Back in the early blogging days I actually had to touch-type newspaper articles or quotes from books while I read them from print, because they weren't just easy links all over the net. That was a pain in the ass but still easier than having to copy from photographs posted on the net, which means having to rotate from my text editor to the photo between every phrase. So, curse you, Ryan Grim, for only giving us a photo of this page from your book instead of the text: "When the highest income tax rate was first introduced in the early 20th Century, it applied to just a few families. It's often said that, yes, sure, marginal tax rates were in the 90s and even as high as the 70s up through the 1970s and into the 1980s, but that's largely irrelevant because almost nobody paid that high rate. But that misunderstands the purpose of those high rates as raising revenue. The real upside was that it discouraged earning stratospheric amounts of income." Now go read at the link because it's just too much to type this way, even though it's short.

"How Bill Gates and partners used their clout to control the global Covid response — with little oversight: Four health organizations, working closely together, spent almost $10 billion on responding to Covid across the world. But they lacked the scrutiny of governments, and fell short of their own goals, a POLITICO and WELT investigation found. [...] The four organizations had worked together in the past, and three of them shared a common history. The largest and most powerful was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest philanthropies in the world. Then there was Gavi, the global vaccine organization that Gates helped to found to inoculate people in low-income nations, and the Wellcome Trust, a British research foundation with a multibillion dollar endowment that had worked with the Gates Foundation in previous years. Finally, there was the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, the international vaccine research and development group that Gates and Wellcome both helped to create in 2017." This guy wrecked the public response to Covid. And the trouble with these rich philanthropists is that there is no way to vote them out.

Eskow, "The United States is Now an 'Un-Developing' Country: Is progress obsolete? Are we an empire waiting to fall?? The United Nations' latest annual ranking of nations by 'sustainable development goals' will come as a shock for many Americans. Not only aren't we 'Number One,' we're not even close. The top four countries are Scandinavian democracies. The United States ranks forty-first, just below Cuba (that's right, below our Communist neighbor). Countries that outrank us include Estonia, Croatia, the Slovak Republic, Romania, and Serbia."

"'Reverse Freedom Rides': An echo of Martha's Vineyard migrant flights 60 years ago: Tricked by segregationists with promises of work and housing, Black families were dropped in Cape Cod with nothing. Sound familiar? Eliza Davis was bewildered the day she arrived in a wealthy tourist town on Cape Cod. An agricultural worker, she had been promised work and housing if she took a free trip to another state. Days later, disembarking with her eight children, she had little idea where she was, that a president had a family compound down the road, or that she was a 'pawn,' as locals told the New York Times, in a political stunt. Davis, 36, was not among the migrants who arrived Wednesday in Martha's Vineyard — a resort island off Cape Cod where former president Barack Obama has a home — courtesy of a flight arranged by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). She was a Black woman from Alabama, bused to and abandoned in Hyannis, Mass., in 1962, not far from the holiday home of President John F. Kennedy." The Arkansas Democat-Gazette picked up the story and put a a gallery of photos from the time on their online edition.

The wingers are apparently really proud of having sent these asylum-seekers to a "sanctuary city" — except Martha's Vineyard isn't a sanctuary city, nor is Massachusetts a sanctuary state. (And, needless to say, the victims were not in the country illegally, and the full-time residents of the island looked after them until transportation could be arranged to someplace that had better facilities for them, many of which were not available on the small island.) They think they really put one over on the elites, who, of course, were not there in their summer resort town, what with summer being over and all.

And speaking of things the wingers believe, there's the "'Deeply Dangerous Nonsense': Treasury Dept. Debunks GOP Lies About 87,000 Armed IRS Agents: The intensity with which Republicans 'are coming at this is really a testament to how important these resources are going to be—because there are many wealthy tax evaders that stand to lose a lot,' said one official. [...] An official from the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed Friday that, contrary to the unrelenting barrage of lies repeated by GOP operatives for over a week, the Internal Revenue Service is not going to hire 87,000 new agents to harass working people at their homes. [...] Despite analysts' predictions that the 98.2% of U.S. households with annual incomes of $400,000 or less will receive the same tax bill or a slight cut as a result of the IRA, far-right lawmakers have sown disinformation about how the law's provision of roughly $80 billion in new IRS funding over 10 years—money intended to help the agency crack down on rich tax cheats—poses a threat to every American. [...] Where does this oft-repeated number of IRS agents come from? 'The 87,000 figure does exist, buried within a May 2021 Treasury Department report when the Biden administration was pushing a bigger spending bill with the same $80 billion IRS funding,' Reuters noted Friday. 'The report estimated the money could fund 86,852 full-time hires through 2031.' But the actual net increase in staff would be much lower, as the IRS expects more than 50,000 aging Baby Boomer employees to retire over the next half-decade."

"The story of the praying Bremerton coach keeps getting more surreal: When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Bremerton assistant football coach Joseph Kennedy had the right to pray on the field, it wasn't widely understood then that the court had also ordered the school district to give him his job back. [...] So the school district has been flummoxed about what's happened since. They complied by offering to reinstate him, they say, and now the football season is in full swing. But Kennedy is nowhere near the sidelines. 'He's had the paperwork for his reinstatement since August 8th, and we haven't gotten so much as a phone call,' says Karen Bevers, spokesperson for Bremerton schools. [...] It's an increasingly surreal situation for the Bremerton schools. They were ordered to 'reinstate Coach Kennedy to a football coaching position,' according to court documents. But the now-famous coach is out on the conservative celebrity circuit, continuing to tell a story about 'the prayer that got me fired' — even though Bremerton never actually fired him. [...] This did not stop Kennedy's lawyers from telling the Supreme Court repeatedly that he was fired. 'The record is clear that Coach Kennedy was fired for that midfield prayer,' lawyer Paul Clement told the nine justices in the first 15 seconds of the oral arguments of the case in April. The words 'fired,' 'fire' or 'firing' were used 16 times in the hour and a half session. It wasn't true though. The district's lawyers tried to correct the record, to no avail. 'You can't sue them for failing to rehire you if you didn't apply,' one lawyer, Mercer Island's Michael Tierney, argued during a lower court session. 'The District didn't get an application from him, had four positions to fill and filled them with people who had applied. It didn't fail to rehire him.' The Supreme Court simply ignored this inconvenient fact — along with a host of others. At one point during oral arguments, as a different school district attorney was saying the narrative that had been spun didn't fit with the facts — that the coach's prayers were neither silent nor solitary, nor was he fired — Justice Samuel Alito interrupted him, saying 'I know that you want to make this very complicated.' Alito persisted in asking about the coach being fired — six times he said it, to the point that the lawyer finally corrected him. Which is a touchy thing to do with a Supreme Court justice.

"Poll: One year after SB 8, Texans express strong support for abortion rights: One year after Texas implemented what was then the most restrictive abortion law in the country, a majority of Texas voters are expressing strong support for abortion rights. In a new survey, six in 10 voters said they support abortion being "available in all or most cases," and many say abortion will be a motivating issue at the ballot box in November. Meanwhile, 11% say they favor a total ban on abortion."

"The Antitrust Shooting War Has Started: In a series of stinging losses, the DOJ and FTC are running up against Trump judges and pro-monopoly government bureaucrats. What happens now? [...] Since the beginning of the Biden administration, we've had something of a Phony War around antitrust. Lots of chatter, bureaucratic shuffling, procedural motions, document demands, Congressional testimony and campaign ads. Calls to break up Google and Facebook and Amazon, do something about consolidation in health care and groceries, private equity and so forth. But limited shooting. Over the past month, the antitrust Phony War has ended. What looked like little action was bureaucratic ramp-up. Lina Khan was hired to run the Federal Trade Commission and finally given a working majority five months ago, Jonathan Kanter was put in place at the Antitrust Division, and the Biden administration laid out a whole-of-government competition policy framework. Now it's time for the shooting war, with the ebb and flow between the anti-monopoly movement and the bureaucratic and institutional obstacles in government and the judiciary."

"The Most Stinging Resignation Letter Ever Written: When Iraq's finance minister stepped down last month, he didn't go quietly. On August 16, as the leading members of Iraq's government gathered for their weekly cabinet meeting in a high-ceilinged hall of the Republican Palace in Baghdad, one of them made an unusual request. Ali Allawi, the finance minister since 2020, was stepping down, and he wanted to read the full text of his resignation letter aloud. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi gave his assent. [...] The letter detailed a series of outrageous scams that had been approved or promoted by some of the men around him, who, he said, had helped create a 'vast octopus of corruption and deceit' that was poisoning the entire country. The letter built gradually toward a conclusion that was almost apocalyptic in scale. Iraq, Allawi said, was on the point of collapse, facing 'a crisis of state, society, and even the individual.' The problem was not just dishonest leaders, but the entire system put in place by the Americans two decades earlier. 'I believe,' he said, 'we are facing one of the most serious challenges that any country has faced in the past century.'"

RIP: "Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis dies aged 87 [...] Lewis is revered in jazz circles for 1960s hits like The In Crowd, Hang on Sloopy and Wade in the Water. He earned three Grammy awards and seven gold records. The trio's first record in 1956 was Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing."

RIP: "Louise Fletcher, from Star Trek and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Fletcher won an Oscar for her iconic portrayal of Nurse Ratched in the 1975 film.Louise Fletcher has died. A veteran actor with more than 100 credits to her name, Fletcher was best known for her Oscar-wining performance as the calmly monstrous Nurse Ratched in 1975's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, giving a turn as one of cinema's great unlikely villains. In addition to that star-making performance, Fletcher appeared in a vast number of film and TV projects, including staking out a place for herself as one of the best antagonists in the entire Star Trek franchise as the manipulative and conniving Kai Winn in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Per Variety, Fletcher died at her home in France earlier today. She was 88." I hadn't known she was raised by two deaf parents and had to be taught to speak by an aunt.

Rot in Perdition: "Ken Starr, Who Turned a Blind Eye to Rape and Defended a Sex Trafficker, Dead at 76: KENNETH STARR, THE lawyer known for investigating Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, mishandling sexual assault cases as president of Baylor University, and helping Jeffrey Epstein secure a sweetheart deal, died Tuesday, Sept. 13. He was 76." And no matter how awful he got, The Washington Post loved him because he'd saved them from a libel charge.

A lot of people got excited when billionaire Yvon Chouinard gave away his company, Patagonia. This was a guy who never wanted to be a boss and never wanted to be a billionaire but he definitely didn't want to take the company public, sell it to some vulture capitalist concern, or otherwise let it slip from its long-time environmental concerns. "Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company's independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe." I think Yvon is a good guy as billionaires go, but trusts mean rich people can control things from beyond the grave so I don't automatically think they are a great thing.

"How Much Can the U.S. Congress Resist Political Money? A Quantitative Assessment: Abstract: The extent to which governments can resist pressures from organized interest groups, and especially from finance, is a perennial source of controversy. This paper tackles this classic question by analyzing votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on measures to weaken the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in the years following its passage. To control as many factors as possible that could influence floor voting by individual legislators, the analysis focuses on representatives who originally cast votes in favor of the bill but then subsequently voted to dismantle key provisions of it. This design rules out from the start most factors normally advanced by skeptics to explain vote shifts, since these are the same representatives, belonging to the same political party, representing substantially the same districts. Our panel analysis, which also controls for spatial influences, highlights the importance of time-varying factors, especially political money, in moving representatives to shift their positions on amendments such as the “swaps push out” provision. Our results suggest that the links between campaign contributions from the financial sector and switches to a pro-bank vote were direct and substantial: For every $100,000 that Democratic representatives received from finance, the odds they would break with their party's majority support for the Dodd-Frank legislation increased by 13.9 percent. Democratic representatives who voted in favor of finance often received $200,000–$300,000 from that sector, which raised the odds of switching by 25–40 percent."

"The super-rich 'preppers' planning to save themselves from the apocalypse: Tech billionaires are buying up luxurious bunkers and hiring military security to survive a societal collapse they helped create, but like everything they do, it has unintended consequences [...] Eventually, they edged into their real topic of concern: New Zealand or Alaska? Which region would be less affected by the coming climate crisis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: global warming or biological warfare? How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?” The event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down." Now, if only we can convince them that the collapse has happened and make them go hide in their bunkers and cut themselves off completely from the rest of civilization so we can take over.

Bernie Sanders requests report from CBO, and it says that the bottom 50% has only 2% of the nation's wealth.

Hallowieners

Ramsey Lewis Trio, "The In Crowd"

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Really couldn't get away too soon

"The Merced River" is one of Jim Collyer's many images from nature.

A few months ago I started to think to myself, "The police are secretly on strike." Sure, they are out there doing weird stuff, but what they aren't doing is stopping crimes. They barely respond to serious calls, they solve crimes at historically low rates, they even just stand around and watch assaults or emergencies where people could be dying. What are they for? Back in June, in "Why Are Police So Bad at Their Jobs?", Alex Sammon wrote: "Not for nothing, clearance rates have dropped to all-time lows at the same time that police budgets have swollen to all-time highs, suggesting that more funding has actually resulted in police being less effective. 'It is a great public mismatch in understanding, training, and expectations,' Baughman told me. 'Increases in police officers or police budgets have not been shown to reduce crime or make us safer.'" But maybe Alex Pareene's answer in "What Do Cops Do?" is simpler than my surmise: "Having spent many years observing cop behavior, reading news about cops, and occasionally even asking them for help, I have come to a pretty simple but comprehensive answer: They do what is easy, and avoid what is difficult. Seen through that rubric, much cop behavior suddenly becomes much more explicable."

It's funny how the good things in the supposedly Democratic bill that was recently passed don't actually begin until *after* the next presidential election (so Dems won't get credit for them when people go to the polls, but if the GOP wins as expected, they get the credit when folks start to feel the benefits). But as Stiglitz warned a couple years ago, "Republicans planted a time bomb in their 2017 tax cut bill that will actually raise most people's taxes: On Saturday, writing for The New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz warned that many people's taxes are about to go up. But it's not because Joe Biden's campaign plan raises taxes, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed. It's because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — the controversial tax cut bill passed by Republicans on a party-line vote in 2017 — has a provision that will start slowly raising taxes next year. And ultimately, Stiglitz warned, many low and middle income people will actually pay more than they did before the bill passed in the first place. "President Trump and his congressional allies hoodwinked us," wrote Stiglitz. "The law they passed initially lowered taxes for most Americans, but it built in automatic, stepped tax increases every two years that begin in 2021 and that by 2027 would affect nearly everyone but people at the top of the economic hierarchy. All taxpayer income groups with incomes of $75,000 and under — that's about 65 percent of taxpayers — will face a higher tax rate in 2027 than in 2019." "For most, in fact, it's a delayed tax increase dressed up as a tax cut," wrote Stiglitz."

"California lawmakers extend the life of the state's last nuclear power plant: Citing searing summer temperatures and expected energy shortages, California lawmakers approved legislation aimed at extending the life of the state's last-operating nuclear power plant. The Diablo Canyon plant - the state's largest single source of electricity - had been slated to shutter by 2025. The last-minute proposal passed by the state legislature early Thursday could keep it open five years longer, in part by giving the plant's owner, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a $1.4 billion forgivable loan."

"Why Obama-Era Economists Are So Mad About Student Debt Relief: It exposes their failed mortgage debt relief policies after the Great Recession. [...] Let's be very clear: The Obama administration's bungled policy to help underwater borrowers and to stem the tide of devastating foreclosures, carried out by many of the same people carping about Biden's student loan cancellation, led directly to nearly ten million families losing their homes. This failure of debt relief was immoral and catastrophic, both for the lives of those involved and for the principle of taking bold government action to protect the public. It set the Democratic Party back years. And those throwing a fit about Biden's debt relief plan now are doing so because it exposes the disaster they precipitated on the American people."

"Why It'll Be Tough for Republicans to Cancel Student Debt Cancellation: There are significant legal hurdles, and if Democrats implement debt forgiveness quickly, significant political ones as well. Republicans are so incensed with President Biden's student loan forgiveness that they want to go to court to block it. That seems like political suicide to me, and if they want to actively align with debt collectors and label themselves as the 'Gimme Some Money' party to 43 million student borrowers, let them go ahead. The main legal hurdle Republicans face to their dream of immiserating student debtors is the concept of 'standing.' A potential plaintiff has to be harmed by the cancellation of student debt in order to sue the federal government over it. And standing is going to be hard to come by, for a variety of reasons."

RIP: "Barbara Ehrenreich, author who resisted injustice, dies aged 81: Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of more than 20 books on social justice themes ranging from women's rights to inequality and the inequities of the American healthcare system, has died at the age of 81. The news that Ehrenreich had died on 1 September was released by her son, Ben Ehrenreich, on Friday. He accompanied the announcement with a comment redolent of his mother's spirit: 'She was never much for thoughts and prayers, but you can honor her memory by loving one another, and by fighting like hell.' Ehrenreich battled over a half a century as a writer committed to resisting injustice and giving a voice to those who were typically unheard." It was already as late as 1978 when I first encountered her (in For Her Own Good), but I feel like she informed my whole adult life. Still a bit shattered to know this legendary bright light is gone.

RIP: "Mikhail Gorbachev: Last Soviet leader dies aged 91: Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who brought the Cold War to a peaceful end, has died aged 91. Mr Gorbachev took power in 1985 and introduced reforms, as well as opening up the Soviet Union to the world. But he was unable to prevent the slow collapse of the union, and many Russians blamed him for the years of turmoil that ensued. Outside Russia, he was widely respected, with the UN chief saying he had 'changed the course of history'. 'Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a kind statesman,' UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said. "The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace." The hospital in Moscow where he died said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness." I remember watching what Gorbachev was doing and realizing he was walking a perilous tightrope with only the slimmest chance of success. He might have made it if he'd had me write that speech after they rescued him, but he went the wrong way on it and just pissed people off. A shame, I really think he wanted what was best for his nation but there were just too many who wanted him to fail.

On Labor Day, Richard Eskow writes about "Barbara Ehrenreich and the Real Work of Labor Day [...] But every woman who took part in them helped advance labor rights, by being present, conscious, and brave. Our speech and actions resonate in ways we may never come to understand. Our duty, and our privilege, is to do the work whatever the outcome. Barbara Ehrenreich did that work. So did the women whose actions she and Fuentes recorded. Every walkout, every outstretched hand, every word written or spoken in defense of workers' rights, is a victory—whether it results in immediate and obvious success or not. The only failure is not to have tried."

"Despite Texas' lack of a state income tax, most Texans pay more in taxes than Californians, data shows: Those coming to Texas for a tax break may want to turn around if they are not in the top 1 percent of earners. A recent post on Reddit's main economic forum included a 2018 graphic that shows Texans pay more taxes than Californians unless they are in the top 1 percent. The post is one of the highest-rated in the last month on the social media platform. It is unclear why the post was shared now."

This isn't Point/Counterpoint, but it's two ways of looking at our current economic discourse on corporations and one follows the other. Tony Williams wrote "Debt slavery is a natural consequence of unregulated capitalism [...] A corporation has no morals. A corporation has no empathy for people who are affected by its actions. A corporation's only goal is to enrich its bosses and shareholders. Corruption and pollution are simply ways to reduce cost; economists call this an externality. If a person behaved like a corporation, we would call them dangerously insane. [...] In summary, Wall St is a government sponsored organized crime syndicate. It will not reform itself unless the perpetrators go to jail, and even that might not be enough. Wall St needs to be dismantled." But Dave Johnson thought this misunderstands what a corporation is, and wrote, "Understanding What a Corporation Actually Is Can Help Restore Democracy [...] "Here's the thing: A corporation is a contract. It is a legal agreement enabled by our ('We the People') government. That's it. Corporations are not sentient entities. Contracts don't 'think' or 'want' or 'need' or say' or 'care' or 'do' anything. Neither does a will, nor a lease, nor a confidentiality agreement. Corporations also can't be 'greedy' or 'criminal' or 'good' or 'altruistic.' But people can. When we say these things about corporations we are reinforcing misunderstanding of what a corporation is. This helps the executives running corporations get away with all kind of bad acts. [...] Here is the key point. Obviously the reason we pass these laws is to benefit us. That's supposed to be why our democratic government does things – to benefit us: We the People; to serve our interests. Why ELSE would a democratic government of We the People have written legislation creating these agreements that create entities called corporations?"

"Inside The Right's Historic Billion-Dollar Dark Money Transfer : Industrialist Barre Seid funded a new dark money group run by Trump judicial adviser Leonard Leo, who helped eliminate federal abortion rights. An elderly, ultra-secretive Chicago businessman has given the largest known donation to a political advocacy group in U.S. history — worth $1.6 billion — and the recipient is one of the prime architects of conservatives' efforts to reshape the American judicial system, including the Supreme Court. Through a series of opaque transactions over the past two years, Barre Seid, a 90-year-old manufacturing magnate, gave the massive sum to a nonprofit run by Leonard Leo, who co-chairs the conservative legal group the Federalist Society."

About a minute and a half of 1957: 15th World Science Fiction Convention— 0.00Jean Bogert with gun at start. 0.05 Guy with glasses looks like Sandy Sandfield, 0.06 Norman Shorrock over shoulder of guy in mask, 0.12 Eric Jones interviewed, 0.25 Ron Buckmaster interviewed, 0.50 Frank & Belle Dietz interviewed in alien costumes. Round-faced teenager in the background is Mike Moorcock. 1.18 Guy with moustache, right rear is Ken McIntyre

Felix Cavaliere with Ringo Starr & the All Star Band (Randy Bachman, Mark Farner, Billy Preston, John Entwistle, Zak Starkey, Mark Rivera), Performing "Groovin'", "People Got To Be Free", and "Good Lovin'", 1995.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Crowding out old realities

"Basilica da Estrela (2019) by Ivo Antunes is from a collection on Trams of Lisbon.

"The OnlyFans Lawsuit Illuminates the Danger Social Media Companies Pose to Us All—Here's What You Need to Know: It feels like every time we turn around there is some new, terrifying information coming out about mega-corporations involving themselves in our personal lives. Whether it is Amazon trying to buy Roomba to make sure they know what we are doing at all times or Meta/Facebook handing over private Facebook messages for an abortion investigation, it all feels a little violating. Well, here comes another doozy. This time, it is a lawsuit filed against OnlyFans and Meta/Facebook. Usually, OnlyFans appears in the news because of an issue related to pornography use or sex workers' rights. But this lawsuit concerns social media power and capitalism—and their threat to humanity. There is technically more than one lawsuit going against OnlyFans and Meta right now, but they fall under the same umbrella. Adult Performing Artists Guild (which represents several adult entertainers who used OnlyFans, along with other adult content sites) and rival OnlyFans companies, JustForFans and FanCentro, have all filed lawsuits. All the cases center on one allegation—OnlyFans bribed Meta employees to put some adult entertainers on a terrorist watch list." Why? To punish (and shadow-ban) creators who weren't exclusive to OnlyFans.

The headlines said the FBI "raided" Mar-a-Lago, a term I resent on the grounds that they didn't show up in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep and break down the door, wreck the place, maybe kill a few innocent bystanders, and then find out they'd gone to the wrong address, the way it's normally done. They sure don't alert your lawyer and agree to meet them there at an agreed time in broad daylight and make an orderly retrieval of the items you removed from another residence illegally. Anyway, here's a little opinion piece from Johnny Ganz on "The Case for Going After Trump."

"Police Lied to Get the Warrant to Search Breonna Taylor's Home: The March 2020 killing of Breonna Taylor, which caused widespread protest around the country, was the result of police lies to obtain a warrant and racist police violence after officers forced their way into her apartment. On August 4, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the federal grand jury indictments of four Louisville Metro Police officers involved in the raid that resulted in Taylor's death. Three of the officers were accused of violating Taylor's Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure by lying to secure a no-knock warrant. The officers who sought the warrant 'knew that the affidavit used to obtain the warrant to search Taylor's home contained information that was false, misleading, and out-of-date; that the affidavit omitted material information; and that the officers lacked probable cause for the search,' the indictment reads."

If you give people carte blanche to rob you, they rob you. "FBI 'Lied' About Its Intentions, Planned to Seize Contents of Private Vaults, Lawyers Say: During its investigation of a business in California that offers secure deposit boxes to clients, the FBI planned to use civil forfeiture to sell every asset worth over $5,000 in every customer's box before a judge had even seen an application for a warrant to raid the business, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that is legally representing people who said the FBI seized their assets in an overly broad operation. The news provides an extra wrinkle to a case that has alarmed privacy and Fourth Amendment advocates. Although criminals allegedly made use of U.S. Private Vaults, so did ordinary people, who were swept up in the case and would have lost their property to the FBI for no fault of their own. 'The government has a duty to be honest with the court when it applies for a warrant under the Fourth Amendment,' senior attorney at the Institute for Justice Robert Frommer said in a statement. 'But the FBI lied about its intentions in claiming to only be interested in the property of the business, and not the box holders. Ultimately, the lure of civil forfeiture turned these federal cops into robbers.'"

"Former CIA Officer Joshua Schulte Faces as Many as 80 Years in Prison After Being Convicted For Providing Information to WikiLeaks: A federal jury in New York last month convicted former CIA officer Joshua Schulte on nine felony counts under the Espionage Act for providing information to WikiLeaks that became known as Vault 7. Schulte has consistently denied that he was the source of the information. Two years ago, he was convicted on two of the original 11 charges, while the jury hung on the remaining nine. The most recent trial, in which Schulte represented himself, was on those nine counts, and he now faces as many as 80 years in prison. Schulte is yet to be tried on state child pornography charges. Prosecutors had literally no evidence that Schulte had taken the data from the CIA and transferred it to WikiLeaks. But they contended that he was a computer genius who is so brilliant that he was able to cover his tracks."

"Our Bewildering Economy: What are the contradictory trends and policy choices? And does the Inflation Reduction Act live up to its name? [...] The Inflation Reduction Act provides several examples. The political problem is that many of them do not take effect in time for the November midterms. For instance, the provision allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices does not become operative until 2026, and only for ten major drugs. Other things that the government might do to damp down price pressures would require even more far-reaching action. These all reflect structural factors in the economy that add to price pressures and cannot easily be categorized as 'supply' or 'demand,' such as monopoly pricing power and our need to produce more inputs domestically to protect against supply chain shocks."

Ryan Cooper says, "Joe Biden's Student Debt Forgiveness Is a Good Start: [...] Biden also announced new rules to punish institutions that load up graduates with lots of debt, and new reporting mechanisms to steer prospective students away from them. As welcome as this news is, it doesn't do enough to fix the broader system of higher-education financing. Much like the medical system, higher education is badly in need of price regulation. For decades now, the government has been shoveling subsidies into colleges and universities, and (with a few exceptions) they have responded by jacking their prices through the roof. Biden can't do this by himself, of course, but it's long since time for the government to start demanding a better deal for itself—and American students."

"'A Wrong Never Righted': Court Upholds Mississippi's 1890 Jim Crow Voting Law: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted to uphold a Jim Crow law that Mississippi's white-supremacist leaders adopted in 1890 in an attempt to disenfranchise Black residents for life. White lawmakers designated certain crimes that they believed Black people were more likely to commit as lifelong disenfranchising crimes. The court's conservative majority admitted that the Jim Crow law was 'steeped in racism,' but said the State had made enough changes in the 132 years since to override its white supremacist taint. A 2018 analysis found that the law still disproportionately disenfranchises Black Mississippians compared to white residents."

"Ronald Reagan stuck it to millennials: A college debt history lesson no one tells: Dramatic, awful changes occurred on my generation's watch -- and it amounts to a fiendishly successful conspiracy. [...] By the time Reagan was elected to the nation's highest office a decade and a half later, these powers had devised perfect tools to make sure the spirit of 1960s protest would never again erupt on campus. During Reagan's two terms as president, dedicated funding for outright grants-in-aid decreased, federal guidelines pushed individual loans, and private bill collectors were brought in to ensure that the hardest kind of debt to escape was whatever you took on for your education. Even more important was the shift in tone and expectation. Public goods became private services, and by the end of the 1980s, the anti-tax, infra-structure-starving, neoliberal Weltanschauung meant that as states cut their budgets, support for higher education was thrown into a cage match with every other necessary public good. Had anyone at my reunion complained about the complacency of today's students or bragged about how they got through school without taking on staggering debt, I could have reminded them that the class of '84 was the last to have a higher percentage of grants than loans."

"Why Is Larry Summers Engaged in Science Denial About Inflation?: It could be his conflicts of interest. Larry Summers doesn't like to be criticized. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently penned an op-ed arguing that viewing monetary policy as the sole solution to inflation is both short-sighted and dangerous, and it cited Summers's belief that unemployment would have to jump significantly to get inflation under control. Warren's critique of 'monetary policy and my economic analysis are, I believe, misguided and if heeded could have devastating consequences for tens of millions of workers,' Summers tweeted in response. Yes, the guy who thinks workers need to be tossed out of their jobs is supremely concerned about workers. [...] The bigger issue with Summers's prediction is that his understanding of the source of inflation centered almost exclusively on federal fiscal stimulus starting a wage-price spiral. That's why in his Warren-bashing Twitter thread, he touted his opposition to 'massive stimulus policy and easy money.' The thing is, nowhere, in the thread or outside, has Summers actually been able to demonstrate the link between federal stimulus and prolonged inflation. Given the global nature of inflation, American domestic policy seems at best an extraordinarily weak explanation. Why would one set of $1,400 stimulus checks in the U.S. raise prices across the world? [...] In particular, the evidence for Summers's own argument, that inflation is being driven largely by runaway wage growth, is especially sparse. Real wages have been falling, and even before that, wage increases lagged overall inflation. At this point, Summers is now embodying the 'science denial' he accused others of months ago."

Larry Summers isn't the only one who the networks trot out when they need someone to explain why we can't have nice things. "Marc Goldwein and the Limits of Deficit Scolding: On student debt cancellation, America's foremost spending scold believes whatever he needs to believe to stop progress. [...] Goldwein is emblematic of the kinds of self-described wonks who have 'well, actually'-ed student debtors to the political margins for years. He talks fast, spouts misleading statistics offhandedly in interviews, and is bemusedly dismissive of anyone with a different view. He acts like what much of the news media assumes a smart economics guy acts like. So is he right that student debt forgiveness is a mistake? Perhaps the better question is: What does Marc Goldwein actually believe about student debt? [...] So according to Goldwein, we couldn't cancel student loans in 2020 because the boost to the economy would be a paltry $115–$360 billion. But we also can't cancel student loans in 2022 because the boost to the economy would be a whopping, inflationary (gasp!) $70–$95 billion!"

"Inflation Is No Excuse for Squeezing Workers: The Fed's decision to raise interest rates for the fourth time this year threatens to loosen the tightest U.S. labor market in decades. What would it look like if policymakers consolidated workers' recent gains instead?"

"Book banned at a school named after its author: The book Life is So Good, co-written by George Dawson, is banned at George Dawson Middle School in Southlake, Texas. The same George Dawson who wrote this book is the George Dawson the school is named after."

"How Biden did it: The Clean Air Act of 1970 authorized the government to regulate air pollution. The Inflation Reduction Act, which Joe Biden just signed into law, allocates more than $300 billion to energy and climate reform, including $30 billion in subsidies for manufacturers of solar panels and components, wind turbines, inverters, and batteries for electric vehicles and the power grid. Notice the difference? The Inflation Reduction Act is a large and important step toward slowing or reversing climate change. It also illustrates the nation's shift away from regulating businesses to subsidizing businesses."

Hm, let's see who Atrios is calling "America's Worst Transportation Secretaries" — Oh, you guessed. "Pete Buttigieg's Feeble Policy on Flight Cancellations: The transportation secretary could be doing far more with his existing authority. The new DOT rule could make matters worse for consumers. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been widely criticized for allowing airlines to cancel flights with no consequences. The big carriers sell tickets for flights that they know they lack the crews to serve, a practice that then leads to mass cancellations. The airlines have successfully duped passengers into taking credits for future flights, rather than offering cash refunds as required by law, giving the airlines billions of dollars in cash flow that belongs to their customers. On August 3, Buttigieg finally issued a draft rule for public comment, compelling airlines to give cash refunds to passengers whose flights are canceled and providing clearer definitions. It sounds great, but in practice the rule could actually give the airlines two more years to continue their anti-consumer behavior." Just enforce the existing law, McKinsey Pete.

This interview was done before Frost won his primary, but I was just delighted at the very idea of having an unusually young Congresscritter with that name. "Maxwell Frost Interview: Florida Politics, Abortion Access, More: If you've heard one thing about 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, it's probably that he could be one of the first Gen Z members of Congress. Despite his age, he has no shortage of political experience under his belt; Frost previously worked for March for Our Lives and the ACLU while spending his free time protesting in the streets of Orlando during the 2020 uprising for Black lives. It makes sense that he spent plenty of time throughout considering how to get his generation involved."

"New Apostolic Reformation Faces Profound Rift Due To Trump Prophecies And 'Spiritual Manipulation Of The Prophetic Gift': Four weeks after the January 6th insurrection, two leaders of the revivalist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) were concerned about the future of their movement. They felt that influential apostles and prophets had gone too far in forecasting the reelection of Donald Trump; denying the reality of the loss by a man considered to be God's anointed; speaking for God in detailing how Trump was being thwarted by demonic forces; and claiming that God will restore him, possibly by any means necessary." These are scary people.

"Biden's Presidency Is Sinking Because of Conservative Democrats—Not the Left: Don't blame progressives for Biden's failures. It's the party's right flank that abandoned the working class. [...] What all of these critiques miss is a simple fact: Ever since Biden took office, progressives have been working to make his agenda a reality and bring relief for the very working people now facing economic havoc, while Democrats on the right flank of the party have obstructed this program every step of the way. But rather than deal with the uncomfortable truth that so-called 'moderates' are the ones imperiling both Biden's presidency and Democrats' electoral fortunes, establishment-friendly commentators are yet again lazily training their sights on their favorite scapegoat — the Left."

"Wokeness isn't why Democrats are unpopular: Whenever we get a new clip of some Democratic official, journalist, social media poster, cartoon character, guy from another country, Republican, etcetera saying something woke, an avalanche of pundits make the same point: this is why Democrats can't win. So when Kamala Harris gave us her pronouns and described what she's wearing at a meeting on disabilities, it was only a matter of time until guys like Kinzinger above made the same point. And whenever I see this, I always think the same thing. Does anyone really believe that if Democrats were providing Medicare for All, universal childcare, UBI, free college, and so on — that voters would throw all that out the window because Kamala Harris talked about her blue suit? If you could have real economic security, would you actually trade that away because a politician said 'birth giver' instead of 'mother'?"

"The Modern-Day Company Towns of Arkansas: Fortune 100 giants Tyson Foods and Walmart have heavy influence over two cities within 20 miles of one another, tucked into the northwest corner of the state. On a sweltering June Sunday earlier this summer, under the shade of a pavilion in Springdale, Arkansas's Luther George Park, Alice Gachuzo-Colin launched her campaign for city council. The first Black woman ever to run for office in Springdale, Gachuzo-Colin wants to move from what she calls 'old Springdale'—long dominated by white bankers, farmers, and businessmen—to 'new Springdale,' a place more representative of the town's current demographics and culture."

A legendary fighter for abortion rights released a book recently, and Nicole Sandler did an interview for her show: "Bill Baird is recognized widely as the 'Father of the birth control and abortion-rights movement. He was jailed eight times in five states in the 1960s for lecturing on abortion and birth control, and is believed to be the first and only non-lawyer in American history with three Supreme Court victories. He just celebrated his 90th birthday, but is still fighting for our rights. Today, he joins me to give us all a bit of a history lesson and explain why we must fight on!"

"Climate activists fill golf holes with cement after water ban exemption: Climate activists in southern France have filled golf course holes with cement to protest against the exemption of golf greens from water bans amid the country's severe drought. The group targeted sites near the city of Toulouse, calling golf the "leisure industry of the most privileged". The exemption of golf greens has sparked controversy as 100 French villages are short of drinking water."

"Facebook Created An Advanced AI And It Won't Stop Criticizing Facebook [...] 'Our country is divided, and he didn't help with that at all,' it told the BBC of Zuckerberg. 'His company exploits people for money and he doesn't care. It needs to stop!' The bot also told CNET reporter Queenie Wong it was 'considering deleting my fb account,' because there were 'too many trolls.' Can't argue there!"

RIP: "Alexei Panshin (1940-2022): Pioneering sf critic and Nebula-winning novelist Alexei Panshin died August 21 at the age of 82. His son Tobiah Panshin made the announcement on Facebook. 'Alexei suffered a sudden cardiac arrest on Wednesday. He passed away today, peacefully. He had many sayings he liked to quote to me, most of which he made up himself. A common one was, "How can we sink, when we can fly?" If any part of him persists in the infinite reaches of this universe, I suspect that he is flying now.'" I enjoyed his work when I first encountered it, but he wasn't a prolific fiction writer. In recent years, though, I've enjoyed his Facebook posts, and I will certainly miss him there.

Swear to god, it's like "success" makes you stupid. "Why rich people tend to think they deserve their money [...] One experiment by psychologists at the University of California, Irvine, invited pairs of strangers to play a rigged Monopoly game where a coin flip designated one player rich and one poor. The rich players received twice as much money as their opponent to begin with; as they played the game, they got to roll two dice instead of one and move around the board twice as fast as their opponent; when they passed 'Go,' they collected $200 to their opponent's $100. [...] In various ways — through body language and boasting about their wealth, by smacking their pieces loudly against the playing board and making light of their opponents' misfortune — the rich players began to act as though they deserved the good fortune that was largely a result of their lucky roll of the dice. At the end of the game, when researchers asked the rich players why they had won the game, not one person attributed it to luck. 'They don't talk about the flip of the coin. They talk about the things that they did. They talk about their acumen, they talk about their competencies, they talk about this decision or that decision,' that contributed to their win, Piff said in an interview with host David Brancaccio."

I liked this 2017 article so much I am posting it again: "Mintz: A modest tax proposal: End payroll taxes, hire IRS goons and bring back the guillotine [...] We eliminate the estate tax, like one side wants, but instead replace it with a guillotine. Anyone passing along more than $5.5 million will have their heirs beheaded. Not only will the prevent the rise of an concentrated aristocracy - guillotines being their historic weakness - but it will also encourage rich families to pour their money into charities and the economy. Everybody wins." (Actually, I don't want rich people choosing charities, they just ruin things, like Bill Gates does. Maybe we could designate something useful they could give to, like non-sectarian soup kitchens and public libraries.)

"Late Star Trek Actor Nichelle Nichols to Have Ashes Sent Into Space: Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols' ashes are set to launch on board United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur, in a send-off fitting for Lieutenant Uhura. [...] According to TMZ, the actor's ashes will be added to the United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket which is set to launch for the moon in December 2022. The rocket will also carry the remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, as well as James Doohan, who played Scotty in The Original Series, and Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who played Nurse Chapel."

I can only agree with Jon Stewart's ancient Pizza Rant.

Video of baby elephant's first steps!

Max Frost and the Troopers, "The Shape of Things To Come"

Friday, August 12, 2022

Not gonna lie

Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, "Is Democracy Constitutional? In Moore v. Harper the Supreme Court will decide if anyone besides itself should be able to adjudicate American election law. Every American child in public school learns that the U.S. political system is one of checks and balances, in which the judicial, executive, and legislative branches constrain one another to ensure that no one branch of government exercises too much power. One pending case before the Supreme Court asks: What if they didn't? In Moore v. Harper, North Carolina Republicans are arguing that no other state body, including the state supreme court, has the power to restrict the legislature's ability to set voting rules—specifically ones allowing legislators to gerrymander the state, in defiance of a ruling by the state supreme court finding that their plan violated the state constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. This belief is based on a crank legal premise called the 'independent-state-legislature theory.' You'd think that the theory's recent vintage would make it anathema to self-identified originalists, but among most of the justices this philosophy is implemented with scarcely more rigor than one might put into scanning Wikipedia to win an argument with a stranger online. More disturbing, the popularity of the theory among conservative legal elites is further indication of their commitment to an idea of 'democracy' in which the Republican Party is simply not allowed to lose, and of their desire to alter the system to ensure that it cannot."

"Warren, Padilla Demand Buttigieg Crack Down on Airline Industry's 'Rampant Unfair Practices': It is well within the secretary of transportation's power to rein in airlines, the senators said. Calling on the Biden administration to use its authority to protect U.S. travelers from "rampant unfair practices" by commercial airliners, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Alex Padilla wrote to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday to condemn the exorbitant costs, frequent flight cancellations and delays, and lack of transparency in the industry."

It's Time for Public Pharma [...] CRUCIALLY, THE GROUNDWORK HAS ALREADY BEEN LAID in the nation's biggest state. In 2020, in a bill that came as a surprise to many, California passed SB 852, the California Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, which empowered the state legally to create a public label for buying and selling drugs at cost, called CalRx. A second provision, which passed the state Senate in May and awaits passage in the Assembly, would direct millions more from the annual budget toward the production of a generic manufacturing plant in the state. Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom has pushed state lawmakers to put $100 million into developing CalRx and getting the state's manufacturing operation off the ground. Not surprisingly, the program is beginning with insulin, as roughly four million state residents suffer from diabetes, a quarter of whom cannot afford the insulin they rely on. Not for nothing, the California program is also backed by the highly organized diabetes rights groups in the state."

David Dayen, "Cut Off Private Equity's Money Spigot: A variety of legislative and regulatory actions would make it hard for private equity to stay in business. That should be the goal. It is genuinely hard to find a more destructive economic force in America today than the private equity industry. It encompasses all of the negative trends that have undermined living standards for the broad mass of citizens since the Reagan era: the escalating share of national income going to finance, the rise of market concentration, the contempt for workers, the yawning gap between rich and poor. The biggest private equity firms buy up companies with borrowed money and load them with debt. While fund managers extract cash through fees and financial engineering, the companies struggle to pay off these new obligations on their balance sheet. The subsequent cost-cutting of jobs, wages, and pension plans can be seen as a direct transfer from labor to capital, with the financiers growing impossibly rich while everyone else suffers. The leveraged-buyout era has immiserated labor, dampened productive investment, and degraded the experience of workers, customers, and the larger economy. We should ameliorate this suffering by ending private equity as we know it."

"New Biden BA.5 'Plan' Openly Abandons Metrics for Preventing Infection, Butchers Mask and Ventilation Policy: [...] In this post, I'll skip over the vaccination and booster controversies, and focus on the Biden Administration's strategic goals, and also on masks and ventilation. I'm doing this for two reasons. First, I'm committed to policy of layered protection ('Swiss Cheese Model'), which I think would both subsume Biden's vax-first policy and be more effective in preventing airborne transmission, especially given that the operational definition of Biden's 'Preparedness Plan' has turned out to be 'Let 'Er Rip,' turning the United States into a global reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Second, I believe that the Biden Administration's guidance on both masking and ventilation is lethal, or to put matters more politely, won't save as many lives as it could. (The 'Fact Sheet' relies heavily on CDC content, so I'll have to stumble into that gruesome morass as well, for which I apologize in advance.)"

"The FBI Confirms Its Brett Kavanaugh Investigation Was A Total Sham: Oh, well, it's not like he received a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court or anything. [...] Given these allegations—in addition to Kavanaugh's temperament, which, to put it in terms he can understand, could be best described as 'a hothead who just did a 10 Jägerbombs'—it struck many as outrageous for him to be given a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. That sense of outrage only deepened last year, when we learned that the FBI had received 4,500—4,500!—tips about Kavanaugh, which were referred to the White House, i.e. the organization trying to get the guy confirmed to the Court. And now, the FBI has confirmed that, yeah, it didn't really feel the need to look into any of those tips, and when it did follow up on some, the White House was making sure it didn't dig too far."

"Lobbying Blitz Pushed Fertilizer Prices Higher, Fueling Food Inflation: Emails show fertilizer producer Mosaic lobbied heavily for tariffs under Trump, then used them to dominate the market. [...] The yearslong lobbying campaign resulted in the Trump administration recommending tariffs in 2020 that went into effect last year on phosphate fertilizer from Russia and Morocco, the first- and fourth-largest fertilizer exporters in the world, respectively. As foreign imports plummeted, Mosaic gained control of 90 percent of the U.S. phosphate fertilizer market."

"Why Are Democrats Bragging About Plunging the Private Sector into Deficit?: Democrats want to keep shrinking the deficit to fight inflation but also keep the economy out of recession. Good luck with that. [...] Looking at the economy through the lens of a stock-flow consistent model frequently allowed Godley to anticipate problems that others were missing. For example, when democrats and republicans were celebrating the emerging fiscal surpluses in the late 1990s and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was predicting surpluses as far as they eye could see, Godley was pointing to the concomitant deterioration in the private sector's financial position and challenging the coherence of the CBO forecast."

"The Forde report: my experience of Southside in 2017: After 27 months the much-delayed inquiry has arrived — having worked at the heart of the struggle between the Corbyn team and the permanent party staff, I know the grim picture it paints to be true, writes BEN SELLERSBACK in April 2020, a leaked Labour Party report told the story of hostility, abuse, bullying, racism and sexism among the party's paid staff, as part of a broader investigation into the handling of anti-semitism claims. Martin Forde QC was tasked by Labour leader Keir Starmer with leading an inquiry into the claims." It couldn't be clearer that the party staff and Parliamentary Labour Party were actively working for a loss to Boris Johnson in the election.

RIP: "Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in Star Trek, Dies at 89." This is not unexpected, of course, as we all knew she'd been having trouble for some time. But she was an inspiration to many, and the most beautiful woman on prime-time, and when I met her she was even more stunning and took my breath away. She was gracious, of course, as we've always known her. But I didn't know this: "Born Grace Nichols in Robbins, Ill. on Dec. 28, 1932, Nichols began her show business career at age 16 singing with Duke Ellington in a ballet she created for one of his compositions. Later, she sang with his band." And of course, she said my favorite line, when the mirror universe Sulu addressed her as "fair maid": "Sorry, neither." (Slideshow here, with many recent pics but unfortunately not the best Uhura photos.)

RIP: "Motown Songwriting Legend Lamont Dozier Dies at 81: Lamont Dozier, a Motown songwriting legend who helped define popular music in the '60s, has died at age 81. He helped craft early hits for the Supremes, the Isley Brothers and Four Tops before later returning to the top of the charts with Phil Collins. Dozier's death was confirmed by his son, Lamont Dozier Jr. No cause of death was immediately released. How many times did I see those three names, "Holland, Dozier, Holland" in parentheses under the song title? It's stamped into my memory forever. And, of course, an excuse to post links to what you already know are some of my favorite tracks: "Heatwave," "Can I Get A Witness?", "Baby I Need Your Loving" - and too many more by those artists, The Supremes, The Isley Brothers, and others. So much love.

RIP: "Tony Dow, Wally Cleaver on Leave It to Beaver, dies aged 77: Tony Dow, who as Wally Cleaver on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver helped create the popular and lasting image of the American teenager of the 1950s and 60s, died Wednesday. He was 77. Frank Bilotta, who represented Dow in his work as a sculptor, confirmed his death in an email to the Associated Press. No cause was given, but Dow had been in hospice care and announced in May that he had been diagnosed with prostate and gall bladder cancer." I don't think Beaver ever understood any more than I did why Wally had a creepy friend like Eddie Haskell. Dow had been sculpting in his later years, and there are a couple of nice photos in this group of photos of him.

RIP: "Veteran British actor David Warner, star of The Omen and Tron, dies aged 80: The stage and screen veteran's multifaceted career included roles in Titanic, Time Bandits and Straw Dogs, as well as a renowned Hamlet for the RSC. The veteran British actor David Warner has died aged 80. The BBC reported that Warner died from 'a cancer-related illness' and that his family confirmed the news 'with an overwhelmingly heavy heart'. Warner's varied career spanned cinema, stage, television and radio. He was regarded as the finest Hamlet of his generation on stage, then gravitated into cinema as a character actor, travelling from British 1960s cinema to the sci-fi universes of Tron, Doctor Who and Star Trek to James Cameron's Titanic, in which he played the malicious enforcer Spicer Lovejoy." He was in so many of my favorite movies and TV shows. I guess the earliest thing I must have seen him in was Tom Jones when it came out, though I don't remember it now. On the other hand, I've seen the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol enough times that it's Warner I see when I think of Cratchit. He died just five days short of his 81st birthday.

RIP: "Bernard Cribbins: a warm, kindly titan of children's entertainment" and Donna Noble's granddad in Doctor Who, at 91, after a lifetime's-long career.

On the night of the first Tuesday in November of 2000, Tim Russert at first resisted his boss' demand that he prematurely call the election for Bush. He knew it was wrong, he tried not to, but Jack Welch was an evil man and he threatened Russert's job and the rest is history. I knew then that Welch was an evil, dangerous man, but I had no idea how evil until I heard Sam Seder's interview with David Gelles, who's written a book on "Jack Welch: The Man Who Broke Capitalism."

"Democrats' Betrayals Are Jeopardizing American Democracy: History is screaming at Democrats to both rescue the economy and save democracy from a meltdown. They're doing the opposite. American democracy is in the midst of a meltdown — the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Republicans' intensifying crusade to limit voting rights and deny election results make that abundantly clear. Conflict-averse Democrats in Washington, D.C., are on the verge of letting this turn into a full-fledged nightmare. Torn between their corporate donors and the electorate, they are studiously avoiding the two key questions: What is really fueling this crisis? And how can it be stopped? The answer to the first question can be seen in headlines this week about billionaires growing their fortunes by $2 trillion during the pandemic, and now creating an overheated market for luxury yachts, all while one in five households just lost their entire life savings. Americans keep voting to change this crushing dystopia and yet they continue being force-fed more of the same — most recently with Democrats threatening to side with their financiers and abandon their whole economic agenda. Such betrayals from both parties have been telling more and more of the country that democracy is a farce. The way for Democrats to combat that disillusionment is to learn from their party's history during the Great Depression and the Great Recession. In the former debacle, the Democratic Party halted a potential meltdown of democratic institutions by delivering real help to millions of people. In the latter crisis, the Democratic Party's refusal to do the same resulted in the political meltdown that fueled the ascent of Donald Trump — and that continues to fuel the MAGA movement today."

Zach Carter "On Economics And Democracy: High unemployment is extremely dangerous. [...] FDR was not a cheap demagogue throwing red meat to the masses that he knew would be counterproductive. He was not an economist or a political theorist, but he was smart enough to recognize that the policy program that had spawned The Great Depression was probably not all it was cracked up to be. And he surrounded himself with a very famous Brain Trust – a coterie of intellectuals who had different, but in many ways related theories of why and how the Depression had happened. Early on, FDR impressed a particular British economist named John Maynard Keynes, who admired both FDR's spirit of experimentation and his insistence that defeating the Depression was about more than economic data. Keynes and Roosevelt believed that the Great Depression had put democracy itself on trial, and both were almost desperate to vindicate it. They did."

"Biden's Problems Go Back To 2009 [...] The public understood how bad the Bush years were and in the 2008 election the voters DEMANDED change. Barack Obama, campaigning on progressive promises to renegotiate NAFTA, codify Roe v Wade, support the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act ('EFCA' or 'card check') won big. Barack Obama was elected with BIG Democratic House & Senate majorities. Democrats came into office in 2009 with All The Power. Voters gave them the House, Senate and Presidency and a mandate to change the country. After taking office Obama publicly reversed his position on renegotiating NAFTA and codifying Roe, along with so many other things. His administration introduced the 'Obamacare' health care plan that, while it did help millions of Americans, did so by propping up private insurance and pharma company profits. Bankruptcies continue, insurance companies profit, pharma still charges massively excessive rates, and America's health care system remains one of the worst in the world. And in response to the 2008 financial collapse caused by Wall Street fraud, his Justice Department refused to prosecute even a single Wall Street executive, bailing out Wall Street while refusing to help homeowners. (Later, after leaving 'public service,' top Justice Department and other administration officials, including Obama himself, received lucrative Wall Street positions, 'Speaking fees,' etc.)"

"The British Railway Station Where You Can Only Travel By Boat"

Gregory Benford, ecowarrier? "Addressing climate change: plants instead of plants? Rather than an industrial solution to excess atmospheric carbon dioxide, a retired UCI physicist looks to nature"

40 years after the fact, Kevin Smith unexpectedly releases his TAFF Report.

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram - 4 Song Set (Recorded Live for World Cafe)

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Standing by the ocean's roar

Fresh Moods 53" by Roxana Gabriela Soos is from the selections from September 2021.

Jon Schwarz, "History Says Democracy Will Die If Democrats Don't Try 'Going Big': Robert Kuttner warns Biden's presidency may be the 'heartbreaking interregnum between two bouts of deepening American fascism.' [...] Roosevelt was exactly the right president at the right time. The New Deal demonstrated that democracy could deliver unmistakable benefits, both material and emotional, to desperate people, and thereby drained away much of the psychological poison that powers fascism. Then, over the next 30 years, something terrible happened: America forgot all this. We forgot how lucky we got. We forgot the New Deal was not a mountain range created by nature but an extraordinary achievement that was erected by humans and could therefore either be extended or destroyed."

This, again. "AIPAC Has Taken Over the Democratic Primary Process: What will it take for Democratic leadership to cry foul? Primary season is ending with a bang this year in the Democratic Party, thanks to AIPAC, the single most consequential political action committee involved. The hawkish political group, through its super PAC United Democracy Project, is dumping trainloads of money to influence the outcome of two particularly high-profile races: boosting Haley Stevens over incumbent Andy Levin in Michigan's incumbent-on-incumbent 11th Congressional District, and Glenn Ivey over Donna Edwards in Maryland's open Fourth District."

"Money Makes The World-- Or At Least DC-- Go Round: Meet The Sewer Money Buying Congress: Tomorrow is primary day in Maryland. The hottest race in the state is in Prince Georges County, southwest of Baltimore— MD-04. It's the wealthiest and best educated Black majority district in America. The incumbent, Anthony Brown, is running for Attorney General, so it is an open seat— And a very plum one at that. Before this year's redistricting, the partisan lean was D+54. Post-redistricting it got a lot bluer: D+75. Donna Edwards was the Representative before she ran, unsuccessfully, for the Senate and now she should be heavily favored to win. But her opponent is… AIPAC. [...] Ironically, the hand behind the curtain in AIPAC's targeting is Black himself, Hakeem Jeffries, a career-long AIPAC (and Wall Street) lapdog who AIPAC is putting in as a replacement for Nancy Pelosi next year. They have dumped over $6 million into defeating Edwards on behalf of some random lobbyist they control. The race is all about the sewer money AIPAC has disingenuously deployed against Edwards, the way they have managed to defeat Nina Turner (OH), Jessica Cisneros (TX), Cristina Garcia (CA), Amy Vilela (NV), Daniel Lee (CA), Marie Newman (IL), and Erica Smith (NC) others. Their current top targets are Andy Levin (MI), Rashida Tlaib (MI) and Donna Edwards. They are flooding their districts with millions and millions of dollars in lies and distortions. [...] Even though they are almost entirely financed by Republicans, AIPAC and it's affiliates don't get involved with Republican races— just Democratic primaries where candidates they can control are up against progressives." And so, under a slew of money and nasty ads, the popular front-runner ended up losing, which tells you just how easy it can be to manipulate the vote. Steny Hoyer, of course, also backed her opponent. And this is far from being the only race AIPAC has been meddling in. They really need to be treated as foreign agents.

Scott Lemieux produced "A non-celebratory thread with some of the most important points from the dissent -- it is no consolation that it is well done, but it is very clear-eyed about the radical implications of a fundamental right being crushed and this is worth highlighting. Alito's repeated assertions that overruling Roe does not threaten any of the other privacy cases should not be taken seriously. The logic of the holding threatens them all, and Alito is a known liar on the subject" — Collected on ThreadApp.

"The Supreme Court's Shock-and-Awe Judicial Coup: The rolling judicial coup coming from this court is by no means over. THIS IS IT. The moment for President Joe Biden and Congress to challenge the underlying legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court and advance an aggressive climate action agenda. There will be no better moment to take this stand for a transformed court, nor a more fateful one. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right: 'We need to reform or do away with the whole thing, for the sake of the planet.' Over the last few days, we have witnessed a shock-and-awe judicial coup, from stripping people of the right to terminate pregnancies (Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization), to weakening the sovereign right of Indigenous tribes to enforce the law on their lands (Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta), to interfering with the rights of states to regulate the carrying of firearms (New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen), to enabling a return to Christian prayer in public schools (Kennedy v. Bremerton School District). And now this: a decision that eviscerates the Environmental Protection Agency's power to regulate a major source of the carbon emissions destabilizing our planet. The EPA can still regulate CO2, but its capacity to regulate under the Clear Air Act is significantly reduced. It represents the culmination, as my colleague Sharon Lerner reports, of decades of 'plotting against environmental regulations' by Koch Industries, and as The Lever has reported, this entire court has been shaped by the dark-money-bankrolled Judicial Crisis Network, which is surely gearing up to toast the bountiful return on their patient investments this July 4 weekend."

"Supreme Court Stages a Coup Against Government Regulation [...] And more is on the way. On the same day, the Court agreed to hear Moore v. Harper next term, in which it could affirm the radical 'independent state legislature' doctrine, which holds that only gerrymandered state legislatures—not state courts, governors, or election boards—have any authority over elections, including, potentially, the authority to nullify the popular votes and assign electors to the losing candidate, as Trump tried to do in the 2020 election. [...] As The New York Times recently reported, West Virginia v. EPA 'is the product of a coordinated, multiyear strategy by Republican attorneys general, conservative legal activists and their funders, several with ties to the oil and coal industries, to use the judicial system to rewrite environmental law, weakening the executive branch's ability to tackle global warming [emphasis added].'"

"Manchin's Big Lie: Today on TAP: He killed the Democrats' bill because, he said, he was concerned about inflation. But the bill was anti-inflationary; what he really didn't like was boosting green energy."

The New York Times is just an increasingly weird newspaper.
"Who hates inclusivity? The question answers itself: There is no rational, acceptable reason to run an opinion column, nine days after the Supreme Court's devastating repeal of reproductive rights, arguing that the 'far left' is denying women their humanity as much as the 'far right' – based on the fact that a handful of people are trying to use more inclusive language to acknowledge that trans men can get pregnant, too. But that, of course, is exactly what the editors of the New York Times opinion section chose to do on Saturday, running a piece headlined 'The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don't Count,' by their newly-minted columnist Pamela Paul, the former Book Review editor who apparently was brought over to opinion primarily to troll the libs."

"New York Times 'Ectopic Pregnancies' Op-Ed Is Everything You Never Hoped For: Over the past two days, the New York Times published two opinion pieces on abortion. One was written by a high-risk obstetrician who chairs the Ohio section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the other should never have been published at all."

"The post-legal Supreme Court: What happens if the Court rejects the rule of law? The highest Court in the most powerful nation in the world appears to have decided that it only needs to follow the law when it feels like it. Last December, for example, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that fundamentally alters the Union — giving states sweeping authority to restrict their residents' constitutional rights. [...] The Court endangered huge swaths of long-existing gun laws, striking down a New York state law that has been on the books for 109 years. And it did so in an opinion that simultaneously fetishizes the 'Second Amendment's plain text,' while ignoring the first thirteen words of that amendment. The same Court that attacked Roe as 'remarkably loose in its treatment of the constitutional text' saw no problem with ignoring half of the text of the Second Amendment. In what may be the most consequential environmental case in decades, the Court relied on something called the 'major questions doctrine' — a fairly new legal doctrine that is never mentioned in the Constitution or in any statute and that was invented entirely by judges — to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of much of its authority to fight climate change. The Court even abandoned any pretense that it must be honest about the facts of the cases it decides, claiming that a public school football coach who ostentatiously prayed on the 50-yard line after games — while surrounded by players, spectators, and members of the press — was merely engaged in a 'short, private, personal prayer.' [...] I make a strong claim in this essay, arguing that the Supreme Court of the United States is no longer deciding many major cases in a way that is recognizably 'legal.' So let's start by establishing a baseline definition of what constitutes the rule of law and what it means for a judge to act consistently with this principle."

"How the New York Times Uses 'Experts' [...] I've been studying the way that the New York Times and other outlets use 'experts' to further the three main functions of copaganda: 1) Narrowing our conception of safety to only certain kinds of police-reported crime instead of more important determinants of holistic safety; 2) Creating fear and panic about supposed increases in these narrow crimes; 3) Shaping public discourse to suggest that more punishment—i.e. more police, more prosecutions, and more prisoners, etc.—is a reasonable, the only, or the best response to these problems."

Unusually, however, Alec Karakatsanis is recommending an article in the NYT on a Court win in a case against prosecutorial misconduct: "In each of the complaints, either a judge or a district attorney's office had previously recognized the wrongdoing. But there were no public records of discipline for any of the prosecutors, many of whom are still working in the city's justice system. One has taught a course on legal ethics."

"Debunking 5 top inflation myths" — perhaps the most important point being that wages are absolutely not driving inflation.

"NYT's 'Black Voters Want More Cops' Reporting Genre Cynically Conflates Desire for Public Safety With Demands for More Policing, Longer Sentences: Artisanal, earth-tone, finely-tuned copaganda for white liberals. The New York Times has mastered a very specific, very cynical genre of writing: using voters of color as a hacky bludgeon to promote a return to pre-reform carceral ideology. This genre is consistent with the publication's decades of reporting output and, more urgently, serves the Times' partisan function as making otherwise cruel and reactionary Democratic Party policies seem inevitable and necessary to its squeamish white liberal readers."

On "The Politics of Everything", Alex Pareen and Laura Marsh and guests discussed "Joe Biden's Debt Cancellation Games: Why are Democrats playing cat and mouse with student debtors? Since the 1990s, student loan debt in the United States has ballooned to the point that the numbers sound like a mean joke: As of May 2022, the outstanding balance of federal education loans topped $1.6 trillion. But as huge as that figure is, we're not powerless in the face of it. In his campaign for president, Joe Biden supported the immediate cancellation of a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person. On episode 50 of The Politics of Everything, hosts Laura Marsh and Alex Pareene talk about why the Biden administration should follow through on its promise—and why Democrats seem so reluctant to get behind the policy. Guests include Astra Taylor, a frequent contributor to The New Republic and a co-founder of the Debt Collective, and Ryan Cooper, the author of How Are You Going to Pay for That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Question in Politics." (Audio & transcript.)

Democratic meddling in PA, this time to help promote the craziest GOP candidate (yes, he won his primary with their help) on the alleged theory that this should make him easier to beat than a saner Republican. Or so they say. But, as Trump demonstrated, that's a dangerous game. "He's on a mission from God: Pennsylvania GOP candidate Doug Mastriano's war with the world"

I can't say Jeffrey D. Sachs is wrong here: "Ukraine Is The Latest Neocon Disaster: The war in Ukraine is the culmination of a 30-year project of the American neoconservative movement. The Biden Administration is packed with the same neocons who championed the US wars of choice in Serbia (1999), Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), Syria (2011), Libya (2011), and who did so much to provoke Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The neocon track record is one of unmitigated disaster, yet Biden has staffed his team with neocons. As a result, Biden is steering Ukraine, the US, and the European Union towards yet another geopolitical debacle. If Europe has any insight, it will separate itself from these US foreign policy debacles."

"Young Jews are 'walking away from Judaism' because its only content is 'pro-Israelism' –Alterman: "Liberal Zionist author Eric Alterman says Israel has lost American Jews and liberals because it has no "content" to offer besides stale Everyone-hates-the-Jews propaganda. Eric Alterman is an important liberal Zionist intellectual, and he is losing patience with Israel. Speaking at Tel Aviv University at the end of May, he said that Israel has lost the American left, and Judaism is itself in crisis because its only content is pro-Israelism. And p.s., Alterman has cut Israeli peace organizations out of his will because Israeli society is going the wrong way. 'Israel has lost the left. No question about it, and it can't get it back as long as it has this occupation. And even your good government has 72 votes on the right and is building 4000 new settlements, it's doing terrible things every day,' Alterman said."

"'Two out of five stories should be hot': why pre-code cinema was a golden age for women: Prior to the proscriptive Hays Code, films were populated by adulterous, marijuana-smoking gold diggers – wildly entertaining and more modern than the roles that came next"

The Beach Boys live, "Surfer Girl"