27 February 2022

Above all else, confusion reigns

Photo by Pedro Szekel. It occurred to me one day that most of the photos of Cuba I've seen in my life were in black & white and had Fidel Castro in the middle of them. So, I looked around the internets and found lots of pictures, but they seemed anachronistic. I thought maybe they were really old, at first, but a closer look told me the colors were all wrong for film from 50 or 60 years ago. Collections by George Terzopoulos and Garg Michael tell me that car repair and maintenance are really good in Cuba. Of course, they have to be.

I'm not going to say much about Russia right now because I'm still kind of agog that it's happening at all, but one thing that makes it all really scary is knowing what Danny Sjursen said in 2020 about "Biden's Young Hawk: The Case Against Jake Sullivan: The appointee to National Security Advisor has a history of casual evasion of responsibility for his role in a series of disastrous foreign policy adventures. [...] Jake was back in the Clinton camp after the Obama triumph — first as her deputy chief of staff, then, at 34, as the youngest director of policy planning in State Department history. During that first Obama-term, Jake was bullish on Libyan and Syrian military interventionism, and like Hillary opposed Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's pleas to at least talk to the Taliban without the preconditions. In fact, Sullivan was in the room when Holbrooke's heart literally burst as the ambassador delivered impassioned arguments on this very issue. Holbrooke, who died a few days later, had been right (so had Biden, it must be said) — and Obama, Clinton, and Sullivan wrong, as it turned out."

However, "Biden's Ukraine Plans Face Wall Street Roadblock: Corporate lobbyists thwarted measures that could strengthen sanctions against the Putin regime — and they were lobbying as the threat of war intensified. In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden is expected to soon announce more sanctions aimed at Vladimir Putin and his cadre of oligarchs. The theory is that unlike sectoral sanctions that could harm the broader Russian population, inflicting financial pain on Putin and his wealthy cronies could force the Russian government to the negotiating table. But while such a move might help deter further Russian incursions, Biden faces a significant obstacle: corporate lobbyists' success in shrouding the American finance industry in secrecy, which makes it far easier for Russian oligarchs and their business empires to evade economic sanctions."

Much to Lindsay Graham's chagrin, Biden did not nominate Clyburn's favorite right-wing judge. The nod went to Breyer's pick to succeed him, even though she is definitely to his left. "Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden's Supreme Court nominee, has blazed trails all her life [...] Jackson, 51, has led a professional and personal life at once classic and unpredictable. Unlike most judges, her background is not as a prosecutor or major corporate lawyer, and her personal life also defies stereotypes. Professionally, she is an experienced judge. For eight years, she served as a federal trial court judge and last June was confirmed for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Prior to her becoming a judge, her legal experience was extensive and varied. While four members of the current court were at one time prosecutors, Jackson, if nominated, would be the first Supreme Court justice since Thurgood Marshall to have represented indigent criminal defendants."

Pierce, "Public Defenders Will Have a Champion on the Supreme Court of the United States: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson will represent those who keep alive the promise of equal justice under the law."

"'Bankruptcy For Moderna, Definitely Pfizer': Yves here. I'm in no position to verify the underlying data, but the fact that both Moderna and Pfizer stocks are markedly down says investors regard these concerns about vaccine liability as serious. A lawyer buddy thinks that even if this take on the frequency of bad side effect is spot on, Pfizer and Moderna still might get off the hook on product liability in the US. However, shareholders would have them dead to rights on securities fraud, for not disclosing to investors the information they had about serious vaccine side effects and the impact that could have on willingness to get boosted. In addition, foreign countries that also gave liability waivers are not as likely to be forgiving as the US. We could see a Boeing 737 Max replay, of foreign regulators lowering the boom and the US position eventually becoming untenable." The waivers don't quite have the reach to cover them for fraud, it seems.

"Federal District Court Rejects Voting Rights Act Section 2 Challenge to Arkansas Redistricting Plan, on the Extreme and Ridiculous Grounds That Section 2 Does Not Allow Private Plaintiffs to Sue for Violations: Another example of the kinds of extreme arguments that Southern states have been making and that should have no chance of succeeding in the courts. But today, with this Supreme Court, unfortunately they have a decent chance." And "Rejecting decades of precedent, Trump Judge Lee Rudofsky holds Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act has NO private right of action—meaning nobody except the U.S. Attorney General can bring a VRA lawsuit. This would render the law largely unenforceable."

"EARN IT Act lawmaker finally admits the bill is targeting encryption: After first being teased in early February, a new version of the highly controversial EARN IT Act has officially been reintroduced to lawmakers. And some of its most fervent advocates are finally being open about their true mission: undermining encryption. Back when the original EARN IT Act was introduced in 2020, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) — who co-wrote the bill — did his best to skirt around the issue of encryption entirely, despite its being one of the bill's main focuses. During hearings about the bill, Sen. Blumenthal consistently pushed for a narrative that EARN IT was not about encryption at all." Except it is.

"The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Has a New Corporate Megadonor: Amazon donated $1.7 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation last year as it faced allegations of illegal anti-union work. The Foundation is a slush fund that supports the Black political class as they do the bidding of the oligarchy."

"Economists Warn Against the Fed Raising Rates at Worst Possible Time: 'A large across-the-board increase in interest rates is a cure worse than the disease,' says economist Joseph Stiglitz. 'That might dampen inflation if it is taken far enough, but it will also ruin people's lives.' As the U.S. Federal Reserve mulls hiking interest rates in the coming weeks in an effort to curb inflation, progressive economists are warning against such a move—arguing that it will hurt workers and fail to address the real source of rising prices: unmitigated corporate power."

John Nichols in The Nation, "The Dirty Secret of Inflation: Corporations Are Jacking Up Prices and Profits: Democrats are failing to speak to the realities of the economic moment—and it could cost them in the midterms. President Biden and his fellow Democrats need to learn to talk about inflation if they hope to maintain congressional majorities in this year's midterm elections. They can't deny that costs for consumers are rising at a jarring rate—up 7.5 percent compared to a year ago, according to the latest figures. But they can, and must, make the connection between surging prices and surging corporate profits. The US Department of Commerce reported at the end of December that corporate profit margins had hit the highest level in 70 years. You'll hear a lot of complex, and often conflicting, explanations for why this is happening now. But recent news stories speak for themselves. [...] 'If you're a corporation that has eaten up most of the competition and cornered the market, is it easier for you to raise prices on your customers and maximize your profits because you don't have to worry about losing your business?' asked Warren. Powell replied, 'In principle, if you don't have competition and you're a monopolist, yes, you can raise your prices.' 'Okay,' Warren continued. 'Over the past year, we know that prices have risen because of supply chain problems, unexpected shifts in the demand for goods, and even higher labor costs. But if corporations were simply passing along these costs in highly competitive markets, would the companies' profits margins have changed much?' After mumbling something about varying factors that impact such calculations, Powell concluded, 'But, in principle, you could be right.'"

"Exclusive: Top House Democrat Unveils Plan to Beat Back Progressive Rebellion: House seats are on the line as progressives challenge incumbents in a string of contested Democratic primaries, part of a broader struggle over the party's future. A pack of progressive candidates have crashed this year's Democratic primaries, hoping to unseat incumbents and push the party to the left. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the fifth-ranking Democrat in the House, has other plans. Jeffries and two of his House Democrat allies on Wednesday rolled out the first slate of endorsements from Team Blue PAC, a political action committee intended to protect incumbents from intraparty attacks. The endorsements and their attendant $5,000 campaign contributions are the strongest demonstration of support yet from Jeffries and his allies — and serve as a warning shot to primary challengers seeking to unseat incumbents as Democrats fight to hold onto their fragile majorities. 'It's important to support effective legislators for delivering for the American people in partnership with the Biden administration,' Jeffries says. 'We want to support common-sense members who are delivering for their districts and helping advance the Democratic agenda to create jobs and cut costs for their constituents,' adds Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), another Team Blue PAC co-founder." That's rich coming from people who have worked hard to prevent anyone delivering for their constituents. Congress would be so much better without them.

"'Morally Obscene': Sanders Blasts GOP, Manchin Over 41% Spike in Child Poverty: 'How did this happen? Fifty Republicans and one corporate Democrat allowed the $300-a-month Child Tax Credit to expire,' said Sen. Bernie Sanders. [...] The study was published as Democratic lawmakers' efforts to extend the boosted CTC remained stalled due to the continued opposition of every Senate Republican and Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has reportedly told colleagues in private that he believes some parents used the monthly benefit payments to buy drugs. 'One U.S. senator 'heard stories' about people allegedly using the Child Tax Credit 'for drugs' without any evidence or data to back it up,' Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted Thursday. 'He then used that as justification to nuke the entire national program, causing millions of kids to fall into poverty in weeks. Horrifying.' 'Meanwhile,' she added, 'the press talks about it like it's some beltway drama without ever showing the people who are sleeping in bubble jackets with no heat or the kids going hungry waiting for some guy in a yacht to decide if they are fully human or not. It's just shameful, all of it.'"

"The Black Alliance for Peace Condemns the 'America COMPETES Act' [...] The premise of the America COMPETES Act is that China is a dangerous economic rival that represents a national security threat, and a 'malign influence,' BAP rejects that position and sees this legislation as an unnecessary and unjustified expenditure of the public's resources that should be targeted instead toward addressing the human rights needs of the working class and poor in the U.S. "

"Congress Proposes $500 Million for Negative News Coverage of China: The effort to counter China's 'malign influence' would fund negative coverage of China's Belt and Road Initiative—while also beefing up the U.S.'s international lending. A tech and manufacturing bill currently moving through Congress allocates $500 million for media outlets to produce journalism for overseas audiences that is critical of China. Meant to 'combat Chinese disinformation,' the bill would direct funding to the U.S. Agency for Global Media, a U.S.-run foreign media service, as well as local outlets and programs to train foreign journalists. The America COMPETES Act, just passed by the House, is an industrial policy plan for semiconductor production and supply chain resiliency. It sets aside technology investment funds for everything from high-level research to high school computer science."

"Rick Scott's Bonkers GOP Agenda Shows Why McConnell Doesn't Want One: In nearly every midterm election cycle in which U.S. House Republicans are in the minority, you will hear suggestions that the GOP adopt a new 'Contract With America,' like the one that (not really, but according to lore and legend) led the party to its first conquest of the House many decades back in 1994. The idea is that everyone knows what Republicans are against, but nobody knows what they are for, since their contributions to the great legislative accomplishments of American history since about 1929 are limited. This craving for a midterm GOP election agenda is typically strong in the House, partly because of the 1994 mythology and partly because House Republicans are, relatively speaking, pretty well united around a conservative ideology. You usually don't hear much about this from Republican senators, as they are not quite so uniform ideologically and their long-time leader Mitch McConnell famously thinks obstruction of what Democrats are trying to do works just fine as a party message when the GOP is not in power. [...] But now the senator who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott of Florida, has released his own suggestion for an agenda, as Politico reports. 'As a general rule, you know, probably this year's election is going to be a lot about the Biden agenda. But I do believe we're going to win,' Scott said. 'We ought to have a plan and what we're trying to get done when we get the majority.' [...] And many of Scott's specific proposals straddle the line between stupid and evil pretty effectively. He wants to impose a 12-year limit on all federal employment (with 'exceptions' for national-security purposes). Think about the immense cost and inefficiency of that kind of required turnover in the federal workforce, whose numbers, by the way, would be reduced by 25 percent in five years according to another pledge in the agenda. Guess that would somewhat mitigate the massive cost and disruptions associated with Scott's demands to 'move most Government agencies out of Washington and into the real world' and 'sell offall non-essential government assets, buildings, and land.' The IRS would receive an even more draconian 50 percent cut in funding and workforce, which might make it a bit tough to impose the new minimum income tax Scott wants to impose on the majority of Americans who now have no net tax liability. But here's the pledge that really takes the cake: 'All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.' Presumably this would include the Social Security Act, the Medicare law, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the immigration and criminal laws Scott is so determined to enforce with the maximum degree of viciousness. Any candidate running on that plank would be tarred and feathered."

"Economists Are Fueling the War Against Public Health: A new report is being hailed by conservatives—but doesn't stand up to scrutiny. A new report that has grabbed headlines on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned news outlets claims that regulations aimed at curtailing spread of the coronavirus through mandatory masking, lockdowns, and school closures in 2020 only reduced deaths from SARS-CoV-2 infections by 0.2 percent. The 62-page study, much-hailed by leading Republican politicians, has grabbed mainstream media headlines, as well. But closer scrutiny reveals that it is an example of motivated reasoning, indulging in scientific cherry-picking to prove a preferred thesis about public health. Described as a 'Johns Hopkins' study, the report was in reality published online by the Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise at Johns Hopkins University, an academic enterprise tightly linked to the libertarian Cato Institute think tank. The institute is separate from the famed medical institution and school of public health affiliated with the university. It is co-directed by one of the authors of the new report, economist Steve Hanke, who also directs the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute." "Cherry-picking" is putting it lightly; a group of economists looked at thousands of studies and dismissed nearly every one that was medically-based, keeping only those by economists who seemed to agree with them.

Robert Reich, "Psst: You want to know the truth about inflation? Part I (It's not what the Fed thinks it is.): Prices are rising because corporations have the power to raise them. They're using "inflation" as an excuse. The Fed is about to apply the wrong medicine. Yesterday, the Fed's policy committee announced it would both end its bond-buying program and likely raise interest rates sooner than had been expected. 'Inflation is more persistent and higher, and that the risk of it remaining higher for longer has grown,' Fed chair Jerome Powell explained. Translated: Powell and the Fed are about to slow the economy — even though we're still at least 4 million jobs short of where we were before the pandemic. And even though, as a result, millions of American workers won't get the raises they deserve. I think that's a big mistake. Powell's medicine has nothing to do with the real reason for inflation: the increasing concentration of the American economy into the hands of a relative few corporate giants with the power to raise prices."

Boris Johnson is such a contemptible monster. "Students to pay off loans into their 60s, plans say: Students who start university next year could be paying off their loans for 40 years after graduating, under new government plans for England. Under the current system, loans are written off after 30 years. The government says extending the repayment period, as part of a student finance shake-up, will reduce the bill for taxpayers. But Labour says it will "hit those on low incomes hardest", with lower-earning graduates affected more. The plans - part of a response to the 2019 Augar review of post-18 education - apply to students in England starting courses from September 2023." I wish I had a recording of the conversation between Boris and his pals while they gloated about how this would make people miserable for the rest of their lives.

RIP: "Procol Harum Frontman Gary Brooker Dead at 76: The singer-songwriter and pianist co-wrote and sang the band's 1967 classic 'A Whiter Shade of Pale'. [...] Once he added in Reid's lyrics, Brooker had a masterpiece on his hands that would reach Number One all over the world and turn Procol Harum in a major band almost overnight. Although the band never managed to land another hit of that magnitude, they maintained a large cult audience and worked steadily throughout the Sixties and Seventies, scoring occasional hits like 'Conquistador' and 'A Salty Dog'. In 1972, they cut the live album Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra that helped bring the band back into the public eye." And "Still There'll Be More" was so much fun.

RIP: "Sally Kellerman, Oscar-Nominated 'MASH' Actress, Is Dead at 84: The actress, who broke through as Margaret (Hot Lips) Houlihan in MASH, was known for her self-effacing comedy, a velvety voice and an ability to toggle between sultry and silly." And aside from Hot Lips, we also knew her as the first female Star Trek super-villain, in the (second) pilot for the original series.

RIP: "P.J. O'Rourke, Celebrated Journalist and Conservative Satirist, Dead at 74: The writer served as foreign-affairs desk chief at Rolling Stone and wrote for numerous publications." I never thought he was funny, and I don't expect Rolling Stone to admit it, but even Jon Schwarz is too kind in "Farewell to P.J. O'Rourke, America's Only (Semi-)Funny Conservative."

"The plausible dystopia of a social credit system [...] Yes, the concern is sometimes overstated and motivated by more than a little paranoia. But the core worry is founded in fact. The alignment of pervasive high-tech gatekeeping with an impulse to police ideological and moral conformity is not only possible but already beginning to emerge. The right's warnings about ascendent antiliberalism are therefore welcome — though many of those sounding the alarm are singularly ill-suited to combat it."

Stan Greenberg is catching up with me. "Democrats, Speak to Working-Class Discontent: America is at a perilous moment when a Trump-led Republican Party is steaming ahead to knock down every guardrail protecting free elections. Over 80 percent of Republicans, according to a recent national survey by the University of Virginia Center for Politics and Project Home Fire, believe 'our country needs a powerful leader in order to destroy the radical and immoral currents prevailing in society today.' A third now believe violence is justified to 'save our country,' according to a national survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. The Republican threat to America's constitutional experiment has led me to ask: What is our plan to save it? Here's mine. I am a pollster and political strategist with long experience advising Democratic candidates. Now, more than ever, Democratic victories are necessary to prevent Republicans from locking up the system. My plan is to focus on working-class voters—white, Black, Hispanic, Asian—and figure out every legal and ethical way possible for Democratic candidates to regain even a few extra points of support from them."

Dean Baker, "The Big Lie of the Elites: We all know about the Trumpers' big lie: somehow millions of votes were stolen from their hero, but the liberals were so smart in their steal that Trump's team can't produce any evidence. That one rightly draws contempt from anyone not in the cult, but what about the big lie that the vast majority of intellectuals seem to accept? Regular readers know what I am talking about. The big lie is that the massive rise in inequality over the last four decades was somehow the result of the natural workings of the market. The standard position among policy types is that the rise in inequality was simply the result of the development of technology and the process of globalization. We saw this view on full display in a generally interesting column in today's NYT by Thomas Edsall. The piece looks at the growth in support for Trump, and right-wing populism more generally, among non-college educated white workers. It cites a number of academics who identify this development as a result of being left behind by economic developments, while Blacks and other minorities are perceived as having increased opportunities. The key point, that is repeatedly misrepresented in this piece, is that the harm to the working-class in the last four decades was the result of deliberate policy, not something that just happened."

Interview with Wendell Potter, "US Healthcare Strangled by Massive Insurance Profits and Money in Politics: Former health insurance executive turned whistleblower and investigative journalist Wendell Potter discusses the many ways in which the private health insurance system of the US is not serving anyone well except the insurance companies' owners."

The New Yorker interview, "Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an Insider Now? [...] Honestly, it is a shit show. It's scandalizing, every single day. What is surprising to me is how it never stops being scandalizing. Some folks perhaps get used to it, or desensitized to the many different things that may be broken, but there is so much reliance on this idea that there are adults in the room, and, in some respect, there are. But sometimes to be in a room with some of the most powerful people in the country and see the ways that they make decisions—sometimes they're just susceptible to groupthink, susceptible to self-delusion."

"Means-Testing Is Mean: 15 Reasons To Adopt Universalism"

Literally, a different camera and different shots. Some people don't even realize that Santana, Gram Parsons, and CSN&Y were there. A long unseen, soundless home movie. "The Rolling Stones, Hell's Angels and Altamont: A New View"

"Reminiscences From The End Of The Horse Era In New York City"

"The Geometric Landscapes of Lorenz Stoer (1567)" — unexpectedly cool.

"Awesome astrophotography from the South Downs: The South Downs national park is one of 19 International Dark Sky Reserves, and its popular cosmic photography contest produced awe-inspiring winning images."

"The Times - 'I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape'

"When The Levee Breaks feat. John Paul Jones | Playing For Change | Song Around The World" — Story here.

Procol Harum, "Shine On Brightly"

14 February 2022

With a circus mind that's running wild

Pedro Giovanni Fiascunari Bejarano's "I Love You All" is from the Kisses & Hearts collection.

"Rep. Pramila Jayapal forced vote on Biden's strangling of Afghan economy: By seizing $9.4 billion of the Afghan central bank's own reserves, the White House has welcomed death and destruction. CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., secured a vote Thursday on President Joe Biden's refusal to release to the Afghan central bank $9.4 billion of its own foreign reserves. It marked the first-ever vote on the White House's lethal policy of asset denial that's causing the displacement, starvation, and death of millions of Afghans. Jayapal introduced her measure as an amendment to a gigantic anti-China bill that would subsidize the U.S. semiconductor and other industries with hundreds of billions of dollars and ratchet up military activities in the Indo-Pacific region. The House of Representatives passed the legislation — called the America Creating Opportunities for Manufacturing, Pre-Eminence in Technology and Economic Strength, or COMPETES, Act — on Friday. But the House rejected Jayapal's amendment with 175 yes and 255 no votes, as 44 Democrats joined Republicans against the measure. (Two Democrats and one Republican did not vote on the amendment.)"

Video: It still awes me to think that the Supreme Court's majority opinion in the latest Voting Rights case was so bad that even John Roberts, a right-wing radical who had spent his whole career trying to suppress voting rights, was actually one of the dissenters. "Right-Wing Justices Proving Supreme Court Need Radical Reform Now."

"GOP Blocks Sanders Effort to Force Vote on Slashing Drug Prices: 'How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?' asked Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"House Democratic Leaders Were Facing A Discharge Petition On Congress Stock Trading Ban From Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally endorsed a ban on stock trading by members of Congress. HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERS indicated today that they are moving forward with legislation aimed at banning members of Congress from trading stocks, a sharp reversal from their years of previous support for the practice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has reportedly dropped her opposition to the effort, opening the way for a bill this year. Wide majorities have long considered it ridiculous that members of Congress are able to own and trade stocks even as they have the power to move the prices of those stocks with legislative action or inaction. After multiple trading scandals, Congress required disclosure of ownership and trades, though members frequently flout the rules. Pelosi may simply be bowing to the inevitable and caving to broad public pressure, but there was a specific, internal push that may have made a difference: a discharge petition in the works from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. [...] The underlying bill, written by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and joined by Ocasio-Cortez and others, does not include a ban on the spouses of members trading stocks, though a spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez said she supports adding that restriction. The bill does ban senior congressional aides from trading stocks. Legislation in the Senate introduced by Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., does ban spouses from trading. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., has also introduced a ban."

"Canada's 'Freedom Convoy' Is a Front for a Right-Wing, Anti-Worker Agenda: Workers in Canada's trucking industry have suffered during the pandemic. The 'Freedom Convoy,' a right-wing, pro-business social movement, purports itself to be the people's champion of liberty — yet it couldn't care less about the hardships and burdens of its fellow workers. [...] But a closer look at key 'Freedom Convoy' participants reveals that many of the concerns of the protesters have little to do with workers' rights or labor issues within Canada's trucking industry. In fact, Convoy organizers have previously harassed workers on the picket line and ignored calls for support from racialized truckers fighting against wage theft."

"Biden Withdrawing Student Debt Appeal After Outcry: The Biden administration is abruptly withdrawing its attempt to block a major court ruling that could protect student borrowers, according to a new statement provided to The Daily Poster. The announcement comes 48 hours after The Daily Poster broke the news that the administration had moved to appeal the ruling, which could help the poorest borrowers who are being bankrupted by education debt."

You have to wonder why Jim Clyburn is pushing so hard to get her onto the Supreme Court, don't you? "Michelle Childs's Punitive Criminal Justice Rulings Were Repeatedly Overturned: The candidate for the Supreme Court vacancy has a history of tough-on-crime sentences and opinions that higher courts subsequently tossed out.: At the moment, South Carolina District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs is the only person confirmed by the Biden administration to be under consideration for the soon-to-be-vacant Supreme Court seat. A favored pick of fellow South Carolinians Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the highest-ranking Black leader in Congress, and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Childs's work during her time as an attorney has recently come under scrutiny, as she defended employers against racial and gender discrimination allegations while working as a partner at the anti-union South Carolina law firm Nexsen Pruet. Childs's track record as a district court judge, a post she has held since 2010, has received less inspection. On numerous occasions, Childs issued such punitive decisions on criminal justice issues that those rulings were eventually overturned on appeal by higher courts. Throughout the 2010s, a period where criminal justice reform was increasingly prioritized for activists and Democratic politicians alike, Childs ruled against both plaintiffs and defendants who alleged everything from excessive force by prison guards to ineffective legal counsel to sentencing errors."

"Melissa Henderson: Outrage after single working-mom of five faces JAIL for asking daughter, 14, to babysit: BLAIRSVILLE, GEORGIA: A single mother is facing one year in prison after she made her daughter, 14, babysit her siblings while she went to work amid the pandemic. While some are calling the act reckless, others believe it was simply the act of a mother who had no other choice. A single mother-of-five, Melissa Henderson let her eldest child, 14-year-old Linley, look after her other children in May 2020 when their daycare center shut down due to Covid. She has been charged with criminal reckless conduct." I've really been horrified at how over-protected kids are today, but hell, when I was a kid, most 14-year-olds had already quit babysitting, it was a job for tweens and early teens.

"Pa. fuel tax meant for bridge repair went to state police instead [...] 'There's an inherent deal,' DePasquale said. 'You're going to have this high gas tax, but it's going to go to fund roads and bridges. And now when they find out it's not happening, I think that gets people upset.' "

"Biden Reversal Gives Wall Street A Big Win: The Democratic president slammed but now backs a Trump ruling that could help private equity kingpins loot retirees' savings. When former President Donald Trump paved the way for his private equity donors to skim fees from Americans' 401(k) retirement accounts, Joe Biden's campaign denounced the stealth executive action and promised to oppose such changes if he won the presidency. But less than two years later, Biden's administration just quietly cemented that same policy, delivering a gift to the Democrat's own finance industry sponsors, even as federal law enforcement officials are warning of rampant malfeasance in the private equity industry. At issue is a Trump Labor Department ruling in 2020 that authorized retirement plan administrators to shift workers' savings into high-risk, high-fee private equity investments, despite regulators' long-standing interpretation that federal laws prohibited such moves."

"Documents Expose Pharma Effort To Kill Africa's Covid Vaccine Project: 'To push for the termination of this lifesaving project in order to protect the interests of pharmaceutical companies is shameful,' said one advocate. Documents published Wednesday by a prominent medical journal reveal that a foundation representing the German company BioNTech—Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine partner—has been working behind the scenes to undercut African scientists' burgeoning effort to produce an mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine. In August, according to The BMJ, the kENUP Foundation urged South African government officials to shut down a World Health Organization-backed initiative aiming to make an mRNA vaccine using Moderna's shot as a template."

"How We Broke the Supply Chain: Rampant outsourcing, financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics are the culprits. [...] You could read hundreds of stories about this phenomenon, about the stress of longshoremen and supply chain managers and government officials, the consequences for consumers and small businesses and retailers, and superficial attempts at explaining why we got here. Many will tell you that the pandemic changed consumption patterns, favoring physical goods over services as barhopping and travel shut down. Some will blame fiscal-relief programs, large deficits, and loose monetary policies for making inflation worse. Nearly all will frame the matter as a momentary kink in the global logistics leviathan, which is bound to work itself out. Anyway, everyone got their Christmas gifts this year, so maybe it was overblown to begin with. Almost none of these stories will explain how these shortages and price hikes were also brought to life through bad public policy coupled with decades of corporate greed. We spent a half-century allowing business executives and financiers to take control of our supply chains, enabled by leaders in both parties. They all hailed the transformation, cheering the advances of globalization, the efficient network that would free us from want. Motivated by greed and dismissive of the public interest, they didn't mention that their invention was supremely ill-equipped to handle inevitable supply bottlenecks. And the pandemic exposed this hidden risk, like a domino bringing down a system primed to topple." And don't even try to blame all this on covid — because We Were Warned About the Ports a long time ago. This month's issue of The American Prospect is focused on the Supply Chain and deserves everyone's attention. Pick an article and send it to your reps.

Any claims The Powers That Be want to make about how they are making it harder for members of the general public to contact inmates in order to prevent movement of contraband are lies in any event, but they really fall apart if "When Visitors Were Banned From Rikers Island, Even More Drugs Showed Up [...] In fact, internal jails numbers suggest that in that period — when only corrections officers, staff, and eventually certain contractors and service providers could enter — detainees may have had even greater access to drugs. Between April of 2020 and May of 2021, correction department authorities seized banned drugs inside city jails more than 2,600 times, according to data obtained by THE CITY. That's more than double the number of such seizures made during the same time period from 2018 to 2019 when the jail population was larger and there were more people coming and going, Correction department records show."

"Tory bid to revive failed 'porn-block' ban could put LGBT+ users at risk, critics warn: Government 'porn-block' plan is a 'quick win' without tackling the real problems, say activists"

RIP: "Howard Hesseman, Prolific Character Actor and Star of 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' Dies at 81: Howard Hesseman, a prolific character actor who became a beloved TV mainstay through his roles on sitcoms WKRP in Cincinnati and Head of the Class, died Saturday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles of complications from colon surgery he had undergone last summer. He was 81 years old." Sleep well, Dr. Fever.

RIP: "Todd Gitlin, prominent activist and thinker, dead at 79 [...] A Manhattan native, Gitlin was a onetime president of one of the leading campus organizations of the '60s — Students for a Democratic Society — and helped organize one of the first major protests against the Vietnam War, in Washington D.C. in 1965. The same year he helped lead an anti-apartheid sit-in at the Wall Street headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank, a lender to South Africa's racist regime. [...] 'This is what moved me most about the SDS circle: everything these people did was charged with intensity,' Gitlin wrote in The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, a widely praised book published in 1987 that combined history and personal memories. 'They were at once analytically keen and politically committed, but also, with a thousand gestures of affection, these unabashed moralists cared about one another.' [...] Gitlin remained politically involved after the '60s, but also clashed at times with fellow liberals. In the 1990s, he was critical of some of the academic debates over the literary canon and the predominance of male white writers. In his 1995 book The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars, he alleged that the focus on what he and others called 'identity politics' was weakening the left overall, writing that while Republicans were gaining power in Washington, the left has been 'marching on the English department.'"

RIP: "Film director Robert Downey, Sr. dies at 85: Robert Downey Sr, the director best known for 1969 satire Putney Swope, has died at the age of 85. The film-maker had been diagnosed with Parkinson's for more than five years and died in his sleep at home in New York. His son, actor Robert Downey Jr, paid tribute to him on Instagram. 'Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson's. He was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout. According to my stepmoms calculations, they were happily married for just over 2,000 years,' he wrote. Downey Sr's most celebrated work was the 1969 film Putney Swope, which starred Arnold Johnson as the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm who is accidentally put in charge. It was praised for its progressive satire on race in America and corporate culture." I missed this one in July and it bugs me because I'm still amazed by Putney Swope, so I'm one of those people who still thinks of the kid he gave his first acting role to as Robert Downey, Sr.'s son.

From 2014, "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 [...] During my first semester of college, John Lennon was assassinated 40 blocks south of my freshman dorm, and Ronald Reagan, the former governor of California, was elected president of the United States. I was devastated by both of these events. At the time, I had no idea that the Great Communicator had cut his teeth on campus protests during the 1960s, using long-haired Berkeley students as perfect foils. Reagan assailed the Free Speech and antiwar movements, promising the taxpayers that if elected, he'd get college kids off picket lines and back in class. With comments like, 'They are spoiled and don't deserve the education they are getting' and that the state 'should not subsidize intellectual curiosity,' he won in a landslide. Fourteen years later, Reagan was elected president, running against a host of mythical foes from 'welfare queens' to an omnipotent 'Evil Empire,' but he and his administration never shed their antipathy toward 'elitist' campuses and the young people who dared question the system. [...] 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."

A friend of mine is a vicar, and he mentioned to me earlier that he'd written to his MP to ask in what way the present crop of her colleagues were adhering to The Seven Principles of Public Life. I had no idea they were supposed to have principles!

This review of Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian's The Privatization of Everything doesn't really tell us much about how to fix things, but it's a stark reminder of how they got this way. "How To Fight Back When Private Companies Control Everything: Early on in the fight against COVID-19, one of the biggest problems humankind has faced in decades, there was broad support for global public solutions. A robust governmental response to the pandemic that transcended national boundaries, class, and other divisions seemed like the obvious choice. This changed, however, when Bill Gates and other powerful, self-serving actors pushed for, and ultimately succeeded in convincing, the World Health Organization and other global and national health authorities to accept public-private partnerships as the ideal model for vaccine rollouts. Gates, one of the richest men in the world, overwhelmed the voices of many public health officials who called for a public vaccine and instead almost single-handedly propped up a system, backed by the large drug companies, that allowed said companies to maintain patent rights over the vaccines and left governments to compete for access in the 'open market' through public-private partnerships. [...] Schemes like the one that Gates promoted, where private enterprises take on the role of governmental entities and then fail at that task as they pursue market interests instead of the best interests of the public, are not new or limited to public health. In fact, these kinds of privatization schemes have come to dominate the American political landscape in the last 30 years. It has fundamentally shifted how our democracy works, and even how we define what is and is not a public good. Moreover, the neoliberal celebration of public-private partnerships as the cure-all for society's ills has transformed the relationship between government policy and the public, shifting 'the people' from the position of citizens who are engaged in the democratic process of improving the life and health of our shared society to the position of passive consumers of an ever-dwindling supply of services."

"Can Democrats Win Back Rural America? Mark Neumann & Erica Smith Say Yes. So Does Bernie: Bernie beat Hillary by double digits in the Wisconsin presidential primary. I want to look at the 18 counties, most of which are rural, that make up the 4th Congressional district in the western part of the state. Bernie won every single one of them but what I want to compare is Bernie's vote and Trump's vote in each county [...] Bernie won the district that day, more votes than Hillary and more votes than Trump. Bernie didn't just beat Trump in the least rural counties, he also beat him in some of the most rural counties like Richland, Crawford and Vernon. Obama had won the district but Trump beat both Hillary and Biden. Why? You may have heard the CNN report on Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) criticizing the Democratic Party for ignoring rural voters."

Dept. of Larry Summers is a Sexist Pig: "Male economists are freaking out over a NYT profile: A handful of prominent male economists, including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, are freaking out — mostly on Twitter — about a weekend New York Times profile of economist Stephanie Kelton, known for her work on Modern Monetary Theory, or MMT. Why it matters: This Twitter-based econ fight is about more than one economist. It's an argument over a natural economic experiment — the U.S. government spending unprecedented sums to keep the economy from free-falling during COVID."

"Your best ally against injustice? Terry Pratchett: Jack Monroe's use of the character Sam Vimes in a critique of cost-of-living statistics shows the enduring power of the author's fury and humour hen the poverty campaigner and cookbook author Jack Monroe realised that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) was reporting a skewed and unfair version of the cost of living, they reached for Terry Pratchett, the brilliant author of comic fantasy whose books bristle with fury at the injustices of the world. Pratchett best expressed his anger through the character of Sam Vimes, the police chief who grew up on the breadline but, through a chain of unlikely events, finds himself among the monied elite, and one of the most powerful men in the city." There is a reason why Vimes is one of my favorite characters of all time, and why we revere Terry Pratchett. I had already learned what we now know as Vimes' Boots Theory from my parents, both of whom had been poor and lived through the depression, but had taken entirely different lessons from it. They took me out to buy a coat one day and my mother kept finding "good deals" I wasn't attracted to. But my father saw me eyeing a coat and immediately started looking at the seams. "You want this?" "Yeah." He took it to the counter and bought it. To my mother, a cheap deal was what you looked for, but to my dad, you bought quality that would last. And that coast lasted me for a long, long time.

"The Emptiness at the Core of Hillary Clinton's Politics: Huma Abedin has long been the right-hand woman to Hillary Clinton. Her new memoir tells of life inside 'Hillaryland' — and reveals the political void at the heart of that world.Huma Abedin has long been an object of media fascination. There are several reasons: her close professional and personal relationship to Hillary Clinton, her unlucky marriage to disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, and her origins (Abedin is an American citizen of Indian and Pakistani descent who grew up mostly in Saudi Arabia). Her quiet dignity in the face of public humiliation and racist right-wing persecution, along with her beauty and fashion sense, has added to her mystique. As well, Weiner and Clinton are outsize public figures from whom the world has heard too much. With her recent memoir, Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds — a doorstop of a book, at 544 pages — we finally get to hear Abedin's side of things. Well, some things. [...] But the scandals aren't the most interesting episodes in this memoir. More revealing is Abedin's account of her first date with Weiner in January 2007, soon after Clinton had announced her first run for the presidency. Weiner, a committed liberal of the pre-Bernie Sanders era (to the left of the Clintons, except on Israel), wants to discuss politics. He has opinions and principles. Hillary should come out for gay marriage and admit that her vote on the Iraq war was a mistake, he argues. He's critical of his country's close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he views as a hotbed of officially sanctioned antisemitism and a funder of terrorism. Abedin and Weiner have a lively discussion about their politics; they agree on some things (gay marriage) and disagree on others (Saudi Arabia). It's a normal first date between intelligent, young, political people in Washington, DC, but this kind of discussion is novel for Abedin, she relates. Although her family enjoyed spirited debate on political issues, Hillaryland did not. It's in that moment that Abedin comes to realize that the kind of Democrats she works with every day rarely discuss their political beliefs: they only talk about strategy, tactics, and messaging. In short, they don't care about policy, but about gaining power and keeping it."

Keeping this old link as a reminder: "The Impact of 'Modern Sexism' on the 2016 Presidential Election," mainly for this graph.

"Insider Histories: Black Cartoonist E. Simms Campbell: E. Simms Campbell was an indispensable part of Esquire's birth in the early 1930s. He established its visual style. He invented the original Esky character. And, in the words of its founding editor Arnold Gingrich, his full-page color cartoons 'catapulted the magazine's circulation from the start.' Campbell may also be the first African-American illustrator not only to break the color line in mass-market publications, but to earn widespread public acclaim as well."

Nice article about Roz Kaveney, civil liberties activist, anti-censorship activist, trans activist, and damned good writer: "Poetry, Myth, Darkness, and Humour: The Worlds of Roz Kaveney."

Cool look back at Bill's big novel, by Eileen Gunn: "William Gibson's Neuromancer: Does the Edge Still Bleed?"

"World's longest lightning flash recorded, an astonishing bolt that spanned 477 miles: The World Meteorological Organization has certified that two lightning flashes that occurred in 2020 have broken historical records in length and duration. A lightning bolt in April 2020 spanned 477 miles across the southern United States. Two months later, a flash across the Uruguay-Argentina border lasted an incredible 17 seconds. Neither lightning bolt hit the ground."

"Remembering Miss Fury — the world's first great superheroine: Before Wonder Woman, an even more groundbreaking female crimefighter kept humankind safe. As she turns 80, Nicholas Barber pays tribute to her — and her unfairly forgotten creator."

An endless supply of stills from the film and around the set of To Kill A Mockingbird.

He'd read somewhere that Burt Lancaster had complained that he never got cast in comedies, so from that moment on he was writing the part for Lancaster, even though they didn't think they'd have the money to get him. It was Peter Capaldi's first movie and he had no idea what he was doing. And that was the movie he wanted — and got. The making of Local Hero.

"Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres Skate to "The Sound of Silence" (No Audience Noise)"

Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing"