26 March 2022

Well, that long black train got my baby and gone

This stunning sunset was captured by Jude Nagurney Camwell.

"Manchin's Child Tax Credit Lies: A new study disproves Sen. Joe Manchin's rotten claims about the child tax credit. A new study finds that the expanded Child Tax Credit — implemented last year as a key part of President Biden's American Rescue Plan — did not negatively impact employment among adults with children. The findings completely disprove West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's rationale for opposing the cash payments. Find out how and much more in today's Midday Poster below, exclusively for supporting subscribers."

I probably shouldn't bother with this one since she's leaving office to collect her reward from the corporate gods, but it's a perfect picture of what a "moderate" Democrat really is. "The Democratic Party's Biggest Problem Is Its Conservative Wing: Rep. Stephanie Murphy got everything she wanted, and it's a disaster, so she's retiring Several months ago, Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) announced that she won't be running for re-election. Recently, she explained why in a worshipful interview with Rachel Bade at Politico, excerpted in its Playbook newsletter (“Presented by PhRMA”): She's mad about Democrats criticizing her for not supporting President Biden's agenda. “I am surprised at how short the memory is. It's as short as being celebrated for having flipped a seat and then excoriated for taking votes that help you keep that seat,” she said. This is a crock. Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda is dead because a handful of the party's most conservative members, including Murphy, killed it. Now the party has nothing of legislative substance to run on, and members in swing districts are looking down the barrel of a possible midterm electoral bloodbath. The culprits are starting to head for the exits, scapegoating everyone but themselves for the consequences of their horrible decisions."

"The U.K. Wanted to Extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. From the Start: In a 2016 meeting, Britain's deputy minister of foreign affairs removed the diplomatic mask. THE U.K. HIGH COURT ruling that Julian Assange should be extradited to face trial in the United States — a decision that Amnesty International has called a “travesty of justice” — came as no surprise to me. It's what the U.K. government always wanted. I know because the British deputy minister of foreign affairs told me. Many pundits and politicians talk of the extradition proceedings against Assange as if they were an unforeseen legal outcome that came about as Assange's situation unfolded. This is not true. My experience as the foreign minister of Ecuador — the South American country that granted Assange asylum — left me in no doubt that the U.K. wanted Assange's extradition to the United States from the very beginning. One encounter I had with Alan Duncan, the former British minister of state for Europe and the Americas, in October 2016 really let the cat out of the bag. At our meeting in the Dominican Republic, Duncan went on extensively about how loathsome Assange was. While I didn't anticipate Duncan to profess his love for our asylee, I had expected a more professional diplomatic exchange. But the most important moment of the meeting was when I reiterated that Ecuador's primary fear was the transfer of Assange to the United States, at which point Duncan turned to his staff and exclaimed something very close to, 'Yes, well, good idea. How would we go about extraditing him to the Americans?”' His advisers squirmed in embarrassment. They had spent the last four years trying to reassure Ecuador that this was not what the U.K. was after. I responded that this was news indeed. I then wondered whether Duncan left the meeting feeling he had made a mess of it. I was particularly surprised by Duncan's candor because my June 2016 meeting with his predecessor, Hugo Swire, in Whitehall, had been quite different. It's not that Swire wasn't equally contemptuous of the irritating South American country that had granted Assange asylum; it is more that Swire actually knew the case well. Swire stuck to the U.K.'s position: Nobody wanted to extradite Assange to the United States. The Ecuadorian government was “deluded” and “paranoid.” This had nothing to do with the issue of freedom of expression or even WikiLeaks. The case was all about accusations in Sweden against Assange. Ecuador should stop protecting a potential sex offender."

"The Supreme Court's Astonishing, Inexplicable Blow to the Voting Rights Act in Wisconsin: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court issued an astonishing decision throwing out Wisconsin's new legislative districts as a violation of the equal protection clause. The majority accused a Republican justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court of greenlighting a “racial gerrymander” by creating one more majority-Black district in the state Assembly. Wednesday's unsigned decision, issued through the shadow docket, hands Wisconsin Republicans an unexpected victory in their quest to reduce Black representation in the legislature. It also alters the law of redistricting in fundamental yet cryptic ways that might, to a cynic, seem designed to disadvantage Democrats in every single case."

"Column: Renting a car from Hertz? You could wind up in jail: Tederhi Usude, a Santa Clarita dentist, rented a car from Hertz in June 2020 to drive to a job at a nonprofit health clinic in rural Mendocino County. He extended the rental several times with Hertz's permission and paid a total of $7,000. Usude, 55, says that in his last conversation with a Hertz agent he explained that he was temporarily quarantined because of a COVID-19 outbreak at the clinic, and would return the car as soon as he was cleared to travel again. On Dec. 18, 2020, he was on his way to return the vehicle the week before Christmas — in fact, he had turned onto the very street where the Hertz office was located. That's when his nightmare began. A police car flashed its lights behind him. He pulled over and was ordered out of the car. By then six or eight squad cars were on the scene. He was told to lie on the ground, was handcuffed and was taken to jail, where he spent the night." This seems to be a habit with them.

Somebody musta put the word out. "RT America Shuts Down After DirecTV, Roku Drop Channel: RT America, the U.S. arm of the Russian-government-controlled TV channel, will shut down and lay off most of its staff after Russia's invasion of Ukraine led distributors to drop the network. Misha Solodovnikov, general manager of T&R Productions, the company that produces RT America, cited “unforeseen business interruption events” in a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg News. CNN reported earlier on RT's move." This was terrible news. RT's talent showed up to the studio and were simply told it was all over, they were shut down. RT was the only platform for those people — none of whom were speaking on behalf of the Russian government. They were there because it was the only platform that wasn't either right-wing or establishment.

"Where Did You Go, Vice President Joe?: President Biden's first SOTU Address was a missed opportunity to say what he knows to be true: Stock buybacks manipulate the market and leave most Americans worse off."

Putin May Have Played Himself. Will We? Reports suggest Putin tried to outsmart even his own troops, and checkmated himself instead." Taibbi quotes "Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky, a former Moscow Times co-worker" as tweeting: "If Putin does attack, the presumption of his rationality, which has been part of my analysis of his actions for the last 23 years, not just the past few weeks, will need to be thrown out the window." It doesn't look like the Russian troops had any idea what they were getting into, but that aspect of war-making is not new. But Putin seems to have accomplished a serious own-goal: "Meanwhile, at home, a week of Putin's Ukraine invasion has crystalized years of lobbying for messaging unity in the West. Any innovation on that front that attracted minor protest before has been deployed in the last week without question. Even Alex Jones had defenders when he was banned years ago, but for obvious reasons no one is batting an eye at the EU banning RT, or Google or Meta or DirecTV or SkyTV doing the same, or Twitter blocking new accounts in Russia, or any of a hundred moderation decisions of varying levels of rationality. It barely made news when Twitter announced it was limiting the spread of accounts that 'undermine trust in the Ukrainian government' or spreads news that 'that Ukraine isn't doing well.' (Does that language sound familiar?). Facebook, in an echo of 1984's 'Eurasia is now an ally' switcheroo, removed the neo-Nazi Azov battalion from its Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list. A few weeks ago, it was at least a little controversial when Canada invoked its Emergencies Act to assert the power to cut off financial services for anyone 'directly or indirectly' participating in trucker protests, and GoFundMe faced criticism for freezing accounts. Now a fusillade of similar decisions is coming at us almost too quickly to track." Which is troubling, and when all those things happen at once, Americans, who supposedly believe in free speech, should be horrified. But all of America's worst war hawks have crawled out of the woodwork to flex again, as they've obviously been champing at the bit to do for some time. They must've prayed for Putin to do something stupid - and I guess he has. But that doesn't mean things can't be made stupider by everyone else.

"Why Is Biden Pushing People Back to the Office?: How about converting our depopulated downtowns into affordable housing instead? One of the more awkward lines in President Biden's State of the Union address involved returning to a pre-COVID status quo, though he highlighted perhaps the least desirable aspect of that: the slog through a rush hour commute to a box with four walls and apprehensive co-workers. 'It's time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people,' Biden said. 'People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.' It didn't draw the bipartisan applause speechwriters may have expected. This was not a throwaway line. Biden returned to the theme last Friday while discussing the jobs numbers, using substantially the same language. It's an echo of a message that has been offered by mayors and governors off and on over the past several months.

"The US supports illegal annexations by Israel and Morocco. Why the hypocrisy? America must be consistent. It cannot pick and choose when to follow international law Last December, as Russian forces encircled Ukraine, the Biden administration and its allies delivered a stark warning to Vladimir Putin: 'Any use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law.' In January, as Russian troops massed even in even greater numbers, Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that 'the inviolability of frontiers' was among the 'guiding principles for international behavior.' Last month, after Russia's parliament recognized the independence of two self-declared republics Moscow had cleaved from eastern Ukraine, Blinken called this infringement upon 'Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity' a 'gross violation of international law.' All this is indisputably true. Remaking borders by force violates a core principle of international law. Which is why the Biden administration must do more than resist Russia's aggression in Ukraine. It must stop violating that principle itself."

RIP: "William Hurt, Star of Body Heat and Broadcast News Dead at 71: Oscar-winning Kiss of the Spider Woman actor died of natural causes, his family announced Sunday." He had lots of genre credits, of course, but I couldn't find an obit that mentioned Humans, where it delighted me when he turned up.

"We Need to Talk About Profits: Economists routinely ignore a fundamental set of data about the economy. [...] We live in a capitalist economy driven by the profit motive. Yet, ironically, the study of profits remains a shockingly neglected subset of the economic discipline. No Nobel Prize in Economics has ever been given to the study of profits. Economists classify their publications into countless categories (the Journal of Economic Literature's J3 code stands for 'wages, compensation and labor costs'), yet there is no category for profits. The American Economic Review last published an article with the word profits in the title in 2014. It was about the Japanese textile industry at the turn of the 20th century. As for metrics, while Carroll Wright's Bureau of Labor Statistics is still going strong, there is no Bureau of Capital Statistics."

UK prices aren't any worse than America's — in many cases they are much lower, especially for necessities. But this is happening everywhere. "Jack Monroe's thread on reality of UK's cost of living crisis is brutal: This is the real increase in the cost of living - one the vast majority of the media chooses to ignore, the food activist said. This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket (one of the Big Four), was 29p for 500g. Today it's 70p. That's a 141% price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households."

"Motivated Reasoning: Emily Oster's COVID Narratives and the Attack on Public Education: Of the numerous political battles sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, some of the most bitterly contested have taken place over K-12 education. Schools have been a site of decisive struggles over the norms, values, and policies of the U.S. response to the public health crisis. While teachers collectively fought for stronger COVID mitigation measures, a small but vocal minority of parents confronted school boards in acrimonious meetings, demanding an end to remote instruction and mask mandates. These local skirmishes took place against the backdrop of successive COVID surges and a national media narrative that cast doubt on the usefulness of public health measures. It is impossible to understand the failed U.S. pandemic response, which has left over one million people dead, without understanding the role that schools have played as sites of political contestation. And it is impossible to understand the school reopening debate without understanding one of its main interlocutors: academic economist Emily Oster. But despite its prominence, Oster's work on COVID in schools has attracted little scrutiny—even though it has been funded since last summer by organizations that, without exception, have explicit commitments to opposing teacher's unions, supporting charter schools, and expanding corporate freedom. In addition to grants from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Walton Family Foundation, and Arnold Ventures, Oster has received funding from far-right billionaire Peter Thiel. The Thiel grant awarded to Oster was administered by the Mercatus Center, the think tank founded and financed by the Koch family.

"Healthcare for human rights, not profits: what the U.S. can learn from Cuba's Coronavirus response: Cuba's remarkable response to the Coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for a healthcare system that puts people before profits [...] Even in the face of an economic blockade obstructing the shipment of critical medical supplies such as syringes and other basic materials, Cuba has already vaccinated 93% of its population against Coronavirus. Since the initiation of the state's vaccination campaign in August of 2021, Cuba now has one of the highest Coronavirus vaccination rates in the world, with daily infections having drastically declined. In contrast, only 65% of the U.S. population is currently vaccinated against Coronavirus (despite the nation's surplus of vaccines), and daily infections in the U.S. just reached record highs this January."

"Bad News: Selling the story of disinformation [...] The media narrative of sinister digital mind control has obscured a body of research that is skeptical about the effects of political advertising and disinformation. A 2019 examination of thousands of Facebook users by political scientists at Princeton and NYU found that 'sharing articles from fake news domains was a rare activity'—more than 90 percent of users had never shared any. [...] The media scholar Jack Bratich has argued that the contemporary antidisinformation industry is part of a 'war of restoration' fought by an American political center humbled by the economic and political crises of the past twenty years. Depoliticized civil society becomes, per Bratich, 'the terrain for the restoration of authoritative truth-tellers' like, well, Harvard, the New York Times, and the Council on Foreign Relations. In this argument, the Establishment has turned its methods for discrediting the information of its geopolitical enemies against its own citizens. The Biden Administration's National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism—the first of its kind—promises to 'counter the polarization often fueled by disinformation, misinformation, and dangerous conspiracy theories online.' The full report warned not just of right-wing militias and incels, but anticapitalist, environmental, and animal-rights activists too. This comes as governments around the world have started using emergency 'fake news' and 'disinformation' laws to harass and arrest dissidents and reporters. [...] Ironically, to the extent that this work creates undue alarm about disinformation, it supports Facebook's sales pitch. What could be more appealing to an advertiser, after all, than a machine that can persuade anyone of anything? This understanding benefits Facebook, which spreads more bad information, which creates more alarm. Legacy outlets with usefully prestigious brands are taken on board as trusted partners, to determine when the levels of contamination in the information ecosystem (from which they have magically detached themselves) get too high. For the old media institutions, it's a bid for relevance, a form of self-preservation. For the tech platforms, it's a superficial strategy to avoid deeper questions. A trusted disinformation field is, in this sense, a very useful thing for Mark Zuckerberg. [...] The specific American situation was creating specific kinds of people long before the advent of tech platforms."

Glenn Greenwald has gotten a little partisan lately and it really does sound like he spends too much time hanging around with right-wingers, but he's not wrong about the shameful censorship the mass media and Big Tech practiced during the presidential campaign to suppress the story of how a coked-up failson of a wealthy candidate left his laptop lying around, and instead promoted a false, unverified story of how it was all just Russian propaganda. "The NYT Now Admits the Biden Laptop -- Falsely Called 'Russian Disinformation' -- is Authentic: The media outlets which spread this lie from ex-CIA officials never retracted their pre-election falsehoods, ones used by Big Tech to censor reporting on the front-runner." Frankly, I never understood why they thought it was so important to suppress this story. And though I understand why Greenwald was outraged when The Intercept refused to let him publish about it while allowing Risen to promote the story even the CIA wasn't quite willing to stand behind, I never agreed with his reasons for quitting over it. But hey, it was his choice. I mean, you either knew what a piece of crap Biden was or you were so adamantly anti-Trump that you didn't care. And the anti-Trump partisans had already shown that they were willing to engage in any kind of corruption to do what they perceived as ensuring Trump's defeat (as long as it didn't involve nominating Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren). Fox could rail about Biden and his son's nepotism and corruption as much as they liked, but most Democratic voters weren't going to pay much attention to it anyway after years of seeing such scandals as Gore and Obama wearing a different suit and numerous other faked up "exposés". But, left or right, people should be appalled by the willingness of the establishment media to play these blatantly censorious games and to rope "social media" into it as well.

At the same time, The Newspaper of Record thinks free speech means the right to say stupid things and not have anyone criticize you for it - at least if you are The New York Times. Froomkin says "The New York Times editorial board should retract and resign: It's hard to imagine a more fundamental misreading of the freedom of speech — or an organization whose credibility depends more on understanding it correctly — than today's lead editorial from the New York Times editorial board. The First Amendment asserts a right to free speech. It does not assert a right to not be criticized for speech. In fact, it protects critical speech. And the protection is against government action, not against other people."

I'm not going to link to anything about the demise of Mad Albright. Instead, about who she was when she lived. She spoke at a Berkeley commencement ceremony in 2000. She was supposed to speak after the Medalist speaker, but the university got nervous and switched them around. "Commencement Speech by University Medalist Fadia Rafeedie"

Paul Butterfield Blues Band "Mystery Train"

1 comment:

  1. Another great roundup but unfortunately I can't link to this one on Twitter as I've been locked out of my account since March 4. They say I was hacked: "No," I keep telling them, I posted those links to Western pro-Russian news sources.

    Whatever. I rely on RSS feeds more than social media. Avedon's Sideshow has more real news than a month of NYTimes.