14 October 2022

We promise you a smashing good time!

Ursel Mathilde posted this image* to the FB Steam Punk group.

At last, Biden has exceeded my expectations by announcing a move to reschedule marijuana and pardon people who have been convicted of simple possession under federal laws. "Much more remains to be done, but the presidential cannabis pardon is one of the most significant drug policy developments since the 1970s. [...] But certain expectations about the proclamation's reach should be tempered. About 6,500 people stand to benefit. (There are no people currently serving sentences in federal prisons for simple possession.) A 'certificate of pardon' would mean, for example, that a person with a simple cannabis possession offense would no longer have to check a 'criminal record' box on applications for employment or college financial aid. A presidential proclamation also has no force of law in the states and localities where the vast majority of convictions have been handed down, which means that people will continue to face consequences of previous possession convictions depending on the state where they live. These jurisdictions will have to take their own steps—and the president encouraged governors to take them—to eliminate simple possession convictions from a person's record. How far a pardon actually goes depends on the language a state or locality uses. Expungement, for example, delivers more of a 'clean slate' approach that permanently removes convictions from a person's record." But I'm not cheering until he actually gets cannabis re-scheduled. No more DEA money to catch pot-smokers.

It is worth remembering that the Saudis and the oil barons in general are rooting for the Republicans, and oil prices are being manipulated to make their whims a reality. David Dayen on "The Political Impacts of Rising Gas Prices: Today on TAP: Unexplained refinery shutdowns and snap decisions by oil-producing nations can reverberate in the midterm elections."

"House Democratic Leadership Designed Stock Trade Ban To Fail, Negotiators Say: Nancy Pelosi is a controversial figure, but one thing her supporters and detractors agree on is her tactical skill as a legislator and power broker. Somehow, those legendary skills failed her this week. DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP IN the House of Representatives tanked an opportunity to pass a key ethics reform Thursday, according to several Democratic and Republican staffers involved in bipartisan efforts to ban stock trading by members of Congress. Those staffers say leadership's move appears crafted to head off broad bipartisan support for reform. [...] While some conservative Democrats — most notably retiring Blue Dog and perennial corporate-friendly obstructionist Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla. — have tried to claim reforms are a tough sell for front-liners, that argument is hard to square with the considerable amount of data indicating any ban would be overwhelmingly popular. With further action delayed until after the midterms, Democrats have deprived members in tough races of the benefits the popular legislation might confer." Naturally, this has proved to be a gift to Republicans who now have something legitimate to campaign on.

"The Police Are Defunding Minneapolis: Two years since George Floyd was murdered, the Minneapolis Police Department is a fiscal disaster. [...] Simply put, Minneapolis did not defund the police. It's the opposite. The police are defunding Minneapolis."

"The Supreme Court's Public Legitimacy Crisis Has Arrived: Americans' antipathy toward the high court is deepening—and for the first time, a slim majority favors expansion. [...] Marquette Law School's most recent survey about the high court, which was published this week, again revealed a sharp decline in public support for the justices. It found that the court went from a 66 percent/33 percent approval/disapproval rating among all Americans two years ago to just 40 percent/60 percent today. The causal factor was again obvious, as Marquette found that roughly two-thirds of Americans disapproved of the Dobbs ruling. But the real humdinger was buried in the crosstabs: 51 percent of Americans said that they either strongly or somewhat supported expanding the Supreme Court, including a bare majority of self-described independents. To my knowledge, this is the first reputable Supreme Court pollster to find majority support for that proposal, even if it is a bare majority at that."

I probably don't have to tell long-time readers of The Sideshow how infuriating I found it that Trump turned a serious problem into just another right-wing conspiracy theory. (Well, he didn't have far to go since even when it was not a concern of Republicans the Democratic Party leadership didn't want to hear about it.) 'What Donald Trump Got Right About Voting Machines [...] We know all about that at WhoWhatWhy. Long before Trump hijacked this legitimate issue for illegitimate purposes with the 'Stop the Steal' fantasy, we were one of the first news outlets to sound the alarm over the chain of custody of ballots and the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems. So-called hybrid voting machines, used to both create and mark and then scan and count barcoded paper ballots, can be manipulated in various ways that are difficult to detect. Hand-marked ballots, with the security of the chain of custody preserved and well documented, are probably the only way to ensure an election wasn't hijacked. Election integrity is a real concern. But once Trump commandeered the concept, many reasonable people saw any question of voting machine reliability as dangerous territory, the exclusive realm of MAGA and QAnon kooks. "

"How Ron DeSantis Blew Up Black-Held Congressional Districts and May Have Broken Florida Law: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was incensed. Late last year, the state's Republican legislature had drawn congressional maps that largely kept districts intact, leaving the GOP with only a modest electoral advantage. DeSantis threw out the legislature's work and redrew Florida's congressional districts, making them far more favorable to Republicans. The plan was so aggressive that the Republican-controlled legislature balked and fought DeSantis for months. The governor overruled lawmakers and pushed his map through. DeSantis' office has publicly stressed that partisan considerations played no role and that partisan operatives were not involved in the new map." Because that would have been illegal. But the evidence is that DeSantis worked with a Republican operative whose job it is to impose gerrymandering on electoral maps.

"Hill TV Censors Segment On Rashida Tlaib's Description Of Israel As 'Apartheid Government,' Bars Reporter: Host Katie Halper recorded a segment defending Tlaib's accurate portrayal of Israel's government, but Hill TV's owners refused to run it."

"International Finance Capital Rebels Against British … Tax Cuts for the Rich?: Today on TAP: Bankers shoot down the Conservative Party budget plan. U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss might have suffered the worst political faceplant in British history. Elected by the Conservative majority not even a month ago, she has already suffered a massive political defeat and made her party so unpopular that if an election were to be held today, it would likely lose all but a handful of its seats in Parliament. Here's what happened. After Truss won the fight to replace Boris Johnson, she and her new Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng proposed a new budget package centered around modest energy price controls and enormous tax cuts for the rich. The size was stupendous—something like 12.6 percent of GDP over five years. Nearly half the tax cut benefits would go to the top 5 percent of households. This caused a huge popular backlash, and turmoil in the London financial markets. The yield on British government debt spiked so high that the central bank had to step in to stave off a currency crisis. Truss and Kwarteng abruptly reversed course on the high-end tax cuts Monday—amusingly after recording several interviews in which they promised they would not back down."

"The Washington Post Dabbles in Orwell: In scrubbed piece about Edward Snowden, the Bezos Post offers a preview of how history will be re-written." We've gotten used to the fact that the Snowden story has turned from a revelation that the US government is committing crimes against the entire citizenry to a story of a leaker, but The Washington Post published an article so egregious that they responded to complaints by adding a few corrections to the story - and then later uncorrecting them. They also stressed the point that Snowden's acceptance of Putin's "offer" of Russian citizenship somehow retroactively proved that his purposes in exposing the crimes of the NSA could not possibly have been done for the public's right to know.

Modern economists use it to justify horrible policies even though it has been proven a false predictor. Ed Walker on "The Rise and Fall of the Phillips Curve: The Phillips Curve says that there is an inverse relation between unemployment and inflation. Low unemployment is correlated with a rise in inflation. It's an article of faith to economists of all stripes. It's listed in the popular introductory economics textbook by N. Gregory Mankiw as one of the Ten Things All Economists agree on. It's especially loved by the Fed, which raises or lowers interest rates depending in part on its predictions. Its critics point out that its predictions are poor. In this post, I discuss the derivation of the Phillips Curve, its adaption by Samuleson and Solow to manage the economy, its breakdown in the 1970s, exploitation by neoliberals of that breakdown to replace Keynesian demand-based economics with monetarism and supply-side economics, its rejuvenation, and the evidence that it doesn't make accurate predictions. I conclude with some observations based on an important paper by Simcha Barkai that challenges the core beliefs of neoliberalism. It suggests we can raise wages substantially without causing inflation by lowering corporate profits."

Here are Dean Baker and Joseph Stiglitz last month saying "The Fed Should Wait and See" before raising rates, especially since the inflation it's supposed to solve has already slowed and consumer spending has slumped. Again, the Fed is reacting as if the inflation was demand-driven when it simply was not — it's a supply-side problem and the only real solutions are to rein in the suppliers and make them behave in less anti-social ways.

"Budget Cuts = Eating The Seed Corn: Government budget cuts are not what they seem. Understanding history could also be called 'wisdom.' Wisdom told stories about 'eating the seed corn.' If you eat the seed corn you can't plant your crops the following year and everyone eventually starves. In the early 80s Reaganism/Thatcherism (neoliberalism) convinced the country to drastically cut taxes on the rich and 'pay for' it by cutting spending. The US stopped spending on maintaining and modernizing infrastructure – especially transportation infrastructure, on education, on science … on so many things. So we lived off of prior investment for so long. But the infrastructure deteriorated and we certain never modernized it. (Just look at our rail and transportation systems, compared to the rest of the world.)"

"Republicans Are Lying About Fentanyl to Scare Voters [...] In a recent appeal to voters that was panned by critics as 'substance-free' in terms of concrete policy ideas, House Republicans decried an 'out of control border' and claimed every state is now a 'border state' under assault by fentanyl. Ahead of an expected reelection bid, former President Donald Trump is once again railing about an 'invasion' of 'drug dealers' claiming 'innocent victims,' a redux of the racist messaging on immigration that defined his first campaign. Never mind that drug overdose deaths actually began rising under the Trump administration's policies before shattering records once COVID hit, or that medical experts and nonpartisan fact-checkers routinely debunk GOP narratives portraying an increase in fentanyl seizures by law enforcement as evidence of an 'open border.' [...] In reality, most migrants attempting to cross border are seeking asylum after fleeing violence and poverty, and certainly aren't smuggling fentanyl in their backpacks. Plenty of statements and data from federal law enforcement show that fentanyl most commonly enters the U.S. in trucks and passenger vehicles at legal ports of entry, and a majority of those transporting fentanyl are U.S. citizens, who are less likely to draw the attention of border police. By scapegoating migrants as a source of drugs, demagogues obscure the facts with a cloud of xenophobia."

RIP: "World Mourns Professor Martin Barker's Unexpected Death at 76." Barker was well-known for his anti-racist work but most notable for defending "video nasties". He was a friend of Feminists Against Censorship back in the day and much of his work examined genre fiction.

RIP: Bob Madle (1920-2022): "Bob Madle was the last surviving original member of First Fandom, having begun his activity in science fiction fandom in 1933. He was present at one of the earliest club meetings in Philadelphia in 1936, attended the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, and was a long time presence at science fiction conventions around the country. He was an accomplished collector and one of the most important science fiction book and pulp magazine dealers in the world. Few worthwhile collections anywhere haven't benefited from Bob's expertise in the field. Bob published David H. Keller's Solitary Hunters And The Abyss through his New Era Publishers in 1948. He was the TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate in 1957 and attended the first London World SF Convention through TAFF in 1957. He wrote a long running series about science fiction published in the various professional magazines published by his long time friend Robert A. W. Lowndes. He served honorably in the United States Army during World War II." Madle had a long run, and it's no shock that he has finally left us, but I still remember him laughing at WSFA meetings all those years ago.

RIP: "Angela Lansbury, star of TV, film and theatre, dies aged 96: Lansbury won an Oscar nomination for her first role in the 1944 film Gaslight, and gained international acclaim as Murder, She Wrote's Jessica Fletcher" Another one who died just before her next birthday. It's unusual enough that it bugs me when I see it. I'll skip the jokes about the murder rate in Cabot Cove.

"What Is the Point of Economics? [...] And this brings me to the point of economics, which has taken me a long time to understand. There are many economists who focus on trying to uncover important truths about the world, and there are many economists who seek to serve concentrated capital. There are smart ones, and dumb ones. But truth or falsehood, or empirical rigor, is besides the point. The point of economics as a discipline is to create a language and methodology for governing that hides political assumptions from the public. Truly successful economists, like Summers, spend their time winning bureaucratic turf wars and placing checks on elected officials. [...] CBO seems to get things wrong in ways that privilege concentrated capital and a certain form of austerity-driven politics. Here are two simple examples. First, CBO for most of the post-2009 era assumed, based on opaque and reactionary economic modeling, that interest rates would soon snap back to 5%, which effectively meant that spending more money through tax cuts or spending increases, as many legislators wanted to do to help their constituents would be quite costly. Turns out interest rates didn't come back to 5%, and the assumptions behind those interest rate models had hidden political biases favorable to concentrated capital. [...] It hasn't really improved. A few months ago, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, with his complex matrix of data points and his legions of economists, got into a highly publicized argument with Donald Trump, over interest rates. Trump criticized Powell for potentially tightening at a moment when the economy was slowing, saying you have look beyond data and 'feel' the market. Powell reversed himself after data finally came out showing Trump, with his gut feel, was right."

Verbal karate; read the stats. "Erica Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman: Black Lives Matter protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful, our research finds: When the Department of Homeland Security released its Homeland Threat Assessment earlier this month, it emphasized that self-proclaimed white supremacist groups are the most dangerous threat to U.S. security. But the report misleadingly added that there had been 'over 100 days of violence and destruction in our cities,' referring to the anti-racism uprisings of this past summer. In fact, the Black Lives Matter uprisings were remarkably nonviolent. When there was violence, very often police or counterprotesters were reportedly directing it at the protesters."

Even I was surprised at the chart showing that the US has a remarkably low number of doctors per capita. Barry Ritholtz on "Framing, Context, Asking (not answering) Questions: It was one of those minor stories that seemed to have taken on a life of its own: The New York Times1 reported last week about an adjunct Organic Chemistry professor at NYU who was fired after students complained his tests were too hard. I would have missed it, but for J.V Last discussing it at The Bulwark.2 Both discussions touched on what a gut course org chem is; how many aspiring doctors see their career hopes dashed by the class. The debate veered into whether colleges are credential factories, or public utilities, or just businesses selling a product trying to satisfy their consumers. JVL wrote, 'The course exists for only two purposes: (1) to cull the number of attractive medical school applicants, and (2) to prepare a handful of students for a future in biochemical research.' [...] In 1960, the United States had more doctors per capita than any other country. What happened since then?"

"On John Lennon's Birthday, a Few Words About War: Why "pacifists" aren't "fascifists" [...] The 'bed-in' led half a century ago by Lennon and wife Yoko Ono was denounced as a dumb stunt by a tone-deaf celebrity couple, using terms like 'clueless,' 'illegible,' 'naive,' and 'ineffective.' The pair's peace patter and naked photo shoots are still ridiculed as representative of antiwar activism that supposedly assumes the world runs on flowers, free love, and finger paints. Even the dumbest pacifist, however, never did anything as stupid and destructive as the bombing of North Vietnam, the invasion of Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan, or the 'liberation' of Libya (or the invasions of Chechnya and Ukraine, for that matter). [...] Yes, this time it really could be 1938. It could also be 1914, when a chain-reaction of lunatic escalations spun a localized conflict into a global conflagration costing millions of senseless deaths. Worrying about the latter isn't treason, it's what Orwell called 'elementary common sense.' It all comes down to a miserable calculation about how vital you think stopping Putin in Ukraine is or isn't to global stability. Anyone who says this is an easy call has not thought this through, especially given our atrocious record when it comes to trying to decrease international tension through the use of force. By any measure, we suck at it, and unlike previous wars, we can't afford to screw this one up."

Robert Reich, again, stating the obvious, "The US ultra-rich justify their low tax rates with three myths – all of them rubbish: A record share of the nation's wealth is in the hands of billionaires, who pay a lower tax rate than the average American. This is indefensible [...] Trickle-down economics is a cruel joke. The so-called free market has been distorted by huge campaign contributions from the ultra-rich. Don't lionize the ultra-rich as superior 'self-made' human beings who deserve their billions. They were lucky and had connections."

At The Nation, the podcast, where Bhaskar still likes Bernie in 2024, and Chris Lehman talks about the Brooks Brothers Riot.

"Larry Summers And Jason Furman Aren't Really Democrats [...] This week, we're taking a look at how media deference to a certain group of economic pundits can lead to serious misrepresentation of important political and policy nuances. We'll be looking at two articles: this one from The Washington Post and this one from The New York Times. Each publication sets the tone for the debate that is continued on from cable news to econ twitter to the Halls of Actual Power. The Post piece is actually quite a good article overall, documenting a shift in where (and from whom) the Biden administration gets its economic policy advice. On the other hand, what we get from the Times article is absolutely unhinged economic coverage that is ridiculously one-sided commentary from the right about a budget run amok. The common feature? They both enshrine a specific type of moderate economic stance as the stance of economists. Let's start with the Post. [...] The role that major, ostensibly center left publications play in setting the discussions we have around major economic issues is important. They often tend to misrepresent expert opinions as a form of consensus that they simply aren't. Jason Furman and Larry Summers do not reflect a consensus of Democratic economists. The fact that they are so often treated as the overriding authorities on what the entire field of economics has to say on the issue is concerning. Sometimes, as with the Post, otherwise good reporting can be marred by verbiage that buys into this assumption. Other times, as with the Times, reporting will be purposefully obtuse about who they cite to protect their conservative talking points from real scrutiny. "

It's worth subscribing to The Lever just to hear those guys ragging on Larry Summers, one of the worst villains in the world.

Here's James K. Galbraith with a quick summing up of how our economy went from good to bad and some great suggestions for amelioration that won't happen. "The broken US economy breeds inequality and insecurity. Here's how to fix it: On one side, oceans of wealth and power. On the other, precarity and powerlessness. But we have the tools for reform [...] From the 1930s to the 1970s America had a middle-class economy centered in the heartland, feeding and supplying the world with machinery and goods while drawing labor from the impoverished south to the thriving midwest – an economy of powerful trade unions and world-dominant corporations. This has become a bicoastal economy dominated by globalized finance, insurance and high-end services on one coast, and by information technology, aerospace and entertainment on the other. [...] Perhaps the toughest, most necessary reform is to reduce debts including student debts, to shrink the banks, to restore effective regulation, to prosecute frauds, and to discipline finance to serve the public good. This will take the glamour out of being a banker – and the intoxicating power out of running the Federal Reserve. Is this program realistic? Perhaps not. But consider the path we're on. What I propose is an alternative – to pitchforks, anarchy and civil war."

Miners' strike: Valley community and gay activists' enduring friendships"—The legacy of Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners, depicted in the 2014 film Pride, lives on.

For a long time I've checked YouTube periodically to see if anyone's posted Harvard Lampoon's The Surprising Sheep album, a thing that is very much of its time — and finally, someone did! I think "Welcome to the Club" is my favorite, but you might like to give the rest of the mix a listen, too.


  1. I linked here from the Rude Pundit to say hi! I was known back in the bartcop days as DaddyO. You befriended me at the JulieFest in 2002 (?) and welcomed me so warmly I will never forget it. Your blog is incredible, just as I last saw it years ago. I'm hanging out almost every day at Atrios's playhouse, under my real first name--Augustino. I hope everything is happy and healthy in real life for you, and want to tell you that even after 20 years, the feelings of joy and love you had for me and that evening have not left me.

    Later, Daddy-O!

    --Augustino Patti

    1. It's good to hear from you, and to know that you're still around. :)