28 December 2023

Peace on Earth

And here we are with the traditional Christmas links:
• Mark Evanier's wonderful Mel Tormé story, and here's the man himself in duet with Judy Garland.
Joshua Held's Christmas card, with a little help from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. (And I've been charmed to see that most new covers of the song are using this arrangement, so thanks for that, Joshua!)
• Brian Brink's tour-de-force performance of "The Carol of the Bells"
• "Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime."
• Ron Tiner's one-page cartoon version of A Christmas Carol

"Jury Finds That Google Is a Monopolist [...] A jury in Northern California, after deliberating for just a few hours, found Google guilty of anti-competitive practices in the app market for Android phones. The suit was not brought by the FTC, but by Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite. Epic argued that Google forced app developers to use its Play Store for distribution, leveraging this power to charge fees on in-app purchases of up to 30 percent. When Epic tried to encourage users to pay them directly for their games instead, Google and Apple kicked them out of their respective app stores. A separate case against Apple resulted in a mostly negative verdict for Epic, but it's still on appeal. It says something that this jury (which maybe wasn't composed of New York magazine readers) rather quickly agreed that Google was exercising monopoly power, when the judges in the Apple case tied themselves in knots denying it."

The American Economic Liberties Project has a nice rundown of more good news on that front in "Morgan's Monopoly Digest – December 2023".

"Colorado Supreme Court bars Donald Trump from the state's ballot in 2024, ruling he's disqualified by Jan. 6 actions: Legal challenge, which alleges Trump engaged in insurrection, is likely headed to U.S. Supreme Court. [...] 'We conclude that because President Trump is disqualified from holding the office of President under Section Three (of the 14th Amendment), it would be a wrongful act under the Election Code for the Secretary to list President Trump as a candidate on the presidential primary ballot,' the court's majority opinion says. 'Therefore, the Secretary may not list President Trump's name on the 2024 presidential primary ballot, nor may she count any write-in votes cast for him.'"

The Lever's "You Love To See It" list for the week links to some hopeful stories: "Good things are happening! Southwest gets fined for its 2022 holiday meltdown, and the EPA could institute a ban on the chemical that burned in the East Palestine derailment disaster. What's more, the Biden administration will stop most commercial logging in old-growth forests, and federal regulators demand that Starbucks reopen stores it closed after workers started organizing."

Atrios sees something funny about "Cop Budgets: A whole range of people - from centrist "good government" types to libertarians to "fiscal conservatives - are just completely silent on absurd cop budgets. Even if one buys into the "law and order nonsense, spending this kind of money on cop overtime to catch a few fare evaders is not a good use of tax money!" He quotes from an article that says, "NYPD overtime pay for extra officers in the subway went from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million this year, according to city records obtained by Gothamist." And he continues, "Almost all they did was arrest and ticket fare evaders. For some reason arresting people for skipping a subway fare makes sense to people while no one would consider doing so for the identical crime of not feeding a parking meter."

"Microsoft, Musk, and the Question of Unions: Suddenly, a leading American corporation appears to be OK with the idea of collective bargaining. Hint: It's not Tesla. Last week, Microsoft announced that it wouldn't oppose efforts by any of its roughly 100,000 employees to form or join a union. In other parts of the world, there'd be nothing earthshaking about such an announcement; it's actually common practice in Europe and elsewhere. In these United States, however, it makes Microsoft 'a unicorn' among its peers, as one union official put it. The last major American corporation to pledge it would let its employees decide whether to unionize free from corporate opposition was—well, I can't think of one, though I've been on this beat for roughly 45 years." Musk, on the other hand, is keeping to form.

"US, Venezuela swap prisoners: Maduro ally for 10 Americans, plus fugitive contractor 'Fat Leonard'" — or, as Anya Parampil put it, "The US swapped Alex Saab—a Venezuelan diplomat whom US authorities quite literally kidnapped in June 2020—for two ex Green Berets who participated in a failed plot to kill Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro."

"Tesla blamed drivers for failures of parts it long knew were defective: Wheels falling off cars at speed. Suspensions collapsing on brand-new vehicles. Axles breaking under acceleration. Tens of thousands of customers told Tesla about a host of part failures on low-mileage cars. The automaker sought to blame drivers for vehicle 'abuse,' but Tesla documents show it had tracked the chronic 'flaws' and 'failures' for years."

I really didn't expect this from him, or from any Senator from Connecticut, but, "Sen. Chris Murphy: 'This Party Has Not Made a Firm Break From Neoliberalism': Connecticut's junior senator launches a new interview series focused on monopoly power, part of his quest to understand American unhappiness. [...] To Murphy, the issue of corporate concentration runs deeper than just consumer pricing and equitable growth. It strikes at the core of why Americans feel powerless about the fate of the country. People have a palpable, though not always articulable, sense that the most crucial decisions governing their daily lives are now being made far away from their communities in corporate boardrooms, rather than by elected officials in the halls of government or by extension themselves. Many of the country's morbid symptoms, in Murphy's estimations, trace back to this friction between the public and their corporate overlords."

RIP: "Tom Smothers of sibling comedy duo the Smothers Brothers dies at age 86: Tom Smothers, half of the comedy group the Smothers Brothers, has died at the age of 86. Smothers was described as 'not only the loving older brother that everyone would want in their life', but as 'a one-of-a-kind creative partner', according to a statement by his brother Dick Smothers on Wednesday shared by the National Comedy Center. Dick also shared that Tom, who died after a battle with cancer, was at home with his family when he died." We knew they were going to get kicked off the air because they criticized the war, and they were our heroes. Tommy Smothers played guitar on "Give Peace A Chance" and he said, "It's hard for me to stay silent when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war."

RIP: "André Braugher Dies: Star Of Homicide: Life On The Street, Brooklyn Nine-Nine & Other Series And Films Was 61 [...] While Braugher peppered his résumé with comedies, many will remember him for his ferocious portrayal of Detective Frank Pembleton in the NBC drama Homicide: Life on the Street. Put him in 'the box,' sweating out and outsmarting crime suspects in the interrogation room, and you were looking at a weekly dose of tour de force acting, as good as it got on television during that time. He won an Emmy for that show he starred in from 1992-98. His wife, Ami Brabson, recurred as Pembleton's wife on Homicide." He was a magnificent actor who brought intensity to the screen, and also could be downright hilarious.

RIP: Dale Spender, 80: "Dale Spender, who has died aged 80 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was the author of the internationally acclaimed Man Made Language (1980), in which she argued that language is highly gendered and both reflects and perpetuates a male worldview. The book was an instant classic and is considered by scholars and feminists to be highly relevant today. As well as an accomplished author, Spender was a feminist activist, researcher, broadcaster and teacher in her native Australia and during a period of some 15 years in London. She edited more than 30 books and was involved in founding a number of publishing imprints, series and journals – most notably, in 1983, Pandora Press, a feminist imprint of Routledge, where she was editor-at-large."

"In a Major Snub to Obama, Biden Is Sticking With Trump When It Comes to Cuba Policy: One of Obama's most significant foreign policy achievements was his move toward normalizing relations with Cuba. Trump and Biden have torn that up." This was one of the few things Obama did that I actually approved of, and it broke my heart when Trump undid it, but you really can't justify this administration failing to get back to the Obama policy.

"Anti-Palestinian racism is inherent to Zionism and you're not allowed to talk about it [...] In his article, Charles Blow seems perplexed that anti-Zionists will not give a straight yes or no answer to the question, 'Does Israel have a right to exist?' The problem with the question is the subtext— what is it actually asking? Is it asking if you support a state that places the rights of Jews over the rights of Palestinians? Is it asking whether Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state by way of ethnic cleansing? If you can only have a Jewish state by expelling Palestinians, and you endorse that notion either openly or tacitly, then that is clearly racism, yet you are not supposed to say it. So the question here seems to be asked in bad faith."

Cory Doctorow reviews "Nathan J. Robinson's Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments: In "Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments," Current Affairs founder Nathan J. Robinson addresses himself in a serious, thoughtful way to the arguments advanced by right-wing figures, even when those arguments aren't themselves very serious"

If you're looking for a Substack you should probably subscribe to, Sy Hersh has one where he's still writing about what's going on around Israel, and also had a few things to say about Kissinger.

Lisa Tuttle rounds up "The best recent science fiction, fantasy and horror – reviews roundup: The Reformatory by Tananarive Due; The Lost Cause by Cory Doctorow; Him by Geoff Ryman; Audition by Pip Adam"

I missed this last year but it's nice to go back and enjoy "Rating Jonathan Turley's Wildest, Thirstiest, Most Embarrassing Bids For Attention In 2022." I can vaguely remember when he just seemed like a normal guy.

I can't believe I didn't know about this ad before: "Leonard Nimoy vs. Zachary Quinto - The Challenge"

"It's a Wonderful Life: How a festive classic helps a Glasgow cinema thrive: It is a much loved festive film - and for one cinema It's a Wonderful Life is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving. The 1946 classic, which stars James Stewart as a put-upon everyman considering suicide one snowy Christmas Eve, is such a fixture at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) that it has been the venue's biggest earner for 12 of the last 15 years. Much like Stewart's character George Bailey, the impact of the film has far-reaching consequences, as it raises funds that support the GFT's remit to spotlight independent and alternative cinema."

Someone sent me this link for "a new Swedish Christmas carol."

Maybe I can replace my now lost ancient midi of "Carol of the Bells" with Jamie Dupuis's version on harp guitar.

John Lennon, "So This Is Christmas, War Is Over"

11 December 2023

I'm convinced that I'd wind up burning, too

It's that time of year again, so let's start things off with Daveed Diggs and "Puppy for Hanukkah"! And, of course, "Carol of the Bells" (which was not originally written for Christmas, or even for winter, but now it means December to me). The ancient midi I've been posting for years at Advent finally succumbed to linkrot, so we'll just dive right into to the smashing Brian Brink version.

Remember back when MSNBC canceled Phil Donahue's show (their highest-rated show!) because they didn't like him opposing the invasion of Iraq? Well, right on time, they've canceled Mehdi Hasan: "No high-profile journalist has been more assertive about Palestinian rights than Mehdi Hasan, and MNSBC punished him on Thursday by taking away the TV shows he hosted on the network and on NBC's streaming service. Does this mean that standing up for Palestinians is a death sentence in the mainstream media – even at MSNBC? Hasan is also hands-down the best interviewer in American news right now. He confronts and enlightens. He should be on TV every night."

"Netanyahu's Goal for Gaza: 'Thin' Population 'to a Minimum': The White House requested billions to support refugee resettlement from Ukraine and Gaza in October. [...] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasked his top adviser, Ron Dermer, the minister of strategic affairs, with designing plans to 'thin' the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip 'to a minimum,' according to a bombshell new report in an Israeli newspaper founded by the late Republican billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The outlet, Israel Hayom, is considered to be something of an official organ for Netanyahu. It reported that the plan has two main elements: The first would use the pressure of the war and humanitarian crisis to persuade Egypt to allow refugees to flow to other Arab countries, and the second would open up sea routes so that Israel 'allows a mass escape to European and African countries.' Dermer, who is originally from Miami, is a Netanyahu confidante and was previously Israeli ambassador to the United States, and enjoys close relations with many members of Congress. [...] Israel Today and other Israeli media are also reporting on a plan being pushed with Congress that would condition aid to Arab nations on their willingness to accept Palestinian refugees. The plan even proposes specific numbers of refugees for each country: Egypt would take one million Palestinians, half a million would go to Turkey, and a quarter million each would go to Yemen and Iraq. The reporting relies heavily on the passive voice, declining to say who put the proposal together: 'The proposal was shown to key figures in the House and Senate from both parties. Longtime lawmaker, Rep. Joe Wilson, has even expressed open support for it while others who were privy to the details of the text have so far kept a low profile, saying that publicly coming out in favor of the program could derail it.' [...] Back on October 20, in a little-noticed message to Congress, the White House asked for $3.495 billion that would be used for refugees from both Ukraine and Gaza, referencing 'potential needs of Gazans fleeing to neighboring countries.' 'This crisis could well result in displacement across border and higher regional humanitarian needs, and funding may be used to meet evolving programming requirements outside of Gaza,' the letter from the White House Office of Management and Budget reads. The letter came two days after Jordan and Egypt warned they would not open their borders to a mass exodus of Palestinians, arguing that past history shows they would never be able to return."

RIP: "Norman Lear, celebrated US TV writer and producer, dies aged 101 [...] Lear entered the zeitgeist in the 70s, with the production of television sitcoms such as All in the Family, Maude, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons and Good Times."

RIP: "Denny Laine, co-founder of The Moody Blues and member of Wings, of lung disease at 79. He won my heart with his rendition of "Go Now".

ROT IN PERDIITION: I can't pick which headline I like better,
• "Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America's Ruling Class, Finally Dies: The infamy of Nixon's foreign-policy architect sits, eternally, beside that of history's worst mass murderers. A deeper shame attaches to the country that celebrates him," from Spencer Ackerman in Rolling Stone, or
• "Henry Kissinger, America's Most Notorious War Criminal, Dies At 100: The titan of American foreign policy was complicit in millions of deaths — and never showed remorse for his decisions," at HuffPo. Within an hour or so of the announcement of Kissinger's death, the entire front page of HuffPo was...accurate.

And, I don't know how well the Palestinians would have liked the idea, but once upon a time, "On Top of Everything Else, Henry Kissinger Prevented Peace in the Middle East: Let's not forget that Kissinger's crimes included the deaths of thousands of Arabs and Israelis." Not so much because he loved Israel but because he couldn't stand any idea that involved cooperating with the USSR.

It's about time: "Clarence Thomas' Benefactors Finally Face the Music [...] This is not an abstract project: No fewer than four cases the court is to decide in this term alone could dramatically advance this agenda, including a case that would allow the justices to rewrite regulations that affect our air, water, labor practices, consumer finance, and a host of other questions. Known as the Chevron doctrine, the legal principle at issue in one of these cases has been the subject of years of criticism orchestrated by Leo and Crow. And Justice Thomas, who defended the doctrine in a 2005 opinion, has since become its primary critic on the court following years of unofficial and undisclosed gifts by these benefactors. He also failed (again) to disclose his participation in exclusive fundraisers and gatherings where the reversal of the Chevron doctrine was often a topic of discussion. For any official to accept undisclosed gifts of the magnitude reported this year would warrant a Senate investigation. The fact that these gifts came from people engaged in a covert effort to shape the court, its power, and its opinions makes an investigation into how these gifts may have influenced the justices all the more urgent. [...] For any official to accept undisclosed gifts of the magnitude reported this year would warrant a Senate investigation. The fact that these gifts came from people engaged in a covert effort to shape the court, its power, and its opinions makes an investigation into how these gifts may have influenced the justices all the more urgent." Seriously, Leonard Leo and his gang deserve to be in jail for bribery, and Thomas and Roberts for accepting bribes.

I watched this 18:35 interview with Ted Cruz and wanted to slap him so hard. I mean, sure, you have to know anyone who utters the phrase "cultural Marxism" with a straight face is a nitwit, but the more he talks, the more you wonder just how wrong it's possible for someone to be. (And no, Ted, "Never again" isn't just about Jews, it's about everyone.)

Doctorow: "'If buying isn't owning, piracy isn't stealing' [...] 20 years ago, Chris Anderson told me that it was unrealistic to expect tech companies to refuse demands for DRM from the entertainment companies whose media they hoped to play. My argument – then and now – was that any tech company that sells you a gadget that can have its features revoked is defrauding you. You're paying for x, y and z – and if they are contractually required to remove x and y on demand, they are selling you something that you can't rely on, without making that clear to you. But it's worse than that. When a tech company designs a device for remote, irreversible, nonconsensual downgrades, they invite both external and internal parties to demand those downgrades. Like Pavel Chekov says, a phaser on the bridge in Act I is going to go off by Act III. Selling a product that can be remotely, irreversibly, nonconsensually downgraded inevitably results in the worst person at the product-planning meeting proposing to do so. The fact that there are no penalties for doing so makes it impossible for the better people in that meeting to win the ensuing argument, leading to the moral injury of seeing a product you care about reduced to a pile of shit."

Greedflation Watch: "Republican Senate candidate's family egg company caught in price-fixing plot: Several food giants claimed that Rose Acre Farms – which John Rust chaired until recently – unlawfully fixed the prices of eggs" Something might actually be done about that one since the complaint came from the industry.

"Federal Agencies Can Disable Employer Debt TRAPs : Advocacy groups offer a road map for how agencies can use existing authority to ban contracts that force workers to pay employers if they leave their job. Nearly two dozen advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to ban the spreading practice of 'stay-or-pay' contracts, which force workers to compensate employers, sometimes for tens of thousands of dollars, if they leave their job before a set time period. The New York Times Magazine recently reported on these provisions, an innovation of the private equity industry that can require workers to pay 'liquidated damages' for on-the-job training or use of equipment, or unspecified damages resulting from the cost of recruiting a replacement, or even 'lost profits' from a worker's departure. Seven detailed memos sent to federal agencies and the White House over the past two months and released this week argue that these provisions operate as 'de facto non-compete agreements' that lock workers into jobs and prevent them from speaking out about wages or working conditions. The contracts, the memos assert, violate numerous federal statutes that both protect workers from exploitation and more broadly protect health and safety. Therefore, federal agencies can use existing authorities to eliminate them from the workplace."

"Here's What Ethical AI Really Means" is about a lot more than AI, because AI is just all the existing systems and biases and existing effects sucked in and spat out.

"These magnificent purple and green lights aren't auroras. This is Steve."

"Sleeping polar bear and illuminated jellyfish in running for Wildlife Photographer of the Year prize"

"Charges Dismissed Against Wyoming Ranchers For Bleaching Penises Onto Cows: A Crook County, Wyoming, judge has dismissed property destruction charges against a pair of ranchers accused of bleaching penis shapes and other markings on their neighbor's cows."

Paul Williams, "The Hell Of It"

27 November 2023

There'll be no sad tomorrow

As always, I am grateful to those of you who have stayed with The Sideshow, especially those who have helped out and try to engage. I know it's a shadow of it's former self, but I still feel a need to document the atrocities, and I'm really glad you're here with me.

Democrats did pretty well out of the first Tuesday in November, and it's pretty clear why: "Abortion Rights Power Democratic Wins in Kentucky and Virginia." Ohio voted abortion rights into the state constitution easily, Kentucky re-elected its Democratic governor by a wider margin than last time, and Glenn Younkin, who wasn't on the ballot but campaigned hard for voters to give him an anti-abortion legislature got slapped in the face by keeping Virginia's state Senate in Democratic hands and flipping the state House to them as well. (And Atrios: "Reporters and pundits are convinced that voters are with Republicans on abortion, but in these Ohio diners they aren't so sure." Atrios has been particularly happy about how the obviously-wrong pundits who declared Younkin the face of the future after he beat a pathetic Terry McAuliffe to the seat are being shown up, especially after Youngkin went all Culture Warrior against the transgender candidate, who won her race, too.)

"Media group calls for investigation into deaths of 34 journalists in Israel-Hamas war: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is calling for an investigation into the deaths of 34 journalists in the Israel-Hamas war. [...] The complaint also includes allegations citing 'the deliberate, total or partial, destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza' since Israel declared war on Hamas following the militant group's deadly attacks on the country Oct. 7. This is the third complaint RSF has filed alleging war crimes against Palestinian journalists in Gaza since 2018, according to The Associated Press."

Doctorow, "Biden wants to ban ripoff 'financial advisors': Once, American workers had "defined benefits pensions," where their employers promised to pay them a certain amount every year from their retirement to their death. Jimmy Carter swapped that out for 401(k)s, "market" pensions where you have to guess which stocks will be valuable or starve in your old age. The initial 401(k) rollout had all kinds of pot-sweeteners that made them seem like a good deal, like heavy employer matching that doubled or even tripled the value of every dollar you put into the market for your retirement. But over the years, as Reaganomics took hold and workers' power ebbed away, all these goodies were clawed back. In the end, the market-based pension makes you the sucker at the poker table, flushing your savings into a rigged casino that is firmly tilted in favor of finance barons and other eminently guillotineable plutocrats."

Doctorow on the murder of Jezebel and the news in general, "'Brand safety' killed Jezebel [...] This aversion to reality has been present among corporate decisionmakers since the earliest days, but the consolidation of power among large firms – ad-tech firms, online platforms, and 'brands' themselves – makes corporate realityphobia much easier to turn into, well, reality, giving advertisers the fine-grained power to put Jezebel and every site like it out of business. As Koebler and Maiberg's headline so aptly puts it, 'Advertisers Don't Want Sites Like Jezebel to Exist.' The reason to deplore Nazis on Twitter is because they are Nazis, not because their content isn't brand-safe. The short-term wins progressives gain by legitimizing a corporate veto over what we see online are vastly overshadowed by the most important consequence of brand safety: the mass extinction of reality-based reporting. Reality isn't brand safe. If you're in the reality based community, brand safety should be your sworn enemy, even if they help you temporarily get a couple of Nazis kicked off Twitter."

"CFPB Orders Citi to Pay $25.9 Million for Intentional, Illegal Discrimination Against Armenian Americans: Citi hid discrimination by giving consumers false reasons for credit denials. [...] When Citi denied credit applications because of applicants' perceived Armenian national origin, Citi employees lied about the specific reasons for the adverse actions. At one point, a Citi employee explained it had been a while since they had denied an application because of a consumer's Armenian surname, and wanted a suggestion on how to cover up the discrimination. The response was to decline the credit card application due to suspected credit abuse, which essentially blamed the applicant for the denial."

"Michigan Law Would Be First to Automatically Register People to Vote As They Leave Prison: The legislature passed a bill last week that would expand automatic voter registration in a number of other ways, and likely add many new Michiganders to voter rolls." Michiganders are legally eligible to vote when they leave prison, but most of them don't even know. This new law would include notification that they are registered and that they can unregister if they want to.

"Israel's Ludicrous Propaganda Wins Over the Only Audience That Counts: Why make an effort to be credible if you're going to be uncritically echoed by the White House and Western press?" No one believes Israel's laughable propaganda anymore, because it's really that bad and even their own people end up having to admit it's not true. And yet, Joe Biden seems to fall for it every time.

"Biden Again Pretends To Be Powerless — This Time About Gaza: The White House is using major U.S. news outlets to pretend it can't rein in Israel — but the claims don't add up. [...] In a recent book on Biden, The Last Politician, writer Franklin Foer details how Biden put an end to Israel's bombing of Gaza in 2021 with one phone call. After Netanyahu 'struggled to justify his request [for more bombing] because he couldn't point to fresh targets that needed striking,' Biden said, according to Foer, 'Hey, man, we're out of runway here. It's over.' And then, Foer continued, 'like that, it was. By the time the call ended, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a cease-fire that the Egyptians would broker.'"

"Chains are using theft to mask other issues, report says: Retailers say theft is exploding, and some data from retailers along with numerous videos of violent store robberies and looting seem to support the claim. But some retail analysts and researchers, bolstered by local crime statistics, say stores may be over-stating the extent and impact of theft. Why? It's a useful deflection, camouflaging weak demand, mismanagement and other issues denting business right now. And it forces lawmakers to respond"

Why is it always Republicans? "Iowa official's wife convicted of 52 counts of voter fraud in ballot-stuffing scheme: SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — The wife of a northwestern Iowa county supervisor was convicted Tuesday of a scheme to stuff the ballot box in her husband's unsuccessful race for a Republican nomination to run for Congress in 2020."

"The Public Has a Right to Know Every Detail of Louis DeJoy's Destructive Agenda: In a time of historic distrust in government, the United States Postal Service has accomplished something extraordinary: it remains a universally beloved federal agency. Second only to the Parks Service in public favorability (a jaw-dropping 77% approval rating, per Gallup), USPS is arguably also the most frequently-interacted-with component of the federal government: packages and letters are delivered to Americans' mailboxes six days per week. But these warm feelings – already under threat by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's continued destructive leadership – could quickly chill if the Postal Board of Governors has its way."

"At Tesla, Swedish Workers Can Do What American Workers Can't: In support of striking mechanics, dockworkers there are no longer unloading Teslas. Such solidarity isn't legal here. [...] Tesla has no factories in Sweden, but it does employ around 120 mechanics to tune up and fix their cars. The union of such workers, IF Metall, has been trying for years to get Tesla to the bargaining table, as is the norm in Sweden, where roughly 90 percent of the workforce is represented by unions. The very idea is anathema, of course, to Elon Musk, who believes such matters at the company, and perhaps in the world at large, are best left to Elon Musk. After Musk responded with a flat No to recognize the union, the mechanics walked off the job on October 27 and remain on strike. What followed illustrates nicely what it means when a nation has solidaristic values reinforced by solidaristic laws. A few days into the strike, the union of Swedish dockworkers announced it would no longer unload Teslas at the nation's ports. (The Teslas sold in Sweden are shipped in from German and U.S. Tesla factories.) Then, the painters' union joined in and vowed that its members would no longer do paint jobs on any Teslas in need of a touch-up. Now, the Communications Employees vows not to make deliveries to Tesla's offices if Tesla doesn't recognize its mechanics union by November 20." Americans can't do that, thanks to Taft-Hartley.

"Take Trump Seriously When He Vows To Build The Camps: Trump is openly planning to build a vast network of internment facilities, while railing against 'internal threats' and calling his enemies 'vermin' and vowing to 'root them out.' The warning signs of fascism have never been more obvious or alarming."

"What's Causing Those Airline Close Calls? Reports of near-miss incidents at airports are growing more frequent—as the passenger experience itself becomes ever more unpleasant. Decades after deregulation, is the system at a breaking point?"

"41 Ways a Big Lie Continues to Haunt America's Public Schools: Forty years ago, Americans learned of A Nation at Risk, the troubling and mostly bogus report by the Reagan administration claiming public schools and teachers failed to produce students who were capable American workers. Berliner's and Biddle's The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools disproved the report, but it still haunts us today like a never-ending loop Americans can't jump off of. Here's how."

The Road to theocracy:
• "The Key to Mike Johnson's Christian Extremism Hangs Outside His Office: The newly elected House speaker has ties to the far-right New Apostolic Reformation — which is hell-bent on turning America into a religious state"
• "Mike Johnson, Polite Extremist: The new speaker of the House has deep ties to proponents of the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement that helped fuel the January 6th insurrection."
• "Cracks on the road to Christian Dominion: Is the shadowy "City Elders" group collapsing?: Oklahoma-based "City Elders" group talks big about political takeover. How much of that is smoke and mirrors?"

"How Larry Summers's Bad Predictions Hurt the Planet: The clean-energy transition is faltering because of unexpectedly high interest rates, which Summers's demands to slow down the economy helped usher in. It is definitely amusing to see Larry Summers flail away at recalibrating his opinions in real time. For years, in full public view, Summers insisted that high public spending was 'the least responsible economic policy in 40 years,' and that the only way to keep the economy safe from crushing inflation was to increase unemployment significantly. With last week's report on the Consumer Price Index, we have essentially returned to Federal Reserve benchmarks on inflation on a trend basis. And this was done without a meaningful rise in unemployment; while the headline rate has skipped up half a percentage point from 3.4 to 3.9 percent, most of that is due to higher labor force participation, and it's certainly nowhere near what Summers claimed was vital. As a result, Summers has attempted to erase history. He now says that 'transitory factors' like supply bottlenecks were pushing up inflation, and now that they have eased, inflation is coming down. I appreciate Summers's obvious study of the Prospect's special issue on supply chains, but this is manifestly not what he was saying as recently as a few months ago. His entire public commentary was set up in opposition to anyone who would raise the possibility of 'transitory factors' and supply chain crunches as the source of inflation."

Ian Welsh, "How To Reduce Inflation And Create A Good Economy: Right now we have central banks attempting to control inflation by crushing wages. But wage-push demand isn't the primary driver of inflation, it is corporate profit taking (increasing prices much faster than their costs) and some genuine supply bottlenecks. This cannot be fixed by central banks except by smashing ordinary people flat, and in certain senses not even then, since it will lead to long term maldistribution of resources which will lead to real economic problems in the future: problems not based on distribution or finance, but on lack of physical ability to create what we need. If we want to fix this we have to make it so that those who control economic decision making can only do well if the population as a whole does well. That means politicians who want to help the population (not 90% of European or American pols) and corporate leaders who need the population to do well."

In CJR, "Warped Front Pages: Researchers examine the self-serving fiction of 'objective' political news" — and find out that our Newspapers of Record still haven't learned that their bias is showing.

"Palestinian Freedom, Antisemitism Accusations, And Civil Rights Law [...] The logic, of course, is that Palestinian freedom in the land 'from the river to the sea' is fundamentally incompatible with sovereignty over that land by an Israeli state constitutively committed to being specifically and exclusively a Jewish state (as opposed to a binational one)."

"Why 'Liberal' Donors Love Giving Money to the Extreme Right: Many purportedly progressive plutocrats turn reactionary on Israel and labor. If Donald Trump wins back the presidency in 2024, his second term in office will be much more authoritarian than anything he was able to achieve in his first go-round. Yet some very wealthy donors who style themselves as progressives are helping to fund Trumpian schemes to remake the government along autocratic lines.

The Onion, "Concerning New Study Finds Nation's Poverty Growing Faster Than Officials Can Build Prisons "

Charlie Stross, "We're sorry we created the Torment Nexus [...] And rather than giving the usual cheerleader talk making predictions about technology and society, I'd like to explain why I—and other SF authors—are terrible guides to the future. Which wouldn't matter, except a whole bunch of billionaires are in the headlines right now because they pay too much attention to people like me. Because we invented the Torment Nexus as a cautionary tale and they took it at face value and decided to implement it for real." And their version of those ideas is weirder than anything you've imagined.

Rob Hansen's got a book out on how science fiction fans have impacted the real world, Beyond Fandom: Fans, Culture & Politics in the 20th Century

This year's Children in Need Doctor Who Special is about 5:08 long.

"All 214 Beatles Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best: We had to count them all." I disagreed strongly with some of his choices from the very first, but it's still some good writing and some interesting insights from someone who seems to know and love The Beatles.

The Beatles, "There's A Place"

31 October 2023

Somebody lookin' over his shoulder at me

Well, the House Republicans finally picked a majority leader, probably because a lot of them really didn't know who he was so there weren't enough people who hated him yet, so now we have an open opponent of separation of church and state running the chamber. Mike Johnson is a product of The Family Research Council.

"260 "9/11s" in Gaza — and Other Paint-by-Numbers Horrors: If a picture's worth a thousand words, how many numbers would it take to paint the picture of Israel's US-backed bombing of Gaza? President Biden used nightmare-as-arithmetic rhetoric when he discussed the Hamas massacre. 'For a nation the size of Israel,' he said, 'it was like fifteen 9/11s.' That's true, proportionally speaking, and it's ghastly. More than 30 Israeli children were killed on October 7. Their murders alone are the equivalent of roughly 1,000 US deaths on 9/11. Dozens of children are in captivity and their safe return should be a top priority. But what about Palestine? How many 9/11s has it experienced since October 7 — and in the decades before? What other losses has it endured? Let's review the tragic numbers, then summarize President Biden's proposed spending package (preview: it's shamefully inadequate) before pivoting to US public opinion and politics."

Data For Progress: "Voters across party lines agree that the US should call for a ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza." 56% of Republicans, 57% of independents, 80% of Democrats, and 66% of all voters say so. As usual, Congress is somewhere else.

"IRS advances innovative Direct File project for 2024 tax season; free IRS-run pilot option projected to be available for eligible taxpayers in 13 states. Getting rid of the H&R Block grift would be a big relief.

"Janeese Lewis George Wants to Support Local News With Government Funding. Voters Would Decide Who Gets the Money. Lewis George is backing a first-of-its-kind program to prop up local media outlets of all sizes. [...] Lewis George introduced the Local News Funding Act Monday, which, if passed, will set aside 0.1 percent of the city's budget each year (about $11.5 million based on the current spending plan) to help prop up locally focused outlets. According to a copy of the legislation provided to Loose Lips, the bill would empower residents to decide how that funding is allocated by letting them award 'news coupons' to organizations they support."

Dylan Saba, "A Surge in Suppression: It's never been this bad: This piece was originally commissioned by an editor at The Guardian, who asked me to write about the wave of retaliation and censorship of political expression in solidarity with Palestinians that we've seen in the past two weeks. Amid my work as an attorney on some of the resulting cases, I carved out some time to write the following. Minutes before it was supposed to be published, the head of the opinion desk wrote me an email that they were unable to run the piece. When I called her for an explanation she had none, and blamed an unnamed higher-up. That a piece on censorship would get killed in this way—without explanation, but plainly in the interest of political suppression—is, beyond the irony of the matter, a grave indictment of the media response to this critical moment in history."

"Wealth Inequality Permeates US Society, No Matter How You Slice It: New data on wealth distribution in the US confirms what we already knew: within all major demographic groups, whether by age, race, or education, wealth is concentrated at the top. The US is a deeply unequal society." A reminder that all the various demographic wealth gaps are at the top, not the bottom.

A review by DDay, "Lies My Corporation Told Me: A new book lays out 150 years of corporate stooges making bogus arguments. [...] The book is called Corporate Bullsh*t, written by anti-privatization advocate Donald Cohen, journalist Joan Walsh, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. Together, they slot the rebuttals that corporate mouthpieces, lobbyists, and their allies in government and media make to virtually every government and social program, from the abolition of slavery to the increase in the minimum wage. [...] Going all the way back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, corporate mouthpieces have argued that any attempt to protect workers or boost their wages will destroy jobs."

RIP: "Richard Roundtree, Suave Star of Shaft Dies at 81. [...] Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his manager, Patrick McMinn, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy. 'Breast cancer is not gender specific,' he said four years later. 'And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it, and it's been quite a number of years now. I'm a survivor.'" The character who made him a star was also cool: "'When a friend of his — a white homosexual bartender — gives him a rather hopeful caress, Shaft is not threatened, only amused. He has no identity problems, so he can afford to be cheerful under circumstances that would send a lesser hero into the kind of personality crisis that in a movie usually ends in a gunfight, or, at the least, a barroom brawl.'" People may complain about "blaxpoitation movies", but I don't think they understand what a ground-breaker Roundtree was as Shaft. (Although, I admit, watching those opening credits cracks me right up.)

RIP: "Friends star Matthew Perry dead aged 54," drowned, apparently in a jacuzzi. He was the only reason I had to watch Friends, at least for the first season. Then someone decided to dumb him down and it was no fun for me anymore.

"The NIH's 'How to Become a Billionaire' Program: An obscure company affiliated with a former NIH employee is offered the exclusive license for a government-funded cancer drug. As the Senate holds confirmation hearings today for a new director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency quietly filed a proposal last month to grant an exclusive patent for a cancer drug, potentially worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, to an obscure company staffed by one of its former employees. Exclusive patents are typically given to companies so they can raise investment capital for the long process of bringing a drug to market. But in this case, the NIH invented and manufactured the treatment in question, and is sponsoring the clinical trials. An exclusive patent transfers all the benefit of a drug discovery from the government to an individual company. In this case, the ultimate beneficiary would be a former researcher who worked on the technology while in the government. 'I'm sure this is a fine fellow, but why give former employee a monopoly?' said James Love of Knowledge Ecology International, which tracks drug patent issues. 'He's going to have generational wealth if it succeeds. At no risk to him, because the trial is funded.'"

"Larry Summers And The Crypto Con: This morning, my colleagues Julian Scoffield and Henry Burke have a piece out in The American Prospect about Larry Summers and the ever growing but little known ties he has to an array of shady financial companies. The latest development is that Digital Currency Group (DCG), a firm that Summers advised for years, and its subsidiary Genesis Global Trading now face prosecution from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the New York Attorney General for fraud. Oh, and the Department of Justice has been investigating since earlier this year. It's getting hard to keep track!" It would be so gratifying to see Larry Summers behind bars.

"Pity the Landlord" Is the 'mom-and-pop' landlord a myth? [...] Eccles's widespread media presence is no accident. In 2019, he became one of the public faces of Responsible Rent Reform—a faux-grassroots group backed by the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), the largest landlord organization in the state—which has set about weaponizing the stories of a dozen 'mom-and-pop' landlords to undermine rent regulations. Eccles, in other words, is not an everyman plucked by the papers by chance; for years, he has been part of a landlord lobby that has become increasingly organized in response to tenant protections passed by the New York State legislature in 2019 and to the economic precarity of the pandemic. His social justice-inflected grievances are the bleeding edge of a revanchist development in New York housing debates: landlords, especially the smaller ones, have begun repurposing the identitarian language of systemic oppression in a relentless public campaign against rent regulation and eviction protections." A lot of money and a lot of spin has gone into trying to prevent protections for tenants all over the country, but racecraft has become a standard trick.

"UK Labour party: The curious case of Britain's forgotten 2017 election: Corbyn polled just a few hundred thousand fewer votes than Blair in 1997's landslide and still has higher approval ratings than Starmer. His erasure from UK political memory is telling [...] Following Labour's disastrous defeat in the May 2021 Hartlepool byelection, shadow cabinet member Steve Reed declared that the problem remained Corbyn - who had stood down more than a year before - and that Labour hadn't 'changed enough' from the party that voters 'comprehensively rejected in 2019'. But Labour under Corbyn had won Hartlepool in both 2017 and 2019 - in 2017 with almost twice the share of the vote the party gained at the byelection in 2021."

"America needs a bigger, better bureaucracy: They're from the government, and they really are here to help. [...] I believe that the U.S. suffers from a distinct lack of state capacity. We've outsourced many of our core government functions to nonprofits and consultants, resulting in cost bloat and the waste of taxpayer money. We've farmed out environmental regulation to the courts and to private citizens, resulting in paralysis for industry and infrastructure alike. And we've left ourselves critically vulnerable to threats like pandemics and — most importantly — war. It's time for us to bring back the bureaucrats."

"Why Big Tech, Cops, and Spies Were Made for One Another: The American surveillance state is a public-private partnership. [...] From experience, I can tell you that Silicon Valley techies are pretty sanguine about commercial surveillance: 'Why should I care if Google wants to show me better ads?' But they are much less cool about government spying: 'The NSA? Those are the losers who weren't smart enough to get an interview at Google.' And likewise from experience, I can tell you that government employees and contractors are pretty cool with state surveillance: 'Why would I worry about the NSA spying on me? I already gave the Office of Personnel Management a comprehensive dossier of all possible kompromat in my past when I got my security clearance.' But they are far less cool with commercial surveillance: 'Google? Those creeps would sell their mothers for a nickel. To the Chinese.'"

"How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen—Four Billionaire Techno-Oligarchs—Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality: Four very powerful billionaires—Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreessen—are creating a world where 'nothing is true and all is spectacle.' If we are to inquire how we got to a place of radical income inequality, post-truth reality, and the looming potential for a second American Civil War, we need look no further than these four—'the biggest wallets,' to paraphrase historian Timothy Snyder, 'paying for the most blinding lights.'"

"The Pirate Preservationists" — There's a great deal of cultural history we can only access because someone ignored the rules.

I don't actually remember Tom Baker as the villain in the Sinbad movie and I didn't recognize him from this picture.

Al Kooper and Steve Stills, "Season of the Witch"

16 October 2023

Look, yeah, but don't touch

Sy Hersh, "'Netanyahu Is Finished': The Bibi doctrine—his belief that he could control Hamas—compromised Israeli security and has now begat a bloody war [...] The most important thing I needed to understand, the Israeli insider told me, is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 'is finished. He is a walking dead man. He will stay in office only until the shooting stops . . . maybe another month or two.' He served as prime minister from 1996 until 1999 and again, as leader of the right-wing Likud Party, from 2009 to 2021, returning for a third stint in late 2022. 'Bibi was always opposed to the 1993 Oslo Accords,' the insider said, which initially gave the Palestinian Authority nominal control over both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. When he returned to office in 2009, the insider said, 'Bibi chose to support Hamas' as an alternative to the Palestinian Authority, 'and gave them money and established them in Gaza.' An arrangement was made with Qatar, which began sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the Hamas leadership with Israeli approval. The insider told me that 'Bibi was convinced that he would have more control over Hamas with the Qatari money—let them occasionally fire rockets into southern Israel and have access to jobs inside Israel—than he would with the Palestinian Authority. He took that risk."

"The Violence in Palestine and Israel Is the Tragic Fruit of Brutal Oppression: The tragic scenes unfolding in Palestine and Israel are a chilling reminder of the horrors that occupation creates — and the urgency of dismantling Israel's blockades and apartheid system." For months now we have been seeing increasingly brutal attacks on Palestinians, with settler mobs burning villages and killing civilians with no intervention from anywhere, and yet the media treats a retaliatory strike from Hamas as "unprovoked".

The Times of Israel, "For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it's blown up in our faces: The premier's policy of treating the terror group as a partner, at the expense of Abbas and Palestinian statehood, has resulted in wounds that will take Israel years to heal from. For years, the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group."

"Is Landmark Technology's Two-Decade Patent Assault On E-Commerce Finally Over?: Landmark Technology's U.S. Patent No. 7,010,508, and its predecessor, are very likely two of the most-abused patents in U.S. history. These patents, under two different owners, have been used to threaten thousands of small businesses since 2001." Someone finally took these patent trolls to court and after two years of litigation said no, you can't claim a patent for just doing ordinary stuff all computers routinely do.

Howie Klein on "What The Senate Appointment Tells Us About Laphonza Butler AND Presidential Wanna Be Gavin Newsom: Another mediocre corporatist appointment from Gavin Newsom shouldn't surprise anyone. Even after he came out with his cringe-worthy statement about appointing a Black woman, he certainly was never going to appoint a progressive icon like Barbara Lee. So he made up a plausible excuse about not appointing anyone running in 2024 (ie, Barbara Lee). Like with all of his appointments, he wanted someone from the corporate-friendly wing of the Democratic Party. So what do we know about Maryland resident Laphonza Butler?" We know that her "liberal" credentials aren't what they might seem to people who don't know about how EMILY's List has turned into a corrupt money-making machine that pushes conservative women over progressive candidates, and that she's one of the reasons why Uber and Lyft drivers still don't have the rights they need. And that's just how Newsome wants it. And something curious happened last month, too: "Laphonza Butler's Emily's List Spends Millions On Kamala Harris While Laying Off Grassroots Staff."

"Starbucks Illegally Kept Wages, Benefits From Union Workers: Starbucks Corp. broke federal labor law when it boosted wages and benefits only for workers in non-unionized stores across the US last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge held. Thursday's decision from Administrative Law Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone marks the first nationwide ruling against the coffee giant amid its resistance to a unionization wave that began two years ago. Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act in August 2022 by lifting wages to at least $15 an hour and providing benefits such as credit card tipping, increased training, and faster sick time accrual to all stores that weren't unionized, the judge said."

"The Open Plot to Dismantle the Federal Government [...] As he runs again for a second term, Trump is vowing to 'dismantle the deep state' and ensure that the government he would inherit aligns with his vision for the country. Unlike during his 2016 campaign, however, Trump and his supporters on the right—including several former high-ranking members of his administration—have developed detailed proposals for executing this plan. Immediately upon his inauguration in January 2025, they would seek to convert thousands of career employees into appointees fireable at will by the president. They would assert full White House control over agencies, including the Department of Justice, that for decades have operated as either fully or partially independent government departments." And people who claim to oppose "crony capitalism" didn't even gasp.

"The Democrats Lost September: You guys awake? [...] I'll return to the Democrats in a moment, but for my money the most revealing development of all had nothing to do with Trump, or the Democratic Party. Instead it was how Republicans reacted to the discovery that Menendez appears to be on the take from foreign interests who've plied him with cash and gold bouillon. On almost any other timeline, Republicans would've tried to make not just Menendez but every Democrat in Washington call to mind sleazy machine pols whose pockets jingle and spill over as they walk because they're stuffed with bribes. But not on this timeline. Not on the timeline where the GOP has closed ranks around a growing list of crooks, including George Santos and Clarence Thomas, with Trump at the center. The Republican Party has spent years preemptively sanctifying all of its internal corruption, dismissing all evidence as the product of frame-up jobs and media fabrication, because their fealty to Trump is not compatible with upholding the rule of law or accountability for lower-ranking members. And so with the party fully at war with the Justice Department and the old standards of ethical leadership, they can't now claim to say the feds have the goods in this instance, and that Menendez must thus relinquish public office. They've thus found themselves actively defending Menendez and discouraging Democrats from pressuring him to retire."

"Lawsuit Highlights Why Meat Has Been Overpriced for 40 Years: Agri Stats lets meat processors coordinate their pricing. The Justice Department finally decided to go after what it calls collusion.The federal lawsuit filed last week against Amazon, which was so hopelessly redacted we don't quite know what's in it yet, could ultimately have the biggest impact of any antitrust action we've seen in the Biden administration. By the same token, the currently active trials against Google for exclusionary dealing, against Sam Bankman-Fried for crypto fraud, and against Donald Trump for massively overstating the value of his real estate holdings are all interesting in their own way. But a separate case from the Department of Justice against an agricultural analyst service called Agri Stats is perhaps the most emblematic of the old patterns of corporate America, and the new aggressiveness of this wave of antitrust enforcement. Agri Stats, as described in the complaint, is essentially a work-around for explicit collusion by meat processors. The company delivers weekly reports based on proprietary data given to them by meat processors, which have so much granular detail that everyone in the industry knows precisely what everyone else is doing, including the prices they're offering. This allows for specific coordination that raises prices for everyone purchasing meat, while boosting profits for the processor middlemen."

"Retail theft isn't actually increasing much, major industry study finds: Retail theft has caught the attention of the masses in recent years, from startling smash-and-grab videos during the depths of the Covid pandemic to corporate earnings calls where retailers like Target and Foot Locker are discussing losses from organized retail crime more than they ever have. But the effect of theft on retailers' bottom lines is about the same as it has been for years, according to the latest data released Tuesday in the widely used industry survey conducted by the National Retail Federation."

"The Pentagon runs the top performing school system in the U.S." Why? They're well-funded, economically (and every other way) integrated, teachers are well-paid, and all the students are housed. It's worth remembering that the average American student scores overall went down as the middle-class shrank.

"The U.S. Government is preparing for a fentanyl WMD attack: Joe Biden didn't make a WMD designation, but federal agencies acted anyway — kicking off a panic among police."

RIP: "The Isley Brothers' Rudolph Isley Dead At 84" — Their hits made a surprisingly long percentage of the soundtrack of my life. Here they are in 1959 doing the original version of "Shout", which they wrote.

RIP: "Piper Laurie, Oscar-Nominated Carrie and The Hustler Star, Dead at 91: Laurie's seven-decade film and television career also included memorable roles in Twin Peaks and Children of a Lesser God." As a sex education advocate, I have invoked Carrie's mother often. But there was a whole lot more to this wonderful actress. And you might like the story of her encounter with Ronald Reagan. And here she is as Mom on Will & Grace.

"People think drug use causes homelessness. It's usually the other way around: For those who did use drugs in the last six months, 40% of people started using — more than 3 times a week —after becoming homeless. Thirty-one percent of those individuals reported using methamphetamine and 11% used nonprescription opioids more than three times per week. Those who spent most of their nights unsheltered in a non-vehicle (sleeping outside, in tents, in places not meant for human habitation) and individuals who were homeless for more than a year had higher proportions of methamphetamine and opioid use." The meth is for staying awake so you can guard your stuff.

"The Neoliberal Model Is Destroying Innovation in Science: Over the past few decades, scientists have been making fewer and fewer innovative breakthroughs. The blame lies with academia's increasingly competitive, metrics-driven model, which discourages creativity and risk-taking."

"Sex Ed Books Don't 'Groom' Kids And Teens. They Protect Them. [...] At an event, a librarian shared with Harris that It's Perfectly Normal kept disappearing from the shelves. She replaced it several times, but it kept happening, and it was beyond their budget to keep doing so. Then, one day, they all came back in a backpack with a note: 'I took this book because I thought no child or teenager should read it. Then my 14-year-old niece got pregnant, and now I realize that children do need books like this.'"

"What I Most Regret About My Decades of Legal Activism: By focusing on civil liberties but ignoring economic issues, liberals like me got defeated on both. [...] Given my background, the reversal of Roe last year felt like a crushing blow. But as I reflect on my career in the law, my greatest regrets lie elsewhere. The progressive advances of mid-20th-century America weren't, after all, only about civil rights and social justice. Equally important was the political-economic arrangement established during and after the World War II era. It featured a powerful regulatory state, aggressive antitrust enforcement, and strong labor unions. These policies kept corporate power in check and helped drive the fastest, most widely shared advance in living standards in American history. [...] In a 2003 antitrust case, for example, all of the liberals joined an opinion by Antonin Scalia that declared, 'The mere possession of monopoly power, and the concomitant charging of monopoly prices, is not only not unlawful; it is an important element of the free-market system.' In 2017, Breyer wrote the majority opinion in a case upholding the right of debt-collection companies to go after people for money they no longer owed. The same year, Sonia Sotomayor wrote an opinion that limited the Securities and Exchange Commission's power to force those found guilty of securities fraud to give up their stolen gains. Liberal judges have issued opinions like these while simultaneously championing progressive positions on issues such as abortion and voting rights. By delivering measurable wins to business-side conservatives, they have helped fuel an engine designed precisely to unravel the civil rights they held so dear. The more the courts favor big business, the more powerful big business becomes, and the more powerful big business becomes, the more financial support it can lend to the right-wing legal movement."

"The One Media Conspiracy Theory That's True: It's kind of impressive how long cable news has been openly corrupt. [...] There are, to be sure, segments of the American media that are riven with devastating flaws. But like most conspiracy theories, the real conspiracies aren't secrets. They're the things we already know. The 'elite media'—the NYT, the New Yorker, the Washington Post—is, in fact, a schmoozy high class backwater riddled with people who got their jobs because they were roommates with the right person at Yale. They come by their elitism honestly. They are products made by and for people whose entire lives have been defined by their ability to ascend America's cultural ladder. This is their biggest failing, and the cause of their worst blind spots, which are significant. These types of publications also navigate the demands of access journalism with varying levels of success, always in danger of becoming too cozy with the other elite power centers they are covering. At the same time, these are big institutions that employ more good reporters than any other institutions in this country and have the resources to produce a quantity of useful journalism that nowhere else does. They are flawed, they are elitist, and they are vital. All of these things are true. When they fuck up, we all yell at them, and if the yelling gets loud enough they sometimes make a change. None of this is shadowy or concealed. Have the brightest writer at your Oklahoma community newspaper try to get a job at the New Yorker. They can't! Ta-da! Elitism! It ain't hard to sniff out." But when the cable news anchors are connected political operatives or relatives of powerful politicians, that's not just your standard elitism, that's a cesspool.

Cory Doctorow reviews a book, "Brian Merchant's Blood In the Machine: In Blood In the Machine, Brian Merchant delivers the definitive history of the Luddites, and the clearest analysis of the automator's playbook, where 'entrepreneurs'' lawless extraction from workers is called 'innovation' and 'inevitable'"

"James Carville Has Never Stopped Being Wrong: Like an aged one-hit wonder, James Carville has made a career of playing his favorite tune over and over: a warmed-over centrist jeremiad against the Left that has proved to be as wrong as it is stale."

How Whittaker Chambers reviewed Atlas Shrugged: "Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal."

"Alan Lomax's Massive Music Archive Is Online: Features 17,000 Historic Blues & Folk Recordings: A huge treasure trove of songs and interviews recorded by the legendary folklorist Alan Lomax from the 1940s into the 1990s have been digitized and made available online for free listening. The Association for Cultural Equity, a nonprofit organization founded by Lomax in the 1980s, has posted some 17,000 recordings.

I clicked on this link somewhere and didn't hate it. The Killers, Hot Fuss

The Isley Brothers, "Who's That Lady?"

30 September 2023

And all fell before the bull

Thanks to Jay Sheckley, who brought this to our attention: "THE OFFICE AT NIGHT is a 2012 acrylic cityscape by living UK artist Phil Lockwood. Every window shows a different Edward Hopper painting."

"Clarence Thomas' Latest Pay-to-Play Scandal Finally Connects All the Dots [...] Mark Joseph Stern: The ProPublica piece identifies two different phenomena. The first is Bohemian Grove, which is where the Kochs developed this relationship with Clarence Thomas over the years. And then, out of that relationship, came Thomas' attendance at donor summits with the Kochs, where donors are promised that if they pay a bunch of money—hundreds of thousands of dollars—they will be able to attend this super exclusive event where Clarence Thomas speaks. And these events include luxury travel on private jets for Thomas. It's clearly a fundraiser. These events and flights should have been disclosed, and they weren't. That doesn't exactly build up trust for Justice Thomas. And it doesn't encourage faith that his jurisprudence is rooted exclusively in his own views of the Constitution and the law. Thomas loves to say he's not evolving, right? He loves to say he's steady as a rock. But there's one area where that has really not applied, which is this issue of Chevron deference—deferring to administrative agencies and their reasonable interpretations of ambiguous federal laws. For years, Thomas was a strong supporter of Chevron deference and even wrote a major decision expanding it. But after he was cultivated by the Kochs and became their close friend, he drifted away from Chevron, ultimately renounced and repudiated Chevron deference and is now on the brink of issuing or joining a decision that will overturn Chevron deference this coming term, in a case that is partly funded and supported by the Koch network."

"U.S. Helped Pakistan Get IMF Bailout With Secret Arms Deal For Ukraine, Leaked Documents Reveal: The U.S.-brokered loan let Pakistan's military postpone elections, deepen a brutal crackdown, and jail former Prime Minister Imran Khan. [...] The protests are the latest chapter in a year-and-a-half-long political crisis roiling the country. In April 2022, the Pakistani military, with the encouragement of the U.S., helped organize a no-confidence vote to remove Prime Minister Imran Khan. Ahead of the ouster, State Department diplomats privately expressed anger to their Pakistani counterparts over what they called Pakistan's 'aggressively neutral' stance on the Ukraine war under Khan. They warned of dire consequences if Khan remained in power and promised 'all would be forgiven' if he were removed."

I opposed the DMCA when it was proposed, and I still think it needs to be overturned and replaced with something that serves the public instead. Cory Doctorow: "Apple fucked us on right to repair (again): Right to repair has no cannier, more dedicated adversary than Apple, a company whose most innovative work is dreaming up new ways to sneakily sabotage electronics repair while claiming to be a caring environmental steward, a lie that covers up the mountains of e-waste that Apple dooms our descendants to wade through. [...] But it can't be the end. When Bill Clinton signed DMCA 1201 into law 25 years ago, he loaded a gun and put it on the nation's mantelpiece and now it's Act III and we're all getting sprayed with bullets. Everything from ovens to insulin pumps, thermostats to lightbulbs, has used DMCA 1201 to limit repair, modification and improvement. Congress needs to rid us of this scourge, to let us bring back all the benefits of interoperability. I explain how this all came to be – and what we should do about it – in my new Verso Books title, The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation."

RIP: "David McCallum, Star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS, Dies at 90." We all loved Illya, didn't we?

RIP: "Diane Feinstein at 90. All I'm saying is that Newsome should appoint either Barbara Lee or Katie Porter and not Adam Schiff.

RIP: "Terry Kirkman, Co-Founder of the Association, Dead at 83: Terry Kirkman, founding member of the '60s folk-rock group the Association, has died at the age of 83. The singer's family confirmed his passing to the Los Angeles Times, noting his death was due to congestive heart failure following a long illness." Most people never knew he'd worked with Frank Zappa, David Crosby, and Cass Elliot before they all went on to other things. He was an extraordinary songwriter and I'm always left a little breathless at the unusual beauty of "Cherish".

"The Ludicrous, Depressing Appeal of the Crypto Guy: How Sam Bankman-Fried and other unscrupulous CEOs managed to swindle so many people. In his monumental history Debt: The First 5,000 Years, the anthropologist David Graeber accused economists of inventing 'imaginary villages' as the settings for their just-so stories about the ancient origins of financial exchange. Five thousand years later, it is hard not to apply the same phrase to the strange world of cryptocurrency, a skein of imaginary communities and exchanges that claimed to be reinventing trade and commerce from first principles even as, in reality, they reinvented forms of fraud and exploitation that are almost as old as money itself. Money, Groucho Marx supposedly observed, can't buy happiness, but it does let you choose your own form of misery. And fake money? All the more so. [...] It occurred to shockingly few people that the guys at the top made all that money not because they were smart, not because they were good, but because they were thieves."

"Beyond obscenity: A century after the trial against 'Ulysses', we must revisit the civil liberties arguments of its defender, Morris Ernst [...] The fact that Ulysses was still banned in the US a full decade after its publication struck denizens of the literary world as absurd. Malcolm Cowley, editor of The New Republic, captured the exasperation when he wrote that 'James Joyce's position in literature is almost as important as that of Einstein in science. Preventing American authors from reading him is about as stupid as it would be to place an embargo on the theory of relativity.' But freeing Joyce's masterwork from the clutches of the censors would require prodigious effort, legal aplomb, and federal judges willing to hear the book's defenders."

Historical Highest Marginal Income Tax Rates (Top Marginal Rate)

The Association, "Requiem for the Masses"

21 September 2023

But I found out you were puttin' me on

It's the blue supermoon, which he said I should credit "from your Baltimore friend Mike," which I object to on the grounds that I have more than one of those, so he allowed as how I could admit he's Mike Kurman.

It astonishes me to say so, but there are some things the Biden administration is doing that I would like to see continue and I'll really really hate seeing Republicans replace the people who are doing them. "Biden's NLRB Brings Workers' Rights Back From the Dead: Last Friday, the National Labor Relations Board released its most important ruling in many decades. In a party-line decision in Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, LLC, the Board ruled that when a majority of a company's employees file union affiliation cards, the employer can either voluntarily recognize their union or, if not, ask the Board to run a union recognition election. If, in the run-up to or during that election, the employer commits an unfair labor practice, such as illegally firing pro-union workers (which has become routine in nearly every such election over the past 40 years, as the penalties have been negligible), the Board will order the employer to recognize the union and enter forthwith into bargaining. The Cemex decision was preceded by another, one day earlier, in which the Board, also along party lines, set out rules for representation elections which required them to be held promptly after the Board had been asked to conduct them, curtailing employers' ability to delay them, often indefinitely. Taken together, this one-two punch effectively makes union organizing possible again, after decades in which unpunished employer illegality was the most decisive factor in reducing the nation's rate of private-sector unionization from roughly 35 percent to the bare 6 percent at which it stands today."

"Eighth Circuit Says Cops Can Come With Probable Cause For An Arrest AFTER They've Already Arrested Someone: Well, this is a bit of a doozy. This case — via the Institute for Justice — involves a possible First Amendment violation but somehow ends with a judicial blessing of cops who make things up after the fact to justify an arrest that has already taken place." A guy was walking down the road and a cop stopped him and demanded he identify himself. Since the cop had no right to do so without probable cause, he refused. So the cop arrested him. Then he gets him to the station and finds out he can't charge him with "failure to identify" so he asks around for something to get him on. They let him go after a couple of hours but he sued, and it turns out that there's actually a law, never enforced, against walking on that side of the road. But there's case law saying that if the law isn't normally enforced, it doesn't excuse the arrest from being retaliatory rather than probable cause. But the court just waved it away.

Google is working hard to avoid the mistake Bill Gates made and they're trying to stay off your TV screen, but The American Prospect is covering the show. "Justice Department Says Google 'Flexed Its Muscle' as a Monopolist: On day one of the historic monopolization trial, the government put Google's chief economist on the stand to show that the company valued default status on browsers and devices. [...] Despite the stakes of the trial, the remainder of the legal proceeding will take place in a near-total blackout, since requests for public audio have been denied by Judge Amit Mehta and even in-person attendants are restricted from digital access inside the courtroom. For nearly two decades, Google has served as the 'on-ramp' and gatekeeper of the digital world through its dominance of search engine functions, which is the target of this case. The government has unveiled a separate case against Google for its rollup of the digital advertising market. Though related, that case relies on distinct evidentiary claims, some of which will feature prominently in the current trial. To win a Sherman Act monopolization case given the prevailing understanding of the law by most courts, the government not only has to prove that Google's market share qualifies it as a monopoly, but also show that it's used this dominant position to harm competition. That's the task ahead for the DOJ Antitrust Division's team, led by attorney Kenneth Dintzer, who also served on the Microsoft case, the last major tech antitrust case from the late 1990s."

"The 5th Circuit Is the Blown Fuse of American Jurisprudence: According to one of its own, 'the Good Ship Fifth Circuit is afire.' [...] If you want to fast-track a truly terrible idea to the carefully engineered conservative majority on the Supreme Court, the best way to do it is to file it in Texas. If your case fails there, take it down to the 5th Circuit for some CPR. Once there, your chances to prevail are fairly good. This forces the other side to throw itself on the tender mercies of the Alito Court. Even some of the 5th Circuit's veteran conservative judges can hear the whistle of that railroad."

"As judges, we've made thousands of bail decisions. Here's the truth about detention and public safety: Often when judges determine that a person accused of a crime can safely be released from jail and return to court when directed, they face criticism for 'letting the accused out' by reducing monetary bail or 'allowing' the accused to bail at all. This lack of understanding around the bail process undermines the public's trust in the rule of law. As retired and current California trial court judges with more than 90 years of collective experience, we have presided over and made thousands of difficult release decisions. While each of our state's 58 county superior courts may be at a different point on their path toward a safer, fairer and evidence-based pretrial justice process, the California Constitution makes clear that detention is to be the limited exception, not the rule. And studies of this approach to date have reinforced that it promotes, rather than undermines, public safety."

Clarence Thomas claimed gun restrictions weren't around before the 20th Century. "The Volunteer Moms Poring Over Archives to Prove Clarence Thomas Wrong [...] Over and over again, Birch and Karabian found the same thing: strict limits on the use and possession of firearms, dating back at least to the 1850s, that belie Bruen's vision of a 19th-century Wild West where the right to bear arms was almost never infringed on. The regulations uncovered were consistent as to weapons and across cities throughout Orange County, one of the more conservative counties in the state. 'Many of these limitations were enacted shortly after cities were incorporated as part of their very first batch of laws,' Karabian said."

"Laura Kuenssberg's Time as BBC Political Editor has been a Catastrophic, Systemic Failure: Thanks to managers at the BBC, the outgoing Kuenssberg repeated lies rather than challenging them, says former BBC journalist Patrick Howse [...] What they got was a journalist with access to the upper reaches of the Government, with a determination to get on air and tell everyone the whispers that she had heard from ministers, advisors and officials – before Sky or ITN. What the BBC needed was someone who could take a step back, away from the scrum, and tell audiences when they were being lied to. That was something neither the BBC nor Kuenssberg has ever come to terms with."

Amazing piece by Cory Doctorow on the vicious wage-theft artists are suffering, triggered by one artist's reaction when "Bill Willingham puts his graphic novel series "Fables" into the public domain." As a long-time fan of Fables, the graphic jumped out at me from his lenghty Xitter thread, but these reminders of how the heads of Disney and Warner really belong on jail stir my blood. But it's all part of a bigger story, too, of organized chaos: "For usury, the chaos is a feature, not a bug. Their corporate strategists take the position that any ambiguity should be automatically resolved in their favor, with the burden of proof on accused debtors, not the debt collectors. The scumbags who lost your deed and stole your house say that it's up to you to prove that you own it. And since you've just been rendered homeless, you don't even have a house to secure a loan you might use to pay a lawyer to go to court. [...] The chaos, in other words, is a feature and not a bug. It provides cover for contract-violating conduct, up to and including wage-theft. Remember when Disney/Marvel stole money from beloved science fiction giant Alan Dean Foster, whose original Star Wars novelization was hugely influential on George Lucas, who changed the movie to match Foster's ideas? Disney claimed that when it acquired Lucasfilm, it only acquired its assets, but not its liabilities. That meant that while it continued to hold Foster's license to publish his novel, they were not bound by an obligation to pay Foster for this license, since that liability was retained by the (now defunct) original company"

Pareene, "Neal Katyal and the Depravity of Big Law: The Democratic lawyer's sickening defense of corporate immunity in a Supreme Court case reveals a growing moral rot in the legal community. The United States has a political class that mistakes its professional norms for ethics. Mainstream political journalists mindlessly grant anonymity to professional liars. Elected officials put collegiality and institutional procedure over the needs and interests of their constituents. And as for lawyers, they have refined this tendency into what amounts to a religion of self-justification. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution establishes that every American has the right to “the Assistance of Counsel” if they are prosecuted for a crime. This was a pointed rejection of English common law, which barred felony defendants from hiring counsel to represent them. Over time, the Assistance of Counsel clause came to mean that everyone prosecuted for a crime had the right to competent and effective representation, even if they could not afford it. From that right, the American legal community developed a core tenet: Everyone deserves representation. But once the American legal community invented corporate law and the large firm, it continued developing that tenet until it became so divorced from notions of liberty or equality under the law that it now works as a kind of force field preventing lawyers from facing any social or professional repercussions for their actions on behalf of their clients. Everyone has a right to counsel, and every lawyer has a right to earn a buck. [...] He is about as close as you could come to the embodiment of Big Law's connection to the institutional Democratic Party. And last week he argued that because the corporation that supplied Zyklon B to the Nazis for use in their extermination camps was not indicted at Nuremberg, Nestle and Cargill should not be held liable for their use of child slave labor. In his argument before the court, Katyal espoused a view of corporate immunity so expansive that even the conservative judges seemed skeptical. If you took him at his word, he was effectively asking the Supreme Court to make it impossible for any foreigner to sue any company for any harm done to them, up to and including kidnapping and enslavement. [...] To defend an accused murderer or rapist in a criminal trial is a straightforward endorsement of the idea of the presumption of innocence, not an endorsement of murder or rape. That's the act enshrined in our Bill of Rights. To make a career out of defending and expanding corporate power at the expense of employee and consumer power, on the other hand, is simply to endorse those things."

Scott Hechinger recommends: "Extraordinary work again from @TeenVogue -- the best justice journalism outlet in the country. On the day that cash bail is finally eliminated in Illinois, they release a critical explainer on 'Copaganda.'"

I feel bad for Naomi Klein, who people keep confusing with Naomi Wolf. An excerpt from her book, Doppleganger, appears in the Guardian, talking about how she eventually became obsessed with that confusion as Wolf veered radically to the right and people kept attacking Klein for things Wolf had said, but even more the confusion of how her first-name twin, once a highly-regarded and successful feminist author, had ended up sitting beside Steve Bannon railing against Covid masking.

"Chris Hedges: The Pedagogy of Power: The ruling classes always work to keep the powerless from understanding how power functions. This assault has been aided by a cultural left determined to banish 'dead white male' philosophers."

David Klion's review of Martin Peretz's memoir, "Everybody Hates Marty," is really far too kind, and therefore unsatisfying, but that probably owes a lot to the fact that he mostly just reviewed the book rather than reviewing the legacy of Martin Peretz, who helped destroy the world.

"Samantha Geimer on Roman Polanski: 'We email a little bit': In 1977, the film director had 'unlawful sex' with 13-year-old Samantha Geimer, an event that has overshadowed their lives ever since. So why would he get in touch with her now? [...] As the victim of a sex crime, she isn't unusual in saying that the experience of going to court and the attendant publicity was more painful than the incident itself. The difference, of course, is that Geimer has never been allowed to forget it. 'When I see his name, it's always followed by 'convicted' or '13 year old'.' She smiles strenuously. 'And that's always me.'"

Political Research Associates has updated their Glossary of right-wing terms.

"The church bell chimed 'til it rang 29 times / For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald." "At 3 p.m. Tuesday, the bell at Mariners' Church rang out again — now chiming 30 times to honor those perished sailors along with the artist who famously memorialized them in song."

"The Mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge: Why is this bridge here?"

Tourist destination: James Garner statue, Norman, OK.

Gene Clarke, "Feel A Whole Lot Better" (1985 version from Firebyrd)