26 April 2023

Did you have to traumatize my kids?

Spring Waterfall On The River Kaspa is an oil painting by Nina Belanova.

The April issue of The American Prospect is about "How economic policy models dominate D.C.—and put invisible shackles on what ideas lawmakers offer to govern our lives—despite often being biased, incomplete, and inaccurate." Rakeen Mabud and David Dayen introduce with "Hidden in Plain Sight: The distorting power of macroeconomic policy models." That's followed up by Joseph Stiglitz with "How Models Get the Economy Wrong: Seemingly complex and sophisticated econometric modeling often fails to take into account common sense and observable reality." And I'm looking forward to reading "The Beltway's Favorite Bogus Budget Model: The Penn Wharton Budget Model, bankrolled by finance moguls, is out to grow its power in Washington. [...] In other words, Penn Wharton consciously and deliberately attempts to set the terms of debate, mainly through heightening fears about deficits, so that any public spending is viewed unfavorably. This helps push policy in a particular direction, one that aligns with the political and financial elites who support and fund the project."

Also at TAP, Harold Meyerson on Newsom doing something good that they all should do: "California Goes In for Drugmaking: The state will make and distribute insulin at cost. That should be a model for every other state." But The Lever is looking at Newsom from another angle, "California's Crypto Champion: Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed crypto regulations and spearheaded industry spin pieces for the benefit of his friends and donors in Big Tech."

"US supreme court blocks ruling limiting access to abortion pill: Federal judge in Texas ruled in early April to suspend FDA-approved mifepristone used in more than half of abortions in US. The supreme court decided on Friday to block a lower court ruling placing significant restrictions on the abortion drug mifepristone. The decision came in the most pivotal abortion rights case to make its way through the courts since Roe v Wade was overturned last year. More than half of abortions in the US are completed using pills. The case was brought by a conservative Christian legal group arguing the Federal Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone more than 23 years ago. The Biden administration vigorously defended the FDA against the charge, emphasizing its rigorous safety reviews of the drug and the potential for regulatory chaos if plaintiffs and judges not versed in scientific and medical arguments begin to undermine the agency's decision-making." Alito and Thomas dissenting.

"Texas Judge Cosplaying As Medical Expert Has Consequences Beyond The Abortion Pill: The FDA has the power to ignore the mifepristone ruling, legal experts say. But only the courts can cure its dangerous implications. [...] In fact, Kacsmaryk's ruling in the mifepristone case, known as Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has a lot in common with the Dobbs opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito: It ignores science, wholly reimagines facts, and cites less-than-credible sources to arrive at a preordained destination."

The latest leaker wasn't intending to be a whistleblower, he was just showing off. But the story should still be in what he leaked: The intelligence agencies responsible for crafting public lies have been shamed and embarrassed by the exposure of their duplicity in any number of arenas. But the damage to their reputations in no way undermines the national security of We the People of the United States. In fact, it advances the incomparable value of 'an alert and knowledgeable citizenry,' which President Eisenhower described as critical to 'compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.' [...] While the teen who came to know Texeira distinguishes him from whistleblowers like Snowden & Ellsberg based on their respective motivations, the constitutional functions they have each played (informing the public despite the machinations of bureaucrats) is remarkably similar. In any case, focusing on the leaker—rather than what he revealed—is a classic tactic of intelligence agencies responding to embarrassing leaks."

"Trump's Idling Plane Got More TV Coverage Than Biden Cutting Healthcare for 15 Million: Last spring, the Biden administration and a Democratic House approved a policy that would kick 15 million people off of Medicaid. States are now set to begin dropping people from the rolls, reversing the record-low uninsured rate reached early last year. But if you were watching TV news, you might have missed it."

Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, "Clarence Thomas Broke the Law and It Isn't Even Close: It probably won't matter. But it should. ProPublica's scrupulously reported new piece on Justice Clarence Thomas' decadeslong luxury travel on the dime of a single GOP megadonor will probably not shock you at all. Sure, the dollar amounts spent are astronomical, and of course the justice failed to report any of it, and of course the megadonor insists that he and Thomas are dear old friends, so of course the superyacht and the flights on the Bombardier Global 5000 jet and the resorts are all perfectly benign. So while the details are shocking, the pattern here is hardly a new one. This is a longstanding ethics loophole that has been exploited by parties with political interests in cases before the court to curry favor in exchange for astonishing junkets and perks. It is allowed to happen. [...] Before the outrage dries up, however, it is worth zeroing in on two aspects of the ProPublica report that do have lasting legal implications. First, the same people who benefited from the lax status quo continue to fight against any meaningful reforms that might curb the justices' gravy train. Second, the rules governing Thomas' conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law: Without the strong threat of enforcement, a putative public servant like Thomas will thumb his nose at the law." And it sure looks like Crow has been bribing public officials.

Within hours of Pro Publica releasing their report, a whole lot of right-wing weirdos rose up to defend the lovely Mr. Crow. This in itself should have raised concerns, and The Lever was on the case. "The Paid Pundits Defending Clarence Thomas And His Billionaire Benefactor: Right-wing pundits rushed to defend Harlan Crow's gifts to Clarence Thomas and his Nazi memorabilia collection — without disclosing their ties to the mega-donor."

Andrew Cockburn in Harper's, "Alternative Facts: How the media failed Julian Assange [...] That Assange's former collaborators have rallied to his defense and, by extension, their own, is an entirely welcome development, spurred in large part by advocacy from James Goodale, the former chief counsel of the New York Times who, half a century ago, masterminded the paper's legal victory in the Pentagon Papers case—establishing the right of the press to publish classified information, a right now threatened by Assange's prosecution. (Goodale also wrote about Assange for this magazine before his arrest.) But Assange has been the object of vindictive government attention for many years, even before being threatened with lifetime incarceration in a U.S. supermax dungeon. Why has it taken so long for the mainstream media to take a stand?" (Cockburn is a little sloppy in this one and does not make clear that no woman ever accused Assange of sexual assault.)

"How Cigna Saves Millions by Having Its Doctors Reject Claims Without Reading Them: Internal documents and former company executives reveal how Cigna doctors reject patients' claims without opening their files. 'We literally click and submit,' one former company doctor said."

Freedom of the Press Foundation's newsletter points to some interesting stories, including the insane attempts to censor TikTock, the irony of having the US complain of persecuting a journalist in Russia while the US continues its persecution of Assange, and "the growing conservative backlash against the Florida bill, favored by Governor Ron DeSantis, to help the rich and powerful bankrupt their critics with litigation." And other things.

"Two-Thirds of American Voters Support Decriminalizing All Drugs: Poll: Two-thirds of American voters now support decriminalizing all drugs, while 83 percent believe that the "war on drugs" has failed, according to a new poll. A 66 percent majority were in favor of "eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services," according to the poll released Wednesday by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Support for decriminalization differed depending on political affiliation. While 85 percent of Democrats and 72 percent of Independents favored decriminalization, only 40 percent of Republicans agreed. Politics appeared to make little difference when respondents were asked whether they believed the war on drugs was a failure, with 83 percent of Democrats, 85 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republicans saying it had failed. Only 12 percent of all respondents believed that it had been a success. Majorities of each group were in favor of ending the so-called war, including 77 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents and 51 percent of Republicans."

"Montana Republicans Vote to Stop Their First Trans Colleague from Speaking, Ever: Montana's Republican-controlled legislature is punishing the state's first trans representative for speaking out about proposed anti-trans legislation by refusing to recognize her to speak on any bills moving forward. On Thursday, State Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D) pointed out she wasn't being called on at all during a debate about defining sex in state law as not including trans people."

"Researchers say supporting a few thousand repeat offenders could be the key to reducing crime in NYC: Criminal justice officials and researchers analyzing arrest data have identified a small group of repeat criminal defendants who, if properly monitored and supported with social services, may present an opportunity to reduce street crime in New York City."

"Behind Keith Ellison's Tough-On-Crime Turn: The Minnesota attorney general took over a murder case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, a fellow reformer. She accused him of playing politics.The Minnesota attorney general took over a murder case from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, a fellow reformer. She accused him of playing politics. PROGRESSIVES REJOICED LAST year when Democrat Keith Ellison won a tight reelection race for Minnesota attorney general against a police-backed opponent who attacked him as being 'soft on crime.' In the same election cycle, Ellison's ally Mary Moriarty won election as Hennepin County attorney, installing a reform-minded prosecutor in Minneapolis about three years after the city's police murdered George Floyd. Moriarty, previously the chief public defender for Hennepin County, took office in January and implemented reforms with a focus on correcting failures in the juvenile justice system. Now, three months into their terms, Ellison and Moriarty are no longer on the same side of the reform platform they once shared."

This is stupid, "kink" is a word that has meanings that aren't even remotely "sensitive". "The Kinks' Dave Davies says Twitter is suppressing his band's content—and he knows why." And if you could say it on the radio in the '60s, you should be able to type it on Twitter now.

You can read Jeff Gerth's "The press versus the president" in CJR and you can read the Vox rebuttal here. I haven't finished reading them but so far (and somewhat to my surprise, given his track record), Gerth's account seems to track pretty closely with what I remember, and I'm not sure Prokop's defense does the same. But both admit the Russiagate story went off the rails in a lot of the reporting.

"Oklahoma Court: We Want Richard Glossip Dead And Evidence Be Damned: In a stunning rebuke to the state's attorney general, the appeals court refused to vacate Glossip's conviction, clearing the way for his execution. TWO WEEKS AFTER Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate Richard Glossip's conviction, the court rejected Drummond's request, clearing the way for Glossip's execution on May 18. 'This court has thoroughly examined Glossip's case from the initial direct appeal to this date,' the court's five justices wrote. 'Glossip has exhausted every avenue and we have found no legal or factual ground which would require relief in this case.' The court's move is a rebuke not only to the attorney general, who ordered a review of Glossip's case earlier this year, but also to dozens of conservative Oklahoma legislators who have been fighting to stop Glossip's execution over fears the state would kill an innocent man. The independent counsel who reviewed the case concluded that Glossip should receive a new trial — and that pushing for his execution did not 'serve the interests of justice.' Glossip was sentenced to death for the 1997 murder of Barry Van Treese inside a seedy Best Budget Inn that Van Treese owned on the outskirts of Oklahoma City. No physical evidence linked Glossip, the motel's live-in manager, to the crime. Instead, the case against him was built almost exclusively on the testimony of a 19-year-old maintenance man named Justin Sneed, who admitted to bludgeoning Van Treese to death but said it was all Glossip's idea. In exchange for testifying against Glossip, Sneed avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to life without parole. Glossip has always insisted on his innocence, and, over the last decade, evidence that he was wrongly convicted has steadily mounted."

"Radical films pulled from Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival: A PROGRAMME of radical films planned for the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival in July has been cancelled because festival organisers would not allow the showing of a film about the persecution of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The film, Oh Jeremy Corbyn — The Big Lie, has been shown at more than 100 cinemas and other venues in Britain. It was one of a programme of radical films due to be shown at the Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival on the weekend of July 14, 15 and 16. The film's producer, Norman Thomas, said South West region TUC, which organises the festival, claimed to have received threats of 'severe disruption' if the film is screened and has decided it should not be shown. As a result of the decision, organisers of the film screenings have called off the whole programme on principle. Mr Thomas dismissed the threat of disruption as 'utter nonsense' and said it was 'just an excuse for blatant censorship' by South West TUC. He said: 'The film simply provides a view of the Labour Party that the festival organisers don't want shown."

Ballot Access is a handy site for news about voting rights and laws. It's important to know what little tricks your state is trying to play on you, as well as any progress voting rights advocates have managed to move.

RIP: "Rachel Pollack, Trailblazing Doom Patrol Writer, Dies at 77. Michael Swanwick calls her "The Woman Who Proved Ursula K. Le Guin Wrong." David Barnett quotes Roz and Neil for his obit in the Guardian. And Susie Bright remembers. So do I, though I didn't know her quite so well. But she spoke to me like we were old friends, at conventions, even when I first met her, and made me feel a part of her world, so though I didn't see her often, I felt that. I enjoyed her work, too. I even had the refrigerator magnet for Unquenchable Fire in my kitchen the moment I got it home.

RIP: "Fashion designer Dame Mary Quant dies aged 93." Nothing to say here, but once upon a time I wore some scandalously short dresses, and I guess she's why.

RIP: "Barry Humphries: Dame Edna Everage comedian dies at 89." He could be pretty sharp. And he was a perfect sin in the original Bedazzled.

"Harry Belafonte, singer, actor and tireless activist, dies aged 96," of congestive heart failure. "Harry Belafonte, the singer, actor and civil rights activist who broke down racial barriers, has died aged 96. As well as performing global hits such as Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), winning a Tony award for acting and appearing in numerous feature films, Belafonte spent his life fighting for a variety of causes. He bankrolled numerous 1960s initiatives to bring civil rights to Black Americans; campaigned against poverty, apartheid and Aids in Africa; and supported leftwing political figures such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez."

RIP: I can't believe I missed it last December, but Dino Dinelli of the (Young) Rascals died at 78. He was a great drummer in a great band, and this is my excuse to post video of them again. This tribute video has some nice surprises on it, but I've always got time to listen to those tracks I've always loved.

I highly recommend More Perfect Union's excellent little (ten-minute) video history of one of the most evil men of 20th century America, Jack Welch.

Republicans claim voter fraud is a big issue, so why are they pulling out of ERIC, a program that helps clean voter rolls and detect double-voting? "These state officials praised ERIC for years before suddenly pulling out of the program: How politics and misinformation overshadow their stated reasons for leaving the voter roll coalition that helps prevent voter fraud." Some legislators say they "have concerns", but often don't even say what they are. But a closer reading of the history suggests that what may be bothering some of them is that ERIC finds eligible voters and gets them registered.

"Progressives Aren't Hurting the Democratic Party—In Fact, They're The Only Thing Saving It: New York is not just a case study in the winnability of leftist ideas. It is also ground zero for the left to try to leverage its power to extract concessions before supporting moderate Democrats. At 11:30 p.m. on the night of November 8, 2022, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul took the stage at her packed election-night watch party to declare victory. The excited crowd chanted her name. Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' blared over the PA system. Confetti spewed on stage. The word 'WINNER' appeared in giant bold letters behind her. All seemed well. And, truth be told, the moment was briefly relieving: Lee Zeldin, a hardline MAGA Republican, posed an astonishingly credible threat to Democrats' control of Albany, with Kathy Hochul's double-digit lead having collapsed in the months prior to the general election. One poll even showed Zeldin with a one-point lead over Hochul." Lucky for her, the left rode in to her rescue. But in other parts of the state, nothing could save "centrists" from their own arrogance, and that helped cost the Democrats the US House of Representatives.

"Extreme Wealth Accumulation Is A Serious Problem And Should Be Dealt With In A Serious Manner [...] Government subsidies and policies are in great part responsible for these vast fortunes. Even today, modern day robber baron Elon Musk has collected close to $5 billion in subsidies and tax breaks from the U.S. government— over $2 billion for Tesla and closer to $3 billion for SpaceX."

"The High Cost of Being Poor: The American government gives the most help to those who need it least. This is the true nature of our welfare state. [...] The irony is that while politicians and pundits fume about long-term welfare addiction among the poor, members of the protected classes have grown increasingly dependent on their welfare programs. If you count all benefits offered, America's welfare state (as a share of its gross domestic product) is the second biggest in the world, after France's. But that's true only if you include things like government-subsidized retirement benefits provided by employers, student loans and 529 college savings plans, child tax credits, and homeowner subsidies: benefits disproportionately flowing to Americans well above the poverty line. If you put aside these tax breaks and judge the United States solely by the share of its GDP allocated to programs directed at low-income citizens, then our investment in poverty reduction is much smaller than that of other rich nations. The American welfare state is lopsided."

"Trickle-Down Economics Has Always Been a Scam: Despite being proven wrong time and again, trickle-down economics keeps limping forward, resurrected by governments to justify tax cuts for the rich with false promises of prosperity for all. [...] At a cursory glance, it appeared Laffer had been right: cutting taxes coincided with an increase in federal receipts from $599 billion to $991 billion between 1981 and 1989. But the tax cuts had also been accompanied by a huge increase in government spending. By 1990 the budget deficit had nearly tripled, and government debt as a proportion of GDP increased from 31 percent to 50 percent by the time Reagan left office. During the same period, median real wages dropped by 0.6 percent and income inequality in the United States, measured by the Gini coefficient (where is 0 is complete equality and 1 complete inequality), increased from 0.37 to 0.43 — a trend that has continued ever since. [...] 2020 paper published by researchers at the London School of Economics entitled 'The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich' looked at UK and US data from the 1980s and found that tax cuts for the rich had no statistical effect on economic growth. Another report, from the IMF of all places, found that 'a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth,' and that a more effective strategy was to increase the income share of the bottom 20 percent (a 'trickle-up' approach). The impact of tax cuts for the rich is clear."

"Dark Parties: Unveiling Nonparty Communities in American Political Campaigns: Abstract: Since 2010, independent expenditures have grown as a source of spending in American elections. A large and growing portion comes from 'dark money' groups—political nonprofits whose terms of incorporation allow them to partially obscure their sources of income. I develop a new dataset of about 2,350,000 tax documents released by the IRS and use it to test a new theory of political spending. I posit that pathways for anonymous giving allowed interest groups to form new networks and create new pathways for money into candidate races apart from established political parties. Akin to networked party organizations discovered by other scholars, these dark money networks channel money from central hubs to peripheral electioneering groups. I further show that accounting for these dark money networks makes previously peripheral nodes more important to the larger network and diminishes the primacy of party affiliated organizations in funneling money into candidate races."

Tom Sullivan says, "They're comin' ta git ya" — that is, the "Small Government" villains who want to take power away from the people, and therefore from "the left".

Cory Doctorow, "Gig apps trap reverse centaurs in wage-stealing Skinner boxes: Enshittification is the process by which digital platforms devour themselves: first they dangle goodies in front of end users. Once users are locked in, the goodies are taken away and dangled before business customers who supply goods to the users. Once those business customers are stuck on the platform, the goodies are clawed away and showered on the platform's shareholders."

It's so annoying when someone like Bill Maher, or someone who isn't even like Bill Maher, asks why black people never talk about doing something about "black on black crime". It's annoying because they're talking about it all the time, but the media isn't listening.

"East London for the People: The divide between rich and poor in the London borough of Newham illustrates the grotesque inequalities of the city – but long-neglected residents are organising against corporate takeover."

The FBI had successfully interrogated Abu Zubeydah by using traditional trust-building techniques. But then the crazies stepped in. Katherine Eban wrote about that in 2007, "Rorschach and Awe: America's coercive interrogation methods were reverse-engineered by two C.I.A. psychologists who had spent their careers training U.S. soldiers to endure Communist-style torture techniques. The spread of these tactics was fueled by a myth about a critical 'black site' operation. [...] It was an extraordinary success story. But it was one that would evaporate with the arrival of the C.I.A's interrogation team. At the direction of an accompanying psychologist, the team planned to conduct a psychic demolition in which they'd get Zubaydah to reveal everything by severing his sense of personality and scaring him almost to death."

Saving this link for myself, a clip I keep coming back to, from Roseanne, "Doesn't Matter."

Reginald Pikedevant, "Just Glue Some Gears On It (And Call It Steampunk)"

All-female tribute band Zepparella doing a pretty close cover of "When The Levee Breaks"

The cops sued Afroman when he turned a police break-and-enter into a music video: "Afroman - Will You Help Me Repair My Door (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)".

02 April 2023

And in your death's mask face there are no signs which can be seen

Senator Elizabeth Warren rakes Fed Chair Jerome Powell over the coals for ten pages: "The banks' executives – who took too many risks, and failed to protect their customers – are the primary agents responsible for their failure. But the greed and incompetence of these officials was allowed to happen under your watch. It was allowed to happen because of Congress and President Trump's weakening of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act ('Dodd-Frank Act') that you supported.2 It was allowed to happen because of regulatory rollbacks that you initiated.3 And it was allowed to happen because of supervisory failures by officials that worked for you.4 This is an astonishing list of failures and you owe the public an explanation for your actions."

"A Big Miss on Drug Prices: Today on Tap: President Biden's NIH rejects a petition to seize the patent of an unaffordable prescription drug." The saving grace of the Bayh-Dole act — in theory — was supposed to be that if the drug companies failed to make drugs that had been developed with federal funding reasonably accessible to the public, the government could take back the patents so that they could be made accessible. But that clause has never been used, and apparently the administration doesn't think a price tag of $188,900 for a drug to treat a cancer that most men will get if they live long enough is out of their reach.

Is Joe Biden going to appoint a corrupt judge? "A few years ago, we uncovered that Landrum was running a modern day debtors' prison when she was a local judge. She was separating families from their children and parents, and jailing people in brutal conditions as a way of extorting cash payments. Landrum and other judges were illegally jailing poor people in NOLA if they couldn't pay court debts. They even created a 'Collections Department' inside the court to illegally collect debts! When our clients couldn't pay, they were caged. We sued them all. It gets worse. Judge Landrum and other judges took a cut of the profits to run their courts, creating an unconstitutional financial conflict of interest that destroyed whatever 'neutrality' they were supposed to have as judges. It gets worse." And that was only after she'd had a career demonstrating that she never should have reached the bench.

"Bernie Sanders's Interrogation of Howard Schultz Made Democrats Pick a Side: Bernie Sanders's grilling of Starbucks's union-busting billionaire Howard Schultz put a CEO in the hot seat on a national stage. It also forced Senate Democrats who might rather stay on the Democratic donor's good side to denounce his flagrantly illegal behavior."

The well-to-do are ready to hollow out the rest of the country. "The American Elite Are Planning Their Escape — And It Starts With Paying For Passports: Hundreds of Americans are willing to fork over six figures for citizenship in nations where they may have never set foot (just in case). [...] Henley & Partners, the world's premier passport brokering company, said that in 2022, more Americans inquired about citizenship by investment — programs that allow people to pay for citizenship instead of gaining it by demonstrating their ties to a country — than in any previous year. Americans were also the leading nationality for submitting applications. 'Americans for the first time ever are becoming the number-one investors in these programs,' said Ezzedeen Soleiman, a managing partner at Latitude, a competitor to Henley & Partners. The world's citizenship-by-investment programs receive about 20,000 applications annually, but until recently, comparatively few applicants were American. The vast majority come from countries where there are limited job opportunities or a limited ability to travel without a visa — China, Russia, India, the Middle East and other parts of the Global South. U.S. passports, by contrast, can open almost any door." Naturally, these passports cost a bundle.

"Anti-Palestinian Hate On Social Media Is Growing, Says A Facebook Partner: Social media users in Israel are increasingly using platforms like Facebook and Instagram to launch hate speech at Palestinians." I've been running into some of this and it's clearly an orchestrated campaign. They have all their talking points and it's as adamant and unflinching as if it were organized by David Brock.

"Kansas City Police targeted minority neighborhoods to meet illegal ticket quotas, lawsuit says [...] Kansas City Police leaders allegedly ordered officers to target minority neighborhoods to meet ticket quotas — telling them to be 'ready to kill everybody in the car' — and to only respond to calls for help in white neighborhoods. Edward Williams, a 44-year-old white KCPD officer and 21-year veteran of the force, filed a discrimination lawsuit in Jackson County Court this week including those and other allegations. Williams said he's faced retaliation because he's been a whistleblower, is disabled and is over 40. Williams's suit said that contrary to Missouri law, KCPD 'continuously and repeatedly' told officers that if they didn't meet their ticket quotas they would be kicked out of the traffic unit and sent to 'dogwatch,' an unpopular overnight shift typically worked by those with low seniority."

John Ganz, "How Start?: One question that should be asked about any war: 'What did all those people die for?' The answer should come back simple and clear: 'They died to free the slaves,' or 'they died to rid Europe of fascism,' or 'they died defending their homes, or 'they died freeing their country from an invading occupier.' As the event recedes into the past, this reason should become more, not less, clear. What was perhaps ambiguous or complex to the actors in the moment should appear increasingly self-evident. But if the answer to that question comes back convoluted and equivocal, full of vague hopes, reasons of state, or stratagems about international relations, one can be pretty sure that war was fought for a bad reason or, even worse perhaps, no reason at all." The Bush administration never asked themselves whether war was necessary, but only how to get it started.

Jon Schwarz, "The Atlantic Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Iraq War With Lavish Falsehoods About Iraq War: THE U.S. MEDIA has recently been filled with retrospectives on the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. Most of these outlets eagerly helped the George W. Bush administration sell the war, publishing lavish falsehoods about how Iraq posed a terrible danger to the U.S. (It did not.) So you might hope that in the past two decades, the same publications have learned the most basic facts about Iraq — and would steer clear of publishing obvious and stupendous errors yet again. You would hope in vain."

What happened in 2022? "Six Recent Studies Show an Unexpected Increase in Classical Music Listening" Something has changed in the last 12-18 months, especially among younger listeners—but why? Last year, I went viral with an article about the rising popularity of old music. But I focused on old rock songs. Many of these songs are 40 or 50 years old. And in the world of pop culture, that's like ancient history. But if you really want old music, you can dig back 200 or 300 years—or even more, if you want. But does anybody really do that?" Apparently, yes. A lot.

Despite the fact that everyone already knew it, it appears The New York Times has finally acknowledged that The October Surprise actually happened. Note I am linking to Robert Parry's story from 2014 in Consortium News rather than the NYT's recent story, because they just treated anyone who already acknowledged it as crackpots for decades, whereas Robert Parry created this vital website precisely because pursuing the story got him pretty much blacklisted from establishment media. I wish he could have lived to see it, but we lost him in 2018, to my chagrin. Consortium News is his legacy.

"The Republican Plan to Make Voting Irrelevant: The news brought to mind McConnell's exceptional instincts as a political calculator, and in particular his past cynical and perhaps prescient deliberations concerning his own health. In 2020, amid reports that McConnell had visited Johns Hopkins in Baltimore after concerning photos were published showing intense bruising on one of his hands, the Kentucky Republican began a campaign to pressure the GOP-controlled Kentucky Legislature to change that state's law to remove from the governor—who is a Democrat—the authority to select a candidate to fill the unexpired term of a departing U.S. senator. The ability of the governor to appoint a nominee to fill the unexpired term of a senator without restrictions is the law in 35 states. But McConnell urged, and the Kentucky Legislature took the step of changing that state's law—overriding the veto of the governor to do so—in a way that assured that Republicans would maintain control of McConnell's seat should it become vacant. This effort—to remove powers from elected representatives who are Democrats—has become the new method of disenfranchising voters and maintaining perpetual Republican political power." Now, remember, in this heavily gerrymandered state, it's already easy to put Republicans in control of the legislature, but the governorship is a state-wide office and that Democratic governor was elected by the majority, so this is severely anti-democratic as well as anti-Democratic. And this is just one example in a long list of ways Republicans are removing power from anyone who doesn't share their goals, so keep reading.

"Texas GOP Proposes Bill To Allow Sec Of State To Overturn Election Results In State's Largest Blue County: Republican members of the Texas state legislature introduced a slate of bills Thursday designed to subvert election processes and curb voting rights in the state. One of them would even allow the Texas Secretary of State to overturn election results in the state's largest Democratic-leaning county, with very little rationale for doing so. On Thursday, Republican state senators introduced Senate Bill 1993, a bill targeting Harris County, a diverse region that includes Houston and is also the most populous county in Texas, to a Senate committee for debate. SB 1993 would grant Secretary of State Jane Nelson (R) the authority to order a new election in Harris County 'if the secretary has good cause to believe that at least two percent of the total number of polling places in the county did not receive supplemental ballots,' according to the bill text. Secretary Nelson would have the same authority granted to a district court. The bill would 'allow really low thresholds' for ordering a new election, Katya Ehresman, the voting rights program manager at Common Cause Texas, told TPM. 'Anything from a machine malfunction, which can necessarily be the fault of the county or of an election administrator getting stuck in traffic—which in Houston is incredibly likely—and having a delay in providing election results to the central count station,' she said. " Which is pretty interesting since the Secretary of State is the person responsible for making sure elections are efficiently-run in the first place. Hm. "The bill was introduced alongside over a dozen other bills seeking to restrict voter access and overhaul the state's elections process. Senate Bill 260, for example, would allow the secretary to suspend election administrators without cause, and Senate Bill 1070 would enable Texas to withdraw from the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a bipartisan program that maintains voter rolls across state lines that has recently been targeted by far-right propaganda. State Republicans quietly introduced the bills in the State Affairs Committee on Thursday morning—without giving the mandatory 48-hour notice. 'Every part of today's hearing highlights the subversive attacks on elections in Texas,' Ehresman said, 'and (SB) 1993 is a part of that.'"

Good piece by Froomkin, "Departing Washington Post editor's comment on listening to staff is everything that's wrong with the current generation of newsroom leaders: Marty Baron, who stepped down as Washington Post editor this week, has been hailed as a hero by journalists at his and other elite media organizations — showered with adulatory news stories and softball interviews. But one exchange in a Vanity Fair interview perfectly demonstrates why his departure is welcome, and overdue. At issue was what Baron had learned from confronting the powerful criticisms being raised by some staffers about hiring, coverage, and newsroom conventions that, as former Post reporter Wesley Lowery once put it, unquestioningly reflect the 'views and inclinations of whiteness.' Baron's response was clueless, condescending, and dismissive. It showed that he was only interested in performative listening – as appearing to have listened – rather than in listening itself. It showed how he considered staffers who challenged him as ignorant supplicants asking him to toss away core journalistic principles 'because of the sentiments of the moment,' which of course he would never do — rather than as peers who want the Post to actually live up to those principles."

"Save KPFK and Pacifica Radio: A hostile takeover attempt is aiming to destroy KPFK, on air since 1959. Pacifica Radio, America's largest non-commercial progressive radio broadcaster, is facing a hostile takeover that threatens the existence of the Los Angeles station KPFK 90.7 FM and the entire network. Pacifica's National Board (PNB) was infiltrated by a politically motivated group and as a result has canceled mandatory elections, extended their own term limits, suspended multiple members of KPFK, and put the Los Angeles building up for sale — all without approval of their listener-members. The only thing that stands in the way of KPFK's imminent destruction is the Los Angeles local station board, which is fighting a bitter legal battle to save their station — and thereby the largest progressive media outlet in the US. [...] For years, the intelligence community has sought to infiltrate Pacifica to bend it to its will. As all other TV and radio networks have been muzzled and moved increasingly toward uncritical middle-of-the-road infotainment, Pacifica has fought to stand its ground. The network functions with over 95% of its staff working for free, and its revenue amounts to about $11 million a year. Hundreds of people nationwide volunteer, all in the name of free speech and independence from censorship and corporate control. Republicans have always considered Pacifica as 'far too left.' To the corporate Democrats who hate criticism from the Left, Pacifica has long been a painful thorn in their side. The Berkeley-based advocacy group 'New Day,' with a large influx of Silicon Valley and Hollywood money, have made it their mission to either privatize the network, to turn it into a censored NPR, or to destroy it. In the past few years alone, New Day has been the cause of two failed Bylaw referendums and six lawsuits, costing the network over $400,000 in legal fees.

"Police in England and Wales 'evading public scrutiny' by deleting misconduct outcomes from websites: Observer investigation finds case of Met officer and serial rapist David Carrick among dozens removed from police websites. [...] An analysis of misconduct trials at 43 forces found the vast majority were either failing to publicise cases, despite a legal obligation to do so, or deleting misconduct cases from their websites after 28 days. Misconduct hearings can relate to any reason an officer is fired from the job including cases related to sexual offences or domestic violence."

You don't have to watch the video since there's a transcription beneath it, but you do have to marvel at Sarah Huckabee Sanders' idea of an inspirational speech to young people.

"You've Probably Already Heard, But Monk Is Coming Back [...] Yes, a Monk movie! It is to be called Mr. Monk's Last Case: A Monk Movie and written by original series creator Andy Breckman. The release date is currently unknown, which is a blessing… and a curse."

RIP: "Lance Reddick, star of The Wire and John Wick, dies aged 60: The actor whose credits also include sci-fi series Fringe and action thriller White House Down has died of natural causes. [...] Wendell Pierce, Reddick's co-star in the show paid tribute to him on Twitter. 'A man of great strength and grace,' he wrote. 'As talented a musician as he was an actor. The epitome of class. A sudden unexpected sharp painful grief for our artistic family. An unimaginable suffering for his personal family and loved ones. Godspeed my friend. You made your mark here. RIP'" Well, damn, I really enjoyed that guy on screen a lot and this is a shock. He seemed to be in prime shape, too, so no one was ready for it. TMZ's obit has some good videos up, including one from just a few days before he died, and some good clips of him as Charon.

RIP: "Keith Reid, lyricist for Procol Harum, dies aged 76," of cancer. What can I say? I loved this band, I loved their music, I loved his lyrics. And I loved to hear Gary Brooker sing them, and now they're both gone. "Shine On Brightly."

"The Government Does a Bad Job Assessing Toxic Exposures: The history of the captured federal agencies that reassure the public after chemical disasters should give East Palestine residents pause." Once everything got privatized, the war on science sped up because public health costs companies money.

"How the Capitol Police enabled the Jan. 6 attack: A story no one wants to touch: Was it cowardice, blindness, white privilege — or something worse? The House Jan. 6 committee didn't want to know. The news media's continuing failure to explore why the U.S. Capitol was so scantily defended against an angry horde of white Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, has now been compounded by the House select committee's refusal to connect the most obvious dots or ask the most vital questions. It's true that there were countless law enforcement failures that day — indeed, far too many to be a coincidence. But the singular point of failure — the one thing that could have prevented all of it from happening — was that Capitol Police leaders brushed off ample warnings that an armed mob was headed their way."

"Gideon v. Wainwright Was a Landmark Decision, But Women Invented the Idea of the Public Defender: In this op-ed, a former public defender recognizes the crucial role women played in creating the role of the public defender. [...] But March is also Women's History Month, and as a woman defender, every time Gideon's Day rolls around, my mind turns to our own forgotten history. When we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Gideon ruling this year — recognizing the right to counsel as having been conferred by Gideon's brave persistence and Justice Hugo Black's insight and resolve — we are erasing a far longer and richer legacy: the history of the women who invented the idea of the public defender.

"Why the Mental Health of Liberal Girls Sank First and Fastest: In May 2014, Greg Lukianoff invited me to lunch to talk about something he was seeing on college campuses that disturbed him. Greg is the president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression), and he has worked tirelessly since 2001 to defend the free speech rights of college students. That almost always meant pushing back against administrators who didn't want students to cause trouble, and who justified their suppression of speech with appeals to the emotional 'safety' of students—appeals that the students themselves didn't buy. But in late 2013, Greg began to encounter new cases in which students were pushing to ban speakers, punish people for ordinary speech, or implement policies that would chill free speech. These students arrived on campus in the fall of 2013 already accepting the idea that books, words, and ideas could hurt them. Why did so many students in 2013 believe this, when there was little sign of such beliefs in 2011?"

"Why Kids Aren't Falling in Love With Reading: Hint: It's not just the screens. The ubiquity and allure of screens surely play a large part in this—most American children have smartphones by the age of 11—as does learning loss during the pandemic. But this isn't the whole story. A survey just before the pandemic by the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that the percentages of 9- and 13-year-olds who said they read daily for fun had dropped by double digits since 1984. I recently spoke with educators and librarians about this trend, and they gave many explanations, but one of the most compelling—and depressing—is rooted in how our education system teaches kids to relate to books."

"The Economy Could Not Exist Without Government: The Silicon Valley Bank collapse exposes a reality that rich people would prefer to ignore. [...] It was darkly amusing to see Silicon Valley's self-anointed masters of capitalism and apostles of libertarianism screaming for no-strings-attached government help after their own bank fell victim to a run sparked by venture capitalists themselves—particularly given that, as my colleague David Dayen writes, SVB itself was a major lobbying force behind the 2018 bank deregulation that allowed it to engage in more risky business. Less amusing were the all-caps tweets from prominent venture capitalists claiming that all regional banks would soon fail, in a clear attempt to spark a broader panic that would camouflage their desired bailout."

"The Message of the Republican Party: Don't Tread on Me. I Tread on You." It's not hypocrisy, because, "When Republicans talk about valuing 'freedom', they're speaking of it in the sense that only people like them should ultimately possess it."

Radley Balko, "Reader mailbag: Bias in journalism, criminal justice in pop culture, and how my own politics have changed" — I offer this one mainly for his discussion of cop shows.

An American-style Wild West town hides in an alley in Edinburgh.

This year's Red Nose Day had a ten-minute "special" from Ghosts with a guest spot from Kylie. It was kinda cute.

Read Pamela Sargent's classic short story "If Ever I Should Leave You" — after first reading a little history of how she got Women of Wonder published.

Procul Harum, "Conquistador"