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)".


  1. Pretty Leary of Jeff Gerth after his failure in the Whitewater investigation. Its a bit rich his complaining about bias in reporting as if its a new thing.

    1. Yeah, that's what I meant about his track record.