21 May 2023

You can't jump a jet plane like you can a freight train

This photo of the aurora in Suomi, Finland is from Juuso Hamalainen. (There are some other pretty auroras and other things in his gallery.)

Just making a note that no one is more responsible for the disaster we have now than these people, none of whom were baby-boomers: Lewis Powell b.1907, Ronald Reagan b.1911, Milton Friedman b.1912, Margaret Thatcher b.1925, Paul Ryan b.1970, and a passel of Gen Xers.

"Sam Alito Says Criticism of Supreme Court Is 'Unfair': 'Practically Nobody Is Defending Us': Justice Samuel Alito would like everyone to know that in the wake of the Supreme Court revoking 50 years of abortion rights and then being plagued by corruption scandal after corruption scandal, our criticism of him and his institution is very much hurting his feelings. [...] And as story after story come out about just how corrupt, unethical, and frankly, bought the people are who are deciding things like what we can do with our bodies and who gets voting rights in this country, Alito is complaining that they are the victims in all this, because someone leaked his draft opinion in Dobbs a month early and people protested. [...] Nevermind that Alito himself was reportedly the one who leaked the Hobby Lobby birth control decision to donors in 2014, before calling the leak a 'grave betrayal' and blaming it on some 'angry left-wing law clerk.' The call, sir, appears to be coming from inside the house. And now, amid all this, Alito and Republicans insist that it's 'the Left' that trying to 'de-legitimize' the Supreme Court" He's not just a whiner, he is like OJ Simpson talking about finding the guy who really did it.

"US Supreme Court Puts Chevron Doctrine 'Squarely In the Crosshairs': One legal expert said that overturning the nearly 40-year precedent 'would lead to far more judicial power grabs. The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a challenge to a nearly 40-year administrative law precedent under which judges defer to federal agencies' interpretation of ambiguous statutes—a case that legal experts warn could result in judicial power grabs and the gutting of environmental and other regulations. The Supreme Court said it will take up Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo—a case in which fishing companies are seeking to strike down the Chevron doctrine, named after the landmark 1984 Chevron USA v. Natural Resources Defense Council ruling that conservatives have long sought to overturn. The case is one of the most cited precedents in administrative law. The Chevron doctrine involves a two-step process in which a court first determines whether Congress expressed its intent in legislation, and if so, whether or not that intent is ambiguous."

Democrats appear to have been angry that The Lever reported this, so though I was tempted to say, "They're not even hiding it, now," it appears they thought they were hiding it and that no one would catch them. "Pelosi Gets Hospital Lobbyists' Award After Blocking Reforms: The American Hospital Association feted the former House speaker for 'advancing health care' following her years-long effort to obstruct Medicare for All. A top lobbying group for hospitals on Monday gave Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) an award for 'her incredible efforts in advancing health care,' after the former House Speaker spent the past four years fulfilling the industry's top legislative priority: blocking consideration of Medicare for All or any other major reforms to the insurance-based health care system. [...] While The Lever was blocked from attending AHA's awards ceremony, the conference featured several prominent representatives of corporate media."

"Farewell Transmission: Texas' plan to fix its power grid is a disaster. Ever since brutal winter storms blacked out much of Texas and killed hundreds of residents in February 2021, the state's government has constantly talked a big game about bolstering its grid and shielding Texans from future disasters. There is shockingly little to show for it. On April 6, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that the Texas Senate, with 'a strong bipartisan majority,' had passed a 'power grid reform package' of bills purportedly intended to 'make sure that Texans have reliable power under any circumstance.' Featuring nine pieces of legislation and a joint resolution, the package appears impressive at a glance; there are new rules governing energy costs, power-transmission incentives, and protection against grid attacks. State senators from both parties are happy to declare that the new laws—now awaiting final amendment and approval in the Texas House of Representatives—will beef up the state's electricity markets and ensure reliability for consumers, a talking point echoed in media coverage. Yet a keener analysis of the Senate bills reveals that they hardly do anything to keep the grid running—and, in their current form, would actually make Texans' power woes even worse. Should they pass, the result wouldn't just be an ill-equipped Texas grid, but an even weaker electrical system than the one that failed two years ago."

When the union at The New York Times asks for better options, "Dowd's Newsroom Nostalgia Is Management Propaganda: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (4/29/23) has painted a picture of the newsroom that time forgot. Her remembrance of a frenetic, vibrant newsroom where sin united professionals, and the cubs learned from the veterans on the beat, matches the great depictions of newsrooms like The Wire's Baltimore Sun or the New York Post in Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life." I worked in that Baltimore Sun newsroom, and it's been gone for a long time. It changed a lot when A.S. Bell sold it to Tribune Newspapers, a very different animal from the old newspapers of yore. For that matter, so has commuting, and I don't blame anyone who wants to avoid it. (Not that it was great back in the day when I had to drive an hour to get to work in evening rush hour and then back again at 1:00 in the morning, but today city traffic is a lot worse than it once was.) Rents inside big cities make it hard to imagine cub reporters finding a place to live close to The New York Times.

Back in the first days of May, The American Prospect was saying, "How to Solve the Debt Ceiling Standoff? Sue Janet Yellen: A bondholder could simply allege that America failing to pay off its debts is unconstitutional. There's a good argument for that." And lo and behold, "The National Association of Government Employees says the debt limit is unconstitutional and that it would furlough federal workers [...] The situation is fundamentally unconstitutional, the lawsuit argues, because it gives the president 'the unchecked discretion to cancel or curtail the operations of government approved by Congress without the approval of Congress.'" But this is all Barack Obama's fault.

"Here's The Real Goal Of Supreme Court Corruption: The prospect of luxury gifts and outside cash is designed to halt the historical trend of GOP appointees becoming more liberal. Amid all the revelations of corruption at the Supreme Court, one glib social-media defense of the conservative justices has been about ideology. As the (ridiculous) argument goes, these scandals aren't actually scandals because the gifts and cash that flowed from right-wing billionaires and conservative activist Leonard Leo's dark money network don't actually influence the justices. Why? Because the justices were already conservative and were always going to vote the way they voted on cases of interest to their paymasters. But that analysis misses how corruption works on a systemic level. As the Founders noted, judges are given lifetime appointments for the explicit purpose of preserving an 'independent spirit' that allows them to change their views without fear of consequences. And in fact, data suggests that in the past, many conservative justices have become more liberal as they age. In light of that, the money and gifts flowing to conservative justices can be seen not merely as cheap influence-peddling schemes to secure specific rulings in individual cases. It can also be seen as a grand plan to deter the ideological freedom that lifetime appointments afford. [...] From Earl Warren to William Brennan to John Paul Stevens to David Souter, the Republican Supreme Court appointees who ended up becoming liberals haunt the psyche of the right's judicial activists. It is this dynamic that conservative puppet masters most want to prevent, because it has not been an anomaly. In 2015, FiveThirtyEight parsed the data and quantified a big trend in its headline: 'Supreme Court Justices Get More Liberal As They Get Older.'" There's even a handy chart. For that matter, it turns out Clarance Thomas even reversed himself on the Chevron doctrine after his wife got some money from promoters of his new "opinion".

"A Strangler in a Strange Land: Daniel Penny killed Jordan Neely with his bare hands on video, but every institution in New York seems to be on Penny's side. Why? [...] My unscientific sense, though, is that a worryingly large part of the general population—not even corrupt or prejudiced officials, but civilians who hold no office or public authority—feels emboldened by the way real, credentialed, powerful authority has begun to ostentatiously defer to murderers. Institutions, both the press and the government, are always more plastic than we think they are; they will bend so that they may countenance every kind of evil so long as they can do so in a way that reinforces their positions. Increasingly, these institutions, from the Times to the Journal to New York City's elected officials, have become comfortable holding up callous, public murder—of leftist protesters, of homeless people, of prisoners of war—as excusable, not just on the basis of unfortunate extenuating circumstances, but in the name of a kind of hateful reverse morality. Personally, I find myself too often tempted to meet this kind of crazed violence with equally passionate resistance; to go out looking for the fight that is constantly being threatened. But that's not what I've been told to do by a figure no less central to my religious practice as a Christian than Christ. The job is not to administer the beatings, it's to tend to the beaten."

"With Malice Aforethought [...] But what has been deeply disturbing is the public reaction to Neely's death. What people are essentially saying is 'this man's life was worthless' and, as a result of his criminal record, 'he had it coming.' If this was murder, and I strongly suspect it to be, Neely's past actions and character are immaterial. Penny could not have known of them. Murder is murder. The person does not have to be nice or good or socially useful for it to be murder. The state charges people with murder even when they are not loved, forgotten, dangerous, or hated. The only reason to parade Neely's past in public is justify, excuse, of even celebrate his killing. And plenty of people seem to want to do just that."

"Our Media Is Fueling Vigilantism Against Homeless People: Years of dehumanization and associating the unhoused with criminality help create conditions of violence. [...] In a society with such stark inequality, and so many scrambling to keep their heads above water, dehumanizing those at the very bottom of our social ladder—who couldn't 'make it'—isn't just inevitable, it's necessary. The specter of homelessness and destitution is how the bottom rung of wage labor is disciplined and kept in line. A moral ecosystem emerges to support this necessity, one based on the manifestly goofy idea that we currently live in a plentiful welfare state and everyone who is currently unhoused is so because of a moral failing, or a lack of sufficient arresting and caging, rather than a deficit of social welfare and care. Obviously, they must all want to be poor, or are not well enough to get better and are better left dying on the streets, or being thrown into a cage and given up on. Cruelty is baked into our puritan culture, reinforced daily by our media's love of everything from Perseverance Porn to the aforementioned Welfare Queen tropes. This all creates a media environment where people increasingly see unhoused people having a mental health episode as deserving of a summary death sentence."

"16 Crucial Words That Went Missing From a Landmark Civil Rights Law: The phrase, seemingly deleted in error, undermines the basis for qualified immunity, the legal shield that protects police officers from suits for misconduct. [...] The original version of the law, the one that was enacted in 1871, said state officials who subject 'any person within the jurisdiction of the United States to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States, shall, any such law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of the state to the contrary notwithstanding, be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.' The words in italics, for reasons lost to history, were omitted from the first compilation of federal laws in 1874, which was prepared by a government official called 'the reviser of the federal statutes.'" The law review article this is based on is "Qualified Immunity's Flawed Foundation."

"Washington Post is furtively sitting on a secret trove of Discord leaks [...] News organizations who find themselves in legal possession of top secrets, as the Post currently has, have the right and the obligation to publish news that has been hidden from the public but is in the public interest, especially when it exposes government misconduct. But when a news organization has exclusive access to secrets that are effectively still secret, they also have an obligation to publish them judiciously and maintain the secrecy of those that deserve it. Several recent articles in the Post have arguably been published simply because they could, rather than out of the public interest, raising journalistic concerns. And some intelligence officials are growing increasingly queasy about the Post's apparent indifference to releasing information that has never been seen in the wild and could very well impact intelligence collection going forward."

"Court Suppresses Breathalyzer Results In 27,000 DUI Cases After Years Of Being Jerked Around By The State Crime Lab: For more than a decade, the Massachusetts State Police crime lab hid information from judges, prosecutors, and criminal defendants. This is nothing unusual for this state and its crime labs. The words 'Massachusetts,' 'crime lab,' and 'scandal' have gone hand-in-hand for years. [Heads up, I will be using 'state' to refer to the Massachusetts government in this post. I'm fully aware it refers to itself as a 'commonwealth,' but come on: the state's name is already too much typing.] Drug labs staffed by technicians willing to either falsify results (rather than actually perform tests) or turn seized drugs into their own personal use stash have resulted in courts tossing nearly 30,000 drug convictions. Losing this many (unearned) wins must have hurt, but apparently state law enforcement has a taste for pain."

The Onion is absolutely arch: "Democrats Demand Recount After Insisting They Lost Race For Mayor Of Jacksonville"

This might be too hard to read. "The short life of Baby Milo: Nobody expected Baby Milo to live for long. He arrived in the world with no kidneys, underdeveloped lungs and a life expectancy of between 20 minutes and a couple of hours. He lived for 99 minutes."

RIP: "Gordon Lightfoot, folk music legend," at 84. "Often considered one of the greatest Canadian songwriters of all time, Lightfoot's contribution to the folk music revolution of the 1960s is reflected by the artists that recorded his songs. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and The Replacements have all recorded covers of his music. Best known for the hits 'Carefree Highway,' 'If You Could Read My Mind,' and the no. 1 hit 'Sundown,' Lightfoot continued touring and releasing albums for the next 60 years." None of those are the songs I first learned, but we all had "For Lovin' Me" and a few others in our repertoires. Everybody knew Lightfoot and everybody played Lightfoot. You still hear people doing "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", but I never played that one.

A must-read that covers a lot of ground succinctly, Cory Doctorow being absolutely clear about how when they stopped doing it our way and started doing it their way, they screwed everything up: "David Roth memorably described the job of neoliberal economists as finding "new ways to say 'actually, your boss is right.'" Not just your boss: for decades, economists have formed a bulwark against seemingly obvious responses to the most painful parts of our daily lives, from wages to education to health to shelter [...] These answers make sense to everyone except neoliberal economists and people in their thrall. Rather than doing the thing we want, neoliberal economists insist we must unleash "markets" to solve the problems, by "creating incentives." That may sound like a recipe for a small state, but in practice, "creating incentives" often involves building huge bureaucracies to "keep the incentives aligned" (that is, to prevent private firms from ripping off public agencies)."

"Tucker Carlson Isn't an Anti-Imperialist — He's a Rabid China Hawk: Tucker Carlson can't be credited for dissenting against US war fever when he spent years on his Fox News show stoking major tensions with China."

Teen Vogue is much more reliable on "criminal justice" than The New York Times. For example, instead of interviewing cops and prosecutors, they interviewed Alex Karakatsanis on Copaganda, Punishment, and Policing in the United States: "This is one thing [authorities do very well. They're really only talking about certain violations of the law that are committed by poor people. What they're not talking about are the many other crimes that are committed every single day, whether it's polluting water, whether it's air pollution, which kills [more than] 100,000 people in the US every single year… When they talk about property crime, they're not talking about wage theft, which costs $50 billion a year. When companies steal money from their workers it's not even dealt with in the criminal system. It's not talked about as a crime, for the most part. They're not talking about tax evasion, which costs [the US] about a trillion dollars a year. These are the crimes that are committed by wealthy people, people with power… And then I think there's an even more basic point, which is that people who have power and influence in our society get to define what a crime is… You can make it a crime to have an abortion. You can make it a crime to have an abortion pill sent to you in the mail… The idea of violent crime is very different from the idea of harm. So, those other types of harm in our society, whether it's sexual harassment at work or racial discrimination in home lending, [are often not actually] criminalized by the law."

"The Government Provided Child Care in World War II. We Need It Again. Women worked then, women work now. It's time for national child care—permanently. [...] Enter one of my heroes: Congresswoman Mary T. Norton of New Jersey, known as 'Battling Mary.' Battling Mary was a trailblazer, a woman of many firsts, who led the way on child care during the war. She was the first woman elected as a Democrat to serve in the House of Representatives. She became the first Democratic woman to chair a House legislative committee when she was elected chairperson of the Committee on the District of Columbia, serving as the city's de facto mayor. By the end of her career, she had chaired four House committees. Norton spent her career fighting on behalf of working families and succeeded in getting major New Deal labor legislation passed. Her efforts as Labor Committee chair helped ensure the passage of 1938's Fair Labor Standards Act, which created the federal minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, and strict standards for child labor. And during the war, Norton created a national child care system that transformed women's participation in the workplace."

"Vivek Ramaswarmy Wants To Take Away The Vote From Americans Under 25… But He'd Still Let Women Vote: Ramaswampy Is Running For Vice President."

Right-wingers assure me that Portland burned down to the ground in riots and is nothing but a hollowed-out shell full of violence. People who live there say otherwise.

I think I may have posted "Why are British place names so hard to pronounce?" before, but just in case, I'm posting it anyway.

RJ Eskow has been ill, so he learned to make a video in bed. And I love it! "Downtown Boys: I recorded this song in 1977."

Gordon Lightfoot, "The Early Morning Rain"

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