30 June 2023

Outside, I'm masquerading

Little Cove Noosa (2022) Painting by Helen Mitra, from a feature on contemporary Australian art.

So, the Supremes struck down Affirmative Acton and Student Debt Relief and I can't even respond yet.

"The truth about our homelessness crisis: As Californians age, they are priced out: Public policy and common perception have long tied the road to homelessness with mental illness and drug addiction. But a new study out Tuesday — the largest and most comprehensive investigation of California's homeless population in decades — found another cause is propelling much of the crisis on our streets: the precarious poverty of the working poor, especially Black and brown seniors. 'These are old people losing housing,' Dr. Margot Kushel told me. She's the lead investigator on the study from UCSF's Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, done at the request of state health officials. 'They basically were ticking along very poor, and sometime after the age of 50 something happened,' Kushel said. That something — divorce, a loved one dying, an illness, even a cutback in hours on the job — sparked a downward spiral and their lives 'just blew up,' as Kushel puts it. Kushel and her team found that nearly half of single adults living on our streets are over the age of 50. And 7% of all homeless adults, single or in families, are over 65. And 41% of those older, single Californians had never been homeless — not one day in their lives — before the age of 50.

Stoller, "Lina Khan Fires a Crooked CEO: The FTC blocked a genomics technology merger, leading to the firing of a CEO. The deal involved Bill Gates, Barack Obama, China and Jeff Bezos. And corporate America is in shock. [...] More than any other possible penalty, the prospect for CEOs that they could lose their job is going to change corporate behavior. Here's the front page story in the Wall Street Journal on deSouza, noting that behavior across corporate America is changing. [...] And this brings me to Microsoft, which is pursuing a somewhat irrational acquisition of game giant Activision, a bank shot attempt to monopolize gaming. The merger is on the rocks, because Great Britain ruled that it's illegal, and the combination is also being challenged by the FTC. And yet Microsoft won't relent. A few weeks ago, in an essay called Corporate Temper Tantrums, I noted that there's an open question about whether large corporations or democratic governments set the rules for our societies. Microsoft is the key example. Its threat to combine operations with Activision, despite the British government calling the transaction illegal, looks completely crazy, akin to civil disobedience by a Fortune 500 firm. There's no reason for it, since the firm has a great path ahead embedding AI in its products. Gaming is a sideshow. Why would the firm destroy its political reputation with this scorched earth campaign?"

At Thread Ap from Radley Balko, "DOJ just released the report from its two-year investigation of the Minneapolis police department. [...] 'Sit on the ground. I'm gonna mace ya.' [...] Casually pepper spraying some folks who were concerned about a suicidal friend. [...] Pulling a black teen out of a car and threatening to taser him for . . . not wearing a seatbelt. [...] Can't argue with this logic. A supervisor found that some MPD cops' use of force must have been reasonable because if it wasn't reasonable force, they wouldn't have used it. [...] Read the incident, and then how the complaint was handled. The investigator was the same supervisor on the scene who failed to find any wrongdoing at the time. He then didn't bother interviewing witnesses or the complainant before clearing the cops. [...] Flashbanging a group of protesters -- just for fun. [...] Casually pepper spraying journalists for no reason at all. [...] You know you have a problem when a federal court won't even grant officers qualified immunity, but your official investigation finds no violation of policy." The details just leave you gaping. How do you reform that?

The interesting thing wasn't the unsurprising news that Alito is just as corrupt as the rest of them so much as the odd (and unconvincing) response to the article he hadn't even read. "Samuel Alito Is the Latest Supreme Justice Exposed for Living Like an Oil Sheikh: I know a lifetime gig is a license for a permanent big-money Mardi Gras, but, really, a private jet to Alaska? A Little before midnight last night, the good people at ProPublica called in an air strike on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and the rubble is still bouncing. (Interestingly, the Justice wrote a pre-emptive rebuttal on Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, which is something all innocent people do.)"

"Populist? RFK Jr Doesn't Even Support Medicare for All. Many commentators see the eccentric Robert F. Kennedy Jr as an 'antiestablishment' alternative to Biden. But he doesn't even support single-payer health care, the brightest line dividing the centrist Democratic Party from its base. [...] All of this creates an opening for a primary challenger. Ted Kennedy's nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, has stepped in to fill that niche. He's not the only Democrat running against Biden — Marianne Williamson is too — but in most polls I've seen, Kennedy is well ahead of her. And it's not hard to see why he might emerge as Biden's most prominent challenger. On the one hand, he comes from a lineage of Democratic Party royalty. On the other hand, he's an edgy antiestablishment 'populist.' Or at least that's how he's been widely portrayed — both by commentators who are repulsed by Kennedy's proclivity for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and by those who find his criticisms of the Biden administration compelling. But the populism label is false advertising. On key issues from Israel/Palestine to Medicare for All, RFK Jr's politics are a thousand miles away from his branding."

"For Black drivers, a police officer's first 45 words are a portent of what's to come: When a police officer stops a Black driver, the first 45 words said by that officer hold important clues about how their encounter is likely to go. Car stops that result in a search, handcuffing, or arrest are nearly three times more likely to begin with the police officer issuing a command, such as 'Keep your hands on the wheel' or 'Turn the car off.'"

"Texas's 'Death Star Bill' Is an Attack on Workers and Democracy: The newly passed HB 2127 is yet another attempt by the GOP-controlled state legislature to impose minority rule over the state of Texas. It's the working class that will pay the price — and the working class that must organize to fight back. [...] HB 2127, labeled the 'Death Star Bill' by the Texas AFL-CIO, will go into effect on September 1. The bill will block cities and local governments from passing regulations on issues like labor protections, housing, and health care. Effectively, it will bar local governments in Texas from governing, hampering democracy in the state."

"The FBI Is Hunting A New Domestic Terror Threat: Abortion Rights Activists: After GOP pressure, FBI abortion 'terrorism' investigations increased tenfold, government data shows. [...] The FBI's abortion-related terrorism investigations jumped from three cases in the fiscal year 2021 to 28 in 2022, a higher increase than any other category listed, according to an audit published by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General on June 6. The number of abortion-related cases in 2022 far exceeds that of all previous years included in the audit, going back to 2017. In the same time frame, FBI investigations into 'racially or ethnically motivated extremists' decreased from 215 to 169; investigations into 'anti-government / anti-authority' declined even more sharply, from 812 to 240. In fact, the only other category to see an increase in cases was 'animal rights / environmental,' which underwent a modest increase from seven to nine cases. [...] 'There is a long history of deadly anti-abortion violence in this country,' German said. 'The FBI should not devote counterterrorism resources to vandalism cases that don't threaten human life out of some flawed notion of parity."

"Twitter Halts Promotion Of Campaign Video Due To 'Abortion Advocacy': 'The mention of abortion advocacy is the issue here,' a Twitter employee told North Carolina candidate Rachel Hunt, according to emails HuffPost reviewed. Twitter blocked a Democrat's campaign video from being promoted on its platform because it expressed support for abortion rights, according to email conversations obtained by HuffPost. The video, created by North Carolina state Sen. Rachel Hunt (D) for her campaign for lieutenant governor, centers on abortion rights in North Carolina and the fall of Roe v. Wade. Hunt says in the video that she's running for lieutenant governor to combat anti-choice Republicans who recently passed a 12-week abortion ban in the state. [...] 'Ah yes, the mention of abortion advocacy is the issue here,' a Twitter employee told Hunt's campaign Wednesday in an email reviewed by HuffPost. The employee said the company may have 'some good news to share on that front' in the next week or so, seemingly suggesting it may change its standards and practices on content discussing abortion rights. 'For now, though, you still won't be able to message around that topic,' the employee added."

"Assault charge dropped against Dan Price, former Gravity Payments CEO " — I haven't known how to react to this whole story but if the claims made about Price are no better than what came up in this case, I have to wonder if any of this is more than smears.

REST IN POWER: Debi Sundahl, former stripper, original publisher of the iconic On Our Backs, sex educator, and founder of Vitale video, of cancer, at 69. Susie Bright's announcement and tribute is now at her blog, "In memory: Debi Sundahl". There are some nice photos and stories.

"Ginni and Clarence: A Love Story How they saved one another, raged against their enemies, and brought the American experiment to the brink." A lot of people are curious about that marriage. And since he's been in the headlines a lot recently, Chapo Traphouse did an interview with Corey Robin about what he learned when writing his book The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.

"The Right accuses their critics of the conspiracy they themselves engage in" — Like, for example, the nefarious billionaire story.

"The Obamanauts Are Rebranding as Evil: It's not just Jay Carney, the former Obama spokesman who now leads capital's side of the class war at Amazon. A whole cohort of Obamanauts — those bright, young idealists who wanted to change the world — have positioned themselves in roles in the private sector where they can most effectively be part of the problem. [...] When it comes to Obama administration alumni taking lucrative gigs in Wall Street and Silicon Valley, this list is by no means exhaustive (this is to say nothing of Obama himself, who's made an absolute killing giving speeches to corporate clients). Even for hardened cynics of the political class, the shift from 2008's rousing message of 'Change we can believe in' to cashing in at corporate America has been so nakedly unsubtle it's sometimes defied belief. When that message failed to actualize itself between 2008 and 2016, a common refrain from some Democrats held that some combination of events and political constraints had doused the progressive ambition burning in the Obama administration's fiery liberal soul. Since departing the White House, countless alumni have had more freedom than most to take up professional opportunities of their own choosing — and the choices many of them made strongly suggest otherwise." Pretty sure that "fiery liberal soul" was never there to begin with.

Zach Carter in The New Yorker, "What if We're Thinking About Inflation All Wrong? Isabella Weber's heterodox ideas about government price controls are transforming policy in the United States and across Europe. [...] Instead, without warning, her career began to implode. Just before New Year's Eve, while Weber was on the bunny slopes, a short article on inflation that she'd written for the Guardian inexplicably went viral. A business-school professor called it 'the worst' take of the year. Random Bitcoin guys called her 'stupid.' The Nobel laureate Paul Krugman called her 'truly stupid.' Conservatives at Fox News, Commentary, and National Review piled on, declaring Weber's idea 'perverse,' 'fundamentally unsound,' and 'certainly wrong.'" What had she done that was so "stupid"? She'd proposed the same restraint on inflation that had worked in World War II: Price controls. Via Atrios, who had more to say about that.

"Public Schools Have Been Made to Answer for Capitalism's Crimes: Unwilling to disrupt the economic system that created mass inequality, liberals invested schools with magical powers to fix a broken society. When public schools failed to clean up capitalism's mess, they ended up on the chopping block."

If you needed a reason for millions of people to hate "liberals", always remember that Thomas Friedman was represented to people as a "liberal" media voice. And, as David C. Korten's review of Friedman's 1999 book The Lexis and the Olive Tree makes clear, Friedman was a monster. "We Are the Capitalists. You Will Be Assimilated. Resistance Is Futile. [...] If the author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree were not Thomas L. Friedman, the book could, with cause, be dismissed as simply another elitist corporate puff piece extolling the virtues of deregulation and the elimination of economic borders in the idolatrous pursuit of money. Friedman, however, has often been on the side of progressives, especially in his writing on Israel. His current book has its use, not because it offers any new insights into globalization -- it does not -- but rather because it reveals so much of the mindset of those self-proclaimed liberals and "new" Democrats who, like Friedman, have uncritically embraced economic rule by currency speculators and mega-corporations as the inevitable and beneficial future of humankind."

And, just by coincidence (and not a result of me cleverly digging up an old article on Friedman's monstrous book), Cory Doctorow recently wrote that "There Is Always An Alternative."

"Why thousands of board games are buried beneath Mankato: The Anti-Monopoly alternative to America's most successful board game took off in the 1970s. But a gaming giant with Minnesota ties sought its destruction. Somewhere beneath southern Minnesota lie the remnants of about 40,000 board games once created and sold as an antiestablishment alternative to mega-selling Monopoly. Manufactured in Mankato, the game Anti-Monopoly found success in the mid-1970s amid America's rampant inflation and institutional distrust. Then, much like in Monopoly, the ownership class quashed the competition."

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, "Tracks of My Tears"

17 June 2023

And one thin dime won't even shine your shoes

"Amazonie 2 (2020)" by Magali Angot (Mangot) is from a surprisingly fun collection on parrots.

"The Supreme Court Has a New Bold Lone Dissenter: This is a case about the federal right to organize your workplace through a union, which is protected by the National Labor Relations Act, or NLRA. This law was a cornerstone of the New Deal; before that point in history, unions were basically treated as illicit conspiracies out to undermine law-abiding businesses. The NLRA said: We're going start treating unions like lawful enterprises that protect workers' vested rights. One way it does that is by preempting state-level suits against a union for helping to organize a workplace. That's really important because otherwise, employers could destroy a union by slapping it with ruinous civil suits for negligence and trespassing and whatever, even though it's engaging in federally protected activity. The fundamental principle in this case is that the Supreme Court has said the NLRA kicks in, and state law is ousted, whenever unions engage in collective action that is arguably protected. The key word is 'arguably'—it doesn't have to be certain. And that's an important buffer because the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces the NLRA, has to step in and investigate whenever charges are filed, then decide whether fines and penalties are necessary." And that's where the Supremes stuck their nose in.

"Atlanta Police Arrest Organizers Of Bail Fund For Cop City Protesters: Part of a brutal crackdown on dissent against the police training facility, the SWAT raid and charges against the protest bail fund are unprecedented. ON WEDNESDAY MORNING, a heavily armed Atlanta Police Department SWAT team raided a house in Atlanta and arrested three of its residents. Their crime? Organizing legal support and bail funds for protesters and activists who have faced indiscriminate arrest and overreaching charges in the struggle to stop the construction of a vast police training facility — dubbed Cop City — atop a forest in Atlanta. In a joint operation with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, or GBI, Atlanta cops charged Marlon Scott Kautz, Adele Maclean, and Savannah Patterson — all board members of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund — with 'money laundering' and 'charity fraud.' The arrests are an unprecedented attack on bail funds and legal support organizations, a long-standing facet of social justice movements, according to Lauren Regan, executive director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center. 'This is the first bail fund to be attacked in this way,' Regan, whose organization has worked to ensure legal support for people resisting Cop City, told me. 'And there is absolutely not a scintilla of fact or evidence that anything illegal has ever transpired with regard to Atlanta fundraising for bail support.' [...] A more detailed arrest warrant for Patterson notes that the alleged 'money laundering' charge relates to reimbursements made from the nonprofit to Patterson's personal PayPal account for minor expenses including 'gasoline, forest clean-up, totes, covid rapid tests, media, yard signs and other miscellaneous expenses.' Targeting the organizers with a militarized SWAT raid based on such expenditures only clarifies the desperation of law enforcement agencies in going after the movement."

"A New Prison Policy Blocks Incarcerated Journalists and Artists From Publishing Their Work: New York prisons may have effectively banned journalism behind bars. JOHN J. LENNON HAS built an unlikely career. As a journalist writing from within the prisons he covers, he has spent the last decade offering a rare inside perspective into politics, health, and recreation behind bars. His most recent feature, in The New York Times, illustrated how rising housing prices leave those released from prison with few options to avoid homelessness. He's landed a book deal and a contributing editor position with Esquire. 'Writing has changed my life,' he told New York Focus in a phone call from Sullivan Correctional Facility. 'I've been able to grapple on the page with a lot of things.' He also mentors others who've found solace writing while imprisoned. But the agency that runs New York's prisons is set to block Lennon and countless other incarcerated writers, artists, and poets from getting their work outside prison walls. Last month, the agency quietly handed down new rules severely curtailing what incarcerated writers and artists can publish — and forbidding them from getting paid for it."

"High Court Denies Assange Right to Appeal Putting Him Perilously Close to Extradition: A single judge on the High Court of England and Wales has rejected imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange's nearly year-old request to appeal the British decision to extradite him to the United States to stand trial on espionage and computer intrusion charges. Assange's legal team has one last recourse in the U.K. and has five days to request a hearing before the court."

"Texas sheriff files criminal case over DeSantis flights to Martha's Vineyard: A Texas sheriff's office has recommended criminal charges over flights that the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, arranged to deport 49 South American migrants from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard, in Massachusetts, last year. In a statement on Monday, the Bexar county sheriff's office said it had filed a criminal case with the local district attorney over the flight. The Bexar county sheriff, Javier Salazar, has previously said the migrants were 'lured under false pretenses' into traveling to Martha's Vineyard, a wealthy liberal town. The recommendation comes after the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, threatened DeSantis with kidnapping charges on Monday, after Florida flew a group of people seeking asylum to Sacramento. It was the second time in four days Florida had used taxpayer money to fly asylum seekers to California. 'The charge filed is unlawful restraint and several accounts were filed, both misdemeanor and felony,' the Bexar county sheriff's office said in a statement provided to KSAT News."

My favorite thing about the story of the tsouris that got stirred up when the Dodgers invited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to be their guests is that actual Catholic nuns stood up for them because they visit the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the poor, which is just what nuns are supposed to do. "Dodgers apologize and invite Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Pride Night: Less than a week after removing the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from their lineup, the Dodgers on Monday re-invited the organization to Pride Night amid backlash from LGBTQ+ and civil rights groups as well as local politicians and even Dodgers employees."

Impeached Republican "Texas AG Says Trump Would've 'Lost' State If It Hadn't Blocked Mail-in Ballots Applications Being Sent Out: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said former President Donald Trump would have lost in Texas in the 2020 election if his office had not successfully blocked counties from mailing out applications for mail-in ballots to all registered voters. Harris County, home to the city of Houston, wanted to mail out applications for mail-in ballots to its approximately 2.4 million registered voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the conservative Texas Supreme Court blocked the county from doing so after it faced litigation from Paxton's office."

I always wondered when these people would finally notice the contradiction here. "Texas House Overwhelmingly Approves Restrictions on No-Knock Warrants: Conservatives who support the bill recognize the conflict between unannounced home invasions and the Second Amendment. The Texas House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved a bill that would sharply restrict the use of no-knock search warrants, which the state Senate is now considering. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans, and the bipartisan support for the bill suggests that many conservatives recognize the potentially lethal hazards of routinely allowing police to enter people's homes without warning. That practice pits law enforcement priorities against the right to armed self-defense in the home, which the Supreme Court has recognized as the "core" of the Second Amendment. [...] "No-knock warrants are really dangerous," Wu told Houston Public Media. "They're just a bad policy. There's no reason that you can't announce that it's the police coming into your door in the middle of the night." He said Texas conservatives "understand that you don't really have a right to defend your home if you don't know who is coming in."" All the more so when the warrants themselves are frequently of questionable provenance and the teams that execute them do so recklessly.

"Video Showed an Officer Trying to Stop His Partner From Killing a Man. Now We Know Police Investigators Never Even Asked About the Footage. We obtained the NYPD's full investigation into the killing of Kawaski Trawick, including documents and audio of interviews with the officers. The records provide a rare window into how exactly a police department examines its own after a shooting." Let's just say there was a little discrepancy between what the video showed and what the police said happened, and the "investigation" didn't even investigate it.

YouGov poll less interesting than it could have been: "American women describe their experiences with menstrual periods"

REST IN PEACE: "Cynthia Weil, Storied Songwriter With Decades of Hits, Dead at 82: Cynthia Weil, the celebrated songwriter who helped craft timeless hits like the Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin',' the Animals' 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place,' and Chaka Khan's 'Through the Fire,' died Thursday, June 1. She was 82." Wrote some Gene Pitney and Motown hits I loved, as well, and my old favorite from Wild in the Streets, too, "The Shape of Things to Come".

REST IN PEACE: "John Romita Sr, Spider-Man artist and co-creator of Wolverine, dead at 93 [...] Romita died of natural causes in his sleep. His son, John Romita Jr, also a successful graphic novelist, confirmed the death in a Twitter post on Tuesday night."

REST IN POWER: "Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, dies aged 92 [...] In March, Ellsberg announced that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. Saying he had been given three to six months to live, he said he had chosen not to undergo chemotherapy and had been assured of hospice care. 'I am not in any physical pain,' he wrote, adding: 'My cardiologist has given me license to abandon my salt-free diet of the last six years. This has improved my life dramatically: the pleasure of eating my favourite foods!' On Friday, the family said Ellsberg 'was not in pain' when he died. He spent his final months eating 'hot chocolate, croissants, cake, poppyseed bagels and lox' and enjoying 'several viewings of his all-time favourite [movie], Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', the family statement added." I like knowing that. Right up to the end he was speaking up for whistleblowers who have been treated like criminals by our modern "leaders". He was a real hero. Also, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is my favorite porn film.

REST IN POWER: "Glenda Jackson, fearless actor and politician, dies aged 87 [...] Jackson bestrode the narrow worlds of stage and screen like a colossus over six decades. Though such a Shakespearean tribute would undoubtedly have had the famously curmudgeonly actor reaching for her familiar catchphrase: 'Oh, come on. Good God, no,' nothing less will do for a star who emerged from a 23-year career break to play King Lear at the age of 82. Not only did she win an Evening Standard theatre award for that performance, but she brought the audience to its feet by playing up to her ferocious reputation with an attack on the awards' sponsor. For decades, the newspaper had scorned her as an actor, opposed her as an MP, she said, 'so I'm left thinking what did I do wrong?'"

ROT IN PERDITION: "Left Out of Pat Robertson's Obits: His Crazy, Antisemitic Conspiracy Theory: The right-wing Christian broadcaster was a bigoted loon—and the GOP embraced him. On Thursday, Pat Robertson, the television preacher and founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, died at the age of 93. The obituaries duly noted that he transformed Christian fundamentalism into a potent political force with the Christian Coalition that he founded in 1990 and that became an influential component of the Republican Party. They also included an array of outrageous and absurd remarks he had made over the years. He blamed natural disasters on feminists and LGBTQ people. He called Black Lives Matter activists anti-Christian. He said a devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti occurred because Haitians had made a 'pact with the devil' to win their freedom from France. He prayed for the deaths of liberal Supreme Court justices. He insisted the 9/11 attacks happened because liberals, feminists, and gay rights advocates had angered God. He claimed Kenyans could get AIDS via towels. He insisted Christians were more patriotic than non-Christians. He purported to have prayed away a hurricane from striking Virginia Beach. (The storm hit elsewhere.) Yet left out of the accounts of Robertson's life was a basic fact: He was an antisemitic conspiracy theory nutter."

ROT IN PERDITION: "A farewell to James G. Watt, environmental vandal and proto-Trumpian: Last week was so chock full o' news, what with the Trump indictment and the deaths of religious right-winger Pat Robertson and the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, that I'm concerned that another significant passing has received far less attention than it deserved. That's the death of James G. Watt at 85, which occurred on May 27 but was announced by his family last Thursday. Most leading newspapers granted Watt an obituary, proper for someone who was Ronald Reagan's Interior secretary for just under three years. The New York Times called him 'polarizing,' the Washington Post 'combative,' this newspaper 'sharp-tongued and pro-development.' Did those adjectives do justice to Watt, however? I think not. They focused on his actions while in office from 1981 to 1983. What they missed, however, is his legacy as a Republican ideologue on environmental policy." We were all horrified when he was appointed, but my sister-in-law worked at Interior and they were all crying.

Atrios provides a guest link to a surprisingly good opinion piece by Perry Bacon, Jr. in the WaPo in the wake of Chris Licht stepping down at CNN. "After the firestorm created by the Atlantic article, Licht is now stepping down from his post. But all of the harsh criticism is a bit unfair to Licht. In particular, his skepticism of left-wing causes, and his view that people who don't agree with the left are constantly attacked and shamed, isn't some outlier stance. These ideas are regularly expressed in many of the nation's most prominent news outlets. If you spend a lot of time talking to White men in Democratic politics, as I do, you have to nod along as comments like Licht's are made, even if you don't agree with them, to signal that you are a reasonable person worth talking to. Licht's comments embody an anti-woke centrism that is increasingly prominent in American media and politics today, particularly among powerful White men who live on the coasts and don't identify as Republicans or conservatives. It's deeply flawed, and it's pushing some important U.S. institutions to make bad decisions. [...] 'Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned,' the New York Times declared in the first sentence of a March 2022 editorial. In reality, there has never been a right to voice your opinion without the possibility of being shamed or shunned (terms without precise meanings) — and there shouldn't be. Shaming and shunning people are free expression, too. What I suspect this editorial was actually calling for is for self-described Democrats and liberals to be able to express more conservative views (such as skepticism about transgender rights) but without being attacked in the way that conservatives often are for such views (being called bigots)."

"This L.A. Bus Shelter Managed to Offend Literally Everyone." This is what happens when hurting the homeless becomes more of a priority than creating things that serve the purposes they were supposed to be created for. Those nice benches that were meant for people — tired people, or old people — to be able to rest while visiting a park, shopping, or waiting for the bus, have been made so uncomfortable that no one can actually rest on them anymore. And now they've found a way to eliminate any protection from rain or sun. A work of genius.

"How Reading The Economist Helped Me to Stop Worrying About White Supremacy: A recent viral sensation identifies the migration of poor whites as the cause of the problem—letting the rest of us off the hook! [...] If an Economist article that went viral recently is any indication, neither revelation made a dent in the conventional wisdom about who's behind white supremacy in America. The article, by Elliott Morris, citing a research paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, claims that you can use math to prove that 21st-century reactionary politics come from poor whites who left the South looking for jobs a century ago. It's not hard to see why this piece got traction. It absolves lots of white people of any responsibility for white supremacy. It's just truthy enough to become the kind of 'everyone knows' canonical narrative that informs political strategies for a generation. But the math proving that racism comes from one specific class of people turns out to be fatally flawed! And it gets worse. By obscuring how white supremacy actually works, and perpetuating mistaken ideas of why it persists and spreads, this study can make it harder to fight. That leaves us all worse off. It's the political equivalent of junk food."

"The First Name of a Supreme Court Justice Is Not Justice [...] Over roughly the past 15 years, the justices have seized for themselves more and more of the national governing agenda, overriding other decision makers with startling frequency. And they have done so in language that drips with contempt for other governing institutions and in a way that elevates the judicial role above all others. The result has been a judicial power grab. [...] Recognizing the justices' ideological project also points to the beginning of the solution. We ought to begin talking about the justices the way we talk about other political actors — recognizing that their first name is not Justice and that they, like other politicians, should be identified by their party. We should stop talking about another branch's potential defiance of a judicial opinion as an attack on 'the rule of law' and instead understand it as an attack on rule by judges, one that may (or may not) be a justified response to some act of judicial governance. And those other branches should be more willing — as they have at other moments in American history — to use the tools at their disposal, including cutting the judiciary's funding, to put the courts in their place. In recent years, the judiciary has shown little but contempt for other governing institutions. It has earned a little contempt in return."

So, it turns out that instead of threatening people, you can get people to show up in court by communicating with them: "Criminal justice policy in the United States focuses on increasing negative consequences to deter undesired behavior. However, defendants often appear relatively insensitive to these changes in the severity of consequences. Fishbane et al. considered a different policy lever: improving the communication of information necessary to adhere to desired behavior (see the Perspective by Kohler-Hausmann). They found that redesigning a criminal summons form to highlight critical information and providing text message reminders increased the likelihood that defendants would show up to their appointed court date, thus eliminating a substantial percentage of arrest warrants for failing to appear in court. In follow-up experiments, the authors found that laypeople, but not experts, believe that such failures to appear are relatively intentional, and this belief reduces their support for interventions aimed at increasing awareness rather than punishment. These findings have implications for policies aimed at improving criminal justice outcomes."

"Pluralistic: The long lineage of private equity's looting: Fans of the Sopranos will remember the 'bust out' as a mob tactic in which a business is taken over, loaded up with debt, and driven into the ground, wrecking the lives of the business's workers, customers and suppliers. When the mafia does this, we call it a bust out; when Wall Street does it, we call it 'private equity.'" Cory Doctorow explains how vulture capitalists are destroying everything people need.

And here's Robert Kuttner's 2018 story, "It Was Vulture Capitalism that Killed Sears: Don't blame Amazon or the internet. The culprit was a predatory hedge fund. If you've been following the impending bankruptcy of America's iconic retailer, as covered by print, broadcast, and digital media, you've probably encountered lots of nostalgia, and sad clucking about how dinosaurs like Sears can't compete in the age of Amazon and specialty retail. But most of the coverage has failed to stress the deeper story. Namely, Sears is a prime example of how hedge funds and private-equity companies take over retailers, encumber them with debt in order to pay themselves massive windfall profits, and then leave the retailer without adequate operating capital to compete."

"Black People Care About Crime, But We Don't Need Police Propaganda: With Mass Shootings And Gun Violence Permeating The News, It's Clear We Need Public Safety Solutions. But More Cops Aren't The Answer. Everyone wants to live in a society free from crime, Black people included. We're just not usually able to comfortably express that without America treating it as an endorsement of our own criminalization and mass incarceration. When mention is made of the Black community's collective concern about crime, it is rarely to address our material needs or alleviate the causes of crime, but instead offered to dismiss calls for progressive reform in lieu of continuing to invest in 'tough on crime' initiatives."

"What is a 'Riot'? For weeks, I was puzzled by the radical disconnect between what was being reflected back to us by the national media -- and even our friends and relatives in distant parts of the country -- and what Portland residents like me, who live downtown, knew to be the truth. The national media were repeatedly saying Portlanders were 'rioting,' that the downtown was overrun by 'antifa and Marxist terrorists,' filled with burning buildings and looting . . . but we saw nothing of that, especially those of us who live closest to the epicenter. Nervous friends from out of town repeated that police are saying the activity in the streets are 'riots.' Nobody's rioting, we responded, and we're not afraid to go downtown. It finally dawned on me that the Portland Police Bureau's use of the term 'riot' was a technical matter -- a legal one -- which had very little to do with the phenomenon American citizens have been accustomed to seeing reported on the national news as riots."

In 2014, the late Robert Parry wrote about the coup in Ukraine and the bizarre way the media was covering it. He was no stranger to the way the press corp can twist the narrative, but he felt that something new and even more sinister had been added, an ingredient we have become used to seeing today. "Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass [...] But the U.S. press has played down his role because his neo-Nazism conflicts with Official Washington's narrative that the neo-Nazis played little or no role in the 'revolution.' References to neo-Nazis in the 'interim government' are dismissed as 'Russian propaganda.'"

For the record, almost everyone takes one look at me and thinks I'm Jewish. Sometimes this is really obvious (like that guy who went out of his way to show me the swastika tats on his knuckles), and sometimes it's a more subtle reservedness that only goes away when the listener somehow learns that my ethnicity is something else, but by and large, people just assume I'm Jewish. So I would tend to notice if there was a lot of antisemitism going on around me, and I will say for the record that on the few occasions I have met Ken Livingstone, or the many occasions on which I have socialized or worked with Ken-supporting Labourites and Corbyn-supporting Labourites, I never experienced any from them. And actual Jews who have spent considerably more time around Labour Party people say much the same: "Bindman has had an equally long history in the Labour Party, as a councillor, deputy leader of Camden council and chair of the Society of Labour Lawyers. He has acted for a number of leading figures in the party, although not Corbyn. 'I have had close involvement with the Labour Party for many years, and I can say that I've never really experienced antisemitism among fellow Labour Party members or in Labour meetings.' He is not alone in this judgement. The idea of any Jew being antisemitic is, in his words, 'pretty hard to swallow'. Bindman does not deny that antisemitism exists in the party, as it does everywhere, but he agrees with Corbyn's assessment in response to the EHCR report that the problem of antisemitism had been exaggerated - an assessment that got the MP expelled from the parliamentary Labour Party. 'He thought the problem had been exaggerated in the Labour Party. He did not say that antisemitism itself was not highly important, but he said there was not as much of it as had been suggested and he is absolutely right about that. 'You can look at all the statistics and studies that have been made. If you look at the facts you can't justify what Keir has said or done unless he's using it as a pretext. A political strategy. That's all I can say.'"

"Children's enjoyment of writing has fallen to 'crisis point', research finds: Only one in three UK children now enjoy writing in their free time – including text messages – with those on free school meals most likely to do so. [...] 'Every year since 2010, the National Literacy Trust has consistently found that children on free school meals are more likely to engage with writing in their free time than their better-off peers,' said the report. 'This trend has remained steady in the face of a global pandemic and an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis that has forced up the price of consumer goods and services at the fastest rate in four decades. This highlights the potential for writing for pleasure to play a vital role in the lives of disadvantaged children and young people.'"

"Idle rich baffled by poor people's distaste for dangerous, low-paying jobs: People who don't have to work have complained for centuries that other people don't like doing poorly paid, dangerous, dull work, the kind that makes the lives of the affluent comfortable and convenient. This collection of quotes, dating back to 1894, all say the same thing — "Nobody wants to work anymore" — as if there was a time when people relished shoveling shit for the upper class."

"So What Is a British Biscuit Really? And why does it need to 'snap'?" The origins of the British "biscuit" from a French term for what Americans call "hard-tack" seem almost mysterious, and help explain why they are equally mystified by what we call "cookies", "crackers", and "biscuits".

"Colin's Barn: Colin Stokes 'got a bit carried away' and built a castle that looks like something out of Tolkien. [...] The Hobbit House, also known as Colin's Barn, in Chedglow, England, has been abandoned since Stokes moved away in 2000 to avoid the noise of a forest marble quarry opening up nearby. He never finished his project, which he had started 1989 using rocks and stones from around his property, and concrete to hold them together." There are a few neat photos.

The Drifters, "On Broadway" (Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil)