SUPREME COURT FINDS IN FAVOR OF FRAUDSTERS. Or so it seems to me. Lorie Smith (or at least her legal team) falsely claimed that a gay man had written to her asking her to design a wedding website for his upcoming nuptials. Which had not happened. But Lorie said that complying with the state's anti-discrimination laws would force her to "express" support for gay marriage, which she opposed. The right-wing operatives on the Supreme Court, however, were not dissuaded by the improbability of a gay couple not being able to find a gay-friendly web designer and wanting to give Lorie their custom, and said it would violate her free speech to have to provide her services to gay couples. Corey Robin has some interesting words to say on the confusion between the public and markets as regards this decision.
The far-right had a problem with establishing standing on the student loan cancellation case since, obviously, no one would actually be harmed by the policy. They finally found a loan-servicer who the state claimed would lose money, but it turned out they'd actually make money on the deal, so obviously they had no standing. (I want to interject here that for many years we have been used to the court denying standing to people who very clearly did have standing in cases where they were directly threatened or had already been harmed, so this is yet another stark example of the right-wing's tendency to grab — or discard — any argument or fact in order, however speciously, to come to their desired conclusion.) Somehow, though, they decided they had standing anyway. But they had another problem, which is that they didn't actually have much law to base their decision on, so Roberts ended up citing a political statement from Nancy Pelosi falsely claiming that the president had no power to forgive student loans. Obviously, this had been a statement based on the desires of her donors and not the law, but the law clearly does give the president the ability to cancel student debt (under several different provisions from Congress), so he had to settle for Nancy instead.
Biden follows in the footsteps of Obama and Trump and brings the same old war criminal to the White House. They just can't quit Death Squad Elliot. "Henry Kissinger, Elliott Abrams, and the Rot of American Foreign Policy: Our bipartisan elite is always willing to forgive war crimes by its made men. [...] But there is one group of shadowy miscreants that do operate under a code of omertà designed to ensure that almost all misdeeds will be forgiven, forgotten, and shielded from punishment: the American foreign policy establishment. Once you're an accredited member of the cozy club of Washington policy warlords, you need never worry about having to face the consequences of your actions. Perhaps the only major exceptions to this rule are those who break the code of silence and let the public in on the dirty deeds of the ruling class—as the late Daniel Ellsberg did with the release of the Pentagon Papers. For that unpardonable crime, the price is ostracism and threats of jail."
"FBI hired social media surveillance firm that labeled black lives matter organizers 'threat actors': A new Senate report calls out the FBI for lying to Congress about its social media monitoring, pointing out the FBI's hiring of ZeroFox. THE FBI'S PRIMARY tool for monitoring social media threats is the same contractor that labeled peaceful Black Lives Matter protest leaders DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie as 'threat actors' requiring 'continuous monitoring' in 2015. The contractor, ZeroFox, identified McKesson and Elzie as posing a 'high severity' physical threat, despite including no evidence that McKesson or Elzie were suspected of criminal activity. 'It's been almost a decade since the referenced 2015 incident and in that time we have invested heavily in fine-tuning our collections, analysis and labeling of alerts,' Lexie Gunther, a spokesperson for ZeroFox, told The Intercept, 'including the addition of a fully managed service that ensures human analysis of every alert that comes through the ZeroFox Platform to ensure we are only alerting customers to legitimate threats and are labeling those threats appropriately.'"
"Death of an Economic Theory: The notion that public investment crowds out private spending has taken a beating lately. The remarkable changes in manufacturing construction over the past year, since the passage of two key Biden administration industrial-policy laws, is rapidly putting to rest a concept that has been embedded into the old understanding of the economy. The concept is called 'crowd-out,' and it asserts that increases in government involvement in a business sector lead to reductions in private spending in that sector." It's astonishing that anyone even got away with inventing this theory. We have always had plenty of evidence that government investment creates the private sector's successes.
"WSJ Attacks Antitrust Champion Lina Khan Every 11 Days Since FTC Appointment [...] For example, after the FTC decided to block the merger between medical distributor company Illumina and medical testing company Grail, a Journal op-ed declared (4/27/23): 'Lina Khan Blocks Cancer Cures.' Grail does not in fact cure cancer, nor would blocking the merger bar its technology from the market. The FTC challenged it on the grounds that since Grail's technology requires Illumina's systems to function, the merger could prevent similar technologies under development from competing."
"OECD Pushed Australia to Drop Plan Aimed at Showing Where Corporations Pay Taxes: 'What little credibility the OECD had is now in tatters,' said one campaigner. 'The OECD makes promises about ending global tax abuse but was evidently doing everything it could behind closed doors to protect tax abusers.' The Financial Times confirmed Friday that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development lobbied Australia to weaken a law that would have compelled about 2,500 highly profitable multinational corporations to reveal where they pay taxes, eliciting outrage from tax justice advocates. Citing two unnamed people familiar with the discussions, FT reported that the Paris-based club of wealthy nations 'pressured Australia's ruling Labor government to drop a crucial part of a new finance bill that would have required some multinationals to publicly disclose their country-by-country tax bills.' According to the newspaper, 'The OECD, which has driven efforts to force the world's largest companies to pay their fair share of tax, believed the bill would have undermined its own efforts to make multinationals' affairs less opaque.' Campaigners were incredulous given that the legislation the OECD enfeebled 'would have delivered the biggest transparency breakthrough to date on the taxes of multinational corporations,' as the Tax Justice Network put it.
"How "independent media" has tightened the noose on journalists: By replacing employees with contractors and salaries with selective "profit sharing", capital has increased its control over the media. Over the last 24 hours, two stories emerged in the news that shed some crucial light on the shadowy world of 'independent' Silicon Valley media. First, in the Washington Post, Taylor Lorentz reported that Twitter has begun rolling out payments to people who use the site. Most posters on Twitter have been well aware of this since users have been loudly bragging about their payments over the past day, but they have also noticed a catch: only some people are getting the money. And so far, Lorentz reports, 'the influencers who have publicly revealed that they're part of the program are prominent figures on the right.' Meanwhile, in The Nation, Jacob Silverman wrote about the ties of YouTube competitor Rumble to the hard right. In a somewhat tangential passage, however, he notes a detail of their operations that hasn't been reported on in the past: Rumble reserves the right to cap compensation to site users at $1000. It doesn't have to, but it can.
"Half the Police Force Quit. Crime Dropped: [...] 'We enjoy prosperity and security in this community,' said Shep Harris, the mayor since 2012. 'But that has come at a cost. I think it took incidents like the murder of George Floyd to help us see that more clearly.' The residents of the strongly left-leaning town decided change was necessary. One step was eliminating those racial covenants. Another was changing the Police Department, which had a reputation for mistreating people of color. The first hire was Officer Alice White, the force's first high-ranking Black woman. The second was Virgil Green, the town's first Black police chief. 'When I started, Black folks I'd speak to in Minneapolis seemed surprised that I'd been hired,' Chief Green said when I spoke with him recently. 'They told me they and most people they knew avoided driving through Golden Valley.' Members of the overwhelmingly white police force responded to both hires by quitting — in droves. [...] 'I haven't been on the job long enough to make any significant changes,' Chief Green said. 'Yet we're losing officers left and right. It's hard not to think that they just don't want to work under a Black supervisor.' The interesting thing is that according to Chief Green, despite the reduction in staff, crime — already low — has gone down in Golden Valley. The town plans to staff the department back up, just not right away. 'I've heard that the police union is cautioning officers from coming to work here,' Mr. Harris said. 'But that's OK. We want to take the time to hire officers who share our vision and are excited to work toward our goals.' [...] When New York's officers engaged in an announced slowdown in policing in late 2014 and early 2015, civilian complaints of major crime in the city dropped. And despite significant staffing shortages at law enforcement agencies around the country, if trends continue, 2023 will have the largest percentage drop in homicides in U.S. history. It's true that such a drop would come after a two-year surge, but the fact that it would also occur after a significant reduction in law enforcement personnel suggests the surge may have been due more to the pandemic and its effects than depolicing." All right, yes, this one little town isn't really proof that reducing police necessarily reduces crime, but that's not the only evidence.
It's just as big a problem in Australia as in the US — don't trust a company that pretends to be socially or environmentally conscious if they wear it on their face but still treat employees like dirt. Instead of giving employers points for waving a rainbow flag or having race-awareness class requirements, just put them in jail when they steal the wages of employees.
RIP: "Lowell P. Weicker Jr., maverick senator during Watergate, dies at 92: He served three terms in the U.S. Senate and one term as Connecticut's governor. [...] 'More and more, events were making it clear that the Nixon White House was a cauldron of corruption,' Weicker wrote. 'And even as disclosures kept coming, more and more national leaders were acting as though nothing especially unusual had happened.'" Weicker was a liberal Republican, but the Republicans found a conservative Democrat to back to get him out of office: Joe Lieberman.
RIP: Alan Arkin at 89: Alan Arkin, who has died aged 89, was a star at the beginning of his career and a beloved character actor until the end. Though best known for comedies, most notably Catch-22 (1970) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006), lightness was not necessarily his forte; even at his funniest, he exuded gravitas." I admit, I've had my complaints about the movie of Catch-22, but Alan Arkin wasn't one of them - even before I'd heard of him, his was the face I saw when I first read the book. Here's a bunch of photos of him.
Stoller and Dayen in The American Prospect, "Moving Past Neoliberalism Is a Policy Project: In order to test whether improving people's lives can convince them to support Democrats, you have to, well, improve people's lives. [...] We aren't political consultants, and we aren't going to tell anyone how to win elections. But our political theory, nicknamed 'deliverism,' is that Democrats, when in government, need to not only say popular things, but actually deliver good economic outcomes for voters. They did not do this for many years, and neither did the GOP, which is why Trump blasted through both party establishments. Deliverism is linked to the death of neoliberalism, because it's an argument that Democrats could reverse their toxic image in many parts of the country by reversing policy choices on subjects like NAFTA, deregulation, and banking consolidation, which have helped hollow out the middle class for decades."
A lovely tribute from Robert Borosage, "Jesse Jackson Is Keeping Hope Alive: Veterans of his remarkable insurgent 1988 campaign gather to pay tribute. 'I did not start with the money, the ads, the polling or the endorsements. I started with a message and a mission.' As the now-grizzled veterans of Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign gather in Chicago this weekend to pay tribute to their ailing leader, Jackson's words summarize well the historic insurgency he led 35 years ago. [...] In 1988, Jackson was aiming higher. Standing with working people at the 'point of challenge,' he walked picket lines, stood with family farmers facing foreclosure, reached out to progressive peace, women's, gay and lesbian and environmental activists. He would stun the mainstream political world when they saw white workers and farmers not only give Jackson a hearing but also begin to vote for him in ever-greater numbers. The mission, in Jackson's words, was to build a 'progressive rainbow coalition—across ancient boundaries of race, religion, region, and sex,' moving millions of Americans from 'racial battlegrounds to economic common ground and on to moral higher ground.'"
"We are all totalitarians now: If you listen to the talking heads on MSNBC or read more sophisticated academic treatments of the topic, you'll find a frequent claim that mainstream Republican leaders who are not Trump—people like McConnell or McCarthy—are cowards or careerists. Unlike the Greenes and Gaetzes of the party, goes the argument, these men are not ideologically opposed to democracy. They're just insufficiently committed to democracy. That's the problem."
Jackie DeShannon, "Breakaway"