31 August 2023

She's just mad about me

I had this weird little computer disaster that freaked me out and no one seems to understand how it happened, so I lost some work on this post and also some time trying to get my mojo back, so I'm just gonna post what I have here and hope it all works normally this time.

Doctorow, "How the kleptocrats and oligarchs hunt civil society groups to the ends of the Earth: It's a great time to be an oligarch! If you have accumulated a great fortune and wish to put whatever great crime lies behind it behind you, there is an army of fixers, lickspittles, thugs, reputation-launderers, procurers, henchmen, and other enablers who have turnkey solutions for laundering your reputation and keeping the unwashed from building a guillotine outside the gates of your compound."

"SoCal Gas spent millions on astroturf ops to fight climate rules: It's a breathtaking fraud: SoCal Gas, the largest gas company in America, spent millions secretly paying people to oppose California environmental regulations, then illegally stuck its customers with the bill. We Californians were forced to pay to lobby against our own survival."

Dean Baker, "It Was Never About 'Free Trade,' Can We Stop the Stupid Charade Already? Over the last four decades administrations of both political parties have pushed trade deals that were designed to redistribute income upward. These deals were routinely referred to as 'free trade' deals, implying that they were about eliminating barriers to trade. This was clearly not true. The trade agreements did remove barriers to trade in manufactured goods, thereby putting downward pressure on the wages of manufacturing workers and workers without college degrees more generally. However, they did little or nothing to remove barriers in highly paid professional services, such as those provided by doctors and dentists. And, they increased some barriers, most notably government-granted patent and copyright monopolies. This mix of barrier reductions and barrier increases had the unambiguous effect of shifting income from ordinary workers to highly educated workers. Stronger patent and copyright protections make people like Bill Gates and workers in the biotech industry rich, they don't put money in the pockets of retail clerks, truck drivers, and custodians. In fact, patents and copyrights take money out of their pockets since they make them pay more for drugs, medical equipment, software and thousands of other items, thereby reducing their real wages."

"Remote work wasn't a problem when Jason Fried wrote about it in 2010, but the second that interest rates no longer benefited venture capital it became something that had 'fooled smart people' and had to be reigned in." And bosses apparently don't get to feel as bossy, and owners feel like workers have too much power, and they just don't like it and they want to make people come back to the office for no reason.

Jon Schwarz, "The Big Myth About 'Free' Markets That Justified History's Greatest Heist: A recent book details how the top 10 percent stole $47 trillion via intellectual warfare. [...] Finally, there's the historical fact that no country has ever gone communist gradually, starting with minimum wage laws and ending up with gulags. Rather, it happened in various fell swoops in places with glaring injustices and vicious capitalistic inequality, and even then generally has required contemporary wars. [...] The book is an incredible work of scholarship, and every page has at least one sparkling, fascinating fact. Adam Smith's 1776 book The Wealth of Nations is now seen as the key text proving the virtues (economic and political) of unregulated capitalism. This is not true at all: Smith argues that bank regulation is crucial; that workers should unionize; that businesspeople have often 'deceived and oppressed' the public; and that any political proposal they make should be viewed with the utmost suspicion. George Stigler, a prominent economist at the University of Chicago and colleague of Milton Friedman, produced an edition of 'The Wealth of Nations' that dealt with Smith's inconvenient views by quietly excising many of them." And that explains something that has baffled me for decades — how did all these kids grow up thinking that Smith was a voice for monetarism? They clearly think they've read him, but they missed all the good parts!

There's always a thread somewhere about how Bernie and AOC are sellouts, so it's interesting to see two articles showing up saying otherwise. From Charlie Heller in The Nation, "A Longtime Political Organizer in AOC's District Says She's the Real Deal: She has used her skills to win concrete, historic political victories." And Branko Marcetic in Jacobin, "AOC and the Squad's List of Left-Wing Accomplishments Is Quite Long: As with any elected official, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad should be criticized when needed. But left-wing vitriol is unwarranted: it ignores the Squad's many progressive accomplishments and their legislation's aid to activist campaigns."

"Gender Criticism Versus Gender Abolition: On Three Recent Books About Gender" — I think there's a large extent to which when I read any article about the transgender wars, I'm really looking for a clue as to how it happened that at a time when the entire world seems to be collapsing, this subject suddenly and inexplicably became of paramount importance to so many people who must surely have better things to focus on. Grace Lavery doesn't seem to know, either, but at least she sees the problem.

Donovan, "Mellow Yellow"

14 August 2023

I would tear this building down

New Smyrna Beach

Florida wants to teach children that slavery was more like an apprenticeship program where you learned skills you could use for your personal benefit later on. A lot of assumptions go with that, such as that you had no such skills before you were kidnapped from Africa, and that you might eventually be freed to use those skills for yourself. But my favorite part of this story is that they hired "rigorous scholars" to sell that story to the public, and they released a "rigorously" researched list of supposed slaves who supposedly went on to use their slavery-learned skills in later life. The list of people who supposedly fit this bill is almost howlingly funny. Half of them were never slaves, and those who were, by and large, did not make their living carrying on their occupations from slavery. My favorite example was the (white, free) sister of the president of the United States. I can understand how they might have made this mistake since most people have never met a white person named "Washington".

"Black man who says he was elected mayor of Alabama town alleges that White leaders are keeping him from position [...] Patrick Braxton, 57, is one of several plaintiffs named in Braxton et al v. Stokes et al. The other plaintiffs — James Ballard, Barbara Patrick, Janice Quarles and Wanda Scott — are people that Braxton hoped to name to the city council of Newbern after he was elected to office in 2020. However, Braxton said that the "minority White residents of (Newbern), long accustomed to exercising total control over the government, refused to accept this outcome." Haywood Stokes III, the acting mayor of Neweurn, instead allegedly worked with acting town council members to hold a special election where he was re-appointed to the mayoral seat and keeping Braxton from taking office and carrying out mayoral duties. "

"Ohio Voters Reject Republican Efforts to Restrict Ballot Initiatives: By an overwhelming margin, Ohio voters tonight rejected attempts by Republicans to restrict ballot initiatives for citizens to bypass legislative majorities. The initiative, known as Issue 1, was supported by pro-life groups seeking to limit the ability of pro-choice advocates to guarantee reproductive rights in Ohio state constitution in the upcoming November elections. Republicans hatched up Issue 1 in an attempt to make the November vote more difficult to reach the threshold needed for reproductive rights to be enshrined in the state constitution. Currently, changes to the constitution in Ohio require a simple majority of 50% + 1. And thanks to high turnout and a fired-up base of pro-choice voters, that's where it will remain." That's great, but they still have to win it in November.

"Samuel Alito Just Took an Indefensible Jab at the Progressive Justices" is educational on how Alito is dishonest and wrong, but it's also illuminating in the ways those "progressive" justices disagree with each other which are not always all that progressive. Hm.

Dan Froomkin, "Our so-called liberal media covers up the right's racism and growing homophobia: Political reporters at our leading news organizations routinely put a thumb on the scale in favor of the far right – both by failing to call out its racist and increasingly homophobic nature, and by adopting right-wing frames in reporting current events."

"Shock Treatment in the Emergency Room: The Lehman-like collapse of a(nother) private equity–owned ER operator has physicians calling louder than ever for a strike. " There really needs to be a way to arrest these people.

"Police are not primarily crime fighters, according to the data: (Reuters) - A new report adds to a growing line of research showing that police departments don't solve serious or violent crimes with any regularity, and in fact, spend very little time on crime control, in contrast to popular narratives. [...] More notably, researchers analyzed the data to show how officers spend their time, and the patterns that emerge tell a striking story about how policing actually works. Those results, too, comport with existing research showing that U.S. police spend much of their time conducting racially biased stops and searches of minority drivers, often without reasonable suspicion, rather than 'fighting crime.' [...] In Riverside, about 83% of deputies' time spent on officer-initiated stops went toward traffic violations, and just 7% on stops based on reasonable suspicion. Moreover, most of the stops are pointless, other than inconveniencing citizens, or worse – 'a routine practice of pretextual stops,' researchers wrote. Roughly three out of every four hours that Sacramento sheriff's officers spent investigating traffic violations were for stops that ended in warnings, or no action, for example.

A good analogy for Rishi Sunak's education policy: "The UK has some of the world's leading toll bridges. But a minority of toll bridges fail to deliver good outcomes for their drivers. Figures show that nearly three in 10 drivers have still not reached their destination within an hour of crossing a toll bridge. The government will crack down on these rip-off toll bridges, reducing the number of drivers they can carry."

"Police stage 'chilling' raid on Marion County newspaper, seizing computers, records and cellphones: MARION — In an unprecedented raid Friday, local law enforcement seized computers, cellphones and reporting materials from the Marion County Record office, the newspaper's reporters, and the publisher's home. Eric Meyer, owner and publisher of the newspaper, said police were motivated by a confidential source who leaked sensitive documents to the newspaper, and the message was clear: 'Mind your own business or we're going to step on you.' The city's entire five-officer police force and two sheriff's deputies took 'everything we have,' Meyer said, and it wasn't clear how the newspaper staff would take the weekly publication to press Tuesday night. The raid followed news stories about a restaurant owner who kicked reporters out of a meeting last week with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, and revelations about the restaurant owner's lack of a driver's license and conviction for drunken driving. Meyer said he had never heard of police raiding a newspaper office during his 20 years at the Milwaukee Journal or 26 years teaching journalism at the University of Illinois." Apparently, it was too much for co-owner Joan Meyer, who died in the wake of the raid.

"Why is Spain's inflation so much lower than the UK's? Because it stood up to business: The reliance on Bank of England rate rises alone can't go on. In other countries, rent caps and excess profit taxes are working The government seems to be claiming that it's winning the fight against inflation. But we are not out of the woods yet. Inflation currently is still far too high and the Bank of England has today increased rates again to 5.25% and lowered its growth forecast. But it doesn't have to be like this. The case of Spain is a great counter-example. Its inflation has just fallen to the 2% target. How is it that it has already achieved this important milestone? The reason is more forceful management of the economy – the Spanish government took quicker, more concerted action than ours did. Spain capped energy prices by more than the UK, lowered the cost of public transport, taxed excess profits and put in place limits on how much landlords can raise rents. While also coming with costs, this kept inflation from spreading more widely and more persistently than elsewhere."

RIP: "Irish singer Sinead O'Connor dies aged 56: DUBLIN, July 26 (Reuters) - Sinead O'Connor, the Irish singer known for her stirring voice, 1990 chart topping hit "Nothing Compares 2 U" and outspoken views, has died at the age of 56, Irish media quoted her family as saying on Wednesday. Brash and direct - her shaved head, pained expression, and shapeless wardrobe a direct challenge to popular culture's long-prevailing notions of femininity and sexuality – O'Connor irrevocably changed the image of women in music." I thought what she did was brave, but I was frankly astonished at the virulence of the reaction. Child abuse in the church was no secret, it seems to be "exposed" every ten years and nothing ever happens to stop it. Some photos here, including one with Kristofferson.

RIP: "Randy Meisner, a founding member of the Eagles, dies aged 77." He backed up Ricky Nelson, Linda Rondstadt, and was an original member of Poco (the only time I ever saw him play was one of Poco's very first appearances, when they were brand-new), and then the Eagles.

RIP: "Robbie Robertson, Master Storyteller Who Led the Band, Dead at 80." Saw this fine live version of "The Weight" from the movie posted to the hellsite formerly known as Twitter. Still a song that amazes me, utterly timeless, like you'd heard it before you ever heard it. I like that the "Biblical" references aren't Biblical at all, but for a different religion altogether, pulling into Nazareth, Tennessee, home of Martin Guitars.

David Dayen on "Patient Zero: Tom Scully is as responsible as anyone for the way health care in America works today. [...] I've watched and listened to virtually every scrap of tape of Scully over the last 35 years, and I conducted a long interview with him in June. I think his beliefs are sincere. He thinks government price-setting doesn't work, and that empowering private insurers that put their own money at risk leads to better and more efficient care. He believes poor people should be covered generously, but all other patients exposed to cost to reduce overutilization. And he wants the best hospitals and nursing homes and clinics to be paid more than the worst, to force advances in quality." The entire August issue of The American Prospect is dedicated to The Business of Health Care, and you can read all about why these parasites should all be RICO'd.

Doctorow, "America's largest hospital chain has an algorithmic death panel: It's not that conservatives aren't sometimes right – it's that even when they're right, they're highly selective about it. Take the hoary chestnut that 'incentives matter,' trotted out to deny humane benefits to poor people on the grounds that 'free money' makes people 'workshy.' There's a whole body of conservative economic orthodoxy, Public Choice Theory, that concerns itself with the motives of callow, easily corrupted regulators, legislators and civil servants, and how they might be tempted to distort markets. But the same people who obsess over our fallible public institutions are convinced that private institutions will never yield to temptation, because the fear of competition keeps temptation at bay. It's this belief that leads the right to embrace monopolies as 'efficient': 'A company's dominance is evidence of its quality. Customers flock to it, and competitors fail to lure them away, therefore monopolies are the public's best friend.' But this only makes sense if you don't understand how monopolies can prevent competitors. [...] Regulatory capture isn't automatic: it's what you get when companies are bigger than governments."

You probably don't need to have it pointed out to you that no one who argues for means-testing is arguing in good faith (unless they really don't know what they're talking about, in which case maybe you can send them to this article), but aside from means-testing being expensive, it adds a whole bunch of red tape for everyone so let's just skip it. Universal programs are good, and we're supposed to already have a means test anyway called "progressive taxation". That' right, the people who aren't poor enough to "deserve" it for free are already paying for it anyway. "The Case for Free School Lunch: Hiving off a tiny part of the public school bundle and charging a means-tested fee for it is extremely stupid." Like I said, you probably don't need to be told this, but I find it gratifying every time someone says it.

"Neoliberalism Has Poisoned Our Minds, Study Finds: 'Institutions can promote well-being and solidarity, or they can encourage competition, individualism, and hierarchy.' The dominance of neoliberalism is turning societies against income equality. At least, that's according to a study published Tuesday in Perspectives on Psychological Science. A team of researchers at New York University and the American University of Beirut performed an analysis of roughly 20 years of data on from more than 160 countries and found that the dominance of neoliberalism across social and economic institutions has ingrained a widespread acceptance of income inequality across our value systems in turn."

Amazon is beyond hope by now, but "Podcasts are hearteningly enshittification resistant: In the enshittification cycle, a platform lures in users by giving them a good deal at first, then it lures in business customers (advertisers, sellers, performers) by shifting the surplus from users to them; finally, it takes all the surplus for itself, turning the whole thing into a pile of shit. "

There is always more Doctorow than I can post, but this is (a) great and (b) another infuriating example of what they pull and even get away with. "Fighting junk fees is "woke" [...] Every merchant you patronize has to charge more – or reduce quality, or both – in order to pay this Danegeld to two of the largest, most profitable companies in the world. Visa/Mastercard have hiked their fees by 40 percent since the pandemic's start. Forty. Fucking. Percent. Tell me again how greedflation isn't real? A bipartisan legislative coalition, led by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) have proposed the Credit Card Competition Act (CCCA), which will force competition into credit-card routing, putting pressure on the Visa/Mastercard duopoly...This should be a no-brainer, but plute spin-doctors have plenty of no-brains to fill up with culture war bullshit. Writing in The American Prospect, Luke Goldstein unpacks an astroturf campaign to save the endangered swipe fee from woke competition advocates...Now, this campaign isn't particularly sophisticated. It goes like this: Target is a big business that runs a lot of transactions through Visa/Mastercard, so it stands to benefit from competition in payment routing. And Target did a mean woke by selling Pride merch, which makes them groomers. So by fighting swipe fees, Congress is giving woke groomers a government bailout!"

"There are two kinds of antiracism. Only one works, and it has nothing to do with 'diversity training': While liberal antiracists argue over vocabulary, radicals take direct action – which is the only way to change the system. In news that ought to please antiracist campaigners everywhere, just recently everybody seems to be talking about antiracism. Chief executives such as Larry Fink of BlackRock, one of the most powerful financial companies in the world, call for 'systemic' racism to be addressed. Books on teaching antiracism to children become bestsellers. Conservatives dismiss all this as 'woke' – preachy, elitist and unneeded – but they can't seem to stop talking about it. But all the time, both sides in the debate mistakenly assume there is only one kind of antiracism. They fail to distinguish between two quite different antiracist traditions: one liberal, the other radical."

Just a little reminder that criticisms of MMT are wrong. MMT is just a description of what is, not a prescription for how to use it. But it makes it clear that how to use it is a choice to be made without the false constraints imposed by pretending it doesn't exist.

From 2020, "It's time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas. 'People kept sharing these videos that were coming up and it was unambiguous what was going on. We weren't looking at a stream of videos of violence erupting or clashes breaking out. We were looking at cops, attacking people.' [...] A 2010 study that analyzed 40 years of protest coverage in five major newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, found that the papers depicted protests — even peaceful ones — as nuisances rather than as necessary functions of democracy."

I probably won't see the Barbie movie, but this teaser impressed me and it's not hard to figure out why Ben Shapiro was so upset.

Baby octopus

"Dead and Company Play Final Show: Videos and Set List"

Peter, Paul, & Mary, "If I Had My Way"