31 October 2023

Somebody lookin' over his shoulder at me

Well, the House Republicans finally picked a majority leader, probably because a lot of them really didn't know who he was so there weren't enough people who hated him yet, so now we have an open opponent of separation of church and state running the chamber. Mike Johnson is a product of The Family Research Council.

"260 "9/11s" in Gaza — and Other Paint-by-Numbers Horrors: If a picture's worth a thousand words, how many numbers would it take to paint the picture of Israel's US-backed bombing of Gaza? President Biden used nightmare-as-arithmetic rhetoric when he discussed the Hamas massacre. 'For a nation the size of Israel,' he said, 'it was like fifteen 9/11s.' That's true, proportionally speaking, and it's ghastly. More than 30 Israeli children were killed on October 7. Their murders alone are the equivalent of roughly 1,000 US deaths on 9/11. Dozens of children are in captivity and their safe return should be a top priority. But what about Palestine? How many 9/11s has it experienced since October 7 — and in the decades before? What other losses has it endured? Let's review the tragic numbers, then summarize President Biden's proposed spending package (preview: it's shamefully inadequate) before pivoting to US public opinion and politics."

Data For Progress: "Voters across party lines agree that the US should call for a ceasefire and de-escalation of violence in Gaza." 56% of Republicans, 57% of independents, 80% of Democrats, and 66% of all voters say so. As usual, Congress is somewhere else.

"IRS advances innovative Direct File project for 2024 tax season; free IRS-run pilot option projected to be available for eligible taxpayers in 13 states. Getting rid of the H&R Block grift would be a big relief.

"Janeese Lewis George Wants to Support Local News With Government Funding. Voters Would Decide Who Gets the Money. Lewis George is backing a first-of-its-kind program to prop up local media outlets of all sizes. [...] Lewis George introduced the Local News Funding Act Monday, which, if passed, will set aside 0.1 percent of the city's budget each year (about $11.5 million based on the current spending plan) to help prop up locally focused outlets. According to a copy of the legislation provided to Loose Lips, the bill would empower residents to decide how that funding is allocated by letting them award 'news coupons' to organizations they support."

Dylan Saba, "A Surge in Suppression: It's never been this bad: This piece was originally commissioned by an editor at The Guardian, who asked me to write about the wave of retaliation and censorship of political expression in solidarity with Palestinians that we've seen in the past two weeks. Amid my work as an attorney on some of the resulting cases, I carved out some time to write the following. Minutes before it was supposed to be published, the head of the opinion desk wrote me an email that they were unable to run the piece. When I called her for an explanation she had none, and blamed an unnamed higher-up. That a piece on censorship would get killed in this way—without explanation, but plainly in the interest of political suppression—is, beyond the irony of the matter, a grave indictment of the media response to this critical moment in history."

"Wealth Inequality Permeates US Society, No Matter How You Slice It: New data on wealth distribution in the US confirms what we already knew: within all major demographic groups, whether by age, race, or education, wealth is concentrated at the top. The US is a deeply unequal society." A reminder that all the various demographic wealth gaps are at the top, not the bottom.

A review by DDay, "Lies My Corporation Told Me: A new book lays out 150 years of corporate stooges making bogus arguments. [...] The book is called Corporate Bullsh*t, written by anti-privatization advocate Donald Cohen, journalist Joan Walsh, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer. Together, they slot the rebuttals that corporate mouthpieces, lobbyists, and their allies in government and media make to virtually every government and social program, from the abolition of slavery to the increase in the minimum wage. [...] Going all the way back to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, corporate mouthpieces have argued that any attempt to protect workers or boost their wages will destroy jobs."

RIP: "Richard Roundtree, Suave Star of Shaft Dies at 81. [...] Roundtree died at his home in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer, his manager, Patrick McMinn, told The Hollywood Reporter. He was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993 and had a double mastectomy. 'Breast cancer is not gender specific,' he said four years later. 'And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it, and it's been quite a number of years now. I'm a survivor.'" The character who made him a star was also cool: "'When a friend of his — a white homosexual bartender — gives him a rather hopeful caress, Shaft is not threatened, only amused. He has no identity problems, so he can afford to be cheerful under circumstances that would send a lesser hero into the kind of personality crisis that in a movie usually ends in a gunfight, or, at the least, a barroom brawl.'" People may complain about "blaxpoitation movies", but I don't think they understand what a ground-breaker Roundtree was as Shaft. (Although, I admit, watching those opening credits cracks me right up.)

RIP: "Friends star Matthew Perry dead aged 54," drowned, apparently in a jacuzzi. He was the only reason I had to watch Friends, at least for the first season. Then someone decided to dumb him down and it was no fun for me anymore.

"The NIH's 'How to Become a Billionaire' Program: An obscure company affiliated with a former NIH employee is offered the exclusive license for a government-funded cancer drug. As the Senate holds confirmation hearings today for a new director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency quietly filed a proposal last month to grant an exclusive patent for a cancer drug, potentially worth hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, to an obscure company staffed by one of its former employees. Exclusive patents are typically given to companies so they can raise investment capital for the long process of bringing a drug to market. But in this case, the NIH invented and manufactured the treatment in question, and is sponsoring the clinical trials. An exclusive patent transfers all the benefit of a drug discovery from the government to an individual company. In this case, the ultimate beneficiary would be a former researcher who worked on the technology while in the government. 'I'm sure this is a fine fellow, but why give former employee a monopoly?' said James Love of Knowledge Ecology International, which tracks drug patent issues. 'He's going to have generational wealth if it succeeds. At no risk to him, because the trial is funded.'"

"Larry Summers And The Crypto Con: This morning, my colleagues Julian Scoffield and Henry Burke have a piece out in The American Prospect about Larry Summers and the ever growing but little known ties he has to an array of shady financial companies. The latest development is that Digital Currency Group (DCG), a firm that Summers advised for years, and its subsidiary Genesis Global Trading now face prosecution from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the New York Attorney General for fraud. Oh, and the Department of Justice has been investigating since earlier this year. It's getting hard to keep track!" It would be so gratifying to see Larry Summers behind bars.

"Pity the Landlord" Is the 'mom-and-pop' landlord a myth? [...] Eccles's widespread media presence is no accident. In 2019, he became one of the public faces of Responsible Rent Reform—a faux-grassroots group backed by the Rent Stabilization Association (RSA), the largest landlord organization in the state—which has set about weaponizing the stories of a dozen 'mom-and-pop' landlords to undermine rent regulations. Eccles, in other words, is not an everyman plucked by the papers by chance; for years, he has been part of a landlord lobby that has become increasingly organized in response to tenant protections passed by the New York State legislature in 2019 and to the economic precarity of the pandemic. His social justice-inflected grievances are the bleeding edge of a revanchist development in New York housing debates: landlords, especially the smaller ones, have begun repurposing the identitarian language of systemic oppression in a relentless public campaign against rent regulation and eviction protections." A lot of money and a lot of spin has gone into trying to prevent protections for tenants all over the country, but racecraft has become a standard trick.

"UK Labour party: The curious case of Britain's forgotten 2017 election: Corbyn polled just a few hundred thousand fewer votes than Blair in 1997's landslide and still has higher approval ratings than Starmer. His erasure from UK political memory is telling [...] Following Labour's disastrous defeat in the May 2021 Hartlepool byelection, shadow cabinet member Steve Reed declared that the problem remained Corbyn - who had stood down more than a year before - and that Labour hadn't 'changed enough' from the party that voters 'comprehensively rejected in 2019'. But Labour under Corbyn had won Hartlepool in both 2017 and 2019 - in 2017 with almost twice the share of the vote the party gained at the byelection in 2021."

"America needs a bigger, better bureaucracy: They're from the government, and they really are here to help. [...] I believe that the U.S. suffers from a distinct lack of state capacity. We've outsourced many of our core government functions to nonprofits and consultants, resulting in cost bloat and the waste of taxpayer money. We've farmed out environmental regulation to the courts and to private citizens, resulting in paralysis for industry and infrastructure alike. And we've left ourselves critically vulnerable to threats like pandemics and — most importantly — war. It's time for us to bring back the bureaucrats."

"Why Big Tech, Cops, and Spies Were Made for One Another: The American surveillance state is a public-private partnership. [...] From experience, I can tell you that Silicon Valley techies are pretty sanguine about commercial surveillance: 'Why should I care if Google wants to show me better ads?' But they are much less cool about government spying: 'The NSA? Those are the losers who weren't smart enough to get an interview at Google.' And likewise from experience, I can tell you that government employees and contractors are pretty cool with state surveillance: 'Why would I worry about the NSA spying on me? I already gave the Office of Personnel Management a comprehensive dossier of all possible kompromat in my past when I got my security clearance.' But they are far less cool with commercial surveillance: 'Google? Those creeps would sell their mothers for a nickel. To the Chinese.'"

"How Musk, Thiel, Zuckerberg, and Andreessen—Four Billionaire Techno-Oligarchs—Are Creating an Alternate, Autocratic Reality: Four very powerful billionaires—Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc Andreessen—are creating a world where 'nothing is true and all is spectacle.' If we are to inquire how we got to a place of radical income inequality, post-truth reality, and the looming potential for a second American Civil War, we need look no further than these four—'the biggest wallets,' to paraphrase historian Timothy Snyder, 'paying for the most blinding lights.'"

"The Pirate Preservationists" — There's a great deal of cultural history we can only access because someone ignored the rules.

I don't actually remember Tom Baker as the villain in the Sinbad movie and I didn't recognize him from this picture.

Al Kooper and Steve Stills, "Season of the Witch"


  1. Hama's exists to kill as many Jews as possible.
    Israel exists to keep Jews alive.

    Who has complained that over fifteen years Hamas has fired tens of thousands of rockets randomly at civilians?

    Who has complained while Hamas has stolen billions of dollars turning Gaza into the roof over their sprawling military complex?

    Hama's has two million hostages and a history of deploying them as human shields.

  2. "Israel exists to keep Jews alive." I remember when I actually believed it gave Jews security. I no longer believe that. And I've also noticed that the harder the public line and the practice that Israel takes, the less safe the Jews in it seem to be. The policy has been suicidal since Sharon and just keeps getting worse.