25 May 2024

Light passing by on the screen

This is in The Atlantic, which is establishment enough that we're allowed to admit it's real now. "New 9/11 Evidence Points to Deep Saudi Complicity: Two decades of U.S. policy appear to be rooted in a mistaken understanding of what happened that day. For more than two decades, through two wars and domestic upheaval, the idea that al-Qaeda acted alone on 9/11 has been the basis of U.S. policy. A blue-ribbon commission concluded that Osama bin Laden had pioneered a new kind of terrorist group—combining superior technological know-how, extensive resources, and a worldwide network so well coordinated that it could carry out operations of unprecedented magnitude. This vanguard of jihad, it seemed, was the first nonstate actor that rivaled nation-states in the damage it could wreak. That assessment now appears wrong. And if our understanding of what transpired on 9/11 turns out to have been flawed, then the costly policies that the United States has pursued for the past quarter century have been rooted in a false premise." And right now, the Trump-Biden policy is to consolidate a relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel that results in the Saudis getting nukes and the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia being an axis of power together.

"Romney Admits Push to Ban TikTok Is Aimed at Censoring News Out of Gaza: A discussion between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sen. Mitt Romney over the weekend included what one critic called an 'incredible mask-off moment,' with the two officials speaking openly about the U.S. government's long-term attempts to provide public relations work for Israel in defense of its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories—and its push to ban TikTok in order to shut down Americans' access to unfiltered news about the Israeli assault on Gaza. At the Sedona Forum in Sedona, Arizona on Friday, the Utah Republican asked Blinken at the McCain Institute event's keynote conversation why Israel's 'PR been so awful' as it's bombarded Gaza since October in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 34,735 Palestinians—the majority women and children—and pushing parts of the enclave into a famine that is expected to spread due to Israel's blockade. 'The world is screaming about Israel, why aren't they screaming about Hamas?' asked Romney. ''Accept a cease-fire, bring home the hostages.' Instead it's the other way around, I mean, typically the Israelis are good at PR. What's happened here? How have they, and we, been so ineffective at communicating the realities there?' Blinken replied that Americans, two-thirds of whom want the Biden administration to push for a permanent cease-fire and 57% of whom disapprove of President Joe Biden's approach to the war, are 'on an intravenous feed of information with new impulses, inputs every millisecond.'"

Not a surprise: "Leaked NYT Gaza Memo Tells Journalists To Avoid Words 'Genocide,' 'Ethnic Cleansing,' And 'Occupied Territory': THE NEW YORK TIMES instructed journalists covering Israel's war on the Gaza Strip to restrict the use of the terms 'genocide' and 'ethnic cleansing' and to 'avoid' using the phrase 'occupied territory' when describing Palestinian land, according to a copy of an internal memo obtained by The Intercept. The memo also instructs reporters not to use the word Palestine 'except in very rare cases' and to steer clear of the term 'refugee camps' to describe areas of Gaza historically settled by displaced Palestinians expelled from other parts of Palestine during previous Israeli–Arab wars. The areas are recognized by the United Nations as refugee camps and house hundreds of thousands of registered refugees. The memo — written by Times standards editor Susan Wessling, international editor Philip Pan, and their deputies — 'offers guidance about some terms and other issues we have grappled with since the start of the conflict in October.' While the document is presented as an outline for maintaining objective journalistic principles in reporting on the Gaza war, several Times staffers told The Intercept that some of its contents show evidence of the paper's deference to Israeli narratives."

"Pro-Israel Groups Pushed for Warrantless Spying on Protesters: When the renewal of a key section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was being debated in this Congress, one of the pieces of evidence from reformers for the abuses in the system was that the law had routinely been employed to spy on protesters in the U.S. Despite the fact that FISA's Section 702 is intended to be about collection of intelligence on foreign subjects, U.S. persons would often get vacuumed up in the dragnet. And the FBI was caught querying FISA databases to get information on protesters, most recently during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Despite these concerns and after a bitter debate, Congress passed and President Biden signed a reauthorization of FISA Section 702 with new and expanded powers for surveillance. Just days before that bill became law, Columbia University president Nemat Shafik testified before a congressional hearing on antisemitism. This set off the encampment protests at Columbia, the ensuing crackdown by the NYPD, and now the spread of demonstrations to college campuses across the country."

"Business titans privately urged NYC mayor to use police on Columbia protesters, chats show: A WhatsApp chat started by some wealthy Americans after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack reveals their focus on Mayor Eric Adams and their work to shape U.S. opinion of the Gaza war." Malefactors of Great Wealth.

Not sure what caused it, but the Supremes surprised a lot of people by not killing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. David Dayen says, "The CFPB Ruling Strikes a Blow for Governing: Instead of giving in to cynicism, Congress created an agency to protect consumers. The Supreme Court declined to overrule it."

True to form, however, "Supreme Court Says It's Fine For Cops To Dick Around For Months Or Years After Seizing People's Cars: The Supreme Court has recognized there's something definitely wrong with asset forfeiture. But, so far, it has yet to attempt to put a full stop to it. A recent case dealt with criminal asset forfeiture. In that case, the nation's top court ruled it was unconstitutional for the government to seize assets worth far more than the maximum fine it could levy for the criminal charges accompanying the seizure. In that case, cops took a $42,000 Range Rover in exchange for a sale of $260 worth of heroin to an undercover officer. Given that this crime had a max fine of $10,000, the Supreme Court said taking the Range Rover was an 'excessive fine' — something that violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. But the justices said this also applied to civil asset forfeiture. And in civil cases, criminal charges usually aren't filed, which means any forfeiture would be an 'excessive fine' because the applicable fine in cases with no criminal charges is always going to be… $0. Unfortunately, the 2019 ruling changed little about forfeiture programs. Most still operate the way they always have and will likely continue to do so until another legal challenge reaches the upper levels of the court system."

Here's something else the Supremes could fix, but won't: "Federal Judge Says It's Time To End The 'Mistake' Of Qualified Immunity While Handling A Bogus Murder Charge: Qualified immunity is a mess. It's a mess the Supreme Court created and, to date, seems largely unwilling to fix (despite the occasional remand). The theory of QI is this: law enforcement officers (and other government employees) should be granted forgiveness for blowing constitutional calls during rapidly evolving situations potentially involving life and death. And it would be great if that's how qualified immunity was applied. But instead it's summoned as a 'get out of litigation free' card every time a cop (or other government employee) gets sued. While it may have limited usefulness in cases where officers are under fire or facing other life-threatening situations, it should not be applied at all when time isn't a factor. The problem is that the Supreme Court has made the rules of QI very clear: assume QI at all times and only deny it when there's no possible way to avoid doing so. Years of cops hollering QI at the drop of a lawsuit has pushed some courts and judges to the limits of their patience. Most notably, new appointee to the Fifth Circuit, Don Willett, called bullshit on qualified immunity shortly after taking his seat at this appellate court" — which would have been great if he wasn't dissenting from the deranged crackpots who make up the rest of the Fifth Circuit. "The same sort of thing has happened here. In this case, handled by a Mississippi federal court, there were no split-second decisions to be made. Instead, during the course of murder investigation (something that can take weeks, months, or years), a law enforcement officer decided the best course of action would be to frame an innocent person."

"Louisiana lawmakers vote to remove lunch breaks for child workers, cut unemployment benefits: A Louisiana House committee voted Thursday to repeal a law requiring employers to give child workers lunch breaks and to cut unemployment benefits — part of a push by Republicans to remove constraints on employers and reduce aid for injured and unemployed workers."

"No prison time for developer who bribed city officials for 18 years: A federal judge has given no prison time to a San Francisco developer who admitted to bribing city officials in a prolonged scheme to accelerate building permits and pass inspections. Sia Tahbazof, 73, was sentenced to three years of probation and a $75,000 fine for his crimes. The corrupt developer appeared in court Friday with scores of supporters who filled the gallery. 'This was a serious offense,' U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston said before handing down the sentence. 'It took place over 18 years. That's a long time to be paying bribes. That's a long time to foster corruption in the housing department.'"

"A GOP Texas school board member campaigned against schools indoctrinating kids. Then she read the curriculum: Gore, the co-host of a far-right online talk show, had promised that she would be a strong Republican voice on the nonpartisan school board. Citing 'small town, conservative Christian values,' she pledged to inspect educational materials for inappropriate messages about sexuality and race and remove them from every campus in the 7,700-student Granbury Independent School District, an hour southwest of Fort Worth. 'Over the years our American Education System has been hijacked by Leftists looking to indoctrinate our kids into the 'progressive' way of thinking, and yes, they've tried to do this in Granbury ISD,' she wrote in a September 2021 Facebook post, two months before the election. 'I cannot sit by and watch their twisted worldview infiltrate Granbury ISD.' But after taking office and examining hundreds of pages of curriculum, Gore was shocked by what she found — and didn't find. [...] Gore rushed to share the news with the hard-liners who had encouraged her to run for the seat. She expected them to be as relieved and excited as she had been. But she said they were indifferent, even dismissive, because 'it didn't fit the narrative that they were trying to push.'"

"New York Times editor Joe Kahn says defending democracy is a partisan act and he won't do it [...] But critics like me aren't asking the Times to abandon its independence. We're asking the Times to recognize that it isn't living up to its own standards of truth-telling and independence when it obfuscates the stakes of the 2024 election, covers up for Trump's derangement, and goes out of its way to make Biden look weak."

"The New York Times Protests Too Much [...] A striking thing about this dust-up is that the partisans are delivering clear, principled statements about what journalism should be, and the journalists are responding like campaign hacks — inventing straw men to debate and offering an endless stream of vague platitudes. That's not particularly new, though: You can spend a lot of time scrutinizing the public comments of the leadership of The New York Times2 and never find a clear, unambiguous explanation of how the paper thinks it should cover fundamentally unequal or dissimilar things like, say, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. But if you read between the lines a little bit, paying particular attention to what the paper says it shouldn't do,3 and combine that with what we can infer from the Times' coverage, a pretty clear picture emerges: The Times thinks — or wants people to think it thinks — that independent, 'balanced' journalism means generating a roughly equal volume of positive and negative coverage of the two candidates."

"The Fed Admits That 'Bailouts Were Not A Free Lunch': For years, politicians, lobbyists, and media outlets manufactured an elaborate fairy tale about bank bailouts costing the government nothing, and in fact even generating a profit for public coffers. It was a comforting story — but the entire lie was just debunked in a study published by the Federal Reserve, an institution that almost never admits truths that are inconvenient to Wall Street. The new analysis, authored by MIT's Deborah Lucas and published by the Atlanta Fed, shows the post-financial-crisis rescue of Wall Street cost half a trillion dollars — a sum 'large enough to conclude that the bailouts were not a free lunch and even less so a profit maker as some politicians and commentators have claimed.' The study also notes that the sum is 'large enough to ask whether there are better ways to protect taxpayers.' Ya think? THE LASTING LEGACY OF THE FINANCIAL CRISIS: So maybe you're now thinking, 'Hey, who cares about the financial crisis — it was so long ago, it doesn't matter anymore.' But wait, there's more: Another new Federal Reserve report illustrates how the financial crisis — and then the Obama administration's refusal to help homeowners protect themselves from financial predators — ripped away the American dream from an entire generation." Plus some handy new charts (that I maintain are not properly labeled). Thanks, Obama!

RIP: "Moody Blues Co-Founder Mike Pinder Dead at 82: 'Very sad news, the last of the original lineup of the Moody Blues has passed away,' Denny Laine's widow Elizabeth wrote on Instagram. 'He is now reunited with Denny, Ray, Graeme and Clint; what a joyous reunion that must be.' Keyboardist and vocalist Pinder was the last surviving original member of the band, contributing 27 songs to their catalog between 1964 and his departure in 1978, including respected compositions 'My Song' and 'Lost in a Lost World.' 'Michael's family would like to share with his trusted friends and caring fans that he passed peacefully,'"

Stiglitz, "Freedom for the Wolves: Neoliberal orthodoxy holds that economic freedom is the basis of every other kind. That orthodoxy, a Nobel economist says, is not only false; it is devouring itself. [...] It was because of democratic demands that democratic governments, such as that of the U.S., responded to the Great Depression through collective action. The failure of governments to respond adequately to soaring unemployment in Germany led to the rise of Hitler. Today, it is neoliberalism that has brought massive inequalities and provided fertile ground for dangerous populists. Neoliberalism's grim record includes freeing financial markets to precipitate the largest financial crisis in three-quarters of a century, freeing international trade to accelerate deindustrialization, and freeing corporations to exploit consumers, workers, and the environment alike. Contrary to what Friedman suggested in his 1962 book, Capitalism and Freedom, this form of capitalism does not enhance freedom in our society. Instead, it has led to the freedom of a few at the expense of the many. As Isaiah Berlin would have it: Freedom for the wolves; death for the sheep. [...] We've now had four decades of the neoliberal 'experiment,' beginning with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The results are clear. Neoliberalism expanded the freedom of corporations and billionaires to do as they will and amass huge fortunes, but it also exacted a steep price: the well-being and freedom of the rest of society."

Doctorow, "AI is a WMD: Fun fact: 'The Tragedy Of the Commons' is a hoax created by the white nationalist Garrett Hardin to justify stealing land from colonized people and moving it from collective ownership, 'rescuing' it from the inevitable tragedy by putting it in the hands of a private owner, who will care for it properly, thanks to 'rational self-interest': [Link] Get that? If control over a key resource is diffused among the people who rely on it, then (Garrett claims) those people will all behave like selfish assholes, overusing and undermaintaining the commons. It's only when we let someone own that commons and charge rent for its use that (Hardin says) we will get sound management. By that logic, Google should be the internet's most competent and reliable manager." Oddly, it hasn't worked out that way.

"Why Doesn't Diversity Training Work?" Well, it doesn't, but most corporations seem to keep using it anyway. It's an easy way to pretend to be doing something about diversity and inclusion, and it can also provide corporations with new ways to mess with their workforce. But history has shown that this kind of social engineering can not only be useless, but might even be counterproductive. As we see in "How to get 7th graders to smoke." But social scientists have come up with lots of projects over the years that are intended to reduce prejudice between people, and the best of them had no effect at all while others actually made things worse. Interestingly, one thing did seem to have a positive effect: this Heineken commercial. (Thanks to Will Shetterly for the links.)

"Extremist Militias Are Coordinating in More Than 100 Facebook Groups: 'JOIN YOUR LOCAL Militia or III% Patriot Group,' a post urged the more than 650 members of a Facebook group called the Free American Army. Accompanied by the logo for the Three Percenters militia network and an image of a man in tactical gear holding a long rifle, the post continues: 'Now more than ever. Support the American militia page.' Other content and messaging in the group is similar. And despite the fact that Facebook bans paramilitary organizing and deemed the Three Percenters an 'armed militia group" on its 2021 Dangerous Individuals and Organizations List, the post and group remained up until WIRED contacted Meta for comment about its existence."

It's no surprise if you know anything about Bari Weiss' history. Or the entire right-wing "free speech" movement that is adamantly against everyone else's free speech. "The real cancel culture [...] The incoherence of the argument underscores the reality of the political moment. There is a relentless right-wing operation seeking to inflict pain on their ideological adversaries. Some, like Rufo, are the political equivalent of street brawlers, willing to say or do anything to achieve their objective. Others, like Weiss and The Free Press, give the movement a more journalistic and professional sheen. But no one involved is a supporter of free expression or an opponent of cancel culture. Rather, they are the cultural force aggressively pursuing cancellation." This is not even a little bit new, of course — it's always been the right-wing that is trying to "cancel" real dissent.

"The tax sharks are back and they're coming for your home [...] The progressive reforms from the New Deal until the Reagan revolution were a series of efforts to broaden participation in every part of society by successively broader groups of people. A movement that started with inclusive housing and education for white men and votes for white women grew to encompass universal suffrage, racial struggles for equality, workplace protections for a widening group of people, rights for people with disabilities, truth and reconciliation with indigenous people and so on. The conservative project of the past 40 years has been to reverse this: to return the great majority of us to the status of desperate, forelock-tugging plebs who know our places. Hence the return of child labor, the tradwife movement, and of course the attacks on labor unions and voting rights [...] It's all going according to plan. We weren't meant to have houses, or job security, or retirement funds. We weren't meant to go to university, or even high school, and our kids were always supposed to be in harness at a local meat-packer or fast food kitchen, not wasting time with their high school chess club or sports team. They don't need high school: that's for the people who were born to rule. They – we – were meant to be ruled over."

"Is the Internet bad for you? Huge study reveals surprise effect on well-being: A survey of more than 2.4 million people finds that being online can have a positive effect on welfare."

"'My songs spread like herpes': why did satirical genius Tom Lehrer swap worldwide fame for obscurity?"

"For a dose of pure wholesomeness, watch Welcome to Wrexham" — I haven't seen the show, myself, but go watch the birthday video, which is brilliant.

"How Sci-Fi Inspired Conspiracy Theory [...] Linebarger, who died of a heart attack in 1966 at age 53, could not have predicted that tropes from his sci-fi stories about mind control and techno-authoritarianism would shape 21st-century American political rhetoric. But the persistence of his ideas is far from accidental, because Linebarger wasn't just a writer and soldier. He was an anti-communist intelligence operative who helped define U.S. psychological operations, or psyops, during World War II and the Cold War. His essential insight was that the most effective psychological warfare is storytelling. Linebarger saw psyops as an emotionally intense, persuasive form of fiction—and, to him, no genre engaged people's imagination better than science fiction." So, does this mean Cordwainer Smith started it all?

Mike Pinder, "The Best Way to Travel"

23 April 2024

Well I knew there was gonna' be trouble, when I heard that callin'

I've just discovered the art of Laurent Parcelier and I love to look at it.

"The Supreme Court effectively abolishes the right to mass protest in three US states: It is no longer safe to organize a protest in Louisiana, Mississippi, or Texas. The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it will not hear Mckesson v. Doe. The decision not to hear Mckesson leaves in place a lower court decision that effectively eliminated the right to organize a mass protest in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Under that lower court decision, a protest organizer faces potentially ruinous financial consequences if a single attendee at a mass protest commits an illegal act. It is possible that this outcome will be temporary. The Court did not embrace the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit's decision attacking the First Amendment right to protest, but it did not reverse it either. That means that, at least for now, the Fifth Circuit's decision is the law in much of the American South."

"Self-Destructive College Presidents: They are making a fraught situation worse by letting the far right define antisemitism and the necessary campus responses. Last December, the presidents of Penn and Harvard did not grovel sufficiently in trying to appease Republican inquisitors claiming that they were insufficiently sensitive to episodes of antisemitism. So with some crude prodding from large donors of the 'Israel right or wrong' camp, Liz Magill and Claudine Gay were pushed out of their jobs by panicked trustees. In the latest round of this self-abasement, other college presidents are hoping to out-grovel the earlier batch and outdo each other in sacrificing civil liberties. This never ends well. At last week's hearing before the same House Education subcommittee that destroyed Magill and Gay, Columbia's beleaguered president, Nemat 'Minouche' Shafik, who was born in Egypt, brought with her three senior Jewish colleagues for the grovel-fest. At one point, Rep. Rick Allen, a Republican from Georgia, asked Shafik whether she knew Genesis 12:3. She didn't. Allen explained: 'It was the covenant that God made with Abraham, and that covenant was real clear: 'If you bless Israel I will bless you, if you curse Israel I will curse you,'' he said. 'Do you want Columbia University to be cursed by God?' Allen demanded."

"U.S. Senate and Biden Administration Shamefully Renew and Expand FISA Section 702, Ushering in a Two Year Expansion of Unconstitutional Mass Surveillance: One week after it was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate has passed what Senator Ron Wyden has called, 'one of the most dramatic and terrifying expansions of government surveillance authority in history.' President Biden then rushed to sign it into law. The perhaps ironically named 'Reforming Intelligence and Security America Act (RISAA)' does everything BUT reform Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). RISAA not only reauthorizes this mass surveillance program, it greatly expands the government's authority by allowing it to compel a much larger group of people and providers into assisting with this surveillance. The bill's only significant 'compromise' is a limited, two-year extension of this mass surveillance. But overall, RISAA is a travesty for Americans who deserve basic constitutional rights and privacy whether they are communicating with people and services inside or outside of the US."

"Ron DeSantis Signs Florida Bill Limiting How Close Bystanders Can Get to Police: The law makes it a misdemeanor to approach within 25 feet of a first responder after receiving a verbal warning to stay away. [...] However, the right to observe and film police has been upheld by multiple federal appeals courts as a fundamental First Amendment activity, and civil liberties groups and press organizations argue that such laws are overly broad and chill the free speech rights of citizens and reporters."

"An Indiana court ruled that Jews have a religious liberty right to abortion. Here's why that matters. The idea of a Jewish right to abortion being enshrined in U.S. law could, at first, sound strange. But in the wake of Dobbs, as states have adopted new abortion restrictions, Jews and Jewish organizations have filed suit arguing that these restrictions put them in a bind. Jewish laws approach to abortion is generally understood — as much as anything within Jewish law is 'generally understood' — to place the well-being of the mother, including physical and emotional well-being, at the center of its analysis. As a result, where an abortion is necessary to protect the well-being of a mother, broadly construed, Jewish law sanctions — and often requires — the termination of the pregnancy. If a mother, motivated by these underlying Jewish values, were to seek an abortion in a state that imposed significant restrictions on such procedures, her religious commitments could run afoul of state law."

"The Trade War Within the U.S. Government Why does the National Security Council keep trying to wrest control of trade policy to help Big Tech? The tug-of-war within the Biden administration continues over whether to use trade policy to restrict the very kinds of regulations of tech that the administration is championing at home. These include protections of privacy from data mining and sale; regulation of AI; antitrust enforcement of excessive concentration and price-gouging; as well as keeping Americans' data secure from Chinese snooping. [...] If anything, you would expect the NSC to be even tougher, especially given the concerns over China using its own technology to spy on Americans and on the U.S. government. But the NSC wants to retain language that allows digital regulation to be treated as a trade barrier. This stance happens to chime perfectly with that of the tech lobby and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber declared in a recent statement, 'By dropping U.S. objections to trade violations, USTR risks giving a green light to foreign governments to raise barriers against U.S. exports or otherwise discriminate against U.S. companies.' This is the old discredited argument that because the tech behemoths most likely to be regulated happen to be U.S. companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon, regulating tech is discriminatory against U.S. exports."

"Republicans Are Objectively Pro–Junk Fee: A new congressional resolution aligns Republicans with the financial industry's fight to preserve sky-high credit card late fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's $8 cap on credit card late fees has had a wild ride on the road to implementation. After being finalized last month, the rule drew a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought an injunction in Fort Worth. No credit card companies are located in Fort Worth; the venue choice was made purely to ensure that the case would be heard by a right-wing federal judge. The first district court judge assigned to the case owned a bunch of credit card company stocks and recused himself; the second judge, a Trump appointee, showed remarkable candor in saying the case had no business being in Fort Worth and should be heard in Washington. Then the far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Trump judge and tried to pull the case back to Texas. Then one of the authors of that opinion, it turned out, also owned a bunch of credit card company stocks. He has asked for briefings on whether he should recuse himself, basically seeking outside opinions on his own personal corruption. That's not the only attack on the late fee rule. Now congressional Republicans are coming after it, in the process finally setting up a partisan fight over the popular issue of junk fees, which the Biden administration has been pushing for the past few years. Republicans, it turns out, are objectively in favor of junk fees. And by next week, they'll be on the record for them."

RIP: John Pease March 8, 1936-March 12, 2024. For the last several years I've made it a practice to check his Wikipedia page to see if he is still with us. This time, I found he'd left in March, just a few days after his 88th birthday. I didn't know when I sat down that first day for his Stratification class that he was already beloved and legendary among his students (though the guy who surprised him in an ape suit just as class was beginning should have tipped me off.) I didn't know that I'd spend the rest of my life recalling the things he'd do in that class that made him special. I didn't understand just how special he really was, which is why I stupidly didn't sign up for all his other courses and bring my camera and take notes of every remarkable thing he said and did. Of all the terrific profs I had at the University of Maryland, several of whom I still cherish, Professor Pease, who had looked so unassuming and dull on first glance, is the one I remember most of all. I'd rather be studying with you, Professor.

Can this be true? "The Myth of the Molly Maguires: The Myth of the Molly Maguires became international news on June 21, 1877, when the authorities hanged ten Irish miners in a single day in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Known as Black Thursday, or Day of the Rope, it was the second largest mass execution in U.S. history. (The largest was in 1862, when the U.S. government executed 38 Dakota warriors). The authorities accused the Irishmen of being terrorists from a secret organization called the Molly Maguires. They executed ten more over the next two years, and imprisoned another twenty suspected Molly Maguires. Most of the convicted men were union activists. Some even held public office, as sheriffs and school board members. However, there is no evidence that an organization called the Molly Maguires ever existed in the U.S. James McParland, an agent provocateur who worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and who provided the plans and weapons the men purportedly used in their crimes, provided the only serious evidence against the men. The entire legal process was a travesty: a private corporation (the Reading Railroad) set up the investigation through a private police force (the Pinkerton Detective Agency) and prosecuted them with their own company attorneys. No jurors were Irish, though several were recent German immigrants who had trouble understanding the proceedings."

"How the Fed Keeps Getting Inflation Wrong: Today on TAP: More than 400 economists work for the Federal Reserve Board. Far too many are intimidated by the echo chamber of bad economics created by Chair Jay Powell. President Biden made two catastrophically bad appointments. One was Attorney General Merrick Garland. The other was Fed Chair Powell. Either could literally cost Biden his presidency and the country its democracy—Garland by having slow-walked Trump's prosecution and Powell by needlessly slowing the economy. The latest inflation report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Wednesday, showed the Consumer Price Index ticking up by 0.4 percent in March, the same as in February, but slightly higher than expected. This in turn set off signals from the Fed that expected rate reductions would have to be postponed, and near-hysterical media commentary. The Dow duly dropped more than a thousand points. According to one press report after another, the economy was stuck with high inflation; high interest rates would persist; and Biden's election-year good-news economy would be stuck with a bad-news story. But if you bother to take a close look at the details of the actual price increases by sector, they have nothing to do with the kind of inflation that justifies high interest rates. Some of the Fed's own research confirms that. Nearly all of the price hikes came from a few sectors, none of which have anything to do with overheated demand.

"The Racial Wealth Gap Is About the Upper Classes [...] What this means is that the overall racial wealth disparity is being driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people." So if you put the top 10% of black people and the top 10% of white people on Mars, there'd be hardly any racial wealth gap between those left in America.

"What Really Happened on October 7? And why, wonders a new Al Jazeera documentary, did the media go to such lengths to concoct gruesome X-rated versions of an attack that was harrowing enough to begin with?"

Tom Tomorrow on your liberal media.

The Bourbon Tabernacle Choir - "Death Is The Great Awakener"

14 April 2024

She fills her drawing book with line

All I know is it was identified as "Bobilo art" and I liked it.

My favorite video from this eclipse is not of the sun itself, but of the pinhole camera images left by the light through the leaves.

I haven't processed the fact that Netanyahu is trying to start Armageddon, yet. So far, Iran has been restrained, and Biden has apparently told Israel it "will not participate in any retaliatory strikes" on Iran, but he's still saying he backs Israel and a lot of people are holding their breath to see if he's going to show any backbone.

The Likud-backed Israeli government has been busy rubbing our faces in their murderous arrogance. I first noticed the story of the targeted assassination of World Central Kitchen workers, which underscored their real beef with UNWRA, which is not any imagined relationship with Hamas but that they are bringing aid to ordinary people in Gaza. Or did I notice the massacre at Al Shifa hospital first? (Electronic Intifada has a number videos and reports from on the ground.) And then I saw that they'd bombed the Iranian embassy in Syria. Then I saw that they'd banned Al Jazeera. They all seemed to happen at once, like a one-two-three-four punch, each one leaving people gasping. There's no question of the WCK murders being "accidental" — this is yet another case of clearly identified vehicles who had coordinated with IDF so they knew exactly who and where they were. Meanwhile, foreign policy commentators were incredulous at seeing anyone bomb an embassy, which they regard as an attack on the very idea of diplomacy itself. And of course, since the defenders of Likud's policies regard any journalist that isn't embedded with IDF as "Hamas mouthpieces" anyway, of course they are continuing their program of clearing any of the world's real journalists out of Gaza. As Eric says in his Forward piece, "The decision was announced Monday, on the basis of a law, passed after Oct. 7 and recently renewed, which gives the prime minister and communications minister the authority to order the closure of foreign networks operating in Israel and confiscate their equipment if they are seen to pose 'harm to the state's security.' But while Al Jazeera poses a significant nuisance to Israel, it cannot be said to constitute any kind of genuine 'threat.' Meanwhile, by banning the news service, Israel has shown itself ready to employ the typical tactics of an undemocratic dictatorship to keep its own people, and much of the world, in the dark about its own often-indefensible actions."

"Israel Created 'Kill Zones' in Gaza. Anyone Who Crosses Into Them Is Shot: The Israeli army says 9,000 terrorists have been killed since the Gaza war began. Defense officials and soldiers, however, tell Haaretz that these are often civilians whose only crime was to cross an invisible line drawn by the IDF"

Surprisingly, this appeared in The Washington Post: "I'm Jewish, and I've covered wars. I know war crimes when I see them. How does it feel to be a war-crimes reporter whose family bankrolled a nation that's committing war crimes? I can tell you. [...] As Israeli forces grind through Gaza in what the International Court of Justice defines as a 'plausible' case of genocide, my family's history of philanthropy runs into my familiarity with war crimes. When Israel bombs and shoots civilians, blocks food aid, attacks hospitals and cuts off water supplies, I remember the same outrages in Bosnia. When people in a Gaza flour line were attacked, I thought of the Sarajevans killed waiting in line for bread, and the perpetrators who in each case insisted the victims were slaughtered by their own side. Atrocities tend to rhyme."

This story by Dave Ettlin in 1980 tells us that when giant ships that didn't exist way back when the Francis Scott Key Bridge was built started swirling around in Baltimore's harbor, this was gonna happen. In the right-wing-o-sphere, of course, it's all about wokery.

"Suicide Mission: What Boeing did to all the guys who remember how to build a plane. John Barnett had one of those bosses who seemed to spend most of his waking hours scheming to inflict humiliation upon him. He mocked him in weekly meetings whenever he dared contribute a thought, assigned a fellow manager to spy on him and spread rumors that he did not play nicely with others, and disciplined him for things like 'using email to communicate' and pushing for flaws he found on planes to be fixed. 'John is very knowledgeable almost to a fault, as it gets in the way at times when issues arise,' the boss wrote in one of his withering performance reviews, downgrading Barnett's rating from a 40 all the way to a 15 in an assessment that cast the 26-year quality manager, who was known as 'Swampy' for his easy Louisiana drawl, as an anal-retentive prick whose pedantry was antagonizing his colleagues. The truth, by contrast, was self-evident to anyone who spent five minutes in his presence: John Barnett, who raced cars in his spare time and seemed 'high on life' according to one former colleague, was a 'great, fun boss that loved Boeing and was willing to share his knowledge with everyone,' as one of his former quality technicians would later recall."

"Prison-tech company bribed jails to ban in-person visits: Beware of geeks bearing gifts. When prison-tech companies started offering "free" tablets to America's vast army of prisoners, it set off alarm-bells for prison reform advocates – but not for the law-enforcement agencies that manage the great American carceral enterprise. The pitch from these prison-tech companies was that they could cut the costs of locking people up while making jails and prisons safer. Hell, they'd even make life better for prisoners. And they'd do it for free! These prison tablets would give every prisoner their own phone and their own video-conferencing terminal. They'd supply email, of course, and all the world's books, music, movies and games. Prisoners could maintain connections with the outside world, from family to continuing education. Sounds too good to be true, huh? Here's the catch: all of these services are blisteringly expensive. [...] The future isn't here, it's just not evenly distributed. Prisoners are the ultimate early adopters of the technology that the richest, most powerful, most sadistic people in the country's corporate board-rooms would like to force us all to use."

The blockade of Cuba has imposed terrible hardship on its people, but Biden hasn't reversed Trump's reversal of one of the few good things Obama did: relaxing the embargo. Interestingly, Cuban Americans supported Obama's policy until they didn't. Why didn't they? Larry Lessig enlightens me: "Yet if we dig a bit deeper, there may be a way to understand the economy of influence that pushes Cubans in America to punish Cubans in Cuba. Because it turns out that our government gives tens of millions of dollars in government contracts to Cubans in Florida to spread the anti-Cuban message. These contracts are extremely lucrative: This year's budget promises $25 million (a 25% increase) to 'promote democracy' in Cuba, which means millions to run websites or Twitter feeds meant to rile up native Cubans and drive hatred toward the Cuban government. We spend another $25 million on radio and TV broadcasts targeting Cuba. Normalization would obviously starve the beneficiaries of this propaganda welfare. So Cubans in Florida feeding at this trough are keen to avoid that subsidy disappearing. It's good money in exchange for very little work. Who wouldn't fight to keep it?"

"Trina Robbins, Creator and Historian of Comic Books, Dies at 85: Trina Robbins, who as an artist, writer and editor of comics was a pioneering woman in a male-dominated field, and who as a historian specialized in books about female cartoonists, died on Wednesday in San Francisco. She was 85. Her death, in a hospital, was confirmed by her longtime partner, the superhero comics inker Steve Leialoha, who said she had recently suffered a stroke." I'm glad I knew it was coming because hearing about that stroke was painful. I loved being around her, she was so vibrant and energizing. I guess that's why Joni Mitchell put her in the first verse.

RIP: "Louis Gossett Jr, first Black man to win supporting actor Oscar, dies aged 87." I really liked that guy, and I howled out loud when re-watching an old episode of The Rockford Files and seeing him turn up in an afro. "Is that... Lou Gossett with hair?" Luckily, when the same character turned up in a later episode, they'd ditched the wig.

RIP: "Vernor Vinge (1944-2024): Vernor Vinge, author of many influential hard science fiction works, died March 20 at the age of 79. Vinge sold his first science-fiction story in 1964, 'Apartness', which appeared in the June 1965 issue of New Worlds. In 1971, he received a PhD (Math) from UCSD, and the next year began teaching at San Diego State University. It wasn't until almost thirty years later, in August 2000, that he retired from teaching to write science-fiction full time. His 1981 novella True Names is often credited as the first story to present a fully fleshed-out concept of cyberspace. He won Hugo Awards for his novels A Fire Upon the Deep (1993 — tie), A Deepness in the Sky (2000), Rainbows End (2007), and novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High (2002), and The Cookie Monster (2004). A Deepness in the Sky also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and in translation won Spain's Ignotus Award, Germany's Kurd Lasswitz Preis, and Italy's Italia Award." For a long time I was only peripherally aware of him as the former husband of my friend Joan Vinge, but A Fire Upon The Deep changed all that.

RIP: The legendary "John Sinclair, MC5 Manager and Activist, Dies at 82: John Sinclair, a counterculture icon who managed Detroit rockers MC5 during their peak years, has died. He was 82. His representative confirmed that the Michigan native died of congestive heart failure, The Detroit News reported. In addition to managing MC5, Sinclair was known as a poet, a political activist, a vocal marijuana advocate and the leader of the White Panther Party, an anti-racist group named in response to the radical Black Panther Party."

ROT IN PERDITION: "Joe Lieberman, Iraq War Cheerleader and Killer of Public Option, Dead at 82: 'Joe Lieberman's legacy will live on as your medical debt' [...] 'Up until the very end, Joe Lieberman enjoyed the high-quality, government-financed healthcare that he worked diligently to deny the rest of us. That's his legacy,' said Melanie D'Arrigo, executive director of the Campaign for New York Health, which advocates for universal, single-payer healthcare. As Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), explained, 'Joe Lieberman led the effort to ensure the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option or a reduction in the Medicare eligibility age to 55.'"
"Joe Lieberman and the Venality of Elite Bipartisanship [...] Lieberman was a reliable Bush ally on the 'war on terror' and other issues, and had long been a suspect Democrat, let alone progressive lawmaker in general. His entire career was built on his conservatism, having beaten (with the support of William F. Buckley) liberal Republican Lowell Weicker in 1988 in a campaign where he supported bombing Libya, invading Grenada, and maintaining the US freeze-out of Cuba, all of which Weicker opposed. Lieberman also supported the death penalty for drug traffickers, a stealth form of school prayer, and strict spending cuts for the purpose of balancing the budget."
Jeet Heer commenting to Rick Perlstein on Facebook: "There are many good people who died younger than they should have because Lieberman put the kibosh on the public option. Not to mention the many dead because of the criminal wars he supported. So I say that speaking ill of him is the best way to honor the innumerable dead." (Rick had posted a link to his own little tribute to Lieberman.)
This gallery was described to me as, "Joe Lieberman with a bunch of people I'd like to punch in the face," and wow, it's breathtaking!

"Subprime gadgets: The promise of feudal security: "Surrender control over your digital life so that we, the wise, giant corporation, can ensure that you aren't tricked into catastrophic blunders that expose you to harm": [Link] The tech giant is a feudal warlord whose platform is a fortress; move into the fortress and the warlord will defend you against the bandits roaming the lawless land beyond its walls. That's the promise, here's the failure: What happens when the warlord decides to attack you? If a tech giant decides to do something that harms you, the fortress becomes a prison and the thick walls keep you in."

Department of Great Deals: Camp David: "But wait. Didn't Barak, as his defenders say, offer Arafat land from Israel proper in return for the annexed 9 percent? Yes. But the terms of the trade bordered on insulting. In exchange for the 9 percent of the West Bank annexed by Israel, Arafat would have gotten land as large as 1 percent of the West Bank. And, whereas some of the 9 percent was choice land, symbolically important to Palestinians, the 1 percent was land whose location wasn't even specified. I'm trying to imagine Yasser Arafat selling this 9-to-1 land swap to Palestinians—who, remember, are divided into two camps: the 'return to 1967 borders' crowd and the 'destroy the state of Israel' crowd. I'm not succeeding. And Arafat would have had to explain other unpalatable details, such as Israeli sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif (site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which had been under Arab control before 1967 and is the third-holiest site in Islam. The Camp David offer also had features that kept it from amounting to statehood in the full sense of the term. The new Palestine couldn't have had a military and wouldn't have had sovereignty over its air space—Israeli jets would roam at will. Nor would the Palestinians' freedom of movement on the ground have been guaranteed. At least one east-west Israeli-controlled road would slice all the way across the West Bank, and Israel would be entitled to declare emergencies during which Palestinians couldn't cross the road. Imagine if a mortal enemy of America's—say the Soviet Union during the Cold War—was legally entitled to stop the north-south flow of Americans and American commerce. Don't you think the average American might ask: Wait a minute—who negotiated this deal?"

"Burning Man Was Never Radical: How the world's most famous countercultural event is actually a preeminent evangelist of traditional neoliberal values [...] Our modern neoliberal system eschews disciplinarian control in favour of a significantly more effective prison built on the principle of ubiquitous freedom. When everyone is believed to be free to lead any life that they choose, then the life that they are living must be a result of personal choices. Individual choice is seen — above all else — as the primary driver of change. Concerned about the warming climate? Shop local and drive less, never-mind the corporate emitters. Worried about waste in our oceans? Stop buying plastic straws, never-mind the disposable nature of continuous consumption. Systemic solutions to these problems are seen as either impossible, or made up entirely of the individual choices of independent consumers. If change isn't happening, consumers must not want it badly enough."

Chris Hedges interviews the general's son, "The IDF's war crimes are a perfect reflection of israeli society: Miko Peled, author and former member of IDF Special Forces, explains how Israel indoctrinates its citizens in anti-Palestinian racism from the cradle to the grave. [...] That's what this so-called heroism was, it was no heroism at all. It was a well-trained, highly motivated, well-indoctrinated, well-armed militia that then became the IDF. But when it started, it was still a militia or today they would be called a terrorist organization, that went up against the people who had never had a military force, who never had a tank, who never had a warplane, who never prepared, even remotely, for battle or an assault. Then you have to make a choice: How do you bridge this? The differences are not nuanced, the differences are enormous. The choice that I made is to investigate for myself and find out who's telling the truth and who isn't. And my side was not telling the truth."

Could it be true? Could ice cream be good for you? "Nutrition Science's Most Preposterous Result: Studies show a mysterious health benefit to ice cream. Scientists don't want to talk about it. [...] But the international media coverage didn't mention what I'd seen in Table 5. According to the numbers, tucking into a 'dairy-based dessert'—a category that included foods such as pudding but consisted, according to Pereira, mainly of ice cream—was associated for overweight people with dramatically reduced odds of developing insulin-resistance syndrome. It was by far the biggest effect seen in the study, 2.5 times the size of what they'd found for milk. 'It was pretty astounding,' Pereira told me. 'We thought a lot about it, because we thought, Could this actually be the case?'"

As God is my witness, I thought eggs could fly!

Play xkcd Machine.

Joni Mitchell - "Ladies of the Canyon"

21 March 2024

Come now, gentleman, I know there's some mistake

"Pink Flower 11" by Rosi Roys is from the rose collection.

Some excellent news to get rid of judge-shopping: "Conference Acts to Promote Random Case Assignment: The Judicial Conference of the United States has strengthened the policy governing random case assignment, limiting the ability of litigants to effectively choose judges in certain cases by where they file a lawsuit. The policy addresses all civil actions that seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions, 'whether by declaratory judgment and/or any form of injunctive relief.' In such cases, judges would be assigned through a district-wide random selection process." Ryan Cooper explains why this is such a big deal, here.

"Confusion in Texas after appeals court blocks border arrest law: State law that would allow local officers to arrest migrants halted hours after US supreme court allowed it [...] [Judge] Hidalgo said many members of law enforcement she dealt with were not prepared to enforce the law. She told CNN she could imagine a scenario where she herself went for a jog and was stopped by local police saying, 'You look like you may be here on an undocumented basis,' and said: 'This is a terrible precedent.'" Crackpot legislators making crackpot laws and a crackpot Supreme Court making crackpot rulings and, yeah, you're gonna get confusion...and disbelief.

"The Strange Death of a Boeing Whistleblower: There's no way America's last great manufacturer murdered a prominent critic … is there? [...] But the end was almost in sight. 'He was in very good spirits and really looking forward to putting this phase of his life behind him,' Turkewitz said. 'We didn't see any indication he would take his own life. We need more information … No one can believe it.'"

Mapping Police Violence: Law enforcement agencies across the country are failing to provide us with even basic information about the lives they take. So we collect the data ourselves. Scroll to explore."

"The Spectacle of Policing: 'Swatting' innocent people is the latest incarnation of the decades-long gestation of an infrastructure of fear. On February 25, an active-duty airman named Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., while yelling, 'Free Palestine.' I'll leave it to others to analyze the politics. I want to focus on something else that emerged from that most harrowing event: what first responders did on the scene before anyone even knew what was going on. The first first responder, according to a witness, either a security guard or a cop, asked the man before him who was on fire, 'May I help you, sir?' Then he ordered him to the ground. The second first responder—a Secret Service agent, it turns out—then approached 'with a gun drawn on the man after he collapses, still consumed by flames.' A picture of that moment emerged. It looks like he thought he was keeping a murderer from fleeing the scene of the crime. It was the third responder who tried to actually put out the fire. As he did, he cried something that ought to live on in popular lore for the way it concentrates attention on just how sick our weapons-addicted society has become—like when a University of Florida student cried, 'Don't tase me, bro,' when six officers assaulted him for asking an embarrassing question of a politician in 2007. He told the guy aiming the pistol, 'I don't need guns, I need fire extinguishers!' By the time enough of those arrived, it was too late. Bushnell died in the hospital."

I can't imagine why some people think the economy is not so great.
• "Nearly 50% of US parents financially supporting adult children, study finds"
• "American dream of owning a home is dead, majority of renters say"
• "HUD: Homelessness Up by 12 Percent"

"Man of Steel: Today on TAP: President Biden's blockage of the proposed purchase of U.S. Steel by Japan's Nippon Steel is unprecedented and magnificently pro-union. You'd think it would be hard for Biden to top his full-on embrace of the UAW and their stunningly successful strike against the Big Three automakers. But Biden has just done it by declaring that he opposes the takeover by Japan's Nippon Steel of U.S. Steel. The U.S. needs to 'maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steel workers,' Biden declared, adding: 'U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated.' This move doubles down on Biden's commitment to rebuild domestic industry and rejection of corporate-driven 'free trade' and his alliance with the labor movement. There is a process for government evaluation of proposed foreign takeovers of American companies on national-security grounds. A review is conducted by an interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS). The final decision whether to allow a deal to proceed is made by the president."

"UNRWA report says Israel coerced some agency employees to falsely admit Hamas links [...] The document says several UNRWA Palestinian staffers had been detained by the Israeli army, and added that the ill-treatment and abuse they said they had experienced included severe physical beatings, waterboarding, and threats of harm to family members. 'Agency staff members have been subject to threats and coercion by the Israeli authorities while in detention, and pressured to make false statements against the Agency, including that the Agency has affiliations with Hamas and that UNRWA staff members took part in the 7 October 2023 atrocities,' the report says. UNRWA declined a Reuters request to see transcripts of its interviews containing allegations of coerced false confessions. In addition to the alleged abuse endured by UNRWA staff members, Palestinian detainees more broadly described allegations of abuse, including beatings, humiliation, threats, dog attacks, sexual violence, and deaths of detainees denied medical treatment, the UNRWA report says."

"Allegations UNRWA collaborated with Hamas are 'flat-out lies': Van Hollen: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) ripped into Israel's allegations that the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency, commonly referred to as UNRWA, is a proxy for the Palestinian militant group Hamas, arguing the accusations are an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to eliminate the agency. There's no doubt that the claim that Prime Minister Netanyahu and others are making, that somehow UNRWA is a proxy for Hamas, are just flat-out lies,' Van Hollen said Sunday in an interview on CBS News's 'Face the Nation.' 'If you look at the person who's in charge of operations on the ground for UNRWA, it's about a 20-year U.S. Army veteran. You can be sure he's not in cahoots with Hamas.'" Nice to see my Senator saying it out loud.

"AIPAC Talking Points Revealed: Documents show that the powerful lobby is spreading its influence on Capitol Hill by calling for unconditional military aid to Israel and hyping up threats from Iran. [...] The Prospect has obtained documents from the conference that preview the PAC's lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill this week. The documents reveal AIPAC's legislative strategy and the talking points it will use to support an unconditional $14 billion military funding package that has thus far been held up, among other policy changes. They also include numerous positions on aspects of the U.S. response to the war that have not previously been made public, from abolishing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to opposing recent restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on Israeli settlers. There is no mention of a two-state solution. [...] THOUGH THE PRIMARY MOTIVATION FOR THE CONFERENCE was lobbying, the event also informed members about the PAC's congressional spending plans. AIPAC has pledged to drop over $100 million on campaigns this election cycle to defeat any congressional candidates critical of Israel." Those candidates will, of course, be progressives. AIPAC has been funding right-wing candidates in Democratic primaries as well as supporting Republicans in general elections. "AIPAC is instructing members to make assertions of fact to congressional staff that are not supported by credible evidence other than statements by the Israel Defense Forces, according to experts who reviewed the documents. 'They're going to the Hill to repeat a foreign government's talking points,' said Matt Duss at the Center for International Policy, a former policy adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders."

"Oregon Gov. Kotek to Sign 'Unconscionable' Bill Recriminalizing Drugs: The landmark decriminalization measure passed by state voters in 2020 "now stands as a cautionary tale about the failure to match bold policy reform with competent administration," said one reporter. [...] Oregon voters passed Measure 110, also called the Drug Addiction Treatment and Recovery Act, by a 17% margin in 2020, and it took effect the following February. The state was the first and only in the country to take the decriminalization and treatment approach, a shift widely lauded by drug policy groups."

"CNN changed a headline about EV sales from a success story to a failure: On February 25, CNN published a piece on electric vehicles outlining the reasons that sales, which are trending upward and reached record levels in 2023, are not as high as analysts once predicted they'd be. The next day, a new headline appeared above the article that radically altered the main takeaway of the story without any new information added. Why did CNN change 'No, electric vehicle sales aren't dropping' to 'How EVs became such a massive disappointment'?"

The thing about these people is, they have money. They have money and it puts them at the top of a hierarchy that they don't simply want to enjoy, but want the rest of us to revere. They can't stand it that we don't respect their place. "Inside A Secret Society Of Prominent Right-Wing Christian Men Prepping For A 'National Divorce': A secret, men-only right-wing society with members in influential positions around the country is on a crusade: to recruit a Christian government that will form after the right achieves regime change in the United States, potentially via a 'national divorce.'"

"The Lie That's Inflating Your Credit Card Bills: Credit card companies doubled interest rates on the false claim of inflated financial risk — and now to fight new late-fee rules, they're threatening to raise them even higher. Over the last decade, credit card companies have jacked up interest rates to a record high, costing Americans $25 billion each year, even though regulators say lenders' risk of losses has declined. Now, in response to a new ban on excessive credit card late fees, the banking industry is threatening to punish debtors with even higher interest rates as lenders' profits skyrocket. In response to new late-fee caps announced on Tuesday, the banking industry's largest trade group is arguing that consumer penalties and sky-high interest rates account for the risk of people failing to pay their credit card bills. But as a recent federal report showed, credit card companies have nearly doubled the interest rates they charge to consumers — far outpacing the financial risk they're taking on by lending people money. This means that corporate greed, not financial hazards, is behind the soaring credit card fees that cardholders face."

From 2018, "Meet the Hidden Architect Behind America's Racist Economics: Ask people to name the key minds that have shaped America's burst of radical right-wing attacks on working conditions, consumer rights and public services, and they will typically mention figures like free market-champion Milton Friedman, libertarian guru Ayn Rand, and laissez-faire economists Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. James McGill Buchanan is a name you will rarely hear unless you've taken several classes in economics. And if the Tennessee-born Nobel laureate were alive today, it would suit him just fine that most well-informed journalists, liberal politicians, and even many economics students have little understanding of his work. The reason? Duke historian Nancy MacLean contends that his philosophy is so stark that even young libertarian acolytes are only introduced to it after they have accepted the relatively sunny perspective of Ayn Rand. (Yes, you read that correctly). If Americans really knew what Buchanan thought and promoted, and how destructively his vision is manifesting under their noses, it would dawn on them how close the country is to a transformation most would not even want to imagine, much less accept."

I had no idea this version of "Memo From Turner" existed: "The first version of Memo From Turner recorded by Mick Jagger with Steve Winwood on all instruments and Jim Capaldi on drums. This version has never been officially released, the vocals from this track was used for the final mix produced by Jack Nitzsche, I slowed down the track to go with the clip (From Performance) and also slowed some clips down as well. Enjoy!"

08 March 2024

I can bring whole cities to ruin

"Roses and Strawberries" by Sergey Sovkov is from the Rose Period collection.

Oops! I bounced my computer on the kitchen tiles and lost February! My data seems to be okay, but having to get a new computer made recovery pricey, and I do have a PayPal button on the sidebar, but if there's someone who deserves it more (Common Dreams sounds like they're balancing on a knife-edge at the moment), I'll survive without it.

And I would have posted a few days ago but EMTs insisted on getting me to the hospital for a scan of my foot and leg so I had a complicated few days of tests and dope and lots of sleep there before they pronounced me "fine", which was a surprise to us all.

Meanwhile, right-wing war-monger and big-time beneficiary of AIPAC largess Adam Schiff ruined it for us by beating Barbara Lee and Katie Porter in the California Senate Primary. This means he will be running against Republican Steve Garvey for the DiFi's old Senate seat. How did he do it? "The primary broke records as the most expensive Senate race in California. Schiff's campaign is widely seen as having engineered Garvey's strong primary performance by spending millions of dollars to air ads attacking Garvey, the former first baseman for the LA Dodgers and an inexperienced Republican candidate, thus elevating his name recognition among Republican voters in a way the Garvey campaign itself was not able to afford. Schiff's strategy appeared to be effective at boxing out his two Democratic progressive competitors. Neither Porter nor Lee are expected to return to Congress next year, after choosing to compete in the Senate race rather than run for re-election in their House districts."

"A State Supreme Court Just Issued the Most Devastating Rebuke of Dobbs Yet [...] This week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court responded to that conclusion: no. On Monday, the court issued a landmark opinion declaring that abortion restrictions do amount to sex-based discrimination and therefore are 'presumptively unconstitutional' under the state constitution's equal rights amendment. The majority vehemently rejected Dobbs' history-only analysis, noting that, until recently, 'those interpreting the law' saw women 'as not only having fewer legal rights than men but also as lesser human beings by design.' Justice David Wecht went even further: In an extraordinary concurrence, the justice recounted the historical use of abortion bans to repress women, condemned Alito's error-ridden analysis, and repudiated the 'antiquated and misogynistic notion that a woman has no say over what happens to her own body.'"

"The Nixonian New York Times Stonewalls on a Discredited Article About Hamas and Rape: The newspaper of record botches an important story about sexual violence on October 7. [...] On December 28, 2023, the Times published a major investigative report headlined ''Screams Without Words': How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct. 7.' Written by veteran foreign correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman along with two younger freelancers, Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, the article dealt with one of the most painful stories to emerge from the Hamas massacre of October 7, the allegations of widespread rape. Based on more than 150 interviews, the article contended that the Hamas systematically used rape as a weapon of war. The question of rapes on October 7 had been simmering since the Hamas attack, gaining increasing urgency by November, when the Israeli government made it a centerpiece (along with unverified reports about beheaded babies) in its case for war. While leading pro-Israel advocates emphasized accounts of rape that they insisted amounted to a systematic campaign deliberately organized by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups, some pro-Palestinian commentators took a more skeptical stance, noting the lack of forensic evidence to cast doubt on the narrative of a systematic campaign of sexual violence. The danger of the skeptical stance, sometimes played out in polemics, is that it sometimes seemed to shift over to the suggestion that all the testimonies of rape were mere 'stories' without evidentiary basis. 'Screams Without Words' initially seemed like a searing and irreproachable indictment that settled this debate. But doubts soon emerged about the article, both on account of the unacknowledged biases of the reporters (in particular Anat Schwartz) and also the shaky nature of the evidence presented. Key sources for the article had a history of false claims. The family of one allegedly raped murder victim spoke out against the article, claiming it presented an impossible story. A fierce internal debate emerged inside the Times itself as reporters not part of the original team found it difficult to verify many of the claims of the article. The reporting behind the Times article has been questioned both by the Times podcast The Daily and The Intercept." But instead of investigating how they'd made such a mess, they decided to investigate staff who'd "leaked" the fact that many Times staffers were outraged at the bias and unsubstantiated nature of the claims of the authors.

From In These Times, "The ADL Wants to Conflate Critiques of Israel with Antisemitism. That Won't Make Jews Safer. As conservative pundits mainstream antisemitic tropes, the ADL is instead focused on silencing expressions of Palestinian solidarity. [...] The truly dangerous rise in American antisemitism since October 7 has nothing to do with activists calling for a ceasefire, or chanting ​'from the river to the sea' or arguing (in concurrence with dozens of scholars in Holocaust and Genocide Studies) that Israel is engaged in genocidal violence against Palestinians in Gaza. The serious threat here, which the ADL under Greenblatt continually deemphasizes, is the proliferation of antisemitic ideology coming from the U.S. Right, where influential figures are rapidly normalizing racist, misogynistic, antisemitic and otherwise bigoted ideas long considered taboo in mainstream political discourse."

"The Neglected History of the State of Israel: The Revisionist faction of Zionism that ended up triumphing adhered to literal fascist doctrines and traditions. [...] One of Chotiner's best interviews ran this past November. A leader of the militant West Bank settlement movement told him that Jews have a sacred duty to occupy all the land between 'the Euphrates in the east and the Nile in the southwest,' that nothing west of the Jordan River was ever 'Arab place or property,' and that no Arabs, even citizens, should have civil rights in Israel. Stunning stuff, and extremely valuable to have on the record, especially given the settler movement's close ties to Benjamin Netanyahu's government. I praise Chotiner, however, as a bridge to a separate point: Even the most learned and thoughtful observers of Israel and Palestine miss a basic historic foundation of the crisis. [...] In 1928, a prominent Revisionist named Abba Ahimeir published a series of articles entitled 'From the Diary of a Fascist.' They refer to the founder of their movement, Ze'ev Jabotinsky (his adopted first name is Hebrew for 'wolf'), as 'il duce.' In 1935, his comrade Hen Merhavia wrote that Revisionists were doing what Mussolini did: 'establish a nucleus of an exemplary life of morality and purity. Like us, the Italian fascists look back to their historical heritage. We seek to return to the kingdom of the House of David; they want to return to the glory of the Roman Empire.' They even opened a maritime academy in Italy, under Mussolini's sponsorship, for the navy they hoped to build in their new Israeli state. '[T]he views and the political and social inclinations of the Revisionists,' an Italian magazine reported, 'are absolutely in accordance with the fascist doctrine … as our students they will bring the Italian and fascist culture to Palestine.'"

From 2021, a story few seem to have heard, "How did it happen that Israel's Jews and Arabs rose up against each other?: The endless rocket attacks no longer shock, but the divisions that have come violently to the surface in Israeli towns have horrified the country. [...] But the deterioration of the political status of Palestinians in Israel hangs heavily over social and economic problems. Over the last decade, Israel has passed laws targeting Palestinian citizens' rights, culminating in the 2018 'nation state' law, elevating Jews to a superior status in Israel. Anti-Arab rhetoric from rightwing politicians has crossed the line to incitement." Like so much else, the claim that Arabs in Israel live as equals is a sham. For a deeper dive, it's worth watching "The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine." You might also want to read a little about Plan Dalet.

"WMD, Part II: CIA "Cooked The Intelligence" To Hide That Russia Favored Clinton, Not Trump In 2016: Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth [...] Russia didn't fear Hillary Clinton. 'It was a relationship they were comfortable with,' some CIA analysts believed, but intelligence was suppressed. On the fall of the last great Russiagate myth"

Radley Balko on "The retconning of George Floyd: Bari Weiss's Free Press is the latest outlet to tout a conspiratorial documentary alleging that Derek Chauvin was wrongly convicted. It's all nonsense. For a few precious days after the death of George Floyd, there was at least a clear consensus across the political spectrum — there was near-unanimity that what Darnella Frazier captured on her cell phone was a crime. An outrage. A thing to be denounced. As Floyd lay handcuffed on his stomach, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's back for nine minutes as Floyd became unresponsive, then went limp, then died. Even the most vocal police supporters condemned Chauvin's actions, though with obligatory disclaimers that Chauvin was a rogue, aberrant bad apple, and that no one should judge all law enforcement officers by his actions. The consensus wouldn't last. As protests heated up around the country, far-right pundits began to break away. They pointed to Floyd's criminal record, the violence at some of the protests, and the allegedly radical positions of the organizers. Dennis Prager, the radio host and founder of a fake university, marveled to his audience how 'decent' MPD officers had been to Floyd."

RIP: "The Prestige author Christopher Priest dies aged 80: Internationally acclaimed novelist died from cancer on Friday after being diagnosed with small-cell carcinoma last summer" (I saw the Telegraph story first so I could post it here right away, but now I see that his close friend and colleague John Clute got the Guardian obit.) Chris also did a great fanzine called Deadloss and later wrote The Last Deadloss Visions about Harlan Ellison's failure to produce the promised third in the Dangerous Visions series in a timely fashion. He also had a long-time friendship and collaborations with Dave Langford in both sf and their private enterprises. There's so much I could say about Chris, but what I'll tell you is that one time he drove us home and sat on our couch and told us about the time he went up to Liverpool and discovered an as-yet unknown rock band called The Beatles and George insulted his suit, and we made him write that story down and we built a whole one-shot fanzine around it. That fanzine was called Chuch, and you can go there now and read Chris' story, "Thank You, Girls."

RIP: Brian Stableford 1948-2024, British SF author of 80 novels and a lot of other things. He was one of those people who Dave Langford alerted me to early as one of the Good Guys, and he was. My heart really goes out to Dave, losing such close, long-time friends at once.

RIP: Liaden Universe Co-Author Steve Miller. (1950-2024). I really liked this guy back in the BaltiWash days, and I was really happy to hear he'd married Sharon Lee and they were writing together up in Maine. I'd always meant to look at their stuff but I never saw it on shelves locally, and then a chance remark from a friend made me put them on my wishlist. It didn't take me long to realize I wanted all of the Liaden novels, they ring all my chimes. I stayed in contact with Steve, and got to know Sharon better, on Facebook, and was right chuffed about it all. I'm sorry to say I took no photos of him but one day shortly after a party at his place, he presented me with this photo of me being leered at by two guys, which had amused him. So here's a nice old shot of his sofa and me being thin, once upon a time. But there's a nice pic of him and Sharon on that obit page.

RIP: "Hinton Battle, Three-Time Tony Winner and Original The Wiz, Actor, Dies at 67: Hinton Battle, the Tony-winning performer who originated the role of The Scarecrow in Broadway's The Wiz, has died. He was 67. The actor died Tuesday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles following a lengthy illness." But of course, we loved him as the dancing demon.

"Moral Bankruptcy: The constitutional grant of a second chance for the destitute has become an enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. One wild case in Houston tells the story. [...] THE NATION'S BANKRUPTCY CODE, the constitutionally enshrined system by which Americans are theoretically afforded the chance to discharge unmanageable debts, has over the past decade or two quietly metamorphosed into a vast enabler of reverse wealth redistribution. Corporations have exploited the tremendous privileges of bankruptcy protection to abrogate union contracts, cram down unilateral wage and benefit cuts, eject lawsuits filed by customers and community members killed by toxic products and manufacturing processes, back out of funding pensions and zero out the savings accounts of workers they pressured into investing in company stock as a condition of keeping their jobs, settle wrongful death claims for less than a penny on the dollar, evade responsibility for cleaning up after oil spills or refinery explosions or poisoning groundwater with benzene, and, of course, discharge debt incurred in the process of defrauding vulnerable students into taking out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans they are practically barred by law from discharging in bankruptcy themselves."

Kuttner presents the depressing news of "The Return of Tony Blair: The former prime minister has all but taken over the Labour Party and pushed it to the right. Didn't Tony Blair, nicknamed Tory Blur, do enough damage last time? When Bill Clinton was the U.S. president and Tony Blair was the British prime minister, they were soulmates. They brought us neoliberalism. Both Clinton's New Democrats and Blair's New Labour turned away from progressivism and working families in favor of globalist corporate financial elites. Neoliberal deregulation of finance in turn produced the economic collapse in 2008. The failure of the center-left party to maximize the moment, contain capital, and rebuild a pro-worker economy led to the defection of working-class voters and ultimately to Trump in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. At home, Joe Biden has at last broken with Democratic neoliberalism. In Britain, the Conservative Party has lurched from blunder to blunder and from failed leader to failed leader, setting up a return to Labour. The Labour Party, under Keir Starmer, is the odds-on favorite to win the next general election, which could be as early as May or as late as next January. But Starmer, rather than rebuilding a progressive party, has virtually outsourced his entire program to Tony Blair. Based on its recent pronouncements, a Starmer government, if anything, would be worse than Blair's."

This article is good, but it doesn't get to the heart of the matter, which is that the publisher in question shows no interest in presenting the unvarnished facts he so claims he wants the public to have so we can make up our own minds. You might get one rigorously researched article with nothing-but-the-facts on a particular issue, but when you have half a dozen articles that are clearly propaganda for one side full of widely-debunked nonsense as their foundation, you just might suspect a bias is in effect. And why do you print dozens of articles on an issue hardly anyone cares about when they don't even carry any illumination, let alone when they are full of holes? And, you know, everyone already knows Biden is old, why harp on it constantly? Even in an environment where The Times was rooting for Biden, you'd get the occasional reference to his age, but you really don't need to mention it that often — more often than Trump's visible dementia is mentioned. It's like that. "Why is New York Times campaign coverage so bad? Because that's what the publisher wants."

Ryan Cooper learned about "The Best Tax System on Earth: What America and the world can learn from the Faroe Islands [...] The Faroes have a tax system that is unique even among their Nordic neighbors, and probably the best in the world. Its operating principles are centralization, efficiency, and simplicity. It's not the most riveting subject for a travel holiday, I'll readily admit. But it's beautiful in its own way—and it makes a major difference in the lives of every Faroese person, from the lowest worker to the owners of the biggest businesses. It's hard to imagine fully implementing such a system in the United States, but we still might learn from their example."

Dave Johnson in 2013, "The 1983 Strategy Behind Today's Social Security Attacks: Suppose you're in a bar and you overhear a couple of guys in the next booth talking about a plan to steal from people's houses. As you eavesdrop the plan unfolds: one will come to the front door pretending to be from the gas company warning the homeowner about a gas leak down the street. While he distracts the homeowner at the front door, the other one will sneak in the back door and take stuff. So the next day the doorbell rings, and there's a guy saying he is from the gas company. He says he wants to talk a while to warn you about a gas leak down the street... This is what is happening with this constant drumbeat of attacks on Social Security. The attack on Social Security never goes away, it only escalates. As we go into this next round of attacks -- this time it is even coming from the President* -- it is more than useful to understand the background of this campaign against the program."