28 January 2024

It's a wind that lingers long enough to be fed

"Ice outside my window," by Libby Spencer.

"International Court of Justice Rules Forcefully Against Israel in Landmark Genocide Ruling, Including Restricting Military Action [...] Of critical importance, and a huge smackdown to Israel, is the Court came as close as it reasonably could to calling for a ceasefire in ruling for the provisional measure (which it devised itself) for Israel to cease military action against Palestinians as members of a protected group under the Genocide Convention.1 I had opined that the Court could not call for a ceasefire since it could not bind Hamas to comply. It would not be sound or shrewd to give Israel an easy pretext for defying the court by saying that a one-sided ceasefire would leave it defenseless. But impressively, the court went as far as it could, and way way further than I expected, in constraining Israel military operations against the Palestinian population." The fact that it didn't demand a ceasefire in specific isn't interesting, since to comply with the order they'd still have to stop doing what they're doing.

"The NYPD Spent $150 Million to Catch Farebeaters Who Cost the MTA $104,000: Overtime pay for cops in New York's subway system increased from $4 million in 2022 to $155 million over the same period in 2023, according to an analysis by Gothamist. If that sounds like an excessive amount of money to be spending on cops who are famously mostly on their phones or GETTING STURDY, that's probably because you don't believe in public safety. For your information, that extra $151 million in overtime spending, a nearly 4,000 percent cost increase and the result of adding 1,000 additional cops to patrol the subway system, bought us a whopping two percent decrease in 'major' crime, amounting to a total of 48 fewer serious crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. The number of assaults on the subway, on the other hand, actually went up, raising the question of whether that decrease can even be attributed to the increased police presence underground." Atrios remarked on Christmas that, "A whole range of people - from centrist 'good government' types to libertarians to 'fiscal conservatives' - are just completely silent on absurd cop budgets."

"PRESS Act unanimously passes the House. Now on to the Senate! Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) applauds the House of Representatives for unanimously passing the PRESS Act, a bipartisan federal reporter's shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to name their sources in federal court and would stop the federal government from spying on journalists through their technology providers. The PRESS Act is the strongest federal shield bill that Congress has ever proposed. It's vigorously supported by major media outlets and civil society organizations."

"New Baltimore Sun owner insults staff in meeting, says paper should mimic Fox45: In a tense, three-hour meeting with staff Tuesday afternoon, new Baltimore Sun owner David Smith told employees he has only read the paper four times in the past few months, insulted the quality of their journalism and encouraged them to emulate a TV station owned by his broadcasting company. Smith, whose acquisition of the paper from the investment firm Alden Global Capital was announced publicly Monday evening, told staff he had not read newspapers for decades, according to several people who attended the meeting but were not authorized to speak publicly. [...] Smith, who is the executive chairman of Sinclair Inc., which operates more than 200 television stations nationwide, told New York Magazine in 2018 he considered print media “so left-wing as to be meaningless dribble.” Asked Tuesday during the meeting whether he stood by those comments now that he owns one of the most storied titles in American journalism, Smith said yes. Asked if he felt that way about the contents of his newspaper, Smith said “in many ways, yes,” according to people at the meeting. The Baltimore Sun won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Smith is a major political player in the region, having donated heavily to campaigns. He recruited candidates to run against Mayor Brandon Scott and funded ballot initiatives that altered the city charter. [...] Smith's company owns the local station Fox45, and he praised its Project Baltimore, which focuses on the shortcomings of Baltimore City schools, as an example Sun reporters should follow." Of course he does! "Sinclair exec, Sun owner David Smith behind lawsuit against Baltimore schools: Fox45 says reporters didn't know owner is financing high-profile suit and station will add disclosure to stories. New Baltimore Sun owner and Sinclair Broadcast Group Executive Chairman David Smith has been quietly involved in a lawsuit accusing Baltimore City Public Schools of defrauding taxpayers, documents show." This man is one of the great public menaces of our time.

"A School Bought Solar Panels And Saved Enough To Give All Its Teachers Raises: 'The Sun Is Going To Be Shining Anyway, So Why Not Cash In On That?' A rural school district in Batesville, Arkansas generated enough solar energy to give every teacher a raise, CBS News reports. Salaries were only averaging around $45,000 at the Batesville School District, with many teachers leaving as a result. It was also proving difficult to attract new teachers to the town of just 10,000 people. But then the school district, which included a high school and five other education centers, turned an unused field into a solar energy farm back in 2017. It also covered the front of the high school in 1,500 panels. After installing the solar array and investing in other new energy infrastructure, Climatewire reports that the district turned a $250,000 annual budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus — enough, according to CBS, to give every teacher a raise of up to $15,000."

Rick Perlstein is writing a new series for The American Prospect from the three-legged torture device of American politics, "You Are Entering the Infernal Triangle: Authoritarian Republicans, ineffectual Democrats, and a clueless media."
• "First They Came for Harvard: The right's long and all-too-unanswered war on liberal institutions claims a big one."
• "Metaphors Journalists Live By (Part I): One of the reasons political journalism is so ill-equipped for this moment in America is because of its stubborn adherence to outdated frames."
• "Metaphors Journalists Live By (Part II): The conclusion of our story of the bad things that can happen when journalists refuse to criticize themselves"
• "American Fascism: Author and scholar John Ganz on how Europe's interwar period informs the present"

"Democratic Lawmakers Plan Push To Get Controversial Biden Adviser Out Of Office: House Democrats have drafted a letter seeking the resignation of White House aide Brett McGurk, whose Middle East policies are seen as worsening the Gaza crisis." (You might want to deep-dive this guy a little more here.)

"'Disturbing': Australian Journalist Fired After Push by Pro-Israel Lobbyists [...] The Herald reported Tuesday that "dozens of leaked messages from a WhatsApp group called Lawyers for Israel show how members of the group repeatedly wrote to the ABC demanding Lattouf be sacked, and threatened legal action if she was not." One Lawyers for Israel member called Lattouf's lawyer, who is Jewish, a traitor."

In this thread on the Boeing scandal, Matt Stoller points out that the right-wing deflection to DEI is a red herring from "1998 fights between white guys - finance vs engineering." He cites "this note from 21 years ago from a group of Boeing engineers predicting the crisis we're in. It's a function of the McDonnell Douglas merger, not race." Matt also says, "I don't like DEI, because it's what a civil rights movement looks like when no one has any rights except through identity grievance and that's a very bad thing. But it's extremely obvious that DEI is used by the right to avoid looking at problems implicating their establishment."

"With Overdraft Fee Crackdown, 'CFPB Is Doing What It Was Designed to Do': The CFPB is proposing clear, enforceable rules that will reduce overdraft fees and save Americans billions, closing another lucrative regulatory loophole banks use to prey on consumers,' said one advocate."

At long last, Tom Tomorrow has joined forces with The American Prospect, who will now be carrying This Modern World.

RIP: Glynis Johns, Mary Poppins star and 'Send in the Clowns' singer, dies aged 100"— Sondheim actually wrote the song for her, and she was also the best mermaid ever. Lotta good photos here.

RIP: "Mary Weiss, lead singer with '60s girl group the Shangri-Las, died on Jan. 19 at the age of 75. Confirming the singer's death, Miriam Linna of Weiss' label Norton Records said: 'Mary was an icon, a hero, a heroine, to both young men and women of my generation and of all generations.' Formed in 1963, the quartet is remembered for their first Top 5 single, 'Remember (Walking in the Sand)' and its follow-up, the classic death disc 'Leader of the Pack,' both released in 1964."

RIP: "Melanie, Singer Who Performed at Woodstock and Topped Charts With 'Brand New Key,' Dies at 76: The singer, who wrote 'Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)' based on her experience at Woodstock, had been at work this month on a covers album." Good, she did what she loved right up to the end.

At Informed Comment, a review of Avi Shlaim's Three Worlds: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew [...] After the Nakba that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948 and the new state's victory against the Arab armies, the climate for Jews in Iraq significantly worsened. The defeat of the Iraqi army in Palestine was a deep humiliation for a nation that expected an easy military success. It was in this context, Shlaim remarks, that 'the distinction between Jews and Zionists, so crucial to interfaith harmony in the Arab world, was rapidly breaking down.'[2] Ella Shoat, who has researched the history of Arab Jews and provided feedback to Shlaim for his book, captures another side of the same problem when she writes that 'as the Palestinians were experiencing the Nakba, Arab Jews woke up to a new world order that could not accommodate their simultaneous Jewishness and Arabness.'"

One thing that really spooked me was hearing Israelis talk about what they had been taught about Palestinians. The level of propaganda is astonishing. Israelis claim that "Palestinians teach their children hate," but what Israeli children are taught is horrific - not just about Palestinians, but about everyone. I'd seen hints of this before, but Nurit Peled-Elhanan, the Israeli professor who studies and writes about education, still managed to shock me. It's worth your time to listen to this video about how racist the Israeli educational system is — and how it traumatizes Israeli children from an early age. She also says Palestinians can't educate children to hate Jews because Israel controls all their educational processes and materials.

This is a good, solid piece of writing by Jeremy Scahill that I opened in December but it got lost in the deluge: "This Is Not a War Against Hamas: The notion that the war would end if Hamas was overthrown or surrenders is as ahistorical as it is false. [...] Israel has imposed, by lethal force, a rule that Palestinians have no legitimate rights of any form of resistance. When they have organized nonviolent demonstrations, they have been attacked and killed. That was the case in 2018-2019 when Israeli forces opened fire on unarmed protesters during the Great March of Return, killing 223 and wounding more than 8,000 others. Israeli snipers later boasted about shooting dozens of protesters in the knee during the weekly Friday demonstrations. When Palestinians fight back against apartheid soldiers, they are killed or sent into military tribunals. Children who throw rocks at tanks or soldiers are labeled terrorists and subjected to abuse and violations of basic rights — that is, if they are not summarily shot dead. Palestinians live their lives stripped of any context or any recourse to address the grave injustices imposed on them."

"Why is the media ignoring evidence of Israel's own actions on 7 October?" has a too-long introductory section, but the meat of the story is that Hamas planned a commando raid on military installations that became chaos because a festival had been moved into the area and now a large number of civilians were thrown into the mix. The question is how many of the dead civilians were actually killed by Hamas, because the evidence is that a significant proportion of those deaths were caused by the IDF.

"What the New York Times Gets Wrong About Lemkin's Work on Genocide: Words matter, but the paper of record has ignored our letter of clarification about historical misrepresentation and the important role of the Armenian genocide in the thinking of the man who coined the term."

Doctorow with a deep-dive on how Apple gets away with its evils, "The Cult of Mac: Apple's most valuable intangible asset isn't its patents or copyrights – it's an army of people who believe that using products from a $2.89 trillion multinational makes them members of an oppressed religious minority whose identity is coterminal with the interests of Apple's shareholders. [...] These regulators couch their enforcement action in terms of defending an open market, but the benefits to app makers is only incidental. The real beneficiaries of an open app world is Apple customers. After all, it's Apple customers who bear the 30% app tax when it's priced into the apps they buy and the things they buy in those apps. It's Apple customers who lose access to apps that can't be viably offered because the app tax makes them money-losing propositions. It's Apple customers who lose out on the ability to get apps that Apple decides are unsuitable for inclusion in its App Store. That's where the Cult Of Mac steps in to cape for the $3 trillion behemoth. The minority of Apple customers for whom their brand loyalty is a form of religious devotion insist that 'no Apple customer wants these things.'"

"Institutional COVID denial has killed public health as we knew it. Prepare to lose several centuries of progress. Public health cannot be individualized. Abandoning collective approaches to disease mitigation is a recipe for disaster."

"Millionaires and Billionaires to Davos Elites: 'We Must Be Taxed More'; 'Even millionaires and billionaires like me are saying it's time," said Abigail Disney. "The elites gathering in Davos must take this crisis seriously.'ms Survey results released Tuesday as corporate CEOs, top government officials, and other global elites gathered in Davos, Switzerland show that nearly three-quarters of millionaires in G20 countries support higher taxes on extreme wealth, which they view as an increasingly dire threat to democracy. The poll was conducted by the London-based firm Survation on behalf of the Patriotic Millionaires, an advocacy group that campaigns for a more progressive tax system. The survey, which polled over 2,300 millionaires in G20 nations, found that 74% 'support higher taxes on wealth to help address the cost-of-living crisis and improve public services.'" It's not clear to me that other billionaires are on the bandwagon, but quit a few millionaires are.

Dan Froomkin, "My proposed additions to the New York Times style guide to improve its political coverage: The New York Times repeatedly abuses the English language in its political reporting. I decided it needs some additions to its style guide. Here are my initial suggestions." You are invited to add your suggestions.

From the Roosevelt Institute, "How Topline Economic Indicators—like Low Unemployment—Miss Struggling Communities: Current macroeconomic indicators and labor market statistics paint a picture of a resilient economy underpinned by a robust labor market. The United States has enjoyed historically low unemployment rates, bottoming out at a mere 3.4 percent in January and April 2023. Unemployment remained relatively low throughout 2022 and 2023 despite a gradual upward trend, standing at a still-respectable 3.7 percent in December. When one turns attention to the state level, however, it becomes clear that the labor market is fragmented. Some of the nation's most populated states are reaping minimal or no benefits from the tightness of the national labor market. Instead, these populous states, such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, California, and Nevada, are contending with escalating unemployment rates that surpass pre-pandemic levels."

"How a Big Pharma Company Stalled a Potentially Lifesaving Vaccine in Pursuit of Bigger Profits: A vaccine against tuberculosis, the world's deadliest infectious disease, has never been closer to reality, with the potential to save millions of lives. But its development slowed after its corporate owner focused on more profitable vaccines."

Keanu Reeves gives the one true answer to the question, "What do you think happens when we die?"

Nazz, "Under the Ice"