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Friday, February 24, 2023

Trust The Plan

 Yeah, right.

This new book just jumped the line. I consumed it forthwith. Wrote him an Amazon review. Five stars, Dawg.
Trust THIS Review

I was settling in to study the new 824 pg book "The Big Myth" by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway for my blog when Will Sommer's new book "Trust The Plan" came to my attention. I read the Amazon "Look Inside" sample. Intrigued, I downloaded it and read it carefully overnight. I tweeted the author that "Chapter 7 alone was worth the price." Mr. Sommer delivers a fine, enjoyable writing style, and—notwithstanding that he's a journalist, not a social psych practitioner—provides astute analytical evaluations of the phenomena comprising the fevered, impenetrable  conspiratorial illogic which hobbles a disturbing percentage of humanity (abetted by the new comms wrinkle of digital social media). As a (now-retired) long-time statistical analyst and former forensic radiation lab programmer who did a lengthy adjunct stint teaching collegiate Critical Thinking and Argument Analysis, I have an abiding concern over the bozo cognitive muddles and antics characteristic of "QAnon" and the broader cohort of the "SERIOUSLY?" demographic. I joke that "Occam's gonna need a bigger chainsaw."

The joke is increasingly not funny. I've certainly had my exasperated mocking sport with these myriad, poignant Legends In Their Own Minds across the years, but some of them increasingly threaten or engage in armed violence, not only against the hated "State" but also anyone who individually pushes back on their noise.

"Trust The Plan" is well worth your time. Trust Me. It was for me. I don't have a "Plan," just a candid reading recommendation.
When I wrote and submitted the review (still pending as I post this), the only prior text review posted was a pissy 1-star Trump troll screed.
"Ridiculous" (Chris Long)
First of all, there IS no such entity as “QAnon.” This is literally a mainstream media construct. So, the author is off to a very poor start just from the title alone.
Secondly, the book description says it all: “Trust the Plan shows us in granular detail who we’ll be up against for years to come.” So what we have here is yet another anti-Trump diatribe.
No thanks.
TRUMP 2024!
Untraceable dude obviously did not read the book.
Amazon posted my review, along with this beaut.

"No further questions. The Prosecution rests, Your Honor."
The SERIOUSLY? demographic.


Ohhhh, Canada...

Yeah, I know, we're admonished to "be civil" to these careening Dramatists. They're "hurting," and simply acting out in response to feeling "neglected" by us mainstream society "normies" and the overlord globalist "elites."
I guess. 
Oh, props to Will for noting the history of the "Where We Go One We Go All" thing. It's from the awesome 1996 Jeff Bridges sailing movie "The White Squall." Totally loved that flick.

 I have a singer-songwriter-keyboardist friend from Oregon, a devout evangelical Christian by the name of Doug Brons. He's fabulous. I've called him "the Michael MacDonald of Christian rock." In the last year or so, though, he's started posting weird QAnon-ish stuff on Facebook, making dark allusions to "the Coming Storm" and the "WWG1WGA" thing. Check out his recent song "We Are The Patriots."

OK, then...
Oh, yo, hey Mr. "Chris Long" Trump 2024, a little quickie BobbyG Photoshop erratum for you:

Eloquent, as always. Original tweet here (unless they pull it).
I posted it on Facebook. One of my FB friends assumed it was a spoof. "Dude, I transcribed it verbatim from the audio clip put up on Twitter by his spokeswoman, then pilfered that "coin" image via Google and quickly glommed the whole thing together in a jpeg, using Photoshop."

My new Harper's arrived. Back cover, full bleed ad:

I got the Kindle edition Tuesday when it was released, and am burrowed well into to it. First cited it here.
This is the story of how American business manufactured a myth that has, for decades and to our detriment, held us in its grip. It is the true history of a false idea: the idea of “the magic of the marketplace.” Some people call it market absolutism or market essentialism. In the 1990s, George Soros popularized the name we find most apt: market fundamentalism.1 It’s a quasi-religious belief that the best way to address our needs—whether economic or otherwise—is to let markets do their thing, and not rely on government. Market fundamentalists treat “The Market” as a proper noun: something unique and unto itself, that has agency and even wisdom, that functions best when left unfettered and unregulated, undisturbed and unperturbed. Government, according to the myth, cannot improve the functioning of markets; it can only interfere. Governments therefore need to stay out of the way, lest they “distort” the market and prevent it from doing its “magic.” In the late twentieth century, market fundamentalism was cloaked in the seemingly ancient raiments of received wisdom. In fact, it was more or less invented in the twentieth century.

Classical liberal economists—including Adam Smith—recognized that government served essential functions, including building infrastructure for everyone’s benefit and regulating banks, which, left to their own devices, could destroy an economy. They also recognized that taxation was required to enable governments to perform those functions. But in the early twentieth century, a group of self-styled “neo-liberals” shifted economic and political thinking radically. They argued that any government action in the marketplace, even well intentioned, compromised the freedom of individuals to do as they pleased—and therefore put us on the road to totalitarianism. Political and economic freedom were “indivisible,” they insisted: any compromise to the latter was a threat to the former—any compromise at all, even to address obvious ills like child labor or workplace injury. Why did we ever come to accept a worldview so impervious to facts? A worldview Smith himself, often thought of as the father of free-market capitalism, would have rejected? This book tells that story...

Oreskes, Naomi; Conway, Erik M.. The Big Myth (pp. 10-11). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition

Judge Richard A. Posner is one of America’s most distinguished conservative jurists and for many years a leader of the law and economics movement. This movement, which originated at the University of Chicago, holds that the law is best viewed as a tool to promote economic efficiency and that economic analysis can and should can guide legal practice.1 Posner spent most of his career displaying a jaundiced view of government regulation and he influenced many a young jurist to do the same; one analysis finds him to be the most cited law writer of the second half of the twentieth century. His jurisprudential philosophy—which substantially equated justice with economic efficiency—provoked one critic to snarl that “Maximum Wealth, badly distributed, does not lead to maximum happiness.”

In 2009, Posner undertook an analysis of the 2008 financial crisis, which caused him to rethink his views. A “rational decision-maker starts with a prior probability,” Posner wrote in A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of ’08 and the Descent into Depression, “but adjusts that probability as new evidence comes to his attention.” The near collapse of the world’s banking system offered a raft of evidence about the reality of market failure and the need for government regulation, particularly in financial markets. “Behavior that generates large external costs,” he tartly observed, “provides an apt occasion for government regulation.” What he had learned from the crisis was that “we need a more active and intelligent government to keep our model of a capitalist economy from running off the rails. The movement to deregulate the financial industry went too far by exaggerating the resilience—the self-healing powers—of laissez-faire capitalism.” The responsibility for building the guard rails that capitalism has proven itself to require has to rest with government, because there isn’t any other institution to do it.

The 2008 collapse should have hit “economic libertarians in their solar plexus,” Posner observed, because the crisis was the result of underregulation, a consequence of the “innate limitations of the free market.” But if the economic libertarians were hit by the 2008 crisis, they refused to flinch. In conservative circles and the offices of K-street lobbyists, trade associations, and think tanks, and on the pages of the Wall Street Journal, as well as in much academic economics, free-market ideology remained largely in place… [pp. 567-568].
I recall my nano-bit part in the 2008 financial crash run-up.
UPDATE: I'm now about halfway through "The Big Myth," which the Kindle app tells me is almost a 19 hour read. It is kickin' my butt. Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 23, 2023

One year on:

Russia's 3-day conquest of Ukraine.

It was gonna be a cakewalk, with Zelenskyy quickly arrested, exiled, or dead, Putin's tank columns rolling boldly through KyIv in no time, euphoric Ukrainians lining the streets to throw flowers at their liberators.
As noted foreign policy analyst Mike Tyson observes:
"Ev'rybody got a plan, 'til he get hit."
A walk in the park.

That was the assurance skeptical members of the Russian military said they were given by superiors as it appeared increasingly clear that President Vladimir V. Putin truly did mean to wage an unprovoked war on neighboring Ukraine.

And it seemed to make sense.

Ukraine was a vastly outgunned nation led by the unlikeliest of presidents, a former comedian elected just a few years before. Russia was a major military power, if not the global force it was in the days of the Soviet Union.

And so when the first planes raced across the border followed by ground troops, it was widely assumed that it would be mere days before the Russian tricolor was hoisted over Kyiv, the capital.

That was a year ago. Now, no one is talking about a walk in the park. They speak of slogs and slaughter. Of a Kremlin “special military operation” that metastasized into the biggest ground war in Europe since World War II. Of Russian casualties of around 200,000 killed or wounded, by some Western estimates."...

Been a very sad year.
How and When the War in Ukraine Will End
Forecasting a conclusion to an unpredictable conflict

By Uri Friedman

Sometimes the best way to understand what’s possible is to ask impossible questions.

One year ago, Russia launched a war that many never expected it to wage and assumed it would quickly win against a cowed Ukraine and its allies. How and when will the conflict end? For a war that has defied expectations, those questions might seem impossible to answer. Yet I recently posed them to several top historians, political scientists, geopolitical forecasters, and former officials—because only in imagining potential futures can we understand the rough bounds of the possible, and our own agency in influencing the outcome we want.

The main takeaways from the responses I received? Prepare for the possibility of a long, shape-shifting conflict, perhaps lasting years, even a decade or more. Watch how the rest of the world regards the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions. Expect any negotiated settlement to be fragile and reliant on third-party intervention. And don’t anticipate a dramatic finish, such as a Russian nuclear detonation in Ukraine or the overthrow of Vladimir Putin in Russia. Notably, in a reversal of perceptions a year ago, some experts could envision a decisive Ukrainian victory against Russia, but none forecast a decisive Russian win against Ukraine…
"The war in Ukraine is the final shovel of dirt on the grave of any optimism about the world order that was born with the fall of Soviet Communism. Now we are faced with the long grind of defeating Moscow’s armies and eventually rebuilding a better world."Tom Nichols

Monday, February 20, 2023

Will this SCOTUS strike down or materially modify CDA Section 230?


§ 230. Protection for private blocking and screening of offensive material

(a) Findings
The Congress finds the following:
(1) The rapidly developing array of Internet and other interactive computer services available to individual Americans represent an extraordinary advance in the availability of educational and informational resources to our citizens.

(2) These services offer users a great degree of control over the information that they receive, as well as the potential for even greater control in the future as technology develops.

(3) The Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.

(4) The Internet and other interactive computer services have flourished, to the benefit of all Americans, with a minimum of government regulation.

(5) Increasingly Americans are relying on interactive media for a variety of political, educational, cultural, and entertainment services.
(b) Policy
It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;

(2) to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the
Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;

(3) to encourage the development of technologies which maximize user control over
what information is received by individuals, families, and schools who use the Internet and other interactive computer services;

(4) to remove disincentives for the development and utilization of blocking and filtering technologies that empower parents to restrict their children’s access to objectionable or inappropriate online material; and

(5) to ensure vigorous enforcement of Federal criminal laws to deter and punish trafficking in obscenity, stalking, and harassment by means of computer.
(c) Protection for ‘‘Good Samaritan’’ blocking and screening of offensive material

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher
or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) Civil liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).1
(d) Obligations of interactive computer service
A provider of interactive computer service shall, at the time of entering an agreement with a customer for the provision of interactive computer service and in a manner deemed appropriate by the provider, notify such customer that parental control protections (such as computer hardware, software, or filtering services) are commercially available that may assist the customer in limiting access to material that is harmful to minors. Such notice shall identify, or provide the customer with access to information identifying, current providers of such protections.
(e) Effect on other laws
(1) No effect on criminal law

Nothing in this section shall be construed to impair the enforcement of section 223 or 231 of this title, chapter 71 (relating to obscenity) or 110 (relating to sexual exploitation of children) of title 18, or any other Federal criminal statute.

(2) No effect on intellectual property law

Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit or expand any law pertaining to intellectual property.

(3) State law

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent any State from enforcing any State
law that is consistent with this section. No cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.

(4) No effect on communications privacy law

Nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the application of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 or any of the amendments made by such Act, or any similar State law.
(f) Definitions

As used in this section:
(1) Internet

The term ‘‘Internet’’ means the international computer network of both Federal and non-Federal interoperable packet switched data networks.

(2) Interactive computer service

The term ‘‘interactive computer service’’ means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

(3) Information content provider

The term ‘‘information content provider’’ means any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service.

(4) Access software provider

The term ‘‘access software provider’’ means a provider of software (including client or
server software), or enabling tools that do any one or more of the following:

(A) filter, screen, allow, or disallow content;
(B) pick, choose, analyze, or digest content; or
(C) transmit, receive, display, forward, cache, search, subset, organize, reorganize, or translate content.

(June 19, 1934, ch. 652, title II, § 230, as added Pub. L. 104–104, title V, § 509, Feb. 8, 1996, 110 Stat. 137; amended Pub. L. 105–277, div. C, title XIV, § 1404(a), Oct. 21, 1998, 112 Stat. 2681–739.)

The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, referred to in subsec. (e)(4), is Pub. L. 99–508, Oct. 21, 1986, 100 Stat. 1848, as amended. For complete classification of this Act to the Code, see Short Title of 1986 Amendment note set out under section 2510 of Title 18, Crimes and Criminal Procedure, and Tables.

Section 509 of Pub. L. 104–104, which directed amendment of title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 201 et seq.) by adding section 230 at end, was executed by adding the section at end of part I of title II of the Act to reflect the probable intent of Congress and amendments by sections 101(a), (b), and 151(a) of Pub. L. 104–104 designating §§ 201 to 229 as part I and adding parts II (§ 251 et seq.) and III (§ 271 et seq.) to title II of the Act.

1998—Subsec. (d). Pub. L. 105–277, § 1404(a)(3), added subsec. (d). Former subsec. (d) redesignated (e). Subsec. (d)(1). Pub. L. 105–277, § 1404(a)(1), inserted ‘‘or 231’’ after ‘‘section 223’’. Subsecs. (e), (f). Pub. L. 105–277, § 1404(a)(2), redesignatedsubsecs. (d) and (e) as (e) and (f), respectively.

Amendment by Pub. L. 105–277 effective 30 days after Oct. 21, 1998, see section 1406 of Pub. L. 105–277, set out as a note under section 223 of this title.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google/YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, GETTR, Telegram, & Truth Social, etc—none of them are currently considered "publishers" subject to content liability litigation and remedies. That may well change this year. There's a lot at stake.
Stay tuned...

[CNN]  After back-to-back oral arguments this week, the Supreme Court appears reluctant to hand down the kind of sweeping ruling about liability for terrorist content on social media that some feared would upend the internet.

On Wednesday, the justices struggled with claims that Twitter contributed to a 2017 ISIS attack in Istanbul by hosting content unrelated to the specific incident. Arguments in that case, Twitter v. Taamneh, came a day after the court considered whether YouTube can be sued for recommending videos created by ISIS to its users.

What's at stake: The closely watched cases carry significant stakes for the wider internet. An expansion of apps and websites’ legal risk for hosting or promoting content could lead to major changes at sites including Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube, to name a few.

For nearly three hours of oral argument, the justices asked attorneys for Twitter, the US government and the family of Nawras Alassaf – a Jordanian citizen killed in the 2017 attack – how to weigh several factors that might determine Twitter’s level of legal responsibility, if any. But while the justices quickly identified what the relevant factors were, they seemed divided on how to analyze them…
May portend a relatively narrow, non-"groundbreaking" set of rulings. Or no new rulings (kick it over to Congress). We won't know until June or July.

Presidents' Day 2023


Saturday, February 18, 2023

This man

is seriously mentally ill.
Up at 1 a.m. at Mar a Lago to rant incoherently on his "Truth Social" platform. It would be comical were it not so.
I highly recommend Elie Honig's new book.
Chapter 17
United States v. Donald John Trump

Donald Trump has, as of this writing, never been charged with a crime. He has been investigated criminally at the federal level and in several states for crimes ranging from endangering-the-republic serious to the technical and obscure. But he has never been criminally charged, ever, with anything.

That’s a far cry, of course, from saying that Trump has never actually committed a crime. To the contrary, as I’ll argue here, he has committed many crimes, dozens even (depending how thinly we slice each of his criminal episodes into component parts), often in open public view. He has simply gotten away with it.

Trump might still face charges at some point; it’s possible he gets charged by somebody, somewhere, with something, between the writing of this book and publication. (The Fulton County district attorney in Georgia seems the most likely of anyone to file charges, as we’ll discuss in chapter 19.) But given the time that has lapsed, and the complex legal, structural, and political obstacles that any prosecution is certain to encounter, Trump’s ultimate conviction and imprisonment are now more the stuff of fantastical Twitter memes than reality.

So, looking back at Trump’s history of criminality, we need to consider the counterfactual. What charges might Trump have faced, in a (hypothetical) world where he received no formal legal protection while he was president, and none of the other advantages that bosses commonly enjoy and exploit, both during and after his presidency? What if Trump had done all he did, but was just an ordinary guy? And what if prosecutors had taken action quickly and decisively, without spinning their wheels for years and allowing the political landscape to shift under their feet?

Before we begin, I need to make this clear: I reject the casual assertion that a prosecution of Trump would be easy, or a given. I’ve worked long enough as a prosecutor to know that there’s no such thing as an automatic conviction, and that a criminal case against a former president would be extraordinarily difficult, regardless of the strength of the evidence. But we also need to move beyond the defeatist shrug of the shoulders—“Well, it’s complicated, he was the president, it’s never been done before, it’ll cause dissension, what are you gonna do?” There’s a substantive discussion to be had between these poles.

We do not, of course, have all the facts that were available to prosecutors—or would have been available, had they opened criminal investigations and pursued them in a timely and aggressive manner. But we do know an awful lot, often more than enough to conclude with confidence that Trump did in fact commit a particular crime.

We know about Trump’s conduct, first, because journalism about his misdeeds has been remarkable for its scope, depth, and accuracy. There have been sporadic misfires, but by and large, media reporting about Trump’s conduct has been spot-on, and countless scoops have later been definitively confirmed. Of course we’ll rely here only on those factual allegations that have now been established beyond serious dispute.

Over time, even more evidence has entered the public domain. Grand jury materials have now been publicly disclosed, as criminal cases against Trump’s cohorts (and, at times, co-conspirators) have progressed and concluded. Judges have ordered the Justice Department to turn over internal documents to Congress, media outlets, and public transparency advocates. Congress, inspectors general, and others have uncovered new evidence through their investigative work; the House January 6 Select Committee has uncovered particularly damning evidence about Trump’s quest to steal the 2020 election. People who were directly involved in Trump’s crimes, or witnessed them, have come forward (at times, conveniently, just a bit too late for prosecutors or other investigators to make meaningful use of their information). Heck, Trump himself has openly admitted much of his wrongdoing—bragged about it, even—in his tweets (pre-ban) and other public statements. The amount and quality of evidence varies by crime, but we have an ample factual record to proceed here…

Honig, Elie. Untouchable (pp. 201-203). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

And, then, there's this mess. Fox News execs and show hosts caught red-handed via the Dominion defamation lawsuit discovery process stating multiple times off the record that they knew the Trump "stolen election" allegations had zero credible evidence justifying them.
OK, then…
Running for President? Lordy.
Release date Feb 21, 2023
Click cover image
"A carefully researched work of intellectual history, and an urgently needed political analysis." --Jane Mayer

“[A] scorching indictment of free market fundamentalism … and how we can change, before it's too late.”-Esquire, Best Books of Winter 2023

The bestselling authors of Merchants of Doubt offer a profound, startling history of one of America's most tenacious--and destructive--false ideas: the myth of the "free market."

In their bestselling book Merchants of Doubt, Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway revealed the origins of climate change denial. Now, they unfold the truth about another disastrous dogma: the “magic of the marketplace.”

In the early 20th century, business elites, trade associations, wealthy powerbrokers, and media allies set out to build a new American orthodoxy: down with “big government” and up with unfettered markets. With startling archival evidence, Oreskes and Conway document campaigns to rewrite textbooks, combat unions, and defend child labor. They detail the ploys that turned hardline economists Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman into household names; recount the libertarian roots of the Little House on the Prairie books; and tune into the General Electric-sponsored TV show that beamed free-market doctrine to millions and launched Ronald Reagan's political career.

By the 1970s, this propaganda was succeeding. Free market ideology would define the next half-century across Republican and Democratic administrations, giving us a housing crisis, the opioid scourge, climate destruction, and a baleful response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Only by understanding this history can we imagine a future where markets will serve, not stifle, democracy.
Recall my coverage of Dr. Oreskes' prior book “Why Trust Science?”
Waiting impatiently to download and study. 


Sir, your neurological calamity is still covered by Obamacare.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

"A Short Stay in Hell"

And, NO, it wasn't attending a Trump MAGA rally.
What an interesting book! Props to Dr. Todd Kashdan for the heads-up. I think a lot of folks who read it and commented on it didn't get the point / joke. Even those who reviewed it favorably.

"Library of Babel," anyone?

I am enjoying the "hell" out of this book. Stay tuned...


Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Calamity in Turkey and Syria

Horrific. Back-to-back 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes. The death toll will certainly hit 5 figures. As I write it's up over 7,000. Hundreds of buildings collapsed. And, crappy cold, snowy winter weather in its midst. Ugh.
I was gonna write on some other stuff today. It can wait.

FEB 12TH, 10 am EST

The death toll now reportedly exceeds 33,000, and expected to perhaps yet double or more. Closing in on 100,000 injured, millions homeless. Just terrible. đź’”