…behind the curve [DOT 5/9/21]

bends toward what now...

…it seems I have some catching up to do

Asked whether the exit from Afghanistan demonstrated the limits of British power on the world stage, Wallace started by saying, “It is obvious that Britain is not a superpower,” then appeared to switch his focus to the US. “But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power,” the defence secretary added.


…so apologies if this involves covering ground that’s already been trodden in the last few days…although in my defense it does seem like quite a lot of the headlines remain in well-trodden path…MLK suggested that the arc of the moral universe was long but it bent towards justice…but of late it seems like some people have a different trajectory in mind…& “get bent” might be their prevailing motto

Democrats have highlighted the importance of passing voting rights legislation since the beginning of the year, but the bill arrives in the Senate at a moment when the stakes are uniquely high. State lawmakers are currently drawing maps for electoral districts that will be in place for the next decade. Unless the bill passes, it will be the first time since 1965 certain states with a legacy of racial discrimination won’t have to get their district approved before they go into effect. That could encourage state lawmakers to draw districts that make it harder for Black and other minority voters to elect the candidate of their choice, critics say.
“The same people who are suppressing the vote are also using the filibuster to block living wage – it’s not about one issue,” said the Rev William Barber, a co-leader of the Poor People’s Campaign and a civil rights leader. “Anyone who tries to make this about one issue like voting rights, you’re misleading the people. You have to draw this line and connect the dots.”
“We have a problem here. We have Republicans on one side saying the bill isn’t needed,” said Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP. “And then we have far too many Democrats who lack the sense of urgency that it’s going to be absolutely critical to protect the rights of voters.”
“I don’t think we’re gonna have the same fate with this piece of legislation that we’ve seen, being stalled in the Senate. I do believe there will be the necessary political will to pass it,” said Johnson, who has met with the White House and members of Congress to push for the bill. Pressed on whether he believed 10 Republicans would sign on to the bill, Johnson suggested Democrats could do away with the filibuster to pass the bill.

“I’m not suggesting it’s gonna require 10 Republicans. I am suggesting the legislation will pass,” he said. “I don’t see a doomsday. I see a reality that voting rights protections must pass before the end of this year … Our democracy will be in shambles if it’s not done.”
“This iteration of the Voting Rights Act, this should be something that should garner bipartisan support. And if it garners none, and if there’s not even a serious conversation about tweaks to get to a deal, then I think that tells us something,” said Damon Hewitt, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a group that strongly supports the bill.

“It tells us that there was never really an attempt to play ball. Or, even if there was some attempt, there was just insufficient political will,” he added.


…not sure I share the faith about that one passing…though I’m certainly convinced about there being a majority to be found in support

A majority of voters in seven states support elements of Democrats’ voting legislation and passing such legislation without a filibuster-proof majority, according to a series of new state-level surveys.

Voting rights group Fair Fight commissioned surveys with Public Policy Polling, which does polling for progressive groups, in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Between 54 percent and 64 percent of voters surveyed in each state support the idea of senators passing voting bills along a simple majority — not the 60 votes currently required by Senate filibuster rules.
The surveys also found significant support for provisions included in the bills, too.
In each of the seven states, at least 64 percent of voters surveyed support “allowing the Department of Justice to review state laws before they go into effect to make sure that they do not discriminate against voters based on race,” a part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 known as preclearance. The formula deciding which states should be subject to that law was tossed out by the Supreme Court in 2013, effectively ending this practice. The bill named for John Lewis creates a new formula; the House of Representatives passed that bill last week.
The survey also suggested that voters in the seven states support preventing polling site closures in rural and urban areas, stopping partisan gerrymandering, and reducing long lines at the polls ⁠— all things the For the People Act aims to accomplish.


…not least because the filibuster has its champions…& their interpretation of political will is…quite the moral corkscrew

Sen. Joe Manchin came out against a $3.5 trillion budget bill on Thursday, throwing cold water on one of President Joe Biden’s top legislative ambitions.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal opinion section, the West Virginia Democrat called on his party to hit “a strategic pause” on the legislation, rejecting the idea of “artificial political deadlines” to advance it.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., has also said she opposes the $3.5 trillion spending level.


…& what’s good for the GOP goose

The Texas legislature gave its final approval on Tuesday to a new bill that would impose substantial new restrictions on voting access in the state.

The restrictions would only add to those already in place in Texas, which has some of the most burdensome voting requirements in the US and was among the states with the lowest voter turnout in 2020.
While the new law is likely to be aggressively challenged in court over the next few months, Democrats made it clear that the only way to stop it would be federal voting reform. The filibuster, a senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation, stands in the way.


The bill, which will tighten what were already some of the nation’s strictest voting rules, represents a major victory for Republicans in their nationwide push to overhaul elections.
Including Texas, 18 states across the country have passed more than 30 bills this year restricting voting, one of the greatest contractions of access to the ballot since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. The relentless pace of these voting laws has raised pressure on Democrats in Congress, where a stalemate in a narrowly divided Senate has left them with little hope of passing federal voting legislation that would combat the new restrictions.
The Legislature is also weighing a measure to pre-empt local worker protection ordinances, an effort that would deepen the battle lines between the Republican-dominated state government and Democratic officials in Texas cities.
Even so, passage of the legislation was a stark demonstration of the political dominance of Texas by Republicans, who hope to hold onto the levers of power in the country’s largest red state. More than 20 Democrats kept up their protest on Tuesday, remaining absent from the House.

Texas G.O.P. Passes Election Bill, Raising Voting Barriers Even Higher [NYT]

But there’s a simpler reason that Cawthorn can spew such an abhorrent incitement to violence. His extremism was created intentionally by aggressive partisan gerrymandering. Cawthorn and many of the other demagogues and conspiracy theorists who have hijacked the Republican party owe their seats to the noncompetitive districts Republicans drew themselves a decade ago. Without gerrymandering, Cawthorn would just be another loudmouth Twitter troll pumped full of Newsmax nuttiness. With it, he’s issuing a call to arms as a prominent member of an elite Washington club of 435.
That’s what Cawthorn inherited when Meadows left Congress for a seat at Trump’s side as White House chief of staff: a district Republicans cannot lose, where red meat and outrage are all that matters, demographics and representativeness be damned. Cawthorn learned his lessons well. Generate outrage, generate attention, generate big dollars fundraising off the hate.
As the 2021 redistricting cycle gets underway, and the maps that will define our politics for the next 10 years are crafted in state capitals nationwide, Cawthorn’s dark vision hangs in the balance. If lawmakers continue to draw tilted maps that maximize the number of seats their party wins, at the cost of representative results in otherwise competitive states, they will continue to produce districts easily captured by ultra-radical zealots like Cawthorn. They will continue to incentivize elected officials to cater only to the militant base that drives party primaries. And we could break, once and for all, under the strain of this existential test.


…is as ever apparently no good when team D takes their gander at those lines

Legislators have historically used census data for redistricting, or the process of redrawing political maps every 10 years to reflect changes in population and ensure, among other things, that districts are roughly equal in population. But with the release of 2020 census data delayed this year because of the pandemic, Democrats opted to use the American Community Survey to meet a June 30 deadline set in the state constitution.

If the Legislature didn’t meet that deadline, an eight-member commission would be created with an equal number of Democrat and GOP lawmakers. If that group were unable to approve a map, a ninth member would be picked at random to break the tie.

Republicans are hoping that a federal judge will throw out Democrats’ maps and order that process begin.

Illinois Democrats have not yet voted on new congressional district boundaries. The state consitution doesn’t set a deadline for those maps to be approved, so legislators opted to wait for the census data before drawing those maps. Illinois is losing a congressional seat, and Democrats are expected to eliminate a GOP-held district.


…which isn’t exactly encouraging when the highest court of land is a law unto itself & apparently increasingly a stranger to ethical concerns

Last week, it was Remain in Mexico. On Tuesday, the supreme court issued an order requiring the Biden administration to reinstate the Trump-era policy that required asylum seekers from Central America to stay across the border in Mexico while their claims are adjudicated. It was an uncommonly aggressive intervention into foreign policy, an area where previous courts have preferred a light touch, and it posed massive logistical, diplomatic and humanitarian crises at the border that will need to be rapidly resolved if the Biden administration is to comply with the order.

Two days later, it was the eviction moratorium. On Thursday, the court blocked an extension of the federal emergency ban on evictions, gutting a 1944 law that gave the CDC the authority to implement such measures to curb disease, and endangering the 8m American households that are behind on rent – who now, without federal eviction protection, may face homelessness.

Both of these orders last week were issued in the dead of night. Their opinions were truncated, light on the details of their legal reasoning, and unsigned. Vote counts were not issued showing how each justice decided. And despite the enormous legal and human impact that the decisions inflicted, they were the product of rushed, abbreviated proceedings. The court did not receive full briefs on these matters, heard no oral arguments and overrode the normal sequence of appellate proceedings to issue their orders.

Welcome to the “shadow docket”, the so-called emergency proceedings that now constitute the majority of the supreme court’s business. Minimally argued, rarely justified and decided without transparency, shadow docket orders were once a tool the court used to dispense with unremarkable and legally unambiguous matters. To have an issue addressed on the shadow docket, a litigant has to apply for “emergency relief” – usually to stop a decision against them from a lower court from going into effect while appeals proceed. Traditionally, applicants would need to demonstrate that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if their petition wasn’t granted immediately. So one historical use of the shadow docket has been in federal death penalty cases, where the court has used the emergency proceeding to affirm or deny requests for stays of execution.

But in recent years the court has largely dispensed with any meaningful application of the irreparable harm standard, and instead has entertained emergency relief petitions from more and more litigants, issuing shadow docket rulings on increasingly significant and controversial legal questions without the rigor or transparency that such issues demand.

Ultimately, many of the policies that the court used the shadow docket to keep in place were never declared legal: they were simply rescinded when Trump left office. It was only because of the supreme court’s unusual intervention via the shadow docket that they were able to be enacted at all. If this seems like the court merely deferring to the prerogatives of the executive, rest assured that it isn’t: the court’s shadow docket has not been similarly generous towards Biden administration claims.

In this way, the shadow docket’s expanded use raises troubling questions – both for transparency, and for the separation of powers. What does it mean for popular sovereignty when the unelected supreme court can overturn the actions of elected officials seemingly at whim, without reading briefs, without hearing arguments and without having to assign judges’ names to their opinions or make any effort to explain their reasoning? The supreme court’s cryptic, late-night shadow docket decrees risk overextending the court’s already tremendous power, and its lack of transparency shrinks the already slim opportunities for oversight. There is considerable potential for abuse, and there are also simple logistical problems: without a real accounting of the justices’ reasoning, lower courts are left to guess why a certain decision was handed down, rendering them less equipped to interpret precedent.
Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor and one of the shadow docket’s most prominent critics, summarized the danger in an article in the Harvard Law Review. The shadow docket, he writes, “risks the perception that the rule is not one for the federal government in general, but for the federal government at particular moments in time – perhaps depending on the identity (or political affiliation) of the sitting president, or perhaps, more granularly, depending on the political or ideological valence of the particular government policy at issue”.


…it almost seems like the goal is to avoid needing to appeal to the electorate when you can just have the court respond to a different sort of appeal

Last week the court held that Biden’s moratorium on evictions was illegal. A few days before, it refused to stay a lower court decision that people seeking asylum at the southern border must remain in Mexico until their cases are heard – often subjecting them to great hardship or violence.

What links these cases? Cruelty toward the powerless.
Today’s supreme court majority is a group of knee-jerk conservatives whose intellectual leader (to the extent they have one) is Samuel Alito, perhaps the most conceptually rigid and cognitively dishonest justice since Chief Justice Roger Taney.

Five of today’s supreme court majority were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote; three of them by a president who instigated a coup against the United States.


…but surely that’s too cynical

The court’s order is stunning. Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.

Last night, the court silently acquiesced in a state’s enactment of a law that flouts nearly 50 years of federal precedents. Today, the court belatedly explains that it declined to grant relief because of procedural complexities of the state’s own invention. Because the court’s failure to act rewards tactics designed to avoid judicial review and inflicts significant harm on the applicants and on women seeking abortions in Texas, I dissent.
The act is clearly unconstitutional under existing precedents. The respondents do not even try to argue otherwise. Nor could they: no federal appellate court has upheld such a comprehensive prohibition on abortions before viability under current law.
Taken together, the act is a breathtaking act of defiance – of the constitution, of this court’s precedents, and of the rights of women seeking abortions throughout Texas. But over six weeks after the applicants filed suit to prevent the act from taking effect, a fifth circuit panel abruptly stayed all proceedings before the district court and vacated a preliminary injunction hearing that was scheduled to begin on Monday. The applicants requested emergency relief from this court, but the court said nothing. The act took effect at midnight last night.


…assuming there’s still a “too cynical” line to be found in the political realm

Budd’s life story has helped him win two crucial pillars of support in a race that could determine which party controls the Senate after the 2022 midterms: Former president Donald Trump unexpectedly endorsed him minutes after daughter-in-law Lara Trump told him she wouldn’t enter her home-state race, and the Club for Growth, a conservative political committee, has vowed to spend a record $10 million on his campaign.

But as Budd has told his narrative in a state where agriculture is the largest business, he omitted a key chapter. He made no mention of his role in his family’s calamitous involvement in a company called AgriBioTech, which ended in a bankruptcy case that cost farmers millions of dollars in losses.

Court documents reviewed by The Washington Post show that a trustee for farmers and other creditors alleged that his father, Richard Budd, improperly transferred millions of dollars in assets to his family, including Ted Budd. That occurred before Richard Budd and a family company faced a $15 million judgment in the case.

Moreover, the trustee alleged, Ted Budd “acted in concert” with his father “in connection with the fraudulent transfers.” As a result, Ted Budd was named as a defendant in a civil case filed by the trustee.
Ted Budd’s untold role in the case illustrates the risk that Trump, still the most powerful figure in the GOP, has taken in impulsively backing a low-profile candidate who is loyal to him and has spoken dismissively about the Jan. 6 insurrection. By elevating Budd into a top primary contender in a key midterm race, Trump has created extraordinarily high stakes for his party.


…although…well…I must have missed a memo or two…since the approach some MAGA-friendly lawyers take is beyond a mystery to me

An attorney who represents the largest number of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots and who has criticized vaccine mandates has dropped out of sight amid conflicting statements by associates over whether he has been hospitalized with covid-19, U.S. prosecutors told judges Monday.

John M. Pierce of Los Angeles has been incommunicado for the past seven days, leaving 17 clients effectively without defense counsel, prosecutors with the U.S. attorney’s office for Washington said.
The U.S. filings put a fresh spotlight on Pierce, whose conservative rhetoric has attracted Trump supporters facing criminal ­charges and whose business and legal tactics have drawn scrutiny from adversaries who question whether his political or financial interests are affecting his representation of clients.

Pierce gained national notoriety last summer, when he was hired to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager charged with killing two people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin. Other high-profile clients include Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Trump aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. He has spoken out against mask and vaccination mandates, encouraged violence against anti-fascist protesters and falsely suggested that former president Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
In Wisconsin, Pierce was ultimately fired by Rittenhouse’s family amid a dispute over funds he raised for the case, with prosecutors questioning the ethics of his raising millions while being deeply in debt himself. Rittenhouse’s new attorneys say Pierce’s actions had interfered with his client’s criminal defense.
After attending rehabilitation for substance abuse issues, Law360 reported, Pierce in 2020 created his current firm, Pierce Bainbridge P.C., working with Trump attorney L. Lin Wood to launch crowdfunding efforts for conservative defendants.

Pierce Bainbridge has been sued multiple times for failure to pay its bills.

That record has not stopped many of those charged in D.C. federal court from hiring Pierce, who has argued that Trump supporters were allowed to enter the building. His clients include several alleged associates of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, two right-wing groups accused of conspiring to stop President Biden from taking office. He also represents Leo Brent Bozell IV, the son and grandson of prominent conservative activists. On Monday, he or a representative filed papers formally confirming to a court his latest representation of a Jan. 6 defendant.
Pierce represents more defendants in this case than any other attorney, and as privately retained counsel, he is virtually alone among lawyers in representing more than three defendants.
At the same time, lawyers involved in the cases estimated it may cost $500,000 per defendant to go to trial, leading several to predict that all defendants will eventually need either federally funded defenders or access to donor funds. For now, outside of Pierce, virtually all lawyers with a handful or more clients are with the Federal Defenders Office of D.C., which in some ways can pool resources like a defense firm.

Pierce has also stated in court that he planned to raise a “public authority defense” for Harrelson, saying the alleged Oath Keepers associate believed that Trump legally sanctioned their lawbreaking. Pierce’s donor-fueled nonprofit, the National Constitutional Law Union, has pledged to directly fund clients and law firms within its mission, highlighting Jan. 6 prosecutions, victims of “cancel culture” and surveillance abuses.


…as is the part where sometimes it seems like some consider the courts (& or the law) to be optional…particularly when they want opting out to be mandatory

The Florida Department of Education made good on a threat to withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on mask mandates.

Just days after a state judge ruled that the governor’s ban was unconstitutional, Florida’s education commissioner on Monday announced the state was withholding funds from Alachua and Broward counties “for their continued violation of state law.”


…so when it comes to who’s supporting who

…well…I guess you can’t expect sense from the insensible

The American right has been drunk on its freedom from two kinds of inhibition since Donald Trump appeared to guide them into the promised land of their unleashed ids. One is the inhibition from lies, the other from violence. Both are ways members of civil society normally limit their own actions out of respect for the rights of others and the collective good. Those already strained limits have snapped for leading Republican figures, from Tucker Carlson on Fox News to Ted Cruz in the Senate and for their followers.

We’ve watched those followers gulp down delusions from Pizzagate to Qanon to Covid denialism to Trump’s election lies. And rough up journalists, crash vehicles into and wave weapons at Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist protesters at least since Charlottesville, menace statehouses, issue threats to doctors and school boards testifying about public health, and plot to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, for imposing Covid-prevention protocols.
This is the logical outcome of a party that, some decades back, looked at an increasingly non-white country and decided to try to suppress the votes of people of color rather than win them. Not just the Democratic party but democracy is their enemy. In this system in which some animals are more equal than others, some have the right to determine the truth more than others, and facts, science, history are likewise fetters to be shaken loose in pursuit of exactly your very own favorite version of reality, which you enforce through dominance, including outright violence.
While men across the political spectrum are accused of similar wrongdoing – Andrew Cuomo’s conduct led to New York getting its first female governor last month – in the Republican case it is not an ideological inconsistency. The ideological premise is that one’s own rights matter so much that others’ rights do not matter at all, and that goes from rape to mask and vaccine policies to the proliferation of guns and gun deaths in recent years.

There is no clear way to tell if the right is emboldened because they’ve gotten away with so much in the past five years, or whether they’re increasingly desperate because they are in a wild gamble, but it seems like both at once. If the US defends its democracy, such as it is, and protects the voting rights of all eligible adults, the right will continue to be a shrinking minority. Their one chance of overturning that requires overturning democracy itself. That’s one goal they’re willing to use violence to achieve and no longer bothering to lie about.

Republicans seethe with violence and lies. Texas is part of a bigger war they’re waging [Guardian]

…& once again it seems like texas might be making a bid to position itself as leading that charge

Texas’s brand-new permit-less carry measure has been getting all the national attention, but that’s not the only worrying new gun law in Texas as of this week. Under the so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary State Act, state agencies are now prohibited from enforcing any new federal gun restrictions. School marshals in public, private and charter schools can carry concealed weapons instead of having to store them. And hotel guests are permitted to have firearms and ammunition in their rooms.
Sensible leaders, if Texas had them, would be steering in the exact opposite direction right now. Gun deaths in the state have climbed over the past two decades. Gun sales have spiked during the pandemic, leading to worries about an increase in the number of suicides. Dallas police scaled up road patrols this summer after a surge in road-rage violence left eight people shot or killed in four weeks. Police groups have spoken out about their fear that permit-less carry will inevitably make their jobs more dangerous, and a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found that most Texans share their concerns about the law. Yet Texas lawmakers’ answer is to enact this siren of a law to seduce even more people into the state’s pervasive gun culture.

Texas gives in further to the seductiveness of its gun culture — but it’s a trap [WaPo]

…mind you…some traps are very lucrative

For years, tensions had mounted within Accenture over a certain task that it performed for the social network. In eight-hour shifts, thousands of its full-time employees and contractors were sorting through Facebook’s most noxious posts, including images, videos and messages about suicides, beheadings and sexual acts, trying to prevent them from spreading online.
At the meeting in Accenture’s Washington office, she and Ellyn Shook, the head of human resources, voiced concerns about the psychological toll of the work for Facebook and the damage to the firm’s reputation, attendees said. Some executives who oversaw the Facebook account argued that the problems were manageable. They said the social network was too lucrative a client to lose.
Facebook and Accenture have rarely talked about their arrangement or even acknowledged that they work with each other. But their secretive relationship lies at the heart of an effort by the world’s largest social media company to distance itself from the most toxic part of its business.
No company has been more crucial to that endeavor than Accenture. The Fortune 500 firm, better known for providing high-end tech, accounting and consulting services to multinational companies and governments, has become Facebook’s single biggest partner in moderating content, according to an examination by The New York Times.

Accenture has taken on the work — and given it a veneer of respectability — because Facebook has signed contracts with it for content moderation and other services worth at least $500 million a year, according to The Times’s examination. Accenture employs more than a third of the 15,000 people whom Facebook has said it has hired to inspect its posts. And while the agreements provide only a small fraction of Accenture’s annual revenue, they give it an important lifeline into Silicon Valley. Within Accenture, Facebook is known as a “diamond client.”

Their contracts, which have not previously been reported, have redefined the traditional boundaries of an outsourcing relationship. Accenture has absorbed the worst facets of moderating content and made Facebook’s content issues its own. As a cost of doing business, it has dealt with workers’ mental health issues from reviewing the posts. It has grappled with labor activism when those workers pushed for more pay and benefits. And it has silently borne public scrutiny when they have spoken out against the work.
“You couldn’t have Facebook as we know it today without Accenture,” said Cori Crider, a co-founder of Foxglove, a law firm that represents content moderators. “Enablers like Accenture, for eye-watering fees, have let Facebook hold the core human problem of its business at arm’s length.”

The Silent Partner Cleaning Up Facebook for $500 Million a Year [NYT]

…well…for some people, anyway

The 42-year-old Oakland, Calif., lawyer never picked any “friends,” posted any status updates, liked any photos or even opened the Facebook app on her phone. Yet over the last decade, Facebook has used an invisible data vacuum to suction up very specific details about her life — from her brand of underwear to where she received her paycheck.
Facebook has become too big to escape. We’re rightly becoming more skeptical of Big Tech monopolies, and that should include the sheer volume of data they collect.
How does Facebook’s bigness hurt you and me? As Borovicka and I learned, Facebook takes a toll on your privacy — but perhaps not in the way you expect. It isn’t just the Facebook app that’s gobbling up your information. Facebook is so big, it has persuaded millions of other businesses, apps and websites to also snoop on its behalf. Even when you’re not actively using Facebook. Even when you’re not online. Even, perhaps, if you’ve never had a Facebook account.

Here’s how it works: Facebook provides its business partners tracking software they embed in apps, websites and loyalty programs. Any business or group that needs to do digital advertising has little choice but to feed your activities into Facebook’s vacuum: your grocer, politicians and, yes, even the paywall page for this newspaper’s website. Behind the scenes, Facebook takes in this data and tries to match it up to your account. It sits under your name in a part of your profile your friends can’t see, but Facebook uses to shape your experience online.

Among the 100 most popular smartphone apps, you can find Facebook software in 61 of them, app research firm Sensor Tower told me. Facebook also has trackers in about 25 percent of websites, according to privacy software maker Ghostery.
Yet our inability to escape Facebook’s personal data vacuum suggests its bigness is part of the problem. Yes, technology giant Google also engages in an appalling amount of tracking — I’ve called its Chrome Web browser spy software. But who in their right mind thought they were signing up for this much surveillance back when they first joined Facebook?
So then how does Facebook get away with doing it? Because we don’t have a choice. As the FTC wrote in its lawsuit: “Without meaningful competition, Facebook has been able to provide lower levels of service quality on privacy and data protection than it would have to provide in a competitive market.”
There’s little you can do to stop Facebook from collecting your information in the first place.

You can try to make changes to your computer and phone to block some of Facebook’s tracking altogether, (see this list of technical steps I take on my own devices) but that takes commitment and expertise because the tactics keep changing.

There’s no escape from Facebook, even if you don’t use it [WaPo]

…they used to say that walls have ears…but these days they might be one of the few remaining things that don’t?

Tech companies have long encouraged putting listening devices in homes and pockets, attempting to convince consumers to rely on their voice assistants for any little need that pops up. But some are growing concerned that these devices are recording even when they’re not supposed to — and they’re taking their fears to the courts.

On Thursday, a judge ruled that Apple will have to continue fighting a lawsuit brought by users in federal court in California, alleging that the company’s voice assistant Siri has improperly recorded private conversations.
The case is one of several that have been brought against Apple, Google and Amazon that involve allegations of violation of privacy by voice assistants. The technologies, often referred to by their names — Siri, Alexa and, predictably, Google — are meant to help with everyday tasks. They connect to speakers and can play music, or set a timer or add an item to a shopping list. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
A Washington Post investigation in 2019 found that Amazon kept a copy of everything Alexa records after it thinks it hears its name — even if users didn’t realize.

The Google suit is brought by the same plaintiff’s lawyers and alleges the company should not be using information learned when it incorrectly turns on for advertising, according to Reuters.

Lawsuits say Siri and Google are listening, even when they’re not supposed to [WaPo]

…so…maybe you’d rather think about something else…how about a robot penguin?

If it looks like a penguin and swims like a penguin – but it’s actually a robot – then it must be the latest advance in marine sensory equipment.

The Quadroin is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV): a 3D-printed self-propelled machine designed to mimic a penguin in order to measure the properties of oceanic eddies.
“Penguins provide a shape with optimal streamlining characteristics,” says Bannasch. His studies in wireless underwater navigation and communication systems suggest that penguins are 20% to 30% more streamlined than anything designed in a laboratory, ideal for the high-speed measurements Baschek sought.
One element in the study of eddies that has stumped scientists is that they need to be measured in multiple locations simultaneously. Bannasch and his colleagues are working to create two more artificial penguins that would act as a “swarm”, swimming in unison and communicating with each other.
Along with other miniature sensors, such as GPS, integrated into the metre-long body, the robo-penguins can relay data to each other as well as in real time to a research ship. The company aims to use artificial intelligence to allow smart group behaviour and decision-making, so the Quadroins know what measurements mean and what steps to take next.


…a classic mystery

It’s a mystery that has endured for 76 years in a fabled area that many sailors and aviators have long said contains supernatural forces we don’t understand.

On Dec. 5, 1945, 14 airmen flying five World War II torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale on a routine training mission over the Bermuda Triangle and were never seen again. The U.S. Navy even sent a Martin Mariner search plane out at the time to find the missing aircraft, and that plane and it’s crew of 13 also disappeared.
Since 1930, more than 325 planes and more than 1,200 ships have disappeared, crashed or sank into the Bermuda Triangle, which is an area roughly the size of Alaska.


…or making space in space

Engineers are set to test a device that could pull defunct spacecraft and used rocket parts back to Earth, allowing them to burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere.


…either way, this is late to go up…so I’ll come back with some tunes but I’ll lay off the links for now



  1. The story of Accenture is a sad one. Its predecessor, Arthur Andersen, was a very well-respected Chicago-based “Big 8” accounting firm. It self-destructed in 2001/2002 (by then there was the Big 5, because of consolidation) because it was Enron’s accounting firm. It reconstituted itself as a kind of McKinsey-like consulting/jack-of-all-trades and, like McKinsey, gets involved in all kinds of dirty work that corporations want done but want to keep at arm’s length.

    If you work at a large company and you get a cheery memo from management announcing that you may see some unfamiliar faces roaming the halls and that’s because they’re McKinsey consultants brought in to make your strong, excellent company even stronger and more excellent, start posting your resume everywhere you can and hit up everyone you know. A company hires McKinsey with a simple mandate dreamed up by management: “We want X% of the workforce gone and we don’t care who it is. Get to work.”

    • Or if you want to ruin your companny, hire McKinsey.
      After Nortel hired McKinsey in 2006, we suddenly went from treading water to a serious nosedive.  Being the incompetent fuckwits they are, they told us to gut our engineering and software teams then outsource them because they were too damn expensive.  Didn’t help that our fuckwit CEO’s idiot son was part of the team of “experts” brought on.  No conflict of interest there… (our ethics office would later resign, no shit.)
      The problem?  The engineering and software teams were the heart of the company AND reason why our customers were still hanging with us because they knew how to fix shit and quickly.  The outsourced guys (despite being smart and enthusiastic) didn’t know shit and would take weeks to solve what used to days/hours.  We went into Chapter 7 in late 2008 (also thanks to the incredible lack of foresight of dipshit CEO not realizing that the US housing crash was going to crush our lines of credit.  The “I didn’t KNOW” defense of the arrogant witless motherfuckers who just weeks before proclaimed they HAD ALL THE ANSWERS and we underling dipshits should shut the fuck up–I’m not pissed about that at all.  Not one bit./s)
      Then they appeared at my current employer.  Thankfully, management didn’t have a relative on the team.  And their own incompetence/self interest prevented the worst of the damage McKinsey could do like gutting manufacturing ops or product development.
      Instead they used them to flush out about 30% of the office staff which was easy to do because most of them were incompetent/lazy/useless who were mostly minions of the previous director (an empire builder.)
      Anyway I read that McKinsey is having a hard time finding suckers, er, clients because no one wants to hire a bunch of fuckwits whose solution to everything is outsource, synergize and “where’s my fee”?  Even a dumbass like me can say that for 1/2 the price.

      • The biggest problem with outsourcing is you pay overtime and waaay more hourly than just hiring people. And that’s assuming your outsourced teams are really good and producing work at the needed velocity. 

        Like I am all for using contracting firms to bring people in. I started as a contractor at my current company like 6 years ago. Bring in a contractor, see if they’re good, and then convert to employee. 

        I was a cheap contractor at only costing the team $60/hr. I made half that, the contractor company took the rest. We have contractors now that bill $200-$250/hr and sure some of them are great. 

  2. I don’t use any of the digital assistants. I don’t have Alexa – but I know my phone is listening to what I say and text. Just the other day, member of the fam and I were discussing the gangs of AtVs and motocross bikes that like to swarm around people on the road. I mentioned the word motocross -which I haven’t used in a long time – and lo and behold – we both got ads for motocross bikes. 

    • I very occasionally do work on attachments written in Spanish. The emails are all written in English. Not only are the emails read but so are the attachments. Sure enough, I will start getting ads in Spanish urging me to join the military, eat at McDonald’s, check out CVS ¡Sí! or whatever it’s called or, most confusingly, visit Wal-Mart’s aisles targeted toward Spanish speakers. The last is very confusing because we don’t have Wal-Marts in the five boroughs, they’re not allowed somehow, and I’d be curious to know what is in these aisles. I assume this is a reference to food products.

      • Because I’m very, very bored:

        In a great case of online advertising bots running amok, a while ago a friend and I were making plans via email about seeing the “Downton Abbey” exhibition. Sure enough, a banner ad appeared for this veyr exhibition. Unfortunately, it ran across the top of an article I was reading on The Root with the screaming headline, “When Will Donald Trump Say the ‘N-Word’?” I liked it so much I screenshotted it and saved it and would post if I knew how to attach images :(.

    • I don’t either. My tv has a voice search, but you have to push a button. I turned off the “hey Google” function on my phone, but I’m sure it’s doing the same thing as yours. At least it doesn’t ever pipe up to interrupt. I was at a friend’s house once and we were talking… their doodad goes “what was that? I didn’t quite catch that.” No one addressed it, so it was just being nosy.

  3. “Five of today’s supreme court majority were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote; three of them by a president who instigated a coup against the United States.”

    Solutions to shine light on these travesties of justice, perpetuated by the very court we rely on to enforce a civil society? Options for stacking courts with actual judges who support law rather than political agendas at a local and state levels? How is this slipshod murky type of judgement legal?


    • Short answer? Gerrymandering and Mitch McConnell. You could also add Democratic Party spinelessness and corruption (no one can convince me that Manchin and Sinema are not selling their services to the highest bidder). 
      If we don’t somehow address voter suppression before the next elections, we are in for some very dark days. 

      • The big quibble I have is it’s not clear to me that they’re selling to the highest bidder. I pretty strongly suspect they’re not actually opening up bidding at all, just settling for a deal that was cut for a fairly small amount a long time ago, and they don’t want to think about anything else.

      • There was an article in a recent Mother Jones about Simena. The consensus is she basically drunk the politics Kool-Aid. She went from being a small town, pink haired, Green party weirdo to “I’m the captain now” because she can. Remember her very enthusiastic thumbs down? That was basically her thumbs downing everyone who ever shat in her Cheerios for the previous ten years. Stunning amount of emotional maturity on that one.

  4. Jamal Bowman’s tweeting Joe Manchin, but I think it highlights a big problem. It’s not Manchin who needs the pressure alone — it’s the corporate lobbyists pushing him who need to be called out too.
    Their whole deal is operating in the shadows, and Bowman needs to be cranking up the pressure on Exxon and whoever else is trying to torpedo this.
    There’s whole devil’s bargain, of course — these guys throw just enough money to Dems to stay out of the light, and the Dems don’t do the math to see how badly the money balance is tilted to the GOP. The GOP has had the killer instinct and the organizing chops to keep lobbyists in line.
    The Dems have gotten a bit better, to be fair. They managed to get some pressure exerted on corporations to withold money from 1/6 collaborators, and have had some limited success sustaining it. But it’s a huge issue that they’re not feeling in their bones.

Leave a Reply