…so it’s a bit like this…I do have a typically lengthy list of links I arguably ought to be trying to make space for in this…but if it’s going to go up on time then it’s one of those too much to do in too little time kinds of deals…not least because this would be the morning after…specifically after burns’ night…which (provided some unenlightened agency hasn’t banned the stuff since the early 70s so you can only get approximately-the-thing) means haggis…& whisky…very much without the e in this instance…& thus when it comes to getting my act together this morning…like the poet said…which, for those who might need a translation for that last bit, is roughly “often go awry”…it’s kind of a familiar refrain, though…so maybe it’s not just me?
Before the Senate can get down to business under new Democratic management, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and new minority leader, has forced a confrontation over the rule — which effectively imposes a 60-vote threshold to take any action — by refusing to cooperate in organizing the Senate unless Democrats promise not to gut it.
The stalemate has created a bizarre situation in which most Senate committees are frozen under Republican control and new senators cannot be seated on the panels even though Democrats now command the Senate majority.
Beyond the immediate logistical effects, the feud reflects a challenging dynamic in the 50-50 Senate for Mr. Biden. By holding out against Democrats eager to take charge, Mr. McConnell is exercising what leverage he has. But he is also foreshadowing an eventual clash in the chamber that might otherwise have taken months to unfold over how aggressive Democrats should be in seeking to accomplish Mr. Biden’s top priorities.War Over Filibuster, a Famed Stalling Tactic, Stops the Senate From the Start [NYT]
….& if that isn’t aggravating enough there’s always this kind of thing
According to Oxfam, the world’s 10 richest billionaires — which include Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and LVMH luxury group’s CEO Bernard Arnault — have collectively seen their wealth grow by $540 billion over this period. Oxfam based its analysis of the wealthiest people on the Forbes Billionaires List.
According to Oxfam, their increase in wealth would be more than enough to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine for all, which the organization estimated at $141.2 billion.
Only three of the 50 richest billionaires in the world saw their fortunes shrink, the report added.https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/world-s-richest-become-wealthier-during-covid-pandemic-inequality-grows
It is likely that almost every country in the world will see an increase in inequality due to the pandemic, for the first time since records began, according to the report.
…which would seem to prove that sometimes if you put off a problem for long enough it really does just go away…even when it’s quite clear that it shouldn’t work that way
In the dwindling months of his presidency, Mr. Trump pushed through a series of so-called midnight rules, surreptitiously sliding politically controversial and unpopular legacy items under the wire.
These recent rules, for example, would expand the methods of execution in federal death cases to include electrocution and death by firing squad. They broaden the definition of “independent contractors,” allowing gig economy companies to avoid providing benefits and safety protections to their workers. They prevent immigration judges from using their discretion to close immigration cases and halt deportations, and allow federal contractors to claim a religious exemption to discriminate in hiring. They shield companies from liability for killing migratory birds and effectively ban certain methods of scientific research in the drafting of public health rules.
Although the practice has historically been deployed by presidents of both parties, Mr. Trump turned it into a sport, finalizing more rules in his last year than any other modern president and even bypassing statutory waiting periods. Between Election Day and Inauguration Day alone, the Trump administration issued 53 new rules.
Faced with this catalog of harm, the new administration has wasted no time. Just hours after being sworn in, President Biden took bold action to freeze a litany of final and pending agency regulations and signed a bevy of executive orders reversing Trump-era policies.How to Fix 4 Years of Trump’s War Against Government [NYT]
…& then of course there’s this
…who knows…maybe it’ll even work & twitter will find enough people willing to carry that weight for free to actually put some truth into the wisdom of crowds…but some crowds have a tendency to think they’re a lot smarter than they probably are when you look at the bigger picture?
it’s getting increasingly difficult to overlook signs that investors are taking things too far, too fast.
The latest signal is from the somewhat obscure market for stock options, where traders can place bets with brokers that a stock will rise or fall. Speculation has reached a frenzied level not seen since the tail end of the dot-com boom two decades ago. That enthusiasm is having a growing influence over the regular stock market itself.
Over the past year, and even during the deep uncertainty that flummoxed the market at the start of the pandemic, individual investors — often with little experience — have been pouring into the market. What has lured them varies: free trades, extra cash from relief payments or even an itch for action with most sports leagues shut down.
Much of this money has come from small-time traders hoping to make fast gains by buying “calls” — bets on rising markets — set to expire quickly.
The skew is evident in something called the put-call ratio, which shows how many contracts are betting on gains compared with those betting on losses through “put” options. On Friday, the 50-day moving average of that ratio was 0.42, near the lowest level in two decades. The last time it was this tilted for this long was 2000, meaning options investors are more optimistic, or greedy, than they have been in over two decades.https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/business/stocks-options-bubble.html
The result can be an options market that itself has become a generator of share-price momentum and stocks that appear increasingly untethered from bedrock fundamentals, like expectations for corporate earnings.
…case in point
GameStop shares spiked more than 140 percent Monday, forcing several trading pauses and extending a staggering rally sparked by the passions of retail investors on social media betting against the institutional wisdom of Wall Street.
But that frenzied optimism flipped by late morning, sending the stock briefly into negative territory before it did another U-turn. It was trading up about 7 percent, around $70 a share, by early afternoon.
The video game retailer’s stock has soared more than 285 percent since the beginning of the year, charting an epic run for a brick-and-mortar business that, like other retailers, has seen its customers migrate online, forcing the company to shutter hundreds of stores last year. But unlike many other stocks that have flourished because of the disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic, GameStop’s mind-boggling run has been fueled by a confluence of trading dynamics, pushing the stock price to dizzying heights, largely divorced from the fundamentals of the business.
Short sellers, or investors who had planned to profit from GameStop’s fall, are now paying a hefty price, as the stock has not retreated as they had anticipated, compelling them to purchase GameStop shares at inflated prices to avoid even greater losses.https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/01/25/gamestop-stock-short-squeeze
…so I’m not feeling like I like the odds on some of the bets that are going to get settled in the reasonably-imminent future
For the past four years, the United States was governed by a conspiracy theorist in chief. Whether by retweeting QAnon accounts from the Oval Office or painting himself as the victim of shadowy “deep state” plots at rallies, President Donald Trump injected the toxin of baseless conspiratorial thinking straight into America’s political bloodstream. On Jan. 6, America saw how far that venom had spread, as a ragtag group of militias, racist extremists and flag-waving disciples of Trumpism stormed the Capitol.
The insurrectionists were unified by their support for Trump. But many of them shared another crucial trait: They were conspiracy theorists. And while hundreds of people stormed the Capitol, there are millions of Americans who share their views. There is no doubt: The United States has a serious problem with pathological political delusions.
So, do we have any hope of deprogramming the millions of Americans who are devoted to dangerous lunacy? Don’t hold your breath.https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/01/25/why-is-it-so-hard-deprogram-trumpian-conspiracy-theorists
First, conspiracy theorists are far more likely to have a Manichaean worldview, meaning they interpret everything as a battle between good and evil. That makes it harder for dispassionate evidence-based arguments to break through.
Second, those who seek to debunk conspiracy theories are precisely the people that true believers distrust. If someone believes the media is controlled by sinister but unseen puppet masters, fact checks from CNN will never convince them they’re wrong.
Third, these organized mass delusions are designed to resist debunking. When Armageddon fails to materialize on a precise date predicted by a cult leader, believers often chalk it up to miscalculation and simply pick a new date. The same is often true for conspiracy theories. When Trump failed to fulfill the QAnon prophecy of arresting Joe Biden and staying in power, some believers began suggesting that Biden was secretly in on the plan. No matter what happens, there’s always another explanation.
But while political science and psychology have effectively demonstrated the cognitive biases that cause such deranged beliefs to stick, there’s a crucial dimension that isn’t getting enough attention. Conspiracy theories, for too many people, are fun. That’s particularly true because groups such as QAnon have developed into robust online communities in which believers forge digital friendships. Our mental image of tinfoil-hat-wearing loners isolated in dark basements is outdated. Modern conspiracy movements such as QAnon, are thriving in church groups and yoga classes. They’re social. And that means that deprogramming is that much harder.
We can no longer pretend that conspiracy theorists are beneath our attention. They’ve shown they have tremendous capacity to inflict damage on society. Bringing the deluded people who populate Trump’s political base back to reality will be difficult. But to find the right antidote, we need to at least accurately diagnose who has taken the poison.
When the impeachment proceedings begin in the Senate, it will not be just Donald Trump in the dock. The entire Republican Party will be on trial. And there is every reason to believe that the GOP will fail this test — as it failed every other during the past four years.
Trump’s guilt is clear — and getting clearer all the time. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the Trump campaign paid more than $2.7 million to the individuals and firms responsible for organizing the Jan. 6 rally on the Ellipse where Trump told his supporters to “to fight much harder” against “bad people.” At least five individuals who face federal charges in connection with the Capitol assault have said that they were following orders from the then-president.
Trump’s incitement of a violent insurrection against another branch of government is the worst wrongdoing that any president — who is sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” — can commit. Members of Congress and Trump’s own vice president were lucky to escape injury in the riot that he fomented.
And yet the momentum to impeach Trump among Republicans is waning as rapidly as the evidence of his guilt is accumulating. “The chances of getting a conviction are virtually nil,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) told CNN.
The GOP appears more eager for retribution against Republicans who upheld their oaths of office than against a president who violated it. All 10 of the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are now facing a backlash at home, with local party organizations scolding them for disloyalty and primary challengers lining up against them. Pro-Trump House members are also demanding Cheney’s ouster as chair of the House Republican conference.
Meanwhile — if you didn’t think the GOP was despicable enough already — the Texas Republican Party has employed a QAnon slogan (“We are the storm”) and the Hawaii Republican Party posted a series of tweets (now deleted) defending the same insane conspiracy theory.
Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The hope of impunity, is a strong incitement to sedition: the dread of punishment, a proportionably strong discouragement to it.” Republicans who want to offer Trump immunity are making themselves complicit in future sedition.It’s not just Trump on trial. It’s the whole Republican Party. [WaPo]
By the time Trump left office, he had accumulated 30,573 untruths during his presidency — averaging about 21 erroneous claims a day.
Trump made about six false or misleading claims a day in his first year as president, 16 a day in his second year, 22 a day in his third year — and 39 a day in his final year.
Put another way, it took Trump 27 months to reach 10,000 false or misleading claims and another 14 months to reach 20,000. He then exceeded the 30,000 mark less than five months later.https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/timeline-trump-claims-as-president
Over time, Trump unleashed his falsehoods with increasing frequency and ferocity, often by the scores in a single campaign speech or tweetstorm. What began as a relative trickle of misrepresentations, including 10 on his first day and five on the second, built into a torrent through Trump’s final days as he frenetically spread wild theories that the coronavirus pandemic would disappear “like a miracle” and that the presidential election had been stolen — the claim that inspired Trump supporters to attack Congress on Jan. 6 and prompted his second impeachment.
“As a result of Trump’s constant lying through the presidential megaphone, more Americans are skeptical of genuine facts than ever before,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss said.
In speech after speech, he laid the groundwork for challenging the election, making baseless claims of potential election fraud, while attacking Biden as a mental incompetent — and a “grimy, sleazy and corrupt career politician” — who could not possibly emerge as the victor.
“It’s going to be a fraud,” Trump told Sean Hannity of Fox News a month before voters went to the polls. “This is a terrible thing that’s happening to our country.”
After his election defeat, Trump spoke or tweeted about little except to offer lies about a stolen election, even as he or his supporters lost more than 60 court cases as judges repeatedly rejected his claims as bogus. After Nov. 3, he made more than 800 false or misleading claims about election fraud, including 76 times offering some variation of “rigged election.”
At his Jan. 6 speech at the Ellipse, in which he incited the attack on the Capitol, Trump made 107 false or misleading claims, almost all about the election.
The growth of falsehoods over the course of Trump’s presidency is illustrated by one remarkable statistic.
The Fact Checker team recorded 492 suspect claims in Trump’s first 100 days. Just on Nov. 2, the day before the 2020 election, Trump made 503 false or misleading claims as he barnstormed across the country in a desperate effort to save his presidency.https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-fact-checker-tracked-trump-claims/2021/01/23/story.html
They meet mostly on Zoom, […] The members include two people who were reportedly on presidential shortlists for the U.S. Supreme Court, along with a Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize laureate, a British Pulitzer winner, Colombia’s leading human rights lawyer and a former prime minister of Denmark. The 20 of them come, in all, from 18 countries on six continents, and speak 27 languages among them.
This is the Oversight Board, a hitherto obscure body that will, over the next 87 days, rule on one of the most important questions in the world: Should Donald J. Trump be permitted to return to Facebook and reconnect with his millions of followers?https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/24/business/media/trump-facebook-oversight-board.html
The board will seriously examine the Trump question, guided by Facebook’s own rules as well as international human rights law. If Facebook accepts its rulings, as it has pledged to do, as well as the board’s broader guidance, the company will endow this obscure panel with a new kind of legitimacy.
It might surprise you to know that such a board exists — that one of the world’s most powerful executives would go to such lengths to give up control of a key tool, the delete key. But after four years of unending criticism for being too slow to act on the rise of right-wing populism on the platform, and parallel complaints from the right over alleged censorship, you can see why Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, was drawn to the idea of handing the thorniest calls off to experts, and washing his hands of the decisions.
But the board has been handling pretty humdrum stuff so far. It has spent a lot of time, two people involved told me, discussing nipples, and how artificial intelligence can identify different nipples in different contexts. Board members have also begun pushing to have more power over the crucial question of how Facebook amplifies content, rather than just deciding on taking posts down and putting them up, those people said. In October, it took on a half-dozen cases, about posts by random users, not world leaders: Can Facebook users in Brazil post images of women’s nipples to educate their followers about breast cancer? Should the platform allow users to repost a Muslim leader’s angry tweet about France? It is expected to finally issue rulings at the end of this week, after what participants described as a long training followed by slow and intense deliberations.
The emergence of this new kind of governance, and this new kind of decision, signals the return of gatekeeping. The moves also underscore who really keeps the gate, and who has lost that power. That space between government and corporate power used to be occupied by a widely trusted mass media.
Trump spent the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, splitting rounds of golf with discussions about maintaining relevance and influence and how to unseat Republicans deemed to have crossed him, the Washington Post reported.
Trump, the Post said, had said the threat of starting a Maga (Make America Great Again) or Patriot party, gave him leverage to prevent senators voting to convict, which could lead to him being prevented from seeking office again.
Later on Sunday, the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman cited sources “familiar with his thinking” when she said Trump was backing off his threat to create a new party, after it was “gently pointed out to him” that “threatening a third party while simultaneously threatening primaries makes no sense”.https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jan/24/donald-trump-impeachment-trial-senate-republican-party-romney-rubio
…but it’s not at all clear that things that make sense get to overcome the other sort even now…so…I may not be done with that whisky just yet?