…close? [DOT 30/12/21]

or closing...

[…to those up early enough to have noticed…I apologize for the delay getting this up…it was (in my defense) not entirely my fault]

…I don’t know about resolutions…but I think I’d settle for just being able to say “happy new year” without feeling like I’m taking the piss…which maybe is one of those context-dependent things…the same way one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter

Just 30 years ago the IRA was bombing Downing Street, launching three mortar bombs at No 10 while John Major presided over a cabinet meeting.

In 2021, Sinn Féin, the political party associated with the IRA for much of the Troubles, has moved into pole position to lead the Irish government in what could be the biggest shake-up of the state’s politics since its foundation 100 years ago.

Ireland is three years out from the next general election and a victory for Sinn Féin or any other party is far from assured, but the slow seismic shift in Irish politics has barely merited a mention outside the country despite the change in dynamics it is already creating.

“It is not a question of if, it’s when Sinn Féin will be in power,” said one prominent businessman who did not want to be named.
The chance of a Sinn Féin in government in Dublin raises the prospect of the republican party in power both north and south of the border, something that could change the relationship with the UK dramatically and influence the debate, which is gathering pace south of the border, on the prospect of a united Ireland.


…context sure can make a difference

The US has called on Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to release the seven people linked to the now-shuttered independent news outlet Stand News who were arrested on sedition charges during a police crackdown on Wednesday.
“A confident government that is unafraid of the truth embraces a free press.”

Blinken said “journalism is not sedition”, and that “by silencing independent media, PRC and local authorities undermine Hong Kong’s credibility and viability”.
Stand News shut down on Wednesday, less than 10 hours after a morning raid in which more than 200 police officers searched its newsroom and arrested six former and current senior staff.
Stand had been the most prominent remaining pro-democracy media outlet in the city, after its largest pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, was forced to close in June after a similar crackdown.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam rejected calls for the seven to be released on Thursday, saying the arrests were law enforcement actions and not aimed at the media industry.

“These actions have nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom,” Lam told reporters.

“Journalism is not seditious … but seditious activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting.”


…imagine if “openly spreading harsh remarks” or “wantonly slandering the rule of law and freedom” were all that were required to shut down a news org stateside…not sure I’d shed a tear for fox news or OANN myself…or particularly think it would constitute suppression of an actual press…whereas elsewhere

“The east is rising, the west is declining”, according to the narrative propagated by the Chinese Communist party (CCP). Many outside China take its “inevitable rise” as read. On the way to becoming a “modern socialist country” by 2035, and rich, powerful, and dominant by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic, China wants to claim bragging rights as its GDP surpasses the United States, and project its power based on its expanding economic heft.

There is, however, a critical flaw in this narrative. China’s economy may fail to overtake the US as it succumbs to the proverbial middle-income trap. This is where the relative development progress of countries in relation to richer nations stalls, and is normally characterised by difficult economic adjustment and often by unpredictable political consequences.

Historically, China’s growth miracle has been remarkable. In the 30 years to 1990, the money GDP (the market value of goods and services produced in an economy) for China and the US in American dollar terms grew more or less in tandem at just over 6% and 8% per annum, respectively. . But in the next three decades, China’s GDP growth doubled to more than 13%, while America’s halved to 4.5%. That pushed China’s GDP up from 5% of American GDP to 66%.

Yet, China’s growth spurt is now over, and the huge disparity in GDP growth has been eliminated. In the last few quarters, China’s GDP has been growing at half the rate of the US. Although that discrepancy is probably unsustainable, America’s estimated $7tn GDP margin over China in 2021 means that comparable rates of GDP growth in the future will sustain and even widen the margin. A Japanese thinktank has recently extended the date when it expects China to overtake the US, from 2029 to 2033. Deferrals like this are now a feature, and there will be more.

The issue though is less about the maths and more about why China is at a turning point.

Remember we have been here before. In the 1930s, Germany was going to dominate Europe, if not the world. In the 1960s and the 1980s, the Soviet Union – which had already stolen a march on the US in space technology – and later Japan, which was the rising economic force on the planet, would within 10 to 20 years overtake America to become the dominant economic and technological power.


…I don’t buy that part about it being anything other than suppression

China will take “drastic measures” if Taiwan makes moves towards independence, a Beijing official warned on Wednesday, adding that Taiwan’s provocations and outside meddling could intensify next year.

…or to put it another way…it isn’t the protestors that “doth protest too much”

A Russian court has ordered the closure of the Memorial Human Rights Centre (MHRC), a day after the supreme court revoked the legal status of its sister organisation, Memorial International.


Memorial grew into the country’s most prominent human rights organization and an emblem of a fledgling democratic movement in post-Soviet Russia. But today, its archive of the traumatic events and victims of persecution make the Kremlin uncomfortable. The country’s Supreme Court issued a ruling Tuesday to shut down Memorial International, the parent organization, and on Wednesday it also ordered Memorial’s Human Rights Center to close.
The actions taken against Memorial, critics say, is emblematic of the way President Vladimir V. Putin has tried to whitewash Russia’s Soviet history and reframe the modern image of those decades — in a manner similar to a push by President Xi Jinping of China to minimize the traumatic parts of his country’s communist history, like famine and political purges.
Today, Memorial comprises over 50 organizations in Russia, six in Ukraine as well as chapters in Germany, France, Italy and other countries, engaged in historical research and human rights work.
While the government acknowledges the trauma of the Stalin era, it is also attempting to spur patriotism among Russians. The core element of that is celebrating Russia’s contributions to World War II and the defeat of the Nazis, which laid the foundations of the Soviet Union as a global powerhouse.

Some Russians find Stalin’s iron-fisted rule appealing in a world full of chaos and uncertainty. A 2019 poll conducted by the independent Levada Center, 70 percent of those surveyed believed Stalin played an “entirely” or “mostly positive” role in Russian history, the highest since Levada started asking the question in 2003.
Mr. Xi has used the Soviet Union as a cautionary tale for China, saying it collapsed because its leaders had been unable to quash “historical nihilism,” referring to critical accounts of political persecution, or attempts to chronicle government mistakes that led citizens to lose faith in communism.


In the attack on Memorial, Mr. Putin aims to obliterate one of the most important and tangible accomplishments of the democratic flowering of the late 1980s and 1990s. Memorial was a shining example of civil society, an independent association formed to give voice to — and accountability for — the millions who were deported, imprisoned or executed in Stalin’s forced labor camps. It was an article of faith to Sakharov and others that a healthy democratic society could only be built with a penetrating examination and understanding of the past. Memorial did not disappoint; its databases contain more than 3 million names (a fraction of the total repressed) and invaluable records about their merciless punishment.

But this reminder of the past pains Mr. Putin, who wants to airbrush away such dark memories and replace them with gauzy recounting of Soviet triumphs as he goes about eradicating what’s left of Russian democracy and replacing it with dictatorship. A prosecutor asked during Tuesday’s hearing, speaking of Memorial: “ … why instead of taking pride for our country, victorious in the war and which liberated the whole world, do they suggest that we repent for our, as it turned out, pitch dark past?”


…truth be told, though…despite having found a fair degree of solace from marcus aurelius “before it was trendy”

Stoicism, which originated with the Hellenistic philosopher Zeno of Citium, has experienced a revival over the past decade or so, with another uptick in interest at the start of the pandemic, when books like Seneca’s “Letters From a Stoic” and Marcus Aurelius’s “Meditations” became more popular.

This is not surprising. One of the premises of Stoicism is that it will help you assimilate horrible events with equanimity. The proper way to respond to catastrophe, the Stoics will tell you, is to perceive it as a training exercise. Or, as Seneca put it: “Disaster is virtue’s opportunity.”

…these days I don’t know that my virtue is great enough to require so much opportunity…the times have been uncomfortably interesting for entirely longer than feels comfortable & a bit of boredom would suit me about now…though, to quote a man quoting seneca

“I cannot readily say whether I am more vexed at those who would have it that we know nothing, or with those who would not leave us even this privilege. Farewell.”


…plus ça change, eh?

The shuttering of the group Memorial closes a year in which the top Kremlin critic was jailed, his political movement banned and many of his allies forced to flee. Moscow says it is simply enforcing laws to thwart extremism and shield the country from foreign influence.
The authorities placed the group on an official list of “foreign agents” in 2015, a move that entailed numerous restrictions on its activities.

Last month, prosecutors accused the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre and Memorial International, its parent structure, of violating the foreign agent law.

Prosecutors said Memorial International breached the regulations by not marking all its publications, including social media posts, with the label. They accused the Moscow-based center of condoning terrorism and extremism.


…& I know they say you should pick your battles

The 21st century seems to present us with an ever-lengthening list of perils: climate crisis, financial meltdown, cyber-attacks. Should we stock up on canned foods in case the ATMs snap shut? Buy a shedload of bottled water? Hoard prescription medicines? The prospect of everything that makes modern life possible being taken away from us is terrifying. We would be plunged back into the middle ages, but without the skills to cope.

Now imagine that something even more fundamental than electricity or money is at risk: a tool we have relied on since the dawn of human history, enabling the very foundations of civilisation to be laid. I’m talking about our ability to communicate – to put our thoughts into words, and to use those words to forge bonds, to deliver vital information, to learn from our mistakes and build on the work done by others.


Punctuation is so 1990s. The comma is disappearing, the full stop has come to a full stop, and the semicolon has been repurposed as a pair of winking eyes. While the exclamation mark remains in rude health, the fate of the apostrophe seems especially bleak. Even the Apostrophe Protection Society has given up the fight, calling an end to its activities in 2019 and declaring a victory for “ignorance and laziness”. Debates over the correct use of punctuation have raged since English printers began to adopt the fancy new marks to supplement the simple virgule of medieval scribes (the ancestor of today’s forward slash), used singularly to serve a range of functions.

The recent release of a large electronic corpus of written English from the past 30 years by Lancaster University allows us to track this rapid shift to a plainer prose. Short messages typed in haste dispense with old-fashioned commas and stuffy semicolons in favour of more informal dashes. Text messages now often sent as individual sentences mean the full stop has become surplus to requirement; including one is seen to signal a deliberate desire to be blunt or convey hostility, similar to adding the word “period” in speech: “That’s enough – period.”
The widespread use of exclamation marks to convey irony can be the source of some confusion. How should I respond to a tweet reading simply: “What a fascinating article!”? Perhaps this is the moment to resurrect one of many proposed devices to signal sarcasm: from the reversed exclamation mark of the 17th century to 2010’s SarcMark (similar to a reversed 6 with a dot in the middle). Ambrose Bierce, author of the Devil’s Dictionary (1911), coined the snigger point: a horizontal round bracket resembling a smile, thereby anticipating the emoticon. This has now been replaced by the upside-down face emoji, an ingenious invention that has solved all our problems 🙃. These markers all suffer from a lack of widespread recognition, combined with the fact that irony is usually intended to be subtle and ambiguous. After all, if we really want to ensure that someone doesn’t misunderstand our teasingly playful comment, they can always simply say: “What a boring article!”


And it shouldn’t be so surprising that young women are among the most adept users of internet English. It’s a truism in sociolinguistics that young women are usually on the bleeding edge of changes to language – native speakers of the avant garde. McCulloch cites one study of letters written between 1417 and 1681 that shows it was female correspondents who were the first to adopt new words such as “does”, “has” and “makes” and phase out “doth” “hath” and “maketh”. Likewise, uptalking – where every sentence sounds like a question – originated in suburban California in the 1970s, and can now be heard among middle-aged English males. Still, fears that formal language is about to undergo some radical shift are misplaced. As McCulloch demonstrates, most of the innovations in internet English mimic features that come naturally in informal speech – emoji represent gestures; upper and lower cases represent tones; punctuation represents emphasis. Full internet people are perfectly capable of writing in full sentences when the situation demands. Though Wilder does concede that she spent so long on instant messenger at 12 and 13, she needed to relearn how to speak in real life afterwards. The appeal of typing, she says, was the ability to look things up before you said them.


…the keen-eyed among you will have noticed that two out of three of those are actually from 2019…which may say something about some other things that have changed since then in terms of our priorities…but that first one is a fairly lengthy effort & might be a pleasant distraction from today’s headlines

In the past few months, my patients and I were just starting to interact again in person. This laid bare the damage caused by Covid, as their emotional pain seemed all the more poignant in three dimensions as opposed to on Zoom. This reality was recently highlighted in a surgeon general’s advisory about pediatric mental health and emergency declarations by the two major medical organizations that oversee the care of children. These pronouncements may fall aground, awash in the many advisories we are all immersed in daily. But they are a call to arms to develop more effective mental health screening and intervention strategies, and they highlight the disproportionate impact of Covid on youth, especially young people of color. We must listen.

With Omicron, it is clear that anxiety is starting to spiral out of control even further, in a sort of PTSD response, as people are flashing back to traumatic memories of the beginning of the pandemic. Until a few weeks ago, I could almost feel that things were getting better. Kids were back in school both locally and at college, playing sports and attending after-school activities, and everyone seemed to be adapting to what clearly is an endemic. Now what?


…there’s certainly no shortage of them

The Year in 41 Debates [NYT]

…not to mention data

tl:dr – those 14x more likely to die unvaccinated folks…getting to be younger & whiter

…& what is it they say about being careful what you wish for?

Donald Trump has claimed 5,000 dead people voted in 2020 in Georgia, a state he lost to Joe Biden on his way to national defeat.

He was off by 4,996.
Trump insisted: “In one state, we have a tremendous amount of dead people. So I don’t know – I’m sure we do in Georgia, too. I’m sure we do in Georgia, too.”

Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, told Raffensperger: “You say they were only two dead people who would vote. I can promise you there are more than that.”


…or who you’re talking to, come to that

A heavily armed California man was arrested in Iowa after he told law enforcement officers that he would “do whatever it takes” to kill government leaders on his “hit list,” including President Joe Biden and his chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, authorities said in court papers Wednesday.


A fifth victim has died after a gunman repeatedly escaped police capture and carried out what authorities described Tuesday as a violent, targeted rampage across the Denver metro area.
Authorities publicly identified the suspect Tuesday as Lyndon James McLeod, 47.

Based on a preliminary probe, investigators determined that the suspect was “targeting specific people,” Denver Police Cmdr. Matt Clark said.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said McLeod was “on the radar” of law enforcement and had been investigated twice — once in mid-2020 and again this year. Neither inquiry led to state or criminal charges, and Pazen declined to provide additional details about the investigations or what led to them.

Pazen added that a motive in what he called a “violent crime spree” remained unclear.


Police in Texas named a 14-year-old boy as a suspect in the fatal shooting of three teens earlier this week at a convenience store, warning that he is “armed and dangerous” as he evades capture.

Abel Elias Acosta has been identified as the suspected shooter in Sunday night’s triple-slaying of Latino boys ranging in ages from 14 to 17, Garland police said in a statement Wednesday. A 15-year-old boy was also wounded, police said.

Police took the unusual step of releasing a minor’s identity and photo “due to the nature of the offense and potential risk to the public,” saying in the statement that a court authorized the release of his information.


A 3-year-old North Carolina girl who had been hospitalized after she accidentally shot herself on Christmas Day has died, authorities said Wednesday.
According to 911 audio obtained by NBC affiliate WYFF of Greenville, South Carolina, [retired Henderson County Sheriff’s Capt. Tim] Gordon [the girl’s father] dialed emergency responders and said his family had a visitor for the holiday who accidentally left a gun in his car.



…much less the gap between talking the talk & walking the walk

2020 appeared to be a year of racial reckoning in the United States. The fight against systemic racism reverberated throughout the country with protests, boycotts and calls to “defund the police.” But, a year after slashing police budgets in response to the growing defund movement, many cities have restored the funding — seeming to confirm activists’ suspicions that city leaders weren’t serious about the change in the first place.
Among politicians, the idea of defunding the police certainly was unpopular. Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden said last summer that he doesn’t support defunding the police, but supports “conditioning federal aid to police based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness.”

The pattern of restoring police budgets seems to align with public opinion of the movement that once made headlines. Last summer, just 11 percent of adults said funding for their local police should be increased “a lot,” according to a Pew Research poll. As of October 2021, that figure is up to 21 percent.

Police and city officials from New York to Los Angeles have cited rising violent crime rates for the reversals, but experts have noted that crime rates fluctuate for various reasons and shouldn’t be solely attributed to police budget cuts. Police staffing shortages and political pressures also contributed to the reversals in several cities. In cities like Burlington, Vermont, that have slashed police budgets, city leaders have struggled to adequately address public safety without relying on traditional policing. Such setbacks are to be expected, said Nikki Jones, a University of California, Berkeley, professor who focuses on race and the criminal justice system.

“When you take policing away, what is required is you have to have other social institutions stepping up,” she said. “And that is going to take time.”


…time some people just don’t have

The family of a woman who a police oversight organization says hanged herself while in custody claims that there are inconsistencies in the police account and that the department is “hiding” facts. Ten days after the incident, the administration of Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Police Department have yet to release any public statement.

Irene Chavez, 33, was arrested in the early morning hours of Dec. 18 at Jeffery Pub, a gay bar on Chicago’s South Side. She was pronounced dead at the University of Chicago Medical Center at 11:30 a.m., after police said they found her nearly eight hours earlier, hanging by her shirt while in custody. Late Monday, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), an agency investigating Chavez’s death, said that it was reviewing body cameras of officers who made the arrest but that there were no cameras installed in the police facility where Chavez was held. Officers wear body cameras, but it was not clear whether any were on when they found her body.

Friends and relatives of Chavez suggest the lack of building cameras is intentional.

“There is no video anywhere in the district office, nowhere — nothing in the room, nothing at the entrance, nowhere in the office,” said Crista Noel, a family friend. “So we’ll never know what happened. It’s the police narrative against someone who is dead.”
The family is comparing the case to that of Sandra Bland, the Black woman found hanging in a Texas jail cell in 2015 after she was arrested in an investigation of a minor traffic violation.

“We have strong suspicion this is another Sandra Bland situation,” said Jessica Disu, Chavez’s friend. The police “have nothing to corroborate their narrative that she kills herself.”


…hell, even the talking the talk part is pretty fraught

U.S. and Russian officials will hold security talks on Jan. 10 amid growing tension over Ukraine, a White House official confirmed.

“We are unified as an Alliance on the consequences Russia would face if it moves on Ukraine. But we are also unified in our willingness to engage in principled diplomacy with Russia,” a National Security Council spokesperson told NBC News in a statement.

When the two countries speak, Russia “can put its concerns on the table, and we will put our concerns on the table with Russia’s activities as well,” the spokesperson said.


President Biden plans to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday afternoon amid tensions surrounding Russia’s military buildup on the border with Ukraine.
The conversation will mark the second Biden-Putin call in a month. In a Dec. 7 videoconference, Biden warned Putin not to mount a new invasion and laid out the economic and security costs that Russia would face if the Kremlin went down that path.
The Biden administration has stressed that Russia will need to begin showing signs of de-escalation before any sort of “diplomatic end game” is possible, a point repeated by the senior administration official previewing the call to reporters on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House. The official noted that the United States has continued to observe a “significant Russian troop presence” near the Ukrainian border that is not static and continues “to be gravely concerned” about what moves the Russians have been making near the Ukrainian border.

The official said that it was not clear why Putin had requested the call but that “it will take a high level of engagement to address this and to try to find a path of de-escalation.”


…assuming you even get to the talking part

As House ethics investigators were examining four cases this fall detailing a sweeping array of improper financial conduct by lawmakers, they ran into an obstacle: Two of the lawmakers under scrutiny refused to meet with them or provide documents.

The investigators were not too surprised. Over the past decade, fewer and fewer House members have been willing to cooperate with congressional investigations, a development that ethics experts warn could reduce accountability for misdeeds and erode trust in the institution of Congress.
The fact that many will no longer even meet with ethics investigators reflects a troubling trend in American politics in which improper behavior is no longer a political liability, ethics experts say.

“There’s a trend towards not taking ethics rules seriously and also more resistance to cooperating in ethics investigations or, frankly, even acknowledging the legitimacy or authority of ethics investigation,” said Bryson B. Morgan, a lawyer at the firm Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, who was previously an investigative counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics. “I think there’s been a bit of a backsliding on ethics.”
In 2020, the Senate Ethics Committee received 144 complaints of violations and dismissed them all.


…& judging by the number of people determined to repeat the mistakes of the past…I kind of have to feel like we haven’t done a great job of learning from history

The D.C. attorney general recently filed a lawsuit against the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two extremist groups, for their role in planning and executing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The case is notable for its attempt to hold accountable those responsible for violence that occurred that day. But just as notable is how the attorney general intends to make the case against them: through a statute that reaches all the way back to the civil rights battles of the Reconstruction era.

The central pillar of this extraordinary new lawsuit is the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The law was designed to enforce the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, prohibited states from denying any person in the United States the equal protection of the laws and vested in every citizen the right to vote. White-supremacist violence was rampant in the wake of these Reconstruction amendments, and the KKK Act was intended to prevent the efforts by the KKK and other white-supremacist actors to effectively re-enslave Black people in the former Confederate states after the Civil War.

The law includes Section 1983, a mainstay in our courts that provides a private right of action against state actors who deprive residents of their constitutional rights. It also includes Section 1985, a lesser-known counterpart that regulates private conduct in a much narrower set of circumstances: when private individuals or organizations, such as the KKK, engage in a conspiracy to interfere with the government, obstruct justice or deprive people of their civil rights.


…which isn’t to say we aren’t trying

A federal judge has refused to dismiss an indictment charging four alleged Proud Boys leaders with conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding during the 6 January attack on the US Capitol – a development that could have potential implications for Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the US district judge Timothy Kelly rejected arguments by defence lawyers that Ethan Nordean, Joseph Biggs, Zachary Rehl and Charles Donohoe are charged with conduct that is protected by the first amendment right to free speech.
“Defendants are not, as they argue, charged with anything like burning flags, wearing black armbands, or participating in mere sit-ins or protests,” he wrote in a 43-page ruling. “Moreover, even if the charged conduct had some expressive aspect, it lost whatever first amendment protection it may have had.”

As reported by the Guardian last week, expectation is growing that Trump may face charges for trying to obstruct Congress from certifying Biden’s election this year as a House panel is collecting more evidence into the attack.
Federal prosecutors have so far cited the obstruction statute in about 200 cases involving rioters charged by the Department of Justice for their involvement in the attack, supported by recent rulings by Trump-appointed district court judges.
Defence lawyers also argued the obstruction charge was not applicable to their clients’ cases because they claimed the certification of the electoral college by Congress was not an “official proceeding”, but Kelly disagreed.


…but could we at least have the contrast be a little less stark?

This is the story of the incredible cloning tax break.
The tax break is known as the Qualified Small Business Stock, or Q.S.B.S., exemption. It allows early investors in companies in many industries to avoid taxes on at least $10 million in profits.
Thanks to the ingenuity of the tax-avoidance industry, investors in hot tech companies are exponentially enlarging the tax break. The trick is to give shares in those companies to friends or relatives. Even though these recipients didn’t put their money into the companies, they nonetheless inherit the tax break, and a further $10 million or more in profits becomes tax-free.
The story of the tax break is in many ways the story of U.S. tax policy writ large. Congress enacts a loophole-laden law whose benefits skew toward the ultrarich. Lobbyists defeat efforts to rein it in. Then creative tax specialists at law, accounting and Wall Street firms transform it into something far more generous than what lawmakers had contemplated.

“Q.S.B.S. is an example of a provision that is on its face already outrageous,” said Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago. “But when you get smart tax lawyers in the room, the provision becomes, in practice, preposterous.”

Manoj Viswanathan, who is a director of the Center on Tax Law at the University of California, Hastings, estimates the tax break will cost the government at least $60 billion over the coming decade. But that doesn’t include taxes avoided by stacking, and so the true cost of the tax break is probably many times higher.

The Biden administration has proposed shrinking the benefit by more than half. But the plan wouldn’t restrict wealthy investors from multiplying the tax break.


My journey into homelessness was traumatic, but it was also incredibly expensive, and that’s what I want to focus on here. By the time I walked away from that park bench two years later, I had accrued more than $54,000 in debt.

Leaving homelessness did not mean immediate freedom. Instead, coming back to the world of the housed meant first having to navigate an obstacle course of fees and fines that I had incurred while homeless. In the process, I learned that the most traumatized and vulnerable members of our society are often burdened with bills that they have no idea how to handle, making finding secure housing that much harder.

These bills are another way that American society criminalizes people experiencing homelessness — hidden penalties that can start with the towing and impoundment of the vehicles people sleep in and that can continue with a long list of misdemeanors, such as loitering, camping, asking for money in public and even standing in one place for too long.

Being homeless is a nightmarish existence, and it was made much harder by these financial burdens. I am on the other side of it now, and I am writing about my experience in the hope of dismantling the barriers that keep people unhoused.


…although there’s that pesky context thing again…because from some people’s perspective that lady’s debts barely qualify as the proverbial cost of doing business

During a recent marathon session in the House, two Republican lawmakers from Georgia sat in full view of television cameras. Neither was wearing a mask.
To date, the two have incurred more than $100,000 combined in fines, which are taken directly from their paychecks.

A resolution approved by the House in January says that members will be fined $500 the first time they fail to wear a mask on the House floor, and $2,500 for subsequent violations. The House Ethics Committee notes each fine in a news release, but Ms. Greene’s and Mr. Clyde’s violations were so numerous that the panel began announcing theirs in bunches.

Ms. Greene, who has said she is unvaccinated, called the mask requirement “communist,” “tyrannical” and “authoritarian.”
Ms. Greene has been fined more than 30 times for violating the mask rules, accumulating more than $80,000 in penalties, according to her office. She was fined five days in a row during one stretch this fall.
In contesting his fines, Mr. Clyde has accused the House and the sergeant-at-arms, who enforces the penalties, of a “deeply troubling” practice of “selective enforcement.”

Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who has also been fined, suggested that Mr. Clyde had found a way around paying the penalties. Mr. Massie told CNN that Mr. Clyde had changed his payroll withholdings so that he was paid only $1 a month.
A House rule requiring members to pass through a metal detector before entering the chamber has also resulted in violations.

That rule was enacted after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6 and Ms. Pelosi pushed for enhanced security. A first violation carries a $5,000 fine, followed by $10,000 for subsequent violations.

Mr. Clyde and seven other Republicans have been fined for violating the metal detector rule, as was Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina.


…so the good news may be thin gruel

A New York State appeals court on Tuesday temporarily lifted a judicial order requiring The New York Times to turn over or destroy copies of legal memos prepared for the conservative group Project Veritas, in a case that has drawn the focus of First Amendment and journalism advocates.

The stay, issued by the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, followed objections by The Times to an order issued late last week in an escalating legal dispute between the newspaper and Project Veritas, which is suing The Times for defamation.

But one major component of that order, issued by a trial judge, Justice Charles D. Wood of State Supreme Court in Westchester County, will stay in place: The Times remains temporarily barred from publishing the Project Veritas documents. The newspaper said it had not sought an immediate lifting of that element of the order but instead had asked for an expedited hearing.


…but it’s better than nothing?

Maxwell was convicted on five of the six charges she faced. In addition to sex-trafficking, Maxwell was found guilty of conspiracy to entice individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity, conspiracy to transport individuals under the age of 17 to travel in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; transportation of an individual under the age of 17 with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity; and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of individuals under the age of 18.
Following the guilty verdict, Damian Williams, the Manhattan US attorney, said in a statement: “A unanimous jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable: facilitating and participating in the sexual abuse of children. Crimes that she committed with her long-time partner and co-conspirator, Jeffrey Epstein.”

“The road to justice has been far too long. But, today, justice has been done. I want to commend the bravery of the girls, now grown women, who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom,” William also said. “Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case, and today’s result, possible.”

…however you look at it…bear in mind that if it’s all too much…that’s pretty much par for the course so don’t beat yourself up about that part?

With all this stress, social isolation and disruption, it’s no wonder if you’ve been feeling the effects, even being more forgetful or absent-minded. Maybe you’ve found yourself unable to remember a common term, what day it is or why you walked into a room. Experts say prolonged stress can affect people’s everyday memory and cognitive skills.
Just as people are affected differently by stress, individuals also vary in how they cope, said psychologist Alison Holman, a stress researcher and professor at the University of California, Irvine.

“We should never think that you can throw all human beings into one bucket and say that’s how they’re going to cope, because there is no such thing as a single way for everybody to cope,” she said.


…anyhow…by way of trying not to have everything be just awful…have I mentioned the BBC is partway through a radio adaptation of the princess bride?

…& I’ll find some tunes shortly



  1. Pursuant to our discussion yesterday about Florida offering unemployment benefits to people who refuse vaccination:

    Florida’s lower jobless rate means fewer weeks of unemployment benefits in 2022

    Paywall, so I’ll summarize: Because the unemployment rate is dropping, Florida has moved from 19 weeks of unemployment benefits to 12.

    So, in addition to offering some of the lowest unemployment benefits in the country, and forcing people to use a non-functioning website to apply, Florida is generously allowing the poor, oppressed anti-vaxxers to collect benefits for less time. Enjoy that freedom, all y’all anti-vaxxers!

  2. The BBC issued a note admitting that maybe they screwed up by letting Alan Dershowitz talk about the Epstein/Maxwell case, considering he is a walking-talking case study in conflict of interest.


    Journalists have defended this kind of appearance for years on the grounds that it somehow helps audiences understand issues to hear from different points of view. The lie is that journalists know that letting bad faith, conflicted people speak unfiltered and undisclosed hurts audiences, it doesn’t help them.

    Even if a portion of the audience knows Dershowitz is a pure conflicted hack, they are still losing the oportunity to hear someone enlightening instead.

    Putting up a well-researched analysis intercut with pieces of  Dershowitz’s interview would be a valid way of airing — and rebutting — his views. These live standup interviews needed to end years ago.

  3. I have had too much time on my hands recently and after watching the same bullshit stories on the news repeated over and over I started to have some questions.  Have you ever noticed that the same people that complain about immigrants stealing our jobs and wanting to ban them are the ones complaining about nobody filling low paying jobs?  I bet you could fill those jobs in a heartbeat if you could recruit on the other side of the border.  You and I know it is really about racism and the “great replacement theory” but why can’t the media make this connection?  If I hear one more horse race story about who will win the midterms or Biden vs Trump rematch I am going to destroy my TV.

    The more you hear shit like this, the more you want to yell Fuck The Police!


    and I would really like to know if one of you wrote this?  It sounds like one of us.  Hell, I could have written this (I didn’t).



    • I’ve been following Jim for years.  He tends to ramble a bit, but his analysis is usually uncannily good.  Dude was career military intelligence so picks up on weird angles most of us don’t always think about.

    • “Have you ever noticed that the same people that complain about immigrants stealing our jobs and wanting to ban them are the ones complaining about nobody filling low paying jobs?”

      Yeah. DeSantis rails about immigrants constantly, but he won’t actually do anything about it. Reason being that Florida is a hugely agricultural state (yes, we have something other than tourism). Undocumented immigrants are used to harvest literally everything and they are paid a few dollars a day (I’m dead serious about that). They don’t have legal standing to complain or force a minimum wage.

      So DeSantis (and to be fair, every other Florida politician since forever) squeals about immigrants but always exempts agriculture and frequently hospitality from any measures to force businesses to stop hiring them.

      The rubes think “yeah, Ron, get them filthy immigrants” and then head to the grocery store to buy vegetables that those “filthy immigrants” picked. Because a tomato would cost $14 if we actually got rid of undocumented labor.

      All the other agricultural states do it too. And another thing is that those companies still pay payroll taxes on these workers, but the workers don’t ever get it back. Cause the IRS does. not. fuck. around. So undocumented labor is a HUGE boost to America’s economy. But again, those are too many dots for Cooter in Seville, FL to connect.

      • *points at england*

        *doesnt see anyone lining up to take all the jobs the immigrants arent around to steal*

        i mean….why do a shitty underpaid job when you could be at home on the dole complaining about immigrants stealing your job right?

        (tbh…this is why i like working with immigrants….they have a much better work ethic…job needs doing…getting it done…pays the bills nothing to whine about here)

    • Re: great replacement theory —  if they were truly worried about it they’d expand WIC and childcare etc to help the white folks have kids cheaper. I mean I know they’re worried about it and the fear is that OMG the not white people will exploit it too…. but these fuckers are dirty enough to figure out a way to do it for white families only if they tried hard enough.

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