…in a word [DOT 14/4/22]

a very versatile word...

…believe it or not, I don’t line these up in an effort to spoil people’s day before it’s even really got started just because I’m fool enough to start mine flicking through headlines while downing coffee…but I have a feeling that’s how today might come across…so…before I get to that part…you might call it a word from our sponsors?

People occasionally complain to me that so many today seem to lean on profanity rather than utilizing the other lexical resources at their disposal. “Why do they have to keep using that word over and over? What is that?” I was asked by someone of a certain age, for example, when I spoke at a gathering of academics last week.

We all can guess which word he meant — it starts with f — but I don’t hear it the way he does. It’s partly because we sometimes miss the richness of meaning in our profanity and partly because we tend to miss the richness of how we use the rest of our vocabulary. Our default sense of a word involves a single meaning: Even when a word such as “candle,” typically used as a noun, is used as a verb, it still means holding a candle or a light up to better see something. But so very many words are used in a wide range of meanings, and while idioms are part of that range, even they are only the beginning.
What we think of as one word with one meaning can in use actually be many, many more words, and not just in the sense of stark and obvious homonyms such as “spring” as a season and “spring” as a coil. This is beautifully illustrated with my favorite example: “pick up.” Its basic meaning is to lift something. But we also pick up our kids from school. Someone might pick someone up at a bar. You pick up a disease, or someone says you’ve picked up the habit of overusing certain salty words. In all those cases, we see a relationship with the “lift” meaning. Few would say that when we talk of picking up our kids, we are tossing in an idiom. Rather, these uses of “pick up” are something more mundane than idioms; they are words of their own.

That these are separate words is especially clear when the relationship with lifting gets more abstract: A car picks up speed; a cocktail picks up your spirits; we pick up a sound from far off; we pick up where we left off. Yes, “pick” and “up” are words in their own right, but in this case a combination of the two is the source of what are actually many more words, and this is the case with countless others. Think a bit about the different things “make up” can mean, for example. Yet no one would be accused of overusing the words “pick” or “make,” much less the word “up.” The key is how we use them.

And this brings us back to the profanity issue. When we perceive a word as used a lot or too much, it’s often being used to mean multiple things. The casual usage of “like” divides into about four different usages, some having drifted pretty dramatically from its stock definition. The N-word that ends with “er” and the N-word that ends with “a” are, for all intents and purposes (idiom alert!), different words now, and the latter is also developing into, of all things, new pronouns. What we might hear as a mere matter of yet another F-bomb is actually a vocabular sapling sprouting apace, with branches growing in different directions. As I put it in “Nine Nasty Words” (with wording a notch too zesty to print here), the F-word can convey destruction, deception, dismissal, dauntingness and down-to-earthness.

When You Hear the F-Word, Try Picking Up More Than One Meaning [NYT]

…it’s not a new idea

[…I was going to link to a different version of that clip but it doesn’t embed properly due to some sort of age-restriction thing…but it’s from a bunch that are listed as “fun english lessons” over on youtube, if you’re interested]

…of course some examples of that particular profanity are more famous than others

…& as part of that NYT piece that I left out made mention of…profanity is actually kind of a big deal among russian speakers…so there’s maybe a couple of things worth noting on that score

A man, cigarette jammed into his mouth, carries a land mine off a road. A woman teases a tank driver with threats of witchcraft. A coastguard responds to the threat of bombardment with the now infamous line “Russian warship, fuck off”. The people in these viral videos, as in many others that have emerged from Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s barbaric invasion, are doing the same three things: they are showing incredible courage in defending their homeland, they are speaking Russian, and they are swearing.

Taken separately, there is nothing surprising in these things. Of course people swear in wartime and the fact that many Ukrainians, especially in the east and south, speak Russian has long been a talking point for armchair experts. What underinformed Ukraine-watchers, with Vladimir Putin foremost among them, failed to anticipate is that speaking Russian in no way guarantees support for the Russian state. But the combination of these three things – resistance, Russian and expletives – and their prominence in the coverage of the war is itself significant. Obscenity might seem a trivial sidenote in such a horrific conflict, but understanding it is a way of understanding language, and language has played a big part both in Moscow’s professed motivations for this invasion and in Kyiv’s defiant response.

Cursing occupies an ambivalent position in Russian-language culture. On the one hand, Russian speakers take pride in the expressiveness of their swearwords and, thanks in large part to online gaming, this flair for foul language has found an international audience. On the other, Russian-speaking societies have maintained strong taboos against public profanity. True, the censorious norms of the Soviet mid-century have been gradually eroded, first in the 1970s by illicit literature, then by the relaxation of censorship and the influx of western culture in the 1980s and 1990s, and finally by the rise of social media. Although the latter blurs distinctions between speech and text and between public and private, strict rules still apply. And politicians are adding new ones all the time: in both Ukraine and Russia anti-swearing legislation was introduced as recently as 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Ukraine’s move away from Soviet-style linguistic prissiness does two things. First, it makes the obvious point that war is serious, a time to put aside politeness. Second, it emphasises the gulf between the communication strategies of the autocratic Putin and the self-consciously democratic, media-savvy Zelenskiy. The Ukrainian president and his team have shown their mastery – even in siege conditions – of the idioms of social media, of the way it blends homemade and professional, public and private. The language of Zelenskiy’s public persona reinforces this sense of familiarity: in a 3 March press conference, he addressed Putin directly, in Russian, using the informal “ty” form of address: “I’m an ordinary guy, sit down with me, I don’t bite.”
Attitudes to swearing, however, reveal a deeper divide between Moscow and Kyiv. Traditionally, there have been four words that you absolutely cannot print in a Russian publication or say on TV (they’re sexual taboos including, unsurprisingly, the words for male and female genitals). Now, at risk of imprisonment, there is a fifth: war. Instead, this massive, vicious invasion must be referred to as a “special military operation”. This sort of mealy-mouthed euphemism is common in war-mongering circles worldwide but the grotesque irony of banning “war” while waging war speaks to a particular Putinist pathology in attitudes to language – one that has a lot in common with his geopolitical vision.
Most recently, just as the current invasion was launched, one of the charges cooked up against the imprisoned oppositionist Alexei Navalny was an accusation of contempt of court based in part on his use of the euphemisms blin and yo-moyo (of equivalent strength to “sheesh” and “frick”). Such pedantry might seem unnecessary for what is now an unapologetic police state, but the regime is here not only taking aim at Navalny’s knack – shared with Zelenskiy – for using informality to build rapport. It is also sending out a wider message: if need be, we will get you for the smallest slip-up.

How swearing became a weapon of resistance for Ukrainians [Guardian]

…for example

A Russian court has ordered an artist to be held behind bars for allegedly replacing supermarket price labels with messages protesting against Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.

Alexandra Skochilenko faces up to a decade in jail for her stealth protest, after she was charged under a new law banning “fake news” about Russia’s armed forces.
Investigators accused her of “putting fragments of paper in place of price tags, containing knowingly false information about the use of the Russian armed forces” in a Perekryostok supermarket on 31 March.

They described her motive as “political hatred for Russia”, which means she faces a harsh sentence if found guilty, ranging from a fine of 3m roubles (£27,000) to between five and 10 years in jail.
The law against “fake news” makes it mandatory to publicly describe Moscow’s actions in Ukraine only as a “special military operation”, or face up to 15 years in prison. This has led several media outlets to stop reporting in Russia.
On Tuesday, Andrei Makedonov, a 59-year-old doctor, was detained for a similar supermarket protest in Saint Petersburg, Fontanka reported.

Also on Tuesday, another Saint Petersburg resident, Tatiana Popova, was fined 30,000 ruble for hanging toys with “no to war” slogans in a supermarket.


Four journalists who worked for an independent Moscow student magazine have been sentenced to two years’ “corrective labour” over an online video in which they defended young Russians’ freedom of assembly.

Former Doxa journalists Armen Aramyan, Natasha Tyshkevich, Alla Gutnikova and Volodya Metelkin had been under house arrest for almost a year after they were detained in April 2021 for posting a three-minute video on YouTube in which they said it was illegal to expel and intimidate students for participating in rallies in support of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Under Russian law, those handed correctional labour sentences must pay the government up to 20% of their wages if they are employed. If they are unemployed, they must work at jobs assigned by the country’s prison service during the term of their sentence.

The Russian court also banned the four from administering internet resources for three years.

Doxa founder Aramyan, 24, expressed relief that the sentence was not tougher: the four journalists had been facing up to three years in jail.
The sentencing comes amid an unprecedented crackdown on independent media and antiwar dissent. Last month, the Russian parliament passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military.
A week after Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine, the authorities blocked Doxa’s website over its refusal to take down an explainer that was critical of the country’s role in Ukraine.

Aramyan derided Russia’s actions in Ukraine during his closing statement in court earlier this month, taking a minute of silence “in memory of those who have died in this war,” despite repeated requests from the judge to continue his statement.


…so…yeah…you might be thinking a number of things at this point…& there’s a good chance a certain versatile word might crop up in that train of thought

…also…that warship?

Russia says the flagship of its Black Sea fleet has been seriously damaged and its crew evacuated following an explosion that a Ukrainian official said was the result of a missile strike.

“As a result of a fire, ammunition detonated on the Moskva missile cruiser. The ship was seriously damaged,” the Russian defence ministry was quoted as saying by state-run news agency TASS, adding that the cause of the fire was being determined and that the crew had been evacuated.

A Ukrainian official earlier said the Moskva had been hit by two anti-ship missiles but did not give any evidence.

“Neptune missiles guarding the Black Sea caused very serious damage to the Russian ship,” Maksym Marchenko, the governor of Odesa, wrote on Telegram.

The Moskva gained notoriety early in the war when it called on Ukrainian border troops defending the strategic Snake Island – a small outcrop in the Black Sea – to surrender, only to be defiantly refused.


…meanwhile (in case you missed it) the guy who told the warship to go fuck itself…he survived, russia gave him back…& he got a fucking medal…so…at least there’s that…& in other choose-your-words-carefully news

Joe Biden has upped the ante in his criticisms of Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine by accusing him of genocide, saying the Russian leader is “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian”. But how significant is the allegation and how likely is Putin to face genocide charges?

Genocide is one of four crimes prosecuted by the international criminal court (ICC) and generally considered to be the most grave. The court defines it as being “characterised by the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

…though…what power beyond rhetoric that might have is…questionable?

According to cases listed on the ICC website, it has charged only one person with genocide, the then Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, in 2009 over the conflict in Darfur. After a 2003 uprising by mainly non-Arab rebels, his government armed, trained and financed bands of Arab nomads to attack villages across Darfur, killing, raping and looting as they went. He has never stood trial, having rejected the authority of the ICC.

Even if Putin were to be charged with genocide, like Bashir he would be certain to reject the authority of the court – Russia withdrew from the ICC in 2016.


…but…you know…it’s not exactly surprising…if the guy had the merest scrap of respect for the concept of international law you gotta figure maybe he wouldn’t have been invading neighboring countries in one guise or another for years…so…maybe just try looking at different news

America’s attempt to vaccinate the world against Covid is about to come to an end.

“We are at a point now where without additional funding we are going to have to start winding down our programming,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, the leader of the United States Agency for International Development’s Covid-19 task force. Such funding does not appear to be forthcoming. Our gruesomely dysfunctional politics are going to lead to more illness and death across the globe, and we’re increasing the odds that a new viral mutation will once again upend American life. If it does, we might call it the filibuster variant.

Even for a body as broken and ineffectual as Congress, this level of self-sabotage is hard to fathom. “The biggest risk we face domestically and globally is more new variants,” said Konyndyk. Such variants, he said, are most likely to emerge in chronically immunocompromised populations, including people living with diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis; because they have trouble clearing the coronavirus, it lingers and has more opportunities to evolve.

“That’s likely where Omicron came from, quite possibly where Delta came from,” Konyndyk said. “So making sure that we are targeting those populations for vaccination and then targeting them with the rollout of antivirals is the best insurance policy we have against new variants. It’s not foolproof, but it’s the best we can do.”

But it seems we are not going to do it. Part of the blame for this lies with House Democrats. Far more belongs to Senate Republicans.

The Democrats miscalculated last month when, amid internal dissension, they stripped a $15.6 billion Covid aid package from the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill. Senate Republicans had insisted that the Covid aid come from money that was already appropriated but unspent. So congressional leaders devised a scheme drawing $7 billion from funds that had been set aside for state and local governments in last year’s American Rescue Plan.
After a revolt among her own members, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was forced to pull the Covid aid from the omnibus bill. But if House Democrats thought they’d get another chance to negotiate international Covid funds, they underestimated the nihilism of the Republican Party.

Because of the filibuster, Senate Democrats need 10 Republicans to support a stand-alone Covid bill, and Republicans are balking at more money for international Covid programs. “I’m frankly struggling,” Chris Coons, a Democratic senator known for his commitment to bipartisanship, said of trying to negotiate an agreement. He describes a basic disagreement between the caucuses over the threat posed by Covid. A number of his Republican colleagues, said Coons, have told him, “We’re done with this pandemic.”

Since they’re largely indifferent to whether additional Covid funding passes, some Republicans have used it as leverage in their demand for tougher border policies. They’re holding up authorization of any more Covid aid unless the administration reinstates Title 42, a policy adopted in 2020 to rapidly expel migrants without letting them apply for asylum, all in the name of protecting public health.

The U.S.A.I.D. funding is not fungible — the agency can’t simply transfer resources from other programs to keep its vaccine program going, or to start providing antivirals like Paxlovid. As a last-ditch measure, Coons tried to get Republicans to agree to give the agency emergency authority to move its own money around to address the pandemic, but he couldn’t get enough of them onboard.

As a result of this intransigence, many of the vaccine doses America already donated could go to waste. At this point, there’s no longer a global vaccine shortage — the problem is that many countries lack the infrastructure required to transport and administer them. The impasse in the Senate, Coons said, means we aren’t delivering millions of vaccine shots that we’ve already paid for.
There’s also a political cost to abandoning the rest of the world on Covid. At a time of renewed great-power competition, America’s effective vaccines could give us a diplomatic advantage. Last year, said Coons, “both Russia and China made big fanfares about delivering planeloads of vaccines to dozens of countries in the developing world. Those vaccines are ineffective against Omicron. Our vaccines are effective.” Our Congress, unfortunately, is not.


…I swear…sometimes I honestly start to wonder if we wouldn’t be better off letting actual diagnosed fucking lunatics run this fucking asylum…& then I calm down & think, actually…sometimes the timing alone of some things ought to be enough to get some people fucking certified

Mark Zuckerberg, who donated nearly half a billion dollars to election offices across the nation in 2020 and drew criticism from conservatives suspicious of his influence on the presidential election, won’t be making additional grants this year, a spokesman for the Facebook founder confirmed on Tuesday.

…because…you know…that was only a big deal last time…the next couple of election cycles in the US aren’t that kind of a big deal…so he probably needs all his cash to throw at trying to get everyone to go live with him in that digital alternative reality he’s so keen on in which he to all intents & purposes would literally be the focal point of creation…meanwhile…back in the world we actually live in

At the event on Monday, Ms. Epps-Johnson said the grants distributed by the center in 2020 helped fill a substantial void of resources for those overseeing elections in the United States. One town in New England, she said without specifying, was able to replace voting equipment from the early 1900s that was held together with duct tape.

“The United States election infrastructure is crumbling,” Ms. Epps-Johnson said.

In addition to the Center for Technology and Civic Life, Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan gave $69.6 million to the Center for Election Innovation & Research in 2020. At the time, that nonprofit group said that the top election officials in 23 states had applied for grants.

…& you know…”for every action”…or, as it turns out, sometimes for every lack thereof…on the other side of the aisle

While campaigning for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in Perrysburg, Ohio, J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author who has undergone a conversion to Trumpism, continued to accuse Mr. Zuckerberg of tipping the election in 2020 to Mr. Biden.

Mr. Vance, a venture capitalist, hasn’t exactly sworn off help from big tech. He counts Peter Thiel, a departing board member of Mr. Zuckerberg’s company, Meta, and a major donor to Mr. Trump, as a top fund-raiser. Mr. Thiel has also supported Blake Masters, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona.


…sure are a lot of “that guy”s going around, too

Ordinary citizens play a critical role in maintaining democracy. They refuse to re-elect — at least in theory — politicians who abuse their power, break the rules and reject the outcome of elections they lose. How is it, then, that Donald Trump, who has defied these basic presumptions, stands a reasonable chance of winning a second term in 2024?
In other words, exacerbated partisan competition “presents aspiring authoritarians with a structural opportunity: They can undermine democracy and get away with it.”

Svolik and Matthew H. Graham, a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University, expand on Svolik’s argument and its applicability to the United States. Supporters of democracy, they contend in their 2020 paper “Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States,” can no longer rely on voters to serve as a roadblock against authoritarianism:

We find the U.S. public’s viability as a democratic check to be strikingly limited: only a small fraction of Americans prioritize democratic principles in their electoral choices, and their tendency to do so is decreasing in several measures of polarization, including the strength of partisanship, policy extremism, and candidate platform divergence.

To get a sense of the real-world relevance of this implication, consider that in 2016 only 5.1 percent of

U.S. House districts were won by a margin of less than 6.9 percent — the smallest margin that is necessary for violations of democratic principles to be electorally self-defeating. That share of districts was still only 15.2 percent in 2018. Put bluntly, our estimates suggest that in the vast majority of U.S. House districts, a majority-party candidate could openly violate one of the democratic principles we examined and nonetheless get away with it.

“Put simply,” Graham and Svolik write, “polarization undermines the public’s ability to serve as a democratic check.”
Trump and his allies in the Republican Party have correctly been the focus of those seeking to identify the instigators of political disruption. As Barton Gellman wrote in his December 2021 article in The Atlantic, “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun”:

For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time.

In the most recent issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, five political scientists — Suzanne Mettler, Robert C. Lieberman, Jamila Michener, Thomas B. Pepinsky and Kenneth M. Roberts — write:

For decades, political scientists have observed key threats to democracy that have been on the rise: political polarization; conflict — incited by racism and nativism — over the boundaries of American citizenship and the civic status of those in different social groups; soaring economic inequality; and executive aggrandizement. The confluence of these threats fueled the candidacy of Donald Trump, whose election was a symptom, not a cause, of American democratic dysfunction.

As president, the authors continue, “Trump exacerbated all four threats, imperiling the pillars of democracy, including free and fair elections, the rule of law, the legitimacy of opposition, and the integrity of rights.”

In an earlier article, in the September 2020 issue of Foreign Affairs, “The Fragile Republic: American Democracy Has Never Faced So Many Threats All at Once,” Lieberman and Mettler argue that:

for the first time in its history, the United States faces all four threats at the same time. It is this unprecedented confluence — more than the rise to power of any particular leader — that lies behind the contemporary crisis of American democracy. The threats have grown deeply entrenched, and they will likely persist and wreak havoc for some time to come.

Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University — and the author of “Delegitimization, Deconstruction and Control: Undermining the Administrative State” in the current issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science — wrote by email that he is “more worried about declines in democracy driven by formal changes in the law than by events like January 6th.”

Moynihan pointed out that at 3:32 a.m. on Jan. 7 — hours after protesters incited by Trump swarmed the U.S. Capitol — a majority of House Republicans

voted not to accept the results of the last election. This represents an astonishing signal by a group of elected officials of their willingness to play procedural hardball to upend democratic outcomes. State legislatures are passing laws that constrain individual rights via democratic means, and also shifting powers in a way that can ensure Republican victories. It’s very possible to envision how newly elected state and local election officials who believe Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election would make decisions where they refuse to certify free and fair elections.

It is now possible, Moynihan continued,

to envisage some state legislatures using fraudulent fraud claims as an excuse to select a slate of electors consistent with their partisan interests rather than with the actual outcome of their election. This is not the most likely outcome, but it is significantly more likely than it was just a couple of years ago. The confluence of events — a close election in swing states, allegations of fraud, state legislatures stepping in to choose the winner and a Republican majority in Congress endorsing this — is an entirely plausible democratic process to nullify democracy.

In fact, Drutman’s basic argument is that “there is no feasible solution to the current crisis within the two-party system itself, given the escalating polarization and the extremist trajectory of the Republican Party.”

According to Drutman, “this kind of polarization, which involves not just (or not even) policy agreement but instead deep distrust of fellow citizens, is a very typical precursor of democratic decline.” Conversely, “in more proportional systems, out-party hatreds are rarer and tend to only be directed toward extreme parties.”
The erosion of democracy is now self-evidently a global phenomenon with exogenous and endogenous causes. A brief list from the Hague Journal of the Rule of Law gives the idea:

Economic inequality; political polarization; cultural backlash against rapid social, moral and demographic change; the scapegoating of immigrants and minorities by political forces; the profound — and often negative — effects of technology on society and the political system; the rise of non-liberal alternative governance models viewed as successful …. The trend of democratic decay itself — and the means by which political and social forces are degrading liberal democracy — is rapidly changing, developing and spreading. We are trying to understand a global phenomenon as it envelops the world in real time.

It’s a lot to ask voters to adjudicate everything on that list. So the question that remains is this: Is the Trump version of this phenomenon the worst we are going to get, or are there people watching and waiting in the wings who will make it much worse?

Trump Poses a Test Democracy Is Failing [NYT]

…& much as I’d like that to be hyperbolic…it might turn out to be understatement

State legislatures, including Florida’s, usually draw a proposal for a plan that the governor approves or rejects. DeSantis vetoed the GOP-controlled legislature’s proposed congressional districts on 29 March after proposing his own map that would increase the number of GOP seats while eliminating two districts represented by Black Democrats. Leaders in the legislature said on Monday that they would not try to draft a new plan ahead of a special session next week, but instead were waiting for DeSantis, a likely 2024 presidential candidate, to submit his own plan.
The legislature approved a plan earlier this year that would have given Republicans an 18-10 advantage in the state’s delegation. DeSantis’s proposal would have given Republicans a 20-8 advantage.

DeSantis appears focused on eliminating two congressional districts with sizable non-white populations. One of those is Florida’s 5th congressional district, which stretches from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, is 46% Black and represented by Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. He has also targeted the state’s 10th congressional district, which is majority non-white and is represented by Val Demings, another Black Democrat.

“The Florida legislature is caving to the intimidation of DeSantis and his desire to create additional Republican seats in Congress by eliminating minority-access districts,” Lawson said in a statement. “Again, I am not surprised, but disappointed with the legislature’s inability to fulfill their constitutional duties as elected officials without political interference from DeSantis.”
The Florida legislature passed two versions of the 5th congressional district earlier this year to try to satisfy the governor, but DeSantis rejected both. His office argued that lawmakers had unlawfully sorted voters based on race. One version also lowered the share of the Black voting population, and DeSantis’s office said they violated a provision of the state constitution that says the state cannot make it harder for minority voters who meet certain criteria to elect the candidate of their choice.

That rationale is “headspinning” and “inconsistent”, Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, tweeted. The governor’s office essentially argued that the maps violated the US constitution by taking race into account too much and the Florida constitution for taking race into account too little.

On the federal level, however, DeSantis’s rationale echoes what the US supreme court has signaled about the Voting Rights Act recently. The court’s conservative justices have repeatedly voiced skepticism about the use of race in redistricting and are making it harder for litigants to show it is necessary to consider race when drawing district lines.


What is especially telling about Chief Justice Roberts’s dissents in these shadow docket cases is that, unlike Justices Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, he’s often been sympathetic to the results. In February’s Alabama redistricting ruling, for instance, Chief Justice Roberts agreed that the court should reconsider the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act under which Alabama’s maps had been struck down; he just believed that any change in that interpretation had to come through the merits docket, not the shadow docket.

At least on the shadow docket, though that’s no longer up to him. Instead, the court’s destiny increasingly appears to be controlled by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. She implored an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library just last week to “read the opinion” before jumping to any conclusions about whether the justices are acting more like politicians than judges. Two days later, she joined the majority’s unsigned, unexplained order in the Clean Water Act case, in which there was no opinion to read. Justice Kavanaugh, too, seems more troubled by criticism of the court’s behavior than by the behavior itself, going out of his way in February’s Alabama redistricting cases to criticize the “catchy but worn-out rhetoric about the ‘shadow docket’” in Justice Kagan’s dissent.

It’s not the rhetoric that is wearing out, though; it’s the court’s credibility. The justices have long insisted — as Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy and David Souter put it in 1992 — that “the court’s legitimacy depends on making legally principled decisions under circumstances in which their principled character is sufficiently plausible to be accepted by the nation.” The proliferation of principle-free decisions affecting more and more Americans — and with a clear, troubling tendency of favoring Republicans over Democrats — calls that legitimacy into increasingly serious question.

It’s understandable, then, why Chief Justice Roberts would finally speak out. No one better understands the stakes for the court’s credibility — and institutional viability. If even his objections can’t persuade the other conservatives to stop abusing the shadow docket, then that may signal the willingness of the court’s conservative majority to go even further in the future and to use the shadow docket to resolve even more significant and contentious constitutional questions.

…some might say that kind of shit was worth mentioning before there was a book to sell…but I guess that would depend on what you give a fuck about, wouldn’t it?

…& that isn’t even close to the nastiest shit in the US news today…so…seriously…you might really not want to follow this next one as far as the video…or, hell, even the description of the video…it’s…shit, I don’t know…I really don’t have the words to describe the extent to which this shit’s fucked up

A Black man face-down on the ground was fatally shot in the back of the head by a Michigan police officer, the violent climax of a traffic stop, foot chase and fight over a stun gun, according to videos of the 4 April incident released Wednesday.

Patrick Lyoya, 26, was killed outside a house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The white officer repeatedly ordered Lyoya to “let go” of his Taser, at one point demanding: “Drop the Taser!”

Citing a need for transparency, the city’s new police chief, Eric Winstrom, released four videos, including critical footage of the shooting recorded by a passenger in Lyoya’s car on that rainy morning.
Video shows Lyoya running from the officer who stopped him for driving with a license plate that didn’t belong to the vehicle. They struggled in front of several homes while Lyoya’s passenger got out and watched.

Winstrom said the fight over the Taser lasted about 90 seconds. In the final moments, the officer was on top of Lyoya, kneeling on his back at times to subdue him.
Video was collected from Lyoya’s passenger, the officer’s body-worn camera, the officer’s patrol car and a doorbell camera. Chris Becker, the prosecutor who will decide whether any charges are warranted, objected to the release but said Winstrom could act on his own.

Becker said the public shouldn’t expect a quick decision.

“While the videos released today are an important piece of evidence, they are not all of the evidence,” he said.

Mark Washington, the city manager, warned that the videos would lead to “expressions of shock, of anger and of pain”. Some downtown businesses boarded up their storefronts, and concrete barricades surrounded police headquarters.


…yeah…so maybe you figure you’d be on safer ground seeing what’s up with the Uk & that whole “partygate” thing…I mean…they claim to be “the mother of parliaments“…& (even if for some curious reason they seem to have doled out that first fine to boris for arguably the least contentious “party”) it’s apparently the first time a sitting prime minister has officially been found to be on the wrong side of the law

It had all been going so well. After his successful, surprise weekend trip to Ukraine, Boris Johnson had been enjoying his newfound status as “The Lion of Kyiv” during a few days off at Chequers. Then had come the news that the Metropolitan police had now issued more than 50 fixed-penalty notices (FPN). And that’s before they had even got to work on the really serious parties. If only he had put the ruthless and forensic Christopher Geidt in charge of the investigation. Then no one would have been any the wiser about any of the parties.
Round about lunchtime, things got a whole lot worse when Johnson discovered that he was one of the crims to be given an FPN. The Suspect was no longer the Suspect. He was the Convict. It was outrageous. Just because he had passed the law forbidding everyone from meeting up during lockdown, there was no reason to imagine that he was expected to obey the rules. Those had only been for the Little People. The suckers. Narcissists like Johnson got to do as they chose. Theirs was a life governed by their own exceptionalism.
Instead he would let some of his useful idiots fill the void. Thank God for Michael Fabricant and Nadine Dorries. While other Tory MPs and cabinet ministers were totally silent – it was as if the Conservative party was totally paralysed with indecision: it’s not every day your leader makes history by being the first prime minister to be found guilty of breaking his own laws. And while MPs knew he ought to resign they didn’t dare to be the first to suggest it as there were no obvious alternatives – these two alone held the fort.

Micky F managed to insult every doctor and nurse by suggesting they had spent most of lockdown pissed while Nad had basically restated Boris’s divine right to do what the fuck he liked. Nadine was a trooper. Even if Boris killed someone she would find a way of making it the victim’s fault.

But come 6pm the Convict was ready to record a short television clip. He was deeply apologetic, he said. Though he didn’t sound like it. Rather, as he toyed with the Toddler haircut, he seemed to blame the police for not having interpreted the law in his favour. In BorisWorld, ignorance of the law is a valid excuse, it seems. Johnson just wanted to move on. It would be wrong to resign now because of Ukraine. Though arguably the UK needed a leader with a strong moral compass more than ever these days. And it wasn’t as if the UK didn’t have a track record of replacing leaders during wartime. Not that we are at war.

Johnson was markedly less comfortable when facing questions. Could everyone just forget about the fact that he had lied so many times he had forgotten what he had lied about and broken his own rules on multiple occasions, he begged. After all, he had lied in good faith because he had really, really believed his own lies. Honest. And if we could just ignore the fact he is totally untrustworthy, he would get on with not dealing with the cost of living and energy crisis.

I mean, he’d only been to a party for nine minutes: it’s going down all the time. Before too long he won’t have been to it – so surely that didn’t count. Well, fine. Then what excuses would the Convict come up with when he was penalised in the future for attending those parties that went on for hours and where everyone got thoroughly shitfaced. The other parties that Johnson insisted never took place. Boris shook his head. He would lie about that as and when the need arose.


…& you know what?

…that’s the light relief…because on the one hand you get this

The UN refugee agency has called on the UK government to intervene to stop single British men from being matched up with lone Ukrainian women seeking refuge from war because of fears of sexual exploitation.
Under the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme, British hosts must link up with Ukrainian refugees themselves, leaving tens of thousands of people to resort to unregulated social media groups to connect.
Leading refugee charities raised their concerns about the Homes for Ukraine scheme in a letter to Michael Gove, the minister in charge of the scheme. Louise Calvey, the head of safeguarding at the charity Refugee Action, told the Observer it was at risk of being a “Tinder for sex traffickers”.

One 32-year-old woman from Bakhmut, Ukraine, who has been searching for an appropriate person to match in the UK, wrote that she had received suggestive messages from men on Facebook’s Messenger app. “I was approached by one older guy from London who said that I would have to share a bedroom with him, and was asked if I was OK with that,” she said in an email seen by the Guardian.

The Times reported this week that a journalist posing as a 22-year-old Ukrainian woman from Kyiv found that within minutes of posting a message on the largest Facebook group for UK hosts she was inundated with inappropriate messages.
There is growing public anger over the length of time that Ukrainians are being forced to wait before being given visas from the Home Office amid the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, apologised on Friday for the time it had taken for Ukrainian refugees to arrive in the UK under two visa schemes, after figures showed only 12,000 had so far reached Britain.


…but…turns out priti’s been busy…& decidedly not with finding anyone a safe refuge in a certain green & pleasant land

People seeking asylum in the UK will be flown 4,500 miles to Rwanda as part of a government crackdown on unauthorised migrants to be announced by Boris Johnson.

The prime minister is expected to announce a range of measures including putting the navy in charge of Channel operations from Friday and a new reception centre to hold people attempting to enter the UK to aid ending the practice of housing asylum seekers in hotels.

Priti Patel, the home secretary, travelled to the central African country on Wednesday after finalising a “migration and economic development partnership”.
The deal with Rwanda, which will reportedly cost an initial £120m, follows three years of promises by Patel to outsource asylum processing to third countries and failures to strike deals with Albania and Ghana.
Migrants will reportedly have their asylum claims processed in the east African country and be encouraged to settle there. The Times said the move will apply only male to migrants.

A statement from No 10 said: “The home secretary will set out further details on a world-first migration and economic development partnership signed by the home secretary, Priti Patel, with Rwanda – one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa which is recognised globally for its record on welcoming and integrating migrants.”

According to a 2020 Human Rights Watch report, detainees in the country suffer from arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial facilities.

The government has not yet explained whether any camp at which asylum seekers are interned will be under UK jurisdiction, or how the UK government will seek to oversee the welfare of migrants.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the Rwandan proposal was a “shameful announcement meant to distract from Boris Johnson’s recent law-breaking. “It is an unworkable, unethical and extortionate policy that would cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds during a cost of living crisis and would make it harder not easier to get fast and fair asylum decisions,” she said.


…seriously…even david davis said so…a while back…& he was willing to be the face of brexit negotiations for a while there…for fuck’s sake

…& I’m only half kidding about the feeling-kinda-stabby part…because…well…because a lot of shit, to be honest…but to pick one that’s not new so much as fresh

Between 2014 and 2018, the 25 wealthiest Americans collectively earned $401bn, but paid just $13.6bn – about 3.4% of that – in taxes, according to a bombshell ProPublica investigation into the finances of the wealthiest Americans released on Wednesday.

The investigation is the latest in a series ProPublica started in June 2021 that looks at the tax records of the top 0.001% wealthiest Americans. This installment uses a trove of tax filings from 2013 to 2018 to dive into the wealth of the 400 richest Americans, all of whom earn more than $110m a year. It found that the wealthy benefit from lower tax rates on financial assets and deductions from charitable contributions to keep their taxes low.
Billionaires in tech pay the lowest tax rate, an average of 17% of their income, largely because their wealth comes from such investment income. Bill Gates, whose income from 2013 to 2018 was an average of $2.85bn a year, paid an average effective federal income tax rate of 18.4%. Lauren Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, earned an average of $1.57bn and paid an average tax rate of 14.8%. Ten of the top 15 earners on the list are billionaires who made their money in tech.

In comparison, the average single worker earning $45,000 paid an average tax rate of 21%. A married couple with one child who earns $200,000 paid a rate of 26%. In 2018, the highest top rate on ordinary income, which excludes investments, was 37%, yet the average tax rate for the 400 wealthiest Americans was 22% from 2013 to 2018.
Along with getting taxed at a lower rate through having an investment income, the wealthiest Americans can also write off huge chunks of their income by deducting large charitable donations. Michael Bloomberg, who earned an average of $2.05bn a year from 2013 to 2018, had 66% of his income deducted, giving him one of the lowest tax rates of the group – 4.1%.

ProPublica noted that when reached for comments, no one named in the story disputed figures reported in the investigation, and few provided responses. One spokesperson for Ken Griffin, chief executive of hedge fund company Citadel, said that the IRS data “significantly understate[s]” what Griffin pays because the rate was lowered by charitable contributions and does not include local and state taxes. A spokesperson for Mark Zuckerberg said, “Mark has always paid the taxes he is required to pay”, while a spokesperson for Bloomberg similarly said that he “pays the minimum tax rate on all federal, state, local and international taxable income as prescribed by law”.


…so…yeah…today isn’t coming across as a “looking up” kind of a day to be honest…but…for what it’s worth…I did see this…which is certainly trying for an optimistic interpretation

For the first time the world is in a position to limit global heating to under 2C, according to the first in-depth analysis of the net zero pledges made by nations at the UN Cop26 climate summit in December.

Before these pledges it was more than likely that at the peak of the climate crisis there would be a temperature rise above 2C, bringing more severe impacts for billions of people. Now it is more likely that the peak temperature rise will be about 1.9C.

However, the researchers said this depended on all nations implementing their pledges on time and in full, and warned that the policies to do so were not in place. The pledges also include those that developing countries have said will not happen without more financial and technical support.

Achieving the pledges needed for the 2C limit was a “historic milestone” and good news, the scientists said. However, they said the bad news was that the cuts in global emissions currently planned by 2030 were way off track to keep the peak below 1.5C. That is the global goal, but currently there is less than a 10% chance of hitting that target.
The new analysis, published in the journal Nature, is the first peer-reviewed study to assess the peak temperature rise that would result from countries fulfilling their pledges. It used two independent modelling approaches, one of which assessed more than 1,400 different scenarios and included recent pledges on shipping and aviation emissions.
The climate policies actually in place today would mean a peak of about 2.6C, leading to “massive climate damages around the world”, said McGlade. The commitments made by countries so far up to 2030 only cut that peak to 2.4C. The IPCC has said that limiting heating to 1.5C requires reducing CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010.

But emissions were on track to rise by 7-15% by 2030, a “sobering assessment”, the scientists said, with any delay in action putting 1.5C “out of reach”. If the world does overshoot this target, then ensuring a “livable future” would rely on a massive rollout of technology that can suck CO2 from the air, as well as large-scale reforestation.
Moore and Hausfather also warned of the danger of geopolitical tensions, including Russia’s war in Ukraine: “It would be a mistake to rule out a future characterised by resurgent nationalism that strains global cooperation and leads to increasing reliance on domestic fossil-fuel resources and a corresponding rise in emissions.”

“Policymakers are standing at a crossroads,” said McGlade. “We can choose to lock in emissions and deepen the energy crisis. Or we can use this moment to take an honest step towards a cleaner, safer future.”


…yeah…I know…in terms of optimism that might be scraping the barrel…but seriously…every time you think something might be pointed in a direction with the potential for some cheer

Billionaire Elon Musk is facing a lawsuit following a week of headlines created by his purchase of 9.2 percent of Twitter’s stock. An investor sued Musk on Tuesday and proposed a class-action lawsuit against him for not disclosing his purchase to the Securities and Exchange Commission sooner.
Musk disclosed in an SEC filing on April 4 that he had bought shares representing 9.2 percent of Twitter, making him the largest outside shareholder of the company’s stock. The share price rose more than 27 percent after the news.

Rasella said in the lawsuit that Musk had an obligation mandated by the SEC to disclose his stake within 10 days of passing a 5 percent ownership threshold, a deadline that would have been March 24.
The lawsuit did not ask for a specified amount in damages, but it said Musk saved about $143 million by filing his form after the SEC deadline and purchasing shares in the meantime.


…you just know that isn’t going to be the story of the day

The tech billionaire Elon Musk has offered to buy Twitter for $41.4bn.

A regulatory filing showed on Thursday that Musk was offering $54.20 a share – a 38% premium to the closing price of Twitter’s stock on 1 April, the last trading day before the Tesla chief executives investment of more than 9% in the company was publicly announced.

Elon Musk offers to buy Twitter for $41.4bn [Guardian]

…sadly…no…but on the upside at least this post is…barring the part where I come back with some tunes?



    • …don’t know quite why but that shows up on my screen as unavailable…so I think it’s the same as this…which I’m hoping might get around the unavailable thing?

        • …oh, the irony…& also clearly one of the pitfalls of toggling in & out of VPNs & such…I only tried a different one because I thought whatever age-restricted deal borked my effort to embed that english lesson thing in the post was what was screwing that up…pretty sure I posted the same tune by the same people but I guess it didn’t work out quite the way I expected

    • …arguably also a symptom of paying attention…or at least, I’d argue it is

      …but thanks for the link…there’s decent chance I might find that useful if called upon to explain myself

    • Fuck yeah!

      I have one of the foulest mouths at work yet I amaze my coworkers with my ability to speak “professional” and not use even a hint of “fuck” anywhere in my dissertations.

  1. The supermarket stickers remind me of Otto and Elise Hampel, the German couple who placed anti nazi postcards around Berlin during WW2. They were caught and executed for their resistance.


    I know I’ve said this before but Moscow Mitch is responsible for trump receiving the GOP nomination in 2016. He met with Ryan and Pribus and convinced them to go ahead and give trump the nom. Any headaches trump causes him are well deserved. So FUCK him.

    • …true on both counts, I’d say…definitely some parallels with the hampels, sadly…& as for mitch

      …lamentably it seems nigh certain that mitch’s fate will never be as thoroughly miserable as it so abundantly deserves to be?

  2. Of course Putin is not going to wind up in the dock in The Hague. Russia isn’t a member of the ICC. Neither is Belarus. Neither, for that matter, is Ukraine. America isn’t, and neither is China nor Israel. India and Pakistan aren’t. Saudi Arabia isn’t. Iran and Iraq aren’t. Oddly enough Afghanistan is, LOL in the grimmest sense possible. Indonesia is the fourth largest country on earth by population; it has no time for the ICC. The notorious money laundering fronts of Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Monaco are not part of the ICC. Interestingly most of the African states are but the only person ever really wanted for trial by the ICC was the dictator of Sudan for genocide against his own people but, sadly, Sudan is not part of the ICC.

    But rest assured, when Peru commits genocidal acts against Denmark, or vice versa of course, or when a vicious civil war breaks out in Barbados, the ICC will be there to sort things out.

    See what you’ve done RIP: I didn’t wake up nearly as cynical as I am now.

    • …I can only beg forgiveness…&…I guess…throw myself on the mercy of the court

      …although…I feel like that might risk a verdict involving shooting the messenger…so I’d better hope the judge looks kindly on my plight?

  3. That fuck thing is pretty funny.  When my buddy, Skipper Dave, was the contractor on our house remodel my wife made the comment that he was the only person she ever met that could use the word fuck for every word in a sentence.  It was truly an art form to hear him speak but not the best for my toddler daughters to hear on a daily basis.

    Fuck the Russians!


    I just saw Amazon is going to start charging a 5% gas and inflation fee?  Fuck these greedy fuckers and the fuckers sabotaging the economy!


    as a great man once said…


    • Is Skipper Dave a native of the British Isles? The Irish, the English, the Scottish and the Welsh, they are all masters of deploying profanity. They put the average American trucker or sailor to shame.

      • Skipper Dave was a Floridian fisherman that figured out that Hawaii was a better place for him to fish until he figured WA was a better place for him to fish and afford to fish.  His typical sentence went something like “Fuckin fuckah fuckin going get fucked!”

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