…what lies beyond [DOT 5/4/22]

besides more lies...

…some stories endure…probably for a mixture of reasons…but…some are more obvious than others…& I guess my general inability to find much upbeat to help me attenuate the tendency these have to turn out like some sort of litany every time has had a particular one come to mind lately…pandora’s box

The European Union’s normal course of action is to muddle through. But Russia’s war against Ukraine has snapped the 27-member body to attention.

Europe has pulled together — in close coordination with the United States — to unleash sanctions against Russia and to aid Ukraine with lethal weapons. Usual divisions among different groupings, such as the frugal northern states or central European countries once behind the Iron Curtain, are muted for now. Domestically, countries are rapidly reorienting to respond to the crisis. Germany, for example, is embracing hard power after three decades of staying oblivious to threats, while Poland has opened its doors to refugees after previously blocking E.U. requests to accept more refugees.
But confronting attacks from authoritarian powers like Russia in a sustained way will require enduring resolve and better threat perception on the part of Europeans going forward. The E.U. is realizing that when it acts as a bloc, it wields power. To be effective for the long haul, though, European countries must invest in their militaries and cordon off sensitive industries such as energy and technology from Russia, as well as China. The decision to change was the easy part; the harder hurdle will be adopting a strategic mindset and avoiding old habits.
Instead, Germany emphasized economic leadership. But Europe’s largest economy didn’t see the pitfalls associated with establishing commercial links to authoritarian actors. Germany thought its policy of Wandel durch Handel (change through trade) was a means of deterring conflict — an idea now embarrassingly debunked with Moscow’s wanton aggression. Ironically, Germany’s deals for the Nord Stream Russia-to-Germany gas pipelines, which raised red flags from allies, didn’t change Putin but made Germany more energy dependent on Russia. Today 55 percent of Germany’s natural gas imports come from Russia.

But will Germany, usually comfortable with the status quo, stick to a path of change? Fearful of damaging its own economy, Germany is still putting the brakes on an E.U. energy embargo, championed by the U.S., to weaken Russia. This ambivalence over whether to fully cut off Russian energy is also on display in Italy and other European countries that pay Russian energy suppliers close to one billion euros a day.
Yet fear of Russian hostility has changed this attitude, at last in the short term. The war has spurred a rush to honor pledges, with Denmark, Belgium, Romania and several other states lining up alongside Germany to increase defense spending. Meanwhile, Finland and Sweden, long nonaligned militarily, are contemplating NATO membership. In the past they were wary of antagonizing their neighbor Russia, but they look at Ukraine’s plight and see NATO as an insurance policy. Some 62 percent of Finns now favor NATO membership, according to Finnish broadcaster Yle, which said it was the first time the idea has had majority support.

Europe clearly wants to turn the page on past blind spots. Building up military capabilities and isolating Russia are on the agenda, but this could still be stalled by politicians’ fears over how voters will react when they realize the costs. European leaders must prepare their citizens for volatility and instill a culture of resilience for the sake of regaining long-term stability.

Europe must continue filling military voids and stop being dependent on autocratic actors.


…now…as maybe you’d expect with something that went with a headline about europe “sort of” (re)discovering a backbone…which it largely equated to similarly (re)discovering a focus on increased military spending…& made a point to move past russia & on to china before it wrapped up…it’s not hard to see how that sort of thing might track with pandora’s box pretty easily…too easily for comfort, to be honest…which is why once again I aim to largely skip directly linking to some of the widely available imagery of the remains of the day

The atrocities in Bucha were no aberration. There is ample evidence of other war crimes by Russian troops across Ukraine. Human Rights Watch has documented Russian troops committing rape, summary execution and looting.
This, sadly, is the Russian way of war. It is how Putin’s forces fought in Chechnya and Syria — and before that, how Soviet forces fought in Afghanistan and in central Europe during World War II. They commit war crimes to terrorize the population into surrender. But it hasn’t worked in Ukraine. Russia’s savagery has simply caused the Ukrainians to resist all the harder because they know they are fighting not just for their freedom but for their very survival.
How will this war end? No one can yet say. The Ukrainians are rightly enraged by Russian atrocities and will be less likely to make territorial compromises with the invaders, knowing that to do so would be to consign their fellow citizens to a Stalinist hell. But as a former Putin adviser says, “Russia cannot afford to ‘lose,’ so we need a kind of a victory.”


…but it is hard to overstate the degree to which even in a world with a post-MAGA baseline that’s lowered the bar by an anti-vax coefficient & been compounded by a firehose of mendacity in defense of a multiplicty of bankruptcies that run the gamut from financial through legal all the way to moral & ethical…the bald-faced lie that’s accompanied the news out of bucha is not only galling (…random fact…in addition to meaning an exasperated kind of annoyance galling is also a term for a particular kind of stress that’s apparently “a good measure of wear resistance of a given material pair“…like…say…truth & reality)

Joe Biden has called for the prosecution of Vladimir Putin for war crimes after the discovery in Bucha, Ukraine, of mass graves and bodies of bound civilians shot at close range. But bringing the Russian president to trial would be far from simple.
The ICC opened 20 years ago to prosecute the perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity. But the US, China, Russia and Ukraine are not members of the court, which has been criticised for focusing too heavily on Africa and applying “selective justice”.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in February he had opened a war crimes investigation in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although it is not a signatory, Ukraine previously approved an investigation dating back to 2013, which includes Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

The ICC will issue arrest warrants if prosecutors can show “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes were committed. But there is little chance that Russia would comply and the ICC cannot try someone in absentia. The US’s unwillingness to join the court is also diplomatically awkward and likely to prompt cries of western hypocrisy.

Donald Trump once told the UN general assembly: “As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.” His administration announced that the US would impose visa bans on ICC officials involved in the court’s potential investigation of Americans for alleged crimes in Afghanistan.


but frankly harrowing (that’s just a link to the etymology rather than the stuff that brought the term to mind…but if you’d rather opt for a more poetic reference…I wouldn’t say I’m surprised to see people breaking out the wilfred owen)

As horrifying evidence of the execution of civilians emerged from the Ukrainian town of Bucha and elsewhere at the weekend, the Russian government took a familiar tack: deny, deny, deny.

No matter that some of the explanations were contradictory, with state television amplifying claims that the images of dead civilians in Bucha were both staged and that the civilians had been killed by Ukrainians themselves.

In recent years, the Russian government has developed a familiar playbook in response to allegations of bombing runs in Syria, the downing of the MH17 airliner in east Ukraine, the Salisbury poisonings or acts of violence targeting Chechen civilians during the conflicts there in the 1990s and 2000s.

“I think it’s similar to what it was in connection to shocking reports from Aleppo or Idlib – meaning that state-sponsored media is always ready to deny war crimes allegations as ‘fakes’,” said Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch.

“But until recently, the country had a few independent media left and now it’s practically none.”

The aggressive debunking of “fakes” has become a key component of Russia’s propaganda war in Ukraine.

On Monday, the government said it would begin an investigation into the events in Bucha – not for the alleged war crimes that took place as more than 280 people were killed in the small town, but into the distribution of “fakes” for discrediting the Russian army.

And government agencies and television hosts have got to work pointing fingers in every direction – except for at the Kremlin.

The quick denials and alternative theories resemble those of a crisis PR agency. Speed and shamelessness are prized above all else.
But with the advent of the internet, and the availability of news on Telegram channels, pretending nothing has happened has become more difficult.

And in that case it is important to muddy the waters as quickly as possible, even if the result is somehow incoherent.
“The perjury spread by the Ukrainian side is another provocation, a cynical lie and is aimed at discrediting the Russian army in the conditions of the information and propaganda war unleashed by the west,” said the Russian general prosecutor. “The circumstances of the creation and public dissemination of this deliberately false information under the guise of reliable reports will be established, and they will certainly be given an appropriate criminal legal assessment.”


…that shit is fucking orwellian

Sometimes a war crime is so egregious, and so fully reported, that it cannot but stir the conscience of the west. The My Lai massacre in 1968, Srebrenica in 1995, the British suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, the Rwanda genocide of 1994, the Disappeared of Argentina under the junta in the 1980s or even the dispatches about bodies piled high in Bulgarian town squares by the US war reporter Januarius MacGahan in 1876 were all moments when the defence of ignorance has to be abandoned.

Even then the truth is more complicated and the west did not always act. Bill Clinton regretted he did not respond to the murders of Tutsis in 1994, saying he did not “fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which [Rwandans] were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror”. Srebrenica was arguably only the culmination of ethnic cleansing that had been going on for three years. My Lai, revealed two years after the event, only provided further momentum to a pre-existing US anti-war movement. The scale of the British repression of the Mau Mau rebellion was only truly documented decades afterwards by a Harvard historian Caroline Elkins in her book Britain’s Gulag.

So it is not a foregone conclusion that the pictures of Ukrainian civilians murdered with their hands tied will lead to towns such as Bucha becoming a spur for action when Nato and G7 ministers meet this week in Belgium. Measures such as suspension of Russia from the UN human rights council may have some symbolic value, but the big test is further European economic sanctions that may not just hit Russia but also the EU.

Russia is clearly nervous, drawing upon its Syrian playbook to claim the bodies strewn in the streets were part of an inside job staged by Ukrainian defence forces for consumption by gullible western reporters. Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky claimed: “Today’s Ukrainian neo-Nazis are fully respecting the old Goebbels Nazi provocation school and trying to shift the blame on Russia.”
In an opening salvo, Zelenskiy invited the two architects of the now defunct 2014-15 Minsk peace process – Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy – to come to Bucha to see how the road to appeasement turns into this horrific cul-de-sac.
The chief executive of Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, was the latest to warn about the consequences if Russian energy supplies were cut off. Already grappling with soaring inflation, Sewing said Germany would face “a further deterioration of the situation” if imports or deliveries of Russian oil and natural gas were stopped. “A clear recession in Germany would presumably be inevitable.” The chief executive of the chemical group BASF, Martin Brudermüller, pointed out that Russia provided 55% of German natural gas consumed, and 35% of its oil. “Do we want to destroy our entire economy with our eyes wide open?”

That view is reluctantly echoed by the economic affairs minister, Robert Habeck, who warns that an immediate import ban would lead to “supply bottlenecks next winter, economic slumps, high inflation and hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs”. The best he could offer was independence from Russian coal by the autumn and near independence from oil by the end of the year. He could set no date for gas.

The danger is the debate in Germany is becoming very polarised and entrenched. Ben Moll, an LSE professor and the informal head of the group that produced the modelling, is now suggesting a compromise: an embargo on oil and a tax on gas, with measures to cushion the blow for the poorest.

Virtually anything, he says, is better than Germany’s lack of response.


…& I don’t mind admitting that I’d feel a damn sight better were parallels with orwell absent from the news of the day

By the spring of 2016, Fox was becoming less important than Breitbart, an extreme-right website which researchers at Harvard and MIT declared the new anchor of a “rightwing media network”. It was Steve Bannon of Breitbart who “armed Trump with something like a cohesive political platform … built on anti-immigrant, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, and anti-liberal politics – the same agenda Breitbart.com was promoting”.
Eventually, just about everyone on the right became a Trump disciple. Glenn Beck compared him to Hitler in 2016. By 2018, Beck was wearing a red Make America Great Again hat, though he blamed the media’s “Trump Derangement Syndrome” for “forcing him to become a Trump supporter”. As a former rightwing radio host, Charlie Sykes, explained: “There’s really not a business model for conservative media to be anti-Trump.”

A Brown historian, Bathsheba Demuth, demonstrates that Trump was also a perfect fit for a party that endorsed a propaganda initiative of the American Petroleum Institute that portrayed environmental protection as “a dangerous slide toward communist authoritarianism”. Among loyal constituents were evangelicals, who either saw human dominion over nature as “a doctrinal requirement” or just thought the whole debate was irrelevant because of “Christ’s imminent resurrection”.
Margaret O’Mara, of the University of Washington, describes big tech’s key role in our national meltdown. She reminds us of a key, mostly forgotten moment 10 years ago, when “Google and Facebook successfully petitioned the Federal Election Commission for exemptions from disclaimer requirements” that required political ads to say who paid for them and who was responsible for their messages.

The companies argued the requirements would “undermine other, much larger parts of their businesses”. Disastrously, the FEC went along with that pathetic argument.[…]

The last chapter focuses on the two failed attempts to convict Trump in impeachment trials. Those outcomes may be Trump’s worst legacy of all. Gregory Downs, from the University of California, Davis, writes that the failures to convict “in the face of incontrovertible proof” may convince all Trump’s successors “that they have almost complete impunity as long as they retain the support of their base, no matter what the constitution says”.


The JP Morgan chief executive, Jamie Dimon, has warned that the US bank could lose up to $1bn (£763m) from its exposure to Russia, as he called on the US government to deploy more troops, restructure supply chains and launch a new “Marshall plan” to ensure energy supply in response to the war in Ukraine.

In his widely read annual letter to investors, Dimon urged Joe Biden’s administration to take a stronger stance against the “grave new geopolitical realities” emerging after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying it was up to democratic nations to take a stand “against all forms of evil”.
However, Dimon said the war’s wider impact, including the “potential restructuring of the global order – is far more important”.
Dimon urged the US to develop a Marshall plan that would reduce the west’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels – referring to Harry Truman’s 1948 aid programme that helped western Europe recover from the second world war. “Our European allies, who are highly dependent on Russian energy, require our help,” he said.

“As we are seeing – and know from past experience – oil and gas supply can be easily disrupted, either physically or by additional sanctions, significantly impacting energy prices. National security demands energy security for ourselves and for our allies overseas,” he said.
The banking chief added that the US response should also involve a larger US military budget and deploying more troops to Nato’s borders “as appropriate”, adding that the US government should pledge billions of dollars to rebuild Ukraine and support migrants in Europe.
JP Morgan’s analysts already predict that the euro area’s GDP will grow by roughly 2% in 2022, instead of the 4.5% expected before the invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, the US is only expected to experience GDP growth of 2.5% compared with previous estimates of 3% for 2022.

He added that the US should restructure its supply chains and make sure it no longer relied on countries with “different strategic interests” to provide materials deemed crucial for national security, like rare earths or semiconductors. Instead, the US should only rely on domestic firms or “completely friendly allies” for key goods and services.

“We cannot and should not ever be reliant on processes that can and will be used against us, especially when we are most vulnerable,” Dimon said.


…so…not to ladle on the reasons for paranoia

A review of the myriad ways tech companies share consumer data with law enforcement agencies reveals that it’s often fairly straightforward for such bodies to get their hands on consumer data. “[Your data is] pretty much all available to the government in one form or another,” said Jennifer Lynch, the surveillance litigation director at the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“One of the real challenges with technology these days is that it is next to impossible to figure out exactly all the data that companies are collecting on us and to exert any kind of control over what happens to that data,” added Lynch.

An emergency legal request, like the one the hackers forged, for instance, doesn’t require a subpoena or warrant, unlike many other legal requests. It’s supposed to be reserved for exceptional situations: Apple considers legal requests an “emergency” if “it relates to circumstance(s) involving imminent and serious threat(s) to: 1) the life/safety of individual(s); 2) the security of a State; 3) the security of critical infrastructure/installation”. But, as the hackers have shown, it can be easily exploited.

Apple and Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

Here are some of the main ways law enforcement can get hold of your data.


…or lean too hard on that orwellian angle

Elon Musk became the largest shareholder of Twitter on Monday, setting the platform up for a potential political showdown over its efforts to limit harmful content, efforts the firebrand Tesla chief executive has indicated that he sees hastening a turn toward censorship.

His surprise investment, which comes days after questioning the company’s commitment to free speech and suggesting he might start his own social platform, sent Twitter stock soaring. While it was not immediately clear what role Musk plans to play, analysts speculated he may try for an activist restructuring that could change the way Twitter polices its platform as well as who it banishes.

Some inside Twitter worry Musk may push Twitter in a libertarian direction, away from blocking or restricting accounts that cause social harm, according to people familiar with internal conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

Just days after Twitter banned former president Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, Musk wrote on Twitter that “a lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

Some Twitter employees and experts fear Musk’s involvement could also push the company further into chaos after years of investor activism and the sudden departure of former chief executive Jack Dorsey. The company is already at a critical juncture ahead of the 2022 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress, when it will have to police related misinformation that could help sway votes.

…not least since in addition to other sorts of meta-commentary…I probably could have written a whole essay around the many, many ways in which the slap/”keep x name outta your mouth” combo that’s doing the rounds could be deservingly applied to elon’s citing of iain m banks’ envisioned Culture…& in fact I can just about guarantee that if myo has time to read this today I’ll be reminded that some might argue it could have been a better use of my time than this…since to be honest even people who’ve been paid to do that kind of thing seem oddly determined to grievously misread what it seems likely the man intended people to take from the treatment he gave various concepts in his science fiction

Musk has a 9.2 percent stake in the social media company, which was disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing and sent shares up 27 percent. His stake, worth nearly $2.9 billion based on the closing price of Twitter on Monday, now dwarfs that of Dorsey, who owns a 2.3 percent stake. Musk tweeted, “Oh hi lol,” greeting users of the social media app where he makes many of his most erratic pronouncements, including news about Tesla, where he heads the company. Musk seemed to realize the potential of his influence almost immediately. By Monday evening, he launched a Twitter poll asking users whether they would like an edit button — a longtime bone of contention among users and the app’s leadership.

…& though we all know only too well how much appeal an edit function has…anyone who spent enough time seeing the uses it could be put to in bad faith by a certain stripe of bad faith posters in the kinja comments would be hard-pressed to deny that the ground between relief from typos & maliciously curated “discourse” is deceptively easy to cover

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. The company does not typically respond to media requests after disbanding its public relations team in 2020. Twitter declined to answer questions about Musk. He did not respond to a request for comment.

…& appearances, as the saying goes…can be deceptive

“He’s kind of coming in friendly right now,” said Gene Munster, managing partner of former Tesla investor Loup Ventures. “He’s the most famous person in the world and he has pretty loyal fans. There’s some unique things that only he can do as a shareholder-activist.”

Musk’s views on free speech have the support of many conservatives and Trump fans, some of whom praised his new investment on Monday. “Now that @elonmusk is Twitter’s largest shareholder, he should demand the end of political censorship, company-wide reform, and the reinstatement of President Trump,” tweeted Monica Crowley, former assistant secretary of public affairs at the Treasury Department under Trump.
On internal Twitter message boards, some employees decried Musk as unstable, referencing his tweets and his conflicts with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Some discussed organizing a protest, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Musk recently accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of trying to “chill his exercise of First Amendment rights” while asking a judge to throw out a 2018 settlement agreement governing his tweets, alleging he felt boxed in by multiple sources of pressure at the time and he entered into it to protect Tesla shareholders.
At the time, Musk said the $20 million weed joke was “worth it.” Back then, he had 22 million followers, a fraction of what he has on Twitter today.


…so…it’s hardly heartening to know that if you’re looking for autocrats & starting in russia you don’t have to go nearly as far as china


…I mean

“It’s one minute to midnight,” Valls wrote in a column backing Macron in Le Journal du Dimanche a week before the first round of voting next Sunday. “Marine Le Pen could be elected president of the republic.”

Macron told supporters at a rally on Saturday not to sit back and believe the opinion polls that suggest he will beat Le Pen, albeit by a much narrower margin than his 32-percentage point victory five years ago. “The extremist danger today is even greater than it was a few months ago, a few years ago,” he said.

Over the past week, a lacklustre election campaign overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been electrified by hopes on the extreme right — and fears in the centre — that France might become the next western democracy to fall under the sway of a populist leader who is sceptical about Nato and the EU, protectionist on the economy and in favour of strict controls on non-European migrants.
“The risk of a Le Pen victory is significantly higher than in 2017 . . . I don’t understand why people are not more afraid,” said Anne-Laure Delatte, an economics professor at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), who supports far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, currently in third place in the polls. “What is shocking to me is that many in France seem to be ignoring the risks.”

Several reasons highlight Le Pen’s recent rise. Political commentators say she has led a good campaign, generally playing down her links with Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, and focusing more on the cost of living, rather than on immigration or culture war issues, just as the price of fuel and other products has risen sharply as a result of the Ukraine war.
The combination of Le Pen’s newfound acceptability and widespread dislike of Macron as an incumbent portrayed by opponents as a “president of the rich” increases the chances that the “republican front”, the traditional bulwark against the far right in the second round, could fail in this election.

…I don’t think that’s the kind of thing it makes sense to feel comfortable about…but…at the risk of winding up looking dumb in hindsight…I’m going to try to draw attention at this point to the part where the french have a history of being quite good at a certain sort of protest vote for a while…in the sense that le pen making it to the run-off portion of the race has to some extent served as a method of putting the establishment on notice that the part of the populace that, for example, produces the gilets jaunes…or underlies the pattern of spontaneous combustion in some banlieues…is very much still out there…before voting for not-the-right-wing-nightmare-candidate in the final round by a comfortable margin…though I’ll grant you it’s not the most robust example of a hope to have left in the box

With his lead narrowing, Macron is expected to spend the home stretch seeking to mobilise his base after a muted campaign. But if Le Pen does win, it would be a political earthquake for France and Europe. A report by the left-leaning Jean Jaurès Foundation said that although Le Pen’s communication style was now “much smoother”, her programme was “just as radical as before” especially on immigration and cultural issues.

She wants to make big changes to the constitution that would allow much tighter border controls and establish a so-called “national preference” that would allow her government to favour French people over immigrants, even those legally in France. Le Pen also wants to ban Muslim women from wearing the veil in public places.

Le Pen has abandoned her unpopular plans to exit the euro and the EU, but her manifesto shows she would challenge the EU from within, such as by reimposing border checks and championing the primacy of French law.

“It won’t be easy for her to get elected, but she can get a much better score than in 2017 and that’s already a problem,” political analyst Dominique Reynié told the Anglo-American Press Association of Paris. “We are still in the international populist wave.”

Rising Marine Le Pen energises final stretch of France’s presidential campaign [FT]

…but…we make do with what we have

In a sign of the shifting fortunes amid unprecedented news events, Rupert Murdoch’s Times and Sunday Times last week reported a doubling of operating profits to their highest level since 1990 and the Sun, a one-time cash cow turned high-profile casualty of the digital age, is within £1m of returning to operating profit for the first time in a decade.

The papers’ parent company, News Corporation, where executives have seen the market value double to $13bn (£9.9bn) since 2019, is the latest to reveal the significant financial boost thanks to news-hungry readers seeking trusted media outlets during uncertain times in record numbers. Other major news organisations are also enjoying a revival in fortunes.

…even when the bar is low enough that murdoch’s enterprise gets a mention in a discussion about “trusted media outlets”…being as how his efforts make the NYT look like an unimpeachable example of a press with a fully-functional moral compass

“One of the knock-on effects of such an extraordinary news run is that it has given confidence back to the news industry that it has a role, a purpose and a community of people prepared to value it,” said Douglas McCabe, the chief executive of the research consultancy Enders Analysis. “Every conversation used to be about the battle with Google, but now heads are up. For the first time executives can see, imagine, and picture an online future.”

Despite this, Google and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, remain fearsome competitors for ad spend. In 2022, the Silicon Valley giants will make more than £16bn in ad revenues in the UK, as much as 63% of the total market, according to eMarketer. Meanwhile, the UK national and newspaper digital and print ad market will be worth £1.5bn, according to WPP’s GroupM.
The European Union is pushing ahead with the Digital Markets Act and the UK’s competition regulator is setting up a digital markets unit, both of which are designed to crack down on the big tech firms and ensure fairer trading.

…though the DMA & it’s companion piece the DSA are themselves not without potential pitfalls

“While there will be businesses that either exit, shrink or reduce frequency of publication – there are a lot of weak players in general – there are those in a strong position that are going to do OK,” said Brian Wieser, the global president for business intelligence at GroupM. “The real trend that’s played out is those media owners that have benefited are more global, while the majority are tied to one market. It is better to be global than national, and national than local. Generally, strong publishers are coming out the other side, while the weaker continue to go.”

…but while the tools remain imperfect

“That digital is exceeding print is a positive not a negative for newspapers,” said Carter, who believed a platform for the future was now there for newspapers. “It is a sign of success in businesses that we know we are all transitioning. There is a rebalancing back towards quality, context and data – we have those at scale in newspapers.” But, he added: “Are we saved? I wouldn’t say any of us are completely out of the woods yet.”


…I’d argue that making do still strikes me as better than the alternative

In recent years, the internet has become the venue for a general collapse in trust. Trolling, fake news and “doing your own research” have become such a part of public discourse, it’s sometimes easy to imagine that all the online revolution has brought us is a myriad of new ways to be confused about the world.
The same kinds of “counterfactual communities” arise around any topic that attracts enough general interest. I’ve witnessed this myself over the past decade while looking into war crimes in Syria, Covid-19 disinformation and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Why do counterfactual communities form? A key factor is distrust in mainstream authority. For some, this is partly a reaction to the UK and US government’s fabrications in the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Sometimes, it stems from a sense of injustice around the Israel-Palestine conflict. These are of course legitimate positions, and are not by themselves indicative of a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories. But a pervasive sense of distrust can make you more vulnerable to slipping down the rabbit hole.

One way of looking at this is that government deception or hypocrisy has caused a form of moral injury. As with the proverb “once bitten, twice shy”, that injury can result in a kneejerk rejection of anyone perceived as being on the side of the establishment.

…so before you berate yourself…or indeed me…for yet more of what is easily dismissed as doomscrolling…spare a thought for this part

I would go as far as to say that internet users who are heavily engaged with particular topics are our strongest defence against disinformation. At Bellingcat, a collective of researchers, investigators and citizen journalists I founded in 2014, we’ve seen this play out in real time during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Our investigation of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine helped create a community focused on the conflict there that uses open source techniques to examine, verify and debunk a myriad of information. In the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion, members started gathering videos and photographs of Russian troop movements that forewarned of the planned attack, and proactively debunked disinformation being spread by separatists, including a supposed IED attack posed with bodies that were shown to have already been autopsied before they arrived at the scene.

…after all… the observer effect isn’t only about quantum physics

But how do you grow and nurture what are essentially decentralised, self-organised, ad hoc groups like this? Our approach has been to engage with them, creating links from their useful social media posts to our publications (all thoroughly factchecked by our team), and crediting them for their efforts. We also create guides and case studies so that anyone who is inspired to give it a go themselves has the opportunity to learn how to do it.

But there’s more to do than simply waiting for crowds of investigators to emerge and hoping they’re interested in the same things we are. We must take a broader approach. The answer lies in creating a society that’s not only resilient against disinformation, but has the tools to actively contribute to efforts towards transparency and accountability. For example, digital media literacy charity The Student View has been going into schools and showing 16- to 18-year-olds how to use investigation techniques to look into issues affecting them. In one case, students in Bradford used freedom of information requests to uncover the unusually large number of high speed police chases in their areas.

Teaching young people how to engage positively with issues they face and then expanding this work into online investigation is not only empowering, it gives them skills they can use throughout their lives. This is not about turning every 16- to 18-year-old into a journalist, police officer, or human rights investigator, but giving them tools they can use to contribute, in however small a way, to the fight against disinformation. In their home towns, in conflicts such as Ukraine, and in the wider world – they really can make a difference.


…& unfair as it might be…not all observers are equal

Joe Biden called Rupert Murdoch “the most dangerous man in the world”, according to a forthcoming book.
According to Burns and Martin, Biden “assessed” Murdoch to be “one of the most destructive forces in the United States”.


…& though there are obvious reasons why it’s hard to tear your gaze away from ukraine’s claim to be the crisis with the most immediate claim to urgency…well…there’s kind of a “but”

Scientists fear that their last-ditch climate warnings are going unheeded amid international turmoil caused by the war in Ukraine, and soaring energy prices.

The third segment of the landmark scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – which could be the last comprehensive assessment of climate science to be published while there is still time to avoid the worst ravages of climate breakdown – […] published on Monday, warning that the world is not shifting quickly enough to a low-carbon economy.
Deborah Brosnan, adjunct professor of biology at Virginia Tech University in the US and a scientific consultant, told the Observer: “That [working group 2] report was widely anticipated, but completely ignored. Eclipsed mostly by the war in Ukraine, and domestic issues such as inflation, most major media have barely reported let alone analysed the findings.”
Daniela Schmidt, professor at Bristol University and one of the lead authors of the working group 2 report, said the world’s current upheavals show how vulnerable we are to the impacts of the climate crisis, already being felt. Policymakers should consider where their resources are allocated, she advised. “Due to the geopolitical challenges, little political capacity is spent on climate action, and vast amounts of funding are allocated to defence,” she told the Observer.

“[But] the current situation also clearly shows people’s widespread vulnerability to climate change.”
These messages are subject to intense wrangling by both scientists and governments. Under the IPCC methods, all governments have the right to make changes to the final summary – and some are exercising those rights by toning down findings and vetoing some of the strongest statements.

Saudi Arabia, India, China and a few other countries have sought to make changes that would weaken the final warnings, the Observer understands. Some governments are anxious to avoid policy advice such as cutting subsidies to fossil fuels, even though these are widely espoused by leading authorities. This process of refinement – which has also been a complaint in the previous chapters of the IPCC assessment – is defended by some, as producing a document that all governments must “own”, as they have all had input. But many scientists are growing increasingly frustrated, as it produces a conservative and sometimes watered down document that many feel does not reflect the urgency and shocking nature of the threat.


…yup…I’m back to that maudlin chorus line

Why are the three IPCC working group reports significant? [Guardian]

It’s over for fossil fuels: IPCC spells out what’s needed to avert climate disaster [Guardian]

IPCC report: ‘now or never’ if world is to stave off climate disaster [Guardian]

5 Takeaways From the U.N. Report on Limiting Global Warming [NYT]

…but I’m hoping you might bear in mind that sometimes…where there’s a goliath…there can be a david

It was a momentous moment — not only had Amazon workers voted to join a union but they also voted to join the independent effort organized by Smalls. The Amazon Labor Union, which Smalls formed after he was fired from the company, is not backed by any national union with a depth of resources and connections. Instead, it’s made up almost entirely of current and former Amazon workers with an upstart mentality and an inside view into how Amazon operates.
Smalls, who lives in Newark, felt as though Amazon was not taking precautions to keep his co-workers safe as the coronavirus rampaged through New York. Amazon fired him that day, claiming that he was violating social distancing rules.

Since then, Smalls has become one of the most vocal advocates for Amazon workers’ rights — and a thorn in the side of the massive e-commerce company.
“It’s really a jaw-dropping result,” said John Logan, chair of the labor and employment studies department at San Francisco State University. “There really is no bigger prize for unions than winning at Amazon, and the fact that no one thought the ALU had a chance really makes it even more incredible.”
In 2020, Amazon’s top legal executive suggested the company’s senior leaders fend off workplace safety criticism by trying to turn the focus on Smalls.

“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky wrote in an email. In a statement at the time, Zapolsky called his comments in the leaked email “personal and emotional.”


…so…while it’s hard not to hear some dustbowl-sounding echoes in a bunch of this

Many people have a rather simplistic view of drought as a lack of rain and snow. That’s accurate — to an extent. What it doesn’t account for is human activity and climate change that are now dramatically affecting the available water and its management. As more frequent and large wildfires and extended dry periods batter the land, our most important tools for managing water are becoming less and less accurate. At the same time, our reliance on these models to try to make the most of the little water we have is becoming more and more problematic.

Droughts may last for several years or even over a decade, with varying degrees of severity. During these types of extended droughts, soil can become so dry that it soaks up all new water, which reduces runoff to streams and reservoirs. Soil can also become so dry that the surface becomes hard and repels water, which can cause rainwater to pour off the land quickly and cause flooding. This means we no longer can rely on relatively short periods of rain or snow to completely relieve drought conditions the way we did with past droughts.

Many storms with near record-breaking amounts of rain or snow would be required in a single year to make a significant dent in drought conditions. October was the second-snowiest and December the snowiest month on record at the snow lab since 1970, thanks to two atmospheric rivers that hit California. But the exceptionally dry November and January to March periods have left us with another year of below-average snowpack, rain and runoff conditions.

This type of feast-or-famine winter with big storms and long, severe dry periods is expected to increase as climate change continues. As a result, we’ll need multiple above-average rain and snow years to make up the difference rather than consecutive large events in a single year.

I’m a Scientist in California. Here’s What Worries Me Most About Drought. [NYT]

…the count isn’t done yet…& there’s still a possibility that we can lever ourselves up off the canvas & at least not lose that particular fight?

But the task is daunting: Holding warming to just 1.5 degrees Celsius would require nations to collectively reduce their planet-warming emissions roughly 43 percent by 2030 and to stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s, the report found. By contrast, current policies by governments are only expected to reduce global emissions by a few percentage points this decade. Last year, fossil fuel emissions worldwide rebounded to near-record highs after a brief dip as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a climate emergency,” said United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, adding that wealthy economies and corporations “are not just turning a blind eye; they are adding fuel to the flames. They are choking our planet, based on their vested interests and historic investments in fossil fuels, when cheaper, renewable solutions provide green jobs, energy security and greater price stability.”
“Every year that you let pass without going for these urgent emissions reductions makes it more and more difficult,” said Jim Skea, an energy researcher at Imperial College London who helped lead the report, which was compiled by 278 experts from 65 countries. “Unless we really do it immediately, it will not be possible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.”

But even if that goal becomes unattainable, scientists said, it will still be worthwhile for countries to slash emissions as quickly as possible to prevent as much warming as they can. Every additional rise in global temperatures increases the perils that people face around the world, such as water scarcity, malnutrition and life-threatening heat waves, the U.N. panel has found.

“Every fraction of a degree matters,” Dr. Skea said. “Even if we go beyond 1.5, that doesn’t mean we throw up our hands and despair.”
The new report contains glimmers of optimism. Over the past decade, many nations have adopted ambitious climate policies, scaled back plans for new coal plants and used subsidies and regulations to expand renewable energy. Although emissions from fossil fuels are still growing worldwide, the rate of growth slowed in the 2010s, compared with the 2000s, the report said, and humanity now has a much better shot at avoiding some of the worst-case global warming scenarios once widely feared by scientists.
The new report examines dozens of strategies proposed by scientists and energy experts to help nations make the transition.
Even in the best case, humanity is unlikely to eliminate all of its planet warming emissions, the report warned. So countries will likely also have to devise ways to remove billions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by around midcentury. One strategy could be to plant more trees, although that may not be enough, the report cautioned. Other options include devices that suck carbon out of the air, though these technologies are still immature.
And some of the biggest obstacles to climate action are political, not technological. The report notes that “incumbent fossil fuel interests” often work to thwart policies to cut emissions. Organized disinformation campaigns by climate change deniers have, in some places, increased political polarization over the issue. And politicians tend to avoid difficult decisions if the benefits are not felt beyond the current election cycle.
“If technology could solve the problem completely, the problem could have been solved two or three decades ago,” said Wei Shen, a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies, a think tank in Britain, who helped write the report.
In remarks Monday, Mr. Guterres urged people around the world to press for action. “If you live in a big city, a rural area, or a small island state, if you invest in the stock market, if you care about justice, and our children’s future, I am appealing directly to you,” he said. “Demand that renewable energy is introduced now — at speed and at scale. Demand an end to coal-fired power. Demand an end to all fossil fuel subsidies.”

report offers a road map for how countries can limit global warming, but warns that the margin for error is vanishingly small. [NYT]

…& maybe that sounds like a slim hope…but a slim hope is still a hope…& some is still better than none

…which is a sentiment I tend to think extends to producing some tunes about here to make up somewhat for all that tends to go before…so I promise to come back & do something about that in due course



  1. In Germany the bien-pensants are saying this is a Wandelzeit (time of change, or turning point) or a Wandelbruch (a Bruch is a break, so a breaking change or point.) We’ll see, defense/offense-wise. On the home front, time to re-fire-up those recently decommissioned nuclear power plants, and stop relying so much on Russian fossil fuels, maybe.

    • …in terms of a sea-change…at the end of the day I’m of a generation that can’t help some degree of incipient dread accompanying any suggestion of germany getting back on the war-path…but since I’ve been trying pretty hard not to stray into polemic territory when it comes to screaming into the void about ways one might apply concepts like opportunity cost or relative merits or cost/benefit analysis or hierarchies of need to the military-industrial prerogative…I can’t help the part where I’m struck by the part where that breaks down…by way of old french from even older italian…to being about “(the verdict of) the political division which was chosen to vote first in the assembly” while quite deliberately keeping the “before” part ahead of the “ask”…& a fair point by the recently newsworthy chris rock to the effect that “anyone who makes up their mind about an issue before they hear the issue is a fool.”

      …we were talking a bit the other day about the difference the generation gap can have when it comes to perspectives about the future…& I’d have to admit to having had entirely more cause than I’d like to be considering parallels between historical periods bracketed by world wars…which brought me around to the origin of the phrase “lions led by donkeys“…from which by now there must surely be some new riffs available in political cartoonist circles…but for the sake of making some vague stab at including something that might raise a smile there’s a twitter account belonging to a group that took their lead from that more recently?

      • The Germans won postwar Europe in a very bloodless way, by agreeing to go along with this whole €-scheme on the condition that the € essentially be a continent-wide Deutschmark and HQ-ing the European Central Bank not in Brussels but in Frankfurt. Europeans loved the idea of suddenly having a German economy: very low inflation, very stable currency, Wirtschaftwunders for all.

        Sadly, in their enthusiasm, they forgot that every country that adopted the euro was different from Germany in 100 different ways. They weren’t as productive. They weren’t as efficient. They weren’t accustomed to running small budget deficits and showing the occasional budget surplus. They had a habit of devaluing their currencies to make their huge foreign debts easier to pay off (whereas the Deutschmark was sacrosanct.) They didn’t mind inflation whereas the Germans abhorred it.

        Chaos ensued, as many people predicted. All those cheap Mediterranean holidays went away and the failing of the economies, or at least the financial situations, of countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece were thrown into high relief. They got their stable currency all right, but the cost was austerity budgets, sky-high unemployment, and crippling financial obligations to the ECB, which was in effect a branch of the German Central Bank.

        I think it was very unwise for the UK to leave the EU but I also think their hesitancy/refusal to adopt the euro saved them from many more sterling crises, like the one that made George Soros so fantastically wealthy.

  2. The real problem with the Amazon union vote is just starting.  Now they need to agree to a contract…which Amazon absolutely will not do.  They will stall and stall and stall for a year and then–when the sky-high turnover at that warehouse results in most of the “yes” voters having long disappeared–Amazon will push to decertify the union by telling the new workers, “gee, that union hasn’t done shit for you, have they?”  The new workers, of course, will be clueless enough that they will buy this line of bullshit, and that will be that.

    • …a possibility it seems fruitless to deny is not only plausible but very much in line with amazon’s (&/or bezos’) policy towards the whole union bit…but all the same, in keeping with what apparetnly seems to have been the vaguely spurious theme I’ve stumbled into today of leaning into the slim hope on offer…there is the part where the loss of this vote was spoken of in similar terms of certainty not so long ago

      …so I’m opting to spurn the foregone conclusion in favor of not counting those particular chickens until they’ve not only with any luck hatched (given that I believe amazon are at least legally obligated to convene with union reps for talks) but also come home to roost…after all, in the same way that twitter can apparently keep certain sorts of legally-prohibited speech off its platform in germany that it very much does not police in some other markets there are some pre-existing bits of amazon’s workforce in places like europe who would seem to set at least some precedent for the possibility that it’s possible to get to the agreement-with-a-union phase with amazon?

  3. Yep, already seeing a bad, and early, fire season here in the US West. Winter was a joke, so snowpack/water levels are just going to be awful for the rest of the year.

    I mean, this story is from freaking February.

    “We no longer have a fire season — we have a fire year,” Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Fennessy told an Emerald Fire briefing.

    • I saw this when it originally appeared on Raw Story and meant to post it but got sidetracked. I’ve seen anecdotal information about Fox brainwashing (there’s a documentary about it: “The Brainwashing of My Dad”) but this is interesting because it’s an actual study rather than just a one-off.

      It’s pretty easy to see it in action — I’ve got a plethora of relatives who watch Fox slack-jawed and glassy-eyed. I’ve seen other information about deprogramming Fox viewers but again, it’s anecdotal rather than a study.

  4. Putin’s a nasty piece of business but when it comes to the ICC he and Russia are absolutely right — unless U.S. leaders are man enough to face consequences for their decisions, then nobody else should have to. And we all know THAT would never happen.

  5. The other problem with drought/water management is the mentality of “that’s an over there problem” and ignoring that water management is important regardless of drought or flood.

    I can remember 1 summer in St. Louis that we actually were told to conserve water, and even then it was like eh, don’t water your lawn during the hot part of the day, mmkay?

    Except that the entire region (Missouri-Mississippi Rivers Confluence) could use more active water management because of local and downstream flooding. But since we don’t have a drought problem here basically ever, there’s no real discussion on how to use less water/plan things better/etc. And we lack empathy for what other areas have to do for water conservation because there’s always more water here than we need.

    • …I try to avoid repeating the same tunes too frequently…but it’d be fair to say they crop up in my playlist somewhat more frequently than I give in to the temptation to put them in these…still…I have my moments?

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