…whom do you depose? [20/10/22]

& what even is government, really...

…it’s all very well talking about bread & circuses

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of the wheat that Julien Bourgeois grinds for boulangeries at his family’s flour mill in central France has increased more than 30 percent. The bill for the electricity needed to run the mill has tripled. Even the price of paper used for flour sacks has hit the stratosphere.

All of which are driving up the price of a loaf of bread.
“Consumers can afford to pay more for now, but prices will keep rising,” Mr. Bourgeois said. “It’s worrisome.” In France, where baguettes already cost over 8 percent more than they did a year ago, he added, “we remember that the revolution started over the price of bread.”

There are signs that inflation in Europe is getting worse. Data released on Wednesday showed that overall consumer prices rose at a rapid pace in September from a year earlier, climbing nearly 11 percent in the European Union and 10.1 percent in Britain. The cost of food jumped nearly 16 percent in the European Union and more than 14 percent in Britain, while energy prices surged around 40 percent across both places.

As inflation continues to flare, few matters are causing more concern than the cost of a basic loaf. Prices for the most essential food staple have never been higher, and are now up nearly 19 percent from a year ago, the fastest rise on record, according to Eurostat, Europe’s statistics agency.
High consumer prices are a concern in the United States as well. The pace of inflation, near a four-decade high, remains elevated even as the Federal Reserve has tried to cool the economy. Even there, the price of bread has jumped 15 percent from year ago.
When the price of bread rises, people feel it right away. The squeeze has been sharpest in countries nearest to the conflict zone, especially Hungary, where the cost of a basic loaf surged in September by 77 percent from a year ago, according to Eurostat. In Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia, bread prices are up over 30 percent.
Moulin Bourgeois’s production costs have jumped 30 percent in a year. The electricity bill alone will soon rise to €200,000 a month from €50,000 in 2021. Mr. Bourgeois spends countless hours managing the economics of his business, which started as a single water-wheel-powered stone mill set up by his great-grandfather in 1895 and is now an automated operation with 18 silos, across six acres, able to grind 450 tons of wheat a day.

…but things do seem a little restless

The French government is to use special constitutional powers to force through its 2023 budget without a parliamentary vote, sparking accusations of “authoritarianism” from the opposition and underlining President Emmanuel Macron’s weakened domestic position since his centrist grouping lost its absolute majority in elections last spring.
“It is our responsibility to make sure our country has a budget”, the prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, told parliament as she put an end to several days of heated debate over the government’s pro-business budget, which ministers said would protect people from the cost of living crisis while avoiding tax increases.

…weird…feels like I’ve been hearing different riffs on that same pitch from all over…with different levels of probable success…or indeed sense

The standoff was the first real parliamentary headache for Macron since France was plunged into an unprecedented form of political deadlock in June’s parliament elections.

Only weeks after Macron was re-elected for a second term in April, beating the far-right Marine Le Pen, his centrist grouping lost its absolute majority in parliament, falling about 40 seats short of the number required to pass laws.

Le Pen’s National Rally is now the biggest single opposition party in parliament, while the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed is the biggest leftwing party in a broad coalition known as the Nupes, which includes the Socialists and Greens. Along with the rightwing Les Républicains, all opposition groups had announced as early as this summer that they would not vote for the budget, leaving what Macron’s party said was no choice but to use a rare form of constitutional decree to push it through.
But cracks had appeared even within Macron’s centrist grouping over recent days. Jean-Paul Mattei, a lawmaker from the centrist MoDem party, which is allied with Macron, tabled an amendment to introduce a flat tax on corporate “super-dividends” paid out by industrial and energy giants who he said had made huge profits during Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The government dismissed this as unfair as it would penalise French people over those who made profits abroad, and said it went against Macron’s pro-business agenda and promise not to raise taxes. But 19 lawmakers from Macron’s party still voted for it. The amendment will not be taken up by the government.
It also sets the stage for a difficult battle over Macron’s intended pensions overhaul, which would push back the retirement age to 64 or 65. He has said he wants to move fast to introduce pensions changes, but opposition parties are positioned for another parliamentary standoff.

…for his sake I hope he doesn’t get trussed

Downing Street and the Treasury had for days refused to commit to the triple lock, under which the state pension would rise by whichever is the greatest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, amid a review of spending by Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor.

But at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, when the SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, asked her about pension increases, Truss said: “I honestly don’t know what he is talking about because we have been clear in our manifesto that we will maintain the triple lock and I am completely committed to it. So is the chancellor.”

…whatever the deal is…at least we could have a better quality of circus

There had been no cheers to speak of to greet the Leader In Name Only’s arrival. Rather, her own backbenchers had gathered like gawpers at a road traffic accident. Appalled by their own ghoulishness, but not wanting to miss the action. Within minutes we got the first laughs. All it took was for Truss to say she had spent the morning meeting with ministerial colleagues. Something that gets said at every PMQs. Only this time everyone knew she didn’t have any colleagues. Just captors and minders.
Then Keir Starmer stood up to administer further wounds. None fatal. It suits Labour to have an ersatz prime minister who everyone knows is on life support. This was the Labour leader at his most surgical. His most forensic. Good gags, better soundbites. Short and not so sweet. Truss had nothing to say. Other than “sorry”, “I take the tough decisions” – she really doesn’t, the tough decisions are all made on her behalf – and “what has Labour done about the economic crisis?”. Er … a word to the dim. Labour hasn’t been in government for more than 12 years. It didn’t cause the chaos nor is it in a position to do anything about it. Not yet, anyway.

…seriously…I can’t really do justice to the mauling that’s happening even just within the tory party

A crunch Commons vote on the future of fracking has descended into mayhem after more than 40 Conservative MPs failed to back Liz Truss’s government, with MPs alleging ministers physically pulled some wavering Tories into the voting lobbies.

…short version…labour got a vote tabled to ban fracking…which the tories are rather keen on…as of this morning they’re saying it was always a “three-line whip” but the briefings a number of MPs received called it a confidence vote…only for a minister to stand up in parliament on the day & say it wasn’t…causing one of his colleagues to ask for clarification on account of being under the impression that failure to toe the party line & vote down the ban would get her excommunicated from the ranks of the party faithful…& then it got worse

Shortly after the vote, there were reports that the chief whip, Wendy Morton, and her deputy, Craig Whittaker, had lost their jobs. However, Downing Street later cleared up the rumours by saying the pair “remain in post”.

…they still seem to have those posts today…but they were in the box with schrödinger’s cat overnight when nobody seemed to be able confirm who or if such a thing as a tory whip might be…& it might all sound like the proverbial storm in a teacup…but…whatever this is…it doesn’t seem like governing

Tory whips had written to MPs in the morning to warn that the vote was being seen as confidence measure, meaning the government would collapse if it lost and rebels would lose the whip.

However, near the end of the debate, with several MPs saying they would risk losing the whip, the climate minister, Graham Stuart, told the Commons: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.”

Shortly after the vote, the Labour MP Chris Bryant used a point of order to tell the Commons that he saw Tory MPs being “physically manhandled” into the government voting lobby. He asked for a formal investigation.

In the wake of the chaos, Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, was seen trying to calm a group of mostly female MPs who had gathered to discuss what they witnessed. Mordaunt was seen encouraging witnesses to send her evidence or further details on WhatsApp.

One Tory backbencher said it was “the most bullying, screaming and shouting” they had seen in the voting lobbies, with Morton and Whittaker being engaged in a “full-blown shouting match”.

Another said Whittaker had been seen telling colleagues: “I am fucking furious and I don’t give a fuck any more.”

…of course some things can be relied upon

However, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the business and energy secretary, disputed this, pointing to the government’s majority in the vote. He said: “This is a government that is functioning well.”

…which from his inhumane, iniquitous, immoral & as far as anyone can determine quite possibly inhuman perspective is a cunning double-bluff…on the one hand it’s supposed to sound soothing to the brexit-tastic contingent so they don’t neglect their blood pressure & keel over on account of how indignant they are that basically everything they were promised wasn’t part of the reality of brexit in fact is…they rely on that lot to keep voting for them whenever they get around to give them a chance…& it’s not like they’re improving the NHS’s chances of keeping them alive…& as a bonus…if you’re jacob you actually think it’s true

Despite efforts by Rees-Mogg to quell MPs’ fury by setting up a public consultation on fracking, a series of other Tories had told the debate that they were furious about the change of policy.
Simon Hoare, the North Dorset MP, said he would have rebelled but wanted to keep his “voice and vote” as a Tory. He warned, however, that fracking was doomed as a project. “It’s not going to happen. These are bald men fighting over a comb. No local community is going to grant consent,” he said.
[Ed Miliband, the shadow climate and net zero secretary] added: “In normal times such an idiotic idea would have been dismissed out of hand but these are not normal times. But I say to the house and I say to members opposite, they all know that the prime minister will be gone in a matter of weeks, if not days, if not hours.”
The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promised to maintain a moratorium on fracking unless there was new evidence on the risk of earthquakes from the practice. But Truss’s government changed this last month.

In a message to all MPs on Wednesday morning, Whittaker had said: “The second debate is the main event today and it is a 100% hard three-line whip. This is not a motion on fracking. This is a confidence motion in the government.”

…was it a motion on fracking? …was it a confidence motion? …both? …neither? …was it even the worst of the news for the utterly trussed? …put it this way…losing one of the “great offices of state” mere weeks into your tenure as PM is careless…but to lose another before the month is out is…something else…the whips may have ultimately resigned themselves to unresigning…but there’s already a replacement for her home secretary…although whether that one was a firing or a resignation seems to depend on how you look at it

The Guardian was first to reveal that Braverman was departing, and that Grant Shapps, the former transport secretary who strongly backed Rishi Sunak in the Conservative leadership race, was replacing her.

Braverman, a leading rightwinger, was sacked by the prime minister because she sent an official document from her personal email to a fellow MP, in a serious breach of ministerial rules.

The draft written statement on migration was deemed highly sensitive because it related to immigration rules, which potentially have major implications for market-sensitive growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

…something, something…stable door…something…bolted…if your head isn’t already spinning just compare that bit of ostentatious probity (in service of the dismissal of another of ostensibly her staunchest allies from a significant position in favor of what is now a matched pair of sunak’s lot) to the kind of crap everyone knows was going on under johnson’s tenure…it’s cosmetically a matter of principle but politically it’s the “friends like these” equivalent of “et tu, brute?”

Shapps’s appointment raised eyebrows in Westminster as he was believed to have been involved in attempts to get rid of the prime minister. It comes two days after he told Matt Forde’s podcast that he thought Truss was unlikely to survive. “She needs to thread the eye of a needle with the lights off, it’s that difficult,” he said.

Braverman, in a brutal resignation letter that contrasted her actions with those of Truss, wrote: “Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.


The security breach was met with raised eyebrows from some of Braverman’s backers. Steve Baker, who co-led her leadership campaign and is now a Northern Ireland minister, said the use of a personal email had only been “technically” a breach of rules, and that such liaison with other MPs on policy was “perfectly normal”.

One Tory MP said it seemed “very minor” and that most cabinet ministers had been guilty of the same thing. Another admitted: “If they wanted to keep her and she wanted to stay, this wouldn’t be a resigning matter.”

A former No 10 aide also said it was “bullshit” that she would have been told to stand down for sending a draft written ministerial statement. “Special advisers and ministers, including the PM, have done much much worse,” they said. “Team Truss obviously handed her the revolver.”
Braverman’s departure comes after the Home Office passed a major piece of legislation, the Public Order Act. An ally who spoke to her earlier this week said she had been “upbeat”.
On Tuesday, Braverman used a debate on environmental protests to blame a “coalition of chaos” including opposition parties and the “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati” for supporting groups such as Just Stop Oil.

…small beer, thin gruel…whatever you want to call what the tories are serving up I regret to inform you that thanks to the times we live in that tofu-eating-wokerati line is in fact part of something positively historic

With a tenure of 43 days, Braverman is the shortest-serving home secretary since the Duke of Wellington lasted just a month in November and December 1834. Her only modern rival for brevity in the role was Donald Somervell, who spent two months in the job in 1945 as part of Winston Churchill’s end-of-war caretaker government.

In a point of order in the Commons, Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “This Tory government is falling apart at the seams. To appoint and then sack both your home secretary and chancellor within six weeks is utter chaos. This is no way to run a government.

…I know understatement is viewed as something of a birthright by a lot of brits…but by way of putting that last part in context…given that the seat of the EU in brussels continued to function just fine during the surprisingly long time that happened to be the capital of a country with no formally established government…it does rather beg the question of whether schrödinger’s government might not in fact be a distinct improvement?

The move from democracy to autocracy isn’t a sudden shift. It is not a switch that flips from light to dark with nothing in between. But it’s also not quite right to call the path to authoritarianism a journey. To use a metaphor of travel or distance is to suggest something external, removed, foreign.

It is better, in the U.S. context at least, to think of authoritarianism as something like a contradiction nestled within the American democratic tradition. It is part of the whole, a reflection of the fact that American notions of freedom and liberty are deeply informed by both the experience of slaveholding and the drive to seize land and expel its previous inhabitants.

…after all…as recent events are perhaps a timely reminder of…it wouldn’t do to be confused with the traditions of…say…the british empire

This duality is present in our federal Constitution, which proclaims republican liberty at the same time that it has enabled the brutal subjugation of entire peoples within the United States. The Constitution both inspired the democratic vistas of radical antislavery politicians and backstopped the antebellum dream of a transcontinental slave empire.

Move a little closer to the present and you can see clearly how American democracy and American autocracy have existed side by side, with the latter just another feature of our political order. If we date the beginning of Jim Crow to the 1890s — when white Southern politicians began to mandate racial separation and when the Supreme Court affirmed it — then close to three generations of American elites lived with and largely accepted the existence of a political system that made a mockery of American ideals of self-government and the rule of law.
If we do see even greater democratic backsliding than we’ve already experienced over the past decade — since the advent of Donald Trump, yes, but also since the decimation of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder — there’s no reason to think that most elites, and most people, won’t accommodate themselves to the absence of democracy for many of their fellow Americans. After a time, that absence of democracy may become just the regular order of things — a regrettable custom that nonetheless should more or less be left alone because of federalism or limited government. That, in fact, is how many politicians, journalists and intellectuals rationalized autocracy in the South and reconciled it with their belief that the United States was a free country.

In his 1909 biography of John Brown, W.E.B. Du Bois reflected on the legacy of the antislavery martyr with an observation about what it does to a society to tolerate exploitation, degradation and unfreedom. “The price of repression is greater than the cost of liberty,” he wrote. “The degradation of men costs something both to the degraded and those who degrade.”
As we look to a November in which a number of vocal election deniers are poised to win powerful positions in key swing states, I think that the great degree to which authoritarianism is tied up in the American experience — and the extent to which we’ve been trained not to see it, in accordance with our national myths and sense of exceptionalism — makes it difficult for many Americans to really believe that democracy as we know it could be in serious danger.

…does it, though? …I mean…surely the whole foundation of the confection of bullshit designed to help people claim to be legitimately sublimating their bigotry into republican votes is that the unpresidented ex-president being a twice-impeached, morally-&-financially-multiply-bankrupt definitive loser is an adequate fig-leaf to proclaim exactly that as justification for the full gamut of anti-democratic tricks & treats…they are after all very much in the business of shilling apples as oranges

Recent midterm debates prove it: This election cycle is not about competing policy ideas or agendas. It’s about two parties operating in entirely different political worlds.

Judging by the debates, Republicans want to dispense with much of the federal government and repeal virtually every Biden achievement (including the bipartisan ones). They are determined to upend, upset and uproot workable government without offering any problem-solving ideas of their own. They have no alternative plan for health care. They have no solutions to address inflation. So what do they do after carving up the federal government?
Republican candidates have good reason to eschew concrete policy ideas. When Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, rolled out an 11-point agenda for the party — including tax increases for the poor, abortion bans, pandering on “critical race theory” and sunsetting entitlement programs such as Social Security — virtually every other Republican ran from it.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) also produced a GOP agenda, but it was light on details, to put it mildly. What was there was frightful. The New York Times reported that “it hinted that Republicans would look to change the Affordable Care Act and roll back legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs.” These ideas, like Johnson’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act, turn off all but the hardcore base.

…this hardcore base?

Bannon has devoted recent episodes of his online show the War Room to a well-funded operation which has stealthily gained ground over the past two years. Backed by billionaire donors and corporate interests, it aims to persuade state legislatures to call a constitutional convention in the hope of baking far-right conservative values into the supreme law of the land.

The goal is, in essence, to turn the country into a permanent conservative nation irrespective of the will of the American people. The convention would promote policies that would limit the size and scope of the federal government, set ceilings on or even abolish taxes, free corporations from regulations, and impose restrictions on government action in areas such as abortion, guns and immigration.

“This is another line of attack strategically,” Bannon told his viewers last month. “You now have a political movement that understands we need to go after the administrative state.”

…if it looks like a coup, sounds like a coup & is chock full of quacks…does it clear the bar for seditious conspiracy?

Mark Meckler, a founder of the Tea Party who now leads one of the largest groups advocating for the tactic, the Convention of States Action (Cosa), spelled out some of the prime objectives on Bannon’s show. “We need to say constitutionally, ‘No, the federal government cannot be involved in education, or healthcare, or energy, or the environment’,” he said.

Meckler went on to divulge the anti-democratic nature of the state convention movement when he said a main aim was to prevent progressive policies being advanced through presidential elections. “The problem is, any time the administration swings back to Democrat – or radical progressive, or Marxist which is what they are – we are going to lose the gains. So you do the structural fix.”
Were a convention achieved, it would mark the zenith of conservative state power in American politics. Over the past 12 years, since the eruption of the Tea Party, Republicans have extended their grip to more than half of the states in the country, imposing an increasingly far-right agenda on the heartlands.
Meckler, working alongside other powerful interest groups and wealthy rightwing megadonors, is gunning for Article V’s second route – one that has never been tried before. It gives state legislatures the power to call a constitutional convention of their own, should two-thirds of all 50 states agree.

The state-based model for rewriting the US constitution is perhaps the most audacious attempt yet by hard-right Republicans to secure what amounts to conservative minority rule in which a minority of lawmakers representing less-populated rural states dictate terms to the majority of Americans. Russ Feingold, a former Democratic US senator from Wisconsin, told the Guardian that “they want to rewrite the constitution in a fundamental way that is not just conservative, it is minoritarian. It will prevent the will of ‘we the people’ being heard.”
They are also much better funded than people might think. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which monitors the constitutional convention movement, estimates that it pulled in $25m (£22m) in 2020, the last year for which figures are known.

The funds were split between Cosa and other influential groups on the right. They include the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a network of state politicians and corporate lobbyists which has taken up the cry for a constitutional amendment to force balanced budget restrictions on Washington.

Much of the income is dark money, with the origins hidden. CMD has managed to identify some key donors – among them the Mercer Family Foundation set up by reclusive hedge fund manager Robert Mercer, and a couple of groups run by Leonard Leo, the mastermind behind the rightwing land grab in the federal courts.
In 2010, Republicans controlled both chambers of just 14 state legislatures. Today, that number stands at 31.

“Republicans are near the high watermark in terms of their political control in the states, and that’s why the pro-Trump rightwing of the party is increasingly embracing the constitutional convention strategy,” said Arn Pearson, CMD’s executive director.

Should a convention be achieved, the plan would be to give states one vote each. There is no legal or historical basis for such an arrangement but its appeal is self-evident.
Under Article V, 34 states would have to call for a constitutional convention to reach the two-thirds requirement. Cosa has so far succeeded in getting 19 states to sign up, with a further six in active consideration.
Either way, there is a shortfall. To address it, constitutional convention leaders have invented increasingly exotic mathematical formulas for attaining the magic number, 34. “We used to call it fuzzy math, now we call it wacky math,” Pearson said.

Advocates filed a lawsuit in Texas in February that tried to get the courts to force a constitutional convention on grounds that they had reached 34 states already – they cobbled together unrelated state convention calls, including some dating back to the 1800s. In July two bills were also introduced to the US House requiring Congress to call a convention immediately.

…weird how these folks who are all in on deposing their own government seem to shy away from…you know…being deposed

Three years after the writer E. Jean Carroll sued Donald J. Trump for defamation in New York, the former president submitted to a sworn deposition on Wednesday at Mar-a-Lago, his residence and private club in Florida.

…but then it’s long been a-feature-not-a-bug that for their purposes the legal system’s advantages are not conferred by matters of actual legality

The special master, senior US district court judge Raymond Dearie, complained during a conference call in the case that the log of documents Trump is trying to withhold from the justice department did not give enough information about the validity of the privilege claims.
“It’s a little perplexing as I go through the log,” Dearie said. “What’s the expression – ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef.”
On the call, Dearie specifically asked Trump’s lawyers to give him a better sense of how one document, for instance, could both be subject to executive privilege – a designation applying to presidential records – and simultaneously be a non-governmental, personal document.

“Unless I’m wrong, and I’ve been wrong before, there’s certainly an incongruity there,” Dearie said, appearing to cast doubt on the notion that a document could carry both characterizations.

The special master also asked Trump’s lawyers to provide more details on documents they asserted were protected by attorney-client privilege, as he suggested that some of the documents in question had been seen by a third party, which would make the communications no longer confidential.

…how does it go again? …we hold these truths to be self-evident

Donald Trump acknowledged in 2019 that letters he wrote to Kim Jong-un and later took with him upon leaving the White House were secret, according to recordings of an interview he gave to journalist Bob Woodward that call into question the credibility of one of Trump’s main defenses in the investigation into his unauthorized retention of government files.

In December of that year, Trump shared with Woodward the letters that Kim had written to him, saying, “Nobody else has them, but I want you to treat them with respect … and don’t say I gave them to you, OK?” according to recordings obtained by CNN and The Washington Post on Tuesday.

When, in a phone call the following month, Woodward asked to see what Trump had written to the North Korean leader, the president replied: “Oh, those are so top secret.”

…sure…delaying, obstructing, subverting or otherwise thwarting justice may well be the point…but if I had to rank them it looks like the one they leverage the hardest remains the tried & trusted false equivalence

Mr. Trump and his supporters had long insisted the Durham inquiry would prove a “deep state” conspiracy against him, but despite pursuing various such claims, Mr. Durham never charged any high-level government officials.

Instead he developed two cases centered on the narrow charge of making false statements in outside efforts to scrutinize purported links between Mr. Trump and Russia. He crammed the indictments with extraneous material and insinuations that he thought Democrats had sought to frame Mr. Trump for collusion with Russia, though he did not charge any such conspiracy.

…all the better to decry the lack of un-called-for action taken to right the fevered wrongs imagined by the faithful fantabulist fringe, I’m sure you’ll agree

And even before the jurors unanimously found Mr. Danchenko not guilty after deliberating for a day, the judge overseeing the trial, Anthony Trenga, took the extraordinary step last week of acquitting him on a fifth such count. The prosecution had failed to produce sufficient evidence for that charge to even go to the jury, he said.
During closing arguments in both the Sussmann and Danchenko cases, defense lawyers pointed to evidence they said showed that Mr. Durham and his team had lost their way, ignoring signs of serious flaws in their cases because they were so intent on convicting someone.

“I submit to you that if this trial has proven anything, it’s that the special counsel’s investigation was focused on proving crimes at any cost as opposed to investigating whether any occurred,” Mr. Sears said on Monday.
In his closing arguments on Monday, Mr. Durham denied that his appointment by Mr. Barr had been political and appeared to offer a broad defense of his investigation, asking the jury to revisit the origin of his work.
In the Sussmann matter, the Durham team brought intense pressure upon a group of cybersecurity experts who had generated the tip Mr. Sussmann conveyed to the F.B.I., which involved odd internet data they thought might suggest hidden communications between Mr. Trump and Russia. (The F.B.I. briefly looked at the data but dismissed their suspicions.)

Lawyers for the data scientists said internet experts routinely tell the government about online security threats, but that Mr. Durham’s tactics would discourage people from speaking up in the future.

In the Danchenko matter, an F.B.I. agent who was Mr. Danchenko’s handler testified that his network of contacts had offered unique insights into malign Russian influence operations the bureau had been unaware of. The agent, Kevin Helson, said the F.B.I. had established a squad based on Mr. Danchenko’s reporting.

Mr. Helson added that other agents still ask him to relay questions to Mr. Danchenko, but he could no longer follow up with him.

“Because the special counsel indicted him?” Mr. Sears asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Helson replied.

…imagine that…except…we don’t have to…for truly the truth is stranger than fiction…arguably moreso for some than others

Nearly 4 million Texans from kindergarten through grade eight will bring home a tri-fold pamphlet this month in which parents can place their children’s fingerprints, photo and a DNA sample, according to ABC13.

In 2021, the state legislature passed a law requiring all school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to provide the kits to parents. The measure was passed three years after a deadly shooting at Santa Fe high school that left eight students and two teachers dead. Earlier this year, a shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde killed 19 fourth graders and two teachers.
“It was almost like the state just throwing their hands up and saying, ‘We can’t do anything about the guns. We’re not going to change any of the laws. So, therefore, the next best thing is to make sure that we can identify your K through eighth grader if they are killed in any type of school incident,” Anthony Crutch, a parent in Clear Creek, Texas told ABC13.
“This sends two messages: The first is that the government is not going to do anything to solve the problem. This is their way of telling us that,” [Tracy Walder, who has a daughter in the second grade] told NBC. “The second is that us parents are now forced to have conversations with our kids that they may not be emotionally ready for. My daughter is 7. What do I tell her?”

After the shooting in Uvalde, some of the children were harmed so severely that officials struggled to identify the bodies. Brett Cross, whose son was killed in the Robb elementary school shooting, also expressed frustration on Twitter about the kits.

“Yeah! Awesome! Let’s identify kids after they’ve been murdered instead of fixing issues that could ultimately prevent them from being murdered,” he said.

…but having ridden this helter-skelter all the way down here I think I’ve just about persuaded my mind to stop spinning & convinced it the world is in fact still turning…& I ought to turn my attention to finding some tunes…or just generally finding something more constructive to do with my time?



    • …at this point I’d be prepared to settle for “less badly”

      …you’d think that wouldn’t be an unrealistically high bar…& yet…here we find ourselves?

  1. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of the wheat that Julien Bourgeois grinds for boulangeries at his family’s flour mill in central France has increased more than 30 percent.

    “Consumers can afford to pay more for now, but prices will keep rising,” Mr. Bourgeois said. “It’s worrisome.” In France, where baguettes already cost over 8 percent more than they did a year ago, he added, “we remember that the revolution started over the price of bread.”

    Bravo! to the Times reporter who found (or made up) this story that perfectly encapsulates several stereotypes about France that pretty much faded away with the fall of the de Gaulle government. I didn’t bother clicking on the link, but did the reporter mention that M Bourgeois then loaded the flour into the sidesaddles of his Renault bicycle and, still in his flour-flecked apron, delivered them to the village boulangeries? An amusing anecdote about sheep blocking the village lanes? This, Mesdames et Messieurs, is La France Profonde!

      • I suppose the story would have been less interesting, and less enlightening about the impact from a French producer’s standpoint, but it might have been easier to just go to the nearest Carrefour (the big supermarket chain) and listen to the French complain about rising prices as they load their carts and roll them out to their cars in the parking lot.

        I suspect the reporter is on a “working vacation” at an Airbnb in “central France” (that covers a lot of territory, conveniently non-fact-checkable) or maybe a stringer. Maybe some staff member’s child or grandchild is doing a semester abroad at one of the lesser universities. Qui sait?

        • …could be wrong but I think there’s a tragedy in there somewhere…the supermarket stuff isn’t as good as the stuff you have to get to the bakery for before they sell out for the day…at least in my limited-&-only-moderately-outdated experience

          …& if the french truly turn their backs on the “a shop for everything & to everything its own shop” approach the basic character of pretty much every rural village would be pretty radically overhauled?

          • Like in Britain? Where everyone used to trudge from shop to shop keeping in mind the restrictive closing hours and spending a much higher percentage of their income on food than they do now? Then, eventually, came the supermarket:

            Notice how in this clip from 1958, just three years after wartime rationing finally ended in Britain (“Who Won The War Anyway?”, the war that had ended a decade earlier, a Britain still under rationing in 1955) the housewife, exquisitely dressed for her excursion, still points to things to the counterman, and she then shleps the tinned goods to the checkout counter…

            Somewhere, on YouTube, there is or was a clip of a small-scale American-style supermarket that opened somewhere in London circa 1966 where you could actually browse the shelves yourself, but it seems to have been removed. This made the BBC news, and someone showed up to introduce it, maybe a Cabinet Minister, maybe a Royal. I wish I could find it. But the point was it was such a revelation that it made national news.

  2. I’m really struggling with the fingerprints and DNA request too because beyond the intrinsic horror of just saying “fuck it, we’ll identify the carnage after.”

    But also I assume they’ll be selling that DNA data to law enforcement etc.

    • I’m with you. The sheer horror of it is fucking mindbending. No, we won’t do anything about guns, but we want to make sure you can pull the scraps of your child out of a classroom so you have something to bury? Whose fucking idea was this?

      I’m not a gun guy, never have been. I’ve been around them and didn’t think much about it. But if I was a school teacher, I’d be out buying one and learning to use it right now. And I’d have it hidden on my person in my classroom every day. Because nobody fucking cares. If Parkland, the Pulse, and Uvalde proved anything, it’s that the cops will stand by until the gunman uses up all his ammunition on innocent victims. Politicians aren’t going to attempt to fix the problem. You are on your own.

      Which is exactly how the fucking gun nuts want you to feel.

      • I read a piece a few years ago about how many guns are found in school bathrooms.

        And the overwhelming reason is armed adults — mostly security guards — take out the gun to keep it from accidently falling to the ground or into the toilet when they undo their belts to sit down.

        And then when they buckle up, they forget.

        Which sounds funny, until you realize how many six year olds are around and the odds of accidental shootings.

        Multiplying the number of guns in schools by five or tenfold is going to be such a disaster. Which is, clearly, what the kooks want.

        • …that reminds me…I kept meaning to find somewhere to mention this but *gestures wildly*…these haven’t been running short…either way, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that where matters of the 2nd amendment are concerned the law of unintended consequences does not get lent enough weight

          Despite Mexico’s well-documented high levels of violence, legally purchasing guns there is actually quite difficult. The nation of nearly 130 million people has a single store that can legally sell guns.

          On a military base in Mexico City, that store was selling fewer than 40 guns a day in recent years, and it’s prohibited from even advertising its wares.

          But the infamously violent cartels that Abbott and other Republicans blame for violence along the border have found another route to stockpile weapons: the United States.

          Mexican foreign affairs ministry legal adviser Alejandro Celorio Alcántara estimates that half a million guns annually are purchased legally in the US and then brought into Mexico illegally. About 70% of guns seized in Mexico from 2014 to 2018 and submitted for tracing had originally come from the US, according to officials with the American bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms and explosives (ATF).

          …& it’s not just the guns…& it’s not just the one border…or even continent…overly on-the-nose comic-book references aside this stuff really is a lot like a hydra…there always seem to be more heads popping up than you were expecting

          Abortion has been legal in Ethiopia under a broad range of circumstances for the past 17 years. Nevertheless, at the Shekebedo Health Center, abortions cannot be performed at all. The clinic, situated in a rural part of southwestern Ethiopia where quality health care is hard to access, is partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. This funding has stopped the clinic from offering abortions to Ethiopian women.

          The U.S. law that has impeded Shekebedo from providing abortions, known as the Helms Amendment, was passed in 1973 during the backlash to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in all 50 states — and which the current court overturned in June. Helms prohibits the federal government from using foreign aid to pay for “abortion as a method of family planning.”
          Most of the political action surrounds a related rule, known as the Mexico City policy, which prevents foreign nongovernmental organizations that receive U.S. aid from using any funding, including their own, to provide or discuss abortion services. Although the Mexico City policy has been alternately implemented and rescinded by Republican and Democratic presidents since Ronald Reagan (President Biden revoked it in January 2021), it took until 2020 for Democrats to introduce legislation to repeal the Helms Amendment. Though the bill never received a vote, Democrats recently reintroduced the Abortion Is Health Care Everywhere Act in the House and also introduced it in the Senate.

          As international cultural and legal standards changed drastically over the past 50 years, the Helms Amendment has stood still, holding back women’s health care access worldwide. A conservative American view of abortion continues to influence medical treatment in places as far-flung as Kenya, East Timor and Guatemala.
          The Helms Amendment now hinders over 80 percent of the countries where the United States assists in funding health care from fully implementing their own abortion laws.
          The United States is the largest donor to global health care efforts, and the ubiquity of U.S. foreign aid amplifies the effects of the Helms Amendment. In 2020, America sent more than $592 million in family planning funds overseas — about as much as the next three countries combined — and has contributed 40 percent to 50 percent of total direct funding over the past decade. Even in countries accepting lower levels of U.S. aid, the influence of Helms is widely felt. According to data from our office in Ethiopia, the United States funded about 30 percent of total family planning foreign aid in Ethiopia from 2018 to 2020, but that funding is spread among more than 45 percent of health facilities in the country.
          The high number of unsafe abortions still occurring in 2022 — approximately 35 million annually — is among the world’s most significant and most easily preventable public health tragedies. Restrictions on abortions, especially in areas where quality health care is difficult to access, often push women to pursue abortions through unsafe means.

          In countries that currently accept U.S. family planning aid and where abortion is now legal under some circumstances, more than 19 million unsafe abortions occur annually — more than half of the global total.

          These unsafe abortions result in complications requiring medical treatment — ranging from minor bleeding to shock and sepsis — for more than 11.8 million women and girls in those countries every year. And every year, more than 16,000 of the women and girls who have received these unsafe abortions die from more serious complications. Repealing Helms would no doubt save some women from this fate.

        • More guns in schools is a horrible, awful, terrible idea. But if I’m sitting there with 30 kids depending on me, I’m going to have more options than just throwing a fucking trash can or whatever. I’d rather count on my ability to keep it hidden and away from children than on the police’s ability to offer any sort of effective protection.

          They’re just not leaving you any choice.

          Fortunately for me, I’m not going to have to make that decision. But I understand why any teacher would.

          • …I’m not entirely unfamiliar with guns…& I can understand that if I were in loco parentis to a roomful of kids who had to pass through a metal detector to get to my classroom & with whom I’d have to run shooter drills the desire to be able to say I might be able to provide more assistance than getting myself shot while they hide in a closet were things ever to come to the point of this-is-not-a-drill is going to be the sort of thing that would hang over you like the sword of damocles

            …but I don’t know as I remember having that many teachers I’d have put money on being useful with a gun when the chips were down…which is easy to say when talking about schools in the UK…but…while I wholeheartedly believe that many teachers are unsung heroes & maybe even saints…there’s also…let’s call them the spaniards?

            • You’re not wrong. I wouldn’t trust many teachers with a gun either. I wouldn’t ever support any type of “arm the teachers” plan.

              But if I’m sitting there, doing the math for me personally, yeah, I know what my decision would be. I’d have a gun in an ankle holster every damn day. I’m 100% certain I couldn’t do a worse job than the people whose job it’s supposed to be.

    • …& listening to the coverage on the BBC…they want to have a new PM in place by next friday…preferably without having to sink so low as to let their party membership vote again since they need a time out after their previous lapse in judgement…so one suggestion is that the parliamentary party (just the tory MPs, that is) vote on candidates until they’re down to two & then the one in 2nd place bows out then that would be in everyone’s best interests…if they know what’s good for them…which apparently is rishi sunak…unless he manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of a victory they’re doing their damnedest to serve up to him?

      • Are there any skilled Murdoch watchers who read the Sun and Times the way Soviet analysts used to study the photos in Tass and Pravda for subtle clues of what Brezhnev was up to?

        I’m awfully curious if Rupert is trying to patch up the tattered fabric he shredded and force the kooks to run to their holes, or if he is exhausted and willing to let his former toadies run the show, and inevitably drive his enterprise into ruin.

        Probably the latter, but I’m curious if he has anyone in the wings who can actually take charge.

        • …don’t know about that level of tea-leaf-reading…but I know just recently I was seeing stuff about him looking to stitch fox news back into the rest of fox

          …so getting the band back together seems like a fair approximation of what he thinks he’s up to?

          • I’m assuming personnel is policy, and I have to wonder how Rupert thinks any of his kids can run the show when he’s done in a year or three.

            He seems to have settled on Lachlan for now, but he’s got none of his Dad’s flexibilty or foresight. He may as well be King James I at the end of his life watching Charles prepare to take over, who he knew was determined and focused, but almost certain to be an inflexible, reactionary disaster.

  3. …so…just spitballing here…but in the spirit of a modern day marshall plan…maybe the U.S. could offer to lend out katie porter to offer remedial classes to politicians who struggle to understand stuff…it seems like it could be extremely cost-effective?

    • This is what kills me about inflation. Yes, it’s a real economic force (I should say as real as any of them are, that is, but that’s an entirely separate “economics is just horoscopes and healing crystals for guys in suits” post) but every big business has absolutely used it as a way to mark up prices and keep pressure on workers. Meanwhile, it can also be leveraged as a political advantage for capital — gas prices are up, guess you gotta vote fascist! — and everyone involved is perfectly aware of that. 

      Steve Bannon is gonna win cause inflation.

      • A grad professor referred to what he called “cultural rate of profit.”  Essentially, American business thinks anything less than 20% profit isn’t worth getting out of bed for.  Asian corporations settle for far less, so much less, in fact, that they have to sell in the U.S. for more than they charge elsewhere or they would be considered to be “product dumping.”  All American busisness is doing right now is trying to recoup their lost 20% from the last 2 years.


        I have a friend who owns an auto repair place.  I asked him once, “If you’re charging $110/hr to the customer, and paying the mechanic $30, where does the rest go?”  “Well, 20% goes to the shop…………….”

    • …speaking for myself I have been on the fence about that since more or less contiguously over the span of a few weeks in ’16 when it dawned on me that in defiance of any supposed tether between logic & reality even an obviously grifting snake oil salesman with a visible assist from their hall of fame cold war bogeyman was a viable candidate when running against a woman…& brexit was going to carry the referendum because the fantasy sold better than the reality

      …most days I figure they seem to swap places at least once…so I figure we might as well call it a tie?

    • It’s the UK simply because the U.S. is a superpower that still has ability to shape the world and the dollar remains THE currency of record … for now. Which is to say that when we get a Mango Unchained, the world kind of just has to shrug and try to deal with the fallout; when the UK elects a clown, nobody has to play along.

      All that being said, the U.S. is in worse shape long-term because the political rot is deeper and spreading and eventually we’ll run out of soft power and then … woof.

      • …maybe…but I still go back & forth on it

        …however bad a self-inflicted injury brexit might be I think the odds of the brexit-ons attempting to storm parliament to prevent a non-tory being recognized as PM remain slim…& while I may have mixed opinions about the merits of the schools I attended the ID required generally didn’t go much past nametags to make sure nobody pinched your shirt/socks/whatever…& they haven’t killed the NHS yet…so…the UK might be better off from some points of view

        …but on the other hand I’m not sure the rot is deeper in the US so much as more readily visible…arguments could be made that the current political system is to the feudal era what indentured servitude is to slavery…whereas it often seems like in the US it’s more that better choices don’t get made than that maybe they can’t get made?

  4. Goddamn, I hate arguing with people.  I almost never do it.  But I just had to spend a half-hour arguing with someone over whether or not the COVID vaccine is more deadly than the virus itself and (his words) “The greatest public health disaster of our time”.

    I might as well have been arguing with one of the donkeys.  At least they would have had the patience to actually consider the data.

    • Not that it helps a lot, but a more productive approach is to argue the sources rather than the facts.

      The goal should be at a minimum to sow distrust of the Facebook/Fox axis, so even if they don’t believe you, they have less likelihood of buying the next load of crap. Baby steps and all that.

      • …it can feel like the proverbial journey of a thousand steps though…even though it often seems like it only ought to take a hop, skip & jump to get from “so the problem is the deep state, you say – what does that look like, then?” to “sounds an awful lot like you’re describing the GOP playbook there, chief”

        …& if the we-just-need-34-states-to-end-run-this-thing doesn’t count because…it’s not federal or something…then between mitch’s antics in the senate & the out of bounds judges…one of these things sure looks like the other?

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