Saturday, October 30, 2021

Fool We Once...


From former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, writing in Time magazine about Steve Bannon and criminal contempt:
Congress has no authority to prosecute anyone for anything. Prosecution is an executive branch function, and that power is vested in the Justice Department. That is why Congress asked the Justice Department to prosecute Bannon for contempt – a crime punishable by a fine and imprisonment...


...Recall, in August 2020, federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted Bannon and others for “defraud[ing] hundreds of thousands of donors, capitalizing on their interest in funding a border wall to raise millions of dollars, under the false pretense that all of that money would be spent on construction,” according to a Justice Department press release. As a legal matter, that meant that a grand jury found probable cause to believe that several defendants – including Bannon – committed an egregious fraud. Before Bannon could be tried on those felony charges, former President Trump pardoned him.

It makes sense for Justice Department prosecutors to ask whether Bannon – accused of defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors – would tell the truth about the January 6 insurrection. And because Bannon has demonstrated his disdain for the work of the select committee, helped spread election misinformation and fanned the flames ahead of the insurrection, it seems that he might be an unwilling witness and an untruthful witness. In that case, pressuring Bannon to testify seems pointless...

The inimitable Emptywheel, after showing (many) receipts, comes to a different somewhat different conclusion. Specifically, she thinks past performance indicates that the good Mr. Bannon can be leaned on:
...To be clear, the January 6 Select Committee doesn’t have the time to coerce some truths out of Steve Bannon, though it’s possible that DOJ could use any testimony he did offer as Mueller’s team seems to have done during their investigation, as a means to corner him about prior lies.

In any case, though his testimony helped convict Roger Stone (after which Trump pardoned the rat-fucker), whatever truths Bannon told during the Mueller investigation were useless. The truthful bits remained sealed in an unreleased 302 and grand jury testimony, of no use to the public.

Still, the overriding lesson from Bannon’s book of laughter and forgetting is that his past lies and changing loyalties can be exploited, if you have the time to really work on him.

Here's hoping Mr. Biden's version of the U.S. Dept of Justice takes all the time it needs.

Unrelated but...Apropos of just about everything civic and citizenry....If you, like just about everyone everywhere, have pumpkins on the brain this weekend, go read our friend Danneau's latest post...You won't regret it!


Friday, October 29, 2021

What I'm Listening To....'A History Of Rock Music In 500 Songs'


This is a weekly podcast by an English fellow/musical mensch/writer named Andrew Hickey.

It is completely free*, completely DIY, and I'm completely hooked because this guy really, really does the research and makes fantastic connections/has amazing insights.

At the moment Mr. Hickey is up to episode #135 (circa 1965) but every single episode so far is readily available, either at his website or through the usual podcatchers.

At the risk of sowing family discord, here is a fairly recent favourite (#109) about how Peter, Paul and Mary came to be - and before those in the know, and/or the ghost of Dave Van Ronk, start shaking their first at at Albert Grossman, don't forget that most of us probably wouldn't know about Dylan either without big Al)...
Episode 109: “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary

*Unless, of course, you'd like to support his work and receive bonus content via his Patreon.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

What Are The Data For COVID Vaccine Booster Efficacy Across Age Groups?


The province of British Columbia has announced that it will be rolling out COVID-19 vaccine boosters across age groups after first offering the third shots our most senior and most vulnerable citizens.

The following is from David Carrigg's and Kevin Griffin's story in Wednesday's Vancouver Sun:
B.C. will be the first jurisdiction in North America to offer a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine to the general population.

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that as of January a booster dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccine would be offered to British Columbians aged 12 and over who have already received their second dose...


...Until now, B.C. had followed other Canadian provinces and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in offering the third dose only to those in long-term care facilities, seniors and those in high-risk settings or who are immune-compromised.

The new B.C. program will deliver millions of booster shots to the population aged 12 and over between January and May...


Are there hard data that an mRNA-based vaccine booster is efficacious?

Well, the best I've seen comes from the Israeli Health Ministry using the Pfizer vaccine.

Here is the kicker from the abstract of their pre-print:
...Across all age groups, rates of confirmed infection and severe illness were substantially lower among those who received a booster dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine...

And here are some of the data from the Israeli study re-formatted and presented to the US FDA recently:


Overall, I applaud the province for being proactive and taking this step because the data so far indicate that it's the best way to decrease productive infection by and illness due to SARS-CoV-2  across the province.

However, I must confess that I'm personally somewhat conflicted by our boosters for all ages strategy given how many of the world's citizens have still not received their first vaccine dose. On that front, Stephanie Nolen's NYTimes piece on Merck's decision to make their antiviral treatment widely available cheaply through the Medicines Patent Pool appears to be a real positive.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

We're Number 19!


Yes, that's right.

According to the fine folks at Newsweek and the Financial Secrecy Institute, Canada is number 19 on the world list of the very 'best' tax havens for those who are looking for such a thing:
Canada has long been considered a tax haven due to its very low executive tax rates for businesses, and has also struggled with being a money-laundering centre, thanks to weakness on beneficial ownership and transparency.

This means that it is easy to operate a shell company out of Canada...

Meanwhile, here in Lotusland we wait for December to arrive...
Three days of closing submissions at the inquiry into money laundering started today (Oct 15th) ahead of a final report and recommendations that are due in December.

The provincial government appointed B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen in 2019 to lead the inquiry after several reports said the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal cash linked to organized crime affected the province's real estate, luxury vehicle and gaming sectors...

And where does this slot us?....Why right between the exalted company of Malta and Qatar!


Saturday, October 23, 2021

The Will Of The Graph Paper Putin People.


When statisticians/researchers Dmitry Kobak and Sergey Shpilkin aggregated all the Russian voting patterns for the last twenty years and plotted turnout vs. percentage support for Mr. Putin and friends at each polling station, a funny thing happened during the graph making.

Which is that when support for the Putinista's is highest (i.e. top right quadrant of the graph) the cloud disappears and discrete patterns of support emerge that cluster around the zeroes and fives, almost as if arbitrary data entries had occurred over and over and over again.

Imagine that!

Tip 'O The Toque to the fine folks from FlowingData...


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The (Most) Extreme 'Moderate' (Of Them All).


Awhile back we wondered if the good Mr. Manchin's posturing on shrinking the size of Joe Biden's infrastructure bill might have had more to do with squeezing climate change initiatives out of the thing than the dollar cost.

Well, well, well, whaddya know...


Monday, October 11, 2021

Your Morning Audio...Ripple (Grateful Dead Cover)


In the Paul Feig-penned final episode of 'Freaks and Geeks' the most famous Lindsay Weir encounter with the Grateful Dead comes when she lets go to 'Box of Rain' in her bedroom.

But, in my opinion, it's 'Ripple', playing over the closing montage (above), that hits just the right mix of joy and melancholy as freedom and self knowledge collide in a Volkswagen van full of friends heading on down the road.

Or some such thing...

Weirdly, Feig and producer Judd Apatow knew the show was doomed midway through the first season so they got the last show in the can right then and there so that they could force the network to air it, regardless when the cancellation came. In the end the axe fell after fifteen episodes. Three more surfaced after the fact via cable and streaming deals...Apatow later said that everything he's done since has been an attempt to get revenge on the people that cancelled Freaks and Geeks.
Sub-header is uttered by Count Floyd pretending to be Lindsay's Dad as she boards the bus that is supposed to take her to pre-college nerd camp.


Thursday, October 07, 2021

The Trillionator.


In the beginning Joe Biden's stimulatory 'Build Back Better' plan, which included a significant climate action component, was costed at seven trillion dollars.

MSNBC's MacKenzie Sigalos had that story this time last year:

...Striking a stimulus deal is only one part of Biden’s pandemic recovery plan. What he actually wants is something much bigger: for the country to spend over $7 trillion on initiatives such as infrastructure, which includes the creation of 10 million clean-energy jobs, and on housing, education, economic fairness and health care. He’s bundled all his ideas under the slogan Build Back Better...

Of course 7 trillion dollars is a big number, even if the plan is/was to spend it over ten years.

Except, perhaps, when you compare it the total value of the subsidies that prop up the fossil fuel industry every single year, as the Guardian's Damian Carrington explains:

...The IMF found the production and burning of coal, oil and gas was subsidised by $5.9tn in 2020, with not a single country pricing all its fuels sufficiently to reflect their full supply and environmental costs. Experts said the subsidies were “adding fuel to the fire” of the climate crisis, at a time when rapid reductions in carbon emissions were urgently needed...


Of course, Mr. Biden's proposed plan has now been cut in half to $3.5 trillion, still with a significant climate action component, and now he is trying get his own party's senators pass the bill.

Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia has drawn a line in the sand at 1.5 trillion, ostensibly because of  debt reduction:

Joe Manchin proposed a deal to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer this summer to limit the total cost of Democrats' sweeping spending bill to $1.5 trillion, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by POLITICO...


...In the document, Manchin proposes raising the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, the top tax rate on income to 39.6 percent, raising the capital gains tax rate to 28 percent and says that any revenue from the bill “exceeding” $1.5 trillion will go to deficit reduction...


With crocodile tear-laced apologies to a fine fellow named Grover, is it possible that Mr. Manchin is trying to strangle Mr. Biden's bill in a coal- and oil-filled bathtub for a different reason?

The Irish Times' correspondent in Washington Coral Davenport hinte at that possibility recently:

Senator Joe Manchin, the powerful West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate energy panel and earned $500,000 (€430,000) last year from coal production, is preparing to remake US president Joe Biden’s climate legislation in a way that tosses a lifeline to the fossil fuel industry – despite urgent calls from scientists that countries need to quickly pivot away from coal, gas and oil to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Manchin has already emerged as the crucial up-or-down vote in a sharply divided Senate when it comes to Biden’s push to pass a $3.5 trillion budget Bill that could reshape the nation’s social welfare network. But Biden also wants the Bill to include an aggressive climate policy that would compel utilities to stop burning fossil fuels and switch to wind, solar or nuclear energy, sources that do not emit the greenhouse gases that are heating the planet...

With friends like that subsidies....errrr...trillions matter.


Update, Friday: And, just in the nick of time...Here comes the (formerly?) green Ms. Sinema with her more direct, upfront rip-off of the Climate Mitigation Slash Machine Blues....


Saturday, October 02, 2021

It's A Long Way From The Blues.


By the time that big Fleetwood Mac album came out in 1977 I wasn't really paying attention, mostly because my friends and I were already starting to sniff around at that new musical thing coming while we stapled egg cartons to the garage room walls.

You know that then 'new' musical thing that now means that, more than forty years later, all the algorithms in all the gin joints in all the streaming service worlds inevitably lead me back to 'Gates of the West' by the Clash.

Anyway, after Lindsey Buckingham was on Marc Maron's podcast recently, I went back and had another listen to Rumours, etc.

And then I did some digging around in an effort to learn what, exactly, it was that Mick Fleetwood heard while listening to demos at Sound City Studios in 1974 that led him to ask Buckingham to become Fleetwood Mac's new guitar player.

Surprisingly, the algorithms do not take you to that thing that Fleetwood heard on 1973's Buckingham/Nicks album because that album is out of print.

But you can find it - and it's all there - the whole thing, pre-formed.

So much so, that it's pretty darned clear that Fleetwood and John McVie essentially became little more than Buckingham's and Nicks' (and occasionally Christine Perfect's) rhythm section when it came time to make the band's next two albums - you know, the ones that made them all rich and soon drove them white line crazy.

If you don't believe me about that Buckingham/Nicks thing (and/or don't already know), just have a listen...

Post title is apparently what McVie said to Fleetwood when he was struck dumb by the realization that the two of them were about to make sixteeen tons of money backing that California sound that Buckingham and Nicks had concocted.
Subheader?...You can hear the Cat/Yusaf influence that Buckingham talks about on Maron in that B/N album...Incidentally, it was an album that went nowhere except, weirdly, in Northern Alabama...Go figure. 
Regarding 'Gates of the West'...Back in the day I was very proud of having a cut of Mick Jones's somewhat obscure homage to Mott the Hoople's 'All the way from Memphis' that was the pre-London Calling antithesis of Strummer's earlier 'I'm So Bored With The USA' on a compilation tape that played endlessly in the pirated Kenny van throughout the early '80's.
Update: If you want to go backward in Fleetwood Mac time into the blues, check out this great post by our good friend Danneau.