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Reading: Blacking up was of a piece with ‘comedy’ that dealt in contempt

From Blacking up was of a piece with ‘comedy’ that dealt in contempt

Not the first call for WPA 2.0 but a persuasive one. The private sector is part of the problem.

Any account of what needs to be done to avoid the destitution of large parts of society must begin with confronting the prejudice that poverty is the fault of the undeserving poor. The young need to go to and stay in universities and further education colleges until the storm passes or find work on local authority job creation schemes. Higher education and councils will need to be seen as deserving of public money, if they are to help them. The Resolution Foundation and other leftish thinktanks are telling the government that the private sector on its own will not be able to revive the economy fast enough. They are proposing that the state should bail out depressed regions in their entirety and that the emergency increases in universal credit benefits, introduced in April, should become permanent. Readers who believe the Tories are evil disaster capitalists will be surprised to hear that they are getting a fair hearing, although whether this government has the competence to act on what ministers are hearing is another matter. Meanwhile, readers who believe the electorate will not cheer on a government if it turns on the victims forget the lessons of the recent past and the unshakable prejudices the 2000s displayed.

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Reading: Tom Morello Responds to Angry Fans Who Suddenly Realize That Rage Against the Machine’s Music Is Political: “What Music of Mine DIDN’T Contain Political BS?”

From Tom Morello Responds to Angry Fans Who Suddenly Realize That Rage Against the Machine’s Music Is Political: “What Music of Mine DIDN’T Contain Political BS?”

Josh Jones writing at Open Culture reports on the coming-to-political-awareness of a music fan as a beacon of a hopefully broader awareness: culture is all political.

… the disgruntled former fan is not just one lone crank who didn’t get it. Many people over the years have expressed outrage at finding out there’s so much politics in their culture, even in a band like Rage that could not have been less subtle. Many, like former lever-puller of the Machine, Paul Ryan, seem to have cynically missed the point and turned them into workout music. Morello’s had to point this out a lot. (Ditto Springsteen.)

Uncritical and numbing consumption has led to the blind belief that political statements foul the entertainment pool.

The adjective [“political’] is weaponized against art and culture that makes certain people who have power uncomfortable. Saying “I don’t like political bs in my culture” is saying “I don’t care to know the politics are there.”

If, after decades of pumping “Killing in the Name,” you finally noticed them, then all that’s happened is you’ve finally noticed. Culture has always included the political, whether those politics are shaped by monarchs or state agencies or shouted in rap metal songs (just ask Ice-T) and fought over on Twitter. Maybe now it’s just getting harder to look away.

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Reading: Trump rally sign-up includes disclaimer about potential COVID-19 exposure | TheHill

From Trump rally sign-up includes disclaimer about potential COVID-19 exposure | TheHill

I have attend caucuses and primaries and city and county meetings and labor strikes and sit-down protests and anti-war and CND and anti-fascist demonstrations w/o a request for a liability release. These rallies must be risky.

Bah. Rally at your own risk. Admission of contagious situation.

The page for guests to sign up for free tickets to the event includes a disclaimer related to the virus.

“By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the statement reads.

“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.”

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Reading: trump failing be an actual authoritarian

From trump failing be an actual authoritarian

Not exactly reassuring but this observation strikes a note that’s been subtonal for a while: he’s about looking big, and we’re his toys. A feckless, flailing president.

Trump has never been shy about his authoritarian impulses. He regularly voices admiration for dictators and has expressed his belief that Article II of the Constitution allows him to do “whatever I want.” Yet that authoritarianism has not manifested with as much force as some might have feared (or desired). Trump has exerted power aggressively in the realms where he is least restrained, most notably immigration enforcement, but he has not pushed far beyond that: There have been no jackboots deployed against dissidents, no shipping off of presidential enemies to Guantánamo Bay. And in some instances, such as the ongoing pandemic, Trump has largely declined to exert federal power at all—instead shrugging his shoulders and leaving the work of actually governing to the states.

All of which makes this past week an important cautionary tale for the election itself if Trump does, in fact, lose. The authoritarian instinct will still be there, of course. So will the flailing weakness, we suspect, and the effort to get his administration to take wildly inappropriate, even illegal steps. His degree of panic will presumably be even higher then than it is now, as will the stakes—which will be nothing less than the peaceful transition of power. We can only hope that, once again, the weakness will overwhelm the authoritarianism, the ineffectuality will triumph over the menace, and the president will emerge as a figure of contempt and ridicule, rather than of fear and consolidated power.

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Reading: The fall of Colston’s statue: ‘It didn’t take long – about four tugs of the ropes’

From The fall of Colston’s statue: ‘It didn’t take long – about four tugs of the ropes’

Rees said on Monday that Colston’s vexed legacy would be noted instead by placing his statue in a museum, along with some of the banners and signs left behind by those who tore it down. Meanwhile, with calls for similar monuments in Oxford, Cardiff, Derbyshire and London to face a reckoning of their own, the implications of the statue’s removal may spread far beyond Bristol itself.

What connects where I was born and raised with where my wife was born and raised? Teleology. Ha.

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Reading: How to protect your identity while protesting police brutality

From How to protect your identity while protesting police brutality

Hoffman’s “Steal This Book” returns for 2020.

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Reading: The Science and Politics of Masks in the Covid-19 Pandemic

From The Science and Politics of Masks in the Covid-19 Pandemic

It’s for you, not for me.

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Reading: White House: Trump to use ‘federal assets’ in response to violent protests | TheHill

From White House: Trump to use ‘federal assets’ in response to violent protests | TheHill

An appeal to studies when the General’s authority as a military advisor should be enough?

What studies have shown, as Gen. Milley noted — he was in the governor’s call, his points all pertained to the National Guard — and he noted that there are several studies that when there’s an overwhelming National Guard presence it actually deescalates the situation and causes less civil unrest,” McEnany said.

Oh, and Milley: Miley Cyrus = virus.

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Reading: How Facebook’s Ad Technology Helps Trump Win – The Atlantic

From How Facebook’s Ad Technology Helps Trump Win – The Atlantic

Bogost and Madrigal in The Atlantic, from 18 April 2020. A digital rhetorician looks at how Facebook’s AI handles trump’s branding. A look at how the FB algorithm operates meets and the changes in Advertising and Marketing 101. Rhetoric mechanized.

His campaign did so via pure, blunt constancy, using Facebook in exactly the way the tech giant intended: pouring heaps of money and data into Facebook’s automated advertising system.

This is tech used as it was designed: to make pots of money by offering constant exposure.

A “Facebook ad” is less an ad and more a machine for producing ads. Instead of paying to put particular media in front of a specific audience, an advertiser now pays Facebook to deliver a selected outcome from a certain stripe of people.

Trump’s interest in FB is the same as any other advertiser on FB. He’s in the FB ad-machine. His ads feed into the algorithm that targets viewers: and once your’e in, you can’t get out.

This is a look at both how the FB ad machine works, and how trump’s campaign interacts with it. As in

People have marveled that Trump never stopped running Facebook-ad campaigns. And the reason is, he couldn’t. The whole point is that the campaign has to keep fresh data flowing through the system. Most of the time, it can optimize for the cost of acquisitions, hoovering up money and data from the Facebook users it targets. Then, at strategic moments, the team reverses the machine, spending whatever money is required to get the highest penetration and the widest reach among their people.

It’s a matter of a campaign ceding control to the FB AI. On both ends.

Users—who are also citizens—similarly have no way out. Letting Facebook do its thing has become a requirement for electoral politics, and democracy’s future is entwined with the results.

The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

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Reading: Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

From Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

Robert Reich, in The Guardian, on trump’s lack of action:

He tweets bogus threats that he has no power to carry out – withholding funds from states that expand absentee voting, “overruling” governors who don’t allow places of worship to reopen “right away”, and punishing Twitter for factchecking him.

And he lies incessantly.

In reality, Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States. He doesn’t manage anything. He doesn’t organize anyone. He doesn’t administer or oversee or supervise. He doesn’t read memos. He hates meetings. He has no patience for briefings. His White House is in perpetual chaos.

Trump’s nonfeasance goes far beyond an absence of leadership or inattention to traditional norms and roles. In a time of national trauma, he has relinquished the core duties and responsibilities of the presidency.

He is no longer president. The sooner we stop treating him as if he were, the better.