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Five Things I Found Interesting for 12/30/22

Here are five things I found interesting while on the internet:

1. It should not be difficult for wrongfully convicted people to get a judge to review new evidence or science relevant to their case. The Innocence Project shared a story about how a wrongfully convicted man used a re-run of the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters to prove his innocence“In 2007, John Galvan was about 21 years into a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit when he saw something on the prison television he thought might finally help him prove his innocence and secure his freedom: A re-run of an episode of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters.” Galvin was convicted after a coerced false confession under the theory that he and two others had “started the fire by throwing a bottle filled with gasoline at the building and then tossing a cigarette into the pool of gasoline on the porch to ignite it.” That Mythbusters episode demonstrated that while this may be a frequent plot point in movies and television shows, it isn’t scientifically possible. It took 15 years for Galvin and his attorneys to use this science to get the false convictions suppressed. Illinois freed Galvin and the two others falsely convicted earlier this year after they served a combined 105 years in prison for a crime they did not commit. 

2. Jessica Valenti warns about the next lie forced birth activists will try to use to keep women and people capable of becoming pregnant from receiving necessary health care. Republicans have learned that the radical laws they’ve enacted are unpopular with voters. As Valenti explains, “And with horror stories from anti-choice states rolling in at record speed—from sobbing cancer patients and raped children being denied care to women going into sepsis—conservatives have realized that they need a new message and tweaked legislation. And they need it fast.” So we are about to see anti-choice activists suggest amendments to these laws to guarantee equal care for the mother and child. But this is just another so-called abortion exception that is a lie designed to protect Republican politicians instead of patients. Valenti shares how this equal care standard would have complicated critical medical decisions during her pregnancy. Doctors and patients should make health care decisions, not political activists. 

3. Humanity does not have a plan for what to do if we detect a signal from an alien civilization. And this could be a problem, as The Guardian’s Ian Sample explains“It would be a transformative event for humankind, one the world’s nations are surely prepared for. Or are they? “Look at the mess we made when Covid hit. We’d be like headless chickens,” says Dr John Elliott, a computational linguist at the University of St Andrews. “We cannot afford to be ill-prepared, scientifically, socially, and politically rudderless, for an event that could happen at any time and which we cannot afford to mismanage.” Elliott is bringing together researchers to propose ways to get ready, including whether we should even respond. That’s a complicated question, one scientists and science fiction writers like Liu Cixin (in his masterpiece The Three-Body Problem) have considered. I don’t think we should respond because of the risks involved, but I am glad some people are thinking about this challenge. 

4. Ten Major League umpires are retiring this year, the highest number since 1999. As Bleacher Nation’s Brett Taylor explains, this kind of turnover has some benefits“The sudden openings mean MLB will be able to promote ten new umpires from the minor leagues, where there will already have been familiarity with the new rules, and, in most cases, with the automated balls and strikes system.” That is a good point. But I continue to be stunned that a couple of particularly bad umpires are not on this list and continue on like a bad sitcom. 

5. President Ulysses S. Grant couldn’t hear music and was particularly sensitive to military songs. As Salon’s Matthew Rozsa writes, Grant (along with Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft had “…congenital amusia, or an inability to hear music and understand it as — well — music. To those with the condition, music typically sounds cacophonous, like noise.” I may need to use this factoid in pub trivia someday. 

Five Things I Found Interesting for 12/29/22

Here are five things I found interesting while on the internet today:

1. We must stop tolerating the police and prosecutors who do not seem to care if their lies and mistakes put innocent people in jail. ProPublica’s Brett Murphy exposes how a small-town Ohio police officer has successfully spread the junk science idea that it is possible to tell if a 911 caller is lying. Murphy’s article, They Called 911 for Help. Police and Prosecutors Used a New Junk Science to Decide They Were Liars, made me angrier with each paragraph. Police and prosecutors who believe in this junk science have sent innocent people to jail. Here’s one example shared by Murphy: 

Almost everything Carpenter said — and didn’t say — was evidence of deception, according to the state police agent who analyzed her call.

Lewis found 39 guilty indicators and zero indicators of innocence. Carpenter was arrested eight days later. Newspapers and television stations published the 56-year-old’s mugshot.

She spent three months in jail before someone else confessed to the crime.” (emphasis added)

This outcome is wrong. We need to keep junk science out of our courtrooms. And I was also not surprised to learn that the person pushing this fallacy is a police officer who has made misogynistic and transphobic posts on Facebook. 

2. It turns out election disinformation isn’t just for national elections. The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Barabak focuses his column, It’s not just Russia and China targeting Washington. Disinformation is a problem in local races too, on a school board race in the San Ramon Unified School District. This school district is in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 20 minutes south of where I live. A radical conservative candidate won the election by 236 votes. But, as Barabak explains, supporters of the winning candidate spread a lie about an opponent’s background. It could have been a factor in the result. Barabak’s column does a great job of amplifying the original reporting in this story by the East Bay Times’ Rachel Heimann Mercader.

3. Parker Malloy shares was she wrote for the annual journalism predictions effort by Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab in this post at her The Present Age Substack. She explains what she believes the dire financial situation in the media ecosystem will likely cause. “I worry that all of this will make the media ecosystem so weak that what’s left will be a mess of “pink slime” content, politically driven propaganda, and a reliance on curated material from outlets chasing new subscriptions and an ever-shrinking share of ad revenue, tied to the whims and business decisions of billionaire social media tycoons. And that’s where the moral panics come in.” I fear that’s correct. Malloy also highlights some other predictions you may find helpful to have in mind for the coming year.  

4. Molly Knight is one of my favorite baseball writers, and she recaps her 2022 in this post on her The Long Game Substack. It hasn’t been an easy year for her, but she’s continued to write outstanding articles about many subjects and build a fun community. Even if you don’t like baseball, reading how the COVID-19 infection she got at the All-Star Game should remind all of us that we still don’t know how much this can impact all of us. As Knight writes, “I mention all of the stumbles I endured in 2022 because I know so many of you are hurting during this time of year, and it can feel so isolating to go online and see the curated and airbrushed lives of friends and strangers on social media who seem to have it all together.”

5. The Guardian shares its list of the world‘s top 100 female soccer players. Reviewing the profiles of these players is a great way to prepare for the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand beginning on July 20. Meg Swanick listed the Americans in the top 100

16- Cat Macario
18- Alex Morgan
21- Soph Smith
29- Lindsey Horan
33- Rose Lavelle
36- Mal Pugh
47- Trinity Rodman
66- Naomi Girma
70- Megan Rapinoe
88- Mia Fishel
93- Becky Sauerbrunn

And, something I want to do as many days as possible because the issue is so essential: Jessica Valenti at Abortion, Every Day recaps the news from across the country regarding reproductive freedom and sexual and reproductive health care. She explains what is happening in Louisiana: “Well, we’re seeing that terror in stark action: OBGYNs in the state are refusing to see pregnant women until they’re 12 weeks along, because they’re afraid that the high risk for miscarriage in that first trimester could end up making them a target for investigation.” Valenti covers what is happening around the country, including another story that explains why we need to be concerned about protecting the health privacy of women and other people who can become pregnant. 

Five Things I Found Interesting for 12/28/22

Here are five things I found interesting while on the internet today:

1. In Southwest Airlines’ Christmas Meltdown Shows How Corporations Deliberately Pit Consumers Against Low-Wage Workers, Adam Johnson explains so much about our economy really works. As he explains, many corporations prioritize profits, dividends, and stock buybacks over customer service and worker safety. “Watching video after video, reading tweet after tweet, describing frustrated stranded holiday travelers yelling at Southwest Airlines workers, and hearing, in turn, accounts of airline workers and airport staff breaking down crying, is a good opportunity to talk about how none of this is natural or inevitable. It is a choice, both in corporate policy and government regulation.” Johnson explains how these deliberate choices by corporate leaders harm workers and erode the trust between members of the working class.

2. Do you want to know how Ticketmaster became part of live events we hate? How did those service fees get so high, and how can they continue to have a stranglehold on the business despite fiascos like what Taylor Swift fans just experienced? The American Prospect’s Maureen Tkacik and Krista Brown go into the history of deregulation, kickbacks, politics, and threats that created this horrible experience in Ticketmaster’s Dark History. If only Pearl Jam could have gotten more support when they tried to fight back in the 1990s.

3. University of California San Francisco’s Dr. Bob Wachter shares how he weighs attending public events with the risk of being infected by Covid in this informative Twitter thread. People must make informed choices given how little we know about Long Covid. This is a personal choice, and everyone will have different risk tolerance levels.

4. I missed this article earlier in the year, but the reporting The Atlantic’s Tim Alberta does in this article about how politics has infected the evangelical movement is essential to understanding today’s politics. Alberta explains, “But a year’s worth of conversations with pastors, denominational leaders, evangelical scholars, and everyday Christians tells a clear story: Substantial numbers of evangelicals are fleeing their churches, and most of them are moving to ones further to the right.”

5. I enjoyed reading what Meg Swanick shared in this Substack about soccer and what she observed on A Train Journey to Leeds. She was taking the trip to watch Manchester City and Leeds start their post-World Cup seasons. How Leeds does is vital to many United States soccer fans, given that their coach and a few key players are Americans.

And…Jessica Valenti at Abortion, Every Day recaps the news from across the country regarding reproductive freedom and sexual and reproductive health care. In today’s edition: stories about why Republican politicians in red states are working to prevent ballot measures to protect these rights, a West Virginia Republican who wants to write a law to reduce specific sentences if the person convicted is willing to undergo sterilization, a new study that shows a link between abortion restrictions and increased suicide rates among women, and why we all should be concerned about the upcoming Republican attacks against contraception.

Five Things I Found Interesting for 12/27/22

Here are five things I found interesting while on the internet today:

1. James Fallows analyses Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s speech to a Joint Session of Congress earlier this month. In The Skill Involved in Zelensky’s Congressional Address, Fallows provides an overview of what the Ukrainian president was trying to do, including a line-by-line analysis of the presentation. As Fallows explains, “In both parts I’ll be saying that the speech was carefully thought out as a piece of writing, and powerfully presented as a moment in living history. Zelensky could hardly have done more, or done anything more effective, to get his country’s message across.” In a follow-up post, Fallows talks to an aide to Zelenskyy about how the speech was put together and how they worked to ensure it worked in a language that isn’t his native tongue.

2. Over on her Men Yell at Me substack, Lyz Lenz gets the help of some notable writers to determine the 2022 Dingus of the Year. As Lenz explains, “We have to find humor in the fight. We have to point out the oddities, the eccentricities. We have to say out loud that emperors are naked, it’s not okay to “both sides” trans rights, and that, actually, NFTs are a scam, and Amazon is evil. We have to call a dingus a dingus when we see it.” As the post makes clear, it was quite a year for dingus activity.

3. All the major planets in the solar system will be visible in the sky at the same time just after sunset this week. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy explains what’s happening and how you can best see this relatively rare astronomical event.

4. Jessica Valenti at Abortion Every Day recaps the news from across the country regarding reproductive freedom and sexual and reproductive health care. Among the awful news is a story about how Texas is looking to expand its abortion bounty law to prevent pregnant people from leaving the state.


Democratic Party of Contra Costa County September 2022 Newsletter

I am editing the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County (DPCCC) monthly newsletter and wanted to share it with you. The September edition includes:

  • A message from our Chair, Katie Ricklefs;
  • A report about our monthly meeting;
  • The 68 candidates the DPCCC endorsed for the November 2022 election;
  • How you can take action to elect Democrats to local, state, and federal office; and
  • The legislative positions, proclamations, and resolutions adopted by our members.

Beware of the Dangerous Independent State Legislature Theory

Everyone who cares about democracy should make themselves aware of the dangerous independent state legislature theory that may already have majority support on the United States Supreme Court.

Judd Legum at Popular Information goes into the history of the independent state legislature theory and how it could be used to overturn any 2024 election result to which Republicans object. Chief Justice John Roberts, who gets far too much credit from liberals, has laid the foundation for this dangerous theory in a series of opinions that struck down many voter rights laws. And Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo, who has been successful in overseeing radical right efforts to take over the Supreme Court and much of the federal judiciary, is now raising money to push this theory.

As Legum explains:

The independent state legislature theory was promoted by Trump’s lawyers after the 2020 election to argue that state legislatures could simply ignore the election results and appoint electors pledged to Trump. Such actions, according to the independent state legislature theory, would be unreviewable by state courts even if they directly violated state constitutions. 

Advocates of the independent state legislature theory argue that this means that, apart from Congress, the state legislature has absolute power over the administration of elections. This power, according to the theory, cannot be constrained by state constitutions or state courts. 

The most important thing to know about the independent state legislature theory is that it makes no sense. State legislatures do not exist independently. They are created and constrained by state constitutions. And state courts interpret state constitutions. 

The idea that the intention of the Election Clause is to allow state legislatures to violate the state constitution is absurd. 

The Strict Scrutiny podcast also recently featured an episode focused on debunking the independent state legislature theory. I encourage you to give it a listen.

Our democracy is over if the Supreme Court adopts it, and four justices have already signaled their support.

Trump Under the Espionage Act

James Fallows turns over his Breaking the News Substack to longtime defense and intelligence official Jan Lodal to examine how best to investigate former President Donald Trump under the Espionage Act.

Lodal argues that many sections of the act include soft elements that may be impossible to get an unanimous jury verdict against the former President. No jury is going to convict Trump of treason or being a spy, Lodal argues. But there is another subsection of the Espionage Act that doesn’t require interpretation.

But there is one remaining subparagraph of the Espionage Act that isunambiguously applicable to what Trump has done — subparagraph (d).  This paragraph makes a straightforward action a crime: namely, failing to return classified documents if properly directed to give them back.  No proof of the level of classification, or the intentions of the document holder, or the content of the documents, is required.  Just a simple question, did he or she give them back or not. 

Lodal encourages us, and prosecutors, to look more closely at subparagraph (d) when looking to prosecutive Trump for stealing classified documents. I’m glad Fallows shared this perspective, because I also hadn’t heard this kind of analysis before.

Republicans Often Lie About Abortion

Republicans often lie about abortion. To be forced-birth requires Republicans to lie about the science, lie about who needs to use it, and lie about those who provide this essential medical service.

Judd Legum in his Popular Information Substack highlights GOP candidates who are lying about their position on abortion in new advertisements. It turns out that their forced-birth position isn’t as popular as they assumed.

Legum offers several examples, starting with Minnesota Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen:

So Jensen’s new ad not only contradicts his own statements during the campaign but the power of the Governor to influence abortion rights in Minnesota. And Jensen isn’t the only anti-abortion Republican looking to mislead voters to win an election.

The opponents of these forced-birth candidates need to be blunt about what is happening here, if only to get reporters to cover this GOP attempt to hide its real position.

CNN’s Rush to the Right

Parker Malloy explains why CNN’s hiring of John Miller as its Chief Law Enforcement and Intelligence Analyst is so problematic. It is also another sign of CNN’s rush to the right under the new Warner Bros. Discovery regime and CNN CEO Chris Licht. As Malloy writes:

This is someone viewers are supposed to see on TV and think, “This is a trustworthy source of information”? Setting aside anything else in his career that I don’t care to get into right now, how is lying about a secret anti-Muslim surveillance program you took part in not enough to more or less disqualify you from landing jobs at major media outlets? How are viewers supposed to trust a word out of this man’s mouth? And what should Muslim viewers take away from this decision? CNN’s latest hire has effectively told the hundreds of thousands of Muslim New Yorkers that the well-documented spying program that was unleashed on them post-9/11 is all in their heads. Does Chris Licht not see this as an issue?

We don’t have to accept our major media entities hiring people who lie all the time. If you have to lie to court conservative viewers, perhaps there is a worse problem about the state of our nation that requires urgent reporting and analysis.

Big Media to Democracy: Drop Dead

The headline to Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch’s newsletter today is perfect: Big Media to Democracy: Drop Dead. Bunch describes the dynamic of our elite reporters and political analysts not understanding that the MAGA Republicans’ threat to democracy is also a direct threat to their survival.

There shouldn’t be two sides to the survival of our democracy. Yet we see a failure to understand this from CNN to the Washington Post to other pundits we see on television. As Bunch writes:

“Except that “both sides”-ing the current moment or equating Biden’s struggles to find the right tone to explain the threat to democracy with the actual threat itself, isn’t “accurate” in any true or moral sense of the term. Instead of rising to the occasion, the loudest voices in America want to run away, to hide in a shell of faux professionalism and medieval ethics rather than acknowledge that the foundation that allows them to perform acts of journalism is near collapse.

Our democracy is at stake. I wish more of our reporters and editors understood that fact.