Sony slides on Microsoft-Activision Blizzard tie-up plan – BBC News:

Shares in Japanese technology giant Sony have slumped in Tokyo trade after Microsoft said it plans to buy mega games company Activision Blizzard.
The deal worth $68.7bn (£50.5bn), would be Microsoft’s biggest ever buyout and the largest deal in gaming history.

Maybe Sony would be doing better if anyone could readily get their hands on a PS5…

Horror’s Ongoing Reckoning: The Final Girl Seizes Control of Her Story | Tor.com:

The slasher was born and raised in a time of male anxiety. The FDA approved the Pill—the first effective form of oral contraception to be close to 100% effective and widely available—in 1960. For the first time in human history, women could take full control of their reproductive cycles. Second wave feminism, which took aim at patriarchal systems and structures embedded in our culture, empowered a whole generation of women to take control of their own lives.

The Cameraman’s Revenge is a stop motion animation featuring real (dead) insects from (1912):

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) is a 13-minute experimental Russian stop-motion animated short directed and written by Wladyslaw Starewicz. This animation was one-of-a-kind when it was created for its use of real dried-out insects as characters. The film includes beetles, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and other fine specimens. — Read the rest

Is this my surprised face?
Trump officials interfered with the 2020 census beyond cutting it short, email shows:

A%20newly%20released%20Census%20Bureau%20email%20written%20during%20former%20President%20Donald%20Trump's%20administration%20%E2%80%94%20when%20Wilbur%20Ross%2C%20shown%20at%20a%202020%20congressional%20hearing%20in%20Washington%2C%20D.C.%2C%20served%20as%20the%20commerce%20secretary%20overseeing%20the%20census%20%E2%80%94%20details%20how%20officials%20interfered%20with%20the%20national%20head%20count.

A newly released Census Bureau email written during former President Donald Trump's administration — when Wilbur Ross, shown at a 2020 congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., served as the commerce secretary overseeing the census — details how officials interfered with the national head count.
A newly released Census Bureau email written during former President Donald Trump's administration — when Wilbur Ross, shown at a 2020 congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., served as the commerce secretary overseeing the census — details how officials interfered with the national head count.
Andrew Harnik | AP file

Former President Donald Trump's administration alarmed career civil servants at the Census Bureau by not only ending the 2020 national head count early, but also pressuring them to alter plans for protecting people's privacy and producing accurate data, a newly released email shows.

Trump's political appointees at the Commerce Department, which oversees the bureau, demonstrated an "unusually" high level of "engagement in technical matters, which is unprecedented relative to the previous censuses," according to a September 2020 email that Ron Jarmin — the bureau's deputy director — sent to two other top civil servants.

At the time, the administration was faced with the reality that if Trump lost the November election he could also lose a chance to change the census numbers used to redistribute political representation. The window of opportunity was closing for his administration to attempt to radically reshape the futures of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

Despite the 14th Amendment's requirement to include the "whole number of persons in each state," Trump wanted to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the census counts used to reallocate each state's share of congressional seats and electoral votes.

While the former president's unprecedented push did not reach its ultimate goal, it wreaked havoc at the federal government's largest statistical agency, which was also contending with the coronavirus pandemic upending most of its plans for the once-a-decade tally. The delays stemming from COVID-19 forced the bureau to conclude that it could no longer meet the legal reporting deadline for the first set of results and needed more time.

The administration's last-minute decision to cut the counting short sparked public outcries, including a federal lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

But its interference in other areas related to the 2020 census largely flew under most radars. The newly released email — first reported by the New York Times and obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School through an ongoing public records lawsuit — details the wide scope of its attempts to buck the bureau's experts and tamper with the count.

According to the document, the agency's career civil servants saw when to end counting as a "policy decision that political leadership should make."

But the methodologies and procedures for filling in data gaps, reviewing the counts for errors and protecting the confidentiality of people's information should strictly stay in the lane of civil servants at "an independent statistical agency," the email says.

Trump officials — including Wilbur Ross, who served as commerce secretary — however, "expressed interest" in many technical areas, including exactly how the bureau could produce a state-by-state count of unauthorized immigrants and citizenship data that could have politically benefited Republicans when voting districts are redrawn.

The email suggests that the bureau's civil servants were planning to discuss their concerns with Ross through the end of 2020.

The bureau's public information office did not immediately respond to NPR's questions about whether those discussions took place.

The Census Bureau's civil servants tried to be transparent

Other internal government documents the Brennan Center released Saturday show that bureau officials were wary of carrying out Trump's July 2020 presidential memorandum.

Before President Joe Biden reversed the directive last year, it called for information that would allow the president to leave out the numbers of immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization from the congressional apportionment count.

According to an August 2020 email by Jarmin — the bureau's highest-ranking civil servant — the agency had received, months before the memorandum, "asks" for information related to a federal lawsuit focused on the same topic. Like Trump, the challengers in the lawsuit — the state of Alabama and Republican Rep. Mo Brooks — wanted undocumented immigrants excluded from the numbers used to reallocate House seats and electoral votes.

The bureau, however, was "consistently pessimistic" on the feasibility of "removing undocs from the apportionment count," Jarmin warned in the email to two Trump appointees — then-Director Steven Dillingham, who ultimately resigned following whistleblower complaints, and Nathaniel Cogley, who served in the newly created, controversial role of deputy director for policy.

Still, civil servants attempted to be transparent about how they tried to create the data ordered by the former administration.

"We recommend that we do a federal register notice on the methodology because transparency requires that the American public understand how we derived the counts of unauthorized immigrants and have the opportunity to comment on that methodology," said a slide titled "Communication Strategy Decision" for an August 2020 briefing.

No such notice appeared in the federal government's official journal of record.

There are concerns of future interference with the census

In response to the newly disclosed documents, Arturo Vargas — a longtime census advocate and CEO of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund — said in a statement that the efforts of the bureau's career professionals to resist Trump officials' pressure and "protect the integrity of census operations were nothing short of heroic."

On Tuesday, the Biden administration's Scientific Integrity Task Force, which includes Jarmin, issued a report warning that the bureau and other federal statistical agencies "must protect against interference in their efforts to create and release data that provide a set of common facts to inform policymakers, researchers, and the public."

The report presented the Trump administration's decision to end 2020 census counting early as a case study, noting that the bureau's internal watchdog, the Commerce Department inspector general's office, concluded that the rushed schedule put the quality of the results at risk.

"To date," the report added, "no individuals have been held accountable for these allegations."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Toni Morrison’s Ten Steps Towards Fascism:

In a convocation address delivered at Howard University in March 1995, Toni Morrison noted that before fascist movements arrive at a “final solution” (the euphemism used by Nazi leaders to refer to the mass murder of Jews), there are preceding steps that they use to advance their agenda. From an excerpt of that speech published in The Journal of Negro Education:

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.

Morrison then continued, listing the pathway to fascism in ten steps:

  1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.
  2. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.
  3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power and because it works.
  4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification.
  5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy.
  6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.
  7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.
  8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy — especially its males and absolutely its children.
  9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions, a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press, a little pseudo-success, the illusion of power and influence, a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.
  10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.

As I have said before, you can see many of these steps playing out right now in America, orchestrated by a revitalized and emboldened right-wing movement that has captured the Republican Party. Jason Stanley, a scholar of fascism, recently wrote of Morrison’s speech:

Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.

Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices — ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.

Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.

See also Umberto Eco’s 14 Features of Eternal Fascism and Fighting Authoritarianism: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century. (via jason stanley)

Tags: lists   politics   racism   Toni Morrison   USA

jwz: Today on Sick Sad World: How The Cryptobros Have Fallen:

In the 80s and 90s, hacker culture was flush with tech utopians who thought that computer networks in general, and cryptography in particular, would allow them to route around the world’s problems. These nerdy, young, sheltered, wealthy white men believed that you could code your way to freedom and good governance, and they could thereby avoid the yoke of whatever oppression they were suffering.

For many of these people, the oppression they felt seemed mainly to be paying taxes, or being told that they couldn’t hoard guns, or that they simply couldn’t get to do whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it. That latter particularly sociopathic part of hacker culture now calls itself “black hat”, but the Libertarian end of it, that metastasized out of hacker culture and took over the tech industry in toto.

A Video Countdown of the 25 Best Films of 2021:

I look forward to this every year: David Ehrlich’s video countdown of the 25 best films of 2021. It’s like a trailer for an entire year’s worth of movies, lovingly constructed by a movie fan, critic, and editor, chock full of vivid imagery, memorable moments, and homages to great films of the past. I want to take the rest of the day off and just watch all of these…

I look forward to these every year.

Let’s Settle This

January 10, 2022

Let’s Settle This:

Turns out the Internet is wrong a lot.

“America Is Now in Fascism’s Legal Phase”:

Something I was disappointed about on last week’s anniversary of the terrorist attack on Congress was too much emphasis on Trump’s role in what happened on that day, as if focusing on him somehow makes it possible that the rest of the Republican Party can jettison this bad seed at some point without losing face and American politics can get back to the bipartisan business as usual. This is a total fiction, and as Stanley correctly notes, this shift towards fascism is a party-wide effort that preceded Trump and will outlive him.

Daring Fireball: T-Mobile Has Started Blocking iPhone Users From Enabling iCloud Private Relay in the U.S.:

This is some serious bullshit. It has nothing to do with improving network quality and everything to do with T-Mobile selling your usage data. Curious how Apple will respond. I’d say switch carriers if you’re on T-Mobile, but if they get away with this, I fear Verizon and AT&T will follow.

I can be fairly confident that Mint won’t follow suit, but who knows… I do hope Apple holds firm on the offering and pushes back, because this is about as anti-consumer as it gets.