Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Conservatives Don't Understand What Freedom of Speech Means, and Never Will

Dennis Prager, founder of the right-wing propaganda outlet Prager University, has a First Amendment right to lie about climate change, deny that straight people get HIV, viciously vilify Muslims, and declare that “men get turned on by any sight of female flesh.” He does not, however, have a right to upload these claims to YouTube and make money off them, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday.

...Prager and his friends regularly condemn Muslims, LGBTQ equality, abortion, feminism, gun control, and campaign finance reform, and deny climate change. (The company is partly funded by fracking billionaires.) The outlet has mastered the art of grabbing viewers’ attention with a provocative video, presented as fact, then pulling them deeper down the rabbit hole into Prager’s bizarre world of toxic propaganda.

It is strange, and more than a little pathetic, that the 9th Circuit had to remind PragerU that YouTube is incapable of unconstitutionally censoring its videos. The Constitution prohibits Congress or the states from abridging the freedom of speech; as the Supreme Court reiterated last year, the First Amendment simply does not apply to private entities, even if they create an open forum for varying viewpoints. Yet PragerU has spent more than two years hounding YouTube in court. Its lawyers insist that PragerU has a constitutional right to host its videos on the platform and profit from them.

...Despite the fact that no precedent and no constitutional provision supports its claim, PragerU appealed the 2018 ruling to the 9th Circuit. And on Wednesday, the court made quick work of its preposterous argument. Twenty years ago, the 9th Circuit held that “a private entity hosting speech on the Internet is not a state actor.” Today, “that principle has not changed.” YouTube “does not perform a public function by inviting public discourse on its property,” and it is not a “public forum” subject to the First Amendment. Even before the internet, plenty of companies hosted “speech on a private platform”—comedy clubs, for instance—but their embrace of diverse expression did not transmogrify them into state actors. To the contrary, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted in a brief, private companies have their own First Amendment right not to publish content they dislike. If there is any censorship here, it is PragerU’s effort to suppress YouTube’s own freedom of speech.

Given that PragerU routinely produces videos purporting to contain expert constitutional analysis, it is troubling that the company would mount such a frivolous lawsuit. In fact, it is so committed to this fight that it mounted a lawsuit in California state court, too (which it is also losing). It is difficult to see why anyone should trust the legal teachings of an outlet that so grievously misunderstands the law. But the First Amendment ensures that anyone eager to poison their mind with hateful gibberish can easily watch any video they want—on PragerU’s own website.

Trump and the Virus

All those public-health, pandemic-preventative budget cuts....

Holy Crap, Got a Mention on VICE!

How the hell did Miguel swing this?:
Breaking Bad, considered one of the greatest TV shows of all time, won nearly every television award in existence. Its spin-off prequel set six years prior, Better Call Saul, has also been critically acclaimed; as was El Camino, a feature-length film presented as an epilogue to Bad and released late last year on Netflix. For over a decade, creator Vince Gilligan has slowly been building out his own fictional universe in the Southwest, filled with con men, cartels, crime syndicates posing as fast food companies, and, of course, bright blue meth.

But one of Gilligan’s more incidental accomplishments during this time was helping to put Albuquerque, New Mexico on the map—not only as a major filming hub (Netflix bought Albuquerque Studios for close to $30 million in 2019, and signed an agreement promising $1 billion in production spending over the next decade), but as a destination for Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fans. In both shows, the city of Albuquerque becomes as much of a central character as chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) or smarmy attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), with most scenes shot on location throughout the region.

No one knows Albuquerque better than Miguel S. Jaramillo, who has tracked nearly all of Breaking Bad’s and Better Call Saul’s filming locations since the shows began. A New Mexico native, Jaramillo co-created a Breaking Bad fan fest in 2014 and runs the unofficial Instagram account of Breaking Bad/ Better Call Saul filming locations, where he offers backstory about specific locations seen on-screen and what locations doubled for what sets.

...When did you launch the Instagram account?

Around the middle of 2011, with the start of Breaking Bad’s fourth season. I recognized most of the show’s filming locations—like the car wash where Walt worked part-time, which is a massive building in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. But there were several areas that I wasn’t familiar with, like Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)’s industrial laundromat, located on Candelaria Road; or the desert areas where Walt and Jesse first cooked meth, which has since become somewhat common knowledge as being located on an Indian reservation called To'Hajiilee, about 45 minutes west of Albuquerque.

I got curious about the places I didn’t know, so I looked online and found a blog run by another fan of the show, Marc Valdez, who was tracking down and documenting locations. As time went on, Marc and I got in contact and we started to work together to find areas that appeared in new episodes. I thought it would be great to have a way for fans to easily look up the locations while on the move, which is what inspired the Instagram account.

What has the response been? Do these various places mind being put “on the map” for fans to find?

The response to the Instagram has been huge; I never realized how many people were interested in these random, behind-the-scenes areas. When I was starting out, I went around to the different locations to ask questions about what their experience was with Breaking Bad. There was an obvious difference between the places that embraced the exposure versus those who weren’t into it at all.

Hanging With Frank and Jackie Sandoval

New Mexico's Blowfish

A puffy-looking roadrunner, sitting on top of a car, trying to dry out after a rain.

Minnesota's Dr. No

Why I’m not a Klobuchar supporter:
She’s not a man, she’s not a socialist, she’s not a New Yorker, she’s not gay, she’s definitely not a firebrand or a reformer or a visionary. She has no online army—two subreddits dedicated to her campaign have fewer than 1,000 members each. She’s not Hillary and she’s not AOC. She’s not Bernie and she’s not Warren. She not rich and she’s not poor. She’s not legible as a “wife” or “mother” in ways that can hurt female candidates who seem too feminine or nurturing. Nor can she be slotted into the Tracy Flick or Lisa Simpson tropes that so often plague political women: She’s not a try-hard. Yes, she shared that her Spanish name was “Elena,” but she also forgot the name of the president of Mexico. (This last may ironically have saved her: We don’t really have a category for a less-than-perfectly-prepared Tracy Flick.) She’s not funny (sorry) but she’s not humorless. She’s not a political novice but she’s also not D.C. She does have proposals, but those proposals largely reflect her strategy to run on a “politics of no”—mainly to reject her opponents’ ideas. No Medicare for All, no pandering. And though she’s also a moderate Midwesterner, she’s also tried to make it clear that she’s not Pete. And of course, she’s not Trump.

Flying Terminator Bots Nurse You to Health?

Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza, Seen From the Hyatt Regency Hotel's Sierra Vista Room

Flight From Albuquerque to Las Vegas - February 25, 2020

Takeoff from the Sunport, heading west into the blinding sun. Dirty windows interfered with great views.

Looking south down the Rio Grande Valley.

Atrisco Heritage High School (which has been in several movies).

Wind streaks through a ridge on the SW side of the Navajo Reservation, not that far from the Grand Canyon.

Flight From San Diego to Albuquerque - February 19, 2020

Rolling towards the runway at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.

Waiting for other planes to land before we take off.

Waiting for other planes to land before we take off.

Airport terminal, Pt. Loma, and San Diego Bay.

Pt. Loma, heading west.

Turned around, and heading east.

Pt. Loma, and Coronado peninsula.


Interstate 8 and the big crest above the Colorado Desert.

Various wind-turbine pads.

Salton Sea.

New River.

Salton Sea and New River.

Southern reaches of the Colorado River, just north of the Mexican border.

Farming in southwestern Arizona.

Gila Bend.

Western reaches of the Phoenix area.


Interstate 17 corridor in urban Phoenix.

NE side of Phoenix.

Northern side of Scottsdale.

Verde River.

Apache Reservoir.



Mesas traversed by Coronado in 1540, near the Rio Vermejo, according to Nugent Brasher.

Mesas traversed by Coronado in 1540, near the Rio Vermejo, according to Nugent Brasher.




Southern reaches of the Laguna Reservation, New Mexico.

Where Highway 6 approaches Interstate 40.

Rio Puerco.

Crest between Rio Puerco & Rio Grande watersheds.

Atrisco Vista Blvd.



Rinconada Canyon, Petroglyph National Monument.

Coors Blvd., looking north.

Bluffs along west side of the Rio Grande River.

Interstate 25, and the Sandia Mountains.

Sandia Mountains, Bear Canyon Arroyo, and Montgomery Blvd.

Menaul Blvd.

Interstate 40.

Sandia Base.

Lovelace-Gibson Hospital, foreground; U.S. Veteran's Hospital background.