Mostly Monday Reads: Supreme Horror and Bummer Court takes aim at Precedent Again

Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent – Francis Bacon, 1953

Happy Halloween, Sky Dancers!

The Horror Show continues at the Supreme Court as Justice Alito, once again, shows what a Supreme Asshole he can be. We’re also establishing that Roberts doesn’t care if something exists or not, and Clarence Thomas is still the dumbest Justice ever appointed to the High Court.  The Supreme Court is revisiting affirmative action, and all the white excuses aren’t relegated to those representing the tropes and misunderstandings about the effort to achieve more diverse universities. This isn’t unbiased questioning at all.

You may remember the Harvard case that was decided in 1978 with the majority opinion written by Justice Lewis Powell.  The precedent has been upheld, albeit narrowly, even with Republicans on the court.  Powell likened the use of race to broaden the diversity of the student body was similar to using other traits–like talent or ability in sports or the arts–could also come under consideration.  Folks covering the hearings are discovering just how biased the religious reactionaries on the court can be.

This is from NPR: “Can race play a role in college admissions? The Supreme Court hears the arguments.”

In a series of cases since then, the court has more or less stuck to that principle, adding that each applicant must be evaluated individually, in a holistic way.

But today Harvard’s admission system, cited as a model by Powell, is itself under the judicial microscope, along with the system at the University of North Carolina. UNC, which until the 1950s refused to accept any black applicants, is now widely rated as one of the top three state colleges in the South, though like many other top universities, it struggles to have a genuinely diverse student population. Just 8% of the undergraduate student population is African American in a state that is 21% Black.

The two cases overlap. Because UNC is a state school, the question is whether its affirmative-action program violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee to equal protection of the law. And even though Harvard is a private institution, it still is covered by federal anti-discrimination laws because it accepts federal money for a wide variety of programs.

Ultimately, at the heart of both cases is the same principle: what constitutes racial discrimination?

On one side is Students for Fair Admissions, an organization founded by legal activist Edward Blum, who for decades has fought what he sees as racial preferences in school admissions and in other spheres as well.

“What is happening on college campuses today is that applicants are treated differently because of their race and ethnicity,” he says. “Some are given a thumbs up. Some are given a thumbs down.”

On the other side, Harvard and UNC contend that in addition to academic excellence, they aim for a student body that is demographically diverse, and that in evaluating the strengths of each candidate, an admissions committee “need not ignore a candidate’s race any more than it does a candidate’s home state, national origin, family background, or special achievements.”

This holistic approach to college admissions is used by a huge variety of colleges, large and small, including the U.S. military academies. Among the many academic institutions that have filed briefs supporting affirmative action are 57 Catholic colleges and universities, including Notre Dame, Georgetown, and Holy Cross. And there are more briefs filed by 68 of the largest corporations in the country, and a brief filed by a long list of retired three- and four-star generals and admirals attesting to the need for racial diversity in the upper echelons of the military. They say that the lack of racial diversity in the officer corps during the Vietnam War led to enormous tensions, and even violence between the largely white officer corps and the largely black and Hispanic enlisted men, sometimes compromising the war effort.

Ellie Mystal is tweeting the hearings live and not pulling any punches.

The Library, Félicien Rops, circa 1878-188

That’s typical of Alito, who runs with the crowd that invents abortion procedures that don’t exist either. Whatever his crazy ass patriarchal cult insists is, the reality is the only thing that matters.  He should try to stick to that minimally.  Ryan Lizza and Eugene Danials believe that the affirmative action precedent is dead on arrival to this court.  This is from Politico Playbook: “POLITICO Playbook: The next big precedent SCOTUS is set to overturn.”

  Their argument is based on Robert’s previous opinions when he could not get them through prior cases.

FIRST ROE, NOW BAKKE — Another landmark Supreme Court decision from the 1970s is likely to fall.

This morning, SCOTUS will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the use of race in college admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

There is little mystery about the outcome. 

Previous attempts to overturn the use of affirmative action by colleges have failed. In 2003, Justice SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR, nominated by RONALD REAGAN, provided the decisive vote in Grutter v. Bollinger. In 2016, Justice ANTHONY KENNEDY, another Reagan nominee, did the same in Fisher v. University of Texas. Those cases narrowed the use of race in admissions to one permissible goal: diversity.

But the court has changed radically since 2016, and the six conservative justices have a history of hostility to Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the 1978 opinion that first blessed college affirmative action programs. As the court made clear in Dobbs, if five justices believe that an old case is “egregiously wrong,” 40-plus years of precedent don’t matter.

And Chief Justice JOHN ROBERTS is unlikely to play the role of bridge-builder as he did in the ACA-saving NFIB v. Sebelius, when he was successful, and in Dobbs, when he wasn’t. On rolling back affirmative action, Roberts is the chief hawk on the court.

His two most oft-quoted lines on the issue come from the earliest days of his SCOTUS tenure. “It is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” Roberts wrote in a 2006 gerrymandering case. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he wrote in a 2007 school desegregration case.

It was in that latter opinion that Roberts best articulated the conservative view of Brown v. Board of Education, which is at the heart of the cases that will be heard today. Brown, he insisted, quoting one of the plaintiff’s lawyers at oral arguments in 1952, concluded that “no state has any authority under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens.”

The Ghost of a Flea, c. 1819–20, William Blake

You may recall that Judge Jackson Brown has recused herself from the Harvard Case but can rule on the other. One thing that is interesting to note is this take from Theodoric Meyer and Toby Raji. This is from the Washington Post: “Historically diverse Supreme Court hears disproportionately from White lawyers. The court is grappling with several cases involving race, including two affirmative action cases set to be argued Monday”  They also add White Male to that in the body of the article.

Since the start of the Supreme Court’s 2017 term, 374 lawyers have argued before the justices. Some have argued more than a dozen times, while others have done so only once.

To determine the demographics of this group, The Washington Post asked each of them to share their race or ethnicity, gender and other information about their backgrounds. More than 290 responded. The Post confirmed the race of seven more lawyers based on articles, speeches and interviews in which they described how they identify. The Post also confirmed lawyers’ gender identities based on their biographies on law firm and other professional websites and how the justices referred to them during oral arguments.

In total, The Post ascertained the gender identities of all 374 lawyers who have argued before the high court since the start of the 2017 term and the race of more than 80 percent of them.

Of those, nearly 81 percent are White, and 62 percent are White men. Nearly 9 percent are Asian American. While 19 percent of Americans and nearly 6 percent of lawyers in the United States are Hispanic, according to the American Bar Association, only 3.6 percent of the Supreme Court attorneys in the Post analysis were Hispanic. And while almost 14 percent of Americans and 4.5 percent of lawyers nationally are Black, only 2.3 percent of the lawyers in the Post analysis were Black.

Vincent van Gogh, “Head of a skeleton with a burning cigarette,” 1886

I’m not sure I trust the protection of my Constitutional writes to this mix.  I’m sure many can effectively argue for or against a case, provide evidence, and do so eloquently.  However, no one makes an argument like someone whose ox is about to be gored. The next read is from Axios and written by Sam Baker for Axios.  The lede is a good one for Halloween and the Supreme Court that’s hellbent on turning us back into medieval surfs. “Affirmative action is at death’s door at the Supreme Court.” Get along, little peasants!  Nothing to see here!

Why it matters: Harvard and UNC — supported by a host of other schools, as well as business organizations — argue that diversity is essential to the educational experience and that the only effective way to ensure diversity is to make it an explicit part of the admissions process.

  • But they’ll be making that argument to a court that is extremely skeptical of any sort of racial preference.
  • “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a 2007 opinion about the use of race when assigning kids to public schools.
  • From voting rights to K-12 education to employment law and probably now college admissions, the court over the past several years has consistently knocked down programs that tried to correct racial inequities by explicitly taking race into account.

This is all largely one man’s doing. Conservative activist Ed Blum has organized and funded a slew of high-profile lawsuits explicitly designed to get the court to strike down affirmative action.

  • He orchestrated a 2013 case in which a white student sued because she didn’t get into the University of Texas — and the sequel, in which the same student came back to the high court again in 2016.
  • This time around, the named plaintiffs are not only white students but also Asian Americans, who say they’ve been discriminated against because of the way Harvard and UNC give preference to applications from Black and Hispanic students.
  • This is not a particularly secretive endeavor. Blum is open about the fact that this is, effectively, a campaign, and that he is the campaign manager.
  • “I’m a one-trick pony,” Blum recently told Reuters. “I hope and care about ending these racial classifications and preferences in our public policy.”
  • Blum also had a hand in the landmark case that nullified a key section of the Voting Rights Act — another instance in which the conservative court said policies designed to offset a history of discrimination had outlived their usefulness.

Chris Geidner, MSNBC Opinion Columnist writes this: “Chief Justice John Roberts is about to get what he always wanted. That’s a problem. Supporters of race-conscious admissions policies should learn lessons from Democrats’ sluggish response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.”  I’m not exactly sure any of us were sluggish, just at a loss for a way to take action with the split Senate.

Simple vote-counting offers no reason for hope. Roberts has long sought to eliminate or restrict race-conscious programs. In his second term on the court in 2007, Roberts declared in a case about primary school assignments that included race as a factor: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The other long-serving conservative justices are similarly strident. In 2003, Justice Clarence Thomas made his views clear: “I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators.” Justice Samuel Alito joined Roberts’ opinion in the 2007 primary school case. They and Thomas all dissented in a 2016 case about the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions policies. Alito, in an opinion joined by Roberts and Thomas, referred to UT’s plan as “systematic racial discrimination.”

Now, they also have the three Trump appointees — Kavanaugh, Barrett and Neil Gorsuch — on the court with them. All the earlier appointees will need is two of those three votes to end all race-conscious higher education admissions policies.

Watching Uncle Clarence Thomas close the door behind him will certainly be interesting.

Odilon Redon, “The Cyclops,” circa 1898-1900

So, let me just put a few other things up, given we know now how important elections are.  I’d prefer no more morons appointing morons to any court.  Katelyn Polantz from CNN writes: “January 6 committee obtains eight emails showing possible planning of post-election crime.”  We must ensure we have control of Congress to learn more about this.

The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol has obtained eight emails from late 2020 that a judge determined show Donald Trump and his lawyers planning to defraud courts and obstruct the congressional vote on the presidency.

A new court filing from Trump’s then-attorney John Eastman disclosed that the House said it had accessed the emails on Friday.

The House probe has been fighting for the records for months, and a federal judge cleared the way for the committee to receive them in recent weeks, calling them possible evidence of the planning of crimes on Trump’s behalf.

Eastman had tried several last-ditch attempts to hold off the committee. The panel declined to comment to CNN.

The emails that the committee finally has accessed include four communications between Trump attorneys that appear to indicate they knew details they submitted to courts to challenge the election were false, and four emails that reveal them discussing filing lawsuits as a way to hold off congressional certification of Trump’s electoral loss, Judge David O. Carter previously revealed.

One of the emails describes concern the lawyers had about submitting a declaration signed by Trump himself in a lawsuit challenging the election, which said the election fraud allegations it presented to the court were true, the judge’s previous opinion revealed. The Trump-signed statement was sent to court, even though the lawyers knew the allegations within weren’t sound, according to the court record.

Eastman is now asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an order telling the House to return or destroy the eight emails.

Aksel Waldemar Johannessen, “The night,” 1920

Whoa!  That must be kinda scary for Eastman and Trump.  Too bad no medieval dungeons await them if true.

The outcome of the Brazilian elections is at the top of international news today.  This is from The New York Times:  “Brazil Elects Lula, a Leftist Former Leader, in a Rebuke of Bolsonaro.”

Voters in Brazil on Sunday ousted President Jair Bolsonaro after just one term and elected the leftist former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to replace him, election officials said, a rebuke to Mr. Bolsonaro’s far-right movement and his divisive four years in office.

The victory completes a stunning political revival for Mr. da Silva — from the presidency to prison and back — that had once seemed unthinkable.

It also ends Mr. Bolsonaro’s turbulent time as the region’s most powerful leader. For years, he attracted global attention for policies that accelerated the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and exacerbated the pandemic, which left nearly 700,000 dead in Brazil, while also becoming a major international figure of the far right for his brash attacks on the left, the media and Brazil’s democratic institutions.

More recently, his efforts to undermine Brazil’s election system drew particular concern at home and abroad, as well as worldwide attention to Sunday’s vote as an important test for one of the world’s largest democracies.

Without evidence, the president has criticized the nation’s electronic voting machines as rife with fraud and suggested he might not accept a loss, much like former President Donald J. Trump. Many of his supporters vowed to take to the streets at his command.

As of 11 p.m. local time on Sunday night, Mr. Bolsonaro had not publicly commented on the election’s outcome. The questions of whether he would concede and when remained unclear.

The results on Sunday showed that tens of millions of Brazilians had grown tired of his polarizing style and the frequent turmoil of his administration. It was the first time an incumbent president failed to win re-election in the 34 years of Brazil’s modern democracy.

Still, Mr. da Silva won with the narrowest margin of victory over that same period, signaling the deep divide that he will confront as president.

He won 50.90 percent of the votes, versus Mr. Bolsonaro’s 49.10 percent with 99.98 percent of the vote counted Sunday night.

Katsushika Hokusai, 1830, “Ghost”

Let’s hope many nations get tired of right-wing, fascist thugs.  Polls in the US show the races tightening, but the Democratic candidates appear to have the edge in some because their constituents like them.  This is also from the New York Times on crucial Senate races. “Senate Control Hinges on Neck-and-Neck Races, Times/Siena Poll Finds. The contests are close in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania.”

Control of the Senate rests on a knife’s edge, according to new polls by The New York Times and Siena College, with Republican challengers in Nevada and Georgia neck-and-neck with Democratic incumbents, and the Democratic candidate in Pennsylvania clinging to what appears to be a tenuous advantage.

The bright spot for Democrats in the four key states polled was in Arizona, where Senator Mark Kelly is holding a small but steady lead over his Republican challenger, Blake Masters.

The results indicate a deeply volatile and unpredictable Senate contest: More people across three of the states surveyed said they wanted Republicans to gain control of the Senate, but they preferred the individual Democratic candidates in their states — a sign that Republicans may be hampered by the shortcomings of their nominees.

This is another reminder that we need to get out there and vote. We also need to bring people with us.

So, that’s it for me. I have to teach tonight, so no trick-or-treating for me!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?







Sunday Reads: I Feel Love

Happy Halloween Eve…

Cartoons via Cagle:

I’ve been feeling like yuk…so that is all, it’s an open thread.

Lazy Caturday Reads


Black Cat Halloween, by Iva Wilcox

Good Afternoon!!

I’m moving slowly today, because I have what I think is just a cold. I don’t have a fever, but I’m still feel pretty sick. So I’ll get right to the news.

The top story yesterday and today is the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi, who is second in the like of succession to the presidency, was the target of the attack, but she was not home at the time. The attempted assassination overshadowed what would have been the top story–Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. Dakinikat wrote about both stories yesterday.

Here’s the latest news and commentary on the attack on Paul Pelosi:

The Los Angeles Times: Accused Pelosi attacker David DePape spread QAnon, other far-right, bigoted conspiracies.

In the months before police accused him of attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Friday morning, David DePape had been drifting further into the world of far-right conspiracies, antisemitism and hate, according to a Times review of his online accounts.

In a personal blog that DePape maintained, posts include such topics as “Manipulation of History,” “Holohoax” and “It’s OK to be white.” He mentioned 4chan, a favorite message board of the far right. He posted videos about conspiracies involving COVID-19 vaccines and the war in Ukraine being a ploy for Jewish people to buy land.

DePape’s screeds included posts about QAnon, an unfounded theory that former President Trump is at war with a cabal of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring and control the world. In an Aug. 23 entry titled “Q,” DePape wrote: “Either Q is Trump himself or Q is the deepstate moles within Trumps inner circle.”

DePape’s daughter, Inti Gonzalez, told The Times that her father wrote the blog. She said that she and her mother were reeling from the news that DePape had been arrested in connection with the attack on Paul Pelosi.

“I’m a little shocked,” she said, “but not really that shocked, in all honesty.”

Authorities have not revealed a motive for the attack at the Pelosi home in San Francisco early Friday. But law enforcement sources said the assailant shouted, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” before confronting Paul Pelosi, and San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott called the attack “intentional.” [….]

DePape followed a number of conservative creators online, including Tim Pool, Glenn Beck, DailyWire+ and the Epoch Times. He also followed an account on YouTube called Black Pilled and reposted several of its videos on his blog. “Blackpilling” is internet slang for coming to believe supposedly unacceptable facts about society, and the reposted videos include accusations such as the FBI covering up child rape.

Read more at the LA Times link.

a740c3b4fcbfc1977ceb7a82e23a9017There are more details about DePape’s on-line activities in this story at Vice News: Man Accused of Attacking Nancy Pelosi’s Husband Left Trail of Far-Right Hate.

The man who allegedly broke into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and bludgeoned her husband Paul with a hammer appeared to ascribe to a grab bag of far-right conspiracy theories online, including Holocaust denial, election fraud, and Pizzagate.

VICE News identified several blogs under the name David DePape that contained rambling screeds against minorities, politicians, and women….

VICE News found two online blogs under DePape’s name: “The Loving God” and “Frenly Frens.” One of them, which was updated the night before the attack and frequently over the last months, features a wide range of topics, including “pedogate, “great reset,” “voter fraud,” “da jewbs,” and “Covid.” Many of the tags referred to women, including one directly about Amber Heard—the target of many misogynistic attacks stemming from her lawsuit with Johnny Depp.

Recent headlines on “Frenly Frens” include “It’s OK to be White,” “Faking of Adolf Hitler for History,” and “Q.” The posts go on long diatribes against women, Jewish people, and Black people. One recent post referred to the Holocaust as a “hoax.” The writings also touch on popular far-right culture war topics, like “drag queen story hours,” “cultural marxism,” and child “grooming.”

Yet another post references frequent visits and posts to the /pol/ board of 4chan, an infamous board for racism and bigotry.

Searches on each blog turned up no posts with “Pelosi” within them.

VICE News took numerous steps to verify that the blogs belonged to DePape. Public records indicate that there’s only one person named David DePape in the state of California. An SFgate article from 2013 about a Bay Area woman named Gypsy Taub, who was planning a naked wedding, identified “David Depape” as the best man and a “hemp jewelry maker.” The article also reported the two lived together.

There’s much more at the link if you can stomach it. It’s all very familiar and it’s obvious that this man was influenced by Trump and his followers. Of course Republicans are taking no responsibility for spreading the Trumpist lies that DePape bought into or for spending years attacking Nancy Pelosi.

The Washington Post: Attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband follows years of GOP demonizing her.

In 2010, Republicans launched a “Fire Pelosi” project — complete with a bus tour, a #FIREPELOSI hashtag and images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) engulfed in Hades-style flames — devoted to retaking the House and demoting Pelosi from her perch as speaker.

Eleven years later, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) joked that if he becomes the next leader of the House, “it will be hard not to hit” Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel.

And this year, Pelosi — who Republicans have long demonized as the face of progressive policies and who was a target of rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — emerged as the top member of Congress maligned in political ads, with Republicans spending nearly $40 million on ads that mention Pelosi in the final stretch of the campaign, according to AdImpact, which tracks television and digital ad spending.

The years of vilification culminated Friday when Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was attacked with a hammer during an early-morning break-in at the couple’s home in San Francisco by a man searching for the speaker and shouting “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” according to someone briefed on the assault.

Many of the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 also chanted “Where’s Nancy?”

db456e1da1a12e75da5a72eb0362bd73Police arrested the suspect, 42-year-old David DePape, who attacked Paul Pelosi, 82, and authorities plan to charge him with attempted murder and other crimes, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at a news conference Friday. Paul Pelosi was taken to a hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, the speaker’s office said.

The Washington Post corroborated that a voluminous blog written under DePape’s name and filled with deeply racist and antisemitic writings — as well as pro-Trump and anti-Democratic posts — belonged to the suspect. In a single day earlier this month, the blog had seven new posts. The titles included: “Balcks Nda jEwS,” “Were the Germans so Stupid?” “Who FINANCED Hitler’s rise to Power” and “Gas chamber doors.”

For many Democrats, the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband represents the all-but-inevitable conclusion of Republicans’ increasingly violent and threatening rhetoric toward their political opponents — a phenomenon that escalated under former president Donald Trump, who prided himself on his inflammatory oratory and who was often reluctant to denounce white nationalists and others spewing hate speech.

“Sadly this attack was inevitable. Political violence is on the rise,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), said. “And instead of GOP leaders condemning it, they condone it with silence or, even worse, glorification.”

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The New York Times: Pelosi Attack Highlights Rising Fears of Political Violence.

Members of Congress have watched warily in recent years as threats and harassment against them have crescendoed, privately worrying that the brutal language and deranged misinformation creeping into political discourse would lead to actual violence.

The assault of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, inside their San Francisco home early Friday morning by an intruder who shouted “Where is Nancy?” and bludgeoned him with a hammer before being taken into custody by police seemed to confirm their worst fears, vividly bringing to life the acute danger facing elected officials amid a rise in violent political speech.

And it revealed the vulnerabilities in security around members of Congress and their families — even a lawmaker as powerful and wealthy as Ms. Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency and has her own security detail — as midterm congressional campaigns reach their frenzied final push.

Nearly two years after supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, inspired by his lies of a stolen election, sending members of Congress and the vice president fleeing for their lives, the toxic stew of violent language, conspiracy theory and misinformation that thrives in digital spaces continues to pose a grave threat.

“When we see things like what happened last night at the speaker’s home; when we see things like plots to kidnap governors; when we see overt acts ramping up; we see, frankly, a whole host of indicators suggesting that we’re really at a crisis point,” said Peter Simi, an associate professor at Chapman University who has studied extremist groups and violence for more than 20 years.

The latest news and commentary on Musk’s Twitter takeover:

Bloomberg: Musk’s Twitter Roils With Hate Speech as Trolls Test New Limits.

In the wake of Elon Musk buying Twitter Inc., a tide of slurs and racist memes swelled on the platform, sparking concern that the site is entering an era of hateful speech.

Vintage-Halloween-Postcards-3Twitter has long wrestled with how to enforce content policies fairly on its platform in order to appease the advertisers, users and powerful world leaders that use its service. But as Musk, a self-styled “free speech absolutist,” took over ownership of the company, some conservative officials, partisan extremists and conspiracy peddlers saw reason to celebrate the change.

“It seems like this is a group of people who think the rules magically changed as soon as he signed on the dotted line,” said Katie Harbath, the chief executive officer and founder of Anchor Change and former public policy director at Facebook.

Dr. Rebekah Tromble, director of the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University, said as soon as Musk took control of Twitter, online trolls began encouraging each other to push the boundaries on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, this spike in hateful language is entirely predictable,” said Tromble, who has studied Twitter for years. “For most of these trolls, it’s a game. But for others, including certain political influencers, saying hateful, outlandish things helps them increase their audience and make money. And they see this as a golden opportunity to gain even more attention.”

The flood of speech underlines the difficulty Musk faces in fulfilling his promise to restore people’s ability to speak freely while managing the palatability of the platform for advertisers, to whom he pledged in a letter Thursday that Twitter would not spiral into a “free-for-all hellscape” under his leadership. Musk has repeatedly opposed Twitter’s enforcement strategies, such as banning some high-profile accounts permanently.

Musk tweeted that Twitter will form a content-moderation council that includes “widely diverse viewpoints.”

The Washington Post: Twitter workers await their fate as Musk deputies evaluate their work.

Twitter employees waited anxiously Friday for the next shoe to drop as the reality of Elon Musk’s ownership set in among its thousands of staffers.

In offices in San Francisco and New York, and on company Slack messaging channels, they searched fruitlessly for news of who might be fired, how their jobs would change under Musk and any official confirmation that the Tesla CEO had actually bought the company, according to interviews with employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

b107882463cb257c9f3af320f629e824The company’s remaining senior leaders — four had already been unceremoniously fired the previous night — huddled privately in offices with Musk’s team and didn’t emerge, the people said. Inside Twitter, in a highly unusual arrangement, engineers from Musk-led Tesla were examining the company’s code as the tech executive sought the input of his technical experts he trusted. Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro was directing some aspects of the transition.

Musk’s new ownership is expected to bring sweeping changes to the social media company, which has long been regarded as an underperformer in Silicon Valley. Musk broke with the previous management over basic matters such as how to police speech online. He is expected to ease its content moderation efforts, though he said Friday that his team had not yet made changes to those policies at Twitter.

But nowhere inside the company is the uncertainty as evident as around potential staff cuts and changes, as workers have waited for weeks to learn if they might still have a role at Twitter following the acquisition.

If you’re interested in this story, you can also check out this long analytic article by Seth Feigerman at CNN Business: Elon Musk owning Twitter should give everyone pause.

More reads, links only:

The Washington Post: Key Proud Boys Jan. 6 co-conspirator pleads guilty, Tarrio lawyer says.

The Wrap: Penguin Random House Staffers, Others Call for Canceling of Amy Coney Barrett Memoir.

Robert Draper at The Atlantic: A Political Party Unhinged From Truth.

The New York Times: Federal Judge Allows Activists to Stake Out Ballot Boxes in Arizona.

Thats it for me. I’m going back to bed. Take care everyone and have a nice weekend.

Finally Friday Reads

Witches’ Sabbath, 1789. Goya’s depictions of witchcraft mocked what he saw as medieval fears exploited for political gain.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I had a late night since my block was shut down to film a new AMC series last night.  I’m somewhat out of it. They filmed on our neutral ground, and there were a lot of flash bangs, police lights, extras wearing black, two big bucket trucks with lights, and a helluva lot of fog. The actor who was supposedly shot had the tough lines of a series of nos with a lot of coughing and emoting.  There was even a fire truck.  I was certain there were more police out there than usually patrol my entire district.  It was like watching a lot of men play with toys and shoot out like they did when they were in grade school.

Anyway, trying to get back to normal, and at least I got a check for the disturbance and being on standby to open a neighbor’s house if needed.  I forget how boring and repetitive the entire process is. I’ve wondered how we live in a society where adults that play make-believe and dress up and a bunch of muscled-up men playing with balls make so much money when teachers, healthcare workers, and others can barely eke a life out. Same as it ever was.

Speaking of the plethora of manchildren and toys, today we recognize Twitter will never be the same as the Chief Twit took over last night.  BB wrote about the deal yesterday.  The headlines today are precursors to what chaos may ensue. This is from the Washington Post: “Racist tweets quickly surfaced after Musk closed Twitter deal. A wide range of anonymous Twitter accounts celebrated Musk’s takeover and argued it meant the old rules against bigotry no longer applied.” What was that the Who sang about new bosses and old bosses?

An emboldened cast of anonymous trolls spewed racist slurs and Nazi memes onto Twitter in the hours after billionaire industrialist Elon Musk took over the social network Thursday, raising fears of how his pledge of unrestricted free speech could fuel a new wave of online hate.

Twitter has struggled to enforce its rules against harassment and extremism, and the company has not yet published any broad-scale changes to its content-moderation policies.

But Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” has fiercely criticized the company’s previous leaders as overly rigid and suppressive and said he would work to overturn some of the company’s main enforcement mechanisms, such as indefinitely suspending accounts.

A wide range of anonymous Twitter accounts celebrated Musk’s takeover and argued it meant the old rules against bigotry no longer applied.


New Orleans’ Marie Laveaux, voodoo priestess

This is an interesting take from Nilay Patel at the Verge: “Welcome to hell, Elon. You break it, you buy it.”

You fucked up real good, kiddo.

Twitter is a disaster clown car company that is successful despite itself, and there is no possible way to grow users and revenue without making a series of enormous compromises that will ultimately destroy your reputation and possibly cause grievous damage to your other companies.

I say this with utter confidence because the problems with Twitter are not engineering problems. They are political problems. Twitter, the company, makes very little interesting technology; the tech stack is not the valuable asset. The asset is the user base: hopelessly addicted politicians, reporters, celebrities, and other people who should know better but keep posting anyway. You! You, Elon Musk, are addicted to Twitter. You’re the asset. You just bought yourself for $44 billion dollars.

The problem when the asset is people is that people are intensely complicated, and trying to regulate how people behave is historically a miserable experience, especially when that authority is vested in a single powerful individual.

What I mean is that you are now the King of Twitter, and people think that you, personally, are responsible for everything that happens on Twitter now. It also turns out that absolute monarchs usually get murdered when shit goes sideways.

Here are some examples: you can write as many polite letters to advertisers as you want, but you cannot reasonably expect to collect any meaningful advertising revenue if you do not promise those advertisers “brand safety.” That means you have to ban racism, sexism, transphobia, and all kinds of other speech that is totally legal in the United States but reveals people to be total assholes. So you can make all the promises about “free speech” you want, but the dull reality is that you still have to ban a bunch of legal speech if you want to make money. And when you start doing that, your creepy new right-wing fanboys are going to viciously turn on you, just like they turn on every other social network that realizes the same essential truth.

The Love Potion, Evelyn De Morgan, 1903

I can only imagine our fates when Orange Caligula returns to do his dance of the veils. This is a sad headline today. It’s what demons like Musk and Trump have wrought, unleashing spoiled and violet manbabies everywhere.  Speaker Pelosi’s husband was assaulted in their home. His target was the powerful and effective Speaker. Her husband was beaten with a hammer during an early morning break-in.

This is from CNN Politics: “First on CNN: Assailant tried to tie up Paul Pelosi in home attack, sources say.”

Pelosi was attacked with a hammer at the couple’s home in San Francisco by a male assailant early Friday morning, law enforcement sources told CNN. The assailant who attacked Paul Pelosi was searching for the speaker of the House, according to a source briefed on the attack. The intruder confronted the speaker’s husband in their San Francisco home shouting, “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” according to the source.

Pelosi, 82, was hospitalized but is expected to make a full recovery, the Democratic speaker’s office said in a statement.

The attack sent shock waves through Washington and sparked an outpouring of condolences and condemnation from congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle. It comes as fears of political violence directed toward lawmakers remain high in the wake of the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol as well as other high-profile violent incidents that have targeted members of Congress in recent years.

The US Capitol Police released a statement saying that they are assisting the FBI and the San Francisco Police “with a joint investigation” into the break-in at the Pelosi residence in California.

The statement provides further information on how law enforcement responded, saying that special agents with the USCP’s California Field Office “quickly arrived on scene, while a team of investigators from the Department’s Threat Assessment Section was simultaneously dispatched from the East Coast to assist the FBI and the San Francisco Police with a joint investigation.”

William Blake, Triple Hecate or The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy, 1795, Tate Gallery, London, UK.

Meanwhile, other Trumpist Droogies are after our election results.  Here’s some information on Georgia’s elections from the Washington Post: “Inside the secretive effort by Trump allies to access voting machines. How rural Coffee County, Ga. became an early target in the multistate search for purported evidence of fraud after the 2020 election.”  This is some scary stuff.

Claims of widespread election fraud have been rejected over and over by local, state and federal officials as well as by computer science experts and numerous judges, including those appointed by Trump. They have nevertheless become an article of faith — or at least a professed belief — for many Republican voters, activists and politicians.

Experts say the events in Coffee County are a potent example of the rising threat posed by insiders who undermine election security in the name of protecting it. While elections officials say security protocols would make it difficult for bad actors to manipulate votes, some experts say the data — circulated beyond a limited number of authorized officials — could give hackers a powerful tool to simulate voting machines and probe for weaknesses.

The operations not sanctioned by courts or lawmakers were clandestine affairs. In Mesa County, Colo., an outsider was allegedly smuggled into the elections office under an alias to copy data. In Michigan, a pro-Trump state lawmaker allegedly persuaded clerks in two counties to hand over equipment for a House investigation that, according to the office of the House speaker, did not exist. In Coffee County, a local elections official invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination more than 200 times when questioned under oath recently for a long-running lawsuit that voting activists brought against state officials.

Coffee County was home to the most extensive of the early covert efforts that have come to light. In January 2021, forensics experts copied data from virtually every component of the voting system there, records show. The incursion provided pro-Trump election deniers with copies of sensitive election software used across Georgia, a state widely seen as a linchpin in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate in 2022 and the White House in 2024.

You may read the details of the plot at the link.  Meanwhile, we have folks in Nevada thinking hand-counted ballots might do the trick for Trump. What could possibly go wrong?  Should we ask Al Gore?

This is from the above Twitter link. I wonder how long legitimate news organizations stay there?

Jay Goldberg, a retired electrician who enjoys four-wheeling with his wife, Bonnie, in the dusty hills that loom over this desert town, sat in a tiny government office here this week counting ballots by hand because he believes the 2020 vote was rigged against Donald Trump.

“If something can be manipulated, it eventually will be,” said Goldberg, 70, referring to unproven claims that tabulation machines made by Dominion Voting Systems threw the presidency to Joe Biden. “It’s that simple.”

And to Goldberg, there’s a simple answer: Go back to hand counts. It’s a solution being embraced this fall in Nye County, a rural outpost of 53,000 where officials who deny the results of the 2020 election hold sway. Should Republicans prevail statewide in November, officials could be pushing it across Nevada next year. Like-minded GOP candidates nationwide have offered similar proposals, even as election experts and Democratic candidates have argued that such steps are only likely to further undermine faith in American democracy.

The rejection of voting machines and embrace of 2020 conspiracy theories make Nye County — a vast area that boomed, then busted, on the back of gold and silver mining more than a century ago and today thrives in part thanks to legal prostitution — a harbinger of the country’s future should election deniers take charge.

It depresses me whenever we find such a weird juxtaposition of strange Republican bedfellows.  I’m sure the Christian Right has no problem with legalized prostitution, right?  So, I may have another cup of tea or a good rest. I’m not sure I want to do reality today.  It must be the Season of the Witch.

Whats on your reading and blogging list today?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: The Musk/Twitter Mess

Good Afternoon!!

We only have eleven days until the midterm elections and–unless the Feds intervene–one more day until Elon Musk starts destroying twitter. I know I should focus on the elections, but I just can’t face it. The press has more or less decided that the Republicans are going to take over control of the House and Senate, and I just can’t face reading beyond the headlines. I’m just going to wait and see what happens on Nov. 8. Instead, I’m going to focus on the more immediate Musk/Twitter situation.

Musk’s idea of humor is to rename his Twitter feed “Chief Twit” and walk into Twitter headquarters carrying a sink.

Can someone please explain why anyone would find that funny? I don’t get it. Here’s the latest on Musk and his determination to ruin Twitter for the rest of us.

Raquel Maria Dillon at NPR: From Tesla to SpaceX, what Elon Musk touches turns to gold. Twitter may be different.

Musk has been founding companies since the dawn of the internet age. He’s grown Tesla, SpaceX and PayPal into the blue chips that they are today.

But the financially struggling social media company, which he is expected to buy by Friday, needs something more to become a success story, said Andy Wu, who teaches business strategy at Harvard Business School.

“Musk has no experience in managing organizational change and there’s definitely an embedded culture at Twitter that he’ll have to change in order to achieve some of his goals,” Wu said.

The challenge has only grown since Musk first offered to buy Twitter in the spring for $54.20 a share, or about $44 billion. Tech stocks have struggled along with the broader market. It didn’t help that Musk openly criticized the company, tried to walk away from the deal, and only changed his mind after a high-profile and expensive legal battle neared trial. At one point, Twitter’s stock lost a quarter of its value.

“Myself and other investors are obviously overpaying for Twitter right now,” Musk said on a call with Tesla investors last week.

He acknowledged on Thursday that there was a lot of speculation about why he was buying Twitter after all his wavering.

“It is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of believes can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence,” he wrote in an open letter to Twitter advertisers.

“That is why I bought Twitter. I didn’t do it because it would be easy. I didn’t do it to make more money,” he added, acknowledging that failure was a “very real possibility.”

Read much more about Musk at the link if you can stomach it.

Maybe Sargent is right. I sure hope so, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Lauren Hirsch at The New York Times: Elon Musk Reaches Out to Advertisers Ahead of Deadline for Twitter Deal.

A day before Elon Musk’s court-imposed deadline to complete his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, he posted a message to advertisers in an apparent attempt to soothe nerves as concerns circulate about how he intends to run the platform.

“I wanted to reach out personally to share my motivation in buying Twitter,” he wrote. “There has been much speculation about why I bought Twitter and what I think about advertising. Most of it has been wrong.”

Mr. Musk went on to say that the reason he was buying Twitter was “because it is important to the future of the civilization to have a common digital town square,” where a “wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner without resorting to violence.” But, he added, “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences!”

Mr. Musk’s olive branch comes as he is in the final stages of completing the deal to buy Twitter, during which he changed his mind about buying the company before recommitting in the face of legal challenges. The billionaire, who also runs Tesla and SpaceX, showed up at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Wednesday, and he is expected to address the company’s 7,500 employees on Friday when the deal is set to close.

Advertisers, which account for about 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue, have been watching the deal drama, and some have been concerned about how the uncertainty will affect the service as an ad platform. Mr. Musk has said he is a “free speech absolutist” and wants to loosen rules around content moderation on the service, including reversing the ban on former President Donald J. Trump from the platform. Advertisers typically shy away from promotions alongside toxic content and misinformation.

Twitter and other social media platforms are also grappling with a broader slowdown in digital advertising. Meta said on Wednesday that its profit in the most recent quarter was down more than 50 percent from a year earlier. The company, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, warned that it didn’t see any relief on the horizon for the declining ad market.

“Twitter aspires to be the most respected advertising platform in the world that strengthens your brand and grows your enterprise,” Mr. Musk wrote in his note Thursday. “To everyone who has partnered with us, I thank you. Let us build something extraordinary together.”

And Musk picked a fight with Apple. From Fortune via Yahoo Finance: Elon Musk isn’t even done buying Twitter, but he’s already picking a fight with Apple over Spotify and payment guidelines.

Elon Musk hasn’t wrapped up his purchase of Twitter yet, but he seems to be already gearing up for another battle.

In a pair of late-night Tweets, posted just four minutes apart, Musk expressed concerns about Apple’s business practices, specifically those surrounding Spotify and app store guidelines.

The first was a reply to Spotify founder Daniel Ek’s tweet highlighting a New York Times story about Apple’s three-time rejection of Spotify’s new app, as the streaming service adds audiobooks to its offerings. Apple says the new app violates its rules detailing how developers communicate with customers about online purchases.

Ek used the story as a launching pad to decry the policies, saying “I can’t be the only one who sees the absurdity.” Musk seemed to agree, replying “Concerning.”

Moments later, he voiced support for venture capitalist Bill Lee’s criticism of Apple’s 30% fee for in-app purchases, agreeing “30% is a lot.”

Criticisms about Apple and its app store policies are nothing new, of course. Spotify has butted heads with Apple before, when it began offering podcasts. And Epic Games took Apple to court last year over the policies, resulting in a split decision where the judge upheld the app store’s structure as legal.

Musk loves a good fight, though, and this isn’t the first time he’s poked Apple. In May, he tweeted that “Apple’s store is like having a 30% tax on the internet. Definitely not ok,” following that up with “Literally 10 times higher than it should be.”

Meanwhile, Reuters is reporting that Musk’s company Tesla is under criminal investigation by the DOJ

Reuters: Exclusive: Tesla faces U.S. criminal probe over self-driving claims.

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) is under criminal investigation in the United States over claims that the company’s electric vehicles can drive themselves, three people familiar with the matter said.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched the previously undisclosed probe last year following more than a dozen crashes, some of them fatal, involving Tesla’s driver assistance system Autopilot, which was activated during the accidents, the people said.

As early as 2016, Tesla’s marketing materials have touted Autopilot’s capabilities. On a conference call that year, Elon Musk, the Silicon Valley automaker’s chief executive, described it as “probably better” than a human driver.

Last week, Musk said on another call Tesla would soon release an upgraded version of “Full Self-Driving” software allowing customers to travel “to your work, your friend’s house, to the grocery store without you touching the wheel.” [….]

However, the company also has explicitly warned drivers that they must keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicles while using Autopilot.

The Tesla technology is designed to assist with steering, braking, speed and lane changes but its features “do not make the vehicle autonomous,” the company says on its website.

Such warnings could complicate any case the Justice Department might wish to bring, the sources said.

I can see why Musk likes Trump. He’s just another scam artist. All I want is to keep Twitter as a place where I can go to get the latest news and opinion, but those days may be over after tomorrow night. Sigh . . .

Brynn Tannehill argues at The New Republic: Why Elon Musk’s Idea of “Free Speech” Will Help Ruin America.

After months of legal wrangling, Elon Musk’s bid to buy Twitter appears to be finally going through. Musk and the right see this as a great thing because it will restore “free speech” to Twitter. Any suggestion that the sort of “free speech” they envision can have highly undesirable consequences is met with howls of “Libs hate free speech” or other accusations of fascism. Similarly, warnings that unfettered free speech results in dangerous misinformation spreading are derided with “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” and the libertarian belief that in the marketplace of ideas, the best will always win out.

These theories will be tested quickly. It is being reported that after the sale is finalized, Musk plans on laying off nearly three-quarters of Twitter’s staff and that one of the first things to go will be any corporate attempt at content moderation and user security. Musk also plans on restoring the accounts of high-profile sources of disinformation and violent messaging who were previously banned, most notably former President Trump.

The pro-Musk arguments are complete nonsense, and there are innumerable historical and modern examples of why social media platforms with nearly unlimited freedom of speech produce horrors. The Supreme Court decided free speech isn’t absolute long ago, when Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater, for obvious reasons.

First, freedom of speech has caused untold death and suffering when used to disseminate hate or spread disinformation. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a fabricated antisemitic text that purported to expose a global baby-murdering Jewish plot bent on world domination. Mein Kampf was Hitler’s autobiography, which blamed Germany’s post–World War I woes on a global Jewish conspiracy. Both were readily available in the Weimar Republic, which had no First Amendment per se but guaranteed freedom of speech. They were key contributors to the fall of German democracy, the rise of the Third Reich, and the Holocaust itself.

In modern times, lack of moderation on social media sites has repeatedly contributed to mass murder. The Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter killed 51 Muslims at two mosques after being radicalized on YouTube, 4Chan, and 8Chan. The shooter who killed 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh had been radicalized on the social media site Gab, which advertised itself as the “free speech” alternative to Twitter. Dylann Roof killed nine people at the historically Black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, after he self-radicalized online. Investigations revealed that Google searches steered him further and further into extremist propaganda and hate.

The carnage caused by misinformation spread by social media goes far beyond massacres by racists, antisemites, and Islamophobes. Over one million Americans have died of Covid-19, and at least 25 percent of those deaths were preventable if people had gotten vaccinated. Many others could have been prevented if people had worn masks, socially distanced, believed the disease was real, or otherwise behaved in a rational manner.

Read the rest at TNR.

Finally, Musk is a believe in “longtermism,” a philosophical theory about how to save humanity in the long term. It involves making it possible for humans to populate other planets and other crazy, cult-like ideas. Dave Troy, an investigative journalist who studies “threats to democracy,” argues that Musk’s desire to control Twitter as a “public square” is part of his belief in this weird philosophy.

Read Troy’s thread on Musk and longtermism. You can also learn about it in this article by Nicholas Kulish at The New York Times: How a Scottish Moral Philosopher Got Elon Musk’s Number.

When Elon Musk’s text messages were released as part of a court filing over his proposed purchase of Twitter, the world’s richest man was found to be corresponding with tech billionaires, fellow chief executives and bankers.

Tucked incongruously among those business leaders were messages from a Scottish moral philosopher.

The philosopher, William MacAskill, was acting as a go-between for the crypto-billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, who “has for a while been potentially interested in purchasing it and then making it better for the world,” Mr. MacAskill wrote to Mr. Musk in March, referring to Twitter.

Mr. MacAskill’s appearance in that batch of messages, along with TV appearances and magazine profiles, has contributed to a sense of his sudden ubiquity, improbable considering his usually staid, ivory tower-bound profession. But his latest book, “What We Owe the Future,” became a best seller after it was published in August.

His rising profile parallels the worldwide growth of the giving community he helped found, effective altruism. Once a niche pursuit for earnest vegans and volunteer kidney donors who lived frugally so that they would have more money to give away for cheap medical interventions in developing countries, it has emerged as a significant force in philanthropy, especially in millennial and Gen-Z giving.

As the title of his recent book suggests, Mr. MacAskill argues that people living today have a responsibility not just to people halfway around the world but also those in future generations.

The rise of this kind of thinking, known as longtermism, has meant the Effective Altruists are increasingly associated with causes that have the ring of science fiction to them — like preventing artificial intelligence from running amok or sending people to distant planets to increase our chances of survival as a species.

McCaskill published an op-ed in The New York Times in August: The Case for Longtermism. The idea is that the long-term survival of humans should be our moral focus, not the immediate needs of people who are alive today.

Longtermism is about taking seriously just how big the future could be and how high the stakes are in shaping it. If humanity survives to even a fraction of its potential life span, then, strange as it may seem, we are the ancients: we live at the very beginning of history, in its most distant past. What we do now will affect untold numbers of future people. We need to act wisely.

It took me a long time to come around to longtermism.Over the past 12 years, I’ve been an advocate of effective altruism — the use of evidence and reason to help others as much as possible. In 2009, I co-founded an organization that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to help pay for bed nets to protect families against malaria and medicine to cure children of intestinal worms, among other causes. These activities had a tangible impact. By contrast, the thought of trying to improve the lives of unknown future people initially left me cold.

But some simple ideas exerted a persistent force on my mind: Future people count. There could be a lot of them. And we can make their lives better. To help others as much as possible, we must think about the long-term impact of our actions….

But society tends to neglect the future in favor of the present. Future people are utterly disenfranchised. They can’t vote or lobby or run for public office, so politicians have scant incentive to think about them. They can’t tweet, or write articles, or march in the streets. They are the true silent majority. And though we can’t give political power to future people, we can at least give them fair consideration. We can renounce the tyranny of the present over the future and act as trustees for all of humanity, helping to create a flourishing world for the generations to come.

Anyway, that’s what’s behind Musk’s space projects–making sure humans survive even if the the planet Earth doesn’t. I’m not sure I understand how that’s related to Twitter and free speech, but I’m not a tech billionaire, so I don’t count.

I know this is a weird post, and if you didn’t read the whole thing, that’s OK. I hope you all have a nice Thursday!