Lazy Caturday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories

AUGUST MACKE ( German Artist ,1887-1914) Still life with a cat , 1910

August Macke, Still Life with a Cat.

Happy Caturday!!

It has been another exhausting week, and I’m tired of dealing with Trump’s poisonous effect on our country. Unfortunately his evil influence is still affecting a large portion of the GOP electorate. If only he would just disappear. But that’s not going to happen. We are stuck with him for the time being, and we have to face that reality. So I’ll include a few Trump stories in a mixed bag of other topics.

I really hate to post this story, but I’m going to so you know to watch out for this. I just discovered that Elon Musk has enabled animal cruelty tweets and videos on Twitter.

This is from Ben Collins, the disinformation and extremism reporter at NBC News: Cat and dog torture videos litter Twitter, adding to concerns about moderation.

Graphic videos of animal abuse have circulated widely on Twitter in recent weeks, generating outrage and renewed concern over the platform’s moderation practices.

One such video, in which a kitten appears to be placed inside a blender and then killed, has become so notorious that reactions to it have become their own genre of internet content.

Laura Clemens, 46, said her 11-year-old son came home from his school in London two weeks ago and asked if she had seen the video.

“There’s something about a cat in a blender,” Clemens remembered her son saying.

Clemens said she went on Twitter and searched for “cat,” and the search box suggested searching for “cat in a blender.”

Clemens said that she clicked on the suggested search term and a gruesome video of what appeared to be a kitten being killed inside of a blender appeared instantly. For users who have not manually turned off autoplay, the video will begin rolling instantly. NBC News was able to replicate the same process to surface the video on Wednesday.

Clemens said she is grateful her child asked her about the video instead of simply going on Twitter and typing in the word “cat” by himself.

Cats, by Franz Marc

Cats, by Franz Marc

So the autofill function on Twitter was guiding people to these horrific tweets.

The spread of the video as well as its presence in Twitter’s suggested searches is part of a worrying trend of animal cruelty videos that have littered the social media platform following Elon Musk’s takeover, which included mass layoffs and deep cuts to the company’s content moderation and safety teams.

Last weekend, gory videos from two violent events in Texas spread on Twitter, with some users saying that the images had been pushed into the platform’s algorithmic “For You” feed.

The animal abuse videos appear to predate those videos. Various users have tweeted that they have seen the cat video, with some trying to get Musk’s attention on the issue — some dating back to early May. Clemens said she flagged the video on May 3 to Twitter’s support account and Ella Irwin, the vice president of trust and safety at Twitter and one of Musk’s closest advisers….

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, told NBC News that he believes the company likely dismantled a series of safeguards meant to stop these kinds of autocomplete problems.

Of course Musk has fired all the people who used deal with issues like this. NBC reached out to Twitter about this problem and received no response, but apparently by Friday Twitter had completely turned off all search bar autofill suggestions.

Now a little comic relief. Here’s a suggestion for Dakinikat in her ongoing struggle to get her cat Keely to swallow her meds.

Dave Paresh at Wired has a story about Twitter’s incoming CEO: Twitter’s New CEO, Linda Yaccarino, Has a Fearsome To-Do List.

LINDA YACCARINO IS going to have to change her tune. As a long-time executive overseeing ad sales at global television giant NBCUniversal, she spent years fighting social media companies for the billions of dollars that advertisers divide up every year between old and new media….

At Twitter, Yaccarino will have to spin her knowledge of social media’s weaknesses into an asset and start competing with the traditional media industry that she has championed since long before online social networks were even a thing. Elon Musk announced on Friday that Yaccarino will oversee business operations while he focuses on Twitter’s technology and design as executive chair and CTO.

Together, Yaccarino and Musk will try to stop the drain of users and advertisers of the past several months and start to formulate his vision of turning Twitter into an “everything app,” with digital payments tools and other features Musk has yet to clearly articulate. All that will make Yaccarino’s to-do list more wide-ranging than she ever had in TV, and she must do it at a company still reeling from Musk’s sometimes chaotic revamp and his laying off of most of its employees. Here are five tasks awaiting her….

Yaccarino’s deftness at getting advertisers to open up their checkbooks earned her a huge role at NBC. She persuaded them to keep spending on TV spots even as consumers devoted more time to online services, and to try out new streaming options, such as NBC’s Peacock.

The challenge at Twitter is different. Most advertisers want to avoid association with questionable content, but Musk has embraced controversy, chopping down teams that moderate content and monitore potential racial and political bias in Twitter’s recommendation systems. He also relaxed rules for combating hate speech against transgender users, censored journalists and critics, and welcomed back users his predecessors had banned for breaking Twitter’s content rules, including former US president Donald Trump.

Good luck to Yaccarino. That sounds like the hopeful descriptions of Trump staffers who try to control him or at least minimize the damage he causes. Musk is just as much of a narcissistic psychopath as Trump, if not worse. Read more at Wired if you’re interested.

Breakfast with the cat, Rutholph Epp, German

Breakfast with the cat, Rutholph Epp, German

People are still talking about Trump’s disastrous “town hall” on CNN.

Charlie Nash at Mediaite: Republican at Trump Town Hall Says Many in Audience Were ‘Disgusted’ or ‘Bewildered’ By Ex-President.

Many audience members at CNN’s town hall with former President Donald Trump on Wednesday were “disgusted” and “bewildered” by the spectacle, but were told to be respectful and not to boo, according to a report.

“The floor manager came out ahead of time and said, Please do not boo, please be respectful. You were allowed to applaud,” claimed Republican political consultant Matthew Bartlett in an interview with Puck News senior political correspondent Tara Palmeri on Thursday.

“And I think that set the tone where people were going to try their best to keep this between the navigational beacons, and that if they felt compelled to applaud, they would, but they weren’t going to have an outburst or they weren’t going to boo an answer,” he said.

Bartlett claimed that, while many in the audience applauded and cheered the former president, “there were also people that sat there quietly disgusted or bewildered.” He estimated that while around half of the audience expressed vocal support for Trump, the other half sat in silence. Bartlett also alleged that Trump repeatedly “lost the audience” when he spoke about topics like January 6 or the results of the 2020 election, despite the appearance on CNN that the audience was consistently on his side.

“In a TV setting, you hear the applause, but you don’t see the disgust,” Bartlett told Palmeri. “So Trump did not have the entire room on his side, make no mistake, even if it certainly came across that way on TV.”

Well, isn’t that special? CNN’s Christ Licht has a lot of answer for. But he still thinks the “town hall” was a success. He didn’t take it well when staffers criticized his decision to hold what amounted to a Trump rally on in prime time.

Alex Griffing at Mediaite: CNN’s Oliver Darcy Reportedly Scolded By Boss Chris Licht Over ‘Emotional’ Trump Town Hall Coverage: ‘They Put the Fear of God Into Him.’

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy was reportedly scolded by his boss Chris Licht, the chairman and CEO of the network, over his critical coverage of the network’s Trump town hall on Wednesday night.

Puck’s Dylan Byers reported Friday that Licht “summoned” Darcy “and his editor to a meeting with himself and top executives in which they told him that his coverage of Trump town hall had been too emotional and stressed the importance of remaining dispassionate.”

Darcy reported on the town hall after the event, writing, “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening.”

Jonelle Summerfield. Afternoon Tea for One

Jonelle Summerfield. Afternoon Tea for One

He offered some kind words for Kaitlan Collins, who moderated the event, calling her “as tough and knowledgable of an interviewer as they come.” He noted that “she fact-checked Trump throughout the 70-minute town hall.” On the whole, his analysis was critical of the network.

Byers, a veteran media reporter who has worked everywhere from NBC to Politico to CNN, added further detail:

“summoned Darcy and his editor Jon Passantino to a meeting with himself, CNN comms chief Kris Coratti, editorial executive vice president Virginia Moseley and senior vice president of global news Rachel Smolkin, in which they told him that his coverage had been too emotional and repeatedly stressed the importance of remaining dispassionate when covering the news, be it CNN or any other media organization.”

“Darcy stood by his work and pushed back on the ‘emotional’ characterization, one source with knowledge of the meeting said. But afterward two sources who heard about the meeting described him as visibly shaken,” Byers reported.

“They put the fear of God into him,” Byers reported another source saying. Darcy took over Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources newsletter after Licht ousted Stelter at the network.

For Pete’s sake, Darcy is a media critic. He’s supposed to express his opinions. Chris Licht doesn’t seem to know much about journalism.

Diane Feinstein has finally returned to Washington and will again fill her seat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Perhaps now Biden’s judicial appointments will resume getting approval. But there are concerns about Feinstein’s health. 

From Paul McCloud at Rolling Stone: Feinstein’s Health Crisis Goes Back Farther than We Knew.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN, 89, returned to Congress this week, ending an almost three-month medical absence that highlighted her advanced age and deteriorating health. But her decline, and the problems it entails for American democracy, date back farther and go deeper than has been publicly known.

Multiple sources tell Rolling Stone that in recent years Feinstein’s office had an on-call system — unbeknownst to Feinstein herself — to prevent the senator from ever walking around the Capitol on her own. At any given moment there was a staff member ready to jump up and stroll alongside the senator if she left her office, worried about what she’d say to reporters if left unsupervised. The system has been in place for years.

“They will not let her leave by herself, but she doesn’t even know it,” says Jamarcus Purley, a former staffer. 

Senators juggle a heavy schedule of votes, hearings and meetings on a wide range of subjects. Momentary lapses and mixups about a topic are far from unheard of. But over the last several years, interviews with Feinstein devolved into confusion on a near-daily basis. A familiar pattern would emerge: Feinstein would make an unexpected stance on a bill or policy position, only for her staff to quickly follow up by email to correct the record. It got to the point where reporters would pause before rushing to publish an otherwise-newsworthy declaration because of the inevitability of staff reversing her statement.

Lotte Laserstein

By Lotte Laserstein

Feinstein once notably seemed to forget she had relinquished her role as third in line to the presidency. As the longest-serving member of the Senate majority, she would traditionally serve as president pro tempore, behind only the vice president and speaker of the House in the line of succession. Feinstein announced last October via a written statement she would voluntarily give up the title. But when asked about it three weeks latershe told a reporter she was still considering what to do. The staffer quickly corrected the Senator.

It’s a sad career coda for a groundbreaking lawmaker, who has said she will retire when her term expires at the end of next year. Feinstein joined the Senate in 1992 as the first female senator from California, accomplishing a series of firsts as she rose through the chamber’s ranks. As well as advancing landmark gun control and marriage equality laws, she became the first woman to lead the Senate’s intelligence panel in 2009. In 2017, became the first woman to chair the Judiciary Committee.

There’s much more at the link.

Another Senator who should definitely retire is Alabama’s Tommy Tuberville, who wants to control the Defense Department’s abortion policies and thinks that white supremacists should be welcomed in the U.S. military. 

Megan Leibowitz at NBC News: Military promotions impasse drags on as Sen. Tuberville defends blockade.

Dozens of military promotions continue to languish in the Senate as GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville digs in on blocking typically routine approvals over his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

About 200 defense-related promotions are awaiting Senate action, but Tuberville has indicated he has no plans to ease up on his blockade unless the Defense Department reverses course on an abortion policy for service members and their dependents that was announced in October.

Since March, Tuberville has been using a procedural tactic to slow promotions that are often quickly approved in the Senate by unanimous consent. One senator’s objection, however, can stall the approval process.

The Alabama senator’s moves have provoked bipartisan backlash, including from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Asked in a press conference Wednesday about Tuberville’s holds, McConnell replied, “No, I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations. I don’t support that.”

Tuberville responded to McConnell’s remarks on Thursday saying the Pentagon has not been responsive.

“I’m not talking to anybody — crickets from anybody in the military, you know, to work this out,” Tuberville told reporters.

When reached for comment, a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “and the Department continue to engage Senator Tuberville and his office in good faith and have directly relayed how his hold on our general and flag officers have risks to our military readiness and severely limit the Department’s ability to ensure strategic and operational success.”

Still life with cat, Thomas Hart Benton

Still life with cat, Thomas Hart Benton

Philip Bump wrote about Tuberville’s remarks about white supremacists at The Washington Post: Sen. Tuberville rises to the defense of racists in the armed forces.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) offered an unusual criticism of the Biden administration in a radio interview this week.

“We, our military and [Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin put out an order to stand down and all military across the country, saying we’re going to run out the White nationalists, people that don’t believe how we believe,” he told NPR affiliate WBHM. “And that’s not how we do it in this country.”

He was asked if White nationalists should be allowed to serve in the military.

“They call them that,” he replied. “I call them Americans.”

Tuberville was elected to the Senate with President Donald Trump’s support in the 2020 election that Trump lost. Even before taking office, Tuberville pledged to oppose the electors cast by states Trump lost in an effort to slow or block Joe Biden’s ascension to the presidency.

Trump-adjacent rhetoric: that Biden and his administration are trying to villainize the right as being riddled with racists and domestic terrorists. It’s just that he got it backward. Instead of suggesting that decent, hard-working Americans were being cast as racists, he’s suggesting that racists are simply decent, hard-working Americans.

The idea that Biden (and Austin by extension) are using accusations of White nationalism as a cudgel was a central part of Tucker Carlson’s rhetoric back in his Fox News days. Immediately after Biden’s inauguration, Carlson highlighted a portion of the new president’s speech in which he — obviously alluding to the riot at the Capitol two weeks before — swore to uproot extremism.

Biden promised to “confront and … defeat” the “rise of political extremism, white supremacy, [and] domestic terrorism” that the country was seeing.

“The question is,” Carlson said in response, “what does it mean to wage war on white supremacists? Can somebody tell us in very clear language what a white supremacist is?”

Tuberville is a real looney-tune, and I’m much more worried about what he will do next than I am about Diane Feinstein’s cognitive decline.

I’m going to end with another horror story–this time about abortion rights.

From the AP, via The Washington Post: A Texas woman was fatally shot by her boyfriend after she got an abortion, police say.

A man who didn’t want his girlfriend to get an abortion fatally shot her during a confrontation in a Dallas parking lot, police said.

He was jailed on a murder charge as of Friday.

Texas banned abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy in September 2021. But nearly all abortions have been halted in Texas since Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, except in cases of medical emergency.

The company you keep, the size of their whiskers, by Tasha Tudor

The company you keep, the size of their whiskers, by Tasha Tudor

Gabriella Gonzalez, 26, was with her boyfriend, 22-year-old Harold Thompson, on Wednesday when he tried to put her in a chokehold, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. She had returned the night before from Colorado, where she had gone to get an abortion.

“It is believed that the suspect was the father of the child,” the affidavit said. “The suspect did not want (Gonzalez) to get an abortion.”

Surveillance video from the parking lot shows Gonzalez “shrugs him off,” police said, and the two continue walking. Thompson then pulls out a gun and shoots Gonzalez in the head. She falls to the ground and Thompson shoots her multiple times before running away, the affidavit said.

Thompson was arrested later Wednesday and is being held in the Dallas County Jail without bond. Court records did not list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Naturally, the guy had a history as an abuser, but no one in authority did anything to stop him.

At the time of the shooting, Thompson had been charged with assault of a family member, who accused him of choking her in March.

The affidavit from March does not specifically name Gonzalez as the person who was assaulted. But it does say the woman told police that Thompson “beat her up multiple times throughout the entirety of their relationship” and that Thompson told police the woman was pregnant with his child at that time.

The woman “reiterated that she is scared of the suspect because he had made threats to harm her family and her children,” according to the affidavit.

Please feel free to discuss these or any other topics in the comment thread below.

11 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: A Mixed Bag of Stories”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I hope you all have a pleasant and peaceful weekend.

  2. dakinikat says:

    I have to wrap Keeley up in a blanket cacoon and then shove it down quickly!

    • NW Luna says:

      I think that’s far, far better than putting forceps around the cat’s head!

  3. quixote says:

    I keep being blown away by the differential coverage of racism and misogyny. The racist equivalent of taking away the right to control of your own body would be something like kidnapping people and making them work on your farm for decades.

    An unwanted pregnancy isn’t just a passing malaise. It has huge physical and lifelong commitment consequences. Like being forced to work for someone else for the rest of your life. The fact that the beneficiary is diffuse sexist exploitation and not Tuberville personally doesn’t change much about the damage it does to the woman’s life.

    But Tuberville wanting to take away choice from women serving in the military is barely mentioned. The ink is all about the racists, who are currently at the stage of shouting insults, mostly. Like street harassers. They’re a horrible, life-constricting walking crime. But it’s a felony rather than attempted murder.

    And yet the complete actual destruction of women’s lives is barely on the radar.

    (I’m not talking about you, bb. You’re talking about the coverage out there, which is just as you showed.)

    • bostonboomer says:

      We just don’t count to them. They don’t seem to understand that we can vote. And the Supremes can’t take away an amendment to the Constitution yet.

      • quixote says:

        Yes. Everywhere I look, people — including women — don’t seem to know women exist. Not as human beings.

        Maybe I’m remembering my interpretation, not the facts, but in the Bad Old Days if memory serves people thought women were some kind of tertiary subclass of humans. Humans. Not furniture or turnips.

        • NW Luna says:

          “Everywhere I look, people — including women — don’t seem to know women exist. Not as human beings.”

          All too true.

  4. roofingbird says:

    I’ve been wondering about Feinsteins’s seat. As you may know, Newsom reportedly promised to give her seat to a black woman should she retire. That would presume Barbara Lee, who wants it. However, Adam Schiff also wants it. If Feinstein hangs on, it will be an election rather than an appointment, albeit a tough one for voters. Vote splitting wouldn’t be good either.

    On another note, anyone with glasses, in a hard world, who is 92, deserves companion walkers. That alone does not speak of cognitive impairment. Whatever else is going on, she did a good job in picking her staff.

    • quixote says:

      Schiff is brilliant. Lee is also excellent. It’s a good choice to have!

      Re Feinstein, she quite clearly should resign, but I get angry at all the crap thrown at her when the mainstream had nothing to say about the Dump being a doddering bully, or any of the other wildly incompetent (worse than Feinstein) (male) seatwarmers.

      • NW Luna says:

        Indeed. Old men get a pass but old women are considered objects of ridicule. Some cultures respect elders. The Diversity Inclusion (of everything except views we don’t like) Equivocation ideology folks reverence non-Euro societies but when it comes to respecting older women in their own culture, forget it.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Grassley is the same age as Feinstein, and obviously way past his prime if he ever had one.