Tuesday Reads: Twitter Trouble

Musk-Twitter-stake

Good Morning!!

I’m a daily user of Twitter, because it’s where I can find the very latest news, often before it’s on TV or published anywhere. Yesterday’s shock news was that Elon Musk bought Twitter and took the company private. Lots of people apparently deleted their Twitter accounts, and so many people tried to sign up for an app called “Counter Social” that the site crashed repeatedly.

I’ve briefly tried Counter Social, and so far I don’t think it will work for me. I agree with this thread:

Counter Social is owned and operated by a Twitter troll called “Jester Actual” whom I unfollowed long ago because of his weird tweets, so I’m not sure I want to use his platform. 

So I guess I’m going to stick with Twitter for now and see what happens. Obviously, I’m not happy about Twitter’s new owner either. I didn’t know that much about him until he started making noises about buying the company, but the guy seems to be a Trump-like monster. Here’s just one example from the Los Angeles Times in February: Horrific allegations of racism prompt California lawsuit against Tesla.

The N-word and other racist slurs were hurled daily at Black workers at Tesla’s California plant, delivered not just by fellow employees but also by managers and supervisors.

So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.

Tesla segregated Black workers into separate areas that its employees referred to as “porch monkey stations,” “the dark side,” “the slave ship” and “the plantation,” the lawsuit alleges.

Only Black workers had to scrub floors on their hands and knees, and they were relegated to the Fremont, Calif., factory’s most difficult physical jobs, the suit states.

So says California’s civil rights agency in a lawsuit filed against the electric-vehicle maker in Alameda County Superior Court on Thursday on behalf of thousands of Black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation.

Graffiti — including “KKK,” “Go back to Africa,” the hangman’s noose, the Confederate Flag and “F– [N-word]” — were carved into restroom walls, workplace benches and lunch tables and were slow to be erased, the lawsuit says….

The lawsuit comes in the wake of Tesla’s billionaire chief executive, Elon Musk, moving the company’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas, where he is building a major new assembly plant.

The state’s lawsuit suggests the relocation to a state known for looser enforcement is no coincidence, declaring it to be “another move to avoid accountability.”

Not only were Tesla’s Black workers subjected to “willful, malicious” harassment, but they were also denied promotions and paid less than other workers for the same jobs, the suit asserted. They were disciplined for infractions for which other workers were not penalized.

Read more at the LA Times.

Twitter workers are worried about what will happen now, according Elizabeth Dwoskin at The Washington Post: Twitter workers face a reality they’ve long feared: Elon Musk as owner.

Twitter employees reacted with shock and dismay Monday as a new reality sank in: Elon Musk — the world’s richest man, free speech defender and strong critic of Twitter — would be the company’s new owner.

On Twitter, in private messages and in interviews with The Washington Post,employees expressed fear about Musk’s $44 billion takeover. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal,along with board chair Bret Taylor, held an internal town hall on Monday afternoon in which the leaders tried to assure anxious staff but offered few direct answers.A central concern was that Muskwould attempt to break down safeguards to protect everyday users that staff had built over many years, according to the interviews and tweets, as well as audio from the town hall obtained by The Post.

Some tweeted tear-filled emoji and memes of people having emotional breakdowns, while others told The Post they were too in shock to speak. At Monday’s town hall, leaders were vague in response to questions about future layoffs, changes to the company’s approach to free speech and safety, and whether the company will continue to make money from advertising.

“Totally understand that this is entertainment for some,” one employee tweeted. “But please understand that this is certainly not entertainment for me.”

“The news today is so crazy I literally forgot I have COVID,” another tweeted.

Twitter employees who have worked long and hard to stop hate speech and public health misinformation on the platform were very concerned.

In dozens of internal messages obtained by The Post, workers expressed worries that the firebrand Musk could inflict damage to the company’s culture and make it harder for people to do their jobs. Observers and misinformation researchers echoed the criticism.

The company, which is based in liberal San Francisco and has more than 5,000 employees, has spent years building a progressive corporate culture that allows employees to say just about anything they want and to live anywhere they choose. Twitter was the first company to take action against former president Donald Trump for his tweets supporting Capitol rioters on Jan. 6, 2021, and engineering teams have spent years building tools to fight spam, disinformation and hate speech under an initiative known as healthy conversations.

“I don’t know any non-engineer who works on health issues who sees how this helps,” said a Twitter employee in an interview in response to questions about Musk’s ownership, referring to the company’s health division that enforces rules against harmful content such as hate speech and misinformation. “Most find it dispiriting.”

https___cdn.cnn.com_cnnnext_dam_assets_170106113815-trump-tweeting-illustrationAccording to Politico Playbook, Republicans are freaking out at the possibility of Trump getting his Twitter account back: Republicans to Trump: Stay away from Twitter.

The news that ELON MUSK is buying Twitter has thrown Washington into a tizzy over one major question: Will DONALD TRUMP return to his old favorite social media platform and start tweeting again?

As it turns out, no one is more petrified of this than members of Trump’s own party.  

On Monday night, in a series of calls and texts with several top GOP insiders, every single one of them told us that they hoped the former president stays the hell away from Twitter, lest he sink their chances at flipping the House and Senate. Some of his allies even think that a return to his old Twitter habits could damage his own brand ahead of a possible third presidential bid in 2024.

“If I’m a Democrat, I’d pray that Elon Musk puts Trump right back on Twitter,” said one House GOP leadership aide, who asked not to be named to speak candidly. “I don’t think it costs Republicans the House, but it certainly will elevate Trump’s opinions — and is going to put Republican candidates and members back having to answer for that.”

The person added: “It’s enough to create headaches — and it’s enough to probably cost us a couple seats.”

Some may find this a rather surprising reaction, given that many Republicans have both accused Big Tech of censoring conservative voices (the former president being the most prominent example) and showered praise on the Musk takeover. But as is often the case with the GOP and all things Trump, privately, they feel very differently.\

Media reactions to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter:

Shira Ovide at The New York Times: Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Will Face Reality of His Free-Speech Talk.

A decade ago, Twitter executives, including the chief executive, Dick Costolo, declared that the social media site was the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” The stance meant Twitter would defend people’s ability to post whatever they wished and be heard by the world.

Since then, Twitter has been dragged into morasses over disinformation peddlers, governments’ abuse of social media to incite ethnic violence and threats by elected officials to imprison employees over tweets they didn’t like. Like Facebook, YouTube and other internet companies, Twitter was forced to morph from hard-liner on free expression to speech nanny.

Today, Twitter has pages upon pages of rules prohibiting content such as material that promotes child sexual exploitation, coordinated government propaganda, offers of counterfeit goods and tweets “wishing for someone to fall victim to a serious accident.”

The past 10 years have seen repeated confrontations between the high-minded principles of Silicon Valley’s founding generation of social media companies and the messy reality of a world in which “free speech” means different things to different people. And now Elon Musk, who on Monday struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, wades directly into that fraught history….

Soon, Mr. Musk will be the one confronting the gap between an idealized view of free speech and the zillion tough decisions that must be made to let everyone have a say.

His agreement to buy Twitter puts the combative billionaire, who is also the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX, at the white-hot center of the global free-speech debate. Mr. Musk has not been specific about his plans once he becomes Twitter’s owner, but he has bristled when the company has removed posts and barred users, and has said Twitter should be a haven for unfettered expression within the bounds of the law…..

Mr. Musk is a relative dilettante on the topic and hasn’t yet tackled the difficult trade-offs in which giving one person a voice may silence the expression of others, and in which an almost-anything-goes space for expression might be overrun with spam, nudity, propaganda from autocrats, the bullying of children and violent incitements.

Technology and culture writer Charlie Warzel at The Atlantic: The Worst-Case Scenario for Elon Musk’s Twitter. Plus: the more likely one.

Warzel posits three possibilities: 

The Dark Timeline: There is, I suppose, a world in which Musk goes wild and attempts to turn Twitter into a Truth Social/Gab/Parler free-for-all. This seems like it would have to start with a total gutting of senior leadership and the instatement of some kind of Musk loyalist regime. (I’m honestly not even sure who would qualify, though such people certainly exist!) It could involve reinstating banned accounts, particularly former president Donald Trump’s. There have been attempts to quantify exactly what Trump’s presence on a social network actually means, and what it boils down to is that his Twitter account was a megaphone for bullshit. Shortly after he was banned from Twitter last year, a social-media analysis from Zignal Labs found that “conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.” [….]

The darkest-darkest timeline is the one where the world’s richest man runs a communications platform in a truly vengeful, dictatorial way, which involves Musk outright using Twitter as a political tool to promote extreme right-wing agendas and to punish what he calls brain-poisoned liberals. This is the scenario I’ve seen some privacy folks worrying about. (What might Musk do with all of the private data the company collects, including our non-encrypted DMs?) This nightmare unfolding is easy enough to imagine, but it would probably trigger a revolt from existing employees, who would need to be replaced by people who share Musk’s values.

The Weird/Chaotic Timeline: This is the one where Musk remains invested and interested in doing experimental things with his new platform. The most cited example is an edit button, which he could introduce to the delight of some and the groaning of many others. A Musk-owned Twitter could introduce this feature carefully, study how it changes the platform, and tweak it accordingly—or it could move fast and break things by tossing it onto the platform and simply seeing what happens. The break-things ethos is the one I think about most when considering a Musk-owned Twitter—lots of quick building, throwing shit at the wall, with very little consideration of the consequences. [….]

The Recent Past Is Future Timeline: When it comes to content moderation, Elon Musk doesn’t know what he’s talking about. (For an explainer, read Mike Masnick’s excellent piece from last week.) A number of the changes that Musk has suggested are things Twitter has already attempted to do, or even implemented. I strongly believe that Musk has thought about Twitter as a service only as it relates to his user experience—which is, to say the least, a unique one. As one former senior Twitter employee put it to me this morning, Musk’s musings about improvements to the service are mostly “highly solipsistic things that are only about his experience of the product as a user with 80 million followers and a consent decree with the SEC.”

And so, owning Twitter may prove to be a boring logistical nightmare for Musk—one he might offload onto underlings while directing his attention to things that interest him. He’d still come in for the culture warring and the trolling—I’m sure he’s delighted by the notion that his every missive will carry the new weight and context of coming from Twitter’s Keeper. The thing Musk might ultimately enjoy most about owning Twitter is the ability to attract more and more attention to his potential power. 

 

One more from Tim Miller at The Bulwark: Musk Twitter Could Be a Disaster For MAGA Grifters and Republican Ostriches.

While concerns about the Russian bots and blarmy bigots returning to the hellfeed where news happens does have merit, let me offer a countervailing perspective about the impact of the Twitter acquisition.

Musk Twitter might also be a disaster for a couple of groups who cosmically deserve it:

1) Mitch McConnell and the establishment Republican ostriches who are doing everything in their power to put their heads in the sand and pretend Donald Trump doesn’t exist (unless they need to cash in on his name and likeness).

2) The Nazi grifters who started the various Deploratwitter knockoffs like TRUTH, Parler, and Gettr and are now set to be totally pwned by Twitter offering these very fine people the same freedom to shitpost in front of bigger audiences.

So if the two-faced Trumpists and the worst MAGA scammers are going to suffer, might we consider squeaking out one cheer for Musk. Or a half a cheer? Or even just a mild affirmative grunt?

The case for their suffering is as follows:

In Georgia on Insurrection Eve, we saw how a big Trump megaphone could divide the Republican base, resulting in political success for the Democrats. The election fraud mass formation psychosis led Trump voters in rural parts of the state to stay home rather than participate in yet another RIGGED contest while a small percentage of Atlanta Kemp/Raffensperger Republicans refused to be a party to the anti-democratic horror show. As a result, Georgia elected the state’s first black and Jewish senators—on the same day!—despite the fact that both had fewer votes than their GOP opponents during the November election.

A repeat of that is the worst-case scenario for the GOP at a time when the political environment is looking rather rosy for them.

Back in January, Bloomberg’s Joshua Green interviewed experts on the possible ways Republicans could screw the pooch in the midterms. Liam Donovan offered this hypothetical: “For the last year Trump has been in a straitjacket where he can’t harm his own party . . . Maybe he gets back on Twitter, there’s no bigger wild card than letting the tiger out of its cage.”

I know there is lots of other news out there. I’ll post some links in the comment thread and I hope you will too.


Caturday Reads (kat edition)

Chinese Folk Art – Cat under the Tea Table

Happy Saturday Sky Dancers!

BB is still having issues with her sciatica so I’ll be sitting in the catbird seat today again!

An interesting article showed up today in The Washington Post suggesting that one day in 1973 changed our country.  I was a junior in high school and remember the day and events.  However, I never viewed it as being that significant. See what you think.   “Jan. 22, 1973: The day that changed America” written by James D. Robenalt.

It was a day unlike any other in U.S. history. Jan. 22, 1973, was the day Henry Kissinger flew to Paris to end the Vietnam War for the United States. It was the day the Supreme Court issued its opinion on abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. And it was the day the nation’s 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, died of a heart attack in Texas at 64.

Few days have represented such a turning point in the trajectory of our history, and what happened that day started a chain reaction that turned politically nuclear, leaving us with the current landscape of unbridgeable divides.

Less than a decade earlier, the American populace had seemed as united as ever in a time of landslide elections and political consensus. The disintegration of that unity began well before Jan. 22, 1973, but no date more fully captures the end of the spirit of the ’60s and the start of a darker era of seemingly permanent political schism.

More than anything, the Roe ruling drew an enduring red line through American politics, where compromise was impossible and opponents were not only wrong but wicked. Every year since 1973, D.C. has been flooded in the days around Jan. 22 with antiabortion protesters for what has become known as the March for Life. (Last year’s events were called off because of the coronavirus, yet many still came to Washington. This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, the gathering took place Friday.) Promoters refer to the event as “the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.”

The vaccine requirements for certain events at this year’s march sparked a vicious online battle, with many abortion opponents asserting that vaccines cause abortions or are produced using fetal cells. “It is tragic that a PRO-LIFE organization would be coerced into promoting ground-up murdered baby injections!” one person posted in the comments on the March for Life website. “This is evil.”

The radicalization of our politics would not have seemed possible to the actors who made Jan. 22, 1973, such a fateful day.

Chinese Folk Art Kitties, Zhu Suzhen

I do have to say that after a few years of just being relieved that women were no longer subjected to state control I had no idea there was a group of hardcore fanatics that would twist and turn every reality about the human reproduction process and gestation period into something unrecognizable and so focused on protohumans and unaware that viable 3rd term babies are simply born.  For me, it was just my first introduction to hard-core idiots.  We just used to call them “holy rollers” and got a good laugh at them if we saw their tents anywhere between our trips from Omaha to Kansas City on the backroads.

You can read the rest at the link including a triggering walk down Nixon Lane.

Mississippi Today reports that “Every Black Mississippi senator walked out as white colleagues voted to ban critical race theory. The historic, unprecedented walkout came over a vote on the academic theory that state education officials and Republican lawmakers acknowledge is not even taught in Mississippi.” This is reported by Bobby Harrison. The theory is clearly the new black welfare queen with a Cadillac trope. It’s another example of hard-core idiots. The struggle continues.

Every Black Mississippi senator walked out of the chamber Friday, choosing not to vote on a bill that sponsors said would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in the state’s public schools and colleges and universities.

The historic, unprecedented walkout came over a vote on the academic theory that state education officials and Republican lawmakers acknowledge is not even taught in Mississippi. Republicans hold supermajority control of the Senate, meaning they can pass any bill without a single Democratic vote.

“We walked out as a means to show a visible protest to these proceedings,” state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said of the unprecedented action.

In 1993, Black caucus members left before then-Gov. Kirk Fordice delivered his State of the State speech in protest of his policies. But no Capitol observer could recall an instance of members leaving en mass in protest before a vote on a bill.

“We felt like it was a bill that was not deserving of our vote,” said Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville. “We have so many issues in the state that need to be addressed. We did not need to spend time on this.

“Even the author of the bill (Michael McLendon, R-Hernando) said this was not occurring in Mississippi,” Simmons continued.

Chinese Folk Art – Girl Stroking Cat on her Lap

Yes, it is also now the partial-birth abortion myth of Racism. It’s yet another law designed to signal hard-core idiots to panic over a nonexistent situation also.  And speaking of hard-core idiots, let’s see today’s reads on The Oath Keepers.

 Erin Mansfield / Stars & Stripes: Leaked Oath Keepers list names 20 current military members

When they enlisted in the military, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders all the way up to those from the president of the United States.

But then, while still in the service, they went on to swear a different allegiance — one to the now extremist, anti-government Oath Keepers. Dozens of military members vowed they would never obey potential government orders that group leaders considered acts of war or cause for a revolution.

At least 20 are still serving.

USA TODAY confirmed with all five branches of the U.S. military that 81 people signed up for the Oath Keepers while in uniform. The names are from a hacked list that a watchdog group shared with journalists last fall. The military members are in addition to the 40 current and former law enforcement officers USA TODAY confirmed in October 2021.

The Defense Department has known for decades that its members were joining extremist groups but often did not punish them, instead keeping in place a vague policy that banned their active participation, such as through fundraising or recruiting.

In December, the Defense Department clarified more than a dozen examples of active participation, but it’s unclear whether joining the Oath Keepers and remaining a member of the militia would run afoul of the new rules.

Hu Yongkai, Chinese Folk Cat Paintings

CNN: Videos show ‘Stop the Steal’ rally organizer saying he would work with extremist groups

An organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the US Capitol a year ago said he would work with two extremist groups, who later had members charged in the attack, about providing security and housing for the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington.

In previously unreported videos from the social media platform Periscope reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Ali Alexander, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” rally and a central figure in the House select committee’s investigation of January 6, said he would reach out to the right-wing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on providing security for the event. Both groups later had members charged in the attack on the Capitol, including conspiracy. Last week, the Justice Department charged the Oath Keepers leader and 10 others with seditious conspiracy related to the attack.

Alexander has not been charged or implicated in any unlawful act. He has denied working with anyone, including lawmakers or extremist groups, to attack the Capitol.

In other videos removed from Periscope — it’s unknown who removed the videos, when and why — Alexander claimed to describe further details of his communications and coordination with several Congressional Republicans pushing to overturn the election result. The lawmakers have denied planning rallies or coordinating with Alexander in any way.

Woman with Cat
Modern Chinese Art Painting, Mo Nong

And finally, from Lawfare: What Does the Seditious Conspiracy Indictment Mean For the Oath Keepers?

Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke at length recently on the Justice Department’s expansive efforts to prosecute “all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.” President Biden pointedly referred to the events of the day as “an armed insurrection … looking to subvert the Constitution.” Indeed, the prosecution of Rhodes and his co-defendants serves to elevate these Oath Keepers to a new tier of criminal conduct, into territory far more significant than trespassing, assault or obstruction of a congressional proceeding. This indictment may also serve as a warning to other high-level members of domestic violent extremist movements who allegedly engaged in similar conspiracies, including Proud Boys leaders such as Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs and potentially Proud Boys president Enrique Tarrio.

The arrest of Stewart Rhodes is likely to serve as a short-term blow to the operational activities of the Oath Keepers as a formal entity. The indictment against him makes it clear how important he is to the organization. He allegedly ran point on creating online encrypted groups where he pushed out orders to his followers. In one chat, entitled “Leadership intel sharing secured,” he noted two days after the November election, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit[.]” Four days later, he led an online go-to meeting with fellow Oath Keepers where he “outlined a plan to stop the lawful transfer of presidential powers,” according to charging documents. While Oath Keepers general counsel Kellye SoRelle announced she is taking over as acting president, it is unclear what a post-Rhodes Oath Keepers organization will look like, or whether it will enjoy the same significance in anti-government circles without Rhodes. Rhodes played an outsized role in the organization and, in many ways, was the glue that kept the group together.

As the prosecution of Rhodes and hundreds of other Capitol Hill Siege defendants continues, it is more crucial than ever to ensure the government’s efforts to combat domestic violent extremism focus not only on the individual hierarchical groups and brands like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys but also on their ideological adherents who may not formally join organized groups. The government’s indictment makes it apparent that Rhodes felt the events of Jan. 6 were far from a final crescendo of anti-government activity in the United States, noting that after the inauguration, Rhodes “messaged others to organize local militias to oppose President Biden’s Administration.”

This is from The Mother Jones link cited in the above Tweet. You can read the precise details there.

In court filings this week, the Justice Department further revealed the scope of the alleged plot by Oath Keepers to mobilize a heavily armed “quick reaction force” (also known as a “QRF”) just outside of downtown Washington, part of a plan to unleash violence in the nation’s capital and stop the lawful transfer of the presidency to Joe Biden. One filing, a detention memo in the case against Oath Keeper Edwards Vallejo of Arizona, hints that more people could yet be charged in connection with the conspiracy. Evidence it contains also shows that extremists have embraced Trump’s most recent rhetoric reinforcing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him through fraud, messaging that continues to fuel a violent far-right movement.

Hu Yongkai, Chinese Folk Cat paintings

Ed Pilkington–writing for The Guardian–elucidates the troubles of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. “House of Trump is crumbling’: why ex-president’s legal net is tightening”.

In a new filing released this week designed to pressure Trump and two of his children – Ivanka and Donald Jr – into facing questioning, James forensically dissects how such strikingly large valuations came about. The 2011 estimate for the Scottish property, her investigators discovered, included an estimated £75,000 ($120,000 at 2011 exchange rates) for undeveloped land at the site.

Investigating deeper, they found that the figure had been created for an article in Forbes magazine. The revelation prompted a line in this week’s filing that must be among the tartest in US financial history.

“It thus appears,” James writes, “that the valuation of Trump Aberdeen used for Mr Trump’s financial statement was prepared for purposes of providing information to Forbes magazine in a quote.”

James’s legal document is packed with similarly juicy titbits. The 2014 value of the Scottish golf club was based in part on the projected sale price of 2,500 houses on the land, even though none of the houses actually existed and the company had planning permission for only half that number.

In 1995 the Trump Organization bought a parcel of land in Westchester, New York, known as the Seven Springs Estate, for $7.5m. By 2004 it was valued at $80m and by 2014 at $291m. That 2014 figure, James notes in another exquisitely tart reference, included a valuation of $161m for “seven non-existent mansions”.

The juiciest titbit of all concerns Trump’s former home, the gilded Fifth Avenue temple to his own ego dubbed “Versailles in the sky”, in which he lived before moving into the White House. James’s investigators were puzzled to find the Trump Tower triplex in Manhattan was listed at $327m in 2015, based on the apartment’s size, allegedly 30,000 sq feet.

In fact the property is 11,000 sq feet, which produces a value of $117m. That’s an overstatement in Trump’s official financial statements of more than $200m.

You might think this family of hard-core idiots was talking about the size of fish caught or the length of the family jewels.

James is pursuing her investigation as a civil case, which means that were Trump to be found liable it could cost him heavily in fines and penalties. More seriously, James is working in coordination with the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a similarly tenacious and relentless prosecutor equipped with a large and highly experienced team of investigators.

Bragg is asking exactly the same questions as James: did the Trump Organization commit accounting, bank, tax or insurance fraud? The critical difference is that Bragg’s investigation is criminal, threatening Trump not with fines but prison time.

“Trump could end up in an orange jumpsuit at the end of that one,” said Timothy O’Brien, a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

So, history rolls on and rolls over a lot of people.  Just remember, we’ll shortly enter the Year of the Tiger. 

The Year of the Rat (2020) was about survival, and the Year of the Ox (2021) was about anchoring ourselves in a new reality. The Year of the Tiger will be about making big changes. This will be a year of risk-taking and adventure. We’re finding enthusiasm again, both for ourselves and for others. Everyone is fired up, generosity is at an all-time high and social progress feels possible again.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: It Can Happen Here

Good Morning!!

Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht.

John Farmer at The Jerusalem Post: Kristallnacht and today’s extremist violence – opinion.

Synagogues, shops, homes were vandalized and burned in the thousands.  Over ninety Jews were murdered, countless others beaten. Some 20,000 Jews were seized and sent to the concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Several hundred died at the hands of the guards.

It may have appeared a spontaneous, chaotic, unplanned riot.  In the smokescreen of chaos and violence, it was easy to miss the careful underlying planning.

Earlier that day, orders were issued to the German Police and Fire Brigades by Reinhard Heidrich that spelled out in specific detail the rules of engagement.  No violent acts could be carried out that threatened German lives or property; stores and residences of Jews could be “destroyed but not looted”; non-Jewish businesses were to be “completely secured against damage”; demonstrations “which are in progress should not be prevented by the police but only supervised.”  In Frankfurt, the commander of the 50th brigade passed on the order, noting that “all the Jewish synagogues within the 50th Brigade are to be blown up or set on fire immediately.  Neighboring houses occupied by Aryans are not to be damaged. The action is to be carried out in civilian clothes.”

Kristallnacht’s significance as an inflection point in the campaign to destroy the Jewish population is undeniable.   As David Frum has put it, “Through the end of 1937, it remained possible to hope that the Nazi persecution might still respect some last limits of humanity. …”  On Kristallnacht, “the last of those illusions was smashed like broken glass.”   

But Kristallnacht is significant also for the template it set forth for organizing seemingly spontaneous extremist violence.  First, subject a population to unremitting sole-source propaganda for a period of time to lay a groundwork of popular belief.  Second, summon that population to demonstrate its grievances.  Third, enlist a relatively few trained participants to blend in with the demonstrators and incite specific acts of violence.  Fourth, claim after the fact that the whole thing was an expression of spontaneous outrage.

We now know that the January 6 insurrection was not spontaneous either. Trump and his goons were planning for months to claim the 2020 election was rigged and to overturn the result if Joe Biden won. If it hadn’t been for a few Republican officials who resisted Trump’s high-pressure tactics in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, the coup might have been successful. Next time there could be a different result.

We must always be mindful that January 6 was only the beginning of the Trumpist attacks on U.S. democracy. Since Trump began running for president we’ve seen an escalation of anti-Semitism, racism, and anti-immigrant extremism as Trump gave permission for his followers to act out their prejudices. We are still in great danger of losing our democracy.

january6insurrection02232020More from the Farmer article:

A report from June 2020 entitled “COVID-19, Conspiracy, and Contagious Sedition:  A Case Study on the Militia-Sphere,” noted that “[t]he Militia-sphere’s messaging has grown increasingly extreme as the pandemic lockdowns have continued, promoting theories that the pandemic is being exaggerated to justify a police state; exploiting recent protests regarding the George Floyd incident, and transforming peaceful protests into violent chaos.”  The report also noted “how the largest online conspiracy group in the U.S., QAnon, exploits the opportunity presented by these events to draw populist support for increasingly violent and apocalyptic confrontations against the lockdown, law enforcement, and an ill-defined ‘elite.’”  

These trends culminated in the events of January 6, 2021 at the nation’s Capitol.  The groundwork of propaganda having been laid for months, both before the election and after, and the masses having been summoned to Washington to protest the election of President Biden, the appearance of a spontaneous groundswell of outrage was well established.  But as the Miller Center/NCRI’s “Assessment of the Capitol Riots” made clear, the violence associated with the protest was anything but spontaneous:  “Explicit plans to `Occupy the Capitol’ were circulating across social media suggesting that the Capitol building was an explicit target of the violent vanguard from the beginning.” 

I still can’t get over that Bulwark article that Dakinikat posted yesterday: Notes on an Authoritarian Conspiracy: Inside the Claremont Institute’s “79 Days to Inauguration” Report. If you haven’t read the whole piece yet, I hope you will do it now. These people were literally gaming out a coup to keep Trump in office. You can also check out this summary at The Daily Beast: Claremont Institute’s MAGA Fanfic Report Predicted Antifa Riots to Stop a Trump ‘Win’ in 2020. The final two paragraphs:

While the scenario is extremely ridiculous at points, The Bulwark notes that several of its authors, particularly Eastman, had Trump’s ear following his election defeat—so the report also serves as a chilling alternative history as to how things could have played out under different circumstances.

As reporter Christian Vanderbrouk notes in the Bulwark article: “Practically, the report is an instruction manual for how Trump partisans at all levels of government—aided by citizen ‘posses’ of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—could, quite literally, round up opposition activists, kill their leaders, and install Donald Trump for a second term in office.”

One of the authors of the report was John Eastman, the so-called lawyer who wrote the memo outlining how Mike Pence could overturn the electoral college results. 

This is how much Republican violence and hate have been normalized: Yesterday a member of Congress threatened a colleague and the president with a violent video, and so far nothing has happened to him. 

The Washington Post: Rep. Paul Gosar tweets altered anime video showing him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared an altered, animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden, prompting condemnation and calls for his Twitter and Instagram accounts to be suspended.

Ocasio-Cortez responded Monday night after arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a congressional delegation. Gosar, she said, will probably “face no consequences” because House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “cheers him on with excuses.”

A Gosar staffer defended the video Monday night, dismissing claims that it glorifies violence.

“Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said in a statement.

A Twitter spokesperson said late Monday that a “public interest notice” had been placed on Gosar’s tweet because it violates the company’s policy against hateful conduct.

Gosar has long drawn criticism for his extremist views, including his spreading of conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. In February, he appeared at an event whose organizer called for white supremacy. Gosar later distanced himself from the organizer’s remarks.

The congressman’s Sunday night post — which he shared on Twitter and Instagram — appeared to go further than his previous contentious remarks and social media posts, raising the specter of political violence in a manner similar to former president Donald Trump’s frequent allusions to armed revolution.

Read much more about this horrible situation at the WaPo. This is the atmosphere we are living in today, thanks to Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.

Trump’s followers are even attacking Republicans who fail to follow the party line in every instance. CNN: Republican congressman details threatening voicemail he received after voting for bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Republican Rep. Fred Upton on Monday shared a threatening voicemail he had received after voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week.

In the voicemail, which Upton played during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360,” a caller told the Michigan Republican: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f**king family dies,” while labeling him a “f**king piece of sh*t traitor.”

Upton was one of just 13 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after hours of delays and debating among Democrats. The legislation, which passed the Senate in August, will deliver $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, including roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways.

Following the Friday vote, Upton tweeted in part, “I regret that this good, bipartisan bill became a political football in recent weeks. Our country can’t afford this partisan dysfunction any longer.” [….]

Upton’s office said the voicemail was not an isolated incident. The calls came after GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted the phone numbers of those who had voted for the bill and later called them traitors.

Reuters unmasks Trump supporters who terrified U.S. election officials.

In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept.

In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die.

“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”

The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.

They were among nine people who told Reuters in interviews that they made threats or left other hostile messages to election workers. In all, they are responsible for nearly two dozen harassing communications to six election officials in four states. Seven made threats explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the U.S. federal standard for criminal prosecution, according to four legal experts who reviewed their messages at Reuters’ request.

These cases provide a unique perspective into how people with everyday jobs and lives have become radicalized to the point of terrorizing public officials. They are part of a broader campaign of fear waged against frontline workers of American democracy chronicled by Reuters this year. The news organization has documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states, including more than 100 that could warrant prosecution, according to legal experts.

The examination of the threats also highlights the paralysis of law enforcement in responding to this extraordinary assault on the nation’s electoral machinery. After Reuters reported the widespread intimidation in June, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a task force to investigate threats against election staff and said it would aggressively pursue such cases. But law enforcement agencies have made almost no arrests and won no convictions.

In many cases, they didn’t investigate. Some messages were too hard to trace, officials said. Other instances were complicated by America’s patchwork of state laws governing criminal threats, which provide varying levels of protection for free speech and make local officials in some states reluctant to prosecute such cases. Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t formulated a clear definition of a criminal threat.

This is a long article, but it’s well worth reading the whole thing.

The hate is really out in the open now, and it seems to be getting worse. I thought it might get better once Trump was gone, but I was wrong. Please share your thoughts and links on this or any other topic in the comment thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Spooked, by Chiakiro

Spooked, by Chiakiro

Good Morning!!

Bill Clinton is still in a California hospital being treated for a urological infection that got into his bloodstream. The Guardian: Bill Clinton to remain in hospital as he recovers from urological infection.

The former US president Bill Clinton’s health is improving but he will remain in a California hospital for at least another night to receive antibiotics intravenously for a urological infection that spread to his bloodstream, his spokesperson said on Friday.

The 75-year-old Clinton, who served as president from 1993 to 2001, entered the University of California, Irvine, medical center on Tuesday evening after suffering from fatigue. He spoke with Joe Biden on Friday.

Clinton’s spokesperson Angel Ureña said that Clinton’s white blood count has decreased, indicating his health is improving.

“All health indicators are trending in the right direction, including his white blood count which was decreased significantly,” Ureña said on Twitter. “In order to receive further IV antibiotics, he will remain in the hospital overnight.”

Since his admission to the intensive care unit at the hospital, Clinton has received fluids along with antibiotics, his doctors said.

His wife, a former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, was at the hospital on Thursday and Friday, and the two read books and talked about politics, Ureña told Reuters.

It remained unclear when Clinton would be released.

Biden said Clinton would likely go home soon, though it was not clear whether he would be released on Saturday or later.

“He is getting out shortly. … Whether that’s tomorrow or the next day, I don’t know,” Biden told reporters in Connecticut. “He’s doing fine. He really is.”

aldemir-martins-gato-verde-acrilica-sobre-tela-14335

Aldemir Martins, Gato Verde (Green Cat)

NBC News has an explainer on the infection Clinton is fighting: What led to Bill Clinton’s hospitalization? Warning signs of the common infection.

The urologic infection that a source close to Bill Clinton says led to the former president’s hospitalization is common in older individuals and can be serious, experts say.

But when treated in a timely manner, the prognosis for such cases is excellent….

A source close to Clinton told NBC News that his initial diagnosis was a urologic infection that morphed into a broader infection.

While little else was immediately revealed about Clinton’s condition, including whether it originated in his urinary tract or elsewhere in the urinary system, experts who were not involved in his care said such spread of infection can be life-threatening without prompt medical attention.

“This is not uncommon. This is something we frequently treat in the emergency room, where somebody comes in with a urinary tract infection,” NBC News senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said Friday on the “TODAY” show. “Especially as they get older, their body is not able to contain that, so it moves from the urinary tract, from the bladder and the kidneys, into the bloodstream.”

At that point, Torres said, a patient is at risk of sepsis — a dangerous overdrive of the immune system in response to an infection — or septic shock, when organs start to fail.

Doctors must keep a close eye on these patients to make sure the strong antibiotics they are treating them with are lowering their white blood cell counts, which would indicate the infection is getting under control, said Dr. Ash Tewari, a urologist and prostate cancer specialist at Mount Sinai in New York.

Doctors will also work to identify any underlying conditions that may have led to the infection in the first place: a blockage, a kidney stone, even diabetes, Tewari said. Sometimes, procedures are necessary to prevent future recurrences.

More info at the NBC link.

Incatneato, by Jeff Haynie

Incatneato, by Jeff Haynie

This is a horrific story from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. That’s the backwoods part of the state Dakinikat has told us about. Raw Story: Three children attacked a Black woman. A sheriff’s deputy arrived — and beat her more.

The Jefferson Parish Shraeriff’s Office is investigating a deputy accused of holding a Black woman by her hair and slamming her head repeatedly into the pavement with such force that a witness to the Sept. 20 incident said it ripped several of Shantel Arnold’s braids from her scalp. A 14-second video captured the incident in the New Orleans suburb where, for decades, Black residents have accused the Sheriff’s Office of targeting them.

It was the second time that hour that Arnold had been assaulted. By the time the deputies arrived, she said she had already fended off an attack by some local boys.

In an interview, the 34-year-old Arnold, who has not been previously identified, told the news organizations she had needed the police’s protection. But protection is not what she got.

The video begins with a sheriff’s deputy seen holding the wrist of Arnold, who is lying on her back on the sidewalk. The deputy appears to be dragging her along the pavement. The deputy then grabs Arnold’s arm with his other hand and jerks her upward, lifting her body off the ground. They briefly disappear behind a parked white vehicle. When they come back into view, the deputy is holding Arnold by her braids, slamming her repeatedly onto the cement. At one point, he whips her down so violently her body spins around and flips over.

The footage ends as the deputy crouches down and places a knee onto Arnold’s back.

Arnold is only 4 feet eight inches tall and weighs about 100 pounds.

The incident started around 2 p.m. on Sept. 20 when Arnold was attacked by three boys as she was walking down the street near her family’s trailer home. At 4-foot-8 and about 100 pounds, her left eye missing from a car accident years earlier, Arnold regularly made an easy target for the neighborhood bullies, her family said.

During the attack, which lasted several minutes and was captured in a cellphone video, the boys slammed Arnold to the ground and beat her while a crowd watched and laughed. She tried to defend herself with a stick, which is visible in the video. The assault ended only after 71-year-old Lionel Gray, whom Arnold considers her stepfather, chased the boys away.

Disheveled and covered in dirt, Arnold stumbled down the road toward her home when an unidentified sheriff’s deputy rolled up beside her in his patrol car.

There’s more at the link. ProPublica has an expose on Jefferson Parish’s history of brutal racism: “They Saw Me and Thought the Worst.” For years, Black residents of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, have voiced complaints about abuses and a lack of accountability within its Sheriff’s Office.

remedios varo

Painting by Remedios Varo

At the New York times, another tale of government racism and crumbling infrastructure from Michigan: More Lead-Tainted Water in Michigan Draws Attention to Nation’s Aging Pipes.

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. — During the three years that officials have known about dangerous amounts of lead flowing from faucets in Benton Harbor, Mich., they have sent out notices, distributed filters and tried to improve water treatment. But the problems persisted, and some residents said they never heard about the risks of the toxic water coming from their taps.

Now, in scenes reminiscent of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., state officials have told Benton Harbor residents not to drink, cook or brush their teeth with tap water. Elected officials came to town Thursday promising help. And so many cars have turned out for bottled water giveaways that traffic has been snarled, a rarity in a place with 9,100 residents.

“It’s horrible to watch, to see my city like this,” Rosetta Valentine, 63, said as she directed traffic at a water distribution site where some people lined up nearly an hour before the event started.

Residents of Benton Harbor see parallels between their plight and the water crisis that unfolded less than three hours up the highway in Flint, also a majority-Black city, where a change in the water source in 2014 led to residents drinking contaminated water despite repeated assurances that it was safe. In Benton Harbor, where thousands of homes are connected to the water system by lead pipes, efforts to bring down problematic lead readings by using corrosion controls have so far failed, and officials have recently grown concerned that lead-removing filters given to residents since 2019 might not work.

The problems in Benton Harbor and Flint are extreme examples of a broader, national failure of water infrastructure that experts say requires massive and immediate investment to solve. Across the country, in cities like ChicagoPittsburgh and Clarksburg, W.Va., Americans are drinking dangerous quantities of brain-damaging lead as agencies struggle to modernize water treatment plants and launch efforts to replace the lead service lines that connect buildings to the water system. Health officials say there is no safe level of lead exposure.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Graceful Beauty, by Hans Ruettimann

Graceful Beauty, by Hans Ruettimann

Here’s some revenge porn for us Democrats by Molly Jong Fast at The Atlantic: Democrats Are Ready to Send Steve Bannon to Jail.

Congressional Democrats, who control both chambers and have a majority on the January 6 committee, can ask the House or Senate sergeant-at-arms to arrest Bannon. Yesterday afternoon, though, Representative Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who chairs the committee, announced that he will pursue a more moderate path: Next week, the committee will vote on whether to refer Bannon to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.

“We fully intend to enforce” the subpoenas, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is one of two Republicans on the special committee, assured me. “That doesn’t come with the snap of a finger, but we will get to the bottom of these questions and pursue all avenues.”

Democrats want to uphold norms of interparty civility while also preventing Trump and his buddies from completely undermining democracy. But time is running out. The January 6 committee is one of Congress’s last chances to narrate the Capitol riots and the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. The only way to fight fascism is with narrative, Masha Gessen, the writer and activist, once told me. The select-committee probe presents a real opportunity to do just that.

Enforcing the committee’s subpoenas isn’t a controversial idea, Representative Eric Swalwell of California told me. “We must enforce congressional subpoenas not just for holding insurrectionists accountable but to show everyone in America that we all follow the same rules,” he said. “If Bannon and company are above the law, why wouldn’t nonpublic figures toss their lawful subpoenas in the trash?”

Perhaps Bannon thinks that the committee won’t follow through, or that jail time might martyr him. He’s dodged consequences for alleged misconduct before. Last year, he faced prison for his role in the “We Build the Wall” scheme, which prosecutors said was fraudulent, but Trump granted him an 11th-hour pardon. At least he’s had some time to think about what he might have to pack.

Head over to The Atlantic to read the rest.

Toracat, by Chiakiro

Toracat, by Chiakiro

This is from Mary Ellen Cagnassola at Newsweek: Adam Schiff Says ‘People Like Steve Bannon’ Are Not ‘Above The Law’ Ahead of Contempt Vote.

The congressional committee tasked with investigating the January 6 Capitol Riots is closing in on top Trump ally and adviser Steve Bannon with an expected vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against the former White House aide for defying a subpoena.

Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who also sits on the January 6 committee, went as far as to say that he expects the Justice Department to prosecute.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who also sits on the January 6 panel, said he expects the Justice Department to prosecute the cases.

The chairman of the special committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said the panel will vote Tuesday to recommend charges against Bannon, an adviser to Donald Trump for years who was in touch with the president ahead of the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries….

If approved by the Democratic-majority committee, the recommendation of criminal charges would go to the full House. Approval there would send them to the Justice Department, which has final say on prosecution.

The showdown with Bannon is just one facet of a broad and escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing to the committee and its staff. Challenging Bannon’s defiance is a crucial step for the panel, whose members are vowing to restore the force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Trump’s time in office.

Psycho Cat, by Jeff Haynie

Psycho Cat, by Jeff Haynie

Why is the committee waiting until Tuesday to hold the vote on Bannon? Because it will be televised in prime time. This is from The Palmer Report: Get your popcorn ready: the Steve Bannon criminal contempt proceedings will be in prime time. (Mainstream journalists hold this guy in contempt, but he is almost always right.)

Why is the January 6th Committee waiting until Tuesday to hold Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt hearing? Because they’re doing it in prime time and airing it in public. They’re going to make an example out of him as loudly as possible. Get your popcorn ready.

Of course no matter how forcefully the hearing is conducted, and no matter how serious the resulting criminal contempt referral is, we’ll still have to put up with the defeatists. Whatever the committee does, most pundits will naturally insist that it should have done the opposite, because that’s the only way that a lot of pundits feel they can keep themselves relevant.

And of course the defeatists will falsely insist that the Department of Justice “won’t do anything” and that Bannon will “get away with it all.” But at this point that kind of background whining is just par for the course.

What the whiniest of pundits and activists don’t get is that these kinds of hearings are not for their benefit. Their minds are already made up. The January 6th Committee, its actions, its hearings, and its conclusions are for the benefit of average Americans in the middle who know that something went wrong that day but want to be convinced of what specifically happened in painstaking fashion.

We’ll find out next week. I can’t wait.

I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. Have a nice weekend everyone!! 


Friday Reads: Now We Know They’re Still Traitors!

Louis Frey, Artist
Sequoia National Park Poster

Good Day Sky Dancers!

One of the weird things I’ve learned growing up in these United States was that no matter how far in the past the Civil War was fought, parts of the Deep South have never got over it or gone much beyond it.  This is especially true in rural areas although there are also some Western and Mid-Western states that are mostly rural and as backasswards about stuff as much as the Deep South.

I grew up in the Heartland and spent every moment feeling like I lived in a cultural desert even though the combined area of Council, Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha. Nebraska is fairly large in terms of middle-of-the-country cities.  I’m thankful my daughters are in Denver and Seattle that are big enough population areas to drive the rural parts of their state to mostly obscurity on the state level.

So, this was no surprise to me:

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Volcanoes National Park

I’ve heard better solutions to the red state/blue state gap and believe me, I was ready to make a movement for France to reclaim New Orleans quite a few times during the entire Hurricane Katrina period.  But seriously, who wants to live near this kind of behavior?  Gabrielle Hays files this story for the PBS News Hour.  This happens to come from my mother’s hometown which I thought was super-sophisticated grown up in comparison to Omaha. A pro-slavery petition is the latest racist incident at this Kansas City high school. Parents say they’ve had enough.”  WTF?

An online petition to reinstate slavery that made its rounds at a high school in Kansas City this month is the latest in a series of incidents sparking outrage from parents and students who say race-related controversies at the school are an all-too-common occurence.

In an email to parents at Park Hill South High School dated Sept. 22, Park Hill School District Superintendent Jeanette Cowherd acknowledged the petition – which was brought to officials’ attention nearly a week prior – by saying many people are “hurting” because of “unacceptable and racist statements online,” adding that Board of Education “prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation” and that discipline could equal “suspension or expulsion.” Cowherd did not share any specifics regarding the students involved nor whether they have been disciplined. The email also noted the district will set up meetings to “give people the opportunity to share how they feel.”

But parents say the district is doing little to mitigate the ongoing problems, including individual attacks on students based on their race.

“I have a disheartening feeling about the incident that happened at Park Hill South. I don’t feel like it was addressed properly or at all,” parent Jeff Holmes said during public comment at a Park Hill school board meeting last Thursday, adding that these issues span across the school district.

“I’ve heard all of the nice, kind words and I guess that they are okay, they are what they are but they are meaningless, hollow and insincere if we don’t see action,” he said.

Park Hill South is only the latest school over the past week to make headlines for its handling of racial incidents. Just days after the petition circulated, school officials at Olathe South School, 30 minutes away from Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating a homecoming proposal poster that read “If I was Black I would be picking cotton but I’m white so I’m picking you for HOCO?” A photo of the offensive poster made its rounds on social media before school administrators caught wind of it.

National Education Association President Becky Pringle said these types of derogatory occurrences are not new.

“All students – no matter their race or place – have a right to a public education in a safe learning environment. But right now, many of our students are scared, anxious, and feeling threatened. What happened at Park Hill South High School isn’t an isolated incident nor did it happen by accident,” she said in a statement to the PBS NewsHour.

NEA, a teachers union that advocates on behalf of educators nationwide, has received reports of “hostile and hateful environments” in schools across the country, she said.

Brittney Lewis of Bybrije, Artist
Yosemite National Park

There have been threats made to school board members across the country as well as a documentary by NBC on an incident that sparked the critical race theory kerfuffle which basically erases slavery, Jim Crow, and whatever we happened to stumble across in our history books like the Tulsa Race Massacre.  Greg Abbott just signed a law to make white folks feel comfy with their slave-owning, KKK klan, lynch-happy ancestors.  Many southern states actually are experiencing an increase in the population of black southerners as many Black Americans are moving to the large, affluent cities of the south.  This might be one way of turning more southern states blue.

Then, of course, we’ve spent lots of time on the Abbott anti-women and anti-voting rights legislature making Texas basically into something akin to Texastan with its Cristoban tyrants seeking to make women, people of color, and the LGBT community outcasts and lesser citizens. What the Hell is going on?  Why do we have a tyranny of a minority?

But what about the American Outback where many states have fewer people than your normal Chicago, New York, or LA Zip codes.  I watched Steve Kornacki show how much political power these states have because they all have two senators.

I mean, what we`re talking about here is the partisan distribution of voters. A couple different ways, I guess, to look at this. First, the map everybody knows. This is the 2020 election. Biden wins. There`s the electoral vote count. Here are the red states. Here are the blue states.

You see, basically, we know Democrats concentrated a lot on the West Coast, the Northeast, somewhat here in the Midwest. Biden was able to flip a couple states. But in that clip you played, you had Michael Steele talking about the county strength.

Now, the 50 states in the country, there`s more than 3, 100 counties in the United States. So this map is going to change here in a second, and you`re going to see all of the counties in the country.

This is the red/blue map for the counties. And, obviously, you see a lot more red here than blue. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump won more than 2, 500 counties. Again, there`s just over 3, 100 of them. More than 2, 500 went for Donald Trump.

Now, obviously, not every county is the exact same size. Here`s like a very dramatic example I could give you. If you were to really Zoom in here in Southern California, I`m going to circle it. What I just circled is Los Angeles County in Southern California.

This is a big blue county, the city of Los Angeles, about 10 million people. There`s about 10 million residents in Los Angeles County. Joe Biden won Los Angeles County overwhelmingly. In terms of population, though, Los Angeles County would be the same size as Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, roughly.

If you were to combine all of those red states, the population would be about the same as Los Angeles County. And yet obviously the number of counties, the land distribution, there`s a lot more landmass, there`s a lot more red than blue one here, land vs. population. So that gets the story this divide here that you see in the county map.

Here`s the actual number, Trump won 2, 574 counties, Biden 539. This has become — this century, at least, this has become the story of our politics. And Clinton in the 1990s won a ton of counties. He won a lot more of the interior of the country.

But this has become the story. But this, by the way, what you`re looking at here, is if you sized every state in every county relative to its population, this would be the map. But this is just a blob here. It looks like a Rorschach test.

But if you were to size the high population areas to the same scale as low end — in low population areas much lower, this would become what the red/blue map looks like. But, again, Ari, what it basically gets at here is, look, the distribution of the popular, Democrats in cities, increasingly in suburbs.

Sage Aune of Sagepizza, Artist Joshua Tree National Park

You may watch the analysis at this clip that also includes Howard Dean and Michael Steele. The map is fascinating.

We’ve talked about Senator Joe Manchin was has been the focus of disruption in the Senate Democratic Caucus.  Eyes recently on Arizona’s Krysten Sinema who is going for the complete enigma look.  This is from Axios’ Hans Nicholls: “Cracking the Sinema code.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s political allies have some free advice for anyone trying to bully the wine-drinking triathlete into supporting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget bill: She doesn’t play by Washington’s rules — and she’s prepared to walk away.

Why it matters: For all her flash, Sinema — unlike fellow holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — rarely telegraphs her precise intentions, leaving political adversaries guessing about her ultimate goals.

  • In conversation with colleagues, she’ll suggest that her top priority is passing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal she brokered this spring over late-night, wine-fueled negotiations. Beyond that, you’re piecing together clues.
  • President Biden and his top aides met her four times over the course of a day this week without totally cracking the code.
  • Sinema on Thursday tweeted a statement saying, “Claims that the Senator has not detailed her views to President Biden and Senator [Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer are false” and they “are fully aware of Senator Sinema’s priorities, concerns and ideas.”

Between the lines: Progressives could be forgiven for presuming that Sinema, 45, the first openly bisexual member of Congress, who’s easy to spot in her trademark sleeveless dresses, wry wigs and acrylic glasses, would share their woke politics.

  • They’ve been befuddled, and increasingly enraged, when she behaves more like the late Republican Sen. John McCain, another Arizonan who didn’t mind challenging party orthodoxies.
  • At her core, Sinema is something of a fiscal conservative, which disappoints progressives, leading them to whisper about a primary challenge in 2024.
  • She’s unconventional (see: recent internship at a Sonoma winery) and a force to be reckoned with. She’s known to rise between 4-5 a.m. to train for her next race, and she was forced to take up aqua jogging after breaking her foot this summer in something called the “Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon.”

The big picture: While Manchin has been intensely focused on price tag of spending, setting his limit at $1.5 trillion, Sinema has signaled she’s more concerned with the tax side of the equation, including who pays them.

    • She’s suggested to some allies that she’s reluctant to support any increase in the corporate tax rate, but she’s more likely to accept a smaller increase to the headline rate — likely in the 24% range, well short of Biden’s proposed 28%.
    • She’s raised flags about increasing the rate on corporations’ international profits, which she believes could harm their competitiveness.
    • On capital gains, she’s also indicated that she’s opposed to Biden’s headline 39.6% rate but could accept a number in the mid-twenties.

Sabrena Khadija, Artist
Death Valley National Park

There are so few conservative Dems and centrist Republicans that the Senate is as split as the country.  However, the right-wingers of the Republican base have more cows and coyotes for neighbors than people. The graph shown by Kornacki makes me agree with Dr. Howard Dean.

DEAN: Well, the central problem — there are several central problems.

The biggest problem of all is that the counties and the states that Michael talked about and that Steve talked about are older, getting older and whiter. And they`re terrified of the future. Their kids are leaving. They`re teaching stuff in the schools that`s not useful.

The older people don`t know how to use an Internet. They`re losing their jobs. And if they can`t use the Internet, they can`t get another job. And this is pure fear and anger that`s motivating Trump`s voters. And it`s why he`s so successful.

The problem is that the future, first of all, belongs to the blue areas, at least right now. Young people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, not because they love the Democrats, but because that horrible, pessimistic, furious vision of the Republicans is just totally unacceptable to people who are young.

And it also highlights the structural defects that we have got that are now an emergency after 250 years, the Electoral College, which doesn`t make any sense at all. The corrupt election laws that are being passed, we have had experience with that through Jim Crow.

We have the new Jim Crow in Georgia, and they still voted for two Democratic senators for the first time since segregation was broken. So, the country is really at an inflection point, a point. And the fury and anger between the red and the blue is explainable by how terrified the right-wing is and the conservatives are of the future.

Let me know return to what’s behind that first twitter with a direct link to the study.

The University of Virginia Center for Politics has partnered with Project Home Fire, a new initiative dedicated to finding common ground in American politics, on an innovative new data analytics and polling project to explore the social, political, and psychological divides between those who voted for Donald Trump and those who voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

Some of the key takeaways from today’s release are:

— Majorities of Trump and Biden voters express support for several elements of the bipartisan infrastructure and reconciliation bills being debated in Congress, but there are marked differences in their levels of support. (see Table 1 below)

— Majorities — often large majorities — of both Biden and Trump voters express some form of distrust for voters, elected officials, and media sources they associate with the other side. A strong majority of Trump voters see no real difference between Democrats and socialists, and a majority of Biden voters at least somewhat agree that there is no real difference between Republicans and fascists. (see Table 2 below)

— Significant numbers of both Trump and Biden voters show a willingness to consider violating democratic tendencies and norms if needed to serve their priorities. Roughly 2 in 10 Trump and Biden voters strongly agree it would be better if a “President could take needed actions without being constrained by Congress or courts,” and roughly 4 in 10 (41%) of Biden and half (52%) of Trump voters at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country, favoring blue/red states seceding from the union. (see Table 3 below)

The Center for Politics and Project Home Fire will be releasing findings from this study in the coming weeks through a series of articles in Sabato’s Crystal Ball and other publications, as well as public symposiums that will each explore major, divisive subjects in American life. Those topics include: immigration, political violence, pandemic response, and other prominent national issues.

Yup. We’ve got a bunch of secessionists out there but they are not the majority. What are we going to do with this situation?

The National Park Posters are available to purchase to help raise funds for the NPS.  You can read more about them and their artists at this link at Forbes.  The link is old but still interesting.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?