ICYMI: Katie Porter And Elizabeth Warren Use Math To Make Fun Of Trump
by Frances Langum on December 3, 2020 at 04:00
Open thread below…
True Pandemic Toll in the U.S. Reaches 345,000
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 02:50
New York Times: “The data show how the coronavirus pandemic, which is peaking in many states, is bringing with it unusual patterns of death, higher than the official totals of
Florida Lawyer Urges People to Illegally Vote In Georgia
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 02:48
Georgia officials tell Fox News they are investigating a Florida attorney for attempting to vote illegally for the Republican candidates in the state’s Jan. 5 Senate runoff, after a video emerged of him
Tucker Carlson Says Fauci Should Never Work in Public Policy Again
by Todd Neikirk on December 3, 2020 at 02:15
The last time a pandemic hit the United States was during the 1918 Spanish Flu. And with pandemics only hitting the country every one hundred years or so, it can be difficult for the government to figure out the best way to handle it. One thing is for certain, though, few could have handled it … Continue reading “Tucker Carlson Says Fauci Should Never Work in Public Policy Again”
Trump Escalates Baseless Attacks on Election
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 01:53
This is quite the lede from the Washington Post: “Escalating his attack on democracy from within the White House, President Trump on Wednesday distributed an astonishing 46-minute video rant filled
Trump Is Said to Be ‘Livid’ at Barr
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 01:36
“President Trump remained livid at Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday, with one senior administration official indicating there was a chance Barr could be fired — not just for his
Pence Backs Away from Trump’s Election ‘Fraud’ Talk
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 01:20
Sources tell the Daily Beast that Vice President Mike Pence sees President Trump’s legal challenges to the election as doomed and has recoiled at the president’s attacks on Republican governors.
Michael Steele Mocks Donald Trump For Raising More Money Now Then During Campaign Season
by Todd Neikirk on December 3, 2020 at 01:19
Donald frequently bragged about how much money his campaign was raising during election season. The truth was, however, that he was being crushed by Joe Biden and the Democratic machine. And now that the election is over, Trump hasn’t stopped trying to raise funds. This time, he is asking for money to fund legal fights … Continue reading “Michael Steele Mocks Donald Trump For Raising More Money Now Then During Campaign Season”
RNC Invites 2024 Hopefuls to January Meeting
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 01:17
Politico: “McDaniel is inviting roughly a dozen potential 2024 presidential candidates to the RNC’s January meeting in Amelia Island, Fla. — the most explicit move she’s made yet to show
Trump And Jared Kushner Got $3.65 Million PPP Loans Intended For Small Businesses
by Jason Easley on December 3, 2020 at 00:41
A new analysis found that Donald Trump and Jared Kushner got millions of dollars in PPP loans that were supposed to go to small businesses.
Watchdog sues Trump, Kushner and White House to prevent records from being illegally destroyed
by Igor Derysh on December 3, 2020 at 00:37
Lawsuit warns Trump may destroy records to avoid legal exposure, accuses Kushner of obfuscating WhatsApp messages
Nat Geo’s “Trafficked” delves into the criminal underworld, while putting its reporter at risk
by Melanie McFarland on December 3, 2020 at 00:21
Mariana van Zeller puts her safety on the line for the series, which can feel both intriguing and infuriating
WATCH: Rep. Ocasio-Cortez Grills Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Unused CARES Act Funding
on December 3, 2020 at 00:18
Brett Wilkins, staff writerMnuchin has signaled he will return about $175 billion in unallocated funds, even as the coronavirus pandemic and unemployment crisis rage.
Barack Obama Says He Might Get COVID Vaccine on TV to Increase American Confidence
by Todd Neikirk on December 3, 2020 at 00:16
In an amazing feat, multiple medical companies have created an effective COVID-19 vaccine. While the treatments can eventually eradicate the pandemic, the worry now is that a number of Americans will fail to get vaccinated. During a Wednesday appearance on Joe Madison’s Sirius/XM radio show, Barack Obama talked about ways that he might be able … Continue reading “Barack Obama Says He Might Get COVID Vaccine on TV to Increase American Confidence”
McConnell’s COVID plan has business tax breaks but $0 for unemployment boost and direct payments
by Igor Derysh on December 3, 2020 at 00:10
McConnell drops federal unemployment boost from latest proposal while pushing a 100% business meal tax deduction
Trump Almost Starts Crying During 46 Minute Speech On Non-Existent Election Fraud
by Jason Easley on December 3, 2020 at 00:07
Trump released a 46-minute speech loaded with conspiracy theories and false election fraud claims that almost had him in tears.
Tensions Simmer Inside Biden Transition
by Taegan Goddard on December 3, 2020 at 00:00
“President-elect Joe Biden is rapidly assembling a team of Washington hands with deep experience, projecting an image of cohesion in contrast to the savage infighting often at play around President
Ivanka Trump Deposed In Inauguration Lawsuit
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 23:48
Ivanka Trump sat for a deposition Tuesday with investigators from the Washington, DC, attorney general’s office as part of its lawsuit alleging the misuse of inaugural funds, CNN reports.
Pompeo Invites Hundreds to Indoor Holiday Parties
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 23:45
“Following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases across the country, State Department leadership sent out a notice to employees one week ago recommending that “any non-mission critical events” be changed
CDC panel advises that health care workers, nursing home residents receive COVID-19 vaccines first
by Matthew Rozsa on December 2, 2020 at 23:33
The CDC has been tasked with figuring out who gets the vaccine first as production begins
Scientists just used CRISPR to cure the simian equivalent of HIV. Here’s why this is a big deal
by Matthew Rozsa on December 2, 2020 at 23:28
The surprising results bring us one step closer to an HIV cure
Ron Johnson Privately Admits Biden Won, But Publicly Pushes Trump’s Lies
by Chris capper Liebenthal on December 2, 2020 at 23:26
As a caveat, the gentle reader should be aware that the following is an excerpt from an article by Mark Becker, former chair of the Brown County Republicans (Brown County is the home of Green Bay) and was published in The Bulwark, a right wing site founded by radical right winger Charlie Sykes, who helped usher in Scott Walker, David Clarke and Ron Johnson and who is now trying to cash in on the “Never Trump” wing of the Republicans. With that in mind, the reader can take it for what it’s worth. Becker reports that he had a 30-minute conversation with RoJo to discuss Becker’s concern’s about the direction that the GOP is taking. While the whole article is worthy of a read the real insight into RoJo’s depravity is here:read more
James Corden in “The Prom” sparks critic outrage: “offensive” and “worst gay-face”
by Zack Sharf on December 2, 2020 at 23:21
Corden’s performance is being called the most “insulting” thing about the movie
WATCH: Candace Owens Compares Vaccines to Slavery During an Appearance on the Alex Jones Show
by Todd Neikirk on December 2, 2020 at 23:17
Candace Owens has had quite a meteoric rise in the last 5 years. She claims that before Donald Trump, she was a Democrat. But after the Gamergate controversy, Owens says that she became a conservative overnight. And she’s become a big time favorite of Conservatives. Owens missives are frequently retweeted by the Trump family. She … Continue reading “WATCH: Candace Owens Compares Vaccines to Slavery During an Appearance on the Alex Jones Show”
Rian Johnson considered using Anakin Skywalker in “The Last Jedi,” but it was too complicated
by Zack Sharf on December 2, 2020 at 23:17
Hayden Christensen and Mark Hamill almost came face to face in “Star Wars,” but the meeting wasn’t meant to be
Ivanka Trump wants to “be the first female president” — at least one major hurdle stands in her way
by Travis Gettys on December 2, 2020 at 23:06
Ivanka’s brother is more popular among the Republican base, but her ambitions may be thwarted by someone else
In a Facebook Rant, Trump Amplifies His Delusions of Election Fraud
by Abigail Weinberg on December 2, 2020 at 23:03
In a 46-minute speech posted to his Facebook page Wednesday, Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 election, and instead merely repeated his lie that widespread voter fraud has cost him a second term. Attorney General Bill Barr said on Tuesday that the Justice Department had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would
Ian McKellen and more “Lord of the Rings” actors call on fans to help save Tolkien’s home
by Zack Sharf on December 2, 2020 at 23:00
The plan is to raise enough money to buy Tolkien’s home in North Oxford and turn it into a literary center
Bonus Quote of the Day
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 23:00
“As the father of six children and the grandfather of seven, no. My children and grandchildren are much better behaved.” — Chris Wallace, quoted by Poynter, on whether moderating the
Pro-Trump Lawyers Say GOP Governor in Georgia Is a Chinese Agent and Blame George Soros
by Matt Cohen on December 2, 2020 at 22:53
It’s been nearly a month since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election by major media outlets and more than a week since the General Services Administration informed the president-elect that his team could start the transition process. But none of that has had any effect on the lawyers fighting on
New PPP data shows two dozen businesses at Trump and Kushner properties received federal loans
by Roger Sollenberger on December 2, 2020 at 22:42
Half of the program’s allocated $522 billion in loans went to only 5% of recipients
Right Wing Round-Up: This Has to Stop
by Kyle Mantyla on December 2, 2020 at 22:32
David Badash @ The New Civil Rights Movement: ‘This Has to Stop’: Georgia Elections Official Blasts Trump for ‘Inspiring People to Commit Potential Acts of Violence.’ Katelyn Polantz @ CNN: Justice Department investigating potential presidential pardon bribery scheme, court records reveal. Reed Richardson @ Mediaite: Trump Campaign Lawyer Joe diGenova Says Fmr DHS Official Chris The post Right Wing Round-Up: This Has to Stop first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Recently Pardoned Flynn Shares Call for Trump to Declare Martial Law and Make Military Oversee New Election
on December 2, 2020 at 22:31
Jessica Corbett, staff writer”Wow! Sounds a bit like a coup,” responded one critic.
Right Wing Bonus Tracks: Zero Curse
by Kyle Mantyla on December 2, 2020 at 22:30
While President Donald Trump has spent years threatening to imprison his political enemies, sycophantic Trump-supporter pastor Robert Jeffress now thinks it’s “very unwise” for anyone to make such threats toward Trump: “We live in a country where you just don’t attack your political enemies and try to incarcerate them.” Peter LaBarbera is outraged about a The post Right Wing Bonus Tracks: Zero Curse first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
UN Calls for End to ‘War on Nature’
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 22:20
“As an extreme year for hurricanes, wildfires and heat waves comes to an end, the head of the United Nations challenged world leaders to make 2021 the year that humanity
Grisham Turns Down Interior Secretary Post
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 22:17
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) turned down an offer to serve in President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet as Interior secretary, a source close to the transition told The Hill.
Rep. Katie Porter Pantses Steve Mnuchin: ‘Is Today The Year 2026?’
by Aliza Worthington on December 2, 2020 at 22:15
Many rich, entitled, white men have appeared before Rep. Katie Porter feeling superior and prepared, only to be humiliated and humbled by her simple and straightforward recitation of facts and logic proving them criminally corrupt. No one deserves this treatment more than Steve Mnuchin, but he was particularly resentful of having to undergo the Katie Porter Treatment, as evidenced by his sexist and condescending behavior towards her today. Under her line of questioning about why he was trying to move $455 billion of COVID relief back to Treasury now, when the law says it cannot be done before 2026, Rep. Porter challenged him with such brain-twisters as, “Is today the year 2026?” Consequently, he became offended and sniffed that it was ridiculous for her to be wasting his time with such questions. Her response was, “Well, Secretary Mnuchin, I think it’s ridiculous that you’re play-acting to be a lawyer when you have no legal degree.” In a a thoroughly predictable move, he claimed the lawyers at Treasury were enough to advise him, but then he went a step further to frikkin offer to MANSPLAIN it to Chairwoman Maxine Waters at a later date — as if Rep. Porter was too stupid to understand the legal issues involved. Not cool, Steven. read more
Republicans Cheer On Trump 2024 Run
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 22:14
“Congressional Republicans were slow to embrace Donald Trump’s White House campaign in 2016. But the ousted president will have plenty of support on Capitol Hill should he run again in
Feinstein Backs Padilla for Senate Seat
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 22:12
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is supporting California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) for the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, the HuffPost reports.
Advocates Applaud ‘Historic’ Moment as MORE Act Advances to First-Ever Marijuana Legalization Vote on House Floor
on December 2, 2020 at 22:10
Julia Conley, staff writerAdvocates for marijuana legalization on Wednesday urged members of the U.S. Congress to support the MORE Act when it reaches the House floor later this week, after the bill passed in the House Rules Committee.
Gaetz And Hannity Urge Trump To Admit He And His Family Are Guilty Of Committing Federal Crimes
by Heather on December 2, 2020 at 22:09
Someone needs to remind Trump lickspittles Matt Gaetz and Sean Hannity that accepting pardons also means an admission of guilt. Following the news that Trump has been considering giving blanket pardons to members of his family, Rudy Giuliani and even himself, Hannity doubled down on his television show on Fox Tuesday night and urged Trump to do just that. On Tuesday night, in a panel with strident pro-Trump supporters Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Fox commentator Greg Jarrett, Hannity reiterated his public call from the day before. During his Monday radio show, Hannity had unabashedly encouraged Trump to self-pardon himself and also pardon untold numbers of his family before leaving office next month. read more
Arms Sale to UAE Goes Forward Even as U.S. Probes Tie Between UAE and Russian Mercenaries
by Alex Emmons on December 2, 2020 at 22:09
Earlier this year, intelligence reporting indicated that the UAE may be coordinating with the sanctioned Wagner Group in Libya. The post Arms Sale to UAE Goes Forward Even as U.S. Probes Tie Between UAE and Russian Mercenaries appeared first on The Intercept.
Republican Georgia Lt. Governor Goes On Fox And Calls Out Trump For Election Misinformation
by Jason Easley on December 2, 2020 at 21:54
Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA) called out Trump for spreading misinformation about the election to try to flip his state.
The surreal manipulation of “Black Bear,” a comic thriller with answers that “hover out of reach”
by Gary M. Kramer on December 2, 2020 at 21:46
Lawrence Michael Levine spoke to Salon about his ambiguous movie, how we lie to ourselves & his filmmaker wife
If There’s One Creative Livestream You Join All Week, Month, or Year, Make This It
by Daniel King on December 2, 2020 at 21:31
In celebration of the interdisciplinary artist and historian Thulani Davis’ new poetry collection, Nothing But the Music, a launch party of performances and conversations is set for tomorrow, December 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET. The occasion is as historic and thrilling as the lineup of artists joining the livestream: Roscoe Mitchell of the Art Ensemble
‘We Need Real Housing Relief for All Tenants’
by Eleanor J. Bader on December 2, 2020 at 21:26
In New York City and throughout the nation, activists are standing up for renters’ rights. Rising rents, stagnant wages, and low rental vacancy rates were a toxic mix long before COVID-19 hit U.S. shores.
‘Dead-End for Climate’: Coalition Denounces Senate Bill to Fund Nuclear Industry Bailout
on December 2, 2020 at 21:20
Andrea Germanos, staff writer”Instead of propping up the nuclear energy industry, Congress should be driving the transition to truly renewable energy.”
Mayor Warned Residents to Stay Home While on Vacation
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 21:14
“In early November, as health officials warned of a impending COVID-19 spike, Austin Mayor Steve Adler (D) hosted an outdoor wedding and reception with 20 guests for his daughter at
Trump Falsely Claims Election ‘Under Siege’
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 21:06
President Trump released an excerpt of a speech in which he falsely says the presidential election is “under coordinated assault and siege.” He called it perhaps “the most important speech”
Winter May Be Most Difficult In Public Health History
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 21:03
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the next few months of the Covid-19 pandemic will be among “the most difficult in the
‘Lock Him Up!’ Trump Attorney Incites Violence Against Georgia Governor
by David on December 2, 2020 at 20:58
An attorney who says he is representing President Donald Trump encouraged a group of angry supporters to target Gov. Brian Kemp (R) at a “Stop the Steal” rally in Georgia on Wednesday. “We’re going to send them a message!” Wood shouted, referring to Georgia officials. “And the message is this. It’s 1776 in America again! And you’re not going to take our freedom. We’re going to fight for our liberty!” “This is America! You picked a fight with the wrong people,” he continued. “Get out of our country, George Soros! We are not going to allow ourselves to go back into the polling booth — and you hear us out, Gov. Kemp, you hear me.” “You’re not going to sell our votes to China!” Wood said. “We’re not going to vote on your damn machines made in China! We’re going to vote on machines made in the USA!” Trump’s attorney then invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I believe that a great man one time called upon the Black Americans to take action,” Wood said. “Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in non-violent civil disobedience. I want you to go to the governor’s mansion, I want you to circle it, I want you to blow your horns until Brian Kemp comes out and orders a special session of the Georgia Legislature. Get us our legislature! And we want him to fix the mess that he created!” “And then he can resign. And then as far as I’m concerned, lock him up!” he shouted, prompting the crowd to chant, “Lock him up! Lock him up!”
Top Democrats Swing Behind Bipartisan Relief Bill
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 20:47
“Democratic leaders swung behind a bipartisan COVID-19 relief effort Wednesday, cutting their demands for a $2 trillion-plus measure by more than half in hopes of breaking a monthslong logjam and
Raimondo Favored to Be Biden’s Health Secretary
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 20:45
Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) is now a top contender to be President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for health secretary, with New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) no longer
David Perdue Traded Securities 2,596 Times In Six Years
by Taegan Goddard on December 2, 2020 at 20:42
Sen. David Purdue (R-GA) has made 2,596 trades during his Senate term — about as much as the next five most active traders in the Senate combined, the New York
by Kevin Drum on December 2, 2020 at 20:30
This is . . . some kind of thistle? I guess. But whatever it is, it’s a lovely green since it was taken in spring of last year.
Toxic PFAS Chemicals Discovered in Hundreds of Products
by Sharon Lerner on December 2, 2020 at 20:13
Climbing ropes, guitar strings, and hand sanitizer are among the newly reported uses for the toxic “forever” chemicals. The post Toxic PFAS Chemicals Discovered in Hundreds of Products appeared first on The Intercept.
A new stimulus bill pushed by a centrist coalition has a modest chance of being passed
by Matthew Rozsa on December 2, 2020 at 19:54
Unemployed Americans could see more money in their pocket if it passes
Chuck Schumer Just Turned Trump’s NDAA Veto Threat Into A Massive Backfire
by Jason Easley on December 2, 2020 at 19:53
Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) blasted Trump for threatening to veto a pay raise for the troops.
This Must Stop: CNN Host Asks If Progressives Drive Dems Too Far Left
by Karoli Kuns on December 2, 2020 at 19:52
Dana Bash asked Doug Jones about whether coastal progressives are driving the party’s agenda, which is nothing more than classic Beltway bias. Jones dodged elegantly, but it’s time for the media to stop doing this. During an interview with Jones on CNN Wednesday, Bash actually asked this question: “Are you worried that the party is too focused on the coast, too focused on the big cities, and are being driven — is the party being driven, too much, by progressives?” Ah, the “coastal elite” framing, as if people who live on the West Coast and see their states being consumed in fire or the people who live on the East Coast who are witnessing a record number of hurricanes in one year are somehow pushing the Democratic party in a bad direction. What the hell? Jones lobbed that loaded question right back at her skillfully, noting that Democrats are a big-tent party with people on either end of the spectrum who tangle. “But, at the end of the day, we all want the same things,” he said. “We all want good health care for the American people. We all want good jobs and good-paying jobs, and try to — try to lower, you know, to narrow the income gap that we got out there. We want to keep America secure, both in our elections, as well as our nation secure. How you get there is, I think, is — is the issue.”read more
On the Line: Armed and Dangerous
by ZACH D ROBERTS on December 2, 2020 at 19:34
Zach D. Roberts reports: “I’ve covered protests in America for the last twenty years. But it wasn’t until 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, that I saw men with guns take to the streets.”
Despite Trump Efforts to Foment War With Iran, Experts Say Biden Has Chance to Restore Needed Diplomacy
on December 2, 2020 at 19:32
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”The window to get back into the nuclear deal, and stave off growing threats of war, will be short.”
Trump Tells Party Faithful He Will Run for President Again in 2024
by Chris Walker on December 2, 2020 at 19:15
Trump’s statement on Tuesday was his first public acknowledgment of considering another run for office.
David Perdue bought Pfizer stock — a week before company said it would develop a vaccine
by Roger Sollenberger on December 2, 2020 at 18:58
Perdue bought the day Pfizer warned investors the pandemic might hurt the company. The next day, he bought more
Biden Taps Two BlackRock Executives for Top Economic Posts
by Amy Goodman on December 2, 2020 at 18:43
This comes as progressives are demanding a cabinet free of Wall Street influence.
Trump Is Headed to Georgia to “Help” With the Runoffs. The GOP Is Terrified.
by William Rivers Pitt on December 2, 2020 at 18:43
A portion of Trump’s fervent base is calling for a conservative voter boycott of the January 5 Senate runoff in Georgia.
Trump Is Threatening To Veto The NDAA Because Twitter Fact Checks Him
by Jason Easley on December 2, 2020 at 18:34
Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump is threatening to veto the NDAA because he is upset about Twitter fact checks.
After $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut for Rich, Trump Backs GOP Pay Freeze for Federal Workers as Pandemic Rages
on December 2, 2020 at 18:28
Jake Johnson, staff writerUnions representing federal workers have denounced the proposed pay freeze as “insulting” and a “cruel slap in the face.”
Brian Stelter’s ball of confusion, part 2!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on December 2, 2020 at 18:04
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2020Large chunks of our discourse are like this: Is it possible that Donald J. Trump really believes the crazy things he says?We’ll have to admit it! When the commander rants at length as he did in his Thanksgiving press event, the deeply disordered commander in chief really makes us wonder.Personally, we’d like to see carefully selected medical / psychiatric specialists asked about this puzzling state of affairs. Because that sort of thing is forbidden, we end up with ruminations like this:STELTER (11/29/20): Welcome back to Reliable Sources. I’m Brian Stelter.I remember a day, early in the Trump years, when there were all these debates about whether to say the president was lying. Remember that? Was he lying? Was he just fibbing?I remember Jeff Greenfield saying, “Brian, there is something worse than a lie. There is something worse than a lie. There’s a delusion. When you are lying, you know it. When you are delusional, you don’t.” He wanted to remind me there is something more dangerous than a liar—someone who is delusional. What do you think is going on now? What do you see happening with the White House, with the Trump White House? Is it delusion? Is that what’s happening?That was CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday’s Reliable Sources. For a bit of background on this matter, see yesterday’s report.Stelter is a good, decent person—but his presentation on Sunday made almost no sense. Things went sideways when he introduced his next guest, the Atlantic’s Jonathan Rauch:STELTER (continuing directly): Well, my next guest says that the president’s behavior, the outgoing president’s attacks against the election integrity, are attacks on reality itself. Jonathan Rauch wrote this back in 2018. He was early onto this. He called it “The Constitution of Knowledge.” He is now turning it into a book, and he joins me now. He’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor for The Atlantic.Jonathan, “delusion.” I’ve always been afraid—not afraid. I’ve always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know—not wanting to assume I know what’s going on in the president’s head.What do you see? What do you see? Is “delusion” a fair word for these election lies?How confused was Stelter’s presentation? Let us count (some of) the ways:In the first chunk of his presentation, Stelter seemed to say that the commander may actually believe his crazy statements. Trump may be “delusional,” Stelter seemed to say. He seemed to say that being delusional is different from being a liar.Quoting Greenfield, he seemed to say that being delusional is even worse!Is it possible that Trump is so disordered that he believes his craziest claims? We often find ourselves wondering about that—but Stelter soon seemed to be over his head just handling these basic concepts. By the end of that second chunk, he seemed to be asking if “delusion” was just another word for “lies.” By now, he’d completely lost his way. Here’s how the confusion developed:In his opening chunk, Stelter proceeded with perfect clarity. He presented two dueling possibilities:Trump may be lying when he makes his crazy claims. Or he may be delusional—he may actually believe the crazy things he has said.At this point, Stelter had drawn a clear distinction between two possibilities. But then, he quickly muddied the waters, offering this:”Well, my next guest says that the president’s behavior, the outgoing president’s attacks against the election’s integrity, are attacks on reality itself.”Are the commander’s crazy claims an “attack on reality itself?” Imaginably, a person could voice that judgment whether he thought Trump was lying or not.From there, the confusion grew. Stelter said this to Rauch:”Jonathan, delusion. I’ve always been afraid—not afraid. I’ve always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know—not wanting to assume I know what’s going on in the president’s head.”According to Stelter, he doesn’t like to use the word “delusion.” Reason? He doesn’t like to give the impression that he knows what’s going on in Trump’s head.Sadly, that doesn’t make sense! If you say that Trump is lying, you’re already saying that you know what’s going on in his head. You’re saying Trump knows the statement in question is false, but he’s saying it anyway. Media analyst, please! If you say that some politician is lying, you’re saying that you know what’s going on in his head! This is why, until recently, it was considered bad journalistic form to say that a pol was lying.As a general matter, it’s hard to know if someone is lying. How do you know the person isn’t confused or misinformed? Now we have an additional possibility—the possibility that Trump may be “delusional.” That’s one step past confused or misinformed—but as soon as you say that someone is lying, you’re already saying that you know what’s going on in his head.These basic concepts are bone simple. They’ve been a basic conceptual construct since roughly forever. One last time, let’s review:Traditionally, journalists have been forbidden from using the L-word because it’s hard to know what’s going on in someone’s head. Now, Stelter seemed to be saying that he has avoided suggesting that Trump is “delusional” for that very reason. But he refers to Trump’s “lies” on a regular basis!Could it be that Trump is so crazy that he believes his ridiculous statements? We’d like to see a (carefully selected) medical expert asked to evaluate that question.Last Sunday, Stelter seemed to be over his head handling these basic concepts. His presentation had broken down completely by the time he posed his puzzling question to Rauch. As we’ll see tomorrow, Rauch was instantly tangled in this conceptual spider web too. Is man [sic] really “the rational animal?” Dearest darlings, let’s face the truth. Large chunks of our discourse are like this!
Mitch McConnell’s dark pivot: Wreck the economy — and sabotage Biden’s presidency
by Amanda Marcotte on December 2, 2020 at 18:00
Trump is still pretending he’ll be president next year, but McConnell has moved on to his plot to ruin Biden
Bernie Sanders Calls Betsy DeVos Worst Education Secretary in US History
by Jake Johnson on December 2, 2020 at 17:50
The billionaire school privatization zealot lashed out at a popular proposal to cancel student loan debt.
Joe Biden Received Over 81 Million Votes, But You Wouldn’t Know It From The Media
by John Amato on December 2, 2020 at 17:47
Looking at the Cook Report’s popular vote tracker, Joe Biden has received 81,056,268 to Donald Trump’s 74,115,722 That’s almost 7 million more votes for Joe Biden — an astronomical total, especially against an incumbent president. But Trump has been whining and complaining and acting like a fool, and the only people the press seems to care about are the disgruntled Trump cultists who refuse to acknowledge the will of the people and make wild conspiratorial claims that have no basis in fact. It’s frustrating, to say the least. I wrote this almost a month ago: Will Media Outlets Convene Joe Biden Voter Panels? My question is will they take time to obsessively interview Joe Biden voters? Will Joe Biden voters be treated with the same respect by the media as people believing insane Facebook conspiracy theories? In today’s email blast from Eric Boehlert Press Run, he writes:read more
McConnell COVID Plan: No Direct Payments and Stricter Unemployment Requirements
by Jake Johnson on December 2, 2020 at 17:47
Analysts caution that McConnell’s goal is to undermine Biden’s presidency and gain GOP seats in 2022 and beyond.
Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: December 1 Update
by Kevin Drum on December 2, 2020 at 17:47
Better late than never. Here’s the coronavirus death toll through December 1. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.
As Nonprofit Sector Suffers, Coalition Calls on Congress to Force Wealthy Foundations to Ramp Up Charitable Giving
on December 2, 2020 at 17:43
Julia Conley, staff writer”Increased funding could be immediately absorbed by food banks, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and organizations addressing issues like poverty alleviation, economic development, safe and secure voting, and social justice.”
With Eyes on Georgia, Right-Wing Operative Vows to Burn Down the GOP If It Doesn’t ‘Stop the Steal’
by Kristen Doerer on December 2, 2020 at 17:40
With the country’s eyes on Georgia and its two Senate runoffs, the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” campaign is shifting its focus to the state with a series of events this week meant to cast doubt of the outcome of the presidential election. The events are also poised to cause more infighting within the Republican Party, The post With Eyes on Georgia, Right-Wing Operative Vows to Burn Down the GOP If It Doesn’t ‘Stop the Steal’ first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Hundreds of Nursing Home Workers Are on Strike
by Tatiana Cozzarelli on December 2, 2020 at 17:37
The workers are demanding higher wages, hazard pay and better staffing.
Pro-Trump ‘Prayer Warriors’ Declared in Wee Hours that ‘Valkyrie Will Fall’ and Trump Will Stay in Office
by Peter Montgomery on December 2, 2020 at 17:36
Two prominent supporters of President Donald Trump from the “prophetic” Pentecostal wing of the religious right, Dutch Sheets and Frank Amedia, put out a call Tuesday for supporters to participate in a special prayer session from 12:30 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. Wednesday morning to wage spiritual warfare against Valkyrie, the name Sheets gave to the The post Pro-Trump ‘Prayer Warriors’ Declared in Wee Hours that ‘Valkyrie Will Fall’ and Trump Will Stay in Office first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Activists Resist Frantic Pipeline Development in Trump’s Final Weeks
by Leanna First-Arai on December 2, 2020 at 17:36
As the latest round of construction begins on long-disputed lines, hundreds of activists are continuing to resist.
Joaquin Castro Shows the Path Forward for Democrats
by Katrina vanden Heuvel on December 2, 2020 at 17:30
Katrina vanden Heuvel His model of engaging groups on all sides, including progressives and youth groups, is where the Democratic Party should head. The post Joaquin Castro Shows the Path Forward for Democrats appeared first on The Nation.
Oh Noes! Right Wing Site Parler Has A Porn Problem
by Frances Langum on December 2, 2020 at 17:13
[Above, a Sidney Powell look-a-like holds a really big gun while wearing a swimsuit. Not found at Parler, but it could be!] Turns out the Twitter-alternative for Right-Wingers has a porn problem? Color me not shocked one bit. It’s the INTERNET, after all. Parler has gained a rapid following because they promise not to delete your racist sexist sh*tpost, Dwayne. Who knew the constituency that considers Tomi Lahren a “commentator” would go the “hot chicks free nudes” route? All of us. And it also appears certain legislators cater to the Parler crowd in a different manner than on Twitter. My first Parler insight: Mike Lee on Twitter is talking legislation he’s working on and the GA Senate races. On Parler he’s stoking the idea that Trump maybe won pic.twitter.com/qVKw2qRVB8 — Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) November 23, 2020 This being the Internet, there’s also…a lot of porno stuff on the “no Twitter jail yay!” website? Go figure. WaPo reports:read more
New Data Show Income of Top 0.1% Soared 345% While That of Bottom 90% Stagnated Over Past 40 Years
on December 2, 2020 at 16:58
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”It’s all a matter of political choices,” progressive economist Thomas Piketty said in a recent interview. “You can have economic justice together with economic prosperity.”
ACLU Sues to Find Out How and Why Federal Agencies Are Accessing Americans’ Cell Phone Location Data
on December 2, 2020 at 16:51
Jessica Corbett, staff writer”We’re suing to bring some much-needed transparency to these disturbing practices,” explained one ACLU staff attorney.
Federalist Hack Says Reports On Lack Of Election Fraud Is The REAL Conspiracy
by John Amato on December 2, 2020 at 16:47
On Tuesday, Attorney General Bill Barr announced there was no election fraud that would affect the outcome of the 2020 Presidential race. This announcement was brought up in a panel discussion on Fox News’ Special Report, where Mollie Hemingway came up with her own very crazy conspiracy theory. Jonah Goldberg said that Barr finally put the story to bed. There was no election fraud that stole it from Trump’s grimy hands. But Trump sycophant Molly Hemingway of the Federalist still had to tickle the fancy of her supreme leader. Hemingway said Bill Barr did not “claim there was no election fraud at all” but said there wasn’t enough to effect the outcome of the election. And then she made this moronic claim: “There have been a lot of crazy conspiracy theories out there what happened in this election, but one of them — and it’s a pretty significant one — is that there was no fraud in this election.” That’s not a conspiracy theory at all. Trump is claiming that millions of votes were stolen from him by the ghost of Hugo Chavez who initiated the use of a software company called Dominion. We assume a necromancer was used to make Chavez rise from the dead to screw Trump. Trump and his so-called “legal team” also claimed hundreds of thousands of ballots were either altered or destroyed by a conspiracy against Trump orchestrated by Democrats in all the swing states — even though Georgia and Arizona are run by Republicans. read more
“Someone’s Going to Get Killed” Over Trump’s Voting Lies, Georgia Official Says
by Chris Walker on December 2, 2020 at 16:45
A Georgia official said Trump is fueling death threats against election workers. Trump doubled down in response.
Dutch Sheets Knows That God Does Not Want Joe Biden to Be President
by Kyle Mantyla on December 2, 2020 at 16:43
Evangelist and prophetic intercessor Dutch Sheets has been hosting daily prayer sessions on his YouTube channel in an effort to secure a second term for President Donald Trump. In a video Monday, Sheets declared that Christians must never give up the fight to overturn the results of the election because “God does not want” Joe The post Dutch Sheets Knows That God Does Not Want Joe Biden to Be President first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Senator Angus King: McConnell Has “Gotta Listen” to Members of His Own Party Regarding Covid Relief
by Alan Ryland on December 2, 2020 at 16:38
Senator Angus King (I-Maine) criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), saying he has “gotta listen” to members of the Republican Party who have called for bipartisan action on Covid-19 relief, which has stalled in the Senate since CARES Act benefits expired in July. “We really tried to come to a middle ground and we … Continue reading “Senator Angus King: McConnell Has “Gotta Listen” to Members of His Own Party Regarding Covid Relief”
Humanity Faces Climate “Suicide” Without US Rejoining Paris Agreement
by Mark Hertsgaard on December 2, 2020 at 16:34
President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge of net-zero U.S. emissions by 2050 brings the Paris Agreement goals within reach.
Teaching Civics Is More Difficult When Your Students Grew Up in the Trump Age
by Katie Scofield on December 2, 2020 at 16:33
In a political environment shaped by Trump, even facts about the basic workings of government have become politicized.
UN Chief Pleads for Stronger Climate Policies to End ‘Suicidal’ Addiction to Fossil Fuels
on December 2, 2020 at 16:14
Kenny Stancil, staff writer”It’s time to imagine, and plan for, a better future.”
Another Day One Job For Biden: Cut Off Trump’s Intelligence Briefings
by Joan McCarter on December 2, 2020 at 15:55
It’s customary for former presidents to be in the loop on international developments, including classified information. In normal cases, former presidents have diplomatic connections and experience that can prove invaluable for the current government. So intelligence agents and officials have routinely provided classified briefings and given access to the nation’s secrets. That needs to end with Donald Trump, some of these agents say, publicly. David Priess was a CIA officer who used to brief former President George H.W. Bush on national security concerns in the Middle East. Now he says that Trump is a security risk and shouldn’t get those briefings. He points to the revelation from The New York Times that Trump’s $400 million debt is coming due soon. “Is that a risk?” said Priess. “If it were someone applying for a security clearance, damn right it would be a risk.” Jack Goldsmith, a senior Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration concurs. “He’s shown as president that he doesn’t take secret-keeping terribly seriously,” Goldsmith said. “He has a known tendency to disrespect rules related to national security. And he has a known tendency to like to sell things that are valuable to him.” read more
Religious Right Turns Attention to Georgia Senate Runoffs
by Peter Montgomery on December 2, 2020 at 15:52
Jentezen Franklin, an Atlanta-area megachurch pastor and ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, is urging his followers to vote in the two runoff elections for U.S. Senate that will be held on Jan. 5. At an Evangelicals for Trump event in July—Franklin’s son Drake directed Evangelicals for Trump —Franklin claimed that freedom itself was at The post Religious Right Turns Attention to Georgia Senate Runoffs first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Trump, Citing No Evidence, Says Election “Is Far Bigger Scandal Than Anyone Would Have Thought”
by Alan Ryland on December 2, 2020 at 15:41
President Donald Trump continued to push election fraud conspiracy theories, saying the November 3 general election is a “far bigger scandal than anyone would have thought.” The president’s message urged individuals to watch hearings in Michigan that will address his claims of voter fraud. Big voter fraud hearings today in the Great State of Michigan. … Continue reading “Trump, Citing No Evidence, Says Election “Is Far Bigger Scandal Than Anyone Would Have Thought””
People In New York Are Wondering If Ivanka Trump Could Go To Jail
by Jason Easley on December 2, 2020 at 15:19
The criminal fraud investigation into the Trump Organization has New Yorkers wondering if Ivanka Trump could go to jail.
JOYEUX NOEM: Reporting (Covid) statistics is hard!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on December 2, 2020 at 15:14
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2020Let the Post’s editors show you: As we’ve often noted, reporting statistics is very hard, especially for major top journalists.That’s even true with respect to major topic like pandemic infection and death. This very morning, the editorial board of the Washington Post helps us see how hard it can be to fight our way through such statistics.In a newly published editorial, the board says that Sweden’s experiment with “herd immunity” has majorly failed. As far as we know, that assessment seems to be accurate.As far as we know, Sweden’s experiment has been a major failure. But along the way, as they attempt to prove their case, the highly distinguished upper-end editors haplessly tell us this:WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (12/2/20): Sweden is now caught in a wave of pandemic pain—and reversing course. Sweden has 48.9 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population, compared with 21.7 in Denmark, 8.2 in Norway and 7.7 in Finland. Sweden is averaging about 42.6 deaths per day, compared with 6.9 in Denmark, 3 in Norway and 2.1 in Finland. Sweden’s total 6,798 deaths, predominantly among the elderly, dwarf the toll in the other Nordic nations combined.The editors went to the finest schools. But how much good did it do?In this passage, the editors seem to be claiming that Sweden’s current rates of Covid infection and death are much higher than the infection/death rates of three Nordic neighbors. As far as we know, that’s true. But for starters, just consider the very first claim they made:”Sweden has 48.9 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population, compared with 21.7 in Denmark, 8.2 in Norway and 7.7 in Finland.”In that statement, the editors have adjusted for population. For each of the countries, they’re reporting the number of new cases per 100,000 population—but they fail to state the time span in question. Sweden is said to be recording 48.9 new cases per 100,000 population. But is Sweden recording that number of new cases on a daily basis? Is that perhaps a weekly average?The reader has no way to know. In a typical manifestation, the editors fail to say.Now, consider the editors’ second statement:”Sweden is averaging about 42.6 deaths per day, compared with 6.9 in Denmark, 3 in Norway and 2.1 in Finland.”In this case, the editors have defined the relevant time span; Sweden is averaging roughly 42 deaths per day. But is that Sweden’s average number of deaths per day unadjusted for population? Or is that Sweden’s average number of daily death per 100,000 population? The editors failed to say—and by now, we were puzzled. Here’s why:A forgiving person might want to assume that both sets of statistics represent these nations’ average daily occurrences per 100,000 population. A forgiving person might want to make that assumption. But is it possible that Sweden is averaging 49 new cases per day, but as many as 42 deaths? On its face, that didn’t seem to make sense. For that reason, we decided to click the one link the editors provide. We were taken to this borderline bewildering web site maintained by the Financial Times.Even at that major Covid web site, the FT does a strikingly poor job explaining what its various charts and graphs are recording. Such confusions have been remarkably common as elite journalistic cadres have attempted to keep us abreast of the most significant Covid-19 statistics.Making a long story short, we journeyed to some other sites which are easier to interpret. And sure enough:According to this useful site, Sweden is currently averaging roughly 42 Covid deaths per day; Denmark is averaging 7. But those are average numbers of daily deaths nationwide, unadjusted for population.That said, Sweden’s population is almost twice the size of each of the other three Nordic nations. And as we’ve noted a million times, it doesn’t make sense to draw comparisons of this type between countries without adjusting for population. As a general matter, it doesn’t make sense to do that. But our major journalists, from Rachel on down, routinely do this. (Needless to say, it’s generally done when it makes a preferred storyline better.)Again, we’re not suggesting that the board’s overall assessment about Sweden is wrong. As best we can tell, Sweden’s attempt to ride the herd immunity hobby horse is an experiment which has failed.We’re speaking here about something different. Consider our point this way:Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial board editor, is a Harvard graduate (class of 1974). And not only that! His father, Howard Hiatt, was a medical researcher and dean of the Harvard School of Public Health!Even with a background like that, Hiatt couldn’t induce the board to offer a coherent presentation about the way these Nordic nations currently fare in this major public health crisis. Hiatt is a thoroughly sensible person, but in an intellectually capable world, that passage in this morning’s Post would be viewed as a comically puzzling mess.It wouldn’t be hard to rewrite that passage so that it made perfect sense. You’d have to make some basic adjustments:It made no sense to present any figures in that passage without adjusting for population. Most strikingly, it made no sense to adjust the figures for Covid cases but not for Covid deaths.For various reasons, it would have made better sense to present the daily numbers of cases and deaths per million population. But all in all, that passage from the board is an incompetent mess.That said, can we talk? This sort of thing is amazingly common when Covid data are reported by the upper-end press. This brings us back to the conceptual mess Governor Kristi Noem loosed on the world back on November 18.Noem is governor of South Dakota. Her father was a farmer/rancher. He wasn’t dean of anybody’s school of public health. With that in mind, to what extent might Noem have thought that her presentation made sense? We can’t hope to answer that question, but just to refresh you, her hopelessly jumbled, grossly misleading presentation went exactly like this:NOEM (11/18/20): Across the country and around the globe, cases [of Covid-19] are increasing. Over the past week, cases are on the rise in 48 states.Some have said that my refusal to mandate masks is a reason why our cases are rising here in the state of South Dakota, and that is not true.Others have said that my refusal to advance harsh restrictions like lockdowns is another one of the reasons why our cases are rising, and that is also not true.There are 41 states that have some kind of a mask mandate. Cases are on the rise in 39 of those 41 states.Now, some in the media have said that South Dakota is the worst in the world right now, and that is absolutely false. I’d encourage you to look at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There you’ll see that there are other states with far higher new confirmed cases per one hundred—one thousand people, compared to South Dakota.That presentation was a mess. How did the press corps react?Tomorrow: What in the world had she said?For figure filberts only: For the record, the FT site records these current daily death rates for the four Nordic nations. These are average numbers of Covid deaths per day per 100,000 population:Sweden: 0.41Denmark: 0.12Norway: 0.06Finland: 0.06Even after adjusting for population, Sweden is doing substantially worse. But dag, those numbers look small!
Washington Times Opinion Editor Charles Hurt Claims Trump “Fixed” the Covid-19 Pandemic
by Alan Ryland on December 2, 2020 at 15:02
Journalist Charles Hurt, who is currently the opinion editor of the conservative outlet The Washington Times, claimed President Donald Trump “fixed” the Covid-19 pandemic. “The president realized that the only way through this crisis was to figure out how to fix it,” he said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.” “And it turns out he … Continue reading “Washington Times Opinion Editor Charles Hurt Claims Trump “Fixed” the Covid-19 Pandemic”
New Podcast: Will Joe Biden Finally Fix America’s Crippling Student Debt Crisis?
by James West on December 2, 2020 at 14:51
Young people turned out in record numbers for the 2020 presidential election, and they overwhelmingly backed Joe Biden. Now, the hashtag #CancelStudentDebt has been trending on Twitter, as intense pressure mounts on the president-elect to finally tackle the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis holding millions of Americans, especially young Americans, hostage to often crippling monthly
‘An Acknowledgment of the Next Generation’: New Zealand Declares Climate Emergency
on December 2, 2020 at 14:47
Julia Conley, staff writer”It is up to us to make sure we demonstrate a plan for action, and a reason for hope,” said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Hitting Back at Manchin, AOC Rejects Notion That Only ‘Begging Corporate CEOs for Money’ Counts as ‘Serious’ Politics
on December 2, 2020 at 14:33
Jake Johnson, staff writer”I find it amusing when politicians try to diminish the seriousness of our policy work, movement organizing, and grassroots fundraising to ‘she just tweets.'”
Suddenly Republicans want norms, ethics and “civility”: Are they actually psychopaths?
by Heather Digby Parton on December 2, 2020 at 14:30
Trump is still trying to steal the election — but Republicans are acting as if they never enabled this criminal
Healing Blankets Project
by Marietta Bernstorff on December 2, 2020 at 13:30
Marietta Bernstorff Three tapestries weave herstories. The post Healing Blankets Project appeared first on The Nation.
L.A. street vendors are caught between COVID and the law
by Janette Villafana on December 2, 2020 at 12:30
Street vendors are stuck between a complex permit system and the penalties that come to those without a license
Pro-Trump Attorney Lin Wood and Pardoned Michael Flynn Call for Trump to Declare Martial Law
by Peter Montgomery on December 2, 2020 at 12:04
Lin Wood, an Atlanta-based lawyer who says President Donald Trump asked him to join the effort to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory, is promoting a right-wing group’s call for Trump to declare martial law and use the military to oversee a new election. Retired Gen. Michael Flynn also promoted the call for martial law just The post Pro-Trump Attorney Lin Wood and Pardoned Michael Flynn Call for Trump to Declare Martial Law first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
UN Secretary General: Without the US in the Paris Agreement, Humanity Faces Climate ‘Suicide’
by Mark Hertsgaard on December 2, 2020 at 12:00
Mark Hertsgaard Joining China and other big polluters, Biden’s pledge of “net zero” US emissions by 2050 brings the Paris Agreement goals “within reach.” The post UN Secretary General: Without the US in the Paris Agreement, Humanity Faces Climate ‘Suicide’ appeared first on The Nation.
One in Six Covid-19 Deaths in Vermont Came From a Single Nursing Home
by Matthew Cunningham-Cook on December 2, 2020 at 12:00
The deaths occurred weeks after the state settled an investigation into allegations of neglect at a Burlington home owned by Genesis HealthCare. The post One in Six Covid-19 Deaths in Vermont Came From a Single Nursing Home appeared first on The Intercept.
Donald Trump’s mini-monster: Stephen Miller wasn’t born that way
by Chauncey DeVega on December 2, 2020 at 12:00
Author Jean Guerrero on Stephen Miller’s secrets: He likes to dress up as De Niro — and wants an all-white America
States with lax coronavirus guidelines are spreading the virus beyond their borders
by David Armstrong on December 2, 2020 at 11:30
Lax states are attracting shoppers and students from stricter neighbors — and sending back COVID-19 cases
‘Bye-Bye, Betsy DeVos. You Won’t Be Missed,’ Says Sanders as Billionaire Education Secretary Attacks Push for Tuition-Free College
on December 2, 2020 at 11:05
Jake Johnson, staff writer”What do you call a billionaire who registered a $40 million, 164-foot yacht in the Cayman Islands to avoid $2.4 million in U.S. taxes, while undermining public schools? The worst Education Secretary in the history of America.”
States With Few Coronavirus Restrictions Are Spreading the Virus Beyond Their Borders
by Abigail Weinberg on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
This story was published originally by ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published. For months after Washington state imposed one of the earliest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in March, Jim Gilliard didn’t stray far from his modular
Longtime Biden Adviser Lobbied on Behalf of Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut
by Aída Chávez on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
Cynthia Hogan worked as a top lobbyist for Apple and led the NFL’s lobbying division during a high-profile domestic violence scandal. The post Longtime Biden Adviser Lobbied on Behalf of Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut appeared first on The Intercept.
CDC Panel Suggests First Vaccinating Health Care Workers and Nursing Home Residents
by Madison Pauly on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
As many as 40 million doses of two COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available for distribution by the end of December—enough to vaccinate 20 million people. But in a country of more than 330 million, who should be the first in line to get them? Yesterday afternoon, a panel of expert advisors to the
A More Extreme Gun Rights Movement Is Emerging in the NRA’s Wake
by Matt Cohen on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
On a frigid Martin Luther King Jr. Day earlier this year, Philip Van Cleave brought out the big guns to Richmond. As he stood on the steps of the Virginia State Capitol, Van Cleave—a 68-year-old balding and mustachioed software programmer—delivered a stern warning to the Democrats who had recently gained control of the state government:
Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Trump’s coup is not over; his enablers aren’t done
by Dean Obeidallah on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
Author of “Strongmen”: We’re in a dangerous “state of exception,” and it’s too early to say democracy will hold
The Way Prisoners Flag Guard Abuse, Inadequate Health Care and Unsanitary Conditions Is Broken
by by Shannon Heffernan, WBEZ on December 2, 2020 at 11:00
by Shannon Heffernan, WBEZ ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work. This article was produced in partnership with WBEZ, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. Randy Liebich curled up in a ball on his bed inside Stateville prison, about an hour outside Chicago. It was June 2010, and he’d spent the night in a cold sweat, excruciating pain radiating from his back. For months, he’d been filing complaints with prison officials about the lack of medical care. But the forms, known as grievances, got him nowhere. One was denied, in part because he’d already been to the doctor, and the denial noted he’d received acetaminophen pain medication. Another complaint was deemed moot. Now Liebich was in the worst pain of his life. According to medical records, a kidney stone had made it impossible for him to urinate. The men in nearby cells shouted for help. Correctional officers took Liebich to the medical office, where, records show, a doctor used a hemostat, a tweezer-like surgical tool, to try to remove the stone through the tip of Liebich’s penis. But the procedure failed, leaving the stone intact. About six hours passed that day before Liebich was driven to an outside hospital for emergency surgery. When Liebich got back to the prison, he filed two more grievances about the poor medical treatment he’d received. If staff had addressed his earlier complaints, he wrote, he could have avoided the procedure with the hemostat altogether. But prison officials denied those grievances too. Liebich filed over a dozen more grievances related to his kidney condition over the next eight years, until a judge threw out his murder conviction in 2018 after finding his lawyers ignored key evidence. Prosecutors later dropped all charges, but Liebich says he still suffers trauma from his experience with the hemostat. People locked inside prisons rely on grievances to complain if their needs, from health care to sanitation to safety, are unmet. The complaints are among their few means of recourse. But in Illinois, that system is sputtering, with little oversight, leaving prisoners vulnerable to harm, an investigation by WBEZ and ProPublica has found. The state has paid millions to settle the claims of inmates, some of whom raised concerns early through grievances, only to later suffer serious injuries when authorities denied complaints or failed to act. Get stories about big issues that affect people living and working in the state of Illinois delivered straight to your inbox. In one case, a prisoner at Stateville Correctional Center filed a grievance to complain about roaches crawling over him as he slept. He also said he had extreme pain in his ear and heard constant crackling. But he said his complaints were ignored by prison staff. Two weeks after his grievance, records show medical workers removed a bug from his ear. He later filed a lawsuit, alleging ear pain and hearing loss. The case was settled for $12,500, three and a half years after the first grievance. The state denied wrongdoing. In another case, a man at Stateville spent months filing grievances and writing letters to prison officials about a protruding bolt near his bunk bed. The warden denied the grievances, because they’d been filed as emergencies, and he disagreed with the classification. Eight months after the prisoner’s initial complaint, he fell out of his bed and hit his eye on the bolt, resulting in “disability and disfigurement,” according to a lawsuit he filed. Records show he was treated by a doctor the same day. The state disputed the man’s claims in court documents, but the parties agreed to a settlement in which the state paid the inmate $70,000. In Liebich’s case, he filed a lawsuit over the medical treatment he received and alleged that prison staff retaliated against him for complaining. The state denied wrongdoing but agreed to a settlement of $70,000. The Illinois prison system, which had an average daily population of about 40,000 people last year, is now under federal oversight as part of a legal agreement to improve health care in state prisons. A court-appointed expert found in 2018 that the medical care was so poor that people were needlessly dying. Because grievances can serve as early warnings for prison administrators about dangerous conditions, experts say tracking the complaints is critical. But WBEZ and ProPublica found Illinois is faltering. The news organizations requested five years of data from the 15 largest prisons, showing the number of grievances and how they were resolved. Only seven were able to provide information that was complete enough to analyze. Some institutions had an entire year of data missing. Hokyoung Kim for ProPublica Of the grievances that were reviewed by prison officials, about 5% were decided in part, or in whole, in a prisoner’s favor. Inmates can appeal to a Department of Corrections review board, but the approval rate there was similar, the WBEZ-ProPublica analysis found. States have different methods of tracking grievances, and it’s difficult to compare Illinois’ system to other jurisdictions, but experts said the findings suggest it’s not working as it should. “With a rate that low, it just seems like nobody believes in the system,” said Dan Pacholke, former administrator for the Washington State Department of Corrections and co-author of a book on prison safety. “It would certainly be concerning for me … as a superintendent of a prison.” Others were more blunt. “What we have here is sort of the fox watching the henhouse,” said Jenny Vollen-Katz, executive director of the John Howard Association, an independent citizen group that has monitored Illinois prisons for more than a century. WBEZ and ProPublica sought an interview with state corrections officials over the course of four months, but the department declined multiple requests. In a written response, it said the approval rate appeared artificially low, in part, because of prolific grievance filers and frivolous complaints. It also noted that many grievances are resolved informally by counselors; about 13% of grievances in the analysis were withdrawn by the inmate before an official review. Still, in response to a detailed outline of our findings, corrections officials said they were pursuing a number of measures to improve the grievance system, including plans to hire a chief inspector to oversee the statewide system. Officials also said the department would be transitioning to electronic grievances, a move that would make the system more efficient and data easier to track. “The operation of a fair and consistent grievance process is a high priority for the Department, and we are working diligently to improve the current system,” the department said in the statement. “Through the implementation of significant reforms and an increase in oversight, we can ensure the concerns of men and women in custody are addressed in a timely manner.” Prison watchdog groups and some lawmakers lauded the changes, but they said Illinois’ system needs a bigger overhaul with more oversight. Some are pushing a proposal to create an ombudsman that would investigate complaints about the department. Illinois State Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat and former head of the House Restorative Justice Committee, said family members of people in prison regularly call his office asking for help with a grievance. He commended the department’s proposed changes but said officials need to “make sure that there’s a process in place that will allow for the best outcomes for the people making grievances.” “You cannot be the judge and the jury and the prosecutor.” “A Safety Valve” for Inmates In the fall of 1971, nearly 1,300 prisoners took over Attica Correctional Facility in New York to protest abuse and poor living conditions. It was one of the most violent prison standoffs in U.S. history, leaving 43 people dead. Over the next few years, other prison uprisings broke out across the country, as the prison rights movement grew. A report from the U.S. Department of Justice said the lack of grievance systems had probably made these incidents “inevitable,” because prisoners had no other way to get their needs heard. Toussaint Losier, a professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who has studied American prisons, said grievance systems emerged in this era to create “a safety valve” to “let off some of the steam that could build up over time.” But states also had another incentive. Lawsuits filed by prisoners were clogging the federal court system; by 1974, 1 in 20 civil cases filed in federal court were prison civil rights cases, according to Margo Schlanger, a professor of civil rights law at the University of Michigan and a leading expert on prison litigation. Federal judges called for another venue to evaluate complaints. As one put it, if prisoners had a fair alternative, they’d choose that over the “delayed process of the courts.” But even after states created grievance systems, the deluge of lawsuits continued. A study from the early 1980s found people incarcerated at two Illinois prisons thought the state’s grievance system was “wholly institution controlled and rarely yielding favorable or even impartial results.” To stem the tide of lawsuits, Congress passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act, or PLRA, in 1996. The legislation made grievances critical by requiring inmates to exhaust the prison’s internal grievance system before filing a lawsuit. A co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., said it would “prevent frivolous and malicious lawsuits filed by prison inmates.” Opponents, including then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., argued the bill unwisely limited the court’s power to protect the constitutional rights of people behind bars. The results of the law were striking. The number of lawsuits filed per prisoner shrank by more than 50% over the next two decades, according to Schlanger. But that’s not because prisoners’ problems were suddenly being addressed through grievances. In fact, some experts say the PLRA may have actually made grievance systems worse. After the law passed, some corrections officials raised administrative hurdles for the complaints, and in doing so made it harder to file lawsuits. Schlanger said prison officials in some states threw out grievances for tiny technical violations, like writing in the wrong color ink. In Illinois, the state Department of Corrections reduced the window of time within which prisoners can file most grievances from six months to 60 days. It also limited outside oversight of appeals, eliminating a rule that required at least one review board member to come from outside the department. The agency did not respond to a question about the changes. But officials did note that one reason the approval rate of grievances is so low is because prisoners make technical mistakes, like missing a deadline. “There was a huge incentive to make the grievance process as complicated and as impossible to complete properly as they could,” said Alan Mills, a lawyer and executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center who has spent decades representing prisoners in Illinois. Instead of protecting prisoners’ rights, Mills said grievance systems instead work to protect the department and its employees from lawsuits. In 2011, Mills was part of a team that filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing prisoners who weren’t getting hearing aids or access to interpreters. The plaintiffs argued that they were unable to participate in education programs, stay in contact with loved ones or discuss medical issues with doctors. Mills estimates it took lawyers 18 months to figure out how to exhaust the grievance process so they could move forward with the lawsuit. For example, Mills said, sometimes prison officials would only respond to one issue in a grievance even if a prisoner had listed several issues. This made it unclear if the other issues had been denied, ignored or granted — leaving the prisoner unsure if they needed to file additional grievances. “This is 10 extremely qualified, experienced lawyers trying to figure out how to navigate this process. Imagine what somebody who dropped out of sixth grade and is sitting in a jail cell with no resources at all; how they can ever figure out how to make it through that process?” Mills said. The lawsuit later settled with the state agreeing to provide accommodations for deaf and hard of hearing prisoners. Disappearing Grievances, Frustrated Prisoners In the spring of 2011, officers at Lincoln Correctional Center ordered about 200 women out of their housing unit. Wielding batons and shields, officers marched the prisoners into a gymnasium and conducted a series of strip-searches, according to a lawsuit the women filed in federal court. The women were then forced to spread their buttocks and vaginas in view of male staff, and officers made derogatory comments about their bodies, according to the lawsuit. The women, who alleged the search constituted cruel and unusual punishment, also said they were forced to remove tampons and bled on themselves while they waited for others to be searched. A lawyer for the Department of Corrections denied those claims of mistreatment and said the search was necessary to keep the facility safe from contraband. A jury decided against the prisoners, but the women appealed on different constitutional grounds and that case is ongoing. Dozens of the women said they filed grievances over the strip-search. But as time passed, many didn’t get an answer. Later, the nonprofit John Howard Association conducted a monitoring visit to the prison. According to its report, the group said it heard “a significant number of consistent, unsolicited, and independent reports” about the strip-search and missing grievances. But the group said that when it asked prison administrators about it, they could not locate a single grievance related to the incident. Nevertheless, the nonprofit’s report said officials there acknowledged problems with the grievance system and said they made changes to improve tracking. Hokyoung Kim for ProPublica Maggie Burke, a former state corrections official who retired as warden of Logan Correctional Center in 2017, said grievances routinely disappeared. “If it was just an occasional ‘my grievance disappeared,’ … I would think that it was someone who was exaggerating,” she said, adding, “But it happened a lot.” The problem was so bad that when she became the statewide coordinator for women and family services within the department — about two years after the strip-search incident — she added locked boxes that only she and her assistant could access. That gave prisoners a direct and more secure way to express concerns or send her grievances. The system is critical, Burke said, because people may act out violently or create other problems when their grievances aren’t addressed. Dwaine Coleman said that’s what he did while incarcerated at Vienna Correctional Center in 2014 for marijuana possession. He complained of excruciating back pain, and prison records show he had previously been diagnosed with sciatica. But he said a doctor did little more than tell him to eat well and exercise. So he filed a grievance asking to see another doctor. A month passed before a corrections counselor wrote that the care Coleman was receiving was appropriate, and the grievance went up the chain of command. Two weeks later, he had yet to get a decision from the warden. Desperate to grab the attention of senior prison officials, Coleman tied his prison-issued bed sheet in knots and began flushing it, bit by bit, down the toilet. The water gushed over the bowl, flooding his cell, according to court records. “The grievance system is a joke. So you kind of have to act out to get your needs met,” Coleman said in an interview. “When you start to act out, there are incident reports that have to be sent all around, and now there’s a paper trail and a lot more people are getting involved.” Coleman said his attempts backfired though — and tensions between him and the staff continued to escalate. A few days after the toilet incident, Coleman said he got into an argument with a correctional officer during a medical evaluation, according to a lawsuit he filed. On the way back from the health care unit, Coleman alleged, the officer rammed his head into a doorway. A dental record from about two weeks later shows a chipped tooth. During a civil trial, the officer denied assaulting him. But a jury decided in Coleman’s favor and awarded him $35,000 in punitive damages. Coleman did eventually get a decision from the warden on his health care grievance — three months after he filed it. The complaint was denied, saying the care he received was appropriate. “Fear of Retaliation” Few prisoners in Illinois have faith in the grievance system. Just 5% considered it effective, according to a 2019 survey by the John Howard Association, which collected responses from 12,780 prisoners across the state. And only 13% said they felt comfortable filing a grievance. “The biggest reason that people don’t feel comfortable is fear of retaliation,” said Vollen-Katz, executive director of the watchdog group. After Liebich filed grievances complaining about the poor medical care he’d received for his kidney stone, he said staff began to view him as a nuisance. In January 2011 officers came to his cell and, according to court records, insisted that he give a urine sample for a drug test. Liebich told the correctional officers that his kidney condition made that difficult. Officers told him that if he didn’t urinate in the next two hours he’d be sent to the “hole,” officially known as segregation. It’s a part of the facility where prisoners are sent as punishment, infamous for being filthy, full of bugs and vermin. (In fact, the conditions were so bad that officials shut down that section of the prison in 2016, though it was reopened for COVID-19 quarantining this year.) For Liebich, the pressure to provide a urine sample felt immense. So, with minutes left to his deadline, he asked if he could have more time. The guards refused and took him to segregation, according to prison records. Because staff knew his trouble with urination, he believes the whole incident was meant to punish him for filing grievances. Liebich’s lawyer sent emails to the warden, letting him know about Liebich’s medical condition. But according to records provided by the lawyer, the warden responded that Liebich would need to address his problem through the grievance process. Five days after the drug test incident, Liebich filed a complaint over being sent to segregation. The officer that reviewed his grievance recommended the warden approve it, according to prison records, but the warden disagreed and Liebich remained in segregation. Still, in August 2011, Liebich pressed forward with a lawsuit alleging poor medical treatment and retaliation. In court documents, prison officials agreed that Liebich was sent to segregation for failure to provide a urine sample, but they denied that officers were acting in retaliation. The state agreed to a settlement of $70,000 in January 2015, four years after Liebich filed his grievance over his punishment. Calls for Transparency and Oversight Civil rights lawyers, former prison administrators and prisoners say the only way more people behind bars will get their concerns addressed is with independent oversight and increased transparency. Currently, the entire grievance process is overseen by the Corrections Department. Grievances first go to a counselor who attempts to resolve the complaint. If they cannot, a grievance officer evaluates the case and makes a recommendation to the warden, who renders a decision. If a prisoner is dissatisfied with the response, they can send their complaint to a statewide board that reviews grievance appeals called the Administrative Review Board. The whole process can be time consuming. The state Corrections Department would not say if it had any data showing the speed at which prisons resolved grievances. Records, however, suggest that many complaints were reviewed slowly, or not at all. Over a third of appeals were thrown out because the prisoner had already been released or died by the time the review board evaluated them. Of those that were reviewed, 7% were found partially or wholly in favor of the prisoner. The panel evaluates thousands of grievances a month. Complaints can range from a missing radio to guard abuse. “When you’re seeing that many grievances, it’s easy to go, ‘Yeah. OK. You know, that one I don’t really have time for,’” said Joni Stahlman, former assistant deputy director of the women’s division who sat on the Administrative Review Board in the early 2000s. “There’s that tricky line of fairness and getting the work done.” Prison advocates point to a more fundamental issue though: While the four members of the board do not work at any individual prison, they are still employed by the Corrections Department and appointed by the director. Sitting on the current board are two members who previously worked clerical jobs within the department and one who formerly worked inside a prison as a correctional counselor. Vollen-Katz, of the John Howard Association, said that’s not true independence. “We are asking a closed system to police itself,” she said. Vollen-Katz said one step the state could take would be to create a corrections ombudsman who could investigate complaints and find solutions. Mills, the civil rights lawyer, agreed, saying the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice already has such a person who “gets copies of all the grievances so that they can track them, find trends, figure out problems, and then bring them to the attention of the department … to fix.” An ombudsman in the adult system, he said, “would be a huge, huge step forward.” In order for it to be effective, though, the position would need complete autonomy, enforcement capabilities and the power to share information with lawmakers and the public, advocates said. Other states, like New Jersey and Washington, already have a corrections ombudsman, and last year Illinois state lawmakers submitted a bill to create one. But the legislation stalled. Illinois State Rep. Rita Mayfield, who co-sponsored the ombudsman bill, said she planned to revive the legislation next year. She said one of her central motivations was discovering and fixing problems before they become expensive lawsuits. “What can we do to reduce these losses? What is wrong with the system? What can we correct to better utilize those tax dollars?” Mayfield said. The Department of Corrections would not answer questions about its stance on an ombudsman. Hokyoung Kim for ProPublica Losier, the professor who has studied prisons, said another key change to the grievance system should be more transparency. New York state, for example, issues yearly reports on what types of grievances are filed and how the department handles them. That allows the public and lawmakers to monitor what’s happening inside. But Illinois issues no such report. New York’s Corrections Department also maintains a database that tracks staff involved in misconduct and abuse claims, so the department can look for patterns. But in Illinois, despite records showing staff misconduct is one of the largest issues for prisoners, the department doesn’t track grievances by guard name. Burke, the former warden, said that having that information, even internally, would be helpful. “If we have, you know, ‘90% of our grievances are on one person,’ then we know that there’s a problem there.” Pacholke, the former administrator for the Washington State Department of Corrections, agreed, saying data collection is critical. “If you’re not tracking it, the next thing you know, something really horrific or tragic can happen,” he said. Neither the Corrections Department nor AFSCME, the union that represents most front-line corrections staff, responded to questions about the potential of tracking complaints about correctional officers. “There’s Nobody That We Can Really Go to for Help” In Liebich’s case, problems within the prison persisted. In January 2018, after his lawsuit was settled, the staff decided to test him for drugs again, according to discipline records. When he couldn’t provide a urine sample, officers sent him back to segregation. “They just went through this with me. They know I have these medical issues,” Liebich said in an interview. “They know I had a civil suit about it, and they turn around and they did the same thing to me again.” Liebich spent his days in a cramped cell. The prison allowed inmates to leave their cells for mental health groups. Liebich said sessions were held in the former execution area, from when Illinois had the death penalty. “You can literally feel the hairs on your arms and your neck stand up,” Liebich said. He felt powerless. In January 2019, Liebich filed a second lawsuit against the prison over retaliation. Later that year the state agreed to settle and paid him $25,000, but denied wrongdoing. Today, he said he still has nightmares about his time inside segregation. “It’s frightening to think that they can do this to us and get away with it,” Liebich said, “and there’s nobody that we can really go to for help.” WBEZ and ProPublica are investigating oversight in Illinois prisons. Please get in touch with reporter Shannon Heffernan if you have something to share about: Violence and safety inside Illinois prisons Staff conduct and oversight Prisoner discipline Internal affairs operations You can reach her via email: email@example.com or phone: 312-893-2937. Shannon Heffernan is a criminal justice reporter for WBEZ. Email Heffernan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @shannon_h. Claire Perlman and Alex Mierjeski contributed research and Agnel Philip contributed data reporting.
Donald Trump Just Paid $3 Million to Expand Joe Biden’s Margin of Victory
by John Nichols on December 2, 2020 at 10:45
John Nichols As states certify an ever-expanding win for Biden, the president’s campaign keeps spending money to confirm the Democrat’s mandate. The post Donald Trump Just Paid $3 Million to Expand Joe Biden’s Margin of Victory appeared first on The Nation.
Susan Taubes’s ‘Divorcing’ Asks: How Far Can the Novel Take You?
by Jennifer Schaffer on December 2, 2020 at 10:45
Jennifer Schaffer The sole book she released during her life was a work of ahead of its time in terms of style, irreverence, and experimentation. The post Susan Taubes’s ‘Divorcing’ Asks: How Far Can the Novel Take You? appeared first on The Nation.
9 Months Into Touch-Free Living, What Shall We Birth?
by Verandah Porche on December 2, 2020 at 10:30
Verandah Porche “Thanks Forgiving,” a poem. The post 9 Months Into Touch-Free Living, What Shall We Birth? appeared first on The Nation.
This Supreme Court Case Could Wreck the New Deal Legal Order
by Nathan Newman on December 2, 2020 at 10:30
Nathan Newman In Cedar Point Nursery, conservatives are invoking a Jim Crow version of property rights. The post This Supreme Court Case Could Wreck the New Deal Legal Order appeared first on The Nation.
Now Is the Time to Make Good on the Promise of Justice for All
by Rep. Ayanna Pressley on December 2, 2020 at 10:30
Rep. Ayanna Pressley Here’s how we can. The post Now Is the Time to Make Good on the Promise of Justice for All appeared first on The Nation.
Thousands of doctors’ offices buckle under financial stress of COVID
by Laura Ungar on December 2, 2020 at 10:01
A survey estimates that 8% of all physician practices nationally have closed under the stress of the pandemic
Will Biden Finally End the War in Afghanistan?
by Andrew J. Bacevich on December 2, 2020 at 10:00
Andrew J. Bacevich The answer hinges on whether he and Mitch McConnell can agree on a solution. The post Will Biden Finally End the War in Afghanistan? appeared first on The Nation.
How Hospital Monopolies Broke the Health Care System
by Susie Cagle on December 2, 2020 at 10:00
Susie Cagle Corporate consolidation has left the US with a health care system built for profit, not people. The post How Hospital Monopolies Broke the Health Care System appeared first on The Nation.
Critics Smell ‘Economic Sabotage’ as McConnell Unveils Covid Plan With $0 for Unemployment Boost, Direct Payments
on December 2, 2020 at 09:32
Jake Johnson, staff writer”McConnell is making it pretty clear that if Dems don’t win the Georgia Senate races, he will cripple the American economy, hoping it will let the GOP win the midterm.”
#GivingTuesday spotlights the struggle of nonprofits during COVID
by Erica Mills Barnhart on December 2, 2020 at 09:02
Nonprofits are struggling to do more with less money, but donors and volunteers can help
Trump’s pardon of Flynn may be “broader” than Ford’s pardon of Nixon, legal expert says
by Igor Derysh on December 2, 2020 at 04:59
The pardon absolves Flynn of “any and all possible” crimes linked to the Mueller probe and “future” charges
A Senate insider has a dark warning about Mitch McConnell: Expect the worst
by Alex Henderson on December 2, 2020 at 04:40
“Their base is not going to want to see them cut deals with Biden,” Harry Reid’s former deputy chief of staff warns
President Trump has discussed “preemptive pardons” for his three eldest children: report
by Matthew Chapman on December 2, 2020 at 04:34
Ivanka is currently caught up in a probe by New York authorities for consulting fees used in a Trump tax write-off
Trump Is Using Election Fraud Conspiracy Theories To Raise Money For A Personal Slush Fund
by Sean Colarossi on December 2, 2020 at 03:00
Donald Trump is raising money more quickly as an election loser than he did as a candidate during the presidential campaign.
Ted Cruz Urges Supreme Court To Overturn The Election Results In Pennsylvania
by Sean Colarossi on December 2, 2020 at 02:07
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging the Pennsylvania election results.
Adam Schiff Tells Trump That Pardons Won’t Save Him From Legal Trouble
by Sean Colarossi on December 2, 2020 at 01:17
Trump is spending the final days of presidency doing two things: trying to overturn the election and handing out pardons to his crooked pals.
“Black Mirror” creator Charlie Brooker sets Netflix mockumentary about 2020 with Hugh Grant
by Ryan Lattanzio on December 2, 2020 at 00:35
The year from hell will get the mockumentary treatment with Grant starring as a “repellent historical figure”
WATCH: Senator Sherrod Brown Shames Steve Mnuchin Right To His Face
by Todd Neikirk on December 2, 2020 at 00:34
While most of the Mid-West swung back to Joe Biden this election season, the state of Ohio stayed red. That make Sherrod Brown’s 7% victory in his 2018 senate race all the more remarkable. The Ohio Democrat has remained in office the last 13 years largely due to the way he appeals to and protects … Continue reading “WATCH: Senator Sherrod Brown Shames Steve Mnuchin Right To His Face”
Rudy Giuliani, who has not been charged with a crime, discussed preemptive pardon with Trump: report
by Roger Sollenberger on December 2, 2020 at 00:24
While Giuliani’s specific legal exposure is unknown, he is a subject in at least two recent federal investigations
DOJ Is Investigating Whether Money Was Funneled To The White House In Exchange For A Pardon
by Sean Colarossi on December 2, 2020 at 00:20
Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 promising to drain the swamp. On his way out the door, he appears to be filling it up to the brim.
Expert Panel Advises CDC That US Healthcare Workers and Nursing Home Residents Should Get Covid-19 Vaccine First
on December 2, 2020 at 00:16
Jessica Corbett, staff writerThe country has documented nearly 13.7 million confirmed cases and over 270,000 deaths from the disease, more than any other nation.
How Hugh Grant’s charming villain who plays the victim embodies 2020
by Melanie McFarland on December 1, 2020 at 23:50
“The Undoing” finale may have left us cold, but Hugh Grant’s villain compels because he’s an evil that fools us
Israel Releases Mays Abu Ghosh, Palestinian Student Jailed for Membership in Leftist Campus Group
on December 1, 2020 at 23:43
Brett Wilkins, staff writerAbu Ghosh—imprisoned for 15 months after joining a banned college organization that opposes Israel’s illegal occupation—described torture by her jailers.
“It’s All Gone Too Far”: A Georgia Election Official Is Fed Up With Violent Threats
by Abigail Weinberg on December 1, 2020 at 23:40
Gabriel Sterling, a top official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office and a self-proclaimed conservative, is fed up with President Donald Trump’s attempts to undermine the election results—and his refusal to condemn harassment toward election officials. “It’s all gone too far,” Sterling said at a Tuesday press conference at which he addressed Trump directly. “Stop inspiring
Barr’s Appointment Of John Durham As Special Counsel Appears To Be Illegal
by Jason Easley on December 1, 2020 at 23:37
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) said that Barr’s appointment of Durham as a special counsel violated DOJ rules.
WATCH: An Irate Lou Dobbs Says That William Barr “May Be Compromised”
by Todd Neikirk on December 1, 2020 at 23:13
For much of the year, polling showed Donald Trump trailing Joe Biden. It may have taken a while, but Biden has won the election and it’s not particularly close. As votes slowly trickle in, it looks like the former Vice President will prevail by more than 7 million votes. Trump was expected to lose, but … Continue reading “WATCH: An Irate Lou Dobbs Says That William Barr “May Be Compromised””
The most authentic part of “Happiest Season” is Jane, who conquers the “quirky woman” trope
by Ashlie D. Stevens on December 1, 2020 at 22:38
Hulu’s holiday rom-com might be a cringe-worthy, gaslighting affair, but Jane transcends the usual film formula
Right Wing Round-Up: A Job Well Done
by Kyle Mantyla on December 1, 2020 at 22:32
Mike Balsamo @ The Associated Press: Disputing Trump, Barr says no widespread election fraud. Josh Feldman @ Mediaite: Trump Legal Team Fires Back at Bill Barr For Swatting Down Election Claims, Accuses Him of Speaking ‘Without Any Knowledge.’ John Fea: Eric Metaxas talks to Donald Trump. This is what court evangelicalism looks like. Hemant Mehta The post Right Wing Round-Up: A Job Well Done first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
Right Wing Bonus Tracks: The Lost Cause
by Kyle Mantyla on December 1, 2020 at 22:30
Scott Lively declares that “Donald Trump should not vacate the White House unless he does so because he agrees he legitimately lost the election and was not cheated out of it through election fraud. If he knows the election was fraudulent and he really did win, he has a legal and moral duty to preserve The post Right Wing Bonus Tracks: The Lost Cause first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
After Months of Obstructing Covid Relief, GOP Has Left ‘Children Begging Santa for Their Basic Needs’
on December 1, 2020 at 22:09
Julia Conley, staff writerA collection of letters from American children to Santa Claus, sent through the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa program and posted on social media Tuesday, revealed the despair millions of children are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic, months after any federal aid has been offered to the public.
‘I Guess He’s the Next One to Be Fired’: Even William Barr Says No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud
on December 1, 2020 at 21:46
Jessica Corbett, staff writerThe Trump-appointee’s comments came as the president’s reelection campaign filed yet another lawsuit challenging the election outcome.
Trump May Preemptively Pardon Ivanka, Don Jr., And Eric Trump
by Jason Easley on December 1, 2020 at 21:28
Trump is being pushed to preemptively pardon his entire family, including his adult children, before leaving office next month.
‘Protect Us’: Colorado High School Students Post Video Pleading With Local Authorities to Ban Fracking
on December 1, 2020 at 21:05
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”We shouldn’t be afraid for our health when we step outside our own houses,” says one of the students in the video.
Midwest Dispatch: Buffalo, Walmart, and South Dakota
by Sarah Lahm on December 1, 2020 at 21:04
As the pandemic rages, Native people seek to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Giving land back to help sustain and nurture future generations would seem like a logical step.
William Barr Sabotages Biden By Making John Durham A Special Counsel
by Jason Easley on December 1, 2020 at 20:32
Attorney General Barr notified Congress that he has made John Durham a special counsel so that it will be more difficult for Biden to fire him.
Comparing Biden’s Administration Picks to Obama’s Is Revealing
by Ryan Grim on December 1, 2020 at 20:26
For almost every role so far, Biden has chosen someone more progressive and less entrenched in Wall Street than the same official under Obama. The post Comparing Biden’s Administration Picks to Obama’s Is Revealing appeared first on The Intercept.
Don’t Expect Biden to Do Much About the War State
by Danny Sjursen on December 1, 2020 at 20:19
Danny Sjursen Business-as-usual will continue in a Biden administration. Pressure for change must come from the grassroots or it won’t happen at all. The post Don’t Expect Biden to Do Much About the War State appeared first on The Nation.
Smart Ass Cripple: Whose Lives Are Worth Saving?
by Mike Ervin on December 1, 2020 at 20:17
COVID-19 reminds us that people with disabilities are often treated as expendable. Those attitudes are what really make me feel vulnerable. They can be as lethal for disabled folks as COVID-19.
Without Climate Action, Number of Low-Income Homes Affected by Flooding Projected to Triple By 2050, Study Shows
on December 1, 2020 at 20:00
Julia Conley, staff writer”We don’t train our attention on these neighborhoods but many of them are already suffering significantly from these problems.”
Barr Defies Trump And Says FBI And DOJ Found No Election Fraud
by Jason Easley on December 1, 2020 at 19:42
Attorney General William Barr said in an interview that there is no evidence of any fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election.
Warren Presses Biden to Enact ‘Effective Economic Stimulus’ With Single Pen Stroke: Cancel Student Debt
on December 1, 2020 at 19:34
Kenny Stancil, staff writer”All on his own,” Warren said during a hearing with Fed chairman Jerome Powell, the incoming president “will have the ability to administratively cancel billions of dollars in student loan debt.”
Biden’s Choice on Julian Assange and the First Amendment
by Charles Glass on December 1, 2020 at 19:01
Assange’s liberty represents that of all journalists and publishers whose job is to expose government and corporate criminality without fear of prosecution. The post Biden’s Choice on Julian Assange and the First Amendment appeared first on The Intercept.
Tlaib Says Lack of Popular Stimulus Checks in Bipartisan Relief Plan Shows ‘Disconnect’ Between Senate and People
on December 1, 2020 at 18:39
Jake Johnson, staff writer”There may not be bipartisan support for an additional check” among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, “but there is support outside of Congress.”
Does Trump believe his crazy claims?
by <b>bob somerby</b> on December 1, 2020 at 18:32
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2020Stelter says he might: Last Thursday night—actually, it was early Friday morning—we watched the videotape of Donald J. Trump’s latest press event.Thanks to the invaluable Rev, you can watch the full videotape and read the full transcript. The commander in chief gone on and on for some 43 minutes—insisting, during the bulk of that time, that he’d actually won the election on November 3.We’re going to make a small confession here. As we watched him rant and rail, a question kept worming its way into our mind:Does Trump believe his crazy claims? Frankly, it seemed that he did!Trump ranted and railed, and howled at the moon, and then he ranted some more. Despite the craziness of his claims, it almost seemed that he believed the crazy things he said. On Sunday morning, the commander spent the better part of an hour ranting and railing, in similar ways, on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business Network show. A few hours later, on CNN, Brian Stelter devoted the bulk of his weekly Reliable Sources program to the strange performance by Trump.(Also, to the pathetic performance by Bartiromo. Today, we’ll focus on Trump.)Stelter spent his opening, 14-minute segment with two guests, Oliver Darcy and Amanda Carpenter. During the bulk of the segment, the trio assailed Donald J. Trump for his “lies.”Then, a commercial break occurred. When Stelter returned from the break, he started by saying this:STELTER (11/29/20): Welcome back to Reliable Sources. I’m Brian Stelter.I remember a day early in the Trump years when there were all these debates about whether to say the president was lying. Remember that? Was he lying? Was he just fibbing?I remember Jeff Greenfield saying, “Brian, there is something worse than a lie. There is something worse in a lie. There’s a delusion.”When you are lying, you know it. When you are delusional, you don’t.” He wanted to remind me there is something more dangerous than a liar—someone who is delusional. What do you think is going on now? What do you see happening with the White House, with the Trump White House? Is it delusion? Is that what’s happening?Stelter had spent the bulk of his first fourteen minutes assailing Trump for his “lies.” Now, he raised a possibility at which he’d only occasionally hinted during that opening segment:Now, Stelter suggested the possibility that Trump hasn’t been lying at all. He suggested a possibility he said was even worse:He suggested the possibility that Trump believes the crazy things he’s saying—that the commander in chief is “delusional.”Full disclosure! After directly raising that possibility, Stelter continued in the manner shown:STELTER (continuing directly): Well, my next guest says that the president’s behavior, the outgoing president’s attacks against the election integrity are attacks on reality itself. Jonathan Rauch wrote this back in 2018. He was early onto this. He called it “The Constitution of Knowledge.” He is now turning it into a book, and he joins me now. He’s a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributor for The Atlantic.Jonathan, “delusion.” I’ve always been afraid—not afraid.I’ve always been sensitive about using that word, cautious about using that word in the Trump years, not wanting to know—not wanting to assume I know what’s going on in the president’s head.What do you see? What do you see? Is “delusion” a fair word for these election lies?Was “delusion” a fair word for the commander’s “Lies?” Yes, that’s what he said.By now, Stelter was almost completely confused. And when Rauch began talking, it turned out that he wasn’t much better.In how many ways did Stelter’s statements in that passage fail to make sense? Let us count the ways! But in the interest of maintaining our own sanity, let us do so some other day.For now, we’ll summarize our main point:Stelter raised the possibility that Trump believes his crazy claims. Seeming to agree with Greenfield, he said that such a person isn’t lying, or a liar.He said a person like that is “delusional.” For today, let’s stop right here. But please remember the basic point:Stelter raised the possibility that Donald J. Trump believes his crazy claims. We’ve wondered about that possibility too. We’ll continue this rumination in the days which follow. It’s a rumination about Donald J. Trump, but also about the remarkably limited intellectual skills of the upper-end mainstream press.
As Lame-Duck Trump Pushes for Arctic Pillage, Bank of America Latest Bank to Rule Out Drilling in Alaska Wildlife Refuge
on December 1, 2020 at 17:59
Andrea Germanos, staff writer”Now that every major American bank has stated unequivocally that they will not finance this destructive activity, it should be clearer than ever that any oil company considering participating in Trump’s ill-advised lease sale should stay away.”
Transport Unions Say Rahm Emanuel Leading DOT Would Be a “Betrayal”
by Akela Lacy on December 1, 2020 at 17:52
The unions are angry over reports that Biden is considering Emanuel for a cabinet post, pointing to his clashes with workers in Chicago. The post Transport Unions Say Rahm Emanuel Leading DOT Would Be a “Betrayal” appeared first on The Intercept.
‘Shameful and Outrageous’: New Satellite Data Reveals Brazilian Amazon Deforestation at 12-Year High
on December 1, 2020 at 17:25
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”Instead of acting to prevent the increase in deforestation, the Bolsonaro government has been denying the reality of the situation, dismantling environmental agencies, and attacking NGOs.”
“Anyone could be the Beatles,” Stephanie Phillips explains — “genius” not necessarily required
by Nicole Michael on December 1, 2020 at 17:15
“Everything Fab Four” talks to UK author and musician Stephanie Phillips on becoming a Beatles fan on her own terms
Can Democrats Really Win Georgia’s 2 Senate Seats?
by Joan Walsh on December 1, 2020 at 16:59
Joan Walsh It’ll be tough, but here are the keys. The post Can Democrats Really Win Georgia’s 2 Senate Seats? appeared first on The Nation.
Tests Reveal Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Aerial Pesticide Showered Over Millions of Acres in US
on December 1, 2020 at 16:58
Jessica Corbett, staff writer”These findings shock the conscience.”
AIPAC Distorts U.S. Policy on Israel, Obama Admits in Book
by Murtaza Hussain on December 1, 2020 at 16:54
The latest nuclear assassination in Iran could stand as another example of Israel strong-arming its most important patron. The post AIPAC Distorts U.S. Policy on Israel, Obama Admits in Book appeared first on The Intercept.
Georgia Lieutenant Governor Rejects Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims
by Alan Ryland on December 1, 2020 at 16:40
Speaking to reporters earlier this morning, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan (R) said Georgia Republicans were “certainly not” making “deals” that have allowed voter fraud to take place, as President Donald Trump has claimed. “What is alarming is the amount of misinformation that continues to flow. It’s alarming to me,” Duncan continued. “It’s certainly disheartening … Continue reading “Georgia Lieutenant Governor Rejects Trump’s Voter Fraud Claims”
Giuliani Discussed a Pre-emptive Pardon with Trump
by Alan Ryland on December 1, 2020 at 16:11
President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani discussed a pre-emptive pardon with the president, according to a new report from The New York Times. Giuliani has led the president’s efforts to overturn the results of the November 3 election, recently representing him in Pennsylvania, which went on to certify its election results for President-elect Joe Biden. … Continue reading “Giuliani Discussed a Pre-emptive Pardon with Trump”
Friends of the Earth vs. Shell: ‘Historic Moment’ as Climate Movement Takes on Big Oil at The Hague
on December 1, 2020 at 16:05
Julia Conley, staff writerRepresenting more than 17,000 claimants who support climate action, the international organization Friends of the Earth on Tuesday opened its case against fossil fuel giant Shell at The Hague by demanding that a judge order the corporation to significantly reduce its emissions in the next decade.
Johnny Enlow Says Trump Can Impose Martial Law to Arrest and Execute Those Trying to Steal the Election
by Kyle Mantyla on December 1, 2020 at 15:54
QAnon conspiracy theorist Johnny Enlow appeared on the Elijah Streams YouTube channel Monday, where he claimed that President Donald Trump has the legal right to impose martial law on the country and arrest everyone who has been part of the alleged effort to steal the election from him. Enlow, who is a leading proponent of The post Johnny Enlow Says Trump Can Impose Martial Law to Arrest and Execute Those Trying to Steal the Election first appeared on Right Wing Watch.
If Senate Democrats Are Sick of Losing, They Should Try Fighting
by Elie Mystal on December 1, 2020 at 15:51
Elie Mystal As a first step, that means making Sheldon Whitehouse the Democratic leader of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The post If Senate Democrats Are Sick of Losing, They Should Try Fighting appeared first on The Nation.
Warning of International Law Violations, Rights Groups Demand Halt to Trump Weapons Sale to UAE
on December 1, 2020 at 15:48
Andrea Germanos, staff writer”In Yemen, airstrikes by the Saudi- and Emirati-led Coalition are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties,” 29 groups write in a new letter.
JOYEUX NOEM: A Trumpist governor was under fire!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on December 1, 2020 at 15:21
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2020She responded as shown: South Dakota is a small-population state. (Estimated population last year, 885,000. Only four states were smaller.)Within that small-population state, Governor Kristi Noem—she’s just turned 49—has had a very successful political career.She doesn’t hail from a political family. Inherited connections and other family advantages don’t seem to have fueled her career. Her father was killed in a farming accident when she was 22. As a result, she was forced to take over the family business, a “medium-sized farm and ranch operation.”(“I had hoped that I would be able to farm with him,” Noem is quoted saying in this fascinating profile. “But when my dad passed away, it kind of changed everything.”)Her political career proceeded from there. She was elected to the South Dakota legislature in 2006, at the age of 34. In 2010, she won South Dakota’s lone statewide congressional seat. Along with South Carolina freshman member Tim Scott, she was instantly named to a spot within the House Republican leadership.After serving four terms in the House, she was elected governor of South Dakota in 2018. According to the leading authority on the topic, “she is the first woman in South Dakota history to hold that office.”Governor Noem is true political talent. That said, she’s also been one of the Trumpiest governors in the nation during the current alleged pandemic.She has refused to impose a mask mandate. More strikingly, she let this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally proceed apace. Eventually, headlines like this pair began to appear in major news orgs, in this case in the October 18 Washington Post:How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest Within weeks of the gathering that drew nearly half a million bikers, the Dakotas, along with Wyoming, Minnesota and Montana, were leading the nation in new coronavirus infections per capitaThe governor had been one of the Trumpiest. Now she was being slammed. As of November 18, Governor Noem had finally heard just about enough of this guff. She held a press event in which she pushed back against her critics and their criticisms. In our view, her obvious political talent was on full display this day. On the other hand, here’s the nugget of what she said in self-defense:NOEM (11/18/20): Across the country and around the globe, cases [of Covid-19] are increasing. Over the past week, cases are on the rise in 48 states.Some have said that my refusal to mandate masks is a reason why our cases are rising here in the state of South Dakota, and that is not true.Others have said that my refusal to advance harsh restrictions like lockdowns is another one of the reasons why our cases are rising, and that is also not true.There are 41 states that have some kind of a mask mandate. Cases are on the rise in 39 of those 41 states.Now, some in the media have said that South Dakota is the worst in the world right now, and that is absolutely false. I’d encourage you to look at the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. There you’ll see that there are other states with far higher new confirmed cases per one hundred—one thousand people, compared to South Dakota.To watch the entire presser, click here. The passage we’ve posted starts at roughly 11:15.Our view? If you watch that chunk of that tape, you’ll be looking at Governor Noem’s pure political talent. But what about the claims she makes in the passage we’ve posted?On our scorecard, some of the claims in that passage were misleading, perhaps clownishly so. On our scorecard, the final somewhat fuzzy claim—the one about the other states with “far higher new confirmed cases”— was hard to square with existing data.That statement sounded reassuring. We’re not sure we know what it meant.The claim we’ve posted in bold strikes us as basically false. That really wasn’t what “some in the media” had been saying about South Dakota in the previous days and weeks. Knowingly or otherwise, the governor seemed to have erected a straw man, then seemed to have knocked it down.In a slightly more rational world, obvious questions would arise in the wake of a presser like that. For today, we’ll focus on two questions: Did Governor Noem believe the things she said that day? Also, in what ways did mainstream news orgs respond to the claims she’d advanced?One also might wonder about this: To what extent did the people of South Dakota believe Noem’s claims were accurate? We ask that because, even as Noem was making those statements, her state had the nation’s second highest weekly death rate from Covid-19. Indeed, South Dakota’s weekly death rate was apparently exceeded by only one developed nation around the entire world.Do politicians like Governor Noem believe the things they say about such life-and-death concerns? Also, how well are their statements fact-checked?Beyond that, what do citizens end up believing about such vital matters? What do they end up doing, or perhaps failing to do? With a special focus on Noem’s press conference, we’ll be examining these topics for the rest of the week.With the Christmas season approaching, should South Dakotans be saying Joyeux Noem? Or should this possibly be a case of Caveat Rancher and Farmer? How well had major news orgs performed? And also this:With tribal true belief widespread and engrained, does that final part of the puzzle even matter any more?Tomorrow: What “some in the media” had actually said
268,000 People Died and Scott Atlas Shrugged: Trump’s “Most Dangerous” Covid Adviser Quits
on December 1, 2020 at 14:50
Kenny Stancil, staff writerAtlas brought no expertise in infectious diseases but plenty of misinformation to the position.
With Rent Due and Evictions Looming, Warren Rips McConnell for ‘Disgraceful’ Obstruction
on December 1, 2020 at 14:39
Jake Johnson, staff writer”McConnell and the Senate GOP still haven’t reinstated the $600 unemployment checks, extended unemployment programs, passed rental assistance, or anything else in months to help struggling families during this crisis.”
ProPublica Hires Reporter Neil Bedi to Cover Federal Government Agencies
by by ProPublica on December 1, 2020 at 14:34
by ProPublica ProPublica announced Tuesday that Neil Bedi is joining its Washington, D.C., newsroom as a reporter covering federal government agencies. He starts Feb. 1. Bedi comes to ProPublica from the Tampa Bay Times, where he was an investigative reporter and developer, and brings a unique skill set to his journalism. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Engineering, he previously worked as a technology analyst for JPMorgan Chase, developing software for investment banks on Wall Street. Longing to tell stories from data, Bedi joined the Times as a data analyst in 2016 and became an investigative reporter in 2019. At the Times, he helped expose an alarming death rate at All Children’s Heart Institute, the cardiac surgery unit at a local children’s hospital. The project earned a George Polk Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. He’s used data to show profiteering at a mental health hospital and questionable practices in local law enforcement agencies. Bedi has also taught applied fact-finding as an adjunct professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, in addition to teaching classes at the Poynter Institute. “The work of holding federal agencies accountable is critical, and Neil is the exact kind of hard-charging, mission-driven investigator who can drill into the inner workings of federal agencies to find government decisions that impact people’s lives,” senior editor Marilyn Thompson said. “We’re thrilled to welcome him to our team.” “I’m excited to join the team of talented investigative journalists at ProPublica,” Bedi said. “I’m looking forward to holding federal agencies accountable for policies and decisions that affect people across the country.”
by Jos Sances on December 1, 2020 at 13:30
Jos Sances Making history. The post Stacey Abrams appeared first on The Nation.
‘Utterly Arbitrary and Unlawful’: Farmworker Groups Sue to Block Trump Wage Freeze
on December 1, 2020 at 12:01
Jake Johnson, staff writerAn attorney for Farmworker Justice warned that, if allowed to take effect, the wage freeze would cause “grave harm to some of the most vulnerable workers in the nation.”
Health Officials Face Death Threats From Coronavirus Deniers
by Aaron Calvin on December 1, 2020 at 11:00
As people across the country refuse mask mandates, public health officials are fighting an uphill battle with little government support. The post Health Officials Face Death Threats From Coronavirus Deniers appeared first on The Intercept.
House Democrats Demand Increase in IRS Funding to Go After ‘Wealthy Tax Cheats’—Like Donald Trump
on December 1, 2020 at 10:57
Jake Johnson, staff writer”Millionaire tax dodgers like Donald Trump get away with paying little to no federal income tax in part because IRS funding has dropped over 20% since 2010.”
John Wilson’s Magically Poignant Urban Histories
by Vikram Murthi on December 1, 2020 at 10:45
Vikram Murthi His documentary series for HBO is a head-spinning interrogation of the chaos of New York City life. The post John Wilson’s Magically Poignant Urban Histories appeared first on The Nation.
Removing Trump Is Not Enough. He Must Be Prosecuted.
by Sasha Abramsky on December 1, 2020 at 10:30
Sasha Abramsky He has declared total war on American democracy, and for that, he must be brought to justice. The post Removing Trump Is Not Enough. He Must Be Prosecuted. appeared first on The Nation.
These Visa Recipients Are Stuck in the US And Demanding Their Rights
by Noah Flora on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Noah Flora J-1 recipients say the visa program is as an unregulated pipeline for temporary migrant labor that props up the US hospitality industry. The post These Visa Recipients Are Stuck in the US And Demanding Their Rights appeared first on The Nation.
Appalachia’s Hospital Closures Are a Slow-Motion Health Care Emergency
by Stacy Kranitz, Magnum Foundation on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Stacy Kranitz, Magnum Foundation In the last decade, more than a dozen hospitals have closed in the region. The post Appalachia’s Hospital Closures Are a Slow-Motion Health Care Emergency appeared first on The Nation.
The Coup That Never Happened
by Tom Tomorrow on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Tom Tomorrow Oh, you thought there would be a coup just because the president repeatedly said there would be? The post The Coup That Never Happened appeared first on The Nation.
by Ari Banias on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Ari Banias The post Pronoun Study appeared first on The Nation.
Letters From the December 14/21, 2020, Issue
by Our Readers on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Our Readers Moneyball… Roe reversal… Remembering Steve… The post Letters From the December 14/21, 2020, Issue appeared first on The Nation.
Privatizing Puerto Rico
by Ed Morales on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Ed Morales The rushed sell-off of the territory’s electrical utility is part of a larger move to gut public goods for private profit. The post Privatizing Puerto Rico appeared first on The Nation.
by Mario Chard on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Mario Chard The post Rhyme appeared first on The Nation.
The Democratic Party Will Keep Betraying Labor. It’s Time to Launch a Workers’ Party.
by Paul Blest on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Paul Blest Fifty-seven percent of Americans believe the country needs a third major party. The post The Democratic Party Will Keep Betraying Labor. It’s Time to Launch a Workers’ Party. appeared first on The Nation.
Don’t Abandon the Democratic Party—Take It Over
by Jonathan Smucker on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
Jonathan Smucker We don’t have to choose between a fantasy third party and the Democratic Party in its current state. The post Don’t Abandon the Democratic Party—Take It Over appeared first on The Nation.
States With Few Coronavirus Restrictions Are Spreading the Virus Beyond Their Borders
by by David Armstrong on December 1, 2020 at 10:00
by David Armstrong ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. For months after Washington state imposed one of the earliest and strictest COVID-19 lockdowns in March, Jim Gilliard didn’t stray far from his modular home near Waitts Lake, 45 miles north of Spokane. The retiree was at high risk from the coronavirus, both because of his age, 70, and his medical condition. Several years ago, he had a defibrillator implanted. So he mainly ventured out during the pandemic to shop for food. There wasn’t much else to do anyway. Gatherings in his county were limited to no more than 10 people, there was a mask mandate, movie theaters were closed and many nightclubs and concert venues were shuttered because of a state ban on all live entertainment, indoors and out. An hour away in Idaho, life was more normal. The state left key COVID-19 regulations up to localities, many of which made masks optional. Even in places that required face coverings, enforcement was laxer than in Washington. High school sports, canceled for the fall in Washington, were on full display in Idaho. Most Idaho schools welcomed back students in person, in contrast to the remote learning prevailing in Washington. Businesses reopened earlier and with fewer restrictions. There were concerts and dances. Weary of Washington’s restrictions, thousands of residents made the easy drive over the border to vacation, shop and dine in Idaho. Gilliard resisted temptation until he learned that the annual Panhandle Bluesfest would go on as scheduled near Priest River, Idaho, on Sept. 12. A keyboardist who used to own a blues club just outside Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Gilliard was buoyed after months of relative isolation by the prospect of hanging out with friends while listening to music on a remote mountainside surrounded by soaring pine trees and thick hemlocks. He decided to go. A friend took a picture of Gilliard at the festival. Wearing a bandanna fashioned as a headband, a cut-off T-shirt and dark glasses, he was perched on a tree stump and pointing back at the camera. As was permitted by local regulations at the time, he was not wearing a mask, nor were about 10 people sitting together in the background. As the number of COVID-19 cases skyrockets nationwide, the extent of the public health response varies from one state — and sometimes one town — to the next. The incongruous approaches and the lack of national standards have created confusion, conflict and a muddled public health message, likely hampering efforts to stop the spread of the virus. The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last month that the country needs “a uniform approach” to fighting the virus instead of a “disjointed” one. Nowhere are these regulatory disparities more counterproductive and jarring than in the border areas between restrictive and permissive states; for example, between Washington and Idaho, Minnesota and South Dakota, and Illinois and Iowa. In each pairing, one state has imposed tough and sometimes unpopular restrictions on behavior, only to be confounded by a neighbor’s leniency. Like factories whose emissions boost asthma rates for miles around, a state’s lax public health policies can wreak damage beyond its borders. “In some ways, the whole country is essentially living with the strategy of the least effective states because states interconnect and one state not doing a good job will continue to spread the virus to other states,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “States can’t wall themselves off.” A motorcycle rally in August in Sturgis, South Dakota, with half a million attendees from around the country spread COVID-19 to neighboring Minnesota and beyond, according to Melanie Firestone, an epidemic intelligence service officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who co-authored a report on the event’s impact. South Dakota “didn’t have policies regarding mask use or event size, and we see that there was an impact in a state that did have such policies,” Firestone said. “The findings from this outbreak support having consistent approaches across states. We are all in it together when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19.” Viruses don’t respect geographic boundaries. While some states require visitors, especially from high-risk areas, to be tested or quarantined, others like South Dakota have no such restrictions. Many people who are tired of strict COVID-19 measures in their states have escaped to areas where everyday life more closely resembles pre-pandemic times. There, with fewer protections, they’re at risk of contracting the virus and bringing it back home. Jim Gilliard. Courtesy of Robin Ball After the Idaho concert, Gilliard started feeling ill and was diagnosed with the coronavirus. For about a week, he stayed in bed. As his condition worsened, he was admitted to a Spokane hospital and placed on a ventilator. He died on Oct. 15. His death certificate lists COVID-19 as the underlying cause. Going to the Idaho festival likely killed Gilliard, his ex-wife, Robin Ball, said. “If he had been wearing a mask, not shaking hands and keeping distance, he could probably be alive,” she said. “He had been careful before that. He shouldn’t have been up there.” The degree of coronavirus regulation tends to track political lines. President-elect Joe Biden carried blue Washington state with 58% of the vote, while President Donald Trump easily won red Idaho with 64%. Trump has helped to fuel the patchwork response to the pandemic, criticizing the approaches of some states, praising others and at times contradicting the advice of his own coronavirus task force and Fauci. “What really struck me [is] how hard it is to take the pandemic strategy as laid out by the White House with every state on its own and … implement it because every state is not on its own, they are all interconnected,” Jha said. Biden has said he wants to implement national standards, such as required mask wearing, to help blunt the spread of COVID-19 while acknowledging the federal government has little power to do so. He hopes to work with governors and local officials to establish consistent standards across the country. A lack of such consistency is affecting eastern Washington, which appears to be absorbing some of the costs — both human and economic — of Idaho’s more laissez-faire approach to the virus. The rate of new cases in and around Spokane, near the Idaho border, is far higher than in Seattle and western Washington, which experienced one of the earliest outbreaks in the country in February. Although slightly more than half of recent COVID-19 cases in Spokane spread among households or personal contacts, Spokane Regional Health District epidemiologist Mark Springer said, “people bringing back COVID-19 from larger events in Idaho” has been a problem. And with Idaho’s rate of new cases now doubling Washington’s, Idahoans who commute to the Spokane area pose an outsized danger. At the same time, Washington’s shuttered businesses have ceded customers to their Idaho competitors. Public schools in Washington have also suffered. After opening the school year with remote-only instruction, the Newport School District lost about one-fourth of its 1,200 students. Most of them opted either for specialized online-only programs or for nearby private and public schools across the border in Idaho, which offered in-person learning and sometimes didn’t require masks or social distancing, said Newport Superintendent Dave Smith. The plunge in enrollment has led to a $1.2 million drop in funding, he said. In early October, Newport began some in-person learning but had to return to remote instruction after a COVID-19 outbreak in the community. The source was traced to a Christian church and school only a few feet from the Washington border in Oldtown, Idaho. “It’s incredibly frustrating,” Smith said. “I certainly think aligned standards across the nation would have changed our situation.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently called on “Idaho leaders to show some leadership” and be more aggressive in combating COVID-19. He blamed the virus spread in Idaho for straining Washington hospitals. For their part, some in Idaho have complained that the rise of COVID-19 there has more to do with the influx of Washington residents over the summer and fall than with a lighter regulatory touch. Many of those Washingtonians headed to Coeur d’Alene (pop. 52,400), the seat of Kootenai County and the largest city in northern Idaho. Despite some cancellations, many tourism activities went on as scheduled. The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane ran a feature headlined, “A nearby escape: Coeur d’Alene Resort offers amenities for singles and families.” The resort, the article noted, was offering special packages for families that include a pizza-making experience, scenic cruise tickets and discount theme park tickets. In the resort garage, most of the license plates were from Idaho or Washington. “Yes, the coronavirus exists,” the article continued. “However, the luxe Coeur d’Alene Resort is open and taking steps to make an experience as safe as possible.” While employees wore masks, the article said, they were optional for guests and about two-thirds opted not to use them. The resort did not respond to requests for comment. At a park in downtown Coeur d’Alene, a weekly concert series called Live After 5 attracted crowds all summer. Though attendance was lower than in prior years, it swelled as promoters targeted marketing to tourists, concert organizer Tyler Davis said. At one show in July, a member of the band surveyed the large gathering and said, “Look around you guys, it feels kind of normal tonight.” Groups of people danced in front of the stage, food trucks lined up along one side and vendors set up tents. Masks were “encouraged but not required.” Attendees dance at a Live After 5 concert on Aug. 19 in Coeur d’Alene. Screenshot from Facebook video The day after that show, the Panhandle Health District encompassing five Idaho counties ordered a mask mandate in Kootenai. It required masks in indoor and outdoor public places when a social distance of 6 feet could not be maintained. Springer, the epidemiologist, watched the flow of Spokane County residents to Idaho with concern. “The issue with Idaho is a somewhat significant one for us in that the restrictions are a pretty stark contrast between what is in Idaho and what we have in Washington,” he said. “Coeur d’Alene is a sister community to us.” Jim Gilliard was a popular figure in the blues music community around Spokane and northern Idaho. In the 1990s, he operated a music club outside Coeur d’Alene called Mad Daddy’s Blues. He was a talented musician himself, playing keyboards in local blues bands, even after losing a finger and badly injuring two others in a table saw accident. Gilliard was raised in New York City and Pennsylvania. His father, E. Thomas Gilliard, was an acclaimed ornithologist who served as curator of birds at the American Museum of Natural History and was often gone for months at a time on expeditions to New Guinea. After Gilliard met Ball, the two headed to Colorado and enjoyed life as ski bums, moving from resort to resort for a couple of years before eventually settling in Coeur d’Alene, and having a son. After they divorced two decades ago, she stayed in Coeur d’Alene and he ended up in the village of Valley, Washington. (pop. 164). Gilliard was one of nearly 300 people who paid $25 each to attend the blues festival, which was held 2 miles up a mountain road outside Priest River, Idaho, a tourist town 6 miles from the Washington border. Bonner County, where the concert was held, is a rural pocket of defiance against government public health mandates related to the coronavirus. When the local library instituted a mask requirement for users, mask-less demonstrators, some clutching small children, protested and tried to enter the library as staff members stood their ground and explained they were only trying to prevent people from getting sick. The county sheriff wrote to the governor criticizing lockdown orders early in the pandemic, alleging that public health officials misled the public and that “COVID-19 is nothing like the plague.” Concert organizers Billy and Patty Mullaley said they waited until the end of June before deciding to go ahead with it. The only potential roadblock was getting liability insurance at an affordable price during a pandemic, which they were able to do after shopping around. “At the time, there were not any restrictions” on events like theirs in Idaho, Patty Mullaley said. “We did not take it lightly, having the event. We really put thought into it.” They bleached outhouses and the area around the concert stage offered plenty of space for social distancing, she said. Among those most grateful they went ahead, she said, were musicians who had been starved for gigs because of coronavirus-related cancellations. Featured acts included Sammy Eubanks, Coyote Kings and Tuck Foster and the Tumbling Dice. Mullaley said the festival drew Washington residents eager for events banned in their own state. “From my experience, everyone and their dog from Washington was over here,” she said. “Our COVID is probably from people coming over here from Washington.” Few of the hundreds of people at the festival wore masks and many didn’t stay socially distant, according to attendees. “Part of what made it magical was people were completely free and happy and not fearful at all,” said Sylvia Soucy, who had COVID-19 earlier in the summer. People danced barefoot on the soft sand and mingled with friends, she said. Mullaley said people socially distanced “as much as possible.” In the end, she said, “these were all adults” who made individual decisions. Soucy agreed. “It was completely a choice all of us made,” she said. The remote setting — no cellphone service, no electricity and surrounded by hundreds of acres of undeveloped forest — added to the temporary joy of escaping from the virus, Soucy said. Soucy said she talked to Gilliard there and he was in good spirits, “glad that people were not worried about being able to get together there on the mountain.” Gilliard also chatted with other friends, including a former girlfriend, according to Soucy. Ball said the former girlfriend was diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after the festival and notified Gilliard. “I don’t know why he let his guard down,” Ball said. “I will never understand that.” In the end, she thinks it had to do with “a long summer of not having a lot of stuff to do. He had been so cautious for those seven or eight months. He just didn’t feel like it was going to be a problem.” The Mullaleys said they were unaware of anyone else from the concert getting COVID-19 around that time. But some Washington residents who tested positive for the coronavirus told contact tracers that they had attended the blues festival, according to Matt Schanz, the administrator of Northeast Tri County Health District, a public health agency in Washington covering counties near the Idaho border. That doesn’t definitively mean that they contracted the virus at the festival, he said. “We have 550 cases within three counties, and if you read the summary reports, a decent number of those have some affiliation with Idaho,” Schanz said. South Dakota has largely remained open for business during the pandemic. Gov. Kristi Noem, an ally of Trump’s, has refused to impose a mask mandate, saying there are questions about its effectiveness. The state has not placed any restrictions on bars and restaurants and officials allowed the 10-day motorcycle rally in Sturgis. Such a rally would have been prohibited in Minnesota. Both Minnesota and South Dakota are in the top five states when it comes to rates of cases per capita over the last week. The CDC advises that outdoor events are less risky than indoor ones. The Sturgis rally, which featured events in both settings, is now linked to at least 86 COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, including four people who were hospitalized and one death, according to a CDC report released in November. The report said the total is likely an undercount as some of those infected declined to share their close contacts with health officials. “These findings highlight the far-reaching effects that gatherings in one area might have on another area,” the researchers wrote. They added, “This rally not only had a direct impact on the health of attendees, but also led to subsequent SARS-CoV-2 transmission among household, social, and workplace contacts of rally attendees upon their return to Minnesota.” Mike Kuhle, the mayor of Worthington, Minnesota, said South Dakota’s approach to the pandemic “is a source of heartburn for me and sleepless nights.” His city is close to both the South Dakota and Iowa borders. In addition to worries about the virus spreading from South Dakota, Kuhle said, “during the lockdown people have gone to Sioux Falls for shopping. It’s ugly for our businesses.” A similar dynamic has played out in the Quad Cities area at the border of Illinois and Iowa. There, thousands of people cross bridges over the Mississippi River every day to work, visit family and shop in each state. As cases in Iowa began to surge this summer, Gov. Kim Reynolds dismissed mask mandates as “feel-good” measures that are difficult to enforce. Until recently, Iowa restaurants and gyms were allowed to operate at full capacity as long as social distancing measures were in place. There was no state-imposed limit on the size of social gatherings. Nicknamed “COVID Kim” by her critics, Reynolds changed course in mid-November in the face of surging cases and hospitalizations, requiring masks. Illinois clamped down earlier and harder, instituting a mask mandate at the end of April. Movie theaters opened in Iowa before those in Illinois. Iowa never closed its golf courses when neighboring states like Illinois did. For Illinois businesses, the gap between the two states’ regulations has been crushing, said Paul Rumler, the president of the Quad Cities Chamber. “A river runs through it but otherwise this is one community,” he said. On the Illinois side, “we have retailers and restaurants who want to be responsible corporate citizens and follow the guidelines knowing they are at a disadvantage from a business literally 3 miles away.” Rumler said the chamber advocated for the two states to have a consistent approach to the pandemic to no avail. “If there was a federal standard, it would eliminate the confusion of our region,” he said. “It would make our life a lot easier.” Debbie Freiburg, a volunteer contact tracer for the county encompassing the Illinois side of the border, said the looser restrictions in Iowa offered Illinois residents the chance to “take a break” from the virus. “It’s bad and the differences are huge, unfortunately,” she said. “I can be in Iowa in 10 minutes, and there were a lot of us going shopping in Iowa.” Freiburg, who retired to the area after working as a pediatric cancer nurse in Washington, D.C., said cases in her Illinois county have been tracked to Iowa, including several from a large wedding at a hotel just over the border. Tensions between Washington and Idaho over their divergent responses to the pandemic escalated in October. As the count of COVID-19 cases climbed, the board of the Panhandle Health District in Idaho voted 4-3 to rescind the mask order it had imposed on Kootenai County three months before. Officials in Washington were stunned. Inslee, the governor, refused to rule out restrictions on border traffic. The move by the health board came amid growing resistance in the state to mandatory public health measures to control the virus and skepticism that COVID-19 was even real. A group of Idaho politicians, including Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, appeared in a video in October urging the state to limit restrictions. Sitting in a truck with an American flag draped over the side, McGeachin placed a gun over a Bible. “We recognize that all of us by nature are free and equal and have certain inalienable rights,” she said. A legislator in the video said “the pandemic may or may not be occurring.” State Rep. Tony Wisniewski, who represents Kootenai and also appeared in the video, urged the health board to make masks optional. He compared the mask mandate to what he said was a requirement in Nazi Germany to tell authorities if a neighbor was Jewish. Health board member Allen Banks said he was “deeply suspicious” of tests for COVID-19. In an email to a senator who had criticized the board’s mask mandate, he wrote, “I hope you and the legislators who support your effort will continue to stand for truth rather than the fantasy of a phony disease based on a false test.” Board member Walt Kirby, who had voted in July to approve the mask mandate initially, was the deciding vote. He opposed a mandate because people were “pretty damn nasty” to him for supporting it before, he explained. “I am not going to vote for it, I am just not because no one is wearing the damn masks anyway,” Kirby said, adding that he wears a mask. As for people who ignore the advice of public health experts, he said, “I am just sitting back and watching them catch it and die and hopefully I will live through it. You know I am 90 years old already and I am not getting involved in it anymore.” Even as the requirement was rescinded, cases in Kootenai were soaring. The rate of hospitalizations in the border area in northern Idaho is nearly double the rate in the Spokane region. Overall, the number of new cases in Idaho per capita is almost twice that of Washington. With the county mandate overturned, the city of Coeur d’Alene considered in late October whether to adopt one on its own. Mayor Steve Widmyer and the City Council were inundated with hundreds of emails and telephone calls, many from mask opponents. “This is Idaho, not Washington or California,” wrote one resident. “Let the people decide if they wish to mask up or not.” Another told the city leaders, “If you want to live with a mask ‘muzzle’ on your face move to California or Washington.” Ball, Gilliard’s ex-wife, urged Widmyer to support a mandate. “People come here so they don’t have to wear a mask and fill our bars and businesses while spreading covid,” she wrote. In Coeur d’Alene, the mayor only votes to break a tie among the city councilors. Widmyer, who had complained that city officials “shouldn’t have been put into this position,” didn’t have to vote, because the council approved the mandate 4-2 on Oct. 26. Protesters outside chanted, “No more masks, we will not comply,” and the blowback has been swift. A group of residents is pushing to recall the pro-mandate councilors. The mayor did not respond to interview requests. While Coeur d’Alene adopted a mandate, nearby Post Falls and Hayden rejected similar proposals. All three cities are less than 20 miles from the Washington border. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has also remained steadfast in opposition to the idea, unlike Iowa’s Reynolds. “Idaho’s health officials have been mindful of the challenges of mitigating spread of COVID-19 in border communities since the onset of the pandemic,” a spokeswoman for Little said in an email. The governor’s “priority at this time is mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in Idaho and preserving health care capacity for those in need.” For the Panhandle health board, however, the situation became too dire to ignore. On Nov. 19 it reversed itself again and passed a mask mandate for all five of its counties, including Bonner, the site of the blues festival. But county sheriffs have ignored enforcing the mandate or made it a low priority, according to local media. The move came too late to save Gilliard. “Until everyone in this country can do the same thing, all states on the same page, limit crowd size and mask mandates that are enforced, this is going to happen,” said Ball, his ex-wife. “It only makes sense. Because what we have been doing hasn’t been working.”
‘All About the Grift’: Trump Reportedly Raises Over $150 Million for Non-Existent ‘Election Defense Fund’
on December 1, 2020 at 09:09
Jake Johnson, staff writer”Small donors who give to Trump thinking they are financing an ‘official election defense fund’ are in fact helping pay down the Trump campaign’s debt or funding his post-presidential political operation.”
Making Black Lives Matter at School
by Jesse Hagopian on December 1, 2020 at 06:00
The national movement has four key demands to eliminate racism in education.
Juiz compara atos da Gaviões da Fiel ao fascismo para negar indenização a antifascista colocado em dossiê
by Leonardo Martins on December 1, 2020 at 05:05
Para o magistrado, o dossiê, investigado pela Justiça e o MPSP, é uma mera ‘coleção de documentos sobre uma pessoa’. The post Juiz compara atos da Gaviões da Fiel ao fascismo para negar indenização a antifascista colocado em dossiê appeared first on The Intercept.
Amazon should do better by its workers
by Rina Cummings on December 1, 2020 at 01:50
Amazon can afford to invest more to protect workers through measures like hazard pay, a dedicated express bus for commuting workers, sturdier masks, and a workplace council of frontline workers to advise the company on safety systems.
Amnesty International Reveals Extent of Facebook, YouTube Complicity in Vietnamese State Repression
on November 30, 2020 at 23:18
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”For millions of Vietnamese netizens, Facebook was the great hope for helping to build a free and open society—and it still has the power to be,” said Amnesty’s lead regional campaigner.
‘A Moral and Legal Obligation’: 80+ Groups Urge Biden to End US Complicity in Saudi-Led Assault on Yemen
on November 30, 2020 at 23:15
Jessica Corbett, staff writer”American involvement in this brutal catastrophe is shameful and must come to an end.”
Why Fleetwood Mac’s music resonated so deeply in 2020
by Annie Zaleski on November 30, 2020 at 23:00
The band’s ability to find gorgeous, fragile beauty in even dark days is extremely relatable
Calls for Diplomacy—Not War—as Scientist’s Assassination, Trump Impede Biden’s Path to Iran Engagement
on November 30, 2020 at 21:05
Andrea Germanos, staff writer”We cannot let anyone drag us into a new war.”
Trump Failures Highlighted in GAO’s Devastating Report on Pandemic, Calling for ‘Urgent Action’ to Preserve Public Health
on November 30, 2020 at 20:53
Julia Conley, staff writer”More than 10 months into this pandemic, the Trump administration still refuses to learn from its repeated failures, leading to more disease, more deaths, and more economic devastation across this country.”
Did Trump manage to run “a close race?”
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 30, 2020 at 20:51
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2020Sadly, he pretty much did: On the whole, we agree with the general thrust of Matthew Yglesias’ essay from the Outlook section of yesterday’s Washington Post.We disagree with one thing Yglesias said—and we think the point is important. We were surprised when Yglesias said the race between Biden and Trump “wasn’t even close:”YGLESIAS (11/30/20): Incumbents don’t often lose, and for Trump to do so while a majority of voters told Gallup they were better off than they were four years ago is extraordinary. Despite Trump’s post-election antics, the race wasn’t even close. Biden scored a larger share of the popular vote than any challenger since Franklin D. Roosevelt facing down Herbert Hoover, and his moderation was almost certainly key to that success.The race “wasn’t even close?” Sadly, we disagree. Consider:Liberals and Democrats have all agreed that Trump won a narrow victory over Clinton in 2016. The standard talking-point has been reasonable:The difference was a mere 78,000 votes in three midwestern states.That actually was pretty close. That said, the difference as Biden defeated Trump this year was a mere 44,000 votes in three scattered states:Approximate victory margins for Biden:Arizona: 10,500 votesGeorgia: 12,700 votesWisconsin: 20,600 votesThose were narrow wins. If Trump had managed to win those states, the Electoral College vote would stand at 269-269—and under the rules of our creaking system, we’d have called that advantage Trump. Meanwhile, Biden won Nebraska District 2’s one electoral vote by 22,000 votes. That means that Biden managed to win the election by a margin of (roughly) 66,000 votes in three states and one congressional district.There’s one major difference here, of course. On the other hand, you might call it the major difference which isn’t:At present, Biden leads the national popular vote by 6.1 million votes. On the other hand, Biden’s current vote total represents just 51.1% of the national vote—and roughly five million of his six million vote margin are “wasted votes” from California.Under our creaking election system, we don’t award the presidency on the basis of the national popular vote. Given the massive number of “wasted votes” for Democrats in California and New York, Republicans may continue to win the White House in future years while losing the popular vote.In truth, this election was scarily close. The margins were narrow in three decisive states, as was true in 2016.Our election system creaks badly. Meanwhile, Democratic candidates will continue to pile up tons of “wasted votes” in two of our largest states. This helps define the mess we’re in. It seems to us that we ought to be clear about the shape of that ongoing problem.The Other 49: To his credit, Biden managed to win the popular vote in “The Other 49.” As matters stand, he won California by 5.1 million votes—but his nationwide lead is 6.1 million votes.That means that he won the popular vote in the other 49 states. But even there, it was close. He won by well less than one point.
‘Good Riddance’: Progressives Welcome Ajit Pai’s Departure From FCC as Great News
on November 30, 2020 at 20:16
Brett Wilkins, staff writerThe current chair, said one critic, “will go down in history as one of the most corrupt government officials of the century.”
33 Groups Urge Biden to Hold Big Tech Accountable and Keep Industry Allies Out of His Administration
on November 30, 2020 at 20:11
Jessica Corbett, staff writer”We believe that eliminating the decades-old revolving door between Silicon Valley and your administration will only help your cause.”
Wisconsin Governor Urged to Release Inmates from COVID-19 ‘Death Sentences’
by Arvind Dilawar on November 30, 2020 at 19:46
The number of COVID-19 cases in state prisons has nearly tripled in the last month, intensifying calls for release. The stakes are literally life or death.
The Politics of Maradona’s Iconic ‘Hand of God’ Goal
by Dave Zirin on November 30, 2020 at 19:26
Dave Zirin In the 1986 World Cup, Maradona etched himself not only in sports history but also in political history. The post The Politics of Maradona’s Iconic ‘Hand of God’ Goal appeared first on The Nation.
‘Housing Is Healthcare’: Evictions Have Exacerbated Covid-19 Pandemic, Research Shows
on November 30, 2020 at 19:17
Kenny Stancil, staff writer”This is a time where it’s not an overstatement to say that for many people, eviction can lead to death.”
Will a Biden Administration Mean a Smaller Military Budget?
by William D. Hartung, Mandy Smithberger on November 30, 2020 at 18:11
William D. Hartung, Mandy Smithberger Preventing future pandemics, and addressing long-standing inequalities, will require cutting our bloated Pentagon budget. The post Will a Biden Administration Mean a Smaller Military Budget? appeared first on The Nation.
Austin Fusion Center Spied on Nonpolitical Cultural Events
by Mara Hvistendahl on November 30, 2020 at 17:00
Documents obtained by The Intercept show that law enforcement monitored an online Juneteenth celebration and a meditation event. The post Austin Fusion Center Spied on Nonpolitical Cultural Events appeared first on The Intercept.
Six Environmental Heroes Awarded Goldman Prize for ‘Taking a Stand, Risking Their Lives and Livelihoods, and Inspiring Us’
on November 30, 2020 at 16:57
Jessica Corbett, staff writerThis year’s recipients of the annual honor hail from the Bahamas, Ecuador, France, Ghana, Mexico, and Myanmar.
‘Looking at You, Senate Majority Leader’: 87 Million Could Lose Paid Leave Without Urgent Action From Congress
on November 30, 2020 at 16:44
Jake Johnson, staff writer”It’s very America for us to finally require paid sick leave and family leave during the pandemic only to let it lapse before the pandemic is over.”
‘A Kind of Terrorism’: Israeli Human Rights Groups Offer Harrowing Look at IDF Night Raids on Palestinian Homes
on November 30, 2020 at 16:37
Brett Wilkins, staff writer”You feel your privacy is being invaded,” said one Palestinian victim. “The aim is to control and humiliate.”
‘Another World Is Possible’: Ocasio-Cortez Uses Video Gaming Platform to Raise $200,000 for Fight Against Hunger, Evictions
on November 30, 2020 at 16:07
Julia Conley, staff writerThe congresswoman was joined by Canadian progressive leader Jagmeet Singh, who spoke about bold, far-reaching policies in Canada.
Will Biden Condemn the Assassination of an Iranian Scientist?
by Jeet Heer on November 30, 2020 at 15:43
Jeet Heer The murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist presents a unique challenge to the president-elect. The post Will Biden Condemn the Assassination of an Iranian Scientist? appeared first on The Nation.
STARTING TOMORROW: Joyeux Noem!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 30, 2020 at 15:33
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2020Also, Stelter on lies and delusions: Isabel Sawhill is 83. Morgan Welch is three years out of college (American University, class of 2017).We’re sure they’re both good people. On the other hand, they co-authored an opinion column in this morning’s New York Times. The column appears in the paper’s print editions. Unsurprisingly, the column is full of fuzzy claims which go undefended and unexplained. The column is full of fuzzy but familiar claims. Perhaps for that very reason, the New York Times chose to run it. The analytical skills of our war-inclined species are extremely slight. Most strikingly, our own deeply tribal, war-inclined team just can’t seem to stop doing things like this, principal headline included:SAWHILL AND WELCH (11/30/20): Will White Women in Georgia Put Family or Culture War First?[…]In 2004, Thomas Frank published his best-selling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” which argued that his fellow Kansans were voting against their economic self-interest because of hot-button cultural issues. Perhaps now we should be asking, “What’s the Matter With White Women?” Are they voting on cultural rather than economic issues? Are many simply following their husbands’ lead? For some, it would seem so.According to the pair of seers, some white women “are simply following their husbands’ leads” when they cast their votes in presidential elections!How many “white women” are behaving this way? The seers don’t try to say. But so continues the rank, dim-witted condescension which flows from our failing tribe in much the way that mighty rivers run downhill toward the sea. The authors seem to say that “white women” shouldn’t be “voting on cultural rather than economic issues.” How much simpler the world would be if we simply let tribal eggheads like these cast everybody’s votes for them!What’s the Matter With White Women? At this point, the eggheads say we should perhaps be asking that question.In fairness, based upon an (imprecise) exit poll result they’ve already cited in their column, their question should really be this: What’s the Matter With 55 Percent of White Women? It may turn out that Candidate Trump got fewer than 55% of “white women’s” votes in the recent election. In the end, there’s no way to produce a precise measure of such matters.That said, the dumbness of our liberal tribe suffuses this morning’s column. And for us, this weekend was a struggle to come to terms with the variables animating our nation’s ongoing decline.For starters, how should we regard Donald J. Trump and his ongoing wild west claims? Should we primarily regard him as a liar? Or should we possibly regard him as being mentally ill?Yesterday, CNN’s Brian Stelter spent the better part of an hour struggling with these concepts. For the transcript of his weekly Reliable Sources program, you can just click here.Stelter and several guests were serially defeated by the logic of “lying” versus “delusion.” Chalk this up to the analytical and intellectual deficits which suffuse our deeply unimpressive journalistic and academic elites.Is Trump a liar, or is he nuts? At one point, Stelter acknowledged that he tries to avoid that question.Our journalists also avoid such questions when it comes to high-ranking Trump supporters. We think, for example, of South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem. Question! Did Noem believe the things she said in this November 18 press event, or was she possibly lying? Starting tomorrow, we’ll be poking at this basic question all through the course of the week.Such ruminations involve psychological / psychiatric questions. They go to the question of “psychopathologies,” and to what we should think about such psychiatric concepts.A related question involves the psychological forces which may drive us humans to believe the various claims our tribal leaders make. As a general matter, we humans can see such forces at work among others, but not among ourselves.Tomorrow, a case study! We’ll start to look at what Noem said in her recent press event. By the end of the week, we’ll be looking at the way the AP reported her presser.Along the way, we’ll look at the difficulties our own tribe’s leaders have had as they’ve tried to report the basic Covid statistics involved in Noem claims. In truth, the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we humans just aren’t super-sharp.Today, we confess one other way we spent a dispiriting holiday weekend. For the first time, we watched (parts of) several Melissa McCarthy films.We were triggered by this New York Times listicle, in which Scott and Dargis named McCarthy as the 22nd best actor of the 21st century (to date). Somewhat surprised by this assessment, we decided to take a look.Two of McCarthy’s films, including one which was cited by Scott, were available through On Demand. For the very first time, we clicked and tried to watch.Two weeks ago, we told the somewhat comical story of the cognitive/cultural decline of basic cable. In one instance after another, the nation’s basic cable channels announced lofty aims at the start of life, then devolved into various forms of “World’s Dumbest.”Over the weekend, we watched parts of Tammy (2014) and Life of the Party (2018). (According to Scott, McCarthy displays “a fast and furiously aggressive verbal wit” in the earlier film.) On YouTube, we even watched a scene with a great deal of aural humor from the big smash hit, Bridesmaids (2011).We also read some god-awful analysis pieces by woke writers at major sites—essays which were substantially dumber and less self-aware than the column by Sawhill and Welch. (To their credit, Sawhill and Welch didn’t refer to “white women” as “Karens.”)Concerning all that, we’ll simply say this. A nation with a “World’s Dumbest” culture (and capability) can’t sensibly hope to survive. In our view, the behavior of Trump, and of many Trump voters, constitutes a type of epistemic secession. That said, is our own vastly self-impressed tribe a whole lot better in any clear respect? Especially given how “educated” we constantly say we are?As the week proceeds, we’ll ponder the recent claims of Governor Noem. But we’ll also ponder the work of Stelter and others within our own failing tribe.Drawing on extensive consultations with top major anthropologists, we’ll suggest this overview: Our warring tribes are perhaps more alike than different. Our warring tribes are more alike? Carlotta Valdes keeps telling us that it’s been this way all along!Tomorrow: Case study begins! Noem’s assortment of claims
To End Impunity for ‘Deliberate Destruction’ of Planet, International Lawyers Drafting Plan to Criminalize Ecocide
on November 30, 2020 at 15:23
Kenny Stancil, staff writerThe effort aims to hold governments and corporations accountable for the “mass, systematic, or widespread destruction” of the world’s ecosystems.
Trump’s Trying to Take the Internet Down With Him
by John Nichols on November 30, 2020 at 15:00
John Nichols A sore-loser president is promoting a last-minute assault on the underpinnings of discourse on the web. The post Trump’s Trying to Take the Internet Down With Him appeared first on The Nation.
‘Highly Significant’ Victory as European Human Rights Court Green-Lights Youth Climate Lawsuit
on November 30, 2020 at 14:46
Jake Johnson, staff writer”It gives me lots of hope to know that the judges in the European Court of Human Rights recognize the urgency of our case,” said 12-year-old plaintiff André Oliveira.
Hope and History
by Sylvia Hernández on November 30, 2020 at 13:30
Sylvia Hernández Looking forward. The post Hope and History appeared first on The Nation.
Rejecting Michèle Flournoy, Progressives Demand Biden Pick Pentagon Chief ‘Untethered’ From Military-Industrial Complex
on November 30, 2020 at 13:28
Jake Johnson, staff writer”We urge President-elect Joe Biden and U.S. senators to choose a secretary of defense who is unencumbered by a history of advocating for bellicose military policies and is free of financial ties to the weapons industry.”
‘Reckless, Provocative, and Illegal’: Sanders Warns Assassination of Iranian Scientist Designed to Kill Diplomacy
on November 30, 2020 at 11:41
Jake Johnson, staff writer”We must not allow that to happen. Diplomacy, not murder, is the best path forward.”
“We Don’t Even Know Who Is Dead or Alive”: Trapped Inside an Assisted Living Facility During the Pandemic
by by Ava Kofman on November 30, 2020 at 11:00
by Ava Kofman ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. This article is a collaboration between The New Republic and ProPublica and is not subject to our Creative Commons license. When someone in the building died, a notice was often taped to a window in the lobby: “WE REGRET TO ANNOUNCE THE PASSING OF OUR FRIEND….” The signs did not say how or where the friend had died, and because they were eventually removed, they could be easy to miss. In March, as these names began to appear more frequently at Bronxwood, an assisted living facility in New York, Varahn Chamblee tried to keep track. Varahn, who had lived at Bronxwood for almost a year, was president of its resident council. Her neighbors admired her poise and quiet confidence. She spoke regularly with management, but as the coronavirus swept through the five-story building, they told her as little about its progress as they told anyone else. Some residents estimated that 25 people had died — that was the number Varahn had heard — but others thought the toll had to be higher. There was talk that a man on the second floor had been the first to go, followed by a beloved housekeeper. An administrator known as Mr. Stern called in sick. Around the same time, Varahn noticed that the woman who fed the pigeons had also disappeared. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. The New York State Department of Health advises adult care facilities to inform residents about confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases. But inhabitants of Bronxwood said they were kept in the dark. In the absence of official communication, it was difficult to sort out hearsay from fact. “I was told that it was 42 people,” said Renee Johnson, who lived on the floor above Varahn. “But honestly we don’t know. They are not telling us anything.” When for a couple of weeks Renee herself was bedridden — fatigued and wheezing — there were rumors that she, too, had passed away. Because so many people were missing, and no one knew where they’d gone, life began to feel like a horror film. The dining room, once an outlet for gossip and intrigue, was shuttered and the theater room padlocked. Staff covered the lobby in tape, as if it were the scene of a crime. The library began filling up with the possessions of those who had vanished: their televisions and computers, their walkers and bags of clothes. It seemed like a good omen when a few residents came back from the hospital grinning, having faced the ordeal and lived to tell about it. “I wouldn’t even say to them, ‘I thought you were dead,’” Varahn said. “I was just happy to see them.” But then she spotted these survivors in the lobby or going out shopping and worried that the sickness would continue to spread. The virus was taking the worst toll in the Bronx, and Bronxwood sat within the borough’s hardest-hit ZIP code, although it would be weeks until anyone would know this. But by April, it was clear that elderly Black and brown people with preexisting health conditions, living in crowded housing in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, were among those most susceptible. That many of Bronxwood’s residents belonged to this demographic did not escape anyone there. When Varahn arrived at Bronxwood in the summer of 2019, she was 65 and still worked at two salons. She hadn’t been planning to move to an assisted living facility, but she was desperate to find an affordable room. She had been sharing a ground-floor apartment with her 28-year-old son in Allerton, a working-class neighborhood in the Bronx, before her landlady pushed her out to make space for her grandchildren. Friends told Varahn she should have taken the matter to court, and maybe she could have, but she believed that things happened for a reason. In the brick vastness of the east Bronx, with its towering apartment blocks and modest duplexes, Bronxwood’s cream-and-beige exterior stood out. The building was just a 20-minute walk up the street from her old apartment, so she didn’t have to worry about missing her clients, her church sisters or the kids she mentored, who called her Mother V. Her benefits covered the $1,270 rent, which included three meals a day and housekeeping. The shared bedrooms — crammed with two twin beds, two stout night tables, two wardrobes and two wooden dressers — were small, but Varahn didn’t think she’d spend much time in hers. On the first floor, which housed the recreation and meeting rooms, there was always something to do. Staff threw holiday parties and monthly birthday celebrations. Visitors came by to help with knitting and coloring and computer lessons. There was Uno, Pokeno and afternoon bingo. On Wednesdays, members of the cooking club prepared Cornish hens, fish and chips, liver with onions. In the afternoon, bands would perform — classical and jazz, calypso and merengue — and some of the singers were quite talented. Glenda King outside Bronxwood, an assisted living facility in New York, in September. Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New Republic Not long after Varahn moved in, she met Glenda King at a Bible study group. Glenda, who is 68 and has lived at Bronxwood for over seven years, wears square transition lenses and tucks her gray hair into a prim, low bun. Dryly self-deprecating, she considers herself an introvert who has the misfortune to live in a building with 270 other people. She makes a point of being friendly, even though she likes to say that she has no true friends. At first, Glenda found Varahn to be reserved, but she soon realized that what she had mistaken for detachment was simply Varahn’s way of taking in her new surroundings. Varahn knew how to draw people out and listen to their problems. She had worked as a beautician since high school, first at flagship boutiques in the city and later for the disco diva Carol Douglas and on the sets of Spike Lee films. Her clients felt comfortable confiding in her, and before long, so did the residents of Bronxwood. “I can go up and talk to her about anything,” Glenda told me. “Her forte is humility.” All adult care facilities are legally required to maintain a forum where residents can independently discuss their living conditions, but some resident councils, like Bronxwood’s, are more active than others. Although Varahn was new to the building, people encouraged her to run for president. She would bring an unusual amount of political experience to the council: She had previously served as vice chair of the Allerton Barnes Block Association and as president of both the neighborhood merchant’s group and a charity society at her church. Under her bed, she stored the plaques from various luncheons that had celebrated her civic advocacy. After Varahn’s victory in the September elections, Glenda, who had worked for many years as a typist, took on the duties of council secretary, and Hurshel Godfrey, another longtime resident, assumed the vice presidency. Every month, the council gathered in the main lobby, which fit about 60 people, some of them perched on their walkers. Varahn, who has a broad, serious face and a sleek bob, dressed for the occasion in crisp two-piece suits with lapels. She worked to cultivate a shared sense of purpose. “I never said I could do something, even if that was true,” she said. “I always emphasized that we could do it together.” One of the first things Varahn noticed that fall, as the weather grew colder, was how few residents had proper winter clothes. Some explained that they were stuck indoors because they lacked coats. Old men shuffled around in flip-flops in the rain. In the annual grant application for extra state funding, Varahn secured a bigger clothing allowance — $200 per resident — and a double-oven stove for the communal kitchen. She brought in educational speakers for Veterans Day and Black History Month, and planned field trips to go out dancing and to the casino. “Varahn had a lot of connections,” Hurshel said. “I knew a few people, but she knew a lot.” Some of the local politicians Varahn was acquainted with started asking her if she had ever considered running for higher office: The City Council elections were coming up in 2021. In February, she started riding the subway to midtown Manhattan to take a class for first-time candidates. Former campaign managers shared tips on electoral strategy and the best kind of eye contact to make with large crowds. Maybe, she thought, electoral politics was her calling. At this point, the virus was said to be on the other side of the world. It hadn’t yet surfaced in a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, or in New Rochelle, just a short drive up the road. Until the 1980s, elderly Americans with medical needs had limited options: They could age at home with family or aides, or they could “park and die,” as the saying went, at a nursing home. Assisted living facilities emerged as a third way, rejecting the clinical strictures of a medical institution in favor of a more informal, dormlike setting. In the last four decades, demand for assisted living has soared. The paradigm promises residents the freedom to live autonomously — and operators freedom from regulation. Unlike nursing homes, assisted living facilities are not subject to federal oversight. The standards for care — along with the definition of “assisted living” — vary greatly from state to state (and from facility to facility). During the pandemic, these freedoms have become liabilities. “If infection control was limited and regulation was already ineffective in nursing homes, it’s almost nonexistent in assisted living,” said David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School who studies long-term care for older adults. “It’s all the problems we are talking about with nursing homes, but even more so. There’s less regulation, far less staffing and many of the residents are just as sick.” The population in assisted living often closely resembles that of nursing homes, yet there are no requirements that the former provide full-time medical staff. In New York, according to government data, half of those in assisted living are over 85, two-thirds need help bathing and a third have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. At Bronxwood, the state’s third-largest adult care facility, residents said that employees initially lacked protective gear as they cleaned dozens of rooms. As in other homes in the city at the start of the outbreak, shared bathrooms and group meals made it difficult to isolate. And because it is not a medical institution, residents continued to enter and leave the building as they’d always done. (Neither Bronxwood nor Daniel Stern, an administrator, responded to repeated requests for comment.) Bronxwood, New York state’s third-largest adult care facility. Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New Republic Less than 1% of Americans reside in long-term care facilities — a category that includes nursing homes and assisted living residences — but these facilities account for around 40% of the country’s COVID-19 deaths. Researchers caution that this figure represents an undercount. Many states do not publish this data, or do so incompletely, and fewer than half of all states report cases in assisted living facilities, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “As a result,” the analysis said, “it is difficult to know the extent to which residents and staff at assisted living facilities have been affected by COVID-19 or the extent to which interventions are urgently needed.” The way that New York counts deaths has been controversial from the start. That’s because the state’s Health Department will not attribute a death to a residential health care facility unless the death occurs on the premises. The unusual policy has baffled residents and their family members, along with lawmakers and health care experts. “This is a really big hole in New York state data,” Grabowski said. “If someone lives for a long time in a nursing home, it makes no sense that their death is then attributed to the hospital rather than the nursing home.” Without a proper count of cases and deaths, advocates argue, officials cannot direct scrutiny or resources to afflicted homes. For more than two hours at a hearing in August, legislators repeatedly pressed the state health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, for the number of deaths that could be traced back to residential health care facilities. His answers did not satisfy his interrogators. “It seems, sir, that in this case you are choosing to define it differently so you can look better,” said Gustavo Rivera, the state Senate Health Committee chairman, whose district includes part of the Bronx. “And that’s a problem.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo has boasted about the relatively low death toll in the state’s nursing homes, despite the fact that no other state counts these deaths as New York does. As of mid-November, there have been more than 6,619 virus-related deaths within the state’s nursing homes and 179 in its adult care facilities, according to official data. Bronxwood, however, has never appeared in that tally. “The public list is incomplete and misleading,” said Geoff Lieberman, the executive director of the Coalition of Institutionalized Aged and Disabled, an organization that advocates on behalf of adult home residents in New York City. “Either everyone at Bronxwood died at the hospital, or the information isn’t being accurately reported.” Before the August hearing, Lieberman and his colleagues at CIAD interviewed residents at 28 adult homes in New York City, including Bronxwood, and tallied around 250 deaths from their accounts — a stark contrast to the 53 deaths that facilities had self-reported to the state. Bronxwood employees likewise sounded the alarm: In April, six staff members told local news that by their count more than a dozen residents had died. Residents played detective, too. In May, when the U.S. death toll hit 100,000, Renee Johnson tried to match the names she saw in the newspaper to those of her missing neighbors. “We lost a lot of friends,” she said. “And you’re scared — you’re really scared — because you don’t know if you’re next.” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the Department of Health, defended New York’s approach to counting COVID-19 deaths in residential health care settings. “The Department goes to great lengths to ensure the accuracy and consistency in our data reporting,” he wrote in an email. Bruno did not disclose how many residents died in the hospital after falling ill at Bronxwood, but he noted that the facility passed an infection control survey in May. “Since the start of this pandemic,” he added, “we have made protecting the most vulnerable New Yorkers, including those in adult care facilities, our top priority.” Slowly and then all at once, everything that had made Bronxwood bearable was taken away. Residents were discouraged from seeing one another, going outside or congregating in common areas. Visitors were banned. Whenever people lingered downstairs or smoked out on the patio, staff ushered them back to their rooms. Varahn hung posters in the lobby to try to boost morale. The first gave the administration and staff five hand-drawn stars and thanked them “for caring during COVID-19.” “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER,” read the second, on which she had colored an American flag. Some residents thought their president was doing the best she could, given the circumstances. Others were offended. They didn’t want to thank anyone: They were miserable. Deborah Berger, who lives on the fourth floor, likened the new regime to living in a giant day care center. Glenda said she felt like a puppy in a doghouse. Renee compared it to jail. The analogies were ready at hand, but what was harder to express was how little trust they had in the institution tasked with protecting them. “Nobody is talking to us,” Renee said. “The staff just say: ‘Go to your room. Go to your room.’ There’s no feelings. There’s no nothing.” Renee Johnson outside Bronxwood in September. Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New Republic Glenda washed her hands until she felt as if they were going to fall off. She wiped everything down with bleach — door handles, dresser, windowsill. She had a weak left lung, and she was terrified. “If I get one hit of that coronavirus,” she liked to say, “I’m not going to make it.” When her legs got stiff from sitting, she paced up and down her cappuccino-colored hallway, about the length of a city block. Other times, wearing a surgical mask, she wheeled her walker downstairs, though the state of affairs there could be disappointing. A lot of residents didn’t wear masks. They huddled around the TV and crowded in the elevator. People were getting complacent. “Not me,” Glenda said. The council had suspended its meetings, but toward the end of April, several residents approached Varahn to report that Bronxwood was not giving them their stimulus checks. In fact, complaints about missing or partial stimulus checks were so widespread throughout the city’s facilities that the state issued a guidance: Residents’ money belonged to residents. Varahn convened an impromptu meeting with the council’s leadership in the stairwell — the only somewhat quiet place in the building — to strategize about what to do. Hurshel, the vice president, was planning to ask about his check. “Don’t ask,” Varahn coached him. “Say, ‘I came here to get my money and I’ll cash it myself.’” Glenda noted that people with dementia might not remember the existence of the checks in the first place, so she knocked on doors to remind them. Part of Varahn’s role as president was to relay these and other concerns to Mr. Stern. They had an easy, playful rapport. Sometimes, he asked what an intelligent woman like her was doing living in a place like this. The question flattered her, but it also unsettled her, as if she wasn’t wanted or didn’t belong. People talked about leaving Bronxwood almost as soon as they arrived, but the truth was that they were there because they had nowhere else to go. The elderly are typically steered to places like Bronxwood after a stay in the hospital. They have taken a fall or needed a surgery, and while they’re recovering, lose their apartment. Others, like Glenda, are recommended by a caseworker at a shelter. It’s not uncommon for such homes to hire recruiters to help fill their beds. While many assisted living facilities cater to a wealthy clientele, who pay out of pocket, Bronxwood primarily serves low-income seniors. (It is, technically speaking, an adult home with an assisted living program.) Most residents sign over their supplemental security income to pay for the room and board — and out of that sum the facility gives them a $207 “personal needs allowance” each month. The money runs out quickly, since it often goes toward phone bills, toiletries, transportation and more nutritious food. Out of Bronxwood’s 270 or so residents, more than half are enrolled in its assisted living program, whose costs are covered by Medicaid. In theory, the program offers an extra level of care to those who need it. In practice, it functions as a “huge financial boon” to the adult home industry, said Tanya Kessler, a senior staff attorney with Mobilization for Justice, a legal services organization. Bronxwood can charge Medicaid between $78 and $154 per enrolled resident each day, depending on his or her needs. But Kessler said there’s little oversight into whether this additional funding results in additional care. Bruno, the spokesman, said that the Health Department conducts regular inspections of assisted living programs “to ensure all applicable laws, regulations and guidelines are being followed.” Healthier residents at Bronxwood told me that they seemed to be roomed with those who were more infirm, effectively placing them in the role of an extra aide. “One of the big complaints we hear is, ‘I’m not well myself, but they put this person in here that they expect me to look after,’” said Sherletta McCaskill, who, as the training director of CIAD, helps adult home residents organize councils and independent living classes. “It speaks to the lack of services that these homes are providing.” The most recent audit by New York’s Office of the Medicaid Inspector General found that Bronxwood had overbilled Medicaid by $4.4 million in 2006 and 2007. (Bronxwood requested an administrative hearing to challenge the findings, according to an OMIG spokesperson; the date is pending.) In the pandemic, everyone’s escape plans, loudly discussed yet endlessly deferred, took on a new urgency. Residents told Varahn that they were joining the city’s long wait list for subsidized senior housing, or that a son or daughter was coming to rescue them. Faye Washington, who was 68 and lived down the hall from Glenda, tried to compile a list of senior housing options in the Bronx. “You know why I want to get out?” Faye said. “Because when all those people passed away, it killed me.” Faye Washington outside Bronxwood in September. Joshua Rashaad McFadden/The New Republic Faye told Glenda, “I’m taking you with me.” But Glenda was not in any hurry. It was safer, she felt, to be where an aide could hear if she called for help. She had heart problems, anxiety, memory loss and chronic fatigue. Her family had asked her to stay with them, but she did not want to babysit relatives. As she saw it, if God had wished her to have more children, he would have let her keep getting her period. Varahn’s family urged her to leave as soon as possible, even if it meant losing a month of rent. But where would she go? Varahn wondered. And then what would she do? The lady who lived across the hall had gone to see her daughter in Georgia, and now she was stuck there while all her things were here. As the lockdown dragged on, Varahn felt herself sliding into a depression. Before March, she was always out with a client or at some community meeting. Now she was eating three meals a day on a rectangular folding table at the edge of her bed. She was gaining weight from staying inside. Her feet were swollen. Her back hurt. She started taking walks, sometimes just a few blocks, to relieve the pain. The soccer field across the street, where kids played on Saturdays, was empty. Many of the stores on White Plains Road, Boston Road and Allerton Avenue, including the salons, were closed until further notice, and some days it felt like the entire world was at a standstill. It wasn’t just the forced isolation that discouraged her. Everything was happening on some sort of screen, and the tedious video engagements and text messages often left her frustrated. In her class for first-time campaigners, which had migrated to Zoom, the connection was always faltering, making it difficult to understand what anyone was trying to say. At other times, she wasn’t isolated enough. Her roommate rose at dawn and sold loose cigarettes throughout the day. People were always stopping by. Whenever Varahn was on a call or at a virtual meeting, the roommate muttered under her breath or cursed sarcastically. Once, the noise was so disruptive to the class that the instructor told Varahn to mute herself, which she found humiliating. What would have been merely an inconvenient pairing in normal times had under quarantine become an oppressively intimate arrangement. There was also the problem of Varahn’s older sister, Childris, whose heart was starting to fail. The grief put a constant pressure on her days. All this made it hard to concentrate, and she soon fell behind on her studies. So many things about her path to the City Council were uncertain now anyway. Was a person of her age expected to knock on doors? Would she have to campaign through a computer screen? Varahn began searching for a way to reclaim her freedom. She asked Mr. Stern for a room of her own. As far as she could tell, there was plenty of space in the building. A private accommodation could double as a little office for the council, she reasoned — somewhere that residents could feel comfortable speaking to her. But management never acted on her request. Victoria Kelley, a former jazz singer who had lived at Bronxwood for three years, suspected that Varahn’s battle for the clothing allowance had turned administrators against her. Such retaliation is not unheard of, according to advocates who work with residents at adult care facilities. “If you don’t have someone on the council to fight for you, nothing gets done, but Varahn did fight,” Victoria told me. “Some of the naysayers got jealous.” With the arrival of spring, a different approach revealed itself to Varahn. First she rented a car, so she could get around more easily. Bright flowers fringed the patio, and slender trees cast ragged patches of shade on the sidewalk. Her errands had been piling up, too. She needed to buy cases of bottled water, pick up her son’s stimulus check from her ex-landlord, haul her sheets to the laundromat after her roommate got bedbugs. Then she started driving for the pleasure of it, humming along to power ballads on Christian radio and chatting on the phone with friends. She found herself going through the boxes in her U-Haul storage unit, making a mental inventory of all the things she didn’t have space for at Bronxwood, like her slow cooker, her turkey roaster, her Ashley Stewart outfits, her dance costumes. One weekend, a few FOR SALE signs caught her attention. That was when she realized what was happening: She wanted out. It was a complicated undertaking. Most apartments were too expensive, which is why she hadn’t been able to get one in time last year. And even if she was lucky enough to find something affordable, she would have to keep working — perhaps, if salons weren’t allowed to reopen, somewhere that wasn’t a salon. Then again, she didn’t want any of the residents to feel that she was leaving them behind. One morning toward the end of July, Glenda’s cellphone rang. The sound surprised her, because she had stopped paying the bill. When Glenda called the number back from the room’s landline, it turned out to be Varahn, who announced that she was moving out the next day and promised to stop by in September “to pass the torch.” Glenda told Varahn she was happy for her, and she was. But she wished her friend had let her know sooner. Hurshel, the vice president, was unable to step in, because he, too, had just left. After five years on the city waitlist for affordable housing, he’d finally landed a new spot. It was less than a block away from Bronxwood. “You have to get out of there,” he warned his old friends. That same week, Bronxwood laid off employees without warning, apparently because of the declining number of residents. There was no longer an aide for the fourth floor, according to three people who lived there, and there was no one to speak up about it. “I feel stripped naked, like we’re getting ready for the slaughterhouse,” Glenda said the next day. We were sitting down the street, and as staff trailed out of the building at the end of the afternoon shift — a long procession of teal and navy scrubs — some of them were wiping away tears. “Right now, the administration can say anything goes.” Glenda knew she did not want to serve as president, even in an interim capacity, and asked Renee, a former president, what to do. Renee was telling everyone who had asked her this question the same thing: She didn’t have a clue. “We’re so lost right now,” Renee said to me in August. Her bingo crew had dwindled from more than 15 players to fewer than 10. She was pessimistic about the prospects for a socially distanced election: “We don’t even know who is dead or alive.” Varahn had implied to Glenda that she was staying in the Bronx. In reality, she was moving to suburban Maryland. She had signed the lease for a one-bedroom apartment in a senior living community just a short drive away from her daughter’s house. It was everything that Bronxwood was not: serene and quiet, lush with greenery. She had told Glenda only half of the story because she couldn’t quite believe her good fortune. “I feel so sorry because some of them are waiting there thinking that they will someday get an apartment,” Varahn said. “If it wasn’t for my associations” — the support from her family, her earnings from the salon — “I would be stuck there, too.” Her family was relieved about her departure, but Varahn remained uneasy. With a room of her own, she thought, or even a different roommate, she probably would have stayed. As it was, the likely return of the virus in the winter frightened her. When she packed up her belongings, she felt as if she were packing up the future she had once imagined for herself. “By now, I would have been running for City Council, if this virus didn’t happen,” she said. “So I’m saying to myself, well, you know, that wasn’t in God’s plan.” Though she kept her move a secret, one resident spotted her carrying boxes in the hallway and asked her, “Are you just going to leave us like that?” It was the same question she had been asking herself for months. In a handwritten letter Varahn gave to Bronxwood’s administrators before she left, she expressed her desire to remain president from afar until it was safe to hold an election. She had planned to retire there, the letter said, yet it was impossible to do so under the current circumstances. She expected Mr. Stern, or at least his secretary, to call to offer his regrets, but she never got a response. It made her feel as though nothing she had done at Bronxwood mattered — as though she had never lived there at all.
The Long Roots of Endless War
by Daniel Immerwahr on November 30, 2020 at 10:00
Daniel Immerwahr A new history shows how the glut of US military bases abroad has led to a constant state of military conflict. The post The Long Roots of Endless War appeared first on The Nation.
How Monopolies Have Taken Over Our Everyday Lives
by Bryce Covert on November 30, 2020 at 10:00
Bryce Covert Once you put on your “monopoly decoder ring,” David Dayen writes in his new book, you start to see how monopolies influence almost every part of American society. The post How Monopolies Have Taken Over Our Everyday Lives appeared first on The Nation.
The Last Few Years Have Spelled a Resounding End to the ‘Jewish Vote’
by Eric Alterman on November 30, 2020 at 10:00
Eric Alterman There is no longer just one Jewish community. There are several, and they are increasingly at loggerheads. The post The Last Few Years Have Spelled a Resounding End to the ‘Jewish Vote’ appeared first on The Nation.
Citing Past Calls for Social Security Cuts, Progressives Not Pleased With Biden Pick of Neera Tanden for OMB
on November 30, 2020 at 09:08
Jake Johnson, staff writer”Everything toxic about the corporate Democratic Party is embodied in Neera Tanden.”
Swiss Fall Short in Sunday’s Vote to Hold Multinational Corporations Accountable
on November 29, 2020 at 21:32
Common Dreams staffDespite winning a majority of votes, Swiss election rules—much like the US Electoral College—kills the initiative.
The Revolving Door: Biden’s National Security Nominees Cashed In on Government Service—and Now They’re Back
on November 28, 2020 at 20:43
Common Dreams staffTop Biden advisers Tony Blinken, Michele Flournoy, and Lloyd Austin face new scrutiny.
Colocamos o racismo na pauta da Unip
by Juliana Sayuri on November 28, 2020 at 17:55
Reportagem fez mais denúncias surgirem – e a universidade foi obrigada a se posicionar. The post Colocamos o racismo na pauta da Unip appeared first on The Intercept.
Obama Book Explains How Birtherism Made Trump’s Presidency
by Murtaza Hussain on November 28, 2020 at 15:24
Having a Black president simply caused a large number of Americans to completely lose their minds — leading directly to Trump. The post Obama Book Explains How Birtherism Made Trump’s Presidency appeared first on The Intercept.
Creating American Carnage
by Dario Castillejos, Liza Donnelly, Felipe Galindo, Peter Kuper on November 28, 2020 at 13:30
Dario Castillejos, Liza Donnelly, Felipe Galindo, Peter Kuper Our Golfer-in-Chief’s parting shots at democracy. The post Creating American Carnage appeared first on The Nation.
Preocupada com inexperiência de Boulos, direita ignorou currículos de Bolsonaro, Doria, Zema e Witzel
by João Filho on November 28, 2020 at 05:03
Experiência e moderação são duas cartas que a direita só joga na mesa quando lhe convém. The post Preocupada com inexperiência de Boulos, direita ignorou currículos de Bolsonaro, Doria, Zema e Witzel appeared first on The Intercept.
Governo Doria sabia da chegada da segunda onda de covid a SP desde antes do primeiro turno
by Eliane Pereira on November 27, 2020 at 19:48
Apesar de negativas, dados internos da Secretaria de Saúde mostram que as internações já haviam crescido 90% a trinta dias das eleições. The post Governo Doria sabia da chegada da segunda onda de covid a SP desde antes do primeiro turno appeared first on The Intercept.
by Steve Brodner on November 27, 2020 at 16:00
Steve Brodner Dialectic in the dishwater. Scenes from our series “The Greater Quiet” for the week of November 23. The post Snap Judgments appeared first on The Nation.
AMERICAN (COGNITIVE) CARNAGE: Commander in chief decides to share!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 27, 2020 at 15:51
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2020The complexity of our nation’s prevailing state of affairs: Commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump had finally decided to share.On Wednesday, he spent ten minutes on the phone, speaking to a large public meeting chaired by His Cousin Rudy. Yesterday, the commander-in-chief added to the set of claims he made that day.Yesterday, the commander spoke at length in a press event held within the White House. At one point, he made the sort of claim he very much tends to make:TRUMP (11/26/20): I read this morning where Stacey Abrams has 850,000 ballots accumulated. Now, that’s called “harvesting.” You’re not allowed to harvest, but I understand the Secretary of State who is really, he’s an enemy of the people. The Secretary of State, and whether he’s Republican or not, this man, what he’s done, supposedly he made a deal, and you’ll have to check this, where she’s allowed to harvest, but in other areas they’re not allowed. What kind of a deal is that? They’re not allowed to harvest during the presidential.But how can she say she has 850,000 ballots? That would mean that she’s got 850,000 ballots for her. That’s not supposed to be happening.As he continued, the commander shared his thoughts about the ideal form of an election. “You know, an election should be a one-day deal,” he thoughtfully said. “You walk in and you vote.”Strikingly, the commander called Georgia’s secretary of state—a conservative Republican—”an enemy of the people” during this presentation.”Supposedly, he made a deal,” the commander thoughtfully said. There will even be some within the Fake News who will say that such statements are dangerous! (It only takes one crazy person to act on statements like this.)That said, the commander’s principal claim in that presentation concerned the conduct of Stacey Abrams. Let’s take a minute to consider what the commander said.For starters, the commander sourced his claims about Abrams to something “I read this morning.” The commander didn’t specify what he had allegedly read, or where he’d allegedly read it. Even assuming that some such material actually exists, he didn’t say why he, or anyone else, should believe that what he allegedly read is actually true.At any rate, the commander seemed to be claiming that Abrams is personally holding 850,000 ballots for the upcoming Georgia runoff Senate elections. If true, that would be a very strange state of affairs—but he gave no reason to believe that any such claim is true.Because the commander didn’t name his alleged source, there’s no way to examine its contents—even to confirm that some such source exists. We’ll admit that we were unable, in a quick Google search, to turn up any such pre-existing source. We did turn up about three million published reports in which Abrams was quoted saying this (headline included):Stacey Abrams says 750K Georgians have requested ballots for runoffStacey Abrams, the influential Georgia Democrat, took to Twitter on Monday to report that more than 750,000 Georgians have requested their ballots for the state’s January 5 runoff election that could determine who controls the U.S. Senate.Abrams linked her tweet to Georgia’s online Absentee Ballot Request form and urged voters to, “Let’s get it done…again,” an apparent reference to Joe Biden’s victory in the Peach State. (President Trump’s legal team has challenged the results in the state and another recount is expected to begin sometime Tuesday.)Officials from Georgia said that as of Monday morning there have been 762,000 requests for these ballots, which is three times the number requested for the 2018 election.As you can see if you click this link, we’re quoting a report from Fox News. But many other news orgs reported the same set of facts. According to the Fox report, Abrams had made an accurate statement about the number of Georgia residents who have requested an absentee ballot for the upcoming elections. According to the Fox report, Abrams wasn’t holding any of these ballots herself. According to the Fox report, the statement Abrams made was accurate. There was nothing wrong with any part of what she’d done—until the commander spoke.Yesterday’s appearance by the commander illustrates the complex situation into which our failing nation has fallen as a type of cultural secession proceeds. Yesterday’s White House event lasted 43 minutes in all. In the first 18 minutes of the event, the commander spoke by phone with military personnel who showered him with praise. The commander then spent 25 minutes making claims about the recent presidential election. Thanks to the invaluable Rev, you can read the transcript and watch the tape of the full 43 minutes.Concerning the complexity of our situation, our first few observations are psychological in nature.First, the commander speaks with total certainty throughout that 25 minutes. One thinks of the much-quoted lines from Yeats, in which:The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.Surely some revelation is at hand…Simple story! Any time an authority figure is “full of passionate intensity.” his presentations will seem convincing to many. This will be true whether his statements are accurate or well-founded, or even if his statements aren’t based on any foundation at all.Psychologically, passionate intensity tends to be convincing. To listen to phone calls from many people who are strongly inclined to believe the things the commander says, we’ll suggest that you click this link:It takes you to the first hour of Thursday morning’s Washington Journal. You’ll hear many C-Span callers making it clear that they’re strongly inclined to believe every word this commander-in-chief may say.(We humans tend to be like that! As we’ll start to explore next week, that’s even true Over Here.)Meanwhile, here’s another question from the general realm of psychology:Does Donald J. Trump believe the wide array of claims he made in those 25 minutes? We kept asking ourselves that question as we watched the videotape of his angry performance.In truth, the commander seemed to believe every word he said, no matter how compromised his angry claims seemed to be. Is it possible that he really does believe his various claims?Psychological experts might be consulted on this puzzling point. But as part of our nation’s ongoing cognitive shortfall or fail, our major upper-end Hamptons-based news orgs have agreed that such questions must never be asked, that such specialists must never be consulted,With that, we come to one last major element in this complex state of affairs. We consider the skills our major news orgs bring to this ongoing chase. As we’ve told you again and again, the upper-end press corps’ skill level is remarkably low. Our upper-end press corps is not highly skilled. In this morning’s Washington Post, Josh Dawsey offers this assessment of other claims the commander made during yesterday’s session:DAWSEY (11/27/20): Trump continued to falsely claim that there had been widespread voter fraud in his election, without offering proof. And he again falsely said Republican poll watchers were not allowed to observe in Pennsylvania, though his lawyers have said in court that some were allowed to observe.On a somewhat simple-minded basis, that first sentence doesn’t parse especially well. How could someone “offer proof” for a claim which is “false?” In fairness, that’s a nitpicker’s formal objection compared to the problems lodged in Dawsey’s second statement—a statement which, on its face, simply doesn’t make sense.According to Dawsey, Trump falsely said that Republican poll watchers were not allowed to observe in Pennsylvania. His refutation of that claim went exactly like this:”[Trump’s] lawyers have said in court that some were allowed to observe.”Sad! The fact that some poll watchers were allowed to observe can’t and doesn’t refute a claim that many other observers were illegally barred. Who wouldn’t instantly see such an obvious point?Dawsey’s presentation is the refutation which wasn’t! And yet, this was Dawsey’s only attempt to challenge the commander-in-chief’s 25 minutes of claims. To appearances, people like Dawsey, and his editors, have decided that simply adding “false” and “falsely” is refutation enough. For our tribe, such weak tea may tend to suffice. For the other tribe, it won’t.The commander is full of intensity; he has been for some time. He may even believe his angry claims. The press corps has agreed not to ask medical experts whether this could be the case.For many observers, the commander’s intensity will strongly suggest that “some revelation is at hand.” There is no way that a mainstream news org can be expected to eliminate false belief, but the skills of our nation’s elite are remarkably few, in the press corps and the academy.For decades, our elites have seemed to “lack all conviction.” They may not know this about themselves, just as the commander-in-chief may even believe his wild claims. Tomorrow: Joyeux Noem!Also thanks to Rev: Also thanks to the invaluable Rev, you can review the transcript and tape of the commander’s ten-minute phone call on Wednesday—his own Gettysburg Address.He effusively thanked His Cousin Rudy. To peruse the whole thing, click here.
Thomas Frank: Trump Will Be Evicted, but Trumpism Lives On
by Roger Bybee on November 27, 2020 at 14:00
The Democratic Party’s future must be built around class-based issues in order to reach working people.
5 Stages of Loss
by Peter Kuper on November 27, 2020 at 13:30
Peter Kuper Denying a peaceful transfer. The post 5 Stages of Loss appeared first on The Nation.
Beyond Breonna: Louisville Police Make the Case for Abolition
by Natasha Lennard on November 27, 2020 at 13:00
The idea of defunding the police is roiling Democratic Party politics — but it’s not about that. It’s about the horrors of policing. The post Beyond Breonna: Louisville Police Make the Case for Abolition appeared first on The Intercept.
A Deputy Prosecutor Was Fired for Speaking Out Against Jail Time for People Who Fall Behind on Rent
by by Maya Miller and Ellis Simani on November 27, 2020 at 11:00
by Maya Miller and Ellis Simani ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. An Arkansas prosecutor has been fired after speaking out against the state’s criminal eviction statute in an October ProPublica story. Garland County deputy prosecutor Josh Drake was let go from his position on Oct. 31 by Michelle Lawrence, the prosecuting attorney. Arkansas is the only state where landlords can file criminal charges rather than civil complaints against tenants for falling behind on rent. Drake told ProPublica, “I hate that law. It’s unconstitutional.” It constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, he said, echoing other Arkansas legal experts and advocates across the political spectrum. Under the law, which dates to 1901, if a tenant’s rent is a day overdue, they forfeit their right to be in the property. If they don’t leave their homes within 10 days of getting a notice from their landlords, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined for each day they overstay. Evictions in the state can snowball from charges to warrants to arrests to jail time, leaving people with criminal records that hinder their ability to find a new home or get a job. In civil evictions, by contrast, landlords can pursue unpaid rent and other additional fees from tenants, but the process doesn’t include daily fines for staying in the property without paying or put tenants at risk of jail time. ProPublica found that since 2018, more than 1,000 cases have been filed under the criminal eviction statute. During that time, judges have sentenced at least 37 renters to jail after charges stemming from the law, which is officially known as “failure to pay rent, failure to vacate.” Women and people of color have disproportionately been charged. Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national moratorium on evictions did not stop the criminal filings. Since the Sept. 4 order, at least 49 people have been charged, with more than two dozen cases filed in the last month. Meanwhile, the number of new cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas has risen dramatically since mid-September. The state now has over 1,000 hospitalized because of the virus, according to Gov. Asa Hutchinson. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Landlords told ProPublica they preferred the criminal statute to civil evictions because the criminal process is cheaper. Taxpayers shoulder the cost when county attorneys like Lawrence and Drake pursue tenants. In civil eviction hearings, landlords have to cover their attorney fees. Drake had been prosecuting cases on behalf of Garland County, in central Arkansas, since March 2018 on a part-time basis. Lawrence called Drake into her office the day after ProPublica’s story ran and said she was firing him because his remarks drew media and statewide attention to her office, Drake said. Lawrence, who began working in Garland County’s prosecuting attorney’s office in 1994 and was elected as the prosecuting attorney in 2016, declined to comment, citing an office prohibition on speaking about personnel matters. During Drake’s tenure, he handled at least a dozen criminal eviction cases. Like many landlords, state legislators and prosecutors, he had the impression that the statute never led to arrests or jail time. That’s not true, however. Since 2018, 45 people have been arrested exclusively for failing to pay rent and not leaving, according to state records. Despite his misimpression, Drake nevertheless disliked the statute because he said it effectively transformed county attorneys and law enforcement officers into collection agents for landlords. But he said he felt he had no choice but to prosecute the cases because it was his job. He never voiced his objections until the ProPublica story. “I stand by what I said. I still feel the same way,” he said. “It’s one of those things that I’ve always been ashamed of, but I’ve never been in a situation where I could do anything about it.” Now, he said, “I can at least call more attention to it.” If Lawrence “wants to be the one that sticks up for the landlord and continues using tax money to evict people, then there is nothing I can do about it other than point it out to people,” he said. Other elected prosecuting attorneys in the state have declined to prosecute the eviction cases. Prosecutors in the state’s most populous county, Pulaski, have stopped accepting the filings altogether. In other jurisdictions, judges have stopped hearing cases under the statute. Of the 21 largest counties in the state, ProPublica and the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network found only five contained district courts that processed any criminal eviction filings in 2020. After the CDC moratorium this September, a judge and attorney in the state’s western Polk County chose to stop pursuing the cases until further notice. Judge Danny Thrailkill told ProPublica he has long approached the law with unease. “You hate to enforce it because a lot of people don’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “It’s really a civil matter.” Andy Riner, a prosecuting attorney who was just elected into a circuit judge position that will begin in January, said he had found the statute ineffective to begin with. “If you’re fining someone who is already broke, that doesn’t get their attention, that doesn’t improve their conduct,” Riner said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.” Five years ago, a circuit court judge ruled the statute violated the Eighth Amendment’s clause banning cruel and unusual punishment, as well as federal and state bans on debtors prisons, but his ruling did not cover the entire state. Other judges have upheld the statute. Advocates are planning to try to get the law repealed in the next session of the state legislature. “Like I hoped from the first time I stepped foot in the state and learned about the law, I hope that the legislature will repeal it,” Drake said. Do you have access to information about evictions that should be public? Email email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely. For more coverage, read ProPublica’s previous reporting on evictions and debt collection. Share your story with us. Update, Nov. 27, 2020: This article was updated to reflect that Arkansas now has over 1,000 hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Don’t Cancel Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
by Jeet Heer on November 27, 2020 at 10:45
Jeet Heer Far from promoting homophobia, the classic holiday special celebrates the fellowship of outsiders. The post Don’t Cancel Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer! appeared first on The Nation.
Janet Yellen at Treasury Is One of Biden’s Best Appointments
by Marshall Auerback on November 27, 2020 at 10:30
Marshall Auerback As a former head of the Federal Reserve and economic adviser to the White House, she is uniquely qualified to take on the current challenges, but she must ensure that the new normal does not represent a return to the old status quo. The post Janet Yellen at Treasury Is One of Biden’s Best Appointments appeared first on The Nation.
Desperation and Hope Amid the Wuhan Outbreak
by Shen Lu on November 27, 2020 at 10:00
Shen Lu A director of 76 Days, a documentary on the harrowing first days of the Covid-19 crisis, finds compassion amid the suffering. The post Desperation and Hope Amid the Wuhan Outbreak appeared first on The Nation.
‘Fui impedida de votar por ser cadeirante’: sem conseguir acessar a urna, eleitora é obrigada a justificar o voto
by Pedro Nakamura on November 27, 2020 at 07:02
TRE do Rio Grande do Sul disse a Gabriela Silva que ela não poderia votar também no segundo turno. Mas a história mudou após o contato do Intercept. The post ‘Fui impedida de votar por ser cadeirante’: sem conseguir acessar a urna, eleitora é obrigada a justificar o voto appeared first on The Intercept.
Manifestantes na Guatemala queimam Congresso contra o governo
by Lucas Berti on November 26, 2020 at 21:10
Guatemaltecos atearam fogo ao Congresso em protestos contra cortes em saúde e educação. The post Manifestantes na Guatemala queimam Congresso contra o governo appeared first on The Intercept.
Julgar Maradona pelo uso de drogas só reforça o preconceito contra usuários
by Luís Fernando Tófoli on November 26, 2020 at 19:41
Se conseguirmos conter o impulso de julgar Maradona pelos seus supostos pecados, poderemos perceber que nenhum deles o torna menor. E nem maior. The post Julgar Maradona pelo uso de drogas só reforça o preconceito contra usuários appeared first on The Intercept.
Giving Thanks the Turkeys Are Leaving
by Mark Fiore on November 26, 2020 at 18:00
It looks like the Trump Administration might go out with a whimper instead of a civil insurrection-inducing bang.
In Remembrance of Mark Anthony Rolo
by Bill Lueders on November 26, 2020 at 14:00
The late, great Native American writer from Wisconsin always found a reason to give thanks.
Desperate Need for a Stimulus Package
by Igor Kopelnitsky on November 26, 2020 at 13:30
Igor Kopelnitsky Republicans stall as Americans suffer. The post Desperate Need for a Stimulus Package appeared first on The Nation.
The Collapse of the Cuomosexual
by Alexis Grenell on November 26, 2020 at 10:30
Alexis Grenell St. Andrew of Covid, our savior of the spring, is now milking his 15 minutes of fame for an extra 30. The post The Collapse of the Cuomosexual appeared first on The Nation.
Want to Be Like FDR, Joe Biden? Make Your Thanksgiving Proclamations Rallying Cries
by John Nichols on November 26, 2020 at 10:30
John Nichols The 32nd president used every tool—even Thanksgiving Proclamations—to promote a moral vision for social and economic justice. Biden should do the same. The post Want to Be Like FDR, Joe Biden? Make Your Thanksgiving Proclamations Rallying Cries appeared first on The Nation.
Diego Maradona: Comrade of the Global South
by Dave Zirin on November 25, 2020 at 20:57
Dave Zirin As much as for his genius with the soccer ball, he will be remembered for his willingness to fight power and be a voice for the voiceless. The post Diego Maradona: Comrade of the Global South appeared first on The Nation.
Favorite Books of 2020
by The Progressive Magazine on November 25, 2020 at 20:30
Staff and contributors of The Progressive share some of their favorite reads of the year.
Stacey Abrams is interviewed!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 25, 2020 at 20:09
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2020Improbably, Abrams did something: In 2018, Stacey Abrams narrowly lost her race to serve as governor of Georgia.At that point, she did what no one ever does. She went out and actually did something.In an interview with the New York Times, Abrams tells the story of what she did. The story she tells dates back to 2010. Given the current state of our national culture, it’s very, very, very unusual to see someone go out and do something. We especially recommend this part of the doer’s tale:ABRAMS (11/25/20): I traveled around the country raising money for House races, and getting people to invest was nearly impossible, people didn’t see the validity of a Georgia victory. They pointed to the 2008 election when the Obama campaign determined that we weren’t viable yet, so there was no investment. In 2012, I couldn’t leverage that there was going to be investment from the campaign as a hook for getting donors to come in. So it was a really small cadre of donors, largely philanthropists that I’d taken myself to meet. I’d say, “I know you don’t believe Georgia is real, but let me tell you what it can look like.”Each cycle, I would take that same deck and update it and say: “Here’s where we were. And here’s where we going. And while this thing feels incremental, let me tell you what’s different now.”I have always loved those lines, “Give me a place to stand and I can move the world.” Well, give me a place to stand and I can convince you Georgia is real.When’s the last time you saw someone at this level go out and accomplish something? As best we can tell, Abrams selected a place to stand and moved one part of the world.(No one had to go to prison. She had a deeper idea.)
Are Cuban American Voters Really a ‘Special’ Case?
by Andrés S. Pertierra on November 25, 2020 at 19:56
Andrés S. Pertierra Their rightward lean of this group often mystifies and frustrates Democrats, but how unique are they really? The post Are Cuban American Voters Really a ‘Special’ Case? appeared first on The Nation.
‘Latinos’ and the Election
by Armando Ibarra on November 25, 2020 at 17:35
The term ‘Latino’ often obscures rather than clarifies the politics of specific ethnic or racial communities with growing class divisions.
Trump’s Team Is Sabotaging the Transition
by Jeet Heer on November 25, 2020 at 16:15
Jeet Heer Even after grudgingly accepting the reality of his defeat, the White House is working hard to hobble the incoming Biden administration. The post Trump’s Team Is Sabotaging the Transition appeared first on The Nation.
Like a Rocket in the Garden: The Unending War in Afghanistan
by Kathy Kelly on November 25, 2020 at 15:06
People in the United States continue to pretend that the despair and futility we’ve caused isn’t our fault.
AMERICAN (COGNITIVE) CARNAGE: We humans believe the darnedest things!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 25, 2020 at 15:03
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2020Place our faith in the darnedest people: Art Linkletter would constantly say it, though only in private.”Humans believe the darnedest things,” he would constantly tell us. Thoughtfully, we’d always advise him to throw a “we” in there.We people do believe the darnedest things; this fact has rarely been more apparent. Consider the example which arose during Obama’s second term.During Obama’s second term, a remarkably large percentage of Republican adults told a wide array of pollsters that they believed that the gentleman had been born in Kenya.The evidence tilted, rather strongly, in a different direction. But Donald J. Trump was making such claims during repeated sessions on Fox, and a wide array of Republican adults had decided to trust him.For the record, Greta von Susteren had been assigned to serve as Trump’s enabler on Fox during these long, ridiculous years. Later, we learned that she had been Rachel’s drinking buddy during the long, stupid years in which she served as The Donald’s official birther caddie.We learned this fact because Rachel herself bruited it on the air. When Greta was hired by MSNBC, Rachel aggressively pimped her pal’s journalistic greatness. We humans tend to put our faith in the darnedest people!We people believe the darnedest things and trust the darnedest people. Again and again, modern media, such as they are, help spread the bogus beliefs around. How do bogus ideas spread? Consider something which happened on C-Span’s Washington Journal, early this past Sunday morning.Greta Brawner was hosting the program this day. During the 7 A.M. hour, she fielded calls from the program’s famously well-informed viewers. She asked them how well they thought their state’s governor was handling the pandemic.At 7:27, Robert from Clearwater came on the air. Possibly puzzling Brawner a bit, he shared a shaky belief:BRAWNER (11/22/20): Robert in Florida, what do you think of the job Republican governor DeSantis is doing?ROBERT IN FLORIDA: I think he, the governor is doing pretty good, you know, he’s doing his job. I also think there’s a O-positive that doesn’t even get the disease.BRAWNER: You think there’s what?To our ear, Brawner sounded puzzled. To hear the full exchange, click here. Robert continued as shown:ROBERT (continuing directly): O-positive. If you have O-positive blood, you won’t even get it. I mean, my whole family’s got O-positive, and none of them, they’re not even near getting it. I asked other people who have O-positive blood, they’re not getting it either. I mean–BRAWNER: Are you taking precautions nonetheless, Robert, or are you, think that you’re immune?ROBERT: Yeah, I’m immune from it. I won’t even get it. I mean, I wear a mask if I’m in a crowd or something like that, sure, save other people from getting it. But my family, and other families that I talk to who have O-positive, don’t even get it. BRAWNER (perhaps a bit sadly): O.K.ROBERT: So, you know, I think that’s pretty good…Robert’s logic concerning his use of masks was perhaps unclear. If he can’t get the virus himself, how can he give it to others?That said, C-Span lets its callers speak without fear of critique or challenge. Possibly for that reason, Robert’s logic wasn’t questioned this day.Robert went on to restate his positive appraisal of Governor DeSantis. He complained that President Biden would probably “shut down the whole country for a month or whatever,” even though Robert himself “will not get it.””That’s not going to do any good,” Robert said as he continued. Concerning the delivery of vaccinations, he expressed this further view:ROBERT: Why don’t they just start giving them out now? Why wait two, three months from now? I mean, I would take it immediately, but I don’t even need it, because I’m not going to get it. Period.Concerning his basic finding, Robert seemed very sure.Across the nation, C-Span viewers with O-positive blood were breathing sighs of relief. Robert had told them they couldn’t contract the virus, and his statement was based on extensive research he’d conducted in the community.Through such transmissions, we humans often end up believing the darnedest things. Such transmissions occur all day long, day after day, in a wide assortment of venues.Sometimes the transmissions come from President Trump, whose extensive alleged “psychopathologies” are off-limits to the press. (We’re citing the assessment of his niece, Mary L. Trump, a clinical psychologist.) Sometimes the transmissions come from C-Span callers, whose logic and facts are very unlikely to be subjected to scrutiny.Concerning Robert’s factual claim, let’s take a look at the record! Such as it is, the (still extremely limited) record suggests that people with type O blood may be somewhat less likely than others to “get it.” But “get it” they very much can!Last month, a report from CNN described the results of two recent studies. According to CNN’s Hunt and Howard, one of the studies found this:HUNT AND HOWARD (10/14/20): A Danish study found that among 7,422 people who tested positive for Covid-19, only 38.4% were blood type O—even though, among a group of 2.2 million people who were not tested, that blood type made up 41.7% of the population.Uh-oh! According to this Danish study, 38.4% of people who got it were in fact blood type O! On the brighter side, this compared to a slightly larger percentage of type O people in the relevant population.People with type O blood were 42% of the population, but constituted only 38% of people who tested positive. These findings were less definitive than those which Robert would later report—but report his findings he did.We humans believe the darnedest things and trust the darnedest people. On some occasions, and in some settings, elite institutions make little attempt to challenge these darnedest beliefs.Our logic may also tend to be shaky. According to an array of major top experts, we humans have always been like this.In this morning’s report, we’ve spoken of shaky or bogus beliefs which have come from Over There, from those in the other tribe. We’ve spoken of shaky or bogus beliefs which are held by others.Starting next week, we’ll be asking award-wining questions:Over Here in our own liberal / progressive / woke tents, do we sometimes display an inclination to believe the darnedest things too?Can our logic be shaky too? Also, how about this:How often have our own darnedest beliefs come to us, live and direct, from the upper-end mainstream press, even from our self-impressed tribe’s most honored sachems and warriors?Are people like us inclined to believe the darnedest things and trust the darnedest people too? We almost expect The Ghost of Linkletter Past to opine on this matter tonight.Friday: When The Person of Kristi Noem speaks, the AP (politely) listens
A Dangerous New Chapter of the Pandemic
by Andrea Arroyo, Edel Rodriguez, Tjeerd Royaards on November 25, 2020 at 13:30
Andrea Arroyo, Edel Rodriguez, Tjeerd Royaards Last week, Covid infections in the USA reached a record level, with more than 150K infections reported in one day. The post A Dangerous New Chapter of the Pandemic appeared first on The Nation.
Bryan Washington on Fiction ‘Outside the Bounds of Trauma’
by Rosemarie Ho on November 25, 2020 at 10:45
Rosemarie Ho A conversation about writing emphatically about marginalized communities, Houston’s diversity of cuisines and peoples, Japanese literature, and more. The post Bryan Washington on Fiction ‘Outside the Bounds of Trauma’ appeared first on The Nation.
Good Times and End Times on 26th and Folsom
by Roberto Lovato on November 25, 2020 at 10:45
Roberto Lovato The weed is legal, the virus is spiking, and kids dream of robots protecting their families from the landlord. The post Good Times and End Times on 26th and Folsom appeared first on The Nation.
Free the Plowshares 7!
by Maria Margaronis on November 25, 2020 at 10:30
Maria Margaronis These activists risked their freedom putting faith into practice—which puts Joe Biden on the spot. The post Free the Plowshares 7! appeared first on The Nation.
Trump’s Election Lies Failed, but the Damage Is Done
by Kali Holloway on November 25, 2020 at 10:00
Kali Holloway Trump’s supporters, already steeped in white grievance, are predictably receptive to the idea that “illegal voters” have succeeded in stealing their democracy. The post Trump’s Election Lies Failed, but the Damage Is Done appeared first on The Nation.
Trump Races to Weaken Environmental and Worker Protections, and Implement Other Last-Minute Policies, Before Jan. 20
by by Isaac Arnsdorf on November 25, 2020 at 10:00
by Isaac Arnsdorf ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Six days after President Donald Trump lost his bid for reelection, the U.S. Department of Agriculture notified food safety groups that it was proposing a regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines, a change that would allow companies to sell more birds. An earlier USDA effort had broken down on concerns that it could lead to more worker injuries and make it harder to stop germs like salmonella. Ordinarily, a change like this would take about two years to go through the cumbersome legal process of making new federal regulations. But the timing has alarmed food and worker safety advocates, who suspect the Trump administration wants to rush through this rule in its waning days. Even as Trump and his allies officially refuse to concede the Nov. 3 election, the White House and federal agencies are hurrying to finish dozens of regulatory changes before Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20. The rules range from long-simmering administration priorities to last-minute scrambles and affect everything from creature comforts like showerheads and clothes washers to life-or-death issues like federal executions and international refugees. They impact everyone from the most powerful, such as oil drillers, drugmakers and tech startups, to the most vulnerable, such as families on food stamps, transgender people in homeless shelters, migrant workers and endangered species. ProPublica is tracking those regulations as they move through the rule-making process. Every administration does some version of last-minute rule-making, known as midnight regulations, especially with a change in parties. It’s too soon to say how the Trump administration’s tally will stack up against predecessors. But these final weeks are solidifying conservative policy objectives that will make it harder for the Biden administration to advance its own agenda, according to people who track rules developed by federal agencies. “The bottom line is the Trump administration is trying to get things published in the Federal Register, leaving the next administration to sort out the mess,” said Matthew Kent, who tracks regulatory policy for left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen. “There are some real roadblocks to Biden being able to wave a magic wand on these.” In some instances the Trump administration is using shortcuts to get more rules across the finish line, such as taking less time to accept and review public feedback. It’s a risky move. On the one hand, officials want to finalize rules so that the next administration won’t be able to change them without going through the process all over again. On the other, slapdash rules may contain errors, making them more vulnerable to getting struck down in court. Listen to the Trump, Inc. Episode The Trump administration is on pace to finalize 36 major rules in its final three months, similar to the 35 to 40 notched by the previous four presidents, according to Daniel Perez, a policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center. In 2017, Republican lawmakers struck down more than a dozen Obama-era rules using a fast-track mechanism called the Congressional Review Act. That weapon may be less available for Democrats to overturn Trump’s midnight regulations if Republicans keep control of the Senate, which will be determined by two Georgia runoffs. Still, a few GOP defections could be enough to kill a rule with a simple majority. “This White House is not likely to be stopping things and saying on principle elections have consequences, let’s respect the voters’ decision and not rush things through to tie the next guys’ hands,” said Susan Dudley, who led the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget at the end of the George W. Bush administration. “One concern is the rules are rushed so they didn’t have adequate analysis or public comment, and that’s what we’re seeing.” The Trump White House didn’t respond to requests for comment on which regulations it’s aiming to finish before Biden’s inauguration. The Biden transition team also didn’t respond to questions about which of Trump’s parting salvos the new president would prioritize undoing. Many of the last-minute changes would add to the heap of changes throughout the Trump administration to pare back Obama-era rules and loosen environmental and consumer protections, all in the name of shrinking the government’s role in the economy. “Our proposal today greatly furthers the Trump administration’s regulatory reform efforts, which together have already amounted to the most aggressive effort to reform federal regulations of any administration,” Brian Harrison, the chief of staff for the Department of Health and Human Services, said on a conference call with reporters the day after the election. Harrison was unveiling a new proposal to automatically purge regulations that are more than 10 years old unless the agency decides to keep them. For that proposal to become finalized before Jan. 20 would be an exceptionally fast turnaround. But Harrison left no doubt about that goal. “The reason we’re doing this now is because,” he said, “we at the department are trying to go as fast as we can in hopes of finalizing the rule before the end of the first term.” Easier to Pollute, Harder to Immigrate One proposal has raced through the process with little notice but unusual speed — and deadly consequences. This rule could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions for federal executions, giving the government more options for administering capital punishment as drugs used in lethal injections become unavailable. The Justice Department surfaced the proposal in August and accepted public comments for only 30 days, instead of the usual 60. The rule cleared White House review on Nov. 6, meaning it could be finalized any day. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. Once finalized, this rule might never be put into practice. The Trump administration executed a federal prisoner in Indiana on Nov. 19 and plans five more executions before Jan. 20, all with lethal injections. After that, Biden has signaled he won’t allow any federal executions and will push to eliminate capital punishment for federal crimes. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Other less dramatic-sounding rules could prove harder to unravel and have broader consequences. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency is on the cusp of finalizing several rules that would make it harder to justify pollution restrictions or lock in soot levels for at least five years. The agency wants to keep the soot standard unchanged over the objections of independent scientific advisers and despite emerging evidence that links particulate pollution to additional coronavirus deaths. An EPA spokesman declined to comment on the timing of these rules. “EPA continues to advance this administration’s commitment to meaningful environmental progress while moving forward with our regulatory reform agenda,” the spokesman, James Hewitt, said. While those rules have developed over years, others were launched later and officials are taking shortcuts to finish in time. Reviews by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that normally take 90 days or more are now wrapping up in as few as five days. The White House is close to completing several rules that would extend Trump’s record of restricting immigration and make the changes harder for the Biden administration to reverse. The pending rules would make it more difficult to claim asylum by excluding people with criminal convictions (even those that have been expunged), drastically shortening the application time and giving immigration judges more latitude to pick and choose what evidence to consider. The departments of Justice and Homeland Security didn’t respond to requests for comment. Some rules read like Trump’s stump speeches translated into policy legalese. The Department of Energy is racing to loosen efficiency standards for showerheads and laundry machines, evoking Trump’s recurring bits about bathroom water pressure. “Do you ever get under a shower and no water comes out?” Trump said at an October rally in Nevada. “And me, I want that hair to be so beautiful.” Notably, the trade group representing washer manufacturers actually opposes the administration’s proposal, saying it’s unnecessary because many machines already have short-cycle options. The proposed rule is supported by small-government advocates such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Water and electric companies warn it could lead to higher consumption and waste. The Energy Department didn’t respond to a request for comment. The administration is also bucking business groups with proposals to restrict high-skilled immigration; in October, the departments of Homeland Security and Labor unveiled regulations to raise wage and education requirements for H-1B visas, which are often used in the information-technology industry. (The proposal drew opposition from the Small Business Administration, saying the higher costs would stifle innovation and growth.) But while raising the wage scale for skilled immigrants, the administration is pushing a different new rule to lower wages for “low-skilled” immigrant farmworkers. A spokesperson for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (part of DHS) told ProPublica that “Any delay in responding to an economic emergency and high unemployment in a way that protects American workers and ensures the H-1B program is administered consistent with statutory requirements could cause real harm to the U.S. economy.” The Department of Labor didn’t respond to requests for comment. Other rules are more clearly accommodating powerful business interests. A rule completed on Nov. 13 would restrict pension managers from considering social and environmental impacts (known in the industry as ESG) when choosing investments. Another Labor Department rule would make it easier for companies like Uber to withhold benefits by classifying workers as independent contractors instead of full employees. Both proposals had a truncated public comment period of only 30 days. A spokesman said the agency considers all comments regardless of how long the period lasts and that the department is working to complete all regulations on its agenda. Chicken Plants on the Fast Track Such shortcuts still might not be enough to finish some new rules that are just starting out now. Still, these tactics have raised alarms about the USDA’s proposal to speed up chicken factories, even though a regulatory change like that would ordinarily take two years or more. The USDA has not provided a timeline, and the proposal is not yet public while the White House reviews it. An agency spokesman said the department is following the standard process. The rules change has the support of the National Chicken Council, an industry trade group, which argues that the timing is not political. Spokesman Tom Super called the proposal “the most deliberative and studied proposed rule that has ever been issued. It spans three decades, four administrations — Republican and Democrat — countless scientific studies and various court cases.” The USDA has been laying the groundwork for the rule change for years. Even though safety concerns scuttled the USDA’s previous attempt to raise speeds from 140 birds per minute to 175, in 2018 the agency started granting one-off waivers to individual plants that sought permission to run faster. The performance of those plants could equip the USDA to argue that the speed limit should go up in all of them. Although the agency has not yet released its formal justification for the new proposal, officials have referenced a new study in the journal Poultry Science that concluded that inspectors in plants with faster speeds did not detect higher average levels of salmonella contamination. The USDA funded the study through a no-bid contract worth up to $500,000 awarded in 2018 to Louis Anthony “Tony” Cox Jr., a statistician who consults for business interests such as the American Petroleum Institute and the American Chemistry Council, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. Cox declined to share data he secured exclusively from the USDA or to be interviewed for this article. In emailed answers to written questions, he defended his methodology but acknowledged there’s room for further study. Other evidence, however, suggests faster speeds could make chicken less safe to eat. In a September article in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, USDA researcher Jeremy Marchant-Forde and a co-author found that USDA inspectors threw out record-low amounts of chicken when the agency let more plants speed up since May. The authors called this “a major threat to public health” to the extent it suggests inspectors were failing to find contaminated carcasses (rather than the birds having suddenly become much cleaner). But the authors cautioned they’re not food safety experts and declined to comment further. While the food safety issues are debated, there’s already clear evidence that running faster lines poses higher worker risks, both repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel and traumatic injuries like cuts and amputations. But the USDA maintains that it is responsible only for food safety; worker safety is the job of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. That’s exactly the kind of interagency dialogue that the White House is supposed to coordinate when planning new regulations — and the kind of process that could be shortchanged in the final months of an administration, according to the American Public Health Association’s Occupational Health and Safety Section. An OSHA spokeswoman declined to say whether the agency has weighed in on the USDA’s proposal. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has not yet commented on the proposal but plans to, a spokeswoman said. “This last-minute push for an ill-advised rule change could be deadly for essential workers in slaughterhouses,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group for safer working conditions. Leasing Against the Clock Since many finalized Trump rules are currently under court challenges, the Biden administration might be able to let some of them wither or die in litigation — especially where judges have blocked or struck down the regulations and the new Justice Department could decide not to appeal. It will also have to wrestle with other changes the Trump administration is rushing to implement, using tactics other than rule-making. The Trump administration is also pressing ahead with opening up more federal lands to oil and gas development, despite low prices, sluggish demand and complaints from environmental groups that drilling would encroach on wildlife habitats and national parks. Bids are starting at just $2 an acre for more than 445,000 acres of public land with leases for sale to energy companies through the Bureau of Land Management, according to data from EnergyNet.com. The leases could expand dramatically as the BLM finalizes a plan to allow oil and gas drilling on an additional 6.8 million acres of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, a habitat for bears, musk oxen, caribou and birds. Spokespeople for the BLM didn’t respond to a request for comment. Separately, the Interior Department will open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The agency is spending 30 days asking companies for bids, and then sales need another 30 days to take effect — just enough time to beat the clock before the inauguration. An Interior Department spokesman said the agency is taking “a significant step” to implement Congress’ direction in the 2017 Republican tax bill to start drilling in ANWR. “The department will continue to implement President Trump’s agenda to create more American jobs, protect the safety of American workers, support domestic energy production and conserve our environment,” the spokesman, Conner Swanson, said. He didn’t say whether the leases would be done by Jan. 20. Leases that have not yet been issued would be easier for the Biden administration to drop, but even finalized leases could be withdrawn if officials decide they were improperly issued or too environmentally dangerous, according to Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice in Anchorage. (Leaseholders might argue they deserve to be compensated.) In addition, even once leases are issued, companies need permits and authorizations before actually taking action on the ground, Grafe said. Those steps would take more time and face legal challenges. Earthjustice and other groups are already suing to block the Arctic drilling program as a whole. “We have been protecting this place forever,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in steering committee representing indigenous hunting communities in northeast Alaska. “This fight is far from over, and we will do whatever it takes to defend our sacred homelands.” Lydia DePillis, Dara Lind, Lisa Song, Jake Kincaid, Doris Burke, Annie Waldman and Zipporah Osei contributed reporting. Do you have access to information about midnight regulations that should be public? Email Isaac at email@example.com. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.
Tracking the Trump Administration’s “Midnight Regulations”
by by Isaac Arnsdorf, Lydia DePillis, Dara Lind, Lisa Song, Moiz Syed and Zipporah Osei on November 25, 2020 at 09:59
by Isaac Arnsdorf, Lydia DePillis, Dara Lind, Lisa Song, Moiz Syed and Zipporah Osei Even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat, his White House and executive agencies are racing to finalize his policy priorities before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20. It’s common for outgoing administrations to rush through last-minute rules, but these “midnight regulations” can sometimes shortchange public input or thorough analysis, and they may tie the hands of the incoming president. ProPublica is tracking the most controversial and consequential regulations that are advancing through federal agencies and the White House in the Trump administration’s final days, which include rules proposed or moved along on or after the election or rules our reporting tells us are highly likely to be finalized soon. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.
Two points to ponder in today’s Times!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 24, 2020 at 20:22
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2020Also, you’ve been Schwedeled: The current state of our failing culture raises basic anthropological questions—questions about the basic intellectual and emotional functioning of our floundering, war-inclined species.With that in mind, we’ll direct you to a pair of points found in today’s New York Times.Our first citation comes from a guest column by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychology professor at Northeastern. Headline included, the column starts like this:Your Brain Is Not for ThinkingFive hundred million years ago, a tiny sea creature changed the course of history: It became the first predator. It somehow sensed the presence of another creature nearby, propelled or wiggled its way over, and deliberately ate it.This new activity of hunting started an evolutionary arms race. Over millions of years, both predators and prey evolved more complex bodies that could sense and move more effectively to catch or elude other creatures.Eventually, some creatures evolved a command center to run those complex bodies. We call it a brain.This story of how brains evolved, while admittedly just a sketch, draws attention to a key insight about human beings that is too often overlooked. Your brain’s most important job isn’t thinking; it’s running the systems of your body to keep you alive and well…According to Barrett, her “story of how brains evolved” is actually “just a sketch.” We assume that means that her story is vastly oversimplified, or something roughly like that.Set that to the side. Barrett says your brain exists (has evolved) “to keep you alive and well.” It doesn’t exist to produce pure thought.(Working from that framework, the modern American brain can be said to be functioning well.)Barrett takes her basic observation in one direction. We’ll suggest a different application: Does your brain exist to make you feel well? Say hello to tribal thought, to tribal true belief.In his regular column in today’s Times, Bret Stephens covers somewhat similar ground. In the following passage, he’s discussing the “stab-in-the-back myth” which was sold to Germans to explain their nation’s defeat in World War I:[The story] claimed that the German Army, though in retreat in the fall of 1918, could have kept up the fight had it not been betrayed by defeatist and scheming politicians who agreed to an armistice that November.This was, of course, a self-serving lie: Germany’s armies were being routed, its strategic situation was hopeless, its sailors were mutinying, its people were approaching starvation and only the armistice (which the kaiser’s generals asked for) spared it from a much more painful defeat.But the nature of the myth wasn’t that it should be believable. It’s that it should be believed.Question: If the story wasn’t believable, why in the world was the story believed?Answer: Our species’ brain has not (primarily or necessarily) evolved for thinking—for rational thought! At times of great societal stress, our brain is designed to produce tribal true belief.(At present, do our own tribe’s brains behave in some such ways? We expect to address that question in the next few weeks.)Completing the rule of three, we close by directing you to this new piece at Slate. The mysterious, inscrutable Heather Schwedel wrote the analysis piece in question. The headline atop it says this:The Absolute Dirtiest Lines on Megan Thee Stallion’s New Album, RankedSlate began its life in the Clinton years as a source of intelligent mainstream center-left journalism. Our question—should it be surprising that Slate now seems to run on such rocket fuel?We can offer no absolute answer to that sensible question. We can advance this one conjecture: If you click that link and travel to Slate, you may find that you’ve been Schwedeled!Our brains are not designed for thinking? Can that even be true of the brains over here, within our superior tribe?
Immigration Is the Story of Our Families
by Joseph Hayden on November 24, 2020 at 17:30
If you go back far enough, all of us are from someplace else. We all start as outsiders hoping to belong.
Interview with Kevin Alexander Gray: ‘It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon’
by Jan Miyasaki on November 24, 2020 at 15:39
Kevin Alexander Gray on the importance of organizing between elections.
AMERICAN (COGNITIVE) CARNAGE: His Cousin Rudy seemed underinformed!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 24, 2020 at 14:18
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2020Attention C-Span callers!: How dumb can our public discourse get?It can get extremely dumb. You might even say it resembles the “world’s dumbest” possible discourse, with apologies to the wonderful basic cable programming which carries that very name.”Nothing gold can stay,” Frost once alleged—but the dumbness tends to stick around. Indeed, the dumbness tends to spread. Consider what Rudy Giuliani said, right at the start of last Thursday’s so-called “mascara dump:”GIULIANI (11/19/20): Well, this is representative of our legal team. We’re representing President Trump and we’re representing the Trump campaign. When I finish, Sidney Powell and then Jenna Ellis will follow me. And we will present in brief the evidence that we’ve collected over the last, I guess it is two weeks. Also, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing are here with me. There are a lot more lawyers working on this, but I guess, we’re the senior lawyers. And Boris Epshteyn.So I guess the best way to describe this is, when we began our representation of the president, we certainly were confronted with a very anomalous set of results. The president way ahead on election night, seven or 800,000 in Pennsylvania. Somehow, he lost Pennsylvania. We have statisticians willing to testify that that’s almost statistically impossible to have happened in the period of time that it happened. But of course, that’s just speculation.”That’s just speculation,” the barrister said. For transcript and tape, click here, thanks of course to Rev.In fairness, everything’s (technically) possible. You can of course imagine an election in which Candidate A emerges with a large lead, only to have minions from Candidate B introduce a vast number of fraudulent ballots.As he continued, Giuliani quickly suggested that something like that had taken place in other states, not just in Pennsylvania. “This pattern repeats itself in a number of states,” the barrister thoughtfully said. “Almost exactly the same pattern, which to any experienced investigator, prosecutor would suggest that there was a plan from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud.”Needless to say, election fraud has occurred in the past. It happens all over the globe. In theory, it could have happened in Pennsylvania. It’s just that Giuliani and the rest of the gang never produced any credible evidence to show or suggest that it had.As far as we know, the statisticians were never produced. Soon, the barrister Powell was making claims which may have been even crazier, hard as they were to summarize, parse or follow.How dumb can our public discourse get? It can get this dumb:The pattern Giuliani described had been widely pre-explained. The explanation made perfect sense. The explanation had been offered, in advance, again and again and again. It wasn’t especially hard to follow. The perfectly logical pre-explanation had gone something like this:In states like Pennsylvania, Biden voters had been much more likely to vote by mail. In large part due to Trump’s Covid denial importunings, Trump voters had been much more likely to vote in person on November 3.Also this:The Republican legislature of Pennsylvania had refused to let the state’s election officials count mail ballots as they arrived. This meant that November 3’s in-person votes would be counted and reported first. This would produce an early lead for Trump. This lead would dissipate, to whatever extent, as the mail ballots were counted later.This pre-explanation had been offered about a million times. Amazingly, the fellow now known as “His Cousin Rudy” didn’t seem to have heard it!Even as late as November 19, why was Giuliani still unaware of this rather obvious explanation? Almost surely, he’d spent too much time listening to C-Span callers!Consider:On Sunday morning, November 15, Bill Scanlan had been in the saddle at C-Span’s Washington Journal. During the 7 A.M. hour, he’d fielded calls from the program’s famously well-informed viewers.(Full disclosure: In 1999 and 2000, we guested on Washington Journal three times. On two of these occasions, we were hosted by Brian Lamb. We regard this as an honor.) At 7:39 AM, it finally happened. Calling on the Democrats line, John from Pennsylvania angrily weighed in.Eventually, John explained what had happened in his state. We’d have to guess that Giuliani may have been listening in.John from Pennsylvania went on at length this day. To review the tape, click here. “When have we ever had to wait this long to find the results of an election?” he agonizingly asked, early on. Eventually, this exchange occurred:SCANLAN (11/15/20): What have the investigations yielded so far in Pennsylvania on allegations of dead people voting, things like that? Has that turned any votes for the president?JOHN: Here’s the thing. We were winning Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, OK? After the election. He was up by almost 700,000 votes. Can you tell me how they erased 700,000 votes legitimately, OK? At this point, John voiced a complaint about CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. But the damage had already been done.How dumb can our public discourse get? It can get prehistorically dumb. It seemed that John had never heard the perfectly sensible pre-explanation concerning the way his state’s vote totals were going to change as ballots kept being counted. Nor did Scanlan mention this point. As a general matter, C-Span lets us the people speak without fear of correction or comment.How dumb can our discourse get? It seemed that John had never heard the perfectly plausible pre-explanation for the melting away of Donald J. Trump’s early lead.He also received no critique from Scanlan. Instead, Scanlan turned to Dwight from Pennsylvania, who instantly offered thisDWIGHT FROM PENNSYLVANIA: I think all the wrote-in ballots should not be no more. It should all be people go to the polling place or they don’t vote. And I also think that, after this is through the court, Trump will win.So it went on C-Span this day. Was Rudy listening in?Was Giuliani perhaps misled by John this day? Or is it possible that John had been misled by Giuliani, or by other people just like him, at some earlier point?Whichever way the cluelessness flowed, there was Rudy, four days later, making a presentation which could have aired on cable’s World’s Dumbest. Statisticians were eager to speak, but they were never called in.Given the role of modern technologies, the dumbness is everywhere now in our clownish discourse. If you want the honest truth, (we) the American people aren’t always all that sharp.Indeed, Washington Journal routinely produces tsunamis of misinformation. On November 15, vast amounts of the tsunami were coming from Over There.That said, the dumbness comes from our own tribe too, even from our most exalted intellectual leaders. Over the past four decades, the dumbness and the misinformation have also rather frequently come from our upper-end, mainstream news orgs.The dumbness comes from our tribe too, even from our tribe’s top leaders! At present, we plan to start on that grim topic this Friday morning.Tomorrow: The AP and Governor Noem
A Power Company’s Quiet Land-Buying Spree Could Shield It From Coal Ash Cleanup Costs
by by Max Blau for Georgia Health News on November 24, 2020 at 12:00
by Max Blau for Georgia Health News ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. This article was produced in partnership with Georgia Health News, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. Over the past several years, utility giant Georgia Power has embarked on an unusual buying spree, paying top dollar for people’s property in places where cheap land was easy to find. In 2016, it bought a veterinarian’s 5-acre lot in the rolling hills of northwest Georgia for roughly double the appraised value. The following year, it acquired 28 acres of flood-prone land in southwest Georgia’s pecan belt for nearly four times what the local tax assessor said it was worth. By the year after that, it had paid millions of dollars above the appraised value for hundreds of acres near a winding gravel road in a central Georgia town with no water lines and spotty cellphone service. Two things united the properties: They were all near coal-fired power plants that generated toxic waste stored in unlined ponds at those sites. And they were all purchased after the Environmental Protection Agency finalized new regulations in 2014 governing the disposal of such waste, known as coal ash. All told, the utility paid over $15 million for nearly 1,900 acres close to five of its 12 power plant sites, according to an investigation by Georgia Health News and ProPublica. The costly land purchases offer an enormous potential payoff to Georgia Power, one of the largest producers of coal ash waste in the country, the investigation found. They may allow the utility to forestall millions of dollars in cleanup costs outlined by the December 2014 regulations. The Atlanta-based company is trying to convince regulators to allow it to leave more than half of its coal ash — around 48 million tons — in unlined ponds at plant sites spread across the state. Environmentalists believe the safest way to dispose of coal ash is to move it from unlined ponds into landfills that have a protective, and more costly, liner to prevent contaminants from seeping into groundwater — the source of drinking water for people who depend upon wells. Unlined coal ash ponds frequently leak contaminants into groundwater, according to a pair of analyses of industry-reported data conducted by advocacy groups Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice. Recent Georgia Power tests of groundwater show that coal ash contaminants appear to be migrating out of the ponds at some plant sites, according to experts who reviewed company filings. The new regulations require utilities to clean up contaminants if they are found at high enough levels beyond the boundaries of their plant sites. By extending those boundaries through land purchases, Georgia Power could push back the day it has to deal with its legacy of pollution, according to a dozen environmental experts, regulators and activists. Betsy Southerland, former director of the Office of Science and Technology in the EPA’s Office of Water, said Georgia Power’s purchases can “move their fence line far enough out” so the higher levels of coal ash contaminants will dilute enough to fall under enforceable maximum contamination levels by the time they reach the new property border. “It does not surprise me at all that Georgia Power is looking to acquire additional buffer lands,” said Stan Meiburg, a former EPA acting deputy administrator who reviewed Georgia Power filings obtained by GHN and ProPublica. “It gives them more ability to keep an eye on any contamination before this reaches property boundaries.” Utility officials contend that their preferred methods of closure, which depend on the specifics of each site, are safe. Georgia Power spokesperson John Kraft said in a recent statement that the purchased properties were intended for use as a construction buffer while the company closes its unlined ponds, a lengthy process that includes pumping water out of the disposal site and burying the remaining coal ash in place. He did not respond to direct questions about whether the purchased land would help the company delay cleanup costs. He noted that the company, a subsidiary of the Southern Company, the nation’s second-largest energy provider, has hired experts to monitor test wells positioned around the ash ponds for signs of groundwater contamination. Based on the results of those tests, he added, the company “has identified no impact to drinking water.” But neighbors who continue to live near coal-fired plants are suspicious of the way Georgia Power has quietly purchased the properties. The utility has required those who sell it land to sign contracts that release the company from future legal claims and forbid the sellers to voice concerns about polluted drinking water wells. They worry that Georgia Power will eventually walk away from its waste, leaving local communities exposed to the long-term risk of poisons seeping into well water — and the potential negative health care outcomes that may follow. Federal and state regulations require Georgia Power to monitor the coal ash disposal sites for 30 years. That’s not long enough to protect those who want to set down roots for life. When Chad Holland moved to Albany, Georgia, in 2007, just down the road from Plant Mitchell, he didn’t think twice about his water source. A private well provided the water his family used for drinking, cooking and bathing. But this past spring, while scrolling down his Facebook feed, he saw a post about coal ash. The 49-year-old alcohol sales supervisor soon began to wonder if his water had been contaminated by waste dumped less than a mile from his family home. So he set out in search of answers. “I had never thought anything of it,” Holland told GHN and ProPublica. “I wanted to know what was in the pond.” A Moment of Reckoning The aftermath from the ash spill of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant. Brian Stansberry via Wikipedia On Dec. 22, 2008, more than a billion gallons of a toxic slurry of coal ash and water breached a dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant about 40 miles west of Knoxville. The wave — roughly five times the volume of liquid spilled by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico two years later — tore up railways, toppled power lines, knocked a home off its foundation and caked the Emory River in a thick, gray sludge. The catastrophe awakened the public to a long-hidden danger: vast amounts of coal ash stored in disposal sites at power plants across the rest of the United States. Utilities produce over 100 million tons of coal ash annually, according to the EPA, making it the nation’s second-largest source of industrial waste after household garbage. Coal ash is the fine residue left when coal is burned to produce power. The ash contains contaminants associated with long-term health risks, including damage to the kidney (from mercury), stomach (from boron) and nervous system (from arsenic). To dispose of it, utilities can either transport the waste to a landfill with a protective liner on the bottom or mix it with water in an ash pond without a layer underneath. Until recently, the waste largely had been regulated by the states instead of the federal government, in part thanks to pressure from industry groups fighting stricter environmental protections. Some states, like Maryland, enacted tough standards to dispose of the waste. Georgia, however, did not follow suit, despite a growing body of science warning about the potential for unlined ponds full of contaminants to pollute aquifers that supply water to homes with drinking wells. The Kingston spill broke a long-standing logjam in Washington. The Obama administration spent years holding hearings, studying the past research and reviewing new comments about potential coal ash regulations. On Dec. 19, 2014, EPA officials finalized the first-ever federal coal ash rule designed to reduce the risk of emergency failures, protect groundwater and outline best practices for closing ash ponds. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. For decades, Georgia Power had dumped ash into ponds without a protective liner. Now, to comply with the new coal ash rule, the company would have to remove the water from its ponds. From there, it could either leave the ash in place with a cover on top, install a protective liner under the ash or remove the ash into a lined landfill. Faced with billions of dollars in potential environmental compliance costs, the utility resorted to an old page from its corporate playbook. For much of the 20th century, Georgia Power had bought thousands of acres of land — seizing some properties through the use of eminent domain — to build new coal-fired plants. By the 1980s, the utility had expanded energy production capabilities beyond what Georgians actually needed. So it sold excess electricity outside the state, while disposing of the associated waste inside the state. Georgia became a coal ash capital, home to over 90 million tons of waste in the communities where its plants stood. “It’s Like a Death That You Can’t Get Over” Power plants are notorious for driving down the value of nearby homes. But since the coal ash rule was finalized, GHN and ProPublica found that Georgia Power doubled the amount it had been previously paying to acquire land. In the six years before Dec. 19, 2014, records show that Georgia Power purchased 12 properties for an average price of over $4,000 per acre. In the nearly six years since the coal ash rule was finalized, Georgia Power bought about 75 properties for an average price of $8,800 per acre — outpacing the growth of average real estate values in rural areas of the state. The company purchased a third of those properties for over $30,000 an acre — and a handful for over $100,000 an acre. Ten days after the EPA finalized the coal ash rule, Georgia Power spent $1.3 million to acquire 141 acres of land near Plant Bowen in the northwest part of the state. A four-acre sinkhole there had opened at the plant’s coal ash pond years earlier, releasing over 2 million gallons of arsenic-laced ash and water into a tributary of the Etowah River. In the following years, the utility also purchased 32 acres near the Plant Arkwright site in Macon; 55 acres near Plant Wansley in west Georgia; and over 1,000 acres near Plant Scherer, the nation’s largest coal-fired plant, in central Georgia. The EPA does not require utilities to disclose purchases of land near coal ash storage sites. But environmental experts say Georgia Power’s buying spree is larger than most previous residential land acquisitions by other utilities near their coal ash ponds in Florida, Indiana and North Carolina. Since December 2014, Georgia Power has acquired more land than the TVA did after its Kingston spill, according to property records. Unlike the TVA, Georgia Power has purchased land without the occurrence of a sudden catastrophe. “It makes you wonder if they’re trying to buy you out to get you gone,” said Gloria Hammond, one of the last remaining property owners on Luther Smith Road, which runs along the northern edge of Plant Scherer. Plant Scherer, a coal-fired plant operated by Georgia Power. Max Blau for Georgia Health News Kraft, the Georgia Power spokesman, said the company “routinely purchases property around our generation plants.” He declined to answer questions regarding the increase in purchase prices near the company’s disposal sites since the coal ash rule was finalized. At least one former neighbor of Georgia Power was required to sign a nondisparagement agreement. If the seller spoke negatively about the company — including any mention of prior concerns about groundwater contamination — the company could take that person to court. After the sale, the seller, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, noticed Georgia Power post “no trespassing” signs outside the house. One of the company’s crews razed the person’s family home and sealed the drinking well on the property. State law requires Georgia Power to seal unused drinking wells within three years to prevent accidents or illegal dumping. But environmentalists say the company should keep the wells open to monitor for potential contamination. To this day, the seller worries about the long-term repercussions from living near the coal ash pond. “It’s been a nightmare,” the seller said. “It’s like a death that you can’t get over.” Coal Ash Contaminants Spark Statewide Concerns On days that Holland, the alcohol sales supervisor, drove his two daughters to school, he passed by the front gates of Plant Mitchell, which had operated for decades less than a mile from his home. A tree buffer along Old Georgia Highway 3, however, obscured his view of the coal ash ponds on site. Although Holland didn’t know it, some Georgia officials had long worried about the disposal of coal ash at Plant Mitchell. In the late 1980s, an investigator with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, or EPD, visited coal plants across the state. At Plant Mitchell, the investigator documented evidence that “groundwater contamination is occurring via leachate from wastes generated on-site” and could impact nearly 2,000 people who “extensively” used drinking wells, according to records stored in state archives. Kevin Chambers, a spokesman for EPD, said current agency officials could not determine whether any efforts were made at the time to address those groundwater contamination concerns. In 2015, Georgia Power shut down the power plant, which went online just after World War II. The utility left behind 2 million tons of coal ash waste stored on-site. Around that time, Holland noticed “no trespassing” signs posted near a boat landing across the street from Plant Mitchell. A few years earlier, Holland and his father had been interested in buying a lot near the landing, which allowed access to the Flint River. He didn’t think the land was worth much because the property flooded during heavy storms. When the owner said he wanted at least $50,000, Holland didn’t even bother to make an offer. It was too much, he thought. This past March, Holland clicked on a news article shared by one of his Facebook friends. As he scanned the article, he read about residents in Juliette, the small central Georgia town where Plant Scherer is located. They suspected the waste left behind from burning coal had contaminated local groundwater, which supplied water to their homes through wells. They’d seen friends grow sick and family members die at a young age. Curious, he began researching property sales. When he looked up Georgia Power’s purchase of the property near the boat landing, he was floored to learn that it paid over $340,000 for the land. He also noticed that the power company had purchased nearby properties for a total of over $1.2 million, nearly four times the value appraised by the local tax assessor. Holland checks the water from the well behind his home. Robin Rayne for ProPublica Worrisome thoughts soon raced through Holland’s head. He was never approached by Georgia Power about his property. So he called his neighbors who sold land to Georgia Power. Then, he called a law firm. None offered the answers he needed. He thought about all the times his wife and daughters had consumed the water. Was his family in danger? he wondered. He needed to know. He was desperate for answers. “I’m not stupid,” Holland told GHN and ProPublica. “If they’re doing that, there’s a reason for it.” More Contamination Evidence Disclosed After Property Sales In a public hearing last year, Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers said the company’s focus “has always been on public health and safety, and ensuring we’re compliant with the EPA rules and Georgia state rules.” The company has mailed informational packets to residents near Plant Scherer, claiming that “no evidence” exists that the ash pond is responsible for groundwater contamination. But environmental experts said data recently released by Georgia Power is cause for concern. It shows that monitoring wells at Plant Mitchell and several other plants have registered the presence of contaminants in groundwater often found in coal ash ponds. The wells lie between the ponds and land recently acquired by Georgia Power. Groundwater testing at Plants Bowen and Arkwright have revealed levels of cobalt and molybdenum, toxins linked to higher risk of liver damage and other health ailments, that exceed state groundwater protection standards. Another Plant Arkwright site test found levels of lithium, a chemical that can lead to neurological damage if consumed in large enough amounts. The levels are high enough to have triggered extra monitoring and the development of cleanup plans required by coal ash regulations. Experts who reviewed the data at the request of GHN and ProPublica said it does not offer a definitive link between contaminants found in coal ash ponds and those detected in either monitoring wells or nearby private drinking wells. Environmental advocacy groups such as the Altamaha Riverkeeper are testing private drinking wells near coal ash ponds in an effort to establish a stronger link. Over the past two years, the group has tested about a hundred private drinking wells near Plant Scherer. Those wells contained mercury, boron, calcium, sulfate and barium — all of which are potential indicators of coal ash contaminants. However, environmentalists noted, the swift sealing of drinking wells on the land purchased by Georgia Power will make it more difficult to establish such a link. The well closures may offer the utility protection from lawsuits by people claiming they have been sickened by contamination seeping from the coal ash ponds. “This is a business decision,” said Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, an environmental advocacy group whose purview includes the waters adjacent to Plant Bowen. “You’re cutting off liability for a waste stream they haven’t controlled.” Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division is expected to make a final decision on how best to close the unlined ash ponds when it issues closure permits sometime next year. Chuck Mueller, the agency’s land branch chief, said in a statement that any permit issued will require “a sufficient number” of monitoring wells to be installed so that coal ash contaminants “do not migrate beyond the permitted boundaries” of each plant site. Unanswered Questions This past summer, Holland couldn’t stop thinking about the nearby ash ponds. Working from home at his dining room table, he wondered why a constant parade of 18-wheel trucks passed by his house coming and going from Plant Mitchell site. He grew more curious about the monitoring wells near the coal ash ponds along the side of Old Georgia Highway 3. The more articles Holland read, the more he jotted down notes on his trusted yellow legal pad. He recorded a grim roll of contaminants: Hexavalent chromium. Arsenic. Lead. Mercury. He wrote down the name of a Juliette resident who sold his property to Georgia Power. Describing what Georgia Power did after some sales he read about, he wrote: “HOUSE BOUGHT. POURED CONCRETE IN WELLS.” In July, 45 central Georgia residents sued the utility, alleging that Plant Scherer’s coal ash contaminants contributed to health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disorder and thyroid damage. One day in early October, Holland received a phone call from Gordon Rogers, executive director of Flint Riverkeeper. Holland shared his concerns that the company’s purchases may be hiding the true extent of contamination. Rogers was reminded of similar conversations with other residents who lived near Plant Mitchell. Rogers hoped they’d find answers, starting with an upcoming well-testing campaign to determine the extent of groundwater contamination. The prospect of future answers hasn’t quelled Holland’s present anxiety. Tests could help ease his worry. But only some. He still felt uneasy thinking of all the years his girls drank the water without worry. “What if my daughters get sick 10 years from now?” he said with a sigh, sitting at his dining room table. “I’m scared of what can happen down the line.” Help us investigate. Do you live next to a coal plant? Do you work around coal plants or ash ponds? ProPublica and Georgia Health News are continuing to examine the consequences of coal ash, which is the toxic waste that coal plants leave behind. Share your experiences with us by filling out this form. One of our reporters will get in touch with you soon. Correction, Nov. 24, 2020: This story originally misspelled the surname of a former EPA acting deputy administrator. He is Stan Meiburg, not Meiberg.
Vox Populist: After the Election, a Note of Hope
by Jim Hightower on November 23, 2020 at 20:57
A truly great American majority might yet be forged—not around some politician, but around our people’s basic shared values of fairness, justice, and equal opportunity for all.
The Power Behind the Win
by Luis Feliz Leon on November 23, 2020 at 19:08
Black and Latinx voters helped deliver the nation to Joe Biden—now, he owes them.
Bad Leadership Drove Schools into Crisis
by Jeff Bryant on November 23, 2020 at 18:42
COVID-19 exposed how important teachers are to students and families—but politicians and policy leaders are still not listening to them.
It’s time for the barrister Powell to go!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 23, 2020 at 17:42
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2020How should we understand such peculiar behavior?: Last Thursday, at RNC headquarters, Sidney Powell was a key part of His Cousin Rudy’s mascara runoff presser.Over the weekend, Barrister Powell went too far. Without fully parsing the likely logic, the New York Times says this:HABERMAN AND FEUER (11/23/20): President Trump’s campaign on Sunday disavowed Sidney Powell, one of his lawyers who has pushed false claims of voter fraud, after she made wild accusations that Republican officials had been involved in a payoff scheme to manipulate voting machines.[…]Appearing on the conservative network Newsmax on Saturday night, Ms. Powell further pushed the conspiracy theory, saying that two top Republicans in Georgia—Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger—were taking payoffs as part of the scheme, and that Representative Doug Collins of Georgia had in fact won his race for Senate against Senator Kelly Loeffler. (He did not; Ms. Loeffler’s race is heading to a runoff without Mr. Collins.) Ms. Powell said she planned to file a “biblical” suit in the state.Why did this mean that it was time for the barrister Powell to go? Presumably, she had to go for the following reason:The horrible Loeffler is on the ballot as one of the Republican nominees in January’s Senate runoffs. But in her remarks to Newsmax, the barrister Powell turned Candidate Loeffler into one of the demon figures. According to Powell, Loeffler is only on the ballot because Collins, her Republican opponent, was cheated out of his rightful victory on November 3. Presumably, this would make Republican voters less likely to want to vote for Loeffler.For that reason, Powell had to go. Or so it makes sense to assume.Past lunacies, including some involving QAnon, weren’t enough to disqualify Powell from her spot on the legal team. But now, she was undermining a Republican candidate. Presumably, this led to her cancellation.Meanwhile, how are we to understand the extremely strange behavior of a person like Powell? In fairness, such craziness has been general from the Trump legal team.To what extent might psychiatric issues be involved when someone like Powell makes crazy statements and claims? Of one thing, you can feel certain:Within the obsessively careful upper-end press corps, no one is going to ask! Is something “wrong” with Sidney Powell? Within the upper-end mainstream press, questions like those violate clearly-established guild rules. It’s a fairly obvious question, but no one is going to ask it. Within the larger societal / cultural context, this is a cognitive fail. Our society hasn’t evolved to the point where questions like those can be asked.
Middle America: A Bridge to a New Era
by Ruth Conniff on November 23, 2020 at 17:32
Finally, we’ve made it to the other side—to a vision of America that includes powerful women and people of color, that looks to the future instead of wallowing in our racist past.
Comment: The Damage Done, the Job Ahead
by Bill Lueders on November 23, 2020 at 17:15
Expect Trump to keep lying from the sidelines, and for his followers to stand by him.
Two School Districts Had Different Mask Policies. Only One Had a Teacher on a Ventilator.
by by Annie Waldman and Heather Vogell on November 23, 2020 at 16:48
by Annie Waldman and Heather Vogell ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. On a balmy August morning in Emanuel County in eastern Georgia, hundreds of children bounded off freshly cleaned school buses and out of their parents’ cars. They were greeted by the principal, teachers and staff at Swainsboro Middle School who hadn’t seen them in four months. Before allowing the children to enter, a longtime receptionist beamed a temperature gun at their foreheads and checked for violations of the public school’s strict dress code: mostly neutral colors, nothing tight and no shoulders exposed. Masks were optional, and about half of the children wore them. So did the receptionist, but only sporadically, according to several teachers. Within a couple of days, the receptionist was out sick. Another receptionist called in sick as well. Both had caught the coronavirus, according to social media posts. In the ensuing weeks, a wave of cases would rush through the building — an outbreak for which district leaders blamed the community rather than the lack of a mask mandate in the schools. At least nine middle school teachers would be infected, including four along a single hallway; one would spend four weeks on a ventilator, fighting for her life. More than 100 students were quarantined because of positive cases or exposure. Within the first two months of school, the county would have one of the highest proportions of school-age COVID-19 cases in the state. “Not everything that could have been done or should have been done was being done in the school system to stop the spread,” said Dr. Cedric Porter, a local physician who pushed in vain for a mask requirement. “Everybody seemed to be intent on keeping it secret that there was a serious problem.” When another school district in Georgia 200 miles northwest of Emanuel went back to school in early September, the rules and results were far different. The city of Marietta required masks, with even pre-kindergarteners donning them inside school buildings. It trained its own contact tracers. During its first month of classes, it reported no school-related transmissions of COVID-19. The divide between Emanuel and Marietta reflects a national split over how far the government should go in imposing public health measures to combat the coronavirus. As COVID-19 cases skyrocket, political leaders have struggled to balance concerns about individual freedom and harm to the economy with the imperative of curbing the virus’s spread. A school resource officer directs traffic in Swainsboro, Georgia, on a recent Friday. Bita Honarvar, special to ProPublica Nowhere does this gulf seem wider than in the debate over whether to require students and school staff to wear masks. While Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health experts have overwhelmingly promoted masks as an effective, research-backed tactic — and one that works best only if everybody participates — some policymakers have maintained that whether to wear them should remain a personal choice. President Donald Trump has opposed mask mandates, as have many Republican legislators. The result is a patchwork of safety protocols colored by political views. Although several states in the past weeks have belatedly mandated masks, 11, including Georgia, don’t require students to cover their noses and mouths — even when gathered indoors, in small classrooms or in close contact during sporting events, ProPublica found. The states left the matter to local districts. Schools in only about a third of Georgia’s counties require masks. No other precaution short of closing schools — a drastic measure that can set children back academically and developmentally, and deprive them of free meals and health care — is likely to be as effective as a mask mandate, experts say. Allowing staff and students to forgo them contradicts guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopenings. “Masks are the most essential of all, especially because social distancing, quite frankly, is a challenge in most schools,” said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital and the editor in chief of JAMA Pediatrics. “The bare minimum for the protection of kids and teachers needs to be universal masking and some increased ventilation,” said Dr. Joshua Barocas, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Medicine and an infectious diseases physician at Boston Medical Center. “If you can’t do that, you have no business being open.” ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. An emerging body of research has shown that younger children in primary schools typically experience mild or no symptoms of the virus and are less likely to transmit it. However, older children, particularly those in middle and high school, appear to have higher transmission rates, CDC researchers found in early October. The incidence among children ages 12 to 17 was about twice that of kids 5 to 11. “Young persons might be playing an increasingly important role in community transmission,” the researchers warned. In Georgia, the divide over masks sent school districts such as Emanuel and Marietta on two distinct trajectories this fall, data suggests. Children tended to make up a smaller proportion of total COVID-19 cases in counties with mask mandates in schools, a ProPublica examination of reopenings in Georgia revealed. Conversely, in counties that did not require masks in the classroom, children tended to make up a larger proportion of cases. Overall, in Georgia counties where school-age children represented less than 6% of all coronavirus cases, roughly 80% of school districts required masks. In counties where children made up 10% or more of cases, 80% of districts did not mandate masks. To be sure, in counties where they make up larger proportions of virus cases, children may be more likely to interact without masks outside school, in homes, playgrounds and other spots. But the findings suggest that a community’s attitude toward face coverings — as reflected in its school policies — plays an important role in transmission. “If what you’re really showing is the places where they wore masks are doing better, that’s really the bottom line,” said Dr. Benjamin Linas, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Boston University School of Medicine. “Whether it’s specifically masks in schools or not is almost just like an academic question.” A student colors at his desk in a Marietta Center for Advanced Academics classroom. Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools As Georgia schools began reopening this past summer, they received mixed signals on whether to require masks. In phone calls with school superintendents, public health officials advocated mask wearing. But Gov. Brian Kemp refused to mandate their use in schools, or anywhere else, even suing the city of Atlanta to prevent it from requiring masks. (He later dropped the suit and has encouraged Georgians to wear masks.) The Georgia superintendent of schools, Richard Woods, said through a spokesman that he lacks authority to mandate masks. He “has publicly encouraged mask wearing, has modeled that in school visits and public meetings, and specifically let districts know it can be addressed through updated dress codes,” the spokesman said. “He continues to encourage any mitigation efforts to decrease the spread, while allowing local districts to do what they think is best for their communities.” Teachers’ groups favor a statewide requirement. “The more conservative counties are the counties that are [saying], ‘We’re going to be in school five days face-to-face, no masks are required,’” said Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators, a professional association that sued the state in early October over COVID-19 safety (the lawsuit is pending). Political views, she said, are “making it very hard for students and educators to be safe.” In the absence of a mask mandate, the Georgia Department of Public Health recorded 441 outbreaks of coronavirus tied to K-12 schools through Nov. 14. The department, which defines an outbreak as more than the expected number of cases in one place within a two-week period, would not say how many cases those outbreaks included or where they occurred. Comparing school outbreaks between states is difficult because public health departments count and categorize cases differently. But in Illinois, a more populous state that does require masks in schools, the Public Health Department reported 10 outbreaks in schools during the 30 days ending Nov. 6. Illinois defines an outbreak as five or more cases where people from different households may have shared exposure on school grounds. And three weeks after the October reopening of schools in New York City, the nation’s largest district, which requires masks, only 20 staff members and eight students tested positive out of more than 16,000 tests. (New York shut down schools last week and returned to all-remote learning as the rate of positive tests in the city rose.) States that do not mandate masks for schools, leaving the decision up to individual districts: Alaska Florida Georgia Idaho Iowa Missouri Nebraska New Hampshire Oklahoma South Dakota Tennessee There’s no available tally of school teachers or staff in Georgia who have died of COVID-19, but ProPublica was able to identify one such death. Julie Carter was an employee of Appling County school district, which does not require masks. An administrative assistant in the high school’s special education department, Carter also helped organize the local Special Olympics. Students “were her whole heart,” her husband Jimmy said. Carter, an Appling County native, was eager to work at school this fall despite having respiratory problems. Classes didn’t start until Aug. 17, but staff returned several weeks earlier. Carter, who had her own office, put on a mask when people stopped by, her husband said. The mask offered her limited protection, but experts say if her visitor wasn’t wearing one, she was still at risk. The Carter family at Appling County High School’s homecoming this fall. via Appling County High School website By mid-August, she was so weak that her husband took her to a local hospital. Later that month, she was airlifted to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. She died on Aug. 30 before her family, which was driving there, could arrive. She was 67. The high school posthumously named her grand marshal of its homecoming celebration, giving her family a quilt with “ACHS Homecoming 2020” embossed on it during a pep rally. The school website paid tribute to her: “She will always be remembered for being a vital part of the life of ACHS and served the school with a kind and humble heart.” Her death, though, did not spur a reversal of the county’s mask policy: Photos on the high school’s website show clusters of students posing in Halloween costumes in the hallways, without masks. School district officials did not respond to messages seeking comment. Emanuel County, 90 miles west of Savannah, is a rural expanse dotted with pine forests and cotton fields. The county’s winding roads brim with American flags and Trump 2020 placards. It’s a Trump stronghold; the president received about 70% of the county’s votes on Nov. 3. Many of the county’s 22,000 residents struggle to make ends meet, with households earning less than $40,000 on average. Only one in eight adults has a college degree. The school system is the region’s largest employer, followed by a local poultry plant and Walmart. More than 4,000 students attend the county’s schools, which include one primary, two elementary, one middle, a high school and a combined middle-high school. About half of the students are white, 43% are Black and 7% are Hispanic. The school district had four months to determine how to reopen after Kemp closed schools across the state in early April and classes went remote. The board asked Superintendent Kevin Judy to develop a plan. Judy, who has led the district since 2014, rose from a life sciences teacher to a principal to Emanuel’s superintendent, earning a doctorate in educational leadership and administration. While he opened all the district’s schools on Aug. 3 as scheduled, he empathized with families who hesitated to return to in-person schooling. Across the county, 30% of families chose virtual learning. “My wife, she’s had breast cancer,” he said. “She’s a kindergarten teacher, and it’s something we worry about too. She teaches face-to-face every day with 20 to 22 kindergarteners in a classroom and has had a great year and wouldn’t change it for anything.” Emanuel Superintendent Kevin Judy. via Emanuel school district website Before reopening, Judy said, he sought guidance from the county Health Department and local physicians. He also held “informal discussions” with the school board about whether to require masks. They decided not to, without a public debate or vote. Instead, they simply encouraged the use of masks. “The parents raised their kids, and that’s their decision to make what they feel comfortable with,” Judy said. The county Health Department supported the school board. “You have to look at your community and see what’s best,” said Jennifer Harrison, a nurse manager at the department, who works directly with Judy to trace school cases. “They made it an optional thing and I agree with that. You’re not going to appease everybody every time no matter what you do.” School board member Johnny Parker, who spent 40 years as a teacher and counselor, has worn a mask to the past four board meetings. Nevertheless, he said in a mid-October interview that masks should be optional. Although Trump had been hospitalized for COVID-19 two weeks earlier, Parker cited the president’s habits to defend the district’s policy. “The president, he doesn’t wear a mask.” School reopenings, Parker said, had no effect on transmission rates. “Protests are spreading the virus more than the schools,” he said. “People who protest don’t have them on. The ones that are rioting and destroying people’s property, they don’t have them on. That might be the spread.” Downtown Swainsboro. Bita Honarvar, special to ProPublica On the south side of Swainsboro, the seat of Emanuel County, winds the Tiger Trail, a a pine-wooded paved stretch where all of the town’s schools are located. More than 600 students attend the one-story, sand brick middle school. COVID-19 awareness posters line its hallways, showing children how to spot symptoms and encouraging them to socially distance. The virus penetrated the school before the students returned. During a staff planning week, two employees tested positive for the virus, a middle school teacher said. “When it starts up before the kids even get back, that should be a signal,” the teacher said. All current teachers at the middle school who were interviewed asked not to be named for fear of retaliation. After the receptionists fell ill and a teacher went home with symptoms at the end of the first week of school, some staff members hoped that the administration would take strong action, such as closing the middle school for cleaning or widespread quarantining. (One receptionist declined to comment, and the other did not respond to interview requests.) But the school remained open and contract tracing was limited, with only a handful of children sent home to quarantine, said four staff members. “It was just business as usual,” a teacher said. As schools reopened, however, throngs of children, parents and grandparents began pouring into Porter’s office, a one-story brick clinic in central Swainsboro, a block away from the county’s only hospital. Porter, one of the few African American physicians in the county, had moved to Emanuel 33 years before to start a family practice. Having grown up with severe asthma in a small Georgia town, he understood the importance of high-quality health care in rural communities. When the pandemic began in March, he scoured studies in The New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and other top-flight medical journals, preparing himself, and his county, for the virus’s arrival. “We had lots of cases amongst the children, and then the parents were getting it, and some of the grandparents were getting it, and we were having hospitalizations among some of the adults that got sick,” Porter said. Data from the state’s Health Department confirms Porter’s experience. The county had nearly as many coronavirus cases among school-age children in the first month of school as in the first five months of the pandemic. Harrison, from the county’s Health Department, said that the district has had between 10 and 50 outbreaks since schools opened but could not be more specific. Yet few Emanuel County parents were aware of the surge. For the first three weeks of school, the superintendent did not report the number of cases among staff and students on the district’s website. “We are transparent, we’re not trying to hide anything,” Judy told ProPublica. “Did I report data the first three weeks of school? No, truthfully, it never crossed my mind.” “I just felt angry that this was handled in the way it was handled,” Porter said. “If people really knew how bad it had been, and how bad at times it gets, there would be more outcry and more of a problem keeping the schools open. People didn’t know the extent of the problem.” Dr. Cedric Porter. Bita Honarvar, special to ProPublica Porter surveyed his pediatric patients and their families in an attempt to trace how they had acquired the disease. When children described what went on in school, he was startled. Many teachers and students were not wearing masks. Kids were crammed into classrooms with up to two dozen desks, 2 to 3 feet apart. Children often did not socially distance in hallways and cafeterias, despite a slew of signs reminding them to do so. Sports practice and games played on, with hardly any players or coaches masked. Students were sardined into buses, where they were required to wear face coverings, but often tucked them under their chins or hung them off their ears. Children sometimes ate lunch in classrooms with closed windows, allowing aerosolized particles to spread. And in some cases, an exposed student might be sent home for quarantine, but older or younger siblings might still attend class in another school. Many of these practices disregarded recommendations from the CDC and World Health Organization, which stressed the importance of consistent masking of children and staff; small classes with desks spaced 6 feet apart; staggered bell times to minimize crowding in hallways; limited mixing of student groups throughout the day; and thorough contact tracing. Schools can be opened relatively safely, numerous studies have found, but only with proper safeguards in place. Concerned that keeping schools open without a mask mandate would foster the spread of the virus, Porter phoned the superintendent and asked him to reconsider. “If kids are going to be in school, everybody needs to wear masks,” he told Judy. The superintendent told ProPublica that the district took proper precautions in opening schools: Custodians mist classrooms at breaks and frequently wipe down high-touch surfaces like door handles and light switches. Students socially distance in the halls. Every hallway has at least three hand washing stations. When children or staff test positive, school nurses work with the Health Department and use surveys to track anyone that might have been exposed. And siblings of sick children, he contended, are indeed quarantined. Porter detailed his concerns in an impassioned op-ed in the local paper. “The science is clear that the way we’re doing things will lead to a large spike in cases,” he wrote, pleading for masking in schools. “We may not fear that students will get sick, but I promise you, too many teachers, paraprofessionals, and others will.” The superintendent did not address why Porter’s recommendations weren’t followed. “He was saying what he felt to be factual,” Judy said. English teacher Shonray Brooks was nervous about going back to school. She had respiratory difficulties that required an inhaler, making her more vulnerable to the virus. But she had no choice. The district required teachers in core subjects to teach in person. While some states have strong unions that have helped teachers negotiate for protections during the pandemic, Georgia does not permit collective bargaining, leaving Brooks with little recourse. Brooks grew up in Emanuel. Her mother died when she was 7, and her grandmother stepped in to raise her and her siblings. Education took center stage. Brooks became the family’s “encyclopedia-dictionary,” said her younger sister Shonte Smith, as well as a cornerstone of the high school debate team and the preferred tutor for failing football players. After graduating from Georgia Southern University, she returned to Emanuel to teach. Brooks taught in the district for 15 years, often arriving before 7:30 a.m. to prepare lessons, staying late to grade papers and help train the step team, and on exam days, she’d whip up grits and breakfast casseroles in her crockpot for her students. Shonte, who works as a hair stylist in Warner Robins, Georgia, two hours away, knew that nothing would keep her sister from her students, not even a pandemic. “It was a COVID cesspool,” Shonte said, but “those kids meant the world to her.” Shonray Brooks, left, and her sister, Shonte Smith. Courtesy of Shonte Smith When school started, Brooks was in quarantine, with only her gray cat, Sassy, to keep her company. A family member had tested positive for the virus, and while she hadn’t had much contact with her, she was cautious. But after testing negative, Brooks began teaching, donning both a cloth mask and a face shield. In her first week back, Brooks and several other staff attended the school board’s monthly meeting, hoping members would discuss how to combat the pandemic. In the cavernous high school cafeteria, Judy and the board sat before the socially distanced attendees. Of the board members, only Parker wore a mask. They talked about the virus for less than five minutes, according to Deanna Ryan, a former Swainsboro middle school science teacher who attended the meeting. Ryan had recently started teaching in a nearby charter school, which had instituted a mask mandate. “We have roughly fifteen employees and four students that are at home positive,” reported the superintendent, according to the meeting minutes. “The student transmissions did not take place at school but through family situations. With our employees, the majority happened outside of school. We have had some that did occur with employees not following guidelines during preplanning.” By the end of that week, Brooks felt lethargic and her body ached. She stayed home from school that Friday and got tested. She stayed in bed most of the weekend, soreness spreading through her body, her lungs heavy. “All of the symptoms you hear about, she started having them,” said Shonte, who had a friend deliver Gatorade and soup to her sister’s front porch. Brooks brought the care package inside but was so exhausted that she had to rest on her couch on the way to the kitchen. Even though she was ailing, she managed to finish her final paper for an online master’s degree in education technology at Central Michigan University. After three days, she received her results. She had the coronavirus. Less than 12 hours later, she was rushed to the emergency room of Emanuel Medical Center, struggling to breathe. A staff member at Lockheed Elementary in Marietta checks a student’s temperature on the first day of school. Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools The first day of school in Marietta looked much different from Emanuel. Masks were as common as backpacks on students stepping off buses, their waves and thumbs-ups compensating for hidden smiles as grown-ups snapped photos. The universal masks reflected a change of heart by Grant Rivera, who has been superintendent of schools in Marietta for four years and often sports a polo shirt emblazoned with his schools’ trademark oversized M. Marietta, a city of 61,000 residents north of Atlanta, has its own school district but is part of suburban Cobb County, which is trending blue; Joe Biden carried the county over Trump by more than 14 percentage points. When Rivera put forth a plan in June to offer students both virtual and in-person options to return to school in August, he didn’t propose a mask requirement. Parents reached out to Rivera, urging him to reconsider mandating masks. “Quite candidly, with every conversation I was having I found it harder and harder to defend why we weren’t requiring masks,” Rivera said. “I felt like I was in quicksand. I couldn’t even convince myself of the argument.” Rivera has two young children and a formidable resume — with stints as a special education teacher, a principal and a chief of staff in the Cobb County district — along with a doctorate in education with an emphasis on school law. What he is not, he readily acknowledges, is a health expert, so he turned to local health departments and the CDC. The professionals’ advice: Mask up. As cases and deaths soared statewide in July, the school board delayed the start of in-person schooling. By early August, Rivera had a new plan: Marietta would begin in-person schooling in September for the youngest students, as long as cases continued to drop from their July peak. Everyone would wear masks — from bus drivers to teachers to students to central office staff. The only exception would be students with a doctor’s letter documenting a valid health reason. “We started with masks, and we built everything else around that,” he said. The school board unanimously backed his position. Chairwoman Allison Gruehn said conservative parents had been “very disappointed” with the district’s decision to start school remotely, and they were willing to accept a mask mandate since it meant that their children could learn in person. As Marietta hashed out its safety protocol, Paulding County schools a short drive west opened without a mask mandate. Photos of maskless students packing North Paulding High School’s hallways went viral on social media, drawing national attention. Paulding reported 41 positive cases of students or staff during its first week of school, including 24 at North Paulding High, which was closed temporarily. By the following week, the Cherokee County district just to the north had asked as many as 1,200 students and staff members to quarantine because of possible exposure to the virus. That system had also declined to mandate masks. After those uproars, Rivera told parents during a virtual meeting that “I don’t want to subject our kids to what we’re seeing in other districts.” Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera. Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools Few parents objected to Marietta’s mask policy. Two families emailed him asking that their kids be exempted, he said, vaguely citing “medical risks associated with masks.” Rivera relayed their concerns to public health officials, who assured him that masks don’t pose such dangers for children. One of the families withdrew a first grader from the district. Amy Barnes was among the Marietta parents who pleaded with Rivera to reverse the district’s initial decision to make masks voluntary. Barnes, who had completed a contact-tracing course, believes that masks are an essential, science-based part of COVID-19 prevention. She was worried about sending her three children back to school and had thought about going all-remote, until Rivera imposed the mask mandate. “What sealed the deal for my husband and I was that Marietta was requiring masks,” Barnes said. “We felt that masks were the only way to mitigate the spread in schools because it’s really hard to socially distance in classrooms.” Still, Barnes wondered how her youngest, a fifth grader, would fare. He’d worn masks in stores, but never for seven hours straight. He started in-person classes in early October during the second phase of Mariettta’s reopening. She was relieved when he came home his first day and reported that wearing a covering all day was “not that bad.” He hasn’t complained since, she said. Marietta mom Shamika Berger was reluctant to send her first grader, Elijah Brown, back to school because of worries about the virus. She, too, had watched the news coverage of Paulding and Cherokee counties. “I was like, ‘Nobody is taking this seriously,’” she said. But Berger works during school hours in the deli at Walmart, and Elijah — like so many young children — had struggled staying focused in virtual class in the spring. So, with Mickey Mouse and Spider-Man masks at the ready, Elijah returned to Dunleith Elementary in early September. He, too, didn’t seem bothered by wearing the mask all day, she said. “He was just so excited to be back in school,” Berger said. Students return to in-person learning at Marietta Center for Advanced Academics this fall. Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools Unlike Emanuel, Marietta let teachers choose whether to return to the classroom or teach from home until Oct. 5, when more students would be coming back. The mask mandate helped reassure most teachers that it was safe to go back to school. Second grade teacher Libby Coan said the kids in her classroom at Hickory Hills Elementary have had no problem keeping their masks on. She hasn’t had any pushback from parents, either. “I think their parents just want them in school,” she said. First grade teacher Jenny Brems said she, too, was glad that the district didn’t leave the mask decision up to parents.“I didn’t want it to be a fudgy thing,” she said. Kids need reminders sometimes, she said, but have otherwise adjusted fine. The district allows “mask breaks” outside, she said, adding, “It’s not as traumatic as some people were afraid of.” Wearing a mask all day in the classroom, though, has required extra effort when she teaches phonics to her students at A.L. Burruss Elementary, she said. Watching a teacher’s mouth form sounds helps kids learn how to read. Brems said she is using a clear mask her district provided, and she has become accustomed to gesturing, enunciating and projecting her voice more than usual. She was hoarse after the first few days, she said. “I’m chugging the water like I’ve never done before,” Brems said. But the measures have kept her safe, she added — and allowed the kids to continue learning. Still, opposition to the measures Marietta took could be found close by. Parent Jolynn Dupree, who lives in Acworth about a half-hour drive from Marietta, objected when the Cobb County district mandated masks. In July, Dupree started a Facebook group called “Masses Against Masks” for Cobb County parents who “demand that their schools not require masks while exercising their right to an education.” The group has 947 members. “I felt like you have no voice if you are against the masks — you are looked at like you don’t like people, you want their grandma to die,” said Dupree. Her husband’s 97-year-old grandfather died of the virus in a nursing home in Marietta, but she and other family members caught it and recovered, she said. With a generally high survival rate, she said, the harm of forcing children to wear masks for seven or eight hours a day outweighs the benefit. Masks make it hard for children to breathe in steamy Georgia weather and to read facial cues, and the mandate puts too much pressure on them, she said. “I don’t want to hurt people,” she said, “but I’m not going to psychologically hurt my kids.” Dupree and her husband withdrew their four school-age children — who range from first to sixth grades — from the Cobb system. They now go to a private school, without masks, twice a week and are home-schooled the other days. She said she might reconsider her stance if her children were in high school, since teenagers are more likely to spread the disease. But friends of hers in Paulding and Cherokee counties — which don’t have mask mandates — are doing fine, she said. “When I hang out with my friends, their kids are living totally normal lives and everything seems good,” Dupree said. When Shonray Brooks arrived at the hospital, the doctors transferred her to the intensive care unit, where she received supplementary oxygen and the antiviral medication remdesivir. Doctors monitored her for several days, examining her for blood clots and heart irregularities, common secondary symptoms of the virus. Her relatives couldn’t visit her, so they tried to keep her spirits up with text messages. “I love you, Sissy,” Shonte texted her. “I’m praying for you.” Despite the treatments, Brooks’ condition deteriorated. Doctors decided to medivac her to a hospital in Augusta, the nearest city. By the time her helicopter landed, she was unresponsive. She was immediately placed on a ventilator. Her friends and colleagues learned of her plight from her sister’s Facebook updates. Though school nurses spoke with several of Brooks’ students, the administration did not tell staff who had the virus, four employees said. “They were tight-lipped about everybody that had it,” said a teacher. “I’m not saying they should tell us details, but they should tell us if it was someone in the building that was around a lot of people.” Several staff members told ProPublica that they believe the school was trying to conceal the extent of the spread. “Everybody knows, but no one knows through official channels,” said another teacher. “The general sense was, we’re not going to talk about it. We’re not going to tell you and I think at that point, teachers realized no one’s going to tell us if we’ve been exposed. No one’s gonna know until it’s too late.” At a school board meeting in September, the teacher Deanna Ryan stepped up to the lectern. After flipping through choropleth maps from the state’s Health Department, showing the board how the virus was inundating the county, she began to talk about Brooks. When Ryan first moved to Emanuel county, Brooks quickly took her under her wing. During the 11 years they taught together at the middle school, they had lunch nearly every day and worked on each other’s class projects. “There’s a teacher that I know who’s fighting for her life,” Ryan said, her voice quivering with each word. “She was the person who would get me to calm down and breathe. And now she’s struggling to.” Her words choked by tears, she hurried out of the room. Deanna Ryan, a former Swainsboro Middle School teacher. Bita Honarvar, special to ProPublica At least four more teachers at the middle school contracted COVID-19 after Brooks, including three other educators along the seventh grade hallway. Students rotated through classrooms together. While teachers tried to assign them to the same seats in each class, students had a way of shifting seats to be closer to their friends, broadening the potential exposure. “Five classes a day is five sets of germs coming in and out of my class,” said a teacher. “If they are a carrier, but they are not showing symptoms, you don’t even know that they are sick. They are still spreading the germs around.” Over the first two months of school, more than 100 students were quarantined, teachers and parents said. “I was scared,” one teacher said. “We started out with 25 kids. After three weeks, it was down to five. Kids were testing positive.” Judy said he doesn’t dispute that the number of students quarantined was in triple digits, but he doesn’t know the exact number. “I don’t even want to ballpark it,” he said. “If you’re within 6 feet of someone for more than a cumulative 15 minutes, then that’s who gets quarantined.” By mid-September, the county had the fifth-highest per capita rate of the virus in the state over a two-week period. Yet the schools carried on almost like normal. The high school crowned its homecoming king and queen, and sports teams played and scrimmaged before cheering parents, few of whom covered their faces. Parental opinion over a mask mandate was divided. “I believe there’s a real virus, but I don’t believe people are dying like they say,” said one opponent, Roy Beneteau, while watching his teenage son play soccer at the local rec center. Beneteau delivers hundreds of packages daily, does not wear a mask and still hasn’t contracted the disease, he said. Nana Davis disagreed. Sitting apart from a scrum of parents, in a folding plastic chair on the edge of a field, she was watching her 12-year-old son’s football game. He suffers from asthma and was wearing a mask under his helmet. “I don’t think [schools are] safe,” said Davis, who enrolled her son in virtual learning. “A lot of kids touch each other, some could come to school with it, and it could endanger an asthma patient.” School buses carrying students home from Swainsboro Middle School. Bita Honarvar, special to ProPublica Before the Emanuel school board’s October meeting, a photo was taken of members and the superintendent. Superintendent Judy donned a black mask for the picture and then quickly removed it. “I wanted to make sure everybody was able to hear,” he later said. Two of the six members who attended wore masks. Only seven people were in the audience, including three district staff members and Ryan. Wearing her KN95 mask and a Kelly green rubber wristband with the words “Miss Brooks Strong” emblazoned on the edge, Ryan again spoke. “Why are the adults who are leaders in this community not wearing masks?” she asked the superintendent and school board. “I’m still waiting for my friend to stand up. I would ask — no, I will plead — please wear your masks more often, especially when you’re close to people. You don’t know what you’re passing on.” Neither the superintendent nor the board members responded. While they didn’t revisit a mask mandate, the superintendent suggested investing more than $175,000 to upgrade the district’s ventilation system with “needlepoint bipolar ionization,” which could cut down on dust, bacteria and viruses such as COVID-19. The district had just installed these devices in the middle school, Judy reported. A couple of days after the meeting, Judy spoke with ProPublica for an hour in his office, which overlooks a parking lot in central Swainsboro. Seated behind his desk, he wore a black cotton mask and the green rubber wristband supporting Brooks. Shonte made and distributed the bracelets to honor her sister’s struggle, collecting donations for her care. Judy had ordered 100 for school staff. Judy said he was confident that the schools had nothing to do with the outbreaks. “People were not as careful as they should have been,” he said. “They rode together in vehicles, went out to eat lunch and things like that caused it. The starting of school … there was not a spike there at all.” Still, he acknowledged that it’s difficult to know how staff and students acquire the virus. “It could be that one of those teachers had it and shared it with the others. That’s a possibility. It could be that one of them got it from their home and the other one got it from their home. It could be a coincidence. That’s the nature of this,” he said. Many public health experts have compared the effort to compel Americans to wear masks during the pandemic to the decades-long struggle to persuade people to wear seatbelts. Detractors said that mandatory seat belt laws were ineffective, uncomfortable or against their individual rights. The same arguments that have frequently been invoked against masks, even though they not only protect the wearers but also the people around them. Though he doesn’t equate them with face coverings, Judy said, he’s opposed to mandatory seat belts, too. “I am not harming anyone else,” he said. The view of Emanuel County officials, he added, is that “the great part of living in this country is that it is left up to individual people to make what they feel is the best decision for them and their family.” A Marietta High School class this fall. High school students were the last to return for in-person learning. Natalie Roush/Marietta City Schools Despite the mask mandate and other precautions, Rivera still wasn’t satisfied that Marietta was doing enough to stop COVID-19. He wanted to stay on top of whether the coronavirus was being transmitted in schools. Having heard from the Public Health Department that its contact tracing and testing program was overwhelmed, he said, “we built our own internal system.” School nurses and other staff gained certifications in contact tracing and the district hired a part-time worker to help them. The system now has tracers who speak English, Spanish and Portuguese and can make calls from 8 a.m. to midnight. The program is crucial for reassuring parents that the schools are safe, he said. Marietta continued to phase in students’ return to the classroom; high school students were the last to go back, on Nov. 9. Rivera kept in close touch with local health officials, checking in three times a week by phone. “I sometimes feel like I talk to them more than I talk to my wife,” he said. Like Emanuel, Marietta upgraded its air ventilation. Sports continued too, with Marietta requiring anyone visiting its stadium to wear a mask. School officials walked through the stands during games, reminding spectators to keep theirs on or risk being ejected from the facility. Cases were rising across the country, and a few surfaced in Marietta schools. The contact tracers looked into each one. The schools didn’t appear to be the source of any clusters, although, with the virus spreading ever faster, it was getting harder to tell. With Shonray in a medically induced coma, Shonte checked in with her sister’s nurses daily and visited twice a week, every Thursday and Sunday. During her visits, she massaged Shonray’s arms and legs and painted her nails — a clear varnish for her fingers and an electric shade of green for her toes. After more than two weeks in the ICU, Shonte prepared for the worst. “She’s been here 16 days, and she’s had no improvement,” a doctor told her, explaining that her sister still had a fever from a possible infection. “We’re playing this day by day.” Shonte holds her sister Shonray’s hand in the hospital. Courtesy of Shonte Smith Shonte called family members with the somber update. “We have to be strong,” she said through tears. “We have to keep praying. She shall live and not die.” Two days later, while she was driving to Augusta to visit her sister, a nurse called. They only contacted her for urgent reasons, and so apprehensively, she picked up the phone. “The doctor told me to call,” said the nurse. “Shonray is up.” Shonte shrieked in her car, too elated for words. The nurse told her that Shonray was nodding to commands and breathing over the ventilator. When Shonte arrived at her sister’s room, she pulled a chair up to the bed. “You’ve been gone for a little while,” Shonte said, stroking her sister’s hand. “And I’m so happy you’re here.” Painfully, Brooks’ lips curled into a faint smile. A couple weeks later, after being taken off the ventilator, Brooks started her rehabilitation, slowly beginning to speak, eat and write on her own again. In early November, while her sister was visiting, Brooks walked 150 feet. Brooks, who declined to be interviewed, told Shonte that she hopes to return to teaching as soon as she’s physically able. She also heard some welcome news: With the paper she had submitted at the start of her battle with COVID-19, she had earned enough credits for her online master’s degree. On Nov. 20, she was released from the hospital and moved in with Shonte. Waiting for her at her sister’s house: her diploma and a cap and gown she had ordered during her rehab. Help us find out if schools are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
ProPublica Hires Lynn Dombek as Research Editor
by by ProPublica on November 23, 2020 at 16:19
by ProPublica ProPublica announced Monday that Lynn Dombek is joining the newsroom as research editor. In this role she will oversee the research team, working with reporters to help them dig deeper and find documents and information. Dombek comes to ProPublica from the Global Investigative Journalism Network, where she served as resource director. Before that, she built and led research teams at First Look Media and The Associated Press, where she served as its research director for 10 years. Over the course of her 30-year career, Dombek has worked in various research roles at the national headquarters of NBC News, ABC News and Time Inc. Dombek’s team of investigative researchers, archivists, security experts, engineers and fact-checkers at First Look Media securely managed the Snowden Archive, a collection of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and worked collaboratively with fellow journalists to produce groundbreaking features, stories and highlights from the collection, along with investigations into domestic terrorists, the Dakota Access Pipeline and more. The team also worked with documentary filmmakers at Field of Vision, creating a new form of newsroom collaboration between researcher and documentarian. As research director of the AP, her team worked with bureaus, both domestic and international, to cover regional stories. “The work of investigative journalism has never been more critical, and we are thrilled to bring Lynn on board to help us dig deeper,” said Eric Umansky, ProPublica deputy managing editor. “Her experience, news judgment and collegial spirit make her the perfect person to lead our research team.” “I have always believed that collaborative, multiskilled teams who support and push each other, who challenge and teach each other — with respect for the other’s expertise and perspective — are the bedrock of any organization,” Dombek said. “Everyone I’ve talked with so far at ProPublica has impressed me with their spirit of openness, collaboration and fierce drive to publish work that is truly meaningful. I’m thrilled to be joining the team.”
People of Color Need Healthier Food
by Molly Cottrill on November 23, 2020 at 15:58
We have the power to improve health outcomes by addressing a root cause of racial health disparities.
STARTING TOMORROW: American (cognitive) chaos!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 23, 2020 at 15:33
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2020The failures cross tribal lines: The Bulwark is a major site of the never-Trump Republican world.Jonathan Last, late of The Weekly Standards, is the site’s executive editor. When he penned this recent piece, he was asking a very good question.Last’s essay appears behind a pay wall, so we can’t excerpt its contents. Earlier today, we saw a lengthy passage from the essay quoted on Morning Joe, but MSNBC no longer produces transcripts, and the channel has cut way back on its video postings.Essentially, Last did this in his essay: First, he listed the various crazy behaviors in which the Trump team has engaged since November 3. Then, he staged a thought experiment.Suppose that some pundit, one year ago, had predicted that Trump and his followers would engage in these crazy behaviors. How would such a prediction have been treated, Last now skillfully asked.This morning, Joe Scarborough answered Last’s question for him. Any such pundit would have been attacked for being insane, Scarborough now surmised.Almost surely, that assessment is largely correct. In truth, the lunacy of the Trump team’s behavior has reached a point which it would have been hard to predict.Then too, of course, there’s this:Our major mainstream press elite has had a very hard time spotting lunacy over the past forty years. In many instances, the lunacy was coming from within. But this failure has been a major cognitive fail—an act of American (cognitive) carnage.It’s easy to spot the cognitive failures emitting from Trump and his team, and from the voters who believe the the things they tell them. This afternoon, we’ll visit the latest craziness of Sidney Powell—the craziness which got so crazy over the weekend that it could no longer be tolerated by the Trump team itself.In a world which enjoyed greater cognitive health, the odd behaviors of Trump and his team would have created a discussion of certain psychiatric / psychological topics. That said, our society’s upper-end cognitive shortfalls are such that the mainstream press corps has agreed that such discussions must never occur.During this holiday-shortened week, we’ll discuss the obvious cognitive failures displayed by many of the regular people who voted for Donald J. Trump. That said, the cognitive failures which have led to American carnage have also been quite widespread Over Here in our own liberal tents. Anthropologically speaking, these cognitive failures are also part of the nation’s headlong decline.That headlong decline has been occurring over (let’s say) the past forty years. Psychiatric issues are involved, but so is basic human cognition, such as it is and has been.On a simple cognitive basis, are we liberals up to the task we now face? In this morning’s Washington Post, Hugh Hewitt sketches the challenge with which liberals and progressives, and the press corps elite, are now confronted. When last we looked in on Hewitt, he was serving as a panelist in a 2016 Republican debate—and he was applauding one of the answers given by Candidate Trump.You really can’t get dumber than that, but the Post has kept Hewitt on. This morning, his column describes a serious problem:HEWITT (11/23/20): [L]ike an unseen riptide, this year’s results just handed the GOP an advantage many never thought possible. And it carried far away from shore Democratic hopes and dreams.“Wait,” you say, “Trump lost the presidency.”Yes, he did. But Trump, even as he lost, engineered a huge win for the GOP this month, and one that will echo through American politics as our once-a-decade reapportionment fights begin.“On the eve of reapportionment, Republicans are now in a better position than they were after 2010,” Noah Rothman noted in Commentary. “Following those elections, Republicans controlled 54 of 99 state legislative chambers.” (Nebraska’s legislature is unicameral.)That number is now 61.If anything, Rothman understates the impact of the GOP domination of state legislatures…A certain percentage of Republican voters refused to vote for Trump. To appearances, this helps explain why, even though Trump has apparently lost, no “blue wave” swept away a range of other Republican candidates.For the record, Trump himself didn’t lose by all that much, given the way our system works. Hewitt adds this, not incorrectly:HEWITT: It is ironic that Trump’s narrow losses in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin kept him from a second consecutive term. It wasn’t a conspiracy that cost Trump the White House but a terrible combination of bad timing—the vaccines he promised were announced a fortnight too late for them to impact voting—and bad polling. Polling directs resources, locates rallies, energizes or depresses turnout. If polling tells you Wisconsin is lost, Pennsylvania is competitive and other states are safe, when none of that is accurate, the consequences are disastrous.For ourselves, we have no idea if Biden will ever be president. Until we see Biden take the oath, we won’t assume that Trump’s machinations won’t somehow prevail.That said, as matters stand at present, is it true that “Trump’s narrow losses in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin kept him from a second consecutive term?”As matters stand, that’s probably true! If Trump had managed to win those states—each state was decided by less than one point—the Electoral College vote would stand at 269-269. Due to the structure of our creaky election system, it’s likely that this would have produced a Trump win. For the third time since 2000, a Republican would have lost the popular vote while winning four years in the White House. Trump came very close to winning Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. (Note to Hewitt—given Biden’s one-point win in Pennsylvania, that state was “competitive” too.) It’s true that Republicans lost the House again. But around the various states, they made some substantial gains.Cognitive carnage is everywhere as we review the Trump tribe’s conduct. That said, our own tribe is fraught with cognitive failure too.This is an anthropological story. We’ll review the cognitive shortfalls on various sides as the week moves along.The human mind don’t work real good. This is even true at the top of our own brilliant pile!Tomorrow: Attention C-Span callers!
Did You Attend the Milton Hershey School? We’re Investigating It. Help Us.
by by Bob Fernandez, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Charlotte Keith, Spotlight PA, Beena Raghavendran and Zipporah Osei, ProPublica on November 23, 2020 at 10:00
by Bob Fernandez, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Charlotte Keith, Spotlight PA, Beena Raghavendran and Zipporah Osei, ProPublica The Philadelphia Inquirer, Spotlight PA and ProPublica are working on a story about the Milton Hershey School. We need to reach former students to hear about their experiences during and after high school. Is this you? Please help us by filling out the form below and sharing with your fellow alumni. We are especially hoping to hear from the class of 2011, about life 10 years later. We’ve already talked to some of your classmates, but want to hear from as many of you as possible to get a complete, accurate account that we can share with you and our readers. Please share your experiences with us by clicking “start” and answering a few questions. You can also contact our reporting team at any time: (267) 443-3517 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to hear from you soon. Nothing personal you tell us will go into any published stories without your permission, but summaries of multiple students’ experiences shared here could be used in our reporting. Share your story with us.
Predictable conduct generates shock!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 21, 2020 at 16:00
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2020Surprising name gets dropped: At present, Donald J. Trump is making no apparent effort to deal with the rapidly expanding public health crisis.He has stopped pretending to care. It seems fairly clear that he actually doesn’t.Cable stars and cable pundits continue to act like this behavior is shocking, perhaps inexplicable. They continue to be “shocked, shocked” by Trump’s peculiar conduct. For today, we offer only one point. As far as we know, Donald J. Trump is behaving exactly the way a “sociopath” likely would. Is Donald J. Trump a “sociopath?” We can’t answer your question. According to everything we’ve read, that isn’t even a formal diagnostic term. Still and all, in her best-selling book, Mary Trump referred to Trump’s father, Fred Trump, as a “high-functioning sociopath.” More significantly, she suggested that Donald Trump’s array of “psychopathologies” may make a “sociopath” too—or may make him even worse.We mention this because we heard an unusual name mentioned on cable last night. Joy Reid was interviewing Steven Hassan, a “cult and authoritarian control expert” who has written a book about followers of Trump. Mary Trump also appeared as a guest. At one point, Hassan said this:HASSAN (11/20/20): People don’t knowingly join a cult, but they get deceived. And the pathological lying that Trump does, and the conspiracy of the media and the right-wing authoritarian cults that are part of the cult of Trump, is what’s driving the mess that we’re in right now. I just hope that Americans can step back and get past the “I can’t believe he’s doing this” phase into “Yes, he’s very predictable.”Michael Cohen has predicted it, Mary Trump has predicted it, Bandy Lee has predicted it. So the point is, we need to do everything within our power to reach out to people who have been under the spell of Donald Trump, explain hypnosis, explain the authoritarian control mechanisms that are being used…Good God! Did someone mention Bandy X. Lee? Did we actually hear her name, spoken right there on cable?Later last night, Brian Williams interviewed John McWhorter concerning Donald J. Trump. Because he doesn’t work from tribal scripts, we’re generally a fan of McWhorter’s work.In this case, he was the wrong guest to interview. He discussed Trump in standard upper-end pundit terms. As we watched, we wondered why Williams wasn’t speaking with Lee instead.Is Donald J. Trump a sociopath? If so, what might he actually decide to do in the next seventy days?These strike us as very important questions. But as part of our society’s upper-end cognitive fail, our major pundits are still unwilling to ask.What might this badly disordered man actually end up doing? By the rules of the mainstream press, the question still can’t be asked of (carefully selected) medical experts.Dr. Lee is a Yale psychiatrist. When she published her own best-selling book (as editor) in 2017, she called it The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. She said that Trump was dangerous, and that his condition would only get worse under the pressure of office.As Hassan suggested last night, Trump is now doing the sorts of thing Dr. Lee predicted. But as part of our basic cognitive fail, our pundits refuse to move past what Hassan called “the ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this’ phase.”As far as we know, Trump is behaving exactly the way a sociopath likely would. That said, our pundits continue to play a game. That unhelpful pundit game goes by this name:”Shocked, shocked.”We’d like to link you: We’d like to link you to the text of McWhorter’s discussion with Williams.We can’t offer you that link. Aping the culture of Fox News, MSNBC no longer prepares and posts transcripts. The channel has even disappeared the ghosts of transcripts past.
Let’s Give Trump A Little Help
by Mark Fiore on November 20, 2020 at 22:00
The only way Donald Trump will leave the White House is if we convince him he’ll be better off out of office.
Why should we care about Eurodeath?
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 20, 2020 at 17:48
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2020Who lost (track of) Europe?: Cable pundits keep insisting that we’re tops in covid deaths.In fact, after adjusting for population, current daily / weekly death rates in many European nations are plainly worse than ours. Yesterday, we cited this fact, linking to Kevin Drum’s instructive “Chart of the Day.” As Drum’s chart shows, current death rates in many Euro nations are substantially worse than ours. Speaking extremely slowly, this doesn’t mean that our own death rate is good. It simply means that their current death rates are worse. Today, we’ll answer a few questions about this state of affairs. To wit:Why should anyone care about Europe? Who cares if their death rates are worse than ours?Also, why should anyone care if pundits keep making an imprecise or inaccurate claim? If it helps us pile on Trump, why shouldn’t we be grateful for their constant fuzzy or inaccurate statements?Our answers go something like this:No one has to care about Europe, or about anything else. It’s fairly clear that nobody does. Such is the fairly obvious state of our failing culture.That said:Many of these European nations seemed to have the virus licked not too long ago. The fact that their situations have spun out of control so quickly could have served as a warning for us lunkheads Over Here.Concerning persistent pundit misstatement, we’ll only offer this:It’s stunning to see how few analytical tools our high-end journalists have. To wit:As people have known for thousands of years, there’s a difference between a “lie” and a “falsehood” or a “misstatement.” Routinely, this blindingly obvious point seems to lie beyond the ken of our highest-paid media stars.Simply put, they don’t get it. Amazingly, such ancient distinctions lie beyond their ken.Similarly, there’s a difference between “total deaths to date” and “current daily or weekly death rate.” And no, it doesn’t make sense to draw certain comparisons between two countries without adjusting for the size of their differing populations.If major journalists can’t gasp such blindingly obvious points, what can they be expected to understand and explain? Routinely, they’re left with one tool alone:They’re left with the tool of Standard Group Narrative. Memorize, orate, rinse and repeat. At the present time, it’s pretty much all we have.Our upper-end culture lies in a state of remarkably low cognition. Donald J. Trump is a lunatic, but he didn’t invent this state of affairs. We’ll be discussing this cognitive shortfall all through the course of next week. Psychiatric disorder also seems to be part of the mix. We’ll be discussing that too. Needless to say, you’ll see this nowhere else!Meanwhile, west of Cali: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia?They’re sill experiencing very few deaths. That doesn’t get talked about either!
Foreign Correspondent: The Upcoming Fights Over COVID-19 Vaccines
by Reese Erlich on November 20, 2020 at 17:26
Who will be vaccinated first, and in what countries?
The Long Odds Facing Trump’s Attempts to Get State Legislatures to Override Election Results
by by Ian MacDougall on November 20, 2020 at 16:13
by Ian MacDougall ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. On Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump is set to hold a meeting at the White House with the Republican leaders of Michigan’s Senate and House of Representatives. It’s unclear what the president plans to discuss, but multiple press reports suggest Trump, in a desperate bid to cling to power, has pinned his hopes on persuading GOP-controlled legislatures in battleground states that voted for Joe Biden to intervene and throw the election to him. That aspiration cropped up in the Trump campaign’s courtroom maneuverings this week. Legal papers filed with a federal court in central Pennsylvania (the campaign filed a draft version, apparently in error), showed that the campaign had contemplated — but ultimately decided against — asking the judge to order “the Pennsylvania General Assembly to choose Pennsylvania’s electors.” Five states fit the description of battleground states with GOP-run legislatures that voted for Biden: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia. It would be difficult to convince lawmakers to overturn the will of voters in even one state. For Trump to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, he would need to pull that trick off in three states. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. That’s a very tall order. There are steep political hurdles, starting with the fact that the two Michigan lawmakers visiting the White House on Friday have previously made statements rejecting legislative intervention. But even if those lawmakers waver or succumb to Trump’s arguments, as many Republicans have, there are legal impediments, and they’re almost certainly insurmountable. Unlike the fevered cries of election fraud — which many lawyers in the Trump camp have undercut by acknowledging in court that they have no evidence of fraud — the Trump side’s legislature theory has some basis in fact. Article II of the U.S. Constitution holds that “each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors” to vote for president as a member of the Electoral College. In the early days of the republic, some legislatures chose electors directly or vested that power in other state officials. Today, every state allocates presidential electors by popular vote (and all but Maine and Nebraska apportion them in winner-take-all fashion). As far as the Constitution is concerned, there’s nothing to stop a state legislature from reclaiming that power for itself, at least prospectively. Separately, a federal law, the Electoral Count Act of 1887, provides that whenever a state “has failed to make a choice” in a presidential election, electors can be chosen “in such a manner as the legislature of such State may direct.” But even so, there’s a more immediate obstacle: state law. In the five states where Trump’s team hopes GOP-run statehouses will hand him a second term, the popular vote is enshrined in the state constitution, the state’s election code or both. Consider Michigan, which Biden carried by nearly 158,000 votes. The state’s election code specifies that the presidential electors “who shall be considered elected are those whose names have been certified to the secretary of state by that political party receiving the greatest number of votes” for president — the winner, that is, of the popular vote. The Michigan Constitution grants qualified citizens “the right, once registered, to vote a secret ballot in all elections,” including “in the election for president and vice-president of the United States.” The two Michigan Republicans expected to meet with Trump on Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, have expressed concerns about irregularities and potential fraud in the Michigan election, a pet subject of the president and his allies. The Trump campaign and its supporters, however, have failed to substantiate their claims, despite papering state and federal courts with affidavits from GOP election observers and others who purport to have witnessed suspicious behavior or wrongdoing by election workers in Detroit, a Democratic stronghold with a sizable Black population. Last Friday, one Michigan judge called affidavits submitted by Republican observers “rife with speculation and guess-work about sinister motives” of poll workers. On Thursday, the Trump campaign withdrew a federal lawsuit it had filed in the state, claiming — falsely, according to Michigan election officials — that the county election board for the Detroit area had declined to certify the county’s election result. Yet — up till now, at least — both Shirkey and Chatfield have rejected the proposition that state legislators might intervene to supplant the will of Michigan voters. “That’s not going to happen,” Shirkey told Bridge Michigan on Tuesday. He noted that state law left up to the electorate who would receive the state’s 16 electoral votes. Chatfield made a similar point in a statement on Nov. 6, a few days after the election, though he gave it a Trump-y spin, calling for every “legal vote” to be counted, a phrase Trump and his allies have adopted to imply that there exist large numbers of illegal votes. “The candidate who wins the most of those votes will win Michigan’s electoral votes, just like it always has been,” Chatfield said. “Nothing about that process will change in 2020.” Their counterparts in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona have made similar statements. Even if Trump were to change the Michigan lawmakers’ minds on Friday, the Legislature can’t amend state law by fiat. A constitutional amendment has to be itself ratified by popular vote, and if it’s introduced in the Legislature, it first has to pass both houses by supermajority margins. The GOP possesses only a bare legislative majority in either house. Amendments to the election code, meanwhile, are subject to veto by the governor. In Michigan, that’s Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a committed Trump antagonist who would inevitably veto any legislative attempt at the wholesale disenfranchisement of her constituents. Without supermajorities, Republican legislators alone are impotent to override her veto. Trump faces a similar dynamic in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, both of which have Democratic governors and legislatures controlled by the GOP (but not by enough to overcome a veto by the governor). Only Arizona and Georgia have Republican-dominated statehouses and Republican governors. Legislatures there have shown no particular inclination to intervene on Trump’s behalf. Even if they went along with Trump’s plan, the president would still be 11 electoral votes shy of the 270 he needs to prevail over Biden. In concurring and dissenting opinions during the run-up to Election Day, three Supreme Court justices appeared to hint at one way around the intervention of a Democratic governor. Trump and his supporters have apparently taken the hint; they’ve brought up the argument repeatedly in postelection litigation. The justices, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito, seemed to argue that the Constitution assigned to each state legislature the exclusive power to decide how to choose presidential electors, a power free from the constraints of state courts, election officials or even a governor’s veto power. A version of this argument was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, but two of the five justices in the majority, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, are no longer on the court. (Other lawyers don’t go quite as far and argue that legislatures still have to follow their state’s constitutional lawmaking process, which preserves gubernatorial vetoes.) Whether a legislature could step in after the fact, however, to take the choice away from its citizens is an open question, and in any event, legal scholars say it’s unlikely the high court would agree to change the rules after an election in a way that would flip its outcome. Some are skeptical that Kavanaugh, Gorsuch and Alito intended to go as far as they seemed to in their concurrences and dissents. Their approach “calls for federal courts to intervene quite assertively and resolve state law disputes between state courts or state elections officials on the one hand and state legislatures on the other,” said Robert Yablon, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. “That’s not a role federal courts normally play.” One reason for Trump and his allies to seek to delay certification of state election results is that it could strengthen their hand as key deadlines set by federal law approach in early and mid-December. The Electoral Count Act expressly authorizes the legislature to step in and pick electors even after its state has held a popular vote for president if the state “has failed to make a choice.” But according to a new law review article by Justin Levitt, an election law scholar at Loyola Law School, the Electoral Count Act, more clearly than the Constitution, means for the legislature to pick electors through its ordinary lawmaking processes — passing a bill that would require the governor’s signature before becoming law. (The article will be published in the New York University Law Review next year but has been posted to the Social Science Research Network, an online repository of scholarship.) One result of the Trump campaign’s arguments is to leave state legislatures squeezed from both sides. Reuters on Thursday reported that the Trump campaign believes state lawmakers will fear that a failure to act could set off a backlash among voters in their districts loyal to the president. A Monmouth University poll released this week found that three-quarters of Trump supporters attribute Biden’s victory to fraud, despite the absence of any evidence to support this claim. Even so, state lawmakers enter uncharted territory if they openly subvert the will of their constituents to prop up a candidate who was outvoted in their state. The backlash against a naked power grab could well be far more profound than any backlash against a refusal to grab the election for an outgoing president. Nobody knows. That uncertainty is compounded by the fact that three state legislatures would have to intercede for Trump’s new stratagem to pay off. The first to do so would put a lot at risk — potentially to achieve nothing.
Will Biden’s New FCC End the Digital Divide?
by David Rosen on November 20, 2020 at 15:26
A critical first step for the President-elect to achieve universal broadband will depend on whom he selects as the new chairperson.
THE BRAIN CELL MONOLOGUES: Bravo sets the opera aside!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 20, 2020 at 14:52
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2020Airs minstrel shows instead: The comical history of basic cable suggests a possible interpretation:We the people may be less lofty than we may understand.The history of basic cable involves a persistent, comical trip down the ladder of conventional notions of taste. Court TV makes way for “World’s Dumbest.” Comically, Arts and Entertainment (now A & E) treats the Olympian gods to this:The network was originally founded in 1984 as the Arts & Entertainment Network, initially focusing on fine arts, documentaries (including its then-flagship series Biography), and dramas (including imported series from the United Kingdom). In 1995, the network rebranded as A&E, in an effort to downplay the negative perceptions of arts programming…So says the leading authority on this comical transformation. How those great gods must laugh!Such transformations are general in the vineyards of basic cable. Consider what happened to Bravo, no exclamation point added.By way of background, the Italian people used to shout “Bravo!” after they’d sat through an opera. At its inception, the brave new channel tried to draft along behind this lofty cultural history:Bravo is an American pay television network, launched on December 8, 1980. It is owned by the NBCUniversal Television and Streaming division of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast. The channel originally focused on programming related to fine arts and film. […]Performing arts programs seen on Bravo included the show Jazz Counterpoint. During the mid-1980s, Bravo converted from a premium service into a basic cable channel, although it remained a commercial-free service. Bravo signed an underwriting deal with Texaco in 1992 and within a month broadcast the first Texaco Showcase production, a stage adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. By the mid-1990s, Bravo began to incorporate more PBS-style underwriting sponsorships, and then began accepting traditional commercial advertising by 1998.This was lofty stuff. For eighteen years, the founders refused to accept traditional ads. Instead, they favored lofty, PBS-flavored corporate sponsorship deals.So deluded were they about what they could sell that they offered Shakespeare and jazz! Eventually, reality—and “reality”—came crashing down on the project and on their high-minded ambitions:In the early 2000s, Bravo switched its format from focusing on performing arts, drama, and independent film to being focused on pop culture such as reality shows, fashion and makeover shows, and celebrities. Bravo’s “makeover” occurred in 2003 with the reality series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which garnered 3.5 million viewers. Entertainment Weekly put “Bravo reality shows” on its end-of-the-decade, “best-of” list, saying, “From Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’s Fab Five to Project Runway’s fierce fashionistas to the kvetching, perma-tanned Real Housewives franchise, Bravo’s quirky reality programming mixes high culture and low scruples to create deliciously addictive television.”It was all “entertainment” now! Today, Bravo retains its lofty name, but the fuel on which the channel runs is an endless succession of highly confected “Real Housewives” programs. As a general matter, the women in question are neither “housewives” nor are they observably “real.” The leading authority on Bravo’s decline describes the sprawling franchise as shown:[Real Housewives] is critiqued as promoting consumerism through programming. It is also seen as perpetuating gender stereotypes by highlighting women as shoppers more so than career women. Their lavish lifestyles have also contributed to the misconception that financial wealth equals happiness. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem has vociferously criticized the “Housewives” franchise for “presenting women as rich, pampered, dependent and hateful towards each other.” Steinem summed up her dislike of the show in 2013:”It is women, all dressed up and inflated and plastic surgeried and false bosomed and incredible amount of money spent, not getting along with each other. Fighting with each other. It is a minstrel show for women. I don’t believe it, I have to say. I feel like it’s manufactured, that the fights between them are manufactured and they’re supposed to go after each other in a kind of conflicting way.”It’s a minstrel show for women! At least in this one observer’s view, Bravo had brought us a long way from Dunsinane Castle, baby!Inevitably, the New York Times delivered the final critical blow, complaining about the “segregation” within this sprawling franchise. Truly, this is the only form of analysis this newspaper seems to know:The New York Times ran an article in October 2019 criticizing how the casts of the different Housewives franchises are “segregated” by skin color. Author Tracie Egan Morrissey pointed to Potomac and Atlanta for their almost entirely African American casts, while the other iterations (Beverly Hills, Orange County, Dallas, New York, and New Jersey) are overwhelmingly white and have featured few women of color. Real Housewives of New York has never featured a woman of color as a “Housewife”, while the addition of Kary Brittingham to Dallas in 2019 marked the show’s first Hispanic cast member. Beverly Hills, with the exception of Season 4’s Joyce Giraud, featured “a racially homogeneous cast throughout its run”, until the addition of Garcelle Beauvais, also in 2019.The essay was written by Tracie Egan Morrissey, author of Pot Psychology’s How to Be: Lowbrow Advice from High People. In the present day, our Hamptons-based, upper-end culture tends to adopt this form. The history of our basic cable channels tends to follow the path from the sacred toward the profane. The Discovery Channel was highbrow too, until so-called reality hit:Discovery Channel (known as The Discovery Channel from 1985 to 1995, and often referred to as simply Discovery) is an American multinational pay television network and flagship channel owned by Discovery, Inc., a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav. As of June 2012, Discovery Channel [was] the third most widely distributed subscription channel in the United States, behind TBS and The Weather Channel…It initially provided documentary television programming focused primarily on popular science, technology, and history, but by the 2010s had expanded into reality television and pseudo-scientific entertainment.According to the leading authority, scientific discoveries had made way for pseudo-scientific entertainment. According to that same authority, the lofty channel had plainly slipped a bit by the year 2014:Eaten Alive was a [Discovery Channel] television program in which wildlife filmmaker Paul Rosolie was purportedly going to be “eaten alive” by an anaconda. It aired on December 7, 2014. When the special aired, the anaconda attacked Rosolie but did not swallow him, as its title had implied, prompting numerous complaints of a bait and switch.The American people are pretty sharp. We won’t accept such blatant examples of bait and switch—presumably, no pun intended.For the record, there’s nothing “wrong” with watching such entertaining cable fare; beyond that, most people don’t. Presumably, though, even fewer of us the people were willing to sit through programs about Shakespeare and jazz, or about the finer points of Newton’s miracle year.The comedy comes when you turn to The History Channel and find yourself sunk in a full day of Ancient Aliens. As a people, we may not be as sharp as our pundits tell us we are, but it’s fairly clear that our corporate suits are ridiculous and incorrigible.Excuse us while we watch the latest doo-wop retrospective on PBS, supported by “viewers like us.” In closing, a quick review:Stephen Brill launched Court TV in 1991. Before too long, the channel had given way to programming which was literally called World’s Dumbest. Next week, we’ll briefly consider Brill’s subsequent magazine launch. In the main, we’ll turn to the larger question about the intellectual capacity of major elites in this, the age of Trumpism.For now, a minor spoiler:Trumpism wasn’t invented by Donald J. Trump. Over the past three or four decades, Trumpism had spread all through our culture, not excluding our upper-end culture, long before its lunatic adoption by Donald J. Trump.The devolution of basic cable is a comical example of this unmistakable cultural shift. Next week, we’ll move to the realms where the apparent cognitive shortfalls have had serious consequences.”I saw you from afar,” the Bushmen of the Kalahari famously say or once said. As we’ll start to note next week, The Family of Man [sic] is much alike wherever it’s found in the world.Next week: Cognitive shortfalls
Georgia Senator David Perdue Privately Pushed for a Tax Break for Rich Sports Teamowners
by by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott on November 20, 2020 at 12:00
by Robert Faturechi and Justin Elliott ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., privately pushed Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to give wealthy sports owners a lucrative tax break last year, according to a previously unreported letter obtained by ProPublica. After the 2017 tax bill championed by President Donald Trump passed, Mnuchin and the Treasury had to write rules on how the legislation would work in practice. Of the hundreds of pages of new regulations the agency developed, Perdue wrote about his concern with one extremely narrow rule: The owners of professional sports teams were being excluded from a valuable tax break being granted to many other businesses that are structured so that the companies don’t pay taxes but the owners do. “I hope you will reconsider,” Perdue wrote in the 2019 letter. Many such letters on regulatory matters are signed by multiple senators, sometimes dozens. But in this case Perdue alone wrote and signed the letter. Why Perdue got interested in an obscure tax regulation, which would impact at most only a small set of the richest Americans, is unclear. Perdue was not on the committee that crafted the legislation, making his in-the-weeds lobbying on the arcane regulation unusual, congressional experts said. The Treasury ultimately declined to adopt the revision Perdue sought. If the regulation had been altered as Perdue wanted, it would have been a boon for some of his largest donors. Perdue has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the owners of professional sports clubs, including now-fellow Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns Atlanta’s WNBA team, the Dream. Perdue’s office did not answer questions about why he sent the letter or whether he discussed the matter with any sports team owners. Perdue and Loeffler, who was appointed to her role earlier this year, are locked in runoff elections to be held Jan. 5 with the balance of the Senate in play. If both Republicans lose, Democrats will take over the chamber, potentially allowing President-elect Joe Biden to implement more of his agenda than he would under a divided government. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Jon Ossoff, Perdue’s Democratic challenger, has cast Perdue as a member of the Washington “swamp” who caters to the interests of corporate donors. Perdue was one of the 2017 tax bill’s biggest boosters, publicly describing it as a windfall for average Americans. “A single mom making $41,000 with a child is going to get a 75% tax cut,” he told a reporter when it passed. “This is a great day for the middle class.” Before Perdue became a senator in 2015, he was a top executive for a string of companies, including Reebok, where in the early 2000s the company inked major licensing deals with the NFL, the NBA and the NHL. A review of his campaign contributions shows that Perdue has taken more than $425,000 from the owners of professional sports teams and their relatives. Some of the top donors include the DeVos family, which owns the Orlando Magic; John Ingram, who owns the Nashville SC soccer team; Los Angeles Kings owner Philip Anschutz; and Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. On the same day Perdue sent Mnuchin the letter, he received $3,000 in donations from three lobbyists at GeorgiaLink Public Affairs Group, a lobbying firm that was representing the Atlanta Braves. Because of the Braves’ ownership structure, it’s unlikely the team would have been affected by the regulation, but around that time, MLB was lobbying on the rule, urging the Treasury to give its team owners the tax break. Perdue’s campaign expenditures suggest he was in Atlanta that day, Jan. 23, 2019. One of the lobbyists who contributed, John “Trip” Martin, said he couldn’t recall if the contribution was made at a fundraiser but said he did not discuss the tax exemption with Perdue. Another Perdue donor in the sports world is Loeffler. Before being picked by Georgia’s governor to fill a vacant Senate seat in late 2019, Loeffler and her husband were prominent members of the business community and major donors to Republicans in the state and nationally. Loeffler was chief executive of Bakkt, a financial services company, and remains a co-owner of the Atlanta Dream. Her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is chief executive of Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange. Together, the couple has given about $70,000 in campaign contributions to Perdue. Mary Brock, who co-owns the Dream with Loeffler, has given Perdue more than $38,000. Loeffler did not respond to questions about whether she discussed the tax break regulation with Perdue. A spokeswoman for the team also declined to answer specific questions, saying in a statement that “the Atlanta Dream is not a political entity, and we are in the business of sports and entertainment. We are focused on building a successful team on the court and creating a top fan experience.” Like many WNBA teams, the Dream has not been profitable. Reversing the regulation would have certainly benefited Loeffler if the Dream became profitable, but tax experts ProPublica spoke to were split about whether a reversal could have cut her tax burden even if the team remained in the red. The landmark 2017 tax overhaul didn’t just lower the headline tax rates for corporations such as Exxon or Facebook. It also included a more complicated but extremely valuable tax break for businesses known as pass-throughs. A pass-through is a corporate structure — anything from a solo graphic design operation to a large professional sports team — that doesn’t pay taxes itself. Instead the income “passes through” to the owners, who then are on the hook for the taxes. The new tax law granted a 20% deduction to most, but not all, of these businesses. The hastily drafted bill left open to interpretation which sorts of businesses would be eligible to get this tax break. With tens of billions of dollars per year at stake, that ambiguity set off a flurry of lobbying as the Treasury Department set about writing regulations. A group of prominent tax academics who analyzed the bill warned that “complex rules governing this new deduction will invite gaming opportunities because there is no particular logic as to who clearly fits into the preferred categories. As a result, taxpayers will be incentivized to engage in aggressive and socially costly tax gaming to fall within the haphazardly drawn lines.” Perdue’s January 2019 letter amounted to an effort to shift those lines to the benefit of sports team owners. He asked that Mnuchin “allow owners of professional sports teams to claim a Section 199A deduction,” using the formal legal citation for the tax break. It followed a similar push in October 2018 by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. In his letter to the Treasury, Manfred pleaded for the agency to let club owners take the tax break. Perdue also spoke on the phone to Mnuchin while the regulation was being hashed out in late November 2018, according to the Treasury secretary’s public calendar. The topic of the phone call is not specified. Do you have information about the candidates for Senate in Georgia? Reach Robert Faturechi at Robert.Faturechi@propublica.org or via Signal at 213-271-7217. Reach Justin Elliott at Justin@propublica.org or via Signal at 774-826-6240.
New York Court Officials Complete Rare Review of Cases Handled by Judge Forced Into Retirement by Dementia
by by Joe Sexton on November 20, 2020 at 11:00
by Joe Sexton ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. In August, New York court officials made a sad and surprising announcement: ShawnDya Simpson, a 54-year-old judge, was retiring because of early onset Alzheimer’s disease. It was both a tragedy and a dilemma: How would anyone know whether the judge’s illness had affected her handling of cases in the months, maybe years before she was forced from the bench? In October, court officials announced they would do something rare: conduct a review of scores of the judge’s orders and decisions to see if there were obvious examples of mistakes or misguided judgments. This week, court officials announced the results of the review. Officials said a State Supreme Court justice had reviewed 40 of the judge’s decisions and orders, as well as 1,000 status conference orders on routine issues. “None of the status conference orders or decisions on motions were found to be irrational,” said Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration. “It was clear that the decisions and orders were written addressing the particular actions, in other words not block copied one from another, as they addressed particular facts and arguments in each individual motion and the decisions were appropriate to the arguments,” Chalfen added. Chalfen said the review consisted of Simpson’s year sitting as a judge in the Bronx. Simpson had been moved to the Bronx from Brooklyn after complaints about her productivity, demeanor and failure to show up in court on time. Chalfen did not say why the review had been limited to Simpson’s final year. Nelson Cruz had an intense interest in the outcome of the review. Cruz, convicted of murder when he was a teenager in Brooklyn in 1999, had been granted a long-sought hearing on his innocence by Simpson. He was optimistic, for Simpson had already overturned two convictions of men who had been sent away on murder charges, cases that involved questionable conduct by detectives who had also worked on Cruz’s case. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. But over two years, Cruz and his lawyers came to worry something was wrong with Simpson. There were long delays and a series of what they regarded as inexplicable decisions in the case. In August 2019, just days before her illness led to a formal medical leave, she denied Cruz’s bid for freedom. When Cruz’s lawyers learned of the judge’s illness nearly a year later, they filed papers to have her decision vacated, arguing it was clear she had been impaired. While Cruz’s case was handed off to another judge, the review announced by court officials held promise for Cruz and his lawyers: Any instance in which her decisions were determined to be flawed would bolster their own claim. Informed of the review’s results, Justin Bonus, a lawyer for Cruz, said he remained confident he could establish Simpson was impaired when she denied his client’s motion to vacate his conviction. “Her irrationality,” Bonus said, “was evident.” Early onset Alzheimer’s is notoriously difficult to diagnose. When Simpson’s illness was confirmed by doctors in early 2020, she was said to be in the middle stages of the disease. When Simson’s retirement was announced, some court officials, lawyers and others involved with the court system wondered about Simpson’s law secretary, what in the federal system is known as a judge’s clerk. Law secretaries have a daily and intimate window into a judge’s work, and indeed often do the lion’s share of case research and the drafting of written opinions. Simpson’s law secretary has not responded to calls, emails and texts from ProPublica seeking her insight. This week, asked if the review of Simpson’s cases involved discussions with her former law secretary, Chalfen said, “We do not get involved with a judge’s judicial decisions, which would include who would write a particular decision and order.” Francis Shen, a lawyer and professor who has studied America’s aging judiciary, for whom questions of impairment have become more acute, said he was not surprised by the outcome of the review. “It would be difficult to determine after the fact the ways in which gradual but real cognitive decline might affect courtroom decision-making and rulings,” Shen said. “Just because rulings are not ‘irrational’ does not mean they are not potentially problematic.” Cruz’s case is currently assigned to Justice Raymond Rodriguez. It is not clear what next steps he is contemplating or when they might happen.
La niñez robada de obreros adolescentes
by by Melissa Sanchez on November 20, 2020 at 10:00
by Melissa Sanchez Read in English. ProPublica es un medio independiente y sin ánimo de lucro que produce periodismo de investigación en pro del interés público. Suscríbete para recibir sus historias en español por correo electrónico. No pensé que esta historia llegaría a ser tan personal. Pero mientras entrevistaba jóvenes inmigrantes guatemaltecos que trabajan en turnos de noche en fábricas de las afueras de Chicago, empecé a ver al niño que imagino que mi padre fue una vez. Estoico. Exhausto. Vean ustedes, si no fuera por el trabajo infantil, no sé si yo estaría aquí. Mi padre creció en el México rural de los años 50. Era una vida de pobreza y hambre. Asistió a la escuela quizás un año, aprendiendo a leer y escribir y alguna matemática básica. Como era el varón mayor de nueve hermanos, sus padres esperaban de él que trabajara. Primero en la granja familiar. Después, cuando tenía como 15 años, se fue solo a la Ciudad de México para trabajar en una enorme planta de reciclaje, me dijo cuándo le llamé recientemente para entrevistarle. El edificio estaba dividido en tres secciones: una para papel, una para vidrio, y una para huesos de animales. Aparentemente, los huesos eran pulverizados para hacer comida de perros. Cada día iba a un basurero donde compraba pilas de papel y huesos a chatarreros (“pepenadores” en México) y con una pala amontonaba los residuos en un camión. Me habló de las familias que vio en el vertedero que criaban a sus hijos y pollos en medio de la basura. “Era algo sucio. Tu no quieres saber de eso,” me dijo, su forma de protegerme todavía, aunque soy una madre de 36 años. Cada noche, cuando terminaba, su cuerpo estaba embadurnado con el polvo de los huesos aplastados y apestaba del olor del vertedero. Se duchaba con una manguera en el exterior de la pensión donde alquilaba un cuarto. Suscríbete para recibir nuestras historias en español por correo electrónico. Después de varios meses, mi padre volvió a su rancho luciendo unos flamantes vaqueros azules que había comprado con sus ganancias. Le dio el resto del dinero a su madre. Hizo un par de trabajos más de este tipo antes de emigrar a los Estados Unidos cuando tenía 17 años con dos primos y un hombre de un pueblo cercano. Este verano y otoño, mientras escuchaba a adolescentes guatemaltecos describir sus historias de inmigración y su sentido del deber de mantener a las familias que quedaron en casa, me di cuenta que tenían cerca de la misma edad de mi padre cuando se fue de casa la primera vez. Pasé mucho tiempo con estos adolescentes, sobre todo al teléfono en largas llamadas entre escuela y trabajo, o en la línea de banda de la cancha de juego durante sus partidos de fútbol, persiguiendo una idea que había tenido en marzo, en los primeros días de la pandemia del coronavirus. Durante casi un año, había escuchado que más inmigrantes guatemaltecos estaban apareciendo en las naves de las fábricas y que entre ellos había menores que trabajaban el turno de noche mientras estudiaban en escuelas secundarias de la zona durante el día. Les dije a mis editores que quizás había una historia para contar de estos menores inmigrantes que ahora eran “trabajadores esenciales.” No estaba segura de que tipo de historia iba a ser o si de hecho esto estaba sucediendo, ni si podría conseguir que la gente me hablara. Pero mi instinto, y lo que sabía de las experiencias de mi padre, me decían que era verdad. Una foto reciente del padre de la autora cerca de su pueblo natal en una zona rural de Guanajuato, México. Cortesía de Melissa Sanchez Les conté a los jóvenes la historia de mi padre y de cómo me ayudaba a entender, de una pequeña forma, algo de sus propias vidas. Les dije que creía que sus historias tenían valor. Y les dije que los millones de estadounidenses que parecieron poner tanta atención al drama de los niños centroamericanos en la frontera hace solo unos años deberían de saber cuán difíciles y complicadas eran sus vidas hoy. Finalmente, gané la confianza de más de una docena de los adolescentes y jóvenes que conocí en Bensenville, donde vivían. Pero tener aquella confianza daba miedo. No quería causarles daño, y era una historia complicada de contar. Estos jóvenes trabajan en condiciones que pocos estadounidenses pueden imaginar para sus propios hijos: cortando y empacando carne, fregando trozos afilados de metal, regando maquinaria pesada con mangueras de alta presión. A veces se lesionan y son vulnerables a la explotación. Las empresas que les contratan, normalmente agencias temporales de empleo, cometen infracciones de leyes de trabajo infantil. Las agencias gubernamentales a cargo de hacer cumplir las leyes laborales no investigan porque nadie se está quejando. Y debido a que trabajan hasta tan tarde, los menores a menudo están demasiado cansados para aprender mucho en el colegio. Pero ellos no se ven como víctimas. No están pidiendo ser rescatados. Me hablaron bajo la condición de que no les identificara a ellos ni a las empresas donde trabajan; temen que ellos mismos o algunos de sus jóvenes compañeros puedan perder sus empleos y la capacidad para mantenerse, o llegar a enfrentar sanciones penales. (Estamos usando solo nombres parciales para identificar a los adolescentes.) “Si [usted nombra la compañía] luego luego les van a despedir a los menores que están allí,” me dijo un adolescente. “No soy el único menor que estaba allí.” Otro se preocupaba por las compañías donde ha trabajado. “Es como si estuvieras echando la culpa a ellos. Diciendo que esta fábrica puso a trabajar adolescentes,” dijo. “Me pongo a pensar, ellos son buenos porque nos dejan trabajar.” De raíz, sus experiencias y las de jóvenes como ellos surgen de complejos problemas sistémicos y generacionales, empezando con la pobreza inextricable y la violencia en sus países de origen con historias sangrientas que han sido complicadas con intervenciones estadounidenses. Y también está el sistema de inmigración estadounidense fundamentalmente viciado que hace difícil que la gente venga aquí aunque las empresas estadounidenses están deseando darles empleos. Y en gran parte del mundo en desarrollo, la infancia es un lujo. Pregunté a un niño esquelético de 15 años que trabaja en una empacadora de dulces cómo ve su futuro. Me habló, en una voz todavía quebrada por la pubertad, de sus futuros hijos, “No quiero que sufran esto que yo ya sufrí.” Esa frase se quedó conmigo: un niño diciendo que sueña que los hijos que todavía no existen tengan una mejor vida que la de él. Pero lo entiendo. Si sus hijos nacen aquí, como yo, tendrán más oportunidades de las que él tuvo en Guatemala. Mi padre probablemente habría dicho lo mismo hace 50 y pico de años. Espero que lean esta historia. Por favor compartan y díganme lo que piensan. También, si eres un joven inmigrante con este tipo de antecedentes y experiencia laboral, o un educador o cualquier otra persona que trata con estudiantes como estos, me encantaría hablar con usted. Escríbanme un email a email@example.com. Traducción por Carmen Mendez.
The Stolen Childhood of Teenage Factory Workers
by by Melissa Sanchez on November 20, 2020 at 10:00
by Melissa Sanchez Leer en español. ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work. I didn’t expect this story to become so personal. But as I interviewed young Guatemalan immigrants who work overnight shifts in factories in suburban Chicago, I started seeing the boy I imagine my father once was. Stoic. Exhausted. You see, if it wasn’t for child labor, I don’t know if I’d be here. My father grew up in rural Mexico in the 1950s. It was a life of poverty and hunger. He attended maybe a year of school, learning to read and write and to do some basic math. As the oldest boy of nine siblings, his parents expected him to work. First on the family farm. Then, when he was about 15, he went alone to Mexico City to work at a massive recycling facility, he told me when I called to interview him recently. The building was split into three sections: one for paper, one for glass and one for animal bones. Apparently, the bones were pulverized to make dog food. Every day he went to a landfill where he bought piles of paper and bones from scavengers and then shoveled the waste onto a truck. He told me about the families he saw at the landfill who raised their children and chickens amid the trash. “It was dirty. You don’t want to know about that,” he said, his way of protecting me still, even though I’m a 36-year-old mom. Each night, when he finished, his body was caked in the dust from the crushed bones and stank of the landfill. He showered with a hose outside the boarding house where he rented a room. Get stories about big issues that affect people living and working in the state of Illinois delivered straight to your inbox. After several months, my dad returned to his village, wearing crisp blue jeans he’d bought with his earnings. He handed over the rest of his money to his mother. He would go on to do two more stints like this before immigrating to the U.S. when he was 17 with two cousins and a man from a nearby village. This summer and fall, as I heard Guatemalan adolescents describe their immigration stories and their sense of duty to support their families back home, I realized they were around the same age as my father was when he first left home. I spent a lot of time with these teenagers, mostly on long phone calls between school and work, or on the sidelines at their soccer games, pursuing an idea I had back in March, in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. For about a year, I’d been hearing that more Guatemalan immigrants were showing up on factory floors, and that among them were teenagers who worked overnight while they attended area high schools during the day. I told my editors I thought there might be a story to tell about these immigrant teenagers who were now “essential workers.” I wasn’t sure what kind of story this would be or if it was in fact happening, if I could get people to talk to me. But my gut, and what I knew of my father’s experiences, told me it was true. A recent photo of the author’s father, near his home town in rural Guanajuato, Mexico. Courtesy of Melissa Sanchez I told the teens I met about my father’s story and how that helped me understand, in a small way, something about their own lives. I told them I believed their stories had value. And I told them that the millions of Americans who seemed to pay so much attention to the plight of Central American children at the border just a few years earlier should know how challenging and complicated their lives are today. Eventually, I gained the trust of more than a dozen of the adolescents and young men I met in Bensenville, where they lived. But having that trust was scary. I didn’t want to cause them harm, and theirs is a complicated story to tell. These young people work in conditions few Americans can imagine for their own children: cutting and packing meat, scrubbing sharp pieces of metal and hosing down heavy machinery. They sometimes get hurt and are vulnerable to exploitation. The companies that hire them, typically temp agencies, break child labor laws. The government agencies charged with enforcing labor laws don’t investigate because nobody is complaining. And because they work so late, the teens are often too tired to learn much in school. But they don’t see themselves as victims. They’re not asking to be rescued. They talked with me on the condition that I wouldn’t identify them or the companies where they work; they’re afraid they or some of their young co-workers could lose their jobs and the ability to support themselves, or that they could face criminal penalties. (We are using only partial names to identify the teens.) “Maybe [naming the company] won’t impact me, but that could hurt everybody else,” one teen told me. “I wasn’t the only minor there.” Another worried about the companies he’s worked for. “It’s like you’d be blaming them, saying, ‘This factory put adolescents to work,’” he said. “From my perspective, they’re doing something good because they let us work.” At their root, their experiences and those of young people like them stem from messy systemic and generational problems, starting with intractable poverty and violence in their home countries with bloody histories that have been complicated by U.S. intervention. Then there’s the fundamentally flawed U.S. immigration system that makes it difficult for people to come here even as American businesses are eager to give them jobs. And in a lot of the developing world, childhood is a luxury. I asked a scrawny 15-year-old boy who works at a candy packaging facility about how he sees his future. He told me, his voice still cracking from puberty, that he doesn’t want his children “to suffer the way I have suffered.” The comment stayed with me: a child telling me about how he dreams of a better life for children he does not yet have. But I get it. If his kids are born here, like I was, they’ll have more opportunities than he did in Guatemala. My father probably would have said the same thing 50-some years ago. I hope you’ll read the story. Please share and tell me what you think. Also, if you’re a young immigrant with this kind of background and work experience, or an educator or anybody else who is seeing students like these, I’d love to talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vanessa Friedman speaks for “us!”
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 19, 2020 at 20:43
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2020Now they’ve even got Gupta: It’s been a while since we visited the New York Times’ reimagined page A3 (print editions only). Today, A3’s daily “Of Interest” feature lists seven “noteworthy facts” from the Times. Below, you see three of the seven entries:Of InterestNOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY’S PAPERRoving Blazers has rereleased Princess Diana’s famous black sheep sweater. Even at a cost of $295, it’s available for order only and won’t arrive until January at the earliestWalmart operates six stories in Vermont.Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty makeup line generated as estimated $570 million in revenue in its first 15 months.Such is the persistent culture of this dimwitted upper-class newspaper. So much to learn about, and yet so little time!The noteworthy facts about Diana’s sweater trace to an analysis piece by fashion editor Vanessa Friedman. Online, Friedman’s report appears beneath these headlines:Why Do We Care So Much About Diana’s Dresses? “The Crown,” Season 4, has raised the question again. The answer may not be what you expect.”Right now, understandably, we can’t get enough of such vicarious fashion exposition, given our loungewear-limned reality,” Friedman thoughtfully writes, adopting the “national we.” Did we mention the fact that Diana’s famous black sweater won’t arrive until January at the earliest?Such foppishness is par for the course at this Hamptons-based newspaper. What we didn’t expect is what we saw on CNN last night.Sanjay Gupta was speaking with Anderson Cooper. In our view, Gupta’s reporting on the pandemic has consistently been superb.Cable news has come up with quite a few outstanding, and outstandingly sane, public health/medical specialists. We’d put Gupta high on that list. We think Gupta has been superb. Last night, even Gupta said this:COOPER (11/18/20): I just want to get both your reactions tonight on this horrific milestone. A quarter of a million people in this country have died now. And the numbers are going up. Sanjay.GUPTA: Yes, I mean that and counting, right? I mean, this is a milestone, but we blow by these milestones. And it’s really sad. Anderson, it’s I mean, it’s really dispiriting. I mean, no matter how you look at it, I didn’t really think we would get to this number. But here we are, and so many of the deaths that we talked about were preventable. And I know those families who watch your program every night who’ve lost loved ones, they don’t like to hear that their loved ones death was preventable. But, you know, so many of these deaths were preventable. And if you look at the death rate in the United States, and you compare it to other countries around the world, I mean, we have the most deaths. We have the most deaths. I never imagined that the best we would be able to do in this country was to be the worst in the world. And yet, here we are.As Gupta spoke, a graphic appeared showing the total number of deaths to date for the five “countries with most deaths.” And it’s true! The United States has recorded more deaths from coronavirus than any other country in the world.The United States also has the world’s third largest population. Beyond that, “deaths” and “death rate” are two different critters. Newsflash! When it comes to our current daily/weekly “death rate,” we are nowhere near the worst in the world. If you simply click this link, you’ll see a graphic by Kevin Drum which illustrates this amazingly simple point. After adjusting for population, our current daily/weekly death rate is dwarfed by those of Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, France, Portugal, Austria, the United Kingdom and Spain, among others. And Drum is merely comparing our current daily/weekly death rate to those of countries in Europe.All of us are living inside a highly illiterate culture. Gupta’s highly familiar remark, delivered from the top of the mainstream press corps, displayed a type of statistical illiteracy which is stunningly widespread.There are certain kinds of financial comparisons which make no sense unless you adjust for inflation. Similarly, there are certain kinds of transnational comparisons which make no sense unless you adjust for the size of various countries’ populations.In the current circumstance, the children love to announce that we’re the worst in the world. Even Our Own Rhodes Scholar persistently, dumbly does this.We’re silly and stupid and nobody likes us. Also, Princess Diana’s famous sweater won’t arrive till next year!
National Ban on School Use of Seclusion and Restraint of Students Introduced in Congress
by by Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica and Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune on November 19, 2020 at 20:40
by Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica and Jennifer Smith Richards, Chicago Tribune ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work. This story is a collaboration between ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune. Congressional Democrats introduced legislation Thursday that would make it illegal to put students in seclusion and would limit the use of physical restraint in schools that receive federal funds. The bill, called the Keeping All Students Safe Act, would enact a national ban on restraints that can restrict breathing, including prone restraint where students are held face down on the floor and supine where they are held face up. Other restraints in the standing or seated positions could be used only when there is an immediate risk of serious physical harm. Under the bill, physical restraints could not be included as an option in written behavior and education plans for students with disabilities. That would further emphasize that restraints are to be used only in an emergency and when other efforts to work with children in crisis have failed. Seclusion, or confining students alone in a room or area they can’t leave, would be banned entirely on the grounds that it can be traumatic and isn’t helpful for a student in crisis. The legislation was motivated by differences among rules at the state level, with some states placing few if any restrictions on seclusion and restraint and many providing no oversight, said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., one of the bill’s sponsors in the House. “A lot of the states do a terrible job of that. It’s been such a huge problem, it demands national standards,” Beyer said in an interview Thursday. “The primary thing is there are other techniques that work just fine,” he added. “You don’t have to isolate them.” The legislation comes one year to the day after ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune published an investigation, “The Quiet Rooms,” that found public schools throughout Illinois had put students in seclusion, isolated from their peers, every day for reasons that violated state law. The investigation, cited by the lawmakers who introduced the legislation, also found that school employees sometimes physically restrained children not because there was an emergency but out of frustration or as punishment. Similar legislation has been passed in the House before but failed to gain support in the Senate. New federal data, released last month, confirmed widespread use of seclusion and restraint in Illinois and across the country in 2017-18, the most recent year for which data was collected. In Illinois, school employees reported using seclusion or restraint at least 23,530 times on at least 5,197 students. Nationally, more than 100,000 students were subjected to the practices. Other Midwestern states — Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana — also stood out among the most frequent users of these interventions, according to an analysis of the federal data by the Tribune and ProPublica Illinois. Wisconsin secluded more students at school than any other state and was second only to Texas in the number of students restrained in the 2017-18 school year, the analysis shows. Most of the children who were restrained or secluded nationwide had disabilities. The data shows a disproportionate number of affected students were identified as Black and as boys. Seclusion rooms are typically small and empty spaces, sometimes padded, that are meant to be used only in a safety emergency. Seclusion does not include times when a student chooses to take a break from class to calm down or go to a sensory room, a space with equipment and tools to help students regulate their emotions. Disabilities advocates say putting children in seclusion rooms is inhumane and causes lasting trauma, though some school officials say they need the option to educate students with significant behavioral challenges. Some Republicans have opposed similar legislation in the past because they said states are better equipped to identify students’ and schools’ needs. “No parent should have to send their child to school knowing that his or her child could be pinned down or locked in a closet by school staff,” said Annie Acosta, director of fiscal and family support policy for The Arc, which advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “A federal ban is needed to ensure that all students are protected, not just those who live in states that have some degree of protection. This is a civil rights issue that should not have any geographic boundaries.” The legislation would require states to have enough school workers who are trained in state-approved programs that teach better ways to address crisis situations. It also would require that parents be notified the same day their child is restrained, followed by more detailed written notification and then a meeting within five days. States also would be required to report annually on their use of restraint. The law would allow students who are subjected to seclusion or restraint in a way that violates the law to file a civil lawsuit against the school or program. The U.S. Department of Education would be required to investigate complaints and withhold payments to schools found in violation. The department also could award grant funding to help schools reduce the use of seclusion and restraint. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the Senate sponsor of the measure, called seclusion and restraint “inhumane” and sometimes fatal. He said the legislation would keep students safe “while providing school staff with alternatives to address disruptive behavior with evidence-based, trauma-informed, proactive strategies and the resources to put those alternatives into practice.” In Illinois, after publication of “The Quiet Rooms,” the State Board of Education banned locking students in seclusion rooms and began requiring public and private schools to alert the state when they use the interventions. Illinois rules do not ban prone restraint, but the General Assembly plans to take up legislation in January that would prohibit it. The federal legislation also would prohibit the use of mechanical and chemical restraints. Both already are outlawed in Illinois, but records obtained this week by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune revealed how one suburban special education program still used mechanical restraints in a program for students with disabilities. The Mount Prospect-based Northwest Suburban Special Education Organization, which operates several schools and programs for about 400 students, used lap belts to restrain students and restrict them from taking part in classroom activities, according to an Illinois State Board of Education investigation. ISBE investigated the district after a complaint last December by an occupational therapist at one of the schools. The complaint alleged that a student was restrained with a lap belt on several days during lunch, art and morning circle time, upsetting the student and causing him or her to kick and hit. The student also was sent to timeout while in the lap belt after throwing food. The complaint was about that one student, but ISBE looked at how restraints were used districtwide. ISBE determined that there was no medical or therapeutic need for the district to use the lap belts and that they were “utilized as a behavioral restraint to promote attention to task.” The cooperative, known as NSSEO, denied to ISBE that it used lap belts to punish students or out of convenience, contending they were used to help students sit with therapeutic support, according to ISBE’s report. The district superintendent did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NSSEO used physical restraint more often — 1,170 times — than any other district in Illinois during the 2017-18 school year, according to the new federal data. Congressional efforts to ban seclusion have repeatedly stalled since 2009. Legislation was last introduced in 2018. But “The Quiet Rooms” and the swift action Gov. J.B. Pritzker took to ban isolated, locked seclusion in Illinois the day after the story published put the issue in the national spotlight again, Beyer said. Beyer said he believes this effort to ban seclusion will gain broad bipartisan support, both because of greater public awareness of the issue and because legislative staffers worked with school groups to find common ground in the bill’s language. He said he doesn’t expect the bill to be voted on during the current session, but supporters will try to gather more sponsors and reintroduce it when lawmakers reconvene next year. The legislation’s other sponsors are Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House education and labor committee; Rep. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; and Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va.
The Other Americans: What Joe Biden’s Win Means for Central America
by Jeff Abbott on November 19, 2020 at 20:31
Though it might undo many of Trump’s policies, the Biden Administration will likely return to an Obama-era approach in the region.
Unequal Justice: The Treachery of Samuel Alito
by Bill Blum on November 19, 2020 at 19:20
His record of arch-conservatism makes him more closely akin to a Fox News host than a Supreme Court Justice.
Smoking Gun: Crisis? What Crisis?
on November 19, 2020 at 17:00
A timeline of the pandemic warning signs ignored by the Trump Administration.
House Subcommittee Says Proposed Booster Seat Safety Rules Fall Short
by by Patricia Callahan on November 19, 2020 at 16:48
by Patricia Callahan ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. A congressional subcommittee upbraided the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Wednesday for failing to protect kids from injury and death in side-impact crashes and asked the agency to justify why it hadn’t adopted all of the tougher safety rules that members of Congress had pushed. The scrutiny of car seat safety standards is part of a probe that the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy launched this year in response to a ProPublica investigation. That story revealed that Evenflo, manufacturer of the popular Big Kid booster, marketed the seat as “side impact tested” when the company’s own tests showed a child using it could be paralyzed or killed in such a crash. Evenflo was able to make up its own side-impact safety tests for boosters and assert that they passed them, because NHTSA never enacted side-impact test standards for children’s car seats and boosters despite a 2000 law directing it to do so. The bar was so low on Evenflo’s test, records show, that the only way its booster could fail was if the child-sized dummy was thrown onto the floor during a simulated side-impact crash or the booster broke into pieces. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Evenflo’s general counsel could not be reached for comment but has said in the past that the company has been a pioneer in side-impact testing and that its seats are safe, effective and affordable. Evenflo, a subsidiary of China-based Goodbaby International Holdings Ltd., has sold more than 18 million Big Kid boosters. In a pointed letter to NHTSA on Wednesday, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, and Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, told NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens that the subcommittee “is aware that manufacturers continue to take advantage of this key regulatory gap and market unsafe booster seats.” In an interview, Krishnamoorthi questioned whether NHTSA, in allowing manufacturers to make up their own rules, has been captured by the industry. “When we peeled the onion, we were just beside ourselves wondering what the heck is going on here,” he said. A spokesman for NHTSA said that the agency had received the letter and looked forward to briefing the subcommittee “on the significant improvements in child passenger safety that NHTSA has made.” This month, NHTSA proposed a new rule that would bar manufacturers from marketing booster seats to children weighing less than 40 pounds, a change that Krishnamoorthi and Porter had sought in March. As ProPublica’s investigation in February made clear, the agency for years has allowed manufacturers to label boosters as safe for children as light as 30 pounds even though the American Academy of Pediatrics has, for decades, said that those kids are safer in traditional car seats that use internal harnesses to hold their small bodies in place. Booster seats raise up children so that they can use vehicle seat belts designed for adults. ProPublica obtained internal testing videos and other documents that showed that Evenflo knew children weighing less than 40 pounds could be severely injured in side-impact crashes while seated in Big Kid boosters. In their letter, Kristnamoorthi and Porter said they welcomed the higher weight requirement, but they stressed that they had also urged NHTSA to require prominent labels on boosters warning parents that they should only be used for children over 40 pounds. The letter criticized NHTSA for moving in the opposite direction in its new changes. “Instead of adopting a clear labeling requirement, NHTSA proposed to ‘lessen restrictions on the labeling requirements,’ allowing manufacturers to present information ‘in their own words at locations that they deem most effective,’” they wrote, adding, “This will lead to confusion.” NHTSA is known for moving at a glacial pace. The agency last proposed side-impact testing rules for children’s car seats in January 2014, but that proposal has languished for nearly seven years as manufacturers wrangled over what makes a good test. Car seats and boosters currently have to pass a test that mirrors the forces in a head-on collision. Even those tests are not up to date; they are done while the car seats and boosters are attached to a simulated back seat based on a 1974 Chevrolet Impala. This month, NHTSA also proposed a more modern back seat for the tests. And the agency’s 2014 side-impact testing proposal doesn’t address a key finding of ProPublica’s investigation: It doesn’t apply to car seats or boosters for children over 40 pounds. In proposing to raise the minimum weight for boosters this month, NHTSA made it clear it plans to exclude boosters from side-impact tests it may later adopt. If those rules are enacted, booster manufacturers still would be able to make up their own tests and pass themselves. Likewise, the standard NHTSA proposed in 2014 simulates a crash on the side of the vehicle nearest the child. While those crashes are dangerous, Krishnamoorthi and Porter urged NHTSA also to require a test that simulates when a vehicle strikes the side opposite where the child is sitting. Among side-impact collisions, NHTSA’s own data shows that those that occur on the side farthest from the child account for 40% of deaths and 30% of serious injuries for children seated in boosters and harnessed seats, Porter and Krishnamoorthi noted in their letter to NHTSA. “The goal here isn’t just to say, ‘We, the government, did something,’” Porter said in an interview. “The goal is to keep kids safe.” The danger of a far-side crash is that the body of a child seated in a booster can slip out of the vehicle’s shoulder belt and jacknife over the lap belt, resulting in spinal or head injuries. The ProPublica investigation this year documented just such a crash on New York’s Long Island in 2016 that left Jillian Brown with an injury medical journals refer to as “internal decapitation.” Jillian, who at the time of the accident was 5 years old and weighed just under 37 pounds, was belted into a Big Kid booster that had a “Side Impact Tested” label stitched into the seatback. Jillian is now paralyzed from the neck down, steers her motorized wheelchair with her tongue and is kept alive by a ventilator. Sued by Jillian’s family, Evenflo blamed bad driving and said the seat performed as it was designed to do and didn’t cause her injury. Court records filed this month show that Evenflo reached a confidential settlement with Jillian’s family.
Truth, Misinformation and the Press
by Bill Lueders on November 19, 2020 at 14:56
Our obligation as journalists is to insist that truth is knowable, and deserves more fidelity than falsehoods.
THE BRAIN CELL MONOLOGUES: History takes us for a ride!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 19, 2020 at 14:27
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2020They’ve got your Pawn Stars right here: In these difficult times, it might be a good idea to draw some solace from the lessons of history.If so, it might be best to stay away from “History”—that is, from the former History Channel. The leading authority on this cable channel describes the way it began:History (formerly The History Channel from 1995 to 2008 and stylized as HISTORY) is a pay television network and flagship channel that is owned by A&E Networks, a joint venture between Hearst Communications and the Disney Media Networks division of the Walt Disney Company.The network was originally focused on history-based documentaries and historical fiction series…[..]The company indicated that plans for a history channel were in the works in 1993…The History Channel was launched on January 1, 1995 with its UK counterpart following on November 1 in partnership with British Sky Broadcasting. Its original format focused entirely on historical series and specials.During the 1990s, History was jokingly referred to as “The Hitler Channel” for its extensive coverage of World War II.”The network was originally focused on history-based documentaries,” the leading authority says. Indeed, the channel stressed World War II to such an extent that it was once admiringly known as The Hitler Channel.There’s a lot the modern viewer can learn from a review of the Hitler era. Presumably for that reason, PBS is currently airing a somewhat heavy-handed new docudrama series, Rise of the Nazis.As such, modern subscribers to basic cable might consider turning to History—it’s no longer called The History Channel—for a bit of perspective, or even for solace. If they do, they might be surprised by the clownlike “historical” programming they will reliably find there.Suppose the subscriber had started her search this Monday morning. She would have encountered a daylong blizzard of Pawn Stars broadcasts. The leading authority describes the program as shown:Pawn Stars is an American reality television series, shown on History, and produced by Leftfield Pictures. The series is filmed in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it chronicles the daily activities at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a 24-hour family business opened in 1989 and originally operated by patriarch Richard “Old Man” Harrison, his son Rick Harrison, Rick’s son Corey “Big Hoss” Harrison, and Corey’s childhood friend, Austin “Chumlee” Russell. The series, which became the network’s highest rated show and the No. 2 reality show behind [MTV’s] Jersey Shore, debuted on July 26, 2009.The series depicts the staff’s interactions with customers, who bring in a variety of artifacts to sell or pawn, and who are shown haggling over the price and discussing its historical background, with narration provided by either the Harrisons or Chumlee.The series also follows the interpersonal conflicts among the cast…It’s hard to get a whole lot dumber, unless you turn to the program American Pickers, which ran all day and all night on Tuesday and will do so again today:The show follows antique and collectible pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, who travel around the United States to buy or “pick” various items for resale, for clients, or for their personal collections. Danielle Colby runs the office of Wolfe’s business, Antique Archaeology, from their home base in Le Claire, Iowa, and more recently at a second location in Nashville, Tennessee. They originally traveled in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and now in a Ford Transit. Fritz sells his acquisitions at his own shop, and previously on his now-defunct website, Frank Fritz Finds, upriver in Savanna, Illinois. The men go on the road, not only following up leads that Colby has generated but also “freestyling”–stopping at places that look like they might hold items worth buying. They also pick some places more than once.[…]Mike and Frank explore people’s homes, barns, sheds, outbuildings, and other places where they have stored antiques and collectibles. They call upon amateur and serious collectors, hoarders, and also people who have inherited overwhelming collections of items that they don’t know what to do with. Wolfe, who has been picking since age four, has a particular interest in antique motorcycles, air-cooled Volkswagens (pronounced “votes-wagon” by Wolfe), old bicycles and penny-farthings, while Fritz has a fondness for antique toys, oil cans, and old Hondas, with a special love for peanut-related items.There will be little World War II here. Herodotus and Thucydides aren’t likely to appear. Tomorrow, the History subscriber will be treated to a full day of Ancient Aliens. The naysayers, nerds and know-it-alls have tended to find fault with this program:Ancient Aliens is an American television series that premiered on April 20, 2010, on the History channel. Produced by Prometheus Entertainment in a documentary style, the program presents hypotheses of ancient astronauts and proposes that historical texts, archaeology, and legends contain evidence of past human-extraterrestrial contact. The show has been widely criticized by historians, cosmologists, archaeologists and other scientific circles for presenting and promoting pseudoscience, pseudohistory and pseudoarchaeology.On Sunday, the daylong binge will feature reruns of Ultimate Rides, a program about really cool cars. The channel will only turn to serious history on Saturday, when it will let subscribers binge watch programs about two major historical events—the sinking of the Titanic, and the search for D.B. Cooper, the guy who jumped out of the plane.In Tuesday’s report, we recalled a sad but instructive bit of basic cable history. In 1991, Stephen Brill, a major mainstream figure, seemed to have a semi-serious venture in mind when he launched Court TV, a basic cable channel which would focus on legal issues.Within a matter of years, the channel was known as TruTV, and it was airing programs literally called World’s Dumbest. But so it has gone across the cable dial in the era during which Trumpism came to define the state of our failing nation’s failing national intellect.Rather plainly, Trumpism was not invented by Donald J. Trump. In part, it was invented by the corporate clowns responsible for The History Channel. It was invented by the Reverend Falwell and his stupid Clinton Chronicles tape. It was invented by the mainstream journalists who literally hid in the bushes outside Gary Hart’s home.It was also invented by Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews, and by all the upper-end liberal/progressive corporate-paid figures who participated in or enabled their long, stupid reign. Except for the terrible consequences, this would be a comical tale, nothing more. Sadly, the consequences have been vast. Tomorrow, we’ll quickly look in the comical transformation of Bravo, along with the transformation of the original Arts and Entertainment channel. Concerning the latter, we’re willing to post this spoiler, so rich is its comical content:The network was originally founded in 1984 as the Arts & Entertainment Network, initially focusing on fine arts, documentaries (including its then-flagship series Biography), and dramas (including imported series from the United Kingdom). In 1995, the network rebranded as A&E, in an effort to downplay the negative perceptions of arts programming and generally market the network as a “thought-provoking” alternative to other television channels. In 2002, at the expense of its arts programming, A&E began to gradually focus more on reality series to attract younger viewers. By 2017, the network had also phased out scripted programs, making reality shows its primary focus.Why did the network removed the word “arts” from its original high-minded name? It did so “in an effort to downplay the negative perceptions of arts programming!” The gods on Olympus laugh hard at this fact, or so we’re reliably told.Question:Do the comical transformations of basic cable tell us something about ourselves, about our failing nation’s failed intellect? Do these comical transformations suggest that a possible brain cell deficit may be laying us low?Those aren’t easy questions to answer, but they’re obvious questions to ask. The transformation of basic cable is a wonderfully comical story. Elsewhere, the devolution of our basic intellect seems to lie at the heart of a grim historical tale.Tomorrow: Also, Stephen Brill’s subsequent magazinejournal
The Boeing 737 MAX Is Cleared to Fly. Families of People Who Died on the Planes Wait for Answers.
by by Alec MacGillis on November 19, 2020 at 11:00
by Alec MacGillis ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. This is a strange moment for the families of the 157 people who died aboard the Ethiopian Airlines flight, ET 302, that plunged to the earth shortly after taking off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, bound for Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 2019. The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday issued an ungrounding order for the Boeing 737 MAX, allowing a return to the skies for the model involved in both the Ethiopian Airlines disaster and the crash of a Lion Air flight in the Java Sea off the coast of Indonesia in October 2018 that claimed 189 lives. Both crashes were linked to flawed flight-control software in the 737 MAX, a new version of Boeing’s decades-old 737 workhorse. (The story of how Boeing came to allow the fatal flaw into the planes, and how FAA regulators failed to catch it in time, was the subject of a November 2019 article by ProPublica co-published with The New Yorker.) The FAA’s move to allow the 737 MAX to return into use after 20 months of grounding is its sign that it is time to move on from this dark chapter. Boeing has updated the implicated software and added a backup sensor, and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson gave his thumbs-up, going so far as to pilot one of the planes to demonstrate that they are safe. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published. Yet at the very same time some federal regulators are signaling that it is time to move on, other regulators are telling the victims’ families that they must wait longer to seek accountability for the crashes. More than 100 of the ET 302 families have filed suit against Boeing and are seeking an array of Boeing and FAA documents relating to the two crashes. But the National Transportation Safety Board is barring the release of thousands of pages to the families, saying it is required by international law to withhold them until the completion of the Ethiopian government’s investigation of the ET 302 crash, or until the two-year anniversary of the crash, whichever comes first. The families and their lawyers are challenging this claim by noting that there is scant evidence of any actual ongoing investigation by Ethiopia, which already released a comprehensive interim report on the crash this past March. It’s a painful juxtaposition to accept, said Michael Stumo, the father of Samya Rose Stumo, a 24-year-old public health worker from Massachusetts who perished in the ET 302 crash. On the one hand, families are told that the investigation into what happened with the 737 MAX is ongoing and that they must therefore wait to build their case against Boeing. On the other, they are told to accept that, despite the inconclusive investigation, the planes are once again safe to fly. (As ProPublica’s original article noted, I have known Michael Stumo since 1996.) “The National Transportation Safety Board is hiding information because there is an open investigation, supposedly, into the Ethiopian crash, so we don’t even have the final document on what caused the crash. But they are going to put it into the air,” Stumo said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. The dispute has been especially jarring for the Stumos and other ET 302 families because, in the weeks following the crash, they reported getting a much more empathetic response from the NTSB, which investigates transportation accidents, than they did from the larger FAA. NTSB officials insist there is nothing personal in their rejection of the families’ pleas for more documents and that they are simply acting in accordance with international protocols. Because the NTSB appointed Boeing as a technical adviser for the investigation, they say, the company is also bound by the protocols limiting the release of documents. “As the state conducting the investigation, Ethiopia has the sole authority to release investigative information or to authorize the NTSB to do so,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt wrote in a Nov. 6 response to a letter from the ET 302 families seeking access to more documents. “The NTSB itself is not imposing these restrictions or limitations on what Boeing may release; those restrictions and limitations come from Federal law and international treaty.” Boeing declined to comment on the dispute over the documents. The Ethiopian government, which is currently embroiled in a violent conflict with the ruling party in the rebellious Tigray region, did not return a call to its embassy in Washington. The families and their lawyers counter that the international protocols cited by the NTSB still give the agency discretion in defining which documents are required to be withheld, and that the agency is in this instance defining this category far too broadly. (They also note that the documents would be subject to confidentiality restrictions and could be used only in the context of the lawsuits. The materials would not be released broadly.) The NTSB is withholding many documents from the Lion Air investigation, even though the Indonesian government released its final report on that crash more than a year ago. It is, the families say, also withholding documents that Boeing never even shared with Ethiopian investigators. The NTSB asserts it is required to withhold the Lion Air crash records because those documents are relevant to the Ethiopian investigation, since both crashes were linked to the same software. But this has left the families without access to some of the most crucial documents for their own cases against Boeing, notably evidence of what the company was or was not privately sharing with the FAA following the Lion Air crash, when the company was publicly suggesting that the crash occurred because of pilot error. The FAA determined that the 737 MAX could stay in the air, despite private misgivings, and a few months later, the second crash occurred. Michael Stumo testifying during a Senate hearing in June. Graeme Jennings/AFP via Getty Images Lacking crucial documents from Boeing has made it hard for the families’ lawyers to proceed with depositions of key company engineers, since they don’t have the information they need to formulate questions. No trial dates have been set yet for the cases, partly due to the delays caused by COVID-19. The families could seek to challenge the NTSB denial in court, where similar challenges have had mixed success. In one recent case, the Miami Herald went to court to try to compel the Florida Department of Transportation to release documents relating to the March 2018 bridge collapse at Florida International University that killed six people. In that case, the state was refusing to release records on similar grounds as Boeing is refusing to now, citing its role as party to an NTSB investigation. A federal judge sided with the NTSB, but the records were ultimately made public in May 2019. For now, the ET 302 families are eschewing a new court filing. Stumo believes that the NTSB chairman may not have been speaking for the whole board when he wrote his Nov. 6 letter to the ET 302 families. So the families are appealing to the other four board members of the NTSB, who did not sign Sumwalt’s letter. In a Nov. 11 letter, Stumo urged the full board to meet soon to consider narrowing the scope of the records being withheld. He wrote that it was the families’ understanding that the wide breadth of records being withheld was not in fact based on any request from the Ethiopian government, and he urged the board to directly inquire of the Ethiopians whether their investigation is still ongoing, and whether they object to narrowing the scope of the documents being withheld. He also asserted that the NTSB’s decision to block such a wide array of records followed a phone call between the NTSB’s general counsel and Boeing’s chief counsel for products liability. “It is imperative that the NTSB stop protecting Boeing and start increasing transparency, or it risks appearing complicit in Boeing’s misdeeds,” he said. (The NTSB did not respond to a question regarding contacts between Boeing and the agency.) The families’ accountability efforts have had more success on another front: On Tuesday, the House passed a sweeping bill to reform FAA oversight over airplane manufacturers, following a damning House committee report on the failure of the 737 MAX. Stumo was joined on Tuesday’s conference call by two other family members of ET 302 victims, including Naoise Ryan, who lost her husband, Mick Ryan, a United Nations worker from Ireland. She described the toll that his death had taken on her 5-year-old daughter, the older of her two children, who suffers night tremors and still blames herself for not having tried harder to keep her father from leaving on that work trip. “Our family is broken,” Ryan said. She did not understand why the Boeing documents were still being withheld, even as the 737 MAX was cleared to return to the skies. “When someone tells me they have to keep the technical details, data and protocols of a commercial aircraft secret, an aircraft with a history of problems, I have to ask why? What is it you’re trying to hide? And, ultimately, what have you got to lose?”
El mundo secreto de los adolescentes inmigrantes que trabajan en peligrosos turnos nocturnos en fábricas suburbanas
by por Melissa Sanchez on November 19, 2020 at 10:00
por Melissa Sanchez Read in English. Escucha la historia en español. ProPublica es un medio independiente y sin ánimo de lucro que produce periodismo de investigación en pro del interés público. Suscríbete para recibir sus historias en español por correo electrónico. Este artículo se publica conjuntamente con Mother Jones y El País. Es un poco antes de las seis de la mañana y todavía está oscuro cuando García regresa a casa del trabajo esta mañana de octubre. El apartamento donde vive con su tío y su tía está en silencio. Ya se han ido a sus propios trabajos. Después de nueve horas regando a alta presión maquinaria en una planta de procesamiento de alimentos, García está cansado y hambriento. Pero tiene menos de una hora para prepararse para ir a la escuela secundaria, donde es un estudiante de tercer año. Se ducha rápidamente, se viste, y recalienta restos de un caldo de pollo como la comida que él llama su cena. Entonces se bebe de un trago un poco de café, se lava los dientes y sale para alcanzar el autobús del colegio que espera cerca del límite del extenso complejo de apartamentos. Aquí en el suburbio de Chicago conocido como Bensenville, y en lugares parecidos a lo largo del país, adolescentes guatemaltecos como García pasan sus días en clases aprendiendo inglés y álgebra y química. Durante la noche, mientras sus compañeros de clase duermen, ellos trabajan para pagar deudas a los coyotes que les ayudaron a cruzar y a sus patrocinadores, para contribuir en el pago de alquileres y facturas, para comprar provisiones y zapatos, y para mandar dinero a casa a los padres y hermanos que dejaron atrás. Están entre las decenas de miles de jóvenes que han venido a este país durante los últimos años, algunos como menores no acompañados, otros junto a un padre, y fueron parte de una ola de migrantes centroamericanos solicitando asilo en los Estados Unidos. En la zona de Urbana-Champaign, sede de la Universidad de Illinois, oficiales de uno de los distritos escolares dicen que niños y adolescentes reparan tejados, lavan platos y pintan apartamentos universitarios fuera del campus. En New Bedford, Massachusetts, un líder sindical guatemalteco de origen indígena ha escuchado quejas de trabajadores adultos en la industria de empacadoras de pescado que están perdiendo trabajos que van a jóvenes de 14 años. En Ohio, hay menores trabajando en peligrosas plantas de procesamiento de pollo. ProPublica ha entrevistado a 15 menores y jóvenes adultos solo en Bensenville que dicen que trabajan o han trabajado siendo menores en más de dos docenas de fábricas y otras instalaciones en las afueras de Chicago, normalmente a través de agencias de empleo temporal, y casi todos en situaciones donde las leyes federales y estatales que regulan el trabajo de niños prohibirían explícitamente su contratación. Aunque la mayoría de los menores entrevistados para este reportaje ahora han cumplido los 18 años, solo aceptaron hablar bajo la condición de no ser plenamente identificados y de no nombrar a sus empleadores porque temen perder sus trabajos, dañar sus casos de inmigración o enfrentarse a sanciones penales. Algunos empezaron a trabajar cuando tenían tan solo 13 o 14 años, empacando los dulces que usted encuentra al lado de la caja del supermercado, cortando las tajadas de carne cruda que acaban en su congelador, y cociendo, en hornos industriales, la pastelería que usted come con su café. García, que ahora tiene 18 años, tenía 15 cuando consiguió su primer trabajo en una fábrica de piezas automotrices. Como muchos obreros adultos, frecuentemente ni saben los nombres de las fábricas donde trabajan. Se refieren a ellas, en español, por el producto que fabrican o empacan u ordenan: los dulces, los metales, y las mangueras. Los menores usan tarjetas de identidad falsas para conseguir los trabajos a través de agencias de empleo temporal que reclutan a inmigrantes y, a sabiendas o no, aceptan los documentos que les entregan. Trabajar el turno de noche permite a los jóvenes asistir al colegio durante el día. Pero es un sacrificio brutal: se quedan dormidos en clase; muchos, a la larga, abandonan los estudios. Y algunos, como García, se lesionan. Sus cuerpos muestran las cicatrices de cortes y otras lesiones de trabajo. Activistas laborales dicen que hace tiempo que escuchan rumores sobre el trabajo infantil, pero cuando intentan indagar más, nadie quiere hablar. Obreros adultos en algunas fábricas dicen que encuentran de forma rutinaria a niños cuando hacen sus turnos. Y maestros de colegios dicen que han tenido estudiantes que se lesionaron en el trabajo y no pidieron ayuda porque tenían demasiado miedo a meterse en problemas. Mientras tanto, las agencias gubernamentales con la misión de hacer cumplir las leyes sobre el trabajo infantil no van buscando infracciones, aunque algunos funcionarios dicen que no les sorprende escuchar lo que está pasando. En lugar de eso, esas agencias esperan que las quejas lleguen a ellas, y casi nunca llegan. Las empresas se benefician del silencio. Es un secreto a voces que nadie quiere revelar, menos que nadie los menores que trabajan. Las sombras de adolescentes guatemaltecos mientras posan para una foto de grupo durante un reciente partido de fútbol de fin de semana. Sebastián Hidalgo para ProPublica Antes de desaparecer dentro de atestadas líneas de ensamblaje, los jóvenes inmigrantes guatemaltecos de Bensenville llegaron a los Estados Unidos como parte de una nueva ola de jóvenes centroamericanos en busca de asilo que han captado el interés de la nación en años recientes. Muchos de ellos pasaron por la red federal de albergues para menores inmigrantes no acompañados que fueron objeto de escrutinio en 2018 durante la política de la administración Trump de separar a los niños de sus padres. Mientras esperaban semanas o meses para ser puestos bajo la tutela de sus custodios o patrocinadores, se sentían cada vez más ansiosos por sus crecientes deudas de inmigración, desesperados por salir y poder trabajar para que sus familias en sus países de origen no sufrieran las consecuencias del incumplimiento de un préstamo. “Honestamente, creo que casi todo el mundo en el sistema sabe que la mayoría de los jóvenes vienen a trabajar y mandar dinero a casa,” dijo Maria Woltjen, directora ejecutiva y fundadora del Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights (Centro Young por los Derechos de los Niños Inmigrantes), una organización nacional que aboga en los tribunales por los niños inmigrantes. “Quieren ayudar a sus padres.” Pero, ya vivieran en un albergue en Florida, California o Illinois, los menores escucharon advertencias parecidas del personal de los centros: tenían que matricularse en un colegio y no meterse en líos. Los jueces de inmigración que iban a decidir sus casos, les dijeron a los jóvenes, no querían ni oír hablar de que estuvieran trabajando. “En la casa hogar, te preguntan, ¿‘Con quien vas a vivir? ¿Él te va mantener?” dijo un joven de 19 años que pasó casi seis meses en un albergue de New York antes de que una amiga de la familia en Bensenville aceptó acogerle. “Y tú dices que sí. ¿Él se va hacer cargo de ti? Sí. ¿Él te va llevar a la escuela? Sí.” García también había escuchado esto en el centro de Arizona donde pasó como seis semanas después de dejarse detener por agentes en la frontera de Estados Unidos y México. Sabía que no le estaba permitido trabajar, pero también sabía que no tenía opción. “No tenía a nadie aquí que me pudiera mantener,’’ dijo. Tenía 15 años y tenía deudas para pagar, empezando con los aproximadamente $3,000 que debía por el coyote que le había guiado a través de México desde Guatemala. Para financiar el viaje, sus padres habían pedido un préstamo bancario, usando su casa como aval. Si no pagaba la deuda, su familia podría perder su hogar. García hizo la travesía al norte en la primavera del 2018 para escapar de las pandillas y la pobreza de Huehuetenango, la capital del estado del mismo nombre en el oeste. Un muchacho delgado y tímido de sonrisa fácil, a García no le gustaba imaginar su futuro en Guatemala. Otros chicos de su edad ya habían dejado el colegio, incapaces de pagar las cuotas, y trabajaban a tiempo completo. Aún si García terminara la secundaria, era probable que acabaría trabajando en la construcción para el resto de su vida, como su padre. Durante los fines de semana y las vacaciones escolares, tenía un trabajo como ayudante de albañil. Podía ganar alrededor de 350 quetzales, (alrededor de $45 de hoy día), por seis días de trabajo. No era mucho, pero normalmente era lo suficiente para cubrir las cuotas del colegio y los libros. Sus padres no siempre podían permitirse ayudarle. “Se siente uno culpable,” dijo su madre, Juana, una cocinera de restaurante en Huehuetenango que plancha y lava ropa en su tiempo libre para ganar dinero adicional. “Dice uno, ‘Ojalá pudiera yo conseguir un buen trabajo donde me paguen bastante, para poder cumplirle los sueños a mis hijos, para que culminen sus estudios en la carrera que quieran.’ Pero por más que uno haga, no logra ganar lo suficiente para sacarlos adelante.” Durante años, niños y familias han huido del altiplano empobrecido de Guatemala mientras corría la voz de que era fácil para menores—o adultos acompañados por un niño—entrar en Estados Unidos y pedir asilo. Desde 2012 hasta el año pasado, el número de guatemaltecos detenidos en la frontera saltó de 34,000 a más de 264,000, según informes federales. De los detenidos el año pasado, aproximadamente el 80% eran familias o niños viajando solos. Los otros jóvenes que se establecieron finalmente en Bensenville se fueron por todo tipo de razones: uno dijo que su padre le pegaba cuando bebía, quemó su mano con el motor caliente de una motocicleta, y después le echó de casa; otro dijo que temía ser agredido físicamente por ser gay; otros dijeron que vinieron para reunirse con padres que habían emigrado años antes. Para García, emigrar representaba la posibilidad de amparo, de un diploma de secundaria, y quizás hasta de ir a la universidad y estudiar para ser arquitecto, todo mientras podía seguir ganando dólares para mandar a casa a su familia. Le dijo a sus padres que quería venir. Su madre imploró a García, el más joven de tres hijos, que no se fuera de su lado. Pero su padre, que había pasado algún tiempo en EEUU cuando García era mucho más joven, dijo que podía irse. El viaje puede ser traumático, hasta violento. Pero García llegó ileso, viajando en autobuses y caminando largos trechos en México. Días después de entregarse a agentes en la frontera, llegó al albergue de Phoenix donde los empleados verificaron su relación con una tía materna en Bensenville quien había acordado acogerle. A través de García, su tía declinó hablar con ProPublica para este reportaje. Suscríbete para recibir nuestras historias en español por correo electrónico. Los tutores tienen la obligación de garantizar que pueden cuidar a los niños, lo que incluye proporcionar apoyo financiero y una situación de vivienda apropiada, según la oficina federal de reubicación de refugiados (Office of Refugee Resettlement en inglés), que administra el programa de albergues. Por regla general, pagan el costo de los viajes de los menores desde los albergues hasta sus casas. Y no se les permite exigir a un niño que trabaje para pagar la deuda de él o su familia o que pague por habitación y comida. El personal de los albergues tiene la obligación de llamar para controlar la situación de los niños 30 días después de su liberación y asegurarse de que todavía viven con sus tutores, están seguros, están matriculados en un colegio, y están al tanto de las fechas de sus futuras comparecencias en las cortes de inmigración. El seguimiento normalmente termina ahí. Pero los tutores, especialmente aquellos que no son familia inmediata, frecuentemente piden a los menores que paguen por los costos del viaje, y también por una parte del alquiler y otras facturas. Algunas veces cobran una contribución adicional que puede llegar a $500 o más. Para los menores, es un intercambio justo: pueden ver que sus parientes apenas van tirando, muchas veces viviendo en lugares reducidos y trabajando en múltiples empleos. La tía de García, que había emigrado años antes con su familia, era reacia a hospedarle. “Aquí es demasiado duro,” Juana recuerda la explicación que le dio su hermana. “Tenemos que luchar bastante. Tenemos que enfrentarnos a muchas cosas. Él está muy pequeño.” Pero ante la insistencia de García, su madre pidió otra vez. “No tengo a quien más acudir sino en ti,” imploró. “Ayúdenos para que él pueda estar allá y estar con nuestra propia familia.” Finalmente, su hermana cedió, pero dejó claro que no podía permitirse alimentar otra boca. Sus propios envíos de dinero ya mantenían a la abuela de García en su país. Si venía, García tendría que trabajar para pagar su parte de los gastos. Él inmediatamente aceptó el trato. Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica A los pocos días de su llegada, García acompañó a sus tíos a la fábrica donde trabajaban haciendo piezas automotrices. Fue contratado para un turno de 6 de la tarde a 6 de la mañana limpiando tornillos y tuercas recién fabricadas con una pistola de aire. Los obreros usaban gafas de seguridad para protegerse de las esquirlas de metal que saltaban contra sus caras. Era un trabajo sucio. “No me gustó, trabajar así con mucho aceite’’, recordó García. “Y siempre era peligroso.” García no era directamente contratado por la fábrica. En vez de eso, consiguió el empleo a través de una “oficina’’, la palabra que inmigrantes hispanohablantes usan para describir las docenas de agencias de trabajo temporal que emplean a miles de obreros en Illinois. En algunos casos, los menores entrevistados por ProPublica—todos varones menos uno—dicen que ni conocen el nombre de la agencia de contratación que les emplea; es simplemente el sitio donde alguien les dijo que podían encontrar trabajo. En décadas recientes, las fábricas americanas han intensificado su giro hacia agencias temporales de empleo para cubrir sus puestos de trabajo. Las agencias ofrecen flexibilidad en el empleo y pueden ayudar a las empresas a escudarse contra asuntos legales relacionados con el estatus migratorio dudoso de algunos empleados o reclamaciones de compensación laboral porque las agencias son el empleador directo. ProPublica ha reportado ampliamente sobre lesiones y explotación vinculadas al trabajo temporal. Algunas agencias activamente reclutan a inmigrantes; durante los últimos meses, al menos dos agencias temporales llenaron el césped del complejo de apartamentos en Bensenville con carteles promocionando empleos, incluido uno que ofrecía una bonificación de $200 después de cuatro semanas de trabajo. Según las versiones de los menores, la edad raramente surge como tema cuando intentan conseguir empleos. Ramos tenía 14 años y acababa de terminar el octavo grado cuando consiguió su primer trabajo en el verano de 2018. No sentía la misma presión que algunos de los otros jóvenes del complejo residencial para pagar deudas de migración o ayudar con el alquiler. Esto era porque había venido con su madre y hermanos menores en el otoño pasado para juntarse con su padre, que había inmigrado a los Estados Unidos años antes. Pero por la noche, Ramos veía a su padre volver a casa del trabajo exhausto después de turnos consecutivos en dos fábricas. “Los fines de semana estaba cansado. Siempre estaba durmiendo,” dijo Ramos, un joven flaco con el pelo rizado. “Le dije que quería ayudar. Decía, ‘No, mejor estudia.’ Pero yo siempre estuve insistiendo.” Una tarde mientras caminaba a casa desde la parada del autobús después de las clases del colegio de verano, Ramos recibió una llamada de otro chico que vivía en el complejo avisándole de puestos vacantes en una planta de empacamiento de dulces. “Me vine corriendo y le dije a mi mamá,” recordó. “Mi mamá dijo que estaba bien. Luego me preparó algo de lonche.” En menos de una hora, Ramos estaba aprendiendo los protocolos para lavar las manos y llevar la redecilla del pelo en la planta. Empezó a trabajar aquel mismo día, agarrando cajas de dulces ácidos empaquetados mientras pasaban velozmente por la línea de ensamblaje, y amontonándolas en palés de madera. Nadie le pidió la edad, dijo. “Me dijeron que si andaba estudiando,” Ramos recordó. “Les dije que sí. Y me dijeron, ‘Oh, está bien.’” Solo dos de los 15 jóvenes entrevistados para este artículo dijeron que su edad había sido un obstáculo en sus intentos de ser contratados, e incluso ellos finalmente encontraron empleos. Un menor dijo que una prima mayor le llevó a la oficina de una agencia temporal poco después de su llegada de Guatemala en 2014. Tenía 15 años, pero su tarjeta de identidad decía que tenía 21. El personal de la agencia no le creía. Su prima intervino e imploró, “Tu sabes para que nosotros vinimos a este país, no para darnos lujos sino para trabajar.” La agencia, dijo el menor, le consiguió un empleo en una fábrica. Otro adolescente, Miguel, también tenía 15 años cuando intentó conseguir un trabajo con una tarjeta de identidad que decía que tenía 19. Dijo que los empleados de la agencia se burlaron de él: “Casi no dejaban a uno trabajar por la estatura. Miraban uno la carita de niño que tenía. Decían, no, tú no puedes trabajar.” Decepcionado, Miguel volvió al complejo y le contó a un amigo lo que había pasado. El chico, que tenía 14, dijo que había vacantes en la empresa de reciclaje de metal donde él trabajaba con su madre. Días después, Miguel tenía un empleo allí. Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica A su edad, Miguel tendría que haber estado en la escuela, aunque en realidad no se matricularía hasta algunos meses más tarde. La ley federal limita el trabajo de menores de su edad a un máximo de tres horas en días de escuela y ocho horas los sábados o domingos, y prohíbe que trabajen turnos de noche. También hay límites estrictos del tipo de trabajo que chicos de 14 o 15 años pueden ejercer; el empleo en una planta de reciclaje de metal no se permite, por ejemplo. Pero allí estaba él, haciendo turnos de noche de 12 horas, frecuentemente seis días a la semana. Mark Denzler, presidente y director ejecutivo de la asociación de fabricantes de Illinois (Illinois Manufacturers’ Association), dijo en una declaración escrita que las agencias de empleo son consideradas como el empleador oficial y “están obligadas por ley a revisar correctamente a los aspirantes, incluyendo la verificación para empleo.” Dijo que su grupo “exhorta enérgicamente a todos los fabricantes y empleadores a cumplir con todas las leyes federales y estatales especialmente en lo que concierne a las leyes de trabajo infantil. No consentimos las infracciones de estas leyes.” Dan Shomon, un lobista para la asociación de servicios de personal de Illinois (Staffing Services Association of Illinois), que representa a algunas agencias de empleo, declinó hablar de cómo las agencias garantizan que sus trabajadores no son menores de la edad legal, pero dijo que las compañías con las cuales él trabaja “cumplen con docenas y cientos” de reglamentos federales y estatales. “Nuestra meta como asociación es hacer que la gente trabaje y tratar a la gente bien porque esto nos hace buenos empleadores y necesitamos conseguir gente todo el tiempo” dijo, “así que no nos beneficia ser un empleador de pacotilla sino un buen empleador.” Miguel no tuvo quejas de la planta de reciclaje de metales; agradecía tener el empleo. Pero era un trabajo difícil, frotando trozos de metal con químicos de limpieza calientes. A veces, los químicos le salpicaban y quemaban sus antebrazos. Dijo que se acostumbró. “Cada día llegan diferentes piezas,” dijo Miguel, que ahora tiene 18 años y está en último año de secundaria. “Uno lo tiene que limpiar bien, tallarlo con esponjas bien talladitos. El jefe regaña mucho si sale mal…tardé como una semana nomás para agarrarle.” Hasta este verano, cuando se mudaron a una casa alquilada más grande, Miguel y su padre vivieron durante casi tres años en un apartamento de dos cuartos en el complejo de Bensenville con 11 parientes y amigos de la familia. Miguel y su padre dormían sobre mantas en el suelo del salón, al lado de dos hombres y sus hijos pequeños. A veces, Miguel se despertaba y veía cucarachas pasar corriendo. “La verdad fue mal ver también a los niños allí, durmiendo en el suelo,” dijo Miguel, un adolescente tranquilo con un piercing en la oreja, tatuajes y sueños de llegar a ser jugador de fútbol profesional. “Yo pensé que yo estoy grande, yo me debo acostumbrar a dormir en el suelo. Pero no ellos.” Mientras su padre se encargaba del alquiler y otras facturas, Miguel mandaba la mayor parte de sus ganancias semanales de casi $600 a su madre y tres hermanas en Guatemala. Pensaba sobre todo en su hermana más pequeña, que solo tiene 6 años, cuando enviaba el dinero. “Mi hermanita pequeña, quiero que ella vaya a la escuela, que tenga su carrera,” dijo, “que no pase por lo que yo he pasado.” Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica Un cúmulo de edificios de ladrillo de tres plantas escondidos detrás de un parque industrial y un campo de golf, el complejo de apartamentos en Bensenville alberga tanta gente de la misma región de Guatemala que algunos residentes lo llaman “Pequeño Huehue,” por Huehuetenango. Olas de inmigrantes se han juntado con amigos y parientes quienes les dijeron que era un sitio conveniente para encontrar trabajo en fábricas y almacenes. A unas pocas cuadras se asienta un pequeño centro comercial con un restaurante guatemalteco, tiendas que ofrecen servicios de cambio de moneda y envío de paquetes, y una agencia de empleo temporal. Pero el mundo casi hermético del complejo de apartamentos nutre a un distrito escolar en Elmhurst, un municipio más próspero justo al sur de Bensenville. La York Community High School (Escuela Secundaria Comunitaria York) puede ser un choque cultural para los adolescentes; casi tres cuartos de los estudiantes son blancos y solo el 5% estudian inglés como segunda lengua. Miguel y los otros se perdían en el inmenso edificio de ladrillo, diferente a cualquier cosa que hubieran visto en su tierra. Y a diferencia del complejo de apartamentos o las fábricas donde casi todo el mundo habla español, aquí les costaba entender lo que se decía en inglés. Se mantenían juntos, raramente interactuando con los estudiantes blancos no latinos con quienes tenían pocas clases, y ni siquiera con otros estudiantes latinos más americanizados. De alguna forma, Miguel es uno de los estudiantes guatemaltecos afortunados en York porque su padre le puede apoyar financieramente, permitiéndole trabajar menos turnos, o turnos más cortos, durante el año escolar para enfocarse en sus estudios y hasta jugar en el equipo de fútbol. Este otoño dejó de trabajar para intentar mejorar sus notas. Pero ha habido períodos en los que tuvo que dar prioridad al trabajo. Dejó de asistir a clases por varias semanas el año pasado cuando pensó que su madre podría necesitar atención médica cara en Guatemala, y otra vez cuando su padre se encontró brevemente detenido por el servicio de inmigración. En esos tiempos, trabajó turnos consecutivos para ganar dinero adicional, dijo. Algo parecido le pasó a Ramos. Esta primavera, cuando la pandemia del coronavirus cerró la fábrica donde trabajaba su padre, Ramos se convirtió en el único sostén de la familia durante algunos meses, trabajando en una empresa que envasaba carne. Cuando empezó el colegio de nuevo en el otoño, pasó a un turno de tiempo parcial en una planta que empaca libros; su hermana de 15 años recientemente se unió a él. Su madre, Lucy, dijo que agradece el dinero que ganan, pero les recuerda que quiere que tengan una educación. Cuando era una niña creciendo en Guatemala, no pudo ir al colegio porque tenía que trabajar en el campo. Sus hijos ahora le están enseñando a escribir su nombre y los números. “Son mis tesoros,” dijo Lucy. “Quiero que estudien para que salgan adelante.” García, sin embargo, siempre ha tenido que priorizar el trabajo porque tiene que mantenerse a sí mismo. Después de un mes en la fábrica de piezas automotrices, encontró un nuevo trabajo lavando la maquinaria de procesar alimentos donde podía hacer un turno más corto, normalmente de 8 de la noche a 5:30 de la mañana. Pero una vez que se matriculó en la escuela, dormía sólo tres o quizás cuatro horas cada tarde. No lograba mantenerse despierto en clase. La mayoría de los maestros fueron comprensivos, pero las reprimendas de una de las maestras todavía le molestan. García intentó explicar a su maestra en su limitado inglés porqué estaba tan cansado. “Eso no es mi problema,” la recuerda diciendo. “No sé por qué trabajan y no estudian.” Encontrar la forma de responder a las necesidades de estos estudiantes ha sido un desafío, dijo Lorenzo Rubio, que dirige el departamento de idiomas del mundo de York. Y no es solo porque los estudiantes están agotados; muchos tienen lagunas importantes en su educación, lo que significa que están retrasados respecto a sus compañeros en temas básicos como matemáticas y ciencia. Cuando Rubio empezó su carrera docente en York hace nueve años, había solo una estudiante guatemalteca recién llegado en el programa de aprendizaje del idioma inglés (EL por sus siglas en inglés), recordó. A medida que aumentaba la inmigración de América Central, el número de estudiantes guatemaltecos en York subía “a ocho, después 15, después 30,” dijo Rubio. El año escolar pasado, hubo 79 estudiantes nacidos en Guatemala matriculados en York, según los registros estatales. Lorenzo Rubio, director del departamento de idiomas del mundo en la Escuela Secundaria Comunitaria York. Sebastián Hidalgo para ProPublica Como respuesta a la afluencia, York expandió su programa de EL y contrató a más maestros, incluidos algunos que enseñan cursos opcionales muy solicitados como mecánica automotriz. Esto facilita a los estudiantes guatemaltecos poder tomar una mayor variedad de clases y conocer a estudiantes fuera del programa. Sin embargo, sólo 57% de los estudiantes aprendiendo inglés en York se gradúan en cuatro años, según archivos estatales del año escolar 2018-2019. La parte más difícil para York es responder a las necesidades de los estudiantes que trabajan turnos de noche, dijo Rubio. Educadores en varios distritos escolares cercanos dicen que ellos, también, están adaptándose a una afluencia de centroamericanos recién llegados que trabajan turnos de noche en fábricas, restaurantes y hoteles. En la escuela secundaria Fenton a unas millas de York, la mayoría de los aproximadamente 80 estudiantes que están aprendiendo inglés son de Guatemala y acaso la mitad trabajan en fábricas, dijo Michelle Rodríguez, quien coordina el programa de inglés como segunda lengua. Ahora que su colegio ha pasado a la enseñanza a distancia en respuesta a la pandemia del coronavirus, Rodríguez ve que los estudiantes algunas veces acceden al sistema de aprendizaje virtual desde las salas de descanso de las fábricas. Dice que está siendo difícil mantenerles involucrados en línea. Pero incluso antes de la pandemia, sabía que muchos estudiantes tenían la tentación de dejar el colegio para trabajar a tiempo completo. “Tenemos, digamos, tres años con el estudiante,” dijo. “Intentemos en esos tres años darles la mejor educación que podamos.” Los adolescentes pueden ser reacios a hablar del trabajo, aun con los adultos del colegio en quienes confían. Becky Morales, una maestra de EL en York, es uno de esos adultos. Cuando se hacían clases en persona antes de la pandemia, permitía a los estudiantes hacer siestas durante la hora del almuerzo si se mantenían despiertos durante matemáticas o ciencia. “Si no tienes los básicos de comida y de sueño y de ser amado,” dijo, “no vas a ser capaz de aprender nada.” (Las clases se han hecho en persona de forma intermitente durante este año escolar debido a la pandemia.) Por casualidad un día del invierno pasado, notó que la mano de García estaba hinchada, envuelta en gasa y embadurnada de sangre seca. Morales sacó a García a un lado y él le explicó lo que había pasado. En medio de su turno la noche anterior, dijo, se había cortado el nudillo de su mano izquierda con la manguera de alta presión que usaba para limpiar maquinarias. Un chorro fuerte de agua hirió su mano, rompiendo el guante de goma y cortando la piel. Él creía que podía ver el hueso. Dijo que fue a un supervisor y pidió que le llevaran a una clínica. El supervisor le preguntó si tenía “el seguro bueno,” o sea permiso para trabajar legalmente. “Y eso no lo tenía’’, dijo García. “Entonces ya no me llevaron.” En la escuela, Morales encontró un botiquín de primeros auxilios, le limpió la mano y le dijo que fuera a la enfermería. Cuando la enfermera le preguntó que le había pasado, García dijo que se había cortado con un cuchillo de cocina. La enfermera le dijo que la herida era demasiado profunda para ser de un cuchillo, y preguntó otra vez, explicó García. “Después hice como que ya no le estaba entendiendo. Como todo me estaba hablando en inglés, hice como no le estaba entendiendo.” Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica Temió que si admitía que se había lesionado en el trabajo, tendría problemas por usar una tarjeta de identidad falsa o que su tía iría a la cárcel por permitirle hacerlo. García nunca buscó atención médica adicional. Casi un año después, dice que todavía siente el hueso dislocado. Otros tres adolescentes entrevistados por ProPublica dijeron que habían sufrido lesiones en el trabajo. Dos de ellos ya tenían 18 años cuando se hicieron daño, aunque ambos habían trabajado desde los 16 en empleos que, bajo la ley federal, tendrían que haber sido vetados porque son considerados peligrosos. Uno se fracturó el talón cuando la máquina elevadora que estaba manejando se deslizó sobre su pie en una empacadora de carne. El otro se cortó el pulgar con un cuchillo en una empacadora; un supervisor le llevó a un centro de atención médica primaria para que le dieran puntos. Miguel se cortó la palma de su mano izquierda con un trozo afilado de metal en la planta de reciclaje durante un turno este año, cuando tenía 17 años. La herida era profunda, como dos pulgadas de largo. Tuvo miedo, pero no se lo contó a nadie. Más tarde, cuando volvió a casa, se lavó la herida y la vendó. Al día siguiente, llevó mangas largas al trabajo para esconder su mano lesionada y así evitar que alguien le hiciera preguntas. “Mejor no dije nada,” dijo. A diferencia de los casos donde se sospecha abuso de niños, los funcionarios laborales del estado dijeron que no conocen ningún requerimiento que obligue a denunciar por infracciones sobre trabajo infantil. Cuando se le preguntó si había considerado denunciar el incidente de García a las autoridades, Morales vaciló. Es un asunto sobre el que ha pensado mucho. “Es muy duro. A quien se supone que tengo que informar? Ni siquiera sé,” dijo. “Sabemos que lo hacen para poder mantenerse ellos mismos. Si fuera a un estudiante y le dijera ‘tienes que dejar de trabajar porque es peligroso,’ probablemente dejaría la escuela y seguiría trabajando.” “Digamos que pongo una denuncia al estado de Illinois… entonces todos estos chicos podrían perder sus trabajos. ¿Entonces qué pasa? Siento como que les pondría en una situación peor.” Becky Morales, una maestra de EL en la escuela York, durante un partido de fútbol estudiantil de fin de semana. Sebastián Hidalgo para ProPublica En general, los departamentos de trabajo son sistemas basados en denuncias. Si nadie se queja, rara vez se hace una investigación proactiva o se vigila su cumplimiento. Archivos federales muestran que ha habido sanciones por trabajo infantil contra solo una fábrica de Illinois en los últimos cinco años, y ninguna relacionada con agencias temporales. Y no se ha hecho ninguna denuncia de este tipo al departamento de trabajo de Illinois durante el mismo periodo. El departamento de trabajo estatal hace controles aleatorios de las nóminas de los empleadores y otros documentos, pero es poco probable que se descubra infracciones de trabajo infantil porque los controles se basan en papeleo, y los menores normalmente usan tarjetas de identidad falsas. Oficiales del departamento dicen que se reúnen de forma rutinaria con organizaciones de la comunidad y activistas laborales que tienen relaciones de más confianza con obreros vulnerables para averiguar si hay otros asuntos sistémicos que no se están denunciando. Pero el tema del trabajo infantil en agencias temporales o fábricas no ha surgido en estas conversaciones, dijo Yolanda Carrillo, la consejera general del departamento estatal de trabajo. Ella y otros funcionarios del estado dijeron que tomarían medidas si supieran dónde buscar. “Si no sabes dónde está pasando, a quien está pasando, en qué lugar empezar tu investigación, es difícil enfrentarse al tema de forma integral”, dijo Carrillo. “Y no es por falta de voluntad.” De forma parecida, el Fiscal General Kwame Raoul del estado de Illinois, cuya agencia tiene una oficina de derechos en el lugar de trabajo y ha puesto denuncias civiles contra agencias temporales en años recientes, dijo en una declaración escrita que su agencia está dispuesta a “actuar sin demora” en concierto con otras agencias para asegurar la integridad física de niños y el cumplimento de leyes de trabajo infantil. Pero ellos tampoco han recibido una sola denuncia. Una posible razón que explica la falta de atención al asunto es que los jóvenes guatemaltecos vinieron a este país recientemente y están desconectados de las organizaciones que sirven tradicionalmente a inmigrantes hispanohablantes, la mayoría de los cuales son mexicanos. Los guatemaltecos que hablan de forma primaria una de los muchas lenguas indígenas maya están todavía más aislados. Sin embargo, a Carrillo—y a casi todos los activistas laborales, académicos, oficiales consulares, abogados de inmigración y otros entrevistados para este reportaje—no les sorprende conocer las experiencias de los jóvenes guatemaltecos. Antes de entrar en el departamento de trabajo el año pasado, Carrillo había trabajado para organizaciones legales que atienden a obreros de bajo sueldo, incluidos inmigrantes, sobre asuntos laborales. “No me asombra,” dijo. “El problema es que la gente no comparte. Usted [como reportera] puede entrar en una conversación y conseguir que la gente comparta información …No digo que sea imposible, pero es mucho más difícil para una agencia entrar y lograr que la gente comparta información.” Pero ha habido pistas en años recientes sobre niños y adolescentes que trabajan en fábricas de las afueras de Chicago. El mes pasado, la oficina del fiscal federal de Chicago denunció a una pareja guatemalteca en Aurora, otro suburbio al oeste, por trabajos forzados por presuntamente haber obligado a una adolescente, de 16 o 17 años, a trabajar para pagar deudas del viaje, según la denuncia. Al menos uno de los empleos era en una fábrica, fue obtenido a través de una agencia de empleo, y requería que ella tuviera 18 años. Y en un caso que generó alguna atención pública el año pasado, las autoridades encontraron a una guatemalteca de 15 años trabajando por medio de una agencia de empleo en una planta de procesamiento de comida rápida en Romeoville, en las afueras del sudoeste. Era una de más de dos docenas de personas que vivían en la casa de una mujer con quien supuestamente tenían deudas de inmigración, además de alquiler y otras expensas. La mujer se ha declarado culpable de una de las acusaciones por trabajo forzado, además de otros cargos, y está esperando su sentencia. En ningún caso las autoridades presentaron cargos criminales contra las agencias de trabajo que empleaban a los menores en las fábricas que, sabiéndolo o no, se beneficiaban de su trabajo. Un portavoz de la oficina del fiscal federal declinó hacer comentarios mientras los casos permanezcan abiertos. Estos casos se enfocaron en los individuos involucrados y no en el sistema más amplio que permite el uso de trabajo infantil. La política es parecida cuando los departamentos de trabajo hacen investigaciones proactivas de trabajo infantil, dijo Janice Fine, una profesora de asuntos laborales e investigadora en Rutgers, quien hizo un sondeo reciente en los departamentos de trabajo estatales acerca de cómo vigilan el cumplimiento de las leyes laborales. (Illinois no fue parte del sondeo.) Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica La estrategia que se emplea normalmente para responder al trabajo infantil—investigadores haciendo redadas en comercios donde es probable que se emplee a menores, como las ferias veraniegas, o restaurantes—no es una solución eficaz a largo plazo, dijo. “No están pensando, ‘¿Que impulsa el trabajo infantil y cómo podemos enfrentarlo de forma sistemática para determinar en esta industria que es lo que lo impulsa, quienes son los actores claves, quienes son los empleadores claves y de qué tipo de esquemas de empleo están aprovechándose para incurrir en este tipo de actividad?” dijo Fine. “La cuestión de cómo usted de verdad lo convierte en un cambio estructural a largo plazo no es lo que están intentando solucionar.” El problema es más grande que el asunto de hacer cumplir la ley; es un reflejo de la pobreza insuperable en los países que mandan migrantes de todas las edades aquí y de la fuerza de atracción de un mercado laboral americano ávido por contratarlos. “En resumidas cuentas, si interfieres con la situación, ese menor todavía va a trabajar”, dijo Woltjen, del Centro Young. “Si algo pasa y teme que va a ser entregado a las autoridades, huirá y no va a volver a la escuela y todavía va a ir a trabajar.” Durante los 17 años en que ha trabajado con menores inmigrantes no acompañados, ella y sus colegas han visto muchos jóvenes, desde chinos a centroamericanos, llegar a este país sintiendo un deber personal de trabajar para pagar sus deudas y enviar fondos a casa. “Están resueltos a hacerlo,” dijo. Los jóvenes de Bensenville no se sienten explotados. No están pidiendo ser rescatados. Quieren seguir trabajando y ayudar a sus familias en Guatemala y contribuir en los hogares donde viven. “Para uno que es así de otros países donde hay más pobreza, tiene uno necesidad de trabajar para poder ayudar’’, dijo García. “No tiene uno la opción entre escoger solo estudiar y solo trabajar. Entonces siempre tenemos que estar trabajando y estudiando. Allá, hay otros menores que se salen de estudiar.” Aquí, al menos, está recibiendo una educación, dijo. Billy A. Muñoz Miranda, cónsul general de Guatemala en Chicago, sabe lo que está pasando con sus jóvenes compatriotas en Bensenville y a lo largo del país. En una misión anterior como cónsul en California del sur, dijo, sabía de adolescentes que trabajaban turnos de noche en restaurantes y fábricas, y después se presentaban en la escuela solo para quedarse dormidos en las clases. Como oficial consular, tiene la responsabilidad de proteger a los guatemaltecos aquí, y no cree que los menores tendrían que trabajar en fábricas, ganando sueldos mínimos, en condiciones a veces peligrosas. Pero nunca nadie se ha quejado al consulado de esta práctica, incluidos los menores y sus familias, dijo. “No lo ven como un crimen”, dijo. “Lo ven como una fuente de ingresos.” A nivel personal, admira lo duro que trabajan. “Gracias a su labor y trabajo y esfuerzos están dando estabilidad y paz social a Guatemala,” dijo. “Y sin que lo sepamos, han sacrificado su niñez para esto.” Adolescentes de Bensenville juegan a fútbol los fines de semana. Algunos vienen antes y después de sus turnos en las fábricas. Sebastián Hidalgo para ProPublica Cuando hablas con los jóvenes que viven en el complejo de apartamentos, suenan como adultos. Responsables. Pragmáticos. Estoicos. Pero hay momentos que hacen recordar que son todavía niños. Dicen que echan de menos a sus madres. Se entretienen con videojuegos en sus teléfonos celulares. Y, casi sin excepción, adoran el fútbol, el club de fútbol Barcelona, y la superestrella Lionel Messi. Pocos de ellos pueden imaginarse jugando para el equipo de York; con la escuela y el trabajo, no tienen tiempo para actividades extracurriculares. Pero en una mañana fría y lluviosa de septiembre, una docena de ellos se juntaron para jugar un partido en un parque no lejos del complejo de apartamentos. Varios habían fichado al final de su turno en fábricas sólo unas horas antes. Pero parecían llenos de energía. Se rieron, bromeando unos con otros, y se pasaron una pelota mientras hacían ejercicios de calentamiento. Morales, la maestra de York, estaba en la línea de banda, mojada y tiritando. Empezó a organizar los partidos el otoño pasado para conectar con sus estudiantes y crear una oportunidad para que lo pasaran bien fuera del trabajo y la escuela. Les llama “mis hijitos,” y trae a sus propios hijos a los partidos o cuando visita el complejo para entregar provisiones de una despensa de comida comunitaria local. Durante los partidos, se esfuerza en llamar el nombre de cada chico al menos una vez. Los partidos reflejan los dos mundos que habitan los jóvenes, uno por el día y el otro por la noche. A veces, juegan contra hombres con quienes trabajan hombro con hombro en las fábricas. Otros días se enfrentan a un equipo de una escuela secundaria suburbana. Es incierto donde aterrizarán al final; si al convertirse en adultos continuarán trabajando en las fábricas, o terminarán la escuela e irán a la universidad. Varios de los adolescentes guatemaltecos dicen que les gustaría estudiar en la universidad algún día, aunque pocos tienen una idea clara de cómo esto podría suceder. Su futuro en este país es incierto. La mayoría ya han estado esperando durante años mientras sus casos de asilo evolucionan en un sistema de tribunales que está tremendamente obturado. Sus casos han experimentado demoras adicionales con las cambiantes prioridades federales, las jubilaciones de jueces, y ahora la pandemia del coronavirus. Saben que algún día pueden ser deportados. A García no le gusta imaginar una vida de vuelta en Guatemala. “Allá es un poco más difícil la vida,” dijo. “A veces hay trabajo y a veces no.” Dijo que le gustaría ir a la universidad aquí en los Estados Unidos. Se ha sentido atraído por la arquitectura desde que era niño en Guatemala porque tiene un primo que hace este trabajo allí. “Sé dibujar y como me gustan las matemáticas también por eso.” No sabe cómo pagaría la matrícula. Ha visto a amigos graduarse de la secundaria y decir que van a trabajar un par de años para ahorrar y matricularse en la universidad. “Creo que no muchos acaban,” dijo. “Igual se quedan en una fábrica.” García dijo que preferiría intentar conseguir una beca, o alistarse en las fuerzas armadas o mejorar sus notas para poder acceder a las ayudas por mérito académico. Durante la mayoría de su tiempo aquí, su horario de trabajo ha hecho casi imposible aprender y mantener su enfoque en la clase, y sus notas han sufrido. Este año, dejó el empleo en la fábrica e intentó trabajar menos horas en un restaurante para tener más tiempo para dormir. Pero cuando irrumpió la pandemia esta primavera, el restaurante cerró. Al mismo tiempo, York hizo el cambio a enseñanza virtual y jornadas escolares más cortas. García no pudo aprovecharse del tiempo extra para estudiar; le hacía falta dinero. Volvió al turno de noche. Gaby Hurtado-Ramos para ProPublica Traducción por Carmen Méndez.
Donald Trump did what Falwell did!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 18, 2020 at 21:21
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2020Barack Obama remembers: Pepperidge Farm used to remember. In his recent interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama remembered too.In the exchange to which we refer, Goldberg asked this question:GOLDBERG (11/16/20): Your wife has always had a slightly different view on the salience of race here, and you don’t dwell on race in this volume, but how much of the opposition to you had to do with the fact that you’re a liberal Democrat, versus you being a Black president?How much of the opposition to Obama’s presidency was a function of race? How much of the opposition was a function of party and tribe?Such things are hard to measure. But in his answer, Obama briefly remembered:OBAMA (continuing directly): I actually write about how hard it is to allocate percentages here, because American history and culture are so shaped by our racial history. If someone is in favor of “states’ rights,” it’s very hard to disentangle this statement from race. Maybe they just believe in local government and local control. On the other hand, this debate started as far back as debates between northern and southern states and the maintenance of slavery, and Jim Crow and opposition to busing, you name it. It’s difficult to clearly say how much of this was race, as opposed to opposition to liberalism. The Clintons, for example, generated similar venomous attacks. A lot of that had to do with the culture wars that dated back to the ’60s—Vietnam, pot, sex, rock and roll, the debate between Phyllis Schlafly and Bella Abzug.Obama continued on from there. It seems to us that the highlighted statement ought to be fleshed out.Dating at least to the Clinton era, our modern politics has been dominated by The Terminally Stupid and Dumb and, of course, by The Crazy. The Crazy has functioned like thisIn Obama’s case, a crackpot celebrity—Donald J. Trump—spent five years bruiting the crazy claim that Obama had been born in Kenya. Based upon a string of surveys, an amazingly large percentage of Republicans eventually said that they believed this crazy claim.That’s part of the way The Crazy worked with Obama. But as Obama told Goldberg, The Crazy was active in the case of the Clintons too.In that instance, a crackpot celebrity—the Reverend Jerry Falwell—began peddling a videotape about the Clintons’ many murders. We don’t recall that matter being surveyed, but it’s safe to say that a significant percentage of anti-Clinton voters believed that lunacy too—and yes, a whole lot else went into that lunatic stew.The Kenya claim can be said to have been about race. The multiple murders claim involves no such connection. And after that, along came Candidate Gore, and an array of celebrities in the upper-end mainstream press corps spent several years spreading the claim that Gore had a psychiatric need to make ridiculous, inaccurate statements.Al Gore said he invented the Internet! They said such things again and again and again, over a long stretch of years. The Crazy came from Jerry Falwell, then it came from Trump. In between, it came from Chris Matthews and Maureen Dowd and from an endless array of major mainstream journalists. These same people spent twenty years trashing Hillary Clinton, often in the dumbest and most gender-laden ways.Our tribe is too spectacularly stupid to understand this history. As a group, we’re able to notice nothing at all unless we can tie it to race. In recent years, we’ve added gender to our extremely limited playlist. This new concern came along much too late to help Nurse Ratched / Evita Peron, AKA Hillary Clinton. (The twenty-four years in which we stared into space while Hillary Clinton was being trashed explain how she lost by an eyelash to Trump. Our team is too stupid to grasp this.)Our team is just tremendously dumb. We’ve memorized one or two plays. We know, and are able to notice, nothing else.Our only real skill involves our ability to say that the others are dumb. We’re silly and hopeless and nobody likes us. Even in the face of this, Obama briefly remembered what happened when Clinton arrived.(Before that, the mainstream press corps discovered that Gary Hart might have a girl friend. That discovery came to us from the msm.)The Clintons “generated similar venomous attacks?” Children, that’s putting it mildly! This is the unnoticed history of modern politics in this, our failing society.The question we’ll soon be raising is simple. How did we get so dumb?
Biden vs. the Climate Revolution
by Taylor Griggs on November 18, 2020 at 19:26
Though wary of electoral politics, progressive climate activists helped Biden win—and now must make him deliver.
THE BRAIN CELL MONOLOGUES: Underlings hacked The Others to bits!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 18, 2020 at 16:03
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2020The impulse which never dies: Robert Zaretsky is a history professor at the University of Houston. His various bio pages at that school don’t seem to have been updated since maybe 2015.Whatever! As a little-noted anniversary approaches, Zaretsky has offered this portrait at Slate—a portrait perhaps of ourselves:ZARETSKY (11/17/20): At the command of their ruler, underlings burst into the homes of the leaders of the opposing party in the early hours of the morning, hacking them to pieces in their beds and dragging their remains through the streets. As dawn broke, many civilians, rather than recoiling in horror, responded with even greater frenzy. Fanning out across the city, they broke into the homes of their rivals, massacring entire families. Men drove swords into pregnant mothers and tore their unborn children from their wombs; other children were spared but were immersed in the blood of their slaughtered parents as a warning to never hold the same beliefs; the river running through the city turned deep red from the hundreds of hacked corpses thrown into it. By the time dogs found no more body parts to gnaw on, more than 2,000 people had lost their lives.We are two years shy of the 450th anniversary of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The event was triggered by France’s Catholic King Charles IX and his mother, Catherine of Medici, when they either ordered or supported the killing of Huguenot Protestant leaders who had gathered in Paris for a royal marriage. But what was meant to be a surgical operation targeting Huguenot leaders turned into a mass butchery, thanks to the passions they had unleashed. While St. Bartholomew’s Day was the most infamous massacre of the period, it was not unique: Dozens of similar events—slighter though no less savage and committed by Huguenots no less than Catholics—occurred during the Wars of Religion that convulsed 16th-century France for more than three decades. Each side was convinced it held the truth; each side was determined to make the other see the light; each side was willing to keep killing until that light could appear.As always, the two warring, self-assured “sides!” In his second inaugural address, Lincoln offered a rueful portrait of the two self-assured sides:Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God…We believe Abraham Lincoln said that.We thought first of the killing fields of Rwanda as we read Zaretsky’s opening passage. That said, the killing fields of Bosnia were underway at the same time. Then too, PBS is currently airing a new “docudrama” series, Rise of the Nazis. We aren’t in love with the series’ writing, but the story never gets old.Zaretsky says that what happened back then isn’t happening here. Well—it isn’t quite happening here:ZARETSKY: Flash forward several centuries and the present moment is redolent with a sense of déjà vu. Of course, there are crucial distinctions between then and now. The truth claims of both Huguenots and Catholics were faith-based, a trait that is now mostly the province of the red camp, while the blue camp mostly insists upon an empirical and rational basis for truth. But if we look at the progressive wing of the blue camp, we see the growing and disturbing tendency to cultivate the very same group experience offered by their foes. As a result, there is the danger of dogmatism on our side, as well. At times, it seems less a question of, say, the relative merits of international engagement or national retrenchment, or the positive or negative forms of liberty. Instead, like our 16th-century ancestors, we lean Manichaean. Truth versus heresy, good versus evil, and right versus wrong.Does our present-day blue camp “mostly insist upon an empirical and rational basis for truth?” We would be extremely slow to sign on to that portrait. Indeed, as he continues in that passage, Zaretsky pokes holes in his own characterization of Us Liberals Today. And yes, we humans still “lean Manichean.” Experts continue to tell us that it’s bred in the bone.This morning, in The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky is hoping we’ll lock (most of) the others up. “There’s nothing I’d love more than to see the whole [Trump] family get sent up the river. Ivanka included,” he says at the start of his essay. Tomasky would even love to see Ivanka in chains! After acknowledging that this might be hard to achieve, he scales back his suggestions to Biden: TOMASKY (11/18/20): Go hard after everybody not named Trump. That means Bannon, already indicted. Giuliani. Bill Barr, if they can find any way that he broke the law in meddling in these investigations. Lindsey Graham for that phone call. The whole lot of them. Nobody outside the hard right cares about any of these people. America knows they’re corrupt. Indicting any of the supporting characters would be still controversial, but very few Americans will really go to the mat for Bill Barr.Tomasky can’t possibly know what Graham actually said in that phone call. Already, though, he’s urging the (presumptive) next president to lock him up—to lock him up for whatever it is he said.Also, Biden should lock up Barr, “if he can find any way.” As Lincoln almost said, “Each looked for an easy triumph.”(For the record, all such prosecutions would perhaps be hard to sustain. Whatever else he may be doing, Trump’s current tsunami of tribal fictions will conceivably function as a form of future jury tampering.)As all this happens, The Atlantic is thinking long and hard about the Kardashians’ final season. And yes, it’s apparently true—the family’s three hundred “reality series” have apparently been on the air for a full twenty years.Simple story! A nation so blindingly stupid can’t hope to succeed or survive. As we noted yesterday, Stephen Brill started out with a reasonably serious basic cable venture. Within a matter of a few years, it had re-emerged as a collection of “docusoaps,” but also as a set of “reality” programs literally called World’s Dumbest.The history of basic cable’s decline is comical but instructive. We’ll return to that comical story tomorrow. Beyond that, what other realities wait to be explored? The widespread stupidity everywhere else, the astonishing brain cell decline.Tomorrow: The History Channel today. Plus, what hath Bravo wrought?
Primatology and the Post-Election
by Elissa Jacobs on November 17, 2020 at 19:24
In true chimpanzee fashion, Trump has thrown figurative poop at every potential rival.
Letters to the New York Times!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 17, 2020 at 17:12
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2020Sunday’s unhelpful example(s): On Sunday, the virus of peaceful separation spread to the letters published by the New York Times:To the Editor:Thomas L. Friedman has written another brilliant column, outlining the deep, irreconcilable divides in our country. He describes the fear of less educated whites that the country’s population is moving heavily toward people of color and different cultural backgrounds, and that they are being left behind by a skilled technological society that they believe ignores their needs and demeans them. There is also a rural and urban divide. These differences have deeply divided America, exacerbated by the Trump presidency.A century and a half ago America fought a civil war over issues painfully analogous to these. Perhaps it is time to consider a similar solution, but by peaceful means. The fractionalization of the country is leaving deep scars that will not heal.Perhaps recognizing this can lead to peaceful separation of the union into red states and blue states acceptable to both sides. The states on each coast could join in a blue union, with a few states in between, perhaps even joining with Canada to unite the geographic separation.Once again, our own blue tribe will get both coasts. We might even join with Canada!We’re not entirely sure that this will be “acceptable to both sides.” For our previous discussion of such implausible cogitation, you can just click here.Did it make sense to publish this letter? We have no idea. That said, the letter below was comically wrong on several levels. Let’s start with what it said:To the Editor:Like [Frank] Bruni, I wonder how more than 70 million Americans could have voted for Donald Trump. I understand that many who live away from large, diverse urban areas believe that “elites” look down on them and have strong negative feelings about nonwhites and immigrants. That said, I am baffled as to why his failure to manage Covid and its economic fallout—which must have affected many directly—wasn’t more important in their electoral decisions.Part of the answer is that many of them do not share the view that, in fact, he did fail. I heard an elderly person in Florida tell an interviewer that she thought Mr. Trump had done all he could about the virus. Yet those of us who read The Times and other mainstream media know that Mr. Trump rejected science-based recommendations. As a result we did worse than every other developed country.Since the data don’t lie, my assumption is that those facts did not make an impression on Trump voters. Why? Because they get their news and views from sources—Fox and social media—that overwhelm them with “alternative facts.”To make progress on the many fronts that need attention, this is a problem that must be overcome.This letter strikes us as comically wrong. We’ll take you through several steps:We agree on one general point. In our view, Donald J. Trump’s approach to the pandemic has resided just this side of lunacy from the very beginning. There has never been a perfect way to react to this horrible situation. But the president’s public statements have generally been insane.That said, have we “done worse than every developed country?” Also, do “those of us who read The Times” know such “facts” from reading that newspaper? Also, “since the data don’t lie,” is it fair to assume that the letter-writer’s factual claims “did not make an impression on Trump voters?”Comically, the answers are basically no. Things get even dumber when you ponder the link the Times inserted into the letter’s text.Let’s start with the basic facts. At present, our “total deaths to date” are not the highest in the developed world after adjusting for size of population.We do reside near the top on this unfortunate measure. That said, after adjusting for population, the U.K.’s number is slightly worse. Spain and Belgium are still doing considerably worse, with Italy right on our tail.How about an arguably more salient measure—current “daily or weekly deaths?” On that unfortunate measure, quite a few of our most obvious peer nations are currently doing much worse.After adjusting for population, European nations which once seemed to have the virus licked are now recording weekly deaths at rates which significantly exceed our own. Canada and Germany are still doing better than we are, but even Germany’s weekly death rate has risen to the point where it’s more than half of ours.At present, daily/weekly death rates in Spain, France, Italy and the U.K. substantially exceed our own (see data below). This could always change, of course. But “those of us who read The Times” may not be aware of such facts, especially after reading the letter the Times chose to publish this Sunday.The self-impressed reader felt fairly sure that “those of us who read The Times” have been getting the full set of relevant facts from that great newspaper. Oddly, when the Times inserted a link into the text of his letter, the link went to a five-week-old, barely coherent report in Bloomberg. The Bloomberg reporter sourced her fuzzy claims to a JAMA report, to which she didn’t link. The Bloomberg report was five weeks old and largely incompetent. For unknown reasons, the Times provided a link to that report, not to its own work.At present, major peer nations are drowning in Covid deaths. Despite the president’s crazy behavior, we are not the worst in the world at the present time. That said, “those of us who read The Times” are often poorly informed, along with reams of The Others.On the brighter side, we’re rarely in doubt about our tribal superiority. In such ways, our failing nation continues to slide toward the sea.Current weekly deaths: Below, you see Covid death counts from the past week (through November 17). When you adjust for population, our rate in nowhere near the worst in the developed world:Deaths from Covid in the past week:United States: 8969France: 4067Italy: 3983United Kingdom: 2909Spain: 1908Germany: 1308Canada: 463When you adjust for population, our current death rate is far from the worst. Example: France’s population is roughly one-sixth the size of ours. The same is true of the U.K. Italy’s population is somewhat smaller than that. Germany’s population is about one-fourth our size.Rachel almost always forgets to adjust for population. So do the bulk of our “highly educated” upper-end mainstream journalists. Such is the state of our failing nation’s never-ending intellectual dysfunction. It’s been like this for years and years, certainly so in the Times.
THE BRAIN CELL MONOLOGUES: Stephen Brill starts Court TV!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 17, 2020 at 14:34
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2020Straight ahead, “World’s Dumbest:” If the consequences weren’t so vast, our nation’s apparent brain cell drain would be comical, little more.How extensive is the highly destructive “Dumbness Culture” which has led to this winter of our discontent? Consider what happened when Stephen Brill decided to start a basic cable channel.Brill was a graduate of Yale (class of 1972), but also of Yale Law School. As of 1979, he’d already founded The American Lawyer, “a monthly magazine covering the business of law firms and lawyers in the United States and around the world.”In its initial thumbnail, the leading authority on Stephen Brill also describes him as “the author of the best-selling book, Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall–and Those Fighting to Reverse It.” Brill has written several other books on major policy topics. These books have always commanded mainstream attention, whether deserved or not.In short, Brill has long been a major upper-end figure. In 1991, he launched the basic cable channel known as Court TV. The comedy starts when we consider where Court TV ended up. The leading authority on the channel thumbnails the channel’s early history in the manner shown:Court TV…was originally launched in 1991 with a focus on crime-themed programs such as true crime documentary series, legal dramas, and coverage of prominent criminal cases. In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV. […]Cable television channel Courtroom Television Network, known as Court TV, was launched, on July 1, 1991 at 6:00 am Eastern Time, by founder Steven Brill, and was available to three million subscribers. Its original anchors were Fred Graham, Cynthia McFadden, and Terry Moran…The channel originally consisted of live courtroom trials that were interspersed with anchors and reporters. It was led by law writer Steven Brill, who later left the network in 1997.”In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV.” That’s where the unfortunate but instructive comedy starts.(The leading authority makes one factual error in the passage we’ve posted. We’ve corrected that mistake with an unmarked edit. As best we can tell, Vinnie Politan didn’t start as an anchor at Court TV until 2001.)One can presume that Court TV was launched as at least a semi-serious venture. Fred Graham, the channel’s lead anchor, had already had a lengthy career as a legal correspondent for the New York Times, then for CBS News. McFadden and Moran were younger, but they’d been recruited from major mainstream organizations. They went on to have journalistic careers at major mainstream news orgs.At least to appearances, Court TV began as a semi-serious venture. That said, the thumbnail history of the channel also tells us this:”In 2008, the original cable channel became TruTV.”According to several sources familiar, it’s at this point that the gods on Olympus begin to laugh. In fairness, the devolution of Court TV is one of the most familiar stories in the history of “basic cable.” The leading authority on TruTV thumbnails that channel’s early history as shown:TruTV (stylized as truTV) is an American basic cable channel that is owned by AT&T’s WarnerMedia under its Studios and Networks unit.The channel was originally launched in 1991 as Court TV, a network that focused on crime-themed programs such as true crime documentary series, legal dramas, and coverage of prominent criminal cases. With its relaunch as TruTV in 2008, the channel revamped its lineup with a focus on reality docusoaps and “caught on camera” programs, which the network marketed as “actuality” television. […]The new brand was intended to accompany a larger shift towards action-oriented reality series which did not necessarily involve crime or law enforcement, such as Black Gold, Hardcore Pawn, Lizard Lick Towing, Ocean Force, and the caught-on-camera series World’s Dumbest. Sad! But so it went as Court TV took on new life as a channel so dumb that it doesn’t even spell the word “true” correctly!Simply put, the dumbness is general when we review the history of this change. Concerning the new channel’s attempt to draw a distinction between “reality” and “actuality,” the leading authority tells us this:TruTV promoted its new positioning under the slogan “Not Reality. Actuality.” Network staff argued that the term “reality” had become associated with “unrealistic” programming, and that it wanted to emphasize that its new programs would feature “real” people.So “network staff” are said to have “argued.” How the gods must laugh!At any rate, within a fairly short time span, the channel had proceeded from analysis by people like Brill and Graham to “docusoaps” and to such programs as Hardcore Pawn and Lizard Lick Towing—but also, to an endless series of dimwitted programs which were literally branded as “World’s Dumbest.” For a review of the World’s Dumbest brand, you can just click here. As Judy might have said to Toto, we’d come a long way from Yale Law School, even perhaps from Yale!In fairness, there’s little we can hope to learn from one such transformation. That said, the devolution from Court TV to World’s Dumbest is only one of the clownish but instructive transformations which have taken place across the basic cable dial.Our award-winning “Brain Cell Monologues” start right here, with this initial sighting. Tomorrow, we’ll move on to more of this basic cable clowning, and we’ll expand our field of view by discussing Brill’s next well-intentioned launch.We liberals find it easy to spot the “brain cell drain” among regular people found in the other tribe. That said, this brain cell drain has been evident in all aspects of American life over the past three or four decades. This includes widespread apparent brain drains put on display by our own tribe’s members and by our own tribe’s honored sachems.We’ve decided to start this history with the road which led from Brill to (the literal) “World’s Dumbest.” But the full story extends all through our nation’s failed and failing intellectual culture, leading us now to Trump.The deeply disordered Donald J. Trump actually didn’t start this. To an embarrassing but deeply instructive extent, our own tribe’s sachems did.Tomorrow: More of this clowning in basic cable. Also, Brill’s subsequent magazine launch
What might the commander’s swan song be?
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 16, 2020 at 19:00
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020Disordered man’s closing act: Why has commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump fired his Secretary of Defense? Why is he suddenly putting unqualified hacks in place within the Defense Department?Yesterday, Chris Wallace and Gillian Turner delivered a good post-Halloween scare to Fox News Sunday viewers. Concerning these sudden personnel moves, they discussed what they’ve been told by Pentagon sources. Fox produces very few transcripts. (At this point, MSNBC is even worse.) For that reason, we’ll have to make a longer story shorter:Turner had already offered some scary rumblings about what “multiple sources” have told her and Jennifer Griffin about this general topic. She said Trump wants to get all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan before he leaves office, but also that that the recent personnel changes are intended to further a second “very specific policy aim.”Wallace chose to continue. As he spoke, he raised the possibility of a military strike on Iran:WALLACE (11/15/20): Gillian, let me follow up with you on that. Because one, I talked to a top Pentagon source this week who said they very much doubted we could get our 4500 troops out between now and January 20 and that—raised serious questions about it, saying it would really weaken our ability to negotiate a deal with the Taliban and to protect the Afghan government.So first of all, what about the merits of pulling out all of our troops from Afghanistan before the end of the Trump presidency? And the second thing is, they talked about the possibility that this was clearing the way for, whether it’s the U.S. or Israel, an attack on Iran’s nuclear structure.Say what? Trump may go out with a military attack on Iran’s nuclear structure? We thought of all the times we’ve heard future experts weeping about the conflagration they’ve been willing to describe only as “Mister Trump’s War.”Wallace said that, according to a top Pentagon source, Trump may be clearing the way for a military attack. Could that possibly be true?Here’s what Turner said:TURNER (continuing directly): So I think both things are correct, Chris.There are serious questions, as your source told you, about the ability to pull out so many troops, just under five thousand, in a few weeks. But people tell us that, despite this, this is something that President Trump and his core team of advisers is really intent on doing. And they believe that, if there is any iota of getting it done, they now have the people in place who can facilitate it. Whether this sets up the Biden administration in a good way to prepare them to protect the homeland and national security interests in the Middle East remains to be seen.On the Iran nuclear issue, the Biden team has basically said, as of now, that they are going to try and rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump is kind of maneuvering behind the scenes now, as best he can with his limited time, to make sure that is as difficult as possible for the future president to do.Is the commander hoping to leave the stage with a military attack on Iran? First, Turner seemed to say yes. After that, her answer became less precise.Is it possible that the commander-in-chief is mentally ill in some serious (and “dangerous”) way? The press corps has steadfastly refused to discuss this fairly obvious question.Will a disordered Samson be willing to pull the temple down around him? Wallace and Turner seemed to say that, according to sources, the answer may be yes.Crazy people will sometimes do crazy things. A group decision to look away may not be the best approach to such a state of affairs.
STARTING TOMORROW: The Brain Cell Monologues!
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 16, 2020 at 14:24
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2020Jake Tapper meets Norman O. Brown: Shannon Palus is a staff writer at Slate. She’s also a good, decent person.Palus is seven years out of college (McGill, class of 2013). Before that, she prepped at Germantown Friends.Palus’s current piece at Slate is one of the first things we read this morning. As of this morning, it was the featured report on the site’s front page.On the whole, we have no idea what Palus is talking about. Slate’s headlines offer this:That Viral Tweet About Suicide Rates in the Pandemic Is Wrong and DangerousIt was debunked months ago. Here’s why it’s still spreading.Commander-in-chief Donald J. Trump has been making claims about suicide rates since March. For that reason, we decided to read Palus’s piece. Her report starts like this:PALUS (11/13/20): On Thursday, a social media post from Jake Tapper included an odd call to action, at least for a CNN anchor: “could 2 followers please copy and re-post this tweet?”The rest of the text contained an alarming, if vague, statement about mental health, along with further specific instructions for sharing:Suicide figures are up. Could 2 followers please copy and re-post this tweet? We’re trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening. Call 1-800-273-8255 (USA hotline)Just two. Any two. Copy, not retweet.As might be obvious, Tapper didn’t write this himself. It’s also not quite accurate.So started this report at Slate. As of this morning, it was the featured report on the site’s front page.The piece is the featured report at Slate; it concerns an important topic. That said, we’ve read the report several times, and we’ve clicked on several links, and we have no real idea what Palus is talking about.We don’t quite know why Palus says that Tapper “didn’t write [the tweet] himself.” We can’t exactly say what she means when she says that Tapper’s (astoundingly vague) factual claim is “not quite accurate.”Along the way, Palus provides material intended to undercut the notion that suicide rates have been rising. Amazingly, this is the material to which we refer:PALUS: Back in June, a tweet stating that “suicide figures are up 200% since lockdown,” with the same call to action as Tapper’s and the phone number for a hotline in the U.K., went viral. Shayan Sardarizadeh, who covers disinformation for the BBC, fact-checked that figure at the time, finding no evidence that suicides had gone up—national suicide rates for 2020 in the U.K. had not even been released at that point…Still, the tweet is not quite false, depending on what you consider a “suicide figure”: Sardarizadeh noted in a post on BBC News’ live reporting blog that the person who first posted the 200 percent figure cited a TV report discussing calls to a help line.But stating that “suicide figures are up” without specifying what one means by that isn’t a neutral statement. It’s designed to be alarming. Consider what it would mean to share the actual fact that calls to a suicide hotline are up. Yes, that sounds concerning. But it’s worth noting that “suicide hotlines” serve more than just people at immediate risk of harming themselves; you can also reach out to the number in Tapper’s tweet, for example, if you are concerned about a loved one “or would like emotional support,” according to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website. And increased calls to hotlines—no matter the reason—could be an indication that they are doing exactly what they are designed to do: help people who need it.The reasoning there strikes us as bizarre. We say that for these reasons:For starters, the initial tweet in June referred to just one statistic concerning one particular help line. Even if that statistic was accurate, it would qualify as “anecdotal” absent other data.It’s hard to know what, if anything, we should conclude based on one statistic involving one help line. But if calls to one particular suicide help line really did go up 200%—that is, if calls to that help line tripled—then on its face, that fact would rather sensibly qualify as “concerning.”Palus makes it sound like that statistic might qualify as upbeat news. It could mean that people are doing the things they should, she correctly (and selectively) says.Again, a single statistic of that type can actually tell us nothing. That said, Palus’s highly motivated reasoning, and her general failure to explain what Tapper did and why he did it, does in fact help show us something about the decline of our nation’s intellectual culture and of our larger cultural world.The web site Slate began its life as a serious journalistic venture, at least to the extent that such ventures were still possible by the time of its founding. The leading authority on the site thumbnails its early history in the manner shown:[Slate] was created in 1996 by former New Republic editor Michael Kinsley, initially under the ownership of Microsoft as part of MSN. In 2004, it was purchased by The Washington Post Company (later renamed the Graham Holdings Company), and since 2008 has been managed by The Slate Group, an online publishing entity created by Graham Holdings. Journalistically, Kinsley had distinguished himself as the well-known “brightest man of the 1980s.” As of 2004, the site he founded was purchased by the Washington Post, a major part of this nation’s upper-end mainstream press establishment.Slate was seen as a serious venture as of the time of its founding. By this morning, the site was headlining a puzzling analysis piece by a youngish, somewhat ardent writer—an analysis piece which basically didn’t make a whole lot of sense. That said, there’s nothing unusual about this state of affairs. Published work which doesn’t make sense is now widespread across all upper-end mainstream platforms, from the lordly New York Times on down.The Times has largely become a ship of fools. Why should Slate’s work make sense?The Palus report doesn’t make much sense. Why did Tapper post that tweet? Why would Tapper post such a peculiar tweet? Why would any major journalist post a weird tweet like that?Palus doesn’t explain. Along the way, she seems to say that a tripling of calls to a suicide help line should really be scored as good news.Slate’s featured report doesn’t make much sense. But by now, such work is “close enough for mainstream press corps work,” and has been for a long time.Do we modern Americans have the intellectual capacity needed to continue as a functioning nation? Again and again and again and again, the answer seems to be no. Due in part to the power of branding, this fact can be hard to spot at the top of the mainstream cultural heap. It’s painfully evident in emanations which come to us from down below.Do we have the intellectual capacity to continue as a nation? Starting this week, we’ll look at some of the sectors where the answer may seem to be no. For now, we’ll even note the way Tapper’s followers scrambled to hail his puzzling tweet, with very few people noting how little journalistic content Tapper was offering.Starting this week, we’ll examine the various sectors where our capacity for sensible conduct seems to have come to an end. As we do, we’ll think again of Norman O. Brown’s warning from the acid-downing, street-fighting 1960s. Brown, a UC Santa Cruz classicist, suddenly became a major figure during that era. At this site, we’ve been recalling his rather murky warning since at least 2009:BROWN (1960): I sometimes think I see that societies originate in the discovery of some secret, some mystery; and end in exhaustion when there is no longer any secret, when the mystery has been divulged, that is to say profaned…And so there comes a time—I believe we are in such a time—when civilization has to be renewed by the discovery of some new mysteries, by the undemocratic but sovereign power of the imagination, by the undemocratic power which makes poets the unacknowledged legislators of all mankind, the power which makes all things new. The power which makes all things new is magic. What our time needs is mystery: what our time needs is magic. Who would not say that only a miracle can save us?This warning came from Professor Brown’s address to Columbia’s Phi Beta Kappa society. His warning was murky, but apt.In our view, it’s abundantly clear that our failing society is currently “ending in exhaustion.” To date, no one has discovered the new mystery, the new secret, which would make all things new.Do we the people have what it takes to run a giant modern nation? As our monologues proceed, we’ll look at indications from below, and at those which come to us from the top of our failing world.Tomorrow: The comical story of Court TVStill coming: Listening to C-Span callers; parsing our failing tribe’s leading professors; reading the work at the New York Times; top clowns of the History Channel…
Why did Dems lose seats in the House?
by <b>bob somerby</b> on November 14, 2020 at 16:12
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2020Again with the latest headcounts: For today, we’ll recommend a new colloquy between New York magazine’s Eric Levitz and Democratic number-cruncher David Shor.Levitz offers a brief introduction to the lengthy discussion. Once again, we’re prepared to explain the highlighted observation:LEVITZ (11/13/20): Barring an unlikely triumph in Georgia’s Senate runoffs in January, the 2020 election will go down as a down-ballot disaster for the Democratic Party. Even as Biden won the popular vote by as much as five points, Democrats saw their House majority shrink, most of their top Senate challengers fall flat, and their attempts to flip state legislatures come up empty. What’s worse, these losses appear attributable to trends that raise ominous questions about the party’s electoral prospects going forward: The most xenophobic Republican president in modern memory made large gains with Latino voters, while white rural America continued its steady rightward march. Most Democrats weren’t prepared for these disappointments.Once again, the question arises. If Biden won the popular vote by as much as five points, why did Democrats see their House majority shrink?As we noted at the start of the week, this doesn’t seem like much of a mystery. Here’s the breakdown of the electorate in 2018—the electorate which gave Dems 235 House seats:Total votes, nationwide, 2018 House elections:Democrats: 60,572,245 (53.4%)Republicans: 50,861,970 (44.8%)Biden may end up defeating Trump by as much as five points. But the 2018 electorate favored Dems by almost nine points—by roughly 8.6!(In a president’s initial off-year election, it’s typical for the opposition party to turn out more heavily than the president’s party.)In short, the Dems had a larger turnout advantage last time around. We don’t know why it should be surprising to see that this year’s electorate gave Democrats fewer House seats. Dems keep winning the popular vote in national elections. That said, a lot of the Democratic vote is “wasted” in super-majority California and in overwhelmingly Democratic House districts.Meanwhile, our cockeyed system of “Senate math” vastly favors the GOP. Also, we have the basic fact Kevin Drum recently cited:There are a lot of conservatives out there! Whatever such fuzzy terms might mean, self-identified conservatives tend to outnumber self-identified liberals by a substantial margin.You go to the polls with the electorate you have. It’s also true that Democrats face several significant structural disadvantages. These basic facts can’t be wished away, not even by giants like us. Shor identifies as a socialist, but he has also looked at the numbers (and looked and looked and looked). Here’s the final Q-and-A, vastly edited down:LEVITZ: [A]ssuming you still identify as a socialist—what does that identification mean to you? And do you think that your empirical analysis of how politics works today is compatible with a belief in the possibility of socialism’s realization at some distant future date?SHOR: I still identify as a socialist. I think there’s a lot of academic arguments that we can have. But like I said, when you look at all the popular things that are out there, there’s a lot we can do. And it’s true that not being able to pass large middle-class tax increases is a big constraint. It means we can’t re-create Sweden, definitely can’t re-create things past Sweden. But I think that pretending that these very real political constraints don’t exist does not accomplish anything. …And you can’t just switch off cultural conservatism or pretend that it doesn’t exist.Shor identifies as a socialist, but he says we can’t pretend that The Others don’t exist! Where does he get these ideas?Final point:People with conservative views have every right to hold them. Our tribe is strongly inclined to “otherize” these people, in ways which can get ugly and dumb.Politically, this probably isn’t especially helpful. But our species has always been like this, and we don’t seem inclined to move beyond our basic wiring.Concerning the brilliance we tend to ascribe to ourselves:A five-point advantage is less than nine. This seems like an obvious point, but we can’t seem to puzzle it out!
The Top Ten Stats about MoveOn’s 2020 Election Program
by Nick Berning on November 12, 2020 at 22:02
MoveOn members went big in 2020, and we won! The post The Top Ten Stats about MoveOn’s 2020 Election Program appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Biden and Harris Win! The People Have Spoken Decisively and Demand Action
by Nick Berning on November 7, 2020 at 16:28
The people of our multi-racial democracy have spoken, loudly and clearly. They have deposed a would-be dictator and voted for government action in the face of crisis. The post Biden and Harris Win! The People Have Spoken Decisively and Demand Action appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Member Stories: Why I, a child of the Civil Rights Era, am voting in 2020
by Gari De Ramos on November 2, 2020 at 16:26
By Queen Jackson, MoveOn member What motivates me to be an activist comes from my family. It comes from being a witness to the Civil Rights Movement when I was a child. My parents would sit for hours talking about the issues, explaining the importance of Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Civil Rights Movement. The post MoveOn Member Stories: Why I, a child of the Civil Rights Era, am voting in 2020 appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Member Stories: Change Starts From the Bottom-Up
by Gari De Ramos on October 29, 2020 at 16:08
Written by Kimm, MoveOn member I come from a long line of people who have served this country and people who, despite there being so many odds stacked against them, have pushed through and said, “The American dream is for me too. I am going to vote and you will respect this right to vote.” The post MoveOn Member Stories: Change Starts From the Bottom-Up appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Member Stories: Why I’m a Vote Mobilizer
by Gari De Ramos on October 29, 2020 at 16:07
By Todd, MoveOn member The rights of so many are at stake this election cycle. As a proud gay man, I cannot just stand by and see my rights made unavailable to me. But I know this election cycle in particular, it’s not only my rights that are on the line, but the rights of The post MoveOn Member Stories: Why I’m a Vote Mobilizer appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Watch #YourVoteIsPower: Power in Action livestream series
by Corinne Ball on October 23, 2020 at 19:40
Each Sunday leading up to Election Day, MoveOn will host a livestream event that will dig into the biggest issues facing our country and the most powerful opportunities we have for action, with movement leaders, celebrities, and issue experts. The full series will cover topics including our path to victory to win the White House The post Watch #YourVoteIsPower: Power in Action livestream series appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
NEW ADS: MoveOn Expands Senate Program in Maine, Arizona, and South Carolina
by Brian Stewart on October 7, 2020 at 23:05
New $2 million Ad Campaign on TV, Digital, Radio Fueled by Swell of Energy Against Republicans Stacking the Supreme Court and Denying Voters a Say Washington, DC — Today, MoveOn is releasing TV, digital, and radio ads in Maine, Arizona, and South Carolina to reach young people, people of color, and women, key groups that are The post NEW ADS: MoveOn Expands Senate Program in Maine, Arizona, and South Carolina appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Member Stories: David Patridge Fights for Entertainment Workers
by Gari De Ramos on October 2, 2020 at 19:48
David Patridge, a MoveOn member from Hoboken, NJ, had done everything right. He went to school, found a career he loved, and worked hard. But now, he’s facing some bleak firsts. “I’m collecting unemployment for the first time in my life, laid off for the first time in my life, and facing possible economic consequences The post MoveOn Member Stories: David Patridge Fights for Entertainment Workers appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Member Stories: “My Vote Isn’t Just My Vote”
by Gari De Ramos on October 2, 2020 at 19:41
Written by Janet, MoveOn member. Political organizing doesn’t stop just because a pandemic is raging on. In a normal world, I would be knocking on doors, making phone calls, canvassing door-to-door, or stopping people on the street to have conversations about the election. But this time is different. In spite of life’s challenges, I am The post MoveOn Member Stories: “My Vote Isn’t Just My Vote” appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Members Protest Nationwide on #SaveThePostOffice Saturday
by Brian Stewart on August 24, 2020 at 20:06
“Save the Post Office Saturday” was a huge success! On Saturday, as House Democrats passed measures to repeal Louis DeJoy’s actions and fully fund the post office, tens of thousands of us gathered in front of post offices at more than 800 actions in every state across the country. Together, we demanded that Donald Trump and Postmaster General The post MoveOn Members Protest Nationwide on #SaveThePostOffice Saturday appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn on the Selection of Kamala Harris for the Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination
by Brian Stewart on August 11, 2020 at 20:28
Statement from Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, on the announcement of Senator Kamala Harris as the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee: “The nomination of Senator Kamala Harris by Joe Biden is a historic moment. As Harris takes the national stage as the nominee for vice president, she enters a long line of firsts for women The post MoveOn on the Selection of Kamala Harris for the Democratic Vice Presidential Nomination appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
New Polls: Trump’s Use of Unidentified Federal Officers to Suppress Protest Is Backfiring in Senate and Presidential Battlegrounds
by Nick Berning on July 24, 2020 at 15:28
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Majorities in Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina Oppose Trump’s Approach, Want Congress to Intervene Washington, DC — Voters in three key battleground states are closely following and by a significant majority oppose Donald Trump’s recent use of unidentified federal agents to suppress protests, according to new polling conducted by Public Policy Polling The post New Polls: Trump’s Use of Unidentified Federal Officers to Suppress Protest Is Backfiring in Senate and Presidential Battlegrounds appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Leading Artists Partner with MoveOn, Amplifier Launch ‘Your Vote Is Power’ Initiative to Drive Young Voter Registration and Turnout
by Brian Stewart on July 23, 2020 at 18:00
WASHINGTON, DC — Major artists including Nevermade, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya and Thomas Wimberly are collaborating with MoveOn, a leading national progressive advocacy organization, and Amplifier, a design lab that builds art to amplify the voices of grassroots movements, to launch “Your Vote Is Power.” The new initiative will use art and culture to drive voter registration The post Leading Artists Partner with MoveOn, Amplifier Launch ‘Your Vote Is Power’ Initiative to Drive Young Voter Registration and Turnout appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Launches #MyAmericanFlag Campaign to Honor Immigrants and International, Multigenerational Heritages
by Michele Watley on July 6, 2020 at 19:26
“I know this country belongs to me and I to it. I am her steward, a guardian of the promise and the possibility of America.” –Alfre Woodard Previous Next Alfre Woodard “I am an AFRICAN American. This land is irrigated by deltas of sweat and rivers of the blood of my people, the stolen people The post MoveOn Launches #MyAmericanFlag Campaign to Honor Immigrants and International, Multigenerational Heritages appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn Members Endorse Joe Biden for President
by Brian Stewart on July 1, 2020 at 15:35
Biden won the group’s fourth-ever presidential endorsement with 82% of votes cast. MoveOn members have voted overwhelmingly to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden in his campaign for the presidency—the most recent benchmark in the organization’s electoral plan that will mobilize volunteers, turn out voters, and work to defeat Donald Trump. Biden won 82.4% of The post MoveOn Members Endorse Joe Biden for President appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Who we are: Demographic information about MoveOn’s staff
by Julia Silbergeld on June 23, 2020 at 23:19
We have been receiving an increasing number of questions from MoveOn members about the makeup of our staff, especially our racial demographics. With this post we are moving to make that information more transparent. As of June 12, 2020, 51% of our staff identify as people of color (16% identify as Black) and 49% identify The post Who we are: Demographic information about MoveOn’s staff appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Progressives Mobilize to Pass Heroes Act, House COVID Relief Bill
by MoveOn on May 12, 2020 at 20:09
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS CONTACT: Valerie Jean-Charles email@example.com Progressives Mobilize to Pass Heroes Act, House COVID Relief Bill Groups Vow to Continue Fighting for Improvements and Additional Relief WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leaders of the country’s biggest progressive organizations pledged today to mobilize their millions of members to pass the HEROES Act relief package just proposed The post Progressives Mobilize to Pass Heroes Act, House COVID Relief Bill appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Our Statement on Tara Reade’s Allegations Against Vice President Biden
by MoveOn on May 1, 2020 at 22:06
Believe survivors has always meant that people who come forward with allegations of sexual violence deserve the presumption of truth, and that their allegations should be heard and respected, not ignored or dismissed. Sexual violence is an epidemic in our country. We owe survivors a process where they are treated fairly, in a trusted system. The post Our Statement on Tara Reade’s Allegations Against Vice President Biden appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
MoveOn, Indivisible, Community Change Action Alarmed By ‘Inadequate Half Measures’ Proposed In Negotiations Between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer
by Nick Berning on April 8, 2020 at 21:43
“To be clear, it is the White House and Senator McConnell who are trying to force a business-only measure that completely ignores the needs of American families. But that is sadly expected. We need more from Democratic leaders. We call on Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer to use the profound power they hold in this moment to provide solutions that will save lives and help families survive this crisis.” The post MoveOn, Indivisible, Community Change Action Alarmed By ‘Inadequate Half Measures’ Proposed In Negotiations Between Trump, Pelosi and Schumer appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
We’re in this together
by Tillie McInnis on April 3, 2020 at 20:27
How MoveOn members came together in March in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic It’s clear that we are living in an unprecedented moment. Within all of the uncertainty, MoveOn members across the country have pulled together to stand up for one another, keep each other safe, and hold decision-makers accountable. There’s so much The post We’re in this together appeared first on MoveOn: People-Powered Progress.
Imagining A New World on the Other Side of the Pandemic
by By Truthdig on March 20, 2020 at 21:08
At The Nation, Atossa Araxia Abrahamian has a provocative piece that imagines how future historians may come to write the story of the Covid-19 pandemic. The speculative history takes the form of a “best-case” scenario that serves as both a challenge and a salve, an inspirational fantasy to help balance out the more easily imagined
Senator Dumped Up to $1.7 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness
by By Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis / ProPublica on March 20, 2020 at 20:43
Soon after he offered public assurances that the government was ready to battle the coronavirus, the powerful chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions. As the head of the intelligence
If Trump Declares Martial Law Due to Coronavirus, Can He Suspend the Election?
by By Martina Moneke / Truthdig on March 20, 2020 at 05:52
Following the criticism that he has mismanaged the nation’s response to the coronavirus epidemic, Trump has declared himself a “wartime president.” If martial law is next, what will happen to the November election?
Not Giving Up on Happiness: Care of the Self and Well-Being in a Plague Year
by By Juan Cole / Informed Comment on March 19, 2020 at 23:32
The specter of plague haunts our world, and it brings with it not only the ghouls of disease and death but vast economic and social uncertainty of a sort only the most elderly among us remembers (the Great Depression and World War II). My father is 90 and when I called him a child of
The Dem Primary is Over, and We Need Bernie Sanders to Lead on Health Care From the Senate
by By David Faris / Informed Comment on March 19, 2020 at 22:56
On Tuesday, I cast a joyless vote for the very much politically doomed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Illinois primary, in an elementary school where hushed whispers and fearful glances had replaced the normal din of an election day. There was no one standing just outside the perimeter hustling me to vote for this
These Are the 51 GOP Senators Who Just Voted Against Expanding Paid Sick Leave to Protect Americans
by By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams on March 19, 2020 at 20:17
Republican senators on Wednesday teamed up to kill an amendment introduced by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray that would have expanded paid sick leave to millions of U.S. workers left out of a bipartisan coronavirus relief package. Every Republican present for the vote, 51 in total, voted against the amendment while every Senate Democrat voted in favor.
Elections May Have to Change During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Here’s How.
by By Rachel Glickhouse / ProPublica on March 19, 2020 at 17:12
As the novel coronavirus spreads through the U.S. during presidential primaries, election and government officials are scrambling to figure out how to allow voters to cast their ballots safely ― or postpone primaries altogether. Managing in-person voting during an unprecedented pandemic has forced authorities to overcome new virus-related hurdles: providing sufficient cleaning supplies to polling
17 Years Later: The Consequences of Invading Iraq
by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies on March 19, 2020 at 15:10
While the world is consumed with the terrifying coronavirus pandemic, on March 19 the Trump administration will be marking the 17th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq by ramping up the conflict there. After an Iran-aligned militia allegedly struck a U.S. base near Baghdad on March 11, the U.S. military carried out retaliatory strikes against five
Trump Uses Coronavirus to Spread Racism
by By Sonali Kolhatkar on March 19, 2020 at 12:00
There is nothing like a global pandemic to unleash the forces of racism in society. Trump is now routinely calling the novel coronavirus strain “the Chinese virus.”
Here’s Why Americans Need a Basic Income During the Coronavirus Outbreak
by By Anne Kim / The Washington Monthly on March 18, 2020 at 19:53
Dramatic action is needed now to blunt the immediate pain of vulnerable workers.
Fox guest on possible troop withdrawal from Afghanistan: “The solution is more blood, sweat, and tears”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 16:02
JOHN HANNAH (FORMER VP CHENEY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER): The president, you know, is signaling that he wants done with this. There may be some kind of remnant of counter-terror mission here, but I think the danger is that once we withdraw our support for the Afghan government on the basis of a very phony promise from the Taliban that they are not going to try and reestablish their jihadist tyranny — and in very much in cooperation still with Al Qaeda, that once that Afghan government is brought down, Taliban, Al Qaeda come back. It’s going to be infinitely hard for the United States to conduct an effective counter-terrorism mission without an Afghan government there. BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): I apologize for the interruption there. Do you have a better solution then, John? HANNAH: No, I mean, listen, the solution is more blood, sweat, and tears. I think the mission in Afghanistan, as frustrating and as long as it’s been, Bill, with those several thousand troops there supporting an Afghan government — we’re not in the front lines doing the fighting — I still think it’s a sustainable mission if you believe that things can actually get much, much worse. But it needs a president who actually believes that avoiding a Taliban/Al Qaeda resurgence in the place that spawned 9/11 is important enough to continue this kind of sacrifice. Previously: Fox & Friends guest says a war against Iran would be “pretty quick and easy” The Trump-Fox feedback loop could cause a war with Iran Tomi Lahren: “If the plan were to send a huge surge of land and war power to wipe out Iran and turn it into glass … that might actually solve the problem.”
Fox host defends Trump: “Just because you use harsh language doesn’t mean your intent is to denigrate another race”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:48
STUART VARNEY (HOST): Are you a racist if you criticize an African-American politician? The left says, oh, yes you are. The charge, Trump is a racist, is now an established theme in the Democrats’ 2020 campaign. I object. Just because you use harsh language doesn’t mean your intent is to denigrate another race. Throwing that word around, racist, shuts down the debate. You can’t solve problems if you can’t speak freely. The word racist is applied to just about anybody. It no longer has bite. Baltimore has brought the racist charge to a boil. In a series of tweets, the president has criticized Congressman Elijah Cummings. He is a Democrat who has represent a major — majority Black district for over 20 years. The president described Cummings’ district as quote, “A disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess where no human being would want to live.” Oh, that caused outrage. The media jumped on it, and from there on out, branded the president a racist and a bigot. Again, I object. The president was describing reality. Bernie Sanders has said exactly the same thing, but he wasn’t called a racist. Oh, no, he’s a socialist. Now we find that Congressman Cummings himself had used similar language. He said Baltimore was quote, “drug-infested, and the residents walked around like zombies.” He was saying same thing as the president. Nobody criticized him for telling it the way it is, but Trump is a racist. This smearing, this name calling is a deliberate political tactic, and I think it’s going to fail. The weak performance of Democrats running big cities can no longer be covered up. This president, unlike any other president, is prepared to call it how he sees it, and damn the consequences. The president wants the votes of African-Americans. He’s courting them. Instead of pandering with offers of money, he is asking what happened to the billions already spent? Baltimore got 1.8 billion just from the stimulus package. What happened to it? Where did the money go? The Democrats have opened Pandora’s Box without realizing it. They thought that calling him a racist would silence him. Wrong. They’ve given him a campaign theme. And that theme is, the Democrats failing their own supporters. Previously: Fox host defends Trump’s racist tweets: He was just saying Democrats and liberal policies have destroyed Baltimore Fox’s Brian Kilmeade on Baltimore: “I don’t think anyone passed statewide tests in some of these inner-city schools” Fox host makes bizarre defense of Trump’s racism: Trump “probably never watched The Wire ”
Fox News is talking more about abortion than the Democratic debates did
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:21
Melissa Joskow / Media Matters During the four nights of the two Democratic presidential primary debates in June and July, Fox News outpaced CNN and MSNBC in the amount of time it gave to abortion coverage even though the network didn’t host either debate. CNN moderators failed to ask a single question about abortion during the second primary debate this week. And even though MSNBC moderators asked the candidates questions about the topic during the network’s debate in June, Fox News spent more time discussing the issue than CNN, MSNBC, or the candidates themselves did. Right-wing media have been regularly dominating the conversation about abortion ahead of the 2020 elections, filling a void of abortion-related coverage by spreading misinformation and stigma about it. Fox News has been a frequent promoter of anti-abortion misinformation — including the allegation that Democratic support for abortion access is “extreme.” Given this emphasis, as well as the decreasing accessibility of abortion care across the United States, it is essential that moderators ask candidates specific and nuanced questions about abortion during the debates. This trend of right-wing media dominating abortion coverage continued during three of the four nights of the Democratic debates. Media Matters monitored both debates and live pre-debate and post-debate coverage on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News and found that Fox News discussed the topic for almost 26 minutes total. In comparison, the topic was discussed on MSNBC for 11 and a half minutes and on CNN for about six minutes; this count includes the time when abortion was discussed on the debate stage as well as during pre-debate and post-debate coverage. CNN’s moderators failed to ask the candidates any questions about abortion during the network’s two nights of debates. The only time abortion was discussed during CNN’s July 31 debate night was when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) asked former Vice President Joe Biden about his different positions on the Hyde Amendment. Notably, even when discussing the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funds from supporting abortion care except in cases of rape or incest), neither Harris nor Biden used the word “abortion.” The topic was also essentially absent from the July 30 debate. Even though abortion was discussed during both nights of the MSNBC debate in June as moderators questioned candidates about it, Fox News still discussed the topic more each night than the debate participants and commentators on MSNBC or CNN did. During the first night of the June debate, Fox News discussed abortion for about nine minutes and 19 seconds between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m. In contrast, debate participants and commentators on MSNBC discussed the topic for only about four minutes and 15 seconds, and CNN commentators discussed abortion for only two minutes. This disparity was even greater during the second night of the MSNBC debate. During the same time period of 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., Fox discussed abortion for 15 minutes and 48 seconds, while debate participants and MSNBC commentators discussed the topic for four minutes and 44 seconds. Commentators on CNN discussed abortion for less than two minutes. Though there are many important topics that moderators should be raising during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debates, Democratic voters are clear that they want to hear candidates discuss abortion. If moderators continue to prioritize optics, vacuous political theater, and right-wing talking points over substantive questions, right-wing media will continue dominating the discussion and will keep spreading anti-choice misinformation unabated on their own platforms. Methodology Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of the following keywords: “abortion,” “Roe,” “reproductive rights,” “right to choose,” “pro-life,” “pro-choice,” “anti-choice,” “pro-abortion,” “decisions about her body,” “infanticide,” or “Hyde.” We searched on Fox News Channel, CNN, and MSNBC between 8 p.m and 1 a.m. for the June debates and between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m. for the July debates due to the earlier start time. We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which a speaker in the debate or on a network discussed abortion or a related topic. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, and guest panels. We did not include teasers for upcoming segments or rebroadcasts.
Fox & Friends touts Trump’s “connections to Ohio” without noting they involve housing discrimination
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 15:21
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): The president of the United States was in Cincinnati last night. You saw the rally right here on Fox News Channel. There were 17,500 people there at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. The president has connections to Ohio, he’s talked about it in the past. Fifty years ago his father actually owned the Swifton Village housing complex in the Bond Hill area. So he’s got a connection, not only through his family, but also, he won Ohio last time. He needs to win Ohio again this time. … AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): He’s familiar with Skyline Chili and Graeter’s ice cream because he said to that entire audience, he said, “I worked for my dad in the Swifton Village.” He said, “Does anyone know where the Swifton Village is?” And some people, you know, clapped and got excited about it. It’s always nice when someone famous comes into your town and they can relate to the people, and that’s what he does there.
The only Black Republican in the House announced he will not seek reelection. Fox News covered it for 20 seconds.
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 14:32
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) announced on August 1 that he is not seeking reelection in 2020. I have made the decision to not seek reelection for the 23rd Congressional District of Texas in order to pursue opportunities outside the halls of Congress to solve problems at the nexus between technology and national security. https://t.co/GeZ4Hh264f — Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) August 2, 2019 Politico described the importance of Hurd’s retirement: If you are a House Republican, this has been an absolutely gutting few weeks. And, truly, if someone is trying to spin you on how the political picture is not that bad for the House GOP right now — at this moment — you ought to discount them as a political professional or analyst. Because it’s really, really bad, deflating and discouraging. On Thursday night, Texas Rep. Will Hurd — the only black Republican in the House — announced he would not run for reelection. He beat Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2018 in a large district that runs the stretch of the Texas-Mexico border — and she is running again. Republicans like to say this is an R+1 — fine, perhaps — but it’s an R+1 that Hillary Clinton won by 3 points, so it’s not much of an R+1. Others agreed. But while much of the political world is talking about the retirement announcement, Fox News is not as interested. Hurd was not mentioning at all during Thursday’s evening programming or Fox & Friends on Friday, and he has received only 20 seconds of coverage so far during Friday’s America’s Newsroom: Both CNN and MSNBC covered Hurd’s announcement on Thursday and Friday. Fox News has spent plenty of time touting President Donald Trump’s alleged support in the Black community despite polls showing widespread disapproval of the president. Hurd spoke about his decision not to run again with The Washington Post, calling out Trump’s racism: In an interview Thursday with The Post, Hurd criticized Trump’s racist tweets last month in which the president said four Democratic minority congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three of the women are from the United States; a fourth, Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), is a Somali refugee who became a U.S. citizen as a teenager. “When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” Hurd said. Hurd recently told Meet The Press, “I shouldn’t be the only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives.”
Fox’s Newt Gingrich complains about Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: “I don’t remember us electing an angry president literally in my lifetime”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 14:31
BILL HEMMER (CO-ANCHOR): Go ahead and frame the argument that the president is making there from last night, sir. NEWT GINGRICH (FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR): Look, I think Kim Strassel did a great job with the column where she said the choice is between the left and the crazy left, and the crazy left is winning. I watched the first night. It was amazing the level of anger that you got out of Bernie Sanders and Senator [Elizabeth] Warren. I mean, these are really angry people, and it was kind of amazing to watch them. It’s the opposite of how people normally win the presidency. You go back and you watch Barack Obama with a big smile. You watch Ronald Reagan with a big smile. I don’t remember us electing an angry president literally in my lifetime. And yet you have these people who were almost in a rage. You also had the fact that they’re all drifting towards cloud cuckoo land. I mean, when you have a number of moderate Democrats on the stage — and they’ll all be gone soon because they’re not getting enough support to survive. But they’re on the stage and they’re saying — one of them said if we go down this road of taking away everybody’s health insurance we’ll be lucky to carry two states. Now that was a Democrat in the debate warning his follow Democrats that they could be throwing away the presidency. And I think we have to take that seriously. And of course, the president is watching all this and he’s exactly right, and he wants to stoke the fire a little bit about Obama. What’s turned out is that President Obama is no longer radical enough for the left wing of the Democratic Party. So you’re going to end up with Biden defending Obama while the rest of the party attacks him. The truth is, on things like deportation, President Obama deported more illegal immigrants than any other president in American history. In terms of the Affordable Care Act, which was not affordable, but it didn’t cover everybody that left-wingers want to cover. And so you can go down a list and you realize there’s a real fault line in the Democratic Party, and we’re watching it play out in these debates. Previously: After Democratic debate, Fox’s Newt Gingrich calls Democrats “an anti-American party” Fox’s Jason Chaffetz on Democratic debates: “They were doing everything they could to take away your freedoms” Fox & Friends complains that “the thing that was lacking” in Democratic debates over immigration “was the word illegal”
Fox’s Stuart Varney: Electing a Democrat as president will lead to an economic contraction
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 12:52
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): The president was touting the economy last night. STUART VARNEY (FOX BUSINESS HOST): No wonder the Democrats failed to mention the strong economy in their two debates this week, because they don’t have a growth plan, and obviously, President Trump does. The Democrats seem to me to have a contraction plan. No fossil fuels, no private health insurance. That’s a contraction of the economy, rather than the expansion that President Trump’s got. … EARHARDT: Stuart, you mentioned jobs reports, they’re coming out this morning. What can we expect? VARNEY: I think you’ll see the unemployment rate stay around 3.7%. EARHARDT: It’s amazing. VARNEY: Do you realize how low that is? I mean, I have lived in America for 40 odd years, I haven’t seen 3.7% before. Maybe [3.6%] under Trump, I don’t know, but that’s near historic level. EARHARDT: The president said 7 million Americans are off food stamps. Think about that. That’s wonderful. VARNEY: That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. And what is it, 125,000 extra employed people in the state of Ohio? STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): And the job number today is expected to be about 164,000 new jobs. VARNEY: About that. That’s still pretty strong. It might be stronger than that. But here’s something that was buried by the media. DOOCY: Shocking. VARNEY: Right. In the first two years of the Trump presidency, wages and salaries increased 42% more than in the last two years of the Obama administration. EARHARDT: That’s great. VARNEY: Forty-two percent more. EARHARDT: So people can ask themselves are you better off today? VARNEY: How about that? Yes. EARHARDT: Are you better off today and the answer for most people is yes. VARNEY: Well, it shows you — it’s the Trump presidency which turned the economy around. Don’t give me this, that Obama started the recovery. Well, maybe the recovery started in the Obama years, but the expansion, that started with President Donald J. Trump. Previously: Fox Business host Stuart Varney says repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and corporations “would ruin the economy” After first Democratic debate, Fox’s Stuart Varney lashes out at candidates for promising to tax the wealthy: “They attacked the rich” Fox Business host blames stock market decline on House Speaker Pelosi’s press conference
New Bureau of Land Management head complained that federal employees aren’t held “personally responsible for the harm that they do”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 12:43
Melissa Joskow / Media Matters William Perry Pendley, the new head of the Bureau of Land Management, complained in a 2018 interview that employees like the ones he now manages aren’t held “personally liable” or “personally responsible for the harm that they do” regarding federal land management. He also said that one thing that would prevent such problems in the future “is the federal government owning less land.” President Donald Trump’s administration this week appointed Pendley, a right-wing lawyer and commentator, as the acting head of the Bureau of Land Management after he worked at the agency for just a few weeks. Media Matters documented that he has argued that climate science isn’t real, claimed that environmentalists want to “destroy” civilization, and once asked, “How many have died and how many more will die because of diversity and race-based decision making?” Conservation and environmental groups have heavily criticized Pendley’s hiring. Kayje Booker, the policy and advocacy director at Montana Wilderness Association, said: “It’s hard to imagine anyone in this position more dangerous or more conflicted than William Perry Pendley.” Members of the Blackfeet Nation have also criticized the appointment. As The Washington Post summarized, Pendley is “still the counsel of record representing an aging businessman, Sidney Longwell and his small company Solenex. Solenex leased 6,247 acres in northwest Montana in 1982 during the Reagan administration for about $1 an acre. Longwell wants permission to build a six-mile service road and bridge over the Two Medicine River on lands considered sacred by the Blackfeet tribe. Interior wants to cancel the lease. He would use the road to bring in drilling rigs and other oil exploration equipment.” Pendley takes over an agency that’s responsible for managing public lands even though he once wrote a 2016 National Review opinion piece which argued that the federal government should sell its public lands. In response to concerns about Pendley’s views, an Interior Department spokesperson claimed: “This administration has been clear that we are not interested in transferring public lands.” However, Pendley also said in a previously unreported television interview that one of the ways to solve alleged problems with land management is for the government to own “less land.” He also criticized his future employees, saying they’re not held “personally liable” or “responsible for the harm that they do.” Pendley appeared on the January 26, 2018, edition of the Colorado-based libertarian show Devil’s Advocate with Jon Caldara and talked about his cases against the federal government and the Bureau of Land Management. During the show, he said that “the federal government is the world’s worst neighbor. It absolutely is the worst neighbor.” Later during the program, Pendley said that unlike private individuals, the federal government can dodge responsibility for their problems, alleging: “These agencies, these employees, they’re not personally liable, they’re not personally responsible for the harm that they do. They’re going to move down the hall, they’re going to move across the country.” Pendley was then asked how to prevent such alleged problems with the federal government. He responded: “One of the things that prevents it is the federal government owning less land. We recognize the federal government, the United States government owns a third of the country, including especially here in the West.”
Sean Hannity says one of his main criticisms of Republicans is that they aren’t more like Rush Limbaugh
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 02:35
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I actually see similarities between you and Trump. Let me tell you what two of them are. Number one, you’ve got to be able to take a punch. You paved the way for a lot of us that are conservatives in the media. You’ve taken more than your fair share. And then, you’ve got to fight for what you believe. My biggest criticism of Republicans is they are weak, a lot of them, and timid and afraid to do what you do every day. To do what Trump is doing. You’re right, showing them the way. Just fight for what you say you were going fight for. … RUSH LIMBAUGH: This fear of the media, this fear of being called a racist, everyone needs to get over that now because all of us are racists. Everybody’s racist, they can’t talk about anybody now without labeling them racist. Previously: Rush Limbaugh has ramped up his Fox News appearances in 2019 On Fox News, Rush Limbaugh says that “climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids” On Fox, Rush Limbaugh complains about efforts to address the climate crisis: “There is no man-made climate change”
On Fox, Rush Limbaugh complains about efforts to address the climate crisis: “There is no man-made climate change”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 02:13
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Three words I want to throw at you — Green New Deal. RUSH LIMBAUGH: Well, it’s — it is a trick, the Green New Deal. Even Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, her chief of staff, sackrat — sakreet — sakrot — whatever, Chakrabarti, admitted that it’s not even about the climate. It’s not even about the weather. It’s an economic plan, and it is. It’s designed to get massive federal power, grow the federal government, under the pretense that average Americans cannot be left to live their lives without ruining things, especially for the Democrat Party. It’s unaffordable, it will never happen, and the premise behind it is bogus. There is no man-made climate change. There is nothing we can do to stop whatever the weather is going to do. We can’t make it warmer, we can’t make it colder. We can’t change hurricanes’ directions, we can’t dissipate them. We can’t create them. And yet, they are campaigning and trying to convince people. I mean, look at millennials. It’s really sad, there’s a lot of young people that really think this planet is not going to be habitable by the time they hit 65. These people are ruining people’s lives, they’re ruining their futures all in the pursuit of power for themselves. It’s disgusting on one level to me, and I think that they need to be called out and I think they need — this stuff needs to be said point blank to them, because the media it is not — the media’s their best buddies, the media is their support group, and so forth. It’s a big battle. I’m just — I’m just optimistic, I’m confident that these people can be beat back. Previously: In Hannity segment attacking Green New Deal, climate denier Joe Bastardi says “people are ungrateful” for fossil fuels Hannity invites climate denier Joe Bastardi on his show to deny link between climate change and extreme weather — again Rush Limbaugh on Hurricane Florence: “The forecast and the destruction potential doom and gloom is all to heighten the belief in climate change”
On Fox News, Rush Limbaugh says that “climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 01:51
RUSH LIMBAUGH: Climate change is what allows them to poison the minds of young kids. To blame people for causing a problem and then offer them redemption, make them feel like they have meaning in their lives by saving the planet. Previously: Rush Limbaugh has dramatically ramped up his Fox News appearances in 2019 Less than 10% of questions were about climate change at CNN’s two-night debate in Detroit Rush Limbaugh shares fake story that sharks are flying around in Hurricane Florence
Lou Dobbs says Donald Trump can’t be racist because Mexico is helping the United States
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 01:02
LOU DOBBS (HOST): This fellow can’t be too much of a quote-unquote “racist,” in point of fact embracing Mexico, its president, its government, because of all of the help they are providing America, acknowledging it, and doing so warmly. Previously: Lou Dobbs laughs at Fox’s effort to restrain anti-Semitism on his show Lou Dobbs guest: “We’ve seen this in Europe, we’re seeing it here, and they are attempting to replace us” Lou Dobbs Says People Should Credit Obama’s Race For His Election Lou Dobbs attacks the media for reporting on DeSantis’ racist comments Lou Dobbs asks if it’s “time for the Trump administration to outright defy the activist” Supreme Court over census ruling
Tucker Carlson: Cory Booker was “trying to sound like a Nation of Islam recruiter”
by Media Matters for America on August 2, 2019 at 00:27
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Cory Booker meanwhile is in the process of transitioning to a brand-new identity, he spent most of the evening trying to sound like a Nation of Islam recruiter rather than the deeply privileged son of two IBM executives which is what he is. Previously: Tucker Carlson’s descent into white supremacy: A timeline Tucker Carlson touts hardline approach of far-right ethnonationalists to immigration Tucker Carlson and guest mock the term “person of color,” call it a racist term because “everyone has a color”
Amid unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights, CNN debate moderators completely ignore abortion
by Media Matters for America on August 1, 2019 at 23:28
Melissa Joskow / Media Matters During the July 30 and 31 presidential debates, CNN moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon failed to ask 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls a single question about abortion. Nationally, as state legislatures continue to push an increasing number of abortion restrictions — and with right-wing media already amplifying anti-abortion misinformation ahead of the 2020 elections — the primary debates are a crucial opportunity for moderators to ask precise, nuanced questions about how presidential candiates would protect abortion access. CNN’s failure to ask about abortion was out of step with what Democratic voters wanted to hear about during the debates and was a missed opportunity to break right-wing media’s dominance of abortion-related conversations on cable news. Abortion rights garnered hardly any recognition from moderators or candidates alike during the July 30 Democratic primary debate. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock briefly referred to himself as “pro-choice” in his opening statement. The only substantive conversation about abortion happened during the July 31 debate. On stage, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over his past support of the Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision that forbids the allocation of federal funds for abortion care except in limited cases. This amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those of lower socioeconomic status who might depend on federal support to access health care. Although this short exchange was the only discussion of abortion during both nights of the CNN moderated debates, neither candidate said the word “abortion.” In fact, five hours of political discourse yielded a mere two minutes of abortion conversation without anyone — the 20 candidates or three moderators — saying the word “abortion.” This is not the first time CNN moderators have excluded discussion of abortion during presidential debates. After a 2016 Democratic primary debate, critics called out the network for not asking any questions about abortion despite coming days after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a case concerning anti-abortion restrictions in Texas. After this week’s debates, abortion rights groups were confounded again by the lack of action Given the already precarious state of abortion access, debate moderators need to ask candidates specific and nuanced questions on abortion — otherwise right-wing media and anti-choice outlets will continue to dominate the conversation with harmful misinformation.
Fox hosts shout down colleague Juan Williams when he notes that Trump’s racism is a fact
by Media Matters for America on August 1, 2019 at 22:20
JUAN WILLIAMS (CO-HOST): Let me tell you, it’s a fact, it’s a fact, it is a fact. GREG GUTFELD (CO-HOST): No, Juan, it’s an opinion, it’s an opinion. … That’s called an opinion Juan, it’s not a fact. I could keep saying it, he won’t listen. Previously: Fox & Friends guest attacks news outlets noting Trump’s racism: It is “an opinion, not a fact” Tomi Lahren previously pushed the same sexist smear about Kamala Harris on Fox Nation
Clinton’s Lost Votes
by Ron Chusid on May 30, 2019 at 17:57
Establishment Democrats love to blame third party voters for Clinton losing, but The New York Times recently had data… Posted by Ron Chusid on Monday, May 20, 2019 Establishment Democrats love to blame third party voters for Clinton losing, but The New York Times recently had data disputing this. They looked at people who voted for
What Mueller Did Not Say Today
by Ron Chusid on May 29, 2019 at 15:55
What Mueller did not say today:1) When he said Russia interfered in the election, he left out the important… Posted by Ron Chusid on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 What Mueller did not say today: 1) When he said Russia interfered in the election, he left out the important perspective that interference in foreign elections is common
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:55
A Good Sign For Bernie
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:51
Russiagate And Censorship
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:47
Democrats Can’t Take Progressive Votes For Granted
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:45
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:43
How To Get Rid Of Donald Trump
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:41
A Younger, Fresher Progressive Candidate
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:39
Delegitimatizing Anti-War Candidates
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:36
Politician For Sale
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:34
The Damage From Russiagate
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:31
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:29
Mueller Wrapping Up Soon
by Ron Chusid on March 1, 2019 at 19:28
I will be glad when we stop hearing Russiagate conspiracy theorists say “wait for Mueller to finish.” What will they say if he finishes and still has provided zero evidence to support their claims? Hopefully they will be satisfied with the overwhelming evidence that Trump is a crook, and drop the Russia conspiracy theories about
Con Men And Liars Of Hollywood
by Ron Chusid on February 25, 2019 at 16:59