i'm so sorry to have been awol lately. on sunday i fell and broke my wrist. right now i'm limited to one hand typing - hence the lack of capitalization. i'm scheduled for surgery on monday and have been told that i'll only be in a cast for a couple of weeks after that. so i should be back soon.
Friday, October 8, 2021
By now most of you have probably seen videos like this showing how school board meetings have been disrupted.
Anti-mask demonstrators heckle masked people (some of whom are Drs/nurses) leaving 08/10/21 #Williamsoncountytn #schoolboardmeeting following one man to his car and shouting “we will find you” & “we know who you are” @WilliamsonHmPg 1/2 pic.twitter.com/u8wbdfr3Xj— Matt Masters (@formvscontent) August 11, 2021
The threats have been pretty unambiguous (note: Lynch is running for Northampton County executive, not governor).
PA GOP Gov candidate Steve Lynch today: “Forget going into these school boards with freaking data. You go in to these school boards to remove them. I’m going in with 20 strong men and I’m gonna give them an option - they can leave or they can be removed.” pic.twitter.com/A0M6SsOldI— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) August 30, 2021
Matt Shuham documented what has been going on with a few examples.
[A]mid right-wing anger at school mask rules and bogeyman issues like “critical race theory,” examples of potentially criminal behavior aimed at educators and public health officials at school board meetings are abundant, including reports of pushing, throwing things, alleged battery, numerous reports of threats, and comments like “we will find you” and “we know who you are.”
That is why, a little over a week ago, the National School Boards Association wrote a letter to the Biden administration asking for help.
While local and state law enforcement agencies are working with public school officials in several communities to prevent further disruptions to educational services and school district operations, law enforcement officials in some jurisdictions need assistance – including help with monitoring the threat levels. As these threats and acts of violence have become more prevalent – during public school board meetings, via documented threats transmitted through the U.S. Postal Service, through social media and other online platforms, and around personal properties – NSBA respectfully asks that a joint collaboration among federal law enforcement agencies, state and local law enforcement, and with public school officials be undertaken to focus on these threats.
One sentence in that letter has been used to manufacture an uproar among right wingers. It reads: "As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."
On Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland responded to the NSBA request with a memo. I'm going to copy the whole thing because it is important to know exactly what he said.
In recent months, there has been a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools. While spirited debate about policy matters is protected under our Constitution, that protection does not extend to threats of violence or efforts to intimidate individuals based on their views.
Threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. Those who dedicate their time and energy to ensuring that our children receive a proper education in a safe environment deserve to be able to do their work without fear for their safety.
The Department takes these incidents seriously and is committed to using its authority and resources to discourage these threats, identify them when they occur, and prosecute them when appropriate. In the coming days, the Department will announce a series of measures designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel.
Coordination and partnership with local law enforcement is critical to implementing these measures for the benefit of our nation's nearly 14,000 public school districts. To this end, I am directing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, working with each United States Attorney, to convene meetings with federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial leaders in each federal judicial district within 30 days ofthe issuance ofthis memorandum. These meetings will facilitate the discussion of strategies for addressing threats against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff, and will open dedicated lines of communication for threat reporting, assessment, and response.
The Department is steadfast in its commitment to protect all people in the United States from violence, threats of violence, and other forms of intimidation arid harassment.
Almost immediate, Christopher Rufo, who manufactured the right wing freak-out about critical race theory, twisted Garland's memo beyond recognition when he tweeted: "BREAKING: Attorney General Merrick Garland has instructed the FBI to mobilize against parents who oppose critical race theory in public schools, citing 'threats.'" Rufo also lied by adding that the NSBA's letter requested that protests be classified as domestic terrorism.
As Breitbart documented, in the next few hours, at least 13 Republican politicians retweeted Rufo's tweet, adding their outrage that the FBI would be going after parents and suggesting that Garland had "weaponized" DOJ to go after Biden's enemies.
On Tuesday Deputy AG Lisa Monaco testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding reauthorization of the Violence Against Women's Act. Both Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley used their time to attack the Garland memo. Chris Hayes developed a video montage to read Hawley into what is actually going on at the local level, but he probably already knows.
Of course Fox News is all over this one. By Tuesday night, Tucker Carlson devoted his entire opening segment (16 minutes of incoherent ranting) to the lie.
If you are one of the troglodytes who thinks you should have some say in what your children are taught in the schools that you pay for, you should know that the Biden administration now views you as a domestic terrorist. They are fully willing to use armed agents of the state to compel you to shut up.
Later in the show, when Carlson had Hawley on to feed the lie, the Fox News host actually twisted things even further in order to find a way to blame the whole thing on the Black guy - former President Barack Obama. Referring to Deputy AG Monaco, he said:
That is the person, by the way, who actually runs the Justice Department. And she’s actually run by Susan Rice at the White House, who takes her direction from Barack Obama. Just so you know how it actually works.
If you haven't heard that the Biden administration is using armed agents of the state to compel parents to shut up, then you probably haven't been paying a lot of attention to the right-wing media ecosphere (perhaps smartly). But you can bet that your MAGA friends/family know all about it because it is a very hot topic on that side of the political divide.
There's a lot I could say about this particular lie. But I think that one of the most important points was captured by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Here's what they reported about what has been happening in Wisconsin.
A loose network of conservative groups with ties to major Republican donors and party-aligned think tanks is quietly lending firepower to local activists engaged in culture war fights in schools across the country.
While they are drawn by the anger of parents opposed to school policies on racial history or COVID-19 protocols like mask mandates, the groups are often run by political operatives and lawyers standing ready to amplify local disputes.
In a wealthy Milwaukee suburb, a law firm heavily financed by a conservative foundation that has fought climate change mitigation and that has ties to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election helped parents seeking to recall Mequon-Thiensville school board members, chiefly over the board’s hiring of a diversity consultant. A new national advocacy group, Parents Defending Education, promoted the Wisconsin parents’ tactics as a model.
As I noted previously, the conservative foundation they referred to is the Bradley Foundation. Later in the article, they made this important point:
It’s a fight likely to help Republicans in congressional elections next year, said Ian Prior, a former Justice Department official who is now the executive director of a conservative organization called Fight for Schools, which is working to recall board members in Loudoun County.
“You’re going to need a team. You’re going to need a command staff. You’re going to need what I call the army of moms,” he said at a conservative conference in Texas in July.
In addition to Fight for Schools, the Journal Sentinel identifies two other groups: Parents Defending Education and No Left Turn. But according to an analysis by NBC News, there are at least 165 local and national groups that aim to disrupt lessons on race and gender. Where is funding for all of that coming from? At Open Secrets, Alyce McFadden writes that a secretive 'dark money' network has launched an anti-critical race theory campaign. For example:
A deep-pocketed “dark money” group is spending “well over $1 million” on an ad campaign against the inclusion of racial justice topics in K-12 curricula.
The Concord Fund is a conservative dark money group better known as the Judicial Crisis Network. It registered Free to Learn Action as a “fictitious name” — or legal alias — on June 21, the Daily Poster reported Thursday. Free to Learn’s website does not disclose its relationship with the Concord Fund and describes itself as a “nonpartisan” group dedicated to promoting education without “pressure or requirements to subscribe to a singular worldview and activist curriculum with a political agenda.”...
Another group, Parents Defending Education, is led and incorporated by Nicole Neily, a long-time conservative writer and researcher. Neily also heads Speech First Inc., a charitable nonprofit with ties to the Koch Network that promotes conservative speech on college campuses.
The Judicial Crisis Network (which is now Free to Learn Action) is one of Leonard Leo's creations, as outlined in an in-depth report from the Washington Post on how the former director of the Federalist Society funneled dark money into Republican efforts to stack the courts with conservatives.
JCN, the group that has office space on the same hall as the Federalist Society, launched a $7 million media campaign to bolster the Republican-controlled Senate in preventing Obama from filling the seat, according to a JCN news release at the time.
This graph from that report indicates how that scheme worked, and is probably instructive of what is happening now.
In Case You Missed @AsraNomani on @foxandfriends this morning talking about the @TheJusticeDept & @NSBAPublicEd, you can watch the whole segment here: https://t.co/AD2jwkRVIP pic.twitter.com/OeXKxC9MOu— Parents Defending Education (@DefendingEd) October 6, 2021
So the scheme is that dark money is funding these so-called "grassroots groups" and right wing media amplifies their lies. Make no mistake about it: Republicans plan to exploit the hell out of all of this in 2022, as McFadden documented.
On June 24, the Republican Study Committee circulated a memo authored by Committee Chair Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) to its members urging them to “lean into the culture war.”
“Because the backlash against Critical Race Theory is real,” Banks wrote. “We are beginning to see an organic movement from parents across the country … who are fed up with the lessons their kids are being taught. As House conservatives, we should be sending a signal to these concerned parents: We have your back.”
While parents across the country have objected to the teaching of critical race theory in schools, a network of established dark money groups funded by secret donors are stoking the purportedly “organic” anti-CRT sentiment Banks describes.
Putting a lie to Kevin Drum's claim that it is liberals who created the so-called "culture war," it is actually Republicans who plan to capitalize on the way that right wing funders and media have fabricated the whole controversy over critical race theory.
If you're wondering what to do about all of that, I believe that Rachel Vindman has the answer.
More people need to do this. What is happening across school boards is not normal and a strategic strike by people like Flynn/Bannon/Trump. People need to speak up against the loud minority. https://t.co/6uBQAUedsD— EM (@savedemocracy18) October 7, 2021
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Most of the time I really appreciate Kevin Drum's commitment to charts and data. But a few months ago, he published a couple of pieces aimed at making the point that "[s]ince 1994, Democrats have moved left far more than Republicans have moved right." As the title of his second piece suggests, he uses that data to blame the so-called "culture wars" on liberals. I'm a little late in addressing all of that, but it's because I've been stewing about it for a while now.
There were a lot of problems with the data Drum shared. For the most part, his charts show that over the years, more Democrats have aligned themselves with party positions. That is very different than the notion that the party has moved left. To demonstrate the latter, he would need to examine how Democratic policies have changed on issues like immigration, abortion, marriage equality, or guns. That is not what his data shows.
If we go back to 1994, we can see that there has been a lot of movement on the issue of marriage equality. But the chart Drum uses for that one actually tells the real story.
[T]he amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.
All of that is in addition to the eighteen states that have enacted 30 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote." Most of that was made possible by the attack on the Voting Rights Act that was brought to the Supreme Court by Republicans.
So excuse me if I reject the notion that it is Democrats who have moved farther to the left. Kagan wrote his piece as a warning for what is in the process of coming - an all-out assault on the foundation of our democracy by Republicans. My one beef with his piece is that he focuses all of his attention on Donald Trump. The former guy is, in fact, leading a cult. The so-called "culture wars" are his battle cry.
Trump is different, which is one reason the political system has struggled to understand, much less contain, him. The American liberal worldview tends to search for material and economic explanations for everything, and no doubt a good number of Trump supporters have grounds to complain about their lot in life. But their bond with Trump has little to do with economics or other material concerns. They believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups and sexual deviants. They see the Republican Party establishment as corrupt and weak — “losers,” to use Trump’s word, unable to challenge the reigning liberal hegemony. They view Trump as strong and defiant, willing to take on the establishment, Democrats, RINOs, liberal media, antifa, the Squad, Big Tech and the “Mitch McConnell Republicans.” His charismatic leadership has given millions of Americans a feeling of purpose and empowerment, a new sense of identity. While Trump’s critics see him as too narcissistic to be any kind of leader, his supporters admire his unapologetic, militant selfishness.
But Trump alone couldn't have created or sustained that cult. His position as cult leader is rooted in the lies that are funded by right wing money and spouted daily by right wing media, which is why I write about them so often.
While Kagan is warning of a movement in the Republican Party that presents a constitutional crisis, Drum is suggesting that it is Democrats who have moved too far out of the mainstream. The latter is total hogwash. Right now it is the Democratic Party and a few NeverTrumpers that are holding the line to protect our democracy. There is nothing more mainstream than that.
Sunday, October 3, 2021
As negotiations continue among Democrats about how to proceed with President Biden's agenda, the media has once again become obsessed with their "Democrats in disarray" narrative. Leading the pack is, of course, Politico. I would imagine that those kinds of storylines create more clicks than the piece I wrote recently about learning to live with uncertainty.
But even beyond that observation, I am in total agreement with Melanie Sill.
Becoming an evergreen tweet for me: Our national press conveys public political debate and negotiation as dysfunction instead of how democracy works. Public differences and hashing out, within parties and between them, are what should happen, not failure.— Melanie Sill (@melaniesill) October 1, 2021
We're watching Democrats hash out their differences. Of course, we all agree with one side more than the other. There have been elected officials who work to breach the divide and those who seem to be intent on making it worse. But that's always the case.
One of the reasons these kinds of negotiations seem different is that one of the political parties is MIA. The history of our two-party system has usually been one of negotiation and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But over the last decade, Republicans have made it clear that they don't care about governing.
Initially, President Biden reached out to Republicans. That is precisely how the infrastructure and Build Back Better bills were split into two. The former passed the Senate with bipartisan support. But now House Republicans are backing off. That is precisely why almost every Democratic vote in that chamber will be necessary for passage.
So Republicans are content to sit back and do nothing while Democrats hash out their differences to get the legislation passed. One party is demonstrating how democracy is supposed to work while the other does nothing but lie and attack, as Sen. Marsha Blackburn did Sunday morning.
bonkers stuff here from Marsha Blackburn pic.twitter.com/IpmvehP6WO— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 3, 2021
You'd be hard pressed to find a media outlet telling that part of the story - which is precisely why the GOP gets away with their abandonment of the democratic process.
Saturday, October 2, 2021
Nevertheless, Durham's indictment is 27 pages long, mostly documenting communication between the researchers who uncovered the cyber connection. All of the quotes he used suggest that the people involved had doubts about its credibility. None of that is in any way related to the alleged crime of Sussmann's lie. Nevertheless, Durham has now issued additional subpoenas to the law firm Sussmann worked for, Perkins Coie.
Since the indictment became public, both CNN and the New York Times have received documents from the researchers that provide context for the communication Durham cited. With that, it has become clear that Durham cherry-picked the portions he included. As an example, here's what the NYT reported about David Dagon - a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist and one of the researchers referred to in the indictment.
The indictment also suggests Mr. Dagon’s support for the paper’s hypothesis was qualified, describing his email response as “acknowledging that questions remained, but stating, in substance and in part, that the paper should be shared with government officials.”
The text of that email shows Mr. Dagon was forcefully supportive. He proposed editing the paper to declare as “fact” that it was clear “that there are hidden communications between Trump and Alfa Bank,” and said he believed the findings met the probable cause standard to open a criminal investigation.
“Hopefully the intended audience are officials with subpoena powers, who can investigate the purpose” of the apparent Alfa Bank connection, Mr. Dagon wrote.
Regardless of what these emails demonstrate, Durham is supposed to be conducting a criminal investigation, but none of this indicates an actual crime. So what is the purpose of all of this? To answer that question, it might be helpful to remember how this whole investigation has developed over time.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr made no secret of the fact that he never trusted the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation - even going so far as to suggest that the Obama administration spied on the Trump campaign. So in May 2019, Barr tasked John Durham with investigating the origins of the probe. By October, it had transitioned into a criminal probe. In December 2021, Barr announced that he had bestowed special counsel status on Durham, ensuring that the investigation would continue once Biden became president. Here is how Charlie Savage described Barr's memo that made Durham a special prosecutor.
Mr. Barr’s memo was broadly written and vague. It did not identify any suspected crime that could serve as a predicate for a continuing criminal investigation, or any particular person whom Mr. Durham was to focus on. Nor did it claim a foreign threat that would constitute any separate counterintelligence basis for an inquiry, as with the Trump-Russia investigation.
Mr. Barr also directed Mr. Durham to write a report detailing his findings that would be intended for public consumption...The special counsel regulations do not envision such a report.
No crime or person was identified, but Durham is required to produce "a report detailing his findings." Keep that in mind as we look at how things developed.
At the outset of the investigation, Barr and Durham travelled to several countries that are our closest allies in order to investigate claims that the CIA fabricated the “Russian hoax.” It was clear that Obama's CIA Director John Brennan was at the center of Durham’s investigation. That was a conspiracy theory that was being peddled by a lot of right wingers.
But as he was leaving the Trump administration, Barr dropped a bit of a bombshell on those conspiracy theories during an interview with WSJ opinion columnist Kimberley Strassell. Barr told her that he didn’t “see any sign of improper CIA activity” or “foreign government activity before July 2016. The CIA stayed in its lane.”
Barr also told Strassell something that probably goes a long way towards explaining what Durham is up to these days.
The attorney general also hopes people remember that orange jumpsuits aren’t the only measure of misconduct. It frustrates him that the political class these days frequently plays “the criminal card,” obsessively focused on “who is going to jail, who is getting indicted.”…One danger of the focus on criminal charges is that it ends up excusing a vast range of contemptible or abusive behavior that doesn’t reach the bar.
What Barr signaled was that not only had Durham cleared Brennan and the CIA, he hadn't uncovered any criminal activity on the part of the FBI other than the one incident found by Inspector General Horowitz. But Durham will write a report that, much like the 27-page Sussmann indictment, will cherry-pick information to build a case of "misconduct" on the part of the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Barbara McQuade thinks that the point of the Durham investigation is "to disseminate what he has found to the public so that Trump and his allies can paint a false equivalence between the conduct of the Trump and Clinton campaigns."
But I think it will go beyond that. Right wing media will run with Durham's report and claim that the entire Trump-Russia investigation was a hoax dreamed up by Trump's opponent. Information will eventually surface to discredit Durham's conclusions, but that won't matter to those who live in an epistemic bubble of lies and disinformation. As we saw with how he handled the Mueller report, William Barr is a master of propaganda. Durham has now demonstrated that he's a willing partner in the former attorney general's schemes.
Thursday, September 30, 2021
On Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) released a statement about his position on the infrastructure and reconciliation negotiations. There was one sentence that stood out to me.
Proposing a historic expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery.
I'd love to hear him explain how the "social programs" in the reconciliation bill would "weaken our economic recovery." For example, one of those programs is an extension of the child tax credit that was included in the Democrats' covid relief legislation. What we learned after just one payment is that it lifted households with 3 million children out of poverty. That would be a BFD to families in West Virginia.
• Child poverty rate: 20.1% (7th highest)
• Overall poverty rate: 16% (6th highest)
• Families with annual incomes below $10,000: 4.9% (4th highest)
West Virginia also ranks last in states for median household income.
What Manchin seems to be saying is that the economy is in the process of recovering from the recession caused by covid and the status quo (where 20% of the children in his state live in poverty) is just fine.
By way of contrast, here's what President Biden tweeted recently:
I believe we’re at an inflection point.— President Biden (@POTUS) September 16, 2021
Are we going to continue with an economy where the overwhelming share of the benefits go to the top?
Or will we choose a new path? One that invests in this nation and creates growth that benefits everyone.
The point of Biden's Build Back Better agenda isn't to simply help the economy recover from a pandemic, it is to address the long-term problem of income inequality and ensure that "growth benefits everyone." Getting back to the status quo isn't good enough.
It is obvious that Manchin disagrees with the majority of Democrats on a lot of the details in the BBB reconciliation package. But it seems to me that this is the heart of the issue. He doesn't think that income inequality is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't written anything about the negotiations going on among Democrats over the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. The reason I haven't commented is that you can read others who are much more adept at describing the situation. Beyond that, there's not much to say.
Obviously a lot of pundits are writing volumes on this topic as others set their hair on fire. I want to thank Al Giordano for tweeting what I've been thinking about all of that - which just leaves me the task of quoting him.
What's driving so much of today's bed-wetting over the reconciliation negotiations is uncertainty. People can't handle not really knowing what is going on behind closed doors. I would posit that it is a good thing we don't know. What we know, the enemy knows, too.
The tendency of too many to fill spaces of uncertainty with theories about what they imagine is happening is ridiculous. To then go out & loudly declare what is in your imagination is "fact" is reckless & childish. Uncertainty is part of all aspects of life. Live with it!
The only certainty today is that nobody not directly party to the negotiations has a clue as to what is going on. Distrust people who tell you they know! They are attention-seekers at best, disinfo traffickers when worse. They haven't got an effing clue!
Disregard anybody who says "Democrats do" or "Democrats don't" or "Democrats are" or Democrats must." They reveal that they don't understand the most basic reality about Democrats - that the party is a coalition of different moving pieces that each do things differently.
There are adults in the White House. They've done a lot people thought they couldn't do in the first eight months of this administration. If you think they don't know how to move the pieces of the coalition you haven't been paying attention.
Here's a bonus tweet that came later:
Your fantasy that Kyrsten Sinema is somehow going to outmaneuver the likes of Ron Klain & Neera Tanden, or that House "progressives" are going to outmuscle Nancy Pelosi, well, I guess "special" would be among the nicer words for it.
In today's world of politics and punditry, the worst thing you can say is "I don't know." So people write volumes of nonsense that just makes people more anxious and afraid. We'd all feel much better if we did as Al suggests - learn to live with uncertainty. Everything will unfold soon enough.
The basic way this works is that the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Harvard University endowment, these are fundamentally cancers on American society, but they pretend to be charities, so they benefit from preferential tax treatment...
We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in ill-gotten accumulated wealth. It serves as a tax haven for left-wing billionaires and what do they do with this? They fund critical race theory, they fund ridiculous racism, they fund teaching 6-year-olds that they should, you know, cast off their gender. We are actively subsidizing the people who are destroying this country, and they call it a charity. It's just ridiculous.
Henry Ford and Bill Gates might be surprised that the money they made and gifted to their foundations amounted to "ill-gotten accumulated wealth." But that's a story for another day. What shocked me was to hear these two right wingers complain about the non-profit status of foundations. Carlson kicked off the conversation by saying that "the Ford Foundation is just one of many foundations that enjoy nonprofit status and get to completely change the country non-democratically using their tax exemption." Vance ends the segment by suggesting that we "seize the assets of the Ford Foundation, tax their assets and give it to the people." At that point, Carlson smiled and nodded his agreement.
All of that might come as a surprise to the folks at the Bradley Foundation, the Koch Family foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family foundations, and the Adolph Coors Foundation - all of whom are also tax exempt 501(c) 3's, just like the Ford Foundation. A report by People for the American Way identified those as the top five right wing foundations that are "Buying a Movement." You might remember that both Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jane Mayer have documented that several of these foundations are funding the politicization of our courts as well as Trump's Big Lie as an excuse for voter suppression. As I've written previously, all of this is precisely how right wingers are weaponizing philanthropy.
So in a sense, I agree with Carlson and Vance. We ought to be talking about whether these foundations should be tax exempt. That conversation should probably also include other 501 (3) 3's - like churches that are pushing a political agenda. But now we're getting into territory that will send right wingers howling. I don't think any of that is what Carlson and Vance had in mind.
It might be helpful to unpack why these two white men went after the Ford Foundation - particularly their fellowship program. According to the foundation's web site, the purpose of the program is "to increase faculty diversity at US colleges and universities." It's not hard to imagine why white supremacists would find that kind of program to be a threat.
As it turns out, Carlson was lying (surprise, surprise) when he said that substacker Chris Brunet "posted dozens of internal documents from the Ford Foundation that show that the foundation...is focused on pure partisanship, indoctrinating students with left wing political propaganda and sending them forth to wreck the country."
Brunet has, in fact, launched a massive attack on the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program. The documents he received, however, came from fellows who participate on a listserv that offers both alumni and current fellows the opportunity to network, collaborate, and mentor each other. Brunet was provided with archived emails from the listserv by a group he calls "whistleblowers." Their access and participation in the emails indicates that they, too, are foundation fellows. So the group is hardly a monolith.
What is clear from the comments Brunet selected to share is that, in a group dedicated to increasing diversity at colleges and universities, conversations got difficult at times. Participants were questioning whether or not to engage with comments they found offensive. That kind of conversation is always challenging.
But Brunet faces his own problems when it comes to online communication. At his substack, he identifies himself as a participant and leader at an anonymous online messaging board for economists known as Economics Job Market Rumors (EJMR). As it turns out, U.C. Berkeley student Alice H. Wu mined more than a million posts from the board and published a paper titled "Gender Stereotyping in Academia: Evidence From Economics Job Market Rumors Forum.”
Ms. Wu set up her computer to identify whether the subject of each post is a man or a woman. The simplest version involves looking for references to “she,” “her,” “herself” or “he,” “him,” “his” or “himself.”David Romer, a leading macroeconomist at Berkeley, summarized the paper as depicting “a cesspool of misogyny.”
She then adapted machine-learning techniques to ferret out the terms most uniquely associated with posts about men and about women.
The 30 words most uniquely associated with discussions of women make for uncomfortable reading.
In order, that list is: hotter, lesbian, bb (internet speak for “baby”), sexism, tits, anal, marrying, feminazi, slut, hot, vagina, boobs, pregnant, pregnancy, cute, marry, levy, gorgeous, horny, crush, beautiful, secretary, dump, shopping, date, nonprofit, intentions, sexy, dated and prostitute.
The parallel list of words associated with discussions about men reveals no similarly singular or hostile theme. It includes words that are relevant to economics, such as adviser, Austrian (a school of thought in economics) mathematician, pricing, textbook and Wharton (the University of Pennsylvania business school that is President Trump’s alma mater). More of the words associated with discussions about men have a positive tone, including terms like goals, greatest and Nobel.
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
The scheme worked. Establishment news began to bend over backwards to provide "balanced coverage" of liberals and conservatives. Here is how Mark Jacob, former editor at Chicago Tribune and Sun Times described it:
When I edited political stories, I went so far as to count the quotes from Republicans and Democrats, thinking an equal number would make us fairer. I didn’t think I was helping either party. I thought I was helping the readers. I was wrong. 3/9— Mark Jacob (@MarkJacob16) September 27, 2021
He's right. Not only was it lazy journalism, it served to mainstream Republican positions that became more and more extreme.
In 2017, Fox News dropped the slogan "Fair and Balanced," presumably as a way to distance the network from Roger Ailes and his serial sexual harassment. But the news site RealClearPolitics has picked up the mantra. A fundraising piece written by President David DesRosiers is titled, "Bring RealClear Balance to America's Media." His main example of balance is a data base the site has created that purports to demonstrate an equivalence between the violence of protests following the murder of George Floyd and the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
While the claim is to simply provide the data, the lack of context is an attempt to make the George Floyd protests appear more violent than the January 6 insurrection. For example, they point to over 16,000 arrests during the former and only 570 in the latter. Here's a bit of context on the George Floyd protests from the Washington Post.
The Post’s analysis found the overwhelming majority arrested in those 15 cities — 2,059 of the 2,652 — were accused of nonviolent misdemeanors, most on charges of violating curfew or emergency orders...
Nationwide, the large number of arrests in those first two weeks occurred because police policies and training were inadequate to deal with widespread demonstrations at such a tense moment in the nation’s history, experts said.
“When it comes to civil disorder, officers are trained to handle riots,” said Edward Maguire, a professor of criminal justice at Arizona State University, who has helped craft federal guidelines on community policing amid social unrest. “They’re not trained to handle peaceful demonstrations or even mostly peaceful protests. They often show up to crowd control events that are not yet riots and handle them as if they were riots.”
We also know that "Four people who identify with the far-right extremist “boogaloo” movement are among those facing the most serious federal charges." None of that information made it into the so-called "balanced" database at RCP.
DesRossiers provided some other examples of the publication's balance. There is the attempt to smear fact-checkers, a "1776 Series" designed as an assault on the NYT "1619 Project," material on the theme of "trustworthy elections" as a cover for lies about voter fraud, and - of course - attacks on critical race theory. That is what RCP is referring to when they talk about balance.
But it gets even worse. In addition to the fact that one of RCP's main investigative reporters previously worked for the right wing site WorldNetDaily (which they fail to mention in his bio), the Daily Beast reported this about the site's parent company.
The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned.
Called “Conservative Country,” the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption “Just sitting here waiting on Beto.” Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s “ties to Islam” or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe.
One of the main reasons people visit RCP is that they aggregate news stories daily. But for every piece from a major news outlet, they link to an opposing view from right wing media. Their favorite so-called "liberal" journalists are people like Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, and Aaron Maté - whose main reason for being these days is to criticize Democrats. That is also what passes for balance at RCP.
RCP is one of the main reasons our news environment is so toxic. At least with sites like Brietbart and WorldNetDaily, everyone knows what they're getting. RCP is deceitful. Under the guise of balance, they are promoting the same lies and disinformation we see from other right wing sites. But they are treated as legitimate. If you doubt that, take a look at where AllSides places RCP on their media bias chart.
RCP lands right in the middle, along with NPR, Reuters and the BBC.
It is unlikely that we will be able to stop the threat the Republican Party currently poses to our democracy as long as their extremism is mainstreamed.
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Since he signed the anti-abortion bill, which provides no exception for rape or incest, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is being forced to answer a difficult question - even from Fox News host Chris Wallace.
CHRIS WALLACE: Is it reasonable to say to a rape victim who might not know they're pregnant until 6 weeks, 'don't worry about it, because we're going to eliminate rape'?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 26, 2021
GREG ABBOTT: The goal is to protect the lives of every child with a heartbeat pic.twitter.com/o7rJ5G6JZF
As Wallace suggests, the first time this question was posed to Abbott, he responded with the ridiculous notion that he would eliminate rape in the state of Texas. But notice how Abbott squirms in trying to avoid the question altogether. In the end, he admits that "the goal is to protect every child with a heartbeat." So yes, he plans to force a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, even if it is the result of rape or incest.
J.D. Vance, Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, was even more direct.
When asked during a local interview whether abortion laws should include exceptions for rape and incest, Vance, a Republican, said he thinks “two wrong don’t make a right.”
“It’s not whether a woman should be forced to bring a child to term, it’s whether a child should be allowed to live, even though the circumstances of that child’s birth are somehow inconvenient or a problem to the society,” Vance told Spectrum News in Columbus on Wednesday.
“The question to me is really about the baby,” Vance added. “We want women to have opportunities, we want women to have choices, but, above all, we want women and young boys in the womb to have a right to life.”
The comment that drew the most attention was that rape and incest are "inconvenient." That is nothing short of appalling.
This, however, is one of the inconvenient questions anti-choices will be forced to answer as they continue to take steps to overturn Roe vs Wade. If, as they want us to believe, life begins at conception, abortion amounts to murder. When you accept that premise, Vance is right - two wrongs don't make a right. Just because a fetus is the result of rape or incest doesn't mean its life is less worthy, and a woman should be forced to carry it to term. That's their argument - but one that is likely to be rejected by most people, which is why they'll do almost anything to avoid saying so directly.
The other difficult question that will eventually emerge is that, if abortion is murder, then why wouldn't both the mother and the provider be criminally charged? You might remember that this is the question that was posed to Trump during the 2016 Republican primary.
NEW Trump to @msnbc: "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who have abortions but he has yet to determine what that should be.— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) March 30, 2016
Recognizing that statement was problematic - even in a Republican primary - Trump's campaign tried to walk it back.
If Congress were to pass legislation making abortion illegal and the federal courts upheld this legislation, or any state were permitted to ban abortion under state and federal law, the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb. My position has not changed - like Ronald Reagan, I am pro-life with exceptions.
Of course, we have no idea how a woman seeking an abortion becomes a victim. But it really is just an excuse to get around a policy that would shock most Americans. Punishing a woman for seeking an abortion is the logical response to a claim that abortion is murder.
The fact is that we are reaching an inflection point on the issue of a woman's right to chose. As the anti-choicers get closer to completely overturning Roe vs Wade, we will either take steps towards the culture Margret Atwood described in "Handmaid's Tale" where women are forced to carry every pregnancy to term or be faced with criminal charges, or we'll reaffirm the sanctity of women's bodies and their right to chose.
Friday, September 24, 2021
Regardless of the Durham Indictment, We Still Don't Know What Was Up With the Trump-Alfa Bank Servers
In May of 2019, then Attorney General Bill Barr announced that he had tasked John Durham with investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. The former federal prosecutor from Connecticut has now be at it longer than the original investigation conducted by Mueller.
Three days before the term of the grand jury Durham impaneled was set to expire, the special prosecutor filed an indictment against Michael Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor who is now a partner at the law firm Perkins Coie.
Sussmann is charged with lying to the FBI in September 2016 during a meeting with General Counsel Peter Baker. Sussmann had requested the meeting in order to warn the FBI that news stories were about to be published regarding connections between the Alfa Bank in Moscow and the Trump Organization. According to the indictment, Sussmann is not charged with lying about the allegations he made, but about who he was representing. Durham claims that Sussmann told Baker that he was "not doing this for any client" when, in fact, he was representing the Clinton campaign and a tech executive.
After two years and four months, that is the sum total of what Durham was able to come up with. Both Barbara McQuade and Benjamin Wittes have written excellent pieces detailing the weakness of Durham's case against Sussmann. The only two people who know what transpired are the defendant and Baker. During congressional testimony in October 2018, Baker repeatedly stated that he didn't recall whether Sussmann identified himself as representing the Clinton campaign. So if Baker is the only witness, he's going to have a tough time during cross examination if this one ever goes to trial.
It's also worth noting that Barr specifically assigned Durham with investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Right wing media is now salivating at this indictment as proof that the whole thing was hatched by the Clinton campaign. Oh how quickly they've moved on from their accusations about the so-called "deep state." In this scenario, the FBI isn't the culprit, but the unwitting victim of a cabal working on behalf of Trump's opponent.
What these folks want to ignore is the fact that Mueller didn't even mention Alfa Bank in his report. Instead, he documented multiple instances of collusion between Trump and the Russian government - even though he wasn't able to prove a criminal conspiracy. In addition, Mueller found at least 10 examples of obstruction of justice. As Benjamin Wittes wrote, "The extensive findings of the Mueller report depend not a whiff on Perkins Coie or Fusion GPS (read: the Steele dossier). Not even if Michael Sussmann lied to Jim Baker about his clients."
When it comes to the accusations about Alpha Bank, I remember reading the first article published about that, which was written by Franklin Foer. Not being a techie, a lot of it went over my head. But in layman's terms, what it boils down to is that a group of computer scientists disclosed, on the basis of DNS (Domain Name System) logs, that two internet servers belonging to Alfa Bank had looked up the address of the Trump Organization server 2,820 times between May and September 2016. The speculation was that this might have been a back-channel way for Russian operatives and the Trump campaign to communicate.
The accusations were serious enough that the FBI opened an investigation. From there things get a little confusing. Here is what the Senate Intelligence Committee reported in September 2020:
Based on the FBI’s assessment, the Committee did not find the DNS activity reflected the existence of covert communication between Alfa Bank and Trump Organization personnel. However, the Committee also could not positively determine an intent or purpose that would explain the unusual activity.They also noted that the committee was not able to see the underlying records that the FBI used in its briefings to members.
Federal investigators and computer scientists continue to examine whether there was a computer server connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank, sources close to the investigation tell CNN.
Questions about the possible connection were widely dismissed four months ago. But the FBI’s investigation remains open, the sources said, and is in the hands of the FBI’s counterintelligence team – the same one looking into Russia’s suspected interference in the 2016 election.
One U.S. official said investigators find the server relationship “odd” and are not ignoring it. But the official said there is still more work for the FBI to do. Investigators have not yet determined whether a connection would be significant.
What stood out to me about that report is not only the timing - coming a month after Horowitz said that the investigation into the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank had concluded. It also references the FBI's counterintelligence team. You might recall that on March 20, 2017, then FBI Director James Comey made this announcement during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee:
I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part out our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.
That counterintelligence investigation (Crossfire Hurricane) began on July 31, 2016 based on Trump campaign consultant George Papadopoulos's assertions of Russians having damaging material on Hillary Clinton.
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey. According to Rep. Adam Schiff, that is when intelligence briefings on this matter stopped and he was not able to determine if the counterintelligence investigation had been closed. Apparently it had, which is what Michael Schmidt reported in the New York Times.
The Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia…
[L]aw enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said that Rosenstein led him to believe that such a counterintelligence investigation would be handled by Mueller. But sources told Schmidt that “privately, Mr. Rosenstein instructed Mr. Mueller to conduct only a criminal investigation into whether anyone broke the law in connection with Russia’s 2016 election interference.”
So Rosenstein limited Mueller to a criminal investigation and led the FBI to believe that the special prosecutor would take over the counterintelligence investigation. In other words, the Trump administration effectively shut down any probe into the president's decades-long personal and business ties to Russia. That would also shut down any investigation into the Trump-Alfa Bank connection.
What we have is a former president who - at minimum - welcomed Russian interference in his election, obstructed justice, and shut down a counterintelligence investigation. In the end, we still don't know what was up with the Trump-Alfa Bank servers.
Thursday, September 23, 2021
A little over four years ago, white supremacists protested the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA while chanting "You will not replace us." Donald Trump's suggestion that the protesters were "good people" drew condemnation from almost every corner of the country - including many Republicans.The slogan the protesters were chanting has a long history among white supremacists, reflecting their adoption of the "great replacement theory," that whites are being replaced by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East, and the end result will be the extinction of the white race. The danger of this kind of rhetoric is demonstrated by the fact that it spurred killing sprees in Christchurch, New Zealand; Poway, California; and El Paso, Texas.
An unrelenting stream of immigration. Nonstop, nonstop. Folks like me who are Caucasian, of European descent, for the first time in 2017 we'll be an absolute minority in the United States of America. Absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America from then and on will be white European stock. That's not a bad thing. That’s a source of our strength.
Carlson went on to say this:
"An unrelenting stream of immigration." Why? Joe Biden said it. To change the racial mix of the country. That’s the reason. To reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the third world. And then Biden went further and said that non-white DNA is the source of our strength. Imagine saying that. This is the language of eugenics. It’s horrifying. But there’s a reason Biden said it. In political terms, this policy is sometimes called the great replacement — the replacement of legacy Americans, with more obedient people from faraway countries.
Your first clue that something is amiss with that Biden quote is that it begins mid-sentence. He made the remarks as an introduction to a White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. After commending several U.S. cities for their work to prevent the recruitment of people to violent extremism, Biden said this:
I want to make it clear, though, I’m not suggesting to the press or any of our guests that I think America has all the answers here. We just have a lot more experience. By that I mean we are a nation of immigrants, that's who we are. That is not hyperbole. We talk, we teach our kids we're a melting pot. The God's truth is, we are a polyglot, we are a melting pot. It is the ultimate source of our strength, it is the ultimate source of who we are, what we've become. And it started all the way back in the late 1700s, there's been a constant, unrelenting stream of immigration. Not in little trickles, but in large numbers.
The former vice president then went on to recount a conversation he had with the former Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, who said that countries like China were looking for the figurative “black box” that “allows America to constantly be able to remake itself, unlike any other country in the world.” After commenting about this country's skepticism for orthodoxy, Biden returned to the theme of immigration, which is where the clip Carlson showed kicks in. But here's the context.
I said, “There's a second thing in that black box — an unrelenting stream of immigration, nonstop, nonstop.” Folks like me who are Caucasian, of European descent, for the first time in 2017 we'll be in an absolute minority in the United States of America, absolute minority. Fewer than 50% of the people in America from then and on will be white European stock. That's not a bad thing, that's a source of our strength.
And so, we have been — we haven't always gotten it right. I don't want to — I don't want to suggest we have all the answers. But we have a lot of experience of integrating communities into the American system, the American Dream.
A generation from now, as I said, things will be changed even more. It's not merely that we're a melting pot, but we're proud to be a melting pot. And with that, we've made a lot of mistakes, but we've also made a lot of progress. And you know, we've learned a lot of hard lessons.
But the most important lesson we've learned, we don't always practice it, is that inclusion counts. Let me say that again — inclusion counts. Inclusion counts. Being brought in and made a part of the community — whether as my Irish ancestors with signs, “No Irish need apply,” and the anti-Catholic movement of the Know-Nothings in the late 1800s, straight through to how some respond today to the number of folks in the United States of America that are Hispanic in background.
It’s always — we've always ultimately overcome it. But it's always been about inclusion, being a part of the whole. As I said, we still have problems, but I’m proud of the American record on cultural and economic integration of not only our Muslim communities but African communities, Asian communities, Hispanic communities. And the wave still continues. It's not going to stop, nor should we want it to stop. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things I think we can be most proud of.
Perhaps now you understand why Carlson had to cherry-pick from Biden's remarks in order to remove them from a context that is a direct challenge to the great replacement theory.
Already today, both Charlie Kirk and Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) have picked up on Carlson's lie. Here's Rep. Babin:
As these comments from Rep. Brian Babin indicate, great replacement theory has become mainstream Republican thinking pic.twitter.com/ZoMh6FuOrK— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 23, 2021
Carlson has once again given Republicans their talking points and we're likely to be hearing this kind of thing whenever the topic of immigration comes up. Aaron Ruper is absolutely right: the great replacement theory (read: white supremacy) has become mainstream Republican thinking.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
When it comes to major issues like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, right wingers have positioned themselves firmly against the scientific consensus. But now that the Supreme Court has validated what amounts to a ban on abortions in Texas, there are those in their ranks who want to claim the mantle of following the science.
Case in point: Andy Puzder, who isn't a scientist, but a businessman, recently published an article on the Fox News website titled: "Biden ignores science on abortion – he follows politics on question of when life begins." Puzder's case basically boils down to this:
The science on when human life begins is not in serious dispute. For example, the American College of Pediatricians’ (ACP) website states that "[t]he predominance of human biological research confirms that human life begins at conception—fertilization. At fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature."
So the American College of Pediatricians has stated that, according to biological research, human life begins at conception. That sounds official, doesn't it?
But wait...what is the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds)? It is important to note that they are NOT the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), which was founded in 1930 and currently has a membership of over 67,000 physicians. ACPeds was founded in 2002 when a small number of socially conservative AAP members broke away from the professional association after it endorsed adoption by same-sex couples. Here are a couple of quotes Souther Poverty Law Center pulled from the ACPeds website:
“Homosexual men and women are reported to be promiscuous, with serial sex partners, even within what are loosely-termed 'committed relationships.' Individuals who practice a homosexual lifestyle are more likely than heterosexuals to experience mental illness, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies and shortened life spans.”That is the organization Puzder relies on to suggest that there is "scientific evidence" to support the claim that life begins as conception. The group also believes that homosexuals are serially promiscuous pedophiles who pose a danger to children, but can be "cured" via “reparative” or sexual orientation conversion therapy. Nothing in any of those statements is backed by any more scientific evidence than the one about life beginning at conception.
—“Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time for A Change?” updated July 2017, available on ACPeds website
“Driving in this morning I began to wonder. Why isn’t the movement of LGBT not the PLGBT movement: ‘P’ for pedophile? ...In one sense, it could be argued that the LGBT movement is only tangentially associated with pedophilia. I see that argument, but the pushers of the movement, the activists, I think have pedophilia intrinsically woven into their agenda. It is they who need to be spoken to and against.”
—Blog post on ACPeds website, July 15, 2015
“[T]here is sound evidence that children exposed to the homosexual lifestyle may be at increased risk for emotional, mental, and even physical harm.”
—“Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time For Change?” ACPeds article, January 22, 2004
“For unwanted sexual attractions, therapy to restore heterosexual attraction has proven effective and harmless.”
—Facts About Youth website, 2010
“Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students are not born that way. The most recent, extensive, and scientifically sound research finds that the primary factor in the development of homosexuality is environmental not genetic.”
—Facts About Youth website, 2010
The anti-choice movement in this country has a long history of attempting to adopt abortion restrictions that fly in the face of facts and science, as Rachel Bensen Gold and Elizabeth Nash have documented.
At least 10 major categories of abortion restrictions—including measures based on claims of protecting a woman’s health—lack a foundation in rigorous scientific evidence.
These restrictions include unnecessary regulations on abortion facilities and providers, counseling and waiting period requirements that belie the scientific evidence, and laws based on false assertions about when fetuses can feel pain.
The idea that science has determined that life begins at conception is preposterous. Those who promote it, like Puzder and ACPeds, are engaging in propaganda, not a rational argument.
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