Saturday, January 22, 2022

Could we interest you in a lively debate about the gender of M&Ms instead?

I downloaded the Michigan COVID data, updated as of Friday. In new cases per day the large peak at the start of January has been revised upward to 26,786. Thankfully, the peaks in the two weeks after that are at 22,065 and 17,043. In the last two weeks the deaths per day dropped from 95 to 62, then rose over three days to 116, then dropped to 52. There are only 11 undated deaths. I don’t know what happened to the 1100 undated deaths shown in the previous report. Public Citizen tweeted:
Imagine this: The wealth of you & your friends doubled to $1,500,000,000,000 during Covid. If those gains were taxed by 99%, you all are STILL richer than 99% of the world. That revenue could vaccinate the planet & save lives. This is the power of the world’s 10 richest men.
Archaeologist Dr. Sarah Parcak tweeted:
Archaeologists: Here's exactly how pandemics have played out in the past w 10 top examples Historians: Here's how the 1919 pandemic played out blow by blow w masks surges deaths Sociologists: Here's how people react to vaccines+ masks w 100 papers Politicians: THIS IS ALL NEW
It seems all new to the media too. Greg Dworkin, in a pundit roundup for Daily Kos (from almost three weeks ago), included a tweet from Bob Wachter which shows a plot of states positioned according to the percent of population fully vaccinated and deaths per million people since July. The plot shows a pretty high negative correlation – as vaccination rate increases the death rate goes down. Dworkin also quoted Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer, discussing schools that are always underfunded.
“What use would a carpenter have for biology?” asked [John] Krill [a lawyer for a Republican lawmaker], questioning the need for learning for learning’s sake in a locale where many of the available jobs don’t require a college degree. In stating so plainly the modern conservative philosophy that public schools exist solely to develop a workforce — one in which not everyone need be a rocket scientist or a philosopher — the Harvard Law-educated Krill didn’t stop there.
Carpenter and biology? Wouldn’t it be good to understand where the wood comes from? In addition to learning for learning’s sake is the need to educate people on how to be responsible citizens in a democracy. Clearly, Republicans don’t want that, either. The NPR program It’s Been a Minute with host Sam Sanders is on Michigan Radio on Saturdays. I usually don’t listen, though today’s episode sounded intriguing and important. It was a repeat of an episode from last June in which Sanders talked to Sarah Schulman. She had written the book Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993 and she had been a part of the group for much of that time. This link is for last June’s show with the 50 minute audio, a few photos, and interview highlights. Here’s a bit from what I remember from the audio. The AIDS pandemic started in 1981. Gay men and allies organized to take care of their own. By 1987 they realized – prompted by Larry Kramer – that caregiving wasn’t enough. COVID is a very public pandemic. AIDS wasn’t, so one goal of ACT UP was to get the mainstream media to pay attention. Those who lived through that era will likely remember their slogan “Silence = Death.” Another goal was to change policy. So this large coalition would study an issue, create an alternate policy, then make noise so the institution would pay attention. One of their most successful actions was against the Food and Drug Administration who were being mighty slow in approving drugs to treat AIDS. One part of the alternate policy was to say don’t test a drug against a placebo because the person who gets the placebo will die. Instead, test against the best known treatment. They didn’t protest on the weekend when no one would be in the building. Instead, they protested during a weekday so the workers inside would feel a bit uneasy and no work would get done. The FDA changed their policy. One of their most famous actions was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Cardinal O’Connor started demanding the city restrict HIV related materials from being available in public schools. The ACT UP team felt he had overstepped his authority, resulting on more deaths. So on December 10, 1989 they came into a mass and did a quiet die-in. That was effective. Then one man, defying agreed action protocols, stood on a pew and repeatedly shouted, “Stop Killing Us!” Things got a bit chaotic after that and police were called. Even with that deviation from the plan the action was considered a success. They definitely got media attention. And the perception of gay men shifted from weak to strong. Schulman wrote the book to both give an account of her time in the group and to give a training manual to those needing to protest today. And groups like Black Lives Matter and those who support immigrants are following ACT UP’s example. Ruth Ben-Ghiat quoted Hugo Lowell of the Guardian:
Sources tell me Jan. 6 committee may only subpoena GOP members of Congress if it can overcome one major recurring worry raised in conversations: fear of Republican retaliation in the future.
Ben-Ghiat added:
Hello from: lessons from authoritarian history. Fear of retaliation=old school democratic frame. Realism= knowing they will go after everyone they can anyway. Only bold and fearless action works w/ppl who thrill at breaking the rules and see caution as weakness.
Professor Crystal Marie Fleming tweeted (almost three weeks ago):
We have a dynamic wherein Republicans know our “democratic” institutions aren’t actually democratic and would like to further undermine them with open fascism while Democrats are invested in pretending our civic institutions work. The latter position is very easy to manipulate. Because Democrats refuse to publicly admit the problem — that our core institutions are weak and undemocratic — the opposing party can get away with almost anything, including open coup attempts! while Dems scramble to keep pretending that everything is still legitimate and okay. Republicans and foreign adversaries alike know that the party line from Democrats will continue to be “Everything is fine actually” no matter how s---ty things are. I personally believe that even if the coup had been successful, Dems still would have asked to form a committee.
Leah McElrath tweeted:
Fiction tells us families come together after a death, but, in reality, they usually don’t. Instead, what often happens is previously existing toxic dynamics become more intense, not less. Sometimes family ties break altogether. I feel like that’s happening now, with humanity. We are facing multiple, literal existential crises. A pandemic has killed millions. Climate change is causing us to face the increasing uninhabitability—in real time—of many areas in which we live. One would imagine the natural response would be for us to become more united. Instead, we cannot help but notice the pronounced fragmentation. As is the case within families, some benefit from the pre-existing fragmentation. Accordingly, in response to a threat of systemic upheaval, they endeavor not only to ensure splits remain but also to widen them. Because of our own sense of urgency, we can feel compelled to focus on those invested in maintaining division. It can feel necessary that they change. The need for them to change can even feel like a survival need as, over time, engagement evolves into repetition compulsion. My fear is that our continued focus on trying to “fix” the divisions is inadvertently serving to strengthen them.
McElrath quoted ContextFall who tweeted:
At what point does the general public realize that there is a major PR effort pushing the normalization of mass death?
McElrath added:
We’ve seen a 3-year-lag between when MSM journalists mock those of us who observe patterns to when those journalists finally start writing about the patterns as obvious truths—and a 2-year-lag until the public consumes enough MSM coverage to create a body of common knowledge.
I heard a bit of news that the makers of M&Ms candy have given the animated candies used in commercials a makeover. It looks like Tucker Carlson of Fox News ranted about the brown candy character appearing to be non-binary. That prompted Ken Klippenstein of The Intercept to tweet:
Sorry you don’t get a say in the distribution of resources, could we interest you in a lively debate about the gender of M&Ms instead? Note: You will now be paid in M&Ms
Bill in Portland, Maine, in his Cheers and Jeers column for Kos, quoted late night commentary.
Republicans are being criticized for blocking the voting rights bill. But, of course, Republicans don’t want voting rights because if voting was fair they'd lose. It's the same reason I keep my basketball hoop lowered to eight feet: because with the help of a small ladder, I can dunk. —Colin Jost, SNL Republicans are afraid that if more people get access to voting, they’re gonna lose elections. So, instead of coming up with policies that are more popular, they make it harder to vote. Basically, Republicans believe in the free market for everything except themselves. —Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
I haven’t heard much about Thich Nhat Hanh, a peacemaker who died this week. Bernice King, daughter of MLK, tweeted a bit of background. He was a friend and ally with MLK and urged opposition to the Vietnam war. That opposition meant he was exiled from his home country. When MLK was nominated for the Nobel Peace Price in 1967 he said Thich Nhat Hanh was more worthy. The prize wasn’t awarded that year. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg tweeted:
“To be loved means to be recognized as existing." —Thich Nhat Hanh To see one another. Honor the dignity of one another. Fight for justice for one another. Build a world that recognizes the full existence of everyone. That’s our work.

Friday, January 21, 2022

The real Dr. King cannot be commodified, homogenized, and white-washed

The big voting rights bill has been blocked. Joan McCarter of Daily Kos reported a coalition of civil rights groups declared it wasn’t a defeat. It wasn’t a useless exercise. It shone a bright light on anti-American senators. McCarter wrote:
They added: “Democracy’s foes have not had the last word. As civil rights leaders and as patriotic Americans we will never stop fighting to preserve and defend the rights for which our predecessors bled and died.”
And Schumer said:
While tonight’s vote was disappointing, it will not deter Senate Democrats from continuing our fight against voter suppression, dark money, and partisan gerrymandering. With no support from Senate Republicans, many of whom deny the very existence of voter suppression, we faced an uphill battle. But because of this fight, and the fact that each Senator had to show where they stand, we are closer to achieving our goal of passing vital voter protection legislation. Now that every Senator has gone on record, the American people have seen who’s on the side of protecting voting rights and it will only strengthen our resolve as we work to ensure that our democracy does not backslide. The Democratic Caucus pledges to keep working until voting rights are protected for every American.
As for Sen. Sinema, who voted against ending the filibuster, Kerry Eleveld of Kos noted her favorability rating from the Kos/Civiqs polls. 27% of Arizonans in general have a favorable opinion of her. It’s also 27% of independents, 44% of Republicans, and only 8% of Democrats – though since she skipped out on the vote for the January 6th Commission last May her favorability by Democrats has been under 14%. Alas, the next time she’s up for reelection is 2024. Eleveld also reported several progressive organizations who have declared they will no longer support her. Cameron Joseph, senior political reporter at Vice News, tweeted:
I talked to more than a dozen volunteers and former staff who worked hard to elect @SenatorSinema in '18. Now? They feel "betrayed," "livid," "crushed." "People need to know she sucks," one former campaign staffer told me. Many were big fans of her in '18, but they feel like she's been intentionally sticking her finger in their eyes ever since, and some said the past week has been the "last straw" for them. And this isn't just progressive activists. These were her own supporters.
As for Sinema’s sidekick (or maybe she’s his sidekick) Sen. Manchin, McCarter reported he declared the big Build Back Better bill that he killed will have to start over from scratch. After Congress gets its financial house in order and pushed inflation down. And gotten COVID out of the way. Yeah, he’s the one who has been moving goalposts and reneging on agreements, so this isn’t a surprise. Maybe some of the individual pieces can get passed. Maybe he’ll block those too. Greg Dworkin, in his pundit roundup for Kos, had a couple interesting quotes. First from Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post discussing the vote on voting rights:
A funny thing about those votes: They put the best and the worst of the Senate on full display… Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday shredded the “never before changed the filibuster” argument. Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) gave one of the most stirring speeches, making clear that while John Lewis gave blood on the Edmund Pettus bridge, this Senate couldn’t bring itself to “bridge” a procedural rule. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who bent over backward to accommodate Manchin’s concerns on voting reforms, blasted the gamesmanship: “I think by voting this down, by not allowing us even to debate this, to get to the conclusion of a vote, that is silencing the people of America, all in the name of an archaic Senate rule that isn’t even in the Constitution. That’s just wrong.” When Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) insisted it was unfair to equate voting restrictions to Jim Crow, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) let him have it. “Don’t lecture me about Jim Crow,” Booker declared angrily. “I know this is not 1965. And that’s what makes me so outraged. It is 2022, and they are blatantly removing more polling places from the counties where Blacks and Latinos are overrepresented.”
Dworkin also quoted Dan Froomkin of Presswatch:
A Quinnipiac poll out this week found that a significant majority of Americans – by a 58 to 37 margin – believe “the nation’s democracy is in danger of collapse.” Some of that is right-wingers who think the 2020 election was stolen, but it’s 56 to 37 percent among Democrats, too. Over half of Americans also consider it very likely (19 percent) or somewhat likely (34 percent) that there will be another attack in the United States like the one at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. And while people who follow me on Twitter are hardly a representative group, I was struck by how many people responded to this tweet by telling me that not only are they terrified, but that everybody they know is terrified, too. I don’t read about people who feel that way in the news, though.
Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center tweeted:
Not enough attention has been paid to how powerful dark money interests mobilized to pressure Manchin and Sinema to maintain the filibuster—and, in turn, to maintain the power of those wealthy special interests at the expense of voters. For example, last April, the dark money group Heritage Action described a $24M plan to “block federal legislation & tackle state based reform." A key part of that anti-voter effort was blocking filibuster reform: “It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment," said a top Heritage official. ... As part of that $24M campaign, Heritage Action organized a rally in WV urging Manchin to oppose filibuster reform. Heritage claimed to be “stand[ing] up for WV values,” but had to bus in activists from hundreds of miles away, across state lines. ... McConnell’s dark money group, One Nation, also spent millions on ads targeting Manchin on the filibuster The Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity mobilized against filibuster reform, too. AFP spent at least $500K on ads opposing filibuster changes in states like WV, organized astroturf rallies, and set up the website The US Chamber also fought against voting rights legislation and filibuster reform. As @andrewperezdc reported, the Chamber has sway with Manchin & Sinema, and the pair echoed Chamber talking points when describing their opposition to filibuster changes. Ultimately, the Freedom to Vote Act would have taken power from wealthy special interests and returned it to voters, and that was a huge threat to dark money interests like Heritage Action, the Kochs, and the US Chamber.
Yesterday marked the start of Biden’s second year. Rebekah Sager of Kos thought it was a fine time to list his first year accomplishments. That list would help us feel a little less glum about the defeat of the voting rights bill. Before getting to the actual list (which I’ll let you read) Sager wrote:
As former President Barack Obama before him, Biden entered office with a deep hole to climb out of. Former President Donald Trump left a trash fire of sick, conspiratorial Americans doubting their own election, as well as the science that could lead us out of the pandemic and climate change. He opened the door and invited in white supremacy, gave tax breaks to the ultra-rich, and broke an already broken country further apart. Let’s not even get started on the country trying to heal from an attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol.
Sager also wrote about the first year accomplishments of VP Harris. Again, I’ll let you read the list. Sager wrote:
Although her first year in office has been impressive, Harris has been scrutinized in a way that’s unlike so many of her predecessors in the role. Talk around D.C. has ranged from petty, with comments about her being “difficult” to work with, to Republicans and Democrats sparring about her being “too radical” and “not radical enough.” Her approval ratings equal President Joe Biden’s; a recent CBS News poll found that Americans have given her a 44%.
Eleveld reported that during Biden’s two hour press conference he said:
What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they are for?
Moscow Mitch responded (“it” being the Senate):
That is a very good question and I'll let you know when we take it back.
Eleveld repeated the story of GOP Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire being asked to run for a seat in the Senate. When he heard the entire Republican goal was to keep Biden from accomplishing anything for two years he declined. Marcus Johnson tweeted an answer to Biden’s question, “Name me one thing they are for?” The answer: “Jim Crow.” Nikole Hannah-Jones wrote The 1619 Project about slaves arriving in America with the first settlers. She says every aspect of this country has been touched by slavery. Lauren Sue of Kos reported Hannah-Jones, a black journalist, was invited to speak at an event to honor Martin Luther King. Yet some people opposed her, calling her “unworthy of such association with King.” So she scrapped her original speech. The first half of what she did say was all excerpts from King’s speeches, though she replaced the N word with “black” so the audience wouldn’t catch on to what she was doing. Sue included many of those excerpts, then linked to Hanna-Jones’ Twitter thread that told the rest of the story:
Oh, the uncomfortable silence as I read Dr. King's words at a commemoration of Dr. King's life when people had no idea that these were his words. When I revealed that everything I said to that point was taken from his speeches between '56 and 67... Can you say SHOOK! Then I read all the names that white Americans called King: charlatan, demagogue, communist, traitor -- and brought out the polling showing more than three-quarters of Americans opposed King at his death while 94 percent approve of him now. I left them with this: People who oppose today what he stood for back then do not get to be the arbiters of his legacy. The real Dr. King cannot be commodified, homogenized, and white-washed and whatever side you stand on TODAY is the side you would have been back then. In fact, most white Americans in 1963 opposed the March on Washington where Dr. King gave the "I Have A Dream Speech" with that one line that people oppose to anti-racism like to trot out against those working for racial justice. ... This is why the 1619 Project exists. This is why the decades of scholarship that undergirds the 1619 Project exists. Because if we do nothing, they will co-opt our history and use it against us. Dr. King was a radical critic of racism, capitalism and militarism. He didn't die. He was assassinated. And many, including Reagan, fought the national holiday we're now commemorating. If you haven't read, in entirety, his speeches, you've been miseducated & I hope that you will.
News reports have said there is now a website to which one can go to order COVID tests and get them for free. That prompted Dr. Thrasher to tweet:
The Democrats seem as intent on making getting at-home Covid tests as complicated as Republicans want to make voting I can’t stress enuf that tens of millions of Americans can’t read. There is an unspoken consensus in news media and both major political parties that these ppl should be left for dead every time “Go to the website” or “Google it” are evoked to fight COVID If you can’t read enough to work, you can’t Google where to find a test and fill out a form for reimbursement. They should be freely available everywhere. Ppl who can’t read are no more deserving of contracting or dying of COVID than anyone else, but they’re ignored when pols say Let Them Google Cake. I think at-home tests should be mailed to everyone (create a culture of at home tests) AND available via schools, libraries etc. But if you must request them, why a website? Why not a phone #? It costs more to staff a call center, but... Covid affects older ppl a lot. And if you watch ads on TV that are targeting the elderly, they have phone numbers, not websites. Everything abt this pandemic ought to make getting help easier for the ppl most affected—& they might not read (English or at all) or use computers.
Ana Cabrera, of CNN, tweeted this morning:
The WH has opened a hotline for those who can't order their 4 free COVID tests online. The number to call is 800-232-0233
Doug Mack bought the fonts used by the Park Service, and with them created some signs for alternate national parks. A few of examples:
Welcome to Everything is Fine National Park. Quiet Sobbing Area Next 1,000 Miles Welcome to Twitter National Wildlife Preserve. Home of Bad Faithful Geyser. Welcome to Meh National Park. Welcome to Yes, We Have Bears National Forest. Stop Trying to Take a Selfie With Them OMG. Welcome to Stay on the Damn Path National Forest. You’re Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Repeatedly offered pieties about the sanctity of the filibuster

Voting rights got voted on in the Senate. Yesterday afternoon Walter Einenkel of Daily Kos wrote about what happened leading up to the vote. He included a photo of the Congressional Black Caucus standing outside the Senate as a show of support for voting rights. Einenkel included videos of various Democrats speaking in favor of the bills. Then Manchin did a little speech with a visual aid that said, “The United States Senate has never been able to end debate with a simple majority.” Of course, Twitter users hammered him. One was Brian Tyler Cohen who noted the last three Supreme Court nominees were confirmed with a simple majority – which Manchin voted for – because in those cases the filibuster had already been eliminated. This morning Laura Clawson of Kos reported on how the votes went. On the actual voting rights bill the votes was 50-50, but since 60 votes were needed (because of the filibuster) VP Harris didn’t need to break the tie. With the vote 50-50 both Manchin and Sinema voted for it. Then the Senate turned to whether the filibuster could be suspended for voting rights bills. That failed 48-52, with Manchin and Sinema voting no. Clawson wrote:
Both Manchin and Sinema repeatedly offered pieties about the sanctity of the filibuster, but both also voted to waive the filibuster to lift the debt ceiling just last month. Both function in a Senate in which nominees, including to lifetime judgeships, are confirmed by majority votes. And if they want to claim a concern for the history of the Senate, well, the talking filibuster, in which senators can hold off a bill as long as they can keep talking but cannot simply block a final vote without significant effort, has a rich history. The filibuster is not that sacrosanct, in other words. Manchin and Sinema just don’t really want to pass voting rights legislation.
I listened to another Gaslit Nation bonus Q&A episode (one has to be a member to listen). I listened because I asked a question. And it was answered! I had asked: What would happen if a senator revealed which of his Congressional colleagues had been a customer of Jeffrey Epstein’s child trafficking. The answer: Depends on the party. Democrats run from scandal and bend over backwards to keep things clean (or at least appear to). So an accused Democrat would have a hard time and may be driven out. Republicans would think little of the scandal unless indictments are filed. That person would stay in power or would get a cushy job at Fox News or conservative think tank. Nothing happens. As an example, see Matt Gaetz, still in office in spite of scandal because there no indictments yet. Also see the Panama Papers that revealed all sorts of corruption – and nothing happened. Epstein and his colleagues have dirt on a lot of people in high places. They could threaten exposure if those people didn’t dance to their tune. Which means Epstein’s colleagues are the deep state controlling the government. A couple other questions from this 55 minute episode caught my attention. One asked: Why do Schumer and Pelosi allow Manchin and Sinema to blow up Biden’s agenda? Moscow Mitch would not allow something like that to happen. Short answer Schumer and Pelosi need to cover their asses. They have been leaders in the Senate for a long time. They’ve been identified as receiving corrupt donations. Their time in leadership saw a great rise in inequality. They have followers just as inflexible as those for the nasty guy who threaten those who criticize Shumer or Pelosi. I’ve mentioned Rep. Katie Porter who, with her whiteboard, is known for criticizing corporate officials. It seems that whiteboard is getting little use. The reason is Porter was taken off the House Financial Services Committee. Corporate donors must not have liked the grilling. Dan Price tweeted about her removal and included some of her speeches. The GN podcast linked to a Washington Post article. And an American Prospect article discussed a secret Democratic steering committee (which demanded I log in, so I didn’t read it). We need people like Porter to explain the corruption from a seat in Congress. It is not surprising she was pulled. GN linked to the site Sludge that has articles about corruption. The one at the top right now is about major US corporations that speak against voter suppression laws yet donate to their sponsors. Alas, I can’t see a way to search for stories about Porter. The nasty guy’s efforts to keep his official White House records out of the hands of the January 6th Committee had been through lower courts. There his claims were denied – the public interest is more important than his claims of executive privilege or his desire to keep records private. Brandi Buchman of Kos reported yesterday the issue went before the Supreme Court. They refused, on a vote of 8-1, to hear his case. That means the lower court decision stands and the National Archives can start giving about 700 pages of documents to the Committee.