“All slaves are free,” Union troops shouted. On June 19, 1865, they read Order No. 3, written by Gen. Gordon Granger to the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. Cheering crowds followed the soldiers. In the war’s aftermath, ex-Confederates attacked Blacks for celebrating freedom, but joy was stronger than fear. The holiday of Juneteenth began. One hundred and fifty-six years later, Juneteenth — which has for decades been celebrated through family gatherings and grassroots political organizing — has now been designated by the U.S. Senate as the 11th federal holiday, in addition to being observed as a state holiday by 47 states.
This morning the Supreme Court ruled that the city of Philadelphia violated the First Amendment when the city declined to renew a contract with a Catholic social service agency that refused to consider placing youth in need of foster care with LGBTQ families. The judgment was unanimous. While it’s crucial to consider the implications of this case — Fulton v. City of Philadelphia — for non-discrimination rules, we should also take a broader lens and recognize the harm that the foster system itself does to LGBTQ, BIPOC and working-class communities.
The evolution — or devolution, if you will — of the right’s January 6 narrative continues apace, but is steering toward strange waters. When it happened, it was deemed an appalling attack against the very fabric of democracy … but Donald Trump didn’t like that, because the attackers were his people, and so the story began to change. It was antifa! Black Lives Matter protesters! No, that didn’t stick. Wait, they were peaceful tourists! See how they stay within the ropes as they carry their Confederate battle flags and lengths of pipe! Ten minutes with the footage from the front stairs and hallways batted that one down.
There’s only one person in this photograph/video of last week’s G7 meeting who represents a country where an illness can destroy an entire family, leaving them bankrupt and homeless, with the repercussions of that sudden fall into poverty echoing down through generations. Most Americans have no idea that the United States is quite literally the only country in the “developed world” that doesn’t define healthcare as an absolute right for all of its citizens. That’s it. We’re the only one left.
I was asked to take my mask off for the first time yesterday. Well, that’s not quite accurate. Better to say I was invited to remove my mask when I popped into my local bodega (yes, we have bodegas in New Hampshire). The counterman was all smiles when he said it, maskless himself. The store was empty and I didn’t want to seem rude, so off it came… and it felt for all the world like I was standing there without pants.
The real rumblings began last week. “The New York attorney general’s office said Tuesday that it is conducting a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business empire, expanding what had previously been a civil probe,” the Associated Press reported. The pivot from civil to criminal meant the investigations would now include the work of New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance. Attorney General Letitia James’s office also let it be known that they were squeezing the Trump Organization’s longtime finance chief and Man Who Knows Everything, Allen Weisselberg, for as much as he will give.
Human Rights My Grandparents Lived Through the Nakba. Now It’s Happening Again. Economy & Labor COVID Has Catalyzed a Wave of Tenant Organizing That Was Long Overdue Human Rights Israeli Bombs Destroy Gaza Media Center, Take Out AP, Al Jazeera and Others Immigration Trump Officials Used Secret Terrorism Unit to Question Lawyers at Border Politics & Elections Pharma-Backed Dark Money Group Attacks House Democrats’ Lower Drug Pricing Plan Politics & Elections The Death of Democracy Looks Nearer Than Ever Liz Cheney is not on my short list of politicians I admire or wish to see in Congress. But she has done the right thing in calling out the “big lie” and promising to do all she can to keep Donald Trump away from the White House, literally or in terms of his influence over a terribly broken party. She is a canary in the coal mine. Would that others had the courage to follow suit. Most sentient beings on the planet breathed a huge sigh of relief last November when Joe Biden won the presidential election. We were even happier when he and his administration immediately began acting robustly on myriad issues. First came the well-chosen appointments, the flurry of executive orders reversing Trump’s perversities, then the big bills aimed at health care, infrastructure, economic recovery, climate change, income inequality, childcare and more — all of which made Republicans in Congress and their QAnon conspiracists cringe — and jump into action. A majority of states immediately flew into action to bring back Jim Crow with hideous voting rights restrictions. Protesters began to be arrested. Gun violence and hate crimes grew by startling percentages while cops kept killing Black people. Arizona Republicans decided to hold yet another recount of the election results there, barring journalists from the hangar where counters reportedly tried to spot bamboo in the ballots. (Proof, if we needed it, that the party has gone crazy.) Republicans in Congress began their urgent campaign, articulated by Mitch McConnell, to stop any legislation proposed by the White House or Democrats in the House of Representatives. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley and other deranged GOP members went on various rants grounded in lies and nonsense. Rand Paul accosted public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of funding dangerous research in China (more proof of crazy). Vaccine conspiracies and anti-masking activists got really crazy. All of this occurred after Jan. 6, when the unimaginable happened and an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol sent America a clear message: This country is not out of danger. The fact is, the real and growing possibility of living through the destruction of American democracy is not going away. It is growing. Donald Trump is now viewed as the head of the Republican Party as he holds the feet of elected officials to the fire with his fierce, alarming grip on their futures. A significant number of regular Republicans continue to embrace the lies, mantras and inconceivable theories spewed out daily by Fox News. Insurrectionists crawl out from under their rocks in droves. The Supreme Court is now a quasi-political body with a 6-3 conservative majority. All this is terrifying in its implications. Like many others, I grow more and more anxious by the day — so much so that I actually inquired about getting a British passport, which my husband and children hold. I know that what happened in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Poland, Hungary and others can happen here. We are not immune from autocrats and dictatorship and we are not protected by our Constitution if it no longer holds meaning for those in power. Our future is riding on the midterm elections next year, and the 2024 presidential election. If you think I am needlessly hyperventilating, consider this: In 1923 Hitler mounted a failed coup. When he failed, his effort was treated leniently. A decade later he was Germany’s dictator. In 2021 Donald Trump inspired a failed coup. It too has been treated leniently by those who say we “need to move on.” Will he, or his appointed alter ego, be our dictator in less than a decade? Ece Temelkuran, a noted Turkish journalist, wrote a book in 2019 in which she explains how President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to rule that country. The book is called How to Lose a Country: The Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship. In the first chapter she writes, “Watching a disaster occur has a sedating effect. As our sense of helplessness grows along with the calamity, [we begin to feel that] there is no longer anything you can do.… global news channels jump in [for] the denouement. It has been a long and exhausting [time], unbearably painful. It began with a populist coming to town.… A bleak dawn breaks.” She goes on to draw chilling comparisons between the fate of Turkey and what’s happening in the U.S. and elsewhere: “It doesn’t matter if Trump or Erdogan or [the U.K.’s] Nigel Farage is brought down. Millions of people are fired up by their message and will be ready to act upon the orders of a similar figure.… These minions will find you, even in your own personal space, armed with their own set of values and ready to hunt down anyone who doesn’t resemble themselves.” Temelkuran points out that this is not something imposed top down or imported from the Kremlin. It also arises from the grassroots. She says wisely, “It is time to recognize that what is occurring affects us all.” It is time, indeed, for America to realize what is occurring — and that it will affect us all. This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Remember the song about the cat? Well, the cat came back the very next day / Oh, the cat came back, they thought he was a goner but the cat came back / He just couldn’t stay away… Well, it won’t be official for a few weeks, but the word landed yesterday: Rahm Emanuel, among the most despised individuals within and without Democratic Party politics, will be named U.S. ambassador to Japan. The cat came back, and has apparently landed a key assignment in the foreign service.
Like many Muslims, I remember feeling excited as a child each year when Ramadan came around. Though I didn’t entirely understand the purpose of fasting, I was proud of being Muslim and was eager to emulate my parents. Since I began fasting in second grade, Ramadan has been a core part of my practice of Islam.
Prisons & Policing Jailers Tortured and Murdered Marvin Scott III, Family Says After Viewing Video Politics & Elections A New Wave of Jim Crow Laws Is Here. Here’s What You Need to Know. Politics & Elections Facebook Board Announces Trump Remains Banned. Trump Starts His Own “Platform.” Immigration Biden’s U-Turn on Refugees Aligns With Voter Support for Pro-Immigrant Policies Economy & Labor Amazon Is Dictating Personal Hygiene, Nail Length of Contract Drivers Politics & Elections Judge Says DOJ Memo on Barr’s Decision Not to Charge Trump Must Be Released “So shines a good deed in a weary world,” said Willy Wonka when confronted with an unexpected kindness. The candy master may have had similar words about today’s decision by Facebook’s new 20-person “Oversight Board.” For the time being at least, the silence will continue to reign, and a weary world sighs in palpable relief. “The Board has upheld Facebook’s decision on January 7, 2021, to restrict then-President Donald Trump’s access to posting content on his Facebook page and Instagram account,” the board said in a much-anticipated statement this morning. The decision surprised many, given Facebook’s rightward turn under the influence of Joel Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official who currently runs the social media giant’s powerful Washington, D.C. office. Time and again during the Trump administration, Facebook scrambled like a frog on a hot plate to rewire its rules in a way that made Trump’s gruesomely unacceptable proclamations palatable to the algorithms that run the site. Color me among the surprised; I would have lost a bet on this one. “Facebook has constrained its efforts against false and misleading news, adopted a policy explicitly allowing politicians to lie, and even altered its news feed algorithm to neutralize claims that it was biased against conservative publishers,” reports The Washington Post. “And as Trump grew in power, the fear of his wrath pushed Facebook into more deferential behavior toward its growing number of right-leaning users, tilting the balance of news people see on the network, according to the current and former employees.” Ultimately, Trump ran out of running room on January 6 of this year, when he went wild on Facebook as his supporters smashed their way into the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The ban was handed down the next day. The board’s decision seemed to include a not-so-subtle scold aimed directly at Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg: However, it was not appropriate for Facebook to impose the indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing the violating content, imposing a time-bound period of suspension, or permanently disabling the page and account. The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform. Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months of the date of this decision. The Board also made policy recommendations for Facebook to implement in developing clear, necessary, and proportionate policies that promote public safety and respect freedom of expression. For the Trump camp, at least in the six-month short term, the board’s decision is a bigly expensive deal. Beyond the immediate contact with the public provided by social media platforms, Facebook has been a dual engine for Trump: The spreading of the kind of incendiary propaganda and misinformation that is devoured by his base, combined with a massive fundraising pool. “And while GOP operatives are gaming out just what it would mean to give back the former president a powerful media bullhorn, the real impact, they say, will be seen in dollar signs,” Politico reported a day before the decision was handed down. “A return to Facebook would open major fundraising spigots that further cement Trump’s hold on the Republican Party, protecting his massive grassroots donor network from potential rivals.” As corporate titans, politicians, the media and the rest of us wrestle with the concept of free speech in the immediacy of a wired world, Donald Trump will remain mostly muzzled down in Florida for the time being. Perhaps in anticipation of the board’s decision — or maybe just to stick a nyah-nyah-I-don’t-need-you thumb in Facebook’s eye — Trump has launched what he calls a “communications platform” that will be “a place to speak freely and safely.” In fact, it’s just a basic training-wheels blog, and a pretty shabby one at that. Trump is allowed to natter on at any length he wishes; the only way for readers to speak “freely and safely” is by clicking any of the ubiquitous donation buttons. If the thing had come with the ancient AOL login sound, I would not be surprised. Reaction from the Trump camp was swift. “If you’re surprised by Facebook banning President Trump, you haven’t been paying attention,” whined former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. “It’s just the latest page in the book of big tech coming after conservatives. And they won’t stop. Which means it’s past time to hold them accountable. Break them up.” The Facebook Board’s decision/non-decision adds another layer of complexity to the debate over free speech in the age of social media and the massive corporations that control them. Trump deserved to be banned for his January 6 comments, which cheered on the violent sacking of the Capitol building that resulted in multiple deaths and injuries. The issues of where to draw that line and who gets to draw it remain unresolved. The board has punted to Zuckerberg, and the possible future of online free speech now sits in his hands. This is an uncomfortable thought, to put it lightly. The limits of free speech remain among the most complicated issues in American jurisprudence, especially in the technological wonderland of the 21st century. The search for some form of standardized rules and strictures has been ongoing since the founding of the nation. In 1919, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the famous free speech metric, “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater.” For decades, that has served as a simple yardstick for the limits of speech. As with all issues of speech, however, the matter is not as straightforward as it seems. The case that inspired Holmes’s iconic line, Schneck vs. United States, actually stands as one of the most viciously anti-speech decisions the court has ever handed down. Charles Schneck, a socialist, was charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act for handing out pamphlets condemning the draft during World War I. Holmes’s “fire,” in short, was an activist protesting a war. This garbage anti-speech standard stood until it was partially overturned by the landmark Brandenberg v. Ohio decision in 1969, some 50 years later and in the middle of yet another war. Remember this the next time you see that “fire in a crowded theater” line. It sounds entirely straightforward, pithy even, yet its history is one of suppression and militaristic fearmongering. It will serve no use for the social media giants trying to figure out where to draw the line. Fire in a theater, indeed. Moreover, what we have here in the Facebook Board’s decision is a matter of ethics, and not an actual legal statement. Bluntly, nobody has a “right” to a Facebook account, and free speech laws apply as protections from state and federal actions, not corporate decisions. The board has no inherent legal power, and these questions of legality will remain in place until a court has a flesh-and-blood case it can rule on, which would set the legal precedent going forward. As corporate titans, politicians, the media and the rest of us wrestle with the concept of free speech in the immediacy of a wired world, Donald Trump will remain mostly muzzled down in Florida for the time being. This is nothing but a stupendous public good, as he has not backed off one inch from his championing of the Capitol attackers and his ruinous lies about a stolen election. Trump still largely controls the Republican Party, and has a massive civilian following at his back. Were he at the bottom of a well, he would still retain the power to blow up the news cycle if he so chose, and could raise a million dollars an hour while he was at it. The board’s decision changes none of this, and answers no larger questions. It will remain quieter around here, though, and for now that will have to do. Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.