Tuesday morning New York Governor Cuomo announced his resignation, a week after a report from the New York State attorney general concluded that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed nearly a dozen women....
The school board for Williamson County, Tennessee, held a meeting on Tuesday night about taking steps to deal with the terrifying Delta COVID infection surge. After four hours of debate, the board voted to implement a temporary mask mandate for grammar school students and staff, said mandate being set to expire on September 21. Almost immediately, all hell broke loose. A clutch of infuriated parents mobbed mask advocates to their cars, where they bellowed through the driver’s side of one car window, “You can leave freely, but we will find you and we know who you are.” One mask advocate, a doctor named Britt Maxwell with children who attend school in the district, was called a “traitor” as he left the gathering. “I don’t see how anyone can say that when I’ve been on the frontlines of this pandemic since the beginning, treating patients in rooms, unvaccinated for the vast majority of it, hoping I wouldn’t take it home to my family. For someone to say that is mind blowing,” Maxwell told CNN.
This first portion, a $1.2 trillion package aimed at modernizing the country’s moldering public works and power grids, passed the Senate today by a vote of 69 to 30. This is a significant step. The number of Republicans who voted “Yes,” including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is no surprise, despite the partisan strife that is our collective daily bread these days; 18 GOP senators voted with all 50 members of the Democratic caucus to evade the filibuster earlier in the process, and the bill itself is wildly popular across a broad spectrum of voters.
Environment & Health EPA Approval of PFAS for Fracking May Spell a New Health Crisis for Communities Politics & Elections Both the Delta Variant and Thin-Willed Democrats Are Lethal to Our Society Environment & Health Biden Promotes $100 Incentives to Encourage Unvaccinated to Get Their Shots Environment & Health Exxon-Influenced Senators Carved Climate Out of Infrastructure Almost Entirely Environment & Health Chomsky: We Need Genuine International Cooperation to Tackle the Climate Crisis Politics & Elections The Right Wing Wants Misinformation and Manufactured Ignorance, Not Democracy Two headlines had themselves a nasty little car accident in my mind yesterday. “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives’” blew through a stoplight and t-boned “‘The War Has Changed’: Internal CDC Document Urges New Messaging, Warns Delta Infections Likely More Severe,” right there in the intersection of my prefrontal lobe. Shattered safety glass everywhere, air bags sagging over steering wheels, a side-view mirror in the gutter like a lost shoe… it was ugly. “The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox,” reads the grim tide of words under the second headline, from the Washington Post. “The [Centers for Disease Control] document strikes an urgent note, revealing the agency knows it must revamp its public messaging to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.” Of course, I have absolutely had it with the “Because Trump” brigade and their Bellagio fountain of self-interested bullshit when it comes to getting the shot (among a great many other things, but we’ll leave that for later). Those who refuse to be masked and/or vaccinated as they cling to right-wing conspiracy theories have become petri dishes for the variants that are stealing more and more lives and putting all of us at grave risk. “Pro-Sanders Group Rebranding Into ‘Pragmatic Progressives,’” however, is the jerk that ran the light. “Rather than insisting on ‘Medicare for All’ — Sanders’ trademark universal, government-funded health care plan — or the climate-change-fighting Green New Deal, Our Revolution is focusing on the more modest alternatives endorsed by President Joe Biden,” reports the Associated Press. Check me here, because I could very well be off-base: In a time when drastic measures are shriekingly necessary to stave off a whole cavalcade of calamities, an advocacy group founded on the principles of lifelong advocate Bernie Sanders is downshifting from progressive advocacy to some sort of milquetoast cuddling with the conservative Democrat in the White House? The guy who got one quarter of what he asked for in his first infrastructure try and dared to call it a triumph after the Republicans ate his (and our) lunch. “The senator didn’t comment for this story,” reads the report, and Christ on crutches, I hope that means Sanders doesn’t endorse this move. Progressive advocacy groups are not supposed to get along with the conservatives they’re advocating against. Activists on our side seldom get what they came for, and are usually struggling against terrible odds — and that is the fugging point. We seldom get what we want, but we always push for what everyone needs. The view is foreshortened when your shoulder is to the wheel, and sometimes we don’t recognize progress when it happens. We never stop, and 20 years later, we look behind us and maybe say with dim surprise, “Damn, we got some stuff done.” The view is foreshortened when your shoulder is to the wheel, and sometimes we don’t recognize progress when it happens. But what we cannot do is trade in our shovels for some spats and a snazzy seat on the rubber chicken circuit. Shame upon you, “Our Revolution.” Your revolution isn’t just over; you surrendered. God save us from our “friends.” There were 71,621 new COVID infections yesterday, a two-week increase of 151 percent. The president and the media are going back and forth about “messaging” while nihilist Republicans do everything they can to kill off their own voter base (and everyone else) with lies and galling distractions. The Delta variant gains steam, and Democrats haggle over what to cut from vital legislation, with the cool hand of “Our Revolution” pressed fondly against their backs. We are embarked upon dark waters, again. It will be worse in two weeks, because this is COVID, and it’s always worse in two weeks when the virus trends as it does today. This is no time for advocates to seek the low road; it’s already underwater, and no half-assed infrastructure bill can fix it. “Stout hearts” is all I have to offer. I am holding on to mine with both hands, but as Stephen Crane wrote, it is bitter — bitter… “But I like it because it is bitter, and because it is my heart.” Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.
“If matters continue as they are,” I wrote on July 6 about vaccinations and the Delta variant of COVID, “a bright new line will be drawn between ‘Two Americas’: The Vaccinated vs. the Unvaccinated.” The Wall Street Journal this morning would seem to agree: “The Delta variant is hardening a divide between people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who aren’t, prompting hospitals to brace for new case surges and health authorities to redouble vaccination efforts. Now the most common strain in the U.S., Delta is spreading as public life resumes at restaurants, sporting events and other public settings across the country.”
It isn’t often that we see a New York Times paragraph so freighted with syrup and honeyed goo, but there it was on Sunday afternoon, like something you’d order at IHOP to beat back a hangover: “Soaring more than 50 miles into the hot, glaringly bright skies above New Mexico, Richard Branson at last fulfilled a dream that took decades to realize: He can now call himself an astronaut.” Better lede: “Fulfilling his desire to beat a fellow billionaire into the lowest verge of space, notorious tax cheat Richard Branson burned some of the money he owes his home country in order to fling himself past the troposphere so he could experience weightlessness for as much time as it takes to make a decent bowel movement. An achievement that will go down in corporate history, Branson now holds bragging rights over the guy whose monopolies are eating the economy alive.” Not what I’d call the right stuff.
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.
Redistricting is the process of redrawing the maps that decide the makeup of congressional and state districts. In 42 states, it is controlled by elected state-level politicians. That means that in all but eight states, whichever party controls the state capitol will also have the final say over how congressional districts are drawn. This cycle, the stakes could not be higher.
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.
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.
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