The Sussman Trial

Here is the Sussmann indictment as filed by Durham. It is an absurd 27 pages long. I could have written it in 2-3 pages, including signature page.

As you can see, excepting all the run on horse manure Durham penned, the indictment is for a single count of false statement under 18 USC §1001. That is it. One lousy count. That is it.

I will save you the niceties and simply quote you the DOJ guidance on §1001, and here it is:

Section 1001’s statutory terms are violated if someone:

“falsifies, conceals or covers up by any trick, scheme or device a material fact,”
“makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations,”
“makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry”
and, for cases arising after the 1996 amendments, the item at issue was material.
Whether the above acts are criminal depends on whether there is an affirmative response to each of the following questions:

Was the act or statement material?
Was the act within the jurisdiction of a department or agency of the United States? and
Was the act done knowingly and willfully?
[cited in JM 9-42.001]

907. Statements Warranting Prosecution. False Statement ›
Updated January 21, 2020

We all think this trial is a cutout for Trump and Trumpism. It is not. Sussman’s ass lies in the lurch. There is a live defendant. Actual jury trials are about what is charged. One count of §1001 is charged here. Keep your eye on that ball. Criminal trials are about crimes, and elements of crimes. This one will be too.

Bullshit Brigade: Now with More NYT Bullshit [Action Item Included]

[NB: Check the byline, please. Action item at bottom. /~Rayne]

I know I’m not the only person who’s raging at The New York Times, yet again. They’ve somehow managed to do it again and at the worst possible time — the day the Build Back Better bill will go to a vote in the House.

And whoever wrote this latest bullshit managed to do it cloaked behind the Editorial Board byline, leaving no one individual exposed to a well-deserved pummeling.

I’m talking about this POS: Democrats Deny Political Reality at Their Own Peril

Utterly unglued from reality, missing completely that:

– this country has become more progressive over the last 20 years;
– the country on a bipartisan basis supports the Build Back Better bill, with a majority supporting each of its key deliverables;
– Congress doesn’t represent a true reflection of this country thanks to gerrymandering and the corrupting effects of Citizens United on elections;
– Joe Biden was elected by a majority of voters, winning the popular vote with the most votes ever, to deliver a bill which both fixed decades of infrastructure problems AND helped the nation recover from the pandemic.

Seriously, they missed the true bipartisanship:

The opening graf sets the tone for the entire op-ed:

Tuesday’s election result trend lines were a political nightmare for the Democratic Party, and no Democrat who cares about winning elections in 2022 and the presidential race in 2024 should see them as anything less.

It’s a disaster for Democrats when one goddamned state with a weak sauce Democratic candidate narrowly lost to their GOP opponent — and by narrowly I mean 2.4% margin, less than the typical margin of error?

A disaster when that same state has a history of voting for a gubernatorial candidate from the party opposing that in the White House?

And of course it’s a disaster when the incumbent Democrat wins re-election as governor in New Jersey, right?

Never mind the NYT had also published this piece:

Murphy Narrowly Wins Re-Election as New Jersey Governor
The victory over Jack Ciattarelli, which ended Democrats’ 44-year re-election losing streak in the state, was far tighter than polls had predicted.

Oh yeah, what a disaster, breaking 44 years of New Jersey kicking out one-term Democratic governors.

~insert image of Hindenburg on fire~

Not to mention the wide swath of Democrats and in some cases Democratic Socialists who won their mayoral races across the country which I noted in my previous post.

The NYT’s editorial board had the gall to summon neoliberalism, saying, “Bill Clinton’s mantra from 1992 of ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ is rarely out of vogue, and it certainly isn’t now.”

Which is why this bullshit must be dealt with, shoveled and tossed in the manure heap to rot. This economy isn’t like any economy we’ve seen before and certainly not the one in 1992. Neoliberalism and centrism haven’t worked if one pries their privileged head out of their ass and takes a look around at this country. After so many inane pieces on “economic anxiety,” the NYT still doesn’t grasp that anxiousness doesn’t belong just to those folks who were told in 2016 and earlier that immigrants were coming for their jobs.

In spite of their access to research and likely their own reporting, the NYT editorial board still hasn’t cottoned onto that 50 years of data show trickle-down economics promulgated in tandem with moderate austerity don’t work — not here, not across 18 countries.

Though the pandemic placed a premium on the lowest paid jobs, minimum wage workers still cannot afford rent anywhere in the country — if they can even find a place to rent.

Lower wage workers who can save enough for a down payment are living in their cars because they can’t find affordable homes to buy.

But sure, let’s do what worked in the 1990s during the dot com boom, when we still had a huge middle class which could save money and buy houses with good paying blue collar jobs.

With the pandemic COVID came for their jobs. Then Trump’s disastrous handling of the pandemic came for their jobs. With that came the societal Jenga following more than 750,000 COVID deaths and more than 800,000 excess deaths, creating greater uncertainty about who was going to work where and would they and their families and loved ones survive this tectonic shift.

What families have had to go through during the pandemic requires more than temperate centrism:

Did the babysitter survive their exposure to COVID? Are they vaccinated? Are the other children in the daycare vaccinate (no, of course not, we don’t have a vaccine and won’t for a while for little ones)? Are the other parents vaccinated? Who will stay home with the kids if school is closed again because of an outbreak? Will either parents’ employer fire them for taking the time to watch their children since not all jobs permit working from home? How will we make the rent, car payment, health care, food bill, even if we’re getting $300 month for each child if we can’t work because we have no daycare and school is remote again? Who will take the time needed to provide the extra coaching the kids need through at-home coursework?

But yeah, let’s be careful and restrained right now after nearly 22 months of a rolling massive death event. Let’s not rock the boat because Tuesday was a disaster and not the pandemic or decades of starving infrastructure combined with offshoring industry, critically damaging supply chains.

Don’t even get me started on how this nation is flirting with looming disasters like the 2007 I-35W Mississippi River bridge collapse when a third of the bridges in this country are in disrepair, and the mounting climate emergency demands hardening of infrastructure, not more centrist restraint.

Fuck you editorial assholes at The New York Times. You’re privileged, blinkered morons, the lot of you. How do you even sit up and take nourishment each day?

~ ~ ~

ACTION ITEM: You can tell those NYT editorial assholes to fuck off more effectively by calling your representative and senators IMMEDIATELY this morning and insisting they vote to support the Build Back Better bill. More specifically, ask your representative to:

Pass the infrastructure bill which has already passed the Senate
Pass the Build Back Better Act which is a reconciliation bill

And then ask your Senators to pass the Build Back Better Act.

Call them at Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or use Resist.bot.

This Is the Morning After: Virginia Isn’t the Whole Story

[NB: As always, check the byline. /~Rayne]

Snap the fuck out of your funk and get over yourselves. You’ve fallen into the bloody trap the Trumpy GOP set for you; they even told you they were going to set it.

Take a deep breath and shake it off. Chew off your foot if needed to get out of the trap.

This is what they did — they made critical race theory toxic.

It’s SOP with the right-wing to poison terms aligned with liberal democracy. They even poisoned the word “liberal” throughout the 1980s, ramping up the toxicity once Fox News emerged.

Which is when the tables should have been turned on them, forcing the right-wing to acknowledge they were killing democracy itself OR embrace true liberal democracy by stepping away from authoritarianism.

Once the GOP revealed CRT was going to be poisoned, it was up to the Democratic Party high and low to flip the tables and develop a positive message which didn’t lead into that trap.

The trap was sprung every time CRT was explained.

Every single GOP candidate should instead have been asked on camera, “Are you a racist? Are you ashamed of being an American? Why won’t you allow our teachers to teach America’s history just as they have been, making this country great? Why are you bullying teachers? Don’t you want our children to learn and succeed?”

That’s what the GOP and its shadowy oligarch funders are doing — holding back the progress of America by damaging its education system, bullying anyone who gets in their way of destroying our commons to extract more wealth.

~ ~ ~

CRT wasn’t the only messaging failure. I hope to hell Democrats across the country take a deep breath and look at their reflexivity, the way they have been played repeatedly by both foreign and domestic influence operations to react at gut level in ways their opponents can predict.

Just like the GOP predicted CRT could be blown up into a massive mess because Democrats would reflexively fall back into explaining instead of focusing on delivering.

And after delivering, messaging strongly and loudly about delivering for the people.

Incumbents need to look to Rep. Ocasio Cortez’s end-of-term review of what she did during her first term in office as an example of both delivering and messaging.


Every incumbent needs to be able to tell their constituents what they did for them in clear, concise language, and they need to do this regularly.

Every candidate running for office needs to do similar messaging: what is it they want to do for their constituents which isn’t being done? This requires them to know their audience.

McAuliffe failed on this point; he ran what looked like a national campaign when he needed to be more focused on what the people of Virginia needed. His opponent seized this lack of focus to make it about CRT in VA schools.

Candidates whether incumbent or first-time opponents also need to reach constituents where they are. Turnout for Dems was weak compared to the opposition; was it because the media used didn’t reach target audiences? Don’t show up on public radio or stultifying policy-focused podcasts if the audience you need is watching TikTok clips in their Twitter timeline.

~ ~ ~

But Virginia wasn’t the only story of this election; as noted last night, there were a wave of firsts among winners who are both persons of color and more progressive than incumbents or opponents.

This is where the media failed us all: they blew so much energy on Virginia when there were big stories elsewhere.

And there’s no one news site to see all the election results in a comprehensive manner.

CNN did a crappy job with this site, imposing its editorial opinion at the top of the page: “Virginia’s race for governor is the main event of the 2021 election, acting as a temperature check on the national environment for the 2022 midterm election in a state that has moved strongly in Democrats’ favor for both statewide offices and in presidential contests over the last decade. …” and then posting the maps of election results with Virginia races first.

The rest of the country could give a flying fig about Virginia but CNN insists it’s super relevant because it matters to their long-established calculus.

In spite of the opportunity to obtain traffic, even Google failed to provide a comprehensive page for these elections. It’d be so much easier to see there’s some big shift brewing out there if the public could see it in one big easily scanned picture but it’s not possible.

Pulling together the biggest city mayor races, one can see a trend:

Incumbent Democrat Tim Keller will remain Albuquerque NM’s mayor.

Atlanta GA’s mayoral race will go to a run-off — the seat is non-partisan though all three candidates in the run-off are identified as Democrats.

No clear winner yet in the Buffalo NY mayor’s race which is big drama. A Democratic Socialist, India Walton won the Democratic primary earlier this year, but the Democratic incumbent ran as a write-in. Brown’s declared victory but not all votes will be counted until November 17. This seat will be either held by a Democratic Socialist or a Democrat.

Detroit MI’s incumbent Democratic mayor Mike Duggan won his third term.

Incumbent GOP mayor Francis Suarez won another term in Miami FL; he’s been critical of Gov. DeSantis and Trump, sucked up to Nikki Haley as a possible running mate in 2024.

GOP candidate Esteban Bovo won the mayor’s race in Hialeah FL.

Miami Beach FL mayor Dan Gelber won his third term; this will be the Democrat‘s final stint due to term limits.

Minneapolis MN incumbent Democratic mayor Jacob Frey won another term.

Democratic PA state Rep. Ed Gainey won the Pittsburgh mayor’s race to become its first Black mayor. A Democrat who’d lost in the primary to Gainey ran as a write-in GOP candidate, losing to Gainey.

Democratic candidate Bruce Harrell won his race in Seattle WA, becoming yet another mayor of color. Harrell is Black-Japanese American.

Elaine O’Neal won the mayor’s race in Durham NC, becoming the city’s first Black woman mayor. Though the seat is non-partisan, O’Neal is a Democrat.

Add last evening’s key mayoral races:

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu won the mayor’s race in Boston. She’s the first Asian American mayor for the city; she’s also a progressive Democrat who is tight with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Hamilton County clerk of courts Aftab Pureval won the mayor’s race in Cincinnati, becoming the city’s first Asian American mayor. He defeated an older centrist Democrat David Mann to win.

Michigan state house representative (MI-15) Abdullah Hammoud won the Dearborn mayor’s race, becoming the first Lebanese American in the city with the largest Lebanese American population in the U.S.; Hammoud is Arab and Muslim.

Former Obama senate intern Justin Bibb won the Cleveland mayor’s race, replacing term-limited Frank Jackson. Both are Democrats; Bibb is the first new mayor since 2005 and at 34 the second youngest mayor ever.

Both Pureval in Cincinnati and Hammoud in Dearborn are Democrats.

Mayoral races saw quite a few firsts with more Black and Asian representation, and as a whole were far more Democratic. This is not what the Virginia governor’s race reflected — a nationally more diverse and more Democratic electorate in a wide range of urban centers, from Boston to Seattle.

Why is the media not looking at this from a national perspective, instead focusing on one governor’s race in what was once a Confederate state?

Some of the media coverage is just plain bad, rancid, awful — like CBS’s article,

GOP victories in off-year election renews pressure on Washington Democrats to deliver ahead of the midterms
By Sarah Ewall-Wice, Jack Turman Updated on: November 3, 2021 / 7:01 PM / CBS NEWS

Victories, plural, when the article focused primarily on Virginia with New Jersey’s race treated like a throwaway? Plural altogether inappropriate now that the governor’s race is a projected win for the incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy.

That’s the second trap, laid this time by media: do NOT believe all the hype when the media can’t be bothered to tell the full story. You may need to look wider and deeper.

~ ~ ~

The third trap: white people, mostly men, yapping about the Virginia race.

(Don’t feel comfortable about this point? Ask yourself why.)

Ask people of color especially women what the hell happened. 40% of Virginia isn’t white but all we’re hearing from about that state is white men.

If you’re a candidate or a candidate-to-be you had better make sure you’re talking to a broader spectrum of people than folks who look like the talking heads on television and news feeds.

Look at those mayor’s races. Those people won by not listening to bloviating white male pundits who are stuck in old school horse race politics.

One thing we haven’t seen yet even in the excessive coverage of Virginia’s gubernatorial race is whether outreach to non-white groups helped, and whether Spanish and Asian language messaging make a difference. You’d think a race as tight as that one would see minority outreach as critical, but you’d never know it based on all the yapping by white male pundits.

You can bet your ass it will make an enormous difference in Florida and Texas in 2022, as well as other states with greater numbers of non-white ESL speakers. It already did in 2020.

Speaking of ESL, one of the sites with a decent lineup of election stories is Univision. No excuses in the age of Google Translate and other free translation applications not to check Spanish language sites since Spanish is the second most common language spoken and read in the U.S.

~ ~ ~

I could go on but I’m just plain damned tired of watching well-meaning people stuck in a rut of their own making, complaining that somebody needs to do something when the somebody is them.

Virginia’s Democrats need to do some serious soul searching about their choice for this gubernatorial election. That’s on them, not on the DNC, nor Democratic voters outside Virginia.

But each of us needs to do our own soul searching about this next year, what is likely the only one chance left to stop this descent into fascism. Who are the candidates we’ll support and what can we do to ensure they win and that everyone who wants to vote can do so?

Further, we and our candidates of choice must be able to make the case that the U.S. stands for common values:

Every citizen has the right to vote.
Every human has the same unalienable rights.
Racism and prejudice against LGBTQ+ and disabled persons is wrong and denies humans’ rights.
Every worker deserves a living wage for a fair day’s work.
Public education is a public good which benefits us all.
Our shared environment is critically important to our mutual survival and must be protected.
Domestic tranquility and the general welfare of the entire nation are more important than profits for a few.
Shared efforts and resources help us reach a more perfect union.

Welcome to the morning after. Dust yourselves off and grab your gear. We have a lot of goddamned work to do.

Bullshit Brigade: State and Local Election Day Edition [UPDATE-1]

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. Update(s) will appear at bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

It’s election day across the country with lots of local and state elections still underway. The race receiving the most national attention is Virginia’s gubernatorial race between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and GOP candidate Glenn Youngkin.

A lot of people are getting themselves worked up right now over what recent polling suggested would be a tight race. I can’t and won’t look; I don’t need more anxiety over the continued Trump effect on governance. Vote count may not be settled tonight if the race is very tight — take a deep breath and look away for a while.

Here, have some fresh bullshit to occupy your wattage.

~ 3 ~

We need deprogramming so badly in this country when hundreds of people are readily motivated by conspiracy theories to show up and participate in pop-up events over a couple days.

Especially events which are based on the belief a person dead for more than two decades will appear.

These people actually believe John-John is walking the earth and will run as Trump’s VP in 2024. There’s even a real person who they believe is JFK Jr.; I don’t know why the Kennedy family hasn’t sued this person already to prevent any grifting done in their deceased family member’s name.

These folks are completely out of touch with reality. What can they be made to do with a gentle nudge to their wacky irrational beliefs?

~ 2 ~

It’s not just the Average Josephine showing up on location to see the second coming of a dead Kennedy scion. It’s members of the media who’ve been permitted into White House pressers tweeting conspiracy theories without any skepticism whatsoever.

Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson shouldn’t be granted a press pass to federal offices anywhere because she’s got serious issues. This tweet, which was removed as it violated Twitter’s terms of service related to misleading health information, reveals a stunning lack of journalistic acumen. She regurgitated nonsense which had been debunked six months ago without any effort on her part to check it for credibility.

~ 1 ~

“Critical Race Theory” = dogwhistle to white nationalists who won’t admit on camera they are racist fucks who vote for racist fucks.

Critical race theory isn’t being taught in K-12 public education. At best depending on the state and school district, K-12 students may hear that enslavement of humans is bad and the root cause of the American Civil War. On the worst end of the K-12 education spectrum students may hear bullshit claims that enslaved people were happy being treated like animals without agency and autonomy.

The only people widely teaching critical race theory outside universities are the GOP and talking heads who support them. Instead of explaining to the public the true history of enslaved people in America and the economic impact of slavery as taught in university-level coursework, they tell the public CRT is inverse racism.

As if long-oppressed minority groups have the ability to teach inverse racism when racism by a dominant white class is their lived experience. Rejecting white’s racism while teaching factual history is merely the continuation of America’s decolonization.

Sadly, that brings us back to the race in Virginia, where the nasty old closeted white supremacist above who can’t and won’t explain CRT has voted for the racist GOP gubernatorial candidate.

A racist gubernatorial candidate who may have won his seat as of 8:25 p.m. EDT while I was writing the last of this post, damn it.

~ 0 ~

Here’s the final piece of bullshit I want to call out RTFN: Do NOT blame progressives for McAuliffe’s loss. Progressives have been busy trying to get Biden’s agenda passed. They are NOT to blame for the piss-ignorant intransigence of West Virginia’s corrupt Joe Manchin and Arizona’s kawaii con artist Kyrsten Sinema.

Old machine Democrats need to look long and hard in the mirror — this includes McAuliffe who went on national TV this weekend instead of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors during that time slot. Hell, why didn’t he attend a Black church in a key district instead of going on that useless Press the Meat with GOP’s buddy Chuck Todd? So many stupid mistakes like that, running a race like it’s 2006.

What other bullshit did you see today which might need deprogramming? Do tell.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 02-NOV-2021 11:50 PM —

Here’s some not-bullshit, a palate cleanser:

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu won the mayor’s race in Boston. She’s the first Asian American mayor for the city; she’s also a progressive Democrat who is tight with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Hamilton County clerk of courts Aftab Pureval won the mayor’s race in Cincinnati, becoming the city’s first Asian American mayor. He defeated an older centrist Democrat David Mann to win.

Michigan state house representative (MI-15) Abdullah Hammoud won the Dearborn mayor’s race, becoming the first Lebanese American in the city with the largest Lebanese American population in the U.S.; Hammoud is Arab and Muslim.

Former Obama senate intern Justin Bibb won the Cleveland mayor’s race, replacing term-limited Frank Jackson. Both are Democrats; Bibb is the first new mayor since 2005 and at 34 the second youngest mayor ever.

All four of these new mayors are persons of color and more progressive than the incumbent and opposing candidates. All of these races make the case it’s not progressives who lost the VA governorship.

But wait, there’s more:

Former chief deputy attorney general of New York Alvin Bragg has won the race for Manhattan District Attorney, becoming Manhattan’s first Black DA. He will inherit the Trump org-related investigations and prosecutions from Cy Vance.

I may need a celebratory nightcap for that one! As it’s after midnight here and many votes are still being counted in races west of here, I’ll check back in the morning.

Bullshit Brigade – Book Burner Edition

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This week has been rife with bullshit. Here are three egregious examples.

~ 3 ~

Meditating on the sci-fi dystopian classic, Fahrenheit 451, I’ve pondered the cultural shift from a brick-and-mortar society to a digital society, in which text printed on paper has given way to internet-mediated electronic content.

What does a fireman look like in the age of the internet?

Apparently they still look like pasty white Nazis, like this one Trumpy-buddy and VA gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin points to in Virginia – a racist mom whining about her poor baby boy whose fee-fees were hurt by an essential piece of American literature written by a Black woman author in which racism and slavery are central.

What a pity he can’t find a job after being so tormented by American literature…oh but wait.

The poor little teenager is now 27 years old and working as an attorney for the GOP. Perhaps Momma Murphy’s got a point – the kid’s intellectual growth was stunted by cognitive dissonance trying to make his artificially white privileged world meet literature reflecting the horror of enslavement upon which that white privilege was built. Now he can’t find a job anywhere except working for the party of racism in America.

Utter book burning bullshit. Stem it by helping elect Terry McAuliffe to Virginia’s governor’s office.

~ 2 ~

Speaking of the Virginia governor’s race, Jonathan Turley had to stick his two cents in because he has a problem with attorney Marc Elias.

Turley’s bitchy little dig betrays not only his ignorance about John Durham’s pathetic investigation but his concerns about Elias, who successfully won 64 out of 65 lawsuits Trump’s campaign filed to unsuccessfully contest the results of the 2020 election.

Perhaps Turley’s really worried that at some point if all the investigations into Team Trump’s efforts to ratfuck and obstruct the 2020 election, Turley’s own supporting role may receive more attention than it has so far.

It’s still quite intriguing that Turley wrote an op-ed, Could Robert Mueller actually be investigating Ukrainian collusion? (The Hill, Feb 21, 2019) just after Rudy Giuliani met with Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko in Poland, but just before The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko for Hill.TV during which Lutsenko made a false claim about U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as part of a character assassination operation.

Such timely prescience coincidentally mirroring a Russian active measure reeks of bullshit. One might wonder if Turley’s, Giuliani’s, and Solomon’s 2019 phone records have a few overlaps.

~ 1 ~

And then there’s this bullshit which may be on another level altogether – Tucker Carlson’s disseminating a complete fabrication of another reality intended to obscure the attempted overthrow of the U.S. government.

Sadly, it’s playing on televisions across military facilities and likely some federal offices, too.

It’d be nice if instead Carlson and the rest of Fox News’ toxic crap our federally-owned televisions were distributing our own content produced by the U.S. Agency for Global Media since its mission is to “inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”

Clearly it’s not Carlson’s or the Murdochs’ or News Corp’s mission to encourage freedom and democracy when they’re whitewashing insurrection and sedition. Their mission instead is flooding the zone with bullshit.

~ 0 ~

What’s the most egregious bullshit you’ve seen this week? Share in comments.

Advancing Our Country Forward, A Security Perspective

TOPSHOT – Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. – Demonstrators breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

[Hi, bmaz here, I am posting this from our beloved Roving Reporter Rosalind. She knows a bit about highly charged security issues, give it a read please.]

I spent my 20s and 30s working in large-scale concert production working for rock promoter Bill Graham Presents, dealing with crowds from 20,000 to 60,000 people packed into one defined area. In preparation for each show production staff would go through a procedure called “advancing the show”. As most tours were routed east to west, our production manager would call the band’s production manager after the tour had been underway and go through the production rider – the contract detailing the staging requirements – to confirm details and cover any surprises that had cropped up. Added equipment that made the truck pack go slower triggering overtime, feuding band members who needed their dressing rooms separated, a health issue requiring a local doctor to be on call backstage.

The most critical staff member for advancing the show was our Head of Security. She would call her counterpart at a venue where the band had already played to get their after-show report. At the end of each show the Security Head writes up the report detailing any arrests, what charges, how drunk, how many security staff were assigned, what time alcohol sales were cut off, what time the gates opened, what procedures were used to screen the crowd, notes on anything that should be done differently the next time. Each show required a different security set-up, based on the audience profile.

As most acts toured every summer, a level of institutional knowledge built up about what to expect but you never took anything for granted. When you have 20,000 people in the audience and 200 security staff keeping watch, the art of crowd psychology becomes critical to ensuring a safe event. Add in gravity, with the audience angled up, if anything triggered an unexpected mass movement down there would be no way of stopping it.

To keep things in control, you start at the gates, doing a thorough search to catch contraband items, especially anything that can be used as a weapon. Alcohol sales are monitored and cut off early if people are over-indulging. You start the show on time, end it on time. Security watches the crowd, not the show, ready to step in quickly should anything pop up. The key is to catch a situation before it has a chance to spread. At the end of a show the audience may see those in front suddenly move into the aisles and head down to the stage to dance and sing and exult in their proximity to their idols. While this may look like a moment of spontaneity, 95% of the time this is a pre-planned maneuver called “releasing the aisles”. It is done in coordination with band security, allowing the audience a release while keeping everyone safe. The other 5% of the time is when a performer, often an overnight sensation who has never before played to a huge venue, gazes up at her 20,000 adoring fans and invites them to “come on down!!” (looking at you, Madonna). Security has to spring into emergency action to keep the audience within their sections and prevent an out of control stampede.

Watching the horror unfold on January 6th in Washington, D.C. at our People’s House has prompted my memories of how to conduct proper security, and how not to. As soon as I saw the barricade set-up I got a pit in my stomach, correctly predicting someone would get crushed and suffocated or trampled to death. I immediately flashed back to my worst concert experience from a crowd safety standpoint: a Neil Young & Pearl Jam show at The Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington State.

The show was put on by a different promoter, and my friend and I were there to see the show and hang with our friends on the band production staff. When it was close to showtime we made our way to the area in front of the stage and looked at each other in alarm. Before us was a standing room area, then a steep cliff, then a large section of bleacher seats perched at the top overlooking. The lower standing room area was bisected by temporary fencing to carve out a VIP section at the very front. The people behind were literally forced to look through a fucking fence to see the stage. You now have a pissed off section of audience wanting to be up there in first class and not stuck back here in steerage. Worse, the temporary fencing was poorly installed and in one look we knew it would never hold. A man on the other side of the fence agreed, and we watched as he walked along the perimeter, methodically punching it every few feet, the security guard oblivious. It was obvious he was testing for the weakest link, and the moment the show started he would make his move. Meanwhile way up top a man began to climb down the cliff face, holding onto bits of shrubbery, until gravity took hold and he plummeted down landing at the back of steerage. The crowd roared. Another man immediately stepped up to take the plunge.

My friend and I ran backstage and explained the situation to our band production buds, begging them to get the promoter to take down the temporary fencing, but for whatever reasons they did not share our concern. We went back out front and watched and waited. The moment the band hit the stage the recon guy threw his full body weight into the fence, toppling it over onto people on the other side, trapping them underneath where they got trampled as people poured through the hole. At the same time body after body came plunging down the cliff, landing in a heap. My friend and I pushed to the front of the stage, waving our arms wildly, screaming at the band, trying to get their attention, the crew’s attention. Finally they stopped the show and tried to calm the crowd while personnel went to the aid of the people crushed under the fence. Injured people carried out, remaining fence taken down, steerage merged in with first class, the show restarted.

That the promoter made it out of that show with only broken bones and no deaths is nothing short of a miracle. In the aftermath, the Gorge was completely re-done, the cliff dug out to turn it into a more conventional amphitheatre configuration. I hear it’s beautiful. I haven’t been back.

As the country grapples with the ongoing repercussions of the Trump insurrectionists, the pressure for a knee jerk reaction to the security failure is gonna be huge. To encase the Capitol in a barricade bubble with armed security on every corner. This will be a tragic mistake. There will be much more to come out in the weeks ahead to fill in the who, what and why. But what’s already known shows that the Trumpists have been “testing the fences” for months and years now, zeroing in on the weak links in full view. Preparing for the start of show, and the moment their Glorious Leader invites them all to storm the stage.

We do not need a massive increase in the number of police personnel. We do need a massive increase in thinking outside the conventional box. To be pro-active, and stop trouble in its tracks before it can spread. Unfortunately, tragically, almost all levers of power in our Country have worked together to soften and excuse the growing crisis of Americans taking up arms to promote their white supremacist beliefs and QAnon conspiracies, standing by as the groups target our fellow citizens for violence. That any politician or law enforcement official can profess shock at the Capitol Siege is to confess their sin of complicity before the world. They watched the toxic clouds erupt all across our nation, streaming towards D.C., but told themselves soothing fairytales to sleep at night. They’ve now awoken to our collective nightmare where democracy destroying extremists are embedded at every level of our society, from law enforcement to the top tiers of government. And we will be forced to work furiously to counteract this poison for years to come.

Back at Bill Graham Presents, we did not prepare security plans for a particular concert based on the color of the audience’s skin, or their political beliefs, or social standing. We based it on verifiable facts, a proven track record and shared information to keep our decisions rooted in current events. There are hundreds of trained concert security personnel sitting at home, waiting for the touring industry to re-start. I say we bring a brigade of these folk to D.C. to consult with Congress and the District of Columbia leadership on ways to re-think crowd control and security. To make them better understand the intricacies of crowd psychology and mob psychology. To illustrate how the current protest preparations are flipped, with the “audience” that has a proven track record of being peaceful is deemed violent and gassed & smashed before they’ve made it through the front gate, while the “audience” storming State Capitols is given a light pat down and friendly smile.

The first area I’d welcome rock’n’roll security is on either side of the new metal detector inside Congress. I guarantee you not one single shitheel Republican will be able to arrogantly push their way past or sneak a loaded gun into the Chamber. Our crew don’t let any unauthorized motherfuckers backstage.

After Years of Squealing about “FISA Abuse,” Trump’s DNI Nominee Won’t Rule Out Warrantless Wiretapping

As I noted earlier, in his confirmation hearing to be Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe made it crystal clear he will lie to protect Trump by stating that he believed Trump has always accurately conveyed the threat of COVID-19.

Ratcliffe made some other alarming comments. For example:

  • He repeatedly said that Russia had not changed any votes in 2016. The Intelligence Community did not review that issue and Ratcliffe has no basis to make that claim.
  • Ratcliffe also repeatedly refused to back SSCI’s unanimous conclusion that Russia intervened to help Trump.
  • He dodged when Warner asked him to promise to brief the committee even if Russia were trying to help Trump.
  • When asked whether he supported Inspectors General, Ratcliffe said that he supported Michael Horowitz when others attacked him but then suggested he disagreed with Horowitz’ “opinion,” making it clear he does not accept Horowitz’ conclusions that he found no evidence that bias affected the investigation into Trump’s flunkies.
  • Ratcliffe claimed he didn’t have enough information to address Michael Atkinson’s firing.
  • When Dianne Feinstein read his quotes about the Ukraine whistleblower to him, Ratcliffe pretended those quotes were about something they weren’t.
  • He might not provide intelligence on COVID-19 that showed how Trump blew it off.
  • He suggested that if only the IC had reviewed open source data, they might have warned of the dangers of COVID-19, which they did warn of using both OSINT and classified intelligence.
  • He refused to answer whether he thought there was a Deep State in the IC, and later suggested a few members of the IC were Deep State.
  • Ratcliffe refused to agree to release a report showing that Mohammed bin Salman had Jamal Khashoggi executed and chopped into bits, as required by last year’s Defense Authorization. He suggested that it might have been properly classified; as DNI, he would be the Original Classification Authority to make that decision.
  • He refused to answer clearly on whether Trump’s policies on North Korea and Iran have worked.
  • He later suggested he might not share intelligence if it were too sensitive, again ignoring that as OCA he gets to decide whether it’s really classified.
  • After saying he would appear for a Global Threats hearing, he then dodged when later asked whether he would appear before the committee generally.

Ratcliffe made several comments to make it clear he would side with expansive Unitary Executive interpretations holding that:

  • There are limits to whistleblower protection.
  • If torture were deemed legal it would okay to do it.
  • The executive can use warrantless wiretapping.

There were a few additional hints about stuff going on right now:

  • Mark Warner said that intelligence professionals have been pressured to limit information they share with Congress.
  • Warner also said that Ric Grenell was undermining the IC’s election security group.
  • Both Warner and Richard Burr seemed concerned that the DNI would not declassify their 1000-page Volume V of their Report on Russia’s 2016 election interference (I’m not sure whether this assess the Steele dossier or lays out whether and how Trump “colluded” during 2016).
  • Martin Heinrich made it clear that Grenell is reorganizing the IC, without any consultation or approval from Congress.

It’s not just unqualified, he’s a sycophant. But it seems like there’s so much that Grenell is already screwing up, Republicans on the committee, at least, prefer Ratcliffe.

Update: Here are Ratcliffe’s Questions for the Record. They’re particularly troubling on sharing with Congress.

He twice refused to say that he wouldn’t impose loyalty tests.

QUESTION 39: Personnel decisions can affect analytic integrity and objectivity. A. Would you consider an individual’s personal political preferences, to include “loyalty” to the President, in making a decision to hire, fire, or promote an individual?

Answer: Personnel decisions should be based on qualifications, skills, merit, and other standards which demonstrate the ability, dedication and integrity required to support the central IC mission of providing unvarnished intelligence to policymakers.

B. Do you commit to exclusively consider professional qualifications in IC personnel decisions, without consideration of partisan or political factors?

Answer: Personnel decisions should be based on qualifications, skills, merit, and other standards that demonstrate the ability, dedication and integrity required to support the central IC mission of providing unvarnished intelligence to policymakers.

He refused to promise to keep the Election Threats Executive Office open.

QUESTION 45: Would you commit to keep the Election Threats Executive Office in place to ensure continuity of efforts, and build on the successes of the 2018 midterms?

Answer: If confirmed, I will work with IC leaders and ODNI officials to ensure the IC is well-positioned to address the election security threats facing our Nation.

He refused to promise to notify Congress if Russia starts helping Trump again.

QUESTION 53: Do you commit to immediately notifying policymakers and the public of Russian attempts to meddle in U.S. democratic processes, to include our elections?

Answer: If confirmed, I would work with the Committee to accommodate its legitimate oversight needs while safeguarding the confidentiality interests of the Executive Branch, including the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified intelligence sources and methods

He suggested he had no problem with Section 215 being used to access someone’s browsing records.

QUESTION 7: Do you believe that Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act should be used to collect Americans’ web browsing and internet search history? If yes, do you believe there are or should be any limitations to “digital tracking” of Americans without a warrant, in terms of length of time, the amount of information collected, or the nature of the information collected (e.g., whether particular kinds of websites raise special privacy concerns)?

Answer: I believe it is important for the Intelligence Community to use its authorities appropriately against valid intelligence targets. The amendments to Title V of FISA made by Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act expired on March 15, 2020 and, to date, have not been reauthorized.

Ratcliffe dodged several questions about whether FISA was exclusive means to collect

Extra-Statutory Collection

QUESTION 9: Title 50, section 1812 provides for exclusive means by which electronic surveillance and interception of certain communications may be conducted. Do you agree that this provision of law is binding on the President?

Answer: If confirmed, I would work with the Attorney General to ensure that IC activities are carried out in accordance with the Constitution and applicable federal law.

QUESTION 10: Do you believe that the intelligence surveillance and collection activities covered by FISA can be conducted outside the FISA framework? If yes, please specify which intelligence surveillance and collection activities, the limits (if any) on extra-statutory collection activities, and the legal authorities you believe would authorize those activities.

Answer: If confirmed, I would work with the Attorney General and the heads of IC elements, as well as the General Counsels throughout the IC, to ensure that intelligence activities are conducted in accordance with the Constitution and applicable federal law. As set forth in Section 112 of FISA, with limited exceptions, FISA constitutes the exclusive statutory means by which electronic surveillance, as defined in FISA, and the interception of domestic wire, oral, or electric communications for foreign intelligence purposes may be conducted.

QUESTION 11: What would you do if the IC was requested or directed to conduct such collection activities outside the FISA framework? Would you notify the full congressional intelligence activities?

Answer: Consistent with the requirements of the National Security Act, I would keep the congressional intelligence committees informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any illegal intelligence activities. As you know, not all intelligence activities are governed by FISA.

If confirmed, I would work with the Attorney General and the heads of IC elements, as well as the General Counsels throughout the IC, to ensure that intelligence activities are conducted in accordance with the Constitution and applicable federal law.

Senator Wyden asked a question about the IC purchasing stuff they otherwise would need a warrant for.

QUESTION 12: Do you believe the IC can purchase information related to U.S. persons if the compelled production of that information would be covered by FISA? If yes, what rules and guidelines would apply to the type and quantity of the information purchased and to the use, retention and dissemination of that information? Should the congressional intelligence committees be briefed on any such collection activities?

Answer: Elements of the IC are authorized to collect, retain, or disseminate information concerning U.S. persons only in accordance with procedures approved by the Attorney General. As you know, not all intelligence activities are governed by FISA, and it is my understanding that in appropriate circumstances elements of the IC may lawfully purchase information from the private sector in furtherance of their authorized missions. Nonetheless, any intelligence activity not governed by FISA would be regulated by the Attorney General-approved procedures that govern the intelligence activities of that IC element. Consistent with the requirements of the National Security Act, if confirmed, I would keep the congressional intelligence committees informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.

 

Support And Elect Moe Davis For Congress

This is a small blog in the scheme of things. We seriously do try to get things right though. If there is a lasting hallmark, let it be that. We also, assiduously, try to stay out of primary politics.

There is one primary that is done and over though, and that is in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. NC-11. The Democratic nominee there is Moe Davis. Mr. Davis is not only a fantastic candidate, he is a friend to several of us at this blog, and not just through the electrons that are the internet, we know him in person. Moe is the real deal.

But since this can only go out via the electrons, here is a synopsis:

“Moe Davis is a retired Air Force Colonel, former Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Director of the Air Force Judiciary, law professor, judge, speaker, writer and national security expert”

How did we here at Emptywheel come to know Moe? It almost seems quaint anymore. It was because of Guantanamo, the wrongs occasioned there and the few that stood up in the face of that failure. Moe was not just one, but was willing to be the face for the many.

In 2007, while serving as Chief Prosecutor for Terrorism Trials at Guantanamo Bay, Davis dared to take on the Bush Administration. He was ordered to use evidence obtained through torture in his prosecutions. Davis refused. That decision came at a price; to uphold his principles, Davis had no choice but to resign his position at Guantanamo. Davis believes the Legion of Merit was initially withheld as punishment for defying the Bush Administration before he finally received the honor.

For his stand against torture and the political pressure placed on prosecutors at Guantanamo, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) honored Davis by including him in, “Those Who Dared: 30 Officials Who Stood Up For Our Country.”

That was not the last time Davis stood up for what he believed was right. In 2008, after retiring from the Air Force, Davis became assistant director and senior specialist in national security for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. But when Davis wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal that was critical of the Obama Administration’s handling of prosecutions at Guantanamo Bay, he was fired.

Davis challenged his dismissal in court, believing his First Amendment right to free speech was infringed. He ultimately won his suit and received the Justice Charles E. Whittaker Award for professional courage and integrity. He also was given the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award.

Why take a stand and risk his career? As Davis said, borrowing from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s familiar theme, “It’s always the right time to do the right thing.”

Indeed, it is always the right time to do the right thing. The right thing is Go help this man get to Congress.

John Lewis Was Not Always Old

Ode to Ella Baker” by Lisa McLymont (Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A few weeks ago, John Lewis put out a press release announcing to all that he is undergoing treatment for stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He later sent out a tweet, lifting up one of the best lines in that press statement:

I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now.

Lewis’ summary of his life is not hyperbole. He is the last living member of the Big Six, the speakers at the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, and now is a senior member of Congress. But it’s important to remember that John Lewis was not always old. He was just 23 when he spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as the president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) – an organization he co-founded three years earlier at age 20 – and at 21 was one of the original Freedom Riders.

Let me repeat it again: John Lewis was not always old. He has always been a fighter for civil rights, but he has not always been old.

In 2005, historian David McCullough noted how we as a society perceive great leaders in a speech about the Founders:

We tend to see them—Adams, Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Rush, George Washington—as figures in a costume pageant; that is often the way they’re portrayed. And we tend to see them as much older than they were because we’re seeing them in the portraits by Gilbert Stuart and others when they were truly the Founding Fathers—when they were president or chief justice of the Supreme Court and their hair, if it hadn’t turned white, was powdered white. We see the awkward teeth. We see the elder statesmen.

At the time of the Revolution, they were all young. It was a young man’s–young woman’s cause. George Washington took command of the Continental Army in the summer of 1775 at the age of 43. He was the oldest of them. Adams was 40. Jefferson was all of 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Rush—who was the leader of the antislavery movement at the time, who introduced the elective system into higher education in this country, who was the first to urge the humane treatment of patients in mental hospitals—was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence. Furthermore, none of them had any prior experience in revolutions; they weren’t experienced revolutionaries who’d come in to take part in this biggest of all events. They were winging it. They were improvising.

This is not unique to the American Founders. Historians of social change who pay attention to the leaders of these movements often see the same thing. For example . . .

  • When Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus boycott in 1955, he was just shy of 25 years old. When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was 35, and when was assassinated on the balcony of a Memphis hotel, he was only 39.
  • When Thurgood Marshall argued on behalf of racial justice in Shelley v. Kramer before SCOTUS in 1948 – six years before he did the same in Brown v. Board of Education – Marshall was 40 years old. He won both cases, the former striking down restricted housing covenants and the latter doing away with the pernicious “separate but equal” doctrine that was at the heart of Jim Crow.
  • When Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and Nelson Mandela co-founded the ANC Youth League in 1944, they were 31, 26, and 25 years old respectively.
  • When Dr. Paul Volberding and nurse Cliff Morrison pushed against incredible medical and social prejudices to organize the nation’s first AIDS unit at San Francisco General Hospital in 1983 as the AIDS crisis continued to spiral out of control, they were 33 and 31 respectively.
  • When Gavin Newsom (then mayor of San Francisco) ordered the San Francisco clerk’s office to issue marriage licenses for couples regardless of the genders involved on February 14, 2004, he was 36.
  • When Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, exposing the ugly underside of the meatpacking industry and spurring social change with regard government oversight and regulation of food and drugs, he was 28.
  • When anti-lynching crusader and journalist Ida B. Wells published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases in 1892, she was 30.
  • When Elizabeth Cady Stanton co-organized the Seneca Falls Conference on Women’s Rights in 1848, she was 32.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that the leaders of social change movements are more likely to be young than to be old.

After Lewis made his announcement, Marcy tweeted out her reactions to the news, including this:

Say a prayer–or whatever you do instead–to give John Lewis strength for this fight. But also commit to raise up a young moral leader who has inspired you. We can’t rely on 80 and 90 year olds to lead us in the troubled days going forward.

I’ve been chewing on that tweet for the better part of a month.

What immediately went through my head upon reading that tweet was the name Ella Baker, one of the less well-known leaders in the civil rights movement. In a story for the Tavis Smiley Show on PRI about the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis tells of Ella’s powerful role:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was so impressed by the actions of the students [and their non-violent lunchcounter sit-ins], says Lewis, that he asked a young woman by the name of Ella Baker to organize a conference, inviting students from 58 colleges and universities.

“More than 300 people showed up at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, where SNCC was born,” said Lewis. “It was Easter weekend, 1960.”

Baker, considered by many as an unsung hero of the civil rights movement, was a “brilliant” radical who spurred on the creation of SNCC as an independent organization, says Lewis.

“She was a fiery speaker, and she would tell us to ‘organize, organize; agitate, agitate! Do what you think is right. Go for it!’ Dr. King wanted her to make SNCC the youth arm of his organization. But Ella Baker said we should be independent … and have our own organization.”

While the SNCC was deeply inspired by Dr. King and the SCLC, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the students in the organization didn’t always see eye-to-eye with SCLC leadership.

“We had a lot of young women, and SNCC didn’t like the idea of the male chauvinism that existed in the SCLC,” says Lewis. “The SCLC was dominated by primarily black Baptist Ministers. And these young women did all the work and they had been the head of their local organizations.”

I’m not sure where Smiley got the phrasing about Ella Baker being “a young woman” when this all happened, as she was 55 years old in 1960 and King was only 30. But Ella did exactly what Marcy was talking about in that tweet. When she saw an opening to act, she helped raise up hundreds of young moral leaders, and she helped them most by encouraging them to act out of their own gifts and strengths and not by tying themselves to the approaches of older leaders.

Which brings me to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the days following the massacre at MSD, the students there took matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for their elders to act. These are kids who grew up entirely in the post-Columbine High School shooting world, where active shooter drills were a regular part of school life. (I’m old: the only drills we had were “duck and cover” for a nuclear attack and “head for the hallway or basement” for tornadoes.) With each new shooting, they saw the same script written by the elders play out each time – thoughts and prayers for the victims, debate over gun laws, and nothing changes. They saw it happen around the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando a year and a half earlier. Talk, talk, talk and nothing changes.

This time, it wasn’t the elders running the show, however. It was Emma Gonzales, live on every cable network, who called BS on the NRA and the legislators who were intimidated by them. It was Cameron Kasky who gathered and organized his classmates to make this a movement. It was David Hogg and a dozen others, a hundred others, who did interviews, organized demonstrations, and the 1001 other things to give their work power. They reached out to other teens affected by gun violence, especially teens of color, to amplify the common message demanding change. They became a force to be reckoned with, not only in Tallahassee where they actually got gun laws changed, but in DC and around the country.

Behind these students, though, were their teachers. These are the folks who nourished the gifts of research and organization, of public speaking and political organizing in these young people. There were parents and other adults, who took their cues from the teens and did the things that you need someone over 21 to do, like sign rental bus agreements, for example. It is clear, though, that the moral leaders are the teens, with the elders in supporting roles.

Then there’s Greta Thunberg, relentlessly pushing the elders in seats of power to take action on the climate emergency gripping our planet.  Her messages are always a version of “This is not about me and my knowledge; it’s about the scientists and their knowledge – and they say we are going to burn the planet down if things don’t change fast.” She points to data, and forces her hearers to look at it. She may have gotten attention early on because of her youth (“O look at that cute little girl, doing cute little things and trying to get politicians to act”), but being a cute little girl doing cute little things doesn’t get you seat at the table at Davos. No, she got her seat at the tables of the powerful by being the young person who said over and over and over again that the emperors, the presidents, the corporate titans, and the powers of the planet aren’t wearing any clothes.

Just like young John Lewis.

The other part of Greta’s “It’s not about me” messaging is that she has sought out and nurtured other young people around the world, who have been organizing in their communities while she was at work in Sweden. She met Lakota activist Tokata Iron Eyes, who invited her to Standing Rock to see the work they are doing. Thunberg not only accepted, but eagerly lent her support to their work, not least of which came because of her larger media profile. When she spoke at Davos, it was as part of a panel of other young climate activists from Puerto Rico, southern Africa, and Canada.

Like the MSD students, Greta has passion for her activism, a data-driven focus that she hope can break through the cynicism and self-centeredness of world leaders, and a skill at building alliances with other like minded folks. And like the MSD students, people with power are listening — and are beginning to want to hear more. While Steve Mnuchen (following the lead of Donald Trump) mocked Thunberg for her youth, another world leader had a different reaction:

Angela Merkel, though, spoke warmly about the work of the new generation of climate activists.

“The impatience of our young people is something that we should tap,” the German chancellor said. In a special address to the WEF, Merkel called for more international cooperation to tackle climate change.

“I am totally convinced that the price of inaction will be far higher than the price of action,” she declared.

Over the last month, I’ve been looking at and interacting with the teenagers in my life a little bit differently, a little more intentionally, thanks in part to Marcy’s tweet. You see, one of those teens may just be another John Lewis, and I’d dearly love to be another Ella Baker.

Waiting

One of our dinner guests, a Parisian, discussing the politics of France, said something like “we feel like we are all waiting.” She explained that the economy is doing will by people with jobs, and the French safety net is strong enough to quell serious problems among the unemployed. But no one is inspired, and the various parties that have dominated French politics are moribund; they haven’t had a new idea in a long time. And so “we are waiting.” The conversation moved on, but that stuck with me. Waiting for what? I also feel like I’m waiting, at least for Trumpian Motion, that hurricane of corruption, lies and intentional cruelty, to subside. But that’s not what our guest was talking about, and it doesn’t explain my feelings either.

In context, I think the problem she described is a feeling of disgust for the French political parties. Francois Hollande, the previous president and a Socialist, was a profound disappointment and didn’t run for reelection. His successor finished a dismal fourth in the first round. The conservative, Francois Filon, was mired in a make-work scandal for his family and finished third. The two who survived to the second round were Marine Le Pen, the right-wing crazy, and Emmanuel Macron, a rich man who started his own party, La Republique En Marche (France On the March, shades of MAGA). Macron won in a landslide, and Le Pen’s party seems to have fallen to schism.

Macron is “business-friendly”, meaning neoliberalish in French terms. He has pushed reforms to the labor laws that are loathed by workers and the subject of massive resistance. Nobody except the rich thinks this will fix anything. The other parties seem irrelevant to our guest. That means there is little to look forward to on the part of the large French left. Something has to change, and she’s waiting.

I too think our party system is moribund. Neither legacy party commands 30% of the voters. The last election was a contest between a competent Democrat and a corrupt cruel liar. We don’t have majority rule here as they do in France, so the corrupt cruel liar was elected.

Oddly in a recent column in the New York Times, David Brooks seems to recognize that this is a problem, and argues for multi-member House districts and ranked-choice voting. Brooks thinks something needs to change, and so do I. We can’t go on like this. I mean that in a broader sense than Brooks, of course. I think we can’t keep going with a system that allows the minority to run the country, especially a racist minority, a misogynist minority, a fundamentalist minority, a cruel and stupid minority. Oops. I called them stupid. We aren’t supposed to call them stupid. It’s as bad as saying rat-fucker.

This is a huge problem. I’ll just address two parts of the Constitution that are problematic. One is our voting rules, the other our worship of private property. Aside from Republican skill at voter suppression gerrymandering and maybe worse, there are Constitutional provisions. Every state has two senators. The 22 smallest states have a total population less than California using Census Bureau estimates for 2017. They have 44 senators. Using the filibuster, it only takes 21 States to stop any legislation. Even without the filibuster, it takes 26 states to stop any legislation. The smallest 26 states have a population of about 57 million, less than the population of California and the New York metro area. Under winner take all rules, the minority can control the country with say 20 million voters, about 6% of the population. How many people in the US are like the people who turn out for Trump’s rallies?

Now consider the protection of property. One central feature of the Constitution is that it is designed to protect property rights. The most obvious parts relate to the protection of the interests of slavers, starting with the Three-Fifths Clause. Doubters should read this article. It also makes a broader point about protection of property, and says that the slavers had a disproportionate effect on US public policy in its early years. On this view, we have always been governed by a minority.

The Fifth Amendment is another obvious property protection: the Takings Clause bars governments from taking property without “just compensation”. All the rights of the slavers and the thinly populated states are protected by the provisions regarding amendments to the Constitution which make it possible for the tiny states and slave states to kill any amendment.

This love of property has become an obsession with Americans. “You Can’t Tell Me What To Do With My Property” should be the National Motto. One tiny bit of evidence of this is the ugliness of most US cities and towns, because people have no interest in the way their communities look if it means they can’t hang ugly signs and pave the countryside to build a Walgreen’s on every corner not occupied by a Taco Bell.

Another manifestation is the idea that taxation is theft as libertarians and not a few others say. Not that it really matters what people think, because Congress is afraid to tax anyone ever. In fact, historically Congress does what the filthy rich want and little else. Because, after all, protecting property is the point of the Constitution.

To top all that off, a large part of the population despises the libtards. No one knows how big that group is, because no one polls the question in that form. In recent polling, the percentage identifying as conservative is trending down while the percentage identifying as liberal is trending up, but the former leads the latter by 9%; moderates are also slipping down. At the end of 2017, conservatives and moderates were each at 35%, while liberals were at 26%. Of course, the operational definitions of all three groups have badly slipped to the right over the years. It doesn’t much matter right now, the conservatives can block any change.

Even if the Democrats start winning, which given their allegiance to neoliberalism is not a sure thing, the crazy right has made it clear that they will howl and throw feces at any action the Democrats might try and we have no reason to think the Democrats won’t cave and do the very least possible as they have done for decades.

So, here we are. Stuck. Interesting question: How long will the majority consent to be governed by the minority? Famous quote from Herb Stein: “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.” I’m waiting to see how that happens.

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