This Is Not How You Wield Power: Toxic Punditry’s Lack of Self Awareness

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

This is complete and utter bullshit:

We all know asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself is merely pissing into the wind. Congressional Democrats are obligated to ask this of him but they know Thomas is corrupt and won’t give the demand a second thought.

What’s bullshit, though, is MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan and Ayman Mohyeldin ripping into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a request by Democrats to Thomas for his recusal on cases related to the January 6 insurrection.

We all know as well the real problem is that Thomas should be removed from the Supreme Court. Pelosi was absolutely correct saying that Thomas should never have been approved as a SCOTUS jurist to begin with. His failure to report his spouse’s income appropriately — particularly Ginni Thomas’s income from her nonprofit — during the lead up to the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision was unacceptable, as was his meeting with the Koch brothers.

But the House had absolutely nothing to do with Thomas being approved in the first place. The Senate is responsible for review of nominees to the Supreme Court and their approval.

We all know, too, that the House may impeach jurists, but they cannot be removed without a two-thirds vote for conviction by the Senate.

And in this case, a Senate which is only nominally held by Democrats. They couldn’t convict and remove Trump twice after impeachment for the same reason — an inadequate number of Democrats in the Senate.

Where is this power that Hasan and Mohyeldin think Pelosi has as House Speaker when she cannot remove Thomas? Why are they insisting she launch a war she can’t win? (We can see how that works out for Putin in Ukraine.)

All these two boneheaded pundits (and others making the same argument like them) are doing is misogynist pontificating when they know it’s the Senate which can force the issue and only if there were two-thirds of the Senate willing to vote to convict Thomas for his continued corrupt practices.

Yet you don’t see pundits like Hasan and Mohyeldin going after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Nope.

Why is that?

~ ~ ~

They’re literally filling empty air time with useless crap which only serves to damage the public’s opinion of House Democrats — the portion of government which has most reliably served the needs of the people during the Biden administration while the Senate obstructs its efforts.

They’re directly contributing to and amplifying the same poisoning of public opinion already performed by right-wing media outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, grossly distorting the public’s perception of US government.

It’s right there in front of their noses and they don’t see it:

Hello, Sam Stein, who’s with both MSNBC and Politico? You’re not doing a very good job breaking through to the public if they believe the complete opposite of the truth.

Dan Froomkin elaborated on media’s failures with help from Dean Baker; public opinion about employment is particularly telling.

An additional 21 percent didn’t know one way or the other. Only 28 percent said, correctly, that jobs were created. Less than half of those — only 12 percent — knew that it was more jobs created than in any other year in history.

Similarly, only 19 percent said they thought the U.S. economy experienced more job growth than normal in the past year. The plurality – 35 percent – said they thought more jobs were lost than usual, which is of course spectacularly wrong.

Media figures go out of their way to make sure something looks like it’s on fire or bleeding, so much so that it’s a joke.

But sure, keep beating on House Speaker Pelosi because that will effect the change needed as will pissing into the wind.

~ ~ ~

A pre-print study found that it’s not solely the public at fault when it comes to misperception — it’s not purely partisanship which mis- or disinforms their opinions.

A key problem is the business model: audience members’ understanding and opinions could be shaped by exposure to media, if media bought their time.

Unfortunately, cable and broadcast news don’t pay their viewers. They rely on advertising and subscription volume; their programming becomes little more than reductive clickbait fighting for audience attention. They’ll run the inflammatory material which skews public opinion the wrong way because good news is boring.

It makes sense, and yet the answer to running content which is both more attention-grabbing and -retaining to viewers and the ethically responsible content to run is right there under their noses.

Assuming, of course, the media outlets aren’t forcing their pundit-anchor class to promote corporatism über alles.

Why aren’t programs like Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s contacting every goddamned Senator and putting them on the record one at a time on camera about their position on Thomas’s failure to recuse himself and whether they would vote to convict him if impeached for abuse of his office as jurist?

I’d pay to watch them squirm. I’d pay to watch Senators’ chiefs of staff run away from mics to avoid answering.

I’d pay to watch them ask Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tommy Tuberville if Thomas should recuse himself on any lawsuit in which they may be named as co-conspirators because Thomas’s wife Ginni sided with Hawley and Cruz on overturning or obstructing the election…and was it obstruction of Congress or overturning an election in which they had been encouraged to participate?

That’d be Must-See TV.

~ ~ ~

The other person who gets off lightly all the damn time to the point every media outlet forgets he exists: Chief Justice John Roberts.

He’s the administrative leader of SCOTUS. Every decision made during his tenure will be attributed to the Roberts’ court.

Clarence Thomas’s unmitigated corruption including the damage to democracy Thomas’s role in Citizen United played is the product of Roberts’ court.

The lack of a self-imposed binding code of conduct is Roberts’ failure. Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from January 6 cases which may be decided by SCOTUS is also his failure.

The lack of legislation requiring a SCOTUS code of conduct with adequate teeth to ensure enforcement is Congress’s fault, but primary responsibility is that of the Senate. In its absence Roberts could administer his court in a way which enforces judicial ethics.

Why wasn’t Roberts a subject of Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s critique when Roberts clearly has the power to rein in corruption among his jurists?

~ ~ ~

But the real power to which Hasan and Mohyeldin deliberately turned a blind eye wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s as House Speaker.

It wasn’t even Chuck Schumer’s, or John Roberts’ power.

That pre-print study says it’s their own. How convenient these media figures with a bully pulpit have a handy favorite punching bag to use as clickbait, redirecting attention away from their own failures as media figures with sizable audiences whose perception they shape.

By the way, you have power, too. You should be exercising it by calling your representative and senators and demanding legislation to implement a code of ethical judicial conduct for the Supreme Court (since Roberts appears unable or unwilling to produce one), and impeachment and conviction of Clarence Thomas for his lack of ethics as a jurist.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Three Things: No, No, and Hell to the NO, NYT

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

They can’t stop the bullshit. It’s in The New York Times’ DNA. Why should we trust their newsroom when the editorial page is full of crap created from distorted news?

I hope the better op-ed writers have backup plans because at some point they have to ask themselves why they want to be associated with idiots for neighbors…

~ ~ ~

Two words probably tell you most of the problem without elaboration: Maureen Dowd.


Look, when a white person uses the word “woke” as a pejorative adjective you should walk away because they are fucking racist.

It’s that simple.

Which means you should walk away from BOTH MoDo and the person she allowed to vent their racist spleen, James Carville. The latter who once was a respected Democratic political consultant when Clintonian third-way ideology and its emergent neoliberalism walked the earth, needs to retire his big fat trap because the 1990s have been over for more than two decades. He clearly has no grasp of racism’s toll on Black Americans including the constant erasure of their oppression, even though Black women in particular are the most reliable Democratic voters. (Not to mention the average Millennial and Gen Z Democrat would have a difficult time recognizing the old coot.)

Read this article by Aja Romano at Vox on the history and use of “woke.” This exhortative word of caution and awareness has belonged to the Black community, and bled into progressive activists’ use because of the overlap between Black activists and progressives.

Like the word “liberal” and the framework of critical race theory (CRT), the right-wing has now seized “woke” to poison it and make it toxic, to discourage its wider exhortative use to beware racism’s threats and racists.

When it’s used by whites who are neither Black and/or progressive, who are not activists advocating for their intersectional human rights, it’s amplification of the same poisonous effect and the same underlying racism.

Oh look, it’s that tool Bret Stephens doing his duty once again for the right-wing, this time bolstering the promulgation of racism by the rest of NYT’s editorial page combined with bashing intersectional anti-racist progressivism.

Just walk away from these asses.

~ ~ ~

Contrast and compare: here’s the opinion editorials at the Los Angeles Times on November 10 and today.

And the Washington Post from today.

While there are the spot annoying bad actors like Marc Thiessen at WaPo helping push the toxification of CRT, there’s a better mix of opinions not intent on poisoning left of center ideology compared to NYT which has persistently offered a home to crap like Maureen Dowd’s closeted racism and Bret Stephen’s more overt racism.

[Disclosure: I have subscriptions to WaPo and LAT — guess why.]

~ ~ ~

And then the news page…perhaps it didn’t make it into an NYT article, but this tweet by Maggie Haberman which has now been deleted displays a weakness for amplification of right-wing crap without validating it first. Thank goodness this garbage didn’t make it into a news piece (that we know of so far).

I wish I’d taken a screen shot of the original tweet when I first saw it, before it was deleted. It’s only available now in the Internet Archive and without the link to the original crappy story she had retweeted with comment — an article at New York Daily News which made a false claim about Black Lives Matter activists without checking first to see if the sources they relied upon were in anyway associated with BLM.

Haberman made a claim in this reweet-with-quote without first verifying who Hawk Newsome is, assuming NYDN did their work.

Uh, no; it’s as if Haberman never heard the old journalists’ aphorism, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Worse, it’s as if Haberman would accept Trump’s word and stick with it long after he was disproven. Newsome is NOT affiliated with BLM and cannot speak for them; BLM had to issue a statement about this a year ago June when Trump used Newsome as a mouthpiece.

If you are white and a journalist, unless you have been very close to BLM and covering it regularly as part of your beat, DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about the movement’s members; validate your sources’ relationship and authority for authenticity and accuracy.

Jesus Christ, it’s a well-known Russian active measure to use racism in this country as a wedge to increase political tension, with BLM in particular a target of their efforts.

Unless, of course, you enjoy being used by foreign influence ops as a useful idiot and don’t mind further trashing your credibility.

~ ~ ~

Institutionalized systemic racism doesn’t always look as obvious and egregious as it does in the Rittenhouse trial. Sometimes it just looks like laziness by journalists and contributors who are privileged by their circumstances. And sometimes it looks like readers who can’t be arsed to recognize and call out that racism based in easy material which satisfies a majority white audience.

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.

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.

Live Thread: U.S. Senate Commerce Hearing with Facebook Whistleblower [UPDATE-5]

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

The Senate Commerce Committee is conducting a hearing right now; Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is currently testifying before the committee.

You can watch the hearing at C-SPAN at:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?515042-1/whistleblower-frances-haugen-calls-congress-regulate-facebook

You can also catch up with the backstory leading into this hearing by catching CBS’s 60 Minutes feature from this past weekend at:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/facebook-whistleblower-frances-haugen-misinformation-public-60-minutes-2021-10-03/

Haugen is the former Facebook insider who leaked corporate documents to the Wall Street Journal several months ago, culminating in reports published a couple weeks ago. Sadly, the work is paywalled.

These are the key points WSJ reported on based on the documents:

– Facebook internal documents outline an exempt elite who can operate without prohibitions.

– Facebook’s Instagram platform knowingly relies on toxicity dangerous to teen girls.

– Facebook’s 2018 tweaks to algorithms heightened polarization between users.

– Facebook’s response to known use by organized crime from trafficking to drugs is grossly ineffectual.

– Facebook’s own algorithms undermined Zuckerberg’s efforts to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations.

All this in addition to its complicity inciting genocide of more than 25,000 Rohingya minority members in Myanmar means that Facebook is beyond toxic. It’s deadly.

I’ll update this post with additional content. Share your comments related to Facebook, social media, and today’s hearing in this thread.

~ ~ ~

On a personal note: I don’t use Facebook for many of the reasons outlined in Haugen’s disclosures and the reasons that the Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree against Facebook back in 2011 (which Facebook violated, resulting in a $5 billion fine in 2020).

I already had strong doubts about Facebook because my oldest child was bullied by a classmate on the first day they opened a Facebook account. They had begged me to let them open an account and in spite of all my precautionary measures and coaching, they were still tormented immediately and out of view of the other student’s parents.

That was more than 14 years ago. Think of what 14 years of this kind of behavior alone will do to our children and young adults, let alone what troll farms masquerading as children on line will do to them.

And now we know Facebook has known about this toxicity targeting young women and girls, and that it has continued to develop a platform aimed at monetizing children and teens’ use of social media.

Kill it now.

~ ~ ~

UPDATE-1 — 12:30 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

I missed the earliest part of the hearing, am now going back through earlier portions.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) at 9:27 am expresses reluctance to break up companies or deem social media platforms to be utilities, calling it heavy handed.

Uh, not heavy enough. Yesterday’s outage proved Facebook is a communications system when WhatsApp went down with Facebook and Instagram.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) is prodding about regulatory oversight. Haugen says Facebook’s closed system traps the company and prevents them from changing their operations – a closed loop which it can’t break – and government intervention through oversight would break that loop for them.

Nation-state surveillance comes up next; Facebook could see other countries surveilling users. Haugen says the U.S. has a right to protect Americans from this kind of exposure.

UPDATE-2 — 12:36 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Live hearing again. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) says he sent a letter to Facebook about related concerns well before this hearing. He asks Haugen about age restrictions for users; she feels the restriction should be changed to 16-18 years of age because of teens’ weaker impulse controls and concerns about addictive behaviors.

How to screen for age is tricky, IMO. Kids have gotten around this and parents have been just plain neglectful.

UPDATE-3 — 12:47 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (calls Facebook a “black box,” designed as such by Mark Zuckerberg, referencing legal obligations under Section 230.

Haugen adjusts the point he’s making by noting Facebook had said it could lie to the courts because it had immunity under Section 230.

Well that explains why Zuckerberg believes he can lie to Congress as well, as he has in at least one hearing, and why a representative for Facebook lied just this week to Congress in spite of Facebook documents liberated by Haugen proving otherwise.

Haugen says she doesn’t like seeing people blaming parents. Sorry, too bad — as a parent I know the ultimate authority over internet use at home with parent-funded devices is the parent, and I know far too many parents are just plain lazy when not willfully uniformed about social media use. More parents should have been up in their representatives’ faces all along about social media’s impact on their children.

UPDATE-4 — 12:55 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Haugen is responding to questions from Sen. Todd Young (R-IN). She says Facebook knows how vulnerable people are who’ve had big life changes like divorce or death of a friend/loved one, how they can lose touch with surrounding community in real life because they are framing their perspective on thousands of distortive posts on Facebook.

She also doesn’t believe in breaking up Facebook.

Too fucking bad. The outage yesterday proved Facebook needs to be broken up.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has been given a copy of a tweet by a Facebook employee, Andy Stone, who rebuts Haugen’s credibility based on her work experience. Blackburn invites Mr. Stone and Facebook to be sworn in and testify instead.

You know there will be more concerted attacks on Haugen’s credibility. Sure hope there’s nothing on her in Facebook’s data.

UPDATE-5 — 1:06 PM 05-OCT-2021 —

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) asks about Facebook studying children under 13 about eating disorder and whether the company is pushing eating disorder-related content children that age. Haugen implies they are getting ground this by encouraging inauthentic accounts.

Klobuchar asks about banning outside researchers; Haugen says the blocking is an indication that federal oversight is necessary when Facebook goes so far out of its way to block them.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) says he sent a letter to Facebook ten years ago asking if the company was going to collect data on child users on its platform, and now Congress is back revisiting the issue. He plugs further regulation including controls on AI.

Haugen earlier in this hearing said AI was a known problem referring to bias.

Markey brings up the Children’s Television Act of 1990 he authored which protects kids up to age 12.

Sounds like Facebook must have used this as a jumping point for its existing prohibition on accounts for those under age 13.

Haugen responds to Markey saying removing Likes/Comments/Reshares which encourage more engagement aren’t enough to protect children. They’re still exposed to dangerous “extreme and polarizing” content.

Markey asks if Haugen thinks any visible measures of content popularity should be removed on content for children – she’s not quite as forceful on this as his question about removing targeted ads aimed at children to which she’s firmly agreed.

Flashbacks to the 2015 Campaign

Katy Tur at SXSW
[h/t nrkbeta Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) ]

Several years ago, I got Mrs Dr Peterr Katy Tur’s book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History. Tur had been the NBC reporter assigned to the Trump campaign in 2015 and 2016, and listening to the impeachment coverage yesterday and the coverage this morning, one episode she recounted in the book came flashing back . . .

In Dec 2015, three days before Trump announced his pledge to institute a Muslim travel ban, Trump got rattled at a rally in Raleigh NC where protesters coordinated their efforts and threw him off his game, interrupting his speech every couple of minutes from different parts of the arena. Disgusted, Trump abruptly left the podium and started shaking hands offstage, and Tur sent out a simple tweet describing what had happened.

Right before lunch the next day, Hope Hicks wrote her to say “Katy, Mr. Trump thought your tweets from last night were disgraceful. Not nice! Best, Hope.” Shortly thereafter, the media gets the word about the travel ban Trump intended to announce that night, and that becomes the big story of the day with Katy doing liveshots all afternoon. That evening, before a rally inside the USS Yorktown (an aircraft carrier-turned-museum in Charleston harbor), Trump blasted her with four attack tweets in the span of four minutes.

Tur says the rally’s specific location was a surprise, in that it wasn’t held on the carrier deck but inside the belly of the ship, with the media crowded into a pen.

Yes, we are in a pen: a makeshift enclosure made of bicycle racks and jammed full of desks, reporters, and camera equipment. We’re in the middle of the carrier, slammed against the right side wall. As usual, almost all of Trump’s supporters are white and a lot of them are looking at us, not exactly kindly. The campaign and Secret Service force us to stay inside the pen while Trump is onstage. They even discourage bathroom breaks. None of them have a good explanation for why we’re kept separate from the supporters. Are we the threat or are they?

Trump starts his rambling speech, and the crowd eats it up. Then Trump opens up on the media.

“The mainstream media,” Trump says. “These people back here, they’re the worst. They are so dishonest.”

Hoots and hollers.

And then I hear my name.

“She’s back there, little Katy. She’s back there.”

Trump then calls her a liar several times, and a third rate reporter several times as well, before pivoting to a more general attack on the media. Finally, once he’s got the crowd sufficiently whipped up, he formally announces the Muslim ban, and the crowd which she described earlier as looking at her like “a large animal, angry and unchained” went nuts.

She goes live with Chris Matthews as Trump leaves the stage, and when she’s done with that, Chris Hayes takes over and wants to keep her on the air for the lead story on his show that followed Matthews’.

[Trump] supporters are taking their time to leave. They’re still whipped up. I know someone is going to start yelling at me as soon as I start talking. So I do what I always do. I find the pinhole deep in the back of the lens and I tune everything else out.

A couple of minutes later, I’m done. The crowd that had gathered behind my live shot is gone except for a few stragglers, yelling at me. They’re five feet away, held back by those lousy bicycle racks. A Trump staffer shoos them away. MSNBC has cleared me and my bosses want [her cameraman/sound tech] Anthony and me to get out of there as quickly as we can. I don’t quite understand why until we pack up and start to head out. A Trump staffer stops me and says “These guys are going to walk you out.”

I look over and see two Secret Service agents. Thank goodness. They walk Anthony and me along the gangway back to our car. It’s pitch black and I’m nervous. We’re parked with the crowd.

Once we’re moving, I take a look at my phone. My mom has called. And called. And called. I dial her back. “Are you okay? Where are you staying? Can someone stay with you? You need security!? She is crying. And it hits me.

I’m a target.

On that day in December 2015, the security professionals of the US Secret Service recognized that Trump was dangerously inciting a mob, and stepped in to protect the target he had singled out.

On January 6, 2021, Trump again incited a mob, and this time there was no one to stop them.

Donnie The Wimp And His Impeachment Coffin

There was a pretty astounding report by CNN early this morning depicting the, and I am being kind here, disarray in Trump’s impeachment defense. The gist is this:

Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team. A source familiar with the changes said it was a mutual decision for both to leave the legal team. As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team.
Josh Howard, a North Carolina attorney who was recently added to the team, has also left, according to another source familiar with the changes. Johnny Gasser and Greg Harris, from South Carolina, are no longer involved with the case, either.

No other attorneys have announced they are working on Trump’s impeachment defense.

A person familiar with the departures told CNN that Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and that the election was stolen from him rather than focus on the legality of convicting a president after he’s left office. Trump was not receptive to the discussions about how they should proceed in that regard.

That sounds ominous!

But here is the part that even more stuck out to me:

“As the lead attorney, Bowers assembled the team.”

and, most notably,

“The attorneys had not yet been paid any advance fees and a letter of intent was never signed.”

Lol, for the uninitiated, that means Trump never paid a dime as to a retainer, and never signed a fee agreement. That not only is inappropriate, in most jurisdictions it is, in and of itself, unethical. Even when the lawyer is agreeing to do work pro bono, there is a retainer agreement. Always, because real lawyers don’t blithely hang their asses out on the line without specified parameters. That is just how it is.

As I said on Twitter:

A rather large discussion ensued. Go look if you so desire, but I will stand by that for now. No, I do not really know, but it almost makes sense.

Trump is not cash rich. Expending collected campaign funds to perpetrate a fraudulent defense might be a dicey proposition. And no competent attorneys are lining up to pitch that. Trump may literally be down to Rudy and Jenna Ellis. Dershowitz and Jon Turley are squirrely as shit, but even they may not be that stupid.

So, where art thou go Donald?

Larry King Is Dead, Long Live The King

Probably the world knows by now that broadcasting legend Larry King has died at 87. He was not necessarily a journalist, per se, even if news was often broken on his show. He was a massive media presence, and a good one. Unlike so many others, he did not get in the way of his guests and interviewees letting themselves be themselves, for better or worse.

CNN is doing some larger biography, and it is worth watching for a little bit. But King brought together Rabin, Hussein and Arafat on a TV show. You don’t see that every day. Then there was all the OJ Simpson charges and trial coverage. There are a lot of people still in the public view today that came out of that. Some rightfully, some not as much so.

As a parting thought, some love for Ted Turner. He took King off of late night talk radio, that I sometimes listened to on a timed clock radio while falling asleep, before his CNN TV gig, to grow the fledgling CNN. Ted Turner innovated so much it is almost silly. Elon Musk will never, even in his dreams, accomplish as much as the great Ted Turner.

Do you have any memories?

Glenn Greenwald’s Self Hack: “I could go on and on”

As you’ve no doubt learned, Glenn Greenwald left The Intercept in a huff after editors wouldn’t let him publish an article repeating the last illogical rant he made about “censorship” of a non-story about Joe Biden (I unpacked the earlier piece here, and did an interminable thread on the interminable piece he wanted to publish as part of this thread).

Glenn has released a selection of the emails, not all with accompanying metadata, that led up to his departure (I had to sign an NDA when I worked at The Intercept and I’m wondering if he had to or whether all NDAs — including those about the now defunct Snowden archive — are invalid now). I consider this a self-hack, because they actually show Glenn conceding the point his editor, Peter Maass made, and then labeling it censorship.

The thread starts with a story memo (with no timestamp, though it may have been a Doc) laying out ways for Glenn to make his column better. It starts by affirming the value of a column criticizing “liberal” journalists for not asking tougher questions. Glenn even emphasizes this by bolding it.

Glenn, I have carefully read your draft and there is some I agree with and some I disagree with but am comfortable publishing. However, there is some material at the core of this draft that I think is very flawed. Overall I think this piece can work best if it is significantly narrowed down to what you first discussed with Betsy — media criticism about liberal journalists not asking Biden the questions he should be asked more forcefully, and why they are failing to do that.

That is, from the very start Maass committed to his willingness to post a column questioning why Biden hasn’t had to answer more questions about this topic. He committed to call out other journalists who won’t be more confrontational with Joe Biden.

What Maass disagreed with are the many places where Glenn, absent any evidence, makes insinuations about Biden corruption.

There are many places in which the explicit or implied position is a) the emails expose corruption by Joe Biden and b) news organizations are suppressing their reporting on it. Those positions strike me as foundations to this draft, and they also strike me as inaccurate, and that inaccuracy undercuts narrower points that are sound.

This is the story that Glenn wants to tell. Not that the “liberal” media is going easy on Biden, but that emails that have shown no evidence of corruption somehow reflect corruption.

There’s a lot nutty in Glenn’s response, but the most important is this passage, where he claims to address concerns raised by Maass.

3) For almost every personal opinion you express about Biden that you claim I omitted, I actually already included it explicitly in the draft. Just a few examples:

  • YOU: “But it’s very significant that the Journal found no corroborating evidence either of Joe Biden’s involvement in any such deals, or those deals being consummated. These are major issues that I feel undermine the draft’s thesis and are downplayed in the draft.”
  • MY DRAFT: “Thus far, no proof has been offered by Bubolinski that Biden ever consummated his participation in any of those discussed deals. The Wall Street Journal says that it found no corporate records reflecting that a deal was finalized and that “text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.”
  • YOU: “You can certainly note that Shokin’s successor let Burisma off the hook, but that’s not evidence he was installed by Biden in order to achieve that end.”
  • MY DRAFT: “It is true that no evidence, including these new emails, constitute proof that Biden’s motive in demanding Shokhin’s termination was to benefit Burisma.”
  • YOU: “A connected problem is that your draft asserts there is a massive suppression attempt by the entire major media to not report out these accusations, but then doesn’t explore how major news organizations have done significant stories, and those stories, such as the Journal’s, have not found anything of significance. The Times has also reported on the China deal and found the claims wanting.”
  • MY DRAFT: “The Wall Street Journal says that it found no corporate records reflecting that a deal was finalized and that “text messages and emails related to the venture that were provided to the Journal by Mr. Bobulinski, mainly from the spring and summer of 2017, don’t show either Hunter Biden or James Biden discussing a role for Joe Biden in the venture.”…The New York Times on Sunday reached a similar conclusion: while no documents prove that such a deal was consummated, “records produced by Mr. Bobulinski show that in 2017, Hunter Biden and James Biden were involved in negotiations about a joint venture with a Chinese energy and finance company called CEFC China Energy.”

I could go on and on. [my emphasis]

Note that, first of all, Glenn paints Maass’ observations about logical problems in Glenn’s piece as “personal opinion.”

In each case, Glenn is misrepresenting what Maass said. The first quotation, in context, is Maass’ first example of the ways in which Glenn’s assertions about Biden are not backed by the evidence. Maass introduces the few published emails, and then notes that the WSJ didn’t find anything nefarious in them.

There are many places in which the explicit or implied position is a) the emails expose corruption by Joe Biden and b) news organizations are suppressing their reporting on it. Those positions strike me as foundations to this draft, and they also strike me as inaccurate, and that inaccuracy undercuts narrower points that are sound.

There are a couple of published emails and texts in which Hunter Biden or his business partners suggest or hint that Joe Biden might be aware of, or involved in, their dealings with China.

[snip]

But it’s very significant that the Journal found no corroborating evidence either of Joe Biden’s involvement in any such deals, or those deals being consummated. These are major issues that I feel undermine the draft’s thesis and are downplayed in the draft.

The second quotation comes from a paragraph that quotes Glenn’s response!!!! but lays out generally that years of reporting have shown there’s no evidence for Glenn’s insinuations.

In addition, I feel there are substantive problems with the way you present the material on Ukraine. As your draft notes at one point, “It is true that no evidence, including these new emails, constitute proof that Biden’s motive in demanding Shokin’s termination was to benefit Burisma.” However, there are many places in the piece where you say that the material raises serious questions about Biden’s motives, yet you never present any evidence that supports such questions. You can certainly note that Shokin’s successor let Burisma off the hook, but that’s not evidence he was installed by Biden in order to achieve that end (indeed, it appears from the quote Taibbi cites that Biden initially had no idea who Shokin’s proposed successor was). Despite years of reporting by a lot of journalists, American as well as Ukrainian, as well as an exhaustive GOP-led U.S. Senate investigation, no evidence has surfaced of Biden acting corruptly with respect to the replacement of Shokin. (Taibbi’s findings are equivocal, I believe.) The reasonable conclusion, by now, would be that it most likely didn’t happen.

The third quotation notes that once you take into account actual reporting, Glenn’s preferred thesis “starts to wobble.”

A connected problem is that your draft asserts there is a massive suppression attempt by the entire major media to not report out these accusations, but then doesn’t explore how major news organizations have done significant stories, and those stories, such as the Journal’s, have not found anything of significance. The Times has also reported on the China deal and found the claims wanting. There are other pieces I can point to. You should give full notice to those –but once you do, the draft’s overall thesis on suppression starts to wobble. Please note that I nonetheless believe you still have a valid albeit narrower argument about the failure of many journalists to confront the Biden family directly and aggressively with relevant questions about the materials and the legalized corruption of Hunter Biden that they document.

That is, all three of these quotes that Glenn responds to are quotes pointing out that his thesis — that there must be something in these emails that the reporting on the emails have thus far not found that if only “liberal” journalists asked harder questions they could find — is basically bullshit. There’s no evidence of wrong-doing.

And Glenn points that out!!! “I could go on and on,” Glenn asserts, seemingly promising there are endless examples of Glenn admitting there’s no evidence for the claims he is making.

There may well be. But that seems to concede Maass’ argument: that the thesis Glenn wanted to publish — corrupt Joe Biden — isn’t backed by any evidence, even if “corrupt liberal journalists not asking hard questions of Joe Biden” might be.

Immediately after laying out how he conceded over and over that there’s no evidence to support the insinuations he’s making against Biden, he includes this paragraph.

What’s happening here is obvious: you know that you can’t explicitly say you don’t want to publish the article because it raises questions about the candidate you and all other TI Editors want very much to win the election in 5 days. So you have to cast your censorship as an accusation — an outrageous and inaccurate one — that my article contains factually false claims, all as a pretext for alleging that my article violates The Intercept’s lofty editorial standards and that it’s being rejected on journalistic grounds rather than nakedly political grounds.

But your memo doesn’t identify a single factual inaccuracy, let alone multiple ones. And that’s why you don’t and can’t identify any such false claims. And that, in turn, is why your email repeatedly says that what makes the draft false is that it omits facts which — as I just demonstrated — the draft explicitly includes. [my emphasis]

“What’s happening here is obvious” Glenn asserts (after a long passage in which he lays out proof that he’s aware there’s no evidence to back his insinuations about Biden). He claims that it is obvious that “you don’t want to publish the article because it raises questions about [Biden],” then suggests Maass (and presumably Betsy Reed, as well) “can’t explicitly say” that, that their attempts to improve Glenn’s argument about what he sees as the failures of “liberal” journalists to ask questions and their refusal to let him post a screed that, over and over, admits he has no evidence to back his insinuations are really all an attempt to protect Joe Biden.

As he does with Biden himself, he does with his editors: they have pointedly not said they’re doing what they’re doing because they want to protect Biden, and in fact Maass said he was trying to improve Glenn’s argument that journalists, generally, are protecting Joe Biden. But Glenn says it’s “obvious” that’s what’s really going on, even though the evidence says something else.

And he does it after laying out three admissions that there’s no evidence to back his insinuations about Biden, and promising he “could go on and on” providing more examples where he admits he has no evidence to back the claims he’d like to make.

I have asked Maass and Reed for the full email chain (there appear to be earlier emails in this exchange, and Glenn did not include the metadata for communications on October 28). And while I didn’t ask Maass and Reed for this, it bears noting that Glenn has made repeated claims about his contract with The Intercept. If Glenn wants to make these claims, he should be asked by everyone demanding tough questions to prove that his contract says what he claims it does.

Update: Here’s The Intercept’s statement, which is quite good.

Update: I initially spelled Maass’ last name incorrectly here. My apologies to him. Yet more proof everyone can benefit from a good editor.

Update: I keep butchering Maass’ last name. I think it is correct now.

Doesn’t Anyone in the Media Read the Actual Election Laws?

Election Resolution Judges
(h/t Lance Fisher and used under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic [CC BY-SA 2.0])

Back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and all elections were conducted either with paper ballots or “pull the lever” machines, my high school government class was given an election season project. For the precinct around our high school, we were to do four things: (1) canvas the neighborhood to determine who was registered and who was not, (2) work to increase the number of registered voters, (3) try to get as many of these folks to the polls on election day as possible, and (4) report back to the teacher how it all went.

Shorter #4: It was a blast.

Oh, it was a lot of work, too. Lots of knocking on doors (and going back and back again when no one was home), and also lots of reading the elections laws. What were the deadlines? What did we have to do in order to be polling place observers, so that we could see who voted in the morning in order to start making calls or knocking on doors in the afternoon and evening? What were we allowed to do in the polling place, and what were we not allowed to do? Who would make the GOTV visits in the afternoon and early evening? Who had a driver’s license and a vehicle, so we could offer rides to the polls, if needed? Who could be available to babysit, if needed?

In a precinct that generally had turnout of around 30%, that year it hit 70%. We weren’t allowed to be advocates for a candidate or ballot proposition (this was a non-partisan school project, after all), but simply were trying to get as many folks as possible to the polls, and we did a damn good job. In the years that followed, I’m sure there were campaign strategists who looked at that number and figured it must have been a typo, because it never came close to that again.

Since high school, I’ve worked on a number of campaigns, from local school board stuff to Paul Simon’s presidential campaign and a bunch at every level in between. One thing I’ve never forgotten is simple: read the election law.

With all the “will we have a winner on Election Night?” blather, it seems few in the media have bothered to do that one very simple thing.

So let’s give it a try, OK? From the Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 115:

115.508. Certification of election prohibited prior to noon on Friday after election day.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no election authority or verification board shall certify election results, as required under section 115.507, before noon on the Friday after election day.

What? You mean it’s illegal (at least in Missouri) for an election board – city, county, or state – to certify a winner before Friday?

115.507. Announcement of Results by verification board, contents, when due—abstract of votes to be official returns.—
1. Not later than the second Tuesday after the election, the verification board shall issue a statement announcing the results of each election held within its jurisdiction and shall certify the returns to each political subdivision and special district submitting a candidate or question at the election. The statement shall include a categorization of the number of regular and absentee votes cast in the election, and how those votes were cast; provided however, that absentee votes shall not be reported separately where such reporting would disclose how any single voter cast his or her vote. When absentee votes are not reported separately the statement shall include the reason why such reporting did not occur. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the election authority to tabulate absentee ballots by precinct on election night.

What? You mean that each election jurisdiction has two weeks to submit their certification, and ballot counters don’t have to pull an all-nighter on election night?

115.430. Provisional ballots, used when, exceptions, procedure, counted when, how—rulemaking authority—free access system established—provisional ballot only used,when—no jurisdiction in state courts to extend polling hours.—
All provisional ballots cast by voters whose eligibility has been verified as provided in this section shall be counted in accordance with the rules governing ballot tabulation. Provisional ballots shall not be counted until all provisional ballots are determined either eligible or ineligible and all provisional ballots must be processed before the election is certified.

Here’s part of why you can’t certify a winner before Friday, and you get two weeks to finish the count. By Missouri state law, every individual provisional ballot has to be either accepted or rejected before ANY provisional ballots are actually tabulated and added to the regular count. If you get a lot of provisional ballots, or if there are lots of challenges to these ballots, this could take a while. And if you have both of those things, it *will* take a while.

What is reported on election night is — and always has been — unofficial. When you go to any state’s election website next Tuesday evening and frantically refresh the page to get the latest numbers, they will tell you that these results are unofficial. They aren’t official until at least a couple of days later, after every precinct has verified and counted all their provisional ballots, checked all their math, and filed a formal certification with their Secretary of State. Careful media voices may project a winner on election night, but it’s not official until the certification of the results is complete.

And at least in Missouri, that is not allowed to happen before the Friday after the election, and could be as much as two weeks after election day.

Look, I get it. I want to know who will win all kinds of different races as soon as anyone, but it’s not an automatic sign of any nefarious goings on if no clear winner is projected on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. More than anything, it’s a sign that everyone from the election judge in your local polling place on up to the Secretary of State wants to be really sure that they got the count right before they declare it to be official.

I know that Donald Trump doesn’t know election law, or even the mechanics of how elections work once the polls close, and I have no illusions about educating him on that subject. I just wish the media would quit imitating his ignorance.

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