Software developer, cyclist, photographer, hiker, reader.I work for the Library of Congress but all opinions are my own.Email: chris@improbable.org
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Mike Huckabee’s outrageous campaign to silence a Florida critic | Steve Bousquet

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He Still Won't Go! Mucky DC Councilman Clings To Seat As Expulsion Looms

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acdha
10 hours ago
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I’m ready to vote for anyone who runs on a platform of tackling anti-white collar crime at every level of government
Washington, DC

Trump's Friday Grievances: Light Bulbs That Make Him Look Orange And Toilets That Don't Flush

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President Trump had a number of thoughts swirling around his head during a small business roundtable Friday afternoon at the White House.

After addressing the deadly shooting at a Naval base in Pensacola, Florida, Trump abruptly pivoted to complaining about the environmentally friendly lightbulbs that give the President “an orange look.”

“The lightbulb — they got rid of the lightbulb that people got used to,” Trump said, before ranting about how the more energy-efficient bulbs “doesn’t make you look as good.”

“Of course, being a vain person, that’s very important to me. Gives you an orange look,” Trump said. “I don’t want an orange look — has anyone noticed that? So we’ll have to change those bulbs in at least a couple of rooms where I am in the White House.”

Trump also confusingly railed against the lack of sufficient water pressure in American plumbing.

“We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers, and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucets on in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it,” Trump said. “And you don’t get any water. You turn on the faucet, you take a shower and the water comes dripping out.”

Trump then said that he directed the Environmental Protection Agency to look at opening up water standards “very strongly” given how “people are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once” and “end up using more water.”

Watch Trump’s remarks below via The Washington Post and ABC News:

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acdha
10 hours ago
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Is the problem low-flow toilets or well-done steak with too much ketchup?
Washington, DC

The Right Decision is to Move Ahead Now

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I’ve seldom considered a public question in which the two possible answers both seem quite so compelling and convincing as this one. Late last month I said I had grave misgivings about ending the Impeachment inquiry, as the House appears intent on doing, without having deposed any of the key players in the scandal. The list is long: Rudy Giuliani, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton in addition to as many as a dozen others. Stopping here seems crazy on several fronts: There are numerous key questions that remain unanswered. There are dimensions of wrongdoing that remain all but unexplored – side rackets pursued by Rudy Giuliani, his hustler pals Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas and others. These unknowns appear to contain at least substantial venal corruption, likely subversion of US foreign policy and even possible subversion by foreign nation states.

For all of these reasons, ones that are both substantive and narrowly political, it seems crazy to leave these questions unanswered. And yet I think they should. People talk about whether the Democrats should go small or go big. I think it’s more whether they should go fast or go slow. (After all, it’s easy enough to add on an obstruction article based on the Mueller Report. The work is already done.) I think they’re right to go fast, even as I agree that the arguments to the contrary are powerful and compelling.

Here are my four reasons.

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How Quillete packages itself for so-called liberals

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Make no bones about it, Quillette is an outrageously racist site. Here’s an article that compiles numerous examples of its biases.

Lehmann has said she started Quillette to counter what she calls “blank slate fundamentalism,” or the proposition that educational outcomes, career success, capacity for ethics, and economic class are determined more by environmental factors than genetic ones. That is to say, she believes that social status, morality or immorality, and, yes, income itself are all genetically based.

Lehmann told Politico that Quillette’s goal is “to broaden the Overton window”—that is to say, expand the limits of acceptable discourse. She didn’t stipulate that she wants these limits broadened only to the right, but she didn’t have to. Writing in Quillette, Lehmann said the Overton window should be shifted so that people can more openly denounce “immigration,” for example by trumpeting the Muslim heritage of sex-crime suspects.

The real question, though, is why so-called liberals support the site, or even read it. The answer to that is that it exploits the same cracks that were exploited by the right wing to fracture the atheist movement: anti-feminism, anti-Islam, anti-trans bigotry. The people who are otherwise horrified by racism will cheerfully overlook the glaringly illiberal perspective of the site to join in #metoo-, Islam-, or trans-bashing.

Perhaps the most important weapon Quillette uses is applying pressure on a few specific fault lines that divide liberal audiences, such as the MeToo movement. Quillette has recruited liberal men accused of sexual harassment or assault, like Elliott, and empowered them as experts on feminism. In his first Quillette piece, Elliott blasted the desire to “believe women,” and blamed one accuser for his poor book sales and his television agent’s not returning his calls. Elliott has since written three more pieces for the magazine and become one of its strongest partisans on Twitter, joking about a “Quillette Hot American Summer” and frequently retweeting the magazine’s diatribes against feminism. “Wow, Quillette has been killing it recently,” he said in one tweet.

Despite his public defense of the magazine, Elliott told me, “People say, ‘Oh they published this or that,’ and I don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t read most of the articles in Quillette.” Asked about the magazine’s repeated promotion of racist pseudoscience, Elliott said, “I don’t agree with that, obviously. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal.… The articles you’re talking about, I haven’t read. Maybe if I read one, it would be so offensive that I would say I can’t write for them anymore.”

You can’t be a “dyed-in-the-wool liberal” if you’re willing to smear women, Muslims, and trans persons. You’re just another bigot who only likes white Christian cis men.

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betajames
11 hours ago
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Michigan
diannemharris
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Did the 'Kamala Is a Cop' Meme Help Tank Harris's Campaign?

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It’s only appropriate for a decade defined by the steady mainstreaming of internet memes to end with one so powerful it may have changed a presidential campaign. In the last couple of years, the political rise of Kamala Harris, from California Senator to presidential hopeful, has been met with a terse but effective meme: “Kamala Is a Cop.” Rooted in Kamala Harris’s tenure as San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General, the refrain started as a disdainful sneer from those disillusioned with her one-time “tough on crime” stance, blossoming into a full-blown meme that leftists, opportunistic right-wingers, Black Twitter, and bots wielded with gusto to represent everything and anything that was wrong with Harris’s desire for more political power. Now that Harris has announced that she’s ending her presidential campaign, the meme’s impact is worth a deeper examination.

“Kamala Is a Cop” has no set format or singular image: It’s a philosophy translated into meme form. There are photoshopped images of Harris wearing police gear and arresting black children. People manifested the meme in joking tweets about Harris arresting them for minor infractions, like wearing white after Labor Day. A brief clip of Harris waving at undocumented children in a detention center was stripped of context and turned into miscellaneous meme fodder, spurring another opportunity to play at her carceral wrath.

The refrain was particularly evocative as Harris struggled to lure black voters away from Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, despite being one of the few black candidates running in the primary. Last week, the New York Times spoke with a number of the black voters who weren’t backing black candidates Harris or Cory Booker for president—including a 20-year-old black woman, who had just attended a “Black Woman’s Breakfast” featuring Senator Harris. The woman expressed skepticism toward Harris’s campaign, citing a mortification that grew, in part, from memes (emphasis ours):

Ms. Hester made a sheepish admission: Ms. Harris was not her preferred choice. There were policy reasons — Ms. Harris has not rolled out a proposal on student debt cancellation, which is Ms. Hester’s top issue. But there was also something else. Even at the historically black all-women’s college that Ms. Hester attends, supporting Ms. Harris was a particularly uncool thing to do.

“It’s hard, you know. On social media, there’s a different meme about her every day,” Ms. Hester said. “A lot of young people don’t support her.”

Shockingly, it’s a faux pas to support the candidate your classmates sneeringly refer to as a cop! How, I wondered, how does Harris feel about reaching pariah status within online circles of young, politically astute black women?

I contacted the Harris campaign last week to find out: What does Harris think of the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme, and is she worried that it has stifled youth support? The response I received was somewhat brusque: A link to a Blavity round table with Harris, in which she briefly acknowledged the memes after a long defense of her record, and a quote from the aforementioned Black Women’s Breakfast, in which Harris said that she’s “fully aware” of the cop memes and that they break her heart. “Are we saying that we don’t want the people making these decisions to be someone who goes to the same church, has children in the same community?” she added. “No. We need to be everywhere.”

The next day, I received another email from the Harris camp suggesting my article about the “Kamala Is a Cop” memes “include evidence of disinformation online.” This was accompanied by a list of six articles that the Harris camp believed I would find helpful.

Five of the links focused primarily on Harris as the victim of online attacks about her race and ethnicity. It’s true: There are those representing the ADOS (African Descendents of Slaves) movement have expressed skepticism towards Harris’s dedication to black Americans, given her lack of American slave ancestry, and they’ve gone to great lengths to deny Harris’s blackness, as a biracial woman. (Harris’s father is Jamaican; her mother is Indian.) Right-wing trolls from Twitter, Reddit, and elsewhere have been more than happy to latch on to this birther-lite, race-math bullshit, and proliferate the conspiracies.

But only one link focused on the meme, even indirectly: A Vox article explored a social media frenzy following the senator’s onstage clash with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard during the second Democratic Debate. At the debate, Gabbard tore into Harris’s record, accusing her of putting 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations, blocking evidence that would have freed a man on death row, keeping incarcerated people in the employ of the state of California to perform cheap labor, and fighting to preserve a predatory bail system.

Gabbard’s wording was somewhat sloppy and sourcing dubious—those marijuana arrests numbers, which were incorrect, came from the conservative site Free Beacon—she wasn’t entirely off. During Harris’s tenure as attorney general, 1,883 people went to state prison for marijuana possession; Harris did, in fact, deny Kevin Cooper’s death row request for advanced DNA testing. Incarcerated people eligible for parole were used to fight California wildfires and as San Francisco DA, Harris fought to increase cash bail.

Drudging up Harris’s punitive history was effective: following the confrontation, the hashtag #KamalaHarrisDestroyed spread and Gabbard became Google’s top search overnight. Some pundits questioned whether the effect came from bots, and Gabbard’s relative leniency toward Russia certainly didn’t quell the conspiracy nuts. Twitter denied an uptick in bot activity, but given Twitter’s response to, well, anything, it’s reasonable to take that with a grain of salt.

Still, no evidence suggests bot-driven disinformation campaigns initially latched onto Harris’s prosecutorial record, and that’s what the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme is all about. If bots are attempting to spread outright lies about California’s former self-proclaimed “Top Cop” to turn young voters off, they’re not doing a very good job: Skeptical law professors, weary activists, and journalists have shared plenty of accurate information about Harris’s record that would make any 20-something social justice advocate skeptical of Harris as a candidate, despite her modest attempts at reform. The meme merely took publicly accessible information and translated it into an easily disseminated catchphrase. “You voting for Kamala? No way, she’s a cop.” For a generation that came of digital age watching movements grow in real-time around police accountability, that’s enough to leave them wondering who their other options are.

Regardless of its origin, the popularity of the meme speaks to a cynicism that some young voters have regarding Senator Harris’s record: Someone who talks about reforming unjust systems but is reluctant to acknowledge their own complicity to those systems. I asked the campaign if Harris had a plan to gain trust from young voters, like the Spelman student quoted in the New York Times, who are susceptible to the messaging behind those memes.

This was the response:

The memes and most importantly, their origin, at best are a manipulation of facts and at worst lies and designed to disuade voters or likely voter and stoke hate and skepticism based on race. If Tulsi Gabbards debate moment was any indication the claims she threw at my boss and her record were straight from those memes and immediately following were proven false. So to cover the memes, their popularity without consideration of their origin, validity or whether their based in truth misses what I think is the better story. Especially after 2016.

In this, the Harris camp conflated several things at once. Memes, by their very nature, are prone to facetiousness. And while variations of the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme are no exception, the heart of the meme is the same: Harris has a troubling record on criminal justice reform, which plays awkwardly against her campaign’s insistence on avoiding the grittier discussions of her work history.

Is a photo of Kamala Harris happily greeting a sea of young black school children with the pithy caption, “Kamala Harris getting ready to fill up another prison” necessarily “based in truth”? Well, that depends on who you ask. Ask the black mothers of the Bay Area who were disproportionately threatened by Harris’s anti-truancy proposals. Ask the disproportionately black and brown families of those punished under California’s draconian three-strikes law (as California Attorney General, Harris did not support a ballot initiative to reform it). Maybe, just maybe, the campaign could understand what that meme is getting at, even if Senator Harris has never and would never personally lock up a black child.

There’s good in Harris’s record. As attorney general, she tackled a backlog of rape kits, instituted implicit-bias training for police officers, and Harris’s uncanny ability to make Trump appointees squirm during confirmation hearings is pull-up-a-seat-with-popcorn worthy. But this doesn’t negate the less savory elements of Harris’s past, one that she was frustratingly unwilling to critique throughout her presidential run. And it’s that past, and the facts attached to it, that has helped the “Kamala Is a Cop” meme thrive.

Unfortunately, the campaign won’t get another chance to back away from the hypothetical Russian agents and reckon with the genuine critique underlying the meme, since Harris announced she was suspending her campaign as I was reporting this story. Ultimately, the Harris camp’s avoidance of young Democrats retweeting “Kamala Is a Cop” memes is indicative of larger issues within her campaign. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Harris’s team imploded. The New York Times reported that Harris’s state operations director, Kelly Mehlenbacher, resigned, citing dysfunction, layoffs, and no “real plan to win” Iowa. The Harris campaign has been in dire straits for months, due to messy messaging, inconsistent campaign locations, and poor management. But the Times also revealed another element of the discord: Harris’s advisers, “point to that [Gabbard] debate moment as accelerating Ms. Harris’s decline.”

But Gabbard simply poked the elephant in the room—the one narrative that’s taken hold online, spanning both the left and right. It was time for Harris to own up to her history with the criminal justice system, to acknowledge her missteps, to plot a future forward, and she fumbled. If this moment was the beginning of the end, it was set up years earlier, when some frustrated leftist somewhere thought of a quick way to summarize their discontent with a rising star in the Democratic party: “Kamala Is a Cop.”

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iridesce
1 day ago
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