Cmnd+F: 12/16/2016

What a (news) day.. Here’s everything worth reading on Dec. 16, 2016

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What is Command+F?


Trump and Related

The Donald announced his pick for ambassador to Israel… and he almost couldn’t be worse. David M Friedman wants to expand settlements in Palestinian territory, thinks Israel should annex the West Bank altogether, and has advocated for the American embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. (The Trump team reiterated that it also wants to see the embassy relocated, on Friday)

He also compared the Jewish, “pro-peace” J Street lobbying group to Nazi collaborators:

They are far worse than kapos — Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps. The kapos faced extraordinary cruelty and who knows what any of us would have done under those circumstances to save a loved one? But J Street? They are just smug advocates of Israel’s destruction delivered from the comfort of their secure American sofas — it’s hard to imagine anyone worse.

— Friedman, Arutz Sheva

The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act incorporates a definition of anti-Semitism which, among other things, considers Israel/Nazi comparisons anti-Semitic. Surely, the spirit of the law also includes other comparisons of Jewish institutions to Nazis or their collaborators, yes?

The ASAA does not contain an “unless you’re a right-winger” carve out. Once again, there’s an opportunity for Jewish organizations to demonstrate that they’re unafraid to call out anti-Semitic rhetoric when it emerges from the right.

— David Schraub, Haaretz

Matt Taibbi on Goldman Sach’s infiltration of the executive:

His chief strategist, the unabashed white-supremacist loon Steve Bannon, is a former Goldman banker, as is adviser Anthony Scaramucci. Steve Mnuchin marks the fourth Goldman-pedigreed treasury secretary in the last four presidencies, after Bob Rubin, Lawrence Summers and Hank Paulson.

But the real shocker is the recent appointment of Goldman Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn to the post of director of the National Economic Council. Bannon and Mnuchin were former, past Goldmanites. Cohn, meanwhile, is undoubtedly at least the number-two figure at the world’s most despised bank, if not the outright co-head with Blankfein. He has been at the center of many of its most infamous episodes, including the Greek affair.

So much for draining the swamp.

Russian Hacking v. American Democracy

The case that Russia interfered in the U.S. election has grown stronger, at least symbolically. No damning evidence has been released, but the FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence — which oversees American intelligence agencies — both now support the CIA’s assessment that the Kremlin was involved.

At a press conference Friday, Obama said that he had told Russian President Vladmir Putin to “cut it out,” regarding Russian hacking as early as September. He also said he didn’t publicly retaliate to protect the integrity of the election.

On the same day, Putin called for the U.S. government to either released evidence of Russian involvement or stop talking about it:

“They should either stop talking about that or produce some proof at last. Otherwise it all begins to look unseemly.”

– Putin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, via CNN

In an op-ed for the Boston Globe, John Shattuck went so far as to say that a “specter of treason hovers over” the president-elect:

By denigrating or seeking to prevent an investigation of the Russian cyberattack Trump is giving aid or comfort to an enemy of the United States, a crime that is enhanced if… he is in fact seeking to cover up his staff’s or his own involvement in or prior knowledge of the attack.

Climate Change

Exxon Mobil CEO and Trump pick for secretary of state Rex Tillerson may not be as anti-science as many initially feared. Via The Hill:

[Under Tillerson] Exxon shifted from its public position of doubting climate change to declaring that there is “no question” that human activity was the source of carbon dioxide emissions contributing to the phenomenon…

After Tillerson took over, the company backed a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, implemented an internal accounting measure to put a fee on carbon emissions and stopped funding many groups that outright reject the scientific consensus behind climate change, all major shifts away from its previous positions.

Exxon endorsed last year’s agreement in Paris on global warming.

That doesn’t mean anyone should be putting any faith in him to change Trump’s views (or do anything not terrible), however:

Tillerson nonetheless disagrees with environmentalists’ views that fighting climate change means using less fossil fuels. Instead, Exxon looks at solutions like replacing coal with natural gas — which the company produces — and adapting to the effects of a changing world.

Giraffes are on their way out… of existence. 
From the Guardian:

The world’s tallest animal is at risk of extinction after suffering a devastating decline in numbers, with nearly 40% of giraffes lost in the last 30 years, according to the latest “red list” analysis…

The natural world is in the midst of a mass extinction as wild places are destroyed by conversion to farmland, mining and pollution, and animals are hunted in huge numbers. In October, a major analysis found the number of wild creatures was on track to fall by two-thirds by 2020, compared to 1970. Recent red list updates have found the eastern Gorilla and whale shark moving closer to extinction, while the prospects of the giant panda are improving.

Other

Dylan Roof, the man who massacred nine black churchgoers last year, was convicted on 33 counts in U.S. district court yesterday. According to NBC News, the jury will reconvene on Jan. 3 to decide whether Roof will face the death penalty or the rest of his left behind bars.

From Chris Hayes’ piece in The Nation, regarding Obama’s presidency:

By the end of Obama’s two terms, wages were growing at their fastest pace in 60 years, unemployment was down to 4.6 percent, and 20 million more people had health insurance. Life had improved — tangibly, if at the margins — for millions…

[T]he Democratic Party under Obama became associated with institutionalism. Its message was: Things are getting better; America still works; just hang on, because daybreak is around the corner. This allowed the Republicans — the party of plutocracy and deregulation and the US Chamber of Commerce — to become, in the person of Donald J. Trump, the insurrectionist party, the party of those who believe, as Trump said so many times, that “the system is rigged.”

Jeff Sharlett (who I’m a hug fan of) wrote a great piece on antisemitism:

And here’s your Moment of Zen:


Note: If you enjoy anything in this post, especially if its from an article, please click the link — even if you don’t (intend to) read the whole thing — to at least give the author/source the page view.

CMND+F: 12/14/2016

All the news that was fit to p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶ get put on the Internet… for December 14, 2016

ANNE HIDALGO/TWITTER

Syria

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

The initial cease-fire deal, which Russian officials earlier said would have allowed rebels to leave Aleppo and provided humanitarian “arrangements” to civilians, fell apart Wednesday morning. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, shelling and airstrikes prevented the evacuations from even beginning.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

This has some good links to charities^

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2-ycehCnuM

At 2:35 Graham starts explaining why Syrian refugees shouldn’t come to the U.S., and 3:20 he brushes off the fact that Russia may be responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths…

Trump and Related

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

(Don’t sleep on Michael Moore. He called the election perfectly.)

To you, Mr. Trump, I say this: When this next terrorist attack takes place, it is YOU who will be charged by the American people with a gross dereliction of duty. It was YOUR job to pay attention, to protect the country. But you were too busy tweeting and defending Putin and appointing cabinet members to dismantle the government. You didn’t have time for the daily national security briefing.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

The bookers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were approached by members of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee in recent weeks with offers of cash or even plush diplomatic posts in exchange for locking in singers.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

It’s significant that Don Jr. took a hands-on role in hiring a Cabinet secretary. Either Trump’s boys — Don and Eric — are running the Trump Organization, or they’re helping advise their father, the next president of the United States. Doing both is exactly what Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about. If he’s running the company, why is he helping his father assemble his Cabinet?

https://twitter.com/ezraklein/status/808759992815861762

On (the) Media

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

This is the best writing about the NRA I’ve ever come across.

The 1980s and early ’90s saw a surge in gun violence as crime increased, and the facts on how guns were used in America were not in the NRA’s favor. Numerous studies into the causes and prevalence of gun deaths clearly showed that access to firearms made a difference, and that guns were statistically likelier to harm their owners than to successfully be used in self-defense. None of this information necessarily meant that the NRA was wrong about the Second Amendment conferring an individual right, or even wrong to promote gun ownership. But it had no good answers for how to slow the pace of violent crime carried out with guns.

So the gun lobby adopted an age-old strategy: Destroy the credibility of the institutions that would challenge it, through direct attacks, and then create a competing set of “facts.” Crime was up because government was incompetent and heavy-handed. The alleged dangers of personal firearms were fictions created by reporters and researchers with anti-freedom agendas. Only your weapons and your lobby could help you.

Climate Change

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

A number of independent groups of scientists, technologists and journalists are working to get a snapshot of crucial U.S. government datasets and mirror it on private servers should access be curtailed…

American data is crucial for understanding everything from big questions about how carbon dioxide moves around the globe to tiny ones like how tides are affecting sand crabs on South Padre Island in Texas. Its usefulness extends beyond pure science questions to ones about infrastructure, forest management, climate negotiations and insurance rates…

“What strikes me the most over those 20 years is that even when researchers aren’t specifically looking for evidence of climate change or anthropogenic influence, they often find it,” said Laura Naranjo, a science writer at the National Snow and Ice Data Center…

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

Perry has been a vocal advocate for the Dakota Access Pipeline. In early 2015 — just days before he joined ETP’s board and four months before he officially launched his presidential bid — Perry said on local Iowa TV that he favored building the pipeline, which would pass through Iowa if completed. “We probably have as safe a pipeline industry in the country as there is in the world,” he boasted.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,”
– Energy spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder

Other

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

A report by the group Cluster Munitions Monitor found that civilians made up 97 percent of all worldwide cluster bomb casualties, primarily due to their use by the Assad government in Syria and the U.S.-backed bombing coalition in Yemen.

Due to their civilian toll, cluster bombs were banned by a 2008 treaty signed by 119 countries, but not by the U.S., Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia in recent years. In 2010, the State Department authorized the sale of 1,300 CBU-105 bombs to Saudi Arabia as part of a $30 billion arms sale, and in 2011, another 400, for $355 million.

The Cease-Fire in Syria Is, For Now, Back On

It must be stated plainly: The U.S. intelligence community must make its evidence against Russia public if they want us to believe their claims. The integrity of our presidential elections is vital to the country’s survival; blind trust in the CIA is not.

Command+F: 12/13/2016

Everything worth reading on December 13, 2016


What is Cmnd+F?

Trump and Related


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

[Trump is] seeking to put the former Texas governor in control of an agency whose name he forgot during a presidential debate even as he vowed to abolish it…

“The fact that Gov. Perry refuses to accept the broad scientific consensus on climate change calls into question his fitness to head up a science-based agency like DOE,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. But, he added, as governor Perry “increased the ambition of the state’s Renewable Energy Standard, directed state funds to innovative wind energy R&D initiatives, and created a ‘Competitive Renewable Energy Zone’ that helped expand transmission of renewables, bringing clean wind energy from rural communities to new state markets.”

Climate Change

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

Drinking water can be affected at any stage of the fracking process, the report notes, from acquiring the water that will be used to injecting it into production wells and disposing of the wastewater afterward. Impacts are generally seen at sites close to production wells.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

North Dakota officials estimate more than 176,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Belle Fourche Pipeline into the Ash Coulee Creek.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

688 institutions and nearly 60,000 individuals in 76 countries [have divested] themselves of shares in at least some kinds of oil, gas and coal companies, according to the report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

Having an independent repository of the sum total of American knowledge of the climate system will serve as a testament to future fundraising efforts, if necessary, to support universities or other nongovernmental organizations to continue the (previously public) practice of climate science in the United States. I see our efforts as a firewall against a hostile administration: The more we can preserve before Trump takes power, the less incentive he has to stand in the way of science.

On (the) Media

This is a really good take on the Tomi Lahren “Daily Show” interview.


https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

While the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) does not dispute the CIA’s analysis of Russian hacking operations, it has not endorsed their assessment because of a lack of conclusive evidence that Moscow intended to boost Trump over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, said the officials, who declined to be named…

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose evidentiary standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court, declined to accept the CIA’s analysis — a deductive assessment of the available intelligence — for the same reason…

“It’s obvious that the Russians hacked into our campaigns,” [John]McCain said. “But there is no information that they were intending to affect the outcome of our election and that’s why we need a congressional investigation,” he told Reuters.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

The current discourse on this issue is plagued by partisan gibberish — there is a disturbing trend emerging that dictates that if you don’t believe Russia hacked the election or if you simply demand evidence for this tremendously significant allegation, you must be a Trump apologist or a Soviet agent.

The reality, however, is that Trump’s reference to the Iraq War and the debacle over weapons of mass destruction is both utterly cynical and a perfectly valid point. U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly demonstrated that they regularly both lie and get things horribly wrong. In this case they may well be correct, but they cannot expect Americans to simply take their word for it.

Other

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

Ignore the title of this video. It provides an interesting glimpse into the minds of Trump supporters as well as Bernie Sanders’ take on Trump’s campaign promises:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/12/13/trump-taps-former-texas-gov-rick-perry-to-head-energy-department-he-once-vowed-to-abolish/?utm_term=.76e350926183

The new abortion regulations, which will take effect in 90 days unless a court halts them, will make it a fourth-degree felony for a physician to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy when the fetus is viable. The crime is punishable by up to 18 months in prison. A conviction also would result in the loss of a physician’s medical license.


Note: If you enjoy anything in this post, especially if its from an article, please click the link — even if you don’t (intend to) read the whole thing — to at least give the author/source the page view.

Command+F: 12/2

Only 30 more days until this merciless dumpster fire of a year is over…


What is Command+F???

Trump and Related

https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

Ross and Mnuchin were profiteers in a crisis that bore nearly all its misery on the backs of working people who suffered from the misfortune of acquiring a bad loan at the wrong time. But there’s a supreme irony here: The foreclosure crisis that these two moguls (and Trump himself) used as a moneymaking scheme may have handed Trump the election…

In an unusual deal with the FDIC, Mnuchin led an investment team that bought the predatory lender IndyMac, saddled with tens of thousands of failing mortgages, for $1.65 billion. The FDIC had a standard deal for buyers of crisis-era banks; they would cover all losses above the first 20 percent on loan defaults. Mnuchin, who became CEO of the lender, treated this as a money-printing machine: his bank, renamed OneWest, could foreclose on homeowners, harvest fees for appraisals and inspections and late payments, and get protected by a federal backstop. The FDIC lost $13 billion on IndyMac; Mnuchin and company made $3 billion in profits, most of that coming directly from the FDIC in loss-sharing costs.

https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

“I just wish that I had not voted,” said Colebrook, 59. “I have no faith in our government anymore at all. They all promise you the world at the end of a stick and take it away once they get in.”

It’s worth considering that many people who voted for Trump for economic reasons may become so disillusioned with the political system that they A) disengage, taking votes away from a future populist progressive candidate/movement like Bernie Sanders/Our Revolution, and B) turn to alternative means to affect the political system. That includes violence, terrorism and/or whatever we’re calling what the Bundys did.

In other words, the “I told you so”s won’t even register…

https://twitter.com/samueloakford/status/804059291078578178
https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

From the Internet Archives’ post:

On November 9th in America, we woke up to a new administration promising radical change. It was a firm reminder that institutions like ours, built for the long-term, need to design for change.

Climate

https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

In which the Rockefellers’, who started the company that became Exxon Mobil and whose wealth was made in the oil industry, take on Exxon Mobil’s funding of climate denial, etc.

https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

Why are the Treaties of Fort Laramie from 1851 and 1868, which gave the Sioux much larger territorial claims over the land in dispute with the pipeline’s construction, not being honored by the U.S. government?

Ablavsky: In the late 19th century, Congress diminished the boundaries of the Sioux Reservation established in the 1851 and 1868 treaties. Although this violation of the treaties occurred without tribal consent, unfortunately the Supreme Court’s 1903 decision in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock allows Congress to abrogate Indian treaties unilaterally.

Other

https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/
https://www.thenation.com/article/wilbur-ross-and-steve-mnuchin-profiteers-of-the-great-foreclosure-machine-go-to-washington/

For the next few months, my insatiable curiosity dragged me to conduct intense research. I learned many things: our history, our stories, our theories, our movements, and our ideas. It was inspiring.

The process taught me that I cannot just learn from digesting the narratives that our fed to us. I learned that I had to push back and dig a little deeper. I felt the deep and unrelenting sense that I couldn’t just look the other way all the time…

For the queer and trans community, this year could mark a major turning point. I worry that our future is uncertain. Now, we face something that could be more vicious and terrifying than almost anything we’ve had to fight together as a community. There will be attempts to divide us — to turn us against each other. There may be efforts to roll back legal protections that have helped us survive. There may be forces in government aimed at subjecting us to discrimination or worse. It is scary to think about.

Petition to commute Chelsea Manning

Introducing: Command+F

The/another ultimate daily reading list


Command/Ctrl + F is an invaluable tool for locating specific information in large documents. It’s the digital equivalent of using a high-powered magnet to find a needle in a haystack.

In the same way, it’s my aim to aggregate the best and most important content I find each day for this series, saving time and energy for engaged and curious — yet busy — readers.

When it comes to how often I’ll publish these posts, “daily,” may be a bit of a stretch … but it will be almost everyday.

Additionally, I intend to do a weekly (probably posted on Sundays) “This Week in Climate Change” post to recap all the important climate news of the previous week (since it’s the single biggest issue of our generation, and all).

Feel free to suggest stories, interviews, etc. in the comments. Medium also has this cool function that lets you highlight text so you can comment directly on specific passages.

Format:

  • Post/link/video/whatever
  • Excerpt/quote
  • Thoughts

Trump and related

Snyder is a historian at Yale who wrote a book about how Nazi Germany and the Holocaust relate to climate change. This interview about it is REALLY good.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

“The Green Party scam to fill up their coffers by asking for impossible recounts is now being joined by the badly defeated & demoralized Dems,” he tweeted, adding, “Nothing will change.” But here, Trump undermined himself. If Democrats worry the votes were miscounted, and the president-elect believes that millions of people voted fraudulently, then it’s clear we need a recount to restore faith in the outcome of the election…

[A] lot of weird things Trump says later prove to emerged in the pro-Trump, conspiracy theory-corners of the internet. The problem with Trump isn’t the lies he tells as much as it’s the information he chooses to believe.

Our president-elect is almost literally your weird, absurdly racist uncle that STILL forwards you batshit conspiracy emails.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

This is a little dated (Nov. 22) but highlights some good instances of Trump contradicting himself. Even though it’s par for the course, we can’t stop calling out inconsistencies and outright lies wherever they arise.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

By Derek Black, the son of Stormfront founder and super white supremacist Don Black:

The wave of violence and vile language that has risen since the election is only one immediate piece of evidence that this campaign’s reckless assertion of white identity comes at a huge cost. More and more people are being forced to recognize now what I learned early: Our country is susceptible to some of our worst instincts when the message is packaged correctly…

Most of Mr. Trump’s supporters did not intend to attack our most vulnerable citizens. But with him in office we have a duty to protect those who are threatened by this administration and to win over those who don’t recognize the impact of their vote. Even those on the furthest extreme of the white nationalist spectrum don’t recognize themselves doing harm — I know that because it was easy for me, too, to deny it…

I never would have begun my own conversations without first experiencing clear and passionate outrage to what I believed from those I interacted with. Now is the time for me to pass on that outrage by clearly and unremittingly denouncing the people who used a wave of white anger to take the White House.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

What makes Chomsky’s perspective refreshing is that its so original. His points on a conflict with Russia are great.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

International

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

Now more than ever, it’s crucial that Americans understand how the TPP was really defeated. An organized and educated public can take on concentrated wealth and power and win. With four years of new battles ahead of us, this is a story we must commit to memory, and a lesson we must take to heart.

On (the) Media

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

If readers had the opportunity to visit the site, it would have become instantly apparent that this group of ostensible experts far more resembles amateur peddlers of primitive, shallow propagandistic clichés than serious, substantive analysis and expertise; that it has a blatant, demonstrable bias in promoting NATO’s narrative about the world; and that it is engaging in extremely dubious McCarthyite tactics about a wide range of critics and dissenters…

this blacklisting group of anonymous cowards — putative experts in the pages of the Washington Post — is actively pushing for Western governments to take punitive measures against the Russian government and is speaking and smearing from an extreme ideological framework that the Post concealed from its readers.

This touches on a fear of mine that I have yet to fully articulate: that in our crusade against “fake news,” we’ll inadvertently lock legitimate voices of dissent out of our news feeds (or, put another way, consciousnesses). As this perfectly illustrates, the legacy press are far from perfect themselves, and to ignore information simply because it doesn’t come from a large institution is naive in its own way.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

Virginia

OK this one is bizarre, hilarious, infuriating and depressing all at the same time.. and it also includes two of my favorite student activist friends.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

This is an excerpt of an op-ed from Ian Ware, who is a student at UVa. The kind-of-goofy picture is Drew Shannon, who goes to UMW. The Tea Party people/person that posted it (to make fun of) fucked that up. So it’s hilarious that they’re talking shit about the wrong coddled, participation trophy-having millennial because they don’t know how to correctly use the Internet. Stereotypes abound.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

This is the original op-ed (in WaPo!!!), and here’s the sad part: it’s all about feeling unsafe and the university’s failure to address a spate of hate crime-y things after the election.

But after I went home for clean clothes to find an anti-gay hate message written on my door, right next to a set of stickers spelling out “Vote 4 Hillary,” my couch-surfing took on new urgency. I was no longer searching for comfort from my peers — I was trying to preserve a sense of safety…

A Star of David and the word “Juden” were spray-painted on an apartment complex popular with students; Muslim students in a residential college noted for its progressive population came home to “Terrorist” written outside their door; several officers in the university police force used the public announcement system on their police car to blast pro-Trump statements at students walking home after the results of the election became clear.

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/27/13758538/donald-trump-vote-illegally-tweet

Thirteen protesters were sentenced to five days in jail on Monday for illegally blocking traffic on Interstate 95 in Richmond during a Black Lives Matter protest on July 18.

All 13 demonstrators pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in Richmond General District Court as part of a plea agreement in which they’ll serve five days in jail for impeding the flow of traffic. As part of the agreement, charges of being pedestrians on a highway were at least temporarily dropped.


Note: If you enjoy anything in this post, especially if its from an article, please click the link — even if you don’t (intend to) read the whole thing — to at least give the author/source the page view.

Lady Gaga, faithless electors and the crazy long-shot way Hillary Clinton could still be president

Philip Nelson

On Sunday morning, experts were predicting that when all of the ballots are counted, Hillary Clinton will have won the popular vote by as much 2 million people; about 1.5 percent of the popular vote

As the New York Times’ David Leonhardt notes, Clinton — the loser — won by a larger margin of victory than Richard Nixon in 1968 and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Donald Trump becomes just the fifth president-elect in American history to take the electoral college but lose the popular vote.

So what is the electoral college?

Essentially, when you vote for president, you’re actually voting for an elector who places a vote in the electoral college. There are 538 electors — one for every member of congress, and then we just pretend the District of Columbia is a state (and has congressional representation, which it totally doesn’t LOL).

This system is kind of bizarre, but it’s also rarely out of step with the broader population so it’s almost never challenged.

In a recent conversation with Vox, Yale Professor Akhil Reed Amar explained how pressure from slave states lead to its original creation:

In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. “And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)”

Another important point is that because every state gets two electors to begin with (the rest reflect each state’s population), less populous (“smaller”) states have a disproportionate influence.

One of the justifications for the electoral college system — like the existence of superdelegates in the Democratic Party’s nomination process — is that it provides a means of choosing a new president if the winner dies or falls into scandal* (or some other unforeseen circumstance) between the election and taking office.

Now an important note about the electors: there’s no law forcing them to vote for who the people elect them to vote for. A slight majority of states have laws requiring them to pledge to vote for who the people choose, but the Supreme Court has never ruled that actually punishing them is constitutional.

The magic number

Forty-two. That’s how many additional electoral college votes Hillary Clinton would need to hit 270 and take the presidency.

Faithless electors — which sounds like a bad political hardcore band — are the electors who, for whatever reason, don’t vote for the candidate they were elected to vote for. According to Fairvote.org, there have been 157 of them since 1796 and 82 were initiated because the elector didn’t support the candidate. They’ve never swung an election, but they have denied both candidates a 270-vote majority and pushed the decision to the House of Representatives.

To do that, just 21 electors would have to switch sides to Clinton or abstain from voting for Trump… It’s perhaps possible that the House would at least vote to make Mike Pence president instead of Trump.

As of Sunday evening, a change.org petition encouraging electors to defect from the Republican candidate and vote for Clinton had garnered over 4 million signatures — twice the number she won the popular vote by. The petition reads, in part:

Casting your ballot for Hillary preserves majority rule — the “sense of the people” — and prevents the most unqualified candidate in history from taking office. Never in our Republic’s 240 years has our President had no previous experience in an office of public trust, be it elected or appointed, civilian or military. Never has a President admitted to sexual assaults. Never has a President encouraged violence at campaign events.

There is no reason electors cannot vote with their conscience. They are not taking away the majority vote, and are not violating the Constitution.

So here’s where Lady Gaga comes in:

Actually she isn’t really central to any of this, but Democracy Now!’s coverage of the petition on Friday consisted almost entirely of footage of Gaga giving peace signs to a crowd at a Clinton rally. So… there’s that.

https://youtu.be/5epEGeC5GTo?t=1m10s

This is really unlikely, but isn’t it also kind of… immature?

Really, the only time anyone cares about the existence of the electoral college are the scenarios exactly like the one we find ourselves in now.

“This is just how we do things. Suck it up and quit being a sore loser!” is a pretty good way of summing up the argument against faithless electors. It’s also what Democrats would be saying to Trump supporters if the tables were turned.

That doesn’t make it wrong or right — it’s just the reality of politics. Here’s how Donald Trump reacted when he thought Mitt Romney had won the popular vote in 2012:

screenshot via LBC

The current president-elect CALLED FOR REVOLUTION!

Democracy?

It’s worth considering two key points: 1) the electoral college is fundamentally undemocratic, and 2) this election was also undemocratic, but in a different sense.

“The Electoral College is in tension with one strong democratic ideal that I endorse: the idea of one person, one vote,” Amar argued later in the Vox interview. “The Electoral College ends up counting votes unequally depending on where they’re cast. That is at tension with a modern democratic sensibility of counting all votes equally.”

To say the 2016 general election was undemocratic may seem counter-intuitive. The people voted in free elections. No one was coerced with threats or bribes. As far as we know, there were no instances of mass vote fixing or voter fraud.

While the election was technically democratic in that sense, it seems much less so when one considers actual democratic ideals.

The 2016 general election, in which racial issues, tensions and resentments played a major role, was the first in over 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

The Nation’s Ari Berman called it the “most undercovered story of 2016,” noting that there were 868 fewer places to vote in affected states, leading to long lines, as well as cutbacks on early voting.

In 2012, when the VRA protections were still in place and fewer states had restrictive voter ID laws, an estimated 730,000 voters were deterred from voting by long lines and wait times. Blacks and Latinos also faced longer wait times than whites.

Investigative reporter Greg Palast uncovered documents from the government’s Crosscheck program that suggested as many as a million people were purged from voting roles based on flawed information (below).

Additionally, over 6 million people were barred from voting because of felony disenfranchisement. This punishment was historically used, in the words of one South Carolina legislator, to “deprive every colored man of their right of citizenship.”

Imagine how different the results in the sunshine state could’ve been, based on this passage from PBS:

In Florida, once a Confederate state that now has some of the strictest voting rights policies, one in every four black people are disenfranchised, among one of the highest ratios in the nation, according to The Sentencing Project.

It also has the most disenfranchised voters — about 1.6 million, with one-third of them black — and is a state where Clinton needed approximately 120,000 more votes to win its 29 electoral votes.

Democracy entails more than just voting too. There’s a little thing called an “informed electorate” that’s critical to “the people” being able to make informed decisions in their own interest.

I don’t need to go over political polarization and the role that (social) media echo chambers play; we all live this every day.

Less than a month before the election, Gallup found that Americans’ trust in the media had fallen to its lowest level in the poll’s history. Less than a third of respondents had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of faith in the press.

Media professionals have written unendingly about how they failed during the primary season and run up to the election. (you can read them for yourself here: Poynter, NPR, the New Republic, HuffPo, The New York Times)

These issues are not emblematic of a healthy democracy. And, counter to what Trump spent the last several months warning his supporters of, these flaws in the system mostly hurt Democrats, not Republicans.

Lawful Neutral

Then there’s the hedging argument:

The Republicans control Congress. At a time when Americans have almost never been more polarized, it may be best to have a Democratic president to allow for checks and balances between the branches of government. With a Republican in the White House, the GOP will have majority control of the executive, Supreme Court and both chambers of Congress.

In that scenario liberals, Democrats and many minority groups will not only harden their opposition against the ruling party, but they can no doubt expect to be targeted by it as well.

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote after the election:

[Trump] takes office at a time when the chief executive is vastly more powerful than ever before, with nearly unlimited authority to investigate, surveil, torture and assassinate foreigners and even U.S. citizens — powers that didn’t seem to trouble people much when they were granted to Barack Obama.

It was partisan for Obama’s supporters not to question the NSA’s mass surveillance or extrajudicial assassinations under his watch. But it’s objectively more dangerous to have a Republican, especially one as unhinged as Donald Trump, at the helm of these programs, without a powerful adversarial force to keep them in check at a basic level.

https://giphy.com/gifs/lady-gaga-B0rYW9HZTQlGg

Donald Trump has demonstrated his level of restraint: basically, none. To any reasonable person, the choice is clear: a very high probability of vast government overreach, the trampling of civil liberties and due process and the expansion of the surveillance state; or a state of more or less what we’ve experienced for most of the last eight years: the executive and legislative don’t get along, nothing really gets done, but everything looks much less dystopian.

The electoral college needs to sacrifice itself to save democracy

In the Wisconsin Law Review, Professor Stephen M. Shepard defended the idea of the faithless elector, writing:

an event may occur or a revelation may be reliably made such that an elector’s reasonable expectations are in fact frustrated so considerably that the elector cannot in good conscience make good on the commitment to vote for a given candidate and still believe that the elector has performed the office for the good of the country. In such a case the elector cannot be morally bound to the commitment to a given candidate. If the elector cannot morally be bound to the commitment, then reliance on the customary expectation of a commitment would clearly be misplaced, and the fundamental basis by which the Supreme Court has upheld a state requirement of such a commitment would fail.

A (constitutionally-protected) mutiny on the part of a few dozen electors would most likely demonstrate that the electoral college is a flawed, potentially undemocratic way to chose our presidents. Voters would demand to either get rid the electoral college altogether via constitutional amendment or to bind the electors to their constituencies’ vote via legislation or a Supreme Court ruling.

Either way, it’s functionality would be pulled into question, and at the very least, a loophole — that will otherwise continue to be a threat to Democrats, liberals and others as well — will be closed.

Put another way, the electoral college is a nonsensical tool originally created to empower racists. If this loophole exists, why not take advantage of it to highlight how absurd the whole thing is? The electoral college’s final act could be to put a dent into the legacy of racism it was spawned by.


Former Attorney General Eric Holder advocated for abolishing the electoral college system on “Real Time” on Saturday (starts at 18:54).

https://youtu.be/J2OUDxq11no?t=18m54s


*The upcoming lawsuit against Trump University may be the only chance the president-elect has of becoming embroiled in a scandal (with real legal implications) before he’s sworn in. His lawyers, however, are pushing to delay the trial set for the end of the month until after Jan. 21.

Lady Gaga GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

There’s nothing wrong with being emotional right now

And you’re an asshole if you make fun of people for being upset…


I’ve noticed a few of my conservative friends sharing articles and videos about professors canceling tests and colleges allowing absences because students are reacting emotionally to the election.

“Really??? I mean really???” one poster commented on a video from Fox News.

The caption read: “Tests canceled, pizza ordered. Sad kids at college campuses being consoled after election…”

It certainly fits the caricature of liberal millennials that the right wing media has created: that they don’t know how to process losing an election because they always got participation trophies; that they’re being overly-dramatic, narcissistic hypocrites who won’t accept the election results.

Even if you’re so brainwashed by Breitbart and Sean Hannity to not understand why people might be upset, the least you can do is let them grieve without tearing them down.

You may not understand why Donald Trump’s success would bring a female college student — or a Muslim parent, or a gay coworker, or your relative that you think is being sensational — to tears, that doesn’t mean the pain or fear they’re experiencing isn’t legitimate.

As a journalist, you learn to compartmentalize world events: 35 civilians killed in car bomb attack, 300 missing after massive earthquake, Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction period — one simply lacks the emotional energy to respond to every headline.

Politics is also, for many of us, generally abstract. Even if we participate in getting someone elected, or work to change a law, it’s very rare that we are directly affected by the outcome.

I say this as an explanation, but also as a confession. I may have been moved to tears listening to Trayvon Martin’s father speak about how great of a person his son was, or by a friend’s story of being raped and ostracized, but for the most part, I feel very little emotion when dealing with politics or the news.

I watched the second debate between Trump and Clinton with a group of student activists. Some yelled at the candidates on the TV, some mocked their responses, but when it was all said and done, any humor in the room was sucked out the window.

Amid the post-debate chatter, one person started to cry. The room went tense — that awkward question: how to respond to someone breaking the taboo (especially for males) of crying in public. A friend consoled them. Another person started sobbing.

They expressed love for everyone in the room, and fear of being targeted because of their identity. More tears slid down cheeks.

I’m used to translating this kind of emotion into text, not experiencing it up close and personal. I may have been caught off guard, but I shouldn’t have been. I knew how deeply passionate these activists were about justice, equality, and fairness — and they had just watched the biggest threat to those things mock, interrupt and belittle the only hope for preserving them, in front of the entire American electorate.

“Orlando was my community. My people were attacked and killed,” someone sobbed. The group moved outside and formed into a couple circular group hugs with several people still crying, and the others telling them that they mattered; that they were not alone; that they were there for them.

It’s not hard for the LGBTQ community to identify deeply with the victims of something like the Orlando nightclub shooting. To them it wasn’t just another random mass shooting, but a targeted act; a heinous manifestation of the same hatred and bigotry that kept gay and lesbian couples from getting married until just last year, and almost always made them feel less than in schools, churches and, too often, society.

Pulse Nighclub, electroshock conversion therapy and record high numbers of transgender people being murdered are all part of the same beast… a beast Trump’s movement has empowered.

A beast that will only grow stronger when the Supreme Court inevitably gains a “family values” justice to take Scalia’s seat; and one that Mike Pants knows intimately well.

Considering that under Obama, a black, former community organizer, slightly less than one in three black men could expect to spend time behind bars during their lifetime, it’s not hard to imagine why the black community might be worried about a president who has been sued for housing discrimination and who praised stop-and-frisk (AKA blatant racial profiling) during his campaign.

Under Obama, who campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and promised to close Guantanamo Bay, hundreds of innocent civilians were killed by drone strikes in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Syria . The most advanced surveillance and intelligence system in history targeted whole families, funeral processions and weddings.

Donald Trump campaigned on bringing back torture programs and bombing suspected terrorists families intentionally — both of which are illegal under international law. It’s not hard to imagine why someone from or with family in Africa or the Middle East might have anxiety about their loved ones’ well being.

None of the people mocking those who are distraught about the future of this country would’ve questioned George W. Bush’s sincerity when he struggled to hold back tears in this address days after 9/11:

Or poked fun at John Boehner welling up at the thought of the American dream:

There’s no question that politics and ideals are worth getting emotional about, no matter what side you’re on.


A great number of Republicans voted for Trump not because they supported him, or approve of his actions, but because “Hillary/another Democrat would’ve been worse.” Mistreatment of minorities obviously wasn’t a big concern of theirs then, but it should be now.

At the very least, there’s self interest.

After the Holocaust, Protestant Pastor and German dissident Martin Niemoller explained what had happened during the implementation of the “final solution,” with these famous lines:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

There have already been dozens, if not hundreds, of instances of harassment and mistreatment of minorities since Nov. 8. Far from an abstract fear, it’s all but undeniable that Muslims, Latinxs, LGBTQ people, Sikhs, and other groups of people live in a more dangerous world than they did even days ago.

Regardless of who we voted for, we all have to take a side: love or hate, humanity or tribalism. There is no in between — no neutral on this moving train.

We have to listen with open minds when people say they’re afraid. Politics aside, we all have to exhibit a basic degree of empathy — and that starts with letting the distraught mourn in peace.

Many (all) of us were caught completely off-guard by the election results, and the full implications of what this means are still difficult to grasp. Years of hard-won progress will no doubt be eroded away before our eyes. The undermining of environmental measures alone will cost innumerable lives, no question.

If anything is ever worth skipping school, ordering pizza, and staying in bed all day over, it’s having to come to terms with the end of the world as we knew it.

Jill Stein is a shit green party candidate

(And why we should chill out about the next election)

Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Spare me your outrage. I voted for her in 2012, and I liked it.

I waited in line for an hour, I didn’t second-guess myself, and I never regretted it.

My politics haven’t changed much since then. If anything I’m much more concerned about the environment and climate change now than I was four years ago.

I’ve covered my fair share of climate protests, spent many weekends embedded with activists, kept up with the national and international climate movements, and I even made it all the way through “This Changes Everything.” And yet I have no love for Jill Stein.

There’s the obvious not-not-against-vaccinations thing, which is irksome for those of us who have been arguing that conservatives need to take science seriously when it comes to climate change*.

But more recently, and arguably more damning, there’s this: the revelation that she’s almost certainly invested in fossil fuels, among other disreputable industries.

The Daily Beast broke the news Wednesday night:

To learn more about the funds Stein has invested in, The Daily Beast did not have to engage in significant research by any definition. A simple Google search of the name of each of the funds she has invested in returned publicly available marketing documents produced by the investment managers that showed where these funds were investing their capital…

Stein has invested $995,011 to $2.2 million in funds such as the Vanguard 500 fund that maintain significant stakes in Exxon and other energy companies like Chevron, Duke Energy, Conoco Phillips, and Toho Gas, a Japanese company that engages in the sale of natural gas, tar, and coke, a fuel made from coal…

Stein has invested roughly $1.2 to $2.65 million in funds like the TIAA-CREF Equity Index that have big stakes in the financial services industry. Holdings in these funds include big banks like JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank as major parts of their investment portfolios…

she has between $50,001-$100,000 invested in a fund that has the Raytheon Corporation as its fourth largest holding, a $38 million investment. Raytheon, which is the fourth largest defense contractor in the world and derives 90 percent of its revenue from military contracts.

This is, at best, a failure on a symbolic level. She cannot possibly claim that she was both unaware of what her mutual funds might be invested in, and paying attention to the last few years of climate activism which saw some massive victories in the area of divestment…

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, worth $860 million; Stanford University’s endowment of $18.7 billion***; The Church of England’s £9 billion investment fund, and many, many more hard-fought victories, earned by people at the grassroots level.

The Guardian’s outgoing editor-in-chief even made a divestment campaign his last hurrah before retiring.

This is Jill Stein’s #Aleppomoment.


And what would she accomplish if elected, anyway? Sure a lot of** her platform is… pretty ideal, but we can’t ignore reality. Barack Obama faced obstructionism from a Republican-controlled Congress. How would Stein fare against a legislative body all but completely united against her less-than-corporate-friendly agenda?

Executive action? If it mattered, it would almost certainly be repealed by the next president.

These questions didn’t exactly cross my mind when I voted Green four years ago. I didn’t have to think about them. The point wasn’t to actually see her elected, it was to express my distaste for the system.

That kind of thinking doesn’t cut it anymore. The climate movement has to be pragmatic, and it has to be realistic. Tackling these issues is too big for one presidential victory. And it’s foolish to invest any time or resources into a sure-failed presidential campaign built around the idea of being able to smugly say you didn’t vote for the one that turned up the drone strikes.

Consider the argument that Dan Savage made about building a viable alternative party:

You don’t do that by trotting out the reanimated corpse of Ralph fucking Nader every four fucking years. Or his doppelgänger, whoever it is now, Jill Stein and some asshole-to-be-named four years from now. You start by running grassroots, local campaigns. And there’ve been — and I’m sure we’re going hear from lots of people out there listening — there have been a couple of Green Party candidates who’ve run in other races here and there across the country. But no sustained effort to build a Green Party nationally. Just this griping, bullshitty, grandstanding, fault-finding, purity-testing, holier than thou-ing, that we are all subjected to every four fucking years by the Green Party candidate…

If you’re interested in building a third party, a viable third party, you don’t start with president. You don’t start by running someone for fucking president.

(via The Stranger)

As we’re all very aware by now, U.S. elections are democracy theater, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. A Hillary Clinton administration will be shitty and problematic and disappointing, but it’s way more than just marginally better than the alternative.

The way that we have been framing this debate over these last months has been dishonest if it ignores that fact.

It’s also worth considering that we won’t be worse off, necessarily, with a Clinton presidency than we have been under Obama.

Democrats are expected to take a few seats in the House and regain control of the Senate. Then there’s the issue of Supreme Court justices (who just so happen to require approval by the Senate).

One, let alone four or five, Supreme Court justices isn’t just the difference in the future of something like the Clean Power Plan. It could make the difference in a precedent that affects the next wave of badly needed measures to cut back on fossil fuels and everything that comes after.

Most people aren’t concerned about climate change because it takes place over years and decades. Those working to lessen its severity have to think in such time scales as well.

Unless this country sees some relatively massive changes in the distribution of power, we need to remember the lessons we learned this election.

The real-life version of Fascism-wrapped-in-the-flag is going to say some crazy, fucked up shit next time too. And the Democrat is going to be at least almost as disappointing. Let’s not lose sleep (or friends, or pull our hair out) over it though.

Remember, the climate fight is the one the corporate media won’t cover 24/7 (if at all).

In a recent column for the Nation, Bill Mckibben wrote:

The honeymoon won’t last 10 minutes; on November 9 we’ll be organizing for science and human rights and against the timid incrementalism that marks her approach. It’s clear that we need to beat the creepy perv she’s running against. It’s also clear that we then need to press harder than ever for real progress on the biggest crisis the world has ever faced.

*As the link notes, she has said good things about vaccinating children, but the point is that she hasn’t refuted her followers that are anti-vaccers. Climate denialism doesn’t just work if it convinces people there is no problem; it also succeeds when it tricks people into thinking the science isn’t settled…

**She wants to put a moratorium on GMOs.. It’s not a perfect platform.

***from coal, at least…

What if Trump’s supporters turn on him?

Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore

Today Donald Trump “finished” the “Birther Movement.” He only devoted about 45 seconds to doing so, despite having obsessed over it for years, riding its wave to prominence among right wing fringe groups. But hey, he’s a busy man these days.

“Now, we all want to get back to making America strong and great again,” he said ending the speech.

The Donald seemed annoyed—annoyed that the “lamestream media” was forcing him to address such an irrelevant non-issue at such an important time in history.

To be sure, pushing birther conspiracies was one of the biggest contributions to politics he’d made before entering the 2016 race. Today’s announcement was a massive flip-flop in a giant sea of absurdity, inconsistency and outright lies. There’s so much crazy, it’s impossible to sift through.

Donald Trump has been a Republican and a Democrat. More importantly, he’s been a batshit crazy conspiracy theorist that thinks the country has been taken over by a jihadist and a presidential candidate for a mainstream political party.

Donald Trump won the nomination because he promised change. He represented not just an alternative to Hillary Clinton, but an alternative to corrupt career politicians and the dominance of big money special interest groups and everything that’s been holding back the working man.

He’s already walked back his mass deportation plans, adopting a more liberal approach than many mainstream Republicans. And considering that building a 30-ft (and counting) wall across the entire Southern border is basically impossible (and Mexican leaders keep saying there’s no way they’ll pay for it), it’s seems clear that “making America great again” has some flexibility to it.

At some point — after he compromises the “alt right” revolution a few more times, president or not — some contingency of his base is going to turn against him. Then what? What happens when the people steering the Trump movement don’t have to appeal to mainstream voters and don’t care about an election?

His campaign has emboldened a lot of xenophobic, racist, potentially violent groups (see: former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke running for Senate) but it’s also pulled a lot of otherwise uninterested people into the system. People that used to spread their ideas via email forwards are now interviewed by the dozen on national cable news networks.

We all know that Trump says offensive, inflammatory things. But even he’s not as bad as many of the people in his crowds. What will those people do after they’ve tasted some level of media legitimacy and are without a golden-haired god to rally around?

Their guy is on the national stage for once; their beliefs have never been more validated. What will they do when they’ve lost all sense of real political power?

We may very well see a shift in what the broader Republican Party looks like and stands for, like we did with the Tea Party movement. I’m worried, though, that we’ll see stronger, more violent right wing conspiracy groups outside of that.

Two terms of Obama have given us unprecedented growth in militia and “sovereign citizen” groups, including armed stand-offs with federal authorities in Nevada and Oregon. Four to eight years of Hillary Clinton is only going to continue this trend.

In today’s world, only those with real power need be concerned with ideology. The rest of us are divided primarily not by ideas necessarily, but by realities (or lack thereof).

We can’t have dialogue about how to overcome our problems because we don’t even exist in the same world.

I don’t know how to fix political polarization and this “post-factual democracy” we live in, but I am deeply concerned about what it’s going to lead to. Trump and all those who have stoked rabid conspiratorial paranoia on the right for decades have no idea what they’ve created.

Powershift 2013

After two days back in Virginia- waking up after a full night’s sleep, sitting through classes that don’t inspire me or make my blood boil, and being surrounded by people that could give a fuck less about fossil fuels, sustainability, or environmental injustice- I can say that Powershift was actually really great. And I say that with a healthy distrust for big (even environmental) organizations headed by white men and/or more-mainstream liberal organizations like moveon.org.

So first off, Pittsburgh. I’m sorry, I just always thought you would be dirty, at best. This city is fantastic! I saw some of the coolest architecture I’ve ever seen there, as well as a really thriving arts scene. I don’t actually know much of anything about local politics, but they were apparently the first city to ban fracking, as well as exhibiting a number of progressive, green infrastructure projects. The convention center itself is actually the first green convention center in the world and featured many encouraging elements such as hundreds of solar panels on the roof, and an impressive recycling/composting system. This really is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to as well.

Also Anti-flag is from there…

The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
IMG_1289
The Allegheny River at sunset

The first night we missed the keynote speeches, but spent hours walking around looking at the different tables, talking to the people from different organizations. They ran the gamut of encouraging Pittsburgh tourism to ending capitalism…

It was really encouraging looking at the different groups of young people, from literally all of the country, sitting, talking, exchanging ideas, spreading awareness. There were mohawked punks and long-haired, bare-foot hippies and stoic indigenous representatives, and faith leaders, and radical anarchists, and average-looking students. There were green tech executives and ex-coal miners. There were artists and rappers, and occupy-era social media legends. It was a really great moment of “aha! these are our people!”

I really liked that none of the panels or speeches involved proving climate change or skepticism(save for the panel on how to talk to CC skeptics). As a movement, a nation, and as humans in general, the sooner we stop giving legitimacy to fossil fuel industry-backed “skeptics” and disinformation, the better. (if you disagree with that, that’s a whole-nother post..) I was also pleased to see a lot of the focus on impoverished communities and indigenous peoples fighting tar sands, fracking, pollution, environmental degradation, etc- important voices that are, too often, not represented. Being more inclusive and less white/middle-class was also a major theme, although the ability to pay for the registration and travel still reinforced that trend…

I missed it, but during one of the keynotes an indigenous woman was cut off during a speech. I don’t know if it was a time issue or something more nefarious, but it seemed to highlight the divide between the big-box environmental groups and the more radical, smaller ones. During a speech by a, black, ex-Obama organizer, a section of the audience stood up chanting “The EAC (Energy Action Coalition- the main organizer of the event) doesn’t stand for me!” There was at least one speaker that resigned in a show of solidarity.

Similarly, somebody put up a banner in front of the snack bar that read “Don’t support Coca Cola,” and promoted local, sustainable food over the corporate, Convention Center-contracted company. In one of the panels I attended on capitalism and the climate, one of the panelists- a more radical, indigenous organizer- broke away from the pack and argued against using solar cells because they are made from copper, which is just as destructive as other extractive processes. This was really interesting because it blew up one of the two big paths to energy sustainability that virtually everyone else was calling for.

I was kind of surprised more instances of protest within the conference didn’t occur, with such a huge variety of people, organizations, and opinions. That being said, many of the speakers and workshops surprised me too- there were(really, really good/ productive) anti-oppression workshops that focused on male privilege, white privilege, and class divide as well as panels on ending capitalism and what to do if you get arrested protesting. It wasn’t all just a “lefty” feel-good, flower power, tree-hugging fest.

With such a huge focus on sustainability, and food, it was a wonder that nothing sustainable/environmentally-conscious was offered. Somebody brought up that Food Not Bombs had provided food at a similar, smaller, event. Somebody else pointed out that they could have had food trucks, which could’ve provided a wide range of dietary options and supported small businesses. On Saturday, a colleague and I wandered through downtown looking for anything that provided good vegan/vegetarian food for over an hour.

Maybe I just have an over-affinity for the days of Occupy, but I would really like to see something with this content, and size, happen in a more-democratic, more-egalitarian, grass-roots fashion, with no registration fees or costs, but suggested donations, allowing environmentally-minded people from every walk of life to attend. Similarly, I feel like many of the panels were not as productive as they could have been, strictly because of the time constraints.

A couple of the highlights for me were the male priviledge workshop- I don’t remember the speaker’s name, but he(and he was very adiment about not assuming a person’s preferred gender, so this shows how much I listen..) completely kicked ass. A lot of time was given to audience members voicing their concerns and ideas, and I feel like it was really productive, especially to anybody that hadn’t ever thought about sexism before; and the “Social Media All stars” and photography panels. There was an interesting panel on connecting the “School to prison Pipeline” to environmental justice that featured at least one member of the Dream Defenders- one of my favorite movement-organizations right now.

Really though, my biggest complaint is that I couldn’t attend absolutely everything.

members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood.
members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood during the Saturday keynote.
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ODU student, Tynell Johnson, with Kandi Mosset of The Indigenous Environmental Network. Mosset spoke at the Saturday keynote address.