• Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. … The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

    — Frederick Douglass

    Vote.

  • Rather than soil my mouth with his name, I’ve referred to him as “resident of the White House” over the last several years. That’s a mouthful, perhaps too subtle, & won’t easily endure past his eviction. “Deadbeat-in-Chief” signals contempt, but is more direct.

  • The US is … a country without a social contract. It’s a republic that has stripped away the “public”. And it’s led by a political party that can no longer be called a party in any real sense.

    Dear news media, stop covering the US as if it’s a democracy | The Correspondent

  • Today’s mail — appropriate.

  • Justice Ginsburg deserves peace. May the rest of us know her strength as we shoulder her outsize share of the burden, her vision as we carry on the work of shaping a better America, and her steadfast endurance as we resist the wickedness lurking in the days ahead.

  • America's Death Spiral

    Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped. They become a thick, swirling vortex of bodies that resembles a hurricane as viewed from space. They march endlessly until they’re felled by exhaustion or dehydration. The ants can sense no picture bigger than what’s immediately ahead. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral. I can think of no better metaphor for the United States of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Many Americans trusted intuition to help guide them through this disaster. They grabbed onto whatever solution was most prominent in the moment, and bounced from one (often false) hope to the next. They saw the actions that individual people were taking, and blamed and shamed their neighbors. They lapsed into magical thinking, and believed that the world would return to normal within months. Following these impulses was simpler than navigating a web of solutions, staring down broken systems, and accepting that the pandemic would rage for at least a year.

    These conceptual errors were not egregious lies or conspiracy theories, but they were still dangerous. They manifested again and again, distorting the debate around whether to stay at home, wear masks, or open colleges. They prevented citizens from grasping the scope of the crisis and pushed leaders toward bad policies. And instead of overriding misleading intuitions with calm and considered communication, those leaders intensified them. The country is now trapped in an intuition nightmare: Like the spiraling ants, Americans are walled in by their own unhelpful instincts, which lead them round and round in self-destructive circles.

    “The grand challenge now is, how can we adjust our thinking to match the problem before us?” says Lori Peek, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies disasters. Here, then, are nine errors of intuition that still hamstring the U.S. pandemic response, and a glimpse at the future if they continue unchecked. The time to break free is now. Our pandemic summer is nearly over. Now come fall, the season of preparation, and winter, the season of survival. The U.S. must reset its mindset to accomplish both. Ant death spirals break only when enough workers accidentally blunder away, creating trails that lead the spiraling workers to safety. But humans don’t have to rely on luck; unlike ants, we have a capacity for introspection.

    On a recent episode of his Road Work podcast, John Roderick lamented the defiant ignorance many Americans now hold as a weaponized core virtue. If we are to break free of this pandemic, countering that ignorance is essential, but pandemic is only the most essential, deadly manifestation of a deeper problem. Figuring out how to circumvent — or at least short circuit the amplification of — the defiantly ignorant who propel us further into this national death spiral is a challenge even more formidable than the pandemic itself.

    While I agree that “fewer voices” might remove distortion from our discourse, I don’t agree with Roderick’s assessment of populist culture gatekeeping as emblematic of the problem. The distortion problem lies with cynical manipulators of massive media platforms — both old media & social media — who ultimately addict their audiences by peddling simplistic responses like outrage, dehumanization, and magical thinking of the kind described in this Atlantic piece to complex problems like the pandemic. We know the chief culprits, yet we choose to give them not just mental lodgement, but to amplify them by seeming them even worthy of criticism, which means we tacitly acknowledge their lies & manipulation as legitimate.

    America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral | The Atlantic

  • Wisconsin’s Bellwether Republicans: Authoritarian, Deadbeat, & Unaccountable

    Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature cannot be budged. Not by the governor. Not by the people. Not by vigilantes in the streets. Not by the Milwaukee Bucks. Wisconsin’s brutally gerrymandered state legislative maps — by almost every standard, the nation’s most biased — guarantee that they can’t even be budged at the ballot box. And so they remain an immovable and unaccountable force.

    This is the very real damage to representative democracy done by gerrymandering. It’s hardly the first example here in Wisconsin, where citizens have so little control over their own representatives you can scarcely call it a democracy at all.

    […]

    Ordinarily, elected representatives might think twice before stiff-arming legislation backed by 80 percent of the state, or fear the wrath of the people for forcing voters to cast ballots, in person, and risk catching Covid-19 simply by exercising their right to vote. Wisconsin’s legislature, however, has insulated themselves from any consequences — indeed, insulated themselves from the people and the ballot box — by the district lines they drew themselves during the 2011 decennial redistricting.

    Republican operatives and savvy mapmakers barricaded themselves into a Madison law office, dubbed it the “map room,” claimed attorney-client privilege for their furtive work, required legislators to sign a non-disclosure agreement before even being shown their own new district, and designed fancy regression models that ensured Democrats would hold a minority of seats even they won up to 57 percent of the statewide vote.

    The maps have exceeded their designers high expectations all decade long. In 2018, for example, Wisconsin voters re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, backed Evers for governor over two-term Republican incumbent Scott Walker, placed Democrats in every elected statewide office, and preferred Democratic assembly candidates by a margin of 190,000 votes. Republicans held the chamber, 64-35. They won 64 percent of the seats, with 46 percent of the votes.

    How rigged are Wisconsin’s maps? So rigged that the Harvard’s Electoral Integrity Project, which quantifies the health of electoral systems in America and worldwide, rated the state’s electoral boundaries as a three on a scale of one to 100. This is not only the worst rating in the nation, it’s lower than any nation graded by the EIP has ever scored on this measure. This is not a rating received by a functioning democracy. It is the rating of an authoritarian state.

    Absent some seismic shift in public option in these gerrymandered districts, we can’t even vote these deadbeat politicians out of power, even while they force citizens risk their health to vote. Our only hope might be that their complete dereliction of duty during the pandemic triggers an electoral earthquake off the scale.

    Wisconsin’s decade-long subjugation to illegitimate, minority Republican control has been the pilot for the rest of the country at every level of government.

    Wisconsin’s Governor Called a Special Session on Police Reform. Republicans Stopped It After 30 Seconds | Rolling Stone

  • Dereliction of duty:

    Republicans started the session and recessed in both the Senate and Assembly in less than 30 seconds.

    WisGOP sits on its hands while bleating about the Governor’s emergency COVID-19 orders, too.

    Wisconsin Republicans take no action on policing bills | AP

  • Conflict of Intelligence

    President Donald Trump said National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe made the decision because the administration “got tired” of intelligence about election security leaking from Congress.

    Prior to becoming Director of National Intelligence, then-Rep. Ratcliffe represented the resident of the White House during impeachment proceedings. Three weeks after impeachment failed to remove his client from office, Ratcliffe accepted his client’s nomination as Director of National Intelligence. He is the first DNI confirmed by a partisan vote for a reason:

    Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats and a member of the Senate intelligence panel, said he has concerns that Ratciffe has limited experience in the intelligence community yet extensive experience in politics. “A dangerous combination,” he said.

    “Now more than ever it is vital that the DNI respect the critical firewall that must exist between intelligence and political calculations — especially if the truth isn’t what the boss wants to hear,” King said.

    Before being elected to Congress in 2014, Ratcliffe was mayor of Heath, Texas, and a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas. When he was first nominated, senators questioned whether he had enough intelligence experience and whether he was picked because of his willingness to defend Trump.

    But given a second chance, Ratcliffe worked to separate himself from the president at his confirmation hearing, including by saying he believed Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a conclusion Trump has resisted. He said he would communicate to Trump the intelligence community’s findings even if he knew Trump disagreed with them and might fire him.

    If your client only reacts to alarming reports about foreign interference in federal elections when they reach the press, the logical way to help him keep his job — and keep you in yours — is to stop delivering alarming intelligence reports to those who directly represent voters.

    Trump’s intel chief ends election security briefings to Hill | AP

  • Responsibility Hot Potato

    But who is being irresponsible here?

    Everyone. In the United States, those in charge of our local, state, & federal institutions have collectively decided to push responsibility for public health as low as they can, in an attempt to insulate themselves from hyper-polarized public furor over any reasonable measure they might take. Those left holding the bag are regular folks, particularly already-besieged caregivers for children, vulnerable adults, & the elderly, or pseudo-adults who have already demonstrated a collective lack risk-aversion sufficient to avoid engaging in risky behaviors like binge drinking, unsafe sex, reckless driving, or (yes) enlisting in the military.

    Our institutional leaders’ dereliction of duty does not absolve anyone of their responsibility to do their part. When we fail individually, we fail collectively. That this lesson is unfortunate or untimely does not exempt anyone from examination, even as it surely feels like an imposition anyone who didn’t live through the Great Depression.

    Our leaders have failed us. They have elected to punish the members of our society who are responsible to & for others.

    Let us not forget that, should we ever make it to the other side.

    Blame Pollyanna Presidents When Covid-19 Plans Fail | The Chronicle of Higher Education

  • The Business Model of Education: A Moral Bankruptcy & Looming Financial Disaster

    Calling a halt to on-campus operations and going totally online, thereby waiving on-campus fees, was the right, moral choice. And yet it was the option that this reckless system could never take, because those inflated fees were needed to pay the fixed costs of the business model. Without sufficient state funds, universities are reliant on federal grant money, which requires students to enroll. If online courses drive away even a fraction of those students, the house of cards will collapse. For the university to do the right thing would be financial suicide.

    The article’s title is misleading. The business model of education is the root problem, but it did not start with state universities. State governments — enthralled by neoliberalism, harried by zealotical anti-tax lobbyists & myopic voters — have spent forty years divesting from funding education as a public good, forcing public universities to rely on a mix of federal funding, out-of-state/international tuition, an amenities arms race, & ever-inflating service fees.

    I don’t agree with the article’s proposed solution, but something must be done in the wake of the havoc on budgets — state and university — that will follow the pandemic.

    Correctional, police, & military budgets bloat without restraint while the viability of the Post Office and public universities are jeopardized. One can only conclude American society cares more about imprisoning & killing people than we do connecting & educating them.

    The Corner That State Universities Have Backed Themselves Into | The Atlantic

  • [H]e seemed to be unmoved by my request.

    Governor Evers, describing Assembly Leader Vos’ reaction — a day after Kenosha police shot Jacob Blake in the back at point-blank range — to Evers’ call for a special legislative session on police reform bills submitted in June.

  • The Postal Service uses advanced technology to deliver mail with handwritten addresses, huge volumes of periodicals, and packages of many different sizes. This video helps the public better understand the magnitude of the Postmaster General’s sabotage of the USPS.

  • I’m working on a longform piece on this, but my non-expert reading of Justice Department publications on federal election fraud suggest the President & Postmaster General should be charged with fraud. I hope the House & states’ Attorneys General are ready for a fight.

  • [USPS] is in the process of removing 671 high-speed mail-sorting machines nationwide … that will eliminate 21.4 million items per hour’s worth of processing capability … [.]

    House calls emergency hearing over alleged White House interference at USPS | Washington Post

  • But even if the country and our system of government gets through the transition more or less intact…

    This might keep you up all weekend. You should probably read it anyway.

    Getting from November to January | The American Interest

  • He admits this sabotage is a bald attempt at election theft, voter suppression, & subversion of democracy. This corruption relegates the United States to rotten-banana republic status.

    President admits he is undermining USPS to make it harder to vote by mail | The Guardian

  • I hung this on our front storm door this morning.

    Solidarity forever.

  • Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature has been on vacation for over 100 days during a devastating pandemic. Put their dereliction of duty on display.

    Gov. Evers Should Keep Calling Special Sessions Until Wisconsin Republicans Take Action | The Recombobulation Area

  • The secret police, even when it looks and appears to act like an army, always has a single individual as its target. Its goal is to make a person, alone, face the might of the state.

    Homeland Security Was Destined to Become a Secret Police Force | New Yorker

  • Slightly more than 23,000 [mail-in] ballots [for the April primary election] were thrown out, mostly because those voters or their witnesses missed at least one line on a form.

    A national forewarning: Wisconsin’s high absentee volume and ballot errors | APM Reports

  • Domestic Terrorist-in-Chief

    Deploying unidentifiable federal agentswithout the consent or request of the Governor, County Executive, or Mayor — to the city about to host the opposing party’s convention to nominate his challenger in the November election is not merely provocative, it is terrorism:

    [T]he term “terrorism” means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.

    22 U.S. Code § 2656f(d)(2)

    [T]he term “domestic terrorism” means activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.

    18 U.S. Code § 2331.5, as modified by the USA PATRIOT Act

    The resident of the White House is literally using violent, masked federal agents in a terrorism campaign against residents of the city, county, and state hosting the nominating convention for his challenger in an election just over 100 days from now, a state he won four years ago, but where where the latest polling has him trailing 49% to 41%.

  • Mafia-like intimidation tactics:

    Unlike many other states, Wisconsin doesn’t have a law that makes complainants pay for defendants’ legal costs if a defamation suit ends up being dismissed as frivolous.

    Why is Trump’s Campaign Suing a Small Wisconsin TV Station? | WNYC

  • Hallmark of Fascism

    Lawlessness in the name of law and order is the hallmark of fascism.

    ‘It’s Spooky Right Now’: Inside the Creepy Federal Crackdown on Portland Protesters | The Daily Beast

    Illegal abduction of protestors by Homeland Security agents deeply disturbs me — it erodes both the rule of law and legitimacy of government. More deployments appear imminent. That these agents’ non-sensical camouflage attire & lack of agency identification renders them indistinguishable from “federal troops” in the general public’s eyes is disquieting; this is a slow slide to de facto perception of martial law. Worse, the camo & non-affiliated look opens the door to similar abductions of citizens by non-government actors (“militia” & other domestic terrorist types).

  • Legitimacy is Fragile

    Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state legislature has not passed a bill in over three months. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court voted to terminate the governor’s stay-at-home order via a remote session. (The margin: the previous governor’s lame duck political appointee, who had already lost a state-wide election for a proper 10-year term on the court.) Twelve days ago, the court upheld laws a lame-duck session of the Republican-controlled Legislature passed to strip power from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general.

    Wisconsin is on fire, and the arsonists control two branches of the state government. Gerrymandered districts make it unlikely that will change, even after the upcoming election.

    For The First Time Ever, Wisconsin Surpasses 1,000 New COVID-19 Cases In 1 Day | Wisconsin Public Radio

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