97 thoughts on “Daily Blog May 2020

  1. Trump Opens Door for Violent Clash: ‘I Don’t Care’ If MAGA Counter-Protests at White House

    The president used the obvious trick of raising a question in order to encourage his supporters to show up at the White House on Saturday and possibly clash with George Floyd demonstrators

    President Trump was asked about a tweet he shared where he seemed to be inviting his supporters to gather in counter-protest of those who might demonstrate again at the White House on Saturday night.

    Trump denied his intent was to provoke violence when asked about his Saturday morning tweet that not only disparaged those who protested at the White House on Friday night but also included an invite of sorts to his supporters to show up on Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday night, writing, “Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”

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  2. Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Is a Confession of His Ignorance

    The president doesn’t understand the Constitution he’s tasked with upholding, and we’re all paying for it

    With more than 100,000 Americans now dead from the coronavirus, President Trump has spent this week doing what he does best — ignoring the crisis and instead railing against invented demons. This week’s demon is Twitter, the social media platform that the president normally uses to his great advantage, peddling falsehoods and conspiracy theories to stoke right-wing rage.

    But on Tuesday, Twitter meagerly pushed back. After the president claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to rampant fraud, Twitter labeled two of his tweets with “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Following that link sent readers to a CNN article that tells the truth about mail-in voting — that election fraud is vanishingly rare. (And on Friday morning, just as this piece was being finished, Twitter added a third disclaimer to a Trump tweet, this time about glorifying violence.)

    Of course, this most modest form of fact-checking from Twitter enraged the president. On Wednesday, he railed against censorship, threatened to shut down social media platforms, and said that Twitter was stifling free speech. And Thursday, the president followed through on one of his Wednesday threats, signing an executive order that he claims will “fight online censorship by tech corporations, including social media platforms.”

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  3. Mark Zuckerberg Comes to Trump’s Defense

    Casting himself as a free speech warrior, the Facebook CEO reveals his company’s increasingly rightward bent.

    Alex Wong/Getty Images

    Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in April 2018, a contrite Mark Zuckerberg insisted that Facebook was still a force for good, as long as the company ensured that its tools were not used for nefarious purposes. “Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.… But it’s clear now that we didn’t do enough to prevent these tools from being used for harm as well.”

    That was arguably Facebook’s lowest moment. Following the platform’s dubious role in the 2016 presidential election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Zuckerberg needed to appease an increasingly skeptical public and lawmakers keen on regulations that could cut into his company’s profits. He promised that it wouldn’t happen again and left Washington with little more than a slap on the wrist.

    Appearing on Fox News on Thursday, Zuckerberg had a rather different message. There was little talk of Facebook as a company with distinct values, let alone a core ethical mission. As a debate raged over Twitter’s decision to fact-check and place a warning on tweets by President Trump, Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook had no intention of interceding in political speech, no matter how vile or inaccurate. Chastising his competitor, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Zuckerberg told Fox News, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”

    It was a wet kiss for Trump, quickly reciprocated both by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and the president, who tweeted Zuckerberg’s statement as part of the White House’s larger campaign against Dorsey and Twitter. It was a milestone in Facebook’s increasing rightward tilt. Now Zuckerberg is casting himself as a free speech absolutist, seemingly in an attempt to woo Republicans and stave off regulation.

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  4. US gun owners aim firearms at their genitals to settle feud within community

    Gun owners are taking photos of themselves pointing weapons at their genitals with the safety off – but the trend is far from new for gun enthusiasts

    Gun owners are putting their metal where their manhoods are in a bizarre trend that sees men courting danger to prove how well they can manage a gun.

    Those participating in the meme do so by pointing their gun at their genitals with the safety off, placing their finger over the trigger, and posting a photo of it on social media. And voila, just like that – proof they are very manly.

    It was first assumed that the gun owners were embracing the risky pose as a way of trolling progressives. The author and storyteller Dylan Park, who originally reposted the images in a viral tweet, summed that theory up as follows: “To everyone asking why, I’m not 100% sure. But I think the thinking here is ‘Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people so we’re going to point them at our dicks to prove how safe they are’ or something,” he said.

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  5. Donald Trump’s move against Twitter factchecking could backfire

    President’s planned weakening of social media law may not have effect he thinks it will

    Twitter photo

    If the FCC followed suit and implemented the suggestions into regulation, the primary goal appears to be to force the companies to dial back their actions, for fear of losing the protection. A ban on “editing” content, for instance, would seem to be targeted at warnings like those Twitter appended to Trump’s mail-in ballots tweets, while the ban on “deceptive policies” has been interpreted as an attempt to formally introduce a requirement for political neutrality into the section 230 constraints.

    But the regulation could backfire, at least in terms of creating the internet Trump desires. By barring social media companies from using the nuanced forms of moderation they currently employ, the executive order could force them to resort to heavy-handed actions: deleting posts, or blocking users, rather than simply factchecking or reducing the reach of the worst material.

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  6. Why US Americans always end up with a president who is less progressive than they are

    The majority of people in the US are progressive on most major issues, but the media and political establishment close ranks to make sure they get a card-carrying centrist candidate like Joe Biden. If progressives want to win, they’ll have to reframe the debate.

    From the series We the People by Greg Miller.

    The late comedian Bill Hicks has a bit on how US presidents are elected. He introduces his theory by saying that he’s not a conspiracy nut, but that he’s sure that “a very small elite” runs and owns the media and business interests in the country. Once elected, those interests invite the new president “into a smoke-filled room” and say: “Roll the film.” Then, Hicks says, “this little film screen comes down [ … ] and they show you the Kennedy assassination from an angle you’ve never seen before”.

    “Any questions?” they ask, as the screen goes up again.
    How a presidential nominee is born

    I caveat what is to come by saying that I, too, am not a conspiracy nut.

    But there are indeed a variety of ways in which things conspire to promote politicians who are most likely to maintain the status quo, even when voters do not want that status quo to continue. The philosopher Joseph de Maistre famously observed that every nation gets the government it deserves, but it may be a more accurate observation these days that every nation merely gets the government it thinks it deserves.

    Convincing people they are not as progressive as they think they are is one of the most important, yet lesser known ways of gently but effectively cycling out change candidates from the system. This is why, and how, after three years of Donald Trump, a president who has exposed the pressing need for a root-and-branch rethinking of US politics, the Democrats reached deep into their resistance coffers and ended up with …

    Joe Biden.

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  7. Twitter labels Trump’s false claims with warning for first time

    President rails against decision after his tweets on mail-in voting are marked with message: ‘Get the facts’

    Twitter for the first time took action against a series of tweets by Donald Trump, labeling them with a warning sign and providing a link to further information.

    Since ascending to the US presidency, Trump has used his Twitter account to threaten a world leader with war, amplify racist misinformation by British hate figures and, as recently as Tuesday morning, spread a lie about the 2001 death of a congressional aide in order to smear a cable news pundit. Throughout it all, Twitter has remained steadfast in its refusal to censor the head of state, even going so far as to write a new policy to allow itself to leave up tweets by “world leaders” that violate its rules.

    The company’s decision on Tuesday afternoon to affix labels to a series of Trump tweets about California’s election planning is the result of a new policy debuted on 11 May. They were applied – hours after the tweets initially went out – because Trump’s tweets violated Twitter’s “civic integrity policy”, a company spokeswoman confirmed, which bars users from “manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”, such as by posting misleading information that could dissuade people from participating in an election.

    Trump responded on Tuesday evening with a pair of tweets that repeated his false claims about voting and accused Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election”. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he wrote. Federal law protects the rights of internet platforms to moderate the third-party speech they publish.

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  8. Biden’s “You Ain’t Black” Comment Is Symptomatic of Democrats’ Deeper Race Problem

    The Democratic Party has long taken Black voters for granted and accepted essentialist thinking that reduces voters of color solely to their racial identity.

    Last Friday morning, in an ostensible attempt at African American outreach, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden put his foot in it. Again.

    “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump,” he quipped at the end of an otherwise uneventful interview with Breakfast Club host Charlamagne Tha God, “then you ain’t Black.”

    The internet, predictably, exploded with takes. #AintBlack “trended” online. The Trump campaign almost immediately started selling #YouAintBlack T-shirts. And dozens of high profile Black Americans weighed in. Senior Advisor to the Biden campaign Symone Sanders tweeted that Biden’s comments were “in jest,” arguing that the former Vice President was simply drawing a distinction between “his record with the African American community” and Trump’s. In an appearance on MSNBC later in the day, she refused to contextualize Biden’s remarks. “I’m not going to do this,” she said. “I’m not going to even traffic in any hypothetical conversation about ‘if he is sensitive enough.’ Look: There are real issues we have to address in this country, and Joe Biden has been speaking directly to the voters . . . about those issues.”

    The thing is, he hasn’t.

    In fact, Charlamagne’s chief gripe was that Joe Biden failed to address the specific concerns of Black voters on his show. “It don’t have nothing to do with Trump,” he responded. “I want something for my community.” And Symone Sanders’ claim that Biden should be lauded for going on the Breakfast Club at all is belied by the fact that, other than Amy Klobuchar, Joe Biden is the only major presidential candidate who hadn’t already sat for an interview with Charlamagne. “I got it on good authority that Biden’s black surrogates do not want Joe Biden to come on the Breakfast Club,” Charlamagne told Stephen Colbert this past February. “I just got questions. I got the same questions that everybody else has….I would want to know about the ‘94 crime bill… I would also want to know why he can’t simply apologize for making a mistake.”

    Biden has since apologized for the “you ain’t black” remark, saying “I should not have been so cavalier. I’ve never, never, ever taken the African American community for granted.” But he still hasn’t meaningfully addressed Charlamagne’s questions, taking for granted that he doesn’t need to to secure our votes. “The apology is cool,” Charlamagne said Sunday on Joy-Ann Reid’s MSNBC show, “but the best apology is actually a black agenda. . . When you have Black people who have the nerve, the audacity, the unmitigated gall to act like citizens and demand something of our votes it’s a problem? You’ve got whites telling us to stay in our place and you got Black people saying ‘oh stop, now is not the time. You’re gonna get Trump re-elected.’ It has to come to a point where we stop putting the burden on Black voters to show up for Democrats and start putting the burden on Democrats to show up for Black voters.”

    It has to come to a point where we stop putting the burden on Black voters to show up for Democrats and start putting the burden on Democrats to show up for Black voters.”

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  9. Corona rage is boiling over. To ease tensions, masks should be mandatory
    Jessa Crispin

    Messaging about masks has been inconsistent and contradictory. This confusion is leading to angry altercations with strangers

    Cody Pfister was arrested in Missouri after he licked a bunch of items at the Walmart while yelling: ‘Who’s scared of coronavirus?’ . Photo: Warren Police

    A man shot a cook at a Waffle House in Colorado, after the customer was told he must have a face mask to enter the restaurant. When his childish attempt to re-enter holding the mask in his hand was rebuffed – I literally have a face mask, what is your problem – he created an altercation that ended in a non-fatal shooting.

    A church was burned down in Mississippi, after the pastor tried to sue the city because of its interference with its services. The pastor was still gathering people for worship, despite the stay-at-home order and the spread of the coronavirus. After the church burned, someone found graffiti that read: “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits [sic].”

    A man was arrested in Missouri after he licked a bunch of items at the Walmart while yelling: “Who’s scared of coronavirus?” A woman was arrested in California for licking groceries. A woman coughed on some produce in Pennsylvania as a “prank”. A cop “jokingly” coughed on residents in Baltimore.

    So people are not really managing their anxiety about the coronavirus very well. The threat is real, people are dying, and even some early Covid-19 deniers have been brought around by witnessing sickness and death. But the messaging about what to do about it has been inconsistent and contradictory, with rules changing from city to city, state to state. To cut through the confusion, the simplest thing should be immediately required in every public setting: masks should be made mandatory.

    The jerks and trolls will always be with us, but if everyone else is wearing a mask at least they’ll be easier to spot

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  10. Celebrities Speak

    Life is better if you have a yacht

    “Instead of asking for one or two steaks on a tray, a customer will buy the whole tray. Then they’ll move on to shrimp, and buy all the shrimp, and then they’ll buy all the salmon steaks.” Joe Gurrera, founder of upscale supermarket chain Citarella

    “One family has taken a yacht for nine weeks, and we have also had two long-term bookings for yachts of 130 ft and 230 ft . . .Clients are arranging for their children to be schooled on board, with cooking lessons from the yacht’s chef and time with the crew in the engine room learning about technology.” Jonathan Beckett, yacht broker

    “It’s a virus, I get it. Like, I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible but, like, inevitable?” Vanessa Hudgens, actress

    “That’s why whenever I get asked like, ‘How are you doing?’ I’m like, I can’t say anything but ‘Great’ because we have so much help. We have really wonderful people around us who are helping our world still go round, where we’re still able to work and take meetings — do these interviews — and get that break where someone else can take your child in the pool. I give an incredible amount of thanks to the people that we have who still want to be here with us.” Chrissy Teigen, model

    “I’m getting 75 calls a day, asking: ‘Do I quarantine myself in the Hamptons? Do I stay in the city?’”Bernard Kruger, cofounder of Sollis Health“The demand [for private jets] is ridiculous. It is Super Bowl times 10!” Ricky Sitomer, chief executive of Star Jets International

    “Sunset last night . . . isolated in the Grenadines avoiding the virus. I’m hoping everybody is staying safe.”David Geffen, film studio executive

    “En route to Paris. Paranoid? Prudent? Panicked? Placid? Pandemic? Propaganda? Paltrow’s just going to go ahead and sleep with this thing on the plane.”
    —Gwyneth Paltrow, goop hustler

    “I had this nightmare that somehow in Davos, all of us who went there got it, and then we all left and spread it . . . The only good news from that is that it might have just killed the elite.”
    —Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase CEO

    “The coronavirus panic is dumb.”
    —Elon Musk, Tesla CEO

    “Our clients are stocking up their wine cellars, buying things like eight bottles of a good $200 Napa burgundy, instead of one bottle.”
    —Joel Kaye, Hamptons liquor store owner

    “I even bought the drugstore out of all its dental floss. I wanted to make sure I had enough, along with extra toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste and body lotions . . . If I have to be quarantined, I better look nice.”
    —Jean Shafiroff, philanthropist

    “Let me be completely clear: There is a level of guilt, almost, from capitalizing on this much demand.”
    —Jerod Davis, owner of private jet charter company Southern Jet

    “Word up, can you handle the truth my brother . . . maybe we don’t need a vaccine, Maybe need to take this time of isolation from the distractions of the world and have a personal revival where we focus on the ONLY thing in the world that really matters. Jesus.”
    —Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler

    From Jacobin magazine

    1. Meanwhile in the real world

      “We’re Not Heroes, We’re Health Workers”

      While most politicians quarantine in safety, La France Insoumise’s Caroline Fiat is risking her life on the front lines as a health worker.

      In 2017, Caroline Fiat made history when she became the first health aide ever elected to France’s National Assembly. But in recent weeks, the forty-three-year-old has been back at her old job, as she joins the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Since late March, the left-wing MP has worked full time in a coronavirus ward at a public hospital in her native département of Meurthe-et-Moselle, in eastern France — one of the country’s hardest-hit areas.

      “It’s where I belong,” the deputy from the left-populist party La France Insoumise (LFI) told Jacobin shortly after starting work in the hospital. “We’re in the middle of a health crisis, and we need people.”

      At least three other legislators with medical backgrounds in France’s National Assembly and Senate have signed up to help fight the pandemic, mobilizing through the government’s “health reserve” force.

      Unlike them, however, Fiat chose not to publicly announce that she was donning a protective mask and heading into battle. (After news of her effort leaked, she issued only a brief statement, promising to inform the public in further detail only after the illness has peaked.) Doing so prematurely, Fiat said, would risk bringing attention to herself — and distract from the more important job of treating those in need. It wasn’t exactly easy to sign up, either: after having trouble with the official reserve website, Fiat directly contacted regional health authorities and local hospital officials, who supplied her with a work contract.

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  11. The Best Way to Lampoon Trump: His Own Words

    Sarah Cooper has cracked the Trump code with pandemic pantomimes.

    Sarah Cooper has become the breakout star of the pandemic by being the first comedian to figure out that Donald Trump’s absurd words are best mocked not by exaggeration but by exact replication. On TikTok videos posted on Twitter, Cooper has invented a new genre of comedy: the lip-sync explication de texte, where the gestural expressiveness of mime is used to bring out the full lunacy of political chatter.

    On April 20, Trump gave his now-notorious press briefing where he floated the idea that ultraviolet light and disinfectants could be used to cure Covid-19. Cooper, locked down in her Brooklyn home, didn’t see the briefing, but was told about Trump’s comments by her husband. She thought they were ridiculous enough to serve as a comedy skit. So in just an hour, while her husband was preparing dinner, Cooper made a 49-second video. It spread like wildfire on social media, garnering nearly 15 million views as well as praise from Jerry Seinfeld and Ben Stiller.

    Trump has often been impersonated, most famously by Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live. Yet, as talented as the mimics who have tried to parody Trump are, they run into the invariable problem that their fun-house version can never match the absurdity of the real thing. As Cooper herself told The Guardian, “It is interesting because as a writer you want to heighten how ridiculous things are. But everything he says is already so ridiculous that it is hard to heighten it.”

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  12. You Can’t Mask Stupid

    The very people howling the loudest about reopening—and running around maskless—are the ones making it too dangerous to reopen.

    Vehicles are adorned with items and flags during the annual Jeep Weekend gathering at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula in Texas on Saturday, May 16, 2020. (Fran Ruchalski/The Beaumont Enterprise via AP)

    The state of Texas, which has implemented some of the most aggressive “reopening” strategies so far, experienced its largest single-day jump in reported coronavirus cases over the weekend. The state of Georgia, which was one of the first states to reopen, is such a mess that the state government was caught trying to mislead people about the direction cases are trending. The thing that experts predicted would happen as states reopen appears to be happening: People are getting sick.

    That’s a terrifying problem, now that, as of yesterday, all 50 states have begun to lift their lockdowns. The pandemic isn’t “over,” but the country’s patience has apparently run out. People are willing to risk their lives to get their hair cut, and state governments have decided to let them. When reached for comment, Covid-19 took the form of Al Pacino and said: “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.”

    It’s tempting to conclude that the newly infected deserve their fate. There’s a video going around of people gathering on a beach in Galveston, Tex., for “Go Topless Jeep Weekend” (the lack of punctuation is important, I believe) and I’m hard-pressed to find anybody in the video who should be allowed back into the gene pool. Watching these dispatches, there’s a hope that only the people who seem to be trying to get sick will get sick, that it’s their choice to be irrational, and, if that’s the case, that we should all be quiet while Darwin’s theory does its work.

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  13. How do we know democracy is broken if we don’t know what it is?

    Low trust, fake news, and a lot of money. Democracy is facing its biggest threat in decades, maybe centuries. But before we can fix it, we need to understand what it is.

    All photos are from the series National Trust by photographer Jay Turner Frey Seawell, showing the theatrics of modern day US politics. Underneath the piece you can read more about this series. Curtain, Chicago, 2012.

    At the end of my introduction to this series, where I offered myself up as a political literacy guinea pig, I wrote: “Until we can better understand how politics works, including our own parts in its dysfunction, there’s no chance fixing it.”

    To my mind, there seems no better starting point for understanding politics than to grapple with the word “democracy”. What does it mean and how should it work?

    The word is easy enough to define. It comes from the Greek for people (demos) and power (kratos), translating as people power, or government by the people. Most of us know democracy as something like that. But things quickly get more complicated when we ask what exactly that means in everyday life.

    If you’ve been following, you’ll know I appreciate British political theorist Bernard Crick’s ideas about the three elements of politics. They are: who gets what when and how, who has power over those decisions, and how well their related outcomes ensure everyone’s welfare. So “politics” describes the day to day of any group of humans whose lives are bound together by family ties and territory. “Democracy” describes only one way of tackling such questions.

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