188 thoughts on “Walking on a wire 2020

  1. Facebook suspends environmental groups despite vow to fight misinformation

    Facebook blames mistake in system for restrictions on groups including Greenpeace USA

    People take part in a climate protest in Times Square in New York on Sunday. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

    Facebook has suspended the accounts of several environmental organizations less than a week after launching an initiative it said would counter a tide of misinformation over climate science on the platform.

    Groups such as Greenpeace USA, Climate Hawks Vote and Rainforest Action Network were among those blocked from posting or sending messages on Facebook over the weekend. Activists say hundreds of other individual accounts linked to indigenous, climate and social justice groups were also suspended for an alleged “intellectual property rights violation”.

    The suspended people and groups were all involved in a Facebook event from May last year that targeted KKR & Co, a US investment firm that is backing the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a 670km-long gas development being built in northern British Columbia, Canada.

    The suspensions, the day before another online action aimed at KKR & Co, has enraged activists who oppose the pipeline for its climate impact and for cutting through the land of the Wetʼsuwetʼen, a First Nations people.

    “Videos of extreme violence, alt-right views and calls for violence by militias in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are allowed to persist on Facebook,” said Delee Nikal, a Wet’suwet’en community member. “Yet we are banned and receive threats for permanent removal, for posting an online petition.”

    Many of the accounts have now been restored, but a handful are still blocked, with no fuller explanation coming from Facebook.

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  2. Revealed: evidence shows huge mail slowdowns after Trump ally took over

    Louis DeJoy’s policies, which he said were intended to boost efficiency, led to widespread outcry this summer

    Louis DeJoy testifies before lawmakers in August. Photograph: Reuters

    The United States Postal Service (USPS) saw a severe decline in the rate of on-time delivery of first-class mail after Louis DeJoy took over as postmaster general, according to new data obtained by the Guardian that provides some of the most detailed insight yet into widespread mail delays this summer.

    Shortly after taking the helm, DeJoy – a major Republican donor with no prior USPS experience – implemented operational changes he said were intended to make the financially beleaguered agency more efficient. Those changes included an effort to get USPS trucks to run on time and limiting extra trips to transport late mail, with the result that mail was often left behind.

    Many critics have noted that DeJoy chose to make these changes at the worst possible time, in the midst of a pandemic and months ahead of a presidential election in which a record number of people are expected to vote by mail.

    In late August, DeJoy announced he was putting the changes on hold until after the election, and last week a federal judge in Washington blocked USPS from implementing them. The changes were clearly aimed at “voter disenfranchisement”, given the increased role USPS will play in this year’s presidential election, the US district judge Stanley Bastian wrote in his ruling.

    “It is easy to conclude that the recent Postal Services’ changes is an intentional effort on the part the current Administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state, and federal elections,” Bastian wrote.

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  3. They want to steal this seat for a reason

    Remembering what’s at stake in the fight to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

    The fight to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg isn’t just a fight over the Supreme Court and the trajectory of the law. It’s a fight over what your days are like.

    You want your feet to hurt less at the end of the day. They want to crush the union fighting for your breaks to be longer and your pay to be higher. That’s why they want to steal this seat.

    You want to wake up in the morning thinking about the business you’re going to start. They want you to wake up in the middle of the night sweating about the health benefits you’d lose if you did, so that you keep working for them. That’s why they’re desperate to steal this seat.

    You want to learn what you need to be a good citizen and get ahead in a tough economy. They want you balled and chained with debt, paying them interest forever. That’s why they will do anything to steal this seat.

    You want to bring life into this world when it’s the right moment for you and your family. They want to control your body to buy the votes of certain religious people so that their tax cuts benefiting many fewer people can pass. That’s why they will violate their own past vows to steal this seat.

    You want to help decide the future of your country and you’re willing to stand in line for it because you know how much more others sacrificed for the vote. They want you to jump through hoops for your suffrage so that the things most people want continue to be elusive. That’s why they will lie to steal this seat.

    You want to be sure your president is working for you and no one else. They want you to lack even basic records about whom your president is paid by and whom your president owes. That’s why they will rationalize anything to steal this seat.

    You want your children to be better off than you were. They want to pay your children the same wage you were paid, and not even raised for inflation. That’s why they will debase themselves to steal this seat.

    You want to live in a vibrant community full of stores offering affordable prices. They want you to have no choices, depending on monopolies that can charge you whatever they want. That’s why they will skip proper vetting to steal this seat.

    You want to be judged at work and at school by your character, by how hard you try, by your helpfulness to others. They want you to be condemned for your color, your choice of whom to love, the truth of what you know you are. That’s why they will defy its last occupant’s dying wish to steal this seat.

    Don’t let them steal this seat.

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  4. Can the Climate Youth Tip the 2020 Election Against Trump?

    After electing Green New Deal champions in Democratic primaries, the Sunrise Movement is targeting Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania against Trump and the GOP.

    Thousands of students strike for the climate on March 15, 2019. (Michael Nigro / Sipa via AP Images)

    Today, The Nation and other Covering Climate Now partners are holding a “First-Time Voter Youth Day” to highlight the voices of the generation most affected by climate change as we launch a week of joint coverage of Climate Politics 2020. More than any other group, the Sunrise Movement put the Green New Deal on the public agenda. Compelled by the climate emergency, its members, mostly in their teens and 20s, have organized protests (sit-ins against both Democrat Nancy Pelosi and Republican Mitch McConnel) but also helped write legislation (the Green New Deal resolution cosponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey). In a new book, Winning The Green New Deal: Why We Must, How We Can, Varshini Prakash, the group’s executive director, says the key to Sunrise’s success is the group’s use of both protest organizing and electoral organizing to build political power.

    —Mark Hertsgaard

    Mark Hertsgaard: The very first line of your new book says, “Young people have got to rise up.” Lots of young people have indeed risen up this year with the Sunrise movement to help Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primary elections—Jamaal Bowman in New York, Cori Bush in Missouri, and, most famously, Ed Markey beating a Kennedy for the first time ever in Massachusetts. What’s your secret—how are you winning all these races?

    Varshini Prakash: Teenagers on Zoom! I kid you not. In Jamaal Bowman’s race [in New York’s 16th congressional district], young people with Sunrise made 800,000 of his 1.3 million calls. In the Markey race, when Joe Kennedy announced, he was leading in the polls by 17 points. But Sunrise Movement students ultimately were victorious because we bring movement energy to electoral politics. We treat elections as an opportunity not just to get another person elected but to build our movement in the process.

    For a really long time, we have seen leftists and progressives have a real aversion to political power, a real fear of what it means to get in the mucky muck of politics. For us, we realized that what legislation is passed is based on who [an elected official] feels accountable to. I think that what’s made Sunrise different from many climate organizations that proceeded it: We’re not afraid to marry civil disobedience and protest organizing with hard-nosed electoral organizing.

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  5. Note: Missing in this critique is the show is a condensation of the excellent podcast “Your Undivided Attention“. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to present this subject in a 90 minute time frame. The podcast fills all the voids of the show if you’re interested in learning more.

    The Social Dilemma: a wake-up call for a world drunk on dopamine?

    The new Netflix docudrama is a valiant if flawed attempt to address our complacency about surveillance capitalism

    A still from docudrama The Social Dilemma. Photograph: Netflix

    Spool forward a couple of centuries. A small group of social historians drawn from the survivors of climate catastrophe are picking through the documentary records of what we are currently pleased to call our civilisation, and they come across a couple of old movies. When they’ve managed to find a device on which they can view them, it dawns on them that these two films might provide an insight into a great puzzle: how and why did the prosperous, apparently peaceful societies of the early 21st century implode?

    The two movies are The Social Network, which tells the story of how a po-faced Harvard dropout named Mark Zuckerberg created a powerful and highly profitable company; and The Social Dilemma, which is about how the business model of this company – as ruthlessly deployed by its po-faced founder – turned out to be an existential threat to the democracy that 21st-century humans once enjoyed.

    Both movies are instructive and entertaining, but the second one (which has just been released on Netflix) leaves one wanting more. Its goal is admirably ambitious: to provide a compelling, graphic account of what the business model of a handful of companies is doing to us and to our societies. The intention of the director, Jeff Orlowski, is clear from the outset: to reuse the strategy deployed in his two previous documentaries on climate change – nicely summarised by one critic as “bring compelling new insight to a familiar topic while also scaring the absolute shit out of you”.

    For those of us who have for years been trying – without notable success – to spark public concern about what’s going on in tech, it’s fascinating to watch how a talented movie director goes about the task. Orlowski adopts a two-track approach. In the first, he assembles a squad of engineers and executives – people who built the addiction-machines of social media but have now repented – to talk openly about their feelings of guilt about the harms they inadvertently inflicted on society, and explain some of the details of their algorithmic perversions.

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  6. Schitt’s Creek: the five things that make it such perfect, Emmy award-winning TV

    A classic sleeper success story, Schitt’s Creek swept this year’s Emmys, taking home nine awards. Here are just some of the things that make it so great

    Annie Murphy, Daniel Levy, Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy in Schitt’s Creek. Photograph: Steve Wilkie/Cbc/ITV/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

    1. Moira is a creation unlike any other

    Catherine O’Hara is one of the best comic actors around and she does not disappoint in this role. Her matriarch Moira is simply one of the best characters to ever appear on screen, from her wigs to her dauntless self-centredness, but the true masterstroke is her accent. Described by one character as “unrecognisable”, it has been the subject of countless think pieces: it’s been labelled “one part British/Canadian/mid-Atlantic with a retro Hollywood spin”; it is sprinkled with “a kind of unhinged verbosity”; and is frankly just plain “bonkers”. Her verbose and outlandish pronouncements are pure joy.

    See the rest at The Guardian

  7. Deep Reckonings

    In a remarkable turn of events, videos have emerged of three of America’s most loathed men all publicly reckoning with their failures. And we have them for you first here at The.Ink.

    Watch Brett Kavanaugh wrestle with how he responded to sexual-assault allegations:

    Watch Mark Zuckerberg finally own up to the pitfalls of his techno-utopianism here:

    Watch Alex Jones grapple with his advocacy of conspiracy theories:

    The only problem is, these videos are — as they clearly state — fakes.


    Today The.Ink is sharing, for the first time anywhere, a brilliant, terrifying, inspiring new project by the artist Stephanie Lepp.

    Lepp explains on the project’s website that “deepfakes” are “a type of synthetic media that have been manipulated with the AI technique of deep learning — hence the term is a combination of deep learning and fake. Shallowfakes and cheapfakes use basic editing techniques like changing speed or removing frames, whereas deepfakes use deep learning to generate entirely new visual content.”

    We are just at the beginning of the deepfakes revolution, but the smart people in technology warn of a frightening new world in which, as Lepp puts it, “it’s getting easier, cheaper, and faster to make it sound and look like people are saying and doing things they never said or did.”

    But here’s what I love about Lepp’s project. The most visible uses of deepfakes thus far have been for ill — making House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appear drunk or having Mark Zuckerberg give a speech about power that he never, in fact, gave. So Lepp asked the question: What is the “prosocial” potential of deepfakes? Is it possible to make a socially responsible, constructive deepfake?

    And her answer resonated with me deeply:

    Where I see the greatest untapped potential for prosocial synthetic media is…to envision and elicit the change we wish to see. We see this capacity in the possibility of using synthetic media to envision more skilled obstetricians and midwives, more sober versions of ourselves, and more morally courageous versions of our public figures.

    Lepp wondered if she could make deepfakes that would declare up front that they were fake and yet aspire to change people. She wanted us to “to deepfake it ’til we make it.”

    Thus these three videos of “reckonings” were born. Lepp decided to deepfake the kind of honest public grappling that Zuckerberg, Kavanaugh, and Jones will probably never be capable of. But what if they were? What if all of us were capable of such courage?

    Lepp writes, “The project seeks not to deceive nor demean, but to imagine and inspire…Deep Reckonings explores the question: how might we use our synthetic selves to elicit our better angels?”

    I will leave you with her rousing words, which you should read in full:

    My job as an artist is to make an alternative playbook that’s more beautiful and powerful than the original. My job is to make a playbook that would move Zuckerberg, Kavanaugh, and Jones, along with Louis CK, Ted Yoho, and others to say: “that is the me I want to be.” The purpose of this new playbook is to make critical self-reflection look stunning — so that we are moved to do it, and our public figures are moved to do it, and we make room for each other to do it. Especially because we live so much of our lives in public, and our public sphere can be so unforgiving, we need more room to be wrong, learn, change, redeem ourselves, and ultimately grow….in public.

    The Deep Reckonings project can be found here: http://www.deepreckonings.com

    Check out The.Ink and consider subscribing

    Read more at The Ink

  8. Chuck Schumer Needs to Fight Trump’s SCOTUS Pick By David Sirota and Andrew Perez

    Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has the power to try to stop Trump’s nominee, but he has previously caved to the GOP on judges. The only way he’ll put up a fight is if he feels pressure from his left.

    Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to reporters alongside House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on August 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Samuel Corum / Getty Images)

    If 2020 wasn’t apocalyptic enough for you, now comes the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the prospect of a Supreme Court battle in the final weeks of the most critical election in the nation’s modern history. As Republicans are already promising a vote on a nominee from Donald Trump, the obvious question is: What can be done to stop conservatives’ full takeover of the nation’s high court for the rest of our lives?

    We don’t have all the answers, but we have one answer among many: a serious New York Democratic candidate needs to step up and announce a 2022 primary challenge to Sen. Chuck Schumer — who already has a record of helping fast-track Donald Trump’s judicial appointments.

    That primary challenge needs to be announced right now — and it needs to be clear that the primary challenge will be a referendum on Schumer’s record on Trump judges.

    As minority leader, Schumer will lead Senate Democrats as President Donald Trump and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell inevitably try to install a justice onto the court sometime before Trump has to leave office, should he lose the 2020 election. That means Schumer needs to face maximum pressure every single day to use all possible power that his caucus has — and it has power — to stop a Trump appointment.

    Not just pressure as in phone calls and protests — pressure as in you-will-be-voted-out-of-office pressure.

    Schumer Has Previously Agreed to Advance Trump Judges

    We know Schumer needs that kind of pressure because as Vox reported, in 2018 he agreed to a deal “to fast-track the confirmations of fifteen Trump-nominated judicial picks.” Additionally, under Schumer’s leadership, members of the Democratic caucus provided votes to confirm Trump’s two previous judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. We also know that Democrats have periodically voted to install Trump judges on lower courts.

    You could argue that there was nothing Schumer could do to prevent conservative Democrats from voting the way they did, but that’s bullshit. Schumer controls the party apparatus and its fundraising machine — if his excuse is he can’t do anything, then he shouldn’t be the leader.

    Schumer and Democrats have chronically mismanaged judicial appointments. Obama left office with a Supreme Court seat open and far too many district and court of appeals vacancies. Republicans have rushed to fill those seats, and Democrats have rubber-stamped most of their nominees with little fight. While House Democrats and Senate Republicans haven’t managed to agree on a new COVID-19 relief bill since March, Democrats this week helped confirm eight new district court judges this week.

    It’s true that if Republicans hold together, then they can vote a Supreme Court nominee through with a simple majority — that is, if they are able to force a vote, and it’s not a given they will be able to if Democrats use all of their power.

    Grinding the Senate To a Halt

    The Senate runs on the unanimous consent system — which basically means that to do its most basic business, all senators must consent. In this situation, Senate Democrats have the power to use that system to grind everything to a halt.

    They can refuse to grant unanimous consent for the smallest things.

    They can force the reading of entire bills aloud.

    They can hold up the federal budget that the government needs to run.

    They can use these tactics to try to push back any confirmation hearings on a potential nominee.

    And they can try to do these things at least until after the next president is installed — all while they remind the public of the hypocrisy of GOP senators who said they would not try to install a judge during an election year.

    If Trump loses or if Republicans lose the Senate, then any semblance of moral authority to move the nomination forward will have completely collapsed: the electorate will have explicitly rejected the people responsible for it.

    While it would be naive to think that quaint concerns about the consent of the governed will rule the day with most Senate Republicans, if this shifts even a few into the “no” camp then we will have won. Moreover, if Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly wins his race against GOP incumbent Martha McSally (to fill the remainder of John McCain’s term), he would be seated at the end of November, rather than in January. But continued obstructionist tactics might yet be needed to prevent them from using the lame-duck session to ram a nominee through.

    If Republicans still go forward with an appointment, then all of this becomes the justification for Democrats to immediately pass legislation in the new Congress to expand the court.

    It would certainly be unprecedented, but we are living in unprecedented times — and this is what a Democratic leader must be forced to try to do, and the best way to force a senator to do something is to make clear they are risking their job if they don’t do that thing.

    New York Has Plenty of Dems Who Could Primary Schumer

    Schumer has been in the Senate long enough to know exactly how to make life impossible for Trump and Republicans. Up until now, he has chosen not to do that. He cannot make that choice now — and the only way to best guarantee that he won’t is for a major Democrat in New York to step up right now and make clear they are running against him in the 2022 primary, and they will make his behavior in this Supreme Court fight the central issue of their campaign.

    New York is a blue state. It has plenty of potentially powerful contenders — it has Democratic state lawmakers. It has Democratic congresspeople (including a very well-known one from the Bronx). It has statewide elected officials. It has New York City officials. There is no shortage of progressive Democrats in that state who could run credible, well-financed campaigns.

    We know from past experience that Democratic primaries can quickly force establishment Democrats to suddenly step up their game. One example of many: when conservative Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln in 2010 faced a progressive primary challenge, she suddenly shifted from a reliable Wall Street ally into a populist who championed a crackdown on the derivatives that blew up the global economy in the financial crisis. As the Wall Street Journal noted at the time, she shifted because she knew she could pay an electoral price at home if she didn’t.

    There’s even more potential of such a dynamic when it comes to Schumer, because New York is a reliable Democratic state. There is literally no rationale for him to wuss out on this.

    Sure, maybe on his own Schumer wouldn’t end up going soft and letting Trump and McConnell steamroll their way through the Senate. But he might — which is exactly why someone needs to step up.

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  9. How Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death could affect Senate races – and Trump v Biden

    Susan Collins of Maine is among vulnerable Republican senators as polls indicate voters trust Biden more on justice picks

    Susan Collins talks with reporters after announcing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, in October 2018. Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    On the question of supreme court nominees, the Republican senator Susan Collins has repeatedly threaded the same political needle. It is one with a shrinking eye.
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg changed America long before she joined the supreme court
    Moira Donegan
    Read more

    A 64% majority of voters in Collins’ home state, Maine, believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases – yet Collins has voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, two justices nominated by Donald Trump who could roll back abortion rights.

    Collins has explained that based on her private impressions, the justices would not overturn the landmark Roe v Wade decision.

    But with the death on Friday of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and a vow by Trump and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to replace the liberal lion despite the proximity of a presidential election, the eye of the needle may have closed.

    Collins is in the middle of a difficult re-election fight of her own, one in which voters will weigh her commitment on issues including reproductive rights. Recent polls have put her as much as 12 points behind her Democratic rival, Sarah Gideon.

    Now, it appears Collins will be pressured to pass judgment on a third Trump nominee, whom the president pledged on Saturday to select “without delay”, even though the Senate might not vote until after election day. This time, in the judgment of activists on both sides of the abortion issue, a vote in favor would clearly be a vote in favor of overturning Roe.

    This Month, Collins told the New York Times the calendar was too close to the election to advance a new justice.

    “I think that’s too close, I really do,” she said.

    On Saturday afternoon, the senator duly sought to straddle a particularly nasty chasm. Though Trump had “the constitutional authority to make the nomination” and she would have “no objection to the Senate judiciary committee beginning the process”, she said, the decision “should be made by the president who is elected on 3 November”.

    Collins is not alone among senators for whom the death of Ginsburg has given rise to a potential political crisis. In battleground states across the country – North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, South Carolina, Georgia – Republicans are locked in close re-election fights that could be tipped by the battle over the next supreme court justice.

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  10. Editorial

    In the battle over the US supreme court, Democrats can still have the last laugh

    If Biden wins, he could pack the courts. That would be a justified gesture of constitutional restoration, not usurpation

    Adding two additional justices to Court’s ranks would simply counterbalance the abuse of constitutional rules that enabled the confirmation of Gorsuch and RBG’s replacement.’ Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

    “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Such was the dying hope of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a wish the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is determined to deny the late, great justice.

    Recall: this is the same Mitch McConnell who, in the wake of Antonin Scalia’s death nine months before the 2016 election, solemnly announced: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next supreme court justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    Never mind that the “McConnell rule” lacked grounding in constitutional materials and historical practice. The constitution empowers the president to nominate justices and tasks the US Senate with confirming or rejecting them. In a 150-year span – from 1866 to 2016 – the Senate never once prevented a president from filling a US supreme court vacancy. But armed with a rule of his own invention and a Republican majority in the Senate, McConnell brazenly refused to so much as grant a hearing to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s eminently qualified nominee to fill the supreme court vacancy left by Scalia.

    But no sooner had news of Ginsburg’s death broke than McConnell promised a Senate vote on Donald Trump’s replacement nominee – notwithstanding the fact that we are but six weeks removed from a presidential election and early voting has already started in some places. It turns out that the McConnell rule had a serious catch – it only applies when different parties control the Senate and the White House. And so the McConnell non-rule can be stated crisply: Republican incumbents in election years get to fill supreme court vacancies, but not Democrats.

    To accuse McConnell of breathtaking hypocrisy is to waste our breath. The charge sticks only if the hypocrite feels a tug of conscience for failing to follow their pronounced principles. In McConnell’s case, one senses nothing but a cynical, chuckling pride in applying and abandoning made-up rules to justify whatever result he wants.

    And chuckle he should. McConnell’s cynical distortion of the Senate’s role in judicial confirmations has served his party well. In 2017, McConnell used the so-called “nuclear option” to end debate on Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the supreme court. (Gorsuch was Trump’s pick to fill the vacancy that Obama had chosen Garland to fill.) McConnell insisted this was simply payback for Harry Reid’s use of the same option, in 2013, to remove obstacles to Obama’s lower federal court appointments.

    But McConnell’s tit-for-tat argument obscured how he and his fellow Senate Republicans had weaponized the use of the filibuster during Obama’s presidency. From the time that cloture rules were introduced into the Senate in 1917 until the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the filibuster was deployed 385 times. During Obama’s presidency, Senate Republicans launched over 500 filibusters, many of them to block Obama’s appointments to the federal bench. Reid’s use of the nuclear option was something of a desperate response to Republican obstructionism – or, more precisely, nullification. When it came to shutting down a Democratic filibuster of Gorsuch’s confirmation, McConnell then used the very poisoned conditions that he had helped create to justify a yet more extreme act of partisanship.

    Adding two additional justices to court’s ranks would simply counterbalance the abuse of constitutional rules

    True, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that McConnell will be successful in his rush to replace Justice Ginsburg. The vetting and confirmation process can take weeks, even months. At present, McConnell presides over 53 Republican seats, and certain defections are possible, if not likely. Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican trailing in her re-election bid, has expressed reservations about a rushed, last-minute confirmation. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has already gone on record as opposing the confirmation of a new justice before the election.

    Yet the deeper question is not whether McConnell will be successful. It is how Democrats should respond if he is. The answer, of course, will turn on the results of the coming election. But should Democrats capture the White House and the Senate, they need to bear in mind that it is Congress and not the Constitution that sets the size of the supreme court. In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt, frustrated by a hidebound supreme court that had struck down New Deal laws, proposed expanding the number of justices to fifteen. That court-packing plan was rightly rejected by Congress as a heavy-handed attempt to manipulate the court’s composition to generate specific political outcomes.

    A new Democratic court-packing plan in 2021 would be prompted by a very different logic. Adding two additional justices to court’s ranks would simply counterbalance the abuse of constitutional rules that enabled the confirmation of Gorsuch and RBG’s replacement. Such an act would be a justified gesture of constitutional restoration, not usurpation. So much for Mitch McConnell’s chuckling.

    Lawrence Douglas is the James J Grosfeld professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought at Amherst College, Massachusetts. He is the author of Will He Go? Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020. He is also a contributing opinion writer for the Guardian US

    Read at the source

  11. Facebook Versus Democracy

    A staff revolt highlights the social media giant’s reactionary politics, which are rooted in both business strategy and ideology.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks via video conference during the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on Online Platforms and Market Power in the Rayburn House office on July 29, 2020, on Capitol Hill. (Mandel Ngan-Pool / Getty Images)

    Facebook, long criticized for facilitating hate speech and incitement all over the world, is finally cracking down on one particular form of incendiary rhetoric: any criticism of Facebook management. The company has an internal message board that mirrors the platform it provides to users, a kind of private Facebook. On that forum, employees have been increasingly critical of senior executives for their cozy relationship with Donald Trump and other authoritarian leaders, which often leads the company to violate its own stated policies about disseminating hate speech and political disinformation.

    As The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday,

    Facebook Inc. is moving to curb internal debate around divisive political and social topics, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday, after a spate of disputes and criticism that has fueled discord among staffers. The steps will include delineating which parts of the company’s internal messaging platform are acceptable for such discussions, and careful moderation of the discussions when they occur, Mr. Zuckerberg told employees at a company meeting, according to a spokesman. Employees shouldn’t have to confront social issues in their day-to-day work unless they want to, the CEO said.

    The internal crackdown on speech comes after a period of heightened tension between management and employees. One source of conflict was the repeated actions of head of policy Joel Kaplan, who had once been George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff, to carve out special exemptions for right-wing speech even when it violates Facebook’s rules.
    An extensive Bloomberg Businessweek report, also published on Thursday, traced the conflict back to Trump’s campaign in 2016. One pivotal incident was Trump’s posting in late May, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

    Trump posted these sentiments on both Twitter and Facebook. Twitter quickly hid the comments from users, with a note explaining that it broke the terms of service forbidding the glorification of violence. But, as Bloomberg Businessweek notes, “Trump’s post remained on Facebook, sparking a virtual walkout. Employees began criticizing Zuckerberg openly and leaking to the press.”

    The magazine goes on to observe that “a flurry of stories appeared over the next two months detailing instances that reinforced the suspicions about the alliance between Facebook and Trump. For instance, media outlets reported that the president had no negative hashtags associated with his name on Instagram, while Joe Biden had lots; that a Facebook employee was fired after complaining that the company seemed to be allowing far-right pundits, such as Diamond and Silk, to break rules about misinformation; and that an investigation into Ben Shapiro, whose site the Daily Wire routinely broke the rules to boost its audience, was thwarted by Kaplan’s policy group.”

    Read more at The Nation -or- Read a pdf of this article

  12. Rest In Peace Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thank You

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Dying Wish: DISSENT!

    To honor RBG, we’ve got to fight with all our might to reclaim the Supreme Court—and that means packing it.

    US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on her 20th anniversary on the bench, in August 2013. (Nikki Kahn / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

    She should have died hereafter.

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away tonight at the age of 87. I would like to mourn her. But even Ginsburg herself realized there would be no time for that. On her deathbed, she dictated a message that was recorded by her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Even near her end, Justice Ginsburg was citing precedent. Here, she was specifically invoking the precedent set by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell when he decided to hold open a seat on the Supreme Court vacated after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia (who died in February of 2016) until after the election that November and the inauguration of a new president in 2017.

    McConnell has already indicated that he doesn’t care about that precedent. Within hours of Ginsburg’s death, he told The Washington Post that Trump’s nominee to replace Ginsburg will receive a full vote on the Senate floor. McConnell will use all his considerable power to confirm a new Supreme Court justice in record time: either before the election, if he thinks he can get away with it, or during the lame duck session after the election, should Republicans lose either the Senate or the White House.

    Ginsburg herself surely knew this. Her deathbed dictation should not be read as the fleeting hope bubbles of a dying old lady, but as an exhortation to fight from the fiercest defender of women’s rights of her generation. This was her dying dissent: a message not about what Trump and McConnell should do, but about what we must do. We must not let her be “replaced” until a new president is installed.

    The prospects for near-term success are grim. McConnell has already removed the filibuster rule for Supreme Court appointments, which means he needs only 50 votes to confirm a new justice (since the vice president breaks any ties), and he has 53 Republicans. Democrats would have to convince four of those Republicans to agree to wait until after the election to move on a nominee. Even if political pressure can be brought against Republicans in close Senate races to reject McConnell’s hypocrisy, Democrats would have to keep those Republicans on board, against McConnell, through the transition to the next presidential term. It’s entirely possible that some of those vulnerable Republicans will lose their election campaigns anyway, and thus have no real reason to stick with Democrats before the inauguration, instead of voting with their party as they transition to their post-electoral careers in Republican politics.

    Read more

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘My Most Fervent Wish Is That I Will Not Be Replaced Until a New President Is Installed’

    May her memory be a blessing, and may we fight to assure that she will truly rest in power.

    US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Jeff Chiu / AP Photo)

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg swore an oath to defend the Constitution when she joined the United States Supreme Court in August of 1993. With true faith and allegiance to that oath, she made it clear in the last years of her remarkable tenure that she did not want Donald Trump to choose her successor. Before the president was elected, Justice Ginsburg said, “I can’t imagine what this place would be—I can’t imagine what the country would be—with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be—I don’t even want to contemplate that.”

    The senior liberal on a delicately balanced high court—where she had served as a courageous and consistent champion of women’s rights, civil rights, and voting rights—spoke those words in July of 2016.

    For four long years, Justice Ginsburg kept the faith—battling cancer and advancing years. Just days before her death Friday, at age 87, the justice dictated a statement to her granddaughter Clara Spera that read: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

    That was not her wish alone. Tens of millions shared it. Now, however, the dread prospect is upon us.

    Thousands gathered outside the Supreme Court building Friday night to mourn. They recognized immediately that we must honor Justice Ginsburg’s service—not merely because, as Chief Justice John Roberts said Friday evening, “our Nation has lost a jurist of historic stature,” but because of this remarkable woman’s epic role in advancing the cause of gender equity. “Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, the first Jewish woman, and a voice for all Americans, not just the wealthy and powerful,” said Alliance for Justice president Nan Aron. “Justice Ginsburg blazed trails on her way to greatness, authoring and joining opinions that advanced women’s equality, LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedoms, and so many other protections so many hold dear.”

    “She was a giant, and we shall not see her likes again,” said American Constitution Society President Russ Feingold, a former member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who observed that “by means of her towering intellect and unflinching courage, she blazed a path toward a better life for American women, and all Americans.”

    This is a time to grieve, and to reflect.

    Yet Justice Ginsburg has died in a presidential election year—just 46 days before Donald Trump will face his day of reckoning with the voters.

    It does not disrespect the justice’s memory to speak in this moment of honoring the Notorious RBG’s most fervent wish.

    But keeping faith will not be easy.

    This president is determined to nominate someone to replace Justice Ginsburg. “He really has an ego,” she said of Trump back in 2016, and it is unimaginable that this man’s ego would allow him to respect the wishes of the woman whose seat on the high court is now vacant. Most likely, Trump will move quickly. Most likely, he will nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whom the president placed on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

    But this is not Trump’s choice alone.

    Trump’s nominee must be approved by the full Senate.

    Read more

  13. This is followup to the story I posted earlier by Galbraith

    Fool Me Twice: How Democrats Risk Repeating the Mistakes of the Financial Crisis in the Era of Covid-19

    Economist James Galbraith explains what the U.S. economy will need to get back on its feet.

    As the U.S. economy was spiralling out of control in 2008 and 2009, economist James Galbraith predicted that an insufficiently large stimulus would lead to a prolonged recession. He was right, and today he has a different set of economic prescriptions to address the economic crisis brought on by Covid-19. If Biden wins, will he listen? Senior politics editor Nausicaa Renner talks to Galbraith about his recent piece for The Intercept.

    Ryan Grim: In the fall of 2008, the U.S. economy was spinning out of control. The housing crisis had sent the financial sector into a tailspin, and Wall Street demanded that Congress pony up a $700 billion, no-strings-attached bailout. If they didn’t, there would be financial armageddon.

    With a gun to its head, Congress passed the bailout bill. Huge payouts were made to financial institutions with little accountability, and the Great Recession followed.

    Twelve years later, it’s starting to feel a bit like déjà vu, isn’t it?

    Sen. Bernie Sanders: Some of our Republican friends still have not given up on the need to punish the poor and working people.

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: One of the largest corporate bailouts, with as few strings as possible in American history.

    Robert Reich: Now is not the time to worry about the national debt.

    [Musical interlude.]

    RG: Today on the show, we’re gonna talk to someone who made the right call when it counted — 12 years ago. Someone who predicted that the approach the white house was taking was too weak to seriously address the banking and housing crises. Because if we want to avoid the mistakes of 2008 and 2009, we might want to listen to him this time around.

    I’m Ryan Grim, D.C. bureau chief for The Intercept. Welcome to Deconstructed.

    Read more

  14. From the “Never Trumpers aren’t necessarily your friend” department

    Why Does The Washington Post Publish This Never-Trump Drivel?

    A recent op-ed by AEI’s Danielle Pletka is the latest evidence of the immense bad faith of conservatives.

    Drew Angerer/Getty Images

    Three weeks ago, as protests against police violence raged in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, Never Trumpers had a stern warning for Joe Biden: Condemn the violence or lose the election. Never mind that Biden had condemned rioting and looting, repeatedly, for months. If he didn’t find a Sister Souljah moment—a reference to Bill Clinton’s dog-whistle attack on a virtually unknown rapper in 1992—and assert “independence” from the progressive left, argued George Will in The Washington Post, he could be in serious trouble.

    Those calls came at a moment when polls showed Biden and Donald Trump inching toward one another. Trump’s favorability even appeared to flutter upward. Given the role that riots played in the 1968 election, the assumption was that what was true 50 years ago was also true today: Urban violence helps the Republican law and order man and hurts the weak-kneed Democrat. It didn’t matter that America has changed significantly since then, or that the Republican law and order man, in this case, is the incumbent presiding over all this alleged chaos.

    Three weeks later, those calls seem opportunistic. Pundits like Will waited for a moment of maximum bed-wetting to insist that a Democrat campaign like a Jeb Bush Republican. But the feared collapse of Biden’s campaign hasn’t happened; indeed, polling has showed that voters favor Biden over Trump on the issue of law and order. So what’s a political hack to do?

    Earlier this week, Danielle Pletka provided an answer: Ignore all the evidence and keep insisting, as loudly as possible, that Biden must do more to placate conservatives. Her op-ed in The Washington Post, headlined “I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year,” is not just another example of the rot at the core of what’s left of the conservative movement. It’s also the clearest sign yet that the Biden campaign can afford to dial back its significant overtures to figures like Pletka, and that media institutions like the Post op-ed page need to tighten up their standards to avoid running incoherent drivel by bad-faith conservatives.

    Pletka casts herself as your standard Never Trump figure, a sensible Republican who is repulsed by Trump’s “erratic, personality-driven decision-making” and disgusting personality. “I don’t need a bumper sticker or a lawn sign to convey my distaste for Trump—his odious tweets, his chronic mendacity and general crudeness,” she writes. Joe Biden, in contrast, is a “decent” person. This juxtaposition would seemingly be enough for a Never Trumper—particularly a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who is appalled whenever vulgarity and politics align—to make the right choice.

    But, alas, there are greater evils than megalomania, constant lying, and several credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Something sinister is afoot on the left. Joe Biden, she writes, would be a Manchurian president, a Trojan Horse containing an army of leftist boogeymen. He “would be a figurehead president, incapable of focus or leadership, who would run a teleprompter presidency with the words drafted by his party’s hard-left ideologues,” she writes. This 77-year-old lifetime moderate and former vice president known for his across-the-aisle backslapping and advocacy on behalf of the credit card industry is little more than a stooge of the Squad.

    This argument channels—coincidentally, I’m sure—the president’s own. It’s an op-ed that works by omission, to the extent it works at all. Pletka proudly lists her anti-Trump bona fides—which basically start and end at not voting for him in 2016 and thinking he’s gross—but neglects to mention that she was also proudly “Never Hillary.” Her own career as a far-right political operative who worked for segregationist Jesse Helms also goes unmentioned. Biden’s political career is memory-holed, as is his bedrock identity as a moderate, beyond being “decent.”

    Also skipped over is the fact that Biden, arguably the most moderate candidate in the Democratic primary race, bested a number of progressives in his path to the nomination. Why would Biden exert so much energy running against Medicare for All and the party’s left wing only to bow to it once he reaches the White House?

    None of it adds up, but apparently Pletka isn’t alone in feeling this way. “I cannot even count the number of people from whom I have heard this exact argument, in conversations & private emails,” tweeted National Review’s Dan McLaughlin.

    Pletka writes that she fears “the leftward lurch of the Democratic Party” even more than what’s happening now under this president. That, alone, is demented. On the one hand, you have activists demanding universal health care, corporate tax increases, and green energy, and on the other, you have the worst pandemic response in the world, family separation, demagoguery, corruption, xenophobia. Pletka argues that a Biden victory would “begin an assault on the institutions of government that preserve the nation’s small ‘d’ democracy,” while Trump makes the case that any election result that doesn’t end with him winning is illegitimate. There’s pearl-clutching about liberal groupthink, but no mention of the fact that Trump has turned the GOP into a personality cult in which anything the Dear Leader says becomes gospel. There are the usual lazy attacks on cancel culture and critical race theory but no mention of the president’s praise for white nationalists—or the fact that Trump and the right cancel plenty.

    The failures of this op-ed speak to a larger problem at the Post. Under Jeff Bezos’s ownership, the paper has come a long way in challenging the supremacy of The New York Times. But the Post’s opinion page is still stuck in the past, its credibility damaged by hacks like Pletka, Hugh Hewitt, and Marc Thiessen. The Post, in part because it is still viewed as being in the shadow of the Times, has avoided the scrutiny that its competitor receives, but its opinion coverage is so much worse—as Pletka’s op-ed testifies.

    The idea that Biden is a Manchurian president is catnip to Republicans like Pletka for a simple reason. For the last four years, conservatives like her have insisted that they find the president abhorrent, that they hold country over party, that they would gladly vote for a “reasonable” alternative to him. In Joe Biden, one would have to conclude, they got their wish. He ran against Medicare for All and the Green New Deal; the progressive policies he has adopted are vaguely defined and easily abandoned. Most importantly, he’s done everything possible to woo Republicans. The Democrats turned their convention into a four-day lovefest aimed at winning over Trump-skeptical Republicans.

    And yet this isn’t enough. One almost gets the sense that she wanted to vote for Trump the whole time.

    Alex Shephard @alex_shephard

    Article printed in full but here’s the link anyway

  15. From the “Trump shoots both his feet” department

    TikTok: Trump questions Oracle deal if ByteDance keeps stake

    President warns any agreement to continue operating in US must be ‘100% as far as national security is concerned’

    Any deal between Oracle and TikTok would also need the approval of the Chinese authorities. Photograph: Florence Lo/Reuters

    You can read the story at the link but the key takeaway here is this is not the deal Trump wanted. This is a deal where Trump supporter and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is trying to help Trump save face.

    What’s really going down here is the opening of a huge can of worms where other companies in other countries will demand they same kind of sweetheart deal Trump may be giving to Oracle. This watered down deal may result in profits for Oracle but it will not address the “national security” concerns Trump made his cornerstone. China is not going to cave and if Trump follows through on his threat to block TikTok in the U.S. he will alienate 100M+ Americans many of whom are voters.

    Another Trump business boondoggle.

    Read story at The Guardian

  16. Republican memo warns US Senate ‘at risk’ of falling into Democratic control

    Memo summarizes senate races of 10 states and how the outcome of each could determine who controls the Senate

    Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. Democrats are ‘even eyeing states like South Carolina, where Jaime Harrison reported raising a staggering $10.6m in August alone.’ Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

    A memo by Senate Republicans’ campaign arm has admitted that control of the upper chamber is “at risk” and that Democrats could win the Senate in November’s elections.

    The September 2020 political update from the National Republican Senatorial Committee summarizes the state of the race of 10 states with Senate races around the country and how the outcome of each could factor into whether Republicans or Democrats control the chamber in January.

    The memo, obtained by the Guardian, has been circulating among political operatives, donors and interested parties. It comes just shy of 50 days before the November 2020 elections.

    “The next few weeks will define the future of our country for generations to come,” the NRSC memo reads.

    Memos like these are often shaped like dispassionate updates but in actuality they are often used to convince interested parties that races slipping out of reach are still in play. They are also often used to juice donations to lagging candidates and counter trending narratives.

    Democrats need to pick up three or four seats to take control of the Senate. The fact that the NRSC memo categorizes seven Senate races as ones that simply can’t be lost or deserve serious attention suggests that it’s possible, but not certain that Democrats can take control of the Senate.

    “Make no mistake: the Senate Majority is at risk. Beyond the four battleground states of Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona and Maine, Democrats are going on offense in historically red states like Montana, Iowa and Georgia,” the memo continues. “They’re even eyeing states like South Carolina, where [Democrat] Jaime Harrison just reported raising a staggering $10.6m in August alone.”

    Read more

  17. Trump squirms in TV spotlight as voters pin him down on Covid, health and race

    The president stepped outside his Fox News bubble on Tuesday night – and endured a barrage of criticism he couldn’t bat back

    In a rare excursion outside the friendly media bubble of Fox News on Tuesday night, Donald Trump took questions directly from uncommitted American voters at a televised “town hall” type event, in an experiment his campaign might not be in a hurry to repeat.
    Trump insists October vaccine possible despite CDC director’s caution – as it happened
    Read more

    Under sometimes aggressive questioning from ordinary members of the voting public about healthcare, immigration and the coronavirus, Trump at times twisted in the spotlight, narrowing his eyes at a question about the “race problem in America” and trying to interrupt another voter’s question about health insurance.

    But the voter shut the president down. “Please stop and let me finish my question, sir,” said the questioner, Ellesia Blaque, a professor from Philadelphia who explained that as a Black woman with a pre-existing health condition, “I’m minimized and not taken seriously.”

    Trump looked away sourly, but did not try to interrupt again.

    Read more

  18. Most plastic will never be recycled – and the manufacturers couldn’t care less
    Arwa Mahdawi

    Oil and gas companies make far more money churning out new plastic than reusing old. Meanwhile, the public gets the blame

    Is recycling plastic a waste of our time? Photograph: Witthaya Prasongsin/Getty Images/iStockphoto

    Plastic recycling is a scam. You diligently sort your rubbish, you dutifully wash your plastic containers, then everything gets tossed in a landfill or thrown in the ocean anyway. OK, maybe not everything – but the vast majority of it. According to one analysis, only 9% of all plastic ever made has likely been recycled. Here’s the kicker: the companies making all that plastic have spent millions on advertising campaigns lecturing us about recycling while knowing full well that most plastic will never be recycled.

    A new investigation by National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) reports that the large oil and gas companies that manufacture plastics have known for decades that recycling plastic was unlikely to ever happen on a broad scale because of the high costs involved. “They were not interested in putting any real money or effort into recycling because they wanted to sell virgin material,” Larry Thomas, former president of one of the plastic industry’s most powerful trade groups, told NPR. There is a lot more money to be made in selling new plastic than reusing the old stuff. But, in order to keep selling new plastic, the industry had to clean up its wasteful image. “If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they are not going to be as concerned about the environment,” Thomas noted. And so a huge amount of resources were diverted into intricate “sustainability theatre”.

    Multinationals misleading people for profit? Hold the front page! While the plastics industry’s greenwashing will come as no surprise to anyone, the extent of the deception alleged in NPR’s investigation is truly shocking. (I should state for the record that an industry representative interviewed by NPR contested the idea that the public was intentionally misled, although he does “understand the scepticism”.)

    The subterfuge around recycling plastic is also an important reminder of just how cynically and successfully big companies have shifted the burden of combating the climate crisis on to individuals. This might be best encapsulated in a famous ad campaign that aired in the US during the 1970s with the slogan “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.” The campaign was created by a non-profit group called Keep America Beautiful, which happened to be heavily funded by beverage and packaging companies with a vested interest in convincing people that they were the ones to blame for a polluted planet, not capitalism.

    Read more

  19. Dear news media, stop covering the US as if it’s a democracy

    The US is on its way to becoming an authoritarian state. That requires a radically different kind of journalism that doesn’t just cover the news, but defends democracy.

    Images by Thomas Kuijpers (for The Correspondent)

    The problem with the fall of a democracy is that it doesn’t simply happen, like a rain shower or a thunderstorm. It unfolds, like the slow and steady warming of the climate.

    Liberties aren’t eliminated, they are restricted and violated – until they erode. Rights aren’t abolished, they are undermined and trampled – until they become privileges. Truths aren’t buried, they are mocked and twisted – until everyone has their own.

    A democracy doesn’t stumble and fall; it slides into decline.

    The problem with daily news is that it obsesses over what’s happening, making it harder to grasp what unfolds. Breaking news, by its nature, is ill-equipped to cover the demise of democracy – just as the weather report never really shows us the climate is changing.

    Breaking news shows the world as a place of sheer madness without rhyme or reason – a non-stop series of unrelated events. It’s like a diary without a memory or a notion of the future: it tells us of today, while it has forgotten all about yesterday, and pretending there’s no tomorrow. It warns and warns and warns, but immediately forgets what it’s warning against – thus never learning from its own wailing sirens.

    For four years, US news has been what you get when you combine a North Korean obsession with the head of state with Rupert Murdoch’s business model

    For the past four years, ever since Donald J Trump took presidential office, this fundamental flaw in the fabric of news has hit harder than ever before.

    For four years, US news has been what you get when you combine a North Korean obsession with the head of state with Rupert Murdoch’s business model. A deranged cult of personality, interrupted only by commercial breaks. A presidential hypnosis, paid for by Procter & Gamble and Amazon. A totalitarian Twitterocracy in which we lurch from incident, to riot, to tweet, to disaster, to lunacy, to lie, to crisis, to disbelief, to attack, to mudslinging, to insult, to conspiracy theory, without facing the consequences of the pattern – the steady slide into decline.

    The disturbing story behind all this frenzied chaos of news is that of a country that is a democracy in name only, a kleptocracy
    in actual practice, and well on its way to becoming an autocracy
    full stop.

    Finish at The Correspondent . -or- Read as pdf

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