A Republican Congressman Who isn’t a Wacko!

Who is he?

A few hints: He voted to accept the results of the 2020 vote, AND to impeach Trump.

He also represents the same district that Justin Amash and Gerald Ford used to.

He also is being attacked by the Trumpisters and is resigned to the fact that he may be a one-term Congressman.

He had a long interview at The View. I found reading the transcript somewhat hopeful — perhaps more Republicans will snap out of their craziness. I am cutting and pasting some of the most trenchant paragraphs.

============================

Peter Meijer (the Congressman): … the rhetoric and the narrative in the public was wildly out of step with what more serious minds were discussing in the halls of Congress. A lot of my colleagues who were planning to object to the Electoral College certification, most of those objections hinged upon an interpretation of Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, around the time, place and manner of elections, and how state legislatures had primacy in determining electoral processes. Now, it was an argument being made selectively against six states that the president had lost, and not being made in a dozen plus states that he had won. So I had issues on the consistency.

But a lot of the folks who were arguing to not certify the Electoral College results — and specifically, Arizona and Pennsylvania ended up being challenged with a Senator joining, so they were brought to the floor. It wasn’t that this was a massively fraudulent stolen election. It was much more grounded arcane basis, but with the understanding that this is an attempt for us to talk more about the process. That was the feeling inside the chamber. Those were the conversations. And then contrast that with President Trump’s Twitter account, and you see how two worlds of thought emerged. The world that said, this was actually a landslide victory for Donald Trump, that it was all stolen away and changed, and votes were flipped in Dominion Voting Systems.

And then you just go into the fever swamp of conspiracy theories. That’s what a lot of the supporters of the president were told. And that’s where some could argue, oh, when we meant stop the steal, we just meant, again, we don’t like these electoral process modifications. But that’s not how it came across.

Michael Barbaro (interviewer): Well, congressman, you sound like you’re being quite sympathetic toward your Republican colleagues in the House who chose not to certify the results. Do you think that those arguments and sentiments were genuine on their part?

Peter Meijer: I think, for some, absolutely. Again, I have disagreements. I do think some arrived at those conclusions in a genuine way. It’s —

Michael Barbaro: Because I think their support undeniably contributed, along with the president’s claims, to a pretty widespread consensus among Republicans that was baseless, right? That the election had been fraudulent. You really don’t think that they were operating primarily out of fear of their constituents and of the president in making these objections?

Peter Meijer: I’m not going to speak to what’s in their hearts. I know that I was watching the president’s speech on January 6. I was watching the speeches that came before it, the threats from members of the Trump family that if we didn’t object and try to change the results — there was a tremendous amount of political pressure. […]

Going into the Electoral College certification, I thought it would be one of the toughest votes of this term because of how many people were calling in and sharing, oftentimes easily disprovable, Facebook screenshots or sending a report. And I’d say, well, I’ve read this and I’ve looked into these citations, or I’ve actually called that clerk — and just how much got amplified. And it was a kind of a game of factual whack-a-mole. You would push back on one thing, such as, well, 60 of the 61 cases that the Trump campaign brought, they lost. And the one they won was very minor, and I think it was a temporary stay.

And then the pushback is, well, they were dismissed due to a lack of standing. OK, I mean, that’s a response, but that’s also not a good response. Well, here was all the widespread fraud? Well then, how come even the president’s lawyers were not arguing in court that there was fraud?

And you just find me a law enforcement body that has actually substantiated any of this, an investigative body, a court of law, anything that we can point to in a credible manner. But the point is, I mean, a lot of our constituents felt that this had been a stolen election because people they looked to and trusted told them that it was.

Michael Barbaro: Right, including congresspeople.

Peter Meijer: Including members of Congress.

Michael Barbaro: You seem to be nibbling around the edges of this, but I just want to state it really clearly. You saw a distinction in what your Republican colleagues in the House were up to. They were concerned about a process, frankly mail-in voting during a pandemic and whether it was done properly. But the way their concerns were being interpreted by their voters — and alongside the president’s public claims — was that a massive fraud had been perpetrated, Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent.

And I just have to say it feels to me that many of these colleagues of yours must have known that that would be the impact. You can’t really divorce what they’re doing from what the president is doing and say, oh, they had a higher minded approach to this.

Peter Meijer: There’s a reason why I voted to certify both. There’s a reason why I signed on to a surprisingly cross-ideological letter stating why we believe that the challenge process was unwise. I think the individual arguments — I understand how some could make it. It was when the collective argument became something completely different. The whole was a more dangerous version of the sum of its parts.Michael Barbaro

I’m sensing that very early on, you are already figuring out how to navigate your way in a Republican Party where you and your views are in the minority.Peter Meijer

There was immense pressure. And again, I don’t want this to come across that any one individual’s vote was influenced solely by one thing or the other. But I had colleagues who were resigned to the fact that they may get primaried because they wouldn’t vote to object to Electoral College certification in one state or another, that this would guarantee them they would fall on the wrong side of an out-of-office Donald Trump, who has hundreds of millions of dollars in the campaign account.

I had another colleague who expressed concern about that colleague’s family and their safety if he voted to — how he were to be interpreted if he voted to affirm a stolen election. So I think there was just a ton of pressure from a variety of angles. And myself, I had consigned myself that this would be probably a potentially fatal — I thought I could survive it — but a potentially fatal political vote.

[He describes at some length the horrors of being in the Capitol on January 6, then finding out the Capitol has been breached and then having to hide with the rest of the members of Congress for their very lives. Afterwards:]

Peter Meijer: I had hoped that folks would see, I mean, just the fire that was being played with. And then I think several senators did. I mean, many of the objections that had been raised were withdrawn.

Michael Barbaro: But not many House members.

Peter Meijer: There were a handful. And I get it. I mean, the names were signed. Right? The statements had been put out. They had been talking about it on social media. It wasn’t the easiest thing to undo. But let me put it this way. There were a number of folks who got up on the floor and gave the same speech that night, while there was a crime scene investigation and a dead woman’s blood drying a couple of feet outside the door, they were giving the same speech that evening they had written this morning. Maybe a throwaway line about condemning political violence.

But I mean, just the dissonance, it was staggering.

Michael Barbaro: Right. Let me ask you this. Were you disappointed by the number of House colleagues who, after what had just happened that day, after their own lives had been threatened, went on and voted to object to Biden’s win?

Peter Meijer: I think there was just a disbelief. I get the sense that sometimes, especially if you’re running in a district where winning the primary means you win the general, you get these feedback loops. And where —

Michael Barbaro: But you’re talking — you’re talking politics, and I get that. But I’m asking if you, in your heart of hearts, were disappointed.

Peter Meijer: Yes. Yes. Can I go back to politics?

www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/living-in-the-age-of-the-white-mob

Sadly, racist White mob violence has defined this country much more than progressive movements for most of US history.

Yet another military cheating scandal

I think this is the money quote from the New York Times article on the latest case of over 70 West Point cadets cheating on a calculus test:

“…cheating is a recurring problem at the academies; decades of surveys suggest most cadets get away with it, and only about 20 percent are caught.”

Think about that when you think about the US military officers who graduated from West Point, Annapolis, or the Coast Guard or Air Force academies.

Trump apparently up to his old racist tricks

DJT and his father were famously charged with racial bias in renting apartments long ago.

It appears that he’s been doing the same thing at Trump Hotel here in DC (the old Post Office building). His staff repeatedly refused to rent rooms to Black individuals, or even to allow them to enter, while allowing White individuals to do so.

Link to Washington Business Journal article with details here.

Published in: on December 22, 2020 at 11:35 am  Leave a Comment  

How Will We Pay For This?

This question is never really asked about all the extremely expensive surveillance spyware and high-tech munitions. It’s only asked about things that will HELP people and the planet, such as the Green New Deal.

The following essay, from Forbes, argues that ‘we’ can pay for all of the suggested GND infrastructure improvements the old fashioned way: printing money. And that no, it won’t lead to inflation – in fact, we have now had 40 years of DEflation, which is much worse.

====================================================================================

90,142 views|Jan 16, 2019,07:15pm EST

The Green New Deal: How We Will Pay For It Isn’t ‘A Thing’ – And Inflation Isn’t Either

Robert Hockett

Robert HockettContributor

Markets

I cover law, justice, money, finance and economics.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s announcement of an ambitious new Green New Deal Initiative in Congress has brought predictable – and predictably silly – callouts from conservative pundits and scared politicians. ‘How will we pay for it?,’ they ask with pretend-incredulity, and ‘what about debt?’ ‘Won’t we have to raise taxes, and will that not crowd-out the job creators?’

Representative Ocasio-Cortez already has given the best answer possible to such queries, most of which seem to be raised in bad faith. Why is it, she retorts, that these questions arise only in connection with useful ideas, not wasteful ideas? Where were the ‘pay-fors’ for Bush’s $5 trillion wars and tax cuts, or for last year’s $2 trillion tax giveaway to billionaires? Why wasn’t financing those massive throwaways as scary as financing the rescue of our planet and middle class now seems to be to these naysayers?

The short answer to ‘how we will pay for’ the Green New Deal is easy. We’ll pay for it just as we pay for all else: Congress will authorize necessary spending, and Treasury will spend. This is how we do it – always has been, always will be.

The money that’s spent, for its part, is never ‘raised’ first. To the contrary, federal spending is what brings that money into existence.

If years of bad or no economic education make that ring counterintuitive to you, you’re not alone: politicians and pundits who ought to know better are with you. But the problem is readily remedied: just take a look at a dollar (or five dollar, or ten dollar, or … dollar) bill. The face you see is George Washington’s – a public official’s – not yours or some other private sector person’s. The signatures you’ll find, for their part, are those of the Treasurer and the Treasury Secretary, not yours or some other private sector person’s. And the inscription you’ll read across the top is ‘Federal Reserve Note,’ not ‘Private Sector Sally’s Note.’

‘Note’ here, note carefully, means ‘promissory note.’ Money betokens a promise. Hence money’s relation to credit. We’ll come back to this later. The money that Treasury spends is, in any event, jointly Fed- and Treasury-issued, not privately issued. That is to say it’s the citizenry’s issuance, not some single citizen’s issuance. It’s like a promise we make to each other. Hence the term ‘full faith and credit’ you’ll hear about when asking what ‘backs’ our currency and our Treasury securities.

This fact of public finance bears real consequences. Chief among them for present purposes is that ‘raising the money’ is never the relevant question for federal spending, any more than ‘finding the promises’ is a question for people who make and keep promises to one another. The relevant question, rather, is what limits, if any, there are on the promises we can make and fulfill. How many promissory notes, in other words, can Fed and Treasury issue without ‘over-promising’?

This is, effectively, the question of inflation – the question of promises’ outstripping capacity to redeem promises and hence losing credibility as promises. (The ‘cred’ of ‘credibility’ is the ‘cred’ of ‘credit,’ not to mention of ‘credo’ – or ‘faith.’) This is precisely why lawyers, accountants, and economists schooled in the simple mechanics of public finance always tell you the relevant constraint upon spending is not some non-existent ‘fundraising constraint,’ but ‘the inflation constraint,’ also known as ‘the resource constraint.’

The truth of the resource constraint is that money usually can be publicly issued and spent only at a rate commensurate with new goods and services supply. If the money supply grows too rapidly for goods and services to keep up, you get the old problem of ‘too many dollars chasing too few goods’ – inflation. If the money supply grows too slowly to keep up with productive capacity, you get the opposite problem – deflation, a far more serious threat, as we’ve seen since the crash of ‘08.

Over the past four decades or so, inflation in consumer goods markets – so-called ‘Consumer Price Inflation,’ or ‘CPI’ – has been by and large nonexistent in the ‘developed’ world. Our problem has been just the opposite – deflation. That is what slow, ‘anemic,’ and even ‘negative’ growth rates across the ‘mature’ economies in recent decades have been about. What inflation we’ve had has been concentrated in financial markets, where the ever-more rich in our ever-more unequal societies gamble their winnings. Meanwhile those below the top have had to spend less and borrow more, bringing deflation and, worse still, debt-deflations after the financial crashes inevitably brought on by asset price hyperinflations in our financial markets.

Which takes us to the Green New Deal. Representative Ocasio-Cortez, whose educational background is in economics, understands as few leaders seem to do that our problems of late have been problems of deflation, not inflation. She also knows well that both inequality and the loss of our middle class have both caused and been worsened by these deflationary trends, along with their mirror images in the financial markets: our asset price hyperinflations – ‘bubbles’ – and busts. Her Green New Deal aims to do nothing short of reversing this slow-motion national suicide – and end our ongoing ‘planet-cide’ in the process.

Because the Green New Deal aims at reversing undeniable long-term deflationary trends in our national economy, there is reason already to deem inflation fears, sure to be stoked by conservative pundits and scared politicians, a silly canard. But we can go further than this. We can catalogue theoretical, empirical, and policy instrument reasons to laugh such fears off.

The theoretical case against inflation worries is straightforward and comes in two parts. Recall the popular ‘too much money chasing too few goods’ adage above. What this slogan captures is that inflation is always a relational matter. It’s about money supply in relation to goods and services supply.

The Green New Deal aims to stoke massive production of a vast array of new products, from solar panels to windmills to new battery and charging station technologies to green power grids and hydroelectric power generation facilities. The new production and new productivity that renewed infrastructure will bring will be virtually unprecedented in our nation’s history. This will be more than enough to absorb all new money spent into our economy. It will also distinguish the Green New Deal starkly from pseudo-stimulus plans of the recent past, none of which flowed to production or infrastructure and nearly all of which simply inflated financial markets.

The second theoretical reason not to fret about Green New Deal inflation is related to but distinct from the first. It is that our economy now is operating at far below capacity even as is, before the Green New Deal adds to capacity. Labor force participation rates still languish at historic lows, and wages and salaries have yet to catch up even to such little growth as we’ve had since our crash of ten years ago. Indeed they have stagnated for decades. These are classic indicators of slack – slack which by definition is opportunity-squandering, and which the Green New Deal now aims to ‘take up.’

The empirical case against inflation worries corroborates the theoretical case, and can also be made from a number of angles. Note first that billions of dollars in tax cuts flowed into the economy during the Reagan years, while multiple trillions more in both tax cuts and war spending flowed during the George W. Bush years. The tax cuts of December 2017 pumped yet more trillions – two of them – into the economy just a bit over a year ago. And still we have seen nothing – nothing – in the way of undesired price inflation in consumer goods and services markets. Indeed no ‘developed’ economy has seen significant CPI inflation for some forty years. Why do inflation ‘Chicken Littles’ think ‘this time [or place] is different?’

My referring to ‘undesired’ price inflation just now hints at another empirical reason to scoff at inflation scolds. Since 2012, the Fed has formally aimed at a 2% inflation target that it has informally targeted even longer. Yet in only a few quarters during all of these years has

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House... [+] floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, on the first day of the 116th Congress with Democrats holding the majority. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y, and Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., stand together on the House… [+]

 ASSOCIATED PRESS

it managed, just barely, to reach it. If the Fed with its massive balance sheet cannot get our inflation rate up to its very low 2% target even while trying to do so, why does Chicken Little think things will grow scary even should the Fed seek one day to tamp prices down?

The final empirical reason to dismiss the inflation Scaredy Cats comes from investors themselves. For years now the Treasury Department has issued ‘inflation-protected’ securities along with traditional ones. The ‘spread’ between prices of the former and prices of the latter is effectively a measure of investors’ inflationary expectations: if they are willing to pay substantially more for inflation-protected than for ordinary Treasurys, they have substantial inflation fears; otherwise not. So what is that spread? It is virtually nil, and has been for years.

But what if the Green New Deal works so well that inflation comes anyway, Chicken Little now asks, notwithstanding all the theoretical and empirical reasons to discount such worries? Here we find even more reasons for comfort. For the ‘toolbox’ of counter-inflationary policy instruments is filled to near overflowing. Let’s consider a few of them.

We can begin with the familiar. Targeted taxes and bond sales, long familiar to most of us, have long been employed to absorb ‘excess money’ during times of high growth. This is precisely what they are for. Because money is issued by citizenrys rather than citizens as noted above, sovereign taxes and bond sales are never about ‘raising money,’ but about ‘lowering money aggregates.’ If inflation should one day emerge, we shall use them accordingly. Once again: always have, always will.

We should note also that such tools can be targeted at specific sources of inflation. A financial transaction tax such as that favored by Representative Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, would operate on financial market inflation – asset price ‘bubbles’ – of the sort that have plagued us in recent years. A ‘value added tax’ – a ‘VAT’ – on particular items that become objects of speculation would work similarly. Such are the real aims of taxation – to act on incentives and press down on price pressures – not to ‘raise money’ we already issue. We know how to use them, and can use them again should it ever prove necessary.

Similar truths hold of the other familiar anti-inflationary policy instrument just mentioned – sovereign bond sales. Treasury already offers a variety of these instruments, classified by time-to-maturity and yield. Such classification offers the option of soaking up money from different sectors of society, from those seeking short-term yield to those seeking longer-term yield. These sales are swaps of unspendable instruments for spendable instruments – dollars, a.k.a. ‘legal tender.’ The New York Fed trading desk does this daily to fine-tune the money supply – we call its activities ‘open market operations.’ It would do likewise, save in the opposite direction, were inflation ever again to become ‘a thing.’

Turning now to less familiar policy instruments, note next that much of financial regulation both can be and should be deployed in the cause of what I call money modulation – that is, inflation- and deflation-prevention. Banks ‘create’ – they generate – money by lending; any banker will tell you that. So do most other financial institutions – especially those of the so-called ‘shadow banking’ sector. This is the sense in which credit is money, or what smart economists call ‘credit-money.’

Regulations that we impose upon credit-extension are accordingly regulations on money-creation. Require banks to raise more equity capital per dollar’s worth of credit that they extend, and you effectively lessen the amount of dollar-denominated credit, hence money, that they can generate. Place greater limits on what kinds of lending or investing they can do, and you do likewise.

We call these things ‘capital’ (or ‘leverage’) and ‘portfolio’ regulation, respectively. And though we initially developed them to protect individual institutions and their depositors or investors, we now use them also to modulate credit aggregates economy-wide. It’s called ‘macroprudential regulation,’ and its rediscovery post-crash in the last decade is one of the signal achievements of the post-crisis era. But its importance for Green New Deal purposes is that it’s a powerful anti-inflationary as well as anti-deflationary tool, all thanks to money’s relation to credit.

As if these tools were not enough, there are yet others we could use but don’t use as yet, presumably because we’ve not needed to yet. I’ve proposed these in other work. One is for the New York Fed trading desk to buy or sell not only Treasury securities of varying maturities and yields, but also other financial instruments – in order to target specific prices of broad economic significance when they grow too low or too high (what I call ‘systemically important prices’).

During the Fed’s experiments with ‘quantitative easing’ (‘QE’), for example, commodity prices ended up rising in ways that harmed lower income Americans. I therefore proposed the Fed ‘short’ commodities in its open market operations to put downward pressure on their prices. Though I worked at the Fed at the time, the central bank didn’t take me up on my suggestion. But it could have done so. And it can in the future, in as narrowly targeted a manner as necessary, if ever inflation emerges. And with a balance sheet of its size, it can influence prices quite massively.

A final way we might combat inflation, should it ever emerge, is by use of a new infrastructure that I’ve proposed elsewhere. Suppose, for a moment, that the Fed offered what I call interest-bearing ‘Citizen Accounts’ for all citizens, instead of just offering ‘reserve accounts’ to privileged banks as it does now. Were it to do so, we’d not only eliminate our nation’s ‘financial inclusion’ problem in one swoop, we’d also gain a most powerful money modulation tool.

During deflations like that after 2008, for example, the Fed could drop debt-free ‘helicopter money’ directly into Citizen Accounts rather than giving it to banks in the hope that they’ll lend (which they didn’t – hence the notorious ‘pushing on a string’ problem of the post-2008 period). And were inflation ever to emerge, the Fed could likewise simply raise interest rates on Citizen Accounts, thereby inducing more saving and less spending.

I believe that the ‘fintech’ revolution renders something like what I’m proposing here all but inevitable. The point for present purposes, though, is simply that once this thing happens we’ll have yet another quite powerful anti-inflationary and anti-deflationary policy tool – and therefore yet more reason not to be timid about moving ahead energetically with the Green New Deal.

Have I succeeded, then? Have I convinced you both that there isn’t a ‘pay for’ challenge and that there isn’t, thanks to a multitude of theoretical, empirical, and policy lever reasons, an ‘inflation’ challenge either? If you are bold, know finance, and care about our future, you probably didn’t need much convincing. If instead you are frightened, financially untutored, or cavalier about our economy or our planet, please buck up, wise up, and suit up. It is time to say game on for the Green New Deal.

Robert Hockett

Robert Hockett

I teach legal, financial and some philosophical subjects at Cornell University in New York, where I am the Edward Cornell Professor of Law and a Professor of Public Policy. I also am Senior Counsel at Westwood Capital, a socially responsible investment bank in midtown Manhattan, and a Fellow of The Century Foundation, a think tank near Battery Park in lower Manhattan. My principal research, writing, and practical concerns are with the legal and institutional prerequisites to a just, prosperous, and sustainable economic order. I have worked at the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and continue to serve in a consultative capacity for a number of U.S. federal, state, and local legislators and regulators. I grew up mainly in New Orleans, America’s most wonderful city (sorry, New York), and return to it often. I was educated at Yale, Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and the University of Kansas.

 

Descendants!

A very well-done series of contemporary photos of the descendants of famous people from a century or more ago, next to portraits of those folks. So we have a famous portrait of Napoleon in his study, next to a photograph of one of his great-great-great-great-grandsons, Hugo de Salis, wearing nearly identical clothing, and posed in the same lighting, perhaps in the very same room!

The link is here.

Thomas Jefferson? Check.

Frederick Douglass? Check.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Check.

And many more.

View at Medium.com

Published in: on October 26, 2020 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lying Right-Wingers Intensify Talk of a Coup

They accuse the left of doing precisely what they themselves are planning.

Dan Bongino, a right-wing commentator, amplified an unsubstantiated rumor that the left was planning a coup against President Trump.

Credit…

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

By Davey Alba

• Oct. 13, 2020, 4:41 p.m. ET

In a video posted to Facebook on Sept. 14, Dan Bongino, a popular right-wing commentator and radio host, declared that Democrats were planning a coup against President Trump on Election Day.

For just over 11 minutes, Mr. Bongino talked about how bipartisan election experts who had met in June to plan for what might happen after people vote were actually holding exercises for such a coup. To support his baseless claim, he twisted the group’s words to fit his meaning.

“I want to warn you that this stuff is intense,” Mr. Bongino said, speaking into the camera to his 3.6 million Facebook followers. “Really intense, and you need to be ready to digest it all.”

His video, which has been viewed 2.9 million times, provoked strong reactions. One commenter wrote that people should be prepared for when Democrats “cross the line” so they could “show them what true freedom is.” Another posted a meme of a Rottweiler about to pounce, with the caption, “Veterans be like … Say when Americans.”

Image

The coup falsehood was just one piece of misinformation that has gone viral in right-wing circles ahead of Election Day on Nov. 3. In another unsubstantiated rumor that is circulating on Facebook and Twitter, a secret network of elites was planning to destroy the ballots of those who voted for President Trump. And in yet another fabrication, supporters of Mr. Trump said that an elite cabal planned to block them from entering polling locations on Election Day.

All of the rumors appeared to be having the same effect: Of riling up Mr. Trump’s restive base, just as the president has publicly stoked the idea of election chaos. In comment after comment about the falsehoods, respondents said the only way to stop violence from the left was to respond in kind with force.

“Liberals and their propaganda,” one commenter wrote. “Bring that nonsense to country folks who literally sit in wait for days to pull a trigger.”

Keep up with Election 2020

All live election updates

Latest updates on today’s polls

The misinformation, which has been amplified by right-wing media such as the Fox News host Mark Levin and outlets like Breitbart and The Daily Wire, adds contentiousness to an already powder-keg campaign season. Mr. Trump has repeatedly declined to say whether he would accept a peaceful transfer of power if he lost to his Democratic challenger, Joseph R. Biden Jr., and has urged his supporters “to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

The falsehoods on social media are building support for the idea of disrupting the election. Election officials have said they fear voter harassment and intimidation on Election Day.

Image

Credit…

.

“This is extremely concerning,” said Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University in Elon, N.C., who tracks extremists online. Combined with Mr. Trump’s comments, the false rumors are “giving violent vigilantes an excuse” that acting out in real life would be “in defense of democracy,” she said.

Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said Mr. Trump would “accept the results of an election that is free, fair and without fraud” and added that the question of violence was “better put to Democrats.”

In a text message, Mr. Bongino said the idea of a Democratic coup was “not a rumor” and that he was busy “exposing LIBERAL violence.”

Distorted information about the election is also flowing in left-wing circles online, though to a lesser degree, according to a New York Times analysis. Such misinformation includes a viral falsehood that mailboxes were being blocked by unknown actors to effectively discourage people from voting.

Other popular leftist sites, like Liberal Blogger and The Other 98%, have also twisted facts to push a critical narrative about Republicans, according to PolitiFact, a fact-checking website. In one inflammatory claim last week, for instance, the left-wing Facebook page Occupy Democrats asserted that President Trump had directly inspired a plot by a right-wing group to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

Social media companies appear increasingly alarmed by how their platforms may be manipulated to stoke election chaos. Facebook and Twitter took steps last week to clamp down on false information before and after the vote. Facebook banned groups and posts related to the pro-Trump conspiracy movement QAnon and said it would suspend political advertising postelection. Twitter said it was changing some basic features to slow the way information flows on its network.

On Friday, Twitter executives urged people “to recognize our collective responsibility to the electorate to guarantee a safe, fair and legitimate democratic process this November.”

Election 2020 ›

Latest Updates

Updated 

Oct. 13, 2020, 8:54 p.m. ET

1 hour ago

1 hour ago

Trump, trailing in key states, lashes at Biden in Pennsylvania rally.

Harris interrogates Barrett’s stances on health care and reproductive rights at Senate hearing.

Indiana’s 10-day extension of mail-in voting is rejected by an appeals court panel.

Of the lies, Facebook said it was “removing calls for interference or violence at polling places” and would label posts that sought to delegitimize the results. YouTube said it was not recommending videos containing the false rumors, while Twitter said sharing links to disputed news stories was permitted if the tweets did not violate its rules.

Even so, the idea of a Democrat-led coup has gained plenty of traction online in recent weeks. It has made its way into at least 938 Facebook groups, 279 Facebook pages, 33 YouTube videos and hundreds of tweets, a Times analysis found.

The unfounded claim traces back to an Aug. 11 letter from two former military officers, John Nagl and Paul Yingling, to the country’s top military official, Gen. Mark A. Milley, according to researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based research organization. In their public letter, Mr. Nagl and Mr. Yingling asked General Milley to have military forces ready to escort President Trump from the White House grounds if he lost the election and refused to leave.

Some online commentators seized on the letter as evidence of a coming left-wing coup. “Bootlickers Nagl and Yingling suggest a violent military coup,” read one post on Facebook on Aug. 12, which got 619 likes and comments and linked to the letter. That same day, Infowars, a conspiracy theory website, also published a piece claiming that retired army officers were openly talking about a coup by Democrats.

Mr. Nagl and Mr. Yingling did not respond to requests for comment.

On Sept. 4, the right-wing outlet The National Pulse added to the conspiracy. It published a piece pointing to what it said were the “radical, anti-democratic tactics” of the Transition Integrity Project, a bipartisan group of former government officials who analyzed how to prevent a disrupted presidential election and transition. The group published a report on Aug. 3 about its efforts, but The National Pulse said the document showed “an impending attempt to delegitimize the election coming from the far left.”

Trey Grayson, a Republican former secretary of state of Kentucky and a member of the Transition Integrity Project, said the idea that the group was preparing a left-wing coup was “crazy.” He said the group had explored many election scenarios, including a victory by Mr. Trump.

Michael Anton, a former national security adviser to President Trump, also published an essay on Sept. 4 in the conservative publication The American Mind, claiming, “Democrats are laying the groundwork for revolution right in front of our eyes.”

His article was the tipping point for the coup claim. It was posted more than 500 times on Facebook and reached 4.9 million people, according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool. Right-wing news sites such as The Federalist and DJHJ Media ramped up coverage of the idea, as did Mr. Bongino.

Mr. Anton did not respond to a call for comment.

The lie also began metastasizing. In one version, right-wing commentators claimed, without proof, that Mr. Biden would not concede if he lost the election. They also said his supporters would riot.

“If a defeated Biden does not concede and his party’s rioters take to the streets in a coup attempt against President Trump, will the military be needed to stop them?” tweeted Mr. Levin, the Fox News host, on Sept. 18. His message was shared nearly 16,000 times.

After The Times contacted him, Mr. Levin published a note on Facebook saying his tweet had been a “sarcastic response to the Democrats.”

Bill Russo, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement that Mr. Biden would accept how the people voted. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence are the ones who refuse to commit to a peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

On YouTube, dozens of videos pushing the false coup narrative have collectively gathered more than 1.2 million views since Sept. 7, according to a tally by The Times. One video was titled, “RED ALERT: Are the President’s Enemies Preparing a COUP?”

The risk of misinformation translating to real-world action is growing, said Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert at Washington State University Vancouver.

“What we’ve seen over the past four years is an increasing capability” from believers to turn these conspiracy narratives “into direct physical actions,” he said.

Ben Decker contributed research.

Published in: on October 13, 2020 at 9:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Does “school choice” serve the students?

Steve Ruis explains quite clearly why it doesn’t:

The Limits of School Choice

by Steve Ruis

I have written before about the “school choice movement,” a thinly disguised privatizing campaign seeking to suck up some of those public dollars being spent on public education. Basically, once “financiers” had ravaged all of the private economic segments, they decided that the vast untapped market of “education” was the last frontier for their rapaciousness.

Lets look at the idea from a cost benefit basis.

Suppose you live in a smallish town which supports a number of grade schools, maybe a middle school or two and a single high school. Your community does it best to create good schools with the highest community standards they can muster but, of course, there are limitations. This high school cannot offer every possible course that might serve a small cluster of students, so they focus on offering courses that will serve the majority.

So, is having a second school even an option for such a community? The answer is clearly no. Dividing the communities funds into two pools to offer the same curriculum doesn’t make any sense at all. This would involve and increase in infrastructure costs with no increase in capacity. So, could not each of the two schools focus their efforts, such as one being an arts magnet school and the other a science magnet school (just for example)? Again, this is problematic. What if the two clusters are of unequal size with the arts school having twice the number of students as the science school? And why spread them out? Why not have schools within the original school, so that classes in both areas could be available to all students? Why deprive the science students of the art classes being taught at the other school? (Scientists are often drawn to music; one of my chemistry professors was a performing cellist.)

Okay we now move up a notch. Our community is now large enough to support two high schools. Should competition between these two play a role in the running of these two schools? For example, let’s say that one school is clearly superior to the other, and you decide to let the parent’s choose which school to place their kids in. (I have seen this happen in public schools through the simple expedient of parent’s lying about where they lived, using an aunt’s address for example to get their kid into a desirable school.) In this case, knowledgeable parents will sign their kids up to the “good” school and desert the “bad” school. The “good” school will suffer from overloading issues (large class sizes, teacher burnout from trying to interact with too many students, wear and tear on facilities, etc.) and the “bad” school will suffer from small class sizes (limiting student interactions), inability to field sports teams, inability to offer classes in advanced topics due to low enrollment, etc.

Plus, you have to ask how it is that parents determine which school is good and which is bad. If we take how well they are informed when it comes to voting as an example, their education “decisions” won’t be as informed as we all might wish them to be.

Currently, schools are set up, mostly, to serve geographic communities. This does have some advantages for racists, of course, with the whole school busing movement testifies to, But there are legitimate reasons for this also. Would you want your child taking a one-hour bus ride, each way, every day for school? Would you want to drive them to school and back this way (four hours per day driving for you)? Such schools also can be more community oriented. Schools in farming regions can teach agriculture courses, for example. (I lived in a rural community in which the high school had a gunsmithing course.) Schools near technology centers can teach more tech classes, etc. That is these schools can teach topics that lead to employment in their community, which helps keep communities together, instead of kids drifting away from the community to find work. Community colleges exemplify these goals.

So, now let’s look at large school districts, having multiple high schools. Is competition between any of them at all good (outside of between student athletic or academic teams)?

To engage in competition that is considered healthy and which leads to superior “products” you have to ask whether or not the “competitors” are equipped to compete. In the major metropolitan area I now live in (Chicago), the athletic teams are segregated by school population. The really large schools don’t compete against tiny schools. The large schools have all of the advantages and would just crush the smaller school teams. The same issues apply to school academic issues. Large schools have thousands of candidates for any sport or academic team (e.g. debate, Math Olympiad, etc.). The really small schools may have only dozens. This is why they make sport movies, e.g. Hoosiers, about a small school team beating a large school team for a championship. Just through sheer numbers, the larger schools have great advantages.

So, let’s say that schools do compete. Do they have control over the tools of competition? Control over things like budget, coaching, teacher quality, etc? Largely they do not. In wealthier areas, there are alumni support groups who donate funds to support athletic teams. In poor areas, the parents cannot afford such things. In rich areas, the tax base is greater and financial support is better. In rich areas, teachers have better living conditions. School districts, no matter how much they recruit, do not determine who applies for teaching jobs at their schools, the teachers make those decisions.

Once teachers are hired, is there an infrastructure in place to determine which are really good, which are adequate and which are so poor as to deserve being fired? The answer is kinda sorta, unfortunately. Unlike in business, there are no production or sales parameters that can be used to determine which people are pulling their own weight. (My own experience is that the vast majority of teachers are “competent.” Very few are brilliant or exemplary and also very few are so bad as to need their contracts terminated.

Now, are their any examples of what competition does for the schools? It turns out there is. A recent survey determined the highest paid “state employee” of each state of the US. Who do you think it turned out to be highest paid state employee most frequently? The governors? The presidents of university systems? The heads of public healthcare networks or public utilities? In most states, the highest paid state employee . . . drum roll, please . . . was one of the state’s university’s football coaches. This is what competition gets you . . . vastly overpaid employees . . . which always have vastly underpaid employees elsewhere as a compensation. In a university system where Nobel-prize winning academics can only hope for a salary as high as $200,000 annually, football coaches make five, six, seven million dollars for the same term.

So, we must be very careful in determining who reaps the benefits of competition as it isn’t always the people being served.

I cannot fathom a scenario in which school competition benefits the students most. We have seen charter school after charter school close business, some do this before they have officially opened. In business this is acceptable, but in educating the youths of our community, this is unacceptable. Those students are required, by law, to be educated. The money spent to educate those students at the closing charter schools is gone. But those students will be lined up for admission at the public schools the very next day and they cannot be turned away . . . no “Sorry, you have already spent your allocation of public education money, you will have to wait until next year to continue your education.” Imagine having been sold a lemon of a car and then dumping that and lining up at a government office for free public transportation. Is that happening anywhere? Does anyone actually want that kind of “education insurance”?

The charter school movement is sucking the funds out of our public schools systems. They are enabled in this effort by supportive politicians which make up supportive laws just for them . . . and these politicians receive “campaign donations,” aka bribes, from the charter operators to do this, often using public funds they were given for other purposes. (Any public school system doing that would result in people in jail.) The charter operators claim to offer “school choice” . . . but do they? Testing shows that charter schools are little different from public schools in educational outcomes. They differ solely in their ability to go out of business, which they do at alarming rates. So, what kind of choice is this? It is a bogus choice. It is like a restaurant making extravagant claims about the quality of their food, so you go and find out that their food is awful. The restaurant doesn’t care because they already have your money and they aren’t dependent upon repeat business. This is the Achilles heel of the “competition” argument. Modern marketing allows people to be hoodwinked into buying what they are selling. When they don’t deliver, you have no recourse. And, they are not dependent upon you being a repeat customer.

There is a word for this kind of business, several actually: scam, con, Ponzi scheme, etc.

Now, I do not deny that there are some reputable charter schools, who serve students adequately. But are these really a “choice” that makes anything better? Imagine a community that has a dozen different car dealerships. Then someone opens up a second, say, Chevrolet dealership which offers the same models at the same prices as the one already there. Do you really have any additional choice or are you and the other car buyers just spreading your car buying money around into more hands?

Published in: on October 8, 2020 at 7:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Anger AND Schadenfreude

I don’t want Fat Donnie to die right away.

I’d prefer that he suffer for a while.

I hope he lives long enough (though in pain and mabe on a ventilator) to see him and his gritting Republican enablers get swept out of office in a landslide.

I hope he lives long enough to get put out of the office, and indicted on numerous counts of fraud, criminal money laundering, rape, bribery, extortion, and more.

I hope he goes bankrupt so bad that the Russian mafia and Deutsch Bank both send people to rearrange his anatomy in unpleasant ways.

But most of all I want blacks, whites, asians, Latinos, etc who belong to the middle class and working class and poverty stricken class to realize that we are not each other’s enemies: we are being divided and set upon each other by the agents of the tiny class of billionaires who don’t want ANY of us to have decent schools for our kids. Or decent, guaranteed medical care. Or healthful food in stores. Or decent pay or any job security. While they make out like — I was gonna say “bandits” but the Koch brothers, the Walton family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Vladimir Putin, Saudi monarchs, and all the rest — they are wealthier than any ruling class ever dreamed of being in the past.

Yet they want more.

LEt us keep note of all the sycophantic grifters and perverts in his entourage, and not forget their sins nor forgive them too easily. Let us remember all the racist and fascistic thugs that hang onto Fat Donnie’s latest lies, no matter what. Those people cannot be trusted under any circumstances. Remember them!

Published in: on October 2, 2020 at 11:34 pm  Comments (1)  

How to stop a Coup

I am more and more certain that Trump and his racist gangs of violent thugs will attempt a coup when the polling results come in after November 3.

A racist coup d’etat (or armed overthrow of the government) has, in fact, happened before here in the US: Wilmington NC, in 1898. Look it up. There was also an unsuccessful attempt by bankers to overthrow FDR in 1934.

Here are some ideas from one group on how to stop a coup.

===========

10 Things You Need to Know to Stop a Coup

1. Don’t expect results Election night.

Election season 2020 is shaping up to be very unusual. Many mail-in ballots may not be counted until days or weeks after Election Day. Since Democrats are expected to use them more frequently than Republicans, voter tallies are expected to swing towards Democrats post-election night (they call it a “blue shift”). A wave of confusion may unfold starting Election night.

During this time expect false flags and outlandish claims. Be very cautious with news. Don’t simply pass on whatever seems dramatic examples of wrongdoing — but take the time to check if it has been verified, already debunked, or from a source you don’t trust.

Encourage people in your community to prepare for some uncertain weeks. As election results start coming in the message needs to come through loud and clear: count all the votes.

2. Do call it a coup.

People who do power grabs always claim they’re doing it to save democracy or claim they know the “real” election results. This doesn’t have to look like a military coup with one leader ordering the opposition to be arrested.

We can know it’s a coup if the government:

  • Stops counting votes;
  • Declares someone a winner who didn’t get the most votes; or
  • Allows someone to stay in power who didn’t win the election.

Here’s just one possible scenario: the night of the election (November 3) no victor is determined. Ballots keep getting counted. Meanwhile, there are claims (likely with minimal evidence) the incoming mail-in ballots now being counted are fraudulent. On December 14 the delegates for the electoral college meet in the state capital. But if the results are being contested, Governors and State Legislatures may each send in different results — one reflecting the results from voters, the other claiming “it’s a fraud” and “we know best” — undermining the integrity of the voting process.

This set of differences has to get resolved on January 6 by the new Congress. And if the House and Senate don’t agree about the result, then a convoluted process unfolds where the newly seated House selects (one-state-one-vote) the President and the Senate (by Majority) votes for the new Vice President. (#ShutDownDC provides a very helpful break-down of these steps.)

In any scenario, if any of those three principles are violated, we have to declare loudly and strongly: this is a coup.

3. Know that coups have been stopped by regular folks.

Coup attempts have happened all over the world, and over half have failed. That’s because coups are hard to orchestrate. Because they are a violation of norms, they require quick seizure of multiple levels of institutions with a claim that they are the rightful heir.

Coups tend to fail when government institutions (like elections) are trusted, there is an active citizenry, and other nations are ready to become involved.

The role of citizenry is crucial. That’s because during the period right after a coup attempt— when the new government is claiming it is the “real” government — all the institutions have to decide who to listen to.

A failed coup in Germany 1920 gives an example. The population felt beaten down by defeat in World War I and high unemployment. Right-wing nationalists organized a coup and got the help of a few generals to seize government buildings.

The deposed government fled but ordered all citizens to obey them. “No enterprise must work as long as the military dictatorship reigns,” they declared.

Widespread nonviolent resistance quickly began. Printers refused to print the new government’s newspapers. Civil servants refused to carry out any orders from the coup. And leaflets calling for an end to the coup were spread by airplane and by hand.

There’s a story of the coup leader wandering up and down the corridors looking in vain for a secretary to type up his proclamations. The acts of resistance grew and eventually the democratic government (which still had grave problems) was returned to power.

The moments after a coup are moments for heroism amongst the general population. It’s how we make democracy real.

4. Be ready to act quickly — and not alone.

Typically power grabs are organized in secret and launched suddenly. Most campaigns that defeat coups do so in days: Soviet Union in 1991 took 3 days, France in 1961 took 4 days, and Bolivians in 1978 took 16 days.

It’s rare for any country leader to publicly admit they might not respect the results of an election. There’s some good news in that — because people who stop coups rarely have the chance to get training, warning, or preparation. In that way, we’re ahead of the game.

A group of DC insiders called the Transition Integrity Project ran multiple simulations on Trump attempting to hold onto power no matter what. In every simulation they concluded that a “show of numbers in the streets may be decisive.” Regular people make the difference.

To start preparing, talk to at least 5 people who would go into the streets with you — the safest way to take to the streets is with people you know and trust. Talk to people you know in civil service and various roles about how they could non-comply with coup attempts. Use this time to get yourself ready to act.

5. Focus on widely shared democratic values, not on individuals.

In Argentina 1987, a coup got started when an Air Force Major, resenting attempts to democratize the military and bring it under civilian control, organized hundreds of soldiers at his base.

While the civilian government tried to quietly negotiate a settlement, people took to the streets. Against the government’s pleading, 500 regular citizens marched to the base with the slogan “Long live democracy! Argentina! Argentina!” They could have spent time attacking the Major. Instead, they were appealing to their fellow citizens to choose democracy.

The Major tried to keep them away with a tank, but the protesters entered the base anyway, and he knew that open firing on nonviolent civilians would cause him to lose more credibility. Soon 400,000 people took to the streets in Buenos Aires to rally in opposition to the coup.

This gave strength to the civilian government (which had largely been absent). Civic organizations, the Catholic church, business groups, and labor unions united under a pledge to “support in all ways possible the constitution, the normal development of the institutions of government and democracy as the only viable way of life of the Argentines.” The coup plotters lost their legitimacy and soon surrendered.

This approach is different than protesters going in the street with a list of issues or a grievance against a vilified leader. Instead, it’s exalting widely-shared core democratic values. In our project we use the language of “choosing democracy.”

6. Convince people not to freeze or just go along.

Imagine that at your job a corrupt boss gets fired and a new one is brought in. Instead of leaving, your old boss says, “I’m still in charge. Do what I say.” A bunch of your co-workers say, “We only take orders from the old boss.” At that point, doubt arises.

That doubt is how coups succeed. Enough people freeze. Even when only a few people go along with the coup and act as though that’s normal, people may reluctantly accept it as inevitable.

In all the research on preventing coups, there’s one common theme: people stop doing what the coup plotters tell them to do.

In Germany, from military commanders to secretaries, they refused to obey the orders of the coup. In Mali they called a nationwide strike. In Sudan protestors shut down government-supported radio stations and occupied airport runways. In Venezuela all shops were closed.

Coups are not a time to just watch and wait until “someone else” figures it out. No matter who you are you can be part of choosing democracy.

7. Commit to actions that represent rule of law, stability, and nonviolence.

Stopping a coup is dependent on the size of mobilizations and winning over the center. It is really a fight for legitimacy. Which voice is legitimate? Some people will have already made up their minds. The aim then is convincing those who are uncertain — which may be a more surprising number than you expect.

But to swing to our side, that uncertain center has to be convinced that “we” represent stability and “the coup plotters” represent hostility to the democratic norms of elections and voting.

We prevent that possibility when we dehumanize potential defectors, make sweeping statements like, “the police won’t help”, never encourage people to join our side, and create chaotic scenes on the street.

Historically, whichever side resorts to violence the most tends to lose. In a moment of uncertainty, people pick the side that promises maximum stability, respects democratic norms, and appears to be the safer bet. It’s a contest of who can be the most legitimate.

Mass resistance to coups wins by using walk-outs and strikes, refusing orders, and shutting down civil society until the rightful democratically elected leader is installed. For mass movements to succeed against coups, they should refuse to do violence to the other side.

8. Yes, a coup can happen in the United States.

It may be hard to imagine that a coup could happen in this country. But whenever there is an order to stop counting votes, we call it a coup.

Even by the strictest definition of coups, there has been a militarized coup in the United States. In 1898 after reconstruction in Wilmington, NC, seeing the rise of a prosperous and successful Black population, white racists organized a coup. They gave rallying cries like, “We will never surrender to a ragged raffle of Negroes, even if we have to choke the Cape Fear River with carcasses.”

Despite a terror campaign before the election, Black turnout was high and a slate of Black candidates was voted in. Black power was met with white supremacist violence, with white squads killing 30 to 300 people, including newly elected officials. Over 3,000 Blacks fled this extreme violence, and the era of Jim Crow began.

9. Center in calm, not fear.

It’s scary to believe we’re having to talk about a federal coup in the United States.

And we know that fearful people are less likely to make good decisions. Let’s aim for calm and avoid hyperbole. Be a reliable source by double-checking rumors and spreading high-quality facts. Sure, read social media… but spend some time, you know, doing real things that ground you.

Breathe deeply.

Remember how you handle fear.

Play out scenarios, but don’t become captured by them.

We’re doing this to prepare, just in case.

10. Prepare to deter a coup before the election.

The best way to stop a coup is to never have one. People are doing lots of good work on issues of voting rights, urging turn-out, stopping repression, uncovering fraud, and getting people to commit to democracy. That may be enough.

One of the easiest things you can do is to sign the pledge to Choose Democracy and get a lot of people across the political spectrum signing the as well!

Because the best way to stop a coup is to deter it.

Published in: on October 1, 2020 at 10:55 am  Comments (1)  
%d bloggers like this: