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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 76,330

Journal Archives

Shutting down the right-wing rabbit hole is possible: First, follow the money

Shutting down the right-wing rabbit hole is possible: First, follow the money
Schools and parents are suing social media giants over their "addictive" algorithms. Can that force a reckoning?

Senior Writer
PUBLISHED JUNE 30, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

(Salon) "The man I loved wasn't there anymore — and instead this monster that had the most horrible thoughts about people was in its place."

When the woman I'll call Ann married her husband in 2002, he was "someone who couldn't care less about anything political at all." Over the years, he drifted into being a Republican, but it wasn't until 2017, after the election of Donald Trump, when she says "his radicalization and intro to conspiracy theory happened." Within the last few months, Ann told me, her husband began telling their children "how the people behind Monster Energy drink are obviously Satanists because they hid symbols on their can."

I met Ann on the Reddit forum QAnon Casualties, where family members and friends of QAnon believers and other far-right conspiracy theorists come to commiserate. Like several other members of the forum I contacted, she requested that Salon not publish her real name.

Ann hung in there for years, sticking with her husband through the far-right conspiracy theories and the flat-out weird ones. "He tried to convince me that the NFL was run exactly like the WWE in that it was entirely scripted," she told me. Eventually, with the help of a therapist, she came to the conclusion that "there is literally nothing I can say to bring him back."


Ann's journey is one that untold numbers of people have endured in recent years: watching a loved one become radicalized through online disinformation. Once such people have disappeared down the proverbial "rabbit hole," it can sometimes be impossible to get them back. Preventing people from falling into the disinformation abyss in the first place is obviously crucial — and the good news is that prevention is possible. Experts already know a lot about both why and how people get radicalized, but the difficult part is interrupting the process by which vulnerable people are exposed to ever more vicious propaganda that lures them into the darkest caverns of social media.

One of the most promising avenues for prevention has emerged from a surprising place: Parents and schools who have made it a mission to battle social media addiction. They're using the same tools that proved so effective at curtailing a different and even deadlier public health menace: cigarette smoking. Only this time around, instead of suing Philip Morris and other big tobacco companies, they're going after Meta, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat. ..............(more)


Accused Jan. 6 rioter caught lurking around Obama's house had an arsenal at the ready

(Salon) Taylor Taranto, the 37-year-old accused Jan. 6 rioter apprehended near the home of former President Barack Obama on Thursday, had several weapons and a slew of ammunition with him, according to recent updates.

Per a report given by federal authorities on Friday, Obama's would-be attacker "had two guns and 400 rounds of ammunition in his van when he was arrested," as well as a machete.

According to NBC News, "Taranto's van has been parked near the D.C. jail in recent weeks and he has appeared at protests in support of other Jan. 6 defendants . . . Noting that he lived in the van, a federal prosecutor said Taranto had 'nowhere to go.'"

In a statement from a federal prosecutor, Taranto, a known Trump supporter, "has been in Washington to take House Speaker Kevin McCarthy up on his offer of letting Jan. 6 defendants review security footage of the Capitol riot relevant to their cases. ...........................(more)


Ron DeSantis has no respect for the rule of law

Ron DeSantis has no respect for the rule of law
Now the Florida governor is facing real problems — and potential legal jeopardy — over his reckless political stunt


(Salon) Ron DeSantis has some real problems. No, we are not referring to the fact that he trails Donald Trump in the polls or to his awkwardness as a retail politician. Far more concerning are the criminal referrals and investigations surrounding the DeSantis administration's relocation of migrants from Texas to Massachusetts and California—criminal investigations in which the Florida governor may have, through his own boasts, implicated himself.

Last September, a group of 48 mostly Venezuelan migrants who had surrendered themselves to immigration officials upon crossing the border—many reportedly seeking asylum—were put on planes and flown from Texas to Martha's Vineyard at the behest and expense of the DeSantis administration. It is alleged that the migrants were lured onto the flights with false promises of employment, housing, educational opportunities and other assistance. They were apparently provided with official-looking materials such as a fake agency brochure that created the false impression that the trip was part of the normal immigration process.

Of course, it was no such thing. To the contrary, it was a part of a political stunt engineered by Florida officials, evidently so that DeSantis could demagogue on immigration policy, which remains red meat for the MAGA base. We can infer that from the fact that DeSantis has repeatedly bragged about these events, making them a staple of his stump speeches, and has tried to justify the $1.5 million price tag paid by Florida taxpayers for the migrant flights and the $12 million line item in Florida's 2023 budget.

Indeed, some of DeSantis' conduct, as well as that of his minions, is disturbingly reminiscent of the tactics of the various autocrats from whom Florida constituents and their families have fled. That includes the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. The Venezuelan victims of the DeSantis administration's deception are fleeing persecution by Maduro, a left-wing despot who embraces Marxist ideology to support suppression of free speech and the imprisonment and torture of political opponents. The United States has long offered asylum to people fleeing communist and other authoritarian regimes.


Legal analysts immediately began to question whether or not criminal charges could be brought — and might extend to DeSantis. He did little to distance himself from the issue, declaring on a trip to the Arizona-Mexico border that "sanctuary jurisdictions" in states like Massachusetts and California were part of the reason America has this "problem" and saying, "When they have to deal with some of the fruits of that they all of a sudden become very, very upset about that." DeSantis also said his administration's handling of the migrants "had been debated" and "vetted" by Florida legislators who had agreed to set aside millions for the program. .............(more)


Meet the Rich Guys Who Want RFK Jr. to Be President

Meet the Rich Guys Who Want RFK Jr. to Be President
Including Steve Kirsch, inventor of the computer mouse turned anti-vaccine crusader.

JUNE 28, 2023

(Mother Jones) When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced his bid for the presidency at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel on April 19, 2023, he pledged to a cheering crowd to “end the corrupt merger of state and corporate power that is threatening now to impose a new kind of corporate feudalism in our country; to commoditize our children, our purple mountain’s majesty; to poison our children and our people with chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs; to strip-mine our assets; to hollow out the middle class and keep us in a constant state of war.” Put simply, not very many people expected that the Kennedy campaign would garner sufficient support to further explain those lofty goals, much less accomplish them. The New York Times pronounced him “unlikely to pose a serious threat to Mr. Biden.”

But now, two months later, the anti-vaccine activist turned presidential hopeful is doing a lot better in his bid for the Democratic nomination than anyone had expected. It’s early days, of course, but a May CNN poll suggested that he should not be consigned to being a mere curiosity, or a fringe candidate: A fifth of Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent voters said they favored him over President Biden. As for his financial support, his campaign disclosures will not be released until mid-July.

Over the last month, the percentages have dwindled to between 8 and 15, but for any challenger to a sitting president from the same party, these numbers are pretty high. By comparison, as of last week, among Republicans, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was polling at 21 percent, to Donald Trump’s 59 percent. The support Kennedy commands is even more notable considering that Kennedy’s platform is, to put it mildly, eccentric. The founder of the anti-vaccine advocacy group Children’s Health Defense, he recently remarked to podcast host Joe Rogan, “Wi-Fi radiation opens up your blood-brain barrier, and so all these toxins that are in your body can now go into your brain.” In a conversation earlier this month with Twitter executive chairman Elon Musk, Kennedy raved about how Covid was a bioweapon and suggested that secret labs the world over are designing special weapons designed to kill only people of certain races. Last week, in a SiriusXM interview, he said that he believed that Russia was “acting in good faith” in its invasion of Ukraine. Despite his storied last name and the fact that he is running as a Democrat, over the last two years, Kennedy has allied himself with prominent right-wing activists. In 2021, he spoke at the ReAwaken America tour organized by former national security adviser to former President Donald Trump and conspiracy theorist Mike Flynn.


One of Kennedy’s biggest—and richest—fans is the entrepreneur Steve Kirsch, who made an early Silicon Valley fortune as a pioneer of the optical computer mouse in 1980. Kirsch has been a longtime donor to progressive candidates and causes; in the early aughts, through his foundation, he supported many liberal groups, including the League of Women Voters, the liberal watchdog group People for The American Way, and the disinformation monitoring outlet Media Matters for America. The foundation is no longer active, but records show tens of thousands of dollars in donations from Kirsch himself to the Democratic party over the last decade—to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi, among many other candidates for various offices.


Kirsch, who didn’t respond to my requests for comment for this article, does not yet appear to have donated to Kennedy’s super PAC, American Values 2024. But some other rich guys did. Before it was called American Values 2024, Kennedy’s super PAC was called People’s Pharma Movement; its goal, according to its website, was to fight “the corruption and voracious control of the drug industry,” though much of its advocacy seems to have been around opposing vaccines. Last year, its largest donation—$500,000—was from another tech entrepreneur named Mark Gorton, who created the early peer-to-peer file-sharing service LimeWire and now runs a hedge fund. Like Kirsch, Gorton appears to have historically supported progressive causes, with special attention, until quite recently, to the creation of bike lanes. He has supported a long list of Democratic candidates, as well—mostly in down-ballot races in New York. ................(more)


Extreme heat will cost the US $1 billion in health care costs -- this summer alone

(Grist) Extreme heat — summertime temperatures and humidity that exceed the historical average — is being made more frequent and intense by climate change. In the first two weeks of June, a late-spring hot spell prompted schools in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes areas to close or send students home early. A heat wave broke temperature records in Puerto Rico — the heat index, a measure of how temperatures feel to the human body, reached 125 degrees Fahrenheit on parts of the island. And extreme heat spurred deadly storms and power outages for hundreds of thousands of customers from Texas to Louisiana.

All that heat is bad for human health and leads to a rise in hospitalizations for cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory diseases, particularly among the urban poor, who often lack access to air conditioning and green spaces. Those hospitalizations will come with a hefty price tag. A new report from the public policy research group Center for American Progress estimates extreme heat will create $1 billion in health care-related costs in the United States this summer. The analysis, provided exclusively to Grist, projects that excessive heat will spur nearly 235,000 emergency department visits and more than 56,000 hospital admissions for conditions related to increased body temperature across the country this summer.

“As the number of heat-event days increases, the probability that people are going to get rushed to the emergency room or get hospitalized increases,” said Steven Woolf, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and a coauthor of the report. “We were interested in trying to quantify how big a risk that is.”

Woolf and a cohort of academics, scientists, and doctors from Virginia Commonwealth University analyzed health insurance claims in Virginia during the 80 extreme heat days that occurred in the state, on average, every summer from 2016 and 2020. The claims were filed for emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and other medical care. They used that data to determine how many Virginians sought a doctor’s help during these heat waves compared to other days. The authors tallied up “heat-related illnesses,” defined as including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, as well as “heat-adjacent illness” — dehydration, rapid pulse, dizziness, or fainting.

In Virginia, extreme heat spurred some 400 outpatient care visits for heat-related illness, 4,600 emergency room visits for heat-related or heat-adjacent illness, and 2,000 heat-related hospital admissions each summer. These are likely underestimates, the report’s authors noted, since many patients with higher body weight or organ diseases such as heart disease, for example, experience complications during heat waves that could be classified as heat-adjacent illnesses but are rarely formally diagnosed as such by their physicians. And many victims of extreme heat don’t seek medical care at all, which further obscures the true burden of heat-related illness. ........................(more)


GOP's lackluster frontrunner: Trump seems awfully low energy lately

GOP's lackluster frontrunner: Trump seems awfully low energy lately
From saying he's a "legitimate person" to dodging a debate, Trump dishes out weak sauce — even by his low standards

Senior Writer
PUBLISHED JUNE 29, 2023 6:00AM (EDT)

(Salon) By his own measurements, Donald Trump should be flying high these days. He's the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, up 28 points in average polling over his closest contender, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Approximately one million candidates have entered the race, ensuring that any anti-Trump contingent that develops will split the vote, making it easy for him to sail into the nomination. It's 2016 again.

Sure, he's under federal indictment for stealing classified documents, after facing another set of indictments from the Manhattan district attorney for campaign fraud, but according to Trump's own bluster being arrested for his various crimes only makes him more popular. (Left unspoken is that appeal is limited to the GOP base and no one else.) He's not wrong that it helps both his fundraising and his polls within the GOP, because Republicans are apparently a pro-crime party these days, but only as long as the criminals are white.

But looking at Trump these days, it's hard not to notice that his usual fake-it-til-you-make-it bombast, honed from decades of being a con artist, is faltering. It hardly seemed possible that he could do any more fuming on his Twitter knock-off Truth Social. Yet, he's somehow bringing new levels to the phrase "tweeting through it," repeating the same incoherent all-caps talking points about "CLINTON SOCKS" and falsely claiming the Espionage Act of 1917 "has never even been used!"

What's really remarkable, however, is how Trump seems so low energy, to swipe his nickname for former governor Jeb Bush, R-Fla. I never thought it would be possible, but even Trump is starting to seem a little weary of his own bullshit. Witness how he spoke on Fox News when asked about a leaked tape showing him bragging about how he stole classified documents.


Even on paper, his babbling excuses are cringeworthy:

"I don't do things wrong."

"I am a legitimate person."

Seriously, one really should watch the clip because Trump just seems tired. ...........(more)


Pepsi created a cola-infused hot dog condiment and it's coming to Detroit's Comerica Park

Hard pass on this one.

DETROIT -- According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans will consume more than 150 million hot dogs on July 4.

But anyone at Comerica Park in Detroit will get to spice up their dog with something special: Pepsi Colachup, the world’s first Pepsi-infused condiment.

Pepsi is teaming up with the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees for exclusive in-stadium sampling during the team’s home games. In Detroit, hot dog enthusiasts can do so in Section 139 of Comerica Park.

“Pepsi has long been part of American culture and its cool crisp taste has been a favorite beverage choice for generations of Americans. We have always known that hot dogs taste better with Pepsi, and now the experts think so too,” said Jenny Danzi, Senior Director, Pepsi TM. ...............(more)


Michigan Senate votes to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors, sending bills to Whitmer

(Detroit Free Press) Bills to ban the practice of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors in Michigan will now advance to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's desk for signature, after Senate Democrats passed the legislation Tuesday over Republican opposition.

House Bills 4616 and 4617, introduced by Reps. Felicia Brabec, D-Pittsfield Township, and Jason Hoskins, D-Southfield, ban licensed mental health professionals in Michigan from practicing conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors. Both bills passed 21-15, with Sen. Mark Huizenga, R-Walker, the lone GOP member to vote with Democrats in favor of each bill.

Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity through counseling or psychoanalysis, according to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). A bill analysis by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency states this counseling can typically include a combination of talk therapy and mental and physical stimuli. ......................(more)


Republicans reignite the red scare in service of Trump

Republicans reignite the red scare in service of Trump
Why the right has suddenly returned to screaming about communism

PUBLISHED JUNE 28, 2023 9:13AM (EDT)

(Salon) Conservatives have been screaming about socialists scheming to destroy everything Real Americans hold dear for as long as anyone alive can remember. Going back more than a hundred years to the first Red Scare in 1919, when the government rounded up thousands of socialists, anarchists and communists during the Palmer raids, there have been periodic paroxysms of outrage aimed at this perennial boogeyman.

In the 1920s and 30s, it was evoked to oppose the labor movement and the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt as he tried to bring the country back from the Great Depression. After World War II, anti-Communism became the official foreign policy of both parties and the Republicans began to use it as a cudgel to beat the Democratic Party politically. Throughout the 1940s and 50s, the GOP focused as much on "the enemy within" as America's cold war adversaries. The House UnAmerican Activities Committee "investigated" anyone who had once been associated with the American Communist Party, gradually expanding their probe into anyone they suspected of being insufficiently patriotic or whose political influence they believed was harmful to American culture. Then along came Joseph McCarthy, who waved around supposed lists of names of Soviet spies or "fellow travelers" he said had infiltrated the U.S. government and military. This went on for years and years, ruining the lives of untold numbers of people.


But with all of this ongoing talk about socialism over the years, Republicans had more or less stopped hurling the "commie" tag at their political adversaries. After all, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and China's entry into the capitalist marketplace, it makes even less sense than it used to.

Yet it's now suddenly become commonplace.


Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene appeared at White Nationalist conventions referring to the "Democrats, who are the Communist Party of the United States of America." South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem wrote an op-ed in which she said, "the idea that Georgia, of all places, could elect two communists to the United States Senate was ridiculous."


But there are more practical, prosaic reasons for this escalation in commie catcalling. The most obvious is that older voters tend to vote Republican and they have a visceral reaction to the "C" word. They react with reflexive hostility and are the most likely to think such a preposterous claim makes sense. The constant references to the "Chinese Communist Party" as the great enemy also hits home with those people. And there is some evidence that Republicans have made some inroads with certain Hispanic and Asian immigrant groups who are deeply hostile to the communist regimes from which they emigrated. ...............(more)


Prosecution: We have more dirt on the Crumbleys. It's time to try this case.

(Detroit Free Press) In yet another push to send them to trial, the prosecution says it has more damning evidence on James and Jennifer Crumbley — the first parents in America to be charged in a mass school shooting.

With the historic case now in the hands of the Michigan Supreme Court, the prosecution has disclosed yet another round of blistering allegations against the parents, whose son killed four Oxford High School students and injured seven others in 2021, using a gun his parents bought him as a present.

In its latest court filing, the prosecution says it has “additional evidence” showing the Crumbleys were grossly negligent in the hours, days and months before the massacre, including:

Jennifer Crumbley disclosed in a recorded interview after the shooting that she paid little attention to the drawings that her son had made on a math worksheet on the morning before the shooting. The drawing included a gun, a bleeding body, and the words “The thoughts won’t stop, help me.” The Crumbleys were summoned to the school over the drawings, though Jennifer Crumbley — that same day — allegedly told an interviewer that she “didn’t even look at them closely.”

James Crumbley took the receipt for the murder weapon — the gun they had gifted their son — with them on the night they fled their home following the shooting. The receipt was in their possession when authorities found them hiding out in a Detroit warehouse and apprehended them. Prosecutors allege the receipt and flight show a “consciousness of guilt.” ..............(more)


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