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Nevilledog's Journal
Nevilledog's Journal
October 1, 2023

DeSantis' 'communist' school accusation rings hollow, reveals ugly truth


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Over the past six years, the Orlando Sentinel has spotlighted a slew of publicly funded voucher schools in Florida with disturbing policies and woefully inadequate educational programs.

We’ve found schools that flat-out refuse to serve children with disabilities — with written policies saying that they simply won’t accept kids in wheelchairs or who have conditions like autism.

Also schools that refuse to admit students who are gay or even have gay parents. Again, we’re talking about written policies that explicitly say students can be expelled or rejected for saying the words: “I am gay.” We even interviewed a mom whose kids were admitted at one Florida voucher school — until she started dating another woman, an Air Force veteran. Then her kids were denied admission.

We’ve also found schools that had high-school dropouts working as “teachers,” that operated out of rundown strip malls and that taught children all sorts of fictional nonsense.

In each and every one of those cases, GOP lawmakers have said: Well, that’s how school choice works. Parents get to choose.


September 29, 2023

Whistleblower: GOP Investigators Didn't Want to Hear Allegations of Russian Influence Over Rudy


House Republicans really don’t want to hear from Rudy Giuliani.

Though their impeachment crusade grew out of the former New York City mayor’s anti-Biden machinations, the GOP-led House Oversight Committee spent much of Thursday’s impeachment inquiry hearing voting down repeated efforts by Democrats to subpoena Giuliani and Lev Parnas, his former sidekick.

But Republican attempts to limit what they hear about Giuliani’s activities apparently go further than a few committee votes, according to an FBI whistleblower. In a memo obtained by Mother Jones, Johnathan Buma—an FBI agent who says he conducted foreign influence investigations— alleges that investigators working for House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan told him in June that they were not interested in what he knew about Giuliani potentially being “compromised” by Russian intelligence while working as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

The memo suggests that Republican investigators privately imposed the same fact-finding limitations Democrats highlighted on Thursday: GOP lawmakers say they want to investigate allegations about Joe Biden, but they appear reluctant to scrutinize the origin of their own probe or turn up details that undermine their preferred narrative. Judiciary Committee staff dispute Buma’s allegations, telling Mother Jones that his account of his interactions with House investigators isn’t accurate. (The Judiciary and Ways and Means Committees are working on the Biden investigation with the House Oversight Committee, which held Thursday’s hearing.)

As Insider, the New Yorker and others have previously reported, Buma—who originally filed a whistleblower complaint with the FBI last year—submitted a statement to the House Judiciary Committee in April 2023. He sent another statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. (Here is Buma’s full statement to the House committee, which recently became public.)


September 19, 2023

Jay Kuo: Conspiracy Theories and the MAGA GOP


There are three modern political conspiracies that a good number of the American public have bought into, more or less fully.

The first we are familiar with: the Big Lie about a stolen election. This theory posits, in a nutshell, that the Democrats managed to pull off electoral fraud on a massive scale across numerous states, enough to tip the election to Joe Biden and rob Trump of his rightful win.

The second concerns the so-called “Biden Crime Family,” which takes the true narrative that Hunter Biden was profiting off of his father’s position to falsely assert that the entire Biden “family” (meaning, his father) is corrupt. This conspiracy is complicated, as many are, because it is intertwined with Russian propaganda about Ukrainian corruption. It is also now the driving factor behind an evidence-free impeachment inquiry in the House.

The third conspiracy is of “election interference,” a drum Trump and his acolytes like to beat nearly daily, which claims that federal and state prosecutors are in a coordinated effort to take Trump down in order to keep him from regaining the Oval Office. They make this assertion even though there is an independent Special Counsel in charge of both federal prosecutions and there are independent local prosecutors bringing the state charges.

These three conspiracies are all fairly easily disproved based on the facts. But facts and the truth have never stopped a conspiracy from spreading. They follow a very familiar course for modern conspiracies, and in a normal world, the public would lump them in with 9/11 truthers and Pizzagate.


September 19, 2023

How Copaganda Works: The Media Helps Police Amplify Misleading Narratives Around Crime


What do successful alternatives to policing, prosecution, and prison actually look like? And how would they work? A group of Chicago’s leading public safety, health, and justice innovators gathered at the DePaul Art Museum last summer to provide much-needed clarity on these crucial questions.

Artists, survivors of violence, entrepreneurs and business leaders, public defenders, policy experts, restorative justice practitioners, and system-impacted people sat down for a series of conversations while exploring Remaking the Exceptional, a groundbreaking exhibition on torture and incarceration.

The conversations expose common myths about crime and punishment and explain a range of critical issues and innovations, including restorative justice, violence interruption, copaganda, pretrial detention, and the criminalization of survivors, among others.

The following short film — the fourth in a series named after the exhibition and produced by Zealous, Truthout, and Teen Vogue — focuses on the concept of “copaganda,” or police-centered media coverage and propaganda. It explains how journalists and media outlets — sometimes inadvertently — help police and prosecutors amplify misleading narratives around crime and violence at the expense of community health and safety.

September 18, 2023

John Solomon inadvertently detonated the House impeachment case


The right-wing scandal machine relies on confusing the public with references to an obscure cast of characters and a plethora of minute details which they claim prove their political foes engaged in nefarious deeds. But when you dig through the labyrinthine particulars they rail about, you often find that the core of their story is total nonsense. Here is one such case.

The right-wing conspiracy theory that Joe Biden, as vice president, pushed for Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in order to aid his son Hunter’s business dealings is a pillar of House Republicans’ push to impeach him. Even some GOP members of Congress have pointed out there is “no evidence” to support this long-debunked narrative. But the hypothesis is further demolished by a document published last month by — of all people — the fabulist John Solomon, which indisputably confirms that at the time of that meeting, it was the policy of the U.S. government to seek that prosecutor’s removal.

The right has baselessly claimed for years that when Biden told Ukraine’s leaders during a December 2015 visit that the U.S. would not release $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Viktor Shokin, the country’s prosecutor general, he was acting to benefit Hunter by halting Shokin’s purported probe of Burisma Holdings, on whose board Hunter served. Solomon, a former Fox News contributor and Washington Times editor, played a key role in concocting this pseudoscandal, alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and others, as they sought to damage Biden’s 2020 presidential run.

Their allegations were nonsense: Biden was carrying out U.S. policy, Shokin had been widely faulted by Western governments for failing to prosecute corruption, and his Burisma probe had stalled, as detailed in contemporaneous news reports and sworn testimony during then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. But House Republicans have revived the conspiracy theory as the core of their Biden impeachment plan.


September 7, 2023

Project 2025: "Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise"


Most people aren’t aware of Project 2025, or its playbook, “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise”—but you need to be. In stark terms, Project 2025 reveals the conservatives’ plan to enact a sweeping “Don’t Say Gay” policy that will effectively blot out all LGBTQ content on the internet as well as any published material with LGBTQ content, no matter how benign.

Project 2025 is a coalition of prominent conservative organizations that includes the Claremont Institute, Alliance Defending Freedom, Family Research Council, Hillsdale College, Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works, American Legislative Exchange Council, American Principles Project, and dozens of others. The organization’s goal is to lay out a “first 180 days” agenda for the next administration, and to recruit conservatives to fill positions within the federal government appointed by the executive branch.

“The Mandate for Leadership” is a 920-page document that details how the next Republican administration will implement radical and sweeping changes to the entirety of government. This blueprint assumes that the next president will be able to rule by fiat under the unitary executive theory (which posits that the president has the power to control the entire federal executive branch). It is also based on the premise that the next president will implement Schedule F, which allows the president to fire any federal employee who has policy-making authority, and replace them with a presidential appointee who is not voted on in the Senate.

The document is basically a wish list for social conservatives and mega corporations. The business wish list calls for eliminating federal agencies, stripping those that remain of regulatory power, and deregulating industries. The president would directly manage and influence Department of Justice and FBI cases, which would allow him to pursue criminal cases against political enemies. Environmental law would be gutted, and states would be prevented from enforcing their own environmental laws.

September 7, 2023

Chemo for Democracy


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With four separate criminal cases moving forward against Donald Trump, the rule of law in America appears both commanding and startlingly fragile. Small scenes at courthouses from Florida to New York underline the ever-present threat of violence. In Fulton County, Georgia, officials set up bright-orange security barriers around the courthouse in advance of Trump’s indictment there. In Washington, D.C., fences and yellow tape surrounded the U.S. district court. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee the federal case against Trump for his efforts to overturn the election, has received increased protection from U.S. marshals—and perhaps not a moment too soon, as a Texas woman was recently arrested for calling in death threats against the judge. Trump, meanwhile, has been busy attacking Chutkan and other judges on social media, smearing the prosecutors bringing the cases against him as a “fraud squad” doing the bidding of President Joe Biden, and promising to turn the Justice Department against his foes should he win a second term.

It’s a grim picture. “The next 18 months could further undermine confidence in democracy and the rule of law,” The Washington Post warned in June. Some commentators, largely on the right, have cautioned that the investigations and prosecutions of Trump might widen cracks in the already-unstable foundations of the American public sphere. Last year, the National Review editor Rich Lowry cautioned in Politico that U.S. institutions “are ill-equipped to withstand the intense turbulence that would result from prosecuting the political champion of millions of people.” Writing more recently in National Review, John Yoo and John Shu argued that even a successful prosecution of Trump for his efforts to overturn the election “will leave many doubtful of the conviction and more distrustful of the Justice Department and the criminal-justice system, especially at a time when public trust in our institutions is already in decline.”

As the threats of violence and attacks on the justice system show, these concerns are not unfounded—far from it. But worrying about the dangers of prosecuting Trump is a bit like focusing on the risk that chemotherapy poses to a cancer patient’s health. The reasoning isn’t exactly wrong; it just begins the analysis in the wrong place. The chemotherapy might be ugly, but it isn’t the source of the problem. It’s the treatment for the underlying disease.

During Watergate, Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel, John Dean, famously told the president that the scandal had become a “cancer growing on the presidency.” Trump’s presence in American politics is similarly malignant. He has made the country meaner, uglier, and more violent. During his first term, he ate away at the protections guarding the U.S. system from authoritarianism, insisting on his own right to absolute power. For prosecutors to have ignored Trump’s provocations would have been to allow the cancer to progress—to acquiesce to his vision of a fundamentally corrupt politics in which the only constraint on power is the threat of vengeance.

September 1, 2023

Keri Blakinger: The Dungeons & Dragons Players of Death Row


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The first time Tony Ford played Dungeons & Dragons, he was a wiry Black kid who had never seen the inside of a prison. His mother, a police officer in Detroit, had quit the force and moved the family to West Texas. To Ford, it seemed like a different world. Strangers talked funny, and El Paso was half desert. But he could skateboard in all that open space, and he eventually befriended a nerdy white kid with a passion for Dungeons & Dragons. Ford fell in love with the role-playing game right away; it was complex and cerebral, a saga you could lose yourself in. And in the 1980s, everyone seemed to be playing it.

D.&D. had come out a decade earlier with little fanfare. It was a tabletop role-playing game known for its miniature figurines and 20-sided dice. Players were entranced by the way it combined a choose-your-own-adventure structure with group performance. In D.&D., participants create their own characters — often magical creatures like elves and wizards — to go on quests in fantasy worlds. A narrator and referee, known as the Dungeon Master, guides players through each twist and turn of the plot. There’s an element of chance: The roll of the die can determine if a blow is strong enough to take down a monster or whether a stranger will help you. The game has since become one of the most popular in the world, celebrated in nostalgic television shows and dramatized in movies. It is played in homes, at large conventions and even in prisons.

By the time Ford got to high school, he had drifted toward other interests — girls, cars and friends who sold drugs and ran with gangs. Ford started doing those things, too. He didn’t get into serious trouble until Dec. 18, 1991. Sometime before 9 p.m., two Black men knocked on the door of a small home on Dale Douglas Drive in southeast El Paso, asking for “the man of the house.” The woman who answered, Myra Murillo, refused to let them in. A few minutes later, they returned, breaking down the door and demanding money and jewelry. One opened fire, killing Murillo’s 18-year-old son, Armando.

Within hours, police picked up a suspect, who said Ford was his partner. They arrested Ford, who was 18 at the time, the following day. He has maintained that the two men who entered the house were brothers, and that he was outside in the car the whole time. There was no physical evidence clearly connecting him to the crime. He was so confident that a jury would believe him that he rejected a plea deal and took his case to trial in July 1993. He lost. By October, at age 20, he was on death row.


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