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Journal Archives

Charles P. Pierce : John Kasich Should Shut His Gob About What Qualifies as 'Extreme'

The Republican ex-governor has secured a speaking slot, along with three other Republicans, at the Democratic National Convention.


In 1996, the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention said the following about the incumbent Democratic president.

On Monday night, both of these people—former Congresswoman Susan Molinari and former Governor John Kasich—will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Julian Castro will not be speaking. Neither will Beto O’Rourke, to name only two actual Democratic politicians. They will be joined by dueling Republican Whitmans—Christie Todd and Meg. A bunch of people who thrived in the days in which the Republican Party was cultivating within itself the forces that produced the current president* will kick off a convention designed to crush the monster they helped make inevitable. This is guaranteed to make me slightly more than moderately crazy.

Everybody’s gone all realpolitik on this, just as everyone suddenly developed a sweet-tooth for the likes of Bill Kristol and David Frum over the last three years as the prion disease for which they were primary vectors became full-blown. Big tent and all that. Which would be fine if Kasich hadn’t gone out of his way Monday morning to throw a ring-and-run elbow at one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent young voices. From Buzzfeed News:

OK, just to start, as my grandmother used to say, who the hell is this guy when he’s at home? Who’s John Kasich to decide where the “extreme” lies in Democratic politics? He still supports the damn Balanced Budget Amendment, not only an extreme idea, but also the worst one in American politics. He signed a bill that would imprison doctors for performing a common abortion procedure. Now, that’s extreme. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the most popular figures in her political party; certainly, she’s a more popular Democrat than Kasich is a Republican. Her most prominent policy positions—the Green New Deal and Medicare For All—have widespread support inside and outside the party. And a helluva lot more Democrats would rather hear her speak than him. So John Kasich can shut his gob, take a seat, and be grateful that nobody throws produce at him from the audience.


Trump is now tweeting (not having a laugh) 'Save The Post Office'

He is fucking bonkers.


How Maine's Red Snapper Hot Dogs Got Their Vibrant Hue

And what's the deal with the name?


If you see a red snapper listed on a menu, it probably elicits images of a gamey red fish swirling in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But a little further north, the menu item is a fire engine red hot dog grilled to smoky perfection and nestled inside a New England-style bun split right down the center. Red snappers are more common in Maine than the brown equivalent and locals will turn out in droves to defend and celebrate the state’s iconic dish. In fact, they do just that at a Maine Red Hot Dog Festival complete with hot dog stands, eating contests, and plenty of hot dog hat-wearing attendees every year. “Mainers stick up for that red hot dog, as you know,” Sean Smith, the director of sales and marketing at the red hot dog purveyor W.A. Bean and Sons, said. “It’s a real source of regional pride.”

But it seems that Mainers, like myself, chomp down on the hot dogs at backyard barbecues and high school sporting events without really knowing much about the history of the dish. After polling my born-and-raised Maine family about the tradition to little success, I set out to find out where the name came from, how this seemingly normal hot dog has become such a regional stronghold, and my own personal million dollar question: Why the hell did they ever start dying them red? I figured I’d start with the name because while the nomenclature of this particular cased meat rightfully confuses some, the origin is actually quite simple. There are vibrant red hot dogs in other parts of the world, but Maine’s version was dubbed a red snapper because of its texture.

W.A. Bean and Sons has been making red snappers for more than 150 years and the fifth-generation family company hasn’t changed up its methodology since. The links are handmade and quite literally snap when you take a bite into them because they’re sealed the old-fashioned way, using lamb casing that’s naturally packed with collagen rather than the artificial casing that most modern purveyors use. W.A. Bean and Sons is the last butcher left in the state making red snappers, so they were my only life line when I went looking for the answer to why the hot dogs were dyed red in the first place. This question haunted me as I grew up in Maine. We were strictly a brown hot dog family and to be honest, the nearly neon color really turned me off. But as I got older and freely pumped my body with red dyes three through 40, I finally tried one and loved the taste, but I still needed to know why it was necessary to turn them such a violent shade of red.

When I asked Smith about the origin of the color, he brushed it off as simply “a marketing tactic” from the company to stand out on the shelves of regional groceries like Hannaford and Shaw’s. “I wish I could hang my hat on something a little higher than that, but it really was just a marketing technique that became synonymous with this region,” Smith said. But he did mention that the practice started in the 1930s when a German butcher joined the ranks at W.A. Bean and Sons, so I went digging to find out where else red hot dogs appear around the world. Within the United States, Kayem, based in Massachusetts, and Cloverdale, based in North Dakota, both sell similar bright red hot dogs to those consumed in Maine and have an equally strong fan base. Kayem calls them “a New England tradition” and Cloverdale’s website and other forums have comment sections with dozens of entries filled with people seeking out the red dogs they can only find here and there in North Dakota.


Joe Biden, Kamala Harris And Why I Finally Feel Hopeful

As I write this, I feel a sense of hope for the first time since at least Election Night 2018. As a team, Biden and Harris look like America.


WASHINGTON, DC -- Throughout the past several years, this space has too often been filled with one horrible news event after the other -- how and why Donald Trump is bringing about the end of the republic as we know it. I don’t need to tell you it’s been an endlessly blazing hot plasma stream of crimes, misdeeds, and presidential conspiracies, all colliding at the same time, augmenting our national despair and mortification. Today, as I write this, I feel a sense of hope for the first time since at least Election Night 2018. Naturally, it’s all about Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential running mate. It’s absolutely a winning ticket, as well as a stellar choice on behalf of the former vice president. For the first time in a long while, it feels like we might just pull up before our nose-diving republic crashes head-first into the ground. It sounds cliche, but as a team, Biden and Harris look like America. More than that, they’re actual grownups who are disciplined, decent, professional leaders who, at long last, offer a sense of rock solid stability following nearly four years of frenetic instability and unpredictable recklessness.

This is why I feel hopeful. I feel hopeful that millions of Americans will turn out in record numbers to vote for these leaders, enough votes to overcome the worsening corruption emerging from Trump’s desperate war room -- the cheating, the sabotage, the suppression, and the rank disenfranchisement burdening our democracy by the first fascist tyrant in the White House. The Biden-Harris ticket has the potential to slice clean through all of that madness. I’m not getting happy yet. There’s still a real chance that the worst case scenario will come to pass. But I’m feeling more confident than I did two days ago and certainly three years ago this week when we all watched Trump supporting Nazi terrorists marching in Charlottesville, one of whom murdered Heather Heyer because she dared to protest in opposition to Confederates. Part of what’s contributing to my growing confidence is this: At least for now, Trump and his fanboys don’t know what to say about Kamala Harris. Trump, for example, seems to think Harris’s debate attack against Joe Biden means she’s a “vicious” woman who was “very disrespectful” to Biden. He’s repeated this a couple of times so far, and it’s totally baffling. Is anyone seriously going to switch their vote from Biden to Trump because Harris was mean to Biden in a Democratic debate more than a year ago? Why would anyone not vote for Biden because they were turned off by a criticism of Biden that most people didn’t see in the first place?

In reality, Biden’s selection of Harris shows that Biden is a much, much bigger man than Trump could ever be. Trump, a small, petty, vindictive little man, would never team up with someone who dared to challenge him on race. He’s so weak and brittle, he’s fired his own people for far less than what Harris said to Biden back in June of 2019. Trump also said Harris’s poll numbers weren’t good, presumably making her a toxic choice. Trump himself has hired several of his former 2016 primary opponents to be a part of his team, including Ben Carson who only won nine delegates, along with Chris Christy and Rick Perry, who each won exactly zero delegates. Fox News Channel meanwhile, jumped into the race-baiting almost right away. The line from the Red Hat propaganda network is that Kamala Harris isn’t really part African. She’s a fake African. The truth is, on her father’s side, Harris is ethnically Jamaican, but racially African given that Africans were brought to Jamaica as slaves and emancipated in 1834. Harris’s father is descended from slaves and a slave owner named Hamilton Brown.

It’s an immensely dumb line of attack. For instance, I’m half Italian on my dad’s side. But my dad grew up in New York City, and never actually lived in Italy. By the reasoning of the racists on Fox News, I’m actually half New Yorker and not half Italian. Additionally, it’s blindingly racist for Fox News’s white anchors, including talking adenoid Mark Levin, to position themselves as the arbiters of who’s African or not. I’m expecting the demands for Harris to take a DNA test any day now. It’s kind of a reverse-Birtherism line. In 2008, they insisted Barack Obama was a secret African, which was disqualifying. Now, the same posse of a-holes is saying Kamala Harris is secretly not African -- also disqualifying, they say. They’ve got nothing. They’re reaching deep and coming up dry. This gives me hope. We still have a long way to go, and the potential for all kinds of new and horrendous tricks to beware of between now and Election Day. We should all feel free to enjoy the moment and the striking history in the making, but then it’s back to work saving the republic. Don’t get happy, but don’t lose hope. The Democrats took another chunk out of the fascist Trump regime this week, and it could very well be the portend of good news still to come.

The Axis Of Ignorance: My Terrifying Journey Into COVID Conspiracy Land

Q-Anon and New Age Wellness "experts" are peddling in extremely dangerous conspiracy theories that threaten to undermine our response to the Coronavirus.


I generally have a strict policy of keeping things civil on Facebook, but during the Coronavirus pandemic I have deleted dozens and dozens of friends. Why? Because it turns out I know quite a few narcissistic conspiracy theorists who think they understand the pandemic better than epidemiologists, doctors and virologists. I deleted the Trump supporters several years ago, but would have regarded the majority of the friends I deleted from my circle recently as being politically liberal. I genuinely found it perplexing that people I thought to be intelligent were sharing anti mask wearing, COVID denying posts from a plethora of Q-Anon nutjobs, anti-vaxxers and New Age spiritualists. What surprised me the most though, was the number of people I knew who were spreading versions of this nonsense. If my circle of well educated, mostly kind and thoughtful friends were falling prey to these ludicrous conspiracies, then what did that say about the rest of society? According to one frightening poll, 50% of all Fox News viewers believe Bill Gates wants to use a coronavirus vaccine to inject a microchip into people and track the world’s population. A recent report by the Guardian documented “more than 170 QAnon groups, pages and accounts across Facebook and Instagram with more than 4.5 million aggregate followers.” This warranted some investigation given the stakes during a global pandemic. What on earth was going on?

The Axis Of Ignorance

After several back and forths with some of my former acquaintances and an extremely bizarre conversation over the phone with an old friend who insisted COVID-19 was a Chinese creation built on HIV in a lab in Wuhan (and that Hillary Clinton was part of a pedophile ring trying to create a new global government), I began to look deeper into what was going on. What I discovered was truly, truly terrifying. After several weeks of reading through conspiracy filled Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, I began to see a broader web of scientifically fraudulent, occult, often racist conspiracy theories that were being propagated by a network of fringe scientists, New Age grifters, and “Wellness Experts”. In this new, bizarro COVID denialism world, COVID-19 is not real, but a manifestation of our fears and an attempt to vaccinate the population with microchips, Donald Trump (or ‘Q’) is engaged in a seismic battle against The Deep State, Bill Gates, bankers (read: Jews) and evil celebrity pedophiles to liberate the masses and usher in a new dawn of spiritual awakening and freedom. There appears to be various iterations of this conspiracy, some focused on Trump, some focused on 5g/vaccines/globalists, and some that take the craziest aspects of each to create a sort of Frankenstein Super Conspiracy. Each school of thought has differing spiritual interpretations about the up and coming “awakening”. The Q-Anon crowd appear to believe in a biblical, Revelations inspired interpretation of what is about to go down, while the New Agers are focusing on a sort of Yogic themed spiritual metamorphosis, or ‘Ascension’ (apparently with the help of deeply concerned extraterrestrials). The more you go down the rabbit hole, the darker and weirder it gets.

The Fracturing Of Reality

Extreme inequality in America has made the country ripe for a fascist takeover for decades, and Trump had the right combination of ego, charisma, and narcissism to finally make it happen. The president has made it his mission to confuse and disorient the American population so that they no longer have a grasp on what is true and what is not. As chess grandmaster and Russian political dissident Gary Kasparov said, “The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” In the Age of Donald Trump, the foundation of reality has now become so fractured that these wild conspiracy theories should not come as much of a surprise to those who have been paying attention. Trump’s war on critical thinking has exacerbated the deep dysfunction in American society and further separated the population into increasingly militant echo chambers with radically different understandings of reality. Presidents from both parties have historically been careful not to foment too much unrest for fear of breaking the politically fragile union beyond repair. But not Trump. He thrives on conflict, and he has done everything in his power to destroy what is left of American civil society. Right wing conspiracy theories have become mainstream news. New Age pseudoscience and “Wellness” grifting are multi billion dollar industries. The public is bombarded with a potent mixture of political conspiracy theories, diet supplements, and fraudulent health advice on social media, and with access to Trump’s insane trail of thought on his Twitter feed, their brains are now completely fried. In this new era of political chaos, misinformation and hucksterism, it is no wonder people are falling for conspiracy theories. They are so confused, so scared, and so desperate for certainty that they will believe almost anything — as long as it isn’t on CNN.

Damage people in a damaged movement

Looking at the psychological profile of the Q-Anon and New Age crowd pushing these conspiracy theories, several overlapping characteristic become immediately apparent. Firstly, there is an extreme need for certainty. While most people accept the world is a complex place they cannot understand or predict with any great reliability, Q-Anon adherents and New Agers insist that that everything can be explained by dark, coordinated forces that are responsible for humanity’s suffering. There are no random events — everything is planned and executed by a sinister cabal of nefarious globalist seeking to control the world for their own benefit. Secondly, conspiracy theorists seek to avoid their own personal pain. In a fantastic piece on Medium, yoga instructor Julian Walker writes about his experience in an industry filled with people he describes as being “ensconced in a worldview that uses metaphysical beliefs as a way to defend against, distort, or reframe legitimate human suffering, vulnerability to illness and accidents, trauma, injustice, and painful emotions as not really being what they are.” He continues: From this belief system, we practice a defensive stance that says anytime we don’t like something, some unspiritual force of darkness must be out there forcing this illusion on us, and the only way to prevail is to dig our heels in and repeat the spiritual bypass mantras and affirmations, no matter what. Sickness, negativity, painful emotions, and limited materialist science opposing any of our emotionally held beliefs, are all the many faces of this new version of a malevolent Satan who tries to keep us asleep. The bible reading Q-Anon adherents might not be practicing Yoga or trying to ascend physical reality through their third-eye, but they are convinced of occult forces out to get them and the coming dawn of a new, Jesus filled era (with no homosexuality or feminism of course).

Reality cannot be experienced for what it is, it must be escaped at all costs.

Thirdly, the New Ager conspiracy crowd and Q-Anon adherents likely suffer from a combination of paranoia, low self esteem issues, and narcissistic personality disorders. Conspiracies feed their need to feel “special” and privy to information others aren’t able to comprehend, or are too brainwashed to see. As Joseph M. Pierre, M.D., a Health Sciences Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA writes: Some of the psychological quirks that are thought to drive belief in conspiracy theories include need for uniqueness and needs for certainty, closure, and control that are especially salient during times of crisis. Conspiracy theories offer answers to questions about events when explanations are lacking. While those answers consist of dark narratives involving bad actors and secret plots, conspiracy theories capture our attention, offer a kind of reassurance that things happen for a reason, and can make believers feel special that they’re privy to secrets to which the rest of us “sheeple” are blind. I have been labeled a “sheep” (or part of the “sheeple”) many times by conspiracy theorists because I don’t believe there is a coordinated effort to insert microchips into babies via vaccines, or that the pandemic is a manifestation of our fears that can be cured with pilates and positive thinking. And as a result, I have had to let go of several friendships.

How do we combat this?......................


Is Streetwear a Machine That Turns Insecurity Into Money?


In his 2018 skit on Supreme, Hasan Minaj, the patron comic of hype culture, said, “Without objects that make me stand out, what am I? Then I just have to be myself, and that’s terrifying, because I am insecure and I need things to make me feel better about myself.” In a couple of sentences, he deftly drilled to the core of the fuccboi psyche: a deep-seated insecurity about one’s own worth and an equally deep-seated desire to prove that worth to others. Both the clinical and the cultural term for this state is Narcissism. Narcissism is often confused with egotism or mere selfishness, but while it may contain elements of both, it’s driven not by an outsized sense of self-respect but by self-loathing, which leads to inexorable desire and strife for approval from others. “It’s a very insecure personality, and all the stuff on the outside – the grandiosity, the arrogance, the entitlement – is a suit of armor to buttress a weak interior core, because on the subconscious level narcissists think that others will see that they are not all that,” Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a best-selling author and an expert on narcissism, told me.

Narcissism is nothing new, but the level of narcissism on display in our culture is unprecedented – Dr. Ramani calls it the disease of our time. In his prophetic 1979 bestseller The Culture of Narcissism, the sociologist Christopher Lasch dissected a milieu of mass media that gave more and more coverage to celebrities, narcissistic role models whose behavior was increasingly beginning to be condoned, excused, and explained away. He blamed the rise of the narcissistic personality on “proliferation of images” and “the cult of consumption,” among other things. Fast-forward to 2020, and 1979 looks positively quaint in the age of social media, for there is no bigger driving engine of narcissism than social media platforms such as Instagram.


In the decade since its launch, much has been said about how Instagram has democratized media, but it simultaneously open-sourced Narcissism that was formerly reserved for a celebrity elite. Today, with the rise of Gen Z, this tendency reaches another dimension on TikTok. “Everybody on the app has some form of narcissism,” TikTokker Liv Huffman told Highsnobiety in our special zine about the platform’s stars. “You kind of have to in order to put yourself on the Internet like that.” Having unleashed the technological means of disseminating narcissism with the one hand, contemporary culture has continued to manufacture models for narcissistic behavior in ever increasing numbers with the other. Contemporary pop music is filled to the brim with rappers whose lyrics are all about the display of their possessions. What began as a legitimate hip-hop lyrical device for expressing a sense of pride in lifting oneself up by attaining markers of American success previously possessed only by its white ruling class, has by now devolved into an exhibitionist trope. And just like the generations before them, today’s youth seeks to emulate the behavior of their favorite musicians. Every middle-schooler knows what it means to “flex” and there is no shortage of eleven-year-olds begging their mommies for the next pair of Travis Scott Dunks.

Hype culture is uniquely positioned to tap into the narcissistic world order by creating artificial scarcity and equating the possession of limited edition goods with self-worth. Conspicuous consumption is the defining consumer behavior of the day, but underneath its hood purrs the motor of narcissism turbocharged by a culture that has given us Donald Trump and Kanye West, two narcissists par excellence. Both are incredibly insecure and both – despite being on top of the world – constantly crave adulation and approval of others (West’s narcissism may be further complicated by his alleged bipolar disorder). And both are aided and abetted by their respective fan bases that readily forgive their transgressions thereby enabling them further. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that hip-hop fans seem to be especially tolerant towards narcissistic behavior of musicians, even when it’s misogynistic or generally sadistic.

Before you roll your eyes at my perceived alarmism that Grailed is poisoning the minds of a generation, consider that in this state of affairs no one is innocent. Study after study shows that despite economic progress and general increase in quality of life, members of contemporary society feel more and more unhappy. Other studies show that social media, Instagram in particular, have a negative effect on self-esteem that stems from the permeating feeling of anxiety and envy. Simply put, you can flex all you want, but there will always be someone with a bigger flex. And once you are on the hype treadmill, its very nature makes it hard to get off. “In [the hype] world narcissists festoon themselves with the latest sneakers, or the latest streetwear, and in that moment they are safe. But then that moment when the world is telling you that you are great, which for the narcissist is better than drugs, is gone and you continue chasing the high,” said Dr. Ramani. On top of this, the culture of narcissism makes one feel inadequate for not owning something. “The entire way fashion is marketed is that if you don’t have that latest something, you are lacking,” continued Dr. Ramani.


Ilhan Omar Wins House Primary in Minnesota

Ms. Omar, a member of the “Squad” of progressive women of color elected to the House two years ago, topped a well-funded challenger in a victory for the left.


MINNEAPOLIS — Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota fended off a well-funded primary challenger on Tuesday, ensuring a clean sweep of re-election fights for the group of first-term Democratic congresswomen of color known as the Squad and sending a message to Washington about the staying power of the party’s new progressive voices.

Ms. Omar, who made history in 2018 by becoming the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress, as well as the first naturalized citizen of African birth and the first woman of color from Minnesota to do so, secured the victory after spending her first two years in the Washington spotlight. Her unabashed embrace of left-wing politics has won her loyal followers, both in Minnesota and across the country. She has, however, become a lightning rod for conservatives and has faced criticism from some Democrats, particularly after several episodes in 2019 in which she was accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

In the deep-blue district, Ms. Omar’s primary success on Tuesday virtually assures she will serve a second term in Congress. Late Tuesday, she was leading her chief opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, by more than 15 percentage points.

“In Minnesota, we know that organized people will always beat organized money,” Ms. Omar wrote on Twitter. “Tonight, our movement didn’t just win. We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”



Don't Turn Us Into Belarus

A letter to the secret police defending the White House after Election Day


There are less than 90 days until the election and Donald Trump is losing. Badly. There is no “silent majority”. There is no “secret Trump voter.” The polls are not rigged. He’s losing because he is the most corrupt, incompetent, and, let’s be honest, stupid president in American history. It would be great if, when he tries to illegally steal the election, you would refuse to defend the White House when we come for him. I know that’s a tall order but you swore an oath to the Constitution, not the president. You swore to defend the law of the land and the people of the United States. When (not if) Trump tries to cheat his way to a second term, we’re going to come to the White House and demand he leave. And if he does not leave of his own accord, we’re going to make him leave, one way or the other. We will not stand for another 4 years of a stolen presidency. I strongly urge you to not to stand between the people and the reclamation of the People's House.

Don’t Turn Us Into Belarus

If you can’t find Belarus on the map, don’t feel bad, it’s not exactly the most high-profile country in Eastern Europe. But you should know that it’s had an “elected” dictator for the last 26 years and he just declared a “landslide victory” this past weekend with 80.23% of the vote. This is worth taking note of because that is not at all what exit polls showed. Alexander Lukashenko is extremely unpopular and everyone knew the election was rigged. Lukashenko had members of his opponent Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s staff arrested and she had to go into hiding. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before: Polling stations were closed early, preventing an untold number of people from voting. The police have been using pepper spray, smoke bombs, and violence to chase protesters away. At least one reporter was beaten unconscious.

Oh, and then there’s this:

“There are armoured cars on the highway, there are people not even in uniform, in jeans and T-shirts with rifles in their hands,” said Vladimir, a local businessman who came to the polling station with his wife and young son. “It’s scary when you don’t know if someone is a bandit or a member of law enforcement. I’m voting against being afraid.”

Just swap out “jeans and T-shirts” with “unmarked camouflage” and he’s talking about you. Because we both know Trump is going to order you into certain cities to “stand guard” around certain voting precincts on election day. Ostensibly, you’ll be there to “protect” the polling station from “violence” but we both know you’ll be there, in full military gear with the biggest gun you can carry, for the explicit purpose of scaring the shit out of voters. Maybe a few will go home instead of casting a ballot. And that will be the point. Feel like you are defending the Constitution yet? But if you think Belarus is a shit show, wait until Trump declares that late mail in ballots won’t count.

Mail Fraud

We all see it happening right in front of us in real time. Trump’s handpicked Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, is deliberately slowing down the mail. This is causing a backlog to pile up and that backlog will grow over time from a few days to well over a week by election day. Naturally, Trump will demand that ballots not postmarked until after the election not be counted. That would mean millions of ballots mailed a week or so before the election will be tossed because Trump made sure they wouldn’t be processed on time. And wouldn’t you know it? The five Republican Justices on the Supreme Court will just happen to agree that we simply can’t count those ballots. Except in Florida. And maybe Texas. But nowhere else. Since Democratic voters are overwhelmingly voting by mail compared to Republican voters, gee whiz!, Trump will insist that he won the election and anyone who says otherwise is an enemy of the state. That’s when we’ll march on the White House and Trump will order you to “defend” him.

How Far Will You Go?

Even though the average person on the street can’t tell the difference between a National Guardsman in camo and one of you guys in camo, there is a difference. The National Guard tends to have limits on what it will do and you apparently do not. We know this because Trump couldn’t order the military to “dominate” cities the way he wanted. The National Guard does not go into a city to incite riots. Your secret police force does exactly that. We see you and we know what your purpose is. You’re not a new innovation. Dictators have used unaccountable thugs to terrorize the people before. You’re just the latest version of Germany’s Gestapo. This begs the question: How far will you go? We already saw you attack unarmed and peaceful protesters in Portland in order to give Trump his campaign ads. You beat up middle-aged women standing in a line with their arms linked so let’s skip the “they were violent” excuses. Clearly, you’re willing to violate civil rights on a massive scale. But just how far will you take it? When 10,000 of us show up, you’ll spray us with pepper balls and tear gas and start smashing us with your batons. What about when 100,000 of us show up? 200,000? 500,000?

All of your chemical weapons and steroid-induced rampages won’t stop us. What then? Will you open fire with live ammunition? Will you obey the inevitable order from Chad Wolf and Bill Barr to murder your fellow Americans to defend a man who rigged an election? How many will you be willing to kill? 10 of us? 100? 1000? Will you open fire on the National Guard if they refuse to obey such an illegal order? While you’re contemplating that, think about what comes next. Do you really think the Oval Office can be held by force indefinitely? Will you start arresting Democrats and declare one party rule in the name of “freedom?” Will you declare a moratorium on the First Amendment while still claiming the Second is sacred? How long do you think Trump’s regime will last before it collapses and he flees the country, leaving you to face the music? Do you really think he’ll be able to install a government that will outlast him? He can barely maintain the government he has. Are you planning on a paramilitary coup? Good luck with that.

These must be heady days for you there in the secret police force. Most of you were pulled from Border Patrol and ICE, meaning you are the most racist, depraved, and sadistic people in the employ of the United States government. You appear to be quite eager to do Trump’s bidding and maybe you think the good times will never end. But Trump is not going to be emperor and you will be held accountable for your actions in the coming months. There will be no pardons in your future and no blanket immunities. Remember, “I was only following orders!” didn’t work for the last group of men who tried to avoid the consequences of their crimes. It will not work for you, either.

See you in D.C. after the election. Sic semper tyrannis.

The 'Blue Shift' Will Decide the Election

Something fundamental has changed about the ways Americans vote.


As polling places closed on November 6, 2018, the expected “blue wave” looked more like a ripple. Not only had some of the highest-profile Democratic candidates lost, but the party’s gains in the House and the Senate looked smaller than anticipated. The wave, it turned out, simply hadn’t crested yet. Over the ensuing weeks, as more ballots were counted, Democrats kept winning races—eventually netting 41 House seats. In Arizona, the Republican Martha McSally conceded the Senate race to the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, who picked up more than 70,000 votes in post–Election Day counting. Democrats narrowed deficits in races in Florida and Georgia too. Republicans were stunned. “California just defies logic to me,” then-Speaker Paul Ryan said in late November. “We were only down 26 seats the night of the election and three weeks later, we lost basically every contested California race.”

This sort of late-breaking Democratic vote is the new, though still underappreciated, normal in national elections. Americans have become accustomed to knowing who won our elections promptly, but there are many legitimate votes that are not counted immediately every election year. For reasons that are not totally understood by election observers, these votes tend to be heavily Democratic, leading results to tilt toward Democrats as more of them are counted, in what has become known as the “blue shift.” In most cases, the blue shift is relatively inconsequential, changing final vote counts but not results. But in others, as in 2018, it can materially change the outcome. Although it is slowly dawning on the press and the electorate that Election Day will be more like Election Week or Election Month this year, thanks to coronavirus-related complications, the blue shift remains obscure. But the effect could be much larger and far more consequential in 2020, as Democrats embrace voting by mail more enthusiastically than Republicans. If the public isn’t prepared to wait patiently for the final results, and if politicians cynically exploit the shifting tallies to cast doubt on the integrity of the vote, the results could be catastrophic.

Imagine that as November 3, 2020, ticks away, President Donald Trump holds a small lead in one or more key states such as Pennsylvania—perhaps 10,000 or 20,000 votes—and seems to have enough states in his column to eke out an Electoral College win. Trump declares victory, taunts Joe Biden, and prepares for a second term. But the reported results on Election Night omit tens of thousands of votes, including provisional ballots and uncounted mail-in votes. Over the coming days, as those votes are counted, Trump’s lead dwindles and eventually disappears. By the end of the week or early the next, Biden emerges as the clear victor in Pennsylvania—and with that win, captures the race for the presidency. If that’s how things unfold, Trump is unlikely to take defeat snatched from the jaws of victory graciously. He has already spent months attempting to delegitimize the election system. So imagine that he instead cries fraud and insists he’s the target of a criminal Democratic coup. What if he encourages his supporters to take to the streets, where there are violent clashes between partisans? He might even urge the Republican-led Pennsylvania General Assembly to submit a slate of Trump-backing electors, citing the Election Day returns, even if the full tally clearly shows Keystone State voters chose Biden.

The hypothetical of a blue shift reversing the early projected winner is the “nightmare scenario,” according to the election-law expert Rick Hasen. Either Trump or Biden could win by a sufficient margin to make the result clear on Election Night; it’s also possible that multiple states might see a decisive post–November 3 blue shift, creating even more chaos. “You don’t need to worry about Russia,” Edward Foley, a law professor at Ohio State, told me. “Simply anxiety over a blue shift and willingness to litigate about it and fight about it could cause a raging contestation over a presidential election.” The blue shift is the product of two major developments in elections over the past 70 years. First, Americans began to expect that they would have results on Election Night itself. In the first national elections, it was impossible to gather results from many different jurisdictions promptly, and even then, there was no way to instantaneously deliver the results to the public. Electronic communications began to change that. Abraham Lincoln learned he’d won in 1860 by staking out the telegraph office until the wee hours of the morning. But when the races were close, or the votes were slow to be tallied, even instantaneous communications couldn’t deliver a result that hadn’t yet been determined. Nearly a century after Lincoln, in 1948, CBS News’s Edward Murrow signed off without being able to give the result of the close election between Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey. (The Chicago Daily Tribune was not so patient.)


much more at the top link

Incremental Change Is a Moral Failure

Mere reform won’t fix policing.


I know that where I live is the hood, and not only because I am in a part of Brooklyn where a substantial number of Black people still live. Nor is it because, year after year, for a solid month before the Fourth of July, my neighbors and I all play the game “gunshots or fireworks?” It is not because of the constant police presence, though that certainly helps with identifying it. I witnessed half a dozen police officers respond to one shoplifting call, and that was after the accused had already been handcuffed. But still this is not the telltale sign of the hood. It is the trash. There is trash everywhere, always. Nearly 8.5 million people live in New York City, not including the tourists and bridge-and-tunnel folks who, in more normal times, flow in and out on a daily basis. Of course there is an abundance of trash. But when I get off the train to walk to my therapist’s office on the Upper East Side, a neighborhood devoid of any of the character that makes New York City appealing, I notice that there is no trash on the street. More people live in this neighborhood than where I live; presumably they are creating more garbage, but their clean streets suggest otherwise.

A casual observer might suggest that the people who live in my neighborhood—mostly poor, mostly Black, mostly immigrant—take less pride in where they live. They throw their candy wrappers and used napkins, their half-empty soda bottles and unfinished pizza, their Styrofoam to-go containers and paper receipts on the ground because they don’t care about keeping their sidewalks presentable and livable. And this, the observer may argue, is because of a cultural deficiency. They do not value this place, their home, because such value has not been inculcated by their surroundings. Some of these observations have been turned into academic studies that became the foundation for what we now call “broken-windows policing,” a theory that can be traced to a 1982 article in this magazine, which claims that if such minor infractions are allowed to fester, they serve as the prelude to much larger, more serious crimes.

Little, if any, consideration is given to the fact that my neighborhood has fewer public trash cans than neighborhoods such as the Upper East Side. On the walk from the train station to my therapist’s office, I see a trash can on every corner. They are fewer and farther between on the 10 blocks from my local subway stop to the next one, on the always crowded, always bustling Flatbush Avenue. The city could put more trash cans here, if keeping this neighborhood where mostly poor, mostly Black, mostly immigrant people live clean—as clean as the neighborhoods where mostly affluent, mostly white New Yorkers live and work and go to therapy—were important. But then the city would also have to pay someone to collect the garbage from those cans. The city’s elected officials would have to deem these residents worthy of that expense. What these officials have deemed the hood worthy of is policing, and not because it is so much cheaper. Policing is a costly public service, but the one most readily available here. There are undercover officers busting drug dealers. There are uniformed officers in patrol cars sitting on corners all day, all night. Sometimes they are standing next to huge, overpowering floodlights, warning the criminals off the street. Sometimes there are raids, 10 to 15 squad cars deep, in which one or two people are arrested.

The police are always on duty. The people here do not lack for police, the way they do trash cans. A casual observer may tell you that this is because there is so much crime in this hood. That the people here are lawless, violent. And it’s true, there is violence here, just as there is violence anyplace where the people are stripped of the means to build a good life. Casual observers, who aren’t always so casual—they begin to include academics, media professionals, policy makers, presidents—excuse the presence of the police here, and in other hoods like this one, because their position is that in order to stop the violence of the hood you must impose the violence of the state. The police are meant, in this view, to protect the people from themselves, to enforce the discipline their culture lacks. In reality, the police patrol and harass. They reluctantly answer questions better suited for town visitor centers. They enforce traffic laws at their discretion, or to shore up municipal budgets through the imposition of exorbitant fines. They arrest people who have disobeyed them and then make up the charges later. They dismiss the stories of rape victims; they side with domestic abusers. They break into homes via no-knock warrants. They introduce the potential for violence by responding to calls about loud music—or counterfeit $20 bills. They shoot and kill with impunity. Regardless of the other responsibilities police have assumed, they have consistently inflicted violence on the most marginalized people in society.

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