The Virtual Pub Is Open (+ Programming Note)

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Beloved Community Pub'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

Belly up to the bar,
and be in this space together.


And please don't forget to tip your bartender!

Next Tuesday is Independence Day in the U.S., so we will be taking off Monday and Tuesday, and we'll see you back here next Wednesday! To everyone who will be around grills and/or fireworks over the next couple of days, be careful and stay safe! ♥

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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by bagels with cream cheese.

Recommended Reading:

Chauncey DeVega: [CN: White supremacy; police brutality] The Philando Castile Verdict Is a Reminder That in America Black People are the True Walking Dead

Friederike Heine: German Lawmakers Approve Gay Marriage, Even as Merkel Votes No, Saying It's Between Man and Woman

Marie Solis: Nearly 850 Backlogged Rape Kits Were Found Infested with Mold in Texas

Robert Jago: [CN: Racism; colonialism; displacement] Canada's National Parks Are Colonial Crime Scenes

Keith Reid-Cleveland: Only Cop Charged in Connection to Sandra Bland's Death Cuts a Deal

Ragen Chastain: [CN: Fat hatred; body policing] Girl Scouts Lead in Size Acceptance

Amy Larocca: [CN: Privilege] The Wellness Epidemic: Why Are So Many Privileged People Feeling So Sick? Luckily, There's No Shortage of Cures.

Jason Torchinsky: The Jerry Orbach Art Car Is Now a Reality

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Texting with Liss and Deeky!

Hey, Remember the 90s Edition. [Content Note: Moving GIF below the fold.]

Deeks: I totally died when you said your coat in that picture looked like something Divine would wear.

Liss: LOLOLOL! Because it is! Which is why I love it!

Deeks: Fuck yes.

Liss: I told Spudsy: "That's what it would look like if Interview put fat people on its cover!"

Deeks: LOLOLOL is Interview still around?

Liss: Who knows. I haven't read Interview since there was still a Waldenbooks at the mall.

Deeks: Waldenbooks! LOLOLOL.

Liss: "Let's hit Waldenbooks and pick up the latest issue of Interview then swing by Tower Records for the new Happy Mondays single!"

Deeks: "I want an iced coffee from Gloria Jean's."

Liss: Gloria Jean's!!! Ahhhhhhhhahahahahahaha!!!

Deeks: LOLOLOL

Liss: "Let's pick up some new sleeveless jean jackets at American Eagle."

Deeks: OMFG I used to wear the fuck out of suspenders, but, you know, just hanging down, as was the look.

Liss: Of course. I had a jean jacket that the sleeves zipped off of. So I could wear it as a jacket or as a vest over a flannel NO GODDAMN DOY.

Deeks: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!! Zippered sleeves!

Liss: I bet you bought all your clothes at Chess King.

Deeks: Until I discovered Hot Topic.

Liss: "Hold up! I can't go with you to B Dalton Books because I'm not done with my Orange Julius! Just go ahead—I need to pick up some new suspenders at Structure, anyway."

Deeks: LOLOLOL!!!!!!!

Liss: The entire 90s mall roster is stuck in my lint trap!

Deeks: Who even remembers this shit? (You.)

Liss: LOLOLOL!!! P.S. The Limited.

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Quote of the Day

"Here's the math: If I did not look the way I do, then I would not be on TV or on two book covers. I would not have a beauty column or an Instagram with more than 100,000 followers. This does not mean that I have not put in work and effort and done my job well, but my beauty is not something that I earned. I did not work for it, yet it has opened doors for me, allowing me to be seen and heard. And for me to pretend that it does not exist denies the ways in which being perceived as pretty has contributed to my success and made the road a bit smoother."—Janet Mock, writing very frankly about the privileges she enjoys because of the ways in which her appearance hews closely to kyriarchal beauty standards.

Her entire essay, "Being Pretty Is a Privilege, But We Refuse to Acknowledge It," is worth your time to read.

It's also a very interesting juxtaposition to the dynamic Shonda Rhimes was describing, which I highlighted in yesterday's Quote of the Day.

[Related Reading: Ugly Girl.]

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound and Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt standing in the grass in the backyard
These two precious monsters! I LOVE THEM.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 162

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough Disclose That Donald Trump Has Been Trying to Blackmail Them and Our Democracy Is at Grave Risk.

REMINDER: KEEP CALLING YOUR SENATORS TO TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON TRUMPCARE.

This morning, Donald Trump, evidently frustrated with his party's inability to pass comprehensive healthcare legislation in the tiny window of his short attention span, tweeted this shit:


At Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn reports: "Repealing the health law without a replacement would kick about 18 million Americans off of health coverage in the first year — and reach 26 million a few years later, according to a CBO analysis of a 2015 bill to repeal the health law without a replacement."

As part of his morning tweetshitz, he also dropped this turd:


Well, it turns out he was just taking credit for a task force that "will include Chicago police officers, federal agents, Illinois state troopers, 'intelligence analysts,' and state and federal prosecutors. ...Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in the press release that the task force 'will significantly help our police officers stem the flow of illegal guns and create a culture of accountability for the small subset of individuals and gangs who disproportionately drive violence in our city.'"

You know, if Trump actually cared about the gun violence in Chicago, he could take a look at the gun laws in Indiana, the state his veep Mike Pence used to run, since: "According to the FBI, roughly 60% of guns used in crimes in Illinois were from out of state. The overwhelming number of those guns flow into Illinois from states that have much less restrictive gun laws. Most of those out of state guns came from Indiana."

* * *

Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios: Trump Overrules Cabinet, Plots Global Trade War. "With the political world distracted by [Donald] Trump's media wars, one of the most consequential and contentious internal debates of his presidency unfolded during a tense meeting Monday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, administration sources tell Axios. The outcome, with a potentially profound effect on U.S. economic and foreign policy, will be decided in coming days. With more than 20 top officials present, including Trump and Vice President Pence, the president and a small band of America First advisers made it clear they're hell-bent on imposing tariffs — potentially in the 20% range — on steel, and likely other imports. ...One official estimated the sentiment in the room as 22 against and 3 in favor — but since one of the three is named Donald Trump, it was case closed. No decision has been made, but the President is leaning towards imposing tariffs, despite opposition from nearly all his Cabinet." Holy shit.

I can't put this any more plainly: Trump is literally contemplating destroying the U.S. economy and fucking over our major trading partners and national security allies in order to please his base with a talking point so they'll keep showing up at his Make America Clap Again rallies.

He will ruin countless lives in pursuit of adoration from know-nothings (who would themselves be devastated by this decision) because of his insatiable ego.

Fuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhk.

Kimberly Dozier at the Daily Beast: Spies Fear Trump's First Meeting with Putin. "Moscow believes its leader, ex-spy master Vladimir Putin, can extract major concessions from [Donald] Trump when the two meet for the first time next week, European officials tell The Daily Beast. The officials say their intelligence indicates Putin thinks he can outmaneuver Trump at the G-20 summit, playing on promises of cooperation on areas like counter-terrorism to win concessions like a reduction in the raft of sanctions against Russia. ...Their misgivings highlight concern that Trump's inexperience and Putin's ability to flatter will slowly degrade the U.S. alliance with Europe over time, and boost Moscow back to near-superpower status while extracting no changes to its aggressive, expansionist behavior." Everything is fine. *gulp*

Joel Schectman, Dustin Volz, and Jack Stubbs at Reuters: Despite Hacking Charges, U.S. Tech Industry Fought to Keep Ties to Russia Spy Service. "New U.S. sanctions put in place by former President Barack Obama last December — part of a broad suite of actions taken in response to Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election — had made it a crime for American companies to have any business relationship with the FSB, or Federal Security Service. ...Under a little-understood arrangement, the FSB doubles as a regulator charged with approving the import to Russia of almost all technology that contains encryption... Worried about the sales impact, business industry groups...contacted U.S. officials at the American embassy in Moscow and the Treasury, State, and Commerce departments... The sanctions would have meant the Russian market was 'dead for U.S. electronics' said Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, who argued against the new restrictions. 'Every second Russian has an iPhone, iPad, so they would all switch to Samsungs,' he said." Oh.

AP: Donald Trump Threatened with Subpoena over Comey 'Tapes'. "Bipartisan leaders on the House intelligence committee are threatening a subpoena if the White House does not clarify whether any recordings, memoranda, or other documents exist of Donald Trump's meetings with fired FBI director James Comey. ...In a 23 June letter, the White House responded to the committee request by referring to Trump's tweets. ...A letter Thursday from Republican congressman Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the Russia investigation, and Democratic congressman Adam Schiff of California says Trump's Twitter statement 'stops short of clarifying' whether the White House has any tapes or documents. Conaway and Schiff said in a statement that the letter makes clear that should the White House not respond fully, 'the committee will consider using compulsory process to ensure a satisfactory response.'" Damn.

[Content Note: Misogyny] Tara Palmeri at Politico: White House Council for Women and Girls Goes Dark Under Trump. "When President George W. Bush took office, he quickly and quietly disbanded President Bill Clinton's Office for Women's Initiatives and Outreach — and now President Donald Trump appears to be doing the same thing to President Barack Obama's White House Council on Women and Girls. The council, created by Obama in 2009 to monitor the impact of policy changes and liaise with women's groups has been defunct while the Trump administration evaluates whether to keep it, according to three senior White House officials. 'We want the input of the various agencies to understand the assets they have so that we make this office additive, not redundant,' said White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks." FUCK YOU.

[CN: Trans hatred] J. Lester Feder at BuzzFeed: Trump Administration Appoints Anti-Transgender Activist to Gender Equality Post. "The Trump administration has appointed an activist who led a campaign to restrict bathroom access for transgender students to the office of Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in the US Agency for International Development. Bethany Kozma's title is senior adviser for women's empowerment, according to an agency spokesperson. ...In 2016, she launched a campaign to oppose the Obama administration's guidance to public schools that said transgender students have the right to use facilities matching their gender identity; the guidance was withdrawn by the Trump administration in February." Goddammit I hate this administration.

Emily Holden at E&E News: Pruitt Will Launch Program to 'Critique' Climate Science. "U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a 'back-and-forth critique' by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official. The program will use 'red team, blue team' exercises to conduct an 'at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,' the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations. ...The disclosure follows the administration's suggestions over several days that it supports reviewing climate science outside the normal peer-review process used by scientists. This is the first time agency officials acknowledged that Pruitt has begun that process. The source said Energy Secretary Rick Perry also favors the review." What. The. Fuck.

Oliver Milman at the Guardian: Trump Called 'Threat to Every Coastline' as He Pushes Ocean Drilling Plan. "Environmentalists have condemned Donald Trump as a 'threat to every ocean and coastline in the country,' after the president pushed forward plans to expand oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as part of what he called a new era of 'American energy dominance.' The Trump administration has taken the first steps to rewrite a five-year plan, put in place under Barack Obama, that banned drilling along the Atlantic seaboard and in large swaths of the Arctic. The interior department is opening a 45-day public comment period for a new plan that it says will help grow the economy." Oh.

[CN: Islamophobia] Kenrya Rankin at Colorlines: Who Will Be Allowed into the U.S. Now That the 'Muslim Ban' Is in Effect? "Per the New York Times, the Trump Administration defines acceptable foreign nationals as those with the following family members in the United States: 'a parent (including parent-in-law), spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, whether whole or half. This includes step relationships.' According to the guidelines, if refugees and visitors from the banned countries can demonstrate one of these relationships, they will be admitted. The guidelines do not allow for the entry of 'grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-laws and sisters-in-law, fianc├ęs and any other 'extended' family members.'" Awful.

Jeva Lange at the Week: Leaked Audio from Trump's Re-election Fundraiser Catches the President Threatening to Sue CNN. "'It's a shame what they've done to the name CNN, that I can tell you,' Trump told the crowd. 'But as far as I'm concerned, I love it. If anybody's a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit — I feel like we do. Wouldn't that be fun?' ...Trump also slammed CNN's staff as being 'horrible human beings' and gloated, 'Boy, did CNN get killed over the last few days,' a reference to three reporters resigning over a story that did not meet CNN's editorial standards." Fucking hell. The only thing on which this guy can sustain focus is his vendettas.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Trump Hasn't Changed

[Content Note: Abuse.]

Meanwhile, on Twitter...

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Our Democracy Is at Grave Risk


In February of this year, Ari Berman reported that House Republicans voted "to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can't be hacked."

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice "sent out a request for information on how states maintain their voter rolls." Um, okay.

On the same day, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice-chair of Donald Trump's "voter fraud" commission, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, sent a letter to the Secretaries of State of all 50 states, requesting "that all publicly available voter roll data be sent to the White House by July 14, five days before the panel's first meeting."

The requested information would not only include a voter's name, address, birthdate, and partial Social Security Number, but also the voter's political party, if registered, and "which elections the voter has participated in since 2006."

And the commission wants this information for every registered voter in the entire country.

In response to Kobach's letter, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement that he has "no intention of honoring this request." California Secretary of State Alex Padilla flatly said in a statement that California will not comply: "California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach."

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin will not "turn over voter files to Trump election fraud panel." And even Alabama's Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has raised concerns about the request.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill also released a statement, saying that she would share publicly available data with the commission but complaining about a "lack of openness" about what the panel is looking for. Merrill cited past legal challenges to Kobach's efforts to clean up voter rolls in Kansas, which have led to some eligible voters being removed from registration lists.

"Given Secretary Kobach's history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission," said Merrill, a Democrat and outgoing president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

A spokeswoman for the association said the secretaries will almost certainly discuss Kobach's controversial request at their summer conference next week in Indianapolis.

The commission, which has yet to meet, has been viewed with suspicion from the start by civil rights groups, which think it will be used to justify measures — such as strict ID requirements — that will make it more difficult to vote.

Vanita Gupta headed the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department during the Obama administration. And she was not alone in raising flags about what the commission is getting up to.
A number of experts, as well as at least one state official, reacted with a mix of alarm and bafflement. Some saw political motivations behind the requests, while others said making such information public would create a national voter registration list, a move that could create new election problems.

"You'd think there would want to be a lot of thought behind security and access protocols for a national voter file, before you up and created one," said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University School of Law and former Department of Justice civil rights official. "This is asking to create a national voter file in two weeks."

David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, also expressed serious concerns about the request. "It's probably a good idea not to make publicly available the name, address and military status of the people who are serving our armed forces to anyone who requests it," he said.

...There is no evidence to suggest that voting twice is a widespread problem, though experts say removing duplicate registrations are a good practice if done carefully.

"In theory, I don't think we have a problem with that as an idea, but the devil is always in the details," said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. While he believes voter registration list maintenance is important, he says Kobach's Crosscheck program has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective and to produce false matches. A study by a group of political scientists at Stanford published earlier this year found that Crosscheck highlighted 200 false matches for every one true double vote.

"I have every reason to think that given the shoddy work that Mr. Kobach has done in this area in the past that this is going to be yet another boondoggle and a propaganda tool that tries to inflate the problem of double registration beyond what it actually is," Ho said.
And, one presumes, then subsequently used to justify voting requirements that disenfranchise voters who are most likely to be Democratic voters, which Republicans have already been doing in state legislatures for decades.

Because, of the two major parties, only Democrats believe that it should be easier to vote, not more difficult.


It's up to the states to hold the line against this massive federal attempt to erode voting rights. Make your calls. Let your state government know you're watching — and expect them to protect voters' information and rights.

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Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough Disclose That Donald Trump Has Been Trying to Blackmail Them

[Content Note: Extortion; threats; misogyny; use of disablist language.]

Following Donald Trump's tweeted attack on Mika Brzezinski yesterday, Brzezinski and her Morning Joe co-host (and fiancee) Joe Scarborough penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in which they disclosed in passing: "This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas."

That sounds an awful lot like attempted blackmail — and, during their broadcast this morning, co-anchor Willie Geist asked them to talk about what happened. The additional details they provided are chilling.

BRZEZINSKI: —approval ratings, and very few accomplishments. He's not in reality.

GEIST: There's never been any question that he requires daily, if not hourly, affirmation. I want to ask you guys about something else you published in the Washington Post piece this morning. It's something again we've talked about in private; you've never talked about it on television, but I'm already getting a lot of questions about it, so I want to give you the chance to explain. I'll just read a quote: "This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas." What exactly happened there, to the extent you're comfortable talking about it?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I mean, I'm comfortable talking— I mean, I think we have to talk about it now, because it explains the relationship and his really strange obsession with this show and, in particular, it's a really disturbing obsession with Mika. Ummmmmm, we got a call that, 'Hey, the National Enquirer is gonna run a negative story against you guys,' and it was— You know, Donald is friends with, the president is friends with the guy that runs the National Enquirer. And they said, 'If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.'

I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me, and the response was like: 'Are you kidding me? I don't know what they have. Run a story. I'm not gonna do it.' The calls kept coming, and kept coming, and they were like, 'Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe — just pick up the phone and call him!'

[Someone offscreen says: "It's blackmail!"]

BRZEZINSKI: And let me explain what they were threatening: They were calling my children. They were calling close friends—

SCARBOROUGH: You're talking about the National Enquirer.

BRZEZINSKI: —and they were pinning the story on my ex-husband, who would absolutely never do that, so I knew immediately it was a lie and that they had nothing. And these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House, where they said, 'Oh, this could go away.'

GEIST: So, I just want to be very clear here: The National Enquirer is harassing your children, your daughters—

BRZEZINSKI: Right.

GEIST: —who are teenagers—

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. And it's, you know—

GEIST: —and then, Joe, in turn, is getting calls from the White House—

BRZEZINSKI: Saying call Donald and apologize.

SCARBOROUGH: By the way, they're also, they're also— I was at Mika's house for a few minutes, and came out, and there was a guy in a van that was just staked out there, watching. It was clear that he was from a tabloid, and he said— He started asking questions. And then, after all of this started happening, that's when we started getting calls from the White House saying, 'If you call— You need to call the president, and—'

GEIST: Wow.

BRZEZINSKI: And our response, talking to my ex-husband, talking to Joe, talking to my kids, was: Screw it. Let 'em run it. Just go ahead and run it. We're not calling. We're not calling.
Later in the segment, one of the panelists, an older white man whose name I don't know Donny Deutsch [thanks, SKM!], observes: "What you just said is one of the most frightening things I've ever heard — basically that this story was gonna run unless you groveled to the president, and then the president will kill the story." And Geist adds: "But not just the story won't run, but we will stop harassing you. We'll have the National Enquirer stop harassing your children, if you grovel to the president of the United States."

This is utterly appalling. It's quite possibly criminal, and undoubtedly unethical.

It is also part of a pattern of Trump threatening and harassing journalists that dates back decades, as I detailed in a piece for the Globe and Mail:
After a 1990 interview with Connie Chung that didn't go the way Mr. Trump might have hoped, he unleashed on Ms. Chung during a subsequent interview with Joan Rivers, calling Ms. Chung "a disaster" and saying she was "like a little child. I mean this girl – this woman – has less talent than anyone I know of."

He went on to disturbingly recount that, when Ms. Chung sent him roses after the interview, "I cut 'em up and sent 'em back. I sent her back the stems. Actually, I did. I sent her back the stems, but I kept the top."

This is, to put it mildly, wildly inappropriate behaviour in any context, but it is utterly unrecognizable as the action of a person with a professional grudge and entirely comports instead with the impulse of an abusive spurned lover.
Donald Trump is scary, because he has no brakes on his worst instincts, is impulsive and cruel, has an extraordinary amount of power, and seemingly no one who is willing to offer a single check on his behavior, no matter how awful it gets.

Perhaps now that he's launched such a targeted and breathtakingly inappropriate attack on two members of the media, one of whom is a former Republican Congressman, both the media and the Republican Party will start taking more seriously their responsibility to hold this president to account.

I sure as fuck hope so.

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Open Thread

image of a pink couch

Hosted by a pink sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker musicalnomad: "What tradition do you really enjoy, and why? Could be any tradition pertaining to food, religion, dress, music, stories, superstitions, or any other thing I've forgotten!"

I like the tradition Deeks and I have of getting tattoos together around one of our birthdays.

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But Her Emails. Literally.

An explosive new report from Shane Harris at the Wall Street Journal: GOP Operative Sought Clinton Emails from Hackers, Implied a Connection to Flynn.

Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.

In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior advisor to then-candidate Donald Trump.

"He said, 'I'm talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything can you let me know?'" said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith's behalf for people who might have access to the emails.

...Mr. Smith's focus was some 33,000 emails Mrs. Clinton said were deleted because they were deemed personal. Mr. Smith said he believed that the emails might have been obtained by hackers and that they actually concerned official matters Mrs. Clinton wanted to conceal—two notions for which he offered no evidence.

I will plainly state I do not believe that is a coincidence. To the contrary, it now looks quite obvious to me that the 33,000 emails were a subject of some discussion among the Trump campaign team, and his outburst at the presser was an example of his not being able to stop himself saying publicly what's going on behind the scenes, as we have seen him do over and over again during his presidency, whether it's spilling secrets to the Russians or confessing that he fired James Comey to hinder the Russia investigation.

Reports from intelligence agencies "describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton's server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence."

If Trump didn't know this was going on under his nose, he's catastrophically unfit to lead. If he did, it's treason.

Either way, this is incredibly serious, and I trust that the Republican Party will do their best to bury it as quickly and thoroughly as possible, because they are fucking cowards.

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Shaker Gourmet

Whatcha been cooking up in your kitchen lately, Shakers?

Share your favorite recipes, solicit good recipes, share recipes you've recently tried, want to try, are trying to perfect, whatever! Whether they're your own creation, or something you found elsewhere, share away.

Also welcome: Recipes you've seen recently that you'd love to try, but haven't yet!

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This Is Not a Nothingburger

There are a lot of folks very invested in the narrative that the Russia investigations are a sideshow, that they're nothing but Democratic sour grapes to explain their electoral loss, that Donald Trump and his administration have no ties to Russia, that there's nothing to see here, blah blah blah.

Folks on both the right and the left have dismissed the investigations, and anyone who is concerned about Trump's possible collusion with Russia and/or his refusal to take the Russian threat seriously and/or his adoration of Vladimir Putin, as foolish, distractions, nothingburgers.

Well, have a big bite of this fucking nothingburger, pals:

Donald Trump has told White House aides to come up with possible concessions to offer as bargaining chips in his planned meeting next week with Vladimir Putin, according to two former officials familiar with the preparations.

National security council staff have been tasked with proposing "deliverables" for the first Trump-Putin encounter, including the return of two diplomatic compounds Russians were ordered to vacate by the Obama administration in response to Moscow's interference in the 2016 election, the former officials said. It is not clear what Putin would be asked to give in return.
Oh, I think it's pretty clear what Putin would be asked to give in return.

Remember the story about German Chancellor Angela Merkel's meeting with Trump in March? "Merkel brought a 1980s map of the former Soviet Union and noted the way its borders stretched for hundreds of miles to the west of Russia's current boundary, according to a source who was briefed on the meeting. The German leader's point was that Putin laments the Soviet Union's demise and, left unchecked, would happily restore its former borders. Merkel left Washington unconvinced that Trump had gotten the message, the source said."

Well, in the Guardian piece linked above, there's this story: "When [UK Prime Minister] Theresa May visited the White House a week after Trump's inauguration, one of her priorities was to dissuade the new president from relaxing sanctions imposed on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and covert military intervention in eastern Ukraine. 'The Brits did push for that, but it's hard to say how much difference their intervention made,' said a former official, who was working at the state department at the time."

So, two female leaders have both tried to convince Trump not to go easy on Russia and make nice with Putin, and, in both cases, it's "unclear" whether Trump got the message.

In other words, he didn't.

You know, one of the problems with choosing a rank misogynist to run your country is that he won't listen to women. Even when they're telling him things he desperately needs to hear.

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Quote of the Day

[Content Note: Fat hatred.]

"After I lost weight, I discovered that people found me valuable. Worthy of conversation. A person one could look at. A person one could compliment. A person one could admire. You heard me. I discovered that NOW people saw me as a PERSON. What the hell did they see me as before? How invisible was I to them then? How hard did they work to avoid me? What words did they use to describe me? What value did they put on my presence at a party, a lunch, a discussion? When I was fat, I wasn;t a PERSON to these people. Like I had been an Invisible Woman who suddenly materialized in front of them. Poof! There I am. Thin and ready for a chat."—Shonda Rhimes, writing very frankly about the difference in how she was treated (that is, way better) after she lost around 150 pounds.

This is definitely something I've heard from friends who have lost a lot of weight.

It's also akin to something I experienced when I used to work in a corporate job: When people (especially men) talked to me over the phone, they (generally) spoke to me exactly as the competent, prepared, smart, and talented person I am. Then they met me in person, and suddenly they spoke to me like I was a child, and not a very bright child at that.

I was the same person with the same brain and the same abilities, but their stereotypes invoked by my fat body overwhelmed their actual experience of me as a human being.

Fat hatred is really something.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Sophie the Torbie Cat lying on the floor on her back, with her face turned away from me
"I won't even consider posing for a picture until I get some belly rubs!"

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 161

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Today in Trump's Contemptible Anti-Immigrant Agenda and Donald Trump's Disgusting Attack on Mika Brzezinski.

REMINDER: KEEP CALLING YOUR SENATORS TO TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON TRUMPCARE.

This is a very good piece on the healthcare debacle by Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: Donald Trump's Ignorance Is Becoming a National Crisis.
Health-care policy, Donald Trump has admitted, is more complex than he once assumed. "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated," he said in February as he struggled to cobble together a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Still, he was optimistic about his chances. "Costs will come down, and I think the health care will go up very, very substantially," he told insurance company executives, explaining that the current system was a "disaster" that would only get worse. "I think people are gonna like it a lot. We've taken the best of everything we can take." In an interview in May, shortly after the House passed a bill that would cause an estimated 23 million people to drop or lose their insurance coverage, Trump boasted that he had become an expert on the subject. "It was just something that wasn't high on my list," he told Time magazine. "But in a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care."

Nearly everything Trump has said, however, suggests that his understanding of the $3 trillion U.S. health-care sector remains dangerously limited.

...[A]s The New York Times reports, the president may not understand how the [Senate] bill works.
A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan—and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy, according to an aide who received a detailed readout of the exchange.

Mr. Trump said he planned to tackle tax reform later, ignoring the repeal's tax implications, the staff member added.
...Trump, for his part, rejected the implication that he doesn't understand health care, tweeting Wednesday morning, in the wake of the Times report, that he knows perfectly well what he is doing. "Some of the Fake News Media likes to say that I am not totally engaged in healthcare. Wrong, I know the subject well & want victory for U.S."

All available evidence suggests that the opposite is true, and that the consequences of the president's ignorance could be dire.
The country's fate on healthcare, as everything else, hangs in the balance between Trump's ignorance and his cruelty. His ignorance stands to make things worse in one way, but, if he were knowledgeable and competent enough to get shit done, his cruelty would make things worse in a different way. Either way, we're fucked.

Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng at the Daily Beast: Does Trump Know the First Thing About Health Care? Aide: 'He Understands Winning'. "On Wednesday morning, the president woke up and then began angrily tweetstorming about his allegedly deep knowledge of the American health care system. ...The president's close aides and political advisers, six of whom spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely, would beg to differ. Some of them simply laughed at the very suggestion that the president knows much, or even cares, about health care policy in this country. ...'The president understands winning,' another official noted, adding a stuck-out-tongue emoji to the correspondence." Good lord.

Olivia Beavers at the Hill: Gingrich: Trump's Sales Pitch Needs Healthcare 'Translator'. "[Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich] said the president would be an effective voice in spreading [the Republican healthcare bill message], but said he may need some help properly formulating how to present the measure with the help of policy experts. 'Trump will be able to repeat it with enormous effectiveness once somebody translates it,' Gingrich told the AP." Wow.

So, the president who wants one of his signature accomplishments to be healthcare doesn't know a fucking thing about healthcare, what's in his party's healthcare bill, or how to talk about it. Basically, all he knows is that he wants to destroy the landmark legislation bearing the name of his predecessor, the nation's first Black president, whom the current president jealously hates with fiery passion.

Everything is fine. The country is definitely being run by the best person. *buys one-way ticket to giant cannon which will fire me directly into the sun*

Hey, speaking of Trump's all-encompassing rage-envy of President Obama... Charles M. Blow at the New York Times: Trump's Obama Obsession. "Donald Trump has a thing about Barack Obama. Trump is obsessed with Obama. Obama haunts Trump's dreams. One of Trump's primary motivators is the absolute erasure of Obama — were it possible — not only from the political landscape but also from the history books. ...Trump wants to be Obama — held in high esteem. But, alas, Trump is Trump, and that is now and has always been trashy. Trump accrued financial wealth, but he never accrued cultural capital, at least not among the people from whom he most wanted it. ...Obama was a phenomenon. He was elegant and cerebral. He was devoid of personal scandal and drenched in personal erudition. ...For Trump, the mark of being a successful president is the degree to which he can expunge Obama's presidency."

And the thing is, Trump doesn't even know how to not be the polar opposite of the respected Obama. He is compulsively Trump — a braggart, a blowhard, a grifter, a scoundrel who keeps the company of scoundrels.

To wit: He held a garish $35,000-per-plate reelection fundraiser, which was possibly illegal and over which he is likely to be sued; his personal attorney Jay Sekulow will soon be investigated over his shady nonprofit; and [CN: video may autoplay at link] Congressional investigators want to interview Keith Schiller, Trump's "longtime bodyguard-turned-White House aide, as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign."

And that's just the stuff I've read this morning. The point is: Trump wants to be something he is constitutionally incapable of being. And he hates himself for it, which makes him act out in resentful, abusive, and reckless ways.

Few people are more dangerous than a powerful man who cannot reconcile within himself who he actually is. Power and chronic discontent do not exist comfortably side by side.

We are in real trouble. And that isn't going to change anytime soon. Not as long as Trump is president.

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In other news...

Josh Dawsey, Eliana Johnson, and Alex Isenstadt at Politico: Tillerson Blows Up at Top White House Aide. "The normally laconic Texan unloaded on Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, for torpedoing proposed nominees to senior State Department posts and for questioning his judgment. Tillerson also complained that the White House was leaking damaging information about him to the news media, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Above all, he made clear that he did not want DeStefano's office to 'have any role in staffing' and 'expressed frustration that anybody would know better' than he about who should work in his department — particularly after the president had promised him autonomy to make his own decisions and hires, according to a senior White House aide familiar with the conversation." Sounds like everything's going splendidly at the State Department!

Lauren C. Williams at ThinkProgress: Trump Set to Fill Out FCC with Another Republican Commissioner. "Donald Trump has nominated the FCC's general counsel Brendan Carr to be the agency's third Republican commissioner — a move that could ensure the end of net neutrality regulations. ...If confirmed, Carr would join two other Republicans, FCC Chair Pai and Commissioner Michael O'Reilly. Mignon Clyburn is the only Democrat on the commission and her term is almost up." Fuck fuck fuck.

[CN: Guns; violence; incitement]


Chilling. And a reminder that Facebook's content decisions really and truly are "fundamentally not rights-oriented." How the fuck is that video allowed to stand, but Black Lives Matter content is removed? Appalling. (Aaron Rupar has a transcript of the video at ThinkProgress.)

[CN: Christian supremacy] Corky Siemaszko: Kentucky Gives Blessing to Bible Classes in Public Schools. "Now that Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the so-called "Bible Literacy Bill" into law, the ACLU and other watchdog groups say they are going to make sure the classes don't cross the constitutional line from teaching to preaching. ...While the state teachers union, the Kentucky Education Association, has not yet weighed in on the new law, groups that want to keep church and state separate like the Kentucky Secular Society, have opposed it. 'This is an opportunity for teachers to preach religion in the classroom,' the group said. 'If this course is really for literary purposes, it should include other mythologies and literatures that have impacted our culture as well.'" Yup.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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One Party Overwhelmingly Believes in Democracy. The Other, Not So Much.

Can you guess which is which? I bet you can!

Pew Research Center has found that 84 percent of Democrats agree with the statement "Everything possible should be done to make it easy for every citizen to vote."

Among people who identify as independents, 57 percent agree.

And only 35 percent of Republicans agree.

That is appalling. Especially in light of this finding: "The right to vote is deeply valued by the public: An overwhelming 91% say that they consider the right to vote as essential to their own personal sense of freedom."

And yet they would deny that right to other people.

Because the Republican Party doesn't just fail to do everything possible to make it easy for every citizen to vote; they actively work to prevent people from voting.

Voting is dignity. And one of the two major parties believes overwhelmingly that not every citizen is owed that dignity.

Despicable.

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Donald Trump's Disgusting Attack on Mika Brzezinski

[Content Note: Misogyny; disablism; hostility to consent.]

This morning, Donald Trump's ego got bruised because his old Morning Joe pals, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, aren't kissing his ass like they used to do during the good old days of the campaign.

So he lashed out at Mika with a pair of tweets reading: "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

It's likely that Trump went in on Mika specifically because she made fun of the size of his hands on his fake Time magazine cover.

And he determined, with his typical sagacity, that an appropriate and proportional response would be using his platform as President of the United States to publicly call her stupid, crazy, vain, and desperate, with all the emotional maturity of a popular high-schooler shit-talking a kid whose only fault was wanting to be liked.

He also either invented Brzezinski having had a facelift to demean her, or disclosed that she had one, which would be both cruel and deeply unethical.


This incident exemplifies everything about which political writers like me tried to warn during the campaign: Trump's brittle ego, his misogyny, his impulsiveness, his vengefulness, his vile cruelty, his categorical unfitness for the presidency.

He is exactly the rageful, petty tyrant that we said he would be.

But at least we escaped the dreadful fate of being governed by a feminist woman. Phew. What a horror that would have been.

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Today in Trump's Contemptible Anti-Immigrant Agenda

[Content Note: Nativism; video may autoplay at link.]

Tal Kopan at CNN reports:

The House Thursday is expected to pass bills that would hand [Donald] Trump key pieces of his immigration agenda, especially efforts targeting sanctuary cities.

The bills, "Kate's Law" and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, would install harsher penalties for repeat illegal entry to the U.S., and expand US law on sanctuary cities to pressure localities to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.

...Immigration and civil liberties advocates have also come out swinging against the bills, saying they bolster a "deportation force" and anti-immigrant agenda from the Trump administration.

Both bills come from the Judiciary Committee led by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a longtime proponent of strict immigration policies like Trump's and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Another lead sponsor is Iowa Rep. Steve King, one of the most aggressive Republicans on immigration enforcement who has a history of controversial statements about immigrants.
It's unclear whether either bill has enough votes to pass the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could not find enough votes to pass Kate's Law last year, and one hopes he will struggle again after the House inevitably passes this garbage today.

The bills are both predicated on fearmongering against undocumented immigrants, and the erroneous suggestion that undocumented immigrants are more dangerous and more prone to violent crime than U.S. citizens. That is flatly false.

In fact, as Philip Bump reports at the Washington Post, Thomas Homan, the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to endorse that sinister lie promulgated by Donald Trump.
[At a press conference on Wednesday, Homan] was asked whether immigrants in the country illegally were more likely to commit crimes.

He suggested that they weren't.

Homan was describing a number of crimes that had been committed by immigrants in the United States and advocated for building a wall on the border with Mexico.

"Aren't you concerned, though, about exacerbating fears about undocumented immigrants?" CNN's Jim Acosta asked. "You're making it sound as if undocumented immigrants commit more crimes than people who are just native-born Americans."

"What is your sense of the numbers on this? Are undocumented people more likely or less likely to commit crimes?" Acosta asked.

"Did I say aliens commit more crimes than U.S. citizens? I didn't say that," Homan replied.
The president, however, has. He has plainly stated that demonizing lie, and he brought victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants to his speech to Congress, where he announced the creation of Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE), an office within the Department of Homeland Security to, according to Trump, "serve American victims" of undocumented immigrants and provide "a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests."

Most reasonable people would not assume the creation of a dedicated office is warranted to address criminality in an immigrant population that actually commits fewer violent crimes than U.S. citizens. The implication of the very creation of the office is that an outsized problem of criminality necessitates it.

And that's certainly the implication that Trump hopes we will take, as the Republican majority in the House passes two bills with the same intent today.


The biggest threat to our collective safety is not undocumented immigrants. The biggest threat to our collective safety is the Republican Party.

Donald Trump hopes you haven't noticed that.

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Open Thread

image of a yellow couch

Hosted by a yellow sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker KitSileya: "Have you ever made something yourself, as a child or an adult, that you are very proud of? What is it? (A dinner you cooked, or a piece of crafts you did at school, or a letter you wrote, for example.)"

I'm very proud of some of the things I've written here. That's a lazy and obvious answer, but it's also true!

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The Wednesday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by toast.

Recommended Reading:

Marrion Johnson, Transgender Law Center: Meet the People Behind Our 2017 Plan of Resistance

Keith Reid-Cleveland: [Content Note: Police harassment; racism] Black Man Devonte Shipman Threatened with Jail Time for Jaywalking

Ciara O'Rourke: In Quest for Cuts, National Park Service Eyes Private Sector Takeovers

Kaila Hale-Stern: [CN: Play violence; demeaning euphemisms for sex workers] This Comic About How Girls Actually Play with Dolls Is So Spot-On

Rae Paoletta: New Evidence of an Ancient Neolithic Skull Cult Proves Humans Have Always Been Metal

And Happy Blogiversary to Fannie!!! ♥

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Trump Teases a "Great Surprise" on Healthcare

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link.]

This fucking guy:

[Donald] Trump claimed Wednesday that Senate Republicans have a "big surprise" on their healthcare bill, while also declaring the measure is coming "along very well."

"Healthcare is working along very well," Trump said after meeting with baseball players from the Chicago Cubs, according to a White House press pool report. "We're gonna have a big surprise. We have a great healthcare package."

When asked for further clarification about his remarks, the president repeated his claim about a big surprise.

"We're going to have a great, great surprise," he said.
Is it that you're throwing the bill in the fucking trash and agreeing to work with Democrats to improve upon Obamacare? Because, unless that's it, it ain't a GREAT SURPRISE.

Imagine being a human being so bereft of even the most infinitesimal modicum of empathy or basic decency that while people are showing up at their senators' offices to beg those senators not to kill them, you think it's cool to tease a "surprise" on healthcare legislation. What a piece of shit he is.

This isn't your garbage reality show, Donald Trump. Try to be a president for one fucking second. Goddammit.

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Inspiring Acts of Resistance

image of stormclouds over a field of flowers, to which I've added text reading: RESISTANCE IS FERTILE
Since there is so much to resist every day, here is a thread in which we can talk about the things we're seeing other people doing—or the things we're doing ourselves—as both inspiration, suggestion, and a bulwark against despair.

Share things you have seen that moved you, or actions you are taking. Please also feel welcome and encouraged to share links to Twitter users and/or news sites engaged in resistance that you recommend following.

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Today, I'll give a shout-out to the Handmaid's Tale protesters who showed up at the U.S. Capitol yesterday to protest the Republicans' "healthcare" bill.


SHAME. SHAME. SHAME.

High-five to the Texas ladies, including my friends @meadowgirl and @ohthemaryd, who started this particular act of resistance.

Not all superheroes wear capes. BUT SOME DO.

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"It's fundamentally not rights-oriented."

[Content Note: Racism; anti-Semitism; Islamophobia; misogyny; abuse.]

Julia Angwin and Hannes Grassegger have written a terrific piece for ProPublica, bluntly titled: "Facebook's Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men from Hate Speech But Not Black Children." It's a long read, but well worth your time and attention, so settle in.

I will just quickly highlight this passage, whence comes the title for my post (emphasis mine):

By 2008, the company had begun expanding internationally but its censorship rulebook was still just a single page with a list of material to be excised, such as images of nudity and Hitler. "At the bottom of the page it said, 'Take down anything else that makes you feel uncomfortable,'" said Dave Willner, who joined Facebook's content team that year.

Willner, who reviewed about 15,000 photos a day, soon found the rules were not rigorous enough. He and some colleagues worked to develop a coherent philosophy underpinning the rules, while refining the rules themselves. Soon he was promoted to head the content policy team.

By the time he left Facebook in 2013, Willner had shepherded a 15,000-word rulebook that remains the basis for many of Facebook's content standards today.

"There is no path that makes people happy," Willner said. "All the rules are mildly upsetting." Because of the volume of decisions — many millions per day — the approach is "more utilitarian than we are used to in our justice system," he said. "It's fundamentally not rights-oriented."
Well, that's refreshingly frank and ALSO TERRIBLE.

The question, of course, is if the approach to moderation is "fundamentally not rights-oriented," to what is it oriented? Profits, is the simple answer — but because Facebook's primary profit-making enterprise is data collection on its users, I think the true answer is slightly more complex and sinister, as they try to balance the appearance of safety for users with the ruthless exploitation and tolerance of abuse of those users for their advertisers.

One additional observation: There's nothing in the article about the flagging of content by users. And I suspect that plays a huge role in how moderating decisions get made.

I know from experience, that conservatives (and "far-leftists" who imagine they're not conservatives) spend an inordinate amount of time tracking and policing and reporting people they don't like.

I suspect that progressives generally spend a lot less time focused on the people we don't like, and have a much lower impulse for tracking and reporting.

What does that mean on Facebook? It's very likely that's going to influence how people who receive reports on flagged content respond as moderators.

Similarly, the options that Facebook provides for reporting inappropriate content shape those reports in a very particular way:

Option 1: It's annoying or not interesting
Option 2: I think it shouldn't be on Facebook
Option 3: It's a false news story
Option 4: It's spam

That's it. There's not even an option for reporting something as harmful, abusive, etc.

If I were going to report abusive content — let's say racist content, for this example — I'm not going to choose "annoying or not interesting," because I find racist content rather more problematic than "annoying."

I would choose "I think it shouldn't be on Facebook," which is the only subjective option of the four. My report gets submitted already prefaced with "I think," as opposed to my being able to definitively say it doesn't belong, though I would be able to definitively say it's annoying, even though that is arguable more subjective than whether abusive material "shouldn't be on Facebook."

That doesn't seem incidental. And I strongly suspect that who reports content, and how it gets reported, has a major impact on the deeply problematic aspects of Facebook's secret censorship strategy.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt sitting in the garden, looking at me
How am I even supposed to process this abundance of cuteness?!

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

Open Wide...

We Resist: Day 160

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Mike Pence Takes Charge on Senate "Healthcare" Bill and Cyberattacks Caused Surgery Delays; Breach at Nuclear Power Plant Being Investigated.

REMINDER: KEEP CALLING YOUR SENATORS TO TELL THEM TO VOTE NO ON TRUMPCARE.

A few really terrific things to read on healthcare — terrific and utterly heart-wrenching:

[Content Note: Racism] Anna Maria Barry-Jester at FiveThirtyEight: The Health Care System Is Leaving the Southern Black Belt Behind.
The Black Belt refers to a stretch of land in the U.S. South whose fertile soil drew white colonists and plantation owners centuries ago. After hundreds of thousands of people were forced there as slaves, the region became the center of rural, black America. Today, the name describes predominantly rural counties where a large share of the population is African-American. The area is one of the most persistently poor in the country, and residents have some of the most limited economic prospects. Life expectancies are among the shortest in the U.S., and poor health outcomes are common...

Yes, measuring who's insured illuminates one way by which people have access to the health care system, but it's only part of the picture. The term "access to health care" has a standardized federal definition that's much broader: "the timely use of personal health services to achieve the best health outcomes."

And there's a list of metrics to measure it. Researchers consider structural barriers, such as distance to a hospital or how many health professionals work in an area, to be important. As are metrics that gauge whether a patient can find a health care provider that she trusts and can communicate with well enough to get the services she needs.

...In Alabama, Black Belt counties have fewer primary care physicians, dentists, and mental health providers per resident than other counties. They also tend to have the highest rates of uninsured people. Poverty rates, which are associated with limited access to care, are also high.
Leah McElrath at Shareblue: My Father Is One of the Vulnerable Seniors Most at Risk from GOP's Cruel Medicaid Cuts. "More than 1.4 million Americans are receiving nursing home or other long-term care paid for by Medicaid. One of them is my father. My father is now 77 years old and has a rare form of dementia. When he became unable to care for himself in his home, I took him into my home and cared for him there. But when I was no longer able financially, physically, and emotionally able to do so, my father moved to a Medicaid-funded facility. To qualify for Medicaid funding for long-term care, you have to meet two types of criteria: financial and medical. To put it bluntly, you have to be both very poor and very infirm."

Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress: This Is How Trumpcare Will Be a Death Sentence. "Jon [who has cystic fibrosis] says that Obamacare, which enabled him to remain insured after he lost his employer-provided plan, 'definitely saved me from bankruptcy, and quite possibly saved my life.' Now, however, Senate Republicans are pushing a bill that would deny millions of Americans of the security that Jon enjoyed when his illness left him unable to obtain insurance through an employer. ...Had this legislation been in effect when Jon became too sick to work, he very well may be dead."

Eric Meyer on Twitter: "This is my daughter Rebecca in 2013. She was 5¼ years old when I took this [photo], and less than three days later, she almost died on an ER bed. ...Later, there were weeks on weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. After that was done, we came home for more chemotherapy. ...The treatments didn't work. She died at home less than ten months after her cancer was discovered, June 7th, 2014, her sixth birthday. In those ten months, the total retail cost of her procedures and treatments was $1,691,627.45. Almost one point seven million US dollars. ...Without insurance, even if we'd been able to get the insurer's rate, we'd have gone bankrupt. All investments, home, everything gone. If pre-existing conditions had prevented us from being covered, or if we'd been less fortunate and unable to afford premiums—bankrupted. So Rebecca's brother and sister would have suffered her death, AND the loss of their home and what little remained normal in their lives."

This last piece isn't just about healthcare, but it's extremely relevant. Kayla Chadwick at the Huffington Post: I Don't Know How to Explain to You That You Should Care About Other People.
Like many Americans, I'm having politics fatigue. Or, to be more specific, arguing-about-politics fatigue.

I haven't run out of salient points or evidence for my political perspective, but there is a particular stumbling block I keep running into when trying to reach across the proverbial aisle and have those "difficult conversations" so smugly suggested by think piece after think piece:

I don't know how to explain to someone why they should care about other people.

...I don't know how to convince someone how to experience the basic human emotion of empathy. I cannot have one more conversation with someone who is content to see millions of people suffer needlessly in exchange for a tax cut that statistically they'll never see (do you make anywhere close to the median American salary? Less? Congrats, this tax break is not for you).

I cannot have political debates with these people. Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.
SAME.

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[CN: Sexual harassment] Donald Trump is a disgusting disgrace, part whatever in an endless series:


If you're wondering if there are any people on Twitter brave enough not to let me get away with saying this is sexual harassment when it is clearly just a compliment, of course there are hahahahahaha OF COURSE THERE ARE.

* * *

Esme Cribb at TPM: GOP Rep Laments Budget Inaction: 'We Just Simply Don't Know How to Govern'. "Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) on Tuesday bemoaned House Republicans' apparent inability to bring a budget resolution to a vote on the chamber floor amid internal differences and higher-profile policy goals. 'We just simply don't know how to govern,' Womack, a member of the House Budget Committee, told the Washington Post. 'It's almost like we're serving in the minority right now.' He said a budget resolution for 2018 'should have been put to bed a long time ago.'" Indeed. But Republicans really don't have any idea how to govern, and their ideas are all garbage, so.

Oliver Milman at the Guardian: EPA Seeks to Scrap Rule Protecting Drinking Water for Third of Americans. "The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to dismantle the federal clean water rule, which protects waterways that provide drinking water for about a third of the US population. The EPA, with the US army, has proposed scrapping the rule in order to conduct a 'substantive re-evaluation' of which rivers, streams, wetlands, and other bodies of water should be protected by the federal government. 'We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation's farmers and businesses,' said Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA. Pruitt said the EPA would swiftly redefine clean water regulations in a 'thoughtful, transparent, and collaborative' way with other agencies and the public."

LOL! They'll "thoughtfully" figure out how to poison us. Terrific.


Rebekah Entralgo at ThinkProgress: Trump Uses Twitter Feed to Sell Book for Fox News Personality, Blurring Ethical Lines. Tuesday morning [Donald] Trump retweeted a tweet by Fox News commentator Eric Bolling promoting his upcoming book titled, 'The Swamp.' The book, subtitled 'Washington's Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It,' co-opts Trump's popular campaign slogan of his promise to 'drain the swamp in Washington.' This promotion of commercial products could potentially violate a ban that prohibits federal employees from endorsing any 'product, service, or enterprise.' ...This incident is an example of Trump's inability to let go of his businessman persona." And an example of Trump's inability to control his impulses.

Todd Bishop at GeekWire: Trump Targets Amazon over 'Internet Taxes' in New Tweet Criticizing Bezos-Owned Washington Post. "Donald Trump resurfaced his complaints against Amazon this morning in a tweet targeting the Washington Post’s coverage of his administration: 'The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!' The tweet follows a report by the Washington Post last night about a fake, framed Time magazine cover that hangs in Trump's golf clubs. It's not clear what Trump meant by 'internet taxes' in this context, but Amazon collects sales tax on purchases in every state where it's required, and the company supports national legislation that would require remote sellers to collect sales tax regardless of location. The Washington Post is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, not by Amazon."

There are a lot of concerning things about Donald Trump, to say the very least. Among them is the toxic combination of his vengefulness and his ignorance. He doesn't understand that Amazon doesn't own the Washington Post, so he might do something like propose a tax on internet purchases to punish Amazon for something the Washington Post did. It's incredible. And that's one of the least damaging acts of misplaced revenge he's likely to take. Terrifying.

* * *

David Corn at Mother Jones: We Already Know Trump Betrayed America.
The Trump-Russia scandal is the subject of multiple investigations that may or may not unearth new revelations, but this much is already certain: Donald Trump is guilty.

...Explicit collusion may yet be proved by the FBI investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller or by other ongoing probes. But even if it is not, a harsh verdict can be pronounced: Trump actively and enthusiastically aided and abetted Russian President Vladimir Putin's plot against America. This is the scandal. It already exists—in plain sight.

...This country needs a thorough and public investigation to sort out how the Russian operation worked, how US intelligence and the Obama administration responded, and how Trump and his associates interacted with Russia and WikiLeaks. But whatever happened out of public view, the existing record is already conclusively shameful. Trump and his crew were active enablers of Putin's operation to subvert an American election. That is fire, not smoke. That is scandal enough.
Yep. It's one of the great frustrations of this outrage that the brazenness of Trump's and his associates' behavior is routinely used to excuse it.

Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post: Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Files as Foreign Agent for Ukraine Work. "A consulting firm led by Paul Manafort, who chaired Donald Trump's presidential campaign for several months last year, retroactively filed forms Tuesday showing that his firm received $17.1 million over two years from a political party that dominated Ukraine before its leader fled to Russia in 2014. Manafort disclosed the total payments his firm received between 2012 and 2014 in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing late Tuesday that was submitted to the U.S. Justice Department. The report makes Manafort the second former senior Trump adviser to acknowledge the need to disclose work for foreign interests."

That refers, of course, to Manafort's work for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Putin then-prime minister of Ukraine, for whom Bernie Sanders' chief strategist Tad Devine also worked. [Relatedly.]

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Kevin Johnson at USA Today: Donald Trump and His Team Hired an Army of Lawyers for Russia Investigation. Who Made the List? "In what has become a near-full employment opportunity for the defense bar, even some of Trump's lawyers have lawyers. Michael Cohen, another longtime Trump business attorney who is not part of the Russia team, recently hired former federal prosecutor Stephen Ryan after congressional investigators sought information from him last month about possible contacts with Russia. The Trump team has expanded its constellation of legal expertise to keep pace not only with Mueller's inquiry but with parallel investigations at least three congressional committees are pursuing, including the Senate and House intelligence panels and the Senate Judiciary Committee."

* * *


That lock-out may be because the Trump administration didn't want the world seeing the Justice Department actually engaging in justice work by honoring Gavin Grimm.

[CN: Disablism] Robyn Powell at Rewire: How Media Coverage of Health-Care Protests by People With Disabilities Missed the Point. "As a woman with a disability, I was so happy to see the extensive local, national, and international coverage of the protests by the media. But while I am thrilled that the protest received so much attention, I am worried that some overlooked its purpose: to draw attention to the very real and devastating consequences people with disabilities will experience if the new health-care bill passes. ...This questioning of the protesters' competence is offensive. As leaders of ADAPT explained to ABC News, this action was planned well in advance. The protesters were at the Capitol because of their fears and outrage concerning the proposed draconian cuts to Medicaid: The House health-care bill included such drastic changes, and ADAPT correctly guessed the Senate bill would be similar."

[CN: Water contamination; racism; class warfare] Yessenia Funes at Colorlines: In East Chicago, Residents Can't Drink Their Water or Play Outside. "People are most familiar with what's happening to the water in Flint, Michigan, but the mostly Black and Hispanic residents of the West Calumet Public Housing Complex in the Indiana neighborhood aren't faring much better. Their soil and water contain lead levels hundreds of times above what the EPA deems safe. Residents were supposed to evacuate from the public housing complex by March 31, 2017... The city has provided the housing complex residents with section 8 housing vouchers, but [some residents have] had trouble finding an apartment that accepts the voucher."

And finally, in good news...

Daniel Boffey at the Guardian: Mayors of 7,400 Cities Vow to Meet Obama's Climate Commitments. "Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change. At the first meeting of a 'global covenant of mayors,' city leaders from across the US, Europe and elsewhere pledged to work together to keep to the commitments made by Barack Obama two years ago. ...Kassim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, told reporters he had travelled to Europe to 'send a signal' that US states and cities would execute the policies Obama committed to, whether the current White House occupants agreed or not."

Thank you, Mayors.

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