There are 46 Democrats in the United States Senate. Every single Senate Democrat voted against Betsy "Potential Grizzlies" DeVos, Trump's newly confirmed education secretary. Senate Dems "held the floor" overnight to protest the DeVos nomination. They peeled two Republican senators off DeVos, coming within a single vote of blocking DeVos and creating a 50-50 tie in the Senate that Mike Pence, in his role as president of the Senate, had to break, making Pence "the first vice president ever to cast a tie-breaking vote for a cabinet nominee."
You'll never guess who Jill Stein blames for DeVos's confirmation.
The Democrats are to blame for DeVos. Not the Republican president who nominated DeVos—a president Stein worked hard to elect—and not the Republicans in the Senate, the overwhelming majority of whom voted for DeVos. No, no. The Democrats are to blame.
Oh, hey, here's a picture of Stein having dinner in 2015 with Vladimir Putin and Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's unhinged national security adviser:
Jill Stein: Always attacking Dems, backed Trump and helped put him in the White House, and has nothing but nice things to say about her dinner companion Vladimir Putin. Nice leader you've got there, Green Party. She's not working to build a viable party, which might actually be helpful. No, no. After spending the last 18 months attacking Hillary Clinton and helping Putin's preferred candidate, Stein clearly intends to spend the next two years doing everything she can to hurt the Democrat Party's chances of retaking the Senate in the 2018 and blocking Trump's agenda. Because Trump's agenda is Stein's agenda is Putin's agenda.
And while we're on the subject...
Everything I said last July in this rant about Stein and third parties holds up:
You don't [build a viable third party] by trotting out the reanimated corpse of Ralph fucking Nader every four fucking years. Or his doppelgänger, whoever it is now, Jill Stein and some asshole-to-be-named four years from now. You start by running grassroots, local campaigns. And there've been—and I'm sure we're going hear from lots of people out there listening—there have been a couple of Green Party candidates who’ve run in other races here and there across the country. But no sustained effort to build a Green Party nationally. Just this griping, bullshitty, grandstanding, fault-finding, purity-testing, holier than thou-ing, that we are all subjected to every four fucking years by the Green Party candidate.
And the folks, including you caller—and I love you and I respect you and we’re having this debate and I'm not treating you with kid gloves because I respect you—are fooled by them, who are sucked into this bullshit, who are tricked by these grandstanding, attention-seeking, bullshit-spewing charlatans, into wasting your vote. Which is what you are going to do, I'm sorry to say, to circle back to the top of your call. You are essentially, if you're voting for Jill Stein, helping to potentially elect Donald J. Trump president of these United States. Which would be a catastrophe.
Yep. Everything holds up. Everything except this:
I have a problem with these fake, attention seeking, grandstanding Green/Libertarian party candidates who pop up every four years, like mushrooms in shit, saying that they're building a third party. And those of us who don't have a home in the Republican Party, don't have a home in the Democratic Party, can't get behind every Democratic position or Republican position, should gravitate toward these third parties. And help build a third party movement by every four fucking years voting for one of these assholes like Jill fucking Stein, who I'm sure is a lovely person, she's only an asshole in this aspect.
Seven riders from the Navajo Nation and their dog trek against background of Canyon de Chelley, in an image widely copied in Westerns (1904).
“The most gigantic undertaking since the making of the King James edition of the Bible”, The New York Herald gushed when the first volume of The North American Indian appeared in 1907. Its foreword was written by Teddy Roosevelt and the book was funded by J.P. Morgan. When its last volume appeared, however, its author was broke and his work had been largely forgotten.
Edward Curtis was one of those large-than-life figures — less of a photographer than an explorer. Abandoning his lucrative society photography, he spent three decades photographing and documenting lives and traditions of eighty North American tribes, a monumental task which took him from the Mexican border to Bering Strait.
Curtis felt that he was racing against time; the 1900 census put the Native American population at 237,000, compared to approximately 600,000 a century earlier. Many of their rituals and traditions had been banned to encourage ‘assimilation’. When he documented a Piegan Sun Dance in Montana in 1900, Curtis realized it might be the last of its kind.
He was relentless, working 16-hour days, seven days a week, against considerable odds. It took up to six years to persuade Sikyaletstewa, the Hopi Snake Chief, to allow him to participate in a ceremonial snake hunt. He bribed the Navajos to reenact a Yei be Chei healing dance, but the dancers performed the ceremony backwards in order not reveal its most sacred parts. Due to his travels, he was largely absent from domestic life, and his wife left him in 1916.
Curtis compiled over 40,000 large format photos of Native Americans, recorded 10,000 Indian songs on wax cylinders, and collected vocabularies, pronunciation guides, and myths in 75 languages. He became the first person to conduct a thorough historical autopsy of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, from both the Indians side and that of the cavalry.
For a documentary on the Kwakiutl in the Pacific Northwest, who had a reputation as headhunters and cannibals, he participated in the native rituals, bedecking his boat with a human mummy and skulls. Rumors swirled that he participated in a secret cannibalism ceremony — something Curtis mischievously refused to admit or deny.
In other ways too, Curtis was an unreliable narrator. At Piegan lodge, he airbrushed out an alarm clock present in a native tent — a technique he practiced on modern clothes and other signs of contemporary life. He staged a Crow war party on horses, even though there had been no Crow war parties for years. Of the Hopi Snake Dance, he wrote, “Dressed in a G-string and snake dance costume and with the regulation-snake in my mouth I went through [the ceremony] while spectators witnessed the dance and did not know that a white man was one of the wild dancers.” It is now believed that this claim may have been exaggerated or untrue.
An Oasis in the Badlands. Chief Red Hawk pose atop a white horse at a watering hole.
One bit of good news for those thoroughly freaked out by the Trump presidency: there’s anger, passion and drive on the left that’s unprecedented in recent memory. Two weekends ago, my girlfriend, a veteran of Occupy Houston, warned me that it was difficult to mobilize people in that car-centric city and thought we might find a few hundred marchers for the post-inauguration march. The crowd we joined was 22,000 strong, and as we assembled in front of Houston city hall, the chief of police told us that we were the largest protest in the city’s history. And the Houston protest was a small one compared to massive protests in Boston, New York, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, LA and DC.
This weekend featured a wave of demonstrations at airports around the US against the racist and unconstitutional Muslim ban. The ACLU, leaders in fighting the ban, raised more than $24 million over the weekend, demonstrating that activists are willing to put money where their hearts are. And an army of lawyers is occupying airport food courts, offering legal representation to anyone prevented from entering the US. The outpouring of progressive efforts has been so massive that journalists are beginning to refer to it as “the surge”.
Here’s the bad news: thus far, we’re not very good at channeling that energy. There’s so much to react to, from fundamental questions about the legitimacy of the election to concern about concrete steps Trump is taking in office that it’s hard to know what to proactively work on. And there’s a danger in reactive activism: your opponent gets to choose and frame the issues for you. For all its weaknesses, the Trump administration is masterful at framing issues to its advantage, as the left is just now beginning to understand how powerful a tool this can be.
Immediately after the US election, “fake news” emerged as a major story, a partial explanation for Trump’s surprise electoral victory. Within a week, I’d been invited to four different conferences, brainstorms or hackathons to combat fake news, done a dozen media interviews and briefed the heads of two major progressive foundations on the issue. Fake news was a problem for American democracy and progressive leaders were on it!
Unfortunately, so was the Trump administration. On January 11th, Trump offered his first press conference since the election, and refused a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta, criticizing the network and declaring “You are fake news.” This week, the President expanded the fake news camp to include the nation’s “paper of record”.
The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!
Media Cloud, the tool we developed at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center to track the spread of ideas in news media, shows that “fake news” was associated primarily with Facebook in the months of November and December. Coverage of fake news focused on Buzzfeed’s excellent reporting on for-profit news sites in Macedonia that created “news” out of whole cloth in hopes of attracting US right-wing eyeballs and ad dollars by designing news stories likely to be spread on Facebook. In January, the fake news narrative has shifted to CNN as a result of the President’s adoption of the term, wielded against CNN in revenge for their decision to cover (though not reproduce) the Steele dossier.
Mentions of “fake news”, November and December 2016
Mentions of “fake news”, January 2017
The President’s embrace of the term “fake news” should be reason enough for the left to stop organizing conferences and projects on the topic. It’s a vague and ambiguous term that spans everything from false balance (actual news that doesn’t deserve our attention), propaganda (weaponized speech designed to support one party over another) and disinformatzya (information designed to sow doubt and increase mistrust in institutions) – I wrote at length about the complexities of the term for Deutsche Welle last week.
But that’s not the real problem. The problem is that the very concept of fake news helps the Trump administration.
Many pundits complained that Trump campaigned without a platform, just a set of audience-tested applause lines. While that may be true, the campaign was not without a strategy. Trump and his advisors realized that the dominant political mood of the moment is one of mistrust. The primary locus of this mistrust is the government in Washington – in 1964, 77% of Americans trusted the government in Washington to do the right thing all or most of the time. By 2011, that number was down to 19%. But this collapse in trust affects all large, bureaucratic systems, from universities and hospitals to the military and churches. And people really mistrust media: in 1979, 51% of people trusted newspapers all or most of the time. By 2013, only 24% of people trusted newspapers, and 21% trusted television news.
It’s deeply uncomfortable when the President refers to the media, a constitutionally-protected institution critical to monitoring a representative democracy, as the “opposition party”.
Where was all the outrage from Democrats and the opposition party (the media) when our jobs were fleeing our country?
But it shouldn’t be that surprising – in many ways, Trump ran against the media as much as he ran against Hillary Clinton. The chant of “CNN Sucks!” was a common feature of his rallies, one he encouraged by railing against the unfairness of the coverage he was receiving.
Elected as a revolutionary, Trump is governing as an insurrectionist, moving to sideline or disable much of the federal government. For those of us uncertain as to whether Trump was a conventional Republican with inflammatory rhetoric or a genuine rebel, his cabinet choices made things very clear. The nominees he has proposed are a wrecking crew, in many cases explicitly dedicated to the destruction of the agencies they oversee. This is strategy, specifically Steve Bannon’s strategy. As Ronald Radosh reported last summer, Bannon identifies as a Leninist, dedicated to the destruction of establishment institutions through Tea Party populism.
Some of the mainstream Republicans who supported Trump because it was a way to defeat Clinton are feeling very uncomfortable about how the President is governing. But many in Trump’s base are pleased to see that he genuinely wants to overturn and abolish institutions they feel have not served them well. (Uncomfortably, they have a point. Rising inequality means that the economic recovery under Obama hasn’t reached many households. Not that voting in a plutocracy is an especially good way to combat this.)
The best way to defeat insurrectionism is with strong institutions. We’ve got to celebrate the ones that are working well and reform the ones that are broken. We may even need to tear some down and replace them with something better. And we have to humanize all of them, identifying and celebrating the people who are working hard to make these institutions function, and to fix them when they decay. It’s easy to hate an institution – it’s harder to hate the people within it. That’s the power of Twitter accounts like @RogueNASA and @AltUSNatParkService. They remind us that real people work within government institutions, that they’re proud of what they do, and that we need to get beyond our understandable mistrust of agencies, bureaucracies and hierarchies, and celebrate the things they do well.
That’s the problem with a focus on fake news. By adopting the frame, we remind people of the difficulty of reporting in a digital age, the real problems of verifying information and the times our journalistic institutions have failed. We should fix our failures, we should get better at stopping misinformation before it starts to spread, but we can’t do this in a way that supports a Trump attack on the very notion of independent media institutions.
There’s another thing, too. Fake news is not the problem. My colleagues at Harvard are releasing a study of news during the 2016 election next month. They looked at how influential thousands of different news outlets had been during the cycle. They found dozens of news outlets that have been flagged by academics as purveyors of fake news, publishers that create stories from whole cloth for profit. While those sites exist, they were not very influential in the 2016 election – the most influential don’t even rank in the top 100 sites in the analysis. Far more people have been influenced by talk about fake news than by fake news itself.
Why? Because progressives love the idea of fake news. Most progressives – myself included – find it hard to understand how fellow Americans can view the world so differently. By blaming the results of the election on fake news, we have an easy explanation for an incomprehensible situation. If we could just eliminate misinformation, everyone would agree with us!
As Michael Schudson points out in his brilliant The Good Citizen, central to the progressive movement was the idea of the informed citizen. Crusading newspapers reported on malfeasance, and citizens were expected to spend hours informing themselves on candidates and propositions. The net result? The voting rate dropped by 50%. Unfortunately, political decisions are seldom rational, fact-based ones as much as we’d like them to be.
The uncomfortable truth is that support for Trump’s insurrectionist agenda is real, and that there’s a ferocious appetite for news that confirms our existing biases – on both sides of the aisle. Yes, we should find a way to battle deceptive misinformation. But we need to work harder on building media that pushes us to see different perspectives and helps us understand the complex political reality we live in. The answer is not to fight fake news – it’s to build wide news, media that helps us understand people we disagree with and people we seldom hear from.
A couple of months ago, I was scooping myself a bowl of ice cream, when I discovered something interesting and a little disturbing: Nowhere on the label did the ice cream describe itself as “ice cream.”
The label was for Breyers, a brand that has a long, lengthy history in the ice cream manufacturing game and a pledge to use “high quality ingredients.” But this pledge had been put into doubt by the fact that Breyers couldn’t describe what it was selling as ice cream, but rather “frozen dairy dessert.”
So, what’s the deal? The website Brand Eatingexplained the whole issue back in 2015. Basically, some of Breyers’ flavors fail to meet a basic criteria for ice cream set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture: One, that the dessert is make up of 10 percent milkfat, and that the ice cream has an overrun of 100 percent or less—that is, the ice cream shouldn’t be mostly made of more than 50 percent air bubbles after it’s whipped.
As for why they’d do something like this, New York Times writer Dan Barry got an explanation from Unilever, the company that owns the brand, a couple of years ago.
“People really drove that decision,” Nick Soukas, the company’s onetime director of ice cream, told Barry. That is, according to the company’s research, people wanted a smoother texture than what you can get with normal ice cream. Hence, that’s how we get “frozen dairy dessert.”
(Soukas has since moved on to be in charge of skin cleansing for the company, which sorta makes sense based on this decision.)
So why did Breyers fall out of “ice cream” contention? Well, this clip linked in the Times piece points out two issues: The length of the ingredient list, which includes a lot of extra preservatives, and (because it was left out overnight) the literal deflation of the ice cream.
Despite the fact it had basically been untouched the night before, it was taking up roughly half the package now—because all the air had fluttered out. It’s sort of depressing to think about.
"While I’m governor, there will not be a state sanctioned execution of a Washington State citizen," says Governor Jay Inslee.Office of Governor Jay Inslee
With hopes that new Republican support will help push the question to a vote this year, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson are proposing legislation to abolish the death penalty in Washington State.
"The evidence is absolutely clear that death penalty sentences are unequally applied, they are frequently overturned, and they are always costly," Inslee said at a press conference announcing the proposal today.
If passed, the bill would outlaw the death penalty in the state and replace it with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. It would not retroactively affect prisoners who are already on death row in Washington.
Capital punishment is still legal on the books of 31 states, including Washington. But in 2014, Inslee imposed a moratorium on executions in Washington, which he has promised to uphold as long as he is governor. If this bill passes, future executions would not be allowed but a future governor could theoretically undo Inslee's moratorium in order to allow executions of people who were already on death row.
Ferguson said six other states from both ends of the political spectrum have held legislative votes on the death penalty in the last 10 years. "It's time for the Washington State Legislature here to take that vote," he said.
A bipartisan group of state legislators—Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle), Jaime Pedersen (D-Seattle), Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way), Maureen Walsh (R-Walla Walla), Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines)—stood alongside Inslee and Ferguson in support of the bill. So did Rob McKenna, the former Republican state attorney general, who lost to Inslee in the 2012 race for governor.
McKenna emphasized the cost and burden of death penalty cases that drag on and on. "Justice is delayed and delayed to the point where the system is broken," he said. "It isn't working."
Miloscia cited his Catholic faith ("How do we show mercy to our enemies?") and Walsh said, "It's the fiscal conservative in me" that's led to her opposition to the death penalty. Miloscia said McKenna's support will help take the conversation, which has repeatedly failed to gain traction in Olympia, to "a different level." In recent years, state lawmakers have proposed similar legislation but have been unable to get a full legislative vote on the proposal.
Lawmakers are still gathering co-sponsors for the bill, Miloscia said, and it will be "dropped very soon." To pass, this bill will need hearings in the Law and Justice Committee of the Republican-controlled state senate and the Judiciary Committee of the Democratic-controlled state house.