Friday, May 15, 2020

Last Call For Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

The Michigan state Capitol was closed Thursday as demonstrators gathered at the steps of the building to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order
The latest protest and the Capitol's closure came two weeks after protesters, some armed, entered the building and demanded to be allowed into the legislative chambers, which have been closed due to social distancing measures. Photos from the day showed some protesters, many of whom were not wearing masks or standing more than 6 feet from one another, screaming at law enforcement officers who were keeping them out of the chambers. 
The Senate and House were both out of session Thursday -- adjourned until next Tuesday -- leading Michigan State Police to close the Capitol to the public per protocol. The coronavirus pandemic has already led lawmakers to work remotely and pare down in-person sessions. 
The Michigan House previously laid out a plan to meet once a week and then other days as needed, given that it's more difficult for its 110 members to socially distance than Michigan's 38 senators, Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Lee Chatfield, told CNN. 
"Since the House finished all of the votes planned for the week yesterday, it adjourned until next week," D'Assandro said Thursday. 
Michigan Senate leadership did not reply to CNN's request for comments as to why the Senate has adjourned until next week. Its online calendar shows that the chamber has been in session Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for the last two weeks and is scheduled to be in session next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. 
Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner confirmed to CNN that because neither chamber was in session or holding committee meetings, the Capitol was closed "per the procedures of the Michigan Capitol Commission." 
The protest, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, drew a crowd of roughly 200 "at the high point" of Thursday's event, according to Michigan State Police estimates. The crowd later dwindled to about 75 people, according to the state police. 
Banner confirmed that some demonstrators were openly carrying firearms.

To recap: armed white supremacist terrorists forced the closure of Michigan's state legislature for at least several days. In any other country we'd call this a terrorist act.  And as with neighboring Wisconsin, Republicans are now trying to complete the victory.

Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature urged a judge Friday to strike down stay-home orders and other restrictions related to the coronavirus, saying Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer trampled their authority in determining statewide emergencies.

The clash in Michigan is the latest between Democratic governors who have shut down businesses and ordered people to stay home in response to COVID-19 and conservatives who believe the steps are excessive.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court this week ruled against Gov. Tony Evers, clearing the way for bars and restaurants to reopen.

The dispute in Michigan centers on two laws: a 1976 statute that gives the Legislature a role in emergency declarations after 28 days, and another from 1945 that grants broad authority to governors.

The House and Senate, which are controlled by Republicans, did not extend Whitmer's disaster emergency declaration in late April but she acted anyway.

“The governor has acted against the expressed will of the Legislature and is exercising authority that does not exist,” attorney Michael R. Williams argued on behalf of lawmakers.

So yeah, at this point we have active terrorist incursions in several states, and they are openly affecting policies in those states.

More will be coming, as Jared Yates Sexton notes.

Michigan is just the first state to experience this problem in this moment. Of course, in Oregon we saw an outlaw group led by the Bundy Clan occupy federal ground and escape consequences, but this new incident is an escalation of a trend that we should become unfortunately accustomed to. As governments and countries fall apart, the appearance of paramilitary forces is to be expected. It is a seizure of authority from citizens with plans and designs to forego democratic institutions in favor of authoritarian measures.

The danger lies not only in the physical threatening, but in the societal repercussions. It feels now almost certain that the stalemate in Michigan, between a governor protecting her constituents from a deadly pandemic and a group of armed men looking to start a race war and install a fascist dictatorship, could lead to violence. That’s what these demonstrations are about. Putting people in pressurized situations and waiting for the tinderbox to ignite. Each march and protest and siege is about upping the ante while awaiting the terrible next act.

But even if there is no violence, the political act of intimidating legislatures, of interrupting the people’s business with weapons and maneuvers intended to terrorize lawmakers, is an affront to the concept of an open and democratic society. Even while no blood has been shed, and hopefully none will be, armed men stalking the statehouse and occupying the halls of a democratically-elected legislature is a symbol of violence as a means of governing.

These moments inspire other actors to do the same, and we will probably see more incidents of mobs of Americans and terrorist organizations occupying public spaces. It is infectious and as it grows it only hastens the decline of a nation and its democratic institutions. This is the case and has always been the case. Meanwhile, the story is largely just a blip on a radar of continued coverage of Donald Trump’s lies, scandals, and conspiracy mongering. And those who should know better show concern, but are slow to admit the growing existential threat lingering over the nation.

We are watching America in decline, an empire coming apart at the seams. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As long as criminals go unpunished, whether they be in the White House or engaging in political terrorism in the halls of statehouses around the country, it quickens our slide. This will not simply go away and it will not heal itself.

But only in states with Democratic governors, mind you.  The violence will come, and it will be lethal and breathtaking in scope.

The Village Is Still Full Of Idiots

As Greg Sargent reminds us, our media is 100% unequipped to handle Donald Trump on a daily basis and are already falling into the false equivalencies and clickbait strawmen that defined Hillary Clinton losing.

The latest developments in the Michael Flynn case should prompt us to revisit one of the most glaring failures in political journalism, one that lends credibility to baseless narratives pushed for purely instrumental purposes, perversely rewarding bad-faith actors in the process.

News accounts constantly claim with no basis that new information “boosts” or “lends ammunition” to a particular political attack, or “raises new questions” about its target. These journalistic conventions are so all-pervasive that we barely notice them.

But they’re extremely pernicious, and they need to stop. They both reflect and grotesquely amplify a tendency that badly misleads readers. That happened widely in 2016, to President Trump’s great benefit. It’s now happening again.

Republican senators have just released a declassified list of Obama administration officials — including Trump opponent Joe Biden — who requested information that ended up “unmasking” Flynn during the transition.

Trump and his campaign have seized on this to further their claim that the Russia investigation was corrupt, and that Biden was key to that. Trump rails that this “unmasking is a massive thing” that raises new questions about Biden’s role.

Meanwhile, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale insists this illustrates “the depth of Biden’s involvement in the setup of Gen. Flynn to further the Russia collusion hoax.”

This is steaming nonsense.
But news accounts are reporting on this in purportedly objective ways that subtly place an editorial thumb on the scale in favor of those attacks.

For instance, the Associated Press ran this headline: “Flynn case boosts Trump’s bid to undo Russia probe narrative.” Axios told us:

Biden’s presence on the list could turn it into an election year issue, though the document itself does not show any evidence of wrongdoing.

CNN informed us that this is “the latest salvo to discredit the FBI’s Russia investigation and accuse the previous administration of wrongdoing.”

But here’s the problem: These formulations do not constitute a neutral transmission of information, even though they are supposed to come across that way.

The new information actually does not “boost” Trump’s claims about the Russia investigation or “discredit” it. And if there is “no evidence of wrongdoing,” then it cannot legitimately be “turned into an election issue.”

There’s no way to neutrally assert that new info “boosts” an attack or constitutes a “salvo” or is “becoming an issue.” The information is being used in a fashion that is either legitimate or not, based on the known facts. Such pronouncements in a from-on-high tone of journalistic objectivity lend the dishonest weaponizing of new info an aura of credibility.

Obamagate is being sold as a product for ratings, clicks, and subscriptions.

It worked for But Her Emails.

It will work for this too.

Searching For A Whitewash

So it turns out Google's depressing lack of diversity during the Trump years, especially among female employees and African-American employees in particular, isn't just a failed commitment from the internet giant to meet its own stated goals, it's now a 100% deliberate choice to reverse those goals as the company is now dismantling diversity programs completely to keep the Trump regime happy.

Google has significantly rolled back its diversity and inclusion initiatives in an apparent effort to avoid being perceived as anti-conservative, according to eight current and former employees.

Since 2018, internal diversity and inclusion training programs have been scaled back or cut entirely, four Google employees and two people who recently left the company told NBC News in interviews. In addition, they said, the team responsible for those programs has been reduced in size, and positions previously held by full-time employees have been outsourced or not refilled after members of the diversity teams left the company.

One well-liked diversity training program at Google called Sojourn, a comprehensive racial justice program created for employees to learn about implicit bias and how to navigate conversations about race and inequality, was cut entirely, according to seven former and current employees. Sojourn offered its last training to Google workers in 2018, four current employees said, and by 2019 it was cut completely.

Seven current and former employees from across a range of teams and roles at the company said separately that they all believed the reason behind cutting Sojourn and taking employees off diversity projects to move them elsewhere at Google was to shield the company from backlash from conservatives.

The current and former employees agreed to speak to NBC News on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal for speaking to the press.

“One of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative,” one Google employee familiar with the company’s diversity programming said in an interview. “It does not want to invite lawsuits or claims by right-wing white employees about Google discriminating against them.”
Melonie Parker, Google’s chief diversity officer, disputed the allegation that Google has scaled back its diversity and inclusion efforts. “We’re really maturing our programs to make sure we’re building our capability,” she said.

Parker added that changes Google is making to its diversity and inclusion work is focused on the need to “provide a scalable solution across the globe.”

Google acknowledged it had ended Sojourn, but said it was not in reaction to conservative criticism. Sojourn ran for three years, Google said, and it was too difficult to scale globally, since it was focused on issues of racism in the United States and didn’t apply to the rest of the world where Google has offices. Google and the majority of its workforce are based in the U.S.

It's apparently not only too hard to teach American employees to not be racist assholes, it's too hard to keep them from doing it around the globe.  Awesome.

It's inconceivable that this isn't a direct capitulation to former Google engineer James Damore, who went on a public tirade about why Google shouldn't bother with "weak" diversity candidates and was fired for it in 2017.  Turns out, the Damores are the majority of the company, because all techbro companies filled with white asshole racist techbros are going to eventually decide to embrace their inner reich.

The right-wing news website Breitbart began covering the internal tensions about Google’s efforts to become more diverse, publishing a July 2018 article on a speaker event hosted by Google on the topic of how white people can better navigate conversations about racism and privilege in the workplace. Breitbart accused Google of breaking its internal policy against using blanket statements about categories of people, such as about employees in certain racial groups.

“There was a meme going around that said white fragility shuts down discussions of white fragility,” a person involved with the event said in an interview, referring to a meme that circulated on an internal employee message board. The event wasn’t ultimately shut down, but additional security was provided.

“A hundred black employees could testify to the pain they feel in a climate that’s inadvertently hostile towards them and management will go back and say, ‘I need to get more data,’ and then three angry white men complain and everything comes to a halt,” the person close to the planning of the event said.

After the Breitbart article that summer, a raft of changes aimed at reducing the diversity and inclusion work ramped up across the entire company, according to three current and former employees. Even talking about the issue of diversity at work became strained, four sources said.

“In 2018, after all the Damore stuff, the higher-ups stopped saying the word diversity and were instead saying D&I, as in D ampersand I,” one current employee active in diversity advocacy at Google said. D&I is an acronym for diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Google has a hundred black employees?  Who are engineers?

I don't believe that for a second.


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