Sunday, March 20, 2022

Last Call For America Goes Viral, Con't

We're still seeing 1,500 dead from COVID a day, 150,000 in 2022 alone, but nobody seems to care since the fatalities are overwhelming rural and overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic in states like Virginia, Maryland, and DC.

And at every turn, the deaths are caused by disinformation in Black and Hispanic communities.

When a radio show host asked Leonder “Rico” Jerome for his thoughts on the vaccines during a roundtable with Black barbers and health experts in June, Jerome answered honestly: He was conflicted.

Although he was there to discuss an initiative to encourage Black people to take the shot, Jerome, 48, was torn between the news he consumed on vaccine efficacy and his distrust of the pharmaceutical companies that developed the shots.

“Being a man of ebony hue … you’ve seen the Tuskegee experiments, you’ve seen so many different things — to tell me you’re not going to be paranoid is a lie,” Jerome said on the program, adding that he was not vaccinated. “My percentages have been getting higher to get [a vaccine dose] very soon. But I’m still deep in prayer.”

Three months later, his symptoms emerged. As slight discomfort devolved into a fever, Jerome’s loved ones urged him to seek medical help. Within weeks, he was placed on life support for covid pneumonia.

As District lawmakers and residents tangled over the merits of masking and vaccination mandates, Jerome spent the next three months in different hospitals, healing from surgeries on his lungs and kidneys. Even though he had no underlying health conditions, doctors told his sister, Ebony Ellison, that she should start making end-of-life plans. Jerome had a 3 percent chance of survival.

“They said if he was vaccinated, he would not be on life support,” Ellison said, remembering the conversations she had with her brother about vaccination. “He would talk about syphilis [and Tuskegee], but I didn’t go into it with him. Trying to convince someone, especially when you’re the youngest sibling — you give up the fight.”

Health experts and advocates in the District say Jerome’s case is emblematic of the vaccine-related hesitancy and distrust they’ve frequently encountered in majority-Black neighborhoods, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic at every stage.

Black residents accounted for an overwhelming majority of the city’s 102 coronavirus deaths over the last three months, said Wayne Turnage, deputy mayor for health and human services. Of those, more than 3 in 4 were unvaccinated; 1 in 5 had some doses but lacked a booster shot; and 9 in 10 suffered from an underlying condition, such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure.

“When omicron came, and we found you needed a booster, you had to almost start over,” said Tuckson, of the Black Coalition Against Covid. “There was not only hardening of misinformation in too much of Black America and the anti-vaccine community, but we also had people that were tired.”

For some Black residents, he said, vaccine distrust is intertwined with frustration over other issues such as police brutality, racism and voter disenfranchisement. For Jerome and some of his friends, that hesitation stems from America’s racist history, including leaders who once considered him and his relatives to be three-fifths of a person and the Tuskegee study. That trepidation has only been intensified by posts on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook that raise doubts over the safety of the vaccines.

The District has used a mix of financial incentives and interventions to reduce gaps in vaccination rates. But Turnage warned of a “tremendous level of misinformation” across social media that continues to influence Black residents.

“There are great reasons to be angry and bitter about Tuskegee, but the issue was people denied access to drugs that could have saved them. In this case, for some odd reason, we deny access to ourselves to the drug that would save us, as some type of protest,” Tuckson said.

In mid-December, as the omicron variant sent more unvaccinated residents into city hospitals, Jerome was released. Doctors described his recovery as a miracle.

He feels more pressure now to get vaccinated, he said. But he’s still undecided.
The horrible, horrible secret is white America considers COVID a Black problem that doesn't exist in white neighborhoods.  And if you wanted to kill as many Black people as possible, you'd make sure that decreasing health care funding, spreading disinformation, and sowing distrust among communities was going exactly the way it's going now: telling white folk that "lazy, fat, sickly Black people" are the ones that need the vaccine, not you, and then telling Black folks "Hey, have you ever been able to trust the US government on health care for Black America?"

And here we are, with a third unvaccinated, probably another 15-20% vaccinated but not boosted, and only a small minority of Black Americans caught up with shots.

We always suffer the most, first and last.

The Burned Bridges Of Madison Cawthorn, Con't

Republicans are finally getting clued in that GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn hates them just as much as he hates everyone else in Washington DC and maybe that he hates Republicans even more, and the fact he's only 26 years old and believes he's the smartest person in the room all the time means he hasn't picked up experience or wisdom enough to actually keep his government job.

When House Republicans gathered on the baseball field Friday morning for their weekly practice, members were abuzz about one topic: Rep. Madison Cawthorn. 
The North Carolina Republican infuriated members of his own party this week for calling Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a "thug" and the Ukrainian government "incredibly evil" -- comments that surfaced just days before Zelensky made a passionate plea to Congress on Wednesday for more help in defending Ukraine against Russia's bloody assault on the country. 
"It was the talk of baseball practice today," Rep. Roger Williams, a Texas Republican who coaches the GOP baseball team, told CNN. "It's not the time to toss accusations around like that ... What I would just say is, I wish he hadn't said it. That was the general sentiment (at practice.)" 
Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina, who has not been shy about calling out his colleagues after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump last year, was even more pointed in his criticism. 
"Madison Cawthorn has said he is here for PR and not legislating. I don't think he's a serious legislator," Rice told CNN. "I think he's more interested in throwing bombs than he is in actually trying to help the country." 
"I don't think he has very much respect for the Republican conference or anywhere else," he added. "He's living in a dream land." 
Cawthorn's latest comments have put GOP leaders in an awkward spot -- just as they're trying to show a unified front against Russia and paint President Joe Biden as weak against Russian President Vladimir Putin. The remarks from a freshman firebrand with the ear of former President Donald Trump risks undermining their anti-Russia position, and critics have seized on Cawthorn's most recent behavior to accuse the GOP of echoing Kremlin talking points and acting sympathetic toward Putin. 
Now, lawmakers from across the conference -- including members of Republican leadership -- are dumping criticism on Cawthorn and racing to distance themselves from his remarks. 
"Madison is wrong, if there's any thug in this world it's Putin," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said at his weekly news conference on Friday, though he said he's still supporting Cawthorn's reelection bid. "You just watched Putin directing Russia bomb a maternity ward. We watched yesterday in a theater that's identified in the front and the back from the air that you're housing children -- bombed. This is atrocious, this is wrong, this is the aggressor, this is the one that needs to end this war. This is the one that everybody should unite against." 
Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the head of the House GOP's campaign committee, called Cawthorn's remarks "unfortunate." 
Asked if Cawthorn is a productive member of the conference, Emmer didn't answer directly. 
"I'm not gonna comment on this," Emmer added. "I'm focused on one thing and that is winning back the majority and making sure that we stay focused on the issues that matter."
Now the reality is that other Republicans are just as awful, if not even worse, than Cawthorn. The difference is Republican bomb-tossers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert also come with millions of dollars of national fundraising, something Cawthorn isn't quite as good at. He's in fact broke at this point, having spent his $2 million fundraising haul already on ads.

Most politicians stop digging when they are in a hole. Not Cawthorn. He arrived late to Zelensky’s speech to Congress on Wednesday, missing half of the moving appeal. He went on to oppose the multibillion-dollar package of humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine that Congress overwhelmingly passed. He has signaled his opposition to supporting Ukraine, tweeting that the future of the Republican Party is “Anti-Warmonger” and against “endless wars” and “RINOs.” He can disparage Putin all he wants, but Cawthorn has shown that he thinks supporting a democratically elected government invaded by a brutal dictator is “warmongering.” I wonder what he would have thought of the Cold War.

Most Republicans disagree with Cawthorn. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans think it’s a good idea to send Ukraine weapons, and 80 percent say Ukraine is either an ally or a friend of the United States. Eighty-seven percent of Republicans say Russia is either an enemy or unfriendly, and 83 percent sympathize more with Ukraine in its war than with Russia. Sixty-eight percent also have a favorable view of Zelensky. It’s political malpractice to be on the wrong side of your constituents on such a high-profile issue, yet that’s exactly what Cawthorn has done.

Cawthorn will surely say he has nothing to worry about. Indeed, his campaign has already put out a poll showing him with 62 percent support in his primary bid. But Cawthorn’s recent comments will likely make that old news. He has yet to face the negative ads his well-funded opponents will run castigating him for his actions and his views. Who knows what his constituents will think after that barrage?
Cawthorn, even if he loses this year, will only end up running for statewide office eventually. He's only 26. He has years to craft a Senate or Governor campaign. Even 20 years from now he'll age now. Older, wiser, and far more dangerous. The reality is however that all of his House GOP "friends" support his re-election.
He's burning bridges now, but he figures the rest of the GOP will be long gone and that he'll outlast them anyway.
He's nearly assuredly correct.

Sunday Long Read: Black Lives Still Matter, Tulsa Massacre Edition

Our Sunday Long Read comes to us from Jesse Washington of Andscape. A century after the Tulsa, Oklahoma Massacre of Black residents along Black Wall Street, then the most concentrated array of Black wealth in America, where the state and the country stepped in to literally bomb it to ashes from the air in order to destroy Black America over a lynching, the quest for justice continues. The last three survivors are over a hundred years old, descendants of the victims crave closure and reparations, and Republicans have decided to put an end to all of it in the era of "critical race theory".

As the centennial of the Tulsa Massacre approached last year, conditions seemed perfect for this haunted city to finally, meaningfully, move on.

Millions of people around the world were marching for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Corporations and organizations were holding themselves accountable for systemic racism. The 100th anniversary of the 1921 massacre in the Greenwood neighborhood was drawing worldwide attention from news reports, documentaries and the HBO TV series Watchmen. Survivors testified before Congress, and a bill was introduced to help them secure reparations. Singer John Legend, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams and President Joe Biden were coming to Tulsa for an event billed as “Remember and Rise.”

A year later, the city and state are fighting a lawsuit seeking reparations. Only three survivors remain, and two of them are 107 years old. Scholarship money intended for descendants sits unused. Black people own little of the new development in Greenwood. Tulsa built a history center to commemorate the centennial, but a significant portion of the community says the center does little to compensate victims of the massacre and their descendants.

The Greenwood district and its Black Wall Street was perhaps the most prosperous African American neighborhood ever seen. It was turned into a graveyard May 31-June 1, 1921, when an orgy of racist violence killed at least 300 people and destroyed 1,256 homes, plus several hundred businesses, churches, a library and a hospital. Tulsa police and the National Guard refused to protect Greenwood, and some people deputized by the city and National Guard participated in the violence.

More than 4,000 Black survivors were detained afterward in internment camps. The Tulsa City Commission blamed the massacre on “armed negros who started this trouble and instigated it.” Tulsa passed zoning laws making it harder for Greenwood to rebuild, and the City Commission helped prevent insurance claims by Black property owners from being paid. For more than 70 years, the crime was deliberately covered up.

In recent years, the concept of reparations has moved from an academic discussion to serious consideration in at least 11 cities across the country. But Tulsa’s limited response to one of the worst mass murders in American history raises the question: What constitutes reparations for the city’s crimes against its Black citizens?

And if cash reparations can’t be paid in Tulsa, where can they be?

at we’re up against here, we’re talking about the most powerful, the most wealthy, the most well-connected folks in the city and the state,” said Damario Solomon-Simmons, who filed the reparations lawsuit on behalf of survivors and descendants.

“Now that they have taken over the 40 blocks of Greenwood that was Black-owned land, Black-owned businesses, Black-owned homes, Black-owned organizations, Greenwood is now half a block,” he said. “The rest is white-owned businesses, white- and city-owned land and state-owned land and county-owned land.

“They’re building Greenwood for themselves,” Solomon-Simmons said. “They own Greenwood.”

In 1997, the state legislature created the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. Even in the ’90s, the massacre was still called a riot, the remnant of a strategy to avoid paying insurance claims and blame Black people for what happened.

In 2001, the commission released its report. It said the massacre began after a mob of white men gathered outside the city jail intending to lynch a Black teenager, and a group of armed Black citizens arrived to defend the teen. The report recommended that “reparations to the historic Greenwood community in real and tangible form would be good public policy and do much to repair the emotional and physical scars of this terrible incident.” It identified 118 survivors and at least 176 descendants of victims, and advised Oklahoma to provide direct payments, award 300 college scholarships per year, and create a Greenwood economic development zone and a memorial. “Reparations are the right thing to do,” the report said.

Hardly any of that happened. The inaction led to a 2003 federal lawsuit against Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma, filed on behalf of 200 survivors and descendants by a team of lawyers led by Johnnie Cochran and Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree. The lawsuit failed when judges ruled the statute of limitations had expired. In 2005, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal.

Solomon-Simmons filed the current lawsuit on behalf of several survivors and descendants in state court in 2020. It argues that Oklahoma law permits claims past the statute of limitations if there is an “ongoing public nuisance.” This law is what led to a $465 million judgment against pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for its role in the opioid crisis. Solomon-Simmons’ case says the massacre is responsible for current racial and economic disparities — the kind documented in a Human Rights Watch report — and therefore is an ongoing nuisance.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned the Johnson & Johnson ruling in November 2021, saying the public nuisance law was wrongly interpreted. Solomon-Simmons told me the decision does not undermine his case, and he has filed those arguments with the judge.

Meanwhile, almost all the survivors have died.

The only ones still alive are Viola Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield Randle, both 107, and Fletcher’s brother Hughes Van Ellis, who is 101. In a 2021 interview with The Undefeated, Randle described what she saw that night: “They ran us from one place to the other, chased us like hounds chasing a rabbit. I saw people shoot people down on the street,” she said. “I saw people running, I saw bodies, I saw them kill the people and shoot people down.”
Now realize that in Republican state after Republican state that in 2022 teaching the history of the Tulsa Massacre and the discussion of reparations in a classroom is illegal, criminal, and grounds for firing, revocation of license, and other penalties.

Having teachers assign high school seniors to read this article would be illegal in more than a dozen states.

Black Lives, and Black History, Still Matter.

The Huntering For The No-Prize

With Hunter Biden's laptop back in the news thanks to the NY Times, which turned "yes, some emails on the laptop were legit copies of emails" into "BIDEN'S UKRAINE SCANDAL!11!!", Washington Post reporter Philip Bump reminds us all why the laptop was at best a fantasy nothingburger, and at worst a deliberate Russian plant designed to sink Joe Biden.

When the New York Post reported on Oct. 14, 2020, that it was in possession of emails between a Ukrainian businessman and Hunter Biden, son of the then-Democratic presidential nominee, it would have been hard to predict what followed. This was less than three weeks before the election itself, and the content of the report was soon subsumed to the odd way in which the paper obtained the information. Mainstream outlets and social media companies balked at elevating the story’s claims, triggering frustrations on the right that remain to this day.

New reporting has re-elevated questions about how the story emerged and was handled. In light of that resurrection, it seems useful to articulate exactly why there was suspicion about the story’s origins — suspicion that itself has not entirely been resolved.

There are at least four questions that arose from the initial report. Those are:

  • How did the information published by the New York Post purportedly get from Hunter Biden to the paper?
  • Was that information legitimate?
  • Was the media’s skepticism about the chain of custody and the information warranted?
  • Was the social media blackout of the Post’s story warranted?

In this article, we’ll only look at the overlap of the first and third questions: Was the sourcing for information sufficiently dubious to justify caution by mainstream outlets? The answer, it seems clear, is yes.

You’ll remember the story. Hunter Biden allegedly showed up at a computer repair shop with three water-damaged laptop computers. According to John Paul Mac Isaac, the proprietor of that shop, one of the three computers was beyond repair, one simply needed an external keyboard and one required data recovery. Mac Isaac recovered the data, but no one ever came to pick the machine up. Eventually the data from the computer made its way to Rudolph W. Giuliani, Donald Trump’s personal attorney. It was Giuliani that gave it to the Post.

That summary excludes a lot of detail, some known at the time the Post story broke, some that only emerged afterward. Here, in the form of a timeline, is detail that seems salient to our current consideration of how the Post got the material from the laptop as well as what was known at the time.

The 2016 election. It’s critical to remember what happened in the 2016 election cycle. Then WikiLeaks published two large clusters of documents stolen by Russian hackers from the Democratic National Committee’s network and from John Podesta, a top aide to the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. The Podesta material in particular was released in tranches for days beginning Oct. 7, 2016. It was real information, understood even then to have been a product of Russian efforts, that became fodder for criticism of Clinton.

After the election, we learned the full scope of Russia’s involvement in the election. Suddenly, the coverage of the WikiLeaks material took on a new light: It was stolen by a foreign government to try to influence U.S. politics. Media companies reconsidered their coverage; should there have been more caution about playing into the hands of a foreign influence campaign?

This question was very much on people’s minds in the months before the 2020 election — particularly given indications that Russia was again hoping to aid Trump’s election.
Bump's timeline does make it clear that the source of the story has a massive credibility problem: a laptop that was never picked up from the shop made its way to Rudy Giuliani, the only taker. 

And Rudy Giuliani is not exactly the most reliable source for anything other than laughs.

We still don't know anything about the laptop's journey some 18 months later. Nothing at all. It was complete bullshit then, and it's complete bullshit now. I could put copies of emails on my 8 year old laptop and then drop it off somewhere and never pick it up, yeah. Scandal!

Idiocy is what it is.
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