Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Fires Of Alexandria

They've come for abortion, for LGBTQ+ equality, for civil rights, for voting rights, for public education, now the GOP is coming to destroy your county library branch
In early November, an email from a citizen dropped into the inbox of Judge Ron Cunningham, the silver-haired head chair of the governing body of Llano County in Texas’s picturesque Hill Country. The subject line read “Pornographic Filth at the Llano Public Libraries.”

“It came to my attention a few weeks ago that pornographic filth has been discovered at the Llano library,” wrote Bonnie Wallace, a 54-year-old local church volunteer. “I’m not advocating for any book to be censored but to be RELOCATED to the ADULT section. … It is the only way I can think of to prohibit censorship of books I do agree with, mainly the Bible, if more radicals come to town and want to use the fact that we censored these books against us.”

Wallace had attached an Excel spreadsheet of about 60 books she found objectionable, including those about transgender teens, sex education and race, including such notable works as “Between the World and Me,” by author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, an exploration of the country’s history written as a letter to his adolescent son. Not long after, the county’s chief librarian sent the list to Suzette Baker, head of one of the library’s three branches.

“She told me to look at pulling the books off the shelf and possibly putting them behind the counter. I told them that was censorship,” Baker said.

Wallace’s list was the opening salvo in a censorship battle that is unlikely to end well for proponents of free speech in this county of 21,000 nestled in rolling hills of mesquite trees and cactus northwest of Austin.

Leaders have taken works as seemingly innocuous as the popular children’s picture book “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak off the shelves, closed library board meetings to the public and named Wallace the vice chair of a new library board stacked with conservative appointees — some of whom did not even have library cards.

With these actions, Llano joins a growing number of communities across America where conservatives have mounted challenges to books and other content related to race, sex, gender and other subjects they deem inappropriate. A movement that started in schools has rapidly expanded to public libraries, accounting for 37 percent of book challenges last year, according to the American Library Association. Conservative activists in several states, including Texas, Montana and Louisiana have joined forces with like-minded officials to dissolve libraries’ governing bodies, rewrite or delete censorship protections, and remove books outside of official challenge procedures.

“The danger is that we start to have information and books that only address one viewpoint that are okayed by just one certain group,” said Mary Woodward, president-elect of the Texas Library Association.

“We lose that diversity of thought and diversity of ideas libraries are known for — and only represent one viewpoint that is the loudest,” said Woodward, noting that there have been an estimated 17 challenges leveled at public libraries in Texas recently and that she expects many more.

Leila Green Little, a parent and board member of the Llano County Library System Foundation, said her anti-censorship group obtained dozens of emails from country officials that reveal the outsize influence a small but vocal group of conservative Christian and tea party activists wielded over the county commissioners to reshape the library system to their own ideals.

In one of the emails, which were obtained through a public records request and shared with The Washington Post, Cunningham seemed to question whether public libraries were even necessary.

“The board also needs to recognize that the county is not mandated by law to provide a public library,” Cunningham wrote to Wallace in January.
Indeed, here in Kentucky, the latest GOP-controlled state legislative session has handed complete control of non-partisan county library boards solely to elected, partisan county judge-executives, who would determine board members. And any project more than $1 million would require Kentucky's county fiscal courts, who could simply block all new library projects.

We're now officially in the era of "Do we really need libraries when Google is available?"

And uneducated populace is easier to control, of course.  That's the point.

Sunday Long Read: The Right-Wing Slime Machine

Millions upon millions are being spent by a Republican dark money group with one purpose and one purpose only: to attack every single nominee Joe Biden has put forth that requires Senate approval, with the goal to do whatever it takes to convince at least one Democrat to sink them...because one Democratic senator is all it takes. 

During the autos-da-fé that now pass for Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate, it’s common for supporters of a nominee to dismiss attacks from the opposing party as mere partisanship. But, during the recent hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson, Andrew C. McCarthy—a Republican former federal prosecutor and a prominent legal commentator at National Review—took the unusual step of denouncing an attack from his own side. When Republican senators, including Josh Hawley and Marsha Blackburn, began accusing Jackson of having been a dangerously lenient judge toward sex offenders, McCarthy wrote a column calling the charge “meritless to the point of demagoguery.” He didn’t like Jackson’s judicial philosophy, but “the implication that she has a soft spot for ‘sex offenders’ who ‘prey on children’ . . . is a smear.”

In the end, the attacks failed to diminish public support for Jackson, and her poised responses to questioning helped secure her nomination, by a vote of 53–47. But the fierce campaign against her was concerning, in part because it was spearheaded by a new conservative dark-money group that was created in 2020: the American Accountability Foundation. An explicit purpose of the A.A.F.—a politically active, tax-exempt nonprofit charity that doesn’t disclose its backers—is to prevent the approval of all Biden Administration nominees.

While the hearings were taking place, the A.A.F. publicly took credit for uncovering a note in the Harvard Law Review in which, they claimed, Jackson had “argued that America’s judicial system is too hard on sexual offenders.” The group also tweeted that she had a “soft-on-sex-offender” record during her eight years as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. As the Washington Post and other outlets stated, Jackson’s sentencing history on such cases was well within the judicial mainstream, and in line with a half-dozen judges appointed by the Trump Administration. When Jackson defended herself on this point during the hearings, the A.A.F. said, on Twitter, that she was “lying.” The group’s allegation—reminiscent of the QAnon conspiracy, which claims that liberal élites are abusing and trafficking children—rippled through conservative circles. Tucker Carlson repeated the accusation on his Fox News program while a chyron declared “jackson lenient in child sex cases.” Marjorie Taylor Greene, the extremist representative from Georgia, called Jackson “pro-pedophile.”

Mudslinging is hardly new to American politics. In 1800, a campaign surrogate for Thomas Jefferson called Jefferson’s opponent, John Adams, “hermaphroditical”; Adams’s supporters predicted that if Jefferson were elected President he would unleash a reign of “murder, robbery, rape, adultery and incest.” Neither the Democratic nor Republican Party is above reproach when it comes to engaging in calumny, and since at least 1987, when President Ronald Reagan unsuccessfully nominated Robert Bork to be a Justice, the fights over Supreme Court nominees have been especially nasty. Yet the A.A.F.’s approach represents a new escalation in partisan warfare, and underscores the growing role that secret spending has played in deepening the polarization in Washington.

Rather than attack a single candidate or nominee, the A.A.F. aims to thwart the entire Biden slate. The obstructionism, like the Republican blockade of Biden’s legislative agenda in Congress, is the end in itself. The group hosts a Web site,, that displays the photographs of Administration nominees it has targeted, as though they were hunting trophies. And the A.A.F. hasn’t just undermined nominees for Cabinet and Court seats—the kinds of prominent people whose records are usually well known and well defended. It’s also gone after relatively obscure, sub-Cabinet-level political appointees, whose public profiles can be easily distorted and who have little entrenched support. The A.A.F., which is run by conservative white men, has particularly focussed on blocking women and people of color. As of last month, more than a third of the twenty-nine candidates it had publicly attacked were people of color, and nearly sixty per cent were women.

Among the nominees the group boasts of having successfully derailed are Saule Omarova, a nominee for Comptroller of the Currency, and Sarah Bloom Raskin, whom Biden named to be the vice-chair for supervision of the Federal Reserve Board. David Chipman, whom the President wanted to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and David Weil, Biden’s choice for the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, both saw their nominations founder in the wake of A.A.F. attacks. Currently, the group is waging a negative campaign against Lisa Cook, who, if confirmed, would become the first Black woman to serve on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors.

Tom Jones, the A.A.F.’s founder and executive director, is a longtime Beltway operative specializing in opposition research. Records show that over the years he has worked for several of the most conservative Republicans to have served in the Senate, including Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin; Ted Cruz, of Texas; Jim DeMint, of South Carolina; and John Ensign, of Nevada, for whom Jones was briefly a legislative director. In 2016, Jones ran the opposition-research effort for Cruz’s failed Presidential campaign. When I asked Jones for an interview, through the A.A.F.’s online portal, he replied, “Ms. Meyers . . . Go pound sand.” Citing an article that I had written debunking attacks on Bloom Raskin from moneyed interests, including the A.A.F., he said, “You are a liberal hack masquerading as an investigative journalist—and not a very good one.” Jones subsequently posted this comment on his group’s Twitter account, along with my e-mail address and cell-phone number.

A decade ago, Bill Dauster, a Democrat who is now the chief counsel to the Senate Budget Committee, helped Jones organize a bipartisan Torah study group for Jewish congressional staffers. Dauster recalls him as “soft-spoken and cordial,” and finds it hard to reconcile the man he knew with Jones’s current persona. “I find what he appears to have done quite distasteful,” he said.

In interviews with right-wing media outlets, Jones hasn’t been shy about his intentions. Last April, he told Fox News, which called A.A.F.’s tactics “controversial,” that his group wants to “take a big handful of sand and throw it in the gears of the Biden Administration,” making it “as difficult as possible” for the President and his allies on Capitol Hill “to implement their agenda.” When asked why his group was bothering to attack sub-Cabinet-level appointees, he explained that people in “that second tier are really the folks who are going to do the day-to-day work implementing the agenda.”

Last year, an A.A.F. member infiltrated a Zoom training session for congressional staffers about the ethics rules surrounding earmarks—pet spending projects that lawmakers write into the federal budget. The infiltrator asked leading questions during the meeting and then posted a recording of it online. The attempted sting backfired: nothing incriminating was said, and the A.A.F.’s underhanded tactics became the story. Evan Hollander, then the spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee, told The Hill that, “for a group that purports to concern itself with ethics, using fake identities, misrepresenting themselves as Congressional staff and surreptitiously recording meetings is hypocritical in the extreme.”

Jones made no apologies. He told Fox News, “I’m never doing anything illegal. But just because it’s impolite to log into an earmark-training seminar and offend the morals of Capitol Hill staff, that’s not going to stop me from doing it.” He added, “If I’ve got to trail someone on the ground to find out what they’re doing, I’m totally going to do it. Because people who are making decisions need to have this information—they need to understand who they are trusting with the reins of government. And sometimes that means we will use unorthodox methods.” 
And once again, the target is to create whatever is needed to cause enough of an uproar to sink a Biden appointee, and again, all they have to do is swing one Democratic senator for whatever reason.
Related Posts with Thumbnails