Humint Events Online: November 2018

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Stess Test for American Democracy

Beautiful passage from Michelle Goldberg:
The last two years have been a stress test for American democracy, and they’ve revealed this country and its worst and at its best. We’ve seen how quickly an entire political party, with shockingly few exceptions, has capitulated to authoritarianism, white-nationalist demagogy and naked cruelty. Trump’s Republican Party has shattered whatever was left of the civic compact binding this country together, abandoning American ideals that transcend blood and soil, and American values that transcend brute power. It’s fitting that the president is closing this political season with an ad so racist that even Fox News has pulled it off the air.
Yet if the past two years have given lie to the myth of American exceptionalism — a system that elevates a person like Trump is by definition not the best in the world — they have also revealed an enduring strain of actual American greatness. Movements like Trump’s thrive on social decay and atomization. Millions of Americans who oppose Trump have responded to him with an enormous civic revival. They have marched, organized Resistance groups, and reinvigorated American politics at every level. In the face of an existential threat to democracy, they’ve rededicated themselves to its practice.

The sheer effort citizens who care had to put into this election to wrest control from a psychotic government was truly remarkable and makes me emotional to contemplate and gives me hope for the future. Believe me, I worked hard on this election too, and we did a lot of great things:
1. The Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives next year for the first time since January 2011.
2. The Democrats flipped the House and Senate in New Hampshire, and the Senate in Colorado, Maine, and New York.
3. The Democrats won the Trifecta (controlling the governor’s office and both chambers of the legislature) in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, and New York. In Oregon and Nevada, they won supermajorities in both chambers.
4. The Republicans lost their Trifectas in Kansas and Michigan.
5. The Republicans lost their supermajorities in the North Carolina legislature.
6. The deep red states of Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska used the ballot to expand Medicaid.
7. Florida voted to restore felons’ voter rights.
8. Paul LePage’s reign of terror in Maine came to a decisive end with the election of Democrat Janet Mills as the new governor.
9. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was denied a third term in office when he lost to Democrat Tony Evers.
10. Democrat Tom Wolf was decisively reelected as governor of Pennsylvania.
11. Gretchen Whitner was elected governor of Michigan, flipping control to the Democrats.
12. Democrat J.B. Pritzker trounced Governor Bruce Trauner of Illinois, flipping control to the Democrats.
13. Democrat Tim Walz was elected governor of Minnesota.
14. The loathsome Kris Kobach was defeated in the Kansas governor’s race by Democrat Laura Kelly.
15. Democrat Jared Polis, who is openly gay, was elected governor of Colorado.
16. Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected governor of New Mexico, flipping control to the Democrats.
17. Steve Sisolak will become the first Democratic governor of Nevada in twenty years.
18. The Democrats retained the governorships of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, and California.
19. In addition to winning the governorships of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin (the three key Trump states of 2016), the Democrats also won the U.S. Senate races in those states, too.
20. Russian stooge Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California was defeated.
21. The Republican chairman of the House Rules Committee and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, was defeated.
22. The Democrats won the seat currently held by Mark “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford of South Carolina.
23. The Democrats won Eric Cantor’s former seat in Virginia, currently held by the loathsome Dave Brat.
24. The Democrats now control ten of New Jersey’s twelve congressional seats, and an eleventh is nearly tied.
25. Democratic women swept the Philly suburbs winning three seats there as well as another in the Lehigh Valley.
26. The Democrats now control seven of Virgina’s eleven congressional seats, driven by the victories of three women.
27. Democratic women flipped two southern Florida congressional seats.
28. Democratic women flipped two of Iowa’s congressional seats.
29. Democratic women flipped a seat in Kansas and a seat in Oklahoma, and a man flipped a seat in Utah.
30. Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk made famous by her refusal to sign marriage licenses for gay couples, lost her bid for reelection.
31. Missouri voted to hike the minimum wage.
32. There were fifteen House candidates that President Trump went out of his way to endorse who lost.
33. Though Beto O’Rourke narrowly lost his bid to oust Sen. Ted Cruz, the Democrats picked up congressional seats in Texas and made significant gains in the legislature.
34. Democrats Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota will become the first Muslim women to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
35. Ayanna Pressley was elected and will be the first black woman to serve in Congress from Massachusetts, and perhaps the first in all of New England.
36. Democrats Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico were elected and will be the first Native American women to serve in Congress. Davids will also be first openly LGBTQ member of the Kansas congressional delegation.
37. Missouri and Utah legalized marijuana for medical purposes and Michigan legalized recreational use.
38. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on New York, 29, will become the youngest woman to serve in Congress, followed closely by Abby Finkenauer of Iowa, also 29.
39. Texas is sending its first Latinas to Congress: Veronica Escobar of El Paso and Sylvia Garcia of Houston.
40. It’s looking like Lucy McBath will do what Jon Ossoff could not and win Georgia’s suburban 6th District.
41. In a rare Senate pickup, Jacky Rosen defeated Dean Heller in Nevada.
42. Democrat Mike Espy forced a December runoff in one of the two Mississippi Senate elections, though it will be an uphill climb to win it.
43. The Democrats will control one Senate seat in West Virginia and one (hopefully) in Montana for another six years.
44. Michigan changed their Constitution to ban gerrymandering
45. Colorado, Missouri and (I think) Utah also passed redistricting reform.
46. As frustrating and abusive as the Trump administration has been, people didn’t turn to violence but instead put their trust in our representative democracy and turned out to vote in big numbers.
47. (Selfishly) for the first time since I moved out of Philly into the suburbs, I will be represented by a Democratic state Rep, state Senator and U.S. congressperson.
48. If you’re into this type of thing, California voters overwhelmingly required that all eggs sold in the state come from cage-free hens by 2022.
49. The dead pimp won (hat tip to Jon Ralston).
50. Can you say, “Good afternoon, Chairwoman Maxine Waters”?

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Sunday, November 04, 2018

Hansen Versus Sandow on The Most Unbelievable Yet Well-Documented UFO Claim of All Time

It's probably the Linda Cortile abduction case. 

I blogged about it 3 years ago.

This case came up again as I was reading this book: George Hansen's "The Trickster and the Paranormal"

It's an interesting book for sure-- a scholarly and almost philosophical dive into all sorts of strange histories and paranormal events. There's a lot of important and unique ideas explored at length in the book. Hansen's a bit odd in that he believes in the reality of paranormal events, but he also shows how much (supposed) fraud is associated with paranormal events (is a complicated topic). But what's even more odd is how downplays the idea of UFOs and ETs as being real. In the same vein, Hansen completely dismisses the Cortile case as a hoax.

So it's worth revisiting this excellent Greg Sandow rebuttal to Hansen's criticism. He does a great job in pointing out how strong the Cortile case is and taking down Hansen. And it does seem like Hansen acted unethically in dealing with Cortile by publishing her real name, and it's sad and weird that Hansen does this and it makes me doubt his motives, even though his book is quite good otherwise.

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Congress Thinks the Public Is Way More Conservative Than It Actually Is

Interesting piece. They blame this effect on corporate lobbyists influencing Congressional staff, which I'm sure plays an important role. But it also seems obvious that the corporate-controlled media has a huge stake in maintaining the idea that the US is predominantly conservative.

All told, the study paints a picture of a Congress that is out of touch with the American people -- with perceptions of public opinion skewed rightward by the influence of deep-pocketed lobbyists. The authors say that the best way to combat these distortions is by increased civic participation among the general public.
“Political action can’t end on Election Day,” co-author Matto Mildenberger wrote in a tweet on Thursday. “Citizens need to keep writing, calling and meeting with elected officials and their staffs long after the midterms.”
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Saturday, November 03, 2018

Desperate Disgusting Racism to Get Out the GOP Vote

‘Assault On Our Country’: Trump Goes All In On Nativism To Salvage The Midterms
The revelation Tuesday morning that President Trump has plans to end birthright citizenship by executive order is the culmination of the President’s weeks-long effort to inject nativism into the midterm elections as his party desperately tries to hold on to its congressional majorities.
In the closing weeks before voters head to the polls, Trump has repeatedly railed against undocumented immigrants, used nationalist rhetoric to appeal to his base and unleashed anger towards the “other.” Trump’s language of late harkens back to his 2016 presidential campaign, when he offered his supporters a scapegoat, telling them that immigrants were snatching up their jobs and bringing violence to their communities, and only a big, beautiful wall could protect them.
Though Trump has largely avoided talk of his proposed border wall this cycle, he has demonized immigrants at rally after rally while stumping for Republican candidates throughout the country. His language has not been subtle. He’s claimed that undocumented immigrants are “criminals,” described a migrant caravan headed toward the U.S. as an “invasion,” and warned of non-existent “riots” against sanctuary cities.
In case he wasn’t clear enough while describing his immigration policy and disdain for immigrants, Trump told a crowd in Houston that he is a “nationalist,” a term linked to the far-right fringe of the Republican party that helped propel Trump to the presidency.

Trump’s racist ad shows how low Republicans have sunk
President Trump’s blatantly racist ad — showing an illegal immigrant boasting about killing police officers — is a fitting final pitch for a party and a campaign that are now nearly entirely focused on whipping up xenophobia.

And of the ad features a HUGE lie.

The GOP is a malignancy on this country and need to be removed.
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These Are the Bad Times

One response to all this is to say that these bad things have always been with us, that Trump is the inheritor of historically racist institutions, unchecked nihilist capitalism, a monstrous military-industrial complex, and a political system bent to serve the greed of plutocrats.
None of this is incorrect. And unquestionably it’s true that he is a figurehead for a party and a movement that were around long before his political career began, and that they rally beside him and go along with him because he’s going where they’ve always meant to go.
But that is why it is so important to recognize, at the same time, that he and they are moving. Getting the same things, but more of them, does not mean getting more of the same. It is worse now than it was last year, and last year was worse than the year before.
It doesn’t have to be new to be disastrous. The idea of American history as an uneven forward march toward greater democracy, despite occasional setbacks and errors, is flatly untrue. Immediately after the Civil War, black men were granted suffrage and were able to hold office, in a multiracial democracy. A successful campaign of terror, permitted by a compliant national government and supported by intellectuals, stripped the freed people of their rights and kept them in subjugation for most of the following century. The country went backwards, savagely and enthusiastically, and stayed there for generations.
The Fourteenth Amendment was a set of words on paper, with no power to protect people’s rights or their lives against the racist laws and policies that had been put into effect. The results were so brutal and effective that by the 1930s, the Nazis were studying them as an example of where a country might be able to go.

Please read all of this excellent essay.
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