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TomCADem's Journal
TomCADem's Journal
May 1, 2021

G.O.P. Seeks to Empower Poll Watchers, Raising Intimidation Worries

This is why we need to vote and fight for free and fair elections. First, much has been made about the polling errors. Yet, isn't the obvious answer due to voter suppression and intimidation. For example, when the Governor of Texas limits Houston to just one ballot drop off box in the middle of a pandemic, he is doing so for a reason.


Likewise, when Republicans try to to empower election workers to engage in voter intimidation, it is because they know that voting matters. The most important step to fighting this is to stay active and vote. 2022 is just as important as 2020, because Republicans are reacting to 2020 by trying their best to suppress the vote and encourage voter intimidation.


HOUSTON — The red dot of a laser pointer circled downtown Houston on a map during a virtual training of poll watchers by the Harris County Republican Party. It highlighted densely populated, largely Black, Latino and Asian neighborhoods.

“This is where the fraud is occurring,” a county Republican official said falsely in a leaked video of the training, which was held in March. A precinct chair in the northeastern, largely white suburbs of Houston, he said he was trying to recruit people from his area “to have the confidence and courage” to act as poll watchers in the circled areas in upcoming elections. A question at the bottom corner of the slide indicated just how many poll watchers the party wanted to mobilize: “Can we build a 10K Election Integrity Brigade?”

As Republican lawmakers in major battleground states seek to make voting harder and more confusing through a web of new election laws, they are simultaneously making a concerted legislative push to grant more autonomy and access to partisan poll watchers — citizens trained by a campaign or a party and authorized by local election officials to observe the electoral process.

This effort has alarmed election officials and voting rights activists alike: There is a long history of poll watchers being used to intimidate voters and harass election workers, often in ways that target Democratic-leaning communities of color and stoke fears that have the overall effect of voter suppression. During the 2020 election, President Donald J. Trump’s campaign repeatedly promoted its “army” of poll watchers as he publicly implored supporters to venture into heavily Black and Latino cities and hunt for voter fraud.
April 2, 2021

Plutocrats with Pitchforks - How Republicans Use Racism to Oppress White Working Class

Excellent analysis by Yale Political Science professor Jacob Hacker regarding how the the Republican party stokes racial tensions to get the white working class to support policies that only benefit the super rich. For example, Grover Norquist will attack taxes by arguing that they will be used to benefit immigrants and minorities. Thus, the formula is to fight some popular policy such as more funding for infrastructure bill, all Republicans need to do is point out examples of how it might benefit minorities or immigrants.

March 26, 2021

2022 Senate Elections - Trump's Last Stand?

If you want to see why folks like Rubio and Johnson are suddenly sounding even more overtly racist then usual, you need only look at who is running for re-election in 2022.


To beat back the rising tide of hate, disinformation and facism, we need to turnout in 2022.

March 15, 2021

The Right Wing's Big Lie That Biden Is Defunding the Police - The Exact Opposite Is True

Police funding is the second largest category of local government spending after education. Indeed, in some States, education is funded by the State, so law enforcement is the biggest item that local governments are responsible for funding. And who just passed a huge bill to save local governments from having to cut jobs in the face of declining tax revenues due to the pandemic? Joe Biden and Democrats.

So, the next time a Republican or Right Wing Talking Heads talks claims that Democrats are trying to defund the police, tell them that the truth is that it is Republicans that are seeking to defund the police (as well as education and health care) by voting against the American Rescue Plan.


The ARP is more than twice the size of the $900 billion package passed in December and, unlike the December package, the new proposal provides substantial direct aid to state and local governments. The $350 billion in direct aid more than doubles the $150 billion in Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) aid provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. ARP aid can be used to cover costs or replace revenue lost due to the pandemic, giving governments wide latitude in the application of the funds, and the use of funds would not be subject to an expiration date.

As approved by the US Senate and the US House, $195.3 billion will be allocated among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with $25.5 billion split evenly, and most of the remainder allocated based on each state’s proportion of seasonally-adjusted unemployed individuals for the three-month period ending in December 2020. California (AA/Stable), Texas (AAA/Stable), New York (AA+/Negative) and Florida (AAA/Stable) are all in line for more than $10 billion each. Fitch's lowest-rated states, Illinois (BBB-/Negative) and New Jersey (A-/Negative), are estimated to receive $7.5 billion and $6.4 billion, respectively. Territories and tribal governments will also receive allocations.

Local government funding totals $130.2 billion, with $45.6 billion going to cities based on a formula including population, growth, poverty and housing overcrowding. Large cities with ratings on Negative Outlook, including New York, NY (AA-); Philadelphia, PA (A-); Chicago, IL ; and Los Angeles, CA (AA), will also get significant funding relative to their budgets. The bill provides $19.5 billion to states to allocate among other municipalities or (non-entitlement units of government) and the remaining $65.1 billion to counties through a population-based formula.

Proposed direct aid to governments also includes $30 billion for transit compared with $14 billion in the December bill and $25 billion in the CARES Act, almost $130 billion for K-12 schools, significantly above the $54.3 billion in the December package and the $13.5 billion in the CARES Act, and $10 billion for a Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund aimed at broadband expansion with a minimum $100 million distribution to each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
March 15, 2021

How Facebook got addicted to spreading misinformation

This article provides a serious discussion of why Facebook continues to be a major conduit for spreading misinformation. This also explains why Republicans are trying to redirect the conversation from combatting misinformation to combatting "bias." Of course, a focus on bias tends to treat facts and "alternative facts" as having equal weight and thus promoting a false equivalency under which which misinformation can thrive.


By the time thousands of rioters stormed the US Capitol in January, organized in part on Facebook and fueled by the lies about a stolen election that had fanned out across the platform, it was clear from my conversations that the Responsible AI team had failed to make headway against misinformation and hate speech because it had never made those problems its main focus. More important, I realized, if it tried to, it would be set up for failure.

The reason is simple. Everything the company does and chooses not to do flows from a single motivation: Zuckerberg’s relentless desire for growth. Quiñonero’s AI expertise supercharged that growth. His team got pigeonholed into targeting AI bias, as I learned in my reporting, because preventing such bias helps the company avoid proposed regulation that might, if passed, hamper that growth. Facebook leadership has also repeatedly weakened or halted many initiatives meant to clean up misinformation on the platform because doing so would undermine that growth.

In other words, the Responsible AI team’s work—whatever its merits on the specific problem of tackling AI bias—is essentially irrelevant to fixing the bigger problems of misinformation, extremism, and political polarization. And it’s all of us who pay the price.

“When you’re in the business of maximizing engagement, you’re not interested in truth. You’re not interested in harm, divisiveness, conspiracy. In fact, those are your friends,” says Hany Farid, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley who collaborates with Facebook to understand image- and video-based misinformation on the platform.
March 9, 2021

Jacob Hacker And Paul Pierson: How The Right Rules

The authors of bestselling books that discuss how under the current Republican party you have plutocrats framing themselves as populists with pitchforks and how racism is being used to oppress the the white working class. In this discussion with EJ Dionne, they discuss their book:

Let them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality

March 9, 2021

Heather McGhee - "The Sum of Us" & The True Cost of Racism The Daily Social Distancing Show

Great recent segment on the Daily Show on Heather McGhee who wrote a bestselling book about racism hurts white people, as well as minorities who are the object of the racism:

Here is more academic lecture by McGhee giving a TED talk:

March 4, 2021

Fact check: Breaking down spending in the COVID-19 relief bill

Republicans are arguing that less than 10 percent of the bill is pandemic related based on the fact that this is the rough figure that goes to direct containment measures such as vaccines and testing, which is a pretty narrow definition of what is related to the pandemic. To the contrary, an analysis by a nonpartisan group found that about 85% of the bill is related to the coronavirus pandemic.


About 22% of the total bill comes from the $422 billion set aside for $1,400-per-person stimulus checks. Another 13% ($246 billion) is for extending additional unemployment funding of $400 a week.

A combined 12% is going to:

Subsidized COBRA for laid-off workers.
Affordable Care Act subsidies for the next two years.
Expanded nutrition assistance to replace school lunch programs during the pandemic.
Funding for testing and contact tracing.
Disaster Relief Fund increases and covering COVID-19-related funeral expenses.
Grants to airlines and contractors to freeze layoffs through September.
Defense Production Act funding for medical supplies.
Grants for restaurants and bars that have lost revenue in the pandemic.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business.

Another $519 billion – 27% of the total – is going to state and local governments and schools, much of which will make up losses related to the pandemic and help schools reopen. Republicans note much of the school funding, however, won’t be spent immediately.

If the government and school aid is included in this category, about 85% of the American Rescue Plan is pandemic-related, according to a breakdown by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
February 28, 2021

Why Poor, Non-Slaveholding White Southerners Fought In The Civil War

Most confederate soldiers in the civil war did not personally own slaves. Indeed, the existence of slavery helped to depress the wages of poor whites in the pre-Civil War South. With low wages and few schools, southern whites suffered a much lower land ownership rate and a far lower literacy rate than northern whites. So, why did poor Southern whites support secession from the United States prior to the civil war?

As the article below and quoted source material illustrates, racism not only oppresses the objects of racism, but it oppresses working class whites as well. With the funding and proliferation of racist, right wing media outlets like OANN, Newsmax and Fox News, we continue to see the use of racism as the ultimate con job on the working class.

Trump represents a modern example of this con job, a rich white male who literally lives in a country club whose biggest accomplishment is a tax cut to folks likes himself, yet he draws much of his support from working class whites whose benefits and health care he has repeatedly sought to cut.


As a Southerner with ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, I have been intrigued with the question of why my ancestors felt compelled to leave the United States and set up their own country. What brought the American experiment to that extreme juncture?

The short answer, of course, is Abraham Lincoln’s election as president of the United States. What concerned Southerners most about Lincoln’s election was his opposition to the expansion of slavery into the territories; Southern politicians were clear about that. If new states could not be slave states, went the argument, then it was only a matter of time before the South’s clout in Congress would fade, abolitionists would be ascendant, and the South’s “peculiar institution” – the right to own human beings as property – would be in peril.

It is easy to understand why slave owners would be concerned about the threat, real or imagined, that Lincoln posed to slavery. But what about those Southerners who did not own slaves? Why would they risk their livelihoods by leaving the United States and pledging allegiance to a new nation grounded in the proposition that all men are not created equal, a nation established to preserve a type of property that they did not own?

* * *
Non-slaveholders, a plantation owner predicted, were also in danger. “It will be to the non-slaveholder, equally with the largest slaveholder, the obliteration of caste and the deprivation of important privileges,” he cautioned. “The color of the white man is now, in the South, a title of nobility in his relations as to the negro,” he reminded his readers. “In the Southern slaveholding States, where menial and degrading offices are turned over to be per formed exclusively by the Negro slave, the status and color of the black race becomes the badge of inferiority, and the poorest non-slaveholder may rejoice with the richest of his brethren of the white race, in the distinction of his color. He may be poor, it is true; but there is no point upon which he is so justly proud and sensitive as his privilege of caste; and there is nothing which he would resent with more fierce indignation than the attempt of the Abolitionist to emancipate the slaves and elevate the Negroes to an equality with himself and his family.
January 11, 2021

Axios (Oct 2020): Russia eyes far-right U.S. social media networks

Is it any wonder that after Twitter and Facebook and other media outlets started to police disinformation operations on mainstream platforms, that Russia targeted alternative platforms favored by the far right, such as Gab and Parler. Likewise, Parler was used to organize the insurrection and riots this week. Yet, for all their talk about patriotism, watch Republicans like Devin Nunes rush to the defense of parler despite this weeks riots.


The Russian troll farm central to Moscow's 2016 U.S. election interference campaign appears to be behind a new operation targeting U.S. voters on Gab and Parler, social media platforms favored by the far right.

Why it matters: The shift by Russia's Internet Research Agency to more marginal platforms may signal that the techniques and strategies that paid off for Russia in 2016 are seeing declining returns. If Moscow is trying to influence a broad swath of U.S. voters, being relegated to platforms unknown to 99% of Americans simply won’t get the job done.

Driving the news: The move to Gab and Parler was documented in a report from social media analytics firm Graphika and an accompanying Reuters investigation late last week. This is Russia's first known use of these platforms.

Details: The fake network described by Graphika revolved around an ostensibly Europe-based website called the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC).

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