President Joe Biden will be representing the U.S. at the global climate summit in Glasgow beginning Sunday, where he will have to explain to all the world leaders that while the majority of American people want to take action to eliminate carbon emissions, one member of his own party is thwarting his—and the whole country’s—will. Around 60% of Americans think the pace of global warming is accelerating, and 55% want Congress to pass legislation to transition electricity generation to clean processes, away from gas and coal-fired plants, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.
While Biden is preparing for the summit, Sen. Joe Manchin is moving more goalposts for the big social, climate, and economic agenda Biden and the Democrats in Congress are trying to complete. Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, had already succeeded in stripping the most effective climate provision in the package. The Clean Electricity Performance Program (CEPP) would have rewarded utilities for making the transition and penalize those that don’t. That’s out. Then on Monday, news broke that Manchin was also demanding that the proposal to impose a methane fee on U.S. oil and gas producers has to be stripped. That would be penalizing the industry for pumping the planet-warming gas into the atmosphere and Manchin is opposed. His colleagues are now scrambling to find a compromise, which will probably involve giving the industry money: “providing $700 million in funding that would be rebated to oil and gas producers to help them comply with the fee,” according to a Washington Post source.
While Manchin is intent on giving more money to the climate-destroying fossil fuel industry, he also came out Monday telling the press that he will not agree to spending money to make life and health better for his—or anyone else’s—constituents. Right out of the gate Monday, Manchin contradicted reports from the White House and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that talks with Biden, Schumer, and Manchin on Sunday were productive and that Manchin was moving off of this $1.5 trillion cap for the package and they were considering as much as $2 trillion. Nope, he said. It’s $1.5, and by the way, that shouldn’t include Medicare and Medicaid expansion.
“I’m concerned about an awful lot of things,” Manchin told reporters. Those things aren’t how much carbon the industry that funds him is pouring into the atmosphere, or how much he wants to reward them for doing so. No, he’s concerned about pinching social services pennies—he doesn’t want any of those undeserving people feeling like they should have health care or something.
For example, he doesn’t want a federal solution to the problem of 2 million Americans not being able to get on Medicaid because their Republican lawmakers won’t allow it. A number of Democrats—including Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock who has to defend his seat next year and who ran in part on Medicaid expansion—want to find a solution for these people, to go over the heads of the Republican governors and legislators who have been denying them care for nine years.
Manchin doesn’t want this fix: “The problem that I have with that one right now, we’re paying 90/10. So 10 percent is being paid by all the states. For states that held out and be rewarded 100 percent is not fair,” Manchin said. Because he can’t comprehend that providing coverage to 2 million people isn’t the goal, isn’t a good thing. Isn’t a thing that could also help Warnock win reelection.
“He’s raised some concerns and I think I’ve answered them,” Warnock said Monday. “Some are saying that it is unfair to people in the expansion states. I think what’s unfair is for the people of Georgia to be paying for health care that they can’t access.” Warnock might have answered those concerns, but that’s not a guarantee Manchin actually listened.
Manchin’s other “big concern right now” is expanding Medicare services to include dental, vision, and hearing coverage. “Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline to people back in West Virginia, most people around the country,” he told reporters. “You’ve got to stabilize that first before you look at basically expansion so if you’re not being fiscally responsible that’s really concerning.” Those are also things that could be relatively easily fixed, for example by Medicare being allowed to negotiate drug prices and save billions. That’s being opposed by fellow Democrats Kyrsten Sinema and Bob Menendez, so Manchin isn’t the only villain on that front.
Meanwhile, House leadership has been leaning hard on progressives to swallow whatever Manchin will allow in the package. “Embrace this,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly told them in a Monday evening meeting. “And have a narrative of success.”
“If we don’t act like we are winning, the American people won’t believe it either,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told them. Act like you’re winning, even though everything Biden and you promised to bring them in the last election isn’t going to be delivered. Sure.
Progressives are holding out to the degree they can. Washington State Rep. Pramila Jayapal, head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told CNN’s Manu Raju that her group still wants this bill and the bipartisan hard infrastructure bill to pass together because, basically, you can’t trust Manchin and Sinema.
That said, the fight will be making sure that the two bills are voted on together and that Manchin and Sinema don’t pull the rug out from under them, because they’re prepared to get whatever they can get out of the larger bill.
“The vast majority of our priorities are in, but there are a couple of areas where that’s still not the case,” Jayapal told reporters Monday night. “What we’ll continue to do is push as hard as we can, but just recognize that there are 50 senators and we have no margin in the Senate.” She added the caveat, “Nobody should take progressive votes for granted.”
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Senate Democrats have to date presented two different immigration proposals for inclusion in the budget reconciliation bill. Despite precedent for this process, Senate staffer and parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has released opinions against both. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the in-the-works “Plan C,” which would offer undocumented immigrants temporary deportation protections and work permits.
Now dozens of House members, including California Rep. Lou Correa, New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Illinois Rep. Chuy García, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal are urging Senate Democrats to champion immigrants, overrule MacDonough’s opinion with Vice President Kamala Harris as the 51st vote, and deliver permanent relief.
“As you know, the role of the Parliamentarian is an advisory one, and the opinion of the Parliamentarian is not binding,” dozens of legislators told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. They noted that “there is precedent of the Presiding Officer disregarding the opinion of the Senate Parliamentarian.”
Is this a big ask when Arizonans haven’t been able to have a town hall with Krysten Sinema in years, and Joe Manchin is trying to whittle down the president’s agenda to a toothpick? Yes. But the fact is that a unified Democratic caucus absolutely has the ability to provide legislative relief, and it’s a fact that Democrats promised it. If Democrats fail, it’ll be a disservice not only to immigrants, but to their voters: “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of voters say they would be upset if immigration reform does not pass and undocumented immigrants remain vulnerable to deportation,” March polling found. That includes 86% of Democratic voters.
“In denying any possible pathway to citizenship or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) status, the Parliamentarian, an un-elected official, is denying the economic impact of such legislation and the tributes that millions of undocumented individuals have paid to this country,” legislators continued to Schumer. “This is a critical moment for our nation’s history, and we strongly urge the Presiding Officer to use their authority to disregard the Senate Parliamentarian’s ruling.”
Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who passed a comprehensive immigration reform package by a huge 68-32 line back in 2013, said as much in recent remarks. “If my 2010 reelection to the Senate proved anything, it was that Democrats can fight and win on immigration. It makes policy sense and political sense and not just with Latino voters, but also with Americans of all backgrounds,” he said according to The Hill.
“By 3-to-1 margins and across party lines, Americans want legal status for immigrants who have worked hard, paid taxes and made their lives in the United States,” Reid continued, noting that Democrats will have no excuses should they fail to deliver on a path to citizenship. “After decades of waiting to fix this broken immigration system, the voters that rejected Donald Trump’s nativism, and gave power to Democrats, are not going to give us a free pass if all we come back with are procedural excuses.”
“Republicans sure know how to get what they want through the parliamentarian,” Daily Kos’ Joan McCaster noted in July. Though not acknowledged in legislators’ letter to Schumer but previously noted by McCarter and Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson, Senate Republicans in 2001 fired Parliamentarian Robert Dove “after a dispute with the Republican leadership,” The Washington Post reported at the time. MacDonough, meanwhile, OK’d some partisan provisions in the GOP’s 2017 tax scam “despite the fact that they didn’t have more than an ‘incidental’ impact on budgets,” McCarter noted. Meanwhile, immigration policy experts have said that “[o]n both the budgetary effect and the ‘merely incidental’ test, legalization qualifies.”
“We cannot give up on a pathway to citizenship,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The economic impact of a pathway is undeniable, & we in Congress have a responsibility to act,” Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia tweeted. “Delivering on our promise will keep millions of families together, and will ensure that we build back better, and stronger than ever before from COVID-19. We must include it in budget reconciliation,” tweeted García. “Our immigrants have waited long enough,” said Espaillat.
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Dustin Stockton, a longtime associate of former President Donald Trump’s lapdog Steve Bannon, was reportedly willing to sit down for questioning about the attack on the Capitol with members of the January 6th committee.
Stockton was not among the individuals subpoenaed by the congressional committee over the last month as they have continued their probe. There is no evidence that Stockton has been charged with a crime. According to Politico, he sat down with investigators for a quiet Q&A on Monday.
Stockton could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
His interview comes fresh on the heels of the House of Representatives finding Bannon in contempt of Congress for failing to remit a litany of records, including correspondence he had with Trump or other administration and campaign officials leading up to the violent attack.
A spokesman for the committee declined to comment on the reporting by Politico.
This would not be Stockton’s first time in the hot seat.
Much attention was heaped on him last August when he and Jennifer Lawrence, a fellow associate for the shadowy crowdfunding campaign We Build the Wall, were slapped with warrants for their cellphones as well as subpoenas to appear before a grand jury.
We Build the Wall purported itself as a nonprofit built to rake in donations to construct a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border. The group amassed over $25 million only to build what amounted to shoddily constructed fencing in an erosion-prone area stretching roughly 3 miles.
In Nevada, Stockton’s RV was raided last summer as prosecutors went public with a previously sealed indictment against Bannon and a trio of men associated with We Build the Wall. They included founder and U.S. Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, a member of Oath Keepers, a far-right anti-government extremist network, and Timothy Shea, a Colorado realtor who moonlighted as chief of Winning Energy, a soft drink company hawking beverages featuring Trump on its label, replete with the 45th president donning a superhero outfit.
Bannon, Kolfage, Badolato, and Shea were ultimately charged and convicted with bilking donors and using millions for personal expenses. Bannon was eventually pardoned by Trump.
As for Stockton, the Republican ally may be of interest to the committee because of his ties to groups like Women for America First. In a ProPublica report on Oct. 18, Stockton said he met with Caroline Wren, a onetime fundraiser for the Trump campaign and close associate of Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on Jan. 5. During their meeting at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., Wren bragged to Stockton about raising $3 million for the impending rally.
“She also described how she had ‘parked’ unspecified amounts of money for Jan. 6 at an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, at the Tea Party Express, and at Turning Point, a collection of affiliated nonprofits that serve young Republicans,” ProPublica reported.
Wren is one of more than a dozen individuals subpoenaed by the committee as lawmakers have begun knitting together information about the funding behind pro-Trump rallies.
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A new bundle of reporting is out on what’s being branded as the “Facebook Papers,” a mountain of leaked internal company documents and communications currently being combed over by a variety of news outlets. There are several new revelations this time around, although we may be stretching the definition of “revelations” for anyone who has been paying attention.
The main takeaway is that inside Facebook itself, there appears to be a rapidly increasing gulf between topmost company executives and the rank-and-file employees who, like so many external company critics, are pretty certain that Facebook’s efforts to monetize fringe paranoias are doing extraordinary damage to international democracy. NBC News brings us one facet of that story with reporting on the internal fury after anti-democratic, anti-American hoaxes spread via Facebook sharing led to actual violent insurrection inside the United States Capitol.
As one employee post to Facebook’s internal message boards put it: “How are we expected to ignore when leadership overrides research-based policy decisions to better serve people like the groups inciting violence today?”
At issue is that Facebook executives know that the algorithms they use to approximate human interactions—the company asserts itself to be a facilitator of family bonding and catching-up-with-friends, after all, when the service may more closely approximate commandeering a public park, giving everyone inside it megaphones, and telling them that the person who can attract the most attention with their shouts will be given a very special, thoroughly imaginary prize—reward provocation, paranoia, and outright hoaxes. Facebook executives also know that the company’s worldwide reach means it has become a go-to outlet for any propagandist seeking to quickly disseminate government-bending, society-bending hoaxes and/or bigotries.
This is not in question. Internal company research and external scientific analysis alike have highlighted the problem, over and over; the only question is what obligation, if any, the company has to adjust its policies to not be a prime force for disinformation and violence. NBC’s report specifically notes internal “turmoil” in the wake of the Capitol violence due to Facebook largely ignoring the widespread promotion of “Stop the Steal” election hoaxes from through November and December, even as it became more and more obvious that the hoaxes were a concerted (Trump-backed, Republican Party-backed) effort to lie to the public outright, so as to justify a nullification of the election by extra-constitutional means.
The insurrection, however, was hardly the first time it became apparent that Facebook’s obsession with growth via viral sharing was not-coincidentally turning the company into a prime disseminator of hate speech, extremism, dangerous hoaxes, and organized propaganda campaigns. Each day’s list of top Facebook posts near-uniformly features a small gaggle of arch-conservative frothers known more for provocation than accuracy, and the company has had to continually deny accusations that the promotion of the far right is not a coincidental artifact of its algorithms, but the intentional agenda of top (Republican) company executives like public policy head Joel Kaplan.
Those accusations are also being made by employees inside the company, and The Wall Street Journal focuses specifically on the example of Breitbart being chosen for the Facebook “News Tab,” a decision that was eyebrow-raising from the moment it was made but which company executives have relentlessly defended with oft-nonsensical statements and protestations of neutrality. The Journal reports more broadly that the “documents also reveal that Facebook’s management team has been so intently focused on avoiding charges of bias that it regularly places political considerations at the center of its decision making.”
Well, that’s not exactly a surprise. There don’t seem to be many decisions Facebook executives face that are not focused in large part on “political considerations.” That might be the natural outcome of choosing explicitly partisan (Republican) figures as top executives.
Since the Journal is a Rupert Murdoch-owned rag, it attempts to weave through its entire story without giving credence or context to employee anger over Breitbart’s inclusion as one of Facebook’s most trusted alleged “news” partners. It is not that the site is “hyperpartisan,” as the Journal is willing to suggest only via an employee quote. The site has long acted as a prime enabler in the rise of white nationalism, continually boosting so-called “alt-right” figures while stoking the same anti-immigrant paranoias, anti-Black conspiracy theories, and other neo-Nazi tactics and tropes.
This isn’t a game, Journal editors. A credible case can be made that Steve Bannon’s reconstruction of a sliding Breitbart “news” site into a promotional tool of white nationalism helped propel that movement, and its violence, into its new powerful position in the Republican Party and the Trump White House. The group’s dogged promotion of extremist voices and white nationalist positions personally pushed by Trump “senior adviser” Stephen Miller alone shows the breadth of the site’s willingness to promote extremism as political weapon.
The absurdity of both choosing the site as a preferred Facebook “news” provider and defending it even after numerous news outlets have reported, at length, the site’s slide into the promotion of white nationalism is only underscored by another internal company document referenced in the Journal’s report. An internal study by Facebook’s own research ranked Breitbart as the “least trusted news source” of any of the “several dozen” it ranked, cleanly countering any supposed reason Facebook executives had for seizing on it as supposed partner.
Instead, the Journal report adds credence to the suspicion that conservative Facebook executives were mainstreaming the Breitbart site into the Facebook “news” domain for the same reason Breitbart itself was mainstreaming white nationalist voices and talking points: they wanted to. The extremism brought traffic, and money, and political clout.
Whether Facebook executives sought to snuggle with the extremist site because it offered a closer connection to ersatz Trump adviser Steve Bannon or simply felt kinship with the site continually promoting the supposed existential dangers of immigrants or the supposed conspiracies behind Black Americans protesting against police violence are still left to our imaginations, but Facebook’s employees seem to have the same clarity that much of the rest of the nation has found, on the subject: If you align yourself with white nationalist rhetoric and white nationalist hoaxes, you have aligned yourself with white nationalism.
The Charlottesville protests and murder, by a resurgent white nationalist base feeling empowered by the growing dominance of their themes online, and among Trump’s advisers, and in Trump’s White House? Facebook executives own that. The violence on Jan. 6, long after it had become clear that there was an organized attempt to nullify a United States election via the furious promotion of entirely fake supposed election “fraud?” Facebook executives bear personal responsibility. It is not that, as they quickly attempted to claim, they simply failed to notice the danger signs as election conspiracies swirled on their platform. Facebook executives have made years of conscious effort to endorse radical, racist, anti-democratic hoaxes as within the bounds of site discourse.
Sometimes they have sought that content out, as with the decision to ally with Breitbart in order to bring more “diverse” viewpoints. Sometimes they have made algorithmic decisions knowing that those decisions would protect, or grow, extremist camps within their network. Sometimes they have overridden the algorithms and policies to grant the most consistent click-producing provocateurs special exemptions—such as the company’s pointed indifference to a spam network that boosts conservative gadfly Ben Shapiro to the top of nearly every day’s top posts.
It doesn’t matter what reasoning Facebook executives use to explain the site’s current status as the dominant tool for democracy-damaging, violence-producing hoaxes. It is that way because Facebook executives made a set of decisions that produced that result, and are now asserting that they will not be changing the decisions that continue to produce that result. The site was the top promoter of the hoax that led to a violent insurrection because site executives had made the decision that they would abide such hoaxes.
The CNN Business take on Facebook’s internal war is, of course, all about whether it will end up costing the company money. There are claims that the company has been misleading investors by underselling the scope of what the company itself knows to be substantial social harms caused by its product, whether it be fueling mental health crises among American teen girls or its use as tool for destabilizing nations. There are worries that being a definable danger to global democracy will harm employee recruitment efforts. Perhaps they will; perhaps, on the other hand, Facebook will begin filling itself with the sort of “hyperpartisan” anti-democratic voices that increasingly gravitate to its products.
In the end, this will absolutely cost Facebook money and everybody knows it’s going to cost Facebook money, which is precisely why the company has spent years claiming that Actually it could not police any of this and we should all be grateful for whatever small gestures the company sporadically wills itself to muster. What Facebook is attempting to avoid are moderation efforts robust enough to make a significant impact on hoax content, efforts which would both entail greatly expanding human moderation teams and which would, as byproduct, remove what is currently a reliable source of clicks and revenue.
Facebook makes money promoting violent white nationalism. Facebook makes money promoting tawdry but entirely fake election hoaxes. Facebook makes money every time a cheap, vacuous huckster insists that they have discovered the Cure to the Pandemic, and it’s licking a tube of horse dewormer or dunking your head in a vat of pool chemicals. Anything that brings in eyeballs puts cash into Facebook pockets, and Facebook has been publicly negotiating, continually attempting to find the exact lines at which they can act as agent of pandemic spread or of a new and violent fascist right, keeping the revenue, while keeping public fury at just-manageable levels.
They are not good at it, which is why they overshot themselves into providing material support for an attempt to overthrow our democracy. They are not good at it, which is why even now they continue to bluster that it’s simply not fair to blame them for the products of decisions they have made willingly, for years, and which they continue to stand behind now.
This will cost Facebook money. The current negotiations are over how much violence, death, and chaos the company can cause per dollar gained before Congress and the public both decide the company cannot be tolerated in current form.
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The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already prevalent issue in our country, racism against Asian Americans. Reports indicating the surge in hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community continue as people report more often, allowing data to be more accurate. But while each report indicates alarming rates, newly republished data by the FBI has found that the percentage difference between crimes reported in 2019 compared to 2020 is a lot than what data previously indicated.
In a previous report released in August, the FBI reported that hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in the U.S. rose by nearly 70% last year compared to the number of such incidents in 2019. While this data is alarming, newly republished data by the FBI found that hate crimes actually rose by 76% in 2020. The correction is due to an error in reporting Ohio’s statistics, indicating that the first report’s data was incomplete. The new report was published Monday after the error was resolved.
The original report indicated that more than 10,000 people reported hate crimes to law enforcement, the highest tally of reported hate crimes since 2008. Despite fewer agencies reporting hate crime incidents, the number represents the highest level of hate crimes in over 12 years.
The agency defines hate crimes as crimes “motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.” According to the FBI data released Monday, more than 60% of hate crimes in the United States in 2020 were carried out on the basis of an individual’s race.
“Every hate crime is an attack on the community,” Jay Greenberg, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s criminal division, told ABC News.
He added that: “Because a hate crime is defined as a violent or property crime with a bias motivation, that crime could be categorized a number of different ways. We would like the public to reach out to us if they believe that they are a victim of a hate crime. It’s not for the public to make that determination; we will work with our state and local partners and help determine how best to investigate that.”
Out of the total 8,052 single-bias incidents reported, 279 hate crime incidents included those against people who identify of Asian descent. This compares to were 158 incidents reported in 2019. The previous report in August included 7,759 criminal hate crime incidents. According to the latest data, more than half of the offenders were white and while the highest rise between 2019 and 2020 has been against the AAPI community, Greenberg noted most hate crimes are directed at African Americans.
The increase is mainly being connected to racists and xenophobes blaming Asian Americans for the current pandemic.
Despite legislation against Asian American hate being passed for the first time this year, xenophobia has been present in the U.S. for generations. It only got worse last year during Donald Trump’s term as president. Trump consistently blamed China for the pandemic, which furthered anti-Asian sentiment already present in some communities.
His spread of COVID-19 misinformation and use of xenophobic language like “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and “Kung Flu” have been connected to a rapid surge in hate crimes nationwide. As people were forced to stay at home due to safety measures in place, they took their frustration out on the AAPI community, who they blamed for the virus, a report found according to Daily Kos.
As data continues to be compiled, advocates have consistently noted that the numbers are underreported and must be significantly higher than indicated. The revision to the FBI’s report from August is a clear indication of this.
“While the numbers in this report are shocking, we know that they are not even close to the complete picture,” Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in August. According to The Washington Post, Chu credited the rise in hate crimes to political leaders’ “increasingly racist and xenophobic rhetoric.” She noted the FBI’s report “must be a wake-up call to all who irresponsibly spread fear and anger in our communities that they are putting lives at risk.”
While the report focuses on hate crimes impacting all races and ethnicities nationally and indicates an overall slow rise in hate crimes, data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino has found that hate crimes against Asian Americans surged in 2020 in at least 15 cities, Daily Kos reported. As the data was further reviewed, reports indicated that crimes against Asian Americans rose by 169% when comparing the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.
According to Regina Thompson, the head of the FBI’s victim services unit, hate crimes are often reported differently than other crimes because of the reactions victims face. She explained that hate crimes are unique because it is a direct assault on someone’s identity and individuality, which may take individuals time to process.
“It really strikes at the fundamental core of who the person is, which makes it very different from some of the other violent crimes,” she told ABC News. “It is an attack on something that is within the person’s identity, something that’s very immutable about them and often something that they can’t even change. So that has a very deep psychological effect.”
Most crimes against the AAPI community occur against the elderly and women. To better address the increased number of crimes occurring against the AAPI community, the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging (NAPCA), an advocacy group, released an online reporting tool to allow people to report incidents of violence or harassment in 29 languages. The tool will collect more accurate data about anti-Asian hate crimes by enabling individuals to use native languages for fuller, more accurate reports.
The AAPI community needs our support now more than ever, whether it be checking in on our family and friends, spreading awareness of COVID-19 misconceptions, or contacting members of Congress to do more against anti-Asian hate. Check out this guide on resources and ways to support the AAPI community and our Asian friends. Hate is the real virus, and we must end it.
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