Pluralistic: 20 Jul 2020

Today's links

Michigan Supreme Court to review teenager's no-homework jail sentence (permalink)

Grace is a 15-year-old Black kid with ADHD who was on parole for briefly stealing a fellow student's phone when lockdown started. She failed to turn in her distance-education homework, so she was jailed for violating her parole. She's still in jail.

Grace's story became a center of national outrage after a Propublica story about it last week. The elected judge who put Grace in jail – after an inexplicably in-person hearing that her lawyer wouldn't attend due to safety concerns – has granted review of Grace's case.

That judge – Mary Ellen Brennan – refused to allow Grace to return home pending review, saying that doing so would "interrupt…mental health treatment."

(It's obvious that being imprisoned places a significant burden on a child's mental health).

Brennan has been spinning her role in locking up a Black child for failing to complete homework, saying that she had access to non-public information about Grace that led her to calling the child a "threat to the community."

But Jonathan Biernat, one of Grace's attorneys, points out that "the record is entirely devoid of facts to support the actual threat of harm…If there is additional information that has not been disclosed, I look forward to reviewing that documentation."

Meanwhile, Brennan's statements are full of self-praise for her judicial wisdom and kindness and dedication to justice – and awfully shy on empathy for either the child she's locked away or that child's frantic mother.

The local Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution asking for review of Grace's case: "No harm should come to (Birmingham Public Schools) students as a result of the sudden shift to online learning caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic."

Meanwhile, the Michigan Supreme Court is "reviewing the circumstances" of Grace's case.

Judge Brennan was ran unopposed in 2014. She is up for re-election this year, with her term expiring on Dec 31.

Grifters started the anti-mask movement (permalink)

Last March, there was a brief news blip when the NRA and various other far-right organizations denounced a bunch of astroturf organizations that claimed to be raising money for right-wing causes but were actually just pocketing the money.

These organizations were founded by the Dorr brothers, a multi-generational clan of paranoid, violent right-wing "activists." The younger Dorrs have perfected the right-wing direct mail hustle invented by the Goldwater campaign.

They send postal come-ons to frightened, vulnerable people, using a mix of "petty insults, racist dog-whistling, and silly stunts" to scare them into writing checks to the Dorrs' many "charities."

Their IRS filings reveal the other side of the hustle – their "charities" are spending 90% of their donors' money on "fundraising." The fundraisers who these dollars go to? The Dorrs. Naturally.

A year ago, the Dorrs were making big money running anti-abortion and gun-rights hustles, but when the pandemic hit, they invented a new grift: a network of astroturf organizations calling for states to "re-open."

That's right: the Dorrs founded the Flu Klux Klan.

As Mara Hvistendahl reports for The Intercept, the Dorrs run a network of Facebook groups with hundreds of thousands of members "fuel[ing] skepticism about health precautions and push[ing] for states to open prematurely."

And while the Dorrs were denounced by actual right-wing activists for pocketing money intended to further unfettered gun violence and unlimited cruelty for women seeking abortions, they maintain close ties to Tea Party figures like Ron Paul

But it's a mistake to dismiss the Dorrs as mere grifters. As far-right tracker Devin Burghart says, "they have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the conservative grassroots," and they are really good at mobilizing frightened, angry people.

As the GOP steams towards a seemingly inevitable bloodbath at the polls this November, mainstream party figures are looking for someone – anyone – who can help bring energy back to the party.

As Hvistendahl says, the Dorrs are "the perfect people to stoke hate in a Trump presidency during a global pandemic. And in true Trumpian fashion, by paying themselves and promoting hate they may end up spawning a movement."

The Dorrs' father started out as a Y2K grifter, then an antiabortion extremist, then devoted himself to defunding public education (he called homeschooling a "Biblical duty"), before going on to run Ron Paul's Iowa campaign.

The Dorrs now run their own direct-mail operation, Midwest Freedom Enterprises, which contracts with right-wing operators to send mail solicitations; they contract with their own nonprofits, which violates IRS conflict-of-interest rules for charities.

Their fraud careers have been punctuated at regular intervals by denunciations from far-right fellow travelers who broke with them after realizing that they were using rightist causes to enrich themselves.

See, for example, the Minnesota GOP's "Minnesota Scammers Exposed" website.

But this hasn't slowed the Dorrs, who use Facebook to secure mailing addresses for direct mail operations; by keeping on the right side of the FB rulebook in their online comms and confining their most outrageous material to postal mail, they can remain on the platform.

“Facebook can’t censor it. Twitter can’t censor it. We’re not getting shadow-banned. We’re not getting our posts hid because we’re talking about American freedom." -Chris Dorr

Strike for Black Lives (permalink)

Today, July 20, is the Strike For Black Lives in which workers across the country stage a one-day, wildcat walkout, demanding an end to workplace racism, fair compensation, and better working conditions.

If you can't strike, you can take the 8:46 pledge:

Commit to:

  • Taking a knee for 8m 46s wherever you are on July 20 at noon, -OR-
    • Holding 8m 46s of silence on July 20 at noon, -OR-

    • Walking off your job for 8m 46s.

Here are the strike's demands:

and here's a guide to strike actions near you:

No mask, no entry (permalink)

"Essential, front-line workers" is 2020-speak for "low-waged, economically precarious workers who risk their lives for us."

To all that, add "workers who are showered with abuse by right-wing anti-mask bullies."

In the Washington Post, this anonymous editorial from a 63 year old with asthma who makes $10/h in a dockside convenience store in a 900-person town in North Carolina where the sheriff refuses to enforce the state mask rule because he "doesn't want to be the mask police."

She describes how she is subjected to physical intimidation, verbal abuse — and risk of death from coronavirus — by customers, especially weekenders from Raleigh and Charlotte who ignore the increasingly desperate signs telling people that they can only shop with a mask on.

These bullies aren't mollified by offers to bring their orders to them outside the store if they want to remain maskless, and certainly not by the offer of a free mask. Instead, they do things like open the door and scream "Fuck masks! Fuck you!" and storm off.

They tape handbills to the storefront with hoax information about the ADA entitling people to shop without masks, call her an agent of sharia law, or ask whether she's preparing to turn "mind control" on her.

She describes a life of fear and trauma, where every day at work is a day of abuse and threats, where she and her co-worker sometimes have to lock themselves in the storage room to sob because burly men have screamed at them and threatened them.

She's resorted to keeping pepper spray behind the till in case she has to fend off a physical assault.

The GOP politicized epidemiology. In some ways, it's baffling, like branding ass-wiping a badge of effete liberalness and spending all day with shit on your underwear.

On the other hand, it's standard death-cult shit, just a variation on earlier hits like "Smoking is manly and only wimpy bleeding hearts believe it causes cancer." One of the most vivid ways that the GOP gets turkeys to vote for Christmas is pushing the embrace of the lethal.

Whether that's dismissing the risk of unhealthy food, or guns, or highways without speed limits, or factories without health and safety or pollution curbs, the death cult has a business model.

The thing that binds all these activities together is that they either make money for a business, or save money for a business. By making the embrace of self-destructive activities a culture war issue, the financiers of the right line their own pockets.

Of course, the joke's on them. Runaway coronavirus won't just affect $10/h cashiers, and climate change won't skip their beach homes.

Dems vote to fund more DHS invasions of US cities (permalink)

Hey, great news! The Democrats have finally done something about the badgeless militarized fed cops prowling Portland, beating protesters and shoving them into unmarked vans!

Wait, did I say good news?

Shit, no, sorry.

Here's what Dems did:

Voted to approve $80B for the DHS, who have explicitly announced that they plan on expanding their urban invasions beyond PDX.

And while Dems had the chance to put riders on the appropriations bill banning the DHS from using that money to violate protesters' rights and invade American cities — they did nothing of the sort.

Instead Congressional Dems who voted in favor of handing $80B to a literal fascist snatch-squad have sent a sternly worded letter to the DHS's inspector general.

The signatories on those letters are powerful Congressional committee chairs. They can actually make stuff happen. But Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Jerrold Nadler and Bennie Thompson voted in favor of the DHS budget, even as they denounced DHS "fascism."

"These are chairs in a coequal branch of government who say they see an imminent threat of fascism and could be issuing subpoenas and launching hearings, but instead are sending sternly worded letters with no force of law, publicly congratulating themselves." -David Sirota

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago New Potter was online in 24h

#1yrago UK's mass surveillance bill is illegal

#1yrago SAMBA versus SMB: Adversarial Interoperability is Judo for Network Effects

#1yrago Having burnished their reputations with extravagant promises, the billionaires who pledged €600m. to rebuild Notre Dame are missing in action

#1yrago Equifax settles with FTC, CFPB, states, and consumer class actions for $700m

#1yrago An Indian research university has assembled 73 million journal articles (without permission) and is offering the archive for unfettered scientific text-mining

#1yrago Eminent psychologists condemn "emotion detection" systems as being grounded in junk science

#1yrago Thousands of elderly Hong Kongers march in solidarity with young human rights activists

#1yrago After the Oliver Twist poorhouse became luxury housing with a segregated playground, London bans segregated play-areas

#1yrago Small town, independent and municipally owned ISPs offer America's best connectivity

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Thursday's progress: 529 words (37636 total).

Currently reading: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla