Linky Friday: Sowing Seeds, Reaping Whirlwinds Edition
As always, the pieces featured in Linky Friday and opinions therein are those of the authors, and presented here for discussion purposes and not as endorsements by Ordinary Times
[LF1] Tucker Carlson’s 1999 Comments About Donald Trump Say A Lot About How We Got Here By Sarah Rumpf for Mediaite
Carlson’s 1999 words, from an exchange with another writer at Slate published there as part of a running discussion, agreed with his fellow contributor that Trump was “the single most repulsive person on the planet,” and that quote made it into numerous headlines and tweets, chuckling over the oh-s0-obvious hypocrisy of Carlson being one of Trump’s most vocal cheerleaders on his popular Fox News program if he really thought so poorly of the real estate tycoon-turned-GOP figurehead.
Mediaite reached out to Fox News regarding the 1999 quote about Trump, and was pointed to a January 2016 article Carlson wrote for Politico, titled “Donald Trump is Shocking, Vulgar and Right.” Scolded the subhead: “And my dear fellow Republicans, he’s all your fault.”
Trump, wrote Carlson, was an “imperfect candidate,” but one whose candidacy could still be “instructive” for the GOP, as Republican voters rejected policies supported by conservative think tanks and evangelical Christians had “given up trying to elect one of their own” and simply wanted “a bodyguard, someone to shield them from mounting (and real) threats to their freedom of speech and worship.”
“In a country where almost everyone in public life lies reflexively,” Carlson opined, “it’s thrilling to hear someone say what he really thinks, even if you believe he’s wrong. It’s especially exciting when you suspect he’s right.”
Is Trump “thrilling”? The media certainly has treated him so. (I’ll acknowledge my own conflict on this, as I am spending time writing an article about what a cable news host said about Trump over two decades ago.)
Let’s look at the larger context of Carlson’s 1999 quote, as described by Kranish:
“You’ve said it all: He is the single most repulsive person on the planet. . . . That said, I still plan to write about him some time. I don’t think I’ll be able to help it. Horrible as he is (or perhaps because he is so horrible), Trump is interesting, or at least more so than most candidates.” Carlson wrote that Trump and the Reform Party reflected the fact “that ideology as a force in national elections is dead,” before correcting himself to say, “They’re just a bunch of wackos.”
Trump is indeed “repulsive” and “horrible,” but Carlson still planned to write about him because he was “interesting,” or at least more interesting than political candidates usually are. In fact, Carlson went so far as to frame it as possibly inevitable that he would write about Trump — and that was in 1999, when Trump was merely flirting with the idea of running as a third party candidate with the Reform Party, a group that Carlson dismissed as “a bunch of wackos” whose contribution to the national political discourse was to show that “ideology” was “dead.”
Trump as an official contender for the GOP presidential nomination certainly surpassed any level of “interesting” he may have achieved as a potential Reform Party candidate, and that argument became easier and easier to make as he steadily outlasted his Republican primary opponents.
[LF2] Some ballots initially double-counted in Fulton before recount by By Mark Niesse in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Digital ballot images made public under Georgia’s new voting law show nearly 200 ballots — including one for West — that election officials initially scanned two times last fall before a recount. There’s no indication any vote for president was counted more than once in official results.
The discovery of identical ballots provides evidence to back up allegations of problems in the presidential election, but on a relatively small scale that had no bearing on the final certified count. A group of voters seeking to prove the election was fraudulent say double-counting is just the beginning of what they hope to find.
Supporters of Republican Donald Trump have been searching for signs of fraud since his 12,000-vote loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia. But two recounts confirmed Biden’s victory, and the courts have rejected lawsuits that sought to overturn the results.
Double-counted ballots were discovered by voters suing Fulton in an effort to persuade a judge to allow them to conduct an in-depth inspection of 147,000 absentee ballots. The judge ruled against the plaintiffs last month, but the case survived with new claims filed against the county’s five election board members.
“If we’re finding this in Fulton County, we’re probably going to find it throughout the state. The question is, why did it happen?” said David Cross, an investment manager working with the plaintiffs. “The simple fact that it happened and we found it here means that it probably occurred elsewhere.”
Election observers and organizations say it’s unlikely that double-counting occurred often or in large numbers.
The ballots counted twice would have given Biden 31 extra votes. After a recount, official results reflected that Trump gained a total of 121 absentee votes in Fulton. Biden won the county with 73% of 524,000 votes cast.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also verified the duplicate ballots in ballot images obtained under the Georgia Open Records Act and posted online.
The overall number of ballots counted in Georgia generally matched the number of voters who checked in at polling places or returned absentee ballots. Manual and machine recounts found similar totals for each candidate.
“It’s Fulton failing to follow proper election protocols again,” said Carter Jones, an independent monitor of Fulton’s elections who found sloppy practices but no fraud. “Fulton is so poor at managing the actual process that if they had actually tried to rig the election, they would have bungled it and we would have found out.”
Jones said it’s possible that an election worker lost track of which absentee ballots had already been scanned in the initial count and then ran them through the machine again.
Jones, hired by the State Election Board to observe Fulton’s elections after last year’s primary, recommended that the county change absentee ballot processing during the recount and runoff, boxing up absentee ballots for storage as soon as they were scanned. The county followed his advice, reducing the chance that ballots would be counted twice.
The most obvious example of duplicates in the initial count occurred in a batch of 99 ballots first scanned the morning of Oct. 28, then scanned again about an hour later, with the second batch tallied in exact reverse order from the first. Those batches had 58 votes for Biden, 39 for Trump, one for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen and one for West.
Part or all of another batch of 98 ballots appeared to be scanned a second time within minutes on election night. Biden received 55 votes in the first of those batches and 56 in the second batch. Many of the ballots appeared to be identical.
“It’s something that should never happen,” said Mark Lindeman, acting co-director for Verified Voting, an election integrity organization focused on voting technology. “I’m not trying to make excuses for a blunder, but under really difficult circumstances, people do things that are inexplicable, and that seems to be the case here.”
Lindeman said he couldn’t recall another example of ballots being scanned twice anywhere in the country. He suggested stronger ballot tracking practices, with ballots divided into batches with unique identifying labels and cover sheets. Some jurisdictions imprint serial numbers on absentee ballots as they’re scanned for use during audits.
Fulton election officials declined to comment while the court case seeking a ballot inspection is pending.
[LF3] Wake Up, Democrats, You’re Fighting the Last War by Nicholas Grossman in Arc Digital
Concerning historical analogies abound. Gen. Milley also made Nazi comparisons, fearing in January that Trump was inciting violence in an echo of the Reichstag fire (an attack on the German legislature that Hitler used as a pretext). David Frum sees some similarities in Peron’s Argentina. In the comparison closest to home, The New York Times’ Jamelle Bouie finds parallels in the post-Civil War South, as many Confederate leaders, who mostly went unpunished, “moved smoothly from open rebellion to opposition to Reconstruction to serving as propagandists for what would become the ‘Lost Cause.’”
None of these analogies are exact. 21st century America is in better shape than 20th century Germany or Argentina, or the 19th century South. (Though none of them had the internet.) But the U.S. is experiencing something closer to these slides into authoritarianism than a supporter of American democracy should find comfortable.
This is an unusual time in U.S. history — when has a large American political movement had a martyr, let alone one killed by a police officer while participating in a violent attack on the U.S. government? — and pro-democracy Americans would be wise to act like it. The Trumpist movement, which dominates the Republican Party, has shown it does not respect, and if anything disdains, the basic principles of Constitutional democracy. Their words and actions indicate they are willing, even eager, to discard norms, and to manipulate — or, if they can get away with it, ignore — laws to get power. We’ve seen losing candidates complain about election results before, but modern America hasn’t seen anything close to this.
Taking it seriously means we should work to reduce the probability that these anti-democracy forces gain power. Draw lessons from historical comparisons and use this moment when a pro-democracy coalition has institutional power to strengthen the system against attack. And that means thinking about what the attackers are trying to do.
[LF4] THE TRUTH BEHIND THE AMAZON MYSTERY SEEDS: Why did so many Americans receive strange packages they didn’t think they’d ordered?
By Chris Heath in The Atlantic
If someone had wanted to invent a surreal provocation designed to unnerve Americans in the summer of 2020, it’s difficult to conceive of a better one than a deluge of unsolicited Chinese seeds. For one thing, in those first months of the coronavirus pandemic, references to China triggered associations—rational or otherwise—with contagion. For another, these objects were invading private spaces at a time when most of us were newly hypersensitive to our surroundings. And what was happening was something that was hard to explain, in a moment when so many fears that might have once seemed far-fetched were either being realized or, at the very least, suddenly sounding plausible.
Even people who considered themselves above the lure of alarmist theories had to take the seeds seriously. Irrespective of why they were appearing at people’s homes, their very existence—as biological matter of unknown origin—constituted a problem. This reality acted as a narrative anchor for what might otherwise have seemed to be fanciful media stories. The government genuinely was concerned. Whenever someone wanted to tell the story of these Chinese seeds, a local or federal agriculture spokesperson was always available to expound on how unknown seeds of foreign origin were, until proved otherwise, a threat to American agriculture or even the whole North American ecosystem. Advice soon circulated that the seeds should not be planted, burned, or even disposed of in the trash, given the possibility that they could germinate and disseminate from a landfill. And if you received any, the government would definitely like to know about it.
This combination of factors—a mystery, multiple anxiety triggers within the perpetual panic chamber we live in, and a bedrock empirical reason this had to be taken seriously—encouraged a proliferation of wild theories. Here, for instance, are some of the explanations that I saw floated, for the most part not at the rabidly conspiratorial fringes of the internet, but on gardening-group and state-agriculture-department Facebook pages: that the seeds were Chinese bioweapons, laced with viruses or poisons, or that they were engineered through genetic manipulation or nanotechnology (threads picked up in a Tucker Carlson Tonight segment with the chyron could mysterious seeds be biological attack?); that they were part of a “deep state” strategy to control our gardens, or a false-flag operation to discredit China; that they were a Chinese cure for COVID-19 suppressed by Big Pharma; and that they would grow to feed swarms of invasive murder hornets.
A year later, however, no monstrous mystery vines are strangling America’s cornfields. The seeds mostly stopped coming, and the world moved on. But I wanted to know: What was it all about? So I decided to reimmerse myself in the giddy anxiety of last summer. I planned to speak with some of those who had received the packages, dissect the hullabaloo around them, and construct the definitive account of the seeds-from-China moral panic.
It seemed straightforward enough. I had no idea.
[LF5] US cracks down on “Fulfilled by Amazon,” citing sale of 400,000+ hazardous items by Jon Brodkin in ars Technica
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) yesterday filed a complaint against Amazon over the sale of hundreds of thousands of hazardous products, including carbon monoxide detectors that fail to detect carbon monoxide, hair dryers without required protection from shock and electrocution, and flammable sleepwear meant for children. The CPSC said it sued Amazon to “force [the] recall” of the dangerous products. While Amazon has halted sales of most of them already and issued refunds, the CPSC said it isn’t satisfied with how Amazon notified customers and said the industry giant must do more to ensure that the faulty products are destroyed.
The dangerous products were offered by third parties using the “Fulfilled by Amazon” (FBA) program, in which Amazon stores products in its warehouses, ships them to customers, and takes a sizable cut from the proceeds. The CPSC’s administrative complaint alleges that Amazon hasn’t taken enough responsibility for dangerous third-party products that it ships via FBA.
The complaint didn’t mention any specific incidents of injury but said the evidence supporting the charges includes “lawsuits concerning incidents or injuries involving various consumer products identified in the Complaint.” It also said that CPSC staff tested the products and found that they don’t meet safety requirements. Products that don’t meet these requirements pose a substantial risk of injury or death to consumers, the agency said.
“The complaint charges that the specific products are defective and pose a risk of serious injury or death to consumers and that Amazon is legally responsible to recall them,” the CPSC announcement said. “The named products include 24,000 faulty carbon monoxide detectors that fail to alarm, numerous children’s sleepwear garments that are in violation of the flammable fabric safety standard risking burn injuries to children, and nearly 400,000 hair dryers sold without the required immersion protection devices that protect consumers against shock and electrocution.”
The CPSC said its complaint “seeks to force Amazon, as a distributor of the products, to stop selling these products, work with CPSC staff on a recall of the products, and to directly notify consumers who purchased them about the recall and offer them a full refund.”
“We must grapple with how to deal with these massive third-party platforms more efficiently, and how best to protect the American consumers who rely on them,” CPSC acting Chairman Robert Adler said.
In a statement provided to Ars, Amazon said it has already removed the “vast majority” of the products from its online store, notified customers, and provided refunds. Amazon alleged that the CPSC hasn’t provided enough information about the remaining products.
[LF6] Arizona judge says audit documents — including who is paying for recount — are public records by Ryan Randazzo in The Arizona Republic
A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge on Thursday ruled that communications between Senate Republicans, the company called Cyber Ninjas and other vendors they hired to audit Maricopa County’s 2020 election are public documents.
Judge Michael Kemp said “any and all” records with a “substantial nexus” to the audit are public records, including all communications related to planning the audit, policies and procedures of the audit and all records disclosing who is paying for the audit and how much is being paid.
The nonprofit group American Oversight sued Senate President Karen Fann, R-Prescott, and the Senate, seeking communications with the companies regarding what the senators call a “forensic audit” of the election that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden. The Senate asked for the case to be dismissed, but Kemp refused.
American Oversight was formed to investigate the Trump administration, and its founders have Democratic ties.
“It is difficult to conceive of a case with a more compelling public interest demanding public disclosure and public scrutiny,” Kemp said in his order.
The Senate Republicans argued that because some of the requested records are held by Cyber Ninjas and other contractors, they are not subject to the Arizona Public Records Law. Kemp called that argument “absurd” because it would mean public officials could shield records of their official activities, like the audit, by farming the work out to contractors.
“The court completely rejects Senate defendants’ argument that since (Cyber Ninjas) and the subvendors are not ‘public bodies’ they are exempt from the (public records law),” Kemp wrote. “The core purpose of the public records law is to allow public access to official records and other government information so that the public may monitor the performance of government officials and their employees.”
The Senate agreed to pay Cyber Ninjas $150,000 for the work, though that clearly is not enough to cover the full scope of work and equipment used at Veterans Memorial Coliseum to re-tally the approximately 2.1 million ballots.
Partisan Trump supporters including a personality with the One American News cable channel and former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne have raised money they claim will help fund the audit, though details of exactly where that money is coming from and who is getting paid are not publicly known. The records should help provide those details.
“The public does not know who is financing the remaining costs or what compensation is being made to subvendors or any other entity involved in the audit,” Kemp wrote.
[LF7] Shark advocates call for rebranding violent attacks as ‘interactions’ By Hannah Sparks
Who’s attacking whom here?
Marine experts and advocates in Australia are urging the public to refrain from using the word “attack” in reference to sharks, declaring that the majestic predatory fish has been unfairly stigmatized as a deliberate killer.
Instead, officials have suggested that violent run-ins with sharks be dubbed with more neutral words — such as “interactions.”
Others have suggested swapping the word with the terms “negative encounter,” “incident” or simply “bites,” the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported.
”‘Shark attack’ is a lie,” said University of Sydney language researcher Christopher Pepin-Neff, who argued that a majority of what people call “attacks” are merely nips and minor injuries from smaller sharks.
He also told the Aussie outlet that such phenomena were once called “shark accidents,” prior to the 1930s when prominent Sydney surgeon Victor Coppleson began calling them “attacks.”
The change marked a shift in mood as shark nets were also being implemented on Australian beaches at that time.
Government agencies have also begun to adopt new language, including the Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales (NSW DPI), which has worked with a shark-survivors support group, Bite Club, to identify more sensitive vocabulary to describe an audience with a shark.
“NSW DPI is respectful that each incident is best described by the individual involved,” a spokeswoman said. “DPI generally refers to ‘incidents’ or ‘interactions’ in our formal shark reporting.”
Leonardo Guida, shark researcher at the Australian Marine Conservation Society,
told the Sydney Morning Herald the change is important “because it helps dispel inherent assumptions that sharks are ravenous, mindless man-eating monsters.”
To describe shark interactions more accurately “helps improve the public’s understanding of sharks and how they behave,” he added. The move is indicative of a wider trend in animal advocacy — as seen in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal’s recent campaign to denounce insults that implicate animals, such as calling someone a “chicken” or “pig.”
Guida was present at Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation’s annual shark symposium in May where researchers discussed the shark attack rebrand, favoring the softer term “bite” over “attack” to describe injurious meetings with sharks. Noosa’s SharkSmart website writes about how swimmers can reduce their odds “of a negative encounter with a shark.”
[LF8] ICYMI Video Throughput: The Science of Navigation