Dear Commons Community,
Washington, D.C. has its first World Series Champion in almost one hundred years. It was in 1924, that the then Washington Senators won baseball’s crown. The Nationals with good pitching and clutch hitting showed an amazing amount of grit and determinaon in defeating the Houston Astros. The Series between these two teams was remarkable in many ways but especially for the fact that neither team won a Series game on their home field. It was also remarkable that the Nationals won given that they started the season having lost 31 of their first 55 games. An inning by inning recap courtesy of The New York Times can be found here.
Congratulations to the Nationals and their fans in Washington, D.C.
— MLB (@MLB) October 31, 2019
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Dear Commons Community,
Concerned about the impact of misinformation on democracy, Twitter will no longer allow political advertising on its platform, CEO and founder Jack Dorsey announced yesterday
In a long string of tweets, Dorsey provided the reasons behind this policy move. As reported by the various news media.
“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions,” Dorsey said.
Twitter will take additional steps to quell foreign-made bots on the platform, which played a part in the Russia-backed 2016 disinformation campaign.
Dorsey continued: “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
The new policy is a stark contrast to that of Facebook, which is grappling with increasingly vocal critics of its hands-off political advertising policy ― the site refuses to fact-check claims made by politicians except in extreme cases. Facebook has refused to pull a Trump campaign ad that baselessly accuses former Vice President Joe Biden of promising $1 billion to Ukraine to benefit his son.
Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg also did little to clear up questions about Facebook’s approach to stifling misinformation during a congressional hearing earlier this month, where he was not able to tell Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez definitively whether a hypothetical ad she described would be permitted on the platform.
Dorsey appeared to take multiple swipes at his tech-giant counterpart.
“[I]t’s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad … well … they can say whatever they want!’” Dorsey wrote in one tweet. The Facebook founder claimed in a recent letter to employees that the company is “working hard” to “give users more context on the content they see, demote violating content, and more.”
Zuckerberg has also used freedom of speech as his primary defense of Facebook’s lassez-faire policy, which Dorsey addressed head-on: “This isn’t about free expression. This is about paying for reach. And paying to increase the reach of political speech has significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.”
He called on lawmakers to enact “more forward-looking” political advertising rules, acknowledging that it is “very difficult to do.” The entire problem posed by social media platforms engaging with political messaging is “worth stepping back in order to address,” Dorsey concluded.
Zuckerberg responded to Dorsey’s announcement in a Facebook earnings call yesterday afternoon with a speech that one reporter described as “impassioned.” Citing broadcasters who are legally required to air political ads, Zuckerberg reportedly reiterated he believes Facebook should continue serving paid political content.
The news was also not taken kindly by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign manager, Brad Parscale.
“This is yet another attempt to silence conservatives, since Twitter knows President Trump has the most sophisticated online program ever known,” Parscale tweeted.
Twitter’s new policy won’t affect certain bipartisan topics, such as ads supporting voter registration, but it will extend to “issue ads,” Dorsey said. The policy will go into effect Nov. 22, with more details provided by Nov. 15.
Congratulations Mr. Dorsey and Twitter!
Dear Commons Community,
House Democrats unveiled legislation yesterday authorizing the next phase of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. An eight-page resolution calls for open hearings and requires the House Intelligence Committee to submit a report outlining its findings and recommendations, with a final recommendation on impeachment left to the Judiciary Committee. As reported by the Associated Press.
“Republicans would be allowed to request subpoenas, but such requests would ultimately be subject to a vote by the full committee, which Democrats control as the House majority.
Democratic Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, said the resolution provides “a clear path forward” as the House begins a public phase of the impeachment inquiry, which up to this point has largely consisted of closed-door interviews.
“This is a sad time for our country,” McGovern said. “None of us came to Congress to impeach a president, but each of us took a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution.”
“The president’s Republican allies in Congress have tried to hide the president’s conduct, but the American people will now see the facts firsthand,” he added.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the resolution merely “confirms that House Democrats’ impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorization by a House vote.”
The resolution “does nothing to change the fundamental fact that House Democrats refuse to provide basic due process rights to the administration,” she said, adding that the White House is barred from participating at all until after the intelligence panel “conducts two rounds of one-sided hearings to generate a biased report for the Judiciary Committee.”
Separate language covering Judiciary proceedings allows for Trump and his lawyers to attend all Judiciary presentations and hearings. Trump’s lawyers will be allowed to question any witness, according to a copy of the proposed Judiciary proceedings obtained by The Associated Press. The president can call witnesses if the committee agrees the testimony is “necessary or desirable to a full and fair record in the inquiry,” the three-page document says.
The Judiciary language is expected to be incorporated into the larger resolution before the House votes on impeachment proceedings Thursday.
The impeachment inquiry is looking into Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked for a “favor” — to investigate a Democratic rival for president. Democrats say the request and other actions by the administration to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family amounted to a quid pro quo for important military aid for Ukraine, providing sufficient grounds for impeachment.
The House is expected to vote on the resolution Thursday amid complaints from Trump and his Republicans allies that the monthlong impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair.
Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, denounced what he called a “Soviet-style impeachment process” led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.
More than 75% of House members have been unable to view what is happening in closed-door depositions conducted by the Intelligence panel and two other committees, Scalise said. “That represents more than 230 million Americans whose voices are denied right now,” he said.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican, said Democrats “have basically cooked up a process they have been conducting in secret” with the goal of preventing Trump’s lawyers from asking questions of witnesses.
Democrats “are now attempting to sort of put a cloak of legitimacy around this process by saying they’re going to bring it to a vote on the floor,” Cheney said. “They can’t fix it. The process is broken. It’s tainted.”
Democrats insisted they were not yielding to Republican pressure and dismissed a GOP argument that impeachment can’t begin without a formal House vote.
Schiff and other Democrats defended the process and said the American people will soon hear from witnesses in an open setting, with transcripts of depositions already conducted set for public release.
“The evidence we have already collected paints the picture of a president who abused his power by using multiple levers of government to press a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 election,” Schiff and three other committee chairs said in a statement Tuesday.
Following in the footsteps of previous impeachment inquiries, the next phase will move from closed depositions to open hearings, “where the American people will learn firsthand about the president’s misconduct,” the Democrats said.
Impeachment moves forward!
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
Dear Commons Community,
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, 44, testified yesterday behind closed doors that he was troubled by President Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Vindman also testified that he heard it in real-time and that he twice reported it internally to his superiors. Vindman currently serves as the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council. He immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine as a child and subsequently served multiple overseas tours in South Korea, Germany and Iraq, where he was injured by a roadside bomb for which he received the Purple Heart. “I am a patriot,” Vindman said in his opening statement, “and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics.” Vindman added that he “did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen,” referring to Trump’s urging of Ukraine’s government to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.
But several of Trump’s top allies ― including Fox News host Laura Ingraham, lawyer John Yoo and former Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin ― suggested Vindman had dual loyalties on the basis of his being born in Ukraine. Trump also repeatedly sought to dismiss Vindman’s testimony on Twitter, calling him a “Never Trumper witness.”
A number of Republicans came to the defense of the war veteran.
“I’m not going to question the patriotism of any of the people coming forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters at a weekly press conference.
Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming said the attempts by members of her party to slur the patriotism of Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman are “shameful” and that “we need to show that we are better than that as a nation.”
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), who also served in Iraq, said the attacks on Vindman were “inappropriate” and called him an “honorable” man.
The attacks on Vindman are “absurd, disgusting, and way off the mark,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
“This is a decorated American soldier and he should be given the respect his service to our country demands,” Romney added.
Few Republicans challenged the substance of Vindman’s account, however, despite Trump and his top aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner urging lawmakers to defend the president on the facts of the matter. Instead, GOP lawmakers repeated familiar refrains about not having read Vindman’s testimony yet and declined to comment. Some sought to dismiss it outright as old news.
“It sounds like it’s just a reiteration of what we already know,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters on Tuesday when asked about Vindman’s opening statement.
Vindman is the first witness with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s July 25 phone call to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Last month, after a complaint from a Trump administration whistleblower was first made public, Republicans dismissed the whistleblower’s account based on the fact the person said they were not a direct witness to the president’s phone call.
We need to see a few more Republicans coming forward and putting the country ahead of party.
Dear Commons Community,
Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson’s crackdown on married LGBTQ employees in his archdiocese apparently extends to a straight woman who spoke up in support of her fired colleagues.
Kelley Fisher, a former guidance counselor at Roncalli High School, is claiming that the Roman Catholic archdiocese fired her after she publicly defended two married lesbian women who used to be her co-workers.
Fisher, who does not herself identify as LGBTQ, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this spring.
“If you publicly support, you know, (being) against discrimination … you too, can be a victim of losing your job,” she told The Indianapolis Star last Thursday.
She said she decided to speak out now because she made a personal decision to “let faith guide me instead of fear.”
In response to an inquiry about Fisher, the archdiocese told HuffPost in a statement that it has a constitutional right to hire leaders who support its “religious mission.”
“Catholic schools exist to communicate the Catholic faith to the next generation. To accomplish their mission, Catholic schools ask all teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors to uphold the Catholic faith by word and action, both inside and outside the classroom,” the archdiocese said. “If a school’s leaders reject core aspects of the Catholic faith, it undermines the school’s ability to accomplish its mission.”
Fisher’s firing occurred as Thompson attempted to circle the wagons against a nationwide cultural shift in opinion toward favoring same-sex marriage. Roughly two-thirds of both white and Hispanic Catholics now support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, according to the Public Religion Research Institute.
Over the past two years, Thompson has tried to draw a line in the sand against this rising tide of support for queer Americans. His archdiocese has fired at least three staffers in same-sex marriages, including the two co-workers Fisher sought to defend.
Lynn Starkey, a former Roncalli guidance counselor, was fired this spring after working at the Catholic school for 39 years. Shelly Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor and Roncalli alumna, was fired from the school in 2018 after working there for 15 years. Fitzgerald’s termination prompted some students to launch an advocacy group, Shelly’s Voice, that is pushing the archdiocese to change its employment policies toward married gay employees.
All three fired employees have filed lawsuits against the archdiocese.
Thompson’s attempt to fire a fourth LGBTQ teacher was foiled earlier this year when the Jesuit school where the teacher worked refused to follow the archbishop’s orders. Thompson kicked the school out of his archdiocese in retaliation ― a decree the Vatican later suspended.
Fisher was technically an employee of Indianapolis’ chapter of Catholic Charities. The organization places social workers at local schools. Fisher had worked at Roncalli for about 15 years.
Fisher told the Star that she published two public Facebook posts in support of the women. One of the posts was a copy of a letter she sent to archdiocese and Roncalli leaders last year, asking them to change their policies concerning the employment of people in same-sex marriages.
The posts reportedly prompted Fisher’s bosses at Catholic Charities to pull her into a meeting with Roncalli’s principal. Fisher claims her employers expressed concerns that she wouldn’t adhere to Catholic teachings while counseling LGBTQ students.
Fisher was placed on a “performance improvement plan,” then barred from returning to Roncalli the following school year. Catholic Charities declined to place her in another Catholic school. She was fired in late May, according to the Star.
Fisher said she worries about students at Roncalli who may not have a “safe place” to go to now that she’s gone. One queer former student told NBC that Fisher served as his “protection” while he attended Roncalli.
In June, Thompson insisted that his archdiocese is not on a “witch hunt” for gay teachers, but instead is responding as instances are brought to his attention.
The archdiocese has said that it treats Catholic school teachers, leaders and guidance counselors as “ministers” who are required to uphold church teachings. The Supreme Court has recognized that parochial schools can claim a “ministerial exception” to generally applicable anti-discrimination laws ― even if the employee in question spends most of his or her time on non-religious duties.
Fisher doesn’t agree with being labeled a minister.
The archdiocese is “trying to say anyone who works for a Catholic school, that we are ministerial employees,” she told NBC. “Yet I have no training in it, I’m not a priest, I’m not a minister.”
She is a trained school guidance counselor, however, and as a result, she said she is bound by a code of ethics that prevents her from discriminating and compels her to speak out for the vulnerable.
“You can look at social work ethics, you can look at school counselor ethics, you can even look at the Catholic Charities mission statement where it all says in there we are supposed to be an advocate for those that are vulnerable and we can’t discriminate,” Fisher told the Star. “So I felt like I was being targeted for doing my job.”
Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson
Dear Commons Community,
Back in July, President Trump attacked Baltimore as a “rat-infested mess” and disparaged Congressman Elijah Cummings. Yesterday, Trump visited Chicago for the first time since taking office, attending a closed-door fundraiser at his own hotel and speaking at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He used the speech to attack the host city, reciting a handful of violent crime statistics and blaming shootings on gun control. “Chicago has the toughest gun laws in the United States,” Trump falsely claimed. “That doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?” He then called Chicago more dangerous than Afghanistan.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation,” the president said. “All over the world, they’re talking about Chicago. Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”
Murders and shootings in the city are at a four-year low, Chicago police data show.
Trump also took the opportunity to bash Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, who personally boycotted Trump’s remarks by saying that “the values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything that he would have to say.”
“I have to take into account not just my personal feelings about it, but our core values as a city,” Johnson said of his decision earlier this week not to attend Trump’s speech. “We need the immigrant communities to trust their police department. We don’t need them to fear us and then to flee us.”
Trump responded by calling Johnson’s remarks “very insulting,” claiming he’s “done more than any president has ever done for the police.”
President Trump used his first trip to Chicago as president to publicly disparage the city and its police chief, who had boycotted his appearance.
“It’s embarrassing to us as a nation, all over the world they’re talking about Chicago,” Trump said Monday in a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference. “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”
Before the event, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters that he would not attend Trump’s speech in protest of what he called the president’s “racial insults.”
“I can’t in good conscience stand by while racial insults and hatred are cast from the Oval Office or Chicago is held hostage because of our views on new Americans,” Johnson said.
Trump scolded Johnson in response, blaming him for not stemming violent crime.
“Since Eddie Johnson has been police chief, more than 1,500 have been murdered in Chicago,” Trump said. “And 13,067 people have been shot.”
Violent crime in Chicago has actually been on the decline since 2016, the year Johnson was appointed superintendent. According to the Chicago Tribune, homicides and shootings in 2019 are down 11 percent from this time a year ago. And the number of shootings is down more than 26 percent this year compared with 2016.
And according to Chicago Police Department data cited by the Associated Press, the number of homicides in the city has dropped 31 percent thus far in 2019, compared with the same point in 2016, and shooting incidents have decreased by 38 percent over that same period.
During a press briefing later yesterday, Johnson touted the reductions in crime on his watch.
“The progress that we’ve made as a city has gone unnoticed,” Johnson said. “We’re certainly not where we want to be, but we’ve made progress … The national narrative that we’re a city on fire is just simply not true.”
“My job is to keep the city safe,” he added. “I’ve been a cop 31 years, I’ve been a superintendent for four years. I’ve dedicated my life to keeping this city safe. And that is my focus.”
The president also criticized Johnson for failing to detain undocumented immigrants.
“Eddie Johnson wants to talk about values,” Trump said. “People like Johnson put criminals and illegal aliens before the citizens of Chicago. And those are his values. And frankly those values to me are a disgrace. … I want Eddie Johnson to change his values and change them fast.”
The president said Johnson’s support of so-called sanctuary cities, like Chicago, is “a betrayal of the oath of the shield” and “a violation of his duty to serve and to protect.”
Trump likes to insult prominent African-Americans and the places in which they live because it appeals to those in his base who are racists and bigots.
Dear Commons Community,
Last night, Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, attended the fifth game of the World Series being played by the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals. When he arrived, he was soundly booed and greet with chants of “Lock him up.” The Astros won the game and lead the series 3 to 2.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Dear Commons Community,
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-described Islamic State, was killed during a U.S. military operation in northwestern Syria on Saturday, President Donald Trump announced during a press conference yesterday morning.
“Last night, the United States brought the world’s number one terrorist leader to justice. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead,” Trump began. “He was the founder and leader of ISIS ― the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.”
According to the president, U.S. special operations forces conducted the nighttime raid and “accomplished their mission in grand style.” American military dogs chased Baghdadi to the end of a tunnel, where he was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump said.
As U.S. forces closed in on him, Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest, killing himself and three of his young children, Trump said.
“He died like a dog,” he said. “He died like a coward.”
In the account of the so-called Islamic State leader’s death, the president described him as having been “whimpering and crying and screaming.”
Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) expressed unease with President Donald Trump’s graphic description of the U.S. military raid.
“It probably makes me a little uncomfortable to hear a president talking that way, but, again, Baghdadi was the inspirational leader for an ISIS network across the world from Africa to Southeast Asia,” he told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “If you can take a little of the glamour off him, if you can make him less inspirational, then there’s a value to that for all of these folks who are on their computers or in these networks looking to attack.”
However, Thornberry warned that the terror organization is now likely to “seek to do something to show ‘we’re still here, we’re still relevant,’ so the United States is going to be tested in the days to come.”
Killing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a good thing but the President’s announcement could have been less graphic and less provoking.
Dear Commons Community,
New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoph, writes this morning that America is becoming less Christian because some intolerant conservative evangelicals have tainted the faith. Here is his entire column.
“Perhaps for the first time since the United States was established, a majority of young adults here do not identify as Christian.
Only 49 percent of millennials consider themselves Christian, compared with 84 percent of Americans in their mid-70s or older, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.
We don’t have good historical data, and the historians I consulted are wary of definitive historical comparisons. But something significant seems to be happening. The share of American adults who regard themselves as Christian has fallen by 12 percentage points in just the last decade.
“The U.S. is steadily becoming less Christian and less religiously observant,” the Pew study concluded.
Some on the religious right will thunder that this as a result of a secular “war on Christianity.”
“Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked,” declared an essay on Fox News’s website, plaintively titled, “How Long Will I Be Allowed to Remain a Christian?”
This mockery of Christians is, as I’ve written many times, both real and wrong. But a far bigger threat to the “brand” of Christianity comes, I think, from religious blowhards who have entangled faith with bigotry, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. For some young people, Christianity is associated less with love than with hate.
“Pompous right-wing political chest-thumping, and an unwillingness to listen on matters like climate change or racism, has contributed to a perception by millions that Christianity is irrelevant, or worse yet, a threat to progress,” the Rev. Richard Cizik, the leader of a group of self-described “new evangelicals” with moderate views, told me. “That’s a real burden to carry going into the 21st century.”
Cizik, who was fired from the National Association of Evangelicals in 2008 after he expressed support for civil unions for gay people, added that Christianity’s reputation suffers from backward views on women’s issues and from the unwavering support among evangelical hard-liners for President Trump.
“Trump has played them like a fiddle,” he said.
It would be difficult to imagine a president more at odds with Jesus’ message than Trump, a serial philanderer and liar who has persecuted refugees, divided families, exploited the poor and allegedly committed sexual assaults. When Trump in 2016 was asked to name a favorite part of the Bible, he muttered “an eye for an eye” — a reference to an Old Testament passage that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, specifically renounced.
That is the opposite of the Christianity whose heroic side I’ve often praised: A Catholic doctor in Sudan’s Nuba mountains … a missionary doctor in Angola … nuns everywhere. If they were the face of Christianity, its reputation would be golden. Likewise, Christian organizations like International Justice Mission, Mercy Ships, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision labor to make the world a better place. Across America, a crucial safety net comes from churches organizing food pantries and emergency shelters.
Surveys find that religious Americans donate more to charity than secular Americans and are substantially more likely to volunteer. In a Pew survey in 2016, almost two-thirds of highly religious Americans said that they had donated time, money or goods to help the poor in the last week.
There’s nothing about faith that necessarily makes it a bastion of conservatives. Martin Luther King Jr. and many other liberal civil rights leaders were shaped by their Christian beliefs, Jim Wallis is a liberal evangelical writer with a large following, and Jimmy Carter is truly the unTrump, at age 95 still building houses for the needy. But today’s prominent evangelical leaders are mostly conservatives.
Pew’s latest report found that nonbelievers are gaining ground fast. “Nones” — those with no particular religion — now account for more than one-quarter of the American population. There are substantially more nones than Catholics.
The decline in religion is particularly evident among young people. Those born between 1928 and 1945 are only two percentage points less likely to identify as Christian than they were a decade ago, while millennials are 16 percentage points less likely to call themselves Christians.
“Adults coming of age today are far less religious than their parents and grandparents before them,” said Gregory Smith of the Pew Research Center.
Smith noted that the data seem consistent with the argument made by leading scholars that young adults have turned away from organized religion because they are repulsed by its entanglements with conservative politics. “Nones,” for example, are solidly Democratic.
The upshot is that a majority of white adults now attend church just a few times a year at most. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to attend, although their attendance is dropping, too.
The central issue is that faith is supposed to provide moral guidance — and many moralizing figures on the evangelical right don’t impress young people as moral at all. Senator Jesse Helms said in 1995 that AIDS funding should be cut because gay men get the disease. The Rev. Jerry Falwell and the Rev. Pat Robertson initially suggested that God organized the 9/11 terror attacks to punish feminists, gays and lesbians.
God should have sued Falwell and Robertson for defamation. But, in some sign of karma, a survey found that gays and lesbians have higher public approval than evangelicals do.”
There is a special place in the afterlife for the bigoted hypocrites on the religious right!