Althouse | category: partisanship



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

A state judge who previously served in the legislature as a Democrat rules against the Democrat who was ousted from the legislature by Republicans.

I'm reading "Judge Rejects Montana Lawmaker’s Effort to Return to House Floor" (NYT).
The lawmaker, Representative Zooey Zephyr, was ousted... after making impassioned comments against a ban on hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors....

Ms. Zephyr, a Democrat from Missoula who is transgender, filed the lawsuit on Monday.... “I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard,” she posted on Twitter....

Judge Mike Menahan, who served in the House as a Democrat before being elected to the state’s First District Court a decade ago, said... he did not have the authority to intervene in the legislative dispute.

It's somewhat encouraging to see a judge decide against a political figure from the party he is/was associated with, but — to resist overpraise — this was probably an easy case.

I say probably because I'm not researching Montana law, but generally legislatures must run their own internal proceedings. How much disorder is allowed in the chamber and what discipline is appropriate? Judges can't micromanage that. 

Did Zephyr deserve the discipline? Her offense, according to the NYT, was "hateful rhetoric," based on her telling Republicans they would have "blood on your hands" if they denied transgender kids access to medical treatments. She had the option of apologizing, which she did not take, and she held up a microphone to amplify protests — shouts of "Let her speak!" Some Republicans characterized the protests as an "insurrection" and her of "encouraging an insurrection."  

"Even as her Republican peers sought to isolate her in the wake of her impassioned comments against a proposed ban on what doctors call gender-affirming medical care for children..."

"... [Zooey] Zephyr said she would not remain idle. She spent much of the day on the bench, working with headphones in her ears to block the sound of chattering lobbyists, the hiss of a milk foamer and the voices of lawmakers ordering coffee. 'I am here working on behalf of my constituents as best I can given the undemocratic circumstances,' Ms. Zephyr said on Twitter."

From "A Transgender Lawmaker Is Exiled as Montana G.O.P. Flexes New Power/Barred by Republican lawmakers from participating in the legislative session on the House floor, Representative Zooey Zephyr reported for work on a hallway bench" (NYT). 

[I]n recent years, as the state has experienced an influx of conservative transplants and joined an increasingly polarized national political debate, Republicans have steadily expanded their control, especially in rural Montana, which had often been the scene of vigorous and competitive political contests.... 

Missoula, the Western-chic college town that Ms. Zephyr represents, has become an encircled island of progressive politics.... 

Earlier this month... Ms. Zephyr stood on the House floor to tell colleagues that passing a bill to prohibit hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors would be “tantamount to torture” and would result in “blood on your hands” for lawmakers who approved it. 

The House’s Republican leadership initially responded to the blunt remarks by refusing to recognize Ms. Zephyr in floor discussions.... Republican leaders have said that the issue with Ms. Zephyr is not about freedom of speech, but rather the chaos that erupted when her supporters spoke out loudly in the House chambers, chanting, “Let her speak” as Ms. Zephyr held a microphone over her head to capture the cacophony....

The Republicans look bad excluding Zephyr. They have the majority and can pursue their policies. I don't know the extent to which Zephyr is trying to block the legislative process by overstepping her role as an individual legislator, but that too is a problem — a problem I saw first hand here in Wisconsin in 2011. If the "Republican leaders" can be believed, though, she's not being punished for her fiery rhetoric — “tantamount to torture,” “blood on your hands” — but for the response of the crowd. If the audience is unruly, do something about that. Don't punish the speaker.

ADDED: Are the Republicans blaming Zephyr for the crowd response on the theory that her strong rhetoric "incited" them? Shades of January 6th! Did Trump incite that unruly interference with the congressional process? Is Zephyr like Trump? Step up and articulate your hypocrisy as clearly as possible.

What will happen on Twitter, now that the elite are no longer boosted by the old blue check system?

I'm reading a Twitter thread from Nathan Hubbard, who presumably is who he says he is, since he had a blue check when he wrote this last night:
1) As someone who was (briefly) in charge of the Twitter Media team - the group tasked with getting high profile people onto Twitter, and verification - AND as one of the few ever to voluntarily give up the blue check...

But you've got a blue check now. 

... I want to try to articulate how risky this policy change is.  
2) The reason the Twitter Media team existed was because *almost all* of the engagement on Twitter happens with tweets from high profile people/organizations across government, sports, music, business, news, whatever the Kardashians are, etc. They’re the lifeblood of the platform.

Are or were... but it doesn't have to be. TikTok works on the power of the individual message posted and uplifts complete nobodies if the platform users engage with it. 

3) We verified those people so that any user could know they were interacting with a real account; part of the fun of twitter is the real time dialogue with thought leaders (that then flows to others in the replies who get to share their thoughts and ideas).

There are the important people and the peons who ought to be thrilled at the chance to interact with them. Is that how it always should be? TikTok challenges that model. Notice how Hubbard sneers at the Kardashians — "whatever the Kardashians are" — but still expects the little people to go on forever engaging with them rather than finding, say, Yuri Lamasbella, which is what happens, magically, on TikTok.

Hubbard's point is that it's "risky" to change, but maybe it's risky not to change.

Back to Hubbard:

4) There were a bunch of important safety and security reasons for doing this as well. Hero tweeps like @KatieS and @Larakate have all the scars/stories to prove it.

He's just gesturing at a problem — not telling us what it is — and he is trusting us to believe that the old blue check system was a solution.

It was also possible to organically build a verifiable account by gaining followers and impact on the platform.

That just means someone who didn't begin with elite credentials from the outside world could earn status from within the Twitter system. Hubbard is arguing that it's not thoroughly elitist or not entirely exclusionary to people who become famous within social media — but they would have to build that fame without the assistance of the check that was given to people who had status in the world outside of Twitter. 

5) There can be some debate over whether Twitter thrived on giving many non-verified users false hope that they were doing anything other than shouting into the void; regardless, it was (and is) the case that verified users are what drive engagement.

Hubbard concedes the whole game there. That's what Twitter was. 

6) Now, surely there are verified users today who don’t deserve it. They craved the status symbol and found a way to worm their way in.

Worm! They didn't want worms. They weren't just verifying that people were who they said they were, they were establishing an elite level and signaling to readers that these were the people worth reading. They were exclusionary. No worms! That's too much judgment, not enough democracy. 

The percentage is low, and the impact to the platform negligible. Any designation like this is by definition subject to human judgement.

Hubbard's writing is becoming lax at this point. I suspect he knows he's offering bad arguments. He just conceded that granting and withholding the checks was done subjectively, based on the insiders' conception of merit. Who doesn't suspect or know that this was done in a biased, political way? That makes the argument in favor of Musk's new blue check system: It's democratic.  

7) But again, the Media Team spent all their time and resources supporting the people who - and the data undeniably proved this - support the platform. We knew where our bread was buttered. Twitter didn’t exist without these creators sending tweets.

Again, Hubbard's writing is lax. Did he mean to say the old system was there to boost the voices of elite media and to do it for the money? By the way, the cliché he's grasping for is to know which side your bread is buttered on. Maybe he knows that but didn't want to say "side." It sounds so partisan.

8) There were times where certain high profile people actually asked to be paid to join Twitter.

That was my feeling toward Twitter back when it began and I was a successful blogger: Why would I contribute my writing effort to their page, which they monetize, when I have my own page, which I have the chance to try to monetize. Obviously, they had to fend off these requests. Their whole project depended on convincing people to work for them for free, for the sheer benefit of getting to connect with other people that they'd collect in one place. 

There was some internal discussion about this over the course of the company’s history. But the decision was always to hold the line and hope the network effects would win.

Yes, that's what I just said. Their business model was that users must be convinced it's in their interest to write for them without pay. That was the risk Twitter took, and it worked to the extent that it worked. 

They did.

Twitter held the line and won. 

9) But what Twitter is going to start doing tonight flips the equation - it is going to ask its most important creators to *pay Twitter* instead of the other way around.

So, now, the change isn't that Twitter will start paying its content creators. The change is in the other direction: Twitter users should pay. If they want whatever power inheres in the blue check.  

 Every other social media platform has found a way to pay its creators, not charge them. 

Facebook and Reddit don't pay. In blogging, you can get paid. Google's Blogger has Google AdSense. It's a way to get paid for blogging, but even with a large readership, it's not much — not worth the clutter on the page for me. 

Will it work?

10) Every day that goes by validates Zuck’s famous “clown car crashed into a gold mine” description of Twitter.

It's not so famous that I've heard it, and I don't really know what it means. Wouldn't it mean Twitter just lucked into something profitable? How is "Zuck's" — ugh — metaphor supposed to support Hubbard's point? Maybe he just means the original structure of Twitter happened to be a lucky guess, so don't change it, because you're unlikely to get lucky again. Don't try to make it better, because you might turn off the magic.

While it looks like a criticism on the surface, it is in fact praise for the underlying resilience and perseverance of Twitter. As Zuck discovered, it’s hard to kill.

Those 2 sentences are too annoying to parse. Why are we talking about "Zuck"? It's creepy. 

11) Tonight is another test of that resilience. While a lot of web3 stuff has proven nonsense, the underlying principle that creators should have ownership in the consumer facing platforms that their content powers is still a vibrant idea, one most creators passionately believe.

Tonight, i.e., last night. We'll see how new Twitter functions. 

12) This is the first major opportunity for creators, as a whole, to flex their muscle and reclaim power in the web3 age (if that’s a thing 🤷‍♂️). If most OG blue checks stop tweeting in protest of being asked to pay to create the content that Twitter lives by…Twitter dies.

It's kind of a strike... by the elite. Stand back and watch, Hubbard tells us, and we might see it die. And, he says, it will die if they do go on strike and stop writing because they refuse to write without free blue checks. These are all people who were writing without getting paid, but somehow they might be people who won't pay to write (or just write without blue checks).

13) The likely sequencing will be like LeBron...

Ugh! I have to have been following "LeBron" to understand this sentence. 

... first, give up the check and not pay. But as the experience degrades and impersonation abounds, creators will start to wonder why they’d contribute content to a platform and company that holds them in such contempt.

Contempt? You mean like what you had, in the old system, for the writers who didn't "deserve" their blue checks but "craved the status symbol and found a way to worm their way in"? Is democratization really so repulsive to you? What's so awful about a TikTok style approach where posts rise and fall depending on their value to users? What is it you fear in the marketplace of ideas? That some elite media writers won't bounce to the top when they scrawl routine things? That the readers will decide?

14) That will be the point at which we might expect a wave of silence to ensue.

Are you expecting "silence"?  I'm expecting lots of messages from all sorts of people, rising to the top as some professionals resist playing the new game. It's a big opportunity for those who choose to take it. 

The first real staring contest of the creator economy is upon us. Will creators seize the moment? Can Twitter sustain it? 

I note that Hubbard resists predicting failure.  

"Women are the only group — to my knowledge — that are being asked to embrace members of their oppressor class — unquestioningly, with no caveat."

Said J.K. Rowling, interviewed in Chapter 7 — "What If You're Wrong?" — of the podcast "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling."

AND: Here's the full transcript, which I'm delighted to see. I wanted to highlight the part where Rowling agonizes over the politics of the left wing, which she wants to be a part of. It's very difficult without a transcript. The interviewer, Megan Phelps Roper, prompts: "There are a lot of critics who say, you and your comments are giving fuel to the right."

Rowling answers:

Well, my answer would be, I think you’re giving fuel to the right. This is why many left-wing feminists in particular are sitting with their head in their hands. The right has wanted for years and years, not all of the right, but certainly the further the right and the religious right, have wanted to castigate the lesbian and gay and bisexual movement as is inherently degenerate and part of the left’s broader degeneracy. 

When you defend the placing of rapists in cells with women, you are handing the right a perfect opportunity to say, you see, we told you the moral degeneracy that would result if you say homosexual relationships are okay, and I think for many leftists, for many feminists, we are despairing of the fact that people are, in our view, colluding with a deeply misogynist movement, which is benefitting, politically speaking, the far right. 

And I worry very deeply that, as the left becomes increasingly puritanical and authoritarian and judgmental, we are pushing swathes of people towards not just the right, it’s pushing them to the Alt Right.

She said "Alt Right." I've corrected the transcript here and below. ("Alt Right" was mistranscribed as "OutRight").

That’s what scares me, that particularly young men, when they’re being told everything in the world is their fault, and they have no right to a voice, and they are everything that is wrong with society. It is, unfortunately, a human reaction to go to the place where you will be embraced, and if the only place where you can make a joke or be accepted is a place that is full of poisonous ideas, then you’re likely to go there, particularly when you’re young. 

So I think that the left is making a tremendous mistake in espousing this kind of, in my view, quasi-religious, incredibly sort of witch hunting behavior, because there will be people who will just feel when they’ve been shamed and abused, and they feel it was unfair, where are they going to go? That worries me very deeply. 

In my lifetime, we’ve seen such a shift on the left, and I still would define myself as of the left, but I was born in the 60s when transgression really was the preserve of the left, when challenging authority, and when making the dark joke, and when breaking societal norms was very much the preserve of the left. 

I’ve lived to see the left become incredibly puritanical, and rigid, and watching the Alt Right, and this isn’t a new phenomenon. The Alt Right is not the conservative right, with whom I disagree on many, many things. I’m just saying, we’re seeing a growth of something very much facilitated by the internet, that the alarms and disturbs me, and it worries me that the left are absolutely playing into that demographic’s hands.

ALSO: Let me comment on that quote, the one line that made me check the time stamp as I was out running this morning, because I wanted to hand-transcribe it for you: "Women are the only group — to my knowledge — that are being asked to embrace members of their oppressor class — unquestioningly, with no caveat." 

Women are expected to be empathetic and giving — whether it's in our nature or whether we're conditioned and disciplined into it. It's central to the subordination. We're loved and valued — by others and by ourselves — because we take to this role, so naturally or fakely. It's part of the oppression that we can only win by not winning. Sacrifice! Give! And what a fine woman you are.

"The IRS Makes a Strange House Call on Matt Taibbi/An agent shows up at the home of the Twitter files journalist who testified before Congress."

That's the headline for a piece labelled "Opinion" and signed by The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal. 

[Taibbi told the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government] that an IRS agent showed up at his personal residence in New Jersey on March 9. That happens to be the same day Mr. Taibbi testified before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government about what he learned about Twitter. The taxman left a note instructing Mr. Taibbi to call the IRS four days later. 

It seems to have just been about an identity theft issue, in which case Taibbi is the victim, not someone accused of anything. It's annoying, but not threatening to the taxpayer. The question is just why come to his house about that and why on the same day that he testified in Congress. The WSJ editors say it "raises questions about potential intimidation" and endorse the Committee's request for "documents and communications relating to the Taibbi visit." 

The IRS needs to prove the timing was just a coincidence.

The fear of many Americans is that, flush with its new $80 billion in funding from Congress, the IRS will unleash its fearsome power against political opponents. 

"[W]hether children should work more hours in dangerous jobs appears to be settling in as a partisan issue."

Writes Helaine Olen, in "Expanding child labor is exactly what America’s kids don’t need" (WaPo).

The words "appears to be settling in" make me wary. And what are "dangerous jobs"? 
Republicans in statehouses nationwide are racing to make it easier for companies to hire youngsters.... In Arkansas, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has signed legislation doing away with regulations demanding 14- and 15-year-old teens receive a work permit before taking on paid employment. A bill in Ohio seeks to allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work until 9 p.m. during the school year, in defiance of federal law. In Minnesota, a Republican legislator introduced legislation to let the construction industry recruit 16- and 17-year-old workers. In Iowa, a bill in the state’s House of Representatives would make it easier to employ 14-year-olds in the meatpacking industry. Unfortunately, yes. A bill co-sponsored by Sens. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) and Angus King (I-Maine) and Maine House Democrats Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree would allow parents who own logging operations to employ their 16- and 17-year-old children to operate mechanized equipment — under supervision....
Let’s be clear: We’re not talking about kids babysitting, getting a summer job, or working at the mall for a few hours after school, all of which are perfectly legal. We’re talking about teenagers working long and late hours year-round in often dangerous occupations, endangering their health, rest, safety and future.... 
If there are concerns about a labor shortage, expand the number of legal immigrants, help teens get work permits to do safe after-school jobs — or simply raise wages. What doesn’t make sense is for one party to be more concerned about the imaginary threat of drag queen story hours than about jobs for children that could cause irreversible harm to their life prospects.

Oh! I was not expecting drag queens to make a late-breaking appearance in this column. There's always some issue that's more important than some other issue and you can always call out your antagonists with a charge that they're more interested in one thing than another. And we can argue forever about where all the various threats appear on the continuum of real to imaginary. 

What's at issue here is teenagers working — 14 to 17 year olds. How much do we want to protect them from work? We're not talking about the government requiring them to work. The government does require them to attend school — at least until they reach the "dropout age." But what jobs are available to them if they choose to work? Why does this break down into a partisan issue? The WaPo columnist would have us believe it's that old problem of Republicans lacking what Democrats brim with: empathy. 

ADDED: You know what is "dangerous... mechanized equipment"? A car. Why do we let 15 and 16 year olds drive? They could kill themselves and others and often do! And what about a power lawnmower? Google the question and you'll see it's generally accepted that 12 is old enough. And of course, we let teens join the military and use the most dangerous equipment in the most dangerous contexts when they are 18. 

Nothing suddenly changes at 18, so if you're a year or 2 younger than that, and you can drive a car and use a lawmower (and a snowblower), what workplace machinery is too dangerous for you? I suspect that some of this is about depriving young people of options that might reduce the number of seats filled in the high schools of America.

"I’ll buy from his business opponents. He has in the last year exposed himself as a right wing clown with too much money and certainly too much power. A very dangerous man."

Says the highest-rated comment at "Elon Musk agrees to open parts of Tesla’s charging network to everyone/The best charging network in the country will no longer be totally under lock and key" (WaPo).

The really serious threat: Republican questioning President Joe Biden’s leadership.

I'm reading "A trio of new intrusions leaves America’s leaders grasping for explanations" by Stephen Collinson (CNN). 

The flurry of attacks on the unknown crafts came a week after the highly public tracking and ultimate downing of a Chinese balloon suspected of carrying out surveillance. Now, the thin details trickling out of the Pentagon and Capitol Hill about are making an already highly unusual international episode even more bizarre and confusing. No one – not the White House, the Pentagon or the government of Canada, whose airspace has also been infringed – seems able to say exactly what is going on with these latest downed crafts. This raises questions for top military brass and US spy agencies as well as for the potential safety of civilian aviation. And it creates an information vacuum that Republicans are again using to question President Joe Biden’s leadership.

"There are those who demonize and pit people against one another. And there are those who will do anything and everything, no matter how desperate or immoral..."

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