Tag Archives: michigan

Wasn’t me

In the past week, a few allegations of wrongdoing jumped back into the spotlight. From a failure to prevent mass lead poisoning to data journalism steadily descending into propaganda-crafting, almost everyone’s been predictably quick to shift blame elsewhere.

A humbling experience

That’s how still sitting Michigan governor Rick Snyder has described the medical crises in Flint. In his own words, they’ve been a “humbling experience” – for him naturally, the most important person in these cavalcade of missteps. From initially a story of rampant cost-cutting and the widespread destruction of local government in predominantly Black communities across Michigan, Snyder has recast the disaster that has left thousands of children exposed to horrifying levels of lead as a tragedy centered on him.

Like an archetypal king hypnotized by advisors with vile designs, Snyder is the true star of this story for having been misled by staff who supposedly convinced him that he would receive alarmist messages about Flint’s water supply. Snyder’s own intentions couldn’t be more clear, since part and parcel with this retelling of the catastrophe is labeling responsibility for the crisis as having been taken.


Over the past year, calls for raising the minimum wage in many corners of the US as well as nationally have become an almost omnipresent part of the political discussion. More quietly but just as persistently, the popular demand for living wages reflective of the emerging economy has been met by pessimistic predictions of spiraling inflation and anemic employment. To arbitrate between the two, many have turned to data-driven journalists and academics, hypothetically armed with statistics and motivated by a zeal for unveiling the objective truth.

Except, that hasn’t happened. One of the most widely circulated looks into the economic outcomes of raising the minimum wage, penned by economics professor Mark Perry, has fallen under criticism for having drawn from multiple data sets while comparing Seattle (which raised its minimum wage) compared to the surrounding metropolitan area (which didn’t). This may sound minor, but this reads less like mixing together data to reached a more complete picture and matching figures to create the desired result. The goal was never to describe what was happening as a result of the new law, it was to manufacture a glossy statistical justification for a particular take on raised minimum wage.

Perry’s response since the writing of that and other articles describing this and other problems with his research has been to edit the charts in question, noting that the information comes from disparate data sources that aren’t ideal to cavalierly compare. He’s also added an addendum arguing in essence that there’s nothing to see here.

Not caught… not yet

In a bit of lighter news, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have taken the news that no US nationals appear to be implicated in the leaked Panama Papers to heart. They’re now asking the Justice Department to more carefully investigate the matter to make absolutely sure that that’s the case.

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In the News: Black lives within the political process

Between the on-going water crisis in Flint, Michigan and the dramatic swing in the presidential primary towards the South, all eyes have been on the ways that anti-Black racism continues to affect the lives of all people in the United States in myriad ways.

Flint as unnatural disaster

ThinkProgress has put together a more than century-long timeline of the demographics, budgeting, and general economic health of Flint to create a more contextual view of the city. After decades of growth and success, Flint is now grappling with several health problems as a result of under-investment in water infrastructure. To make the long story short, complex community investment decisions have been decided in ways to prioritize resources for predominantly White communities and to undermine particularly largely Black communities’ expectations of communal responsibility and a democratic process.

flint_river_better.png(The Flint River, from here.)

The results are expensive public amenities that offer virtually nothing of use or provide actively dangerous “resources” like toxic water. The surrounding economics are – perhaps deliberately – complicated, but the ultimate effect is that greater costs are extracted from communities like Flint for dramatically inferior products. It’s a racket, and the greatest beneficiaries of it are the wealthy White communities essentially absolved of any social expectations while places like Flint are asked to pay twice if not more – once for water and again for medical care.

Who isn’t accountable?

Faced with catastrophes like that, Black community organizers and #BLM activists have minced no words in describing how they will hold the entire system responsible. Chicago-based Aislinn Pulley drew directly on the situation in Flint itself when describing why she was dissatisfied with the meeting offered by the Obama administration:

We must ask what is criminal justice when children, the elderly, the disabled and everyday working people in the city of Flint, Michigan, cannot safely drink their water due to lead contamination which has occurred because the local government switched the city’s water sources in 2014 in order to allegedly save money.

That was only one of the calamities befalling Black communities that she covered, however, as she also describing among others the on-going problems unique to Chicago (namely Rahm Emmanuel’s shutdowns of public schools and potential involvement in covering up police violence). The list of unaddressed disasters, which Pulley describes the Obama administration and other powerful actors in our society as failing to adequately acknowledge let alone treat, makes clear the scope of the problem for Black communities – one that exists on an inescapably society-wide level.

New leaders, old problems

With the presidential primaries beginning to take up even larger shares of the national discussion and President Obama as one of the institutional figures who is viewed as having failed to tackle this issue, who will replace him has become a charged question.

With Donald Trump remaining for the most part in the lead in the Republican primary, more detailed attention is being paid to his background. The racially-charged elements of his business experience as a land developer in the New York area have garnered some attention, but the past couple days have specifically seen a remembrance of his volatile comments on a 1989 rape case. Trump was among the prominent New York voices that effectively lobbied for the reinstatement of the death penalty because of that case, in which five men of color were wrongly convicted as the police and state courts later admitted. Luckily none of them were actually put to death, but their years in prison cannot be undone. For many, Trump’s role in this was a testament to how second nature racist dynamics may be for him.

At the same time, Sanders caught many commenters’ eyes with a speech at Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college in Atlanta, Georgia. He was essentially endorsed by nearby Clarkston’s Mayor Ted Terry, who is White, which came in the form of an upbeat comparison of him to Martin Luther King Jr. Statements and interactions like that by White participants at such a culturally significant location for many Black Americans seems to have struck a dissonant chord for many others. As one Black twitter user responding to a video of largely White supporters at the event noted-

Recent news on Hillary Clinton, alternatively, has focused positively on her speech on racism at Harlem. This bodes positively for her campaign, as she seems to be counting on a racial gap in support between her and Sanders. That said, her current success seems less like she has become a favorite among Black voters so much as that she hasn’t yet done anything to illicit the types of responses Sanders has gotten. As someone positioning her potential presidency as in many ways an extension of Obama’s, many of the more nuanced critiques of him and many more will likely be applied to her as well.

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When your name is mud, find someone dirtier

Trigger warning: heterosexism, sex work, pedophilia

Just after 3 in the morning on Friday of last week, a sex scandal involving two unfaithful Michigan legislature senators came to a close with Cindy Gamrat having been removed of office by a Senate-wide vote and resigned and Todd Courser having resigned (after repeated attempts to also vote him out). The details of this are comparatively run-of-the-mill, with a fairly similar sex scandal – once again, between two socially conservative members of an upper midwest legislature – having broke at almost the same time. Courser’s handling of the situation was marked by a unique damage control campaign though, which has been widely described as an attempt to create confusion and doubt around his alleged sexual misconduct.

While there’s a number of details in these stories that are meant to show Courser as debauched, not all of them even sexual, the use of him being purportedly bisexual should give observers pause. If nothing else, it reflects a comparatively unquestioned form of heterosexism lingering throughout the US. The very details of his concocted self-smearing are built off of devaluing images of gay, bisexual, and other non-straight men as sexually and otherwise out of control. These are the stereotypes that fed into a resignation that the effects of HIV among those communities are inevitable as well as justified denying marital rights to them (among others). His highly public use of them reflects how many people not only still believe them but actively seek to use them.

While the deceitful nature of Courser’s efforts have been revealed, it’s curious how intriguingly effective his claims have been over some media. As the New York Daily News described it – he “planned to muddy his own name to save Gamrat”. Seemingly one of the worst case scenarios his plan attempted to deal with was to bank on the nature of his sex scandal actually being between him and a woman not him and a man, and that’s precisely the straight, romantic terms in which it at least once managed to be framed on the national stage. That’s a reassurance that relies specifically on degrees of security and safety and value being reserved for straight people and their relationships.

Fueling that are those stereotypes. In a broader view, he chose to use one small slice of a treasure trove of stereotypes, one tailored to be more outrageous for many than his own flaws he feared would be revealed. The larger pool of those ideas about non-straight people, however, gives him and all other straight people an entire system of support. There’s a sort of Goldilocks quality to the varied ways that regularly happens. Courser relied on the assumption that gay men and bisexual people are too promiscuous (compared to straight people) but other straight people can also turn to the belief that lesbian women are overly committed or even zealous (compared to straight people). There are also echoes in Courser’s email of the framing of gay men and bisexual people as too risk-taking (compared to straight people), but in other times and places it’s more useful to say that lesbian women are too risk-averse (compared to straight people).

Straight personal histories like Courser’s emerge out of those and other comparisons as the middle-of-the-road. Even with their flaws and problems, they can become an alternative that’s safe, stable, reasonable, and fulfilling in all the ways non-straight people miss the mark. Precisely which non-straight people have which faults is actually irrelevant and even interchangeable, because that’s not the point. Anti-lesbian rhetoric can just as easily frame lesbians as inadequately committed in their relationships compared to overly committed. The point isn’t a consistent or realistic depiction of these various non-straight groups, just to create an image of them that frames them as negative extremes that straight people better balance.

Ultimately, because Courser was exposed, this event could be revealing of that and related thought processes that many straight people have and even regularly rely on. As not only the New York Daily News but even John Oliver’s piece show, that’s something that few straight people or people of any sexuality in the mainstream media are comfortable with or capable of doing. It’s easier to laugh at or otherwise find entertainment in this, as something fantastical, rather than a common social practice. That’s certainly a lot safer than examining one’s own life and actions and considering if you ever rely on non-straight people being the mud that makes your name look clean in comparison.

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The broken logic of Michigan’s latest ultrasound-mandating bill

TW: restrictions on bodily autonomy, miscarriages

Not only are many Republicans seemingly fixated on getting some Republican (any Republican) into one of Massachusetts’ senatorial seats, but on regulating abortion in increasingly invasive and nonsensical ways. The newest state-level bill which has gotten national attention was based in Michigan, and followed on the heels of the state legislature essentially erecting legal barriers for people who experience a miscarriage and intensively regulating the provision of abortions or related medical services. Now a well-tested and overwhelmingly publicly opposed idea of how to regulate abortions has graced Michigan with its presence. Yes, Michigan Republicans are mandating fetal ultrasounds, contrary to what some of their more prominent legislators have said.

TV news coverage of anti-mandatory-ultrasound protests in Idaho last year
(Because that went over so well last time? From here.)

If you actually bother to read the bill, at least in the version that’s been publicly posted, the entire argument is laughable. Here’s the most relevant section in my mind (beginning on page 3):

The safeguards that will best protect a woman seeking advice concerning abortion include the following:
the performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus at least 2 hours before an abortion with the woman given the option to view the active ultrasound image of the fetus, hear the fetal heartbeat, receive a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus, and hear an explanation of the ultrasound image of the fetus. The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus, now a standard practice at abortion facilities, protects the health of the woman seeking an abortion by verifying an intrauterine pregnancy, as undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies can result in potentially fatal complications and infertility. The performance of a diagnostic ultrasound examination of the fetus further protects the interest of the woman seeking an abortion by assessing the viability of the fetus and confirming the approximate gestational age of the fetus, as this information is necessary in order to determine appropriate medical care for the woman seeking an abortion.
[… Therefore]
a physician or a qualified  person assisting the physician shall do all of the following not  less than 24 hours before that physician performs an abortion upon a patient who is a pregnant woman:
Provide the patient with a physical copy of a medically accurate depiction, illustration, or photograph and description of a fetus supplied by the department of community health pursuant to subsection (11)(a) at the gestational age nearest the probable gestational age of the patient’s fetus. [… and while performing the mandatory ultrasound] The physician or qualified person assisting the physician shall ensure that the ultrasound screen is turned toward the patient to enable her to easily view the active ultrasound image of the fetus; shall inform the patient that the active ultrasound image of the fetus is visible and she may view the image on the ultrasound screen if she desires; shall provide the patient with the opportunity to hear or decline to hear the fetal heartbeat as confirmation of a viable pregnancy [which is medically inaccurate]; shall offer to provide the patient with a physical picture of the ultrasound image of the fetus; and shall offer to provide the patient with an oral explanation of the ultrasound image of the fetus.

Did you catch that? Pregnant people are required to have ultrasounds performed, even if they’re so early in the pregnancy that it’s pointless and near impossible to properly do (requiring a transvaginal ultrasound, which the bill says is an acceptable outcome). They’re actually required to answer whole string of questions asking them if they want information on the fetus in one of a whole series of formats. The purported purpose of this, however, is to inform the medical practitioner who would perform the abortion of any unrealized medical complications or conditions of the pregnancy.

Yes, Michigan just passed a bill requiring doctors to barrage their patients with information on the pregnancy they’re seeking to terminate, so that the doctors would be informed of the details of the pregnancy. It’s like they’re not even trying to come up with a logical fig leaf for controlling other people’s bodily choices.

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Are charters the new mortgage market?

In the wake of the 2012 elections in the US, much of the media has been grappling with two major issues that must be understood: how did Obama and the Democrats win and where do the Republicans go from here? There’s a variety of answers to both, but there’s two key explanations that are striking if you pair them side by side.

Among the apparent causes for various progressive victories is that Republicans and conservatives overestimated their chance at winning, and didn’t invest their electoral resources very intelligently as a result. As part of analyzing that, in a recent interview with author Chrystia Freeland in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein chillingly notes:

“These folks, too, are purportedly very data focused, very good at assimilating new information. So I find it genuinely scary that neither Romney nor his super-rich backers had any idea he was going to lose. All the polls, all the models, all the betting markets said he was likely to lose. How did a group of people who, in their jobs, have to be willing to read and respond to disappointing data convince themselves to ignore every piece of data we had?”

Ms Freeland was promoting her new worrisome book.

So there’s the first worrisome problem right off the bat: there is a class of people in US society who are at once highly valued as financial analysts or something similar and yet, many of them do not seem to be able to analyze things, financially or otherwise. This is part of how the markets could so idiotically pour investment into patently toxic mortgages (causing the most recent recession), clearly overvalued homes (causing the housing bubble), and obviously worthless internet stock (causing the one before that). A sizable percentage of the financier class who are supposed to be intelligently running things seem to be doing anything but making the correct calls. That same poor ability to analyze reality or predict consequences reared its head politically on election day, when that group overwhelmingly anticipated a Romney victory, in spite of all evidence otherwise.

Chrystia Freeland eerily replies that it’s worse than that. Large parts of that socio-economic class aren’t merely convinced of their awesomeness at their jobs, but also believe that the perks of their position are more than personal but part of the greater good. She explains-

“They’re convinced that it just so happens that their self-interest coincides perfectly with the collective interest. That’s where you get this idea of the ‘job creators’. The view is that to seek a low tax environment or less regulation, that’s not special pleading for yourself, it’s not transactional politics. It’s that this set of rules is the most conducive to economic growth for everybody. It will grow the pie. Now, it also happens to be an incredibly convenient way of thinking. If you’ve developed an ideology that what’s good for you personally also happens to be good for everyone else, that’s quite wonderful because there’s no moral tension.”

So, if we’re going to keep the tab running here’s the situation we’re in. There’s a group of powerful people. Many of them are making decisions which notably have negative long term repercussions. But it’s alright, supposedly, because they should know what they’re doing. They’re the group of powerful people after all. Likewise, if their short term decisions result in personal gain, that’s only because their personal gain conveniently always coincides with the best of all possible worlds. Really, they’re doing this for everyone.

Now, momentarily put on hold that idea of social organization which has led us to where we are today politically, economically, and socially. It’s worth asking what the Republican Party’s various members are proposing as the road forward after their obvious loss earlier this month. Their answers obviously vary, but one of the major candidates for the next presidential run, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has been running for years now on education reform. Doesn’t that sound bipartisan, forward-thinking, and nice?

But like almost everything proposed by Republicans the more you look the gift horse in the mouth, the more like a nightmarish ghoul it looks. As Reuters has reported, the fundamental mechanics of what he’s done in Florida and is now proposing on a national-scale look suspiciously similar to the disastrous No Child Left Behind policies of the early Bush years. Likewise, the improvement in test schools looks to mostly have been a short term fluke due to rising property tax returns from ballooning real estate sales, after which the state’s schools were left high and dry (and test scores began to drop again as funding declined). The only people who seem to have done well under these circumstances are the small number of for-profit charters who turned tidy profits under the new policies. But don’t worry, Jeb Bush is still insisted that we can apply this law on a national scale with no serious negative impacts.

In short, the new way forward for the Republican Party looks remarkably similar to the exact same organizational philosophy that’s impoverished this country by locking up investment in foolish gamble after foolish gamble (whether purely business or political in nature). But it made someone at the top money, so it’s still worth pursuing. It’s worth noting that similar policies are being implemented in Michigan. I only hope the United States as a whole figures out how this story ends before Jeb Bush can decide that for us.

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Which ones actually are swing states?

Yesterday, a lot of people suddenly seemed to notice that there are disagreements between various pollsters and politicos over what states are actually “up for grabs” by either Romney or Obama. On The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow briefly covered it, noting subtle discrepancies between the two campaigns (as Obama continues to focus on Florida and Virginia, while Romney seemingly feels more comfortable there). She left it up to her viewers to deduce why the NBC predictions she also referenced were distinct from either of the major campaign’s focuses in including New Hampshire and Wisconsin as “swing states” (but dropping Nevada, too). Clearly, there’s some politics involved in simply deciding what states are vulnerable in the election.

Jonathan Chait earlier in the same day made a similar point, arguing that:

“[the Romney campaign] is carefully attempting to project an atmosphere of momentum, in the hopes of winning positive media coverage and, thus, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy [… while the race is somewhat close,] Obama enjoys a clear electoral college lead. He is ahead by at least a couple points in enough states to make him president. Adding to his base of uncontested states, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin would give Obama 271 electoral votes. According to the current polling averages compiled at fivethirtyeight.com, Obama leads Nevada by 3.5 percent, Ohio by 2.9 percent, and Wisconsin by 4 percent. Should any of those fail, Virginia and Colorado are nearly dead even. (Obama leads by 0.7 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively.) If you don’t want to rely on Nate Silver — and you should rely on him! — the polling averages at realclearpolitics, the conservative-leaning site, don’t differ much, either.

The only problem with his statements is that while Real Clear Politics provides the polls to prove Obama’s small but consistent advantage, it also provides the predictions that keep insisting that Michigan and Pennsylvania are some of the “toss-up” states. Looking over their map of predictions, it’s hard not to see the “horse race” that gives the media the ratings it loves. After all, states they classify as “toss-ups” hold more electoral votes than all of Romney’s “safe” states, either Romney’s or Obama’s “likely” states, and their combined “leans”. It’s only smaller than Obama’s “safe” states by 11 electoral votes. Their list contains all of the states either campaign considers worthy or visiting right now, the two additional ones listed by NBC, and two more – Michigan and Pennsylvania. A full fifth of the states are being contested in their predictions.

(Behold the gray faces states that hold our future in their hands. The screen-shot of their electoral college prediction is from this morning.)

There’s a key word at the beginning there – they classify states. Based on what? That’s not really said – but given their job as an aggregate polling firm, which collects polls from different pollsters to give a broad overview of what races are looking like, it’s hard to believe that polling data are totally irrelevant to their classification of states. If that’s true though, that polls are at the center of their predictions – then they really look like they have a double standard between what gets classified as an identifiable preference for Romney and an apparent choice of Obama.

Focusing on just the “toss-ups”, there’s immense variation between states’ polling results within that category. Admittedly, some of them look like what you’d imagine. The recently collected polls for Colorado show low results for either candidate, with quite a bit of alternation between who’s leading. There’s been a mix of polls showing either Romney or Obama leading throughout October, and into the summer. It really is difficult to feel confident that the state will go one way or the other. There’s a few other states that also fit this overall pattern – New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia and Iowa.

Slightly distinct are the “toss-up” states with some mixed polling results, but a clear tendency towards Obama. Nevada, for instance, has consistently seen extremely small leads for Obama, with no polls in the past few months showing a Romney lead (although there were two ties). Looking at Ohio gives similar results, as there’s a clear imbalance between the campaigns in convincing voters to support them, but the difference is extremely small. While there is adequate uncertainty to question the victory of the incumbent in those states, labeling both of them “toss-ups” seems to imply a degree of equal opportunity that seems unfounded.

On the other hand, there are some “toss-ups” that seem to be anything but. Michigan hasn’t seen a tie or Romney victory in the polls since late August. Wisconsin hasn’t seen either since mid-August. Pennsylvania hasn’t seen one or the other since February. Multiple months have seen no polls indicating a Romney win or extremely close race. Over those weeks, there have been periods where the incumbent enjoyed double digit margins of victory. Those polls are provided by a diverse group of pollsters – from the right-leaning Rasmussen to left-leaning Public Policy Polling, but all of them have found substantial Obama victories in those states for at least a month and a half, if not more.

And yet, these are still “toss-ups”,  because apparently some one in Real Clear Politics head office still isn’t really sure if they can even modestly suggest that Obama will carry them. In contrast, North Carolina was reclassified from being a “toss-up” to being a  “leans Romney” state on October 18. If you bother to look at their state-specific polling data, they changed their prediction after 17 days without any Obama wins in the polls – and with only five polls showing single-digit support for Romney. Now, I actually agree with both Real Clear Politics and Five Thirty Eight that North Carolina is more likely to end up in Romney’s column than Obama’s, but Real Clear Politics’ standards for reaching that conclusion seem at odds with their choices for, say, Pennsylvania – which has 261 days without any Romney wins in the polls and 39 polls showing occasionally double-digit support for Obama.

So while Real Clear Politics polling aggregation might suggest the same conclusions as “biased” Nate Silver, their predictions don’t match, provided the prediction would be of an Obama victory. Sounds like Chait might have been too charitable there in attributing major media predictions of a Romney win to confusion, rather than willful intent.

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The GOP leadership is a fifth column

TW: Bush-era impunity, voter suppression

Having endured eight years under President Bush where most public and heated criticism of the Republican Party’s policies was conflated with sympathy for terrorists if not terrorism itself, Obama’s change of political tone was welcome: he was elected as a bipartisan, to be a bipartisan, among other bipartisan officials. Nowhere was that facet to his governing philosophy more obvious than during last night’s debate, during which he touted his willingness to work with Republicans and independents and incorporate their ideas into his policies (in contrast to Romney who was very insistent on policies being “correct”, not the process producing them being non-partisan). The Republican counter-argument Obama has worked against since early 2009 has seemed pretty patently opposed to shared political rule – just ask Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.

Over the past few months, however, it’s become undeniable – this isn’t just an opposition to another political party which is to be expected. This crosses over into rejecting basic, non-partisan, political processes. The Republican Party is opposed to authentically representative governance, because it won’t empower them. We’ve reached the point where they are hoping to actively subvert political norms towards undemocratic ends: in archaic terms, a fifth column.

Perhaps this should have been obvious from the 2000 presidential election onwards – since I might argue that the United States has been in constitutional crisis since then. Not only did another presidential victor lose the popular vote, but careful examination called into question the Supreme Court’s partisan declaration that Bush had won the popular vote in Florida, rather than reorganize the election or actually finishing counting the existing ballots. The electoral system tolerated the highest court declaring the winner, rather than objectively allowing voters to even decide in our poorly-designed Electoral College. That night in 2000 began a lengthy list of major events during the Bush years that suggested his administration tolerated such anti-democratic efforts or perhaps they were even the political goals of the Republican-controlled government.

But now, it’s unambiguous. There’s no conceivable argument against photographic and video evidence where Republican leaders have admitted that they oppose basic democratic rights being protected for all Americans – where there is clear intent and an worrying lack of incompetence. This is a willful strategy of undermining democratic representation in governance to elevate the desires of the Republican Party over the needs of average Americans. This is what a fifth column by definition does.

This began with local governments throughout Michigan being shut down and with their citizenry being unable to undo the emergency process which empowered unelected representatives in communities in fiscal crisis. This has widely been pushed on communities by the Republican controlled state government. Mother Jones has done some solid reporting on this, focusing on how these communities seem unable to reverse the process because of explicit weaseling around the Michigan law’s requirement of state officials to reinstate democratic governance when certain conditions are met. Earlier this year, the White “emergency manager” of a predominantly Black community accepting criticism that he held dictatorial power, calling himself a “tyrant”.

This sort of hostility to basic democratic processes has spread – both in geographic occurrence and political implications.  In the spring of 2012, Michigan refused to reinstate democratic rule, and in the early summer a Pennsylvania State Representative declared that the Voter ID legislation he and his party had pushed on Pennsylvania “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania“. The disenfranchisement he casually and victoriously discussed would not only strip certain portions of the population of local representation but deny them a political voice in the upcoming presidential election – and that was the explicit goal. Thankfully, a judicial review of that law (like many others) has struck down those requirements. But as Rachel Maddow pointed out earlier this week, the law may have already had the effect of discouraging certain demographics from voting.

In that context, it was pointed out earlier today that just across the road from a  public housing project in Ohio, this billboard was put up:

Clear Channel sign reading:

The billboard is in the neighborhood of a few other public housing projects as well as a community college. This is a state, where a Republican official explained his opposition to early voting practices which were used in 2008, by saying, “I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine”. In that phrase alone, that official admitted that this isn’t fraud of any sort that he’s opposing – it’s turnout, and of a specific ethnic, socio-economic, and consequently political groups. He isn’t concerned about the right of all Americans to vote – he’s trying to ensure that the “right” Americans have the power to determine electoral results.

This is the development of the American conservative movement into not only an organization hostile to the benefits of a substantive democratic system being applied equally to all social groups, but one that actively and blatantly opposes basic political activity by those same demographics. This is a reject of the modern assumption of universal suffrage and democratic inclusion in American politics. This is a betrayal of the central tenets of the American political system. This is what a fifth column does.

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