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Why Episode 8 Of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks 2017 Is The Most Mind-Blowing Hour In The History Of TV

August 5th, 2020

From the opening scene of Episode 8 of Twin Peaks 2017, directed by David Lynch, score by Krzysztof Penderecki.

VULTURE: The most startling flashback in the history of American television is the one that takes us from a black screen to the first successful test of an atomic bomb in New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m. (Lynch and Frost make sure to note the time as well.) It might or might not be significant that the first detonation was code named Trinity, and this series is built around a trinity of Dale Cooper figures: the BOB-possessed Coop, the “good” Coop who’s been trapped in the Black Lodge for 25 years, and Dougie Jones, an outwardly ordinary executive at a Las Vegas insurance firm who, in the Lynch tradition of beetles beneath green lawns, secretly has a mistress and a prodigious gambling problem. The mushroom cloud (CGI, not stock footage) is observed from a high, moving angle. This vantage point takes a godlike view of Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 1.22.58 AMhumanity assuming the power of a god, initiating a military-industrial complex Frankenstein narrative. The music, significantly, is Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” an “unorthodox, largely symbol-based score” that “sometimes directs the musicians to play at various unspecific points in their range or to concentrate on certain textural effects.” (Rather like Twin Peaks itself.) Bits of Penderecki’s piece have been used in other genre works with a strong horror component, notably Children of Men, The People Under the Stairs, and The Shining.

That last film is notable because of the Stanley Kubrick connection. The section following the bomb blast is structured as an homage to the “Stargate” sequence that ends Kubrick’s 1968 classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. That work and this one are both so clearly concerned with ideas of evolution (and the role of weapons in furthering evolution) that it’s safe to say that Lynch is leaning into the comparison. Confidently, too.

It is the highest praise to say that, of all the filmmakers who’ve referenced the final section of 2001, Lynch seems to me the only one to have created something that equals it even as it humbly bows to its example. The post-bomb sequence takes us through what appears to be a series of tunnels, some comprised of nuclear hellfire but others of a more tantalizingly organic texture (as if to literalize the idea, expressed in Kubrick’s tunnels of light, that humanity was “reborn” after 1945). The use of the bomb claimed hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives, and was justified retroactively as necessary to make Japan surrender, but even in the immediate aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, historians, tacticians, philosophers, and pundits questioned whether any strategic objective could justify unleashing a genocidal monstrosity of science, the likes of which not even the prophet Mary Shelley could have imagined.

The episode is filled with figures and creatures that seemed to have slithered out of primordial ooze even as their appearance is accompanied by electronic or electrical distortion noises (notably, David Lynch Woodsmanserves as his own sound designer on this series). The post-bomb sequences feel like a nightmare of Eisenhower/Kennedy–era American hypocrisy, with the proverbial chickens of the atomic age coming home to roost via a series of invasive and brutal acts, perpetrated against oblivious Americans in small town or suburban settings. (Speaking of chickens: See Eraserhead’s chicken baby.) They’re just going about their business, working in soda shops and enjoying innocent dates and broadcasting songs at a Podunk radio station, while unbeknownst to them a hideous evil unleashed by the bomb is secretly creeping up on them, preparing to squeeze the blood and brains from their heads, crawl inside their sleeping mouths, or (in the case of the coffee-shop waitress) knock them unconscious with Lynchian record-skip noises and incantations broadcast over the same airwaves that previously offered golden oldies.

The mind-bending climax of the episode intertwines images of the “got a light?” guy invading the radio station and crushing employees’ skulls with shots of a hideous frog-cockroach hybrid, seemingly hatched from an egg on the nuked salt flats of New Mexico. Both narratives of creeping violence have the feel of a curse being visited upon a society that tacitly condoned one of history’s greatest sins, nodding to a rich tradition of post–World War II science-fiction cinema in which monsters birthed by atom bomb tests (and other scientific or military experiments that were essentially stand-ins for atom bomb tests) menaced teenagers and their adult guardians in Norman Rockwellian small towns and suburbs. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: In The Air Tonight

August 4th, 2020

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NEW YORK TIMES: After she recovered from the initial shock of her diagnosis, Johnson began to wonder why she had such an unusual cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only about 3,700 Americans find out they have gallbladder cancer each year; breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the country, with more than 276,000 new cases annually. Because Johnson’s disease was so uncommon, doctors at University Hospital had to formulate a special treatment plan. Gallbladder cancer occurs mainly in older people, and 72 is the average age at diagnosis. Johnson was 46. “I started thinking, What was I doing with this?”

Bennett had an answer for her. “Look across the highway,” she said, pointing toward the massive 150-year-old refinery, owned by Philadelphia Energy Solutions since 2012, that was so familiar to Grays Ferry residents that it seemed like part of the landscape. Over the next year, Bennett and Johnson began to tally the diseases all around them suffered by the people they loved. Johnson’s father’s brother, her uncle Robert, who also lived in the neighborhood, died of prostate cancer in 2010, and three of his children, Kilynn’s first cousins, had also had different forms of cancer — four out of six people in one household. Those three cousins learned they had cancer earlier than age 66, the average age of a diagnosis. Bennett’s daughters Ladeania and Wanda, found out they had breast cancer several months apart and when they were both in their 50s; Wanda then came down with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. “And now me,” Johnson said.

Between the two of them, Johnson and Bennett knew two dozen family members, friends and neighbors, a number of them under 50, who’d had cancer. As they tallied their sick and their dead, the two women wondered, “What we gonna do?” Black communities like Grays Ferry shoulder a disproportionate burden of the nation’s pollution — from foul water in Flint, Mich., to dangerous chemicals that have poisoned a corridor of Louisiana known as Cancer Alley — which scientists and policymakers have known for decades. A 2017 report from the N.A.A.C.P. and the Clean Air Task Force provided more evidence. It showed that African-Americans are 75 percent more likely than other Americans to live in so-called fence-line communities, defined as areas situated near facilities that produce hazardous waste.

A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Center for Environmental Assessment and published in 2018 in the American Journal of Public Health examined facilities emitting air pollution along with the racial and economic profiles of surrounding communities. It found that Black Americans are subjected to higher levels of air pollution than white Americans — regardless of their income level. Black Americans are exposed to 1.5 times as much of the sooty pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels as the population at large. This dirty air is associated with lung disease, including asthma, as well as heart disease, premature death and now Covid-19.

Philadelphia, which is 44 percent Black, received a warning from the American Lung Association in 2019: “If you live in Philadelphia County, the air you breathe may put your health at risk.” According to 2016 E.P.A. data, the refinery that looms over Grays Ferry was responsible for the bulk of toxic air emissions in the city. The E.P.A. found that the refinery had been out of compliance with the Clean Air Act nine of the past 12 quarters through 2019 with little recourse. From 2014 to 2019, P.E.S. was fined almost $650,000 for violating air, water and waste-disposal rules. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: Return To Sender

August 3rd, 2020

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PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: Neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region are experiencing significant delays in receiving their mail, with some residents going upwards of three weeks without packages and letters, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills. The delays come at a time when the U.S. Postal Service is experiencing significant changes. The new Postmaster General’s policies eliminate overtime, order carriers to leave mail behind to speed up their workdays, and slash office hours, which — coupled with staffing shortages amid previous budget cuts and coronavirus absences — are causing extensive delivery delays.

According to local union leaders and carriers, mail is piling up in offices, unscanned and unsorted. Mail carriers who spoke with The Inquirer said they are overwhelmed, working long hours yet still unable to finish their routes. Offices are so short-staffed that when a carrier is out, a substitute is often not assigned to their route. […]

On top of staff shortages, the agency has seen a significant increase in packages due to a boom in online shopping as people stay home. Casselli said Philadelphia’s plant was processing about 30,000 parcels per day before the coronavirus. Now, it’s processing 100,000. “They were short-staffed before COVID, and now they don’t have the manpower to process the mail that needs to be delivered,” said Casselli. “Mail is sitting for a week to 10 days before they’re even scanned to go out.”

Amid this increase, sudden policy changes instituted to cut costs by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who was appointed in May, are exacerbating delays, at a time when unprecedented voting by mail has put scrutiny on the agency. In memos to employees, DeJoy has ordered carriers to leave mail behind if it delays routes, and said the agency will prohibit overtime. Additionally, post offices’ hours are being slashed, including in Camden and Cherry Hill. “These are things that have never ever happened in the history of the post office,” said Casselli.
Carriers are being told to leave mail behind

The USPS, which is part of a $1.6 trillion mailing industry that employs 7.3 million people, faces crippling debt. Philip F. Rubio, a history professor at North Carolina A&T State University who has written numerous books about the Postal Service, said the current changes are part of the Trump administration’s quest to turn the public against the post office and ultimately privatize it. “What’s happening now is really egregious,” he said. Mail carriers say the new orders have forced them to abandon some of the most sacred commitments of their job. MORE

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INCOMING: Fargo Season 4 Teaser

August 3rd, 2020

SCREENRANT: Set in Kansas City, Missouri in 1950, Fargo’s newest escapade will follow two crime syndicates – one Italian and one African American – whose peace truce is wavering. Head of one of the families, Loy Cannon (Rock), relinquished his eldest son to the opposing side, and both groups find themselves thrust into exploitation, assimilation, and transgression. Infused with wisecracks and organized crime family antics, the teaser trailer for Fargo season 4 begins with Doctor Senator (Turman) stating, “In America, you’ve got to earn respect.” Teasing an action-packed season with dueling crime lords, Fargo season 4 could be one wild ride. Check out the trailer below: Originally, Fargo season 4 was slated to premiere in April of 2020. However, amid the entertainment industry shutdowns due to corona virus concerns, FX reveals only eight of the planned ten episodes are complete. Seemingly light on plot details, the trailer for Fargo season 4 doesn’t offer an official release date. MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: Defang The Police Unions

July 31st, 2020

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NEW YORKER: In the modern labor movement, police unions are outliers, their politics well to the right of even the Teamsters and the building trades. They can make common cause with the movement when union-killing legislation looms, as it briefly did in New York State a few years ago. But when they know they will be spared, as in Wisconsin, they stay quiet even while teachers and nurses and sanitation workers are being squashed.

For the left, one problem with hammering police unions is that the right is doing the same thing. National Review and the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page recognize the problems with police unions and accountability, and they duly extend the argument to teachers’ unions and municipal workers. Their sentiment is: bust them all. Benjamin Sachs, a professor of labor and industry at Harvard Law School, points to new data showing that, when police have greater access to collective bargaining, it correlates with a long-term increase in police killing of civilians, specifically nonwhite civilians. Strong union towns like Chicago often have a more dangerous police culture than cities with weak labor laws do. In Dallas, for instance, the main police union is not the sole bargaining agent. Several different groups, including fraternal organizations of African-American and Latino officers, sign off on union contracts. The result is both more transparent and markedly less violent policing.

Ben Brucato, a sociologist at Rhode Island College, argues that police unions are crucially different from other labor unions. “These organizations function as lobbies to both resist accountability legislation and shield implicated officers,” he writes. A public-sector union is distinct from its private-sector counterparts; its negotiations necessarily include, at least morally, a third party—the public, the taxpayer. And yet many police unions, in their contracts and their ideology, seem to make no provision for this invisible third party. They defend their members against the public, and punish whistle-blowers with even greater zeal than management does. Police unions “represent hundreds of thousands of people, and, except in a very few states, have the ability to organize without any opposition from government,” Brucato told me.

Brucato believes that the solution is to abolish police unions. He has a list of ten steps toward that end, including cancelling contracts, mass firings in the event of illegal slowdowns, and federal prosecutions for persistent obstruction of justice. Other abolitionists want to see major labor federations, such as the A.F.L.-C.I.O., sever ties with police unions. Sachs agrees that there is an urgent need for reform, but he suggests considering more procedural steps: limiting collective bargaining to non-disciplinary matters; opening bargaining sessions to the public; encouraging departments to have multiple unions, representing more diverse views. Many analysts emphasize the need for new use-of-force protocols that are known to save lives but that the unions reject. MORE

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AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: Just Do It!

July 31st, 2020

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HeadCount and Fort William Artist Management have announced VOTE READY, A Concert for Voter Registration, happening Friday, August 14th at 7pm Eastern, to motivate fans to verify and update their voter registration. The concert, part of the “Live From Out There” livestream series, will feature original self-recorded performances by The War On Drugs, Robin Pecknold, Daniel Rossen (of Grizzly Bear), Christopher Bear (of Grizzly Bear/Fools), Kyp Malone (of TV On The Radio), Jaleel Bunton (of TV On The Radio), Kevin Morby, Waxahatchee, Tarriona Tank Ball, Hand Habits, Ciggy, Kam Franklin (of The Suffers), The Building and Allison Russell & Leyla McCalla (of Our Native Daughters). Leading up to the event, fans who check their voter registration status via HeadCount.org/VoteReady will receive a free eTicket to the stream. Anyone not currently registered will then easily be able to register to vote through an online form. International and underage viewers will be able to receive the same access by pledging to vote in the next election in which they are eligible.

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WORTH REPEATING: Defund The Secret Police

July 28th, 2020

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THE NEW YORKER: In early June, after the killing of George Floyd, when tens of thousands of mostly peaceful demonstrators assembled in cities across the country to protest police brutality, the Department of Homeland Security sent hundreds of its agents to patrol the crowds. They cleared space for a Presidential photo op in front of St. John’s Church, in Washington, D.C., by forcibly removing demonstrators, and in New York City they reportedly made at least one arrest at gunpoint. The legal rationale for their being on the scene was a statute from 2002 that gave them broad authority to protect federal property and personnel. This mandate sounded just vague enough to escape mainstream notice at the time, when police officers were being filmed tear-gassing and beating protesters. But a pressing question remains, which the D.H.S. leadership can’t easily answer: What are agents from Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement doing in the streets of U.S. cities nowhere near the border, policing citizens who have broken no laws?

Earlier this month, D.H.S. went further, sending SWAT teams from C.B.P. to Portland, Oregon, to quell ongoing protests in front of a federal building downtown. “We do not want you here,” the state’s Democratic governor, Kate Brown, said that she told D.H.S. officials when she learned of their plans. “It provokes confrontation to have federal troops on the streets.” Chad Wolf, the acting head of the department, ignored her, and held what a former official described to me as a “pep rally” with agents before deploying more of them to the city. In a statement, Wolf said, “The city of Portland has been under siege for forty-seven straight days by a violent mob, while local political leaders refuse to restore order.” He added, a few days later, as opposition to the D.H.S. presence grew, “we will not retreat.”

By mid-July, federal authorities had made about forty arrests in Portland, and there were news reports and video footage of agents beating protesters, including a fifty-three-year-old Navy veteran, who was left with a shattered hand. In a widely circulated video, two agents dressed in military camouflage were shown pulling a protester into an unmarked gray minivan. “The nightly disturbances in Portland were not national news until now,” a former D.H.S. official told me. “Department leadership is putting officers in a very difficult position by not explaining what they’re doing and why. If this mission was supposed to be about assisting Federal Protective Services”—the agency in charge of guarding federal property—“then what are they doing pulling people into minivans rented from the Portland airport? How does protecting federal property become pepper spraying and batoning people?” MORE

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RELATED: “Homeland” is an anxious, combative word: it denotes a place under assault, in need of aggressive defense from shape-shifting dangers. The original proposal for the D.H.S. described the agency as “a new government structure to protect against invisible enemies that can strike with a wide variety of weapons”; one hypothetical example of an invisible enemy was “a non-citizen that intends to enter our nation and attack one of our chemical facilities.” The nation used to protect itself against other nations and their hostile military forces, but now it had to fear individuals. This is the premise on which secret police forces are built. Their stated purpose is to find danger where normal human activity appears to be taking place. The D.H.S. began with mobilizing against the foreign-born, via Immigration and Customs Enforcement (which replaced the Immigration and Naturalization Service). The logic of the secret police, however, dictates that it perpetually has to look in new places for threats.

When Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, in November of 2002, bringing the D.H.S. into existence, he touted it as “the most extensive reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman signed the National Security Act,” and spoke of “ruthless killers who move and plot in shadows.” He promised, “We’re on the hunt. One person at a time.” Bush’s words echoed the promise that fuelled Vladimir Putin’s rise in Russia. In a speech that brought him to sudden prominence, in 1999, the former K.G.B. colonel promised to “hunt down” terrorists and “snuff them out in the outhouse,” if that’s where they happened to be found. The secret police, even when it looks and appears to act like an army, always has a single individual as its target. Its goal is to make a person, alone, face the might of the state.

In Portland, the men in military-style uniforms have been picking up and detaining individuals while they are walking alone, often after a protest ends. At the press conference on Tuesday, Wolf owned the tactic of tracking people down and picking them up at some distance from protests. “When you have five hundred, six hundred violent individuals, violent criminals across the street from you, trying to inflict harm on your property and at law-enforcement officers . . . we don’t go into that crowd,” he said. “We don’t try to go into a violent crowd of four hundred people and try to arrest people—that’s dangerous.” Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, explained that his troops were using unmarked vehicles because police vehicles in other cities had been attacked by protesters; similarly, he said, his men didn’t have their names on their uniforms for fear of attacks on their homes and families. The C.B.P. is the largest law-enforcement agency in the country. Its leader—who at the same briefing stated that his troops are highly trained and experienced in putting down riots—and his boss, Chad Wolf, were telling the nation that they are terrified of the protesters. These men represent a government agency born of fear. Their tactics are designed to engender an equal amount of fear in the people they see as their enemies. The secret police is always a terror-production machine. MORE

RELATED: Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner Declares Zero Tolerance Policy For Trump’s Cosplay Gestapo

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A With Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner

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CINEMA: Imitation Of Life

July 24th, 2020

Family Romance

FAMILY ROMANCE, LLC (directed by Werner Herzog, 89 minutes, USA, 2020)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC Family Romance, LLC, which hit VOD last week, is the latest by Werner Herzog and has the director taking a fictional narrative that detours into documentary-like style vignettes. The film, which was shot in Japan with Japanese dialog, is inspired by a very real business where you can rent stand-in family members for funerals or weddings or various other life events. Family Romance, LLC focuses on Ishii Yuichi, who at the the start of the film is hired to play the long lost father of a 12-year-old girl named Mahiro, who has no idea her mother hired the man to play the part. That relationship is the primary throughline of the film’s “fictional” story as Ishii makes a few detours along the way into documentary-style interviews with the principal players of other virtual-life ventures. We see Ishii stopping at a Japanese Robot Hotel and interviewing the proprietor, and in another segment he stops at a funeral home which rents time in a coffin to the living.

Strangely the film feels like Herzog’s take on the mumble-core, with improvisational dialog combined with a freewheeling editing style that feels as if the scenes just fall into one another. With such a dialog -heavy film, I was surprised to learn that Herzog didn’t speak a lick of Japanese, and that he also shot the entire film himself using a handheld camera. Against the backdrop of noisy public spaces, like busy parks or teeming cafes, he masterfully carves out these intimate moments between a “father” and his painfully shy 12 year-old daughter. Despite the fact that the entire cast is made up of non-actors and this works amazingly well, yet another meta layer of authenticity to the film. The line between what is real and what gets blurrier once you read a bit about the film and discover that the actor who plays Ishii Yuichi is actually named  Ishii Yuichi and he owns an IRL business called Family Romance that offers the same virtual services showcased in the film.

Herzog isn’t simply satisfied in the superficial novelty of his subject matter, but instead digs deep into the emotional core of the principals while exploring philosophical questions such as what makes a family family and pulling back the curtain on the complications that can arise from a service like this. Ishii spends a lot of time “in character” pondering the confusing parameters of his identity and the morality of his life choices and how they affect those that are both aware and unaware of his services. Thanks to the amatuer cast, this doesn’t come off nearly as pretentious as it sounds on paper. Instead Family Romance, LLC is filled with a rare authenticity that elicits empathy for its lonely cast of characters as they arrange a meeting with Ishii to fulfill one desperate need or another. To then see these requests fulfilled as Ishii selflessly gives himself over to whatever the situation requires, always doing what’s best for his client rather than what is best for himself, only endears him to the audience all the more.

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DEFUND THE SECRET POLICE: Q&A With Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner

July 23rd, 2020

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BLOOMBERG NEWS: So you are prepared to prosecute federal law enforcement officials if they do in Philadelphia what they are doing in Portland?

D.A. LARRY KRASNER: If we have clear probable cause for the commission of crimes, by anyone, including law enforcement, including federal law enforcement, we will prosecute that. We’re not going to tolerate any kidnappings and assaults going on in Philadelphia streets. We’re not going to tolerate showing up under the guise of making things safer and [instead] causing violence.

BLOOMBERG NEWS: Is there precedent for this — local police arresting federal police?

D.A. LARRY KRASNER: There are instances, and there have been in many major cities. Often it relates to corruption where you have arrests that are made. Sometimes they’re made by federal authorities. Sometimes they’re made by local authorities. The Philadelphia police department and the Philadelphia D.A.’s office, absolutely have jurisdiction to arrest and to charge federal law enforcement officials if they commit crimes. The only wrinkle to this is that under certain circumstances the case may eventually end up being handled in federal court. But there’s no question that the law applies to the feds, including the president, whatever he may want to say otherwise.

BLOOMBERG NEWS: Can you walk us through what that would look like?

D.A. LARRY KRASNER:It can come in a number of ways. It can come through the police, because the primary investigative agency is the police department. But it can originate within the D.A.’s office, where we then collaborate with the police or where we do it without the police using our own attorneys, D.A. detectives, etc. Sometimes there is simply an arrest and we charge them by complaints or we can convene a grand jury where in a less public fashion, civilians decide whether or not there is probable cause to arrest a person for the commission of crime. So there’s a few different ways it can be initiated.

I would like to think that this mayor and this reform commissioner mean what they say when they say we’re not going to tolerate federal law enforcement committing crimes on Philadelphia streets. I think they probably do. But I can tell you to some extent, it doesn’t matter because I’m not going to tolerate it. And the D.A.’s office is able to act either independently or in collaboration with the Philadelphia police department. MORE

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SUPPRESS THE VOTE: The Plot Against America

July 21st, 2020

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Illustration by VICTOR JUHASZ via Rolling Stone

ROLLING STONE: On November 3rd, 1981, Lynette Monroe, who lived in northwest Trenton, headed out to her polling place. It was Election Day in New Jersey. When Monroe, a Democrat, arrived at the polling site, she was stopped outside by a member of a group called the National Ballot Security Task Force. Monroe was asked if she had her voter-registration card with her. She said she did not but that it didn’t matter — she was a registered voter. But the National Ballot Security Task Force members “turned her away, preventing her from casting her ballot,” according to a lawsuit later filed by the Democratic Party, Monroe, and several others.

When she was turned away, Monroe had no way of knowing that the National Ballot Security Task Force was a massive voter-suppression project funded and carried out by the Republican National Committee and the New Jersey Republican Party. Republicans hired county deputy sheriffs and local policemen with revolvers, two-way radios, and “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands to patrol predominantly black and Hispanic precincts in New Jersey. They posted large warning signs outside polling places saying that it was “a crime to falsify a ballot or to violate election laws.” The signs omitted any mention of the GOP’s role in this egregious intimidation scheme, but the intent was obvious: “to harass and intimidate duly qualified black and Hispanic voters for the purpose and with the effect of discouraging these voters from casting their ballots,” the lawsuit stated.

The result of the suit was a 1982 consent decree between the Democratic and Republican parties. Even though the RNC refused to admit wrong-doing in New Jersey, the group agreed to stop harassing and intimidating voters of color, including by deputizing off-duty law-enforcement officers and equipping those officers with guns or badges. Over the next three decades, Democrats marshaled enough evidence of ongoing Republican voter suppression to maintain the consent decree until 2018, when a federal judge lifted the order.

The 2020 presidential election will be the first in nearly 40 years when the RNC isn’t bound by the terms of the 1982 decree. Clark, the Trump campaign lawyer, told the group of Republicans at the private meeting last November that the end of the consent decree was “a huge, huge, huge, huge deal,” freeing the RNC to directly coordinate with campaigns and political committees on so-called Election Day operations. The RNC is sending millions of dollars to state Republican parties to vastly expand these measures, which include recruiting 50,000 poll observers to deploy in key precincts. Josh Helton, a lawyer who has advised the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has described Philadelphia, where black people make up 41 percent of the population, as “probably the epicenter for voter fraud in this country” and a likely target for the GOP’s 2020 poll-watching efforts. MORE

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AMERICAN GHANDI: John Lewis Rest In Power

July 21st, 2020

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ESQUIRE: Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) is a Civil Rights icon and a Mt. Rushmore-worthy American hero. At the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis marched fearlessly into the maws of the Jim Crow South, through angry, racist mobs and truncheon-wielding state troopers, armed with nothing more than the courage of the righteous and unconditional love in his heart. Lewis shed his own blood to shame this country into living up to its founding promise that “all men were created equal.” This remains a work in progress.

At 76, he is the last man alive who spoke at the March On Washington in 1963. He is the last of the so-called Big Six—the six leaders of the Civil Rights Movement shepherded by Martin Luther King Jr.—and as such he is the closest thing we have to an American Gandhi still standing. Two weeks ago, Lewis was awarded the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, the cradle of American democracy. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Muhammad Ali.

His remarkable journey from chicken-tending son of a sharecropper to 15-term United States Congressman is told in a gripping 600-page three-part graphic novel called March. The trilogy documents Lewis’ central role in the white knuckle saga of the Civil Rights struggle—fraught with intolerable cruelty, daily indignities, appalling ignorance, and unspeakable violence—which is bookended by the inauguration of Barack Obama in 2008. March does not sanitize the brutal realities of the struggle, nor does it shy away from spelling out the N-word, which was hurled at Movement activists with shocking regularity by everyone from JFK-appointed federal judges on down to toothless backwoods Dixie thugs. “We wanted to make sure the story was told in an accurate and unflinching way,” says Nate Powell, who illustrated March.

March does for the Civil Rights struggle what Art Spiegelman’s Maus did for the Holocaust: shine a light on the darkest corners of the history of the 20th century—when the human race collectively realized it had reached the outer limits of its own humanity and stepped back from the abyss—rendering it knowable, and thereby unrepeatable, for children of all ages, in perpetuity. The second installment of March won the Eisner Award, which is like the Pulitzer Prize of comic books, and the just-published third and final installment has been nominated for the prestigious National Book Award. To date, school districts in over 40 states have adopted March as part of their core curriculum. Going forward, every 8th grader in the New York City school system will read March as part of their study of American history. MORE

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SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Can’t Happen Here?

July 20th, 2020

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It’s the middle of the night and out of the darkness on a quiet street in one of the nation’s major cities black SUVs with full-tinted windows screech to the curb. Out jump heavily armed stormtroopers in full camouflage field uniforms complete with SMUSgas masks and full facial coverings. Words are exchanged between the armed men and the civilians they have quickly detained on the sidewalk. Next thing you know the civilians are being led back to the SUVs and forcibly placed therein. The vehicles and their unwilling passengers quickly disappear into the night. Who were the detainees? Why and where were they being taken? Who were the armed men? What was their purpose? Who do they represent? Nazi Germany, July, 1934? Hell, no! This took place two day ago in Portland, Oregon!

Hopefully there are a LOT of people in and out of government who want answers to those five aforementioned questions. In fact, EVERY American citizen who actually GIVES a shit about the direction in which their democracy is heading should be screaming their outrage from the rooftops of our tallest buildings as well as up, down and throughout the seemingly deserted halls and chambers of the Capitol Building! WTF is going on? From the Oregon governor to the Speaker of the U.S.House of Representatives, enraged Americans want to know and they want to know NOW! Trust me, if you don’t care enough to angrily question your Representative and Senators NOW, this scene will be playing out in a city or town near you before you can say “wannabe Fuhrer in Chief”! — WILLIAM C. HENRY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up later stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

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District Attorney Larry Krasner Announces Philly’s Zero Tolerance Policy For Trump’s Cosplay Gestapo

July 20th, 2020

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