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MEDIA WATCH--As Texas reels under a historic polar vortex that's left millions without heat or power and at least 23 dead, GOP state leaders have responded with their usual grace and logic, feverishly blaming their own catastrophic failures on wind turbines, Democrats, socialism, federal regulation, "corrupt 'green' policies that leave us in the dark" and anything else that isn't them. In harrowing stories, residents describe a once-in-a lifetime "classic cascade failure" as the storm hit and stayed, from miscalculations by power grid operators to unprecedented winter demand to plunging temps: "Then it froze. 

The whole state in one night." Experts say the cold has ravaged an out-of-date, fossil-fuel-based energy infrastructure, for years deliberately de-regulated and privatized in the name of profits for a few, in a state run 80% by natural gas, coal and nuclear power. 

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MEDIA WATCH-Very little about America surprises Black people. We are only startled by things that happen, never by the potential for things to happen. When Trump supporters attacked the Capitol on January 6, Black people collectively checked our watches, muttering, “Oh, is today when that’s going down? Guess we’re not going south of Massachusetts Ave. today.” Shocked, but not surprised. (Photo above: James Baldwin at home in Saint Paul de Vence, France in September 1985. Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images.)

By contrast, White America’s reaction to the attack on Capitol Hill was marked with unadulterated surprise, as if it truly did not know itself, as if Sam Cooke did not mention it in the very first line of “Wonderful World” (which I know for a fact is a song White people like very much). Mainstream media seemed overcome with shock and revulsion. Politicians everywhere crossed their chests, shocked at what America had “become.” As if violent and entitled were not things America has always been.

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MEDIA WATCH--One of the biggest “whines” from conservatives is their response when people of common sense require accountability for the actions and rhetoric of the last 4 years, especially when it comes to their attempted coup of our government and their wanton demand to murder elected representatives. Those that are whining are typically trumpers, demanding that we just forget about everything and when you object, they say “I thought you wanted unity.” When you quote the late Rep. John Lewis’ statement of “No Justice- No Peace,” their response is “so you just want to go on bickering.” This is where the Republican Party stands today, refusing to acknowledge that they did anything wrong and continue to do wrong, while making a passive aggressive way to “try” to blame the Democrats for not buying into their crap.

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MEDIA WATCH--The Republican Party’s post 2020 state-by-state assault on voting rights has begun with the demand that all mailed-in paper ballots include photo ID.

The Jim Crow racism is beyond obvious. Instead of having to guess, mailed-in photo ID lets election officials quickly identify which ballots came from citizens of color … and then pitch them on the spot. By banning student IDs, they can also eliminate ballots coming from college campuses.

Thus the Nixon-Trump/Atwater-Rove-Bannon Republicans have picked up the KKK burning cross straight from hands of the Jim Crow Democrats.

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MEDIA WATCH--On the last Friday before the Inauguration the Minnesota businessman named Mike Lindell—better known as Mr. Pillow—visited the White House. It was not the first time that Lindell had visited Trump in the White House, but it was different from his previous visits. 

The White House was quiet, emptied of much of the staff who had moved up their departures after the assault on the Capitol the previous week. Why put up any longer with Trump’s surliness and tantrums? Or risk being sucked into a conversation with him that might expose them to legal problems? By the time Lindell showed up, Trump’s staff was down to the most pathetic remnants. The mutts that slink back even after they get kicked. 

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THE INSURRECTION--Hours after the attack on the Capitol ended, a group calling itself the Last Sons of Liberty posted a brief video to Parler, the social media platform, that appeared to show members of the organization directly participating in the uprising. Footage showed someone with a shaky smartphone charging past the metal barricades surrounding the building. Other clips show rioters physically battling with baton-wielding police on the white marble steps just outside the Capitol. 

Before Parler went offline — its operations halted at least temporarily when Amazon refused to continue to host the network — the Last Sons posted numerous statements indicating that group members had joined the mob that swarmed the Capitol and had no regrets about the chaos and violence that unfolded on Jan. 6. The Last Sons also did some quick math: The government had suffered only one fatality, U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, 42, who was reportedly bludgeoned in the head with a fire extinguisher. But the rioters had lost four people, including Ashli Babbitt, the 35-year-old Air Force veteran who was shot by an officer as she tried to storm the building. 

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MEDIA WATCH--The far-right evangelical leader is upset that MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been permanently banned from Twitter for spreading fake claims of election fraud as retailers nationwide stop carrying the company’s products. Lindell has subsequently claimed that Twitter was secretly running his account after “freezing” him out in a bizarre rant to local news.

Both Perkins and Lindell are rabid supporters of former President Donald Trump, but Lindell, in particular, was a favorite of Trump. Lindell spewed multiple conspiracy theories about COVID, the election, and just about anything else that would catch the former president’s attention.

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MEDIA WATCH--After an election, an attempted insurrection, and a transfer of power defined in part by a massive amount of disinformation, what would it take to get Americans to begin trusting their institutions—and one another—once again? The answer might lie in organizations that have been just as battered as our sense of trust in the digital age: local media. 

But first, what exactly is local media these days? California Newsroom managing editor Joanne Griffith, the moderator of today’s Zócalo/Center for Social Innovation event, Can Local Media Restore Trust and Destroy Disinformation?,” opened the discussion with that very question. (Photos above: Panelists discuss “Can Local Media Restore Trust and Destroy Disinformation?” Courtesy of Zócalo Public Square.)  

A key part of local news is “original reporting,” said American Journalism Project CEO Sarabeth Berman. Her venture philanthropy organization invests in nonprofit, nonpartisan newsrooms; the ultimate goal of those newsrooms, she said, is to get people “the information they need to be able to take informed action, to show up at the ballot box, and engage in their communities.”

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MEDIA WATCH--President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the oath of office shortly before noon Eastern time on Wednesday, and in his low-key manner ended an era in which the evil in the U.S. government could not be overestimated and started a new one that promises to be better. 

It’s now up to Biden and his incoming team to make sure they use their powers for good. Simply not being a mendacious and corrupt would-be autocrat is an awfully low bar to reach. The times call for inspired leadership and an aggressive platform of reform. 

There have already been some indications that Biden understands this. Political speeches are usually more symbolic and aspirational than grounded in reality, but symbols do matter. In his inaugural address, Biden name-checked some critical issues that progressives have been pushing for years: systemic racism, White supremacy, the climate crisis, and the United States’ loss of standing around the world. 

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MEDIA WATCH--One week into his term, President Donald Trump devastated tens of thousands of people with the stroke of a pen.

Throughout the campaign, Trump had vowed to enact a Muslim ban. His fifth executive order effectively made good on that promise, banning people from seven countries — all majority-Muslim — from entering the United States. 

Immediate chaos followed. People were stranded at airports. Families were kept apart. Refugees set to finally find safety in the U.S. after years of navigating international bureaucracies were abruptly abandoned.

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MEDIA WATCH-When Kim Dine took over as the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police in 2012, he knew he had a serious problem. 

Since 2001, hundreds of Black officers had sued the department for racial discrimination. They alleged that white officers called Black colleagues slurs like the N-word and that one officer found a hangman’s noose on his locker. White officers were called “huk lovers” or “FOGs” — short for “friends of gangsters” — if they were friendly with their Black colleagues. Black officers faced “unprovoked traffic stops” from fellow Capitol Police officers. One Black officer claimed he heard a colleague say, “Obama monkey, go back to Africa.” (Photo above: U.S. Capitol Police officers scuffle with insurrectionists after they breached security fencing on Jan. 6. (Graeme Sloan/Bloomberg via Getty Images) 

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MEDIA WATCH--On a weekday afternoon in July 2009, I showed up at City Hall for a scheduled interview with Tom LaBonge. A few minutes after taking a seat on a couch in his well-appointed office, he asked if I wanted to go for a ride. I said yes, having no idea what to expect. We took the elevator to the City Hall garage.

A few minutes later I was riding shotgun in LaBonge’s gray Ford Crown Victoria, rolling through the streets of downtown, one of his staffers in the back seat. He pulled to a stop under one of the Los Angeles River bridges and asked if I had seen Grease. When I told him yes, he bellowed “Thunder Road!” and suddenly steered the car into a dark tunnel. A moment later we drove out of the darkness and into the light—we were on the concrete flats of the river.

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MEDIA WATCH--As we approach January, 20 2021 inauguration day for president elect Joe Biden and vice president elect Kamala Harris, it’s the perfect time to consider what this means for the Indian diaspora across the U.S.

A drive for achievement and success is a quintessential Indian-American trait, implanted in our brains by parents who preach the benefits of education, the rewards of academic success. While traditionally this was largely in medicine, engineering, and related scientific and technical disciplines, it’s heartening to observe the next generation of Indian-American kids. They have broken loose and begun to make a name for themselves in the liberal arts and entertainment, and hopefully, are about to burst through in a big way on the political scene.

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MEDIA WATCH- Lately, I have been reflecting on what I have in common with extremists.  It turns out that the list is longer than one would think.  I hold their same passions for change, an ability to withstand discomfort–put more bluntly, tolerance for risk of pain that some term masochism–and I share a lack of tolerance for passivity and denial.  Extremists are people of action.  I am a person of action.  I empathize with their demand to be heard and seen.  They want us to feel their pain, even to the point of killing us to further their cause.  As a pacifist and humanist, where I differ radically is in the choice of tactics.

As recent events in Nashville so painfully point out to us all, we enter a time of real danger to society (and by extension to our democracy as a whole) as we make the transition of power to the incoming Biden Administration.  The Southern Poverty Law Center Hate Map shows that since the year 2000, hate groups have increased from 599 to 940 in 2019.  My own state, Oregon, boasts 15 groups and Portland finds itself surrounded by and infused with hate, in situ and imported.

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MEDIA WATCH--The LGBTQ community made a major impact on the outcomes of the 2020 election season. LGBTQ Nation analysis of data revealed that without LGBTQ voters in key states, Donald Trump likely would have won reelection as President, for example. Further reviews have also concluded that Trump could have won again, if not for the force of LGBTQ voters all over the country.

Billy Porter doesn’t want you to forget. He’s working with GLAAD to remind everyone that LGBTQ voters, organizers, and groups like GLAAD made the difference in what was considered the most pivotal election of our time.

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MEDIA WATCH--There once was a boy named Trey. Actually he was named Antonio, as were his father and grandfather. 

“Tu eres el tercer Antonio – el numero tres,” his grandmother said to him. “You are the third Antonio. Number three.”

So everyone called him Trey, regardless of whether they were speaking English or Spanish to him.

He was a quiet, soft-spoken child who loved to read, to listen to stories his grandmother and the women told when they met on Sundays, and to be with his mother who was young and beautiful but very sickly.

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MEDIA WATCH--A gay teen in Texas spoke at his local school board meeting about how he is being denied an education because he wore nail polish to school.

“This isn’t about me anymore,” said Clyde High School senior Trevor Wilkinson. “It’s about a discriminatory, sexist policy that needs to be changed.”

Wilkinson went to school after Thanksgiving this year with nail polish on and he was given an in-school suspension (ISS) because he violated the dress code, which bans male students from wearing nail polish and make-up. He was told he would stay in ISS until he removed the nail polish, but he’s not giving up without a fight.

“I got my education taken away from me for something as minor as painting my nails because it’s against the dress code,” he told the Clyde CISD school board, wearing nail polish.

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MEDIA WATCH--Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has introduced legislation that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in sports as their gender. Gabbard ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and faced criticism for her past as an anti-LGBTQ extremist, where she referred to pro-marriage equality advocates as “homosexual extremists.”

The bill, which the former presidential contender introduced alongside Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), would amend Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972 to make it illegal for sports programs “to permit a person whose biological sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designated for women or girls.”

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MEDIA WATCH-There’s a dangerous kind of stupidity rising in our societies, taking over some of them wholesale. And so the question needs to be asked: can democracy survive the Age of the Idiot?

This is an age where the sheer bottomlessness of human stupidity has been revealed, and it’s somewhere between jaw-dropping, ugly, and tragicomic. Covid’s like an electron microscope for it. Take the bizarre, unbelievable example of all those American Idiots who literally go to the hospital with Covid, end up in the Covid ICU, where they’re dying of Covid, and yet bitterly and angrily complain to nurses that Covid doesn’t exist.

What on earth?

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MEDIA WATCH-The Supreme Court has declined to take up a case brought by Oregon parents who want to exclude transgender students from school locker rooms and restrooms. The parents demanded that trans students only use facilities that correspond with their sex at birth and not the gender with which they identify. 

The court did not give a reason for turning away the appeal, but similar lawsuits have been dismissed by lower courts across the country. The decision to decline the case is a big win for transgender students.

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MEDIA WATCH--Oh God, the Who Gives A Fuck About Christmas Stuff Witch has done it again. Amidst the election incitement of her despicable husband and his homicidal mismanagement of a pandemic now at almost 14 million cases and 270,000 deaths and their defiant intention to throw over a dozen indoor parties because they really don't care they stole Christmas and much of normal life from America, Melania is blundering through another Christmas charade, from the arrival of the Who Gives A Fuck About Christmas tree to her unmasked hosting of kids for an ornament display to the video of a vacant-eyed, stiletto-heeled FLOTUS teetering around a White House crammed with blinding, sparkling, twinkling, garlanded, gazillion-dollar displays like a woman who got lost looking for the bathroom in a strange museum she didn't want to visit in the first place. (Photo above: Touring the urns of the COVID dead.) 

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