A Rare Victory Against Corporate Power in West Virginia

This is nice:

Natural gas producers in West Virginia no longer can drill on one person’s property to reach gas reserves under adjoining or neighboring tracts, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in a much-anticipated ruling that gives additional leverage to residents struggling with the effects from the booming industry.

In a 5-0 ruling, the justices upheld a lower court ruling and jury verdict against EQT Corp., siding with two Doddridge County residents who had sued the state’s second-largest gas company.

Justice John Hutchison wrote that gas and other mineral companies must obtain permission from surface owners to use their land to reach reserves under other properties.

“The court will not imply a right to use a surface estate to conduct drilling or mining operations under neighboring lands,” Hutchison wrote. “The right must be expressly obtained, addressed, or reserved in the parties’ deeds, leases, or other writings.”

In the case, two people who live on a 300-acre farm in Doddridge County said EQT came onto their land to extract gas from underneath adjacent properties. The two people, Beth Crowder and David Wentz, warned EQT that the company would be trespassing. EQT entered the property anyway. Crowder and Wentz sued, and a local circuit judge ruled in their favor, and a jury two years ago awarded them nearly $200,000 in damages.

It’s insane that a company would be so brazen as to even take this to court, but, you know, West Virginia.

Lest We Forget: Bearing Witness to the Brutality of Our Past to Better Prevent It In Our Future

Today is Jefferson Davis’s birthday. Normally I wouldn’t mention this, but the state of Alabama marks this day as an official holiday. To recognize this dishonor perpetrated and perpetuated by the state of Alabama on its citizenry, The Montgomery Advertiser chose to run the testimonials of nine former Alabama slaves.

‘Where was the Lord?’: On Jefferson Davis’ birthday, 9 slave testimonies

The voices of five men and four women, once held in human bondage, interviewed in Alabama in 1937.

Updated 7 hours ago

Today the state of Alabama marks the birthday of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865. A state holiday, state offices are closed throughout Alabama. Davis, who at one point owned more than 100 slaves, led a government resting on the principle of white supremacy. The Confederate Constitution contained a provision explicitly prohibiting any law “impairing the right of property in negro slaves,” and his vice president, Alexander Stephens, said the “cornerstone” of the new government “rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.” 

Davis was a racist. In a speech to the U.S. Senate in 1860, the then-senator from Mississippi said slavery was “a form of civil government for those who by their nature are not fit to govern themselves,” adding “We recognize the fact of the inferiority stamped upon that race by the Creator, and from cradle to grave, our government, as a civil institution, marks that inferiority.” After his inauguration as president of the Confederacy, Davis said “We recognized the negro as God and God’s Book and God’s laws, in nature, tell us to recognize him. Our inferior, fitted expressly for servitude.”

From 1936 to 1938, the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency, sent workers throughout the South to collect oral histories from survivors of slavery, eventually conducting more than 2,000 interviews, including at least 129 in Alabama. The workers were not necessarily trained interviewers, and scholars have noted that the race of the interviewer often had a major effect on the answers the former slaves gave. But the testimonies preserve the voices of those who experienced a hell that Davis and other white southerners were willing to destroy the country to protect.

There is a video at the link with the testimonials of four slaves – Delia Garlic, William Colbert, Laura Clark, and George Young – narrated by Dr. Wendy R. Coleman of the University of Alabama. There testimonials, and those of five other former slaves are also transcribed by The Montgomery Advertiser.

Here is the abolitionist variant of My Country Tis of Thee.

When you hear some twit in 2019, like Jared Kushner did of the Palestinians last night, that they aren’t ready to govern themselves, remember that they’re the same make, model, and type as Jefferson Davis and the other traitorous Confederates that tried to destroy the United States and whose ideological and theological descendants are still trying to do so.

Open thread!

The Need to Speak With One Voice: Strategic Communication and Message Discipline Going Into the 2020 Election Cycle

One of the major frustrations for a lot of people now, as well as a seemingly lively source of discussion in the comments over the past couple of days, is why the Democrats and the center left to left of center organizations that support them cannot seem to get on the same page with their strategic messaging. And why are the Republicans and the conservative movement that supports it able to do so. The latter question is much easier to answer: the Republican Party, Republicans in elected and appointed positions, and the leaders and members of the conservative movement that support them, coordinate their messaging, produce uniform talking points, distribute them, use them, and then have them reinforced by Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting’s local affiliates through mandated editorials, conservative/right wing talk radio, and conservative print, social, and digital media. And all of this is amplified by Russian military intelligence, as well as other states such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others who all have their own strategic objectives regarding the US and its policies.

All of this coordination and amplification are the result of Republicans, the conservative movement that supports them, the conservative organizations that do as well, and the conservative news, opinion, social, and digital media ecosystem largely speaking to white Christians. Mostly older, usually suburban to rural, and broadly evangelical, though their social and religious conservative coalition also includes traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints*. And this coordination and amplification produces results like this:

Here’s the transcript:

The Democrats, the center left to left of center organizations that support them, or, in some cases, work against them for not being pure enough, and the broad center to center left to liberal to progressive to left of center multi-ethnic, multi-religious, more urban, but also suburban, and some rural, multi-generational coalition that makes up the Democratic Party have a much harder time coordinating messaging. Some of that, of course, is evident in the previous sentence. It is hard to coordinate across so many different groups and their interests. The Republican Party has reduced itself to the representatives of a very narrow portion of Americans and, as a result, only has to message to that narrow portion of Americans. The Democratic Party is, for better or for worse, trying to represent not just everyone else, but also the narrow portion that is the Republican Party despite being hated and despised by Republicans. That makes developing a unified message, coordinating it across all potential communicators, and then enforcing message discipline much, much, much harder. It is further complicated by institutional and systemic issues that the Democrats cannot control, such as journalists who cover politics embracing bothsiderism and the view from nowhere because they think it will get Republicans and conservatives to stop abusing them. It won’t. All it does is make them the refs who are constantly being worked. And they succumb to their abusers every time. To the point that they preemptively abuse themselves.

Another complication right now, especially in regard to Special Counsel Mueller’s findings and what to do about them, is that there are just too many voices. I cannot prove it, as I’m not privy to her strategy, but my take on Speaker Pelosi’s response to the Special Counsel’s report and how to proceed is because she recognizes that she will only get one chance to use what Bob Mueller brought to light, if she acts prematurely, if the course of action is not completely effective, then she’s simply left the President, as a political creature, wounded, but enraged. She also, unfortunately, has to manage the half a dozen committee chairs most involved with ongoing inquiries into these and related matters pertaining to the Russian interference in the 2016 elections; the President’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, his administration’s, and other Republican elected and appointed officials’ financial and other connections and relations with Russians connected to Putin and his government; the President’s, his family’s, and his business’s finances, and related criminal and/or constitutional violations. That’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of information coming to light, a lot of people trying to communicate that information. And it results in a lot of noise drowning out the signal.

If I was advising Speaker Pelosi, I would recommend a slightly different approach. Specifically that she should appoint a Select Committee for the review of the Special Counsel’s findings and related matters. This would allow the House Democratic Caucus to speak with one voice – that of the select committee’s chairman or chairwoman. And have one singular coordinating point for the development and dissemination of relevant information. This wouldn’t be the immediate opening of impeachment, but, rather, the opening of a select committee specifically intended to look into all of these matters holistically to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. The existing committee investigations should still continue, but their purposes would be to feed the necessary information into the select committee. It would create a singular source point, a singular point of activity, and a singular point of contact for the Democratic majority’s inquiry to determine if the House should proceed to impeachment. This makes more strategic communication sense than having to watch a half a dozen different committees work as the focus would be on the select committee and its work.

While this won’t solve the larger problem of too many messages, too many voices, and too little coordination of them, which is the curse that arises from the blessing that is the broad and deep coalition that makes up the Democratic Party, it will resolve them for the inquiries into Russia’s ongoing undeclared war against the United States, Russia’s active measures campaign as part of that war to help elect the President, and the President’s, his administration’s, his family’s, his business’s, his campaign’s, and into the GOP’s own entanglements with Russia as it prosecutes its undeclared war against the United States. Pursuing this course of action would focus the attention on the select committee and make it easier for Americans to follow what is happening in the investigation and harder for the journalists focusing on politics to get distracted by shiny objects. Which, in turn, would actually make it easier for Speaker Pelosi to move to impeachment should the Democratic majority in the House determine it should do so.

Open thread!

* As I’ve written here before, if these folks ever get their way – the establishment of a white, Christian herrenvolk democracy – the evangelicals will first turn on the traditionalist Catholics, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews, and members of the Church of Latter Day Saints they’ve convinced to sign on and once they’ve purged these groups and their members, the evangelicals will turn on each other over their own, intra-evangelical theological and dogmatic disputes. Sort of a domestic Thirty Years War.

Dead GOP Vote Diddler’s Hard Drives Reveal Huge US Commerce Department Scandal

This is a crazy story, y’all. The Times:

Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question

WASHINGTON — Thomas B. Hofeller achieved near-mythic status in the Republican Party as the Michelangelo of gerrymandering, the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country.

But after he died last summer, his estranged daughter discovered hard drives in her father’s home that revealed something else: Mr. Hofeller had played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Files on those drives showed that he wrote a study in 2015 concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. And months after urging President Trump’s transition team to tack the question onto the census, he wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act — the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision.

Those documents, cited in a federal court filing Thursday by opponents seeking to block the citizenship question, have emerged only weeks before the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question. Critics say adding the question would deter many immigrants from being counted and shift political power to Republican areas.

You can read the filing document from the plaintiffs in the case against the US Department of Commerce here. It reveals that Trump administration officials cribbed from Hofeller’s work and passed it off as their own in documents submitted to the court and lied about the expected effects of including the citizenship question:

[Mark] Neuman [Trump transition team member and close adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross] testified that Mr. Hofeller told him that using citizenship data from the census to enforce the Voting Rights Act would increase Latino political representation — the opposite of what Mr. Hofeller’s study had concluded months earlier.

John Gore, assistant attorney general for civil rights and the DoJ’s chief overseer of voting rights issues, also lied under oath about the intended effects of the census question and the origin of the documents. Ross should obviously resign, and Neuman and Gore should be prosecuted for perjury. As for the citizenship question, it should be stricken from the 2020 census, and if it’s not, the House Democrats shouldn’t provide a cent of funding for it.

The thing that makes this case so nutso is that this evidence came to light by accident. After her father’s death, Hofeller’s daughter was going through his belongings and found a bag of thumb drives. While looking through them for family photos, etc., she found material he’d used to create gerrymandered maps. She gave those drives to Common Cause, saying they might be useful in that organization’s challenge to gerrymandered maps her father had created in North Carolina to give Republicans an advantage. The law firm representing Common Cause is also doing pro bono work on the census question case before the SCOTUS and saw the material pertinent to that case.

After the 2012 election, the Republican Party famously conducted an “autopsy.” The TL;DR version of its conclusion was this: Demographics are changing, so if you want to be competitive in future elections, stop being such rancid bigots. The party chose to double-down on racism, sexism and xenophobia instead, and this explosive revelation is only the latest indication that Republicans would rather lie, cheat, steal, and/or conspire with malignant foreign powers to win elections rather than stop being rancid bigots. That’s the inescapable conclusion.

Changing the Channel

In a recent thread, Anne Laurie expressed a wish that I share: that engaging in blatant hypocrisy was physically painful. In that ideal world, posting these tweets yesterday evening would have caused Mango Mussolini to writhe in agony and bellow like a ruptured wildebeest:

Politico managed to cover that pair of tweets without mentioning that racism is as central to Trump’s brand as the “golden arches” are to McDonald’s. It also neglected to mention that Trump called for the execution of the Central Park 5 and continued to advocate for their lynching even after the men were exonerated in a court of law.

It’s weird how impervious Beltway hacks are to the siren call of “both sides” when there’s a “Dems in Disarray” angle to exploit. The Politico piece notes that some Democrats have problems with Biden’s work on the crime bill, specifically 2020 rivals Harris and de Blasio, who called it “a huge mistake.”

As we now know, Russian trolls operating fake accounts pushed the “super predator” line relentlessly against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and blamed her for the crime bill, even though she wasn’t a senator back then and was thus not eligible to vote on it. Was that line of attack effective? I don’t know.

I’m not making excuses for Biden, but it’s a lot easier to criticize that bill in hindsight, and if Twitter had been a thing in 1994, Trump would have been one of the biggest loudmouths on the platform, blasting the crime bill as weak sauce. That said, Biden will have to account for his advocacy and vote to an electorate that includes many voters who either weren’t alive in 1994 or were too young to remember the prevailing sense at the time that crime was spiraling out of control. Will that matter? I don’t know.

Trump’s astoundingly cynical and hypocritical tweets signal his 2020 “strategy,” which is the same strategy he’s employed every minute of his worthless public life: divide and conquer through a boundless capacity for projection and shamelessness and a willingness to accept help from malignant actors (including foreign autocrats) who want to weaken and destroy the country.

And Politico’s hackery in this instance is yet another signal that the Beltway media will be as worthless and destructive in 2020 as it was four years back. So, we’re on our own, with the stakes even higher.

I’m not sure how we (as a party) address it. At the risk of igniting a salvo of anti-Buttigieg trollery, here’s a clip of a recent interview in which Buttigieg addresses Trump’s “strategy” vis-à-vis opponents and how to push back on it, which he called a “crazy uncle management” approach:

TL;DR summary: call out Trump’s lies and point out when he’s wrong, but don’t let him make everything about himself because attention of any kind feeds Trump’s gigantic ego and media dominance. Maybe that’s the answer, but I’m not so sure. Whether the person Trump is lying about in any given comment punches back or not, the media hacks will broadcast the lies.

Toward the end of the clip, Costa (WaPo interviewer and former NR wingnut) asks Buttigieg if Cadet Bonespurs should have gone to Vietnam, and Buttigieg gives a pretty good answer:

“If he were a conscientious objector? I’d admire that. But this is someone who — I think it’s fairly obvious to most of us — took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place. And I know that that dredges up old wounds from a complicated time during a complicated war, but I’m also old enough to remember when conservatives talked about character as something that mattered in the presidency.”

That’s a response with a point that is larger than Trump. Maybe that’s an effective approach. I honestly don’t know. It seems like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation, as Hillary Clinton found out the hard way. She focused on policy and took on Trump, but people (including Buttigieg!) interpret her loss as a failure to follow their own as-yet untested prescription for defeating the Tang Tyrant.

My guess is there’s no magic formula, and whoever wins the Democratic Party’s nomination will win the general election and be hailed in the media as a genius for their approach to dealing with Trump. But the truth will be that all but the hardcore cultists are just sick and tired of the Ochre Ogre and are ready to change the fucking channel already.