What We're Reading

Daily Reads: All Eyes on Comey; Sexism in the 2016 Election; How Chicago Steals From the Poor to Give to the Rich

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: All Eyes on Comey; Sexism in the 2016 Election

The "Statement for the Record" of former FBI Director James Comey, released by the Senate Select Committee and to be read June 8, 2017, at a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

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All eyes on me –> Here’s former FBI chief James Comey’s opening remarks as prepared for delivery today. All of the networks will be carrying it live.

Benjamin Wittes, editor of the Lawfare blog and a personal friend of Comey’s, has some initial thoughts on what it all means. He calls the text “the most shocking single document compiled about the official conduct of the public duties of any president since the release of the Watergate tapes.”

It’s unprecedented for a sitting president’s allies to run attack ads against a key witness in an investigation, but here we are, and this is the ad that The Great America Alliance, co-chaired by Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Giuliani, will run during Comey’s testimony…

On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA head Mike Rogers, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Democratic senators were visibly frustrated when the men refused to answer questions about conversations they’d had with the president without claiming executive privilege. “Those refusals, however, tell us a lot,” writes Michelle Goldberg at Slate. “It appears they couldn’t defend Trump without committing perjury. Nor could they tell the truth without dramatically undermining Trump’s administration. So, in a series of increasingly contentious exchanges, they simply defied the lawmakers tasked with overseeing their agencies.”


Finally,Spencer Ackerman reports for The Daily Beast that Mike Flynn, Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser, “pushed so hard for the Pentagon to cooperate with the Russian military that his initiative would likely have broken the law if it had ever been enacted.” Four sources told Ackerman that “Pentagon officials were aghast at what they understood as a move by Flynn to sidle up to Russia — part of a closeness that ultimately got Flynn fired, and one that fit a pattern of extending an olive branch to a Kremlin that US intelligence had concluded interfered in the presidential election on Trump’s behalf.”

Reverse Robin Hood –> This one is a must-read. The Chicago Tribune’s Jason Grotto conducted an “unprecedented analysis” of Cook County’s property tax system and found that “the county’s property tax system created an unequal burden on residents, handing huge financial breaks to homeowners who are well-off while punishing those who have the least, particularly people living in minority communities.” The disparity, which has gone on for many years, is not a result of innocent error. Rather, “Assessor Joseph Berrios has resisted reforms and ignored industry standards while his office churned out inaccurate values. The result is a staggering pattern of inequality.” That’s part one of the series. In the third piece, Grotto writes that over the course of 30 years, Cook County, which includes Chicago, “knowingly produced inaccurate property assessments” that reduced all property values by 40 percent, and those “artificially low values threw the property tax system so far out of whack that it may have violated provisions of the state constitution.” This is some important journalism.

Bad news: we’re sexist  –> That’s the headline on Rebecca Onion’s article at Slate looking at a study of sexist attitudes (according to a questionnaire developed for empirical studies) in the 2016 election. Lots of interesting tidbits: Ted Cruz primary voters were more likely to express sexist attitudes than Trump’s; Bernie Sanders’ primary voters were less sexist than Hillary Clinton’s, but those who didn’t switch to Clinton for the general election were more sexist than those who did. And a lot of women hold sexist views!

China takes the lead –> At the World Economic Forum, Simon Bandon writes that “China invests more each year in wind, hydro and solar power than any other country on earth.” Last week, Beijing “underlined its role as the global leader in renewable energy by switching on the world’s largest floating solar power plant,” a 40-megawatt behemoth that dwarves what had been the world’s largest floating solar array, a 6.3-megawatt system in the UK.

And Trump has proven to be a uniter in one sense. Today, The New York Times ran an op-ed co-bylined by the mayors of Pittsburgh and Paris. Bill Peduto (Pittsburgh) and Anne Hidalgo (Paris) write that they “share a desire to do what is best for our citizens and our planet. That means putting aside parochial politics and embracing the global challenge of fighting climate change. In doing so, we can create a cleaner, healthier, more prosperous world for Parisians, Pittsburghers and everyone else on the planet.”

Judge a society by how well it treats its prisoners –> “Prisons are often located in areas with known environmental hazards,” writes Nathalie Baptiste at Mother Jones. And according to a new report, “mass incarceration has led to some of the most egregious examples of environmental injustice.”

Even the liberal…  –> Omar Ghabra reports for The Stranger that while “Seattle and Washington state [have] emerged as leaders in the resistance to the president and his anti-Muslim policies, the region has not been spared the bigoted and often violent consequences of Trump’s rhetoric.” The local CAIR office “fielded more than 250 complaints of anti-Muslim incidents from across the state” in 2016, ranging “from schoolyard bullying and street harassment to malicious beatings and vandalism of mosques.”

Government-sponsored propaganda” –> At Media Matters’ blog, Eric Boehlert warns that the Trump White House has moved from false claims and spin to “authoritarian-style propaganda.” After citing a number of examples of egregious falsehoods about the Paris climate deal and other pressing issues, Boehlert writes that the regime is going “far beyond stagecraft and simply trying to create the best optics possible. Instead, this feels more like the latest shift by the Trump administration into permanent propaganda warfare. And that puts the Beltway media in the crosshairs of this White House’s unprecedented misinformation machinery.”

At The New York Times, Neil Macfarquhar and Andrew Rossback look at how one fake news story migrated from a parody website to social media, was then laundered by Russian TV, picked up by a British tabloid and ultimately made it to Fox News.

Fake news isn’t just a problem here in the US, according to CNet’s Katie Collins. She writes that as Britons prepare to go to the polls today, an Oxford University study “identified 11 percent of [social media] content shared around the election as being junk news, with the level of automation increasing as the campaign went on.”

Is Big Brother watching? –> We’re a tad late to this Washington Post piece published last week, but in case you missed it, Black Lives Matter and other activists are becoming increasingly wary of the fact that, “for all of the power of smartphones as organizing tools, the many streams of data they emit also are a boon to police wielding high-tech surveillance gear, allowing them to potentially track movements and communications” they’d prefer to keep private in the Trump era. Craig Timberg reports that these concerns “have fueled the nationwide spread” of teach-ins where activists learn “how to encrypt messages, browse the Web anonymously and guard against accidentally revealing their locations when they want to operate in secrecy.”

And yesterday we mentioned that activists in Arizona are trying to get the state to remove its monuments to Confederate Civil War heroes. Not only did Arizona gain statehood some 50 years after the Civil War, but Antonia Noori Farzan reports for the Phoenix New Times that half of the Arizona’s Confederate monuments were installed in the past 20 years, and none of them were erected before 1943.

A win for Jurassic Park –> Dinosaurs were long depicted as lumbering, lizard-like creatures, but in recent years our understanding has changed as paleontologists described them as giant, feathered bird-like creatures. That remains the consensus for many species, but at NatGeo, Jason Bittel reports that a new discovery suggests that fossilized samples suggest that Tyrannosaurus Rex “had skin textured with small, pebbly scales and not fuzzy plumage.” Now, “this isn’t to say T. rex was completely featherless, …but if it had feathers, they likely would have been few and far between.” According to one of the researchers who made the discovery, “our best evidence now shows that the great predators were covered in the traditional reptilian scalyness.”

Finally, we’ll leave you with this stunning video of the Emirates Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup entry capsizing during a semi-final race. We can enjoy it without guilt as nobody was hurt.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

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