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Foreign Tourists Are Paying Money to Watch the Collapse of Our Democracy This Election

The tourists were reportedly spotted at a GOTV event in Philadelphia.

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

In a fun dystopian twist, a company is offering to give foreign tourists an up-close look at the U.S. election system—during some of the most crucial elections in recent history.

The midterm elections are already highly contentious, with President Joe Biden warning repeatedly that “democracy is on the ballot.” Democrats are fighting to hold their razor-thin control of Congress, while Republicans are priming voters to reject tight liberal victories. Billions of dollars have been poured into the races in an effort to influence the outcome.

Folks, US ‘democracy’ has become such a clown show that English and Australian tourists are booking specialized election experience tours & disrupting canvasses,” writer Gwen Snyder warned on Twitter Monday.

Citing a friend of hers who works with Get Out The Vote in Philadelphia, a typically blue haven in an otherwise red state, Snyder said that “far right disruptors” were showing up to GOTV events and pelting organizers with an endless stream of strange, highly detailed questions. All of them seemed to be British or Australian.

“Turns out, these were tourists that had PAID A COMPANY to deliver them a front seat at the US election zoo,” Snyder explained in her Twitter thread. Anyway, it’s election eve and everyone on the ground is now scrambling to figure out how to protect their canvasses from weird intrusive election tourists in this, one of the most critical turn out areas in the country.”

The group, Political Tours, seems to turn a profit by taking tourists to some of the most contentious elections around the world. The company website says most clients come from New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S., as well as England and Europe.

The six-day U.S. tour costs £3,950, about $4,500, and includes a visit to polling stations on Election Day. The website mentions visiting Virginia and Pennsylvania, both of which will witness toss-up races for Congress.

Many voters and organizers across the country are already on edge, with reports of armed watchers turning up to ballot boxes and intimidating would-be voters. Any disruptions at the voting booth could cause delays, which could be seized upon by Republicans as a reason to blame Democrats for rigging the election.

The last thing the country needs is tourists at the voting booth.

Let Elon Musk’s Twitter Be a Lesson to Tech Workers Everywhere: It’s Time to Unionize

Even if you survive a layoff, without a union, you’re still “Am I next?”

Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images
Supporters of Amazon workers join a rally in support of the union in Staten Island, New York, on April 24.

Elon Musk’s Twitter has thus far been historic. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs. Users are being banned with no warning. And a platform used by over 400 million people has already seen a rise in hate and misinformation. Legacies being made.

It’s hard to do much about Musk’s whims right now—and that should be the key takeaway for all tech workers. If Twitter employees were unionized, things would have looked much different.

Last week, Musk fired half of Twitter staff, with little notice and in violation of federal and California state law.

Some workers filed a lawsuit against Twitter, but Thomas Kochan, professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, says that’s not enough. Musk, the world’s richest man, can always find a legal team to give him just enough cover to avoid actual consequence.

Instead, Kochan says, workers—those laid off and those who remain at the company—need to act in concert.

“They’re all asking themselves, ‘Am I next? Or am I at risk’? So they have a common cause,” Kochan said. “It would be good for the workforce and a good signal to arrogant CEOs that you just can’t do that.”

Unionizing isn’t the only way workers can act on this cause, of course. Petition-filing, going public with concerns, staging walk-outs and protests—these are all protected acts. And they can serve to lobby the public in workers’ favor, which consequently pressures investors and advertisers, notes Kochan. A strategy like that is certainly relevant to Twitter, a company reeling from advertiser retreat.

Still, a union would have done the basics and prevented such mass layoffs to begin with.

This should be a lesson as tech companies are entering a sudden slowdown. Lyft, Netflix, Spotify, Peloton, and Coinbase have all laid off thousands of employees this year. Apple and Amazon have enacted hiring freezes. Meta is preparing for large-scale layoffs. And this is just a sampling of the chaos across the industry.

The formula of Musk’s acquisition is a familiar one. Billionaire owner acquires a new company, then haphazardly fires people in the name of cutting costs. Challenging this predictable, ruinous cycle requires worker solidarity.

It requires nothing less than a union.

Right Before the Election, Stephen Crowder Says “Peaceful Transfer of Power” Is Overrated

The right-wing media figure is tacitly endorsing violence

Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Protesters storm the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Steven Crowder thinks that a peaceful transfer of power is overrated.

The right-wing media figure made the remark on the eve of the first national elections to follow the January 6 riots attempting to overturn the 2020 election.

“The idea that the peaceful transfer of power is inherently our most valued tradition—it’s not. Our original tradition is rebellion, violent rebellion,” Crowder said on his show.

“I’m not suggesting any kind of violent upheaval over the election, that’s not what I’m suggesting,” Crowder hedged, before proceeding to describe rebellion as uniquely America’s “original tradition.” Canada and other countries  had a “slavery basis” that America apparently didn’t have after its valiant freedom-bringing revolution, according to Crowder.

Historical revisionism aside, Crowder’s remarks are part of a continual effort by the right to not only excuse the January 6 rioters, but justify and glorify them. On the eve of the midterm elections, it can also be seen as priming voters to reject Democratic victories by violent means if necessary.

“We actually, as a nation, became a nation because we pulled off the completely unpeaceful transfer of power,” Crowder glowed about the American Revolution.

While Crowder may throw in a line saying that he’s not calling for violence, his larger dialogue connects violent rebellion to nation-creation—at a time when the right-wing perennially focuses on “making America great again” or “bringing America back.”

Crowder’s project is certainly no secret. His show has faced numerous suspensions from YouTube, the latest involving a two-week suspension that prevents Crowder from posting more content until after the midterm elections. Crowder’s channel had been suspended and demonetized in the past for pushing forth false claims about the 2020 presidential election and for using racist and homophobic slurs.

Elon Musk Posted a Nazi Picture, and Then Called for People To Vote for Republicans

The world's richest man and new Twitter CEO made his views clear.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

As if Mondays weren’t bad enough, Elon Musk shared a photo of a Nazi soldier and then encouraged “independent-minded voters” to follow his lead and vote Republican in the midterm elections.

The Tesla founder posted a photo of a Nazi soldier with a crate of carrier pigeons on his back, with an unread notifications badge photoshopped onto the cage.

If Musk was looking for a photo of carrier pigeons to make a point about his new role as CEO as Twitter, he didn’t have to pick one of a Nazi soldier.

Less than an hour later, he tweeted a message to “independent-minded voters”:

Despite promising that Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape” under his rule, the platform is already devolving into chaos, with Musk seemingly leading the charge.

Musk is entering his third week of ownership, and already, Twitter has been awash with hate speech. The social media research group National Contagion Research Institute said that in the 12 hours since Musk bought Twitter, use of the n-word increased almost 500 percent.

The self-described “free speech absolutist”—except, apparently, when it comes to jokes at his expense—has promised to roll back content moderation on Twitter. He has shared conspiracy theories about the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and allowed election deniers back on the platform.

His decisions have led advertisers to leave Twitter in droves. Musk complained they were being pressured by activists, but his claim was community fact-checked as Twitter users said it lacked context.

“I will say that if you’re trying to assuage the fears of the advertisers fleeing the platform you just [spent] billions on, you might want to have someone on your payroll spend five seconds looking at whether a meme you’re about to post has any link to the Nazis,” tweeted writer and QAnon expert Mike Rothschild. “But that’s just me.”

Nikki Haley Says Raphael Warnock Should Be Deported. But... to Where?

The Indian American, who has registered as white and said America is “not racist,” says we should deport a Black American citizen.

Nikkie Haley speaks at a podium that reads "Herschel for Senate." She is pointing her right finger to emphasize a point.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley thinks that America should deport Senator Raphael Warnock. It’s not clear where exactly she wants to deport him to, given that he was born in Savannah, Georgia.

Haley called for the deportation of Georgia’s first Black senator at a rally in Hiram, Georgia on Sunday, as she stumped for Warnock’s Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.

“Legal immigrants are more patriotic than the leftists these days,” she said. “They worked to come into America and they love America. They want the laws followed in America. So the only person we need to make sure we deport is Warnock.”

Haley and Republicans have used Walker’s candidacy against Warnock as proof that the GOP is not marred by racism. They’ve argued that suggestions of American racism are actually what is hurting America, rather than the racism itself.

“The biggest threat we have is happening inside our country: all of these people who are saying America is bad, and America is racist, and America is oppressed,” Haley said at the rally. “If America was racist, I wouldn’t have been elected the first female minority governor in the country.”

Figures like Haley and Walker serve as tokens to both excuse America’s racism and further reinforce it. A race between two Black men is still absolutely a race about race when one candidate is openly concerned about racial inequality, and the other is deployed by a party apparatus to fictionalize that it doesn’t exist.

Last month, Lindsey Graham described perfectly what Walker does for Republicans. “He changes the entire narrative of the left: we’re a party of racists,” Graham said. “Well, what happens when the Republican party elects and nominates Herschel Walker, an African American, Black Heisman trophy winner? …It destroys the whole narrative.”

Haley herself is no stranger to oscillating between the purveyor and object of the Republicans’ race-blind strategy.

Haley, born Nimrata Randhawa, is the daughter of Indian immigrants, but she registered herself as “white” on her 2001 voter registration card.  She invoked her Indian roots to back Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential bid, claiming “America is not a racist country,” in the same breath that she recounted discrimination her family has faced upon immigrating to America.

It’s a shame how long Haley has played the game—and how long she’s allowed herself to be played too.

Elon Musk Has No Idea How To Manage Twitter and the Kathy Griffin Ban Is Proof

Musk keeps changing Twitter policies, with little notice to its users or its staff.

Elon Musk appears on a video screen wearing a gray suit (slightly pixelated)
Christopher Pike/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Don’t worry everyone, Elon Musk totally knows what he’s doing at the helm of Twitter.

In the past few days, the Tesla founder has implemented a new policy, delayed another, and even reversed some of the mass layoffs that he previously touted as necessary.

Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended,” Musk tweeted Sunday evening. “Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning.”

The hasty policy change follows a slew of prominent accounts getting unceremoniously suspended over the weekend, after all of them changed their Twitter names (but not their handles) and profile pictures to mock Musk—proving if nothing else, America truly runs on dunkin’.

Comedian Kathy Griffin was one of the first to be suspended after she changed her name and profile to match Musk’s and tweeted, “After much spirited discussion with the females in my life. I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right (They’re also sexy females, btw.) #VoteBlueToProtectWomen.”

Actor Rich Sommer was also on the chopping block after he tweeted, “okay, time to employ plan b, since they’re MAKING me keep twitter. Does anyone know any advertisers who are, like, kind of ‘into racism.’ NOT ACTUAL RACISTS!! Just ad ppl who are, y’know, curious about what it’s all about (racism).”

Musk explained that the new suspension-without-warnings system “will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue,” his $8-a-month subscription plan for verified users.

The plan was supposed to get rolled out Monday—which experts warn would have unleashed utter disinformation chaos on the midterm elections—but has now been postponed until Wednesday. Twitter has not given an official explanation for the delay.

The plan would allow anyone who pays the subscription fee to get a blue verification check mark on their account, making it impossible to actually verify who anyone is on Twitter anymore.

Musk—a self-described “free speech absolutist,” except, apparently, when it comes to jokes at his expense—has promised to roll back content moderation on the platform and fired half of Twitter’s staff, including its misinformation-fighting team.

Except…maybe not. After firing nearly 3,700 employees last week, Twitter has now asked dozens of them to come back, claiming they were fired “by mistake,” Bloomberg reported Monday.

Musk said the layoffs and subscription plan were necessary to produce revenue, complaining Friday that the platform had seen “massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers.”

Over the weekend, Twitter added a disclaimer to his tweet saying “readers added context” to his claims. The disclaimer linked to several articles reporting that companies were pulling ads from Twitter over concerns about the platform’s direction, particularly regarding content management.

Democrats Historically Suffer Down-Ballot Losses. That’s Really Dangerous This Year.

Abortion access, the climate, and basic democratic integrity are on the ballot this election.

Voters cast their ballots at Desert Vista Community Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the foreground to the right, an older white man wearing blue shorts, a white tshirt, and a black cap points at a paper on the table in front of him. In the background to the left, a woman with strawberry blonde hair wearing jeans and a black hoodie looks at a ballot. The booth panel has a sticker that reads "Clark County, Nevada."
David Becker/Getty Images
Voters cast their ballots at Desert Vista Community Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

New research shows just how bad Democrats can be at voting down-ballot.

Analysis from the Sister District Project on ten battleground state legislatures reveals that Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to vote for their candidates at the top of the ticket, and then neglect to vote for down-ballot races. In contested races, Democrats failed to vote down-ballot 79.41 percent of the time, while Republicans only failed to vote 37.25 percent of the time.

Amid a midterm election where election denialists are running across the country, and as the future of abortion access and climate change will be decided in state legislatures and gubernatorial offices, Democrats’ failure to vote down-ballot is especially troubling.

Researcher Gaby Goldstein is especially worried about what this could mean in swing states like Nevada, where Democrats might be too comfortable.

“Nevada could be this year’s Virginia if Democrats don’t pay attention,” Goldstein said, referring to the Republican gubernatorial victory last year.

Nevada’s state Senate is divided with 12 Democrats and nine Republicans; its Assembly divided 26 Democrats to 16 Republicans. Democratic incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto is in a dead heat with Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, while incumbent Governor Steve Sisolak is similarly neck-and-neck with Republican Joe Lombardo.

Goldstein fears that Republicans’ strong performances at the top of the ticket, like the Senate race, will carry all the way down to the state legislature.

Wisconsin is another state to keep a close eye on, as state legislators have already blocked the Democratic governor’s efforts to expand early voting, adjust public benefit programs, and guarantee the right to an abortion.

“We are in a moment of ascendancy, where states are growing in power,” Goldstein said, describing it as a consequence of strategic power-building on the right. “We desperately need a compelling and intellectually-consistent project around the idea of progressive federalism—and the need to build state power, not just as a reaction to the terrible activities of Republicans in our states, but as an important project in and of itself.”

Read more at Sister District Project.

Twitter Is Descending Into Misinformation Chaos, Right Before the Midterm Elections

Twitter plans to unveil paid verified badges one day before the election.

Elon Musk's Twitter account on a phone, with the Twitter logo (a blue bird) and the words "WHAT IS HAPPENING" on a screen behind it

Twitter is falling into chaos days away from midterm elections that are already rife with disinformation.

On Monday—just one day before the election—Elon Musk’s Twitter is set to unveil its subscription plan allowing anyone to become verified if they pay $8 a month. Internal company documents suggest that users would not even need to actually authenticate their identity to get the verification badge.

That is going to make it harder to find out what is real, and what’s isn’t, come Election Day.

“The website is built on sticks, and it might fall apart,” NBC reporter Ben Collins warned Friday about the rapid changes happening at Twitter under the Musk regime.

If verification has nothing to do with actually verifying who someone is, that is a formula for disaster for a place like Twitter, where politicians speak to the public, election officials report results, and news outlets keep track of it all. Twitter is also a major source of news on Election Day, as journalists track results.

There are nearly 80 million Twitter users in the U.S. As in, nearly 80 million people—plus their friends and families, plus the audiences of news outlets who report on what happens on Twitter—are now at risk of being duped by people who may try impersonating politicians and elected officials.

Meanwhile, hundreds of election denialists are running across the country, Republicans are already priming voters to reject Democratic victories, and our government is still adjudicating an attack on the Capitol sprung up by election conspiracy.

To make matters worse, it seems like the company is even less equipped than ever to handle any misinformation or inflammatory content as Musk has begun mass layoffs, including reportedly, members of the curation team responsible for tackling misinformation. (Musk is now dealing with an employee-led lawsuit for violating California labor laws.)

The consequences of Musk’s layoffs are already underway. Twitter users are reporting that antisemitic and incendiary posts are very quickly being marked as having “no violations.”

Musk, of course, claims “nothing had changed with content moderation.”

What makes the Musk era of Twitter so disturbing is that there don’t appear to be clear mechanisms of accountability or support. Technology reporter Davey Alba said Twitter was the most responsive platform in 2020, helpful in quelling misinformation. Now, the communications department appears “dark,” unclear what staff are even left.

Meanwhile, any customer support Musk directly offers involves reinstating the accounts of conspiracy theorists and election denialists.

Billionaires Have Spent $881 Million This Election (Mostly on Republicans)

This is the most expensive midterms ever.

Ken Griffin
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

American billionaires have spent a record $881 million on the crucial 2022 midterms, a new report found, with most of that money going to Republican candidates and causes.

The mindboggling amount is 44 percent higher than billionaires’ total spending during the 2018 midterm cycle and could easily reach $1 billion by next week, according to a report published Thursday by the group Americans for Tax Fairness.

The influx of cash from billionaires has made this the most expensive midterms ever.

A separate report from Open Secrets found that midterm spending at both the state and federal levels is expected to exceed $16.7 billion this year.

That is the most that has ever been spent on midterm elections at both levels, the group’s director Sheila Krumholz said.

The biggest individual billionaire donor this election was George Soros, who gave $128 million to the liberal super PAC Democracy II. But his total contribution was edged out by the combined total of donations from the second- and third-place donors, Richard Uihlein and Ken Griffin, who gave $67.3 million and $66.1 million respectively to several Republican super PACs and candidates.

Overall, Republicans received 59 percent of the donations, while Democrats received only 39 percent. Considering billionaires make up a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, their contributions risk “distorting our democracy by drowning out the voices of regular Americans,” Americans for Tax Fairness warned.

The 2022 midterms haven’t even happened yet, but they’re already proving to be some of the most contentious and crucial elections in recent history. Democrats are struggling to maintain their razor-thin hold on Congress, while Republicans have promised a raft of petty repercussions should they take control, such as impeaching President Joe Biden.

Many GOP members are already sowing disinformation about the elections online and are priming voters to reject tight Democratic victories.

So it’s no surprise that people in general, especially billionaires, are pouring money into the elections to try and influence the outcome in their favor.

Of Course Elon Musk Is Being Sued for the Way He’s Mass Firing Twitter Employees

What did the "Chief Twit" think was going to happen?

CARINA JOHANSEN/NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Just when he thought he’d escaped one Twitter-related lawsuit by buying the platform, Elon Musk finds himself at the center of another.

A group of former and current Twitter employees filed suit against the company Thursday night, alleging that they were not provided enough notice of their layoffs, in violation of both federal and California state law.

In the suit, the group said that one member was fired effective immediately, instead of receiving the required 60-days notice. Three others were locked out of their Twitter accounts before they had been formally notified of a layoff or given advance notice.

The billionaire, who definitely bought Twitter because he “loves humanity,” clearly thought he was above the federal law prohibiting mass layoffs without at least 60 days advance notice. His week-long reign has been nothing short of shambolic.

Musk bought Twitter last Friday for $44 billion, after a court ordered him to complete the deal when he tried to back out of it. He promptly fired most of the top executives and the entire board of directors.

He also announced plans to lay off about 3,700 people, roughly half of the company’s staff. Many employees are not told of his decisions directly and instead have to follow him on Twitter to see what’s going to happen next.

Twitter gets 90 percent of its revenue from advertising, but since Musk took over, advertisers have been fleeing Twitter in droves. General Motors has suspended ads on the platform. Earlier this week, advertising behemoth IPG recommended its clients—which include Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Spotify—do the same.

Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists,” Musk tweeted Friday morning. “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Musk has been scrambling to come up with new ways to produce revenue, including a plan to charge verified accounts $8 per month that has been widely met with scathing criticism, including from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she tweeted Tuesday.