A political family’s goodbye
When John Flanagan’s resignation from the State Senate and the role of minority leader became official at the end of Sunday, it marked practically the first time in five decades no member of that family has been a member of the State Legislature.
The exception was the weeks between the death of his father, Assemb. John Flanagan, on Sept. 27, 1986, of a heart attack at age 50, and the son’s election to the father’s seat six weeks later at age 25.
“If my father had died a week later, his name would still have been on the ballot and I could not have run,” Flanagan told The Point recently. Instead, the Huntington-raised lawyer, a Republican, served 16 years in the Assembly, entirely in the minority, followed by 17 years in the Senate, where the bulk of his service was in the majority.
—Lane Filler @lanefiller
Zeldin joins the Wild West of social media
Lee Zeldin has taken the same plunge as more and more Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump: he joined Parler.
Parler is a social media platform devoted to “free speech and expression” and “unbiased algorithms,” according to the company’s pinned tweet on Twitter. It has gotten more converts from the right and interest from Trump’s campaign at the same time as other social media companies are slowly embracing some aspects of fact-checking and gatekeeping. Twitter and Facebook, for example, have recently restricted or labeled messages from Trump, and on Monday Reddit banned a community devoted to the president that often bubbled over into hate speech.
The battle for social media has intensified in 2020, with critics of the platforms decrying the spread of fake news, some advertisers getting spooked and pulling their dollars, and Trump supporters complaining of being silenced.
“The Congressman communicates with his constituents through the social media accounts they most utilize including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and now with nearly 2 million users and growing, Parler,” said Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz.
Parler’s focus on unvarnished speech seems to be drawing certain customers. When The Point signed up for an account the company offered a list of “Active Users” that included Team Trump, Eric Trump, influential right-wing personality Mark Levin, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
The first days of Zeldin’s personal and congressional Parler accounts largely mirror his Twitter presence.
The Shirley Republican has built a brand defending the president on social media, often going viral in the process. But a Sunday tweet from Zeldin showcases the underbelly of the internet that social media companies are starting to acknowledge. It was a straightforward video of an elderly man pausing on a sidewalk to salute an American flag, to which Zeldin added a flag emoji.
But the video was shared from Twitter user RedCap004BU, whose name appears below the video in Zeldin’s tweet. That Twitter user’s feed is full of slogans from QAnon and the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, the idea that Democrats ran a child-sex ring out of a Washington pizza place. Trump, too, has circulated material on Twitter from users who traffic in QAnon falsehoods.
Asked whether Zeldin was aware of the QAnon connection when he tweeted and whether he is concerned about conspiracies spreading on social media, Vincentz said that Zeldin “did not retweet the account, he only posted a video of a veteran saluting the flag. Anyone who has an issue with a video of the veteran doing that has bigger problems.”
—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
It's not just a river in Egypt...
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- When the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, which has a poor health care system and many members with underlying conditions making them more susceptible to COVID-19, set up checkpoints on tribal land to question travelers about their health and travel plans, South Dakota state officials threatened legal action and the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal funding to try to get the tribe to remove the checkpoints. Hard to find a much better metaphor for sheer madness.
- In Afghanistan, the Taliban are killing religious scholars and cultural figures as part of a campaign of increased violence. Good thing the United States and the Taliban have a peace deal.
- Now that Mississippi lawmakers have voted to take down the state flag with its Confederate battle emblem, the mystery is not why it took so long but why 37 lawmakers still voted to keep the flag.
- Global cases of COVID-19 have passed 10 million, deaths have surpassed 500,000, cases are increasing in nearly 30 states with some posting record daily highs, and opening-up orders have been put on hold in several states. When President Donald Trump said of the virus, “It’s going away,” what he meant to say was, “It’s going a way, way up.”
- Elected leaders in states with rising coronavirus cases are pointing out that the new infections are primarily among young people, who are less likely to get sick. That’s all well and good, until the young people start talking to older people.
- The Rolling Stones are threatening to sue President Donald Trump to force him to stop using the group’s iconic songs at his rallies. It will be a self-fulfilling prophecy if the Stones win, since the president will discover that even he can’t always get what he wants.
- For all of us who love New York, it wasn’t until graphic designer Milton Glaser came along that we learned to say, “I ♥ NY.” RIP, Mr. Glaser.
—Michael Dobie @mwdobie