Thursday Reads: Orwell’s Dystopia Has Arrived in the U.S.APosted: November 8, 2018
Today’s News is overwhelming, so here’s a list of top stories.
1. A Mass shooting in California:
UPDATE: USA Today says shooter identified as David Long, 28, former marine.
A gunman threw smoke bombs and rained bullets on a crowd of hundreds inside a Thousand Oaks bar Wednesday night, killing a dozen people including a Ventura County Sheriff’s Department sergeant who was trying to stop the carnage
Authorities have not yet identified the gunman, who died in the incident, or any of the victims inside the bar.
The gunman was dressed in black when he burst into the Borderline Bar & Grill, a country-music-themed venue that is popular with college students, around 11:20 p.m., according to Sheriff Geoff Dean.
2. Ruth Bader Ginsburg injured and hospitalized.
3. Constitutional Crisis
Yesterday Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and installed Matt Whitaker, a partisan who could shut down the Mueller investigation, as acting AG. Important reads:
Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general was part of a company accused by the US government of running a multimillion-dollar scam.
Matthew Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May this year to pay a $26m settlement following legal action by federal authorities, which said it tricked aspiring inventors.
Court filings in the case against World Patent Marketing show that Whitaker received regular payments of $1,875 from the Florida-based company, and sent a threatening email to a victim of the alleged scam.
Whitaker publicly vouched for the company, claiming in a December 2014 statement that they “go beyond making statements about doing business ‘ethically’ and translate those words into action”.
Whitaker, a former US attorney for the southern district of Iowa, said at the time: “I would only align myself with a first-class organization.”
Whitaker’s role in the alleged scam was first reported by the Miami New Times in August 2017, shortly before he joined the Trump administration as a senior aide to Sessions.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the 48-year-old Republican, an ex-prosecutor and failed political candidate who less than two years ago was the head of a little-known conservative nonprofit with designs on a judgeship in his home state of Iowa.
Through that nonprofit, and with the help of a PR firm later tied to a bizarre conspiracy theory, Whitaker ran interference for Sessions at one of the most fraught moments in his tumultuous time as attorney general.
In March 2017, The Washington Post reported that Sessions had neglected to tell the Senate at his confirmation hearing about prior conversations he had with the Russian ambassador.
The attorney general came under blistering criticism, especially as he had not yet recused himself from supervising the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Then Whitaker spoke up. As executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, an organization that served primarily to level ethics complaints against Democrats, he released a statement defending Sessions.
“If we are going to have a national discussion about Senators meeting with ambassadors it is appropriate for all Senators to disclose who they met with so the public, and apparently the media, understand that all Senator Sessions did was his job,” Whitaker said in the statement.
Gee, I wonder why Trump installed Whitaker in the DOJ?
With Whitaker suddenly in charge of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, and poised to disrupt investigations into President Trump’s possible collusion with Russia to steal the presidential election (among other things), we need to know as much as possible about who he is and what he believes.
In 2004, Whitaker was appointed by former President George W. Bush to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. While serving as U.S. Attorney, Whitaker helped launch an extortion investigation into state senator Matt McCoy — then Iowa’s highest-ranking gay official.
But according to McCoy, the extortion charges were nothing but an excuse to target him for his gay rights advocacy in office, which included passing a school anti-bullying measure, fighting a state ban on same-sex marriage, and working to pass anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people in housing and employment. In a 2007 interview with the Advocate, McCoy said Whitaker was behind a campaign to smear him with extortion charges because he was a tireless proponent of LGBTQ rights measures, whereas Whitaker wanted to prove his conservative loyalties.
“Since coming out as an openly gay man, I have been a continuous target of groups targeting gays to advance their own agendas of intolerance and hate,” McCoy told the Advocate. “Clearly, there is significant speculation about what has motivated federal officials to take this action against me.”
Whitaker made his anti-LGBTQ views known most prominently during his 2014 run for Iowa Senate. In an interview with the conservative Christian news site Caffeinated Thoughts, then-candidate Whitaker decried President Obama’s handling of same-sex marriage — which the Supreme Court did not make legal nationwide until June 2015.
More at the link.
Des Moines Register: Matthew Whitaker’s troubling opinion: Judges need a biblical view.
(Rekha Basu column from May, 2014)
If elected to the U.S. Senate, former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker says he would only support federal judges who have a Biblical view, and specifically a New Testament view, of justice. “If they have a secular world view, then I’m going to be very concerned about how they judge,” Whitaker said at an April 25, 2014, Family Leader debate.
Whitaker didn’t return my call to his office, but as a lawyer, one might expect him to know that setting religious conditions for holding a public office would violate the Iowa and U.S. constitutions. He was effectively saying that if elected, he would see no place for a judge of Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, agnostic or other faith, or of no faith. Yet no one in the audience or on the podium seemed to have a problem with that, and his answer drew applause.
The debate venue had something to do with that. The event was sponsored by the Family Leader, the conservative Christian organization that engineered the ouster by voters in 2010 of three Iowa Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. The moderator, blogger Erick Erickson, asked questions designed to compel the four Republican candidates to prove their Christian credentials. And though U.S. senator is a secular office, they mostly obliged.
More on Whitaker:
4. Sarah Huckabee Sanders bans CNN’s Jim Acosta from White House grounds, uses doctored Infowars video to falsely accused Acosta of “putting hands on” WH intern.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders posted a video to Twitter of the clash between CNN’s Jim Acosta and President Donald Trump that appears to be a doctored version shared previously by an editor for conspiracy website InfoWars.
Acosta had his White House pass revoked after an incident in which he sparred verbally with the president and refused to hand over the microphone to a staffer. Acosta is CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent.
The edited footage is speeded up to make it look like Acosta forced the woman’s arm down as she went to grab the mic.
Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right conspiracy theorist and editor-at-large of InfoWars, wrote for the Alex Jones-run website that “Acosta clearly uses his left arm to physically resist/restrain the woman.”
On Twitter, Watson accused Acosta of using his arm “to overpower her” and shared the doctored footage, which zooms in on the reporter’s arm.
The original clip shows the staffer grabbing the mic and attempting to pull it away as Acosta holds on. Her arm meets with Acosta’s hand, which drops with his arm as she tries to pull the mic and turn to hand it to another reporter.
“We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video,” Sanders tweeted along with the misleading InfoWars version of the footage.
5. Election Updates
As the United States Senate race in Florida headed to a recount, the governor’s race there on Wednesday morning also looked likely to go to a recount of its own even though Democrat Andrew Gillum, as The New York Times reported, gave a concession speech on Tuesday and Republican Ron DeSantis, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, declared victory.
Though the latest vote count in the race, reported by The Times, showed DeSantis ahead by 55,439 votes, a margin of 0.7 percent — outside the margin of 0.5 percent which would entitle Gillum to demand a recount — according to one report, Gillum’s camp now says that the vote gap between the two candidates is much smaller.
According to April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, Gillum’s representatives as of Wednesday morning said that his losing margin was only about 15,000 votes.
Courage, Sky Dancers! Please share your thoughts and links to stories on any topic in the comment thread.