Thursday Reads: Orwell’s Dystopia Has Arrived in the U.S.A

Good Morning!

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.

LA Times: Gunman kills 12 in ‘horrific’ mass shooting at Thousand Oaks bar packed with college students.

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.

LA Times: Some inside Borderline bar survived Las Vegas mass shooting, friends say.

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:

The Guardian: Trump’s acting attorney general was part of firm US accused of vast scam.

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.

The Daily Beast: Jeff Sessions’ Replacement, Matthew Whitaker, Led Secretive Anti-Dem Group.

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?

Into: Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker Has A Disturbingly Anti-LGBTQ Past.

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.

Newsweek: 

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

Yahoo News: Florida Governor Race Recount Now Likely, Andrew Gillum Claims Vote Gap Down To 15,000 Votes Behind DeSantis.

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.

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67 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Orwell’s Dystopia Has Arrived in the U.S.A”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    • NW Luna says:

      One problem is that according to Federal regulations a person can’t be an Acting AG and be the AG nominee at the same time.

      • NW Luna says:

        So Whitaker is probably a placeholder for someone equally as bad or worse.

        • bostonboomer says:

          As I posted below, Chris Christie is currently at the WH interviewing.

          • NW Luna says:

            Yes, I saw that — wasn’t sure which comment to nest under. Christie may not be quite as bad as Whitaker but is an eagerly willing accomplice for Trump so it makes no difference.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Before she was injured:

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Thread from Emptywheel:

    • bostonboomer says:

      • dakinikat says:

        Marcy has been spot on about this. We’re getting a side show to hide a lot of what they’re doing behind the scenes to thwart Mueller but Mueller is smarter than any one in the White House so ignore the insane presser and stay fixed on the investigation.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Here is Marcy’s long think piece at The New Republic from October 30.

    How a Democratic-controlled House can salvage the Russia investigation

    Here’s what the post-midterms world might look like: Democrats control the House by a decent margin. But they pick up just one seat in the Senate, allowing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to exploit that more powerful legislative body to guard the White House. (Both electoral outcomes are likely, according to predictions.) Then, before special counsel Robert Mueller has the chance to reveal any of the work his team has been quietly doing during the campaign season, President Donald Trump finds a way to end or severely curtail Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

  5. bostonboomer says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Bernie Sanders endorses white people voting on race.

    The Daily Beast: Bernie Sanders on Andrew Gillium and Stacey Abrams: Many Whites ‘Uncomfortable’ Voting for Black Candidates

    Democratic officials woke Wednesday morning searching for answers as to why the party was unable to win several marquee Senate and gubernatorial races the night before. But for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) the explanation was simple. The candidates who underperformed weren’t progressive enough; those who didn’t shy away from progressivism were undone, in part, by their race.

    “I think you know there are a lot of white folks out there who are not necessarily racist who felt uncomfortable for the first time in their lives about whether or not they wanted to vote for an African-American,” Sanders told The Daily Beast, referencing the close contests involving Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. “I think next time around by the way it will be a lot easier for them to do that.”

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. bostonboomer says:

  10. bostonboomer says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      Has there ever been a day with more widely varied news? I clearly recall being totally shocked the morning after the Saturday Night Massacre, and I don’t recall dozens of other competing amazing stories.

      • NW Luna says:

        That’s because the situation with Trump is so much worse: the fraud, the corruption, the complicit GOP in so many states.

        I’m heartened by Gillum and Abrams going for recounts!

    • NW Luna says:

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. NW Luna says:

    Thinking of recounts:

    WA Governor’s race Recount in 2004The 2004 Washington gubernatorial election on November 2, 2004 gained national attention for its legal twists and extremely close finish. In what was notable for being among the closest political races in United States election history, Republican Dino Rossi was declared the winner in the initial automated count and again in the subsequent automated recount. It wasn’t until after the third count, a second recount done by hand, that Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, took the lead by a margin of 129 votes.

    I remember this clearly. Many Democrats were angry that Kerry hadn’t pushed for a recount. This state Governor’s race was still being counted for days after the election day, and motivation was high to challenge the results. The hand recount had to be paid for by the candidate — donations came in from Dems across the country, I donated the small amount I could. The hand recount gave Christine Gregoire the winning majority. She went on to win a 2nd term and was a wonderful Governor.

    Ironically and fittingly, her opponent went onto run and lose again in a rematch with Gregoire in the Governor’s race 4 years later, and lose in a Senate race against one of our other wonderful woman Senators, and lose again just this year against a woman Democrat for a House position. Beaten by girls 4 times. Lol lol lol.

  13. NW Luna says:

    Can’t just let everybody vote; something might happen.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Those evil illegal aliens, those angry dangerous black men, the gangs of Mexicans, Muslims …. Uh ….

    How many of you here thought “White guy” after hearing about yet another mass domestic terrorist shooting?

  15. dakinikat says:

    Here’s another angle and witness to the presser

  16. dakinikat says:

  17. bostonboomer says:

    Kellyanne’s husband says AG appointment is unconstitutional.

    Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional

  18. dakinikat says:

    Trump’s Appointment of the Acting Attorney General Is Unconstitutional

    By Neal K. Katyal and George T. Conway III
    Mr. Katyal and Mr. Conway are lawyers.

    This is at the crux of their argument. I’m not a lawyer but that was always my understanding of anything requiring senate confirmation.

    We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation. (Yes, he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor in Iowa, in 2004, but President Trump can’t cut and paste that old, lapsed confirmation to today.) For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document.

    In times of crisis, interim appointments need to be made. Cabinet officials die, and wars and other tragic events occur. It is very difficult to see how the current situation comports with those situations. And even if it did, there are officials readily at hand, including the deputy attorney general and the solicitor general, who were nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Either could step in as acting attorney general, both constitutionally and statutorily.

    Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in such a position of grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is President Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation. That is why adherence to the requirements of the Appointments Clause is so important here, and always.

  19. dakinikat says:

    • Gregory P says:

      It is always been much much worse than Nixon. For starters Nixon wasn’t really a criminal and he didn’t actually conspire to criminal acts. What he did was cover up for those who did commit the crime which was obstruction of justice and completely unacceptable and illegal. Nixon was a really gifted politician who did do some very good things for the American people including SALT, ABM, Paris Peace accords, signed Title IX, and founded the EPA, the clean air act, the clean water act, and the mammal marine protection act. As far as I know he was shocked that his underlings did what they did because it was just plain stupid and they gained nothing from it. Trump is very much a criminal. He has committed many many crimes over the years including fraud, income tax evasion, conspiring with a foreign government, sexual assault and treason. He is running our government like its a mob operation. He is breaking laws every single day. He has children locked up in cages violating our own law and international law. To compare Nixon to any of these insane creeps we have today is a major disservice because as bad as Watergate was (and it was really, really bad) it was a tiny infraction compared to what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Bush, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Bolton, Trump and all the rest of these scumbags have done. These people are so corrupt that they don’t even believe in democracy or the rule of law. They just seek power for the sake of having power as Orwell predicted.

  20. dakinikat says:

  21. Enheduanna says:

    Good grief – our election system is the WORST:

    https://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2018/11/08/campa-najjar-says-uncounted-ballots-may-bridge-8-point-gap-oust-rep-hunter/

    Hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots in Duncan Hunters district.

    • NW Luna says:

      This doesn’t sound anywhere as bad as in Georgia and Florida, with the obvious voter suppression. At least they weren’t tossed out for some made-up reason. It sounds like the race is unofficially considered to be Hunter’s, but since they haven’t finished counting ballots who really knows.

  22. bostonboomer says:

  23. bostonboomer says:

    Finally! This is what I’ve been hoping for. MA AG Maura Healy leading a protest by 18 AGs against for the Whitaker appointment. I hope they file a lawsuit.

  24. NW Luna says:

    Makes my heart glad to see this!

  25. NW Luna says:

  26. bostonboomer says:

    ROLFLMAO!

  27. bostonboomer says: