Mostly Monday Reads: A Fascist Returns to Power in Italy and the Return of the January 6th CommitteePosted: September 26, 2022
Good Day Sky Dancers!
I’ve been trying to get a handle on today’s headlines, and wow, there’s chaos afoot in the world and our country. The New York Times has this for a headline: “U.S. Warns Russia of ‘Catastrophic Consequences’ if It Uses Nuclear Weapons.” That’s nothing I thought I’d see again since the Cold War was over.
Then, Italy’s voters elected one of those bleach-blonde fascists we see so much these days on Fox News and Republican Conventions. For Eyes on the Right, Damon Linker analyzes the election results for us: ” What just happened in Italy? Much the same as what’s happened in France, Great Britain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and the U.S.”
What happened in yesterday’s election in Italy?
At the purely factual level, a coalition of right-wing and center-right parties won big in an election trigged by the collapse of a government led by the center-left Mario Draghi.
Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli D’Italia (Brothers of Italy) was the biggest vote winner. The Fratelli were founded in 2012 as a successor to the post-fascist MSI (Italian Social Movement), which was itself founded in 1946 by Giorgio Almirante, who served as a minister under Mussolini. The other major members of the coalition are Matteo Salvini’s Lega and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. A fourth party called Noi Moderati (really a coalition of small, centrist parties) is also expected to join a right-leaning government. At the time of this writing, with about half of the votes counted, it looks like the right will take something in the range of 60 percent of the seats in both the lower and upper houses of the legislature while winning a slightly smaller share of the vote than polls had predicted. (With Salvini’s Lega, especially, under-performing.)
The reality is somewhat less ominous than one might conclude from hearing we’re living through “the return of fascism in Italy.” The incoming government is certainly Italy’s most right-wing since World War II. But it’s also the case that the members of the victorious coalition have much more in common with other right-leaning politicians and parties around the contemporary world than they do with the politics of the 1930s.
I’m not confident that reassures me especially given the Italian voter turnout. This is from The New York Times: “Giorgia Meloni’s Hard-Right Party Leads in Italy’s Voting. Early results suggest that she could be Italy’s next prime minister, the first woman to hold the position and the first with post-Fascist roots. It will still be weeks before a new government is formed.” One-third of Italian voters sat out the election.
She grew up with a single mother in a working-class area of Rome, and being a woman, and mother, has been central to her political identity.
Being a woman has also distinguished her, and marked a major shift, from her coalition partners, especially Mr. Berlusconi, the subject of endless sex scandals.
But Ms. Meloni, Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Salvini share a hard-right vision for the country. Ms. Meloni has called for a naval blockade against migrants and spread fears about a “great replacement” of native Italians. The three share populist proposals for deep tax cuts that economists fear would inflate Italy’s already enormous debt, and a traditionalist view of the family.
Despite the constraints of an Italian Constitution that is explicitly anti-Fascist and designed to stymie the rise of another Mussolini, many liberals are now worried that the right-wing coalition will erode the country’s norms. There was concern that if the coalition were to win two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, it would have the ability to change the Constitution to increase government powers.
On Thursday, during one of Ms. Meloni’s final rallies before the election, she exclaimed that “if the Italians give us the numbers to do it, we will.”
But the coalition, while winning 44 percent of the vote and a majority in Parliament, appeared not to hit that mark.
There seems to be a growing voter backlash against what the Trump Regime SCOTUS appointments have done to Abortion Rights. Let’s hope we have a massive turnout for our elections in November.
Politico writer Steven Shepard reports, “Pollsters fear they’re blowing it again in 2022. Democrats seem to be doing better than expected with voters. But if the polls are wrong, they could be disappointed in November — again.”
Pollsters know they have a problem. But they aren’t sure they’ve fixed it in time for the November election.
Since Donald Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory, pre-election polls have consistently understated support for Republican candidates, compared to the votes ultimately cast.
Once again, polls over the past two months are showing Democrats running stronger than once expected in a number of critical midterm races. It’s left some wondering whether the rosy results are setting the stage for another potential polling failure that dashes Democratic hopes of retaining control of Congress— and vindicates the GOP’s assertion that the polls are unfairly biased against them.
It’s not that pollsters haven’t tried to fix the issues that plagued them in recent elections. Whether they’re public firms conducting surveys for the media and academic instructions or private campaign consultants, they have spent the past two years tweaking their methods to avoid a 2020 repeat.
But most of the changes they have made are small. Some pollsters are hoping that since Trump isn’t running in the midterms, the problems of underestimating Republicans’ vote share will disappear with him. But others worry that Trump’s ongoing dominance of the news cycle — from the FBI seizure of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to litigation against his businesses in New York — effectively is making him the central political figure going into Election Day.
“There’s no question that the polling errors in 16 and 20 worry the polling profession, worry me as a pollster,” said Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll in Milwaukee and a longtime survey-taker in the battleground state of Wisconsin. “The troubling part is how much of that is unique to when Donald Trump is on the ballot, versus midterms when he is not on the ballot.”
Let’s hope people just turn out to say no to Trumpism.
The upcoming January 6 Committee public hearing is being overshadowed by a book and the release of information by former senior technical adviser Denver Riggleman. Riggleman looks a bit too opportunistic for me to fully trust his rationale for doing this. This is an interview with him via CBS’ 60 minutes.
Bill Whitaker: Wait a minute: Someone in the White House was calling one of the rioters while the riot was going on?
Denver Riggleman: On January 6th, absolutely.
Bill Whitaker: And you know who both ends of that call?
Denver Riggleman: I only know one end of that call. I don’t know the White House end, which I believe is more important. But the thing is the American people need to know that there are link connections that need to be explored more.
As senior technical adviser for the January 6th committee, Denver Riggleman, a former House Republican and ex- military intelligence officer, ran a data-driven operation pursuing phone records and other digital clues tied to the attack on the Capitol.
Denver Riggleman: From my perspective, you know, being in counterterrorism, you know, if the White House, even if it’s a short call, and it’s a connected call, who is actually making that phone call?
CNN has identified the rioter and has more information on the Rigglemen story. Many texts from Mark Meadows “reveal direct White House communications with pro-Trump operative behind plans to seize voting machines.” Will this be part of the next public hearing?
As allies of then-President Donald Trump made a final push to overturn the election in late-December 2020, one of the key operatives behind the effort briefed then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about his attempts to gain access to voting systems in key battleground states, starting with Arizona and Georgia, according to text messages obtained by CNN.
Phil Waldron, an early proponent of various election-related conspiracy theories, texted Meadows on December 23 that an Arizona judge had dismissed a lawsuit filed by friendly GOP lawmakers there. The suit demanded state election officials hand over voting machines and other election equipment, as part of the hunt for evidence to support Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
In relaying the news to Meadows, Waldron said the decision would allow opponents to engage in “delay tactics” preventing Waldron and his associates from immediately accessing machines. Waldron also characterized Arizona as “our lead domino we were counting on to start the cascade,” referring to similar efforts in other states like Georgia.
Mark Meadows should be in some deep doo-doo over this, to use a Poppy Bushism. This analysis of the Riggleman interview comes from The Hill‘s Brad Dress. “Riggleman says Mark Meadows text messages reveal ‘roadmap to an attempted coup.’”
“The Meadows text messages show you an administration that was completely eaten up with a digital virus called QAnon conspiracy theories,” the former GOP lawmaker said. “You can look at text messages as a roadmap, but it’s also a look into the psyche of the Republican Party today.”
Before he stepped down in April, Riggleman and his team combed through phone records, emails, social media posts and text messages on behalf of the House committee.
That included 2,000 messages connected to Meadows, which Riggleman called “a roadmap to an attempted coup … of the United States.”
In those messages, Riggleman said his team traced the phone numbers of previously unidentified contacts to members of Congress and Trump allies including Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who pushed to overturn the 2020 election.
Riggleman said what “shook me was the fact that if Clarence agreed with or was even aware of his wife’s efforts, all three branches of government would be tied to the stop the steal movement.”
And, there’s this already.
This is from the Tweet posted above. “If Trump is charged, it should be for the worst of his crimes. ‘Seditious conspiracy’ and ‘insurrection’ are more fitting charges than ‘interfering with an official proceeding’ or ‘defrauding the U.S.’”
The significance of Jan. 6 shouldn’t be obscured by legalese before a public contending with the seduction of insurrectionist rhetoric. Charging Trump only with narrowly defined crimes could backfire, and Garland should resist, even if that’s what the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 ends up recommending. The vice chair of the committee, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), has hinted at a possible criminal referral to the Justice Department, both in hearings last month and in interviews during the course of the investigation, by highlighting two potential crimes: interfering with an official proceeding and defrauding the United States. A brief the committee filed in a legal dispute with Trump attorney John Eastman, who hatched the fake-electors scheme in the multipronged effort to overturn the election, also highlights these two offenses. Cheney has further suggested that the committee may include a referral on witness tampering, based on contact Trump had with those called to testify before the panel.
The committee may be tempted to stake out a moderate position regarding criminal charges in a misguided effort to garner public support and make the unprecedented prosecution of a former president more palatable, but the Justice Department must act independently in deciding what, or whether, to charge. To be sure, the DOJ should consider any evidence of criminality uncovered by the committee, but it should give no weight to the committee’s opinion in reaching its determination.
Restricting a federal prosecution to two rather obscure-sounding charges — and a possible third relating to the integrity of the process — would not only downplay the seriousness of Trump’s offenses but could also exacerbate the view that any such prosecution is politically motivated. After the Mar-a-Lago search, that perception took hold among Trump supporters, who accuse the FBI of acting on a technicality involving federal records, even though the bureau had a search warrant signed by a federal judge and based on a showing of probable cause that a crime had been committed. Violating the Presidential Records Act by removing or destroying government documents is not in itself in the same league as insurrection or seditious conspiracy; if, however, the records in question pertain to serious national security breaches — The Washington Post has reported that some of the documents relate to nuclear weapons — that might be a different matter.
You may continue reading that at the WAPO link.
So, I think I’m confused, dazed, and befuddled enough today trying to think all this through. What do you think?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Day Sky Dancers!
The headlines are filled with Republican Shenanigans. Holding them accountable for illegal actions appears difficult. This highlights the difference in treatment for everyone else and white men.
The case against Rep. Matt Gaetz has now been considered too difficult to prosecute because all of the witnesses are not upstanding citizens. What do you expect from a gang of sex traffickers of underage women? Devlin Barret, writing for The Washington Post, states: “Career prosecutors recommend no charges for Gaetz in the sex-trafficking probe. Investigators see credibility challenges for two of the main witnesses in the probe of the congressman’s past dealings with a 17-year-old.”
Career prosecutors have recommended against charging Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in a long-running sex-trafficking investigation — telling Justice Department superiors that a conviction is unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses, according to people familiar with the matter.
Senior department officials have not made a final decision on whether to charge Gaetz, but it is rare for such advice to be rejected, these people told The Washington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the deliberations. They added that it is always possible additional evidence emerges that could alter prosecutors’ understanding of the case.
Nevertheless, it is unlikely that federal authorities will charge Gaetz with a crime in an investigation that started in late 2020 and focused on his alleged involvement with a 17-year-old girlseveral years earlier. Gaetz,40, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying he has never paid for sex. He has also said the only time he had sex with a 17-year-old was when he was also 17.
The congressman is likely a role model for these guys. Again, this is from The Washington Post, written by Taylor Lorenz. “The online incel movement is getting more violent and extreme, report says. The Center for Countering Digital Hate analyzed more than 1 million posts showing a rise in advocacy of rape, mass killings.”
The most prominent forum for men who consider themselves involuntarily celibate or “incels” has become significantly more radicalized over the past year and a half and is seeking to normalize child rape, a new report says.
The report, by the Center for Countering Digital Hate’s new Quant Lab, is the culmination of an investigation that analyzed more than 1 million posts on the site. It found a marked spike in conversations about mass murder and growing approval of sexually assaulting prepubescent girls.
The report also says that platforms including YouTube and Google, as well as internet infrastructure companies like Cloudflare are facilitating the growth of the forum, which the report said is visited by 2.6 million people every month. “These businesses should make a principled decision to withdraw their services from sites causing such significant harm,” the report says.
“This is a novel, new violent extremist movement born in the internet age, which defies the usual characteristics of violent extremist movements that law enforcement and the intelligence community are usually used to,” said Imran Ahmed, founder and CEO of CCDH, a US-based nonprofit. “Our study shows that it is organized, has a cogent ideology and has clearly concluded that raping women, killing women, and raping children is a clear part of the practice of their ideology.”
Incels blame women for their failings in life. The term originated decades ago, and while the first incel forum was founded by a woman in the mid 1990s, incel communities have since become almost exclusively male. Incel ideology has been linked to dozens of murders and assaults over the past decade, the most prominent one involving Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old self-described incel who murdered six people in a stabbing and shooting rampage in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 2014. Before killing himself, he posted a long manifesto and YouTube videos promoting incel ideology.
In March, the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center released a report warning that anti-woman violence was a growing terrorism threat.
According to the CCDH analysis, members of the forum post about rape every 29 minutes, and more than 89 percent of posters support rape and say it’s acceptable. The CCDH analysis also found that posters on the forum are seeking to normalize child rape. More than a quarter of members of the forum have posted pedophilia keywords, the analysis found, and more than half of the members of the forum support pedophilia.
I don’t believe this is necessarily a new thing. This is the problem with the internet. It lets the worst of society hang together and leads to an evil gestalt. These men gain confidence and ideas from their online cult. Also, they can see how easy it is for certain types of men to avoid legal entanglements.
This is written by Brian Bennet. Steal food or smoke a joint, and you wind up in jail for years. This is especially true if you’re a minority or a poor person. Steal millions via government grants; they ignore you. Like in sports, Colin Kaepernick and Michael Vick get demonized for their behaviors and dumped. Brett Favre steals millions for welfare recipients in Mississippi and crickets.
On Wednesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James compounded Trump’s legal woes, announcing that the state was suing Trump, his three adult children, the Trump Organization, and senior management in the company, alleging business fraud involving the value of assets to banks, insurance companies and the state tax authorities.
The sheer number of investigations and the increasingly tangled defenses his legal team is having to put on paper and argue in court amount to a stress test of Trump’s standard strategy to deny, deflect, delay, and not put anything in writing.
“I don’t think there’s any other president who was in a similar legal jeopardy” after leaving office, says Timothy Naftali, a historian at New York University and former director of the federal Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Warren Harding was investigated by his own vice president and successor, Calvin Coolidge. Nixon would have been the target of investigations for years if Gerald Ford had not pardoned him in September 1974, a month after Nixon resigned from office.
“Even Nixon pales by comparison,” says Norman Eisen, an anti-corruption expert at Brookings Institution and the former special counsel to the Democrat’s House Judiciary Committee from 2019 to 2020 during Trump’s first impeachment. “Nixon just had one Watergate scandal. Trump has had a succession of them, each one more concerning than the last.”
In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is looking into how Trump pressured election officials to swing the 2020 presidential election in his direction. The House Jan. 6 Committee and the Department of Justice are both looking at what role Trump played in the lead up to the deadly attack on the Capitol Building to stop the lawful counting of electoral college votes. Federal prosecutors have an active criminal investigation into how and why Trump took thousands of government documents—many containing state secrets—to his residence at Mar-a-Lago and why he refused repeated requests to return them.
And New York’s civil lawsuit announced by James on Wednesday is on top of a separate criminal investigation out of the Manhattan District Attorneys’ Office into the Trump Organization that is set to go to trial in October.
In all of the ongoing cases, Trump is employing the tried-and-true playbook he first learned all those years ago from Cohn for staying out of prison and staying in business, according to Jennifer Taub, a professor at Western New England University School of Law who has tracked the ways that Trump had evaded accountability for decades.
This exclusive headline from CNN really is fascinating. I imagine the move is to stop the prosecutors from being able to find and flip associates. “Exclusive: Trump’s secret court fight to stop grand jury from getting information from his inner circle.”
Former President Donald Trump‘s attorneys are fighting a secret court battle to block a federal grand jury from gathering information from an expanding circle of close Trump aides about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, people briefed on the matter told CNN.
The high-stakes legal dispute — which included the appearance of three attorneys representing Trump at the Washington, DC, federal courthouse on Thursday afternoon — is the most aggressive step taken by the former President to assert executive and attorney-client privileges in order to prevent some witnesses from sharing information in the criminal investigation events surrounding January 6, 2021.
The court fight over privilege, which has not been previously reported and is under seal, is a turning point for Trump’s post-presidency legal woes.
How the fight is resolved could determine whether prosecutors can tear down the firewall Trump has tried to keep around his conversations in the West Wing and with attorneys he spoke to as he sought to overturn the 2020 election and they worked to help him hold onto the presidency.
This dispute came to light as former Trump White House adviser and lawyer Eric Herschmann received a grand jury subpoena seeking testimony, the people briefed said.
Other former senior Trump White House officials, including former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin, appeared before the grand jury in recent weeks, after negotiating specific subjects they would decline to answer question about, because of Trump’s privilege claims.
Have you ever seen anyone claim privilege this many times? Nixon didn’t get away with it, so what’s the deal with the Trump claims? This Trumper candidate seems pretty audacious with the lies too. Uh, that’s not how this works JR, this is not how any of this works.
But these folks will be bankrolled! Check out these links!
Former Justice Stephan Breyer warns the current Supreme Court Cartel not to take its backward-facing privilege too seriously. This is also from CNN, and then I am done with all these bad boys. “Breyer warns justices that some opinions could ‘bite you in the back’ in exclusive interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace.”
Retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is warning his colleagues against “writing too rigidly” in their opinions, saying that such decisions could “bite you in the back” in a world that is constantly changing.
In a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace on “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” which debuted Friday on HBOMax and airs Sunday night on CNN, Breyer also bemoaned his position in the court’s minority liberal bloc during his final year on the bench, addressed the court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and spoke about the ongoing controversy regarding Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Breyer said it was a “very frustrating” spot to be in as he found himself in dissent in a number of historically consequential cases where he said the majority side (conservatives — although the retired justice did not use that description) was unwilling to bend.
“You start writing too rigidly and you will see, the world will come around and bite you in the back,” Breyer said in his first televised interview since leaving the bench earlier this year. “Because you will find something you see just doesn’t work at all. And the Supreme Court, somewhat to the difference of others, has that kind of problem in spades.”
“Life is complex, life changes,” Breyer added. “And we want to maintain insofar as we can — everybody does — certain key moral political values: democracy, human rights, equality, rule of law, etc. To try to do that in an ever-changing world. If you think you can do that by writing 16 computer programs — I just disagree.
The comments from Breyer come days before the Supreme Court begins its first term without him in nearly 30 years. In the new term, the justices will consider issues including voting rights, immigration, affirmative action, environmental regulations and religious liberty — areas where the solid conservative majority can easily control the outcomes.
Okay, that’s “all I can stands and I can’t stands no more.” (To quote my childhood hero.)
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
The great nations of Europe were standing on the shore.
They’d conquered what was behind them
And now they wanted more
So they looked to the mighty ocean
And took to the Western sea
The great nations of Europe in the 16th century
Hide your wives and daughters, hide the groceries too
The great nations of Europe comin’ through
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Yesterday, JJ put up some video of a Trump Rally highly reminiscent of NAZI rallies. Trump has taken to threatening Americans and Democracy, warning us that ‘problems’ like ‘we’ve never seen before are coming if any court dares to indict him. This is from Politico on September 15: “It’s not the first time Republicans have hinted at potential civil unrest.” Frankly, he and his droogs in Congress have gotten more threatening the closer Trump comes to an indictment. This is from the Hewitt interview.
Former President Donald Trump said Thursday the nation would face “problems … the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen” if he is indicted over his handling of classified documents after leaving office, an apparent suggestion that such a move by the Justice Department could spark violence from Trump’s supporters.
The former president said an indictment wouldn’t stop him from running for the White House again and repeatedly said Americans “would not stand” for his prosecution.
You may recall Lindsey Graham also linked a threat last month. The threats have gotten so frequent and disturbing that AG Merrick Garland felt the need to give a speech on Ellis Island while welcoming new;y minted American Citizens. This is the New York Times covering the event: “‘As Trump Inquiry Heats Up, Garland Says Divisions Imperil the Rule of Law. Addressing new citizens on Ellis Island, the attorney general emphasized that all Americans are equal under the law.” It seems weird that anyone these days should need to say that since Nixon argued that crimes weren’t crimes if the ‘president did it.’ That argument failed soundly. But after Judge Loose Cannon suggested a former president deserved special consideration, lawyers everywhere are speaking out. A group of Republican Lawyers filed an Amicus brief supporting the DOJ’s appeal of her decision to the 11th District.
An emotional Attorney General Merrick B. Garland addressed new citizens on Saturday at Ellis Island, the site of his family’s American origin story, and warned that the country had become dangerously divided by political factionalism, which has imperiled the democracy and the rule of law.
Mr. Garland was presiding over the oath of allegiance for 250 naturalized citizens at the iconic immigration processing center, on the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. As the new Americans rose to recognize their home countries — about 60 of them, with origins from Albania to Yemen — he told them that the United States “wholeheartedly welcomes you.”
During a 10-minute speech in which he repeatedly stopped to collect himself, the attorney general recounted the tale of his grandmother’s flight from antisemitism in what is now Belarus before World War II, and the narrow escape to New York made by his wife’s mother, who fled Austria after Nazis annexed the country in 1938.
“My family story is what motivated me to choose a career in public service,” said the typically stoic attorney general, his voice dropping to a husky whisper. “I wanted to repay my country for taking my family in when they had nowhere else to go. I wanted to repay the debt my family owes this country for our very lives.”
Some of the most vehement reaction to the Trump QAnon rally has come from the Jewish community. Frankly, the reaction from everywhere is pretty astounding. This is from The Independent: “Trump under fire for QAnon display at Ohio rally: ‘He has gone completely insane’. ‘Trump has always been mentally ill, but this is a whole new level’.” This is reported by Gustaf Kilander.
“This is the week when Trump became Qanon. This isn’t a political statement; it just is, however disturbing. Week began with images of Trump on Truth Social wearing a Q pin and promoting their slogans; it ends with Q music and the Q ‘one’ sign by crowd at his rally,” CNN analyst Juliette Kayyem tweeted on Saturday.
Author Kurt Eichenwald added that “this week, Trump posted QAnon memes, played QAnon theme music at his rally, and stood by as the crowd raises their fingers in the QAnon salute. This is the GOP’s supposed leader. Every Republican needs to be asked about it – and don’t let them walk away. ‘Do you support QAnon?’”
“He has gone full QAnon, and that cult knows it. Trump has always been mentally ill, but this is a whole new level. He has gone completely insane,” he tweeted.
The author went on to lay out a lot of the bizarre theories within the movement.
“With Trump now leaning so hard into QAnon, anyone who interviews him *must* ask ‘Do you believe there is a global cabal of elites who are kidnapping children, taking them to underground tunnels, murdering them, eating them and drinking their adrenochrome to stay young forever? Have you secretly been president since 2020, while Biden has actually been a clone? Were Hillary Clinton and Anthony Fauci taken to gitmo and executed? And if you don’t believe these things, why are you posting QAnon memes, playing their music, and encouraging their salutes?’” he tweeted.
Other comments covered by the story are from Robert Costa, including this tweet:
The entire rally was beyond creepy, and that includes the music. So, here’s a bit more about all of that. Vice News offers this primer on Trump’s sudden public conversion to the tome of crazy conspiracy theories and behaviors. “What Is This Eerie Salute People Are Doing at Trump Rallies Now? The signal was immediately compared to the “Sieg Heil” salute.”
On Saturday night, as former President Donald Trump was wrapping up a political rally in Youngstown, Ohio, one section of the crowd all raised their arms in the air and extended one finger.
The strange salute came as Trump was once again spreading lies and disinformation about the 2020 election and the FBI search on his Mar-a-Lago home. The signal was immediately compared to the “Sieg Heil” salute used by Nazi party members to greet Hitler. Some also said it was in reference to Trump’s “America First” motto.
However, for QAnon followers, the one-finger salute was taken as yet another signal from Trump that he is in their corner.
Some in the wider QAnon community also claimed the one-finger salute was a reference to the phrase “Where we go one, we go all,” though again with no evidence to back up the claims.
Ben Collins of NBC news has more details on the crazy cult of Q and its batshit crazy leader. “What is Qanon? A guide to the conspiracy theory taking hold among Trump supporters. The Qanon conspiracy started less than a year ago but has taken hold among some Trump supporters — with some followers taking real world action. “
Signs and T-shirts emblazoned with some variation of the letter Q dotted a rally for Donald Trump in Tampa on Tuesday. Paper printouts declaring “We are Q” occupied small sections of the crowd.
One rally-goer named Tyler held out a large coin with Q on it and explained the letter’s sudden prevalence among Trump supporters. “Qanon, the storm, the great awakening,” he told local TV station WPLG.
“What Q stands for is military intelligence, most likely. He’s been talking to all of us. Letting us know the covert battles that are waging between the Deep State and President Trump.”
Tyler, whose last name was not disclosed to WPLG, is one of a growing number of vocal followers of a conspiracy theory, known as Qanon, that has taken hold among some Trump supporters. The theory centers around an anonymous source, Q, who is trying to tell the world about a secret battle being waged by Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller against a pedophile ring filled with celebrities and political elites who have been covertly running the United States government for decades.
Remember the 2016 assault on a pizza restaurant? A guy with a gun wants to see a nonexistent basement? This supposedly involved John Podesta and Hillary and eventually got labeled Pizzagate. You can walk down memory lane by following the NBC link.
If you get anything from a Republican elected official, just send them anything about that rally and ask them what they think.
This is from the link above. It’s from Will Bunch writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
If you are a political fanatic, you’ve surely heard the old saying that when fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. That’s been proven true in this fraught year of 2022 as Christian nationalism rises to our extreme right, but no one predicted this:
That U.S. authoritarianism would also come with a bat-guano crazy musical soundtrack — music that sounds like a Bible Belt altar riff, but is actually tied to the weirdly popular QAnon conspiracy theory whose legion of followers believe there’s an elite global cabal of child-trafficking, baby-blood-drinking liberal politicians and movie stars.
This terrifying crossing of some kind of autocratic Rubicon happened — where else? — at a Donald Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday night.
Trump rallies are a tricky thing to cover, some 20 months after the 45th president left the White House in seeming disgrace after a failed coup and two impeachments. There’s an understandable desire to want to not give these increasingly hate-drenched rallies any oxygen, in the vain hope the flame will completely flicker out. And his Fidel Castro-length rants increasingly offer little political insight but long flights of narcissistic grievance about his 2020 election loss and an enemies list that grows longer each day.
But even had it been stripped of its creepy musical backing, Trump’s apocalyptic closing diatribe from an arena in the epicenter of Rust Belt industrial decay demands our attention — as the current front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination continues to steer his followers toward an authoritarian cult of personality, committed more to its warped leader and his perceived slights than any justifiable cause.
That about sums it up.
And this is from the end of the Queen’s commital service today at Windsor Castle. The Piper could actually be playing that dirge for us too.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Good Day Sky Dancers!
The big story today is that Trump actually has appointed a few “Trump” judges, and they’re willing and able to create laws and requests out of thin air. Judge Loose Cannon appears to be a wholly-owned subsidiary. This is not how a democracy works. No one is above the rule of law.
Judge Cannon even stated that Trump’s reputation is on the line. Who thinks he has a stellar reputation? Why is he more important than any other criminal? For example, none of his lawyers argued that any of the sensitive material might have been unclassified by Trump. Trump was interviewed conservative by commentator Hugh Hewitt and said he’d done the deed. This, however, is not the point. Unclassified or not, they don’t belong to him. Plus, the proper procedures and documentation to declassify documents were not done. This is truly an astounding moment in our republic.
Here’s a take on the Hewitt interview from Susan B. Glasser published in The New Yorker: “A Second Trump Term Would Be a Scary Rerun of the First. Remember those “Jurassic Park” velociraptors learning how to open the door?
On Thursday morning, Donald Trump did a phone interview with the radio host Hugh Hewitt, one of many conservative commentators who started out as harsh critics of Trump only to change their view of him once he came to power. Hewitt asked the former President, who was promoting a campaign rally this weekend for candidates he’s endorsed in Ohio, whether he feared being indicted by the Justice Department for bringing top-secret classified documents with him to Mar-a-Lago when he left office and refusing to return them.
Well, Trump responded, there was no reason for them to charge him, except “if they’re just sick and deranged, which is always possible.” When Hewitt helpfully reminded him that he had previously claimed to have verbally ordered all the documents at issue declassified, Trump agreed. “I have the absolute right to declassify,” the former President said. “Absolute.”
Then Hewitt asked the question that, nearly two years after Trump exited the White House, has, perhaps inevitably, come to dominate American politics since he became the first President in American history to refuse to accept his electoral defeat: “Will you run for President anyway, even if you’re indicted?”
Trump’s response left little doubt that the answer is yes, before he proceeded to issue the kind of threat that, had the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021—and all the rest—not happened, might have been dismissed as the idle but reckless bluster for which he has long been famous. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he said, of an indictment. Trump added, “I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.”
Once again, Hewitt tried to play cleanup. “You know that the legacy media will say that you’re attempting to incite violence with that statement,” the host warned the former President. Seemingly unconcerned, Trump blithely repeated the threat. “That’s not inciting,” he insisted. “I don’t think the people of this country would stand for it.”
This remarkable exchange says pretty much everything you need to know about Donald Trump in 2022: he wants to run again for President, and he has little apparent hesitation about calling forth a mob all over again if that’s what it takes. The past, in other words, is prologue. With Trump, it always is.
Follow the link to find out more about “Trump, the Sequel”. It ain’t entertainment. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses procedure for handling documents with Seth Meyers on “Late Night”. This HuffPo article has a link to the interview and some discussion and is written by Ron Dicker. “Hillary Clinton: Type Of Documents That Trump Had Are Often Handcuffed To An Officer. The former secretary of state detailed the strict protocol for the kind of classified material that Trump may have stashed at home”
Clinton told “Late Night” host Seth Meyers that when she read top-secret material, an officer “would come into my office and would have a handcuff that was attached to a suitcase in order to show me something that was so secret he literally had to have it tied to his hand.”
The officer would watch Clinton read it and sign that she had reviewed it, and then he would take it back, she recalled.
The idea that Trump reportedly squirreled away top-secret information on a foreign government’s nuclear capabilities and the like at a country club prompted Clinton to say: “I don’t care what political party you are. … This is a threat to our national security.”
Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Trump, harkened back to his supporters’ cries to “lock her up” for using a private email server to conduct government business. Clinton faced accusations that she was trying to conceal wrongdoing. (A State Department investigation of the emails determined in 2019 that “There was no persuasive evidence of systemic, deliberate mishandling of classified information,” The New York Times reported.)
“Unlike those guys, I’m not saying ‘lock him up,’” Clinton said of Trump and his supporters. “I’m saying let’s just find the facts and follow the evidence wherever it goes.”
That sounds a bit like what Columbo used to do. You goad the criminal long enough and everything unravels. This is especially true when the criminal is stupid and narcissistic. This is from The Atlantic and David Frum: “Biden Laid the Trap. Trump Walked Into It. At his Pennsylvania rally, the former president gave exactly the narcissistic display his Democratic nemesis tried to provoke.”
One of the purposes of Biden’s Philadelphia attack on Trump’s faction within the Republican Party was surely to goad Trump. It worked.
Yesterday, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Trump addressed a rally supposedly in support of Republican candidates in the state: Mehmet Oz for the Senate; the January 6 apologist Doug Mastriano for governor. This was not Trump’s first 2022 rally speech. He spoke in Arizona in July. But this one was different: so extreme, strident, and ugly—and so obviously provoked by Biden’s speech that this was what led local news: “Donald Trump Blasts Philadelphia, President Biden During Rally for Doug Mastriano, Dr. Oz in Wilkes-Barre.”
Yes, you read that right: Campaigning in Pennsylvania, the ex-president denounced the state’s largest city. “I think Philadelphia was a great choice to make this speech of hatred and anger. [Biden’s] speech was hatred and anger,” Trump declared last night. “Last year, the city set an all-time murder record with 560 homicides, and it’s on track to shatter that record again in 2022. Numbers that nobody’s ever seen other than in some other Democrat-run cities.”
Trump spoke at length about the FBI search of his house for stolen government documents. He lashed out at the FBI, attacking the bureau and the Department of Justice as “vicious monsters.” He complained about the FBI searching his closets for stolen government documents, inadvertently reminding everyone that the FBI had actually found stolen government documents in his closet—and in his bathroom too. Trump called Biden an “enemy of the state.” He abused his party’s leader in the U.S. Senate as someone who “should be ashamed.” He claimed to have won the popular vote in the state of Pennsylvania, which, in fact, he lost by more than 80,000 votes.
The rally format allowed time for only brief remarks by the two candidates actually on the ballot, Oz and Mastriano. Its message was otherwise all Trump, Trump, Trump. A Republican vote is a Trump vote. A Republican vote is a vote to endorse lies about the 2020 presidential election.
Remember Ron Popeil and his infomercials about his pocket Fisherman? He had a wonderful long life selling gadgets on TV and passed quietly last year. He sold his Ronco Co. for $55 million and lived to see Dan Aykroyd send him up on SNL. This is unlikely for Pillow Huckster Mike Lindell. The Pillow guy was served an FBI subpoena and had his phone grabbed. Now, like his mentor, the head huckster of the Trump Family syndicate, he’s suing the FBI and just about everybody. But wait, there’s more! He’s suing the United States of America! He’s retained, Alan Dershowitz!! This is from Steve Benen writing for Maddow Blog at MSNBC: “MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell claims FBI executed warrant, seized his phone. It’s tempting to dismiss Mike Lindell as a silly sideshow, but as the FBI seizes his phone, the Trump insider is facing a serious situation.”
It’s tempting to dismiss Mike Lindell as a silly sideshow. The MyPillow CEO has earned a reputation as a clownish figure in Donald Trump’s orbit, pushing strange conspiracy theories and making outlandish claims about the former president’s imminent reinstatement. In general, Lindell is more likely to generate eye-rolling than outrage.
But when it comes to the investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, there are serious questions about Lindell’s efforts that can’t be laughed off.
Indeed, let’s not forget that Trump welcomed the pillow guy into his political fold in the wake of Election Day 2020, and Lindell was seen at the White House after the Jan. 6 attack with a paper with the words “insurrection act” and “martial law if necessary” on it. When the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 subpoenaed Lindell’s records, no one was especially surprised.
As it turns out, congressional investigators aren’t the only ones interested in his perspective. The Associated Press reported overnight that Lindell claimed late yesterday that federal agents seized his cellphone.
Lindell was approached in the drive-thru of a Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in Mankato, Minnesota, by several FBI agents, he said on his podcast, “The Lindell Report.” The agents questioned him about Dominion Voting Systems, Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and his connection to Doug Frank, an Ohio educator who claims voting machines have been manipulated, he said. The agents then told Lindell they had a warrant to seize his cellphone and ordered him to turn it over, he said. On a video version of his podcast, Lindell displayed a letter signed by an assistant U.S. attorney in Colorado that said prosecutors were conducting an “official criminal investigation of a suspected felony” and noted the use of a federal grand jury.
Given the circumstances, I suppose some caution is in order. Lindell says all sorts of weird things, and as a rule, it’s best not to accept his assertions at face value.
That said, the FBI confirmed that it really did serve Lindell with a search warrant.
You really can’t make this up. But, sometimes, life unfolds like something you’d expect to see on a screen. Like how about a State Governor that rounds up a bunch of refugees in San Antonia, puts them on a chartered plane, stops in Miami to pick up some Fox News videographers, and dumps them, say in Martha’s Vineyard or downtown Chicago at night, or in front of the Vice President’s Home? Is this the new version of Beverly Hillbillies? And so old Ron, well he’s a millionaire, loaded up some migrants, and soon they’re in the air… Well, the saga continues on this one, and happily so for those that landed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boomer wrote yesterday about how the folks in the vineyards stepped up to make these folks feel better after the lies and trafficking.
This is from Charlie Sykes, writing for The Bulwark: “The Cruelty and the Crazy. Migrant airlifts and the Unabomber candidate.”
Sorry, but shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard is brilliant — a political masterstroke, an epic troll, and, above all hilarious.
You can tell because of the reaction on the right: a cascade of LOLS and triggering-the-libs-huzzahs as Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis stick it to the hypocritical Blue State elites. Donald Trump may have come down a golden escalator to denounce Mexican rapists, but these guys are actually putting them on buses and sending them to Chicago.
And, sending a busload of migrants to Vice President’s Kamala Harris’s residence is … I’m sorry, but right-wing Twitter needs to catch its breath, it’s laughing so hard. Delaware — Joe Biden’s home state — is next!
Even the respectable cons at Commentary think it’s a “political coup.” Anti-Trump conservative Matt Lewis has also come around. “Blue states are finally getting a taste of what red border states have to deal with every day.”
In DeSantis’s case, he’s using Florida tax dollars to fly Venezuelan refugees fleeing communism from Texas to Massachusetts (which has a Republican governor). But don’t get hung up on the details, because this is priceless political theater that supremely owns the libs, whose tears are the sweet, sweet aphrodisiac for the base.
The cruelty is, of course, simply a bonus. And the “narrative” is more important than cuckish concerns about… morality.
Let’s stipulate of couple of things. First: there is a real problem at the border, and there’s a legitimate debate over how migrants should be handled and who should share the burden.
Abbott and DeSantis have every right to raise questions about border policies; they can make speeches, hold press conferences, run ads, raise money off anti-immigrant outrage, and even stage political events to highlight their positions.
And there is nothing inherently awful about political stunts, especially in our media-besotted political environment.
But this one is different, because they chose to use people — including vulnerable children — as their pawns and props.
The Venezuelan immigrants sent by DeSantis are on their way to the Cape today to be handled the way immigrant families should be handled. They will be temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod before being relocated to places where they can apply for asylum and start anew. This is from The Washington Post: “Migrants sent by Gov. DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard depart for Cape Cod. They will be temporarily housed at Joint Base Cape Cod, according to Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker.” The weird thing about this one is that the Mass Governor is one of what’s left of old-timey Republicans.
On Friday morning, the dozens of migrants who landed on Martha’s Vineyard this week filed out of the church they’d been sleeping in for two nights to hugs from the local volunteers.
They now had full bags and new cellphones. As they boarded the three white buses that would take them to the ferry, many cried. Eliomar Aguero, 30, put up a peace sign, smiling and thanking the dozens of volunteers waving him on. “Thank you all,” Aguero said in Spanish.
Soon, he and his wife, Maria, would board a ferry. Massachusetts authorities announced Friday that the 50 migrants would be moved from Martha’s Vineyard to a military base in Cape Cod so they can find shelter and chart next steps. The move is voluntary for the migrants, the state said.
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said the migrants will be offered “shelter and humanitarian supports” in dormitory-style rooms at Joint Base Cape Cod in Bourne. State and local officials will also ensure migrants have food, shelter and other services. Baker said he plans to activate up to 125 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to aid in the relief effort.
Hopefully, they will soon say, “There’s no place like home.” If there is anything like karma, justice, or whatever, someone will soon drop a house on Ron Desantis and throw a bucket of water on Greg Abbot.
Well, that’s it for me today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
“Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it” Willy Wonka
Good Day Sky Dancers!
There’s actually a lot of good news today! Above all, there is excellent news from the Ukrainian front that Russia is being driven back. There are even calls now for Putin to step down! I’ll get to that in a moment, but I couldn’t resist putting this headline from The Times of London first. I love the “snub for Trump” in the lede. So much for Trump’s lie about a secret knighthood. They weren’t expecting President Biden, so now there’s a scramble to prepare for his visit..
I’m going to post Ukrainian art today from the various museums. We know that the Russians targeted all types of cultural locations and that many folk art items were lost in the bombings. It will likely be a while before we discover which great works remain.
Слава Україні! (Romanized: Sláva Ukrayíni!)
I hope this is embarrassing for Trump, who was the ultimate clod during his visit with the late Queen Elizabeth.
Westminster Abbey is expected to be so full that only one representative from each country can attend, although they can be joined by a partner.
Questions have been asked in the US over whether Donald Trump will be invited but British sources have scotched the idea that he could accompany the US delegation and said there would not be space for Biden’s predecessors. Dwight Eisenhower, then the former president, attended Churchill’s funeral a private capacity.
A reception for overseas leaders will take place at Buckingham Place on the eve of the service, but no meetings will be allowed because of the strain on security teams, according to the Foreign Office
One more thing about Trump, and I’ll celebrate the victories of Ukraine. This is from CNN, which I’m probably going to quit quoting because the news channel is becoming an unreliable source soon due to changes in Top Management. “Exclusive: ‘I’m just not going to leave’: New book reveals Trump vowed to stay in White House.” This is about Maggie Haberman’s new tell-all, as reported by Jeremy Herb.
Former President Donald Trump repeatedly told aides in the days following his 2020 election loss that he would remain in the White House rather than let incoming President Joe Biden take over, according to reporting provided to CNN from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
“I’m just not going to leave,” Trump told one aide, according to Haberman.
“We’re never leaving,” Trump told another. “How can you leave when you won an election?”
Trump’s insistence that he would not be leaving the White House, which has not been previously reported, adds new detail to the chaotic post-election period in which Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat and numerous efforts to overturn the election result led to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by pro-Trump rioters.
The man is so narcissistic he’s delusional. Let’s switch topics now!
Today’s New York Times has this headline: “Russia’s Retreat in Ukraine Pokes Holes in Putin’s Projection of Force. Russia’s military setbacks may be weakening President Vladimir V. Putin’s reputation at home as a savvy geopolitical strategist.” Ah, tales of yet another delusional narcissist.
Ukraine’s rout of Russian forces this weekend is creating a new kind of political challenge for President Vladimir V. Putin: It undercuts the image of competence and might that he has worked for two decades to build.
On Sunday, the Russian military continued to retreat from positions in northeastern Ukraine that it had occupied for months. State television news reports referred to the retreat as a carefully planned “regrouping operation,” praising the heroism and professionalism of Russian troops.
But the upbeat message did little to dampen the anger among supporters of the war over the retreat and the Kremlin’s handling of it. And it hardly obscured the bind that Mr. Putin now finds himself in, presiding over a six-month war against an increasingly energized enemy and a Russian populace that does not appear to be prepared for the sacrifices that could come with an escalating conflict.
“Strength is the only source of Putin’s legitimacy,” Abbas Gallyamov, a former speechwriter for Mr. Putin who is now a political consultant living in Israel, said in a phone interview. “And in a situation in which it turns out that he has no strength, his legitimacy will start dropping toward zero.”
Putin is now facing internal dissent. This is something that would be unimaginable before the Invasion of Ukraine. From The Hill link above: “Russian municipal deputies call for Putin’s resignation.”
More than 30 Russian municipal deputies have signed a petition calling for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s resignation.
The petition, posted by Xenia Torstrem, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s Semyonovsky District, was originally signed by 19 officials.
“We, the municipal deputies of Russia, believe that the actions of President Vladimir Putin harm the future of Russia and its citizens,” a translation of the petition reads. “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of President of the Russian Federation!”
The petition comes as the Ukrainian military pursues a counteroffensive, quickly reclaiming territory and pushing Russian troops back to the northeastern border in some places.
The push’s initial gains have provoked some criticisms of Putin inside the country, a rare rebuke of Russia’s longtime leader who over the years has sought to stifle opposition.
In the end, the Russians fled any way they could on Friday, on stolen bicycles, disguised as locals. Hours after Ukrainian soldiers poured into the area, hundreds of Russian soldiers encamped in this village were gone, many after their units abandoned them, leaving behind stunned residents to face the ruins of 28 weeks of occupation.
“They just dropped rifles on the ground,” Olena Matvienko said Sunday as she stood, still disoriented, in a village littered with ammo crates and torched vehicles, including a Russian tank loaded on a flatbed. The first investigators from Kharkiv had just pulled in to collect the bodies of civilians shot by Russians, some that have been lying exposed for months.
“I can’t believe that we went through something like this in the 21st century,” Matvienko said, tears welling.
While the Ukrainians struggle to hold on to their democracy, we appear to have about 1/3 of the population that are “democracy deniers.” This is according to a poll by Axios. The results are stomach-churning. Axios refers to this poll as the Two Americas Index.
About one in three Americans prefers strong unelected leaders to weak elected leaders and says presidents should be able to remove judges over their decisions, according to the latest findings from our Axios-Ipsos Two Americas Index.
Why it matters: The findings from this poll shatter the myth that Americans overwhelmingly agree on a common set of democratic values around checks and balances on elected leaders, protection of minority rights and freedom of speech.
- They’re also a reality check against President Biden’s speech that portrayed threats to democracy as solely driven by Republican supporters of former President Trump who refuse to accept that he lost the 2020 election.
What we’re watching: In this poll, significant minorities of Republicans and Democrats supported non-democratic norms in about equal percentages — and Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say presidents should be able to remove judges when their decisions go against the national interest.
- Many Americans also believe the government should follow the will of the majority even at the expense of ethnic and religious minority groups’ civil rights.
- And roughly a third said the federal government should be able to prosecute members of the news media who make offensive or unpatriotic statements.
- Respondents younger than 35 or with household incomes below $75,000 a year were more likely to favor strong unelected leaders and to support prosecuting the media or empowering presidents to remove judges.
The big picture: If you’re looking for good news in this poll, it is primarily that the people who embrace the anti-democratic views are still in the minority.
- But the findings are a reminder that for all of the attention and congressional hearings around the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, anti-democratic views take many forms.
What they’re saying: “There’s a lot of anti-democratic sentiment, a lot more than we might have expected,” said Justin Gest, an associate professor at George Mason University who studies the politics of demographic change and advises the project.
The survey’s questions pose “hard tests” for society, Gest said — tradeoffs between “what’s expedient and best for the individual, and what actually sustains the integrity of our political institutions.”
Values like minority rights, separation of church and state and freedom of the press are “key foundations” of democracy but “they’re far from being fully supported by Americans,” Gest said. “These are things you’d think would be universal.”
You may read more analysis at the link.
One last bit of Trump weirdness. Yesterday, Trump was seen deplaning from a private plane in Washington, D.C.” The guessing game as to why he was there is on.
Have a great week! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?