Posted: May 19, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: coronavirus, Covid-19, Democracy in peril, Donald Trump, election deniers, fascism, food shortages, Idaho, midterm elections 2022, Ukraine war
Rainy Day Boston, Frederick Childe Hassam
Here’s what I see as the major topics in the news today: world events stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine; the ongoing Trumpist attack on U.S. democracy; and the new wave of Covid-19 cases.
Outgrowths of Ukraine War
Fascism and totalitarianism expert Timothy Snyder at The New York Times: We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist.
Fascism was never defeated as an idea.
As a cult of irrationality and violence, it could not be vanquished as an argument: So long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated. Now it’s back — and this time, the country fighting a fascist war of destruction is Russia. Should Russia win, fascists around the world will be comforted.
We err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust. Fascism was Italian in origin, popular in Romania — where fascists were Orthodox Christians who dreamed of cleansing violence — and had adherents throughout Europe (and America). In all its varieties, it was about the triumph of will over reason.
Because of that, it’s impossible to define satisfactorily. People disagree, often vehemently, over what constitutes fascism. But today’s Russia meets most of the criteria that scholars tend to apply. It has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin. It has a cult of the dead, organized around World War II. It has a myth of a past golden age of imperial greatness, to be restored by a war of healing violence — the murderous war on Ukraine.
You’ll need to read the whole essay to get the full impact of Snyder’s argument, but here’s a bit more:
We understand more about fascism than we did in the 1930s. We now know where it led. We should recognize fascism, because then we know what we are dealing with. But to recognize it is not to undo it. Fascism is not a debating position, but a cult of will that emanates fiction. It is about the mystique of a man who heals the world with violence, and it will be sustained by propaganda right to the end. It can be undone only by demonstrations of the leader’s weakness. The fascist leader has to be defeated, which means that those who oppose fascism have to do what is necessary to defeat him. Only then do the myths come crashing down.
Paris Street in the rain, by Gustave Caillebotte
As in the 1930s, democracy is in retreat around the world and fascists have moved to make war on their neighbors. If Russia wins in Ukraine, it won’t be just the destruction of a democracy by force, though that is bad enough. It will be a demoralization for democracies everywhere. Even before the war, Russia’s friends — Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orban, Tucker Carlson — were the enemies of democracy. Fascist battlefield victories would confirm that might makes right, that reason is for the losers, that democracies must fail.
Had Ukraine not resisted, this would have been a dark spring for democrats around the world. If Ukraine does not win, we can expect decades of darkness.
The Economist: The coming food catastrophe. War is tipping a fragile world towards mass hunger. Fixing that is everyone’s business.
By invading Ukraine, Vladimir Putin will destroy the lives of people far from the battlefield—and on a scale even he may regret. The war is battering a global food system weakened by covid-19, climate change and an energy shock. Ukraine’s exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly stopped and Russia’s are threatened. Together, the two countries supply 12% of traded calories. Wheat prices, up 53% since the start of the year, jumped a further 6% on May 16th, after India said it would suspend exports because of an alarming heatwave.
The widely accepted idea of a cost-of-living crisis does not begin to capture the gravity of what may lie ahead. António Guterres, the un secretary general, warned on May 18th that the coming months threaten “the spectre of a global food shortage” that could last for years. The high cost of staple foods has already raised the number of people who cannot be sure of getting enough to eat by 440m, to 1.6bn. Nearly 250m are on the brink of famine. If, as is likely, the war drags on and supplies from Russia and Ukraine are limited, hundreds of millions more people could fall into poverty. Political unrest will spread, children will be stunted and people will starve.
Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.
Landscape with rain, Wassily Kandinsky
Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.
Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.
The Trumpist Attack on U.S. Democracy
This is from The Washington Post news analysis by Leigh Ann Caldwell, Theodoric Meyer: Trump uses Pa. primary to continue effort to undermine electoral system.
Donald Trump‘s continued effort to discredit or manipulate the electoral process is playing out in two distinct but related ways in the wake of Tuesday’s primary contests in Pennsylvania.
First, he is casting doubt on the result of the Senate GOP primary by once again making baseless claims that mail-in ballots are causing problems and suggesting his preferred candidate, Mehmet Oz, should just declare victory.
“It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find,’” Trump said, providing no evidence, on his social media platform Truth Social, our colleague Colby Itkowitz reports.
Second, the nominee he backed for governor, Doug Mastriano, won the primary and if he wins the election in November, Mastriano would have considerable influence over how the state’s presidential election results are handled in 2024 when Trump may be on the ballot as our colleague’s Rosalind S. Helderman, Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey explain.
Mastriano has been one of the staunchest backers of Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election and the steps he wanted officials to take to deny Joe Biden victory.
Rain swept street, by Mike Barr
“As governor, Mastriano would have the opportunity not just to speak, but to act,” Roz, Isaac and Josh write. A possibility that is “worrying experts already fearful of a democratic breakdown around the 2024 presidential contest.”
“Those concerns are made especially acute in Pennsylvania by the fact that the governor has the unusual authority to directly appoint the secretary of state, who serves as chief elections officer and must sign off on results. If he or she refuses, chaos could follow.”
Read more at the WaPo link.
Reid Epstein at The New York Times: Midterm Stakes Grow Clearer: Election Deniers Will Be on Many Ballots.
Republican voters in this week’s primary races demonstrated a willingness to nominate candidates who parrot Donald J. Trump’s election lies and who appear intent on exerting extraordinary political control over voting systems. The results make clear that the November midterms may well affect the fate of free and fair elections in the country.
In Pennsylvania, Republican voters united behind a nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot, and who has since promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden’s victory in his state.
In North Carolina, voters chose a G.O.P. Senate nominee, Representative Ted Budd, who voted in Congress against certifying the 2020 results and who continues to refuse to say that Mr. Biden was legitimately elected.
And in Idaho, which Mr. Trump won overwhelmingly in 2020, 57 percent of voters backed two Republican candidates for secretary of state who pushed election falsehoods, though they lost a three-way race to a rival who accepts Mr. Biden as president.
The strong showings on Tuesday by election deniers, who have counterparts running competitively in primaries across the country over the coming months, were an early signal of the threat posed by the Trump-inspired movement.
This story about what’s happening in Idaho was published before yesterday’s primaries, but it’s still an important read. Christopher Mathias at HuffPo: Living With The Far-Right Insurgency In Idaho.
IDAHO — White nationalist Vincent James Foxx had a new video for his nearly 70,000 subscribers on BitChute, one of the few tech platforms that hasn’t banned him. On Feb. 16, he appeared wearing a baseball hat emblazoned with the state’s outline tilted on its side so that it resembled a pistol.
“We are going to take over this state,” Foxx declared. “We have a great large group of people, and that group is growing. A true, actual right-wing takeover is happening right now in the state of Idaho. And there’s nothing that these people can do about it. So if you’re a legislator here, either get in line, or get out of the way.”
Foxx, 36, isn’t from Idaho. He only recently moved from California to Post Falls. But in the video, he showed off photos of himself posing with a string of prominent Republican politicians in the state as he explained who he’s supporting in the upcoming primaries, slated for May 17.
Gregory Thielker,, Rainy Day in Washington, DC
He was especially excited about a selfie he’d taken a week prior: It showed him and fellow white nationalist Dave Reilly, a recent Pennsylvania transplant also living in Post Falls, standing alongside Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin. All three were smiling.
“We’re supporting her,” Foxx said, bragging of his movement’s “deep connections” to McGeachin, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed in the GOP primary race for governor. Foxx then explained how his particular brand of Christian white nationalism is poised to conquer Idaho, then the country.
“The solution is local politics: Amassing power in these pockets of the country until it’s time to unify,” he said. “I’ve only been here for a couple of months and I’m tapped in the way that I am. You can do it too.”
Fascists like Foxx are famous fabulists, experts at exaggerating their influence and success. But Foxx wasn’t just talking shit.
He is one of many far-right activists who have flocked to Idaho in recent years, where a large and growing radical MAGA faction in the state’s Republican Party has openly allied itself with extremists to a shocking extent, even for the Trump era. This faction is accruing more and more power in Boise, the state capital: Imagine a statehouse full of Marjorie Taylor Greenes and Steve Kings. At the local level, they have seized seats on school boards and county commissions at a fast clip.
Please read the rest. This could easily happening in other small states.
New Covid Wave
The Washington Post: Top Biden health officials sound warning on rising covid infections.
Top Biden administration officials warned Wednesday that one-third of Americans live in communities experiencing rising levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations and urged them to resume taking personal protection measures, including wearing masks.
The increase in new infections — nearing 100,000 a day — comes as the nation heads into Memorial Day weekend with its large gatherings and travel. That case count is almost certainly an undercount, officials said, given the widespread use of at-home tests for which results are often not reported to health officials.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strongly encouraged those living in communities designated yellow or orange, indicating they have large numbers of new infections and hospitalizations, to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and taking other steps to protect themselves.
“As we’re currently seeing a steady rise of cases in parts of the country, we encourage everyone to use the menu of tools we have today to prevent further infection and severe disease, including wearing a mask, getting tested, accessing treatments early if infected and getting vaccinated or boosted,”she said.
Wednesday’s warnings from Walensky and two other officials — Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus coordinator, and Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser — came on the same day the United States surpassed the grim milestone of 1 million covid-19 deaths, a toll that even the starkest predictions at the start of the pandemic in 2020 did not anticipate.
In the Rain, Franz Marc
Also from The Washington Post: How big is the latest U.S. coronavirus wave? No one really knows.
Experts say Americans can assume that infections in their communities are five to 10 times the official counts.
“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state or national level is a severe undercount,” said Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, housed at theRockefeller Foundation. “Everyone knows someone getting covid now.”
Hospitalizations nationally have increased 57 percent since bottoming out six weeks ago. But the roughly 23,000 covid patients in hospitals over the last week still represent nearly the lowest hospitalization levels of the entire pandemic.The recentincrease is led by the Northeast, where hospitalization rates are almost twice as high as in any other region.
Reported cases of covid have also tripled in the Northeast in just over a month, driving much of the growth nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The country has averaged about 100,000 new cases each day over the past week —more than three times as high as at the lowest point in March.
The latest uptick in infections is testing a new CDC alert system adopted by many local and state governments that categorizes community levels of covid-19 as “low” even with the number of new cases rising to a level once considered high.
More than two-thirds of Americans live in low-risk areas under these metrics. But 43 percent of residents in the Northeastlive in areas considered high-risk, compared with 9percent in the Midwest and less than 1 percent each in the South and West.
I recommend clicking the link and reading the entire article.
Morning on the Seine in the rain, Claude Monet
CNBC: U.S. faces unnecessary Covid deaths if Congress fails to pass funding bill, top health official warns.
Top U.S. health officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for Congress to pass funding for the nation’s fight against Covid-19, warning that failure to act now would result in an unnecessary loss of life in the fall and winter.
Their warning comes as new infections and hospitalizations are on the rise as the more transmissible omicron subvariants sweep the U.S.
The nation is reporting more than 94,000 new infections daily on average as of Monday, a 25% increase over the previous week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, hospitalizations have increased 18% over the past week with about 3,000 people admitted with Covid every day on average, according to CDC data.
Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House Covid response coordinator, said the fact that many people are now taking at-home tests, results of which are not captured in the data, has to be taken into consideration.
“We know that the number of infections is actually substantially higher than that, hard to know exactly how many, but we know that a lot of people are getting diagnosed using home tests,” Jha said during a White House update on the pandemic Wednesday. “We’re clearly undercounting cases. There’s a lot of infections across America.”
Those are today’s top stories as I see it. What do you think? What stories are you following?
Posted: January 15, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Donald Trump, fascism, FBI, January 6, Merrick Garland, snowstorm, Tonga, tsunami, volcano eruption, winter weather
By German cartoonist Rudi Herzlmeier
The temperature here in the Boston area was 1 degree this morning. We had wind chill temperatures around -20 overnight and today will see -11 wind chills. Winter weather this year has been weird everywhere. For the past couple of weeks here, we have been alternating between freezing cold and unseasonably warm days.
Today a massive winter storm is moving from the upper Midwest into the South. Eventually the storm will move up the coast and into New England as a “southeaster.” So far it looks like my area will miss the heavy snow. I hope that prediction holds! I feel for those of you who live down south.
CNN: Where to expect snow in the days ahead as a massive storm system moves south.
A massive storm system that’s dumping several inches of snow on the central US is expected to move toward the southeast Saturday, prompting the governors of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to declare states of emergency ahead of a crippling ice and snow event.
More than 65 million people in the affected areas are under winter weather alerts, the National Weather Service said.
“A strong developing storm over the Lower Mississippi Valley will move eastward to the Southeast by Sunday morning, then head northeastward to the northern mid-Atlantic by Monday,” the National Weather Service Prediction Center said early Saturday.
Rain, snow, sleet, and freezing rain — or a combination of all of those — will make travel difficult over the three-day holiday weekend across the Eastern US.
A swath of 8 to 12 inches of snow was recorded across portions of North Dakota on Friday.
From there, the system dove deeper south, heading into Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas where it delivered rain and snowfall.
“How fast surface temperatures fall below freezing, and therefore, how fast rain changes to snow will play a big role in determining just how much snow accumulates,” said the NWS office in Topeka, Kansas.
Throughout Saturday the storm system will bring heavy bands of snowfall to the Mid-South and Tennessee Valley.
Localized areas of Tennessee could see snow totals exceeding 6 inches as the storm continues its eastward track toward the Southern Appalachians.
There’s lots more winter weather news to read at that CNN link.
By Rudi Herzlmeier
Out on the West Coast, there’s another type of natural disaster warning. The New York Times: Tsunami Reported in Tonga After an Underwater Volcano Eruption.
A four-foot tsunami wave was reported to have hit Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, on Saturday, sending people rushing to higher ground. Witnesses said ash had fallen from the sky, after an underwater volcano erupted earlier near the remote Pacific nation.
The volcano, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai, is about 40 miles north of the Pacific archipelago’s main island, Tongatapu.
The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia reported the tsunami on Twitter. But communication with Tonga was disrupted, according to The Associated Press, so there were no immediate official reports of injuries or the extent of the damage.
The Tonga Meteorological Service issued a tsunami warning for the archipelago on Saturday evening. On their Facebook pages, the meteorological services for nearby Fiji and Samoa also issued alerts, advising people to stay away from low-lying coastal areas.
The National Tsunami WarninI g Center in the United States issued a tsunami advisory for the West Coast on Saturday morning Pacific time, including the Washington and Oregon coast, with the National Weather Service in Portland reporting possible one- to three-foot waves in Newport, Ore., Long Beach, Wash., and Seaside, Ore. “First wave may not be the highest,” and later waves may “be larger,” the tweet said.
I think I’d rather have a snowstorm.
Unfortunately, I guess I’ll have to get to the politics news now. I want to recommend three long reads and then I’ll list some links to other interesting stories.
First a piece by Yale philosophy professor and fascism expert Jason Stanley at The Guardian, published last month: America is now in fascism’s legal phase.
Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”
So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.
Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.
Cats out for a walk, Rudi Hurzlmeier
Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.
The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.
Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.
Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.
Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.
The article is very long, but well worth reading. Remember, Hitler got many of his ideas from the Jim Crow South.
Here’s another long read by Jason Palidino at a new on-line news site, Grid: Why didn’t the FBI see the Capitol siege coming?
In the lead-up to the Capitol siege, the FBI received at least a dozen warnings about the possibility of violence that day (see timeline below.) When the day came and the Capitol barricades fell, it became evident the FBI largely ignored them all.
The warnings came from all sides: regional law enforcement, social media platforms, Congress (specifically the House and Senate intelligence committees), a top defense official, extremist watchdogs, right-wing experts, journalists and even three different components within the FBI itself.
By Rudi Herzlmeier
Grid reviewed every public statement FBI officials made about the bureau’s intelligence leading up to the siege to understand how the FBI explained its posture on Jan. 6. We read hundreds of pages of FBI briefings and press statements, FBI officials’ testimony before Congress and public comments in news reports.
We found that the FBI has given at least five different explanations for why it failed to heed these warnings and take steps to foil the Capitol attack or help other agencies prepare a sufficient response. Some of them support arguments the FBI should get more money and legal authorities. But given what we now know, none of them holds up.
“They’re following the same blueprint as 9/11,” said Mike German, a former undercover FBI agent and author of “Disrupt, Discredit and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy.” He is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. “First they say, ‘We had no intelligence,’ then say, ‘Our authorities prevented us from getting the intelligence,’ which is not true.”
The institutional lack of introspection, while unsurprising, is deeply worrisome, German and others agree. The threat of political violence — particularly from the right, and targeting democratic institutions and political leaders — is higher than at any point in modern history. Many key indicators point in one direction: Extremist violence is reportedly surging, and threats against election officials and members of Congress are increasing. The threat of lethality from domestic violent extremist groups “is higher than it ever was,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told Congress last May.
If the FBI remains blinkered to the most serious and likely threats, Jan. 6 might not be its last major failure. American democracy has largely survived the violence of Jan. 6, and the Department of Justice has undertaken a historic effort to investigate, indict and prosecute hundreds of participants — who might never have stormed the Capitol in the first place if the FBI had heeded clear warnings and taken proper steps to prevent the attack.
Palidino goes on to refute the five main excuses the FBI has given for it’s failure to respond to the many warnings they received before January 6. It appears that the bureau is still focusing more on left wing protestors than on right wing violence, despite the public claims of director Chris Wray.
The final long read is by Jennifer Taub at The Washington Monthly: Merrick Garland’s Trump Problem—and Ours.
Timing is everything. When it comes to free and fair elections and ensuring that Donald Trump and fellow authoritarians do not pull off a successful coup, we are nearly out of time. At least 19 states have added laws that make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, and 49 state legislatures are considering voting restrictions, including, most ominously, measures that would take election management out of the hands of secretaries of state and hand it over to GOP-controlled legislatures. We have until November 8to fix this.
Espresso by rudi Hurzlmeier
The prosecution of the former president is on a slower timeline. This includes not only the criminal investigations being pursued in Georgia by the Fulton County district attorney, and in New York by the state attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney, but also any investigations emanating from the U.S. Department of Justice. But that’s okay; Merrick Garland is no longer the problem or the solution.
I came to this conclusion after Attorney General Garland delivered a much-hyped speech commemorating the anniversary of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. After considering his words, I opened a calendar and did the math. We’ll get to that math in a moment. But first, let’s be clear about what Garland did and didn’t promise.
After watching his talk and then reading the prepared remarks published on the DOJ website, I have this take: I fully trust Garland to prosecute Trump in connection with the events directly leading up to and surrounding the certification of the electoral vote on January 6. But I’m less sure how much Trump mischief that will include.
Why do I believe DOJ is currently investigating the former president? Some doubt it. There have been no leaks to the press. By comparison, the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol has been less circumspect. Committee members, including Republican Representative Liz Cheney, have made it clear that they are examining Trump’s legal culpability on a number of grounds. Garland will have access to whatever the committee uncovers, including the report they plan to issue as early as this summer. And if the panel, chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson, makes criminal referrals to DOJ, committee staff will turn over the evidence they have gathered.
In such a referral, the committee might reference several statutes that DOJ can use to prosecute the former president and others, including obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy, and seditious conspiracy. They might also use the wire fraud statute to charge those who raised funds off the Big Lie.
Read the rest at The Washington Monthly link.
More stories to check out:
Yahoo News: Fake electoral documents under new scrutiny as Trump prepares for Arizona visit.
CNN: Oath Keepers leader spewed anti-government hate for more than a decade. Alex Jones gave him the audience.
Emptywheel: The Structure of the January 6 Assault: “I Will Settle With Seeing [Normies] Smash Some Pigs To Dust.
Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Kevin McCarthy’s coverup for Trump may be hiding knowledge of possible crimes.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: The conservative knives come out for Brett Kavanaugh.
The New York Times: Census Memo Cites ‘Unprecedented’ Meddling by Trump Administration.
What’s on your mind today? What stories are you following?
Posted: November 9, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: anti-semitism, Donald Trump, extremist threats and violence, fascism, Fred Upton, harassment of election officials, January 6 insurrection, Kristallnacht, Nazi Germany, Paul Gosar, Racism
Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht.
John Farmer at The Jerusalem Post: Kristallnacht and today’s extremist violence – opinion.
Synagogues, shops, homes were vandalized and burned in the thousands. Over ninety Jews were murdered, countless others beaten. Some 20,000 Jews were seized and sent to the concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen. Several hundred died at the hands of the guards.
It may have appeared a spontaneous, chaotic, unplanned riot. In the smokescreen of chaos and violence, it was easy to miss the careful underlying planning.
Earlier that day, orders were issued to the German Police and Fire Brigades by Reinhard Heidrich that spelled out in specific detail the rules of engagement. No violent acts could be carried out that threatened German lives or property; stores and residences of Jews could be “destroyed but not looted”; non-Jewish businesses were to be “completely secured against damage”; demonstrations “which are in progress should not be prevented by the police but only supervised.” In Frankfurt, the commander of the 50th brigade passed on the order, noting that “all the Jewish synagogues within the 50th Brigade are to be blown up or set on fire immediately. Neighboring houses occupied by Aryans are not to be damaged. The action is to be carried out in civilian clothes.”
Kristallnacht’s significance as an inflection point in the campaign to destroy the Jewish population is undeniable. As David Frum has put it, “Through the end of 1937, it remained possible to hope that the Nazi persecution might still respect some last limits of humanity. …” On Kristallnacht, “the last of those illusions was smashed like broken glass.”
But Kristallnacht is significant also for the template it set forth for organizing seemingly spontaneous extremist violence. First, subject a population to unremitting sole-source propaganda for a period of time to lay a groundwork of popular belief. Second, summon that population to demonstrate its grievances. Third, enlist a relatively few trained participants to blend in with the demonstrators and incite specific acts of violence. Fourth, claim after the fact that the whole thing was an expression of spontaneous outrage.
We now know that the January 6 insurrection was not spontaneous either. Trump and his goons were planning for months to claim the 2020 election was rigged and to overturn the result if Joe Biden won. If it hadn’t been for a few Republican officials who resisted Trump’s high-pressure tactics in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, the coup might have been successful. Next time there could be a different result.
We must always be mindful that January 6 was only the beginning of the Trumpist attacks on U.S. democracy. Since Trump began running for president we’ve seen an escalation of anti-Semitism, racism, and anti-immigrant extremism as Trump gave permission for his followers to act out their prejudices. We are still in great danger of losing our democracy.
More from the Farmer article:
A report from June 2020 entitled “COVID-19, Conspiracy, and Contagious Sedition: A Case Study on the Militia-Sphere,” noted that “[t]he Militia-sphere’s messaging has grown increasingly extreme as the pandemic lockdowns have continued, promoting theories that the pandemic is being exaggerated to justify a police state; exploiting recent protests regarding the George Floyd incident, and transforming peaceful protests into violent chaos.” The report also noted “how the largest online conspiracy group in the U.S., QAnon, exploits the opportunity presented by these events to draw populist support for increasingly violent and apocalyptic confrontations against the lockdown, law enforcement, and an ill-defined ‘elite.’”
These trends culminated in the events of January 6, 2021 at the nation’s Capitol. The groundwork of propaganda having been laid for months, both before the election and after, and the masses having been summoned to Washington to protest the election of President Biden, the appearance of a spontaneous groundswell of outrage was well established. But as the Miller Center/NCRI’s “Assessment of the Capitol Riots” made clear, the violence associated with the protest was anything but spontaneous: “Explicit plans to `Occupy the Capitol’ were circulating across social media suggesting that the Capitol building was an explicit target of the violent vanguard from the beginning.”
I still can’t get over that Bulwark article that Dakinikat posted yesterday: Notes on an Authoritarian Conspiracy: Inside the Claremont Institute’s “79 Days to Inauguration” Report. If you haven’t read the whole piece yet, I hope you will do it now. These people were literally gaming out a coup to keep Trump in office. You can also check out this summary at The Daily Beast: Claremont Institute’s MAGA Fanfic Report Predicted Antifa Riots to Stop a Trump ‘Win’ in 2020. The final two paragraphs:
While the scenario is extremely ridiculous at points, The Bulwark notes that several of its authors, particularly Eastman, had Trump’s ear following his election defeat—so the report also serves as a chilling alternative history as to how things could have played out under different circumstances.
As reporter Christian Vanderbrouk notes in the Bulwark article: “Practically, the report is an instruction manual for how Trump partisans at all levels of government—aided by citizen ‘posses’ of Proud Boys and Oath Keepers—could, quite literally, round up opposition activists, kill their leaders, and install Donald Trump for a second term in office.”
One of the authors of the report was John Eastman, the so-called lawyer who wrote the memo outlining how Mike Pence could overturn the electoral college results.
This is how much Republican violence and hate have been normalized: Yesterday a member of Congress threatened a colleague and the president with a violent video, and so far nothing has happened to him.
The Washington Post: Rep. Paul Gosar tweets altered anime video showing him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.
Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) shared an altered, animated video that depicts him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden, prompting condemnation and calls for his Twitter and Instagram accounts to be suspended.
Ocasio-Cortez responded Monday night after arriving in Glasgow, Scotland, as part of a congressional delegation. Gosar, she said, will probably “face no consequences” because House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) “cheers him on with excuses.”
A Gosar staffer defended the video Monday night, dismissing claims that it glorifies violence.
“Everyone needs to relax,” Gosar’s digital director, Jessica Lycos, said in a statement.
A Twitter spokesperson said late Monday that a “public interest notice” had been placed on Gosar’s tweet because it violates the company’s policy against hateful conduct.
Gosar has long drawn criticism for his extremist views, including his spreading of conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob and the deadly white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville in 2017. In February, he appeared at an event whose organizer called for white supremacy. Gosar later distanced himself from the organizer’s remarks.
The congressman’s Sunday night post — which he shared on Twitter and Instagram — appeared to go further than his previous contentious remarks and social media posts, raising the specter of political violence in a manner similar to former president Donald Trump’s frequent allusions to armed revolution.
Read much more about this horrible situation at the WaPo. This is the atmosphere we are living in today, thanks to Trump’s influence on the Republican Party.
Trump’s followers are even attacking Republicans who fail to follow the party line in every instance. CNN: Republican congressman details threatening voicemail he received after voting for bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Republican Rep. Fred Upton on Monday shared a threatening voicemail he had received after voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week.
In the voicemail, which Upton played during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360,” a caller told the Michigan Republican: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f**king family dies,” while labeling him a “f**king piece of sh*t traitor.”
Upton was one of just 13 House Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill after hours of delays and debating among Democrats. The legislation, which passed the Senate in August, will deliver $550 billion in new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, including roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways.
Following the Friday vote, Upton tweeted in part, “I regret that this good, bipartisan bill became a political football in recent weeks. Our country can’t afford this partisan dysfunction any longer.” [….]
Upton’s office said the voicemail was not an isolated incident. The calls came after GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted the phone numbers of those who had voted for the bill and later called them traitors.
Reuters unmasks Trump supporters who terrified U.S. election officials.
In Arizona, a stay-at-home dad and part-time Lyft driver told the state’s chief election officer she would hang for treason. In Utah, a youth treatment center staffer warned Colorado’s election chief that he knew where she lived and watched her as she slept.
In Vermont, a man who says he works in construction told workers at the state election office and at Dominion Voting Systems that they were about to die.
“This might be a good time to put a f‑‑‑‑‑‑ pistol in your f‑‑‑‑‑‑ mouth and pull the trigger,” the man shouted at Vermont officials in a thick New England accent last December. “Your days are f‑‑‑‑‑‑ numbered.”
The three had much in common. All described themselves as patriots fighting a conspiracy that robbed Donald Trump of the 2020 election. They are regular consumers of far-right websites that embrace Trump’s stolen-election falsehoods. And none have been charged with a crime by the law enforcement agencies alerted to their threats.
They were among nine people who told Reuters in interviews that they made threats or left other hostile messages to election workers. In all, they are responsible for nearly two dozen harassing communications to six election officials in four states. Seven made threats explicit enough to put a reasonable person in fear of bodily harm or death, the U.S. federal standard for criminal prosecution, according to four legal experts who reviewed their messages at Reuters’ request.
These cases provide a unique perspective into how people with everyday jobs and lives have become radicalized to the point of terrorizing public officials. They are part of a broader campaign of fear waged against frontline workers of American democracy chronicled by Reuters this year. The news organization has documented nearly 800 intimidating messages to election officials in 12 states, including more than 100 that could warrant prosecution, according to legal experts.
The examination of the threats also highlights the paralysis of law enforcement in responding to this extraordinary assault on the nation’s electoral machinery. After Reuters reported the widespread intimidation in June, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a task force to investigate threats against election staff and said it would aggressively pursue such cases. But law enforcement agencies have made almost no arrests and won no convictions.
In many cases, they didn’t investigate. Some messages were too hard to trace, officials said. Other instances were complicated by America’s patchwork of state laws governing criminal threats, which provide varying levels of protection for free speech and make local officials in some states reluctant to prosecute such cases. Adding to the confusion, legal scholars say, the U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t formulated a clear definition of a criminal threat.
This is a long article, but it’s well worth reading the whole thing.
The hate is really out in the open now, and it seems to be getting worse. I thought it might get better once Trump was gone, but I was wrong. Please share your thoughts and links on this or any other topic in the comment thread.
Posted: July 21, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Border Patrol, Chicago, Donald Trump, fascism, Mark Pettibone, Philadelphia, Portland OR
Things are getting real now. Trump sent unidentified federal troops into Portland, Oregon to illegally abduct peaceful protesters, force them into unmarked cars, and transport them to secret locations. Now he is threatening to send his goons into more cities and states led by Democratic mayors and governors. This is a giant step toward fascism.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Trump’s Occupation of American Cities Has Begun.
The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy.
One of Snyder’s lessons was, “Be wary of paramilitaries.” He wrote, “When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.” In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening.
According to a lawsuit filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, on Friday, federal agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles” since at least last Tuesday. The protesters are neither arrested nor told why they’re being held.
There’s no way to know the affiliation of all the agents — they’ve been wearing military fatigues with patches that just say “Police” — but The Times reported that some of them are part of a specialized Border Patrol group “that normally is tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations.”
Why Trump chose the Border Control to act as his personal secret police:
“It doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump picked C.B.P. to be the ones to go over to Portland and do this,” Representative Joaquin Castro, Democrat of Texas, told me. “It has been a very problematic agency in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of respecting the law.”
It is true that C.B.P. is not an extragovernmental militia, and so might not fit precisely into Snyder’s “On Tyranny” schema. But when I spoke to Snyder on Monday, he suggested the distinction isn’t that significant. “The state is allowed to use force, but the state is allowed to use force according to rules,” he said. These agents, operating outside their normal roles, are by all appearances behaving lawlessly.
Snyder pointed out that the history of autocracy offers several examples of border agents being used against regime enemies.
“This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire,” said Snyder. “The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.”
CBC Radio: ‘It feels like an invasion,’ says Portland protester detained by federal agents.
When Mark Pettibone was detained by armed camouflage-clad officers and forced into an unmarked van last week, he says he had no idea what was happening to him.
Pettibone, 29, is one of several protesters in Portland, Ore., who say they’ve have been arrested by militarized federal agents in recent weeks.
The officers were deployed by the Department of Homeland Security to help the Federal Protection Service protect federal buildings and statues from protesters who have been demonstrating against police brutality.
The so-called “rapid deployment teams” have been seen sporting military-style fatigues with the word “Police” on them, but no badge numbers or identifying information. They include members of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard, according to the New York Times.
Portland’s mayor has called their presence unconstitutional and demanded the federal government remove them from his city.
But DHS and U.S. President Donald Trump have both defended the move, and refused to back down. Trump suggested Monday he may soon deploy more officers to confront protesters in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, noting the cities’ mayors are “liberal Democrats.”
Read and/or listen to the interview with Pettibone at the link.
Yesterday the Chicago Tribune reported that Trump’s storm troopers will be sent to Chicago next: Trump expected to send new federal force to Chicago this week to battle violence, but plan’s full scope is a question mark.
Chicago may see an influx of federal agents as soon as this week as President Donald Trump readies to make good on repeated pledges he would try to tamp down violence here, a move that would come amid growing controversy nationally about federal force being used in American cities.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for example, is crafting plans to deploy about 150 federal agents to the city this week, the Chicago Tribune has learned.
The Homeland Security Investigations, or HSI, agents are set to assist other federal law enforcement and Chicago police in crime-fighting efforts, according to sources familiar with the matter, though a specific plan on what the agents will be doing — and what their limits would be — had not been made public.
DHS in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment, while the Department of Justice indicated an announcement would be forthcoming on an expansion of what has been dubbed Operation Legend, which saw several federal law enforcement agencies assist local police in Kansas City, Missouri, including the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service.
One Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in Chicago, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, confirmed the deployment was expected to take place. The official noted that the HSI agents, who are part of ICE, would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters.
Federal agents being used to confront street protesters in Portland, Oregon, has raised alarm in many circles. Chicago, too, has dealt with protests that have led to injuries in recent days.
The New York Times: Trump Threatens to Send Federal Law Enforcement Forces to More Cities.
President Trump plans to deploy federal law enforcement to Chicago and threatened on Monday to send agents to other major cities — all controlled by Democrats.
Governors and other officials reacted angrily to the president’s move, calling it an election-year ploy as they squared off over crime, civil liberties and local control that has spread from Portland, Ore., across the country.
With camouflage-clad agents already sweeping through the streets of Portland, more units were poised to head to Chicago, and Mr. Trump suggested that he would follow suit in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and other urban centers. Governors and other officials compared his actions to authoritarianism and vowed to pursue legislation or lawsuits to stop him….
The president portrayed the nation’s cities as out of control. “Look at what’s going on — all run by Democrats, all run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by radical left,” Mr. Trump said. He added: “If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell. And we’re not going to let it go to hell.”
Democrats said the president was the one out of control. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said he would introduce legislation to limit the role of federal agents in cities like Portland. “This isn’t just an Oregon crisis,” he said. “It’s an American crisis. We need to stop Trump before this spreads.”
He added, “We won’t let these authoritarian tactics stand.”
Read the rest at the NYT.
Slate Magazine: Trump’s Legal Justification for the Abduction of Portland Protesters Is Absurd.
Last week, people wearing combat fatigues were seen pulling apparently peaceful protesters off the streets of Portland, Oregon, and hustling them into unmarked vehicles. Their uniforms carried no identifying insignia, but they were clearly military uniforms. Based on the video evidence so far, the people being arrested were not engaged in crime. So we are faced with two questions. First, are these people military personnel, or are they police officers dressed up like soldiers? Second, do these people have the authority to sweep people off the street like this?
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the answer to the first question is that the force patrolling the streets of Portland consists of the Federal Protective Service, whose job it is to protect federal property. Personnel from other federal agencies—principally the Border Patrol—have also reportedly been deputized to assist in that mission. So these uniformed personnel are a militarized police force, which is always a dangerous thing. The answer to the second question is that, under the Fourth Amendment, this force does not have the authority to detain people like this. But government lawyers will rely on expansive theories of police power that cripple Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizures. This would not be the first time the federal government has tried this, though it appears to be one of the first targeting people exercising their First Amendment right to protest.
The Federal Protective Service has the authority to make arrests “if the officer or agent has reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing a felony.” If that doesn’t sound right to you, it shouldn’t. People can’t be arrested unless the arresting officer has probable cause—not merely reasonable grounds—to believe a crime has been committed or is underway. That’s required by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which presumptively prohibits seizures without probable cause.
Read the rest of the legal argument at Slate.
More galloping authoritarianism stories to check out:
Lawfare: DHS Authorizes Domestic Surveillance to Protect Statues and Monuments.
CNN: Trump’s team is increasingly adopting the narratives of autocracy.
Philadelphia Inquirer: Kenney and Krasner Slam Trump After President Threatens to Send Feds to Philly.
Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer: Trump’s made-for-TV fascism in Portland won’t get him reelected. It may get someone killed.
Slate: Trump Is Now Deploying Unidentified ICE Agents to Arrest Protesters in Democratic-Run Cities.
CNN: ‘Things could get very ugly’: Experts fear post-election crisis as Trump sets the stage to dispute the results in November.
The Guardian: Trump consults Bush torture lawyer on how to skirt law and rule by decree.
Take care and have courage, Sky Dancers!