Tuesday Reads: Antisemitism and Extremism in the U.S.

Good Afternoon!!

Nicholas FuentesLast Tuesday, Trump hosted a dinner at Mar-a-Lago with Kanye West and and Nicholas Fuentes. West has been spouting virulent antisemitism recently, and Fuentes is a white supremacist, holocaust denier, and Hitler admirer. Trump was reportedly quite taken with Fuentes, and during the dinner said, “I like this guy. He gets me.” Public outrage built over the holiday weekend. At first Republicans were hesitant to criticize Trump for this, but yesterday some of them actually spoke out against his behavior.

The Washington Post: Pence, other Republicans issue rare rebuke of Trump over dinner with Fuentes and Ye.

Former vice president Mike Pence and numerous Republican lawmakers on Monday criticized Donald Trump for dining with the white nationalist Nick Fuentes and the rapper Ye, both of whom have a history of antisemitic remarks, marking a rare break with Trump in the upper echelons of the GOP.

Pence was most clear in his condemnation, saying in an interview with NewsNation, “President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist, an antisemite and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table. I think he should apologize for it, and he should denounce those individuals and their hateful rhetoric without qualification.”

He joined several Republican senators who also directly criticized the former president in statements disavowing the dinner with Fuentes and Ye. Pence’s comments were also one of the clearest instances of the former vice president trying to set himself apart from Trump, whom he served for four years, amid the expectation that Pence will challenge Trump for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — each rumored to be eyeing a presidential run — were quicker to criticize Trump.

Christie tweeted on Saturday: “This is just awful, unacceptable conduct from anyone, but most particularly from a former President and current candidate.”

“Well, I hope, someday, we won’t have to be responding to what former President Trump has said or done,” Hutchinson said in an interview Sunday on CNN. “In this instance, it’s important to respond. … I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite.” [….]

“President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) said Trump should have “certainly” known who he is dining with, telling reporters Monday, “I totally think it’s ridiculous to be sitting down with somebody who espouses such views.” [….]

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a statement that she condemns “antisemitism and white supremacy” and that “the president should never have had a meal or even a meeting with Nick Fuentes.”

The public critiques of Trump were notable after years in which many Republicans remained silent as he courted extremists. Still, many stopped short of a full denouncement.

Mitt Romney delivered the harshest rebuke. From Charlie Sykes’ Morning Shots at The Bulwark:

“There is no bottom to the degree to which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting,” Romney said.

“I voted to remove him from office twice… I don’t think he should be president of the United states. I don’t think he should be the nominee of our party in 2024. And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”

More Republican condemnations from Semafor:

“It was ridiculous,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa said.

“I just think that was a really bad idea,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D, the second-ranking Republican leader, said. “He shouldn’t have done it.”

While some lawmakers were reluctant to single out Trump by name, and many paired their statements with attacks on Democrats and reassurances they didn’t consider Trump racist, they almost all made clear he’d crossed a line. Importantly, they did what Trump would not — condemn and disavow the hate his dinner guests preached.

“There’s no room in the Republican Party for white supremacy and antisemitism,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., a close Trump ally, said. “It’s wrong. I think Republicans should all condemn white supremacy and antisemitism.” [….]

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. called Fuentes an “ass clown” and told CNN he hoped Trump would condemn the “evil” and “disgusting” figure. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas told NBC News he was a “racist clown.”

And even some top supporters were, at minimum, willing to concede it wasn’t the best look. “There’s a lot of other people, I would think that he could have met with to help the country be stronger and go more in the right direction,” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. said.

And what about Jewish Trump supporters? Jonathan Weisman at The New York Times: Jewish Allies Call Trump’s Dinner With Antisemites a Breaking Point.

For much of Donald J. Trump’s presidency, Jewish Republicans rationalized away the bigoted fringe of Mr. Trump’s coalition, arguing that the unsavory supporters in his midst and the antisemitic tropes he deployed paled in comparison with the staunchly pro-Israel policies of his administration.

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Trump, Nick Fuentes, and Kanye West

But last week, Mr. Trump dined at his Palm Beach palace, Mar-a-Lago, with the performer Kanye West, who had already been denounced for making antisemitic statements, and with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and Holocaust denier, granting the antisemitic fringe a place of honor at his table. Now, even some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest supporters say they can no longer ignore the abetting of bigotry by the nominal leader of the Republican Party.

“I am a child of survivors. I have become very frightened for my people,” Morton Klein, head of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, said on Monday, referring to his parents’ survival of the Holocaust. “Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews. But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”

Not all Republican leaders have spoken out, but Jewish Republicans are slowly peeling away from a former president who, for years, insisted he had no ties to the bigoted far right, but refused to repudiate it. Jewish figures and organizations that have stood by Mr. Trump, from Mr. Klein’s group to the pro-Trump commentator Ben Shapiro to Mr. Trump’s own former ambassador to Israel and onetime bankruptcy lawyer, David M. Friedman, have all spoken out since the dinner.

For Jews, the concern extends far beyond a single meal at Mar-a-Lago, though that dinner has become a touchstone, especially for Jewish Republicans.

“We have a long history in this country of separating the moral character of the man in the White House from his conduct in office, but with Trump, it’s gone beyond any of the reasonably acceptable and justifiable norms,” Jay Lefkowitz, a former adviser to President George W. Bush and a supporter of many of Mr. Trump’s policies, said on Monday.

For American Jewry, the debate since the dinner has brought into focus what may be the most discomfiting moment in U.S. history in a half-century or more.

“The normalization of antisemitism is here,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.

From New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg: Antisemitism’s March Into the Mainstream.

Jews are thriving in America, and even with the violent resurgence of antisemitism in the Trump era, I’ve rarely felt personally threatened, perhaps a function of my privilege. Over the last week, though, I’m reminded that well-off Jews in other times and places have also imagined that they’d moved beyond existential danger, and been wrong.

At this point, there is no excuse for being shocked by anything that Donald Trump does, yet I confess to being astonished that the former president dined last week with one of the country’s most influential white supremacists, a smirking little fascist named Nick Fuentes. There’s nothing new about antisemites in Trump’s circle, but they usually try to maintain some plausible deniability, ranting about globalists and George Soros rather than the Jews. Fuentes, by contrast, is overt. “Jews have too much power in our society,” he recently wrote on his Telegram channel. “Christians should have all the power, everyone else very little.”

Fuentes was brought to Trump’s lair by Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who was evidently serious when he threatened to go “death con 3” on the Jews last month. (The relationship with West is a bit of a coup for Fuentes, who, openly wishing for conflict between Jews and Black people, has been willing to sublimate his anti-Black racism in the service of his antisemitism.) According to Axios, at one point during the dinner Trump turned to Ye and said of Fuentes: “I really like this guy. He gets me.”

Since then, Trump has claimed he didn’t know who Fuentes was. I find this unlikely. In September, I wrote a piece about a Trump-endorsed congressional candidate named Joe Kent that mentions Fuentes in the first paragraph. Trump scrawled a note of congratulations on the print version and mailed it to Kent, who sent the image out on his email list. But even if Trump’s ignorance was sincere, he still didn’t denounce Fuentes after learning his identity.

Most Republicans, in turn, spent days declining to criticize Trump, though former Vice President Mike Pence and several senators finally spoke out on Monday. There is a good argument that politicians and journalists should avoid responding to every one of the ex-president’s provocations. In this case, however, the reluctance to rebuke Trump erodes the already-shaky taboo against antisemitism in Republican politics.

US-ENTERTAINMENT-FASHION-METGALA-CELEBRITY-MUSEUM-PEOPLE

Elon Musk

Goldberg goes on to note that “other narcissistic celebrities are now joining him in reveling in reactionary transgression.”

Ye is launching a vanity presidential campaign run by the far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, who recently wrote on Telegram, “We’re done putting Jewish interests first.” After buying Twitter, Elon Musk enthusiastically welcomed both Trump and Ye back to the platform, and has been tiptoing up to the edge of antisemitism himself. On Sunday, he tweeted that Alexander Vindman, the Jewish retired Army officer who testified about Trump’s attempt to extort Ukraine’s president, is both “puppet & puppeteer,” echoing an old antisemitic trope about Jews pulling the strings behind world events. On Monday, Musk tweeted an image of the alt-right symbol Pepe the Frog.

And now Musk owns Twitter, which has become a kind of public square that is important to people, causes, and even government agencies around the world. I knew nothing about Musk until recently, when he began making noises about buying Twitter. Now it’s clear to me that he is a full-blown malignant narcissist, very similar to Trump. He appears to be on a path to turning Twitter into an unmoderated hell scape like 4chan and 8chan, where Qanon and other crazy conspiracy theories festered. Recently Musk announced that he will reinstate all of the account that were previously banned by Twitter moderators. According to NPR,

In the days after the Capitol insurrection, Twitter banned 70,000 QAnon-linked accounts for spreading the conspiracy theory. Some belonged to influencers with large followings, including high-profile Trump supporters Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, who had also spread false claims of election fraud and had tried to get the election results overturned.

Many more accounts have been banned since then. Even more concerning, despite his claims that protecting children is important to him, Musk’s layoffs and firings have made Twitter more dangerous for children.

Wired: Layoffs Have Gutted Twitter’s Child Safety Team.

REMOVING CHILD EXPLOITATION is “priority #1”, Twitter’s new owner and CEO Elon Musk declared last week. But, at the same time, following widespread layoffs and resignations, just one staff member remains on a key team dedicated to removing child sexual abuse content from the site, according to two people with knowledge of the matter, who both requested to remain anonymous.

It’s unclear how many people were on the team before Musk’s takeover. On LinkedIn, WIRED identified four Singapore-based employees who specialize in child safety who said publicly they left Twitter in November.

The importance of in-house child safety experts cannot be understated, researchers say. Based in Twitter’s Asian headquarters in Singapore, the team enforces the company’s ban on child sex abuse material (CSAM) in the Asia Pacific region. Right now, that team has just one full-time employee. The Asia Pacific region is home to around 4.3 billion people, about 60 percent of the world’s population.

The team in Singapore is responsible for some of the platform’s busiest markets, including Japan. Twitter has 59 million users in Japan, second only to the number of users in the United States, according to data aggregator Statista. Yet the Singapore office has also been impacted by widespread layoffs and resignations following Musk’s takeover of the business. In the past month, Twitter laid off half its workforce and then emailed remaining staff asking them to choose between committing to work “long hours at high intensity” or accepting a severance package of three months’ pay.

The impact of layoffs and resignations on Twitter’s ability to tackle CSAM is “very worrying,” says Carolina Christofoletti, a CSAM researcher at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “It’s delusional to think that there will be no impact on the platform if people who were working on child safety inside of Twitter can be laid off or allowed to resign,” she says. Twitter did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Twitter in-house child safety team is vitally important to outside organizations who work to protect vulnerable children, because the metadata and analysis are only available inside Twitter.

Whether you love or hate Twitter, that is frightening. We’ve spent the past 7 years dealing with one narcissistic psychopath who could still run for president again. Now there’s another one in charge of the most important platform for communication with journalists, government leaders, historians, researchers, and more. Why do we do this to ourselves? That’s a topic for another day.

What do you think? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Day!!

henri-manguin, Dream Landscape

Henri Manguin, Dream Landscape

Is it me or is the news today even more dispiriting than usual?

Paul Pelosi was brutally attacked in his home last week and is still in the ICU in at San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, and around the country Republicans are minimizing and even joking about the horrific attack by a MAGA/Qanon crazy.

The New York Times: Republicans Continue to Spread Baseless Claims About Pelosi Attack.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, continues to post jokes about it.

Dinesh D’Souza, the creator of a discredited film about the 2020 election called “2000 Mules,” accused the San Francisco Police Department on Monday of covering up the facts.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote that the “same mainstream media democrat activists” who questioned former President Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia were now silencing the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk.

The reason: Mr. Musk deleted a post linking to a newspaper that once claimed Hillary Rodham Clinton was dead when she ran for president in 2016.

In the days since Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder asking, “Where is Nancy?”, a litany of Republicans and conservatives have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the assault and its motives.

Although the police have not yet detailed all the circumstances of the crime, these theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream. While many Republican officials have denounced the violence, others have at the very least tolerated, and in some cases cheered, a violent assault on the spouse of a political rival.

The disinformation “isn’t just political,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and chief executive of Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit. “It’s much bigger than that; it’s deeper. They’re really rethinking and reshaping a lot of our norms.”

The attack on Mr. Pelosi in the couple’s home in San Francisco early on Friday morning has raised fears about the rise of political violence against elected officials — increasingly, it seems, inspired by a toxic brew of extremism, hate and paranoia that is easily found online.

The assailant, identified by the police as David DePape, 42, posted a series of notes in the days before the attack suggesting that he had fallen under the sway of right-wing conspiracy theories and antisemitism online. Some of the flurry of posts by others questioning the circumstances of the attack appeared intended to deflect attention from Mr. DePape’s views.

the-courtyard-of-the-hospital-in-arles-1889. Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles, 1889

Super MAGA Trump follower Kari Lake, who is likely to be the next governor of Arizona, got a big laugh from the audience when she joked about the attack on Pelosi. NBC News: Arizona GOP nominee Kari Lake mocks attack on Paul Pelosi at campaign event.

The Republican nominee for governor of Arizona, Kari Lake, made light of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in remarks at a campaign event Monday, drawing laughter from the audience.

Asked about school security, Lake suggested the protection afforded to federal lawmakers should be available to students, as well.

“Nancy Pelosi, well, she’s got protection when she’s in D.C. — apparently her house doesn’t have a lot of protection,” Lake said at a campaign event in Scottsdale, Arizona, sparking laughter from many in attendance….

Lake wasn’t asked about the remark in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News but said: “We can’t talk about all these issues, because the media has told us they’re prohibited. You can’t talk about vaccines, you can’t talk about elections, you can’t talk about Paul Pelosi, and now you can’t talk about Nancy Pelosi.

“I’m talking about all of those things,” she added.

Paul Pelosi was still in intensive care, surrounded by family members, a source with knowledge of the situation said Monday.

Even New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, supposedly moderate Republican has now gone MAGA. William Saletan at The Bulwark: Even the Sane Republicans Are Embracing Election Deniers.

Chris Sununu, the governor of New Hampshire, is one of the saner people in today’s Republican party. He concedes that the 2020 election was free and fair. He acknowledges climate change. He has criticized Republican leaders for ostracizing Rep. Liz Cheney and other principled dissidents while protecting the party’s worst extremists.

That’s why Sununu’s decision in the final weeks of the 2022 campaign to embrace election deniers is a particularly bad sign. Like other Republican officials, he has decided that sabotage of public faith in democracy doesn’t matter, as long as the saboteurs are Republicans. And he’s defending their reckless behavior with pernicious excuses.

On Sep. 13, election deniers won the Republican primaries for two of New Hampshire’s three federal offices. Don Bolduc, who has insisted that “Trump won the election” in 2020, captured the GOP nomination to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan. And Karoline Leavitt, who has said Trump “absolutely” won, got the nomination for one of the state’s two congressional seats.

Sununu could have said that he considered these nominees unfit for office. At a minimum, he could have kept his distance. Instead, he has endorsed Leavitt and praised Bolduc.

Last Tuesday, in a gubernatorial debate, Sununu was asked why he supported candidates who claimed “without evidence that elections were stolen.” He didn’t dispute that characterization of their views. Instead, he said endorsement decisions should be based on more than just “one issue,” as though election denial were no different from energy subsidies or water management.

Two days after Sununu’s comment, Bolduc—who had indicated after the primaries that he would tone down his allegations of fraud—again insinuated that elections were being stolen. In a Senate debate, he said the people of New Hampshire “don’t like the fact that they can’t trust the mail-in ballot system,” that there were “proven irregularities with voting machines,” and that “same-day voter-registration causes fraud.” He added: “We need to make sure that school buses loaded with people at the polls don’t come in and vote.”

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

Caspar_David_Friedrich, Woman at a Window, 1822

In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro lost his bid for reelection, and has decided to go the Trump route and refuse to concede. The Daily Beast: Bolsonaro Plays Trump Card: Won’t Concede as Fans Block Roads.

SÃO PAULO—The biggest and busiest city in South America was forced into a stunning standstill Monday night after supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blocked roads across the city to protest the results of a fair and free election.

Hundreds of Bolsonaro supporters, embittered by the victory of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva on Sunday, blocked the highway to the main airport in São Paulo, setting up barricades, chanting phrases like “Lula the robber!,” and starting fires in the middle of the road.

Hundreds of roadblocks in every state in the country threaten to plunge Brazil into chaos.

The populist rightwinger has yet to concede the election since the unprecedentedly close result was announced Sunday, with leftist former president Lula winning by just 1.8 percentage points. With fears mounting that Bolsonaro could take a leaf from the playbook of his close ally, Donald Trump, and refuse to accept the result, truckers loyal to the incumbent have taken matters into their own hands.

Roadblocks and protests demanding a military coup to stop Lula being certified as president have erupted in all but two Brazilian states, according to reports. Brazil’s federal highway police said over 300 protests had partially or completely shut down roads around the country, while authorities in the capital Brasilia closed traffic access to the central government esplanade amid fears that Bolsonaro’s supporters were planning to stage a demonstration in front of the Supreme Court, which they perceive as having given Lula favorable treatment.

Videos shared on social media show blockages along the 1,000 mile-long BR-163 highway which links companies in the Amazon basin with ports in the north of the country. One clip shows a fire burning as vehicles block the road, with a remix of a Brazilian song using the lyrics “Bolsonaro 22” playing in the background.

Read more at the Daily Beast link.

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, the right-wing Supreme Court is going to end Affirmative Action in universities. Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Supreme Court Has No Reason to End Affirmative Action. They’re Doing It Anyway.

Oral arguments in a pair of much-anticipated cases about the future of affirmative action sprawled over almost six hours on Monday, yet the outcome was obvious within the first 30 minutes: The Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority appears poised to overturn almost 50 years of precedent and outlaw race-conscious admissions at institutions of higher education. One case—arising from the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action program—was argued over two and a half hours. The second, a challenge to Harvard’s program, took up the better part of the afternoon. These arguments suggested that six justices will deem affirmative action to be unconstitutional chiefly because the effort to promote diversity in education has reached its sell-by date.

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

Konrad Vilhelm Mägi, Landscape of Vilsandi, 1913-14

What was perhaps most remarkable in these largely predictable arguments was how much time the conservative justices devoted to pure policy arguments. These justices dislike affirmative action for a whole lot of deep emotional reasons that, it turns out, have nothing to do with the Constitution. They barely even considered the meaning 14th Amendment until Justice Elena Kagan finally brought it to their attention two and a half hours into the UNC arguments. Kagan, along with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson and Sonia Sotomayor, were vastly more interested in the history of the Constitution’s equal protection clause than their ostensibly originalist colleagues. If and when the supermajority does eradicate race-conscious admissions, everyone will be able to weigh the strength of their arguments. But no one should pretend the decision was remotely rooted in actual law.

The history of affirmative action at the Supreme Court is not particularly complicated. In 1978’s Bakkedecision, a majority found that universities could consider race to build a diverse student body, identifying educational benefits that flow from diversity. At the same time, a majority prohibited quotas and other rigid metrics that reduced applicants to their race, requiring universities to undertake a holistic review of each applicant. The Supreme Court affirmed this principle in 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger and again 2016’s Fisher v. Texas.

Although these cases involve both public and private institutions, the Supreme Court has consistently held that federal law simply applies the equal protection clause to private universities that receive federal funds. So, in theory, the justices should’ve been debating the meaning of the Constitution. Instead, the conservative justices continually reverted to free-floating policy discussions about how affirmative action makes them feel. (Hint: they feel bad.)

John Roberts has also put a hold on releasing Trump’s taxes to Congress. The Washington Post: Chief Justice Roberts temporarily delays release of Trump tax records.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. on Tuesday temporarily halted the release of former president Donald Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee, and called for more briefing in the case.

Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as Thursday.

Last week, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to review earlier rulings finding that lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the long-running legal battle. The court also said it would not put the release of the papers on hold while Trump’s lawyers sought Supreme Court review.

Roberts, the justice designated to hear emergency orders from that court, put the release on hold and called for a response from the committee by noon on Nov. 10. A committee spokeswoman said in a statement, “The Ways and Means Committee maintains the law is on our side, and will file a timely response as requested. Chairman [Richard E.] Neal (D-Ma.) looks forward to the Supreme Court’s expeditious consideration.” [….]

The Supreme Court generally has not been receptive to Trump’s assertions that he should be allowed to keep records private and that he was immune to investigation while in office. The justices in 2020 upheld Congress’s right to subpoena that information with some limitations, and last year declined to block the release of Trump’s financial records for a New York state investigation.

I hope this really is just temporary.

A_Forest_Stream_by_Peder_Mork_Monsted

A Forest Stream, by Peder Mork Monsted

Finally, it looks as if Elon Musk is about as competent to take over Twitter as Trump was to be POTUS. Rebecca Kern at Politico: Musk’s Twitter: ‘This is exactly what many of us were worried about.’

A day after Elon Musk seemed to confirm critics’ worst fears about his ownership of Twitter by tweeting out right-wing misinformation from his personal account, political leaders and operatives wrestled with a loaded question: Would the most important social-media platform in the political world survive his ownership?

And if it did, should they stay on it?

“This is exactly what many of us were worried about,” said Mark Jablonowski, the managing partner of Democratic digital advertising firm DSPolitical.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce panel on consumer protection, said she was worried about Twitter becoming “a platform that is a sewer of hateful and harmful content” and planned to leave if Musk allowed it to become more of a Wild West.

The immediate anxiety comes from a false story about the brutal attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that Musk personally tweeted over the weekend. Musk has now deleted the tweet, but the story continues to ricochet around the conservative political world.

In the larger sense, political players are worried that Musk’s promises to bring Twitter’s policies closer in line with his own ideas about politics and society, as well as his firing of its top accountability executives, will permanently change a platform they’ve come to rely on, and trust to police misinformation and hate speech.

Musk has left no doubt who’s in charge of the company since he took Twitter private Thursday night. He renamed himself “Chief Twit” on his official bio, and told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he dissolved the board and named himself sole director.

Musk doesn’t understand that what makes Twitter so popular is the well known journalists, experts, and popular personalities who post content on the platform. Now he wants to charge these people for being verified with blue checks. The Hollywood Reporter: Elon Musk Defends Controversial $20 Blue Checkmark Twitter Plan to Stephen King.

Elon Musk has responded to Stephen King’s horrified reaction at his reported plan to charge for a blue checkmark — and in the process, confirmed that the surprising and controversial idea is in the works.

On Monday, King went viral with his reaction to a report that Musk wanted to charge verified users a whopping $20 per month to keep their blue checkmarks. “$20 a month to keep my blue check?” King tweeted to his 6.9 million followers. “Fuck that, they should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron.” When a reader told King he could afford the fee, he replied, “It ain’t the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

Henri Manguin

Trees, by Henri Manguin

Five Thirty Eight political guru Nate Silver similarly wrote to his 3.5 million followers: “I’m probably the perfect target for this, use Twitter a ton, can afford $20/mo, not particularly anti-Elon, but my reaction is that I’ve generated a ton of valuable free content for Twitter over the years and they can go fuck themselves.”

Early Tuesday, Musk responded to the uproar, replying to King: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot entirely rely on advertisers. How about $8?” Musk then added: “I will explain the rational in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat bots & trolls.”

But critics have pointed out that verified accounts are not simply a free perk for a certain level of user, but rather a utility that makes the wild-west social media platform/hellscape more credible. Blue checks help everyday readers — as well as journalists — determine whether a comment being made by a public figure is actually from that person instead of their fans or impersonators. It is, in other words, a way of preventing fake news. TechCrunch dubbed Musk’s idea a potential “misinformation nightmare.”

“Musk and his buddies view this plan as a way to get people to actually give Twitter money,” TechCrunch noted. “But by monetizing a symbol that currently has value, they will ultimately remove all of that existing value.”

I’ll end there. Please share your thoughts on these and other current happenings. I hope you all have a great Tuesday!!


Finally Friday Reads: MAGA Republicans are a threat to our Democracy

E pluribus unum / Andrew B. Graham, litho., Washington, D.C., Library of Congress

Good Day Sky Dancers!

President Biden went on TV to state the obvious in the birthplace of our Democracy, Philadelphia.  I was glad to hear it, but I wonder if it really will reach the ears and hearts of those that need to hear it most.  Here’s David Frum’s rationale at The Atlantic: “The Justification for Biden’s Speech. So much of it was true.” I thought POTUS was inspired by the historians’ panel he hosted last month and wanted to set the stage for the midterms before Labor Day.

President Joe Biden last night used the backdrop of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to accuse his political opponents of betraying American democracy. The complaints from GOP leaders are loud. How dare Biden use this birthplace of the republic to speak that way about former President Donald Trump and his tens of millions of supporters?

During his presidency, Trump repeatedly used places of national memory for partisan purposes. He gave a slashing partisan interview to Fox News from the Lincoln Memorial. At Mount Rushmore, he denounced “a new far-left fascism” that seeks “to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.” Accepting the 2020 Republican nomination on the grounds of the White House, he predicted that his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, would be “the destroyer of American greatness.”

These deviations from past custom elicited some tut-tutting from a few who cared. But the complaints were ineffectual; Trump did it again and again.

So last night, President Biden followed the old adage: If you can’t beat them, join them. He briefly drew a distinction between those Trump-loyal Republicans and the bulk of the Republican Party. But that was a mere courtesy, because he almost immediately added, “There’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven, and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans.” Biden presented the 2022 ballot question as a stark choice between right (his party) and wrong (the party that has become Trump’s party).

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “we can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. They’re incompatible. We can’t allow violence to be normalized in this country. It’s wrong.”

We’ve spent innumerable posts over the past 7 years on crimes committed by the former guy. We’ve watched his minions get the frogmarch to jail.  We’ve had NAZIs and White Christian Nationalists marching everywhere. We’ve had a deadly, but thankfully, unsuccessful insurrection.  What about Trump and Trumpism is compatible with our democratic values?  And, what about the governors of states that can’t seem to resist the urge to purge democracy in their own states? Or the urge to grift taxpayer money for them and theirs.

Is this what you want for your state or country? After all these years, the FBI is back in Mississippi.

Brett Favre earned nearly $140 million as a star NFL quarterback over two decades and millions more in product endorsements.

But that didn’t stop the state of Mississippi from paying Favre $1.1 million in 2017 and 2018 to make motivational speeches — out of federal welfare funds intended for needy families. The Mississippi state auditor said Favre never gave the speeches and demanded the money back, with interest.

Favre has repaid the fees, although not the $228,000 in interest the auditor also demanded. But the revelation by the auditor that $70 million in TANF welfare funds was doled out to a multimillionaire athlete, a professional wrestler, a horse farm and a volleyball complex are at the heart of a scandal that has rocked the nation’s poorest state, sparking parallel state and federal criminal investigations that have led to charges and guilty pleas involving some of the key players.

Favre hasn’t been accused of a crime or charged, and he declined an interview. His lawyer, Bud Holmes, said he did nothing wrong and never understood he was paid with money intended to help poor children. Holmes acknowledged that the FBI had questioned Favre in the case, a fact that hasn’t previously been reported.

The saga, which has been boiling at low grade for 2½ years, drew new attention in July, when the state welfare agency fired a lawyer who had been hired to claw back some of the money, just after he issued a subpoena seeking more information about the roles of Favre and the former governor, Phil Bryant, a Republican. The current governor, Republican Tate Reeves, acknowledged playing a role in the decision to sack Brad Pigott, accusing the Bill Clinton-appointed former U.S. attorney of having a political agenda. But the state official who first uncovered the misspending and fraud, auditor Shad White, is a Republican.

In his first television interview since he was fired, Pigott said his only agenda was to get at the truth and to recoup U.S. taxpayer funds sent to Mississippi that he says were “squandered.”

“The notion of tens of millions of dollars that was intended by the country to go to the alleviation of poverty — and to see it going toward very different purposes — was appalling to many of us,” he said. “Mr. Favre was a very great quarterback, but having been a great NFL quarterback, he is not well acquainted with poverty.”

Pigott, who before he was fired sued on behalf of Mississippi’s welfare agency, naming Favre and 37 other grant recipients, laid ultimate blame at the feet of top Mississippi politicians, including Bryant.

“Governor Bryant gave tens of millions of dollars of this TANF welfare money to a nonprofit led by a person who he knew well and who had more connections with his political party than with the good people in Mississippi who have the heart and the skills to actually cajole people out of poverty or prevent teenage pregnancies,” he said.

And what would the MAGA movement be without Texas?  I’m no lawyer, but I can’t imagine age restrictions on guns is a constitutional issue.

Gov. Greg Abbott drew fury from parents of Uvalde shooting victims and others Wednesday after dismissing discussions about raising the age to buy assault-style weapons from 18 to 21, arguing that doing so has already been ruled “unconstitutional.”

Surrounded by supporters, some holding signs that read “parents matter,” during a reelection campaign stop in Allen, Abbott told reporters: “There have been three court rulings since May that have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being able to buy an AR — that came out of the Court of Appeals and then there was a Supreme Court decision that upheld it. And most recently, a federal court in the state of Texas stuck down a Texas law that banned people from buying a handgun.”

Uvalde families have pushed for Abbott to call a special session to raise the minimum age to 21 for the purchase of assault weapons. Robb Elementary School gunman Salvador Ramos bought two AR-15-style rifles just days after he turned 18 and used the weapons to kill 19 students and two teachers.

Over the weekend, Uvalde families gathered at the State Capitol to make their demands clear. However, while in Allen, Abbott stated: “It’s clear that the gun control law that they are seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, it has already been ruled to be unconstitutional.”

The court rulings Abbott cited include one from a federal judge in Fort Worth that struck down a Texas statute banning adults aged 18-to-20 from carrying handguns in public after deeming the restriction unconstitutional. State law currently bars most people under age 21 from obtaining a license to carry a handgun  except “under certain types of protective orders.” In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman frequently cited a June Supreme Court ruling that struck down a New York gun law that restricted concealed carry of a handgun.

According to an emailed statement from Abbott’s office, the governor was also referring to a federal appeals court ruling in May that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic rifles to adults younger than 21 was unconstitutional.

A video of Abbott making the claim circulated on social media, drawing reactions from Texas leaders and Uvalde parents. Brett Cross, father 8-year-old victim Uziyah Garcia’s father, tweeted a video in response to Abbott, noting the “parents matter” signs.

“What parents are you referring to actually? Because it’s not us in Uvalde,” Cross said. Cross also claimed that during a conversation he had in person with Abbott, the governor shut down any talks about changing gun laws because it wouldn’t have changed anything. Abbott allegedly pointed to the 17-year-old gunman from the Santa Fe High School shooting in 2018, Cross said.

And let’s not forget Ron DeSantis in Florida and the horrid Republicans there.

This stuff would’ve made Donald Segretti blush.  MAGA Republicans are doing everything they can to steal elections.

A jury of six people found Seminole County GOP Chairman Ben Paris guilty on Thursday of causing his cousin’s name to be falsely listed on independent “ghost” candidate Jestine Iannotti’s campaign contribution forms in 2020.

Paris was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 200 hours of community service for the misdemeanor and ordered to pay roughly $42,000 — the cost of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the apparent vote-siphoning scheme.

Iannotti said Paris contacted her in May 2020 asking her to run in a competitive state Senate race. Though Iannotti had no political experience when she entered the race and did not campaign, her candidacy was central to the scheme, as she was promoted as a progressive in an advertising blitz that was apparently intended to draw votes from her Democratic opponent.

Paris was stoic as the verdict was read and as the judge detailed his sentence. He and his attorney Matthews Bark declined to comment as they left the courtroom Thursday.

Bark after the verdict said Paris does not plan to remain in politics and would have to resign as the Seminole GOP’s chair.

Another article from the Houston Chronicle features the slimiest Senator in the District.  Independents and Democrats need to come out in droves and get rid of these idiots!

Senator Ted Cruz has emerged as one of the biggest critics of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan and now he and other Texas Republicans are reportedly exploring legal options to block the policy before it takes effect, alleging the move to cancel student debt is actually against the law.

A group of GOP attorneys from multiple states, including Arizona and Missouri alongside Texas, recently met in private to discuss their strategy to file lawsuits around the country that challenge the policy, according to a Thursday report from the Washington Post.

So, it’s no wonder MAGA Republicans are angry about Biden’s speech.  Here’s some coverage of that.  This is from Greg Sargent writing at The Washington Post. “MAGA Republicans are seething with rage because Biden hit his target.”

Republicans are in a rage over President Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, in which he flatly declared that the American democratic experiment is in serious danger due to Donald Trump and the Republicans who remain allied with his political project.

So here’s a question for those Republicans: What exactly in Biden’s speech was wrong?

Many objections have been general: Republicans say his speech disparaged millions, that it was angry, or divisive, or political, or hateful, or depicted Republicans as the enemy.

In coming days, these Republicans will retreat into right-wing media safe spaces to fulminate without facing cross-examination. But when they venture into mainstream forums, they should be pressed on specifics.

Those links with the pejorative words go to Republican tweets if you want to see what the usual suspects barked.

So, the last link is on the Former Guy, the Carnival Barker.  We now have a more detailed list of what the FBI found at the Mar-a-Lago Big Tent.  This is from Eric Tucker writing for the AP: “Trump search inventory released, reveals new details on docs.”

FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last month found empty folders marked with classified banners, according to a more detailed inventory of the seized material made public by the Justice Department on Friday.

The inventory reveals in general terms the contents of 33 boxes taken from an office and a storage room at Mar-a-Lago during the Aug. 8 search. Though the inventory does not describe any of the documents, it shows the extent to which classified information — including material at the top-secret level — was kept in boxes and containers at the home and commingled among newspapers, magazines, clothing and other personal items.

The Justice Department has said there was no secure space at Mar-a-Lago for such sensitive government secrets, and has opened a criminal investigation focused on their retention there and on what it says were efforts in the last several months to obstruct that probe.

The inventory shows that 43 empty folders with classified banners were taken from a box or container at the office, along with an additional 28 empty folders labeled as “Return to Staff Secretary” or military aide. Empty folders of that nature were also found in a storage closet.

It is not clear from the inventory list why any of the folders were empty or what might have happened to any of the documents inside.

This is from Tierney Sneed at CNN: “Mar-a-Lago search inventory shows documents marked as classified mixed with clothes, gifts, press clippings.”

US District Judge Aileen Cannon on Friday released a detailed inventory from the Mar-a-Lago search that the Justice Department previously filed under seal in court.

The search inventory released showed that classified documents had been mixed in with personal items and other materials in the boxes in which they were stored.

Federal investigators also retrieved more than 11,000 non-classified government documents.
One box containing documents marked with confidential, secret and top secret classification identifications also contained “99 magazines/newspapers/press articles,” according to the inventory from last month’s search filed in federal court in Florida.

Several other boxes detailed in the inventory contained documents marked as classified stored with press clippings, as well as with articles of clothing and gifts.

The court filing also provided a breakdown of the type of markings on the classified material taken from Mar-a-Lago, including 18 documents marked top secret, 54 documents marked secret and 31 documents marked confidential.

I don’t think you could pay me enough to touch anything the former guy put his hands on. Can you imagine touching his clothing?  UGH!  There are no gloves safe enough from his slime!

So, anyway, why do the Rethuglicans want this guy?

What’s on your reading and blogging list today? 


Monday Reads: Are We Headed For Civil War?

220104115624-january-6-riot-file-2021-super-tease

Good Morning!!

The news this morning is full of stories about corruption by Trump and his cronies; but even more horrifying, Trump himself spent the weekend ranting on Truth Social–his own social media company–and he seemed to suggest that he wants a civil war in the U.S.

Business Insider: Trump reshares post on Truth Social that appears to suggest or predict a civil war in America.

Trump re-posted a suggestion from a Truth Social user called “MAGA King Thanos,” who commented on a screenshot of a tweet from El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele.

In the tweet, Bukele wrote: “The most powerful country in the world is falling so fast, that it makes you rethink what are the real reasons. Something so big and powerful can’t be destroyed so quickly, unless the enemy comes from within.

Bukele’s remarks came in response to a Bloomberg tweet on coping with inflation in the US if one earns under $300,000 a year.

The post that Trump re-shared captured the Truth Social user’s comment on Bukele’s tweet, which read “Civil war.”

Here’s the post Trump shared:

More from Business Insider:

Bukele is El Salvador’s millennial president — a controversial figure who once switched up his Twitter bio to call himself “the coolest dictator in the world.”

Trump’s re-post was picked up on by conservative political activist George Conway, the husband of former Trump aide Kellyanne Conway.

“Nothing to see here. Just a former president of the United States sharing a social media post advocating or predicting civil war in the United States. No biggie,” he tweeted.

Trump’s comment was also swiftly rebuked by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of Trump’s staunchest critics in the GOP.

“Any of my fellow Republicans wanna speak out now?” Kinzinger tweeted. “Or are we just wanting to get through ‘just one more election first…?”

Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell also weighed in on Trump’s post, tweeting: “Donald Trump is calling for Civil War. Of course, like Vietnam and the walk to the Insurrection, he won’t be man enough to fight it.” 

In January, Barbara F. Walter published a book called How Civil Wars Start and How to Stop Them. I believe I put something in a post about it at the time. Here are some articles from the time the book came out.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: ‘We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe,’ new study says.

A startling new finding by one of the nation’s top authorities on foreign civil wars says we are on the cusp of our own.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. By law, the task force can’t assess what’s happening within the United States, but Walter, a longtime friend who has spent her career studying conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Rwanda, Angola, Nicaragua and elsewhere, applied the predictive techniques herself to this country.

Her bottom line: “We are closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” She lays out the argument in detail in her must-read book, “How Civil Wars Start,” out in January. “No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war,” she writes. But, “if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America — the same way you’d look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela — you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory.”

Indeed, the United States has already gone through what the CIA identifies as the first two phases of insurgency — the “pre-insurgency” and “incipient conflict” phases — and only time will tell whether the final phase, “open insurgency,” began with the sacking of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters on Jan. 6.

Things deteriorated so dramatically under Trump, in fact, that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace’s “Polity” data set — the one the CIA task force has found to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence — Walter writes that the United States is now an “anocracy,” somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.

Dropping five points in five years greatly increases the risk of civil war (six points in three years would qualify as “high risk” of civil war). “A partial democracy is three times as likely to experience civil war as a full democracy,” Walter writes. “A country standing on this threshold — as America is now, at +5 — can easily be pushed toward conflict through a combination of bad governance and increasingly undemocratic measures that further weaken its institutions.”

The Boston Globe published an interview with Walter by Shannon Larson: Q&A with Barbara F. Walter, author of ‘How Civil Wars Start,’ on the prospect of open civil conflict breaking out in the US.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, has spent over three decades studying civil conflict. In her new book, “How Civil Wars Start: and How to Stop Them,” Walter examines the rise of violent extremism on a global scale and warns of the increasing likelihood of a second civil war breaking out in the United States.

“January 6, 2021 was a gift to the American people,” she tweeted on the one-year anniversary of the insurrection at the Capitol. “It made it impossible for the country to ignore or deny the cancer that has been growing out of the public eye for years. We can fix this!”

From the interview:

1) In your book, you write that the United States is “closer to civil war than any of us would like to believe.” How did you reach that conclusion?

“I’m a quantitative social scientist who studies civil wars. That means that I don’t study just one civil war in one country. I study all civil wars that have occurred over the last 80 years (and there have been over 200 of them). There has been an enormous amount of data collected by scholars on the factors that lead to civil war — so we know what things tend to put countries at greater risk of civil war.

“In addition, between 2017 and 2021, I served on the Political Instability Task Force run by the US government. The Task Force included political scientists, economists, anthropologists, and data analysts. The task of the Task Force was to put together a predictive model that would help the US government predict where around the world political instability and political violence was likely to break out. The Task Force included over 50 variables in the model — variables that the experts thought might matter, like poverty, income inequality, the ethnic diversity of a country, the size of a country, etc. Only two factors turn out to be highly predictive: anocracy and ethnic factionalism.”

2) What is an anocracy? What does it mean when a government is defined as such?

“Anocracy is a term that political scientists use for a government that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, it is something in between. You can think of it as a partial democracy, weak democracy, illiberal democracy. It turns out that it is in this middle zone — between democracy and autocracy — that most civil wars occur. The second factor was whether a political faction had emerged in an anocracy that was based on ethnic, religious, or racial identity, and that faction then had the goal to gain power in order to exclude everyone else.”

3) What are some of the more notable examples in recent history demonstrating that the country is heading down the path toward a civil war?

“The US’s democracy has been weakening since 2016. It was downgraded first in 2016, then again in 2019, and then finally again after the January 6th attack on the Capitol, when it was classified as an anocracy for the first time since 1800.

“And then, one of America’s two big parties — the Republican Party — has become a faction based on race. As late as 2008, white Americans were equally likely to be a Democrat as a Republican. Today, 90 percent of the Republican Party is white, and it is doing everything possible to disenfranchise those who don’t vote Republican.” [….]

6) What would a modern civil war look like?

“The next civil war will look nothing like the last civil war. 21st-century civil wars tend to look much more like insurgencies — often fought by multiple factions, militias, and paramilitary groups — sometimes working together, sometimes competing. And they tend to use unconventional methods such as terrorism and guerilla warfare. It will look more like Northern Ireland and the 1st and 2nd intifada than Gettysburg.”

I’ve quoted quite a bit of the article, because it is behind a paywall.

This piece by Stephen Marche at The Guardian is also an important read. The next US civil war is already here – we just refuse to see it.

The United States today is, once again, headed for civil war, and, once again, it cannot bear to face it. The political problems are both structural and immediate, the crisis both longstanding and accelerating. The American political system has become so overwhelmed by anger that even the most basic tasks of government are increasingly impossible.

The legal system grows less legitimate by the day. Trust in government at all levels is in freefall, or, like Congress, with approval ratings hovering around 20%, cannot fall any lower. Right now, elected sheriffs openly promote resistance to federal authority. Right now, militias train and arm themselves in preparation for the fall of the Republic. Right now, doctrines of a radical, unachievable, messianic freedom spread across the internet, on talk radio, on cable television, in the malls.

The consequences of the breakdown of the American system is only now beginning to be felt. January 6 wasn’t a wake-up call; it was a rallying cry. The Capitol police have seen threats against members of Congress increase by 107%. Fred Upton, Republican representative from Michigan, recently shared a message he had received: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your family dies.” And it’s not just politicians but anyone involved in the running of the electoral system. Death threats have become a standard aspect of the work life of election supervisors and school board members. A third of poll workers, in the aftermath of 2020, said they felt unsafe.

Two things are happening at the same time. Most of the American right have abandoned faith in government as such. Their politics is, increasingly, the politics of the gun. The American left is slower on the uptake, but they are starting to figure out that the system which they give the name of democracy is less deserving of the name every year.

An incipient illegitimacy crisis is under way, whoever is elected in 2022, or in 2024. According to a University of Virginia analysis of census projections, by 2040, 30% of the population will control 68% of the Senate. Eight states will contain half the population. The Senate malapportionment gives advantages overwhelmingly to white, non– college educated voters. In the near future, a Democratic candidate could win the popular vote by many millions of votes and still lose. Do the math: the federal system no longer represents the will of the American people.

The right is preparing for a breakdown of law and order, but they are also overtaking the forces of law and order. Hard right organization have now infiltrated so many police forces – the connections number in the hundreds – that they have become unreliable allies in the struggle against domestic terrorism.

I’ve focused this post on civil war, because I think this is where the Trumpists and the rest of the Republicans who cower in fear of their base are taking us. And I don’t think the Democrats are taking this seriously enough. I hope I’m wrong about that.

More stories to check out today:

The New York Times: Kushner’s and Mnuchin’s Quick Pivots to Business With the Gulf.

Crew: The Secret Service spent nearly $2 million at Trump properties.

The Guardian: Capitol attack panel to hold six public hearings as it aims to show how Trump broke law.

Just Security: Prosecuting Trump for the Insurrection: The Well-Founded Case f.or Optimism.

The Daily Beast: How Trump’s Fear of Getting Pied in the Face May Come Back to Cream Him.

The Washington Post: Russian diplomat resigns protesting Putin’s ‘aggressive war.’

The New York Times: U.S. Military Airlifts Baby Formula From Europe.

CNN: Biden says US would respond ‘militarily’ if China attacked Taiwan, but White House insists there’s no policy change.

Melissa Murray at The New York Times How the Right to Birth Control Could Be Undone.

Politico: State Democrats, abortion-rights activists ‘incredibly frustrated’ with federal inaction.

Have a nice Monday, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads

Garden Cats, Hilary Pecis, 1979

Garden Cats, Hilary Pecis, 1979

Good Afternoon!!

I’m really late getting started today, because I had a chance to get a second Moderna booster shot and I took it. My town held a booster clinic in my apartment building late this morning. My arm is sore and I expect I’ll have some symptoms for a few days like I did with the last shot. I hope it won’t be too bad.

Anyway, there’s lots happening today. Of course there’s quite bit of discussion of the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, and I’m going to focus on that. The massacre has also put a spotlight on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson’s hate filled rants and drawn attention to NY Rep. Elise Stefanik promotion of the so-called “great replacement theory.” Another Trumpist politician in Arizona is also being investigated for her claims about the Buffalo mass shooting.

The Washington Post: Buffalo shooting suspect wrote of plans 5 months ago, messages show.

Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old accused of killing 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo on Saturday, wrote in increasing detail of his plans to murder dozens of Black people in statements posted online over the past five months, according to a compilation of messages by a writer who identified himself as Gendron.

A review of more than 600 pages of messages by The Washington Post found that Gendron resolved in December to kill those he slurred as “replacers,” and decided in February to target Buffalo’s Tops grocery store based on its local African American population. In March, he performed a reconnaissance-style trip to monitor the store’s security and map out its aisles, the messages show. When a store guard confronted him about why he had repeatedly entered that day, Gendron made excuses and fled in what he described as “a close call,” the messages state.

Having identified the supermarket as “attack area 1,” Gendron detailed two additional Buffalo locations as areas at which to “shoot all blacks,” according to the messages, which showed that he had charted routes to each location, worked out the times needed for each shootout and assessed that more than three dozen people in all could be fatally shot.

Wind from the sea, Edward Gordon

Wind from the sea, Edward Gordon

Police confirmed on Monday that they suspected Gendron had intended to attack multiple locations. Also on Monday, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray said in a call with various law enforcement officials and community leaders: “I want to be clear, for my part, from everything we know, this was a targeted attack, a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism.”

Gendron, from Conklin, N.Y., has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in relation to the attack on Saturday. Three other people were also injured before Gendron was arrested at the grocery store. The shootings were streamed live online. In a separate 180-page document published two days before Saturday’s shooting, Gendron cited a racist theory that non-Whites were brought to the United States to replace White people for political purposes.

The 672-page compilation of messages reviewed by The Post was published during the weeks before the attack in Buffalo. The messages featured a screen name that Gendron used on other platforms, contained images of Gendron’s face in selfies and referenced events in his personal life, such as a speeding ticket, which The Post verified.

You can read much more about Gendron and his plans at the WaPo link.

NBC News: New York’s red flag law should have helped thwart the Buffalo mass shooting. What went wrong?

Less than a year after a white teenager in upstate New York was investigated for making a threatening statement at school, he legally purchased a firearm, which he is accused of using to gun down 10 Black people in a racist rampage, authorities said.

The massacre at Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo on Saturday should have been thwarted by New York’s red flag law, which aims to stop people from buying or possessing firearms when they show they’re threats to themselves or others, gun policy experts said.

“It was designed exactly for this circumstance,” said David Pucino, the deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center, a gun-safety group.

Instead, after Payton Gendron appeared on the radar of New York State Police in June over a chilling comment about a murder-suicide he made in the classroom while he was still a minor, he was evaluated and cleared, paving the way for him to legally buy the semi-automatic rifle he is accused of using in the shooting 11 months later, law enforcement officials and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

No official involved in the investigation in June initiated a court process that could have helped prevent Gendron from buying the rifle, a New York State Police spokesperson said Monday.

Now, state legislators are looking into whether those involved followed the proper protocol. “I’ve asked for the investigation of exactly what transpired there,” Hochul told Buffalo’s WKSE radio on Monday.

Hochul said a teacher had asked Gendron about his plans just before the start of summer vacation last year. He responded, “I want to murder and commit suicide,” Hochul said.

the-summer-poppy-field Claude Monet

The Summer Poppy Field, Claude Monet

NBC News: Fox News’ Tucker Carlson under fresh scrutiny after Buffalo mass shooting.

Fox News personality Tucker Carlson is facing intense scrutiny from extremism experts, media watchdogs and progressive activists who say there is a link between the top-rated host’s “great replacement” rhetoric and the apparent mindset of the suspect in the weekend’s deadly rampage in Buffalo, New York.

The white suspect accused of killing 10 people and wounding three others Saturday at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood apparently wrote a “manifesto” espousing the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory — elements of which Carlson has pushed on his weeknight show.

The theory baselessly holds that a cabal of Jewish people and Democratic elites are plotting to “replace” white Americans with people of color through immigration policies, higher birth rates and other social transformations. The idea circulated on the far-right fringes before moving to the mainstream of conservative media.

“Tucker Carlson has made comments that directly reference this conspiracy theory on his show,” said Michael Edison Hayden, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks white supremacy, hate groups and extremism.

“The rhetoric that he espouses finds its origins in white supremacist literature,” Hayden went on to say, citing examples of websites and other publications popular with white supremacists. He added that Carlson “stops short of naming” Jewish people as the orchestrators of the “replacement,” instead using more general terms such as “the elite.”

Annie Karni at The New York Times: Racist Attack Spotlights Stefanik’s Echo of Replacement Theory.

Over the past week, Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, the third-ranking House Republican, has blasted President Biden for providing infant formula to undocumented immigrants while “American mothers” suffer amid a nationwide formula shortage.

Wheat field with a reaper, Vincent Van Gogh

Wheat field with a reaper, Vincent Van Gogh

She has attacked Democrats and “pedo grifters,” borrowing language from the baseless pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory that claims there is a Satan-worshipping cabal of liberal pedophiles, which has evolved into a movement on the right.

And after the deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, where a heavily armed white man is accused of killing 10 Black people at a supermarket in a racist rampage, Ms. Stefanik is under scrutiny for campaign advertisements she has circulated that play on themes of the white supremacist “great replacement” theory. That belief, espoused by the Buffalo gunman, holds that the elite class, sometimes manipulated by Jews, wants to “replace” and disempower white Americans.

Last year, in an ad on Facebook, Ms. Stefanik accused “radical Democrats” of planning what she described as a “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.”

“Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington,” the ad said.

Stefanik originally ran as a “moderate,” but that was before she decided to suck up to Trump to advance her career.

ArizonaCentral.com: Arizona Senate to investigate Wendy Rogers over social media post on Buffalo shooting.

The Arizona Senate will investigate a social media post from state Sen. Wendy Rogers that suggested the shooter in a mass killing in Buffalo, New York, last weekend was a federal agent and part of a federal conspiracy.

The Senate voted 24-3, with three members not voting, to move forward with an investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee. The committee will now examine Rogers’ remarks “relating to the Buffalo shooting as inappropriate of an elected official with this body.”

An effort to expel Rogers, pushed by Democrats, failed on a 11-15 vote just after 4 p.m.

Sea Watchers, 1952 (oil on canvas)

Sea Watchers, Edward Hopper, 1952

Rogers, a Trump-endorsed, first-term politician who belongs to the Oath Keepers and has espoused conspiracy theories, was censured by her Senate peers on March 1 after she promoted hanging political enemies during an appearance at an event hosted by Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and threatened to destroy fellow Republicans’ careers.

Rogers also drew condemnation at the time for antisemitic statements and behavior, including a promotional photo of her next to do a dead rhino marked with a Star of David.

On Saturday, following the shooting deaths of 10 people at a Buffalo store, Rogers posted on the social media site Telegram, “Fed boy summer has started in Buffalo.”

Numerous political observers and journalists said that Rogers statement meant that she was calling the shooting was a “false flag” operation by federal authorities. The statement drew nearly 200 comments that were subsequently blocked from view by Telegram.

Two more articles discuss the GOP’s responsibility for racist violence:

David Leonhardt: The Right’s Violence Problem. The Buffalo killings are part of a pattern: Most extremist violence in the U.S. comes from the political right.

Over the past decade, the Anti-Defamation League has counted about 450 U.S. murders committed by political extremists.

Of these 450 killings, right-wing extremists committed about 75 percent. Islamic extremists were responsible for about 20 percent, and left-wing extremists were responsible for 4 percent.

Nearly half of the murders were specifically tied to white supremacists:

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As this data shows, the American political right has a violence problem that has no equivalent on the left. And the 10 victims in Buffalo this past weekend are now part of this toll. “Right-wing extremist violence is our biggest threat,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the ADL, has written. “The numbers don’t lie.”

The pattern extends to violence less severe than murder, like the Jan. 6 attack on Congress. It also extends to the language from some Republican politicians — including Donald Trump — and conservative media figures that treats violence as a legitimate form of political expression. A much larger number of Republican officials do not use this language but also do not denounce it or punish politicians who do use it; Kevin McCarthy, the top House Republican, is a leading example.

Talia Lavin at Rolling Stone: The Buffalo Shooter Isn’t a ‘Lone Wolf.’ He’s a Mainstream Republican.

There’s no such thing as a lone wolf — an appellation often given, in error, to terrorists who act alone, particularly those of the white supremacist variety. There are only those people who, fed a steady diet of violent propaganda and stochastic terror, take annihilatory rhetoric to its logical conclusion.

Such was the case on Saturday, when a teenaged white supremacist named Payton Gendron opened fire in a supermarket in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, killing 10 people, while livestreaming the carnage on the live-video site Twitch. Prior to the shooting, he had posted a 180-page manifesto in which he laid out his rationale clearly: He was an adherent of what is called Great Replacement Theory, the idea that white people, in the United States and white-majority countries around the world, are being systematically, deliberately outbred and “replaced” by immigrants and ethnic minorities, in a deliberate attempt to rid the world of whiteness. It’s a conspiracy theory that has inspired terror attacks in New Zealand and Pittsburgh, San Diego, and El Paso – an ideology that marries demographic panic with the idea of a cunning, nefarious plot. Reading through the document, what struck me hardest, however, was how very close the killer’s ideas were to the American mainstream – the white-hot core of American politics.

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Apple tree, Gustav Klimt

Five years ago, when white supremacists walked down the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” and carrying tiki torches, few people understood their intent – the fact that they were referring to replacement theory. The idea seemed outlandish, even incomprehensible; at the time, it was a fairly obscure rallying cry, based around a 2012 book by French novelist Renaud Camus fearmongering about a nonwhite-majority Europe, absorbed into the fetid stew of white-supremacist cant, where it acquired a vicious antisemitism. For many white supremacists, it is Jews who are orchestrating the “reverse colonization,” as Camus put it, of white countries, in order to more easily manipulate a nonwhite and therefore more malleable general populace. In Gendron’s manifesto, after explaining in detail why he picked the particular supermarket he did — it was in a majority-Black neighborhood with a majority-Black clientele — he felt the need to explain why he did not choose to attack Jews. “[Jews] can be dealt with in time, but the high fertility replacers will destroy us now, it is a matter of survival we destroy them first,” he wrote, before listing his weaponry in detail with price points included — a manual for future murders. While Gendron’s choice to engage in mass slaughter puts him on the radical fringe of those who enforce their beliefs with bullets, and his overt antisemitism differs slightly from vaguer blame of “elites,” “Democrats” and “globalists,” his fixation on white birthrates and demographic change are neither fringe nor particularly unusual. The gnawing fear of a minority-white America has utterly consumed conservative politics for the past half-decade, creating a Republican party whose dual obsessions with nativism and white fertility have engendered a suite of policies engineered to change the nature of the body politic. What unites murderers like Gendron, and the long list of white supremacist attackers he cited with admiration, with the mainstream of the Republican party is the dream of a white nation.

What are your thoughts? What other stories are you following today?