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THE WEEK'S BEST QUOTES. . .
Four days after the Buffalo shooting, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a report showing that licensed gun manufacturers produced more than eleven million new weapons in 2020—almost triple the number produced in 2000. The report also documented an increase in the number of “ghost guns”—weapons assembled from parts by illicit dealers or by people at home, and bearing no serial numbers. Law enforcement seized more than nineteen thousand such guns last year, suggesting that a far larger number is unaccounted for. In 2020, some forty-five thousand Americans died of gun-related wounds, more than half of them suicides. When it comes to guns, no corner of the country is untouched. — Amy Davidson Sorkin
“The nation will not stand aside and allow Republicans to get away with just thoughts and prayers. It is time for Republicans to be confronted and held accountable for their inaction on common-sense gun legislation and their enabling of mass shooters.” — Beto O’Rourke, speaking for America after Republicans claim that it is not the right time to talk about the issue.
“The suspected shooter was a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.” — Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) spreading this false and transphobic claim after Tuesday’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.
“Just to be clear, f**k you Ted Cruz. You f**king baby killer.” — Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), on Twitter, after Cruz offered prayers for the families of the children killed at a Texas school.
“As a nation we have to ask: When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? How many scores of little children, who witnessed what happened, see their friends die as if they’re in a battlefield, for God’s sake?” — President Joe Biden in an address to the nation.
"The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line.” — From George Soros remarks delivered at the 2022 World Economic Forum in Davos.
“I am here on this floor to beg, to literally get down on my hands and knees and beg my colleagues: Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.” — Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) took to the Senate floor to make an impassioned plea to fellow lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at stopping mass shootings.“For twenty years of my diplomatic career I have seen different turns of our foreign policy, but never have I been so ashamed of my country as on Feb. 24 of this year. The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous and free society in our country. — Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat to the U.N. Office at Geneva, in a letter to his foreign colleagues sent after his resignation.
“Night after night, I would come home from a busy day at work and be there for the kids: dinner, homework, projects. While I was minding dishes, dogs, laundry, managing adolescent dramas and traumas, George would be just steps away from me, tucked away in his home office, plotting against my boss and me.” — Kellyanne Conway in her new book..
The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq. I mean of Ukraine.” — A Freudian slip by former President George W. Bush
“Is Google trying to f**k me?” — Donald Trump complaining to friends and advisers that his social network still doesn’t have an Android app.
192 Republicans voted against funding to fix the baby formula shortage.
9 Republicans voted against allowing low-income parents to use WIC benefits to buy baby formula.
203 Republicans voted against a bill to combat domestic terrorism. — MeidasTouch.com @MeidasTouch
“Clean it up a little bit because sometimes when I’m discussing things with a reporter, I speak differently than if I’m making a speech. Then I speak perfectly.” — Donald Trump, during an interview with Golf Digest.
“I didn’t want to be a hype beast, but I’ve had it in my back pocket to say that every state that went red should secede from the United States." — Ohio Republican congressional candidate J.R. Majewski in a livestream on Periscope following the 2020 election.
“Have your own media. It’s the only way to point out the insanity of the progressive left,” he said. “The problem is that the western media is adjusted to the leftist viewpoint. Those who taught reporters in universities already had progressive leftist principles. Of course, the GOP has its media allies but they can’t compete with the mainstream liberal media. My friend, Tucker Carlson is the only one who puts himself out there. His show is the most popular. What does it mean? It means programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or as you say 24/7.” -– Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, at the CPAC conference in Hungary.
“I’ve been saying since November 2020 that, barring a health event, Biden will run for re-election in 2024 for one simple reason: There is no other option.” — Jonathan Last
“Now is the time to stop the next shooting ... In each case we say this isn’t the time. Now is the time — like, literally right now. That’s why I’m here.” — Texas gubernatorial candidate @BetoORourke on Gov. Greg Abbott saying now is not the time to politicize a shooting.
“The question for every one of us is in this time of testing, will we do our duty? Will we defend our Constitution? Will we stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics? Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies and enable the liar?” — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), speaking at the JFK Profiles in Courage award ceremony Sunday.
“You are a jackass… You are a brainwashed asshole… you are probably as demented as Biden.” — Rudy Giuliani in a shouting match with a spectator while marching in a New York City parade.
Asked on Newsmax about his solution for school shootings, Texas AG Ken Paxton mentions arming teachers.
How the right embraced the racist ‘replacement’ theory. — Washington Post video
LITIGATION TRACKERPending Criminal and Civil Cases Against Donald Trump. https://www.justsecurity.org/75032/litigation-tracker-pending-criminal-and-civil-cases-against-donald-trump/
IN THIS ISSUE
IN THE NEWS
|IN THE NEWS...|
Andy Borowitz: Twitter in Chaos After the Elon Musk Who Offered to Buy It Turns Out to Be a Bot
Chaos enveloped Twitter after the social-media company discovered that the Elon Musk who had offered to buy it three weeks ago was actually a bot.
The bid for Twitter is believed to be the largest corporate takeover ever proposed by a bot, mergers-and-acquisitions experts say.
A visibly embarrassed Parag Agrawal, the C.E.O. of Twitter, explained to reporters how the company was persuaded that the Elon Musk bot was actually Elon Musk.
“The bot account had a blue check, indicating that it had been verified,” Agrawal said. “It now appears that the bot had somehow been given the blue check by another bot.”
The C.E.O. said that Twitter was conducting a “thorough internal review of procedures” to insure that it is not purchased by a bot in the future. “The bot appeared to be an actual human being, which should’ve been our first clue that it wasn’t Elon,” he said. https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/
American gun violence
If American gun violence is no longer surprising, it still is shocking. On an average day in the U.S., more than 35 people are murdered with a gun. No other affluent country in the world has a gun homicide rate nearly as high. Consider this chart:
As bad as it is, the chart underplays the toll, for two reasons. It covers 2019, and gun violence has surged since the pandemic. The chart also does not include suicides and accidental shootings.
Altogether, guns killed about 45,000 Americans last year.
Why is the U.S. such an outlier? The main reasons, studies suggest, are the sheer number of guns in this country and the loose laws about obtaining and using them. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/25/briefing/texas-elementary-school-shooting-uvalde.html
A glowing red orb’: Wild UFO theories move from the shadows to Congress
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) says he doesn’t believe that a secret cabal of government officials and contractors are hiding a captured alien spaceship.
But he wants to make sure — so that we can all move on to more serious business.
One of the most eye-popping moments during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on UFOs on Tuesday was when the Wisconsin Republican pressed Pentagon officials on claims that a ‘glowing red orb’ once shut down nuclear weapons in Montana and that a recently leaked document revealed that other-worldly vehicles — and possibly even extraterrestrial bodies — are being kept from government leaders and the public. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/18/ufo-theories-congress-pentagon-00033497
Putin blasted for ‘weaponizing’ world food supplies amid Ukraine war - 'Deliberate policy'
The Russian President has been accused of stealing grain and destroying agricultural equipment as part of his ongoing war in Ukraine. It is believed that Russia is dismantling infrastructure needed for food production while at the same time blocking ports that are important in transporting cereals out of Ukraine. https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1612601/Putin-world-food-supplies-Ukraine-Russia-UN-Bank-of-England-ont
How Trump’s 2020 Election Lies Have Gripped State Legislatures
At least 357 sitting Republican legislators in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their office to discredit or try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to a review of legislative votes, records and official statements by The New York Times.
The tally accounts for 44 percent of the Republican legislators in the nine states where the presidential race was most narrowly decided. In each of those states, the election was conducted without any evidence of widespread fraud, leaving election officials from both parties in agreement on the victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The Times’s analysis exposes how deeply rooted lies and misinformation about former President Donald J. Trump’s defeat have become in state legislatures, which play an integral role in U.S. democracy. In some, the false view that the election was stolen — either by fraud or as a result of pandemic-related changes to the process — is now widely accepted as fact among Republican lawmakers, turning statehouses into hotbeds of conspiratorial thinking and specious legal theories.
Percentage of Republican state legislators that took steps to discredit or overturn the 2020 presidential election results:
- Arizona 81%
- Pennsylvania 78%
- Wisconsin 73%
- Michigan 48%
- Georgia 23%
- Nevada 4%
‘Megadrought’ threatens water and power supplies to millions in US
The “megadrought” gripping the southwestern US has driven water levels at the two largest reservoirs to record lows, forcing unprecedented government intervention to protect water and power supplies across seven states.
Millions of Americans already contending with critical water shortages now face the prospect of black outs as energy demand grows during heatwaves just as hydroelectric power supply is strained. A US power regulator this week warned that a big swath of the US was at risk of blackouts, partly as a result of drought conditions curtailing hydroelectric supplies.
US government climate scientists have said more than half the country is enduring drought conditions, while a separate study estimated that the drought affecting southwestern states was the worst to hit the region for 1,200 years after being exacerbated by human activity.
“This is by far the worst drought in our records,” said Andrew Hoell, a scientist specialising in droughts at the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). “Why would you not care about the worst drought for more than a millennia? We have to live through this.” https://www.ft.com/content/9f00dfff-3a44-483f-9d5a-f58db7806046
Trump shares CPAC Hungary platform with notorious racist and antisemite
A notorious Hungarian racist who has called Jews “stinking excrement”, referred to Roma as “animals” and used racial epithets to describe Black people, was a featured speaker at a major gathering of US Republicans in Budapest.
Zsolt Bayer took the stage at the second day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Hungary, a convention that also featured speeches from Donald Trump, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows.
The last featured speaker of the conference was Jack Posobiec, a far-right US blogger who has used antisemitic symbols and promoted the fabricated “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory smearing prominent Democrats as pedophiles. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/may/21/trump-shares-cpac-hungary-platform-racist-antisemite
Group Chat Linked to Roger Stone Shows Ties Among Jan. 6 Figures
It was known as F.O.S. — or Friends of Stone — and while its members shifted over time, they were a motley cast of characters.
There were “Stop the Steal” organizers, right-wing influencers, Florida state legislative aides and more than one failed candidate loyal to former President Donald J. Trump. One participant ran a website that promoted disinformation about the Capitol attack. Another was an officer in the Army Reserve allied with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.
At least three members of the group chat are now facing charges in connection with the riot at the Capitol in January 2021. They include Owen Shroyer, the right-hand man of the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; Enrique Tarrio, the onetime chairman of the Proud Boys; and Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers militia.
But the focus of the chat was always the man whose photo topped its home page: Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime political operative and adviser to Mr. Trump. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/20/us/politics/roger-stone-jan-6.html
Number of People Receiving Jobless Benefits Reached 52-Year Low in Early May
The number of people receiving unemployment benefits fell in early May to the lowest point in more than 50 years, adding to signs the U.S. labor market remains unusually tight. https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-jobless-claims-rise-for-third-straight-week-11652964963
Eastman provides new details of Trump’s direct role in legal effort to overturn election
John Eastman, the attorney who architected Donald Trump’s last-ditch legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election, revealed Friday that he routinely communicated with Trump either directly or via “six conduits” during the chaotic weeks that preceded the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
In a late-night court filing urging a federal judge to maintain the confidentiality of his work for Trump, Eastman provided the clearest insight yet into the blizzard of communications between Trump, his top aides, his campaign lawyers and the army of outside attorneys who were working to help reverse the outcome in a handful of states won by Joe Biden. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/20/eastman-trump-role-legal-overturn-election-00034023
Struggling in Ukraine, Russia paves way to sign up over-40s for army
In a sign of Russia's urgent need to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, parliament said on Friday it would consider a bill to allow Russians over 40 and foreigners over 30 to sign up for the military. https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/russian-parliament-consider-allowing-over-40s-sign-up-military-2022-05-20/
Democrats, the Midterm Jinx Is Not Inevitable
In November, the Democrats are widely expected to lose the House and probably also the Senate. Large defeats are the norm for a new president’s first midterm. A harbinger is a president’s approval rating, and President Biden’s stands at a lackluster 41.1 percent.
But standard political history may not be a good guide to 2022. The Democrats are facing long odds, but there are several reasons this could be an unusual political year.
For starters, Donald Trump is just as likely to hobble Republicans as he is to energize them. Mr. Trump will not be on the ballot, but many of his surrogates will. He has endorsed over 175 candidates in federal and state elections, and in his clumsy efforts to play kingmaker, Mr. Trump has promoted some badly compromised candidates and challenged party unity.
In the Georgia primary for governor, a Trump surrogate, David Perdue, is polling well behind Mr. Trump’s nemesis, the incumbent Brian Kemp. In the Georgia Senate race, Mr. Trump’s endorsed candidate, Herschel Walker, is running away from his past and locked in a tight race against the incumbent Raphael Warnock. It may not happen again, but in 2020, Mr. Trump’s meddling backfired and helped Democrats take two Senate seats. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/20/opinion/democrats-midterms.html
Russia bans 963 Americans, including Biden and Harris — but not Trump
Russia permanently banned nearly 1,000 Americans, including President Biden and Vice President Harris, from entering the country in response to the United States’ support of Ukraine and the historic sanctions facing Moscow nearly three months into its invasion..
The list appears to include major officials from the Biden administration, such as Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. The president’s son, Hunter Biden, is also named, as is former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
One prominent name missing from the list: former president Donald Trump. In fact, the only prominent Trump administration official included in the ban is former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/21/russia-bans-963-americans-ukraine-biden/
Red states aren't prepared for a post-Roe baby boom
The red states poised to ban or severely limit abortion already tend to have limited access to health care, poor health outcomes and fewer safety net programs in place for mothers and children.
Why it matters: If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, as it's expected to, the ensuing increase in births will likely leave families in tough circumstances and strain systems that are already hanging by a thread.
"What we're facing as a country is hundreds of thousands of births, probably disproportionately located in the states that have been most limited in what they do for pregnant women, infants and children. So this is the great paradox that we are dealing with," said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University. https://www.axios.com/2022/05/20/abortion-roe-supreme-court-babies-mothers
Trump Fears Wrath of 'Suburban Women' Over Roe Loss Could Torpedo 2024 Chances
Donald Trump is worried about his chances in the 2024 election amid the wrath of “suburban women” furious about the expected gutting of Roe v. Wade, sources have told The Rolling Stone.
“Suburban women have been a recurring concern” for Trump, including during the 2020 campaign, when his “smarter advisers were sounding the alarm to him about how he was losing suburbs,” said a person familiar with the issue, according to the magazine.
“He is … worried women in the suburbs could punish him for this one day,” the source reportedly added, referring to the Supreme Court’s predicted scuttling of the landmark ruling that has safeguarded reproductive rights for half a century. That path was highlighted in a leak early this month of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion shredding the decision. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/trump-suburban-women-roe-fear-2024_n_62890761e4b0415d4d781459
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. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/us/politics/midterms-trump-2020-election-deniers.html
ICE's American Dragnet
Center on Privacy & Technology’s two-year investigation, which included hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests and a comprehensive review of ICE’s contracting and procurement records, reveals that ICE now operates as a domestic surveillance agency. Since its founding in 2003, ICE has not only been building its own capacity to use surveillance to carry out deportations but has also played a key role in the federal government’s larger push to amass as much information as possible about all of our lives. By reaching into the digital records of state and local governments and buying databases with billions of data points from private companies, ICE has created a surveillance infrastructure that enables it to pull detailed dossiers on nearly anyone, seemingly at any time. In its efforts to arrest and deport, ICE has – without any judicial, legislative or public oversight – reached into datasets containing personal information about the vast majority of people living in the U.S., whose records can end up in the hands of immigration enforcement simply because they apply for driver’s licenses; drive on the roads; or sign up with their local utilities to get access to heat, water and electricity.
ICE has built its dragnet surveillance system by crossing legal and ethical lines, leveraging the trust that people place in state agencies and essential service providers, and exploiting the vulnerability of people who volunteer their information to reunite with their families. Despite the incredible scope and evident civil rights implications of ICE’s surveillance practices, the agency has managed to shroud those practices in near-total secrecy, evading enforcement of even the handful of laws and policies that could be invoked to impose limitations. Federal and state lawmakers, for the most part, have yet to confront this reality. https://www.americandragnet.org/
Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of Capitol before attack
The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack revealed on Thursday that it had evidence to suggest certain “reconnaissance tours” took place in the days before 6 January, potentially providing some rioters with a layout of the complex.
The request for voluntary cooperation from Georgia Republican congressman Barry Loudermilk indicates the panel has been quietly focused on one of the unexplained mysteries of 6 January: how certain supporters of Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol appeared to know in advance the layout of the Capitol complex. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/19/january-6-panel-congress-reconnaissance-tours-capitol
January 6 Committee Will Hold 6 Public Hearings
The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot “intends to hold six hearings, with the first and last in prime time, where its lawyers will run through how Trump’s schemes took shape before the election and culminated with the Capitol attack. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/23/capitol-attack-panel-public-hearings-trump
Dem-allied groups drop an A-bomb on Mastriano to start Pa. gov race
Democrats and allied groups are launching a $6 million digital, television and voter mobilization campaign attacking GOP Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, betting that his pledges to completely ban abortion will turn off swing state voters.
The ads, which will highlight Mastriano’s position and public comments against abortion rights, will begin airing in Pennsylvania on Monday. Sponsored by the political nonprofit Strategic Victory Fund along with other major Democratic donors and allied organizations, the campaign is being run by affiliates of Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Governors Association, along with the Pennsylvania-based progressive nonprofit group Commonwealth Communications. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/23/dem-allied-groups-drop-an-a-bomb-on-mastriano-to-start-pa-gov-race-00034245
State Democrats, abortion-rights activists 'incredibly frustrated' with federal inaction
State-level Democratic officials and abortion-rights advocates are discouraged by how little their allies in Congress and the White House have done since a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade became public.
Instead of executive actions that could increase access to abortion pills or help protect people’s medical information, national Democrats have largely highlighted what they can’t do in the Senate and focused on fueling midterm-election turnout, angering state and local leaders who feel the burden to protect and expand access is falling almost entirely on their shoulders. https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/23/state-democrats-abortion-rights-activists-federal-inaction-00034191
Poll: 61% of Trump voters agree with idea behind 'great replacement' conspiracy theory
A new Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows that more than 6 in 10 Donald Trump voters (61%) agree that “a group of people in this country are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views” — a core tenet of the false conspiracy theory known as the “great replacement.”
Less than a quarter of Trump voters (22%) disagree with that statement. https://news.yahoo.com/hed-poll-61-of-trump-voters-agree-with-idea-behind-great-replacement-conspiracy-theory-090004062.html
Trump’s picks in Tuesday’s GOP primaries spent over $400,000 at Mar-a-Lago
The campaigns of seven Republican candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump spent over $400,000, combined, at his private club Mar-a-Lago in the buildup to Tuesday’s primary clashes, according to federal and state campaign finance records. https://www.cnbc.com/2022/05/24/trumps-picks-in-tuesdays-gop-primaries-spent-over-400000-at-mar-a-lago.html
Ethics law offers possible path for Trump prosecution
As federal investigators weigh the potential criminality of former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, legal experts say a decades-old ethics law — one routinely violated by members of Trump’s inner circle — could provide them a glide path to prosecution.
The Hatch Act prohibits electioneering by executive branch officials, including the promotion of the president’s political interests, during the course of their formal duties.
The law was regularly flouted by the Trump administration while in office, a trend that continued throughout the two months between the presidential election and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While the ethics law has been used almost entirely administratively since it was passed in the 1930s, experts say a rarely used criminal provision of the law could be a novel and relatively straightforward strategy to ensure consequences for Trump in what is sure to be a challenging atmosphere. https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/3498702-ethics-law-offers-possible-path-for-trump-prosecution/
Embracing COVID misinformation, Kansas Senate says ‘national sovereignty’ is under threat
The Kansas Senate adopted a resolution Monday condemning proposed changes to the World Health Organization that some Republicans falsely contend would remove health policy authority from U.S. officials.
Without debate or a roll call vote, senators approved the resolution, which is grounded in right-wing fears of a handover of “national sovereignty” to the WHO. Read more at: https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article261712952.html
Rudy Giuliani stonewalls Capitol attack investigators during lengthy deposition
Donald Trump’s onetime attorney Rudy Giuliani testified to the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack at length on Friday but declined to discuss the involvement of congressional Republicans in efforts to overturn the 2020 election result, according to sources familiar with the matter. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/may/24/rudy-giuliani-capitol-attack-committee-testimony
The DAILY GRILL
Bet most people still don’t know that a Clinton campaign lawyer, using campaign funds, created an elaborate hoax about Trump and Russia.
Makes you wonder what else is fake. -- Elon Musk@elonmusk responding to revelations that the Hillary Clinton campaign facilitated the creation of a false dossier alleging that Donald Trump had colluded with Russia to alter the US presidential election, and then gone on to disseminate that false information to the press.
What’s interesting about the the Wall Street Journal editorial board's effort to identify the Alfa Bank rumor as the point at which Clinton “did” the invention of the Trump-Russia conspiracy isn’t simply that it’s obviously not true. It’s also that this is the second attempt by Trump sympathizers to do so. Takeaway: Hillary Clinton didn’t do it. -- Philip Bump. See also “The Alfa Bank Hoax Hoax” by Tim Miller
Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick (R) filed suit to try to force the state to count undated absentee and mail-in ballots in the very tight primary between him and Mehmet Oz (R), the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The national Republican Party is taking the side of Mehmet Oz (R) in Pennsylvania’s neck-and-neck GOP primary contest for U.S. Senate and opposing a lawsuit that could help David McCormick (R) close the gap in votes, the AP reports.
Masha Gessen: Inside Putin’s Propaganda Machine
Autocratic ideologies in general, and Putin’s in particular, are cobbled together on the fly. Usable words and quotable quotes are few and far between—that is, among other things, why the propaganda machine makes such extensive use of a couple of Putin’s sayings from 2018, the ones about Russians going straight to Heaven and about not needing a world in which there is no Russia. Baronova’s job was to write and edit neediest-case-type stories to raise money and awareness. She didn’t do much, she told me, because she didn’t have to. Funding was lavish, expectations were low, and Baronova concluded that “the more people get good salaries for doing nothing, the better.” The system worked because it had an audience of one—Putin—and whatever he saw apparently satisfied him. She quit her job on February 24th. “Too late, I know,” she told me. In early May, the independent Russian investigative publication Proekt reported that the Kremlin was dropping the term “de-Nazification,” because it hadn’t gained traction with the public.
If Russian propagandists think of themselves as the foot soldiers and officers of an army, this is an army shaped by the mythology of the Great Patriotic War. Victory in this war is the centerpiece of contemporary Russian historiography, the single event that justifies Russia’s claim to do what it wants in the world, and especially in its fight against those it has labelled Nazis. But the story of the war that Russians learn in school—and from books, movies, and television series—stresses the sacrifice made by Soviet forces even more than these forces’ ultimate triumph.
Russian schoolchildren today, just as their parents and grandparents did, memorize the stories of martyrs: Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, a partisan who was captured by the Germans and refused to talk, effectively choosing death by hanging; Alexander Matrosov, who died after throwing himself in front of a German machine gun. One of the highest-grossing Russian movies of all time, the 2013 film “Stalingrad,” ends with its sole surviving protagonist radioing for an air strike against the building where he has taken shelter, so that both he and a large number of German troops will be killed. Being willing to die for your country is an element of the mythology of any military, but, for Russian soldiers, dying—and taking others with them—is the better part of valor.
Every night, the propagandists model heroism as though they were suicide bombers strapping on explosive vests, live on air. During the April 26th show, Solovyov and Simonyan discussed the most likely outcomes of the current conflict. “Personally, I see the path of a third world war as the most realistic,” Simonyan said. “Knowing us, knowing our leader, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, knowing how things work around here . . . I think that the most improbable outcome—that it will all end in a nuclear strike—is still more probable than defeat. This horrifies me, on the one hand, but on the other I understand that this is how it is.”
“But we are going straight to Heaven,” Solovyov reminded her.
“Yes,” Simonyan said.
“And they’ll just croak.” https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-communications/inside-putins-propaganda-machine
Eugene Robinson: Cult or a conspiracy? The GOP sure isn’t a normal political party
Is today’s Republican Party primarily a cult of personality or a seditious conspiracy? I can argue either side of that question. But it is clear that the GOP is no longer a political organization or movement in the traditional sense. And if Republican cultists and conspirators win power in November, voters have only ourselves to blame.
It’s not as if we can’t see the dangers that lie ahead. As Bob Dylan once sang, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
The object of the GOP’s cultish devotion is, of course, former president Donald Trump. I have my doubts whether Trump will actually run for the White House again in 2024 (and risk losing twice, whether he acknowledges either loss publicly), but for now he is the unchallenged egomaniacal leader of the party he seized in 2016.
The dominant pattern of the Republican primaries thus far is clear: It is very, very hard to win a statewide nomination without Trump’s support, or at least his amity; and it is impossible to win Trump’s backing if you reject his lie about the supposedly “stolen” election. How is that anything but cultlike?
This is the most dangerous aspect of the GOP’s devolution from party to personality cult: Devotion to Trump requires a willingness to betray democracy. Much of Trump’s attention is focused on states, such as Pennsylvania, where he falsely claims he was victimized by voter fraud. If Mastriano were to win the governor’s race, his handpicked secretary of state could refuse to certify 2024 election results that Trump did not like.
Vote-counting in the Pennsylvania Senate primary is not yet finished, but Trump has already called on Oz — who has a tiny, tentative lead over McCormick — to preemptively “declare victory.”
This is where the question of seditious conspiracy comes in. The Republican Party is shaping itself in Trump’s image, and Trump has shown nothing but contempt for the traditions of fair play and good will that allow our democracy to function. Refusing to accept the will of the voters is authoritarianism. Today’s GOP, increasingly, is just fine with that.
All is not lost, however. Turnout in midterm elections is traditionally much lower than in presidential years. Voters who are appalled at what the GOP has become can send a powerful and definitive message by abandoning their traditional nonchalance and voting in huge numbers. We can reject Trumpism, both for its cultishness and for its proto-fascism. We can take a stand. It’s up to us what kind of country we want to live in. We had better speak our minds with our votes — while we still can. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/19/cult-or-conspiracy-the-gop-is-no-longer-a-normal-political-party/
Ed Kilgore: How the GOP Abandoned Pro-choice Republicans
Last week, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified abortion rights, died in in the Senate by a vote of 51 to 49. All 210 House Republicans and all 50 Senate Republicans voted against the legislation. This surprised no one, but it’s actually odd in several ways.
When Roe v. Wade came down in the early 1970s, a majority of the GOP was pro-choice. It took decades for Republican officials to become almost monolithically opposed to abortion rights. But pro-choice Republican voters didn’t entirely cease to exist, and this could become a problem for the party if, as expected, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the right to abortion at the end of this term.
Though polling on the issue is notoriously slippery, our best guess is that a little over a third of Republicans disagree with their party on whether to outlaw abortion (while about one-quarter of Democrats disagree with their party on the topic). These Americans have virtually no representation in Congress with the limited exceptions of Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Though both GOP senators support some abortion rights, they still opposed the WHPA and are against dropping the filibuster to preserve abortion rights.
Ironically, abortion rights as we know them are, to a considerable extent, the product of Republican lawmaking at every level of government. The most obvious examples are the two Supreme Court decisions that established and reaffirmed a constitutional right to abortion. Of the seven justices who supported Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that struck down pre-viability-abortion bans, five were appointed by Republican presidents, including the author of the majority opinion, Harry Blackmun, and then–Chief Justice Warren Burger. All five justices who voted to confirm the constitutional right to pre-viability abortions in 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey were appointed by Republican presidents as well.
If the Supreme Court does fully reverse Roe in the coming weeks, making abortion a more highly salient 2022 campaign issue, the one-third of pro-choice Republican voters may take issue with their lack of congressional representation. Will the first big threat to abortion rights in nearly a half-century make them change their priorities? Or will they still care more about party loyalty and issues like inflation? Perhaps nothing will change for most of these voters. But in close races, the abandoned tradition of pro-choice Republicanism could make a comeback to the detriment of the GOP’s ambitious plans for major midterm gains. https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/how-gop-abandoned-pro-choice-republicans.html
Graeme Wood: Why Tucker Carlson Should Want the Buffalo Manifesto Made Public
The alleged teenage mass shooter in Buffalo, New York, wrote and posted a 180-page manifesto. I read the whole thing, and the only part that surprised me was the banality of his stated intention to eat “corn beef hash” for breakfast, followed by lunch at McDonald’s, before killing as many Black people as possible. He expects to go to prison and either die there or someday be freed as a hero, after white people fight back en masse against the attempt to “replace” them in the lands where they live. Committing what he calls “an act of terrorism” is his method of warning all non-white people to “leave [white territory] while you still can, as long as the White man lives you will never be safe here.”
Many have noted the similarity between the Buffalo shooter’s “Great Replacement” theory—that liberals are trying to replace the current electorate with new, more obedient voters from the Third World—and theories espoused on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News. This is because Carlson has said (I quote from his show), that liberals are “trying to replace the current electorate with new, more obedient voters from the Third World.” The existence of this belief cannot be suppressed. It is on social media; it is on Fox News. But I rarely see it expressed in a form as repulsive as the one it takes in this manifesto, with its images of hook-nosed, “demonic” Jews and grotesque, animalistic caricatures of Black people. If Carlson aired these images, he would be fired during the first commercial break, and aghast viewers would return from their reverse-mortgage ads to find a stricken-looking Sean Hannity, hastily wheeled out from his makeup station to pull a double shift.
I think Carlson himself would be repulsed by these images—and for the sake of all, including his soul, I would like him to distinguish his views from those expressed this weekend. Does he believe that Jews controlled the slave trade and owned 78 percent of slaves in the United States? (Those who remember the 1990s might notice the debt white anti-Semites owe to that era’s propaganda by the Nation of Islam.) Does he consider Black people subhumans fit only for child abandonment and crime? How does his version of the Great Replacement differ from the one in the manifesto, which considers the history of race in America a colossal and genocidal crime against white people? (The Buffalo shooter does seem to think American Indians got a raw deal, but that it is too late to make amends.)
Suppressing this manifesto is in some ways an act of kindness to its author, who comes across as a crass amateur who learned his history from cartoons and 4chan. And it is unfair to Carlson, who may struggle to deny his association with a killer whose words are hidden from the public. He deserves his chance to explain why his views are not just genteel versions of the manifesto, especially because many of those in a position to analyze and summarize the manifesto hate him. I am reminded of “soft” Islamists, who believe that Islam is the fundamental answer to political questions, welcomed nonviolent overthrow of secular regimes, and were stunned to watch ISIS take that view to a ghastly extreme. Charity and recrimination alike required the world to demand that these soft Islamists explain their relationship to their violent cousins—an explanation made harder by those who wished to suppress the words of ISIS altogether and leave the softies shadowboxing with a vague and formless opponent.
I have no sympathy with Islamism of any kind, and I think all notions of a “Great Replacement” rely on an obtuse understanding of American history, which has always been a churn of forced and voluntary immigration, conquest, and demographic change. But I want those who disagree with me to squirm. Reading this manifesto is unlikely to convert anyone to its cause. The experience would be uncomfortable and unpleasant for anyone but a hardened, violent racist. And if I were Carlson, nothing would make me squirmier than the knowledge that the author of this irredeemable nonsense might have thought I was onto something. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/buffalo-shooting-manifesto-tucker-carlson/629878/
Jean Guerrero: White terrorists and their ‘Tucker Carlson Syndrome’
In nearly 700 pages of writings on the Discord messaging app, a person who identified himself as Payton Gendron, the 18-year-old suspect in Saturday’s mass shooting in a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store, described his motivations. He expressed a reluctance to kill people: “What I want right now is something to pass or someone to do something so I don’t have to kill these people.” The attack killed 10 people and injured three; 11 of the victims were Black.
The writer on Discord, according to transcripts of the messages that I reviewed, had been radicalized to believe that white people’s survival depended on eliminating people of color, whom he called “replacers.” He planned to try to shoot victims twice in the head to minimize their pain.
Mental illness didn’t cause his monstrous actions. Mass bloodshed is the logical conclusion of embracing “replacement” theory, a white supremacist and antisemitic fiction espoused by some leading Republicans.
The GOP has been deflecting all week. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the killer “deranged” while sidestepping questions about his party’s promotion of his worldview. Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has done more than anyone to mainstream replacement theory, attributed Gendron’s ideology to a “diseased mind.”
But Gendron’s beliefs aren’t uncommon among conservatives or Republicans. Carlson has used his most-watched show hundreds of times to popularize the lie that Democrats are trying to “replace the current electorate … [with] more obedient voters from the Third World.” An Associated Press and University of Chicago poll this month found one-third of U.S. adults now believe a version of this propaganda. Call it “Tucker Carlson Syndrome.” https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-05-18/op-ed-white-terrorists-tucker-carlson
Thomas B. Edsall: The MAGA Formula Is Getting Darker and Darker
The chilling amalgam of Christian nationalism, white replacement theory and conspiratorial zeal — from QAnon to the “stolen” 2020 election — has attracted a substantial constituency in the United States, thanks in large part to the efforts of Donald Trump and his advisers. By some estimates, adherents of these overlapping movements make up as much as a quarter or even a third of the electorate. Whatever the scale, they are determined to restore what they see as the original racial and religious foundation of America.
White Americans who affirm Christian nationalist views are quite concerned with whites losing their majority status in the United States. They are also very concerned with low birthrates and believe that we need to return to a day when Americans had more babies. This is related to their fears of immigration and cultural change. White Christian nationalism is also powerfully related with views that true patriots may need to resort to physical violence to save the nation, because they believe the current situation has become so dire.
Racism is intimately intertwined with white Christian nationalism, and so the great replacement theory is a part of that intersection. We find in study after study that when white Americans strongly embrace Christian nationalism — an ethnoreligious political ideology that advocates a close fusion between a particular expression of Christianity and American civic life — they are more likely to (1) fear a time in the future where whites are no longer the majority, (2) oppose interracial marriage, (3) oppose transracial adoption, (4) assume Black Americans are biologically inferior, (5) believe police violence toward Black Americans is warranted and (6) show more tolerance for “old-fashioned racists” compared to other stigmatized groups.
Joseph Baker, a sociologist at East Tennessee State University who together with Perry and Whitehead wrote the paper “Keep America Christian (and White): Christian Nationalism, Fear of Ethnoracial Outsiders, and Intention to Vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election,” noted:
Christian nationalist views and xenophobia are very highly correlated with one another. Specifically, when Americans score highly on a comprehensive measure of xenophobia that includes perceptions of racial, economic, criminal and cultural threat from immigrants, they nearly always also scored highly on a measure of Christian nationalism. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/opinion/christian-nationalism-great-replacement.htm
Dana Milbank: As Trump loses kingmaker status, he becomes more dangerous
Just how dark can “Dark MAGA” get? Donald Trump and one of his prominent acolytes have just shone some light on the matter.
On Sunday, amid a growing number of signs that he has lost his hot hand in Republican primaries, Trump elevated the idea of “civil war” against an “enemy [coming] from within” the United States. Republican leaders responded, as usual, with silence.
On Monday, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor in Georgia, former senator David Perdue, closed out his flailing campaign for the Republican nomination by stripping off the mask and letting fly a starkly racist finale: He said the (Black) Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, is “demeaning her own race” and should “go back where she came from.”
The back-to-back appeals to violence and white supremacy provide a caution to those celebrating Trump’s apparent loss of his kingmaker status in Republican politics: As ugly as things have been with Trump holding an iron grip over the GOP, they could actually get worse if he feels his grasp slipping and becomes even more incendiary in his provocations.
Trump and Perdue are the ones demeaning their race — the human race. After Buffalo, they know exactly where these words lead, and yet, even now, they choose to escalate. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/24/trump-picks-primaries-perdue-lose-dangerous/