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Extinguishing Elise Stefanik's pernicious gaslighting is only the beginning

Like everyone else in the House Republican conference, New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has done her share of inciting white political violence. While the House debated recently additional aid for Ukraine, the No. 3 Republican chose during her allotted time to rail against the president for “the invasion at the southern border.”

That “invasion” plays a small role in the larger story of “the great replacement” feared by right-wingers to such a degree that one of them, Payton Gendron, took matters into his own hands last week and shot to pieces 10 Black people at a supermarket on Buffalo’s eastside.

So it’s with irony, you could say, that Stefanik stood at the podium after the massacre to “take a moment for my home state of New York:"

Our nation is heartbroken and saddened about this horrific loss of life in Buffalo. This was an act of pure evil and the criminal should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It is not the time to politicize this.
We mourn together as a nation.

Actually, it’s gaslighting.

This is what gaslighting looks like.

The Democrats, she means to say, should not politicize white political violence by seeking political ways of preventing future acts of white political violence after the House GOP spent virtually all its time inciting white political violence, resulting in white political violence.

If they do, she means to say, how will the nation heal?

It’s perfect gaslighting. I have to say.

But don’t fall for it.

***

White-power terrorist has a point?

From NBC News:

Two days after a white gunman opened fire and killed 10 Black people at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store, teacher Elizabeth Close began her high school ethnic studies class in Austin, Texas, by reminding her students about a new state law that requires her to provide balanced perspectives on 'widely debated and currently controversial issues.'
Close told her students that under the law, one of several recently implemented across the country that limit the ways teachers can discuss racism and current events, she was obligated to inform them that there’s more than one way to view Saturday’s mass shooting.
On one hand, she explained that authorities are investigating the killings as a racially motivated hate crime carried out by an 18-year-old who reportedly wrote of his belief in a conspiracy theory that white Americans are being 'replaced' by people of color through immigration, interracial marriage and integration.
'But I’m also supposed to tell you that that’s just one perspective,' Close recalled telling her students. 'Another perspective is that this young man was out defending the world — or his kind — from being taken over.'

***

“The real issue”

When I write about religion, good or bad, someone somewhere explains “the real issue.” Get rid of religion. Get rid of the issue.

I don’t know what planet these people live on. It’s not Earth. Religion, good or bad, has been part of human affairs since humans organized themselves enough to warrant use of the term “human affairs.”

There once was a certain renegade cache, a certain poise and swagger, to being anti-religious. That fad peaked in the early aughts with the late Christopher Hitchens and his copycats. It wasn’t a set of beliefs, he said. Religion was a mental illness verging on totalitarianism. Standing against religion wasn’t offensive. Hitchens made it seem noble.

This is what people allude to when they explain “the real issue.”

Even if I agreed that religion is the problem, anti-religion isn’t going to solve it. Hitchens never spoke for a majority of people. He knew that. That fact was the reason his atheism got attention at all. It ran against the grain of the majority, especially white evangelical Protestants.

Atheism may be the opposite of theism in the abstract. Not in this world, though. The opposite of conservative religion – especially authoritarian religion, like white evangelicalism – is liberal religion.

Liberal religion makes room for all the other religions. It tolerates other traditions. It makes common cause. God contains multitudes. Liberal religion also wants a wall between church and state, because a state religion is the worst thing a liberal religion would ever face.

It’s conservative religion – especially authoritarian religion, like white evangelicalism – that longs to tear down that wall. It longs to replace moral systems competing for the attention of people who have not yet questioned authoritarian religion. It longs to replace freedom of and from religion with their own view of the “Christian moral order.”

Atheism or agnosticism or “none” can’t fight that.

Liberal religion, whatever that might be, can.

It always has.

***

“Christian moral order”

Jacky Eubanks is running for state representative in Michigan. On Facebook Thursday, she said. “I had the honor of being interviewed by Catholic journalist Michael Voris with Church Militant Church Militant/St. Michael’s Media discussing conservative Catholic values.”

Here’s an edited segment of that interview.

Bottomline: If you have premarital sex, you deserve punishment.

Voris: You're a faithful Catholic, meaning you believe everything the church teaches.

Eubanks: Yes.

Voris: You see that the use of contraception is against natural moral law? It’s destructive? It’s a doorway to abortion?

Eubanks: Yes.

Voris: The left is becoming completely uncorked, losing their minds. They're saying [post-Roe, right-wingers are] coming after your gay marriage next or coming after your birth control after that, and everything else. Well, you know what? Yeah, absolutely.

Eubanks: Yes.

We need to make a plain statement of fact, which is that the reason why the West is great is because Western civilization's underpinning is Christianity.

You cannot have a successful society outside of the Christian moral border.

Things like abortion, and things like gay marriage, are outside of the Christian moral order.

They lead to chaos and destruction and a culture of death, which is what we're seeing today.

We've abandoned the Christian moral order as a nation.

Voris: How do you answer the local press person who might be your age and just sees you as some loony that you want to take away your birth control?

Eubanks: I guess we have to ask ourselves, would that ever come to a vote in the Michigan state legislature and if it should. I guess I would have to say then that [birth control] should not be illegal.

People believe that birth control is better, because you won't get pregnant and you won't need to have an abortion.

But I think that it gives people the false sense of security in believing they can have consequence-free sex.

And that's not true and it's not correct.

Sex ought to be between one man and one woman in the confines of marriage and open to what you open to life. Absolutely.

***

“To sacrifice for us”

Republican Kandiss Taylor is running for Georgia governor:

The First Amendment, which is the right to worship Jesus freely – that’s why we have a country. That’s why we have Georgia.
Our founding fathers came here and destroyed American Indians’ homes. Their land – they took it. Look at what they went through, the Native Americans, to sacrifice for us – to have the freedom we have today.

Why deficit reduction is 'a poor talking point and a poor goal' that seldom inspires people to vote

Deficit reduction sounds like one of those nonpartisan measures of governing competence. That’s why Joe Biden has been touting it.

In fact, it’s largely irrelevant to voters – for good reason.

Deficit reduction says little about whether the government is helping.

Focusing on deficit reduction, whether rhetorically or ideologically, is at best a waste of time, at worst a barrier to meaningful change.

In recent remarks, Biden pointed out that, “the deficit went up every year under my predecessor before the pandemic and during the pandemic. It has gone down both years since I’ve been here.”

Overall the deficit fell by about $350 billion during Biden’s first year. He projects it will fall another $1.5 trillion by the end of his second. If that happens, it would be the biggest annual drop on record.

Biden argues that deficit reduction is good. It will lead to a decrease in inflation. He says it shows he’s working to reduce prices. He says it shows the promise of reducing prices should counter GOP criticisms.

The problem is this.

Deficit reduction or no, inflation hasn’t fallen that much. It was 8.3 percent in April. That’s slightly down from 8.5 percent in March.

Hardly anything to cheer about.

That lower deficits haven’t lowered inflation is no surprise, because the relationship between deficits and inflation is complicated and contested. A 2020 paper asking, “Do Enlarged Fiscal Deficits Cause Inflation,” for example, concluded that yeah, maybe and sometimes.

Deficits have fallen in part because unemployment is down, which means the federal government is taking in more tax revenue. This is obviously a good thing. The president can rightfully take credit for it.

But deficits are also down because the pandemic relief from late in Trump’s term and early in Biden’s are expiring. Most of that $3.1 trillion has already been spent. Government spending is lower because the government is no longer providing large amounts of covid relief.

It’s possible that reduced spending will reduce inflation.

A little.

But the real drivers of inflation are the sanctions on Russian oil and ongoing pandemic-related supply-chain issues — issues that have most recently contributed to a dangerous shortage of baby formula.

Meanwhile, less spending means less aid for the desperate.

The Child Tax Credit sent hundreds of dollars to poor families with children. It expired in January. Child poverty has spiked by 41 percent.

The US has also run through funds for free vaccines. Because Republicans are objectively pro-virus and pro-death, they won’t vote for additional aid. The US has money for a fourth booster for people over 65 and for initial shots for children under 5 (pending approval).

But the government can’t buy additional boosters for everyone else.

That’s a potential catastrophe as covid cases and hospitalizations are rising while many people have abandoned masks even on airplanes.

More broadly, Biden’s ambitious infrastructure agenda — including funds for clean energy, clearing up immigrant backlogs, economic expansion, for lead abatement — was derailed when West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin killed the Build Back Better Act in December.

Reducing the deficit hinges on not spending money on things we desperately need. We’re still in the middle of a historic pandemic, a historic climate catastrophe and the hollowing out of the middle class. Saying the deficit has gone down is an admission of failure.

Still, if you’ve failed, you might as well put a good spin on it. If people think low deficits are good, you might as well tout them, right?

The problem is that there’s little evidence that people think low deficits are good. Politicians don’t suffer electoral reversals when they run up deficits. Reagan for instance raised the deficit from $78.9 billion at the beginning of his term to $152.6 billion at the end; it didn’t stop him from a landslide reelection victory in 1984 and a Republican successor when George H.W. Bush won in 1988.

Surveys of voters don’t show much concern for the deficit either. Indeed, people say they care, but their concern is closely related to whether they can frame the other party as irresponsible. The deficit is just an excuse for partisan point-scoring; “I don’t like the deficit” is a way for Republican partisans to say “I don’t like Democrats.”

Some Very Serious People like George Will constantly burble about fiscal responsibility and the deficit. But it’s unlikely even they actually vote on it rather than on other issues or other partisan commitments.

No Biden-hater will vote for him because the deficit is lower. No Biden-lover will change their mind because of deficit reduction. No undecided is going to be decided because the deficit is down.

The Republicans have figured this out. They barely try to pretend that they care anymore. As Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Bernstein explains, the Republicans use “deficit” to mean “stuff they don’t like.”

Boasting about deficit reduction won’t abash Republicans.

It won’t sway voters.

It might even annoy them.

Worst of all, if Biden really did take deficit reduction seriously, he’d have to back off advocating for necessary programs and spending.

Deficit reduction is a poor talking point and a poor goal.

The president should focus elsewhere.

'Hillbilly spoof': How the team that pushed the 'Big Lie' in 2020 plotted together in Kentucky's 2019 election

When election night returns came in for the Kentucky election on Nov. 5, 2019, Matt Bevin, the Republican incumbent governor trailed Democratic challenger Andy Beshear by about 5,000 votes.

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A brash businessman who antagonized the state’s teachers, Bevin had gone into his reelection campaigns as one of the most unpopular governors in the country. But with Republicans prevailing in every single remaining statewide race, his supporters couldn’t believe it was possible for Bevin to lose.

One the day after the election, Bevin refused to concede, making baseless allegations to reporters, as the Courier Journal reported, “that absentee ballots were illegally counted, people were turned away from the polls, voting machines malfunctioned and ballots were stored in open boxes” — claims that were systematically refuted by state and local election officials.

By Saturday, with Bevin still refusing to concede, two far-right influencers jointly appeared on a podcast cross-published on their respective platforms to herald what sounded like an earth-shattering development.

“We have literally been given the motherlode of leaked documents from a whistleblower that appears to be someone who might be working inside the elections,” declared Millie Weaver, an Ohio-based media provocateur who was a correspondent for the conspiracy theory hub InfoWars at the time.

Weaver introduced Terpsehore “Tore” Maras, a pro-Trump podcaster who lived in North Dakota. Weaver said she and Maras had been on the phone the night before when she checked her email and discovered “that some whistleblower, anonymously, decided to send me hundreds of documents — hundreds — these documents are confirmed legitimate documents — we have official, like, ballots, Kentucky ballots, audit logs, you know, all this crazy information, bank transactions, checks, papers that have literally been taped back together that went through shredders. Somebody must have been doing a lot of work to compile all of this information. But this information looks like there’s significant amount of voter fraud going on in Kentucky.”

Indeed, someone had broken into Harp Enterprises, a Lexington-based company that supplies voting machines, and had accessed checks received by the company and other internal documents. Roger Baird, the company’s owner, told Raw Story he believes either a disgruntled former employee or someone associated with a losing campaign put a janitor up to stealing the documents.

But almost nothing about what the two women said about the documents — starting with Weaver’s claim that Harp Enterprises “runs the electronic voting machines for the entire state of Kentucky” — was true. Harp Enterprises, which exclusively purchases voting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic, services only some of the precincts in Kentucky’s 120 counties. Voters in Jefferson County, which includes Louisville and holds the largest share of Democratic voters, vote on ES&S machines.

Maras claimed that the documents included hand-written notes showing employees coaching each other on “how to manipulate the votes.” And based on a financial transaction from a company with foreign ownership, Maras concluded, “You can’t get any more smoking gun with regards to foreign-entity meddling, let’s say.”

Chagrined to see his private documents tweeted out and displayed on a video stream, Baird showed Weaver’s video presentation to his banker.

“He was like, ‘This is like a hillbilly spoof,’” Baird recalled. “There was just enough little droplets of real information that you might scratch your head, and say, ‘Huh, maybe there is something there.’ When they started connected me to George Soros….” As he recounted the story, Baird’s voice trailed off in incredulity and he burst into laughter.

As the joint podcast crept into its second hour, Weaver noted with approval that her boss, Alex Jones, was in the chat watching her video.

“This is election fraud,” Maras said. “Kentucky was a dry run. In 2020, they’re coming for everything.”

“We need to blow the lid off this now before they steal the 2020 election,” Weaver agreed.

“Yeah, but look at the losers they’ve got running on the Democratic ticket,” Maras chimed in. She ticked through the list of Democratic presidential primary contenders, noting each candidate’s unappealing attributes and weaknesses, while assigning insulting nicknames to them, before concluding with Trumpian logic that none of them could win fair and square.

“So, what they’re gonna do is they’re gonna steal it,” Maras concluded.

Weaver also attended a press conference at the state Capitol in Frankfurt, and spread many of the same baseless allegations to her followers in a livestream on Periscope. Weaver could not be reached for comment for this story.

The Kentucky election in 2019 was a harbinger, but in a different sense than Maras likely intended.

Many of the same players who would later turn up in Washington, DC after the 2020 election and promote a battery of conspiracy theories falsely claiming the election was stolen were also involved in investigating election fraud claims in Kentucky, according to at least two people involved.

Joshua Merritt, a Dallas area information technology consultant, indicated in a Twitter thread last month that Patrick Byrne, the former Overstock.com CEO “contracted” the Texas-based company Allied Security Operating Group to work on the Kentucky election.

In response to an account with the username @AmericanRE15 who asked him to confirm that he was saying “Byrne contracted you guys to work on the Bevins [sic] fraud in f***ing 2019,” Merritt replied, “Bingo….”

He added in a separate tweet: “And then there are all the people we briefed after 2018… We investigated Bevins case, Florida, Dallas, Maryland… And others.”

Josh Merritt responds to a question on a Twitter thread by @AmericanRE15 on April 30Screengrab

Merritt could not be reached for this story, and he blocked this reporter on Twitter during the reporting of this story.

Russell Ramsland, the founder of Allied Security Operating Group, began pushing election fraud claims after Democrats made gains in Texas during the 2018 mid-term elections, and would go on to push specious claims about the 2020 election on Lou Dobbs’ show on Fox Business Network, and then file a declaration alongside Maras to support federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the election.

Weaver also confirmed Allied Security Operations Group’s involvement in the Kentucky election, which has not been previously reported.

“I went down to Kentucky to go hand-deliver an SD drive or a USB stick to Governor Bevin himself at his office,” Weaver recounted in a December 2020 livestream. “And I also met with a group called ASOG. So, there’s this group called Allied Security Operations Group, and they’re heading a lot of the election fraud efforts that have been happening.”

Weaver said in the same livestream that she had provided the documents to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and described working with Allied Security Operations Group.

“Yeah, we met with them,” she said. “We essentially went over the information. They already had seemed to have gotten it, which means they probably got it from Grassley or something.”

Messages to Grassley’s office seeking clarification on whether the senator received the documents or anyone from his office passed them on to Ramsland were not returned before press time.

In November 2020, Weaver, Maras and Weaver’s partner Gavin Wince came to Washington, DC as the nucleus of a conspiracy-happy group that would come to be known as “Team America.” Patrick Bergy, who was also part of the group, previously told Raw Story that Byrne paid for their hotel rooms at the Westin Arlington Gateway hotel in northern Virginia.

Merritt also indicated in the April 30 Twitter thread that Byrne and Maras together connected with Allied Security Operations Group during the efforts to uncover fraud in Kentucky. In response to a question from the @AmericanRE15 account on whether he had disclosed that he worked with Maras on the Kentucky fraud claim, Merritt replied, “She was brought in with Byrne when we were working with them through ASOG.”

Raw Story could not independently confirm Byrne’s involvement in the Kentucky 2019 election. Byrne and Maras have previously said in a podcast published two months ago that they did not formally meet until November 2020.

“The first time that I think of myself as meeting Tore, we were in a restaurant in Alexandria; it was a week or two after the election,” Byrne said in the podcast. “She was with some people. I was with some people. Somebody took me over to meet her people. Boom boom boom. When I shook hands with her, after looking at her or listening to her for a few seconds, I said, ‘Gee, I’ve met you somewhere, haven’t I?’ And she actually turned away, didn’t answer. I thought it was funny.”

Byrne went on to share a cryptic story about how a couple of nights later Maras made an admission to him that suggested she had spied on him eight years earlier. According to Maras, she had been Byrne’s “waitress” at a restaurant in London in 2012 and he was her “target.”

Neither Byrne nor Maras could be reached for comment about Merritt’s assertion that they worked together on the 2019 election in Kentucky.

As previously reported by Raw Story and ProPublica, Byrne has described tasking a group of intelligence professionals with interviewing Maras after she submitted a declaration to support lawsuits filed by Sidney Powel that sought to overturn the 2020 election. Byrne said the team that interviewed Maras concluded that “we cannot rely on her for anything factual because we caught her in too many lies and exaggerations.”

Despite Byrne’s determination in December 2020 that Maras was not credible, the two continue to appear together on podcasts, where they promote election fraud conspiracy theories and praise one another.

Maras and Weaver have both said they worked with Phill Kline, a former Kansas attorney general on examining alleged election fraud in Kentucky. In December 2020, Kline reportedly promoted a scheme to submit pro-Trump electors in the six swing states carried by Joe Biden, talking up the plan on far-right media outlets like One America News and former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Weaver mentioned Kline’s involvement in the Kentucky election in her December 2020 livestream, and Maras said she worked with Kline “in 2019 on the election fraud in Kentucky” in a podcast earlier this year. Kline could not be reached for comment for this story.

Warning signs in Kentucky

“I had said back then and have said all along that 2019 was a mini version of what potentially could happen in 2020, and did happen,” Joshua A. Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, told Raw Story. “I said then that we need to pay attention to what happened in Kentucky for fear of that happening on a larger scale with the presidential election.”

Douglas said he sees one critical difference in how Bevin’s baseless fraud claims played out in 2019, compared to the firehose of the spigot of falsehoods issued by President Trump that culminated in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. After the 2019 election, Douglas said, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell issued an ultimatum to Bevin to present evidence of voting problems or concede. In contrast, McConnell waited for more than a month after the 2020 election as Senate majority leader before congratulating Joe Biden on his win.

For conspiracy theorists, Kentucky in 2019 was a ripe target.

“Twenty-nineteen is an off-election year, so you could really focus on Kentucky,” said Roger Baird, the Harp Enterprises owner. “You get a lot of attention all of a sudden when you’re the only one having an election. We get more attention in an off-election year than we do in a big year like 2020.”

Similar to the feverish claims about election fraud in the 2020 election, Maras’ theory about the Harp Enterprises documents quickly expanded to include claims about official betrayal to explain why no one was being prosecuted.

“If you had asked me, I would tell you: Everyone in Kentucky government is guilty,” Maras said during the Nov. 9, 2019 podcast. “And maybe this is why the secretary of state is like, ‘Oh, just leave it alone.’ Yeah, leave it alone because everyone’s gonna be going to jail.”

Maras said she called the Kentucky State Police hoping that she could bring the documents to the attention of Governor Bevin. She said a detective called her back and tried to get her to explain how she obtained the documents. A spokesperson told Raw Story he couldn’t confirm that the agency received a complaint about the matter.

The Kentucky Attorney General’s office, which would typically investigate allegations of election fraud or other criminal misconduct, did not respond to inquiries.

Baird told Raw Story he asked Homeland Security to try to determine how his company’s internal documents were stolen, but they never reached any conclusions.

In the weeks following Bevin’s loss in Kentucky, Maras continued to refine a fanciful theory of electronic vote-swapping.

In 2019 and 2020, according to the Washington Post, Ramsland and Merritt from Allied Security Operations Group appeared on a podcast called “Economic War Room” and claimed that hackers or rogue operators could direct vote data to a remote location and manipulate it. During his media appearances, Ramsland also circulated baseless claims about Scytl, a Spain-based company that provides election-night reporting services, asserting that “they’re housing all of our vote, and they’re doing it in an insecure fashion,” the Post reported.

Maras appears to have been exposed to the same baseless claims about Scytl in November 2020, roughly the same period when Merritt and Weaver indicated Allied Security Operations Group was looking at the Kentucky election.

In a podcast two weeks after the 2019 election, Maras spent an hour offering a breezy discourse on how various election technology companies supposedly carry out electronic vote manipulation, asserting that “the Hart-Intercivic software” was “working together” with Scytl.

“So, this phase is shuffling ballots, mixing them,” Maras said, adopting the professorial air of an adept instructor breaking down a complex formula for undergrad students. “Picture a bag of Scrabble tiles, and you’re mixing them. That’s basically what they do to all your votes. And during this mixing phase is where you can swap a vote for some other vote.”

In a previous podcast, on Nov. 10, Maras had acknowledged that “elections aren’t my thing,” and admitted she knew little about how voting machines work. Now, on Nov. 19, Maras was saying that it had taken her a week to figure out what a highly compensated cybersecurity contractor in northern Virginia who was paid to safeguard US elections would have known for at least 10 years.

What Maras missed — and what election deniers in 2020 missed and continue to miss as they go around the country sewing doubt about the election system — is that vote data that is reported on election night is separate from the votes that are tallied up and certified by local and state elections officials.

In Kentucky, two poll workers — one Republican and one Democrat — hand-deliver a tape displaying a printout of the aggregate vote and a media card in a sealed bag to the county election office. A duplicate of the tape is displayed at the polling place as a record of the precinct tally. At the county office, the media card is inserted into a machine that tallies the votes from across the county. Like the voting machines, the machine that tallies the votes is not connected to the internet. To ensure that the votes remain secure, an election worker uses a clean thumb drive to pull the data off the tally machine and then walks it over to a networked computer to upload it to the election-night reporting site.

“Our job is to make sure nothing touches the computer that does the tally,” Baird said.

“Common sense tells you that if you hook up your voting machines to the internet, you’re plumb dumb,” he added.

References to Scytl and foreign servers purportedly housing votes would prove to be a ubiquitous feature in declarations sworn by Maras and Merritt for the lawsuits filed in November and December 2020, along with video documentaries and livestreams by Weaver during the same period. Maras’ 37-page declaration, executed on Nov. 29, 2020, alone contains 23 references to Scytl.

Ensconced in Washington, Weaver addressed her followers on Periscope around the same time, outlining her qualifications to be part of an elite team churning up dubious evidence to aid in the effort to overturn the election.

“I want to give you guys a little bit of background as to why I know what I know and I’m in the situation where right here where I’m even being invited to some of the groups that are heading these efforts, where you see people like Phill Kline, and you see people like Sidney Powell and these other people out here heading these movements,” Weaver said. “Why would they care what little Millie has to say?... So, I’ve been making these videos for over a year now, talking about the plan that the Democrats and really the establishment has had to throw Trump out of office, to get rid of him.”

Abortion restrictions are also voter suppression

Earlier this month, a draft leaked of the likely majority opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overturning Roe v. Wade and declaring that abortion is no longer a constitutionally protected right.

The moment many of us have feared is here. In a last ditch effort to express public opinion, thousands took to the streets to march for abortion rights in protests across the country. Many of those marching and raising their voices are women, trans men and non-binary people but their voices can’t be fully heard at the ballot box until voting laws that suppress women’s votes are addressed.

We know abortion is popular in this country with about 70 percent of Americans supporting abortion rights in some capacity. We also know that women can be a driving force behind political change and that white women might finally be moving away from the Republican party.

Despite this, many pundits continue to ignore women as an important political demographic and dismiss abortion as a political issue driving voters. They are missing a crucial element – voter suppression.

Of course, Republicans in Texas aren’t being hurt as a result of the horrible vigilante abortion law there. Texas has some of the worst voter suppression laws in the country! Unfortunately, voting, like abortion, has become a partisan issue. So many of the states passing abortion bans have made it difficult to vote. It’s clear how voter suppression laws target people based on race, but women also face increased obstacles to voting as a result of gender norms.

Voter ID laws are one of the most common methods of voter suppression. They often suppress the votes of marginalized people, who don’t drive or have access to documents to get an accurate ID.

Surprisingly, voter ID laws can also make voting difficult for women across incomes and race because around 80 percent of women change their names when they get married.

Many states require original documentation of every name change to get an ID, so women must provide evidence of marriages and divorces.

This can be costly and logistically impossible depending on the state and the number of name changes. According to a Brennan Center for Justice survey, 33 percent of women could lack the documentation.

Additionally, women are also overrepresented in the group of people making less than $25,000 per year, who are more than twice as likely to lack access to documentation proving their citizenship.

Domestic violence can also increase obstacles to voting and 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women. An abuser might hide their partner’s documentation or an abuse victim might be forced to flee without managing to take their documentation with them.

Any voting type that doesn’t guarantee privacy also makes it difficult for abuse victims to vote differently from their abusers. Caucuses require everyone to vote in public and vote by mail can be monitored.

Even when victims escape, they often need to worry about keeping their address private for years after. Some states have “address confidentiality programs” to allow domestic violence survivors to keep their locations private. However, those programs don’t always seamlessly extend to voter registration. They’re not widely publicized. Many are insufficient in protecting abuse survivors’ information.

There are eight states with no program to protect domestic violence survivors’ privacy. Additionally, these procedures only help survivors who have restraining orders or some official record of their abuse.

Felon disenfranchisement is another common method of voter suppression. Women are the fastest growing prison population. They are more likely to be incarcerated awaiting trial than men.

People detained awaiting trial are legally allowed to vote but often aren’t given access to the ballot. Since women are disproportionately detained while awaiting trial, since they lack the financial resources for bail, incarcerated voting obstacles in pretrial detention are suppressing the votes of low income, Black and brown women.

As abortion criminalization laws spread across the country, felony convictions will increase among women and trans people, which means abortion criminalization is also a voter suppression issue.

Closing polling places, limiting voting hours and lessening early voting options increases long lines at polling places, which of course serves to suppress the vote.

Women make up 69 percent of the workers in the lowest paid hourly occupations. Across race, immigration status and education level, women are more likely to work in the lowest paid jobs than men.

These jobs make it harder for women to take off work or to get to the polling place during normal work hours. Women also remain the primary caregiver for most children. Without childcare options it can be difficult to wait in long lines to be able to vote.

Every type of voter suppression mentioned in this article disproportionately affects Black and brown women, and trans people.

Trans people face steep obstacles in getting documentation that matches their correct gender, which can make it difficult to vote in states that require identification. Black and brown women are more likely to be criminalized and to work in low wage hourly jobs.

Disabled women also face increased voter suppression as there are obstacles for disabled voters from voter registration to voting in person with the majority of polling places not being ADA compliant.

To truly analyze the impact of abortion on voting patterns, we must take voter suppression into consideration.

Women and trans people are facing obstacles to voting that many don’t even consider. Women are facing increased criminalization and policing as states pass abortion bans or eventually birth control bans.

Domestic violence, societal norms about name changes and now abortion bans are all tools of patriarchal control that disenfranchise women at home and at the ballot box.

The pandemic isn’t over until it’s over for everyone

Two weeks ago, Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president, made a remarkable misstatement that received remarkably little attention. It will no doubt get less now with the end of Roe looming.

Still, it’s worth reflecting on.

Fauci believes the US is “out of the full-blown explosive pandemic phase" and "in a transitional phase, from a deceleration of the numbers into hopefully a more controlled phase and endemicity,” per the Post.

How do we know this is a flub?

He quickly backpedaled.

“The world is still in a pandemic. There’s no doubt about that. Don’t get any misinterpretation of that. We are still experiencing a pandemic.”

He seems to have meant to communicate that the US was moving out of an acute and "full-blown" phase of the pandemic into something perhaps a bit less threatening.

It may not have been Fauci's best move.

For one thing, covid infections continue to creep up around the US. It's nowhere near the omicron peak, to be sure, but experts continue to worry about the pace of covid mutation. They warn that there's no guarantee the next wave will be better than the last. That puts Fauci's declaration immediately at odds with the science.

Worse, it was staggeringly tone-deaf, coming a week before the US reached a grim milestone of 1 million deaths by the covid:

'Each of those people touched hundreds of other people,' said Diana Ordonez, whose husband, Juan Ordonez, died in April 2020 at age 40, five days before their daughter Mia's fifth birthday. 'It's an exponential number of other people that are walking around with a small hole in their heart.'

As if that weren’t enough, at least one expert noted that Fauci's words are sure to be misinterpreted by lay people who don't catch nuances. That's not to mention the mendacious anti-vaxxers who pounce on ill-formulated statements as proof the need for concern is past.

Misinterpretation could have obvious consequences, such as fueling the rejection of mask mandates. It might have less obvious ramifications like hastening the end of the declaration of a public health emergency, which would stop free vaccines, end CDC collection of covid data and potentially throw 13 million people off Medicaid.

More broadly, whenever someone drops a blanket declaration that the pandemic is over, it pushes people living with disabilities and other vulnerable populations quite literally to the margins.

As Beatrice Adler-Bolton points out, for all the talk of the mask mandate being lifted on airplanes, the biggest impact will be on public transportation: the immunocompromised, the disabled and other vulnerable people may be faced with life-threatening commutes.

From there, the circles only get wider.

The elderly are still at much higher risk of death by the covid. The "high risk" category is surprisingly broad, including people with diabetes, asthma, obesity or high blood pressure. And, of course, millions of people around the world have not yet been vaccinated.

Every one of us is connected by some degree to someone in at least one of these categories, for whom the pandemic is very much not over.

That's if we don't fit into one of them ourselves.

Whether the pandemic has run its course as a matter of epidemiology, as a matter for us, very little has changed. Those for whom the danger has waned are still called to keep community with those for whom it is a live, active threat. The American polity must honor its voices, tend to the needs of all its members and govern itself with an eye not just to the majority but with consideration for the most vulnerable.

The alternative is not an abandonment to heartless conservatism.

It’s not the halfway covenant of neoliberalism.

It’s collective suicide, of a sort.

The boundaries between vulnerable and strong are never as defined as might be supposed, for one thing. Every infection among the vulnerable is an opportunity for another among those who would like to think of themselves as strong. That is a particularly frightening fact, given the prospects of up to 100 million infections next fall and winter.

The pandemic is not over till it’s over for all of us.

Beatrice Adler-Bolton argues that society has the tools to allow people not just to survive the pandemic, but "to thrive in spite of it."

We could choose otherwise than to make the most vulnerable bear the cost of an ongoing pandemic by rushing to declare it over.

It is to our eternal shame that we almost certainly will not.

How lawmakers can distinguish real versus phony religious tests for judicial nominees

A number of years ago, I sat on a long plane ride next to an orthodox Jewish man. We struck up a conversation and found out that we each had three children. I have three daughters, while he told me he had two daughters and a son. When I told him I was a law professor, he told me with delight that both of his sons had expressed some interest in going to law school. I asked him about his daughter and he said that she would, of course, be a wife and mother and take care of the home.

I expressed surprise at this (naive, I know) and asked him what his teen daughter thought about these differing expectations based on gender.

The man said that she didn't have a choice but in any event, his daughter was quite comfortable with this life plan.

I asked him if I could speak freely and he kindly responded in the affirmative. I asked how he could justify limiting his daughter this way, especially in light of how proud he sounded about his sons wanting to be lawyers. His response was that this is the way they live, it works, and he saw no need to alter this lifestyle for his daughter.

Here is my question: if this man were nominated to be a federal judge, should his views on gender disqualify him from the position?

The judicial outcomes of sincere belief

Before turning to that question, let's agree on one thing.

A federal judicial nominee who in a confirmation hearing testified that he did not think women should be CEOs, senators, lawyers or bankers – because their proper place is in the home and that we would all be better off with more precise gender roles – would not be confirmed.

Does the calculus change if the nominee testifies exactly the same way but says his views are based on sincere religious faith?

Hold that question.

The US Constitution provides in no uncertain terms in Article VI that "no religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."

I am glad we have this provision. No one should ever be asked about their faith as a precondition for Senate confirmation as a federal judge.

But does Article IV prohibit all questioning about a nominee's views that are part of his faith? The answer to this, I think, has to be no.

If it were part of a person's sincere religious faith that sometimes children have to be sacrificed to the gods in cases of terrible climate events, it would be more than fair to disqualify that person from holding judicial office based on that opinion irrespective of its basis.

If a nominee said his faith requires him to believe that white and Black school children should never go to school together, he too should not become a judge, not because of faith, but because of his racist views.

Test of religion or character?

So returning to my orthodox Jewish friend:

If he testified that he believed the only legitimate career path for girls and women is to be wives and mothers, and he was rejected for holding that view, is that a religious test for public office?

I think the answer has to be no. He would not be rejected for his faith, ie, his views on the afterlife or membership in a religious group. He’d be rejected because of values he holds that affect the secular world.

What if the nominee who holds these kinds of sexist or religious views says he can and will put them aside when deciding cases?

At first that may seem like a more difficult question, but is it?

Imagine a nominee who says that his personal views are that white people are superior to Black people, and that men are superior to women, but that he would put aside those views in his role as a judge.

Could and should that person be given a federal judgeship?

Of course not.

Views of faith, views of public office

Now imagine that the racist and sexist views above are expressed as part of a wholesale and sincere religious belief system.

Does and should that matter?

I don't think so. There is no reason to think a religious bigot will be any more capable than the secular bigot of discarding his personal views.

Moreover, do sexism and racism become more tolerable because they are based on religious, not secular, ones? I don't think so.

This is not to say that the government should interfere in the internal affairs of religious organizations that hold such views. That is quite a different question. In most contexts, the answer should be no.

But the government not interfering with religious activities and the government requiring people to not hold racist and sexist beliefs as a prerequisite to public office are very different things indeed.

I think it would be fair to say to my orthodox Jewish friend that his views on the proper role for girls and women disqualify him from being a judge, just as he would be disqualified if he believed white people and Black people should be separated under law even if he says that's only a personal, religious view that he can set aside as a judge.

Applied to Roe

Now imagine a nominee who said her faith teaches her that life begins at conception and that abortion must be banned at all times and in all places with no exceptions, and she would not put aside those views when deciding abortion cases and would not recuse in such cases.

Would her rejection be the same as a religious test for public office?

I think we would all agree the answer is no.

What if she said that she would put aside those religious views when deciding cases? Would her disqualification be illegal as a religious test for public office by pro-choice senators? I don't think so.

Her rejection would be based on her views about abortion, not her association with a particular religion.

In other words, to disqualify a person based on a view that they happen to hold because of their religion, when one would also disqualify a person who held the same view based on secular premises, is not imposing a religious test for public office.

Imagine the following dialogue.

Senator:

Professor Smith, I want to ask you whether you agree with your church's position that women cannot be leaders in your church. Do you agree with that rule?

Professor Smith:

No Senator, I do not. I am proudly (name a religion) but I do not agree with all of the policies and rules of my religious leaders and that is one I do not agree with. However, I want to add that I am also a proud American and I do not agree with many of President Biden's policies. But I can no more shed my Americanism than I could shed my _ism.

I think we can all agree that this church's position on women should not disqualify this nominee.

Imagine a different dialogue.

Senator:

Professor Smith, I want to ask you whether you agree with your church's position that women cannot be leaders in your church. Do you agree with that rule?

Professor Smith:

Yes I do, Senator. I would not allow that view to affect my decisions as a judge, including in gender-related cases, but I do agree with my church that women should not be leaders in the church.

Proper or improper questions about religion

Before the answer, let's remember a person who said he thinks the world would be a better place if women (or Black people) were excluded from being mayors, governors, CEOs, judges and presidents would surely not be confirmed and surely shouldn't be confirmed.

Of course, that hypothetical isn't the same because a church is different from the government or a private organization.

But is the view that women (or Black or LGBT-plus people) shouldn't lead any less pernicious because it's based on faith, not secular values?

I think the answer might depend on the reasons the nominee gives for her agreement that women (or Black or LGBT-plus people) should be excluded from leading whichever faith she is associated with.

But would such a line of questioning be improper?

I think not.

If that’s true, questions about a nominee's views on abortion should be proper, regardless of whether from faith, reason or something else.

If a Senator believes women can never be equal without control of their reproductive destinies, or if a Senator believes that abortion is always murder, then asking prospective judges about their views on abortion, or any other issue with secular consequences should be allowed. It is not barred as a religious test for public office.

The potential for political violence lies with normal people harboring extreme racist attitudes

On May 15, a young white man carrying a semi-automatic rifle opened fire outside a supermarket in a predominantly Black eastside neighborhood of Buffalo. The rifle barrel had the N-word written on it along with the number 14, a well-known white supremacist slogan.

Payton Gendron killed three outside the grocery store and wounded another. Then he went inside. When it was over, 10 people were dead, including a security guard with whom he had exchanged fire. Of the 13 people shot, 11 were Black. Gendron, clad in body armor, live-streamed the shooting on Twitch. (Twitch has since deleted the video).

Gendron, 18, is from a rural town 200 miles from Buffalo. There he assembled and posted online a 180-page manifesto. According to CNN, he wrote about “his perceptions of the dwindling size of the White population and claims of ethnic and cultural replacement of Whites,” and “attributes the internet for most of his beliefs and describes himself as a fascist, a White supremacist and an anti-Semite.”

Mass shooting equation

The public discourse around these tragedies follows a predictable pattern. News reports and commentary discuss how extremism was cultivated in online spaces. Once down the extremism rabbit hole, they took advantage of lax or questionable gun laws to arm themselves. They methodically identified a location where the target would be congregating, and then decided to execute as many as they could.

This is the extremism + guns = mass shooting equation.

It is correct.

To a degree.

The set of beliefs up to and including the belief that terrorism is an appropriate plan of action is clearly extreme. There is a spectrum of racist practices. Gendron was on the far end of that. No doubt.

He’s an extremist.

There is no doubt that readily available firearms are a powerful means by which extremists terrorize minority populations.

If they live in a state with no waiting period for gun purchases, the ink on the manifesto may not have dried by the time they commit mass murder. The potential for carnage, moreover, is exponentially greater if the extremist uses a rapid-fire weapon, like a semi-automatic rifle.

Clearly, the extremism + guns = mass shooting equation is right.

But we’re missing the forest for the trees.

Extreme normal people

The trees are deciphering a shooter’s manifesto. The trees are the patchwork of gun sale and ownership laws and their loopholes in the US. The trees are the quality of the numerous research papers dedicated to understanding how someone becomes radicalized online.

But we need to zoom out for the forest.

If we could look down on the American population from 30,000 feet, we would see large swaths of everyday white Americans grappling with changes in their status vis-a-vis Black people and people of color:

Racial minorities, especially Black Americans, have been pushing for more visibility in the media and more representation in institutions.
The behaviors of people of color, again especially Black Americans, have always been under scrutiny. Increasingly, the behaviors of white Americans are being scrutinized.
For the first time, possibly, since the Great Depression, white Americans are experiencing economic distress, like Black people.

These very real trends amount to a loss of privilege and status. Gone are the days when being white was the most fungible currency. White Americans are more than ever on equal terms with people of color.

This should be celebrated.

But for many white Americans, it generates deep feelings of precarity – a sense that they must do something before all is lost.

With that precarity, and sense of loss, we get a series of problematic behaviors. It would be unwise to assume those behaviors are only random acts of violence. Instead, it’s a collection of opinions and behaviors amounting to a culture of normal people who are extreme.

They are, as Jonathan Metzl argues, literally “dying of whiteness.”

They refuse to support universal health care even though they need it because they see it as a benefit to Black people and people of color.

They support deportation, voter suppression and book burning.

They fill the ranks of the Oathkeepers and other citizen-militia groups.

They are election deniers so devoted they became J6 insurrectionists.

They go to school board meetings and howl at educators to keep “CRT” out of classrooms even if there is no such thing being taught.

They vote for candidates who have no legislative or political experience but pander to their identity as aggrieved white people.

I could go on.

These are accountants, Uber drivers, custodians, lawyers and software engineers. They are normal people with extreme racist attitudes.

So even if we were able to repeal the Second Amendment and find a way to erase all the conspiracy theories and hate speech from the internet, they would find ways of acting out their racist aggression.

Is it really surprising that out of the millions of people in this culture, a Payton Gendron would eventually wake up one morning, write the N-word on the barrel of his rifle and kill 10 Black people with it?

Why banning abortion is antisemitic and means 'lights out' for 'freedom of religion and freedom from it'

We ought to revive that old-time, pre-Roe, religion according to which an embryo is an embryo, not a person. That’s what I said last week.

Before 1973, the year the US Supreme Court decided Roe, the most opposed to abortion were Catholic dioceses. Other religions were indifferent or in favor of women’s ultimate authority over their bodies.

Indeed, to argue that an embryo is an embryo, not a person – or that a fetus is a fetus, not a person – was to push forward the cause of freedom of religion and freedom from it. Choice covered both.

Analysis by the Southern Baptist Convention found that Roe was consistent with this double-sided liberty. W. Barry Garrett, in 1973 a correspondent of The Baptist Press, said that the ruling was not just tolerable. It advanced “religious liberty, human equality and justice.”

“Does the decision on abortion intrude on the religious life of the people? Answer: No. Religious bodies and religious persons can continue to teach their own particular views to their constituents with all the vigor they desire. People whose conscience forbids abortion are not compelled by law to have abortions.”

He continued:

The reverse is also now true. … Those whose conscience or religious convictions are not violated by abortion may not now be forbidden by a religious law to obtain an abortion if they so choose.
The decision to obtain an abortion or to bring pregnancy to full term can now be a matter of conscience and deliberate choice rather than one compelled by law. Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.

That’s one pro-Roe religious angle. There’s another.

By coincidence, it was given fresh circulation Wednesday by a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing about the Supreme Court’s imminent decision on Roe.

Here’s Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who, like the entire House Republican Conference, favors stripping abortion rights:

When I was young, before I learned how babies came about, I thought when they said, 'my main my body, my choice,' they were talking about whatever was inside of the woman was part of her body.
The baby is not the body of the woman that it's inside of.
It's another life. It's not the body of the woman.

To the casual political observer, this seems ordinary. After all, the power of the anti-abortion movement rests of the idea that the “baby” is a life unto itself, completely separate from the life of the mother. Abortion, we are told, is murder on account of a “life” being taken.

Pert near everything about the half-century-long “pro-life” movement presumes, and indeed depends on, two lives being in question. Anti-abortionists believe the law should privilege the “baby’s” life. This sincere religious faith drives the movement for “fetal personhood.”

But what if they are not separate? What if there’s only one life?

What if that, too, were a matter of sincere religious faith?

Well, there’s no if.

According to Rabbi Karen Kriger Bogard, abortion is not only a matter of a women’s personal autonomy. Access to it is required by Jewish law.

“In the Torah, there's a story about two men fighting,” she told me. “One accidentally pushes a pregnant woman. There’s no other damage. She has a miscarriage. Exodus says the one responsible shall be fined.

“The very next verse talks about a life for a life, an eye for an eye. Clearly there is a distinction between what life is and what life isn't.”

Put another way, if the “baby” were a life, the life of the man who caused the miscarriage would be forfeit. After all, justice calls for “a life for a life, an eye for an eye.” However, “the baby” isn’t a life, according to the Book of Exodus. Therefore, a fine is all that’s required by law.

This is not a fringe Jewish view, Rabbi Bogard told me. Indeed, according to a prominent rabbi commenting in the Torah – or “the law” – “a fetus is considered a part of the pregnant person's body,” Rabbi Bogard said, “which is equivalent to their thigh” (my italics).

There’s more.

“Jewish law distinguishes between when a person is pregnant and when a person is giving birth,” she said. “It says in the Talmud when a person is having trouble giving birth, they should abort the fetus and ‘take it out limb by limb.’ In Jewish law, existing life comes before potential life.

You’re required to put the living before the not-yet living.

“However, if most of the child is born, we don't touch it. We don't trade one life for another. It's explicit in our text about when life starts.”

Again, this isn’t fringe.

This is the consensus across reform, conservative and orthodox Jewry. A truly marginal view comes from “pro-life” ultra-orthodox Jews aligned with the larger white evangelical Protestant community.

Today, in a letter to the editor of the New Haven Register, Cecily Routman, president of the Jewish Pro-Life Foundation, said the Jewish consensus is upside down. “Abortion is prohibited in Judaism,” she said. “It is judged to be the unwarranted taking of a life within a life.”

I don’t think Thomas Massie, the Kentucky congressman, intended to express a tenet of his sincere religious faith. (Maybe he did.) But it’s pretty clear, when taken with Cecily Routman’s claim, that believing that the body of the “baby” and the body of the woman are two separate things is an expression of a tenet of sincere religious faith.

It’s also pretty clear, to my way of thinking anyway, that the “pro-life” program depends on getting the rest of us – from atheists to Jews to Unitarians to Hindus – to think the same way. By cementing that view in the public mind, the path toward “fetal personhood” is made clear.

If this court upholds a state law based on a tenet of a sincere religious faith like the idea that a fetus is a person, it’s not only lights out for abortion. (“Personhood” would mean abortion is murder.) It’s lights out for that double-sided liberty: freedom of religion and freedom from it.

So repeat after me with as much (religious) feeling as you can.

A fetus is a fetus.

It’s part of its mother.

They are one.

'It's just a cop-out': Senate Republicans scoff at white supremacy's influence on the Buffalo massacre

White supremacists are a growing threat in America, according to the FBI, National Counterterrorism Center and Department of Homeland Security. But Republicans on Capitol Hill beg to differ, no matter the mounting evidence to the contrary from Buffalo, El Paso, and even last year’s attack on their own office building, the United States Capitol, on Jan. 6.

This article was authored by Matt Laslo and paid for by Raw Story subscribers. Not a subscriber? Try us and go ad-free for $1. Prefer to give a one-time tip? Click here.

In the wake of this weekend’s deadly Buffalo shooting – by an alleged gunman who said on social media he was targeting Blacks – most Republicans deny there’s a trend.

“I think it's tragic. I don't know if you could call it a trend or not,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told Raw Story on his way to a closed-door intelligence briefing in the underbelly of the Capitol.

The close ally of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell represents El Paso, which is still healing from the 2019 attack that left 23 dead – and another 23 injured – at the hands of a racist who released a manifesto before his cowardly act. But to Cornyn, whether it’s El Paso, Charleston, Charlottesville, or the Jan. 6 attack – where Black officers were repeatedly called the N-word as they fought to protect Cornyn and others – there’s no white supremacy to see in America, a nation founded on the doctrine that Blacks were only 3/5ths human.

“It's just a cop-out, trying to blame this on – I mean, it's violence committed by either criminal people or people who are deranged,” Cornyn said. “And if people want to put that in a pigeonhole or category – whether it's ‘hate crime’ or whatever – it doesn't make it any less evil.”

Other Republicans see conspiratorial tinges when they have to even entertain questions about white supremacists – even days after a self-appointed white supremacist allegedly slew innocent Black shoppers. The problem is the question itself.

“I think it's awful. I think it's grotesquely divisive,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Raw Story while riding up an elevator just off the Senate floor. “What it is is the media's showing themselves for who they are, which are advocates for the radical left. And they're just trying to cover up for Biden now.”

Recently, Johnson served as chair of the Senate’s Homeland Security Committee.

The Wisconsin senator then pointed to Chicago and all the murders there that are “Black on Black.

“Now, I'd be concerned about that. Again, I'm concerned about all violence. But I mean, I would focus my attention on where the murders are actually occurring,” Johnson said on Tuesday, three days after 10 people were killed in Buffalo. “And I'd be focusing my attention on what can we do to start preventing overdose deaths.”

Down in Indiana, there may be white supremacists – more than 15 white supremacist hate groups are being tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the Hoosier State alone – but the state’s senior senator isn’t worried. He won’t even answer questions about it.

“Oh gosh,” Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) told Raw Story while heading into a Republican-only lunch at the Capitol. “I'll tell you, what's on most Hoosier’s minds is inflation, border security, war in Europe. I think the president and our national Democratic leaders would be well served by finding some solutions to our most pressing challenges.”

To other Republicans, it’s a problem, but they’re not sure anything can be done to stop white domestic extremists.

“The question is: can you find a lone actor?” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told Raw Story, before stepping in to buy lunch in the Capitol basement.

The former Senate Intelligence Committee chair helped ramp up domestic and foreign surveillance in the wake of 9-11, but says these cases – involving angry, homegrown white boys – are different.

“Unless you're going to surveil somebody 24/7 – and it didn't sound like it raised to a level to do that – there's that vulnerability in a free society,” Burr said, explaining U.S. law now makes it easier to surveil foreign terrorists. “We have different tools to surveil them versus domestic. I think you get into some very big constitutional questions pretty quickly.”

There’s no reason to focus attention on white supremacist violence – even in the wake of white supremacist violence – according to current Senate Intelligence Vice-Chair Marco Rubio (R-FL) who waxed philosophical when approached by Raw Story on his way to a classified meeting.

“Sadly, there isn't an ideology – or, frankly, religion – in the world that doesn't have adherents that commit horrifying atrocities. These deranged people can justify it anywhere they want, but we've had Black nationalist shootings in America. We had a Chinese immigrant go after Taiwanese immigrants in California the day after that shooting in Buffalo. We've had a congressional shooting here targeted by a socialist,” Rubio continued, “So once people make up their mind about some ideology or some belief system, they can justify it. You know, radical Islam. History has been replete with people that justify violence with Christianity. So it's a terrible part of the human condition.”

“Oh my God,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said, her voice dropping, after Raw Story relayed what her Republican colleagues have been saying about white supremacists in the wake of the Buffalo shooting.

“That continues the false narrative that Fox News puts out,” Gillibrand continued, “White supremacy is a scourge. It’s something that we have to address head on. It is proliferating evil and hate and division in this country, and we all have to stand up and fight against it.”

Why Joe Biden's response to the Buffalo massacre was politically perceptive and morally mandatory

The White House is correct, I think, to avoid joining the pissing match between the Democrats and the Republicans over whether Fox host Tucker Carlson is to blame for inciting Payton Gendron to travel more than 200 hundred miles to shoot to pieces 10 Black people in Buffalo.

To be sure, that chimp-faced afreet, who never met a lie he didn’t like, might be responsible for mainstreaming “the great replacement” – that paranoid sepsis of blood and sinew according to which “them” are coming to replace “us,” a perversion of God’s natural order of things.

In fact, last night Carlson sold more paste to the paste-eaters: "The Democratic Party has decided that rather than convince you, people who are born here, that their policies are helping you and making the country better and stronger, they will change the electorate."

Carlson is confessing even as he’s projecting. That’s his wont. The Democrats don’t hope to “change the electorate,” though they pine away for an electorate soon-to-be changed by demographics. The entire program of rightwing politics seeks to “change the electorate.”

By force.

When they talk about immigration, they mean stopping “those people” from coming. When they talk about gun rights, they mean terrorizing “those people” already here. When they talk about abortion, they mean stopping and terrorizing “those people” to buy enough time for white women (who can’t get abortions thanks to the Supreme Court) to birth enough white babies that a “constitutional republic” can be “restored.”

We can say Carlson is responsible for making clear that sadism is the point in rightwing politics, but let’s not be naive. His is the top show on Fox because millions in this country already believe democracy is in crisis on account of “them” coming to “replace true democracy.”

The president was being generous – which is a good thing, politically – when he alleged that “the media” and “the internet” are radicalizing “lost and isolated individuals” like Payton Gendron. He was being generous, because come on. Be serious. An 18-year-old kid does not decide on his own that it’s time for a bunch of Black people to die.

Whatever the context he grew up in, it almost certainly included plenty of white-power rhetoric about undeserving Black people (“them”) taking something away from deserving white people (“us”), and that someone ought to take care of it, if only he had the guts.

Carlson didn’t mainstream it, but he did rationalize it. That’s why Biden’s remarks yesterday in Buffalo were so significant. To my way of thinking, they suggested a break from the past. He began creating conditions so rationalizing white supremacy is politically dangerous.

I don’t recall another sitting president using the word “terrorism” to describe a shooting massacre. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Barack Obama didn’t after Sandy Hook and Charleston. Of course, the former president didn’t after Pittsburgh and El Paso. (He incited them, gladly.)

Yet Joe Biden had no qualms.

“What happened here is simple and straightforward – terrorism, terrorism, domestic terrorism,” the president said. “Violence inflicted in the service of hate and a vicious thirst for power that defines one group of people being inherently inferior to any other group.”

“I call on all Americans to reject the lie. And I condemn those who spread the lie for power, political gain and for profit,” he said. “Because that’s what it is. We have now seen too many times the deadly and destructive violence this ideology unleashes” (the italics are mine).

I read about the speech in USA Today this morning. The report noted that the president “only briefly mentioned gun control in his remarks, renewing his call for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban.”

WATCH LIVE: Biden delivers remarks in Buffalo on racist attack that left at least 10 dead www.youtube.com

That’s amazing. For Obama, the solution to mass violence was policy. He dared not engage politically. He feared that it would backfire.

Things are different for Biden, for obvious reasons.

Policy, to him, is secondary to politics. The old assault weapons ban was so irrelevant to his goal in Buffalo that the president “only briefly mentioned” it. His overall purpose was drawing a line in the sand.

You’re with us (democracy) or with them (white supremacy).

You can’t have both.

“We need to say as clearly and forcefully as we can that the ideology of white supremacy has no place in America. None. And, look, failure for us is to not say that — failure, in saying that, is going to be complicity. Silence is complicity. It’s complicity. We cannot remain silent.”

Failure is silence.

Silence is complicity.

Complicity is terrorism.

The Republicans benefit from the Buffalo massacre. A scared population is a controllable population – at least for long enough for white women to birth more white babies, restoring “true democracy.”

They do not benefit when most people most of the time associate the party with white political violence, or domestic terrorism. The more the public sees that, the more the Republicans must duck and cover.

The president has been doing this a long time. He knows which way the winds are blowing. Something is telling him that the right moral thing to do is now in alignment with the right political thing to do.

Biden is meeting the politics of murder with the politics of democracy, not neutral-sounding policy. “You can’t prevent people from being radicalized to violence,” Biden said, “but we can address the relentless exploitation of the internet to recruit and mobilize terrorism."

“We just need to have the courage to do that – to stand up.”

Israel's assassination of 'voice of Palestine' journalist Shireen Abu Akleh requires asking 'hard questions'

Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was loved and revered. She covered oppression faced by the Palestinians living for decades under Israeli occupation. She pulled no punches. She was known as the “voice of Palestine.” Her death, or martyrdom, has broken the hearts of many.

Shireen was a Palestinian-American reporting for Al Jazeera. The Doha-based news network said she was shot dead by Israeli forces while doing her job, reporting on Israeli raids conducted in Jenin.

It’s not just Palestinian Muslim journalists who are under threat. Shireen was Christian. Anyone of any faith, or nationality faces immediate danger, if they simply try to report on the facts.

Al Jazeera described the shooting as a “cold-blooded assassination.”

Let’s take a look at the facts. Shireen’s colleagues and witnesses claim that she was deliberately killed in order to send a message.

Israel initially blamed her death on Palestinian gunfire. After walking that claim back, authorities said a full investigation will take place.

Meaning Israel will investigate itself.

That Israel shifted from denial to pledging a full investigation suggests officials know something about the incident that will make their initial statement look suspect. We can speculate about that.

Needing no speculation is the fact that Human Rights Watch has described Israeli investigations as “whitewashed mechanisms.”

Also needing no debate is that countless journalists have been killed by Israeli gunfire over the years with little or no accountability. The official line is that none were intentional or Palestinians are to blame.

Since 1967, according to the Palestine Journalists Syndicate, 86 Palestinian journalists have been killed – 50 of them since 2000.

After the Great March of Return protests in Palestine in 2018-2019, a UN report found reasonable grounds to suggest that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, medics, healthcare workers, children and people with disabilities “knowing they were identifiable as such.”

In addition, we know that Israel's airstrikes on Gaza last year obliterated key media buildings reporting on events from Palestine.

Ultimately, this issue extends even beyond justice for the Palestinians. Israel’s shooting of journalists, and attacks on the media in general, should alarm anybody concerned with free speech and a free press.

There’s no liberal defense as there was decades ago. The indefensible can’t be defended. Israeli occupation is apartheid in every sense.

In August 2018, I was aboard one of a group of boats sailing from Europe to Gaza to deliver medical aid to the Palestinians, thus breaking the illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. We set off from Sicily.

The passengers were international activists and journalists, including nationals from Israel, Canada, France, Iran, Spain and Sweden.

About 40 nautical miles from Gaza, after two weeks at sea, in the dead of the night on August 4, we were surrounded by Israeli vessels and arrested in a long and drawn-out process that took several hours.

All this in international waters.

It’s hard to do justice to the scene but our small boat, in which the engine had blown days before, had been slowly continuing to Gaza, nonetheless, bobbing haplessly along before being intercepted.

The power of the Israeli forces surrounding our tiny beat-up boat called The Freedom was disproportionate, to say the least.

We had broken no laws. Even so, our ship was taken by Israeli commandos. They pointed guns at us for hours. We were towed from Gaza, which had been visible, and taken to Ashdod, Israel.

Taking aid to a besieged people via international water is not a crime under international law. Our arrest, however, was illegal.

We were held for days. We were treated like criminals. It was the Israelis who broke the law, though. They assaulted us. They detained us. They stole from us. One of our sister boats, which was ahead of us, was viciously attacked. Those aboard sustained serious injuries.

It’s worth remembering that a similar flotilla, the Mavi Marmara in 2010, was also raided at night en route to Gaza. Israeli commandos killed nine people. To this day, nobody has been held to account.

Nobody ever is.

That’s why there’s little faith in an impartial investigation of Israel by Israel for Israel in the shooting death of Shireen Abu Akleh.

Recent days have seen unthinkable video footage of mourners, who were carrying the coffin of Shireen Abu Akleh, being attacked by Israeli soldiers. Her coffin almost hit the ground. Videos showing the disgraceful scenes were seen by millions around the world.

They needed no explanation.

Even so, media outlets reported that grieving Palestinians “clashed” with Israeli security forces, reminding us the occupation is glossed over at every turn by those with the power to shape our thinking.

That’s as true in the US as it is in the UK.

A 2021 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology examined tens of thousands of articles in the Times published during the first and second intifadas. It found that anti-Palestinian coverage persisted even when Israeli violence was greater than Palestinian resistance to it.

There’s nowhere to hide.

Either Israel is a rogue state operating under apartheid or it’s a democracy – in which case it’s time to ask hard questions.

It feels like 'no one really cares' that Black Americans are terrified of being murdered by white supremacists

Last weekend, my neighborhood in New Haven hosted a small arts festival. Friday was for adults. There was beer. There was loud music. There was a fashion show. All but one model was Black or of color. The audience was a third white, a third Black and a third everyone else.

I was reminded of why I love the Elm City.

It was a feeling white-power terrorists dream of killing.

No one like Payton Gendron showed up, thank God. But the fact that I’m thinking about it, after the 18-year-old massacred on Saturday 11 Black people in Buffalo, illustrates the reach of political violence.

It doesn’t stop with victims.

It doesn’t stop with victims’ families.

It reaches across time and space to colonize our minds.

“I am terrified to be a Black woman walking around in America,” tweeted Anna Gifty, an economist and writer. “We are literally afraid to live our lives because some random person feels entitled to taking it. I map out exits before I enter stores. I have nightmares about dying."

“And no one cares,” she added. “No one really cares about us.”

The public might care were members of the Washington press corps to take white political violence as seriously as they do Al Qaeda’s or the Islamic State’s. As it is, reporters like the Post’s Matt Viser evidently see white political violence as if it were just a part of the politics game.

Joe “Biden ran for president pledging to ‘restore the soul of America,’” Viser wrote this morning. “A racist massacre raises questions about that promise, and his visit Tuesday will signal how he will respond.”

Put another way, Biden: They’re out to kill us.

Right-wingers: We’re out to kill you.

The press corps: How will Biden’s response impact the midterms?

The public: Maybe the right-wingers have a point.

One can only imagine what reporting might look like had Viser (and his colleagues) covered the Buffalo massacre as a deadly outcome of right-wing politics rather than an abstract problem for the president to solve. If more Americans understood violence is an end to itself in right-wing politics, more Americans might put the blame where it belongs.

The problem is more complex than that, though.

The Buffalo massacre would not have been possible without the many editors, reporters and opinion writers who legitimized a white-power backlash against political gains made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white cop. Those gains amassed into a voting coalition larger than any in US history that put Joe Biden in the White House.

After Biden’s election, after which the threat of fascism seemed to fade, these editors, reporters and opinion writers began chipping away at the anti-racism that animated the president’s winning coalition.

They produced reams of news stories and opinion pieces about “wokeism,” “cancel culture” and “critical race theory,” terms that were defined in bad faith by the enemies of anti-racism but taken as good faith by editors, reporters and opinion writers of elite publications.

Cancel culture (no quotes) is a status quo by which the powerful stomp the weak, usually without consequence. George Floyd’s murder was the exception. As the exception, it promised to upend the status quo.

But after Biden’s election, the way was clear for the right-wing to “flip the script,” as they say. The wielders of power were cast as the victims of power. The victims of power were cast as the wielders of power. These editors, reporters and opinion writers chose to believe it.

As a result, just weeks after Inauguration Day, anti-racist and anti-sexist attempts to hold the powerful to account, as George Floyd’s murderer was, were met with loud bipartisan outrage. The press corps ignored the coming right-wing danger. After all, how dangerous can something be when editors, reporters and opinion writers say it’s not?

No matter how much right-wingers threatened to resort to violence in order to protect kids from “critical race theory,” these editors, reporters and opinion writers managed to convey to the public that right-wingers vowing to resort to violence might have a point.

The press corps could have tried understanding anti-racism (from which true critical race theory comes). It could have decided against believing people who don’t mean anything they say. Instead, the press corps chose to play along, though “critical race theory” is “replacement theory” in right-wing politics – though Payton Gendron said “critical race theory” is a Jewish plot that justifies murdering Jews wholesale.

In truth, “wokeism,” “cancel culture” and “critical race theory” are empty terms reflecting fear and anxiety felt by (mostly) white men situated at the centers of power. They include the very obscenely rich owners of the world’s most lucrative media properties. These editors, reporters and opinion writers of elite publications ultimately answer to them.

Elite fear and anxiety of being “replaced” matched well with Payton Gendron’s fear and anxiety of being “replaced." Elite interest aligned with white-power interest, creating ideal conditions for a third of Americans to believe the Democrats are trying to “replace” them – creating ideal conditions for Payton Gendron’s mass murder.

There’s a debate currently going on about what inspired Payton Gendron to kill in cold blood. Was it Tucker Carlson, the Fox host who’s been mainstreaming “replacement theory.” Or was it 4chan, the digital leech bed from which arose sewage like the QAnon conspiracy?

The debate will never be resolved.

Its participants – members of a Washington press corps that helped legitimize and make respectable a white-power backlash against anti-racist political gains made in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a white cop – are not looking for answers where they should be.

They should look at themselves. They won’t.

Meanwhile, Americans fear being killed.

No one cares.

Emails show that John Eastman thought allegations of fraud were unnecessary for stealing an election

Pennsylvania state legislator Russ Diamond had a problem. Joe Biden carried the commonwealth by 80,000 votes, thereby securing its 20 electors. According to a newly released trove of emails, Diamond and fellow Republican state legislators wanted instead to send electors dedicated to Donald Trump. They just needed the right excuse.

If that sounds outrageous, that’s because it is.

At first, it seemed allegations of electoral fraud might do the trick. Trump and his lawyers blanketed the airwaves with outlandish claims about fraud at the polls. But when the Trump legal team made their case to the Pennsylvania legislature, their efforts struck Diamond as unconvincing and frankly incompetent. If there was no fraud, how could they justify overriding the will of the voters?

Luckily for Diamond, an obscure conservative law professor had recently said in testimony that state legislatures didn’t need evidence of fraud to disregard the will of the people. It was enough, Professor John Eastman said, that the legislature objected to the rules under which the election was conducted. After watching Eastman’s testimony, Diamond decided Eastman was just the man to help him write a resolution purporting to nullify the will of his state’s voters.

“Honestly, the Trump legal team was not exactly stellar at PA's hearing, failed to provide the affidavits of their witnesses, and made a glaring error by purporting that more ballots had been returned than mailed out,” Diamond admitted in an email to Eastman. “It is for this reason that I latched onto your comments that actual fraud is irrelevant when the election itself is unlawful.”

Diamond sent Eastman a draft resolution predicated on Eastman’s crackpot theory that the US Constitution gives state legislatures the unchecked power to disenfranchise their own voters after the fact if legislators don’t like the results of an election.

Eastman praised Diamond’s efforts but urged his protegé to go still further and actually name Trump electors in the resolution, as opposed to simply announcing their intent to do so.

“One big question, though. Do you want to only go half way, and require another resolution to actually choose a slate of electors? Or should you do it all in one resolution?,” Eastman wrote. “I don't know the dynamic of your Legislature, so can't answer that. But my intuition is that it would be better to do what you need to do in one fell swoop.”

The Pennsylvania Secretary of State and the courts had made some tweaks to facilitate voting during the pandemic. Republicans challenged these changes in court and lost. But Eastman promised that these changes could give the Pennsylvania legislature the excuse it needed to throw out the election, even without any evidence of fraud.

Eastman argued that it would be more politically palatable if the legislature could claim that the new rules cost Trump the election and they as legislators were simply righting that wrong by nullifying the election and replacing Biden’s electors with Trump’s.

Knowing that the mail-in vote favored Biden, Eastman suggested that the legislature pass a resolution arbitrarily declaring a certain percentage of perfectly legal mail-in ballots to be illegal based on a convoluted formula Eastman made up.

That way, Eastman said, the legislature could claim Trump won. “That would help provide some cover,” he asserted. (In fact, Trump would still have lost under Eastman’s metric, but that’s beside the point.)

Ultimately, Pennsylvania state legislators did not pass a resolution openly nullifying the results of their state’s election and naming alternative electors. Instead, at the urging of Trump’s legal team, Pennsylvania Republicans secretly named a slate of pseudo-electors, as did Republicans in six other states that Biden won.

The threat of an Eastman gambit has not passed.

If anything, it has gotten worse.

Republicans who take Eastman’s arguments seriously are gaining ground in state legislatures and key election administration posts.

The GOP may retake the House and Senate this year, which could put GOP legislators in charge of certifying the next presidential election.

A bolder state legislature could still attempt the Eastman gambit in 2024. A GOP-controlled Congress might agree to count the illegitimate electors chosen by politicians, instead of those chosen by the people.

That is why Congress must reform the Electoral Count Act to specify that if there are two slates of electors claiming to represent a state, Congress must only count electors courts have affirmed as legitimate.

The three-legged stool of the Republican Party

Three things happened this weekend.

They are connected.

They are the GOP’s three-legged stool.

First, several high-profile Republicans, including the No. 3 House leader, accused the president of giving preferential treatment to undocumented Americans at the expense of “native” white Americans.

The administration provides baby formula to mothers detained at the US-Mexican border while they see through the deportation process. (Baby formula is scarce due to issues relating to trade, monopoly and the covid pandemic. The national shortage is reaching crisis levels.)

New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, chair of the GOP conference, alleged on Twitter that “Joe Biden continues to put America last by shipping pallets of baby formula to the southern border as American families face empty shelves. This is unacceptable. American mothers and their babies shouldn’t suffer because of the #BidenBorderCrisis.”

In September, the representative ran a series of ads on Facebook accusing “radical Democrats” of “planning their most aggressive move yet: 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 second thing that happened this weekend was tens of thousands of women, mostly white, demonstrating in Washington and other major American cities to protest the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling that will almost certainly strike down Roe. Organizers say the marches preview a “summer of rage” happening before the midterm elections.

Third was a trio of mass shootings in California, Dallas and Buffalo.

Buffalo’s is getting the most attention.

The shooter is an 18-year-old white supremacist from rural New York. His semi-automatic rifle was emblazoned with the n-word as well as the names of notorious white terrorists: Anders Breivik (Norway, 2011), Dylann Roof (Charleston, 2015), Robert Bowers (Pittsburgh, 2018), Brenton Tarrant (New Zealand, 2019) and John Earnest (El Paso, 2019).

Payton Gendron went to an eastside Tops, a grocery store not far from where I lived in the 1990s. Of the 13 people he killed and injured, 11 were Black. He’s in custody. He was arraigned Saturday on a charge of first-degree murder. Hate-crime felony charges are likely forthcoming.

Two days beforehand, Gendron posted online what appears to be a manifesto. According to Ben Collins, who covers right-wing extremism for NBC News, it “laid out specific plans to attack Black people and repeatedly cited the ‘great replacement’ theory, the false idea that a cabal is attempting to replace white Americans with nonwhite people through immigration, interracial marriage and, eventually, violence.”

Collins wrote that, “the manifesto includes dozens of pages of antisemitic and racist memes, repeatedly citing the racist ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory frequently pushed by white supremacists, which falsely claims white people are being ‘replaced’ in America as part of an elaborate Jewish conspiracy theory. Other memes use tropes and discredited data to denigrate the intelligence of nonwhite people.”

Three things happened this weekend. They are connected.

The “great replacement theory” is the link.

More precisely, democracy is.

Democracy in the 21st century isn’t yielding the results the right-wingers want. It produced the first Black president. It produced his reelection.

The rightwingers cannot trust democracy until they are certain that “demographic change,” which the Democrats love to talk about, has been stopped. They can’t trust democracy until there are enough white people around to make sure white people are still in charge.

Immigration.

Abortion.

Guns.

These are the three-legged stool of the Republican Party.

The stool animates the rightwing imagination. It animates the Republican incumbents running for reelection. It animates a third of Americans who believe “an effort is underway” by the Democratic Party “to replace U.S.-born Americans with immigrants for electoral gains,” according to a recent AP poll. It animated Payton Gendron.

On immigration – stop it.

Stop all of it, even legal immigration. The more nonwhite people, Muslims and Jews in America, the more risk there is to white power.

On guns – more of them in more white hands.

Rightwingers can’t get rid of Black people and Latinos who were born here or immigrated years ago, but they can terrorize or (legally) lynch them. More guns in more white hands overlap with police officers who already serve an unspoken mandate to control nonwhite people.

On abortion – more white babies.

Most of the women who get abortions are white. By forcing them to give birth, the rightwing attempts to “repopulate” the country so that, over the years, there are more white people who can vote. Only at that point can the right-wingers' return to trusting American democracy.

Gendron’s manifesto spells it out: “If there’s one thing I want you to get from these writings, it’s that White birth rates must change. Everyday the White population is fewer in number. To maintain a population, the people must achieve a birth rate that replacement fertility levels.”

It also says “critical race theory” a rightwing talking point that has come to “encompass teaching about race in school, is part of a Jewish plot, and a reason to justify mass killings of Jews,” Collins wrote.

When Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin said “CRT, CRT, CRT,” his voters didn’t hear anything about education or even children. What they heard was that the Democrats are trying to replace them. What they heard was a plan for “PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION.”

This weekend, the three-legged stool was in full view.

Few Americans believed it beforehand.

A “white supremist killed my mother and other family members,” the Rev. Sharon Risher said Saturday. “Again, we deal with death because of hate and a gun. Thoughts and prayers won’t cut it. Something must be done! Can I count on you to help change this narrative?”

When democracy betrays you, where do you turn?

To hate and a gun.

Will more Americans believe it now?

The sneaky way the right to protest is becoming imperiled

The right to peaceably assemble and protest is dearly held in the American imagination dating back to the Boston Tea Party.

While the response to peaceful protests by non-white people and women was not always embraced at the time, the narratives of suffrage parades and Civil Rights marches have been embraced in American history as the “right” way to protest free of violence or incitement.

Despite the near-universal praise for peaceful protests of the past, when activists take these historical lessons to heart and protest current injustices, those in power must be reminded anew each time that peaceful protest is vital to American history and a thriving democracy.

And so we are once again left to educate Supreme Court justices and senators on the Bill of Rights and assure them that people holding signs outside their homes are not a threat, but simply exercising one of our most treasured freedoms – the freedom to tell a powerful person they’ve royally screwed up.

This past week protests erupted outside Justices Kavanaugh, Roberts and Alito’s homes to protest the likely overturning of Roe v. Wade after Justice Alito’s draft opinion was leaked for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

The protests outside the Justices' homes, and the terrifying sidewalk chalk incident outside of Senator Collins’ home, have been peaceful. Yet many are clutching their pearls at the idea that someone could face protests at their private home.

It’s not clear why these protests are so offensive to people or why the private home of people questioning a constitutional right to privacy should be off limits.

Some have claimed these protests aren’t fair to their neighbors but the protests in front of Justice Kavanaugh’s home were organized by a neighbor and protestors felt pretty supported by Justice Alito’s neighbors with some even offering wine and cheese to a reporter covering them.

When asked about these protests, Senator Schumer shrugged them off and said such peaceful protests are “the American way.” He would know since he faces protests at his home in Brooklyn multiple times a week (without calling the police as far as I know).

The right of “freedom of assembly” is held in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which protects freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The Supreme Court has also repeatedly protected this right in the face of government intrusion.

In De Jong v. Oregon in 1937, the Supreme Court said the state could not interfere in De Jong’s right to organize a protest against police brutality. This case was particularly important in that it emphasized a difference between “advocacy” and “incitement” in that advocacy for communist ideas did not necessarily incite violence to overthrow the government.

It struck down Oregon’s “criminal syndicalism” law, which outlawed which prohibited advocacy of “any unlawful acts or methods as a means of accomplishing or effecting industrial or political change or revolution.”

In Edwards v. South Carolina in 1963, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions of students for supposedly “disturbing the peace” when they were protesting segregation. The majority opinion wrote that the students were exercising their First Amendment rights in the “most pristine form.”

Freedom of assembly clearly has limits with one built right into the language of the First Amendment in that the assembly must be “peaceable.”

Violent action, like speech that incites violence, is not protected.

While this is a reasonable limit, it also provides an unfortunate method of delegitimizing protest – those in power can claim protests are inciting violence or lawlessness.

In Justice Clark’s lone dissent in Edwards v. South Carolina, he employed the threat of violence to justify the police’s actions in arresting the peaceful protestors. Clark claimed the protestors were not engaging in a “passive demonstration” and that the police were preventing a possible riot.

The fear of possible violence supported laws passed after the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831 to prohibit the assembly of free Black people all over the south.

The majority of these assemblies were peaceful and often devoted to schooling or religious worship. But the threat of another rebellion was enough to justify outlawing this basic constitutionally protected freedom. Theodore Dwight Weld said these laws were indicative of “‘the right of peaceably assembling’ violently wrested” in 1836.

At the same time in the north, abolitionists, including free Black people and white women, were taking advantage of this constitutional right to hold meetings, conventions and give speeches.

While these abolitionist tactics set the stage for the suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement, many at the time criticized an assembly of a mixed gender and interracial group.

The behavior of the abolitionists were criticized while mobs disrupted their meetings and speeches. At an 1835 meeting of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, the mayor burst in with his constables to demand the women go home rather than control the mob of people disrupting the meeting.

Racial justice protests in recent years have been delegitimized with claims of violence and looting even though data shows that 93 percent of such protests were completely peaceful.

While there have been no reports of violence as a result of abortion protests this week, even though Susan Collins called the police about sidewalk chalk, the Senate has still decided to pass a bill to increase security for Supreme Court justices.

While not a big deal on its face (who cares if they have security), the need for the bill implies a threat of violence that there is no evidence for.

Once again completely peaceful protests are being maligned with the mere possibility of future violence which would delegitimize their constitutional protection.

The governors of Maryland and Virginia are trying to stop the protests by demanding that the Department of Justice enforce a federal law that prohibits demonstrations intended to influence judges on decisions.

This is a particularly obnoxious attempt to stop the protests considering justices are clearly influenced by politics and conservative justices regularly give speeches at political gatherings. Clarence Thomas won't even recuse himself from January 6 cases despite his wife’s involvement.

It’s ridiculous to think any of these justices would be swayed by public opinion and enforcing this law to stop the current protests could set a dangerous precedent that limits constitutional rights if protesting anything related to a Supreme Court case.

The real history of protesting in the United States is that those in power are always threatened and seek to find ways to suppress protests, but the public imagination forgets those actions and fondly remembers successful protests as deeply American. Senators and justices concerned with their legacy might want to reread how much our history books love a good protest.

Face it. MAGA wants a god-emperor

The Democrats are bad at messaging. That complaint is so common, I say no thanks whenever a contributor pitches me a story about it. (Well, most of the time.) Yes, the Democrats could do better, but honestly, I don’t see how much better – not without their own media.

Fact is, the complainers want the Democrats to be as loud as the Republicans. They want the Democrats to bend political reality in their direction the way the Republicans bend political reality in theirs.

But the Democrats don’t work that way.

They might not ever. They are the party of reform.

The status quo hates reform.

The status quo, whatever that is, however bigoted it might be, is in the Republicans’ favor. The status quo is in the favor of the people who own the most lucrative media properties. We have seen attempts by liberals to create a liberal Fox. Guess what? They can’t make money.

Another fact: the Democrats actually do say the things their critics say they should say. It’s just that the Democrats say it in scattershot fashion. Instead of being concentrated, as rightwing voices are via Fox, Breitbart and talk radio, the voices of democracy and liberalism are atomized. As a result, their messaging never has the same loud pop.

So today, I’m going to show you a few things the Democrats have been saying in order to push back, at least a little, against the widespread and confused notion that the Democrats are bad at messaging. They are good at it. That doesn’t matter. Even the best messaging sinks out of sight unless supported by a robust and effective infrastructure.

An infrastructure like that takes resources.

Defenders of the status quo have resources.

The Democrats are the party of reform.

Defenders of the status quo hate reform.

So the Democrats do what they can do.

Face it, they want a god-emperor

The president is now in the habit of using the phrase “ultra-MAGA.” It’s a signal for ordinary Republican voters who might want to vote for him but worry about reneging on commitments to the Republican Party.

Yesterday, he added a twist.

Donald Trump, he said, is “the great MAGA-king.”

I love this. It gets to the heart of democracy itself. True republicans (small r) want to rule themselves by way of democracy. Ultra-MAGA Republicans, on the other hand, want to be ruled by way of a king.

Below is a reaction from Benny Johnson, the grand pooh-bah of putzes as well as a propagandist for the Republicans. I put his comment in context with Paul Weyrich, the late founder of the Heritage Foundation who was writing for the Post, and Richard Spencer, an American Nazi.

Joe Biden, Wednesday

“Under my predecessor, the great MAGA king, the deficit increased every single year he was president.”

Benny Johnson, Wednesday, on “great MAGA king”

“Seriously confused how this is supposed to be insulting.”

Paul Weyrich, 1987, in the Post

“Many conservatives are monarchists at heart.”

Richard Spencer, 2016

“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

“Why are you such a hater?”

Hakeem Jeffries sits on the House Judiciary Committee. The panel passed last night a bill requiring a code of ethics for the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court. (It has none.) The bill expands the law overseeing recusals. All of this was with Clarence Thomas in mind.

The Supreme Court justice’s wife, Ginni Thomas, was apparently thick as thieves with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. They exchanged several text messages while the J6 insurrection raged on. The takeaway is she appeared to favor overthrowing the republic.

Clarence Thomas recently complained about demonstrators protesting outside the homes of Supreme Court justices in opposition to their imminent overturning of Roe. He said the protests were a form of bullying. He added that “we are becoming addicted to wanting particular outcomes, not living with the outcomes we don’t like.”

The congressman from New York had a few words.

“I've got some advice for Justice Thomas.

Start in your own home. Have a conversation with Ginni Thomas.

She refused to accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Why? Because he didn't like the outcome.

Instead, she tried to steal the election, overthrow the United States government and install a tyrant.

That's bullying.

That’s being unwilling to accept an outcome because you don't like the results because the former twice-impeached so-called president of the United States of America lost legitimately to Joe Biden.

How did she respond?

She said the Bidens should face a military tribunal and Guantanamo Bay on trumped-up charges of sedition.

You've got to be kidding me.

And lastly, let me ask this question of brother Thomas.

Why are you such a hater?

Hate on civil rights.

Hate on women's rights.

Hate on reproductive rights.

Hate on voting rights.

Hate on marital rights?

Hate on equal protection under the law.

Hate on liberty and justice for all.

Fate on free and fair elections?

Why are you such a hater?

And you think you can get away with it, escape public scrutiny because you think that shamelessness is your superpower …

The truth is your kryptonite.

Put in the corner

Dick Durbin is normally pretty boring. Scratch that. He’s always pretty boring. That’s part of his appeal, I think. He might take liberal positions on things, but he does so in ways that can’t possibly arouse a reaction.

During the Senate vote yesterday to codify Roe (which failed 49-51), Durbin took to the floor to challenge the Republicans. If you want to say protesting justices outside their homes is bad, you have to also say that the sacking and looting (my words) of the US Capitol was bad.

They won’t do that.

Durbin knows it.

He’s putting the Republicans in the corner where they belong.

Let's make it clear, unequivocally clear, in a bipartisan fashion, that violence is never acceptable.

Violence is never acceptable against Supreme Court justices, their families, their staff or anyone associated with that branch of government.

Nor was violence acceptable on January 6, 2021, in this chamber when the insurrectionist mob leaving a Trump rally came here and tried to stop the business of the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.

We left as fast as we could move out the back door to try to escape them. That was violence that led to five deaths and the assault on 150 members of law enforcement.

That violence is unacceptable as well.

I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle, who vetoed an effort for a bipartisan commission to investigate the violence of January 6, will step up now and say they were wrong.

Violence against the Supreme Court Justice, violence against members of the House, members of the Senate – none of those are acceptable.

The Pete principle

When US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was running in the Democracy primary, he was asked where he stood on third-trimester abortions. That’s a tricky question, but then-Mayor Pete handled it so well that other Democrats should copy-cat his response.

https://twitter.com/johnastoehr/status/1524788933539790849?s=20&t=IQWUVvvPpnY7xnZZrk7Y_w

And finally …

IMAGE OF THAT VENOMOUS TOAD SHAPIRO

When they say that "49 Democrats voted for abortion up to and including the point of birth," they do not mean what they say.

They want you to believe they mean what they say.

What they mean, but do not say, is that “the point of birth” is the same thing as “the point of viability.” That is, the point at which the baby can survive outside its mother, which is generally about 24 months into a pregnancy, is the same thing as birth after nine months.

Let’s be clear.

No parent on this planet sees them as the same thing.

No parent thinks the point of viability is the same thing as the due date.

In other words, they are lying to you.

My hope is now you know they are lying.

How the war in Ukraine is fueling a new space race

The suspension of collaborative projects between Russian and Western space agencies will enhance their traditional rivalries. But the new space race is also being driven by other countries—as well as private companies.

Shortly after Russia was sanctioned for invading Ukraine in late February, Russia’s state-run space agency, Roscosmos, announced that it was officially suspending the U.S. from an upcoming Venus exploration mission. Weeks later, on March 17, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the suspension of a joint mission to Mars with Roscosmos, and further said that it would not be taking part in upcoming Roscosmos missions to the moon.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

These decisions have naturally generated concern across the space industry and political landscape. For decades, Russian and Western countries have collaborated in space despite flare-ups in tensions on Earth. In 1975, the U.S. Apollo capsule linked up with the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft briefly as a symbol of cooperation amid the Cold War. In 1995, the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis docked with the Russian space station Mir.

And in 1998, the International Space Station (ISS) was launched, featuring a Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and a United States Orbital Segment (USOS), the latter being operated by NASA, the ESA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Sustained cooperation on the ISS has been a notable exception to the growing tensions between Russia and the Western states over the last decade. But in April, Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, declared that Russia would end cooperation on the ISS, as well as other joint projects, if sanctions against Russia were not lifted. While such threats have been issued before, notably after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the heightened confrontation between Russia and the West since the start of the Ukrainian invasion has reinforced this possibility.

NASA, meanwhile, chose to downplay Rogozin’s claims and stated that it will continue to operate the ISS until at least 2030. But Roscosmos has previously stated that it intends to develop its own space station by 2025, and has also revealed plans for a potential manned mission to the moon. Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system, which achieved global coverage in 2011, has also become a viable rival to the United States’ GPS system. These developments show the Kremlin’s growing commitment to pursuing its own interests in space without partnering with Western states.

In comparison, Roscosmos has increased its collaboration with the China National Space Administration (CNSA), particularly after the first wave of Western sanctions in 2014. In 2021, China and Russia announced plans to build a lunar research station, a direct rival to NASA’s Gateway project, which will be coordinated with the space agencies from Europe, Japan, and Canada.

China has already created its own space station, the Tiangong Space Station, which was launched in 2021. While far smaller than the ISS, China’s space agency has six more launches planned this year to complete the installation. China also sent a rover to the far side of the moon in 2019, as well as to Mars in 2021, and has announced plans for its own manned moon mission this decade.

While the space programs of some countries in the Global South, such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, and Iran, are certainly less impressive, their development demonstrates the growing accessibility to space, which has long been dominated by Russia, China, and Western states. More than 70 countries now have space agencies, while 14 are capable of orbital launch.

For these countries, success in space in recent years has often come from collaborating with existing space powers. In 2005, Iran’s first satellite was built and launched in Russia, while in 2008, China, Iran, and Thailand launched a joint research satellite on a Chinese rocket. Technology sharing, domestic innovation, and decreasing costs have also allowed more countries to compete in space. India made history in 2013 after it sent its own orbiter to Mars, notably on a smaller budget than the space movie “Gravity,” which came out the same year.

The growing number of countries active in Earth’s orbit and beyond have also revitalized fears of the possibility of the militarization of space. So far, only Russia, China, the U.S., and India have successfully demonstrated anti-satellite weapons. Other countries, however, including Iran and Israel, are believed to either be developing or already have similar capabilities.

Of course, Western countries remain far ahead technologically than any other state or group of states. NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, for example, aims to place humans on the moon again by 2025, while three NASA rovers are currently active on Mars. NASA’s unmanned X-37B program—which began in 1999, was transferred to the U.S. military in 2004, and is now being run by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office—has so far conducted four missions, while collaborative projects with the ESA have further underlined Western dominance in space.

But a growing phenomenon in space is the role of private companies. They have been involved in many of NASA’s and the ESA’s high-profile projects, including Boeing’s involvement in the X-37B project. Largely based in the U.S. and the UK, these companies have helped reduce costs and have increased opportunities for government space agencies, and they will be essential for exploiting the vast resources on the moon, asteroids, and other celestial bodies.

Though hundreds of space-related companies exist, a handful have stood out as pioneers of the modern space age. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, owned by entrepreneurs Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson respectively, both made history in 2021 after conducting their own manned space flights. Blue Origin, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, and other corporations have also signed contracts to create private space stations in the future.

The most notable private company operating in space, however, is SpaceX, which is owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk. In recent years, the company has helped reduce the United States’ dependency on Russian Soyuz rockets to bring astronauts and deliveries to the ISS following the termination of the NASA program as a consequence of the Ukraine war.

SpaceX has launched more than 2,000 Starlink satellites into space, with plans to launch more than 12,000 by 2026. Most will form part of the Starlink project that aims to provide internet access to populations around the world.

Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted at Elon Musk in February to use the Starlink project to bring internet to Ukraine after some services were disrupted by the Russian invasion. Within days, Starlink was active across the country, and in early May, Ukrainian officials stated that 150,000 Ukrainians were using the service daily.

The use of Starlink satellites was no doubt seen in Moscow as a direct challenge to the Kremlin. While Russia is currently unlikely to attack the network, it has raised questions as to how future confrontations between private companies and countries in space might play out. The growing use of private military companies on Earth by both states and the private sector could inspire similar moves to protect government and private assets in space.

The growing profile of private space-related companies threatens to upend the rules of regulations regarding space, most of which were written decades ago. This includes the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which through Article VI established that countries have the legal authority to regulate space and not international bodies, with private companies not yet having started space exploration when the treaty was finalized. The Artemis Accords, a modern U.S.-sponsored agreement to regulate space created in 2020, has so far only been signed by 16 countries.

Nonetheless, the increasingly competitive space industry has already demonstrated that even smaller countries can play a large role in it. Overseeing the development of technologies and tempering the weaponization of space, by both countries and companies, should become a priority globally to help ensure that growing competition in space does not lead to avoidable and destructive consequences on Earth.

Author Bio: John P. Ruehl is an Australian-American journalist living in Washington, D.C. He is a contributing editor to Strategic Policy and a contributor to several other foreign affairs publications. He is currently finishing a book on Russia to be published in 2022.

Right-wing religious extremism is the only excuse Republicans have in opposing abortion

The Senate is going to take a vote today to codify Roe. Preview coverage has it pretty much right. The bill won’t pass, not in the form anyway, that was sent over by the House. But passage isn’t the point.

The point is showing who among the Republicans – and who among the GOP-adjacent Democrats – will go on record as being against the enshrinement in statutory law of privacy rights, equal standing in society, individual liberty and abortion. Where do senators stand?

When that becomes clear, the Democrats will turn to the American people to decide what should happen next. If you want Roe to be federal law, vote for a Democrat. If you don’t, vote for a Republican.

(I don’t see a third way. Five Republican justices on the Supreme Court will almost certainly strike down Roe. According to a report by Politico, they are not considering other draft opinions. Alito’s opinion, which hints at voiding other civil liberties in the future, is likely the final one.)

Given the debate over abortion will have passed through the court and the Senate on its way to the midterms in this fall, perhaps now’s a good time to rethink abortion in terms that seem to have been left behind.

Liberals and other champions of abortion used to deploy a vocabulary that was appropriate in the years before 1973, when Roe was decided.

That vocabulary was religious, even cross-denominational. Abortion’s most likely opponents were canonical Catholics. Otherwise, most people most of the time saw abortion as part of religious liberty. Here’s what the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service said in 1973:

If the state laws are now made to conform to the Supreme Court ruling, the decision to obtain an abortion or to bring pregnancy to full term can now be a matter of conscience and deliberate choice rather than one compelled by law. Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision.

Remember, abortion did not become a religious issue until the late 1970s when GOP operatives realized that it was an effective vehicle for achieving unrelated political goals. For instance, reducing business taxes and regulation but mostly for getting the federal government off private religious schools built on a foundation of white supremacy.

Since then, the debate over abortion has been increasingly distilled so that on one side, you had religious believers in “the sanctity of life” while on the other, you had secular believers in the ultimate moral agency of women. A religious argument for abortion was prominent before Roe. Afterward, that movement turned to other injustices.

It’s a good time to revive the spirit of that movement. Its focus might be on a question most abortion champions don’t bother answering.

IS an embryo a child? Really? I mean, seriously?

Abortion champions would rather talk about privacy and the freedom to choose. They would rather leave religion out of the debate, because the other side has so thoroughly colonized that terrain. I get that.

But I also think most people most of the time don’t know much about politics, much less a nuclear issue like abortion. Most people avoid conflict. They don’t try to understand it fully. Instead, they rely on instinct. Instinct is informed by a variety of religious experiences.

As long as Roe is law, there’s no need for a religious counterpoint. Things are going to be different in June, though. If you want voters in the midterms to decide whether Roe should be federal law, it would be useful, even necessary, to undermine the dominating religious view.

Is an embryo a child?

No, an embryo is an embryo.

An embryo is no more a child than a tire is a car, a room is a house, a politician is a government. It’s no more a child than the big toe on your left foot is you. A part of a thing is not the same thing as the whole of a thing. Asking us to believe that an embryo is a child is asking us to inhabit a reality that’s upside down, backwards and prolapsed.

To be sure, religions often ask us to inhabit such realities.

But what kind of religion asks us to do that?

Not a moral one.

Not a religion steeped in tradition or scripture or the common law. Traditionally, scripturally and legally, life began at some point on a spectrum between the child’s first kick to the child’s first breath.

Asking us to believe an embryo is a child is a newfangled idea – which is to say, an idea fully fabricated for political expediency – that used to have currency, and still does, for a specific strain of Christianity.

Asking us to believe an embryo is a child is asking us to be Catholic. (Most lay Catholics support a women’s ultimate moral agency, though.)

At this point in the argument, things can go two ways. One, it’s now about religion, specifically a good religion versus a bad religion. Abortion wouldn’t be the cause of conflict. It’s a symptom of it.

Two, it’s about taking seriously an amoral, ahistorical and illogical religious argument. Should we? Should we continue respecting a bad religion? Or should we fight it vigorously on equally religious grounds?

As I said, I get it. Most champions of abortion would rather talk about privacy and the freedom to choose. They would rather cede religion to the religious. In doing so, however, I think they make a strategist error.

They allow the press corps, no stranger to misogyny, to depict the liberal view of abortion as being the same as the conservative view.

The rights of one person (a woman) are equal to the rights of another “person” (an embryo). This is the framing most people most of the time encounter. Naturally, they privilege “the baby” over “the bad mother.”

We need to upend that frame – as well as preempt future attempts b y Republicans to endow embryos with “personhood.” In addition to a choice should come a religious argument reviving the spirit of the old multi-faith movement for the advancement of aborton rights.

The strongest asset among anti-abortionists is the belief that an embryo is a person only a religious movement can save from death.

There is no counter to that in secular terms. Indeed, the more we focus on a woman’s right to choose, the more selfish she appears to be among most people most of the time who will vote on Roe’s fate.

The only counter is religious. Those asking us to believe an embryo is a person are radicals from a bad religion unmoored from history, scripture and law. They ask us to believe nonsense. A good religion is not crazy-making. It stands on the rock of truth, justice and faith.

It understands an embryo is an embryo.

A baby is a baby.

And bullshit is bullshit.

Rick Scott's 11-point nightmare is a revival of Mitt Romney's '47 percent of Americans pay no taxes' schtick

Florida Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has released a plan which says, honestly and clearly, exactly what Republicans want to do to the poor.

It’s this plan that Joe Biden highlighted Tuesday in setting up a contrast between the Democratic agenda and the Republicans’.

“Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they would rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages than take on inflation, never mind the fact that many of these companies are recording record profit margins even as ... they raise prices,” he said.

Scott’s peers have not welcomed the plan. They have distanced themselves from his proposals. In doing so, they have demonstrated the extent to which Republican economic policies rely on hypocritical populism to cover for their assault on the disadvantaged.

Scott’s Plan to Rescue America, unveiled at the end of March, included a lot of rabid Republican nativism and conspiratorial bigotry.

It demands all students in public school be forced to recite the pledge of allegiance. It promises to double down on completing Trump’s failed border wall. It says Republicans will ban a debt increase — which would trigger default and precipitate a massive recession or worse.

Republican campaigns marinate in this kind of festering nonsensically symbolic stew of word and gesture. But Scott, who is worth north of $250 million, adds policies that deliberately target the least affluent.

Scott’s plan states that, “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”

By his own account, therefore, Scott’s plan would raise taxes on more than half of Americans — most of whom pay no income tax because they don’t earn enough income on which to pay income tax. About 102 million individuals or married couples would owe under his plan.

In addition, Scott proposed that “all federal legislation sunsets in five years.” This would throw the government into chaos. More, it would eliminate Social Security and Medicare. Imagine a divided Congress passing such sweeping legislation quinquennially. You can’t.

Democrats criticized the plan quickly.

Republicans, meanwhile, disapproved or sidestepped.

Senate candidate Billy Long said he didn’t support Scott’s tax increases. Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks issued a statement denouncing tax increases. Senator Marco Rubio dodged the issue, saying he didn’t know whether he agreed with it.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was far more forthright. The Senate conference would not run on raising taxes, he said, and the party was absolutely not going to cut Social Security or Medicare.

In 2012, Republican candidate Mitt Romney suggested Americans who didn’t pay taxes were freeloading or were not invested in the system. There was a massive backlash. Since then Republicans have generally opposed all tax increases of any sort for everyone.

Trump in 2016 promised a big middle-class tax cut. He also promised to preserve entitlement programs — at least when he’s not, in typically incoherent Trump fashion, promising to cut them.

The Republicans can be trusted generally to say they are committed to reducing the burden on the working and middle class. But what they do is more in line with the goal of Rick Scott’s proposal– soak the poor.

Trump’s 2017 tax cut was a bonanza for the rich and a punch in the gut for the less affluent. The richest, earning at least $308,900, had their income tax cut, giving them a 3 percent boost in income.

The poorest saw a decrease in income of about 3 percent. That’s because it repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Similarly, Republicans almost uniformly opposed President Joe Biden’s Child Tax Credit program which provided hundreds of dollars in cash payments to poor families with children.

Thanks to GOP obstruction, the program ended in January.

When it did, child poverty spiked by 41 percent.

The Republicans and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin look more heartless as it becomes clear the conservative Supreme Court intends to shred abortion rights, allowing states to force women to give birth.

That should make clear that Republicans are keen to control women’s bodies, but lose interest once they’re born. Some Republicans have made vague noises about maybe providing some limited benefits for children, but these plans sound half-hearted at best.

The GOP is eager to shovel money into the wealthy’s deep pockets. They are just as eager to take money from those who need it most.

More, they love restricting, regulating and harassing the poor by denying them access to reproductive healthcare or any healthcare.

Romney accurately explained the Republican philosophy when he characterized the rich as “makers” and the poor as “takers.”

To Romney, bosses were virtuous wealth generators who deserved all the resources. Poor and working people, who actually did the labor that created the goods and services, were leeches to be brushed aside.

Open contempt for working people proved to be fairly unpopular. Republicans have instead embraced a pallid populism with which they blame the country’s economic woes on immigrants and mutter indistinctly about helping the middle class.

Scott’s plan gives the game away. It openly acknowledges the policies that Republicans don’t like to admit to their own voters.

Scott wants to take money from the poor triumphantly, rather than quietly letting their cash payments lapse. He wants to slice benefits with a flourish, rather than scuttling them in the fine print.

He says the less powerful are less worthy, rather than (or in addition to) using dog whistles and insinuations to encourage people to think that GOP hate is directed solely at immigrants, Black people, LGBT people — anyone but the GOP’s core constituency of white people.

Democrats have been talking about Scott’s plan on the campaign trail. It may help around the edges, but it’s not clear any message will avert the midterm curse that typically scars the president’s party.

Rick Scott’s plan advertises what voters can expect from Republicans. His party wants to harm working people and the less affluent.

When they’re out of office, they dream of it.

When they’re in office, they’ll deliver it.

Qualified immunity is rooted in white supremacy and gives cops a free pass to lynch Black people

Though it took more than a century as well as countless lives lost to white supremacy, the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act is now US law.

It has been widely hailed as an important piece of symbolism.

Considering America’s longstanding love affair with lynching, however, which continues to this day, symbolism is the most we can take away.

While it’s good that those terrorists of lynching now potentially face another layer of punishment, it’s too little too late. Why?

Because the new law does not deal with a core problem: police.

White men in uniform lynch the most.

They are also most likely to get away with it.

One hundred years ago, the police and white vigilantes worked in tandem to murder Black people. In the 1950s, the police and white vigilantes conspired together to kill Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black child.

In 2022, we might ask, what has actually changed?

It might be tempting to get all starry-eyed about America’s new anti-lynching law. The long history of racial oppression and its modern ramifications in America, however, do not permit such a luxury.

Things are too dangerous for Black people.

Racial bias among police is well documented. Police continue to terrorize Black America, knowing what the right thing to do is. They refuse to follow laws that should already ensure that being Black in America at the wrong time and place is not a death sentence.

Days ago, a video was released of an incident in 2021. It shows the shooting and execution of an unarmed Black man named Quadry Sanders at the hands of police in Lawton, Okla.

What preceded the incident does not matter. Sanders was unarmed. After being shot, while lying on the floor, when asked to “raise his hands,” he does so from a near fetal position.

He’s already dying.

Again, the cops shoot him.

All of these videos are awful, but the shooting of Sanders is especially stomach-churning. The moment he’s asked to raise his hands while on the floor riddled with bullets, dutifully complying, only to be shot several more times, sums up everything wrong with anti-Black policing.

Comply, don’t comply, carry a gun or don’t carry a gun, asleep in your home or out with your kids – if you’re Black in America, the hunt is on.

So will the new Emmett Till anti-lynching law apply to police officers too? Well, they would need to be charged first, and this is the real issue.

Qualified immunity feeds the problem.

Bishop Talbert Swan is president of the NAACP chapter of Springfield Massachusetts and a strong critic of racist policing in the United States.

He told the Editorial Board:

While I commend Congressman Bobby Rush for sponsoring and pushing the anti-lynching legislation, we understand the epidemic of legalized lynchings of Black people by law enforcement across this nation will not be abated by the threat of increased sentences.
Especially when most police officers who kill Black people are never charged. It is not the severity of a punishment that is likely to prevent hate crimes. It is the certainty of it.
In America, white police officers and white vigilantes are almost certainly will not be punished for murdering a Black person.

Last year, the Asian-American community succeeded after a couple of months in seeing the anti-Asian hate crime law become a reality.

Black people have been in America before the first European settlers arrived. They’ve experienced hundreds of years of state-sanctioned murder. And yet not an anti-Black hate crime bill in sight.

President Biden doesn’t have to wait to be lobbied.

Black communities need a solid commitment from the government to uproot white supremacy within policing. That needs to happen now.

The right-wing is pitting 'respectable' white people against one another. Will it work?

So much depends on the opinions of respectable white people. As long as they tolerate fascism while ambivalent toward liberal democracy, the Republicans will always have the advantage above and beyond the structural advantages they already enjoy. What is it going to take?

What is it going to take for respectable white people to understand that the Republicans, their paramilitaries and their justices on the Supreme Court are ensnaring whole classes of people in expanding rings of social control? It began with immigrants. It’s going to end with – I don’t know. But when states enact laws regulating marital sex, respectable white people will ask: “How the fuck did this happen?”

I’m thinking specifically of their reaction to a handful of protests staged over the weekend outside the homes of Republican justices of the Supreme Court. Last week, a draft opinion leaked showing a court standing ready to strike down Roe, thus voiding the constitutional right to privacy, equal social standing, individual liberty and abortion.

So some Americans did what Americans do in such times.

They raised hell.

A quiet, lawful and very white hell.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh lives in a suburb of Washington, where the well-scrubbed children of the capital’s white upper-middle class romp and play – and where the unwritten social code is civility. The most dangerous thing you can expect from these people, who are the most insulated from the consequences of partisan politics, is discourtesy.

But unmannerliness was too much for some. On Monday, an unsigned editorial in the Post titled “Leave the justices alone at home” said:

"The right to assemble and speak freely is essential to democracy." Erasing any distinction between the public square and private life is essential to totalitarianism. It is crucial, therefore, to protect robust demonstrations of political dissent while preventing them from turning into harassment or intimidation (italics mine).

Allow me to rephrase.

A member of the Post’s editorial board, a singular voice in American public affairs, looked at these protests by mostly upper-middle class white people, for whom the consequences of partisan politics are almost never felt, and who were demonstrating peacefully in public spaces with permission and police escort, and said this sure looks like the erasure of any distinction between the public square and private life.

The thinking seems to be that without a firm line separating public and private, without a singular voice in public affairs defending that line, totalitarianism looms. So this weekend’s protests, featuring tens of dozens of polite white people, are akin to harassment and intimidation.

Got that?

I’m used to America’s respectable white people, who vacillate cynically between the parties, seeing left-liberal agitators for freedom and justice as extreme. That’s what the rightwing alleges. Respectable white people typically give the rightwing the benefit of the doubt.

I get that. They’re wrong. But I get that.

What I don’t get is this.

Isn’t the Post’s editorial writer extreme for accusing peaceful and lawful protesters of intimidation? Isn’t US Senator Susan Collins of Maine extreme for describing a pro-Roe message written in chalk on a sidewalk near her home as the “defacement of public property”?

Isn’t it extreme for the Senate to hurry up and pass, according to NBC News’ Frank Thorp, a bill extending protections from the Supreme Court Police to the immediate family members of Supreme Court justices,” as if these middle-aged protesters were a present peril?

Isn’t it extreme when a hack impersonating a journalist, who’s paid by the Heritage Foundation, video records a Sunday protest outside Kavanaugh’s house, then tweets it with commentary suggesting it “has turned markedly negative,” which is then picked up and amplified by the rightwing media apparatus, triggering yet another moral panic?

The answer is yes. It’s extreme.

The extremism terrorizes respectable white people.

John Harwood of CNN said, “it is wrong to even hint at physically threatening a public official,” commenting on a video of protesters who were not in any way physically threatening anyone. Bob Shrum, a Democratic strategist commenting on the same video, said: “Voting is the path to change; threatening Kavanaugh is counterproductive.”

Even the president got scared. The White House press secretary said Monday that he “believes in the Constitutional right to protest. But that should never include violence, threats or vandalism. Judges perform an incredibly important function in our society, and they must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.”

Again: no one’s personal safety was in jeopardy.

I’ll leave it to others to explain the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech and free assembly. I’ll leave it to others to explain why these protests are the only thing so far holding accountable five unaccountable justices. I’ll leave it to others to explain that the Democrats should be encouraging protest, not discouraging it.

My point is that so much depends on the opinions of respectable white people, as they will determine the future direction of the country. My point is that the opinions of respectable white people are directly proportional the rightwing’s ability to terrorize them into going along.

The moment respectable white people stop going along is the moment they stop giving the rightwing the benefit of the doubt. The best part? It’s easy. All they have to do is watch the videos, as I did, and see the facts for themselves. Once the rightwing isn’t credible with a majority of respectable white people, its curse on America might finally ebb.

For decades, the rightwing has told respecable white people who are receptive to the rhetoric of stigma that the forces of liberty and justice for all – democracy and liberalism – are dangerous. They are radical.

It worked!

Status quo saved!

But now the rightwing is trying to scare respectable white people into believe that other respectable white people, in protesting a ruling that will affect millions of other respectable white people, are e x t r e m e.

We’ll see how that goes.