Hunter

Donald Trump's Nevada rally was an orgy of hate, ignorance, and right-wing propaganda

Donald Trump and Republican candidates held a Nevada rally on Saturday. Thanks to the speakers, there was no attempt to misdirect or moderate the speeches. What was on display was the heart of Republicanism's new fascism. Racism; paranoia; hoax promotion; a focus not on winning elections, but on winning the power to administer and subjugate them. Highlights of the event come via Acyn.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville delivered unabashed racism:

A bit of climate denial was thrown in as well, part of the party's now-widespread anger at science and intellectualism in all its forms:

From Jim Marchant, the party's Big Lie-endorsing and sedition-backing secretary of state candidate in Nevada, we got a definition of what taking our country back means, to Republicans. It means controlling the mechanisms of our elections.

But what are the secretaries of state supposed to do, once the offices are in Republican control? Apparently their role will consist not only of monitoring elections, but facilitating criminal acts from the party?

Criminal acts such as preparing and delivering forged documents purporting to be legitimate presidential electors based on groups of individual Republicans simply declaring themselves to be so:

Glorifying the reign of Dear Leader, mainly by fictionalizing it, was on the agenda:

After the crowd had been pummeled by delusionists for long enough, it was time for the traitor whose lies led to deaths in the Capitol to bellow his own versions. Donald Trump, a traitor, wants you to remember the good times of unabated pandemic death.

A proper fascist leader might have dug up the corpse of pandemic casualty Herman Cain and rigged it to applaud when Trump spoke that line, but we can't have everything. Trump left office a seditionist, a crooked traitor who betrayed the country in a dozen slovenly ways, but that was only after incompetently handling a national crisis to the tune of half a million deaths. But this was a crowd of Republicans willing to support such a traitor; while many of them likely had family members who died in large part because this buffoon refused to support even masking, much less other protections, those family members are long forgotten. What is important is that the shit-skulled traitor be properly cheered.

We moved on to, of course, demands that those who were not seditionist traitors be locked up.

While glorifying Trump's own acts to overthrow the government.

A bit of fever dream was added in, as the traitor's mind wandered to his more current problems:

But Trump took time out of his own fascist delusions to promote a foreign dictatorship. The Republican Party has fetished murderous Russian kleptocrat Vladimir Putin, even as Putin faces the world exposed as a fraud, a thug whose reign has so decimated his country that his own military has collapsed from the corruption. Ukraine is currently routing Russian armies, threatening to take back Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia for nearly a decade.

Trump, who consistently sought to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty at every turn during his time in office for reasons we can still only speculate on, took a moment to promote new Russian demands that Ukrainians halt their destruction of the army that sought to occupy them.

Republicanism is hardening into a fascist movement steadily, and with no significant pushback. In just one event we see assertion of white supremacy, a barrage of false propaganda meant to glorify the movement and deny its failures, the now-omnipresent contempt for book-learning in all its forms, the glorification of violence to assert party dominance, assertions that the nation can be saved only if the party itself administers its elections, and the seeds of likely future violence. The party became a fascist party when it backed the January 6 coup attempt, both on the day itself and for these two long years afterwards as it both obstructed all attempts to investigate Trump's actions during the coup and glorified, to their base, the alleged patriotism of the seditionists themselves.

We are now at the point where the movement believes even state national security secrets do not belong to the state, but belong to Donald Trump personally, by the rules of finders keepers. It is fascist, fascist, fascist. Look at the crowd, in those images. They are proud to be white supremacists, to rally around hoaxes, and to back the attempted overthrow of their own government. They are having so much fun, as they cheer for it all and hold up their pre-made signs.

Nebraska governor says rape and incest victims should be barred from seeking abortions

On CNN this morning, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts tossed aside the evasions his Republican Party used to rely on to assure American women that Republicans would not, in fact, force them to give birth to the babies of their rapists. No abortion exceptions for incest or rape, said Ricketts. None.

Under Republican government in Nebraska and elsewhere, a 12 year old girl raped by her father will carry that pregnancy to term.

It's a position that is almost required, if one truly believes in the "personhood" of a fertilized egg with no organs or nervous system. Pete Ricketts knows not a damn thing about medicine, but has strong religious convictions that he believes should override medical knowledge—not for him, but for every last American of every religion or no religion, in any circumstance, enforced by the powers of the state.

This is what is coming. Republicans have vowed they would do it ever since racist evangelical leaders of past decades latched onto abortion as a means of galvanizing support for a Christian nationalism-premised erasing of the last half-century of gained civil rights. The leaked news that the Supreme Court the Republican Party packed exclusively with theocrats is on the cusp of ending federal abortion rights means that Pete Ricketts and other Republicans like him will now use their power to implement whatever faux-religious rules their base demands of them.

Republicans are done being coy about what's coming next. They don't believe they need to play those games, now that they have a Supreme Court that will back their theocratic moves every step of the way.

Supreme Court in disarray: New leaks reveal Roberts' own preferred Roe reversal

There's now another big leak from The United States Supreme Court, and this one's being unapologetically linked to the court's conservative wing. The Washington Post has a new story in which multiple sources describe how Chief Justice John Roberts was planning to further carve away at Roe v. Wade by giving the court's approval to the Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks, but wanted to dodge overturning Roe completely.

The Supreme Court's other conservatives, however, essentially told him to pound sand. They wanted a full end to Roe, which is Justice Alito got the plum role of writing a hard-edged, theocratic-premised decision declaring federal abortion rights to be dead based squarely on the premises of his own personal religion and the rantings of an infamous 17th century misogynist and witch hunter.

This is not new news: That Roberts was not on board with the full ramifications of what the Alito wing of the court is pressing for was evident from Alito's draft opinion, which would not exist if Roberts was in the majority because Roberts would never have assigned the most controversial decision of his tenure to the archconservative crackpot Alito to begin with. Alito is known for authoring spite-riddled opinions riddled with dishonesty and omissions to get to his desired end point, which is often simply a long-winded declaration that my personal religious beliefs are supreme and your religious traditions are invalid. He is the voice of the reactionary Republicanism that justifies coup attempts and declares that laws mean different things based on whether a Republican or a non-Republican will be inconvenienced by them. An extremist, through and through.

What's more interesting is that now the court is leaking again, and this time it's quite obviously an intentional leak by conservatives to either prop up Roberts' fast-eroding dignity or to further brag of the conservative wing's willingness to erase Roe outright.

"But as of last week, the five-member majority to strike Roe remains intact, according to three conservatives close to the court who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter," reports the Post. Oh, so now numerous people "close to the court" are leaking information about the court's private deliberations and politics—and we're even allowed to know that it is in fact "conservatives" close to the court who are doing the leaking.

"A person close to the court’s most conservative members said Roberts told his fellow jurists in a private conference in early December that he planned to uphold the state law and write an opinion that left Roe and Casey in place for now. But the other conservatives were more interested in an opinion that overturned the precedents, the person said."

That's a pretty huge leak! (In the before times, it would have been considered such an abhorrent breach of current deliberations that the Post would seek out a conservative crank like Michael Luttig to moan about the "historic" and "tragic" breach of the "confidential deliberative process"—which the Post does, at the end of the piece, so Luttig can say those things about the original Alito leak but not this one. Conspicuously: Not this one.)

So now we've got a whole set of conservatives privy to the court's internal deliberations who are all coming out at once to assert that Roberts wanted to again sabotage Roe by chipping away at its foundations, allowing Mississippi to enact an encompassing 15-week ban despite Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but he was unanimously rejected by the court's other conservatives who all voted to erase Roe entirely.

The motive that comes easiest to mind, when wondering why so many people close to the court are willing to leak deliberations to the press even as John Roberts orders an investigation into the leak of the Alito draft, is legacy-polishing. Roberts may be pressing this new leak himself, in an attempt to distance himself from the extremists and signal to Republican powerbrokers in the Senate and elsewhere that no, he indeed tried to stop his fellow conservatives from doing the most election-rattling thing, and he is still committed to his own brand of judicial activism that knocks away precedents incrementally rather than all-at-once. It is an approach that has allowed Roberts to claim plausible deniability even as the extremism of the opinions themselves keep getting ratcheted up, and one that has damped public anger at his party's reactionary actions by premising each one on an assortment of caveats that muddle the true scope of the outcome.

In this scenario, it's Roberts who is pressuring his allies to leak to the press for entirely self-serving reasons. He's long been devoted to preserving the alleged independence and dignity of the court—even as Republican presidents and senators stuff his court with new members who don't give a damn about those things but instead were chosen for their willingness to embrace extremist opinions—and could be pushing this story as pushback to calls to expand the court, impose term limits, or make other reforms to bring the court into something even vaguely resembling the modern era.

But that's a pretty weak reason for once again shattering the supposed all-important prohibition against leaking internal court decision-making, and there's another possible motive for the leak, from other possible leakers. It is possible the Alito draft was leaked by some conservative close to the court, perhaps some conservative anti-abortion extremist and activist who is married to one of the most conservative justices and who has already shown a willingness to break the laws in any manner the extremists desire, or maybe even not that person, and it is possible that this new leak featuring multiple "conservative" court sources is a simple case of bragging.

The court's most extremist members won, and there's not a damn thing anyone on the court or off it can do about it, and because of that one of the defining culture wars of the last half century is about to be "won" by its devoted soldiers. It doesn't require much imagination to believe that the court's conservatives have been bragging mightily among themselves and to their allies about this outcome, and it doesn't require much imagination to believe that those they've bragged to—are even now gearing up for very gaudy victory celebrations.

So yes, perhaps those allied with the court's most reactionary justices would be quite happy to leak to the press that John Roberts tried everything in his power to keep the extremists from taking the "boldest" possible action, and not only did the reactionaries reject him, the group even assigned the ever-nasty Alito to write the nastiest majority opinion he and his clerks could muster.

We now know for a fact that multiple "conservatives" close to the court are leaking like the Moskva. Will condemnations again roll in? Will Roberts launch a second investigation to parallel the first?

Well, no. But we still know that it's court-connected "conservatives" doing the leaking because that's how they're willing to identify themselves to us. We just don't know whose boots they're trying to polish by doing it.

Republican lawmakers and sedition supporters are irate that the end of Roe was leaked in advance

You might have expected that Republican lawmakers would have been giddy last night with the leaked news that the newly far-right Supreme Court is on the cusp of granting their half-century-old dream, the dream of erasing abortion rights that was the very reason the party began putting forth those new archconservative nominees to begin with. Nope. Republican lawmakers were and continue to be absolutely furious, alleging that the rare (but hardly unprecedented) leak from the court is an outrage that must not be allowed to stand.

And so a parade of willing seditionists, defenders of corruption, and those who keep voting to block investigations into any of it in order to advance Republican power have spent the last 24 hours screaming about the norms while saying little to nothing about the raw cruelty of Alito's leaked far-far-right opinion, or its hints that the Trump-packed court intends to use the Alito framework to undo rights ranging from LGBT marriage to contraception to anti-"sodomy" laws.

No, the Republican Party that both mounted an attempted coup and is still working, to this day, to block the investigations into who organized the effort and who they had help from—they're very mad about the Alito-written draft opinion getting leaked. It didn't even take an hour for that to become The Talking Point.

The Senate’s two most visible insurrection backers weighed in, of course. Sen. Ted Cruz was outraged by the “blatant attempt to intimidate the Court through public pressure rather than reasoned argument,” which you know is bullshit because insurrection. At the same time, Sen. Josh Hawley immediately went weird conspiracy crank because apparently not even history-shaking reality is as exciting as the theories in his own head.

There’s no part of that that makes sense, which is how you know Josh Hawley wrote it himself. He also has a solution: The Libs Made Me Fascist Harder!

Elsewhere in Team Active Sedition, we find that same “intimidating,” coupled with a “radical left.” It’s not attempting to overthrow the U.S. government or packing the courts with unqualified hardliners that’s radical; it’s some clerk or technical worker inside the Supreme Court leaking the end of abortion rights in this nation before Team Sedition’s justices have fully crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s.

The man who broke the court himself, Mitch McConnell, repeats the notion that the real “mob rule” is a random leaker inside the Supreme Court. “Escalation,” “radical left,” “attack,” and “intimidate” are all used, giving the impression of coordinated violence akin to, say, insurrection to describe reporters getting a leaked document from an unknown government source.

What’s important here, however, is to remember that McConnell is the most prolific liar in all of government now that Trump is gone. He literally gives speeches like this on a daily basis, all explaining that “the left” are the real radicals and that he is a man of high principle who would never do the things he just did. Mitch McConnell invented new rule after new rule to make sure the Supreme Court slid to the current archconservative dismantlers even as America continued to vote for Democratic presidents to undo it. There’s nobody who’s been more radical; a press leak may be embarrassing, but it’s neither an insurrection nor a spate of new laws blocking Americans from their ballots.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. Alito’s hyper-cruel opinion must be hidden from the public lest Alito feel vulnerable about it. Every theocratic fascist is secretly a wilting flower, which is why we’re getting all these new laws banning books that make people like Sam Freaking Alito feel bad.

OH MY GOD I’m just going to start filtering out any tweets or news stories that so much as mention Susan Collins’ name. Susan Collins could be replaced with a potted plant and it would make absolutely no difference in anyone’s lives, ever. Imagine basing a whole political career on the theme of being the single most gullible person in America—and getting reelected for it.

But the talking point is the talking point, and it’s still going.


Hey, it’s Guy Who’s All About Projecting Dignity While His Party Collapses Into Fascism:

Also Sen. Lindsey Graham said something, and I don’t even care. Lindsey saved his top career meltdown for the purpose of railroading a serial sex predator through the confirmation process rather than abide testimony against him. We all already know what he thinks about the “dignity” of our court systems.

Instead, here’s another reminder that this other guy remains neck-deep in the attempt to nullify an American election rather than recognize the right of Americans to pick non-Republican winners:

What a toad this guy is. But the notion that “a Supreme Court leak is the real insurrection” has gotten a lot of traction among the people who … don’t think actual insurrections are bad.

All right, that one’s simply amazing. It should come with its own theme song.

There is a distinct link between the curtailing of abortion rights and rising fascism, by the way.

There are two things to note that make Team Sedition’s posturing here even more grotesque than it first appears—aside from the uncanny link between restricting reproductive justice and authoritarianism/fascism. The first is that we sincerely don’t know who could have leaked this opinion or why, and we probably won’t know for a long time. There’s just as much reason to expect a conservative abortion opponent inside the court leaked the document to blame a secret liberal inside the court; if conservative justices were feeling uneasy about the sheer magnitude of what Alito intends to unravel, leaking the document would paint a target on whichever conservative justices were threatening to back out.

So it’s yet again the case that the Republicans insisting that their enemy, “the left,” are responsible for the latest crimes against Washington decency are basing those claims on fictions inside their own heads. They don’t know who leaked any more than the rest of us do, and they don’t know why.

The other detail that Republican outrage is conveniently ignoring is that while Supreme Court leaks are rare, they’re far from unprecedented. And leaking about Roe, in particular, is quite precedented!

Unlike an attempt by House and Senate Republicans to nullify an American presidential election based on false claims and party-pushed hoaxes, leaks from the Supreme Court are not, in fact, unprecedented assaults on our democracy.

One can even make the case that our Supreme Court justices might behave a bit better if there were more leaks into how they arrive at their decisions, given this new court’s unwillingness to even issue written explanations of some of their most radical orders. Perhaps we would learn more about why the wife of a Supreme Court justice felt so confident about her own role in an attempted pro-Trump coup, and why that justice voted to block further evidence from coming to light. Perhaps we would learn why the court is currently pretending, very very hard, to be confused over whether constitutionally protected rights can be scrubbed out by any state willing to hire private bounty hunters to do it for them.

Perhaps we’d learn why Alito’s opinion leans so heavily into arguments that not just abortion rights need to be erased, but that civil rights legislation needs to be rolled back by several generations—back to the days when American women couldn’t open bank accounts without their husband’s permission, much less have control over their own human selves. Perhaps, though, we’d just learn that the current Supreme Court is just as devoted to forcing Republican rule onto the rest of us as the Josh Hawleys of the party are. They just don’t have to explain themselves when they do it.

Corporate America quietly bankrolling insurrectionist politicians

It’s time again to check in on the American companies that promised to end campaign donations to elected Republican officials who, compelled by obvious hoaxes and paper-thin conspiracy theories, supported an attempted overthrow of the United States government. How’s that going? How are anti-coup companies faring in their efforts to, at the bare minimum, not provide future election aid to politicians who, rather than accept Donald Trump’s not-even-close second-place finish, tried to nullify the last American presidential election?

Not great! When we last visited the issue, it turned out that some companies had resumed donations, breaking their promises almost immediately because political corruption in the United States is so omnipresent that pro-sedition politicians felt free to openly threaten companies that didn’t keep forking over checks. Companies also have been dodging promises to cut off pro-sedition politicians by instead funneling the money through political action committees. Apparently, they believe their customers are too dimwitted to put two and two together if the company checks go through passthrough accounts first.

A new Politico review of some of the largest companies that promised to end political donations to pro-coup politicians now identifies another barely covert workaround. Even though massive corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, Meta, and Google have ostensibly promised not to prop up those who attempted to erase a presidential election, that money hasn’t dried up. Instead, the lobbyists for those corporations have been writing “personal” donations to the same coup supporters.

Why? Again, it’s not a mystery. Those tech companies, along with other big firms like “Allstate, Toyota, Nike, and Dow Chemical Company,” have a lot of profits at stake with every new tweak to specific U.S. laws. Any lobbyist whose career relies on coaxing those laws into versions more favorable to their employing company knows full well that they’d better show up with campaign funds in their pocket if they want any of the crooked lawmaking kleptocrats to give them the time of day. So here we are again: saddled with House and Senate members so transparently corrupt that the people who deal with them most don’t believe they can cut off payments even after those members attempted to erase the next U.S. administration outright.

That’s how crooked our political systems currently are, and that’s how unwilling corporate lobbyists are to band together to shut out even the worst of the coup’s supporters. It’s the prisoners’ dilemma, brand name edition: If every company agreed to stop supporting pro-sedition crooks, those crooks could be purged from office. But if every company is not to agree to that, then you’d better be on Team Bribe rather than Team Patriotism—because the political crooks who don’t get ousted will be gunning for any company that took itself off Team Bribe.

Politico reports $28,000 in “personal” lobbyist donations to lawmakers who voted to nullify the 2020 election results, representing 13 ostensibly pro-democracy companies, which should again underline just how little money it takes to influence a crooked House member these days. The outlet also reports that “most” of the companies had no comment about the donations. The companies that did respond noted that, since it was lobbyists’ personal money, they didn’t break their corporate promises.

Which, again, is just another version of the passthrough dodge. Even companies still claiming to not support lawmakers who engaged in an attempted coup insist that, if their corporate money makes it into pro-coup hands—whether through donations to political action committees or their hired lobbyists’ personal accounts—that money doesn’t count.

We get it, we really do. It has been excruciating for companies caught between democracy and the grifting corruption of Washington’s business as usual. The great majority of them have been no doubt endlessly debating just how fluid their pro-democracy values can be without jeopardizing a system of government hand-built to cater to corporate whim at the expense of nearly everything else. Even companies with boards that are absolutely adamant about saving American democracy don’t want to get out over their skis just in case the coup-plotters are more successful the next time around. It’s not good business to make political enemies, and the more openly corrupt a political system is, the worse an idea it gets.

But lobbyists are a dime a dozen, and each of these companies could indeed extend their corporate promises to clarify that they will not give campaign money to pro-coup lawmakers who voted to erase an election and will also not use the services of lobbyists or legal firms who do support anti-democracy forces.

There are, somewhere out there, business professionals who know the difference between glad-handing and acting as willing conspirators against our democracy. Perhaps give them a call instead?

Trump vows pardons for Jan. 6 seditionists — calls for nationwide protests if indicted

Republican Party leader and traitor to the nation Donald Trump continues to test new rally waters in anticipation of a repeat presidential bid. On Saturday the delusional narcissist made no particular effort to hide his disgust for the law and for those who would hold him to it, delivering an ugly, unhinged, and unabashedly fascist speech to a crowd of like-minded traitors.

His most newsworthy proclamation was a vow to pardon the seditionists of the January 6 insurrection. "If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly."

"And if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons. Because they are being treated so unfairly."

It is not immediately clear if the traitor, who gathered and incited a crowd to "march" to the U.S. Capitol on that day and hour as part of a multi-pronged plan for his Republican Party to nullify his presidential election loss while using "emergency" presidential powers to either militarily oversee a "new" election or simply declare himself the legitimate winner, is promising a blanket pardon of all those involved in the violence. He may also be vowing to use presidential pardons to erase legal consequences for only his own inner circle of co-conspirators, just as he used it to immunize those allies when he last had the power to do so.

The intent of the message is clear either way. Trump is allying himself with those that helped him carry out his seditious—and deadly—insurrection, and is dropping promises of "pardons" as encouragement to his allies to keep fighting to block probes into the violence. Stonewall the prosecutions and refuse to cooperate with investigators, the traitorous criminal hints, and he will make your troubles go away again when he is returned to power.

But Trump went even farther. Citing the (many) investigations against him for crimes ranging from the previous insurrection to the pressure on Georgia officials to "find" new votes to a lifelong pattern of financial fraud, the fascist leader pushed his fascist supporters to respond to any potential indictment against him by taking to the streets.

"If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had in Washington D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt. They're corrupt."

It is the hallmark of a fascist leader and his party: The claim that prosecution of his own crimes, or the crimes of his violent supporters, proves only that the whole nation was "corrupt" and needed to be remade. Trump is wedging racist in there because, both in Georgia and in New York, the head investigators of his crimes are Black.

Far from being deterred by the violence of his attempted insurrection, Trump is simultaneously promising to erase the crimes of those who attempted to topple the government on his behalf and pressing his Republican followers to mount even "bigger" street actions to keep his own criminal behind out of a prison cell. The man continues to betray his country in every way it is possible to betray it, and all of it is centered only around himself and his own desires.

In his previous rounds of presidential pardons, Trump pardoned those who committed war crimes; those who treated immigrants with illegal cruelty; those who obstructed investigations on his behalf; those who acted as agents of foreign powers. His pardons were all aimed at neutralizing prosecutions of those who did illegal things in service of racist, xenophobic, or Trump-promoting ends.

The Republican leader's promise to "pardon" those who engaged in violent insurrection on his behalf made barely a ripple on the Sunday shows or among the Republicans still loyal to that insurrection. Trump is overtly thumping for future seditious acts, and the Republican Party, purged of anyone who is not a willing accessory to even violent crimes, has little to say about it.

As gutless as ever, Sen. Lindsey Graham will only allow that it is "inappropriate" to promise pardons for insurrectionists. But only that; he will go no farther, lest he say something too bold and lose favor with the pro-fascist base.

And as spineless as ever, Sen. Susan Collins—one of the few Republicans who dared vote to impeach Trump after the insurrection, will only allow that she is "very unlikely" to support Trump as future presidential candidate.

So not even orchestrating an attempted coup is sufficient reason to fully and completely rule out support for the plotter? Truly, there may never be another political figure as relentlessly rudderless as this one.

More of the Sunday show debate was spent on allowing the defenders of insurrection to sniff about the alleged impropriety of Biden's promise to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court than was spent on asking those same Republicans to stand against Trump's visions of mass riots and promised pardons for insurrection.

The Sunday shows are still pointedly neutral when it comes to the choice between peaceful democracy and violence-led fascism. They do not care. Nobody involved cares. They will book the same guests to tell the same lies and support the same crimes from now until the end of the republic, and not a single host will stand against such violence if it means losing interview access to those backing it.

Trump's latest rally speeches are clear-cut attacks on the very fabric of the nation. He insists that elections are "corrupt," leading the entire Republican Party into similar rejections of our democracy's validity. He insists that those who investigate his alleged wrongdoing—up to and including violent insurrection—are "corrupt," and promises to immunize those who ally with them against the institutions that would prosecute them for such crimes.

He is a fascist-minded, mostly-delusional traitor to the republic. All those who cheer for him are the same. Trump himself appears to believe that it would be better to plunge the nation into a new civil war than recognize either the validity of his last election loss or the validity of a new one, and he has nearly all Republican Party officials and lawmakers as allies in the effort.

It is impossibly corrupt, all of it, and historians continue to scream that this is precisely how democracies are toppled. With a lazy, dull-witted press; with a party that emphasizes good corruption over bad prosecution; with a base that does not give a damn about any of it, because they are single-mindedly obsessed over the notion that the nebulous other is oppressing them and for that, must be punished.

There is no way this does not end in a tidal wave of political violence. And that, too, will likely be downplayed by Sunday show hosts looking to book those who would ally with it.

Spotify's policies are expressly designed to encourage deadly disinformation about COVID-19

From the beginning of the pandemic, Spotify has been a go-to site for false statements about the threat represented by COVID-19, the steps to take in fighting the spread of disease, and the effectiveness of vaccines. All the while, the streaming service has responded to complaints about the propagation of not just misinformation, but deliberate disinformation, with claims that they have a “consistent policy” designed to help. But a look at those policies shows that they’re not designed to halt the spread of disinformation. Spotify’s policies are designed to protect and encourage lies, rather than lives.

“We have detailed content policies in place,” says a repeatedly published statement from the company. They also claim to have “removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.” But what those policies actually might be, Spotify refused to make public. In fact, the actual details of this policy seemed invisible, even to the service’s content providers.

In the last few weeks, the pressure on Spotify to address this issue has increased, as rock legends Neil Young and Joni Mitchell have protested having their music on the same service that carries such constant agents of disinformation as podcaster Joe Rogan. Now tech and entertainment site The Verge has gotten a look at Spotify’s actual policies. And what they found is a system expressly designed to leave holes large enough to drive truckloads of horse-dewormer through.

The Verge obtained screenshots from an internal conversation with Spotify’s head of global communications and public relations Dustee Jenkins. From those screenshots, these are Spotify’s actual COVID-related policies. Spotify says it doesn’t allow content that “promotes dangerous false or deceptive content” which it defines using the following terms:

  • Denying the existence of AIDS or COVID-19
  • Encouraging the deliberate contracting of a serious or life threatening disease or illness
  • Suggesting that consuming bleach can cure various illnesses and diseases
  • Suggesting that wearing a mask will cause the wearer imminent, life-threatening physical harm
  • Promoting or suggesting that the vaccines are designed to cause death

What’s amazing is that every one of these policies is worded to allow, if not outright encourage, a wide range of lies. And they are all designed to weave around, rather than block, the most harmful disinformation about COVID-19.

For example, under the first policy it may be not permissible to say that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, but it would be perfectly okay to say that it’s a disease that has killed almost 900,000 Americans is really “no worse than flu.” It would even be okay to say that COVID-19 hasn’t actually caused any of those deaths.

The second policy would seem to condemn content that encourages COVID-parties. However, it leaves the door wide open for suggestions for every possible variation on “natural immunity” and various attempts to reach herd immunity by refusing to engage in any steps designed to slow the spread of disease.

The third policy specifically calls out bleach, but doesn’t make any kind of broader definition of unsafe, harmful, or simply ineffective treatments. Under this rule, Spotify content can encourage the use of colloidal silver, hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, miracle oil, miracle dirt, and a host of other “treatments” that at best don’t work, and at worst, are actively harmful. And all of the above have been recommended on Spotify programs.

The fourth policy is a perfect example of how to apply enough adjectives to make a rule worthless. Under this policy, Spotify content can’t say “if you wear a mask, you’ll die immediately,” but could still say “masks kill more people than COVID-19,” because that doesn’t include a claim that the threat is “imminent.” Claims could also be made that masks cause any kind of mental health issue, because that’s not a “physical” threat. Or that masks cause debilitating illness, so long as it’s not “life threatening.”

The final rule opens the same kind of holes for discussing vaccines. Spotify providers can still make claims like vaccines cause sterility, or that vaccines contain aborted fetal cells, or even that vaccines have killed more people than the disease. All those are perfectly fine, so long as they don’t say that the vaccine was designed for that purpose. Oh, and the policy also leaves plenty of room for saying that the vaccines mutate your DNA, include nanotechnology, or are the creation of a secret Jewish cabal.

These aren’t policies designed to stop COVID-19 misinformation. Every one of these policies could have been simpler, more direct, more easily enforced, and much more effective in ending deadly lies. The way that Spotify has formed these policies shows the extent to which they have gone out of their way to preserve and promote false claims about the pandemic.

These are policies designed to encourage disinformation. They’ve all been made in ways that carefully skirt around the real issues, creating a pretense of taking action while actually providing a screen of protection for propagandists who are doing widespread, physical harm. People are going to their graves citing disinformation propagated by Joe Rogan and other Spotify podcasts.

And Spotify is taking extraordinary steps to make that possible.

New York Times called out for once again elevating sedition

he New York Times got a lot of attention this weekend, none of it good, for their latest zoological profile of pro-Trump, anti-democracy voters. The Times did not go the sleepy small-town diner route this time, but instead profiled Jan. 6 insurrectionists who marched to demand the toppling of our government but, like, did it less violently than some of the others. People who didn't enter the U.S. Capitol building, but only took a few flashbangs from the officers trying to defend the building. People who didn't bring guns, but who now regret not doing so. To overthrow the government. Because Donald Trump wanted them too.

There's a whole lot to be said about this, but the Times itself continues its tradition of elevating extremist, anti-democratic, pro-sedition voices while almost completely ignoring the origins of their beliefs, the dangers they pose, or whether or not attempting to end democracy on a madman's turgid whim might be bad. Whether democracy lives or dies in this country is emphatically not something the Times wants to take sides on inside of individual stories. The opinion side of the paper might pipe up with it (alongside, of course, conservative columns arguing the opposite) but identifying the larger frameworks in which fascism is not just growing, in America, but is able to pose a genuine threat to government—that's right out.

What's especially galling is that the Times freely uses the word insurrection to describe the events of Jan. 6. The Times is able to identify the goal of the extremists who marched that day just fine. So what does that make the people who marched to do it?

Oh, you know. Jus' folk. Can't draw any conclusions here.

What's maddening about the Times story is how far the paper goes, in fact, to not draw any conclusions about the gaggle of conspiracy cranks, far-right extremists, and willing seditionists that it holds up for reader perusal. It is like going to a zoo in which all the animals are wrapped in burlap sacks; do you want to know what this creature looks like? Then figure it out yourself, dear visitors, this is how each animal was delivered to us and we're not going to the work of unwrapping them. Trying to determine how each of these specimens fits in the grand ecosystem of "people who want to end American democracy rather than abide a single election loss" is left entirely as an exercise to the reader. It's a fascism-agnostic sudoku puzzle.

We open the piece with the tale of Paul Treasonguy—we don't need to give him the publicity of using his real name, the Times is already giving him all the advertising he could ask for—who is not at all sorry about his participation in a march to topple the government at Trump's behest. "It definitely activated me more," says Paul, and "it gave me street cred." Paul is now promoting himself as an anti-vaccine "lawyer for patriots," using his support for sedition as launching pad, a way to devote himself to far-right causes professionally rather than just as hobby.

Why is the Times helping him? Very good question, but our Texas-based insurrection marcher is quite pleased that they did.

But what does this American mean by "activated"—a word conspicuously out of place, one associated more commonly with cults, extremist groups, and militias? Being identified as a pro-insurrection marcher, getting fired from your job and being dumped by a fiancee gives street cred on what particular street?

We are told that, in interviews, the insurrection has "mutated into an emblem of resistance" that is a "troubling omen should the country face another close presidential election." We are told that "many" of the insurrectionists have slipped smoothly into anti-vaccine resistance, now citing "Mr. Biden's vaccine mandates as justification for their efforts" to nullify the election.

Mostly we learn that none of these people appear to be regretting a single damn thing about the insurrection. Mostly.

"Most everybody thinks we ought to have went with guns, and I kind of agree with that myself," says Oren Treasonguy, a landscaper. And "I think we ought to have went armed, and took it back." He admitted to bringing a baton and a Taser with him when he travelled to the insurrection but "did not get them out," which is evidently why he is in in the profile of "nonviolent" seditionists. But he doesn't sound nonviolent. He sounds like he thinks the crowd's nonviolence was the main problem of the day.

And he's not shy about saying that the goal of the insurrection was to "take" the election results "back." He, like the rest of the crowd, intended their actions to be an insurrection.

The next mini-profile is of a Jeff Treasonguy. Jeff is now running for public office—another case in which the violence of the day is being used to boost the conservative "cred" of those who participated. Jeff, along with his adult son, "took two flash bangs" during the crowd's drive that "pushed Congress out of session." "I'm hurt but we accomplished the job."

Jeff believes "Covid-19 was a bioweapon meant to convert the United States to socialism," among other things. Jeff is par for the course, among this group. He talks a lot about Jesus, is quite proud of destabilizing the country, and would "absolutely" do it again.

Okay, but Jeff here is undeniably a member of a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government based on batshit theories scraped off the insides of a fever dream. Why are we hearing from him at all? What purpose does it give to parade a series of unrepentant and paranoia-obsessed backers of a violent insurrection before the nation but yet beat so thoroughly around the bush on what it means?

Now we go to Greg Treasonguy, a Michigan city councilman who is meant to demonstrate the "sense of community" among those that attended Trump's "march" to erase a United States election rather than abide the embarrassment of losing. We learn that Greg "found solidarity, he said, in similar men's groups growing in Hungary and Poland" and hold right the hell up, this man voluntarily pipes up with admiration for the democracy-toppling, authoritarian far-right groups of Hungary and Poland because "men got to step up" in service to masculinity?

How, exactly, does one form a positive view of the pro-authoritarian far-right movements of Hungary and Poland? What newsletter is Greg here getting that endorses the pro-authoritarian, xenophobic, eliminationist far-far-right looking to scrub out democracy in their own countries? Is it Tucker Carlson? Is it a militia group? Greg here is tapped into the zeitgeist of American fascism to enough of an extent that he knows he should be emulating Hungary's malevolent thugs, but we don't get any explanation of that? He just drops that bomb into the conversation and the Times thinks well, that's as good a closer as any?

Huh.

The word insurrection is used repeatedly in the Times piece. Words not used: Insurrectionist. Sedition. Authoritarian. Anti-democratic. Conspirator. The premise of the piece is an examination of the nonviolent—or at least, less violent—Americans who responded to Trump's call to overthrow the government, and while we are told that the group tends towards conspiracy theories, remains enamored with Trump's particular conspiracy theories, and has taken up the anti-vaccination cause like they were born for the moment, but the central trait that ties them all together is a belief that democracy should be nullified if democracy is unwilling to ensconce them, personally, as social victors.

The Times, however, is quite willing to portray them in their own terms—as supposed patriots, and portray the central goal of their fight, the nullification of elections that do not end with conservative victors, as a social choice.

The problem with all of this is that, yet again, we have a major media outlet using the conventions of neutrality to obscure the severity of the moment rather than clarify it. The facts now all conclusively point to the same determination: This was an insurrection, it was intended as an insurrection, those that boosted it did so as part of a very real plan to capture government, there was a propaganda campaign to encourage and justify it, the propaganda campaign continues, and the Republican Party is behind all of it. The people who were summoned by Trump that day do not regret their actions—except for when asked by a federal judge, immediately before that judge is to decide whether or not to throw them in prison for a spell—and, if anything, are restructuring their lives around their new authoritarian devotions.

What is this new movement that the Times has found, then? It is a movement based incontrovertibly around false propaganda intended to discredit United States elections by claiming that they have been corrupted by an imaginary other. It is a movement that seeks partisan control over elections, including the ability to overturn results that go against them. It focuses on a need for national renewal, or "saving" the country from their enemies. The enemies list includes immigrants, nonwhite citizens, the sexually "deviant," universities, schoolteachers, journalists, scientists, and a supposed secret cabal of elites responsible for all of it. It insists that a loss of "masculinity" is responsible for the world's ailments; it features demands that its political enemies be jailed as central rhetorical planks, not just in the chants of a know-nothing rabble but in vows from top party leaders.

And it celebrates the use of violence as a path towards that national "renewal," with top party voices insisting that those who participated in an attempted insurrection be freed—and honored.

These are the traits of a fascist movement, down to the individual details, the performative religious bent, and the focus on a central, buffoonishily hyper-"masculine" leader and the supposed savior who will make the rest of it come to pass.

So why are readers led through a series of mini-hagiographies that glance through each trait example-by-example, but left to their own devices to ponder out what actual "news" can be gleaned from it?

What do you call people who were willing to attack police officers in an attempt to nullify an American presidential election rather than abide by results they did not like? Insurrectionists; seditionists; coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, but who only provided bodies to fill out the crowd, leaving it to others to do the actual fighting while they took advantage of whatever crimes were committed to get closer to their goal? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

What do you call people who assembled that day to demand the nullification of an American election, timed to coincide with the constitutional acknowledgement of that election, even if they did not enter the Capitol at all? Insurrectionists. Seditionists. Coup participants.

But what if they were tricked into it, and only wanted to topple the legitimate United States government because they were told the government was invalid and needed to be toppled?

Then they are insurrectionists. Seditionists. Willing allies of a hoax-premised coup.

Anyone who gathered that day to demand the erasure of an American election, violent or not, allied themselves against their country to side with a hoax-spewing, toxic buffoon. That goes for those in Congress who allied with the effort and helped promote the hoax used to incite the crowds; that goes for the lawyers who tossed countless false statements towards judges with full knowledge that they were promoting nonsense. Anyone who brought a "baton" or a "Taser" to Washington, D.C., in case violence was needed to erase an election is a seditionist. Anyone who waved a Trump flag and screamed their agreement when he told the crowd that his defeat was invalid and should be overturned chose the ravings of a belligerent clown over loyalty to their own nation. Anyone who called elections workers to threaten hangings based on hoaxes that they need no evidence to believe.

None of these people need to be understood. It should be enough for them that most will not be imprisoned. The press should be exposing them as dangerous, not providing publicity for their new anti-democracy ventures. It is indeed news that many or the majority of those that participated in an act of sedition remain eager to do it again—but that makes them enemies of their nation, not subjects for wispy examinations of sedition as new social fad.

If journalism intends to ally itself with democracy, it is both reasonable and necessary to portray those who would topple the country in service of growing fascist beliefs as unreasonable. As not just odd characters, but willfully dangerous. It is not necessary to feign neutrality on a fascist coup or those currently running for small-time office or staking new legal careers on ambitions of being more successful the next time around.

It is a fascist movement. It consists of people who have demanded and are still demanding that democracy either bend to it or be erased. They believe paranoid and delusional things—paranoid and delusional things that should not be spread in national newspapers as merely alternative belief systems, but should be highlighted as dangerous hoaxes promoted by propagandists and embraced by fools.

It is fine and reasonable to condemn those that want to end democracy and have already proven willing to take action to do it. Journalistic neutrality does not mean that those that attack the country and those that protect it should be given equal respect. Do not respect them!

The Times continues to drift through political events with practiced unawareness, unwilling to commit itself to standing for anything in particular. Reading through its pages is like wandering into the foyer of a particularly unambitious natural history museum, with individual bones of current historical changes bolted together haphazardly into skeletons that may or may not look anything like the creatures they are supposed to represent. We are allowed to gawk, but there are no curators who can tell us anything or who can differentiate between a ancient femur and a rusty 6 iron—and we get sniffed at if we even ask.

It is unremarkable for a newspaper to ally itself with democracy and to assert, in its pages, that those that would erase it are doing harm. This is not a high bar. The Times knows full well how close the coup came to succeeding, and how the individuals it profiles are retooling things to allow a near-future version to more efficiently trundle over the obstacles that stalled it the last time around. For the love of God and country, stop hiding the danger of the moment behind gauzy profiles of democracy's self-declared enemies.

Pandemic deaths among pregnant Americans are now 'surging'

You can chalk up more deaths for the "pro-life" crowd: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that COVID-19 is now claiming the lives of more pregnant Americans and resulting in more stillbirths. Poynter reports that deaths in pregnancy "rose sharply" in the last two months, and that 40% of such pandemic deaths have happened since August, when delta began surging in the United States.

Pregnant people have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms due to poorer immune responses and other factors, and the CDC is urging those who are pregnant or are planning pregnancy to get vaccinated immediately.

That 40% of such deaths have happened just since August is telling, because by August vaccines against COVID-19 were already widely available and the United States was well on its way to getting the population fully vaccinated. But it also marked a new surge of COVID-19 cases based, once again, in Republican-voting states and counties where pandemic safety measures like masking, social distancing, and vaccinations have been mocked or intentionally blocked by state and local Republican leaders. Those Republicans followed Donald Trump in claiming that the pandemic would not be serious, that it would lead to few deaths, and that his administration's inaction was therefore not just forgivable but noble. The party has since made resistance to pandemic safety measures a core "culture war"-style issue.

Notably, pro-Trump and anti-vaccine protesters have taken to mocking abortion rights protesters with anti-vaccine signs reading "my body, my choice" or variations.

What all of this means, then, is that the self-absorbed and virulently cruel Republican base is now murdering pregnant Americans and causing a new wave of stillborn births because, as a culture war issue, they are unwilling to wear a strip of cloth over their noses or be vaccinated against the pandemic that has already killed 800,000 Americans. This is a very mean way to phrase it, to be sure, but it is absolutely true. Every nonmasking bully who believes that "freedom" requires them to ignore and belittle safety measures is responsible for spreading a virus that is causing these deaths; you need not worry about their feelings because none of them, to a person, gives a damn that their selfishness and paranoia is killing those around them.

We know this because they all insist upon it. We know this because the professional "Republican" class defends their point of view on television and in print, declaring that Americans are tired of all this talk about masks and vaccines and are demanding a return to normalcy even if it kills either them or neighbors they may or may not even know. The "freedom" to not wear a mask during a pandemic is more important than the lives of the vulnerable, we are repeatedly and insistently told; that pregnant Americans are more vulnerable is not mentioned because not a single damn person cares.

This is the newest Republican Party and Fox News legacy. Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis have a new class of victims, and they do not care. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his muddle of Texas theocrats have done their level best to escalate the dangers associated with pregnancy at every turn, either claiming a religious mandate to do so (by dictating the forms of health care available) or an ideological mandate to do so (by sabotaging the pandemic safety measures of others).

There are no "pro-life" Republicans. Not a one. No American would continue to associate themselves with Republicans after the party made we do not care how many die a campaign plank, or made conspiracy theories and disinformation about masks and vaccines into a new political "wedge" intended to keep their base angry and suspicious and as ignorant as can be mustered.

The Republican Party has caused a new wave of pandemic deaths—a new surge that, county-by-county data shows, could have been far more controllable if Republican blusterers had the bare human decency of their Democratic neighbors—and they are responsible. The nonmaskers are responsible. Those spreading vaccine conspiracy theories are responsible. The Murdoch family is responsible. The Republican National Committee, now fully comprising pro-Trump sycophants willing to support anything from attempted coup to widespread corruption to a million pandemic deaths, should be ponying up the funeral costs.

Being angry about this is not a sin. Not being angry about this, however, is. We are seeing the transformation of nationwide pandemic into something that disproportionately kills Fox News viewers—and anyone they come into contact with. It has killed 1% of all the seniors in the country. Would-be parents are losing their babies and their lives and as we speak around the country. Angry but hollow-headed fascists are marching into stores and restaurants and demanding that everyone around them respect their "right" to spread a plague in service to Dear Bungling Leader and his aspiring minions.

And even those people are victims, because it may not ever have even dawned on many of them to turn a national emergency into an ode to the rights of sociopaths if their very rich "conservative" heroes had not decided that manslaughter could be turned into a new party identity.

If someone tells you they are "pro-life," they are a liar. The term has become one used exclusively by sociopaths to justify claims that whatever tics are rolling around inside their own brains are so unfathomably important that abiding by them is worth killing others. American conservatism has been erased and replaced with a fascist shudder that glorifies murder in all its forms. Use a gun to kill, become a new fascist hero. Refuse to abide the safety measures meant to keep the country's "essential workers" a bit safer and the hospitals less overrun—you will be praised as a new fascist patriot. Kill a pregnant would-be mother because you would not wear a mask while passing her in a supermarket aisle during a pandemic, and Republicans everywhere will celebrate how boldly you stuck to your own principles, no matter who else died because of it.

Fox News is killing its own viewers — and the Murdoch family is fine with that

As Fox News continues to degrade from propaganda to fascist propaganda to fascist burn-everything-down nihilism, the unfortunate souls at Media Matters for America are tasked with watching much of what the network produces so that it can be fact checked, or at least catalogued, or so that priests can be dispatched to perform the relevant exorcisms. It is grueling work, and anyone who can watch more than 10 Tucker Carlson rants without needing permanent hospitalization is a tougher soul than you or I.

As Fox News continues to claim, falsely, that ol' Tucker is not a white nationalism-promoting conspiracy-promoting violence-inciting anti-vaccine anti-safety weaselfaced liar with an actual pandemic body count to his name, Media Matters set out to catalog all of Tucker's mentions of vaccines during the Biden administration. There were 114 episodes of his Fox show that featured a segment about vaccines, reports Media Matters.

Of the 114 episodes, Tucker or his guest pushed anti-vaccine claims in 113. During 112 separate shows, either Tucker or his invited sockpuppets promoted conspiracy theories about the available vaccines, made false or unproven statements about vaccine side effects, claimed that the vaccines were less effective than the data shows them to be, stoked fear about the supposed oppression of vaccine requirements, or otherwise encouraged his viewers to believe false vaccine claims.

A special hat tip needs to go out to the show that compared vaccine mandates to "forced sterilization," though. Look, Tucker, if it's a quote you need, I for one would think America would be an infinitely better place if nobody who willingly watched your show could ever reproduce. Given the Fox News demographics, however, it's a problem that largely takes care of itself.

Carlson has been benefiting from a new Fox willingness to push even the most dangerous conspiracy theories out to viewers, a stance that coincides with the rise of Rupert Murdoch offspring Lachlan into the top executive role. Under old management, there were still some lines you could not cross, and those lines were drawn strictly for the benefit of the network's bottom line. Glenn Beck was allowed to sketch out convoluted, ludicrous conspiracy theories targeting everyone from George Soros to minor liberal enemies no Fox News viewer had previously heard of, but after Beck's rants resulted in an attempted domestic terrorist attack against one of his more obscure targets, the network—or rather, its advertising and legal teams—began to lose their stomachs for a show largely premised around making false claims about Republicanism's enemies so as to incite viewers into acting out against those enemies.

That was then, this is now, and if anything, Lachlan Murdoch's statements have suggested that he, personally, thinks that promoting fake propaganda to incite white nationalist or pro-fascist violence is a bit of a hoot. Tucker's been given free rein to demonize public health experts tasked with ending the pandemic, vaccine developers and manufacturers, and political figures willing to abide by previously uncontroversial pandemic safety plans like "you should obviously wear a mask to protect against an airborne disease, you brickheaded assholes."

The important context here, of course, is that the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has morphed solidly into a pandemic that is most severe in Republican-voting, Republican-governed regions of the country. That doesn't mean non-Republicans aren't getting sick and dying, but the vast majority of deaths are among the unvaccinated in places where vaccination rates are low and safety measures are often ignored.

The Americans who are dying in droves, in other words, are Fox News viewers. There's no guess as to when or if this will ever cut into Fox's own bottom line—having shed most of its advertisers, the network is more reliant than ever on "carriage fees" it charges to cable and satellite companies that feel compelled to offer it to their subscribers—but so far, network hosts are going pedal to the floor with an approach that maximizes viewer outrage towards pandemic restrictions while minimizing viewer willingness to have, you know, basic human decency.

That's an approach that both Lachlan and the Fox News board have given a stamp of approval to, even if the horrific amorality of leading your own viewers into mass death has caused several of the network's top "straight news" stars to leave the network rather than share airwaves with Tucker and his ilk.

But here's the data, in any event. When Lachlan Murdoch claims his hosts aren't promoting pandemic misinformation or making false claims about the vaccines that offer the best (only?) path towards the pandemic's eventual end, he's lying. Straight-up lying, and he knows it. Fox News may not be paying attention to what their own broadcasts are claiming, but other people are. And those other people have the goods, Lachlan.

COVID-19 cases are now at an all-time high—and once again, it didn't have to happen

It's the second winter of the nation's COVID-19 pandemic and once again: We're boned. The New York Times seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has spiked to the highest level ever recorded, topping last January's worst surge numbers with 267,000 new cases. The continuing surge caused by the delta variant is now being itself overwhelmed by new omicron cases, and we're not yet at whatever peak might happen after the holiday travel season wraps up.

What we don't yet know is what proportion of these new record numbers are in vaccinated versus unvaccinated Americans. So far we're seeing that vaccinated Americans can generally cope with an omicron infection without needing hospitalization, and Americans who have gotten a recent booster have a near-zero risk of death. But if these new cases match each of the recent surges, the majority of cases are spreading among those who have not been vaccinated. The outlook for those patients isn't nearly as rosy.

This new spike also comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revises its self-quarantine period for positive but asymptomatic cases from 10 days down to five. In theory that's because the data says most recently infected people are only contagious for a small period of time. In practice, however, the agency is facing accusations that the move is meant to relieve widespread labor shortages caused by the surge in new cases—shortages that could be eased somewhat if quarantine periods were lower.

The agency is denying those charges, and there's no evidence they're true. But the CDC didn't do itself any favors with a series of cringeworthy statements from its director suggesting that the new guidelines are an attempt to balance what the science says should be done with what skeptical Americans are willing to tolerate.

Call it a marketing problem, a nod to socioeconomic realities, or something else, but the CDC has more generally sought a reputation for scientific straight-talk that other agencies and voices could use before, possibly, coming up with their own social "compromises." A suggestion that the CDC itself is backing down on what the best scientific approach to quarantining would dictate in order to makes those compromises is only going to further confuse Americans who don't know what the CDC is thinking or why they're thinking it.

Medical experts online seem most put out by the CDC's omission of any testing protocols when advising how long a person should remain isolated after a positive COVID test. Common sense would suggest that you need to stay isolated until you test negative for several days in a row. The CDC guidelines of "five days if you're asymptomatic, or five days after your last symptoms disappear" instead relies on a more nebulous self-diagnosis of what your "symptoms" are.

The new record number of COVID-19 cases in America should be infuriating, because it is entirely unnecessary. We now have very good information about how the virus spreads, information that we did not have in the early days. We know it's airborne, and we know which sorts of masks are able to block the virus. We know the types of activities that are most likely to cause viral spread: Indoors is much, much worse than outdoors, and indoor exercise, singing, or other activity that causes deeper breathing spreads the virus more readily than activities such as shopping or waiting in line. We now have multiple vaccines effective against the virus—and its current variants—and know what percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach a "herd immunity" that will shrink transmission rates down to nearly zero.

We know all of this, but are going into the winter with more cases than we've ever had before because not taking steps to bring the pandemic to a close is now the central culture war of conservatism, with Republican governors, state lawmakers, national leaders, party officials, and party-allied news outlets all working to push vaccine skepticism, resist public masking, promote utterly fraudulent supposed "cures," and stoke public fury at the medical experts tasked with keeping the nation safe. None of it had to happen. All of it happened because the most self-centered, egotistical, ignorant, cowardly, and sociopathic Americans were easily convinced that their "freedom" to endanger others was of far more import than their neighbors' "freedom" to not die. It is gutless, pompous cowardice, and we still do not show even half of the contempt towards these Americans as we properly ought to.

CDC changes isolation recommendation for COVID-positive people without symptoms

In a rare bit of "good" news, as COVID-19's omicron variant rapidly takes hold through the country and officials warn that we're in for a bleak pandemic winter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released updated guidelines for how long those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms should stay isolated, now cutting the recommended quarantine time from 10 days to just five.

The most important point: This is for asymptomatic cases. After that five-day period of isolation, those who have tested positive should continue to wear a mask when around others for another five days afterward.

In another change, those who have been exposed to an infected person can now forgo self-quarantine only if they have received a COVID booster and self-mask around others for 10 days after that exposure. If you haven't received your booster yet, you don't count as "fully" vaccinated under those guidelines.

The reason for the changing guidance is, as always, new data. The CDC says that those who have tested positive for COVID but who are feeling no significant symptoms tend to be contagious for only a short period of time—and given the likelihood that many of those infected were contagious a day or two before they managed to get tested, a five-day period still grants a few days of leeway. While some skeptics have expressed worry that the shortened isolation time presents risks, the data generally supports a reduced isolation period. In the rarer cases in which a person remains contagious longer than those five days, strict adherence to masking should mitigate what risk remains.

Biden gets to claim a victory after supply chain crisis quietly evaporates

In October, the accelerating U.S. economy ran up against corporate supply chain problems as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shredded "just-in-time" manufacturing pipelines. Closed factories, shortages of components, and shortages of labor have been features of the pandemic since the beginning—the most famous example in the United States probably being a run on toilet paper in the first months of the pandemic as offices closed. Paper manufacturers were caught flatfooted with warehouses of "office-quality" stuff that nobody who loved their family would dare buy.

The new supply chain problems were more intricate, with a lack of individual electronic components shuttering car manufacturing lines, a lack of spice-sized glass bottles, and similar headaches, but the biggest problem wasn't that the products couldn't be made. It was that Americans began to buy so much that American ports couldn't handle the massive surge of traffic.

Republicans and the political press were outright giddy at the prospect of being able to hammer the not-Trump president over pandemic-caused chaos, but you'll notice that something happened between then and now. Or specifically, something didn't happen between then and now: The predicted crisis of bare store shelves and wailing giftless children didn't happen. The fears, as the New York Times just put it, "turned out to be wrong."

Well, whoops. That's a bit awkward. Yes, even as Americans are so inundated with stories of supply problems, inflation, and hiring problems that consumer confidence polling is down in the dumps, the actual U.S. economy has been roaring. Employment is up, unemployment is down, and a 7% spike in economic output means that American ports are handling about 20% more than they did in pre-pandemic 2019. It's an economic boom, even though the pandemic is not only still with us, but likely to produce new deaths among the unvaccinated that may top even last winter's surge.

So what's going on here? Where'd the supply chain crisis go?

The short answer is that it's being dealt with, which is precisely what governments are supposed to do. Rather than announcing that somebody's son-in-law has now been put in charge of it or having a spokescreature bellow that the ports are only crowded because it is a conspiracy by crane operators who hate our freedoms, the Biden administration and the agencies they oversee sought to address the actual problems to be fixed. The problem was that Americans began to purchase so much more stuff than corporate planners expected, along with an easing of some previous supply chain snarls, that the nation's ports (1) couldn't offload the containers fast enough, (2) didn't have anywhere to put those containers if they did, and (3) didn't have enough willing truck drivers to cart it all off.

All of those are long-term, systemic problems that have arisen from our national inability to (say it with me) modernize our infrastructure and reform our labor laws to help solve such problems. But they could be ameliorated by federal, state, and port action, so that's what happened. The feds prodded west coast ports to move to round-the-clock operations. Local regulators gave emergency exemptions allowing container cargo to be stacked higher in offsite lots, freeing up space—at the temporary expense of spoiling a few harbor views for the neighbors, but if that's the worst your family fares in a national crisis you probably don't dare complain much. The threat of steep, per-day fines for shippers who left containers parked at the port spurred businesses to pick up their products faster even if it meant extra work needed to be done to find drivers and space, allowing new containers to be brought ashore faster.

And experts gave Americans sufficient warning: Experts gave Americans warning: Do your holiday shopping early this year, so you don't contribute to a last-minute crush. That's what Americans did, says the Times. Reopening stores mean more shoppers have been buying in person rather than relying on mail delivery, which in turn has eased holiday congestion for both the U.S. Postal Service and its competitors. We're still in, ahem, a deadly worldwide pandemic that everybody needs to be paying attention to rather than pretending all of this is back to normal—but a lot of moving parts were oiled up to make sure we got to a passable approximation of normal.

Biden was even willing to brag a bit about it today when meeting business leaders. "The much-predicted crisis didn't occur. Packages are moving, gifts are being delivered, shelves are not empty."

What's important to remember, and don't worry because there's not a chance in hell the press is going to take Biden's boast lying down and some outlets are already framing the administration's seasonal win in terms as negative as can be mustered, is that we are in a pandemic, world factories continue to be slammed by that most irritating of all business complications, mass worker deaths, and our infrastructure problems won't go away after everybody's holiday gifts are delivered. The United States still needs a more robust infrastructure strategy than the current version, which can be best described as build another highway lane and let God sort it out.

A great deal of our transportation and delivery woes are due to labor exploitation practices that make delivering those products a more terrible job than most people are willing to put up with. Another large chunk is because corporate supply chains are so very long and complex, as the largest companies outsource their most vital components to contractors in whatever nations are themselves most willing to exploit their laborers, that a single Texas cold snap, South Asian storm, or even one damn boat stuck sideways in a major shipping canal can bring the whole manufacturing process to a standstill for lack of a Plan B.

A more ambitious infrastructure plan that seeks to truly modernize our most vital national concerns is essential. Republicans are not going to do that, because the competing Republican plan proposes that all of that infrastructure be sold off, upon which corporate ambition will miraculously solve all of it. But Democrats could, if they could gain the support of a handful of preening self-absorbed jackasses. At some point. Eventually.

House Republican comes out and says it: Forcing tax cheats to pay up would 'cost' them billions

Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace, inflicted on us by the state of South Carolina, has been running a bold new online ad condemning Democratic plans to boost funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Why, you might ask?

"Biden's policy will double the size of the IRS at the cost of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes. We should stabilize our nation's economy first."

While @z3dster has done us the solid of parsing out what the hell Mace's word shrapnel was meant to actually mean, it's still worth stewing on that odd language. "At the cost of billions of dollars in unpaid taxes?" At the ... cost? But going after tax cheats is widely recognized as being a net federal win, because just a little money allocated to investigating the most prolific tax-dodgers results in much larger revenues when the dodged taxes actually get paid, so—ooh. Ooooooh.

Right.

What the House Republican is saying here is, of course, boosting IRS capabilities will "cost" the wealthiest tax dodgers in the country billions of dollars, and forcing rich tax cheats to pay what they owe will harm the economy so very much that we shouldn't even think about it until we've "stabilized" everything else first.

You've heard of trickle-down economics? This is trickle-down tax fraud. If we don't let rich Americans who have more offshore bank accounts than you have spoons get away with their current level of financial crimes it is all of you who will suffer, because that money being paid in taxes won't be going to buying new yacht chandeliers, or underwater television sets, or the spiffy new uniforms the upper classes want you to wear while hunting you for sport.

Instead, that money will be going to the government, and the government will probably waste it on stupid things like rebuilding roads in places you don't live, or saving coastlines you don’t visit, or giving you better childcare options after your name comes up in the to-be-hunted-for-sport lottery.

In any event, what Mace is suggesting is that American financial criminals have been hiding so very damn much money that attempting to collect it could destabilize our nation's very economy. Shouldn't be done! Too dangerous!

Oooookay?

See, our problem here is that we're taking a Republican message literally instead of treating as the propagandistic word salad it is intended as. It’s not meant to make sense. Mace may or may not distance herself from the premise of her own self-promoted statement after she's gotten sufficient mockery for it, but it was crafted not to make an actual argument but to burp scary-sounding words at Republican base members primed to react to them without thought. "At the cost of billions" is meant to invoke the notion that it will be costing the nation money, rather than bringing it in. "Stabilize" is meant to invoke the notion that the nation's economy is currently not stable, when all the facts and figures suggest that the economy is now actually in pretty darn good shape.

Things are so good, in fact, that ports are being clogged with the stuff Americans are now wanting to buy and (mostly anti-labor) economic grumps are warning that if we keep raising wages and recovering from pandemics then we'll summon the Inflation Monster, so central banks need to start taking a few good golf swings at worker knees before things get out of hand. And that’s all while the pandemic is still raging around us.

The "Biden's policy" bit is also rote party schtick: While nigh-on everybody who is not personally evading taxes or being lobbied by people who do all agree that returning IRS funding to something approaching normal is both necessary to curb now-rampant tax dodging by the wealthy and an enormous government gain, calling it "Biden's policy" is intended to portray the move as partisan rancor, or spreading socialism, or otherwise controversial.

It's all gimmick. Republicanism may no longer have policies of its own, but each new congresscreature is in tune with the larger movement's dictionary of cult phrases and contrarian phrasing. Going after tax dodgers will "cost" you money. Doing the "Biden policy" on anything will further "destabilize" the glorious f--king paradise of corpses and lines for toilet paper gifted to us by Dear Crabby-Ass Leader in his final year.

Rep. Nancy Mace may be new to town, but she and every other newly elected House Republican gained their current position by telling the ever-outraged base whatever they wanted to hear. She's in a bit of hot water over that at this precise moment, in fact, being roundly mocked for a particularly comical Sunday show circuit that saw her both undermining vaccination efforts on Fox News while claiming to support them on CNN.

It's all a game; there is little effort being put into attempting to discern what policies would best serve the nation here, and flopsweat-level effort being put into selling the base on the nation that whatever policies actual experts come up with are most certainly an effort at "socialism," an attempt to abridge your "freedoms," or a flat-out conspiracy to harm you because the "elites" will do nigh-on anything to oppress you, whether it be bamboo-laced ballots or firefly chemicals in your vaccines or arresting "patriots" whose only crime was attacking the U.S. Capitol during a joint session of Congress in a seditious attempt to cancel the results of a United States election.

All that said, we're not going to get anywhere if we ignore it all and let the Maces of new Republicanism fire off chaff meant to invoke primal reaction while breezily evading the part where nothing they said made any actual sense. So we're all ears, Rep. Nancy Mace.

You say going after tax cheats will "cost billions"—who ya aiming that statement at, representative?

Because the only people who will see a "cost" when going after prolific tax fraud are the folks doing the actual crimes. Is that who you're going to bat for here? Did they send someone to your office to make that case?

And you're saying American tax cheats are costing the rest of us so much money that making them actually pay it would threaten to destabilize the entire economy?

Oh, do tell. That one's worth a floor speech. We all really want to hear you explain that going after institutionalized tax evasion by people who can hire more lawyers than the IRS has available investigators would threaten our very way of life. There haven't been many Republicans with the guts to make that argument in public, but you made it a sponsored online ad.

Please explain, representative. Give it your best shot.

This GOP senator is in hot water over millions in 'loans' to his 2018 campaign

During his 2018 run for the Senate, Republican Mike Braun was getting a lot of attention for a campaign strategy that relied on self-funding, sweetheart loans from allies, and "creative" accounting to dodge federal election laws. Over three-quarters of his campaign war chest consisted of "loans" to the campaign; he'd continue to prop his campaign up with his own money until the campaign's end.

Braun has been in the Senate for two years now, and the Federal Election Committee (FEC) has finally managed to come to some conclusions on which parts of that were illegal and which weren't. The answer? The Braun campaign's accounting wasn't so much "creative" as it was outright shoddy and improper. Over $8.5 million in "loans"—a massive chunk of Braun's total spending—that violated campaign finance laws, including $1.5 million in "loans" from Braun's own company. Millions more in donations and disbursements were misreported, as well as six-figure repayments to Braun himself afterwards.

If it looked crooked during the campaign, surprise! The FEC agrees with you, and is demanding the Braun campaign answer further questions about all of it.

Braun is now flailing a bit in his response, as might be expected. His campaign's defense was to claim to the FEC that their campaign treasurer, Travis Kabrick, had suddenly up and vanished on them. Sorry, he "has not been able to be located since the end of 2018." So ... sorry?

You see where this is going, right? Of course you do. The Daily Beast looked into this claim, and The Daily Beast found Travis, quote, "within minutes." They were able to call his current place of work, find his social media accounts, and get his contact information.

"His mother said in a phone call that she would pass along a request for comment," reports the Beast.

While it is very good news that a single news outlet was able to help out Mike Braun and his campaign after their multiyear battle to hunt down the man they're now attempting to pin all the shenanigans on, the scope and egregiousness of the violations would seem to make the campaign's claims nonsensical. It wasn't the treasurer who arranged an allegedly illegal $1.5 million "loan" from Braun's self-owned company to Braun's political campaign. It wasn't the treasurer who cashed checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars in reimbursements for supposed "self-funded" donations. And it wasn't the treasurer who was making the calls when companies associated with Braun's top allies were providing $7 million in unusual and conspicuously unsecured campaign "loans."

So Braun himself is in more than a little hot water here, and the campaign's going to have to answer for campaign finance "mistakes" that point not so much to accounting errors from an unskilled finance team as they suggest a truly massive improper funding operation from Braun and his political allies.

Will anything come of it? Who the hell knows. We've gotten used to lawmakers breaking whatever campaign finance laws they want to and, at worst, paying a few fines after the fact. But the "me and my corporate friends are going to finance the majority of my Senate campaign with corporate 'loans' provided with no collateral or assurance of repayment" is not an accounting error. It's buying a Senate seat. It's the sort of overt corruption that all of the laws were designed to prevent, and Mike Braun seems to have just waltzed right over the law to do it anyway.

Josh Hawley thinks he can make telling his base to stop watching porn a major political campaign

As his ally Ted Cruz launches another conservative crusade against a freakin' puppet, Sen. Josh Hawley, most famous for abetting an attempt to topple our nation's government, announces his own new political theme will be "masculinity."

Yes, this is Josh Hawley we're talking about. Yes, this is the campaign theme he's going to adopt after he claimed in a speech that more men are watching porn and playing video games these days because of "years of being told" that "their manhood is the problem."

We still don't know how that might work, by the way. One might think that current generations are playing more video games and watching more porn these days (if they actually are) due to the notable trend of The Internet Exists. Apparently, though, conservatives believe their menfolk are drowning themselves in Mario Cart and internet porn because the local Costco refused to take "three wicked flexes, five grunts, and one opening of a really tight screw-on cap" in lieu of payment.

Or something. "Our manhood is under attack" is one of those weird conservative tics that is both so omnipresent and so poorly described that it's become something of a chupacabra to the rest of us. Maybe it exists, maybe it doesn't, all we know is that in conservative circles it's known for marathoning PornHub while whining about how unappreciated it feels.

In an AXIOS interview, Hawley attempted to explain what the hell he's on about:

"Well, a man is a father. A man is a husband. A man is somebody who takes responsibility."

Yeah, okay. That narrows it down. Not quite the crack narration of "man, woman, person, camera, TV," but it definitely qualifies as a series of words. Feels a bit like the first-pass lyrics to a Disney Mulan song?

"I think you put together lack of jobs, you put together fatherlessness, you put together the social messages that we teach our kids in school, I think we've got to confront that and its effects."

Conservative men are watching porn because they're sad about what their kids are learning in school? Okay, now you've really lost me. I'm beginning to think Hawley arrived at his new theme of "masculinity" by picking words out of a hat.

Now, there is something that's a bit troubling about Sedition Josh's gravitation toward "masculinity" as his own self-chosen political theme. Josh Hawley is widely known to be very ambitious. Hawley has already taken multiple actions to ally himself with the Big Lie, claiming election fraud that doesn't exist in service to an attempt to nullify a U.S. election to allow a would-be strongman to retain power regardless of the vote totals.

And the movement Hawley has been attempting to wedge himself into the leadership of considers hyper-masculinity to be a very important thematic element. Paranoia over supposed lost masculinity both helped create and helped sustain European fascism of the last century, a sort of "brittle manhood" widely acknowledged by scholars as a central theme of fascist thought.

Donald Trump was a spectacularly unlikely exemplar of that "new man" idolized by the fascist right. He may have been an out-of-shape golf cheat who couldn't masculine his way down a flight of stairs, but he was unrelentingly crude, was openly contemptuous and cruel toward women, and personified the sort of crass belligerence that the conservative far-right idolizes as a path toward restoring male dominance over the too-uppity womenfolk. The man may have been the first president to hint at his own penis size during a televised presidential debate.

Who are the avatars of conservative masculinity today? Thickheaded bullies who don faux-military apparel and storm government offices while waving flags in support of people who are worse. Hawley wants to insert himself into that discussion as he did the Big Lie itself, latching on as a way of convincing the common rabble that whatever they believe, he's willing to shout about it.

But Hawley may, ahem, be misunderstanding what his supporters are yelling. You're going to climb up in front of a crowd of male Trump supporters and tell them the problem is that they're watching too much porn these days? Really?

Ehhhh. Well, good luck with that.

Really, though, while it once may have been uncanny how Donald Trump and his team managed to bumble into each of the core themes of fascism solely, or at least it seemed at the time, due to his own uncontrollable narcissism and insistence on surrounding himself with conservative C-listers, there is nothing bumbling about the Republican adaptation of each of those themes one after another, polishing them, assembling them, and marketing them as what the party now stands for—the beliefs that its candidates must abide by to remain in good standing with the movement. The explicit propaganda of the Big Lie, claiming that the last American presidential election was "rigged" or "stolen" as means of undermining a democratic vote that the party knows well and true that it lost, has now become party mandate. The themes of a great replacement jeopardizing American greatness (and whiteness), "attacks" on white conservative masculinity, and above all the growing belief among the Republican base and their pundits that violence is both justified and may now be required to reform American according to their beliefs—these are all overtly fascist themes.

It is not likely that Hawley will be that new fascist avatar, no matter how much he wants it. His performances are too insincere. His contempt for the other is too obviously pantomimed, not at all like the true guttural hate that Trump and his top allies revel in. Hawley may be a prep-school version of a hoodlum, but the movement wants the real thing.

Trump's election saboteurs were paid for by his campaign. The 'privilege' debate is over

We've known for some time now that the "official" attempt by Donald Trump's inner circle to find a strategy for nullifying a United States presidential election was deadly serious, was plotted for many weeks, and featured some of the top Republican criminals in the country. Rudy Giuliani gave up stovepiping false claims against Joe Biden's family invented by corrupt European oligarchs for this one. Bernard Kerik took time off from whatever the hell he's been doing, since he got out of prison, to join up. Steve Bannon was spurred into action even though it'd take time away from his day job of bilking Trump's base with fake border wall schemes. Anyone who was anyone in the GOP crime family was working all the knobs.

Mar-a-Lago's resident golf cheat is now claiming that those team attempts to nullify Trump's removal from office were a matter of "executive privilege," private deliberations, and advice given to him as the nation's pretzeldent. These claims didn't fly from Day One and are no closer to becoming airborne today. There is no "executive privilege" recognized for ex-presidents, as he is no longer in government. "Executive privilege" specifically cannot be used to cover up crimes, and what the House Select Committee is currently investigating is the crime of obstructing a U.S. election through violent and nonviolent means.

It also won't count as "executive privilege" when it wasn't being done as part of your "executive" duties to begin with. The Washington Post has a new piece targeting that point, noting that Giuliani and Kerik's attempts to dodge House demands for information on the plot suffer from a rather glaring weak point: It was the Donald Trump campaign that footed the bill for the team's posh Washington hotel "command center" and other expenses.

The attempt to nullify a U.S. election was being paid for by Trump's campaign, not by Trump's administration. Giuliani and the others involved can pound sand on any thought of invoking an "executive" defense for Team Sedition.

The details laid out in the Post are gorier, of course, with the team racking up huge bills while Trump threatened to stiff them (as usual), Fox News shouting-head Jeanine Pirro personally intervening with Trump and team to convince them to reimburse Giuliani and Kerik (did you remember that Pirro's husband is another cog in the Republican crime machine, one who would get a last-day Trump pardon for felony tax evasion?), and the Trump campaign eventually paying out "more than $225,000" for steep hotel bills and travel expenses.

Everyone involved is an absolutely terrible person, either a felon or within hand-shaking distance of felonies, and it was all the sort of incompetent mess that Trump's bottom-feeders specialized in. The point, though, is that the team's attempts to nullify the election by inventing a new vice presidential power to simply declare that the election didn't count was decided to be an offshoot expense of the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

And that means there is no "executive" to invoke for an executive privilege claim. Team Sedition was acting on behalf of Trump's political campaign, not his administration.

In practice, not a lot of this matters. Trump's executive privilege claims were nonsensical from the start; the only real test is whether the team's absolute contempt for U.S. laws and the investigative powers of Congress will result in consequences. The new rule of Republicanism is that legality or illegality doesn't matter, because even international extortion or assembling a violent mob are allowed so long as you have sufficient allies in government to ensure no investigation takes place.

If Congress wants to get to the bottom of just how the violent mob that Trump's team assembled on January 6 intersected with the rest of the Trump White House and campaign's efforts to intimidate Mike Pence and Congress into nullifying the presidential election's results, it's going to have to start throwing people in jail—and soon. Come next November, there's a very good chance enough pro-sedition Republicans will be elected to Congress to shut down the investigation and bar even the Justice Department from probing the day's events further.

Come next November, there could very well be a Republican majority in place that would order the minting of new coins commemorating the seditionists as new American heroes. The clock is ticking here.

Long story short, the foot-dragging by the Biden Justice Department and by the House itself is getting more dangerous by the day. There is yet no serious belief among the insurrection's orchestrators that Congress will pursue them if they simply refuse to testify, and—still—there are zero plausible claims that any of Trump's pro-nullification plotters have protection against congressional demands. Dust off the powers of inherent contempt and send the Sergeant-at-Arms off with enough pairs of handcuffs to do the job. The nation can't claim to have laws if the nation's elites never find the stomach to enforce them.

Conservative propaganda in Montana shows how close the nation has teetered toward fascism

Here's an entire New York Times story about a genuinely bad, malevolent person. It's not framed that way, of course, because Neutrality, but the Times tossed a reporter in the direction of Great Falls, Montana, to give us another report from the Trumpian underbelly of America and once again, it's a paranoid, conspiracy-obsessed, strategically dishonest sh-tshow that explains a lot about why the True Americans nesting comfortably in Trumpism have steadily been gravitating toward fascism as a matter of natural course.

The Times story is a long explainer about Rae Grulkowski and her quest to keep local civic-minded Montana residents from getting a token amount of federal funds by designating a chunk of the state a "national heritage area." It's a largely meaningless designation that provides minor federal funds to help preserve local points of interest and boost history-minded tourism. A bunch of Montana folks got a bee in their bonnets about it, part of the general True American suspicion that the federal government is evil and just out to trick people (thanks again, Ronald Jackass Reagan), and it became the local version of critical race theory, and hydrocorto-whateveritall, and ingesting horse dewormer because some friend of a friend of a cousin of an Online Influencer said horse paste cures gunshot wounds or whatever the latest version of that theory is.

But here's the thing: Rae Grulkowski—hero of the paranoid Montana class and partial impetus for Montana's reporter-attacking Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte's theatrical ban on the federal government from creating any such heritage designation in the state—attacked the civic-minded proposal by lying her ass off, constantly, inventing or perpetuating a web of fabricated claims that the tourism designation would, in the Times' telling, "forbid landowners to build sheds, drill wells, or use fertilizers." It would ban septic systems! It would raise taxes!

And it was all utter bullshit. As the Times noted and gave evidence of, Grulkowski was lying about all of it.

It was a local campaign dependent on crafting outright propaganda against something she didn't personally like, disseminating it to people who didn't give a damn whether it was true or it was false, rallying a crowd of like-minded liars to attack the opposition with furious disinformation, and turning it into the next Farm Bureau and Republican paranoia campaign in which allies compared the National Heritage Area program to Hitler and nobody involved can stammer their way through any plausible defense of the nonsensical claims they're making.

So then, what are we to make of this? Well, Grulkowski and her allies are flat-out liars, that's for sure. They have disseminated provably false information as a political strategy, and local Republican (Trump) voters snorted it all up like ideological cocaine. Team Lying Bullshit has done its level best to make the lives of those evil civic do-gooders miserable.

It's only in the very last quarter of the story that we get to the kicker that explains all the rest of it: Rae Grulkowski is apparently a "QAnon" devotee, according to The New York Times. She claims to believe in conspiracies about "child trafficking that leads to everything," and believes that Donald Trump won the November election even though he most demonstrably got flattened, and thinks Black Lives Matter supporters were the actual culprits behind the Jan. 6 insurrection, and there we go. She appears to be someone who read a lot of hoaxes on Facebook and turned them into a personality, just one of a new "movement" of Americans radicalized by a single company's eagerness to monetize the nation's most deep-seated paranoias.

Well of course someone who believes an assortment of the most malevolent, antisemitic, racist, pro-fascist conspiracy theories being passed around the internet is going to be similarly loose when inventing anti-government reasons to oppose whatever her neighbors are doing. But—and this is the crux of the Times story and the lesson to be taken from all of this—it worked.

It worked, because of course it did. The propaganda effort was overwhelmingly successful, enough to gain the support of conservative state lawmakers who did not give a damn whether the claims were true. Nobody involved appears to have given a damn whether they were promoting lies. The invention of propaganda was the core strategy: taking a minor civic issue and turning it, through lies, into a new conservative touchstone.

The lying part is the most consequential "value" at play here. "Heritage" designations have nothing to do with any of it. Nobody gives a flying damn whether or not local historic landmarks get new plaques or whether they don't. The important part is for local Republicanism to stick it to anyone who tries to do an inch of good by inventing whatever lies are necessary to do it.

In battling a largely meaningless recognition of the area's rich history, Grulkowski was following the playbook of Steve Bannon, and Stephen Miller, and Donald Trump himself. It is the fascist playbook: If the facts are against your beliefs, ignore those facts and lie. Create new "facts" that will galvanize the movement despite their fraudulence; rather than seeking the consent of the governed by explaining why the movement's ideas will solve current problems, manufacture a new reality in which the "problems" are whatever hoaxes the movement needs to produce in order to justify taking whatever actions the movement wants to take.

We are in a world of danger when flagrant political lies can so swiftly result in success rather than condemnation. That is the endgame to all of this. If a government can be established that governs the nation through fraud—and it is happening, in each Republican-held state using provably false election hoaxes to justify new voting restrictions, and in the establishment of Facebook as the nation's new news source, one in which false information is treated by the company as marketable entertainment rather than a poison, and in the pre-disgraced thug of a Montana governor adopting an anti-government propaganda campaign to attack a federal government program instituted by Ronald Reagan himself as a supposed secret attack on True American rights—then elections are already irrelevant.

Central to battling all of it, however, is to recognize that Rae Grulkowski disseminated lies in order to attack an action she didn't like; she did so while wallowing in an absolute sea of other lies. She succeeded in mustering a populist revolt against better people and better ideas by lying, outright, about the thing she was fighting against. Now, says the Times, she has further political ambitions, given that her equally toxic and cowardly neighbors proved to be so furiously supportive of her campaign of lies.

This is a person who should be scorned. This is a person who should be shunned, boycotted, considered a crackpot, and treated with universal contempt. This is a person who is attacking democracy itself, by attacking it at its root premise: Whatever civic challenges are presented to the voters, they must be based on truth. Democracy is meaningless, is absolutely meaningless, if each election is a competition not of competing solutions to civic problems but of the inventiveness of each campaign in creating new hoaxes and convincing the governed to believe them.

Instead, we get national debates over whether some of the most infamously dishonest people in government have been treated too roughly if private restaurant owners do not want to serve them. The pressure is not to shun liars as anti-American, anti-democracy propagandists seeking to manipulate public opinion through rampant dishonesty, but whether we are allowed to direct any scorn their way at all.

How did it come to this?

The short answer might be Bernard Goldberg. Goldberg was one of those who made a name for himself insisting that American journalism was intrinsically "biased" against conservatives, a claim which is now taken as a central movement tenet because it fits pleasingly with every other movement theme of displacement and victimhood. The evidence for this "bias," even decades into the claims, was almost always an assertion that because conservative ideologues were not given exposure equal to actual issue experts, it amounted to oppressing the conservative "side" of an argument.

Ideological claims, in other words, were being shortchanged because journalists were looking to scientists, medical experts, historical data, and other providers of hard facts rather than letting lobbyists, think-tank heads, and other professional political provocateurs speak with equal authority and at equal volume.

From there conservatism moved to a very successful crusade to reformulate "news" so that facts were always debatable, so long as there was a single professional spinner who could be paid to claim they were. The cable networks, especially, transitioned from that into new forms that rarely gave scientists or other experts a voice at all, preferring instead to pit one pre-determined ideologue against another for orchestrated spats in which nobody could be proven to have lied because the segment would be over before any actual journalist or expert could even phone the studio.

We moved on to public bellowing about "the elites must respect my beliefs," where "beliefs" consisted of believing that climate scientists were sabotaging world government or, eventually, that livestock dewormer was a miracle cure for a pandemic hospitals themselves could not keep up with.

But it was the Goldberg camp that insisted that liars and propagandists should not just be heard from but also treated with respect. That if there was a conflict between facts and conservatism, then it was biased to highlight one over the other. It was treated as a given, from the beginning, that conservatism was a counter to scientific and policy expertise. It was treated as a given that conservatism was the rightful and just opposition to such expertise.

We have reached that conservative promised land. All of the news now follows the formula of pitting ideologue against ideologue, the facts wedged in somewhere—or not, depending on the journalist—but with no reproach given to those who insist that the facts are something else. The paid propagandists and crafters of outlandish, impossible lies are now treated with impeccable respect by the media. The American people are taught to treat professional liars as dignified combatants—nay, true Americans, speaking powerful emotions in the face of uncomfortable, irritating data.

And, after hounding media relentlessly into giving respect to professional fraudsters, the conservative movement itself has now shed from itself everything but the professional fraudsters. The lies are the movement; the movement is defined by the lies, and shifts as rapidly as required to adopt new ones.

You need not look at anything beyond the last election to see that. Respecting, or actively propagating, the anti-American hoax that claims Republicans secretly "won" the last election only to have it stolen by invisible forces, is now a requirement inside the so-called "conservative" movement. Trump lied constantly, about everything, in genuinely malevolent ways, and he was a product of both Bernard Goldberg's insistence that sneering know-nothings be given media respect and the shouter who finally erased all further attempts to pretend Republicanism was anything but a collection of spite-based antipathies and hoaxes.

But Rae Grulkowski is, genuinely, a bad person. Steve Bannon is a liar, a propagandist, and a hack. Stephen Miller is a white nationalist who crafts propaganda demonizing immigrants to justify brutality against them. Mitch McConnell is a relentless liar, one who flaunts his absolute contempt for whatever ideal he blustered about a month, a week, or a day beforehand in order to invent an entirely opposing one. Sarah Huckabee Sanders promoted fraudulent information as a professional, and ideological, career move. Donald Trump is quite possibly the most loathsome sack of malignant neuroses to ever have shuffled through Washington and that is saying something.

Creating hoaxes for the purpose of manipulating public opinion is contemptible, evil behavior. It deserves fury. It deserves the scorn of the entire nation; journalism, and political media especially, should have such seething contempt for the propagandists that exposure of each lie and value judgments about those that perpetrate them should be, as they once were, the profession's central ambition.

It is not enough to point out that this or that person is fabricating a hoax in order to deceive their fellow Americans into holding a new political position. Those that do so are enemies of democracy. They are, in the true sense of the word, anti-American. They are frauds. They are doing direct harm to their neighbors, their towns, their states, their nation. They are ideological soldiers seeking to do harm to the government by taking, from the public, the ability to use their vote as means of steering that government. They are anti-civil rights. Their propaganda is stealing democracy by stealing votes by stealing political debate itself so that voters simply cannot discern what government is doing, what the parties are doing, what the issues are, where the dangers are, and where the future catastrophes lie.

These are all bad, evil, rotten people who need to be shunned with ferocity. They do not warrant respect. They do not warrant civil treatment. They do not warrant malicious burbles about how dare Americans seek consequences for their fraud; newspaper editors should be devoting themselves to identifying each face and name and lie and treating them as public enemy, not both sides denizen.

These are the footsoldiers that will end democracy, if we cannot throw them from our civic spaces and treat them with the contempt that hoax promoters deserve. These are not the days of tar and feathers, but they can certainly be the days of belittlement, consequences, and public reproach. These are the vapid, self-serving cowards whose lies spur domestic terrorists to violence, and who kill Americans by the thousands by pushing fraudulent information about a deadly pandemic. These are not people who lie of happenstance or impulse, but people who specifically seek to bend government through a pattern of anti-American deceit.

There is no neutrality to be had in reporting like this. Someone who manipulates American politics by lying to the American public is acting with malevolence; reporters should feel a civic duty not just to expose them, but to strip them of the usual deference and pleasantries. Treat propagandists with more scorn than those who craft financial hoaxes to prey on the elderly, or those who hide the deadly effects of a product so that they may sell more of them. The propagandists are attacking the soul of our very democracy. To hell with them. Shun them and those who enable their plots out of greed, ideology, or apathy.

Conservatism has now reached Bernard Goldberg's promised land in which facts and malevolent fictions are treated as equals. The movement itself has become a mass of hoaxes cowering under a red hat. If it cannot be condemned as a fraud, it will grow in power until it strips all truth from around us.

Sunday shows are a relic of a lazy low-stakes era

On one of the now unwatchable Sunday "news" shows, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd introduced a segment on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by—I'm just kidding. It wasn't about the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a segment about the most favorite of all Sunday show segments, and indeed largely the only segment any of the Sunday shows ever do: How will This Thing, the major news of the day, Affect Mah Politics?

"The economy's inability to fully recover from the shock of COVID-19 is both an economic story and a political one," intoned Todd.

The economy's inability to fully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is in large part due to anti-distancing, anti-mask, vaccine-skeptical, pro-virus-spreading policies from Republican politicians who have been using conservative frustration with safety measures as a rallying cry for their own careers, resulting in a new wave of overwhelmed hospitals and dead victims that was entirely preventable if sociopathic politicos had not turned pandemic crisis protocols into the latest spite-riddled "culture war."

"All those economic problems add up to a big political problem for the president. Is all of this his fault? Of course not, but it is now his responsibility. And he and fellow Democrats are in real danger of suffering some serious political consequences. Mr. Biden ran on a promise of a basic return to normal—or at least a path to normalcy. But with the midterm elections just over a year away—"

Stop. Just stop. Fine, we get it. We're doing this again. Republicans continue to get their constituents killed at elevated rates; let's now turn to our panel of experts to determine what the political implications of Republicans killing off their constituents will be for the Democrats who, uh, failed to convince them not to die to own the libs.

"Whadda think, Bob? Think all those surviving family members are gonna punish Democrats in the midterms?"

"I dunno, Steve, but between that and Americans quitting their dangerous bullshit pandemic poverty-wage jobs to look for better ones, there's real chaos out there on the streets. And it doesn't look good for anyone waiting for a Tickle-me-Elmo toy because the container ships are real backed up over on the left coast. And what if Republicans decide to start shooting constituents in the face? That'd look real bad for Joe Biden, who's run on a platform of not shooting people in the face."


And it ain't just that. Another of the Todd segments scraped up another entry in the "obsessively arch-right fascist Trump supporters still like Trump" press compulsion. Hey, the guy may have attempted to end our democracy through hoaxes and violence, but a bunch of Jesus-punchers think, if anything, that just makes him even more awesome.

We've been here before. This ain't new, and Matt Negrin, in particular, has brought all the necessary receipts and then some to show that Chuck Todd's Meet the Press, in particular, is a relentless promoter of Republican frames, one that uses the "panel" format to mix hard-right Republican strategists and figures in with neutral journalists while studiously avoiding Democratic guests. Most insipidly, Todd has been a prime rehabilitator for the Republican supporters of an election hoax that led to a violent insurrection.

Why? Is that "neutrality"? Is it "news"?

The problem with Meet the Press is the problem with all political journalism: It shouldn't exist. It's lazy. It's cheap, hackish, phone-it-in programming cobbled together because doing journalism is hard but talking about the "political implications" of any news story is easy. Ask how the ongoing mostly Republican-state COVID-19 crisis is affecting social programs and you'll have to do research to find out. Ask whether the stance of anti-mask politicians like Ron DeSantis is morally defensible and you'll have to expose your own moral convictions.

Ask how the widespread death and economic chaos will affect the political winds when whatever-the-next-election-is rolls around, though, and you don't need to know a damn thing. It's easy. It's trivial. Pick out whichever guests will most reliably say something "exciting" and you've got yourself a show.

"Hey, Trump campaign spokesguy Jason Miller, the price of chicken went up by ten cents over the last six months. How do you think that's gonna play among [spins wheel] Evangelical voters in [throws dart] Wyoming?"

"I think this is great news for Donald Trump, and I'd also like to mention here that Wyoming Evangelicals are also very worried about Joe Biden's surrender to the mole people that happened last Thursday but that nobody here is reporting. Also, Joe Biden eats children."

"Thanks, Jason, we'll have to leave it there."

Anyone can opine about politics. It requires no expertise. It requires little thought. On television, where nobody in front of or behind the cameras gives a particular damn whether or not a guest just lies outright to the nation because they'll already be three lies beyond that one before anyone else can get a word in edgewise, there is absolutely no penalty for being wrong. Or lying. Or undermining democracy. Or egging on violence. Or anything else.

The Sunday shows are the worst thing politics can be: no-stakes. It is all just a game, a little game among the wealthy professional class to fill time while questions of morality and decency are pooh-poohed as the naive domain of the common rabble. True political journalism covers democracy and fascism as neutral ideological combatants; considers death ancillary to poll numbers; judges economic policy based on the analysis of whoever has the most money to spend on analysis; considers false propaganda to be Reasonable, if it can be made Effective; and, above all, dodges all policy considerations in favor of meta-debate about which political figures will most have their images buffed or tarnished from the policy's defeat or acceptance.

Would it be economically wise to avoid a worldwide climate catastrophe that sinks Florida, burns much of the West to a cinder, causes widespread crop failures, and renders certain parts of the globe literally uninhabitable if the air conditioners fail? There's not even a question! Set aside every moral and environmental question, and you're still left with the unambiguous case that moving national energy policy toward less-polluting alternatives will save the country from unfathomable economic costs in the decades to come.

We're not going to get that conversation on Meet the Press, ever, because no non-journalist booked on Meet the Press knows a damn thing about it. We're not going to get the kind of hard-edged reporting that the profession idolizes in fictional stories but shudders with contempt at providing itself, reporting in which political figures are confronted about their astonishing ineptitude in managing this or any other of the existential issues of the day.

We will get an unending parade of professional know-nothings to discuss how Joe Manchin's posturing or Bernie Sanders' gruffness might bump off-year poll numbers in the span between now and the future crisis, because that's the sort of talk that allows charlatans who don't believe in anything to have opinions on everything.

I'm tired. We're all tired. These shows are astonishingly tired, shambling along like brainless zombies wandering past thickets of political violence, environmental cataclysm, mass disease, widespread government failure, and the alteration of the nation's democratic discourse into, literally, an arena of professional hoax-promotion. The old formats were designed for sleepier times when the nation could coast along, ineffective and only a little bit corrupt, with no wars that affected the Important People or economic tragedies that the Important People could not weather. Now that we have passed through decades of ambivalent puttering to come face-to-face with genuine crisis, we learn that none of the shows are built to grapple with crises. They were a child's toy, a little playground in which the powerful could snip playfully at each other on camera before going to eat in the same tony restaurants and golf at the same posh resorts. They were not meant to tackle true problems—only to provide small, timed skits showing what tackling problems might look like, according to the fictions of the day, while making sure that none of it ever truly solved anything or even moved the conversation forward.

Those are not the formats in which a nation can grapple with a pandemic that will likely kill a million of its citizens. It would be farcical in the case of, say, a predicted asteroid strike or supervolcano eruption. It would be rendered so grotesquely absurd, if God Himself were to saunter down with a message or if alien life punched a hole through dimensions to invite us to dinner, that it would pass only as low comedy. Nobody on these shows gives a damn if the nation falls or the atmosphere burns. It was only meant to be a club for idle banter, nothing bold enough as to even scrape the lines of are laws based on overt bigotries bad or just a cultural choice, the sort of vapid dorm room debates on "are seat belts good" or "does unleaded gas represent government tyranny" that nobody involved would give two shits about, on their way home from the studio.

Meet the Press found itself confronting an actual insurrection—and folded. It couldn't cope. It had no tools for the job. So Chuck Todd invited the insurrectionists onto the program and helped redeem even election hoaxes, party-backed propaganda and candidate-organized insurrection as a reasonable political choice to be made. Not because he or anyone else involved gave a particular damn either way, and not because they did not, but because there is no Sunday morning format that can handle violent insurrection except as fodder for the professional know-nothings to banter aimlessly about. It was never meant to have actual stakes. Nobody, in any of the network executive suites, even knows what such a thing would look like.

The QAnon movement was always based on neo-Nazi conspiracy theories — now the mask is slipping

We have noted in the past that the "QAnon" movement is not a set of new conspiracy theories, but a recasting of some of the most popular neo-Nazi, white supremacist, antisemitic themes of the last century for broader conspiracy consumption. Nazi-era antisemitic conspiracy theories declared that "Jews" were secretly controlling the world, that they were working to undermine governments and cultures, and that they drank the blood of children in secret rituals.

QAnon's version is identical: A shadowy cabal of "globalists" is secretly controlling the world, is working to undermine governments and cultures (for example, through a "great replacement" of Americans with new nonwhite immigrants, as supposedly funded by wealthy Jewish American George Soros), and is secretly trafficking children to harvest compounds from their blood. The most bizarre of Nazi and neo-Nazi themes have found eager new homes in the brains of supposed "real" Americans who have invariably settled on the same targets and solutions as their neo-Nazi enablers: Round up the "globalists"—meaning liberals, socialists, Democrats, those who fight for LGBT rights, those who treat immigrants with decency—and jail them. "Lock them up." Purge them.

The "everyday" Americans who have adopted QAnon beliefs as their own, insisting that the "child trafficking" or blood "harvesting" or something-something George Soros conspiracies are real, are Good Nazis. They are the sort of citizens who made Nazi Germany tick. They are sweet, patriotic parents of somebody, or children of somebody, and all they know in life is that their enemies must be defeated, even if defeating them means toppling democracy and/or supporting the most incompetent of tax-dodging lying rapist perverts.

Whether they can be reformed once they've gone down that rabbit hole is a subject for others to engage. Myself, I expect not. Human beings do not accidentally fall into believing their not-white or not-Christian or not-Republican neighbors are barely human saboteurs plotting behind the scenes to do whatever evil you might imagine. They started out that way, then fell into conspiracy holes that were pleasing because they ticked off all the boxes their previous paranoias needed to tick off.

The movement itself, however, has been drifting back to the rawer antisemitism that first crafted it.

VICE News reports that John Sabal, the influential QAnon promoter who will this week host a major QAnon conference at which four aspiring Republican lawmakers are scheduled to speak recommended on Sunday to his followers a notorious neo-Nazi conspiracy film blaming Jews as the architects of communism, World Wars I and II, and the sabotage of Naziism. "The most important historical film of all time," Sabal touted.

The posts were removed after they were "highlighted by extremist researchers," reports VICE—and Sabal claims through his partner that he never actually watched the film or knew that it was antisemitic. And yes, this is the "QAnon" provocateur with enough clout to collect Republican candidates from across the nation.

This isn't an isolated incident. VICE reports that other QAnon figures have similarly embraced the film, though none as prominent as Sabal has been. The "Q" movement is also attracting much attention and support among German neo-Nazis, who after all have a closer connection to many of the Q-adopted tropes now being exported by American conspiracists.

It hasn't stopped national Republicans from courting conspiracy leaders and allied militias, either.

QAnon may have taken some of its heaviest hits from being uniformly and absurdly wrong in all its preelection and post-election predictions about, well, everything, and from its top founder and likely Q pretender Ron Watkins, who distanced himself slightly after Trump's loss. (He's now running for Congress himself—in Arizona, of course.) That doesn't mean it's dead.

It's unclear, however, if QAnon believers are becoming more enamored with antisemitism than they once were or if the movement is sloughing off now-bored, less-radical Americans, leaving behind a more radical, neo-Nazi-adjacent core. Conservatism in general is increasingly flirting with antisemitic speech and candidates: In Idaho, a Republican with a long history of antisemitic speech, one who claims "all Jews are dangerous," is enjoying his local party's support for joining the local school board.

Extremist rhetoric in general is being rewarded rather than scorned by Republican voters. It's probably not surprising that the Republican slide into fascism could not help but stoke the same antisemitic sentiments that past versions have relied on. The QAnon, Trump, and Republican movements are all coalescing into one ball of hate and hoaxes; in the House and Senate, party leaders are at worst helping to promote the conspiracies, and at best remaining silent in efforts to ride the hate to new election victories.

Marjorie Taylor Greene’s campaign is in bad shape — but Matt Gaetz’s is even worse

Back in July, we learned that the joint promotional tour of Rep. Matt Gaetz (linked to a Florida sex trafficking operation that led to the indictment of a key ally) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (booted off all House committees by her fellow Republicans for promoting sedition-based violence) was hemorrhaging money, bringing in a mere $60,000 after spending $300,000 to get it. Now we know that it's not just their nationwide self-promotion jaunt that's bleeding money: Their overall campaigns aren't faring much better.

Could it be that while their base, the frothingest far-right of the far-right, is willing to defend sex trafficking and violent rebellion, they're not willing to put their wallets where their mouths are? Maaaaaybe.

A new Mother Jones report highlights the latest financial reports from the two campaigns, and none of it looks good. As for that joint promotional tour and PAC, Mother Jones reports that the latest filings show it to be "nearly broke," with only $13,000 left in its accounts. It probably didn't help matters that the pair found themselves regularly being thrown out of venues after event center organizers got cold feet about hosting them, either.

But it's the campaign records that are more intriguing. In Greene's case, she's still bringing in significant cash, but it's how the cash is coming in that's getting alarming. For the last three months, 70% of Greene's fundraising haul went right back out to the people and companies doing the fundraising; it appears Greene's campaign is now fully mired in the sort of sketchy high-cost, low-reward fundraising pushes that have plagued other, similarly sketchy Republican campaigns. Greene "spent more than $1 million to haul in $1.5 million," reports Mother Jones. That's big money, but it's mostly big money for the direct mail consultants and others sucking up most of the cash Greene's remaining donors are willing to contribute.

Gaetz, though, is another story. It appears that the fringe Republican base has decided that promoting insurrectionist lies is less bad than being an accused sex trafficker, because Gaetz's fundraising has been dismal. Gaetz's fundraising numbers have gone into the red, with $527,000 raised in the last three months on $627,000 of expenses. His campaign fundraising, in other words, lost him $100,000.

Despite Gaetz continuing to enjoy the steadfast support of fellow congressional perverts—sorry, "House Republicans"—such as Jim Jordan and the like, there are signs that Gaetz's actual voter base is losing interest in propping up the not-yet-indicted, still-insufferable sleazeball. All three of Gaetz's most prominent fundraising channels have crashed and burned in recent months, with his Greene-partnered Sex and Violence fundraising tour going bust, his recently released book absolutely tanking, and now his campaign itself in a nosedive.

And it's not like Gaetz can count on the Republican Party to boost his book sales with one of their infamous bulk book buys. They're waiting this one out. The number of people who want to see books by accused sex traffickers in their party gift bags are already low, and if he's indicted it will be lower still.

This is all fine and good, but what does it mean for Greene and Gaetz's actual reelection chances? It's too early to say. At minimum, it means the national Republican base is growing cold on both of them; while being a violence-adjacent, crime-adjacent, or overall performatively gross person used to have a bit of cachet for the base, that description now applies to so many new Republican stars that Greene and Gaetz barely register anymore. They're expendable figures to a base being overrun with fundraising requests from dozens of other would-be Republican leaders who have similarly impeccable credentials when it comes to Dear Leader worship, advocacy for sedition, or being a dumpster fire of humanity's worst compulsions.

If either of the pair find themselves in a real cash squeeze, they won't necessarily find the party running to come help. Both, however, have the advantage of coming from two of the most deplorable-friendly districts around. Greene may yet find that her pro-sedition, violence-suggesting stances are now her Republican Party's mainstream position come 2022, and coast back to office for her bravery in suggesting her political opponents be met with force before it became the default party position. Gaetz's local voters may be tiring of giving him cash, but when push comes to shove most of those Florida Republicans would gladly put even a convicted sex trafficker back in Congress if the alternative was, well, anyone even marginally less gross.

There's not really much chance that their Republican voters will abandon either of the two, and it's entirely possible that the more desperate and paranoid the pair act, the more the deplorables of the fringe right will rally to them. From these most recent fundraising totals, however, we can see that neither Greene nor Gaetz are really "inspiring" that nationwide deplorable base like they once did. There are other sex traffickers the far-right can rally around. There are plenty other fascist rabble-rousers. There are online Ponzi schemes to invest in, and gold coins to buy, and "survival buckets," and all the other products conservative mailing lists bombard their readers with.

Maybe the Greene-Gaetz base spent all their money on ammo and survival buckets and just don't have anything left to give?

Saudi royals gave Trump tiger and cheetah furs as gifts. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says they were fake

The New York Times has a new story about the Trump administration's lax policies on foreign gift-giving, and it may not surprise you to know that Team Griftabout was just as indifferent to this particular bit of the Constitution as they were all the others. Accepting gifts from foreign leaders (or foreign anybodies) is strictly barred in the Constitution if you're an elected official, due to its close proximation to bribery; as such, the process of receiving such gifts is complex and bureaucratic and requires either paying for the things received (seldom done) or handing them over to the federal government as official federal government property.

You can see immediately why these rules would especially grate for the team of unapologetic grifters and grubbers that make up Trump's inner circle. And family. And general reason for existing. True to form, the Times reports the last administration was frequently sloppy about the whole process. Yes, yes, we'll all need a minute to recover from the shock. Have you recovered yet? Good, let's move on.

There are two tidbits the Times sussed out that are particularly intriguing. The first deals not with gifts from foreign leaders but gifts intended for foreign leaders. You might remember that Trump was originally scheduled to host a G7 summit at Camp David last year; that summit had to be canceled due to the runaway COVID-19 pandemic. In preparation for the meeting, the government prepared "gift bags worth thousands of dollars" to present to each foreign leader, the sort of high-value knickknacks that pass as diplomatic flattery in these circles.

In the last days of the Trump administration, "many" of those still-undelivered bags, as well as other presents, were missing. Allegedly, "career officers" in the State Department "saw their departing colleagues leave with" them.

However, the Times reports that at least some of the contents of the gift bags featured Donald or Melania's signatures, which probably drops their actual value to approximately that of a Mars Bar or a half-finished coffee. Who's going to want a "marble trinket box" with Donald Trump's name plastered on it? It's like a little coffin of shattered dreams.

Anyhoo, all of this is building up to the good part, and there is a good part and we're only getting to it now because we all know it's coming but needed to get in a comfy spot so we can savor it properly. Amongst the more problematic gifts received by Donald Trump and associates was an approximate crapload of swag given by the Saudi royal family in appreciation of Donald making Saudi Arabia the destination of his first foreign "presidential" trip.

Featured in the haul were "three robes made with white tiger and cheetah fur," as well as a dagger that "appeared" to have an ivory handle. Very illegal! Not good! The United States does not allow the trafficking of materials made out of endangered species!

Naturally, the Trump administration did jack-squat with this information, failed to properly disclose them as required, and eventually handed them over to the General Services Administration on Trump's last full day in office. (Why it couldn't have been done before then is a mystery; was the Trump team still looking for ways to keep the furs, along with the presidency, even on the team's very last day?) The Times reports that the gifts were eventually (properly) seized by U.S. Fish and Wildlife this summer, and that—good news, everybody!—it turns out they were fake.

Yeah, that's right. The Saudi royal family, the ultra-wealthy murderous dictators whose lifestyle consists of extravagant spending and a bunch of other things that they consider it illegal for anyone to bring up, gave Donald Trump fake tiger and cheetah pelts. It was a dye job.

And this is perfect. Couldn't possibly have ended in a better way.

What is Donald Trump, after all, other than a fake rich person? He is a reality show host whose incompetent burbles were famously edited into a reality show about bein' rich and bein' decisive, but the man's wealth is a small fraction of what he claims it to be, and his idea of "luxury" appears to be eating Big Macs inside rooms that have been spray-painted gold and adorned with plaques claiming imaginary things happened there.

They didn't give Trump the expensive pelts of endangered big cats. They gave him expensive-looking fakes, knowing he'd be pleased as punch with expensive-looking fakes. (And it's not clear the "ivory" dagger is actually ivory, either.)

Sure, then. We'll go with that. Finally, a bit of good news: There are at least two endangered animals out there that were not killed for the sake of this now-sedition-backing buffoon's pleasure centers. It was all fake, like Trump himself was.

Not the most important thing in the world, to be sure. But it's fun to remind ourselves that even the foreign leaders who were most obsequious towards Trump had his number from day one. Faker.

Republicans demand the debt ceiling be raised — and promise to block Democratic attempts to do so

The nation is now used to seeing political standoffs whenever the time again comes to raise the now-infamous "debt ceiling." The nation is also generally aware of the dynamic that plays out each time the United States needs to raise the artificially set debt cap in order to keep paying the bills that Congress itself ordered the nation to pay: During times of Republican governance, Republicans hand out tax cuts to whoever the steady rotation of lobbyists in their offices tell them to, draining federal coffers. During times of Democratic governance, Republicans scream loudly about the money being spent on Actual Things, proclaim themselves outraged at federal deficits, and vow that they will absolutely not be a part of this fine mess that their yesterday selves got us into.

I'm not sure there's been any past Republican effort as lazily nihilistic as the one that's currently forming, however. The seemingly unanimous take of Senate Republicans, as guided by (of course) Sen. Mitch McConnell, is that the debt ceiling of course needs to be raised as rote responsibility of government—and that Republicans will absolutely block attempts all attempts to do so so that Democrats have to do it without them.

It's not a "we must reduce the debt" stance. It's not an attempt to play chicken with the nation's credit rating or an attempt to shut down government this time around. The Republican position this time is that while this paperwork may be a necessary part of government, it's better for Republicans to not do that governing so they're just ... not going to.

On Tuesday, Sen. McConnell turtled to reporters that Senate Republicans were "united in opposition to raising the debt ceiling." Party cranks had previously promised to filibuster any legislation raising the ceiling, thus cutting off both the notion that the ceiling could be raised with Republican votes and the ability of Senate Democrats to even bring such a bill for a vote.

What do the still-paycheck-collecting Republicans want Democrats to do instead? They want Democrats to ram a new debt ceiling number through using reconciliation rules, the process that Republicans have been calling autocratic and democracy-ending in any other context. It's all a game to them, nobody's pretending it's anything different, and it's all laced with the same propaganda claims that Republicanism is now reliant on.

Sen. Ted Cruz was blunt when declaring the Republican position last August: Democrats "have 100 percent control and ability to raise the debt ceiling on reconciliation. And the only reason they wouldn't do so is to play political games."

Republicans don't intend to use their position to negotiate anything. They just don't wanna do it so they're not going to. Instead, their plan is to make Democrats do all the governing, then run midterm campaigns blasting Democrats for doing it. CNN reports that McConnell's intent is to make Democrats "own" a newly raised debt ceiling by forcing them do it through unconventional means, after all but a handful of Republican senators wrote a letter declaring both that the nation "should not default on our debts under any circumstances" and that if "Democrats threaten a default" it will be their fault for not ramming it through despite Republican attempts to block it.

See, I worry here that I'm not fully conveying the full asininity of the Senate Republican position. They're in broad agreement that the nation can't default on its debts, they're in broad agreement that therefore the debt ceiling should be raised as it has been every other time it has come up, and they're in broad agreement that they're going to sit in a corner screaming song lyrics and pressure cooker recipes while everybody else gets on that. As legislators, they don't want to do this bit of government so they're just not gonna, la la la, the rest of you are suckers for caring.

O … kay?

Oh, they still get their paychecks either way, of course. You can spend 20 years in the Senate doing nothing but carving swear words into your desk and you'll still get the same paycheck. Keeping the government running is not technically part of the job, it's just a little bonus you might give your constituents if you feel the alternative would result on a local run on feathers and roofing tar.

In any event, because none of this would be complete without Republican lawmakers simply lying their asses off about even the most basic functions of government, Republicans do intend to pretend that the debt ceiling is tied to new Democratic spending and not past congressional edicts. CNN gives us the immediate example of Sen. Joni Ernst blubbering that with new Democratic budget proposals this new hit on the debt ceiling is "their own making." Yet again, for the people in the cheap seats, this ain't so. The debt ceiling is governed by spending authorized by Congress in the past. It is a result of the laws already written, apportioning funds in the way the Paul Ryans of the past demanded during White House Rose Garden celebrations proudly celebrating new deficit spending. Sen. Joni Ernst is just lying on this one, as is the party's current style.

So far, all of this looks like it will be turning out extremely Stupid, with nobody from either party willing to do anything more than the usual routine of scheduling votes, blocking votes, holding press conferences about the votes, and generally puttering around with as many time-wasting antics as each individual senator can muster energy for. It does look like Democratic leaders intend to force a Senate vote on the debt ceiling, Republicans intend to filibuster it, we will gradually inch toward the crisis of government not being able to pay its bills, and at the last minute or shortly thereafter Democrats will construct some mechanism for getting it done despite Sens. Deskcarver and Flamepants feigning outrage.

What should be done, since Republicans now have evolved into the position that the debt ceiling is from now on only going to be raised during times when future voters boot just enough Republican senators to allow it to happen, is a full wipe of the very premise of a "debt ceiling." It is a construct. It is a fork-in-electrical-socket of the House and Senate's own making, a way for preening elected officials to blackmail the rest of the country by threatening to push us into it if just one more child gets one more slice of government cheese than the richest bastards of the country deem appropriate.

So then, Democrats, just erase it. Don't just boost the cap to whatever number will put us in this same position 10 or so months from now; get rid of it. Set it to a billion trillion quadrillion dollars and be done with it. That also can be done in reconciliation, since Republicans are demanding the Democrats use reconciliation to address it, and will defuse this particular bomb so that Ted Freaking Cruz and friends cannot blackmail government every damn year in order to boost his fundraising numbers.

The sheer amount of new debt America has piled on as a result of having to cope with shutdowns and near-shutdowns can't be small, either. It turns out governance, like health care, is a lot cheaper when you don't wait for every last bump and nick to turn into a full-blown emergency before dealing with it.

End this farce. Republicans cannot govern, Republicans don't want anyone else to govern, Republicans continue to flip random levers of government in the hope that the damage done will be something non-Republicans cannot easily fix. There is Too Much Shit these days for this little comedy routine to still be a core part of the national lineup. We need this time for debating more important things, like seawalls and pandemics and an explanation as to how the most incompetent White House in a century managed to come so very close to orchestrating a coup.

Idaho Republicans pushed their state into a COVID crisis. Now it's spreading over state borders

Here's a nicely written little story from The New York Times about how the state of Idaho's near-complete incompetence at dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in adjacent Washington State hospitals having to pick up the slack. Northern Idaho hospitals are now so inundated with patients that crisis rationing of health care was announced last week. In Washington, the new flood of Idaho pandemic patients is resulting in postponed brain cancer surgeries and overwhelmed emergency rooms.

But a more useful headline for the piece would be the angle that the story itself only touches as gingerly as possible: Republican Idaho Gov. Brad Little's clownish pandemic incompetence is flat-out killing people, and not all of them are in Idaho. It's yet another case of a red-state Republican government completely botching—on purpose—the response to a public crisis while leaving it to the public and to nearby better-run governments to clean up the wreckage. Again. And Americans have every right to be pissed off about it.

The Times dryly notes that Brad Little's office would not make the governor available to answer questions, as he steadfastly declares his continued determination to do little to nothing to respond to the medical now-crisis in his state. Idaho's 40% vaccination rate is among the nation's lowest, and Little is among the Republican governors who—of course—bellowed that he would be taking legal action to make sure the federal government couldn't mandate vaccinations for employees in his flag-waving clot-loving neck of the woods. There's similarly no plans to take other measures to reduce the pandemic's spread in the state.

The Little plan appears to be akin to Republican plans in Florida and elsewhere and can be roughly described as "If we claim it's patriotic not to try, then nobody can blame us for the staggering numbers of deaths." Like Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, Little also attempted to portray pandemic safety measures as a Democratic attack on "freedom," specifically the freedom to spread a deadly disease if you damn well want to, anywhere you want to, because screw everybody else.

At this point it's hard to blame this entirely on Donald Trump. His thickheaded incompetence was the reason Republicanism first came to insist that competence, actually, was the real enemy here, but Trump is retired now and the rest of these clowns are still in the center ring. If they want to continue to declare that 600,000 deaths and counting are nothing Republicanism needs to rouse itself to deal with, that's on them.

What the Idaho-Washington State case demonstrates, however, is that it is not just Idaho conservatism's declarators of personal pandemic freedom who are being killed off by their new affinity for a disease "the liberals" don't want them to get. Little's incompetence at managing what's now a state emergency is risking lives in Washington State and in any other state now having to accept an influx of ventilator-reliant Idaho freedom-havers. It's the same dynamic that's played out time and time again, as Republican ideologues make a catastrophe of state and federal budgets, help cause economic crises, exacerbate infrastructure crises, act as willing enablers of medical crises, enter incompetently premised wars and then rely on the nation's not-Republicans to attempt to patch up the damage without them.

Why the hell is Brad Little not being impeached this very moment? In Republican governance you can fill hospitals to overflowing, fill them further until crisis protocols must be enacted, fill them further still so that hospitals in neighboring states are also seeing an influx of your state residents, and still nobody in the party will question whether or not Republicanism should be doing something more substantive than bupkis in response.

If Idaho conservatives love their freedom more than they love being able to breathe without mechanical assistance, will the state be reimbursing nearby states for the costs incurred when those conservatives change their mind? Of course not. Will Idaho be sending their own national guard to help in those states? Unlikely. Will Idaho conservatives at any point be swayed by mass deaths? Recent history suggests that each freedom-loving Republican will regret their past actions if and only if a member of their own family kicks the pandemic bucket. If a member of your family gets infected and dies, they don't care. If it's your cancer surgery that has to be delayed, allowing the cancer to further grow so that hospitals can free up rooms and doctors for unvaccinated anti-mask belligerents now sucking air through a tube while their families search local livestock supply stores for veterinary dewormers, they don't care.

Maybe Washington State needs to implement vaccine passports for crossing its state borders.

Something that doesn't appear to be being addressed, yet, is the possibility that the red-state mayhem caused by Republican governors and legislatures openly mocking pandemic safety will have long-term state effects beyond the immediate death toll. Getting vaccinated is free. Being treated in an emergency room for even a "mild" case of COVID-19 infection is not only not free, it remains heart-stoppingly expensive. Spend a night or 10 in an ICU and even with insurance, many Americans will still face a mountain of unpayable bills.

What will be the long-term economic effects in places like Florida and Idaho after a sea of unvaccinated patients live through the pandemic, only to see their savings wiped out and then some from the costs of keeping them alive? What will the long-term effects on local health care systems be from that many bills going unpaid?

How much of that, too, will be spread around neighboring, more responsible states?

The Idaho "plan," such as it is, is a worldwide embarrassment. Little and his fellow Republican blusterers have shown such unfathomable incompetence as to seriously merit questions about whether any of them ought to be doing time in prison. Not only do the state's conservative operators feel proud about doing absolutely nothing of note to tamp down an infection rate that has state hospitals in crisis, they continue to take steps to ensure nobody else is allowed to mitigate the damage either.

If that's what Idaho conservatives truly want—and who are we to say—then fine. But their own inflicted crisis is causing havoc outside their borders and in places where conservatism does not hold sway, and other Americans have every right to be enraged by that. Keep your patriotic deaths to yourselves and leave the rest of us out of it, Republican do-nothings. These are your bills to be paid, not ours. Stop relying on everyone else to bail you out of every catastrophe you so giddily inflict.

Majority of Republicans say belief in Trump election hoax important part of Republicanism

A new CNN poll shows the nation remains politically divided, and by "politically divided" that primarily means Republicans continue to lurch farther and farther into hoax-promoting, anti-democratic extremism.

Two specific poll questions are worth calling out. The first is that about six in ten self-identified Republicans claim to believe that "supporting Donald Trump" is either a "very" or "somewhat" important part of "what being a Republican means to you." This is a bit weird, because Donald Trump is ... not in office. He has no current position. He is retired, bumbling around at Mar-a-Lago regaling wedding guests with stories of how the world has wronged him, interspersing rounds of Florida golf with promotional appearances at cult meet-ups and pay-per-view boxing matches. Donald Trump does not currently need any "support," but the question has a nearly identical response breakdown to a much more interesting poll question that this question probably acts as one-to-one proxy for.

That question? Whether "believing that Donald Trump won the 2020 election" is a "very" or "somewhat" important part of Republicanism. Those responses are near-identical, with 6 in 10 Republicans agreeing that it is.

The notion that Donald Trump "won" the 2020 election is a hoax. It's specifically a fascist-promoted hoax intended to discredit democratic elections themselves, because a good chunk of the party (six in ten, apparently) would rather burn democracy itself down than tolerate a world in which a self-promotional tax-dodging rapist incompetent gets booted after only one term in office. There is not even a scratch of evidence to support that Trump "won" an election in which he was quite soundly defeated. Not a single shred of evidence was found to back the Trump camp's propagandistic claims of "voter fraud." There is no state electoral count that could even be plausibly contested. There's nothing. The notion that Trump "won" is entirely the fabrication of a set of Trump allies who crafted it either to coddle the bruised ego of a delusional decompensating narcissist, as means for overthrowing the United States government, or both.

It is fascist propaganda. It is the equivalent of proclaiming that vaccinations turn you magnetic or that a political opponent is in fact a lizard person. It's not just false, but a toxic attempt to do harm for the sake of doing harm.

That 6 in 10 Republican voters would tell a pollster that maintaining belief in an anti-democratic hoax is evidence of fascist crackpottery now wedged firmly into the heart of Republicanism in general. These people don't believe a hoax out of nowhere. They believe it because dozens of traitorous Republican officials attached themselves to the claims, promoted the claims, and declared that any Republican officials who did not support the hoax should be drummed out of the party.

It's working. Those Republican fascists are getting what they want; a manufactured hoax based on nothing but party propaganda has now got a majority of the party's voters believing that there was a secret plot against them so nefarious that it makes the last of America's presidential elections illegitimate. To lawmakers perhaps the hoax was mostly as a useful excuse for passing yet another round of Jim Crow-themed laws making it harder for citizens to cast their votes, but a majority of those that support them appear to genuinely believe that the last election was invalid based on no evidence other than a clownish Dear Leader and his fascist allies saying so.

Trump led a fascist purge of the Republican Party — now his base is finishing what he started

A new ProPublica investigation highlights the nationwide push by pro-Trump Republican conspiracy theorists to invade, overwhelm, and annex the lowest tiers of their local Republican parties. Their stated goal is to alter how elections are run—and how the votes are counted. ProPublica cites fascist gadfly Steve Bannon as the movement's lead and inspiration, but that is likely giving him too much credit. If Steve Bannon had disappeared under his three shirt collars immediately after being fired by Trump, never to be heard from again, the now conspiracy-dependent Republican and Fox News base would still act exactly as they have.

ProPublica's details of how Republican conspiracy theorists are aggressively seeking to topple any local party figures who do not toe election hoax lines can be better read as a narrative of how fascism, in all its anti-law and pro-violence details, is now bubbling up through the party in a possibly unstoppable fashion.

That should not be surprising. Anyone claiming to be surprised by it is a rube. It was actively encouraged during years of Fox News conspiracy-peddling that reduced all policy debates to battles between the Good—meaning whichever Republicans were in office that day—against the Bad, i.e., an entire Democratic apparatus constructed to oppress white Americans with waves of nonwhite immigrants, institute authoritarian rule by crafting rules that would not let mass murderers so easily acquire guns, oppress conservatism by prohibiting good and proper discrimination, and so forth.

Democrats were simply the Enemy, in every Fox News narrative on any subject. The devices of demonization worked wonders on the base, and were eventually mirrored by nearly every Republican elected official as they themselves tried to substitute arguments about policy with new declarations claiming everyone from schoolteachers to scientists to wealthy Jews were conspiring against them. It is small wonder that new conspiracy hubs soon littered the bottom rungs of the conservative base, or that those bottom rungs would soon grow incensed with any members of the movement not willing to ascribe to each one of the paranoid fantasies they crafted for themselves.

Here are the details of what is happening, as explained in solid detail by ProPublica:

  • Far-right radical Republicans are signing up in droves to be local precinct officers and election inspectors, demanding that elections to be "reformed" based on already-disproven election hoaxes peddled by Trump and Trump's allies.
  • The movement is explicitly conspiracy-based. It explicitly relies on false conspiracy theories and hoax claims as justification for altering how the nation's elections are run. It is heavily associated with the "QAnon" movement, an ever-spiraling set of hoaxes claiming Democrats are behind everything from child sex trafficking rings to Jewish "space lasers."
  • The movement explicitly believes that the last election was invalid and should be overturned—or, barring that, that extreme action must be taken in order to assure Republicans win future elections.
  • The movement explicitly aims to purge party members who do not agree to promote the known-false election hoaxes the movement continues to spread. Those efforts are roundly successful; those purges are indeed taking place.
  • The movement is not shy in suggesting that violence may be necessary if their demands are not met or if their perceived enemies win future elections.

It is a fascist push from the "populist" base up through Republican chain of command. Trump, during his tenure, oversaw a push to purge the Republican Party of those deemed insufficiently loyal to party interests that worked from the Republican National Committee downward. The current push is working from local precincts upwards, ferreting out the "insufficiently loyal" by imposing a single test. Either local party leaders support fraudulent claims that the election was "stolen" from the buffoonish Donald Trump, or they are being purged and replaced with conspiracy crackpots willing to bellow those claims to whichever cameras may be present.

It's the demand that the party adhere to hoaxes over truth that makes it fascist. It's the continued threats of violence premised on seeking revenge or justice against the supposed perpetrators of the conspiracies against them. It's the direct targeting of party officials who speak out to assert, correctly, that the hoaxers' claims are untrue that makes this a fascist movement.

The Republican Party is being reconstructed at all levels around a core of conspiracy theories considered to be more important than the truth—while demonizing and expelling any remaining party officials who disagree. The party's local operations are rebasing themselves around the conceit that elections they do not win have been "rigged" against them, with new vows to nullify future elections based on those hoaxes.

It's a party based on the promotion of false propaganda and the quashing of truth so as to assume "justified" authoritarian powers, one with a militant paramilitary wing willing to wander city streets to knock heads or, indeed, invade government buildings in an effort to erase elections that have gone against them.

Fascism has a long history in America, a history with its own slogans, symbols, and hats. The focus on "reforming" elections so that fewer Americans are allowed to vote, coupled with new laws giving party loyalists more explicit powers to probe and nullify local election results party leaders object to, is an end-game move. The Republican Party's now-radicalized base doesn't intend to let future elections go against them. Either by threatening violence or disputing the validity of elections themselves, they are making their belief that Republican Party power trumps the needs of democracy itself very clear. Believe them.

Rosen testifies behind closed doors on Trump administration coup attempt at Justice Department

The full scope of the Trump administration's efforts to nullify an American presidential election is just beginning to come into view. Trump and his top allies engaged in an orchestrated, three-pronged plan to use federal officials to cast illegitimate doubts on the integrity of the election, explicitly pressure state officials to "find" votes or otherwise alter vote totals, and counter the official congressional acknowledgement of the election's results with an organized mob assembled specifically to "march" to the Capitol and intimidate the lawmakers carrying out that constitutionally mandated process. It was an attempted coup by Trump and his deputies, one that Trump himself continued to press even after that coup had exploded into violence.

The New York Times is now reporting that Trump's acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, gave closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary on Saturday. The subject of the testimony was the interactions between Rosen and Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark as Clark attempted, on Trump's behalf, to press the Justice Department into issuing false claims suggesting that they were investigating election "fraud" of the sort that Trump's propagandists were claiming as the reason for Trump's loss. It was untrue, and the top two Justice officials rejected Clark's repeated proposals.

Transparently, it was an attempt by Clark and other Trump allies to throw the nation into chaos by claiming the election was so flawed that its results must be overturned—a claim which Trump's hard-right team believed would force the assembling Congress to erase the election's counted votes and, somehow, reinstall Trump as quasilegal national leader.

All three elements of the plan came perilously close to succeeding. All three were thwarted only because individuals remained in place who believed the plan to be insanity, sedition, or both. It is the efforts by Trump-aligned officials within the federal government, using the tools granted to them by government, that elevate the events culminating in violence on January 6 from insurrection to attempted coup.

In a pivotal decision, Rosen rejected Clark's attempt, leading to yet another internal administration crisis as Trump mulled whether to fire him and install Clark in his position so that the plan could be carried out.

In a Sunday CNN appearance, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin said Rosen had described Trump as being directly involved in Clark's actions. "It was real, very real, and it was very specific."

Significantly, the Times reports that Rosen scheduled his testimony "quickly" so as to allow them to go forward "before any players could ask the courts to block the proceedings." That may be a self-serving interpretation of events. As emptywheel notes, Clark's efforts to overturn the election and Trump's aborted move to fire Rosen and install Clark as acting attorney general was the subject of news reporting in January, even before Trump's second impeachment trial took place. The Senate Judiciary began their requests for documents pertaining to the plan near-immediately, and have been battling the Department of Justice for testimony ever since.

A half-year delay in gaining testimony about a "very real" and "very specific" attempt to overthrow the duly elected next administration by coup does not make it sound like anyone involved is attempting to provide evidence "quickly."

Most significantly of all, perhaps, is that the United States Senate could have investigated the Trump team's plot during the impeachment trial meant to gather evidence and come to judgment on Trump's behavior. For the second time, it did not do so. It avoided examining the evidence, rushing through the trial to again get to the inevitable close of having nearly all Republican lawmakers back Trump's actions, even after they had resulted in violence.

The job now falls to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection: The moves Clark, Meadows, and other Trump officials made to falsely discredit the election results were intended to provide the backing by which willing insurrectionists could justify their demands that the Constitution be tossed aside for the sake of Trump's reinstallation. The job also falls to federal investigators who now need to examine—swiftly—the criminality of the schemes.

It was not, however, a "Trump" coup. Donald Trump, a known liar and semi-delusional blowhard, had few government powers that would allow him to singlehandedly erase state election counts or make official his declarations that he had lost, after a disastrous single term, only through "fraud" concocted against him. It required the cooperation of top Republican allies, of Republican Party officials, of lawmakers, and others that would press the false claims and work both within and outside of government to give them false legitimacy. It was a Republican coup, an act of sedition backed with specific acts from Mark Meadows, from Jeffrey Clark, from senators such as Josh Hawley, from state Republican officials who eagerly seized on the conspiracy claims specifically so that they could be used to overturn elections they had lost, and from everyday Republican supporters who decided that the zero-evidence nationalist propaganda they were swallowing up was justification enough to storm the U.S. Capitol by force in an overt attempt to erase a democratic election.

Here we sit, waiting with bated breath as evidence dribbles out describing the full scope of what the entire world saw in realtime, from last November to January: top Republican officials spreading knowingly false, propagandistic claims intended to undermine the integrity of our democratic elections so as to justify simply changing that election's results and declaring themselves the victors. It was a fascist act. It continues in the states, as state Republican lawmakers use the same brazenly false claims peddled by Clark to impose new hurdles to voting meant to keep at least some fraction of the Americans who voted against the party last time from being able to vote at all the next time.

A bit more urgency is required, here.

A third of states have enacted new voter suppression laws since the Republican insurrection: analysis

Last November, a Republican president who oversaw 500,000 unnecessary American deaths and a resulting economic collapse lost his reelection bid. Rather than a begrudging admission that a seemingly delusional compulsive liar with no skills for the job and a record of scandal and chaos was a piss-poor candidate who lost because Americans had lost patience for his bellowing performance art, countless top members of the Republican Party immediately, and at Donald Trump's behest, declared that actually the only reason Republicanism lost at the polls was because the entire world conspired against them to secretly rig the election against Burping Authoritarianism.

As an excuse for a poor performance by a singularly unimpressive buffoon, it would have been merely pathetic. The moment the Republican Party began to act on their own false propaganda, crafting law after law predicated on false "fraud" that all aimed squarely at throwing up new obstacles to voting in communities that voted against them the last time around, it became an attack on democracy itself.

The Brennan Center for Justice now identifies one third of all American states as having passed new laws blocking access to the polls in the months since the last election. That's not laws proposed. That's laws already passed in Republican Party attempts to win future elections by specifically targeting working class, poor, communities of color, and other groups with new restrictions that make voting slightly harder or slightly more complicated.

Because mail-in voting during a deadly pandemic swung sharply against the Republican presidential candidate, mail-in voting is being sharply curtailed by Republican state legislatures. Because early voting and expanded poll hours both have allowed voters a chance to evade hours-long lines on election days—lines which continue to be conspicuously commonplace in neighborhoods of color even as polling places in nearby Republican-leaning communities enjoy more resources and few such delays—Republican legislatures are slashing early voting locations and times so as to force non-Republican leaning voters back into the long lines racist governments had previously engineered.

Other laws have placed new restrictions on providing any help to voters, whether it be help seeking ballots, help returning ballots, or even providing food or water to voters stuck in the hours-long lines that Republican lawmakers have insisted on preserving. New paperwork requirements present new hurdles for working class voters to overcome, hurdles of time, money, or both.

All of it is based on the Big Lie: A Republican Party-backed declaration that the last election was "stolen" from the incompetent Republican candidate, therefore justifying drastic nationwide action to do ... the same sort of vote-suppressing activities that the party has relied on for the last half century.

Federal action is currently being stymied by, of course, the same Republican lawmakers who united to save Trump from impeachment after he goaded violent insurrection with the exact propaganda being used by Republican state legislatures to justify new voter suppression laws now. The conventions of the Senate allow a minority—currently set at 40 senators, after multiple past changes to the number that were each themselves a response to a rump of racist lawmakers blocking past federal action to enforce basic civil rights protections—to block new federal protections giving all communities uniform minimum voting standards.

What's still not getting through the heads of some lawmakers, however, is just how extensive current Republican Party moves to reshape our elections truly are. A third of U.S. states have already seen voters placed under new, suppressive restrictions. Republican Party leaders are continuing to push completely false propaganda asserting that they "won" a presidential election they did not win. House and Senate Republicans continue their attempts to sabotage a probe of the resulting violent insurrection, in large part because any such probe of necessity must document how the party's provably false claims were spread to insurrectionist ears.

Civil rights activists are warning that attempts to "out-organize" new suppressive laws will not necessarily succeed. The point of widespread Republican voter suppression is to knock even the smallest possible fraction of Americans off the voting roles; not every one of the voters affected can be made whole again. Activists are thus beginning to express their frustration with this Democratic dawdling.

There may be a tradition, in the Senate, of using the filibuster to block new civil rights protections so as to allow the efforts of racist state lawmakers to continue unimpeded. There's also a tradition of altering the rules of the filibuster when it is being abused for that purpose.

There may be no more urgent time to protect voting rights than in the aftermath of a violent insurrection premised squarely on overturning an election rather than abide by voters' will. The anti-democratic party that goaded an attempted toppling of government by promoting false claims is using those same false claims to justify new roadblocks between voters and future ballot boxes. Both acts must be rebuffed.

Trump falsely claims Biden may yet be removed from office as Republican lawmakers attack Jan. 6 probes

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is retiring. He doesn't need to shine Donald Trump's boots, or engage in fantastical stories of supposed election fraud. He doesn't need to run interference for a movement that goaded supporters into a frenzy by claiming that even elections themselves were now illegitimate, causing violent believers to launch a direct attack on government to nullify a Trump loss. Anything he is or isn't doing right now he is doing because he wants to.

Right now, Sen. Pat Toomey wants America to stop probing the causes of a violent insurrection. Investigating how it happened is just a ploy by Democrats to hurt Republicans, he says. It is a "constant reminder about a terrible episode in our history."


Aside from that whole sequence being the product of someone who deep down must just be a terrible person, I mean honestly how do you even look at yourself in the bathroom mirror in the morning after a yesterday of making arguments like that, there is a rather fundamental flaw in Toomey's logic. The insurrection attempt isn't "history" yet, because it ain't over. A single day before Pat Toomey went on television to claim that investigations of the attack's origins were merely political gamesmanship, the insurrection's top orchestrator and Republicanism's buffoonish Dear Leader figure was yet again claiming that the election had been rigged, that the people who were looking to nullify it were patriots, and that all of it may yet return him to presidential power, toppling the current sitting president, the Constitution, and our democracy in one fell swoop.

Have you met Donald Trump, Sen. Pat Toomey? I believe you have. Donald Trump doesn't think that the insurrection is over. Donald Trump is still goading on crowds with the precise lies that launched a domestic terrorist assault on the Capitol to begin with.

Do you want to revise your remarks, Pat Toomey?







In a speech to the faithful less than 24 hours before Toomey's appearance, Trump again led a crowd into booing his own vice president, who he continues to attack for not conspiring to nullify election results. He continues to attack the other figures hunted by the mob that day. He continues to claim the election was stolen from him, using the same false claims he, his allies, and a majority of Republican lawmakers themselves used to justify nullifying election results.

And, more importantly still, he continues to insist to his rabid and delusional base that the election may yet be nullified, returning him to power.

The attempt to topple democracy by throwing out the results of an election that did not go the Republican Party's way is not just "history." It is ongoing. Sen. Pat Toomey is himself assisting in it by demanding that the causes of the pro-Trump violence by a pro-Trump mob bent on nullifying an election be left unexamined—that they be ignored, so that his party can better focus on demonizing the Democratic president Trump continues to rail against.

Pat Toomey does not have to do this. He does not have to be a hack. He does not have to ally himself with a fascist movement that continues to push for a return to power by any means necessary. He does not have to do any of this.

And he is doing it anyway. "History" will lump that in with all the rest, presuming Toomey's party does not get its way and democracy does indeed survive this explicitly fascist moment.

Pat Toomey was one of just seven Republican senators who agreed, back in February, that Donald Trump should be impeached for inciting the insurrection that Toomey now says needs no further review. He is not stupid. He is not reflexively a coward. But he still seems more intent on deflecting blame for the violence away from his party's top officials and fellow lawmakers than he does on ensuring that the insurrection truly fails. At the moment, the insurrection has not failed. The man most responsible for it is even now giving new speeches to new crowds in which he claims he may yet be returned to office—if only his allies have the extraconstitutional courage to bring that change about.


Billl Barr dishes on McConnell's cowardice in self-serving version of events

In The Atlantic, journalist Jonathan Karl gives us a short look at Trump attorney general William Barr's last weeks in power according to William Barr himself, who was kind enough to grace Karl with a series of interviews out of the innate goodness of his heart. Oh, and because Barr is now seen by many as the most thoroughly partisan and corrupt attorney general in a generation, which is going to seriously cut down on future speaking fees if he can't figure out how to massage the record back into something vaguely defensible.

The actual news out of it is Not Damn Much, but this is a good opportunity to revisit the First Rule Of News Consumption: Be aware of the source. From the nation's top powerbrokers to man-on-the-street interviewees, anyone talking to a reporter about their own doings is going to tell that reporter the most flattering version of events they think they can get away with. Many of the most important details about what Trump and his core team did in their attempts to overturn a United States election remain murky because those most in the know, like ex-House Republican turned chief of staff Mark Meadows, are clamming up.

What we can learn from the Atlantic story is that according to William Barr, William Barr is great. He's always the bravest and most integrity-filled person in the room, doing the right things despite pressure on all sides and so on and so forth. This isn't exactly news. What might be news is that the put-upon Barr believes the time is right to mete out a bit of punishment on everyone else.

Here's what we learn from Karl's interviews with Barr, then:

First, Barr wants you to know that Sen. Mitch McConnell is a gutless coward. Barr is willing to recount several conversations with McConnell in which McConnell, who in public spent most of the post-election period dodging questions about Trump's increasingly outrageous and dangerous claims claims, pleaded with Barr to be the one who contradicted Trump by telling the world that Trump's election "fraud" claims were utter bullshit.

McConnell told Barr in mid-November that Trump's hoaxes were "damaging" to both the country and to the Republican Party—no guesses on which of those was the more pressing concern, for Mitch—but Republicans "cannot be frontally attacking [Trump] right now," because Mitch and the others were trying to keep on Trump's good side for fear an open declaration of Biden's victory would result in an angry Trump sabotaging Republican election chances in the two Georgia Senate runoff races. Barr was "in a better position to inject some reality" into Trump's claims of election fraud.

Barr replied, according to Barr, that he was "going to do it at the appropriate time." So here we have one slightly interesting tidbit, then: Even in Barr's own accounting, he was urged to combat Trump's "damaging" election hoaxes and could only muster up an assurance that he would be getting right on that ... eventually. After it played out a bit more. In Barr's account, he was bravely using the Department of Justice to gather evidence of which claims might be true or might be false; in the actual news stories of each day, the claims being peddled by Trump's minions were brazenly fraudulent to begin with.

The second tidbit is that William Barr is, along with multiple other people inside Trump's inner circle, perfectly willing to tell Karl that after Barr eventually did publicly nix Trump's claims Trump became quite batshit unhinged, when finally meeting Barr again. Trump had "the eyes and mannerism of a madman," sez a source, which we can probably take to mean "even more than usual," and Barr compared him to the madman brigadier general of Dr. Strangelove.

"You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump," Trump is said to have told Barr, which is a pretty dead-on example of a malignant narcissist in the throes of a decompensating episode. You there, who have asserted that reality is something other than what I have claimed it to be? You must have been plotting against me all along.

Great, super. So again we have a situation in which everyone around Trump was pretty damn certain he had gone off the rails, jumped the trolley, sprung a brain-leak, and had become devoid of marbles but nobody in government, from Secret Service on down, was willing to toss him in a burlap sack, tie it shut, and declare that Mike Pence was taking charge because the sitting president had developed a serious case of bananapants.

The rest is not of note. Barr says Barr acted with integrity, despite everyone else in Trump's orbit pressuring him to help topple the national government. Barr says Mitch was a spineless weasel who wanted someone else to save the country from potential violence so Mitch wouldn't have to. Barr says Trump was an unhinged, raging monster but Barr, having Integrity and stuff, was loyally willing to stay and then two weeks later was forced to resign because of the same Integrity after Trump continued to push the same hoaxes and the likely consequences of those acts began to become more and more concrete.

How do we sum all this up, then, properly taking into account Barr's actual record of assisting Trump in hiding evidence from Congress, in fishing expeditions against Trump's prime political foe, in using the resources of his office to help discredit American intelligence officials and in assisting Trump's government-wide purge of inspector generals, watchdogs, and other whistleblowers—all the petty corruptions William Barr didn't see fit to highlight, in his own interpretation of those last days? It appears that William Barr decided after Donald Trump's loss that no matter what else William Barr was willing to do for conservatism, he wasn't going to go to jail for Trump or get caught up in actual crossfire if Trump succeeded in goading violent revolution.

Not so much "integrity," then, as a decision that he wasn't going to go down with a sinking ship. Self-interest is the usual reason powerful people recount their lives to waiting reporters, and Barr has more damage control to do than most.

Trump's Republican allies wanted to sabotage government. They largely succeeded

A New York Times story on the ongoing effects of Team Trump's spectacular mismanagement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is notable for two reasons. First, because of a seeming unanimity in assigning blame: Everyone involved who is not former HUD Head Ben Carson or speaking on behalf of Carson pins a good chunk of the blame on Carson's incompetence and lack of interest. That left a void eagerly filled by lower-level party apparatchiks who did care what HUD did, in that they wanted HUD to stop doing almost all of it.

And second, because it really hammers home just how effective this Republican sabotage of government has become, now that it's had years of plotting and strategy behind it. HUD as a department was subjected to the same party-devoted incompetence, ideological contempt for expertise, and government-by-retaliation that has defined every other significant conservative initiative from the Iraq War and rebuilding to the Jared Kushner Carnival of Solvin' Things, and the result is a federal agency that is in large part unable to carry out its duties, despite it being extremely important that it carry out those duties during a national health crisis.

A good chunk of that dysfunction was implemented on purpose. A good chunk of it was not so much on purpose as the natural result of leadership that is actively hostile to the notion that government should do anything to help anyone. (The Times singles out Republican ideologue Anna Maria Farías as a key figure in both.)

The end result is now a department that's been gutted of personnel, stripped of career experts, and one that current HUD Head Marcia Fudge is finding it difficult to restaff.

Want to drown government in a bathtub? Cut funding until each department's mission becomes impossible to carry out, send in party-loyal incompetents and witch hunters to ferret out any expert whose knowledge threatens to undermine the crafted party talking points, and wait. So long as you can damage each agency faster than experts can rebuild it, you'll win. Public faith in government will ebb as your enforced incompetence slows agency response and willfully makes public problems worse, upon which you can campaign on further cutting funds and expertise because everybody knows the agency is incompetent, repeat.

None of this, it should be emphasized, was Trump. Demands to underfund the agency and hollow out staffing were and are Republican demands; Trump himself never bothered to learn what each federal agency even did, much less had deep thoughts on their restructuring. Carson may have been utterly incompetent, lacking any relevant knowledge or experience or even interest, but he was also a Republican Party hero with or without Trump and installing ideologues with zero relevant experience is a central tenet of Republicanism itself. Each post is assigned an ideological placeholder whose only mission is to thwart whatever the career staff believes should be done while writing up new documents declaring that actually this could all be solved by [longstanding conservative claim] that never worked before but that's only because all the experts were mean and rude and secretly put gum on the seats all those other times.

The demand that government be defunded, destaffed, broken up, its tasks given to for-profit corporate enterprises and the withheld funds be distributed to the wealthy, has been the Republican demand for, at this point, decades. It is the reason there has never been a serious Republican health care reform proposal, even as the party swore up and down it was inches from having one. It is the reason that Republicans are, as we speak, demanding a continued defunding of national infrastructure, even during crisis. If the roads are paved, citizens will be happy with government. If the United States gets the sort of mass transit options or high-speed internet access that citizens in other nations take for granted, Americans will like it.

A decaying bridge is a signal to all that "government," in whole, is incompetent. Nobody's going to agree to privatize every road and highway in America, putting up toll booths and letting a future Amazon of infrastructure decide where you can go and how much it will cost you to get there, if things are going well.

It's going to take years of effort to restaff HUD, and it may take a decade to cobble together the sort of expertise that Republican saboteurs hunted for and drove out during four short years of incompetent autocratic buffoonery. Even that presumes no further sabotage by Republican leaders, and a glance at current House and Senate Republican leaders and their newest demands puts to rest any hope of that happening.

BRAND NEW STORIES
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by fontsempire.com.