Frontpage news and politics

Pennsylvania's Doug Mastriano is constitutionally disqualified from holding office: columnist

The Republican nominee for the governorship of Pennsylvania, State Senator Doug Mastriano, was an active participant in the January 6th, 2021 Capitol insurrection. Having received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Mastriano cruised to victory in last week's GOP primary, setting up a November showdown with State Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic Party's liberal candidate.

Legal experts, however, are demanding that Mastriano be removed from the ballot, citing Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution which forbids individuals who try to overthrow the federal government from holding elected office:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Writing in The Nation on Monday, national affairs correspondent Jon Nichols recalled Mastriano's involvement in Trump's coup and that he "does not seem to be cooperating" with the bipartisan congressional commission tasked with investigating the deadly attack.

"Video from the event shows Mastriano crossing police lines outside the US Capitol," Nichols pointed out, although Mastriano "claims he did not physically enter the building." Nichols also noted that Mastriano's campaign is "employing alleged insurrectionists."

According to Nichols, one prominent watchdog organization has crafted a "compelling case" against Mastriano and has petitioned Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Leigh Chapman to invoke the Insurrectionist Disqualification Clause, which was adopted after the Civil War, to constitutionally disqualify him from ascending to the highest political station in the Keystone State.

“Mastriano is an experienced military veteran who has studied and written on ‘hybrid warfare’ strategies that relies [sic] on ‘ambiguity’ and disinformation to create instability. Many of these strategies were used during the lead-up to and the execution of the January 6 insurrection,” Free Speech for People wrote in a recent letter to Chapman. “In other words, Mastriano was specifically aware of the consequences that his actions and Trump’s actions were likely to have on fomenting and guiding the insurrection and the Stop the Steal movement’s ongoing efforts to subvert the 2020 election.”

The group's senior counsel Courtney Hostetler added that “when Senator Mastriano engaged in the January 6 insurrection that threatened our democracy and put countless lives at risk, he violated the oath that he made to defend and protect the Constitution. Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment is clear: this disqualifies him from running for public office.”

This effort is not without its challenges. Two current members of Congress – Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) and Madison Cawthorn (R-North Carolina), both of whom expressed solidarity with Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election – have had their viabilities tested in court. But the presiding judges dismissed the filings against them.

Cawthorn lost his primary for reelection last week. Greene, meanwhile, will find out if voters intend on giving her a second term in the Peach State's Tuesday GOP primary.

Read the full article here.

'More weapons won’t save us': Why Europe is at a crossroads

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“Neither war that destroys us, nor peace that oppresses us”: This historic anti-war slogan of the Spanish feminist movement holds one of the fundamental keys to building a horizon of peace. It claims that peace is not just a ceasefire, nor is it surrender to or silence before those who impose their wars on others. Rather, peace is the building of a foundation for fostering relations based on mutual respect and cooperation.

This article was authored by Nora Garcia Nieves and produced by the Morning Star and Globetrotter.

Such an idea is neither naive nor impossible. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Building a new path based on a lasting peace is the only possible alternative for the sustainability of all people and the planet. The opposite of this means a silencing of the people, the loss of human lives, a divided world, permanent war, living in constant fear of nuclear weapons, and misery for the people affected by war.

Those who claim to defend freedom do not want those who are not like them to enjoy it. What we are facing is an “either with me or against me” mentality—or, as Josep Borrell, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs and security policy, recently said, “We will remember those who are not by our side.”

Freedom, therefore, is not solely a choice between two options, but the possibility of creating our own option. That is why it is essential that, in the face of the mainstream perception of the world that tries to rob us of the ability to envision a new alternative, we must articulate one where everyone can fit in—where war is not inevitable.

‘Europe Is Indefensible’

In the current context, with Russia having invaded Ukraine, we are surrounded by a sense of amnesia and the feeling of having returned to the 20th century. Once again, there is war, hatred, and the familiar rhetoric of division of “us” against the “others.” It is shocking that in the face of the war in Ukraine, Fortress Europe—which in its response to the refugees and migrants of war-torn and poor countries in the Global South has turned the Mediterranean Sea into a mass grave; which illegally carries out pushbacks against migrants; and which locks asylum-seekers in detention centers, without any access to lawyers—now finds it is so easy to make changes in policies and to open its doors to white and blue-eyed people. The war in Ukraine has proven the EU to be perfectly capable of receiving refugees, but for those trapped in Libya—the country destroyed by NATO—there are no safe routes, no trains, and no free buses. This shows us again: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

All people have the right to flee war and rebuild their lives, like the Afghan, Kurdish, and Syrian people who made their way to Moria, the crowded refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos that burned down during the pandemic in 2020, with almost 13,000 people living in the camps left without any shelter, and where 10-year-old children have tried to commit suicide due to violence, hunger, and overcrowding. The attitude from colonial Europe’s history has endured, reiterating that there are lives that matter and lives that don’t matter.

But not so many years ago, thousands of Spanish families had to flee fascism, which also persecuted “the others,” a categorization that included the Roma people, members of the LGBTQ community, and supporters of the Spanish Republic. As Aimé Césaire wrote in his Discourse on Colonialism, “Europe is indefensible.” The level of hypocrisy is already astounding, and yet we continue down this path where we talk about peace while we send weapons to the warring nations, we talk about democracy while we support censorship, we talk about human rights while we dismantle the United Nations, we talk about freedom while we ignore the creep of fascism. And at the center of all this is NATO. As if it were not enough to surrender our sovereignty to the capitalist market, we must also surrender it to wars waged by the United States.

‘You Can’t Eat Dignity, but People Without Dignity Get Down on Their Knees and End Up Without Food’

Julio Anguita González, the late mayor of Córdoba and the influential political leader within Spain’s left-wing, famously said, “You can’t eat dignity, but people without dignity get down on their knees and end up without food.” These words echo in my head as I try to figure out what is happening in Europe, or more importantly, what Europe is and how we can make it the opposite of that. But to understand what Europe is today, we must remember that the debates that built the consensus toward this European Union were laid out in abstract and aspirational terms, associating modernity with neoliberalism. While the people became enchanted by an empty European identity, the foundation for an economy separated from political and democratic power was built.

Like the little mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen’s popular fairy tale, we sold our voices for a romantic idea of love—in our case, for a sense of belonging to a vague European identity. While we were voiceless, the EU’s manufacturers filled the gap between economic and social structures with institutions that foster inequalities and a European security project that answers to Washington. The EU’s decisions in the face of the 2008 financial crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, or the war in Ukraine cannot be any further from the real and daily security needs of its people. The lesson we should have taken from the little mermaid, however, is that without our voices, there can be no real love.

The Fight Against Amnesia

Those of us who have fought against historical amnesia know that we don’t need military alliances, because war is a terrible symptom, but it isn’t the disease plaguing the world. To remove it, Europe urgently needs a heart transplant—an anti-fascist and anti-colonial heart, one that is responsible for the world it builds and the people who live in it and come to it. So how can we make Europe the opposite of what it is now? First, by assuming that we cannot postpone opening our eyes any longer, seeing Europe for what it is, and tackling the most difficult task: building a path of our own. With memory, we will be able to undertake that task, because it has been tried before. Let’s listen to the past, and let’s make the present better. That journey goes from anti-war activist Rosa Luxemburg to the Non-Aligned Movement, BRICS, Pan-Africanism, and the struggle of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. All this history reminds us that the struggle to build an alternative path to peace is full of courage, and that those who fought for peace learned on their way that their will also counts.

Because where there’s a will, there’s a way.

More weapons won’t save us—we will.

Author Bio: Nora Garcia Nieves, member of No Cold War, lives in Madrid, where she is an activist working in the feminist, internationalist, and cultural struggle.

Donald Trump billed Secret Service $30,000+ to stay at his Las Vegas hotel following mass shooting: report

On Monday, The Daily Beast reported that a watchdog group's investigation found former President Donald Trump made over $30,000 from his trip to visit victims of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.

Specifically, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that Trump used one of his own hotels for the trip.

"Records obtained by CREW through Freedom of Information show the Secret Service spent $31,191 to stay at Trump Hotel Las Vegas on Nov. 1, 2017 for 'POTUS/FLOTUS' — an expense that lines up with the time Trump and first lady Melania visited shooting victims," reported Alice Tecotzky. "Vice President Mike Pence and his wife traveled to Vegas a few days later and also appeared to stay at Trump’s hotel. CREW’s documents show a hotel charge of almost $16,000 on Nov. 2 for 'VPOTUS and SLOTUS visit.'"

During the course of his presidency, Trump had the Secret Service pay at least $1.7 million at various properties he owned. Longstanding ethics rules have required the Secret Service to pay fair market value for services they use while protecting the president, so as to prevent agents from taking advantage of their office — but Trump turned this on its head by having them stay at properties he owned, which allowed his family to make money off the arrangement.

The 2017 Las Vegas incident was the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States, where a single gunman set up a modified semiautomatic rifle from the window of the Mandalay Bay resort and opened fire on a music festival on the Strip below, killing 60 people and wounding over 400.

The massacre was one of the few shootings in recent years to actually trigger federal policy action, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms instituting a ban on so-called "bump stocks," a device the shooter had used to effectively convert his semiautomatic rifle into a fully automatic machine gun.

Shell consultant resigns & blasts oil giant for 'operating beyond the design limits of our planetary systems'

A long-time Shell consultant based in the United Kingdom quit with a bang on Monday, condemning the fossil fuel giant for its dangerous efforts to expand oil and gas production despite numerous scientific warnings about the need for swift decarbonization to avert climate disaster.

"Shell's stated safety ambition is to 'do no harm,'" Caroline Dennett, who worked with the company for 11 years as a senior safety consultant, said in a video shared on LinkedIn, which echoed points made in a resignation letter she emailed to CEO Ben Van Beurden and 1,400 employees.

This so-called "Goal Zero" pledge "sounds honorable," said Dennett. "But they are completely failing on it. They know that continued oil and gas extraction causes extreme harms to our climate, to our environment, and to people."

"Shell is operating beyond the design limits of our planetary systems," Dennett wrote in an email obtained by Politico. "Shell is not implementing steps to mitigate the known risks. Shell is not putting environmental safety before production."

Dennett cited the findings of the International Energy Agency (IEA), which made clear last year that achieving a net-zero energy system by 2050—thus giving the world an even chance of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels by 2100, beyond which impacts grow increasingly catastrophic—requires halting new dirty energy projects and accelerating the shift to clean power.

Although the IEA stated unequivocally in May 2021 that "investment in new fossil fuel supply" and "new oil and natural gas fields" are incompatible with its net-zero pathway, Shell acknowledged around the same time—in a document purportedly outlining its own net-zero strategy—that it plans to explore new extraction projects until 2025.

Moreover, in an attempt to capitalize on Russia's war on Ukraine, which has thrown Europe's energy market into disarray, Shell has been lobbying the U.K. government to let it drill a new offshore gas field in the North Sea.

"I can no longer work for a company that ignores all the alarms and dismisses the risks of climate change and ecological collapse," wrote Dennett.

On LinkedIn, Dennett encouraged Shell's leadership "to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really believe their vision for more oil and gas extraction secures a safe future for humanity. "

"We must end all new extraction projects immediately and rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, and toward clean renewable energy sources," she added. "Shell should be using all its capital, technical, and human power to lead this transition, but they have no plan to do this."

Ex-Southern Baptist Convention chief calls group's 'evil' sex scandal a 'criminal conspiracy' and 'apocalypse'

Russell Moore, the former President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling the massive sexual abuse – including child molestation and rape – in the SBC an “apocalypse.” He says, “I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in America and the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination.

Some of that abuse is detailed in a 288-page third-party report released over the weekend that states in part, “for many years,” a few senior Southern Baptist Convention executive committee (EC) leaders, “along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse,” “closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations.”

As a result, “survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”

The report names several past presidents of the SBC including this example:

“Former SBC President Paige Patterson was terminated from his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 after it was revealed that he told a student not to report a rape in 2003 and, in 2015, emailed his intention to meet with another student who had reported an assault, with no other officials present, so he could ‘break her down.'”

“This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse,” writes Moore at Christianity Today, where he now serves as the director of the Public Theology Project. “The abuse investigation has uncovered more evil than even I imagined.”

Moore says he had called for the investigation, which he now says “uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.”

Its conclusions “are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).”

As Moore reveals, Southern Baptist Convention leaders had documentation – a database – of over 700 cases of sexual abuse, and instead of acting on them by reporting them to the police or preventing those who committed abuse from being in positions where they could continue the abuse, “nothing was done” except to use the database to protect senior leaders.

“Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves.”

Moore, who with his wife left the Southern Baptist Convention last year, says he has rage wondering “how many children were raped, how many people were assaulted, how many screams were silenced, while we boasted that no one could reach the world for Jesus like we could.”

David Perdue wants Stacey Abrams to 'go back where she came from' and says she is 'demeaning her own race'

Former Sen. David Perdue, a Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, accused Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams of "demeaning her own race" because she had suggested a plan for creating higher-paying jobs.

Perdue made the remarks while appearing at a campaign stop in Georgia on Monday afternoon.

"Did y'all see what Stacey said this weekend?" he asked the crowd. "She said that Georgia is the worst place in the country to live. Hey, she ain't from here. Let her go back where she came from if she doesn't like it here."

"The only thing she wants is to be president of the United States," he continued. "When she told Black farmers, you don't need to be on the farm. And she told Black workers in hospitality and all this, you don't need to be -- she is demeaning her own race when it comes to that."

Perdue added: "I am really over this. She should never be considered material for governor of any state, much less our state, where she hates to live."

Perdue was most likely referring to remarks Abrams made about agricultural work in 2018. Abrams later clarified that she was "the only candidate with detailed plans to invest in rural Georgia by creating good-paying jobs, expanding access to broadband, and investing in rural educators and students."

Watch the video below from John Fredericks Radio Network.

Legal scholar slams Clarence Thomas’ disturbing 'conflicts of interest' and 'naked partisanship'

Between the likely demise of Roe v. Wade, Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, and the hyper-partisan antics of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Federalist Society and former President Donald Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court has found its reputation becoming increasingly tarnished. And to make matters worse, Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, is a far-right activist/conspiracy theorist who wanted the 2020 presidential election results overturned —a conflict of interest that Austin Sarat, known for his expertise on jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College, addresses in an article published by the Verdict website on May 23.

“Seldom in recent memory has the off-the-bench conduct of a Supreme Court justice or their spouse caused the kind of trouble generated by the recent behavior of Clarence and Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas,” Sarat explains. “They have exposed the naked partisanship that lies just below the surface of today’s Supreme Court. They have lent both tacit and overt support to former President Trump’s election lie. Justice Thomas also has undermined the appearance of collegiality that justices typically carefully cultivate. The justice and his wife have damaged the Court at a time of declining public confidence in this institution.”

According to Sarat, the “partisanship” of Ginni Thomas “goes well beyond anything done by any previous Supreme Court spouse.”

“In 2009, she founded Liberty Central, a conservative political advocacy group,” Sarat notes. “The New York Times notes that the group was dedicated to opposing what she characterizes as the leftist ‘tyranny’ of President Obama and Democrats in Congress. The Times described her work as ‘the most partisan role ever for a spouse of a justice on the nation’s highest court.’”

Sarat continues, “Ginni Thomas endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. She hoped to see an experienced, conservative, anti-establishment combatant occupy the Oval Office…. Throughout the Trump Administration, she played an active role in lobbying for various conservative projects and advising the former president on personnel matters.”

Even more “unsettling,” Sarat adds, is Ginni Thomas’ “role in aiding Trump’s effort to subvert the very constitutional order that her husband has sworn to protect.”

“News reports indicate that she exchanged at least 29 text messages with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, ‘urging disruption of the November 2020 election results favoring President Joe Biden,’” Sarat notes. “And, according to the Washington Post, she actively lobbied Arizona legislators ‘to set aside Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory and choose ‘a clean slate of Electors.’”

Sarat continues, “As the Post puts it, ‘In sending the e-mails, Thomas played a role in the extraordinary scheme to keep Trump in office by substituting the will of legislatures for the will of voters.’ This activity raises a serious conflict of interest problem for Justice Thomas in any case involving the 2020 election.”

During a recent speech, Sarat notes, Thomas made a “thinly veiled attack” on Chief Justice John Roberts.

“The once famously taciturn justice is now saying too much about his particular brand of ‘grievance conservatism,’” Sarat observes. “But he is remaining silent about much more important conflicts of interest created by his wife’s efforts to undo the results of a free and fair election. What Justice Thomas says, and refuses to say, reveals a lot about his faltering commitment to the rule of law and to constitutional governance in this country.”

New York Times opinion writer Jesse Wegman is equally critical of Justice Thomas in an op-ed published on May 15.

“There is no question that the Court has become politicized, to its and the nation’s great detriment,” Wegman writes. “But to be subjected to a lecture on that fact by Clarence Thomas, of all people, is like listening to a plutocrat lounging by his infinity pool in a bathrobe, eating a gold-plated steak while bemoaning the horrors of extreme income inequality. Has it really not occurred to the justice that by giving partisan political speeches in partisan political environments, he is precisely what is damaging the integrity of the Supreme Court?”

Wegman concludes the op-ed by stressing that the Supreme Court’s reputation will continue to suffer as long as Justice Thomas behaves in an unapologetically “partisan” fashion.

“The Supreme Court is not there to vindicate the demands of the majority, but neither is it there to thumb its nose at that majority again and again, in a nakedly partisan way,” Wegman argues. “If Justice Thomas is genuinely concerned about the eroding faith in his own institution, the first thing he can do is look in the mirror. The next thing he can do — I’ll say it again — is step aside.

'Permanent war has cannibalized the country' and is a 'nail in the coffin of Pax Americana': Chris Hedges

Permanent war has cannibalized the country. It has created a social, political, and economic morass. Each new military debacle is another nail in the coffin of Pax Americana.

The United States, as the near-unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high-speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

Democrat or Republican. It does not matter. War is the raison d’état of the state. Extravagant military expenditures are justified in the name of “national security.” The nearly $40 billion allocated for Ukraine, most of it going into the hands of weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, is only the beginning. Military strategists, who say the war will be long and protracted, are talking about infusions of $4 or $5 billion in military aid a month to Ukraine. We face existential threats. But these do not count. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in fiscal year 2023 is $10.675 billion. The proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $11.881 billion. Ukraine alone gets more than double that amount. Pandemics and the climate emergency are afterthoughts. War is all that matters. This is a recipe for collective suicide.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

None of these opposition forces, which did not reverse the permanent war economy but curbed its excesses, now exist. The two ruling parties have been bought by corporations, especially military contractors. The press is anemic and obsequious to the war industry. Propagandists for permanent war, largely from right-wing think tanks lavishly funded by the war industry, along with former military and intelligence officials, are exclusively quoted or interviewed as military experts. NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment May 13 where officials from Center for a New American Security (CNAS) simulated what a war with China over Taiwan might look like. The co-founder of CNAS, Michèle Flournoy, who appeared in the “Meet the Press” war games segment and was considered by Biden to run the Pentagon, wrote in 2020 in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. needs to develop “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours.”

The handful of anti-militarists and critics of empire from the left, such as Noam Chomsky, and the right, such as Ron Paul, have been declared persona non grata by a compliant media. The liberal class has retreated into boutique activism where issues of class, capitalism and militarism are jettisoned for “cancel culture,” multiculturalism and identity politics. Liberals are cheerleading the war in Ukraine. At least the inception of the war with Iraq saw them join significant street protests. Ukraine is embraced as the latest crusade for freedom and democracy against the new Hitler. There is little hope, I fear, of rolling back or restraining the disasters being orchestrated on a national and global level. The neoconservatives and liberal interventionists chant in unison for war. Biden has appointed these warmongers, whose attitude to nuclear war is terrifyingly cavalier, to run the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department.

Since all we do is war, all proposed solutions are military. This military adventurism accelerates the decline, as the defeat in Vietnam and the squandering of $8 trillion in the futile wars in the Middle East illustrate. War and sanctions, it is believed, will cripple Russia, rich in gas and natural resources. War, or the threat of war, will curb the growing economic and military clout of China.

These are demented and dangerous fantasies, perpetrated by a ruling class that has severed itself from reality. No longer able to salvage their own society and economy, they seek to destroy those of their global competitors, especially Russia and China. Once the militarists cripple Russia, the plan goes, they will focus military aggression on the Indo-Pacific, dominating what Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, referring to the Pacific, called “the American Sea.”

You cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The U.S., whose growth rate has fallen to below 2 percent, while China’s growth rate is 8.1 percent, has turned to military aggression to bolster its sagging economy. If the U.S. can sever Russian gas supplies to Europe, it will force Europeans to buy from the United States. U.S. firms, at the same time, would be happy to replace the Chinese Communist Party, even if they must do it through the threat of war, to open unfettered access to Chinese markets. War, if it did break out with China, would devastate the Chinese, American, and global economies, destroying free trade between countries as in World War I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Washington is desperately trying to build military and economic alliances to ward off a rising China, whose economy is expected by 2028 to overtake that of the United States, according to the UK’s Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The White House has said Biden’s current visit to Asia is about sending a “powerful message” to Beijing and others about what the world could look like if democracies “stand together to shape the rules of the road.” The Biden administration has invited South Korea and Japan to attend the NATO summit in Madrid.

But fewer and fewer nations, even among European allies, are willing to be dominated by the United States. Washington’s veneer of democracy and supposed respect for human rights and civil liberties is so badly tarnished as to be irrecoverable. Its economic decline, with China’s manufacturing 70 percent higher than that of the U.S., is irreversible. War is a desperate Hail Mary, one employed by dying empires throughout history with catastrophic consequences. “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable,” Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

The All-Volunteer Force, by limiting the pool of available troops, also makes the global ambitions of the militarists impossible. Desperate to maintain or increase troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military instituted the stop-loss policy that arbitrarily extended active-duty contracts. Its slang term was the backdoor draft. The effort to bolster the number of troops by hiring private military contractors, as well, had a negligible effect. Increased troop levels would not have won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the tiny percentage of those willing to serve in the military (only 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans) is an unacknowledged Achilles heel for the militarists.

“As a consequence, the problem of too much war and too few soldiers eludes serious scrutiny,” writes historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed. “Expectations of technology bridging that gap provide an excuse to avoid asking the most fundamental questions: Does the United States possess the military wherewithal to oblige adversaries to endorse its claim of being history’s indispensable nation? And if the answer is no, as the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest, wouldn’t it make sense for Washington to temper its ambitions accordingly?”

This question, as Bacevich points out, is “anathema.” The military strategists work from the supposition that the coming wars won’t look anything like past wars. They invest in imaginary theories of future wars that ignore the lessons of the past, ensuring more fiascos.

The political class is as self-deluded as the generals. It refuses to accept the emergence of a multi-polar world and the palpable decline of American power. It speaks in the outdated language of American exceptionalism and triumphalism, believing it has the right to impose its will as the leader of the “free world.” In his 1992 Defense Planning Guidance memorandum, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued that the U.S. must ensure no rival superpower again arises. The U.S. should project its military strength to dominate a unipolar world in perpetuity. On February 19, 1998, on NBC’s “Today Show”, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave the Democratic version of this doctrine of unipolarity. “If we have to use force it is because we are Americans; we are the indispensable nation,” she said. “We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”

This demented vision of unrivaled U.S. global supremacy, not to mention unrivaled goodness and virtue, blinds the establishment Republicans and Democrats. The military strikes they casually used to assert the doctrine of unipolarity, especially in the Middle East, swiftly spawned jihadist terror and prolonged warfare. None of them saw it coming until the hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center twin towers. That they cling to this absurd hallucination is the triumph of hope over experience.

There is a deep loathing among the public for these elitist Ivy League architects of American imperialism. Imperialism was tolerated when it was able to project power abroad and produce rising living standards at home. It was tolerated when it restrained itself to covert interventions in countries such as Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. It went off the rails in Vietnam. The military defeats that followed accompanied a steady decline in living standards, wage stagnation, a crumbling infrastructure and eventually a series of economic policies and trade deals, orchestrated by the same ruling class, which deindustrialized and impoverished the country.

The establishment oligarchs, now united in the Democratic Party, distrust Donald Trump. He commits the heresy of questioning the sanctity of the American empire. Trump derided the invasion of Iraq as a “big, fat mistake.” He promised “to keep us out of endless war.” Trump was repeatedly questioned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Putin was “a killer,” one interviewer told him. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump dared to speak a truth that was to be forever unspoken, the militarists had sold out the American people.

Noam Chomsky took some heat for pointing out, correctly, that Trump is the “one statesman” who has laid out a “sensible” proposition to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The proposed solution included “facilitating negotiations instead of undermining them and moving toward establishing some kind of accommodation in Europe…in which there are no military alliances but just mutual accommodation.”

Trump is too unfocused and mercurial to offer serious policy solutions. He did set a timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan, but he also ratcheted up the economic war against Venezuela and reinstituted crushing sanctions against Cuba and Iran, which the Obama administration had ended. He increased the military budget. He apparently flirted with carrying out a missile strike on Mexico to “destroy the drug labs.” But he acknowledges a distaste for imperial mismanagement that resonates with the public, one that has every right to loath the smug mandarins that plunge us into one war after another. Trump lies like he breathes. But so do they.

The 57 Republicans who refused to support the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, along with many of the 19 bills that included an earlier $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, come out of the kooky conspiratorial world of Trump. They, like Trump, repeat this heresy. They too are attacked and censored. But the longer Biden and the ruling class continue to pour resources into war at our expense, the more these proto-fascists, already set to wipe out Democratic gains in the House and the Senate this fall, will be ascendant. Marjorie Taylor Greene, during the debate on the aid package to Ukraine, which most members were not given time to closely examine, said: “$40 billion dollars but there’s no baby formula for American mothers and babies.”

“An unknown amount of money to the CIA and Ukraine supplemental bill but there’s no formula for American babies,” she added. “Stop funding regime change and money laundering scams. A US politician covers up their crimes in countries like Ukraine.”

Democrat Jamie Raskin immediately attacked Greene for parroting the propaganda of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Greene, like Trump, spoke a truth that resonates with a beleaguered public. The opposition to permanent war should have come from the tiny progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which unfortunately sold out to the craven Democratic Party leadership to save their political careers. Greene is demented, but Raskin and the Democrats peddle their own brand of lunacy. We are going to pay a very steep price for this burlesque.

'Free market' Texas Republicans want to ban retailers that support abortion rights

Far-right Republican state lawmakers want to make it impossible for Texans to buy anything on Amazon, buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, or even buy a Tesla, all to further their attack on abortion.

Fourteen Republicans want to pass a law that bans any company from doing business in the state of Texas with companies that have pledged to assist employees in obtaining abortion care outside of the Lone Star State, The Texas Tribune reports.

GOP state Rep. Briscoe Cain and 13 other Republican “members of the state House of Representatives have pledged to introduce bills in the coming legislative session that would bar corporations from doing business in Texas if they pay for abortions in states where the procedure is legal.”

“This would explicitly prevent firms from offering employees access to abortion-related care through health insurance benefits. It would also expose executives to criminal prosecution under pre-Roe anti-abortion laws the Legislature never repealed, the legislators say.”

An NCRM search found a dozen companies that have publicly vowed to assist their employees access abortions outside of Texas, including Tesla, which recently moved to Texas from California.

Other companies include Amazon, Starbucks, Lyft, Uber, Salesforce, Yelp, Match Group, Bumble, Apple, Levi Strauss, and CitiBank.

Back in March Rep. Cain – who was accused by Democrat Beto O’Rourke of making a “death threat” against him – targeted CitiBank, saying “he had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Citigroup’s chief executive, Jane Fraser, calling the policy a ‘misuse of shareholder money,'” The New York Times reported.

At that time Cain threatened to ban local governments from doing business with any company that assisted employees. Now he’s set the bar higher by wanting to ban the companies from doing business in Texas entirely.

Top Kremlin propagandist believes that humanity will be destroyed if Russia loses its war in Ukraine

The head of propaganda outlet Russia Today has proclaimed that there are only two possible outcomes in Ukraine: victory for Russia or the annihilation of the human race.

On Monday, Margarita Simonyan, who has previously expressed her willingness to die in a nuclear war initiated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, declared on Russia 1 that "things will end badly" for modern civilization if Russia loses its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Her bluster is an extension of rhetoric spewed by Putin's puppets on state television who dare not dissent from their leader's delusional imperial ambitions, even though Russia is undeniably losing.

The translation has been provided by The Daily Beast's Juila Davis, the founder of the Russian Media Monitor.

"They all believe that we will lose and that the West will win," Simonyan said of the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union allies, who are historically united in supporting Ukraine. "They don't understand that it's impossible. Either we win or this will end badly for all of humanity."

Simonyan then said that Russian students are better off not being educated in Western institutions and predicted that the tensions between Russia and the West will continue indefinitely.

"When people ask how long this will go on, in terms of our alienation and confrontation with the West, I see only one version of events. People, this is forever. Get used to this new life. I can't stand the whining of 'feeling bad for the children.' Why are you feeling sorry for the children? Some feel bad their children can't study in the West. The brave new world will no longer be open to them. I tell them, 'people, you should be rejoicing,'" she said. "The brave new world is racing straight to Hell. In ten years you'll say, 'thank you very much.' Thank you that my child never studied in the West, because your child will remain a normal person. No matter what happens and how we behave, our confrontation with them is for the rest of our lives."

Watch here.

Was Roe versus Wade doomed from the start?

The leaked Supreme Court memo about the overturning of Roe v. Wade has sent shock waves throughout the United States. The decision, if confirmed, will eliminate the constitutional right to abortion, allowing for states to restrict or ban the practice altogether. The procedure continues to be one of the definitive dividing issues in U.S. politics. A panel of commentators joined Roundtable to discuss the implications of the Supreme Court opinion and the future of abortion access. In this segment, they discuss the landmark decision's legal foundations.

This article originally appeared on Roundtable.

Stacey Lee notes that legal scholars have long questioned the solidity of the legal reasoning behind Roe v. Wade. Protecting federal abortion rights, she explains, would take more than a Supreme Court decision.

"If you want to protect a woman's right to an abortion at the federal level, we need to talk about a clearer constitutional amendment," she says. "Even if the leaked opinion becomes final, it's not anywhere close to the end of this issue. If anything, it makes me concerned that there may be other issues that Americans might have considered well-settled law that might not be anymore."

Bill Blum disputes Justice Alito's complete dismissal of the decision.

"In terms of the soundness of Alito's draft opinion, when he says it's Roe and Casey were egregiously wrong from the start, what that means in judge-speak is that no reasonable, competent lawyer could possibly have upheld Roe on the basis that Roe was decided, and I think that's nonsense," he says.

Nadia Asencio argues that the improvements in contraception since Roe v. Wade significantly impacts its relevance.

"When that all happened, birth control methods were not as effective and accessible as they are today," she says. "Today, in 2022, we are in a completely different world."

Watch the full discussion below:

Roundtable Guests:

Bill Blum, Lawyer & Editor-in-Chief, Blum’s Law

Stacey Lee, professor, Kerry Business School, Johns Hopkins University

Nadia Asencio, Youtuber

Legal wonks join Sonia Sotomayor in blasting 'repulsive' SCOTUS ruling gutting the 6th Amendment

A ruling handed down by the right-wing United States Supreme Court on Monday that strips convicted felons of the opportunity to present evidence in federal court that they had ineffective counsel is facing ferocious condemnation by legal experts.

The 6-3 majority decision in Shinn versus Ramirez and Jones, authored by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, denied the petitions of two death row inmates in Arizona – David Martinez Ramirez and Barry Lee Jones – to submit proof that their attorneys had failed them at trial. Martinez and Jones argued that as a result, their Sixth Amendment rights to due process and habeas corpus were violated.

Because their appeals were denied at the state level, Thomas declared that Ramirez and Jones had no legal standing to sue federally.

“[O]nly rarely may a federal habeas court hear a claim or consider evidence that a prisoner did not previously present to the state courts in compliance with state procedural rules,” Thomas wrote.

"Such intervention is also an affront to the State and its citizens who returned a verdict of guilt after considering the evidence before them," he said. "Federal courts, years later, lack the competence and authority to relitigate a State’s criminal case."

The Court's three liberal jurists dissented.

"This decision is perverse," Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor opined on behalf of the minority. "It is illogical: It makes no sense to excuse a habeas petitioner’s counsel’s failure to raise a claim altogether because of ineffective assistance in postconviction proceedings ... but to fault the same petitioner for that postconviction counsel’s failure to develop evidence in support of the trial-ineffectiveness claim."

She said that "the Court’s decision will leave many people who were convicted in violation of the Sixth Amendment to face incarceration or even execution without any meaningful chance to vindicate their right to counsel.”

Numerous legal experts concurred with Sotomayor, stressing that Monday's precedent-reversing ruling guts the 6th Amendment.

"You can't meaningfully enforce the Sixth Amendment in a state post-conviction proceeding unless you have an ounce of seriousness about the lawyer they are getting in that forum," University of Texas Law Professor Lee Kovarsky tweeted. "And since representation in state post-conviction proceedings is a national embarrassment, it means that it's not a really useful site of Sixth Amendment enforcement."

Kovarsky expanded upon what that means for defendants.

"You can have your claim decided on the merits in federal court, but you cannot INTRODUCE EVIDENCE to prove that claim," he said. "There's a million ways to pick this opinion apart, but here's a simple one. If you get to federal court with incontrovertible evidence of innocence, you can disable procedural bars but that evidence can't be considered on the merits. Your modern Supreme Court, people."

Read his thread below:

University of Texas Law Professor and CNN contributor Steve Vladeck noted that "Thomas holds that habeas courts can't expand the record to take new evidence showing ineffective assistance of state postconviction counsel."

Leah Litman, an associate professor of law at the University of Michigan, agreed.

"It's bad," she Tweeted. "If the state appoints you a lawyer who is constitutionally ineffective at your trial; and then appoints you ANOTHER lawyer who is constitutionally ineffective to argue your trial lawyer was ineffective ... you're screwed. This is just a horrific decision that will close the Martinez exception that allowed litigants to enforce the 6th amendment right to counsel."

Others were far less cordial in her critique.

"HOLY. SHIT," New York City Public Defender Eliza Orleans said. "This decision effectively ensures that innocent people will remain imprisoned. This is radical. This is horrifying. This is extremely scary."

Commercial litigator Akiva Cohen pointed out the obscure insidiousness embedded within Thomas' annotations.

"I don't think I've ever been angrier about a footnote. Context: this is in a SCOTUS decision holding that a state prisoner on death row can be executed because of his appellate counsel's negligence, because district courts CANNOT 'forgive' the forfeiture due to that negligence," he said. "I mean holy fuck. 'Oops, sorry your lawyers suck, but it would cost too much to make sure you're actually guilty before we electrocute you'??"

Slate correspondent Mark Joseph Stern was equally as outraged.

"The Supreme Court's second and final opinion of the day is an absolutely atrocious 6–3 ruling in Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, a habeas case. I will say more but this decision effectively ensures that innocent people will remain imprisoned," he tweeted. "The Supreme Court has previously said that habeas petitioners can bring ineffective assistance of counsel claims for the first time in federal court. But today, it says they *can't develop evidence to support these claims.* In doing so, it turns that 'right' into an illusion."

Stern added that "everything about Thomas' opinion is repulsive."

'Kiss Planet Earth goodbye': How Russia's in Ukraine is wrecking our last chance to combat climate change

Michael Klare, Saying Goodbye to Planet Earth?

The signs are everywhere. If you happen to live in the United States, parts of the Southwest and West are broiling in a megadrought the likes of which hasn’t been experienced in at least 1,200 years; water is increasingly scarce; and fires are flaring months early and in a staggering fashion, with acres burned already significantly above the normal yearly average. Consider it nothing short of historic in the grimmest imaginable sense. If you live on the East coast, on the other hand, it’s just possible that your house may float away as some are already beginning to do on North Carolina’s Outer Banks; while, in case you hadn’t noticed, losses of global wetlands are indeed significantly on the rise across the planet.

Should you happen to live in Iraq, however, it’s probably the repeated disastrous dust storms that are on your mind. After all, there used to be only a couple a year. Now, there are 20 or so annually. In India and Pakistan, on the other hand, unprecedented spring temperatures, rising repeatedly to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in both countries (and the electricity shortages accompanying them) undoubtedly caught your attention. Meanwhile, in Russian Siberia, the permafrost is thawing more rapidly, releasing greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. In Australia, on the other hand, marine heatwaves have caused widespread mass bleachings of coral reefs, with the fourth of them in the last seven years taking place this spring. In South Africa, it’s extreme rainfall and the resulting record spring flooding, now twice as likely to occur as in the past, that’s devastating.

Okay, I’ll stop there for now. Sadly, all of this (and so much more) is just the beginning on a planet that’s overheating all too quickly. Worse yet, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change, makes clear today, the war in Ukraine is the last thing on Earth (so to speak) that we need right now. For reasons he explains vividly, it seems to ensure the worst when it comes to climate change on a planet where humanity is already at war with nature and it’s starting to strike back in a big way. Tom

The Ukraine War’s Collateral Damage – The Health of an Overheating World Is at Stake

The war in Ukraine has already caused massive death and destruction, with more undoubtedly to come as the fighting intensifies in the country’s east and south. Many thousands of soldiers and civilians have already been killed or wounded, some 13 million Ukrainians have been forced from their homes, and an estimated one-third of the country’s infrastructure has been destroyed. Worse yet, that war’s brutal consequences have in no way been limited to Ukraine and Russia: hunger and food insecurity are increasing across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as grain deliveries from two of the world’s leading wheat producers have been severed. People are also suffering globally from another harsh consequence of that war: soaring fuel prices. And yet even those manifestations of the war’s “collateral damage” don’t come close to encompassing what could be the greatest casualty of all: planet Earth itself.

Any major war will, of course, inflict immense harm on the environment and Ukraine’s no exception. Although far from over, the fighting there has already resulted in widespread habitat and farmland destruction, while attacks on fuel-storage facilities (crucial targets for both sides) and the wartime consumption of fossil fuels have already released colossal amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. But however detrimental they may be, those should be thought of as relatively minor injuries when compared to the long-term catastrophic damage sure to be caused by the collapse of global efforts to slow the pace of global warming.

Mind you, even before Russia invaded Ukraine, the possibility of preventing the world’s temperature from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above its pre-industrial average seemed to be slipping away. After all, as a recent study by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made clear, without a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, global temperatures are likely to exceed that target long before this century ends — with terrifying consequences. “In concrete terms,” as U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out when releasing the report, “this means major cities underwater, unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages, and the extinction of one million species of plants and animals.”

Nonetheless, before the Russian invasion, environmental policymakers still believed it might be possible to avoid that ghastly fate. Such success, however, would require significant cooperation among the major powers — and now, due to the war in Ukraine, that appears unattainable, possibly for years to come.

Geopolitics Leaves Climate Action in the Dust

Sadly, geopolitical rivalry, not cooperation, is now the order of the day. Thanks to Russia’s invasion and the harsh reaction it’s provoked in Washington and other Western capitals, “great-power competition” (as the Pentagon calls it) has overtaken all other considerations. Not only has diplomatic engagement between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing essentially ground to a halt, making international cooperation on climate change (or any other global concern) nearly impossible, but an all-too-militarized competition has been launched that’s unlikely to abate for years to come.

As President Biden declared in Poland on March 26th: “We [have] emerged anew in the great battle for freedom, a battle between democracy and autocracy, between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.” This will not be a short-term struggle, he assured his NATO allies. “We must commit now to be in this fight for the long haul. We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after and for the years and decades to come.”

Decades to come! And mind you, similar expressions of abiding ideological and geopolitical enmity can be heard from Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China. “We are a different country,” Putin said in his May 9th Victory Day speech. “Russia has a different character. We will never give up our love for our Motherland, our faith, and traditional values.” Similarly, Xi has reaffirmed China’s determination to pursue its own path in world affairs and warned Washington against exploiting the Ukraine conflict for its geopolitical advantage.

If asked, Biden, Putin, Xi, and high-ranking officials everywhere would undoubtedly insist that addressing climate change remains an important concern. But let’s face it, their number-one priority is now to mobilize their societies for a long-term struggle against their geopolitical rivals. And rest assured, that will prove to be an all-consuming endeavor, with digressions for other matters — climate being at the top of any list — postponed for the foreseeable future.

Take, for instance, the $773 billion budget request that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) submitted this April for fiscal year (FY) 2023. Look over its proposed expenditures and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the Pentagon’s priorities and, by extension, those of the Biden administration.

According to the DoD’s budget documents, $56.5 billion is being sought for new combat aircraft, $41 billion for new ships, $34 billion for the “modernization” of America’s nuclear arsenal, $25 billion for missile defense, $20 billion for artillery and armored vehicles, and $135 billion for “combat readiness” and training activities. Oh yes, and $3 billion is being sought to address the effects of climate change on the U.S. military.

Under the circumstances, it’s striking that the Pentagon’s budget request even acknowledges the risk of global warming, given the lack of attention it was accorded in the past. Nonetheless, that paltry financial contribution to climate action — mainly meant to deal with the destructive impact of future severe storms on this country’s military bases — is already being overshadowed by preparations for a possible conflict with China and/or Russia. As the Pentagon put it all too directly: “The President’s Budget request for FY 2023 reflects DoD’s clear focus on deterring and, if necessary, denying potential People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russian aggression against Allies and partners.”

Such language, in fact, is used to justify virtually every item in the budget, including all those planes, ships, guns, bombs, and missiles. Similar terms are also used to describe the missions U.S. forces are being trained to perform. A discussion of Army planning puts it this way, for example: “The Army’s Modernization Strategy enables American land power dominance to meet the demands of great power competition and great power conflict, as demonstrated by evolving threats in the Indo-Pacific and European theaters.”

Such passages reveal the dominant mindset of this moment. From the perspective of American leaders and their military strategists — as well, undoubtedly, as those in Russia and China — meeting the demands of “great power competition and great power conflict” is the defining task of our moment and will remain so, in President Biden’s words, “for the years and decades to come.” In such an environment, climate change, as the key peril of our moment, functionally recedes or simply disappears from all such agendas.

The Suspension of International Dialogue and Cooperation

Slowing the pace of climate change requires action at many levels but can only succeed if all nations agree to work together in reducing carbon emissions. Setting and meeting international targets for such reductions could ensure that progress in any one country is matched elsewhere. This was, of course, the guiding principle of the Paris Climate Summit of December 2015, which resulted in a pledge by 196 countries to take concrete steps to limit warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Every year since then, the signers of the Paris Climate Agreement have met to review their (supposed) progress in adopting concrete measures aimed at achieving that objective. The most recent meeting — officially, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) of the International Framework Convention on Climate Change — was convened last November in Glasgow, Scotland, attracting massive media attention. Although COP 26 achieved no major breakthroughs, its summit declaration did at least call on participating states to “phase down” their use of coal and take other steps aimed at curbing fossil fuels.

Many attendees at the Glasgow event expressed the hope that the next meeting, scheduled for this November in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, would codify numerous proposals discussed at COP 26 for reducing fossil-fuel consumption. Sadly, however, it’s no longer conceivable that China, Russia, the U.S., and the countries of the European Union (EU) will be able to work in any faintly harmonious fashion toward that goal. Russia has already demonstrated its disinclination to talk with the West on such vital matters by sabotaging negotiations aimed at restoring the nuclear agreement with Iran. Given increasingly hostile relations between Beijing and Washington, don’t count on those two countries, the world’s leading emitters of carbon, to cooperate on anything significant either.

In short, such international cooperation, never overwhelming to begin with, now appears to have reached a dead-end, which means that efforts to keep warming from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius are almost certain to fail. Indeed, given the current state of great-power relations, the fallback limit of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is likely to be overtaken all too soon with calamitous results when it comes to increasing drought, desertification, intensifying storms, ever-more devastating fires, and other nightmarish outcomes.

Breaking with Russia: Fossil Fuels Forever

As an example of where we’re headed in this Ukraine war moment, consider Europe’s drive to eliminate its reliance on Russian fossil-fuel imports. Although the EU countries have indeed made far more ambitious plans than the other major powers to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels over the coming decades, they remain highly reliant on oil, coal, and natural gas for a large share of their energy needs. Moreover, much of their supply of those fuels is imported, especially from Russia. Astonishingly, in 2020 that country supplied approximately 43% percent of the EU’s natural gas imports, 29% percent of its oil, and 54% of its coal. Now, thanks to the Russian invasion, the EU is seeking to reduce those percentages to zero. “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal, and gas,” declared Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive arm. “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

In consonance with such an approach, the EU announced plans to “make Europe independent from Russian fossil fuels well before 2030.” And those plans do indeed involve increased reliance on renewable sources of energy, especially wind and solar power. Such efforts, however, will take significant time to implement and, until then, Europe is anxiously seeking increased oil and gas deliveries from other countries to offset a severe energy shortage (and soaring fuel prices). That reality, in turn, has prompted potential suppliers to invest yet more funds in increased oil and gas output — moves likely to result in a greater, not lesser, long-term commitment to fossil-fuel production and consumption.

This is especially true in the case of European gas imports. Natural gas, the least carbon-intensive of the fossil fuels, has become popular in Europe as a substitute for coal in electricity generation. Its use, however, does result in significant carbon emissions and its extraction often also leads to substantial releases of methane, another dangerous greenhouse gas. Europe currently relies on natural gas for approximately 25% of its net energy consumption and now, committed as it is to eliminate Russian gas by 2030, its countries are desperate to find alternative suppliers. In practice, this will mean increased imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Because many key gas producers — notably Australia, Nigeria, Qatar, and the United States — lie too far from Europe to deliver it via pipelines, they will have to ship it as LNG. This, in turn, will require the construction of costly new LNG export facilities abroad and import facilities in Europe, committing both sides ever more firmly to a long-term reliance on gas production.

Thanks to a March 25th agreement between the EU and the United States, for example, this country will be supplying 50 billion cubic meters of LNG to Europe annually by 2030 (about double the amount shipped in 2020). To do so, 10 or more new LNG export facilities will have to be constructed in the U.S. and a similar number of import terminals in Europe. Such projects will cumulatively cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while ensuring that natural gas continues to play a prominent role in European energy consumption (and U.S. energy extraction), potentially for decades to come.

Kissing Earth Goodbye

All this — and it’s just the tip of the melting iceberg — leads to one conclusion: the world’s ruling elites have chosen to place their geopolitical rivalries above all other critical concerns, including planetary salvation. As a result, global warming is indeed likely to surpass 2 degrees Celsius sometime during this century. It’s a given that almost unimaginable calamities will ensue, including the inundation of major cities, monstrous wildfires, and the collapse of agriculture in many parts of the world.

This means, of course, that those of us who still view global warming as the crucial priority face the most difficult of challenges. Yes, we can continue our protests and lobbying in support of vigorous climate-change action, knowing that our efforts will fall on remarkably deaf ears in Washington, Beijing, Moscow, and major European capitals or we can begin to contest the very idea that great-power competition itself should be accorded such a priority on a planet in such mortal danger. Yes, countering Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is important, as is deterring similar moves by China in the Indo-Pacific region or our own country globally. However, if planetary meltdown is to be avoided, such considerations can’t be allowed to overshadow the ultimate danger faced by powers both big and small, as well as the rest of us. To have any chance of success in limiting global warming to tolerable levels, the climate-action movement will somehow have to overturn an elite consensus on the importance of geopolitical competition — or else.

Or else, that is, we can kiss Planet Earth goodbye.

Russian diplomat 'ashamed' of Vladimir Putin resigns: He seeks 'unlimited power and complete impunity'

A top Russian diplomat, the head of mission to the United Nations in Geneva, has resigned in a damning letter that accuses President Vladimir Putin and his associates of attacking Ukraine “to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity.”

For two decades Boris Bondarev says he has worked in Russia’s foreign ministry, as The Daily Beast reports. In his letter, posted by the Executive Director of United Nations Watch (below) Bondarev adds:

“To achieve that [power] they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this.”

UN Watch, an accredited non-governmental organization in Geneva, claims Bondarev has “defected.”

He singles out Sergey Lavrov, criticizing the Russian Foreign Minister for an increasing “level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry,” which he says have “become simply catastrophic.”

“Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s. A system has been built that deceives itself.”

Lavrov is perhaps best-known to Americans as one of the top Russian diplomats present in the Oval Office in 2017 when then-President Donald Trump gave them code word classified top secret intelligence, putting Israeli spies at risk, while celebrating his firing of FBI Director Jim Comey.

“Today,” Bondarev says, “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is not about diplomacy. It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred. It serves interests of few, the very few people thus contributing to further isolation and degradation of my country.”

Bondarev told the Associated Press: “Am I concerned about the possible reaction from Moscow? I have to be concerned about it.”

'The coup is ongoing': Critics sound the alarm after Trump boosts message 'advocating or predicting civil war'

Critics are expressing anger and issuing warnings after Donald Trump, the former president, posted a message over the weekend on his own social media platform that well-known attorney George Conway described as “advocating or predicting civil war in the United States.”

Fox Nation propagandist and antisemitic conspiracy theorist Lara Logan had reposted a message from the right-wing “populist” President of El Salvador, that suggests the United States is “falling so fast” due to an “enemy” within.

A pro-Trump account on Trump’s Truth Social platform then commented “Civil War.”

Trump reposted that message.

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

Former GOP Congressman Denver Riggleman, a former National Security Agency contractor who calls himself a “Disinfo Hunter” commented: “Trump mirrors his base. Pay attention.”

GOP U.S. Congressman Adam Kinzinger:

“Tell me how … he has never egged on violence again?” asked Amanda Carpenter, a columnist at The Bulwark.

Veteran foreign correspondent and sports columnist Robert Lusetich:

“After seeking to overturn his election defeat, the former president is now endorsing the claim that we are in a ‘civil war.’ Incredibly dangerous,” wrote Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist and professor at Dartmouth College. “How long until the next gunman takes him literally and/or seriously? What about the next time he or his party lose another election?”

Attorney, journalist, SiriusXM host, and frequent cable news contributor Dean Obeidallah writes, “Trump’s suggestion of a Civil War appears to forget that on Jan 6 he and his forces tried that and FAILED. But the fact Trump can call for a civil war today is only possible because DOJ has still not prosecuted Trump–despite it being 502 days since Jan 6!”

Political commentator Lindy Li:

More:



This far-right 'Stop the Steal' conspiracy theorist is hoping to run Michigan’s elections

After now-President Joe Biden won Michigan in 2020’s presidential election, Christian nationalist and anti-vaxxer Kristina Karamo was among the far-right conspiracy theorists who falsely claimed that then-President Donald Trump was the real winner in that midwestern state. Now, Karamo is the Republican nominee for Michigan secretary of state, and she is hoping to unseat Jocelyn Benson — the Democrat who currently holds that position — in the 2022 midterms.

Trump and his MAGA allies were unsuccessful in their efforts to steal Michigan’s electoral votes from Biden in 2020, and Benson deserves some of the credit. As Michigan secretary of state, Benson forcefully pushed back against the Big Lie. But if Karamo defeats Benson, journalist Elaine Godfrey warns in an article published by The Atlantic on May 22, elections in Michigan will be run by a relentless Big Lie promoter.

“Barring any changes at an upcoming convention in August, and with Republicans poised to have a strong midterm election year, Karamo has a shot at victory in November,” Godfrey explains. “Michigan’s next election chief, in other words, might be one of its foremost election-conspiracy theorists. And what happens in this swing state in 2024 could tip the entire presidential outcome.”

Trump has endorsed the 36-year-old Karamo as well as Matt DePerno, the Republican nominee for Michigan attorney general — a position presently held by Democrat Dana Nessel, an ally of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (who is running for reelection).

“Despite never having held elected office, Karamo already has proved to be an enthusiastic brawler in the GOP’s culture war,” Godfrey observes. “On her theology-and-politics podcast, which she appears to have launched in 2020, Karamo has endorsed the conspiracy theory that left-wing anarchists were behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol. She has warned listeners about ‘conservative imposters’ within the Republican Party, declared herself an ‘anti-vaxxer,’ and called public schools ‘government indoctrination camps,” according to a CNN review. “More integral to Trump’s goals, though, is that Karamo has never backed down from her allegations of fraud, despite the State Senate investigation and multiple state-run election audits. She’s said that Trump, not Biden, is the real winner of Michigan — and the election.”

Jeff Timmer, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, is a conservative who is highly critical of the GOP’s Trumpified direction in his state — and he views Karamo as dangerous. Timmer has no doubt that Karamo, as Michigan secretary of state, would try to help Trump steal the 2024 election if he were the Republican nominee.

Timmer told The Atlantic, “Without question.… she’ll use her office,” Timmer said. “They want to throw a wrench in the process, create chaos, and muscle through the results they want.”

'Gullible suckers' who buy Dinesh D’Souza’s election 'mockumentary' will keep him 'laughing all the way to the bank': conservative

In his new documentary “2000 Mules,” far-right pundit Dinesh D’Souza claims to offer proof that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. D’Souza’s critics — a combination of liberals, progressives, centrist Democrats and right-wing Never Trump conservatives — have been slamming “2000 Mules” as a sloppy, embarrassing joke. On the right, one of those critics is Never Trumper Amanda Carpenter.

In a scathing article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on May 17, Carpenter slams “2000 Mules” as a total embarrassment and a cynical “cash grab” on D’Souza’s part.

“Dinesh D’Souza’s ‘2000 Mules’ is ‘Plandemic’ for election truthers,” Carpenter observes. “For the non-insane, it’s a hilarious mockumentary. Not that D’Souza cares what the non-insane think: He has discovered that there are enough suckers out there to keep him laughing all the way to the bank.”


Carpenter goes on to describe some ways in which “2000 Mules” is badly done.

“Here’s the elevator pitch for ‘2000 Mules’: D’Souza’s buddies at True the Vote spent $2 million on cell phone geotracking data — which he describes as ‘digital DNA’ — that they say proves ‘mules” were paid to illegally ‘traffic’ thousands of ballots from non-profit ‘stash houses’ into drop-off ballot boxes,” Carpenter explains. “All D’Souza really has — if the cell phone data is real and is really what he represents it as being — is some evidence that some people made frequent trips in areas around ballot drop-off boxes which, by design, were usually placed in heavily-traveled areas for convenience.”

Carpenter continues, “Putting that aside, who are these mules? Who paid them? Where is the evidence of people making repeated trips to illegally stuff dropboxes with ballots? What non-profits were involved? These questions are not even asked, let alone answered, in the movie.”

According to Carpenter, D’Souza’s documentary “doesn’t survive the most basic fact-checks to support its most important claims.”

Carpenter writes, “It’s better to view the film as a performance piece, a comedic triumph where the joke is on the rubes gullible enough to give D’Souza their money…. True the Vote’s tall tales are too dumb even for its biggest supporters to go along with anymore. D’Souza, however, is happy to scrape up the bullshit and repackage it for the direct-to-consumer market.”

This hypnotherapist and failed politician helped fuel the never-ending hunt for election fraud in Wisconsin

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

Jay Stone grew up in the rough-and-tumble world of Chicago ward politics, the son of a longtime city alderman. But his own forays into politics left him distrustful of Chicago Democrats.

When he ran for alderman in 2003, he was crushed at the polls after party leaders sent city workers out to campaign against him. Even his own father didn’t endorse him.

Then when Stone sought the mayor’s office in 2010, he only mustered a few hundred of the 12,500 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. He filed a federal lawsuit over the requirement and lost.

His father, Bernard Stone, who held office for 38 years, once told the Chicago Tribune: “My son is very good at what he’s trained to do. And that’s not politics.”

Jay Stone’s training was in hypnotherapy, and he eventually walked away from Chicago politics, carving out a living using hypnosis to help people with anxiety, weight gain, nicotine addiction and other issues. Only in retirement, and after a move to Wisconsin, did he finally find his political niche.

In 2020, Stone played a crucial, if little-known, role in making Wisconsin a hotbed of conspiracy theories that Democrats stole the state’s 10 electoral votes from then-President Donald Trump. The outcry emanating from Wisconsin has cast Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a force of untoward political influence and helped create a backlash against using private grants, including large donations from Zuckerberg, to assist election officials across the country.

In Wisconsin, Stone has finally been embraced politically, by activists and politicians who, like him, didn’t approve of the so-called “Zuckerbucks” or of big-city Democratic mayors. They, too, are unhappy with the way the 2020 presidential election was run in Wisconsin and how it turned out. And they, too, show no inclination of giving up, even when their claims have been rejected and other Republicans have told them it’s time to move on.

“The best part of getting involved in politics in Wisconsin is the wonderful people I’ve been meeting,” Stone said in an interview. “They’re just a great group of men and women that I admire and respect.”

The questioning of the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 20,000-vote victory in Wisconsin continues thanks to Stone and others who have emerged to take on outsize roles after the election. Among them: a retired travel industry executive who has alleged voter fraud at nursing homes. Ten alternate GOP electors who signed documents to try to subvert the certification of Biden’s election. And some state legislators who are still looking for ways to hand the state to Trump, a year and a half after the election.

Stone hasn’t garnered much public attention, but records indicate that in the summer of 2020 he was the first person to complain to state authorities about grant money accepted by local election officials. The funds were earmarked for face masks, shields and other safety supplies, as well as hazard pay, larger voting facilities, vote-by-mail processing, drop boxes and educational outreach about absentee voting.

Stone, however, saw the election funding, which came from a Chicago nonprofit, as a way to sway the election for Biden by helping bring more Democratic-leaning voters to the polls in Wisconsin’s five largest cities.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission rejected Stone’s claim last year, on the grounds that he didn’t live in any of the cities he mentioned and that the complaint did not allege any violations that the commission had the authority to investigate. A separate complaint Stone filed with the Federal Election Commission, in which he objects to the Zuckerberg money, has not been resolved.

Nonetheless, the idea that the election was somehow rigged lives on.

Chief among the election deniers is Michael Gableman, who served on the state Supreme Court for a decade. A Trump ally, Gableman was named as special counsel by the GOP-controlled State Assembly to investigate the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in Wisconsin. Not only did Gableman give Stone’s accusations a platform, he took them even further. In his review for the Assembly, Gableman labeled the grants a form of bribery.

Gableman expressed his admiration for Stone during a March interview on the “Tucker Carlson Today” show, which streams online.

It’s “a private citizen, a guy named Jay Stone, who really deserves a lot of credit,” Gableman said, referring to questions about the election grants.

“He saw all of this coming,” Gableman said. “And he’s not a lawyer. I don’t know what his particular training is — he’s trained in the medical field. He filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission back in August of 2020, well before the election. And he foresaw all of this, he foresaw the partisan nature of all of the Zuckerberg money and all of the Zuckerberg people coming in to influence the election.”

Gableman, who has not responded to requests for an interview, had hired Stone as a paid consultant for his review by the time he appeared on Carlson’s show.

But that’s not the only thing keeping Stone from a quiet retirement in Pleasant Prairie, not far from the Illinois border, where he grows his own fruits and vegetables and heats his home only with firewood. Once again, he’s got his eyes on political office. This time he’s running for the Wisconsin State Senate.

The Chicago Connection

In the summer of 2020, cities across the U.S. were canceling Fourth of July firework celebrations. Public health departments were scrambling to put contact tracing measures in place to track the spread of COVID-19. Movie theaters remained shuttered. Vaccines were still undergoing testing.

Against this backdrop, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit based in Chicago, decided to get involved. Its stated mission is to ensure that elections across the country are “more professional, inclusive and secure.”

The group approached the mayors of Wisconsin’s five largest cities — Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine — and encouraged them to draw up a “Safe Voting Plan” outlining how they would spend more than $6 million in grant money to make it easier for people to vote while also limiting their exposure to the highly contagious coronavirus.

Wisconsin’s April elections, including the presidential primary, had been a near-disaster. The state’s Democratic governor and GOP-controlled legislature bickered over whether to postpone the balloting. Election offices were deluged with requests for absentee ballots. National Guard troops stepped in to replace poll workers too scared to volunteer. Polling places closed or relocated. Some voters waited in long lines for hours.

The Safe Voting Plan envisioned a smoother election that November. The goals were to keep voters safe and educate them about how to cast a ballot properly, whether in person or by mail. The plan also expressed the desire to ensure the right to vote “in our dense and diverse communities.”

Green Bay, for example, proposed using $15,000 to partner with “churches, educational institutions, and organizations serving African immigrants, LatinX residents, and African Americans” to help new voters obtain documents needed to get a valid state ID that they could show at the polls or to get an absentee ballot.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life awarded the $6.3 million to Wisconsin’s five largest cities in early July 2020. That’s when a friend of Stone’s sent him a link to a newspaper article about the grants.

“Within 10 minutes, I knew this was a scam, because they were targeting the Democratic strongholds in the state of Wisconsin,” said Stone.

Stone recognized that the organization’s address on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile was in the same building that had once housed Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters, which he felt confirmed his instincts.

He took exception to the proposed outreach to communities that traditionally vote Democratic, saying such efforts are the responsibility of candidates and parties, not municipal election workers. On Aug. 28, 2020, he fired off a 27-page complaint to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which included 167 exhibits.

The Center for Tech and Civic Life “exploited COVID-19” to help Democrats, Stone wrote. “All of CTCL’s $6.3 million expenditures will increase voter turnout in Wisconsin cities that are heavily Democratic and increase the likelihood that Democrat Joe Biden will win Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.”

Less than a week later, CTCL made a major announcement: It had received a $250 million donation from Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The couple later added an additional $100 million. CTCL’s previous funding had come from a variety of foundations.

Ultimately, CTCL awarded grants to more than 2,500 elections offices across 49 states, including rural parts of Wisconsin. The sums included $5,000 to small communities such as Ralls County, Missouri, and $10 million each for the city of Philadelphia and for Fulton County, Georgia, which encompasses most of Atlanta.

In an interview, Stone said he wouldn’t have objected if the grants had been awarded to each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties — with every county getting an equal amount per registered voter.

According to a ProPublica analysis, the biggest municipalities in Wisconsin received the most money and had higher per capita grants than smaller places like Waukesha, Brookfield and Fond Du Lac, which all had a history of voting for Trump. For instance, the per capita figure for Milwaukee was more than 10 times that of nearby Waukesha.

An analysis by Ballotpedia, a nonprofit focusing on elections, found that Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan — swing states that ended up in the Biden column — received some of the highest per capita grants from CTCL. However, it’s nearly impossible to discern what may have turned the tide in those states and whether turnout was affected by the grant money, a motivation to vote against Trump, or other factors.

CTCL was formed in 2014. One of its founders, Tiana Epps-Johnson, was named an Obama Foundation fellow in 2018, providing her with leadership training and other resources to help her in her work. She has described CTCL as nonpartisan, but Stone said the Obama Foundation connection suggests otherwise.

Epps-Johnson, who is CTCL’s executive director, did not respond to a voice message left on her direct line, but the group replied with a statement saying the grant money was available to all parts of the country. “Every eligible local election office that applied was awarded funds,” CTCL stated.

The center also defended its actions in a lawsuit the Trump campaign filed against the Wisconsin Elections Commission; the suit alleged, in part, that the state election commission had improperly supported the five cities’ plan to promote expanded mail-in voting.

In an amicus brief in that case, CTCL wrote: “Most of those funds were used to purchase personal protective equipment for voters and election workers, to recruit and train additional staff, to provide improved security, to establish in-person polling places, to process mail-in ballots, and to ensure emergency preparedness. CTCL’s program thus helped officials throughout the nation to run secure, lawful, and efficient elections for all Americans.”

A federal judge appointed by Trump found no merit in the former president’s case and dismissed it.

Zuckerberg also denies having hidden motives in funding nonprofits that targeted voting issues. His spokesperson Brian Baker said in an email to ProPublica that Zuckerberg and his wife stepped in when “our nation’s election infrastructure faced unprecedented challenges” and the federal government “failed to provide adequate funds.” The goal, Baker said, was to “ensure that residents could vote regardless of their party or preference.”

When Wisconsinites went to the polls in November 2020, there were far fewer issues with people having trouble casting a ballot or having to wait in long lines than there had been in the spring election.

Jay Stone’s Grievances

Stone’s skepticism was deeply rooted. His own family and his political failures were shaped by Chicago politics, giving him a close-up view of the unseemly tactics of loyalists associated with Democratic rule under Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and then, to a lesser extent, his son Richard M. Daley.

Running for 32nd Ward alderman on Chicago’s North Side in 2003, Stone preached good government, transparency and election reform. He lost. Testimony in a 2006 federal corruption trial involving top Daley administration officials described how party bosses ordered city workers to campaign for Stone’s opponent, the sitting alderman.

“They wanted a puppet they could control,” Stone said.

After his election defeat, Stone filed a claim against the Daley administration as part of a class-action suit seeking compensation for damages related to political patronage. A federal monitor awarded him $75,000 based on Stone’s claims about city workers forced to campaign against him. His efforts taking on the Daley machine earned him a description as a “passionate independent” from a reporter for the Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly.

Reflecting on the experience, Stone said that even his father was unwilling to endorse him for fear of political retribution. (Stone’s father died in 2014. Jay Stone said that despite their political differences, they remained close.)

Undeterred, in 2010 Stone made a bid for mayor, hoping to take on Richard M. Daley, but Daley announced he would not run for a record seventh term.

Stone didn’t obtain enough signatures to qualify for the ballot and sued the city’s Board of Election Commissioners, claiming the requirement was onerous and unconstitutional, designed to keep the machine in power. The courts disagreed, and the case failed.

Stone never won an election in Chicago, but he was able to build a professional life there as a hypnotherapist in private practice. Stone decided to enter the field after earning first an undergraduate philosophy degree and then an MBA. He received a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy through remote learning from a now-shuttered California institute.

Hypnotherapists are not licensed in Illinois. But the treatment has gained acceptance. According to the National Institutes of Health, hypnosis has been shown to help people manage some painful conditions and deal with anxiety.

Stone sought to help clients visualize a better future, a goal he said he wanted to achieve in politics, too. In hypnosis, Stone said, some of his patients experienced flashbacks to past lives that helped them find peace and change their behavior for the better. He wrote a paper, posted on his website, on the potential to use DNA to prove the existence of past lives.

Science, he noted, always starts with a theory. “And then you have to be able to prove it,” he said.

His theories about elections tend to lump all Chicago Democrats together, so that Michelle and Barack Obama are considered just as capable of unsavory political tactics as the two Daleys who governed Chicago for decades.

Stone maintains that the Obamas have unduly influenced elections through a network of former White House staffers associated with nonprofits Stone believes are inappropriately registering and influencing voters. (He said he soured on Barack Obama long ago because he believed that Obama had failed to confront the Chicago Democratic machine as a U.S. senator.)

He is particularly opposed to the star-studded nonprofit When We All Vote, set up by Michelle Obama to register voters and help “close the race and age gap.” By the 2020 election, more than 500,000 people had started or completed their voter registration process through When We All Vote, according to the group.

“I believe Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote is the most powerful political organization or political machine in the country,” Stone said in a video he posted on Rumble, a video platform that’s popular among some conservatives. “When We All Vote is more powerful than the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee combined.”

When We All Vote told ProPublica in an email that it is nonpartisan and works with schools and educators to increase civic engagement and voter participation, saying its “initiatives comply with the letter and spirit of the law.”

Stone filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Elections Commission against the former first lady, alleging criminal violations for offering financial prizes to schools that registered the most voters and for enticing people to early voting sites with food and music. The commission, in a 5-1 vote in April, dismissed the matter “due to a lack of reasonable suspicion” and fined him $500 for filing a “frivolous” complaint. (Stone on Friday appealed that decision in Kenosha County Circuit Court.)

Stone saw the supposed Obama network’s fingerprints on the 2020 election grants offered by the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

And while he measures his words more carefully than Gableman and others who see the 2020 Wisconsin election results as tainted, he clearly is in that camp.

“There was so much, I don’t want to say ‘fraud,’ but there was so much deviation from the election laws and the election norms, it raises serious questions,” he said of Trump’s loss in Wisconsin.

“I don’t think the election was fair and just.”

Allies in Wisconsin

The CTCL money has become a central theme in complaints about Biden’s victory in Wisconsin — and in the review by Gableman. Under pressure from Trump, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin

Vos appointed Gableman to review whether the election was administered fairly and lawfully.

Gableman has fallen short of proving fraud, but did use an interim report and an appearance before the legislative oversight committee on March 1 to highlight the Zuckerberg money and call for disbanding the Wisconsin Elections Commission. He said the legislature should look into decertifying the 2020 election results, but even Republican officials balked at that.

Republican Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted that “handing authority to partisan politicians to determine if election fraud exists would be the end of our republic as we know it.”

Jay Stone sat in the front row behind Gableman during the meeting, where Gableman released a report of his findings thus far. It spanned 136 pages, half of which dealt with the CTCL grants, which he characterized as “election bribery.”

Stone helped in the review but won’t talk about what exactly he did in the ongoing investigation, which was budgeted by Vos to cost taxpayers $676,000. “I’m on a confidentiality agreement,” Stone said.

Stone billed Gableman $3,250 for 128 hours of work between Feb. 16 and March 1, according to an invoice obtained by the nonprofit group American Oversight, which has sued to get access to Gableman’s records.

Asked about Gableman’s bribery terminology, Stone sighed. “It’s not a typical case where somebody gives a politician money for, let’s say, a zoning change,” he said. “So, it’s not your typical bribery case, but certainly it’s worth looking into.”

Lawsuits in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota about the CTCL grants have failed, as did Stone’s complaint to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

Just last week in Madison, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ehlke called the election bribery allegation “ridiculous,” saying he saw no evidence that CTCL offered anything to change anyone’s vote. “I mean, what proof is there in the record anywhere of an inducement of bribery? That whole thing just falls away. There’s nothing in the record. Is there?”

Minnesota lawyer Erick G. Kaardal, who continues to challenge the grants, replied that he reads state law to mean: “We don’t want Wisconsin public officials taking money to get people to go to the polls.”

The county case is an appeal of the elections commission’s rejection of a similar complaint Kaardal filed there about the grants. Ehlke has yet to rule.

Gableman’s work, meanwhile, has been widely discredited, cast by politicians, including some Republicans, and legal analysts as unprofessional and amateurish. Wisconsin’s Democratic governor called the investigation a “ colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“This effort has spread disinformation about our election processes, it has attacked the integrity of our clerks, election administrators, and poll workers, and it has emboldened individuals to harass and demean dedicated public servants,” Gov. Tony Evers said in a prepared statement.

The issue of using private grants in administering elections, however, remains alive.

Zuckerberg will not be making future donations to election offices, his spokesperson told ProPublica earlier this month, calling it “a one-time donation given the unprecedented nature of the crisis.”

More than a dozen states, meanwhile, have banned or restricted the use of private funds for election offices. The Wisconsin legislature passed a bill in 2021 prohibiting counties or municipalities from applying for or accepting any private donations for elections, but left room for the Wisconsin Elections Commission to take outside grants so long as the money is distributed statewide on a per capita basis. Evers vetoed it.

In southeastern Wisconsin, however, the Walworth County Board of Supervisors passed its own ban last month, prohibiting the county from accepting donations or grants for election administration from individuals or nongovernmental entities.

Now that he’s left a mark as a political activist in Wisconsin, Stone is back on the campaign trail.

At an event hall near Kenosha this month, Stone addressed about 100 people gathered at a regular meeting of the H.O.T. Government group, a right-leaning Wisconsin grassroots organization that adopted an acronym for the words “honest, open and transparent.” (Stone is the group’s vice president.) A stuffed effigy of a torso with a white foam head hung from the rafters, wearing a shirt labeled “Corrupt Officials.”

Standing before a large American flag, he politely asked people to sign his nominating forms. Republican State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, who chairs the elections committee overseeing Gableman’s investigation and supports the effort to overturn Biden’s Wisconsin victory, jumped up from her seat to lead the crowd in a chant: “Jay Stone! Jay Stone!”

“Jay is the one who filed the complaint in the very beginning,” she told the audience. “Jay is a real hero in what he’s done for Wisconsin.”

More details surface on the government meetings Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin had before scoring investors

Ahead of the final day of President Donald Trump's in the White House, both Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin used their positions to score meetings with international leaders. After leaving the Trump administration they scored major investments from those same international leaders for their respective hedge funds.

Now the New York Times is noting that both Kushner and Mnuchin have started the Abraham Fund, named after Kushner's Abraham Accord, a kind of plan that aimed to establish peace in the Middle East, but ultimately just made a few agreements. The Abraham Fund would have the U.S. government pay for $3 billion in projects around the Middle East.

Kushner was the chief of the project, but after he left, the project came to a close.

"Yet after Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin crisscrossed the Middle East in the final months of the administration on trips that included trying to raise money for the project, each quickly launched a private fund that in some ways picked up where the Abraham Fund had ended," said the Times.
The two men brought top aides who helped score Gulf leaders and royal families while promoting the Abraham Fund while trying to score cash for their own hedge funds.

Mnuchin got $500 million commitments from the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Qataris, according to documents by the main sovereign wealth fund, which itself then gave $1 billion. Kushner got $2 billion from the Saudis.

The actions are under examination for any possible ethics violations.

"Both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin hired several aides who were deeply involved in the accords: A top executive at Affinity, retired Maj. Gen. Miguel Correa, is a former military attaché in the Emirates who later worked in the White House. Top executives at Mr. Mnuchin’s fund, Liberty Strategic Capital, include a former ambassador to Israel and a former Treasury aide who helped arrange meetings with Gulf leaders," said the Times.

The revolving door spun so fast that there was one executive who appeared to be working for the government and for Liberty Strategic at the same time, the report explained. There were 11 executives and advisers given to the Saudis by April 2021 that included "Managing Director Michel D'Ambrosio," except he was still the assistant director of the Secret Service" at the time.

Eli Miller was working at the Treasury Department with Mnuchin and began working for him as far back as 2019. He had been working for the Persian Gulf sovereign wealth funds at Blackstone, another investment firm where Mnuchin once served.

There are questions about Kushner that some officials have urged the Justice Department to examine. For Mnuchin, there was a question about him going from Wall Street to the government sector.

“If he was, that is an abuse of his office,” Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis said. “I don’t know if it is criminal, but it is certainly corrupt.”

Mnuchin denied that the details in the Saudi documents were wrong.

The Times revealed that while coming into the White House, Kushner tried to install his own Treasury secretary, but Mnuchin built his own countercampaign, those familiar with the effort told the Times. The two men kept their distance in the administration even though they have similar interests.

Mnuchin also had investments from the region before Kushner, who never had any relationships prior to the White House. While in the Trump administration, Mnuchin spent more time in the Middle East than his predecessor. In fact, he made more than twice as many trips to meet with Persian Gulf monarchies than the previous secretary.

“He was a business guy who really knew how to do personal diplomacy, and they liked him,” said Michael Greenwald, a former Treasury attaché in Kuwait and Qatar. He served in both Trump and Barack Obama's administrations. “So that was an effective tool.”

Kushner went on at least 10 trips to the Persian Gulf, and formed a close alliance with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, even after American intelligence revealed he ordered the brutal murder of a Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner defended MBS. Mnuchin announced his firm just three weeks after leaving office.

Kushner's slower start happened six months later when he announced his $2 billion investment from the Saudis. He didn't even have any staff. He ultimately hired his close aide and Correa, who clashed with diplomats who believed he was doing unauthorized arms sales. He was then evacuated to the White House. By the close of the Trump campaign, the two men were the only ones on the trips with Kushner.

See the full report from the New York Times.

Researchers explain the rise of partisan violence: 'Extreme conspiratorial vilification gets mainstreamed among Republicans'

A single incident can't prove anything in terms of social science, but it can certainly serve as a vivid illustration. That was the case with the Buffalo massacre that horrified the nation and the world last weekend, which seemed almost inevitable in light of the new book "Radical American Partisanship: Mapping Violent Hostility, Its Causes, and the Consequences for Democracy" by Nathan Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason.

The Buffalo shooter's so-called manifesto, Kalmoe told me, consists of "partisan Republican media talking points," especially those of Fox News' Tucker Carlson, "along with the most radical elected Republican leaders." I wrote about the history of the "great replacement" theory last year, but "Radical American Partisanship" provides a broader perspective. "Our book talks about the long history of racial-partisan violence and how those two things are linked," Kalmoe said. "We don't know the shooter's media exposure so we can't begin to judge cause and effect, but we can say this is the kind of action you'd expect more people to take as explicit white supremacy, antisemitism and other extreme conspiratorial vilification gets mainstreamed among Republicans."

That mainstreaming creates another causal pathway by way of "norm erosion," as co-author Mason noted in a Twitter conversation with other social scientists: "More people holding radical (in our case, violent) beliefs changes the social norm-enforcement mechanism, by reducing the number of people who will engage in norm-enforcing social sanctions."

Partisan violence is part of our history, as Kalmoe explored in his 2020 book "With Ballots and Bullets: Partisanship and Violence in the American Civil War" (Salon interview here), but when Kalmoe and Mason began their collaboration in 2017 they could hardly find any public-opinion research on the subject. They didn't quite have to invent a new field from scratch, but they did have to weave together a bunch of different strands of academic research that hadn't previously been integrated into how we think about partisan politics. The surveys reported in this book, which basically cover the period of the Trump presidency, from 2017 to early 2021 will reshape our understanding of this long-neglected aspect of American politics. But they're also important right now, for tragic and obvious reasons. I interviewed Kalmoe and Mason recently by email. Their responses have been edited for clarity and length.

The massacre in Buffalo immediately made me think of your book. The shooter's stated rationale wasn't "partisan," in the normal sense, but his worldview surely was. Your book begins by asking why it was so easy for Donald Trump to stoke the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Beyond the immediate answer — his own incitements — you argue that "the bases of each party are divided into nearly warring factions with radically opposed visions for America," and that this is "a battle over the future — and the past — of the United States." So what consequences flow from that?

Mason: One of the main findings of the book is that Republicans who are high in racial resentment and hostile sexism are also the most likely to vilify and dehumanize Democrats. For Democrats, it's the people low in racial resentment who are the most likely to vilify and dehumanize Republicans. These vilifying and dehumanizing attitudes (what we call "moral disengagement") are common precursors to mass violence in other countries. For Republicans in particular, the most powerful predictor of moral disengagement is an opposition to racial and gender equality or a denial that any inequality exists.

This means that one of the biggest divides (and sources of conflict) between Democrats and Republicans is a fundamental disagreement about whether the U.S. has made enough progress toward racial and gender equality, or whether we have gone too far and need to roll back some of the progress we have made. Americans aren't very good at talking about racial and gender equality in a calm and composed way. These conversations often erupt into violence throughout American history.

So what's different right now?

Mason: It's already a volatile topic. But now that we've organized the discussion along partisan lines, it allows our electoral politics to become as violent as racial conflict. The "replacement" theory that Tucker Carlson, Rep. Elise Stefanik and others are pushing is, on its face, a political one. They say that Democrats are trying to replace white voters (who tend to vote for Republicans) with "immigrants" who are "more obedient" and will automatically vote for Democrats. This "sanitized" version of replacement theory allows racial animosity to be papered over with "political" animosity — which is generally more socially acceptable.

All of this comes out of the increasing trend of "social sorting" between the parties, with the Republican Party becoming the party of white Christian rural men, and the Democratic Party representing everyone else. The party divide mirrors the divide between those at the top of the traditional social hierarchy and those who are traditionally marginalized. The Buffalo shooting, however, made clear that even if Tucker Carlson is speaking about a political conflict, the racial message still comes through quite clearly.

Partisan violence is very understudied in political science, so much so that there were very few surveys you could use. But that's not the case with social psychology. Why is there a difference, and what tools does social psychology provide that you built upon?

Kalmoe: Political violence, including violence instigated by parties, is a big research area among political scientists studying other countries, but it has rarely been a focus for scholars of American politics, partly because of our bias toward studying the present and recent past. Many assumed that what's happening "over there" can't happen here, even though it already happened here in the more distant past.

The founding research on American partisanship focused narrowly on the national electoral politics of the 1950s. There was white supremacist political violence in the South targeting civil rights efforts at the time, but that conflict divided Northern and Southern Democrats rather than dividing the two parties. Thus, the account of partisan identities and motives among ordinary people is quite tame.

Social psychology was founded at the same time, but with a heavy focus on explaining the violence of the Holocaust, which followed empowerment of the Nazi Party in Germany and fascists elsewhere. What caused ordinary people to participate in atrocities on an unfathomable scale? They focused on the harms that can emerge from us-vs.-them identity categorization, and the extent to which people are susceptible to following leaders and peers — opinion leadership and social influence.

We identify strength of social identification with a political party as one vital factor distinguishing those who are more likely to endorse radical partisan views, and we test the role of messages for top party leaders in changing the views of their followers and opponents.

You focus on two major concepts: partisan moral disengagement and partisan violence. How are these defined as concepts? How are they related, and how do you measure them?

Kalmoe: Partisan moral disengagement builds on psychological research by Albert Bandura and others showing that people who hurt others tend to hold views that rationalize that harm. For example, we measure views that political opponents are a national threat, that they are evil and that they lack the traits to be fully human. We expected that people who endorse some of all of these views would be more likely to endorse physically harming opponents, and that is what we found in our surveys.

We measured support for partisan violence with more than two dozen different questions, ranging in specificity of the context and severity of harm. Our four most common questions asked about approval of threats against opposing leaders and voters. One question on whether violence by one's own party is justified, and there was a final question on support for violence if the opposing party wins the next presidential election. We also asked specific questions about assassinating opponents, about support for the January 2021 Capitol insurrection, and reactions to the shootings of Rep. Gabby Giffords (a Democrat) and Rep. Steve Scalise (a Republican), for example.

One important thing we found is that people have lots of different things in mind for the term "violence." While psychologists define it as resulting in severe maiming or death, many of the people who endorse partisan violence in our surveys told us in follow-up questions that they had lesser harms in mind, like fistfights, for example. So levels of support for "violence" include a broad range of behaviors, though they're all contentious and worrisome in their own ways.

Historically, you argue, "Americans seem to support political violence in some historical cases and under certain conditions." When do they support it, and when don't they? And what falls in between?

Kalmoe: One of the most important takeaways from our research is that there is no single level of support for political violence to find. Support depends entirely on the details. For example, we found modern support for the political violence of the American Revolution at 80% among partisans, which is about four times higher than our standard measures and orders of magnitude above some of our most severe and contextually specific questions.

We know from historical episodes of political violence in the past that millions of ordinary Americans can be organized into violent conflict, as during the Revolution and the Civil War, along with the organized racial-partisan violence during Reconstruction and Jim Crow.

We argue that the most important factors that shift public support for political violence, and participation in that violence, are the factors identified by social psychologists: influence from trusted leaders and from peer social networks. Both serve to set the norms for attitudes and behaviors regarding violence, and when the group says it's OK, people think and act accordingly. Of course, individual attributes like "trait aggression" still influence who is especially inclined to be an early adopter of those views and behaviors.

How is support for violence calibrated? In the extreme, some people involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection were ready or even eager for civil war. But how many people were willing to go that far?

Kalmoe: Our research speaks most to public attitudes about political violence, which certainly serves as a risk factor for the few who engage in violent acts. We began this project, however, thinking about the broader social environment for contentious partisanship. The prevalence of violent views could serve as a vital accelerant or brake on violent acts when neighbors and friends learn that someone in their social circle is planning violence. Their own views about violence could serve to encourage or discourage actions by others, and it will affect how they respond politically to violent political attacks in general. Our work doesn't directly analyze participation in political violence. That vital question is being answered by others.

How did the measures of partisan moral disengagement and partisan violence change over time? What did those changes reflect or reveal?

Kalmoe: We found steadily rising levels of support for partisan violence from our first survey in 2017 through our last reported in the book, in February 2021. Our vilifying questions for partisan moral disengagement also steadily rose over that time. Support for threats against leaders and citizens were a little more variable, rising at times of greatest contention and then dropping afterward. Those results tell us that, even within our current contentious period, those radical views are becoming more prevalent.

The trends in our survey work generally comport with rising levels of threats against leaders. For example, the Los Angeles Times cataloged steadily rising threats against Congress from 2016, when they numbered just under 1,000, to 2021, when they nearly reached 10,0000 — an order of magnitude more in just four years.

What's the role of "trait aggression," which you mentioned earlier? What role does it play in predicting partisan violence, and how does it interact with partisan moral disengagement?

Kalmoe: Trait aggression is an individual tendency to behave aggressively in everyday interactions with other people, including verbal and physical forms. We found that aggressive tendencies translate into greater support for partisan violence. In fact, trait aggression is the strongest predictor of violent partisan views among the many factors we tested.

But the political component of those views is important too. We found the strongest relationships between trait aggression and support for partisan violence among people who vilified partisan opponents, and likewise, we found that partisan moral disengagement predicted violent partisan views most among people who were interpersonally aggressive.

We can see a similar dynamic in violent political behavior. Those perpetrators almost always seem to have a history of aggressive criminal behavior and often a history of perpetrating domestic violence too.

You write that "the same things that predict conventional political actions like voting can also predict and explain aggressive behavior and violence." How so?

Kalmoe: Strength of social identification with the political party is one of the most important motivating forces for partisan action through voting, volunteering, donating and other nonviolent participatory acts. Our work shows that that same identity-based motivation also leads some partisans to endorse violence against their partisan opponents.

You write that one of your survey results "means [there are] roughly 20 million [Americans] who endorse assassinating U.S. leaders." That would surely be a shocking result to most people. What was the question that produced this result, and why is it so at odds with "common sense" political discourse?

Kalmoe: In one question, we asked "How much do you feel it is justified for [your own party] to kill opposing political leaders to advance their political goals these days?" Response options ranged from "not at all" to "a great deal." Nearly 90% of respondents chose "not at all," but 11% said assassination was at least "a little" justified.

Many people tend to censor their most extreme views in public for fear of social and legal sanctions, so the extreme rhetoric we hear often lacks that violent specificity. But we've also heard quite a lot of explicitly violent rhetoric stated publicly in recent years. Pundits and researchers have been too quick to dismiss those as merely expressive and fundamentally unserious. Of course, there are ranges of seriousness across people, but it is a mistake to dismiss these expressions as just blowing off steam. Given the rise in political violence and threats, alongside violent rhetoric and violent attitudes, some of the folks who set the conventional wisdom are beginning to wrestle with the degree and prevalence of that extreme hostility.

You report that "Political victimization is prevalent in the U.S.," ranging from insults to physical attacks. While far fewer people report aggression, you wrote that even the small percentages you found "potentially represent the behaviors of hundreds of thousands — even millions — of Americans engaged in extreme political behavior that goes unnoticed in news and scholarship."

Kalmoe: In addition to asking about extremely hostile and violent attitudes, we asked people to report their own aggressive political behavior, and whether they have been on the receiving end of aggression over politics. Nearly half of our respondents said they had been insulted, one in six said they'd been threatened, and 3% said they had been physically assaulted over politics. The numbers were substantially higher among those who said they regularly talk about politics, as you'd expect.

The portion admitting they themselves had behaved aggressively over politics was much lower: about one-quarter for insults, and only 1% for threats and physical altercations.

Both sets of results are novel, as far as we know. Few if any researchers are asking questions like these, even among those now asking about political violence. One reason that people might be so surprised by political violence like the 2021 Capitol attack is that no one has been systematically documenting the prevalence of milder aggressive behaviors that apparently are very common. And of course the people who engage in low-level political aggression are the likeliest to participate in more extreme actions.

After the 2020 election, you found that "about a fifth of American partisans were ready for a full-blown violent rebellion against the newly elected president and his government." What are the implications of that?

Kalmoe: Clearly, several thousand Americans went beyond support for violently overthrowing the newly-elected government to acting on that view in the 2021 Capitol attack. That episode, and the thousands of death threats targeting election administrators and others for upholding their civic duties after the 2020 election, are the clearest implications.

Most people who support political violence won't act on it. Of course, that's true in wars too. A majority of Americans initially supported the Iraq war, for example, even though a tiny fraction actually did the fighting. But their support for violence has important effects on the actions of those few, and helps determine whether the numbers of combatants will grow in spirals of provocation.

What did you find about the potential impact of anti-violence messages? How did this compare with what Donald Trump actually did?

Mason: A piece of good news from the book is that leaders seem to have a powerful ability to pacify violent attitudes among partisans. When we had survey respondents read a message from Biden or Trump denouncing political violence, we found that strong partisans responded by becoming less supportive of violence. We saw this effect even after reading a single sentence from a leader. It follows that sustained anti-violence rhetoric from leaders should be even more powerful. Importantly, Trump did the opposite in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. He very likely could have prevented the violence that occurred if he had broadly discouraged it in the first place. But instead Trump stoked violent feelings and behaviors.

In our surveys, we observe similar levels of support for violence among Democrats and Republicans. But observed levels of real violence in the American public are almost entirely from right-wing actors. This is likely due to the difference in rhetoric between Democratic and Republican leaders. Condemning violence is extremely important, even if the original violent message is purported to be "only a joke."

What did your research show about the relative influence of Fox News and MSNBC?

Mason: Americans who consumed partisan media (Fox News and MSNBC) were significantly more radical in their partisan views than those who watched CNN. For Fox News in particular, their viewers were both more morally disengaged from Democrats and more willing to endorse sending threats to Democrats. Those who watched MSNBC were not more morally disengaged than those who watched CNN, but they were more likely to endorse sending threats to Republicans. Overall, Fox News viewers seem to be significantly more likely to dehumanize and vilify Democrats than consumers of any other news source.

The recent wave of attacks on Democrats who support LGBTQ+ rights as "groomers" — by implication, pedophiles — seems like another worrying example of dehumanization. Aren't media elites and politicians who take up such language grooming their followers for violence?

Kalmoe: The "groomer" and "pedo" conspiracy rhetoric accomplishes two things at once for Republicans. It ties into long-standing vilifying tropes of LGBTQ+ people that appeal to the most radical religious base, but it also serves a broader purpose of vilifying Democrats and liberals generally. It's hard to imagine anything more vile than sexually abusing children, so the attempt to invent that political reputation for their opponents is the horrifying logical conclusion of increasing vilification. By going to those vilifying extremes, they make political violence against all those groups more likely because it's easier for people to rationalize violence against people whose evil behaviors define them.

What did you find in terms of prospects for the future? How should we understand the stakes and the risks we face?

Mason: We're in a pivotal moment as a country. Every time we make progress on racial equality and civil rights, we tend to see a backlash. The current political clash is about whether we can continue to improve the country's progress toward a fully multiracial democracy, or whether we go back to a time when white Christian men had full control over society. It's an intense conversation, but also it's one that we need to have. When we can't talk about racism and sexism, that protects racism and sexism. There is no way to have this conversation about the country's past and future in a way that is without conflict, but there is also no guarantee that equality will always win and prejudice will always lose. So it's an intense moment, but it's also a very important one.

Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

Kalmoe: We make very clear in the book that while levels of radical partisanship are sometimes similar between Democrats and Republicans, the roots of that radicalism are not morally equivalent. We also acknowledge that political violence is sometimes a last resort, and that viewing opponents as a threat may be an objective evaluation and not a view to be condemned.

We should also note that while our research focuses on partisan violence, the biggest threats to democracy in the U.S. are from legal channels, not civilians acting out violently — although those sometimes reinforce each other. Legislatures, governors, courts, administrators and presidents all have far more influence over whether the U.S. moves toward or away from democracy than any mob, militia, terror cell or assassin.

Some Republicans are now fleeing from Trump's election fraud claims: report

By and large, Republicans are ignoring Donald Trump's claims that there is election fraud in Pennsylvania that is preventing Dr. Mehmet Oz from claiming victory over David McCormick and Politico's David Siders is reporting that GOP lawmakers are increasingly moving on from echoing Trump's belief that every election that doesn't go there way is tainted.

As it stands now, Pennsylvania Republicans are furious with Trump after he criticized the fact that the GOP Senate primary has no clear winner yet by proclaiming on Truth Social, "The Pennsylvania Oz race is ridiculous. How long does it take to count votes. France, same day all paper, had VERIFIED numbers in evening. U.S. is a laughingstock on Elections. Stop FINDING VOTES in PENNSYLVANIA! RIGGED?”

As Siders notes, Trump's raving is a voice in the wilderness as lawmakers are not taking up his latest conspiracy theory and are finding his complaints about election tampering are growing old and stale.

"Donald Trump has been lying about voter fraud for so long that his impugning of yet another election seemed almost inevitable. What was more revealing was that, for the first time, Republicans appeared not to be listening," Siders wrote before adding, "Trump’s earliest effort to graft his 2020 complaints onto ballot counting in a midterm primary is falling flat. MAGA hard-liners who’ve lost primaries in other states in recent weeks have not contested the results. And when the primary calendar turns to Georgia on Tuesday, Trump’s election conspiracy crusade is likely to take another hit."

According to Christopher Nicholas, a Pennsylvania campaign consultant, "No one’s paying any attention to it.”

Jason Shepherd, the ex-chair of the Republican Party in Georgia’s Cobb County, added that Trump's appeal is also waning, telling Politico, "I think the shine has gone off a bit,” and that an endorsement from Trump "is not going to be the end-all and be-all.”

According to one former Trump adviser, candidates like Oz and McCormick are smart to not echo Trump's latest conspiracy theory.

"Nobody wants to be viewed as a sore loser and make allegations they can’t sustain," they suggested. "They’re both intelligent guys. They’re both sane guys, and neither of them wants to embarrass himself.”

Siders' report continued, "But for Republican candidates this cycle, the difference between 2022 and 2020, said John Thomas, a Republican strategist working on House campaigns across the country, is that 'we’re just not seeing it where people hang on his every word.' He advises his candidates to watch Tucker Carlson every night to 'be in tune' with the electorate, not Trump on Truth Social, the platform on which Trump suggested the Pennsylvania election might be 'rigged.'"

You can read more here.