[embedded content]
In a private meeting last month with big-money donors, the head of a top conservative group boasted that her outfit had crafted the new voter suppression law in Georgia and was doing the same with similar bills for Republican state legislators across the country. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, “or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
The Georgia law had “eight key provisions that Heritage recommended,” Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, a sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, told the foundation’s donors at an April 22 gathering in Tucson, in a recording obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with Mother Jones. Those included policies severely restricting mail ballot drop boxes, preventing election officials from sending absentee ballot request forms to voters, making it easier for partisan workers to monitor the polls, preventing the collection of mail ballots, and restricting the ability of counties to accept donations from nonprofit groups seeking to aid in election administration.
All of these recommendations came straight from Heritage’s list of “best practices” drafted in February. With Heritage’s help, Anderson said, Georgia became “the example for the rest of the country.”
The leaked video reveals the extent to which Heritage is leading a massive campaign to draft and pass model legislation restricting voting access, which has been swiftly adopted this year in the battleground states of Georgia, Florida, Arizona, and Iowa. It’s no coincidence that so many GOP-controlled states are rushing to pass similar pieces of legislation in such a short period of time. 
Republican legislators claim they’re tightening up election procedures to address (unfounded) concerns about fraud in the 2020 election. But what’s really behind this effort is a group of conservative Washington insiders who have been pushing these same kinds of voting restrictions for decades, with the explicit aim of helping Republicans win elections. The difference now is that Trump’s baseless claims about 2020 have given them the ammunition to get the bills passed, and the conservative movement, led by Heritage, is making an unprecedented investment to get them over the finish line. 
“We’re working with these state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills,” Anderson told the Heritage Foundation donors. In addition to drafting the bills in some cases, “we’ve also hired state lobbyists to make sure that in these targeted states we’re meeting with the right people.”

To “create this echo chamber,” as Anderson put it, Heritage is spending $24 million over two years in eight battleground states—Arizona, Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin—to pass and defend restrictive voting legislation. Every Tuesday, the group leads a call with right-wing advocacy groups like the Susan B. Anthony List, Tea Party Patriots, and FreedomWorks to coordinate these efforts at the highest levels of the conservative movement. “We literally give marching orders for the week ahead,” Anderson said. “All so we’re singing from the same song sheet of the goals for that week and where the state bills are across the country.”
Days before the Georgia legislature would pass its sweeping bill rolling back access to the ballot, Anderson said she met with Gov. Brian Kemp and urged him to quickly sign the bill when it reached his desk. “I had one message for him,” said Anderson, a former Trump administration official in the Office of Management and Budget. “Do not wait to sign that bill. If you wait even an hour, you will look weak. This bill needs to be signed immediately.” Kemp followed Anderson’s advice, signing the bill right after its passage. Heritage called it a “historic voting security bill.”
Anderson said she delivered “the same message” to Republican governors in Texas, Arizona, and Florida. Texas is the next big fight for Heritage. Anderson said Heritage Action wrote “19 provisions” in a Texas House bill that would make it a criminal offense for election officials to give a mail ballot request form to a voter who hadn’t explicitly asked for one and would subject poll workers to criminal penalties for removing partisan poll challengers who are accused of voter intimidation. It’s expected to pass in the coming days. 
“Gov. Abbott will sign it quickly,” Anderson said. She warned of corporate opposition to the bill, following actions by Georgia-based companies to distance themselves from the restrictive voting bill there. “American Airlines, Dell, they’re coming after us,” she said. “We need to be ready for the next fight in Texas.” 
In response to a request for comment, Anderson said in a statement, “We are proud of our work at the national level and in states across this country to promote commonsense reforms that make it easier to vote and harder to cheat. We’ve been transparent about our plans and public with our policy recommendations, and we won’t be intimidated by the left’s smear campaign and cancel culture.”
Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky, a former George W. Bush administration official who for two decades has been the driving force behind policies that restrict access to the ballot, spoke alongside Anderson at the donor summit.
“Hans is briefing governors, secretaries of state, state attorney generals, state elected officials,” Anderson said. “Just what three weeks ago, we had a huge call with secretaries of state, right?”
“We’ve now for several years been having a private briefing of the best conservative secretaries of state in the country that has so annoyed the left that they have been doing everything they can to try to find out what happens at that meeting,” von Spakovsky replied.
“So far unsuccessfully,” Anderson said. “No leaks.”
Though the bills shaped by Heritage have been sold as advancing “election integrity,” they appear aimed more at helping GOP candidates take back power. “We are going to take the fierce fire that is in every single one of our bellies,” Anderson told the donors in April, “to right the wrongs of November.”
The Heritage Foundation was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a well-connected conservative activist on a mission to create more aggressive conservative infrastructure to rival more liberal think tanks like the Brookings Institution. Weyrich, who was also Heritage’s first president, went on to co-found the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which pairs corporations with conservative state legislators to draft model legislation, and the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, which mobilized evangelical voters behind GOP causes and candidates. Heritage received major funding from leading right-wing donors such as Charles and David Koch, Richard Mellon Scaife, and Joseph Coors. 
Speaking in 1980 at a meeting of evangelical leaders in Dallas, Weyrich bluntly articulated his radical views on voting rights. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
In the years since, the Heritage Foundation became the driving force behind much of the Republican Party agenda, writing many of the policy recommendations that were enacted under the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. 

It remains one of the best-funded organizations in GOP circles. It raised more than $76 million in 2020, according to its most recent annual report. More than $1.6 million of that was raised from corporations, most of which chose to remain anonymous. But according to the annual report from 2019, Google, the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and the multi-level marketing company Amway all gave at least $100,000, and Citigroup and Hitachi each gave $25,000.  
In 2010, as opposition on the right to the Obama administration reached a fever pitch, Heritage launched Heritage Action, a dark money group that does not have to disclose its donors but has received at least $500,000 from the Koch brothers. The goal was to connect the Heritage Foundation to the growing Tea Party movement and to enable the group to undertake more aggressive political activities, such as leading opposition to the Affordable Care Act and promoting a government shutdown in 2013. This right-wing advocacy alienated Republicans on Capitol Hill, with former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn accusing the group of “destroying the Republican Party.”
Former Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint described the relationship between Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action as “the one-two punch.” The foundation writes the policy, and Heritage Action makes it happen. Heritage Action raised more than $11 million in 2019.
The mastermind behind the nationwide voting restrictions operation is von Spakovsky, who’s done more than just about anyone in GOP circles to spread the myth of widespread voter fraud over the past two decades. 
During the Bush administration, von Spakovsky was a special counsel at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, where he played a key role in the department’s approval of a 2005 voter ID law from Georgia—among the first of its kind—over objections from career department lawyers, who said it was discriminatory. While advocating internally for the law, von Spakovsky published a law review article under the pseudonym “Publius” praising voter ID laws, in violation of Justice Department ethics guidelines.
“It’s like he goes to bed dreaming about this, and gets up in the morning wondering, ‘What can I do today to make it more difficult for people to vote?’” the late civil rights icon John Lewis once said of von Spakovsky. 

In 2017, von Spakovsky joined Donald Trump’s ill-fated Commission on Election Integrity, which was formed after Trump falsely claimed 3 million people voted illegally in California in the 2016 election, with the aim of unearthing evidence of voter fraud in order to justify new ballot restrictions. Von Spakovsky argued the commission should exclude Democrats and “mainstream Republican officials and/or academics” and helped Vice Chair Kris Kobach, then the Kansas secretary of state, draft a letter requesting sensitive voter data from all 50 states. The request was met with massive pushback, and the commission, facing a flurry of lawsuits, abruptly disbanded in January 2018 without finding any evidence of fraud.
Though Anderson called von Spakovsky “the premier election law expert across this country,” his work has not fared well in court. During a trial challenging Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law for voter registration, Kobach hired von Spakovsky to support his claim that illegal votes by noncitizens had swung US elections. But under questioning, von Spakovsky admitted he couldn’t name a single election where votes by noncitizens had decided the outcome. A federal judge wrote that the court gave “little weight to Mr. von Spakovsky’s opinion,” citing “several misleading and unsupported examples of noncitizen voter registration.” 
Nonetheless, von Spakovsky’s sensationalist claims about stolen elections and advocacy for policies that restrict voting have found an increasingly receptive audience among Republicans following Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
“The one good thing that came out of last year’s elections,” von Spakovsky said at the Heritage Action event in April, “is I think finally a lot of members of the public, and particularly state legislators, realized that these vulnerabilities exist, have existed for a long time, and have figured out in many states we really need to do something to fix it.”
Indeed, Heritage has been at the forefront of weaponizing Trump’s Big Lie of widespread voter fraud in order to build support for policies that restrict access to the ballot. “A lot of bad things happened in 2020,” Heritage Foundation senior adviser Genevieve Wood said in April to the donors, who ranked “election integrity” as their top issue in a survey this year. “But you should know a lot of good things are beginning to happen now in 2021. You’re seeing it in Georgia. You’re seeing in the state of Arizona. You’re beginning to see it in Texas and so many more.”
Heritage began its lobbying campaign early in Georgia. In February, a representative from the group delivered a letter signed by 2,000 conservative activists to Republicans in the state legislature, urging them to rewrite the state’s voting laws after GOP defeats in the November presidential election and the January Senate runoffs (where Heritage Action contacted 1.5 million voters on behalf of the losing Republican candidates). The activists wrote that they had “lost faith in the process and the outcome of their elections.” Soon after, bills restricting voting access started moving through the legislature. 
“Then we provided testimony, expert witnesses, analysis, and actually how to draft these bills so that they were legally tight,” Anderson said. “So, [Democratic voting rights lawyer] Marc Elias, if you know that name from the progressive left, he’s like their legal pit bull. He goes after all of this with lawsuits, so that Marc Elias can’t find any holes.” 
Elias has filed a suit challenging the Georgia law. “The Georgia law violates both the Voting Rights Act and the US Constitution,” Elias told Mother Jones. “Heritage Action claiming that this is legally tight is like hearing from the Titanic shipbuilders about how much confidence they have in its maiden voyage. This law is based on a Big Lie, denies Black, Brown, and young voters of their rights, and will be struck down in court.”
Republican state Rep. Barry Fleming, the author of the bill in the Georgia House, was a guest at Heritage’s donor summit. “I can tell you, back in February, I felt like some days we were alone in Georgia,” Fleming said. “And then the Heritage Foundation stepped in, and that began to bring us a boost to help turn around, get the truth out about what we were really trying to do. And I’m here in part to say thank you and God bless you.”
A number of majority-Black counties that Fleming represents as a lawyer in private practice when he’s not at the legislature fired him in protest after the bill passed. But he credited Heritage for helping Republican legislators resist what Anderson called “economic terrorism.” (The group has launched a $1 million ad campaign to defend the law on CNBC and local Georgia stations, which Anderson said is aimed at “woke CEOs [who] didn’t read the bill.”)
“But for the Heritage Foundation and you stepping up to help us, what are other part-time legislators across this nation going to think when they try to do the right thing and secure our elections if they’re allowed to fire us from our jobs, threaten our livelihoods just because we stood up to try to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat?” Fleming asked. 
Other measures Anderson said Heritage drafted included “three provisions” in legislation adopted by Iowa Republicans a few weeks before Georgia’s law, including one placing voters on inactive status if they sit out one election cycle and removing them from the rolls if they fail to take action, a system that could lead hundreds of thousands of voters to be purged. 
“Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” Anderson said. “We worked quietly with the Iowa state legislature. We got the best practices to them. We helped draft the bills. We made sure activists were calling the state legislators, getting support, showing up at their public hearings, giving testimony…Little fanfare. Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’” (Elias has also filed suit against the Iowa law.)

Anderson also took credit for a Arizona law enacted in early April that prohibits election officials from accepting private funding, which was used in 2020 in both red and blue counties for things like opening more polling locations and drop box sites, saying, “We’re kicking Mark Zuckerberg out of all of our state and federal elections.” And she claimed that another bill signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday, which could purge more than 100,000 people from the state’s list of voters who automatically receive a mail ballot, was “straight from the Heritage recommendations.”  
A Heritage lobbyist met early on with Florida Republicans to draft a bill largely mimicking the Georgia law, which passed the legislature over the unanimous opposition of Florida’s county elections supervisors. While the bill worked its way through the legislature, Anderson urged DeSantis to champion it. “I’ve got a call this afternoon with Gov. DeSantis’ team getting an update,” she said on April 22 to her donors. “Why is that? He needs to do more. He needs to say, get this bill on my desk.” DeSantis signed the bill on May 6 behind closed doors, with only Fox & Friends cameras allowed in for an “exclusive.”
“The scandal is the national pressure coming down on states with an intent to keep people from voting,” says Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president of the corporate watchdog group Public Citizen. After record turnout in 2020, “writing these bills, pushing these bills, is a mechanism to attempt to return to those new voters being unable to vote.”
In addition to pushing state-based voting restrictions, Heritage Action is leading the effort to block the passage of HR 1, Democrats’ sweeping democracy reform bill that would preempt many of these voter suppression laws by enacting policies like automatic and Election Day registration, two weeks of early voting, and expanded mail-in voting on a nationwide basis. “HR 1 is basically the dream bill of every left-wing advocacy group we’ve been fighting against for years on election issues,” von Spakovsky said at the donor event.
Von Spakovsky said at the beginning of the year that Heritage put out “a short summary of the worst provisions of a 900-page bill. Now, you all know congressional staffers don’t like reading 900-page bills. That fact sheet we put out is being used by congressional staffers, members of Congress, to go up and fight HR 1.” The group dubbed the bill the “Corrupt Politicians Act,” a label that was soon being used by leading Republicans like Ted Cruz.
“We’ve made sure that every single member of Congress knows just how bad the bill is,” Anderson added. “Then we’ve made sure there’s an echo chamber of support around these senators driven by your Heritage Action activists and sentinels across the country where we’ve driven hundreds of thousands of calls, emails, place letters to the editor, hosted events, and run television and digital ads.”
In March, the group organized a rally in West Virginia to urge centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin to oppose the bill and “stand up for WV values,” according to an invitation obtained by Documented, even as it bused in conservative activists from states hundreds of miles away. Heritage Action announced on Wednesday it would run ads this summer pressuring Democratic senators in West Virginia, Arizona, Montana, and New Hampshire to preserve the filibuster in order to block HR 1. 
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Anderson said in April. “If we don’t win this, we lose our republic, period.”
To Elias, the video from the Heritage summit is proof that Republican state lawmakers are pursuing voting restrictions not in response to real local problems, but at the behest of well-funded Washington insiders. “It’s not being run by a coalition of state legislators,” he says. “It’s not being run by election administrators. It’s being run out of an office in Washington, DC, by people whose sole agenda is to make it harder for Black, Brown, and young voters to participate in the electoral process. Republicans who adopt these model laws should be ashamed of themselves.”
Nick Surgey is an investigative reporter and the executive director of Documented.

Read More

duncan1890/Getty

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.For 10 years, South Carolina was unable to execute anyone because the state couldn’t secure the drugs used in lethal injections. Initially undeterred, when the drug supply began running low, lawmakers approved the electric chair as an alternative method. The condemned were then given a choice between lethal injection and electrocution. Unsurprisingly, the inmates chose lethal injection since executions couldn’t be carried out.
But South Carolina now is poised to resume executions after its legislature this month approved a law that will allow prison officials to execute death row inmates by firing squad. Once Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signs the proposed bill, if lethal injection drugs continue to be unavailable, those scheduled to die will face two grim choices: either the firing squad or the electric chair.
South Carolina has been trying to revive its execution chamber for years. But this latest push, which has been successful thus far, is taking place when capital punishment’s popularity has diminished and when the GOP has reconfigured itself. No longer is it a party committed to promoting distinct policy proposals and conservative ideology. Instead, it exists as an outlet for white grievance, owning the libs, and opposing whatever policies the Democrats support—even ones that may in fact be beneficial to their constituents.

After last year’s racial justice protests and the ongoing deadly pandemic, Democrats have sought to reform the criminal justice system and address structural racism. For South Carolina Republicans, however, what better way to differentiate yourself from the liberals than championing a bill that would require death row inmates to choose between two barbaric forms of execution they would like the state to use? “The decade without executions in South Carolina should be seen as a mark of progress toward a culture of life,” said Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, the executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network said in a statement, “not a reason to backslide into immoral and gruesome means of killing.” 
Once upon a time, it seemed as if the Republican Party was seriously considering moderating some of its positions on capital punishment that had become increasingly unpopular. In New Hampshire, some Republican lawmakers voted to abolish the death penalty along with their Democratic colleagues. But, as with most things, all that changed during the Trump years, during which a record-breaking execution spree took place. Once this occurred, the only place left for the party to go has been further and further to the right. Gov. McMaster, who is up for re-election next year, has already established himself as one of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent sycophants (a very competitive position). He has groveled at the former president’s feet at any opportunity, including supporting Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Naturally, he has been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the new law, which he insists will provide “closure” to victims’ family members.

We are one step closer to providing victims’ families and loved ones with the justice and closure they are owed by law. I will sign this legislation as soon as it gets to my desk.
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) May 5, 2021

The state’s execution history is a perfect microcosm of the racist nature of the entire criminal justice system. It’s impossible to ignore the racial disparities in who is chosen for capital punishment. Though they only make up one quarter of the state’s population, Black people make up more than half of death row inmates. The majority of the victims were white.
The state also can claim one of the most shameful episodes in the history of execution in the United States. In 1944, two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina, Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames, went missing. Their badly beaten bodies were found on the Black side of town. George Stinney, a 14-year-old Black boy who had seen the two girls the previous day was quickly arrested, tried, and convicted by an all-white jury. There was no physical evidence tying the boy to the gruesome crime, but police claimed that he had confessed. George became the youngest person to be executed in the twentieth century. He was so small that the executioners used a Bible as a booster seat on the electric chair. George’s family has maintained his innocence for decades and 70 years later, in 2014, Judge Carmen Mullen vacated his conviction saying he didn’t receive a fair trial.
Since 1985, South Carolina has executed 43 people, making it one of the top ten states with the most executions. The last person put to death was Jefferey Motts in 2011 for murdering his cellmate Charles Martin while serving multiple life sentences for the killings of his relatives. Since then, the Palmetto state has been unable to procure lethal injection drugs after manufacturers in Europe ended shipments to states that intended to use their products to kill inmates. As a result, the rate of executions dropped dramatically, and five states, including Virginia, have abolished the death penalty altogether in the last five years.
Though it had been in use for decades, injecting the condemned with a lethal amount of drugs became the popular method in the 1990s after most states concluded it was the more “humane” option, despite scientific evidence that shows that for the person who is lethally injected, the experience is likely to be akin to drowning. Nonetheless, it is the method of choice for most death penalty states, but others include electrocution, the gas chamber, and firing squads as legal methods. 
Of those options, firing squads have only been used sporadically in the United States since the US Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The last person to die by gunshots is Ronnie Lee Gardner in Utah in 2010, who chose the method, in which five anonymous marksmen stood 25 feet away from him and fired bullets into his chest. Sandra Yi, a local reporter who witnessed the execution said, “When he was shot, some of us weren’t sure if he had passed away because we could see movement.” 
Despite appearing to be rather primitive, death penalty supporters, critics, and legal experts have pointed out that there is less chance of botching an execution if it is carried out by a firing squad. Of course, there is always room for error. In Indonesia, where a firing squad is the primary method, there have been stories of the marksmen missing the condemned and then having to shoot him again.
In the last two decades, the United States moved away from methods like hanging, firing squads, and electrocution because they conjured up images of a society so backwards in its thinking that it wasn’t properly horrified by the gruesome violence those methods produced. Lethal injection, conversely, seemed more sterile and painless—for the viewers at least. When lethal injection was introduced it was thought of as a compassionate and humane way to kill death row inmates, though scientific experts have concluded that it’s likely neither of those things. It’s still a way to end a life, but at least death penalty supporters could tell themselves that this was how a civilized, medicalized, and more sophisticated society handles a punishment that most wealthy nations have concluded is cruel and barbaric. But South Carolina’s fervor to resume executions by any means necessary has abandoned this facade of sanitizing the death penalty. 
Currently, 37 people are awaiting death in South Carolina; three of them have exhausted their appeals and are eligible for execution. “Three living, breathing human beings with a heartbeat that this bill is aimed at killing,” Democratic state Rep. Justin Bamberg said when lawmakers were set to vote on the bill. “If you push the green button at the end of the day and vote to pass this bill out of this body, you may as well be throwing the switch yourself.”

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

Officials in Palm Beach, Florida, are reportedly preparing for the possibility that an out-of-state extradition request for former President Donald Trump may be issued in the next year. But there’s one huge caveat: They’re unsure how Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a staunch supporter of the former president, may impede such a request.
Reporting from Politico details how officials in Palm Beach, near Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago, are making specific preparations for the event that he may be charged with crimes in New York, once an investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. is completed. Vance is looking into whether Trump and/or the Trump Organization committed a myriad of possible financial crimes, including tax, banking and insurance fraud, using a process of inflating or deflating Trump’s assets to serve his interests.
An extradition request could come from Vance sometime this year. The Manhattan district attorney is retiring after 2021, and it’s largely assumed that, if he plans to issue indictment charges against Trump, he will do so before leaving office.
The U.S. Constitution requires a state to extradite any person within its jurisdiction to the state where that person is being charged with committing a crime. Federal law also stipulates that the “executive authority” of a state that receives an extradition request must “arrest and secure” the person being sought.
But a Florida statute may make things difficult. Under that state’s laws, the governor is allowed to order officials under their purview to “investigate or assist in investigating the demand,” and to report back to them the situation, after which the governor may determine “whether the person ought to be surrendered.”
In other words, DeSantis — whom Trump has floated as a possible vice presidential running mate in 2024, and who is also the first choice among Republican voters to run for president if Trump opts out of doing so — could look at the evidence Vance puts forward, and decide it is not compelling enough for him to comply. Such a move would likely be viewed as political posturing, as trying to appease the GOP base, which is adamantly pro-Trump.
Should DeSantis decide against extraditing Trump, the matter would undoubtedly go before the U.S. Supreme Court, which would then have to decide who is right in the matter as it’s the arbiter in disputes between states. If that happens, it could play out to Trump’s advantage in two ways.
First, it would delay the process, as the court would have to schedule a time to hear the case, consider the merits as presented by each side, and arrive at a decision. That would give Trump more time to consider other legal options before he ever has to make an appearance in New York to answer for potential charges.
The other advantage Trump would have is the current makeup of the Supreme Court, which is six to three in favor of conservatives, with 50 percent of the conservative bloc made up of Trump appointees (although they have ruled against Trump on other occasions).
Beyond Vance’s investigations in New York, Trump faces at least four other investigations, including one in Georgia led by a Republican, which may also result in extradition requests — giving DeSantis more opportunities to intervene on Trump’s behalf.
Another inquiry in New York, by state Attorney General Letitia James, is also looking into potential financial crimes Trump may have committed. Two inquiries are happening in Georgia, at the state level and in Fulton County, where investigators are looking into whether the former president unlawfully sought to influence officials into changing election results there. And in Washington, D.C., Trump may face future charges relating to his incitement of a mob of his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol building on January 6.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

The Israeli military’s latest airstrikes on Gaza have already killed 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, and now leaders of the Israel Defense Forces say they plan to approve plans later today for a ground invasion of Gaza too. At least 7 Israelis have died, including one child. Meanwhile videos are circulating of far right Israelis mobbing and lynching Palestinians throughout Israel, as documented by Mondoweiss. Many have noted that the lynch mobs are fueled by Israel’s state violence.
Just two weeks ago, Democrats in the House of Representatives doubled down on their commitment to the U.S. providing unconditional military aid to Israel, despite mass killings and other human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government against Palestinians.
Since that time, Israeli police stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at Palestinian civilians there. In defense Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets, which have largely been disabled by Israel’s missile defense system before reaching Israeli targets.
Just hours ago, as Stephen Zunes notes: “The Biden administration … blocked an otherwise unanimous UN Security Council effort to end the increasing violence in Palestine and Israel. All 14 other members were ready to adopt the statement but Biden, like Trump, insists on making the U.S. an international outlier.” Meanwhile Secretary of State Antony Blinken furthered the U.S.’s outlier reputation by pledging loyalty to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In this interview, international relations scholar Richard Falk breaks down the latest news commentary on the recent bloodshed and human rights violations, analyzes the political language used to reference the region, discusses the tragic legacy of Trumpism, and examines Biden’s place within the foreign policy consensus.
Daniel Falcone: Palestinian American journalist Mariam Barghouti recently asked, “Why is it that American politicians cannot say the words ‘Israeli apartheid?’” Could you comment on the escalated use of force related to this idea?
Richard Falk: As an international crime, apartheid is a collective crime against a distinct race that is one step down in severity from genocide. As death is the core of genocide, it is as a practical matter irreversible, and its legacy lingers as the instance of the Holocaust illustrates. In fact, Israeli apartheid may be partly understood as an unintended consequence of the Holocaust. Israel probably could not have been successfully established without widespread international support, which would not have been so forthcoming without the shame and liberal guilt of the West in doing so little to oppose the extreme antisemitism and racism of Nazi Germany.
In any event, the Palestinian people were made to pay the price of Nazi wrongdoing in the form of the imposition of a non-Palestinian state in their homeland at the very time when European colonialism was unraveling elsewhere in the world. In such a setting, it was to be expected that Palestinian society would resist, and that Israel’s security would depend on effective means of repression. Such an interaction was accentuated by the characteristics of the Zionist project that sought a Jewish state that was governed in accordance with democratic principles. Given the premise of such ethnic politics, this led to ethnic cleansing to ensure stable Jewish demographic control of the state. It also meant discriminatory treatment of immigration and residency, denying Palestinians basic rights while giving Jews many privileges based on identity alone.
It is always deceptive to treat the oppressor and the oppressed as if equal.American mainstream political arenas and media are frightened and intimidated by the prospect of being labeled as antisemitic. The widely relied upon IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Anniversary) definition of antisemitism would easily result in any allegation of apartheid being treated as proof positive of antisemitism. This is so, despite respected studies concluding that Israel’s practices and policies satisfy the definition of apartheid as set forth in the 1973 UN International Convention on Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. And despite the Rome Statute (2002), the treaty governing the operations of the International Criminal Court regard apartheid in Article 7(h) as one type of crime against humanity.
This inhibition on describing apartheid as “apartheid” has been eroded by two 2021 reports confirming the apartheid allegation. The first report is by B’Tselem, the leading Israeli human rights NGO, that characterizes Israeli apartheid as the imposition of Jewish dominance upon the Palestinian people in the territory governed by Israel; that is, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea that encompasses both Israel proper and the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The second report, by Human Rights Watch, reaches the apartheid conclusion after an exhaustive examination of systematic Israeli racial discrimination and reliance on inhuman measures resulting in Palestinian victimization in furtherance of the Zionist project of maintaining a Jewish state. Back in 2017, I co-authored a report with Virginia Tilley, under UN auspices (Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, or ESCWA) that investigated the apartheid allegation and concluded that Israeli practices and policies were an instance of apartheid, which we felt was best understood in relation to the Palestinian people (including refugees and exiles) rather than confined to territory.
Juan Cole told me that, “Biden will pressure the Israeli government to lighten up behind the scenes but will back Israel in public.” It’s been recorded that Israel has called on Biden to stay out of the conflict. How in your estimation, will the president respond to the “Jerusalem crisis?”
On the basis of past behavior and the initial statements of close advisers, it is most likely that Biden visors will call for calm, while making one-sided and unconditional criticisms of the rockets and artillery shells from Gaza fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as “provocations” and “escalations” of the underlying conflict. The one-sidedness is almost certain to be underscored by refraining from any criticism of Israeli responses, which are almost certain to be disproportionate in terms of casualties, devastation and firepower.
The one-sidedness will be further highlighted by the absence of direct reference to Israeli provocations in Jerusalem such as right-wing settlers marching through East Jerusalem shouting “Death to Arabs” or municipal plans to expel a series of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem on the basis of flimsy legal pretexts. The admitted goal is to prepare the way for further Jewish settlements, which is regarded by almost every Palestinian as a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that began in 1947, and has occurred periodically in 74 ensuing years. The Palestinian steadfastness (sumud) in Sheikh Jarrah is epitomized by their slogan “we will not be erased.”
Biden places a high priority on sustaining a bipartisan image in the conduct of foreign policy, especially with respect to Israeli policies. He has already indicated that the United States will accept Trump’s unlawful initiative of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; will not question the unlawful annexing of the Syrian Golan Heights; and has applauded the normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries so heralded as triumphant diplomatic achievements during the last stage of the Trump presidency.
Although there is some friction from a small group of Democrats in Congress resulting from such an imbalanced approach, it is strongly endorsed by both political parties and by the powerful lobbying influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Leading Biden foreign policy representatives have made clear that the $38 billion military aid package will not be affected by negative findings in the annual country reports of the State Department, which signals a green light for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggressive approach to relations with the Palestinians.
One of the worst flaws in liberal journalism is to treat asymmetries as if symmetrical.Lawrence Davidson points out that, “The US State Department has refused to condemn the death of children in Gaza.” The news media continues to insulate the crimes of the state and reports in the passive voice. For example, consider this recent headline: “At Least 26 Killed by Israel’s Retaliatory Rocket Strikes in Gaza, Palestinian Officials Say.” Has any dimension of the press coverage improved, however, in your estimation?
There is a subtle change in the coverage of the liberal print media, as highlighted by The New York Times and The Washington Post. Instead of reporting only Palestinian violence as objectionable, there is more of a tendency to place nominal blame for periodic crises on both parties. I regard this as conveying a distorting image of symmetrical responsibility shared equally by Palestine and Israel while overlooking the structural realities of gross inequality arising from Israeli oppression and expanding territorial claims. It is always deceptive to treat the oppressor and the oppressed as if equal.
As here, the oppressor acts contrary to applicable international law and elementary morality while the oppressed is countering by exercising rights of resistance and suffering the deprivation of basic rights. Of course, the tactics of resistance should be scrutinized by reference to legal and moral constraints, but without losing sight of overwhelming structures of dominance and the far greater harm done by state violence than by the violence of resistance.
Lawrence Davidson also recently explained that, “It is important to remember the sequence of events here: The latest started with an effort on the part of Israel to evict Palestinian families in East Jerusalem — itself part of an effort of ethnic cleansing. Then came the Palestinian protests which were met with police violence and attempts at suppression, leading to the wounding of hundreds. This was followed by rocket fire from Gaza. Followed by Israeli airstrikes on the city and its outskirts.” And sure enough, just hours ago, it was reported that “Israel launches airstrikes after rockets fired from Gaza in day of escalation.” This headline conveys that the situation is somehow symmetrical and the media’s interest in maintaining a false balance. Is this a correct observation?
As my last response suggests, one of the worst flaws in liberal journalism is to treat asymmetries as if symmetrical. Such a practice has been notorious in relation to the so-called peace process or Oslo diplomacy, where the Palestinians are made to share equal responsibility with the Israelis. This is so despite Israel making clear that its acceptance of “peace” with the Palestinian people depends on Palestine giving up its inalienable right of self-determination as well as claims to having its capital in Jerusalem or challenges to extensive Israeli armed settlements unlawfully established.
I have a friend who recently wrote, “Israel, as an ethno-state is [on the verge of] committing suicide.” This in reaction to the May 7 headline “Palestinians, Israel police clash at Al-Aqsa mosque; 53 hurt.” What kind of political consequences do you perceive the Israelis to suffer?
There may be an ambiguity in your friend’s assertion of Israel being on the verge of committing suicide. Is this because Israel is encountering difficulty in the enforcement of its claims as an ethnocracy to occupy all of the ethno-religious space? Or is it because Israel has been compelled to challenge the red line of Islamic identity, by entering Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, attacking and injuring hundreds of Muslim worshipers, thereby threatening what it sought to achieve by the normalization agreements? Time will tell.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

Sixteen minutes. That’s how long it took for House Republicans to broom Rep. Liz Cheney out of her leadership position. A pizza takes more time, but Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his merry band of Trumpian thralls don’t have a second to waste.
They seek to seize tomorrow, which, for them, means completely rewriting yesterday — pretending that Donald Trump handily won the 2020 election, but was dispossessed by a rash of election fraud currently being remedied in various states with new laws. (Those laws, of course, are a monumental, racist threat to voting rights.) Oh, and that murderous riot at the Capitol in January? Nothing more than “a normal tourist visit,” according to GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde’s Wednesday explanation. There’s really no fixing that.
I have no truck with those trying to paint Liz Cheney as some kind of valiant hero. This is her fudge, and now she has to cook it. Whatever this party is today, it has Cheney and her repugnant father’s fingerprints all over it.
Cheney is in this soup because she refused to parrot the ersatz “We Wuz Robbed” plank of the Republican Party platform, which is currently the only plank in that platform, while her Trump-loving replacement — Rep. Elise Stefanik — saw the inside track afforded by total Trump loyalty and pounced on it. Just like that, Cheney is out of there like her chair was some James Bond ejector seat … which makes you wonder how comfy Stefanik will be once she sits down in the same spot. Things happen damn fast in today’s GOP, like 16 minutes fast.
The man currently enjoying a luxurious tongue bath from almost every elected Republican wasted no time sending an arc of spittle into Cheney’s open political grave. “Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being,” said Trump (not by way of Facebook, Instagram or Twitter). “I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country.”
Cheney, for her part, let it be known to all and sundry that she intends to be a burr under Trump’s saddle for as long as the people of Wyoming will have her, and perhaps beyond. There are already mutterings of a possible presidential run by Cheney in ’24. She has carved herself out a nifty little national platform, and appears un-shy about smoking it down to the filter.
“I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” she vowed the night before her et tu, Brute moment on the House floor. If Cheney brings the same energy to this new project that she did to being a terrible right-wing mouthpiece for ignorance and hate, things could get wild at flank speed.
While only a handful of current Republican congresspeople have opted to stand with Cheney, she is not alone in the world. “More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes,” according to The New York Times.
A fractured GOP, a conservative third party with Cheney as its Joan of Arc leader, could make life uniquely aggravating for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his plans to retake the chamber next year. That alone is worth the price of admission.
The news media has been a day, a night and a day unspooling various elements of this latest Republican fiasco, and I am happy to leave them to it. Let them ponder the eternal question: Is this mere cowardice on the part of the GOP, a continuing dread of Trump’s broiling base? Or has a majority of that party seen the demographic numbers, encompassed the actual results of the 2020 election, choked down the reality of what actually damn happened in Georgia, and decided that a racist hard-right totalitarian lurch under Trump is the only way the party survives?
That’s a D.C. parlor game they’ll be playing until the stars swallow the moon, and they can have it. My thing is this: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani just had his home and offices raided by federal authorities, all of his phones confiscated and a big WE ARE WATCHING YOU sign draped around his neck. Giuliani has cut staff, tried unsuccessfully to pry owed legal fees out of his sole client and hired Harvey Weinstein’s defense team to represent him. One does not do such things when the sun is shining bright, and Trump would have to be exceptionally dense to miss the obvious threat to himself.
Signing on with a guy who has a whole forest of Damoclesian swords festooned above his head sounds like a really bad bet.“State prosecutors in Manhattan investigating former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump Organization have subpoenaed the personal bank records of the company’s chief financial officer and are questioning gifts he and his family received from Mr. Trump,” reports the Times. “In recent weeks, the prosecutors have trained their focus on the executive, Allen H. Weisselberg, in what appears to be a determined effort to gain his cooperation. Mr. Weisselberg, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, has overseen the Trump Organization’s finances for decades and may hold the key to any possible criminal case in New York against the former president and his family business.”
Plainly put: If Weisselberg starts dancing to the prosecutor’s tune, all that will be left to do is for someone to bring a mop to swab up the aftermath.
Even the folks down by Trump’s mini-Elba have begun to smell blood on the fetid Florida breeze. According to Politico, Palm Beach law enforcement officials are making contingency plans in the event Trump is indicted while residing at Mar-a-Lago. If he is, he will have to be extradited to New York, and that’s where the funky music starts. Florida law allows the governor to “intervene” in an extradition proceeding, and Ron DeSantis is a known devotee of the 45th president.
This is worth watching, because Trump’s reported plan is to close up shop and haul stakes for Bedminster once the Florida heat really kicks in. New Jersey has a similar extradition intervention statute on the books, but Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy would send MetLife stadium to Connecticut before standing in the way of Trump and New York justice. Will Trump stay in Florida and sweat it out under the protective wing of DeSantis, or will he risk a summer on the Jersey shore? Keep an eye on the thermometer, and we shall see.
All the questions about Republican motives are, for the most part, largely irrelevant. They did this, period. They have cast their bread upon Trump’s waters, and now they get to wait and see what happens next with the rest of us.
Personally speaking, signing on with a guy who has a whole forest of Damoclesian swords festooned above his head sounds like a really bad bet. Then again, these are the nimrods who thought elevating Sarah Palin to national prominence was a bully idea. These people would back a stinkbug if it made the base wave their flags, but that does not make it a smart idea.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said on Wednesday that Republicans are “insistent” upon taxing the working class in order to pay for the upcoming infrastructure bill in lieu of raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.
In an interview on CNN, Sanders said that Republicans’ infrastructure pay-fors would disproportionately affect the working class, which has been hit hard by recent economic crises.
“For too, too long, the average American has seen government work for the 1 percent, for large corporations,” Sanders said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “What some of us are trying to do with the president is have government start paying attention to the needs of the working class, which is struggling economically in a way we have not seen for a long, long time.”
“In terms of paying for it, what the Republicans are very insistent upon, is they want the middle class and working families to pay for it,” the senator continued. “The president, correctly, is saying he wants wealthiest people, who are doing very, very well, large corporations, who, in some cases, are not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, to pay for it. The president is right, and we have got to move in the direction of progressive taxation.”
Republicans have been recalcitrant in negotiations for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. They have proposed cutting it to nearly an eighth of its original size with a spending cap of $800 billion as opposed to the $4 trillion that Biden has proposed.
The GOP congress members are also unbending in their absolute refusal to hike taxes for wealthy people and corporations, instead clutching on to Donald Trump-era tax breaks that resulted in an estimated $1.9 trillion in lost revenue for the government. Despite weeks of negotiations on the issue, top Republicans are still refusing to allow higher tax rates on corporations and the wealthy, even though Biden’s corporate tax hike is already a compromise from what it could be.
While Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent to help pay for the infrastructure bill, Sanders has proposed raising it back to what it was before Trump took office: 35 percent.
Instead, Republicans have proposed a regressive tax to pay for the bill — favoring user fees over taxes, which would disproportionately affect the middle and lower classes.
“They do want to raise taxes, but they want to raise regressive taxes — taxes on working families,” said Sanders. “I come from a very rural state; people drive long distances to get to work. Apparently, [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell wants those folks — working people — to pay more in taxes.” Sanders says he prefers that rich people and corporations pay their “fair share” instead.
The senator went to say that the split between Republicans and progressive Democrats on taxation and what constitutes infrastructure is a “fundamental divide” that will be hard to reconcile.
Sanders has not shied away from warning the president about the futility of trying to negotiate with Republicans despite their stated goal to block all of Biden’s proposals. Democrats should make every effort to make bills bipartisan, Sanders said, but they should not water down their proposals in the process. “The bottom line is, the American people want results,” he said on Axios on HBO earlier this week.
Progressives have been learning that ignoring bipartisanship — at least, the Republican version of it, which is largely just capitulation and obstruction — can be a winning strategy for the left. After all, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Kentucky) made it clear last week that his party’s only focus is to block the Biden administration, no matter what.
Despite McConnell’s insistence on obstructing the Democratic agenda, however, many Democratic policies are widely popular among the electorate. Case in point: A poll last month found that support for Biden’s infrastructure plan, which is popular in itself, goes up when the corporate tax is mentioned as a means of financing it.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Read More

My eighth-grader cannot wait to get her COVID-19 vaccine. Gone are the days of needle dread, when every trip to the doctor’s office prompted the same anxious question: “Will I have to get a shot?”

Now the question is, “How soon can I get vaccinated?” and, “Then can I hug my friends?”

White, Republican men are the biggest anti-maskers and the least willing to get vaccinated.

The youngest, she will be the last one in our family to get the vaccine, approved this week for twelve- to fifteen-year-olds by the FDA, with the CDC expected to deliver final public health guidance shortly. She can hardly wait.

My oldest daughter, now in college, is already fully vaccinated. She was five years old when, during a flu shot appointment, she made a break for it. She ran all the way down the clinic hallway and out the revolving door. She was headed for the parking lot when I caught up with her and dragged her back inside—a scene neither of us will ever forget. 

For years she hated needles. In high school she passed out cold after a series of shots at that same doctor’s office. But she, too, was delighted when she became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and rushed to get an appointment. It was great, she said—nothing to it.

Let’s hope all the vaccine-hesitant people in our lives undergo a similar transformation, from leery to gung-ho.

As public health officials keep reminding us, we need everyone who can get a COVID-19 shot to get one, so we can achieve herd immunity and get our lives back.

We are on the brink, this spring, of getting back to normal.

I recently started going into the Wisconsin Examiner office, after a winter spent sitting around the house with my loved ones, staring at our separate screens and bumping into each other as we cruised the kitchen and binged on crackers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to have the option to work from home, and cozy to be with the family.

Everyone enjoyed it, for a while. Especially the dog. But it’s amazing to be back in the world again. The first day I visited our silent office after a year away, I cleared up yellowing newspapers with headlines from March 2020 about the pandemic, threw away dried flower petals scattered across the carpet by a bouquet that was quickly turning to dust.

Now, I look out the window and see crowded cafe tables on the street below. I hear bubbling conversation and music from the coffee shop downstairs. The coffee crowd slowly gives way to the after-work beer crowd as the sun sinks behind the Capitol. It feels like the world is coming alive again, especially in the beautiful spring weather.

We can’t hibernate forever.

You would think the Reopen crowd would be thrilled by the success of Wisconsin’s tops-in-the-nation vaccination program, and eager to get their shots and put the pandemic behind us. But alas, you would be wrong about that. 

Our own Senator Ron Johnson—the same guy who said COVID-19 deaths were not such a big deal, that people needed to get back to work early in the pandemic and that stay-at-home orders were not worth the economic cost, is pushing anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Johnson claimed on rightwing talker Vicki McKenna’s radio show last week that lots of people have died after getting the vaccine, and cited those (debunked) statistics as a reason for “sticking up for people who choose not to get vaccinated.” 

Johnson, an Ayn Rand acolyte, truly does not seem to grasp the concept of public health—or society, for that matter. “If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?” he said, firmly staking out the political terrain that opposes the control of contagious disease.

This is the same guy who publicized snake oil remedies for COVI-19 at a U.S. Senate hearing, to the dismay of doctors.

No surprise, then, that he was an outlier “no” vote on Tuesday when Andrea Palm, the former head of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services, sailed through Senate confirmation to become the No. 2 at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Palm must be so delighted to be moving up and out from Wisconsin, after enduring relentless attacks from state Republicans just for doing her job and trying to protect us all from a deadly virus. Johnson’s “no” vote is practically an endorsement.  

What is it with our state’s Republican leaders? Why must they start a war with sane public health policies in the middle of a public health crisis? Why must they oppose masks and social distancing and vaccination? Couldn’t they pick one? 

White, Republican men are the biggest anti-maskers and the least willing to get vaccinated. Some of the same “don’t tread on me” sign carriers who gathered on the State Capitol lawn to protest Governor Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order last spring appear to have moved on to the Alliant Center, holding some of the same signs objecting to the “nanny state” while promoting Johnson-esque anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.

Driving past this crowd reminded me of chasing my daughter through the revolving door when she was running away from her shot. Irrational fear is hard to control. The least our political leaders can do is not give it a running start. 

Instead, they should remind people how badly they wanted to reopen the state a year ago. Now’s their chance. Get vaccinated, so we can get back to normal.

If my shot-resistant kids can do it, so can all of those Republican men. Because I’m getting too old to chase you through the parking lot.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Examiner.

Read More

Tom Williams/ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.In the months since getting stripped of her committee assignments after old social media posts resurfaced confirming her penchant for hate-filled conspiracy theories, not to mention her support for the execution of top Democrats, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been on a desperate campaign to remain in the headlines.
The freshman congresswoman from Georgia has tried everything: She’s posted CrossFit videos of herself aggressively swinging on a pull-up bar—an exercise routine she claimed protected herself against COVID (it did not). Greene’s also gone on tour with Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman under investigation over allegations that he had sex with a minor and paid for sex, for a series of “America First” rallies. 

This is my Covid protection 💪#MakeAmericaHealthyAgain
It’s time to #FireFauci pic.twitter.com/IgWlTJyBYQ
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) April 1, 2021

Now comes her latest attempt to troll her way into the news cycle: Greene literally chasing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez down the halls of Congress and shouting batshit questions about antifa at the Democrat. The Washington Post reports that Greene, who has repeatedly demanded over Twitter that Ocasio-Cortez debate her in person, was outside the House chamber on Wednesday night when she spotted Ocasio-Cortez and twice shouted, “Hey Alexandria!” as the New York congresswoman walked away.
Ocasio-Cortez kept on walking, minding her own business—something that appeared to only intensify Greene’s stalking. From the Post:
When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists, and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate the freshman from Georgia.
“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?”
Ocasio-Cortez finally turned around and exchanged words with Greene, but it’s unclear what was said. Her office has since raised security concerns over the aggressive confrontation. Meanwhile, Greene has repeatedly trumpeted the incident on social media, and again, accused Ocasio-Cortez of a litany of false allegations. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has since signaled her support for an ethics investigation into Greene’s “verbal assault” of Ocasio-Cortez.

Just talked to @AOC again.
You chickened out bc you are too scared to debate me about your Socialist Green New Deal.
You are also a hate-America terrorist sympathizer.#JihadSquad
Members of Congress do NOT support terrorism & shouldn’t be afraid to debate their legislation.
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) May 12, 2021

Of course, this isn’t the first time Greene has harassed her colleagues. In February, Greene drew widespread condemnation, even from Republicans, after she displayed an anti-trans flag directly outside the office of Rep. Marie Newman, whose daughter is transgender. “There are TWO genders: Male & Female. Trust The Science!” Greene’s flag read. A month earlier, Rep. Cori Bush relocated her office away from Greene after Greene “berated” her in the hallway. 
Greene’s disruptive antics have reportedly irked her fellow Republicans, but so far, not enough to warrant any form of formal admonishment. That’s not exactly a surprise after House Republicans overwhelmingly voted against her removal from committee assignments after the abhorrent flood of social media posts that had surfaced. Minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy even went as far as to insist that Greene was genuinely contrite over her past behavior, a dubious claim that attracted a standing ovation from other Republicans in the room.
Fast forward to now, and McCarthy and the rest of the GOP have comfortably aligned themselves with Donald Trump and some of the former president’s worst behavior. With a spine like that, Republicans are all but certain to ignore workplace hostilities within Congress and the growing HR problem Greene poses.

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

Image Credit: Twitter: @theIMEUTelevised images of Israeli mobs attacking Palestinians have been widely denounced by Israeli media and public figures, but Palestinian writer Budour Hassan says the selective outrage ignores decades of occupation that have led to this point. “There is some mention of these lynch mobs that are attacking Palestinians in mixed cities. What is not mentioned is who emboldened these lynch mobs. We’re talking about state-sponsored, decades-long discrimination, isolation and erasure that emboldened these groups,” says Hassan, legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, who joins us from Nazareth.
TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: As we’ve reported, at least 83 Palestinians, including 17 children, are dead in Gaza, as Israel continues its assault on the besieged territory as Palestinians mark the end of Ramadan. Israel is now amassing ground troops near Gaza. And inside Israel, Palestinians are fearing for their lives as Israeli mobs attack Arab homes and businesses. This comes as President Biden is giving Israel a green light to continue its assault on Gaza, speaking publicly on it for the first time yesterday.
For more, we’re joined by Budour Hassan, a Palestinian writer and legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights, who has been out in the streets in Jerusalem.
Can you describe, Budour, the scene on the ground in Jerusalem? We just listened to Mohammed describe Sheikh Jarrah, and we’ve just listened to Issam in Gaza.
BUDOUR HASSAN: Well, since the start of Ramadan, there have been protests all over Jerusalem. They were sparked by Israel’s decision to close off Damascus Gate, steps where Palestinian youth usually gather every night, especially on the nights of Ramadan, because this is a public space that Palestinians have reclaimed over the past decade. And then these protests extended after they forcefully managed to force the Israelis to remove the barriers and the barricades. They extended to reach Sheikh Jarrah. All over Jerusalem, there are protests in different neighborhoods, both in support of Sheikh Jarrah and in support of the people in Gaza.
But in response to these protests, Israel, especially for the last two weeks, has ramped up its mass arrests campaign. They don’t only target Palestinians who have been protesting in the streets; they are also targeting well-known Palestinian activists in an attempt by Israel to deter and to stop, quell this popular movement, that we probably haven’t seen anything like it before. It’s even greater than the movement we’ve seen in 2017 against Israel’s decision to install metal detectors outside Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it’s definitely even greater than the movement we saw in 2014 against the — after the killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a teenager from Shuafat.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Budour, could you talk about the Israeli leadership that’s spearheading this assault? I mean, Netanyahu was on the cusp of being ousted. He’s known as “Mr. Security.” Also, Israel’s new military chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, outlined last year a, quote, “victory doctrine.” What was his role in determining the scale of this assault — and as you say, even more violent than what we’ve seen in the past?
BUDOUR HASSAN: Yeah, Nermeen, it’s not just Netanyahu and Kochavi. It’s also Benny Gantz. Remember last year everyone was hailing Benny Gantz as some sort of a hope for the so-called center-left. And now we hear his rhetoric. Obviously, we know that he was the chief of staff during the war in 2014. So, Aviv Kochavi is just an extension to the doctrine of Israeli occupation forces against Gaza.
But I’d like to highlight the role that Gantz has been playing on escalating the war on Gaza, on threatening that the war will continue until Gaza is leveled. The celebration on Israeli TV whenever a high tower is destroyed by Israeli occupation forces, blatant celebration, as if there are no civilians living there, is just — you see it in every national television channel. Not a single word is said about the children who are killed. Not a single word is said about the infrastructure that is being destroyed. So, it’s just provoked, and there is outright incitement on Israeli national TV.
I’d just like also to highlight the role that Ohana is also playing, who is the internal affairs security minister, in inciting against Palestinians who live in Palestine ’48, which is present-day Israel, especially in inciting against them and labeling all of them as “terrorists,” describing any unarmed protest that has started as a “riot,” and just inciting really every single mayor of mixed cities where Palestinians are a minority in Jewish-dominated cities. These cities obviously were ethnically cleansed in 1948, and Palestinians who live in these mixed cities have, for decades, suffered unbelievable discrimination, state-sponsored discrimination, and erasure of their Palestinian identity.
So, we have been seeing incitement against Palestinians who live in Palestine ’48, who are being demonized and being treated as internal enemy. And the whole rhetoric is just beat them with force, deploy the border police, deploy the — even calls to deploy the army by Netanyahu in mixed cities. So, there is this violent, intimidating and inciting rhetoric all over the Israeli leadership, and especially on the Israeli national media.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about the violence that’s spreading across Israel with Jewish mobs attacking Palestinians in mixed Jewish and Arab communities. In the Israeli city of Haifa, a video was posted online showing an Israeli mob trying to break into the home of an Arab family. And then you had what happened in another community, as well, in a Tel Aviv suburb, and this was caught live on Israeli television, a Palestinian — a Jewish mob taking people, Israeli extremist settlers breaking shops in the suburb, another harrowing video showing ultranationalist Israelis dragging a man they believed to be an Arab from his car and beating him mercilessly. It turned out he was Jewish. On the one hand, you have the Israeli media, some that have been critical of Israel, joining in supporting Israel in bombing Gaza, but on the other hand, you have the Israeli media talking about lynch mobs, because they’re showing this live on TV as settlers are caught on television chanting “Death to Arabs” and dragging Arabs out of their cars, or people they perceive to be that.
BUDOUR HASSAN: To add to what you said, Amy — although I just would like to correct one thing: Haifa is a Palestinian city. And this is the identity that Israel has been trying to erase since 1948.
But, yes, and to add to what you said, there has been buses bringing settlers from the occupied West Bank to the territories occupied in 1948 to aid these Jewish mobs in attacking Palestinians. Just to remind you, last week, when Palestinian worshipers tried to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque, their buses were blocked from reaching Al-Aqsa Mosque, so they had to walk to Jerusalem by foot. And people in Jerusalem had to bring their cars in order to help these people who were blocked and were prevented from reaching Jerusalem. On the other hand, we see how these settler groups are organizing on Facebook and on social media. And the Israeli police knows all about them and has allowed them to run riots in these cities, and especially in these mixed cities.
And even though, yes, indeed, there is some mention of these lynch mobs that are attacking Palestinians in mixed cities, what is not mentioned is who emboldened these lynch mobs. We’re talking about state-sponsored, decades-long discrimination, isolation and erasure that emboldened these groups. We’re talking about a myth that we’ve always had about so-called coexistence in these mixed cities. Now, what we’re seeing right now is toppling this myth, because it proves that whenever something really — an explosion happens of violence, we see the true face of the Israeli state, which is supporting or being complicit with these attacks against Palestinians. This happened, to remind you, in 2000, when the Israeli police killed 13 unarmed Palestinian protesters who were protesting in solidarity with Jerusalem and with the Palestinian Second Intifada. So these attacks are not new.
And the new dimension is the ease with which these settlers are allowed to run riot, is the justification that we hear on Israeli TV, although it’s criticizing the lynch mob. But on the other hand, it’s using previous attacks by — unspontaneous, to say — by other Palestinians, in order to justify these responses and this retaliation and reprisals. These reprisals by Israeli Jewish mobs against Palestinians are not at all spontaneous. They’re absolutely organized. These settler groups are directly and strongly supported by the Israeli state, and they have representation in the Knesset. And they are represented by far-right parties, Jewish parties, in the Knesset, as well.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Budour, could you also talk about the significance of so many Israeli Arabs joining these protests?
BUDOUR HASSAN: Again, to correct the terminology, I’m sorry, we are Palestinians, not Israeli Arabs. And again, this was one of Israel’s efforts, since 1948, to assimilate us, to erase our identity and to tell us that we are not Palestinians, as an attempt to silence us and to separate us and isolate us from the Palestinian people.
And what we are seeing right now — and Mohammed has mentioned it always very eloquently — is that we’re challenging decades-long colonial fragmentation. We are redefining the geography of Palestine, and we’re redefining the cause. I mean, when I see Palestinians in Nazareth chant for Jerusalem in one voice, in unison, I see the same in Haifa, I hear the same in Jaffa. I hear how Palestinian youth, who had probably never come to Jerusalem before, go on their own to Jerusalem in order to join the protests in Sheikh Jarrah. Not only is it heartwarming, it says that for so long Israel has tried to fragment us and to isolate us and to erase our identity, and despite all the budgets that have been spent for that, despite all the efforts, including intimidation, revenge and arrests and so on, especially after 2000 and the Second Intifada in 2000, when Israel has tried to divide the Palestinian community from within by letting free and letting loose gangs, by spreading weapons and by convincing people that our social and economic cause is somehow separate from the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, and to see that despite all this, for so many years, that the Palestinian people, whenever something happens in Gaza and Jerusalem, they take to the streets.
But what’s happening this time, in particular, I think, in a sense, it’s unprecedented. Sometimes we tend to be — to exaggerate, to be taken away and taken aback, obviously, because we are so emotionally involved in what’s going on. But really it’s something unprecedented, because despite all the repression that these protesters have faced, they’re continuing. And now they know that their cause, as the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, is inseparable from the Palestinian cause, from the cause of the right of return.
And now, just in two days, on Saturday, we will mark the anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. And what we are seeing now, and one of the most popular chants, actually, in these marches, in these protests in support of Jerusalem, Sheikh Jarrah and Gaza, is “I’m returning.” And to see that this young generation, this third generation or even fourth generation to the Nakba, is still insisting, “I will return. I have not relinquished my right of return,” it says so much about their resilience. It’s not just a cliché. It’s truly we’re seeing being implemented this incredible resilience and steadfastness by the Palestinians, that no matter how much we’ve been forced to forget and been forced to be isolated from our people, we continue to act as though this had never happened, and we continue to insist on our right to be called Palestinians and to support our sisters and brothers all over the Palestinian diaspora and all over Palestine.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Budour, how do you even protect yourself when you go outside?
BUDOUR HASSAN: Well, I mean, obviously, I have — I’m very fortunate to have the most amazing comrades and friends in the world, so I know, whenever you’re in the streets, you’re never alone. So, I have the most amazing women and men in the world, young women and men, supporting me. Obviously, it’s always a danger for anyone, by the way, because the Israeli police doesn’t discriminate. But I know that it’s my right and my duty as Palestinian to take to the streets and to participate. Like so many Palestinians, I’ve been — and all Palestinian protesters, whether they’re women, whether they’re men, whether they’re elderly, whether they’re children, have had to suffer the oppression and the violence of the Israeli police. But, you know, when you are in the street, when you’re chanting and raising your voice, there is something — and that’s the most amazing thing, and it always gives me goosebumps. Whenever you are in the street and you’re raising your voice against injustice and for freedom and liberation, really, the last thing you think about is fear.
AMY GOODMAN: Budour Hassan, I want to thank you for being with us, Palestinian writer, legal researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights.
When we come back, we stay in Jerusalem to speak with Nathan Thrall, author of The Only Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel an Palestine. And he’ll tell us about this New York Review of Books piece he wrote, that was passed around Congress even before this latest Israeli assault, called “A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.” Stay with us.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Read More

Human Rights
The US Must Finally Acknowledge That Israel Is an Apartheid State
Politics & Elections
Republicans Would Back a Stinkbug If It Made the Base Wave Their Flags
Politics & Elections
GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says
Politics & Elections
Trump Extradition Orders Could Be Blocked or Delayed by DeSantis
Human Rights
Chomsky: Without US Aid, Israel Wouldn’t Be Killing Palestinians En Masse
Prisons & Policing
For Eid, Let’s Celebrate the Queer and Trans Muslims Working Toward Abolition

During hearings held in the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday regarding the January 6 breach of the United States Capitol, several Republicans gave conflicting testimony over what happened that day — including one congressman who likened it to any other day that tourists came to see the building.
Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Georgia) vastly downplayed the violence that occurred after hundreds of Trump loyalists breached barricades, broke windows, fought with officers and forced their way into the legislative chambers, disrupting the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Clyde’s retelling of the events was so out of synch with what actually happened that he even contradicted himself at times within the same sentence. Noting that he and others “helped barricade the door until almost 3 pm from the mob who tried to enter,” Clyde also said, in the same breath, that “the House floor was never breached and it was not an insurrection.”
“This is the truth,” he added.
Clyde conceded that some who barged their way into the Capitol were an “undisciplined mob” and even described some as “rioters.”
“But let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection in my opinion, is a bold-faced lie,” he added.
Clyde said that footage from television news crews that day backed up his assertions, showing that people behaved “in an orderly fashion.”
“If you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit,” Clyde said.
But in reality, video of that day shows that violence was pervasive among the throngs of Trump loyalists. Indeed, a video posted to social media that has gone viral and showcases Clyde’s statement alongside actual footage from that day of the mob of Trump loyalists breaching the Capitol gives the lie to the Republican congressman’s words.

Rep. Andrew Clyde’s (R-GA) comments today don’t hold up well when played side-by-side with insurrection footage, so I made this.
the revisionist history being perpetuated by some Republicans to defend January 6th is disgusting pic.twitter.com/bWdXtU0b4F
— j.d. durkin (@jiveDurkey) May 12, 2021

More than 440 individuals have been charged for their actions inside the Capitol on January 6, when Congress had met to formally certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Dozens of loyalists to former President Donald Trump demanded the counting of votes be stopped, wrongly alleging that the election had been stolen from him — a lie that was perpetrated and continues to be perpetrated by the former president himself. Some even called for the hanging of elected officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Trump’s own vice president, Mike Pence, who had vowed to carry out his constitutional duty to certify the election’s outcome.
At the end of it all, five individuals lost their lives as a result of the violence on that day.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) shared the video showing Clyde’s words next to the violence that occurred, and blasted his colleague for suggesting it was just a normal day at the Capitol.
“I was there that day, @Rep_Clyde. Presiding over the House Chamber,” McGovern wrote on Twitter. “While we were being evacuated I saw people punching the glass doors with bare fists to get in. Desecrating America’s Capitol to obstruct Congress. Calling it a ‘normal tourist visit’ is sickening. Shame on you.”
Clyde’s attempt to rewrite the history of that day follows what many on the right, including Trump himself, have tried to do — downplay the violence of his supporters, and suggest that it’s not worth looking into any further.
In a Fox News interview that aired in late March, Trump said his loyalists posed “zero threat” to lawmakers in the Capitol on January 6.
“Some of them went in, and they are hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know, they had great relationships,” Trump added. “A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in and they walked out.”
In actual fact, the mob of loyalists remained in the Capitol for several hours, forcing the delay of the Electoral College certification. It wasn’t until the evening of that day after Trump, under pressure, told those who stormed the building that he “loved” them and that it was time for them to go home, that the mob left the building.

Copyright © Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Read More