Despicable fascist Republicans attack Deb Haaland at her confirmation hearing

Deb Haaland, seeking to make history as the first Native American to hold a cabinet secretary position in the US, has weathered a torrent of hostile questioning from Republicans during her confirmation hearing as secretary of the interior.

In a striking opening statement, Haaland, a member of Congress for New Mexico, said “the historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me”, adding that she hoped her elevation would “be an inspiration for Americans, moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us”.

A Laguna Pueblo member, Haaland, 60, said she learned about her culture from her grandmother’s cooking, participating in traditional ceremonies, and learning about the importance of protecting the environment from her grandfather. Haaland said “our climate challenge must be addressed” but conceded that fossil fuels will play a role in the US for “years to come”.

Haaland is considered a progressive on the climate crisis and has previously spoken out on the impact of fossil fuel development upon the environment and Native American tribes, positions that Senate Republicans were keen to attack during a sometimes-contentious confirmation hearing.

John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, criticized Haaland for a tweet from October 2020 in which she stated that “Republicans don’t believe in science”. Barrasso, who has previously incorrectly said the role of human activity in climate change is “not known” and that ambitious climate action in the form of the Green New Deal would mean “cheeseburgers and milkshake would become a thing of the past”, said the tweet was “concerning to those of us who have gone through training, believe in science, and yet with a broad brush, we’re all disbelievers”.

Haaland responded to Barrasso, a surgeon, saying that “if you’re a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science”. Scientists have repeatedly said that the US, and the rest of the world, needs to rapidly reduce planet-heating emissions from fossil fuels in order to prevent disastrous heatwaves, flooding and societal unrest associated with runaway climate change.

The early exchange set the tone for more than two hours of questioning where Republicans repeatedly assailed Joe Biden’s decision to pause oil and gas drilling on federal lands as calamitous for jobs. As interior secretary, Haaland would oversee the management of lands that make up nearly a third of America’s landmass, including tribal lands.

At times the questions were extremely pointed, with Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, asking Haaland: “Will your administration be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel, or will it be guided by science?” Importantly for the chances for Haaland’s nomination, Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the coal heartland of West Virginia, said that he wanted to see the “evolution not elimination” of coal mining.

Haaland said that “we want to move forward with clean energy, we want to get to net zero carbon” but also struck a conciliatory note with her questioners. The nominee said that changes to energy use “are not going to happen overnight” and that she looked forward to working with the senators. At one point when Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, asked why she supported a bill protecting grizzly bears – Haaland responded: “Senator, I believe I was caring about the bears.”

Haaland had to repeatedly correct Republicans who said Biden had scrapped, rather than paused, oil and gas leases but acknowledged her role as a progressive champion would have to change somewhat if she were confirmed. “If I’m confirmed as secretary, that is far different role than a congresswoman representing one small district in my state,” she said. “So I understand that role, it’s to serve all Americans not just my one district in New Mexico. I realize being cabinet is very different, I recognize there is a difference in those two roles.”

During later questioning, Haaland raised the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon native Americans and raised concerns over tribes such as the Navajo being subjected to polluted water. In a response to a question from the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders about the opening up of an area sacred to native Americans in Arizona to mining, Haaland said she would “make sure that the voice of the tribal nation is heard on the issue”.

Haaland’s nomination has been vigorously supported by environmental and Native American groups as a landmark moment to confront the climate crisis while addressing widespread inequities experienced by tribes.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the steering committee for the Gwich’in people in Alaska, said that Haaland is a “visionary leader who knows we must protect places sacred to the American people like the Arctic national wildlife refuge.

“Our way of life, our survival is interconnected to the land, water and animals. Today we honor the woman set to be the first Native American in history to fill a presidential cabinet position, and look forward to working with her to ensure that indigenous voices are heard and our human rights respected.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/feb/23/deb-haaland-confirmation-hearing-interior-secretary

The authoritarian cult of Trump explained

The Brain’s Attention System Is More Strongly Engaged by Trump
According to a study that monitored brain activity while participants watched 40 minutes of political ads and debate clips from the presidential candidates, Donald Trump is unique in his ability to keep the brain engaged. While Hillary Clinton could only hold attention for so long, Trump kept both attention and emotional arousal high throughout the viewing session. This pattern of activity was seen even when Trump made remarks that individuals didn’t necessarily agree with. His showmanship and simple language clearly resonate with some at a visceral level.

America’s Obsession with Entertainment and Celebrities

Essentially, the loyalty of Trump supporters may in part be explained by America’s addiction to entertainment and reality TV. To some, it doesn’t matter what Trump actually says because he’s so amusing to watch. With the Donald, you are always left wondering what outrageous thing he is going to say or do next. He keeps us on the edge of our seat, and for that reason, some Trump supporters will forgive anything he says. They are happy as long as they are kept entertained.

“Some Men Just Want to Watch the World Burn.”

Some intelligent people who know better are supporting Trump simply to be rebellious or to introduce chaos into the political system. They may have such distaste for the establishment and Democrats like Hillary Clinton that their support for Trump is a symbolic middle finger directed at Washington. These people do not have their priorities straight and perhaps have other issues, like an innate desire to troll others, or a deranged obsession with schadenfreude.

The Fear-Factor: Conservatives Are More Sensitive to Threat

Science has unequivocally shown that the conservative brain has an exaggerated fear response when faced with stimuli that may be perceived as threatening. A 2008 study in the journal Science found that conservatives have a stronger physiological reaction to startling noises and graphic images compared to liberals. A brain-imaging study published in Current Biology revealed that those who lean right politically tend to have a larger amygdala — a structure that is electrically active during states of fear and anxiety. And a 2014 fMRI study found that it is possible to predict whether someone is a liberal or conservative simply by looking at their brain activity while they view threatening or disgusting images, such as mutilated bodies. Specifically, the brains of self-identified conservatives generated more activity overall in response to the disturbing images.

These brain responses are automatic, and not influenced by logic or reason. As long as Trump continues his fear mongering by constantly portraying Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as imminent dangers, many conservative brains will involuntarily light up like light bulbs being controlled by a switch. Fear keeps his followers energized and focused on safety. And when you think you’ve found your protector, you become less concerned with offensive and divisive remarks.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect: Humans Often Overestimate Their Political Expertise

Some support Donald Trump do so out of ignorance — basically, they are under-informed or misinformed about the issues at hand. When Trump tells them that crime is skyrocketing in the United States, or that the economy is the worst it’s ever been, they simply take his word for it.

The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that the problem isn’t just that they are misinformed; it’s that they are completely unaware that they are misinformed, which creates a double burden.

Studies have shown that people who lack expertise in some area of knowledge often have a cognitive bias that prevents them from realizing that they lack expertise. As psychologist David Dunning puts it in an op-ed for Politico, “The knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at the task. This includes political judgment.” These people cannot be reached because they mistakenly believe they are the ones who should be reaching others.

Lack of Exposure to Dissimilar Others

Intergroup contact refers to contact with members of groups that are outside one’s own, which has been experimentally shown to reduce prejudice. As such, it’s important to note that there is growing evidence that Trump’s white supporters have experienced significantly less contact with minorities than other Americans. For example, a 2016 study found that “…the racial and ethnic isolation of Whites at the zip-code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support.” This correlation persisted while controlling for dozens of other variables. In agreement with this finding, the same researchers found that support for Trump increased with the voters’ physical distance from the Mexican border.

Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Target the Mentally Vulnerable

While the conspiracy theory crowd — who predominantly support Donald Trump and crackpot allies like Alex Jones and the shadowy QAnon — may appear to just be an odd quirk of modern society, the truth is that many of them suffer from psychological illnesses that involve paranoia and delusions, such as schizophrenia, or are at least vulnerable to them, like those with schizotypy personalities.

The link between schizotypy and belief in conspiracy theories is well-established, and a recent study published in the journal Psychiatry Research has demonstrated that it is still very prevalent in the population. The researchers found that those who were more likely to believe in outlandish conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the U.S. government created the AIDs epidemic, consistently scored high on measures of “odd beliefs and magical thinking.” One feature of magical thinking is a tendency to make connections between things that are actually unrelated in reality.

Donald Trump and his media allies target these people directly. All one has to do is visit alt-right websites and discussion boards to see the evidence for such manipulation.

A study published last year in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a direct link between national collective narcissism and support for Donald Trump. This correlation was discovered by researchers at the University of Warsaw, who surveyed over 400 Americans with a series of questionnaires about political and social beliefs. Where individual narcissism causes aggressiveness toward other individuals, collective narcissism involves negative attitudes and aggression toward ‘outsider’ groups (outgroups), who are perceived as threats.

Donald Trump exacerbates collective narcissism with his anti-immigrant, anti-elitist, and strongly nationalistic rhetoric. By referring to his supporters, an overwhelmingly white group, as being “true patriots” or “real Americans,” he promotes a brand of populism that is the epitome of “identity politics,” a term that is usually associated with the political left. Left-wing identity politics, as misguided as they may sometimes be, are generally aimed at achieving equality, while the right-wing brand is based on a belief that one nationality and race is superior or entitled to success and wealth for no other reason than identity.

The Desire to Want to Dominate Others

Social dominance orientation (SDO) — which is distinct but related to authoritarian personality syndrome (#13) — refers to people who have a preference for the societal hierarchy of groups, specifically with a structure in which the high-status groups have dominance over the low-status ones. Those with SDO are typically dominant, tough-minded, and driven by self-interest.

In Trump’s speeches, he appeals to those with SDO by repeatedly making a clear distinction between groups that have a generally higher status in society (White), and those groups that are typically thought of as belonging to a lower status (immigrants and minorities). A study published last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences found that those who scored high on both SDO and authoritarianism were those who intended to vote for Trump in the election.

Authoritarian Personality Syndrome

Authoritarianism refers to the advocacy or enforcement of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom and is commonly associated with a lack of concern for the opinions or needs of others. Authoritarian personality syndrome —  a well-studied and globally-prevalent condition — is a state of mind that is characterized by belief in total and complete obedience to one’s authority. Those with the syndrome often display aggression toward outgroup members, submissiveness to authority, resistance to new experiences, and a rigid hierarchical view of society. The syndrome is often triggered by fear, making it easy for leaders who exaggerate threat or fear monger to gain their allegiance.

Although authoritarian personality is found among liberals, it is more common among the right-wing around the world. Trump’s speeches, which are laced with absolutist terms like “losers” and “complete disasters,” are naturally appealing to those with the syndrome.

While research showed that Republican voters in the U.S. scored higher than Democrats on measures of authoritarianism before Trump emerged on the political scene, a 2016 Politico survey found that high authoritarians greatly favored Trump

 

Edited from Raw Story by Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist.

More than 190000 deaths! Put them all on trial

 

Nuremberg trials


Listening to the tapes recorded by Bob Woodward and hearing Trump’s confessions that he knew exactly what he was doing.
Given the soaring death toll from COVID-19 and the continuing public display of police brutality in the United States, it seems to us that it’s time to convene a Nuremberg style trial for the deaths that have been caused by the Trump regime.
Trump, Barr, Pompeo, Pence, McConnell the whole complicit crew should stand trial for the death and suffering they have willfully caused in this country.

Anyone else would be charged with manslaughter so let’s prosecute them. 

 

Trump and his Radical right vigilantes are preparing for a coup

Trump cult members and Boogaloo Bois are ready for the fight

 

David Atkins from the Washington Monthly,  explains: “Trump sees violence as politically beneficial, a useful cudgel against Democratic nominee Joe Biden — even though the violence is happening while Trump himself is in charge, not Biden.”

Trump’s election theme is that Americans won’t be safe in a Biden presidency. The opposite is true. Americans won’t be safe as long as a white supremacist tyrant is leading a movement of bigots to incite a civil war, and attempting to ensure that the majority of Americans with cosmopolitan, egalitarian values remain politically disenfranchised and under the thumb of those who fear and despise them.

Trump’s campaign of racial authoritarianism and stochastic terrorism, as well as overt threats of “law and order,” resulted in a group of his supporters driving into Portland last weekend, armed with mace and paintball guns, to seek out confrontations with Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters.

The protests were largely peaceful until Trump and acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf deployed federal police forces to the city in July. Their presence, as designed, escalated the tension and led to increasing levels of property damage and incidents of violence.

Previewing Trump’s plan for other parts of the nation, these federal shock troops made journalists and reporters a special focus of their violence. They also kidnapped protesters and other “enemies” of Donald Trump’s regime off the street as though they were operating in a banana republic.

Alexander Reid Ross is a doctoral fellow at the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right. His most recent book is “Against the Fascist Creep.” Ross has also completed new research that documents more than 500 incidents in which white vigilantes and other right-wing extremists have confronted Black Lives Matter protests. This includes hundreds of acts of intimidation and other threats as well as dozens of examples in which right-wing extremists have assaulted or attacked Black Lives Matter protesters.

Reid warns that Portland, the right-wing vigilante killings in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the hundreds of other attacks by right-wing extremists on Black Lives Matter protesters is just a preview of the massive violence that Donald Trump and his movement may unleash before and after Election Day — perhaps including the arrest or imprisonment of prominent Democrats, journalists, and others deemed to be enemies of the state.

After almost four years of Trump and his regime’s authoritarian, neofascist behavior, some voices in the mainstream American news media now use that correct and appropriate language to describe the reality of the situation. Why was there so much fear and denial about the obvious? Even when they use the correct terminology, the coverage is largely superficial and avoids serious discussion of the dire implications.

Donald Trump attempting to rise to the level of a right-wing political strongman. Donald Trump is using classic authoritarian tactics that one does not often see in a healthy democracy. Donald Trump is deliberately undermining the Constitution by using federal law to circumvent local governments’ control over their police forces.

Trump and William Barr’s de facto secret police are literally disappearing people off the streets of Portland and in other parts of the country where the Democratic Party is in power. How do you explain what is happening to people who do not live in those communities? Who are not being targeted by Trump and his henchmen?

The specific federal forces involved are BORTAC — the Border Patrol Tactical Unit — and the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group and others, under the coordination of the Department of Homeland Security. BORTAC has been in Portland shooting at people and launching tear gas. BORTAC is not trained for crowd or riot control. They are trained to engage in raids against migrants and to separate children from their mothers. That is what BORTAC does. They pride themselves on being the most militarized branch and a group of the U.S. law enforcement community. BORTAC members are extreme Trump supporters. What is happening in Portland and other parts of the country is the border closing in on the citizens of the United States.

BORTAC is loyal to Donald Trump and that’s why he is using them. He’s not using them because they’re the most skilled and adept at riot and crowd control management. That also explains why there are so many incidents of people being shot in the face and otherwise abused here in Portland and other places where BORTAC and other such forces are being deployed by the Trump administration. They don’t know what they’re doing at all.

BORTAC is being used because Trump feels that they are his most loyal forces. That is fully in keeping with the tactics of authoritarian leaders who cultivate secret police whose main function is to serve as the government leader’s private force, one that operates outside of any restraints such as an internal review.

The [former] Chilean dictatorship is explicitly supported by Trump’s own supporters, who wear T-shirts that say, “Right-wing death squad” and “Pinochet did nothing wrong.” The American mainstream news media is far too charitable with its narrative that “Trump is playing to his base.”

During the recent protests in Portland, were there moments where you feared that the federal forces were going to start shooting the crowd with lethal rounds?

The fear is very real and it’s constant. The federal forces have assault rifles. They are loaded with live rounds. There are protesters who were throwing fireworks and things of that sort at the courthouse. What if one of the feds has an itchy trigger finger? What if a firework explodes and they then open fire on an entire group of unarmed people?

Trump and their defenders and other apologists will just say, “Well, these poor agents have been overworked for 60 days and look at all the things that have been thrown at them” and so on and so forth. We know what the narrative will be. All a person can do when protesting is to act accordingly and stay focused.

The idea of these right-wing protesters and militia types being “anti-government” — again, a narrative circulated by the mainstream American news media — is very uncritical, a total misnomer. They are really pro-government. They are entirely in favor of the United States government as controlled by Donald Trump. Their claim to be “libertarians” is a joke.

Those right-wing militias and others sympathetic to them are arming in opposition to Democrats, liberals, and progressives.

Right-wing extremists and other terrorists, including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, are also coordinating at times with the police.

They actually say that they are at the protests to “protect the police.” Think about that claim: They are “anti-government” vigilantes who promise that they are trying to protect the police. In essence, these right-wing militias and the like are American citizens who believe it is their role not to become police, but to guard the police. Such a claim is ludicrous. It is a paramilitary force. These right-wing forces are coordinating and positioning themselves to be able to launch a coup against American democracy and the Democratic Party if the latter gains control of the presidency and government.

The closest parallel with what we are seeing with Trump’s movement would be the “massive resistance” by white people against racial integration in the South during the civil rights movement. I am of the opinion that the United States has not seen such a mobilization of violent, far-right forces to this extent since the 1960s.

Recently, a Trumpist and right-wing militia supporter traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, and involved himself in the protests there. He’s accused shooting three people, killing two of them. He crossed state lines illegally with a weapon he was not allowed to own. He was only a teenager and was radicalized online into right-wing extremism. He is now being valorized by the right-wing media machine. Trump has defended this young man as a hero who was fighting against “criminals” and “looters.” This accused killer now has hundreds of thousands of dollars pledged to his defense.

Trump has defended Kyle Rittenhouse with the claim he was firing in “self-defense” at unarmed protesters. In essence, Donald Trump supports the right-wing vigilante movement, which represents the disintegration of the rule of law.

We are witnessing an erosion of democratic norms in this country by Republicans. They accept breaking the law as being viable if it supports “traditional values” — meaning racism. As a practical matter, Donald Trump is spearheading the movement of the Republican Party into a full-on violent racist organization that encourages vigilantism.

In terms of engaging in the worst type of “both-sides-ism” and false equivalencies that helped Trump win and now keep power, the American mainstream news media is now advancing a “mutual combat” narrative in its coverage of Trump’s supporters and the violence in Portland last weekend. How does that narrative contradict what really happened in Portland?

The “mutual combat” framing is inane, legally a non-starter, and obviously supportive of the aggressive party, which is typically the Trump supporters. Their strategy is to provoke fights and then call for “law and order” intervention from a corrupt president.

What do you want to warn the American people about? What do you think happens next?

I am worried about crackdowns by Donald Trump and his forces against their direct enemies. This would involve dragging Democrats in front of kangaroo courts and starting to criminalize dissent such that the average American who has a bumper sticker or other affiliation with the Democratic Party or liberal or progressive causes becomes a target for Trump’s zealots. I worry that Trump will find some way to round up the leaders of the Democratic Party and put them in jail or execute them.

That is the future that right-wing conspiracists such as the QAnon people want. They are the crowd that Donald Trump is signaling to. I do not believe that there is much stopping Donald Trump from following through on his extreme impulses. At this point Donald Trump is desperate. If Trump wins again it will just be more fuel on the fire for his followers. The right-wing will follow through on his cues and start attacking regular people, not just protesters, who they believe are Democrats.

 

 

Edited from Chauncey Devega in Salon by way of Alternet

 

The Terrible Trump Taliban coming to your town next?

Trump cultists rally in Portland Oregon to try and provoke as much trouble and violence as possible

Many officials including the mayor of Portland, Oregon, are accusing Donald Trump of encouraging violence after a reported member of a rightwing group was shot dead when Trump supporters confronted “Black Lives Matter” protesters. Mayor Ted Wheeler said: “…. Trump, for four years we have had to live with you and your racist attacks on black people. We learned early about your sexist attitudes towards women … we have listened to your attacks on immigrants … do you seriously wonder that America in decades has not seen this level of violence?”

In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Jacob Blake was shot by police and paralyzed, concern grew that the tense but currently peaceful situation could be inflamed by a planned visit this week from Bullyboy Trump, who appears keen to stoke law and order fears among voters heading into the election.

Trump Is Playing up Fears of Violence by inciting it.

Trump and his allies are trying to depict protests over racial injustice somehow as a law-and-order campaign issue, continuously attacking Democratic leaders, refusing to condemn deadly vigilante violence carried out by his cult members, and touting a fantasy of a “tranquil Trump’s America”.
Now former Vice President Joe Biden is accusing Trump of inciting the violence for his political gain.

All of this against a backdrop of a still-raging coronavirus outbreak, the White House has offered the clearest signal yet of a calculated GOP strategy of inciting violence and then exploiting voter fears of the violence as the campaign against Biden enters the final stretch and Trump badly trails in the polls.

This is an escalated version of the strategy Trump employed, unsuccessfully, in the 2018 midterm election, when he spent weeks warning of “caravans” of migrants fill with MS-13 gang members trying to reach the U.S. border with Mexico.

Trump plans to try an incite more violence by visiting Kenosha, Wis., where protests have flared for the last week over the unjustified police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was left paralyzed, and where a teenage Trumpy gunman who idolized law enforcement has been charged in two deaths. Administration officials provided no indication that Trump wants to meet with Blake’s family, with whom Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, have talked at length.

Joe Biden excoriated Trump on Monday as a threat to the safety of all Americans, saying he has encouraged violence in the nation’s streets even as he has faltered in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

Joe Biden condemned the violence, “whether on the left or the right,” and has called on Trump to do the same, don’t hold your breath.

 

 

Sources: Guardian, raw story, Washington Post, LA Times 

Trump and his cult followers are stoking a race war

BuzzFeed News reported that the suspect in the Kenosha shooting attended a Trump rally in Des Moines, Iowa in January — and sat in the front row. It figures, we think he was clearly inspired to go out a shoot people after listening to “Dear Leader”

“Kyle Howard Rittenhouse’s social media presence is filled with him posing with weapons, posting ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ and supporting Trump for president,” reported Ellie Hall, Amber Jamieson, and Tasneem Nashrulla. “Footage from the Des Moines, Iowa, rally on Jan. 30 shows Rittenhouse feet away from Trump, in the front row, to the left of the podium. He posted a TikTok video from the event.”

“Seven months later, Rittenhouse went with his rifle to the third night of Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha,” continued the report. “Rittenhouse attended as an armed vigilante, supposedly assisting police and protecting property in an unofficial capacity but instead he prowled the protest with a gun. Videos captured him fraternizing with law enforcement and attempting to get their attention.” He is accused of opening fire, killing two protesters and injuring a third.

Rittenhouse, an Illinois resident, was arrested on Wednesday after allegedly fleeing back over the state line.

Trump has been sharply critical of the Black Lives Matter protests, recently threaten to stoke violence by sending the military to states with protests to supposedly keep order but really to provoke.

News source Raw Story

Don’t be confused by Trump’s fire hose of misinformation, be safe

We’re in a terrifying and confusing pandemic, with new and sometimes conflicting information about COVID-19 emerging all the time. In the early days, a lot of public health advice was based on what we knew about previous disease outbreaks. But this new coronavirus behaves in unexpected ways, and it’s hard to keep up. What’s more, people tend to remember the first things they learn about a new subject, a phenomenon called “anchoring bias,” and it’s psychologically challenging to replace old information with new knowledge. Here are nine of the most important things we’ve learned about SARS-CoV-2 in the past seven months and why we didn’t fully understand or appreciate them at first.

Outbreaks of COVID-19 can happen anywhere. There was a lot of wishful thinking and othering (as in it’s those other people’s problem) in the first months of the pandemic: Chinese people got it because of where they buy their groceries. Italian people got it because they greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. People on cruise ships got it because of the buffets. People in nursing homes got it because they are frail. People in New York got it because the city is crowded. Now we know that outbreaks can happen in urban areas, rural areas, suburbs, and any culture around the world.

COVID-19 can sicken and kill anyone. The first victims of the pandemic were disproportionately older or had existing health conditions. Age and frailty are still risk factors for serious disease and death, but we now know the disease can kill young and healthy people. It can kill young adults. It can kill teenagers. It can kill children.

Contaminated surfaces are not the main danger. Early on, public health experts advised people to wash their hands frequently (while singing “Happy Birthday” twice), disinfect surfaces, and avoid touching their faces. This was based on studies of how other diseases spread, such as norovirus and viruses that cause the common cold. It’s still a good idea to wash your hands regularly (and avoid handshakes), but now we know that surfaces aren’t the main vector for SARS-CoV-2.

It is in the air. At first, experts thought the virus was spread primarily through globs of mucus and saliva expelled when people cough or sneeze. They thought these droplets were heavy enough to drop out of the air fairly quickly. Based on early cases of hospital spread, the virus seemed to be aerosolized—that is, lofted into the air in particles small enough to float—only by certain medical procedures such as placing someone on a ventilator. But we now know that the virus is expelled in a range of droplet sizes, with some particles small enough to persist in the air, especially in indoor, poorly ventilated spaces.

Many people are infectious without being sick. Other respiratory diseases make people cough and sneeze. The original SARS outbreak made people so sick, so quickly, that most of them went to the hospital. Temperature checks and telling sick people to stay home can stop symptomatic diseases from spreading, and in the first months of the pandemic, many countries started screening people at their borders to detect these cases. But the biggest challenge for stopping SARS-CoV-2 is that many apparently healthy people spread the disease without symptoms or before symptoms start, simply through talking and breathing.

Warm summer weather will not stop the virus. Influenza is a seasonal respiratory disease that peaks in the winter and some experts hoped the spread of COVID-19 would show a similar pattern and slow in the Northern Hemisphere during the spring and summer. Now we know that people’s behavior, regardless of season, is the strongest predictor of whether the disease will spread.

Masks work. When the pandemic began, experts worried that mass mask-buying could exacerbate shortages of personal protective equipment for health care workers and others who needed them. They also warned that masks might make people complacent about social distancing and that cloth or paper masks (unlike N95 surgical masks) can’t stop the smallest aerosolized viral particles. Now we know that masks can greatly reduce the amount of virus that people expel into the air while speaking and that masks protect people who are wearing them—not perfectly, but enough to reduce transmission of the disease.

Racism, not race, is a risk factor. The pandemic should put an end to the common misconception that race, a social construct, is a biological explanation for health disparities. COVID-19 has disproportionately killed people of color in the United States. This is not because of genetic differences but because of systemic racism that has isolated and impoverished many Native American people and made Black and Latinx people more likely to have “essential” jobs that expose them to infection, a greater burden of stress, and less access to high-quality health care.

Misinformation kills. The (so-called) president of the United States, other politicians, anti-vaccine activists, and members of the right-wing media, to their everlasting shame, have used the pandemic to stoke racism, spread misinformation, and amplify conspiracy theories. Their followers have threatened health officials, including Tony Fauci and his family; refused to wear masks; refused to cooperate with contact tracers; and rejected proven basic public health advice about social distancing. Representative Louie Gohmert, who refused to wear a mask in the Capitol and reportedly discouraged his staff and interns from wearing masks, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and is being treated with hydroxychloroquine, a drug that Trump has endorsed but that has failed in clinical trials. Trump supporter Herman Cain died of COVID-19 on July 30, weeks after attending a rally in Tulsa without a mask. Calls to poison-control centers spiked after Trump speculated that injecting or ingesting disinfectants could protect against the coronavirus. Early evidence suggests people who watched Fox News were more likely to downplay the pandemic, worsening the spread. The most important public health measure during a pandemic of a disease with no cure or vaccine—as many countries around the world that have controlled the virus have shown—is to help experts share clear, trustworthy, accurate, actionable information based on the best evidence. Spreading lies has spread this disease.

Scientific American

Trump continues to provoke hatred and civil strife

Yet another controversy involving Trump and his allies came about this week when Facebook removed some campaign ads that used an infamous symbol from the 1930s: a red inverted triangle, which Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime used to identify political prisoners ranging from communists and liberals to members of opposition parties. Trump’s campaign has, in essence, responded that it didn’t use that symbol to promote Nazi ideology but to smear Antifa. Nonetheless, Trump’s critics have asserted that using that symbol in the first place was clueless and ignorant. And according to Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent, a leaked internal document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security makes Trump and his allies look even worse in this controversy.

“After Facebook removed the ads amid an outcry,” Sargent explains, “the Trump campaign continued to defend the use of the image — which was used by Nazis to identify political prisoners — by claiming it’s a ‘common Antifa symbol.’ The suggestion, of course, is that the image is justified by the idea that it’s associated with Antifa, so it’s merely a warning of a continuing menace to the country. ‘STOP ANTIFA,’ the ads say, warning of ‘dangerous MOBS of far-left groups’ that are ‘DESTROYING our cities.’”

Sargent adds, “Meanwhile, Trump and his top officials have continued to blame unrest and violence at protests on Antifa, to cast the violence more broadly as primarily left-wing in orientation. But the DHS document I obtained undercuts this series of claims.”

The leaked DHS document, according to Sargent, shows that Antifa has not been a major source of violence at the recent “Justice for George Floyd” protests that have been taking place all over the United States.

“The document — which is an assessment of ongoing ‘protest-related’ threats to law enforcement dated June 17 — makes no mention at all of Antifa in its cataloging of those threats,” Sargent notes. “The DHS document states that ‘anarchist and anti-government extremists pose the most significant threat of targeted low-level, protest-related assaults against law enforcement.’ It bases this assessment on ‘the observed ideologies of recent attackers and the body of reporting of tactics noted by violent opportunists used over the last two weeks.’ Thus, as of this week, ‘anarchist and anti-government extremists’ pose the most serious ongoing threat, according to Trump’s own Homeland Security Department.”

Although Trump and his allies have been smearing Antifa in order to terrorize Trump’s base of older white male voters, their assertions have demonstrated that they don’t know much about Antifa (which stands for “anti-fascist”). First, Antifa is a movement, not an organization. Second, Trumpistas tend to lump Antifa and Black Bloc anarchists together even though they’re separate movements. And Sargent, in his column, shows that he clearly knows the difference between Antifa and anarchists.

Sargent says of the DHS document, “Not only does this document not name Antifa, this description of generic ‘anarchist extremists’ does not describe what we’ve come to understand ‘Antifa’ to be. While there might be some loose overlap between Antifa and anarchists, Antifa isn’t even a group — and adherents are characterized by specific resistance to perceived neo-fascist movements. Meanwhile, the DHS document defines ‘anti-government extremists’ as motivated by ‘their belief that their liberties are being taken away by the perceived unconstitutional or otherwise illegitimate actions of government officials or law enforcement.’ Obviously, that’s not Antifa either.”

Former DHS official Juliette Kayyem reviewed the document at Sargent’s request and told him, “This document shows that the government itself does not view Antifa as a significant threat in the homeland. The document shows how absurd the Trump campaign’s justification for using the symbol really is. It undercuts their defense.”

Although the DHS document doesn’t cite Antifa as a threat, it is specific about who it does consider a threat — and in addition to anarchists, it mentions white supremacists and the far-right Boogaloo movement (which is hoping to bring about a second civil war in the United States). In Northern California, Steven Carrillo — a man believed by the Department of Justice officials to be associated with the Boogaloo movement — has been charged with murder following the shooting of a security officer. And the DHS document that Sargent and Kayyem reviewed specifically mentions Carrillo.

Sargent writes, “The DHS document actually does cite the ‘Boogaloo movement’ as a threat in this context. It notes that Carrillo is likely associated with it, defining it as ‘a term used by some violent extremists from a variety of movements who seek to incite a race war or the collapse of society.’”

Sargent concludes his column by noting that the DHS document warns of “the possibility of more attacks on law enforcement” and quoting a former DHS official who told him that making misleading claims about Antifa does a disservice to law enforcement.

The official told Sargent, “Attributing the risk to one group (or mischaracterizing its structure) is dangerous, because it misses the holistic nature of the problem, excludes those that do present a danger and ultimately, puts law enforcement at increased risk.”

Source AlterNet – Alex Henderson

 

That was Richard Pryor’s prerogative, but not ours.

Well, it’s taken a minute but Cliff has formally apologized and this sounds like a real heartfelt apology.

I am writing this to formally apologize. I am truly contrite that my words caused pain or anyone to feel less than. I was wrong, it was stupid, and I should not have done it. We all commit harm, and when we do, it is only right to both apologize and work to make things better. I know I harmed people. I am sorry.

I have been asked over and over again about my opponent’s racist comment, which he has attributed to a Cheech and Chong joke. While that may be true, it is still unacceptable. I foolishly compared that to quoting Richard Pryor, trying to make the point that even quoting someone saying the wrong thing is unacceptable, and in making my example, I too said the unacceptable.

There are words that are so steeped in hate and racism, that they enflame our community when uttered; I am grateful to live somewhere that holds people accountable for what they say and do. While I did not wield that word as a weapon nor did I direct it at anyone, it does not remove the harm of saying the word. Nothing excuses what I said. There are people who have trusted me and for them, this is a betrayal.

I have spent the past decades of my life trying to facilitate conversations that include rather than exclude. I have used my position to try to give voice to those who often don’t get to talk about their lived experiences. However, that is not enough. I formally, and contritely apologize. I apologize to all those hurt by my words, my friends, my family, the community, and my students. My past actions to help People of Color do not absolve me for the harm I committed. I still said that word. It is still not okay.

As I continue to reflect on how I have harmed people by saying that word, I will work towards a more just society. I will not stop activism or working to dismantle racism, and I will continue to interrogate how racist ideology has worked its way into my own mind. I will continue to work to make things better. I will uphold my promise to make sure all voices are heard and that there will be a place at the table for everyone, especially People of Color.

I am deeply grateful to those people in my life who have held me accountable and shared their personal experiences and knowledge about racism. Thank you to the community for also holding me accountable.

Cliff Berkowitz

We would like to point out that Editor Marc Valles and Publisher/General Manager John Richmond were pre-disposed to endorse Rex anyway. Cliff’s screw up just gave them cover. 

So, Rex, we’re not holding our breath waiting for you to formally apologize for your many cases of bullying and racist, bigoted remarks, cause we know that’s who you are!

We still support Cliff!

Trumpies have a festival of hate, and it is spreading nationwide

‘Nothing Less Than a Civil War’: These White Voters on the Far-Right See Doom Without Trump

“Trumpstock,” is a small festival celebrating Trump in Golden Valley, Arizona. The speakers at Trumpstock included the local Republican congressman, Paul Gosar, and lesser-known conservative personalities. There was a fringe 2020 Senate candidate in Arizona who ran a website that published sexually explicit photos of women without their consent; a pro-Trump rapper whose lyrics include a racist slur aimed at Barack Obama; and a North Carolina activist who once said of Muslims, “I will kill every one of them before they get to me.”

All were welcome, everybody well, except the hated liberals.

“They label us white nationalists, or white supremacists,” volunteered Guy Taiho Decker, who drove from California to attend the event. A right-wing protester, he has previously been arrested on charges of making terrorist threats. “There’s no such thing as a white supremacist, just like there’s no such thing as a unicorn,” Mr. Decker said. “We’re patriots.”

As Mr. Trump’s bid for re-election shifts into higher gear, his campaign hopes to recapture voters who drifted away from the party in 2018 and 2019: independents who embraced moderate Democratic candidates, suburban women tired of Mr. Trump’s personal conduct and working-class voters who haven’t benefited from his economic policies.

But if any group remains singularly loyal to Mr. Trump, it is the small but impassioned number of white voters on the far right, often in rural communities like Golden Valley, who extol him as a cultural champion reclaiming the country from undeserving outsiders.

These voters don’t passively tolerate Mr. Trump’s “build a wall” message or his ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries — they’re what motivates them. They see themselves in his fear-based identity politics, bolstered by conspiratorial rhetoric about caravans of immigrants and Democratic “coups.”

Speaking engagements featuring far-right supporters of Trump, have become part of the political landscape during the Trump era. Islamophobic taunts can be heard at his rallies. Hate speech and conspiracy theories are staples of some far-right websites. If Trumpstock was modest in size, it stood out as a sign of extremist public support for Trump and his cult.

These supporters have electoral muscle in key areas: Mr. Trump outperformed Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee, in rural parts of Arizona like Mohave County, where Golden Valley is located. Mr. Trump won 58,282 votes in the county, compared to 47,901 for Mr. Romney, though Mr. Romney carried the state by a much bigger vote margin.

Arizona will be a key battleground state in 2020: Democrats already flipped a Senate seat and a Tucson-based congressional district from red to blue in 2018. For Mr. Trump, big turnout from white voters in areas like Mohave County — and in rural parts of other battlegrounds like Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia — could be a lifeline in a tight election.

“We like to call this the ‘Red Wall of Arizona,’” said Laurence Schiff, a psychiatrist and Republican campaign official in Mohave County who organizes in support of Mr. Trump’s campaign. “Winning the state starts here, with us.”

In interviews, people in the crowd described a white America under threat as racial minorities typified by Mr. Obama, the country’s first black president. They described Mr. Trump as an inspirational figure who is undoing Mr. Obama’s legacy and beating back the perceived threat of Muslim and Latino immigrants, whom they denounced in prejudiced terms.

“I don’t have a problem with Muslims,” said Angus Smith, an Arizona resident who attended the festival, “but can they take the rag off their head out of respect for our country?”

At Mr. Trump’s official rallies, including a recent one in Florida, Trump has referred to Mr. Obama by stressing his middle name, Hussein, and said Democrats were “trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you.”

The Trumpstock speakers pushed even further, tying Mr. Obama’s middle name to a false belief that he is a foreign-born Muslim.

And Democrats were portrayed as not just political opponents, but avatars of doom for Mr. Trump’s predominantly white voter base and for the country.

“There is no difference between the democratic socialists and the National Socialists,” said Evan Sayet, a conservative writer who spoke at the event, referencing Nazi Germany. Democrats, he said, “are the heirs to Adolf Hitler.”

Speakers at Trumpstock said their cultural fears had been exacerbated by their state’s own changing nature: Arizona is on the front lines of undocumented border crossings from Mexico and racial minorities are expected to outnumber white people in the state in the next decade.

They point to regions like Northern Arizona as places to find, as Mr. Trump wrote in a recent tweet, “the Angry Majority.”  “We have the greatest base in the history of politics,” he said at a recent rally in Florida.

In Arizona, the most prominent pro-Trump, anti-immigrant groups are AZ Patriots and Patriot Movement AZ, which have held tight to the themes of white nationalism. In September, after repeated clashes, some members of the groups agreed to a court order to stop harassing migrants and church volunteers who help them.

Earlier this year, the groups and their allies organized a “Patriotism over Socialism” event in Gilbert, Ariz., near Phoenix, that included speeches from Representative Andy Biggs, the area’s congressman, and Kelli Ward, the state’s Republican Party chair. They appeared alongside more fringe figures: Sharon Slater of Family Watch International, which has promoted figures associated with anti-L.G.B.T. conversion therapy, and Laura Loomer, the far-right activist and Arizona native who was banned by Twitter and some other platforms after making anti-Muslim comments.

This blend of insider and outsider, of mainstream and conspiracy, is a feature of how Mr. Trump has reshaped the Republican Party in his image, and the core of his origin story. Before Mr. Trump announced any firm plans to seek office, he was the national face of the “birther” conspiracy, which thrived in the Tea Party movement and had a significant amount of support from the Republican base, polls showed.

Stacey Goodman, a former police officer from New York who retired to Arizona and attended Trumpstock, said her distrust of Mr. Obama’s birth certificate had led her to Mr. Trump.

“If you’re Muslim, just tell us you’re Muslim,” she said of Mr. Obama. “It’s not that I didn’t believe him, I’m just not qualified to answer that question. I’ve seen information on both sides that’s compelling.”

Mona Fishman, a singer from the Las Vegas area who performed at the event, has written Trump-themed songs with titles like “Fake News” and “Smells like Soros,” which accuses liberal megadonor George Soros of running a shadow government, a trope widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

In the White House, Mr. Trump has relied on similar unfounded conspiracy theories and promoted people who have perpetuated them. He pardoned Joseph M. Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, a hero of Arizona’s right wing and a leader of the “birther” movement, who was convicted of criminal contempt related to his aggressive efforts to detain undocumented immigrants.

On Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, likely the most-watched in the world, he has promoted white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots, and believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory, which claims that top Democrats are worshiping the Devil and engaging in child sex trafficking.

Even mainstream conservative media figures have embraced QAnon as a way to dismiss Mr. Trump’s political enemies. The Fox News host Jesse Watters, during a recent segment dedicated to the conspiracy, linked it to Mr. Trump’s Washington enemies. “Isn’t it also about the Trump fight with the deep state in terms of the illegal surveillance of the campaign, the inside hit jobs that he’s sustained?” he asked.

They love his over the top tweets “Please never stop tweeting,” Ms. Fishman sings in one of her songs, titled “Thank You President Trump.” “I can hardly wait to see what I’ll be reading.”

 ‘I don’t believe in violence, but…’

Events like Trumpstock are not limited to Arizona. Its organizer, Laurie Bezick, recruited speakers from around the country through social media, tapping into a network of pro-Trump voices only a click away.

Long-shot congressional candidates touting an “America First” agenda came from places like Iowa and Maryland. Leaders of fledgling political groups with names like JEXIT: Jews Exit The Democratic Party, Latinos for Trump and Deplorable Pride, a right-wing L.G.B.T. organization, told the overwhelmingly white audience they were not anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, homophobic or racist. In fact, the speakers insisted, people who used those terms were more guilty of bigotry than the people they accused.

To applause, the co-founder of Latinos for Trump, Marco Gutierrez, read the pledge he took when he became a naturalized citizen and renounced his Mexican homeland. Nitemare, a pro-Trump rapper who refused to give his legal name, invoked QAnon and called Mr. Obama a racist slur in his set.

Brian Talbert, the founder of Deplorable Pride, was contacted by the White House after he was barred from the L.G.B.T. pride parade in Charlotte, N.C. At Trumpstock, Mr. Talbert, who has a history of expressing anti-Muslim beliefs on social media, gave voice to hatred of Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and Mr. Trump’s 2016 opponent.

“I think she should be hanging at the end of a rope for treason,” he said of Mrs. Clinton.

Members of groups like these at once make up a critical portion of Arizona’s conservative base, and espouse derogatory rhetoric that must repeatedly be repudiated, creating political difficulties for the state’s Republican lawmakers. After a photograph emerged last April of members of Patriot Movement AZ posing with Gov. Doug Ducey, he said he had never heard of the group. “I absolutely denounce their behavior,” he added.

Trumpstock attendees say they are used to being denounced, another quality they feel they share with Trump It’s part of why they are protective of him, to the point that they refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a Trump loss in 2020.

Mark Villalta said he had been stockpiling firearms, in case Mr. Trump’s re-election is not successful.

“Nothing less than a civil war would happen,” Mr. Villalta said, his right hand reaching for a holstered handgun. “I don’t believe in violence, but I’ll do what I got to do.”

 

This post was edited from New York Times story by Astead W. Herndon