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TBR News June 22, 2020

Jun 22 2020

The Voice of the White House
Comments: “”Wild, entirely fictional, stories about Antifa groups armed with Chinese tanks, rockets and flame throwers savagely attacking pro-Trump groups who are in churches and synagogues across America, praying that Donald gets re-elected in November.
One hears that soon, George Soros will equip them with jet fighters and a submarine or two to further try to frustrate the Messenger of the Lord in his mission to remove all dark-skinned people from American soil and fill the churches with true believers.
Next week, we will learn that evil Mexican illegals have raped the entire female population of Colorado Springs and killed all the men with Chinese spears.
Oh we must rise up and smite the Satanists with diligence and dispatch!”

Trump’s Approval Rating
June 20
USA Rating
Approve Disapprove
35%         65%

The Table of Contents
• Republican dark money groups set sights on taking control of 2020 district maps
• The Caged Ballot
• John Bolton says he won’t vote for Trump and hopes he is a one-term president
• Israel is arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine
• False Claims of Antifa Protesters Plague Small US Cities
• The Age of Disappointment?
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Republican dark money groups set sights on taking control of 2020 district maps
‘He who controls redistricting can control Congress,’ Karl Rove famously said – and the RSLC is set to do just that
June 22,2020
by Shilpa Jindia
The Guardian
A little-known Republican group is ramping up millions of dollars in funding from major US corporations such as CitiGroup and Chevron to protect the conservative stronghold on the country.
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) – which held the key to the GOP’s political takeover a decade ago – launched the Right Lines 2020 campaign last September, taglined: “Socialism starts in the states. Let’s stop it there, too.” It’s hoping to meet a $125m investment goal in an effort to retain 42 state legislature seats that the group says are key to holding power in the House of Representatives in battleground states including Wisconsin, Texas, Florida and New York.
“There’s a decade of power and a decade of dominance that’s truly on the line,” RSLC president Austin Chambers, a 24-year-old Republican operative, told Sean Spicer on his Newsmax show in March. The group recently appointed party strategist Karl Rove and ousted White House chief of staff Reince Priebus to its board.
Ahead of November’s election, Republicans face an intense Democratic challenge to unseat Donald Trump, with dark money pouring in on both sides, and consumers who are significantly more vocal and critical of corporations’ politics, especially in the wake of Citizens United. But this year’s election also coincides with the decennial census, from which demographic data helps determine the number of seats in the House. The state legislatures elected this fall will be in charge of drawing almost all the maps.
The RSLC’s goal is to get Republicans elected in down-ballot races. This can mean funding state candidates and campaign materials, including attack ads. For corporations, funneling their money through the group is a simple way to support lawmakers sympathetic to their bottom line and exert political influence.
The RSLC has gone to extreme lengths to undertake its mission, changing the political landscape in the process. In the run-up to the 2010 midterms, it led an unprecedented strategy, the Redistricting Majority Project, or Redmap, to flip legislatures in competitive states. Once in charge, Republicans manipulated district maps to their advantage, a tactic known as gerrymandering. “He who controls redistricting can control Congress,” Rove famously said in 2010.
In 2012, Democrats won 1.4m more votes than Republicans, yet Republicans maintained a 33-seat margin in the House. A 2019 USC study found that 59 million Americans now live under minority rule, where the party that receives the minority share of the vote in a state election controls the majority of seats in the subsequent state legislature. While both Democrats and Republicans gerrymander, Redmap changed the game.
Over half of the RSLC’s $17m contributions at the end of 2019 came from public companies and trade associations, according to an analysis by The Center for Political Accountability (CPA), which tracks corporate political spending. The largest single donor, however, was the conservative dark money group the Judicial Confirmation Network with $1.1m, the same group behind the nomination of conservative supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Despite the huge amount of financial support, the RSLC spends relatively little to accomplish their goal, doling out roughly $1m per state in its 2010 coup. The RSLC funnels the money towards groups on the ground that support candidates, or towards independent expenditures, including mailers, robocalls and digital and TV spots – which often veer into attack ads.
“The money doesn’t go out broadly,” said Bruce Freed, CPA president. “It goes to specific states that they see as targets of opportunity. And so the company that contributes has much greater bang for the buck.”
n the recent Wisconsin election, the RSLC spent over $800,000 on TV ads against judge Jill Karofsky attempting to portray her as soft on sex offenders. She unsuccessfully tried to block the ads, and later won the state supreme court seat. Justice Courtney Goodson also sued the RSLC in 2018 when she ran to defend her seat on the Arkansas state supreme court. The RSLC paid for a 15-second spot and mailers lambasting contributions she had received from a friend of her attorney husband, who had been a top donor to her first state supreme court campaign before they married.
But experts said the RSLC and its donors may no longer be able to fly under the radar. Once an arcane process, gerrymandering is now a contentious issue battled by grassroots movements. “Redistricting historically was something that occurred behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms and the people didn’t pay attention,” said Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center. “Now it’s something that angers people.”
Rigged maps and their corrosive effects on democracy have drawn fierce protests in states like Wisconsin and Michigan over the past decade. Crowds came out once again last year after the supreme court’s influential ruling drawing a line between political and racial gerrymandering, putting even more pressure on the parties to win control of the redistricting process.
Consumers are also more concerned with corporate politics than they were a decade ago. Think of grocery store chain Publix, which suspended political contributions after Parkland high school students staged protests in their stores over unprecedented donations to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a self-professed “proud NRA sellout”.
RSLC contributors Citigroup, Chevron, and Dominion Energy are one of a number of companies aligning themselves with the Black Lives Matter protests, though not always directly. Altria and Dominion Energy have both pledged $5m to fight “racial and social inequality”. But these words can ring hollow.
“They can look moderate or woke to the public, even though they don’t spend their money to pursue those issues politically the same way they pursue their narrower [interests],” said Jake Grumbach, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Washington.
The Guardian reached out to the RSLC’s top five corporate donors in 2019, most of which disclose their political contributions on their websites. Chevron, Dominion and Reynolds all replied that companies contribute in a bipartisan, transparent manner according to their business interests, and declined to answer questions about Redmap. Altria and BNSF did not comment. Ultimately, Freed said, companies don’t consider the consequences of their political spending. “Corporations either turned a blind eye or they didn’t pay attention, but they’re responsible through their spending.”
While the RSLC’s counterpart, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, raised only a third as much as the RSLC in 2010, the two groups are virtually neck-and-neck so far in the 2020 election cycle. “Democrats were asleep at the wheel in 2010,” Li said. “Increasingly [they] understand that they need to at least get a blocking position if not control redistricting.”
Former attorney general Eric Holder has launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NRDC), backed by Barack Obama and largely funded by the Pacs of George Soros and Donald Sussman, and shored up by large contributions from leading labor unions.
Dave Abrams, the RSLC deputy executive director, called the Democrats’ pledge to stop partisan gerrymandering “flat bullshit”, and said the RSLC and its supporters were leading the fight against “radical leftists”.
But the two sides’ strategies aren’t exactly the same, said David Daley, who wrote Ratfucked, a book on gerrymandering. “The Republican strategy in 2010 was based on winning trifecta control in all of these states, recognizing that state legislatures represented an inexpensive loophole.” While Democrats have been trying to claw back power, “it’s not about taking complete control of these parties and then drawing themselves in”, Daley said. “They’re too far behind to even think about that.”
Republicans may not be able to hold onto their seats this time. In 2019, the NRDC, Holder’s organization, hit its targets in Kentucky, Virginia, and Louisiana – save for flipping the Louisiana state Senate. Democrats also won Karofsky’s seat on Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled state supreme court election in April.
“Everybody understands this is a war that has real consequences and you’ve got one shot at it,” Li said. “It’s not like we can come back and do this two years like this; this is your moment, and if you’re going to influence what the maps look like, and who’s in power for the next decade.”

The Caged Ballot
Why the GOP is poised to create large-scale voting chaos this year
by Zachary Roth
The New Republic

The irony is pretty rich. For years, and with ever-increasing intensity, Republicans have claimed with virtually no evidence that our democracy is menaced by election fraud. It has been their all-purpose excuse for voter suppression tactics, their rationalization for election defeats, and a central element of a Big Conspiracy Theory alleging that Democrats want open borders so they can drown good white taxpaying citizens in a sea of illegal voting by immigrants and other minorities seeking to give themselves welfare benefits.
So now, from North Carolina, there’s finally a clearly documented case of election fraud that actually appears to have changed an election result. The cruel irony for Republicans is that operatives from their own party — particularly “consultant” Leslie McCrae Dowless — allegedly did the deed.
As Philip Bump notes, this is very much a blue-moon development:
The last time there was a federal election that needed to be rerun was more than 40 years ago, when a close race combined with a faulty voting machine in Louisiana to prompt the calling of a new election. Politico’s Steven Shepard has a good history of past do-overs, including that Louisiana race, a history that makes clear that this is probably the first federal election in which the results were tainted by fraudulent activity.
To be clear, the illegal activity in North Carolina’s Ninth District didn’t resemble the “voter fraud” scenarios Republicans have insisted on imagining in recent years:
[This] wasn’t an election tainted by people showing up to cast illegal ballots, the fraud allegation that has been leveled scores of times by President Trump alone. Instead, it focused on allegedly corrupt actions by a man working for a consulting firm hired by one of the candidates.
So tighter voter-ID laws or voter-roll purges or more closely scrutinized voter-registration drives, the most frequent GOP prescriptions for “election security,” wouldn’t have mattered at all. You could make an attenuated case that opportunities for early voting or voting-by-mail — in this case voting by absentee ballot — that Democrats have recent championed are the problem. But what happened in North Carolina is the functional equivalent of old-fashioned, 19th-century ballot-box stuffing. Unused absentee ballots were fraudulently filled out with signatures forged, and actually filled-out absentee ballots cast for the “wrong” candidate were discarded. As the Brennan Center wryly observes, this activity was much closer to voter suppression than to the voter fraud alleged to justify voter suppression. And as Bump notes, the silence from Republicans about it all has been deafening:
[T]here has been almost no outcry from Republican elected officials. Trump hasn’t mentioned the situation in North Carolina. A review of congressional tweets shows no Republican officials who have linked the events in the 9th District to their party’s campaign against voter fraud — and plenty of Democrats who have noted that silence.
Actually, some conservatives have attempted to change the subject to their traditional whining about Democrats via whataboutism aimed at California, as reflected in this Breitbart take:
According to the Washington Post, Dowless and his staff gathered absentee ballots from voters and offered to mail them in on the voters’ behalf. Only near relatives are allowed to do that under North Carolina law.
But in California, third parties may submit an unlimited number of mail-in ballots, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2016.
The practice of “ballot harvesting” is now thought to have had a major impact on the 2018 midterm elections in California, where several incumbent Republicans in competitive districts had healthy leads on Election Night, only to discover — weeks later, in some cases — they had lost, thanks to mail-in ballots.
This wasn’t “thought to have had a major impact” by anyone, and I do mean anyone, other than Republicans trying to explain away their disastrous performance in California, which predictably got worse when a long-established Democratic tilt in late mail ballots predictably manifested itself. Innuendo aside, there hasn’t been a scintilla of evidence that anyone in California committed felonies by falsifying or discarding mail ballots, which is what the North Carolina case is all about.
So Republicans really do need to own what happened in North Carolina’s Ninth District, and at a minimum stop pretending “election fraud” is a Democratic phenomenon — or that keeping people from voting is an appropriate remedy for crooks faking or stealing their ballots.
A week before last Thanksgiving, a group of Republican attorneys gathered at the tony Madison Club a few blocks from the Wisconsin State Capitol to learn what they could do to help reelect President Trump. Established in 1909, the club has hosted Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, as well as the Dalai Lama.
The November gathering was organized by the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), which, despite its relatively low profile, has worked for decades to give Republican candidates a crucial edge in national elections. The group has developed a network of influential conservative lawyers pushing for tighter voting rules, and it recruits volunteers to provide legal services on behalf of the GOP at the polls and courthouses on Election Day. Among the RNLA’s past members are the Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, the former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn, and Hans von Spakovsky, a former Republican appointee to the Federal Election Commission who is now a leading figure in the right-wing push to create barriers to voting. Another RNLA alum is Virginia Representative Bob Goodlatte, who as chair of the House Judiciary Committee bottled up legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act to full strength after it was gravely weakened by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, Shelby County v. Holder, written by Chief Justice John Roberts—himself a former RNLA member.
Last fall’s confab—which came to public attention thanks to a recording of the proceedings leaked by the Democratic group American Bridge PAC—kicked off with brief remarks from Scott Fitzgerald, the leader of the Wisconsin Senate. Over the last decade, Fitzgerald has played a key role in pushing through a host of measures—voter ID and other restrictive voting laws, gerrymandered election maps, and legislation weakening campaign finance protections—that together have badly undermined the state’s democracy. At the Madison Club, Fitzgerald celebrated the Republicans’ recent success in killing off Wisconsin’s independent, nonpartisan, and widely respected election commission and replacing it with a panel that can more easily be controlled by lawmakers.
After Fitzgerald spoke, the RNLA heard from Justin Clark, a top strategist and lawyer for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. “We’re either going to win Wisconsin and win the election, or lose Wisconsin and lose the election,” Clark declared at the outset, setting out the stakes. Then he explained why he was optimistic. “First and foremost: The consent decree is gone,” he said, calling it a “huge, huge, huge, huge, deal.”
Clark was referring to a court-enforced agreement, drawn up in 1982 in response to a federal lawsuit brought in New Jersey after what he delicately called “shenanigans” committed by GOP campaign operatives. For decades, the agreement barred the Republican National Committee (RNC) from conducting “ballot security” activities—essentially, efforts to challenge voters’ eligibility at the polls or in any other way to prevent or deter them from casting a ballot. In 2018, a federal judge ended the ban, finding it was no longer needed. That means that this November will see the first presidential election without it since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. Voter protection groups are already bracing for potential trouble at the polls.
It’s not that Republicans will have a totally free hand, of course—blatant voter intimidation, as well as racial discrimination in voting, are still illegal. But Clark told his audience that the lifting of the decree would allow the RNC to coordinate all its Election Day activities with the Trump campaign, state parties, and the House and Senate Republican campaign arms. Clark went on to describe a multimillion-dollar RNC-funded effort to flood the polls and courthouses with Republican activists and lawyers this November. The initiative, he promised, would represent “a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, and a much better funded program” than any similar GOP effort in other recent presidential cycles. He added: “This is all a result of us being able to budget and coordinate directly with the RNC.” Some swing-state Republicans may already be taking advantage of the change. Florida’s GOP-led legislature is advancing a bill to allow Election Day poll watchers to monitor any precinct in the state; currently, they have to live in the precincts they surveil.
And of course, the newly unleashed RNC won’t be working alongside an ordinary GOP standard-bearer. Instead, it will team up with a candidate who, ahead of his 2016 election and throughout his first term in office, has led an unprecedented and unhinged crusade against alleged election fraud, and has repeatedly urged his backers to act as a vigilante-style anti–voter-fraud police force. Now, in his remarks before the RNLA, Clark was making it clear that, without the consent decree in force any longer, Trump’s paranoid obsession with thwarting the workings of democracy can form a critical component of the GOP’s 2020 electoral playbook.
“Every time we’re in with [Trump], he asks, ‘What are we doing about voter fraud? What are we doing about voter fraud?’” Clark told the lawyers. “Which is great for a guy who’s looking for budget approval on stuff, because I can say, ‘Hey, the president really wants it.’ But the point is, he’s committed to this, he believes in it, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure it’s successful.”
When not speaking privately to party activists and lawyers, RNC officials put a somewhat different spin on what the end of the consent decree means. “Lifting of the consent decree allows the RNC to play by the same rules as Democrats,” Mandi Merritt, a spokeswoman for the RNC, told The New Republic in a statement. “Now the RNC can work more closely with state parties and campaigns to do what we do best—ensure that more people vote through our unmatched field program.”
Indeed, Clark did tell the lawyers assembled in Madison about plans to turn out the state’s Republican voters more effectively in 2020. But his presentation also suggested that boosting turnout in GOP areas will be only one side of the coin. The consent decree’s own fraught history gives an all-too-vivid picture of what the other side might look like.
Intimidating minority voters at the polls has been a part of the GOP’s election strategy for even longer than nonwhite voters have reliably been supporting Democrats. And by the 1980s, Republicans had perfected the scheme. Clark called the activities that led to the original 1982 decree “shenanigans,” as if talking about a high school prank. In fact, the RNC carried out a coordinated political plot to systematically disenfranchise nonwhite voters.
In the early 1980s, the backlash to the gains of the civil rights era was in full swing. In 1980, Ronald Reagan, who had built a national following decrying “welfare queens” and the “strapping young buck” who buys T-bone steaks with food stamps, was elected president.
Then, as now, voting was at the heart of conservatives’ fears. The dynamic that today governs much of the battle over access to the ballot—that Republicans do better when turnout is lower, especially among minorities and other marginalized groups—was just becoming clear. “I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, the legendary conservative activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, told a religious right gathering in Dallas during the 1980 campaign. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Two years later, a young John Roberts would send a memo to his boss at the Reagan Justice Department outlining a sophisticated legal strategy to dramatically narrow the scope of the Voting Rights Act.
Around the same time, a much cruder scheme landed Republicans in hot water. In the lead-up to a 1981 race for governor of New Jersey, top RNC officials launched an effort they called the National Ballot Security Task Force. According to a complaint later filed by Democrats in U.S. District Court, the task force first used voter registration lists to send letters to voters in minority-heavy districts. The envelopes requested that undeliverable letters not be forwarded but instead returned to sender. The task force got back more than 45,000 letters—about 4 percent of the state’s total nonwhite population at the time. Then, less than two weeks before the election, they went to election officials throughout New Jersey and urged them to purge these voters from the rolls—a voter suppression tactic known as “caging.” When the election officials investigated, they found that the task force had used outdated voter registration lists —and that, indeed, most of the voters under challenge by the RNC either had already been removed from the voting rolls or had transferred their registration to a new address.
The Republicans were undaunted. In a transparent effort to spread fear about voting, RNC officials announced to the media about a week before the election that they planned to challenge ballots cast by these voters. Then, according to the complaint, the task force, working with local police agencies, hired deputy sheriffs and police officers to patrol the polls on Election Day in urban neighborhoods with large minority populations. These self-styled poll watchers were armed with revolvers; they also sported two-way radios and armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force” (even though no such organization existed as anything other than a voter-intimidation arm of the RNC). The task force’s director, a Washington-based RNC employee, was made a deputy sheriff as part of the scheme.
Once the poll monitors had set up shop, they soon began, in the language of the complaint, “disrupting the operations of polling places, harassing poll workers, stopping and questioning prospective voters, refusing to permit prospective voters to enter the polling places, ripping down signs of one of the candidates, and forcibly restraining poll workers from assisting, as permitted by state laws, voters to cast their ballots.” They also hung posters in and around polling places that read, in bright red ink: “Warning: This Area Is Being Patrolled by the National Ballot Security Task Force: It Is a Crime to Falsify a Ballot or to Violate Election Laws.” The posters offered a $1,000 reward for any information about illegal voting. Nowhere did they say that they had been paid for by the GOP, as federal election law required.
n the end, the Republican candidate, Tom Kean, won the governor’s race by just 1,797 votes. Democrats and civil rights groups charged that the activities of the task force deterred large numbers of would-be voters from casting a ballot.
The following year, the RNC settled the Democratic Party’s lawsuit over the episode by signing the consent decree. The RNC agreed to no longer conduct a range of “ballot security” activities, including questioning voters about their eligibility, deputizing people as law enforcement, and targeting voters casting ballots in minority-heavy districts.
In the almost four decades since then, the Republican strategy to suppress voting, especially the votes of racial minorities, has gotten much more sophisticated. Today, the GOP relies primarily not on under-the-radar Election Day dirty tricks, but rather on facially neutral laws and regulations, such as voter ID, which tend to hit nonwhite and poor voters hardest. But the GOP has never been able to bring itself to fully abandon the kind of tactics it used to such good effect in New Jersey back in 1981. Indeed, the consent decree’s history suggests how schemes like these have often been central to the party’s political strategy.
Republicans waited just four years to resume their “ballot security” tactics. Ahead of the 1986 midterms, the RNC conducted another caging scheme in a hard-fought contest, sending non-forwardable letters to around 350,000 predominantly black voters in Louisiana. “[T]his program will eliminate at least 60,000–80,000 folks from the rolls,” the RNC’s Midwest political director wrote to its Southern political director in a memo that was unearthed after some voters filed another lawsuit against the party that year. “[T]his could keep the black vote down considerably.”
Claiming the RNC had violated the 1982 consent decree, Democrats sued again. Another settlement ensured that the decree was strengthened to require the RNC to get a federal court’s sign-off before doing any ballot security activities; its language was also revised to more clearly bar voter caging.
Four years later, the RNC was hauled into court again. Days before the 1990 elections, Republicans sent postcards to some 150,000 North Carolina voters, 97 percent of whom were black. They read: “When you enter the voting enclosure, you will be asked to state your name, residence and period of residence in that precinct. You must have lived in that precinct for at least the previous 30 days or you will not be allowed to vote. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in jail, to knowingly give false information about your name, residence or period of residence to an election official.” The chair of the state GOP said the letters were supposed to go to voters who had recently moved, but admitted that some voters who hadn’t moved in years also received them.
By the 1990s, the bogeyman of Democratic voter fraud was becoming a key element in the GOP’s core message. Over the next three decades, Republican election strategists became experts at spreading the urban myth of widespread illegal voting, the better to suppress voting by Democratic-leaning groups.
They were spurred to action in part by the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the motor voter law, which significantly expanded access to the voting rolls, especially for marginalized groups, by requiring that states offer the opportunity to register at the DMV and other government agencies. The measure, warned outraged Alabama Republican Representative Spencer Bachus on the floor of the House, “will result in the registration of millions of welfare recipients, illegal aliens, and taxpayer-funded entitlement program recipients. They’ll win.”
The Florida 2000 election fiasco brought home to both sides how, in a close race, the rules for voting can make all the difference. It’s worth remembering that George W. Bush’s eventual win was due not only to the Supreme Court, but also to a preelection purge that removed more than 12,000 eligible voters because it wrongly identified them as former felons.
Four years later, Republican efforts to cause chaos at the polls went national—or close to it. The GOP launched programs to challenge the eligibility of tens of thousands of voters in the election’s key swing states, including Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election,” one Michigan state lawmaker told a meeting of GOP activists. Even the Bush administration itself lent a hand: Attorney General John Ashcroft told his staff of U.S. attorneys to meet with election officials and conduct investigations into voter fraud on Election Day if necessary, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In Ohio, the election’s most pivotal state, Republicans sent around 232,000 letters to newly registered voters. State party officials then used returned mail to challenge more than 35,000 voters in predominantly minority areas. RNC chair Ed Gillespie joined party officials at a press conference hyping the returned mail and claiming rampant fraud at the polls. A voter filed suit, alleging that the RNC was violating the consent decree, citing emails that showed coordination on the scheme between the RNC and the Ohio GOP. But a federal appeals court ultimately found the state party was in charge of the effort and allowed the challenges to go forward.
Republicans recruited about 3,600 paid workers statewide to level the challenges at the polls. They were helped by an order from Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, permitting a challenger for every precinct, despite a state law allowing only one per polling place, most of which contain several precincts. In Cuyahoga County, the state’s key Democratic stronghold, more than 14,000 voters were challenged. Statewide, one out of every 25 registered black voters reported being challenged, compared to one out of every 100 registered white voters, and 16 percent of black voters reported intimidation, one study found.
With this blizzard of ballot challenges and other logistical obstacles bogging down the voting process at many predominantly nonwhite polling places, some voters waited in line for hours. Large numbers likely gave up in frustration. Bush ultimately won Ohio by a margin of fewer than 119,000 votes, and won the election over his Democratic opponent, John Kerry.
After this demonstration of the effectiveness of a strategy to block voting, things escalated. In 2006, the Bush administration fired several respected U.S. attorneys for not showing sufficient zeal in targeting alleged voter fraud. Two years later, the GOP presidential candidate, John McCain, warned at a debate that the voter registration group Acorn “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”
This climate of fear and paranoia, sanctioned and promoted by senior Republican Party leaders, stoked an aggressive poll-monitoring movement on the right. One high-profile activist organization at the vanguard of this effort was the Tea Party–linked True the Vote, which drew charges of voter intimidation after launching in 2009. Three years later, some Ohio voters complained after receiving letters from the group warning that their eligibility was being challenged. The same year, one True the Vote leader told volunteers at a meeting that the group’s goal was to give voters a feeling “like driving and seeing the police following you.”
A few years later, the most powerful man in the Republican Party was using the same kind of language. As the 2016 election approached, Donald Trump repeatedly highlighted the supposed threat of illegal voting, and the urgent need to counter it by monitoring the polls.
At an August 2016 rally in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Trump told supporters essentially to pick up where True the Vote had left off. “Go down to certain areas and watch and study and make sure other people don’t come in and vote five times,” he said. “We have to call up law enforcement and we have to have the sheriffs and the police chiefs and everybody watching.”
Trump then hammered the message home. “The only way they can beat it in my opinion—and I mean this 100 percent—if in certain sections of the state they cheat, OK? So I hope you people can sort of not just vote on the 8th, go around and look and watch other polling places and make sure that it’s 100 percent fine.”
The campaign followed up on these appeals by asking visitors to its website to be a “Trump Election Observer.” Those who signed up for poll-watching duty received an email declaring: “We are going to do everything we are legally allowed to do to stop crooked Hillary from rigging this election. Someone from the campaign will be contacting you soon.” After the election, Trump didn’t drop the issue, tweeting that he actually won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” During his first meeting with congressional leaders, Trump said that between three and five million noncitizens had voted. These false claims formed the basis of a commission that Trump convened to probe illegal voting. The panel was chaired by Kris Kobach, then the Kansas secretary of state and perhaps the country’s leading advocate for tighter voting restrictions. The commission was shuttered eight months later after failing to find significant evidence of fraud.
As the 2020 election approaches, the GOP is shifting resources to the states—with a particular focus on the critical upper Midwestern swing states, including Wisconsin, that delivered Trump the presidency in 2016. The rules for watching the polls and challenging voters vary from state to state. But Wisconsin is one of four states—the others are Virginia, South Carolina, and Oregon—where poll watchers can challenge someone’s right to vote based only on the suspicion that they’re not eligible. Only six states actively bar poll watchers from directly challenging voters at the polls. This means that a coordinated Republican bid to suppress turnout could break out virtually anywhere that the RNC targets as a must-win state for Trump.
If intimidation efforts do materialize this November, don’t count on the federal government to come to the rescue. Voting rights advocates warn that one of the lesser-known effects of the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County ruling was to cut off a key contingent of impartial federal election observers who had worked in areas with histories of racial discrimination in voting. In 2012, the Justice Department said it dispatched more than 780 observers to polling places across the country to protect against voter suppression and intimidation. In 2016, after Shelby, that number was down to more than 500—and even that figure was thanks to a determined push by DOJ officials.
“We beat the bushes to get out as many people as we could from all different parts of the federal government,” said Justin Levitt, who ran the 2016 operation as deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Obama Justice Department. “But that was really hard.” He added that “DOJ’s going to need to do that again this year if it wants to have a robust presence.”
In the 2018 midterms, the Justice Department did run a relatively extensive program, sending monitors to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states. But with the department now led by William Barr—who has shown a consistent willingness to put Trump’s political interests ahead of those of law enforcement—there’s reason to doubt whether this year’s effort will be as energetic.
Some go further. Gerry Hebert, a former acting chief of the voting section of DOJ’s civil rights division, called the department “an adjunct to the vote suppression effort.” Hebert noted that, under Trump, the Justice Department reversed its position on two major lawsuits filed by the Obama DOJ against restrictive voting rules on the books in Texas and Ohio.
Voter protection advocates tend to be wary of issuing dire public statements about potential voter intimidation, lest they backfire and discourage would-be voters from turning out. But they acknowledge that the new trifecta of threats to the integrity of the 2020 ballot—the end of the 1982 consent decree, the post-Shelby restrictions on DOJ oversight efforts, and the false rhetoric we can expect from Trump as he fights tooth and nail for reelection—offers plenty of reasons to worry.
“We’re very concerned that with an influx of money to support those efforts, there’s a very real prospect of it occurring,” said Julie Houk, a top lawyer at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which leads the Election Protection coalition that aims to protect voters at the polls. “I just think it’s going to be all hands on deck—people have to be vigilant.”
Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to worry about something going wrong this fall: Fake news could corrupt the campaign conversation and mislead voters. Foreign cyberattacks could throw the whole thing into chaos. Technological breakdowns like the one that upended the count in the Democratic caucuses in Iowa could leave ballots uncounted or marooned in the digital ether. In the face of this battery of digital-age threats, it would be a grim irony indeed if the 2020 presidential contest ends up undermined by a set of Republican tactics that weren’t even cutting-edge in the Reagan administration.
Zachary Roth is a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and a former national reporter for MSNBC. He is the author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy (Crown, 2016).

John Bolton says he won’t vote for Trump and hopes he is a one-term president
Promoting his book, former national security advisor says president ‘doesn’t have the competence to carry out the job
June 21, 2020
by Helen Sullivan
The Guardian
John Bolton, the former national security advisor, has said he will not vote for Donald Trump at the November election and hopes history will remember him as a “one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral.”
In an interview with ABC News to promote his book, The Room Where It Happened, Bolton, who was Trump’s longest-serving security adviser, says that when he joined the administration he “had confidence going in that many of the stories were distorted. That turned out not to be right”.
Trump had sought to have publication of the book blocked, but a judge denied the claim.
Bolton told the ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz that Trump was not fit for office.
“I don’t think he should be president. I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job. I don’t think he’s a conservative Republican. I’m not going to vote for him in November. I’m certainly not going to vote for Joe Biden either. I’m going to figure out a conservative Republican to write in.”
Earlier on Sunday, the Daily Telegraph in the UK reported that Bolton had intended to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, quoting him as saying that he had voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, but that, “having seen this president up close, I cannot do this again. My concern is for the country, and he does not represent the Republican cause that I want to back.”
A spokesperson for Bolton told CNN that the life-long Republican would be voting for neither Biden nor Trump, saying: “This statement is incorrect. The ambassador never said he planned to vote for Joe Biden.”
Asked in the ABC interview how he thought history would remember Trump, Bolton replied: “I hope it will remember him as a one-term president who didn’t plunge the country irretrievably into a downward spiral we can’t recall from. We can get over one term. Two terms I’m more troubled about.”
Bolton also described Trump’s chances of making a deal with North Korea as “zero”, and said Russian president Vladimir Putin felt of the US president that he could “play him like a fiddle”.
He said the US is in a “weaker position around the world. I think we have given up leadership in a wide variety of areas,” when it comes to national security.


Israel is arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine

by Asa Winstanley
The Electronic Intifada
Israeli arms are being sent to a heavily armed neo-Nazi militia in Ukraine, The Electronic Intifada has learned.
Azov Battalion online propaganda shows Israeli-licensed Tavor rifles in the fascist group’s hands, while Israeli human rights activists have protested arms sales to Ukraine on the basis that weapons might end up with anti-Semitic militias.
In a letter “about licenses for Ukraine” obtained by The Electronic Intifada, the Israeli defense ministry’s arms export agency says they are “careful to grant licenses” to arms exporters “in full coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government entities.”
The 26 June letter was sent in reply to Israeli lawyer Eitay Mack who had written a detailed request demanding Israel end all military aid to the country.
Azov’s official status in the Ukrainian armed forces means it cannot be verified that “Israeli weapons and training” are not being used “by anti-Semitic or neo-Nazi soldiers,” Mack and 35 other human rights activists wrote.
They had written that Ukrainian armed forces use rifles made in Israel “and are trained by Israelis,” according to reports in the country.
The head of the Israeli arms export agency declined to deny the reports, or to even discuss cancellation of the weapons licenses, citing “security” concerns.
But Racheli Chen, the head of the agency, confirmed to Mack she had “carefully read your letter,” which detailed the fascist nature of Azov and the reports of Israeli arms and training.
Israeli rifles in Ukraine
The fact that Israeli arms are going to Ukrainian neo-Nazis is supported by Azov’s own online propaganda.
On its YouTube channel, Azov posted a video “review” of locally produced copies of two Israeli Tavor rifles
The rifles are produced under licence from Israel Weapon Industries, and as such would have been authorized by the Israeli government.
IWI markets the Tavor as the “primary weapon” of the Israeli special forces.
It has been used in recent massacres of unarmed Palestinians taking part in Great March of Return protests in Gaza.
Fort, the Ukrainian state-owned arms company that produces the rifles under license, has a page about the Tavor on its website.
The Israel Weapon Industries logo also appears on its website, including on the “Our Partners” page.
Starting as a gang of fascist street thugs, the Azov Battalion is one of several far-right militias that have now been integrated as units of Ukraine’s National Guard.
Staunchly anti-Russian, Azov fought riot police during the 2013 US and EU-supported “Euromaidan” protests in the capital Kiev.
The protests and riots laid the ground for the 2014 coup which removed the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych
When the civil war began in eastern Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists, the new western-backed government began to arm Azov. The militia soon fell under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian interior ministry, and saw some of the most intense frontline combat against the separatists.
The group stands accused in United Nations and Human Rights Watch reports of committing war crimes against pro-Russian separatists during the ongoing civil war in the eastern Donbass region, including torture, sexual violence and targeting of civilian homes.
Today, Azov is run by Arsen Avakov, Ukraine’s interior minister. According to the BBC, he pays its fighters, and has appointed one of its military commanders, Vadym Troyan, as his deputy – with control over the police.
Avakov last year met with the Israeli interior minister Aryeh Deri to discuss “fruitful cooperation.”
Azov’s young founder and first military commander Andriy Biletsky is today a lawmaker in the Ukrainian parliament.
As journalist Max Blumenthal explained on The Real News in February, Biletsky has “pledged to restore the honor of the white race” and has advanced laws forbidding “race mixing.”
According to The Telegraph, Biletsky in 2014 wrote that “the historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the white races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led untermenschen.”
At a military training camp for children last year, The Guardian noticed that several Azov instructors had Nazi and other racist tattoos, including a swastika, the SS skull symbol and one that read “White Pride.”
One Azov soldier explained to The Guardian that he fights Russia because “Putin’s a Jew.”
Speaking to The Telegraph, another praised Adolf Hitler, said homosexuality is a “mental illness” and that the scale of the Holocaust “is a big question.”
An Azov drill sergeant once told USA Today “with a laugh” that “no more than half his comrades are fellow Nazis.”
An Azov spokesperson played that down, claiming that “only 10-20 percent” of the group’s members were Nazis.
Nonetheless, the sergeant “vowed that when the war ends, his comrades will march on the capital, Kiev, to oust a government they consider corrupt.”
After Azov’s founder Andriy Biletsky entered parliament, he threatened to dissolve it. “Take my word for it,” he said, “we have gathered here to begin the fight for power.”
Those promises were made in 2014, but there are early signs of them being fulfilled today.
This year the battalion has founded a new “National Militia” to bring the war home.
This well-organized gang is at the forefront of a growing wave of racist and anti-Semitic violence in Ukraine.
Led by its military veterans, it specializes in pogroms and thuggish enforcement of its political agenda.
Earlier this month, clad in balaclavas and wielding axes and baseball bats, members of the group destroyed a Romany camp in Kiev. In a YouTube video, apparently shot by the Azov thugs themselves, police turn up towards the end of the camp’s destruction.
They look on doing nothing, while the thugs cry, “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!”
Israel’s military aid to Ukraine and its neo-Nazis emulates similar programs by the United States and other NATO countries including the UK and Canada.
So obsessed are they with defeating a perceived threat from Russia that they seem happy to aid even openly Nazi militias – as long as they fight on their side.
This is also a throwback to the early Cold War, when the CIA supported fascists and Hitlerites to infiltrate from Austria into Hungary in 1956, where they began slaughtering Hungarian communist Jews and Hungarian Jews as “communists.”
Recent postings on Azov websites document a June meeting with the Canadian military attaché, Colonel Brian Irwin.
According to Azov, the Canadians concluded the briefing by expressing “their hopes for further fruitful cooperation.”
Irwin acknowledged receipt of an email from The Electronic Intifada, but did not answer questions about his meeting with the fascist militia.
A spokesperson for the Canadian defense department later sent a statement claiming that their “training of Ukrainian Armed Forces through Operation Unifier incorporates strong human rights elements.”
They said Canada is “strongly opposed to the glorification of Nazism and all forms of racism” but that “every country must come to grips with difficult periods in its past.”
The spokesperson, who did not provide a name, wrote that Canadian training “includes ongoing dialogue on the development of a diverse, and inclusive Ukraine.”
The statement said nothing about how alleged Canadian diversity training goes down with the Azov Battalion.
Also part of Colonel Irwin’s meeting was the head of Azov’s officer training academy, an institution named after right-wing Ukrainian nationalist Yevhen Konovalets.
Konovalets is one of the group’s idols, whose portrait frequently adorns its military iconography.
Konovalets was the founder of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), which later allied itself to Nazi Germany during its invasion of the Soviet Union.
The OUN took part in the notorious 1941 Lviv massacre, when the Nazis invaded Soviet territory.
During the pogrom, thousands of Jews were massacred in the now-Ukrainian city.
US aid to Nazis
Canada is of course not the only NATO “ally” to be sending arms to Ukraine.
As Max Blumenthal has extensively reported, US weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, and training have been provided to Azov.
Under pressure from the Pentagon, a clause in the annually renewed defense bill banning US aid to Ukraine from going to the Azov Battalion was repeatedly stripped out.
This went on for three straight years before Democratic lawmaker Ro Khanna and others pushed it through earlier this year.
For his trouble Khanna was smeared in Washington as a “K Street sellout” who was “holding Putin’s dirty laundry.”
Despite the ban finally passing, Azov’s status as an official unit of the Ukrainian armed forces leaves it unclear how US aid can be separated out.
In 2014, the Israel lobby groups ADL and the Simon Wiesenthal Center refused to help a previous attempt to bar US aid to neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine.
Attempts by some in Congress to bar US military aid to Nazis in Ukraine may explain military aid from Israel.
Israel’s “deepening military-technical cooperation” with Ukraine and its fascist militias is likely a way to help its partner in the White House, and is another facet of the growing Zionist-White Supremacist alliance.
Israel has historically acted as a useful route through which US presidents and the CIA can circumvent congressional restrictions on aid to various unsavory groups and governments around the world.
In 1980s Latin America, these included the Contras, who were fighting a war against the left-wing revolutionary government of Nicaragua, as well as a host of other Latin American fascist death squads and military dictatorships.
It also included the South African apartheid regime, which Israeli governments of both the “Zionist left” and Likudnik right armed for decades.
As quoted in Andrew and Leslie Cockburn’s book Dangerous Liaison, one former member of the Israeli parliament, General Mattityahu Peled, put it succinctly: “In Central America, Israel is the ‘dirty work’ contractor for the US administration. Israel is acting as an accomplice and an arm of the United States.”
Amid an alarming rise in anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism, Israel now appears to be reprising this role in eastern Europe.

False Claims of Antifa Protesters Plague Small US Cities
June 4, 2020
Associated Press
In the days since President Donald Trump blamed antifa activists for an eruption of violence at protests over police killings of black people, social media has lit up with false rumors that the far-left-leaning group is transporting people to wreak havoc on small cities across America.
The speculation was being raised by conservative news outlets and pro-Trump social media accounts, as well as impostor Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Twitter and Facebook busted some of the instigators behind the unsubstantiated social media chatter. Twitter determined Monday that a tweet promising antifa would “move into residential areas” and “white” neighborhoods was sent by the white supremacy group Identity Evropa. The tweet was shared hundreds of times and cited in online news articles before Twitter removed it Monday, a company spokesperson said.
Yet the tweet continued to circulate Tuesday on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook, using information shared by Twitter, announced Tuesday night it also took down a handful of accounts on its platform that were created by white supremacy groups like Identity Evropa and American Guard, some of them posing as part of the antifa movement.
For years, some social media users have tried to delegitimize controversial or political protests with baseless theories that they were organized by wealthy financiers or extremists organizations. Over the weekend, Trump singled out antifa as being responsible for the violent protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd, saying in a tweet: “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left.”
“Usually you see this when there’s an interest to deflect conversations from protests to just accusing the protests of being violent, organized or having backers that are evil,”said Filippo Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University. “The president mentioning it, of course, has generated a huge spike.”
The theories about antifa — short for “anti-fascists” and an umbrella term for lefitst militant groups that confront or resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations — have trickled through cities across the country in recent days.
Police departments say people are phoning in “tips” they see on social media claiming antifa is sending buses or even planes full of antifa activists to their area.
In Payette County, Idaho — a rural county of 24,000 — the calls started early Monday morning after one Facebook user said the sheriff had spotted antifa rioters in the area. The calls didn’t taper off until the sheriff’s office debunked the rumor on Facebook.
“It’s really a small community, where our citizens know us pretty well,” said Payette County Sheriff Lt. Andy Creech. “When the post got out there, we started getting phone calls directly.”
Meanwhile, Facebook users were also warning their friends to stay clear of a shopping center in a New Jersey suburb, saying it would be the center of antifa destruction on Tuesday.
But police had “no credible information” that antifa would be present in the area, Toms River Police Department media specialist Jillian Messina said in an email. The police aren’t aware of anyone showing up at all, she added.
Identical Facebook and Twitter posts about busloads of antifa protesters also stumped the Sioux Falls Police Department, where officers in the South Dakota city said they didn’t see any unusual bus activity in town. But the claims still spread for days ahead of a planned protest this Saturday, said Sam Clemens, a public information officer for the department.
“Everyone heard there were going to be buses of people,” Clemens said. “It was very specific: there were three busloads.”
Even the owner of a Michigan limousine business was forced to refute online rumors when two of his buses became the center of a conspiracy theory that liberal financier George Soros was funneling protesters to Milan, Michigan. Social media users widely shared a manipulated photo of his white buses, edited to show the words “Soros Riot Dance squad” emblazoned on the sides.
The buses belong to Sean Duval, the owner of local transportation company Golden Limousine International, and don’t have any words printed on them.
Said Duval: “It’s frustrating when people from the outside start instigating and try to turn American against American.”

The Age of Disappointment?
Or How the American Century Ends
by Tom Engelhardt
Let me rant for a moment. I don’t do it often, maybe ever. I’m not Donald Trump. Though I’m only two years older than him, I don’t even know how to tweet and that tells you everything you really need to know about Tom Engelhardt in a world clearly passing me by. Still, after years in which America’s streets were essentially empty, they’ve suddenly filled, day after day, with youthful protesters, bringing back a version of a moment I remember from my youth and that’s a hopeful (if also, given Covid-19, a scary) thing, even if I’m an old man in isolation in this never-ending pandemic moment of ours.
In such isolation, no wonder I have the urge to rant. Our present American world, after all, was both deeply unimaginable — before 2016, no one could have conjured up President Donald Trump as anything but a joke — and yet in some sense, all too imaginable. Think of it this way: the president who launched his candidacy by descending a Trump Tower escalator to denounce Mexican “rapists” and hype the “great, great wall” he would build, the man who, in his election campaign, promised to put a “big, fat, beautiful wall” across our southern border to keep out immigrants (“invaders!”) — my grandpa, by the way, was just such an invader — has, after nearly three and a half years, succeeded only in getting a grotesquely small wall built around the White House; in other words, he’s turned the “people’s house” into a micro-Green Zone in a Washington that, as it filled with National Guard troops and unidentified but militarized police types, was transformed into a Trumpian version of occupied Baghdad. Then he locked himself inside (except for that one block walk to a church through streets forcibly emptied of protesters). All in all, a single redolent phrase from our recent past comes to mind: mission accomplished!
From the second the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 to the spread of Covid-19, developments on this planet have been remarkably inconceivable and yet strangely predictable. Can you even remember that distant moment, almost three decades ago, when a stunned Washington political establishment (since its members had never imagined a world without the other Cold War superpower) suddenly found themselves alone on Planet Earth, freed to do their damnedest in a world lacking enemies of any sort? The globe seemed to be there for the taking, lock, stock, and barrel.
Their promised post-Cold War “peace dividend,” however, would involve arming the U.S. military to the teeth, expanding the country’s “intelligence” agencies until there were (count ’em!) 17 of them, bolstering an already vast national security state, and dispatching this country’s generals to fight “forever wars” that would unsettle the planet, while conquering nothing at all. The folly of this in such a moment on such a planet should have been obvious. And in fact, it was. In early 2003, facing only one small terrorist group and a completely concocted three-nation “axis of evil,” President George W. Bush decided to order the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Sensing what was coming, millions of people poured into the streets of cities worldwide to tell him the obvious: don’t do it! (“How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” a typical protest sign of that moment read.) Of those millions, however, not one dreamed that, 13 years later, as a result of Bush’s decision to ignore them, this country, or at least its Electoral College, would put in the White House a president who would essentially launch the invasion of America.
What else do you need to know about our mad moment than that the president of the land that had, for so long, fought a “war on terror” would call the all-American protesters once again turning out in the streets of hundreds of cities and towns in vast numbers “terrorists”? He would then label a 75-year-old white man shoved over by two cops in Buffalo, New York, and left bleeding on the ground as they walked away an “ANTIFA provocateur.” (He’s still in the hospital.) In this fashion, with the police armed to the teeth with weaponry and equipment off the battlefields of America’s forever wars and George Floyd literally breathless thanks to one of those policemen, the war on terror would come home big time.
Think of it this way: we Americans, the greatest power in history, the ultimate unchallenged victors on this planet as the last century ended, are now living in a disease-ridden parody version of occupied Iraq and my own generation is officially responsible.
A Flattened Planet
Outside that Green Zone in Washington, an age, a system, even a planet as we’ve known it may all be ending and that shouldn’t be taken in without emotion. So many things aren’t obvious when they should be. Still, to give myself a tad of credit, in the years after the invasion of Iraq, I did at least sense that this single superpower world of ours was some kind of sham. In October 2012, for instance, I suggested that
“one thing seems obvious: a superpower military with unparalleled capabilities for one-way destruction no longer has the more basic ability to impose its will anywhere on the planet. Quite the opposite, U.S. military power has been remarkably discredited globally by the most pitiful of forces… Given the lack of enemies — a few thousand jihadis, a small set of minority insurgencies, a couple of feeble regional powers — why this is so, what exactly the force is that prevents Washington’s success, remains mysterious.”
I added, however, that “the end of the Cold War, which put an end… to several centuries of imperial or great power competition… left the sole ‘victor,’ it now seems clear, heading toward the exits wreathed in self-congratulation.”
Now, those exits are truly in sight and the self-congratulation that once filled Washington has been ceded to the walled-in occupant of the Oval Office in a country visibly in dismay and disarray. With a regime that not only has autocratic tendencies but also a remarkable urge to take the planet down environmentally (and possibly via nuclear arms as well), it’s easier to see just how disastrous the post-1991 “sole superpower’s” decisions really were.
Hopeful as the grit and determination of those Black Lives Matter protesters may be in the face of police violence and repression, not to speak of the nastiest virus in memory, we’re also at what looks increasingly like one of those moments when worlds do end and it didn’t have to be this way.
After all, in a cocoon of seemingly ultimate triumphalism, those who were running the post-1991 American global system did anything — to steal a word from journalist Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book The World Is Flat — but flatten the world they inherited (as in creating a more level playing field of any sort). In fact, the American powers-that-be promptly put their energy into creating the least level playing field imaginable. In it, a single country, the United States, would invest more money in its military than the next 10 powers combined and, by 2017, three Americans would have more wealth than the bottom half of this society. Meanwhile, the wealth of 162 global billionaires would equal that of half of humanity. It was a world in which, once the coronavirus pandemic struck causing almost unspeakable economic disaster, those billionaires would once again make a rather literal killing — another half-trillion dollars-plus.
So Friedman was right, but only if by “flat” he meant the four flat tires on the American Humvee.
Here, in fact, was the strange reality of that moment of ultimate triumph in 1991: the American political ruling class, the people who had seemingly won it all, would prove remarkably brain-dead in a way few grasped then or we wouldn’t be in Donald Trump’s America today. Back then, the one thing they couldn’t imagine in a world without the Soviet Union was an all-American world of flatness, peace, and democracy.
The only thing they could imagine was another version of the militarized style of dominance that had long characterized the American Century, to use the famous phrase Life and Time publisher Henry Luce first put into the language in 1941. Those managing the imperial system that had dotted the planet with military garrisons in a historically unprecedented fashion, while creating a global economy centered on the accumulation of staggering wealth and power, had no idea that the United States would prove to be the second superpower victim of the end of the Cold War.
Saying Goodbye to the American Century
Now, let me truly launch that rant of mine — and note that there will be no more section breaks or breathing room. After all, that’s the nature of a rant in an era in which the man in the Oval Office is quite capable of running the country (into the ground) while tweeting or retweeting 200 times in a single day. Hey, what the hell else is there to do as the president of these disunited states, except tweet, watch Fox News, and disunite them further?
So take my word for it, more or less 75 years after it began, the American Century is over. So long! Au revoir! Arrivederci! Zaijian!
Having been born on July 20, 1944, the day of the failed officers’ plot against Adolf Hitler (and not much else in history), I’ve lived through just about all of that “century” and I’m still here. And yet think of this as an autopsy because the body (of my hopes and those of my generation) now lies in the morgue and a skilled medical examiner should be able to discover just what it died of.
Who knew what I really hoped for back then? I mean, you’re talking to a guy who can still remember reading quite a range of books, but not what was in many of them. So who knows, half a century or so ago, what exactly was in me? After all, I was then the equivalent of a book that I carried around endlessly but never stopped to fully read.
We’re talking about the late 1960s and early 1970s, the years when, for the first time in my life, however briefly, I suddenly felt strangely at home (and also movingly out of place) in this American world of ours. In the late 1960s, the radical politics of that moment blew me out of graduate school where, of all things, I was studying to be a China scholar at Harvard University. Yes, the Ming and Ching dynasties (rather than the Trump dynasty) then had my attention… until, of course, they didn’t. Those were the years when I suddenly became deeply aware that the American world I’d been brought up to admire (even if, in my childhood, my parents seemed to be having an awfully tough time in it) was deeply awry. And it tells you something about this white boy that it wasn’t the Civil Rights Movement that truly brought that home to me (though it should have been, of course) but an all-American conflict and slaughter taking place thousands of miles away.
Called the Vietnam War, it was a brutal American folly in the divided Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in which millions would die and it would unsettle my mind, my life, my being. Somehow, in those years, as I’ve also written elsewhere, it came to seem as if Vietnamese were being killed right outside my window in peaceful Cambridge, Massachusetts. While I would never end up in the U.S. military — my draft files were destroyed at the time by an activist group that called itself Women Against Daddy Warbucks — I would be mobilized into an anti-military, antiwar movement filled in a fashion unimaginable today with dissenting soldiers, many of whom had fought in Vietnam.
I was swept up by the idea of a better world that I began to imagine might actually come to pass. How naïve I was!
Had you told me at that moment that everything we then dreamt of beyond the ending of that terrible set of American wars would essentially go down in flames; that the U.S. would, in the ensuing nearly half-century, fight two endless conflicts in another Asian land, Afghanistan — one in a kind of open secrecy, the second (now nearly two decades old) in plain sight even as it turns into a pandemic war; that, in this century, my country would invade not only Afghanistan but Iraq and fight a war on “terror” across much of what once would have been known as the Third World; and that all of this would happen without — except for one brief moment — anyone out in the streets protesting or paying much attention at all (except to eternally “thank” the non-conscripted soldiers fighting in those wars), I would have thought you were nuts.
If you had told me that the president of the United States, a man of my generation, would be a narcissistic, autocratic-leaning, utterly self-obsessed version of whatever anyone who mattered to him wanted him to be, a man ready, even eager, to call troops from those distant wars onto American streets to put down a sudden surge of protest amid a viral pandemic and an economic collapse similar to the Great Depression, only to find himself opposed by the very generals, each whiter than the next, who fought the disastrous forever wars that paved his way to power (and that they would be greeted as saviors in the liberal media), I would have thought you mad as a hatter.
And here’s the saddest thing of all from my perspective: if those young people now in the streets can’t perform genuine miracles — and not just when it comes to racism — if they can’t sooner or later turn their mobilized attention to the planet-destroying side of the American ruling class, then forget about it. This world will be heading into a heat hell.
That my generation, whether in the form of Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell, would be responsible for turning imperial America into an autocratic-leaning, collapsing semi-democracy, and a first-class world annihilator, I would have found hard to imagine. If you had told me that, half a century into the future, the world’s fate would rest on a presidential election between a genuine madman and something close to a dead man (that, for all we know, may not prove to be an election at all), I would have dismissed you out of hand.
And yet that, it seems, is the pandemic legacy of my generation for which we should all be ashamed, even as we watch the young, driven by the insanity and inanity of it all, turning out in our diseased streets to protest a country coming apart at the seams.
Think of Donald Trump as the American imperial establishment’s ultimate gift to humanity. Yes, they were as shocked and horrified as so many of the rest of us when he won the 2016 election, but they created the perfect America for him to do so. He couldn’t have won if they hadn’t both built a world that was desperately unflat and been so destructive in the process of unflattening it. He couldn’t have won if they hadn’t launched almost 20 years of disastrous, never-ending wars across parts of Asia, the Greater Middle East, and much of Africa under the heading of the war on terror, conflicts that did indeed bring terror to vast populations and spawn a sea of uprooted refugees who helped spark a new right-wing “populism” across Europe and here. (Remember Donald Trump’s Muslim ban!)
It should have been obvious that, in some fashion, those wars and their failed generals would all come home.
Donald Trump couldn’t have entered the White House if the Republicans, once the party of the environment, hadn’t become the party of billionaires and oil magnates. Donald Trump couldn’t have entered the White House if George W. Bush hadn’t insisted on invading Iraq. Donald Trump couldn’t have happened if Barack Obama, a president who understood climate change as well as anyone imaginable, hadn’t been willing to look the other way while the fracking revolution took place and this country briefly became Saudi America. The oceans are already hotter than they’ve ever been; storms are intensifying, sea levels rising, floods increasing in intensity; the Arctic is burning in an unprecedented fashion, as wildfires growing wilder; and a genuine pyromaniac is in the White House.
The American century is ending decisively with a first-class declinist inside Washington’s Green Zone. My small suggestion: don’t hold your breath for the Chinese century either. I doubt it’s coming.
Whatever happens tomorrow or next week, or next month, or next year, despite the rare gleam of hope those young protesters offer, we are deep in the age of disappointment on (as Donald Trump has only accentuated) an increasingly disposable planet.
So here’s something I wonder about: thirty or forty years from now, when I’m long gone, will there be a modern Edward Gibbon around to write a multi-volume classic, The History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire? And will she emerge from that movement of young people now in the streets denouncing racism? And will that movement be transformed somehow into a planetary one of people of every age determined to trump the Trumps of our world and save a planet worth saving by forever burying all those fossil fuels and the criminal companies that produce them, or will the dreams of my generation have turned into the nightmare of all times? Will this not just be the end of that foreshortened American century, but — in the deepest sense of the word — the age of disappointment?
And now, for that rant of mine…

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Stella Tremblay

Like any disaster or terrorist attack, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings attracted its share of deluded conspiracy theorists. Indeed, this entry sort of merely continues on the theme from the last entry: Stella Tremblay has also suggested that the Boston Marathon bombings were a false flag operation planned and executed by the US government, linking to Alex Jones and suggesting as evidence (on Pete Santilli’s show) that the injuries sustained by Jeff Bauman (who lost both his legs in the bombing) appear to have been faked because Bauman didn’t appear to be in pain and traumatic shock doesn’t exist – a claim that, if true, would make him a crisis actor and thus strictly speaking contradict the false flag operation claim. But whereas last entry’s James Tracy was an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University, Tremblay was a state legislator representing Rockingham County in the New Hampshire House of Representatives (we’ve encountered the New Hampshire House of Representatives on several occasions before, by the way). Tremblay refused to apologize for her statements, claimed she was just JAQing off, and then predictably doubled down on them: On June 19, 2013, she circulated a document reiterating her claim and adding additional “evidence”, in the form of links to videos from conspiracy sites, to the entire legislature. She resigned the next day.
Of course, evidence that Tremblay was a nutcase was amply available also before the Boston Marathon conspiracy. Earlier that year, for instance, Tremblay co-sponsored legislation (with Al Baldasaro and Lars Christiansen) maintaining that the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871 unlawfully abrogated the United States Constitution by removing the Titles of Nobility Amendment, so that the Constitution as generally accepted has been fraudulent since then. The underlying claim, which is very familiar from alt-right sovereign citizen types and associated pseudolaw practitioners, is that government has kept it a secret that the constitutional amendment, designed to prevent people with “titles of nobility” from holding public office, was ratified in 1819 before being deleted from the document as part of a conspiracy led by power-hungry lawyers and bankers, and thus remains technically still on the books – we just don’t know it. The aforementioned conspiracy theorists then typically go on to claim that lawyers, through the use of the title esquire, are therefore barred from holding public office, and often also that all members of Congress are technically lawyers and therefore prevented from passing laws.
In 2012, Tremblay sent an email to the other 399 state House members with a doctored video she claimed depicted President Barack Obama saying that he was not born in the United States, a video she claimed to be sufficient proof to open an investigation into Obama’s citizenship. And in February 2013, Tremblay told a legislative committee that former President Woodrow Wilson agreed with Adolf Hitler, even though Wilson died before Hitler rose to power (Tremblay’s dislike of Wilson is presumably connected to conspiracy theories and pseudolaw-related delusions about the Federal Reserve). She has also sponsored a bill that would have required the teaching of the Bible in public schools and a bill to form a committee to study the impact of Agenda 21, the United Nations’ environmental sustainability treaty, on New Hampshire. Neither bill passed, but the deranged lunatics of the NH House nevertheless did pass a measure to ban Agenda 21, which has never carried the force of law in US, in New Hampshire.
It is also worth mentioning Tremblay’s history advisor, David Johnson, who thinks that President Abraham Lincoln deleted the 13thAmendment mentioned above and thereby dissolved the United States, which is ostensibly therefore no longer a country but rather a corporation chartered in the District of Columbia, while also not freeing the slaves. Johnson also claims that the U.S. government is under the control of Queen Elizabeth II. He is also a Federal Reserve conspiracy theorist calling president Wilson’s decision to sign the legislation creating the Federal Reserve “stupid and dumb” and claiming that the Fed is not a U.S.-controlled entity but rather a “foreign bank.” It is unclear whether Tremblay would have done better without incoherently rambling lunatics as advisors, however.
Diagnosis: Oh, New Hampshire. There are, to be sure, plenty of good and wise and intelligent people from the state, but the deranged lunacy of Tremblay, several of her fellow legislators, and – not the least – the people who elected them, pulls so hard in the direction of idiocy that one might possibly legitimately say that the average New Hampshirite is an idiot. As for Tremblay herself, we don’t know what she’s up to these days, but it’s probably nothing good

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