CounterPoint

Est. 1995

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Trump on Latest School Shooting: ‘Get over it’

I Stand With Perry

 

https://post.news/@/danrather/2ajL5MyhLcNg170DYOg2tWFWBKy

You may have missed the headline because it has become so horrifically commonplace: children shot at school. The dateline was the small town of Perry, Iowa. Last Thursday, a high school student opened fire in his school cafeteria, killing one person and injuring seven before dying by suicide. We’re barely a week into the new year and already four, four, school shootings have been reported, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.

The shooting in Iowa comes at a difficult time for Republican presidential candidates. Because of the proximity of the shooting (the Iowa caucuses are next Monday), they’ve been forced to address gun violence in schools. As has also become commonplace with politicians, former President Donald Trump offered up thoughts and prayers. But Trump took it further by saying, “It’s just horrible, so surprising to see it here. But we have to get over it, we have to move forward.”

Many Americans are responding: No, Mr. Trump, we don’t have to get over it. Ever. 

While the Republican Party tells us we should be afraid of immigrants coming across the southern border, we’re supposed to “get over” the increasing numbers of children murdered in schools. 

Are we also supposed to “get over” the never-ending worry in every parent’s mind when they bundle their kids off to school: Will my child’s school be a target? Will my kid?

Think of the first question you ask when you hear of a school shooting: Where did it happen?

American schools collectively spent $12 billion on security guards last year, an expenditure that is second only to teachers’ salaries and doesn’t include millions more for metal detectors, cameras, and door locks. Yet the killings continue. The number of incidents is on the rise, dramatically. In 2017 there were 59 school shootings. That number more than doubled the following year. And in six years, the number of shootings in schools skyrocketed almost six-fold to 346.

Students rally at the Iowa Capitol days after Perry school shooting

We also don’t have to “get over” nonsensical gun laws that make it easy for young people and others to obtain a firearm of mass destruction. In Texas, an 18-year-old can purchase an assault rifle but can’t buy a pistol. 

Many of the nation’s weak gun laws can be traced back to the work of the National Rifle Association. The NRA is the lobbying group that for years did a masterful job of marketing false narratives and stacking state legislatures with pro-gun representatives who enacted these laws. The organization is now in decline, and its longtime CEO, Wayne LaPierre, has resigned just as the organization goes on trial over fraud allegations. The New York attorney general wants to dissolve the nonprofit after executives allegedly pocketed tens of millions of donated dollars for themselves. 

You might be asking, what can be done? Well, Iowa students angered by the shooting organized a protest march at the state Capitol on Monday to coincide with the first day of the new legislative session. What can you do? The list is long. Call your elected officials, all of them: local, state, and federal, to demand stronger gun laws. And don’t forget the power of the ballot box. And, perhaps most importantly, continue to care.

Get the names and contact information of the people who represent you on the federal, state, and local levels.

One hopes that when it comes to the increasing problem of school shootings, America as a whole will not “get over it.” The hope is that we will rededicate ourselves to reducing if not outright ending it. 

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country.”

Miller and Trump

Donald Trump’s term as president was chaotic, with an ever-changing cast of characters installed in top positions. But, amidst the mayhem, senior advisor Stephen Miller was a constant. Miller, an anti-immigrant hardliner, started out advising Trump on the 2016 campaign and remained in the White House for Trump’s entire tenure. He was the architect of many of Trump’s most controversial policies, including the initiative to separate migrant children from their parents.

Miller has also remained a close advisor to Trump. In November, when the New York Times sought comment about Trump’s immigration agenda in a potential second term, the campaign “referred questions… to Stephen Miller.” Should Trump prevail in 2024, Miller is expected to be installed in an even more powerful position, perhaps Attorney General. (Miller is not a lawyer, but that is not technically a requirement for the job.)

After Trump was defeated in 2020, Miller started a non-profit dedicated to advancing Trump’s priorities, America First Legal. Through America First Legal, Miller has initiated dozens of legal actions, accusing various entities of discriminating against white people. For example, Miller filed a complaint against NASCAR — a sport with just a handful of non-white competitors — for “ongoing, deliberate, and illegal discrimination against white, male Americans.”

Miller has a history of promoting explicitly white nationalist texts. In a 2015 email to an editor at Breitbart, a far-right website, Miller recommended promoting the racist French novel The Camp of the Saints. The book, published in 1973, depicts the destruction of Western civilization due to an influx of dark-skinned migrants. The migrants “are portrayed as diseased people who eat human feces.” The title is a Biblical reference “to the army gathered by Satan who overrun the earth, including the camp of the saints.” The Camp of the Saints helped popularize the racist “Great Replacement” theory, which posits that there is an intentional effort to “replace” white populations with non-white migrants. It has been “a must-read within white supremacist circles for decades.”

In recent weeks, Trump has featured these racist concepts in his campaign rallies, claiming immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” Trump featured this rhetoric during a December 16 rally in New Hampshire:

They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done… They’re coming into our country, from Africa, from Asia, all over the world. They’re pouring into our country. Nobody’s even looking at them. They just come in. The crime is going to be tremendous.

Hitler made very similar arguments to justify genocide in his autobiography, Mein Kampf. “All great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning,” Hitler wrote. Hitler also argued that Germanic people were successful because they “racial stock pure and did not mix it with any other racial stock.” The dominance of Germanic people would continue, Hitler argued, “as long as that element does not fall a victim to the habit of adulterating its blood.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at NYU and an expert in fascism, noted that “Nazis made the fear of blood pollution of their master race and their civilization a foundation of their state.”

Spoiler: dehumanize immigrants now so the public will accept your repression of them when you return to office.

Trump has been speaking about the dangers of “blood poisoning” since September. People quickly noted the parallels to Hitler, but Trump has continued to use the phrase. In a December 22 radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, Trump maintained that he “never knew that Hitler said it” and “never read Mein Kampf.” Trump went on to say that he knows “nothing about Hitler” and is “not a student of Hilter.”

Despite his stated ignorance of Hitler, Trump maintained that Hitler “didn’t say [blood poisoning] the way I said it.” Trump says his use of the phrase “blood poisoning” is “very different” because Trump is talking about “people coming into our country [and]… destroying our country.” This is, of course, exactly how Hitler and other racists have used the phrase. 

In November, Trump also promised to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” Mein Kampf also describes Jews as “vermin.”

“By this time next year, American democracy will either be ending or will have dealt a dramatic blow to its foes. It’s Götterdämmerung in Trump’s war against the world’s most powerful office.”

~Ben Wittes

Trump has repeatedly claimed ignorance to excuse ties to racists. For example, when former KKK grand wizard David Duke endorsed his candidacy in 2016, Trump said he didn’t “know anything about David Duke” and didn’t “know anything” about “white supremacy or white supremacists.” In a 2020 debate with Joe Biden, Trump claimed to be unfamiliar with the Proud Boys, a violent hate group.

Why it matters

Ben-Ghiat warns that Trump’s rhetoric is not just idle chatter. Rather, Trump is “dehumanizing” immigrants and others now “to get Americans used to the idea that they should be persecuted.”

Miller, on behalf of Trump’s campaign, pledged that “Trump will unleash the vast arsenal of federal powers to implement the most spectacular migration crackdown.” Miller described plans to “deport people by the millions per year” with a “blitz” intended “to overwhelm immigrant-rights lawyers.”

New tactics will include “workplace raids and other sweeps in public places aimed at arresting scores of unauthorized immigrants at once.” The scope of these raids would exceed the current capacity of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, so the effort would enlist personnel from the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies. Arrested migrants would be shuttled to “vast holding facilities that would function as staging centers.” These tent cities would be built by the military “on open land in Texas near the border,” according to Miller.

The facilities would initially be “focused more on single adults because the government cannot indefinitely hold children under a longstanding court order known as the Flores settlement.” Miller said a second Trump administration would renew its efforts to overturn the Flores settlement. Reimplementing the child separation policy is also a possibility.

Mildly objecting to copying Hilter

Trump is in the middle of a campaign to secure the Republican presidential nomination. According to polls, Trump holds a wide lead and the Iowa caucus takes place in just two weeks.

 
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), once considered Trump’s chief competition, passed on an opportunity to criticize Trump.

“I don’t know what this means with the blood stuff,” DeSantis said on Fox News. “I know people are trying to draw historical allusions. I don’t know if that’s what he meant.” The best DeSantis could manage was saying that he did not think Trump’s rhetoric would “move the ball forward.”
Nikki Haley
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R), who has gained some momentum in recent weeks, offered only tepid criticism of Trump in an interview with the Des Moines Register. Haley called Trump’s comments “not constructive” and “not necessary.” She then listed a series of actions she would take to deport migrants.

Special Counsel Moves To Ban Trump From Arguing WITCH HUNT In Election Interference Case

Also, blaming it on the feds, antifa, or China.

Special counsel Jack Smith

Special counsel Jack Smith

On Wednesday, Special Counsel Jack Smith asked the court to put the kibosh on Donald Trump’s efforts to “turn the courtroom into a forum in which he propagates irrelevant disinformation.” If Judge Tanya Chutkan grants this motion, it will eviscerate the former president’s plan to defend himself in DC by making the case about anything other than his plot to obstruct the congressional certification of President Biden’s 2020 victory.

Broadly speaking, Trump wants to make the election interference trial into a glorified segment of Steve Bannon’s podcast. As he screams WITCH HUNT on social media, his lawyers accuse Biden of weaponizing the Justice Department and seek to introduce evidence of every crackpot election theory ever aired on Newsmax.

Unsurprisingly, the prosecution would like to avoid all that, so the special counsel has filed a motion to block Trump from bombarding the jurors with irrelevant and prejudicial evidence. And because Smith takes no prisoners, he’s done it in the most aggressive way possible.

Trump’s plan

Since before the indictment even dropped in August, Trump screamed daily that Biden was directing the Justice Department to persecute him. He also claimed that Biden is controlling the New York criminal and civil cases, as well as the RICO case in Georgia. He never presents any evidence of this because it’s patently ridiculous. The DOJ has no control over state prosecutions, and the entire purpose of the special counsel statute is to remove investigations that pose a conflict of interest from the immediate control of the DOJ.

Nevertheless, Trump, his lawyers, and right-wing media outlets have treated it as a fact that the prosecution is politically motivated and made it the centerpiece of their defense both in and out of court.

“Look what’s happening to our beautiful country,” Trump attorney John Lauro complained to Fox News’s Sandra Smith and John Roberts back in July. “For the first time in our history, a sitting president is using the Department of Justice to go after a political opponent criminally, while that political opponent is leading in the polls.”

Their legal filings are scarcely more subtle. In October, Trump filed a motion to dismiss the case based on “selective and vindictive prosecution” — essentially a claim that the DOJ indicted him solely to kneecap Biden’s 2024 opponent.

The motion itself is a farcical hash of anonymously sourced articles from the supposedly fake news Washington Post and New York Times alleging that Biden confided to his inner circle that he wished AG Garland would be more aggressive. Both stories confirm that Biden stayed far away from the Trump cases, even before Garland handed them off to Smith to avoid the appearance of conflict. Trump’s motion also mangles a quote from a press conference to suggest that “Biden’s publicly stated objective is to use the criminal justice system to incapacitate President Trump, his main political rival and the leading candidate in the upcoming election.” (That’s not remotely what he said.)

Even the most mundane scheduling brief is larded with assertions that “the incumbent administration has targeted its primary political opponent — and a leading candidate in the upcoming presidential election — with criminal prosecution.”

As the special counsel points out in his reply, it’s virtually impossible to meet the legal standard for selective or vindictive prosecution. There’s a strong “presumption of regularity” concerning prosecutors’ motives, and handwaving about anonymously sourced articles isn’t going to cut it. Trump’s lawyers know this, which is why they only spent 11 pages on their doomed petition. But their constant repetition of these unfounded claims makes it clear that, even after this worthless motion gets tossed, they intend to rely on them at trial.

Their discovery demands hint at several other smoke bombs they intend to set off to distract the jury. For instance, a motion filed in November seeks to force the special counsel to disclose theoretically exculpatory evidence about government provocateurs, supposed wrongdoing by the January 6 Committee, and the possibility that a foreign government did hack the 2020 election.

After the obligatory chant that “the indictment, in this case, reflects little more than partisan advocacy designed to sabotage President Trump’s leading campaign for the 2024 President Election,” the brief touches on every MAGA conspiracy from Executive Order 13848 to Ray Epps and demands that the DOJ produce proof to back it up.

A bank robber cannot defend himself by blaming the bank’s security guard for failing to stop him. A fraud defendant cannot claim to the jury that his victims should have known better than to fall for his scheme. And the defendant cannot argue that law enforcement should have prevented the violence he caused and the obstruction he intended.

The November motion mutters darkly about “undercovers and informants who infiltrated the crowd” on January 6, while demanding all evidence that “a range of additional foreign actors — including Lebanese Hizballah, Cuba, and Venezuela — took some steps to attempt to influence the election.” Trump also wants the DOJ to turn over granular, raw intelligence collected by the intelligence community, much of it classified, so that he can suggest that China did hack the election. That last one is particularly bonkers since Trump’s lawyers are demanding stuff their client never saw as a means to establish that he rationally believed the election was stolen.

Trump’s lawyers know perfectly well that they’re not going to get those documents, but they’re broadcasting their plan to try to flimflam the jury with irrelevant nonsense about a stolen election. Luckily, the special counsel is broadcasting his plan to head this strategy off at the pass.

The special counsel’s motion

“Through public statements, filings, and argument in hearings before the Court, the defense has attempted to inject into this case partisan political attacks and irrelevant and prejudicial issues that have no place in a jury trial,” Special Counsel Smith argued in a pretrial motion filed Wednesday. “Although the Court can recognize these efforts for what they are and disregard them, the jury — if subjected to them — may not.”

Prosecutors accuse Trump of attempting to engage in jury nullification, that is, securing an acquittal by convincing jurors to disregard the evidence and law in favor of their personal feelings of justice. They argue that “the defendant should be precluded from raising irrelevant political issues” which might “improperly suggest to the jury that it should base its verdict on something other than the evidence at trial.”

Toward that end, they seek to exclude a broad swath of evidence that maps almost perfectly onto Trump’s motions to compel and to dismiss for selective prosecution.

Noting that “[a] selective-prosecution claim is not a defense on the merits to the criminal charge itself,” they urge the court to bar any mention of partisan prosecutorial targeting, “whether in the form of argument or through the use of terminology such as the ‘Injustice Department,’ ‘Biden Indictment,’ or similar phrases — in the presence of the jury.”

In the same vein, they’d like a ban on any line of questioning that is designed to get a witness to impugn the motives of the special counsel or to suggest prosecutorial misconduct. And Trump shouldn’t be able to backdoor this argument by dressing it up as evidence that the trial is a great hardship for him when he’s running for office.

Prosecutors want to bar arguments relating to foreign election interference — the “China loves Biden” stuff — because there’s never been any evidence that Trump relied on it, and “such evidence will be irrelevant to the defendant’s mens rea and will only distract the jury from the issues properly before it.”

The special counsel would like to exclude any effort to blame the January 6 riot on Capitol police, Nancy Pelosi, or undercover government agents because “the defendant cannot argue that law enforcement should have prevented the violence he caused and obstruction he intended.”

Jack Smith is a damn good lawyer

The motion is another bold move by a prosecutor who hasn’t taken his foot off the accelerator since he was appointed on November 18, 2022, two days after Trump announced his 2024 candidacy. If Trump were an introspective man, he might consider where he’d be if he hadn’t been so intent on beating his hapless primary rivals to the punch that he forced the ever-cautious Attorney General Merrick Garland to hand the investigations off to a wildly aggressive prosecutor to avoid a conflict of interest.

Would there be any realistic possibility that these cases might go to trial before the election if Trump had just held off a few more weeks on announcing?

Probably not. But of course, Trump is not a man given to introspection, so instead, he simply throws ketchup at the online wall.

 

DJT on Truth Social

Trump’s eruption is based on his lawyers’ claim that the stay of deadlines in the election case makes it “illegal” for the prosecution to do anything at all. Since Judge Chutkan accepted his demand to put the case on ice while Trump makes his preposterous claims of presidential immunity to the DC Circuit, the government has continued to produce discovery and file its motions. Trump’s lawyers reacted with their usual histrionics, accusing the prosecutors of trying the former president “in absentia.” Without waiting for the court’s response, the special counsel filed another evidentiary motion Wednesday morning — an aggressive move that an institutionalist like AG Garland would almost certainly have eschewed.

No doubt Team Trump will be back with another round of yelling about “illegal” filings before long. But the prosecutors’ motion imposes no obligation on Trump to respond, so it seems unlikely that Judge Chutkan will reprimand the government for filing it, much less remove it from the record. That leaves Trump in an uncomfortable position. Having insisted that he cannot be burdened with litigation while he appeals the immunity issue, he can either leave this motion, which undercuts every aspect of his defense, unrebutted, or he can answer it with an “illegal” filing of his own that advances the stayed litigation.

Sucks to back yourself into a corner, doesn’t it?

Binders Full of Russians

By The Big Picture

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr., and former President Donald Trump, are seen on a monitor as Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, testified during the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol hearing to present previously unseen material and hear witness testimony in Cannon Building. Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr., and former President Donald Trump, are seen on a monitor as Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson, testified during the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol hearing to present previously unseen material and hear witness testimony in Cannon Building. Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

 

CNN reported last week that a top-secret binder relating to Operation “Crossfire Hurricane” went missing in the final days of the Trump presidency. It was not a new story, but it sure felt like one with so many new details added. The fact of the missing binder was already known to some extent and reported originally in Raw Story, based on accounts in the book Enough by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. In it, Hutchinson provided details of the 10-inch thick “Binder” about Russian election interference in the 2016 election, and about the mad scramble in the final days of the Trump presidency to declassify it and make and distribute copies of it to Trump loyalists. She even recounted how she had seen her boss Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, walk out with the original tucked under his arm.

The CNN story fleshed out the roles of two other figures central to the trail of the Binder: Trump loyalist Kash Patel and right-wing journalist, John Solomon. As details of their involvement in Bindergate emerged from the reporting, I was struck immediately by this fact: Trump had personally appointed both of these men as his representatives to the National Archives in June of 2022.

That’s when something clicked into place for me. Trump’s long quest to retrieve “presidential records” from the National Archives after leaving office, with Patel and Solomon later leading the charge, was almost entirely related to his obsessive desire to put classified details of the Crossfire Hurricane report before the public. 

“Mr. Meadows was keenly aware and adhered to the requirements for the proper handling of classified material, any such material that he handled or was in his possession has been treated accordingly and any suggestion that he is responsible for any missing binder or other classified information is flat wrong.”

And the whole “Trump declassified everything” line we kept hearing from Patel after the Mar-a-Lago search and recovery of classified documents? It likely has much to do with the Russian Binder.

To understand why that is, we need to take a bit of a dive into the facts. These include CNN’s and the New York Times’ reporting on the Binder, Cassidy Hutchinson’s account in her book, Kash Patel’s interviews and statements, and a lawsuit on behalf of John Solomon against the National Archives to demand the release of the Binder.

This will shed light on some of the following questions still lingering around the material:

  • What was Trump trying to accomplish by declassifying the Binder and the GOP House Intelligence Committee report relating to it?

  • Why was Trump so adamant in defying the demands of the National Archives to return documents he took to Mar-a-Lago, and did the Binder have anything to do with it?

  • Why did Trump appoint Patel and Solomon as his “representatives” with the National Archives?

  • What might have happened to the Binder, and has the trail gone cold?

Today we’ll pull on some threads and see where they lead. We may not emerge with full answers, but something tells me we are on the right trail here:

 

Binders Full Of Russians

Substackers Against Nazis

In January 2022, the Center for Countering Digital Hate accused Substack of allowing content that could be dangerous to public health, estimating that the company earned $2.5 million per year from the top five anti-vax authors alone, who have tens of thousands of subscribers.[44] Presumably in response to press inquiries, the three founders affirmed their commitment to minimal censorship in a blog post.[45]

 

https://www.altrightdelete.news/p/substackers-against-nazis

 

Dear Chris, Hamish & Jairaj,

We’re asking a very simple question that has somehow been made complicated: Why are you platforming and monetizing Nazis?

According to a piece written by Substack publisher Jonathan M. Katz and published by The Atlantic on November 28, this platform has a Nazi problem:

“Some Substack newsletters by Nazis and white nationalists have thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers, making the platform a new and valuable tool for creating mailing lists for the far right. And many accept paid subscriptions through Substack, seemingly flouting terms of service that ban attempts to ‘publish content or fund initiatives that incite violence based on protected classes’…Substack, which takes a 10 percent cut of subscription revenue, makes money when readers pay for Nazi newsletters.”

As Patrick Casey, a leader of a now-defunct neo-Nazi group who is banned on nearly every other social platform except Substack, wrote here in 2021: “I’m able to live comfortably doing something I find enjoyable and fulfilling. The cause isn’t going anywhere.” Several Nazis and white supremacists including Richard Spencer not only have paid subscriptions turned on but have received Substack “Bestseller” badges, indicating that they are making at a minimum thousands of dollars a year.

From our perspective as Substack publishers, it is unfathomable that someone with a swastika avatar, who writes about “The Jewish question,” or who promotes Great Replacement Theory, could be given the tools to succeed on your platform. And yet you’ve been unable to adequately explain your position.

In 2020, popular platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube began restricting or removing accounts that they claim spread COVID-19 misinformation, which violates those platforms’ content policies. Some prominent authors accused of spreading misinformation have moved from those platforms to Substack. The Washington Post mentioned Joseph Mercola, whose content Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, called “so bad no one else will host it”, and Steve Bannon, whom Elizabeth Dwoskin, writing for The Washington Post, accused of spreading “violent rhetoric and false claims about the election in the weeks leading up to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6“, as “conspiracy theorists”, who have moved their online presence to Substack.[44]

In the past, you have defended your decision to platform bigotry by saying you “make decisions based on principles, not PR” and “will stick to our hands-off approach to content moderation.” But there’s a difference between a hands-off approach and putting your thumb on the scale. We know you moderate some content, including spam sites and newsletters written by sex workers. Why do you choose to promote and allow the monetization of sites that traffic in white nationalism?

Your unwillingness to play by your own rules on this issue has already led to the announced departures of several prominent Substackers, including Rusty Foster and Helena Fitzgerald. They follow previous exoduses of writers, including Substack Pro recipient Grace Lavery and Jude Ellison S. Doyle, who left with similar concerns.

As journalist Casey Newton told his more than 166,000 Substack subscribers after Katz’s piece came out: “The correct number of newsletters using Nazi symbols that you host and profit from on your platform is zero.”

We, your publishers, want to hear from you on the official Substack newsletter. Is platforming Nazis part of your vision of success? Let us know—from there we can each decide if this is still where we want to be.

Signed,

Substackers Against Nazis

 

Who’s really behind the drive to impeach Joe Biden?

Friends,

Republicans hailed the indictment handed down by Special Counsel David C. Weiss last Thursday against Hunter Biden on tax evasion to validate their impeachment inquiry into President Biden.

But Republicans have still failed to link Joe Biden to any impeachable offense — or any offenses at all. The 56-page indictment never mentions President Biden and provides zero evidence linking the misdeeds of the son to the father.

Nevertheless, House Republicans are pushing ahead this week with their plans for a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry.

Isn’t it clear that the Republicans’ impeachment inquiry is retribution for the impeachments and indictments of former President Trump?

And that Trump is behind this?

After all, Weiss began investigating Hunter Biden five years ago as the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware.

Around this time, Trump asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to a White House memorandum of a July 25, 2018, phone call Trump made to Zelensky.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump said, according to the memo.

Zelensky noted that Ukraine was “almost ready to buy more [Javelin missiles] from the United States for defense purposes.”

Trump responded: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.”

That conversation with Zelensky was central to the whistleblower complaint that spurred Democrats to support an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Trump and his Republican enablers would like nothing better than for the House to spend much of the spring conducting a drawn-out impeachment of Joe Biden. That way, Trump can deflect attention from his criminal trials.

And they’d like nothing better than for the Senate to consider whether to convict Biden in the months and weeks leading up to the 2024 election, for the same reason.

Although there’s not a scintilla of evidence linking President Biden to any high crime or misdemeanor, Trump and his allies know that the mere fact of an ongoing impeachment inquiry will generate enough media stories to confuse a portion of the public about whether Biden is guilty of something.

Trump will use that confusion to repeatedly accuse President Biden of being corrupt.

In other words, House Republicans will do for Trump in the 2024 election what Trump wanted Zelensky to do for him in the 2020 election — use dirt on Hunter as a way to throw dirt on Joe.

This time, Trump also wants to use the dirt to bury stories about Trump’s criminal trial for seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, on which a verdict before the 2024 election seems likely.

Christofascist Book Fairs

If 2021 and 2022 were about banning books to get attention for right-wing causes, then 2023 can be dubbed the beginning of the push to dismantle book fairs by these same groups and individuals. They’re still banning books, of course, but now, more time and attention–and indeed, money–are at the heart of demands to end school and library book fairs through traditional outlets like Scholastic. Censorship attempts at school book fairs have been on the rise, and in September, we rang the alarm.

An "extensive report" on the dangers of Scholastic, previously offered by Brave Books, is now being distributed by SkyTree Book Fairs.

An “extensive report” on the dangers of Scholastic, previously offered by Brave Books, is now being distributed by SkyTree Book Fairs.

Earlier this month, a mysterious woman appeared before a school board in Texas and claimed that, when she was 11, she READ A SCHOLASTIC BOOK THAT SPARKED A DEBILITATING PORN ADDICTION.

The book, she says, featured “one kiss.”

We investigated.

And it’s ABSOLUTELY WILD what is happening.

The woman, Lanah Burkhardt, failed to disclose that she is the “public relations coordinator” for a right-wing book publisher, Brave Books, seeking to replace Scholastic in public schools.

Burkhardt went further, arguing that Conroe should remove all Scholastic books from schools and stop hosting Scholastic book fairs. These steps were necessary, Burkhardt argued, to protect children from “sexual obscenity.” According to Burkhardt, “getting rid of Scholastic books and their book fairs will inevitably protect kids.”

Burkhardt’s appearance was promoted by SkyTree Book Fairs, a newly formed organization marketing itself as “an alternative to the sexually explicit content distributed in Scholastic’s book fairs.”

Many of the titles published by Brave Books are set in an imaginary world based on the United States called Freedom Island. According to Politico, each book based on Freedom Island contains a “fold-out map marked with villages and mountain ranges,” with the southwestern corner of the map being called the “Car-a-Lago Coast.” The books also include “an afterword for parents” that is “filled with suggested games and discussion questions to drive home political concepts.”

While SkyTree Book Fairs presents itself as an independent non-profit organization, it appears to be a hastily assembled offshoot of Brave Books, which publishes children’s books by right-wing pundits and pseudo-celebrities.

Source:

Mysterious woman tells school board that Scholastic book sparked porn addiction

The Blueprint

The far-right has a plan to remake America. They even wrote it down in a 920-page manifesto called Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise, laying out its agenda for Trump or any other Republican who should win the White House. The book consists chiefly of the world’s longest enemies list, with detailed instructions on how to target them, oust them, and reverse their policies, both real and imagined.

 

The far right has a plan to remake America. They even wrote it down.

(Illustration by Roberto Parada)

 

It’s not like we haven’t been warned.

Should the Republican presidential nominee (likely Donald Trump) win the election next year, conservatives have been pretty clear about what they intend to do. In fact, explicitly clear.

Trump himself isn’t much on policy, of course. The 2020 Republican National Convention was notable chiefly because, at his behest, it made no effort to pass a party platform, effectively giving Trump carte blanche for whatever he wished to do in his second term.

Trump is assembling a cadre of lawyers who supported his attempt to cling to the presidency, and who won’t be deterred from doing his bidding—as those wusses from the Federalist Society were—by the niceties of constitutional law. A leading figure among these l’état c’est Trump legal eagles is Jeffrey Clark, a Trump Justice Department official who during the plot to overturn the 2020 election countered a White House counsel’s argument that Trump’s putsch would lead to “riots in every major city” by noting, “That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act”—a law that allows the president to deploy the Army to quell protests. That exchange is quoted in the federal indictment of Trump for fomenting the January 6th insurrection. (The Post indicates that Trump is plotting to invoke the Insurrection Act on the first day of his presidency: January 20, 2025.)

But Trump’s all-too-personal vision for a second-term agenda is now leaking into the press. According to stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post, it begins with transforming the Justice Department into an instrument of his vengeance, initially against those first-term appointees Trump thinks betrayed him: former Attorney General Bill Barr, former chief of staff John Kelly, former Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley, and others who opposed his attempted seizure of power. Then comes filing charges against Joe Biden and his family, with the substance yet to be determined.

At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Trump stumbled into a rationale for going after Biden, should he win the 2024 contest. “This is third-world country stuff, ‘arrest your opponent,’” Trump said. “And that means I can do that, too.”

If nothing else, that quote explains why Trump is seeking more lawyers like Jeffrey Clark.

But Clark’s current ambit isn’t confined to Mar-a-Lago. He’s also part of Project 2025, an initiative of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which, in collaboration with over 80 other far-right groups (including the Center for Renewing America, where Clark is a senior fellow and director of litigation), is laying out the tasks and recruiting the candidates that the next Republican president must employ to de-woke-ify America, banish liberalism, and extirpate modernity.

When the Post reported that Clark is leading a study on how to implement the Insurrection Act, a Heritage Foundation official quickly sought to assure the wider world that “there are no plans within Project 2025 related to the Insurrection Act or targeting political enemies.”

Oh really?

 

Source:

The Blueprint

Sponsored listings are a ripoff…for sellers

Sponsored listings are a ripoff…for sellers

Cory Doctorow

Not all ads are created equally sleazy. The privacy harms from surveillance ads, though real, are often hard to pin down. But there’s another kind of ad – or “ad” that picks your pocket every time you use an e-commerce site.

This is the “sponsored listing” ad, which allows merchants to bid to be among the top-ranked items in response to your searches – whether or not their products are a good match for your query. These aren’t “ads” in the way that, say, a Facebook ad is an ad. These are more #payola, a form of bribery that’s a crime (but not when Amazon does it):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola#U.S._investigations_and_aftermath

Amazon is the global champion of payola. It boasts of $31 billion in annual “ad” revenue. That’s $31 billion that Amazon sellers have to recoup from you. But Amazon’s use of “most favored nation” deals (which requires sellers to offer their lowest prices on Amazon) means that you don’t see those price-hikes because sellers raise their prices everywhere:

https://pluralistic.net/2023/04/25/greedflation/#commissar-bezos

Forget Twitter: Amazon search is the poster child for enshittification, in which Amazon locks you in (for example, with a year’s shipping prepaid through Prime) and then you get recommended worse products while sellers make less money and Amazon pockets the difference.

Sellers who don’t sell on Amazon are dead in the water because most US households have Amazon Prime, and overwhelmingly, Prime users start their search on Amazon, and if they find the goods they’re seeking. After all, they’ve prepaid for shipping.

So sellers suck it up and pay a 45-51% Amazon tax and pass it on to us – no matter where we shop. A lot of the junk fees sellers pay are related to Prime and other fulfillment services, but an increasing share of the Amazon tax comes from the need to pay to “advertise,” because if they don’t buy the top result for searches for their products, their competitors’ ads will push them right off the first page (those competitors spend money on advertising, rather than manufacturing quality).

There’s a lot of YOLO/ROFLMAO in those ads: search for “cat beds” and 50% of the first five screens are ads – including ads for dog products, apparently bought by companies adopting a spray-and-pray approach to advertising. Someone selling a quality product still has to outbid all of those garbage sellers:

https://pluralistic.net/2022/11/28/enshittification/#relentless-payola

This is at the root of Amazon’s Pricing Paradox: while Amazon can defend itself against regulators by citing sellers whose prices are lower and/or whose quality is higher, it’s nearly impossible for shoppers to get those deals. If you click the top result for your search, you will, on average, pay 29% more than you would if you found the best bargain on the site:

https://pluralistic.net/2023/11/06/attention-rents/#consumer-welfare-queens

What’s more, you can’t fix this by simply sorting by price, by reviews, or some mix of the two. The sleaziest sellers have mastered tricks like changing the number of units they sell so the total price is lower. For example, if batteries are normally sold at $10 for a four-pack, a sleazy seller can offer batteries at $9 for three units. The lowest-to-highest price sort will put this item ahead of a cheaper rival.

Researchers found that getting a good deal at Amazon requires that you make a multifactorial spreadsheet by laboriously copying/pasting multiple details from individual listing pages and then doing sorts that Amazon itself doesn’t permit:

https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/3645/

There’s an exception to this: Amazon and Apple have a cozy, secret arrangement to exclude these “ads” from searches for Apple products. But if you’re shopping for anything else, you’re SOL:

https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-gives-apple-special-treatment-while-others-suffer-junk-ads-2023-11

These payola markets are bad for buyers, and they cost sellers a lot of money, but are they at least good for sellers? A new study from three business school researchers – Vibhanshu Abhishek, Jiaqi Shi, and Mingyu Joo – shows that payola is a very bad deal for good sellers, too:

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3896716

After doing a lot of impressive quantitative work, the authors conclude that for good sellers, showing up as a sponsored listing makes buyers trust their products less than if they floated to the top of the results “organically.” This means that buying an ad makes your product less attractive than not buying an ad.

The exception is sellers who have bad products – products that wouldn’t rise to the top of the results on their own merits. The study finds that if you buy your mediocre product’s way to the top of the results, buyers trust it more than they would if they found it buried deep on page eleventy-million, to which its poor reviews, quality, or price would normally banish it.

But of course, if you’re one of those good sellers, you can’t simply opt not to buy an ad, even though seeing it with the little “AD” marker in the thumbnail makes your product less attractive to shoppers. If you don’t pay the Danegeld, your product will be pushed down by the inferior products whose sellers are only too happy to pay ransom.

It’s a system where everybody loses – except monopoly e-commerce platforms, who enshittify everything and rake it in.

SCOTUS’s “ethics code” provides cover for corruption

It’s weak sauce – which was the goal all along.

After unrelenting pressure from everyone but Republicans, who by and large are thrilled that Supreme Court justices can be bought, the Court has issued a voluntary, non-binding code of conduct.

Of course, a non-binding code is no code at all, which is the problem here. As long as the members of the Court see themselves as above petty things like rules, the corruption of the institution will not change.

Even the first page of the document (why call it a code when it is not a code?) displays what can only be described as a fit of pique about having to put out anything at all:

“The absence of a Code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the Justices of this Court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules. To dispel this misunderstanding, we are issuing this Code, which largely represents a codification of principles that we have long regarded as governing our conduct.”

This is laughable, of course, as it implies that the public’s issues with the justices are grounded only in the fact that the rules governing the Court’s conduct were not codified, as if the public had been searching in vain on the Court’s website for it. Rather, the issue is that two justices in particular — Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas— have benefited from the largesse of wealthy Republicans who have business before the Court.

So, the impetus for the code was not that the Court suddenly saw the light about ethics. Instead, it’s designed to quash any outside inquiry into the Court — particularly congressional ones — by saying that any ethics concerns are taken care of now. As Steve Vladeck, an expert on the Supreme Court, wrote when the code was released, the code “reflects a rather remarkable lack of contrition or humility” on the part of the justices.

Source:

How SCOTUS’s “ethics code” provides cover for corruption

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