CHICAGO – The coronavirus had already taken her uncle and her grandmother. By the time Karina Reyes’ 47-year-old mother was hospitalized, Reyes and the rest of her family were all too familiar with planning a pandemic memorial. Doctors told Reyes and her brothers that their mother, Elvia Mendoza, was not getting better. “Does a miracle have to happen for her to live?” Reyes recalls asking a doctor. She said the doctor responded: “Honestly, I haven’t seen miracles happen when it comes to COVID.” People who care for their family members who contract the virus can end up paying for it with their ...
Jan 6 was 'just the beginning': Extremist-fighting sheriff makes a frightening prediction about the next 10 years in America
In an interview with the Daily Beast, a sheriff who oversees a region that is a hotbed of right-wing militia activity warned that what Americans witnessed on Jan 6th, when supporters of Donald Trump stormed the nation's Capitol, was not a one-time thing and more attacks can be expected.
Speaking with the Beast's Heath Druzin, Spokane Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich noted the country is only now beginning to see what militias can do.
According to Druzin, "As sheriff of Spokane County in eastern Washington for the past 15 years, Knezovich certainly knows about extremism. He oversees law enforcement in the heart of militia country, just a short drive over the Idaho border from what used to be the headquarters for the neo-Nazi group The Aryan Nations," with Druzin adding, "As the GOP continues its lurch off the deep end, with even some elected officials participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, and state party leaders making common cause with militias, Knezovich, a Republican, is an outspoken voice against far-right extremism."
The sheriff, he notes, is no fan of protests from either the far right or the far left, writing, "Knezovich thinks America will be grappling with extremism for many years to come. But despite his stand against anti-government groups, he has also drawn the ire of social-justice advocates—and praise from some Republicans—for his habit of lumping in left-wing protesters with dangerous, far-right extremists."
"These are tyrants, these are true dictators that want to pull our country apart," Knezovich explained when discussing rightwing militias. "And they want to hide behind, 'Well, America was born out of revolution.'"
According to Kate Bitz, of the anti-extremism watchdog Western States Center, Knezovich is a bit of a mixed bag, but definitely knows what he is talking about.
In an interview, she told the Beast, "Knezovich has really intimate knowledge of just how ugly things can get for local elected officials and law enforcement when anti-democratic groups begin to build real local power. He is a lot more vocal about this issue than many other local elected officials and law enforcement leaders, which is great," before cautioning, "That said, his analysis of our local situation (in Eastern Washington) is very much wedded to this kind of 'both sides' conception of politics. So we've also seen him habitually describe groups that organize for racial justice as being supposedly equally dangerous to law enforcement as the far right."
According to the report, the sheriff stated that more moderate voters need to hit the voting booths come election time, which would help tamp down the rise of extremist politicians who help to incite violence against the very government they are a part of which led to him discussing the Jan 6th riot that occurred after former president Donald Trump incited "Stop the Steal" rallygoers to march on Congress.
"What happened on January 6 was the worst thing that I think I've ever seen happen in my nation, because that threatened the entire stability of this nation," he explained before predicting, "We will live through about 10 years of hard times, because that's the cycle of these things. And we're in at the very beginning of this."
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'There will be no loyalty -- except loyalty to the Party': Historian suggests the GOP has reached Peak Orwell
The phrase "the loyal opposition" was coined by John Hobhouse in a debate in the English Parliament in 1826. Less than a hundred years later, A. Lawrence Lowell, a political scientist (and later president of Harvard University) proclaimed the loyal opposition "the greatest contribution of the nineteenth century to the art of government."
Designed to make space for the political party out of power to dissent and hold the majority party accountable without facing accusations of treason, the concept of a loyal opposition depends on the deference of non-governing parties to the authority of democratic institutions and the normative framework in which they operate.
The saving assumption of the loyal opposition, Michael Ignatieff, former leader of the Liberal Party in Canada and President of the Central European University, has written, is that "in the house of democracy, there are no enemies." When politicians treat each other as enemies, "legislatures replace relevance with pure partisanship. Party discipline reigns supreme… negotiation and compromise are rarely practiced, and debate within the chamber becomes as venomously personal as it is politically meaningless."
Republicans in the United States Congress, many of whom endorsed groundless claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, it now seems clear, have changed the meaning of "loyal" to obeisance to party rather than to democratic principles. And the decision of GOP leaders in the House and Senate to block a bi-partisan commission to investigate the January 6 assault on the Capitol serves as the most recent example:
According to John Katko, the New York Republican Congressman who negotiated the provisions of the draft legislation with his Democratic counterpart Benny Thompson of Mississippi, the bill was modeled on the 9/11 comission to ensure it was "depoliticized entirely." The commission would have been composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, with equal subpoena powers, an inability to subpoena a witness without bi-partisan agreement, and shared authority to hire staff.
Although Democrats incorporated the provisions Kevin McCarthy (R-California) demanded into the bill, the House Minority Leader declared last month that he opposed the commission because its "shortsighted scope" omitted "interrelated forms of political violence in America… I just think a Pelosi commission is a lot of politics."
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who declared in 2010 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president" and in 2021 that "100% of his focus" would be on "stopping the [Biden] administration," claimed, without evidence, that Pelosi, Thompson and Company negotiated "in bad faith" in order to "centralize control over the commission's process and conclusion in Democratic hands." Although the Justice Department is limited to investigating crimes and lacks the power to subpoena individuals with knowledge of the assault who did not break the law, the Minority Leader opined that the DOJ probe rendered a bi-partisan commission "redundant." To this allegedly good reason, he added his real reason: winning majorities in the House and Senate in 2022 requires Republicans to prevent Democrats from continuing "to debate things that occurred in the past." McConnell then orchestrated the filibuster that prevented the Senate from considering the legislation.
Ditto John Thune, Republican Minority Whip. Without addressing the need to determine what happened on January 6, who was responsible, and how another assault might be prevented, Thune expressed his fear that an investigation "could be weaponized" in 2022. Senator John Cornyn, who had agreed in February "with Speaker Pelosi – a 9/11 type commission is called for to help prevent this from happening again," also began to sing along with Mitch. "The process has been highjacked for political purposes," he declared. Democrats are "going to try to figure out what they can do to win the election. Just like 2020 was a referendum on the previous problem, they want to make 2022 one."
In the closing pages of 1984, George Orwell's dystopian novel, O'Brien, a functionary in the totalitarian state of Oceania (whose first name is never revealed), predicts that in the not-too-distant future "there will be no loyalty, except loyalty to the Party… There will be no laughter, except the laugh of triumph over a defeated enemy."
It has been said that "when the loyal opposition dies, the soul of America dies with it." And it may not be unreasonable to fear that unless principle begins to trump party that time may be at hand.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.
Jeff Bezos' terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week got even worse Friday, as a slate of antitrust legislation aimed at reigning in the power of Big Tech was introduced in Congress to bipartisan fanfare.
It was the latest blow for Amazon's CEO, one of the world's richest men, who made headlines earlier in the week when details from his tax filings were shared by ProPublica, showing that he has paid little federal income taxes relative to his wealth and skirted them entirely for at least two years. He recently agreed to step down from his longtime post in July and hand over the reigns to Amazon's head of cloud computing, Andy Jassy — celebrating his departure later that month with an exorbitantly expensive trip to space on a privately funded rocket.
Now, Bezos — along with executives at Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and other large tech firms — is preparing a massive lobbying campaign to rival any in history, marshaling a veritable army of think tanks, academics, lawyers and public relations firms in an attempt to to defang the measures and maintain the top tech companies' grip on power.
House lawmakers introduced five distinct bills Friday, each intended to address a different issue raised in a blockbuster report released last October. The 449-page behemoth was the result of a years-long investigation by the House Judiciary Committee into anticompetitive practices in the digital marketplace.
"To put it simply, companies that once were scrappy, underdog startups that challenged the status quo have become the kinds of monopolies we last saw in the era of oil barons and railroad tycoons," the report reads. "During the investigation, subcommittee staff found evidence of monopolization and monopoly power."
The slate of bills would:
- Prevent tech giants from prioritizing their own offerings on marketplaces they operate
- Force companies to break off verticals that present conflicts of interest
- Make mergers and acquisitions more difficult to complete
- Substantially raise fees in order to increase funding for regulatory agencies
- Require companies to share certain data with consumers and other platforms, which advocates say would even the playing field for smaller firms looking to enter a competitive market
Amazon and Apple in particular would be impacted by "The American Innovation and Choice Online Act," sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, which would regulate the ability of companies which run online marketplaces to promote their own goods and services ahead of competitors. Both tech giants have encountered pushback for their marketplace policies in recent years, which leverage private data on third-party sellers to determine which products the company should develop and promote itself, eventually pushing those vendors out of the marketplace altogether.
Any changes to Amazon's ability to promote its own product lines would represent a substantial hit to the company's bottom line — the House report identified more than 158,000 products from dozens of different Amazon-run brands for sale on the company's online marketplace.
Perhaps the most controversial proposal, the "Ending Platform Monopolies Act," sponsored by "Squad" member Parmila Jayapal, D-Wash., would take this idea one step further — forcing companies to splinter over "conflicts of interest" like Amazon's product lines and Google's prominent placement of advertisers' search results over other websites. Advocates have referred to the bill as "Glass Steagall for the Internet Age," referring to the landmark 1933 law that separated commercial and investment banking.
"This is a reaction to the fact that our antitrust laws have been construed so narrowly by the Supreme Court," Eleanor M. Fox, a professor of law at New York University, told the New York Times. "Because of this problem, it is very appropriate for Congress to be stepping in to prohibit and determine what's bad and what's good for markets."
But groups like Chamber of Progress, a lobbying group which consists of Amazon and several other Big Tech firms, seized on the criticism to raise fears that the bills would "ban" certain goods and services that Amazon data shows are popular on the site, including "Amazon Basics" batteries and Amazon Prime free shipping.
"With all the challenges facing our country — pandemic recovery, crumbling infrastructure, racial equity, and climate change — it's a bit strange that some policymakers think our biggest problem worth fixing is…Amazon Basics batteries," wrote Adam Kovacevich, the head of Chamber of Progress, in a post Friday on the micro-blogging platform Medium.
The bills will first need to clear the Judiciary Committee before debate in the full House of Representatives begins.
In addition to a flurry of tech-related action in the lower chamber, the Senate also appears to be nearing a vote on President Joe Biden's appointee to run a key Federal Trade Commission post overseeing U.S. antitrust laws, Lina Khan, who has been a longtime proponent of stronger enforcement against technology firms.
It's one of the exceedingly rare areas of bipartisanship still remaining on Capitol Hill, with a number of Republicans signing onto the push. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., has emerged as one of the bills' loudest supporters — though that support has also come alongside spurious accusations of conservative censorship on major social media platforms.
"This legislation breaks up Big Tech's monopoly power to control what Americans see and say online and fosters an online market that encourages innovation and provides American small businesses with a fair playing field," Buck said in a statement Friday. "Doing nothing is not an option. We just act now."
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