By Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder KYIV (Reuters) -The war in Ukraine could last for years, the head of NATO said on Sunday, as Russia stepped up its assaults after the European Union recommended that Kyiv become a candidate to join the bloc. Jens Stoltenberg said the supply of state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops would boost the chance of freeing its eastern region of Donbas from Russian control, Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper said. "We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine," Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of the military ...
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Christian nationalists' rhetoric is growing 'more violent, more graphic and more tightly focused on fellow Americans': expert
Christian nationalists are excited about the possibility of violence as the post-Roe future comes into view, much to the alarm of experts who study the religious right.
The Supreme Court's decision overturning abortion rights emboldened right-wing extremists, who are already preparing for a brutal assault on individual rights and democratic self-governance, according to a New York Times column by author Katherine Stewart.
"Breaking American democracy isn’t an unintended side effect of Christian nationalism," wrote Stewart, who has reported on the religious right for more than a decade. "It is the point of the project."
Stewart noted with alarm that speakers at annual Road to Majority Policy Conference, including keynote speaker Donald Trump, explicitly endorsed dominionism -- a belief that "right-thinking" Christians had a mandate to take over government and society -- and used violent rhetoric against anyone who stood in their way.
"Although metaphors of battle are common enough in political gatherings, this year’s rhetoric appeared more violent, more graphic and more tightly focused on fellow Americans, rather than on geopolitical foes," Stewart wrote. "Speakers at the conference vied to outdo one another in their denigration of the people that Mr. Trump was evidently talking about. Democrats, they said, are 'evil,' 'tyrannical' and 'the enemy within,' engaged in 'a war against the truth.'"
The movement's leaders see the end of abortion rights as the start of a new and more personal attack on individual rights, and they aim to pit Americans against each other to ensure compliance.
"Indeed it is personal," Stewart wrote. "Much of the rhetoric on the right invokes visions of vigilante justice. This is about 'good guys with guns' — or neighbors with good eavesdropping skills — heroically taking on the pernicious behavior of their fellow citizens. Among the principal battlefields will be the fallopian tubes and uteruses of women."
The movement intends to criminalize women seeking abortions and anyone who helps, and Stewart said even their base supporters have no idea how radical their intentions are.
"This is a leader-driven movement.," she wrote "The leaders set the agenda, and their main goals are power and access to public money. They aren’t serving the interests of their base; they are exploiting their base as a means of exploiting the rest of us."
"Christian nationalism isn’t a route to the future," Stewart added. "Its purpose is to hollow out democracy until nothing is left but a thin cover for rule by a supposedly right-thinking elite, bubble-wrapped in sanctimony and insulated from any real democratic check on its power."
Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe joined with former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut, who works for Lawyers Defending American Democracy, to pen a warning that Americans are about to lose more of their voting rights as the Supreme Court hands more power over to state legislatures.
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Tribe and Aftergut explained that the announcement that the court will hear Moore v. Harper predicts another legal case that could restrict voting rights for Americans. Describing the conservative majority as "extremist justices," the two men explained the decision in the Moore case will likely stab "voters’ right to pick leaders of their choice."
The case is from North Carolina and deals with the gerrymandered congressional maps drawn by the Republican legislature. The maps would essentially carefully draw lines that hand the GOP control of 11 out of 14 districts.
"North Carolina’s Supreme Court rejected the maps because they violated the state Constitution in illegally favoring Republicans. While the Moore case involves legislative districts, how we choose presidents is in the court’s sights. More on that in a moment," the piece describes.
But the Republicans demanded the Supreme Court adopt "a debunked right-wing doctrine" that claims partisan legislatures don't mean any harm when they draw district lines to keep their seats under the guise of the “independent state legislature." The legislators don't want the state courts to have any power in federal elections.
Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh all signed on to the idea that courts can't decide the meaning of laws and apply them to situations based on Constitutional laws. Currently, the Constitution’s elections clause says that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof.”
As Tribe and Aftergut explained, in North Carolina, the legislature expressly the "manner" would "include the state's courts' final authority to overturn improper districting decisions. The state’s General Assembly has even detailed the findings courts must make, how and where such challenges must proceed, and the courts’ authority to impose an alternative map. Using the independent legislature idea to throw aside North Carolina’s election law would, therefore, violate the elections clause itself."
There are other states where the legislature hasn't assigned the courts such a role, however. So, the Supreme Court's likely decision in the Moore case, and in Toth v. Chapman, could "rip all 50 state legislatures from their moorings in the state constitutions that create those legislatures and limit their authority within three branches of state government."
The Supreme Court just made the decision that states have the rights to regulate the privacy and freedom of women, but in this case, the Court would effectively "commandeer states’ constitutions," the men wrote. It would kill the 10th Amendment's call that all other laws not specified by the Constitution are reserved "to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Hence, according to this baseless notion, state legislatures can do whatever they want in manipulating elections no matter how extreme the results — principles of voter equality and fairness be damned, along with the state’s constitution, its governor and its courts.
Republican leaders in nearly two dozen U.S. states are attempting—potentially in violation of federal law—to use coronavirus relief funds approved by Congress last year to finance tax cuts instead of devoting the money to combating the ongoing pandemic and its economic consequences.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that GOP officials are working to subvert a provision in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) that bars states from using money from a $350 billion Covid-19 aid program "to either directly or indirectly offset a reduction in the net tax revenue."
"The moves have threatened to siphon off aid that might otherwise help states fight the pandemic, shore up their local economies, or prepare for a potential recession."
Last March, just days after President Joe Biden signed the ARP into law, 13 Republican state attorneys general sued the Biden administration over that provision, decrying it as an "unconstitutional assault on state sovereignty." In the nearly year and a half since the GOP officials filed suit, numerous Republican states have moved to slash taxes—often in ways that primarily benefit rich households and profitable businesses.
Whitney Tucker and Coty Novak of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted earlier this year that Iowa—one of the states that joined the legal action against the Biden administration—replaced its "graduated personal income tax with a flat 3.9% tax while retaining credits and deductions that would allow wealthy Iowans to pay even less."
"Lawmakers in multiple states are pushing deep tax cuts as states see stronger-than-expected revenues driven largely by the federal government's robust fiscal response to the Covid-19 recession," Tucker and Novak observed. "Iowa, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia are pushing for income tax cuts that would deliver outsized gains to wealthy residents and profitable corporations."
The Post's Tony Romm reported Tuesday that "as gas prices climbed toward record highs this May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) secured a pause on the state's fuel taxes—a $200 million plan he helped pay for with a pot of federal funds awarded earlier in the pandemic."
"More than a year after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Republicans in nearly two dozen states have ratcheted up efforts to tap some of those funds for an unrelated purpose: paying for tax cuts," Romm wrote. "The moves have threatened to siphon off aid that might otherwise help states fight the pandemic, shore up their local economies, or prepare for a potential recession."
The Biden Treasury Department has emphasized that the ARP only prohibits states from using federal funds to pay for tax cuts, not from pursuing tax cuts at all.
But as Romm pointed out, Republican attorneys general are still fighting the law, claiming that it limits their states' fiscal flexibility.
"In a flurry of court filings, many of the states argued for the ability to move money around freely—plugging federal dollars into various parts of their budgets, for example, then using the savings to pay for state tax cuts," Romm reported. "Republicans have won nearly every federal lawsuit, convincing judge after judge that the rules are unconstitutional. The Treasury Department repeatedly has appealed, but the decisions for now have left the Biden administration unable to enforce the rules in much of the country."