'It's horrifying': Dr. Fauci reacts to CPAC crowd celebrating low vaccination rates

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, expressed horror on Sunday over a crowd at a conservative gathering this past week celebrating the federal government's inability to meet its vaccination goals.

"It's horrifying," Fauci told host CNN's Jake Tapper in an interview. "I mean, they are cheering about someone saying that it's a good thing for people not to try and save their lives."

Fauci's comments come in response to a speech made by Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter who acquired a reputation last year for scaremongering over the safety of the vaccine and disputing the value of taking basic public health precautions.

"The government was hoping that they could sort of sucker 90 percent of the population into getting vaccinated," Berenson said cheerily at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. "And it isn't happening."

Fauci also expressed grave concern over the differences in vaccination rates between voters of different political leanings.

"We've got to put aside this ideological difference or differences thinking that somebody is forcing you to do something," he said. "The public health officials, like myself and my colleagues, are asking you to do something that will ultimately save your life, and that of your family and that of the community."

"I mean, it's ideological rigidity, I think," he added. "There's no reason not to get vaccinated."

Tapper later pressed the doctor on concerns over a federal vaccine mandate – a policy floated last week by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for schools and businesses. Fauci acknowledged that he would support the policy, saying: "I have been of this opinion, and I remain of that opinion, that I do believe at the local level, Jake, there should be more mandates. There really should be."

Just under half of all Americans are vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of all COVID-related deaths in June, 99% were among people who were unvaccinated.

"If you're not vaccinated, you should be concerned," Fauci said on Sunday in another interview on ABC's "This Week."

He added: "We know from extensive experience, not only in our own country, here in the United States, but in other countries, that the vaccines that we are using work extremely well against the Delta variant, particularly in preventing advanced disease that would lead to hospitalization and likely death in some circumstances."

A number of studies and analyses have found that vaccine hesitancy is disproportionately present amongst conservatives. Back in March, a PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll found that the plurality of those who intend to refuse the COVID-19 vaccine are Republican men. A New York Times analysis similarly found that the "willingness to receive a vaccine and actual vaccination rates to date were lower, on average, in counties where a majority of residents voted to re-elect former President Donald J. Trump in 2020."

Over the past several months, vaccine hesitancy has no doubt been buttressed by the reckless rhetoric of high-profile right-wing pundits who've cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccine and argued that President Biden's vaccine rollout portends a slide toward authoritarianism. As Salon reported last week, a whole host of Republican politicians and far-right pundits spread the erroneous notion that Biden health officials were gearing up to go "door-to-door" to compel Americans to be vaccinated against their will. A number of these conservatives compared Biden's vaccine rollout to Nazi Germany, suggesting that the administration is trying to enact a kind of authoritarian regime under the auspices of public health.

Right-wing anti-vaccine hysteria hits fever pitch as Nazi comparisons grow

Right-wing scaremongering about the COVID-19 vaccine hit a fever pitch this week, from Fox News to some of the conservative movement's more fringe characters, with pundits placing particular emphasis on the apparent connection between President Biden's vaccine rollout and Nazi Germany.

The hysteria appears to have its roots in a Tuesday speech the president gave in which he encouraged volunteers to knock on doors.

"We need to go [sic] to community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood and, oftentimes, door-to-door, literally knocking on doors to get help to the remaining people protected from the virus," Biden said.

The White House later clarified the president's remarks, stating that only community volunteers would be leading the door-knocking effort to encourage vaccination — but that didn't stop right-wing pundits and politicians from pouncing on what they said was America's slide toward authoritarianism.

Fox News in particular dedicated hours of programming to its crusade against the administration's push to vaccinate the country against a virus that has already killed 600,000 Americans — with Tucker Carlson equating workplace vaccine requirements to forced sterilization, guest and right-wing activist Charlie Kirk using his appearance to compare vaccination to South African apartheid, and a rash of other hosts decrying the Biden administration's emphasis on vaccination.

"The focus of this administration on vaccination is mind-boggling," Fox host Brian Kilmeade said on Fox & Friends Thursday. "They're going to knock on your door, they're going to demand that you take it, and they're going to give you a third shot," he added during a bizarre rant the next day, giving no indication of what the third shot is or why it would be required.

Longtime Fox host Laura Ingraham also added to the fear mongering with a chyron that read "THE LEFT'S CONSTANT COVID POWER GRAB"

The message filtered down to the Republican party's Congressional members, who hammered home the idea that Biden was sending people door-to-door to force vaccines on people who did not want them — which is, of course, not true.

"The Biden Administration wants to knock on your door to see if you're vaccinated," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, tweeted. "What's next? Knocking on your door to see if you own a gun?"

"How about don't knock on my door," echoed Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas. "You're not my parents. You're the government. Make the vaccine available, and let people be free to choose. Why is that concept so hard for the left?"

Missouri GOP Gov. Mike Parson – whose state saw the highest COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations in the last week, baselessly warned Biden "that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!"

Other Republicans were more bombastic in their reaction to Biden's speech, not only bandying misinformation but painting an explicitly totalitarian picture of the president's vaccine rollout, often explicitly using the Nazi regime and the Third Reich as a comparison point.

"Biden has deployed his Needle Nazis to Mesa County," Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., tweeted on Thursday. "The people of my district are more than smart enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don't need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?"

Freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called the officials handling Biden's vaccine push "medical brown shirts." Historically, brown shirts refers to the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party, called the SA, which carried out much of Adolf Hitler's bidding. Green's comments came on the heels of her last Nazi-related comparison, in which she said that mandatory mask-wearing was similar to the Nazi-era requirement that Jewish people wear identifying Stars of David on their clothing.

Conservative pundit Tomi Lahren also joined the chorus on Thursday, tarring flight attendants who enforce COVID health precautions as "Nazis of the air." Last year, as the Daily Beast noted, Lahren made headlines when she said that those who comply with social distancing rules are engaging in a form of "willful slavery."

Meanwhile, Charlie Kirk, the founder of conservative youth advocacy group Turning Point USA, eschewed a Nazi-era comparison, instead calling Biden's vaccination push an "apartheid-style, open-air hostage situation." He claimed that the administration would only let you "have your freedom back if you get the jab."

Conservative vaccine hesitancy, fueled by this militant anti-vaccine messaging, remains strong — despite pleas from numerous Republican governors to get vaccinated. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., admitted on Thursday that he's "perplexed" as to why so many Americans are refusing to get vaccinated.

Some on the left have speculated that it's the administration's very encouragement of vaccination – rather than the safety of the vaccine itself – that is largely contributing to right-wing resistance.

"The only solution may be reverse psychology," as Salon's Amanda Marcotte wrote last month. "People who want the pandemic to end need to, paradoxically, release the desire to see conservatives get vaccinated. The more zen that liberals (or people perceived to be liberals) are about vaccination rates, the less fun it is to try to piss liberals off by refusing to get the shot."

Disinvited from Trump country: Why some red states suddenly want less of Donald Trump

Donald Trump, steadily losing support from his voting bloc since Election Day, appears to suddenly be losing touch with leadership in some red states that supported him during the election. Officials in both Alabama and Florida have reportedly rebuffed Trump's recent attempts to hold self-promotional rallies.

Florida's Ron DeSantis, the state's Republican governor who is eyeing a potential presidential bid for 2024, reportedly "made a direct plea" to the former president to cancel his upcoming campaign-style rally in Sarasota. The rally, which Trump has so far refused to call off, is set to take place about 200 miles from the Miami suburb where part of an apartment building unexpectedly collapsed last week due to structural deficiencies, leaving 16 residents dead and over 100 still missing. One Florida Republican told the Washington Examiner that Trump and his team should "read the room" amid the tragedy.

"The governor is getting tested here as to how far he's going to be pushed before he breaks ranks with President Trump. And he has to be very careful because this is Trump country," the source continued. "The base loves the president. But they equally love Ron. It's a showdown going on right now."

According to one political operative interviewed by the Examiner, Trump's team is keeping the rally on schedule because of an apparent beef between DeSantis and Susie Wiles, a former Trump campaign official who was charged with leading his post-presidency political operations.

Back in 2019, during the 2020 Trump campaign, DeSantis reportedly urged Trump to fire Wiles over a "leak of internal correspondence showing how the new governor [Ron DeSantis] appeared to be selling access to special interests on golfing trips." According to Politico, the firing, which many disagreed with, estranged many Trump campaign officials from Florida's Republican leadership. One operative told the Examiner that "because Ron DeSantis doesn't want [the rally], [Wiles is] gonna make sure it happens," this source said.

Liz Harrington, a spokeswoman for Trump, said that the former president "sends his deepest condolences to those who've lost loved ones or been displaced by the terrible tragedy in Surfside."

She continued: "The event in Sarasota, however, is on the other side of the state, 3 1/2 hours away, approximately the same distance from Boston to New York, and will not impact any of the recovery efforts. In fact, President Trump has instructed his team to collect relief aid for Surfside families both online and on-site at the Sarasota rally."

Trump saw more resistance from a red state when park commissioners in Mobile, Alabama canceled his Saturday rally.

"It became apparent that it was going to be a partisan political event, rather than just a patriotic event planned for that evening," commission chairman Bill Tunnell told NBC-15 this week. The rally was set to be held at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

"I'll be honest," Pete Riehm, a local tea party activist, told NBC 15. "I feel some people just didn't want it, not just it but President Trump."

Alabama and Florida's recent pushback against Trump come amid increasing Republican rebukes of the former president's attempts to undermine the results of the 2020 election.

Last week, a Republican-led investigation by the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee found "no evidence of widespread or systemic fraud in Michigan's prosecution of the 2020 election, calling Trump's claims "ludicrous." On Monday, Republican leaders from Wisconsin, which is mulling its own 2020 election audit, told the former president that his grandiose theory of election fraud is "misinformed."

A Trump supporter could be the first Floridian prosecuted under Ron DeSantis' new anti-protest law

A Florida man was arrested and charged with multiple felonies last Thursday after intentionally performing a "burnout" with his car over a Pride-themed mural painted on an intersection in Delray Beach, opening him up to become the first person charged under the state's controversial new "anti-riot" bill pushed by Republicans.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed the bill meant to crack down on protests in the wake of the George Floyd uprisings earlier this year, just as the trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derick Chauvin was wrapping up. The legislation was heavily opposed by first amendment activists and Black lawmakers in the state. Now a young Trump supporter may be the first person entangled by the new law.

Alexander Jerich, 20, is accused of deliberately making skid marks across a mural meant to commemorate the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, in his Chevrolet Silverado. According to WPBF, Delray Beach Police have since charged Jerich with criminal mischief, reckless driving, and evidence of prejudice. Just prior to the incident, Jerich was allegedly participating in a pro-Trump rally in celebration of the former president's birthday that was put together by the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee.

A witness told the police that heard someone holler "tear up that gay intersection" before Jerich shortly defaced the mural with his car. The incident was also caught on video, which allowed the police to identify Jerich, who turned himself in, through a license plate search.

Rand Hoch, founder and president of the Palm Beach Human Rights Council, told WFOR that Jerich carried out "a deliberate act of violence against the LGBTQ community. We've made such progress here in the last 30 years on LGBTQ issues. To see someone do something like this took me by surprise."

"Kudos to the Delray Beach Police Department for swiftly identifying and arresting this hateful criminal," Hoch added.

The city had just unveiled the mural two days before the incident, according to law enforcement, and paid north of $16,000 for its creation.

Jerich could now be subject to heightened penalties imposed by Florida's new GOP-backed "anti-riot" law signed back in April. As WPEC's Sam Kerrigan noted: "When it comes to this case, the key here is that this new anti-riot law also stops someone from damaging historic property or a memorial. And under the law, this new Pride mural in Delray Beach, here, qualifies as a memorial because it's dedicated to the lives lost in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando."

Hoch, too, suggested that Jerich could be charged under the new GOP measure.

Details leak from highly anticipated US government UFO report

U.S. intelligence officials reportedly found no evidence that the UFOs witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years were extraterrestrial in origin, though questions still remain about where the aircraft originated and how they appear to defy known laws of physics.

The overwhelming majority of unidentified aircraft seen by various military personnel were not related to any known U.S. government projects, the New York Times reported, citing senior officials who had reviewed a classified report acknowledging the sightings. The admission marks a sharp departure from the Pentagon's previous attempts to stifle dialogue into the string of unexplained incidents.

The report, a declassified version of which is expected to be released to Congress later this month, details a total of over 120 sightings — many of which involve incomprehensible aircraft movements. In one instance, Navy pilots caught sight of an aircraft that looked like a spinning top hovering 30,000 feet high in the East Coast. The pilots claimed that the object, which could reach hypersonic speeds, had no identifiable source of propulsion.

In another, detailed in a recently leaked Navy video recorded in 2019, an unidentified object was seen flying above the water before vanishing into the ocean.

Perhaps the most striking sighting occurred back in 2004, when two former Navy pilots were dispatched to investigate "multiple anomalous aerial vehicles" off the coast of San Diego that plummeted 80,000 feet in less than a second. "It accelerated like nothing I've ever seen," Commander David Fravor, who saw the vehicles, told the Times.

Christopher Mellon, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, said in an interview with NBC News that there was "a lot of continuity" between recent sightings and those of the past.

"What we're seeing are a number of distinct and different things," Mellon explained. "Sometimes we're seeing a 50-foot object that can travel at hypersonic speeds and seemingly go into orbit or come down from altitudes of potentially above 100,000 feet."

One official told the Times that some of the sightings could be attributed to Russian or Chinese military projects. Both countries have reportedly invested heavily in hypersonic technology — though the existence of such aircraft would suggest that their technology is far superior to anything the U.S. has developed in the field.

While the Pentagon has generally stayed mum on UFO sightings until quite recently, it has quietly been studying the phenomena for over a decade. Back in 2007 the Pentagon established the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a project spearheaded by then-Sen. Harry Reid that reviewed unexplained radar data and video footage taken by Navy pilots and senior military officers.

The program shuttered in 2012 due to underfunding, though it was partially resurrected in 2017 under the auspices of a private group, called "To the Stars Academy," co-founded by Tom DeLonge, the guitarist for pop-punk band Blink-182.

Pentagon watchers also believe that deep in the military bureaucracy something similar to the AATIP program may still exist today, albeit in a more informal manner.

Gaetz-Greene 2024? Don't blink

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the embattled conservative firebrand who is the subject of a thus-far-inconclusive Justice Department investigation into an alleged pattern of sexual misconduct that may include statutory rape, says he's eyeing a presidential bid in 2024 — but only if Donald Trump decides not to run.

"I support Donald Trump for president. I've directly encouraged him to run and he gives me every indication he will," Gaetz wrote in a Thursday text message to the New York Post. "If Trump doesn't run, I'm sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024."

Gaetz echoed that message on Thursday to Steve Bannon, Trump's former campaign "CEO" and White House chief strategist. "I'm for Donald Trump in 2024. This is Donald Trump's party and I'm a Donald Trump Republican," Gaetz declared. "But if for whatever reason President Trump decided to enjoy the swamps of Florida a little more than the swamps of Washington, D.C., I'm certain I could whoop Joe Biden up one side of the country and down the other. Because the people in America want passion and excitement and inspiration in the executive."

Last week, Gaetz friend and associate Joel Greenberg, a Florida tax collector, pleaded guilty to knowingly soliciting and having sex with an underage girl. Greenberg has alleged that Gaetz paid for sex with multiple women as well as a 17-year-old girl, according to a letter obtained by The Daily Beast. Recently, Gaetz's former girlfriend was said to be cooperating with investigators, though the Florida lawmaker has not been charged with a crime.

Amid the investigation, Gaetz has launched his "America First" speaking tour alongside freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who has come under recent scrutiny from both sides for comparing the House's mask mandate to the Holocaust. One prospect that appears to be tormenting many liberals on Twitter is that their joint tour could lay the groundwork for potentially nightmarish joint campaign.

Last week, during a speaking engagement in Arizona, Gaetz presented his political worldview, borrowing considerable verbiage from the Trump lexicon.

"Thousands of miles away in the swamp of Washington, they kind of hope that this was all over, that our populist little revolt would run away and no longer be a part of our national identity," Gaetz said. "Oh, we are just starting."

He continued: "It's been too many years since an inspirational President Ronald Reagan told us that it was 'morning in America again.' Too often now it seems like it's twilight for Joe Biden. If it was morning in America under Reagan, it sort of seems like naptime in America when Joe Biden is the president. I think it's about time to wake up our fellow countrymen."

An unnamed source told the Post that Gaetz may be considering a presidential campaign as a tactical maneuver designed to benefit his Republican ally, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is also said to be mulling a 2024 bid. DeSantis "might like someone else on the debate stage who can torch his opponents and lay down ground cover for him," the source claimed, adding that Gaetz has "clearly been vetted and smeared like a presidential candidate."

It remains to be seen whether Gaetz's political career will be ended or severely damaged by the continuing investigation into his alleged sex crimes. As the congressman is no doubt aware, multiple accusations of sexual assault did not prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidency in 2016.

Pushback to Trump from within his own party slowly grows louder as his 'unhinged' rantings lead to a bizarre scene

The Republican Party is finding itself increasingly fractured as more members of the GOP disavow Donald Trump despite concerns within the party that it cannot survive without him.

On Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a fierce critic of the former President and one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him, declared in an NBC interview that policy takes less of a priority in the GOP than one's fealty to Trump. "I think what I'm used to saying to any Republican that's maybe kind of confused by the moment we're in is policy doesn't matter anymore," he argued. "It literally is all your loyalty to Donald Trump. As I've said before, this is something that, like, echoes a little bit out of North Korea, where no matter what policy comes out, you're loyal to the guy."

The Illinois Republican went on to spell out the hypocrisy between the party's treatment of Trump and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who last week was ousted from her leadership role as the party's conference chair over her staunch criticism of the former president. Kinzinger explained that when it comes to Trump, people claim: "I don't like what Donald Trump tweets, but I like his policies, so I'm going to support him." But in the case of Cheney, people say: "Look, I like her policies, I don't like what she tweets, so she needs to leave."

"What that shows to me is an inconsistency that is built solely around allegiance to one man: Donald Trump," the lawmaker added. "And we have to recognize that as a party. And we have to recognize that four months ago we allowed, basically, the narrative to lead to an insurgency on January 6. And until we take ownership of that, we can't heal."

Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan echoed Kinzinger on Sunday when he said during a CNN "State of the Union" interview that Cheney's ouster was "kind of doubling down on failure."

"Liz Cheney is a solid conservative Republican who voted with the president 93 percent of the time," Hogan said. "I thought she just stood up and told the truth and said exactly what she thought. We've lost the White House, the House, the Senate over the past four years, and to continue to do the exact same thing and expect a different result is the definition of insanity."

Trump has also seen some defection from his inner circle. On Sunday, Trump's former White House adviser, Alyssa Farah, indicated that she would not support him in his potential 2024 presidential bid, signaling an allegiance with Cheney.

"The GOP is careening down a strategically unwise path and morally reprehensible one, to be completely candid with you," she said in an interview with MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan. "Liz Cheney did the right thing. We shouldn't condemn people for simply telling the facts. Like, facts matter, she did the right thing. But that shouldn't be brave or heroic but just what our leaders do."

Farah added: "But there's a perception we care more about loyalty to the former president and wanting to gloss over the election and Jan 6. My unsolicited advice to my fellow Republicans would be: the truth tends to come to the top. It's better to address it now, come to grips with what went wrong, and accept it. Because we're going to be dealing with it in the midterms and 2024."

Farah reportedly left the Trump administration back in December of last year, prior to the Capitol riot on January 6. In February, just ahead of Trump's impeachment trial, Farah questioned the constitutionality of proceeding, instead suggesting that the former president should be censured.

Trump has also seen some pushback from his own party in Arizona, where an extremely questionable GOP-led recount in Maricopa County is being held to determine the validity of President Biden's presidential win. On Saturday, Trump baselessly alleged that Arizona Senate's election auditors found an "unbelievable Election crime."

"The entire Database of Maricopa County in Arizona has been DELETED!" the former President exclaimed in a statement.

Maricopa county recorder Stephen Richer immediately demurred Trump's claim as "unhinged."

"I'm literally looking at our voter registration database on my other screen," he tweeted. "Right now. We can't indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country. This is as readily falsifiable as 2+2=5."

The Maricopa County board of supervisors has been vehemently pushing back against Trump's claims of foul play.

'Bizarre, shameful and untrue': Clinton comes to Biden's defense after generals attack his health

Over 120 retired military generals and admirals penned an open letter questioning the legitimacy of President Biden's win in the 2020 election and whether the president has the mental fitness required to perform his job.

"Without fair and honest elections that accurately reflect the 'will of the people' our Constitutional Republic is lost," the signatories wrote, per their letter first obtained by Politico.

"Election integrity demands insuring there is one legal vote cast and counted per citizen," they continued. "Legal votes are identified by State Legislature's approved controls using government IDs, verified signatures, etc. Today, many are calling such commonsense controls 'racist' in an attempt to avoid having fair and honest elections. Using racial terms to suppress proof of eligibility is itself a tyrannical intimidation tactic."

The signatories, which have declared themselves part of the Flag Officers 4 America – a group of retired military officers that have pledged "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" – include Army Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who is running for senate in New Hampshire; Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, the former deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence for former President George W. Bush; Vice Adm. John Poindexter, the former national security adviser under President Ronald Reagan; and Army Maj. Gen. Joe Arbuckle, a Vietnam War veteran.

"Under a Democrat Congress and the Current Administration," they argued, "our Country has taken a hard left turn toward Socialism and a Marxist form of tyrannical government which must be countered now by electing congressional and presidential candidates who will always act to defend our Constitutional Republic."

The cohort also took aim at President Biden's fitness, saying his "mental and physical condition … cannot be ignored."

They continued: "He must be able to quickly make accurate national security decisions involving life and limb anywhere, day or night. Recent Democrat leadership's inquiries about nuclear code procedures sends a dangerous national security signal to nuclear armed adversaries, raising the question about who is in charge. We must always have an unquestionable chain of command."

During the 2020 campaign trail, former President Trump routinely referred to Biden as "Sleepy Joe" and "Slow Joe," alluding to Biden's various public gaffes, which some speculated were due to a stutter. It goes without saying that Trump himself was a purveyor of a great many gaffes during that time as well.

Earlier this month, the president's personal physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor, affirmed that Biden was in good health for his age and is "fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency."

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to call the letter "bizarre, shameful, and untrue."

The letter also regurgitated timeworn conservative talking points about security at the border and the military prowess of China. "Establishing cooperative relations with the Chinese Communist Party emboldens them to continue progress toward world domination, militarily, economically, politically and technologically," it read. "We must impose more sanctions and restrictions to impede their world domination goal and protect America's interests."

On immigration, the ex-military officials went on to write: "Illegals are flooding our Country bringing high economic costs, crime, lowering wages, and illegal voting in some states. We must reestablish border controls and continue building the wall while supporting our dedicated border control personnel. Sovereign nations must have controlled borders."

The letter sounded alarms amongst military experts, as well as officials in the Biden administration, according to Politico, considering those in the military are instructed to remain as apolitical as possible.

"We've seen isolated statements from retired generals and admirals like McChrystal or McRaven, but this statement is the first full-blown partisan attack from a large group of retired officers that is not explicitly tied to an election or specific issue," Jim Golby, a senior fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at The University of Texas at Austin, told Politico.

"I think it hurts the military and by extension it hurts the country," echoed retired Adm. Mike Mullen.

The letter comes amid a national effort led by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to root out right-wing extremism within the ranks of the military. In late April, it was reported that at least 52 active or retired military, law enforcement, or government service employees were connected to the violent breach of the Capitol on January 6.

Right-wing funders are waging war to keep dark money secret — and some liberals are joining them

More than a decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its historic ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, opening the door for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political causes (although not directly to political candidates). As corrosive as that decision was to democracy, it came with a slight proviso. As Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote: while "the Government may not suppress [corporate] speech altogether," it may "regulate corporate political speech through disclaimer and disclosure requirements." Citizens United found, in other words, that corporations could spend without limit, but government had a right to force public disclosure that spending to the public.

Since then, it's become abundantly clear that money in politics takes numerous forms, far beyond the obvious subterfuge of a corporation donating to a political action committee that then funds a political candidate. In the nonprofit world, big-money donors pump hundreds of millions into politically-motivated 501(c) organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors. Those groups then funnel this money into patently political ventures, even though they are technically forbidden from engaging in significant lobbying. That two-step process describes the phenomenon known as "dark money," which allows wealthy individuals and corporations to exert enormous influence on the political system behind a veil of anonymity.

Last year alone, more than $1 billion in dark money was spent in the 2020 election, a record high. Contrary to some people's assumptions, "both sides" actually do it — dark money flows to and from Democrats as well as Republicans. In truth, anonymous money has been part of America's political bloodstream for decades now, but not until relatively recently has the debate around it rose to a national level. Last month, in the first major case of its kind since Citizens United, the issue of nonprofit donor disclosure returned to the highest court in the land.

In this case, Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta (consolidated with another, functionally identical case, Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta) the Supreme Court will decide whether political nonprofits can be compelled to disclose who their largest donors are. This case in question specifically concerns donor disclosure rules in California, but its implications are unmistakably nationwide. And while the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and the Christian-oriented Thomas More Center are distinctly right-wing in ideological terms, they have some surprising allies before the high court.

As things work now, the IRS annually collects from every nonprofit a form called Schedule B, which lists the personal information of each nonprofit's largest donors. The stated legal purpose is to regulate or prevent various financial crimes like fraud and money laundering. California is unique in requiring nonprofits to submit their Schedule B forms to the state attorney general's office — if they want to keep on raising tax-deductible donations.

To be clear, California collects the information, but does not release it to the public. But this seemingly innocuous bureaucratic regulation has sent shockwaves throughout the conservative nonprofit world — not to mention a number of liberal-leaning or civil-libertarian nonprofits as well, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign.

Broadly speaking, the strange coalition of plaintiffs in the Americans for Prosperity argue that the state's interest in collecting Schedule B's — which, once again, would not be made publicly accessible — does not outweigh the burden that the law would impose upon them. They further argue that this burden may be acute for nonprofits that advocate for or against controversial causes, like abortion. Furthermore, the plaintiffs have argued that if their donors are unmasked — by means of a hack or leak, for instance — these donors could be at risk of severe reprisal, causing a chilling effect on future donations.

John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative-libertarian group, told Salon in an interview he sees this as "a free association problem."

"Whether it's a conservative organization or a liberal or progressive organization," Bursch said, "they all recognize that publicly exposing donors to groups that engage in public advocacy risks chilling — causing people to not donate, or to donate below thresholds where they won't appear on a Schedule B."

Bursch currently represents the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian conservative legal nonprofit that briefly embraced Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the presidential election and is now battling on behalf of donor privacy. He alleges that there have been several cases when donors have felt threatened because of their connections to Americans for Prosperity Foundation or Thomas More. Court documents detail purported instances of doxing, death threats and even assassination attempts. It's worth noting that the plaintiffs also fear "economic reprisal," such as boycotts or criticism of their businesses, activities that are clearly legal and constitutionally protected expressions of free speech.

To make their case, the plaintiffs draw upon an unlikely parallel: the Supreme Court's seminal 1958 ruling in NAACP v. Alabama, where the justices found that Alabama officials could not force the NAACP to turn over its membership list due to the possibility of violent public retaliation against its members.

At the time of that decision, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote that the NAACP had made "an uncontroverted showing" that the "revelation of the identity of its rank-and-file members has exposed these members to economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility." Alabama's effort to expose NAACP members was largely understood by racial justice advocates as a clear attempt to dismantle the civil-rights group through the use of racial terror.

Bursch acknowledged that the historical circumstances around NAACP do not resemble those of the current case, but insisted, "To think that [Thomas More] donors might not face life or death is not really accurate."

Unsurprisingly, many critics of the corrosive force of money in politics reject any comparison between the cases. In a statement to Salon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., drily observed "an enormous gap between the Supreme Court case cited by petitioners — a civil rights-era decision where NAACP members had reason to fear state-sanctioned bombings, assassinations and other violence — and the problem of billionaires secretly running dark-money-funded political covert ops in our country."

Daniel Weiner, deputy director of the Brennan Center's Election Reform Program, echoed that analysis in an interview with Salon: "I always pause at any contemporary actor analogizing themselves to the NAACP in the South in 1958. And that includes folks on the right and left. AFP, whether or not it is right on the merits, represents some of the most powerful interests in the country. This is not comparable to the NAACP in the South prior to the civil rights movement."

There's another important difference between the two cases: While the plaintiffs in the Americans for Prosperity case are alleging a largely hypothetical risk of reprisal, they are demanding a result that in goes further than in the NAACP decision. As Vox's Ian Millhiser explained, "the plaintiffs insist that they are entitled to facial relief — meaning that the state's disclosure rule must be tossed out for all nonprofits, regardless of whether donors to those nonprofits face harassment, or even if they want to keep their donations secret."

Weiner said that a universal ban on mandatory donor disclosures is not warranted, arguing that the plaintiffs' case goes no further than claiming "that the law should not be applied to them. It's hard to see how all this adds up to 'the law is facially invalid,' which is a really sweeping position to take in light of a couple incidents."

Bursch responded that Americans for Prosperity "is precisely the type of case where a facial ruling would be appropriate," saying, "It's almost nonsensical to suggest that thousands of charities should have to individually sue California to keep their donor information confidential."

Even though California has no plans to release "dark money" donors' names, Bursch argues there is still likely to be a chilling effect, claiming that the state does not maintain a secure record-keeping system and leaves an "open door" for hackers. It's true that in 2012, a Schedule B for Planned Parenthood was leaked in California, potentially revealing hundreds of donors' names and addresses. But such occurrences have been rare.

As mentioned above, nonprofit donor disclosure is a particularly hot topic when it comes to dark money, which typically moves through 501(c)(4) nonprofits, or "social welfare organizations," which collect money from anonymous donors and then spend it on campaigns or candidates on said donors' behalf.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation, however, is a (501)(c)(3), meaning that in order to preserve its tax-exempt status, it's supposed to designate its funds for "charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals," according to IRS rules. However, Americans for Prosperity, the group's sister organization, is a 501(c)(4), meaning that it can more significantly engage in political advocacy and lobbying — largely in favor of reduced taxes, deregulation and other business-friendly policies — and has done so vigorously.

Bursch claimed earnestly that dark money has "nothing" to do with the current Supreme Court case, reminding this reporter that 501(c)(3) charities like AFPF are barred by federal law "from participating in any political advocacy, which is where the dark money issue arises." Explaining the relationship between Americans for Prosperity and its affiliated foundation, he said, "My understanding is that the 501(c)(3) can't fund the 501(c)(4). So,although they share a name and perhaps some common goals, the work they engage in is completely different. You can't cross those lines."

AFP did not respond to Salon's request to comment on its relationship with AFPF, which has been known to cross some lines. In 2010, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee accused AFPF of financing blatantly political commercials that criticized the Obama administration, alleging that the ads "made the Americans for Prosperity Foundation a de facto political action group in violation of the federal tax code," according to the New York Times.

Bursch said that he believed or understood that AFP and AFPF had a "different office, different directors, different employees and different purposes." In fact, a comparison of AFP and AFPF's 2018 tax filings shows that a significant number of officers, directors, trustees and key employees work at both entities, including Nancy Pfotenhauer, Mark Holden, Robert Heaton, Emily Seidel, Slade O'Brien and various others.

Supplemental information on AFPF's filings also states that "certain employees of Americans for Prosperity Foundation may perform services for Americans for Prosperity, a related organization, through a service contract between the organizations." (This relationship also goes the other way.) AFPF is additionally listed as AFP's "direct controlling entity," a designation whose legal meaning is not entirely clear but certainly suggests an intimate relationship.

Not all contributors to political nonprofits count as "dark money donors," to be sure. Some are ordinary citizens, no doubt, genuinely interested in contributing to what they believe are nonpartisan endeavors. But it's precisely the lack of donor disclosure that makes the whole process opaque.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a staunch critic of money in politics, affirmed the need for more effective disclosure in light of the AFP and AFPF's purposefully mysterious relationship. "Because we're dealing with dark money, we don't really know the relationship between AFPF and AFP," he said. "When a 501(c)(3) gives money to a 501(c)(4) to engage in electioneering activities, that's what dark money is all about." (Salon could not find clear evidence that money has flowed from AFPF to AFP, let alone how it might have been used.)

"The Federalist Society and the Federalist Society Foundation both share the same goals and aspirations," Johnson expressed. "People are trying to exert influence. That's the reason why they contribute to these organizations that have a political agenda."

'It's basically the Titanic': Republican dissent grows louder as GOP preps for a NeverTrump purge

Anti-Trump detractors of the GOP are growing louder in their criticisms of Donald Trump, even as the party grows increasingly hostile toward anyone that breaks from absolute praise for the former president.

This article originally appeared at Salon.

On Sunday, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., likened the Republican Party to the Titanic amid the internal battle currently being waged against Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for her anti-Trump record. Reports have speculated that the Republican Party is planning to oust Cheney as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference and replace her with budding GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.

"Right now, it's basically the Titanic," Kinzinger warned in a CBS interview on "Face the Nation."

"We're like, you know, in the middle of this slow sink. We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it's fine. And meanwhile, as I've said, you know, Donald Trump's running around trying to find women's clothing and get on the first lifeboat."

Kinzinger acknowledged that "there's a few of us that are just saying, 'Guys, this is not good,' not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country."

The Illinois representative also took specific aim at House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who Kinzinger said quickly changed his tune about who is to blame for the Capitol riot.

"Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She's just consistently been saying it," Kinzinger explained. "We have so many people including our leadership in the party that have not admitted that this is what it is, which was an insurrection led by the president of the United States, well-deserving of a full accounting from Republicans."

The congressman concluded that his party must have "an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to Jan. 6" and "quit peddling in conspiracies."

Kinzinger, one of the ten House Republicans that broke party ranks and voted to impeach Trump following the Capitol riot, has been a vocal apostate of the Republican Party since Trump's departure from office. In March, Kinzinger launched a super PAC dedicated to supporting anti-Trump Republicans in the 2022 elections, called "Americans Keeping Country First."

Kinzinger's comments came just as Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan drew upon yet another metaphor to describe the madness of his own party. On Sunday, Hogan called the GOP "a circular firing squad" hellbent on excommunicating any member who dares utter a modicum of criticism against the former president.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Hogan addressed Cheney's potential ouster. "It just bothers me that you have to swear fealty to the dear leader or you get kicked out of the party, it just doesn't make any sense," Hogan lamented. "It's sort of a circular firing squad where we're just attacking members of our own party instead of focusing on solving problems or standing up and having an argument that we can debate the Democrats on some of the things that the Biden administration is pushing through."

He concluded: "We had the worst four years we've had ever in the Republican Party losing the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate."

Echoing Kinzinger, Hogan shamed his colleagues for brushing the Capitol riot under the rug and not pinning enough blame on the former president.

Many party veterans have argued that the GOP will need to let go of Trump in order to build a broader coalition for the next cycle of elections. Others have suggested that Trump's effect on the American psyche will be extremely difficult to shake off.

"It's becoming increasingly difficult, it seems, for people to go out on the stump and defend somebody like Liz Cheney or Mitt Romney," said former Senator Jeff Flake, who was censured by the GOP this year. "About 70 percent of Republicans probably genuinely believe that the election was stolen, and that's debilitating. It really is."

A storm is brewing in Arizona: Why QAnon is obsessed with the state's shady election audit

There is a storm brewing in Arizona. For the past week, Maricopa County — the state's major population center — which narrowly favored President Joe Biden during the 2020 general election, has been holding its very own election audit following demands from a Republican-led coalition to recount the ballots.

Stoking the fire behind the audit is an army of online QAnon conspiracy theorists, who have taken it upon themselves to fastidiously monitor live streams of each and every auditor in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, where the recount is being held, according to VICE. Any suspicious activity seen in the streams is reportedly being flagged by QAnon fans, who then spread word of such activity on various fringe pro-Trump forums and QAnon Telegram channels, often attached to grandiose claims of election conspiracy.

Several prominent members of the MAGAverse have already taken the reins of the surveillance campaign, as VICE reported. Ron Watkins, the former administrator of the message board 8kun, which has been called "ground zero for QAnon," recently shared a series of videos alleging foul play by various auditors. "We are watching the auditors," Watkins wrote. "No shenanigans will get through the sharp eyes of the watchers." Watkins is believed by many to be the original architect behind Q, the anonymous leader whose online "drops" launched the QAnon conspiracy theories.

The audit is being conducted by Florida-based tech company Cyber Ninjas, owned by Doug Logan, a known QAnon conspiracy theorist who, in advance of the recount, speculated that it would garner an extra 200,000 votes for Donald Trump, according to the Huffington Post. Logan himself has widely spread false claims on Twitter that Trump lost the election due to systemic fraud, without of course supplying any evidence.

Arizona Republican officials had reportedly never heard of Cyber Ninjas, which has no known experience in auditing elections. On Friday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury demanded that the firm provide more transparency regarding its recount procedures. Cyber Ninjas has so far refused to hand over such information, claiming it would "compromise the security of its recount," according to The Arizona Republic. The company also alleged that divulging the details of its recount procedures would threaten its trade secrets.

Members of the MAGAverse have also bandied unsubstantiated fears that the left will attempt to physically shut down the recount in order to prevent Trump's miraculous return to office. (Which, to be clear, is a legal and constitutional impossibility.) According to the Daily Beast, many watching the auditors have expressed fear that the Arizona Rangers, a civilian law enforcement auxiliary that has been patrolling outside the recount premises, cannot provide enough security to ward off a leftist attack.

One MAGA influencer by the name of Joe M. stoked fears that Arizona Gov. Greg Ducey, who refused to fortify the audit's security detail at Trump's behest, speculated that Ducey's refusal indicates the presence of "domestic paramilitary paid mercenaries, cunningly named 'Antifa'" who "are on standby and will be deployed against American civil servants, and the public at large, when political and media subterfuge is no longer effective, and the true result is finally revealed."

Trump's former national security adviser, the Q-curious retired general Michael Flynn, claimed in a speech last month to have "intel" that antifa and Black Lives Matter activists "from Portland and Seattle" planned to come to Arizona "to disrupt finding the truth." No such invasion has occurred to this point.

The Arizona Rangers themselves attempted to allay security fears by sharing an article from the right-wing fringe news site Gateway Pundit, which only added fuel to the fire by claiming: "The Coliseum is well guarded and there are contingencies if someone tried to bully their way in. But the Democrats are desperate and will do anything — even steal an election to gain power."

On Thursday, the Arizona Democratic Party, along with the sole Democrat on the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, filed a lawsuit against Republican State Senate President Karen Fann and Cyber Ninjas in a last-ditch attempt to put an end to the audit, according to AP News. The suit alleges that Fann and another GOP state senator have outsourced the recount to an "inexperienced third party with clear bias" who will cause "irreparable harm to the integrity of Arizona's election systems."

Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council 's Digital Forensic Research Lab, told Salon that members of QAnon are "anticipating discrepancies they hope will validate their false beliefs about the integrity of the vote."

"Even a minor flaw that does not alter the result of the final tally has the potential to revamp falsehoods about the election and inspire calls for additional recounts or further action," Holt explained. "Given how desperate these communities have proved themselves to be in their search for a smoking gun, it's hard to imagine a scenario where they would actually accept a finding that reveals no foul play. Many are seeking validation, not answers."

As big corporations strike a pose for racial justice, they keep on funding the police

As protests for racial justice erupted around the globe last summer following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, many activists called upon corporate America to step up and fight for racial equality in the workplace and beyond, bringing to light a long history of discrimination toward workers of color. The push prompted a series of sweeping apologies and broad action plans, shifting the goalposts for what would be expected of corporations in their relatively new status as "corporate citizens."

This article was originally published at Salon

Nearly a year later, many major corporations have assumed a similar posture following Chauvin's conviction on murder charges, reminding the American public of their purported commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Amid mounting evidence that many police departments routinely display both implicit bias and outright racism, reports show that corporate America continues to pour millions of dollars into the police. If "defund the police" was always more an activist slogan than a reality, in effect the opposite seems to be occurring.

One way corporations funnel money into law enforcement is through police foundations. As nonprofits, police foundations allow police departments to raise unregulated slush funds from undisclosed sources, generally meaning corporations or private foundations associated with wealthy families or individuals. Police have historically used this money to expense weaponry and special equipment that is not covered by their municipal budgets.

"Police foundations are really good at hiding what they're actually spending their money on," Arisha Hatch, vice president of Color of Change, told Salon. "These foundations exist completely off the books."

According to Nonprofit Quarterly, there are about 251 police foundations across the U.S. A report last year by the government watchdog LittleSis found that a whole host of well-known corporations have been intimately involved with police foundations throughout the nation.

One notable example is AT&T. Last year, Sludge found that AT&T was "an active donor" to the Seattle Police Foundation, which according to IRS filings amassed more than $1.5 million in contributions and grants in 2019 alone. Gothamist reported in 2019 that AT&T made an appearance as a "deep-pocketed donor" at the New York City Police Foundation, which collected $9.2 million in contributions and grants over the fiscal year ending in June 2019. Because these foundations are not subject to typical IRS disclosure laws, neither of them reported how that money were spent.

AT&T is also a "Platinum Partner" of the National Sheriffs' Association, a pro-police lobbying group that fights to preserve the 1033 Military Surplus Program, a government-run initiative that distributes surplus military-grade weaponry and supplies to police departments throughout the nation. In order to become a Platinum Partner, a corporation must donate at least $15,000.

Asked about the company's relationship with law enforcement, an AT&T spokesperson told Salon that the company supports "many civil rights organizations" and is "working with them to redefine the relationship between law enforcement and those they serve to advance equitable justice for all Americans."

Kevin Walby, an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Winnipeg, told Salon that any company that makes strong rhetorical commitments to racial equality should not donate to police foundations at all, saying that in doing so, "they are actually backstopping very racist policing practices."

Target is another corporate giant with deep ties to the police. On Tuesday, Target CEO Brian Cornell postponed a speaking event in anticipation of Chauvin's verdict, later telling his employees in an internal memo: "The murder of George Floyd last Memorial Day felt like a turning point for our country. The solidarity and stand against racism since then have been unlike anything I've experienced. Like outraged people everywhere, I had an overwhelming hope that today's verdict would provide real accountability. Anything short of that would have shaken my faith that our country had truly turned a corner."

One might assume such concern for racial justice would translate to the company's spending habits. However, according to government watchdog LittleSis and Sludge, the Minnesota-based retail giant has donated to at least nine police foundations since 2015, including those in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles. Back in 2014, Target quietly donated $200,000 to the Los Angeles Police Foundation so that its affiliate department could gain early access to surveillance software engineered by Palantir, a company accused of whitewashing systemic racism with its supposed data-driven solutions to policing. Target has also supplied thousands of dollars in grant money to various law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The company reported that by 2011, it had given "Public Safety Grants" to over 4,000 law enforcement agencies. In that same year alone, Target said it had distributed more than $3 million in grants to "law enforcement and emergency management organizations."

A Target spokesperson declined to provide more recent figures on grant money. The company also declined to clarify whether its relationships with police foundations remain active, instead providing the following statement: "We also believe that team members and guests should feel safe in their engagements with law enforcement. We support holistic changes in policing that advance more equitable, community-centric policing that is grounded in innovative law enforcement reform best practices."

Numerous tech giants, including Amazon, Google, Facebook and Microsoft, also support the police in ways outlined above. Amazon, for example, which claimed to "stand with [its] Black employees, customers, and partners" following Chauvin's verdict, has supported the police in a variety of different ways. In 2019, the tech giant reportedly donated up to $9,999 to the Seattle Police Foundation. A company representative told Salon that the company has not donated to the Seattle Police Foundation within the last two years. Salon was unable this, since the foundation reportedly scrubbed all information pertaining to its corporate sponsors shortly after LittleSis released its report.

Additionally, Amazon board member Indra Nooyi serves as a trustee on the board of the New York City Police Foundation, according to digitally archived information on the foundation's website from last year.

Meanwhile, AmazonSmile, the company's charity initiative — which allows Amazon to donate 0.5% of proceeds from a sale to the buyer's chosen charity — has helped pass along donations from customers to numerous police foundations, including those in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cleveland. (This relationship has been publicly advertised via Twitter.)

A company representative said that Amazon defers to guidance from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Southern Poverty Law Center on what organizations meet AmazonSmile's eligibility requirements. These requirements state that eligible organizations cannot "engage in, support, encourage, or promote … intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race." Just this year, however, the SPLC published a feature calling racial bias in policing a "national security threat."

Neither the Seattle Police Foundation nor New York City Police Foundation responded to Salon's request for comment.

Coffeehouse giant Starbucks has visibly attempted to go above and beyond in demonstrating its commitment to racial justice. Last year, at the height of the racial unrest following George Floyd's death, the coffee chain said it would distribute 250,000 shirts bearing the "Black Lives Matter" slogan to employees, flouting its existing ban on any apparel that "advocate for a political, religious or personal issue," according to the Wall Street Journal. Just this year, Starbucks invested $100 million in "small business growth and community development projects in BIPOC neighborhoods."

Following the Chauvin verdict, Starbucks the company released a statement from CEO Kevin Johnson, which read in part:

Today's jury verdict in the murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin will not soothe the intense grief, fatigue and frustration so many of our Black and African American partners are feeling. Let me say clearly to you: We see you. We hear you. And you are not alone. Your Starbucks family hurts with you ... We will be here for our partners in the Twin Cities and for each and every BIPOC Starbucks partner as we try to understand the systemic wrongs that lead to inequality.

One might argue these "systemic wrongs" have been exhibited by the Seattle Police Department. In a 2019 "Use of Force" report released by the Seattle Police, the department revealed that it used force against Black residents at a disproportionately higher rate than white residents. According to the report, more than 31 percent of cases of police force used against males involved Black males, even though they make up around 7 percent of the city's population. A subsequent "Disparity Review" that year found that residents of color were frisked at higher rates than white residents, even though white people were statistically more likely to be carrying a weapon, and that Seattle officers drew their guns in encounters with residents of color at a higher rate than with white residents.

In that same year, Starbucks donated two grants totaling $15,000 to promote "implicit bias training" within the Seattle police and help the department host its "2019 banquet gala," a spokesperson told Salon. The company also "contributed $25,000 to the New York City Police Foundation to help provide protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer, and coordinated the delivery of meals to precincts." The representative did not say whether there were any accountability mechanisms in place to ensure the money was used appropriately, but did note that the company does "not currently have any funding with the Seattle Police Foundation."

When corporations like Target and Starbucks give money to police foundations, it not only presents an ideological contradiction; it also presents a conflict of interest within the department itself, noted Walby, of the University of Winnipeg. "We only hear about donations" to police "when corporations want to celebrate them," he said. "They want that halo effect. However, there are lots of instances in which the transfers and purchases aren't made public. It's an even bigger problem if they're spending it on money that pertains to the corporation."

In 2014, for instance, the Los Angeles Daily News reported that the Los Angeles Police Foundation received $84,000 in donations from stun-gun maker TASER International (now known as Axon) prior to TASER's contract with the LAPD. In another case, Motorola, a donor to the New York Police Foundation, was later awarded several NYPD contracts, as reported by Politico in 2017. "There's a real potential for private influence in public policing through police foundations," Walby said. "It's appropriate to call this money dark money. Because we can't really see this money going in. We can't really see this money going out."

As the negative impact of police violence and criminalization becomes increasingly apparent in communities of color, Walby and Hatch argued, continuing to donate to police undermines corporations' claims to awakened social consciousness. "Police departments across this country have plenty of money," Hatch said. "They are well-resourced in a way that undermines other programs that could lead to safer and healthier communities."

"Any money for police reform just enhances the power base of police as an institution," Walby said. "The institution can't change conduct that is institutionalized. The funds should be given directly to community and social development groups, groups that actually have a chance of creating something like equality in our world."

Trump-appointed justices give gun rights activists the Supreme Court case they've sought for decades

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it's set to hear a landmark gun rights case which, if ruled in favor of the plaintiff, could set a radically conservative precedent for the judiciary's interpretation of the Second Amendment.

This article first appeared in Salon.

The case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett, likely to be argued this fall, will address whether Americans have the right to carry a firearm outside their homes –– a right generally obtained through a license given out on the basis of "proper cause." A New York state restriction first implemented in 1913, proper cause mandates that someone applying for gun ownership must establish a legitimate reason to own a gun. According to NPR, most states in the U.S. allow residents to carry a firearm outside their home without a specific license for doing so. However, states like California, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island have strict requirements around the practice. Those who establish "proper cause" may argue that out-of-home gun ownership is required for the purposes of hunting or personal safety, for example.

However, the two individual plaintiffs, Robert Nash and Brendan Koch, both New York residents, are claiming that the current restrictions in place for proper cause are far too stringent. Paul Clement, a lawyer representing the plaintiff, argued that proper cause "makes it virtually impossible for the ordinary law-abiding citizen" to get a license. Both Nash and Koch reportedly petitioned the state for licenses for reasons of personal safety, but were denied licenses after a district court found that neither men faced "any special or unique danger to [their] life," according to CNBC. The state's denial would later prompt them to file a suit with the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

The state of New York currently prohibits anyone from carrying an out-of-home firearm without demonstrating to a court that the petitioners possess "a special need for self protection distinguishable from that of the general community or of persons engaged in the same profession."

Last June, the Supreme Court refused to hear ten appeals to cases related to gun laws, sparking particular ire from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote in a dissent at the time that "in several jurisdictions throughout the country, law-abiding citizens have been barred from exercising the fundamental right to bear arms because they cannot show that they have a 'justifiable need' or 'good reason' for doing so."

"One would think that such an onerous burden on a fundamental right would warrant this Court's review," the Justice added.

However, with the newly-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett cementing the 6-3 conservative bent of the bench, Thomas may see a more sympathetic judiciary to gun rights advocates, As Vox's Ian Millhiser explained, after a 2008 ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, which established the constitutionality of "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill," Barrett argued that ruling should be narrowed to "dangerous people," suggesting that felons should have the right to bear arms.

Back in 2011, Justice Kavanaugh also argued in a dissenting opinion that "courts are to assess gun bans and regulations based on text, history, and tradition," and "not by a balancing test such as strict or intermediate scrutiny." In other words, there is a good chance that Kavanaugh, a proud textualist, will rule in favor of the plaintiffs by way of a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, which does not outline any specific restrictions on who should obtain firearms under what circumstances.

A conservative ruling on the case could prove exceptionally damaging for the gun reform movement, which has long fought for tighter restrictions on gun ownership. The issue has become particularly salient amid the flurry of recent mass shootings, many of which obtained legal licenses to buy guns.

Vox's Ian Millhiser argued with a 6-3 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, a ruling in favor of gun rights has the potential "to unwind a consensus within the lower courts that permits many gun regulations to stand, and then to allow those lower courts to complete the process of dismantling other gun laws."

A decision is likely to be delivered by the summer of next year.

House Democrat not backing down after blasting Tom Cotton's 'racist trash' speech

The Democratic-led House passed a bill this week that would designate Washington, D.C. as the 51st in the union, but not before Republicans trotted out a litany of less than good faith arguments against the idea.

This article first appeared on Salon.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise argued against it based on D.C.'s crime rate, claiming the district "can't perform basic governmental duties like protecting its residents from criminals," but failing to mention that his home state, Louisana, has had one of the nation's highest rates for over three decades. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., said in a presser that D.C. "wouldn't even qualify as a singular Congressional district." Of course, D.C. has a larger population than both Wyoming and Vermont.

Speaking of Wyoming, Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton argued the sparsely populated state has "three times as many workers in mining, logging and construction, and 10 times as many workers in manufacturing. In other words, Wyoming is a well-rounded, working-class state."

But freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., condemned such baseless objections to representation for the residents of Washington, D.C., as "racist trash" during a speech on the House floor this week.

"I had no idea there were so many syllables in the word 'white,'" Jones said of Cotton's argument, accusing Republicans of "racist insinuations that somehow the people of Washington, D.C. are incapable or even unworthy of our democracy."

"One of my House Republican colleagues said that D.C. couldn't be a state because the district doesn't have a landfill," Jones said. "My goodness, with all the racist trash my colleagues have brought to the debate, I can see why they're worried about having a place to put it."

Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland then demanded that Mondaire's "racist trash" comment be stricken from the record. But Mondaire did not back down.

"Establishing the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth as the 51st state will make our Union stronger and more just," the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a statement this week. "Washington, D.C. has a robust economy, a rich culture, and a diverse population of Americans from all walks of life who are entitled to full and equal participation in our democracy."

The bill, H.R. 51, which the White House said puts D.C. in "equal footing with the other states," would assign 700,000 residents their own elected officials. Currently, D.C. has three electors, but it has no elected representation aside from a non-voting House Delegate –– a distinction made clearly in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

"For far too long, the more than 700,000 people of Washington, D.C. have been deprived of full representation in the U.S. Congress," the OMB continued. "This taxation without representation and denial of self-governance is an affront to the democratic values on which our Nation was founded."

According to The Hill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden backs D.C. statehood. In order for the bill to be signed into law, Democrats will have to execute a constitutional amendment, which, faced with an obstructionist Republican Party, is no small feat. At least 10 GOP senators would have to break rank in order for Democrats to secure the 60-vote margin needed to move the process forward. Last year, the House passed H.R. 51 roundly, but it died in the Republican-majority Senate. Amid intense pressure from progressives to revive the effort this year, mainstream Democrats are forging ahead with the bill.

Republicans have just about unilaterally demurred D.C. statehood, presumably because it would enfranchise a historically blue district. D.C. has backed every Democratic presidential candidate since 1961, when the Twenty-third Amendment to the Constitution was adopted, which allotted D.C. three electors.

Last month, for example, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said in a Congressional hearing that "D.C. statehood is a key part of the radical leftist agenda to reshape America, along with the Green New Deal, defunding the police and packing the U.S. Supreme Court."

Twenty-two GOP state attorneys general penned a missive to President Biden earlier this month, expressing staunch opposition to the idea for both constitutional and policy-related reasons. "For over two centuries," they wrote, "the District's residents have all willingly lived there."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., argued in a Tuesday interview that D.C. statehood amounts to nothing more than a partisan power-grab by Democrats, who are trying "to be able to get what [they] want all the time."

"These folks are not interested in compromise," he claimed. "They're interested in passing all of their bills to remake America in spite of the mandate that they did not get last year, as rapidly as possible. And the filibuster is what prevents that. So it looks like we're down to two brave Democrats -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, preserving the institution."

The View's Joy Behar forced to apologize -- but some critics aren't buying it

"The View" co-host Joy Behar found herself apologizing for misgendering Caitlyn Jenner multiple times during a Friday broadcast, claiming that she underslept the night before.

The apology came out of a discussion between her and her fellow co-hosts about Jenner's recently announced bid for California governor. While remarking upon Jenner's high hopes of winning –– given the former athlete's political connections to aides and officials from the Trump administration –– Behar called Jenner, a transgender woman, "he" several times within the same breathe.

"He's got this guy Brad Pascale running his campaign. What do you think about that?" Behar asked her co-hosts. "I mean that guy was accused of using campaign funds to enrich himself. That's who is running his campaign—or her campaign, rather."

"I think that he should—she, rather—should take a seat and let somebody with the credentials take over a major state like California," she said, later correcting herself, after which she called Jenner a "he" again just before the segment concluded.

Following a commercial break, Behar addressed the audience to make a formal apology. "So first of all let me apologize for my pronoun mixup," she started. "I think I just didn't get enough sleep last night. I had no intention of mixing them up, and I tried to correct it immediately, but whatever, it just came out. So I'm sorry if anybody was upset by that."

Although she quickly apologized, Behar's slip-up earned her some criticism on Twitter.

"Joy Behar misgendered Caitlyn Jenner at least four times on the View this morning," tweeted New York Magazine columnist Yashar Ali. "Caitlyn transitioned over six years ago. I don't know why Joy misgendered her but it's an important reminder that we don't misgender people even if we don't like their politics."

Geoffrey Ingersoll, editor-in-chief of right-wing news site The Daily Caller, responded to Ali's tweet with a jab at the left: "Yet another reminder about how often the woke new rules don't apply to people the elites find politically distasteful."

On the significance of Jenner's bid, the View's co-hosts were notably split.

"I think it's great," declared Ana Navarro. "Breaking the glass ceiling is a good thing. A transgender Republican might change some Republican minds … if she wants to run, it's her right to run."

Co-host Meghan McCain disagreed. "I don't take this that seriously," McCain said. "I don't think she's going to win… I don't think this is the type of thing that should have on the job training."

Earlier during the broadcast, Behar apologized for an entirely separate remark made about a mom who was demanding that her child's school end its mask mandate. The mom in question, Behar said, was "bitching about" the issue.

She later walked that comment back after some pushback from McCain. "Maybe I shouldn't have said she was 'bitching,'" Behar admitted. "I apologize. It just slipped out."

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