Many thought 2020 would be the end of the Trumpist cult -- but it's actually gotten bigger

Alison from Los Angeles is one of many women who called my SiriusXM program after the 2016 election to express the turmoil they'd experienced because the men in their lives were committed Trumpists.

They were among many others callers who relayed tense conflicts — some of which boiled over into angry confrontations — with parents, children, siblings, friends and co-workers who were deep in the Trump cult. Many of these people cut off communication with the Trump loyalists in their lives, unable to have any kind of interaction that wasn't explosive, mostly because the Trumpers can't be reasoned with, become enraged and promote propaganda. Others found ways to cope, imperfect as they were.

I eventually interviewed Alison and other women later for a piece I wrote in 2018 specifically about Democratic women married to MAGA men — a piece that received a lot of attention and connected with so many more people.

In Alison's case it was her then-fiancé — the father of her twin girls — who had created chaos in their relationship as he became more immersed in the MAGA movement through the Trump years. His treatment of her was often demeaning, as he spun out lies and conspiracies. She realized there was no way they could marry, though he had to be in her life because they were parents to two children.

After the election, at the end of November, at around the same time that I posted a discussion thread here on the issue again, I connected with Alison, who reported that things had gotten a bit better.

He said he would accept [the] results of [the] election. Although he didn't at first. He didn't watch [the] inauguration and he still thought for awhile [that] Trump was going to pull through. But at some point I was able to delete all the right wing crap off his Facebook and he stopped watching Fox. He may still occasionally watch a show here and there but we don't talk politics at all. Nothing. He can still be a mean Trumper underneath and that's why I don't think we will have anything [together] as things slowly return to normal.

So, Alison knew they could never be together again, but there was hope that he was getting out of the cult and they could have civil interactions as things "return to normal."

But of course things didn't return to normal. Trump is more influential than ever, the MAGA cult has only grown, and now it embraces the 1/6 insurrectionists. In April of this year I connected with Alison again.

"The last couple times [we talked] we got into it [and] he called me a liberal/left wing cunt," she said. "He accused me of training the girls to be nasty."

The father of Alison's children is as deep in the cult as he ever was. And so many other people have unfortunately found something similar happening with husbands, wives, parents, children, siblings, friends and co-workers. It's almost like a switch dimmed the lights a bit, then went back on to full power.

A lot of people have written me in recent months asking for a discussion thread to connect with others going through the same stress. And there have been many callers to my show expressing similar sentiments.

So this is a thread for people to discuss how this has affected them and their families, friends and co-workers.

Are you experiencing something similar? Did people close to you seem to snap out of it, only to go back? Or was there never really a change at all? Maybe some of you have something hopeful to say as well — seeing someone leave the MAGA cult completely.

Newsom humiliated Republicans in California -- and provided a blueprint for Democrats

For months, as Democratic voters in California seemed complacent in the face of the Republican effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, much of the national political and punditry class in the media claimed California would send dire warnings to the Democratic Party.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

But now that Newsom trounced in a spectacular victory, with 64% of Californians voting no to the recall, the same political media — always pandering to a bullying GOP — is saying not to read much into the outcome in California.

In their latest iteration, Newsom "got lucky" because his chief opponent was Larry Elder, right-wing extremist and 25-year former radio host who pundits said had a lot of "baggage." This presupposes that some other mythical GOP candidate could have pulled it out. But no other candidate could emerge that didn't support Donald Trump, which is the real poison here.

What actually killed Elder wasn't his "baggage" in the form of things he said on the radio over the years. It was his embracing Trumpism in the here and now. He attacked vaccine and mask mandates, vowing to end them as soon as he took office. That turned out to be a driving force that got many California Democrats and independents concerned about the pandemic to pay attention.

And he promulgated the Big Liewhich he actually previously didn't support, having said earlier this year that "Biden won the election fair and square," only to reverse in August after Trumpists expressed anger. Then he went further and actually promoted a "big lie" about the 2020 election, saying it was tainted with "fraud" before it was even over, following up on Trump's same claim about the recall.

As extreme as all that sounds, it's now pretty standard for GOP elected officials and candidates all across the country. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida and Governor Greg Abbott of Texas promote both dangerous themes, as do the vast majority of GOP governors.

Former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, challenging Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro, is endorsed by Trump, supports the Big Lie, is against vaccine mandates and is even hinting he's ready to go to court to contest the 2022 election should he lose. Republican Glenn Youngkin, running for governor in Virginia this November and having hugged Trump to get the support of his base, has attended right-wing "election integrity" rallies built on the Big Lie and talks about making "reforms" to battle election "fraud."

I could go on and on, as scores of GOP House, Senate, gubernatorial and state legislative candidates are doing the exact same thing.

And they have no choice because Trump has taken the entire party hostage. That's why it's completely false to say Newsom "got lucky" with Elder. If he got lucky, then every Democrat in a competitive race is going to get lucky.

And what does that claim even mean? It's not like Elder was picked out of thin air and put into place as the main contender to Newsom just by chance. There were over 40 candidates vying to topple Newsom in the recall. Elder rose to the top because that is what the GOP base is now, built on hardcore Trumpism.

And it's even worse — for the GOP — than it seems. In polls before the race, Elder was leading the others with 26% of the vote and would have been elected governor if voters had voted yes on the first question to recall Newsom. But in the election tallies, of those who voted for a candidate after the first question on the recall, Elder pulled in 47% of the vote. That means the GOP consolidated and rallied around him, even as there were more moderate GOP candidates in the race.

The base of the GOP, in California and everywhere, wants Trumpist candidates, because Trump has transformed the party into a ghoulish nightmare of hate and lies, bringing in more and more conspiracists and pushing out people who've rejected Trumpism.

The Washington Post, in a piece that broke from much of the media's narrative, rightly noted that the recall made Newsom stronger, able to repel challengers and look to the future. What he did in California is key for Democrats everywhere: Focus on the dangers of GOP candidates and their embrace of Trump. In races in House battleground districts and in competitive Senate races in 2022, that kind of campaign can make a big difference.

The conventional wisdom that the party in power loses seats in the mid-terms can and must be turned on its head because we are in an extraordinary time in which democracy is in the balance. "Trumpism is not defeated in this country," Newsom said in his victory speech in offering both a warning and a blueprint to Democrats. They need to take that to heart.

The Supreme Court has declared war. President Biden must end it

President Biden showed enormous courage in withdrawing all American troops from Afghanistan and bringing the 20-year war to a close. It might have been politically easier, if more costly in American lives and dollars, to continue it, even sending in more troops.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

But Biden said no. He took on the military-industrial complex, his Republican enemies, hawks within his own party, and an often sensational media that stoked fires and overly-amplified critics of withdrawal.

He was resolute and committed, and never backed down.

Now we need to see the same fortitude, determination and fearlessness in response to the Supreme Court's declaration of war on women's bodies and on American democracy itself.

In a cruel action with theocratic implications, and in defiance of its own precedents, the Supreme Court, led by five far-right members, allowed the draconian Texas law banning abortions past 6 weeks of pregnancy, including for pregnancies due to rape and incest, to stand. As Slate's Mark Joseph Stern pointed out, the court effectively overturned Roe v. Wade without even addressing it — and the court did so in an unsigned decision, a decree in the middle of the night. Even Chief Justice John Roberts, a hardline conservative, couldn't go this far and sided with the court's liberals.

The Texas law, which deputizes citizens to sue people who "aid or abet" a woman seeking an abortion and receive $10,000 if they're successful, has had no judicial review at all. The Supreme Court has allowed Texas Republicans to turn citizens into bounty hunters, and to create a tip line to put targets on lists.

This is a true turn toward fascism, coming on the heels of an authoritarian president who emboldened extremists in the GOP, including Christian nationalists in the evangelical movement, and who still leads the Republican Party.

Biden issued two statements on the law — and assailed the Supreme Court — vowing to put the full force of his presidency behind protecting a woman's right to choose, a "whole-of-government" response.

But if the president is serious about that he will right now do everything he can to end or reform the Senate filibuster, including publicly and privately pressuring Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the two Democrats who've adamantly spoken against changing the filibuster, but whose votes are needed in the closely divided Senate. Then he and the Democrats in Congress must move to expand the number of judges on the federal courts, including the Supreme Court.

On both issues — ending the filibuster and expanding the courts — Biden has tepidly pushed back against the base of the Democratic Party and certainly the progressives who worked hard to get him elected. He's allowed Sinema and Manchin wide latitude by telegraphing that he's with them.

In July he once again threw cold water on ending the filibuster, even as President Obama and other Democratic Party leaders have said that it's time to end it. On court expansion — and all of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, can be and have been expanded or made smaller in the past by Congress — Biden has shown reluctance, keeping the issue somewhat open while creating a commission to study it and other court reforms.

Yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden's position on court expansion "has not changed." What that's supposed to mean is anyone's guess, since Biden didn't take a position on it and punted to a commission, which is usually a way that presidents send issues to die a slow death.

But continued reluctance is not acceptable. Biden can issue all the strong statements he wants. But there's very little he and Democrats in Congress can do with the filibuster in place.

There is not going to be a law passed codifying Roe v. Wade — as the White House and Democrats are now suggesting as a course of action — unless the filibuster is gone. And even if that were done, courts, including the Supreme Court, could rule it unconstitutional — just as they would likely do if Democrats got voting rights legislation passed.

The only answer is to right the wrongs of the GOP and Trump. Mitch McConnell blocked Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court, trampling on President Obama, and blocked many other Obama nominees to the federal courts. Then, once Trump became president, McConnell ended the filibuster for Supreme Court justice nominations, allowing Trump to put three justices on the court with just 51 votes, and fast-tracked all the other federal court appointments, allowing Trump to appoint over 200 judges — almost as many in four years as Obama appointed in eight years.

There's simply no way out of this disaster, and the continued assault on democracy, without expanding the courts. And then means ending the filibuster.

The president has been responsive to the Democratic base on a range of issues, committed to change in the face of opposition. But not on this one. And yet, this is arguably more important than any other issue now, because the Supreme Court has declared war on American democracy. It's only a matter of time before they destroy it.

Some people say that the president can't force Manchin and Sinema to change if they're determined to stay the course. But the truth is, Biden hasn't even tried, at least not publicly. And it's hard to believe that he's privately pressured them much or at all, since his own public position on the filibuster is largely the same as theirs. Why should we believe he's advocating for something privately, pressuring others to move their position, when his own public position is in line with theirs?

The reluctance must end. We need to see the same firm and committed president who stopped the war in Afghanistan now bring an end to the war the Supreme Court has declared and the continued war launched by Republicans in the Senate.

This is a do or die moment, in which the critics must be damned. Let them attack the Democrats and call them radicals. In a short period of time the American people will be very happy things are getting done and won't care about the process. And they certainly will want to see democracy saved.

Unvaccinated Mississippi man claims it's ventilators that are killing people

Continuing in my new policy on my SiriusXM show, in which unvaccinated people may call in to argue their case if they first pledge not to be hospitalized if they get a bad case of Covid, I took a call from Jeff in Mississippi.

As I explained in a previous post:

I have a new policy for anti-vaxxers. It arose after many other listeners called the program in recent days with heartbreaking stories about friends or relatives who had non-Covid emergencies in places like Florida, Texas, Georgia and Mississippi, where ICU beds are over capacity, as hospitals are swamped with Covid patients.

Jeff immediately said he will not go to the hospital — because, he said, most people with Covid who go to the hospital and go on ventilators die. At first I couldn't believe he was making this claim — that it is ventilators that cause death rather than Covid — but he persisted.

We had to strike up the "Twilight Zone" theme.

This was just astounding, and shows how deep in the cult these people are.

I explained how it is Covid that is putting people on ventilators, and that it's your last chance, as your lungs are giving out, and the ventilator is actually keeping you alive, hopefully long enough to survive. But Jeff eventually said he was "afraid" of hospitals altogether, and explicitly took the pledge again, saying that he will not go to the hospital if he gets a bad case of Covid.

He was actually the first unvaxxed person to take the pledge. Most stopped calling altogether, while others refused to take the pledge, like Roz from California.

I'm sure a lot of you will say, "Great. If he isn't vaxxed and won't go to the hospital, I'm fine with that."

I have a hard time, however, believing that when it all goes bad people like him will not seek hospital care. The same thing happened with many prominent vocal anti-vaxxers, like conservative radio talk show hosts Phill Valentine and Dick Farrel, both of whom spouted anti-vax lies only to change their minds, telling people to get vaccinated as they were hospitalized and went on ventilators. Both eventually died.

But maybe Jeff is an exception. Whatever the case, it's truly sad and demented, an example of how the right-wing has put so many lives at risk by promoting dangerous lies about Covid-19.

Listen to the call here.

Here is what Tucker Carlson forgot to tell you to save himself from embarrassment

Tucker Carlson recently full-on embraced Hungary's authoritarian leader Victor Orban, who has attacked immigrants and LGBTQ people with a vengeance. Carlson, broadcasting his show from Hungary for a week earlier this month — meeting with Orban and speaking at a far-right conference there — held Orban's anti-democratic regime up as a model for the U.S.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Orban, whom Donald Trump lauded and whom the American right is now revering, has built a wall to keep out immigrants — in particular Muslims, whom he demonizes — and deports asylum seekers without due process. And Orban's government, promoting "Christian traditions," has recently imposed a law that bans selling children's books that "promote" homosexuality or "gender change" unless the books are in "closed wrappers." And sales are completely banned within 700 feet of a church or school.

Orban announced last month that he is bringing that law to a national vote to show that Hungarians support his anti-LGBTQ agenda — a referendum campaign that allows him to scapegoat LGBTQ people and distract from more salient issues, and which will surely whip up hate and violence against queer people.

So what's not to love for the anti-immigrant, white supremacist and Christian nationalist Trumpian base?

Well, what Carlson failed to tell his viewers is that in Hungary only holders of a "certificate of protection" may currently attend any indoor or outdoor event of over 500 people, effectively shutting out sporting events, concerts, theaters, museums, fitness facilities, amusement parks, any large political rallies and much else to those without their medical papers:

Hungarian authorities issue certificates of protection to individuals who have either been vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19. Restrictions are less stringent for individuals with certificates of protection; such persons may visit indoor cultural, leisure, and fitness facilities, and be seated at indoor areas of catering establishments.

That's right, a vaccine mandate (granted, except for those who had Covid, which is dubious public health, since one could be infected again) to enter many public venues. All private gatherings, such as parties or other events, are not to be larger than 100 people (expect for weddings, limited to 400). And all healthcare workers in the country must be vaccinated against Covid, by decree of the government.

"Already there are certain vaccines that are mandatory for people working in the healthcare sector ... we have now extended this to the coronavirus," Orban said in issuing that mandate in July.

Most astounding about this is that Carlson, during his week of shows from Hungary, went on diatribes against vaccine mandates in several of his show's segments focused on the U.S., pushing his usual conspiracy theories questioning the science behind the vaccines. On one show in which Carlson glorified Orban in an interview with him and mocked those who called Orban a "fascist," he shifted into a segment attacking vaccine passports, which he clearly poses as a fascistic danger:

But now, the biggest cities in our country are mandating vaccine passports. You must show your medical papers to have lunch. Can this continue? …
..New York City just got vaccine passports and that means everybody has to show medical papers to go anywhere…but it's just the beginning.

This came literally right after he interviewed a national leader he reveres who has instituted his own vaccine passports nationally, across every city and region — and Carlson never brought it up. Orban, however, has gone much further than following good public health guidelines; he's truly used the pandemic to consolidate power in dangerous ways. The empty charge being used by the MAGA crowd against Joe Biden and Democrats —"they're taking away your freedoms! "— actually does apply to Orban.

The authoritarian leader has used the imposition of a "state of emergency" to seize power time and again. In 2015, Hungary was the only country in the European Union to impose a "mass migration emergency," triggering deportations and shutting the borders. And in 2020, Orban imposed a "pandemic emergency" and then pushed through legislation that allowed him to solely, indefinitely impose decrees regarding Covid-19. The British legal group Blackstone Chambers noted:

The Hungarian government's extraordinary power was broad in scope and without express temporal limit or strict rational connection to the areas where an urgent response to the pandemic was required.

After criticism from the Council of Europe and other international groups, the Hungarian parliament, which only works in tandem with Orban, revoked those powers — but then pretty much gave those powers back under an imposed "medical emergency."

Kriszta Kovacs at the Center for Global Constitutionalism in Berlin explains what happened next:

When the second wave of Covid-19 arrived, the country was in a mass migration emergency and a medical emergency. Yet, the government introduced the third state of emergency, this time, a state of danger. The powers that Orbán has in the state of danger are on top of those granted by the two previous emergencies. And with a constitutional amendment, a further step has been taken on the road to full-out authoritarianism. The constitutional amendment substantially broadens the conditions in which emergencies can be declared.

While countries in Europe, including Hungary, closed their borders during the pandemic's early months, they — Hungary included — also imposed strict lockdowns. But Hungary went further and canceled local elections and closed the courts, with Orban declaring an "extraordinary court holiday." Hungary also "criminalized the dissemination of falsehood and distorted facts 'suitable to interfere with the successful protection of the public'. The provision was vague enough to have a chilling effect and be used against critics and political rivals."

Hungary has had on-again, off-again nationwide mask mandates throughout the pandemic — and yes, faced Covid spikes when they were lifted — and banned the right to assembly even outdoors earlier this year, which effectively shut down any kind of protest, including, presumably, anti-mask rallies. For Orban it was another way to inhibit speech.

And again, as of now, any public assemblies of over 500 people outdoors as well as indoors can only be attended by those with a "certificate of protection." Can you imagine telling the hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters who just attended the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota — where Covid cases spiked — that they needed to have a "certificate of protection" in order to attend?

But Tucker Carlson forgot to report on Victor Orban's Covid lockdowns, mask mandates and vaccine mandates just as wannabe Orbanesque dictator Ron DeSantis was facing a Covid explosion in Florida while banning mask mandates and vaccine passports.

How convenient.

The frightening progression from intelligent person to Trump-loving anti-vaxxer

It's easy to dismiss Trump supporters as largely uneducated, and uninformed — stupid people swept up in a cult of hate that plays upon the biases rampant in American culture.

It is true that Trumpism is a cult of hate, and it's true that it emboldens bigotry and white grievance.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

But most people know some highly educated people who are supporters of Donald Trump, people who have deeply studied science and history.

And when we look at the GOP we see that only a small handful of what we'd call the educated elites of the party, the Bill Kristols and the David Frums of the world, broke away and became Never Trumpers. These people and many others in the GOP of course laid the groundwork for Trump over a period of decades, going back to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, courting bigots via dog whistles — or looking the other way as others did. Then Trump just came in and said it more blatantly.

While that was just too overt for a few of them, causing their defections, there are plenty of educated Republicans who stayed, grudgingly supporting Trump at first and then often becoming completely enthusiastic backers, giving him lots of money and fighting off any detractors.

There have been many studies on political peer pressure, and how people's political affiliation and the candidates they support are driven by their communities — family, friends, and co-workers — and how it sometimes changes dramatically as the groups pressuring them change. So it's not shocking that this happened, as horrifying as it is.

But what then could make otherwise intelligent people who've always supported medical science — some of them scientists themselves — become anti-vaxxers amid a global pandemic killing millions?

Not all of the Trumpist GOP is anti-vax of course. Trump himself got vaccinated. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has told people to get vaccinated, if not so emphatically.

But at the same time they and other Republican leaders promoted the very anti-science conspiracies about Covid and about vaccines as part of their larger attack on government institutions. It's almost as if Trump's having been vaccinated is not believed — or is ignored by his followers — and his overriding attacks on government send a larger message not to trust the CDC and thus the vaccines.

A fascinating and scary example arose on my SiriusXM program last week when Eric from New Jersey, a retired Naval officer who served on submarines, called in. He talked about a Facebook group of fellow former Naval officers to which he belonged. As has happened with many of us, these people found one another on Facebook years after having been in each others' lives, and then connected regularly. At first it was great reminiscing and chatting.

But then came the 2016 election, and the battles over Trump and Hillary Clinton. Eric explained how, going way back, "we were all Reagan Republicans" (and you can listen to the call above), but these individuals weren't very political nor talked much about politics. They were Republican, he said, in the way many in the military have tended to be Republican, almost as a cultural identification rather than a political one.

But "when this whole Trump thing started" in 2016 the arguments in the group became tense. He agreed that some were grudgingly behind Trump but then became full on. You can understand how this happens because, while "Reagan Republican" might seem very different, it's actually just a less bombastic version of a Trump Republican. Surely the road from Reagan supporter to Trump supporter is a lot shorter than the road from Reagan supporter to Hillary Clinton supporter.

Eric didn't support Trump and was caught in the middle of the battles in the group but stayed in it during Trump's four years. It was only after the pandemic, when members started to promote anti-vaccine propaganda, that he decided he had to finally leave the group. He had to actually counter conspiracies, and explain that no, "5G, has nothing to do with [the vaccines,] and that vaccine technology has been around for hundreds of years."

Some of these people were nuclear engineers, educated scientists with multiple degrees. But he said they'd respond with personal attacks, calling him a a "village idiot" or saying "I've been sick of you since Hillary." And they'd further push the distortions and lies.

That is a frightening progression, which both explains some of what we're seeing now, and underscores the dangers we face. It shows that political peer pressure works — not just with regard to party affiliation and candidates, as extreme as they might be, but with regard to even anti-science, crazy propaganda.

These are people for whom it was more comfortable, as long-time Republicans, to stay with Trump than move away. And then, it was more comfortable to hitch on to anti-vaccine dogma that had taken over the Republican Party — and presumably taken over their friends, families and co-workers — even if it went against everything they'd been taught.

I'm just speculating, but perhaps some of these people still know better and secretly got a vaccine — or even more quietly did so, like Trump, saying it while still promoting skepticism of government.

But others probably have so bought into it that they haven't been vaccinated and have encouraged the same among people they know.

Eric said what he experienced, what he saw, was something like "brainwashing and cultism."

It made me realize that, even if Trump made a pro-vaccine video urging people to get vaccinated — as many have urged him to do — it would be far too little, too late. He'd need to completely overhaul his message that government — and government science — is evil and go on a speaking tour or do ad after ad, interview after interview. And even then, these people, having so re-oriented their thinking, would have to buy it, making a complete turnaround. Even when he does briefly mention the vaccine at his rallies — and tried to take credit for them — the crowd is pretty silent.

At least with regard to this particular kind of anti-vaxxer, the Trumpian resisters — and Republican men are the largest group resisting vaccines — there really is no turning them around. Vaccine mandates by local governments, employers, schools and businesses such as restaurants, movie theaters and indoor sporting arenas are the only answer.

Trump demands Republicans keep spotlight on the insurrection -- and they do

Republicans, fearful of what will come out of the House January 6th select committee which gets underway today, keep insinuating that Democrats are obsessed with it and that there already have been many investigations — when in fact there's been no deep look at what precipitated the coordinated attack on the Capitol, including alleged ties to members of Congress and back to officials in the Trump administration.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Nonetheless it's been Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's main go-to argument for why a bipartisan commission wasn't necessary. And it's been the same with the select committee investigation of January 6th, which came about only because Republicans stopped a bipartisan commission from happening.

Over the weekend Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania even accused Democrats of wanting to focus on January 6th because they get "political advantage" out of it. In a breathtaking statement on CNN he claimed that he supported a bipartisan commission — in fact, he never voted on it, as he wasn't there for the vote which Republicans, his party, ultimately filibustered — and that when that didn't happen, Democrats should have basically moved on.

He then said that Congress should be focused on the current president rather than the former president. This was pretty ridiculous for a few reasons. First off, the January 6th assault committee investigation isn't focused on Donald Trump per se as much as on the origins of the attack on the Capitol led by his supporters and those who attended and organized the "Stop the Steal" rally, though it surely shines a light on Trump's incitement and could bring more facts to bear regarding him and other political leaders.

Secondly, Congress can do many things at once — and can surely both focus on current legislation and, as Toomey put it, the actions of the current president, as well as investigate an insurrection. Third, everyone, no matter what party, should want to find out what happened, and it's what well over 70% of Americans want. So Congress truly is doing the people's business, as it is mandated to do.

One of the most important reasons to investigate is that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI believe there will be more domestic terrorist attacks, incited by Trump and his followers, particularly around the demented conspiracy that Trump will be reinstated in August. The new chief of the Capitol Police said he fears a "repeat" of January 6th because of this. Why wouldn't the GOP want to prevent that from happening?

Fourth and most significant, it is Republicans who are actually keeping January 6th in the news, contrary to the GOP's insinuations that Democrats are obsessed with it and looking for "political advantage."

Of course, Democrats do get political advantage from pointing to domestic terrorism excused by the opposition party — something Democrats should be doing to protect the American people — but Republicans are handing it to them.

The GOP leadership could easily be taking up the issue along with Democratic leaders, just like Republican House members Liz Cheney and Adam Kinsinger, both on the select committee, are doing. But GOP leaders have chosen to embrace the twice-impeached disgraced president who defends the people who attacked the Capitol as "special" people who showed a lot of "love."

Besides the select committee, Democrats actually haven't been focused on January 6th, but rather have been focused — some would say obsessively — on a bipartisan infrastructure deal, which surely falls in line with what Toomey thinks Congress should be focused on it. Except for the news now and again about people who were charged in the Capitol assault and sentences handed down by judges, January 6th itself as a news story has largely faded into the background — and the select committee rightly will focus new attention on it.

It's Republicans, however, who are keeping it alive as a political issue by continually promoting the Big Lie, which was the entire reason why this domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol — and the "Stop the Steal" really at which the attackers gathered just prior — happened.

Over the weekend, Trump spoke in Arizona, where the GOP has been engaged for months in a fraudulent recount, claiming the election was stolen, and Trump not only continued to promote the dangerous conspiracy; he demanded that all Republicans follow him or else GOP voters won't go to the polls, and he's sent threats to many of them. He's basically handing the Democrats — and the GOP — the same environment that existed during the Georgia runoffs, which benefitted Democrats, who mobilized.

Though that was damaging to the GOP, the vast majority of Republicans in elected office right now are complying with him once again, embracing Trump's twisted lie and attempting to use it it for electoral advantage. They're running on it in statehouse races, governors' races, House races and Senate races.

As long as the GOP uses the Big Lie as an organizing tool and a political issue, they are the ones promoting and exploiting January 6th, keeping it in the forefront of politics. Democrats must respond forcefully and realize that, for the GOP this is a political mistake, as the American people overwhelmingly support an investigation and do not in any way excuse what happened.

Rather than run from it — fearful of claims by Republicans like Toomey that they are exploiting January 6th — Democrats need to supercharge the message that the opposition party is embracing the Big Lie that incited the Capitol attack, and is excusing domestic terrorism.

Right-wing Catholic moralists outed a Catholic official as gay

When news broke that Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, the General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, resigned after revelations that he was connecting with men on the gay hookup app Grindr, it seemed like something that's become familiar, bubbling over with schadenfreude. Here was another hypocrite in power — the Catholic bishop's conference is an extremely anti-LGBTQ force in the American church — revealed by gay and bisexual men who'd connected with him.

We've come to revel in these kinds of stories, where gay men on gay hookup apps reveal the truth about a right-wing politician, or sometimes a conservative religious zealot, with whom they've engaging in sexually charged chats or even met with — a person aiding and abetting the harm done to LGBTQ people with religious condemnations that drive some LGBTQ youth take their own lives, or influencing lawmakers who are lobbied to strip away rights. The story often goes viral on social media, and we're all glad to see a homophobe fall from power.

But this story isn't anything familiar. It's actually something very new (or reborn from times past) and emanates from a sinister operation: Those who collected information on Burrill are Catholic extremists, right-wing journalists at a newsletter here on Substack called The Pillar, who claim to have gotten a hold of tracking information which many Grindr users assume is anonymous, and which, if obtained, would be difficult and expensive to get. It all points to a well-funded, well-coordinated organization.

When all is said and done — and this story is still playing out — this may well lead to Steven Bannon or any one of a number of dangerous players on the right and in Trump World who've both mastered data analytics and have an agenda to crush liberal reforms within the Catholic church and hobble Pope Francis.

The Pillar editors include former editors at the right-wing Catholic News Agency (owned by EWTN), J. D. Flynn and Ed Condon, who've written for publications like the historically anti-LGBTQ National Review, as well as other conservative outfits, like the Spectator, the New York Post and the Washington Examiner. They are also Catholic canon lawyers.

Another editor is a data analytics professional. It's not known who funds The Pillar, but with editors who are journalism professionals who left full-time jobs it's highly doubtful that Substack subscriptions are paying for their livelihoods, as well as the kind of nefarious and costly research needed to do this kind of work.

Holding up their kill

The way the Pillar went about the story is quite alarming. They appear to have collected all of their information on Burrill not by engaging in reporting in which they interviewed various individuals who interacted with Burrill, confirming what they may or may not know; rather they say they "obtained" geolocation data of Grindr interactions from his phone — even claiming to have located him in a bathhouse in Las Vegas at one point — over a period of time going back to 2018. (And they are thus making assumptions based on nothing but circumstantial, if surely suggestive, information.)

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And then they went to the Catholic bishops with the information — dates and times of Burrill allegedly connecting with various men on Grindr, and locations, including the bathhouse. Soon after, the USCCB announced Burrill had resigned because of "impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior."

But The Pillar didn't publish its story until the day after the resignation.

So, they held the resignation up as a trophy, a kill, waving it around as a threat to others in the future.

In their report, they couched their rationale for pursuing the story not only as one about exposing that Burrill was "engaged in serial and illicit sexual activity."; they grotesquely attempted to conflate the use of Grindr and hookup apps with predation of underage boys — though there was no evidence of Burrill having connected with anyone underage.

They promoted the vicious stereotype of gay men as pedophiles, which is actually what hardline conservatives in the church have done in recent years to try to excuse their own leadership's toleration of child rapists within their ranks — shuffling them around from parish to parish, not bringing the issue to law enforcement — by vilely blaming it on gay priests.

It's everything the church claimed under Pope Benedict — and investigations and studies have shown it to be absolutely false — and that may give us a clue as to their motives, as The Pillar appears to be an arm of the traditionalists in the church fighting against Pope Francis's more enlightened outlook and attempts at reform.

A Warning Shot

The story in fact comes a week after Francis rankled traditionalists again by imposing restrictions on the old Latin Mass, reversing Pope Benedict. But it could also be a warning shot to Francis and others that Burrill is just the beginning, and that they'll start going after many more powerful figures in the church hierarchy.

Burrill is a priest who came up through a Wisconsin diocese with has long had staunchly conservative, homophobic leadership, like most U.S. dioceses. And he's been working for the Bishop's conference, which has fought for decades against LGBTQ rights, including same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people, and continues to do so. Many of the American bishops themselves still defend the church's actions in the sex abuse scandals, and still propagate the lie conflating homosexuality with pedophilia. More recently, the USCCB was in the news for threatening to vote to withhold communion to President Biden, a devout church-going Catholic, because he supports abortion rights.

So it's doubtful Burrill was a secret liberal force for change within in the conference, and more clear he is every bit the hypocrite he appears to be. You don't get to be elected general secretary of USCCB without toeing the line. After reading a fair number of Catholic commentators on the story, and speaking with some observers and academics, I don't believe Burrill was targeted because he was doing anything to undermine traditionalists. I think he was a pawn — and probably an easy target because he may have had so much out there regarding his activities — taken down by a group sending a message that this is what they are capable of doing.

As as journalist known for revealing the sexual orientation of public figures who were often harming the LGBTQ community, I find myself in an interesting place in following this story. I was at the center of "outing" controversies many years ago when Time magazine coined the term based on my and others' work, around the time I revealed that the multimillionaire publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes was gay after his death in 1990. So, I'm certainly not opposed to telling the truth about public figures who are working against LGBTQ rights while secretly gay themselves.

But this is about something far bigger, not in the service of helping LGBTQ people and very much in the service of seizing power within the Catholic church — ultimately in a way that harms LGBTQ people. And most alarming is the use of geolocation data that users believe is anonymous, something that tech privacy advocates have been warning about for years.

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The massive problem with Grindr

Grindr told the Washington Post "there is absolutely no evidence supporting the allegations of improper data collection or usage related to the Grindr app as purported" and said it was "infeasible from a technical standpoint and incredibly unlikely."

But Grindr has been slammed in the past for selling data to third parties — who can conceivably sell it to others — while still promising privacy to users. As Recode notes, "despite app developers' and data brokers' frequent assurances that the data they collect is 'anonymized' to protect people's privacy, this data can and does fall into the wrong hands." And there are ways to "de-anonymize" the data and track it to a particular phone, which is what happened in this case if The Pillar's claims are true.

As Recode explains:

While it's not known how Burrill's data was obtained from Grindr (assuming, again, that the Pillar's report is truthful), app developers usually send location data to third parties through software development kits, or SDKs, which are tools that add functions to their apps or serve ads…
…[Grindr] does say in its own privacy policy that it shared users' age, gender, and location with advertisers until April 2020. The Pillar said its data on Burrill is from 2018 to 2020.

All of this, however, requires sophisticated operators and, if data is being bought from third parties, lots of money. The Pillar — again, whose funders are unknown — hasn't been transparent about where and how it got the data, whether it paid for it or was given the data by someone else who might have paid for it. The Catholic News Agency, where the two top Pillar editors previously worked, published a piece the day before the resignation, warning of surveillance by tracking via apps and claiming they were offered information by an individual, which they turned down.

While that may be true, Mike Lewis, who founded the Catholic news siteWhere Peter Is and regularly covers the entities involved, wondered if CNA and The Pillar were actually working together:

The Pillar story also leaves many unanswered questions. For example, both the Pillar and Catholic News Agency (which ran a cryptic article on Monday that indicated something like this would be happening) withheld the name of the agency that provided the data. The Pillar didn't indicate who paid for the data set (note that their article said "obtained" rather than bought or purchased). For that matter, the Pillar has never disclosed their primary source(s) of funding. Did CNA and the Pillar work in tandem? Why did they target Msgr. Burrill, of all people?

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Who is behind this well-funded operation?

Dawn Eden Goldstein, a Catholic theology professor, author and journalist, dug into the story quite a bit, and in a Twitter thread offers up three people who could be behind this kind of operation and helping to fund it:

  1. Steve Bannon, who has joined ultra-conservatives in launching blistering attacks on Pope Francis (who's defended migrants and has spoken against nationalism), and certainly is familiar with data harvesting;
  2. Sean Fieler, "a multimillionaire hedge-fund manager and major GOP power player," who is also prominent in TrumpWorld or;
  3. Frank J. Hanna III, "a longtime Legion of Christ funder who made his millions selling subprime credit cards--and on his ownership of the Official Catholic Directory."
Twitter avatar for @DawnofMercyDawn Eden Goldstein: Get the Vaxx/Stop the Spread @DawnofMercyThe first possible source for The Pillar's Catholic data set is Steve Bannon. When the UK Catholic Herald launched its US publication, its directors consulted with Bannon, who advised them on collecting a mailing list of "Catholic influencers." ... A British Catholic Magazine Met With Steve Bannon To Come Up With A List Of "Catholic Influencers And Millionaires"One of Bannon's ideas was to create the "Catholic Spectator", a source said, adding that the magazine was on a "holy mission" to take on Pope

July 21st 2021

2 Retweets25 Likes

Her thread is worth a read, as there's other illuminating information. She's speculating about who might be behind this affair, of course, but based on much knowledge of the players and the field. It might be one or more of them — or none of them. But it becomes clear that this kind of story couldn't be done without people who have the contacts, capabilities and resources.

Obviously there are so many issues raised by Burrill's forced resignation based on The Pillar's actions. Certainly, the U.S. needs more laws protecting data, as privacy experts have been stressing for years.

But one of the biggest takeaways here is how, amid what is becoming an epic battle inside the Catholic church, the traditionalists have shown they will stop at nothing. Personally, I think it's a sign of weakness, an act of desperation by people trying to retain power who know they're losing, as Catholics have changed with the world, many even leaving the church; it mirrors the larger political struggle in the United States.

I don't think they will ultimately win the war, but there will likely be more casualties.

Trump supporter hilariously flops after insisting the former president has shown 'an extreme amount of compassion'

In a discussion about how many Trump supporters and Republicans are still refusing to get vaccinated as coronavirus cases surge, Steve from Pennsylvania called in to my SiriusXM program.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

He said he was fully vaccinated, and, as a Trump supporter, he had a question:

Would you have the same opinion if Donald Trump was president. Would you still be supportive of the vaccine if Donald Trump were president?

The question itself was very curious. I explained we have no idea where we'd be and that we'd likely not even be vaccinated by now if the Trump administration was in charge. I explained a few other things about Trump's recklessness with which Steve was forced to somewhat agree, though he excused Trump, noting Trump's "messaging was sometimes way off base" because "he has shown time and time again that he is not a politician."

I was fascinated that, with regard to public health, these people think it's all about politics for all of us (because it is for them), and that refusing the Covid vaccine is somehow a legitimate way for "both sides" to respond if their candidate weren't president right now.

I explained to Steve that it's actually about science and about basic competence and compassion. Trump was reckless and couldn't get anything done. Biden is competent and cares about people. There is absolutely no reason — beyond irrationality and hatred — to distrust Biden on this, and every reason to be skeptical of Trump, no matter what your politics are.

And so, I put the question right to Steve, and he couldn't answer right away on whether Donald Trump was level-headed and showed any "care" for people compared to Joe Biden. Then he finally said Trump (and Biden) both did. When I asked again flat out if Donald Trump has shown "compassion" for people, he replied:

Yeah, I believe he has. He's, uh, you know, he has done a lot of things, that, um, shows an extreme amount of compassion and human kindness.

"What? You tell me." I asked. Steve then replied in a way that was meant to make it seem like a ridiculous question — because he couldn't come up with any answers.

"Oh, come now. Come on.

Then Steve tried to change the subject immediately. But I wouldn't let him and told him he had to list the compassionate things Donald Trump has done.

No, I don't, I don't sit here — I don't want to get into an argument with you.

Eventually, Steve said, "I've gotta go."

I find these interactions valuable because they reveal something about these people who are listening and feel compelled to call in and argue, yet have little to say. I believe they're really arguing with themselves, trying to convince themselves, truly unsure about their position. I'm not sure what happens when they get off the phone but they do prove how weak their own convictions are.

Listen here.

How Trumpist terrorism is becoming normalized

A very particular, cultish and dangerous brand of domestic terrorism has been honed, and we should call it what it is: Trumpist terrorism.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

We've rarely if ever experienced domestic terrorism organized not only in the service of an ideology — white supremacy — but in the name of one person, a cult figure for whom people will kill and die, devoted to his cause and taking perceived orders from him.

But that is what is happening now.

Last week the news broke that two California men were arrested for plotting to bomb Sacramento's Democratic headquarters in the name of Donald Trump, inspired by the Big Lie that the election was stolen by Joe Biden. One of the men is alleged to have had five live pipe bombs in his home and "between 45 and 50 firearms, including at least three fully automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition."

That man, Ian Rogers, also wrote in text messages, before the January 20th inauguration of President Biden, which one agent said showed an attempt to try to stop the inauguration from proceeding:

I hope 45 goes to war if he doesn't I will…
…I want to blow up a Democrat building bad…
…Sad it's come to this but I'm not going down without a fight…
…These commies need to be told what's up…

The men were organizing both before and after the January 6th Capitol assault, and discussed other targets including California's governors mansion, the corporate offices of Facebook and Twitter and Democratic donor George Soros.

In a different time this would be wall to wall media coverage, with strong condemnations coming from the former president himself, and from the leaders of his party. But for much of the media, though they covered it, this was just another story in the blur of insurrection-related stories — including the story of a Virginia insurrectionist group exposed the week before, planning for a "revolution"and led by a man who stormed the Capitol on January 6th and now had the components for 50 homemade bombs.

Needless to say, there was no condemnation statement by the former president — who likely revels in these stories — nor from any Republican Party leader. Even Democratic leaders seemed too busy dealing with all the other assaults on democracy by Republicans to speak out forcefully about these cases.

Trumpist terrorism is becoming normalized.

It's now expected that people will engage in violence in the name of a former president of the United States. That's a blood-curdling reality, but in America right now it's not very shocking, nor surprising. And the greater danger is that if the outcry isn't loud enough — if we don't express outrage no matter how commonplace it now may appear — then it will not only be expected; it will be accepted. More and more extremists will be inspired to take up arms, to organize plots to cause massive violence in the name of Trump, hoping for bigger, more disruptive events to break through.

The Virginia extremists organized a secret militia and used a "bible study group" as cover. They were planning to blow up jails and locations where January 6th attackers who were arrested were being held, and free them. Investigator recovered the bomb components and several weapons, including an AK 47, from the group's leader, Fi Duong, who was seen in the Capitol on January 6th yelling, "We're coming for you Nancy!" The group had been infiltrated by the FBI, and if not for that, as I wrote last week, who knows how far they'd be now? And what other plots are being organized as you read this?

In that case, a member of the white supremacist Three Percenters had been recruited by Duong into the faux bible study group. And the case of the two California men who discussed blowing up the Sacramento Democratic headquarters also has a connection to the Three Percenters:

Court papers said both Mr. Copeland and Mr. Rogers had been previously affiliated with the Three Percenters, whose name is based on the false premise that just 3 percent of American colonists fought the British in the Revolutionary War.
A photograph of a Three Percenters sticker on a vehicle said to belong to Mr. Rogers was included in the documents.

Prosecutors also said one of the men emailed the Proud Boys, another far right white supremacist group loyal to Trump and which was coordinating with others in leading the January 6th attack.

The FBI doesn't officially designate these groups as "domestic terrorist organizations" in the way it labels foreign terrorist groups, constrained by law, because it may be a First Amendment violation to designate Americans in groups based on their beliefs, even as it focuses on "domestic terrorist threats and actions." And there is no charge of "domestic terrorism" under federal law in and of itself, even if someone can be given an enhanced sentence for other crimes on that basis.

And yet, at this point, we should be even more precisely labeling these particular groups, "Trumpist terrorist organizations."

These are individuals and group sharing an affinity for Trump, whom they take orders from. By not condemning these actions, Trump is implicitly encouraging them. And many of his caustic speeches and attacks on his perceived enemies, including Democrats and the government, promote and incite them.

He of course incited the January 6th insurrection, but he also incited and inspired mass shootings over the past several years, such the El Paso shooting and the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. And he's inspiring these new plots, as much as any terrorist leader in ISIS inspired attacks in this country and elsewhere.

Trumpist terror groups are clearly organizing around the country, planning violence in the name of Trump and the cause of the Big Lie. They increasingly see Trump now out there giving speeches promoting the Big Lie, and encouraging the anger and the violence. It's hard to know how far and wide this organizing is, but from the the news of the last few months — and even the past three weeks — the danger is rising.

The goal is to make it commonplace to engage in violence, to spread the idea among the Trump minions that they must grasp power by any means necessary. And to make it just another part of the political landscape that the media and politicians view as inevitable.

But we must continually sound the alarm, doing everything we can to keep it from becoming the new normal.

Every Republican should be forced to answer whether they believe this deranged Trump conspiracy

Since January 6th Republicans have moved closer and closer toward embracing Trump-backed, QAnon-created, dangerous conspiracies that inspire violence. And Republican leaders, bowing to Donald Trump and the GOP base he inspires, continue to slough off the insurrection — a domestic terrorist attack — refusing to hold Trump responsible for it and only emboldening those who perpetrated it.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Now the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI are warning of the possibility of domestic terror attacks this summer connected to a conspiracy that Trump will be reinstalled as president in August, something Trump himself has reportedly been promoting too. Per CNN:

The August theory is essentially a recycled version of other false narratives pushed by Trump and his allies leading up to and after January 6, prompting familiar rhetoric from those who remain in denial about his 2020 election loss. But the concern is significant enough that DHS issued two warnings in the past week about the potential for violence this summer.

And yet, I've not seen reporters asking Republicans every chance they get if Trump is going to be installed in August. Shouldn't Republican officials be condemning these conspiracies and shouldn't the media be sounding the alarm about how they're not? When more violence occurs will Republicans not be complicit?

The crackpot conspiracy hinges on the Arizona "fraudit." Promoters of the conspiracy, like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, believe Arizona will be the beginning of overturning the election — once Arizona and other states are proven to have been won by Trump — and Joe Biden will be shown the door. This has no basis in fact — or the Constitution — but that hasn't stopped believers from promoting it nor stopped Trump from stoking it.

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This week we saw more horrifying video of January 6th from the New York Times after a six-month investigation. It included people talking about their intent to enter the building the night before, and others saying they were commanded to do so by Trump.

This comes as the GOP, bowing to Trump, has voted in lockstep against investigations of January 6th. After Republicans in the Senate filibustered a creation of a bipartisan commission, the House voted to create a select committee to investigate January 6th, and all but two Republicans voted against it.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is more "shocked" that Liz Cheney has decided to be on the select committee than he is about the possibility of another domestic terror attack incited by Trump loyalists. He's not rebuked those Republicans like Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde who dismissed January 6th as something that looked like a "tourist" event.

And McCarthy has said nothing about those GOP House members who are courting the white supremacists behind the conspiracies, such as Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who is fundraising with a prominent white supremacist group. (Gosar denied he was doing so after it was reported, bizarrely after first promoting it in a tweet.)

An Ipsos poll found that over half of Republicans, 53%, believe Trump is the actual president — the "true" president — having absorbed the Big Lie, and they are ripe for the August conspiracy.

So reporters should be hounding GOP members of Congress, over and over again, asking them if Trump will be installed as president in August and if they in fact agree with the 53% of Republican voters who say that Trump is the "true president" of the United States.

Shouldn't those voters know where the leaders of their party stand? And shouldn't the rest of us?

Stonewall was a riot. The Capitol assault was a terrorist attack

We're coming upon the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, which began on June 28th, 1969, and are looked upon as a landmark moment in the LGBTQ rights movement. Queer bar patrons finally got fed up and fought the police, who'd been raiding bars and arresting them in brutally homophobic assaults for years.

There'd actually been uprisings elsewhere against police raids of gay bars years earlier, including in Los Angeles and San Francisco. So Stonewall wasn't the first, though it's become so in the American popular imagination.

But as we look back on Stonewall, it had me contemplating the media's having morphed the January 6th insurrection into a "riot" and the participants into "rioters," which is not only completely inaccurate; it both downplays the event and even allows those who were part of it to memorialize it in the future as some heroic act of rebellion. All we hear and read now is a reference to the "Capitol riot."

But the FBI director, Christopher Wray, called January 6th what it was: A domestic terror attack. Five people, including police officers, were left dead and dozens were wounded.

Words matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week announced a select committee would be formed in Congress to investigate the assault on the Capitol, after Republicans in the Senate filibustered a vote to form a bipartisan commission to investigate. Surely it's important that the committee and any investigations look at the event the way the FBI director described it and not as the media now dubs it, as a "riot."

A riot is a spontaneous or random event. The synonyms for it are "brawl" and "melee." What happened at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969 fits the description. Queer people struck back at the violence of the police, who'd routinely raided Stonewall and other bars, after the police had knocked people to the ground who'd gathered outside, after they'd first rounded up patrons. And the crowd, with some yelling, "Gay Power!", surged and fought back. No one planned any of this — and nobody brought any weapons with them to fight the police. This was about an oppressed, brutalized group standing up in a moment of solidarity that none of them imagined would happen even an hour earlier. A protest movement emerged from it.

On January 6th, 2020, the opposite happened. (And no, standing up to the police outside a bar is not the same as attacking the Capitol building, the citadel of American democracy, and American political leaders.) Over 10,000 angry people who'd been fed the Big Lie gathered for Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally, which was a well-planned and organized event, at which he and others told people to march to the Capitol to confront lawmakers who were about to certify the presidential election. Rudy Giuliani told the crowd to engage in "trial by combat." More than 800 people stormed the Capitol, and entered the building seeking out lawmakers and attempting to stop the certification of the presidential election.

While a few of these people might have spontaneously joined, the leaders of various right-wing extremist groups — including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters — had well-planned the assault, in coordination, and are among the over 500 people who've been arrested. They had been organizing for weeks online, and brought weapons with them, as did many of those in the crowd, who also wore military gear.

These weapons included handguns, Tasers, bear mace, crowbars, fire extinguishers, tomahawk axes, crowbars, flagpoles, knives, ice picks and baseball bats.

The day after the Capitol siege, prosecutors said, [Cleveland] Meredith was arrested in D.C. with an assault-style rifle equipped with a telescopic sight, a Glock firearm with several high capacity magazines and over 2,500 rounds of ammunition — including at least 320 "armor-piercing" rounds. He arrived too late to attend the rally, but the following day, authorities said he sent a text threatening to shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the head….
Police said in a criminal charging document that…33-year-old Christopher Alberts was slow to respond to police orders. An officer noticed a bulge on his hip and Alberts attempted to flee, but was ultimately caught with a loaded handgun and a spare magazine, along with a gas mask, pocket knife, a packaged military meal and a first aid kit. Authorities said there was one round in the handgun's chamber.

This was not a "riot." A gallows, built and brought to the event, was infamously stationed outside the event by these domestic terrorists, while the crowd chanted "Hang Mike Pence!" People had blueprints and maps of the inside of the building, seeking to find specific lawmakers, including Pelosi, to harm them.

It's enraging that much of the American media is calling the events of January 6th a "riot," because they simply would not be doing so if this weren't a group of white Americans on the far right.

They label much less organized violent events that have involved Muslim fundamentalists as "terrorism," including the San Bernadino mass shootings of 2015, in which 14 people were killed. According to the FBI, the two attackers were "homegrown violent extremists" who were "inspired" by terrorist leaders thousands of miles away, among jihadists in ISIS. They'd never made contact with those leaders and weren't directed by any groups and weren't part of any network, but rather were, per the FBI, driven by "poison on the internet."

It's bad enough that Republicans are downplaying January 6th, with one having infamously said it looked like a "tourist" event. A judge has rightly slammed such GOP House members in sentencing a woman who participated. "I'm especially troubled by the accounts of some members of Congress that January 6 was just a day of tourists walking through the Capitol," Judge Royce Lamberth stated this week. "I don't know what planet they were on. ... This was not a peaceful demonstration. It was not an accident that it turned violent; it was intended to halt the very functioning of our government."

The people who organized the insurrection and entered the building brought weapons and plotted harm against political leaders and attempted keep a function of democracy, the certification of the presidency, from happening. They, too, were inspired by "poison on the Internet," much of it driven by one man, Donald Trump, a man who promotes terrorism, and who promoted the lie that underpinned the well-planned Capitol assault.

To call January 6th a "riot" is a grave disservice to our country. Any investigation needs to begin by rightly calling it a terrorist attack.

Trumpian anti-LGBTQ haters are targeting Pride flags as they mount a resistance in Biden's America

I wrote a few weeks ago about several jarring incidents in which rainbow flags symbolizing queer Pride were vandalized or had triggered acts of violence against people, in addition to demands of removal from property.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Now comes this story this week out of Eastland Cove, a condo development just north of gay-friendly Fort Lauderdale, in Broward County, Florida. A gay couple, Mike Ferrari and Bob Plominski, have lived there for over 10 years, and have hung Pride flags in the past. But this year they received a letter from the Eastland Cove Homeowners Association that they must remove their flag from their mailbox or be fined $50 and $10 additionally for each day they refuse to remove it. They're standing firm, and have taken their story nationally.

Sure, homeowners associations have wide discretion on decorations, including flags, and some are quite strict. But the key issue here is that Ferrari and Plominki have flown a rainbow flag for years. The association's rules state that only American flags, state flags or military flags may be flown, but no one complained in the past. Now, however, one or more people lodged a complaint and the board says it was compelled to demand the couple remove the flag.

Why didn't anyone care enough in the past to file a complaint, but now they have? It could be any of a number of reasons — including someone new moving in — but I'm betting, looking at what's happening all over the country, that it's more of an assertion of backlash by people who were emboldened by Donald Trump's expressions of hate. That included his administration's stripping LGBTQ rights and removing rainbow decorations and Pride flags from embassies around the world. The Trump White House had reversed course from the Obama White House, not marking Pride month with a proclamation, nor flying a rainbow flag or lighting the White House in rainbow colors.

But President Joe Biden, in rapid pace, reversed Trump's horrific executive orders that harmed LGBTQ people. And now the embrace of Pride by the White House is back — and the flags are flying at embassies around the world, including at the Vatican — while the haters are lashing out now in an act of resistance in Biden's America.

Certainly there have been hateful attacks on Pride flags since the time it was created by activist Gilbert Baker in 1978, through some of the most overtly homophobic times this country has seen, including during the escalation of the AIDS crisis. But in 2021 the attacks seem to have escalated in a way that shouldn't be happening at this point in time. It's like we're gong backwards — or there is a backlash by people who feel very threatened by the current reality, in which Trump lost the election but they believe it was stolen and their rightful place was taken away. As I wrote a few weeks ago:

A Sacramento church had its Pride flag burned last week. A student in Florida was brutally stomped on for bringing a Pride flag to a picnic. Boaters terrorized people in another boat on a lake in Washington state two weeks ago because they flew Pride flags on their boat (Ironically, the only harm came to the harassers, whose boat exploded, ignited by an engine fire during the altercation). Wisconsin homeowners were told by their association to remove Pride flags; they got creative and doused their home in rainbow floodlights.

Since then, a Pride flag was vandalized at a vintage shop in a town in Maine. A church outside of Cleveland reported its Pride flags were stolen two dozen times. Pride flags were stolen from the streets of Boise, Idaho. A teen at a Washington state university allegedly burned a Pride flag. A California city even refused to fly the flag at the request of residents.

And on social media people are reporting their flags stolen or vandalized.

This is obviously beyond complaints about the flag being flown, with some incidents resulting in violence. The student in Largo, Florida who carried a Pride flag, a 12-year-old named Leo Hoffman, who identifies as nonbinary, was "drug to the ground, stomped on, and covered in water" as students attempted to wrestle the Pride flag away. A relative posted a video of the violent incident on Twitter:

During the Trump administration a study commissioned by GLAAD showed how people became emboldened to express their animosity toward LGBTQ people, showing less acceptance publicly. I believe that just like everything else regarding the Trump base, there's resistance to and anger at the reality of the Biden era, and the embrace of LGBTQ rights.

It's true Trump actually unfurled a rainbow flag during his 2016 campaign at an event, in an attempt to insinuate he supported LGBTQ rights while he made promises to enemies of equality. But by 2020 there was no such attempt to even fake it, as the religious right wouldn't tolerate it and he desperately needed them. Trump not only refused to acknowledge Pride; he banned Pride flags from flying at embassies around the world, and the Pentagon banned Pride flags from being displayed on military bases.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that those who Trump encouraged in their hatred of LGBTQ people would now be lashing out at displays of rainbow flags — whether by burning them, stealing them or engaging in violence against those who are carrying them.

A bright spot has been the powerful support the targets of these attacks have often received, in their communities and beyond. The couple in Broward County who hung a rainbow flag and received a notice from the homeowners association received support from many neighbors who have now put up their own rainbow flags. Their story has gone national and support has come from around the world.

And, in a related Pride story, it was amazing to see the first NFL player come out yesterday, marking Pride month. Las Vegas Raiders' Carl Nassib, announced he is gay and is celebrating his coming out by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, the group focused on prevention of suicide among LGBTQ youth. These actions show both how far we have to go — that it's even news that an NFL player came out — and how a moment like this, which underscores the importance of visibility, could really push back against the hate we're seeing as the Trumpian backlash unfolds.

Symbols like the Pride flag can be taken for granted or even scoffed at by some who just are not flag-wavers. But when the attacks on the flag are part of a backlash by people who feel empowered in this time, it's an attack on all of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

New evidence makes it clear that Trump's attempted coup is still playing out

There were so many terrible abuses of power that Donald Trump and the GOP succeeded at during the previous administration — from refusing to cooperate with investigations of wrong-doing to reappropriating funds to Trump's racist border wall — that we sometimes forget where they failed. The failures were often by sheer luck — or incompetence —and sometimes they were because someone in Trump's orbit chickened out and just wouldn't go that far.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Republicans are making sure, however, that they get it right next time.

A newly-released trove of emails shows how far Trump went in trying to overturn the election of 2020. The House Oversight Committee yesterday released emails revealing further evidence of how Trump tried to use the Justice Department even after Attorney General Bill Barr was packing up and heading out the door, refusing to continue efforts to overturn the election.

Ten days before Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen began his job, Trump contacted him claiming Dominion Voting Systems machines in Michigan were rigged to hurt him and help Joe Biden. The email from Trump's assistant to Rosen, which went out on December 14th, claimed, "We believe it has happened everywhere." This occurred after courts had turned away several attempts to contest the election based on these conspiracy theories.

Trump also demanded the Justice Department challenge the election at the Supreme Court. At the same time, Mark Meadows, Trump's chief of staff and a still-dangerous true believer, was pressuring Rosen in emails to open an investigation into a completely ludicrous claim that people in Italy were using satellite technology to switch votes in machines in the United States from Trump to Biden, something Richard Donaghue, the then-acting deputy attorney general, said in an email was "pure insanity." The day before, Meadows sent an email asking Rosen to open an investigation into voter fraud in Georgia.

Rosen pushed back on these attempts, just as the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed back on Trump's attempt in a phone call to get him to "find" over 11,000 votes to put Trump over the top in the state — an action that has Reffesperger and his wife now the target of continued death threats by Trumpist extremists.

What is extraordinary to think about is if Barr — a Trump loyalist who corrupted the Justice Department for Trump — had gone along with Trump's plans, or if Rosen (whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general in 2019 and who also protected Trump and his cronies in that position) had gone along, or if Raffensperger and number of other Republican officials in the states had done so, we truly could have seen complete chaos including the possible overturning of the election. And what if GOP-appointed and Trump-appointed judges had gone along?

So democracy was actually momentarily saved by some of the very corruptors of the Department of Justice whom Trump had put in place. Rosen was a loyal soldier until then. He'd moved to stop disbursements of money to Puerto Rico, stalled a probe of Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for his own corrupt actions and was, like Barr, doing Trump's dirty work throughout DOJ. As soon as he pushed back on Trump in the aftermath of the election, however, he faced an internal failed coup attempt at the DOJ himself, when Trump tried to replace him in the last days with a low-level official who had met with Trump and whom Trump was going to use to overturn the election.

That failed as others in the DOJ helped Rosen thwart it. If that attempt had succeeded, however, it's unsure what would have happened, just as if Barr, Rosen and others had been compliant with Trump even in those last desperate moments.

But now the GOP is ready to make sure that kind of pushback can't happen — including installing officials who won't turn out to be the yellow bellies that Barr, Rosen and others did in the end. Don't believe anyone who says the GOP is afraid of Trump and is quietly hoping Trump will go away, bowing to him only to placate him. That's a distortion of who and what the GOP has become — a neo-fascist movement that will use violence to get what it wants. That's not an exaggeration, and the proof is that the party refused to have a commission investigate the domestic terror attack — the insurrection — incited by Trump and led by his supporters, who killed and wounded police officers.

The political leaders left in the GOP created Trump, they see that the corruption and cheating works — and is the only way they believe they'll maintain power — and they've stripped of power those few (like Liz Cheney) who've spoken out. And there are now so many, in Congress and in the state legislatures, who are very loyal, making sure that even the paltry but critical pushback among some in the GOP we saw in 2020 can't happen again.

The voting restrictions states are putting in place are designed to overcome any obstacles, far beyond suppressing votes. Secretaries of state have seen their power taken away, local elections boards installed with Trumpists have been given more power and more power has been given to judges to overturn elections. If these actions help them win back Congress in '22 and the White House in '24 just imagine what they'll do to the Justice Department if they get control again.

They'll make sure that whoever takes over goes much farther than Bill Barr and Jeffrey Rosen — a frightening thought indeed — and is willing to stick it out to the bitter end, killing democracy as we know it and installing an authoritarian, whoever it may be (or a series of them), perhaps for the rest of all our lives.

Anti-vax caller gets shut down after claiming COVID-19 vaccines violate 'Nuremberg Code'

During a segment on my SiriusXM program in which we discussed a Houston hospital suspending employees until they get the vaccine, anti-vaxxer Anne from Washington called in.

She claimed that the vaccines are "experimental" and thus are a violation of the "Nuremberg Code." This is a dangerous conspiracy that's gained traction on social media.

While vaccines or any drug are technically considered in the experimental phrase when they still have emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration — pending full approval — there is nothing "experimental" about these vaccines. They've been tested for safety and efficacy in trials. Like all new — and older drugs — trials will continue. But the vaccines are safe and work.

More than that, the Nuremberg Code was about forcing experiments on people in concentration camps — brutal, terrible experiments on Jews and others who were tortured and died. Claiming this about the vaccines is an insult to all Holocaust victims, survivors and their families. It's an insult to the world. No one is being forced into any experiment.

These vaccines will soon have full approval. Businesses have a legal right to require vaccinations for employees. Actually, the federal and local governments, per a 1905 Supreme Court ruling, can require everyone to be vaccinated — which governments currently are not doing.

The lies and misinformation have to be combatted, and people like Anne are pushing conspiracies that we have to take on. I eventually had to shut her down when she claimed vaccines cause autism, which has been shown to be absolutely false.

Listen here.

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