Tucker Carlson's pathological obsession with homosexuality, exposed

Last week, social media lit up with screen grabs of Tucker Carlson's yearbook entry from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1991, which was confirmed by the college, listing the "Dan White Society" as a club to which Carlson stated he belonged.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

It was a grotesque, homophobic and violent display, as Dan White was the anti-gay killer of gay civil rights leader and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Mascone, both of whom White assassinated in 1978 at City Hall in a horrendous act of gun violence and a homophobic hate crime.

There is no Dan White Society, at least not any that any other student at Trinity listed as having been a member. Carlson also listed membership in the "Jesse Helms Foundation," referring to the late Republican senator from North Carolina who led a crusade against queer people in the 80s and 90s, exploiting fear and whipping up hate as AIDS came into the forefront of American society, preventing LGBTQ people from attaining protections amid rampant discrimination. The fact-checking site Snopes found no other reference in the yearbook to a "Jesse Helms Foundation" either.

Jeet Heer did an instructive deep dive last week that is worth a read, looking at why a 22-year-old college student in 1991 would be paying tribute to a homophobic hate crime over a decade earlier, noting the intense homophobia on the right at that time.

Indeed, Carlson seems to have been obsessed with homosexuality going way back, having co-written a letter in the college paper in 1990 stating that homosexuality is "unnatural and unhealthy," responding to an article in the paper that had detailed homophobia at Trinity College.

I've written in the past about stories that surfaced in which Carlson expressed revulsion at homosexuality — and one incident in which he reveled in a violent response.

In 2007 Carlson told Dan Abrams on MSNBC that he smashed a man's head "against the stall" in a public rest room, claiming the man had "bothered" him, though not at first saying he was responding to a sexual advance — just that he was "bothered." In hindsight, it was stated with the zeal we've come to learn is a mark of heterosexual men who are insecure about their own masculinity and sometimes their own sexuality.

The discussion had been focused on Republican Senator Larry Craig of Idaho — a vocal homophobe, and a senator who voted consistently anti-gay — who was arrested for soliciting sex at an airport rest room from a male undercover cop in Minneapolis that year. And Carlson, with bravado, decided to go off on this tangent, heralding the gay-bashing he'd once committed. It seemed to be a way of normalizing a violent response by straight men to homosexuality to send a threat to gay men.

Even if it was a sexual advance that Carlson experienced — Carlson claimed the following day, in an email he sent out to the press after a lot of online criticism, that he was "assaulted" by the man — his action still was not an act of self-defense: Carlson said he left the rest room after the man had "bothered" him, and then went back with a friend, explaining that they then "grabbed" the man and "hit him against the stall with his head." (Interestingly, after Abrams challenged Carlson's action, Carlson went on to say, in what appeared to be a strange joke, "Let me be clear, I am not gay.")

In 2019, Media Matters released audio clips of Carlson making racist and homophobic comments, including using an anti-gay slur, telling shock jock host Bubba the Love Sponge in 2006, "I like you too...but I actually mean it in a completely f----t way."

Last year Carlson's top writer was exposed by CNN as having written bloodcurdlingly racist, misogynistic, homophobic comments in online forums for years, and resigned from Carlson's show and Fox News. Carlson had in the past publicly lauded Blake Neff for his contributions to Carlson's show, while Neff had told the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine regarding Carlson that "anything he is reading off the teleprompter, the first draft was written by me." All the while, and right up until he resigned, Neff was posting vile slurs and promoting hate against women, Black people, queer people and others, actively involved in ongoing discussions with white supremacists.

While Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace put out a statement at the time claiming that, "Fox News Media strongly condemns this horrific racist, misogynistic and homophobic behavior," Carlson, after stating on the air that Neff's online comments were "wrong" and that Neff was "ashamed," defiantly defended Neff as if he was someone who made a minor mistake (at which he got caught) and was now being unfairly targeted: "We should also point out, to the ghouls now beating their chests in triumph at the destruction of a young man, that self-righteousness also has its costs. We are all human."

Carlson's many attacks on transgender people also further reveal how threatened he is by sexual and gender identity. Last year he said that it's "grotesque" for kids to identify as transgender, and just last month he stated that trans people "threaten the perpetuation of the species." With murders against transgender people in 2020 surging — and violence against transgender people reaching the highest level in five years, following the election of Donald Trump and his vicious anti-trans presidency — there's no question Carlson's words embolden those who engage in violence.

Carlson's defenders might say that Carlson's words are no different than many public figures who once made homophobic or transphobic comments, or promoted anti-LGBTQ polices, but "evolved" over time. But Carlson's comments on transgender people alone are coming in just recent weeks, and he's not apologized for past statements on gays or stated any changed positions on homosexuality. In fact, he refused in 2019 to apologize for the comments he made on Bubba the Love Sponge, responding on his show that he would "never bow to the mob."

And last week's revelation about Carlson's yearbook, coupled with his sick 2007 bragging about beating up a gay man in a rest room, sets Carlson apart as a pundit who has promoted and reveled in violence against queer people. In the case of the murders of Harvey Milk and Mayor Mascone, he celebrated assassinations motivated by homophobia. It doesn't get more hateful — or more dangerous — than that.

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Kevin McCarthy continues to promote a delusional fantasy with his laughable defense of the GOP

Suddenly unnerved, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy absurdly responded over the weekend to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's and other MAGA-loyal House members' proposed "America First Caucus," by tweeting, "The Republican Party is the party of Lincoln & the party of more opportunity for all Americans—not nativist dog whistles."

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

What planet has he been living on?

This is the same Kevin McCarthy who crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to bow to the Insurrectionist-in-Chief, the former president who inspired an attack on the Capitol by militias, conspiracists and white supremacists groups — groups that agree with his views that Mexicans are murderers and rapists, that Muslims should be banned from the entry to the country and that too many people from "shithole" countries are coming to the United States.

This is the same Kevin McCarthy who leads a party that is now fighting against having a commission to investigate that siege on our democracy. It's the same Kevin McCarthy whose party is openly and vigorously attempting to stop Black people from voting, is defending police terrorizing communities of color and is demonizing transgender Americans.

And even in this moment, McCarthy refused to call out his colleagues by name —Greene, Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul Gosar of Arizona and others who warmed up to idea of the America First Caucus and its racist overtones — because he's too cowardly to take on the MAGA crowd.

The party of Lincoln? No, the GOP is the party of Trump. The chance to make it anything but that was lost when McCarthy and the vast majority of Republicans in the House and Senate refused to impeach Trump for inciting an insurrection — and when McCarthy and others voted to overturn the presidential election.

And Trump for four years promoted nativism more openly and loudly than any modern president. Forget the "dog whistles." He used a bullhorn.

The truth is, McCarthy actually would rather the GOP go back to the days of the more subtle dog whistles, before the party had a president who ranted about dangerous migrant "caravans," inspiring mass-shootings as well as losing elections for the GOP, such as what happened in 2018's blue wave.

So when McCarthy saw the report of a leaked document describing the organizing platform of Greene's American First Caucus, with it's promotion of "Anglo-Saxon political traditions," surely he began fretting about those suburban voters the GOP has lost and the supercharged turnout among Democrats of the past few years:

America is a nation with a border, and a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions," the draft caucus platform says. "History has shown that societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.

Holy crap. The platform also attacks birthright citizenship and claims that immigrants coming to the United States before 1965, "were more educated, earned higher wages, and did not have an expansive welfare state to fall back on when they could not make it in America and thus did not stay in the country at the expense of the native-born."

And just in case the document didn't sound enough like it came out of the files of Mussolini or Hitler, the proposal lauds, "the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom."

Of course, all of these ideas were promoted by Trump and his administration, right down to the architectural flourishes, detailed in an an executive order he signed last year attacking modern architecture of some federal buildings and demanding only "classical" structures be built for the future.

So yeah, McCarthy saw nothing but trouble in saying the quiet part out loud — preferring to say the quiet part quietly — and sent out his tweet, though named no names. Greene backtracked — in her caustic, angry way —- attacking the media, saying the caucus was just in discussion and the document was just a "draft" that she'd not yet read, as did Gosar. But MAGA maniac Gaetz, currrently under investigation for sex-trafficking, said he'd be "proud" to be a member of the America First Caucus, while Gohmert, sounding dumb as rock as usual, defended the caucus while feigning ignorance of the organizing document, stating, "It's not supposed to be about race at all."

No matter what happens regarding any official caucus, you can bet the base of the GOP, and its so- called leaders, will continue to back or tolerate these vile positions and policies because they are Trump's — and Trump owns the party. McCarthy's laughable claim that the GOP is not a party of "racist dog whistles" takes me back to when President Obama compared the GOP to "the flat earth society" for its denialism on climate change, which had GOP leaders expressing outrage at the idea of being called anti-science.

That was 2012, and the party leaders have only continued to promote a fantasy of what the party is, while Trump and his MAGA loyalists in the House, Senate and state legislatures and governors mansions across the country are truly defining the GOP's direction and priorities.

It sure seems like Matt Gaetz was preparing to get caught at something

Florida GOP congressman and Trump loyalist Matt Gaetz may or may not have committed a crime connected with what we've learned from media reports: That he's being investigated by the Justice Department for sex-trafficking, which also might involve a 17-year-old girl, and, according to the the Daily Beast late last week, that he paid money to an accused sex trafficker, who then venmo'd money to a teen.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

But it does appear as if he's anticipated, perhaps for years, that he one day might be the target of sexual allegations. With even Donald Trump now reportedly refusing a meeting with Gaetz, every day seems to bring new evidence of that.

Former House member Katie Hill last week said she now questions Gaetz's motives in defending her back in 2019, when she resigned from Congress amid a media-driven sex scandal.

Private nude photos from the past of the openly bisexual California Democrat with her then-husband — from whom she'd become estranged by 2019 — and another woman were published without her permission in a British tabloid while reports surfaced about Hill's involvement in a then recent inappropriate relationship with a female staffer.

"Who among us would look perfect if every ex leaked every photo/text?" Gaetz tweeted in response at the time.

So, a right-wing Republican was defending a progressive Democrat targeted by people trying to hurt her career via sexual allegations? And this was Matt Gaetz, the original MAGA attack dog.

It smelled back then, and it stinks to high heaven now.

Gaetz conveniently is using that defense of Hill in his own current defense. He vehemently denied the sex-trafficking allegations and illegal interactions with a minor in an op-ed, claiming the "swamp" is trying to take him down:

I defended Rep. Katie Hill's "throuple" when her own Democratic colleagues wouldn't. I just didn't think it was anyone's business.

Of course, that defense is absurd, and insulting to Hill — comparing apples to oranges — but it is curious. And the curiosities don't end there. Gaetz, who, according to a recent CNN report, shared sexually explicit photos and videos of women (with whom he had allegedly had sex) with colleagues on the House floor — among several issues the House Ethics Committee is now investigating — killed a revenge porn bill when he was in the Florida House of the Representatives in 2014.

That is, he killed a bill that makes it a crime to share sexually explicit photos of others without their consent. The bill had passed the State Senate, but, according to the Orlando Sentinel, a House committee chaired by Gaetz wouldn't take it up. When the bill did get a vote in both chambers a year later, only Gaetz and his roommate, Republican state Rep. John Tobia, voted against it.

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The former lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Republican Tom Goodson, told the Sentinel last week that he'd met with Gaetz at the time, who explained why he was voting no:

Matt was absolutely against it. He thought the picture was his to do with what he wanted…He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.

Since Gaetz reportedly shared photos on the U.S. House floor of his sex partners, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's been doing that for years, even before he was in the Florida Legislature.

It might seem stupid to block or vote against a revenge porn bill — especially since it will pass overwhelmingly anyway, and your vote will stand out — but it might insulate you from being exposed for hypocrisy if a reporter found out you did in fact share photos without consent. (Or at least, a guilty legislator might think that was a good strategy.)

And that brings us to Gaetz being the only U.S. House member to vote against a human-trafficking bill in 2017. Why would you bring that kind of attention to yourself? Did Gaetz again possibly calculate that it was better to vote against the bill and have a high-minded reason in case any other information one day was alleged? At the time, he said he voted against the bill because it was an example of "mission creep," and an "expansion of the federal government," and that he wasn't sent to Congress "to create more federal government."

Those statements reflect the Trumpian suspicion of the federal government that fuels the paranoia of anti-government groups — like those that attacked the Capitol on January 6th — and conspiracies about a dangerous "deep state" cabal in the federal government trying to take down conservatives and, in particular, Trumpists like Gaetz. Is it any wonder then that Gaetz over the weekend suggested that he is a victim — a "wanted man" — of the "deep state" that may be trying to destroy him?

It's as if the very skepticism he expressed about the human-trafficking bill in 2017 — the supposed danger of big government — now fits neatly with his defense in 2021. And that will help him keep his paranoid, anti-government Trumpian following loyal to him and refusing to believe contrary evidence, even if more damning facts are revealed in coming days and weeks.

Anti-vaxxer rages at vaccine passports but can't explain why he wears clothes or follows speed limit

In a discussion on my SiriusXM show about resistance to the coronavirus vaccines among evangelical Christians, the discussion at one point focused on businesses and other venues requiring proof of vaccination for entry.

My position is that everyone should get the vaccine to protect themselves and others —and help bring us to herd immunity — but if they choose not to, no business or public venue should be required to allow them entry.

In fact, it would only be responsible for operators of open public places, including private businesses, to require proof of a vaccination. And government has a responsibility to make sure they do — contrary to the reckless efforts of politicians like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who's moved to ban businesses from turning away those without proof of vaccination — if we're to stop the transmission of coronavirus and end the pandemic.

Rob said "I'm a 40-year-old male" who is healthy I'm not going to take a vaccine that was "spit out" in less than ten months, and claimed Covid-19 posed him little risk. Never mind that the basics of the coronavirus vaccines were actually developed over 10 years ago, going back to the SARS epidemic, and Covid vaccines would have been developed even more quickly if not for the Trump administrations defunding the National Institutes of Health and then, later, the botched rollout of the vaccines; Rob's claim that Covid-19 isn't a concern or a threat to his health — and others he might infect — is ludicrous and dangerous.

I told Rob that it was his choice not to get the vaccine, but he should not be allowed into any public place where he could transmit it to others. This was met of course with outrage, as he complained about the "government," as a "libertarian," encroaching on his rights.

But then Rob couldn't answer why he should be required to wear clothes into a store — and why he didn't walk around naked — nor why he follows the speed limit while driving.

His reasoning completely fell apart, and exposed the anti-vaxxers as devoid of logic or consistency. For many of these people, it's about fears and phobias and myths — and they all have to be addressed as we need as many people as possible to get vaccinated — but for others, as Trumpers, it's simply attempting to own the libs.

Listen in and let me know your thoughts.

The GOP is rigging the system right before our eyes

President Joe Biden's Covid relief package is widely popular with both Democratic and Republican voters, yet not one Republican senator looks like he or she will vote for it.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Equally popular is bringing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, something the Senate parliamentarian — someone no one elected to office — ruled cannot be in the relief package passed under budget reconciliation. (Frankly, I'm with those House Democrats who say ignore the parliamentarian — which the party in power has the option of doing — because we have nothing to lose and everything to gain).

An effort to raise the minimum wage as a standalone bill will likely not get 10 GOP senators needed to avert a filibuster. Nor will the broad LGBTQ anti-discrimination bill, The Equality Act, passed last week by the House. Nor will HR 1, the For the People Act, which will dramatically expand access to voting across the country and stop the anti-democratic agenda of the GOP. Nor will the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will halt what the Supreme Court is systematically doing in allowing states like Texas, Georgia, Arizona and many others to radically suppress Black votes and steal elections.

And it simply doesn't matter that all of these bills have popular support among Americans.

Republicans couldn't care less about that. They're confident in installing minority rule and — despite Democrats having control of the White House right now and a slim grip on the House and the Senate — the GOP'a put everything in place to allow for it, including the ability to protect themselves against the will of the majority.

That's why there will no ramifications for the GOP for not supporting Biden's agenda and for blocking him and Democrats from getting these important initiatives passed — unless Democrats get very bold, very fast.

The GOP has gerrymandered the House radically — and that will only continue, as they made bigger wins in state legislatures in 2020, and thus have the power to redistrict and gerrymander further. And the Senate has always been rigged to help the GOP and is only getting worse, with millions of Americans in states like California and New York having far less representation and voting power in the Senate than those in Wyoming, South Dakota and Idaho.

The Supreme Court, which the GOP stacked under Donald Trump, is helping to make sure the Republican Party maintains its grip. In oral arguments regarding Arizona's GOP-passed voting restrictions this week, the Supreme Court's conservative block signaled it will further gut the Voting Right Act of 1965, which it had already stripped bare in 2013. That should be a red alert to everyone.

And the corporate media and Beltway "both sides" press, always cowed by the GOP, will also help the GOP enormously: If the Republicans block Biden's agenda, mainstream journalists will report it as Biden and the Democrats "not compromising" — without pointing out that the GOP in Congress represents a minority of Americans and is hindering the majority of Americans who want vital bills passed. Unfortunately, this then is absorbed by a lot of voters who don't follow politics very carefully. Democrats are hit with the blame — and voters then take it out on them.

That's true of independents who don't have an allegiance to either party and who voted for Democrats but might sway back to the GOP, but it's also true of the progressive base voters of the Democratic Party, many of whom will be disgusted at Democrats' lack of fight, and then just stay home in the next election, no matter how much activists try to get them out. Who could blame them for believing that politics just doesn't work for them?

If, however, Democrats were to get major legislation signed into law — boldly doing whatever it takes — and deliver for the majority of Americans who support their initiatives, not only would democracy actually work, but Republicans would be hurt by it. Voters would see that, no, this isn't about Democrats not working with Republicans — it's about Republicans not representing the majority's interests and cutting themselves out of the process. There simply would be no other way for the media to spin it, or for Republicans to spin it to the media.

That's why it's vital that Democrats end or reform the filibuster, something I'm sure I sound like a broken record on — but it's do or die right now. Standing in the way are two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who's been opposed to ending the filibuster, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said when asked in recent days about when he might be open to ending the filibuster, "Jesus Christ, what don't you understand about 'never'?"

This is a pathetic state of affairs. Many Democratic senators, from Elizabeth Warren to Jeff Merkley, have publicly called for ending or reforming the filibuster, and surely they're frustrated with Sinema and Manchin. As Norm Ornstein wrote earlier this week in the Washington Post:

Democrats are right to see the urgency: Republican state lawmakers around the country are moving to enact voter suppression measures that will, if passed, put the slender Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives in jeopardy in 2022 and beyond. Without democracy reform, and with the Supreme Court's recent assaults on the Voting Rights Act, sticking with the filibuster could make it nearly impossible for the Biden administration to pursue its agenda.

Ornstein proposes reforms to the Senate filibuster which wouldn't kill it but would gut it, and which might make these two senators comfortable. There have been various proposals to reform the filibuster for legislation without killing it completely, including exempting the filibuster solely for bills pertaining to voting and/or civil rights.

What we're not hearing about right now is how these two senators are being brought into discussions with other Democrats and the White House about what it will take for them to agree to some kind of reform that will allow crucial legislation to pass. Until that happens, it's hard to take seriously those Democrats, including the president, who say they're doing everything they can to move legislation through the Senate and stopping the GOP from blocking it.

Because the only way to do that is to get all 50 Democratic senators — including Sinema and Manchin — to agree to change the filibuster, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. And if we're not seeing those efforts on the part of every Democratic leader, then the inability to get their agenda passed — and the losses that may come in 2022 and beyond — is on every single one of them.

Susan Collins just revealed her duplicitous, vengeful, true self

The Equality Act is being voted on in the House this week, a landmark bill that would add LGBTQ people to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and bring protections to millions who live in the majority of states without protections in housing, employment, public accommodations and other spheres of life. It's more vital than ever because Republicans in state legislatures around the country are pushing dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills as Trumpism and its devotion to religious extremists further grips the GOP.

This article was originally published at The Signorile Report

Senator Susan Collins was the only Republican co-sponsor of the Equality Act when it passed in the House in 2019, but she suddenly said this week that she will not co-sponsor the current bill.

What has changed between now and then?

One important thing that changed is that the bill actually has a shot of being passed, as it will certainly get a vote in the Senate after passing the House, and there's a president who will sign it. And the other is that the largest LGBTQ rights group, the Human Rights Campaign, a long-time supporter of Collins, had supported her opponent in the 2020 election, citing her embrace of Trump as he pursued an anti-LGBTQ agenda. That angered Collins, who called it "partisan politics" (and then accepted the endorsement of an anti-LGBTQ group).

Of course, a true believer in equality of the millions of LGBTQ people across the country wouldn't let something like an endorsement by one group affect her judgement, right? And surely, since the bill will certainly get a vote in the Senate, with Democrats in control of the chamber but in definite need of Republican votes to break a filibuster, you'd think a supporter of civil rights would be ready to sign aboard immediately, right?

But Collins' refusal to sign on reveals the fraud that she is. She never cared about passing the Equality Act, and only cared about posing as a moderate to win re-election — a tried and true strategy of hers, which the media continually enables and promotes. She'd been further exposed as a hard-right zealot committed to Mitch McConnell 's agenda after the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and her vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court, and needed some cover.

Supporting the Equality Act was an easy position for Collins to take in 2019 since the Equality Act had no chance of actually passing and thwarting Trump's and the GOP's agenda. McConnell let it go to his graveyard of bills, refusing to give it a vote. And Trump had said he'd never sign it, bowing to religious conservatives. Collins was in the fight of her life battling for her Senate seat against Democrat Susan Gideon and progressives determined to take her down for her complicity in Trump's agenda.

So there she was, not only co-sponsoring the bill but engaging in political theater, telling McConnell with a wink and a nudge to pass a bill — "Congress should also pass the Equality Act & amend the Civil Rights Act," Collins tweeted after the Supreme Court handed down a victory for employment protections in June of 2020. But she knew she'd never have to vote on the bill, thus using LGBTQ people as political pawns.

Now that Joe Biden has promised to get it passed in his first 100 days and McConnell is hellbent on stopping Biden from achieving his agenda, Collins is suddenly vaguely talking about revisions she was promised to the bill that are keeping her from signing on.

But it's the same bill it was in 2019, which she co-sponsored, supported profusely and didn't express any reservations about. In a comment to the Washington Blade this week she hinted at her anger with the Human Rights Campaign:

The Maine Republican said changes she had sought, but didn't immediately specify, weren't made to the Equality Act when she was the lone Republican to co-sponsor the legislation in the previous Congress.
"There were certain provisions of the Equality Act which needed revision," Collins said.
Throwing some veiled criticism at the Human Rights Campaign, which declined to endorse her in 2020 as it had done in previous elections, Collins added, "Unfortunately the commitments that were made to me were not [given] last year."

Collins thought she could play the same game in 2020 with the Equality Act to get that endorsement again, but it didn't work. She'd spent the Trump years harming LGBTQ people, and it was too much to overlook.Collins has posed as a supporter of LGBTQ rights for many years, using the lives of queer people to make her seem moderate. She supported federal bills like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when they had no chance of passing. She refused to come out in favor of marriage equality and support an initiative in her state that legalized it in Maine in 2012 — staying "neutral" on the initiative while bigots spewed hate — but then came out in support of marriage equality in 2014, long after many other politicians and long after she was needed, to gain the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign for her Senate race that year, which she got.

Collins voted for dozens of anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice federal judges nominated by Trump. That includes Kyle Duncan, confirmed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote the amicus brief for Louisiana and 14 other states to uphold same-sex marriage bans and fought to uphold transgender bathroom restrictions. It includes backing Steve Grasz for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, who received a unanimous "unqualified" rating from the American Bar Association. He'd called Roe v. Wade "moral bankruptcy" and sat on the board of a group that promotes "conversion therapy" for LGBTQ minors.

Even going back to 2010, when Collins was one of the few Republicans who co-sponsored repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," she was really banking on a vote on repeal never happening and thus not messing with the GOP agenda — which is her first priority. When activists shifted the playing field and got President Obama to seriously get behind DADT repeal bill and follow through on his promise to end DADT, Collins revealed a glimpse of that, joining a filibuster blocking repealing of DADT, saying that the way Democrats were going about it was "unfair" even as she had championed repeal:

"It's the right thing to do. I think it's only fair" to repeal don't ask, don't tell, said Senator Collins in a floor speech Tuesday. "But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that's going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments. That, too, is not fair.

Collins and the GOP were eventually outmaneuvered in the back and forth in the Senate, however; the curtain was pulled back and Collins had no choice but to vote for repeal or look completely fraudulent.

Which is how she looks right now. But with Mitt Romney, a long-time foe of LGBTQ rights and marriage equality who recently expressed transphobic beliefs, announcing he is opposed to the Equality Act, and Collins not on board, it makes the path to victory much clearer: The filibuster must be ended or reformed if we're to make this landmark civil rights bill into law.

And that brings us back to Democrats in the Senate, who, with 51 votes, can get the Equality Act passed, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, one of only two LGBTQ members of the Senate, and someone who has said she is opposed to ending the filibuster.

I wrote about that last week, and the terrible legacy Sinema would have, standing up for the filibuster, a relic of the Jim Crow era, while blocking civil rights for her own people. Sinema — and any other Democrat expressing reservations about the filibuster — has the chance to be a hero of equality.

Otherwise, her legacy will be similar to that of Susan Collins, a duplicitous conniver who posed as a civil rights supporter, but who only fulfilled the agenda of McConnell, Trump and the anti-democratic, bigoted GOP.

The GOP is still trying to blame Democrats for the insurrection -- and for further right-wing violence

Ever since the storming of the Capitol on January 6th — incited by the then-president Donald Trump and taken up by extremist groups he emboldened on the right — we've seen the GOP and its enablers try to blame Democrats and the much-mythologized "radical left" for what happened. They've also continually attempted to blame Democrats for right-wing violence that may occur in the future.

It began with the lame, debunked and unsuccessful attempt by GOP Trump loyalists like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to blame "Antifa" for the attack on the Capitol, even while it was unfolding. Others, particularly at Fox News, at the same time were incongruously pushing the idea that America had it coming for Democrats supposedly mistreating Trump.

Then it moved into House Republicans saying Trump shouldn't be impeached because it will only further anger his supporters and cause more violence when we now needed "unity" and "healing." (Of course, implicit in this claim was that the Trump base can't control itself from being violent, but the GOP House members papered over that.)

Now comes a truly demented insinuation that, because the Capitol wasn't adequately protected and law enforcement was unprepared, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi somehow may have known what was going to happen and allowed it go on. It makes little sense but Ron Johnson, the delusional conspiracy-mongering Wisconsin Republican senator, questioned what Pelosi "knew" beforehand about the attack while being interviewed by Fox News propagandist Maria Bartiromo on Sunday.

Johnson's comments came in the context of a discussion with Bartiomo about a letter CNN obtained that the former chief of the Capitol Police, Stephen Sund, wrote to Pelosi and the ranking members of both parties in the House and Senate. The letter was sent on February 1, focusing on the the government's failure in stopping the violent mob, and clearly lays the blame with federal and other agencies — which at that time were mostly run by the Trump administration.

Sund's account alleges a failure of the FBI, US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and the DC Metropolitan Police Department to anticipate violence on that day, and said it was reasonable to rely on that intelligence since earlier pro-Trump rallies had been similarly assessed and were not violent.
"The entire intelligence community seems to have missed this," he wrote.

Sund also is scathing in the letter toward the Defense Department:

"I still cannot fathom why in the midst of an armed insurrection, which was broadcast worldwide on television, it took the Department of Defense over three hours to approve an urgent request for National Guard support," Sund wrote.

How Ron Johnson deduces that any of this means Pelosi "knew" anything is completely indecipherable — because it simply can't be deduced.

He appears to be using the fact that Pelosi was sent the letter about Trump administration failures — on February 1, along with other Congressional leaders — to try to imply Pelosi had some kind of prior knowledge, hoping he can blur the timeline as it's reported out in the media. It's wacky, and it's a spectacular lie, but appears to be a recitation of new GOP talking points.

As Bartiromo shifts from the letter to the impeachment trial, Johnson attempts to connect the two:

"What's this impeachment all about? We now know that 45 Republican Senators believe it's unconstitutional. Is this another diversion operation? Is this meant to deflect potentially away from what the Speaker knew and when she knew it? I don't know, but I'm suspicious."

Again, there is nothing in Sund's letter even remotely implying Pelosi knew anything about the impending attack. It's a letter addressed to Pelosi and other Congressional leaders almost a month after the attack, explaining how federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies and U.S. military leaders under the Trump administration failed. The letter is damning not to Pelosi or Democrats, but to Trump.

Aaron Rupar @atruparRon Johnson absurdly floats that Nancy Pelosi is somehow responsible for a MAGA mob descending on the Capitol for a deadly insurrection

February 7th 2021

2,703 Retweets9,590 Likes

Evidence that these are bizarro talking points the GOP is circulating ahead of Trump's impeachment trial this week came a few minutes later on the same program, when Mark Meadows, Trump's former chief of staff, pushed the same insane line.

Meadows said when it came to protecting the Capitol there were bad decisions that were made and they didn't come from the White House but from the "other end of Pennsylvania Avenue."

Like Johnson, Meadows offers no specifics, just a vague accusation that Congress is responsible for the attack by not reinforcing security. It's an outrageous insinuation because the House and the Senate — which was actually controlled by the GOP on January 6th — are not in charge of the operation of the Capitol Police, nor any other law enforcement agency. Meadows is floating false claims that go back several weeks which were made by Facebook users and other on social media and which the Associated Press had fact-checked and debunked, exposing how right-wing trolls were planting disinformation.

Acyn Torabi @AcynMeadows shifts the blame

February 7th 2021

273 Retweets934 Likes

All of this seems to be an attempt to demonize Democrats as the impeachment trial gets underway, claiming Democrats are trying to deflect from their own supposed wrong-doing. Increasingly unhinged Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky even said — on Fox News of course — that if we're going to impeach and convict Trump for his "speech" then we should be impeaching Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for his "violent rhetoric" about right-wing Supreme Court justices Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh during their confirmation hearings.

Again, idiotic diversions not based in logic. The argument by conservatives that Trump was just expressing his "free speech" by falsely claiming there was massive election fraud and ginning up anger among his supporters completely ignores the fact that this is not a trial in a court of law, nor is Trump a private citizen. This is an impeachment trial of a man who was president, for whom high crimes and misdemeanors are determined by Congress. And the House, in a bipartisan vote, determined that inciting an insurrection against the government falls within that category.

Comparing Trump's actions to a senator criticizing a Supreme Court nominee, even harshly, is ridiculous, and Paul and the rest of them know it. But the GOP is devoid of a defense for its actions — for sticking with a one-term, twice impeached loser, because they're afraid of him or just plain agree with his anti-democratic, authoritarian impulses — so is is moving to increasingly desperate arguments.

Senate Republicans are also restating the arguments of House Trump defenders, claiming that moving forward with the trial will only hamper "unity" and bring further violence, setting up Democrats for blame when future attacks happen.

But trying to blame the insurrection and the attack on the Capitol on Pelosi and Democrats — and laying the groundwork to blame them for future attack by right-wing, white supremacist and QAnon extremists — is an insult to all who were attacked in the Capitol siege, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed. And it is an affront to the American people.

We can't let them get away with that.

Inside a 3-tiered plan to investigate the Trumps after they vacate the White House

Last week I interviewed James Fallows, who'd spoken with many people over a period of a few months who'd been involved in or studied previous investigations of presidents, for a piece he wrote on how Joe Biden should investigate Donald Trump.

As he noted to me, "there's never been anything quite like this," even as many presidents have previously been investigated for wrong-doing. Trump is in a league of his own. And it will take a lot of work to investigate him.

Fallows explained that, "when a new president takes office there is just this enormous onrush of all the normal stuff a president has to do." And with the Biden administration, it's going to be even more intense as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and their team deal with challenges greater than most presidents, including "economic catastrophe, the pandemic, international relations."

Fallows laid out several tiers to investigating Trump.

1) Tier one is "straight out corruption," which would include the violations regarding Donald Trump and his family and their businesses, and Fallows said many experts concluded "the judgement on these corruption issues is [that] most of them you leave to the states."

Those that do involve federal law, like the postal service, "you make sure you have a good, eminent attorney general who makes sure you have have good inspectors' general" at the various government agencies.

Tier 1 is: "let the process work at the state level and within the departments."

2) Tier 2 is what Fallows identifies as "corrosion issues." These are issues in which "the government has been eroded." He notes that, "we've seen this in public health, the State Department, the [National] Weather Service" and many other areas. "This is something the president can deal with," he said, because, of the 4000 political appointees the president will make, "about 3000 will not get Senate confirmation." These are people a president can bring in who may have more expansive ideas and can move quickly and don't need a Senate confirmation which might block them from being appointed because of their backgrounds or perceived intentions in doing their jobs.

3) Tier 3 includes "three big areas where you want to have national commissions."

Commissions have often been viewed skeptically, particularly because they've been used by some administrations to just kick something down the road. But when used with good intentions, Fallows noted, "commissions have been effective tools."

In 1968, he pointed out, the Kerner Commission was important in taking on racial injustice. The Space Shuttle Commission, he noted, is another effective example. And he viewed the 9/11 Commission as having done a "surprisingly impressive job."

Commissions that are run not by the federal government but rather through universities and other institutions have had major impact, he said. The three commissions would look at, respectively, the coronavirus pandemic, the human rights abuses at the border, and "attacks on democracy itself.'

"These warrant special treatment," he said. "There's leverage in each of them." Regarding the coronavirus pandemic, for example, "there's what happened, and the certainty that new viruses from new parts of the world will emerge. What have we learned and how can this not happen again?"

For the border and the abuses of immigrants, Fallows noted that John Allen, the retired four star general who is now president of the Brookings Institution, told him the rest of the world views us a state-sponsor of child abuse, so it's also about America's standing in the world. That commission needs to look at what went wrong. What brought this country to violate human rights in a such a horrific way and allowed for separating children from their parents and putting them in cages?

And the commission on attacks on democracy would look at "the structure of democracy" and what led to white supremacist violence and domestic terrorism.

I liked the way Fallows laid this all out, and I had questions particularly about how we make sure abuse like this never happens again.

Regarding what to do about preventing any president from doing the things Trump did, we discussed how much of what Trump did violated norms that presidents in the past knew to follow and not cross, and whether we need new laws limiting the president's power. Fallows interestingly noted that he asked historians and others, and "[they] generally concluded that norms can't be codified."

"You need to demonstrate them," he said. "The exemplifying of standards. But in this third commission there are a number of people with ideas in mind of how you would reduce gerrymandering, have fixed terms for the Supreme Court justices, things you would practically do to restore norms." Personally, I think there are laws that need to be passed to limit the president's power after Trump, because we don't know what the GOP will do next. What other authoritarian might they get behind and help elect president, and what if they nominate Trump again in 2024 and he gets elected?

We also discussed how President Obama, even after making promises during the 2008 campaign, didn't investigate George W. Bush's actions in the Iraq War nor investigate big banks after the mortgage crisis and economic collapse in 2008. Fallows believes that was a mistake, and on that we certainly agree.

He believes Biden and his team will be different, pointing out that Biden saw it all under Obama and, and for that reason, will be inclined to make sure he doesn't let it happen again. He also pointed to how Biden has nominated people to his Cabinet who seem like they will take on the challenge of investigating Trump. (You can of course listen to the full interview here.)

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