After 20 years of dreadful mistakes, U.S. heads for exit as Taliban retakes Afghanistan

Nearly two full decades of lies and wishful thinking from U.S. generals, politicians, liberal interventionists and neoconservative talking heads came into full view Sunday as the Taliban in Afghanistan surrounded Kabul while American military forces and diplomatic personnel rapidly evacuated the U.S. embassy and the Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani negotiated a surrender and transition government with opposition forces.

This article first appeared in Salon.

With reports that Bagram Air Base and nearby Parwan Prison had both fallen out of Afghan government hands, Taliban spokeperson Suhail Shaheen told the BBC that his group expects a peaceful transfer of power within days and assured the people of Afghanistan, including those in Kabul, that retribution and revenge would not follow.

"We assure the people in Afghanistan, particularly in the city of Kabul, that their properties, their lives are safe. There will be no revenge on anyone," Shaheen said.

The Taliban leadership, he continued, has "instructed our forces to remain at the gates of Kabul" and that they had no plans yet to to enter the city. "We are awaiting a peaceful transfer of power," Shaheen said.

Asked to explain what a "peaceful transfer of power" means in practice, he said: "It means that the city and the power should be handed over to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and then, in future, we will have an Afghan inclusion Islamic government in which all Afghans will have participation."

A press statement issued from the Taliban echoed that message, urging Afghans not to flee their own country and vowing that both their lives and property would not be threatened.

Subsequently — amid reports that Ghani has already left the country on a flight to Uzbekistan — Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal announced a "peaceful transfer of power" had been agreed to and that a transitional government was being formed.

"The Afghan people should not worry," Mirzakwal said in a recorded speech, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The safety of [Kabul] is guaranteed," he said."There will be no attack on the city, and the agreement is such that the transition of power will take place in a peaceful manner."

In recent days, antiwar voices who opposed the initial invasion in 2001 and have railed against the U.S. occupation ever since have pointed out the inevitability of what is now unfolding, the rapid return of Taliban rule despite 20 years — during which trillions of dollars were spent and hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were lost — of U.S. military leaders claiming that some kind of victory was possible.

"The tragic events unfolding in Afghanistan are yet further proof of the utter failure of our country's endless wars and the mindset that enables them," said Stephen Miles, executive director of the U.S.-based group Win Without War, on Friday. "Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace. No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have."

On Sunday, veteran peace activist Medea Benjamin was among those wondering whether anyone in the U.S. military or foreign policy establishment would ever be held accountable for the deceit or failures in Afghanistan. "Who is going to be fired for 20 years of horrific failure in Afghanistan?" Benjamin asked on social media. "Who would you suggest?"

In a separate Sunday morning tweet, Benjamin said: "As the blame game for the Afghan crisis heats up, I want to add all who supported this disastrous invasion from the beginning, including those who bashed us at anti-war protests. We were right, you were wrong. We should have never invaded Afghanistan. Period."

"The whole war on terror has proved a terrible failure and this should be admitted," said Lindsey German, convener of the U.K.-based Stop the War coalition, in a statement on Sunday.

"We should also consider how the lives of Afghanis would have been improved if only a fraction of the money committed to this war ... had gone into improving their lives through investment in infrastructure, housing, education, agriculture," German added. "That was an opportunity that could have been taken but was ignored in favor of military solutions. And those have brought us to where we are today."

With a massive U.S. evacuation operation underway, the UN warned Saturday of the potential for a massive refugee crisis as many Afghans — not assured they will be safe, or unwilling to live under Taliban rule — try to leave the country. On Friday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on neighboring countries "to keep their borders open in light of the intensifying crisis" and warned that "inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives." The UNHCR said it was standing ready to help counties scale up their humanitarian and assistance efforts as needed.

In a statement issued by the White House on Saturday, President Biden said that while he had mobilized approximately 5,000 U.S. soldiers to provide security and assist with the evacuation of Afghanistan, he was not considering changing course to maintain the occupation of the country which has been ongoing since 2001.

"I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats," Biden said. "I would not, and will not, pass this war on to a fifth."

Meghan McCain suggests Black Lives Matter protests led to Capitol riot

On Thursday's edition of ABC's "The View," co-host and conservative pundit Meghan McCain equated the insurrection with the protests against police violence during the summer of 2020.

"When I think of people doing things in the name of political violence, I just think of terrorists, I just think this is crap that happens in other countries," McCain said of the insurrectionists and rioters who capitalized on Black Lives Matter protests last June. "I worry about this line that has been moving and moving and moving since last summer, and now we see this."

Comparing the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol to last summer's race riots is a concerted right-wing effort to defend Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial.

McCain effectively downplayed the violent attack by delusional Trump supporters by insinuating that killing five people and destroying the U.S. capitol based on a baseless lie that the election was stolen is somehow similar to millions of Americans taking the street to protest the continual murder of innocent black bodies.

Race riots, however, are not a new phenomenon that 2020 miraculously uncovered. In fact, uprisings against the violence of white supremacy have been around since the inception of this country, spurred on first by the violence against Native American genocide and then African slaves.

McCain's ahistorical reference to political violence being terrorism fails to recognize that the point of BLM protests is to combat state-sponsored violence and terrorism against Americans.

"I'm just having a hard time watching this trauma and revisiting this trauma over and over again," McCain said of the new video footage from the Senate trial. "It's disgusting, it looks like something out of a third world country, or a horror movie, it's unfathomable, it almost doesn't look real."

"As an analyst, I understand that the argument from the Republican side is that we have to move on, we have to be focusing on Covid relief… I disagree," she said. "I still think there should be a fine line and that there should be a standard that this cannot happen."

She continued: "But that fine line, for me, isn't only with the capitol riots, it's also when you are standing as a journalist on TV and there is a city on fire behind you and things are being rioted and small businesses are being looted. There is no political cause that I justify violence, or looting, or burning things down, or attacking people across the board. And i think we need to hold that standard no matter what, as Sarah said, no matter what your political ideology is."

Senate Republicans could still save their party from disaster -- but we already know they won't

Make no mistake about it: This is Donald Trump's Republican Party. The party has become a wasteland of Trumpism. Rather than embracing Trump's exit and beginning to reinvent itself, the party has chosen to double down on Trumpism. As a result, the Republican Party is in grave danger of becoming a fringe group, unmoored from reality and antagonistic to democracy. All because of Donald Trump and his four-year history of pathology and self-serving maliciousness.

Trump's mental pathology has been projected onto the country. Divisiveness, tribalism, cruelty, violence, lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories are all manifestations of his pathology. In the beginning, Republicans were enablers who were complicit in Trump's mission of securing absolute power, politicizing the Department of Justice, grifting the American public and breaking all norms, rules and laws with impunity.

Even at the tail end of his regime, many Republicans supported or participated in Trump's incitement of insurrection against our democratic election. Nothing could have been more anti-American and treasonous than an attempted coup of our election process, led by a sitting president. Trump understood that Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were in grave danger and could have been murdered. He did not care a whit. Many congressional Republicans were on board. Some may have given tours to the insurrectionists the day before the Jan. 6 crisis at the Capitol. To be sure, the attempted rebellion against our government was orchestrated and sanctioned by President Trump. It was a history-making, jaw-dropping, America-bashing maneuver by a president who was trying to overturn the will of the people.

After Jan. 6, the Republican party could have reawakened and changed course. Instead, it has regressed into an abyss of extremism, lies, conspiracy theories and threats of violence. House Republicans have refused to repudiate or expel Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who in effect has now become the poster child for the party. Her vile and incendiary rhetoric has not been rebuffed or stamped out, and at best has only been set aside for the moment. Rep. Matt Gaetz has traveled to Wyoming to rile up supporters to denounce Rep. Liz Cheney for the sin of voting to impeach Trump.

Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who led the attempt in the Senate to overturn a legitimate election, have not repudiated the insurrectionists. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has traveled to Florida to kiss Trump's ring and enlist his further influence in the party. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talks out of both sides of his mouth. Sen. Lindsey Graham is a firm supporter of Trumpism, even while voting to reject the coup attempt itself. The list goes on.

It is inconceivable that all of Trump's 74 million voters are supportive of the aberrant and imploding Republican party. They cannot possibly all believe that wildfires were started by "Jewish space lasers," that school shootings which devastated the entire country were elaborate hoaxes, that Trump won the election by a landslide, and that the attempted overthrow of democracy is to be rewarded. Most reasonable and thoughtful Americans must understand that the Republican Party has devolved into an extremist faction that does not have our country's viability and sustainability at heart. These conspiracy theorists, and those in Congress who support them, are anti-democratic in their basic belief system. They are unhinged from reality, and their unimaginable conspiracy theories are now at the core of Trumpism.

Donald Trump was never a healthy and effective national leader — and most certainly will never be one in the future — because his mental pathology will not allow it. Because of his disorder, Trump will forever be divisive, hostile, cruel, paranoid and wedded to propaganda. It is impossible for him to be rational, compromising, empathetic or unifying. He is a transactional opportunist who simply does not understand public service, care for others, sacrifice or mutual understanding. He is a destroyer rather than a builder. He is consumed with greed and self-aggrandizement rather than an altruistic desire to help others.

To have any kind of healthy future in American politics, the Republican Party must divorce itself from Trump immediately. It must reinvent itself with renewed democratic principles and ideals. The party must find fresh leaders who are courageous and fearless. Unfortunately, we already know this is unlikely to happen.

Senate Republicans still have a chance, at least hypothetically, to forge their final divorce from Donald Trump during his upcoming impeachment trial. This their chance to make their mark in history. This is their chance to shape the new trajectory of their party, and create the possibility of a healthy political future. Convicting Trump and banning him from future elected office would send a dramatic message to all Americans. Republicans have a chance to be true heroes — rather than spineless cowards. Many of them must understand that their party is dead in the water if they hitch their wagon to Trumpism going forward. It has no chance of success. Americans are not ready to lose their cherished democracy in the name of treasonous Donald Trump. It is not going to happen.

Even beyond Trump, the Republican Party must jettison its extremist and fringe followers. There must be no room for lies, conspiracy theories, white supremacy, radical violence or insurrection against our democracy.

We are at an inflection point in the American experiment. Donald Trump is gone from office at last, but his influence is still metastasizing like a cancer within the Republican party.

Senate Republicans face a historic choice. They can nail Donald Trump's political coffin closed, or send our democracy down a dark and rocky path.

Can evangelical Christians be redeemed from bigotry and hatred?

I have been writing letters to the editor for a long time in a desperate hope to change the direction of the evangelical Christian church as it relates to politics. It is difficult to express how hard it is to not be heard. In truth, this is why social media is such a popular thing. Being on Twitter or Facebook or TikTok allows millions of people to pretend they are being seen and heard. As I look back at my previous letters, I notice a progression that has led me into attempting a true reform of what we might call the "God vote."

This article first appeared in Salon.

President Biden proclaims a deep connection to the Christian faith. Newly elected Sen. Raphael Warnock is pastor at the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and nearly every other presidential candidate in the last 200 years or so have discussed their faith. For the last 50 years or so, however, right-wing evangelicals have dominated the God influence in politics. So who is right — or is the question, which side is closer to Christianity? In other words which political party deserves the God vote?

I have attended evangelical churches where the pastor preaches that God pays attention to what we do in the voting booth. The pastor made it clear that you will be judged based on that vote. It has also been argued that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat, which seems obvious. It is difficult for me to imagine the creator of the universe registering with some political party. It sounds like asking whether God roots for the Yankees or the Red Sox. Theologically speaking, I am confident God is wearing the jersey of the team with the least amount of money. God loves the least of these. Anyway, yes, God has not picked a political party. The real question is for everyone to decide how to live their life and to publicly decide what issues they support.

I do believe in choosing sides, and I believe in being vocal about it. I certainly believe that many political issues should be important to all people of faith. I also believe that many politicians on both sides have used the God vote in ways that may not have been sincere. Politics tends to pollute the sincerity of everything, including faith. Either way, I think exploring the God vote has merit as long we as individuals are not simply defined by those choices. We must remember that our most basic responsibilities are found in the day-to-day interactions with the people in our lives. That is why I connect the political choices that need to be made to the choices we make in our lives.

For the sake of this discussion, I'm going to assume that God is real, and that within that faith I can't forget that the name of God has been used to promote genocide, enslave millions and promote oppression — and that the name of God has been used to free slaves, promote equality and liberate societies.

The question of why the two issues of abortion and the rights of LBGTQ people became such attractive issues for the conservatives is easily answered. The most obvious answer is that they have required no self-judgment on the part of the leadership of the evangelical church. The evangelical leadership, at least outwardly, are heterosexual married white men of serious financial means, which excludes them from any judgment regarding these issues. I find it fascinating that in the entire Bible — which is a massive read, by the way — the only issues these evangelicals can find to be public about have nothing to do with the leaders that choose the very foundation of the evangelical political movement. Doesn't anyone else find that uniquely convenient for evangelical leaders?

It also should be noted that this message has proven to be extremely dangerous through evangelical missionary work. In many poor countries, the conservative brand of Christianity ends up becoming a significant part of the culture. Thus, there has been extreme laws written within these countries that have permitted executions, imprisonment and social rejection of people within the LBGTQ population. I have seen speakers from some of these countries who have been forced from their own families and threatened by the government with execution because of who they are and whom they love. This is directly related to the evangelical movement and should not be overlooked. I could also write a book about the effects on these poorer nations that relate to the abortion issue.

The issue of abortion is by far the most theologically ridiculous. I have read the whole Bible and studied under some incredible theologians at a conservative seminary. Abortion is simply not mentioned. Not once. I believe this attack on women from the church comes from the anger many men felt at the strides that were taking place in the women's movement during the 1970s. Women were entering the workforce in large numbers, going to college and showing a strength and independence that many men both inside and outside the church did not enjoy.

Just as a quick FYI, the #MeToo movement died a slow death in the evangelical church a couple of years back. It was discussed for a couple minutes and then dropped quickly as a non-issue. Many evangelical men still believe in the idea of wives submitting to their husbands. I hear it every day on evangelical radio stations. Traditional roles in the household means that men are in charge. According to the church, divorce is a problem in this country because of the women's movement and wives believing they are equal to their husbands.

Condemning abortion as murder tapped into this male rage in response to the women's liberation movement. As I stated earlier, there is not one verse on the Bible that refers to this act. To quote one of my favorite musicians, Ani DiFranco, from her song "Play God": "You don't get to play God, man, I do." She sees through all the BS of the "pro-life" movement and understands that abortion is about control, not morality.

The conservatives' second-favorite issue at least has some biblical mention. Homosexuality is mentioned a whole three times in the Bible. If Christians are to take the three mentions of homosexuality as evangelicals do, then the church needs to put the rest of the law into practice the same way. Anyone caught stealing needs to have their hands cut off. Anyone who lusts should have their eyes cut out, and of course stoning should be a thing again for adulterers. That last part could be a problem for a lot of these evangelical leaders, not to mention some former presidents. Besides, the Bible also teaches us to accept slavery, and counsels that women do not belong in places of authority, like the Supreme Court. Suddenly hair length could become a crucial and defining issue.

The thing is that God, if God is a real thing, happens to have given us a brain and a conscience, and it is time we use both at the same time. As I look at my 14-year-old daughter, who has known herself to be gay for as long as she knew that "gay" was a thing, I see one of the most wonderful, loving and giving people I know. I know she is exactly as God made her to be. I cannot imagine telling her otherwise and I feel completely biblically confident when I say that.

Reform of the God vote must also include a call to what people of faith support. The first issue surrounds the very biblical idea of welcoming the stranger, the traveler, the foreigner. This means that a real God agenda supports an amnesty plan for the millions of people living in the U.S. without the appropriate documents. The argument that these people have cut in front of some imaginary line does not hold up when I look at the Bible. In every church service I have attended, especially in conservative churches, the message is preached that no one deserves God's love and forgiveness. Christians did not earn their salvation, or their house and car and financial security. These are gifts from God to the undeserving person of faith. So when God welcomes undeserving sinners into citizenship in heaven, how can those same followers of Christ turn toward these millions of foreigners and say that those people need to be turned away? For people of faith, there is no greater command than to love our neighbor. It is an expression of our love and gratitude toward the creator that welcomes us. To turn them away is to turn away from God.

The second issue should be equally obvious to those who have studied the word of God. Healing the sick is the very foundation of how to serve God's creation. True ministry has nothing to do with potluck dinners, or trustee meetings or even Sunday worship. Healing the sick is at the heart of all ministry. I cannot think of a better way to heal the sick than to provide health insurance for every man, woman and child living in the United States. I have lost insurance in my life on more than one occasion, and I can tell you that I was not less deserving than the times that I had insurance.

Some talk about "choice" and the freedom to choose from different insurance companies. I do not understand that either. No blue-collar, working-class person truly has a choice. My insurance company is usually whatever my boss tells me it is. Even if I had a choice, I do not know the difference. I am generally confident that both Harvard Pilgrim and Blue Cross Blue Shield will screw me over the first chance they get. I also think that when they suck, I will have no recourse. I have no representative to help me change how I am treated by my insurance company. I simply talk to some distant and detached person on the phone who tells me there is nothing they can do. "We just don't cover that procedure, sir, but there are payment plans for the $300,000 fee." Thanks a lot. I have clearly had some frustrating moments with my insurance companies — an issue that unites us all, regardless of faith or color — and I am glad that supporting a single-payer health care system would not only help me personally but is also the right thing to do spiritually.

Lastly, I think the God vote can circle around a basic political agenda that support equality. There is nothing in the Bible that ever refers to an idea of one person deserving more opportunity than another. There is, however, a lot in that book about being equal. There is a lot about the fact that all need forgiveness, love and grace. How that all plays out in a political agenda can be debated, but I think standing up for equality is a good place to start.

I see that first playing out in the school systems. In my 20 years working in education I have seen how far apart the education system is, depending on the community where a person lives. The likelihood of graduating from a four-year college or university are extremely high if a student is born in a wealthier school district, as opposed to someone born in a poorer area. That needs to change. People of faith should also support equality in the justice system, which clearly favors people who can afford a lawyer. Anyone who has stood before a judge without a lawyer — or what is sometimes worse, with a court-appointed attorney — understands that is not a good place to be. This equality idea extends to marriage, reproductive choice, equal work for equal pay and numerous other elements of American society.

The oppressive forces in this country remind me of the bullies I experienced as a kid. I never liked bullies and I see a lot of them in this country, which is why I keep on writing my little letters to the editor. The bullies need to be dealt with and I am more than willing to do it, given the opportunity. A long time ago, this big kid in my neighborhood used to bully me and a few of my buddies. I was around 12 and the bully was about 16. One winter day I was walking home, and he came up from behind me and pushed me into the snow. He got on top of me and pushed my face further into the snow and then got up laughing and feeling victorious. I'd had enough at that point so I made an ice-ball (a snowball, but harder) and I wound up and threw it at him. As soon as it left my hand, I knew it had a real chance of connecting. The stars aligned and it landed on top of his head and knocked him down. He got up and pursued me until I got myself into the local grocery store where I taunted him through the window. It was awesome and he never messed with me or my friends again.

A lot of people have had enough of the bullies who seem to run this country, run the white evangelical churches and control everything. I hope the recent ice-ball that removed Donald Trump from office can translate to a lot more bullies being removed from power and that true opportunity becomes possible in this amazing country. I will continue to write my letters because I have no other choice. There is something deeply wrong with this country, especially among many people who claim a connection to the Christian faith. My faith is a faith of truth and I hope to preach that truth to as many people as I can.

Nathaniel Manderson

Nathaniel Manderson was educated at a conservative seminary, trained as a minister, ordained through the American Baptist Churches USA and guided by liberal ideals. Throughout his career he has been a pastor, a career counselor, an academic adviser, a high school teacher and an advocate for first-generation and low-income students, along with being a paper delivery man, a construction worker, a FedEx package handler and whatever else he could do to try to take care of his family.

Susan Collins suggests going light on Donald Trump while lashing out at Chuck Schumer

Senators Susan Collins, R-ME, and Tim Kaine, D-VA, are privately floating the idea of censuring Trump as the chances of a post-impeachment conviction grow slimmer without substantial Republican support, according to Axios.

On Tuesday, forty-five Senate Republicans voted against holding a trial for Trump's impeachment, dismissing the trial as "unconstitutional." While the 45-55 split will allow the trial to move forward, such a critical mass of Republican opposition does not bode well for a proper conviction, which would require a two-thirds majority in the Senate. A least seventeen more Senate Republicans will be needed to convict.

"I think it's pretty obvious from the vote...that it is extraordinarily unlikely that the president will be convicted," Collins said following the vote, "Just do the math."

The Maine Republican who spent nearly the entirety of Trump's term in a perpetual state of disappointment seems to hold more animosity for her new Senate Leader, Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

"What this campaign taught me about Chuck Schumer is that he will say or do anything in order to win," Collins recently told CNN. "It was a deceitful, despicable campaign that he ran."

Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, joined Collins' pessimism that Republicans could possibly hold a former president accountable for inciting an insurrection. "I can't see how you get 17," said Boozman, "I think that that was a test vote."

Now, Senators Collins and Kaine reportedly have their eyes set on a censure, which would require a 60-vote margin in the upper chamber. Unlike an impeachment trial, a censure cannot be challenged as unconstitutional, closing the escape hatch used by Senate Republicans to condemn the trial on procedural grounds without having to address Trump's problematic conduct leading up to the Capitol riot. A censure would be a symbolic denunciation of the former President's actions, which several Republicans have already acknowledged as completely unacceptable.

In fact, a small coterie of House Republicans led by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, introduced a censure earlier this month, calling Trump's "attempts to undermine the outcome of the 2020 election…unconscionable." Those backing the effort included Reps. Young Kim, R-CA, John Curtis, R-UT, Peter Meijer, R-MI, Tom Reed, R-NY, and Fred Upton, R-MI. At the time, however, House Democrats shut down the Republican-backed censure, deriding it as a lukewarm attempt to hold the President accountable.

Despite the lack of support needed in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has vowed to nevertheless hold a proper impeachment trial, tabling a point order by Senator Rand Paul, R-KY, a vocal objector to the trial.

Schumer called the Republicans' move to dismiss the trial "deeply irresponsible."

"I would simply say to all of my colleagues," Schumer declared, "There will be a trial, and the evidence against the former president will be presented in living color for the nation and every one of us to see once again."

Schumer faces challenges from both sides of the aisle as questions over the filibuster loom large with a 50-50 Senate split. Even with Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-KY, power-sharing agreement –– which seeks to circumvent procedural impasses in committee organizing –– the debate surrounding the filibuster is far from over.

Progressive Democrats see the filibuster as an outdated holdover that Republicans have historically used to undermine legislative progress, posing Congressional obstacles for a Biden presidency. As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, tweeted last September, "The filibuster wasn't made w/ purpose. It's the result of an accident in rulebook revision & bloomed as a cherished tool of segregationists," adding, "Now it empowers minority rule. That's not "special," it's unjust." Sen. Elizabeth Warren has likewise expressed a strong interest in killing the filibuster.

More centrist Democrats are, however, less enthused with the idea of eliminating the procedural relic. Senators Joe Manchin, D-WV, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ, are holding out hope for bipartisan cooperation. "Busting the filibuster under any conditions is wrong," said Sen. Manchin, "We can organize the Senate. I'm sure we can work through that.

Meanwhile, Schumer –– a Democratic centrist who has a reputation as a "consensus builder, not a dictator," –– is still trusted by many of his GOP colleagues to live by this reputation with respect to the filibuster. Sen. Lindsey Graham called Schumer "capable, smart, hard-working, tenacious." Graham told CNN, "I've found him to be honest [...] He's got a problem. He's the majority leader with a primary challenge looming over his shoulder."

With pressure on both sides of the aisle, Schumer will play a consequential role in determining the fate of the filibuster. Hopefully, Sen. McConnell, who did away with a 60-vote threshold to confirm President Trump's three conservative Supreme Court nominees, is poised to get a taste of his own medicine.

Fueled by tips from family and friends, FBI ramps up arrests of Capitol rioters

The FBI is showing no signs of slowing down in its pursuit of those involved in the Capitol riot earlier this month. From lawmakers to militia members to right-wing activists, those recently arrested run the gamut, but many have ties to both law enforcement and the military.

Last week, the FBI reported that it has received over 200,000 digital tips from the public, many of which have been provided by friends, family, relatives, and coworkers of those involved. More than 200 cases have been opened and over 100 people have been apprehended in connection with the riot.

"The American people have demonstrated that they will not allow mob violence to go unanswered," said Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement.

On Monday, Brandon Straka, a right-wing activist who spoke at the "Stop the Steal" rally was arrested in Nebraska for impeding a police officer and disorderly conduct. He made national headlines last June after refusing to wear a mask on an American Airlines flight, citing an unspecified medical condition, after which he was permanently banned from the airline. Straka is the founder of the "#WalkAway" campaign which encouraged those on the left to "walk away" from the "divisive tenets the Democratic Party." CNN's David A. Love called the campaign "a psychological operation" that was "connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots" attempting to overstate the popularity of the moment.

Two Virginia police officers Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker were also identified as rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol. After Robertson and Fracker told The Roanoke Times that they were ushered in by Capitol police and that their involvement was purely "a joke," the FBI later found that Robertson and Fracker evaded the police and had intent to harm members of Congress. According to an affidavit, Robertson told a friend that seeing Senators "cowering on the floor with genuine fear on their faces is the most American thing I've ever seen in my life." Fracker reportedly bragged to friends on social media that he had urinated on Nancy Pelosi's desk. Both officers are currently on unpaid leave.

In Texas, Jackson Reffitt, 18, the son of Capital rioter Guy Reffitt, revealed his own father's involvement in the unrest to the FBI. According to Jackson, his father threatened him well in advance of the insurrection. "If you turn me in, you're a traitor," Guy told his son, "And you know what happens to traitors. Traitors get shot." Jackson nonetheless turned his father in, outing Guy as a member of the Three Percenters, a far-right militia group with a history of violence. In 2017, a Three Percenter was unsuccessfully attempted to detonate a car bomb in Oklahoma City. According to Jackson's affidavit, Guy brought a pistol with him to D.C.

A small-town Ohio bar owner and veteran, Jessica Watkins, was accused of conspiring in the Capitol insurrection, along with her co-conspirators Donovan Crowl, a former Marine, and Thomas Caldwell, who served in the Navy. According to Watkins' boyfriend with whom she owns the Jolly Roger bar in Woodstock, Watkins was "not a violent person...She can be very spirited, but she is a very good person at heart and she just really wants to try to help people." Watkins is a member of the Oathkeepers, a far-right anti-government militia group that threatened to declare "civil war" if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was elected in 2016. Following the riot, Jessica Watkins told the Ohio Capital Journal, "To me, it was the most beautiful thing I ever saw until we started hearing glass smash. That's when we knew things had gotten really bad."

Former marine Michael Foy, who was caught on tape striking an officer ten times with a hockey stick, was arrested on January 21st. Foy received an honorable discharge from the military in 2019 and was given a "good conduct medal" after securing the rank of corporal. Foy's public defender Colleen Fitzharris argued that her client is suicidal and is struggling with mental health issues. "He didn't go to D.C. to cause violence," said Fitzharris, who alleges that Foy got caught up in "mob mentality." Foy was charged with four felonies and faces twenty years in prison, and was denied bond behind ahead of his hearing.

On January 8th, federal prosecutors arrested a Trump supporter by the name of John Lolos, who was repeatedly yelling "Trump 2020" on a Delta flight that turned around due to the disturbance. After being kicked off the flight, Lolos was identified by a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police officer. The officer had miraculously recognized Lolo after scrolling through his Instagram feed and seeing Lolo in the Capitol riot. "During the video Lolos can be seen exiting the U.S. Capitol doorway, wearing the same shirt he was wearing (at) the airport," said the airport police officer. He "was waving a red 'Trump 2020 Keep American Great' flag hooked together with the United States flag, yelling 'we did it, yeah!'"

The FBI also apprehended the man who tweeted "Assassinate AOC" just before joining in on the violent storming of the Capitol. Garret Miller, 34, who posted the tweet in response to AOC's call for Trump's impeachment, explained over Facebook that "[he] just wanted to impeach himself a little bit lol. Garrett Miller later received five criminal charges following the insurrection after local law enforcement tipped off the FBI, making Miller's wish come true.

Here are 10 things Joe Biden can do immediately to undo the damage Trump has done

Donald Trump loves executive orders as a tool of dictatorial power, avoiding the need to work through Congress. But that works both ways, making it relatively easy for incoming President Joe Biden to reverse many of Trump's most disastrous decisions. Here are 10 things Biden can do as soon as he takes office. Each one can set the stage for broader progressive foreign policy initiatives, which we have also outlined.

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Are you sure Trump's plan to steal the election has failed? Here's why you shouldn't be

Freddy's dead. So we are assured in pop culture by everyone from Curtis Mayfield to the "Nightmare on Elm Street" film cycle (which I might remind you now consists of nine installments, with Freddy appearing and reappearing in all nine of them). Those assurances that Freddy, Jason and their ilk are dead never work out well in horror flicks, and I wouldn't advise prematurely counting on them to work out in politics either.

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Evangelical pastor explains why nobody understands Trump voters

Based on the last two presidential elections, there is clearly a failure in reporting, polling and understanding of almost half of America. Perhaps liberals would simply like to govern and run for office by only mobilizing their half of the population and overlooking that other half, but I would imagine this country won't get closer to equal opportunity with that type of thinking. It's true that much of the divisive language comes from Trump supporters who seems to enjoy Trump's deplorable approach to life and politics. Does that embody every single person who voted for Donald Trump in the last two elections? If you think that, then you are as lost as the narrow reporting and polling I have witnessed during the last four years.This article first appeared in Salon.

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Amy Coney Barrett's 'originalism' is complete nonsense

Many fear that Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation will erode the established rights of women and LGBTQ+ persons, given Barrett's private convictions. At last week's hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barrett responded clearly: "A judge must apply the law as written, not as the judge wishes it were." Barrett is an originalist and textualist, who prioritizes "what people understood words to mean at the time that the law was enacted." In pointing outward to the people, originalism conveys an alluring humility. Originalism is not personal; its conclusions reflect the objective fact of "public meaning."

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Evangelical 'prophets' predicted Trump would appoint 3 Supreme Court justices. What else were they right about?

Yea, verily. The prophecy seemeth nigh unto fulfillment. The one about Donald Trump appointing three Supreme Court justices. No, it's not in the Bible, but it's part of a body of predictions about Trump that have been delivered since 2011 by a collection of charismatic and Pentecostal Christian prophets. With the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett effectively concluded, the residents of evangelical Trumpland are finding joy in her seeming imminent confirmation, which has strengthened Trump's aura of charismatic legitimacy at a time of crisis for his presidency.

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Militarizing the police is what brought us here

Jacob Blake was doing what any responsive dad and neighbor does: stepping in to break up a fight before leaving with his children. But police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shot Blake in the back seven times, with his three young sons watching from the car. Yet again, instead of meeting this moment with any empathy or understanding, Donald Trump sent federal law enforcement into Wisconsin in an effort to silence a community in mourning. Throughout this summer, our communities have risen up in defense of Black lives, only to be met with state violence from a militarized police force that has no interest in helping us.

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Trump's church of white masculinity

The week before last, we watched Americans respond to the altar call at the church of white masculinity. During the Republican National Convention, speakers humbly prostrated themselves at the foot of white masculinity, arguing that the rejection of a white male savior would be our ruin. The disciples of white masculinity preached that feminists were coming for the unborn, the LBGTQIA community was coming for our children and racial minorities were coming for the rest of us. Furthermore, the RNC paraded women and speakers of color to state that President Trump was not racist, he was right —and those who refused to convert were deviants seeking the destruction of the nation.

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A look deep inside latest pro-Trump Christian conspiracy theory that's eating America

In the previous two installments of this series, I chronicled the attempts made by an old friend to convince me of an outlandish conspiracy theory being promoted by the group of rabid online Donald Trump supporters known as “QAnon.” According to my friend, initiates of the Illuminati had teamed up with subterranean demons to torture, rape and eat kidnapped children in underground military bases ruled by Trump’s mortal enemies. Not surprisingly, none of the so-called “evidence” provided by my friend proved any such thing. Onward from there we go …

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