Sunday, August 7, 2022

Last Call For Full Court Pressed, Con't

Increasingly, Republicans have decided that they no longer need, want, or will tolerate a free press, and getting rid of news networks, newspapers, magazines, news radio and cable news in favor of internet propaganda mills to reach the echo chamber faithful is all they will require, or will allow. The news outlets are discovering just how expendable they will be in a GOP fascist state, as NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben explains.

I went to Wisconsin in June to report on how abortion rights are affecting the Senate and governor primaries – the idea was to do one story on the Democrats and one on the Republicans.

Long story short: I heard back from the Democrats but not the Republicans. Phone calls, emails, Facebook messages – I didn't hear back from anyone. The top Republican governor candidates posted no events, though their social media showed they were out, talking to voters.

And so, when I happened to catch the top two GOP governor candidates walking in an Oconomowoc Fourth of July parade, I ran to the end of the route to catch them.

I found former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch greeting supporters. A staffer who then stepped between us told me they knew I had been reaching out and that I should contact a communications staffer, to whom I had already reached out. He would get back to me, she assured me.

He did not. And a day later, at a publicly-advertised meet-and-greet for governor candidate Kevin Nicholson, a staffer told me I wouldn't be allowed to even get tape of Nicholson greeting attendees.

As standalone anecdotes, these might not be a huge deal. However, they are also a part of a trend of Republican candidates ignoring or actively avoiding legacy media — particularly national outlets.

The phenomenon is impossible to quantify, but many Republican candidates are showing that they don't want – or need – to get their messages out via legacy media outlets. That can reduce the scrutiny they face while running for public office, hampering voters' ability to make informed choices.

A large group of reporters was kept out of a rally this spring for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania. CBS's Robert Costa confronted a man who was blocking press from entry.

"If you're with the campaign, we can have a dialogue," Costa said.

"No dialogue," the man responded.

In addition, reporters have been frustrated by getting extremely limited access to other Republicans running for public office, like Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, and Alaska congressional candidate Sarah Palin.

And the Republican National Committee voted unanimously this year to withdraw from the Commission on Presidential Debates ahead of 2024. Chair Ronna McDaniel said the party would find other platforms for debating.

Recently, the Florida GOP allowed conservative outlets into the party's Sunshine Summit, but barred many mainstream reporters, including Dave Weigel, author of the Washington Post's campaign newsletter, "The Trailer."

"You have one person from the campaign tweeting a photo from inside the room and talking about how great the view is that the journalists can't see," he said. "Spokespeople who are not answering my basic questions, like, 'Is there a recording of this event?' are taking the time to make fun of reporters for going there."

Indeed, Gov. Ron DeSantis' spokeswoman Christina Pushaw taunted reporters on Twitter afterward.

"It has come to my attention that some liberal media activists are mad because they aren't allowed into #SunshineSummit this weekend," she wrote. "My message to them is to try crying about it."
Dear political beat reporters: Republicans consider you an enemy that needs to be destroyed.
They want to put you in prison for "lying" about them, which consists of factually true things and verbatim words by said Republicans that they don't like to hear.
And if the GOP gets control in 2022 and 2024, you will be imprisoned, sued out of existence, and worse.
Folks in the Village better wake up. I know Upton Sinclair famously wrote that "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it", lord knows access journalism falls into this category, but if you guys don't start actually treating Republicans as enemies of democracy, you won't be a part of what comes after when they take over.

I guarantee you that Trump or DeSantis or even Pence won't give any of you the time of day, and the White House press room will look like CPAC for a reason.

You're not in the club, as George Carlin also famously said.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

This weekend in Dallas is the Conservative Political Action Conference, aka CPAC, aka The America First Fascism Rally Experience Featuring Viktor Orban.

Stoking the culture wars is nothing new for CPAC. But with dark, militant speeches — and literal demonization of the MAGA movement’s political opponents — the conservative convention in Dallas this week menaced America with what seemed to be thinly veiled calls for violence, all while seeking to whitewash the political mayhem of Jan. 6, casting Capitol Hill rioters as victims of a “Democratic Gulag.”

From Hungarian authoritarian Victor Orbán to former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to right-wing extremist Jack Posobiec, Conservative Political Action Committee speakers urged an us-versus-them confrontation, seemingly unbound from the constraints of electoral politics.

Bannon, now the host of the “War Room” podcast, brought his bellicose message to CPAC, appearing as the headline speaker at the convention’s Friday night ball. “We are at war,” Bannon told the MAGA faithful. “We are in a political and ideological war.” Repeating the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, Bannon insisted that Joe Biden is an “illegitimate imposter.” Calling on Republicans to send “shock troops” to Washington, Bannon promised the crowd they had an opportunity to “shatter the Democratic party as a national political institution.” He alleged that the party has been overrun by “radical, cultural Marxists” and “groomers” who “want to destroy the Republic.” Bannon insisted the GOP must pursue absolute victory over “power-mad and lawless” Democrats, asserting: “There can be no half measures anymore.”

Orbán — the Hungarian strongman fond of Nazi-style rhetoric against race mixing — received standing ovations for his stark address to the MAGA faithful on Thrusday. Orbán described European parliament and the federal government in Washington as “the two fronts in the battle being fought for Western civilization,” warning, “today, we hold neither of them, yet we need them both.” Orbán called on CPAC attendees and the far-right in Europe to forge a global movement. “We should unite our forces,” Orbán said, to “take back” Washington and Brussels.

On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz, laying on a thick Texas accent for the home-state crowd, inveighed against what he called the “power hungry, abusive totalitarian nitwits” of the Biden administration and the Democratically controlled Congress. Cruz likened his service in the Senate to that of a gladiator: “It’s like the old Roman Colosseum where you slam on a breastplate and you grab a battle axe and you go fight the barbarians,” he said of his Democrat colleagues. “As they say in the military world,” Cruz continued, “it is a target-rich environment.”

Cruz then suggested that more than elections may be needed for conservatives to take back Washington from those he called “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” Cruz told the crowd, “We’re on the cusp of something extraordinary in this country … And each of you are the vanguard. You are the dangerous radicals. Like the men who signed the Declaration of Independence … like those who died at the Alamo, you are the courageous heroes,” he insisted, “fighting for liberty in our country.”

While CPAC has banned a few overt white nationalists from its ranks (including the noxious, Hitler-praising livestreamer Nick Fuentes) it welcomed to its stage Jack Posobiec, the Pizzagate conspiracy theorist recently denounced as a hate extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his ties to “white nationalists, antigovernment extremists, members of the Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis.” Posobiec took his turn in the spotlight to promote the New Right (effectively the latest rebranding of the hateful “alt-right”). And he, too, painted the coming conflicts of the culture war in militaristic terms: “Are you ready for new ideas to actually take the fight to the front lines,” he asked, “because that’s where we live and we’re not stopping.”

It could be tempting to dismiss such bombast from Cruz and Posobiec as empty rhetoric. But Kari Lake, the GOP nominee for governor in Arizona, directly threatened confrontation with the federal government over immigration at the Southern border should she win office in November.

“We have an invasion at the border,” Lake insisted, referring to undocumented immigrants and refugees. Lake then vowed that, after being sworn in, she would mount a military response, even lacking approval from the Biden administration: “As soon as my hand comes off the Bible, we’re going to send the Arizona National Guard troops to the border,” Lake said. Insisting on the “sovereignty” of the states, she insisted: “We will take the fight to the federal government. We’re not going to be victims of what they’re doing to us.”

The rhetoric of revolution and frontline confrontation went hand-in-hand with other speakers and presenters who cast the American left as demonic, evil, and destructive — in other words the kind of enemies who deserve to be dealt with harshly.

In between speeches, CPAC promoted a documentary, hosted by chair Matt Schlapp, called The Culture Killers, which inveighs against a “great desecration” perpetrated by the left. ”Anything that’s good, anything that’s holy, anything that’s truthful is being attacked,” Schlapp insisted on video. The documentary describes America as “under siege from an enemy within,” with one voice insisting, over images of burning cars, “There is no end. These people will never stop, until you stop ’em.
I figure even if we win, we're in for years of terrorist attacks, mass shootings, vehicle attacks running into crowds, probably some bombings as well. We're looking at monthly, if not weekly attacks where racist terrorists target Black and brown neighborhoods and churches, Jewish neighborhoods and synagogues, Muslim neighborhoods and mosques. Democrats and their voters will be targets on a regular basis and thousands will die.

We're already seeing these attacks. The Buffalo shooting targeting a Black neighborhood's grocery store. The Highland Park July 4th parade shooting targeting a Jewish neighborhood. And now, Muslim men are being assassinated in Albuquerque.

On Friday afternoon, Naeem Hussain attended the funeral service for two Muslim men who were killed in the past two weeks. He joined other mourners afterward, sharing a meal, at the Islamic Center of New Mexico. Then he left.

Several hours later, a little before midnight, Naeem Hussain was shot to death in a parking lot of an organization that offers services for refugees and asylum seekers near San Mateo and Copper NE, according to the Islamic Center’s spokesman.

His death was the latest in what police suspect is a string of homicides targeting Muslim men based on their race and religion.

“Now, people are beginning to panic,” said Tahir Gauba, the director of public affairs with the Islamic Center of New Mexico, who added that he had been fielding phone calls all day about the death.

The two men who were buried Friday — 41-year-old Aftab Hussein and 27-year-old Muhammad Afzaal Hussain — were shot near their homes on July 26 and Aug. 1, respectively. Police say they were ambushed.

On Saturday, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman said the recent homicides have led detectives to try to determine whether the Nov. 7 fatal shooting of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, is also related. Ahmadi was killed behind a halal market he owned with his brother. An APD official had previously said that there was a “strong possibility” that all three of the prior homicides were related.

Gauba said the Muslim community — especially the student population who live near the area where two most recent shootings happened — is feeling very afraid. He said Naeem Hussain is from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Right now it is really tough to deal with it,” Gauba said. “I mean especially right after the funeral, the same day, that thing happened again. So it’s just really crazy.

If we lose in November, and especially if we lose in 2024, the terrorists will primarily consist of local and state police, National Guard, and federal agencies and tens of thousands will die.

You may somehow not think that we're still not in a shooting war here in the US.

I am here to tell you that the right absolutely is engaging in this scenario. They are no longer content with just scaring the barbarians. They are here to start killing the barbarians.

We're the barbarians to them, only worth killing and terrorizing so we leave or die and they can have their white nationalist "Christian" theocratic ethnostate.

Never forget that.

Sunday Long Read: Border Line Insanity

Our Sunday Long Read comes to us from Gaby Del Valle at The Verge, with the story of how relentless surveillance of the Arizona-Mexico border by Homeland Security, the Border Patrol, Arizona police and the US Air Force isn't deterring migrants at all, the end results of billions in technology, equipment, materiel and trained agents mean it's just finding new and novel ways of the United States killing them in the desert.
It's unlikely the hikers knew they were being watched. They had tried to blend in: all 11 were wearing camouflage with the intention of vanishing into the desert scrub. They were on a remote mountain trail on the outskirts of Ajo, Arizona, a former mining town of about 3,000 people just a few dozen miles north of the Mexican border. It was a warm November morning, still early enough in the day that the sun must have felt good on their skin — the air is cold up in the mountains, colder still in the dry desert winter, though the heat always finds you eventually. The sky was bright and endless, punctuated by just a few clouds. But even if the migrants looked closely, there’s no way they could have noticed the MQ-9 Predator B drone stalking them from 20,000 feet above.

Nearly 150 miles away at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, the migrants were on display. Two Customs and Border Protection agents tracked the group from a cramped shipping container on base that was being used as a temporary ground control station. Each agent sat before five monitors: the pilot flew the drone while the camera operator focused on tracking the group’s movements. The 11 migrants appeared as small figures on a pair of screens, bright white smudges moving across a gray background. Their clothing may have helped them blend in with the cholla cacti and spiky ocotillo plants of the Sonoran Desert, but it couldn’t fool the Predator’s infrared camera. They had been betrayed by their own body heat.

The migrants must have noticed the helicopter first: an EC-120 Colibrí, Spanish for “hummingbird.” Then came a pair of Border Patrol agents on foot. “On your tail, there’s another group of two, probably about 50 yards behind you,” the camera operator in Tucson told one of the ground agents by radio.

Then he turned to me and explained what we were looking at. “That’s the agent,” he said, pointing at a vaguely person-shaped silhouette on one of the screens. He had to raise his voice so I could hear him over the endless hum of the servers that took up half the 16-by-20-foot room. “He just apprehended that guy, and that’s the group right there.” We watched as one member of the group tried to wrestle the Border Patrol agent. The others walked toward him, ready to give up.

From the shipping container, it was impossible to know anything about the group aside from what was visible on-screen. They could have been from Guatemala or El Salvador or Mexico or anywhere else. They could have been asylum seekers or drug runners or neither. Maybe it was their first time trekking through the desert; maybe it was their fifth. Maybe they were headed for Phoenix or Boston or for one of those tiny towns that have become Central American enclaves through the availability of agricultural jobs and word of mouth. These details were irrelevant to the CBP drone operators watching the migrants from Tucson, the Border Patrol agents tracking them through the mountains, and the crew following along in the helicopter. Their job was to find and apprehend anyone crossing the border illegally, no matter who they were.

The agents on the ground would get more details: names, ages, nationalities. After that, the specifics would matter a little. If the hikers were carrying drugs, they’d be prosecuted. If they had been deported before, they could be charged with illegal reentry. But if this was their first time — if they were crossing the border for work or to reunite with family on the other side or because they were in danger in their country — they’d likely be sent back to Mexico, regardless of where they had come from. There would be no hearing before an immigration judge, no chance to plead their case. And if the migrants were really desperate, they might try to cross again. Maybe they’d choose a different route. If they were with a smuggler, he’d know which trails to take to avoid the network of hidden cameras and underground sensors that CBP has scattered throughout the desert — but that route would likely be more remote and more treacherous than the one they were already on. All the surveillance technology in the world won’t stop people from trying to cross the border; it’s an obstacle, not, as Customs and Border Protection would have you believe, a deterrent.

Every unauthorized crossing is a justification for more drones in the air and boots on the ground, but none of that will stop people from coming. It just means more migrants are dying.
President Joe Biden promised that “not another foot of wall” would be built if he was elected president. Instead, his administration would use “high-tech capacity” to secure the border. Drones, cameras, and sensors would be more effective and more humane than a physical barrier, he claimed. What Biden’s promises ignored, however, is that the federal government has spent billions on border surveillance technology for the past three decades — and that despite these efforts and aside from a brief lull in crossings early in the pandemic, the number of unauthorized border crossings has gone up year after year. Since the ’90s, the question hasn’t been whether to fund border technology but how to get more of it. The fact that some migrants still make it across the border undetected — or that they attempt the journey at all — isn’t seen as a failure of technology or policy. Instead, it is used to justify more surveillance, more spending, and more manpower.

I first traveled to Arizona to meet with groups that wanted Biden to not only reverse Trump’s policies and halt construction but also to tear the wall down. The wall, they said, was an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe; leaving it up wasn’t an option. Early on in Biden’s presidency, it seemed like such things were possible: in his first few months in office, he had sent a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress and ended Trump-era policies like the Muslim ban and Remain in Mexico. His administration had created an exemption process to Title 42, a public health policy implemented in March 2020 that lets Border Patrol agents quickly send migrants back to Mexico without a hearing. It seemed like the Biden administration would end the policy altogether last summer.

When I first started reporting this story in the spring of 2021, there was a feeling of cautious optimism in the air — a feeling that, with the right prodding, Biden would usher in a more welcoming immigration system. By the time I first visited Arizona last summer, that feeling was mostly gone. Migrant deaths in the desert were on the rise for the second consecutive year, and no one in the federal government seemed to be doing anything about it. The previous summer had been the hottest and driest in the state’s history — and the deadliest for migrants in a decade. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office recovered remains of 227 suspected border crossers in the desert in 2020, and the summer of 2021 was on track to be just as fatal. By the time I arrived in Tucson, there were 137 known migrant deaths that year. Another 10 sets of human remains were recovered in the nine days I spent in Arizona.

There were a few theories as to why migrant deaths in Arizona had reached the highest rate since 2010. Some speculated that the border wall had pushed border crossers into more isolated, dangerous terrain. Advocates suggested that Title 42 was encouraging repeat attempts across the border, often through more remote paths. Greg Hess, the chief medical examiner for Pima County, said two consecutive years of record-breaking summer heat was likely a contributing factor. Triple-digit temperatures made the difficult, often fatal journey through the Sonoran Desert that much more so. Maybe it was policy. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was both. The common denominator in all these explanations was the inhospitality of the desert, the ruggedness of the landscape.
The US border with Mexico has been a failure all of my life. Democrats have failed to build any sort of fair or humane system because they don't want to deal with it. But a humane immigration system in the US will never happen with Republicans able to stop it, either.

And as climate change gets worse, as the border region becomes more and more inhospitable and deadly, more people fleeing South and Central America will die.

It will get worse before it gets any better.
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