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Protests Continue in Russia: Over 1,000 people arrested demanding Alexei Navalny’s release!

 

Dear Commons Community,

The Associated Press reported this morning that thousands of people took to the streets over the weekend across Russia to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, keeping up a wave of nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. Over 1,000 were detained by police.  As reported:

Russian authorities have mounted a massive effort to stem the tide of demonstrations after tens of thousands of people rallied across the country last weekend in the largest and most widespread show of discontent Russia has seen in years.

The 44-year-old Navalny, an anti-corruption investigator who is the best-known critic of President Vladimir Putin, was arrested on Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusations.

On Sunday, police detained more than 1,000 people in protests held in cities across Russia’s 11 time zones, according to the OVD-Info, a group that monitors arrests.

In Moscow, authorities introduced unprecedented security measures in the city center, closing subway stations near the Kremlin, cutting bus traffic and ordering restaurants and stores to stay closed.

Navalny’s team initially called for Sunday’s protest to be held on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square, home to the main headquarters of the Federal Security Service, which Navalny claims was responsible for his poisoning. After police cordoned off the area around the square, the protest shifted to another central square a mile away. Police deployed in force at that location too, randomly picking up people and putting them into police buses. At least 100 were detained.

But hundreds of others marched across the city center, chanting “Putin, resign!” and Putin, thief!” a reference to an opulent Black Sea estate reportedly built for the Russian leader that was featured in a widely popular video released by Navalny’s team.

The city of Novosibirsk in eastern Siberia saw one of the biggest rallies, with thousands marching across the city. About 90 protesters were detained.

In the far eastern port of Vladivostok, more than 100 people were detained after protesters danced on the ice and rallied in the city center.

As part of a multipronged effort by authorities to block the protests, courts have jailed Navalny’s associates and activists across the country over the past week. His brother Oleg, top aide Lyubov Sobol and three other people were put Friday under a two-month house arrest on charges of allegedly violating coronavirus restrictions during last weekend’s protests.

Prosecutors also demanded that social media platforms block calls to join the protests.

The Interior Ministry has issued stern warnings to the public not to join the protests, saying participants could be charged with taking part in mass riots, which carries a prison sentence of up to eight years. Those engaging in violence against police could face up to 15 years.

Nearly 4,000 people were reportedly detained at demonstrations on Jan. 23 calling for Navalny’s release took place in more than 100 Russian cities, and some were given fines and jail terms. About 20 were accused of assaulting police and faced criminal charges.

Just after Navalny’s arrest, his team released a two-hour video on his YouTube channel about the Black Sea residence purportedly built for Putin. The video has been viewed over 100 million times, helping fuel discontent and inspiring a stream of sarcastic jokes on the internet amid an economic downturn.

‘Demonstrators in Moscow chanted “Aqua discotheque!,” a reference to one of the fancy amenities at the residence that also features a casino and a hookah lounge equipped for watching pole dances.

Putin says that neither he nor any of his close relatives own the property. On Saturday, construction magnate Arkady Rotenberg, a longtime Putin confidant and his occasional judo sparring partner, claimed that he himself owned the property.

Russia has seen extensive corruption during Putin’s time in office even as many ordinary citizens struggle financially.

Navalny fell into a coma on Aug. 20 while on a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow. He was transferred to a Berlin hospital two days later. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to the Novichok nerve agent. Russian authorities have refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, claiming a lack of evidence that he was poisoned.

When he returned to Russia in January, Navalny was jailed for 30 days after Russia’s prison service alleged he had violated the probation terms of his suspended sentence from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that he has rejected as political revenge.

On Thursday, a Moscow court rejected Navalny’s appeal to be released, and another hearing next week could turn his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into one he must serve in prison.

There appears to be a resolve among these protesters.  Our hearts are with them!

Tony

Anti-vaccine protesters temporarily shut down large vaccine site at Dodger Stadium!

Dodger Stadium vaccination site shut down amid protest - Los Angeles Times

Dear Commons Community,

One of the largest vaccination sites in the country temporarily shut down yesterday because dozens of protesters blocked the entrance, stalling hundreds of motorists who had been waiting in line for hours, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Los Angeles Fire Department shut the entrance to the vaccination center at Dodger Stadium about 2 p.m. as a precaution, officials told the newspaper.

The protesters had members of anti-vaccine and far-right groups, the Times reported. Some of them carried signs decrying the COVID-19 vaccine and shouting for people not to get the shots.

There were no incidents of violence, the Times said.

“This is completely wrong,” said German Jaquez, who drove from his home in La Verne and had been waiting for an hour for his vaccination when the stadium’s gates were closed. He said some of the protesters were telling people in line that the coronavirus is not real and that the vaccination is dangerous.

The vaccination site reopened shortly before 3 p.m., the Times reported. The site is usually open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

After it reopened, Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted: “We will not be deterred or threatened. Dodger Stadium is back up and running.”

A post on social media described the demonstration as the “SCAMDEMIC PROTEST/MARCH.” It advised participants to “please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple. No flags but informational signs only.

“This is a sharing information protest and march against everything COVID, Vaccine, PCR Tests, Lockdowns, Masks, Fauci, Gates, Newsom, China, digital tracking, etc.”

Foolish disturbance!  At least there was no violence!

Tony

Video: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s History Of Bigoted, Conspiratorial Views!

 

Dear Commons Community,

NBC’s Mehdi Hasan listed the QAnon-backing Congersswoman  Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) history of promoting conspiracy theories and making bigoted, offensive and threatening comments was laid bare in a  video (see above).

NBC’s Mehdi Hasan tried to recall as many of Greene’s controversial moments as possible in 60 seconds ― from her support of the Pizzagate and QAnon movements to her claims that the 9/11 terror attacks were an inside job and the Sandy Hook school shooting was a “false flag.”

Hasan, the host of “The Mehdi Hasan Show” on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, concluded with Greene’s promotion of former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election lie:

“She thinks Donald Trump won the election and was robbed by mass voter fraud. In fact, she thinks [President Joe] Biden didn’t win Georgia, he rigged it against Trump, but she won her seat in Georgia, it wasn’t rigged against her.”

Greene tweeted yesterday about having a “GREAT call” with her “all time favorite POTUS,” Trump. In the long, rambling thread that followed, Greene claimed that she and other Republicans “had nothing to do” with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead.

She also wrote of Trump, who lost the election to President Joe Biden: “You can never beat him because We The People have his back.”

Be warned, Mehdi Hasan talks very fast!

Tony

Video: Fired Fox News Staffer Chris Stirewalt Speaks Out!

Dear Commons Community,

Chris Stirewalt, a longtime Fox News political editor who was fired last week in a shakeup, is speaking out about the network’s core audience: supporters of former President Donald Trump.  In an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Stirewalt comments on the state of cable news and concludes:

“Having been cosseted by self-validating coverage for so long, many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally. The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn’t nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact.”

Below is the entire op-ed.  A video courtesy of The Huffington Post on Stirewalt is above.

Tony


Los Angeles Times

Op-Ed: I called Arizona for Biden on Fox News. Here’s what I learned

The New York Evening Express was no great shakes as a newspaper. But in 1886, when the New York Times ran the obituary of one of the Express’ former owners, Erastus Brooks, it had to give credit where it was due. “Its make-up was typographically an abomination, but it always had the news,” the Times declared grudgingly of its rival.

Once, in order to beat his competitors with the results of an important state election in the early 1840s, Brooks hired out a stateroom on a Hudson River steamboat and installed a printing press.

By the time the competition’s reporters returned to New York City from Albany to file their stories, Brooks already had the finished product in hand.

The American news business is chockablock with the stories of heroic (and sometimes underhanded) efforts to beat the competition and get the news to an information-starved public.

In my career as a political analyst and, until my firing last week, an election forecaster on the decision desk at Fox News, I have always been with Brooks. I wanted to steam downriver as fast as I could to be first with the news to beat the competition and serve my audience.

That’s why I was proud of our being first to project that Joe Biden would win Arizona, and very happy to defend that call in the face of a public backlash egged on by former President Trump. Being right and beating the competition is no act of heroism; it’s just meeting the job description of the work I love. But what happens now that there are almost no physical limits on the getting and giving of the news?

Being first with the account or images of major events is a thing of scant value now. What one outlet has, every outlet will have, usually within seconds. Indeed, being first can prove to be a commercial disadvantage.

Having worked in cable news for more than a decade after a wonderfully misspent youth in newspapers, I can tell you the result: a nation of news consumers both overfed and malnourished. Americans gorge themselves daily on empty informational calories, indulging their sugar fixes of self-affirming half-truths and even outright lies.

Can anyone really be surprised that the problem has gotten worse in the last few years?

Bias in the coverage of politics and government is nothing new. Old Erastus Brooks himself was an ardent Whig and frequent candidate for office. What is still relatively new is a marketplace that offers penalties for reporting the news but lots of rewards for indulging a consumer’s worst cravings. Cable news producers work in a world of 15-minute increments in which their superiors can track even tiny changes in viewership.

Ratings, combined with scads of market research, tell them what keeps viewers entranced and what makes them pick up their remotes. It’s no different from the pressure online outlets face to serve up items that will generate clicks and steer consumers ever deeper into the maw of “you might be interested in” content.

Whatever the platform, the competitive advantage belongs to those who can best habituate consumers, which in the stunted, data-obsessed thinking of our time, means avoiding at almost any cost impinging on the reality so painstakingly built around them. As outlets have increasingly prioritized habituation over information, consumers have unsurprisingly become ever more sensitive to any interruption of their daily diet.

The rebellion on the populist right against the results of the 2020 election was partly a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying. But it was also the tragic consequence of the informational malnourishment so badly afflicting the nation.

When I defended the call for Biden in the Arizona election, I became a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.

Having been cosseted by self-validating coverage for so long, many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally. The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn’t nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact.

While there is still a lucrative market for a balanced offering of news and opinion at high-end outlets, much of the mainstream is increasingly bent toward flattery and fluff. Most stories are morally complicated and don’t have white hats and black hats. Defeats have many causes and victories are never complete. Reporting these stories requires skill and dispassion. But hearing them requires something of consumers, too: Enough humility to be open to learning something new.

I remain confident that the current depredations of the digital revolution will pass, just as those of the telegraph, radio and broadcast television did. Americans grew into those media and providers learned to meet the demands of a more sophisticated marketplace. That’s the work that I’ve always aimed to do and hope to be part of for many years to come.

What tugs at my mind after seeing a mob of enthusiastic ignoramuses sack the Capitol, though, is whether that sophistication will come quickly enough when outlets have the means to cater to every unhealthy craving of their consumers.

Lorraine Ali Commentary: Fox News helped create the Big Lie. Now, as ratings slide, it can’t escape it!

Lorraine Ali - Los Angeles Times

Lorraine Ali

Dear Commons Community,

Since Election Day, Fox News has seen a ratings dip and for the first time in decades is trailing CNN and MSNBC in its daytime programming.  As a result, its management has shuffled many of the time slots between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.  Lorraine Ali, a television critic for the Los Angeles Times, had an article earlier this week commenting on how Fox News got into this situation.  Her position is that it helped Trump and company create the big lie or should I say lies over the past five years.  Below is her entire article.

Tony

—————————————————————————————–

Los Angeles Times

Fox News helped create the Big Lie. Now, as ratings slide, it can’t escape it!

Lorraine Ali

January 19, 2021

It’s doubtful Trump could have radicalized as many Americans as he has without the help of media juggernaut Fox News. Hannity, along with colleagues Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs and the rest of the crew, have been instrumental in mainstreaming Trump’s far-right positions on everything from immigration to policing, parroting his lies and threats, and giving credence to his absurd conspiracy theories — including the debunked claims of election fraud that led to the Capitol insurrection. And if there’s any question as to how the conservative news network became a legitimizer of Trump’s propaganda and deep-state fantasies, Fox News’ devolution has been televised.

The crown jewel of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, at least in the U.S., has propagated any number of the Trump administration’s most consequential and damaging falsehoods, many in the service of exonerating or supporting the president himself in a time of scandal or crisis. (Which, as we’ve all experienced firsthand, was essentially his entire term.) Staffer Seth Rich involved in DNC email leak! Immigrant caravans at the border riddled with MS-13 gang members! Hunter Biden’s laptopCOVID-19 is a hoaxStop the steal!

But years of unquestioning support for the president, including sowing mistrust about anything that challenges the White House’s narrative, is beginning to have consequences. Fox News’ unholy alliance with Trump brought with it white supremacists, hateful militias and conspiracy theorists who believe the outgoing president is the only person standing between humanity and a nefarious ring of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles. The news organization’s ratings have been in decline since election day, a slide many attribute to competition from media sources even further to the right; on Tuesday, it laid off political director Chris Stirewalt and others.

Now, as Trump leaves office, the cable news network that fueled his rise to power faces an ugly dilemma of its own making: continue to feed the monster it helped create or be destroyed by the monster’s wrath.

Fox News is hardly the only media organization advancing the lies of Trumpism. Newsmax, “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” One America News, Breitbart and Parler are all, to varying degrees, fonts of disinformation and active cheerleaders of the president. Social media behemoths that largely refused to clamp down on viral conspiracy theories and hate speech during the Trump era, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are also complicit.

But since before the 2016 Republican primary, Fox News has arguably been the most high-profile pro-Trump provocateur, next to the president himself.

Fox News did not move from “fair and balanced” to de facto arm of the White House communications department overnight. As Showtime’s 2019 docudrama “The Loudest Voice” reminds us, longtime Chief Executive Roger Ailes initiated the conservative network’s hard-right turn toward fear and outrage in the aftermath of 9/11. By 2009, its primetime hosts, including Hannity, were championing and amplifying the “gotcha” videos of conservative operative James O’Keefe, eager for undercover “exposés” of liberal hypocrisy. Fox News covered O’Keefe’s undercover “sting” impugning the community organizing group ACORN often and with plenty of verve, yet little scrutiny despite the iffy provenance of the video footage. Its high-powered spotlight contributed to the dissolution of the nonprofit organization in the U.S., though O’Keefe’s work was later debunked as having been misleadingly obtained and edited.

The racist birtherism conspiracy about Obama, touted by then-reality show star Trump and echoed by Fox News, was the next step in undermining trust, though many other outlets gave Trump’s wild claims a platform they didn’t deserve. Calls to “Lock her up!” — based once again on cherry-picked facts and outright lies about 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, now with an added distaste for the rule of law — weren’t far behind.

Once Trump took office, the last guardrails of truth seemed to lift, and Fox News — no stranger to the benefits of deregulation — jumped right in to defend and parrot the president, or at least to let his lies go unchallenged. Almost as often, the process appeared to work in reverse: In the earliest days of his term, Trump caused an international incident after citing a fictitious terror attack in Sweden. His source? Carlson.

In running untruths about Rich’s involvement in the leak of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 campaign, and legitimizing cruel conspiracy theories about Rich’s 2016 shooting death in what police have said was likely an attempted robbery, several of the network’s hosts went further — and landed their employer in legal hot water. “This blows the whole Russia collusion narrative completely out of the water,” Hannity said. When Fox News retracted the story, Hannity remained resolute: “I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com,” he said on his radio show. “I retracted nothing.” Rich’s parents sued Fox News over its repeated false claims about their son, and the case was settled for millions before Hannity and Dobbs were scheduled to testify under oath in the case.

That the ensuing investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was frequently deemed a “witch hunt” by Trump and his supporters at Fox News suggests that the vicious tarring of a dead man’s reputation was not exactly a chastening experience. Special Counsel Robert Mueller became the new target, as did top levels of American law enforcement. “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice,” railed Fox News host Jeanine Pirro. “It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but who need to be taken out in handcuffs.”

When newly emboldened white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., in summer 2017, in what now reads as a clear precursor to the Capitol attack — with one right-winger plowing his car into counterprotesters, killing one — Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides.”

Fox News, now locked into the pattern, followed suit. Hannity floated the lie on his radio show that protesters at the rally may have been “actors hired by a publicity firm.” Carlson performed his own “both sides” shuffle in a widely reviled segment, calling “the left” “every bit as race-obsessed” as the white supremacists of “Unite the Right.”

All that was just in Trump’s first year.

By the time the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, Fox News was poised to defend Trump at all costs, even if it meant putting viewers’ lives in danger. Several on-air personalities and guests reinforced the idea that the pandemic was a hoax cooked up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her pals. “This is yet another attempt to impeach the president,” Fox Business host Trish Regan said, before being ousted for her comments. Hannity went further: “They’re scaring the living hell out of people, and I see it again as like, ‘Oh, let’s bludgeon Trump with this new hoax.’”

The election presented a new conundrum. Though the network’s decision desk received rightful plaudits — and provoked the president’s ire — for sticking to the facts and calling the election for Biden, a number of its hosts backed Trump’s baseless claims that the election had been stolen. Watchdog group Media Matters reported that the news network cast doubt on the results nearly 800 times just in the two-week period after Biden emerged as the victor.

“You should be outraged, you should be worried, you should be concerned at what has happened in the election and the lead-up to the election,” Hannity said. “And frankly, you should be angry at what is building and building and building in the last four years in this all-out assault against a duly elected president that we the people elected.”

The true “all-out assault” that had been “building and building and building in the last four years” was an assault on truth itself, led in large part by Hannity and his ilk, and it’s seemingly escaped the network’s control. Myths about widespread election fraud were an easy sell after the network’s ceaseless information warfare and the drip, drip, drip of normalizing outlandish tinfoil-hat conspiracies. Now, Fox News appears poised to double down on its preference for opinion over news and for personalities like Maria Bartiromo willing to carry water for the president and his dead-enders.

But the fear and outrage Fox News have inspired are all too real, changing not just viewership patterns but also the political landscape itself. In the aftermath of the domestic terror attack at the Capitol under the banner of “Stop the Steal,” it’s not just politicians who need to be held accountable for incitement. It’s also media outlets like Fox News, which shaped and happily sold the Big Lie and must now confront, if there’s any justice, the monsters of its own creation.

 

Nancy Pelosi yesterday blasted Republican leadership for giving Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene a seat on the Education and Labor Committee!

Marjorie Taylor Greene indicated support for executing prominent Democrats  in 2018 and 2019 before running for Congress - CNNPolitics

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Dear Commons Community,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday blasted Republican leadership for giving Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a seat on the Education and Labor Committee despite the freshman congresswoman’s apparent belief in baseless conspiracy theories about the Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla., school shootings.

Pelosi said “Assigning her to the Education Committee when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — what could they be thinking?

“What I’m concerned about is the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives who were willing to overlook, ignore those statements,” Pelosi said during her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill when asked about Greene’s rhetoric.  As reported by the New York Times.

“Ms. Greene, a first-term congresswoman from Georgia with a history of supporting the pro-Trump QAnon movement, wrote on Facebook in 2018 that she agreed with one of her followers that the Parkland massacre that killed 17 students was a “false flag” event, a term used by conspiracy theorists to describe an act committed by one group — usually the government — for which another group is blamed.

In a video posted on YouTube in 2020 by her campaign, Ms. Greene followed and harassed David Hogg, a Parkland survivor who was visiting Capitol Hill to lobby for gun safety measures. In the video, Ms. Greene demanded that he explain why he was “using kids” to advance his cause, shouted that she was licensed to carry a firearm, and called him a “coward.”

Republican leaders announced this week that Ms. Greene would serve on the House’s education panel.

At a news conference yesterday, Ms. Pelosi expressed concern that the House’s Republican leadership was comfortable assigning Ms. Greene to the education committee “when she has mocked the killing of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when she has mocked the killing of teenagers in high school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.”

“What could they be thinking — or is thinking too generous a word for what they might be doing?” Ms. Pelosi said. “It is absolutely appalling.”

Ms. Pelosi appeared to have been referring in part to a report last week from Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog group, that said that Ms. Greene had commented approvingly on Facebook in 2018 to a user who asserted that the 2012 school shooting in Newtown in which a gunman killed 26 people, including 20 small children, was staged. “That’s all true,” Ms. Greene replied, according to the report, though the post appears to have been deleted.

Ms. Greene’s penchant for conspiracy theories has created a conundrum for Republican leaders and has privately infuriated many of her colleagues in the rank and file, who are upset by many of her comments as well as the flood of negative press they have drawn.

A spokesman for Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, told Axios this week that newly surfaced Facebook posts written by Ms. Greene and reported by CNN, in which she discussed executing top Democratic politicians, including Ms. Pelosi, were “deeply disturbing.” A spokesman said that Mr. McCarthy planned to “have a conversation” with her about them.

Taylor Greene is a disgrace and has no place on an education-related committee.

Tony

Liz Cheney Faces Republican Party Backlash for Putting the Country First!

 

Liz Cheney

Dear Commons Community,

When Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, decided to put the country first and to vote to impeach a president from her own party, she knew she’d cause some waves.

But Cheney’s vote against Donald Trump has put her home state of Wyoming — by some measures the most Republican state in the country — on the front lines of the GOP civil war. The rising GOP leader and daughter of a former vice president is now facing the prospect of censure from the state party, a primary challenge and the wrath of Trump and his loyalists vowing to make her pay.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“Yesterday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, an ardent Trump ally from Florida, staged a rally in Cheyenne at the Capitol, taking the fight to oust Cheney from her leadership post to her home turf and calling on “patriots” to turn out. House Republicans are expected to decide next week whether to strip Cheney of her job as House conference chair.

Cheney’s fate at home and in Washington will be one indicator of whether GOP traditionalists or Trump-aligned activists determine the direction of the party. Her troubles have already served as a warning for Republicans in the Senate, most of whom signaled Tuesday they would vote to acquit Trump on the charge of inciting an insurrection. Meanwhile, Trump’s political action committee, Save America, is using a poll it commissioned on Cheney’s popularity with Wyoming voters to taunt her — and show other Republicans what may lie ahead when they don’t support Trump.

Cheney’s defenders have sought to cast the blowback from her vote as ginned up by attention-seekers. “Wyoming doesn’t like it when outsiders come into our state and try to tell us what to do,” said Amy Edmonds, a former Cheney staffer and past state legislator, pointedly at Gaetz.

But there’s little doubt the lawmaker in her third term is facing homegrown opposition in a state where the establishment’s once-firm grip has been slipping.

Republican state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, a gun rights activist, announced his primary challenge against Cheney one week after her impeachment vote, making a clear effort to rally Trump fans.

“The swamp was after me,” Bouchard said of his recent reelection to the statehouse despite being badly outspent by a Democrat. “I just don’t think that works any more in Wyoming. I think the people have figured it out.”

To be sure, Bouchard, who is little known outside the Cheyenne area, has a steep climb ahead. He is a relative political newcomer who raised just $12,000 for his last race. (Cheney amassed $2.5 million.) He says he may show up at the rally Thursday, one way to start raising his profile. Other Republicans are likely to jump in during the coming months.

Still, few imagined Cheney would draw a challenger after winning the state’s only congressional seat with a majority close to Trump’s — 70%, more than any other state.

Cheney spent the last four years dancing around Trump. She largely dodged questions about his racist comments and hard-line immigration moves, while occasionally criticizing his foreign policy. She called his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria “sickening.” When Trump began urging lawmakers to reject the Electoral College vote, she wrote a memo warning of a “tyranny of Congress.”

But Cheney, whose father, Dick Cheney, held her seat for 10 years and who was raised in part in the Washington suburbs, described Trump’s actions on Jan. 6 as a breaking point. Trump called on supporters to “fight” to overturn his election loss, in a speech shortly before rioters stormed the Capitol in an insurrection that led to five deaths. Notably, Trump called Cheney out by name in his speech, telling his backers they should work to get rid of the lawmakers who “aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world.”

Cheney says she voted her conscience without regard for political consequences.

“It was something that I did with a heavy heart, but I did with a real understanding of the seriousness and the gravity of the moment,” Cheney said the day of the vote. “My oath to the Constitution is one I can’t walk away from, is one I can’t violate.”

She has since sought to marshal the state’s sizable Republican establishment in her defense. Aides have circulated approving editorials and letters to the editor, and long lists of supporters. Those backers include Gov. Mark Gordon, Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who was one of just eight senators to vote against certifying Electoral College results in battleground states in the riot’s aftermath.

Cheney also has the support of two influential state interest groups: the Petroleum Association of Wyoming and Wyoming Mining Association.

That backing may be crucial as Wyoming prepares to fight new regulations from President Joe Biden’s administration that could hurt the struggling oil, gas and coal industries that are a pillar of the state’s economy.

“Intraparty fighting and blind obsession with retribution for perceived slights are not going to bring back one single job,” said Matt Micheli, a Cheney ally and former state GOP chair.

But in Wyoming, as in many states, the divide between traditional GOP interests and Trump-aligned, far-right activists is wide.

Local Republican Party officials in three of Wyoming’s 23 counties have voted to censure Cheney for her impeachment vote. In a fourth, Republicans at an informal meet-and-greet Monday held an unofficial straw poll ahead of plans for a formal censure vote.

“Based on what I saw last night, whew, it’s going to be overwhelmingly anti-Liz Cheney,” said Bob Rule, a radio station owner and GOP precinct committee member in western Wyoming’s sparsely populated Sublette County, a gas-drilling hotspot. “They felt she used her own personal feelings about the situation and not the feelings of the people of Wyoming.”

Several of the three dozen or so people at the meet-and-greet in the town of Marbleton, population 1,400, were newcomers there out of opposition to Cheney’s vote, Rule added.

The Republican State Central Committee could take up censuring Cheney when it meets in early February, though state GOP Chair Frank Eathorne declined to speculate whether it would happen.

Plenty of voters are suddenly receptive to the idea of not just politically dinging Cheney but also giving her the boot.

“I made a mistake voting for her,” said Misty Shassetz, 43, a grocery store employee in Casper.

“This is Trump country, you know, that’s who we voted for. What she did was wrong. I just feel like the voters need somebody who actually speaks for the voters,” Shassetz said. “And she is not it.”

Cheney has some time to try to win back voters like Shassetz, notes Don Warfield, a retired public relations consultant.

“If people are still as angry in the summer of 2022 as they are now, Liz Cheney faces some real problems,” Warfield said.”

I was not a fan of her father when he was Vice President, but I respect Liz Cheney for the position she took to impeach Donald Trump.

Tony

Anthony Fauci Interview: Trump White House was a “surrealistic experience” run by a man who “spouts nonsense”

President Trump suggests he might fire Dr. Anthony Fauci 'a little bit  after the election' | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
.

Dear Commons Community,

In a remarkably candid interview with The Atlantic published yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci  called his experiences working with a president who eagerly promoted the consumption of hydroxychloroquine as a means of treating COVID-19 a “surrealistic experience.”

“With every other president, whether they were conservative, moderate, or liberal, the guidepost for everything was a deep respect for science,” Fauci told The Atlantic’s Peter Nicholas. “That was always the case. When I got involved with Trump, it went into a different world, the likes of which I had not experienced.”

Fauci did not mince words and said that Trump was a man who “actually thought that his instinct … was as good as anything I’d put in front of him,” and often put “anecdote on the same level as scientific data,” trusting the words of often-questionable personal contacts over those of scientists. 

“It’s really tough to get into his head, but I think what was going on with him is he was not interested in the outbreak,” Fauci said, describing Trump as a “pretty macho guy” who considered the pandemic an “inconvenient truth that he didn’t accept as a truth” and thought wearing face masks was a sign of weakness — a belief that many Americans unfortunately took on as well.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is now serving as chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, added that despite the president’s difficult proclivities, he didn’t necessarily dislike the man.

“ … There was something about our commonality of being New Yorkers that we developed this strange relationship, where we really liked each other,” Fauci said of Trump, who often alternated between calling Fauci “a wonderful guy” in public and scolding him for being realistic about COVID-19. “If I say that I liked him, my wife would have a heart attack. But there was something about him that was charismatic and likable on a personal basis — not on a policy basis.” 

Fauci pointed out that he had a rougher time dealing with the individuals in Trump’s inner circle, who were often furious that he was publicly contradicting attempts to downplay the coronavirus and even went so far as to twist Fauci’s words into a political ad for Trump’s reelection without his consent.

“I didn’t tell them to back off,” Fauci said. “That wasn’t my style. My style was to say — to get a little Brooklyn-ite — ‘What is this bullshit that you people are doing?’ I just made it very clear that I didn’t like it.”

Nevertheless, Fauci stressed that he refused to let himself get distracted by the rhetoric of Trump’s yes-men.

“I don’t take any great pleasure in contradicting the president of the United States,” Fauci said. “I have a great deal of respect for the office. But I had to do it as a symbol to the rest of the world that science is not going to flinch in the face of somebody who’s spouting nonsense.”

The entire interview is quite a read!

Tony

Enrique Tarrio, Leader of the Proud Boys Extremist Group, Informer for F.B.I.!

Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Raises Almost Nothing for 2020 Congress  Run in Miami | Miami New Times

Enrique Tarrio

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times and Reuters are reporting that Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, a far-right nationalist group that is a major target of the sprawling investigation into the riot at the Capitol this month, has a history of cooperating with law enforcement, according to court records and a former prosecutor.

The stunning revelation that Mr. Tarrio, who leads one of the country’s most notorious extremist groups, helped the F.B.I. and local police departments go after more than a dozen criminal defendants about a decade ago was first reported by Reuters on Wednesday.

In the Miami hearing, a federal prosecutor, a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and Tarrio’s own lawyer described his undercover work and said he had helped authorities prosecute more than a dozen people in various cases involving drugs, gambling and human smuggling.

Tarrio, in an interview with Reuters Tuesday, denied working undercover or cooperating in cases against others. “I don’t know any of this,” he said, when asked about the transcript. “I don’t recall any of this.”

Law-enforcement officials and the court transcript contradict Tarrio’s denial. In a statement to Reuters, the former federal prosecutor in Tarrio’s case, Vanessa Singh Johannes, confirmed that “he cooperated with local and federal law enforcement, to aid in the prosecution of those running other, separate criminal enterprises, ranging from running marijuana grow houses in Miami to operating pharmaceutical fraud schemes.”

Tarrio, 36, is a high-profile figure who organizes and leads the right-wing Proud Boys in their confrontations with those they believe to be Antifa, short for “anti-fascism,” an amorphous and often violent leftist movement. The Proud Boys were involved in the deadly insurrection at the Capitol January 6.

The records uncovered by Reuters are startling because they show that a leader of a far-right group now under intense scrutiny by law enforcement was previously an active collaborator with criminal investigators.

Washington police arrested Tarrio in early January when he arrived in the city two days before the Capitol Hill riot. He was charged with possessing two high-capacity rifle magazines, and burning a Black Lives Matter banner during a December demonstration by supporters of former President Donald Trump. The D.C. Superior Court ordered him to leave the city pending a court date in June.

Though Tarrio did not take part in the Capitol insurrection, at least five Proud Boys members have been charged in the riot. The FBI previously said Tarrio’s earlier arrest was an effort to preempt the events of January 6.

The transcript from 2014 shines a new light on Tarrio’s past connections to law enforcement. During the hearing, the prosecutor and Tarrio’s defense attorney asked a judge to reduce the prison sentence of Tarrio and two co-defendants. They had pleaded guilty in a fraud case related to the relabeling and sale of stolen diabetes test kits.

The prosecutor said Tarrio’s information had led to the prosecution of 13 people on federal charges in two separate cases, and had helped local authorities investigate a gambling ring.

Tarrio’s then-lawyer Jeffrey Feiler said in court that his client had worked undercover in numerous investigations, one involving the sale of anabolic steroids, another regarding “wholesale prescription narcotics” and a third targeting human smuggling. He said Tarrio helped police uncover three marijuana grow houses, and was a “prolific” cooperator.

In the smuggling case, Tarrio, “at his own risk, in an undercover role met and negotiated to pay $11,000 to members of that ring to bring in fictitious family members of his from another country,” the lawyer said in court.

In an interview, Feiler said he did not recall details about the case but added, “The information I provided to the court was based on information provided to me by law enforcement and the prosecutor.”

An FBI agent at the hearing called Tarrio a “key component” in local police investigations involving marijuana, cocaine and MDMA, or ecstasy. The Miami FBI office declined comment.

There is no evidence Tarrio has cooperated with authorities since then. In interviews with Reuters, however, he said that before rallies in various cities, he would let police departments know of the Proud Boys’ plans. It is unclear if this was actually the case. He said he stopped this coordination after December 12 because the D.C. police had cracked down on the group.

Tarrio on Tuesday acknowledged that his fraud sentence was reduced, from 30 months to 16 months, but insisted that leniency was provided only because he and his co-defendants helped investigators “clear up” questions about his own case. He said he never helped investigate others.

That comment contrasts with statements made in court by the prosecutor, his lawyer and the FBI. The judge in the case, Joan A. Lenard, said Tarrio “provided substantial assistance in the investigation and prosecution of other persons involved in criminal conduct.”

As Trump supporters challenged the Republican’s election loss in often violent demonstrations, Tarrio stood out for his swagger as he led crowds of mostly white Proud Boys in a series of confrontations and street brawls in Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.

The Proud Boys, founded in 2016, began as a group protesting political correctness and perceived constraints on masculinity. It grew into a group with distinctive colors of yellow and black that embraced street fighting. In September their profile soared when Trump called on them to “Stand back and stand by.”

Tarrio, based in Miami, became the national chairman of the group in 2018.

In November and December, Tarrio led the Proud Boys through the streets of D.C. after Trump’s loss. Video shows him on December 11 with a bullhorn in front of a large crowd. “To the parasites both in Congress, and in that stolen White House,” he said. “You want a war, you got one!” The crowd roared. The next day Tarrio burned the BLM banner.

Former prosecutor Johannes said she was surprised that the defendant she prosecuted for fraud is now a key player in the violent movement that sought to halt the certification of President Joe Biden.

“I knew that he was a fraudster – but had no reason to know that he was also a domestic terrorist,” she said.

This is quite a revelation!

Tony

 

Baseball Hall of Fame Says No to Schilling, Bonds and Clemens!

For Baseball Hall of Fame vote, character concerns go beyond PEDs – Orange County Register

Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Barry Bonds

Dear Commons Community,

The Baseball Hall of Fame voters decided yesterday not to accept any of the 25 candidates for enshrinement in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Candidates need to receive a minimum 75 percent of the vote to be elected. The last time the writers elected nobody was in 2013. The no-gos that year will sound familiar: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.  As reported by the New York Times.

“This group has lingered on the ballot for nine years. Voters have 10 years to consider candidates, meaning that the next election, for the 2022 class in December, will be the writers’ final referendum on three of the most dominant and polarizing players in baseball history.  

Schilling, a postseason pitching titan whose incendiary rhetoric on social media has caused some voters to rethink their support, missed being elected by 16 votes. He collected 285 votes among the 401 ballots cast by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, improving only to 71.1 percent, up from 70 percent last year.

Bonds and Clemens, who are linked by extraordinary success on the field and strong ties to performance-enhancing drug use, fell short again — Bonds with 61.8 percent of the vote, Clemens with 61.1 percent. Bonds, a seven-time winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award, is the career home run leader, with 762. Clemens, a seven-time winner of the Cy Young Award, is the only pitcher in history with 350 victories and 4,000 strikeouts.

If the writers do not elect Bonds, Clemens or Schilling on the next ballot, their fate will fall to a 16-person panel of Hall of Famers, team officials and historians. Formerly known as the veterans’ committee, this group considers managers, umpires, executives and players not elected by the writers, covering a different era in each election.

In a message to the Hall of Fame that he posted on Facebook, Schilling wrote that he was “mentally done” with the process and did not want to be considered again by the writers.

“I will not participate in the final year of voting,” he wrote. “I am requesting to be removed from the ballot. I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player.”

In a statement, the Hall of Fame’s chairman, Jane Forbes Clark, said the Hall’s board would consider Schilling’s request at its next meeting. But it denied a similar request by Marvin Miller, the influential head of the players’ union who died in 2012 and who had asked to be taken off the veterans’ committee ballot.

The 16-person panel did not meet last December because of the coronavirus pandemic, so officially, the 2021 class will have no members at all. But because the pandemic also canceled the induction ceremonies for the 2020 class — including Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Miller — there should still be activity in Cooperstown this summer. The Hall of Fame has scheduled an induction ceremony for July 25.

The writers have voted for the Hall of Fame since its founding in 1936. This was the ninth time they have held an election and failed to induct anyone. But from each of those fruitless elections, at least six of the top 10 finishers were inducted in time. Other than Gil Hodges, every player who has received at least 50 percent on a writer’s ballot has eventually been elected by the writers or a subsequent committee.

The New York Times is one of several news organizations that prohibit writers from voting for awards, believing that reporters should not be newsmakers. But if I could have submitted a ballot, I would have checked boxes for Bonds, Clemens, Todd Helton, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Schilling and Gary Sheffield.

To me, the character clause should apply only if a player was, at some point, forbidden to participate because of cheating. If not, his career was fully sanctioned by Major League Baseball, and that’s good enough for me. Bonds and Clemens belong.

As for Schilling, his work on the field was Cooperstown-worthy (he is the only pitcher with more than 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 750 walks) and for all of his troubling social-media bluster in retirement, he was honored several times as a player for community service and character. This is a baseball election, not a congressional race, and Schilling was great at baseball.”

Maybe next year!

Tony