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How Extremist Ideologies Are Morphing

Politico -

On Saturday, an 18-year-old man traveled from Conklin, New York, to Buffalo, where he shot and killed 10 Black people at a grocery store. The following day, a Chinese-born Las Vegas man traveled to an Orange County, California, church to kill Taiwanese people. For Americans watching two ethnically motivated attacks in one weekend, it was hard to avoid the sensation that a problem that had been slowly gathering for years was quickly spiraling out of control.

Is it?

To find out, I spoke with Elizabeth Neumann, a former Department of Homeland Security official under former President Donald Trump. Previously, she served on the Homeland Security Council under George W. Bush. Neumann left DHS in April 2020 and is currently chief strategy officer at Moonshot, a company that develops new technology and methodologies to combat online harms, including radicalization. And she says, yes, there are more radicalized people than ever before, and there are reasons for it we need to pay more attention to.

“It’s kind of like a weather warning,” she said. “What extremist researchers are saying is, ‘The conditions are ripe for violence,’ because of all of these factors are at play in a volatile environment.”

Among those factors: Increasing globalization creates uncertainty that makes people everywhere more vulnerable to hateful arguments and the solutions presented by those arguments. Politicians and public figures, particularly on the right in the United States, play a key role, too. Even if they are motivated by getting more viewers or winning elections, Neumann says, “They know what they’re doing. They’re choosing to ignore it, or they think they can get away with it.”

We also touched on solutions. The fact that there are solutions, and there appear to have been solutions that would have worked in the Buffalo shooter’s case, makes her hopeful, she said.

“But on the other hand,” she said, “it makes me very sad that there weren’t resources in place to be able to run those interventions in this case.”

This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Katelyn Fossett: Would you consider the Buffalo shooter a Christian extremist?

Elizabeth Neumann: According to his manifesto — all the caveats apply: He’s presenting to the world what he wants the world to see, so until the investigation is done, I don’t know that we have a fully accurate picture. But what he mentioned in the manifesto was that he is not a Christian. And he clarified that what he meant was that he did not believe there was a need for salvation; he did not believe in salvation by faith; and he doesn’t believe in an afterlife. Even the phrase “salvation by faith” tells me he’s been exposed to Christian teaching, because that’s almost a direct quote out of the New Testament.

But then he goes on and says he agrees with Christian values. And that’s the piece that’s fascinating for those who are studying Christian nationalism. There are people today who walk into the voting booth, and when they are asked what their religious affiliation is, they will say Christian, not because they have put their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but because culturally, that is who they spend time with and that’s what they’re most comfortable with. It’s more an identity label and less an actual religion or faith. There are aspects of Christian nationalism where the people who are Christian nationalist might not even consider themselves Christian, like this guy, but strongly want the country to maintain its association with those values. This guy’s primary thrust was an ethnonationalist viewpoint that the United States belongs to white people and white Europeans, and there is an evil conspiracy coordinated by the Jews to get rid of white people through a combination of low birth rates and having immigrants come in and have higher birth rates.

There are lots of strains in this conspiracy theory that can go in a lot of different directions, but his main point was that we are going to lose the white race and America should be white; and he’s fighting back to save his culture, and he sees his culture as inherently Christian or having Christian values. So that’s getting close to Christian nationalism in that a Christian nationalist also has a belief that America was founded as a Christian nation, but there’s a bit more religion [in Christian nationalism]. Strong Christian nationalists will tell you that in order for America to maintain its blessing from God, we must be a moral nation. We are no longer a moral nation; we need to fight back and preserve morality; we need to institute morals into our laws, otherwise the Lord is going to remove his blessing and we will no longer be a Christian nation.

There are variations on Christian nationalism. It’s not like somebody is the owner of the ideology and says, “No, no, it’s only one thing.” You could walk into one church and go like, “Oh, this is Christian nationalist.” And then you could walk into a country club where they’re not talking about religious things at all, and it can also seem Christian nationalist. It’s more about the cultural identity of Christian values being forced into our lives, and the motive might be a little different. In this case, the guy is thinking of it through a very cultural lens — an ethnonationalist viewpoint of “I want to preserve white culture, and white culture is inherently Christian,” in his mind. Perhaps another person who is a Christian nationalist — it might not at all, at least on its face, have anything to do with race, and it’s just, “I just wanted God’s blessing on my country, and we need to force Christian morals on the country.” 

Fossett: It seems like these extremist ideologies are melding together. Is that something you’re observing with some of these ideologies, which appear to be increasingly motivating attacks like these?

Neumann: There is a recognized phenomenon within the past five years or so of an extremist or attacker picking or choosing their ideology across things that might seem to contradict one another. The FBI calls it “salad-bar ideology.” You know, “I want a little bit of eco-fascism, I want a little bit of racism, I’m also anti-Semitic.” And sometimes there are carve-outs for why this one thing is OK, but this one thing isn’t. It’s very much like choose-your-own-extremist-ideology. It’s increasingly narrowed down, like everything that is marketed to us now — you can get very particular about the way you want something, and the internet has allowed us to personalize the extremist ideology. So that is a very real thing that we have noticed in increasing levels over the past five or six years.

The other piece of your question is about how and why motivations for these killings are changing. Eleven years ago, you have the attacker in Norway who killed 77 kids basically in the name of replacement theory ideology. He was the modern instantiation of the conspiracy theory that has been around in some form or fashion for decades — or even centuries or millennia, because it all comes back to being anti-Semitic.

From that moment in 2011, we start to see a series of attacks globally — Christchurch being one of the biggest ones. This is not just the U.S. and Europe; this is all over the world, where white people are saying “We’re better,” and they’re pushing back on what they see as an encroachment on the white way of life. One of the factors to this seeming to have caught wind is some very real demographic changes. We’re increasingly globalized, we’re increasingly transnational, and immigration from the global south to the global north has increased dramatically over the past 10 years and is expected to continue to increase. There are very real factors, and we also have institutions that are not well-equipped to adjust to these very fast changes that we’re all experiencing.

There are very real demographic changes; there are very real technological changes and jobs getting shipped overseas. And that creates opportunity for grievance — real grievance. If you lose your job because a factory overseas can do it cheaper, that hurts. That hurts your self-confidence and your sense of well-being, and it creates uncertainty. Uncertainty [about this upheaval] is one of those key factors that researchers have found common among people who join extremist movements. When you have uncertainty, you are open to being told the reasons for your crises and uncertainties and solutions for those uncertainties that involve violence toward the person who is scapegoated for your problems. Today, in 2022, we’re seeing much more of it. It’s not surprising because there has just been a lot of change.

If you bring it back to the U.S., and take some of the societal changes out of it and look at the Christian community, they have gone through — on one end of the spectrum, we had George W. Bush as president, and then, by 2015, gay marriage is legalized, and they start to see people owning businesses getting taken to court for their refusal to provide services for a gay wedding. And very quickly, you get to narratives around, “They’re criminalizing Christianity.” I remember personally hearing sermons like, “In my lifetime, I as a pastor am likely to be jailed. Your children might not be able to hear an orthodox teaching of the Bible.” This fear really set in that the Christian experience that most have had their entire life is not something that their grandchildren are going to enjoy. I hear that all the time when I go home: that the world is changing so fast … that creates a lot of fear, and that fear, in an election year, is used to get votes and raise money. And for some, it gets used to suggest that violence might be necessary. So much so that, flash forward to polls in late 2021, that found that — depending on the poll — 30-40 percent of white evangelicals believe they might need to take up arms to defend the country they love.

[They think], “The government has failed. I need to go restore liberty.” Of course, one of the motivations behind January 6 is a wrong belief in the election being stolen, and they thought that [the insurrection] was the right thing to do to save your country.

When you have such rapid change, and you have uncertainty, and you have monetization factors like political candidates and media magnets that make money off fear, you’re creating the soup, the toxic soup, that makes people vulnerable. And then it doesn’t take much for a threat actor to come in and cultivate extremist thoughts and move people to actual hostile action. And maybe that’s not terrorism; maybe it’s harassing threats at a school board meeting. That’s still a hostile action. That’s still, according to [terrorism researcher] J.M. Berger’s definition of extremism, which is any time an in-group believes an out-group poses a threat to you or to the in-group’s success or survival. And they think that hostile action is necessary. Hostile action can be bullying, it can be intimidation, it can be hate crimes. It can be terrorism. It can be war. There’s the whole spectrum of it. But the moment that you’re intimidating and bullying, or crossing into a hate crime realm, that’s still extremism.

Not everybody takes that next step, commits an act of violence and actually harms people. But it’s a path. And even with as much research as we have and what we understand about attackers and people that get radicalized and become extremist, it’s still impossible to predict if you have a pool of 100 people that meet that extremist definition, which one of them is going to go actually commit the attack? We don’t know.

So any time you have a large pool of people that have been radicalized — and I would argue that today we have a lot more in the country than we’ve ever had before — it makes it extremely difficult to know who you need to actually have your eyes on because they’re the one that is going to commit the attack. There are just too many.

Fossett: What role have politicians played in the Buffalo shotting and other attacks like it?

Neumann: So it is fairly clear from the Buffalo attacker’s manifesto — again, we don’t know the full investigation yet — he does not seem to have been radicalized through mainstream mechanisms. So I want to make sure that caveat is there before I say the this next piece.

That said, we have a whole host of people who are routinely spending time discussing and being angry about and talking in coded language — whether they actually understand the code or not — around ideas that for a long time were on the fringe and would not have been discussed in the mainstream. Very common phrase used among extremist researchers is “The extreme has gone mainstream.” It is just kind of normal these days to hear in conservative Republican circles this idea of, “Well, they’re trying to bring in the immigrants to replace the conservatives, the Republicans, the real Americans. They’re trying to make them all Democrat voters.” And so there’s a part of that that’s like: OK, so you’re making an assertion that if you bring 100 people in that are immigrants, that you think 55 percent of them are going to be Democrats over the 45 percent that might be Republicans. Maybe you’re genuinely just trying to talk about the ability for you to maintain political power. Maybe that’s all you mean. But there are other voices that go the next step and start demonizing the immigrant. They use language that makes the immigrants seem less than human, including comparing them to rodents or animals or saying they’re dirty or less than human. And anytime you start seeing that kind of language, it really alarms extremist researchers, because that’s an important step before somebody commits violence.

Human beings are created not to kill one another. In order to get your mind to a place where you’re OK with killing somebody, you have to make them less than human in your mind. And when you start having voices making those arguments for you on TV, and politicians, the impact it has on the conversation and the ideas that are circulating in conservative and Republican circles is it’s starting to change people’s minds about certain people and demographic groups. That happens even if the motives of those politicians and the people on TV are making money or getting viewers. Maybe they don’t actually believe it. I think that’s in large the case for television guys.

And it’s not just racially based. It’s also about “those people on the coasts,” and “They don’t understand us. They’re extreme.” So it’s anytime you’re is saying, “I’m this way and those other people don’t get me; those other people are evil.”

And when you’re talking about a country of 330 million, yeah, most people are not going to go commit an act of violence; it’s a small percentage. But a small percentage is a lot of people. It’s a lot of violence.

So I think the concern of the last five to seven years is rapid change, great uncertainty, voices in leadership — including at one point the president of the United States — dehumanizing their opponents and bringing into the mainstream political dialogue conversations or phrases or ideas that had in the past been shunned as hateful, as racist, as conspiracy-laden and not true. Now they’re welcomed and talked about, and that’s creating the circumstances from which the violence can occur. It’s kind of like a weather warning. The conditions are ripe for a tornado or for a hurricane to form. What extremist researchers are saying is, “The conditions are ripe for violence,” because of all of these factors are at play in a volatile environment. And we just went through Covid — talk about the height of height of uncertainty and fear. That was a really scary time for a lot of people. They lost jobs. They lost loved ones. All of those are known contributors for creating uncertainty and making people more susceptible to extremist thoughts.

There are more radicalized people right now, and there are a lot of reasons for it, but certainly leadership on the right is complicit. At this point, they know what they’re doing. They’re choosing to ignore it, or they think they can get away with it. Especially after 2019, when you have the president's campaign slogan end up in a terrorist manifesto and it’s plastered all over the New York Times a couple of days later … You might not want to believe it. You might not want to believe that evil people might be inspired by politicians, but it’s just the height of irresponsibility for you to have not been aware of it. And so those that are continuing it, I think they have a lot of accountability for some of the deaths that we’ve seen.

Fossett: What do you think politicians should do when something like this happens? Especially Republican politicians who want to make sure they’re not encouraging this?

Neumann: I loved Liz Cheney’s statement that she put out calling on Republicans and conservatives to denounce white supremacy and to denounce replacement theory. It’s one thing for somebody on the left to do that, or for people that like myself who are constantly trying to warn about this. At some point, people are like, “Yeah, yeah, you said this before.” It really would be quite something if you had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy come out and say, “I should've done this earlier, but I really realize how damaging this kind of language can be. And it was never my intent. But I own the fact that I am the leader of the Republican Party, and there are members in our ranks that are dabbling in … and some of them are hanging out at white nationalist rallies. And we’re going to take this seriously and we’re going to hold our members accountable for making sure that they do not promote hate. Violence is not the way that we solve our disagreements. We can disagree with one another and still treat one another like human beings.”

Something along those lines: acknowledging that you haven’t done enough to this point and vehemently condemning white supremacy, white nationalism, racism, hate crimes, all of that. And condemning not just the attacker, but the ideology behind it. And then committing to holding their party members accountable.

That would be different than what we usually see, which is, you know, “This is a horrific act,” and “We condemn the act.” Of course, everybody condemns the act. But do you condemn the ideas behind the act? Do you condemn the fact that [Fox News host] Tucker Carlson has been talking about this and did a special on this idea of replacement theory, and that is creating the fear factor that is driving people to go look deeper? It’s an on-ramp to being radicalized. That doesn’t mean that Carlson did the radicalization himself, but it’s irresponsible for him to create the conditions that lead people to go and search for these dark channels of the internet where they become radicalized.

I think you can be a conservative without having to cater to white supremacists and white nationalists and those conspiracy theories.

Now we’ve had several attacks. Language coming out of the political right is showing up in those manifestos. And you’ve got to denounce it and you have to denounce it hard, over and over and over again. It would be really powerful if they could do that.

Fossett: Given your expertise and research, and looking at the Buffalo attacker’s background, where do you think are the hinge points in his story where someone could have intervened and stopped this?

Neumann: We’re starting to see more about the attacker’s interactions with law enforcement. There were signs of disturbing behavior in the last year. It does seem like there were probably points along his journey that where intervention could have worked, and he could have been off-ramped and this could have been avoided. That makes me hopeful that maybe we can do that before the next attack happens, but on the other hand, it makes me very sad that there weren’t resources in place to be able to run those interventions in this case.

We have some really strong evidence about why and how people radicalize and what can be done at various stages on those journeys to both build resilience in people that are vulnerable and and that are on radicalization pathways. When I was at DHS, we were studying this. We actually asked Rand to do a study for us. They came back with a number of recommendations that we adopted. We were able to secure funding, which is kind of like one of the bright spots in the Trump administration in the story of otherwise ignoring domestic terrorism. And it was largely due to three secretaries who were committed to trying to address domestic terrorism, even if the White House didn’t care. We created what is now called the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships. We put people in the field to start building out prevention capability, restarted a grant program, increased its funding, and we went from $3 million to $30 million [in funding]. So that’s the good news.

The Biden administration came in and improved the concept, in part because it was based on a pilot from the Obama years. It had just been updated based on the latest information and latest evidence. And they wrote their domestic terrorism strategy, which is great. And then they haven’t funded it. It’s stayed flat. So we’re currently spending $30 million on prevention. That's non-law-enforcement prevention.

Back in 2016 and 2017, there were three or four different think tanks that were looking at prevention funding. And the recommendations range from, on one end, that the U.S. should be spending $150 million to $250 million a year. One recommendation was all the way up to $1 billion a year for both international and domestic prevention programs. So before we had January 6, before Covid, before the conspiracy theories around elections, we’re seeing recommendations to spend $250 million to $1 billion on prevention. Now, I would say we have an even bigger problem, and we’re still spending $30 million.

I do think we could be doing a lot more. We can design prevention programs that come alongside vulnerable individuals and people that are in radicalization pathways and intervene with them. We can do it offline. We can do it online. I work for Moonshot, which is a company that does online interventions to try to meet people where they are. They’re finding the radicalizing material and trying to either move them to safer content online or move them to offline psychosocial support. Because what we found is that sometimes the people searching for the most harmful content online are very open to empathic messages that meet the underlying need that is driving them. They tend to be angry. They tend to be lonely. They tend to be frustrated. And if you approach them with, “Hey, would you like to talk to somebody?” we actually end up with quite a few people who were searching for violent extremist content who are willing to go and talk to somebody.

So there’s evidence that this works. It’s just not scaled to the pattern that we have. I have hope, but I really need Washington, D.C. to do what it should do, which is authorize things, push the money out and then get out of the way and let the local communities build these capabilities out.

Because we do need to have the resources for parents and schoolteachers and coaches and loved ones to be able to call when they see somebody going down a dark path. They don’t want to call 911. And even if law enforcement shows up, law enforcement can't do something with somebody who’s just ideating or spouting off hate messages. They’re protected under the First Amendment; they can have their hateful ideas. That doesn’t mean they don’t need help. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t safe. And we need to be able to offer an alternative to families and loved ones so that they don’t have to endure these attacks anymore.

Pennsylvania Senate candidate Fetterman will have heart procedure after stroke

Politico -

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania will have a procedure on Tuesday to implant a pacemaker after suffering from a stroke last week, according to a statement from his campaign.

The announcement that Fetterman is about to undergo the procedure comes just hours before polls are set to close in Pennsylvania, where he’s had a sizable lead in the polls to win the Democratic nomination in the state’s U.S. Senate primary. He’s facing other candidates including Rep. Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta.

“John Fetterman is about to undergo a standard procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator,” his campaign said in a statement on Tuesday. “It should be a short procedure that will help protect his heart and address the underlying cause of his stroke, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), by regulating his heart rate and rhythm.”

The race for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s Senate seat will likely be one of the most intensely covered races of the 2022 primary season, seen as a pickup opportunity for Democrats. All eyes are also on the Republican primary, where TV personality Mehmet Oz, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, will face a tough race against conservative commentator Kathy Barnette and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick.

Fetterman’s campaign announced on Sunday that he’d had a stroke on Friday, after his weekend schedule was cleared without explanation. Fetterman credited his wife, Gisele, for noticing the symptoms early and taking him to the hospital.

“The amazing doctors here were able to quickly and completely remove the clot, reversing the stroke; they got my heart under control as well,” he said, adding that he did not have “cognitive damage.”


On the House Floor -

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2022 (05/17/2022 legislative day)


On the House Floor -

Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 6531) to provide an increased allocation of funding under certain programs for assistance in areas of persistent poverty, and for other purposes; providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 7309) to reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act; and providing for consideration of the bill (S. 2938) to designate the United States Courthouse and Federal Building located at 111 North Adams Street in Tallahassee, Florida, as the Joseph Woodrow Hatchett United States Courthouse and Federal Building, and for other purposes. (05/17/2022 legislative day)

Don't Make Your Own Formula

Real Clear Politics -

By the time they are six months old, 75 percent of babies in the U.S. use formula. And for many babies under 1, formula is the primary or exclusive source of nutrition-which is why the baby-formula shortage is so frightening to many parents.

Dobbs Draft Leak Is a Threat to Our Republic

Real Clear Politics -

On May 2, Politico published a draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court that would reverse Roe v. Wade - the landmark case that found a federal constitutional right to abortion. The resulting media frenzy proves that the leak is having a corrosive effect on American constitutional jurisprudence and gravely threatens the rule of law.

Ukraine aid splinters the GOP

Politico -

The Republican establishment is striking back against a right flank attempt to turn its opposition to Ukraine aid into an “America First” talking point.

Congress’ nearly $40 billion package of help for the war-torn nation is taking heat from a growing number of conservative lawmakers, candidates, activists and even former President Donald Trump. Their case against spending on Ukraine’s battle against Russia is all about redirecting taxpayer money to domestic problems — but it’s alarming fellow Republicans who see it as a flawed argument and part of a disturbing trend toward isolationism.

That tension is putting the sprawling aid package, which is set to clear the Senate later this week, at the center of the ongoing battle to define the modern GOP. Much of the party, from the rank and file all the way up to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is forcefully rejecting the MAGA wing’s opposition to the aid as misguided.

Yet the nationalist camp, determined to create a questionable either-or choice between foreign assistance and help for Americans in need, is growing ever larger and louder. And senior Republicans are taking on their colleagues more openly, defending the $40 billion aid package at a critical time for Ukraine's war effort.

“I don’t know what their alternative is. We’ve seen world wars started over less than what is happening in Europe,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who just returned from a swing through eastern Europe that included a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. “Even though it’s a lot of money, it’s a small investment relative to a world war.”

Eleven GOP senators opposed advancing the Ukraine assistance bill on Monday, joining 57 House Republicans who rejected the measure last week. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers aligned with Trump, in addition to high-profile House and Senate candidates, are slamming the aid package as reckless and out of step with Americans’ needs. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation, typically hawkish on foreign policy, came out against the Ukraine bill.

Some supporters, too, acknowledge concerns about the bill's high price tag, which Trump cited as he blasted it last week. But GOP senators say it’s critical to backfill U.S. military stockpiles that have already been tapped for Ukraine, and ensure that there isn’t a funding gap that could allow Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s forces to stage a comeback.

That pro-Ukraine camp includes many Republican lawmakers who still enthusiastically back Trump. They see it as a simple matter of America's role on the world stage, saying the U.S. must continue supporting Ukraine not only in the interest of defeating Putin, but also to convey to China that the U.S. won’t stand idly by in the face of threats to the liberal order.

“This is a question of whether we push back on Vladimir Putin while he’s weak and remove him from the international scene so that Europe can proceed without a war criminal, a madman, with nuclear weapons,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said. “On balance, it’s a very good thing to do to defend our friends who are standing for freedom and oppose a serial war criminal like Vladimir Putin.”

“A Putin victory is against our national security interests. Period,” added Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). “And that’s how we have to look at it.”

Trump-aligned potential 2024 presidential candidates were split on the vote, but a majority of them — including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) — rejected the former president’s position.

“There’s no doubt the price tag is too much, and there is excess waste put in this bill by the Democrats,” Cruz said in an interview. “At the same time, it is overwhelmingly in America’s national security interests for Russia and Putin to lose.”

Addressing the effort to backfill U.S. military stockpiles, Cruz added: “I don’t know how anyone can sensibly oppose that portion of the bill, which simply ensures America has the equipment to defend ourselves.”

Top Republicans are also justifying their vote for the Ukraine package by focusing on Beijing as the greater long-term threat to the U.S., given that China has implicitly threatened a military invasion of Taiwan. They say they need to deter potential land wars that extend past Ukraine into western Europe, in addition to a military conflict in Taiwan, which would cost even more money and lives over time.

“It’s in our national interest to make clear to both Putin [and] ultimately China that the United States isn't going to stand by and do nothing if they decide to invade a smaller neighbor,” added Rubio. “That said, they can’t keep coming back up here every three months asking for $40 billion. There has to be both a clear plan and some well-established objectives about our role in this moving forward."

Even so, Rubio's and Cruz's admissions that the size of the aid package — which has won unanimous backing from congressional Democrats — raises bloating concerns reflects a recognition that the MAGA-centric arguments against the Ukraine bill could bear political fruit. Opponents of the aid to Zelenskyy's nation contend that the $40 billion would be better served on issues directly affecting Americans, like the southern border and the baby formula shortage. (The White House had requested $33 billion for Ukraine.)

“Spending $40 billion on Ukraine aid — more than three times what all of Europe has spent combined — is not in America’s interests. It neglects priorities at home (the border), allows Europe to freeload, short changes critical interests abroad and comes with no meaningful oversight,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), another possible 2024 contender, wrote on Twitter.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who also opposes the aid package, lamented in an interview that “most Republicans lose their fiscal conservatism when it comes to defense being part of the equation. And I think the other side of the aisle plays us like a fiddle.”

“The only way that stops is if you have enough political will to say no to the stuff you really like,” he added.

That argument isn’t flying with most Republicans, who say throwing money at some domestic challenges won’t alleviate them.

“The administration, just by policy, could be fixing things on the border. The administration, by policy, could be fixing the issue of shortages we have in the supply chain,” said Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

McConnell addressed what he called the “isolationist” group head-on, saying the bill is “not some handout," but rather “squarely” in our national security interest. Some have gone further, with the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s top Republican, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, saying a vote against the $40 billion aid package “is a vote for Putin.”

The far-right has responded in kind. Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) in sharply personal terms Monday night for Crenshaw's criticism of fellow Republicans who oppose Ukraine aid. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has chided McConnell for leading the congressional delegation to Kyiv.

Kathy Barnette, who has gained steam in the Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary taking place on Tuesday, similarly went after McConnell with an “America First” argument.

“Why is Leader McConnell visiting Ukraine in the midst of the various crises right here in America?” she wrote on Twitter. “I believe it's time to get elected officials in office who will put AMERICA FIRST... and that's what I will do!”

No, Twitter Hasn't Changed Since Musk Bought It

Real Clear Politics -

In the aftermath of Twitter's agreement to sell itself to Elon Musk, opinion polls and pundits lined up to predict a mass exodus of users fleeing Musk's proposed changes to the platform's content moderation. Media outlets uncritically reported large numbers of users deactivating their accounts. Overnight, 72% of examined official Republican congressional accounts gained followers, while all but two Democratic accounts lost followers, sparking viral conspiracy theories that the company was "burning the evidence" of past conservative censorship before Musk took over.

Jan. 6 panel unlikely to call Trump to testify, chair says

Politico -

The Jan. 6 select committee is unlikely to call former President Donald Trump as a witness, its chair Rep. Bennie Thompson said Tuesday.

It is “not our expectations to do that,” the Mississippi Democrat said, contending that Trump’s testimony was not necessary to advance the committee’s mounting evidence of the former president’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

“We’re not sure that the evidence that we receive can be any more validated with his presence,” Thompson told reporters Tuesday, adding, “I think the concern is whether or not he would add any more value with his testimony.”

Thompson said discussions with former Vice President Mike Pence were ongoing, though he has previously suggested Pence’s testimony may not be necessary in light of high-level cooperation from his top advisers. Pence could serve a unique role to the panel, as he could function as both a witness to attempts to overturn the election as well as a victim, since he was targeted by Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election.

The committee’s 10-month investigation has produced reams of evidence describing a complex and multifaceted plan by Trump to prevent the transfer of power to Biden — from seeking to unravel his defeat in court to increasingly desperate maneuvers to get state legislatures to overturn the result after his legal challenges failed. Eventually, the former president homed in on the Jan. 6, 2021 session of Congress, when lawmakers were required by the Constitution to count electoral votes and finalize the 2020 presidential election.

Whether the committee would seek Trump’s testimony is one of the panel’s final high-level questions. Thompson emphasized no decision had been made, but that its "not in the day to day wheelhouse of our discussions." Committee members have expressed increasing skepticism about the value of testimony from Trump, who has continued to falsely claim the election was stolen and downplay the violent attack on Congress by thousands of his supporters.

Panel members Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) both declined to elaborate on the committee's approach to Trump or any decision about whether or not to call him..

"It's still being considered," Lofgren said.

Although the committee is gearing up for a series of public hearings in June to unload its findings, Thompson emphasized that the panel was still actively gathering evidence, talking to witnesses and pursuing more information through legal battles and requests to the National Archives, which houses all official records from the Trump White House.

In fact, Thompson indicated he had sent another letter to the Archives from the floor of the House just minutes before speaking with reporters. He added that his requests to the Archives have gotten more detailed and specific as the committee has gathered more evidence from high-level witnesses.

"We’re still in the middle of an aggressive investigation as we prepare for our hearings," Thompson said. "Things come up, we address them as they come up. There’s no cutoff for issuing subpoenas. There’s no cutoff for talking to witnesses. There’s no cutoff for getting additional information."

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

Opinion | The Ugly Backlash to Brown v. Board of Ed That No One Talks About

Politico -

Today, most Americans think about the segregation-shattering 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in one of three ways. We may think about Linda Brown, the plaintiff in Brown, a little girl forced to walk miles to a segregated Black school instead of attending the white school down the block. We may remember the famed Norman Rockwell painting featuring 6-year-old Ruby Bridges escorted by U.S. Marshals past a wall splattered with tomatoes and a racial slur. Or we may recall the tumult of busing in the South — Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia… and even much further north of the Mason-Dixon Line in South Boston, too.

But there is plenty that we have not been taught about Brown, which turns 68 today, or how it continues to impact us. We know about Linda Brown and Ruby Bridges. But we don’t know about Pressley Giles, Mary Preyer, Virgil Coleman and Jewel Butler. They were among the 100,000 exceptionally credentialed Black principals and teachers illegally purged from desegregating schools in the wake of Brown.

In the years following the Supreme Court ruling, and well into the 1970s, white resistance to the decree decimated the ranks of Black principals and teachers. In large measure, white school boards, superintendents, state legislators — and white parents — did not want Black children attending school with white children. And they certainly did not want Black teachers educating white children and Black principals leading schools and supervising white teachers. The scheme devised to quickly eliminate Black educators: the closure of Black schools. Even prior to Black school closures, black principals and teachers received letters from district superintendents erroneously telling them that the desegregation decree was responsible for their firings, dismissals and demotions. Less-qualified white teachers, many of whom didn’t have credentials, were hired in their stead.

As early as 1952, NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall knew that Black educators' jobs would be threatened given the racist strictures and customs of the Southern and border states. He was correct. After Brown, the NAACP litigated thousands of cases on behalf of displaced Black educators and pressured the Nixon administration, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the FBI and Congress to investigate and remedy the illegal and discriminatory treatment of Black principals and teachers. Though some litigants prevailed winning back pay and reinstatement, most never got their jobs back.

Today, the nation, not to mention our public education system, is still living with the fallout: traumatized Black school children; roughly $1-2 billion in salary losses and the largest orchestrated brain drain ever experienced in the U.S. public education system. What’s more, many of the beliefs and levers that were used to eliminate Black principals and teacher leadership after Brown are still in effect today. When I read and watch contemporary news accounts of (mainly white) parents objecting to the teaching of Black history and a more truthful accounting of American history; threatening to burn books; and physically intimidating school board members, I think about resistance to the Brown legal decision. The tactics being used now come from the exact same script.

In conducting research for my new book, Jim Crow’s Pink Slip: The Untold Story of Black Principal and Teacher Leadership, I discovered the purging of Black educators happened even though Black principals and teachers were more qualified than the white educators who replaced them. Proven Black principals and teachers were replaced on a near one-to-one basis with whites who held fewer or no qualifications. Even in segregated all-Black schools, Black educators were more likely to hold bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, certification, and higher levels of licensure than their white peers. Yet after Brown, they were deemed unfit to teach white students for racist reasons, losing both their jobs and their ability to directly influence education policy and practice.

The loss inflicted four traumas still felt today. The first trauma was economic. As I estimate in my book, the low end of calculated salary losses is about $250 million for elimination of 30,000 Black educators’ jobs. Over time, 100,000 Black principals and teachers were shunted off the payrolls due to white resistance to Brown, leaving Black educators nearly $1 billion poorer. Adding to the salary losses from firings were those induced from lack of hiring. Between 1968 and 1971 alone, a total of 23,000 new principal and teaching jobs were created in 11 southeastern states. Black educators were placed in fewer than 500 of these new jobs. In these post-Brown firing and hiring equations, Black educators were desegregation’s prey and white educators its beneficiaries. They lost their jobs — and they were blocked from newly created positions producing income losses and wealth transfers from Black people to white people totaling approximately $2.2 billion today.

The second trauma was the damage done to school systems because of the loss of a high-caliber principal and teacher workforce. The mass exodus of Black teachers and principals yielded school systems led by racist fearmongers manipulating the system to maintain white power and jobs at the expense of Black people. The assault on the professional stature of Black educators ensured that the desegregated school system would be held captive by the same Jim Crow power structure that had fought vehemently against desegregation for decades.

The third trauma resulted in the “near total disintegration of Black authority in every area of public education,” according to a 1972 report by the National Education Association. That served to greatly diminish the aspirations of Black educators and young people. It is reasonable to conclude that Black youth observing the fate of their elders, would worry (and be advised) that they would have limited futures as principals and teachers. The loss of leadership symbols, success symbols and symbols of aspiration were known and felt in the Black community.

The fourth trauma was the cruelest cut of all. If schooling is about the children, as all the sentimental slogans profess, Black children did not seem to count. Ushered into “integrated” schools without Black models of intellectual authority who could serve as guides and protectors, Black students were subjected to physical violence and emotional abuse, racial intimidation and hostility and illegal suspensions, according to numerous reports by the National Education Association and the American Friends Service Committee, a human and civil rights organization. In 1965 Time magazine published an article about the firings, quoting then-U.S. Commissioner of Education Francis Keppel, who said, “We must not deceive ourselves that the exclusion of Negroes is not noticed by children. What can they assume but that the Negroes are not deemed by the community as worthy of a place in mixed classrooms? What can the white child assume but that he is somehow special and exclusive…How can the world of democracy have meaning to such children?” Even today, public school students of all races are taught curriculums that are nearly all-white in content, imagery and authorship.

We think about Brown as ancient history. It’s not. School segregation was still in full effect well into the late 1970s and early 1980s. At some point in their histories even those non-Southern states that we today categorize as liberal leaning had laws prohibiting the education of Black and white students together, including California, Iowa and Ohio, among others. At least 17 states fought with all their might against Brown for more than 20 years. In Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, all that might include outright law-defying governors, state legislatures, local school boards and superintendents, and white citizens groups that illegally hijacked state budgets and statutes to steer tax dollars and white students away from desegregating schools.

Most folks don’t want to talk about failures and failings. Americans especially seem to prefer stories about the triumphant underdog, the up-by-my-own-bootstraps tale, and any narrative that advances an American exceptionalism void of evil intent and outcomes. It is this psychological persuasion that keeps the nation falling into the racial sinkholes that some would like to pave over, but never excavate to resolve and seal. The American myth histories that we are taught, and our schoolbooks tell, are filled with outright lies, as our (mis)understandings about Brown exemplify. So, what’s not true that we think is true about Brown? And why does any of this matter in 2022?

The Brown decision proclaimed that racial segregation had no place in America’s public schools. It did not mandate that all-Black schools had to be shuttered and closed and that all-white schools were to be the singular recipient of integrating student bodies — but that’s what happened. White officials and citizens orchestrated this outcome as they aggressively, openly and illegally defied the new law of the land.

The Black educators who were demoted and dismissed had played by the rules. Many, if not most, attended historically Black colleges and universities because state laws restricted their attendance at white-reserved public colleges and universities, including graduate and professional schools. Even still, after earning degrees at HBCUs, thousands attended graduate school programs, earning master’s and doctoral degrees, not in their segregated home states, but in nationally prominent, Northern universities — mainly Columbia University, New York University, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and Iowa State University. They then returned to serve as principals and teachers in segregated Black schools completing an academic migration back to their home states.

The mass closure of Black schools and influx of Black students into previously all-white schools led to an increased need for principals and teachers in desegregating schools. With Black principals and teachers pushed out, white superintendents and school boards found themselves in a quandary: Who was going to lead the schools and teach the swelling numbers of students? Pressed by the need to hire more educators, they manufactured principal and teacher shortages, turning almost exclusively to whites outside the profession, vacating state requirements for education degrees and teacher licensure, and creating fast tracks into the classroom through emergency certification. The NAACP and National Association of Secondary School Principals reported as late as 1971 that Black principals and teachers who held certification and years of experience were being replaced by white principals and teachers who had no certification and no experience in the communities in which they were placed.

The oft-repeated myth that Black people fled the education professions after Brown to pursue careers in other professions newly opened to them after desegregation is not an accurate rendering of history. The historical record shows that the Black educator pipeline was purposely decimated by racists intent on keeping schools segregated even in the face of mandates by Brown and numerous other legal cases that states desegregate students, faculty and staff. Prior to Brown in the 17 dual system states 35-50 percent of educators were Black. Today, there is no state that approaches these percentages. In fact, about 7 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers, 11 percent of the nation’s nearly 90,000 principals and less than 3 percent of the nation’s nearly 14,000 superintendents are Black. This is so, even though the nation’s most credentialed educators are Black, according to my research.

We are seeing new versions of those post-Brown policies today. The modern-day fast-track alternative certification programs that place non-certified individuals as teachers, primarily in schools serving Black and poor students, would be familiar to the generations of Black principals and teachers who were illegally fired, demoted and dismissed after Brown. These deposed Black educators would likely also distrust contemporary school “reform” models such as vouchers, school choice and charter schools. After all, these were the very mechanisms that they experienced during the long stalling of Brown’s progress that were used to siphon public tax dollars from desegregating public schools — and annihilate their careers as principals and teachers. It’s worth noting that these various “reform” mechanisms likely wouldn’t exist if a generation of uniquely qualified Black educators were integrated into the public school system rather than expelled from it. These were people with superior academic credentials, professional licensure, commitment to democratic ideals, consistent activism against the ideology of racism, and experience with integrated society (during their graduate school education). They were lost to the profession and their voices, perspectives and activism to the implementation of Brown and subsequent education policy formulation.

This disturbing history needs to frame contemporary policy and practice discussions about educator workforce diversity, because many of the beliefs and levers that were used to eliminate Black principals and teacher leadership after Brown are still in effect today. In other words, the disproportionately low participation of African Americans in the teaching profession is a result of institutional racism, not just a recruitment problem.

What does it mean to American public schooling, the quest for integrated schools, the formulation of progressive and inclusive education and social policies, Black children’s academic achievement and attainment, and the erosion of racism to have lost these professionals after Brown? It means that our nation never fulfilled the full mandate of Brown to ensure that all students had access to diverse models of intellectual authority and leadership in their schools. Attention was turned away from this vital goal on June 15, 1971, when desegregation became a national debate about busing and pairing and clustering schools to achieve a racial balance of students. It also meant that Black, white and all other students would enter desegregated schools manufactured to be nearly all-white in their principal and teacher workforces; with curriculums and textbooks nearly all-white in authorship, content, and imagery; and, with district leadership, funding, and policy levers controlled almost exclusively by white officials.

What if things had been different? What if the purged generations of Black principals and teachers (who against all odds attained their own education achievements and successfully taught Black students) been integrated into schools following Brown? How might the nation, its schools, and its citizenry have benefited? Against every challenge and even terror, these Black educators led generations out of illiteracy, modeled civic engagement through the establishment of NAACP chapters and voting rights campaigns — and offered hope and a future to disenfranchised masses.

It is difficult to untangle the damage done from any progress made. What is sure: This is the legacy our public schools and our nation’s children live with — and must overcome as a path forward is crafted.

U.S. to ease a few economic sanctions against Venezuela

Politico -

CARACAS, Venezuela — The United States government is moving to ease a few economic sanctions on Venezuela in a gesture meant to encourage resumed negotiations between the U.S.-backed opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The limited changes will allow Chevron Corp. to negotiate its license with the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, but not to drill or export any petroleum of Venezuelan origin, two senior U.S. government officials told The Associated Press late Monday. The officials spoke under the condition of anonymity because the formal announcement had not been made.

Additionally, Carlos Erik Malpica-Flores — a former high-ranking PDVSA official and nephew of Venezuela’s first lady — will be removed from a list of sanctioned individuals, they said.

The moves follow goodwill gestures by Maduro after meeting in March with representatives of the administration of President Joe Biden and a recent gathering in Central America between U.S. officials and the main Unitary Platform opposition coalition to discuss a path forward.

“These are things that ... the Unitary Platform negotiated and came to us to request that we do in order for them to be able to return to the negotiating table,” one of the officials said.

Scores of Venezuelans, including the country’s attorney general and the head of the penitentiary system, and more than 140 entities, among them Venezuela’s Central Bank, will remain sanctioned. The Treasury Department will continue to prohibit transactions with the Venezuelan government and PDVSA within U.S. financial markets.

Maduro himself is under indictment in the United States, accused of conspiring “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.”

Venezuela’s government suspended talks with the opposition in October after the extradition to the U.S. of a key Maduro ally on money laundering charges. Maduro at the time conditioned his return to the negotiating table on the release from custody of businessman Alex Saab, who was extradited from the African nation of Cape Verde.

The negotiations took place in Mexico City under the guidance of Norwegian diplomats. The opposition and the Venezuelan government on Tuesday were expected to announce the resumption of negotiations.

California-based Chevron is the last major U.S. oil company to do business in Venezuela, where it first invested in the 1920s. Its four joint ventures with PDVSA produced about 200,000 barrels a day in 2019, but the U.S. government ordered it in 2020 to wind down production, and since then, it has only been allowed to carry out essential work on oil wells to preserve its assets and employment levels in Venezuela.

Venezuela sits atop the world’s largest oil reserves, yet its political upheaval and economic decline have pushed more than 6 million people to migrate in recent years. About three quarters of those who remain live on less than $1.90 a day, considered the international standard for extreme poverty, and many lack access to clean, running water and electricity.

The U.S. and other countries withdrew recognition of Maduro after accusing him of rigging his 2018 reelection as president. In his place, they recognized Juan Guaidó, who was head of the then-opposition-dominated congress and remains the leader of the Unitary Platform.

For the past five years, the U.S. has used punishing financial and personal sanctions, criminal indictments and support for clandestine groups in an unsuccessful campaign to remove Maduro and restore what it sees as Venezuela’s stolen democracy.

But in March, U.S. officials traveled to Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, to meet with Maduro after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended the world order and forced Washington to rethink its national security priorities.

After the meeting, Maduro freed two American prisoners and promised to resume negotiations with his opponents.

The senior U.S. officials said the government will calibrate sanctions based on concrete outcomes at the negotiations and would reimpose them in the event of backsliding in the dialogue process.

Malpica-Flores was once national treasurer and PDVSA’s vice president of finance. He was individually sanctioned in 2017 as the U.S. targeted people associated with Venezuela’s rampant government corruption.

His aunt, Cilia Flores, is one of the most influential members of Venezuela’s government and a constant presence alongside her husband. Two other nephews of hers are imprisoned in the U.S. on drug conspiracy convictions.


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