Several years back, when Trump began calling out his support of white supremacist groups, trying to tell anyone who’d listen that there were very fine people among the neo-Nazis, and the Republican Party began moving towards enabling violence and xenophobia and fascism, I kept remembering a news story from many years back that I want to bring back, but I couldn’t track it down for the specifics.
I know that some people remember the story, although like me at this point, only the most-surface details. And some will have likely forgotten it -- until being reminded in an "Oh, yeahhh..." moment. And many (probably most) have no recollection of it. And it's a story that very much bears remembers, because it carries great substance with it today.
The problem with finding the story online was that the words to search for had all become far too common and generic. “White supremacist.” “Terrorist groups.” "Extremist." “Right-wing.” “Government report.” “Republicans outraged.” And since I didn't recall exactly when it was written, I couldn't search for who was head of the department that released it. Any search brought up a tsunami of results, all on a vast range of topics.
The story I was trying to find was of a government study made about 10 years ago which said that the biggest threat to the United States in terrorism was from far-right, white supremacist groups here in the United States. And when the report got released, Republicans began squealing like stuck pigs, howling in whiney angst that this was so unfair and wrong and mean and political and nasty and blah blah fill-in-the-blank horrified that they demanded (demanded!!!) the report be retracted. Never mind that it was based on detailed research. But the howls were so loud and…well, faux-outraged that, in fact, the scholarly report was ultimately retracted.
And since then…yes, white supremacist terrorist groups like the Proud Boys, Boogaloo Bois, neo-Nazis and more began growing with Republican support, leading to the point of having Trump in a presidential debate actually telling them to infamously “Stand back and stand by,” which brought us to the January 6 insurrection and then last week having 11 members of the Oath Keepers (including their leader) arrested on charges of seditious conspiracy.
So, I've wanted to write about it for many years, but those search terms just led me nowhere. And any article without the details would have been empty.
And then, a few months back, the skies opened, and – on yet another of my attempted searches, not only did I come across information that filled in the blanks, but…even better, found a scathing op-ed in the Washington Post written by the actual author of that government report, Darryl Johnson, about his experience with that event and the whining cries from Republicans.
And to be clear, Darryl Johnson wasn’t some ivory tower academic sitting behind ivory-covered walls of an elite university, musing random thoughts in his tweed jacket while smoking a briarwood pipe. (Not that any of that would have invalidated his research, mind you.). Rather, at the time, he was the senior analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Ever since finding the op-ed, I've been trying to find the place to write about this piece, but the election -- and oddly, the insurrection and its aftermath -- kept getting in the way. But finally, enough is enough. It's not only as timely as when I found the op-ed, but as much when he wrote his report 13 years ago.
The title of his op-ed explained everything succinctly. “I warned of right-wing violence in 2009. Republicans objected. I was right.” And the sub-title put the cherry on top – “White nationalists have only gotten more dangerous since then.”
And here’s the thing. Putting aside that the report was written in 2009, Mr. Johnson’s op-ed noting that the threat had gotten even worse than when he wrote his original government advisory was not written after the insurrection, or in the last months of the Trump administration as the red flags grew more pronounced in the divisive anger of the election, Or during the pandemic when the edges of the nation’s psyche were frayed. Or after the crazy anonymous conspiracy theories of QAnon began to proliferate and drive wedges. No – it was written in 2017! During Trump’s second year in office.
What’s fascinating about Mr. Johnson’s op-ed is not just his recounting of the surface facts that I remembered, but the details underneath. Like that his paper was not even meant for public consumption, but was an intelligence report only for law enforcement. However, conservative media got a hold of it and leaked the material. Which allowed Republicans in Congress to squeal about it.
And worse, that conservative Republican reaction didn’t just get the report retracted, but it had long term effects we are feeling today – since work in the Department of Homeland Security investigating extremist groups was stopped. And the division was shut down. And more.
Johnson begins his article –
“Eight years ago, I warned of a singular threat — the resurgence of right-wing extremist activity and associated violence in the United States as a result of the 2008 presidential election, the financial crisis and the stock market crash. My intelligence report, meant only for law enforcement, was leaked by conservative media.
“A political backlash ensued because of an objection to the label ‘right-wing extremism.’ The report also rightly pointed out that returning military veterans may be targeted for recruitment by extremists. Republican lawmakers demanded then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano rescind my report. The American Legion formally requested an apology to veterans. Some in Congress called for me to be fired. Amid the turmoil, my warning went unheeded by Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, the Department of Homeland Security caved to the political pressure: Work related to violent right-wing extremism was halted. Law enforcement training also stopped. My unit was disbanded. And, one-by-one, my team of analysts left for other employment. By 2010, there were no intelligence analysts at DHS working domestic terrorism threats.”
And the op-ed goes on even more from there. It’s pointed, detailed, authoritative and very angry. And – as he notes in sub-title – right. Right in the most minute specifics. Just for starters there’s that “returning military veterans may be targeted for recruitment by extremists.” Written in 2009.
This isn’t just the report I’d been trying to find for many years, this is the full story laid out exquisitely by its creator.
And it makes clear that, no, this isn’t about Trump – he only walked in the open door that was there and took advantage of it – it’s about the officials of the Republican Party who enabled it all and supported it, in ways even more explicit that most people presume.
You can read the full op-ed here. It’s well-worth it.
Ben Franklin was born on this day, January 17, in 1706. And as I like to do to celebrate, I thought I'd post a few songs with the good fellow from a couple of Broadway musicals. Yes, a couple -- there are two musicals I know of that feature Benjamin Franklin, which is probably two more than most people would have guessed for a very long time.
While I'm certain that 1776 comes first to mind for most people, instead we're going to start with another. It's a show that opened in October, 1964, called Ben Franklin in Paris. And it had an impressive lead -- Robert Preston, in his first musical since The Music Man. It had music and lyrics by a fellow named Sidney Michaels and also starred Ulla Sallert. The show didn't have a long run, though did play for 215 performances, which is half a year.
I'm not bowled over by the score, but it does have a few nice things in it. And happily, my favorite song even has video of it when the cast appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed the song and the scene that leads into it. This is "Half the Battle."
The other song, "Look for Small Pleasures," is quite nice, in a small, charming way. In fact, it even had a bit of life outside the show and was recorded by several people, with moderate success.
And of course we have to follow that up with something from 1776, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards. So, here then is "The Egg."
And...oh, okay, let's throw in an offbeat bonus. No, it's not a musical about Ben Franklin, but how can we end a celebration of the good fellow without this song from Mary Poppins?!
When I saw the number of bizarre headlines over the weekend – many of which came from the Trump rally in Arizona (most of which still weren’t weird enough to even make this article, like “Trump Supporters at Arizona Rally Think the 2020 Election Will Be Redone” and the headline about a church across the street from the rally calling the police on abusive rallygoers harassing parishioners for wearing face masks) -- it was too near-impossible to pass them up. Any other weekend, any one of these would be the winner absolute worst, but this weekend the competition is much too strong.
I swear that this are all real headlines from Raw Story.
Mike Lindell tells MAGA rally there will be 'no computers or machines' used in 2022 elections
Just to let you know right off – no, this was not the worst headline of the weekend. So, that alone should give you an idea of what I meant by these being truly bizarre.
And in fairness, Mr. MyPillow’s track record of make predictions is really horrific. (No, Trump has still not been re-installed as president again.) Making his prediction all the worse is that I truly have no idea what the incomprehensible world salad he spewed to explain himself means. "The reason I say that,” Lindell began, “is because everybody now is out there with no fear, and we all know what happened, and it's all going to get corrected, and it's been on God's timing, not our timing.” Nope, I have no clue what that means. And clearly, neither does Mike Lindell when he then added, “I will promise you this: There's not going to be any election done with any machines or any computers in 2022." Which, just to be clear, is this year, and the elections are only 10 months away, which isn’t much time for every election to completely readjust how they run elections and start from scratch at the literal level of the Founding Fathers. Of course, even if he somehow thinks that Red states throughout the South are each going to use an abacus, why on earth he thinks Blue states like California, New York, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon and more, who accept the concept of technology, won’t be using computers or any machines at all is another matter between Mike Lindell and his God. And by the way, an abacus is a machine. So, maybe he just means using a pencil and paper.
“'That really hurt my feelings': Marjorie Taylor Greene is still upset about 'Jewish space lasers'”
To repeat, I swear this one is true. And against, it’s not the winner of Headline of the Weekend either! But yes, Ms. Taylor-Greene actually said this.
Saying "That really hurt my feelings" is almost adorable in a whiney snowflakey-way when it comes from a virulent insurrectionist who has threatened lives of members of Congress and Democrats. Her lack of self-awareness is at a level almost never reached by members of the human species. All the more so since, in her explanation why her feelings were so hurt, she said, "That was a term I had never used in my life," after having previously written on Facebook that the space lasers were part-funded by the Rothschilds. There are two other things about her statement that are remarkably amazing – the first is that’s only bothered by the “Jewish” part (never mind the whole “Rothschild
thing), but not that she said California wildfires were started by space lasers, whoever made them!! And the second is that she has feelings to hurt.
“Lara Trump thinks Microsoft Word office assistant 'Clippy' is a real person spying on her documents”
In fairness to Ms. Trump, who has turned being married to someone into quite a gig, she didn’t refer to the Microsoft office assistant as “Clippy,” which was its original name, but got retired years ago. But she was still reference the office assistant as if it was a real persona, and not just artificial intelligent coding that recognizes text and offers suggestions. "Someone is reading this?! And assessing what I'm writing?" she said on Fox “News”, outraged by software than can be easily turned off under the Settings option. Because it’s just software, not a real person.
Worse, she compared to software to her new car that doesn’t need a key anymore, but you just push a button – she explained that the car wouldn’t start if she “didn’t jingle the keys around.” Of course, as most sane people know, that’s not how push-button starting works, since they use safety technology that requires a key fob inside the car with you, and your foot on the break, with the car in park.
And yes, she’s a political analyst on Fox “News.” Which should explain a lot, right there.
“Mike Lindell goes to war with his bank after they tell him to take his money elsewhere: report”
It was a very bad weekend for Mr. MyPillow. Not only did he insist that no computers or machines would be used in this year’s mid-term elections, but he also said he was told by his bank that they didn't want his money and he should close all his accounts. They were concerned by FBI investigations and didn't want the "reputational damage." So, what did Mr. Lindell do? He published their phone numbers and contact information and said that people should call to complain. Because, yeah, that's just exactly what a bank wants to help his reputation.
And no, none of these headlines are the best of the weekend.
That’s because this is –
"QAnon leader attending Arizona rally scrambles to convince followers Trump isn't a 'body double'"
Yes, absolutely the best headline of the weekend. An easy winner. That’s why the others, as outlandish as bizarre as they all were, were each fighting for second place.
We may have thought JFK and his son coming back to slight, so that one of them could run with Trump in 2024 was as insane as the Republican base could get. But as we learned with Trump’s own depravity, there’s no level too deep.
One can only wonder what Republican officials think about all this—if it even registers with them. Which is should – because this is their base! And this is their party leader! And some of the base actually, truly thinks that the Republican Party leader is a freaking body double. You have serious problems with your party when that’s the starting point and the natural progression of your party’s various conspiracy theories. Even if it’s coming from just “some” of the base – because it was from enough of the base that it had to be addressed. And all the worse when the conspiracy leader of an anonymous conspiracy is the one who has to refute it. Or try to refute it.
Because, hey, since conspiracy theories are the lifeblood of today’s GOP…maybe that was a body double. I mean, honestly, how do we know??!! So, I’m okay with this one staying alive.
And that’s The Weekend in Headlines with the Republican Party.
And it was hard to edit them all down to just these five.
From the archives, the contestant here is Matthew Johnson from Chattanooga, Tennessee. This Puzzler is a bit of an oddity -- since I got the composer style, but not the song, and it's usually the other way around. And I felt annoyed at that, because it was clear where the hidden song was and sensed I should know it. I did at least guess it when played the second time around, though I'm not sure if composer Bruce Adolphe might have highlighted things a bit. It's defiitely a well-known song, but not a wildly-known one.
On this week’s episode of 3rd and Fairfax, the official podcast of the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Tracey Scott Wilson whose credits include writing for Fosse/Verdon and the series The Americans. She talks about that and bringing the life and career of Aretha Franklin to the screen for the movie Respect.
On this week’s ‘Not My Job’ segment of the NPR quiz show Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, the guest is actor Ed Begley, Jr. His interview with host Peter Sagal is very personable, gracious amusing, basically covering two subjects – his incredibly long, 54-year career (including the story a famous movie he didn’t exactly pass on, but didn't do because he never got around to reading the script) and his strong environment activism (with an odd story about trash).
This the full Wait, Wait… broadcast, but you can jump directly to the “Not My Job” segment, it starts around the 18:45 mark.
On this week’s Al Franken podcast, his guest is one of my favorite reporter, David Cay Johnston who writes about economics and finance, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001. He talks with Al about his new book, “The Big Cheat.” Al asks, “Who’s it about? Take a guess!” And then adds that the book is “a one-stop romp through the crimes of Trump and his grifter family.”
Let's go Out and About once again with Jiminy Glick, this time with his guest, the legendary Tom Hank. (And no, that's not a typo...) The fun here is that Hanks really dives deep into the spirit of all this and throws storyline ad-libs at Martin Short as heavily as Short always does to his guests. In fact, at one point Hanks goes so far (and it will be clear when) that for one of the very rare times he stops Martin Short in his tracks.
I had to smile yesterday when the DOJ not only arrested and indicted the leader of the Oath Keepers and 10 other members, but on seditious conspiracy. Though the smile was not for that reason alone -- but also because it answered all the people crying out why-oh-why the Justice Department isn't investigating the insurrection. As I noted here a couple weeks ago, just because you don't know what the DOJ is doing doesn't mean they aren't doing anything. Indeed, no one knows what they are doing other than the DOJ itself. When people said it was unthinkable that the DOJ wasn't investigating anything, I would reply back, yes, it would be unthinkable...which is why there wasn't much reason to think it.
These arrests were huge. Not only for the specific arrests, but clearly -- since they had encrypted messages -- they’ve gotten lower-level Oath Keepers to flip (which has long been the assumption), because that’s how the DOJ works, going up the ladder. And with the potential sentences being up to 20 years in prison, which needless-to-say is exceedingly serious, hopefully now the DOJ will get this high-ranking Oath Keeper to flip, most-especially, but any of the the 10 other Oath Keepers, as well.
I don’t have a clue what’s going on with Kyrsten Sinema, but it certainly doesn’t seem encouraging – but who knows?? As much as the news has been that her faux-weepy speech on the Senate floor put an end to overturning the filibuster, I don’t know if that’s the case. That’s because, contrary to news reports, what she said was that she's against "demands to eliminate this threshold." And that she holds to her "support for the 60-vote threshold."
Here’s the thing. None of that contradicts the idea of changing how the filibuster works if it maintains the rule of needing 60 votes for cloture. And that’s precisely what Joe Manchin has recently said he himself is open to – keeping the 60-vote threshold, but requiring that senators stand talking on the Senate floor when filibustering and needing to have 60 senators present during the filibuster. Changing the rule to that not only maintains the filibuster, but also maintains the 60-vote rule.
To be clear, maybe she'll vote against that, too, and kill any hope of even changing the filibuster -- but it is not what she said was against. She only said she supported “the 60-voted threshold” and was against calls to “eliminate this threshold.”
It’s still an uphill battle, even if she’s open to discussing that – but the word is that she did meet with President Biden after giving her speech and has met with others.
I will also reiterate that one things I’ve long-written about, as readers of these pages know, is that Kyrsten Sinema was getting overlooked (at times completely overlooked) by the press who’ve mostly focused on Joe Manchin. There was a long period of time when Rachel Maddow only talked about Joe Manchin blocking changes to the filibuster, excoriating him bluntly. But no word on Kyrsten Sinema.
I’ve heard some people say that if Joe Manchin agrees to changes to the filibuster rule, then Kyrsten Sinema will, too, not wanting to stand alone blocking action. And that may be the case. May be. Because I don’t know. And anyone who says that’s the case is just guessing and stating it as fact.
I don’t have a clue what Kyrsten Sinema will do – in large part because (and I think this is very important, and I mean it) I don’t think Kyrsten Sinema knows what she’s doing. I’ve heard her reasons for wanting to keep the filibuster, and pretty much none of them make sense in terms of the history of the filibuster, what it does and how it works. I heard much of her faux-weepy speech on the Senate floor yesterday, and it didn't make any more sense that her statements in the past.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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