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Today's News (2020/5/21): Vice Signalling edition

Trump said last time he'd only accept the election results if he won, so I have no idea why anyone would think he'd be different this time. If he loses the election, he'll reject the loss and then who even knows what happens. Prepare for that now.

  1. As Bethany Mandel's 'grandma killer' tweet proves, vice-signaling is the right's newest and most toxic trend [EDITOR: It's not new, but it has risen to the highest levels]
  2. It’s Trump’s party now — and will be even after he’s gone
  3. Trump threatens funding for Michigan, Nevada over absentee, mail-in voting plans
  4. Trump just said the corrupt part out loud
  5. We need to prepare for the possibility of Trump rejecting election results
  6. Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks House Request For Mueller Grand Jury Evidence
  7. Pompeo Declined Interview Request From Inspector General About Saudi Arms Sales

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As Bethany Mandel's 'grandma killer' tweet proves, vice-signaling is the right's newest and most toxic trend
The polar opposite to 'woke' left-wing virtue-signaling, this call to callousness and Darwinism has begun to take over conservative thinking
Noah Berlatsky
Thursday 7 May 2020

"You can call me a Grandma killer," conservative writer and editor Bethany Mandel declared on Twitter. "I'm not sacrificing my home, food on the table, all of our docs and dentists, every form of pleasure (museums, zoos, restaurants), all my kids' teachers in order to make other people comfortable. If you want to stay locked down, do. I'm not."

It's startling to see someone boast in public about how they are willing to sacrifice others’ loved ones for a trip to the zoo. But it's not exactly uncommon.

During the pandemic, conservatives have repeatedly and publicly trumpeted their disregard for the lives of the old and the sick. Historian and writer David Perry has called this kind of public callousness "vice-signaling": a public display of immorality, intended to create a community based on cruelty and disregard for others, which is proud of it at the same time. It is, essentially, the polar opposite to “woke” left-wing virtue-signaling.

The right's embrace of vice-signaling, and indeed of vice, is how we got Trump. It's also why his administration has been so unable to deal with a crisis requiring collective civic virtue.

Conservatives have long embraced a kind of tough-love, individualistic ethos which trumpets callousness as a good in itself. They have attacked "bleeding heart" liberals for decades for the moral sin of caring about people who are suffering, and for thinking that collectively we should try to address injustice and inequality, rather than submitting to economic Darwinism.

Little wonder, then, that the right weaponized the term “virtue-signaling" over the past few years. The phrase is now used to sneer at anyone who expresses public concern about sexism, racism, homophobia, poverty, or bigotry of any sort. If you ask someone not to use a racial slur, or not to misgender someone, you are supposedly engaged in “virtue-signaling”— which is to say, that you are only objecting to cruelty because you want other people to like you or admire you. The term “virtue-signaling" assumes that anyone who speaks about the value of virtue is hypocritical and self-aggrandizing.

But virtue is about how you treat other people. To create virtuous communities, you need to talk about what it means to be good. Labeling virtue talk as bad means you're rejecting the pursuit of virtue as a goal.

The right has in fact in many ways rejected the pursuit of virtue. Instead, they have chosen to create communities tied together with virtue's opposite. Conservative thinkers and pundits today frequently insist that reality does not have any place for communal and collective good, and instead call on people to admit, or even revel in, openly callous and bloodthirsty expressions of hatred or immorality.

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It’s Trump’s party now — and will be even after he’s gone
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
May 19, 2020

Discussing the risks of reopening his state last month on Fox News, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) declared, “There are more important things than living.” The comment was revealing. President Trump’s manic, malicious and mismanaged presidency constantly captures our attention, and he’s often treated as some kind of grotesque outlier. But while Trump emits his own unique forms of venom, he is a reflection of, not a contrast to, today’s Republican Party. On the central challenges facing the country, the Republican Party, like Trump, is unending in its cruelty.

With 34 million people filing for unemployment since mid-March, state budgets are cratering as expenses caused by the pandemic soar and every form of revenue collapses.

When Trump initially indicated his willingness to provide aid to states and localities, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) reined him in, dismissing the crisis as a “blue state” mismanagement problem. Trump immediately flipped and started echoing the majority leader.

Then McConnell announced his one priority for action: a complete legal shield for corporations in coronavirus cases, protecting even those who negligently expose workers or consumers to unsafe conditions. As reported in the American Prospect, one day after Utah Republicans passed immunity into state law, reports emerged of two separate businesses that had been telling staff to ignore quarantine guidelines. The result: 68 employees have contracted the virus.

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Trump threatens funding for Michigan, Nevada over absentee, mail-in voting plans
By John Wagner
May 20, 2020

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to “hold up” federal funds to Michigan and Nevada in response to the states’ planned use of absentee and mail-in ballots in upcoming elections as a means to mitigate risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

In morning tweets, Trump did not specify which funds he might withhold, and he has not always followed through with similar threats. But his message comes as many states grapple with how to safely proceed with elections.

Amid the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly railed against mail-in voting, claiming with scant evidence that it is subject to widespread fraud and has hurt Republicans in previous elections.

Trump took aim at Michigan a day after its secretary of state announced a plan to send absentee ballot applications to all of its 7.7 million voters for the state’s primary elections in August and general elections in November.

----- 4 -----
Trump just said the corrupt part out loud
By Greg Sargent
Opinion writer
May 20, 2020

During the impeachment of President Trump, an expert witness called by Democrats floated a theoretical scenario involving the president threatening a state hammered by a natural disaster, to illustrate the corruption of Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine.

What would we think if Trump dangled federal disaster aid as leverage to force a governor to do his political bidding, asked Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, adding: “Wouldn’t you know in your gut that the president had abused his office? That he betrayed the national interest?”

Trump has now done something very close to this. And the answer to Karlan’s question is: Yes, Trump is abusing his office and betraying the national interest:


Donald J. Trump

Michigan sends absentee ballot applications to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!

Trump is referring to the Michigan secretary of state’s announcement that applications for absentee ballots will be mailed to 7.7 million residents. That’s to ensure that Michiganders can vote safely amid a pandemic that has brought more than 50,000 cases of coronavirus to the state and killed more than 5,000 people.

----- 5 -----
We need to prepare for the possibility of Trump rejecting election results
Brian Klaas
Global Opinions contributor
May 14, 2020 at 1:48 p.m. PDT

Since 2017, so many events in U.S. politics that were previously unthinkable have come to pass. Don’t believe me? A few days ago, the president of the United States baselessly accused a cable television host of murder and it barely made a blip in the news cycle. The shocking has become unsurprising — almost routine — under Donald Trump’s unhinged presidency.

We don’t know whether Trump will be reelected. But, as we head toward November, you have to ask yourself: If he loses, would it be more surprising if Trump graciously accepts defeat and congratulates his opponent or if he claimed to be the victim of a rigged election and a “deep state” plot?

The answer seems clear.

I’ve studied genuinely rigged elections across the globe. The tactics, context and strategies vary enormously from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe. But one trait they have in common is this: The winner doesn’t claim they were rigged.

Not so with Trump. In 2016, when he narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote by a historic margin, he claimed that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally. That is a lie. But it raised an obvious question: If Trump claimed that an election he won was rigged, what will he do with an election he loses?

----- 6 -----
Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks House Request For Mueller Grand Jury Evidence
May 20, 2020
Nina Totenberg

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked a lower court order requiring the Trump Justice Department to turn over to the House Judiciary Committee secret evidence compiled by the grand jury during the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last year.

The withheld evidence was first requested more than a year ago, prior to the beginning of formal impeachment proceedings against President Trump, and his acquittal by the Senate this past February.

Two lower courts ordered the evidence turned over to the House Judiciary Committee. The lower courts said that grand jury records are court records, not just Justice Department records, and that similar records in the past have been turned over to Congress as part of impeachment investigations.

The Trump administration, as it has in every other case involving Trump records and investigations, appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the case presents "serious separation of powers concerns" that should be examined by the High Court.

The House, in a Supreme Court filing this week, told the justices that the information is still relevant to an "ongoing investigation" and could even lead to new impeachment charges against Trump.

----- 7 -----
Pompeo Declined Interview Request From Inspector General About Saudi Arms Sales
Edward Wong and David E. Sanger
May 20, 2020

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined an interview request for the State Department inspector general’s inquiry into whether the Trump administration acted illegally in declaring an “emergency” to bypass a congressional freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to three people with knowledge of his actions.

Mr. Pompeo chose instead to answer written questions from investigators working for the inspector general, Steve A. Linick, who was fired by President Trump on Friday.

That indicates that the secretary of state was aware of Mr. Linick’s investigation and the specific lines of questioning about Mr. Pompeo’s decision last year to resume the sales of bombs and other weapons, which had been stalled since 2017. Saudi Arabia has led Persian Gulf nations in an air war in Yemen that has resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths.

It is still not clear why Mr. Linick was dismissed. He was also pursuing inquiries into whether Mr. Pompeo was improperly asking a State Department employee to run errands for him and his wife. And a senior department official and longtime friend of the secretary, Brian Bulatao, told The Washington Post that Mr. Pompeo was concerned that Mr. Linick was not aggressively tracking down past leaks to news organizations about what he was investigating.

Some officials say that it may have been a combination of issues, rather than any single investigation, that led to the dismissal of Mr. Linick, one of four inspectors general Mr. Trump has fired or demoted in recent weeks.

The State Department has declined to comment publicly about Mr. Linick’s investigation into the arms sales or provide any detail about its scope. But the push by Mr. Pompeo and Mr. Trump to resume the sales, especially after the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, was opposed by some lawmakers from both parties and was highly controversial among some Foreign Service officers, who argued that Mr. Trump’s desire to win arms sales for American contractors was overriding human rights protections.

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