This Halloween people have more than dreams and giant insects to be uneasy about. Last week, a man stood up at a right-wing youth activist rally to ask, in effect, whether it’s time to shoot the winners when Republicans lose elections. A US senator defended a man who gave a Nazi salute as a protest at a school board meeting. And a Republican member of Congress tried to justify the January 6 Capitol insurrection as a case of people opposing tyranny.
As The Washington Post reported, last winter members of former President Donald Trump’s team set up a “command center” in Washington’s Willard Hotel to push the false election fraud narrative that dozens of judges around the country had already rejected and to encourage then Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to certify Joe Biden’s victory, as the law required him to do.
It was at a Turning Point USA event at Boise State University Monday that a member of the audience asked organizer Charlie Kirk, “How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?”
SE Cupp said, “Now, to his credit, Kirk denounced the idea of, you know, killing people because you don’t like election results. Not because it’s wrong, but because, quote, ‘they want that.'”
Another bizarre moment came in a US Senate hearing room. “You have to hand it to Sen. Ted Cruz,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “His timing was impeccable. On the anniversary of the deadliest attack on Jews in US history, Cruz raised his voice in the Senate to defend an American’s right to brandish the Nazi salute. ‘My God!’ he exclaimed as he slammed his desk, railing at Attorney General Merrick Garland during a hearing Wednesday over the Justice Department’s attempt to address harassment and threats of violence at public school board meetings. ‘A parent did a Nazi salute at a school board because they thought the policies were oppressive!’ Then he asked Garland, ‘is doing a Nazi salute … protected by the First Amendment?’ Garland responded calmly. ‘Yes, it is.'”
Stoking division in America has long been the aim of right-wing extremists who peddle “White Replacement Theory,” noted Michael D’Antonio and James Cohen. Only now, some on the right are trying to mainstream the idea.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election for governor of Virginia, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin released an ad starring an activist, “Laura Murphy, who campaigned against the teaching of (Toni) Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ‘Beloved,’ on the grounds the story’s grueling depiction of racial violence gave her son — then a high school senior — nightmares,” wrote Peniel E. Joseph.
Rob Ackerman headed the prop department for Saturday Night Live’s film unit for 20 years. “During our most difficult moments, I reminded my team that this was fun, a form of make-believe for grown-ups, an honorable and blessed craft,” he wrote. “We had to stay alert and persist … it was always about keeping our collective eye on the ball.” What Ackerman has heard about conditions on the set of the movie “Rust” has disturbed him — and many others.
Dave Brown helped write the online training course in gun safety for theater and film technicians. “I don’t love guns,” he wrote. “But as a firearms safety specialist, they are the tools of my profession. I respect them, and I teach others to respect them too. After 30 years of working with firearms in the film industry, I’ve learned one very important lesson: When handled responsibly, firearms are as safe as any other prop on a film set.
Covid-19 vaccinations for kids
Syra Madad is ready. As early as this week, shots could be going into the arms of children aged 5 to 11, the latest group to be included in the Covid-19 vaccination program that has markedly reduced the spread and severity of the disease. And Madad, an epidemiologist in New York, says she plans to have her children vaccinated — two of the three are in the newly included age group.
It will be a big step toward normality, she added. “We will be able to go back to engaging in activities we enjoyed as a family, those that would be too high risk to do while they were unvaccinated. This includes traveling internationally, going to mixed indoor gatherings like weddings or to the movies, and dining at restaurants indoors.”
For more on Covid-19:
Facebook goes Meta
A flood of news reports painted a devastating portrait of Facebook’s failure to control the rampant spread of misinformation that has had real and often harmful consequences around the world. Documents provided by former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen portrayed the company as one so eager for profits that its platform helped amplify anger.
Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, made clear Thursday that he has his sights set on other things. He unveiled a new corporate name — “Meta” — for the company owning Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and invited us into his new “metaverse.” As Douglas Rushkoff wrote, it is “Facebook’s proprietary new virtual world of worlds where we are supposed to do our working, playing and socializing forevermore.”
In a dizzying week of meetings, news conferences and speeches, Biden and the Democrats who control Congress may have inched closer to the passage of two bills that would provide nearly $3 trillion to rebuild America’s physical infrastructure and to greatly expand its social spending. If progressives stand behind them and if two maverick senators remain on board, the bills could become law within weeks.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton set an ambitious goal — a national health insurance program — and asked first lady Hillary Clinton to head the task force devising it. “The legislative negotiations were rocky,” wrote historian Julian Zelizer. “Small employers rallied against the plan, running ads on television featuring a fictional couple — Harry and Louise — talking about how confusing and frightening the plan seemed to be. Republicans gradually coalesced against the legislation.” Democrats split over aspects of the plan, and it died the next year. Months later, Republicans won control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years.
Taxing the billionaires
When Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema nixed the idea of raising individual and corporate tax rates, many Democrats briefly rallied around the idea of a brand-new tax: on the assets controlled by billionaires, who often are able to escape paying meaningful amounts in taxes. “The plan,” wrote tax expert Edward McCaffery, “rests on a surprisingly simple idea: that billionaires should pay tax on their incomes, just like tens of millions of working Americans do every year.” The wealthy don’t rely on paychecks and so can avoid the regular income tax, McCaffery explained. They can borrow money based on the increasing value of their investments and hold onto them — without paying taxes — till they die.
On climate, the world is watching
A ‘Donnie Darko’ Halloween
“Donnie Darko” was released 20 years ago, with the kind of ingredients that made it a cult movie: a cast including Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Seth Rogen, Patrick Swayze, Katharine Ross, Jena Malone, Noah Wyle and Beth Grant, a man in a giant bunny suit, teenage angst and the 1988 presidential election.
That feeling is familiar to poet Tess Taylor. “While I am fond of a good scare, Halloween this year feels different than the macabre, plasticked-up horror film version of the holiday that can run on repeat this time of year (cue spooky laugh here). It feels more like Samhain, the Celtic festival where the grave mounds open, where the light shifts and time thins, and where people might leave a bit of food out for their ghosts and honor their ancestors,” Taylor wrote.
Taylor is still finding joy in the holiday. Her daughter is going to trick or treat today as a Dalmatian, her son as a werewolf. “Perhaps next Halloween or the Halloween after will feel more carefree, more silly. But there’s also a chance that this pandemic was partly a warning, a stern reminder of being a fragile species on a fragile earth.”