Rights & Justice
War & Peace
Selfie of Texas neo-Nazi with swastika tattoo who shot and killed eight people.

Texas GOP: We Are the (White Supremacist) Storm

Slithering ever further down a timeworn slippery slope into fascism, Texas Republicans just took one small step for white supremacy by rejecting a resolution to ban members from consorting with anti-Semites, Nazi-sympathizers or plain ole Nazis in a state already crawling with them. Critics claimed the move - born of furor over a meeting between a big-wig GOP fundraiser and Hitler-fanboy Nick Fuentes - was "too vague" and akin to a "Marxist" decree, evidently in that it seeks to differentiate between "good" and "bad" guys.

The GOP reluctance to distance itself from neo-Nazi extremism is, of course, part of the nationwide lunge to the right of a party so devoid of principles, policies or goals - they already killed Roe - they're left with only fear-mongering and hate. Let us (briefly) count the ways. They are "led" by a vengeful, authoritarian criminal who poses "a direct existential threat" to democracy. Their ranks include Stephen Miller, a literal Nazi whose America First Legal is zealously working to sue out of existence any public or private efforts at diversity, even targeting NASCAAR: “So instead of its drivers being 99.999% white, we need them to be 2,000% white?" Across red states, Popular Information's Judd Legum has chronicled their sordid efforts to ensure power remains in the hands of the white, straight, bigoted: In North Carolina, they've created a powerful Gov Ops "secret police" to target political enemies; in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, they've sought to impose a Christian, anti-sex, pro-slavery curriculum aimed at eliminating "ideology," aka ugly historical truths, in schools; in Florida, they've feverishly removed pernicious books suggesting two male penguins can love each other, arguing the purpose of public school libraries is to "convey the government’s message."

Deep-dark-red Texas, a longtime, flourishing hotbed for right-wing extremism, is a logical place for the GOP to take on the devil's work. The home base for the white nationalist Patriot Front, Texas boasts the largest number of Jan. 6 rioters and roughly 80% of the nation's white supremacist propaganda, with racist and anti-Semitic flyers routinely infesting Dallas and north Texas; hundreds once made their way to windshields at Fort Worth's pastoral Botanical Gardens. In May, a neo-Nazi gunman killed 8 people - the victims came from Korea, India, Venezuela, Mexico - and wounded 7 at a shopping center in a diverse Dallas suburb; the Latino shooter bragged online that he'd decided to "take my chances with the white supremacists." Most recently, in Forth Worth, burly neo-Nazis had to be escorted out of a gun show, and a group of swastika-wearing Nazis showily gathered in and sauntered through a Torchy's Tacos, (even though they're presumably made by brown people). Last week, a report found anti-Semitic incidents in Texas have soared 89% since 2021; there's also been six "terrorist plots" and 28 "extremist" rallies. And their governor is a stand-your-ground fascist goon who's never met a worker, migrant, pregnant woman or left-wing protester he didn't try to abuse.

Texas GOP "crackpots and ideologues" have likewise, predictably crawled rightward to join the Nazis looming on their fringe. In 2020, when Allen West became chairman, he pushed the party to adopt a new slogan: "We Are the Storm." Though it weirdly, precisely echoes the slogan of QAnon, which argues Democrats are Satan-worshiping, child-eating drug-traffickers, West says his inspiration was a popular "anonymous" quote - "The devil whispers to the warrior slyly, can it withstand the coming storm? The warrior responds, 'I am the storm," - that's evidently used by both Spanish fascists and/or ultra-runner Adharanand Finn, but it pretty much sounds like QAnon to us. In June 2022, to burnish its far-right credentials, the Texas GOP also adopted a platform that described homosexuality as "an abnormal lifestyle choice," argued Biden was not "legitimately elected," urged Texas legislators to affirm the state's right to secede, demanded Texas students be taught "life begins at fertilization," and called for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. It also started posting on the fringe white nationalist social network Gab, and tweeted its months-long support for the anti-Semitic unholy trinity of "Trump, West, Musk," only taking down the post after Ye boldly came out as pro-Hitler.

This weekend's vote to essentially follow Ye's example was sparked by two recent events exposing a growing internecine squabble about just how far right the party should tilt. The first was the impeachment of scandal-beset A.G Ken Paxton, whose subsequent acquittal by the Texas Senate - shades of Orange Guy - "marked a screaming milestone in a (long) career that has seen Paxton harness the state’s increasingly conservative politics (to) stay in power longer than his vulnerabilities would suggest." Paxton is a key ally of Defend Texas Liberty, a powerful, oil-billionaire-funded PAC that bankrolls a vast network of far-right candidates, media outfits and initiatives that serves as the GOP's puppet-master. Vexed their bestie Paxton had (almost) been held to account, they undertook a "scorched-earth campaign" against the party's (likely Marxist) RINOS until a second, fraught, saying-the-quiet-part-out-loud incident in October when the Texas Tribunerevealed Jonathan Strickland, a former pest-control-geek-turned-head of Defend Texas, had hostedwhite supremacist Nick Fuentes, who has urged a "holy war" against Jews and might be viewed as a fascist too far. The same day, Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi was also seen entering the same hotel, but he said he was seeing someone else so OK, yeah, sure.

Since then, both the GOP-controlled legislature and Defend Texas Liberty have sought to downplay their coziness with Fuentes and the extremist thugs he represents. Defend Texas Liberty issued a brief outraged statement trashing those who've tried to connect them to Fuentes’ "incendiary" views; they also may or may not have fired Stickland as president. House Speaker Dade Phelan called on GOP colleagues to fork over some of the millions they get from Defend Texas Liberty to pro-Israel charities; then he was blasted for crassly politicizing anti-Semitism. A prominent Republican also at the scene of the Nazi crime that day dismissed all the fuss as (likely Marxist again) nonsense, blaming "hearsay,", "fuzzy photographs," and "narratives." Thus did the Texas GOP’s Executive Committee gather this weekend for their quarterly meeting in hopes of putting to rest the ugly rumor - and given the times, really, we're kinda astonished it's still deemed "ugly" - that they're into Nazis. Their original plan, endorsed by about half the committee, was to call for severing ties with Defend Texas Liberty and its allies until Stickland was removed and a full explanation for the Fuentes fiasco was forthcoming; the move would have been part of a broader pro-Israel resolution.

But in our current pay-to-play politics - thanks Citizens United! - that proposal was quickly watered down to a resolution to bar any association with individuals or groups "known to espouse or tolerate anti-Semitism, pro-Nazi sympathies or Holocaust denial." That doesn't seem like too much to ask, so we were sure even the Texas GOP could manage to quit flat-out, holy-war-declaring Nazis.... But nope. Too much. After a tense debate, the Committee voted it down 32-29; in an almost equally appalling move, almost half the board tried to prevent their vote from being recorded - almost like, if they had it in them, they were ashamed. Still, naysayers argued the words "tolerate" and "anti-Semitism" were "too vague" and "could create future problems" for lawmakers; others thought the phrasing of the ban could "create a slippery slope"; another said it felt akin to "Marxist" (again!) and "leftist" tactics, and would incite "guilt by association"; one said the Fuentes meeting was "a mistake" but there's "no evidence" Stickland/Defend are anti-Semitic. "I've had meetings with transgenders, gays and lesbians - does that make me a transgender, gay or lesbian? he said. “We don’t need to do our enemy’s work for them." And no, we have no idea what any of this gibberish means.

Chairman Rinaldi abstained, but insisted that despite Nazi clowns regularly parading through north Texas and growing GOP links with them, with , the GOP's all good: "I don't see any anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi or Holocaust denial movement on the right that has any significant traction whatsoever." A colleague argued "our position as a party" is that people who want to slaughter Jews are "not welcome" and "the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Texas" would agree, a ringing endorsement if we've ever heard one. Still, some were distressed. Speaker Phelan called it "despicable" that members "can’t even bring themselves to denounce neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers or cut ties with their top donor who brought them to the dance," and Morgan Cisneros Graham impugned the arguments of her name-calling, linguistically-challenged colleagues. "I just don’t understand how people who routinely refer to others as leftists, liberals, communists, socialists and RINOs don’t have the discernment to define what a Nazi is," she said, which was a good point, especially for a Republican. This whole don't-pal-around-with-Nazis thing shouldn't be so hard. Helpful hint: If they're named Adolf, wearing a Swastika, calling people "vermin" or talking up Aryan victory, just friggin' steer clear.

Greenpeace activist holding sign "Stop Deep Sea Mining"

​'Shameful': Norwegian Government Backs Deep-Sea Mining

Environmental protection groups on Tuesday warned that the Norwegian government's new deal with two right-wing minority parties to open the Arctic Ocean to deep-sea mining would be "a disaster" and flies in the face of warnings from scientists about companies' exploration of the seabed.

The Labor and Center Parties, which have control of the government, reached an agreement with the right-wing Hoeyre and Progress Parties to allow Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, to approve the first projects by deep-sea mining firms such as Loke Marine Minerals.

The plan would gradually open areas of the Greenland and Barents seas in the Arctic, and proponents claimed it would set strict environmental survey requirements. The proposal is set to be formally debated by the Stortinget on January 4, followed by a vote.

Despite the promises of environmental protections, Greenpeace Norway said the government cannot claim to know "what consequences this will have for the ecosystems in the sea, for endangered species such as whales and seabirds, or for the fish stocks on which we base our livelihood."

Norway is "giving up any pretense of being an environmental leader" by embracing deep-sea mining, said the group.

The European Academies Science Advisory Council in August said the push to extract metals like cobalt and copper from the fragile seabed—ostensibly to support the production of batteries for electric vehicles, wind turbines, and other products—is "misleading" and could cause "irreparable damage" ecosystems where thousands of newly discovered species live.

The minerals are already mined elsewhere on Earth, scientists have pointed out, and the deep sea could be placed at risk for chemical leaks and spills as well as harmful noise and light pollution.

More than 800 marine scientists have called for a global moratorium on deep-sea mining, and 119 members of the European Parliament have called on Norwegian lawmakers to reject the proposed opening process.

Frode Pleym, head of Greenpeace Norway, called Tuesday's proposal "shameful" for the country.

"The Norwegian government is not only ignoring hundreds of concerned scientists, but also showing disregard for its international obligations and national environmental legislation," said Pleym. "By opening up for deep-sea mining, Norway has lost all credibility as a responsible ocean nation that signed the United Nations ocean treaty."

Martin Sveinssønn Melvær of the Bellona environmental group in Norway said it would be "a dangerous derailment in the fight against climate change to open up seabed minerals."

Pleym pledged that the fight against deep-sea mining in Norway "doesn't end here."

"Across the Greenpeace network, we will work to stop every deep-sea mining project presented to the Norwegian parliament," he said. "The wave of protests against deep-sea mining has just started to grow... We will not allow Norway to destroy the unique life in the deep sea, not in the Arctic nor anywhere else."

FTC Chair Lina Khan

Biden FTC Applauded for 'Going After Big Pharma' by Challenging 100+ Patents

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday disputed more than 100 patents held by pharmaceutical companies that make asthma inhalers, EpiPens, and other items listed in the Food and Drug Administration's so-called "Orange Book," which identifies products the agency considers safe and effective.

The FTC sent letters to 10 companies—including AbbVie, AstraZeneca, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals—notifying them that the commission believes some of their patents are improperly listed in the FDA's Orange Book.

Drug companies have long been accused of abusing the FDA patent listing system to undercut generic competition. In its warning letters to the pharmaceutical companies, the FTC notes that "patents improperly listed in the Orange Book may delay lower-cost generic drug competition."

"By listing their patents in the Orange Book, brand drug companies may benefit from an automatic, 30-month stay of FDA approval of competing generic drug applications," the agency's letters explain. "In addition to delays resulting from such a stay of approval, the costs associated with litigating improperly listed patents may disincentivize investments in developing generic drugs, which risks delaying or thwarting competitive entry. The Supreme Court recognizes that improper Orange Book listings have prevented or delayed generic drug entry since at least the 1990s."

While the letters state that the FTC has chosen to make use of the FDA's formal dispute process to target the allegedly improper listings, the agency said it retains "the right to take any further action the public interest may require," including legal action.

In an interview on NPR Wednesday morning, FTC Chair Lina Khan said that companies are only supposed to list in the Orange Book patents covering active drug ingredients.

"Instead, we have found that firms are listing device patents that have absolutely nothing to do with the active ingredient," said Khan. "So they're instead covering the dispenser cap on a multidose eyedropper or the cap strap on an inhaler, which just keeps the inhalers in place."

"We've identified patents covering these components of devices," Khan added, "and that may in fact be resulting in Americans having to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars more than they should be."

"Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."

Consumer advocates applauded the FTC's move as a key step toward challenging the pharmaceutical industry's profit-seeking manipulation of the U.S. patent system.

"We're thrilled to see the FTC crack down on over a hundred sham Orange Book listings, which keep lifesaving medicines like asthma inhalers and epinephrine prohibitively expensive for those who need them most," said Erik Peinert, research manager and editor at the American Economic Liberties Project. "Big Pharma has been intentionally gaming the United States' drug safety system to block other manufacturers from making and selling the same treatments at lower prices."

Public Citizen also welcomed the FTC's action in a social media post:

The FTC's warning letters to drug companies came after the agency issued a policy statement signaling that it intends to "scrutinize improper Orange Book listings to determine whether these constitute unfair methods of competition."

The statement notes that "patents listed in the Orange Book must claim the reference listed drug or a method of using it."

"Brand drug manufacturers are responsible for ensuring their patents are properly listed," the statement continues. "Yet certain manufacturers have submitted patents for listing in the Orange Book that claim neither the reference listed drug nor a method of using it. When brand drug manufacturers abuse the regulatory processes set up by Congress to promote generic drug competition, the result may be to increase the cost of and reduce access to prescription drugs."

A report published earlier this year by the American Economic Liberties Project estimated that antitrust violations by the pharmaceutical industry—including shame Orange Book listings—cost U.S. patients, insurers, and federal health programs more than $40 billion in 2019 alone.

Bush and Tlaib

13 Dems Oppose Resolution Conflating Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism

As Israel continued to wage what critics are calling a genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, just 13 U.S. House Democrats and one Republican on Tuesday voted against a GOP resolution that conflates anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

House Resolution 894 passed with support from 95 Democrats and 216 Republicans, including its sponsors, Reps. David Kustoff (Tenn.) and Max Miller (Ohio), who are both Jewish. Almost as many Democrats—92—voted present.

The resolution, which embraces the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's controversial working definition of antisemitism, was widely condemned by progressive and Jewish groups this week ahead of the vote.

Republican Congressman Thomas Massie (Ky.) joined the 13 Democrats who opposed H.Res. 894: Reps. Jamaal Bowman (N.Y.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jesús "Chuy" García (Ill.), Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Summer Lee (Pa.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.), Delia Ramirez (Ill.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.).

"This extreme and cynical Republican resolution does nothing to combat antisemitism, relies on a definition that conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, paints critics of the Israeli government as antisemites, and falsely states that anti-Zionism is antisemitism," Omar said in a statement about her vote. "We must stand against any attempt to define legitimate criticism of this war and the government perpetrating it as antisemitism."

According to The Hill, Bowman said after the vote that while he "strongly condemn[s] antisemitism and hate in all of its forms," he voted against H.Res. 894 because "it fuels division and violence, conflates criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, and ignores one of the greatest threats to the Jewish community, white nationalism."

Bowman and Omar are among the House progressives facing serious primary challenges for the next cycle, in part because of their criticism of the Israeli government and its war on Gaza that has killed nearly 16,000 Palestinians in under two months.

They joined with Bush, Lee, Massie, Ocasio-Cortez, Ramirez, Tlaib, and Reps. André Carson (D-Ind.) and Al Green (D-Texas) in October to oppose a bipartisan resolution, which declared that the House unconditionally "stands with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists," and did not mention Palestinian suffering.

Family members who lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic rallied at the U.S. Supreme Court

Families Rally for Opioid Accountability as Supreme Court Hears Purdue Case

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, families whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of Americans who have died of opioid use disorder each year over the past two decades rallied to push the nine justices to reject a proposed bankruptcy plan that would give the former owners of Purdue Pharma legal immunity—with many joining the U.S. Justice Department in arguing that the company should not be released from accountability for the opioid epidemic.

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, as the number of Americans killed by opioids hit 50,000 and the OxyContin manufacturer faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its aggressive marketing of the addictive painkiller had fueled the rising death toll.

The company agreed to settle the lawsuits for $10 billion, with the Sackler family—which oversaw Purdue when OxyContin was introduced and flooded communities across the U.S.—contributing $4 billion. In exchange, the Sacklers would be shielded from future lawsuits.

The bankruptcy plan—which now includes $6 billion from the Sacklers following a push from lawsuit plaintiffs—has been approved by state and local governments, tribes, and families and individuals who would be entitled to money.

But the U.S. Trustee Program, a watchdog at the Justice Department, has joined some families in arguing that the Sacklers should not be shielded from liability for the opioid crisis.

"No Sackler immunity at any $$," read one sign held by a woman outside the Supreme Court on Monday, while another said, "My dead son does not release Sacklers."

The issue at hand in the case, Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, is whether it is legal to give a third party—the Sackler family—legal immunity in a bankruptcy case even though they themselves have not declared bankruptcy, also known as nonconsensual third-party release.

A lawyer for groups and individuals told the court that families and governments are highly unlikely to get any more out of Purdue and the Sacklers than the money the company and family have offered as part of the deal.

The plan would include $161 million in a trust set aside for Native American tribes and $700 million to $750 million in a trust for families and individuals who were able to file claims, with payouts expected to range from about $3,500 to $48,000. Governments would use the money to set up addiction treatment centers and other programs to mitigate the opioid crisis.

"Forget a better deal—there is no other deal," lawyer Pratik Shah told the Supreme Court on Monday.

Curtis Gannon, representing the U.S. Trustee Program, noted that the Sackler family already showed that a "better deal" could be possible when it offered $6 billion for the plan instead of $4 billion. The Justice Department is advocating for a new settlement that would not include nonconsensual third-party releases, saying the current bankruptcy deal violates federal law.

"We do hope there is another deal at the end of this," said Gannon.

The justices appeared split on the case, in which a ruling is expected next summer. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that appeals courts do not allow bankruptcy plans that take away the rights of alleged victims to sue parties that have not declared bankruptcy.

Outside the court, Alexis Pleus, who lost her son to opioid use disorder, told Aneri Pattani of KFF Health News that many families, including hers, will not be entitled to money under the current deal because they are required to provide records such as the original opioid prescription.

Beth Macy, author of the book Dopesick, told CNN Monday morning that while some families "are divided" about whether the bankruptcy plan and payouts should move forward, as the U.S. Trustee Program "has pointed out, only 20% of the families who were eligible to vote on [the proposal], even voted."

"I don't want their money," Jen Trejo, whose son Christopher was prescribed OxyContin at age 15 and died of an overdose when he was 32, told Pattani. "I want them in prison."

An IDF soldier readies a 155mm artillery shell for loading in a howitzer.

Warren Leads Letter Pressing Biden on Israel's Use of US Arms

As the number of Gazans killed, maimed, or left missing by Israeli bombs and bullets—many of them manufactured in the United States— tops 60,000, a group of U.S. senators on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to boost oversight of how American arms are used against Palestinian civilians.

Noting that Israel's response to the Hamas-led attacks of October 7 "has killed over 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the vast majority of whom are civilians," Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked the White House for "information on the accountability and oversight measures that ensure any use of U.S. weapons is in accordance with U.S. policy and international law."

"U.S. allies and human rights groups have argued many of these deaths were preventable," the senators wrote in their letter. "In its campaign, Israel has also repeatedly targeted areas it previously designated as 'safe zones,' after telling Palestinians to move to these locations for safety."

"[Israel Defense Forces] airstrikes have also hit the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp multiple times," the lawmakers noted. "The first strike killed 'more than 100 people' and injured 'hundreds' more. The second strike left dozens wounded and rescuers said those killed included 'whole families'... Other strikes and operations have targeted hospitals."

A growing number of legal, human rights, and other experts have called Israel's war on Gaza a genocide.

The senators' letter continues:

While these strikes were aimed at Hamas, we have concerns that strikes on civilian infrastructure have not been proportional, particularly given the predictable harm to civilians. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has said these strikes are 'clear violations of international humanitarian law.' Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted that his government's efforts to minimize civilian casualties to date are 'not successful.'

The letter singles out 155mm artillery shells, unguided explosive rounds with a "kill radius" of about 50 meters, with shrapnel able to kill and wound people hundreds of meters away.

"The IDF requires its ground forces to stay 250 meters away to protect its own forces," the letter states. "The IDF has previously used these shells to 'hit populated areas including neighborhoods, hospitals, schools, shelters, and safe zones,' causing a staggering number of civilian deaths."

"Over 30 U.S.-based civil society organizations warned against providing Israel 155mm shells in an open letter to [U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin calling the shells 'inherently indiscriminate' and 'a grave risk to civilians,'" the lawmakers added.

Claiming that "civilian harm prevention is a cornerstone of American foreign policy"—a curious assertion given that the United States has killed more foreign civilians by far than any other armed force on the planet since the end of World War II—the senators argued that "we must ensure accountability for the use of U.S. weapons we provided to our ally."

"As you have acknowledged, Israel's military campaign has included 'indiscriminate bombing,'" they wrote. "Your administration must ensure that existing guidance and standards are being used to evaluate the reports of Israel using U.S. weapons in attacks that harm civilians in order to more rigorously protect civilian safety during Israel's operations in Gaza."

(Source: Airwars)

To that end, the senators ask Biden to answer 13 questions, including:

  • Are U.S. officials aware of the IDF's current policy on preventing civilian harm?
  • What insights does the U.S. government have into how the Israeli military assesses issues of proportionality?
  • What systems does the Israeli government have in place to investigate allegations of civilian harm?
  • Does the U.S. Defense Department or State Department plan to provide Israel with guidance on how 155mm shells should be
    used when civilians are nearby?
  • Are you aware of any requests for inspector general reviews or audits of U.S. military assistance provided to Israel?

The senators' letter came ahead of Wednesday's procedural vote on whether to begin debating a $106 billion "national security" spending package requested by Biden, which includes more than $10 billion in additional U.S. military aid to Israel atop the nearly $4 billion it receives each year from Washington.

On Tuesday, Sanders—who has angered progressives by failing to demand a Gaza cease-fire—said he opposes sending billions of dollars in unconditional U.S. armed aid to the "right-wing, extremist" Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Israel must dramatically change its approach to minimize civilian harm," he said, "and lay out a wider political process that can secure lasting peace."