Sat, Jul

These Are Not the Best of Times


SAY WHAT? - On the vital, longtime, increasingly bonkers battleground of culture wars that are our schools and our kids and what they can learn, it keeps getting worse. A new report finds wingnuts in calamitous power are begetting a flood of "educational gag orders" that are often sloppily written, factually inaccurate, vague enough to invite confusion if not egregious abuse, extreme enough to spark chaos, and "pedagogically pernicious," from banning ill-defined "divisive concepts" that cause "discomfort" to setting up a snitch line - cue helpful "tips" on Albus Dumbledore, creeping Sharia, teachers teaching and the terrorist group al-gebra - to report teachers "behaving objectionably." In the process, they chillingly create "an Orwellian hellscape" where teachers are treated "as subversive internal threats who must be zealously rooted out at any deviation from orthodoxy" - a toxic, growing trend, writes Greg Sargent, that can "make teachers feel on such thin ice they end up whitewashing the U.S. past rather than communicating hard truths about it." The new report from PEN America, which for over a year has been tracking "censorious legislative efforts" across the country, finds a "steep rise" in gag orders," with over 71 bills introduced in state legislatures, or about three a day. Most are about sex, race or U.S. history; like earlier ones, writes Jeffrey Sachs, "All are sweeping, all are draconian, and few make any kind of sense...This is about putting the fear of God into teachers."

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  Mitch, Please: Yeah That's Me. American.


SAY WHAT? - In an ongoing tragicomedy of malignant errors, Senate Minority Leader, racist turtle and "sloppy first attempt at a pancake with blueberry eyes" Mitch McReaper scrambled to defend his indefensible "Klanian slip" this week suggesting he views African-American voters as a different species from "American" voters, and never mind this country was built on their black ancestors' oft-whipped backs. Asked how African-American voters might respond to his retrogade party of thugs blocking the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, he infamously replied, "The concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, African-American(s) are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans"; also, if you look at the video, you can see him re-enforce his screaming dogwhistle with a repugnant them-and-us flip of his limp hand. At a Friday press conference amidst a storm of entirely understandable outrage, he huffed it was "deeply offensive" and an "outrageous mischaracterization" of his stellar civil rights record - except for all the times he's said Jim-Crow-y things or smirkingly posed in front of a giant Confederate flag - to suggest he was partaking in the othering of people of color just because he "inadvertently" omitted a word that he then had to come back twice to the mic to fumblingly identify as  either "almost," or "all," or, the day before, "other." Ok, so he doesn't have the best words. At this point, that's the least of his crimes.

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Slouching Towards Fascism With DeSantis' Election Police


SAY WHAT? - Even as the Senate bitterly, implausibly debates fundamental voting rights that not long ago were almost universally deemed non-negotiable, Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis is taking Orwell's "1984" and running with it into a despotic dystopia of his own feverish imagining with his hoped-for, first-in-the-nation creation of an Office of Election Crimes and Security to ensure "elections are conducted in accordance with the rule of law," though, in fact, they already are. The Himmler-wannabe's shiny new police force, which would be part of Florida's Department of State, would hire over 50 investigators to “detect, apprehend, and arrest anyone for an alleged violation” of election laws, with Gestapo snitches posted at unspecified “field offices" through the state to act on dubious tips from “government officials or any other person” to "facilitate the faithful enforcement of election laws," which, did we mention, already occurs. Also - see Himmler - they'd report directly to him. Herr DeSantis, who once considered forming his own private militia, asked the GOP-led legislature for $6 million for the new stormtroopers in a State of the State address teeming with freedom-y bilge: Florida is "the freest state in these United States," standing as "freedom's vanguard" for "those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates" due to "a coercive biomedical apparatus" in "blind adherence to Faucian declarations," but "Florida is a free state" that "has stood strong as the rock of freedom." Fascistic, but strong.

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As Sinema Defends Filibuster, Progressives Say 'Vote Her the Hell Out'

SAY WHAT? - On what would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 93rd birthday, voting rights advocates and progressive lawmakers rallied in Arizona on Saturday to target the first-term Democratic senator blocking legislation aimed at strengthening ballot access amid growing GOP-led suppression efforts.

In attendance at Saturday's demonstrations in Phoenix were members of the King family, which is planning to lead a march to Washington, D.C. on MLK Day with a simple message to lawmakers: "No celebration without legislation."

Referring to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-Ariz.) Thursday speech defending the 60-vote legislative filibuster, Martin Luther King III argued Saturday that "what she said is, 'I support voting rights, but not as much as I support the ability of someone to take those rights away.'"

"The filibuster is a meaningless Senate rule," he added. "It's a remnant of slavery used to block civil rights for generations."

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Crazy Like A Fox: Pissing On the Libs, Literally


SAY WHAT? - In an admirable, longstanding tradition, heedful Americans are taking multiple, pragmatic, science-based precautions against a virus that in two years has killed 900,000 people, is poised this week to set new records for surging hospitalizations, and is still infecting almost 700,000 people a day. LOL. Just kidding. In moronic fact, despite an "extraordinarily contagious" Omicron variant that doctors at overwhelmed hospitals say poses challenges that kindle, "I don't want to say despair, (but at least) fatigue," crackpots still roam the land, spewing their crazy. As always, the most disheartening are those with, inexplicably, power and a platform. They range from the former guy mindlessly berating his fans to "Rise up!" against often non-existent vaccine mandates to Rand Paul ranting at Dr. Fauci for trying to save lives not make money to Florida's so-called Surgeon Generalurging the COVID-ravaged state's health officials to "unwind the testing psychology" and rely on "natural immunity" A "well-educated COVID crank" - Harvard?! - and fan of hydroxychloroquine and wingnut demon-sperm doctors who's not big on masks or vaccines, Dr.  Joseph Ladapo held a press conference to announce the state would  work to "unwind this" - here, he haplessly spun his finger around in search of good words - "planning and living one's life around testing." "It's really time for people to be living," he said, "to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity." Testing has "been treated almost like a religion, and that's just senseless," he scolded at a podium that read, "Early Treatment Saves Lives," because if we restrict tests to, say, only grandmothers, we'll magically have fewer COVID cases! We love science.

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Against the Rulers of the Darkness of This World

SAY WHAT? - A year after a mob of delusional, autocrat-loving thugs tried to overthrow our admittedly flawed and fragile democracy, Joe Biden gave a fiery speech denouncing "the defeated former president" - "You can't love your country only when you win" - andasking, "Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?" An excellent question for those of us witnessing the ongoing, increasingly unhinged onslaught of revisionist lies and crimes and stonewalling underway, alarmingly encouraged by millions in large part because, "To the privileged, equality feels like oppression." In response to the madness, A.G. Merrick Garland assured the country, the wheels of justice are slowly and creakily turning: The DOJ has issued over 5,000 subpoenas or search warrants, seized about 2,000 devices, watched 20,000-plus hours of video, and arrested and charged over 725 defendants. To those frustrated by the slow and creaking part, he offered a reality check: Large investigations take time, typically starting with gathering the evidence and low-hanging fruit - ie: rioters - before moving on to their evil masters. Justice, he said, will hold "all perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law," and "follow the facts wherever they lead."

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Devin Moo-ness Has Officially Left the Building

SAY WHAT? - In case you missed it, dimwitted, thin-skinned, uber-Trumpy "treasonous cowpoke" Devin Nunes officially resigned from Congress on Monday to take a "job" as CEO of Trump's new media "company," leaving behind an illustrious legacy of renaming a post office, undermining Congressional oversight, pushing bogus conspiracy theories, trying to erect a wall in House Intelligence offices to keep Democrats separate, and suing imaginary livestock for mean tweets "that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life," because he's, like, 12. In Congress since 2003, Nunes managed to achieve staggeringly little - aptly, for the guy about whom it was once said, "No one is asking him to bring the potato salad to the Mensa picnic." There was his 2017 rush to tell the Trump White House he had proof Obama put "wire tapps" on them during "the very sacred election process," except it was Trump who said that. There were the breathless scandals - FBI misdeeds, Carter Page, Steele Dossier - that fell flat. There were frantic errands to Putin, rumors he had Mad Cow Disease, whispers that, alongside Greene and Boebert, he'd no longer take top prize for dullest tool in the shed. There were ignoble hashtags that trailed after him like tin cans strung on a sorry dog's tail - 





- and ceaseless, stupid lawsuits against Rachel Maddow,Twitter, WaPo and his constituents when they hurt his feelings. Most notoriously, there was his $250 million lawsuit against an Internet cow for making fun of him, after which the newly famous cow swiftly garnered over 700,000 Twitter followers, because we are all the cow.

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Idiots On Parade: We Shall Overcome, We'll Also Take Two Whoppers and Fries


SAY WHAT? - Two weary, relentless, life-rupturing years into the pandemic, there are modest glimpses of glad news. A team of doctors at Texas Children's Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine, doing what Big Pharma won't, has developed "the world's vaccination," a safe, open-source vaccine whose patent they're now transferring free of charge to manufacturers in poor countries - first India, then hopefully Indonesia, Bangladesh, Botswana and elsewhere. Doctors call Cobervax, created at the Center for Vaccine Development with generous philanthropic support, "a gift to the world" that could mark a first step in both vaccinating the rest of the world and halting the emergence of new variants. Around the same time, a team of scientists at UC San Francisco and University College London announced they have solved the mystery of the Omicron variant's rapid spread; their discovery of a critical protein that stifles the body's immune response, they hope, can lead to breakthrough treatments against Omicron. Okay, that's about it in good news.

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Just Do Your Duty: Democracy Yay or Nay


Say What? - The January 6 Committee just announced they'll begin holding public hearings in the new year, which is good news. But it's clear that, even before they open that particular Pandora's Box of malfeasance, we're already awash in ever more sordid details about the ongoing right-wing march to fascism. There's asshats telling the  president to go fuck himself on a benign Christmas call with his kids and then whining about freedom of speech when they're castigated for being asshats. There's MAGA conspiracy wingnuts working to boost the careers of other wingnuts so the party can tilt so far right they fall off the planet. There's the dozen militia thugs plotting to kidnap and/or kill Michigan's Dem governor for trying to save lives during a pandemic now arguing the government entrapped them.

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That Ye Love One Another


SAY WHAT? - A nod to the real meaning of the holiday, the birth of a Jesus who was not divine but "supremely human" - a "radical non-violent revolutionary who hung around with lepers, hookers and crooks... was anti-wealth, anti-death penalty, anti-public prayer; but was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control, never called the poor lazy, never justified torture, never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, never asked a leper for copay, and was a long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, community-organizing anti- slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew."

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Even Forrest Would Think It is Ugly: One More Down


SAY WHAT? - Given....everything, it's not much. But in a glimmer of good news, the Lost Cause lost again earlier this month when Nashville TN finally took down the moral and aesthetic "abomination" that was its deranged fiberglass statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a millionaire antebellum slave trader, Confederate general and war criminal who later served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Long deemed "a blight" on a city that sees itself as a symbol of "the new South" - albeit in a state where a black man just won a new trial after being convicted by an all-white jury in a room named for the daughters of the Confederacy and hung with a Confederate flag - the "objectively hideous," 27-foot-high statue stood a few miles south of Nashville in plain view of the highway for over 20 years, a  rare Confederate monument as ugly as the racist history it marks.

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The Facts of That Day: Lying Despots 'R Us Part 478


SAY WHAT? - Ohhh....So that's why the Repubs didn't want a Jan. 6 Commission. It's taken almost a year for the glacial, creaking wheels of justice to gear up, but lawmakers, legal officials and even penitent rioters have finally begun unveiling a mountain of sublimely damning evidence on the whos and hows of the "gutless attack" that was the Capitol Riot. With subpoenas still dropping for unnamed witnesses, this week's most sensational moments featured Liz Cheney - as the daughter of Lord Voldemort, really, who'da thought? - reading aloud eye-popping text messages Mark Meadows received during the riot from unlikely correspondents who never imagined one day they'd be unwittingly thrown under the bus by a guy so dumb and indecisive he turned over all this incriminating stuff and only when the shit hit the fan thought, oh wait, maybe not.

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We Who Are About To Die: America's Schools As the Hunger Games


SAY WHAT? - Symbolically merging the inequities and indignities of late-stage capitalism with the gladiatorial efforts of underfunded, overworked educators to do their vital job, ten South Dakota teachers gamely clambered around an ice rink on their hands and knees this weekend grabbing as many $1 bills as they could from a $5,000 heap to help buy basic school supplies as spectators hooted and cheered. The tawdry Dash-For-Cash, held during a Sioux Falls Stampede hockey game, was funded by CU Mortgage Direct as "an awesome group thing to do for the teachers," because “with everything that has gone on for the last couple of years" - like, say, their struggling to wrangle up to 30 kids into order or at least onto Zoom amidst an ongoing pandemic that's seen burned-out teachers leaving in droves and rabid anti-mask-or-mandate-or-CRT parents harassing and assaulting them just for trying to keep their kids and themselves alive and in pencils on the lowest teacher pay in the country in a state with one of the lowest rates of education spending despite a budget surplus last year of $85.9 million, which is maybe why they walked out last year  - with all that, "they deserve whatever the heck they get," which in this case was a lousy few hundred bucks in exchange for being part of a cheap spectacle with a touch of degradation thrown in, which evidently nobody thought might not be a good look.

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At Gitmo, A Soul-Crushing Parade of Horribles

SAY WHAT? - Coinciding with Senate hearings finally, tentatively underway to close the "stain on the moral fiber of America" - among, it must be said, many, many others - that is Guantánamo Bay, a new documentary was just released chronicling the life, incarceration, abuse and CIA-decreed fate "he will remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life" of Abu Zubaydah, widely deemed "patient zero for the CIA’s torture program." This week's hearings, "Closing Guantánamo: 20 Years of Injustice," brought back to the discomfiting limelight the reality of the barbarous, "most expensive prison on Earth," where, at $13 million a wretched head, 39 men and boys out of almost 800 held over two decades remain rotting there with no due process, despite two-thirds having never been charged with a crime and almost a quarter cleared to leave.

Advocates argue the abiding presence of this "human rights atrocity," emblematic of America's deeply immoral, hubris-driven Forever Wars and denounced even by survivors of those killed on 9/11, is also a  reminder of America's other, longtime, oft-denied crimes reflecting the hard truth  that "racialized/colonial torture and liberal democracy are not strangers (and) Western human rights do not easily include those deemed not to be white." Within that historic context, Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney's "The Forever Prisoner," released this week on HBO, offers a grim parable for "how the rule of law was upended" in a betrayal of alleged ideals that asks, "Are we prepared to abandon our principles in order to defend them?"

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But It Adds Up To Freedom

                                                                                                                            SAY WHAT? - Kentucky Really Knows How To Pick 'Em Dept: Last week, days after the Oxford school shooting, Rep. Thomas Massie reached a foul new low in the GOP's race to the bottom and basest when he posted an incendiary "holiday" photo showing him and his pasty, vacuous, glassy-eyed, Stepford-smiling spawn and wife all holding hefty weapons of war - he hoists a $69,000 M60 belt-fed machine gun, the others have Uzis and assault rifles, each worth many times what Kamala Harris' infamous French cookware cost - with the caption, "Merry Christmas! P.S: Santa, please bring ammo" to prove he won't let a silly little thing like a few dead kids in Michigan, not yet buried, stop him from owning the libs. "And wow, I didn't just kick a hornet's nest, I aggravated every hornet in the world," he later gloated, like a bratty 10-year-old who'd put a whoopee cushion on his homeroom teacher's chair and rushed to happily tell his leering little buddies about it after an hour in the principal's office, for some reason referencing Ghostbusters en route. "I crossed guns with family and Christmas, and those are three things that really could trigger the leftists, and I didn't realize that it would be such an explosive cocktail when you put it together. But it adds up to freedom."

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Teach Your Children Well


SAY WHAT? - In Michigan, the freakish, all-American horror and anguish of the latest slaughter of children by children continues to unspool after the Oxford High School shooting, which left four dead and eight wounded. On Saturday, wayward parents James and Jennifer Crumbley were found hiding in an industrial building after going on the lam, charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter, and held on $1 million bail; if they manage to post bail, they will have to wear ankle monitors because, noted prosecutor Karen McDonald at their arraignment,

“These are not people that we can be assured are going to return to court on their own.” These are also evidently not people you should trust to take care of your pet fish, or otherwise display the barest modicum of decency or smarts. Four days before the massacre, they bought their 15-year-old son Ethan an early (and, as a minor, illegal) Christmas present: a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun. Ethan went with James to buy it; he boasted about his "new beauty" on Instagram that night; the next day, his mom proudly posted a picture of the gun with, “Mom & son day testing out his new Xmas present." Mom had already evinced she wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed: She had an arrest record for minor offenses - DUI, passing bad checks - and she wrote a gushing, rambling 2016 open letter to Trump for "making history," though he "sucked at debating" - "I like that you have failed." Declaring, "I have NEVER had this much belief in one person," she hopes he'll cure cancer - "You're the one to do it" - and supports the wall but isn't racist "because my grandfather came right off the boat in (sic) Italy...What makes me sick is people that come here from other countries and get free everything." Thanking him for "my right to bear arms," she signs off with, "A hard working Middle Class Law Abiding Citizen who is sick of getting fucked in the ass and would rather be grabbed by the pussy." James chimed in on Facebook: "My wife can be spot on. Sometimes."

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I Saw Goody Proctor Teaching CRT: On Moms For Liberty and Other Racist, Fascist Vigilantes


SAY WHAT? - Earlier this month, the United States was for the first time demoted to the status of a "backsliding" democracy by global think tank International IDEA, which cited a “visible deterioration” of our civil liberties and checks on government indicating "serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy.” (Thanks Josh Hawley, right-wing media, MAGA insanity, all the perpetrators of hoax claims and all the blithe defenders of creeping fascism.) Amidst that bleak progression, the wingnut war on (alas, often unlovely) reality goes on apace. These days, its frenzied battles are increasingly fought in schools - all those wee malleable minds to shape! - where right-wing targets have morphed from masks and mandates to (imaginary) CRT to, in fine totalitarian tradition, books, ranging from "pornographic" (queer) to "divisive" (historical) to "communist" (whatever makes right-wingers uncomfortable).

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We Are Raising An Army, My Liege: Cut-Rate Nazi Clowns Found Liable For $26 Million


SAY WHAT? - For Thanksgiving, two modest steps toward a justice devoutly to be wished: Ahmaud Arbery's killers go down, and after a landmark, month-long civil trial, a federal jury has found two dozen neo-Nazi, white supremacist and other squalid groups of "very fine people" liable for over $26 million in damages for race-related violence against nine plaintiffs in 2017's infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The rally, dubbed Woodstock for Fascists, saw a ragged, ugly coalition of white nationalists descend on the University of Virginia that August, with tiki-torch-bearing white goons in khakis and polos screaming "Jews will not replace us" and hurling their torches at anyone who disagreed.

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Come Gather 'Round People: Pining For This Once-Idyllic Neighborhood Without Ahmaud Arbery In It


SAY WHAT? - Hoping an(other) almost-all-white jury would like them be "very scared" to see fearsome black man Ahmaud Arbery jogging down the street in placid Satilla Shores, defence attorneys for the three good-ole-boys who shot Arbery down like a dog last year spent Monday unspooling closing statements so incendiary, vituperative, nonsensical and staggeringly racist they drew gasps in the courtroom, where spectators had already heard a lot.

They'd heard prosecutors demolish claims by the defendants - Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William 'Roddie Bryan - that they suspected Arbery of theft after they'd seen him walking through an unfinished construction job; it turns out Arbery had taken nothing, the owner had already said Arbery was just getting a drink of water from a faucet, the state's "citizen's arrest" law the yahoos cited has been repealed, in any case three thugs with two guns and two trucks attacking a guy on foot so unarmed he doesn't even have a cell phone is pretty rarely as in never "self-defense," and in truth they "made assumptions" that day in all their dumb racist glory because Arbery was "a Black man running down the street."

In a final hail-Mary, the defense also called one more time for a mistrial, with Kevin 'Too Many Black Pastors' Gough charging that a group of protestors and, yes, black pastors outside constituted "a woke left mob" and "a public lynching (in) the 21st century, with all due respect." After the judge, with all due respect, again rejected his call, the ignoble defence then started in with their own public lynching.

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INFINITE SIEG F#CKING HEILS: Alas, Kyle Rittenhouse Is An American

SAY WHAT? - So pudgy little blank-eyed sociopath Kyle Rittenhouse walked, an outcome both deeply disturbing and woefully unsurprising given the right-wing noise, the broken jury, the hack bigot of a judge, and don't forget the bedrock white supremacism that an American so-called justice system is designed to uphold. Thus, the unanimous verdict that a dumb-as-a-rock 17-year-old punk who took it upon himself to cross a state border toting an ill-begotten assault rifle to "protect" businesses was not guilty of anything in a country where you face harsher consequences for offering water to thirsty voters in line than murdering two BLM protesters; where a skateboard is deemed a deadly weapon and an AR-15 is a "first aid kit"; where, "Ha, let the boy be black and it would've been life." Swiftly and repulsively cheering on the implausible finding of young Kyle's "innocence" were multiple sick, white, damaged, insecure yahoos and bullies masquerading as alleged GOP members of Congress. A gleeful Madison Cawthorn intoned, "Be armed, be dangerous and be moral" - no cognitive dissonance there - and neo-Nazi Paul Gosar funned (his specialty) that he'll arm-wrestle Matt Gaetz to hire Kyle for an intern if he somehow manages to graduate high school, and quizzed constituents whether Kyle should get a Congressional Medal of Honor - options "Yes" and "Yes again." Also former guy praised Kyle as "a law-abiding...CHILD." One patriot spoke for us all: "Fuck the Republican Party."

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Steve Bannon and the Deadly Implications of 'Deconstructing the Administrative State'

SAY WHAT? - Yale historian Timothy’s Snyder’s Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning was published in 2015. It was a book on a subject that had already received vast attention from historians, but it stood out for its novel thesis: it was traditional bureaucratic state structures which protected persons under their aegis. This applied even during the Holocaust. It was the destruction of the state apparatus or the stripping of persons’ citizenship that made the worst horrors possible.

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