What Happened Today: May 4, 2022
Vance wins for MAGA 2.0 in Ohio; Israel’s Memorial Day; Food plant fires
The Big Story
Tuesday night’s big win for J.D. Vance in the Republican Senate primary race for Ohio shows that two years out of office, Donald Trump remains the most important figure in a party that continues to shift away from big business and toward its new working-class base. Vance’s own trajectory reflects that arc. The Hillbilly Elegy author and Iraq war veteran worked as a venture capitalist for tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who later funded his campaign, before turning into a populist champion of working-class-focused conservative politics. But that alone was not enough to push Vance ahead in the crowded six-way race. After Vance had a slow start, it was a last-minute Trump endorsement that clinched his victory. In a field that included both never-Trump candidates and fellow MAGA Republicans, the pro-big-business Club for Growth, a stalwart of the pre-Trump GOP, spent millions on ads attacking Vance. “I call them the ‘Club for Chinese Growth,’” Vance told supporters in his victory speech. Trends in Ohio, which remains a manufacturing hub despite having lost hundreds of thousands of jobs to offshoring, reflect the larger realignment of the United States’ political parties. After voting for Obama in both 2008 and 2012, the Rust Belt state flipped for Trump in 2016 and stuck with him in 2020. “Like former President Donald Trump in the 2016 Ohio primary,” writes Salena Zito in the Washington Examiner, “Vance won both in Mahoning County and throughout the Steel Valley counties of Trumbull, Stark, Ashtabula, Columbiana, and Portage. Most of these were solidly Democratic until recently. Some have since become Republican, and others will be competitive this fall.” Vance will move on to face Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who won an easy victory in the state’s Democratic primary race, in the midterm elections this fall.
Read it here: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/appalachia-gets-a-voice-in-j-d-vances-win-in-ohio
In The Back Pages: The Mysterious Case of the Food Plant Fires
→ Democratic pollsters quoted in a Politico article are skeptical that a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade and rescinding the nationwide right to legal abortion will galvanize voters enough to propel the party to victory in the midterm elections. The court’s ruling is still widely seen as a net electoral gain for Democrats and expected to turn out more voters in some key districts but not enough to offset concerns over inflation and dissatisfaction with President Biden. “Midterm voters care about affordability first and foremost, and they are not people who are worried every single day about losing access to abortion,” the Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky told Politico. “My fear continues to be that sometimes we as Democrats run on things that we wish the voters cared about, rather than what the voters do care about.”
→ Today is Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, when the country’s fallen soldiers are remembered and mourned. Exactly 24,068 members of the military, police services, and intelligence agencies have been killed defending the Jewish homeland since 1860, losses commemorated in a nationwide moment of silence on Tuesday night. This year, which has seen the deaths of 56 soldiers, the holiday comes amid growing political tension in Israel. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was heckled as a “swindler” and a “shame” during his speech commemorating Israel’s fallen soldiers. Earlier in the week, the families of terror victims had lobbied to bar government ministers from speaking at memorial ceremonies. Following Yom HaZikaron, on Thursday Israel celebrates Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the country’s independence day.
→ A plot to assassinate an American general along with officials from other countries was foiled by Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. Members of the Mossad captured the suspect, Iranian national Mansour Rasouli, in Iran and interrogated him there. Details of the operation were first reported by the London-based Iran International on Saturday. Audio clips from Rasouli’s interrogation—in which he admitted to the plot, for which he was reportedly to be paid more than $1 million—were broadcast on Israeli television. The Pentagon has so far declined to comment on the story. “Citing Israeli officials, some Israeli media such as Walla news site have claimed that the incident took place a year ago and the man interrogated by the Mossad had connections to drug-smuggling networks,” Iran International reported on Tuesday.
Read more: https://www.iranintl.com/en/202205035962
→ An Associated Press investigation has concluded that 600 people—almost all of them women and children—were killed in Ukraine’s Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theatre in Mariupol on March 16 when Russia bombed the building being used as shelter by Ukrainian civilians. By mid-March, roughly 80% of Mariupol had already been shelled by the Russian army, and all the city’s energy had been cut off, forcing thousands of civilians to seek shelter in whatever structures were still standing. The Mariupol theater became such a haven, with as many 1,200 women and children living in the building. One of the theater’s stage designers wrote, in large white Cyrillic letters on either side of the building, children, so Russian forces would know not to target the site. “When people came in, they thought they were safe,” said Elena Bila, who worked as a stage manager at the theater for 19 years and helped tend to those who were sheltering there. The bombing of the Mariupol theater was the deadliest attack on civilians since the start of the war in February.
Read More: https://apnews.com/article/Russia-ukraine-war-mariupol-theater-c321a196fbd568899841b506afcac7a1
→ Despite what are supposed to be the most severe sanctions in history, Russia has been able to find friendly markets for its energy exports. On April 14, President Vladimir Putin announced his intention “to redirect our exports gradually to the rapidly growing markets of the South and the East.” One major client he had in mind was India; as we noted in yesterday’s Scroll, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been buying up cheap oil from Russia while accepting billions of dollars from Europe to spur green economy growth. Another key Russian client, as reported in Tuesday’s Financial Times, is China, where independent oil refiners “have been discreetly buying Russian oil at steep discounts as Western countries suspend their own purchases and explore potential embargoes because of the war in Ukraine.” Taken together, China and India account for more than 20% of global energy use, making them reliable markets for Russia while it weathers—or waits out—sanctions.
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→ With severe drought conditions drying out much of the western United States, officials announced on Tuesday that they will take the unprecedented step of retaining water in Lake Powell, citing fears that, at current levels, the dammed reservoir will not be able to provide energy to thousands—and in time, millions—of people. Lake Powell is currently at a record-low level, as the region has experienced the driest 20-year period in its recorded history. The decision to retain water in the dam serves as a stopgap measure and will keep the waterline at adequate levels for only 12 months. “We are never going to see these reservoirs filled again in our lifetime,” said Denielle Perry, a water resource geographer and professor at Northern Arizona University’s School of Earth and Sustainability. Meanwhile, the water retained in Lake Powell will come at the expense of Lake Mead, a dammed reservoir downriver that also powers millions of homes and that, amid drought conditions, is at historically low levels as well.
→ Sinn Féin, which first formed in 1905 in Northern Ireland and eventually became the political wing of the revolutionary Irish Republican Army (IRA), is poised to become the largest party in the country’s parliament this week. The Sinn Féin is polling strongly ahead of this Thursday’s national elections, despite its links to one of the most violent periods in Ireland’s history, when the IRA, pursuing national independence from England, waged a brutal guerrilla campaign that claimed thousands of lives across the United Kingdom. If the polls prove accurate, Sinn Féin—“Ourselves Alone” in Irish—is poised to achieve politically what the IRA could not achieve militarily: The party has promised it will immediately get to work seeking independence from England and unification with its southern neighbor, the Republic of Ireland.
→ While performing at the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night, legendary comedian Dave Chappelle was attacked by an audience member. Toward the end of Chappelle’s set, a man with a knife and a fake gun climbed onstage and lunged at the comedian, forcing Chappelle to the ground, before fleeing. Chappelle wasn’t injured, and the attacker was quickly apprehended by security. Chris Rock, who was also performing that evening, came onstage to check on Chappelle and give him a hug. “Was that Will Smith?” Rock asked.
Food plants across the United States are catching fire at an alarming rate. Just in the past week, fires broke out in two facilities, a Perdue grain-processing and storage building in Chesapeake, Virginia, and the Saladino’s food-processing plant in Fresno, California. That brings the total number of mysterious fires at food plants this year up to almost 20. Some of those appear to have been minor, but others, like the one that burned through Shearer’s Foods in Oregon in late February, forced the plant to shut down and lay off all of its employees, almost 230 people.
Only, maybe there’s nothing alarming about any of this, and the people frantically theorizing about it online are just paranoid and misinformed, projecting a pattern onto unconnected events to fit their politics. “No, food-plant fires are not an attempt to create food shortages,” PolitiFact declared last month in a verdict echoed across dozens of articles from the media’s fact-checking wing.
Like many of the key historical events over the past five years, news of the fires began to circulate online among anonymous right-wing Twitter accounts. This is the same corner of Twitter that first raised alarms about COVID-19 in the early months of 2020, when the virus was still considered a Trump-aligned issue and thus downplayed by liberal media outlets. These accounts, which share a pessimistic outlook on the U.S. political system—they’d call it a regime—and a keen sense for signs of crisis, form an important layer in the new media landscape. They surface issues that later get re-reported by “real” news outlets and, by their very existence as unlicensed information brokers, provide the justification for the billions of dollars being pumped into the partisan counter-disinformation and fact-checking complex.
The story of the food-plant fires migrated from the Twitter fringes into the mainstream when it was picked up by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “Industrial accidents happen, of course,” Carlson said in an April 21 segment on his show, “but this is a lot of industrial accidents at food-processing facilities.” Carlson gave airtime to the unproved rumors that the fires are being started deliberately—possibly connected to Bill Gates’ recent acquisitions of U.S. farmland, according to the feverish speculation online—to artificially generate food shortages, but he stopped short of endorsing them. “The onus is on people who think this is a conspiracy theory to explain what is going on. What are the odds of that? I have no idea,” he said at the end of the segment.
But that can’t be right. Why wouldn’t the onus be on Carlson, as it would be on any other news program, to do that vetting and research?
“From what we have heard from media sources, there have been approximately 20 fires in U.S. food-processing facilities in the first four months of 2022, which is not extreme at all and does not signal anything out of the ordinary,” according to a spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association. If that assertion, made in an article published by the food storage trade magazine, Powder and Bulk Solids, is wrong, if the fires are indeed extreme and out of the ordinary, then there must be evidence to prove it.
So where does that leave us?
On the one hand, the vehemence of the fact-checkers, and the fact that they seem more interested in dunking on Carlson than in pursuing the evidence wherever it leads, makes them fundamentally unreliable narrators. Likewise, anonymous theorists online and their populist champions like Carlson, who have the virtue of defying the censorious propaganda regime, tend to get high off their own supply and lean too far toward believing stories that undermine the establishment view.
What if the fact-checking authorities are right and American industrial plants are really as flammable as matchbooks, routinely bursting into flames? Wouldn’t that be worse than a Bill Gates-led conspiracy? Deprived of even a villain, we’d be left with nothing but the crumbling state of the United States’ industrial infrastructure, baby-formula shortages, and rising food prices.
Okay, so who is going to find out what the deal is? How many fires have occurred at food processing plants each year for the past 20 years? Who knows the answer? How many times have food processing plants exploded each year for the past 20 years? How many time have planes crashed into food processing plants in the last 20 years? Lets see the graphs, so we can compare this year to every other. Thanks!