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Trump defends supporters’ ‘hang Mike Pence’ chants on 1/6

In newly released audio, former president Donald Trump defends his supporters chanting “hang Mike Pence!” during the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The audio comes from an interview with the former president conducted by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl. The interview took place in March 2021 for the upcoming book Betrayal, which is set for publication on November 16.

“Were you ever worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?” Karl asked Trump during the interview.

Trump predictably said no, adding that he thought that the chant was “common sense,” citing the bogus claim that there was election fraud. Trump had urged then-Vice President Mike Pence to interfere in the counting of the Electoral College votes.

Although reporting has since found that Pence hemmed and hawed, consulting both former Vice President Dan Quayle and the Senate parliamentarian to determine his authority, he ultimately refused, drawing the ire of Trump and his mob of supporters who attacked the Capitol.

Investigating the coup attempt

The 1/6 Committee is stepping up its investigation, subpoenaing Trump administration officials and campaign staffers, even as members of Congress receive death threats. The bipartisan committee is examining Trump’s role in organizing and fomenting an insurrection in a desperate attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

While we have consistently used the words “coup attempt” to describe January 6th – after all, it bears all of the hallmarks of a self-coup – major media outlets have only recently begun to recognize the concerted effort to subvert America’s democracy and install an illegitimate president.

We’re hardly alone in acknowledging this. The Brookings Institute recognized the coup attempt for what it was back on January 9.

Charles T. Call writes:

Trump’s behavior constitutes a self-coup since he has sought to undermine the integrity of the November 3 election and has sought to overturn the results of an election. He urged voters to illegally vote twice; he sought to disenfranchise voters; he sought to coerce officials to alter the vote results. On January 6, Trump explicitly urged the mob to “walk down to the Capitol,” to “demand that Congress do the right thing,” to “show strength,” and to “take back our country.”

Trump’s mob

It should come as no surprise that Trump defended his supporters when they chanted “hang Mike Pence.” When the mob descended on the US Capitol, they did so at Trump’s behest.

While the 1/6 Committee is doing its job – despite the best efforts of Trump to undermine the investigation – Congress needs to step up and defend American democracy with stronger voting rights laws and enforcement against states that engage in voter suppression.

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Republicans who voted for bipartisan infrastructure bill receive death threats

Republican members of Congress who helped pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill are receiving death threats from far-right extremists.

The Washington Post reports:

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has received multiple death threats in the days since he voted for President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal, with the overwhelming majority of the calls coming from outside the congressman’s district.

In a CNN interview Monday night, Upton played the audio of one of the calls, which he said came from a man in South Carolina.

“You’re a f—ing piece of s— traitor. I hope you die,” the man can be heard saying. In the expletive-filled call, he goes on to say he hopes Upton’s family and his entire staff die.

An Upton spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Upton told CNN his office has received several such calls after a House colleague tweeted the names and office phone numbers of the Republicans who voted in favor of the bill. The measure passed the House on Friday with a 228-to-206 vote, two months after it was approved by the Senate on an overwhelming 69-to-30 vote.

It’s worth noting that Upton was among those who voted to impeach Donald Trump for the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Trump leads the far-right attack

Donald Trump took direct aim at the thirteen House Republicans who voted with Democrats to pass the bipartisan bill, calling them “RINOs” for supporting the measure. The bill passed 69-30 in the Senate back in June.

Meanwhile, some of the most conservative Republican members of the House lambasted their colleagues, promising recriminations in the form of primary challenges.

“I can’t believe Republicans just gave the Democrats their socialism bill,” Representative Matt Gaetz tweeted.

“Insanity”

Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of the 1/6 Committee, says that “a party with leaders like Kevin McCarthy, that cannot stand up to the insanity from people like Greene, Gaetz, Gosar, etc, is going to have a hard time standing up to countries like China.”

Needless to say, death threats over a bill that funds roads, bridges, and public transit is not normal. It’s yet another sign of the ugliness in our politics and the fascist impulses of a growing number of Republicans.

The unhinged comments from Gaetz et al and the death threats from their supporters come within days of Representative Paul Gosar tweeting a threatening video at Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

As the AP puts it:

In the past week, Republican Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted a video showing a character with his face killing a figure with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face. Several of the 13 House Republicans who backed a bipartisan infrastructure bill said they faced threats after their vote. In one profanity-laced voicemail, a caller labeled Rep. Fred Upton a “traitor” and wished death for the Michigan Republican, his family and staff.

The response from Republican leaders? Silence.

Extremist members of Congress like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Paul Gosar are no longer outliers in a radicalized Republican Party. Worse yet, they’re giving cover to the most violent elements in the party’s base, which already staged an insurrection as part of an attempted coup.

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Appeals court delays release of Trump White House records as 1/6 Committee issues more subpoenas

The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has temporarily delayed the release of White House records that the 1/6 Committee is seeking as it investigates Donald Trump’s role in the attack on the US Capitol.

The National Archives was prepared to begin handing over the records to the 1/6 Committee on Friday, November 12 after Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump cannot block the release of the documents, rejecting a claim of executive privilege from the former president.

Politico reports on the appeals court decision to delay the release of the documents:

A federal appeals court on Thursday granted a short-term delay in the Jan. 6 select committee’s access to Donald Trump’s White House records.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — including President Joe Biden’s first and only appointee to that court, Ketanji Brown Jackson — will instead hear arguments in the matter on Nov. 30.

The delay is a minor setback for the House Jan. 6 committee, which had prevailed in U.S. District Court against Trump’s legal effort to block access to his records altogether. The National Archives, which house Trump’s records, had been preparing to deliver them to the committee on Friday afternoon.

The committee has repeatedly emphasized the urgency of accessing Trump’s records as it explores the former president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results, including the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol that disrupted the electoral vote count and sent lawmakers fleeing in fear.

If unsuccessful in his attempt to quash the release of the records, Trump can appeal the ruling to the full DC Circuit or the Supreme Court.

Subpoenas keep flying

Earlier this week, the 1/6 Committee issued additional subpoenas to former Trump administration officials and campaign staff. On Monday, they issued subpoenas to six witnesses with close ties to the former president.

The committee subpoenaed attorney John Eastman, the disgraced former general and Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Campaign staffers Jason MillerBill Stepien, and Angela McCallum were also summoned to testify. The six were among those with links to the “war room” that sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election on January 6.

The following day, the 1/6 Committee sent subpoenas to ten other officials. CNN reports that the list includes the following individuals:

  • Nicholas Luna, former President Donald Trump’s personal assistant
  • Molly Michael, Trump’s special assistant to the President and Oval Office operations coordinator
  • Ben Williamson, Trump’s deputy assistant to the President and senior adviser to then-chief of staff Mark Meadows
  • Christopher Liddell, former Trump White House deputy chief of staff
  • John McEntee, Trump’s White House personnel director
  • Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to then-Vice President Mike Pence
  • Kayleigh McEnany, former White House press secretary under Trump
  • Stephen Miller, Trump senior adviser
  • Cassidy Hutchinson, special assistant to the President for legislative affairs
  • Kenneth Klukowski, former senior counsel to Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark

The 1/6 Committee is clearly stepping up its investigation, but their work is at least somewhat dependent on outside actors including federal judges. How many of the Trump allies are prepared to defy the subpoena? Will the Department of Justice enforce the subpoenas? These lingering questions will determine how effective the committee is in performing its essential duties.

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Insurrectionist receives 41-month prison sentence for assaulting police officer

A supporter of Donald Trump who was among the insurrectionists at the US Capitol on January 6 was sentenced on Wednesday.

Judge Royce Lamberth handed down the sentence for Scott Fairlamb, a Capitol insurrectionist who assaulted a police officer during the January 6 coup attempt.

According to CNN:

A New Jersey gym owner and former MMA fighter who punched a police officer during the January 6 riot was sentenced to 41 months in prison on Wednesday, becoming the first rioter sentenced for violence against the police during the attack.

Scott Fairlamb pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and obstructing an official proceeding in August.

In addition to the prison sentence, Fairlamb will also receive 36 months of supervised release following his time behind bars. Fairlamb is the first person to receive a sentence for attacks on police officers that day.

The sentencing comes one day after a federal judge rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to obstruct the 1/6 Committee investigating the coup attempt. Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that Trump cannot block the release of the documents, rejecting a claim of executive privilege for the former president. President Joe Biden has already waived executive privilege.

In her ruling, Judge Chutkan wrote that “presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not president.”

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Joint Chiefs Chairman notes attempt to ‘overturn the Constitution’ on January 6

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking military officer in the United States, acknowledged during Congressional testimony this week that the insurrection on January 6 was an attempt to – in his words – “overturn the Constitution.”

According to USA Today:

“What is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America?” Milley said of the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump. “What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here, and I do want to analyze it.”

Milley’s remarks came in response to Republican attacks on the study of structural racism in the United States, specifically at West Point.

“I’ve read Mao Tse-tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist,” Milley is quoted as saying. “So, what is wrong with understanding … having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military — our general officers, our commissioned and non-commissioned officers — of being, quote, ‘woke’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.”

Sugarcoating the insurrection is dangerous. Milley understands that perhaps more than anyone.

More important though are the comments acknowledging that Trump supporters attempted to overturn the Constitution on January 6 – some of whom were both active-duty or retired police and military.

Some of us have accurately called the insurrection a coup attempt since January. It plainly was: Trump lied to his supporters for weeks about bogus election fraud claims, summoned them to Washington DC on January 6, and then unleashed his mob of supporters on the Congress of the United States to prevent the certification of the Electoral College.

Milley’s comments are the highest-ranking acknowledgment of what happened on January 6. They come from a decorated general who holds a respected and completely nonpartisan position.

Granted, he didn’t outright call it a coup. But what else do you call a mob of Trump supporters attempting to “overturn the Constitution” at the behest of the then-president of the United States?

Now we just need others – especially elected officials and the news media – to call January 6 what it was and do everything in our power to prevent it from ever happening again.

Photo Credit: Flickr

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A democracy, if we can keep it

Democratic House managers in Donald Trump’s Impeachment Trial have spent the past three days detailing the attack on the US Capitol Building, Trump’s incitement in the weeks leading up to January 6th, and his delegitimization of and attacks on the 2020 election. 

New footage of the attack, both inside and outside of the Capitol Building, has been harrowing. We’ve learned that some members of congress who were specifically targeted were, in some cases, seconds away from dangerous encounters with the Trump-emboldened insurrectionists. 

A video clip played during the trial showed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and his armed security detail narrowly escaping insurrectionists who had broken into the building moments prior. In another clip, Capitol Hill Police Officer Eugene Goodman is seen directing Senator Mitt Romney to run for safety before Goodman confronted insurrectionists and diverted them away from the Senate chamber. 

At one point at the trial, Richard Barnett, the man who broke into and vandalized the office of House leader Nancy Pelosi, is shown to have been armed with a stun-gun. Other insurrectionists were seen angrily hunting for government officials such as Mike Pence. Some had called for the Vice President’s hanging

If Republicans are unable to join with Democrats to convict Donald Trump for inciting a violent insurrection at the US Capitol that could have resulted in the deaths and injuries of multiple members of Congress, we will have entered a very dark and dangerous period for our democracy. We will no longer be able to represent the world’s stable democracies, and it would represent the biggest internal threat to our republic since the Civil War.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, interviewed on Fox News the night of Wednesday, February 10th, appeared to be angrier at Democratic House managers for showing footage of the violent and deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6th, than those who carried out the insurrection and the person who incited the insurrection, Donald Trump. 

Graham stated:

You’ve got Democratic politicians being silent or encouraging acts of violence. I mean, you’ve got the sitting Vice President, when she was a US Senator, telling people they shouldn’t stop [protesting against the murder of George Floyd in June 2020] and trying to bail them out. So, if I were the Trump team, I would expose the hypocrisy here, and I would go after the argument that it was preplanned, and the idea that the president was in on it is absurd. This thing is collapsing before their eyes and the Not Guilty vote is growing. So, it’ll be over by Sunday.

Senator Graham is right when he says “it’ll be over by Sunday.” If Republicans, once again, acquit Donald Trump of his destructive abuses of power while he was in office, it will mark the figurative end of a functioning constitutional democracy in the United States. No democracy can withstand an all-out assault against it by a party that has turned to fascism and authoritarianism in a two-party system.

Senator Graham is not alone in his assault on US democracy. The Park County (Wyoming) Republican Party censured Congresswoman Elizabeth (Liz) Cheney for voting in favor of impeaching Donald Trump on February 5, 2021. In fact, a total of 10 county Republican Parties in Wyoming have voted to censure Representative Cheney.

The Arizona Republican Party voted to censure former Senator Jeff Flake, Governor Doug Ducey, and the widow of the late Senator John McCain.

The New York Times explains:

Though largely symbolic, the political scolding during a meeting of the state G.O.P. on Saturday underscored a widening rift in Arizona between party officials who have made clear that their loyalty lies with former President Donald J. Trump and those in the party who refused to support him or his effort to overturn the election results in Arizona, which President Joseph R. Biden Jr. won.

The party cited Ms. McCain’s and Mr. Flake’s criticisms of Mr. Trump and Mr. Ducey’s use of emergency orders related to the pandemic, which gave him broad control to enact policies without the legislature’s approval such as closing “nonessential” businesses in the spring.”

One week after the far-right insurrection at the United States Capitol, and the day the House voted to impeach then-President Trump for an unprecedented second time, media outlets began to report that House Republicans were intimidated into voting against impeachment, partly by death threats against them and their families.

During an appearance on Meet The Press on January 13th, US House Representative Jason Crow from Colorado explained the fear that some Republicans had for their safety.

The majority of them are paralyzed with fear. I had a lot of conversations with my Republican colleagues last night, and a couple of them broke down in tears — saying that they are afraid for their lives if they vote for this impeachment.

Tim Alberta, the chief political correspondent for Politico wrote:

Crow is right. Numerous House Rs have received death threats in the past week, and I know for a fact several members *want* to impeach but fear casting that vote could get them or their families murdered.

Still, while more congressional Republicans than we see publicly are against the actions of Donald Trump, the majority of the party, from voters to members of Congress, continue to support the party’s slide into authoritarianism, led by Donald Trump. Trump is the first president in US history to incite an insurrection against the US Capitol Building to overturn an election and overthrow democracy itself. 

US democracy is at a dangerous point, despite the election of Joe Biden in November of 2020. While having President Biden in power may prevent the outright destruction of democratic institutions, it may not be enough to neutralize a radicalizing and dangerous Republican Party and far-right. 

If Senate Republicans acquit Donald Trump in the days to come, they are setting a precedent that will irreparably harm this democracy for generations. This will give permission to any future far-right ideologue who may lose their political races to say that elections at the national, state, and local levels are rigged against them. 

Republicans will spend most of their time further delegitimizing our electoral system. Republicans with majorities in state legislatures will pass draconian voter suppression laws that are more severe than we’ve ever seen. Far-right terrorism against our state capitols, elected officials, and even voters, will escalate. The Republican Party and the far-right understand that they can no longer win a national majority because of their oppressive and anti-democratic positions, and because of changing demographics. They have jettisoned democracy for fascistic and authoritarian tactics. The turn to fascism and authoritarianism is all they have left because they refuse to accept a changing society.

If Senate Republicans acquit Donald Trump, we will know that it will be over as Lindsey Graham proclaimed on his Fox News interview, but what will be over is our democracy. Benjamin Franklin’s worry about keeping a democratic republic would be validated. Unfortunately, we may not be able to keep it this time.

Photo Credit: Architect of the Capitol

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Nearly two dozen law enforcement or military members identified among Capitol insurrectionists so far

The extent to which current and former law enforcement and members of the military participated in the attack on the Capitol is coming into clearer view. Nearly two dozen have already been identified “as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named.”

According to a report from the Associated Press:

As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armor trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.

The formation, known as “Ranger File,” is the standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognizable to any U.S. soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.

An Associated Press review of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named. In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armor and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting.

Experts in homegrown extremism have warned for years about efforts by far-right militants and white-supremacist groups to radicalize and recruit people with military and law enforcement training, and they say the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead saw some of their worst fears realized.

The involvement of law enforcement and ex-military appears to be extensive. Beyond direct involvement, some members of law enforcement have sympathized with insurrectionists. The president of the Chicago Police Department union, John Catanzara – an outspoken Trump supporter – defended Capitol insurrectionists and falsely claimed that there was no violence before pivoting and pointing the finger at BLM protests last summer. The CPD union endorsed Trump last fall and elected Catanzara as their president.

In short, this calls for a thorough nationwide investigation to root out white supremacists who have infiltrated law enforcement and the military. These men dishonored their oaths and are a serious threat to public safety – particularly people of color. Anything less is an invitation to more acts of insurrection and police-involved murders of unarmed people of color.

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Liz Cheney, number three House Republican, backs impeachment

Liz Cheney dramatically became the highest-ranking House Republican to back the impeachment of President Donald Trump nearly a week after a deadly Trump-inspired insurrection at the US Capitol.

Cheney serves as Chair of the House Republican Caucus, which makes her the third-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives. She represents one of the most Republican states in the country: Wyoming. In fact, Donald Trump performed better in Wyoming than any other state during the 2020 presidential election. And if you are wondering, yes, she is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Here is Cheney’s full statement:

On January 6, 2021 a violent mob attacked the United States Capitol to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes. This insurrection caused injury, death and destruction in the most sacred space in our Republic.

Much more will become clear in coming days and weeks, but what we know now is enough. The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the President. The President could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence. He did not. There has never been a greater betrayal by a President of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.

“I will vote to impeach the President.”

Photo Credit: Milonica, CC BY-SA 3.0

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Arnold Schwarzenegger compares Capitol coup attempt to Kristallnacht

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former actor and two-term governor of California, offers perhaps the starkest portrait of Wednesday’s coup attempt from a leading Republican voice in the United States.

In a recording published on YouTube, Schwarzenegger offers his thoughts on the Capitol riot and reflects on life growing up in Austria shortly after the fall of the Nazi regime.

As an immigrant of this country, I would like to say a few words to my fellow Americans and to our friends around the world about the events of recent days.

I grew up in Austria. I’m very aware of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass. It was a night of rampage against the Jews carried out in 1938 by the Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys. Wednesday was the Day of Broken Glass right here in the United States. The broken glass was in the windows of the United States Capitol.

But the mob did not just shatter the windows of the Capitol. They shattered the ideas we took for granted. They did not just break down the doors of the building that housed American democracy. They trampled the very principles on which our country was founded.

I grew up in the ruins of a country that suffered the loss of its democracy. I was born in 1947, two years after the Second World War. Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away the guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history.

Not all of them were rabid anti-Semites or Nazis. Many of them just went along step-by-step down the road. They were the people next door.

Schwarzenegger goes on to call Trump a “failed president” who will “go down in history as the worst president ever.” He is just as unsparing of other members of his own party – particularly Congressional Republicans – who he called “spineless” and “complicit.”

You can watch Schwarzenegger’s full comments below:

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January 6, 2021: Trump’s failed coup attempt is a ‘date which will live in infamy’

Seventy-nine years ago last month, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in an unprovoked attack on America.

The nation was never the same after that day. President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress to declare war, drawing the United States into World War II. In one of the most quoted lines in presidential history, Roosevelt remarked that December 7, 1941 – the day of the attack – was a “date which will live in infamy.”

One could argue that January 6, 2021 is the 21st-century equivalent of that day – except instead of a foreign power attacking the United States, it was an attack from within.

For months, the defeated outgoing president attempted a soft coup, hoping to overturn a free and fair presidential election through frivolous lawsuits and other machinations that one could only dream up in a poorly-written fiction novel. Trump bullied and threatened state officials – many of them Republican allies – to do his dirty work for him. Thankfully, these efforts went nowhere; Republican state officials, like Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, held their ground.

When those attempts failed – including a futile effort to have Vice President Mike Pence disregard the will of voters and the certifications of several states – the desperate aspiring dictator turned to his supporters in a long-shot push to cling on to power. At a rally filled with lies where he trashed his own vice president and allies in Congress, Trump riled the crowd into a frenzy and directed his supporters to head to the Capitol.

The mob breached the Capitol’s inexcusably (and perhaps intentionally) lax security, damaged federal property, and forced lawmakers convened in a joint session of Congress into hiding. At the end of the historic day, five people were dead, including a police officer.

The consequences of this day will not be known for some time, but it is safe to say that – like after the attack on Pearl Harbor – our country has changed forever. What happens in the days, weeks, and months to come – including decisions on whether to invoke the 25th Amendment or impeach the president – will be consequential. The legal and professional consequences for the insurrectionists, co-conspirators, and their enablers in Congress and elsewhere may well determine whether there are future attempts to violently thwart American democracy.

If this brazen attack on our democracy goes unanswered in the waning days of the Trump presidency and the early days of the Biden presidency, there almost assuredly will be a repeat of this day not far down the line – and that coup attempt may very well succeed.

Image Credit: Tyler Merbler, Flickr, CC BY 2.0