Thursday Reads: Bomb Cyclone, Bunnies, and a Bit of Breaking News


Good Morning!!

It looks like we finally might get a big winter storm here in New England. This one is supposed to have a bomb cyclone, a lot of snow, and possible blizzard force winds. Now that I live in a warm apartment and don’t have to go out and shovel, I’m kind of looking forward to it. I have a grocery delivery coming this afternoon, so I should be all set. Nor’easter to Hit Parts of East Coast With Snow, High Winds and Coastal Flooding.

A powerful nor’easter will develop in the western Atlantic beginning late Friday, bringing heavy snow, strong winds and coastal flooding to parts of the East Coast, but there remains a larger than usual amount of uncertainty in the forecast for this storm.

Winter storm watches have been issued by the National Weather Service for Friday night and Saturday from parts of southern New England southward through the coastal mid-Atlantic as far south as eastern North Carolina. This includes Boston, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia and Norfolk.

The winter storm watches outline the areas where there is the possibility of significant snowfall and strong winds from this storm. It does not mean all of those locations will see moderate to heavy snowfall, but rather the potential is there.

The setup begins Friday with a cold front moving across the Northeast that will haul in a fresh blast of chilly air prior to this storm’s potential impact. Then, low pressure will strengthen as it tracks off the East Coast late Friday through Saturday in response to an upper-level disturbance tracking through the central and eastern United States.

It’s likely this storm will become a “bomb cyclone” – a term meteorologists use for a low-pressure system associated with fronts with a central pressure that plunges at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. A storm with a lower pressure is stronger.

But what’s still in doubt is the exact track of this bomb cyclone in relation to the East Coast. That future track will have a domino effect for what areas will see the most significant snowfall, high winds and/or coastal flooding.

Portions of southern and eastern New England continue to have the highest probability of seeing heavy snow and strong winds. Areas farther south from around the New York tri-state area to the coastal mid-Atlantic could also see significant snow and gusty winds, but the confidence in the forecast for those areas is lower.

Maggie Vandewalle

Maggie Vandewalle

It’s difficult to understand why President Biden’s poll numbers are so low. Check this out:

AP News: US economy grew 5.7% in 2021 in rebound from 2020 recession.

The U.S. economy grew last year at the fastest pace since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, bouncing back with resilience from 2020′s brief but devastating coronavirus recession.

The nation’s gross domestic product — its total output of goods and services — expanded 5.7% in 2021. It was the strongest calendar-year growth since a 7.2% surge in 1984 after a previous recession. The economy ended the year by growing at an unexpectedly brisk 6.9% annual pace from October through December as businesses replenished their inventories, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

“It just goes to show that the U.S. economy has learned to adapt to the new variants and continues to produce,″ said Beth Ann Bovino, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings.

Squeezed by inflation and still gripped by COVID-19 caseloads, the economy is expected to slow this year. Many economists have been downgrading their forecasts for the current January-March quarter, reflecting the impact of the omicron variant. And for all of 2022, the International Monetary Fund has forecast that the the nation’s GDP growth will slow to 4%….

Many U.S. businesses, especially restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues, remain under pressure from the omicron variant, which has kept millions of people hunkered down at home to avoid crowds. Consumer spending, the primary driver of the economy, may be further held back this year by the loss of government aid to households, which nurtured activity in 2020 and 2021 but has mainly expired.

What’s more, the Federal Reserve made clear Wednesday that it plans to raise interest rates multiple times this year to battle the hottest inflation in nearly four decades. Those rate increases will make borrowing more expensive and perhaps slow the economy this year.

Growth last year was driven up by a 7.9% surge in consumer spending and a 9.5% increase in private investment. For the final three months of 2021, consumer spending rose at a more muted 3.3% annual pace. But private investment rocketed 32% higher, boosted by a surge in business inventories as companies stocked up to meet higher customer demand. Rising inventories, in fact, accounted for 71% of the fourth-quarter growth.

3aee5e36fefab63d7c158ba35326c0b5Slowing to 4 percent growth doesn’t sound that bad. I’ll have to see what Dakinikat thinks. More from The Washington Post: U.S. economy grew 5.7 percent in 2021, fastest full-year clip since 1984, despite ongoing pandemic.

The U.S. economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2021, the fastest full-year clip since 1984, roaring back in the pandemic’s second year despite two new virus variants that rocked the country.

The growth was uneven, with a burst of government spending helping propel a fast start, even as a surge in new cases and deaths in the second half of the year created new pressures. The economy grew by 6.9 percent from October to December, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said Thursday, a sharp acceleration from 2.3 percent in the previous quarter.

In a powerful rebound from 2020, when the economy contracted by 3.4 percent — its worst result since 1946 — 2021′s strong growth created a record 6.4 million jobs. But it also brought a host of complications, helping fuel the highest inflation in 40 years and creating supply chain snarls as consumers hungry for products overwhelmed the global delivery system. To beat back rising prices, the Federal Reserve is now shifting its strategy and preparing for interest rate hikes this year, convinced it has given enough support to help the labor market and now must keep the economy from overheating even further.

While the omicron variant had begun its vicious surge by the end of 2021, economists didn’t expect to see any fallout in Thursday’s data. Rather, forecasters anticipated that the GDP report would represent a year of blockbuster growth despite the unpredictability of the pandemic economy, from labor shortages to supply chain backlogs to inflation.

Earlier in the year, economists worried that global supply chain problems would keep businesses from being able to fully stock shelves. But a rush by companies in the final months of 2021 to bolster their inventories ultimately drove GDP much higher, as companies started to refill empty storerooms.

It’s actually kind of complicated, so if you want more, head over to the WaPo.

Yesterday’s big news was the upcoming retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Moira Donigan at The Guardian: Liberals across America are sighing with relief about Justice Breyer’s retirement.

That sound you hear is Democrats in Washington and across the country letting out a sigh of profound relief: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring in June, at the end of the US supreme court’s current term. News of the 83-year-old’s choice to step down broke on Wednesday – evidently a little earlier than the man himself would have liked – giving President Biden his first opportunity to fill a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.

Rabbits, by Francois Desportes

Rabbits, by Francois Desportes

The decision from Breyer ends months of speculation and a determined pressure campaign to convince the ageing liberal justice to retire while Democrats still held both the White House and the Senate, that rare and precarious circumstance that is now required for any Democratic president to see his federal court nominees confirmed. Breyer’s decision to step down this summer gives the Democrats a narrow window to appoint his replacement before they are expected to lose control of the Senate in the November midterms.

Breyer’s retirement, after nearly 30 years as a justice, will not change the balance of power on the supreme court, which has heaved dramatically rightward since Justice Anthony Kennedy chose to retire under Donald Trump in 2018. Nor will his exit mitigate what are likely to be ruinous outcomes in this term’s major rulings, which include the hateful Dobbs v Jackson, the case that is almost certain to overturn Roe v Wade. The benefits of his timely exit aren’t so much ameliorative as preventive: because he has retired under a Democratic trifecta, he has ensured that the supreme court’s conservative 6-3 supermajority will at least stay 6-3, and not become and insurmountable 7-2. But the extremist makeup of an increasingly maximalist rightwing court will continue.

Read about Breyer’s record on the Court at The Guardian link.

CNN: Inside Biden’s calculated silence on Breyer’s retirement.

President Joe Biden received a much-needed political opening on Wednesday. But neither he, nor anyone close to him, appeared ready to celebrate it.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement plans were publicly revealed before the White House or the justice himself was expecting it, leading to a muted response from Biden and his aides. The White House — which had learned of Breyer’s plans last week, though the justice did not inform the President directly — had been preparing for the moment for more than a year. But a subdued reaction from Biden was indicative of something he has made clear for months: He won’t abide any pressure from his team, however subtle, on Breyer to step down.

“Let him make whatever statement he’s going to make,” the President said in the State Dining Room as a group of chief executives looked on. “And I’ll be happy to talk about it later.”\The awkward moment — with Biden remaining mum even as many Democrats were celebrating news that could provide him a badly needed political boost — reflected an announcement that had not come as many had planned, least of all the President.

Biden’s calculated silence over the past months has not stopped the process of selecting Breyer’s successor from quietly taking shape. Groundwork has been carefully laid for a process that will unfold over the coming weeks, which the President hopes will lead to a confirmed justice by spring.

Biden’s White House has created a judicial nomination machine during the President’s first year in office, vetting and selecting a raft of diverse candidates to fill open spots on the federal bench at a pace that outstrips most of Biden’s most recent predecessors. The President also has a deeply experienced player in a key role for the coming high-stakes process — his top adviser, chief of staff Ron Klain, has played a major part in nine different Supreme Court nominations over the last several decades.

Read the rest at CNN. Breyer will join Biden at the White House today for the official announcement. Biden is still committed to appointing a Black woman to replace Breyer.

Two more articles to check out:

SV Date at HuffPost: The 59 Republicans Who Joined Electoral Voter Fraud Scheme For Trump Could Face Prison.

Dozens of local and state Republican leaders who showed their loyalty to Donald Trump by casting fake electoral votes for him a year ago may now face prison time in return for that devotion.

Because as the House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, starts to look into the origins of the scheme to send “alternate” ballots to Congress from states narrowly won by Joe Biden, the 59 ersatz Trump electors who claimed to be “duly elected and qualified” could face federal charges ranging from election fraud to mail fraud, in addition to a range of state-level charges.

72c18f04c3cea5ab7e94af311b8618d6And in two of the states, the Democratic attorneys general are openly calling on the Department of Justice to act.

“I believe it’s critical that the federal government fully investigates and prosecutes any unlawful actions in furtherance of any seditious conspiracy,” said Josh Kaul, attorney general of Wisconsin, where 10 Republicans filed papers claiming to be the state’s electors even though Biden narrowly won there.

“This is a crime,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told reporters earlier this month, adding that calling the elector slate “alternate” did a disservice and that it should be called a “false, counterfeit, fake slate of electors.”

In her state, 16 Republican office holders and party officials filed paperwork claiming then-President Trump had won the state even though he had lost it by 154,000 votes. “This is election fraud, and it’s many other crimes as well, both, I believe, at the state and the federal level.”

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Lisa Monaco on Tuesday confirmed to CNN that Justice Department prosecutors “are looking at those” but would not comment further.

Arizona, where 11 Republicans filed papers falsely claiming to be the state’s electors; Georgia, which had 16; and Nevada, which had six, account for the rest of the 59.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Opinion: What would a 2024 Trump coup look like? A new paper offers a worrying answer.

As lawmakers debate how to “Trump proof” our elections against a rerun of 2020, a difficult question has emerged as pivotal to these efforts: What strategy might be most likely to succeed in subverting a future presidential election where Donald Trump’s corrupt scheme failed?

A new paper by an election law specialist seeks to answer this question with a “realistic risk assessment” of the 2024 presidential election. Even if the scenario it outlines is extreme, it deserves attention, because it raises very vexing points about weaknesses in our election system.

Understanding these weaknesses has concrete utility right now. It will help shape Congress’s efforts to shore them up via reform of the Electoral Count Act of 1887, or ECA, which governs how Congress counts presidential electors.

Here’s the unsettling reality: If the ECA isn’t revised, under certain scenarios, all it would take for a future effort to succeed is a single corrupt GOP governor and a GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

This pathway to a subverted 2024 election is spelled out in the new paper by legal scholar Matthew Seligman, who has written extensively about the ECA’s history and weaknesses, and the ways Trump tried to exploit them in 2020.

There are several routes for a future effort to succeed. Considering the likelihood of each is central to getting ECA reform right.

Right now, efforts in Congress to revise the ECA are focused mainly on the possibility of a rogue House and Senate refusing to count legitimate electors, as Trump attempted to pull off in 2020.

This new paper offers another possibility. This one would simply require Republicans to capture the House and for the right Trumpist Republican to win a key swing-state governorship.

Read the details on this nightmare scenario at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

Oops: Wednesday Reads

Now that is a political cartoon…More from Cagle:

Have a fuckity fuck fuck fuck day…

Monday Reads

Robert Motherwell

Happy Monday Sky Dancers!

The Supreme Court continues to be the nightmare that right-wing Republicans intended it to be. Nearly all civil rights advances made in the last half of the century in this country are under attack.  The latest is affirmative action in higher education. Frankly, I think that white nationalists should be careful what they wish for on this topic because being one of those who just show up white guys and get rewarded is going to backfire on them.  I’ve been teaching graduate school for quite a while in math-heavy, tech-heavy finance, and economics. Few of them even get to the ABD stage. There are a huge number of American students that are a product of last century’s diasporas from Asia and the Middle East that can blow right past them with their math chops.  The lawsuit was filed by a group of Asian-American students.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the use of race in college admissions decisions, teeing up a potentially landmark showdown over affirmative action in higher education.

The case arose after a conservative-backed group, Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, alleging the schools illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants.

The court’s announcement came in a brief order without noted comment or dissent. The cases, which have been consolidated, are expected to be heard during the court’s next term, which begins next fall.

The move rebuffed the Biden administration, which last month had asked the justices to turn away the challenge to Harvard University, arguing that the school’s admissions practices were lawful.

Harvard, in court papers, denied that its policy is discriminatory. The school accused SFFA of a brazen attempt to upend decades of precedent allowing schools to promote on-campus diversity by considering the racial makeup of their student bodies.

“Having failed to make the case that Harvard’s admissions practices contravene the court’s precedents governing the use of race in admissions, SFFA asks the court to overthrow them,” Harvard wrote in a filing last May. “But SFFA offers no legitimate justification for such an extraordinary step.”

SFFA alleges that Asian American applicants are held to a higher academic standard than other students. The group argues that Asian Americans are disadvantaged in the application process due to receiving lower “personal ratings” and are admitted at a lower rate than white applicants despite having higher test scores on average.

SFFA has asked the court to overturn Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 decision in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of college admissions boards to factor in applicants’ race in order to benefit minority groups and enhance diversity.

“Grutter’s core holding — that universities can use race in admissions to pursue student-body diversity — is plainly wrong,” the group wrote in its petition for appeal. The challengers say their case against Harvard’s policy gives the court an “ideal vehicle” for reevaluating its stance on affirmative action given the school’s outsize role in past rulings.


The suit is considered the most serious threat to affirmative action in decades according to NBC.

Despite similar challenges, the court has repeatedly upheld affirmative action in the past. But two liberal justices who were key to those decisions are gone — Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their replacements, Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, are conservative and considered less likely to find the practice constitutional.

In the latest case, groups backed by a longtime opponent of affirmative action, Edward Blum of Maine, sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, claiming that Harvard’s undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC’s discriminated against both Asian American and white students. Lower courts ruled that the schools’ limited consideration of race was a legitimate effort to achieve a more diverse student body.

The lawsuits were targeted to challenge the admissions process at both a private and a public university.

The Supreme Court has long barred racial quotas in admissions. But it has allowed schools to consider a student’s race to be one “plus factor” among many other qualities, provided the admissions process looks at the overall qualifications of applicants and uses race no more than necessary to achieve a level of diversity.

The challengers in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, urged the justices to overrule the court’s 2003 decision on affirmative action, which upheld the University of Michigan’s use of race as a plus factor and served as a model for similar admissions programs nationwide.

That decision “endorsed racial objectives that are amorphous and unmeasurable,” the challengers said in asking the Supreme Court to take their appeal. The Constitution requires equal protection and contains no exceptions, they said, contending that Harvard admits Asian Americans at lower rates than whites and values Black or Hispanic ethnicity more highly.

“If a university wants to admit students with certain experiences (say, overcoming discrimination), then it can evaluate whether individual applicants have that experience,” their brief said. “It cannot simply use race as a proxy for certain experiences or views.”

Munch: Brann på Grønland
Edvard Munch: “Brann på Grønland” (Fire at Grønland, a borough in Oslo), 1919-20.

Universities have long considered diverse student bodies–reflective of the country in its entirety–to be a good thing for higher education all around.  Geographic location is frequently used also to give all students a chance to see what life is like outside the vacuum where they were raised. Grades and tests scores are no longer considered the sole indicator of success at university and in life.

The Jane Mayer article at The New Yorker that I posted over the weekend on Ginnie Lamp Thomas and Clarence Thomas has become the center of controversy. It obviously put the couple in a bad light and frankly, I will argue they deserve it. But, I’ll leave that to Michael Tomasky writing for The New Republic. “The Case for Impeaching Clarence Thomas. The Supreme Court justice refuses to recuse himself from cases in which his right-wing activist wife, Ginni, has a clear interest. The Democrats should punish him for it.”

In a sane world, Jane Mayer’s excellent piece on Ginni Thomas in The New Yorker would set off a series of events that would lead to her husband Clarence Thomas’s impeachment and removal from the Supreme Court. Ginni is involved with numerous far-right organizations and schemes that take very public positions on court decisions across a range of social and political issues, such as last week’s 8–1 holding that Donald Trump could not block the release of documents related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in that case. His wife sat on the advisory board of a group that sent busloads of insurrectionists to Washington on January 6. In addition, she cheered the insurrection on Facebook. It’s just the most recent example where she has been involved in activities that directly or indirectly place her activism before the court, and her husband does not care how corrupt it looks.

They’ve been doing this for years. This first occasion was back in 2000, in a case Mayer doesn’t even go into, when it was revealed after that election that as a Heritage Foundation staffer, Ginni was screening résumés for the incoming Bush administration while the nation awaited a ruling from the court on the Florida recount. There was pressure then on Thomas to recuse himself.

A decade later, when the first major Obamacare case came before the court, it was widely noted that Ginni’s group, Liberty Central, called the law a “disaster” and urged repeal. Again, there were calls for Thomas to recuse.

He didn’t do so in either case. And in the first one, he was part of the 5–4 majority in Bush v. Gore, one of the most self-discrediting decisions in the court’s history.

So for 20 years, Ginni Thomas has been operating in the white-hot center of far-right activist circles, involved in everything from Obamacare to abortion rights to same-sex marriage to you name it—all issues that have come before her husband. A more honorable man would recuse himself from all such cases or indeed quietly ask his spouse to find another, less incendiary line of work that has no impact on the appearance of her husband’s ethical standards.

Dr Rosa Schapire 1919 Karl Schmidt-Rottluff 1884-1976 Presented by the executors of Dr Rosa Shapire 1954

The article continues to point out what the Democratic party has done which is nothing and to point out what the Republicans would’ve done if it were a wife a Democratic supreme court justice doing this instead.  It’s a good long read.

There was one good finding from SCOTUS. “Supreme Court turns away Rep. Kevin McCarthy challenge to House proxy voting during COVID-19”  This is from USA Today and John Fritze.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a GOP lawsuit challenging proxy voting rules set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the pandemic.

The decision to not hear the case lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that said courts are barred from reviewing the internal rules of the House of Representatives.

Weeks after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the House approved a measure allowing lawmakers unable to come to Capitol Hill to designate another member as their “proxy” to cast floor votes on their behalf.

Republicans, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., sued Pelosi, contending that the Constitution does not allow proxy votes. That argument rests in part on the quorum clause, which requires a majority of the House to be present in order to conduct the chamber’s business. That clause also says a group smaller than a quorum may be authorized to “compel” the attendance of “absent members.”

The power to compel absent members to attend would make little sense, McCarthy told the court, if the framers of the Constitution did not expect lawmakers to vote in person.

And, if you want to see angry white male in action try this one:

I feel for this man’s son whose peanut allegery was triggered by something in his smoothy but wow, this is no way to handle a complaint to a small business.

I’m not sure how far behind the Rolling Stone paywall you’ll get but this is another one of those things that is shocking about the insurrection. This was reported by Andy Kroll: Start the Steal: New MAGA Emails Reveal Plot to Hand Arizona to Trump

The technology was complicated, but the plan was simple: Scan mail-in and absentee ballots in populous Maricopa County, remove the “invalid votes,” and recertify the state’s 2020 election count, surely declaring then-President Donald Trump the rightful winner.

This scheme to subvert the election outcome in Arizona is laid out in newly released emails obtained by Rolling Stone. Sent in early December 2020, the emails cover a critical moment when the post-election push by Trump and Republican allies to find fraud and overturn the presidential election was in full swing.

The emails show how a group of fringe election sleuths pressed state legislators on a plan to disrupt the 2020 election certification and potentially change the vote count in a battleground state that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. The emails also reveal that several Trump advisers, including campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and legal adviser Bernie Kerik, were included in the discussion.

You also can read more at NBC News from  Jane C. Timm: Arizona Republicans propose major changes to elections after GOP review finds no fraud.

Arizona Republicans have put forth two dozen bills this month that would significantly change the state’s electoral processes after the GOP’s unorthodox review of millions of ballots affirmed President Joe Biden’s victory and turned up no proof of fraud.

Proposals introduced in the state House or the Senate would add an additional layer to the state’s voter ID requirement, such as fingerprints, and stipulate the hand counting of all ballots by default. Other legislation would require that paper ballots be printed with holograms and watermarks.

Republican legislators argue that the proposals, part an ongoing surge of GOP-led election changes enacted or under consideration across the country, are necessary to enhance election security and prevent fraud.

Official counts, audits and accuracy tests have confirmed the election results in Arizona and elsewhere without finding evidence of widespread fraud, and states with Republican and Democratic leaders have certified the results as accurate. Former President Donald Trump, who continues to promote the lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, was unable to prove any of the claims in court. A coalition of federal agencies involved in election security, alongside representatives of election officials from each state, said the election was “the most secure in American history.”

The Legislature began its 2022 session on Jan. 12, and many of the bills have already been referred to committees for consideration. They face uncertain fates, as Republicans hold narrow majorities in the Senate, and a Republican, state Sen. Paul Boyer, said he would block bills he saw as unnecessary or problematic.

Some of the bills appear to be tied to conspiracy theories about the 2020 election that were elevated in the widely criticized ballot review state Senate Republicans orchestrated last year. Election experts said Cyber Ninjas, the company the legislators hired to examine millions of ballots in Maricopa County, had little to no experience with handling ballots, appeared to be looking for proof of conspiracy theories and misrepresented normal election processes in its final report as suggestive of fraud. Cyber Ninjas is accruing $50,000 a day in fines for refusing to respond to a court order requiring it to turn over documents related to its work.

Other bills, like one that would ban automatic voter registration from being implemented, appear to be designed to pre-empt provisions in national Democrats’ election overhaul legislation, which has stalled in the Senate.

Arizon is serious about disenfranching voters.

Anyway, I have to prepare for a Derivatives Class for Wednesday night where I get to work with a diverse number of students from all over. It’s always enlightening for me and it’s good to see the number of graduate students come with all kinds of different skills and input.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Sunday Reads: Team Player

Cartoons via Cagle website:

Even though Meatloaf was an anti-vaccine bro…

I can’t wait to vote for Stacey…

And as usual, this is an open thread.

Caturday Reads (kat edition)

Chinese Folk Art – Cat under the Tea Table

Happy Saturday Sky Dancers!

BB is still having issues with her sciatica so I’ll be sitting in the catbird seat today again!

An interesting article showed up today in The Washington Post suggesting that one day in 1973 changed our country.  I was a junior in high school and remember the day and events.  However, I never viewed it as being that significant. See what you think.   “Jan. 22, 1973: The day that changed America” written by James D. Robenalt.

It was a day unlike any other in U.S. history. Jan. 22, 1973, was the day Henry Kissinger flew to Paris to end the Vietnam War for the United States. It was the day the Supreme Court issued its opinion on abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. And it was the day the nation’s 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, died of a heart attack in Texas at 64.

Few days have represented such a turning point in the trajectory of our history, and what happened that day started a chain reaction that turned politically nuclear, leaving us with the current landscape of unbridgeable divides.

Less than a decade earlier, the American populace had seemed as united as ever in a time of landslide elections and political consensus. The disintegration of that unity began well before Jan. 22, 1973, but no date more fully captures the end of the spirit of the ’60s and the start of a darker era of seemingly permanent political schism.

More than anything, the Roe ruling drew an enduring red line through American politics, where compromise was impossible and opponents were not only wrong but wicked. Every year since 1973, D.C. has been flooded in the days around Jan. 22 with antiabortion protesters for what has become known as the March for Life. (Last year’s events were called off because of the coronavirus, yet many still came to Washington. This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, the gathering took place Friday.) Promoters refer to the event as “the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.”

The vaccine requirements for certain events at this year’s march sparked a vicious online battle, with many abortion opponents asserting that vaccines cause abortions or are produced using fetal cells. “It is tragic that a PRO-LIFE organization would be coerced into promoting ground-up murdered baby injections!” one person posted in the comments on the March for Life website. “This is evil.”

The radicalization of our politics would not have seemed possible to the actors who made Jan. 22, 1973, such a fateful day.

Chinese Folk Art Kitties, Zhu Suzhen

I do have to say that after a few years of just being relieved that women were no longer subjected to state control I had no idea there was a group of hardcore fanatics that would twist and turn every reality about the human reproduction process and gestation period into something unrecognizable and so focused on protohumans and unaware that viable 3rd term babies are simply born.  For me, it was just my first introduction to hard-core idiots.  We just used to call them “holy rollers” and got a good laugh at them if we saw their tents anywhere between our trips from Omaha to Kansas City on the backroads.

You can read the rest at the link including a triggering walk down Nixon Lane.

Mississippi Today reports that “Every Black Mississippi senator walked out as white colleagues voted to ban critical race theory. The historic, unprecedented walkout came over a vote on the academic theory that state education officials and Republican lawmakers acknowledge is not even taught in Mississippi.” This is reported by Bobby Harrison. The theory is clearly the new black welfare queen with a Cadillac trope. It’s another example of hard-core idiots. The struggle continues.

Every Black Mississippi senator walked out of the chamber Friday, choosing not to vote on a bill that sponsors said would prohibit the teaching of critical race theory in the state’s public schools and colleges and universities.

The historic, unprecedented walkout came over a vote on the academic theory that state education officials and Republican lawmakers acknowledge is not even taught in Mississippi. Republicans hold supermajority control of the Senate, meaning they can pass any bill without a single Democratic vote.

“We walked out as a means to show a visible protest to these proceedings,” state Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, said of the unprecedented action.

In 1993, Black caucus members left before then-Gov. Kirk Fordice delivered his State of the State speech in protest of his policies. But no Capitol observer could recall an instance of members leaving en mass in protest before a vote on a bill.

“We felt like it was a bill that was not deserving of our vote,” said Sen. Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville. “We have so many issues in the state that need to be addressed. We did not need to spend time on this.

“Even the author of the bill (Michael McLendon, R-Hernando) said this was not occurring in Mississippi,” Simmons continued.

Chinese Folk Art – Girl Stroking Cat on her Lap

Yes, it is also now the partial-birth abortion myth of Racism. It’s yet another law designed to signal hard-core idiots to panic over a nonexistent situation also.  And speaking of hard-core idiots, let’s see today’s reads on The Oath Keepers.

 Erin Mansfield / Stars & Stripes: Leaked Oath Keepers list names 20 current military members

When they enlisted in the military, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders all the way up to those from the president of the United States.

But then, while still in the service, they went on to swear a different allegiance — one to the now extremist, anti-government Oath Keepers. Dozens of military members vowed they would never obey potential government orders that group leaders considered acts of war or cause for a revolution.

At least 20 are still serving.

USA TODAY confirmed with all five branches of the U.S. military that 81 people signed up for the Oath Keepers while in uniform. The names are from a hacked list that a watchdog group shared with journalists last fall. The military members are in addition to the 40 current and former law enforcement officers USA TODAY confirmed in October 2021.

The Defense Department has known for decades that its members were joining extremist groups but often did not punish them, instead keeping in place a vague policy that banned their active participation, such as through fundraising or recruiting.

In December, the Defense Department clarified more than a dozen examples of active participation, but it’s unclear whether joining the Oath Keepers and remaining a member of the militia would run afoul of the new rules.

Hu Yongkai, Chinese Folk Cat Paintings

CNN: Videos show ‘Stop the Steal’ rally organizer saying he would work with extremist groups

An organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rallies that preceded the attack on the US Capitol a year ago said he would work with two extremist groups, who later had members charged in the attack, about providing security and housing for the January 6, 2021, rally in Washington.

In previously unreported videos from the social media platform Periscope reviewed by CNN’s KFile, Ali Alexander, a leader of the “Stop the Steal” rally and a central figure in the House select committee’s investigation of January 6, said he would reach out to the right-wing Proud Boys and Oath Keepers on providing security for the event. Both groups later had members charged in the attack on the Capitol, including conspiracy. Last week, the Justice Department charged the Oath Keepers leader and 10 others with seditious conspiracy related to the attack.

Alexander has not been charged or implicated in any unlawful act. He has denied working with anyone, including lawmakers or extremist groups, to attack the Capitol.

In other videos removed from Periscope — it’s unknown who removed the videos, when and why — Alexander claimed to describe further details of his communications and coordination with several Congressional Republicans pushing to overturn the election result. The lawmakers have denied planning rallies or coordinating with Alexander in any way.

Woman with Cat
Modern Chinese Art Painting, Mo Nong

And finally, from Lawfare: What Does the Seditious Conspiracy Indictment Mean For the Oath Keepers?

Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke at length recently on the Justice Department’s expansive efforts to prosecute “all January 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law—whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.” President Biden pointedly referred to the events of the day as “an armed insurrection … looking to subvert the Constitution.” Indeed, the prosecution of Rhodes and his co-defendants serves to elevate these Oath Keepers to a new tier of criminal conduct, into territory far more significant than trespassing, assault or obstruction of a congressional proceeding. This indictment may also serve as a warning to other high-level members of domestic violent extremist movements who allegedly engaged in similar conspiracies, including Proud Boys leaders such as Ethan Nordean and Joseph Biggs and potentially Proud Boys president Enrique Tarrio.

The arrest of Stewart Rhodes is likely to serve as a short-term blow to the operational activities of the Oath Keepers as a formal entity. The indictment against him makes it clear how important he is to the organization. He allegedly ran point on creating online encrypted groups where he pushed out orders to his followers. In one chat, entitled “Leadership intel sharing secured,” he noted two days after the November election, “We aren’t getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit[.]” Four days later, he led an online go-to meeting with fellow Oath Keepers where he “outlined a plan to stop the lawful transfer of presidential powers,” according to charging documents. While Oath Keepers general counsel Kellye SoRelle announced she is taking over as acting president, it is unclear what a post-Rhodes Oath Keepers organization will look like, or whether it will enjoy the same significance in anti-government circles without Rhodes. Rhodes played an outsized role in the organization and, in many ways, was the glue that kept the group together.

As the prosecution of Rhodes and hundreds of other Capitol Hill Siege defendants continues, it is more crucial than ever to ensure the government’s efforts to combat domestic violent extremism focus not only on the individual hierarchical groups and brands like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys but also on their ideological adherents who may not formally join organized groups. The government’s indictment makes it apparent that Rhodes felt the events of Jan. 6 were far from a final crescendo of anti-government activity in the United States, noting that after the inauguration, Rhodes “messaged others to organize local militias to oppose President Biden’s Administration.”

This is from The Mother Jones link cited in the above Tweet. You can read the precise details there.

In court filings this week, the Justice Department further revealed the scope of the alleged plot by Oath Keepers to mobilize a heavily armed “quick reaction force” (also known as a “QRF”) just outside of downtown Washington, part of a plan to unleash violence in the nation’s capital and stop the lawful transfer of the presidency to Joe Biden. One filing, a detention memo in the case against Oath Keeper Edwards Vallejo of Arizona, hints that more people could yet be charged in connection with the conspiracy. Evidence it contains also shows that extremists have embraced Trump’s most recent rhetoric reinforcing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him through fraud, messaging that continues to fuel a violent far-right movement.

Hu Yongkai, Chinese Folk Cat paintings

Ed Pilkington–writing for The Guardian–elucidates the troubles of the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. “House of Trump is crumbling’: why ex-president’s legal net is tightening”.

In a new filing released this week designed to pressure Trump and two of his children – Ivanka and Donald Jr – into facing questioning, James forensically dissects how such strikingly large valuations came about. The 2011 estimate for the Scottish property, her investigators discovered, included an estimated £75,000 ($120,000 at 2011 exchange rates) for undeveloped land at the site.

Investigating deeper, they found that the figure had been created for an article in Forbes magazine. The revelation prompted a line in this week’s filing that must be among the tartest in US financial history.

“It thus appears,” James writes, “that the valuation of Trump Aberdeen used for Mr Trump’s financial statement was prepared for purposes of providing information to Forbes magazine in a quote.”

James’s legal document is packed with similarly juicy titbits. The 2014 value of the Scottish golf club was based in part on the projected sale price of 2,500 houses on the land, even though none of the houses actually existed and the company had planning permission for only half that number.

In 1995 the Trump Organization bought a parcel of land in Westchester, New York, known as the Seven Springs Estate, for $7.5m. By 2004 it was valued at $80m and by 2014 at $291m. That 2014 figure, James notes in another exquisitely tart reference, included a valuation of $161m for “seven non-existent mansions”.

The juiciest titbit of all concerns Trump’s former home, the gilded Fifth Avenue temple to his own ego dubbed “Versailles in the sky”, in which he lived before moving into the White House. James’s investigators were puzzled to find the Trump Tower triplex in Manhattan was listed at $327m in 2015, based on the apartment’s size, allegedly 30,000 sq feet.

In fact the property is 11,000 sq feet, which produces a value of $117m. That’s an overstatement in Trump’s official financial statements of more than $200m.

You might think this family of hard-core idiots was talking about the size of fish caught or the length of the family jewels.

James is pursuing her investigation as a civil case, which means that were Trump to be found liable it could cost him heavily in fines and penalties. More seriously, James is working in coordination with the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a similarly tenacious and relentless prosecutor equipped with a large and highly experienced team of investigators.

Bragg is asking exactly the same questions as James: did the Trump Organization commit accounting, bank, tax or insurance fraud? The critical difference is that Bragg’s investigation is criminal, threatening Trump not with fines but prison time.

“Trump could end up in an orange jumpsuit at the end of that one,” said Timothy O’Brien, a senior columnist for Bloomberg Opinion.

So, history rolls on and rolls over a lot of people.  Just remember, we’ll shortly enter the Year of the Tiger. 

The Year of the Rat (2020) was about survival, and the Year of the Ox (2021) was about anchoring ourselves in a new reality. The Year of the Tiger will be about making big changes. This will be a year of risk-taking and adventure. We’re finding enthusiasm again, both for ourselves and for others. Everyone is fired up, generosity is at an all-time high and social progress feels possible again.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?