Friday Reads: Mitch McConnell keeps trotting out his Prize Livestock

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Still Life, Cactus, 1919

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Louisiana is a little later than most states that I’ve lived in with their State Fair Livestock Shows. It probably has something to do with the heat and peak hurricane season which occurs during the Labor Day Weekend which is when I was used to doing the Iowa State Fair, the Nebraska State Fair, and the Minnesota State Fair.

My favorite part as a kid was the kids from 4H showing off their pet livestock projects. It was always a real range of farm animals and the kids and animals seemed really close when you watched them in their pens together.

The one thing that killed all that for me was knowing that what looked like a loving pet to me was most likely going to wind up at an auction.  I like the Crazy Cajun Pygmy Goat Shows thought because I know they’re likely going to live a long life attending yuppy yoga goat classes, or clearing out the bramble in some backyard for a fee, or being the focus of some kid’s birthday party, or providing the basis for some cheese.

Perhaps I read Charlotte’s Web to my kids way too many times.

The point is that both the ranchers-to-be and the meals-to-be love those shows.  The animals have no idea that their purpose is to ensure everyone knows their place in the food chain.  It’s mostly to remind everyone that no matter how much attention they get at one point, they’re simply there to show off enough so everyone will go off and find more of their kind to slaughter.

This is about how I feel about Mitch McConnell trotting out Amy Coney Barrett and now, Clarence Thomas to represent just how much they well preen for the camera when they’re about to sell the rights that got them there out.   I wonder if he’ll trot out the white guys too?

Saguaro Cactus at Sun Set, Gayle McGinty

The deal with livestock shows is they are always big deals to a few that lead up to mass slaughter for the innocent.

This is from The Washington Post. “McConnell lauds Thomas, says Supreme Court should not heed the ‘rule of polls’” Someone needs to tell Mitch the settled laws are not about the rule of polls. They are about the Rule Of Law.

The conservative think tank was the site of a day-long celebration of Thomas’s three decades on the court, with panels of judges, lawyers and legal analysts celebrating the 73-year-old justice’s record.

McConnell was the keynote speaker, and he urged boldness and independence from the federal judiciary he had a large hand in reconstructing. He pushed through a record number of confirmations of federal judges when Republicans controlled the Senate and President Donald Trump was making nominations.

Included in the list are three Supreme Court justices: Neil M. Gorsuch, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.

Polls have shown public approval of the Supreme Court is falling — those who say it is too conservative are growing — but McConnell said popularity is not the standard by which judges should be evaluated.

“They’re not tasked with reasoning backwards from abstract impressions about what outcome the nation supposedly needs or the court’s public standing supposedly requires,” McConnell said. “We need the rule of law, not the rule of polls.”

Thomas has provided the example, McConnell said. “For 30 years and counting, you have had the brightest possible North Star illumining the path before you, the courage and fidelity of Justice Clarence Thomas,” the senator from Kentucky said.

Thomas is the second justice to appear with McConnell in the last two months. Barrett accompanied him to the University of Louisville for a speech at the center that bears the senator’s name in September.

“My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” she said. Critics said it was not a choice setting for such a nonpartisan message.

McConnell is the politician most responsible for the change on the Supreme Court and in the federal judiciary, said Donald McGahn, Trump’s White House counsel. “He’s always had an eye on the long game,” McGahn said in introducing McConnell.

Democrats remain bitter about McConnell’s role. As Senate majority leader, he refused to allow a hearing on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court choice Merrick Garland in 2016, saying it was inappropriate in an election year. Garland was nominated to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February of that year.

Landscape with Cacti, Diego Rivera, 1931

It’s always disheartening to see minorities and women welcome their overlords. It’s something I’ve never understood. At least the animals at a livestock show don’t see what’s come but, damn, what person isn’t aware of the results of selling out? We’re seeing Republicans block every attempt to provide access to voting rights.  They’re gerrymandering Texas right now in a manner that over-represents white people and underrepresented Hispanic Americans.  This is from The Dallas NewsTexas’ latest congressional gerrymander wouldn’t pass muster under doomed Freedom to Vote Act. Senate Democrats seem to lack votes needed to push through scaled-down voting rights bill.”  Let’s face it. They want governance by white christianist men period.  

Congress is preparing for a showdown Wednesday on a doomed bill to protect minority voting rights that Democrats view as critical – and that, if it were in place, would derail the gerrymandered redistricting plan just finalized in Austin.

Republicans set aside a scant 14 of 38 U.S. House seats in Texas for Democrats, leaving the rest for themselves.

That’s 37% for Democrats, 63% for Republicans – a gap of 26 points that doesn’t even come close to passing muster under the Freedom to Vote Act, which uses recent federal elections as the benchmark to determine whether a congressional map is even modestly fair.

“There are serious voting rights issues on the map,” said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice.

He noted how blatantly the Texas congressional map that Gov. Greg Abbott will soon sign violates the proposed ban on partisan gerrymandering.

Republicans carried Texas in the last two races for president and U.S. Senate – but not by anything close to 26 points.

Sahuaro, Tucson, Arizona (1940) by Maynard Dixon

This analysis is from The Texas Observer and Justin Miller. “REPUBLICANS’ GERRYMANDERED MAPS TURN BACK TIME IN TEXAS. Once again, Republicans draw the lines of power to protect their incumbents and amplify their white, conservative, rural base—and deny millions of Texans of color their due political representation.”

With a quick glance at the new redistricting maps that Texas Republicans just rammed into law, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Lone Star State’s population became a whole lot whiter, more Republican, and more rural over the past decade.

But that is a political illusion achieved through surgical lines that create donut-hole districts, gnarled fists, and land bridges, drawn by a party desperate to avoid confronting the realities of a transformed state. People of color constituted 95 percent of Texas’ population growth over the past decade, including roughly half from Latinos alone, earning the state two new congressional districts. But Republicans used redistricting to effectively turn back time, locking in the white majoritarian rule that has controlled Texas since Reconstruction.

Democrats, voting rights advocates, and everyday constituents alike protested that the maps carved apart neighborhoods and voters of color in blatantly discriminatory fashion. But Republicans rushed through the legislative process with their fingers in their ears, providing the public with only a perfunctory chance to provide input as the maps advanced at a rapid clip. GOP leaders insisted that the maps were drawn “race-blind” and that their lawyers had assured them they were not running afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act.

By spreading out the electoral power of their white base in the vast expanses of deep-red rural Texas, Republicans shored up their current hold on power. They drew majority-white districts and fewer Hispanic majority districts, making red seats redder and blue seats bluer. This was done by defusing the ascendant political power of Latino, Black, and Asian voters in the cities and suburbs of Texas.

If this all sounds familiar, it should. During the last redistricting cycle in 2010, Republicans similarly maximized their political control with districts that courts repeatedly found were drawn with intent to racially discriminate. Those legal battles lasted through almost the entire decade. Now, more examples of brazen racial gerrymandering have cropped up in the new maps, just as they did 10 years prior. Take State Senate District 10 in Tarrant County. In 2018, a coalition of Black, Hispanic, and white voters flipped the seat by electing Democrat Beverly Powell. She may not have the seat for long; the new map transforms the 10th district into a conservative stronghold that dilutes Black and Hispanic votes by way of Republican voters in several nearby rural counties.

In the Texas House map, the GOP-held 54th district in Bell County had become increasingly competitive as the Black and Hispanic population grew in Killeen, which overwhelmingly voted for Biden in 2020. To protect that seat, Republicans made the 54th into a Bell County donut that completely encircled another Republican district. Each district got a piece of the county’s two Democratic-voting cities, Killeen and Temple.

Districts like the 22nd in Fort Bend County and the 24th in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs had finally become political battlegrounds in the last election cycle as multi-racial coalitions banded together. “That was like a glimpse of the future of American politics. Very coalitional, very multi-racial,” says Michael Li, a redistricting lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice. But Republicans chose to dismantle those seats, packing diversifying areas into new deep-blue Democratic districts or cracking them off into Republican-held seats made whiter and redder by extending out into far-flung rural counties.

“Republicans are really scared of the suburbs because they’re becoming more diverse and because white voters in the suburbs aren’t as reliable for Republicans anymore and they’re not sure they’re getting it back anytime soon,” Li says.

Yellow Cactus, Georgia O’Keefe, 1929

So, hello from the Post Roe v. Wade reality.  This is from NPR. “The Supreme Court keeps Texas abortion law in place, but agrees to review it.”  Mitchell has obviously been the fluffer for this.  Notice he didn’t need to fluff Kavanaugh and Gorsuch.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to review a controversial Texas abortion law on Nov. 1 but refused to block the law while it examines Texas’ unusual enforcement scheme and whether the Department of Justice has the right to sue to block the law.

The court will not directly consider the constitutionality of the law. Instead, in its order, the court said it would consider the following questions:

  • whether “the state can insulate from federal-court review a law that prohibits the exercise of a constitutional right by delegating to the general public the authority to enforce that prohibition through civil action”;
  • and can “the United States bring suit in federal court and obtain injunctive or declaratory relief against the State, state court judges, state court clerks, other state officials, or all private parties to prohibit S.B. 8 from being enforced.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented with keeping the law in place.

“The promise of future adjudication offers cold comfort, however, for Texas women seeking abortion care, who are entitled to relief now,” she wrote. “These women will suffer personal harm from delaying their medical care, and as their pregnancies progress, they may even be unable to obtain abortion care altogether.”

She added:

“There are women in Texas who became pregnant on or around the day that S. B. 8 took effect. As I write these words, some of those women do not know they are pregnant. When they find out, should they wish to exercise their constitutional right to seek abortion care, they will be unable to do so anywhere in their home State. Those with sufficient resources may spend thousands of dollars and multiple days anxiously seeking care from out-of-state providers so overwhelmed with Texas patients that they cannot adequately serve their own communities. Those without the ability to make this journey, whether due to lack of money or childcare or employment flexibility or the myriad other constraints that shape people’s day-to-day lives, may be forced to carry to term against their wishes or resort to dangerous methods of self-help.”

We may all have to become flowers that bloom in a democracy desert quite soon. I’m glad BB covered the Republican cover-up of the insurrection yesterday so I can just forget it a bit here. We’re going to have to organize and show up again.  Get ready.  This will be a wild News Day.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads: Two Selfish Senators vs. Democracy

Soft Winds, by Daniel Pollera

Soft Winds, by Daniel Pollera

Good Morning!!

Hopes for the future of U.S. democracy and opportunities to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and improve the lives of working and middle class Americas are all being held hostage by two people who call themselves Democrats, but refuse to compromise to advance those Democratic goals. Now one of those people is threatening to leave the party, according to Mother Jones editor David Corn: SCOOP: Manchin Tells Associates He’s Considering Leaving the Democratic Party and Has an Exit Plan.

In recent days, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has told associates that he is considering leaving the Democratic Party if President Joe Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill do not agree to his demand to cut the size of the social infrastructure bill from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, according to people who have heard Manchin discuss this. Manchin has said that if this were to happen, he would declare himself an “American Independent.” And he has devised a detailed exit strategy for his departure.

Manchin has been in the center of a wild rush of negotiations with his fellow Democrats and the White House over a possible compromise regarding Biden’s ambitious Build Back Better package, and Manchin’s opposition to key provisions—including Medicare and Medicaid expansion, an expanded child tax credit, and measures to address climate change—has been an obstacle that the Democrats have yet to overcome. As these talks have proceeded, Manchin has discussed bolting from the Democratic Party—perhaps to place pressure on Biden and Democrats in these negotiations.

He told associates that he has a two-step plan for exiting the party. First, he would send a letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, removing himself from the Democratic leadership of the Senate. (He is vice chair of the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications committee.) Manchin hopes that would send a signal. He would then wait and see if that move had any impact on the negotiations. After about a week, he said, he would change his voter registration from Democrat to independent.

It is unclear whether in this scenario Manchin would end up caucusing with the Democrats, which would allow them to continue to control the Senate, or side with the Republicans and place the Senate in GOP hands. In either event, he would hold great sway over this half of Congress.

Without Manchin’s vote, the Democrats cannot pass the package in the 50–50 Senate. And a vote on this measure is key to House passage of the $1 trillion bipartisan road-bridges-and-broadband infrastructure bill the Senate approved in August. (Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat, has also been a problem for the party.) Manchin has met with Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a variety of his fellow Senate Democrats this week in an effort to strike a deal. Through it all, he has insisted that $1.75 trillion is his top and final offer, and he has constantly said no to proposed programs that almost every other congressional Democrat supports. He has told his fellow Democrats that if they don’t accept his position, they risk getting nothing.

At Politico, Playbook reporters have the “backstory” on Corn’s scoop.

A rather angry Manchin told our Burgess Everett that Corn’s story was “bullshit.”

We talked to Corn on Wednesday night and came away with the impression of a reporter who is 1,000% sure his story was correct.

“The sourcing was impeccable,” Corn said. “Even if he had told me it was bullshit the story still would have run.”

Corn contacted Manchin’s office early Wednesday telling his press secretary that he had a time-sensitive story and wanted to make sure he had a good Manchin contact who could respond. Manchin’s press secretary asked the reporter to send it to her.

At around 10:30 a.m., Corn sent her an email outlining what he would be reporting. No response.

At noon he followed up. “I said we are going to post soon, will you be getting back to me,” Corn told Playbook. “And silence — crickets.”

We’ve known Corn for a long time and we trust him. We’ve known his scrupulous editor Clara Jeffery for even longer. (Full disclosure: One of us was her intern in 1997!) Corn and Mother Jones did not invent this. Manchin clearly told someone the account that Corn relayed in his piece.

Why now? We’ve heard several theories that this was a strategic leak. Some say it was designed to reduce Manchin’s leverage in the reconciliation talks by making him seem desperate.

“I’m just wondering if Joe is blowing off some steam to someone or whether someone planted the story to put pressure on Joe,” a friend of the senator told Playbook. “He hasn’t talked about leaving the party in a very long time. And he’s just not in a desperate situation. He’s feeling like he’s holding all the cards.”

Conversely, others say the story was meant to increase Manchin’s leverage by scaring Democrats. A Manchin exit from the Democratic Party would be hugely embarrassing for Biden. (Though, as several of Manchin’s Senate colleagues told us, even if Manchin became an independent it doesn’t necessarily mean that he wouldn’t caucus with the Democrats.)

But our best (informed) guess is that it was neither — that this story, like many good scoops, fell into Corn’s lap without any Machiavellian strategy behind it.

FWIW, we couldn’t help notice that both Corn and Manchin were spotted circulating at the same party Monday night at the French ambassador’s residence, where Steve Clemons was being honored with France’s Legion of Honor.

Manchin Democratic Party exit rumors seem to spike once a season, and they’ve been circulating recently. Even the most plugged-in operatives don’t completely discount the idea that Manchin may have discussed the idea. For instance, when we asked a senior White House official about the Corn report, the person replied, “It’s all been kicking around. Who knows?

More Manchin reads:

The Washington Post: All eyes on Manchin after Republicans again block voting rights legislation.

CNBC: Billionaire investor Nelson Peltz says he talks every week to Sen. Joe Manchin, who is pushing to cut Biden agenda.

And then there’s Kyrsten Sinema. At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait writes: Report: Sinema Bent on Destroying Biden Presidency to Keep Taxes on the Wealthy Low.

The Wall Street Journal today reports that Sinema “has told lobbyists that she is opposed to any increase” in taxes on high-income individuals, businesses, or capital gains. Her opposition is reportedly “pushing Democrats to more seriously plan for a bill that doesn’t include those major revenue increases.”

If this report is true, it would likely be a death blow to Biden’s social agenda. Senate rules require that creating or expanding any social program — health care, child care, education, or anything else — can only be made permanent if it has some funding source. If Sinema refuses to support any tax increases on the wealthy, there’s no financing available to come anywhere close.

Biden’s plan does have some other funding. One stream of income is beefed-up enforcement of taxes owed by the Internal Revenue Service. That plan is under pressure from centrist Democrats and likely to exist in shrunken form, if at all. The other is a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, which would save half a trillion dollars over a decade that could be used to cover new spending. But Sinema reportedly opposes that, too.

Summer Porch, by Sally Storch

Summer Porch, by Sally Storch

Politico has a more restrained version of the same report on Sinema’s position, leaving open the possibility of theoretically finding some way of taxing rich people other than the ones Democrats have been planning on. But even if she identifies such a method, it would start the arduous process of building consensus and then overcoming the inevitable lobbying response from scratch, probably dooming the entire process. CNBC’s Kayla Tausche likewise reports that Sinema has endorsed small, but not nonexistent, increases in rates on the wealthy. Either she has changed her mind or is telling different things to different people, but the upshot is that she has a wildly divergent position on taxing the wealthy than any other member of her caucus.

What makes her opposition to taxing the wealthy so peculiar is that it is not a public opinion winner. Democratic promises to raise taxes on the wealthy are one of the most popular elements of their plan. What’s more, Sinema voted against the Trump tax cuts — and those tax cuts completely failed to produce the promised increase in business investment that was their rationale.

The Democratic party’s main political asset is its willingness to make a very tiny number of people pay more money that can finance programs that benefit a very large number of people. That only works up to a point — at some level, you can raise taxes on the rich so high it fails to yield any new revenue — but there is no evidence the current tax code is anywhere near that level. Indeed, after the Trump tax cuts, the tax code for the wealthy has become scandalously lax.

From The Daily Beast: Kyrsten Sinema’s Own Advisers Just Dumped Her.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s own advisors are the latest former allies to have had enough of the Arizona Democrat’s political maneuvering: on Thursday, the New York Times reported that five military veterans resigned from a board advising the senator on policy issues.

In a letter to Sinema, they confronted her with a litany of offenses—accusing her of using them as “window dressing” for her political brand, ignoring their recommendations, and going back on her campaign promises to protect voting access and reduce the price of prescription drugs.

Andrew Wyeth, The Porch

Andrew Wyeth, The Porch

“Are you choosing to answer to big donors rather than Arizonans?” they asked. “These are not the actions of a maverick.”

Their joint resignation letter was highlighted in a new ad from the progressive veterans’ group Common Dreams, which has already bankrolled ad campaigns targeting Sinema for her resistance to a multi-trillion dollar social spending package championed by President Joe Biden and nearly all Democratic lawmakers.

Sinema’s objections could well reduce the size of that legislation by at least $1 trillion and scuttle elements that are broadly popular in the party—like raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for investments in health care and energy. Unlike fellow objector Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sinema has largely been silent on her positions through negotiations, exasperating Democrats who need her support in order to pass the bill.

Onetime allies and friends of Sinema’s in Arizona have been flummoxed by her moves, too, and The Daily Beast has reported that she is increasingly isolated after having alienated much of her former political network. Amid her public silence, she has largely stiffed national and constituent groups hoping to engage with her on the legislation.

Manchin and Sinema are determined to destroy the country for their own selfish reasons. A pox on both their houses!

I’ll end with this sobering piece from Dame Magazine: Sleepwalking Toward A Post Democracy America, by Brynne Tannahill. This is what Manchin and Sinema are enabling.

There has been a dawning realization among some of thecenter-left that the GOP fully intends to end democracy in the U.S. and assume permanent control of the government. Even neoconservatives like Robert Kagan have come to this same conclusion. The GOP is telegraphing their punches clearly: They’re forcing out any Republicans who would oppose a soft coup; Trump will run in 2024; he will win the nomination, and, if he doesn’t win the Electoral College outright, he will declare the election fraudulent the morning after. Whereupon states with GOP governors and legislatures will overturn the state election results and send alternate slates of electors, forcing a constitutional crisis, the GOP is likely to win.

The fact that it has taken this long for people to recognize the real danger here is something of testament to how omnipresent and blinding the myth of American exceptionalism is, resulting in “it can’t happen here” becoming cultural dogma. In reality, John Eastman wrote amemorandum proposing this exact method to overturn the election in 2020, which Trump latched onto, and was the raison d’être for the January 6th assault on the capitol, where the insurrectionists were trying to force Vice-President Pence to carry out part of the plan.

John Eastman isn’t just some random Republican lawyer. He was a professor of law. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. He founded the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage. And he served as chairman of the Federalist Society’s Federalism & Separation of Powers practice group, and as a board member of the Claremont Institute—a powerful conservative think tank providing support to the GOPs efforts to enact acompetitive authoritarian coup.

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper

Claremont president Ryan Williamsdeclared in an interview with The Atlantic that “the mission of the Claremont Institute is to save Western civilization.” Their plan to save “Western civilization” requires that conservatives “effect a realignment of our politics and take control of all three branches of government for a generation or two.”

Ultimately, Claremont believes that Western civilization is at stake because the U.S. is controlled by people who aren’t really American. “Most people living in the United States today—certainly more than half—are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.” This is in great part because they (wrongly) think: “The Founders were pretty unanimous, with Washington leading the way, that the Constitution is really only fit for a Christian people”

The narrative is clear: Conservatives believe that they need to seize permanent control and re-center their brand of Christianity as the basis for government, culture, and law. They do not believe that more than 50% of America matters, because they are not “real Americans.” Their vision for government is one in which more than half the country is systematically disenfranchised and forced to live in a society in which they have little say.

The greatest irony of Williams’s Atlantic article is that he says he fears a civil war, but fails to acknowledge his plan for overthrowing democracy and instituting a theocratic authoritarian government as the likely cause. In the same way that some Republicans shrug off slavery as a “necessary evil,” modern conservatives see the destruction of democracy and disenfranchisement of most Americans as vaguely regrettable, but necessary to save “Western civilization.”

This is a very long article, so I hope you’ll go read the Rest at Dame Magazine.


Wednesday Reads : F- Reality

Cartoons from Cagle:

Not sure if this has been posted before:

I can’t remember what I read yesterday, much less if that op/Ed has been brought to anyone’s attention.

In another disturbing article:

And lastly, some notes on a big underwater volcano…

This is an open thread. By the way….


Tuesday Reads: The News Is Surreal

ridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Bridget Bate Tichenor, Untitled

Good Morning!!

Today the House January 6 Committee will vote to find Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and Trump has of course filed a lawsuit to prevent them getting documents related to his attempted coup. The Washington Post reports:

A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies in contempt as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit.

Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House aide Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe while also suing the panel to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers on the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.

“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, in a joint statement late Monday.

They added: “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.” [….]

The legal challenge came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday, and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee — even as Trump’s lawyer has argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by the privilege of the former president’s office.

On the Bannon contempt vote:

Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.

Koga-Harue-Umi-The-Sea, 1929

Koga Harue Umi, The Sea, 1929

“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.

The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.

Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.

Trump has also found time to weigh in on Colin Powell’s death. The Hill: Trump criticizes media for treating Powell ‘beautifully’ in death.

Former President Trump lambasted the media on Tuesday for what he said was too-favorable coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell after his death on Monday.

“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday,” Trump said in a statement.

Trump called Powell “a classic RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only.”

“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” Trump added.

Classy.

Trump also attacked Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. The Hill: Trump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn’t support him for president in 2024.

Former President Trump blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday after the senator said in an interview he would not vote for the real estate mogul if he ran for president again in 2024.

Cassidy during an interview that aired Sunday on “Axios on HBO” said that he did not believe Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee again.

“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Cassidy told Axios’s Mike Allen….

In a statement on Monday, Trump called Cassidy a “RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and reiterated a notion he had hoisted on other Republicans that Cassidy had “begged” for his endorsement in 2020 “and used it all over the place to win re-election.”

Eugenio-Granell-El-vuelo-nocturno-del-pajaro-Pi-The-Pi-Birds-Night-Flight

Eugenio Granell The Pi Birds Night Flight

“Now, Wacky Bill Cassidy can’t walk down the street in Louisiana, a State I won by almost 20 points,” the Trump statement read. “He could not even be elected dog catcher today, the great people curse him.”

Trump did defeat President Biden by nearly 20 points in 2020 in Louisiana, winning about 58.5 percent of the vote. Cassidy did even better, winning 59.3 percent of the vote.

“Wacky Bill is a totally ineffective Senator, but Louisiana does have a great Senator in John Kennedy,” Trump said, referring to the state’s other GOP senator, whom he endorsed over the summer soon after Kennedy indicated he would run for reelection.

Cassidy was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though Trump was ultimately acquitted after leaving office later that month.

It’s still very difficult for me to believe that this moron was actually president.

According to historians Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin at The Bulwark, Bannon is setting the stage for another insurrection: Steve Bannon Out in the Open. The erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.

…Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.

On September 22, the day before the committee issued its subpoena, Bannon more or less confirmed his involvement with January 6th. He has continued to push the idea that the Biden administration is illegitimate—“We told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up and this thing will implode”—and said that he wanted to help “kill this [Biden] administration in the crib.”

Bannon is neither hiding nor defensively trying to justify his past actions. Rather, he is continuing to push the Big Lie and all of its permutations, tying together a web of far-right ideas and allies. Like most good propagandists, he knows that the veil between fact and belief is very thin in a highly partisan political environment. What pushes an overt lie into semi-gospel is sometimes merely it’s repetition. Bannon’s podcast, “War Room,” continues to promote conspiracy theories about the 2020 election—the day after his subpoena running a segment titled “50k Illegal Ballots in One County Alone.” His guests have included Trumpist members of Congress, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene; conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Lindell; anti-vaxers; and other subpoenaed Trump administration figures. Topics run the gamut from the border to the debt ceiling to “how schools are indoctrinating kids” to “the battle of Lepanto” (sure to appeal to far-right Crusade-cosplaying insurrectionists and mass murderers alike). Perhaps most provokingly given his subpoena defiance, an episode on October 13 was entitled “The Continued Search for the Truth of January 6th.”

f Bannon were only a podcaster, were only pushing his ideas on one of the many far-right channels that have popped up in the last half-decade, that would be bad enough. But Bannon is incredibly active in person as well—a natural organizer and demagogue. It’s worth taking a look at just three of the events at which he has recently spoken.

Read all the details at the link.

Skunder-Boghossian-Night-Flight-of-Dread-and-Delight

Skunder Boghossian, Night Flight of Dread and Delight

At the Washington Post, authoritarianism expert Brian Klaas wrote about the history of election audits: Opinion: Republican ‘election audits’ have been used before — by dictators.

Donald Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election, and his supporters in the Republican Party are continuing with kangaroo “audits” in swing states that Trump lost. For Americans, this is a bizarre sideshow. But for those who have had the misfortune of living in an authoritarian country, the GOP’s “audit” charade follows an all-too-familiar script.

Five years ago, Gambia’s dictator unexpectedly lost an election. Yahya Jammeh, who had pledged to rule that little sliver of West Africa for “1 billion years,” had to face facts. His people had rejected him. His opponent had won. But then he had an idea. Perhaps he could stay in power if he performed a careful “audit” of the election results.

Jammeh alleged widespread fraud without evidence to support it. He submitted a formal petition, saying that the electoral commission had “failed to properly collate the results.” He refused to leave power. Similar tactics have recently been tried elsewhere, from Guyana to Zambia.

Dictators around the world know how it’s done. Never accept defeat. Fight the results, no matter what the evidence says. After all, the electoral commissioner in these countries is often a pliant crony from the same party who might cave to the pressure. (I once interviewed a senior election official in Madagascar who opened an envelope hand-delivered to her home address. Instead of a note, it contained three bullets).

If despots lose power despite their bluster and threats, they are always sure to continue alleging fraud to delegitimize their successor in the eyes of their supporters. It’s a final poisoned parting gift, one last opportunity to damage and divide the country.

Trump’s Republican Party seems to have been taking notes.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

TRIGGER WARNING I’m going to end with a surreal story about violence against women. You’ve probably heard about this horrific case, but its even worse than first reported. AP via Yahoo News: Train riders held up phones as woman was raped, police say.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man charged with raping a woman on a commuter train just outside of Philadelphia harassed her for more than 40 minutes while multiple people held up their phones to seemingly record the assault without intervening, authorities said.

More than two dozen train stops passed as the man harassed, groped and eventually raped the woman, the police chief for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said at a news conference Monday.

Police do not believe a single witness on the train dialed 911. They are investigating whether some bystanders filmed the assault.

Both the man and woman got on the train at the same stop Wednesday night in North Philadelphia. Officers pulled the man off of the woman at the last stop. They responded within about three minutes of a 911 call from a transportation authority employee, authorities said.

“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III said at the news conference.

Arrest records show Fiston Ngoy, 35, was charged with rape and related offenses.

The affidavit of arrest for Ngoy detailed times of the assault, including that during those 40 minutes the woman appears to repeatedly push Ngoy away.

Nestel would not give an approximate number of witnesses and it was unclear from the affidavit how many passengers were present for those 40 minutes. Authorities have not released the surveillance video.

“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” he said.

Police said that anyone who recorded the attack on video could possibly be charged. More details on what happened at the link.

It feels as if this country has gone crazy. As always, this is an open thread.


Monday Reads: His Watch is Over

THE MUSE
La Muse
1935, Pablo Picasso

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I continue to spend my life on the phone or near my roof with adjustors of all flavors. It’s extremely exhausting but my Insurance adjustor is a peach and he’s getting a mitigation company to investigate my attic where wind-driven rain got to a piece of fascia and then into the attic over my hall and bathroom.  Luckily, it’s the new addition so the ceilings aren’t as tall as the old part of the house. They’re going to get an estimate from a mitigation company on what needs to be done in the attic and the ceilings.  My 3-year old roof held up though which is why I didn’t get any more catastrophic damage.

Today we learned that Colin Powell has passed. He was fighting cancer and Covid-19 complications ended his life. Powell was a complex figure.  He was the first black Secretary of State as a Republican under Dubya where some of his most controversial decisions included receiving faulty information that led us into the endless war in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq.  He left the Republicans in the dust and became involved with the Obama campaign. He gave up on the Republican party as many moderate to center Republicans have.

Powell was a Vietnam Vet.  The one lost bit of his service often overlooks his role in the My Lai Massacre. I’ll put a brief reference to that here.  This is from The Nation and David Corn.  It was published in May 2001. “Colin Powell’s Vietnam Fog. The war was years ago, but that does not excuse misrepresenting one’s participation in it.” 

The hell of Vietnam—an unpopular war that involved hard-to-discern guerrilla combatants, brutal depopulation strategies, indiscriminate bombing and much “collateral damage,” as military bureaucrats called civilian kills—offers its distinct challenges to memory, the individual memories of many who served there and the collective memory of the nation that sent them and sponsored a dirty war of free-fire zones and destroy-the-village-to-save-the-village tactics. In reviewing Colin Powell’s military service recently, I found that Powell had his own trouble in setting the record straight on his involvement—tangential as it was—in one of the war’s more traumatic episodes.

As Powell notes in his 1995 autobiography, My American Journal, in 1969 he was an Army major, the deputy operations officer of the Americal Division, stationed at division headquarters in Chu Lai. He says that in March of that year, an investigator from the inspector general’s office of Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) paid a call. In a “Joe Friday monotone,” the investigator shot questions at Powell about Powell’s position at the division and the division’s operational journals, of which Powell was the custodian. The inspector then asked Powell to produce the journals for March 1968. Powell started to explain that he had not been with the division at that time. “Just get the journal,” the IG man snapped, “and go through that month’s entries. Let me know if you find an unusual number of enemy killed on any day.”

Powell flipped through the records and came upon an entry from March 16, 1968. The journal noted that a unit of the division had reported a body count of 128 enemy dead on the Batangan Peninsula. “In this grinding, grim, but usually unspectacular warfare,” Powell writes, “that was a high number.” The investigator requested that Powell read the number into the tape recorder he had brought, and that was essentially the end of the interview. “He left,” Powell recalls, “leaving me as mystified as to his purpose as when he arrived.”

It would not be until two years later (according to the original version of Powell’s book) or six months later (according to the paperback version of the book) that Powell figured out that the IG official had been probing what was then a secret, the My Lai massacre. Not until the fall of 1969 did the world learned that on March 16, 1968, troops from the Americal Division, under the command of Lieut. William Calley, killed scores of men, women and children in that hamlet. “Subsequent investigation revealed that Calley and his men killed 347 people,” Powell writes. “The 128 enemy ‘kills’ I had found in the journal formed part of the total.”

Though he does not say so expressly, Powell leaves the impression that the IG investigation, using information provided by Powell, uncovered the massacre, for which Calley was later court-martialed. That is not accurate.

The transcript of the tape-recorded interview between the IG man—Lieut. Col. William Sheehan—and Powell tells a different story. During that session—which actually happened on May 23, 1969—the IG investigator did request that Powell take out the division’s operations journals covering the first three weeks of March. (The IG inquiry had been triggered by letters written to the Pentagon, the White House and twenty-four members of Congress by Ron Ridenhour, a former serviceman who had learned about the mass murders.) Sheehan examined the records. Then he asked Powell to say for the record what activity had transpired in “grid square BS 7178” in this period. “The most significant of these occurred on 16, March, 1968,” Powell replied, “beginning at 0740 when C Company, 1st of the 20th, then under Task Force Barker, and the 11th Infantry Brigade, conducted a combat assault into a hot LZ [landing zone].” He noted that C Company, after arriving in the landing zone, killed one Vietcong. About fifteen minutes later, the same company, backed up by helicopter gunships, killed three VC. In the following hour, the gunships killed three more VC, while C Company “located documents and equipment” and killed fourteen Vietcong. “There is no indication of the nature of the action which caused these fourteen VC KIA,” Powell said. Later that morning, C Company, according to the journal, captured a shortwave radio and detained twenty-three VC suspects for questioning, while two other companies that were also part of Task Force Barker were active in the same area without registering any enemy kills.

He’ll always be best remembered for that ill-begotten speech at the UN.  This is from CNN: “Colin Powell, first Black US secretary of state, dies of Covid-19 complications amid cancer battle.”

In February 2003, Powell delivered a speech before the United Nations in which he presented evidence that the US intelligence community said proved Iraq had misled inspectors and hid weapons of mass destruction.
“There can be no doubt,” Powell warned, “that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.”

Inspectors, however, later found no such weaponry in Iraq, and two years after Powell’s UN speech, a government report said the intelligence community was “dead wrong” in its assessments of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities before the US invasion.

But the damage was already done — to both Iraq, which the US went to war with just six weeks after Powell’s speech, and to the reputation of the once highly popular statesman, who was reportedly told by Cheney before the UN speech: “You’ve got high poll ratings; you can afford to lose a few points.”

Powell, who left the State Department in early 2005 after submitting his resignation to Bush the previous year, later called his UN speech a “blot” that will forever be on his record.

“I regret it now because the information was wrong — of course I do,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 2010. “But I will always be seen as the one who made the case before the international community.”

“I swayed public opinion, there’s no question about it,” he added, referring to how influential his speech was on public support for the invasion.

In his 2012 memoir, “It Worked for Me,” Powell again acknowledged the speech, writing that his account of it in the book would likely be the last he publicly made.

I am mad mostly at myself for not having smelled the problem. My instincts failed me,” he wrote, referring to the report he used that contained faulty evidence of supposed Iraqi WMDs. “It was by no means my first, but it was one of my most momentous failures, the one with the widest-ranging impact.”

“The event will earn a prominent paragraph in my obituary,” Powell wrote.

Gustav Klimt, Emilie Flöge (1902).

I liked Powell. It’s hard to be first of anything especially when you’re a woman or minority.  I think both President Obama and Secretary Powell had to shoulder “the first black man to” and did so with a lot of caution.  That’s a tough balancing act.  He finally followed his own gut when he came out strongly for Obama. The one thing to admire about him was he was never one to avoid responsibility or apologies for leadership decisions that went awry

I’m having trouble figuring out one of my Senators who keeps showing a bit of unexpected independence from his Republican masters.  This is from Axios: “GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders.”  Both of my senators started out as liberal democrats.  Maybe he’s getting a bit of his conscience back.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an “Axios on HBO” interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 … Speaker Pelosi, 81 …  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 … and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.

Cassidy, a gastroenterologist, told me during our wide-ranging interview in Chalmette, La., that in your 80s, you begin a “rapid decline.”

  • Noting he wasn’t talking about specific people, Cassidy said: “It’s usually noticeable. So anybody in a position of responsibility who may potentially be on that slope, that is of concern. And I’m saying this as a doctor.”
  • “I’m told that there have been senators in the past who, at the end of their Senate terms were senile,” Cassidy added. “I’m told that was true of senators of both parties.”

Cassidy said it’d be reasonable for Supreme Court justices, members of Congress, and executive branch leaders to submit to an annual evaluation in which they would have to establish cognitive sharpness.

  • “We each have a sacred responsibility to the people of the United States,” Cassidy said. “It is not about me. It is about my ability to serve the people.”
  • Asked if he’d favor such a test for those leaders, Cassidy said: “Of course.”

🎬Watch a clipA rare GOP smack to Trump … Cassidy says Donald Trump might lose the GOP nomination if he runs in 2024 — noting that Trump lost “the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning.”

Mickalene Thomas, Dim All The Lights (2009).

Senator Cassidy has gone rogue on several of the most Trumpy of Trumpist votes.  This includes his vote for impeachment this year. This is from earlier this year and WaPo.

Sen. Bill Cassidy has been signaling for a few months that he wants to be a more independent force. After the November elections, in which the Louisiana Republican easily won a second term, Cassidy joined a bipartisan group that broke a negotiating logjam and paved the way for a $900 billion pandemic relief bill.

And on Jan. 6, as rioters supporting President Donald Trump were still being ejected from the Capitol, Cassidy condemned the attack in strong terms and demanded that Trump order the mob to stand down. “He needs to speak, because the president can speak as no one else can to these folks,” Cassidy told a Louisiana TV station that day.

But few expected Cassidy’s next bold, independent step — breaking GOP ranks and voting to declare that Trump’s second impeachment trial is constitutional and should proceed — particularly after he initially voted to essentially dismiss the case.

Don’t call him a RINO or a moderate he says.  Perhaps he’s angling to just be the Republican Joe Manchin. It’s possible he sees himself as a non-partisan deal maker.

Why is doing things in moderation or being moderate a thought police crime these days?  So, I had an overly exciting night yesterday having swallowed a part of a bay leaf that literally took my breath away and left me unable to speak.  I finally used the old trick of a finger down the throat to get it out. Not an experience I’d want to share with anyone.  I’m a bit out of sorts today.  I also got my Pfizer booster on Friday plus all the adjustor stuff on Saturday.  I’m going to call it a blog post and leave the chatting to you!

What’s on reading and list today?