Friday Reads: Waiting on Justice

Justice By Miles MacGregor

Good Day Sky Dancers!

One of the recurrent themes in the headlines these days is the long uneven road to American Justice. We got a brief respite a few weeks ago with the Chauvin trial which quickly dispensed with a murdering cop once the system was put to work in the proper way.  This was a state case handled by the Minnesota AG Keith Ellison, the former Minnesota Congressman.

You can watch some CBS video on conversations with Jurors in the case here. You can tell they took their duties seriously and not one of them will ever be the same.  Such is the cost of justice to all of us and a burden worth paying.

We’re beginning to see the Department of Justice work in the proper way too.  Many of the key appointments are focused on both ridding the corruption of the Trumpist regime and moving forward to ensure we live up to our Constitutional promise, our rule of law, and our inspirational founding with many coming together to make one.

Zachary Basu at Axios reports today that “Merrick Garland rapidly erasing Trump effect at Justice Department.”  We need no reminder of the role of Bill Barr in blocking prosecution to many criminal activities.

  • Attorney General Bill Barr played a central role in the Trump administration’s most high-profile controversies, from undermining the Russia investigation to intervening in the cases of indicted Trump associates to ordering the forcible clearing of protesters in Lafayette Square Park.

The Biden/Garland Justice Department will play a central role in restoring rule of law and enacting many of the Biden/Harris Justice priorities.

  • DOJ’s broad authority also overlaps with many of the issues at the top of President Biden’s agenda, including restoring faith in government, promoting racial justice and police reform, and curbing gun violence.

Here are just a few of the actions taken to date.

The Justice Department also announcedon Wednesday that three Georgia men were charged with federal hate crimes in the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, whose death was a rallying cry during last year’s racial-justice protests.

  • In Michigan, a superseding indictment was filed against five men accused of plotting last year to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with prosecutors referring to the alleged crimes as “domestic terrorism” for the first time.
  • That shift comes amid new developments in the investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which has been described as the most complex probe in DOJ history. Garland, who played a leading role in the prosecution of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, has vowed to make prosecuting the Capitol rioters his “first priority.”

Other major steps taken in Garland’s first 50 days include:

  • “Pattern or practice” investigations into the Minneapolis and Louisville police departments, following the deaths last year of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
  • A 30-day “expedited review” into how DOJ can better prosecute and track hate crimes amid a surge in violence against Asian Americans.
  • The revocation of a Trump-era policy that restricted federal funding for “sanctuary cities.”
  • Responsibility for five of the six executive actions on gun control ordered by Biden.

ABV Gallery (abvatl.com) artists Tommy Bronx and Ash “Wolfdog” Hayner installed a new mural at the intersection of Irwin and Randolph Streets in the heart of the Old Fourth Ward.

The biggest headline grabbers at the moment are the supoenas served on Rudy Guilliani and the stories of sex trafficking and child rape coming out of the Matt Gaetz investigation.  Both of these are sordid in their own way and full court press is to be expected.  However, the work going on to prosecute the insurrectionists as well the additional addition of federal hate crime charges to the murder of unarmed black men by police and others is significant.  The new addition of Covid-19 based hate crimes against those of Asian descent will likely be in the headlines shortly.

The New Republic has a feature article on the AG.  “The Mystery of Merrick Garland. Biden’s attorney general is neither an ideologue nor a partisan, but a consensus-builder. How will he wield his power in this historic, politically charged moment? The piece was written by Matt Ford.

So how did Garland get tapped to be Biden’s attorney general? The most cynical interpretation of Biden’s choice is sheer pragmatism. Nominating Garland all but assured a smooth path to confirmation through the Senate, no matter who controlled it. (Biden nevertheless waited until the outcome of the Georgia runoffs was clear before making the Garland pick public.)  Garland’s nomination also freed up a seat on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is usually considered the second most powerful court in the nation and a warm-up spot for future Supreme Court nominees. There is even perhaps a dash of sympathy in the choice: Garland’s nomination gives him a chance to not be remembered as the would-be high court justice who was blithely snubbed by the U.S. Senate.

Nominating Garland, however, also fits well with the vision of governance that Biden had offered voters on the campaign trail. He is neither an ideologue like Sessions nor a partisan like Barr, partly because of his judicial oath and partly because of his temperament. Garland’s own sister toldThe New York Timesin 2016 that she didn’t know her brother’s party affiliation. In more than two decades on the D.C. Circuit, Garland carved out a reputation as a consensus-builder. From his elevation to the appellate bench in 1997 to his nomination to the Supreme Court in 2016, Garland wrote just 11 dissenting opinions—a testament to his ability to bring colleagues of all stripes together.

“He was not a hands-off, let-the-clerks-just-do-their-thing kind of judge,” Jessica Bulman-Pozen, a Columbia University law professor who clerked for Garland from 2007 to 2008, told me. “He was himself totally steeped in every case. He knew all the details. He knew the record.” Garland is often described as a centrist or a moderate, because he does not fit neatly into any particular ideological box. That description, however, is less revealing than it seems. “I don’t want to say he’d be sort of moderate in the sense of waiting or restraint in addressing [things],” Bulman-Pozen said, “but I think moderate perhaps in the sense of being careful, conscientious, thorough.”

So, the salicious cases are heating up today.

There is nothing like a story from a desperate man who can turn state’s evidence on a higher up. The Gaetz Saga gets more sordid daily. 

Welp, it looks like Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz better start working out so that he can fight off attackers in prison because he’s about to lose his job and go straight to the pokey if anything in his former friend’s letter is true.

Joel Greenberg, a longtime associate of Gaetz, admitted in a letter that he and Gaetz paid for sex–including sex with an underaged girl.

According to a scathing report in the Daily Beast, Greenberg reportedly wrote a handwritten confession letter claiming that he and Gaetz were “involved in sexual activities” with a girl who was 17 at the time.

“From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18,” he wrote.

“I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

Shepard Fairey’s one-hundredth mural on the Founder’s League building on Clemence Street in Providence. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Speaking of badly behaved and nasty Trust Fund babies, Tucker Carlson tried to give Rudy Guiliani a platform.  The SDNY probably  hopes old Rudy will keep going on TV to blabber away at this rate.  However, let’s turn to the NYT version today. “Firing of U.S. Ambassador Is at Center of Giuliani Investigation“.  I really would be thrilled if former Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch got the last word on this as a witness.

It was a Pyrrhic victory. Mr. Giuliani’s push to oust the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, not only became a focus of President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial, but it has now landed Mr. Giuliani in the cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation into whether he broke lobbying laws, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The long-running inquiry reached a turning point this week when F.B.I. agents seized telephones and computers from Mr. Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan, the people said. At least one of the warrants was seeking evidence related to Ms. Yovanovitch and her role as ambassador, the people said.

In particular, the federal authorities were expected to scour the electronic devices for communications between Mr. Giuliani and Trump administration officials about the ambassador before she was recalled in April 2019, one of the people added.

The warrant also sought his communications with Ukrainian officials who had butted heads with Ms. Yovanovitch, including some of the same people who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani seek damaging information about President Biden, who was then a candidate, and his family, the people said.

At issue for investigators is a key question: Did Mr. Giuliani go after Ms. Yovanovitch solely on behalf of Mr. Trump, who was his client at the time? Or was he also doing so on behalf of the Ukrainian officials, who wanted her removed for their own reasons?

It is a violation of federal law to lobby the United States government on behalf of foreign officials without registering with the Justice Department, and Mr. Giuliani never did so.

Even if the Ukrainians did not pay Mr. Giuliani, prosecutors could pursue the theory that they provided assistance by collecting information on the Bidens in exchange for her removal.

There’s a lot of Trumpist folks gonna lose their freedom.  I’m pulling that Gaetz and Guiliani lose everything they’ve got.  Get those January 6 insurrectionists too!!!

Meanwhile, I’m going to be watching the return of our Department of Justice.  Have a great weekend!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

U.S. President Joe Biden's first address to a joint session of Congress

Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Last night President Biden gave his first speech to a joint session of Congress. For the first time, two women sat behind the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A couple of reactions to the speech:

Philip Bump at The Washington Post: In his first speech to Congress, Biden rejects autocracy — including from Trump.

There were two moments during President Biden’s address to the nation on Wednesday in which he obviously, if only indirectly, referred to the man who preceded him in his position.

The first came near the beginning.

“America is rising anew,” Biden said, “choosing hope over fear, truth over lies, and light over darkness.”

Only the second of those three pairings is immediately and obviously about Donald Trump; the former president’s indifference to accuracy is unparalleled. But by stringing the three together, Biden was similarly positioning Trump as the target of the other pejoratives. America under Trump, he’s saying, was a place of fear, dishonesty and darkness. That tracks with Biden’s past rhetoric and, frankly, Trump’s own: Biden warned the country last autumn that a dark winter was coming because of the pandemic (and Trump’s leadership failures), and Trump himself made fear a central part of his reelection bid.\But now, Biden argued on Wednesday night, all of that was swept aside.

“After 100 days of rescue and renewal, America is ready for takeoff, in my view,” he said. “We’re working again, dreaming again, discovering again and leading the world again. We have shown each other and the world that there’s no quit in America.”

From there, Biden turned his attention to an exhaustive list of policy priorities, one that, in its own way, differentiated his speech from any of Trump’s. Not only were his proposals robust and detailed in a way that was never Trump’s style, they were also progressive in a way that no Republican’s would be. It was an obvious difference and, of course, the most important one in terms of governance.

But it was also a reminder that Biden always ran on being a president who just sort of quietly went about presidenting, a promise that he has fulfilled in spades.

A CNN poll found that public reaction to the speech was positive: CNN Poll: 7 in 10 who watched say Biden’s speech left them feeling optimistic.

About half of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s address to Congress had a very positive reaction to the speech, and 71% said they walked away feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction, according to a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS.

E0Gxo1TVEAQFpzCBy a wide margin, speech-watchers said that Biden’s policy proposals would move the country in the right direction (73%) rather than the wrong direction (27%). In a survey conducted before the speech, the same people were a bit less bullish that Biden would lead in the right direction (67% right direction, 33% wrong direction), and that movement came from the independents and Republicans who watched the speech. Among Republicans, the share saying Biden’s policies would move the country in the right direction grew from 13% pre-speech to 27% post-speech, while among independents, that percentage rose from 61% to 73%.

That perception carries through to the major issues covered in the speech. More than 8 in 10 said Biden’s proposals on the coronavirus pandemic would move in the right direction (86%), and 74% said the same about racial injustice. Around 7 in 10 said the President’s policies on the economy (72%), gun laws (70%) and taxes (70%) were steps in the right direction. Slightly fewer said the same about immigration (65%).

And Biden’s focus on those issues appeared to hit the right mark for speech-watchers. Overall, 68% said Biden has had the right priorities so far as president, while 32% said he has not paid enough attention to the most important problems.

The other big news yesterday was that Rudy Giuliani’s home and office were searched by Federal agents. Some reactions:

From The Week, via Yahoo News: Federal investigators search Giuliani’s home and office, and experts say it means he’s in real trouble.

Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan on Wednesday, executing search warrants as part of an investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine, reports The New York Times.

The former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump is being investigated over possible illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian officials and his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s political rivals. “Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president,” writes the Times. “While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Mr. Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase.”

e9oxrHhCExperts agreed the search represented very serious stakes for Giuliani. Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote that “this means that a magistrate judge has found probable cause to believe that [Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine] were criminal.” As the Times writes, “to obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.”

Federal prosecutor and legal analyst Shanlon Wu called the search an “extraordinary step,” and wrote that “no amount of hot air and ranting is going to help Rudy Giuliani now.”

Litman continued: “I don’t know offhand the percentage of people whose [apartments] are searched by warrant who are then indicted … but it’s high, and given Giuliani’s profile, it has to be higher [because] they would be more careful and get lots of approvals.”

The search warrant was reportedly a long time coming, and politics may have slowed it down. The process was delayed for the presidential election so as not to sway voters, and Trump appointees at the DOJ reportedly managed to temporarily block the warrant while Trump was still in office.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara agrees. Benjamin Hart at New York Magazine: Preet Bharara Thinks Rudy Giuliani Is in ‘Deep Trouble.’

I spoke with Preet Bharara, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the district from 2009 to 2017 — and whose podcast, Stay Tuned, was recently acquired by Vox Media — about Giuliani’s predicament and where the investigation might go next.

28d18330dd2ee5d27239b46eb62eb5ebc5633101How significant is this move by the Feds from your perspective? How much legal danger does Giuliani face here?
I think it’s extremely significant. I’m not one to say that when routine subpoenas are issued or interviews are conducted, but here you have a very prominent person — not just the former lawyer to the president of the United States but also the former U.S. Attorney of the office that’s involved in the investigation. The fact that you execute a warrant on someone’s residence does not necessarily mean there will be a charge, but given the circumstances, given the identity of Mr. Giuliani, given what you have to show to get a judge to authorize the warrant and the search — that’s a sign that he’s in deep trouble. We saw this play out with respect to Michael Cohen and to Paul Manafort. Very prominent targets, very sensitive cases. Both of those men were charged.

The two people you just cited also both went to prison. Is that where this could be going?

I used to head that office, and there are search warrants that get executed on people’s premises and their offices, and no charges follow. That happens, and Giuliani is presumed to be innocent. But what’s likely is that there has already been substantial investigation. The reporting was that they tried to execute these searches when Trump was in office, and they were stymied by higher-ups in the Justice Department. Bear in mind, they’re probably far along, given what showing they have to make of probable cause to do these searches in the first place. They likely already have a lot of Rudy Giuliani’s communications. You don’t need to have his devices in your possession to have email records; those are obtained from third parties, and they probably have all of that. It’s anyone’s guess what the charges will be and when they will come. But in my experience, when you do something like this, that you know will have a reputational effect on the subject, you’re usually thinking there’s a good likelihood of a charge.

It hasn’t been as widely reported, but it’s also significant that the Feds searched the home of another Trump-associated attorney, Victoria Toensing. Nicholas Reimann at Forbes: Feds Search Giuliani’s, Toensing’s Properties As Part Of Ukraine Investigation.

Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment on Wednesday and later searched the home of attorney Victoria Toensing as part of a probe into whether Giuliani acted on behalf of Ukrainian oligarchs to illegally lobby the Trump Administration, according to multiple reports, with investigators said to have seized electronic devices.

A bit more from The New York Times

26dc-Digenova-superJumbo-v2F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

More stories to check out:

Susan Glasser at The New Yorker: Biden’s Speech Offers an Alternate Reality for Democrats to Love, After Four Years of Trumpian Fantasy.

Wall Street Journal: Stocks Are Off to Best Start to a Presidential Term Since Great Depression.

Newsweek: Rudy Giuliani Voicemail Hints at Cause of Federal Search Warrant.

The Los Angeles Times: FBI director says Capitol riot was ‘domestic terrorism.’

The Washington Post: Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection.

Politico: Trump’s Battle to Win the First 100 Days.

CNN: US investigating possible mysterious directed energy attack near White House.

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Feds plan to indict Chauvin, other three ex-officers on civil rights charges.

CBS News: In India, a scramble for scarce vaccines as COVID deaths top 200,000.

CNN: India’s Covid-19 crisis is a problem for the world.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?


Wednesday Reads: Outdated Cultural Depiction

Hello, do you remember the miniseries Centennial?

It aired in 1978-1979 and was a huge hit…at least it was from what I could remember. My dad always quotes a line from that show, “My wife, daughter read books. I trap beaver.” I recently started watching this series again after only seeing it when it aired back in ‘78.

I was 8 years old but some things stuck with me…like how big that rattlesnake was that bit and killed Elly. The difficulty Levi had when his grey horses were sold against his wishes.

Another thing I remember was just how many assholes there was and how disgusting they were to the Indian people…and just about anyone who was different from them. Now that I have rewatched much of the series I realize those asshole are nothing more that Republicans.

All those characters are tRumpers…racist bigoted GOP fuckers who are doing the same shit they have always done. Centennial may come with a new TV advisory: Outdated Cultural Depection… but the treatment of its villains are still on point.

Take the character Frank Skimmerhorn who is loosely based on

John Chivington.

In the TV series, he talks about how powerful he is…the people of Denver wave American flags and chant his name. Even after the massacre, he still has overwhelming support. In one of the scenes, he tells an army general of a fort he has overtaken with his “militia” …that he will run for president and win. I thought to myself…yup he sure will in 2016.

My point is that there is nothing new about assholes like Tucker Carlson and tRump. Or the tRump affect/effect on the GOP… the bigoted grifters like Moscow Mitch and Ted Cruz and the rest of the white supremacy menace.

I don’t think they will ever go away, they will remain a solid fixture, the American way of life. And I see them succeeding by using these voter suppression laws and right wing judges and gerrymandering and other overtly crooked ways to keep them powerful and in control. Look everywhere…that 38% is a constant figure. It is always there…refusing to take a vaccine or denying Black Lives Matter…it is there supporting people like Chauvin and Thin Blue Line Flags. And it is there, when you see belligerent asshole who refuses to wear a mask because it violates… “there personal rights of freedom.”

Fuck them.

And now this:

So Tucker Carlson was always a dick…got it,

Yes, the GOP are really this stupid.

And in California, a man dies because he is “Chauvined” by police.

And that’s all folks …


Tuesday Reads: GOP Surrenders to the Crazies

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Nonchaloir (Repose), by John Singer Sargent

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Dakinikat posted this article by Peter Wehner in The Atlantic on the growing radicalization of the GOP. Wehner cites reporting by Sarah Longwell of The Bulwark that shows more formerly “normal” Republicans fleeing Fox News and tuning in to conspiracy-oriented outlets like Newsmax and OneAmerica network.

A second finding, according to Longwell, is that for the first time, she’s hearing people say they pretty regularly tune in to Newsmax or One America News Network, two conspiracy-theory-minded MAGA television news outlets. She’s heard from some people in her focus groups that “Fox has gone too far left.” Overall, what she sees isn’t Trump supporters fleeing Fox in huge numbers so much as experiencing some cooling of their enthusiasm and a willingness to look to other sources of information. (Tucker Carlson, the most malicious and influential figure at Fox News, does have a certain rock-star status in MAGA world.)

It appears that Fox is responding by airing even more insane conspiracy theories. For example, last night Tucker Carlson took his anti-mask crusade to a new level. You have to see this to believe it.

The Daily Beast: Tucker Carlson Tells Fox Viewers to Call the Cops if They See Kids Wearing Masks Outdoors.

Raging against face masks on Monday night, Fox News host Tucker Carlson told his viewers they should openly harass anyone they see wearing masks outside and go so far as to call the police or social services on the parents of any children with masks on.

Carlson, who was a proponent of mask-wearing to help stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic as recently as last March, has since become a fierce critic of face masks and other COVID-19 restrictions, guidelines, and mitigation efforts

“Masks have always been incompatible with a free society,” he fumed. “We used to know that. Masks strip people of their identity as individuals, transform people from citizens into drones. They isolate us and alienate us to shut us off from one another, they prevent intimacy and human contact. If I can’t see your face, I can’t know you.”

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Madame X, John Singer Sargent

Stating that a large portion of liberals suffer from an “actual mental health condition” because a recent Pew survey shows they are critical of others who don’t mask up near them, Carlson called on his audience to instead openly mock mask-wearers in public.

“The rest of us should be snorting at them first. They’re the aggressors. It’s our job to brush them back and restore the society we were born in,” he said. “So the next time you see someone in a mask on the sidewalk or on the bike path, do not hesitate. Ask politely but firmly, ‘Would you please take off your mask? Science shows there is no reason for you to be wearing it. Your mask is making me uncomfortable.’” [….]

Carlson then took it several steps further by urging his viewers to take far more drastic measures if they see children wearing masks.

“As for forcing children to wear masks outside, that should be illegal,” the Fox News star huffed. “Your response when you see children wearing masks as they play should be no different from your response to seeing someone beat a kid in Walmart. Call the police immediately. Contact Child Protective Services. Keep calling until someone arrives. What you’re looking at is abuse, it’s child abuse, and you are morally obligated to attempt to prevent it.”

This is going to get people killed–either by the virus or by more violent interactions in between Trump crazies in businesses that require masks or just ordinary mask-wearing people going about their business.

Here are some are other MAGA conspiracy theories that have gone viral lately. 

Yahoo News: How a false claim about beef and Biden’s climate plan spread.

On Sunday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out a Fox News graphic about President Biden proposing a reduction in red meat consumption. “Not gonna happen in Texas!” proclaimed the Republican, who serves nearly 30 million constituents.

Abbott was retweeted by fellow Republican Gov. Brad Little, who said, “Idahoans also have beef with this agenda and for dinner!” The two governors followed in a line of conservative politicians, pundits and news outlets who spent days proudly stating their opposition to a provision of Biden’s climate plan that doesn’t exist.

The false narrative stems from coverage of Biden announcing his new climate goals last week in honor of Earth Day, including cutting U.S. carbon emissions by at least 50 percent by 2030 over 2005 levels. The plan drew immediate Republican condemnation, but the beef-specific narrative stems from a Thursday article in the Daily Mail, a conservative British tabloid. The lengthy headline reads, “How Biden’s climate plan could limit you to eat just one burger a MONTH, cost $3.5K a year per person in taxes, force you to spend $55K on an electric car and ‘crush’ American jobs.”

The piece cites a University of Michigan study that analyzes what different changes in the U.S. diet could mean for greenhouse gas emissions. This was translated into the Fox News graphic shared by Abbott and others, which stated that the Biden proposal would cut 90 percent of red meat from Americans’ diet, allowing them a maximum of 4 pounds per year and one burger a month.

A primary issue in using the paper to condemn the Biden climate plan is that it was published in January 2020, when Biden was involved in a tight Democratic primary and a year away from being sworn in as president. His climate plan does not have any provisions regulating citizens’ ability to consume meat.

Gregory A. Keoleian and Martin Heller, two of the study’s authors, told Yahoo News that “to our knowledge, there is no connection between our study and Joe Biden’s Climate plan.”

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880

Smoke of Ambergris, 1880, by John Singer Sargent

The Washington Post: No, officials are not handing out Harris’s picture book to migrant kids.

“After learning officials are handing out Kamala Harris’ book to migrants in facilities at the border, it’s worth asking… Was Harris paid for these books? Is she profiting from Biden’s border crisis?”

— Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, in a tweet, April 26, 2021\“The Biden administration’s weakness caused a surge of illegal immigration. Now they’re forcing taxpayers to buy Kamala Harris’s book to give to those illegal immigrants?”\— Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in a tweet linking to a report in the New York Post, April 25, 2021

“Harris’s children’s book Superheroes Are Everywhere is included in welcome packs for migrant children arriving at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, a recently converted influx facility, along with basic hygiene supplies and clothing, photographs show.”

— Reporting on Fox News, April 24, 2021

“Unaccompanied migrant kids brought from the U.S.-Mexico border to a new shelter in Long Beach, Calif., will be given a copy of her 2019 children’s book, ‘Superheroes are Everywhere,’ in their welcome kits.”

— Reporting in the New York Post, April 23, 2021

It’s like a bad game of telephone.

The New York Post reported that a children’s picture book written by Vice President Harris was being handed out in “welcome kits” to young migrants at a shelter in Long Beach, Calif.

Fox News, which is owned by the same family as the New York Post, then amplified the story with its own version of the article.\Cotton and McDaniel ran with these reports and posted critical tweets. But they should have dug deeper.

Long Beach city officials told The Washington Post that Harris’s book is not being handed out in welcome kits. A single copy of the book was donated during a citywide donation drive, officials said.


Blue Monday Reads: “Ride or Die” Republicans

Andreas Jawlensky
“Flower Still Life, Door Wing,” German Expressionism, Blue Rider (Blaue Reiter)
1924

Good Day Sky Dancers!

I’ve been trying to find things to give us–well me–a bit of a pick me up because my last few trips to the doctor’s office keep reminding me that my body is not what it used to be at all.  The headlines these days are bipolar. Even state and local news seems dependent on whether you live in the counterfactual reality of the Republicans or the pragmatic problem solving reality of independents and Democratic governments.

In the Matrix, taking the red pill means you’re willing to learn some unsettling truths.  Taking the red path in the United States means you have to deny science, history, economics, and just about every intellectual endeavor known to mankind since we left the Dark Ages.

We had to take a lot of American History in my school district and at my university.  This all occurred in Nebraska so I have no idea why entire swaths of people have forgotten a lot of its lessons.  The frothy  one–with the public voice of a nincompoop granted at CNN–has forgotten the entire American experience with indigenous peoples.

Moscow I (Red Square), 1916, Wassily Kandinsky

I was fortunate that my mother had a particular sensitivity to this and expected my sister and me to get a really good appreciation of the role genocide played in wiping out a lot of native culture.  The missionaries and their schools played a huge role in that.  The Trail of Tears played an even bigger role.  Then there was the continuing westward movement that eventually started shrinking the number of safe, promised places granted to Indigenous nations.  But, I would like to also offer this up.   The Iroquois–one of the so-called ‘civilized’ tribes were quite influential on the actual “birth” of the nation.  Even the use of the word “birth of a nation” is offensive.  It’s not often you find such a prime example of racist slights to both indigenous and black Americans in one sentence.

I guess it’s just not any kind of thing worth recognizing unless a white guy does it.  Plus, even if he doesn’t do it, he’ll take and get credit for it anyway.

So, let’s run down some of those other headlines.

The Tiger, 1912, Franz Marc

 From the The Guardian: Why Michigan Republicans’ attack on voting rights is ‘particularly anti-democratic’.

On the surface, the Republican effort to roll back voting rights in Michigan looks similar to what’s happening in states around the country: after Donald Trump narrowly lost a key battleground state where there was record turnout, Republicans are moving swiftly to implement sweeping restrictions to curtail access to the ballot box.

But the effort is raising unique concerns. Even though the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is likely to veto a package of dozens of pending bills to curb voter access, Republicans are already hinting they will use a loophole to implement the measures anyway. They can take advantage of a quirk in Michigan’s law allowing voters to send a bill to the legislature if just over 340,000 voters sign a petition asking them to take it up. These kinds of bills cannot be vetoed by the governor.

“This effort is particularly anti-democratic, not just in substance, but in procedure,” said the Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who serves as the state’s top election official.

The proposals include measures that are breathtakingly restrictive, even when held up in comparison to other measures states are considering. One bill bans Michigan’s secretary of state not only from mailing out absentee ballot applications to all voters, but also blocks her from even providing a link on a state website to a mail-in ballot application. Another proposal does not allow voters to use absentee ballot drop boxes after 5pm the day before election day. A different measure would require voters to make a photocopy of their ID and mail it in to vote by mail.

The effort is being closely monitored in a state known for razor-thin elections and where Donald Trump and allies tried to overturn the result in 2020. Republicans are moving aggressively to put the new voting restrictions in place ahead of the 2022 elections, when there are races for governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Michigan also has several key swing congressional districts that will help determine who controls the US House of Representatives in Washington.

Couple in the woods, August Macke, 1912

From Peter Wehner writing for  The Atlantic: The GOP Is a Grave Threat to American Democracy

The radicalization manifests in myriad ways, most notably in Trump’s enduring popularity among Republicans. Trump’s loyalists have launched ferocious attacks against Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for his role in the insurrection, even as national Republicans eagerly position themselves as his heir. Right-wing media display growing fanaticism, while public-opinion polls show GOP voters embracing Trump’s lie that the election was stolen from him. The Republican Party’s illiberalism, its barely disguised nativism, and its white identity politics are resonating with extremist groups. Slate’s Will Saletan, in an article cataloging recent developments, summarized things this way: “The Republican base is thoroughly infected with sympathies for the insurrection.”

To better grasp what’s happening among 2020 Trump voters, I spoke with Sarah Longwell, a lifelong conservative and political strategist who is now the publisher of The Bulwark, a news and opinion website that is home to anti-Trump conservatives. She is also the founder of Republican Voters Against Trump, now the Republican Accountability Project.

Since 2018, Longwell has spent hundreds of hours speaking with and listening to Trump voters. From 2018 to 2020, she concentrated her attention on people who voted for Trump in 2016 but whose support was not locked in for 2020—many of them college-educated, suburban voters, mostly women who rated Trump’s performance as bad to very bad. Since Trump left office, she’s been using her focus groups to understand how his supporters’ views are changing.

Longwell has discovered that these voters, including many in Georgia who cast their ballots for Trump in November, have since grown more “Q curious”—she’s hearing more people talk positively about QAnon, a conspiracy theory that, among other things, posits the existence of a satanic pedophile cult run by top Democrats.

Prior to November 3, 2020, Longwell told me, “I almost never heard QAnon come up, except in a way that was derisive.” But postelection she’s had people “lean in and say, ‘I’m not saying I believe everything about Q. I’m not saying that the JFK-Jr.-is-alive stuff is real, but the deep-state pedophile ring is real.’” (The QAnon theory is that John F. Kennedy Jr. faked his own death to become the group’s leader.) In Longwell’s words, “The deep-state/conspiracy/Hollywood pedophile ring, that is in there. I’m hearing that plenty.” She added, “It’s actually pretty Marjorie Taylor Greene–like.” (Greene, who represents Georgia’s Fourteenth District, has praised the conspiracy theory and subscribes to a number of its beliefs.)

As Longwell explained it to me, Trump supporters already believed that a “deep state”—an alleged secret network of nonelected government officials, a kind of hidden government within the legitimately elected government—has been working against Trump since before he was elected. “That’s already baked into the narrative,” she said. So it’s relatively easy for them to make the jump from believing that the deep state was behind the “Russia hoax” to thinking that in 2016 Hillary Clinton was involved in a child-sex-trafficking ring operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant.

Red Deers II”, Franz Marc, Franz ,1912
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Per Marcotte: 

In Oklahoma and Florida, Republicans have passed new laws making it legal for motorists to run over protesters, so long as they claim that they felt afraid of a “riot.” The laws are clearly meant to give cover to people who attack anti-racist protesters, a trend that started with Fields murdering Heyer but has spread rapidly on the right. Over the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, there were a whopping 104 incidents — including 8 by police — of motorists hitting protesters with cars. The 2017 video of Fields slamming his car into a crowd was a genuine shock, but similar images became sadly common in 2020. Now Republicans want to make it legal.

Such laws are part of a larger push to use violence and threats to silence anti-racism.

The pro-vehicular homicide law in Florida, for instance, is part of a larger package signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis that redefines “rioting” in order to make it easier for police to shut down anti-racism protests. DeSantis has explicitly tied the bill to the conviction of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd, insisting that the conviction was because “the jury is scared of what a mob may do” and not because of the evidence — including a video of the murder, which happened in broad daylight — of Chauvin’s guilt.

Indeed, this overwhelming evidence against Chauvin is also overwhelming evidence that his supporters in the media and politics simply believe that police should have an unchecked “right” to kill people of color at will. In fact, Chauvin’s guilt was so obvious that many in the right-wing media initially seemed to feel the smart move was to throw him under the bus. But Tucker Carlson of Fox News went all-in on treating the verdict like a travesty and now even supposedly more “intellectual” outlets like National Review are hyping the idea that the “real” bad guys are the ones who wanted Chauvin to pay for his crimes.

Meanwhile, on earth one, the focus is on the first 100 Days of the Biden/Harris administration and the upcoming speech before the nation and Congress.   Most of the nation appears satisfied.

So, Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine gets enthusiastic: ‘Joe Biden’s First 100 Days Reshaped America’.

Biden’s advantage is that he’s not just nice; he’s also tedious. He is relentlessly enacting an ambitious domestic agenda — signing legislation that could cut child poverty by more than half, expanding Obamacare, and injecting the economy with a stimulus more than twice the size of what Obama’s Congress passed in 2009 — while arousing hardly any controversy. There’s nothing in Biden’s vanilla-ice-cream bromides for his critics to hook on to. Republicans can’t stop Biden because he is boring them to death.

Biden’s strategy of boringness is a fascinating counterpoint to a career spent trying desperately to be interesting. Biden used to overshare, with frequently disastrous results that led him to accurately self-diagnose as a “gaffe machine.” Whether his advanced age has slowed him down or made him wiser, he has finally given up his attention-seeking impulse and embraced the opposite objective. Biden’s success is a product of the crucial yet little-appreciated insight that substantive advances don’t require massive public fights. The drama of inspiration and conflict is not only unnecessary to promote change but even, in certain circumstances, outright counterproductive.

This method runs contrary to the DNA of the political-activism industry and the news media, which look at politics as a war and judge each side by how well it mobilizes its troops for combat. It especially offends the sensibility of many progressives, who see popular mobilization as the highest form of political organization.

So, today is a Super Pink Moon. 

This moon gets its name from the pink early springtime blooms of the Phlox subulata plant, also called “moss pink.” It’s native to eastern North America.

Native American tribes across the United States have their own names for the moon, according to the Western Washington University Planetarium. Many of those names are also associated with springtime signs,including the melting of snow andthe return of geese after their journey south for winter. The Cherokee tribe of the East Coast calls it the “kawohni” or “flower moon,” and the Creek tribe of the Southeast refers to it as “tasahcee-rakko” or “big spring moon.”

You’ll get a good view of it tonight!  Have a good week!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today??