Friday Reads: We need a Democracy Booster

Frida Kahlo, Niña tehuacana, Lucha María (Sol y luna) ( Girl from Tehuacán, Lucha María [ Sun and Moon ]), 1942. © 2019 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Di Donna Galleries.

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Just got back from a very long wait for my Covid-19 Pfizer booster. I’d plan to get a flu shot too but they’d been out for over a week at my closest Walgreen’s.  So, I’m way late and needed a reminder from BB. There are a lot of stories out there with one basic theme.  Donald Trump and the throwback Republican Party are actively trying to dismantle our democratic republic.

Chauncey DeVega writes this for Salon: “Steve Bannon’s second act: He’s back, and he wants to bring down the curtain on democracy. Maybe you thought “Trump’s brain” was off the political stage forever. But he’s back — and now he smells revenge”

Bannon has been in the news this week: He may be charged with criminal contempt by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, and he hosted an event in Virginia on Wednesday night where attendees reportedly recited the Pledge of Allegiance before a flag used in that insurrection.

It does indeed seem likely that Bannon appears to have played a key role in the events of Jan. 6 and perhaps also in Trump’s overarching coup attempt. On a recent episode of his podcast, Bannon admitted to telling Trump, prior to that date,  “You need to kill this [Biden] administration in its crib.”

Bannon has also made repeated use of the technique known as stochastic terrorism to encourage right-wing violence, while disclaiming personal responsibility. As HuffPost reports, he recently told his listeners of his “War Room” podcast: “We need to get ready now. We control the country. We’ve got to start acting like it. And one way we’re going to act like it, we’re not going to have 4,000 [shock troops] ready to go, we’re going to have 20,000 ready to go.”

Bannon has said these “shock troops” would be used to destroy the federal government from within in a second Trump administration, as a way of tearing down what he calls “the administrative state,” an anti-government euphemism that also includes multiracial democracy.

Political scientists, historians and others have shown that such rhetoric is used by Republicans and their allies (and by too many “moderate” or corporate-sponsored Democrats) to justify attacks on the very idea of government itself, in large part because they perceive it as serving the interests of Black and brown people and others deemed to be “undeserving.”

Bannon’s use of violent language about “shock troops” — in a military context, this means heavily armed, fast-moving elite soldiers used to break through enemy defenses — is not necessarily hyperbole or metaphor. Rather, it should be seen as part of a larger embrace of political violence and other terrorism by the Republican fascist movement.

Alice Rahon : Gato Nocturno : Night Cat, 1942

BB wrote a lot about Bannon’s refusal to submit to a congressional subpoena and a possible criminal complaint will be voted on in the full House of Representatives shortly. This is from Molly Jung-fast writing for The AtlanticDemocrats Are Ready to Send Steve Bannon to Jail. If Democrats want answers, they’ll need to enforce their subpoenas in the face of Trump allies’ defiance. They say that’s just what they plan to do.”

Democrats want to uphold norms of interparty civility while also preventing Trump and his buddies from completely undermining democracy. But time is running out. The January 6 committee is one of Congress’s last chances to narrate the Capitol riots and the Trump administration’s efforts to subvert the peaceful transfer of power. The only way to fight fascism is with narrative, Masha Gessen, the writer and activist, once told me. The select-committee probe presents a real opportunity to do just that.

Enforcing the committee’s subpoenas isn’t a controversial idea, Representative Eric Swalwell of California told me. “We must enforce congressional subpoenas not just for holding insurrectionists accountable but to show everyone in America that we all follow the same rules,” he said. “If Bannon and company are above the law, why wouldn’t nonpublic figures toss their lawful subpoenas in the trash?”

Perhaps Bannon thinks that the committee won’t follow through, or that jail time might martyr him. He’s dodged consequences for alleged misconduct before. Last year, he faced prison for his role in the “We Build the Wall” scheme, which prosecutors said was fraudulent, but Trump granted him an 11th-hour pardon. At least he’s had some time to think about what he might have to pack.

Susan Glasser calls the Trump Presidency an “active crime scene”.

A book from the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, “The Chief’s Chief,” is due out in December; Trump promoted it the other day as “an incredible Christmas present” that will explain how his Administration “did things that no other administration even thought they could do.”

Trump, of course, meant this as a bragging point, not as an ironic commentary on all the norm-busting and lawbreaking that occurred during his four years in office. “Remember,” he said in the statement, “there has never been an administration like ours.” In that, he’s right. The rapidly accumulating pile of books on the history of the Trump Administration is different in a crucial respect: they are not helping to explain the past so much as they are attempting to explain a present and very much ongoing crisis. Meadows, for example, is a crucial witness in the investigation by the House select committee into the events of January 6th. The panel subpoenaed him and several other Trump advisers to give testimony and hand over documents, with a deadline of Thursday. Not one has done so, setting the stage for a new and potentially protracted series of court battles. The panel announced on Thursday that it will seek to hold Steve Bannon, Trump’s fired White House strategist (the two later reconciled), in criminal contempt; it said that it is still negotiating with Meadows and the former Pentagon official Kash Patel. How many months or years will we have to wait to find out what they and others knew, and did, as a pro-Trump mob tried to stop Congress from certifying Trump’s defeat?

The bottom line is that the story of the Trump Presidency still has important unanswered questions that the forthcoming pile of books cannot answer. And they have an urgency about them that unanswered questions about past Administrations usually don’t, given the ongoing threat to our democracy: Trump is not only preparing to run again but is determined to mold the G.O.P. into a single-issue Party, the ideology of which consists solely of disputing the legitimacy of the election that turned him out of office. The Trump Presidency is not yet, alas, simply a matter for booksellers and book writers; it’s an active crime scene.

Hayv Kahraman, T25 and T26, 2017. © Hayv Kahraman. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, and White Cube.

Republican states are happily destroying the civil rights of women and minorities expecting no retribution when their actions get to the supreme court.  This headline out of Oklahoma is beyond disturbing.  It’s a horrific injustice and downright mean-spirited. “Native American Woman In Oklahoma Convicted Of Manslaughter Over Miscarriage. Brittney Poolaw faces four years in prison for a miscarriage she suffered less than halfway through her pregnancy.”  The headline comes via Oxygen.

Prosecutors in Oklahoma successfully argued to a jury this month that a woman who had a miscarriage was guilty of the manslaughter of her non-viable fetus.

Brittney Poolaw, 21, was convicted of second-degree manslaughter by a Comanche County jury on Oct. 5 for the death of her fetus that had a gestational age of 15 to 17 weeks, reported ABC affiliate KSWO in Lawton, Oklahoma. She was charged with in the case on Mar. 16, 2020 after a miscarriage that occurred on Jan. 4, 2020.

Obstetricians determine gestational ages based on the date of the woman’s last period prior to getting pregnant — i.e., before the date of conception. The U.S. Supreme Court determined with Roe v. Wade in 1973 that legal viability is after the 28th gestational week, when fetal survival is generally above 90 percent, but medical viability is pegged at 25-26 weeks, when the fetus has more than a 50 percent chance of surviving outside the womb, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only defines a fetus as “stillborn” if it is delivered after 20 weeks gestational age; before that, it’s medically considered a miscarriage.

The Lawton Constitution reported last year that, according to police, the then-19 year-old Poolaw miscarried at home in early 2020 and was brought to the Comanche County Memorial Hospital with the umbilical cord still attached to the fetus. She told the medical staff that she had used both methamphetamines and marijuana while she’d been pregnant.

Later, in interviews with police, Poolaw allegedly confirmed that she’d smoked marijuana but used methamphetamines intravenously, including as recently as two days prior to her miscarriage. She also allegedly told them, according to the Lawton paper, “that when she first became pregnant, she didn’t know if she wanted to keep the baby or not.”

It is unclear from those reports whether she had actively decided to continue the pregnancy, given that she had been 15 to 17 weeks along, simply hadn’t made a decision or had few other options but to continue it. The nonprofit Guttmacher Institute notes that 53 percent of women in Oklahoma live in the 96 percent of counties with no facilities that offer abortion services — Comanche County among them — and the state requires a woman go to a provider twice, 72 hours apart, in order to obtain an abortion. Abortion is, by law, not covered by most private insurance plans in the state without an extra rider, and it isn’t covered by Medicaid except in extremely limited circumstances.

(In April 2021, Oklahoma’s governor signed three bills that will effectively eliminate all abortion access in the state — including a ban on any abortions after six weeks gestational age. The new laws are scheduled to take effect in November. They would not, however, have applied in Poolaw’s case.)

Technically speaking, Oklahoma state law did not criminalize women for miscarriages, stillbirths or other fetal harm for which prosecutors felt the woman was at fault until September 2020, when the state Supreme Court ruled that, despite the state’s child neglect and homicide laws making no reference to fetuses, the laws nonetheless encompassed a viable fetus whose mother used drugs.

Dorothea Tanning, Fatala, 1947. © Dorothea Tanning Foundation. Image courtesy of Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

The Washington Post reports that the “Justice Department will ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion law while legal fights play out .”

The Department of Justice said Friday that it will ask the Supreme Court for an emergency halt to the Texas law that has restricted access to abortion in the nation’s second largest state to an extent not seen in 50 years.

The announcement followed a decision by a federal appeals court Thursday night that allowed the law to remain in effect. A lower court judge last week said the law was unconstitutional.

The department’s announcement meant the high court for the second time will be asked to put the law on hold while legal challenges to it continue. In a divisive 5 to 4 decision last month, the court allowed the law to take effect as the case goes forward, even though the majority said it raised constitutional concerns.

Abortion has emerged as the most dominant issue at the Supreme Court this term, as those opposed to it see a new opportunity for victory in the court’s changed membership, with three members nominated by President Donald Trump.

The court on Dec. 1 will hear a challenge to a Mississippi law that conservatives have urged the court to use to overturn the constitutional right to abortion established nearly a half-century ago in Roe v. Wade.

Mississippi’s law would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. Roe and subsequent decisions say a state may not impose undue burdens on the right to choose abortion before fetal viability, normally gauged to be between 22 and 24 weeks. The Mississippi law was put on hold by lower courts.

Texas’s law is more restrictive than that. It bars abortion as early as six weeks into the pregnancy, when many do not realize they are pregnant, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

And lastly, in the category of they walk among us:

All this has made me quite distrustful of a whole lot of White Americans.

A U.S. Capitol Police officer has been indicted on obstruction of justice charges after prosecutors say he helped to hide evidence of a rioter’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The officer, Michael A. Riley, is accused of tipping off someone who participated in the riot by telling them to remove posts from Facebook that had showed the person inside the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack, according to court documents.

Riley, 50, appeared virtually in federal court in Washington and was released with several conditions, including that he surrender any firearms and not travel outside the U.S. without permission from a judge. He was ordered to return to court later this month.

Riley, who responded to a report of a pipe bomb on Jan. 6 and has been a Capitol Police officer for about 25 years, had sent the person a message telling them that he was an officer with the police force who “agrees with your political stance,” an indictment against him says.

The indictment spells out how Riley sent dozens of messages to the unidentified person, encouraging them to remove incriminating photos and videos and telling them how the FBI was investigating to identify rioters.

I hope you have a good weekend.  I seem to have no soreness or anything on my arm.  I’m hoping this holds.  Meanwhile, Blow up your TV, Throw away your paper …

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?



8 Comments on “Friday Reads: We need a Democracy Booster”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Check the picture of Riley. He looks just like what you’d expect from a Trumpy Fascist enabler.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    I love the Night Cat!

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. NW Luna says: