Freezing Friday Reads

Vue de toits (Effet de neige), Gustave Caillebotte, 1878/1879

Good Day Sky Dancers!

Wow was yesterday one of those news days!  I settled in under my goose-down comforter while the temperatures dropped precipitously yesterday afternoon to read some things and watch a little Nicole. The breaking news was fast and furious.  We’re beginning to see the fruits of investigations into the Trump Family Crime Syndicate. It’s almost too much to digest.

There are many nefarious players in the Republican Party these days. Most seem deeply connected to the right-wing conspiracy machine that geared up during the 1990s which was an unholy alliance of right-wing political interests, extremist fundamentalist patriarchal white christianists, and a bunch of nutter greedy billionaires funding a conspiracy mill that brought us all kinds of things. It went somewhat undercover during the Dubya years but popped up with full-fury when the country elected Obama. At that point, the leftover neo confederates raised their heads and we went full throttle white nationalism. Their combined fanaticism, fury, and years of stacking courts and local political positions brought Trump into seal the deal.

You may recall that none of what happened this decade was nothing new to me having grown up in Omaha, Nebraska, and unable to get out due to circumstances of birth and then marriage. Most of my real friends spent as little time there as possible and got out as quickly as possible. I lived in fear of Southern Baptists, big Barn Evangelicals, cultish Catholics, and libertarians who worshipped Donald Segretti. In short, they did a number on me and my children to the point I was afraid to leave my house.  I finally got out. But, let me tell you if there’s one person that went to my high school that personified the worst of all of this it was Ginnie Lamp. She was a few years behind me and Kurt Andersen was a few years ahead. He got out. Ginnie did too but only to inflict massive damage on the country.

Cranes on Branch of Snow-covered Pine, late 1820s,Katsushika Hokusai

Ginnie Lamp rode into the District wearing a huge black hat. She’s in it out of malice and greed. No one has ever been able to convince me that she doesn’t have undue influence over the one man on the court just about anyone can influence with the right combination of religion, malice, and greed. I was thrilled to see this article in The New Yorker today by Jane Mayer who is one of our better investigative reporters. She especially excels at finding the villain in the room. “Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court? Behind closed doors, Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is working with many groups directly involved in controversial cases before the Court.”  Spoiler Alert:  of course she is and Janes brought the receipts.

In 2016, Republicans in Congress, in an unprecedented act, refused to let President Barack Obama fill a vacancy on the Court. Trump subsequently pushed through the appointment of three hard-line conservative Justices. Last summer, Democrats in Congress introduced a bill that would require the Judicial Conference of the United States to create a binding code of conduct for members of the Supreme Court. They also proposed legislation that would require more disclosures about the financial backers behind amicus briefs—arguments submitted by “friends of the court” who are supporting one side in a case.

So far, these proposals haven’t gone anywhere, but Gillers notes that there are extant laws circumscribing the ethical behavior of all federal judges, including the Justices. Arguably, Clarence Thomas has edged unusually close to testing them. All judges, even those on the Court, are required to recuse themselves from any case in which their spouse is “a party to the proceeding” or is “an officer, director, or trustee” of an organization that is a party to a case. Ginni Thomas has not been a named party in any case on the Court’s docket; nor is she litigating in any such case. But she has held leadership positions at conservative pressure groups that have either been involved in cases before the Court or have had members engaged in such cases. In 2019, she announced a political project called Crowdsourcers, and said that one of her four partners would be the founder of Project Veritas, James O’Keefe. Project Veritas tries to embarrass progressives by making secret videos of them, and last year petitioned the Court to enjoin Massachusetts from enforcing a state law that bans the surreptitious taping of public officials. Another partner in Crowdsourcers, Ginni Thomas said in her announcement, was Cleta Mitchell, the chairman of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a conservative election-law nonprofit. It, too, has had business before the Court, filing amicus briefs in cases centering on the democratic process. Thomas also currently serves on the advisory board of the National Association of Scholars, a group promoting conservative values in academia, which has filed an amicus brief before the Court in a potentially groundbreaking affirmative-action lawsuit against Harvard. And, though nobody knew it at the time, Ginni Thomas was an undisclosed paid consultant at the conservative pressure group the Center for Security Policy, when its founder, Frank Gaffney, submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting Trump’s Muslim travel ban.

Bruce Green, a professor at Fordham specializing in legal ethics, notes, “In the twenty-first century, there’s a feeling that spouses are not joined at the hip.” He concedes, though, that “the appearance” created by Ginni Thomas’s political pursuits “is awful—they look like a mom-and-pop political-hack group, where she does the political stuff and he does the judging.” It’s hard to imagine, he told me, that the couple doesn’t discuss Court cases: “She’s got the ear of a Justice, and surely they talk about their work.” But, from the technical standpoint of judicial ethics, “she’s slightly removed from all these cases—she’s not actually the legal director.” Green feels that the conflict of interest is “close, but not close enough” to require that Thomas recuse himself.

David Luban, a professor of law and philosophy at Georgetown, who specializes in legal ethics, is more concerned. He told me, “If Ginni Thomas is intimately involved—financially or ideologically tied to the litigant—that strikes me as slicing the baloney a little thin.”

Boulevard Saint-Denis, Argenteuil, in Winter, Claude Monet, 1875

Read more at the link.

CNN releases a poll showing exactly unpopular the idea of overturning Roe v. Wade is among Americans.  Will that stop the right-wing radicals on the Supreme Court?

Most Americans oppose overturning the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade precedent, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, with a majority saying that if the decision was vacated, they’d want to see their own state move toward more permissive abortion laws.

Just 30% of Americans say they’d like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn its Roe vs. Wade decision, with 69% opposed — a finding that’s largely consistent both with other recent polling and with historical trends. In a set of three surveys taken last autumn by different pollsters, support for overturning Roe vs. Wade stood between 20% and 31%, depending on the precise framing of the question. And in CNN’s polling dating back to 1989, the share of the public in favor of completely overturning Roe has never risen above 36%.

Fifty-nine percent of Americans say that if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, they’d like their state to set laws that are more permissive than restrictive toward abortion, a preference that stands in opposition to the prediction most make that abortions would likely be restricted or banned in the areas where they live. Another 40% say they’d like their state to set more restrictive laws.
Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which established the constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Six in 10 Americans, including 68% of women, say they personally know someone who’s had an abortion.

Meanwhile, the crusades continue for the right-wing christianists who appear to leave the Christ out of everything. It seems that Tennessee passed a law allowing  adoption agencies to refuse adoptions to  SAME-SEX couples on the basis of “written religious or moral convictions or policies.” Well, of course, they couldn’t just leave it at that.

Read more at The Miami Herald.

A Jewish couple is suing the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, saying a state-sponsored adoption agency declined to help them because of their religion. At the beginning of 2021, Elizabeth and Gabriel Rutan-Ram were making plans to adopt a child from Florida, according to a news release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the nonprofit organization that filed the lawsuit on their behalf. Before they could do so, they had to complete state-mandated foster-parent training and receive a home-study certification. The child they were hoping to adopt had a disability, and the couple wanted to provide him a “loving and nurturing home” in Knox County, the lawsuit said.

The two of them turned to the only agency near them that would help out with an out-of-state adoption. But on the day they were set to begin their foster-parent training, they were told by the agency, Holston United Methodist Home for Children, that it only provided help to prospective families that “share our [Christian] belief system,” the lawsuit said. As a result, the lawsuit said, the couple was left unable to foster or adopt the child, as no other agencies in the Knox County area could provide the services necessary for out-of-state adoptions.

French: La Neige à Vaugirard II, ou Jardin sous la neige I
Garden under Snow, Paul Gauguin, 1879

Here are some of the latest findings on Trump, the Insurrection, and the Big Lie. That had me shivering beneath my comforter worse than the cold.

Betsy Woodruff Swan / Politico:  Read the never-issued Trump order that would have seized voting machines  —  Among the records that Donald Trump’s lawyers tried to shield from Jan. 6 investigators are a draft executive order that would have directed the defense secretary to seize voting machines and a document titled “Remarks on National Healing.”

The draft executive order shows that the weeks between Election Day and the Capitol attack could have been even more chaotic than they were. It credulously cites conspiracy theories about election fraud in Georgia and Michigan, as well as debunked notions about Dominion voting machines.

The order empowers the defense secretary to “seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention under” a U.S. law that relates to preservation of election records. It also cites a lawsuit filed in 2017 against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Additionally, the draft order would have given the defense secretary 60 days to write an assessment of the 2020 election. That suggests it could have been a gambit to keep Trump in power until at least mid-February of 2021.

If this isn’t an act of seditious conspiracy I’d be shocked. But then, there’s more.

Hokusai, Tea House at Koishikawa. The Morning After a Snowfall, (1830)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court, investigators force Trump and his children on the defensive on multiple fronts

A flurry of decisions by the Supreme Court and federal and state investigators has forced Donald Trump and his adult children to defend their conduct on multiple fronts, potentially jeopardizing their futures — or perhaps yet again allowing the former president to escape unscathed.

On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) submitted a 157-page filing detailing much of the evidence her investigators have gathered so far on the business practices of Trump and his children, focused on a possible pattern of fraud. The civil investigation is separate from a criminal probe James is running in tandem with new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

Then, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to block the release of some of his White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Thursday brought a double whammy: The House committee sent a letter to Ivanka Trump requesting her voluntary testimony. In the letter, the panel said witnesses have told investigators that the former White House adviser might have direct knowledge of her father’s actions before, during and after the mob of his supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.

And in Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) requested a special-purpose grand jury to aid in her investigation into whether Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.

The Daily Beast: Ivanka Ghosts Trumpland as Investigators Turn Up the Heat

Whether it’s the lawmakers on Capitol Hill plumbing the depths of last year’s failed coup, or prosecutors in New York putting former President Donald Trump’s sprawling family business under a microscope, investigators working very different probes are increasingly looking to pressure the same person: Ivanka Trump.

There’s hardly any indication the corporate heiress is under investigation herself, or that she faces possible criminal charges. But sources on both sides—in law enforcement and those close to her—say Ivanka is a key witness to a litany of alleged crimes.

And it’s all coming to a head this week.

On Tuesday, the New York attorney general filed court documents that claim Ivanka Trump played a much more insidious role in the company’s web of financial deceit than previously known. Investigators are asking a judge to enforce a subpoena that would make her testify under oath.

And on Thursday, the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection formally asked Ivanka to sit down and answer questions about her interactions with her then-president father during the hours the Capitol building was under attack. The request for a “voluntary interview” is widely perceived to be a first pass that, should it be rejected, could be followed by a congressional subpoena—and the implicit threat of a Justice Department criminal prosecution if it’s ignored.

The DOJ is already pursuing a case against political strategist Steve Bannon and may soon do the same with another two of the president’s men.

On both fronts, Ivanka will be pressured to explain her father’s crooked tactics—tactics that Ivanka appears desperate to distance herself from now.

Caspar David Friedrich, ‘Winter Landscape’, probably 1811

Why does anyone want to involve themselves with these absolute vile people?  Remind me to write Rudi G in Jail.  This is from CNN:  “Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw fake electors plot in 7 states”  BB has written extensively about this.  Rachel Maddow has been on top of it too.

Trump campaign officials, led by Rudy Giuliani, oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the scheme.

The sources said members of former President Donald Trump’s campaign team were far more involved than previously known in the plan, a core tenet of the broader plot to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6.Giuliani and his allies coordinated the nuts-and-bolts of the process on a state-by-state level, the sources told CNN. One source said there were multiple planning calls between Trump campaign officials and GOP state operatives, and that Giuliani participated in at least one call. The source also said the Trump campaign lined up supporters to fill elector slots, secured meeting rooms in statehouses for the fake electors to meet on December 14, 2020, and circulated drafts of fake certificates that were ultimately sent to the National Archives.

Trump and some of his top advisers publicly encouraged the “alternate electors” scheme in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico. But behind the scenes, Giuliani and Trump campaign officials actively choreographed the process, the sources said.

When I was a sophomore at the High School I shared with Kurt Andersen and Ginnie Lamp, we spent a good amount of English class on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  We watched the 1953 black and white edition even though a remake was around from 1970.  My favorite quote is this one spoken by Mark Antony as played by Marlon Brando.

“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

My thought today is there isn’t one person in the Trump Family Crime syndicate that will have enough good to take to the grave with them.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

13 Comments on “Freezing Friday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Have a good weekend everyone! Snuggle up if you’re in the part of the country under this winter blast! I just hope our snow stays north of the lake!

    And then, there’s Virginia …

  2. dakinikat says:

    Okay, from another old schoolmate!!!! His thoughts on Ginnie Lamp.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. dakinikat says:

    • NW Luna says:

      He was a quietly powerful example of engaged Buddhism.

      Like dewdrops
      on a lotus leaf
      I vanish.

      — Senryu, 1827

      From Japanese Death Poems: written by Zen monks and haiku poets on the verge of death, ed. Hoffmann, 1986.

  6. dakinikat says:

  7. Mary Brown says:

    Yep the first thing I thought when the vote for releasing Trump’s documents was 8-1, was Omaha Princess Ginni Thomas. Isn’t she a driver of Women for America First, the sponsor of the January 6 rally?

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. NW Luna says:

    • quixote says:

      Maybe that will finally clear it up for the people who complain that “the CDC is so confusing!” “They don’t know what they’re supposed to do!”