Tuesday Reads

Woman with dog and flowers by Quincy Verdun

Woman with dog and flowers by Quincy Verdun

Good Afternoon!!

The news continues to be bleak this morning. The Uvalde mass shooting is still at in the headlines, and so are multiple mass shootings that have followed it. Senators are arguing about gun control; and there is no possible solution, because the Senate is broken. Even if the Senate by some miracle passed a new laws on guns, the right-wing Supreme Court would likely overturn them. Meanwhile, President Biden is struggling to deal with so many serious problems while his approval ratings sink. I can’t address all those topics, but here are some stories to check out today.

Last week I wrote a post about the possibility that the U.S. is building up to a new civil war. Today Edward Luce addressed that question at Financial Times: Is America heading for civil war?

In the summer of 2015, America caught a glimpse of how its future could unfold. The US military conducted a routine exercise in the south that triggered a cascade of conspiracy theories, particularly in Texas. Some believed the manoeuvre was the precursor to a Chinese invasion; others thought it would coincide with a massive asteroid strike. The exercise, called Jade Helm 15, stood for “homeland eradication of local militants”, according to one of the right’s dark fantasy sites. Greg Abbot, Texas’s Republican governor, took these ravings seriously. He ensured that the 1,200 federal troops were closely monitored by the armed Texas National Guard. In that bizarre episode, which took place a year before Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, we see the germs of an American break-up.

As with any warning of impending civil war, the very mention of another American one sounds impossibly alarmist — like persistent warnings from chief Vitalstatistix in the Asterix comic series that the sky was about to fall on Gaulish heads. America’s dissolution has often been mispredicted.

Yet a clutch of recent books make an alarmingly persuasive case that the warning lights are flashing redder than at any point since 1861. The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As the University of California’s Barbara Walter shows in her bracing manual, How Civil Wars Start, US democracy today is checking all the wrong boxes.

Dachshund-Puppies by Otto Bache

Dachshund Puppies by Otto Bache

Even before Trump triumphed in the 2016 presidential election, political analysts were warning about the erosion of democracy and drift towards autocracy. The paralysing divisions caused by Trump’s failed putsch of January 6, 2021, has sent it into dangerous new territory. Polls show that most Republicans believe, without evidence, that the election was stolen by Democrats backed by the so-called “deep state”, the Chinese government, rigged Venezuelan voting machines, or a feverish combination thereof.

In This Will Not Pass, a book by New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Joe Biden is quoted telling a senior Democrat: “I certainly hope [my presidency] works out. If it doesn’t I’m not sure we’re going to have a country.” That a US president could utter something so apocalyptic without raising too many eyebrows shows how routine such dread has become.

Read the rest at Financial Times.

The press is letting us down, writes Margaret Sullivan at The Washington Post: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Watergate in the next several weeks, as the 50th anniversary of the infamous June 17, 1972, burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters approaches. There will be documentaries, cable-news debates, the finale of that Julia Roberts miniseries (“Gaslit”) based on the popular Watergate podcast (“Slow Burn”). I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the Library of Congress on the anniversary itself — and you can certainly count on a few retrospectives in this very newspaper.

The scandal has great resonance at The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973 for its intrepid reporting and the courage it took to publish it. And it has particular meaning for me, because, like many others of my generation, I was first drawn into journalism by the televised Senate hearings in 1973, and I was enthralled by the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Young Girl Reading by Joseph W. Gies

Young Girl Reading by Joseph W. Gies

Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of hisco-conspiratoraides to prison is a nation that no longer exists.

“The national newspapers mattered in a way that is unimaginable to us today, and even the regional newspapers were incredibly strong,” Garrett Graff, author of “Watergate: A New History,” told me last week. I have been immersed in his nearly 800-page history — a “remarkably rich narrative,” former Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. called it in a review — which sets out to retell the story.

Americans read about Watergate in their daily papers and watched the dramatic hearings on television. Gradually, public opinion changed and Nixon was forced to resign. Sullivan writes and Graff argues conditions are very different today.

Our media environment is far more fractured, and news organizations are far less trusted.

And, in part, we can blame the rise of a right-wing media system. At its heart is Fox News, which was founded in 1996, nearly a quarter-century after the break-in, with a purported mission to provide a “fair and balanced” counterpoint to the mainstream media. Of course, that message often manifested in relentless and damaging criticism of its news rivals. Meanwhile, Fox News and company have served as a highly effective laundry service for Trump’s lies. With that network’s help, his tens of thousands of false or misleading claims have found fertile ground among his fervent supporters — oblivious to the skillful reporting elsewhere that has called out and debunked those lies.

As Graff sees it, the growth of right-wing media has enabled many Republican members of Congress to turn a blind eye to the malfeasance of Team Trump. Not so during the Watergate investigation; after all, it was Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) who posed the immortal question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” Even the stalwart conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) was among those who, at the end, managed to convince Nixon that he must resign.

Head over to the WaPo to read the whole column.

ABC News reports that 911 operators did inform police at the site of the Uvalde shooting that children were alive and calling for help: ‘Full of victims’: Video appears to show Texas 911 dispatchers relaying information from children in classroom.

Video obtained by ABC News, taken outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, as last week’s massacre was unfolding inside, appears to capture a 911 dispatcher alerting officers on scene that they were receiving calls from children who were alive inside the classroom that the gunman had entered — as law enforcement continued to wait nearly an hour and a half to enter the room.

Puppies, by Federico Olaria

Puppies, by Federico Olaria

“Child is advising he is in the room, full of victims,” the dispatcher can be heard saying in the video. “Full of victims at this moment.”

“Is anybody inside of the building at this…?” the dispatcher asked.

Minutes later, the dispatcher says again: “Eight to nine children.”

The video, obtained by ABC News, also shows police rescuing children from inside the school by breaking through a window and pulling them out, and also leading them out the back door to safety….

The video, which appears to show some of what took place outside the school, raises new questions about law enforcement’s response to one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.

The gunman was left inside the classroom for 77 minutes as 19 officers waited in the hallway — and many more waited outside the building — after the incident commander wrongly believed the situation had transitioned from an active shooter to a barricaded subject, law enforcement has said.

The Supreme Court is still trying to find out who leaked Alito’s draft opinion on abortion. CNN reports: Exclusive: Supreme Court leak investigation heats up as clerks are asked for phone records in unprecedented move.

Supreme Court officials are escalating their search for the source of the leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking steps to require law clerks to provide cell phone records and sign affidavits, three sources with knowledge of the efforts have told CNN.

Some clerks are apparently so alarmed over the moves, particularly the sudden requests for private cell data, that they have begun exploring whether to hire outside counsel.

Ticket Home, by Christina Ramos

Ticket Home, by Christina Ramos

The court’s moves are unprecedented and the most striking development to date in the investigation into who might have provided Politico with the draft opinion it published on May 2. The probe has intensified the already high tensions at the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority is poised to roll back a half-century of abortion rights and privacy protections.

Chief Justice John Roberts met with law clerks as a group after the breach, CNN has learned, but it is not known whether any systematic individual interviews have occurred.

Lawyers outside the court who have become aware of the new inquiries related to cell phone details warn of potential intrusiveness on clerks’ personal activities, irrespective of any disclosure to the news media, and say they may feel the need to obtain independent counsel.

“That’s what similarly situated individuals would do in virtually any other government investigation,” said one appellate lawyer with experience in investigations and knowledge of the new demands on law clerks. “It would be hypocritical for the Supreme Court to prevent its own employees from taking advantage of that fundamental legal protection.”

I’ll end with a story that isn’t completely negative. It’s an interview with First Lady Jill Biden at Bazaar: A First Lady Undeterred.

In November 2020, when Joe Biden was elected president, the win seemed to validate not just his decision to enter this race but his entire career in politics. He has been grieving in public since he was sworn in to the United States Senate in 1973 from the hospital where his two young sons were recovering from the car crash that killed his first wife, Neilia, and their one-year-old daughter, Naomi. He married Jill five years later. Toward the end of his second term as vice president, in 2015, one of those sons, Beau, died of brain cancer. He resolved to launch this bid—his third in three decades—after watching white nationalists march on Charlottesville in 2017. The nation was sick and divided. He wanted to heal it.

Pierre Bonnard, Andreee Bonnard with her dogs

Pierre Bonnard, Andree Bonnard with her dogs

When the ballots were tallied, Biden was declared the winner. But in the meantime, America had further deteriorated. It was battling one novel virus and several older ones. The pandemic had exposed long-festering discrimination and hate. Hundreds of thousands of people had died. Biden had the kind of credentials no one envies; few in politics could claim more experience with sorrow.

Pundits wrote that Joe Biden had met his moment. But Jill Biden—a patient educator in an era of rampant misinformation, a woman so determined to be present for her people that she spent one weekend in March straining the limits of the space-time continuum—was there to greet it too.

Now the moment has changed. The pandemic stretches on, with new variants making quick work of the Greek alphabet. Health-care workers are burnt out. Teachers are exhausted. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is devastating—and driving up the cost of fuel amid rampant inflation. Biden’s approval numbers have sunk into the low 40s. Several polls ahead of the midterm elections predict dire losses for Democrats, with both the House and the Senate threatening to slip into Republican control.

It’s not the kind of environment that sets an obvious course for the nation’s most scrutinized political spouse—let alone for one who describes herself as an introvert and was so lukewarm on the rites and rituals of the Washington horse race that she spent her husband’s entire Senate career at their home in Delaware. But perhaps that’s for the best. In the absence of a guidebook, Jill Biden is writing her own.

Read the interview at the link.

More stories to check out, links only:

HuffPost: Right-Wing Organization Launches Chilling Map Marking Schools As ‘Woke Hot Spots.’

Clive Irving at The Daily Beast: Life Is Cheap in America. That’s What Makes Us Exceptional.

KHOU11: 11-year-old who survived Uvalde massacre struggles to deal in aftermath.

The New York Times: In the Senate, Chasing an Ever-Elusive Gun Law Deal.

Kate Shaw and John Bash at The New York Times: We Clerked for Justices Scalia and Stevens. America Is Getting Heller Wrong.

Politico: Former Trump aide Navarro says he has received a grand jury subpoena related to Jan. 6.

Take care Sky Dancers. I hope you have a Tuesday filled with positive vibes.


9 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. dakinikat says:

    I’m those puppies near their water dish today!

    This from your post:

    The French philosopher Voltaire once said: “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

    We have a bunch of angry volatile wipipo who scare the shit out of me.

  4. dakinikat says:

    Ask me why I don’t want to go back to any campus …