Thursday Reads: Groundhog Day in the Year of the Rabbit

Good Afternoon!!

Marc Chagall, The Dream (the Rabbit) 1927

Marc Chagall, The Dream (the Rabbit) 1927

Today is Groundhog Day, and it looks like we are in for 6 more weeks of winter. CNN: Punxsutawney Phil left his burrow for his annual prediction. Here’s how much longer winter will last according to the legend, by CNN Meteorologist Monica Garrett

Punxsutawney Phil – the legendary groundhog weather watcher – woke up and saw his shadow Thursday morning, calling for six more weeks of winter.

Each February 2, on Groundhog Day, the members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club make the pilgrimage to Gobbler’s Knob, Phil’s official home.

The group waits for Phil to leave his burrow and, legend has it, if he sees his shadow we’re in for six more weeks of winter. If he doesn’t, we get to bask in an early spring.

Scientifically speaking, winter will officially come to an end on the equinox on March 20, regardless of what Phil predicts. But Mother Nature doesn’t always follow the timetable, and neither does Phil….

Phil’s track record is not perfect. “On average, Phil has gotten it right 40% of the time over the past 10 years,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which manages “one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, aNend oceanic research in the world.”

Where I am, in Greater Boston, this winter has been very mild so far, but this weekend we are expecting record-breaking freezing cold temperatures. CBS Boston: Bitter cold sub-zero temperatures coming Saturday could be historic.

The WBZ Weather Team has issued a NEXT Weather Alert for a brutally cold Friday and Saturday.

We have a legit, Arctic front headed our way early on Friday. Behind it, the coldest air not only of this season, but perhaps, in several years or even decades!

The high temperature for the day on Friday will go into the books somewhere around 32 degrees. But, this comes early, just after midnight. The Arctic front rolls in after sunrise and temperatures will crash through the day.

By the evening commute, most of southern New England is in the single digits.

Overnight, we bottom out with most of the area dipping below zero.

There is potential for actual air temperatures to drop as low as -10 to -20 degrees by Saturday morning.

If the city of Boston were to hit -10, that would be the coldest reading recorded in over 60 years – since January 15, 1957! The low temperature record for the date on Saturday is -2 degrees (set way back in 1886), I would say odds are very high of beating that.

Combine that with the potential for wind gusts of more than 20 mph early on Saturday and wind chill readings are absolutely ridiculous. Worst-case scenario, parts of the area north and west of Boston could have feels-like temperatures between -20 and -30 degrees!

franz-marc-two-sleeping-rabbits-1913_u-l-q1ivwsg0

Franz Marc, Two sleeping rabbits, 1911

Yikes! It’s a good thing I just got my new air heat pump system installed yesterday. My town’s housing authority is changing over to the heat pump system in its 60-plus apartment buildings. We already had electric heat, but this system is supposed to be more efficient and therefore good for the environment. It will also provide us with air conditioning in the summer, so I won’t need to install my own air conditioner anymore. From The Washington Post, Dec. 13, 2022: What is a heat pump, and should I get one?

If you’ve been hearing a lot about heat pumps but you still don’t really understand what one is, you’re not alone. In places such as Sweden and Switzerland, they’ve long been a common option for controlling the temperature of homes. But heat pumps have only recently gained traction in the United States thanks to a global energy crisis and rising awareness that the all-electric systems are more efficient than typical furnaces and air conditioners. Their profile also got a boost in the summer with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes incentives for adopting them….

Despite their name, heat pumps can both heat and cool a space. They work by transferring heat rather than creating it. In cold weather, they pump heat from outside your home to the inside to warm your interior. An outdoor unit extracts warm air, then sends it traveling through a refrigerant line connected to an indoor unit. The air gets compressed along the way, which heats it up even more before it gets pushed into the home. In warm weather, the system does the reverse: sucking up warm air from inside and pumping it outdoors (which is also how a typical air conditioner works).

Of course, this all raises an obvious question: In the winter, where does the heat pump find warmth outside to bring indoors? As it turns out, even when it’s tremendously chilly, there’s still thermal energy in the air and ground. (Heat energy is present as long as the temperature remains above absolute zero.) [….]

Heat pumps are more energy efficient than fossil-fuel-reliant furnaces and air conditioners because they run solely on electricity. And they don’t actually generate heat — remember, they just move it from one location to another — so they use less energy than other electric-powered heating and cooling systems, too.

Unfortunately, the new heating device takes up quite a bit of wall space, so two tall bookcases needed to be moved. Thank goodness, my brother and sister-in-law took care of that. It pays to have much-younger siblings! But enough about my boring life. Here are some news stories that piqued my interest today:

There’s another follow-up to the blockbuster NYT article about the failed Durham investigation of the origins of the FBI’s investigation Trump and Russia. Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Lawmakers Call for Inquiry Into Durham’s Review of Russia Investigation.

Two House Democrats urged the Justice Department’s independent inspector general on Wednesday to open an investigation into the special counsel review of the Russia inquiry, citing “alarming” disclosures in a recent New York Times article.

The article, which showed how the special counsel’s review became roiled by disputes over prosecutorial ethics, “reveals possible prosecutorial misconduct, abuse of power, ethical transgressions and a potential cover-up of an allegation of a financial crime committed by the former president,” the lawmakers wrote. In a four-page letter to the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, they asked that he scrutinize whether the special counsel, John H. Durham, or the attorney general who appointed him, William P. Barr, “violated any laws, D.O.J. rules or practices, or canons of legal ethics.”

happy-easter.Michael Sowa

Happy Easter, by Michael Sowa

Because Democrats are in the minority in the House, the two lawmakers — Representatives Ted Lieu of California and Dan Goldman of New York — lack the power to convene their own oversight hearings into the matter. But on Monday, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, suggested that he would hold oversight hearings into Mr. Durham’s inquiry along with other aspects of how the Trump administration handled the Justice Department.

The report is “but one of many instances where former President Trump and his allies weaponized the Justice Department,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement, adding that his committee would “do its part and take a hard look at these repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again.”

Mr. Barr assigned Mr. Durham to scour the Russia investigation for any wrongdoing in the spring of 2019 and later bestowed special counsel status on him, entrenching him to stay in place after Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election. Mr. Durham developed two cases centered on charges of false statements, both of which ended in acquittals, and he is completing a report about his investigation, which has lasted four years.

Read more at the NYT.

Here’s another important story by Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer at The New York Times: Bias and Human Error Played Parts in F.B.I.’s Jan. 6 Failure, Documents Suggest.

Days before the end of the 2020 presidential race, a team of F.B.I. analysts tried to game out the worst potential outcomes of a disputed election.

But of all the scenarios they envisioned, the one they never thought of was the one that came to pass: a violent mob mobilizing in support of former President Donald J. Trump.

The team’s work, which has never been reported, is just the latest example of how the Federal Bureau of Investigation was unable to predict — or prevent — the chaos that erupted at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Apparently blinded by a narrow focus on “lone wolf” offenders and a misguided belief that the threat from the far left was as great as that from the far right, the analysis and other new documents suggest, officials at the bureau did not anticipate or adequately prepare for the attack.

The story of the F.B.I.’s missteps in the weeks leading up to Jan. 6 was touched upon, but not fully explored, by the House select committee investigating Jan. 6 and may involve a mix of legal hurdles, institutional biases and simple human error….

There was no single failure. Agents ignored warning signs flashing in the open on social media and relied on confidential sources who either knew little or failed to sound the alarm. Still, even recently, bureau officials have played down not preventing the worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812.

“If everybody knew and all the public knew that they were going to storm Congress, I don’t know why one person didn’t tell us,” Jennifer L. Moore, the top intelligence official at the F.B.I.’s Washington field office at the time, told congressional investigators. “Why didn’t we have one source come forward and tell me that?” [….]

Now, the F.B.I. is conducting an internal review of what happened on Jan. 6 tassess what it describes as lessons learned and to “make improvements in communication and in the collection, analysis and sharing of information.” The Justice Department’s inspector general is also scrutinizing the bureau’s preparation and response.

There’s much more at the NYT link.

rabbit-1908, Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau, Rabbit, 1908

House Republicans have been planning more ridiculous investigations as well as idiotic legislation, but they haven’t made a lot of progress yet. NBC News: Congress is off to a spectacularly slow start, and members fear it won’t get better.

The House, paralyzed for days, struggled to elect a speaker.The Senate is holding symbolic votes just to pass the time. America’s most powerful lawmakers have been twiddling their thumbs, unable to hold hearings because committees aren’t set up.

Welcome to the Seinfeld Congress. It’s a show about nothing.

One month in, the 118th Congress is off to a spectacularly sluggish start, frustrating some lawmakers and foreshadowinga messy two years of divided government in a presidential election cycle where very little is expected to get done.

Forget making historic laws. It’s not even clear the new Congress can agree to keep the government functional or prevent a self-imposed economic meltdown.

“I have very low expectations,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said in an interview. “I would predict — and I hope I’m wrong — this will prove to be one of the least productive congresses in modern history because of the dysfunctionality of an unstable majority.”

The Senate isn’t accomplishing much either, according to the article.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted only three times in the entire month of January. During the first month of 2017, the Senate voted 35 times; in 2015, it voted 46 times….

Last week, the Senate held a vote on a measure to designate January as “National Stalking Awareness Month” — which faced no opposition and could have been adopted instantly. But the chamber apparently had nothing to do that day and needed to fill the time.

On Tuesday, usually one of the busiest days of the legislative week, the Senate didn’t vote at all. And on Wednesday, the Senate voted on a resolution declaring January as “National Trafficking and Modern Slavery Prevention Month.” The vote was 97 to 0, indicating again that a recorded vote was unnecessary; the chamber could have approved it by unanimous consent….

On Wednesday, six days after Senate Democrats announced their committee assignments, Senate Republicans followed suit. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday the delay was because the GOP committee process was “a little more cumbersome than ours” and that he’s “very hopeful” that the committees can be officially put together on Thursday.

Another huge problem for the Republicans in the House has been newly elected, scandal-ridden Rep. George Santos. Here’s the latest:

Politico: Feds probing Santos’ role in service dog charity scheme.

FBI agents are investigating Rep. George Santos’ role in an alleged GoFundMe scheme involving a disabled U.S. Navy veteran’s dying service dog.

Two agents contacted former service member Richard Osthoff Wednesday on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, he told POLITICO.

Osthoff gave the agents text messages from 2016 with Santos, who he says used his plight to raise $3,000 for life-saving surgery for the pit bull mix, Sapphire — then ghosted with the funds, as first reported by Patch.

Mark Bryan, Mo Bunny, Mo Problems

Mark Bryan, Mo Bunny, Mo Problems

“I’m glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs,” Osthoff said in an interview Wednesday. “I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted.”

The alleged fundraising scheme is one of many scandals plaguing the freshman Republican, who has refused to leave office despite a series of allegations of lying and fraud that first came to light in December shortly after he won a swing seat on Long Island.

New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, who called for a Federal Election Commission investigation into Santos’ campaign finances last month, welcomed the news that the Eastern District investigation is proceeding at a serious clip.

“Only the U.S. attorneys are capable of moving at the speed that’s necessary,” Torres said in an interview.

“There’s no one that poses a greater threat in Congress than Santos. It’s undeniable that he’s broken the law. We have to protect Congress from George Santos, who threatens it from within,” Torres said.

Andrew Kakzynski at CNN: Inside George Santos’ transformation from Anthony Devolder into a political figure.

The transformation of George Santos began in 2019, the year he went from Anthony Devolder, just another New Yorker sharing political musings on social media, to a Republican congressional candidate with a compelling fictional resume.

His improbable rise to the House of Representatives started as he joined a group of pro-Donald Trump activists at a time when the House GOP had just been defeated by a blue wave in 2018. He was young, gay and Latino, and appeared on the conservative scene as activists from more diverse backgrounds were gaining more attention and becoming influencers in Republican social media circles.

The formerly apolitical Santos, who had mostly posted on social media about celebrities, suddenly embraced conservative politics as he got to know grassroots Republicans at in-person events and on Facebook. CNN’s KFile reviewed hundreds of his posts on a half-dozen accounts to chronicle the pivotal transformation.

Until 2019, he didn’t post conservative-leaning content and enthusiastically posted on Facebook about ordering a “One Nation, No God” shirt in LGBT colors in 2016. One picture he shared in 2014 showed him posing with Bethenny Frankel, the former “Real Housewives” reality TV star, as an audience member on the set of her short-lived talk show. Video of the episode shows Santos looking under his chair to see if he won a $500 QVC gift card.

Beginning in January 2019, Santos started firing off tweets on his political views. He sent many opposing abortion. In others, he made negative comments about politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat from the Bronx, and then-New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Most of the posts received no likes or retweets, but that lack of engagement didn’t deter him from political activism – and ultimately paid off when he finally won political offic

Kakzynski provides an interesting timeline of Santos’ transformation to political activist and then candidate. Check it out at CNN.

Renaissance Rabbit, David Henderson

Renaissance Rabbit, David Henderson

More on House happenings from NBC News: Fireworks in House after Democrat says ‘insurrectionists’ should be banned from leading Pledge of Allegiance.

A routine House committee meeting erupted into a heated, nearly hourlong debate Wednesday over the Pledge of Allegiance, with one Democratic lawmaker saying that “insurrectionists” who backed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election should be banned from leading it.

The fiery back-and-forth took place in a House Judiciary Committee meeting where members set rules for the current Congress. It began after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., offered an amendment that would give the committee the opportunity to begin each of its meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance. He said the rule would give members “the ability to invite inspirational constituents” to be able to share and lead in the pledge.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the committee’s ranking member, immediately objected, arguing that House members already recite the pledge on the floor every day. “I don’t know why we should pledge allegiance twice in the same day to show how patriotic we are,” he said.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., noted that many Republicans on the committee voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., then said he was introducing an amendment to Gaetz’s amendment that clarified that the pledge cannot be led by anyone who has supported an insurrection against the United States in any way.

“This pledge is an affirmation of your defense of democracy and the Constitution,” Cicilline. “It’s hard to take that claim seriously if in fact, an individual in any way supported an insurrection against the government.”

Gaetz began sparring with Cicilline, saying that he was concerned the Democrat’s proposal would make many Democrats on the panel ineligible to lead the pledge, too, because of previous elections when some in their party objected to electors.

“I’m concerned that you may be disqualifying too many of your own members,” Gaetz said, as the two of them yelled over each other.

“I’m talking about elected officials who swear an oath to the Constitution of the United States, who in any way participated, supported, facilitated, encouraged the insurrection against the United States,” Cicilline said. “That’s not too hard a standard.”

LOL

One more before I wrap this up. Hunter Biden is finally fighting back. The Washington Post: Hunter Biden’s lawyers, in newly aggressive strategy, target his critics.

Hunter Biden’s lawyers, in a newly aggressive strategy, sent a series of blistering letters Wednesday to state and federal prosecutors urging criminal investigations into those who accessed and disseminated his personal data — and sent a separate letter threatening Fox News host Tucker Carlson with a defamation lawsuit.

The string of letters, which included criminal referrals and cease-and-desist missives aimed at critics and detractors, marked the start of a new and far more hard-hitting phase for the president’s son just as House Republicans prepare their own investigations into him.

Abbe Lowell, a recently hired lawyer whom Biden enlisted about a month ago, sent lengthy letters to the Justice Department and Delaware’s attorney general requesting investigations into several key players who were involved in disseminating data from a laptop that Biden is said to have dropped off at a repair shop in Wilmington, Del.

Bryan M. Sullivan, another lawyer now representing Biden, sent a separate communication to Carlson and Fox News demanding that they correct falsehoods from his recent show or risk a possible defamation lawsuit.

And in another letter, Lowell wrote to the Internal Revenue Service challenging the nonprofit status of Marco Polo, a group that is run by conservative activist Garrett M. Ziegler. Lowell provided 36 pages as evidence that the group is engaging in political activity in violation of its nonprofit status.

Taken together, the actions represent the boldest and most aggressive moves to date from Biden, who has often heeded the advice of those who urged him not to make public waves. Those close to President Biden and the White House have preferred a more conservative approach, but some individuals around Hunter Biden have wanted to be more assertive in telling his side of the story and going more directly after his opponents.

Read more at the WaPo.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts on all this? What stories are you following?


Tuesday Reads: Stormy Weather

cliffs-of-varengeville-gust-of-wind-Claude Monet

Cliffs of Varengeville, gust of wind, by Claude Monet

Good Afternoon!!

We can all agree that the right-wingers on the Supreme Court have created problems not only for women, but for all of American society. They seem determined to turn this country into a theocracy dominated by so-called “christians” who don’t follow Jesus’s teachings. In fact, they don’t seem interested in the New Testament at all. They prefer the fire and brimstone god of the Old Testament.

Linda Greenhouse, who reported on the Court for The New York Times for many years before leaving in 2021, has returned with an important op-ed.

The New York Times: The Latest Crusade to Place Religion Over the Rest of Civil Society.

Federal civil rights law requires employers to accommodate their employees’ religious needs unless the request would impose “undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” Congress didn’t bother to define “undue hardship,” so 46 years ago the Supreme Court came up with a definition of its own.

An accommodation requiring an employer “to bear more than a de minimis cost” — meaning a small or trifling cost — need not be granted, the court said in Trans World Airlines v. Hardison. In that case, an airline maintenance worker claimed a legal right to avoid Saturday shifts so he could observe the tenets of the Worldwide Church of God, which he had recently joined. Ruling for the airline, the court noted that if one worker got Saturdays off for religion reasons, the burden would fall on other workers who might have nonreligious reasons for wanting to have the weekend off.

“We will not readily construe the statute to require an employer to discriminate against some employees in order to enable others to observe their Sabbath,” the court said.

Treating religion as nothing particularly special, the decision reflected the spirit of the times but was deeply unpopular in religious circles. There have been many attempts over many years to persuade Congress to amend the law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to shift the balance explicitly in favor of religiously observant employees. Between 1994 and 2019, more than a dozen such bills were introduced. None emerged from Congress.

And so now, a very different court from the one that ruled 46 years ago is about to do the work itself.

Now the Court has agreed to hear a case that may move us further away from the separation of church and state.

The appeal was brought by a conservative Christian litigating group, First Liberty Institute, on behalf of a former postal worker, Gerald Groff, described as a Christian who regards Sunday as a day for “worship and rest.”

flood_at_port-marly_Alfred Sisley

Flood at Port Marly, by Alfred Sisley

Mr. Groff claimed a legal right to avoid the Sunday shifts required during peak season at the post office where he worked. Facing discipline for failing to show up for his assigned shifts, he quit and filed a lawsuit. The lower courts ruled against him, with the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit expressing no doubt that the disruption and loss of morale Mr. Groff’s absences caused in the small rural post office where he worked exceeded the de minimis threshold that the Supreme Court’s 1977 precedent requires an employer to demonstrate.

The decision to hear his appeal brings the Supreme Court to a juncture both predictable and remarkable. It is predictable because Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch have all called for a case that would provide a vehicle for overturning a precedent that is clearly in tension with the current court’s privileging of religious claims above all others, whether in the context of public health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic or anti-discrimination claims brought by employees of religious organizations.

The court in 1977 worried about the burden on nonreligious workers from accommodations granted to their religious colleagues. To today’s court, as Justice Alito has repeatedly expressed it, the real victims of discrimination are those who take religion seriously.

Read the rest at the NYT link.

The wingnuts on the Supreme Court have already dealt a terrible blow to women’s rights by giving “christian” evangelicals what they long dreamed of–overturning nearly 50 years of women’s rights to make their own reproductive choices. The reversal of Roe v. Wade also drove a truck through the wall of separation between church and state, since the anti-abortion movement is largely based on “christian” evangelical “values.” Ever since that decision, republicans in state legislatures have worked to make getting an abortion more difficult than ever–in some ways more difficult than before Roe.

Abigail Tracy at Vanity Fair: Republicans Are Only Getting Sneakier With Their Antiabortion Proposals.

Kansans may have resoundingly rejected an antiabortion referendum last year, by a striking double-digit margin, to ensure reproductive rights remain enshrined in the state constitution, but that wasn’t deterrence enough for the state’s Republican legislators. Nor was, apparently, the Republican Party’s relatively poor performance this past midterm cycle—one largely defined by the fall of Roe v. Wade. “I’m hearing a lot from my constituents who believe we should continue to do more to help the unborn,” Wichita state senator Chase Blasi told reporters earlier this month, proposing a law that would allow cities and counties to regulate abortions, in spite of state protections.

These first few weeks of 2023 suggest it’s not that Republican lawmakers missed the abortion memo—they simply don’t seem to care. In Washington, a newly empowered Republican House passed an antiabortion bill during its first full week in the majority. And across the country, Republican state lawmakers continue the crusade against reproductive rights, attempting to find ways to circumvent popular opinion, and even statutory protections.

“We knew all along that they weren’t going to be satisfied with overturning Roe v. Wade,” Abby Ledoux, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says of antiabortion lawmakers and activists in an interview with Vanity Fair. Reflecting on the slew of legislation that has been introduced in state houses across the country so far this year, Ledoux adds, “They’re not done and they’re coming for more rights.”

Wind-Beaten_Tree,_A,, Vincent Van Gogh

Wind-Beaten Tree, by Vincent Van Gogh

Since the start of the year, across 27 states, more than 105 bills that would restrict abortion have been filed or prefiled—(meaning, not all of them have been formally introduced), according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Many of these bills would ban abortion—some at fertilization; six bills—filed in Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas, Wyoming, and West Virginia—would specifically target medication abortions, according to the fund; others would impose harsh criminal penalties for doctors and abortion-seekers. Of course, not all of these bills are expected to pass, but they do lay bare the ever changing legal and political landscape in post-Roe America.

It isn’t just the overt attempts at restricting abortion access that concern reproductive rights activists. But also what Ledoux refers to as “underhanded attempts” and “work-arounds” that have the potential to “subvert democracy, to thwart the will of the people, and to really rig the game” in pursuit of unpopular political agendas. For instance, in Ohio, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would require a supermajority threshold of 60%, as opposed to a simple majority of voters, to pass ballot measures to amend the state constitution. Similar legislation was also introduced in Arizona.

According to Axios, the Biden administration is considering fighting back with actions they previously shied away from: Biden administration mulls public health emergency declaration on abortion.

The Biden administration is weighing a plan to declare a public health emergency that would free up resources to help people access abortions.

….Both abortion rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have urged the Department of Health and Human Services and President Biden to take such a step in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which they say has created a “full-scale reproductive health crisis” across the U.S.

The lawmakers argued that such a move would allow the administration to help support states that protect abortion, deploy Public Health Services Corps teams and give the government “the ability to accelerate access to new medications authorized for abortion.”

….”There are discussions on a wide range of measures … that we can take to try to protect people’s rights,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Axios during a pair of Monday public events that touched on reproductive health access.

“There are certain criteria that you look for to be able to declare a public health emergency. That’s typically done by scientists and those that are professionals in those fields who will tell us whether we are in a state of emergency and based on that, I have the ability to make a declaration,” Becerra added, when asked about a public health emergency declaration on abortion.

He said that there hasn’t been a “full assessment” on what a declaration on abortion would look like and whether conditions merit it, but there’s still “an evaluation” on the topic.

More details at the Axios link.

dodges-ridge-andrew-wyeth-1947-

Dodges Ridge, by Andrew Wyeth

Speaking of politicians trying to take away our rights, Ron DeSantis is going further than almost any other governor. He really doesn’t want school children to learn anything about LGBT issues or about the history of African Americans in the U.S.; and he’s banning so many books that the library shelves in schools are nearly empty.

This is from a guest essay at The New York Times by Janai Nelson, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund: Ron DeSantis Wants to Erase Black History. Why?

An unrelenting assault on truth and freedom of expression in the form of laws that censor and suppress the viewpoints, histories and experiences of historically marginalized groups, especially Black and L.G.B.T.Q. communities, is underway throughout the country, most clearly in Florida. The state’s Department of Education recently rejected a pilot Advanced Placement African American studies course from being offered in Florida’s public high schools.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law — which would limit students and teachers from learning and talking about issues related to race and gender — Florida is at the forefront of a nationwide campaign to silence Black voices and erase the full and accurate history and contemporary experiences of Black people. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., the American Civil Liberties Union, the A.C.L.U. of Florida and Ballard Spahr filed a lawsuit on behalf of university professors and a college student opposing the “Stop WOKE” law and, along with a second lawsuit, won a preliminary injunction blocking Florida’s Board of Governors from enforcing its unconstitutional and racially discriminatory provisions at public universities.

Florida’s rejection of the A.P. course and Mr. DeSantis’s demand to excise specific subject areas from the curriculum stand in stark opposition to the state-issued mandate that all students be taught “the history of African Americans, including the history of African peoples before the political conflicts that led to the development of slavery, the passage to America, the enslavement experience, abolition and the contributions of African Americans to society.” [….]

Mr. DeSantis’s “Stop WOKE” law relegates the study of the experiences of Black people to a prohibited category. The canceling of any students’ access to accurate, truthful education that reflects their diverse identities and that of their country should chill every American. Not only do these laws offend First Amendment freedoms of speech and expression; to the extent they harm certain groups on the basis of race, gender or other protected status, they also violate principles of equal protection. And they are a chilling precursor to state-sponsored dehumanization of an entire race of people.

This disturbing pattern of silencing Black voices and aggressive attempts to erase Black history are one of the most visible examples of performative white supremacy since the presidency of Donald Trump.

There’s much more at the NYT link.

On DeSantis’s book banning project:

Hannah Natanson at The Washington Post: Hide your books to avoid felony charges, Fla. schools tell teachers.

Students arrived in some Florida public school classrooms this month to find their teachers’ bookshelves wrapped in paper — or entirely barren of books — after district officials launched a review of the texts’ appropriateness under a new state law.

School officials in at least two counties, Manatee and Duval, have directed teachers this month to remove or wrap up their classroom libraries, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The removals come in response to fresh guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education in mid-January, after the State Board of Education ruled that a law restricting the books a district may possess applies not only to schoolwide libraries but to teachers’ classroom collections, too.

House Bill 1467, which took effect as law in July, mandates that schools’ books be age-appropriate, free from pornography and “suited to student needs.” Books must be approved by a qualified school media specialist, who must undergo a state retraining on book collection. The Education Department did not publish that training until January, leaving school librarians across Florida unable to order books for more than a year.

Breaking the law is a third-degree felony, meaning that a teacher could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying or giving students a disallowed book.

I can just imagine the kinds of people who would take one of those “media specialist” jobs and then undergo “state retraining.”

The efforts to conceal titles in Manatee and Duval have stirred outrage from educators and parents, many of whom shared images of bare wooden shelves or books veiled behind sheets of colored paper. Teachers wrote in Facebook posts and text messages that they are angry and disheartened. District officials in both counties have emphasized that the removals are temporary and will last only until staff can determine whether the titles meet the standards imposed by Florida law.

Alexander_Nepote-Stormy_Weather_1938

Stormy Weather, by Alexander Nepote

Michelle Jarrett, president of the Florida Association of Supervisors of Media, which assists school library administrators and programs statewide, said that “closing and covering up classroom libraries does nothing to ensure Florida’s students remain on track for reading success.” [….]

And Marie Masferrer, a board member of the Florida Association for Media in Education and a school librarian who used to work in the Manatee County system and remains in close touch with former colleagues in that district, said they have told her that students are struggling.

At one school, “the kids began crying and writing letters to the principal, saying, ‘Please don’t take my books, please don’t do this,’” Masferrer said.

If DeSantis runs for president in 2024 against Trump, we are going to witness a Republican shit show that will be far worse than 2016 and 2020. DeSantis may be pandering to the crazies, but Trump has truly gone over the edge.

Raw Story: Trump says he’s proud to have trusted Putin over ‘slime’ US intelligence agencies.

Former President Donald Trump in 2018 had an infamous press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital of Helsinki in which he signaled that believed Putin’s denials about having interfered in the 2016 election despite assessments to the contrary from American intelligence agencies.

Four-and-a-half years later, Trump is now touting his trust of Putin over American intelligence agencies as a source of pride.

In a post on his Truth Social account, the former president attacked former officials at the FBI and CIA whom he accused of trying to undermine his presidency by investigating his campaign’s multiple contacts with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential race.

“Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia, or our ‘Intelligence’ lowlifes,” he wrote. “My instinct at the time was that we had really bad people in the form of James Comey, McCabe (whose wife was being helped out by Crooked Hillary while Crooked was under investigation!), Brennan, Peter Strzok (whose wife is at the SEC) & his lover, Lisa Page. Now add McGonigal & other slime to the list. Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?”

I’m getting a headache just reading all this stuff. I hope I’m not giving you one too.

Ludolf_Bakhuizen_-_Fishing_Boats_and_Coasting_Vessel_in_Rough_Weather_-_WGA01132

Fishing Boats in Rough Weather, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Last Friday, Dakinikat wrote about the New York Times article on the failure of the Barr/Durham so-called investigation of the origins of Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian influences on the 2016 Trump campaign. This is a reaction from Greg Sargent at The Washington Post: Awful new details about the Durham probe demand a serious response.

The New York Times disclosed extraordinary new revelations this past week about prosecutor John Durham’s years-long quest to delegitimize the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In 2019, this obsession of President Donald Trump was initiated by his attorney general, William P. Barr, but as the Times found, Durham’s effort was itself profoundly tainted.

Now, because Democrats have 51 Senate seats after gaining one in the midterm elections, they have subpoena power on Senate committees that were previously divided. That means the Judiciary Committee is in a position to investigate the Barr-Durham escapades.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Judiciary Committee chair, is signaling such an intent. In an emailed statement, Durbin said that reports of Durham’s “abuses” are “outrageous,” and “one of many instances” in which Trump and Barr “weaponized the Justice Department.”

Durbin added that his committee “will do its part and take a hard look at those repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again.”

That’s encouraging, but how far will this investigation go? The Times report finds that Barr relentlessly pushed Durham to substantiate Trump’s theory that the Russia investigation was a conspiracy by intelligence and law enforcement against him. But Durham’s effort petered out “without uncovering anything like the deep state plot” invented by Trump and Barr.

Worse, the Times also found bizarre irregularities. Durham relied on Russian intelligence memos to access emails of an adviser to financier George Soros, in hopes of finding evidence of improper collaboration between law enforcement and the Hillary Clinton campaign. It never materialized.

That, plus Barr’s habit of publicly hinting that Durham was on the trail of major wrongdoing — unscrupulously serving Trump’s political interests — were strongly opposed internally by Durham’s top deputy, the Times reports. Similarly, Durham leaned on the department’s inspector general to change his 2019 conclusion that the Russia probe was not politically motivated.

More at the WaPo.

Beach at Scheveningen in Stormy Weather, Vincent Van Gogh

Beach at Scheveningen in Stormy Weather, Vincent Van Gogh

And speaking of corruption, George Santos has decided to recuse himself from House committees. The Washington Post: Rep. George Santos is stepping down from committees amid fabrications about his biography.

Embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) told House Republicans on Tuesday that he will step down temporarily from his committee assignments amid multiple investigations into his campaign finances after he lied about key aspects of his biography.

Santos, who has admitted to fabricating details about his education, work, religion and heritage since his election in November, said in a closed-door meeting of House Republicans that he would remove himself from his assignments on the House Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Santos told the meeting he will step down because “he’s a distraction,” according to a Republican lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. The conversation comes one day after Santos met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)….

Emerging from the meeting, Santos declined to comment, saying, “I think you should talk to leadership if you want details pertaining to committees.”

It sounds like it wasn’t really Santos’ decision, lol. I guess McCarthy was sick and tired of the press hounding him about Santos.

That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Tuesday, everyone!


Lazy Caturday Reads

It’s Caturday!!

Olga Sacharoff Young woman with cat

Olga Sacharoff, Young woman with cat

Last night the Memphis Police released video of the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols–a young man who weighed 140 pounds–by five police officers after a routine traffic stop. It is horrific and inexplicable. At one point one of the officers lifted Nichols’ limp body up so the others could more easily punch and kick him. Nichols never got any explanation of why he had been stopped. Toward the end of the beating he called out for his mother.

The New York Times provides a brief analysis the video in a series of live updates of the coverage: Video Captures Brutal Beating of Tyre Nichols.

America was shocked anew on Friday by a display of police violence caught on video, as Memphis released body camera and surveillance footage of police officers kicking and punching a 29-year-old Black man who later died. The man, Tyre Nichols, ran after being pepper sprayed by officers, but shows no signs of fighting back as the police beat him with a baton. “To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and use-of-force expert, after watching the video.

Here are the details:

  • A New York Times analysis of the video footage found that police officers deployed an escalating spiral of physical force and gave conflicting orders, repeatedly demanding that Mr. Nichols show his hands, even as other officers held his arms behind his back while another punched him. After officers pepper sprayed and beat Mr. Nichols, they left him sitting on the ground unattended and handcuffed, and once the medics were on the scene, they stood by for more than 16 minutes without administering treatment.

  • Mr. Nichols, who was pulled out of his car by officers, can be heard saying, “I’m just trying to go home,” and at one point repeatedly screams, “Mom, Mom, Mom” as he is clubbed. Lawyers have said that his mother’s home was about 100 yards away from where he was beaten. Here is what we know about Mr. Nichols.
  • Five Memphis police officers accused of causing Mr. Nichols’s death — Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Emmitt Martin III, Desmond Mills Jr. and Justin Smith — were fired last week and charged on Thursday with murder and other crimes. The officers, who are all Black, posted bail on Friday and were released from jail. Here are the charges they face.

  • The sheriff of Shelby County, which includes Memphis, said that two of his deputies who were on the scene after the beating had been “relieved of duty” on Friday night, pending an investigation, after he watched the video. Earlier this week, the Memphis Fire Department said two of its employees had been relieved of duty pending an internal investigation.

The Times also created  A Timeline of Tyre Nichols’s Lethal Police Encounter. Read it at the link.

Also from The New York Times live update page, an analysis by experts on police violence: ‘The definition of excessive force’: Policing experts assess the beating of Tyre Nichols.

Experts in police training who reviewed videos released on Friday of the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis said they believed there was no justification for the actions of the police officers involved, who have been charged with crimes including second-degree murder in his death….

“In my career, I’ve never seen — I mean, you see it in the movies — but I’ve never seen an individual deliberately being propped up to be beaten,” said Ed Obayashi, a police training expert and lawyer who conducts use-of-force investigations for state law enforcement across the country.

“To me, that’s worse than Rodney King,” added Mr. Obayashi, who is also a deputy sheriff and policy adviser in the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office in California.

In police training, it is emphasized repeatedly to officers that they need to be aware of their physical surroundings, Mr. Obayashi said, but the same stress should be placed on awareness of their own emotions. If officers’ tempers run high, he said, they are bound to make mistakes.

Young Woman with Cat - Wetlesen, Wilhelm 1908 Norwegian 1871-1925

Young Woman with Cat – Wetlesen, Wilhelm 1908 Norwegian 1871-1925

In the Nichols confrontation, it is possible the officers felt disrespected when their directions weren’t followed, he said.

“This appears to be a case of classic contempt of cop,” he said, “for them to catch up with him later and then exact their revenge on the poor individual.”

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization of current and former law enforcement officials that studies the improvement of policing, said the officers’ behavior also fell short in other ways….

The beating is “the definition of excessive force,” Mr. Wexler said. In his view, Mr. Nichols did not present a danger that matched the force the officers used, beyond appearing to not want to be arrested.

Even when Mr. Nichols was lying on the ground, none of the officers attempted to help him, which Mr. Wexler said was a violation of their duty to render aid.

“This person was not treated as a human being,” he said.

Who was Tyre Nichols? This is from the AP via ABC7 in Los Angeles: Tyre Nichols was NorCal native with ‘beautiful soul’ and creative eye. He was born in Sacramento and had a website dedicated to his photography.

On most weekends, Tyre Nichols would head to the city park, train his camera on the sky and wait for the sun to set.

“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people,” he wrote on his website. He preferred landscapes and loved the glow of sunsets most, his family has said.

“My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens,” Nichols wrote. “People have a story to tell, why not capture it.”

Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was on his way home from taking pictures of the sky on Jan. 7, when police pulled him over. He was just a few minutes from the home he shared with his mother and stepfather, when he was brutally attacked by five Memphis police officers…

He was the baby of their family, born 12 years after his closest siblings. He had a 4-year-old son and worked hard to better himself as a father, his family said. He was an avid skateboarder from Sacramento, California, and came to Memphis just before the coronavirus pandemic and got stuck. But he was fine with it because he was with his mother, and they were incredibly close, Wells said. He had her name tattooed on his arm.

Friends at a memorial service this week described him as joyful and lovable.

“This man walked into a room, and everyone loved him,” said Angelina Paxton, a friend who traveled to Memphis from California for the service.

There’s more at that link about Nichols’ life in Sacramento. Here is Nichols’ photography website. Read more about Nichols:

CNN: Tyre Nichols was a son and father who enjoyed skateboarding, photography and sunsets, his family says.

The New York Times: From Sacramento to Memphis, Tyre Nichols Cut His Own Path.

Cupboard Love - Walter Frederick Osborne Quimperie Irish Impressionism

Cupboard Love – Walter Frederick Osborne Quimperie, Irish Impressionism

In other news, we are getting more information about the case of former top FBI agent Charles McGonigle, who has been charged with secretly taking money to help Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska evade sanctions and from an Albanian intelligence operative and former FBI informant.

It appears that McGonigle was turned in by former girlfriend. Here’s a Daily Beast summary of a long Insider article about it. The Daily Beast: Enraged Ex-Lover Tipped Off FBI to Top Official Accused of Helping Russia.

The angry ex-lover of the FBI’s former New York counterintelligence chief claims she tipped the feds off to some of his misdeeds before his arrest last week. Charles McGonigal, who was part of the FBI probe of the Trump campaign’s Russia ties, has been charged with money laundering, lying to the FBI, and taking money to help a sanctioned Russian oligarch, among others. In an interview with Insider, Allison Guerriero said she dated McGonigal for a year, unaware he was married. He spent far more lavishly than an FBI salary would typically allow, she recalled, and she once found a bag of cash in his apartment. But after their fling ended, he revealed he was married and had no plans to leave his wife. She said she was so angry that, after a bout of drinking, she emailed his boss to disclose the affair as well as extensive dealings she’d noticed McGonigal had in Albania. It’s unclear what came of the email but the feds turned up on her doorstep three years later to ask her about McGonigal and some of her allegations regarding Albania appeared in last week’s indictment.

Here’s the story at The Insider: Exclusive: Inside the extramarital affair and cash-fueled double life of Charles McGonigal, the FBI spy hunter charged with taking Russian money. Here’s the introductory section:

One morning in October 2017, Allison Guerriero noticed something unusual on the floor of her boyfriend’s Park Slope, Brooklyn, apartment: a bag full of cash. There it was, lying next to his shoes, near the futon, the kind of bag that liquor stores give out. Inside were bundles of bills, big denominations bound up with rubber bands. It didn’t seem like something he should be carrying around. After all, her boyfriend, Charles F. McGonigal, held one of the most senior and sensitive positions in the FBI.

“Where the fuck is this from?” she asked.

“Oh, you remember that baseball game?” McGonigal replied, according to Guerriero’s recollection. “I made a bet and won.”

McGonigal had two high-school-age children and a wife — or “ex-wife” as he sometimes referred to her — back at home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He would return there once or twice a month. But McGonigal had led Guerriero to believe that he was either divorced or soon would be. She didn’t question his story, nor did she question the story about the bag full of cash.

A few days before, Guerriero had sat on the couch with McGonigal in the one-room garden sublet to watch McGonigal’s Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees. Much later — after Guerriero’s cancer diagnosis, their breakup, and McGonigal’s retirement from the FBI — McGonigal would be indicted on suspicion of, among other things, accepting $225,000 in cash from a former employee of Albania’s intelligence agency. That total includes one $80,000 chunk that was allegedly handed over in a parked car, outside a restaurant, on October 5, 2017. October 5 and 6 also happened to be the days when the Indians beat the Yankees in the first two games of the American League Division Series. Today, Guerriero no longer believes the bag of cash contained winnings from a sports bet.

Read the rest at the Insider link.

This is a scoop from Josh Kovensky at Talking Points Memo: Albanian Firm Ties Indicted Former FBI Official To Yet Another Disgraced Former Agent.

Indicted former top FBI official Charles McGonigal is a partner in an Albanian firm along with another disgraced former FBI agent, records obtained by TPM show.

An Albanian corporate filing ties McGonigal to Mark Rossini, a flamboyant figure who left the FBI amid scandalous 2008 charges and who currently faces separate bribery-related charges in an August 2022 federal indictment in Puerto Rico.

By Simon Davis

By Simon Davis

The previously unreported business connection links McGonigal to another former agent with a similar profile: a high-flier at the bureau with experience in counterterrorism and counterintelligence, and one who appears to have engaged in business with an eyebrow-raising array of foreign clients after leaving federal law enforcement.

The nature of the Albanian company — called Lawoffice & Investigation — remains unclear. Why and how McGonigal apparently got involved with the firm, and how he may have met Rossini, are also unknown.

Albanian journalists have published a series of articles since September 2022 highlighting McGonigal’s presence at the company, which they tie to the country’s oil industry.

Prosecutors accused McGonigal this week in separate federal indictments in D.C. and Manhattan of concealing cash he received from a former Albanian intelligence employee totaling $225,000, and of evading sanctions for work he performed for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a paymaster of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But the Albanian corporate document connects McGonigal to the murky world that led Rossini to not just one, but two run-ins with federal law enforcement. Federal prosecutors charged Rossini in August 2022 over his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving the former governor of Puerto Rico. That came 14 years after Rossini’s first scandal, which involved actress Linda Fiorentino and notorious Hollywood fixer Anthony Pellicano, and quickly became tabloid fodder.

“It just violates the basic precepts of why you sign up to take these kinds of jobs, or your focus on the mission and serving the U.S. government and the American public,” Javed Ali, a retired FBI senior analyst and former senior counterterrorism director at the National Security Council, told TPM of the allegations. “These are the kind of things that, at a really idealistic level, should be motivating you to do the work. … But what we’re seeing is one of the worst case examples of someone abusing their position and trying to leverage it for a different purpose.”

More at the linnk.

And of course there is news about scam artist and Republican Congressman George Santos, if that is in fact his name. Here’s the latest:

Noah Lanard and David Corn at Mother Jones: We Tried to Call the Top Donors To George Santos’ 2020 Campaign. Many Don’t Seem To Exist.

In September 2020, George Santos’ congressional campaign reported that Victoria and Jonathan Regor had each contributed $2,800—the maximum amount—to his first bid for a House seat. Their listed address was 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson Township, New Jersey.

A search of various databases reveals no one in the United States named Victoria or Jonathan Regor. Moreover, there is nobody by any name living at 45 New Mexico Street in Jackson. That address doesn’t exist. There is a New Mexico Street in Jackson, but the numbers end in the 20s, according to Google Maps and a resident of the street.

Santos’ 2020 campaign finance reports also list a donor named Stephen Berger as a $2,500 donor and said he was a retiree who lived on Brandt Road in Brawley, California. But a spokesperson for William Brandt, a prominent rancher and Republican donor, tells Mother Jones that Brandt has lived at that address for at least 20 years and “neither he or his wife (the only other occupant [at the Brandt Road home]) have made any donations to George Santos. He does not know Stephen Berger nor has Stephen Berger ever lived at…Brandt Road.”

By Isabel Crooke

By Isabel Crooke

The Regor and Berger contributions are among more than a dozen major donations to the 2020 Santos campaign for which the name or the address of the donor cannot be confirmed, a Mother Jones investigation found. A separate $2,800 donation was attributed in Santos’ reports filed with the Federal Election Commission to a friend of Santos who says he did not give the money.

Under federal campaign finance law, it is illegal to donate money using a false name or the name of someone else. “It’s called a contribution in the name of another,” says Saurav Ghosh, the director for federal campaign finance reform at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “It’s something that is explicitly prohibited under federal law.”

These questionable donations, which account for more than $30,000 of the $338,000 the Santos campaign raised from individual donors in 2020, have not been previously cited in media reports. Mother Jones identified them by contacting (or trying to contact) dozens of the most generous donors to Santos’ 2020 campaign, which he ended up losing by 12 points.

There’s much more at the Mother Jones link.

It looks like Santos may be facing a criminal investigation by the DOJ. The Washington Post: Justice Department asks FEC to stand down as prosecutors probe Santos.

The Justice Department has asked the Federal Election Commission to hold off on any enforcement action against George Santos, the Republican congressman from New York who lied about key aspects of his biography, as prosecutors conduct a parallel criminal probe, according to two people familiar with the request.

The request, which came from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, is the clearest sign to date that federal prosecutors are examining Santos’s campaign finances.

The request also asked that the FEC provide any relevant documents to the Justice Department, according to the knowledgeable people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment. An FEC spokeswoman said the regulator “cannot comment on enforcement.” Neither Santos nor his attorney responded to requests for comment….

Separately, the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday interviewed two people about Santos’s role in Harbor City Capital, an investment firm that was forced to shut down in 2021 after the SEC accused it of operating a “classic Ponzi scheme.” SEC interest in those people came after they were quoted Wednesday in The Washington Post describing how Santos solicited an investment in Harbor City at an Italian restaurant in Queens in late 2020….

“Basically they don’t want two sets of investigators tripping over each other,” said David M. Mason, a former FEC commissioner. “And they don’t want anything that the FEC, which is a civil agency, does to potentially complicate their criminal case.”

The request “indicates there’s an active criminal investigation” examining issues that overlap with complaints against Santos before the FEC, said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at D.C.-based Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg.

That’s it for me today. What are your thoughts on all this? What other stories have captured your interest?


Late Thursday Reads: Postpartum Psychosis

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!!

There’s a heartbreaking case in Duxbury, Massachusetts right now that is being treated as a crime story; but it’s also a women’s reproductive health story. Lindsay Clancy killed two of her children and seriously injured a third, an infant. Then she jumped out of a second floor window. Clancy and her surviving baby are currently hospitalized. Clancy was a loving mother who worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is now charged with murder. This is a women’s health story, because Clancy suffered from postpartum psychosis. She was reportedly in therapy. She never should have been left alone with her children.

Boston.com: Duxbury mother who attempted suicide to be charged with murdering 2 of her children, officials say.

Lindsay Clancy, 32, is accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter, Cora, and 3-year-old son, Dawson, Cruz said in a press conference Wednesday. A third child, 7 months old, survived and was flown to Boston Children’s Hospital, where he remains, according to Cruz.

Shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a man — who Cruz later identified as Clancy’s husband — called 911 to report a suspected suicide attempt at the family’s 47 Summer St. home. Clancy, who had jumped from a window, remained hospitalized Wednesday, Cruz said.

Inside the home, emergency crews found the three children with “obvious signs of severe trauma,” Cruz said. A preliminary investigation suggested the children had been strangled, he said.

“As soon as able, we will be arraigning [Clancy] on the two charges of murder in the deaths of her children,” he said.

Cruz declined to comment on whether postpartum psychosis — which can result in delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia in mothers who have recently given birth — may have played a role, but he said officials are looking at all angles.

“When something like this happens, there are obviously usually more questions than there are answers,” he said. “As we proceed forward, we will give answers as we can.”

Clancy’s Facebook page identifies her as a labor and delivery nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital, and the hospital confirmed that she is an employee.

Boston.com: How could a mother allegedly kill her children? Experts say mental health can distort thinking.

What would prompt a mother to do such a thing?

Paradoxically, experts say, the culprit in such deaths is often a loving mother in the throes of mental illness, motivated by love and attachment to her children.

Cheryl L. Meyer, a psychology professor at Wright State University who studies mothers who kill their children, recalled interviewing one such woman who had also tried to kill herself. The mother told her that killing her kids felt logical because they were an extension of herself,as if they were a limb.

”She couldn’t die without taking her arm. She couldn’t die without taking the kids,” Meyer said Wednesday.

As mother of an 7-month-old, Clancy was still in the year-long postpartum period, and she had revealed on social media that she had suffered from postpartum depression in the past.

In rare cases — about 1 or 2 out every 1,000 postpartum women – this depression can progress to psychosis, in which a woman’s brain is “hijacked by a really, really serious illness that distorts reality” and prompts actions they would never take if healthy, said Dr. Nancy Byatt, professor of psychiatry, obstetrics & gynecology and population & quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School.

In some cases, Hatters Friedman said, the parent’s motive is altruistic — “murder out of love,” however strange that may sound. A parent may have delusions that the child faces a fate worse than death, such as being kidnapped and murdered, and believes killing them gently is preferable. Parents who are planning suicide may not want to leave their child in a world they perceive as too horrible to live in.

In the acutely psychotic cases, a parent may think God is commanding them to kill their child or that their child is evil, she said.

People are often stunned by such killings because often the mothers were known as perfect and loving, said Meyer, who wrote two books on the subject. “These mothers are often described as just being quintessential moms. They’re the definition of a good mom,” she said. “And so that’s why it’s really shocking when you hear that they do these things.”

New York Post: Massachusetts mom Lindsay Clancy shared postpartum anxiety battle before allegedly killing kids.

The Massachusetts mom accused of strangling her two young kids and trying to kill her infant before jumping out a window had revealed online months earlier that she was struggling with her mental health after giving birth.

Lindsay Clancy, 32, opened up about her battle with postpartum anxiety on Facebook in July, months before the shocking violence at her home in Duxbury on Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported.

Six weeks after the birth of her third child, the mom of three shared another post about how she felt “dialed in” again.

She said she was focusing on exercise, nutrition and her mindset — noting “it has made all the difference,” the outlet reported….

Clancy, who graduated from Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, Connecticut, and Patrick were married in 2016 in Southington, Connecticut, the paper reported,

She earned a biology degree from Quinnipiac University in 2012 and holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions, the Globe said….

Clancy appeared online to be a doting mom who was living an idyllic life in the suburban community.

“I feel like the luckiest mama in the whole wide world,” she wrote. In a later post she said: “So unbelievably thankful for this family and life.”

Clancy was highly educated and affluent, with access to the best health care, but this still happened to her. The fact is that women’s reproductive health problems are not considered important in our male-dominated society. It’s not surprising that women on Twitter who are sharing their own stories about postpartum stress are being attacked by dismissive men.

The Guardian, Nov. 2019: The female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health.

From the earliest days of medicine, women have been considered inferior versions of men. In On the Generation of Animals, the Greek philosopher Aristotle characterised a female as a mutilated male, and this belief has persisted in western medical culture.

“For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, among other things in society, that has been made by men for men,” Dr Kate Young, a public health researcher at Monash University in Australia, tells me.

Young’s research has uncovered how doctors fill knowledge gaps with hysteria narratives. This is particularly prevalent when women keep returning to the doctor, stubbornly refusing to be saved….

“Rather than acknowledge the limitations of medical knowledge, medicine expected women to take control (with their minds) of their disease (in their body) by accepting their illness, making ‘lifestyle’ changes and conforming to their gendered social roles of wife and mother. Moralising discourses surround those who rebel; they are represented as irrational and irresponsible, the safety net for medicine when it cannot fulfil its claim to control the body.”

In her work, Young has shown how endometriosis patients are often viewed by their treating doctors as “reproductive bodies with hysterical tendencies”. One gynaecologist said to Young: “Do mad people get endo or does endo make you mad? It’s probably a bit of both.” Another said: “There’s a lot of psychology, just as much as there is pathology [in gynaecology].”

Nobody suggests that endometriosis is not a real disease, or is somehow imagined, but there is a general feeling in medicine that women’s reaction to having endometriosis is somehow hysterical, especially when symptoms prevail after treatment has been offered, which is common. And it is not just endometriosis patients treated this way. One male GP said to me: “I’ve never had a fibromyalgia patient who wasn’t batshit crazy.”

Historically, Young says, men have made “the medical science about women and their bodies, and there is an abundance of research evidence about the ways in which that knowledge has been constructed to reinforce the hysteria discourse and women as reproductive bodies discourse. One of my favourite examples is that in some of the first sketches of skeletons, male anatomy artists intentionally made women’s hips look wider and their craniums look much smaller as a way of saying: ‘Here is our evidence that women are reproductive bodies and they need to stay at home and we can’t risk making them infertile by making them too educated, look how tiny their heads are.’ And we see that again and again.”

There’s much more to this important article. Read the rest at the link.

Mallika Marshall MD at CBS News Boston: What is postpartum psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is much less common than postpartum blues or postpartum depression, occurring in only 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 births. It usually appears within two weeks of childbirth as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thoughts, confusion, and bizarre behaviors. Patients may be suicidal or have thoughts of harming others, including their own children. Many women with postpartum psychosis are eventually diagnosed with an underlying psychiatric disorder, such as bipolar disorder.

Many people may be wondering how to prevent a tragedy like the case in Duxbury from happening.

All women should be screened during pregnancy and in the postpartum period for mental health problems.

Those with a family history of mental illness or previous episodes of postpartum depression or psychosis are at higher risk of having it again with subsequent pregnancies and should seek treatment before symptoms begin.

Once it sets in, postpartum psychosis is considered a medical emergency. These patients should never be left alone with their children and usually need to be hospitalized for specialized psychiatric treatment.

Juli McDonald at CBS News Boston: ‘This is not your life forever,’ Advocates urge mothers to seek help for postpartum psychosis.

Karen Smith could never forget the joy, meeting her beautiful daughter exactly sixteen years ago. “When I held her, I was just so happy,” the mother said, smiling.

Pictures tell that happy story.

“You would have never known, I was about to completely lose my mind,” Karen said, looking at a photo of her with her newborn daughter.

Months into motherhood, there were manic moments. The first, during a trip to Newport.

“We were in one of the mansions looking at a painting and I started to tell my husband my daughter was the person in the painting,” she recalled.

And then Karen suffered postpartum psychosis.

“I dropped her on the floor. I didn’t even know I was holding a baby. I had no idea where I was,” Karen said.

Karen had the support of her husband and her own watchful mother. She was hospitalized three times as they focused on medicine and Karen’s health and her daughter’s safety. Hallucinations and delusions can be so vivid for women who are suffering. And there is tremendous fear.

“If I seek help, what if there’s no help available, and then something does happen. I’ll get the electric chair because that will be used to show I intended to do that. My help seeking would be used to say this is premeditate,” advocate Teresa Twomey recalls, of her frantic mindset as she was flooded with frightening intrusive thoughts….

The women who sought treatment and survived that darkness, feel only empathy for the Clancys in Duxbury.

“I have 100% certainty: the thing that separates me form them is luck. So if you condemn them, condemn me too. Because it could’ve been me,” Twomey added.

No politics news from me today, but please feel free to post any stories that interest you. Take care, Sky Dancers.


Tuesday Reads

Good Day Sky Dancers!!

BREAKING . . . I’m interrupting this post with breaking news from CNN. Get ready for some schadenfreude:

CNN Reports:

A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he has turned those classified records over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up in Pence’s house in Indiana.

The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by a lawyer for Pence in the wake of the revelations about classified material discovered in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence, the sources said. The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said he did not have any classified documents in his possession.

It is not yet clear what the documents are related to or their level of sensitivity or classification. Pence’s team plans to notify Congress on Tuesday.

Pence asked his lawyer to conduct the search of his home out of an abundance of caution, and the attorney began going through four boxes stored at Pence’s house last week, finding a small number of documents with classified markings, the sources said.

Pence’s lawyer immediately alerted the National Archives, the sources said. In turn, the Archives informed the Justice Department.

A lawyer for Pence told CNN that the FBI requested to pick up the documents with classified markings that evening, and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis picked up the documents from Pence’s home, the lawyer said.

On Monday, Pence’s legal team drove the boxes back to Washington, DC, and handed them over to the Archives to review the rest of the material for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.

Like President Biden, Pence acted responsibility–unlike the former “president.”

Now back to the post I began before this happened:

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with young and middle-aged white men working out their rage by using AR-15 assault rifles to murder large numbers of people in public gathering places, now we have to deal with elderly men going on killing sprees. Two old men did that in California this week. What the hell is going on?

CNN: 7 killed in Half Moon Bay as California is shocked by 3 mass shootings in 44 hours.

As Californians grapple with three deadly mass shootings over three days, investigators near San Francisco are trying to figure out why a 66-year-old man may have killed seven people in a massacre that has devastated the Asian American community once again….

In California, at least 19 people were slaughtered in mass shootings over just 44 hours starting Saturday night, with:

  — Eleven people killed after a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park, near Los Angeles;

  —  Seven people killed Monday in the Half Moon Bay area near San Francisco;

  —  One person killed and seven others wounded Monday evening in Oakland.

While the motives remain a mystery, the Half Moon Bay killings bear some similarities to the carnage in Monterey Park. That’s where 72-year-old Huu Can Tran gunned down 20 people – killing 11 – during Lunar New Year weekend celebrations, authorities said.

Both cases share ties to the Asian American community – already a target of attacks since the Covid-19 pandemic began. And the shooter or suspect in each is of Asian descent and far older than the 33-year-old average age of mass shooting perpetrators, according to the Rockefeller Institute of Government.

At least several victims in both massacres also were of Asian descent.

“We do know is that some of the victims were Chinese, that the perpetrator was Chinese and that this was an agricultural community – they were agricultural workers,” Half Moon Bay Mayor Deborah Penrose told “CNN This Morning” on Tuesday.

In the Half Moon Bay incident, suspect Chunli Zhao was taken into in custody about two hours after the first call to police while he was parked at a sheriff’s substation with a semi-automatic handgun in his vehicle, the sheriff said.

Officers in San Mateo County had found four people dead and one person wounded at a mushroom farm. Moments later, three more people were found dead near a trucking facility about two miles away in Half Moon Bay, county officials said.

That same evening, yet more bloodshed unfolded – this time in the Bay Area city of Oakland. One person was killed and seven more wounded were in stable condition, police there said.

NPR on elderly mass murderers: The suspected Monterey Park attacker was 72. Here’s why older shooters are rare.

The suspected shooter, a man named Huu Can Tran,was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a manhunt on Sunday, authorities said….But one detail may jump out to those familiar with stories about mass shootings: Tran was 72 years old.

Identifying the average age of mass shooters in the U.S. is tricky given there’s no set definition of what a “mass shooting” entails and trackers vary in how far back their data reaches. But no matter which measure you look at, the age of shooters tends to skew lower.

The RAND corporation, a government-funded think tank, says that between 1976 and 2018, 82% of all mass shooters in the U.S. were under the age of 45.

The Violence Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center, puts the median age of mass shooters at 32.

But Jillian Peterson, one of the project’s co-founders, says there are really two distinct age clusters grouped around location.

“You see one cluster that’s young, often school shooters, aged 18 to 25,” she told NPR. “And then you see this second cluster in their mid-40s” who tend to open fire in workplaces, retail stores or restaurants.

According to the Violence Project, the Monterey Park shooter is two years older than the previous oldest person to commit their definition of a mass shooting (to shoot and kill four or more people in a public space).

That shooting happened at a Kentucky retail store in 1981.

In 2021, a 57-year-old man killed nine people at a rail yard in San Jose, Calif. The gunman behind the 2017 attack on a Las Vegas music festival was 64.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, a director of the Polarization and Extremism Research & Innovation Lab, pointed out on Twitter that in the last three years, high-profile acts of violence have visibly involved older perpetrators.

They all have one thing in common though: they are men.

We’ve already had 39 mass shootings in 2023, according to CNN.

CNN: Three weeks and 39 mass shootings. This is America in 2023.

The scenes of agony and horror are increasingly all too familiar in America. In fact, 39 mass shootings have taken place across the country in just the first three weeks of 2023, per the Gun Violence Archive.

Communities from Goshen, California, to Baltimore, Maryland, are reeling while others brace for the possibility of such violence in their own backyards.

“A time of a cultural celebration … and yet another community has been torn apart by senseless gun violence,” Vice President Kamala Harris told a crowd in Tallahassee, Florida, on Sunday. “All of us in this room and in our country understand this violence must stop.”

But how that happens with a divided Congress, vastly different policy prescriptions, and a deeply entrenched gun culture remains to be seen….

Firearm injuries are now the leading cause of death among people younger than 24 in the United States, according to a study published in the December 2022 edition of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

From 2015 through 2020, there were at least 2,070 unintentional shootings by children under 18 in the US, according to a report from Everytown. Those shootings resulted in 765 deaths and 1,366 injuries.

Some analysis gun violence in the U.S.:

An unequal burden. A study published late fir last year in JAMA Network Open analyzed firearm deaths over the past three decades – a total of more than 1 million lives lost since 1990.

The researchers found that firearm mortality rates increased for most demographic groups in recent years – especially during the Covid-19 pandemic – but vast disparities persisted. The homicide rate among young Black men – 142 homicide deaths for every 100,000 Black men ages 20 to 24 – was nearly 10 times higher than the overall firearm death rate in the US in 2021.

Americans are armed like few others. There are about 393 million privately owned firearms in the US, according to an estimate by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. That’s 120 guns for every 100 Americans.

While the exact number of civilian-owned firearms is difficult to calculate due to a variety of factors – including unregistered weapons, the illegal trade and global conflict – no other nation has more civilian guns than people.

About 45% of US adults say they live in a household with a gun, according to an October 2022 Gallup survey.

There’s much more information at the link.

One more on the Monterey Park shooter–it could have been a lot worse except for one courageous young man. The shooter intended to attack another dance hall, but was thwarted.

NBC News: Exclusive video captures the moment man disarms Monterey Park gunman at second dance hall.

A video of a man disarming the suspected Monterey Park shooter shows himwrestling the gun away and potentially preventing more carnage at a second dance hall minutes after the gunman killed 11 people and wounded at least nine more at the first site.

Brandon Tsay, 26, has been hailed as a hero for disarming the Monterey Park shooter at a dance hall in Alhambra, California.

Harrowing video obtained exclusively by NBC News captured the men tussling in what appears to be an empty lobby in the dance hall.

An armed man, dressed in dark clothing and a hat, walks out of the picture and about 30 seconds later is seen struggling with Tsay as the two wrestle over the weapon. A shoving match ensues, and Tsay manages to take the gun away from the man.

The weapon has been described as a “semi-automatic assault pistol.”

The man then punches Tsay in his head while Tsay holds the weapon. The men continue to struggle before Tsay pushes the man off. The man continues to reach for the gun before he gives up and walks out of the room.

Tsay then points at the man and briefly moves out of the camera’s view before he returns, with the gun in his right hand and using a cellphone with the other.

The entire ordeal lasted about 4 minutes.

“There was a moment I actually froze up, because I was, I had the belief that I was gonna die, like my life was ending here, at that very moment,” Tsay told NBC News’ Lester Holt.

“But something amazing happened, a miracle actually. He started to try to prep his weapon so he could shoot everybody, but then it dawned on me that this was the moment to disarm him. I could do something here that could protect everybody and potentially save myself.”

Tsay said the gunman, who has since been identified as Huu Can Tran, 72 — came in and looked as if he were intent on further violence.

“When he came in, he said nothing,” he said. “His face was very stoic. His expressions were mostly in his eyes — looking around trying to find people, trying to scout the area for other people.”

Here’s the video:

One more big story, and then I’m going to post this and add more in the comment thread.

The Washington Post: Former senior FBI official accused of working for Russian he investigated.

The FBI’s former top spy hunter in New York was charged Monday with taking secret cash payments of more than $225,000 while overseeing highly sensitive cases, and breaking the law by trying to get Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska removed from a U.S. sanctions list — accusations that shocked the cloistered world of his fellow high-ranking intelligence officials.

Charles McGonigal, 54, who retired from the FBI in September 2018, was indicted in federal court in Manhattan on charges of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions and other counts stemming from his alleged ties to Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In his role at the FBI, McGonigal had been tasked with investigating Deripaska, whose own indictment on sanctions-violation charges was unsealed in September.

A second indictment, filed in Washington, accused McGonigal of hiding payments totaling $225,000 that he allegedly received from a New Jersey man employed decades ago by an Albanian intelligence agency. The indictment also accused him of acting to advance that person’s interests.

McGonigal’s alleged crimes may undercut Justice Department efforts to ramp up economic sanctions on wealthy Russians after last year’s invasion of Ukraine. The twin indictments are also a black eye for the FBI, alleging that one of its most senior and trusted intelligence officials accepted large sums of money and undermined the bureau’s overall intelligence-gathering mission.

McGonigal was arrested by agents from the bureau where he had worked for 22 years and where he rose to one of the most important counterespionage positions in the U.S. government. Given his former role, the investigation was run by FBI agents in Los Angeles and D.C. rather than in New York.

This is a huge story, and more evidence that Chris Wray needs to go. I imagine we’ll be learning more in the coming days.

Have a nice Tuesday, Sky Dancers!! See you in the comment thread.