Thursday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

Today I’m going to focus on the FBI’s epic mishandling of sexual abuse in the USA Gymnastics/Larry Nassar case as well as the accusations against now Supreme Court Justice Bret Kavanaugh.

Yesterday some of the country’s most accomplished women gymnasts gave shocking and damning testimony to before the Senate Judiciary Committee. For background, here is the statement of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz on his report:  “Dereliction of Duty: Examining the Inspector General’s Report on the FBI’s Handling of the Larry Nassar Investigation.” This is a huge story, and all I can do is try to give you a sense of what happened to these women. Here are parts of their testimony.

Vice News: Gymnasts Slam FBI for Failing to Protect Them From Sexual Abuse.

Four of the top gymnasts in the United States told Congress that the FBI, USA Gymnastics, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had failed them, for years, in a Senate hearing Wednesday—and they want answers and accountability.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing centered on a Justice Department report, released this summer, that found the FBI had botched its investigation into Larry Nassar, a once-celebrated doctor who has since been jailed and accused of abusing hundreds of gymnasts while pretending he was providing medical treatment. The four gymnasts who testified Wednesday—Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman—have all said that they were abused by Nassar.

“They had legal, legitimate evidence of child abuse and did nothing,” Maroney, an Olympic gold medalist, told the senators of the FBI. “If they’re not going to protect me, I want to know: Who are they trying to protect?”

Maroney, who is not named in the report, spoke with a FBI agent about her experience with Nassar, but that agent didn’t properly follow up, according to the report. More than a year after speaking with Maroney, the agent drafted a summary of her interview that included statements she did not make, per the report. 

The FBI’s inaction, Maroney said, was beyond devastating. She recalled sitting on her bedroom floor and spending nearly three hours telling the agent about the abuse she endured. After recounting one particularly horrific memory, she began to cry; the agent, she said, only asked her, “Is that all?”

“By not taking immediate action from my report, they allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue,” Maroney said. “I am tired of waiting for people to do the right thing, because my abuse was enough.”

AP: Biles: FBI turned ‘blind eye’ to reports of gymnasts’ abuse.

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Congress in forceful testimony Wednesday that federal law enforcement and gymnastics officials turned a “blind eye” to USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of her and hundreds of other women.

Biles told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “enough is enough” as she and three other U.S. gymnasts spoke in stark emotional terms about the lasting toll Nassar’s crimes have taken on their lives….

The four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — said she “can imagine no place that I would be less comfortable right now than sitting here in front of you.” She declared herself a survivor of sexual abuse.

“I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse,” Biles said through tears. In addition to failures of the FBI, she said USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee “knew that I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was ever made aware of their knowledge.”

Biles said a message needs to be sent: “If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe. Enough is enough.”

The hearing is part of a congressional effort to hold the FBI accountable after multiple missteps in investigating the case, including the delays that allowed the now-imprisoned Nassar to abuse other young gymnasts. All four witnesses said they knew girls or women who were molested by Nassar after the FBI had been made aware of allegations against him in 2015.

Yahoo News: Aly Raisman described the profound physical and mental impact Larry Nassar’s abuse has had on her health.

 

Aly Raisman has been extremely transparent about the significant emotional burden of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse.

On Wednesday, the two-time Olympian detailed the profound physical impact the trauma has had on her health.

During a Senate Judiciary hearing about the FBI’s failings in the Nassar case, Raisman explained that she’d been sapped of all of her energy due to post-traumatic stress disorder and the lasting impact of Nassar’s abuse.

“Experiencing a type of abuse is not something one just suffers in the moment; it carries on with them sometimes for the rest of their lives,” Raisman said. “For example, being here today is taking everything I have.”

“I hope I have the energy even to just walk out of here,” she added.

She described feeling completely depleted after sharing her story publicly for the first time. She said she remembered struggling to find the energy to stand up in the shower and that she would have to sit on the floor to wash her hair.

She “couldn’t even go for a 10-minute walk outside” despite having been in the peak physical condition to compete in two Olympic Games just a few years prior. She often feels that her memory is impacted, too, and that her “mind isn’t working” adequately and that she has “no energy at all.”

The Oklahoman: At Larry Nassar hearing, former OU athlete Maggie Nichols says FBI, USA Gymnastics ‘betrayed’ her.

Nichols was the first to report Nassar’s abuse to USA Gymnastics in 2015. She was known for a time only as “Athlete A,” but before Congress she was quick to make clear that Nassar’s abuse “didn’t happen to Athlete A. It happened to me.”

“I reported my abuse to USA Gymnastics over six years ago and still, my family and I received few answers and have even more questions about how this was allowed to occur and why dozens of other little girls and women at Michigan State had to be abused after I reported,” Nichols said in an opening statement before Congress Wednesday.

Nassar served as team doctor for the 2016 US Olympic Gymnastics teams and continued his role at Michigan State University until later that year after an Indianapolis Star investigation was first published.

Nichols became an OU gymnast that same year, earning All-American status during her time with the Sooners. She later served as a student assistant coach, too. On Wednesday, she said that USAG, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the FBI have “betrayed her and those who have reported Larry Nassar.” She said the lack of action was a “coverup.”

“After I reported my abuse to USAG, my family and I were told by their former president, Steve Penny, to keep quiet and not say anything that could hurt the FBI investigation,” Nichols said. “We now know there was no real FBI investigation occurring.”

More articles to check out:

Sally Jenkins at The Washington Post: Larry Nassar is in jail. Why isn’t everyone who ignored his crimes?

The Washington Post: FBI fires agent who failed to pursue tips about sex abuse by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Nancy Armour at USA Today Sports: Opinion: Gymnasts bare their souls in describing Larry Nassar abuse, but are lawmakers listening?

Dan Wetzel at Yahoo News: Pathetic lack of response to Larry Nassar’s reign of terror hits U.S. Senate.

The non-investigation of Larry Nassar’s abuse of young girls sheds light on what happened during the Senate confirmation hearings on Bret Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. 

The Guardian: FBI director faces new scrutiny over investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.

The FBI director, Chris Wray, is facing new scrutiny of the bureau’s handling of its 2018 background investigation of Brett Kavanaugh, including its claim that the FBI lacked the authority to conduct a further investigation into the then supreme court nominee.

At the heart of the new questions that Wray will face later this week, when he testifies before the Senate judiciary committee, is a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding that the FBI has recently said constrained the agency’s ability to conduct any further investigations of allegations of misconduct.

It is not clear whether that claim is accurate, based on a close reading of the MOU, which was released in court records following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The FBI was called to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his Senate confirmation process in 2018, after he was accused of assault by Christine Blasey Ford, a professor who knew Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. He also faced other accusations, including that he had exposed himself to a classmate at Yale called Deborah Ramirez. Kavanaugh denied both accusations.

The FBI closed its extended background check of Kavanaugh after four days and did not interview either Blasey Ford or Kavanaugh. The FBI also disclosed to the Senate this June – two years after questions were initially asked – that it had received 4,500 tips from the public during the background check and that it had shared all “relevant tips” with the White House counsel at that time. It is not clear whether those tips were ever investigated.

The FBI said in its letter to two senators – Sheldon Whitehouse and Christopher Coons – that the FBI did not have the authority under the 2010 MOU at the time to “unilaterally conduct further investigative activity absent instructions from the requesting entity”. In other words, the FBI has said it would have required explicit instructions from the Trump White House to conduct further investigation under the existing 2010 guidelines on how such investigations ought to be conducted.

But an examination by the Guardian of the 2010 MOU, which was signed by the then attorney general, Eric Holder, and then White House counsel, Robert Bauer, does not make explicitly clear that the FBI was restricted in terms of how it would conduct its investigation.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Alternet: ‘Just as flawed’: Sen. Whitehouse questions FBI probe of Kavanaugh after failed Larry Nassar investigation.

Talk about perfect timing. During a hearing on the FBI’s mishandling of allegations against Larry Nassar, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse raised questions about whether the Nassar investigation was the only FBI case that was bungled. Whitehouse used the investigation of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted pedophile Nassar to question the legitimacy of the FBI’s 2018 background check into Brett Kavanaugh, wondering if that investigation might have been “just as flawed.”

“It strikes me very strongly as we sit here today, and as we heard the powerful testimony earlier this morning, that the last time a woman came forward in this committee to testify to her allegations of sexual assault in her childhood, the witness was Christine Blasey Ford,” Whitehouse said.

“It appeared to me then, and it appears to me now that her testimony was swept under the rug in a confirmation stampede,” he added. “It is very possible that the FBI investigation of her allegations was just as flawed, just as constrained, just as inappropriate, as the investigation in this case.”

Whitehouse demanded answers regarding the non-investigation of then-Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh and called out FBI Director Christopher Wray over the bureau’s investigation of Ford’s allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

Whitehouse noted that he repeatedly requested more information about the FBI’s investigation into Ford’s allegations but had been ignored for two years before finally receiving a response yesterday.

“Not coincidentally, I suspect, on the eve of your appearance today,” Whitehouse said to Wray.

I know there is much more news out there today, but in my opinion the stories about the FBI failing women are vitally important. It’s obvious that the FBI is far too white and far too male. And don’t forget the non-investigation of Nassar happened under the leadership of James Comey. 

Now a new white male FBI Director–Chris Wray–is similarly accused of failing to adequately investigation allegations of sexual abuse of women.

As always, this is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Self-Portrait at Ekely, 1926, Edvard Munch

Self-Portrait at Ekely, 1926, Edvard Munch

As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, another potential hurricane is on the horizon for Gulf Coast. From The Weather Channel: Tropical Storm Nicholas Brings Flooding Rain Threat to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi.

Tropical Storm Nicholas will spread its threat of flooding rain from southeast Texas into Louisiana and Mississippi the next couple of days after making landfall as a hurricane overnight.

Nicholas made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph at 1 a.m. CDT Tuesday about 20 miles northeast of Matagorda, Texas.

The center of Nicholas is now located near Houston. Moderate to heavy rain extends to the east of that center, from far southeast Texas into Louisiana and southern Mississippi.

More than 500,000 homes and businesses were without power in southeast Texas, including the Houston area, as of late Tuesday morning, according to poweroutage.us.

Winds gusts over 50 mph were clocked at Houston’s Hobby airport this morning. Parts of the far southeast Houston metro area picked up 4 to 7 inches of rain in 24 hours.

Galveston, Texas, has the highest storm total rainfall so far with 13.96 inches as of early Tuesday.

A storm surge of 3 to 4 feet above normal tide levels has been observed this morning on the upper Texas coast, including around the Galveston Bay area.

A topical storm warning is in effect from San Luis Pass, Texas, to Cameron, Louisiana, as well as some inland counties near the coast, including the Houston metro area. This means tropical-storm-force winds (39+ mph) are expected to continue in southeast Texas through this morning and will spread into coastal southwest Louisiana by this afternoon.

The other big news today is California’s recall election. The Guardian: Gavin Newsom’s political fate in balance as final votes cast. in California recall.

Californians will decide on Tuesday whether to keep Gavin Newsom in office as a recall election that has left the Democratic governor fighting for his political life draws to a close.

The gubernatorial recall effort is only the second in California’s history to make it on to the ballot and a rare chance for Republicans to seize control in a deep blue state. Voters are being asked two questions: should Newsom be removed from office, and, if he is recalled, who should take his place? Millions of Californians have already cast their ballots, either by mail or at early voting locations, and registered voters will have until Tuesday evening to make their choice, in a special election that is costing the state $276m.

Newsom, who has been a broadly popular governor since he was elected in 2018, found himself in a peculiar position after a Republican-led recall effort gained steam amid the worst of the state’s pandemic.

He appeared confident heading into the final stretch, spending Monday campaigning with Joe Biden. Polls that had signaled peril for him during the summer have recently given him a more comfortable lead. Meanwhile, the leading Republican challenger, the rightwing radio host Larry Elder, has been laying a groundwork of misinformation to falsely imply that the election, if he loses, was rigged against him.

Early returns show that of those who have already cast their votes, most have been Democrats who are likely to oppose the recall. More Republicans are expected to vote in person on election day.

Self Portrait, 1918, Suzanne Valadon

Self Portrait, 1918, Suzanne Valadon

The San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board has a warning for Democratic voters: Think Newsom has recall in the bag? Don’t be so sure.

If you lean Democratic, as the majority of people who live in California do, you’re likely feeling pretty good about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chances of staving off the recall in today’s election. Recent polls show that only 38.5% of likely voters support recall while 60.1% are opposed. After months of doom and gloom about Newsom’s chances for survival, the word “landslide” has suddenly found its way into headlines.

But polls have been wrong before.

For those who feel that removing Newsom right now would deal the state a catastrophic blow at a time it can least afford it, as The Chronicle’s editorial board does, there are still some worrying numbers out there.

As of last Tuesday, according to data from the California Secretary of State’s office, only about 6.3 million mail-in ballots had been returned, accounting for a measly 28.3% turnout. For context, more than 5.5 million Californians voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

COVID-19 has shown us what happens when too many citizens fail to do their civic duty. More than 80% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. And yet the failure of even a modest percentage of Californians to follow suit has helped fuel a deadly surge of the coronavirus’ delta variant.

California desperately needs herd immunity from the recall. And that means more of you need to vote.

A bit more explanation:

A recall isn’t like most gubernatorial elections. The person with the most votes is not guaranteed a win. If “no” on recall fails to achieve more than 50% of the vote, Newsom is out. Republican Larry Elder, who is polling at 26%, will likely be our next governor.

How much damage could Gov. Larry Elder do in a state with a Democratic supermajority in the Legislature?

Plenty.

We’ve seen what chaos grandstanding politicians can cause on their own, particularly as it relates to public health and the COVID pandemic. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-mask and laissez-faire vaccine policies — of the variety that Elder says he prefers — threw that state into its deadliest COVID surge yet. Similar policies by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have led to similar results.

This is really frightening. I’m hoping all those Democrats get out to vote today if they haven’t already voted by mail.

Self Portrait, 1918, Pablo Picasso

Self Portrait, 1918, Pablo Picasso

Speaking of Covid-19, Vladimir Putin has been exposed to the virus. CNN: Russia’s Vladimir Putin is quarantining after several Covid-19 cases in his entourage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is quarantining after several people in his inner circle tested positive for Covid-19, the Kremlin said Tuesday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin has tested negative for coronavirus and is “absolutely healthy.”

Peskov told journalists in a conference call that as “several people” in Putin’s entourage got sick with Covid-19 the President “must take a responsible position and not endanger the health of his colleagues.” The spokesman did not specify who has tested positive and said he didn’t know whether the individuals had been vaccinated.

Putin — who was vaccinated against Covid-19 in March — had a busy day on Monday. He held face-to face talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, met a number of Russian Paralympians and inspected troops taking part in military exercises in Nizhny Novgorod.

So was Assad exposed also?

Asked why Putin met with Assad if there were concerns about his exposure to people who tested positive, Peskov said the event took place before the decision to quarantine was made.

When pressed on the matter by journalists who brought up the fact Putin told Russian athletes on Monday there were people sick with coronavirus around him, Peskov reiterated there was “nothing illogical” about Putin’s schedule.

“First, I can say that Putin did not meet with Assad at the end of the day, it was at the beginning of the working day. And everything else, as the doctors completed their studies and the necessary procedures … a decision was made. There is nothing illogical here. At that time [when the meetings happened], doctors were still doing their tests,” Peskov said.

This could get interesting.

More Covid news from The New York Times: Covid Hospitalizations Hit Crisis Levels in Southern I.C.U.s.

Hospitals in the southern United States are running dangerously low on space in intensive care units, as the Delta variant has led to spikes in coronavirus cases not seen since last year’s deadly winter wave.

One in four hospitals now reports more than 95 percent of I.C.U. beds occupied — up from one in five last month. Experts say it can become difficult to maintain standards of care for the sickest patients in hospitals where all or nearly all I.C.U. beds are occupied….

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self Portrait Before a Green Background with Blue Iris

Paula Modersohn-Becker, Self Portrait Before a Green Background with Blue Iris

In Alabama, all I.C.U. beds are currently occupied. In recent days, dozens of patients in the state have needed beds that were not available, according to data published by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“It means they’re in the waiting room, some are in the back of ambulances, things of that nature,” said Jeannie Gaines, a spokesperson for the Alabama Hospital Association.

In Texas, 169 hospitals have I.C.U.s that are more than 95 percent full, up from 69 in June. There are only about 700 intensive care beds remaining across the entire state, according to recent data.

Hospitals in Houston constructed overflow tents last month to handle the influx of patients, and the rate of hospitalizations in the state is now 40 percent higher than when the tents were built.

Twenty-four hospitals in Florida reported having more I.C.U. patients last week than available beds.During past surges, hospitals have been forced to improvise by having staff care for more patients than usual or by setting up temporary intensive care beds in other wings of the hospital.

Patients with critical conditions besides Covid, like heart attacks or strokes, can also have worse health outcomes when most beds are full.

Washington D.C. is bracing for a planned rally by the Trumpist crazies on Saturday. Politico: GOP’s Jan. 6 problem returns to its doorstep.

The Saturday rally defending some rioters arrested during the Capitol insurrection is reminding the GOP of an uncomfortable reality: Part of its base believes the Jan. 6 attack was justified.

Saturday’s rally comes as some conservative lawmakers fan outrage on the right over former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him — rhetoric that worries some fellow Republicans, who warn that their colleagues are riling up the biggest fans of the former president. That still-simmering discord within the GOP puts party leaders in an awkward position ahead of the Sept. 18 “Justice for J6” rally on Capitol Hill, organized by a former Trump campaign aide.

Henri_Matisse_Self-Portrait_in_a_Striped_T-shirt_(1906)

Henri Matisse, Self Portrait in a Striped T-Shirt, 1906

So far, top Republicans are staying as quiet as possible about the Sept. 18 protest on the Hill, which has prompted police officials to re-install the Capitol security fence to safeguard against potential violence. They aren’t endorsing it — nor are they condemning it. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Monday that out of his Republican conference, he “doesn’t think anyone is” going to attend. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not respond to a question about whether leaders should be encouraging other rank-and-file members not to attend as he headed to a briefing on the rally.

Their approach appears to be working, as no Republican lawmakers have publicly said they will attend — even some who have repeatedly and publicly claimed some Jan. 6 defendants are “political prisoners” being treated unfairly because of their political views. However, the offices of Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) — all of whom have peddled the “political prisoners” claim repeatedly — have declined multiple requests for comment about whether they plan to appear.

This is scary though:

One GOP lawmaker in a safe red seat spoke candidly on condition of anonymity about the conundrum facing the party ahead of the rally in support of some insurrection defendants: “The majority of the Republican base feels that Jan. 6 was justified. And because those people didn’t have arms, they shouldn’t be incarcerated right now.”

“Every day, I hear the word ‘Civil War’ — every day,” the Republican added, recalling a return home one day after Trump supporters descended on the Capitol. This lawmaker expected sympathy and disgust about the attack on Congress and instead heard constituents commenting in support.

Other Capitol Hill offices reported similar calls from constituents who insisted the rioters did not go far enough in the weeks after the attack, which included more than 1,000 violent acts against law enforcement and is tied to multiple deaths of rallygoers as well as police officers.

Yikes! But I’m seeing a lot of the crazies on Twitter calling the rally a “false flag” organized by the FBI and telling people not to go. I guess we’ll find out in a few days.

I hope you all have a terrific Tuesday!


Tuesday Open Thread

Good Morning, Sky Dancers!!

I can’t believe Dakinikat is still without power! It has been hot there, but she’s getting meals from Chef Andres and takes some breaks from the heat at the local rec center.

I need to take a break today, but here are some links to articles you might want to check out today.

NYT: The U.S. surpasses 40 million known coronavirus cases.

Peter Hotez at The Daily Beast: The Latest COVID-19 Surge Is Just the Start of a New Nightmare.

CNN: How to protect children under 12 from Covid-19, according to Fauci.

CNN: Biden set to deliver major speech on next phase of pandemic response, sources say.

This is the idiot who could become governor of California. Raw Story: GOP’s Larry Elder shows up at anti-vaxx megachurch and declares s​ex education ‘has no role’ in schools.

NYT: A Century Ago, Miners Fought in a Bloody Uprising. Few Know About It Today. At the Battle of Blair Mountain, thousands of miners clashed with sheriff’s deputies in the largest insurrection since the Civil War.

Politico: ‘Keep your head on a swivel’: FBI analyst circulated a prescient warning of Jan. 6 violence. The analyst’s email circulated through the Bureau and to some of its state and local partners on Nov. 9, 2020.

Newsweek: Americans Emailed Pence, Officials Asking to Remove Trump From Office After Capitol Riot.

CNN: Ex-FBI official says law enforcement needs to take upcoming right-wing rally in DC ‘very seriously’

WaPo: Justice Department to protect women seeking an abortion in Texas.

WaPo: New Texas voting bill deepens growing disparities in how Americans can cast their ballots.

NBC News: Women join protests on Kabul streets in defiance of Taliban rule.

AP: The Latest: Taliban disperse Kabul rally, arrest journalists.

Have a nice day everyone!


Labor Day Reads

Good Afternoon!!

There is so much horrible stuff happening in the world that you’d think the New York Times wouldn’t bother with their usual gossip pieces, but you’d be wrong. Yesterday Katie Rogers published this gross pile of garbage in the paper of record, and fellow gossip columnist Peter Baker pushed it on Twitter:

In the hours before Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, was killed by a terrorist’s bomb in Afghanistan, he posed for a photograph taken by a bunkmate. In the image, the Marine’s brow was furrowed. He flashed a peace sign.

“This is Jared Schmitz,” his father, Mark Schmitz, said he told President Biden days later at Dover Air Force Base, where the two men had traveled to observe the dignified transfer of the remains of 13 U.S. Marines killed last week in the attack in Kabul. “Don’t forget his name.”

But Mr. Schmitz was confused by what happened next: The president turned the conversation to his oldest son, Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015. Referring to him has become a reliable constant of Mr. Biden’s presidency. In speeches, Oval Office discussions and personal asides, Mr. Biden tends to find a common thread back to his son, no matter the topic. But for Mr. Schmitz, another father consumed by his grief, it was “too much” to bear.

“I respect anybody that lost somebody,” Mr. Schmitz added in an interview, “but it wasn’t an appropriate time.”

The Biden administration, seeking to avoid a public rift with Gold Star families, has not pushed back on criticism from Mr. Schmitz and other families who have said the president brought up his own son too often and acted distant during the ceremony at Dover. But the moment crystallized just how much Mr. Biden is still haunted by the memory of a son he had always described to confidants as “me, but without all the downsides,” and how his anguish over that loss can clash with the political realities of being president.

Mr. Biden’s reputation is staked, in part, around his ability to withstand soul-shattering tragedies. His first wife, Neilia, and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident in 1972. But it was Beau’s death that left the people in Mr. Biden’s life wondering if he would ever recover, let alone wage a third bid for the presidency. His son, they say, is a major reason he decided to stay in public life.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Schmitz is a Trump supporter. I probably don’t need to remind you that Trump attacked gold star families and said that troops who died in battle are losers and suckers.

It’s the new “but her emails.” They’ve decided that Biden is grieving wrong. He has lost a wife and two children, but he shouldn’t share his experiences with grief and loss with others who lost a loved one. He should just STFU. He’s too empathetic. He even has the nerve to discuss Beau’s death (which he believes was cause by exposure to chemicals in Iraq) with world leaders. Oh, and according to Baker, Biden’s invoking of his son’s tragic death is an “approach,” meaning a political strategy!

In his public meetings with world leaders, doctors, military officials and families, Mr. Biden often shares how his experience with his son’s deployment to Iraq or battle with brain cancer affected his family. Invoking Beau’s memory amid the violent collapse of Afghanistan, the result of the most politically volatile decision of his presidency to date, provided a rare moment for critics to pounce on a penchant for eulogizing his son.

“Mr. Biden is not a Gold Star father and should stop playing one on TV,” William McGurn, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Biden has never claimed that his son died in combat, but he has often spoken of his son’s overseas deployment and the toll it took on his family. Mr. Biden’s supporters say that military families are entitled to their grief, but that the president is also entitled to his.

“The families who are grieving, they are free to feel however they feel,” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in a mass shooting in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and who has received periodic calls from Mr. Biden, said in an interview. “But to anyone else who may have been critiquing: The president’s children, those living and those not, they formed who the president is.”

How shocking that a Bush speechwriter has a problem with Biden and a supporter like Guttenberg doesn’t. Baker’s tweet ended up with an incredible ratio of angry replies to retweets: 9.8K replies to 2K retweets and 1.6K likes.

Here’s a sampling of some of the replies:

I was so angry about this yesterday, that I just had to share.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here are a few more more reads with brief excerpts:

A think piece on the anniversary of 9/11 by Will Bunch at The Philadelphia Inquirer:

From the article:

“It was 8:46 a.m.,” I wrote as night fell on 9/11, “and America would never be the same again.”

Looking back two decades later, I can’t decide which is weirder — that I wrote this in the darkness of that confusing day, or that somehow I got it right. America was changed forever and — despite those initial days where we hoped the sadness and the rubble would give rise to national unity and a sense of purpose that had felt missing in the detached irony and greed of the go-go 1990s — for the most part it has changed for the worse. Those drivers going every which way at cross purposes on Vine Street weren’t just a traffic jam, but a metaphor for the road ahead.

Any national unity dissolved rapidly into fear and paranoia, which a cynical new government in Washington preferred to exploit rather than tamp down — the better to plant our flag in oil-rich lands abroad and silence any dissent here at home. Those bad tidings — and the conspiratorial mindset we embraced in the wake of 9/11 — would be turned against nations that had nothing to do with the attacks, against immigrants in general, against legitimate protest, and finally, inevitably, against one another. The era that started with the Islamic radicals who hijacked Flight 93 failing to reach the U.S. Capitol dome ended with American fanatics breaching its rotunda. The late Osama bin Laden could not have drafted a better script for his evil ambitions.

And let’s be clear: The ultimate blame for 9/11 rests squarely with those who planned and executed an attack that killed 2,977 innocent people in the name of religious fanaticism and a Middle Eastern power trip — bin Laden and his associates in al-Qaeda. It’s impossible to write about that day without either a full-throated condemnation of the banal evil behind September 11 and also our heartbroken memories of the decent everyday people — firefighters and executive assistants and cops and stockbrokers — who lost their lives because of that immorality.

In responding to their deaths, some positive things occurred — including the killing of bin Laden and the minimizing of at least the old, original al-Qaeda. Despite the inevitable carping from air travelers, an airport-security regime that’s successfully prevented any hijackings for these two decades has been quite an achievement. It’s also a reminder that America could have spent the last 20 years only doing what was necessary — shoring up our anti-terrorism regime on U.S. soil, and right-sizing our role in the world. Instead, our hubris — which was actually masking our inner fears — that America must respond to any threat to our daydreams of exceptionalism with massive force caused us to double down on military imperialism with tragic consequences, in a tortured odyssey that led us full circle to last month’s chaotic scenes at the Kabul airport.

Read the rest at the link above.

From the article:

More than 7 million out-of-work people across the United States are set to lose all of their jobless benefits this week as three federal programs expire on Monday, in what several experts described as one of the largest and most abrupt ends to government aid in U.S. history.

In addition to the more than 7 million people who will lose all their benefits, nearly 3 million more people will lose a $300 weekly boost to their state unemployment benefits.

The cessation of this jobless aid, first put in place by Congress nearly 18 months ago, could upend the lives of millions of Americans still struggling to find work at a time when the pandemic’s delta variant is wreaking fresh havoc across a number of states. It could also lead to a sharp pullback in spending, particularly in certain areas of the country, impacting a wide range of restaurants and other businesses that rely on consumer dollars.

“I don’t understand how anyone in Washington cannot know normal people, their friends, families, cousins who are going through this,” said Kathleen Fox, a producer in New York whose past work has been recognized with a prestigious Peabody Award but who has struggled to find work after the pandemic upended her industry. “The [Biden] administration has lost interest in this cause and they’ve moved on to other things.”

The White House has wrestled with how to deal with these expiring benefits, an internal debate that exposes the fraught political and economic consequences of inaction. President Biden said in June that it “makes sense” for one of the programs, which boosted unemployment checks by $300 each week, to lapse in September, but senior aides have also called on states to reallocate other money in a way that would continue offering some support. No states appear inclined to take action, though, leading to this week’s sudden cutoff.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to rage.

From the article:

Once again, politicians and judges are limiting abortion without any understanding of what pregnancy can, and often does, ask of the human body. To conservative legislators in Texas, a new law banning abortion after about six weeks of gestation is a ploy to subvert Roe v. Wade. But to doctors like me, the measure reveals how thoughtless its designers are and how willing they are to let pregnant patients suffer and die.

I’m an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk cases. Last month, I saw a woman whose water broke 19 weeks into a long-desired pregnancy. This patient, who had conceived after a previous miscarriage, was eager to have a child. When she came to the hospital, my colleagues and I told her the truth: Without an intact amniotic sac, she and her fetus were extraordinarily vulnerable to bacteria from the outside world. She might stay pregnant for the time being. But her chances of getting to 23 weeks—the point at which a baby might be able to survive outside her body, albeit with extensive, lifelong medical problems—were almost zero. While waiting to deliver, she faced a high probability of infection in her uterus, despite the antibiotics that we would give her. She was very likely to develop a serious infection, even sepsis, which could require a hysterectomy or, though unlikely, lead to death.

We told her that she could watch and wait, despite the risks. Medical standards also dictated that my patient be offered a termination of pregnancy right away, before she could become sick. We outlined ways to terminate her pregnancy: a procedure to evacuate her uterus in the operating room or an induction of labor with the understanding that the newborn would not survive.

This situation comes up at my hospital at least a few times a month, every month. Working with high-risk patients means I need to be able to discuss, recommend, and perform abortions somewhat regularly. This is not because I want to kill babies or end desired pregnancies. It is because, in many cases, I am walking patients and their families through a nightmare. Sometimes, abortion turns out to be the least terrible of all the progressively terrible options they face.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

More stories to check out:

Raw Story: ‘Cruel on purpose’: Americans rage at Times writer who claims Biden grieves his family too much.

CNN: Communities across the US trudge through the long recovery process more than a week after Hurricane Ida’s landfall.

A book excerpt by Adam Tooze at The Atlantic: 2020 Was Almost Worse Than 2008. In a crisis like the one that hit the world in March 2020, only one thing will restore confidence: limitless cash. An excerpt from Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World’s Economy.

The New York Times: Covid Deaths Surge Across a Weary America as a Once-Hopeful Summer Ends.

Axios: Over 230 medical journals: Climate crisis is the “greatest” health threat.

Newsweek: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Approval Plummets as 52 Percent Believe State Is on Wrong Track.

Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Minnesota State Patrol destroyed texts, e-mails after riot response. Loss of data becomes issue in ACLU suit over journalists’ treatment.

The New York Times: How the Texas Anti-Abortion Movement Helped Enact a Near-Complete Ban.

The Daily Beast: Texas Anti-Abortion Groups See ‘Ultimate Goal’ Approaching.

The Daily Beast: Threats & Leaks: New Documents Show Just How Crazy the Georgia Recount Fiasco Got.

Have a nice Labor Day, Sky Dancers!!


Lazy Caturday Reads

Arthur's morning, by Vicky Mount

Arthur’s morning, by Vicky Mount

Good Morning!!

We’re heading into the long Labor Day weekend, but it isn’t quiet one on the news front. The angry reaction to the Texas abortion law continues, Louisiana and multiple states in the Northeast are still just beginning their recovery from Hurricane Ida, Covid-19 is worse than ever, thanks to GOP governors and antivaxxers, and right wing crazies are threatening another violent insurrection in Washington D.C. as well as further attacks on democratic elections.

Texas Abortion Law Stories

AP News: Judge shields Texas clinics from anti-abortion group’s suits.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A state judge has shielded, for now, Texas abortion clinics from lawsuits by an anti-abortion group under a new state abortion law in a narrow ruling handed down Friday.

The temporary restraining order Friday by state District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin in response to the Planned Parenthood request does not interfere with the provision. However, it shields clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, its legislative director and 100 unidentified individuals.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction request was set for Sept. 13.

The law, which took effect Wednesday, allows anyone anywhere to sue anyone connected to an abortion in which cardiac activity was detected in the embryo — as early as six weeks into a pregnancy before most women even realize they are pregnant.

Ralph Black Cat painting by Dora Hathazi

Ralph Black Cat painting by Dora Hathazi

CNBC: Lyft, Uber will cover legal fees for drivers sued under Texas abortion law.

Lyft and Uber said Friday they would cover legal fees for drivers on their respective platforms who are sued under Texas’ restrictive abortion law that went into effect this week….

“Drivers are never responsible for monitoring where their riders go or why. Imagine being a driver and not knowing if you are breaking the law by giving someone a ride,” Lyft said in a release.

“Similarly, riders never have to justify, or even share, where they are going and why. Imagine being a pregnant woman trying to get to a healthcare appointment and not knowing if your driver will cancel on you for fear of breaking a law. Both are completely unacceptable,” Lyft added.

Lyft said its defense fund would cover 100% of legal fees incurred by drivers because of the law, being the first rideshare company to do so. The company will also donate $1 million to Planned Parenthood.

Uber shortly followed by saying it would also cover fees.

The New York Times: TikTok Users and Coders Flood Texas Abortion Site With Fake Tips.

After a Texas law restricting abortion went into effect on Wednesday, the state’s largest anti-abortion group publicized a website that invited citizens to inform on the law’s violators.

The website, prolifewhistleblower.com, which was set up by the group Texas Right to Life, was designed to help carry out the new law. That’s because the law places enforcement not in the hands of state officials but with private citizens, who are deputized to sue anyone who performs or aids an abortion in violation of the law.

Tips about the law’s potential offenders quickly flooded into the website, which features an online form so people can anonymously submit reports of those who are illegally obtaining or facilitating abortions.

But some of the tips were a little unexpected.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who was a leading proponent of the abortion law, was a violator, according to some of the tips. The fictional characters from Marvel’s Avengers were also apparently seeking abortions, the reports said. Other tips did not point to individuals but instead contained copies of the entire script to the 2007 animated film “Bee Movie.”

The reports, which were obviously bogus, were the work of activists on TikTok, programmers, and Twitter and Reddit users who said they wanted to ensnarl the site’s administrators in fabricated data.

Hurricane Ida Aftermath

The New York Times: Satellite Images Find Oil Spill in Gulf Left in Ida’s Wake.

Cleanup crews are working to contain what experts called a substantial oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to an examination of satellite and aerial survey images, ship tracking data and interviews with local officials and others involved in the spill response.

Manolo Ruiz-Pipo, 1957 Spanish, 1929–1998, The Little Girl with the Cat

Manolo Ruiz-Pipo, Spanish, 1929–1998, The Little Girl with the Cat, 1957

The spill, one of multiple plumes spotted off the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricane Ida, was identified in satellite imagery captured Thursday by the space technology companies Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies.

A black expanse and rainbow sheen of oil spanning at least 10 miles was spreading in coastal waters about two miles off Port Fourchon, an oil and gas hub. An aerial survey image of the spill was captured Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration….

It was unclear how much oil had spilled into the Gulf, according to a person with direct knowledge of the cleanup. The spill, possibly from an old pipeline no longer in use that was damaged by the storm, was first spotted on Monday from reconnaissance flights led by a number of Gulf Coast producers, and was reported to the Coast Guard, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly about the cleanup effort.

Reuters: Why Hurricane Ida crippled the New Orleans power grid.

Hurricane Ida’s 150-mph winds crippled a Louisiana electric grid already vulnerable from aging transmission lines, electricity bottlenecks and $2 billion worth of damage caused by three hurricanes that hit last year.

Ida’s landfall on Sunday left a wake of destruction and suffering. More than 1 million customers were without electricity immediately after the storm – a hardship that, for some, could last weeks.

Entergy Corp (ETR.N), the largest Louisiana utility, is facing tough questions on whether it had done enough to harden the electric system, which lost eight major transmission lines delivering power to the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Entergy was in the midst of upgrades throughout its system after Hurricane Laura in 2020. From 2017 to 2019, Entergy’s Louisiana subsidiary spent about $1.2 billion on numerous projects to improve its transmission system.

A pivotal question now for Entergy and its consumers is how well those capital improvements survived the hurricane’s wrath compared to the company’s older infrastructure. Entergy declined to detail the age of the eight New Orleans-area transmission lines that failed.

Anatoly Merkushevvia

Painting by Anatoly Merkushevvia

NPR: Why Ida Hit The Northeast So Hard, 1,000 Miles Away From Its Landfall.

Hurricane Ida’s remnants created deadly havoc in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York days after the system hit the Gulf Coast — some 1,000 miles away.

There was “just the right mix of weather conditions” in place to fuel the system, according to Tripti Bhattacharya, an assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Syracuse University.

“A storm like this would have been exceptionally rare 20 or 50 years ago,” she told NPR. “But we have to start thinking about it becoming the norm as the climate warms.”

Bhattacharya’s research on regional rainfall and climate change was cited in the U.N.’s recent climate change report.

Click the link to read the interview.

Covid-19 News

The Washington Post: U.S. covid death toll hits 1,500 a day amid delta scourge.

Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. The dead include two Texas teachers at a junior high, who died last week within days of each other; a 13-year-old middle schoolboy from Georgia; and a nurse, 37, in Southern California who left behind five children, including a newborn.

What is different about this fourth pandemic wave in the United States is that the growing rates of vaccination and natural immunity have broken the relationship between infections and deaths in many areas.

The daily count of new infections is rising in almost every part of the country, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. But only some places — mostly Southern states with lower vaccination rates — are seeing a parallel surge in deaths. The seven-day average of daily deaths is about a third of what it was in January, the pandemic’s most deadly month, but it is forecast to continue rising as high numbers of patients are hospitalized.

Alberto Zampieri (Italian, 1903-1992) - Il bambino e il gatto (Boy with cat), 1952

Alberto Zampieri (Italian, 1903-1992) – Il bambino e il gatto (Boy with cat), 1952

Bloomberg: Florida’s Newly Reported Covid Deaths Jump to Pandemic Record.

Florida reported 2,345 additional Covid-19 deaths in its latest weekly report, the most ever in a similar period.

The daily average rose 36% to 335, according to calculations based on the report. That would surpass the high for the entire pandemic in Johns Hopkins University data. The data is based on when the death was reported, not when it occurred.

People 65-and-over accounted for 63% of the deaths reported in the period. Cumulatively over the entire pandemic, Florida seniors have made up 79% of deaths.

Raw Story: 15 Miami-Dade school staffers die of COVID in 10 days: report.

On Friday, NBC 6 Miami reported that 15 staffers and educators in the Miami-Dade County school system have died of COVID 19 — just in the past ten days.

“Sonia Diaz, a spokesperson for several unions in the school district, confirmed the number of deaths to NBC 6,” reported Johnny Archer. “Miami-Dade County Public Schools resumed classes on Aug. 23, and it’s unknown when the employees contracted COVID-19.”

The news comes as school districts and state governments around the country wrestle with how to handle the continued spread of the Delta variant.

The Washington Post: Here’s what we know about the mu variant.

A coronavirus variant known as “mu” or “B.1.621” was designated by the World Health Organization as a “variant of interest” earlier this week and will be monitored by the global health body as cases continue to emerge across parts of the world. It is the fifth variant of interest currently being monitored by the WHO….

The variant was first detected in Colombia in January 2021, where cases continue to rise. It has since been identified in more than 39 countries, according to the WHO, among them the United States, South Korea, Japan, Ecuador, Canada and parts of Europe….

About 2,000 mu cases have been identified in the United States, so far, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID), the largest database of novel coronavirus genome sequences in the world. Most cases have been recorded in California, Florida, Texas and New York among others.

However, mu is not an “immediate threat right now” within the United States, top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci told a press briefing on Thursday. He said that while the government was “keeping a very close eye on it,” the variant was “not at all even close to being dominant” as the delta variant remains the cause of over 99 percent of cases in the country.

More Coronavirus stories:

Cincinnati.com: CDC classifies every Ohio county as ‘red’ for high levels of COVID-19 transmission.

Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic: What We Actually Know About Waning Immunity.

Derek Thompson at The Atlantic: The Masks Were Working All Along. Now we have definitive proof that masks really are effective.

Trump Supporters’ Threats on Democracy

Ellie Silverman at The Washington Post: Former Trump campaign operative plans rally for those charged in Capitol riot.

Law enforcement authorities are monitoring plans by supporters of former president Donald Trump to rally outside the U.S. Capitol later this month to argue that the hundreds of people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection are political prisoners, an assertion that has exploded beyond far-right rallying cries and into mainstream conservatism.

A girl with a black cat - Frida Holleman Dutch 1908-1999

A girl with a black cat – Frida Holleman Dutch 1908-1999

Look Ahead America, a nonprofit group founded and led by Matt Braynard, a former Trump campaign operative, is planning a “Justice for J6” rally on Sept. 18 to bring its message to Washington. Braynard’s followers believe many of the more than 570 people who have been charged with federal crimes in the attack were nonviolent and “reasonably believed they had permission” to enter the Capitol, according to a Jan. 29 letter Braynard sent to the Department of Justice and FBI. Braynard’s letter demands prosecutors drop all charges.

Braynard’s group requested to hold its rally at Union Square, the public park by the Capitol Reflecting Pool, according to a permit application his group submitted to the U.S. Capitol Police Board and provided to The Washington Post. Although local authorities have not provided crowd estimates, Look Ahead America estimates that 700 people will attend — up from an earlier estimate of 500 in a previous permit application. Plans for a counterprotest began to circulate online this week.

D.C. police, Capitol Police and U.S. Park Police met with the group on Wednesday so that the group could answer questions about its permit request. The conference call seemed to be the next phase in the process, but authorities have not yet granted a permit for the event, Kimmie Gonzalez, the group’s director of government affairs who attended the meeting, said in an interview Thursday.

The permit application described the event as “a peaceful demonstration of our First Amendment rights.”

The planned rally comes as the city is still recovering from three attacks in eight months in the nation’s capital. A violent mob stormed the seat of the U.S. government on Jan. 6, disrupting Congress from confirming President Biden’s election victory and resulting in the deaths of five people. In April, a man rammed his car into a barricade outside the building, killing a Capitol police officer, and last month, a man threatening that he had a bomb parked a truck near the Capitol and demanded to speak to Biden

ProPublica: Heeding Steve Bannon’s Call, Election Deniers Organize to Seize Control of the GOP — and Reshape America’s Elections.

One of the loudest voices urging Donald Trump’s supporters to push for overturning the presidential election results was Steve Bannon. “We’re on the point of attack,” Bannon, a former Trump adviser and far-right nationalist, pledged on his popular podcast on Jan. 5. “All hell will break loose tomorrow.” The next morning, as thousands massed on the National Mall for a rally that turned into an attack on the Capitol, Bannon fired up his listeners: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”

Sekino Jun'ichirô (Japanese, 1914 - 1988) Boy holding a cat

Sekino Jun’ichirô (Japanese, 1914 – 1988) Boy holding a cat

When the insurrection failed, Bannon continued his campaign for his former boss by other means. On his “War Room” podcast, which has tens of millions of downloads, Bannon said President Trump lost because the Republican Party sold him out. “This is your call to action,” Bannon said in February, a few weeks after Trump had pardoned him of federal fraud charges.

The solution, Bannon announced, was to seize control of the GOP from the bottom up. Listeners should flood into the lowest rung of the party structure: the precincts. “It’s going to be a fight, but this is a fight that must be won, we don’t have an option,” Bannon said on his show in May. “We’re going to take this back village by village … precinct by precinct.”

Precinct officers are the worker bees of political parties, typically responsible for routine tasks like making phone calls or knocking on doors. But collectively, they can influence how elections are run. In some states, they have a say in choosing poll workers, and in others they help pick members of boards that oversee elections.

After Bannon’s endorsement, the “precinct strategy” rocketed across far-right media. Viral posts promoting the plan racked up millions of views on pro-Trump websites, talk radio, fringe social networks and message boards, and programs aligned with the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Suddenly, people who had never before showed interest in party politics started calling the local GOP headquarters or crowding into county conventions, eager to enlist as precinct officers. They showed up in states Trump won and in states he lost, in deep-red rural areas, in swing-voting suburbs and in populous cities.

Read the rest at ProPublica.

That’s my news summary for today. Take care Sky Dancers!!